tagged w/ CAFOs
Today President Barack Obama will return to Iowa for an official “grassroots event” at the Iowa State Fair in an effort to fire up his base in the state where he unexpectedly won the first in the nation caucus in 2008, launching him on the road to the White House. Right now, Iowa is considered a crucial battleground state and one of the 12 that six months from the election is too close to call. The doors at the event open in the next few hours, but President Obama isn’t scheduled to appear until 7 pm.
Even though Obama’s campaign stop in Iowa may seem routine, for many Iowans, especially family farmers, environmentalists, animal welfare advocates and rural residents, the location of the visit, at the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center is certain to cause real alarm.
While the name of the building on the Iowa state fairgrounds sounds fairly innocuous, during the famous state fair, the building is transformed into a major propaganda set piece for industrial agriculture, complete with life-size gestation crates, full of sows with newborn baby pigs, dioramas of factory farms and posters full of factory farm PR platitudes. See the slideshow below for the real story of where Obama will speak to voters today in Iowa.
Ironically, President Obama’s visit to the factory farm propaganda site comes at a time when major food companies such as Burger King, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Denny’s and Safeway are responding to consumer pressure to dump gestation crates. Now it seems that the practices of locking sows in cages for much of their adult life as advocated by Iowa’s factory farm pork producers and the Big Ag money behind this nasty effort to whitewash the factory farm industry, will get what they paid for - the Presidential seal of approval. The Paul R. Knapp building is also sponsored by Christensen Farms, a Minnesota-based factory farm operation that boasts on its website as being “one of the top three producers in the United States”. Last year, Christensen Farms featured banners with the soft porn feel-good-themed motto: “Farming Feels Good”.Guess they’ve never asked a sow in a gestation crate for her opinion.
For many family farmers and rural Iowans, who helped pushed Obama to a first place finish during the 2008 caucus, Obama’s appearance in this building is an outrage and a major misstep by the campaign. Four years ago, such a mistake would have likely cost Obama the Iowa caucus and thus the election. And many, including myself, have written that a similar gaff by Hillary Clinton, cost her more than first place in 2008. While factory farms may seem to be an odd issue to outsiders, the ungodly stench of pig shit from factory hog confinements and the political collusion in Iowa’s state capital have been leading hot button issues during state and presidential campaigns since the mid 1990s.
The issue was so important for progressive farmers, environmentalists and rural residents that John Edwards paraded a cart with hogs in it through Des Moines and onto the state fairgrounds that said, Edwards for Local Control and Hogs for Edwards. Not to be outdone, then Senator Barack Obama challenged Edward’s commitment on factory farms in front of an audience of Iowa farmers and rural advocates who knew the issue best. On November 10, 2007, speaking at the Food and Family Farm Presidential Summit, an event that I organized where 5 of the 6 Democratic presidential candidates spoke, Obama boasted about his record on factory farms or CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations).
Said Obama: “So when I hear other candidates say they’ll stand up to the special interests on the issues that matter to you – like CAFO’s – I’m reminded that the test of leadership isn’t what you say, it’s what you do. Voting records matter. And unlike other candidates who have changed their position on CAFO’s, I look at this issue as a matter of principle, not politics. That’s why I have always stood for tougher environmental regulations and local control over whether a CAFO can be built in your neighborhood, and that’s why we need to limit EQIP funding to giant CAFO’s so they are forced to pay for their own pollution. And that’s what I’ll do as President.” Clearly President Obama’s advance staff this time around is either so clueless about the state’s farm, environmental and rural issues or so arrogant that they just don’t care to get it right.
To the more than 22,000 family hog farmers that have been forced out of business in Iowa in the past 15 years and the tens of thousands of rural Iowans who have seen their property value drop precipitously and their quality of life ruined by the stench of nearby factory hog confinements, the appearance by the Obama campaign is just another sign of how far his administration has moved away from the progressive, family farm agenda that helped him win the 2008 Iowa caucus.
In the past nearly four years, Obama’s family farm and rural supporters have watched as his administration has caved on nearly every major campaign promise he made in his now famous shrinking rural agenda. While President Obama planted a garden on the White House lawn and his wife launched a major healthy food initiative called Let’s Move, the Obama USDA, FDA and EPA have gone out of their way to favor agribusiness in their rule making and review processes, including the failure to ban subtherapeutic antibiotics for livestock used for treatment of human diseases, the White House’s caving to agribusiness on GIPSA (or fair market livestock reforms for family farmers) to their rampant approval of genetically engineered crops and Obama’s failure to follow through on his campaign promise to label GMOs.
At the same time, President Obama and his administration is failing on even his most basic campaign promises, the factory farm fight in Iowa is heating once up once again, with more new factory farms being proposed as the spring planting finishes. Last week, the application for a 5,000 hog confinement facility was withdrawn by the farmer after public outcry.
More at the link
How is this different from what Mitt Romney would do? Politics is bs.Today President Barack Obama will return to Iowa for an official “grassroots... more
Farmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals, in hopes that more judicious use of the drugs will reduce the tens of thousands of human deaths that result each year from the drugs’ overuse.
The Food and Drug Administration announced the new rule Wednesday after trying for more than 35 years to stop farmers and ranchers from feeding antibiotics to cattle, pigs, chickens and other animals simply to help the animals grow larger. Using small amounts of antibiotics over long periods of time leads to the growth of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs’ effects, endangering humans who become infected but cannot be treated with routine antibiotic therapy.
At least two million people are sickened and an estimated 99,000 die every year from hospital-acquired infections, the majority of which result from such resistant strains. It is unknown how many of these illnesses and deaths result from agricultural uses of antibiotics, but about 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animals.
Michael Taylor, the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for food, predicted that the new restrictions would save lives because farmers would have to convince a veterinarian that their animals were either sick or at risk of getting a specific illness. Just using the drugs for growth will be disallowed and, it is hoped, this will cut their use sharply. The new requirements will also make obtaining antibiotics more cumbersome and expensive.
“We’re confident that it will result in significant reductions in agricultural antibiotic use,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s why we’re doing this.”
Just how broadly farmers use antibiotics simply to promote animal growth is unknown. About 80 percent of antibiotics used on farms are given through feed, and an additional 17 percent are given in water. Just 3 percent are given by injection.
More at the linkFarmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian... more
Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption
Author: madeline bernstein
Published: November 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm
Horse slaughter plants are legal again in the United States. Restrictions on horse meat processing for human consumption have been lifted.
In a bipartisan effort, the House of Representatives and the United States Senate approved the Conference Committee report on spending bill H2112, which among other things, funds the United States Department of Agriculture. On November 18th, as the country was celebrating Thanksgiving, President Obama signed a law, allowing Americans to kill and eat horses. Essentially, one turkey was pardoned in the presence of worldwide media while in the shadows, buried under pages of fiscal regulation, millions of horses were sentenced to death.
Horse slaughter has been prohibited in the United States as funding for inspections of horses in transit and at slaughter houses was non-existent. This worked because the horse meat cannot be sold for human consumption without such inspections. The House version of the bill retained the de-funding language and the Senate version did not. The conference committee charged with reconciling the two opted to not include it. The result is that it is now legal to slaughter horses for humans to eat.
Notwithstanding that 70% of Americans oppose horse slaughter, that President Obama made a campaign promise to permanently ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for human consumption (horses can be sent to Mexico and Canada), that documentation of animal cruelty, slaughterhouse stench, fluid runoff and negative community impact exists, it is taxpayers that will bear the costs!
Wyoming state representative Sue Wallis and her pro-slaughter group estimate that between 120,000 and 200,000 horses will be killed for human consumption per year and that Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Georgia and Missouri, are considering opening slaughter plants.
During these trying times, is the only thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that Americans need to eat horses?
Read more: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/obama-legalizes-horse-slaughter-for-human/#ixzz1fG00lE9y
Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption
As suburbs engulfed the rural landscape in the boom following World War II, many family farmers found themselves with new neighbors who were annoyed by the sound of crowing roosters, the smell of animal manure, or the rumble of farming equipment. In defense of family farming, Massachusetts passed the first "Right to Farm" law in 1979, to protect these farmers against their new suburban neighbors filing illegitimate nuisance lawsuits against them when, in fact, the farms were there first. Since then, every state has passed some kind of protection for family farms, which are pillars of our communities and the backbone of a sensible system of sustainable agriculture.
However, in the past few decades, intensive corporatization of farming has threatened both the future of family farming and the ability of neighbors to regulate the development of industrial agricultural operations that have transmogrified many farms into factories. Small-scale farms that resembled Old MacDonald's farm (with an oink oink here and a moo moo there) have increasingly disappeared or been turned into enormous livestock confinements with literal lagoons of liquified manure and urine, super-concentrated smells that could make a skunk faint, or vast fields of monoculture crops grown with a myriad of chemicals and pesticides and sometimes even sewage sludge. For example, the decade before the first right to farm law was passed, it took one million family farms to raise nearly 60 million pigs but by 2001, less than ten percent (80,000 farms) were growing the same number of pigs.
Capitalizing on the sentiment of protecting traditional farming, giant agribusiness interests have convinced some states to revise their Right to Farm laws to stealthily protect the most egregious of industrial farming practices from legitimate nuisance suits. The Center for Media & Democracy has recently exposed and analyzed a cache of bills voted on by corporations and politicians behind closed doors and then introduced in state legislatures without any notice to the public of the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill factory in the production of the legislation and no disclosure of the fact that corporations pre-voted on the bills, let alone disclosures of the names of those companies. In 1996, ALEC suddenly took an interest in expanding right to farm laws. ALEC's corporate backers, unsurprisingly, hale from the factory farm side of the equation.
ALEC's Corporate Backers
ALEC's corporate members and funders have included a number of agriculture interests, including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill, and DuPont, as well as industry organizations like the National Pork Producers Council, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and the Illinois Soybean Association. Cargill is the nation's second largest beef processor, third largest turkey processor, and fourth largest pork processor. In three other areas, flour milling, soybean crushing, and production of animal feed, ADM joins Cargill as the biggest in the industry. Chemical giant DuPont is one of the world's largest makers of numerous pesticides, and in 1999, it purchased seed giant Pioneer Hi-Bred, the world's top seller of corn seeds, including genetically engineered seeds.
Unlike the corporations, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is actually led by farmers ... and lobbyists for multinational pork processors, like Don Butler, past president of NPPC and lobbyist for Smithfield Foods, the largest pork processor in the world. The farmers who lead NPPC tend to own farms similar to that of NPPC president Doug Wolf. Wolf's farm produces 24,000 hogs per year - and it also has a beef feedlot and 1,200 acres of corn, soy, and alfalfa.
Perhaps the most surprising "agribusiness" donor to ALEC is the most powerful of all: Koch Industries. It turns out that an early part of the Koch empire was the Matador Cattle Company, founded in 1952. To this day, Koch Agriculture Company retains Matador Cattle Company, which has about 15,000 cattle. However, in the 1990's, Koch Beef Company was the nation's 10th largest cattle feeder, with feedlots that held up to 165,000 cattle. Koch bought a new feedlot in 1996 and, among other things, decided to expand its capacity by adding 20,000 more cows. The neighbors did not think that was a good idea:
Some businesses and farm owners expressed concerns over the health of their employees, some of whom would be housed within 300 feet of Koch's cattle pens. Other neighbors cited concerns over the potential for groundwater pollution, the amount of dirt, insects, and odors added to the area contributing to health problems, a decrease in the quality of life for nearby residents, and the possible devaluation of land.
Koch overcame their objections with the ruling of a friendly regulator in Texas, winning the right to expand. With all these corporate interests in limiting regulation of factory farming, thank goodness their pals at ALEC approved a model version of a Right to Farm bill in 1996!
Why Corporations Care About Laws For Farmers
While nearly all farms in the United States are technically "family farms" (a tiny fraction are owned directly by corporations), multinational agribusiness corporations have a major stake in how these farms are operated. Often family farms take the form of Wolf L & G Farms LLC, the farm owned by the family of Doug Wolf (mentioned above). Particularly for chickens and hogs, individual farmers often contract with meatpackers like Cargill, Smithfield, or Tyson. In contract farming arrangements, the corporations provide the animals, medications, and feed to the farmers; the farmer is responsible for the animals' housing, manure, and the bodies of animals that die prematurely. When the animals are fully grown, they are picked up by the corporation, which slaughters, processes, and markets the animal and plays the farmer for the weight the animal gained in his or her care. The farmers have most of the debt and risk and the corporation has most of the power and profit.
More at the linkAs suburbs engulfed the rural landscape in the boom following World War II, many... more
Here is a document the USDA doesn't want you to see. It's what the agency calls a "technical review"—nothing more than a USDA-contracted researcher's simple, blunt summary of recent academic findings on the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections and their link with factory animal farms. The topic is a serious one. A single antibiotic-resistant pathogen, MRSA—just one of many now circulating among Americans—now claims more lives each year than AIDS.
Back in June, the USDA put the review up on its National Agricultural Library website. Soon after, a Dow Jones story quoted a USDA official who declared it to be based on "reputed, scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly journals." She added that the report should not be seen as a "representation of the official position of USDA." That's fair enough—the review was designed to sum up the state of science on antibiotic resistance and factory farms, not the USDA's position on the matter.
But around the same time, the agency added an odd disclaimer to the top of the document: "This review has not been peer reviewed. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Agriculture." And last Friday, the document (original link) vanished without comment from the agency's website. The only way to see the document now is through the above-linked cached version supplied to me by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
What gives? Why is the USDA suppressing a review that assembles research from "reputed, scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly journals"?
To understand the USDA's quashing of a report it had earlier commissioned, published, and praised, you first have to understand a key aspect of industrial-scale meat production. You see, keeping animals alive and growing fast under cramped, unsanitary conditions is tricky business. One of the industry's tried-and-true tactics is low-level, daily doses of antibiotics. The practice helps keep infections down, at least in the short term, and, for reasons no one really understands, it pushes animals to fatten to slaughter weight faster.
Altogether, the US meat industry uses 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year. To put that number in perspective, consider that we humans in the United States—in all of our prescription fill-ups and hospital stays combined—use just over 7 million pounds per year. Thus the vast bulk of antibiotics consumed in this country, some 80 percent, goes to factory animal farms.
For years, scientists have worried that the industry's reliance on antibiotics was contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The European Union took action to curtail routine antibiotic use on farms in 2006 (taking Sweden's lead, which had banned the practice 20 years before).
But here in the United States, the regulatory approach has been completely laissez-faire—and the meat industry would like to keep it that way. The industry claims that even though antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found both in confined animals and supermarket meat, there's simply no evidence that livestock strains are jumping to the human population.
Here is where we get back to that now-you-see-it, now-you-don't USDA research summary, which reads like a heavily footnoted rebuttal to the industry line. Assembled by Vaishali Dharmarha, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, the report summarizes research from 63 academic papers and government studies. Here are few of her findings:
• "Use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animal production and human medicine is the main factor accelerating antimicrobial resistance."
• "[F]ood animals, when exposed to antimicrobial agents, may serve as a significant reservoir of resistant bacteria that can transmit to humans through the food supply."
• "Several studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella showed that [antibiotic resistance] in Salmonella strains was most likely due to the antimicrobial use in food animals, and that most infections caused by resistant strains are acquired from the consumption of contaminated food."
• "Farmers and farm workers may get exposed to resistant bacteria by handling animals, feed, and manure. These exposures are of significant concern to public health, as they can transfer the resistant bacteria to family and community members, particularly through person-to-person contacts."
• "Resistant bacteria can also spread from intensive food animal production area to outside boundaries through contact between food animals and animals in the external environment. Insects, flies, houseflies, rodents, and wild birds play an important role in this mode of transmission. They are particularly attracted to animal wastes and feed sources from where they carry the resistant bacteria to several locations outside the animal production facility."
Naturally, such assertions didn't please the meat industry—and the fact that they were backed up by dozens of peer-reviewed science papers no doubt only sharpened the sting.
More at the link.Here is a document the USDA doesn't want you to see. It's what the agency... more
Now that Monsanto/Forage Genetics' new genetically modified alfalfa has been approved by the USDA, where will all that GMO alfalfa end up? Feed for factory farmed dairy cows. The number one dairy processor in the US is Dean Foods, so the best way to boycott GMO alfalfa is to boycott Dean Foods.
As the new documentary by Organic Spies explains, that means boycotting most of the biggest conventional milk brands, but it also means boycotting Dean Foods' WhiteWave brands.
Is it fair to boycott WhiteWave, known for its natural/organic Horizon and Silk products? If you look into the information Organic Spies has uncovered, the answer is resounding YES! It turns out that WhiteWave has a licensing agreement with Land O' Lakes. Land O' Lakes is the owner of GMO alfalfa co-creator Forage Genetics and a distributor of Monsanto's GMO corn, soy and RoundUp herbicide.
Another reason Organic Spies gives us to boycott all of Dean Foods brands, including Horizon and Silk, is that theres no separation between the lobbying and polical campaign contributions of the parent and its subsidiaries. Dean Foods has a single Political Action Committee that WhiteWave employees, including Kelly Shea, an Organic Trade Association board member, contribute to.
All of Dean Foods' conventional milk products are produced with genetically engineered feed, so they had an interest in seeing GMO alfalfa approved without restrictions, but they sent the same lobbyist who advocates for their conventional milk products to talk to the USDA about organic milk and the idea of "coexistence" between organic and GMOs. There's no way the lobbyist for Dean Foods' the largest conventioanl milk processor could have made a sincere argument that organic needs to be protected from contamination. It's little wonder, with industry lobbyists like this in the mix, that the USDA chose to approve GMO alfalfa, even though the inevitability of contamination means disaster for organic.Now that Monsanto/Forage Genetics' new genetically modified alfalfa has been... more
'The measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals"
A shameful legacy for this country. CAFOS are more than just a representation of the globalization that is destroying our environment. They are a reflection of our collective moral compass. We need to end this. This book is on my list and I hope you place it on yours to discover the ways we can stop this abuse, this environmental destruction, this insanity. A sustainable food system that respects life and the ecosystems of our planet is a system that reflects the true values of a civilized society.'The measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals"... more
Two Iowa farms that together recalled more than half a billion potentially tainted eggs this month share close ties, including suppliers of chickens and feed.
Both farms are linked to businessman Austin "Jack" DeCoster, who has been cited for numerous health, safety and employment violations over the years. DeCoster owns Wright County Egg, the original farm that recalled 380 million eggs Aug. 13 after they were linked to more than 1,000 reported cases of salmonella poisoning.
Another of his companies, Quality Egg, supplies young chickens and feed to both Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, the second farm that recalled another 170 million eggs a week later.
Jewanna Porter, a spokeswoman for the egg industry, said the two companies share other suppliers as well, but she did not name them.
The cause of the outbreaks is so far unknown, as Food and Drug Administration investigators are still on the ground at the farms trying to figure it out. The federal Centers for Disease Control has said the number of illnesses, estimated as high as 1,300, would likely grow.
DeCoster is no stranger to controversy in his food and farm operations:
• In 1997, DeCoster Egg Farms agreed to pay $2 million in fines to settle citations brought in 1996 for health and safety violations at DeCoster's farm in Turner, Maine. Then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich said conditions were "as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop." He cited unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, exposure to harmful bacteria and other unsanitary conditions.
• In 2000, Iowa designated DeCoster a "habitual violator" of environmental regulations for problems that included hog manure runoff into waterways. The label made him subject to increased penalties and prohibited him from building new farms.
• In 2002, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a more than $1.5 million settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit against DeCoster Farms on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by some supervisory workers at DeCoster's Wright County plants.
• In 2007, 51 workers were arrested during an immigration raid at six DeCoster egg farms. The farm had been the subject of at least three previous raids.
• In June 2010, Maine Contract Farming — the successor company to DeCoster Egg Farms — agreed in state court to pay $25,000 in penalties and to make a one-time payment of $100,000 to the Maine Department of Agriculture over animal cruelty allegations that were spurred by a hidden-camera investigation by an animal welfare organization.
It is unclear what role DeCoster's company played in the current salmonella outbreak. The FDA investigation could take months, and sources of contamination are often difficult to find. The current recall goes back to April, and many of the eggs have already been consumed.
There was no immediate comment Sunday from a spokeswoman for DeCoster.
Still, DeCoster's Wright County Egg is already facing at least two lawsuits related to the egg recall. One is from food distributor Dutch Farms, which says the company used unauthorized cartons to package and sell eggs under its brand without its knowledge.
The other is from a person who said they became ill after eating tainted eggs in a salad at a restaurant in Kenosha, Wis.
The CDC said investigations by 10 states since April have identified 26 cases where more than one person became ill. Preliminary information showed that Wright was the supplier in at least 15 of those.Two Iowa farms that together recalled more than half a billion potentially tainted... more
This just shows the incomptency of the FDA and the need to outlaw factory farming. And the current bills in the Senate and Congress that are supposed to deal with this will give loopholes to factory farms because of profits. This is what you get when government and industry are joined at the hip and regulation is just a word. This is the BP gulf oil ecocide of farming. Incompetence and greed is killing the food system of this country.This just shows the incomptency of the FDA and the need to outlaw factory farming. And... more
Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change, UN report says
A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today.
As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.
It says: "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."
Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: "Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."
The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.
The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.
Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: "Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products - livestock now consumes much of the world's crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides."
Both energy and agriculture need to be "decoupled" from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.
Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: "Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation."
The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.
Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.
Last year the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world's surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.
Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world's pattern of increasing consumption: "Developing countries should not follow our model. But it's up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods."Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world from the worst... more
Ever feel like you were playing checkers and the other guy was playing chess?
That’s the impression I get when watching many of the recent spate of food documentaries. Activists announce that this or that is wrong with the food system; on the rare occasion when something appears to be getting done about it, the folks who are doing things badly simply change their tactics, not their strategy.
That’s how it’s gone with the British 2009 documentary film Pig Business. I watched this film in several 10-minute segments via YouTube (Part One) because it hasn’t been released in the U.S., primarily due to legal pressure brought upon the director (Tracy Worcester, who spent four years making the film) by the film’s main villain, Smithfield Foods. The world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield has 52,000 employees processing 27 million pigs per year in 15 countries, accruing annual sales around $12 billion. The UK’s Channel 4 ran the film last summer despite four letters from Smithfield threatening litigation, but since no U.S. insurer would back the film’s release here, it has become essentially a black-market film. Score another one for corporate censorship.
Smithfield does, in one sense, have cause for concern: this film certainly doesn’t show their company in the most favorable light. Right off the bat, the viewer is struck with some rather gruesome images of pigs being brutally mistreated, apparently at the hands of workers in Smithfield-run facilities. We hear from farmers and neighbors complaining of health problems that they tie to the fumes and water contamination from Smithfield hoglots. An owner of a small family farm in Poland who this large corporation has pushed out of business says, “I don’t know whether I should retire, hang myself, or leave the country.”
cont.Ever feel like you were playing checkers and the other guy was playing chess?... more
There is a battle going on in the White House for the very soul of the organic dairy movement—and possibly over the future of small family-operated dairy farms—and you don’t even know it. I’d like to think that I’m overstating things but no. At issue is an obscure rule in the USDA Organic label that requires “access to pasture” for organic dairy cows. Barry Estabrook, ex of Gourmet, lays it out for us:
In the early 2000s, virtually all of the nation’s organic dairy farmers—not to mention the millions of consumers willing to pay a premium for organic products—agreed that milk certified as organic by the United States Department of Agriculture had to come from cows that had access to pasture.
As government regulations go, it sounds pretty straightforward: room to roam, clean air to breathe, fresh grass to eat. And that was the general consensus on what the National Organic Standards required.
But beginning in the mid-2000s, at about the time when it became evident that the green “USDA Organic” label translated into bigger profits, huge Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) with herds of up to 10,000 cows located in western states got into the organic milk business.
And that’s where things started to get ugly. The giant dairies wanted a piece of the organic action and began to work the rules to qualify. Here’s what “access to pasture” meant to companies like Horizon Organics or Aurora Dairy, the milk giant that supplies many big box discounters with organic milk:
In some cases, a narrow, grassless strip outside the vast barns in which the animals were kept was considered “pasture” because some hay had been spread there. National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) allowances for cows and their very young calves to be kept indoors for a short period after birth were twisted to include all milking cows being kept inside 24/7 for 310 days a year.
Either through bureaucratic lassitude or willful neglect, the big producers were helped every step of the way by USDA officials. Estabrook helpfully links to some photos of what an organic CAFO looks like—not much pasture anywhere to be seen.
Finally, in response to complaints from groups like the Cornucopia Institute, the USDA acted by forcing Aurora to adjust its practices. And now the USDA has updated the “access to pasture” rule in a way that, according to USDA officials, will:
... be in line with an understanding organic producers arrived at by consensus in the early 2000s: Milk cows will graze on pasture for the entire growing season, or for at least 120 days in areas of inclement weather, getting 30 percent of their food from pasture.
But before that rule goes into effect, it must be approved by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It’s a prime opportunity for those with access to do a little lobbying:
And guess who has been lobbying hard to “sway the Obama administration,” according to the Organic Consumers Association? None other than Aurora Dairy (whose chairman Mark Retzloff and his wife, Theresa, contributed $4,600 to the 2008 presidential campaign of Thomas Vilsack, the current head of the USDA, according to Campaignmoney.com) “That level of donor historically buys access,” said Kastel.
OMB has no expertise in this area, of course, and who knows what seemingly minor alterations at the prompting of large dairy lobbyists could do to undermine the rule’s intent. The Organic Consumers Association is meanwhile running a phone and email campaign to urge President Obama to approve the new rules as written.There is a battle going on in the White House for the very soul of the organic dairy... more
A new Mercy For Animals investigation is pulling back the curtains on the largest dairy factory farm in New York State Willet Dairy in Locke.
In early 2009 an MFA undercover investigator worked at the mega-dairy, secretly documenting egregious acts of animal cruelty, including neglect, with a hidden camera.
Thankfully, compassionate consumers can choose to withdraw their support of these abusive industries by adopting a vegan diet.
Each time we eat we can choose kindness over cruelty. Visit ChooseVeg.com for dairy-free recipes.
Evidence gathered during the investigation reveals:
* Cows with bloody open wounds, prolapsed uteruses, pus-filled infections, and swollen joints, apparently left to suffer without veterinary care
* "Downed" cows those too sick or injured to even stand left to suffer for weeks before dying or being killed
* Workers hitting, kicking, punching, and electric-shocking cows and calves
* Calves having their horns burned off without painkillers, as a worker shoved his fingers into the calves' eyes to restrain them
* Calves having their tails cut off a painful practice condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association as cruel and unnecessary
* Newborn calves forcibly dragged away from their mothers by their legs, causing emotional distress to both mother and calf
* Cows living in overcrowded sheds on manure-coated concrete flooring
* Workers injecting cows with a controversial bovine growth hormone, used to increase milk productionA new Mercy For Animals investigation is pulling back the curtains on the largest... more
Several states recently banned specific practices that are common in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), taking small steps to level the playing field for more sustainable farms. California outlawed the amputation of dairy cows' tails, and Michigan passed a law phasing out restrictive crates for veal calves and pregnant sows, and tiny "battery" cages for egg-laying chickens, used to pack many animals together in a small space. Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Colorado, and Oregon had previously acted to ban crates and battery cages, which, along with tail docking, are unnecessary practices that serve only to make large, polluting CAFOs viable. Meanwhile, examples abound of farmers successfully working with nature rather than against it to produce animal products without the problems associated with CAFOs. Listen to this recent National Public Radio story about one Ohio dairyman's efforts to transform the industry and produce fresher, more flavorful milk from cows on pasture.
NPR story will be linked below.Several states recently banned specific practices that are common in CAFOs (confined... more
As farmers leave the land in record numbers, agribusiness and the associated industrialization of agriculture continue to expand. The consequences—intended and unintended—of this rapid restructuring of our food system reach well beyond the boundaries of what we think of as “the family farm.” The award-winning documentary short, AS WE SOW, documents the stories of survival and failure in the real heartland, a struggle pitting family against family, neighbor against neighbor, citizens against their government, and small, independent farmers against the giants of global agribusiness. At the center is the land itself: who will control it and how, and at what cost to people and communities, to our health and our environment, and, ultimately, to our democracy.
This is an American tragedy not only in regards to destroying agriculture as we know it, but also in regards to destroying the culture and heritage of America.As farmers leave the land in record numbers, agribusiness and the associated... more
Corporate Agribusiness Proposes Regulating Itself Instead of Stricter Governmental Food Safety Oversight
CORNUCOPIA, WI: USDA hearings begin this week on a proposal that would authorize the development of production and handling regulations for a long list of fresh vegetables, primarily leafy greens. The first of seven national hearings starts Tuesday, September 22 in Monterey, California, and then will shift to other locations across the country.
The proposed marketing agreement would allow leafy green handlers to attach a USDA-backed “food safety seal” to lettuce, spinach, cabbage and other vegetables while prohibiting most organic and local farmers selling through farmers markets, CSAs, roadside stands, and those selling directly to retailers from using the same seal.
The plan, hatched and promoted by some of the nation's largest corporate agribusinesses that distribute vegetables, is similar to a controversial California agreement that was put into place after spinach, contaminated with E. coli bacteria, sickened 199 people in 26 states and left three dead in September, 2006.
“This proposed food safety agreement will do nothing to tackle the root cause of the food safety problem, which is, in most cases, manure from confined animal feeding operations that is tainted with disease causing pathogenic bacteria,” said Will Fantle, of the Wisconsin-based farm policy group, The Cornucopia Institute.
Industry proponents pushing this will be hard pressed to demonstrate that their proposal will actually prevent food borne illness. Just days ago, on September 18, Ippolito International, a signatory to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, recalled 1,715 cartons of spinach due to salmonella contamination.
But the proposed safety standards, which have been described as a “corporate-backed marketing ploy,” may give agribusinesses using the new food safety seal a boost and lead many consumers to assume that vegetables from industrial-scale monoculture farms, primarily in California, are safer than the leafy greens available from local growers around the country. And that has some farmers worried.
“I am concerned that organic, and small and medium sized local growers like myself, will become marketplace ‘second-class citizens' in the eyes of some consumers, by implying that my produce is less safe – when the very opposite is likely to be true,” said Tom Willey, a certified organic vegetable grower from Madera, CA.
In fact, the produce most likely to be implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks are the bags of leafy greens on supermarket shelves rather than organic produce bought directly from a farmer or when distributed to a local co-op or specialty retailer.
In addition, farmers who want to sell to handlers using the new food safety seal will likely have to implement costly record-keeping and testing protocols on their acreage. This is economically unfeasible for many small growers.
Some farmers may even have to undo decades of conservation and habitat-based improvements – such as water and shoreland stream buffers – in the attempt to isolate their crops from wildlife, that have never been proven to be the source of past contamination problems. "Isolating wildlife is a smokescreen deflecting concern away from factory farm livestock production which is demonstrated to create water, air and soil contamination," Fantle added.
The September 18th edition of the New York Times ran a disturbing cover story about widespread contamination of well water in states with high concentrations of industrial-scale livestock facilities. Contaminated water in rural areas, used for irrigation or for washing vegetables, has been implicated in past contamination incidents involving fresh vegetables.Corporate Agribusiness Proposes Regulating Itself Instead of Stricter Governmental... more
There are really no words to express the disgust with how CAFOS pollute our air and water, poison our land, and mistreat animals and humans. The fact that they are even allowed to exist in this country is a true testament to the greed and apathy of government agencies in rolling over for big ag.
I will not ever believe any politician who claims that they care about the environment and food safety regardless of how many empty bills they pass, until CAFOS are regulated and those regulations are either enforced or the CAFOS shut down. I have two words for those as well who may try to make excuses for these bastards: Swine Flu.
Factory farming and industrial agriculture will be the death knell of small farming if we do not speak out against them and demand sustainable agricultural methods that respect our land, air, water, worker rights, animal rights, the health and safety of others, as well as respecting the right of small farmers to farm their land and sell their products without the threat of disease and pollution!
You want an effective healthcare plan? Well look no further than demanding change in the agricultural policies of this administration as those before it that continues to bow down to corporate agriculture over the rights of its citizens!There are really no words to express the disgust with how CAFOS pollute our air and... more
Since the beginning of climate change legislation this session in Congress it has been clear that big agriculture would not be a part of a cap and trade program. Yet, while the Waxman Markey bill has been making its way through Congress, the EPA has also been pushing forward its own agenda of climate related regulations, including the mandatory reporting of GHG emissions from factory farms. Yet, yesterday the House Appropriations Committee undermined this progressive proposed regulation by passing the 2010 Interior and Environment spending bill. An amendment in the bill will prevent the EPA from requiring factory farms to report their GHG emissions—a move that represents a blatant handout to large factory farms.
While climate legislation stalls through Congress, the EPA proposed rule aims to establish at least the basis for regulating GHG emissions- knowing how many we produce and where they come from. Two weeks ago the comment period ended for the Proposed Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule, which would require American industries to report their GHG emissions, over a threshold of 25,000 tons. Among the highlights of the proposed rule was the requirement that manure management be considered a reporting category. As such, large scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) more commonly known as factory farms, would be required to report their emissions if they reached the 25,000 ton threshold. According to the EPA the number of CAFOs in the U.S. that reached this amount was only around 50 of the largest, most intensive facilities in the country.
There have been a lot of questions floating around as to why Americans should care about livestock poop, particularly in the context of climate change and GHG emissions. While it is little discussed, it is actually quite a significant contributor to GHG emissions. First and foremost- animal manure and livestock produce methane and nitrous oxide, which are about 23 and 300 times respectively stronger than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA GHG Inventory, manure is the 5th largest source of methane and the 4th largest source of nitrous oxide in the U.S. It results in more GHG emissions per year than all cement production and more than twice as many emissions as waste incineration and natural gas systems in the U.S. It should also be mentioned that enteric fermentation-gases produced from livestock-is the number one source of methane emissions in the U.S. Combined, manure and enteric fermentation produce about as many GHG emissions as the entire commercial sector’s burning of fossil fuel in the United States. The EPA did not require that enteric fermentation be considered a reporting category in their proposed rule.Since the beginning of climate change legislation this session in Congress it has been... more