FEED - September 2008

Contents

  1. Victory on alfalfa case 
  2. Corn ethanol pushes up food prices
  3. Congress passes antibiotic data collection legislation
  4. Riding high on the local foods movement

1. Victory on Alfalfa Case.
In an opinion issued September 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the reversal of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) approval of Roundup Ready herbicide-tolerant, genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. In a landmark decision, the Appeals Court agreed with the lower court that the USDA had not adequately considered either the economic impact on organic and conventional alfalfa farmers from inevitable contamination of their crops by GE alfalfa or the environmental harm from herbicide-resistant weeds. The case was brought by the Center for Food Safety. Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle

This important decision affirms that the USDA has been doing a poor job enforcing environmental laws for the regulation of GE crops. The agency needs to take seriously both the economic as well as the environmental harm of gene contamination from GE crops." - UCS senior scientist Doug Gurian-Sherman, who served as an expert witness for the original case

2. Corn ethanol pushes up food prices
Food prices have shot up 170 percent in the past six years, putting a serious burden on the world's poor and causing food riots in some countries, according to a new report from the World Bank. The report found that the increase was largely caused by U.S. and European government support for biofuels, particularly corn ethanol. Government policies that diverted grain from food to biofuel uses include tariffs on imports, export bans and restrictions, and subsidies for energy companies. The report estimated that other influences such as higher energy and fertilizer costs and the weaker dollar account for only about 25-30 percent of the increased costs, while biofuel production accounts for the rest. Read the report (pdf).

"This analysis is consistent with several others that show a 30 to 60 percent increase in food prices due to biofuels. The study contradicts U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schaffer's assertion that biofuels account for only a small percentage of rising food prices."  - Doug Gurian-Sherman, UCS senior scientist

3. Congress passes antibiotic data collection legislation
At the end of July, Congress added an amendment to the Animal Drug User Fee Act that, for the first time, would require the Food and Drug Administration to collect data on the use of antibiotics in animal settings. These data can be used to devise responses to the emergence of diseases that are resistant to important human drugs. In addition, the Food and Farm Bill that Congress passed in June authorized new research on the judicious use of antibiotics in agriculture. Calls and letters from UCS activists helped push forward this important federal legislation. 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. Congress still has not taken the most critical step to protect antibiotics: ending their routine use in animal agriculture. Please ask your members of Congress to support a bill that would do this, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

4. Riding high on the local foods movement
Three passionate advocates of local food rode their bikes from Washington, D.C., to Montreal last summer and fall to raise awareness about local food. The women's 2,000-mile journey is chronicled in a new documentary called Faces From the New Farm. Along the way they visited community gardens and farmers markets and sang the praises of community-supported agriculture, urban gardening, and being a locavore. Read more about the adventure in their blog.