A highly contagious strain of of avian influenza, or “bird flu”, hit the United States this year, leading at least 11 states—including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—to ban all bird shows this summer where birds might co-mingle, such as county or state fairs, in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease. As of late-May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the highly pathogenic H5 virus has led to the deaths of more than 40 million birds in 15 states.

Ballot initiatives in two states-Colorado and Oregon-address labeling for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Currently, neither state requires labeling for genetically modified food. Both Colorado Proposition 105, known as the Colorado Right to Know Act, and Oregon Measure 92, known as the Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative, would require foods that were produced with or contain genetically modified organisms to be labeled. 

As part of Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris' initiative as CSG Chairman, the Tennessee Nutrition Caucus was launched during Ag Day on the Hill late last month.  “This is a bi-partisan team of state legislators who understand that one’s quality of life depends on the necessities of life,” said Norris.  Part of the impetus to create the caucus is the current status of Tennessee's children and overall population.  According to Feeding America, 25.1% of Tennessee's children and 17.6% of the state's general population are unaware of where they will find their next meal.

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While grain producers across the Midwest have been anxiously awaiting a new farm bill, produce farmers are just as anxious about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act — the largest reform of the nation’s food safety laws in 70 years. The act itself was signed into law in 2011, but exactly how it will impact the Midwest’s producers won’t be known until final FDA rules are approved.

On June 3rd of this year, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law that requires special labeling for foods containing genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs. Maine followed suit a little over a week later, when the state’s senate voted unanimously to require GMO labeling. Both of these laws contain clauses that require other states to pass similar laws before the labeling requirement actually goes into effect. For example, in Connecticut, four other northeastern states need to enact labeling laws, and one of those states needs to border Connecticut before the requirement goes live.  In addition, the combined population of these states needs to be at least 20 million. In Maine, the law won’t go into effect until five other states—one of which must be New Hampshire—pass the same requirements.

Connecticut is the first state to pass a bill to mandate labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that does not require labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Countries that have restrictions or bans on genetically engineered foods include China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and the European Union.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 made sweeping changes to how America ensures its food supply is safe. What remains to be seen is just how the Food and Drug Administration will enact those changes.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, represents the most significant revision of food safety laws in the United States in more than 70 years. The legislation carried with it new mandates for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including comprehensive, prevention-based approaches across all aspects of the food supply system.  Such a prevention-based approach will require food facilities to evaluate hazards in their operations and establish procedures to prevent contamination. The law also requires the FDA to establish safety standards for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables based on science. In addition to enhanced prevention and surveillance tools, the FDA will also have mandatory recall authority for all food products.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, represents the most significant revision of food safety laws in the United States in more than 70 years. The legislation carried with it new mandates for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including comprehensive, prevention-based approaches across all aspects of the food supply system.  Such a prevention-based approach will require food facilities to evaluate hazards in their operations and establish procedures to prevent contamination. The law also requires the FDA to establish safety standards for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables based on science. In addition to enhanced prevention and surveillance tools, the FDA will also have mandatory recall authority for all food products.

Governor Martin O'Malley is poised to sign into law the nation's first ban on chicken feed containing trace amounts of arsenic. The legislation would prohibit the use of roxarsone, a drug used to promote growth and combat parasites, from being given to poultry. Proponents of the legislation hailed its passage as a way to improve public health and to help potentially remove arsenic from seeping into the Chesapeake Bay. Those opposed, including the state's poultry industry, say the legislation is unnecessary as the drug's manufacturer -Pfizer- stopped production a year ago and that a full ban could have significant economic consequences for Maryland farmers. 

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