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Union of Concerned Scientists: Sustainable Ag News May 2005

FEED May 2005
Read FEED online:


1. Communities lose right to ban engineered crops
2. Antibiotics petition submitted to FDA
3. Rollback on no-downers rule for cattle
4. Climate change will hurt agriculture
5. Sustainable ag in Central America
6. New feature! What you can do: CSAs

1) Communities' rights to ban production of engineered crops are being undermined New laws in fourteen states take away local rights to control the production, regulation, and storage of agricultural seed and crops, making it difficult, if not impossible, for communities to ban planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops. The bills are part of a nation-wide campaign backed by biotechnology interests. A serious blow to the local control of food production, they pre-empt existing local bans and thwart the ability of communities to enjoy the economic advantages of "GE-free" status. The bills have been signed into law in Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and West Virginia and are in process in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio.
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2) FDA petitioned on antibiotic use in livestock
Five prominent medical and environmental groups-American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Environmental Defense, and Union of Concerned Scientists-petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on April 7 to withdraw approval for seven classes of antibiotics as feed additives for livestock. The petition argued that continued use of these antibiotics violates the FDA's Guidance #152, which designates these drugs as "highly important" or "critically important" for human medicine, and inappropriate for feed or flock-wide use in animals. The same day, Senators Snowe, Kennedy, Collins, Landrieu, and Reed introduced federal legislation addressing the non-therapeutic use in livestock of medically important antibiotics, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. To read more, visit:

3) No-downers rule for cattle may be rolled back
The U.S. Department of Agriculture may roll back a regulation that keeps "downers," cattle unable to stand or walk, out of the food supply. The regulation was adopted in January 2004 as a protective measure against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), mad cow disease, after a cow with the disease was found in Washington State in December 2003. Cows with BSE may have trouble standing or walking. The agency is now considering allowing downers to enter the food supply if a visual inspection at slaughterhouses determines that they are only injured, not ill. Opponents of the rollback say that a visual inspection cannot always distinguish ill from injured animals. Humane organizations add that the no-downers rule provides an economic incentive for producers to avoid injuring animals during transport. To read an article about the rule, visit:

4) Climate change will reduce agricultural yields more than expected According to the results of large-scale experiments presented at an international conference in London last month, global warming will harm agriculture more than previously expected. The experiments, which involved crops grown in open-air plots with elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone, found that heat and ground ozone could reduce yields by 20 percent or more. Over the next few decades, these factors, in addition to longer droughts and more severe storms, are likely to significantly reduce yields, overpowering the positive effects on plant growth from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures. To read an article about the topic, visit:

5) Sustainable agriculture helps Central American farmers
A nonprofit organization called Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) is helping thousands of farmers in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama implement sustainable techniques that improve yields, maintain soil fertility, and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Working with local field personnel, SHI teaches techniques such as planting nitrogen-fixing trees between rows of crop plants, tapping methane from decomposing plant material as an energy source, creating organic fertilizers, and growing rice in paddies instead of on slash-and-burn plots. Sustainable farming has helped reduce poverty while restoring ecological stability to the region. To learn more, visit:

6) New feature! What you can do: CSAs
**This feature, appearing occasionally in FEED, will highlight ideas and resources you can use.** According to the nonprofit FoodRoutes Network, food travels an average 1300 miles from the farm to your plate and may spend up to two weeks in transit. You can get produce that is fresher than what you find at the supermarket by participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA subscribers receive regular deliveries of seasonal fruits and vegetables from a local farm. Many farms still have subscriptions available for the 2005 season. Local farmers' markets are also a good option to procure fresh produce. Both CSAs and markets support local farmers and avoid the environmental impacts associated with transporting food long distances. To find a CSA or farmers' market near you, visit:

If you have general questions, comments, or concerns about this update, send email to