Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Farm Bill Could Hamstring State Food Safety Agencies
Forty consumer, environmental, farmer and animal welfare groups today announced their opposition to a sweeping provision in the 2007 Farm Bill that wipes out critical state and local authority to protect food safety, the environment, and humane animal treatment. The provision, Section 123 of Title I, was quietly inserted in the House bill several weeks ago by the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee.
Despite massive contamination and loss of markets, Bayer planting more genetically engineered rice in Arkansas
A story in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reveals that this spring, Bayer Crop-Science planted four 0. 2-acre plots of LLRICE 62 near Proctor, Newport, Stuttgart and Tillar, according to the state Plant Board. Since USDA's announcement in August that long grain rice had been contaminated with another Bayer rice variety, and a second contamination episode announced in March, according to the Democrat Gazette "sales in nearly half of all U. S. rice export markets have been harmed, resulting in everything from required testing to the complete cessation of trade, according to the USA Rice Federation".
The Arkansas Plant Board reportedly found out about the planting by filing a Freedom of Information Act request after rumors about the planting began to circulate. Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst for the Center for Food Safety was quoted as saying “After all that’s happened, it’s unbelievable that the state would give Bayer another chance to contaminate Arkansas rice."
Whole Foods goes to court
In what is becoming a rather ridiculous display of government inconsistency, Whole Foods is going to court next month to object to the FTC's block of the merger between the company and rival Wild Oats. The FTC filed a lawsuit on June 5 to block Whole Foods' acquisition of Wild Oats, saying the combination will cause "significant harm to the consumer." The suit argues that Wild Oats and Whole Foods are "one another's closest competitor" in 21 markets. This merger challenge comes despite there being NO challenge to the mergers between Monsanto and Delta Pine Land approved earlier this month (giving Monsanto a near complete monopoly on the cotton market), or the Smithfield-Premium Standard Farms merger last month (giving Smithfield control of 30% of the pork market).
Whole Foods argues that the FTC did not take mainstream supermarkets, most of which are quickly becoming competitors in the organic and natural foods market, into consideration. Aimee Witteman had a great post on the merger hullabaloo last week at Gristmill, where she lays out the inconsistencies in anti-trust cases in US food and agricultural companies, the integration of these industries, and how it might be addressed.
Our friend Sam Fromartz (author of Organic, Inc.) also has an interesting post at his blog Chews Wise, breaking down the arguments for and against - and the commentary surrounding - the embattled merger (if you have not yet added Sam's Chews Wise blog to your list of favorites or RSS feeds, we highly recommend that you do!).
Comment Period on Labeling for Irradiated Foods Set to Close July 3rd
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please take a moment to send your comment to FDA on their proposal to weaken labeling requirements, and in some cases remove labeling entirely, on irradiated foods! The last comment period FDA had on this subject generated 5,000 comments in opposition according to some reports - so many that they backed off at the time. We have already generated more than twice that many for this comment period, and we need more to ensure this risky proposal is rejected!