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Union of Concerned Scientists Newsletter on Food & Farming (March 2006)

FEED - Food & Environment Electronic Digest
March 2006
Read FEED online at:


1. The virtues of grass-fed beef and milk
2. House passes bill that would gut food safety laws
3. Global poultry industry may be implicated in bird flu
4. A hit list of the most dangerous microbes
5. Corn engineered to enhance ethanol production

1. The virtues of grass-fed beef and milk
Raising cattle on pasture rather than in feedlots is not only
better for the environment and for animal welfare, it also
produces beef and milk with enhanced nutritional qualities,
according to a new report from the Union of Concerned
Scientists. Greener Pastures: How Grass-fed Beef and Milk
Contribute to Healthy Eating is the first comprehensive study
that confirms that beef and milk from animals raised entirely on
pasture have higher levels of beneficial fats than
conventionally raised beef and dairy cattle. These fats may
prevent heart disease and strengthen the immune system. The
study also shows that grass-fed meat is often leaner than most
supermarket beef and that raising cattle on grass can reduce
water pollution and the risk of antibiotic-resistant diseases.
To read the report, visit

2. House passes bill that would gut food safety laws
A flood of calls and emails to members of Congress generated
strong opposition to an industry-backed bill that would strip
away state power to regulate food labels and void over 200 food
safety laws in 30 states. However, the House of Representatives
still passed the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005 (H.R.
4167) on March 8. The bill would remove states' power to warn
consumers about mercury contamination or arsenic in bottled
water, void California's Proposition 65 which requires labeling
on food products containing carcinogens, and cost taxpayers more
than $100 million to implement. It is backed by large food
manufacturers and trade organizations that have contributed
millions of dollars to members of Congress. The vigorous
opposition to the bill made it a much closer fight than it would
have been, and set the stage for a battle in the Senate. Please
call your senators today and ask them to sign the letter that
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) is circulating in opposition to this
bill. To find your Senators' contact information, visit To send a letter to
your Senators urging them to oppose this bill, or to learn more
about this issue, visit
Read a Washington Post op-ed about the bill at

3. Global poultry industry may be implicated in bird flu
A study by the international non-governmental organization GRAIN
suggests that avian influenza is spread primarily by the global
poultry trade, not migratory birds or free-range poultry
operations as has been suggested, and that confined factory farm
production contributed to its mutation into its current deadly
form. The organization tracked the movements of the disease over
time and found that they were correlated, not with migratory
bird routes or the locations of free-range farms, but with
integrated trade networks involving poultry, eggs, meat,
feathers, manure and animal feed. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Secretary Mike Johanns warned that bird flu will almost
certainly come to the United States. To read the GRAIN report,
Fowl Play: The Poultry Industry's Central Role in the Bird Flu
Crisis, visit To read
about Johanns's announcement, visit

4. A hit list of the most dangerous microbes
A list of the most dangerous drug-resistant microbes has been
released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).
The organization warned that, although these life-threatening
bacteria and fungi show up daily in hospitals, few or no drugs
are being developed to treat them. IDSA called for federal
legislation to direct efforts to produce drugs for treatment.
The hit list includes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli and Klebsiella species,
Acinetobacter baumannii, Aspergillus, vancomycin-resistant
Enterococcus faecium (VRE), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. To read
more about the list, visit
For more information on UCS's campaign on antibiotic resistance, visit

5. Corn engineered to enhance ethanol production
A biotechnology company has genetically engineered corn to
produce an enzyme from a deep-sea organism and submitted the new
variety to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval. The
enzyme is intended to make corn processing for ethanol more
efficient. The company says that the new variety's enhanced
ability to withstand the feed-pelleting process also makes it a
candidate for use in animal feed. The new hybrid could be on the
market by 2007, according to the October 2005 issue of Nature
Biotechnology. Another biotechnology company is developing the
same enzyme, which works under higher temperatures and at lower
pH levels than other enzymes, as an industrial processing aid
for ethanol production. To read more in The Progressive Farmer,