Home News & Events Alternative Agriculture News -- November '99

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Alternative Agriculture News
For November '99, from the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.

red ballMinimal Gains for Sustainable Ag in 2000 Budget
red ballFloods Highlight Flaws in North Carolina's Farm Policy
red ballDisputed Study Questions Safety of Genetically Modified Food
red ballPositions
red ballMonsanto Will Not Commercialize "Terminator" Technology
red ballNational Academy of Sciences to Review USDA's Biotech Process
red ballResources
red ballUpcoming Events

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©1999, Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, 9200 Edmonston Road, #117, Greenbelt, MD 20770. Phone: (301) 441-8777. E-mail: hawiaa@access.digex.net.

This newsletter is also available to subscribers to the sanet-mg discussion group. To subscribe, send a message to: almanac@ces.ncsu.edu. Leave the subject line blank and in the body of the message type only: subscribe sanet-mg

Subscription information for the hard-copy version is available at the Wallace Institute website.

In addition to this monthly newsletter, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture publishes the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal of research on alternative agriculture. It is a scientific forum for disseminating technical, economic, and social research findings about the character and requirements of alternative agriculture systems.

The current issue (Volume 14, No. 2) features articles on:

  • Globalization of pesticide technology within the context of meeting the needs of low-input sustainable agriculture.
  • An alternative, low-input production system for fresh market tomatoes.
  • Yields and returns from strip intercropping on six Iowa farms.
  • Geographic information systems for selection of CRP tracts to meet different management goals after contract expiration.
  • The effect of conservation tillage on crop yields, soil erosion, and soil properties under furrow irrigation in western Colorado.

Subscriptions to AJAA are $44 for libraries; $24 for individuals; and $12 for students. Find more information about AJAA at he Wallace Institute website.

red ballMinimal Gains for Sustainable Ag in 2000 Budget

The USDA budget passed by Congress last month for Fiscal Year 2000 included only minimal gains for sustainable agriculture programs, with small increases for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) and the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Here are the approved appropriations for several sustainable agriculture discretionary programs:

  • SARE: An $8 million appropriation was approved for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, the same as the FY99 appropriation. 
  • SAPDP: A $3.3 million appropriation was approved for the SARE (Chapter 3) Professional Development Program, the same as the FY99 appropriation. 
  • ATTRA: A $1.5 million appropriation was approved for ATTRA, an increase from the FY99 appropriation of $1.3 million. 
  • OFPA: The OFPA has funding up to $1 million, an increase from the FY99 appropriation of $500,000.

In addition, the following appropriations were approved for mandatory programs:

  • CFO: No funds were approved for the Conservation Farm Option, which also received no funding in the FY99 budget. 
  • EQIP: A $174 million appropriation was approved for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the same as the FY99 appropriation. 
  • WRP: Enrollment in the Wetlands Reserve Program was increased to 150,000 acres from the FY99 enrollment of 120,000 acres. 
  • CFSA: A $2.5 million appropriation was approved for the Community Food Security Act, the same as the FY99. 
  • FRA: No funds were approved for the Fund for Rural America, which also received no funding in the FY99 budget. 
  • IFAFS: No funds were approved for the new Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, a competitive grants program which was added and then eventually deleted from the FY99 budget.
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red ballFloods Highlight Flaws in North Carolina's Farm Policy

After the floods of Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd, "loose regulations that helped eastern North Carolina become the nation's biggest producer of turkeys and the second biggest of hogs have come back to haunt the state's public health and its environment," according to a front-page story in The
New York Time
s (October 17, 1999). Hurricane Floyd killed 48 people and caused more than $1 billion in damage in North Carolina; it also left behind "incalculable and continuing hazards in ground water, wells and rivers from animal waste, mostly from giant hog farms."

"For years, farmers had been free to build hog and poultry operations as big as they wanted and wherever they liked," the story said. But after the hurricane and its flooding, hog waste flowed into rivers from overloaded waste lagoons, and compounded other flooding problems. According to The Washington Post (October 24, 1999), 

"Hog lagoons were flooded, wastewater treatment plants were breeched, more than 2 million chickens, turkeys, and hogs drowned, and the scene was set for an environmental mess never encountered before in the state. Everything in the flood's path was swept into this witches' brew--chemicals, gasoline, fertilizers, dead animals, human and livestock wastes--and headed downstream." 

The State Department of Environment and Natural Resources last month announced an "emergency waste management strategy" for hog and poultry farms in order to keep waste out of the water supply. The North Carolina legislature in 1997 passed a moratorium on construction of new and expanded lagoons until July 2001, but a plan to phase out lagoons will take 10 years.

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red ballDisputed Study Questions Safety of Genetically Modified Food

The medical journal Lancet last month published a study "suggesting that genetically modified food may be harmful, even though the research has been widely criticized by scientists and was found wanting by some of the journal's own referees," according to The New York Times (October 15, 1999). T

he study in the England-based journal reports that rats fed genetically modified potatoes experienced a thickening of their stomach walls, thinning of tissues in the large intestine, and an increase in white blood cells in intestinal linings. 

According to The Washington Post (October 15, 1999), the researchers "conclude that the gene-altering process somehow made the engineered potatoes toxic....They suspect that the rats' intestinal changes--the medical significance of which remains uncertain--may have been caused by the viruses that scientists used to get the new genes into the potatoes, or by normal potato genes that may have been disrupted when the repellent's genes were inserted."

The editor of the journal wrote a commentary "revealing that several of the journal's own scientific reviewers considered the report to be unworthy of publication," The Post said. "They ultimately acquiesced, he writes, in part out of fear that biotech critics would accuse the journal of covering up a public health threat." 

According to The Times, "Publication of the paper in a peer-reviewed journal is likely to further fan fears about genetically engineered crops in Europe, where consumers and supermarkets are widely rejecting what opponents have called Frankenfoods."

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red ballPositions
  • National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture seeks an organizer for policy advocacy activities; send letter, resume, writing samples, and references to Amy Little, Executive Director, NCSA, P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, NY 12566; (914) 744-8448; campaign@magiccarpet.com.
  • Washington State University seeks an Extension Leader, Small Scale and Urban Agriculture, at its Puyallup campus; Master's Degree required, Ph.D. desired; submit letter describing qualifications, vitae, transcripts, and three current letters of reference to Rebecca Armstrong, WSU Cooperative Extension, P.O. Box 646241, Pullman, WA 99164-6241; (509) 335-2822; armstro@wsu.edu.
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red ballMonsanto Will Not Commercialize "Terminator" Technology

In an open letter last month to Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway, Monsanto CEO Robert B. Shapiro made "a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed 'Terminator.'" The development of the so-called "Terminator" technology, which would make plant seeds sterile, has been controversial, especially among rural development groups, because it would prevent farmers from keeping some of their harvest for seed.

Conway in June had asked Monsanto to stop using the technology and recommended putting labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients to ease consumer fears about biotechnology.

"The move by the St. Louis firm is the first time any U.S. crop biotechnology company has sworn off a promising area of research because of public reaction, a sign that the industry is trying to defuse what it fears is a growing anti-biotechnology sentiment in the U.S.," according to The Wall Street Journal (October 5, 1999). 

"Monsanto's decision is a blow to researchers at Delta & Pine Land [Co.] and the Agriculture Department, which share a 1998 patent on the terminator gene and apparently were in the dark about Monsanto's plans." Before Monsanto's decision, scientists had expected the seeds containing the technology to reach the marketplace in about five years.

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red ballNational Academy of Sciences to Review USDA's Biotech Process

The National Academy of Sciences, in cooperation with the USDA, will establish a committee to undertake an independent, on-going scientific review of USDA's regulatory process for biotechnology-derived plants. 

The 15 committee members will examine the environmental impacts associated with commercialization of biotechnology-derived plants, and provide guidance on how best to assess and mitigate those risks. 

The committee will also serve to address emerging scientific issues. "It is important that we maintain public confidence in our regulatory process, and we can only do that by ensuring that our decisions are backed by the most up-to-date and rigorous science available," said USDA Secretary Dan Glickman.

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red ballResources
  • "Tracking Progress: Alternatives to Pesticides on the Farm" is available on the Internet at www.pesticide.org/FarmerRptRelease.html, or from Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides at (541) 344-5044.
  • "Animal Agriculture: Waste Management Practices" is available from U.S. General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 37050, Washington, DC 20013; (202) 512-6000; on the Internet, www.gao.gov.
  • "The Organic Pages" is $44.95 plus $6 shipping/handling from Dan Pratt, Organic Trade Association Press, P.O. Box 547-R, Greenfield, MA 01302; (413) 775-9965; info@ota.com.
  • "Forest Futures: Population, Consumption and Wood Resources" is available on the Internet at www.populationaction.org, or from Population Action International, 1120 19th St., #550, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 659-1833.
  • Proceedings from "Marketing, Production, and Manure Contracts in Today's Pork Industry" are $10 from Kaye Longtine, Swine Center, 385 Animal Science/Veterinary Medicine Building, 1988 Fitch Ave., University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; (612) 624-4719.
  • "Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Food Security in the Years of Crisis" is $9 from Institute for Food and Development Policy, 398 60th St., Oakland, CA 94618; (510) 654- 4400; orders can be placed on the Internet at www.foodfirst.org/pubsorder.htm#IDR12.
  • "Talking to Farmers," "Talking to Consumers," "Marketing Sustainably Produced Foods," and "Food Choices" are available from Food Choices, 30 West Mifflin St., #401, Madison, WI 53703; (608) 258-4396.
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red ballUpcoming Events

For additional listings, see the Sustainable Agriculture Network's Calendar of Events.

  • November 26-27, "Economic Globalization and the Role of the World Trade Organization Teach-In" will be held in Seattle, WA; contact International Forum on Globalization, 1555 Pacific Ave., San Francisco, CA 94109; (415) 771-8094; e-mail ifg@ifg.org.
  • November 30 (in Washington, DC.) and December 13 (in Oakland, CA), the Food and Drug Administration will hold public meetings about bioengineered foods; in DC, contact Patricia Alexander, FDA, (301) 9827-5006, palexand@oc.fda.gov; in CA, contact Janet McDonald, FDA, (510) 337-6845, jmcdonal@ora.fda.gov.

  • December 2-3, "The Future of Our Food and Farms," a Delaware Valley regional summit, will be held in Philadelphia, PA; contact The Farmers' Market Trust, (215) 568-0830 ext. 13, or 1-800-417-9499; foodfarm@libertynet.org

  • December 6-7, "Adding Value Through Environmental Marketing: Opportunities for Food Producers, Processors and Retailers" will be held in Madison, WI; contact IPM Institute of North America, 1914 Rowley Ave., Madison, WI
    53705; (608) 232-1528; tagreen@compuserve.com.

  • December 6-8, "Organic Agriculture Faces Its Development--The Future Stakes" will be held in Lyon, France; contact Christophe David, ISARA-France, phone (33) 0472325119; david@isara.fr.

  • December 12-16, "Back to the Future on Jointed Legs," the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, will be held in Atlanta, GA; contact April Gower, ESA, 9301 Annapolis Rd., Lanham, MD 20706-3115; (301)
    731-4535; esa@entsoc.org.

  • December 14 is the deadline for Proposals for Participation for "Transcending Boundaries: Natural Resource Management from Summit to Sea," the 8th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, to be held in Bellingham, WA, June 17-22, 2000; contact 8th ISSRM, Rm. 217 Arntzen Hall, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9085; (360) 650-3284; issrm8th@cc.wwu.edu.

  • December 15-17, "Conservation 2000," the National Agricultural Conservation 2000 Conference, will be held in New Orleans, LA; contact Conservation Technology Information Center, 1220 Potter Drive, #170, West Lafayette, IN 47906; (765) 494-9555; on the Internet, www.ctic.purdue.edu.

  • January 19-22, 2000, 20th Annual Ecological Farming Conference will be held in Pacific Grove, CA; contact Committee for Sustainable Agriculture, 406 Main St., #313, Watsonville, CA 95076; (831) 763-2111. 

  • January 27-30, 2000, 19th Annual Organic Conference and Eco-Products Trade Show will be held at the University of Guelph, Canada; contact Tomas Nimmo, Box 116, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada L9Y 3Z4; (705) 444-0923;

  • March 27-29, 2000, "Soil, Food and People: A Biointensive Model for the New Century," co-sponsored by the Wallace Institute, will be held in Davis, CA; contact the University of California, Davis, Extension, 1-800-752-0881; on the Internet, www.universityextension.ucdavis.edu/biointensive.

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Home News & Events Alternative Agriculture News -- November '99

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