USDA Power Play Threatens the Future of Organic Foods

Last week saw an inter-agency power grab. It begins with the weakening of organic standards—and could end with the term “organic” becoming practically meaningless. Action Alert! Tell the USDA to use a public and transparent process for all major changes to organic standards by publishing proposed changes in the Federal Register, and actively seeking public input and discussion. In addition, tell the USDA to enforce the sunset provision of the OFPA as it was originally intended—allowing synthetic products to remain after their “sunset” date only after public debate and a two-thirds vote of the NOSB. More than 100 synthetics will be up for sunset consideration in 2015. We must act now to protect the integrity of organics.

Victory! Hawaii Leads Nation on Banning GMO Crops

This week's elections saw two victories regarding banning GMOs in the United States. A ballot measure in Maui County, Hawaii that calls for a ban on GMO crops passed by a slim margin this week. But while the margin was slim, the victory was HUGE, because it followed an $8 million campaign against it by Biotech giants Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. The GMO industry sees Hawaii as a rich region to develop new GMO crops. The amount of money spent to defeat the GMO ban initiative was the largest amount ever spent on a political campaign in the history of Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat. And they lost. Maui consumers won. Well done Maui. In another election victory this week for Food Freedom, Humboldt County in California passed a County Measure "prohibiting the propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of GMOs in Humboldt County."

FDA Backs Down from Consumer Outcry over Raw Artisanal Cheese Restrictions

Does the FDA have a legitimate concern when it comes to aging cheese on wooden boards? Is it true that they can’t be “adequately cleaned or sanitized?” Simply put, no. As thoroughly documented by the American Cheese Society, there are a number of effective ways that wooden boards can be safely cleaned. Some of “the most awarded and well-respected” American artisanal cheeses are aged on wooden boards, since it brings a richer, more complex flavor that can’t be duplicated when aged on other materials. In fact, many artisan cheese recipes are specifically formulated to be aged on wooden boards. This rule could have irreparably harmed thousands of small artisans and businesses. The business about wood boards is just an excuse, a distraction, from the issue at hand, which is the FDA’s determination to harass and even shutter as many artisanal cheese makers as it can. The FDA’s demand that artisanal cheese producers, which depend on friendly bacteria for the taste and nutritional benefits of their product, essentially create a sterile environment, isn’t unlike what’s happened to the rest of our society with a push for sterilization of food and the environment, all the way to the ever-present hand sanitizers. Unfortunately for small cheese producers, the only entities that can successfully produce cheese in a sterile environment are the corporate producers, whose cheese fewer and fewer people want.

Michigan Residents Lose ‘Right to Farm’ in Backyards

Property rights took a hit recently when the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development voted to to take away protections for backyard farmers statewide — which will result in many small farms being shut down. Backyard and urban farms were previously protected by Michigan’s Right to Farm Act. The Act stated that local ordinances could not trump the state’s Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices (GAAMP). After the rule change, however, these protections no longer apply to many homeowners who keep small numbers of livestock. Backyard farmers who raise their own chickens, goats, pigs, and honey may have to give up their operations and go back to shopping for mass produced meats at the supermarket.

Vermont Passes No-Strings-Attached GMO Labeling Law

Alliance for Natural Health reports that Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to pass a bill mandating that all GMO foods be labeled, with no other conditions (such as requiring other states to pass similar legislation.) The law will not go into effect until 2016, however, and you can be sure the anti-GMO labeling forces with large processed food companies will challenge this. National legislation on GMO labeling is already being proposed to pre-empt states rights to require GMO labeling, so we will keep our eye on this issue. Although Connecticut and Maine have already passed GMO labeling laws, Vermont’s bill is unique: unlike its New England neighbors, Vermont decided not to include a “trigger” provision in its bill. So while Connecticut’s and Maine’s bills won’t activate unless enough nearby states also pass GMO labeling laws, Vermont will immediately move forward with the labeling of GMO products.

World Bank Destroys Traditional Farming to Support GMO Corporate Land Theft

Smallholder farmers and herders are currently feeding 80 percent of the developing world. Casting them aside in favor of industrial farming corporations from the West betrays the World Bank’s reckless and short term approach to development. The World Bank is facilitating land grabs and sowing poverty by putting the interests of foreign investors (like Bill Gates) before those of locals. The Oakland Institute and /The Rules, along with other NGOs, farmer and consumer organizations from around the world have launched a campaign, Our Land Our Business, to hold the World Bank accountable for its role in the rampant theft of land and resources from some of the world’s poorest people--farmers, pastoralists, and indigenous communities, many of whom are essential food producers for the entire planet.

FDA Starts to Take Control of American Organic Farms

Jim Crawford started New Morning Farm in Maryland many decades ago. He was young and idealistic. He had little or no money and had to start small. He believed in sustainable agriculture and wanted to produce fresh and healthy produce to sell in farmers’ markets to the urban public. He succeeded and became increasingly well known both for his ideals and his produce. This may be why the FDA picked him out for a site visit. An inspector appeared without warning and told him that his operation would have to change. It didn't matter that no health problem had ever been associated with Crawford’s impeccably run operation. The Food Safety Modernization Act for the first time gave the FDA direct authority over our farms. It should have been obvious to everyone that putting the FDA in direct charge of farms was a terrible idea. Much of the FDA’s budget is paid for by Big Pharma instead of the taxpayers, which creates a serious conflict of interest.

IRS Seeks to Limit Free Speech

The IRS has no business in politics or interfering with free speech. Recently, the Alliance for Natural Health told us about newly proposed IRS rules that would dictate what they are allowed to tell their readers and what they cannot. To give an example, they would be forced to remove every single reference to a candidate’s connection to any legislation from their website sixty days before an election—giving incumbents a free pass to introduce legislation with almost no public scrutiny. If this stands, Senator Durbin would be allowed to introduce an anti-supplement bill knowing that the Alliance for Natural Health (and other organizations) could not link him to it in print. Now is the time to tell the IRS to rescind this political gag order and protect the right of political dissenters and organizations that represent individuals like you!

New Farm Bill Sneaks in Dangerous Fluoride Amendment

Capitol Hill’s most powerful special interests resorted again to underhanded tactics. The Senate just passed the $1 trillion dollar Farm Bill with a vote of 68 to 32 (the House gave its approval last Wednesday). As you may recall, the most recent version of this cumbersome bill had serious ramifications for farmers, GMO labeling, and consumer access to locally sourced foods. What that earlier version didn’t have was an amendment that will expose Americans, and especially children, to dangerous amounts of fluoride residue—yet such an amendment was somehow snuck into the final, 949-page Farm Bill just forty-eight hours before it went to vote.

Family Farm in Michigan Threatened with Armed Enforcement from DNR for Raising Heritage Pigs

Mark Baker of Baker Green Acres gives an update on their ongoing battle with the State of Michigan regarding their heritage breed free range hogs. Their case might be reaching a dangerous point with the State of Michigan, as Mark is reporting that a USDA field agent has stated in writing that Mark is a "gun-waving lunatic" and that the USDA would not come to visit his farm, but that "armed DNR agents" will come instead. Health Impact News has reported on the Baker Green Acres family farm situation since April 2012, when the DNR decided to label all free range hogs in the State of Michigan as illegal, by classifying them as "feral" pigs. Mark and others have reported that the new definition of "feral swine" adopted by the DNR in 2012 came directly from the commercial pork industry, which raises all commercial pork indoors in confinement. Since the State made it a criminal offense to keep their heritage breed hogs that have now been ruled illegal, most hog ranchers destroyed their herds and went out business. They did not want to face arrest on criminal charges. Mark Baker decided to challenge the ruling, however, and has been involved with a long legal battle with the State of Michigan since then. Various actions have been taken against the Baker family to try and force them out of business, such as levying a fine of $700,000 against them, and getting the USDA to refuse to process their pork at a USDA processing facility, effectively eliminating most of their market to sell their pork. Now, with court case getting closer, Mark is worried that since they believe they have such a strong case against the State, they may try something else before he gets his say in court. As you watch the video below for the latest update, he will explain that he and his family are peaceful people, and portraying him as "gun-waving lunatic" is not true.