Your voice has an impact! Please read about the issues outlined below and contact your Representatives and Senators to incite action.
US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121
Locate your representatives online:
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov
U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov
2,4-D Environmental Impact
Enhancing Agricultural Coexistence
Farm Bill UPDATE
MOSES comments to FDA regarding FSMA
Federal Food and Farm Policy work continues
Just because the farm bill is now law, it doesn’t mean that we can relax, there is still plenty to watch over in Washington. The FDA has released a draft environmental impact statement for the Food Safety Modernization Act, addressing water used for irrigation, animal manures and conservation issues. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition will be developing talking points for comments and attending the one public hearing in early April. In addition, there are a variety of appropriations issues that are being discussed in Congress, after the recent release of the President’s budget. One area of importance is funding a food safety training program, to help farmers comply with the new food safety regulations, by improving their food handling procedures. Other programs included in these appropriations discussions help beginning farmers and ranchers, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, rural microentrepreuers, and natural resource conservation on working lands. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has excellent information on these topics and targeted members of congress where your call or email can have the most impact.
2,4-D Environmental Impact Study
The USDA received more than 400,000 comments on 2,4-D ready corn and soybeans.
Here’s why we are concerned:
- 2,4-D was the primary ingredient in Agent Orange, the defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
- 2,4-D has been linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems. Children, in particular, are extremely vulnerable to 2,4-D exposure.
- 2,4-D is much more harmful to plant life than RoundUp (glyphosate). Specialty crops (like grapes, tomatoes, beans and sweet corn) and non-GE soy and cotton are extremely sensitive to 2,4-D.
- Both spray and volatilization drift can devastate adjacent ecosystems.
- Industry tests show that 2,4-D is contaminated with dioxins—often referred to as the most toxic substance known to science. Dioxin contamination in the rivers and soil around Dow Chemical’s headquarters in Midland, Michigan is the highest ever found by the EPA, and has been linked to increased breast cancer rates in the contaminated areas.
- Dow Chemical is calling GE 2,4-D corn and soy the solution to glyphosate-resistant weeds. GE crop systems caused the “superweeds” in the first place. Like Roundup before it, 2,4-D is only a temporary solution that will require more and more toxic chemicals leaching into our environment and food supply.
- The Organic Center’s agricultural scientist Charles Benbrook projects that widespread planting of Dow’s Enlist corn alone could trigger as much as a 25-fold increase in use of 2,4-D, from an estimated 4.2 million pounds at present to over 100 million pounds by 2019.
We’ll let you know if there’s more you can do to help stop release of 2,4-D-ready crops.
‘Enhancing Agricultural Coexistence’
Comment period is closed.
Read Harriet Behar’s Inside Organics blog: “GMOs, organic: ‘Coexistence’ in the belly of the beast.”
The USDA was seeking ideas on how GMO and non-GMO producers can coexist. GMO contamination threatens access to organic and non-GMO markets. Prevention, not communication, is what’s needed.
- The management and economic burden of GMO “coexistence” currently falls only on the nonGMO farmer, who needs to avoid contamination and create large buffer zones, which leads to some crop loss.
- The nonGMO farmer should not be asked to find and discuss planting protocols with whomever is managing the neighboring land; the majority of farmland is managed by renters who use a variety of custom operators.
- Asking GMO farmers to follow voluntary planting protocols has been shown to be ineffective. There needs to be some enforcement.
- GMO crops can damage non-target species such as monarch butterflies, pollinators, and aquatic ecosystems by loss of habitat and/or the insecticides present in GMO crops & residues.
- We need a regulatory framework that places the burden of contamination prevention on the USDA and the biotechnology industry. NonGMO farmers cannot control the weather and other aspects of farming that may lead to unintentional contamination.
- Farmers cannot guarantee a planting date, due to variables such as weather, equipment breaking down, fertilizer or seeds not arriving on time, or lack of time in a day.
- The stacking of numerous insecticides in one seed to deal with resistance, along with the introduction of 2, 4-D herbicide resistant corn and soybean, are proof that the more this technology is introduced into our environment, the less effective it becomes. This will lead to the need for more toxic materials to deal with a growing number of resistant weeds and insects.
Farm Bill Update
Learn more about how organic fared in the farm bill in the March | April Organic Broadcaster. (online story)
Feb. 6, 2014
President Barak Obama signed the new farm bill into law today at Michigan State University in East Lansing. It’s officially called theAgriculture Act of 2014.
Your phone calls and comments in support of organic agriculture made a difference in the final bill, which contains funding for many programs supporting organic:
- Organic Certification Cost Share for all 50 states
Organic producers and processors can get a “rebate” on the cost of organic certification. Although the payments and time frame are not clear, there is funding for crop year 2014 and beyond.
- Organic research
- Organic data collection
- Increased availability of crop insurance paid at the organic price
- Additional funding for the National Organic Program along with stronger enforcement tools to protect the organic label in the marketplace
- Further exemptions from conventional check-off programs were included for organic producers.
- The bill also would allow the organic community to develop their own check-off type program, to be managed by the USDA. Before any check-off would be implemented, there would need to be a clear proposal and an affirmative vote of all proposed organic participants.
MOSES comments to FDA regarding FSMA
MOSES Organic Specialist Harriet Behar submitted two multi-page documents to the FDA regarding the proposed rules for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), explaining strong concerns about the impact the rules would have on organic and sustainable farming.*
Among the major concerns with the proposed rules:
- They contradict existing National Organic Program regulations.
- They create incentives for mono-cultural farming operations, and don’t respect the value of diversified farms.
- They impose burdens and costs that would accelerate consolidation and concentration for generations to come.
- They skew against organic and sustainable farming practices that foster biologically active soils. Rather, they push our food system toward chemical-intensive farming practices, which creates soil sterility and may actually contribute to pathogen persistence in food.
- MOSES is concerned about the large-scale use and release of chlorine and/or other antimicrobial pesticides into the environment that may be used to comply with the proposed microbial standards and treatment requirements.
MOSES’ comments (see PDF) include detailed references to the sections of the proposed regulations that are of concern, and provide specific recommendations to improve these sections. Highlights of these recommendations include:
- FDA should not require farms to perform operational assessments or develop food safety plans in its final Produce Rule. FDA should not require farms to register with FDA in the final Produce Rule.
- The $25,000 gross sales exemption should be retained, but modified to apply solely to covered produce as provided by FSMA.
- Standards directed to agricultural water fails to meet the requirements of FSMA for a science- and risk-based approach and for flexibility in application, and must be thoroughly revised.
- FDA must align its biological soil amendments of animal origin standards with the National Organic Program requirements and on-farm practices widely used in diversified, sustainable, and conservation-based production systems.
- FDA should more strongly support conservation in the final Produce Rule by incorporating statements and concepts from the preamble into the regulatory text, in the definitions, training requirements, and domesticated and wild animal standards.
- Produce rule must support diversified crop-livestock farming systems and clarify grazing.
- FDA must clarify, as part of a revised proposed Preventive Controls Rule, that the sale and distribution of food through a community supported agriculture program, roadside stand, farmers’ market, or other direct-to-consumer platforms is included in the definition of sales direct to consumers for purposes of defining a “retail food establishment,” as required by the FSMA statute.
- FDA should adopt a threshold of at least $1,000,000 and apply it not to sales of “all food” but to sales of food regulated under the Preventive Controls Rule.
- To ensure sufficient flexibility for a diverse array of food businesses, FDA should establish an outright exemption from the Preventive Controls Rule for businesses with $25,000 or less in annual average monetary value of product covered by the Preventive Controls Rule over a three-year period, adjusted for inflation.
- FDA should retain the list of low-risk activities/food combinations and add additional low-risk, value-added processing activities such as pickling, baking with grains, extracting oils, and making syrups.
- FDA should change the definitions of “farm,” “facility,” and “manufacturing/ processing” to align with the common-sense understanding and practice.
*Many of these concerns were identified in documents from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition.