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What's on the School Lunch Menu? Ammoniated Beef!

lunch_students_attPhoto via flickr user woodleywonderworksEarlier this year, FIC celebrated the fact that major fast food chains pulled BPI's ammoniated beef trimmings from their menus, vindicating the actions of GAP client and whistleblower Kit Foshee. However, news has come that the USDA is still planning to purchase the controversial product for school lunches, according to The Daily.

Last year, 6.5 percent of the beef USDA purchased for the national school lunch program came from BPI. The partnership looks to continue in the coming months, as the agency aims to purchase 7 million pounds of the company's ammoniated beef for schools.

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While Iowa Ag Gag Becomes Law, FIC Fights in Utah

CAFO_hogsDespite efforts to prevent Iowa's "Ag Gag" legislation, including a FIC op-ed that appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette last week, Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law on Friday.

This is disconcerting news, however unsurprising (as the Associated Press points out) given Branstad's "strong ties to the state's agricultural industry." Iowa is a big player in the food industry as the nation's leading pork and egg producer, and this bill will make it even more difficult for whistleblowers to shine a light on unsafe practices that threaten citizens.

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Op-Ed: Cedar Rapids Gazette – Proposed Ag Gag Hurts Whistle-Blowers, Not Just Animals

The following op-ed appeared in Iowa's Cedar Rapids Gazette last Wednesday, February 29, before Gov. Terry Branstad signed the "Ag Gag" bill into law on Friday, March 2. As a matter of policy, the Gazette doesn't post op-eds on its website if they are authored by non-local sources. Ergo, FIC is posting the full text here.

Editor's Note: While the Iowa Senate amendment did remove the specific language restricting undercover video, the bill is clearly aimed at holding whistleblowers who use such means to convey the truth legally accountable (More on this here).

Some things people just have to see to believe. Travesties that can take place behind food production facility walls are some of them.

Yesterday, the Iowa Senate passed legislation that illegalizes the act of taking undercover video at farms and similar facilities. Iowa is one of at least six states that currently have pending similar bills, commonly known as "Ag Gag" legislation, which would extend to all individuals – including plant workers who witness gross wrongdoing and threats to public health.

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Iowa Senate Passes Ag-Gag Bill, Lets Worker Intentions Overshadow Agribusiness Abuse

iowaUpdate (2/29/12, 9:15 AM ET): Last night, the Iowa House agreed to the Senate language on this Ag Gag legislation. The bill has now been sent to the Governor for approval. Although legislators removed the language that specifically restricts the recording of undercover video, the bill is clearly aimed at whistleblowers who use such, as the proposed legislation is written so that workers could face serious charges if one "obtain[s] access to the facility by false pretenses, or lies on an employment application with the intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner."

Today the Iowa Senate passed a revised "Ag Gag" bill, in a 40-10 vote, that would have a strong chilling effect on potential whistleblowers otherwise able to expose wrongdoing in the food industry.

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Anti-Humane Society Ad Funded by Food Industry Interests

pigs-caged_attImage via wikimedia user MaqiIf you were watching the Academy Awards Sunday night, you may have seen a campaign advertisement attacking GAP coalition partner the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The ad emphasizes that HSUS gives only one percent of its budget to animal shelters, but a deeper look at who is funding the campaign suggests the move is really about countering HSUS efforts to hold the food industry accountable.

Mother Jones explains the group behind the campaign, Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF):

The Center for Consumer Freedom largely focuses on opposing laws and regulations that are bad for the food and beverage industries. The group is known for fact-bending ad campaigns downplaying, among other things, the amount of mercury in fish and the number of drunk driving deaths.

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Pesticide Exposure in Food Affects Children's Intelligence: Study

children_reading_attPhoto courtesy of San Jose LibraryA recent study shows that chemical exposure – including that from food products – may cause child IQ reduction that rivals the impacts of major medical conditions. The finding reveals that the effect on society of widespread lead, organophosphate pesticides and methylmercury exposure "may be more severe than what previous studies of individual risk would suggest." 

From Environmental Health News:

Organophosphate pesticides would affect the children by reducing IQ by about 17 million points at the population level.

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GAP Joins Group Statement Opposing Ag-Gag Legislation

no_videoGAP and 26 other groups representing animal protection, food safety, worker rights and other aspects of food integrity (including GAP coalition partners Farm Sanctuary, Humane Society of the United States, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food & Water Watch, and United Food and Commercial Workers, to name a few) signed on to a statement opposing the "Ag Gag" legislation that has cropped up in several states around the country. GAP has been working with fellow advocacy groups to monitor this issue for some time.

Bills introduced in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Utah would criminalize individuals (including employees!) who record undercover video, audio or photographs at farm operations. Ag-gag language in Florida legislation was removed last month after pressure from constituents and animal protection groups.

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