Saturday, November 21, 2015

FSMA Final Rule on Produce

Here it is, at long last. All small scale growers need to be aware of this.

Thursday, May 7, 2015



EPA OK WITH PUTTING SPINACH GENES IN ORANGE TREES: Popeye would be excited about the orange trees that Southern Gardens Citrus wants to grow. The Clewiston, Fla.-based orange juice processor is looking to insert two spinach genes into its trees, helping them to stave off the citrus greening disease now plaguing Florida groves. EPA has granted a temporary exemption from federal rules that govern pesticide residues,  according to a Federal Register notice set to publish Wednesday. EPA says it found, given the long history of human consumption of spinach, there appear to be little or no risks from the use of the genes in citrus plants. The exemption expires April 2018.
Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, EPA must set limits, known as tolerances, for how much of a given pesticide can be present on a given food for it to be safe to consume. The rules also apply to substances used in genetically modified crops to resist pests and diseases. Southern Gardens still needs sign off from the Agriculture Department before the trees can enter the market, however. See the Federal Register notice here:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Food Safety Regulation


Whether it’s irony or just fortunate timing, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), with its new package of regulations, is coming to life just as bipartisan majorities in Congress appear to be getting serious about putting a bridle on a runaway bureaucracy.

On Jan. 15, 2015, Lydia Zuraw, Washington, D.C., correspondent for Food Safety News, reported that the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) passed the House by a 250-175 vote. Now in the Senate, the RAA is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN).
The White House is threatening to veto this regulatory reform largely over arguments about how it will make life tougher for the Obama administration.

There are any number of organizations that put numbers on the cost of federal regulations to the economy, and, in the form of mandates, to state and local governments. The amount may vary, but there is not much disagreement that it’s a huge number.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a Washington D.C.-based libertarian think tank, is out with its 21st-annual report entitled, “Ten Thousand Commandments.” CEI finds the regulatory cost per household stands at $14,974, or 23 percent of average household income.

CEI also figures that, when you add federal revenues to the costs of regulatory compliance, Uncle Sam’s take of the entire economy is running at about 31 percent. At least twice during the Obama administration, the Federal Register’s page count has topped a record-setting 81,000 pages.

Quibble as we may about the costs of this regulatory burden, when we are debating specific regulations, we tend to focus on the need and benefit. Congress passed FSMA in 2010 because it wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent foodborne illnesses, not just react to it.

FDA, consumers, academia, industry, and those who had been victims of foodborne illness were all on the same page when FSMA was passed. These constituents have been kept involved by the FDA team working on implementation. The few bucks per year that we all pay for food safety at the federal level is not something that most folks even think about. As for the costs imposed on the industry, investments in food safety should also be the best business decisions.

Still, we always need to ask about the possibility of an alternative for any regulations. Is there something with less complexity and costs that could achieve the same results? In food safety, we can at least say that we’ve been there, done that.

It was called the  “Poison Squad,” and, from the 1880s to the 1890s, strapping young men working for USDA’s Chief Chemist Harvey W. Wiley voluntarily consumed chemicals and adulterated foods, all to advance food safety. This was in the years prior to enactment of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

Wiley, a veteran who got his medical degree in Indiana after the Civil War, is seen as the “Father of the FDA.” He clearly was the last federal official to be forced to combat a flood of harmful food products with no regulatory support whatsoever.

I do think that, if we brought back the “Poison Squad,” we’d have to be more inclusive. But I think we’d also not want it limited to federal employees dining in the basement at USDA. No,  I think we’d want to spread that honor around. Got any ideas?
© Food Safety News

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025, Warns Senior Research Scientist at MIT


Why? Evidence points to glyphosate toxicity from the overuse of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide on our food.
For over three decades, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, has researched biology and technology, over the years publishing over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles. In recent years she has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling such topics as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.
At a conference last Thursday, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, she took the audience by surprise when she declared, “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops (and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds) with rising rates of autism. Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.
A fellow panelist reported that after Dr. Seneff’s presentation, “All of the 70 or so people in attendance were squirming, likely because they now had serious misgivings about serving their kids, or themselves, anything with corn or soy, which are nearly all genetically modified and thus tainted with Roundup and its glyphosate.”
Dr. Seneff noted the ubiquity of glyphosate’s use. Because it is used on corn and soy, all soft drinks and candies sweetened with corn syrup and all chips and cereals that contain soy fillers have small amounts of glyphosate in them, as do our beef and poultry since cattle and chicken are fed GMO corn or soy. Wheat is often sprayed with Roundup just prior to being harvested, which means that all non-organic bread and wheat products would also be sources of glyphosate toxicity. The amount of glyphosate in each product may not be large, but the cumulative effect (especially with as much processed food as Americans eat) could be devastating. A recent study shows that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder.
Other toxic substances may also be autism-inducing. You may recall our story on the CDC whistleblower who revealed the government’s deliberate concealment of the link between the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella) and a sharply increased risk of autism, particularly in African American boys. Other studies now show a link between children’s exposure to pesticides and autism. Children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalate chemicals, are more likely to have autism. Children whose mothers smoked were also twice as likely to have autism. Research now acknowledges that environmental contaminants such as PCBs, PBDEs, and mercury can alter brain neuron functioning even before a child is born.
This month, the USDA released a study finding that although there were detectable levels of pesticide residue in more than half of food tested by the agency, 99% of samples taken were found to be within levels the government deems safe, and 40% were found to have no detectable trace of pesticides at all. The USDA added, however, that due to “cost concerns,” it did not test for residues of glyphosate. Let’s repeat that: they never tested for the active ingredient in the most widely used herbicide in the world. “Cost concerns”? How absurd—unless they mean it will cost them too much in terms of the special relationship between the USDA and Monsanto. You may recall the revolving door between Monsanto and the federal government, with agency officials becoming high-paying executives—and vice versa! Money, power, prestige: it’s all there. Monsanto and the USDA love to scratch each others’ backs. Clearly this omission was purposeful.
In addition, as we have previously reported, the number of adverse reactions from vaccines can be correlated as well with autism, though Seneff says it doesn’t correlate quite as closely as with Roundup. The same correlations between applications of glyphosate and autism show up in deaths from senility.
Of course, autism is a complex problem with many potential causes. Dr. Seneff’s data, however, is particularly important considering how close the correlation is—and because it is coming from a scientist with impeccable credentials. Earlier this year, she spoke at the Autism One conference and presented many of the same facts; that presentation is available on YouTube.
Monsanto claims that Roundup is harmless to humans. Bacteria, fungi, algae, parasites, and plants use a seven-step metabolic route known as the shikimate pathway for the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids; glyphosate inhibits this pathway, causing the plant to die, which is why it’s so effective as an herbicide. Monsanto says humans don’t have this shikimate pathway, so it’s perfectly safe.
Dr. Seneff points out, however, that our gut bacteria do have this pathway, and that’s crucial because these bacteria supply our body with crucial amino acids. Roundup thus kills beneficial gut bacteria, allowing pathogens to grow; interferes with the synthesis of amino acids including methionine, which leads to shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate; chelates (removes) important minerals like iron, cobalt and manganese; and much more.
Even worse, she notes, additional chemicals in Roundup are untested because they’re classified as “inert,” yet according to a 2014 study in BioMed Research International, these chemicals are capable of amplifying the toxic effects of Roundup hundreds of times over.
Glyphosate is present in unusually high quantities in the breast milk of American mothers, at anywhere from 760 to 1,600 times the allowable limits in European drinking water. Urine testing shows Americans have ten times the glyphosate accumulation as Europeans.
“In my view, the situation is almost beyond repair,” Dr. Seneff said after her presentation. “We need to do something drastic.”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Use your rights. FSMA comment period ends December 15

This is pretty dry material, but if you value your ability to either produce or purchase vegetables from a small scale grower this will have a huge impact on your choices. I encourage you to look this over and use your right (even as a consumer) to comment before the period closes on December 15. Remember, Monsanto's man, Michael Taylor is now the man at the FDA directing the implementation of these rules. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a strong and determined effort to discourage small scale agriculture by an unrealistic and overburdening of regulation that does not fit the model of small growers where their accountability can be judged by the small and intimate clientele that purchase from them. This regulation impacts growers that only produce $25,000 per year of product and can cost $4,000 to $11,000 to implement.!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0973

Friday, November 14, 2014

McDonald’s mulling embrace of Simplot’s bruise-reducing Innate GMO potato

(Editor's note: This article is from a pro-biotech site)

| November 9, 2014 |
What will McDonald’s do?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday cleared a genetically engineered potato with two innovations that help both consumers and producers: The Simplot Innate potato resists bruising, which makes it more appealing to consumers (even though bruising generally does not impact the quality of the starchy vegetable); and it’s been modified to produce less of the chemical acrylamide when fried. Acrylamide has been linked to cancer in rats although there is no clear evidence that it poses harm to humans.
The Innate offers a number of safety and ecological advantages over conventional potatoes:Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.31.52 PMThe Innate is, in theory, perfect for food giants that use a lot of potatoes, particularly fast food giants and chip companies, but history and the ongoing controversy over GMOs suggests that McDonald’s will move cautiously.
As the Genetic Literacy Project previously noted, the Innate is one of numerous GMO potatoes in development. Farmers could benefit from the results of a three-year trial on genetically modified potatoes resistant to blight released earlier this year. The results were published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B  and was part of an EU-wide investigation into the potential for biotechnology to protect crops, led by scientists at the John Innes Centre and the Sainsbury Laboratory. Researchers added a gene to Desiree potatoes, from a South American wild relative of potato, which triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms by enabling it to recognize the pathogen.
In 1998, Monsanto introduced NewLeaf potatoes, which were engineered to repel a pest called the Colorado potato beetle. But NGOs launched a demonization campaign, persuading McDonald’s and Frito-Lay to tell their suppliers, including Simplot, not to grow the NewLeaf potatoes. Monsanto subsequently withdrew from the potato business, and the first GM potato died. This time, Simplot, a long-established power in the potato business, is the prime mover and presumably would not have moved forward without positive signals from McDonald’s and others. We’ll see.
“The potato is one of a new wave of genetically modified crops that aim to provide benefits to consumers, not just to farmers as the widely grown biotech crops like herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn do,” notes The New York Times.
“The non-bruising aspect of the potato is similar to that of genetically engineered non-browning apples, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which are awaiting regulatory approval. These consumer focused innovations have anti-GMO campaigners on the defensive, as one of their central talking points is that GM has focused on commodity crops, like corn and soybeans.
Food and Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) have led the attack against Innate and Arctic Apple, alleging unknown possible health risks that no study or science oversight agency has found. Neither the new GMO potato nor the nonbrowng apple were modified using so-called “foreign genes”–genes from another species. Because all life share common ancestors, scientists put no stock into “foreign gene” scaremongering, but it’s a popular talking point for anti-GMO activists.
“We think this is a really premature approval of a technology that is not being adequately regulated,” said CFS’ Doug Gurian-Sherman, adding that his group might try to get a court to reverse the approval of the potato.
Arctic apple uses what’s called an apple-to-apple transformation,” turning down the expression of the genes that turn the apple brown in a process called gene silencing–a natural process that all plants (and animals too) use to control expression of their genes. Similarly, the Innate contains fragments of potato DNA that silences genes involved in the production of certain enzymes.
“We are trying to use genes from the potato plant back in the potato plant,” Haven Baker, who is in charge of the potato development at Simplot, told the TImes. “We believe there’s some more comfort in that.”
Both crops offer considerable sustainability advantages, reducing food waste, purportedly a goal of food and consumer based NGOs:Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.29.59 PM    Download pdf: Simplot_Sustainability_Advantages
Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, is a Senior Fellow at the World Food Center, Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, University of California-Davis. Follow @JonEntine on Twitter