News bites, May 2004
This article was originally published in May 2004
USDA says no to BSE tests
A Kansas beef company says it will challenge the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision not to allow voluntary tests of all the cattle it processes for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.
Creekstone says it’s committed to BSE testing at its plant to reverse embargoes and get its beef back into Japan and other export destinations. The company is considering options to challenge the USDA’s authority and has not ruled out legal action. (Newswires/Wall Street Journal)
Chemical-free salmon buffers
In Washington state, a federal judge has banned the use of pesticides near rivers and streams that support Northwest salmon. Retail stores in urban areas of Washington, Oregon and California also are required now to post warnings about the most common and dangerous pesticides.
The ruling follows research that shows even low levels of pesticides harm salmon runs. (Washington Toxics Coalition/ Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Plants communicate to fight pests
Corn plants under attack from insect pests use chemical signals to interact with beneficial insects, and to stimulate early defense responses in nearby plants. The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and university scientists published the findings, the first proof of plant-to-plant warning signals in corn plants.
The warning signals are chemical compounds called green leafy volatiles (GLV). After coming under attack from pests, corn plants send these volatiles into the air. The volatiles smell like cut grass and attract caterpillar predators and parasitoids. (www.ars.usda.gov)
Make meat recalls public
Two California lawmakers, fed up with the secrecy surrounding recalls related to mad cow disease, are pushing a bill to make public the details of future beef or poultry recalls. The bill would require California businesses that sell or handle recalled meat to notify state and local health officials, who in turn would notify the public.
The USDA says that maintaining a company’s privacy is vital to gaining cooperation of restaurants and grocery stores affected by meat recalls, which are voluntary under federal law. (Agribusiness Examiner)
Wal-Mart burdens taxpayers
Wal-Mart is costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, says a report by the California’s Education and Workforce Committee. The company’s poor pay and benefits are forcing workers to rely on the U.S. government to help them meet expenses for housing, medical, childcare and energy.
The report says taxpayers pick up $420,750 per year for each Wal-Mart store employing 200 people. The costs include $36,000 for free and reduced lunches; $42,000 for Section 8 housing assistance; $125,000 for federal tax credits and deductions; $100,000 for additional Title I education funds; $108,000 for children’s health insurance costs; and $9,750 to subsidize energy assistance for low-income families.
However, of the ten richest people on Earth, five are Waltons, the heirs and trustees of Wal-Mart. (Agribusiness Examiner)