Tag Archives: USDA

Group seeks court order on USDA over genetically modified alfalfa

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project has worked with the Center for Food Safety in the past, suing the USDA over their approval of GE eucalyptus field trials throughout the southeast.  Read their report, Genetically Engineered Trees: The New Frontier of Biotechnology.

-The GJEP Team

By Carey Gillam, March 13, 2014. Source: Reuters

Photo: hailmerry.com

Photo: hailmerry.com

A public interest group is asking a court to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to turn over documents explaining its approval of a genetically altered alfalfa even as the department acknowledged the crop’s potential to do environmental damage.

The Center for Food Safety said on Thursday that it believes the USDA may have succumbed to outside pressure, possibly from Monsanto Co., the developer of the genetic trait in the biotech alfalfa.

CFS filed a lawsuit late on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., seeking a court order for the USDA to turn over nearly 1,200 documents related to the decision about the crop called Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Neither the USDA nor Monsanto responded to requests for comment on Thursday.
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Survey finds GE contamination of organic farms

Note:  More damning evidence against the “coexistence” of GE crops and organic farms.  As GE corn and soybeans have contaminated organic crops, we can expect that, if legalized, GE pine and poplar trees will likely contaminate non-GE trees growing in forests nearby industrial plantations.  This concern, frequently raised by opponents of GE trees, has also been voiced by some of the leading proponents of GE trees as one of the risks.  But hey, maybe the bears, birds and bees will just have to buy some better crop and habitat insurance.

-The GJEP Team

March 10, 2014. Source: Beyond Pesticides

New data finds that organic farmers are growing increasingly concerned with genetically engineered (GE) crops cross-pollinating and contaminating their fields. This contamination can lead to serious economic losses for organic farmers and has created tension between neighbors. The data comes at a critical time as USDA is advancing the notion that “coexistence” between GE and non-GE growers presents no problems for the organic market. USDA has been widely criticized in organic circles because its decisions to deregulate numerous GE crops place the burden of reducing contamination on non-GE growers.

survey, released by Food and Water Watch and Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), finds that a third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced GE contamination in their fields due to the nearby use of GE crops, while over half of these growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination. These rejections can lead to big income losses for farmers, with a median cost of approximately $2,500 per year, according to the survey. Additionally, several farmers report annual losses of over $20,000 due to the need to establish buffer zones, while limit the threat of contamination from their neighbors by taking contiguous farmland out of production.

In the survey, organic farmers also express their frustration that efforts to reduce contamination fall squarely on their shoulders. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents say that they would not purchase crop insurance intended to cover costs associated with GE contamination. Of the 35 percent of respondents who answered that they would purchase insurance for GE contamination-related losses, more than three-quarters of them (78 percent) believe that the added premium for coverage should be paid by GE patent holders or GE patent holders and GE users.

One farmer responded to the survey, “If [GE] was not here this would not be going on. It’s their contamination that’s the problem but we have to guard against something we have no control over. How do you even get a patent on something you can’t control? The whole object is control and that is not our [organic farmers’] problem.”
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GMO/non-GMO co-existence: An environmental justice critique

Dr. Devon G. Peña, March 4, 2014. Source: Environmental and Food Justice

Huichol yarn weaving of a sacred ceremony for maize. Source: Environmental and Food Justice

Huichol yarn weaving of a sacred ceremony for maize. Source: Environmental and Food Justice

I am submitting this statement to express opposition to the proposed USDA co- existence policy. As a plant breeder, seed saver, traditional acequia farmer, and agro-ecologist familiar with the scientific evidence on gene flow I am unequivocally opposed to this policy. Asking for co-existence with GMO crops means seed-savers and plant breeders like myself have to accept the inevitability of severe business losses due to damage to our native seed stocks and active plant breeding programs. I ask that you consider the fact that farmers like myself are the keepers of the nation’s diverse bioregional ‘arks’ of native seeds and these are the ultimate basis of all agriculture in this country. As vulnerable traditional seed savers, we cannot accept co-existence. The scientific fact of gene flow makes it so. Let’s not pretend the scientific fact of gene flow is unsettled, like an agricultural crisis version of climate change denial.

 Working with friends, family, and neighbors, I produce local heirloom varieties of the ‘Three Sisters’ (corn-bean-squash/pumpkin) for a land race seed library grown and stored on a farm in Colorado’s Rio Grande Headwaters bioregion. The preservation of multiple native gene streams is necessary to the business of plant breeding and seed saving which is a central focus of my agroecological enterprise and productive activity. The introgression of transgenes from genetically engineered corn is a direct threat to my livelihood because the open- pollinated nature of maize makes for frequent cross-contamination events. Corn pollen can travel quite far – with some studies showing distances of up to 30 miles or more depending on the nature of regional wind patterns. The San Luis Valley is a high altitude intermountain park known for strong winds and corn pollen can travel very far under these conditions. The valley has an average elevation of 8000 feet and is surrounded by a circle of mountains at 14,000 ft. and higher. We do our plant breeding and seed stock production in this valley on a historic farm that is organized and collectively run to serve as a grassroots agricultural extension research station and farm school for acequiero growers of Colorado and New Mexico. Continue reading

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White House announces network of climate hubs

Note: Seems like a great opportunity for Monsanto and the other “Gene Giants” to push their so-called “Climate-ready” crops.  Good to keep an eye on this one…

-The GJEP Team

By Patrick J. Kiger, February 5, 2014. Source: National Geographic

This aerial view of drought-stricken Arkansas shows damaged corn and sparse soybean crops. The ground is so dry that tractors leave several hundred yards of dust in their wake.  Photo: LES STONE, CORBIS

This aerial view of drought-stricken Arkansas shows damaged corn and sparse soybean crops. The ground is so dry that tractors leave several hundred yards of dust in their wake. Photo: LES STONE, CORBIS

Saying it wants to help farmers and ranchers better cope with the effects of climate change, the Obama Administration on Wednesday announced a new network of regional “climate hubs.”

The idea is to dispatch a cadre of climate change specialists across the nation to gather the latest science on how climate shifts may affect crops and animals, and to disseminate the information to farmers, ranchers, local officials, and others.

The hubs will operate out of U.S. Department of Agriculture offices,Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in making the announcement.

Data from those hubs could help farmers and ranchers anticipate a variety of potentially damaging effects of the warming trend, said Bill Hohenstein, director of the USDA’s Climate Change Program Office. Continue reading

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Action: USDA Public Comment Period on GMO “Coexistence” [Due 3/4]

February 4, 2014. Source: National Organic Coalition

“Agricultural Coexistence” ≠ GMO Contamination Prevention

USDA is asking for public comments on how agricultural “coexistence” (relationships between GMO and non-GMO farmers) can be strengthened.

Comment deadline: March 4, 2014

Farmers & Handlers: Share your experiences and costs with preventing GE contamination, or about being contaminated

Consumers: Tell USDA: Contamination Prevention Now!

WHY IS THIS ACTION SO IMPORTANT?

Organic and Non-GMO agriculture has shouldered the burden of GMO contamination for too long. Tell USDA:

(1) Implement mandatory contamination prevention measures to avoid the problem and protect the non-GMO sector.

(2) Ensure shared responsibility for the unwanted spread of GE products.  Farmers should not shoulder the burden through GE contamination crop insurance.  Patent Holders should be held responsible for the contamination. Continue reading

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USDA set to eat the poison apple

Note: Will Bennington is a campaigner with Global Justice Ecology Project.

-The GJEP Team

By Will Bennington, January 9, 2014. 

neal carterGenetically engineered apples may be the next novelty food item to hit markets, if Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits wins the praises of the USDA.

In an article published Tuesday by the Seattle Times, the Arctic Apple, engineered to prevent browning and bruising, is described as an “economic disaster” by organic apple grower Henry House.  Industry groups and consumer advocates are also condemning what would be the first ever GE apple available for commercial production.

Concerns are far ranging, from the risk of contamination of non-GE and organic orchards via pollen transported by honey bees, to the unknown human health impacts of eating GE foods.  Some groups are concerned that that apple – which lacks a naturally occurring apple gene that aides in defense against pests – will increase the amount of pesticides used in apple orchards.  The Center for Food Safety features the Arctic Apple in its new report, Genetically Engineered Trees: The New Frontier of Biotechnology

Because the Arctic Apple doesn’t actually present a solution to any significant problem (not even an inconvenience, really), there is broad opposition among consumer advocates and other unlikely allies.  According to the Seattle Times, some industry groups are coming out against deregulation:
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Urgent Action: GE Apple Comments to USDA Needed by Dec 9

The USDA is accepting public comments on the application for deregulation of an apple tree genetically engineered to prevent the flesh of the apple from turning brown.  As usual, assessments of the risks to human health, especially children’s health, are utterly lacking and little is known about how the GE apple will interact with the environment.

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from the Arctic Apple website

This is the first GE fruit tree that is to be widely grown and eaten. There are concerns about the silencing of a whole gene family with unknown functions (suspected to be involved in defense against pests and pathogens), inadequate testing of susceptibility to pests and pathogens in the tree and the fruit, and other issues. There is no attempt to prevent gene flow–this apple will pollinate freely.

Please submit comments to the USDA regarding your thoughts on their approval of this GE apple.

The Petition for Non-regulated Status, Draft Environmental Assessment, Draft Plant Pest Risk Assessment and Notice are all here:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/petitions_table_pending.shtml

Submit pdfs  of comments to:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0025-1938

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Youth

The Lorax, Dr. King, genetically engineered trees and my grandchildren

Note: Steven Norris is a farmer and professor living near Asheville, NC.  In late May of this year, he participated in major protests against the Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference along with GJEP, Dogwood Alliance, Earth First!, REAL Cooperative and other organizations.  GJEP is deeply appreciative of the work of Steve and others who took bold action that week to stop the threat of genetically engineered trees.

Below is the statement that Steve wrote for his court appearance.

You can take action to stop the threat of GE trees too. Please sign on to the petition calling on the USDA to reject ArborGen’s application for legalization of GE eucalyptus throughout the southeastern US here: http://bit.ly/stop-arborgen

–The GJEP Team

By Steven Norris, September 17, 2013.

Photo: Petermann/GJEP

Steve Norris disrupts the opening day of the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference in Asheville, NC in May of this year.  Photo: Petermann/GJEP

Many of us who are parents and grandparents have read Dr Seuss’ The Lorax to our children, or grandchildren. Some of us are the children of parents who read it to us.

No one can read the Lorax without wondering what the final words of this wonderful story means for us personally. After the Truffula trees have all been cut down to manufacture un-needed Thneeds, after the Swomee-Swans have all gone extinct, after the Brown Bar-ba-loots and the Humming Fish have disappeared, the old Once-ler ponders aloud the last warning of the lifted Lorax:

“UNLESS SOMEONE LIKE YOU CARES A WHOLE AWFUL LOT, NOTHING’S GOING TO GET BETTER. IT’S NOT. “

Photo: Langelle/photolangelle.org for GJEP

Photo: Langelle/photolangelle.org for GJEP

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Politics

New GE contamination reported in Washington State alfalfa

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project joined the Center for Food Safety in suing the US Department of Agriculture to stop Genetically Engineered eucalyptus trees in 2010.  These new cases of perennial grass contamination just highlight the urgency of banning GE trees, which can spread their seeds and pollen for hundreds of miles.

Please help support this work by donating here: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/stopgetrees

-The GJEP Team

 

12 September, 2013. Center for Food Safety

Photo: Center for Food Safety

Photo: Center for Food Safety

An export shipment of alfalfa from Washington State was rejected after the shipment tested positive for contamination from genetically engineered (GE), herbicide-resistant alfalfa.  The news follows on the heels of yet another contamination episode involving GE wheat in Oregon, highlighting the inadequacy of the U.S. regulatory structure for GE crops.  Like the vast majority of all GE crops, both contaminating GE crops are engineered by Monsanto to be resistant to its herbicide, Roundup.

“For nearly a decade, Center for Food Safety has vigorously opposed the introduction of GE alfalfa, precisely because it was virtually certain to contaminate natural alfalfa, among other severe environmental and economic harms.  We warned this administration and the industry repeatedly of the significant risk to farmers and the environment.  Tragically, neither listened, and this latest contamination is the result of that negligence,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. Continue reading

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Filed under Commodification of Life, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Industrial agriculture

EPA approves the use of one of the world’s worst invasive species for biofuel

Note: The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is currently considering the commercial deregulation of genetically engineered eucalyptus in 7 southeastern states.  Eucalyptus, which would be used in biofuel and pulp plantations, is also highly invasive, flammable and water-greedy.  Sign the petition calling on the USDA to deny GE tree company ArborGen’s application to deregulate their GE eucalyptus here.

-The GJEP Team

By Aviva Glaser, July 2, 2013. Source: National Wildlife Federation

Photo: Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth

Giant reed can reach 20 ft or more in height Photo: Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a final rule which would allow for biofuels made from two well known invasive species to qualify for credits under the Federal Renewable Fuels Standard. The rule, which was finalized late Friday afternoon, allows two invasive grasses, Arundo donax (also known as giant reed) – assessed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as being a high-risk species – and Pennisetum purpureum (commonly called napiergrass), to qualify as cellulosic biofuel feedstocks under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“By allowing producers to grow these two invasive plants for biofuel production, EPA is recklessly opening a Pandora’s box,” said Aviva Glaser, legislative representative for agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation.”We want to move forward with homegrown sources of renewable energy, but by doing so, we don’t want to fuel the next invasive species catastrophe.”

The EPA rule, which was first proposed in January 2012, has been publicly opposed by more than 100 state, local, and national groups, including the National Wildlife Federation. Arundo donax is a non-native species that is a well-known and well-documented invader of natural areas. Currently listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, the plant is particularly destructive to riparian areas where it quickly becomes established. It has been shown to crowd out native-plant species, contribute to greater and more intense wild fires, and destroy habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the Least Bell’s Vireo. USDA, in their June 2012 weed risk assessment, concluded with very high certainty that Arundo donax is a high-risk species, noting that it is a “highly invasive grass” and a “serious environmental weed.”

The rule does require certain producers to put risk mitigation plans in place, but it has significant loopholes. Even with best management practices,wide-spread cultivation of these two highly invasive grasses is incredibly risky.

“Assuming that best management practices will prevent the escape of highly invasive weeds grown on a large scale is naïve, risky, and dangerous. We’ve seen time and time again with invasive species that good intentions can result in expensive unintended consequences,” Glaser said. 

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