Help Shape Biotech Regulations!
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), were tasked by the Executive Office of the President with “updating the framework for the regulation of biotechnology.” They were asked to clarify the current process, develop a strategy for new biotech products, and commission an expert analysis of the future landscape of genetically engineered (GE) products. OEFFA provided comments, citing the rapid development of insect and weed resistance to agrichemicals as one example of the inadequacy of the biotechnology regulatory process.
Unfortunately, the agencies’ new “update” finds no fault with the existing regulatory framework, nor does it consider the broader environmental, economic, and social impacts. Additionally, there is no method for compensating non-GE farmers for economic losses which result from genetic contamination—a significant problem for farmers. In 2014, Ohio ranked third in the nation for GE contamination losses.
If you are interested in commenting and need assistance, contact Amalie Lipstreu.
Legal Battle Begins Over New Federal GE Labeling Bill In an effort to give consumers the right to know about the ingredients in their food, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) is preparing to file a federal lawsuit, charging the new federal GE labeling bill is unconstitutional. The bill is heavily backed by Monsanto and other agribusiness interests.
CFS has had multiple legal victories this year, including halting commercialization of new GE crops, defending a law banning the planting of GE crops in Jackson County, Oregon, and passing a law in California that restricts the use of antibiotics in livestock.
CFS is currently battling the FDA in court over the approval of the first-ever GE fish. They are also fighting the sale of pesticide seed coatings allowed by the EPA, and are pushing companies to drop bee-toxic pesticides, while working to pass state and local bans.
Policy Memo on GE and Organic Labeling Issued
OEFFA and other members of the organic community raised questions about the ambiguous definition of bioengineering in the new GE labeling bill and the implications it could have for the organic standards. In response, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service released a policy memo stating that:
• No certified organic products will require disclosure as bioengineered; and
• No proposed rules for bioengineered food disclosure will require that modifications be made to the USDA organic regulations.
This clarification is needed to ensure that the upcoming rulemaking for the new bioengineered food labeling law does not affect the definition of excluded methods in organic production.
Health Officials Evaluate Health Risks of Roundup
Minnesota health officials will evaluate the health risks of Roundup, a popular farm herbicide widely applied to fields growing genetically modified corn and soybeans.The International Agency for Research on Cancer found that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, has probable carcinogenic effects on human health.
Approximately 90 percent of the nation’s corn and soybeans come from plants that can tolerate Roundup.
The health department will review toxicity studies of Roundup, and will also examine a glyphosate by-product, AMPA, for possible toxicity, which will take up to six months for review.
The U.S. EPA is set to release its findings regarding the toxicity of Roundup in the coming weeks.
New Organic Census Released
The USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service release of the 2015 Certified Organic Survey reveals Ohio continues to rank in the top 10 states for the number of organic farms, the top five in the number of organic dairy farms, and eighth in the sales value of organic milk. Read OEFFA's summary of the survey here.
Nationally, organic acreage is similar to 2014 (4.4 million acres), with the exception of some large range operations that are now certified in Alaska. Milk and eggs were the top certified organic commodities sold and represented 31 percent of all certified organic sales, while apples, lettuce, and grapes were the top organic crop commodities sold.
One Month Left to Quiz Your Candidates With the November election a little over one month away, there is a small window of opportunity for you to connect with those individuals running for state and federal office. The Food and Farming Questions for Candidates Guide is the resource you need to make sure your representatives do just that: represent YOU and your interests, whether at the statehouse or in Congress.
OEFFA has put together a listing of candidate forums from across the state on our events page. Each candidate received the questions in the guide through a web survey. See if your candidates responded and where they stand on food and farming issues here.
Drop us a line to let us know if you used the guide this season and if you found it useful.
Ohio Appeals Court Allows Nexus to Survey Private Property
The Ninth District Court of Appeals in Ohio ruled that Nexus Gas Transmission Co. has the right to enter private property and conduct surveys for a controversial 255 mile natural gas pipeline that would run from eastern Ohio to northern Michigan.
Landowners appealed the ruling, claiming that surveyors were damaging their property in various ways, such as cutting down trees and digging holes, without repair. A Nexus spokesman claimed that surveys are necessary to obtain field data to assess pipeline alignments and environmental impacts, and that the court’s ruling does not yet authorize Nexus to build a pipeline on the property.
The pipeline project is being reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and if approved, construction will begin in early 2017.
Nearly 700 Studies Show Dangers of Fracking
Before 2011, record high gasoline prices and overdependence on imported oil and gas, led many to point to fracking as a solution to our country’s energy needs. At that time, there was little data confirming or refuting the harm of drilling, extracting, and transporting natural gas and oil.
Since then, nearly 700 peer-reviewed publications have shown evidence of the various environmental, health, and societal effects of fracking. These impacts are evident at every stage of the process and the industry is legally protected from disclosing the chemical mixtures used in the extraction phase, making it difficult to determine the consequences of short and long-term exposure.
Texas Agency Documents 50 Groundwater Contamination Cases in 2015
The Texas Railroad Commission has documented 50 cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas operations in 2015. Overall, the state is dealing with 570 cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas operations, according to the 2015 Joint Groundwater Monitoring and Contamination Report.
Groundwater contamination is a significant concern in a state with a limited water supply. However, the oil and gas industry and state officials say there are few cases of groundwater contamination from fracking, if any. The EPA claims there is little risk to drinking water from fracking, but the agency’s science advisers have criticized this claim as vague and unsupported by research.
The documented spills occurred at oil and gas wells, waste disposal sites, gas plants, and along pipelines, according to the report. Critics of regulators in Texas and other states say there are many more cases of contamination that state officials ignore or are too reluctant to blame operators for.
Farms and Businesses Can Receive Tax Deduction for Food Donations
In December 2015, Congress passed legislation permanently extending an enhanced tax deduction for businesses that donate food to a food bank or other charitable organization. The enhanced tax deduction provides important financial incentives for food donation, encouraging businesses to donate surplus food rather than dispose of it.
Eligible farmers must have a farm business that generates taxable income, and the donation record from the charitable organization must be retained. A farmer’s deduction cannot exceed 15 percent of the farm’s net income and the charitable contributions cannot offset more than 50 percent of the farmer’s adjusted gross income. A brief guide for farmers is available here.
To receive the enhanced deduction, eligible farm businesses should ensure that they are following all of the requirements described in this guide, including donating to charitable organizations and maintaining federal quality standards of food.