Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture
9200 Edmonston Road, #117
Greenbelt, MD 20770
Voice (301) 441-8777, Fax (301-220-0164
Web site www.hawiaa.org
* * *
If You Are Interested in Sustainable Agriculture. . .
In addition to this monthly newsletter, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for
Alternative Agriculture publishes the "American Journal of Alternative
Agriculture" (AJAA), 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 sustainable agricultural systems.
The development of more effective conservation farming systems through
participatory on-farm research is examined in the first article of the new
issue of AJAA (Volume 14, No. 3). Other articles cover supplementation of
mid-gestation swine grazing alfalfa; crop-yield and economic comparisons of
organic, low-input, and conventional farming systems in California's
Sacramento Valley; comparison of organic and conventional dairy farms in
Ontario; global land resources and population-supporting capacity; and
organic farming in Austria.
For U.S. subscribers, one volume (four issues) costs US$44 for libraries,
US$24 for individuals, and US$12 for students; foreign rates are also
available. For more information, contact the Wallace Institute, 9200
Edmonston Road, #117, Greenbelt, MD 20770; (301) 441- 8777; e-mail
TABLE OF CONTENTS
International Organic Certification Groups Sign Agreement, p. 1
Farm Groups Warn Members About Planting Engineered Crops, p. 2
Can Farmers Survive the "New Agriculture"?, p. 3
Positions, p. 3
Trade Group Adopts American Organic Standards, p. 3
Biotech Companies Launch PR Campaign, p. 4
EPA Reports on Progress of Food Quality Protection Act, p. 4
Resources, p. 4
Upcoming Events, p. 4
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIC CERTIFICATION GROUPS SIGN AGREEMENT
Fourteen of the world's most recognized and reputable organic
certification organizations last month signed a multilateral agreement that
will allow certified organic products to "flow easily worldwide," according
to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, which has
accredited all 14 organizations. By using IFOAM as a third party and
agreeing upon mutual certification procedures, each certification
organization can accept the work of another organization, knowing that
certification of all stages and ingredients has been properly performed.
"With this new multilateral recognition agreement, consumers can rest
assured that all the ingredients in a product certified by an
IFOAM-accredited body meet the same high standard, no matter where in the
world the certification was carried out," said Linda Bullard, IFOAM
President. "With the IFOAM seal soon to be seen on products, that assurance
will have a visual identification."
The 14 organizations are AIAB (Italy), Argencert (Argentina), Bioagricoop
(Italy), Bio- Gro (New Zealand), Bolicert (Bolivia), California Certified
Organic Farmers (USA), Farm Verified Organic (USA), Instituto Biodinamico
(Brazil), KRAV (Sweden), National Association for Sustainable Agriculture
Australia, Naturland-Verband (Germany), Oregon Tilth (USA), Organic Growers
and Buyers Association (USA), and Soil Association Certification Ltd.
FARM GROUPS WARN MEMBERS ABOUT PLANTING ENGINEERED CROPS
More than 30 farm groups held a teleconference last month to warn their
members "about the dangers of planting genetically engineered crops, saying
the practice had become so unpopular with consumers that farmers were
risking their livelihoods if they cultivated them again this year,"
according to The Washington Post (November 24, 1999). The groups, which
included the National Family Farm Coalition and the American Corn Growers
Association, also warned that "inadequate testing of gene-altered seeds
could make farmers vulnerable to ‘massive liability' from damage caused by
genetic drift--the spreading of biologically modified pollens-- and other
"The farmers called on chemical companies engaged in bioengineering to
promote the sale of traditional seed varieties for the coming crop year
until an independent assessment of the environmental, health and economic
impacts of gene–altered seeds is available," the article said.
The groups, which represent tens of thousands of producers, said that
their main concern was the marketability of foods with genetically
engineered ingredients. Many of the groups represented "have been active in
the fight to preserve family farming and curtail the growth of corporate
According to a story in The Wall Street Journal (November 19, 1999), "As
farmers this month place their orders for spring planting, there is growing
evidence that a boom is fading. . . . Many farmers remain fans of the seeds
and don't share consumers' anxiety over the safety of genetically modified
crops. But they can't afford to ignore those concerns." Sales of
genetically modified seeds had jumped to $1 billion by last spring, and
"some biotechnology executives foresaw a leap next spring to $2 billion.
None do now." The question now most on farmers' minds, the article said,
is: "At harvest time next year, will a strong market exist for genetically
"Some local seed dealers expect sales of their bioengineered varieties to
drop 20% or more," according to the article. "The retreat is so big that
seed executives are worried about a possible shortage of conventional,
CAN FARMERS SURVIVE THE "NEW AGRICULTURE"?
The "new agriculture," which includes genetically modified seeds and
increasing control by large agricultural corporations, is threatening
independent farmers, according to The New York Times (November 28, 1999).
Net farm income has fallen more than 38 percent since 1997, according to
the USDA; farmers are producing more food on fewer acres in less time,
putting independents in peril.
"A growing number of economists, regulators and lawmakers are worried
about the shifting balance of power that favors a handful of agricultural
giants over a shrinking number of independent farmers, confused and
bedeviled by all the changes," the article continued. "Farms have grown
bigger and bigger, swallowing many small operations, and huge agricultural
business conglomerates have emerged. In the last two years, however,
mergers in the agricultural industry have resulted in such huge companies
that the nation's largest farm groups are warning that the dwindling
competition among suppliers will doom the family farm." Federal officials,
though, are taking notice: "The Agriculture and Justice Departments say
they are looking into whether the agriculture market is too heavily
concentrated, and therefore anti-competitive."
Farmers are also worried about "whether to plant seeds that have been
bio-engineered to ward off pests," now that bioengineering faces growing
opposition. "Farmers who have been planting genetically modified seeds,
meanwhile, have begun wondering whether they are worth the trouble,"
according to the article. "Because some modified foods have not been
approved for export and may be unwelcome in Europe and even at home, many
farmers say they may cut back their acreage."
University of Vermont, Environmental Program and Department of Community
Development and Applied Economics, seeks a tenure-track Assistant
Professor; the Environmental Program also seeks a tenure-track Assistant
Professor; contact Ian A. Worley, Interim Director, Environmental Program,
153 South Prospect St., University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405;
University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,
seeks an Assistant Dean for Research, and Assistant Director for Georgia
Agricultural Experiment Stations; information is on the Internet at
TRADE GROUP ADOPTS AMERICAN ORGANIC STANDARDS
The Organic Trade Association has adopted American Organic Standards as
guidelines for the organic industry. The standards are "an alternative set
of organic standards that would set a baseboard for organic certification
in the U.S." as the industry awaits USDA's next round of proposed national
organic standards, according to Organic View, a publication of the Organic
Consumers Association. OTA has had industry guidelines since 1988, and
developed the new standards with its Certifiers Council and Quality
Assurance Committee, to "build consensus in preparation for the anticipated
release of federal organic regulations." OTA's standards "offer an
alternative if the USDA's next proposed rules are not up to current strong
standards," Organic View wrote. "The AOS standards could be implemented
immediately, an important advantage given the USDA's glacial pace at
developing national standards." The standards are available on the Internet
BIOTECH COMPANIES LAUNCH PR CAMPAIGN
Some of the world's biggest biotechnology companies are "mounting a huge
lobbying and marketing campaign to counter their critics and combat what
they call a rising wave of anti- biotech hysteria," according to The New
York Times (November 12, 1999). "Some biotech executives now say that there
is a sense that the tide may be turning against genetically modified foods
and that urgent action is needed. And so in recent months, the Monsanto
Company, DuPont, Novartis A.G., and other biotech companies have formed a
series of industrywide alliances and have set aside tens of millions of
dollars to fight what they view as an ugly campaign that has vilified the
companies . . . and misrepresented their products." The companies are
financing research and educational forums, and lobbying legislators,
regulators, and farmers, according to the article. "If farmers turn against
them, the big biotechnology companies could face huge losses," it said.
EPA REPORTS ON PROGRESS OF FOOD QUALITY PROTECTION ACT
EPA has published a report on its progress in implementing the Food
Quality Protection Act of 1996, detailing EPA actions to eliminate or
reduce the use of pesticides on foods commonly eaten by children, and
register new, safer pesticides. Chapter titles in the report include The
Basics; Lowering the Risks; Ensuring the Safety of Existing Pesticides;
Public Participation and Transparency; Special Protection for Vulnerable
Populations; On the Forefront of Sound Science; and Partners and Other
Stakeholders. Copies of "Implementing the Food Quality Protection Act:
Progress Report" are available on the Internet at
www.epa.gov/oppfead1/fqpa/fqpareport.pdf, or from (703) 305-5017.
"Expanding the Organic Food and Agriculture System in the U.S.'s Upper
Midwest: Strategies and Lessons of a Pilot Project" is $10 from South
Dakota State University, Economics Department, Brookings, SD 57005-0895;
"Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms," a special reference
brief, is available from the Alternative Farming Systems Information
Center, National Agricultural Library Rm. 304, 10301 Baltimore Ave.,
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351; (301) 504-6422; email@example.com.
"Codex Alimentarius," the FAO/WHO international organic standards, are
available on the Internet at www.fao.org/es/esn/codex.
"Fair Agricultural Chemical Taxes" is $10 from Friends of the Earth, 1025
Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 783-7400; a summary is on the
Internet at www.foe.org.
"Put Your Ideas to the Test: How to Conduct Research on Your Farm or
Ranch" is available on the Internet at www.sare.org/htdocs/pubs/ or
from Valerie Berton, SARE Communications Specialist, (301) 405-3186.
December 31 is the deadline for applications for the Sustainable
Agriculture Delegation to Cuba, February 20-29, 2000; for application, call
Institute for Food and Development Policy, 398 60th St., Oakland, CA 94608;
(510) 654-4400; or download it from the Internet at
January 12-15, 2000, National No-Till Conference will be held in Des
Moines, IA; contact No-Till Farmer, P.O. Box 624, Brookfield, WI 53008;
January 14-16, 2000, 3-Day Advanced Organic Vegetable Farming Workshop
will be held in Saratoga Springs, NY; contact Regional Farm & Food Project,
148 Central Ave., 2nd Floor, Albany, NY 12206; (518) 427-6537.
January 19-22, 2000, "Growing Roles for the New Millennium" will be held
in Portland, OR; contact National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants,
1055 Petersburg Cove, Collierville, TN 38017; (901) 861-0511;
January 20-22, 2000, Southern SARE Professional Development Program's
Annual Workshop will be held on Jekyll Island, GA; contact Roseanne
Minarovic, (919) 515-3252; firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 21-23, 2000, 9th Annual Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working
Group Conference and Trade Show will be held on Jekyll Island, GA; contact
Jean Mills, Southern SAWG, 14430 Jackson Trace Rd., Coker, AL 35452.
January 22, 2000, "Charting Our Course," the Maryland Tributary Team
Annual Meeting, will be held in Baltimore, MD; contact registration at
(410) 260-8708, email@example.com/md.us; on the Internet,
January 22, February 26, March 18, and April 29, 2000, "Branding Your
Beliefs," a four- part course, will be held in Albany/Cobleskill, NY;
contact Ariel McCarthy, Regional Farm & Food Project, (518) 427-6537;
January 31, 2000, Farmers' Market Federation of New York will hold a
training seminar in Rochester, NY; contact Dianne Eggert, Farmers' Market
Federation, (315) 656-9977.
January 31-February 2, 2000, "Marketing in the New Millennium," the New
York State Farmers' Direct Marketing Conference, will be held in Rochester,
NY; contact Dianne Eggert, N.Y. State Farmers' Direct Marketing
Association, (315) 656-9977.
February 11, 2000, "Livestock Conference 2000--A New Era," sponsored by
the Western Prairie Resource Conservation and Development Area, will be
held in Colby, KS; contact C. Duane Cheney, Western Prairie RC&D, (785)
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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