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[genet-news] GMO-FREE PRODUCTS & SEEDS: U.S. Department of Agriculture says People’s Garden will promote organic standards

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Government Executive, USA

AUTHOR: Congress Daily, USA, by Jerry Hagstrom


DATE:   27.04.2009

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Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who wrote the organic standards act when she worked for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is beloved in organic circles as the government mother of organic agriculture. But the industrial agricultural establishment, which uses synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to produce most U.S. crops and foods and ships them around the world, is afraid she will use her power to favor organic and local production.

So when Merrigan made her first public appearance by opening the new People?s Garden at the side of USDA?s headquarters last Wednesday on Earth Day, all eyes and ears were upon her. The event itself was about as far from a field of genetically modified corn, soybeans or cotton as possible.

Walking through mud and planting boxes of organic vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs and pollinator friendly plants that had been put there the day before, Merrigan said the USDA People?s Garden is an appropriate use of what has been the lawn of the Whitten headquarters building because the entire Mall had once been a USDA research facility.

She introduced Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty, who performed a traditional ceremonial song and planted a ?Three Sisters Garden? composed of corn, beans and squash. When a reporter asked whether she was using the garden to promote organic over conventional agriculture, she avoided a direct answer, saying the garden would promote USDA?s organic standards, which most people do not understand. The garden will be USDA-organic certified after the three-year waiting period that USDA requires to ensure all fertilizer and pesticides are gone, Merrigan explained.

She also repeated Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack?s challenge to USDA facilities worldwide to create similar gardens and create healthier landscapes. When asked if the gardens at USDA facilities around the world have to be organic, Merrigan replied she understands that organic is not possible everywhere because she comes from New England, where it is hard to raise some crops organically. Gardening methods ?are not going to be dictated decisions from headquarters,? she said. That should come as a relief to USDA?s workers in Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Natural Resources and Conservation Service offices in nearly every county in the country, as well as Foreign Agricultural Service offices overseas. The workers will undoubtedly want their gardens to be blooming by whatever method when Vilsack and Merrigan visit and ask to see them.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   22.04.2009

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WASHINGTON, April 22, 2009 - In honor of Earth Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared the entire grounds at the USDA Jamie L. Whitten Building as ?The People?s Garden? and unveiled plans to create a sustainable landscape on the grounds.

?USDA is an every day every way kind of department and this garden will help illustrate the many ways USDA works to provide a sustainable, safe and nutritious food supply as well as protect and preserve the landscape where that food is produced,? said Vilsack. ?The garden will help explain to the public how small things they can do at home, at their business or on their farm or ranch, can promote sustainability, conserve the nation?s natural resources, and make America a leader in combating climate change.?

The People?s Garden is designed to provide a sampling of USDA?s efforts throughout the world as well as teach others how to nurture, maintain and protect a healthy landscape. If practiced, these garden concepts can be the general public?s, government?s, or business? contribution to providing healthy food, air, and water for people and communities.

In response to the overwhelming public support and hundreds of letters the ?People?s Garden? concept has received, Secretary Vilsack challenged USDA facilities around the world to plant their own ?People?s Gardens.?

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan officially kicked off the Earth Day event at the Whitten Building with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Brings Plenty who performed a traditional ceremonial song and planted seeds at the Three Sisters Garden to celebrate American Indians? contribution to American agriculture. Merrigan led volunteers and USDA staffers in planting vegetables, herbs and flowers to complete the first phase of The People?s Garden. Eventually, the garden will include organic raised vegetable beds, organic transition plots, an organic urban container garden, an organic kitchen pollinator garden, rain gardens and a bat house.

A Three Sisters Garden is a traditional garden consisting of corn, beans and squash that has been planted by American Indians for centuries. Stories of the Three Sisters refers to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that has provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of American Indians.

The People?s Garden is not confined to USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Secretary Vilsack has challenged all USDA facilities-across the country and around the world-to create similar gardens and create healthier landscapes.

The garden at the Whitten Building was first dedicated on Feb. 12, 2009, to commemorate the 200th birthday of President Lincoln. USDA is planning to have the garden fully certified organic within three years. USDA?s vegetable garden will provide a great variety and amount of organic produce, which will be donated to a local food bank.

To expand the People?s Garden, USDA partnered with 75 representatives from other federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental and non-profit organizations to redesign an innovative and sustainable landscape for USDA?s headquarters. This landscape will demonstrate environmentally responsible practices and will educates and engages the public through accessible exhibits.

Information about The People?s Garden Initiative is available at

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   12.02.2009

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Announces goal of creating community gardens at each USDA facility worldwide

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2009 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today ?broke pavement? on the inaugural USDA The People?s Garden during a ceremony on the grounds of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. The Secretary declared the stretch of pavement permanently closed and returned back to green, and encouraged other Administration officials and the general public to join in to protect the Chesapeake watershed.

?It is essential for the federal government to lead the way in enhancing and conserving our land and water resources,? said Vilsack. ?President Obama has expressed his commitment to responsible stewardship of our land, water and other natural resources, and one way of restoring the land to its natural condition is what we are doing here today - ?breaking pavement? for The People?s Garden.?

The dedication comes on the 200th anniversary of the birth of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln founded the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and referred to it as ?The People?s Department? in his last annual message to Congress.

The commemoration of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial is only the first step in the Department of Agriculture?s celebration of President Lincoln?s life. During today?s ceremony, Secretary Vilsack announced the goal of creating a community garden at each USDA facility worldwide. The USDA community garden project will include a wide variety of garden activities including Embassy window boxes, tree planting, and field office plots. The gardens will be designed to promote ?going green? concepts, including landscaping and building design to retain water and reduce runoff; roof gardens for energy efficiency; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices.

The USDA People?s Garden announced today will eliminate 1,250 square feet of unnecessary paved surface at the USDA headquarters and return the landscape to grass. The changes signal a removal of impervious surfaces and improvement in water management that is needed throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The new garden will add 612 square feet of planted space to an existing garden traditionally planted with ornamentals. The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. As a component of the garden, pollinator-friendly plantings will not only provide important habitat for bees and butterflies, but can serve as an educational opportunity to help people understand the vital role pollinators play in our food, forage and all agriculture. The garden plot is adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer?s Market.

About 100,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake?s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to almost 17 million people in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, New York and the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, with a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast. The Chesapeake Bay supports more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals.

USDA leads efforts on public and private lands to help reduce the impact of nutrient and sediment pollution on wildlife habitat, forest lands and water quality, as well as supporting community involvement in managing natural resources, urban green space and land stewardship. For more information about USDA, the People?s Garden, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and other conservation and agriculture related programs available in local communities, visit a USDA Service Center or go to the USDA Web page at

Complementary education materials such as the distance-learning project MonarchLIVE and partnerships with schools and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign which will extend the impact and reach of the USDA garden initiative are available at And backyard conservation and other materials also can be obtained by dialing 1-888-LANDCARE.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: The Times, UK

AUTHOR: Philippe Naughton


DATE:   22.04.2009

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America?s powerful agribusiness lobby has hit back at Michelle Obama?s decision to make her new White House kitchen garden entirely organic, urging her to consider the use of appropriate ?crop protection products?.

Wearing her finest Jimmy Choo boots, Mrs Obama broke the ground on her vegetable plot on the White House lawn last month, enlisting the help of local schoolchildren to help make a point about the need to tackle childhood obesity.

The kitchen garden is White House?s first since Eleanor Roosevelt ?dug for victory? in the Second World War, and pictures of the photogenic First Lady getting to work gained massive worldwide coverage.

To the anger of Big Ag, however, Mrs Obama has aligned herself with the growing movement of ?locavores?, people who grow their own fruit and vegetables at home or try to buy only locally-grown food. The principles of organic gardening, which focuses on building healthy soil, mean that she will not be able to use chemical products to tackle pests or give her plants a boost.

Shortly after she got to work on the plot, Mrs Obama received a letter from the Mid-America CropLife Association (MACA), which represents the companies producing the pesticides and fertilisers underpinning ?conventional? American agriculture.

Addressed to ?Mrs Barack Obama?, the letter congratulated the First Lady on ?recognising the importance of agriculture in America?. Farming is America?s largest industry, generating 20 per cent of GDP and directly or indirectly employing 22 million people.

The letter does not mention the word ?organic?, nor even ?pesticide? or ?fertiliser? but highlights the role played by farmers in preventing soil erosion and the massive yields achievable thanks to technological advances - technologies that can see a single acre produce almost 20 tonnes of strawberries of 110,000 heads of lettuce in a season.

?Today, an average farmer produces enough food to feed 144 Americans who are living longer lives than many of their ancestors. Technology in agriculture has allowed for the development of much of what we know and use in our lives today,? MACA wrote.

?If Americans were still required to farm to support their family?s basic food and fibre needs, would the US have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?

?We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and ageing parents. The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family?s year-round food needs.?

The letter ?respectfully? encourages Mrs Obama to recognise the role played by conventional agriculture in feeding America?s growing population and is carefully worded not to be provocative.

But Bonnie McCarvel, the MACA executive director, was not so diplomatic in an e-mail forwarding the letter to MACA supporters and members, in which she said: ?While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made (us) shudder.?

More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition supporting Mrs Obama and asking MACA to stop its ?propaganda about pesticides?.

?Stop asserting that the First Lady is somehow disserving our nation?s citizens by encouraging them to grow their own food locally, sustainably and without your industry?s chemicals,? the petition says. ?We know better and you should, too.?



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