CALIFORNIA CENTRAL VALLEY GROWERS VOTE ON COLORED COTTON
Cotton growers in the San Joaquin Valley voted in December on whether
to allow colored cotton to be grown in the region. Ballots were due to
be returned January 3. It is expected that the colored cotton
initiative will fail, due to grower's fears that colored cotton will
contaminate white cotton fields. Both proponents and opponents expect
the question to ultimately be answered in the courts.
The ballot, sent to the valley's 2500 cotton growers, asks, "Should the
growing of naturally colored cotton be prohibited in the San Joaquin
Valley (SJV) Quality Cotton District?" A simple enough question, but
with complicated ramifications for the valley. Some argue that the
question at hand is really about the SJV's ability to compete in the
rapidly changing cotton market without timely access to new
technologies like colored cotton and pesticide resistant cotton.
The San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board regulates which cottons are grown
in the region, and has subjected colored cotton to the same strict
standards as any new white cotton. This includes a three year trial
period, which will also be applied to pesticide resistant cotton. The
three year trial period, it is argued, will put SJV growers three years
behind the rest of the world. Indeed, some growers argue that the
strict standards in place for new cotton introduction has resulted in
the loss of millions of research dollars from companies Delta and Pine
Land Co. and Monsanto. Some growers also hold that the board has
continually changed the standard new cottons have to meet, so that
during a three year trial period a cotton meeting the original standard
may not meet a more rigid revised standard at the end of the trial period.
Proponents of prohibiting colored cotton fear that colored cotton could
contaminate their white cotton fields, and sully the SJV reputation for
purity. One large farmer likened that possibility to the measles which
could put the majority of growers at risk of contamination. Others
argue that there is little demand for colored cotton, saying the
product is a fad that will die out, citing that Levi Strauss has
discontinued use of colored cotton, and that Patagonia is pulling back.
It is expected that this issue will ultimately be resolved in the
courts, with valley farmers arguing that they are being kept from
enjoying biotechnological advances. Colored-cotton proponents charge
that the SJV Cotton Board did not expect colored cotton to meet its
standards, and when test crops did meet standards, the board set up yet
another block by calling a voter referendum. One grower said, "We've
been told we would be treated the same as any other cotton. We entered
into that agreement and now they've changed direction on us (with the
grower vote)...I think it's a lack of education. It's fear. There's
been a lot of misinformation put out. All we're asking is that we be
In a related development, the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board
recommended to the California Food and Agriculture Secretary that Delta
and Pine Land Co. be allowed to test up to 1,000 acres of its
pesticide-resistant cotton (DP 6100).
Jim Carnal, "Colored Cotton Vote Due," BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN,
December 7, 1996.
PESTICIDE RESISTANT COTTON INTRODUCED IN CHINA
Monsanto Co. announced in November that it has formed a joint venture
with Delta and Pine Land Co. and Hebei Provincial Seed Industry group
to sell pesticide-resistant cotton seed in China. The company will use
cotton seed varieties developed by Delta & Pine Land Co. using
biotechnology processes developed by Monsanto (which sells Bollgard
Cotton in the U.S.). The new company, Hebei Ji Dai Cotton Seed
Technology Co., expects to sell enough seed to plant 500,000 acres in
the spring of 1998.
"Delta and Pine, Monsanto Form Joint Venture in China to Sell
Cottonseed," WALL STREET JOURNAL, November 20, 1996.
ORGANIC GROWERS LOOKING FORWARD TO FEDERAL REGULATION
The need to protect the consumer against fraudulent marketing of
organic goods, and the need for a single set of standards, have organic
growers eager for the implementation of federal organic standards due
this spring. The new USDA organic regulations will cover raw and
processed foods, seeds, livestock feed, fiber and tobacco products.
Currently, only 20 states have any organic standards, and only 11
states have agencies that enforce compliance.
The regulations would come none too soon to help cut down on fraud in
the industry. In November, the Minnesota Attorney General's Office
charged the president of Glacial Ridge Foods Company, a Minnesota-based
food wholesaler, with defrauding consumers in six states and Canada of
up to $700,000, by mislabeling produce as organic to cash in on the
higher prices consumers are willing to pay for organic products. With
the organic food industry reaching $3 billion in sales in '96,
incentives to defraud consumers have never been so apparent.
USDA certification is also seen as the best way to maintain the
integrity of organic growing. Growers fear that larger corporations
chasing the lucrative organic food dollar would look to get around
organic farming methods, vis a vis neglecting crop rotation or using
biotechnology. (The National Organic Standards Board has passed a
resolution excluding genetically engineered products from being labeled
organic.) In the long term, prices for organic goods may drop due to
increased consumer confidence in organic products that are USDA
certified. In the short term, however, certification may bring an
increase in demand outpacing supply and increase prices.
Jonathan S. Landay, "Organic Farmers to Washington: Regulate Us,"
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, December 30, 1996.
NEW ORGANIC INSTITUTE TO BENEFIT CONSUMERS
The organic products industry announced the formation of an
organization to evaluate manufactured materials used in the production,
processing and handling of organic foods. The Organic Materials Review
Institute (OMRI), modeled on a program developed by the California
Certified Organic Farmers organization, will offer technical assistance
to certifiers and evaluation services to manufacturers of materials
used to grow and prepare organic foods and fiber.
"We [OMRI] took the initiative now to provide the necessary assistance
to certifiers and give manufacturers and producers the security of
knowing the products they are using will not jeopardize their
certification. But most of all, this will help guarantee to the public
that the products they have chosen are truly organic," says OMRI
president Bill Wolf.
OMRI is set up to compliment the efforts of the National Organic
Standards Board (NOSB) and the USDA's National Organic Program. The
NOSB deals primarily with generic products allowed or prohibited in
organic production. OMRI will work with branded materials, advising
manufacturers and producers as to whether they will be allowable under
organic certification standards. OMRI will list qualified products that
can be used by organic producers and handlers.
For more information, contact Brian Baker, Organic Materials Review
Institute, Organic Trade Association, PO Box 1078, Greenfield, MA
01032. Phone: 408/423/2263.
ORGANIC COTTON IN UGANDA
The Lango Organic Project, a project financed by the Swedish
International Development Cooperation Agency, has certified over 3,500
farmers to grow organic cotton in Uganda. Project organizers estimate
that the number of certified growers could reach 5,000 during the
1996/97 season, producing upwards of 500 tons of fiber (up from 72 tons
The Lango Organic Project has also trained eight field officers, each
responsible for 500 farmers, to document crops, provide technical
assistance and record sales. In addition, Grolink AB is training local
Ugandans as inspectors of organic farms in an effort to establish a
national certification program.
For more information on the project, contact Gunnar Rundgren, Grolink
AB, Torfolk, 68491, Munkfors, Sweden; phone 46/70/518/01290; EMAIL:
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Third European Network for Scientific Research Coordination in
Organic Farming (ENOF) workshop will be held in Ancona, Italy June 5-6,
1997. The theme of the workshop is "Resource Use in Organic Farming."
A call for papers has been issued on the following topics, to be
presented on the second day of the workshop:
*Crop Production & Weed Control
*Grassland & Fodder Production
*Soil Fertility & Environmental Aspects
*Legal & Economic Aspects
The papers are expected to focus on aspects of the use of natural and
man-made resources in organic farming; how to reduce the use or
increase the efficiency of resources in organic farming systems;
pollution prevention strategies and environmental impact assessments of
organic farming; and analysis of man-made resources used in organic
farming. Deadline for abstracts is January 15, 1997. For more
information contact Dr. Raffaele Zanoli, DIBIAGA, Faculty of
Agriculture, University of Ancona, Via Brecce Bianche, I-60131 Ancona,
Italy. Phone: +39/0/71/220/4929; Fax: +39/0/71/220/4858.
GROWING ORGANIC COTTON, International Cotton Advisory Committee,
October 1996. A compilation of reports and papers presented at
international meetings, published by the ICAC Secretariat since 1993.
Available in English, French or Spanish. US $100. Order from ICAC, 1629
K Street NW, Suite 702, Washington, DC 20006 USA. Phone: 202/463/6660,
ext. 11; Fax: 202/463/6950; Email: PUBLICATIONS@icac.org.
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade
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