Usda Withdraws Organics Law “Clarification”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn a “guidance statement” regarding organic food production. Some feared the directive was an attempt by the government to relax standards for organic foods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:

Transcript

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn a “guidance statement” regarding
organic food production. Some feared the directive was an attempt by the government to
relax standards for organic foods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner
reports:


Critics said the USDA’s “guidance statement” was actually a new policy that could
lead to more synthetic pesticides being used on organic farms. But USDA officials said
the statement only clarified an existing law, and was issued in response to questions from
people who certify organic operations.


The department has now withdrawn those new statements. Andrea Caroe is on the National Organics Standards Board. She says confusion over the issue raises some new questions.


“Perhaps the regulation is not suiting the community the way it should and that we
should look at the process to evaluate how we could improve the regulation or the law.”


Agriculture officials say they’ll work with the Organics Standards Board to find a way to
address producers’ concerns.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.

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Farming With Computers

You probably have a computer in your car, on your desk and maybe even in your stove. It seems like there are computers everywhere these days helping with everything from our checking accounts to our turkey roasts. Now researchers want to install computers in another place, where most of us would least expect it – in Old MacDonald’s tractor. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Daniel Grossman has this story:

Radio Waves Zap Zebra Mussels

Researchers say low frequency radio waves may be a more effective way of controlling zebra mussels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Scheck has the story:

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Researchers say low frequency radio waves may be a more effective way of controlling zebra mussels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Scheck reports.

Zebra mussels have caused millions of dollars of damage to power plants, boats and intake pipes. They’ve also seriously hurt native species in the Great Lakes and other inland waterways. Purdue University chemistry professor Matthew Ryan says he may have found a way to control the zebra mussels without harming fish or other aquatic wildlife. In the laboratory, he says low frequency electromagnetic radio waves were found to cause the zebra mussels to lose critical minerals at a much faster rate than they can acquire them.


“It ultimately kills them. There’s a stress response after a day or so. They stop feeding and begin to close their shells and after about 19 days about 50 percent of the mussels in a given population will be dead.”


Ryan says native fish and clams were not harmed when exposed to the same technique. If it’s proven effective in the wild, he says electrical barriers could block mussels from infesting other lakes and streams. For the Great Lake Radio Consortium, I’m Tom Scheck in Saint Paul.

Tubenose Goby Extends Its Reach

An exotic fish species called the tubenose goby made its way into the St. Clair River after it was flushed from a ship’s ballast water 11 years ago. The tubenose hasn’t spread as fast as its cousin, the round goby, but researchers were recently surprised to find the tubenose spreading further into Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:

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An exotic fish species called the tubenose goby made its way into the St. Clair River after it was flushed from a ship’s ballast water 11 years ago. The tubenose hasn’t spread as fast as its cousin, the round goby, but researchers were recently surprised to find the tubenose spreading further into Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:


The invader was captured this July. The tubenose is related to the round goby, whose population explosion across the Great Lakes has scientists concerned. Round gobies eat contaminant-laden zebra mussels, and then pass those toxins on to sport fish favored by humans. But Jeff Ruetter, director of Stone Lab, says the tubenose goby actually first appeared in the Great Lakes two years before its cousin and so far, isn’t widespread.


“And the concern will be with its competition with other species in the ecosystem. Is it going to force them out?”


Ruetter says the appearance of the new invader underscores the need for tighter controls on exotic species. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Schaefer.

Tackling an Invasive Beetle

Foresters think they might be on the verge of eradicating a pest that destroys trees. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

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Foresters think they might be on the verge of eradicating a pest that destroys trees. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


The Asian long horned beetle attacks maples and elms. The bug first appeared in 1996, after wood crates infested with the beetle were shipped to New York from China. A second infestation appeared in the Chicago area in 1998. Stan Smith is a manager of the tree nursery program for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He says the Asian long horned beetle might be under control around Chicago.


“Our population, we feel, is small enough that it might be getting to the point where it might not be able to reproduce very well. Hopefully within four to five years we’ll have everything pretty well cleaned up. At least that’s what we think can happen.”


The beetle is more widespread in New York, but fortunately the insect can’t fly very far. That means it can’t spread quickly, giving foresters a better chance at eliminating the pest.

Gizmo Pest Control

As more people become interested in alternatives to pesticides, theconcept of Integrated Pest Management is growing. The idea started inagriculture as a way for farmers to reduce or eliminate pesticides. ButIntegrated Pest Management – or I-P-M – is making inroads in the home.One group of products that are becoming more popular are specialtydevices that use things like negative ions and ultra-sonic waves torepel pests. But how well do they work? The Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Wendy Nelson investigates: