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News Roundup – Catching Up on Food Chain Events

FILE -  In this Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 file photo, health workers slaughter all the chickens at the wholesale poultry market in Hong Kong after three dead chickens tested positive for bird flu. The U.S. government asked scientists Tuesday Dec. 20, 2011 not to reveal all the details of how to make a version of the deadly bird flu that they created in labs in the U.S. and Europe. The lab-bred virus, being kept under high security, appears to spread more easily among mammals. That's fueled worry that publishing a blueprint could aid terrorists in creating a biological weapon, the National Institutes of Health said. Bird flu, known formally as H5N1 avian influenza, occasionally infects people who have close contact with infected poultry, particularly in parts of Asia. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

May 28, 2015 │ Genetically Engineered Salmon

A draft environmental review of AquaBounty Technologies’ genetically engineered salmon reveals that Canadian authorities disagree with the U.S. FDA on key questions related to safety. If it moves forward, this would be the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption. In objection to the GE salmon, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans puts forth these findings. 1) The GE salmon is more susceptible to aeromonas salmonicida – a disease causing bacteria creating new unique health and environmental problems. 2) The GE salmon exhibits widely varied performance, suggesting that the growth-hormone gene construct inserted is unpredictable, raising questions about safety.

The contradictions found in the Canadian risk assessment follow a series of embarrassing missteps in the FDA’s ongoing regulatory review of GE salmon, including the FDA’s failure to document two major biosecurity lapses at AquaBounty, including a storm-related mechanical failure that involved “lost” salmon.

As of yet, the salmon has not been approved for commercial farming. The FDA has received almost 2 million public responses demanding no GE salmon.  Two of the largest U.S. grocers – Kroger and Safeway – have made commitments no to sell GMO salmon. (See uploaded video here)

May 29, 2015 │ USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farmers can enroll and additional 800,000 acres into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The program pays farmers not to farm certain acres and to engage in conservation practices that will transition those acres into wildlife habitat and wetlands. Interested parties should contact their local USDA service center. As of April, 2015, the USDA had CRP contracts with 365,997 farms covering 24.3 million acres.  The average rental payment on CRP acres taken out of active production is around $67 per acre.

FILE -  In this Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 file photo, health workers slaughter all the chickens at the wholesale poultry market in Hong Kong after three dead chickens tested positive for bird flu. The U.S. government asked scientists Tuesday Dec. 20, 2011 not to reveal all the details of how to make a version of the deadly bird flu that they created in labs in the U.S. and Europe. The lab-bred virus, being kept under high security, appears to spread more easily among mammals. That's fueled worry that publishing a blueprint could aid terrorists in creating a biological weapon, the National Institutes of Health said. Bird flu, known formally as H5N1 avian influenza, occasionally infects people who have close contact with infected poultry, particularly in parts of Asia. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

June 4, 2015 │Watt AgNet

Watt AgNet reports the latest on the avian influenza that is impacting U.S. poultry farmers and the availability of eggs. 1) The USDA announced that the efficacy of vaccines for the avian flu is not sufficient to approve a national vaccination program at this time. 2) Over 45 million birds have been affected by the avian flu (see photo). 3) The pork industry, estimating a loss of some 2.5 million turkeys to the flu, anticipated increased pork purchases. 4) Some restaurants are struggling with higher priced eggs by reducing hours that breakfast is served, biting the bullet and absorbing the increase or raising the price.

June 1, 2015 │European Union

The European Union announced today that it was committing $30 billion USD to support farmers in the EU countries for the coming year. This being the largest portion of the EU budget, the spending is designed to keep farmers solvent and on the land. A large part of the monies are used to incent the use of sustainable farming practices. Farmers who do not practice the sustainable benchmarks prescribed do not receive the support payments.

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June 4, 2015 │ Paris, France

Ranked among the top 200 European companies, Bollore with 33,000 employees is a major player in the palm oil industry (see Touch the Soil News: A Food Goliath Run Amok). Bollore operates palm plantations in Cambodia, Liberia, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast. This week, activists demonstated at Bollore’s headquarters on the outskirts of Paris demanding the return of land filched from local peasants for palm oil plantations. While the company says they will make amends, nothing has been forthcoming.

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