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From across the web, some interesting things we’ve read this month

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2016 May Issue Newsletter

By Amie Lindenboim

The Great FLOTUS Food Fight. Illustration by Gluekit for POLITICO

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

AG POLICY

Critics Say Farm Credit System Needs To Be Reined In

Critics charge the cooperative is making some loans that have almost nothing to do with farming.

House Funding Bill Falls Short for Sustainable Agriculture

This National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog post breaks down the House Subcommittee bill as it pertains to key sustainable farm and food priorities.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

Farmland Could Play Key Role in Tackling Climate Change

The earth’s soil stores a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, and managing it with the climate in mind may be an important part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming, according to a paper published the journal NatureThe study says that if all the Earth’s farmers were to manage their fields so the soil stored more carbon, the impacts of the greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels annually could be cut by between half and 80 percent.

 

GE FOOD LABELING

Tiny Vermont Brings Food Industry to Its Knees on GMO Labels

Massachusetts, are we big enough?

 

LOCAL INTEREST

Maple Syrup Not Affected by PFOA Contamination, Tests Show

A suspected carcinogen being found in hundreds of locations around Bennington County has not been detected in maple syrup produced in the area, Department of Environmental Conservation tests revealed. Many residential wells in the area were recently tested and found to be contaminated with the substance, which is thought to have come from three local factories. PFOA is believed to cause cancer and disrupt endocrine systems, affecting the liver, kidneys, testes and bladder. It is also thought to cause hypertension and high cholesterol.

 

ORGANICS

USDA Proposes New Standards for Animals Certified 'Organic'

The organic industry and advocates have long called for USDA to set animal welfare standards for organic livestock to close what some consider to be a hole in the rules, which currently govern feed and antibiotic use, but don't address specifically how the animals are treated.The USDA’s proposed rule clarifies how organic producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry throughout the animals' lives, including when they are transported and slaughtered. The public will have 60 days to submit comments on the agency’s proposal once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

Why Organic Restaurant Certification Matters

To raise accountability, more restaurants are taking the extra step of getting their entire business – not just certain menu items – certified as organic.

 

PESTICIDES

Two Widely Used Pesticides Likely to Harm 97% of Endangered Species in US

Almost all of the 1,700 most endangered plants and animals in the US are likely to be harmed by two widely used organophosphate pesticides, an alarming new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis has found: In March last year, the World Health Organization said that malathion and diazinon are “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Comments are being accepted at www.regulations.gov on the following registration review dockets: chlorpyrifos (EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850), diazinon (EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0351), and malathion (EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0317).

Disturbing New Evidence About What Common Pesticides Can Do to Brains

In a new study, popular fungicides triggered changes in the brain cells of mice that mimicked diseases like autism and Alzheimer's.

New Fruit Tops "Dirty Dozen" List of Most Contaminated Produce

Move over apples. Strawberries top this year's list of the produce with the highest level of pesticide residue according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Nearly all of the non-organic strawberry samples – at least 98 percent – had detectable pesticide residues, with 47 percent having residues of 10 or more pesticides. Some samples showed residue from 17 different pesticides. Though some of the chemicals found on the strawberries are relatively benign, others have been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption, and neurological problems, the group reports.

Maryland Passes Restriction on Pesticide Implicated in Bee Declines

MD would be the first state in nation to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides, but the governor has not said if he'll sign it. Bees and other pollinators have been in steep decline, with experts saying they’re under siege from a variety of factors. But a number of studies have also implicated neonicotinoid exposure.

The bill would limit outdoor application of neonicotinoids to state-certified pesticide applicators or someone working under the supervision of one. Farmers, farm workers and veterinarians would be exempt from that restriction. Similar legislation has been introduced this year in a dozen other states, including Massachusetts.

Petition Demands EPA Revoke License for Weed-Killer Ingredient

More than 14,000 people have signed a petition that asks the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the license for glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. Last year, Democrats asked the EPA to evaluate the herbicide amidst growing concerns that the chemical in the world’s most widely used weed killer “probably” causes cancer. The EPA hopes to issue a draft risk assessment for public comment by the end of 2016.

Two-Thirds of Europeans Support Ban on Glyphosate

In a survey of 7000 people, 2/3 of Italians, Germans, French, and Britons would like the EU to ban the use of glyphosate, the world’s most widely-used agricultural chemical. Most global use of glyphosate is for GM-resistant crops and, as a non-selective herbicide, environmentalists say that it can kill all plants, algae, bacteria and fungi in a crop’s vicinity, creating knock-on effects for biodiversity.

 

POLITICS/PUBLIC HEALTH

The Great FLOTUS Food Fight

Ted Cruz promised that if his wife became the first lady, she’d bring French fries back to school cafeterias.  It was a direct jab at Michelle Obama’s otherwise underreported influence on the health of school lunches.

 

SEEDS

Big Seed: How The Industry Turned From Small-Town Firms To Global Giants

Over the past century, small-town seed businesses have given way to global enterprises. The story of one small seed company in Nebraska helps explain what drove the transformation.

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