Monday, July 09, 2007

News from the Union of Concerned Scientists...

In case everyone who happens upon my blog doesn't subscribe to UCS's FEED newsletter, I thought I'd post this info here...

1. Tyson Foods, the nation's largest producer of chicken, announced last month that it has begun to produce all of its fresh chicken free of antibiotics and is selling the chicken in grocery stores under a "Raised Without Antibiotics" label. An estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are regularly added to the feed of livestock and poultry that are not sick—a practice with serious consequences for our health. Bacteria that are constantly exposed to antibiotics develop antibiotic resistance. This means that when humans get sick from resistant bacteria, the antibiotics prescribed by doctors don't work. UCS is taking the opportunity to raise awareness in the industry and ask fast-food companies to pressure their suppliers to raise their meat without antibiotics. Please go here to sign the petition.

2. Negotiations are underway in the House and Senate on the 2007 Farm Bill, the major agricultural and food policy legislation in the United States. The Farm Bill outlines provisions on agricultural subsidies, trade, conservation, research, marketing, food stamps, and much more. The bill also proposes many innovative programs that would promote conservation practices on agricultural land, increase research in sustainable agriculture, and provide stronger support for organic farmers. Yet in a difficult budget year, it is unclear whether many of these proposals will be adequately funded. New programs or increased funding for existing programs must be paid for by making cuts elsewhere. The House has already begun debate on these measures and the Senate will begin debate soon. UCS is working with congressional allies to promote Farm Bill programs that work for America's farmers, the environment, and human health. But we need your help! Look for action alerts from UCS in coming months to tell your members of Congress to support conservation programs and research in the Farm Bill.

In addition, I would like to ask everyone to write to their Representatives and Senators today to ask them to make sure that family and small farms are supported by the 2007 Farm Bill, that Factory Farms which pollute and damage the environment are not given subsidies, and that all references to the National Animal Identification System are stricken from the Bill, unless the references deauthorize the USDA from implementing it. Right now, the House Agro Committee wants to slip in a line authorizing the USDA to make NAIS mandatory so that it can implement mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). However, there are many ways that COOL can be implemented without making NAIS mandatory. Please ask them to find a way to do that.

3. Global warming is likely to endanger the wild relatives of some of the world's most important food crops, according to a recent study. Using a simulation model, researchers at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research studied the effect of global warming on wild varieties of several crops, including peanuts and potatoes. They determined that 61 percent of wild peanut species analyzed and 12 percent of wild potato species analyzed could become extinct in the next 50 years. Plant breeders often tap into the rich genetic diversity of wild species for traits allowing crops to adapt to harsh conditions. Wild relatives can contain genes for valuable traits such as drought resistance or insect tolerance. If changes in climate drive wild relatives to extinction, farmers may lose the very genetic resources needed to help our food crops adapt to the same changes. For more information on this topic, visit Biodiversity International's web site.

4. Ireland's new coalition government recently revealed plans to make the island free of genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals. The announcement delighted many Irish farmers and food producers who have been campaigning for years to reach this goal. As a geographically isolated island with very low levels of existing GE contamination, Ireland has the best chance among European Union (EU) member states of maintaining a credible GE-free status. The government hopes to make Ireland off-limits to GE seeds, crops, insects, and animals, and to phase out the use of GE ingredients in animal feed. The association of organizations and citizens behind this initiative would like to see Ireland become a GE-free biosafety reserve to protect the food security of all EU countries. Click here for more information on the campaign to keep Ireland GE-free.

5. I agree with the UCS that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barabara Kingsolver is the must read of the summer. So far, my mom has read this and it has become her Bible... She has bought copies for many more of our family and friends because she believes that everyone must read this book if they give two figs about health, the environment and the sustainability of our food supply. Check it out, you won't be sorry...

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