January 7, 2007

1/7/07 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Help For Our Movie Sought From Food Companies, Celebrities, etc./Suggestions Very Welcome/Thanks

2. Challenging the Jewish Community Re Global Warming/NY Times Editorial/My Letters/More

3. Is Upton Sinclair’s Book “The Jungle Still Valid Today?

4. Jewish Press Article on Conservative Initiative On Working Conditions in Slaughterhouses/My Letter

5. Reacting To the Recent Announcement About Eating Cloned-Meat Not Being Dangerous

6. Will 2007 Be the Warmest Year in Recorded History?

7. How Dietary Changes Can Lead to a Healthier Planet

8. What Is The Real Source of Recent E-Coli Poisoning?

9. Will There Be Competition Between Corn For Food and Corn For Ethanol?

10. Model Meeting For Groups Concerned About Sustainability

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Help For Our Movie Sought From Food Companies, Celebrities, etc./Suggestions Very Welcome/Thanks

I am considering contacting companies that produce kosher vegetarian foods and also celebrities to see if we can get some financial help for our movie, tentatively titled: “A Sacred Truth: Applying Jewish Values To Heal the World.” As the next item indicates, humanity is threatened as perhaps never before and it is increasingly urgent that we get our message out and our movie will be a very effective way to do that. Suggestions very welcome. Many thanks.

Also, we are still seeking background stock footage to enliven our many excellent interviews. Suggestions also welcome re this.

And, once again, donations are badly needed and would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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2. Challenging the Jewish Community Re Global Warming/NY Times Editorial/My Letters/More

As indicated in my sample letter below and material in previous JVNA newsletters, there are increasing indications of global warming and its effects. Unfortunately, with some notable exceptions, including important campaigns by COEJL and Canfei Nesharim, the Jewish community is generally not giving sufficient attention to the threats. Hence, I think that it is very important that we try to get the issue onto the Jewish agenda, and that we point out the strong dietary connections. I am working with Dan Brook on a major article on this issue and hope to share it with you soon.

My sample letter is below. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements. Also, please use my letter and material previously sent to you as the basis of your own letters and talking points. The planet that you would be helping to save is the only one that we have!
Dear Editor:

Global climate change is arguably the greatest current threat to humanity and one of today’s greatest moral issues, Hence, it is essential that the Jewish community play an active role in responding, based on our obligation to protect human life and the environment.

Almost daily, there are new reports about record heat waves, widespread forest fires, an increase in the number and severity of storms, severe droughts, the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps and other indications of global climate change. Three reports in late December 2006 dramatized that global warming is occurring and that it is happening far faster than climate scientists once expected: (1) an inhabited Indian island was completely evacuated because it had been inundated by rising sea waters, leaving 10,000 people homeless; (2) a giant ice island (120 feet thick and 2,500 square miles in area) broke free from a Canadian Arctic ice shelf; (3) the Bush Administration, which has been resistant to reacting to global warming, announced that polar bears are in jeopardy, mainly due to thinning ice, and moved to put them on the threatened list and to take steps to protect them.

Some renowned climate scientists, such as James Hansen of NASA, are warning that global climate change may reach a 'tipping point' and spiral out of control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, if current conditions continue. No wonder that Time magazine announced its April 2006 special report on global warming with “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.”

While generally overlooked, an important approach to reversing global warming is a shift toward plant-based diets. A November 29, 2006 390-page report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” points out that animal-based agriculture causes about 18 percent of greenhouse emissions, an amount greater than that caused by all vehicles. In addition to helping to move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path, such a shift would reduce the epidemic of diseases afflicting the Jewish community, diminish the widespread mistreatment of billions of farmed animals and show the relevance of Judaism’s eternal values to current threats.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz
NY Times editorial/followed by my letter to the editor

The Senate’s Task on Warming
Published: January 6, 2007

Here are a few bulletins from planet Earth:

Dec. 12 — Exhaustive computer simulations carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., suggest that the Arctic Ocean will be mostly open water in the summer of 2040 — several decades earlier than expected. Scientists attribute the loss of summer ice largely to the buildup of carbon dioxide and other man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Dec. 14 — Experts at NASA’s Goddard Institute predict that 2006 will be the fifth-warmest year since modern record-keeping began, continuing a decades-long global warming trend caused, again, by the buildup of man-made carbon dioxide.

Dec. 27 — The Interior Department proposes adding polar bears to the list of threatened species because of the accelerating loss of the Arctic ice that is the bears’ habitat. The department does not take a position on why the ice is melting, but studies supporting the proposed listing identify greenhouse gases as the main culprit, adding that if left unchecked these gases will create ice-free Arctic summers in three decades.

But we knew that.

One can only assume that the Senate’s new Democratic leadership is paying attention. California’s Barbara Boxer is the new chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, replacing James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who regards global warming as an elaborate hoax drummed up by environmentalists and scientists in search of money. Ms. Boxer has already scheduled hearings, and there will be no shortage of legislative remedies to consider. All share one objective, which is to attach a cost to carbon dioxide through a cap on emissions.

The underlying logic is that if people and industries are made to pay for the privilege of pumping these gases into the atmosphere, they will inevitably be driven to developer cleaner fuels, cleaner cars and cleaner factories.

This is the path most developed countries have chosen. Europe has imposed caps on industrial emissions, and European companies have begun investing in new technologies and cleaner factories in places like China, partly as a way to meet their own obligations to cut emissions and partly as a way to lead China to a greener future.

These hearings need to be conducted in a thoughtful manner. There has been enough noise, from the Inhofe right and from the doomsayers who see each hurricane as a sign the apocalypse is upon us. But it is also important that Ms. Boxer and her colleagues not lose sight of a fundamental reality: Saturating the atmosphere with greenhouse gases is loading the dice in a dangerous game

January 6, 2006

Editor, NY times

Deer editor,

Your January 6 editorial, "The Senate's Task on Warming," is right on target in stressing that, in view of the many recent reports on global arming, the senate should take bold action in combating this great threat. However, I wonder why you seem to be ignoring the implications of your December 27, 2006 editorial, "Meat and the Planet," which discussed the November 29. 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report that indicated that livestock agriculture produces more greenhouse emissions than transportation. With the fate of humanity at stake, can we afford to continue to raise and slaughter over 50 billion farmed animals worldwide annually? To move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path, it is essential that there be a major shift toward plant-based diets.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz

Petition drive re global warming

Thanks to JVNA advisor Rina Deych for forwarding this message:

You've probably heard the news reports - the northeast has been pummeled with rain. Fierce thunder and rain storms have inundated low-lying areas, flooding basements, causing evacuations, and bringing down trees and power lines. Unless we take action, this is what global warming will bring us. Please sign Friends of the Earth's petition.

While no particular storm system can't be attributed to global warming, we know that global warming is causing more killer storms. We can expect more of the same if we don't dramatically cut our emissions of global warming pollutants. Please commit to joining our global warming strike force and ask your friends to join too.

What is the global warming strike force? The first step is to sign the petition - demanding action from our leaders. Over the coming months, we will keep you informed of the progress of Friends of the Earth's global warming campaign. And, from time to time, we will ask you to take action to support efforts to stop global warming.

We need your help. Please sign the petition.

Spread the word to your friends

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3. Is Upton Sinclair’s Book “The Jungle Still Valid Today?

100 Years Later, the Food Industry Is Still 'The Jungle'
New York Times
Published: January 2, 2007

Nothing in “The Jungle” sticks with the reader quite like what went into the sausages. There was the rotting ham that could no longer be sold as ham. There were the rat droppings, rat poison and whole poisoned rats. Most chilling, there were the unnamed things “in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit.”

Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle” as a labor exposé. He hoped that the book, which was billed as “the ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ of wage slavery,” would lead to improvements for the people to whom he dedicated it, “the workingmen of America.” But readers of “The Jungle” were less appalled by Sinclair’s accounts of horrific working conditions than by what they learned about their food. “I aimed at the public’s heart,” he famously declared, “and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

“The Jungle,” and the campaign that Sinclair waged after its publication, led directly to passage of a landmark federal food safety law, which took effect 100 years ago this week. Sinclair awakened a nation not just to the dangers in the food supply, but to the central role government has to play in keeping it safe. But as the poisonings of spinach eaters and Taco Bell customers recently made clear, the battle is far from over — and in recent years, we have been moving in the wrong direction.

When “The Jungle” was published, the public reaction was instantaneous. Outraged readers deluged President Theodore Roosevelt with letters. Roosevelt was ambivalent, but he invited Sinclair to the White House for lunch, and promised to send his labor commissioner and assistant Treasury secretary to Chicago to investigate.

Sinclair settled into a New York City hotel and started a publicity campaign. He wrote articles with titles like “Campaign Against the Wholesale Poisoners of the Nation’s Food,” and released more stomach-churning details. Armour made its potted hams, he charged, by taking nubs of smoked beef, “moldy and full of maggots,” and grinding them with ham trimmings. In a newspaper letter to the editor, he dared J. Ogden Armour, the meatpacking magnate, to sue for libel.

Sinclair suspected Roosevelt’s team would do a whitewash. But its report strongly reinforced the allegations of “The Jungle.” It included an array of Sinclarian images, like workers using privies without soap or toilet paper and returning “directly from these places to plunge their unwashed hands into the meat.” Popular outrage continued to grow, and the momentum for reform became unstoppable.

As a result of Sinclair’s crusade, Congress passed the Food and Drug Act, which had been effectively blocked by industry. At the start of 1907, it became a federal crime to sell adulterated food or drugs, and the new law set up a system of federal inspections. Food had to be labeled, and it was illegal to misstate the contents. Future laws would expand on this newly declared government responsibility to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply.

In recent years, the momentum has shifted. Since the Reagan era, conservatives have tried to turn “government regulation” into an epithet. Books like “The Death of Common Sense,” a 1990’s best-seller, have twisted the facts to argue that laws like a New York ordinance requiring restaurants to clean dishes in a way that kills salmonella are somehow an infringement on liberty.

Food safety has been particularly hard-hit by this anti-regulatory climate. Harmful bacteria are rampant in meatpacking plants and in produce fields, but government oversight is eroding. The Bush administration has slashed the number of Food and Drug Administration inspectors, and it has installed a former lobbyist for the cattle industry as the Agriculture Department’s chief of staff.

But this is an unusually promising moment for food safety. Wide media attention was given to last fall’s spinach contamination, which killed three and injured more than 200 in 26 states, and to the Taco Bell food poisonings, which made dozens of people ill. And Democrats have recaptured Congress, which should hold hearings to get to the bottom of those recent food disasters and to explore what the next ones are likely to be. It should push for larger budgets for food inspections and, as one Democratic-sponsored bill calls for, create a single federal agency with responsibility for food safety.

The powerful meat and produce industries can be counted on to call on their allies in Congress and the White House for help in resisting. That would come as no surprise to Sinclair, who was already complaining loudly in 1906 that Armour & Co. had contributed $50,000 to the Republican Party, and that the meatpackers had hired a prominent government official “as confidential adviser as to federal inspection problems.”

The answer, Sinclair believed, was always the same: providing the American people with the gritty truth that they needed to protect themselves. “The source and fountain-head of genuine reform in this matter,” Sinclair insisted, “is an enlightened public opinion.”

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4. Jewish Press Article on Conservative Initiative On Working Conditions in Slaughterhouses/My Letter

Kashrus Officials Wary Of New Kashrus Definitions
Friday, January 5, 2007 issue

Officials of kashrus agencies are applauding efforts by the Conservative and Reform movements to involve their flock in observing kashrus, but they are wary of attempts to broaden its definition.

Evidence continues to mount that more Conservative Jews are buying kosher products, but experts say that the numbers are still comparatively small. The Reform movement too has in recent years established a task force on kashrus, but it has yet to define its interpretation. At times the movement seemed to be espousing traditional kashrus, but at other times it has included vegetarianism and even eco-kashrut, the newest term used by both the Conservatives and Reform.

In a recent development, a joint commission of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly is working to create a tzedek hechsher, a certification for food produced in a socially just way, particularly with regard to safe, fair working conditions. The label would be used in addition to traditional kosher certification.

The Conservatives say that the new label isn’t intended to replace existing kosher certification, which is under Orthodox supervision, but constitutes a broader definition of kosher food that incorporates ideas of social justice from the Torah and Talmud.

Kashrus officials reached by Kosher Today weren’t exactly sure how to react to the new eco-kashrut designation, but most did say that the Torah already covered the social justice issues that eco-kashrut is supposed to cover and that kashrus means the laws of kosher, period. Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of kashrus for the Orthodox Union, said that concern for workers’ rights and animal welfare “are worthy goals,” but rejected trying to create certification for such things within the context of kosher food production.

My letter in response/suggestions welcome, as always:

Dear Editor:

Re your January 5 article, “Kashrus Officials Wary Of New Kashrus Definitions,” I am glad that various social justice conditions are increasingly being considered with regard to the production of meat. As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I hope that kashrus officials will consider the following respectful question: In view of Judaism’s powerful teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people and the negative effects that the production and consumption have in each of these areas, shouldn’t Jews seriously consider shifting toward plant-based diets?

I think that the Jewish Press would be doing a public service and a kiddush Hashem by having a respectful dialogue/debate on these issues in your paper. It could greatly improve the health of many Jews, show the relevance of our eternal teachings to current issues, and help move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz

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5. Reacting To the Recent Announcement About Eating Cloned-Meat Not Being Dangerous

[EXCERPT: It makes sense only to the corporate forces behind the food system that they should be able to make money and create efficiencies by replacing any form of natural reproduction with $15,000-a-shot cloning attempts. ... If the administration sticks to its plans, consumers will face new dilemmas about their food system, their government's inaction and their own eating choices.]

Living Food: Reckless cloning
Sunday, December 31, 2006

As discomforting as most Americans find the idea, the Food and Drug Administration's tentative approval for allowing the sale of cloned meat and milk makes a certain kind of sense. The plan is a logical extension of an industrialized food system that treats plants, animals and nature with an often-reckless disregard.

For animals, it's a system of routine cruelties: docking pigs' tails, clipping chickens' beaks and taking cattle off grazing land to live their lives standing in manure in so-called confined animal feeding operations. It makes sense only to the corporate forces behind the food system that they should be able to make money and create efficiencies by replacing any form of natural reproduction with $15,000-a-shot cloning attempts.

We'd like to think Americans will reject having their country become the first to allow cloned products. A poll for the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found 64 percent of consumers uncomfortable with animal cloning. There already is talk of companies marketing "clone-free" meat. But we already put up with so much that is deeply unnatural in our food system that the Bush administration's bet on shoving cloned foods on the public may be well calculated In one of 2006's most brilliant books, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," Michael Pollan traced the industrialization of the food system in ways that shock even readers with fairly sophisticated
consumer-level knowledge of health and nutrition. Life on a farm, except in the most consciously nature-oriented operations, is nothing like in
storybooks. Single-crop fields stretch across the heartland. E.coli outbreaks spring from raising beef in the stinking cities of confined animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs. Pigs' tails must be docked (with pliers, no anesthetic) because the intelligent animals, prematurely weaned at 10 days rather than the normal 13 weeks to be placed in confinement, try to exercise their instincts by sucking and chewing on one another's tails.

"A normal pig would fight off his molester, but a demoralized pig has stopped caring," Pollan writes. " 'Learned helplessness' is th psychological term and it's not uncommon in the CAFOs, where tens of thousands of hogs spend their entire lives ignorant of earth or straw or
sunshine, crowded together beneath a metal roof standing on metal slats suspended over a septic tank."


In saying that it is safe for this country to become the first to allow cloned products, FDA scientists speak of cloned livestock as "virtually indistinguishable" from other animals. If the administration sticks to its plans, consumers will face new dilemmas about their food system, their government's inaction and their own eating choices.

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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6. Will 2007 Be the Warmest Year in Recorded History?

Forwarded message:

2007 to be 'warmest on record'
Last year was the warmest on record in the UK, Met Office figures show

The world is likely to experience the warmest year on record in 2007, the UK's Met Office says.

An extended warming period, resulting from an El Nino weather event in the Pacific Ocean, will probably push up global temperatures, experts forecast.

They say there is a 60% chance that the average surface temperature will match or exceed the current record from 1998.

The scientists also revealed that 2006 saw the highest average temperature in the UK since records began in 1914.

The global surface temperature is projected to be 0.54C (0.97F) above the long-term average of 14C (57F), beating the current record of 0.52C (0.94F), which was set in 1998.

How global temperatures have changed

The annual projection was compiled by the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre, in conjunction with the University of East Anglia.

El Nino effect

Chris Folland, head of the Hadley Centre's climate variability research, said the forecast was primarily based on two factors.

The first was greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, he said.

"This is a statistical method; it is a number that represents the heating of the atmosphere.

"Greenhouse gases cause heating, while aerosols cause cooling," Professor Folland told BBC News.

"The other factor which allows us to make a forecast that whether one year is significantly different from the next is the effect of the El Nino."

Guide to El Nino and La Nina

El Nino events are marked by the arrival of unusually warm waters off the north-western coast of South America, and are described as the largest influence on the year-to-year variability of the Earth's climate.

This year's potential to be a record breaker is linked to a moderate strength El Nino already established in the Pacific Ocean.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that it was expected to continue into the first quarter of this year, which would have a knock-on effect.

"There is a big lag between the El Nino and the warming of global temperatures - it takes about four months or perhaps a bit longer," Professor Folland explained.

"We have two methods of forecasting the effect of the El Nino. One is a statistical method based on two patterns of sea surface temperatures in the El Nino region, and the other is a complex mathematical model."

He said that the forecast was then fine-tuned by looking back over data from the previous 50 years.

"We have actually run this forecast three times, updating it every month... and it is completely stable."


In December, the WMO released provisional data on the global average surface temperature for 2006. It estimated that last year was 0.42C (0.75F) above the 1961-1990 average, making it the sixth warmest on record.

However, the UK experienced the warmest year on record in 2006, according to Met Office figures released alongside the global forecast.

The meteorologists said the mean temperature for the year was 9.7C (49.5F), 1.1C (2F) above the long-term average, based on the period between 1971-2000.

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7. How Dietary Changes Can Lead to a Healthier Planet

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Dan Brook for forwarding the valuable article below:

Eating for Six Billion? Culinary Activism for a Healthier Planet
By Jason Schoen Friends of Animals
Act•ionLine, Winter 2006 - 2007

For most of us, it would be easiest to sit back and wait for the heads of government and industry to solve the problem of global warming. After all, making changes in our own lives would be inconvenient, the effects of global warming may not be obvious where we live, and, in any case, the impact one person can have on a worldwide problem seems minimal.

Taking responsibility for our own personal impact on the climate would, however, send a powerful message to our representatives that we as a society are not only ready for stronger greenhouse gas regulations but that we demand them.

So some people look to environmental organizations to find out what individuals should be doing to offset global warming. The standard set of recommendations includes using compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs, driving less, buying more efficient appliances or vehicles, and choosing renewable energy where possible. Of course, we should take such recommendations seriously. Nevertheless, such changes can be hard to quantify; and they may understate the magnitude of the problem global warming presents. That’s why a study conducted by University of Chicago professors Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin and published last year was especially important. The suggestion resulting from their study? Complete vegetarianism.

Eshel and Martin calculated the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from several different diets humans could adopt. They found that a completely vegetarian diet made by far the lowest contribution of these gases. Based on their analysis, Eshel and Martin found the difference between our population’s typical diet and committing to a complete vegetarian diet to be approximately the difference between driving a SUV or an average sedan. While these scientists are perhaps the first to make this striking claim, the work of other scientists too suggests that what we eat is having a significant impact on global warming.

A key study comes from James Hansen, a scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen explains the human factors in global warming in easy-to-understand terms: The gases that people have added to the atmosphere cause a heating of the Earth's surface as if two miniature 1-watt holiday bulbs had been placed over every square meter of our planet’s surface. This is equivalent to increasing the brightness of the sun by about 1 percent. If we carry on “business as usual,” Hansen has explained, greenhouse gases will increase at an accelerating rate through the 21st century.

Hansen’s “Global Warming in the 21 st Century: An Alternative Scenario” indicates the importance of focusing our attention on greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. Methane, notably, accounts for half of all other relevant emissions, and its largest source is animal agriculture. The scientific consensus judges the warming potential of methane at about 21 times the effect of carbon dioxide. Given these points, a key to transcending “business as usual” would mean opting out of animal agribusiness. And that is something we can all do right now. As individuals -- and as social beings who meet and have an impact on other people in our sphere -- we really do have the power to take meaningful responsibility.

At one time, the questions to ask regarding global warming were “Is it happening?” and then “Are humans contributing to it?” and finally “Do we have to worry about its effects?” A broad scientific consensus has formed behind the view that global warming is, in significant part, being caused by human decisions and activities. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if we continue with “business as usual” the projections for the future include a rate of warming which, by 2100, could eliminate a majority (about 60%) of species on the planet. Today, there’s only one appropriate question “What can we do to stop global warming?”

Deciding what to eat is something we do several times a day. It’s exciting to think that something so pleasurable is true activism.

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8. What Is The Real Source of Recent E-Coli Poisoning?

Thanks to Maida Genser and Pamela Rice for forwarding the following article:

Deadly Bacterium Linked to Livestock Infecting Vegetables
Washington Post, Dec. 11, 2006

E. coli O157:H7 has been a particular problem. Unlike the usually benign E. coli bacteria that live in warm-blooded animals and humans, the strain produces toxins that destroy the intestinal lining, leading to bloody diarrhea, kidney failure and, sometimes, death. It was first blamed for a food-borne-illness outbreak in the early 1980s, leading some microbiologists to suggest that it arose in industrial livestock, which are force-fed grain and pumped with antibiotics. ... The strain that caused September's spinach outbreak, which killed three and sickened about 200, has been found in cattle feces near a California spinach field and in wild pigs that roamed through it. ... The source of the Taco Bell outbreak has not been found, but the company suspects green onions -- also from California. Fresh tomatoes served in restaurants this fall, believed to have made nearly 200 people sick, carried another [meat-based] bacterium, salmonella.

Ancillary (A): Deadly E. Coli Outbreak Hits 20 States
Associated Press, Sept. 15, 2006

Produce California's spinach industry is now the financial victim of an outbreak it probably did not cause, and meanwhile, thousands of acres of other produce are still downstream from these lakes of E. coli-ridden cattle manure.

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9. Will There Be Competition Between Corn For Food and Corn For Ethanol?

Rise in Ethanol Raises Concerns About Corn as a Food
All 110 acres of corn harvested by Mid-Missouri Energy last fall from a farm in Saline County will be used for ethanol production.
Published: January 5, 2007

CHICAGO, Jan. 4 — Renewing concerns about whether there will be enough corn to support the demand for both fuel and food, a new study has found that ethanol plants could use as much as half of America’s corn crop next year.

Dozens of new ethanol plants are being built by farmers and investors in a furious gold rush, spurred by a call last year from the Bush administration and politicians from farm states to produce more renewable fuels to curb America’s reliance on oil. But the new study by the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental group, found that the number of ethanol plants coming on line has been underreported by more than 25 percent by both the Agriculture Department and the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry’s main lobbying group.

The Earth Policy Institute says that 79 ethanol plants are under construction, which would more than double ethanol production capacity to 11 billion gallons by 2008. Yet late last month, the Renewable Fuels Association said there were 62 plants under construction.

The lower tally has led to an underestimate of the grain that would be needed for ethanol, clouding the debate over the priorities of allocating corn for food and fuel, said Lester R. Brown, who has written more than a dozen books on environmental issues and is the president of the Earth Policy Institute. “This unprecedented diversion of corn to fuel production will affect food prices everywhere,” Mr. Brown said.

Bob Dinneen, the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the group had not intentionally tried to play down the number of plants under construction. “It has been a moving target,” Mr. Dinneen said in an interview on Thursday. “We are not trying to hide the ball. We are trying to keep up with a growing and dynamic industry as best we can.”

The Renewable Fuels Association has generally played down concerns in the food versus fuel debate over ethanol, saying that estimates showed there would be plenty of corn to meet the demand for both. “We can absolutely do that without having a deleterious impact on consumer food prices,” Mr. Dinneen said.

The National Corn Growers Association said Thursday that farmers were keeping up, noting that growers produced their third-largest crop in 2006 of 10.7 billion bushels. “All demands for corn — food, feed, fuel and exports — are being met,” Rick Tolman, chief executive of the corn growers, said in a statement. “Farmers have always responded to price signals from the marketplace and, historically, we have had much more challenge with overproduction than shortage.”

With spot prices of corn soaring to record highs of nearly $4 a bushel last month, farmers are expected to plant some 85 million acres of corn this year, an increase of 8 percent over 2006 and what would be the largest corn-seeding in the country since 1985, said Dan Basse, president of AgResource, an agricultural research company in Chicago.

Ethanol has raised the incomes of farmers and given new hope to flagging rural economies. But the reliance on corn to produce ethanol in the United States has drawn concerns from some economists, who question whether the drive to corn-based fuel will push up the prices of livestock and retail prices of meat, poultry and dairy products.

Mr. Brown is among those who believe the ethanol industry is growing too quickly. He called for a federal moratorium on the licensing of new distilleries. “We need a time out, a chance to catch our breath and decide how much corn can be used for ethanol without raising food prices,” he said Thursday.

Like many other experts, he advocates moving past corn-based ethanol into cellulosic ethanol, produced from plant waste and nonfood crops like switch grass.

For now, however, in the anticipation of high potential returns, ethanol plants that rely on corn are being built by everyone from farmers to Bill Gates of Microsoft to a mix of Wall Street investors. In addition to the 116 ethanol plants in production, and the 79 under construction, at least 200 more ethanol plants, with a capacity of 3 billion gallons a year, are in the planning stages.

In all, ethanol distilleries now running or in the works will pull an estimated 139 million tons of corn from the 2008 corn harvest, according to the Earth Policy Institute. That is about double the demand projected by the Agriculture Department and will require over half of the projected 2008 corn harvest of about 11 billion bushels.

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10. Model Meeting For Groups Concerned About Sustainability

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Dan Brook for forwarding the following article (I thought it might give others ideas for similar meetings):

Subject: CBI Sustainable Living Meeting: Thurs, Jan 18 in Sacramento

Happy New Year, all!

I wanted to let those of you who were not able to make our first meeting some of what we discussed and tell you about our next meeting. I hope you can join us Thursday, January 18 from 7 until 8:30 at _______ _______ .

The focus of our December meeting was brainstorming our priorities for 2007. We decided it would be best to choose one or two areas of focus under the broad umbrella of sustainable living and then choose 3 to 5 concrete activities for each. Following are the areas and possible activities that were discussed as well as the person(s) who will present at our January meeting the activities for each:

- Food - Susan Rosenberg and Stella Levy
* Local, organic food
* Edible landscapes
* Slow food Shabbat
* Eco kashrut
* Fair trade coffee & other products

- Waste Reduction - Eileen _______
* Recycling at temple
* Purchase of materials, supplies
* Composting

- Transportation - Alex ____________
* Coordinate ride-share for temple events
* Promote cycling, walking, public transit, carpooling, e.g. sponsor a "Walk, Bike, Bus or Carpool to Religious School Day"

- Preserving and Restoring the Natural Environment - Theo __________
* Plant trees on American River Parkway
* Continue to maintain a mile of the Parkway
* Sponsor hikes in combination with discussion of Jewish teachings about the environment

- Decreasing the use of nonrenewable energy sources - this is an overarching theme of many of the above areas or could be its own focus area. If you have specific activities for this or have other suggested areas or activities, please share them at our next meeting.

Overarching all of this are Jewish values and teachings about humans as the stewards of our planet. We plan to have a Sustainable Living column in the Koleinu each month educating members of specific sustainable living practices they can adopt.

Another important discussion we had at the December meeting was about a Sacramento ordinance which prohibits the planting of many edible plants in people's front yards. The Sacramento City Council will likely vote on amending this provision in January. Stella Levy has been actively monitoring the issue and will get us all information about this important, local issue so that we can get involved as individuals if we so choose.

Please let me know if you are able to attend January 18 meeting and thanks to you all for your interest.


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