Approval of New Chemical-Resistant GMOs Likely to Prompt Pesticide Escalation

- by Jill Richardson

A decade and a half after farmers began planting the first genetically engineered (GE) crops, the future is clear. The scientists who pioneered genetic engineering thought of themselves as environmentalists, creating products that could reduce pesticide use. Instead, they have simply perpetuated the same “pesticide treadmill” as their pesticide-peddling counterparts resulting in the application of a greater volume of ever more toxic pesticides. (more…)

Leave a Comment August 28, 2012

Looking for Kids’ Books? Avoid This Propaganda

- by Rebekah Wilce

Did you know that genetic engineering (GE) “is helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home”? A trade group funded by Monsanto wants your kids to believe it.

The Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) has published a kids’ book on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that purports to give kids “a closer look at biotechnology. You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health.”

If that book doesn’t appeal to you, you could try a nanotechnology coloring book made by a company that produces such things as “colloidal silver nanoparticles” used in antibacterial products that find their way into the water supply and can be poisonous to the human system. It compares nanotechnologies like these silvers to “the smell of baking cookies.”

Or perhaps a “biosolids” workbook made by wastewater treatment facilities? It directs kids to grow sunflowers in toxic sewage sludge to see how they grow. (more…)

2 Comments August 22, 2012

Good Week for Chemical Reform

Toxic Chemicals

- by Rebekah Wilce

A bill to improve reporting standards for toxic chemicals has passed out of committee to the U.S. Senate for a vote, and anti-regulatory czar Cass Sunstein has headed back to academia.

The Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847) would promote the use of safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals and put common sense limits on toxic chemicals. It has been approved by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and passed to the full Senate for a vote. (more…)

Leave a Comment August 9, 2012

Glencolton Farm in Ontario Raided Again

Raid at Glencolton Farm in Ontario (Source: Michael Schmidt, Facebook)

Ontario, Canada raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt, who was recently granted leave to appeal another court case related to raw milk production, is in the news again. Yesterday his farm, Glencolton, was raided for suspicion of his connection to a group called “Farmers Peace Corp.” that is working to prevent a local herd of rare breed sheep from being confiscated and euthanized. One of the sheep was suspected of having scrapie, a prion disease. For more, see The Bovine, David Gumpert’s article on The Complete Patient, and Michael Schmidt’s Facebook page.

Leave a Comment August 3, 2012

Three California Democrats Team Up with Monsanto

- by Rebekah Wilce

In California, the battle over Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products, is heating up. In late July, pro-labeling groups obtained a flier sent out by a group opposed to the proposition containing the endorsements of three Democratic California Assemblymembers, even though the Democratic Party of California (and 90 percent of consumers) support GMO labelling.

The group that ran the flier is “No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, Sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers,” formerly known as “Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition.” “No on 37″ receives major funding from the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), both front groups for the “Big 6” pesticide and genetic engineering companies: Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont, and BASF. The flier proudly bears the endorsements of Assemblymembers Henry Perea, Manuel Perez, and Alexandra Rooker, the Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party. This despite the California Democratic Party announcing its endorsement for Prop 37 on Monday. (more…)

Leave a Comment August 2, 2012

Fighting GMO Labeling in California is Food Lobby’s “Highest Priority”

The Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network is cross-posting this article by food policy expert Michele Simon, author of Appetite for Profit, as part of our work to expose the undue influence of the “Big 6″ pesticide and genetic engineering companies (Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont, and BASF) on our nation’s food and farming policy. The article was first published on the author’s website.

GMA logoIn case you had any doubt that California’s Prop 37 — which would require labeling of food containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) — is a significant threat to industry, a top food lobby has now made it perfectly clear.

In a recent speech to the American Soybean Association (most soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified), Grocery Manufacturers Association President Pamela Bailey said that defeating the initiative “is the single-highest priority for GMA this year.” (more…)

Leave a Comment August 1, 2012

Monsanto’s Quiet Coup: Will Congress Limit Scope and Time for GMO Reviews?

Monsanto skull- by Jill Richardson

After a series of court defeats over the past few years, Monsanto and friends are trying to use Congress to make an end-run around the courts and current law. Lawsuits brought by opponents of genetically engineered (GE) crops resulted in the temporary removal of two products — Roundup Ready Alfalfa and Roundup Ready Sugarbeets — from the market. If the biotechnology industry and the legislators they support have their way, future GE crops will not suffer the same fate. (more…)

Leave a Comment August 1, 2012

WTO Not So COOL: Rules Against Popular U.S. Meat Labeling Law

The World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a final ruling today against the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law. This popular pro-consumer policy, which informs shoppers where meat and other foods were raised or grown, enjoys the support of 93% of Americans, according to a 2010 Consumers Union poll. Now Congress must gut or change the law to avoid the application of punitive trade sanctions. (more…)

Leave a Comment June 29, 2012

Farm Bill Passes Senate

The farm bill. S. 3240, passed the U.S. Senate on June 21. The bill, which is renewed approximately every five years, dictates congressional spending on not only farm issues such as crop subsidies, but nutritional programs like food stamps and the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), and conservation programs. Total spending controlled by this one bill is in the billions of dollars each year. In 2010, farm bill spending amounted to $96.3 billion, according to the Environmental Working Group. (more…)

Leave a Comment June 22, 2012

Farm Bill Status (Thursday)

The Farm Bill passed the Senate Thursday. (For details of how Senators voted, see the roll call here.)

Important amendments approved or rejected on Thursday include:

  • Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) amendment 2310, the “Consumers Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food Act,” which would have allowed states to adopt labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods, was rejected.
  • Senator Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) amendment 2247, which would have required consumer confidence reports to be filed on community water systems, was rejected. Rural water infrastructure projects are routinely funded under the rural development programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and already have a significant regulatory and paperwork burden.

For more on the hundreds of amendments proposed to the Senate version of the farm bill, see the Farm Bill Primer.

According to Politico, the Chairman of the House of Representatives, Frank Lucas (R-OK), intends to start to amend the House version of the Farm Bill when lawmakers return after the July 4 recess.

Leave a Comment June 22, 2012

Meet the Food Rights Network!

Welcome to the the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. We are dedicated to investigative research and advocacy on crucial food issues.

We are exposing and stopping the “organic compost” scam through which the  sewage sludge industry is making America’s farm and ranch land–and now school and backyard gardens–a dumping ground for their “biosolids,” a PR euphemism for their contaminated sewage sludge made of industrial, medical, and human waste that contains flame retardants, metals, endocrine disruptors and other hazardous substances.

Have you been fooled into putting toxic sludge on your farm, school or home garden?  Click the Toxic Sludge tab at the top of this page for more information.

Please sign up for our email list so we can keep you informed and active.


John Stauber, Senior Adviser

PS: To contact us, send an email to: foodrightsnetwork AT
We can be reached by calling: (608) 260-9713

July 15, 2010

Click the “Toxic Sludge” Tab for the Latest News on Sludge Scam!

For more news on the sewage sludge scam, click the “Toxic Sludge” tab above or here, which will take you to the information clearinghouse we have created on SourceWatch about sewage sludge being promoted as “compost,” along with information about products made from sewage sludge that may be in a garden store near you.

For more information about the “Environmental Media Assocation,” please click here.

John Stauber, author and adviser to the Food Rights Network reveals one of the biggest toxic scams in America, sewage sludge being sold as garden “compost” for growing vegetables. Watch the video here.

Sewage Sludge, Celebrities and School Gardens
Guest post by Mitch Anderson, The San Francisco Chronicle

I have a strange little story to tell. It involves sewage sludge, celebrities and school gardens. It is set in the City of Angels, naturally. This story has several characters, which we can lump into two basic categories: the children and the adults. The children are the most important, and as always, are innocent and have virtually no say in the outcome of the story. They are the ones in the garden. The adults can be generally divided into three groups: the green celebrities, the company, and the environmentalists. First there are the celebrities (as we know, fame is big currency in LA). They are part of the Environmental Media Association (EMA), a good organization that is seeking to make the green movement go mainstream. The tension of the story is built around EMA, which as you’ll see, has a very important ethical decision to make. The EMA has a worthy project creating organic gardens in schools, so that, as Rosario Dawson says in a video on their site, “kids can be clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.” Sounds great. We definitely need more organic gardens in schools.


Guest post by Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones

Last May, a group of movie stars gathered at a schoolyard garden in Venice, California to raise money for the Environmental Media Association, a prominent Hollywood green group that supports organic gardens at public schools. Among the publicity photos snapped that day was a product-placement shot of Rosario Dawson planting vegetables alongside a sack of Kellogg Amend, an “organic” soil supplement sold by Kellogg Garden Products, one of EMA’s corporate sponsors. “This was one of those unfortunate weird things,” says EMA president Debbie Levin, who hadn’t known anything about Amend before the shoot. Amend, she later learned, is not approved for organic farming because it’s made from municipal sewage sludge.

1 Comment April 27, 2011

“I Never Promised You an Organic Garden”

A story has been developing over the past month involving lies, toxic sludge, Hollywood celebrities, and poor, inner city school children. It centers around the Environmental Media Association (EMA), a group of environmentally-conscious Hollywood celebs, and the “organic” school gardens they’ve been volunteering at for the past past couple years.

Stars like Rosario Dawson, Amy Smart, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Nicole Ritchie have generously adopted Los Angeles schools, visiting the schools and helping the children garden. What the celebs didn’t know is that their organization’s corporate donor — Kellogg Garden Products — sells both organic compost and soil amendments, and ones made from sewage sludge. Seventy percent of Kellogg’s business is products made from sewage sludge. Sewage sludge is not allowed on organic farms and gardens. (more…)

Leave a Comment May 3, 2011

And the Razzie goes to Norman Lear’s EMA for Exposing Kids to Sewage Sludge and Not Coming Clean

For a non-actress surrounded by movie stars, Debbie Levin, President of the Environmental Media Association (EMA) — an organization founded by Norman Lear — is putting on quite a performance of her own. Too bad it’s more likely to win her a fraud charge than an Oscar, based on her May 6, 2011 letter to her Board provided to the Food Rights Network by a source inside EMA. (more…)

Leave a Comment May 9, 2011

Thousands Ask Norman Lear’s Environmental Media Association To Cut Ties With Sewage Sludge Company

The Food Rights Network asked people to join in calling on the Environmental Media Association (EMA) to stop greenwashing sewage sludge, and Joan Dye Gussow, best-selling author of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader, signed her name. But it doesn’t take one of the nation’s most famous organic gardening experts to know that using toxic sewage sludge to grow food is a bad idea: 12,000 people signed in agreement! (more…)

Leave a Comment July 7, 2011

ALEC Exposed: Protecting Factory Farms and Sewage Sludge?

by Jill Richardson
Originally posted on

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. (more…)

Leave a Comment August 4, 2011

No solid evidence that biosolids are safe to disperse

Originally posted at The Chronicle Herald on August 27, 2011.
By Murray McBride

As a soil chemist with many years of experience in conducting research on the behaviour of pollutants in soils, I am compelled to take issue with some of the assertions made by proponents of sewage sludge (biosolids) application to farms in the Aug. 4 article by Aaron Beswick. (more…)

Leave a Comment September 7, 2011

Would You “Like” Sewage Sludge on Facebook

Sewage sludge has a Facebook page! Only they use the PR term for sludge, biosolids, calling their page “Biosolids Buzz.” Despite the attractive photo of a woman holding soil (presumably sludge) with a seedling growing in it, sludge is not “Liked” by too many other Facebookers, aside from all of the usual suspects. Kellogg Garden Products, a company that profits by selling sewage sludge as “compost,” the U.S. Composting Council, a front group for the sludge industry, the U.S. EPA, which covers for toxic sludge by calling it safe and legal, and the big dog of the sludge industry, the Water Environment Federation, all “Like” this page. (more…)

4 Comments September 12, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Canadian Farmer and Eight Others on Hunger Strike over Raw Milk: Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt, whose farm has twice been the subject of armed raids (in 1994 and 2006), was convicted by Ontario Justice Peter Tetley on September 28th of “selling and distributing raw milk and raw-milk products.” So, for the second time in five years, Schmidt has gone on a Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom, and has been joined by eight others in Canada and the United States. As of October 11th, he has given up all food (at first he was still drinking raw milk once a day) and is drinking only water. Two of those joining him are Wisconsin’s own Vernon Herschberger and Max Kane. His demands?

I respectfully ask that the Ontario and BC governments agree to a constructive dialogue on how we can provide a framework to enable people to make real choices about their food and what they eat, beginning with raw milk and the implementation of a framework that grants legal standing for cow share operations in Ontario and BC. This objective also includes the end of the current prosecutions of cow shares which meet proper production standards.

A large group in Toronto has joined Schmidt on a rotational fast in support of and respect for his fight.

  • Ireland to Ban Raw Milk “As Soon As Possible”: The Irish Times wrote (10/5/11) that Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has promised to ban raw milk “as soon as possible.” Raw milk producers have been fighting to keep their right to sell raw milk to customers. The ban would not apply to milk to be made into cheese or not intended for sale. The Campaign for Raw Milk has called the proposed ban a “missed business opportunity.” (more…)

Leave a Comment October 12, 2011

Food News Roundup

Leave a Comment September 29, 2011

Raw Milk Raids and Court Cases Enter New Territory

This is the first in a series of articles about raw milk by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network.

The nationwide battle over the right to consume foods produced on local farms entered a new phase this summer.

Rawesome Food Club and Healthy Family Farms

In August, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested three individuals– James Stewart, manager of the private Rawesome Food Club in Venice, Sharon Palmer, owner of Healthy Family Farms, LLC, and her associate Eugenie Bloch– “on criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese and other products” after “a year-long investigation” during which “investigators made undercover purchases of unpasteurized dairy products.” (more…)

Leave a Comment October 5, 2011

Food Rights Network Interviews Food & Farm Hero John Kinsman

This month, the Center for Media and Democracy’s Food new Rights Network launches a series of interviews with “food and farm heroes.” It’s easy for an organization dedicated to exposing corporate spin to focus on negative corporate propaganda with its ubiquity, but we would be remiss not to highlight courageous people who fight corporate agendas and spin in other ways, large and small. Some devote their lives to it.

In the world of food and farming, the contrast between corporate agribusiness “farms” and small, sustainable family farms — farms that, to adapt a phrase of Michael Pollan’s, our grandparents would recognize as food-producing places — is especially clear. Among the farmers who live and work in these places, the CMD’s Food Rights Network is featuring some of the heroes: farmers who are making an incredible difference in the farming community, on our dinner tables and in the world around them.

John Kinsman

John Kinsman in his garden, September 15, 2011

The first hero we feature is John Kinsman, a dairy farmer from Lime Ridge, Wisconsin. (more…)

1 Comment October 5, 2011

Los Angeles and Kern County’s Epic Sewage Sludge Battle

Kern County has the sad role of being California’s toilet. Kern County receives everything that goes down the drain from households, hospitals, and industry, from one of the largest and most densely populated counties in the country, not Kern but Los Angeles County. The resulting toxic stew of industrial and human sewage sludge is not a pretty thing, and most people in Kern County and their representatives don’t want any of it. Unfortunately for citizens of Kern County, Los Angeles is willing to fight – and fight hard – to continue dumping sludge in Kern County. (more…)

Leave a Comment October 5, 2011

Wisconsin Judge Rules Against Food Rights

This is the second in a series of articles about raw milk by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network. For more about raids on raw milk farmers and eaters, see yesterday’s article.

Zinniker Farm Cows (Courtesy of Anthroposophy in America)

Wisconsin dairy farmers are appealing a state judge’s ruling that they do not have the right to own a dairy cow or drink the unprocessed milk from their own cows.

Mark and Petra Zinniker, who sought to distribute raw milk to herd shareholders through their private farm store, received a judgment from state Circuit Court Judge Patrick Fiedler ruling against them on all counts in August.

In response, the Zinnikers, their shareholders and their lawyers at the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) filed a clarification motion, on which Judge Fiedler filed his decision and order on September 9th. (more…)

Leave a Comment October 6, 2011

Local Food Ordinances from Maine to California

Los Angeles County, California, is considering a resolution “recognizing the rights of individuals to grow and consume their own food and to enter into private contracts with other individuals to board animals for food.”

This resolution did not arise in a vacuum. Santa Cruz County, California, recently passed a similar resolution. Nevada County, California, citizens are pushing a similar resolution. And in El Dorado County, California, Farmer Pattie Chelseth has proposed a “Local Food and Self Governance Ordinance.”

Bob St.Peter at World Bank meeting in D.C., courtesy of Food for Maine's Future

All three of these measures are based on the “Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinances” that passed in four small Maine towns in Hancock County this spring.

All of the measures share a resistance to one-size-fits-all regulation intended for large-scale agribusiness food production and processing by such corporations as Cargill, in order to help prevent the kind of food borne illnesses that are becoming more commonplace with the rise of industrial farming practices.

Corporate farming is big business with big-time lobbying: for example, Cargill spent $400,000 lobbying the “Food Safety Modernization Act” (S. 510) in the second quarter of 2010.

The Center for Media and Democracy spoke with Sedgwick, Maine farmer Bob St.Peter, who met with other local farmers, farmworkers and the neighbors who eat their food to draft and pass these local ordinances. (more…)

Leave a Comment October 10, 2011

Children Gardening in Sewage Sludge: Los Angeles Schools Alerted

Emmanuelle Chriqui gardening with kids at Carson Senior High School, with an empty bag of Kellogg sludge product

This week, CMD’s new Food Rights Network sent letters to thirteen schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that have “organic” school gardens adopted by Hollywood’s Environmental Media Association (EMA). As we reported in May, EMA teamed up with sludge-marketing corporation Kellogg Garden Products, which sells products made from Los Angeles area industrial and human sewage sludge with the label “quality organics” and which used the gardens for photo ops with sludge products.

Gardens school kids use to grow vegetables and fruits were contaminated with sewage sludge as a result of EMA’s partnership with Kellogg, which donated hundreds of cubic yards of sewage sludge products.  EMA, which hosts its annual green carpet awards this Saturday, October 15th, has failed to take any steps to help remediate the children’s “organic” gardens that were sludged. (more…)

1 Comment October 14, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • As if Sewage Sludge Wasn’t Toxic Enough Already: Tokyo citizens performing their own testing, as government officials said they had no plans to, are finding high levels of radiation 160 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, including in municipal sewage sludge (New York Times, 10/14). According to Reuters (10/17), “in northern Japan, stored-up radioactive ash and dehydrated sludge from the sewage treatment process alone totaled 52,000 tones in mid-September, up 63 percent from levels at the end of July.” Through the “purification” process, part of the radioactive caesium was concentrated in sludge as well as the ash that is produced by burning sludge.
  • Kellogg Garden Products Sludging More Los Angeles Schools?: “Kellogg Garden Products donated soil bags, planting mix bags and fertilizer” to Whittier’s Trinity Lutheran School, Whittier Daily News reports (10/13). If these products included Kellogg’s Amend, Nitrohumus, Topper or Gromulch (all of which contain “compost” made from Los Angeles sewage), then Whittier Trinity Lutheran joins the list of 13 other schools that may have been sludged. (more…)

1 Comment October 17, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Mark Bittman Writes About Occupy Wall Street (10/11): Adding his two cents to the nationwide conversation about how we might fundamentally change the the system to create more equality, Bittman urges “activists who are interested in food” to get involved.
  • Why the Food Movement Should Occupy Wall Street: Siena Chrisman writes on Civil Eats (10/11) that “the richest one percent hold 40 percent of the wealth, while almost one in five Americans is on food stamps.  Rampant Wall Street speculation on commodities is driving up food costs, small farmers are being driven off their land, and agribusiness holds monopoly control of our seeds and stores. In this climate, the struggle against massive wealth disparities, unregulated financial institutions, and excessive corporate power is our struggle as well.”
  • GMO Feed Disrupts Organs in AnimalsReader Supported News (10/7) reports on a new report published in Environmental Sciences Europe showing that “consuming genetically modified (GM) corn or soybeans leads to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, particularly in livers and kidneys. . . . The GM soybean and corn varieties used in the feeding trials ‘constitute 83% of the commercialized GMOs’ that are currently consumed by billions of people.” (more…)

Leave a Comment October 18, 2011

Raw Milk News

  • Michael Schultz’s Hunger Strike Moves Into Third Week As He Tries to Arrange Meeting with Ontario Premier, Despite Facing More Charges (10/18): The Weston A. Price Foundation has provided a way to contact Schultz to express support (scroll to the bottom of the article for the email address) and Schultz shared his letter to Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, with David Gumpert yesterday. He says a meeting with McGuinty, to “find a way of ensuring that. . . the right to buy food direct from a farmer… is respected,” would end his hunger strike. In the meantime, authorities from the Grey Bruce Health Unit announced Monday that Schmidt faces additional charges “after laboratory tests confirmed milk distributed at a rally last week was unpasteurized.”
  • Wisconsin Judge Fiedler Quit to Work for Firm that Defended Monsanto: The judge that “recently ruledthat we have no right to own a cow or drink its milk resigned to join one of Monsanto’s law firms,” according to theHouston Free Thinkers (10/17). He “now works for Axley Brynelson, LLP, which defended Monsanto against a patent infringement case filed by Australian firm, Genetic Technologies, Ltd. (GTL) in early 2010.” (more…)

Leave a Comment October 19, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Another Sludge Ingredient: “Microplastic”: Scientists find that “samples of treated wastewater and sewage-tainted ocean sediment” contained “microscopic fragments of acrylic, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, and polyester” from synthetic clothing lint in water than drains from washing machines, fragments with particles smaller than one nanometer (“one hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair”). “Ingested microplastics can persist in cells for months, moving up the food chain to animals and people who eat fish. More alarmingly, some studies show that microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins, and DDT.” What the Ecouterre article (10/24) and the study report (9/6) don’t mention is what concentration of plastic pollution is concentrated in the dried sewage sludge before the treated wastewater is released to the ocean. Land application of sewage sludge to fields of human food crops is a much more direct movement up the food chain, from our vegetables straight to our bodies.
  • California School Assigns Students to Test Sewage Sludge: According to the North County Times (10/15), ”local growers and gardeners have been able to buy fertilizer from the Fallbrook Public Utility District for about three years, and many have said it made their plants flourish. But until a teacher at a local school stepped in, nobody at the district had tested the fertilizer or tried to determine how much of it to mix in the soil for the best results. . . . The fertilizer is biosolid, a nutrient-rich substance created by heating and treating wet sludge at the Fallbrook Public Utility District, which provides water and sewage service for Fallbrook. . . . In mid-September, students in Fischer’s class weighed and mixed various ratios of biosolids and soil, then planted arugula and chard in small containers filled with the mixture.” The results? Not in yet, but “overall, the study appeared headed for an ironic conclusion: The plants with no biosolids were among the tallest, and the ones with the most biosolids were smaller.” Parents, do you want your kids being directly exposed to sewage sludge in school? (more…)

Leave a Comment October 25, 2011


(from the Weston A. Price Foundation, with appreciation for all their work)

Mobilizing For Food Sovereignty


On Wednesday, September 28, 2010, the Ontario government won its appeal against biodynamic farmer, Michael Schmidt. The appeal reversed the former ruling, which confirmed cow share members’ right to obtain raw milk products. Justice Peter Tetley rejected Schmidt’s argument that providing raw milk to cow share owners who are aware of any health risks was his legal right.

Schmidt has been fighting for the right to provide raw milk at his Grey County farm ever since it was raided by government officials in 1994. The recent ruling convicts Michael on 15 of 19 and reverses last year’s lower court decision to acquit him of all charges. This latest judicial ruling basically endorses governmental interference of property ownership rights and violates basic human rights to food sovereignty.

Since this ruling, Michael has embarked on a hunger strike and faces imminent danger of another raid to his farm, as do other farms that participate in Cowshare Canada.

He feels that our movement is in great danger and we must act in unison now!

Michael’s urgent message: We must mobilize our forces throughout Canada and the US with an enormous public outcry. We need to put relentless pressure on legislators in both countries—national, state and local—and also on health authorities through a massive letter-writing and call-in campaign.  We also need to organize face-to-face meetings whenever possible. Canada desperately needs US support in these matters, so we encourage all US members to send messages to key Canadian contacts as well.


It is imperative that we organize to a much higher level. We need everyone in our movement to participate. We need:

  • At the very least, all members (US and Canada) should write to Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Canada. Submit by email at or send a fax to 416-325-3745.
  • US citizens to write letters and call local, state, and federal legislators in the U.S. and to write letters to Canadian members of the Provincial Parliament in Ontario and British Columbia listed in this alert.
  • Canadian citizens to write letters to Canadian members of the Provincial Parliament in Ontario and British Columbia listed in this alert.
  • All need to write letters and call your local and state health officials.

Michael is depending on us to back up his brave efforts for food sovereignty!


Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Legislative Building
Queen’s Park Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Fax:  416-325-3745

Tim Hudak- Leader of the Opposition
4961 King St. E   Unit   M1
Beamsville, ON   L0R 1B0
[email protected]
905-563-1755 (or toll free at 1-800-665-3697).

Deb Matthews-Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
242 Piccadilly Street
London, ON N6A 1S4
[email protected]
Tel: (519) 432-7339
Fax: (519) 432-0613

Andrea Horwath – Leader of the New Democratic Party
Hamilton Centre Constituency Suite 200
20 Hughson Street South
Hamilton, Ontario L8N 2A1
[email protected]
Fax: 905-544-515

Randy Hillier
Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington Constituency
Unit 1
105 Dufferin Street
Perth, Ontario K7H 3A5
[email protected]
Fax: 613-267-7398

Jack MacLaren
2 Beaverbrook Mall, Unit 102
Kanata, ON K2K 1L2
[email protected]
Tel: 1-877-780-5225

Greg Sorbara
Liberal MPP in Ontario
Constituency Office
140 Woodbridge Avenue, Unit AU8 – Market Lane
Woodbridge, ON L4L 4K9
Tel: (905) 851-0440
Fax: (905) 851-0210
[email protected]
Queen’s Park Office
Room 186, Main Legislative Building
Toronto, ON M7A 1A4
Tel: (416) 212-1022
Fax: (416) 212-1025

Larry Miller
Federal Conservative MP for Grey
Chair of Standing Committee on Agriculture in Ottawa
1131 2nd Avenue East, Suite 208
Owen Sound, ON N4K 2J1
519-371-1059 phone
519-371-1752 fax
[email protected]
Room 510, Justice Building
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
613-996-5191 phone
613-952-0979 fax
[email protected]


State and Federal Elected Officials:

State Health and Agriculture Departments:  Google your state and “Health Department”


An Urgent Appeal for Justice

Dear ___________,

Today, governments are pouring enormous resources into interfering with people’s rights to their own property and to obtain the food they need for their well-being.  Governments that are truly concerned with justice are supposed to protect citizens’ rights, not violate them.  We urgently demand an open, in-depth dialogue with government and health officials about these violations of food rights.

Increasing numbers of people consider it crucial to their health to obtain high-quality foods directly from organic, sustainable farms.   These foods often include raw dairy products, meat and eggs from free-ranging, grass-fed animals—foods of very dense nutrient value that cannot be found in grocery stores.

In states and provinces where the law bans the sale of raw milk, people enter into contracts to co-own a cow and board the animal with a farmer.  As owners of the cow, they are also the owners of the milk the cow produces, and are legally entitled to drink it because no sale of milk is involved.   These arrangements are called “cowshares.”

The most allergenic food in North America is pasteurized milk, so it is not an option for many families. Raw milk is less allergenic for some, and reduces asthma attacks (huge international studies such as the recent GABRIELA study show this to be true). That is why we must be free to make that choice. That is why our lack of food sovereignty creates illness and pushes us all into food slavery.

These basic principles of justice must prevail:

  • Food sovereignty is an inalienable constitutional right;
  • Rights to one’s own property is a legally binding principle;
  • Cowshares are a legal binding contract of property ownership;
  • Access to foods from small farms is essential to the health and well-being of families who choose these foods;
  • Small sustainable farms are essential to the health of agriculture world-wide;
  • Governmental interference with property ownership rights along with violations to basic human rights of food sovereignty must end; and
  • Government and health authorities must abstain from the infringement of rights and violence or threat of violence against participants in cowshare programs.


(Action Alert from the Weston A. Price Foundation)

Leave a Comment October 27, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Occupying the Food System: Continuing the commentary on the confluence between the food movement and the “occupy” movement, Food First’s Eric Holt Gimenez writes in the Huffington Post (10/21) that “voices from food justice organizations across the country are connecting the dots between hunger, diet-related diseases and the unchecked power of Wall Street investors and corporations.” Tom Philpott writes inMother Jones (10/14) that “foodies” need to Occupy Wall Street because “agribusiness is concentrated to a point that would make a Wall Street master of the universe blush. Vast globe-spanning corporations, many of them US-based, dominate the industry.”
  • Genetically Modified Foods You Love: Still eating Hebrew National hot dogs, Jiffy Pop and Peter Pan peanut butter? Iron Bolt Bruce reminds us (10/21) of the list of ConAgra brands, and the lawsuit against the corporation for deceptively marketing its Wesson brand oils as “all-natural,” “when they’re actually made from genetically modified organisms” (Michele SimonFood Safety News, 8/24).
  • The Cantaloupe BrouhahaMother Jones‘  Tom Philpott explains (10/21) just why Freakonomics‘ Steve Sexton is so wrong to blame the cantaloupe listeria outbreak on the local foods movement (10/20). (more…)

Leave a Comment October 24, 2011

Local Dinner to Recognize Food & Farm Hero John Kinsman and Beginning Farmers

On Saturday, November 12th, the Family Farm Defenders (FFD) hosts the “First Annual John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Dinner” at the Goodman Community Center on Madison, Wisconsin’s near east side.

John Kinsman on his Lime Ridge, Wisconsin dairy farm

The Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network featured John Kinsman as our first Food and Farm Hero earlier this month.

The event will honor the first Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Winners. Speakers will include UW-Madison Professor Jack Kloppenburg as well as FFD President and founder John Kinsman. The Harvest-themed dinner will include artisanal cheese and crackers, wild rice, roasted vegetables, organic grass-fed beef, dessert, fair trade coffee and/or locally crafted beer and wine.

Tickets purchased before November 1st are $50 per person for FFD members, $75 for non-members and $35 for students and those with limited income. For more information and to purchase tickets, please see the FFD website. If you do enjoy cheese Personalized By Kate has great custom cutting boards.

Leave a Comment October 21, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Michael Schmidt, Four Weeks into Raw Milk Hunger Strike, “Tired But Well”: David Gumpert reports (10/23) that Schmidt’s life hangs in the balance, but that he is still fighting, and that his fight marks “an important turning point in the food rights movement.” Even Yahoo!News commented (10/14) on the spotlight his hunger strike has put on raw milk. Watch Schmidt’s message to his supporters here:

  • Max Kane Calls Out the FDA: Will they show up on Tuesday, November 1st, to enforce the raw milk interstate commerce law against the moms calling themselves the “Raw Milk Freedom Riders”?  (Natural News 10/21) Watch Kane try to alert the FDA here:

  • Petition to Legalize Raw Milk Sales on the Federal Level: The Examiner reports (10/19) the creation of a petition stating, in part, “Give the people the freedom to choose whether drinking raw milk products is right for them by enabling the legalized sale and distribution of raw milk products across all states.” (more…)

1 Comment October 26, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Walmart Can’t Lead Us Out of the Food Desert”: Color Lines (10/27) reminds us that, rather than “expanding large supermarket chains” so that, as Eric Holt-Gimenez wrote in a Huffington Post article highlighted in last week’s news roundup, food dollars are “spirited off to the retail monopoly’s corporate coffers . . . [, grassroots] alternatives could potentially keep it in the community, where it can recirculate as much as five times.” Unfortunately, Color Lines adds, these “ideas aren’t getting nearly as much support from recent state and federal initiatives to eradicate food deserts as are corporations’ plans to tap new markets.”
  • Occupy the Pasture: Grist‘s Steph Larsen writes (10/21) of occupying a pasture in Nebraska to show solidarity for “Occupy Wall Street“ and to remind those who can that a “fundamental way to rebel against an unjust economic system is to grow [our] own food. This way, [our] primary means of sustenance is out of the hands of corporations. Most food sold in grocery stores — even organic food — is owned by a few, very consolidated agribusinesses. Growing your own food undercuts their power.”
  • “GM Crops Promote Superweeds, Food Insecurity and Pesticides, say NGOs”: The GuardianUK and Common Dreams report (10/19) that “genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of ‘superweeds.’ . . . The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20 years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.”

Leave a Comment October 31, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • “Summit County digester gets $2 million federal grant”: According to the Beacon Journal (Ohio, 10/28), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced the USDA grant to Lime Lakes Energy LLC in New Franklin, Ohio. The facility will ferment high-solids sewage sludge, as well as food waste and grease, using bacteria that do not need oxygen, producing methane to be used as compressed natural gas. Sounds good so far, right? “Leftover wastes from the operation will be used to speed up the reclamation of Lime Lake 6 by PPG Industries.” Using digested sludge for “reclamation”? Sounds a little bit like spreading sludge on the lawns of Baltimore families in poor neighborhoods to see whether or not it cleans up lead.
  • “Metal stress and decreased tree growth in response to biosolids application in greenhouse seedlings and in situ Douglas-fir stands”: A study to be published in the January 2012 volume of Environmental Pollution (but available online 10/14) found that “phytochelatins – bioindicators of intracellular metal stress – were elevated in foliage of biosolids-amended stands, and significantly higher in roots of seedlings grown with fresh biosolids. These results demonstrate that biosolids amendments have short- and long-term negative effects that may counteract the expected tree growth benefits.” Highlights include:

► Biosolids amendment increases soil metals over 25 years later.
► Douglas-fir growth benefits fail to materialize from biosolids amendments.
► Phytochelatins are elevated in foliage of trees and roots of greenhouse seedlings after new biosolids are added to soil.
► Biosolids connected to metal stress in Douglas-fir.

  • Digested Sewage Sludge Dewatered Using a Centrifuge can Experience Sudden Increase in Bacteria: According to the abstract of this research article in Water Environment Research (published by the sewage sludge industry trade group, the Water Environment Federation, September 2011), “Several investigators have reported higher densities of indicator bacteria after dewatering of anaerobically digested biosolids. The increases appear to occur at two points in the biosolids process: the first, referred to as ‘sudden increase’, occurs immediately after dewatering; the second, ‘regrowth’, occurs during storage over longer periods. The objectives of this study were to examine the effect of digestion and dewatering processes on sudden increase and regrowth of fecal coliform and E. coli.” (Thanks to Maureen Reilly of the Sludge Watch Working Group for pointing this one out.)

Leave a Comment November 1, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Raw Milk Moms Rode Yesterday: This “caravan full of mothers,” calling themselves the “Raw Milk Freedom Riders,” planned a trip “from Pennsylvania to Maryland on Route 1,” ending “at the FDA headquarters at 10903 New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring, MD,” where they planned to drink raw milk and eat cookies “in support of farmers across the nation willing to supply fresh milk to mothers across state lines risking their business to serve their customers.” Did they make it? Check here for archived live radio coverage. The FDA released a statement yesterday claiming that “the FDA has never taken, nor does it intend to take, enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption” and attempting to minimize the protest and urge people to drink pasteurized milk. From 1980 to 2005, however, there were ten times more illnesses from pasteurized milk than from raw. The Complete Patient blog quoted Raw Milk Freedom Riders organizer Liz Reitzig as saying that “she was contacted by two FDA officials on Friday and Monday, who said they wanted to encourage some sort of followup communication about the charge that the FDA has “criminalized” consumers transporting raw milk from one state to another (typically, from a state that allows raw milk sales, like Pennsylvania, to one that prohibits such sales, like Maryland).” They interpreted the FDA press release as a pledge not to enforce the ban on individuals. The organization Stop Foodborne Illness also organized a webinar yesterday, for consumers to hear “from those who have been personally impacted by consuming raw milk.” Did they ask the Raw Milk Freedom Riders or the farmers who have been raided by the FDA and state agencies to speak?
  • Michael Schmidt Travels to Maryland: Raw milk hunger striker Schmidt was able to travel to Maryland to protest with the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, and spoke to The Complete Patient and the Owen Sound Sun Times. “My condition is there is a dialogue started to get advice on how we can move forward from this stalemate,” he told reporter Denis Langlois. To David Gumpert, he had a message for ”those who have pleaded with him to end his hunger strike out of fear the food rights movement will lose its most important leader.” He said, “The movement can only be strong if there are 1,000 leaders, not one leader. You have to become a leader of your own body.” (more…)

2 Comments November 2, 2011

Food News You Can Use

These weekly news roundups will now be published every Tuesday rather than every Monday. Check back each week– or subscribe to our RSS feed– to stay in the loop!

  • How to Start a School Garden in Less than Two Weeks, without “Donations” from Sludge-Slingers: Pattie Baker writes about how she worked with a middle school P.E. teacher and a local parks director to get school kids gardening in record time (FoodShed Planet, 11/6).
  • “Why the Most Important Fish We Need to Save Is One You’ve Never Heard Of”: “Menhaden might be the most important fish you’ve never heard of. As far back as the 1860s, the U.S. caught more tons of menhaden than any other fish — and in many years, more menhaden than the combined commercial catch of all other finned fish put together. You don’t hear about them because they don’t show up in fish markets or on dinner menus. Rather, they go into animal feed, cosmetics, health food supplements, linoleum, lubricants, margarine, soap, insecticide, and paint. . . . Just as Michael Pollan makes the case that Americans eat mostly corn, eating it indirectly in processed foods and corn-fed animal products, more than a century ago, ichthyologist G. Brown Goode said that people who dine on Atlantic saltwater fish eat ‘nothing but menhaden.’” (AlterNet, 11/6)
  • Agriculture that Looks Like War: A transcript of a speech by Vandana Shiva published in The Age (11/4) reads: “The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars. The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war.” (more…)

Leave a Comment November 8, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Michael Schmidt Meets with Ontario Premier and Ends Hunger Strike (Toronto Sun, 11/4)
  • Wisconsin Raw Milk Bill Stalled in Committee (The Country Today, 11/2)
  • Positive Listeria Test in Cheddar Leads to Misinformation About Listeria: A Washington state creamery announced a voluntary recall of its raw milk cheddar yesterday after a test by the Washington State Department of Agriculture returned positive for listeria. There have been no reports of illness. The Oregonian article (11/9) about the recall called it “the same bacteria that’s caused one of the deadliest outbreaks in U.S. history,” referring to the recent listeria outbreak in cantaloupe that has killed 29 people. A similarly deadly listeria outbreak occurred in 1985, when 29 people were killed after eating fresh cheese made from pasteurized milk. Whether made from pasteurized or unpasteurized milk, hard, aged cheeses are less likely to be contaminated with listeria because of their relatively low moisture content and high acidity.

Leave a Comment November 10, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Palo Alto Votes to Convert Park to Sludge Site: Palo Alto, California voters passed Measure E (Peninsula Press, 11/8) to re-designate a city park as “an organic-waste processing facility, or composting site, for yard trimmings, sewage and food scraps. . . . [I]mplementing anaerobic digestion, the composting technology recommended for the new plant, could eliminate the current environmentally damaging practices the city uses for processing sewage.” But although the facility, once it’s built, would collect methane from decomposition as fuel, “construction on the site of Byxbee Park, a former landfill, would include digging up 200 million cubic feet of garbage, and releasing ‘tons’ of the greenhouse gas methane.” EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman has called gasification, or using sludge to generate methanol or energy, the “most environmentally sound approach, but also the most expensive,” to sludge disposal. However, anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge, while it reduces the volume of the sludge and heats it to a temperature that kills many pathogens, still leaves behind what the industry calls “digestate” or, more specifically in this case, “biosolids,” which still contain other sludge contaminants.
  • Gates Foundation Funds Project to Fertilize with Toxic Sludge: According to La Jolla, California local newspaper (11/7), the “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday awarded $100,000 grants to San Diego-based research projects on improving sanitation and finding the causes of diseases in babies. One of the Grand Challenges Explorations grants went to a project by San Diego State University engineering professor Temesgen Garoma, who seeks to reliably and inexpensively treat human waste with algae, generate biogas for energy use and create biosolids to use as fertilizer.” (more…)

Leave a Comment November 9, 2011

Guns, Farms and Stealth: Armed Raids and Surveillance of Farms and Food Clubs

Michael Schmidt is a Canadian dairy farmer, and he’s scared. Why?

“Over the last 17 years I have made every effort to engage the authorities in a constructive dialogue about the issue of non-pasteurized milk in Ontario and Canada. In return my farm has been raided by armed officers, my family has been terrorized and I [have] been dragged through the courts – first being acquitted and then being found guilty.

“Today, farmers like me in Ontario and around the country are scared. We are scared that people with guns who claim to be acting in our best interests will snatch our livelihoods from us. We are scared that we will be tried for the “crime” of believing that informed consumers and citizens in our free country should be able to choose what they eat and drink.”

(From a letter to Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, published on David Gumpert’s blog, “The Complete Patient.”)

Michael SchmidtOn Friday, November 4th, Schmidt ended his 37 day hunger strike for the right to buy food directly from farmers, which he had said he’d “keep going until death”, because he was able to meet with McGuinty to discuss what he calls “responsible food freedom.” According to the Canadian Press, a “spokeswoman for McGuinty says the meeting went well, and Schmidt was invited to speak to the Liberal caucus, but the government will not change its position to allow the sale of raw milk.” In Canada, it is at least legal to drink raw milk.

The fight in Canada is scarcely different from the fight in the United States, where regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and judges like Wisconsin’s Judge Patrick Fiedler declare that farmers and eaters “do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of [our] choice” (emphasis added).

“My Farm Has Been Raided By Armed Officers”

Farmers in the United States have made the same claim in the last several years. For a timeline of a handful of them, see the Raw Milk Raid Timeline on (more…)

1 Comment November 8, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Sludge Trade Group Hosts Poster Contest: As every year, the US Composting Council is hosting a poster contest for its annual PR campaign, “International Compost Awareness Week” (2012′s is May 7-May 12). Entries are due by November 30. Read about the 2011 PR campaign on PRWatch here: ”USCC’s members include Synagro, the largest processor of sewage sludge in the United States with revenues of over $300 million annually. The ‘International Compost Awareness Week’ is coordinated by Jeff Ziegenbein of the giant Inland Empire Utility Agency (IEAU) in Southern California. IEUA supplies the sewage sludge ‘compost’ that is resold by companies like Kellogg Garden Products, which supplies the sewage sludge-based products to local Home Depot and Lowe’s garden centers.”
  • Brattleboro, Vermont Sewage Plant to Install Digester and Spread Sludge on Soil: According to a BioCycle article (subscription only) reprinted on InsuranceNewsNet (11/10), “To meet the town’s sustainability commitments, the project is designed to reuse existing facilities and structures to the extent possible and upgrade the biosolids treatment operation to produce Class A biosolids that can be land applied. The three existing digesters will be converted into a twophase anaerobic process.”

Leave a Comment November 16, 2011

Meet Kellogg’s Sludge Puppet

Karden on a bag of Kellogg's Amend (Courtesy of Karden's Corner website)

(This article has been corrected to reflect that the co-creator of the kids’ gardening puppet is not employed by Kellogg Garden Products but that Kellogg has sponsored some of the puppet’s gardening events.  In communications with the Center, the co-creator of the puppet, Lisa Ely, has shared her view that the puppet is an educational tool and not a marketing tool for Kellogg to reach families and kids interested in gardening. The puppet was created before Kellogg began sponsoring some of its events at gardening stores that market Kellogg’s sludge-based products.)

A new puppet’s in town! His name is Karden, and according to his PR, he shows kids how much fun gardening can be. What parents and teachers aren’t told is that he is actually a marketing tool for sewage sludge merchant Kellogg Garden Products.

Books featuring Karden, available at common bookstores, and an “Idea Factory” website devoted to him, are full of gardening activities for parents and teachers to do with their kids. Karden throws free kids’ gardening events at bookstores and hardware stores.

Lisa Ely, one of the two creators of the character, is listed on a gardening website about “Karden’s Corner” as “an award-winning television producer and owner of one the newest production companies in Los Angeles focused on documentary television.” But while she has, indeed, produced such reality TV shows as CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” Discovery Channel’s “Verminators,” and TLC’s “America’s Ugliest,” Ely’s Facebook page lists no production company. Instead, it lists Kellogg as her employer:

Screenshot of Lisa Ely's Facebook page, 10/26/11 (more…)

2 Comments November 9, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • First Local Food and Self Governance Ordinance Violated: According to Food for Maine’s Future (11/14), “On Wednesday, November 9, Dan Brown, owner of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Maine, was served notice that he is being sued by the State of Maine for selling food and milk without State licenses. Blue Hill is one of five Maine towns to have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, a local law that permits the types of sales Brown was engaged in. By filing the lawsuit, the State of Maine and Walter Whitcomb, Maine Agricultural Commissioner, are disregarding the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance passed nearly unanimously by the citizens of Blue Hill at their town meeting on April 4. . . . A rally and press conference will take place Friday at the Blue Hill Town Hall.” Food for Maine’s Future requests public support by following the Facebook page, “We Are Farmer Brown.” Ordinances and resolutions based on the original four passed in Maine towns have passed in other towns and counties across the country.

  • “Marketing to Kids: Collateral Damage in Big Food’s Profit Hunt”: Whistleblower Bruce Bradley, who has been called the “Wendell Potter of Big Food, Inc.,” exposes (11/14) how sweetened breakfast cereals are marketed to kids using characters that “tell a brand’s story through imagery vs. facts,” just like Joe Camel.
  • Young Farmers Find Huge Obstacles to Getting Started: Sunday’s New York Times (11/13) published Isolde Raftery’s article on beginning farmers’ obstacles. The article quotes Lindsey Lusher Shute, wife of Benjamin Shute of Hearty Roots Farm in Red Hook, NY. “Everyone wants young farmers to succeed — we all know that,” Shute says, “But no one was addressing this big elephant in the room, which was capital and land access.” Agriculture secretary and Monsanto buddy Tom Vilsack “appears to have championed their cause,” and “[l]ast spring, his deputy, Kathleen A. Merrigan, toured colleges and cities to encourage young people to farm,” but neither the “2008 Farm Bill. . . program for beginning farmers and ranchers, . . . [which] allotted $18 million to universities and extension programs to educate beginning farmers,” nor the PR tour have done much to address these barriers. (more…)

Leave a Comment November 15, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Mark McAfee’s Organic Pastures Raw Milk Recalled and Quarantined: On Tuesday, 11/15, Mark McAfee got word that his California dairy’s raw milk, which is drunk by about 75,000 people each day, is being recalled and quarantined (see McAfee’s second 11/16 comment on the above-linked page of David Gumpert’s The Complete Patient blog).
    Gumpert points out in an 11/17 update that “raw dairy, in particular, is often singled out for special attention, and special punishment” as compared to the sources of other outbreaks of foodborne illness, such as the recent cantaloupe outbreak.
    Organic Pastures (OPDC) is licensed for the sale of raw milk by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The milk is being recalled because five California children have been sickened by E. coli 0157:H7 over an eight week period, three of whom were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (The Complete Patient blog, 11/15). According to the CDFA, “the only common reported food exposure is unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy.”
    According to a The Complete Patient blog interview with McAfee, “all pathogen tests completed on the dairy’s products by the public health authorities and a private lab commissioned by OPDC have been negative. In addition[, McAfee says], ‘It has been reported to us by the California Department of Public Health that as of today all products collected from the ill patients have been negative for E. Coli O157:H7.’”
    On Wednesday, 11/16, OPDC filed an appeal with the CDFA “to lift the recall and quarantine for ten days ‘while samples of dairy products, and environmental testing is completed.’” The appeal implicates the “at least 140 cow share programs” in California that do not have CDFA licenses.
    The implication from a comment posted by McAfee today is that the appeal did not succeed. His comment explains, “CDFA handed us a Notice of Violation today with 14 things we need to correct prior to reinstatement…last week we were operating just fine.”
    In an update posted today (11/17) on The Complete Patient, Gumpert calls McAfee’s “inference that herdshare operations could be the source of the current E.coli O157:H7 outbreak… ill advised, inappropriate, and almost certainly wrong,” but adds that McAfee has “never avoided even the toughest questions” and that “he’s shown a genuine commitment to truly serious food safety standards.” See The Complete Patient for more news as it breaks. (more…)

Leave a Comment November 17, 2011

Introducing the Food Rights Network and Our Lead Writer

On behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy, I want to thank you for joining the new Food Rights Network. We appreciate you for taking a stand against hoodwinking school children and people of all ages into using “organic” “compost” that is really industrial and human sewage sludge to grow fruits and vegetables without any fair notice.

We believe such practices violate both common sense and your rights.

But, at the Food Rights Network, we need your help not just to fight toxic sewage sludge but also to support safe, healthy, and sustainable agriculture. For farmers and eaters.

Photo Credit: Grassway Organics

And, to us, that means supporting real family farms. It means standing up for the rights of farmers to care for animals with enough pasture to graze and ensure good quality milk. It means opposing efforts to indenture farmers to corporations whose drive for profits forces herds and flocks to be so large that farming is industrialized, antibiotics are ubiquitous, and waste is concentrated into massive lagoons that threaten neighbors and our water supplies. It also means standing up for the rights of people to know what they are eating, how it was farmed, where it was processed, and what it contains.

That’s why I am also honored to introduce you to our new lead writer for the Food Rights Network, Rebekah Wilce. Let me let Bekah tell you her own journey here.

- Lisa Graves
Editor, Food Rights Network
Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy

What’s Milk Got to Do With It?

I’ve worked on eight small farms since 2007. Six of them are certified organic. The other two are not, only because their tiny size and the directness of their markets negate the need for an outside certification. All follow organic practices.

Even if they did not, however, none of them would consider spreading sewage sludge on their fields. They eat food from their fields; their children eat from their fields; their parents eat from their fields; their best friends and neighbors all eat from their fields. Healthy soil is the most important asset of an organic farm. None of them would allow their soil or their food to be contaminated with the heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and flame retardants in industrial sewage sludge.

These farms don’t avoid sludge because using it would get them in trouble with regulators; they avoid it because it’s the right thing to do.

A couple of them, in fact, claim that the regulators are trying to put them out of business. Why? Of the farms where I’ve worked, two produce small amounts of milk in addition to other produce (being small, diverse farms). The FDA and some state agriculture departments have not only told them that they cannot sell their milk directly to their friends and neighbors without having it first trucked to an outside processor to be pasteurized and homogenized. They have also told them that they don’t even have a right to drink the milk from their own cows, goats, or sheep.

The government has taken away these farms’ dairy licenses based on the suspicion that they might try to sell unpasteurized milk, milk that comes from healthy cows, without being cooked or adulterated. In one case, bureaucrats even took away an unrelated beef license to punish a family farmer they suspected of sharing raw milk with farm visitors.

All of the farms where I’ve worked are small and clean, with their dairy livestock on pasture, eating grass and hay. These farmers are paragons of organic farming, true stewards of the land, and faithful friends who care for their customers. None of them would risk getting those customers sick.

These aren’t the dangerous dairies attached to distilleries that proliferated as industrial farming took hold in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in New York City. In those early days of the industrial revolution, cows on the forerunners of factory farms were kept in disgusting conditions and fed distillery swill.

It is exactly that sort of commingling of industry and agriculture that the Food Rights Network is opposed to. It is exactly those kinds of practices that we believe eaters should be informed of and be able to choose to avoid. That is why we work to expose the practice of spreading toxic sludge on land used to grow our food. That is why we work to protect the right to choose and obtain clean, healthy food.

Stay tuned in the coming months as we not only continue to expose corporate products and practices that endanger our health and welfare; but also focus on incredible farmers who bring us healthy food, makers of real compost for us to use in our gardens, and activists who fight for the right to continue to choose these healthy alternatives.

In October, the Food Rights Network focused on the first in a series of Food and Farm Heroes, Wisconsin dairy farmer and food rights activist John Kinsman. This month, we interviewed the intrepid raw milk activist, Max Kane. Look for that interview in the coming weeks.

- Rebekah Wilce
Lead Writer, Food Rights Network

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Leave a Comment November 14, 2011

Breaking Secret Farm Bill News

  • “‘Secret Farm Bill’ Primed for Passage in Debt Deal”: According to The Hill (11/15), “Lawmakers on the House and Senate Agriculture committees are trying to write a new five-year farm bill through the supercommittee process.
    “The legislators are using the supercommittee to avoid what would be a more public, election-year debate in 2012, when the current farm bill expires and new legislation would be scheduled for writing, according to critics of the effort. . . . [T]he secrecy of the process has even some farm lobbyists raising questions. . . .
    “Environmental and international poverty advocates are against the whole process.
    “The groups believe higher price-based payments promote overproduction and distort world trade, hurting farmers in the Third World and causing them to cut down rainforest in search of more income.” For more details, see the original article here.

Leave a Comment November 16, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Secret Farm Bill Fails! According to Bloomberg (11/21), “the plan, which was never publicly released, would have done away with about $5 billion in annual payments to farmers made regardless of crop prices. The subsidy would have been replaced partially with insurance against ‘shallow losses’ created by drops in revenue, according to lawmakers including Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat. Some lawmakers said the budget-cutting proposal may form the foundation of the next farm bill, due in 2012.”
  • Blue Hill, Maine, Rallies Around Farmer Brown: On Friday, November 18, Blue Hill residents and neighbors from surrounding towns rallied in support of Farmer Dan Brown of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Hancock County (Bangor Daily News, 11/18). Brown is being sued by the State of Maine and Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb for selling food without state licenses. Blue Hill was the first of five Maine towns to have passed a “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance.” These ordinances permit the kind of sales Brown has been engaged in.

    Speakers at the rally included Dan Brown, Penobscot farmer Heather Retberg of Quill’s End Farm, and Jeff Beyea, who was was Walter Whitcomb’s herdsman for over a year before he became Agriculture Commissioner. Beyea said that Whitcomb himself was in the practice of selling raw milk from his herd on his farm without a license.

  • USDA Proposes “Organic” Use of Tetracycline, Formic Acid and AttapulgitePesticide & Toxic Chemical News reports (11/15) that “USDA‘s National Organic Program on Nov. 8 proposed allowing the use in organic agriculture of tetracycline, formic acid and attapulgite.” What’s next? Will sewage sludge from industrial and human waste be allowed to be spread on organic farms as well? Tetracycline is one of many toxic contaminants found in sludge.

Leave a Comment November 22, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Sewage Plant Closed for Violations Sparks Local Conflict: The sewage composting facility in Lamont, California that was recently closed by unanimous vote of the County Board of Supervisors after two brothers working at the plant died from inhaling a fatal concentration of hydrogen sulfide, is the subject of conflict in Kern County. The plant employed more than 130 people, who now expect to be laid off within weeks. Some 60 of them protested in front of the County of Kern Administrative Center on Tuesday. County Supervisor Karen Goh helped organize a job fair for the workers that took place at the same time as the protest. Organizers estimate that more than 100 people came to that event, which featured 18 agencies offering employment, housing and food. Meanwhile, a hearing to stay the closure of the plant, operated by the Lamont Public Utility District, was postponed to next Tuesday (Bakersfield Californian, 11/22).
  • Two Indiana Towns Fined for Spreading Too Much Arsenic-Heavy Sludge: Albany, Indiana has already paid a civil penalty, and Union City is facing one, both for problems with their methods of dealing with sewage sludge. Union City has allegedly been spreading so much sludge on soil that it exceeded the towns’ arsenic concentration limits of 75 milligrams per kilogram. Albany allegedly failed to submit monthly reports about how much treated wastewater it was releasing into the Mississinewa River (a tributary of the Wabash River in the Mississippi River watershed) (Muncie Star Press, 11/20). (more…)

Leave a Comment November 23, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • UPDATE! Michael Schmidt Fined $9,150, Placed on Probation: According to the Montreal Gazette, Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt’s day in court today resulted in a $9,150 fine and a year’s probation “for making and providing raw milk and cheese through a cow-share business. . . . Ontario Justice Peter Tetley acknowledged the more than 60 people in the courtroom Friday were a testament to Schmidt’s character. . . . Despite this, Tetley said he had no choice but to hand down the sentence. He also acknowledged there are many people in the province, the country and even in his own family who consume unpasteurized milk to no ill health effect, but said there was still a ‘public health component’ to the case. . . . Schmidt’s lawyer says she plans to appeal the sentence.”
  • Raw Milk Freedom Riders to Ride Again: On Thursday, December 8th, the “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” will ride again– this time into Chicago. The caravan of parents will deliver 100 gallons of Wisconsin raw milk and cookies to Independence Park (3850 West Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL. 60618), to be distributed in support of food freedom. There they will be joined by food freedom advocates from around the country, local and national press, and possibly the FDA and law enforcement. After the first freedom ride on November 1st in Maryland, the FDA issued a statement saying, in part, that they do not “intend” to target individuals transporting raw milk across state lines for their own, individual use.  This subsequent ride intends to expand the challenge and assert the right to ask a friend or neighbor to obtain food from a farm just over state lines in the same way that someone may ask a friend to pick up an extra gallon of milk for her from the grocery store down the street. The Food Rights Network will be in attendance, filming and reporting as events unfold. (more…)

1 Comment November 25, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Tom Philpott Exposes Sara Lee Marketing Professionals’ Attempt to Put Lipstick on Pigs: (Mother Jones, 11/28)
  • Rep. Pingree (D-ME) Questions the FDA’s Commitment of Scarce Resources to Small Farm Raids: Read her 11/18 letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, posted by Local Food, Local Rules, here.
  • Fair Trade USA Drops Commitment to Small Coffee Farmers: According to the New York Times (11/23), the group said it would “make far-reaching changes in the sorts of products that get its seal of approval. The changes include giving the fair trade designation to coffee from large plantations, which were previously barred in favor of small farms.”
  • “Research Proves Equal Yields, Higher Profits from Organic Farming”: According to Fresh Plaza (11/21), “Organic crop systems can provide similar yields and much higher economic returns than a conventional corn-soybean rotation, according to thirteen years of data from a side-by-side comparison at Iowa State University’s Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration Farm.” As Barbara Damrosch writes for the Washington Post, other studies have offered similar results, including, perhaps most persuasively, the World Bank’s “International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development.” (more…)

Leave a Comment November 29, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • “Dark Soil: Ending the Land Application of Biosolids In America”: A great article that stands for itself (Jason Fowler, Sustainable Traditions, 11/30). Please read!
  • “Montreal’s storm drains ‘widely contaminated’ with sewage, researchers conclude after finding caffeine traces”: According to the National Post (11/28), “After testing 120 brooks, collectors and outfalls in Montreal, researchers discovered that samples containing human urine and feces were also lightly caffeinated. Their conclusion: If there’s an abundance of caffeine in the water, ‘it means you have a leaky sewage pipe somewhere,’ lead researcher Sébastien Sauvé told the Post on Monday.” (Thank you to Maureen Reilly of Sludgewatch for highlighting this article.)
  • At Sludge Corporations’ Request, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) Allows “Land Application” of “Biosolids” “Within 100 Feet of Streams”: According to the ANRC, it has incorporated comments made by Thomas Rose, President of Poinsett Fertilizer, Inc. and George Crook on behalf of American Composting, Inc. in its “Premium Biosolids Incentives Cost Share Program” so that “land application” of “eligible premium biosolids” will no longer be restricted “within 100 feet” of “drainage ditch[es] located outside a Nutrient Surplus Area lying on or contiguous to row crop farmland or pasture land that receives only intermittent surface water runoff from natural precipitation and crop irrigation, and . . . wells and manmade water reservoirs that serve as a water source solely for the irrigation of row crops and pastures.” (more…)

Leave a Comment November 30, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • “Raw Milk Rally to Transport 100 Gallons Across State Lines Dec. 8″: The Raw Milk Freedom Riders will distribute 100 gallons of milk from a Wisconsin farm to a rally in Chicago on Thursday, December 8, as the Rock River Times reports (11/30). In two successive articles, the Food Poison Journal, a publication of the law firm Marler Clark, attacks the rally as “poorly timed” (10/28) and says the anonymity of the Wisconsin farmer donating the milk asks supporters to “forget ‘know your farmer,’ a well-informed mantra of the local, whole food movement” (11/30).
    Organizers of the act of civil disobedience (the second in a series, the first aimed at the FDA national headquarters in Maryland on November 1) argue that farmer anonymity is necessitated in this case by food safety enforcement activities that are unevenly meted out against small dairy farmers. Far from asking supporters not to know their farmers, organizer Max Kane said in a recent interview with the Food Rights Network, “The consumer’s relationship with the farmer should be as intimate as the farmer’s relationship is with the soil.”
    Raw milk advocate David Gumpert of The Complete Patient blog writes (11/30) in another publication of the Marler Clark law firm, Food Safety News, that “a relatively small 2010 Midwest outbreak of 25 illnesses (and no deaths) from Campylobacter in raw milk seems to have brought the ire of law enforcement down on the owners of two tiny farms in Indiana and Michigan” while “Peanut Corp of America has been cited for responsibility in nine deaths and more than 700 illnesses from Salmonella in its peanut butter, [and] its president, Stewart Parnell, has remained seemingly immune from prosecution nearly three years after the fact.” In a comment on this article, attorney Bill Marler himself calls for “some proportion here.”
    The Food Rights Network supports a well-informed and close relationship between eaters and farmers, policies and practices in dairy farming that make it possible to have appropriately sized herds and pasture for grazing that will help ensure good quality milk, and policies in regulation that make this possible without disproportionate risk to small farmers or eaters. FRN will be reporting from the Raw Milk Freedom Riders’ caravan and rally on December 8. Stay tuned for more. (more…)

Leave a Comment December 1, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Wisconsin Dairy Farmer and Food Sovereignty Activist Speaks to Occupy Wall Street (12/4):

  • “How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid’s Lunch”: According to the New York Times‘ Lucy Komisar (12/3), “an increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students — a captive market — fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.” For more, read the excellent investigative report from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund here.
  • “5 Lessons from the Secret Farm Bill Fight”: The Environmental Working Group shares “five lessons to keep in mind for the 2012 farm bill debate” (12/1).
  • “Monsanto Defeated by Roundup Resistant Weeds”: According to the Institute for Science in Society (12/1), “Monsanto is surrendering to glyphosate resistant weeds, according to a new briefing by UK based GM freeze. They are spreading at ‘exponential’ rates in US farms and are increasingly documented in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Europe and South Africa” (the full article is available in the members-only area of the ISIS website and re-posted without footnotes on the website of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia). (more…)

Leave a Comment December 6, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Three Florida Utilities Penalized for Improperly Disposing of Sewage Sludge: According to the Florida Independent (12/6), the facilities were penalized for “failing to provide biosolids reports and/or otherwise failing to comply with Section 503 of the CWA covering requirements for land disposal of sewage sludge.” Utilities in Plantation, Lake City and Starke “were each fined $900 for their failure to comply.”
  • Toledo, Ohio Opts to Spread More Contaminated Sludge: According to the industry publication American Recycler (Dec. 2011), “N-Viro International Corporation (NVIC) announced that after 22 years of providing the City of Toledo with a Class A biosolids program, Toledo City Council with an 8 to 3 vote chose a Class B blending and disposal option. The decision provides for approximately 50,000 wet tons of Class B biosolids to be dumped and blended on a 70 acre site located within a Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) within the Maumee Bay at the westernmost point of Lake Erie.” There were strong objections to this choice because of the potential for environmental damage. NVIC CEO/President Timothy R. Kasmoch also criticized the decision, remarking, “A well managed Class B program can be beneficial. I do not believe this is a well managed program. In fact I believe this decision is completely detrimental to the health and welfare of the Maumee Bay and Lake Erie because of the potential of pathogen leaching and phosphorus contamination resulting in elevated toxic algae growth. . . . In my opinion, the City of Toledo moved its biosolids program in the opposite direction in one hasty decision.” (more…)

Leave a Comment December 7, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” Take on Chicago Today: The Food Rights Network is reporting from the road today as the “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” travel across state lines from Wisconsin to Illinois with 100 gallons of milk and rally at Independence Park in Chicago. Madison, Wisconsin’s Capital Times has the story so far (12/4). Stay tuned for video and audio as well as the full report upon FRN’s return to the Dairy State.
  • Rep. Pingree Blasts FDA for Raw Milk Raids: According to the Portland Press Herald, “Rep. Chellie Pingree says federal regulators should have better things to do than hassle small farmers who produce raw, or unpasteurized, milk.” The article refers to a letter the Maine Democrat (who was president and CEO of Common Cause for four years, a Maine state senator for eight, and previously ran a farm and wool knitting business in North Haven, Maine) sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, criticizing the agency for committing “scarce resources to activities like farm raids and what many believe to be over zealous enforcement of the ban on the interstate sale of raw milk. When consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and that it’s safe, why does the FDA choose to put so much energy into these enforcement activities aimed at small farmers?” she asks. (more…)

Leave a Comment December 8, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Wisconsin Farmer Jim Goodman Urges the “99 Percent” to “Occupy the Food System (Common Dreams, 12/12). See also the Bangor Daily News article (12/8) the Maine organic farmer leading the “fight against Monsanto“: “Jim Gerritsen of Bridgewater made his first trip to New York City to address the December 4 “Farmers’ March” to Zuccotti Park organized by the Food Justice Committee of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Grist also published an excellent article about the Farmers’ March (12/6).
  • National Organic Standards Board Approves Changes: For more details, see the National Organic Program Newsletter (December 2011), the summary of major votes from Beyond Pesticides (12/12) or the meeting report by the Cornucopia Institute (12/10).
  • Environmental Activists in British Columbia Blockade Sludge Hauling Trucks (Prince George Citizen, 12/10) (more…)

Leave a Comment December 13, 2011

We Are Farmer Brown

This is the first in a two-part series by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network (FRN) about challenges to local food sovereignty across the United States. This was originally published on AlterNet. Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon.

More than 150 supporters gathered on the steps of Town Hall in Blue Hill, Maine on Friday, November 18. They protested the State of Maine’s and Agriculture Comissioner Walt Whitcomb’s lawsuit against local farmer Dan Brown of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill. In response to a shout of, “Who is Farmer Brown,” the crowd shouted, “We are all Farmer Brown!

Farmer Brown Sued for Selling Milk from One Cow

Farmer Brown and calfThe lawsuit, filed in Maine Superior Court earlier this month, accuses Brown of “unlicensed distribution and sale of milk and food products.”

But Brown, far from operating a mega-dairy or even distributing milk to retailers, milks one cow. After he and his family provide for their own needs, the remaining milk is sold from their farm stand. Brown said in a speech to supporters, “I’m not a milk distributor. I’m a farmer. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, it’s all I’ve ever done.”

In an interview with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Brown, who seemed uncomfortable with the spotlight, added, “I’m just a lonely farmer. I don’t even have a high school diploma. I’m just here on my farm doing my thing.”

One thing he’s not doing is giving up. Brown said he will challenge the lawsuit, and that the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) has agreed to represent him. He has also requested results from any tests the state performed on his dairy products. (more…)

Leave a Comment December 9, 2011

Raw Milk Freedom Riders Take On Chicago

Raw Milk Activists at the Illinois BorderOn Thursday, the Raw Milk “Freedom Riders” rode again. In November, they crossed the Pennsylvania border into Maryland in protest against federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61, which prohibits interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption. Yesterday, a group of 17 food rights activists carried 70 gallons of raw milk over the border from Wisconsin to deliver the milk, along with batches of homemade cookies, to milk drinkers on the other side of the border.

History of a Food Right

Raw milk is milk in its unprocessed form, that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Pasteurization was introduced in the late 1800s, and the first law requiring pasteurization wasn’t passed until 1908, in Chicago. (more…)

Leave a Comment December 9, 2011

California is Farmer Brown

This is the second in a two-part series by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network (FRN) about challenges to local food sovereignty across the United States. It was originally published on Alternet. For more, see the first article, on the lawsuit against Blue Hill, Maine farmer Dan Brown brought by the State of Maine and Maine’s Agriculture Commissioner, here.

Maine farmer Dan Brown, who milks one cow and sells milk to his neighbors, is being sued by the State of Maine for “unlicensed distribution and sale of milk and food products.” The lawsuit has sparked protest in Maine and concern in communities around the country.

In an interview with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Brown said, “One of these times, they’re going to come after one of us, and it’s going to be that Rosa Parks moment . . . [for] the food system.”

The “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance” that passed in Brown’s town of Blue Hill, Maine, on April 2, 2011, asserting its “citizens’ right to foods of their choice” without impediment by federal and state regulations, served as a model for several counties in California. CMD spoke with three farmers and advocates about the food sovereignty movement there, and how the suit against Farmer Brown may affect their struggle. (more…)

Leave a Comment December 12, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Raw Milk Hits Mainstream Media: Raw milk and raw milk activism is prominently featured in recent stories by ABC News (12/15) and Bloomberg (12/5).
  • Maine Dairy Farmers Sell Organic Raw Milk at Farmers’ Markets and as “Top Rung” Quality Organic Milk to Cooperatives (Boston Globe, 12/14). More about the city of Portland, Maine’s battle over whether or not to allow raw milk sales at farmers’ markets is here (Portland Examiner, 12/7).
  • Wisconsin Citizens Speak Out on Behalf of Raw Milk Farmer Vernon Herschberger (Rock River Times, 12/14). David Gumpert’s The Complete Patient blog also summarizes Herschberger’s case as well as Pennsylvania Amish farmer Dan Allgyers (12/9). Herschberger’s charges were announced by the media before he received a summons. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, a local division of the national right-wing lobbying front for big agribusiness and agribusiness-related industries that works to defeat labor and environmental initiatives, the American Farm Bureau Federationwent on record opposing direct sales of raw milk.
  • “New Jersey Raw Milk Vote Expected Soon (New Jersey Herald, 12/14)
  • Raw Milk Freedom Rider Max Kane Interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio (12/8). Organizer Kathy Pirtle was also interviewed on the Wisconsin Radio Network (12/8).
  • “British Columbia Raw Milk Co-op Loses Latest Court Challenge(CBC News, 12/7)
  • Organic Pastures Dairy Could “Restart Raw Milk Production Soon(Fresno Bee, 12/6)

Leave a Comment December 15, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • British Columbia Residents Blockade Sludge Trucks: On December 9, a group of Salmon Valley, British Columbia residents blockaded (250 News, 12/9) the first sludge truck that aimed to spread City of Prince George human and industrial waste on neighboring farmlands. The City is considering a court injunction against the protesting residents, but so far the truck has not returned. Stay tuned for more on this story from the Food Rights Network.
  • Hinkley, California Sludge Facility Sanctioned by Judge: A Hinkley plant that would process Barston, California’s human and industrial waste has received judicial approval of the company’s environmental impact report (Victorville Daily Press, 12/12). According to the local press, “Bob Conaway, Hinkley resident and member of, said the group opposes the plant due to the environmental and community impacts the facility will have on the Hinkley community. Conaway explained the group’s biggest concerns are with odor, wind and water supply, among others. Each of these matters are addressed in the company’s EIR, which has been under legal scrutiny these six years. Conaway said he felt the information given to the judge in this case was inaccurate or incomplete, though he’s not sure what the group’s next steps will be.”

Leave a Comment December 14, 2011

Food News You Can Use

  • Cases of Organic Fraud: From the outing of industrial-scale certified organic dairy Shamrock Farms in Arizona (Cornucopia Institute, 12/15) to the corn fraud mentioned in last week’s news roundup and a gang of alleged organic fraud conspirators recently broken up by Italian police, discovered cases of organic fraud are on the rise (Global Organic Marketing Access, 12/13).
  • Ten Percent of U.S. Sodas Contain Flame Retardant Banned in Food in Europe and Japan: Brominated vegetable oil (BVO), patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant, is “found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States” (Scientific American, 12/12), particularly “citrus-flavored sodas such as Mountain Dew. BVO has reportedly led to soda-drinkers experiencing skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders. Interestingly, these are all the symptoms of overexposure to bromine. What is most concerning is the fact that studies have found that BVO can actually build up in human tissue, accumulating in large quantities over long periods of soda consumption” (NaturalSociety, 12/16). “Reports from an industry group helped the U.S. Food and Drug Administration establish in 1977 what it considers a safe limit for BVO in sodas. But some scientists say that limit is based on data that is thin and several decades old, and they insist that the chemical deserves a fresh look” (Scientific American). (more…)

Leave a Comment December 20, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Gallatin, Tennessee Issues $10 Million in Bonds to be Funded by Revenues from Selling Treated Sewage Sludge as Fertilizer: “The city currently has to pay to have its sewage sludge hauled off, but with the new plant, the sludge will be treated and processed into nutrient-rich organic material called biosolids that are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency for use as fertilizer” (Tennessean, 12/20). Warning, Tennesseans! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in “biosolids.” As the new Sludge Blog points out in its most recent post (12/20) about Washington, DC’s sludge being spread on Virginia farms, “It is absurd to believe that the material removed from the wastewater at sewage plants simply needs a bit of zapping and then it’ll be fine. The process in the works at Blue Plains, a $400 million upgrade from Class B to Class A biosolids, will make sludge supposedly ‘safe enough to put in your mouth — though it’s not encouraged’ because the new Class A biosolids won’t contain pathogens that can sicken humans and animals. The pathogens are definitely a problem. But so are heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, radioactive waste, flame-retardants; the list of modern American inventions that end up in the drains goes on and on” (emphasis added).
  • Sludge Spill in Three Rivers, Michigan: A hose break yesterday within the fenced area of the Clean Water Plant (wastewater treatment plant) in Three Rivers, Michigan, resulted in a spill of 300 gallons of treated human and industrial sewage sludge over about 50 square feet, caused by failed/faulty equipment. According to the plant director, “The discharge did not enter any storm water structures, was immediately cleaned up with a vacuum truck, and disinfected with sodium-hypochlorite granules” (River Country Journal, 12/20). (more…)

Leave a Comment December 21, 2011

Sludge Industry Reveals “Resource Recovery” Spin

The Water Environment Federation (WEF), the sewage sludge industry trade group that invented the Orwellian PR euphemism “biosolids” for toxic sludge in 1991, is now “rebranding” sewage treatment plants as “water resource recovery facilities.” The PR spin conveniently glosses over the toxic sewage sludge removed from the water and then heated and dumped on land for crops and grazing as “fertilizer” or misleadingly called “compost.” The toxins in sludge can then bioaccumulate in the meat and dairy we eat and be taken up by the food plants that feed us. (more…)

Leave a Comment December 15, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

Leave a Comment December 22, 2011

Food News You Can Use

The Food Rights Network will be on vacation from January 1 – January 13. Happy New Year, and look for the next “Food News You Can Use” on Tuesday, January 17!

  • Food Industry Insider Bruce Bradley Sums Up 2011 in the Big Food World (The Blog of Bruce Bradley, 12/24) :

    12 Days of Christmas - adapted by Bruce Bradley

  • “FDA OK’s High Levels of Dangerous Carcinogens in Seafood” (Alternet, 12/20)

1 Comment December 27, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

The Food Rights Network will be on vacation from January 1 – January 13. Happy New Year, and look for the next “Raw Milk in the News” on Thursday, January 19!

  • “Small Farmers Fight the Good Fight”: According to the Rock River Times (12/28), “In Loganville, Wis., the saga of Mennonite farmer Vernon Hershberger has switched from defense to offense after four charges were levied this month. . . . The state charged him with a retail food violation between Aug. 6, 2009, and June 3, 2010, a raw milk producer violation between Feb. 15, 2010, and June 3, 2010, a dairy plant violation between Feb. 15, 2010, and June 3, 2010, and a ‘holding order’ violation between June 2, 2010, and July 8, 2010. Hershberger ignored the raid and went back to business as usual of supplying small amounts of organic products to members, or in his view, fellow owners.
    “Hershberger has a Wednesday, Jan. 11, court date at 1 p.m. The date was originally set a week earlier, but Hersberger asked for a continuance to set up a rally by food club members and by local concerned citizens to be held outside the courthouse, 515 Oak St., in the city of Baraboo, before Court Commissioner Leo Grill. . . .
    “Hershberger has never laid claim to being a retailer.
    “‘It just so happens that I am the one who takes care of the cows, which we all share in a lease agreement,’ Hershberger said. ‘Let’s remember that by law, to lease is to own and that is why the state is picking on me. . . .’
    “The state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) took issue with the club, which has members scattered across the state, and raided Vernon’s farm. They taped his refrigerators shut and cited it as a crime scene. . . . Vernon was held at gunpoint in his living room in front of his young family . . .” (more…)

Leave a Comment December 29, 2011

Sewage Sludge in the News

The Food Rights Network will be on vacation from January 1 – January 13. Happy New Year, and look for the next “Sewage Sludge in the News” on Wednesday, January 18!

  • Lehigh County Pennsylvania Residents Allege Local Sludge-Spreading Has Made Their Well Water Undrinkable: According to NBC Philadelphia (12/28), “Several Lynn Township, Pa. farmers use a bio-solid called ‘granulite’ to fertilize their crops, according to township authorities. ‘Granulite’ is sewage sludge turned into dried pellets, 30 percent of which is made of human waste. Residents like Bill Schaffhouser fear the health effects when this chemically-treated sewage fertilizer seeps into the ground and water. . . . Schaffhouser says that he and his neighbors can no longer drink their water because the sewage fertilizer has seeped into the drinking water, the storm drains and the nearby creek.”
  • Site Contaminated by “Composted” Los Angeles Sewage Sludge Shows High Levels of Zinc, Copper and Sulfur: According to the blog “Root Simple” (12/27), “Ecological designer Darren Butler, at a class I was sitting in on, showed a soil report from a site that had used compost from the city of Los Angeles. LA’s compost contain biosolids, a euphemism for sewage. The soil test showed high levels of: zinc 196 ppm; copper 76 ppm; [and] sulfur 5,752 ppm. The problem isn’t human waste, it’s all the other stuff that ends up in the sewer.” (more…)

Leave a Comment December 28, 2011

Raw Milk in the News

  • Wisconsin Farmer Vernon Herschberger Jailed and Released For Providing Unlicensed Raw Milk to Private Club Members: Herschberger appeared in court on January 11 (NBC 15, 1/11/12) on four misdemeanor charges. According toWKOW (1/10/12), “The court allowed Hershberger to go home on a $500 dollar bond, but he had to go through the jail booking process. ‘I object your honor,’ Herschberger said in court. He’s also required to abide by the law. ‘No sale of food without a food establishment license,’ said Assistant Attorney General Eric Defort. His supporters hope Hershberger continues his business as usual. Hershberger faces four criminal counts, 2.5 years in prison and more than $13,000 dollars in fines.
    He’s due back in court on January 30.” A crowd Herschberger’s supporters and co-owners of the private food club to which the raw milk is distributed came out for a rally on the court steps.
    Steve Ingham of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently told conventional agriculture publication AgriView (1/5) that raw milk is one of the most visible issues the food safety division deals with. “At present there are between five and 10 cases where we know there may be a problem. The cases are in different stages of review and information has been shared with FDA and with county district attorneys. There are other cases where we are still in the data collection process,” he said.
    DATCP secretary Ben Brancel told Agriview, “The interstate movement of raw milk is an FDA issue. . . We’ve discussed this with FDA and we feel it should be the topic for a regional meeting. We enforce according to information available to us. The information we receive is shared with district attorneys because they are the ones who have to proceed with the cases. In the most recent Sauk County case, information was shared with the Department of Justice.”
    Wisconsin dairy farmer and John Kinsman, whom the Food Rights Network profiled last year as a “Food & Farm Hero,”commented about the case in an article in Common Dreams (1/10/12): “This government crackdown on family farmers is absurd given the current sordid state of our food/farm system and the urgent need to relocalize agriculture for the sake of our health, as well as that of the planet. Study after study has shown that the most dangerous food is usually that which has endured the most processing and traveled the furthest. . . . If people in Wisconsin want to enjoy access to fresh local food from family farmers in the future they may need to pass similar ordinances here.  Otherwise, corrupt government under the sway of corporate agribusiness will make sure they have no choice at all.” (more…)

Leave a Comment January 19, 2012

Food News You Can Use

Hello again, Food Rights Network, and happy new year! There’s been a lot of food news in the last two weeks, more than can fit in one post, so here are the highlights of what’s been happening:

Leave a Comment January 17, 2012

Sewage Sludge in the News

  • Paragould Light, Water and Cable Required to Enclose Sewage Sludge Discharge Area (Arkansas) (Paragould Daily Press, 1/17/12)
  • Charlotte, North Carolina Spins Sludge Spreading as “Resource Recovery” and “Nutrient Recycling” (Charlotte, NC, 2011)
  • Union City, Indiana to Pay Fine for Arsenic Pollution from Spreading Sludge (Star Press, 1/14/12)
  • Culpeper County, Virginia Denies Permit for ReCyc Systems Storage Facility (more…)

Leave a Comment January 18, 2012

Neighbors Occupy Road, Blockade Sludge Trucks

Recently, a group of farmers and neighbors in Salmon Valley, near Prince George, British Columbia, successfully blockaded Wright Creek Road and turned back a truck full of sewage sludge headed for a 117 acre parcel of farm land contracted as a dump site by the City of Prince George. One neighbor brought a snow mobile towing a portable fire pit on a sled so that they were able to keep warm while they blocked the road. As of this writing, the trucks have not returned.

Dumping Sludge on Farmland

Andy Angele's sign on Wright Creek Road (Source: 250 News)

Andy Angele's sign on Wright Creek Road (Source: 250 News)

The Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network (FRN) spoke with Andreas Angele, whose land adjoins the contracted land at Arnette Ranch on Wright Creek Road. He gardens and grows hay for horses on his land. He says he first heard about the plan to dump processed human and industrial waste near his property in May, from a neighbor (the private company that drafted the sludge application plan for the City of Prince George, Sylvis, claims it has been in touch with Angele since February). He says that although the City of Prince George application indicated that all neighbors within one kilometer would be notified in advance, that didn’t happen. One of his neighbors received notification at work, and he and two others received none.

Angele and others in the area circulated a petition this summer and collected 1,000 signatures of area residents opposed to the dumping of toxic sludge on farmland. (more…)

Leave a Comment January 2, 2012

Food News You Can Use

  • Senator Feinstein Calls on FDA to Ban Bisphenol A (BPA) From Food and Drink Containers (E&E News (subscription only), 1/24): Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S. 136, the “Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2011,” last January, which would ban BPA from baby bottles, children’s sippy cups, baby food and infant formula. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008 to ban BPA from all food containers. When the FDA didn’t respond, NRDC sued in 2010. A settlement reached in December requires the FDA to respond to the petition by March 31.
  • “Largest Corporate Dairy, Biotech Firm and USDA Accused of Conspiring to Corrupt Rulemaking and Pollute Organics”: According to a press release (1/23), the Cornucopia Institute “has formally requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate corruption at its National Organic Program (NOP) resulting in the use of illegal synthetics in organic food and then allowing powerful corporations to ‘game the system’ for approval ‘after the fact.’ The controversy surrounds products developed by Martek Biosciences Corporation. Martek, part of a $12 billion Dutch-based conglomerate, recently petitioned for approval of its genetically modified soil fungus and algae as nutritional supplements in organic food.” In a January 9 press release, the NOP announced a proposed rule “addressing the use of vitamins and minerals in organic foods and infant formula” to “increase consumer confidence that organic foods are consistent both with FDA rules and the principles of organic production.”
  • Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) Asks EPA to Finalize Dioxin Study: CHEJ Executive Director Lois Gibbs sent a letter (1/20) to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson ”strongly urging EPA to finalize the Dioxin Reassessment once and for all” (CHEJ, 1/21). This reassessment of the risks of dioxin exposure has been delayed for over 25 years. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also sent a letter, as it represents many of the workers likely to be exposed to dioxins on the job. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, also sent a letter urging EPA to finalize. The Washington Post recently reported that air releases of dioxins, rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 (1/5). Stay tuned for more on this from CMD’s Food Rights Network. (more…)

Leave a Comment January 24, 2012

Sewage Sludge in the News

Updated on Thursday, January 26, to add a late-breaking research article:

  • “Measurement of Flame Retardants and Triclosan in Municipal Sewage Sludge and Biosolids” (Environment International, April 2012 volume): “The biosolids [from California and North Carolina] and SRM 2781 were analyzed for PBDEs, hexabromobenzene (HBB), 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE), 2-ethylhexyl 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB), di(2-ethylhexyl)-2,3,4,5-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), the chlorinated flame retardant Dechlorane Plus (syn- and anti-isomers), and the antimicrobial agent 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol (triclosan). PBDEs were detected in every sample analyzed, and ΣPBDE concentrations ranged from 1750 to 6358 ng/g dry weight. Additionally, the PBDE replacement chemicals TBB and TBPH were detected at concentrations ranging from 120 to 3749 ng/g dry weight and from 206 to 1631 ng/g dry weight, respectively. Triclosan concentrations ranged from 490 to 13,866 ng/g dry weight. The detection of these contaminants of emerging concern in biosolids suggests that these chemicals have the potential to migrate out of consumer products and enter the outdoor environment” (from article abstract, with emphasis added). For more on sewage sludge contaminants, see SourceWatch.
  • Pennsylvania’s William Bispels Runs for the State House of Representatives on Anti-Sewage Sludge Spreading Platform (BCTV, 1/25)
  • “Cadmium Stress” from Sludge Spreading Negatively Affects Plant Growth and Development (CO2 Science, 1/25): For more on the presence of cadmium in sewage sludge, see SourceWatch.
  • Sludge Pelletizing Plant Explodes in Florida, Worker Injured (Palm Beach Post, 1/24, and Waste & Recycling News, 1/24)
  • Pennsylvania Compost Program Stench Causes Outcry: According to the MarpleNewtown Patch (1/24) and HaverfordHavertown Patch (1/20), the program composts local leaves, but the unholy stench has neighbors upset enough to demand the program be ended. The two neighboring townships, Havertown and Marple, Pennsylvania, hired well-known sewage sludge consultant Craig Coker, to help reduce the odor. Coker is on the Board of the sludge front group the U.S. Composting Council and a former member of the sludge industry trade group the Water Environment Federation‘s (WEF’s) “Biosolids” Management Committee and, in 2008, wrote an editorial (or “advertorial,” in PR jargon) for the Roanoke Times in which he advocated the safety of treated, minimally regulated sewage sludge as fertilizer. Are the townships “composting” human and industrial waste sludge with their leaves? (more…)

Leave a Comment January 25, 2012

Raw Milk in the News

  • Raw Milk Rally and Court Hearing for Wisconsin Dairy Farmer Vernon Hershberger Friday, January 27 at 12:00 pm in Baraboo: Vernon Hershberger has a court appearance scheduled tomorrow, Friday, January 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm at the Baraboo Courthouse, which is located on 515 Oak Street in Baraboo. Vernon is facing criminal charges for allegedly violating state food and dairy laws, including several counts for not having the proper permits. He has contended that he was not required to have the licenses because his store was a members-only club, in which people leased farm animals and were provided dairy products from those animals. Wisconsin farmers and Hershberger’s farm club members have scheduled a Rally at 12:00 pm in front of the Baraboo Courthouse preceding the 1:00 pm court appearance. The Jefferson/Waukesha chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation recently published a related commentary on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP’s) “war on raw milk.”
  • “Local Food Movement Gets Verbal Support from El Dorado County Officials” (Sacramento Bee, 1/25): “The grass-roots (and grass-fed) agriculture revolution that Patty Chelseth,” whom the Food Rights Network interviewed last month, “started last summer is picking up steam. Chelseth, of My Sisters’ Farm in Shingle Springs, has launched a campaign to get a ‘Local Food and Community Self-Governance’ ordinance. Her effort got a warm reception Tuesday from the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.” (more…)

Leave a Comment January 26, 2012

Food News You Can Use

  • More Damning Evidence Points to Pesticide as Cause of Mass Bee DeathsBayer-produced imidacloprid harmful to bees even at very low levels” (Common Dreams, 1/30)
  • “Dishonest Fox Chart: Food Stamps Edition”: According to Media Matters for America (1/30), a Fox News show run on Monday, January 30, “features mismatched data that does not answer the question of whether ‘more people have gotten on food stamps’ under Obama than any under other president (spoiler alert: they haven’t).”
  • Climate Change Affects Agriculture, and Vice Versa (Who Knew?!): According to Greenwire (1/30 – subscribers only), “The World Bank’s proposed agriculture-based carbon market got preliminary approval today [Monday 1/30] from a third-party carbon credit accreditation system based on the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. . . . The approval brought the bank’s efforts to remunerate smallholder farmers for practicing agricultural techniques that sequester carbon in soil — such as no-till farming, crop-residue management and agroforestry — closer to reality. With the approval, carbon credits can be sold on voluntary carbon markets globally.” However, as Carbon Trade Watch‘s Kevin Smith has said, “Effective action on climate change involves demanding, adopting and supporting policies that reduce emissions at the source as opposed to offsetting or trading. Carbon trading isn’t an effective response; emissions have to be reduced across the board without elaborate get-out clauses for the biggest polluters.” The Food Rights Network supports no-till farming, using crop residues to boost soil fertility, and agroforestry without the use of toxic herbicides and other unsustainable practices, particularly for small farmers, but believes that corporations shouldn’t be allowed to buy carbon credits from small farmers instead of reducing their own emissions. Meanwhile, Public Radio International reports (1/29) that “farmers in Mozambique [are] trying to adapt farming to climate change” by diversifying the crops grown and installing irrigation, with help from the organization Save the Children. And in the United States, climate change may be threatening cranberry production in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Spotlight (1/26). Some scientists propose “geoengineering,” or “fill[ing] the upper atmosphere with tiny particles that could scatter sunlight before it reaches, and warms, the Earth’s surface,” as a solution to the effect of climate change on agriculture and to boost crop yields, according to NPR (1/23). Scientists working on the proposal caution, however, “Even if the global average remained the same, some regions might get hotter while others get colder. That could cause drastic local or regional changes in climate and weather patterns.” And the New York Times Green blog also published an article about agriculture and climate change, on January 19. (more…)

Leave a Comment January 31, 2012

Raw Milk in the News

  • Wisconsin Raw Milk Association Lobbies Wisconsin Legislature Today, February 22 (Wisconsin Ag Connection, 1/31)
  • Raw Milk Freedom Riders Plan Workshop and Rally to Support Vernon Herschberger March 1-2 in Sauk County, Wisconsin (The Bovine, 2/21 and 2/15)
  • “Study Says Raw Milk Poses Risks,” Seems not to Reflect Corrected Numbers: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article (2/21) quotes a new CDC study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Read David Gumpert’s excellent analysis of the study here. The article also quotes a death toll, which doesn’t seem to reflect the correction the CDC made last year.
  • Pennsylvania Amish Raw Milk Dairy Farmer Dan Allgyer Shuts Down Farm in Reponse to Court Decision (Philadelphia Daily Enquirer, 2/15; MSNBC, 2/15; and San Francisco Chronicle, 2/14)
  • “Indiana Panel to Consider Sale of Raw Milk” (Courier-Journal, 2/14)
  • “Iowa House Panel OKs Sale of Raw Milk” (Quad-City Times, 2/13)
  • Canadian Raw Milk Dairy Farm Michael Schmidt will Appeal Sentence and Fine (Bayshore Broadcasting News Center, 2/10)
  • Rural Vermont Submits Raw Milk Report to Vermont Legislature (Rural Vermont report and announcement, 2/9)
  • New Hampshire House Committee OKs Raw Milk Bill (New Hampshire News, 2/7)
  • “Kentucky Bill would Allow Herd-Sharing for Raw Milk Products” (Dairy Herd Network, 2/6)
  • California Herd Shares “Fight for Survival . . . Despite ‘Buy Local’ Trend’” (San Mateo County Daily Journal, 2/2)

Leave a Comment February 22, 2012

Atrazine: A “Molecular Bull in a China Shop”

Atrazine is an herbicide primarily manufactured by the multinational conglomerate Syngenta and commonly used on commodity crops, forests, and golf courses. Its potential harmful effects on human health have been documented since the 1990s.

As a consequence, atrazine has been “unauthorized” in the European Union since 2004 (and in some European countries since 1991). However, it is one of the most heavily used herbicides in the United States. Syngenta, atrazine’s primary manufacturer, has spent hundreds of millions combined on marketing, public relations (PR) campaigns, and lobbying to maintain its market and fight calls to phase the product out of use in the U.S. (more…)

Leave a Comment February 7, 2012

Spinning Suspect Ingredients in Baby Formula

“That same day that I gave her the first bottle [of formula], she had terrible diarrhea, she had horrible spit-up, she had gas, she was crying with pain. . . . I went out that night and got a new formula that did not have the DHA and the ARA, and she’s never had diarrhea issues again.”

Isabel Salas reported to the non-profit Cornucopia Institute (Cornucopia) the difficulties she faced when her infant daughter reacted badly to a set of additives present in most baby formulas: DHA and ARA oils. Containers of formula containing these additives say things like, “Our formula is proven in clinical studies to enhance mental development” and “as close as ever to breast milk.” (more…)

Leave a Comment February 22, 2012

Sewage Sludge Rash? Texas Musical Fest-Goers Blame “Dillo Dirt”

- by Sara Jerving

Nine months before tens of thousands flocked to a popular music festival in Austin, Texas, the concert park grounds were spread with sewage sludge. It was autumn of 2009, and sewage sludge was used as a “fertilizer” to make the grass — parched from prior dry seasons — green. But it rained the weekend of the festival, turning the grounds into a huge mud pit, with a stench that one concert-goer described as the smell of “pig manure,” with the consistency of pudding.

Following the event, several attendees reported rashes and other maladies that they believe were contracted from coming in contact with the churned up human and industrial waste. The local media was abuzz with stories of the festival’s epidemiological aftermath.

The city of Austin markets its sewage sludge as “organic” compost under the trade name “Dillo Dirt” — in tribute to the native nine-banded Armadillo. The sludge qualifies for “unrestricted use,” which means it has been “cleared” for use even on vegetable gardens (although there used to be a warning printed on the bag suggesting gardeners not use it on vegetable gardens). There are some 265 facilities across the country that handle hazardous sludge and many of them are attempting to market sewage sludge as “compost.”

Two years have passed since the Austin City Limits (ACL) 2009 festival at Zilker Park and those affected have few answers about what happened to their bodies after the event. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 2, 2012

Atrazine and the Roots of ALEC’s State Data Quality Act

- by Rebekah Wilce

The herbicide atrazine, one of the most heavily used herbicides in the United States has been found in almost 94 percent of U.S. groundwater and can harm human health in multiple ways. ALEC has promoted “model” legislation friendly to Syngenta, atrazine’s primary manufacturer, across the country. At least once, this legislation was introduced to ALEC by a lobbyist paid by Syngenta. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 9, 2012

Rampant GMO Contamination Unchecked by Judge

GMO Corn

- by Rebekah Wilce

A judge in New York sided with Monsanto and against organic farmers in the first case of its kind seeking to protect famers from being accused of patent infringement upon unintentional contamination by Monsanto’s GMO seed.

Organic farmers sought a judgment against Monsanto to protect themselves from being sued for patent infringement when their crops are unintentionally contaminated with the company’s genetically modified (GMO) seed, was dismissed in federal district court in New York by Judge Naomi Buchwald called the plaintiffs’ concern an “intangible worry, unanchored in time.”

In fact, Monsanto has already filed “over a hundred lawsuits involving hundreds of farmers for illegally using GMO patented seeds, and there have been judgments as high as a million dollars, with the average judgment being about $170,000,” according to Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). CFS was a plaintiff in the case and spoke on the subject of GMO contamination at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) annual conference in Madison on February 25.

That’s a pretty tangible worry for farmers that don’t intend to grow genetically engineered crops. The plaintiffs collectively represent over 300,000 farmers and eaters. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 5, 2012

Activists Rally Around Wisconsin Dairy Farmer Facing Criminal Charges

- by Rebekah Wilce

As snow started to fall, a Mennonite dairy farmer arrived at the courthouse in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on March 2 for a hearing on four charges against him related to the production and distribution of milk and other foods. Vernon Hershberger operates Grazin’ Acres Farm, a small family dairy farm in Loganville, and is part of a private food club that leases his cows and receives distributions of raw milk and other foods via what he calls a members-only “food pantry” on the farm. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 5, 2012

More Free Sludge! Calabasas, California Offers Free Sewage Sludge “Compost”

"Organic Biosolids Compost"

- by Rebekah Wilce

Good news! The sewage treatment plant in Calabasas, California has been giving away free sludge! Free sludge, you say? That potent stew of human and industrial sewage sludge laced with flame retardants, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical residues, phthalates, industrial solvents, resistant pathogens, and perfluorinated compounds? “Composted” sludge, which can bioaccumulate in plants grown in sludge-contaminated soil? Oh, goodie. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 6, 2012

Consumer Pressure Spurs Campbell’s to Announce Phase-Out of BPA

- by Rebekah Wilce

Campbell's Disney Princess CanSuccumbing to public pressure to eliminate the use of bisphenol A (BPA) (a suspected endocrine disruptor) found in baby bottles, plastic bottles and in the lining of food containers, Campbell’s announced at a February shareholder meeting that it will begin to phase out of the use of BPA in its soup can linings.

The phase out is a huge victory for groups such as the Breast Cancer Fund (BCF), Healthy Child Healthy World (HCHW), the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Consumers Union that have been campaigning to limit the use of BPAs in the United States for many years. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 7, 2012

USDA to Serve Kids More “Pink Slime”

Pink SlimeA product made by grinding up connective tissue from cows and beef scraps that used to be made into dog food is too disgusting to serve at McDonald’s, Burger King or Taco Bell, which have all dropped it due to public pressure, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thinks it’s fine to serve in school lunches. The USDA plans to buy seven million pounds of the “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB) from Beef Products Inc. (BPI) and serve it to school children this spring. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 13, 2012

New Toxic Sludge PR and Lobbying Effort Gets Underway

- by Sara Jerving

A trade association known for using the terms “compost,” “organic,” and “biosolids” to describe sewage sludge is investing in a new public relations campaign to influence policymakers and the public. The US Composting Council (USCC), which was founded by the disposable diaper industry, will be expanding its long-standing efforts to “rebrand” sewage sludge, which is increasingly disposed of on agriculture crops and through garden centers without telling the public that their food is being grown in medical, industrial, and human waste.

Earlier this year, the USCC announced that it hired a PR firm, Colehour + Cohen, to help with the rebranding efforts and that it will also be increasing lobbying efforts. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 16, 2012

Death by Delay: Obama Team Stalls on Chemical Regulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drafted a “chemicals of concern” list to restrict the use of certain chemicals and alert the public to their possible dangers. But the list remains secret and dormant because it’s stuck at the Obama administration’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review.

OIRA is a division of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). According to Katie Greenhaw, Regulatory Policy Analyst at the government watch-dog group OMB Watch, OIRA has 90  – 120 days to review rules from a regulatory agency, before releasing the rule back to the agency to open it up for public comment. Rules then go back to OIRA for additional review before being published as final rules. This rule has been stuck at OIRA for almost two years. That means the public hasn’t even laid eyes on it. (more…)

Leave a Comment March 26, 2012

Breaking News: Coca-Cola Dumps ALEC

- by Rebekah Wilce

ALEC Exposed LogoCoke may still contain high fructose corn syrup, but public interest groups campaigning to convince Coca-Cola to break ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) scored a major victory yesterday when Coke announced it had “elected to discontinue its membership with” ALEC.

According to a statement Coke made to the Washington Examiner, “Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.” (more…)

Leave a Comment April 5, 2012

Intuit, Kraft Dump ALEC; Koch, Wal-Mart, Others Refuse

ALEC Exposed Logo- by Rebekah Wilce

A stampede seems to be on the way as more and more groups break ties and dump ALEC. Intuit, Inc. (maker of Quicken and QuickBooks accounting software) told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that Intuit also decided not to renew its membership after it expired in 2011. That comment came from Bernie McKay, Vice President of Government Affairs. He gave this response when CMD identified that Intuit was no longer listed on the board and contacted the company. CMD began its effort to spotlight Intuit and other corporate funders and tie these corporations to the ALEC agenda when it launched in July 2011. (more…)

1 Comment April 6, 2012

Resources to Find Out More About the Farm Bill

The Family Farm Defenders today posted a couple of good resources for understanding the Farm Bill:

  • The Farm Bill Primer website is full of statistics and graphics about the distribution of funds in the Farm Bill, including Agriculture Committee maps, with information about the committee members.
  • Path to the 2012 Farm Bill, a resource website of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, has a summary of the Senate Farm Bill’s draft and the impact on Local Food and Rural Development initiatives, as well as other regular updates and guest posts by experts.

Leave a Comment April 26, 2012

America’s Mad Cow Crisis

- by John Stauber, co-author of Mad Cow USA and founder of the Food Rights Network

Americans might remember that when the first mad cow was confirmed in the United States in December, 2003, it was major news.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been petitioned for years by lawyers from farm and consumer groups I worked with to stop the cannibal feeding practices that transmit this horrible, always fatal, human and animal dementia. When the first cow was found in Washington state, the government said it would stop such feeding, and the media went away. But once the cameras were off and the reporters were gone, nothing substantial changed. (more…)

Leave a Comment April 27, 2012

Syngenta Celebrates Earth Day by Ladling on the Pesticides

- by Rebekah Wilce

Atrazine Indicator Species Portrait

Atrazine Indicator Species Portrait (Source: Abigail A. Allan)

Herbicide manufacturer Syngenta had an interesting way of celebrating Earth Day this year, touting the joys of pesticides.

The multinational conglomerate sent out a press release during the approach to Earth Day exclaiming that “modern farming is grounds for Earth Day celebration” because, it continues, “conservation tillage and no-till farming are responsible for significant environmental benefits often overlooked by Earth Day observers.” These “no-till” farming techniques, which reduce erosion and fuel use, depend “on the ability to control weeds, demonstrating the importance of the 50-year-old herbicide atrazine.”

Some scientists, including agricultural economist John Ikerd and toxicologist Warren Porter, are not buying the “atrazine is great for Mother Earth” spin. (more…)

Leave a Comment May 7, 2012

Media Coverage of Mad Cow: USDA Calls “Misleading,” Columbia Journalism Review Calls “Sane”

"Downer" cowA downer cow at a California dairy was recently found to be infected with an “atypical” strain of “bovine spongiform encephalopathy” (BSE), or “mad cow” disease. There has been some significant media coverage of the case, and the USDA wants the media to know they are not pleased.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) press secretary, Courtney Rowe, issued a memo saying there were an “unfortunate amount of misleading articles meant for our public.”

But the Columbia Journalism Review‘s analysis of the coverage concluded that “it’s hard to find many articles that fit her description. The media have covered the story rationally, for the most part, shunning both alarmism and indifference. . . . The media have exaggerated many public-health scares, to be sure, but not this time.” (more…)

Leave a Comment May 14, 2012

How the US Sold Africa to Multinationals Like Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, PepsiCo and Others

- by Jill Richardson

This story was first published by Alternet and is being cross-posted by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network.

Driving through Ngong Hills, not far from Nairobi, Kenya, the corn on one side of the road is stunted and diseased. The farmer will not harvest a crop this year. On the other side of the road, the farmer gave up growing corn and erected a greenhouse, probably for growing a high-value crop like tomatoes. Though it’s an expensive investment, agriculture consultants now recommend them. Just up the road, at a home run by Kenya Children of Hope, an organization that helps rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families, one finds another failed corn crop and another greenhouse. The director, Charity, is frustrated because the two acres must feed the rescued children and earn money for the organization. After two tomato crops failed in the new greenhouse, her consultant recommended using a banned, toxic pesticide called carbofuran. (more…)

1 Comment May 25, 2012

Sewage Sludge in the News

(Amherst County, Virginia) According to the Amherst New Era-Progress (June 13, 2012):

The county’s planning director, Jeremy Bryant, told supervisors that a company plans to spread sludge, also known as biosolids, in Amherst County sometime this year. Only one property in the county has been approved for this form of fertilizer.

In a 2009 letter to the Department of Environmental quality, the supervisors opposed the dumping, spreading or discharge of biosolids on land adjacent to the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail.

Synagro informed the county that it intends to spread biosolids, also referred to as sludge, on land owned by Wesley Wright in northern Amherst County. The 132 acres slated for spreading is adjacent to the trail, which begins at Piney River in Nelson County and follows the river nearly 2 miles to Roses Mill in Amherst County, according to officials.

The supervisors opposed the spreading of sludge near the trail, based on the smell and potential health risks.

Synagro — which, as a corporation owned by the Carlyle Group, now has a “junk” corporate credit rating — “intends” to spread sludge wherever it wants, over the opposition of county officials that it “informs” of its intent.

Leave a Comment June 14, 2012

Farm Bill Status

The U.S. Senate started voting yesterday on 73 of the 320 amendments proposed to the current Farm Bill. Of the amendments already considered:

  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) amendment, 2156, which would have struck $4.5 billion in cuts to the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) and invested $500 million over ten years in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) providing fresh produce snacks to schoolchildren, was rejected. However, Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) amendments, 2174 and 2172, which would have further cut SNAP funding as well as limiting eligibility, were also rejected.
  • Senator Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) amendment, 2445, which would fund rural development and beginning farmer programs, was agreed to.
  • Senator Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) amendment, 2217, which would have eliminated the organic certification cost share program, was rejected.
  • Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) amendment 2199, which would repeal a provision from the 2008 Farm Bill that created a USDA inspection program for domestic and imported catfish, was agreed to. The provision which would be repealed protects consumers from potentially dangerous fish imported from Asia where food safety standards are lax. (Even U.S. catfish farmers are asking for more inspection.)

For more on the amendments, see the Farm Bill Primer.

Leave a Comment June 20, 2012

Farm Bill Status (Wednesday)

The U.S. Senate started voting yesterday on 73 of the 320 amendments proposed to the current Farm Bill. Of the amendments already considered:

  • Senator Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) amendment 2382, which addresses barriers to make crop insurance more accessible to organic farmers, was agreed to. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently charges a five percent surcharge on crop insurance for organic farmers who participate in federal crop insurance programs. Organic crops are also insured at the same amounts as conventional crops, despite often being worth as much as two times as much as a conventional crop in the marketplace. This means that organic farmers currently are not adequately compensated if they suffer a crop loss, relative to conventional farmers’ compensation.
  • Senator Saxby Chambliss’ (R-GA) amendment number 2438, which would link the receipt of federally subsidized crop insurance to basic conservation requirements, was agreed to.
  • Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) amendment number 2439, which would limit the amount of insurance subsidies going to the wealthiest farmers, persons or corporations grossing more than $750,000 a year, was agreed to, although this limitation wouldn’t take effect until the completion of a study on the effects of the limitation.

For more on the Senate amendments, see the Farm Bill Primer.

According to Politico, the Chairman of the House of Representatives, Frank Lucas (R-OK), intends to start to amend the House version of the Farm Bill when lawmakers return after the July 4 recess.

Leave a Comment June 20, 2012

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