Speaking with Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen recently, just a few days before he was to appear in court, I was struck by how much this likable gentleman–proprietor, with wife Megan, of Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, sounded more like an ambitious and idealistic community organizer, aiming to grow a fair and democratic agricultural system, than a man who’s spent the last few decades building a reputation for productive, delectable spuds. He’s begun to find a receptive audience. Last autumn the Utne Reader–long considered the Reader’s Digest of the alternative press–called him “one of 25 visionaries changing the world.”

A grower of All Blue, Butte, Caribe, Russian Banana and a host of other organic and heirloom seed potatoes, Gerritsen is also president of the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA), lead plaintiff among 83 North American family farmers, seed businesses, and organic agriculture organizations in a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, that’s just recently seen its first day in federal court. Read more

A growing weight of research links routine antibiotic use on factory farms to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria–which are showing up in more and more places worldwide (including, according to recent studies, in your local supermarket). Doctor groups, from the American Medical Association to the American Society of Microbiology, have appealed to the government and industry to restrict the practice, lest critical antibiotics become useless for human treatments.

Over the past couple of years, the FDA changed its tune and has finally begun to respond to the threat. Top officials at the FDA have testified of the dangers to Congress. The agency itself is developing “voluntary guidance” that would restrict the practice–which currently sees 80 percent of all antibiotics used in this country given to food animals.

Sadly, though, the FDA is still whistling when it should be belting its song to the rafters. In fact, the meat industry has successfully resisted, and in the case of the antibiotic Cephalosporin, turned back via “midnight regulations” by outgoing Bush administration FDA officials, specific measures meant to address this threat to public health.

As a result, a coalition of environmental groups including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has decided to sue. Read more

Today, attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), arguing that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of genetically engineered (GE), “Roundup Ready” Alfalfa was unlawful.  The GE crop is engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup.  USDA data show that 93 percent of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides.  With the full deregulation of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year. Read more