The Rodale Institute’s “The Organic Green Revolution”
Rodale Institute document “The Organic Green Revolution”. www.rodaleinstitute.org/files/GreenRevUP.pdf
Challenges Facing a Second Green Revolution—Expanding the Reach of Organic Agriculture; Presentation at USDA Workshop on Organic Agriculture (2005)
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Creating Personal Plots at Community Gardens
Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2008
From: “Sharon Gordon” <email@example.com>
I too would recommend letting people keep plots from year to year as long as they keep them up. It can easily take 2–3 years to really get a plot producing. Plus if people have the same one each year, they can rotate their crops properly within the plot. And they can get perennial food plants, herbs, flowers going as well such as strawberries, black currants, blueberries, elderberries, roses with good hips, thyme, sage, Asian chives, and raspberries.
If I am reading your post correctly and you are dividing 4 acres into 40 plots. That would give each gardener 1/10 of acre. This is a good size for an experienced gardening family or a retired person who likes to spend much of their day gardening. For the typical community gardener though, I would divide each plot into quarters, and let each person start with a 20×25 or 20×30 foot plot for the first year. When you see who can keep this size up, let them have another plot, preferably adjacent ones if possible up to 4 quarter size plots. But if you do this I would rename the quarter plots to be whole plots just to make your life easier.
I would also make it clear in the info to prospective gardeners that you are looking for people who can keep their gardens in photo-shoot condition and provide info on what you mean by that. It would also help to have classes for the prospective gardeners to get everyone on the same page. It will also help to provide them with ongoing info on how to id weeds and also alert them to pests and diseases as soon as they are spotted in the garden.
If you want the gardens to look artistically beautiful, you might also require that any fencing be green coated wire, that raised beds be of untreated cedar, redwood, oak or locust. Also see if you can locate enough free bamboo for everyone for stakes and trellising and get it on site. Also get enough compost and composted manure going on site for everyone to have enough for their gardens.
If you have good records from previous food gardens on site, it would also help if you gave them a week by week spread sheet of what they could be doing each week in terms of soil prep, seed starting, transplanting, watering, trellis making, usual disease and insect problems, harvesting, etc. If not you can make a rough draft for this year and make it more accurate over the next few years.
It will be easier if you require everyone to be organic from the start.
Also have info in your contracts that bee hives will be on site even if you don’t have any now. This will allow you to add them when you can and people will have been aware of them up front.
It would also probably be worth it to keep one of the 1/10 acre size plots as a demo plot and a showcase plot. For that I would get either an employee devoted mostly to that project or at least a dozen experienced gardener volunteers who can maintain the plot under one person’s advice and organization. For info on one person doing all the work on a Complete Nutrition Garden of similar size see Albie Miles’s experiment at
but note that given the particular choice of Miles’s plants, the amount of time to do Miles’s garden is likely less than what would be needed for a typical choice of plants in a community gardener’s plot. For example tomatoes, peas, green beans, summer squash, berries, and cucumbers would need at least every other day harvesting. Most of Miles’s crops could either be harvested as needed, or all at once at the right stage of ripeness so he would have had more flexibility with his gardening tasks.
It sounds as though you expect more and more people in your area to be interested in community gardening. Given the increase in people across the US, Canada, and Europe interested in community garden plots, I think you are on target. Instead of playing roulette with people’s work and food from year to year though, I’d get a group of people who actively look for potential garden sites all over your area. That way you can help expand the number of available plots. In addition you might be able to create a database like River Cottage has done in the UK to connect people with extra garden space with people who would like to garden. For more info click on landshare at
Another way to get new gardeners and volunteers involved would be to get 20 or so new apprentice gardeners under an organizing gardener (perhaps a Master Gardener or MG pair)for a second 1/10 acre plot each year. This one wouldn’t have the pressure to look as good so would be more suitable for training purposes. And you could also see which of that group would be ready to take on their own plot the next year. That way new people would also be getting a chance to garden and could enjoy some produce while they are learning.
Dear ACGA Gardeners,
Franklin Park Conservatory (in Columbus Ohio) is in the process of building a showplace for community gardening. [For those of you who might not be aware - ACGA’s national office is also housed here.] www.fpconservatory.org Our Community
Garden Campus will open to the public in later summer 2009.
Our new 4-acre Community Garden Campus will feature many different types of gardens, as well as 40 rental plots available to the public on a lottery system. We are researching and developing our gardening plot rental policy.
The ideal system will allow for some plot turnover annually, and will allow some gardeners to stay from year-to-year. We are looking to avoid the problem of all the plots being constantly renewed by the same gardeners with little chance of new gardeners coming in yearly.
We envision the Franklin Park garden operating slightly differently from most community gardens, which often allow gardeners in good standing to maintain their plot occupancy for many years at a time (no limits on renewal).
Our plots will be in the center of a showplace garden featuring lots of programming, so we envision these plots will be under very high demand. We need to have a fair, transparent policy for plot rental that allows for new gardeners to have the chance to join the plot system.
I’m seeking advice from the ACGA Listerv to inform our new plot rental process.
1) Are you aware of community garden plots that have some kind of ‘mandatory turnover’ process? (That is, gardeners are not automatically given the rights to keep their same plots year after year) If yes, please identify the garden and describe the rental policy.
2) Can you suggest a model for plot rental that seems fair to you that also provides?
Thanks so much in advance for your help. -Kim Brown
Kim J. Brown, Ph.D. - Education Manager
Franklin Park Conservatory
1777 East Broad Street
Columbus OH 43203 U.S.A.
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Elaine Ingham Knows a Lot About Worms and Soil
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The Story of Loaves and Fishes From the Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas
It began in earnest when the kid from the hood,
Just 15 years old, shot in the stomach,
A fine Riverwest, gay, pub worker/owner,
A few weeks after an intemperate leader
Gay-bashed rogue cops
Rather than thoughtfully, powerfully,
Seize the reins of justice.
This outrageous shooting, plus
A rash of thuggery that summer, 2005,
Brought forth a community gathering,
Which I attended, at the Art Bar on Burleigh,
Across from old St. Mary’s,
Where the shooting had occurred.
I had the same sinking feeling in my stomach,
As during the 1970s and 1980s, when I and friends
Had done our best to inspire thought in things better
Than racist scapegoating at community meetings,
Following notorious crime events and moments
In struggling Milwaukee.
But when I arrived at the Art Bar, there was a
Spirit of graceful, powerful…resolve.
A succession of strong and warm people,
A polyglot, rainbow melange,
People with deep roots in the neighborhood
And the movements of our times,
Expressed thoughts and feelings aiming to heal and renew,
To draw upon our deepest imaginations and
Sources of resilient endurance…
To keep our eyes on the prize that
Ghandi and King, Rosa, John, and Bobby,
Mandela, Grace Lee Boggs, and many more,
Had blazed in great visions in our youth.
Having spent much time alive
In the dark, dank tombs of pharaohs,
While not witnessing manifestations of bestial hate
Aimed at minority “others”
I was overwhelmed by these
Bursts of warm light
Coming from everyday people.
I had to leave early,
Lest I lose my composure,
And while driving home
Along sacred city trails,
Alongside resurgent neighborhoods
And cleansing rivers,
The notion of finally meeting Big Will Allen,
The legendary urban farmer already renowned
In awakened circles for his avant-guard
Permaculture and urban agriculture innovations,
Innovations agricultural and “biological,” e.g. vermaculture,
Agriculture ecological, e.g. gloriously productive
Simulated indoor river valleys with sweet water
And fat, healthy, tasty fish,
Innovations social and cultural, e.g. farmer training youth programs.
And when I got out to Growing Power, on 55th and Silver Spring,
More than one incredibly exuberant persons,
Starting with Miss Karen, greeted me with a warmth and generosity
That continues to inspire, and even, startle me.
Later on I learned that I had experienced my first moment with…
Growing Power Magic!
That’s what Miss Karen calls it.
And it’s true!
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Leading Organic and Natural Food Companies Enroll in Non-GMO Project
2008–12–16 - Non-GMO Project
After nearly two years of collaborative development by stakeholders in all sectors of the organic and natural products industry, the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program is up and running, with over 350 products already enrolled.
The Non-GMO Project, a 501©(3) non-profit, was originally formed by retailers in search of non-genetically modified (non-GMO) options for their customers who were concerned about negative impacts of GM foods. Its reach broadened in March 2007, when the founding Board of Directors expanded to include CEOs and top executives from Eden Foods, Lundberg Family Farms, Nature’s Path Organic Foods, Organic Valley, UNFI, and Whole Foods Market. These trusted industry leaders, along with the 40+ members of the Project’s Technical Advisory Board and Communications Committee, are guiding the way in achieving the Non-GMO Project’s mission of providing consumers with an informed choice, and ensuring sustained availability of non-GMO options.
According to Joe Dickson, Quality Standards & Organic Programs Coordinator for Whole Foods Market, “We’ve partnered with The Non-GMO Project because we want to offer shoppers a consistent and meaningful ‘non-GMO’ choice for products without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies. Whole Foods Market strongly supports The Non-GMO Project as a means to ensure the continued availability of verified non-GMO food in North America.”
Unlike over 60 other countries around the world, including Australia, Russia, China, and all the countries in the EU, the governments in the U.S. and Canada do not require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. This is in spite of clear public preference for labeling (for example, a 2008 CBS News Poll found that 87% of the U.S. public wants GMOs labeled). GMOs are created when DNA from one species is inserted into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross-breeding. Many consumers find the lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence of GMO safety to be cause for concern.
The Non-GMO Project was founded on a belief that people have the right to choose whether or not they consume GMOs. Its first major accomplishment came in March 2008, with the adoption of the Non-GMO Project Standard. This consensus-based document is North America’s first independent, third party standard for production systems designed to avoid GMOs. The Standard is a public document (available at www.nongmoproject.org), and a schedule of semi-annual comment periods ensures that it stays current, reflecting a balance of meaningfulness and achievability.
With the Standard in place, companies have begun enrolling products in the Project’s Product Verification Program. According to one participant, Arran Stephens, Founder & CEO of Nature’s Path Organic Foods, North America’s largest producer of organic breakfast foods, “Our company enrolled in the Non-GMO Project as a founding member because we believe that verification and measurement in a credible and scientific way is essential to any systematic efforts to control the problem of GMO contamination.” The Program is process-based, and encompasses traceability, segregation, and testing at critical control points. Products that the Program has identified as compliant with the Standard will have the option of bearing a “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal beginning in October 2009. Until then, a list of participating products can be found on the Project’s website.
The Project is actively engaged in enrolling dozens more companies in the Program, and anticipates product enrollment in the thousands within the next 6 months. Manufacturers, processors, growers, and seed companies are invited to sign on or find out more at www.nongmoproject.org.
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GE food and the new administration: Change or more of the same?
Beth Harrison, author of Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food
Support of the biotech industry has never been about party politics. It is simply and purely an issue of money and power. Government support for biotech crops stems from two important facts: they are U.S.-developed and biotech corporations have made significant financial contributions to politicians and political parties. Through economic and political pressure, biotech-giant Monsanto has influenced past administrations - republicans and democrats - and now there is a chance we may have politics-as-usual regarding genetically engineered food with the Obama administration.
In September, Science Debate 2008, a non-partisan political education group, posed science questions to the presidential candidates. When asked about the concerns of the effects of genetic modification both in humans and agriculture, Obama´s (partial) response was:
“Advances in the genetic engineering of plants have provided enormous benefits to American farmers. I believe that we can continue to modify plants safely with new genetic methods.”
Obama´s statements on GE food tell us that he is either uninformed about GE food or is choosing to propagate the biotech façade due to industry influence.
It is public knowledge that the genetic engineering of plants has NOT provided enormous benefits to American farmers. Seeds of Doubt, a 2002 report from the UK´s Soil Association, was the first detailed look at what has happened in North America since the commercial growing of GE crops started in 1996. The study debunked the myth that GE technology represents progress, showing that farmers of GE crops continue to report lower yields, have a greater reliance on herbicide use, have problems with herbicide resistant weeds, have lost export trade and have faced lower market prices resulting in a reduction in profits - which has increased the need for government (taxpayer) subsidies.
American taxpayers support the multi-billion dollar biotech industry by massively funding GE crop and dairy subsidies, state initiatives, tax breaks, foreign aid and other biotech support doled out by the U.S. government. United States farm subsidies have grown dramatically since the growth of GE crops and the resulting lost exports.
Obama contends “we can continue to modify plants safely,” yet no long-term studies to assess safety exist. The FDA does not require specific safety studies or test methods to be conducted on GE crops; biotech company consultations with the agency are voluntary.
Only a handful of independent safety tests have ever been conducted and none prove safety of GE food for human consumption. Nearly every independent animal feeding safety study on GE foods shows adverse or unexplained effects-such as problems with their growth, organ development, damaged immune systems, damaged organs, bleeding stomachs, and increased death rates.
What does he mean “continue” to modify plants safely, when no proof exists that GE crops have been modified “safely” as it is?
It is important to know that four out of five of Obama´s science advisors come from the life sciences industry. One advisor, Gilbert Omenn, is currently a director of the biotech firm Amgen, and another advisor, Sharon Long, served on Monsanto´s board for 5 1/2 years until last fall. Upon her retirement, she commented:
“I am truly proud of Monsanto´s achievements and growth during my service as a director and look forward to the company´s continued success.”
She and the life sciences industry have the ear of yet another administration.
Obama is in the process of formulating policy, assembling his transition team, and considering nominees for Secretary of Agriculture, among other important positions. The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its $90 billion annual budget, including the National Organic Program, food stamp and nutrition programs, and agriculture subsidies.
Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has emerged as the frontrunner for the post of Agriculture Secretary in the Obama cabinet. Vilsack specializes in agribusiness as an attorney and was awarded “Governor of the Year” by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in 2001.
Elevating Vilsack is a sign that the Obama administration could continue treating agricultural policy as if the relevant constituency is food producers rather than food consumers.
Additionally, Obama just appointed Michael Taylor to his transition team for agriculture and energy. In Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, I mentioned Michael Taylor´s influence on behalf of Monsanto in Chapter 3 under the section “Revolving Door”:
Michael Taylor went to work for the FDA during the Carter administration, and at one point, was staff lawyer and executive assistant to the commissioner of the FDA. Taylor left the FDA to be a partner in the law firm of King & Spaulding and became the firm´s food and drug law (FDA) specialist, where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto. During his ten years at King & Spaulding, Taylor represented Monsanto´s efforts to gain FDA approval for Posilac (rBGH). Taylor wrote articles opposing the Delaney Clause, a 1958 federal law prohibiting the introduction of known carcinogens into processed foods, which had been opposed by Monsanto and other chemical and pesticide companies.
In 1991, he left the law firm to rejoin the FDA under George Bush, Sr., this time as deputy commissioner for policy when the agency was reviewing rBGH. It was in 1994 during the Clinton administration that Monsanto’s GE hormone, one of the most controversial drug applications in the history of the FDA, was approved under Taylor’s influence.
Taylor was also instrumental in writing the FDA´s rBGH labeling guidelines that would prohibit dairy corporations from making any distinction between products produced with or without rBGH. Just days after Taylor´s policy was implemented, King & Spaulding-still representing Monsanto-filed a suit against two dairy farms that had labeled their milk rBGH-free.
In response, the Foundation for Economic Trends petitioned the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Taylor’s conflict of interest. Three members of Congress then asked the General Accounting Office to investigate. Within days of the complaint, Taylor left the FDA to work for the USDA as the administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, a position he held from 1994 to 1996.
After representing Monsanto at King & Spaulding and having worked at the FDA and the USDA, Taylor went directly to Monsanto to work as vice president of public policy in the late 1990s.
And once again he is in a position of influence as member of the Obama transition team.
Of course we all hope for positive change with a new administration. But the point here is not to wait for a labeling law or expect Washington to change the regulatory system before you take action. The way for change to happen with GE food is if we drive this on a consumer level and stop eating it. Call food manufacturers and tell them you don´t want GE food or ingredients. If food processors stop accepting GE crops because of consumer rejection, the agriculture biotech industry won´t have a market.
If you would like to voice your opinion about GE food to President-Elect Obama and his transition team, you can comment HERE.
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Obama Platform Suggests We Might Inspire Vilsack’s “Better Angel”
Whew. What a day. Can you stand another opinion on Vilsack? I promise it’s a bit different than most of the others. From the blog at the Center for Rural Affairs…
Change Starts at the Top and at the Bottom: Thoughts on the Vilsack Appointment
Submitted by Brian Depew on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 18:20.
The rural and sustainable agriculture community is inundated with opinions on President-elect Obama’s pick to head the USDA. Listservs are burning up, the phones in our office are ringing, and one organization even launched a new website dedicated to criticizing the announcement. Grassroots activists, political insiders and reporters all want to know — what do you think about Tom Vilsack?
Whoa folks. It’s just the Secretary of Agriculture (not to begrudge you anything, Mr. Secretary).
Let’s start at the top. Obama ran on an aggressive platform of change in farm and rural policy, and any advocates looking into the crystal ball to predict the future at USDA should revisit it today (short version | long version (pdf)). From the plan:
- Strong Safety Net for Family Farmers: Fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. Implement a $250,000 payment limitation so we help family farmers — not large corporate agribusiness. Close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around payment limits.
- Prevent Anticompetitive Behavior Against Family Farms: Pass a packer ban. When meatpackers own livestock they can manipulate prices and discriminate against independent farmers. Strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and transparency in prices.
- Regulate CAFOs: Strictly regulate pollution from large factory livestock farms, with fines for those that violate tough standards. Support meaningful local control.
- Encourage Organic and Local Agriculture: Help organic farmers afford to certify their crops and reform crop insurance to not penalize organic farmers. Promote regional food systems.
- Encourage Young People to Become Farmers: Establish a new program to identify and train the next generation of farmers. Provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm.
- Support Small Business Development: Provide capital for farmers to create value-added enterprises, like cooperative marketing initiatives and farmer-owned processing plants. Establish a small business and micro-enterprise initiative for rural America.
There is something in that plan for nearly everyone who reads it. Obama is at the top, and he’s staked his reputation on delivering specific policy reforms. As Secretary, Tom Vilsack’s most important job will be to support the President in the crucial work of implementing that vision. Here at the Center, we believe Tom Vilsack will serve Obama well in that capacity.
- Sign the Grassroots Letter to Tom Vilsack
That said, we will not miss a single beat in our work to ensure that President Obama and Secretary Vilsack live up to their potential and their promises to rural America.
And that brings me to my next point.
Change also comes from the bottom, from thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands articulating a new direction and going to work to make it so.
At the Center, we won’t quit fighting for one minute. We won’t quit fighting for a rural America that offers genuine opportunity to all who live in rural communities. We won’t quit fighting for agricultural policy that supports family farmers and ranchers and protects our environment for future generations. And we won’t quit fighting to ensure that ordinary rural people have a seat at the table and a say in shaping the future of their own communities.
We hope that Obama and Vilsack will fight along side of us, but if they don’t, we will charge on without them, and in opposition to them when necessary. We’ve done it before.
Anyone who is upset by today’s appointment, and I know there are many of you, must do the same. Advocates against genetic modification (the most vociferous objectors today), redouble your efforts, check Obama’s policy statements to see what he promised, and make clear and convincing arguments to further your cause.
For our part, we launched a Grassroots Letter to Secretary Vilsack and we are gathering signatures and comments on it. We will deliver the letter and comments to Secretary Vilsack in late January. Already over 700 have signed, many adding their own thoughts on what change is needed in farm and rural policy.
If you join us in this effort, you have my word, Secretary Vilsack will receive your comments.
But that is just a start.
56,000 people signed the Food Democracy Now petition launched by Iowan Dave Murphy. Together they were calling for one of six candidates to be appointed to what was until just a few years ago a rather obscure cabinet position. They didn’t get one of their candidates, but I have no doubt whatsoever that they got the attention of some very important people, including Tom Vilsack.
Dave, his 56,000 troopers for change, and progressive food, farm and rural advocates across the country should pause for only a brief moment to consider what direction their strategy goes next. Then go to work, all of us together, executing a plan to influence Vilsack and hold Obama to his campaign promises.
And, hey folks, don’t forget about Congress. Your Representatives and Senators are the ones that actually write policy, after all.
So, where does this leave us?
Change in our food and farm policy comes from many places. It can come from a president. It can come from a secretary. It can come from Congress. And it can come from you.
Today, we express hope that with (at least some of) these forces working together we can begin to shift the beast of a system back in our direction. It took decades of misguided policy to get us into the mess we are in today. One presidential election and one secretarial appointment are merely dots along the journey in the other direction.
We are hopeful, but we are not naive. Join us.
Update: We have an “official” statement too, with quotes and all that good stuff. It’s here.
Update 2: Also, be sure to check out Steph’s earlier post on how to influence other appointments at USDA. That one is here. The other positions are still open, and Steph’s advice remains good.
Other Department of Agriculture Positions to Fill
How to change the USDA: Look beyond the Secretary of Agriculture
Submitted by Steph Larsen on Tue, 11/25/2008 - 13:28.
Editors Note: This second guest post for Ethicurean is a follow up to my post there last week. It’s also posted below. Enjoy!
In my last post for the Ethicurean, I discussed likely candidates for Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama Administration and encouraged you to voice your support or dislike of the names being floated to Obama’s transition team. You can have an impact: in large numbers, voices of the people are very powerful. Please continue to make your opinions known on the candidates for Secretary of Agriculture under consideration.
There are hundreds of other positions that are vital to the Department of Agriculture because they run its day-to-day operations and the programs that can advance or deter a sustainable food system. I describe some of these posts below. You can find the full list of USDA positions in this PDF; while this one explains the abbreviations in the list and tells who can be appointed to each post. There are certain positions, for example, that must be filled by USDA staff who have made it through a competitive hiring process.
While the Secretary of Agriculture sets the tone of the entire Department, it is the programs within USDA that can go far to push forward or inhibit sustainability. These programs are run by Administrators, Chiefs, Regional Directors and Deputy Under Secretaries, and mostly answer to Under Secretaries. We need (and can get) awesome people in these positions. Many bloggers and email list-serv members have been suggesting sustainable agriculture leaders as possible Secretaries of Agriculture (see this wiki list or Jill Richardson’s post on La Vida Locavore), and those lists might be a good place to find candidates for one of the positions I outline below, as they have a better chance of being appointed to non-Secretary posts.
If you know people who could be good allies at USDA, direct them to Change.gov to request an application. Then call your Democratic senators and suggests these people for positions you think they are qualified. Traditionally it is the senators of the President-Elect’s party who help with these choices, partly as a perk to being a member of the party that won and partly because the Senate confirms presidential appointees. If both your senators are Republicans, send suggestions to the most senior House member from your state. (Find your representatives here.) You can suggest more than one name for a slot, and you don’t need to have a name in mind for every position.
This is our best chance to make a difference at USDA.
(continued below the fold)
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
Second in command at the USDA, the Deputy Secretary becomes the Acting Secretary in the event of the Secretary’s resignation, death, or other inability to fulfill the duties of the position. The Deputy’s duties are assigned by the Secretary.
Natural Resources and Environment
The Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment oversee programs critical to sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. Under their control is the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Among the programs NRCS oversees is the innovative Conservation Stewardship Program, which uses “green payments” to support farmers who protect the environment while also growing food. The agency also administers the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a program that can do a lot of good when directed at worthy projects, but which more recently has become known for sending big checks to big livestock facilities.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, Chief of the NRCS, and three regional NRCS chiefs.
The Under Secretary for Rural Development and his or her two deputies oversee a diverse set of programs, including those dealing with rural utilities, housing programs and cooperative development. The agency is in charge of the well-known Value Added Producer Grant program and the new Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.
The economy and communities of rural America have interests much broader than agriculture alone, and while it looks like urban advocates will get an Office of Urban Policy in the new Administration, rural advocates need to stake a broader claim within USDA. With good people in rural development positions, we can do just that.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary; two Deputy Under Secretaries; program administrators for utilities, housing and cooperative services; and 45 state directors of rural development.
Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
The Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services are in charge of the nutrition and food security programs at USDA, including Women, Infants and Children (WIC), school meals, the program formerly known as Food Stamps and other feeding programs. With consumer trends toward healthy eating and local foods, allies in these positions can move us closer to a more just and sustainable food system by using food programs to establish healthy food access for all.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service, and seven regional administrators.
Research, Education, and Economics
Impartial research and statistics are necessary to further develop and show the merits of a sustainable agriculture and food system, and using public funds for this work — instead of corporate donations — help keep it unbiased. The Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics provide funding and leadership to land-grant universities and administer competitive grants like the popular Community Food Projects, as well as several programs that support organic research, transition, and production. This branch of USDA will be restructured soon as a result of the 2008 Farm Bill, and allies appointed beforehand will insure that the new division will give more legitimacy to sustainable production systems.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, and Administrator of Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services
The Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services oversee the cash cow of agriculture spending. Within this division is the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which distributes credit, conservation, disaster, and loan programs as well as agricultural commodity payments. The Risk Management Agency also helps farmers mitigate risks through effective marketing and insurance programs. The voices of reform and equality have gotten ever louder, and allies here could shift the balance away from corporate and industrial agriculture.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, three agency administrators, and 51 state executive directors of FSA.
Marketing and Regulatory Programs
The Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs have a diverse set of responsibilities, from insuring robust agricultural competition to providing opportunities to sell products in the U.S. and abroad. The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is responsible for insuring that livestock producers are treated equally regardless of their size and that corporations do not engage in unfair competitive practices. Strong leaders here could especially support small and mid-size family farmers.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, Administrator of Agricultural Marketing Service, and Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.
The Under Secretary for Food Safety and the Deputy Under Secretary oversee inspection of the meat, eggs, and poultry that are produced in the U.S. Recently — and infamously — underfunded, this division has left hundreds of inspection positions vacant, forcing the closure and consolidation of independent slaughter facilities. Small-scale livestock producers would be better served if allies in these positions can insure that all slaughterhouses who want to sell across state lines have a USDA inspector available.
Positions to fill: Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary.
Organic Consumers Association: Vilsack Not ‘Change we Can Believe In’
Organic Consumers Association
Ronnie Cummins (218) 226–4164
Pesticide Action Network
Kathryn Gilje (415) 981–1771
Organic Consumers Association:
Vilsack Not “Change We Can Believe In”
WASHINGTON, DC December 17, 2008 Today’s announcement that former Iowa
Governor, Tom Vilsack, has been selected as the new Secretary of Agriculture
sent a chill through the sustainable food and farming community who have
been lobbying for a champion in the new administration.
“Vilsack’s nomination sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled
genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration,”
said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of Organic Consumers Association.
“Our nation’s future depends on crafting a forward-thinking strategy to
promote organic and sustainable food and farming, and address the related
crises of climate change, diminishing energy supplies, deteriorating public
health, and economic depression.²
The Department of Agriculture during the Bush Administration failed to
promote a sustainable vision for food and farming and did not protect
consumers from the chemical-intensive toxic practices inherent to industrial
agriculture. While factory farms and junk food have been subsidized with
billions of tax dollars, the US industrial farm system has released massive
amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and
increased our dependence on foreign oil.
The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for directing the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and its $97 billion annual budget, including the
National Organic Program, food stamp and nutrition programs, agriculture
subsidies, and the Forest Service.
While Vilsack has worked to restrain livestock monopolies, his overall
record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
(CAFOs, also known as factory farms). Vilsack¹s support for unsustainable
industrial ethanol production has already caused global corn and grain
prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion
people in the developing world.
“We fear that this signals Obama’s intentions to rely upon corporate
solutions and biotech “quick fixes,” forcing farmers to continue on the
pesticide treadmill, rather than creating food systems that nourish people,
support family farmers and regenerate natural resources, said Kathryn
Gilje, Executive Director for the Pesticide Action Network. ³We oppose the
confirmation of Tom Vilsack to this post, especially at a time when so much
is at stake for the future of food and farming in America.”
Over the past month, Organic Consumers Association members have sent over
20,000 emails to President-Elect Obama¹s Transition Team, calling for the
appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture who would develop and implement a
plan that promotes family-scale farming, a safe and nutritious food system,
and a sustainable and organic vision for the future.
“Obama’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture points to the continuation of
agribusiness as usual, the failed policies of chemical- and
energy-intensive, genetically engineered industrial agriculture,” said
Cummins. “Americans were promised ‘change,’ not just another shill for
Monsanto and corporate agribusiness. Considering the challenges we
collectively face as a nation, from climate change and rising energy costs
to food insecurity, we need an administration that moves beyond ‘business as
usual’ to fundamental change before it¹s too late,” concluded Cummins.
Vilsack’s business as usual positions have included the following:
- Vilsack has been a strong supporter of genetically engineered
pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn.
- The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry
Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He is also the founder and
former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership.
- When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child for
economic development was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.
- The undemocratic 2005 seed pre-emption bill was the Vilsack¹s
brainchild. The law strips local government¹s right to regulate genetically
- Vilsack is an ardent supporter of corn and soy based biofuels, which
use as much or more energy to produce as they generate and drive up world
food prices, literally starving the poor.
The OCA has launched http://www.stopvilsack.org
<http://www.stopvilsack.org/> to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people
to oppose Vilsack’s Senate confirmation through an online petition.
Additionally, OCA’s nationwide network of 850,000 organic consumers are
urging members of Congress to move beyond business as usual and implement a
comprehensive strategy for organic food and farming in 2009 and beyond.
National Campaign Coordinator
Organic Consumers Association
Food Democracy Now Letter to Obama
Dear President-Elect Obama,
We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.
As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.
We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.
Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.
In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.
Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.
We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.
We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.
With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.
The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
- Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
- Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
- Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and *Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
- Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.
Invisible Hand of the Market Blind to Basic Issues
As economic decisionmakers—whether consumers, corporate planners, government policymakers, or investment bankers—we all depend on the market for information to guide us. In order for markets to work and economic actors to make sound decisions, the markets must give us good information, including the full cost of the products we buy. But the market is giving us bad information, and as a result we are making bad decisions—so bad that they are threatening civilization.
The market is in many ways an incredible institution. It allocates resources with an efficiency that no central planning body can match and it easily balances supply and demand. The market has some fundamental weaknesses, however. It does not incorporate into prices the indirect costs of producing goods. It does not value nature’s services properly. And it does not respect the sustainable yield thresholds of natural systems. It also favors the near term over the long term, showing little concern for future generations.
Adapted from Chapter 1, “Entering a New World,” in Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008), available for free downloading and purchase at www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB3/index.htm.
For information contact:
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tel: (202) 496–9290 x 12
E-mail: rjk (at) earthpolicy.org
Jonathan G. Dorn
Tel: (202) 496–9290 x 15
E-mail: jdorn (at) earthpolicy.org
Earth Policy Institute
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20036
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Some Reasons to Oppose Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs)
Why I Oppose GMOs
Last June I attended the big biotech annual convention, BIO 2008. I was anti-GMO on principle before I went in but it wasn’t one of my bigger issues. During the many presentations I attended, I started wondering, “Why not use GMOs? These people seem like good people. They have noble goals, it seems. What’s really wrong with them?”
Then, when I thought critically about GMOs after fully informing myself on them directly from the top experts in the world I realized that I STRONGLY oppose them for a LONG list of very well-founded AND SCIENTIFIC reasons.
If Tom “I Heart Monsanto” Vilsack is going to be head of Obama’s USDA, I think we need to get the message out there loud and clear why specifically GMOs aren’t a good idea. It’s a complex matter and there’s no good way to reduce it down to a simple slogan or bumper sticker, but in the end it IS simple that GMOs are a bad thing.
About the danger of GMOs, it boils down to one phrase: “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” We need to be DARN SURE that a GMO is safe before we allow it. And think about this: the entire world takes the risk, but only the biotech company reaps the profit. In other words, they are in a position to be much less risk-averse than they ought to be about their own products.
Why We “Need” GMOs
One thing I realized while I was at BIO was that GMOs are created to fix a lot of problems that don’t require fixing - or to fix them in ways that have cheaper, safer, existing fixes already out there.
>>Solving World Hunger
Gee, wouldn’t it be cool if we could genetically modify up some crops that produce like crazy and resist pests and drought? Then we’d have so much food we can solve world hunger!
The faulty logic here is that world hunger comes from a lack of food. It doesn’t. Not one bit. Want proof? We have enough food in America to feed every single person (including babies) something like 3900 calories PER DAY. We have so much corn that we put it in our cars! We have so many potatoes we make plastic out of them! And yet, we still have hunger.
11.1% of Americans were food insecure in 2007 and 1/3 of that group were hungry. The problem wasn’t growing too little food. The same is true if you look at global numbers. Yet all of the pretty marketing materials for the biotech industry refer to 800 million hungry people worldwide. We have enough food in the world - we’d just rather throw it away than give it to people who can’t pay for it.
>>Reducing Pesticide Use
This is also a noble goal, but it’s one that can’t be best accomplished by GMOs. To an extent it can, but that would be like saying an SUV is a great way of saving gas compared to a Hummer while ignoring the Prius in the next parking space over. In Rodale Institute’s farm systems trials that they’ve done for over 20 years, they found the best yield came from organics (compared to conventional & GMO crops) in most years. So the food grown with zero pesticides was more successful than the food grown with GMOs and pesticides.
Also consider the amount of extra herbicide used on Roundup Ready GMO crops. These are crops that are made to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. Roundup kills everything green, so normally you wouldn’t be able to douse your entire field with it. When you plant Roundup Ready seeds, you CAN spray it all over the field and it kills everything except for the GMOs. So while some GMOs allow for less pesticide use than normal in a conventional system, other GMOs increase pesticide use. And even with the GMOs using decreased amounts of pesticides, they still do not equal the decrease that is accomplished by going organic.
It’s a nice idea, right? But there’s not much of a market for it. Farmers who grow commodity crops get paid for yield, not nutrient content. Monsanto and the other biotech companies know this. The farmers aren’t going to pay extra for GMO seeds that have the same yield but more nutrition than cheaper, non-GMO seeds. Maybe the farmers are wonderful, altruistic people, but they are already barely squeaking by financially. Paying extra for seeds that net you no extra profit is just dumb.
What about Golden Rice though? It’s the rice that looks golden because they modified it to produce beta-carotene to help people in developing nations get their vitamin A. Well, first off, they did it as a PR stunt… notice that since golden rice came out there haven’t been any other “extra nutritious” GMOs. These crops take millions in R&D and they need to make money!
But there’s something else you should know about Golden Rice. Because you might be saying to yourself “Well maybe it was a PR stunt but if it helps malnourished people get vitamin A then it’s still a good thing.” And that is correct… if that’s what were going on. As it turns out, you would have to eat 12 times more rice than normal to get all of your vitamin A from it. In other words, it’s a total sham.
Why I Oppose GMOs
The biotech industry likes to say that “they have science” and “anyone who oppose GMOs is anti-science.” That could not be further from the truth in my own case. Yes, maybe there are people out there who are spooked by the idea of “eating DNA” even though every single plant and animal cell you ever eat has DNA in it. And sure, that’s a ridiculous fear. But that’s not my complaint against GMOs.
Our plants and animals grow and live in a ridiculously complex ecosystem. Think of all of the tiny little microbes in the soil that we probably haven’t even discovered yet. They are all there, doing their jobs. Now that we do have pretty good microbiologists, we know some of what they do, too. They protect plants from disease and pests and they bring nutrients to plants. And sure, there are some bad ones out there too that prey on our crops or our livestock, but in a healthy ecosystem those harmful ones are in check.
The food web starts with these tiny microbes, and with all of the worms and bugs hanging out in the soil or in the air. They eat each other, sometimes they live harmoniously with one another, but they are all there. Usually we pay no attention to them. When there’s biodiversity among them, the system stays pretty well in balance. No one species’ population can grow unchecked, nor will any one species all die off instantaneously.
These microbes and other tiny critters are also responsible for making sure the soil can absorb and hold water, and for cycling nutrients from decaying organisms into the soil. Plants are pretty clever at manipulating the microbes, believe it or not, because they actually get the soil microbes to bring them the nutrients they need. In other words, a healthy, diverse soil ecosystem means more nutritious food.
Because of the healthy soil, plants can survive better in heat, cold, drought, and floods. And with all of the populations keeping the other ones in check, there’s less chance for a huge pest outbreak. But that is in an organic system only. Add pesticides or commercial fertilizer and you throw that ecosystem out of balance. Because the ecosystem is so complex, human meddling almost always has unforeseen consequences. And GMOs are most definitely considered human meddling.
Each new gene or adaptation had unforeseen consequences as well. Sometimes they were probably major consequences. But the changes occurred over millions of years and over time the ecosystem reached some sort of equilibrium. Nature ran its own R&D very, very slowly, and it worked out all the kinks. Now we have its latest and most up to date models of each species, and we can be sure we’ll continue to get new upgrades each time a gene mutates or an animal or plant mates and then the organisms with the best DNA have advantages over less successful organisms and perpetuate their genes to the next generation.
So what about GMOs? Well, we tinker with a gene or two, and then we put it out in nature for a test run. Over time, nature will work it out. Nature always does. But it does it on nature’s schedule… the resulting chaos in the ecosystem could even take thousands of years to be resolved. Nature and humans work on very different timelines. In other words, we can really screw ourselves with GMOs in the short run, even if nature successfully incorporates our GMOs into the ecosystem in the long run.
The difference between GMOs and pesticides is that GMOs are forever. Some pesticides stay in the environment for a long time. Others can break down in the environment rather quickly. But what’s a long time for a pesticide? A century? That’s the blink of an eye in the evolutionary process. The amount of risk involved in putting GMOs into the environment WILL NEVER equal the benefit, particularly considering the non-risky options we have at our fingertips for accomplishing the same goals.
Another point I realized when I was at the BIO conference was that GMOs are generally designed to do one thing. For example, a drought-resistant seed is made to resist drought… ONLY. So that does not mean that that particular variety is the most resistant to any one pest or disease, or is the most high-yielding.
When you plant the seed designed for drought resistance (and pay a premium for it) you’re essentially making a bet that you’ll have a drought that year. Maybe you do, and you grow more than your neighbor who bought the high-yielding non-drought resistant hybrid seeds. Or maybe you get a decent amount of rain and your neighbor’s high yielding seeds grew much more than your average yielding drought-resistant ones.
When you focus on the soil instead of manipulating the genes for one trait, you can maximize EVERYTHING at once. You can go for most nutrients, drought resistance, heat resistance, flood resistance, cold resistance, pest resistance, etc. Living soil will provide ALL of those things to the plant. After all, nature’s been perfecting its system for millions of years. So remind me again, why are we taking a huge risk to maximize ONE trait when we can take NO risk and get everything we want instead?
Also, consider the role of biodiversity within each species of plant or animal. Blogger Land of Enchantment gives a great example with her own orchard. She plants many different varieties of each fruit tree. She lives in an area that could get a late frost and she figures that no matter when the last frost comes during the spring, there will be at least one of her trees that can still produce fruit. If she had an entire orchard of identical trees, then one late frost could mean no fruit at all that year.
The biotech company’s response to questions about the need for biodiversity is something like “Well, we’ll buy up and patent all of the seeds and then if we ever need one, we’ll have it hanging around in a vault somewhere.” Thanks but no thanks. We need biodiversity NOW. Land of Enchantment’s orchard would get very little help from diverse seeds that were sitting in a Monsanto seed vault while Monsanto only sells one type of seed on the market.
Biodiversity and GMOs do not mix and there is a simple reason why. When you’re a company maximizing your profit, you want bang for your buck. Each GMO product requires years of R&D and millions of dollars. You want to develop seeds that you can sell to as wide a market as possible. You don’t want to develop 4000 varieties of GMO corn. You want one. Maybe two. You want a few really, really successful varieties that you can sell to every single corn farmer on the planet. That’s gonna get you the most profit.
She Swallowed the Spider to Catch the Fly
Remember the old lady who swallowed a fly? Then she kept swallowing progressively more absurd things in order to mitigate the problem caused by swallowing the fly. Each successive “solution” was worse than each successive problem. THAT is what biotech ultimately is, in practice - even if in theory it could be some noble scientific thing.
First we swallowed the fly by adopting monoculture crops and pesticides and by assuming we could fertilize them with N,P, and K alone (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium). We throw the ecosystem out of balance, creating MORE fluctuation in populations of each individual species, and leave our crops more open to pest problems. Then we pour on the fertilizer and let half of it leach out of the soil into the waterways, creating dead zones in our oceans.
GMOs are just swallowing the spider to catch the fly. Sure, we might use less pesticide here and there, or we might get a higher yield or less loss to pests one year. But we aren’t solving the overall problem. We’re just further entrenching it while making new problems.
So THAT is why I oppose GMOs. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, Tom Vilsack!
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Six Reasons to Worry About Obama’s Agriculture Pick
Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto’s Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head Would be a Terrible Idea
Organic Consumers Association, November 12, 2008
- Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s support of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn:
- The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership.
- When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.
- Vilsack was the origin of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people here in Iowa fought because it took away local government’s possibility of ever having a regulation on seeds- where GE would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, etc. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.
- Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Sustainable ag advocated across the country were spreading the word of Vilsack’s history as he was attempting to appeal to voters in his presidential bid. An activist from the west coast even made this youtube animation about Vilsack
The airplane in this animation is a referral to the controversy that Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto’s jet.
- Vilsack is an ardent support of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.
Web Note, Nov. 20, 2008: Although the Organic Consumers Association is happy that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack apparently supports a modest reduction in our nation’s annual $17–25 billion subsidies (for example the often voiced reform for a $250,000 limit to individual farms per year) to chemical, energy-intensive and genetically engineered crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton, our position is that all “non-green” subsidies should be eliminated. We can no longer afford to use U.S. tax money to subsidize chemical and energy-intensive crops that basically prop up factory farm profits and the junk food industry, make consumers unhealthy, waste valuable non-renewable resources, and destabilize the climate. We need massive subsidies instead to help American farmers and ranchers make the transition to healthy, energy-efficient, carbon-sequestering, organic crops and farm practices—before it’s too late.
Similarly, we are glad Vilsack has apparently reversed his previous vocal support for genetically engineered crops, including controversial and dangerous biopharmaceutical crops, but we’d prefer a USDA Secretary who calls for on an outright ban on biopharm crops, cloned animals, and an end to all taxpayer subsidies for genetically engineered crops. If Vilsack actually is appointed USDA Secretary we’ll definitely remind him of his stated position below—that he supports mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients and strict liability for companies and farmers causing genetic pollution with their GMO seeds and crops.
Finally, we hope Tom Vilsack (and Barack Obama) will admit that corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel, although popular with Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, and subsidized corn and soybean farmers in Vilsack’s home state of Iowa, are a dangerous hoax, and that the only way the US will be able to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution by 80% by 2050 (as Obama has promised), and to survive in an era of Peak Oil and evermore expensive energy, is to convert our nation’s industrial, petroleum-based food and farming system (which eats up 19% of our energy and generates 37% of our greenhouse gases) to a solar-based, relocalized/regionalized system of organic agriculture as outlined in Michael Pollan’s recent essay in the New York Times http://www.organicconsumers.or…
We’re happy Tom Vilsack voices support for long overdue “Livestock Market Reforms,” but we believe it’s now blatantly obvious that factory farms or CAFO should be banned, before they do any more damage to animals, human health, water quality (including massive dead zones in the oceans), and our already destabilized climate.
We look forward to mobilizing America’s 50 million organic consumer to pressure Tom Vilsack or whomever Barack Obama appoints as the new Secretary of Agriculture.
Ronnie Cummins, Director, Organic Consumers Association
All of this came from
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