Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

USDA Sued Over Deregulation of GMO Alfalfa - and Backyard Gardening Tips

 Dear Folks,

This blog is about the lawsuit over the deregulation of GMO alfalfa , demanding choices from the USDA and FDA, and also about getting you more serious about gardening at home.

. . .

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A lawsuit filed in California is challenging the federal government's deregulation of alfalfa that is genetically altered to withstand the popular weed killer Roundup.

Attorneys for the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice filed the federal lawsuit Friday in San Francisco arguing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa in January was unlawful.

Attorneys for the groups say the USDA failed to provide adequate oversight of biotech alfalfa. They also say genetically altered alfalfa causes significant harm to the environment and conventional crops, and threatens the nation's organic industry.

A federal court barred the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban last year.

USDA officials say they are reviewing the lawsuit.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Read more about the lawsuit and the issues surrounding it at the two links below.

Contamination Certain from Unregulation

While the lawsuit proceeds, folks, it is important that we all make our voices heard both with our representatives and also with our chosen food supplies.  That at the very least we want labeling to know when the foods we purchase contain GMO components.

Go to my previous posts on the USDA's decision to de-regulate GMO alfalfa without safeguarding organic and natural famers fields.


USDA approves contamination of organic foods?

To summarize -- USDA and FDA requirements for organic certification is tough and complex and requires the producer to guarantee there are no GMO products in their fields or farm production.  With the USDA's decision to deregulate GMO alfalfa WITHOUT safeguards many organic food producers will be put out of business because THEY will not be able to guarantee freedom from GMO contamination.  The perfect "gotcha" from the USDA and FDA.  In conjunction with the refusal of the FDA to require labeling of GMO foods, the consumer loses all the way around.  No freedom of choice.

Read up on the First Lady's decision to grow an Organic garden on the lawn of the White House -- the information in this Wikipedia article indicates how Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack embraced the idea (he is now saying the USDA "can" regulate the contamination of GMO-Alfalfa).

"The day Michelle Obama broke ground on the new White House vegetable garden, a letter arrived for her from MACA, Mid-America Croplife Association, urging the Obamas to consider the need for traditional agriculture in America.[14] MACA went on to urge the use pesticides in their garden, to and increase crop yield so they could feed more people. "

White House Vegetable Garden

To help you get in touch with people, I have put a mailing list at the bottom of this blog for your convenience.  Writing is more time consuming but more effective - with the internet techno stuff, many political people do not pay any attention to emails or computer generated post cards.

. . .

Your Urban Edible Garden

The problem with statements like - "you can't feed ... with home or organic produce", is just not a fair depiction of home or local gardening.  Could you feed your family of say 4 from a backyard garden?

Personally I resent folks like Jeff Stier and Tom Vilsack, "telling" me I can't have a choice by making home gardening, organic or natural gardening, sound out of the capacity and range of the average American. T'ain't so!

About.Com has a nice article on doing some planning for growing some or all of the produce you eat in your backyard.  Make sure you consider how to 'put by' some of the harvest for off-season use.  In the past I've dried herbs, made them into flavored vinegars and teas, and canned peaches, apricots and apples.  I've also put together fruit pie 'kits' in the freezer for enjoyment in the winter.  When I had my goats and hens I drank the milk, made yogurt and ate the eggs.

If you have a lawn, then the water used to water that lawn could be used to grow edibles.  A few dollars of seed, some elbow grease and family involvement can give you a productive garden.  AND here in the desert if you pay attention to the basic rules for success in the desert I'm always writing about, you can be harvesting  year-round seasonal bounty.

Don't forget the three sisters/companion planting of corn, beans and squash to maximize protein along with vitamins, minerals and fiber.


How about adding hens for egg production to your backyard garden?  The term "chicken feed" probably does not apply anymore because the cost has gone up substantially.  However since you would not be housing your hens in a cage with only what you choose to feed them off the shelf, they can do triple duty for you which goes beyond the basic cost of feed. (And of course like preparing the garden, you have to prepare their quarters for their health and production.)

Chickens will eat many garden weeds, they will help you clean up the end of season garden mess (there are some plants they should not eat because they could be toxic), and they will keep garden bugs under control.  And they can be fun and amusing.

You have options in choosing whether to feed your hens organic feed (preferrable) or non-organic.  If you are currently purchasing organic eggs from local farmers markets or suppliers, you "may" save some money over what you pay directly, and you have the hens for their other qualities.

If you buy non-organic eggs and decide to raise hens on non-organic feed you may also save a little money.  If you want to continue the idea of Non-GMO support then you need to go organic, because like or not you have to presume all non-organic feed may be GMO.

Current prices for Organic Laying Feed for hens is around $29 (including tax) for a 40 or 50 # bag and winds up costing you about $1.16 a week to feed each hen her primary feed (there are other minor expenses AFTER you set up their quarters).  Non-Organic feed will cost you about half that.  6 month old to 18 month old hens will give you 5-7 eggs a week, and then start to taper off as they get older.

For a preferred list of supplies go to the Valley Permaculture Alliance  keeping chickens page.

I got prices from two organic suppliers:

Noble Beast in Scottsdale


Anita's Organic Feed - Prescott
Anita's is about 25% more expensive than Valley prices, but convenient for Prescott (Skull Valley) area residents.

You can consider raising your own meat animals - that is a choice which needs to be carefully considered with all family members, so do some research if this is something you want to consider.  Rabbits and chickens are options - not mine personally, but many folks want more control over everything they consume.

Check out the Valley Permaculture Alliance for a really helpful group of nice folks.  They are all about urban sustainability and permaculture to enhance your lifestyle. I am a member of their soil builders and micro-livestock groups.

. . .

Write The People Who Have a Say in Your Food Choices:

The Honorable John McCain
United States Senate
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0303

The Honorable Jon Kyl
United States Senate
730 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0304

The Honorable Paul A. Gosar
United States House of Representatives
504 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0301

The Honorable Trent Franks
United States House of Representatives
2435 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0302

The Honorable Benjamin (Ben) Quayle
United States House of Representatives
1419 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0303

The Honorable Ed Pastor
United States House of Representatives
2465 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0304

The Honorable David Schweikert
United States House of Representatives
1205 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0305

The Honorable Jeff Flake
United States House of Representatives
240 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0306

The Honorable Raul M. Grijalva
United States House of Representatives
1511 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0307

The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords
United States House of Representatives
1030 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0308
NOTE: While Representative Giffords is healing (for which we are all grateful) her staff keeps up with everything and therefore you can write and voice your opinion.)

For All Other States Go To:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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