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Feed: Newsletter of Union of Concerned Scientists May 2006

Contents

1. Congress may exempt factory farms from pollution laws
2. USDA proposes robust standard for grass-fed label
3. Hospitals to serve organic food
4. Australia avoids antibiotics - and has fewer resistant bacteria
5. Support access to pasture for organic dairy
6. What's for dinner? The Omnivore's Dilemma
7. Ban on terminator technology upheld

1. Congress may exempt factory farms from pollution laws
 Large agribusiness companies are pushing their friends in Congress to exempt factory farms from the pollution reporting and cleanup provisions in key pollution laws. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) provide an essential safety net for protecting water supplies from livestock pollution and for providing warnings of toxic air emissions from factory farms. Over 140 representatives are supporting a bill, H.R. 4341, that would give this sweetheart deal to factory farms. The bill may soon be attached to a "must-pass" spending bill in an effort to speed this ill-conceived measure through Congress. Please call your representative and urge him or her to oppose this dangerous legislation. To learn more, read the Sierra Club's fact sheet (pdf) about the issue at http://ucsaction.org/ct/g7_Ifnd1wRW_/. To find your representative, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/57_Ifnd1wROV/.

2. USDA proposes robust standard for grass-fed label
On May 12, 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a proposed standard for a new government-certified label for grass-fed meat from ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, and bison. In order for producers to qualify for this voluntary label, animals must be fed a life-long diet consisting of almost 100 percent grass/forage. USDA originally proposed a requirement for an 80 percent grass diet, an idea that was roundly rejected by sustainable livestock producers because it would have allowed animals who spend the last few months of their lives in factory farm feedlots eating grain (as most conventional cattle do) to still be labeled "grass-fed." The new USDA proposal is a huge victory for producers who raise animals on grass, and consumers who support this "meat with benefits". (The many environmental, public health, and nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef were presented in the recent UCS report, Greener Pastures, available at http://ucsaction.org/ct/gp_Ifnd1wRWA/). The USDA is accepting feedback on this proposal through August 10, 2006. To read the federal register notice of the proposed grass-fed label and to submit your comments in support of this winning standard, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/t1_Ifnd1wRW1/ and search for "grass-fed".

3. Hospitals to serve organic food
Hospitals serve millions of meals a day. As some of the largest institutional meal-providers in the country, their food purchasing policies affect not just the patients who eat the meals, but the food industry as a whole. Thanks to a recent deal between MedAssets, a purchasing organization for the health care industry, and United Natural Food Incorporated, an organic food distributor, more than 2000 hospitals nationwide now have access to organic food. In related news, dozens of U.S. hospitals, including the entire Catholic Healthcare West system, have pledged to buy food that is nutritious and sustainably raised, according to the nonprofit Health Care Without Harm. Read a press release at http://ucsaction.org/ct/g1_Ifnd1wRWS/.

4. Australia avoids antibiotics - and has fewer resistant bacteria
In many industrialized countries, bacteria resistance to antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones is as high as 29 percent, but only two percent of 585 human Campylobacter infections in Australia were resistant to the antibiotics, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The study authors attributed the difference to the fact that in Australia, the feeding of fluoroquinolones to poultry has been banned for many years. Last September the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of these valuable drugs in U.S. poultry, after a drawn-out battle with Bayer, the manufacturer of one brand of these drugs. To read the study abstract, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/td_Ifnd1wRWq/. To read a Reuters article about the FDA ban, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/t7_Ifnd1wRWa/.

5. Support access to pasture for organic dairy
The National Organic Program (NOP) is considering changing the rules of dairy production. Current organic regulations state that animals should receive access to "pasture" but do not define this term, allowing many organic dairies to use so-called dry lots - small fenced areas with little or no vegetation. In addition, current law exempts animals in particular stages of production, such as cows that are lactating, from the pasture access requirement. The NOP is looking for data on the definition, feasibility, and market impact of pasture systems to help formulate its new rules. To read the Federal Register notice, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/t1_Ifnd1wRW1/ and search for "organic pasture". The NOP is accepting comments through June 12. Also, check out The Meatrix II: Revolting for an animated take on conventional dairy operations, at http://ucsaction.org/ct/gd_Ifnd1wRWL/.

6. What's for dinner? The Omnivore's Dilemma
In The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, journalist Michael Pollan follows the ingredients from source to plate for four different meals: a fast-food meal of industrially produced food, a meal made from industrial-organic ingredients purchased at a major organic supermarket, a meal of organic ingredients from a single small farm, and a hunter-gatherer meal including a wild boar that Pollan himself killed. Along the way, Pollan ruminates on the surprising predominance of corn in the U.S. diet, the wild swings of diet fads, America's obesity epidemic, and why the question of what to have for dinner has become so confusing. To read selections from the book and see book tour dates, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/tp_Ifnd1wRWz/.

7. Ban on terminator technology upheld
The international community voted to uphold a ban on so-called terminator technology at a March meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Plants with terminator technology are genetically engineered to be sterile, forcing farmers to buy seed year after year instead of saving seed from one harvest for the next year's planting. The technology has been banned for the past six years, but recently Australia, Canada, and New Zealand proposed changing the ban to a case-by-case risk assessment. The decision is a victory for small-scale farmers, who campaigned against terminator technology around the world in the months before the United Nations meeting and staged daily protests outside the meeting. To read more from the nonprofit ETC Group, which helped organize the protests, visit http://ucsaction.org/ct/5p_Ifnd1wROC/.

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