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Organic news archive: October 2004

Typical primary school dinners served in schools in England and Wales contain significantly higher levels of fat, sugar and salt than recommended by nutritionists, while still meeting the Government's standards for school meals, according to research commissioned by the Soil Association. The organisation understands that this is the first time that such an analysis of school meals has been undertaken. The detailed nutritional analysis is of five meals typically served in primary schools over a week, such as cheese fritters, roast potatoes, peas and flapjack. The analysis showed that children eating the meals for five days would consume 40% more sodium (salt), 28% more saturated fat and 20% more sugar than is recommended by nutritionists. Children would also only receive 80% of the amount of iron needed and 70% of the recommended level of zinc. (Guardian, Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Sun - 28/10/04)

Monsanto has won European Union approval for NK603, one of its GM corn varieties, to be used in foods, as the EU seeks to expand the biotech market after a six-year moratorium and ease a transatlantic trade dispute. The authorisation follows EU approval in July of the same corn for animal feed. (The Times 27/10/04)

The Democrats' US presidential candidate, John Kerry, is a firm supporter of GM. He says, "I will push for the acceptance of safe agricultural products in the US and around the world. The Europeans and other countries should not use this as a pretext to unfairly close their markets to US exports." (The Guardian 27/10/04)

Tesco - Britain's biggest supermarket group - is to offer its suppliers an opportunity to register any protests anonymously, it was revealed at a recent convention. Tesco's chief, Sir Terry Leahy, announced the introduction of a new system for suppliers to tell Tesco: "what you really think about your job, our company, how you are treated, how people behave and how you feel about our ethics and values". (25/10/04)

Friends of the Earth claim that GM foods are not being properly labelled. They say local authorities do not have enough money to carry out sufficient monitoring. (25/10/04)

Officials from Moy Park Ltd are investigating the source of the nitrofuran which contaminated organic chicken in Northern Ireland. "It could be some incursion from outdoors," spokesman Gareth Jones told the Associated Press. "We're looking at soil, the grass, chemicals used to clean the houses- whatever." (www.meatingplace.com)

National Farmers' Union president Tim Bennett has accused supermarkets of having a "promiscuous approach" to food buying and warned them supplies of British produce will dry up unless things change. He told an Institute of Grocery Distribution conference that farming was going through a revolution that seemed to have escaped the notice of many people.

Farmers who claim to have suffered ill-health after exposure to organophosphate-based chemicals have had their arguments bolstered by the findings of a leaked report. The report, by a federal panel of medical experts in the USA, is based on new research. It points to a probable link between OP-based chemicals and health defects suffered by soldiers who fought in the 1991 Gulf War. That finding contradicts all previous research which blamed the symptoms of pain, fatigue and memory loss on stress.

The Food Standards Agency is advising people not to eat certain batches of organic chicken found to contain traces of a nitrofuran, a banned veterinary medicine. The meat is certified by Organic Farmers & Growers. The affected products comprise whole birds and chicken pieces, which are sold under the brand names Moy Park, Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons. Up to 23 tonnes of affected chicken has been distributed across the UK. All these chicken products are past their use by dates, so no-one should have any left in their fridge. They are no longer on sale in supermarkets. However, anyone who has frozen any of this chicken should not eat it. They should throw it away or return it to the retailer where they bought it for a refund. (Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Guardian - 21/10/04)

Farmers are facing a 58 per cent cut in their income this year and can expect future earnings to fluctuate drastically, accountants predicted yesterday. Net income from food production is expected to fall from £81 per acre last year to £34 per acre due largely to this year's poor harvest and low milk prices, according to analysis by Deloitte and Touche. (The Daily Telegraph, The Independent - 15/10/04)

A third of the world's amphibian species are in danger of extinction, according to the first global survey of the animals. Scientists think that the mysterious collapse in numbers might be a warning that our environment may be in a worse state than we think - amphibians are known to be the most sensitive of all animals to subtle changes in their ecosystems. (The Guardian - 15/10/04)

Chef Antony Worrall Thompson says, "The way we feed our school children is a national disgrace. I want to see a return to free school meals for all - as laid down in the 1944 Education Act - and the imposition of a fixed daily menu." (Daily Express)

"Ten per cent of Europe's Health costs are spent on tackling obesity." (Daily Mail)

Four protesters have won appeals against convictions for invading a field and damaging GM oilseed rape. Each had been fined £100 for the protest in 2001 at Tullich Farm, on the Black Isle, but the Crown conceded at the Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh that the appeals should be allowed. (The Scotsman - 8/10/04)

Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government in Italy was split last night on the issue of genetically modified crops, and farmers warned that delays in agreeing rules could lead to next year's Italian harvests being unintentionally "contaminated". The dispute has cut across traditional loyalties, pushing growers, environmentalists, leftwingers and nationalist-minded "post-fascists" into an unlikely alliance. Opinion among farmers and the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the introduction of GM seeds. But at the weekend Mr Berlusconi personally scotched an attempt by his agriculture minister to impose stringent restrictions on the cultivation of GM crops. Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party espouses the same free trade principles invoked by the US and Canada in support of genetically modified agriculture. But the prime minister's stance has also prompted criticism from within his own party. (The Guardian)

Organic farming increases biodiversity at every level of the food chain all the way from lowly bacteria to mammals. This is the conclusion of the largest review ever done of studies from around the world comparing organic and conventional agriculture. (New Scientist - 11/10/04)

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