1. Demand for Organic Food
2. Stop the commercial planting of genetically
engineered plums - the first temperate GE tree!
3. Grand Rapids Farmers market returns
4. Second annual field day on
Enhancing Beneficial Insects with Native Plants –Aug 1, 2006
5. Inconsistent Weed Control With Glycophosate Reported
6. Rust Movement
7. Julberty’s Dairy has been
bought out by Dean's -the huge dairy conglomerate, of dubious fame.
Scouting Report for week of July 10-15-from Cornell University
9. Take a look at this issue of New Ag Network
10. Soil Building
and Organic Market Workshop
1. Published on Friday, July
7, 2006 by the Associated Press
Demand for Organic Food
by Libby Quaid
appetite for organic food is so strong that supply just can't keep
up with demand. Organic products still have only a tiny slice, about 2.5
percent, of the nation's food market. But the slice is expanding at a
Growth in sales of organic food has been 15 percent to 21 percent each year,
compared with 2 percent to 4 percent for total food sales.
Organic means food is grown without bug killer, fertilizer, hormones,
antibiotics or biotechnology.
Mainstream supermarkets, eyeing the success of organic retailers such as
Whole Foods, have rushed to meet demand. The Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and
SuperValu Inc., which owns Albertson's LLC, are among those selling their
own organic brands. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said earlier this year it would
double its organic offerings.
The number of organic farms an estimated 10,000 is also increasing, but
not fast enough. As a result, organic manufacturers are looking for
ingredients outside the United States
in places like Europe, Bolivia,
Venezuela and South Africa.
That is no surprise, said Barbara Robinson, head of the Agriculture
Department's National Organic Program. The program provides the round, green
"USDA Organic" seal for certified products.
Her agency is just now starting to track organic data, but Robinson believes
the United States
is importing far more organic food than it exports. That's
true of conventional food, too.
"That is how you stimulate growth, is imports generally," she said.
own industry says we're tired of importing this; why should I pay for
imports when I could start producing myself?"
"We're doing a lot of scrambling," said Sheryl O'Loughlin, CEO of
Inc. "We have gotten to the point now where we know we can get a call
The makers of the high-energy, eat-and-run Clif Bar needed 85,000 pounds of
almonds, and they had to be organic. But the nation's organic almond crop
was spoken for. Eventually, Clif Bar found the almonds in Spain. But more
shortages have popped up: apricots and blueberries, cashews and hazelnuts,
brown rice syrup and oats.
Even Stonyfield Farm, an organic pioneer in the United States, is pursuing a
foreign supplier; Stonyfield is working on a deal to import milk powder from
"I'm not suggesting we would be importing from all these places,"
Hirshberg, president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm Inc. "But for transition
purposes, to help organic supply to keep up with the nation's growing
hunger, these countries have to be considered."
The dilemma of how to fill the gap between organic supply and demand is part
of a long-running debate within America's booming organic
industry. For many
enthusiasts, organic is about more than the food on their plates; it's a way
to improve the environment where they live and help keep small-scale farmers
"If organic is something created in the image of sustainable
certainly haven't accomplished that yet," said Urvashi Rangan, a
for Consumers Union. "What people do
have to understand is if that stuff
comes in from overseas, and it's got an organic label on it, it had to meet
USDA standards in order to get here."
The issue causes mixed feelings for Travis Forgues, an organic dairy farmer
"I don't like the idea of it coming in from out of this country, but I
want them to stop growing organic because of that," Forgues said.
people to say, `Let's do that here, give a farmer another avenue to make a
A member of the farmer-owned Organic
Forgues got his
dairy farm certified nearly 10 years ago. Organic Valley
supplies milk to
Switching to organic is a difficult proposition. Vegetable grower Scott
Woodard is learning through trial and error on his Putnam Valley, N.Y.,
farm. One costly mistake: Conventional farmers can plant seeds when they
want and use pesticides to kill hungry insect larvae. If Woodard had waited
three weeks to plant, the bugs that ate his seeds would have hatched and
left. Organic seeds can be double the price of conventional.
"There's not a lot of information out there," Woodard said.
"We try to do
the best we can. Sometimes it's too late, but then we learn for next
Stonyfield and Organic
Valley are working to
increase the number of organic
farms, paying farmers to help them switch or boost production. Stonyfield,
together with farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley,
expects to spend
around $2 million on incentives and technical help in 2006, Hirshberg said.
Other companies offer similar help. And the industry's Organic Trade
Association is trying to become more of a resource for individual farmers.
Caren Wilcox, the group's executive director, described how an Illinois
farmer showed up in May at an industry show in Chicago.
"He said, `I want to get certified. Help me,'" Wilcox said.
"It was a smart
thing to do, but the fact that he had to get into his car and go down to
McCormick Center says something about the
availability of information."
In the meantime, manufacturers like Clif Bar and Stonyfield still prefer to
buy organic ingredients, wherever they come from, instead of conventional
crops in the U.S.
"Anybody who's helping to take toxins out of the biosphere and use less
poisonous chemicals in agriculture is a hero of mine," Hirshberg said.
"There's enormous opportunity here for everybody to win, large and
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press
Stop the commercial planting of genetically engineered plums - the first
temperate GE tree!
Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments between now and
Saturday, July 17, 2006 on a petition that would allow commercial growing and
marketing of the first genetically engineered (GE) plum trees. If approved, this would remove all
regulatory oversight of this GE variety by USDA, a virus-resistant plum
tree known as the Honey Sweet Pox Potyvirus Resistant plum. This would open
the door to GE varieties of many other related stone fruits, such as peaches,
apricots, cherries and almonds, that are susceptible to the same virus.
Ironically, this virus is not even found in the US today according to the USDA,
and is certainly not a significant agricultural problem here.
The USDA admits that this GE plum will
contaminate both organic and conventional non-genetically engineered plum
orchards if it is approved. Since all commercial plum trees are cultivars that
are relatively cross compatible within the same species, Prunus domestica,
contamination via GE plum pollen carried by bees and other insects will
infiltrate the plum orchards of organic and conventional growers. The
proposed buffer zones between GE plums and other plums will not prevent
genetic contamination from being spread by pollinating insects. Because this
GE plum tree is also the first genetically engineered temperate tree proposed
for commercial planting, it also opens the door to the commercialization of
GE varieties of other temperate trees such as poplars, pines, and walnuts.
The one GE fruit tree that has
previously been approved, a virus resistant Hawaiian papaya, has caused
extensive contamination of organic, conventional and wild papaya orchards on
most of the Hawaiian Islands in just a few
years. This contamination has spread far more quickly than the USDA predicted
in its initial assessment. Once native and cultivated plum varieties are
contaminated with transgenic pollen, and the resulting seeds are planted,
there is no calling it back.
This petition has implications for all
other GE tree species, as the USDA and the industry want to gauge what the
public's reaction will be. It is critical that all concerned about the threat
of GE foods and GE trees respond to this USDA petition. Several hundred field
trials of GE trees have been conducted already, many for forest trees, such
as Poplar, Loblolly Pine, and Sweetgum, that grow on millions of acres in
natural environments in the U.S.
Comments to submit below. Please add any additional comments of your
own, but remember to include the docket # at the top of your comments.]
The following comments are in reference
to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0084. I oppose the deregulation of genetically
engineered plum trees for the following reasons:
1. Genetic contamination is a serious
threat. Flowers and fruit in organic and conventional plum orchards will
become contaminated with GE plum genes via pollen transported by bees and
other insects that travel several miles in search of pollen. The result is
that organic and conventional plum growers will lose their markets for non-GE
plums as DNA testing confirms the contamination, as it has with GE papayas in
organic tree might remain organic itself, but the seeds will become
contaminated, and the trees planted from these seeds will have contaminated
2. The approval of GE plums would
be a precedent setting step by USDA, opening the floodgates for more GE trees
including fruit, nut, ornamental, paper-pulp, and timber species, as well as
trees engineered for soil remediation, and other traits. Approximately 80
species and varieties of trees are currently undergoing gene splicing
research and development for commercial use. Many of these are native species
important to ecosystems in much of the U.S.
3. There is a serious concern about the
genetic stability of the inserted genes in GE plum trees. USDA claims that
the plum pox viral resistance gene and other inserted genes are sufficiently
genetically stable, but the testing has only been performed over ten years
and not the entire pollen-producing life span of a plum tree.
4. The plum pox virus is not
currently known to exist in the US as a problem for plum growers.
Thus there is no justification for exposing other trees, plants, insects and
people to the various hazards posed by GE plums.
5. The deregulatory petition
completely ignores potential effects on bees and other pollinator species.
Although unintended effects are common in GE crops there is very little
assessment of possible environmental impacts from unintended effects. There
are no studies that would allow us to evaluate the potential hazards of GE
tree pollen for a variety of insects, or for consumers of honey. We also do
not know how animals and insects that browse on plum leaves might be
6. The USDA's environmental assessment
admits that the GE plum readily hybridizes within its species. Thus, there
may be a significant potential for gene flow into native plum varieties. Wild
plum trees are perennial species living for several decades and populations
exist in dozens of states from coast to coast. GE plum trees will be
long lived, and capable of contaminating orchards and native plum tree
populations for several decades. One GE plum tree will be able to produce
thousands of GE seeds and extensive quantities of GE pollen, and will be
capable of spreading fertile GE plum seeds and pollen into the environment
for many years. The petition did not adequately evaluate the relative fitness
of GE plum varieties as compared to native plums; it is possible that the GE
varieties would become more successful in natural settings, and out-compete
non-GE varieties. The USDA claim that contamination would be positive by
reducing potential reservoirs for harboring the plum pox virus in the wild is
unsupported by any data.
7. There has been no short-term or
long-term safety testing or feeding trials for toxicity and other adverse
effects of the genes inserted into the GE plum trees. GE plums have not been
tested on animals, birds or humans for safety. Toxicity tests are
necessary since unintended genetic effects are known to occur with gene
splicing. USDA has ignored the need for scientific studies of gene splicing
and for comprehensive studies of the environmental consequences of GE
Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments between now and
Saturday, July 17, 2006 on the petition to formally deregulate and allow
commercial growing and marketing of GE plums.
We apologize for the inconvenient
process to submit your comments - the USDA is no longer accepting public
comment via email or fax.
submit a comment using the Internet, go to http://www.regulations.gov.
In the "Agency" box, select
"Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service" from the drop-down
menu; select "NOTICES" as the Document Type and APHIS-2006-0084 as
the "Keyword or ID." Then press "submit" to submit or
view public comments as well as the agency's supporting materials; click just
beneath "Add Comments" and scroll down to submit your letter.
submit your comments via mail, make sure your letter is postmarked no later
than Saturday, July 17th, and send an original and three copies with your
name and address to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0084, Regulatory Analysis and
Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118,
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Feel free to copy and paste any or all
of the 7 points above, along with any comments of your own. Please
forward this widely among your friends and other contacts.