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Europe needs genetically engineered crops, scientists say

TGF-FruitImageApr. 25, 2013 — The European Union cannot meet its goals in agricultural policy without embracing genetically engineered crops (GMOs). That’s the conclusion of scientists who write in Trends in Plant Science, a Cell Press publication, based on case studies showing that the EU is undermining its own competitiveness in the agricultural sector to its own detriment and that of its humanitarian activities in the developing world.

“Failing such a change, ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress, ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture,” said Paul Christou of the University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center and Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats in Spain.

“Many aspects of the EU agricultural policy, including those concerning GMOs, are internally inconsistent and actively obstruct what the policy sets out to achieve,” Christou and his colleagues continued.

For instance, the Lisbon Strategy aims to create a knowledge-based bioeconomy and recognizes the potential of GMOs to deliver it, but EU policy on the cultivation of GMOs has created an environment that makes this impossible. In reality, there is a de facto moratorium in Europe on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops such as maize, cotton, and soybean, even as the same products are imported because there is insufficient capacity to produce them by conventional means at home.

Subsidies designed to support farmers now benefit large producers at the expense of family farms, Christou says. The EU has also banned its farmers from using many pesticides and restricted them from other nonchemical methods of pest control, while allowing food products produced in the same ways to be imported.

“EU farmers are denied freedom of choice — in essence, they are prevented from competing because EU policies actively discriminate against those wishing to cultivate genetically engineered crops, yet exactly the same crops are approved for import,” Christou says.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gemma Masip, Maite Sabalza, Eduard Pérez-Massot, Raviraj Banakar, David Cebrian, Richard M. Twyman, Teresa Capell, Ramon Albajes, Paul Christou. Paradoxical EU agricultural policies on genetically engineered crops. Trends in Plant Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2013.03.004

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Prosecution: Court Needs More Testimony Before Sentencing the DeCosters

Pre-sentencing investigative reports (PSIRs) for America’s one-time king of egg production, Austin (Jack) DeCoster, his son Peter, and their Quality Egg LLC business, have turned into a legal mess.

While the PSIRs themselves are sealed, the public now knows a little more about details of the disputed information from a new motion that’s been filed with a potential solution for working through the controversy.

Jack (left) and Peter DeCoster

Jack DeCoster was one of the most dominant figures in U.S. egg production before a 2010 Salmonella outbreak, which sickened thousands of people, was linked to two of his large Iowa egg production facilities.

It resulted in more than a half-billion eggs being recalled, the largest market withdrawal involving shell eggs in history. Peter DeCoster ran the northern Iowa egg farms. The two men pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count each of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.

In addition, their corporate entity, Quality Egg, pleaded guilty to one felony count of bribery of a public official and to two misdemeanors — one count of introducing misbranded food and one count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.

A federal judge in Sioux City, IA, accepted those pleas last June 3, but the dispute over the PSIRs is turning out to be more than a legal speed bump. The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, Peter E. Deegan, wants to consolidate the sentencing proceedings for a possible weeklong evidentiary hearing. Separate sentencing hearings would then follow.

According to Deegan, defense attorneys are split over his plan. He says that Stuart J. Dornan, the Omaha, NE-based defense attorney for Peter DeCoster, “has no objection to the relief sought in this motion.” However, Thomas C. Green, the Washington, D.C.-based defense attorney for Jack DeCoster and Quality Egg does “object to the relief sought ….”

Under the plea agreement they have with the government, the DeCosters were to each pay a $ 100,000 fine for their misdemeanor pleas, and Quality Egg agreed to a $ 6.8-million fine. Sentencing is mostly about whether either man will serve any jail time.

In late August, first the government filed objections to the PSIRs. Then Green filed objections for Jack DeCoster and Quality Egg. The most recent objections were filed Sept. 18 on behalf of Peter DeCoster.

Government and defense attorneys have agreed that sentencing guideline calculations will have to be approved by the court. The defense apparently finds much of the “offense conduct” section of the pre-sentence investigative reports to be either irrelevant or “not otherwise supported by the evidence.”

In his pitch to the court, Deegan says that the “greatest difference of any significance” among the parties concerns the write-ups about how “Julian dates” were changed and then the misbranded eggs were sold into commerce.

“Despite this difference in the Draft PSIRs, the government submits that the fact Quality Egg sold old eggs is relevant to the circumstances surrounding the Salmonella Enteritis contamination at issue with regard to Count 3, and therefore all three sentencings,” Deegan wrote.

The assistant U.S. attorney argues that since disputed facts among the three defendants are consistent, one hearing would be the most efficient for the court and prevent witnesses from having to testify three times.

“A consolidated evidentiary hearing would not appear to cause prejudice to any defendant or other interested party,” Deegan added. “To the extent defendants Quality Egg and Jack DeCoster are concerned that certain evidence may prove to be irrelevant to one sentencing or the other, the Court would be able to make such a determination after a consolidated hearing.”

Deegan said it might even be more appropriate for the court to make such determinations after hearing the evidence.

Food Safety News

“Argentina needs to export citrus to Brazil and the U.S.”

Tangerine exports fall 18% and orange exports fall 100%
“Argentina needs to export citrus to Brazil and the U.S.”

According to data provided by the Chamber of Exporters of Citrus NEA, tangerine exports fell by 18% and orange exports by 100%. “We’ll keep moving forward despite difficulties,” said the head of the Chamber, Mariano Caprarulo. The sector is in search of international credits. 

Dr. Mariano Caprarulo, executive director of the Chamber of Exporters of Citrus of Northeast Argentina (CECNEA), said the industry is facing an 18 percent drop in exports of tangerines and a 100 percent drop in exports of oranges when compared with the past year, which also wasn’t good, because there had been a huge frost and there was little fruit. “This year we have a little more fruit,” he said. 

The CECNEA considers that the opening of more competitive markets “in terms of cost – benefit – price, a policy to encourage formal activity and the access to strong international credits,” are some of the relevant actions that need to be taken so that the citrus export sector can overcome the crisis it has faced for several years now. 

Caprarulo explained in an interview that that the devaluation in early 2014 didn’t bring significant benefits to the sector: “When the devaluation arrived, we had finished the activity and when restarted it, between May and June, the devaluation had been absorbed by the increase in costs. Additionally, we had to meet our economical obligations so the producers and citrus exporters in general had to make a strong effort to reach a 30% increase,” he said. 

Brazil and the United States are closed to Argentinean citrus

“It’s very strange that we can’t enter Brazil as we are partners of Mercosur. We export citrus to Europe with the same protocol and can’t do it regionally. The Brazilian State opposes our citrus and do not know why,” lamented Mariano Caprarulo. 

The head of the CECNEA stated that “Uruguay, a country that has the same phytosanitary status that we do, is exporting a lot of citrus to Brazil and we should also be doing that.” 

Caprarulo assured that selling citrus to Brazil “would improve our annual income, not only because they have a good price and demand, but because we would send smaller shipments, by land, and there would be a smaller risk.” 

The head of CECNEA said he expected the ongoing negotiations to open the Brazilian market. “The President of SENASA, engineer Diana Maria Guillen, told me the minister Casamiquela had a bilateral meeting to try to open Brazil.” 

Furthermore, Argentina hasn’t been able to export citrus into the United States. “The province has been very supportive. We’ve gone to the U.S. and tried to open the market, but that will still take time because we they have currently finished the technical part for limes and SENASA has asked the U.S. to be open for sweet citrus,” said Caprarulo. 

Caprarulo considered it was crucial that “the national government and the provinces of the NEA exert pressure to gain entry into the United States, because they have a price that exceeds all expectations and would make the activity profitable again. We should get in, given that Uruguay also entered it and they are exporting the same varieties we have and have the same status as us. “

Source: Elentrerios.com

Publication date: 7/1/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Why FDA Needs FSMA Resources Now

(Editor’s note: The following is in response to “Experts Debate Whether Food Safety Funding is Adequate,” published April 24, 2014, on Food Safety News.)

Two questions regarding the adequacy of food safety funding for the Food and Drug Administration were asked at last week’s National Food Policy Conference.

I would like to answer both of them.

First, the question was raised whether FDA really needed more money when it had spent only $ 7 million of the “extra $ 40 million” Congress gave FDA in 2013 in a special, one-time appropriation.

The actual amount FDA received in June 2013 was $ 37 million, due to $ 3 million in rescission cuts. Congress appropriated this one-time funding without restriction as to when it could be spent. It has played a crucial role in maintaining the momentum of implementation for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), including essential support for the FSMA rulemaking process and guidance development, outreach to our stakeholders, the Produce Safety Alliance and other education and technical assistance infrastructure, state capacity building, and risk-based decision-making tools and data.

Michael Taylor

By September 2013 (the end of FY 13), we had spent the $ 7 million to which the question refers. Since that time, we have committed an additional $ 23 million, and, in the next several months, the remaining $ 7 million likely will be dedicated toward additional outreach and guidance development, technical assistance to stakeholders, and data collection to support development and implementation of the FSMA rules.

Second, the question was asked: “Why does FDA need money to implement FSMA when we don’t even know what FSMA is yet?”

Congress was quite clear about what FSMA was intended to achieve, and it is much more than new regulations. The mandate includes:

  • Shifting the focus of FDA’s food safety oversight from reaction and after-the-fact enforcement to risk-based prevention of food safety problems;
  • Creating a national, integrated food safety system that leverages state, local and tribal food safety efforts, and ensures nationwide consistency in oversight, and,
  • Implementing an entirely new import oversight program that includes importers taking greater care of the foods they bring into the U.S., greater FDA presence overseas, and facilitation of trade in safe food.

Thus, the modern food safety system envisioned by Congress requires a true transformation in how FDA approaches its day-to-day food safety work and how it works with its government partners and the food industry to achieve high rates of compliance with the new FSMA rules. This includes a new compliance strategy focused on public health outcomes and based on clear guidance, education, and technical assistance to help industry understand and voluntarily comply with the new requirements, minimizing the need for FDA to take enforcement measures.

Investment in this transformation cannot wait until the produce and preventive controls rules become final in late 2015. We are actively planning the transformation now, but, to implement it on a timely basis, we must make serious investments in 2015 and 2016 in FDA training and expertise, state training and capacity building, technical assistance infrastructure, and the new import oversight system.

Training in the details of the final rules will come after the rules are finalized in late 2015 and before implementation in food facilities begins in late 2016, but this is just one part of the larger investment needed for FSMA to be successfully implemented and avoid unwanted delays and disruptions in implementation.

Food Safety News

Why FDA Needs FSMA Resources Now

(Editor’s note: The following is in response to “Experts Debate Whether Food Safety Funding is Adequate,” published April 24, 2014, on Food Safety News.)

Two questions regarding the adequacy of food safety funding for the Food and Drug Administration were asked at last week’s National Food Policy Conference.

I would like to answer both of them.

First, the question was raised whether FDA really needed more money when it had spent only $ 7 million of the “extra $ 40 million” Congress gave FDA in 2013 in a special, one-time appropriation.

The actual amount FDA received in June 2013 was $ 37 million, due to $ 3 million in rescission cuts. Congress appropriated this one-time funding without restriction as to when it could be spent. It has played a crucial role in maintaining the momentum of implementation for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), including essential support for the FSMA rulemaking process and guidance development, outreach to our stakeholders, the Produce Safety Alliance and other education and technical assistance infrastructure, state capacity building, and risk-based decision-making tools and data.

Michael Taylor

By September 2013 (the end of FY 13), we had spent the $ 7 million to which the question refers. Since that time, we have committed an additional $ 23 million, and, in the next several months, the remaining $ 7 million likely will be dedicated toward additional outreach and guidance development, technical assistance to stakeholders, and data collection to support development and implementation of the FSMA rules.

Second, the question was asked: “Why does FDA need money to implement FSMA when we don’t even know what FSMA is yet?”

Congress was quite clear about what FSMA was intended to achieve, and it is much more than new regulations. The mandate includes:

  • Shifting the focus of FDA’s food safety oversight from reaction and after-the-fact enforcement to risk-based prevention of food safety problems;
  • Creating a national, integrated food safety system that leverages state, local and tribal food safety efforts, and ensures nationwide consistency in oversight, and,
  • Implementing an entirely new import oversight program that includes importers taking greater care of the foods they bring into the U.S., greater FDA presence overseas, and facilitation of trade in safe food.

Thus, the modern food safety system envisioned by Congress requires a true transformation in how FDA approaches its day-to-day food safety work and how it works with its government partners and the food industry to achieve high rates of compliance with the new FSMA rules. This includes a new compliance strategy focused on public health outcomes and based on clear guidance, education, and technical assistance to help industry understand and voluntarily comply with the new requirements, minimizing the need for FDA to take enforcement measures.

Investment in this transformation cannot wait until the produce and preventive controls rules become final in late 2015. We are actively planning the transformation now, but, to implement it on a timely basis, we must make serious investments in 2015 and 2016 in FDA training and expertise, state training and capacity building, technical assistance infrastructure, and the new import oversight system.

Training in the details of the final rules will come after the rules are finalized in late 2015 and before implementation in food facilities begins in late 2016, but this is just one part of the larger investment needed for FSMA to be successfully implemented and avoid unwanted delays and disruptions in implementation.

Food Safety News

Current global food production trajectory won’t meet 2050 needs

June 19, 2013 — Crop yields worldwide are not increasing quickly enough to support estimated global needs in 2050, according to a study published June 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by research associate Deepak Ray and colleagues from the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota.

Previous studies estimate that global agricultural production may need to increase 60-110 percent to meet increasing demands and provide food security. In the current study, researchers assessed agricultural statistics from across the world and found that yields of four key crops — maize, rice, wheat and soybean — are increasing 0.9-1.6 percent every year. At these rates, production of these crops would likely increase 38-67 percent by 2050, rather than the estimated requirement of 60-110 percent. The top three countries that produce rice and wheat were found to have very low rates of increase in crop yields.

“Particularly troubling are places where population and food production trajectories are at substantial odds,” Ray says, “for example, in Guatemala, where the corn-dependent population is growing at the same time corn productivity is declining.”

The analysis maps global regions where yield improvements are on track to double production by 2050 and areas where investments must be targeted to increase yields. The authors explain that boosting crop yields is considered a preferred solution to meet demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture. They note that additional strategies, such as reducing food waste and changing to plant-based diets, can also help reduce the large estimates for increased global demand for food.

“Clearly, the world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands,” says IonE director Jon Foley, a co-author on the study. “The good news is, opportunities exist to increase production through more efficient use of current arable lands and increased yield growth rates by spreading best management practices. If we are to boost production in these key crops to meet projected needs, we have no time to waste.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Spain: “Citrus sector needs to coordinate its activities to become more competitive”

Cristóbal Aguado, president of AVA ASAJA
Spain: “Citrus sector needs to coordinate its activities to become more competitive”

The Spanish citrus sector will remember this season as one of its worst nightmares, recording the lowest prices in recent memory in the case of oranges. It has hardly rained in the Spanish Levant since September, especially in Valencia, and although the conditions are certainly not the most ideal, “nobody imagined the consequences to be so catastrophic,” says Cristóbal Aguado, president of AVA ASAJA. “We have never suffered such severe quality problems or obtained such low prices.”

Clementines have not been as strongly affected, although some varieties have suffered physiological alterations, like the ‘bufat’ (separation of the skin over the pulp) and/or reached small calibres, but in any case oranges got the worst part, as they have been hampered by both notably small calibres and by the ‘clareta’ (splitting of the skin). “The earliest orange varieties reached better results in terms of quality, despite there being some problems with calibres, but those who waited for the fruit to ripen a bit more harvested a lower quality fruit, which entailed worse prices,” he explains.

The Valencian Institute for Agricultural Research (IVIA) is trying to determine the possible causes of the ‘clareta’, and although no results have been achieved yet, it has been suggested that it may be related to the soil’s properties.

When situations like this one arise, many producers start looking for alternative crops, and if such alternatives are not found, the lands are simply abandoned to stop losing money. “While in 2013, Valencia was the province with the highest number of lands abandoned, this year’s figures may be record-breaking,” says Cristóbal Aguado.

The citrus industry needs to coordinate its activities 

Representatives of the citrus sector have recently sent letters to the ministers of Economy and Agriculture and to the president of the Valencian Government, describing the current situation and requesting a series of fiscal and technical measures to be able to face the huge losses. They also asked for the cooperation of the town councils of citrus-producing municipalities. 

In a parallel effort, “we are trying to bring together all parts of the sector involved, from producers and cooperatives to traders and distributors, to agree on coordination initiatives to reach the market and on marketing strategies targeted to final consumers.”

Cristóbal Aguado is convinced that the Spanish citrus sector, with a production of over 6 million tonnes per year, “will have a better future if it adopts the strategies of other crops’ agricultural organisations, such as concentration of supply, which has already shown to be effective for both growers and all other parts of the chain. We are convinced that the solution is to work together instead of each having to fight its own battles,” he stated.

EC expected to enforce drastic measures against South African imports 

The Spanish citrus sector agrees in considering imports of South African citrus as a potential hazard, as they could potentially introduce a pest still unknown in Europe, the “Black Spot”. The EFSA also considered it a risk in its latest report. 

“We have been protesting for several years, as the disease is occasionally detected in South African shipments. So far, the sector has not been satisfied with the proposals from the EC, and the measures taken just when the South African citrus campaign was coming to an end were deemed insufficient,” he said.

“Right now the South African season is about to start and hopefully drastic measures will be taken in case of 5 “Black Spot” detections being reached.”

Publication date: 4/17/2014
Author: Juan Zea Estellés
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Industry Groups Say ‘Massive Overhaul’ of Animal Food Regs Still Needs Work

The deadline passed Monday for comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the preventive controls for animal food rule issued under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) submitted more than 100 pages of comments on what it describes as the most massive overhaul of animal food industry regulations since 1958.

Nineteen regional and state feed associations also signed on to AFIA’s letter as a statement of their support.

Although the organization was disappointed that the comment period had not been extended past March 31, AFIA was still “extremely satisfied with the comments generated,” said Richard Sellers, the group’s senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs.

“If more time had been allotted, we would have ideally provided FDA with more examples of the overall impact of the proposal. However, given our time constraints, AFIA focused primarily on how this rule would impact the many varied segments of the industry,” he said.

The organization’s comments focused mostly on the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), stating that they should be “more practical and less prescriptive.”

AFIA wants assurance that the rule is dedicated to the animal food industry rather than the human food industry.

“It is quite clear the majority of the proposed CGMP requirements come directly from the human food rule, and it has been left up to the feed industry to prove why the requirements are unnecessary as many do not relate to animal food in the slightest,” said Sellers. “A blatant example is where the proposed rule suggests ill employees can contaminate animal food, hence making the animal sick.”

In relation to the time frames FDA offered for phasing in smaller businesses, AFIA recommended changing them to add an extra year to the implementation period for the preventive controls portion of the rule.

Under this proposal, GMPs and preventive controls would be in place within two years for large firms, three years for small businesses and four years for very small businesses.

The idea has already been positively viewed by FDA.

“In many ways, that, I would say, makes sense,” Dan McChesney, director of FDA’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, told Food Safety News last December. “If you look at the human food industry, what we’re asking them to do is implement just the preventive controls in one year, two years or three years. They’ve been implementing GMPs for many years already, so they don’t have to do that part.”

Other requests in AFIA’s comments were to simplify terms and concepts used throughout the rule such as replacing “utensils” with “tools” or “sanitation” with “cleaning,” differentiating among various types of animal food facilities, and for FDA to “remove all HACCP references and requirements throughout the rule, including references to ‘hazards that are reasonably likely to occur’ and return to the statutory language of ‘known or reasonably foreseeable hazards,’” Sellers said.

In another regulatory area, the Beer Institute and the American Malting Barley Association filed joint comments requesting that FDA exempt brewers from the rule. Their concern is about putting additional regulation on the byproducts of brewing. (Food Safety News published a separate story today about how Colorado brewers pushing back against the proposed rules.)

“For centuries, brewers, large and small, have disposed of their spent grain by giving or selling them to farmers and ranchers,” reads a statement from the Beer Institute. “This recycling process supports community green initiatives, but could end if this FDA rule is upheld. Instead, some brewers will be forced to throw away this valuable feed, a cheaper option than complying with the costly proposed regulations, which the Beer Institute estimates may cost a single brewery more than $ 13 million in one-time and reoccurring costs.”

Others are also supporting the proposal for exemption. The National Milk Producers Federation filed comments that referenced and included support for the Beer Institute’s comments.

And U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) even brought up the issue at last week’s House appropriations hearing with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. She asked for evidence that a cow has become sick after eating spent grains and for the exemption to protect the brewer-farmer partnership.

“It’s one of those examples of something where there is a reasonable solution that can be found,” Hamburg responded. “We certainly understand why it makes economic and sustainable agriculture sense. … I hope we can find a meaningful, viable solution.”

FDA has stated its plans to publish revised language for the proposed rule on preventive controls for animal food early this summer, alongside the revised produce safety and preventive controls for human food rules. The final animal food rule is required to be published by Aug. 30, 2015.

Food Safety News

Letter From The Editor: South Georgia Needs A Trial That It Won’t Forget

During the past week, it was my good fortune to return to South Georgia where farmers are still waiting for their fields to warm enough to plant the 2014 peanut crop.

The Blakely, GA plant — once was a major purchaser of Georgia peanuts — stands empty. It’s one of the few inactive sites in the Early County Industrial Park along Highway 62. All signage from the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America is gone.  The South erects a lot of historical markers, but as yet, there is no sign in Blakely telling the story of how poison peanut butter from PCA ended up killing nine people and sickening 700 others to become one of the most deadly Salmonella outbreaks in U.S. history.

All that exists is the blank spot where PCA’s once familiar sign stood when the outbreak it caused frightened every parent in America, including the two who reside in the White House, because almost all kids love peanut butter.  I first visited Blakely when the outbreak was underway, and the local folks seemed to either be in denial or fearful about the outbreak’s impact on the Georgia peanut industry. And there were about 180,000 fewer acres planted with peanuts in the first planting season after the outbreak.

Yet one would be hard-pressed to find a long-term impact on the industry. Georgia plants half of all U.S. acreage dedicated to peanuts and accounts for 50 percent of the nation’s peanut production at 1.7 million tons. Almost all the counties in the bottom half of the state plant peanuts, providing 50,000 jobs in the 70 counties. About 3,500 farmers plant peanuts on 14,000 individual farms.

It’s common for acreage to be planted in peanuts one year and cotton the next. Dr. George Washington Carver developed that crop rotation strategy to give the South’s worn soil time to recover. Carver brought the peanut to Georgia.  Peanuts, but not cotton, are eligible for federal payments under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) under the new Farm Bill. As a covered commodity — along with corn, wheat, oats, barley, etc — growing peanuts might even become more popular in South Georgia.

All of which makes it easy to understand why the peanut growers and the 200 or so Georgia companies that shell, roast, and otherwise add value to peanuts are feeling pretty good about their futures. March is National Peanut Month and tomorrow is Georgia PB&J Day at the State Capitol in Atlanta.  Sponsors will be handing out PB&Js, grilled PB&Js, country-friend peanuts, boiled peanuts and other goodies. They’ll also donate 18,720 jars of peanut butter valued at $ 56,160 to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Georgia’s $ 2 billion peanut industry will have no trouble finding takers for its products. There is no reason to think of them as anything but safe and nutritious. Yet, I do feel some discomfort with the fact that outside of the federal court room in Albany, South Georgia seems to have erased the PCA outbreak from its collective memory.

It’s also a reason why it’s important for a jury trial of the four former PCA executives to go forward this summer. The fact that the four are charged with a total of 76 federal felony count might make it more likely the PCA story will end up on a plea bargain.

But it has not happened yet, and the pre-trial hearing held this past week showed both prosecutors and defense attorneys taking every word or punctuation mark very seriously if it might have an impact on the trial.  The next big pre-trial hearing is scheduled for mid-April when farmers should be planting peanut kernels.  Forty days after that is when South Georgia should some alive with yellow flowers as the peanuts grow below ground.

It’s when those flowers bloom that we will probably know whether South Georgia is going to get a trial that it won’t forget.

Food Safety News

Health and wellness needs storewide approach, speakers tell NGA

Retailers interested in making their stores a health and wellness destination need to be sure to let customers know they are in that business through signage and other point-of-sale materials, speakers told a workshop session Tuesday during the annual convention of the National Grocers Association in Las Vegas. Jonathan Tucker, VP, pharmacy, for Wakefern Food Corp., Keasbey, N.J., said the cooperative’s ShopRite stores have adopted “a whole-store strategy for health and wellness to …

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Video: Collaboration can meet changing consumer needs

Erick Taylor, president and CEO, Pyramid Foods, explains that his NGA Show educational session will address “how we can meet our consumer needs that seem to be changing faster than ever over the last four or five years.”

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Taylor: FDA Needs More Resources for FSMA Implementation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have enough resources to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said Wednesday in an appearance before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

In answering a rapid succession of yes or no questions from U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Taylor said that the agency has enough resources to issue the final rules, but not to implement FSMA.

“We will continue efforts to make the best use of the resources we have, but simply put, we cannot achieve FDA’s vision of a modern food safety system and a safer food supply without a significant increase in resources,” Taylor said in his initial statement.

During his time, Dingell asked Taylor to submit details about what the agency would require. When FSMA was approved in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that FDA would need an increase of more than $ 580 million to fund the expanded food safety activities.

Importer oversight, developing partnerships with state and local agencies, retraining inspectors and providing technical assistance to small growers and processors  were examples Taylor put forward for where additional resources are needed.

Taylor also received many questions from committee members about the produce safety rule. Several members noted their disappointment with it while also praising FDA’s decision to reissue revised language in the produce and preventive controls for human food rules.

Imports were another a hot topic for members such as U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) who was keen to assure his constituents that foreign producers would be held to the same standards as domestic ones.

And, in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) about why it took two years from the time FSMA was signed into law in January 2011 to begin releasing regulations, Taylor stated that it was a function of the complexity of the issues.

Implementation of FSMA is set to begin after all the final rules are published in June 2015.

Food Safety News

Bayer CropScience reveals insights into U.S. potato industry’s top needs

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop production predictions, average potato yield per acre increased during the 2013 season. In an effort to propel this upward trend into the new year, Bayer CropScience launched its Potato Perspectives Survey during Potato Expo in San Antonio Jan. 8-10, 2014.

Bayer CropScience collected insights from tradeshow attendees across the food chain to identify potato trends, opportunities and challenges as the industry prepares for the 2014 season.

Through its Potato Perspectives Survey, Bayer CropScience uncovered key issues and growth opportunities for the industry. Key findings include the following:

  • 48 percent of potato grower participants responded that early blight and white mold were the most difficult diseases to control during 2013.
  • 63 percent of potato grower participants pinpointed the reduction of yield and quality loss due to insects and disease as a critical need to ensure a successful harvest this season.
  • 37 percent of retailer participants identified solutions to enhance crop quality as a top necessity for the upcoming season.
  • 34 percent of other industry member participants cited the need for solutions to combat disease and pest-resistance issues in the field as a key need in the new year.
  • 54 percent of retailer participants cited increased price of potato production and changes in import and export patterns as the most critical concern for the upcoming season, while 33 percent and 25 percent of other industry member participants considered crop loss due to pests or disease and changes in consumptions patterns, respectfully, the most challenging issues for 2014.
  • 42 percent of grower participants, 35 percent of retailer participants and 46 percent of other industry member participants believed biotechnology may be able to expand production capabilities and crop yield for the potato market.

“Our commitment to potato innovation is driven by industry needs and demands,” Rob Schrick, Horticulture Strategic Business Lead for Bayer CropScience, said in a press release. “We continue to invest in the development of new solutions to meet the industry’s evolving needs, and insights from our Potato Perspectives Survey will aid us in providing resources to combat critical crop threats.”

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Dead-End Genetics: Why the Chicken Industry Needs a New Roadmap

Peering through a sunlit barn in rural Kansas, fourth-generation poultry farmer Frank Reese rattles off names of chicken breeds that were once common – Barred Rock, Dark Brahma, Ancona, Rhode Island Red, Dark Cornish. He points to an elegant-looking bird perching on some nest boxes. The bird, a Rose Comb Leghorn, flies down and runs under a wooden pallet to get some privacy.

“There are only 50 left of that one,” Reese laments.

We don’t think of chickens in the same way we think about the panda or the Bengal tiger, but Reese argues that we should. Without these breeds, he explains, we may not be able to find our way back to a more humane way of farming. As a result of intensive breeding techniques aimed at profitability, virtually all chickens today suffer simply because they exist. The old bird breeds farmers like Reese preserve can provide the genetic material needed to correct these excesses.

Unlike the notoriously lethargic modern “broiler” chickens, Reese’s birds don’t sit still for long. These birds, known as standard-bred, are agile and constantly moving about. The contrast between a standard-bred chicken and an industrial breed could not be more dramatic, yet these athletic chickens are the ancestors of our modern dinner chicken. What went wrong and why?

By now, we are familiar with the story of farmers being prevented by Monsanto from saving seeds from one crop for a subsequent crop. It is viewed as piracy by Monsanto, and they have won a number of court cases affirming their position.

Like genetically modified corn or soy, our table chickens today have been redesigned from the genetics up to serve the purposes of industrial agriculture. As with GM crops, chicken genetics are controlled by a few companies. Significantly, the farmers who raise these chickens do not keep a few of the best for breeding for the next flock, as farmers had previously done. They can’t because today’s chickens are “dead-end” birds who do not produce commercially viable offspring. Instead, farmers return, flock after flock, to the same few companies that provided the day-old chicks to them.

Farmers don’t have much choice about where to get their birds. Eighty percent of all chicken produced globally — some 44 billion birds — come from one of three companies: Cobb-Vantress, Hubbard, and Ross. While these companies are fiercely competitive, the birds they market are almost identical in outcome, and all of them can suffer from profound welfare problems, most of them caused by fast growth.

Compared with standard-bred birds who take around 120 days to reach market weight, our table birds today reach the same weight (while eating less) in around 42 days. The industrial breeds of chicken have been selectively bred to grow so large so quickly that they can collapse under their own weight, have difficulty walking in the final weeks of their life, and have musculoskeletal, heart and lung problems. They are obese infants at slaughter age.

Even worse, the special “broiler breeders” who produce the billions of birds are so distorted that the birds are essentially incapable of feeling full. As a result, these birds must be put on restricted feeding regimes. This violates a basic tenant of good animal husbandry: giving an animal sufficient food. It not only produces great suffering — a state of chronic hunger — but its legality is questionable because the law requires that animals be provided with adequate food.

For these reasons, Compassion in World Farming, the leading international nonprofit addressing farmed animal welfare, has argued that the use of fast-growing broiler genotypes should be brought to an end. Newer farm animal groups such as Farm Forward are advocating for reinventing the poultry industry from the genetics up. Even animal groups such as the ASPCA that previously focused on companion animals have sounded the alarm.

At the end of this month, the global chicken industry will gather in Atlanta, GA, at the annual International Poultry Expo to discuss its future. Frank Reese will not attend. Yet it is birds like the ones he conserves that contain the genetic instructions for what good welfare once looked like and could look like again. Although the choices are few, the three industry giants do maintain a menu of genetics that includes improved, slower-growing breeds that results in less suffering. Replacing fast-growth industrial birds with these intermediate birds is a sensible first step forward.

As the industry gathers in Atlanta this month, their roadmap of the future must include a way back to a breed that does not inherently cause suffering.

Food Safety News

Chilean fruit industry needs new strategy for China

Chilean fruit industry needs new strategy for China

Trade between Chile and China grew 22% in the past seven years. China has become Chile’s largest trading partner; for example, 70% of Chilean cherries are currently being exported directly to China.

While Chile seems to be making profits from the lucrative Asian market, Paul Chen, an avid observer of the Asian market and Head of Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory at Rabobank, said that Chile is doing the wrong thing and that this would have consequences as China opens to other markets in the near future.


Chilean Fruits fail at establishing better prices

While Zespri’s kiwifruits and Sunkist’s oranges are known trademarks in China, Chilean fruits are falling behind.

“A brand means money and that’s a great opportunity in China,” says Paul.

Rabobank’s representative explained that, in a supermarket in Shanghai, the Chilean green apples cost the same as the apples from Shandong China: ¥ 28 (U.S. $ 4.8) per 500 grams, while each apple from New Zealand cost ¥ 15 (U.S. $ 2,47).

“Chilean fruits are not branded,” added Chen when explaining the drastic price difference. Despite their flawless appearance, those Chilean apples have no label on them, not to mention a wrapper.

“There’s no reason for charging more when they are presented like this: where is the package, where is the information and where the background story? There is none of that,” he said. “You can’t even tell that the apples are from Chile. There’s nothing special about them, nothing to differentiate them from afar,” he said.

The background story to which he refers, Paul said, could be the image of an apple producer from Chile and the story of how they grows the fruit.

Paul also emphasizes that the era in which Chinese consumers bought fruit because it was cheap is coming to an end with the new Chinese generation.

“I don’t buy cheap bananas or apples from Shandong. I consciously made the decision to buy Chilean cherries. But what Chile is doing to make me continue buying them? Nothing,” he said.

Paul believes that the root cause of Chile’s brand problem is due to the country’s self-positioning as exporters.

“That’s what you get when you use a distributor. A distributor is there to move your produce, not to tell a story. Chilean companies consider themselves as mere exporters of fruits and all they care about is volume. That is wrong, “he said.

Regarding price, Paul argued that Chilean companies were not adjusting their prices to the different places in China where their fruit is sold.

“Besides, if you have good fruit and package it properly, I’m sure people will want to eat those cherries, even at a medium to high price. Chile has never tried that before,” he said.

“They have to look for opportunities, not just in Shanghai or Beijing,” Paul concluded.

Source: Portalfruticola.com

Publication date: 12/19/2013


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