The European Union (EU) has drastically changed its course for the future of biofuels. Until this week, the EU planned to be the world leader in using biofuels as an alternative to petroleum-based fuel, aiming for 10% of transportation fuels to be derived from biofuels by 2020.
Comprehensive information about what chemicals are sprayed on food crops just got much harder to come by. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that they will no longer conduct and publish annual national surveys of "which states apply the most pesticides and where bug and weed killers are most heavily sprayed to help cotton, grapes and oranges grow." The report is used extensively by farmers, environmental advocates, chemical companies and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Don Lipton, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau, said "farmers will be subjected to conjecture and allegations about their use of chemicals and fertilizer. Given the historic concern about chemical use by consumers, regulators, activist groups and farmers, it's probably not an area where lack of data is a good idea." One fear is that information will only be available after there's been a problem. Steve Scholl-Buckwald of the Pesticide Action Network explained, "What we'll end up doing is understanding pesticide use through getting accident reports. And that's a lousy way to protect public health."
The global increase in grain prices may make the meat supply less safe. The European Union is considering a relaxation of feed bans that prohibit animal by-products being used as feed for other animals in the human food chain.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been criticized for not totally banning "downer" cows -- animals "too sick or hurt to stand for slaughter" -- from the food supply. So "when a coalition of major industry groups reversed their position and joined animal advocates and several lawmakers in calling for an absolute ban," why wouldn't the USDA agree?
"A pair of agriculture groups has temporarily suspended about $1.5 million in grants to the University of Minnesota to protest a controversial study by U scientists earlier this month about biofuels and global warming," reports Tom Meersman.
A new "grassroots" farmers' group with close ties to Monsanto has been formed to outlaw labels that would notify consumers they are buying milk from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Monsanto genetically engineers rBGH, called Posilac, which is injected into cows, forcing them to produce more milk.
The case of Pierre Meneton is fueling demands for legal protections for whistleblowers in France. Meneton is a researcher for the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research. He is going to court on January 31, 2008, to face charges of defamation. Several industrial salt producers are suing Meneton for a comment he made during an interview in March 2006. "The lobbying of salt producers and agribusiness is very active.