Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a threat to organic agriculture? Are they dangerous when consumed? Do they lead to higher use of chemical herbicides and pesticides? And why aren’t GMOs labeled so we know which foods are made with them? We find and discuss the latest news on this critical issue.
New FDA labeling rules include added sugars. And why the bread on that sandwich might taste like a yoga mat.
The big food news this week is the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that it will update its Nutrition Facts Label requirements “to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.” Part of this change deals with portion size. These have been changed in some cases — like increasing the single portion of soda from 12 to 20 ounces — to reflect sizes that are more commonly consumed. We’ll agree that’s a good thing if indeed the change makes figuring what you’re getting from what you consume without having to do any extra math. (more…)
Using a dibble, deception from a GMO front group and $50 billion worth of pest control done by flying mammals.
More on planting onions: A cranky computer kept us from getting in everything we wanted in our previous post on long-day, short-day onions. Starting onions from seed indoors is easy enough. What’s difficult is setting the delicate transplants or sets in the ground (transplants usually just have roots, sets have developed a small onion bulb). Burying sets too deeply means slow growth and small onions. Putting transplants in the ground requires getting the root to hang vertically and not twisted or laying on itself . How to get it right?
Use a dibble. The dibble, or onion tool as it’s sometimes called makes a straight hole as deep as the dibber allows. This allows you to hang the delicate root of the transplant vertically inside the dibble hole. To make sure the root stays straight, lower it to a depth that’s deeper than you want it set, then carefully lift it up as you fill the dibble hole with soil. Onions, depending on their size, should be spaced a good five inches from one another. The dibble is also useful when planting garlic. (more…)
News items on student gardening programs, marketing food by resisting factory farms, and the complications of climate change.
Learning about gardening one cabbage at a time: Let’s start with some good news. Bonnie Plants, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of plant starts, has announced the winners of its 3rd Grade Cabbage Program. A winner, randomly chosen from each state, will receive a $1,000 savings bond to be applied to the student’s future education.
While only one winner gets the savings bond, there are no losers in this program. Bonnie supplies millions of cabbage starts around the country to classrooms that choose to participate. Included with the starts are lesson plans that help teachers teach the fundamentals of plant growth. That the students learn their lessons well can be seen in the pictures of the cabbages they’ve grown. (more…)
The most recent skirmish in the battle for and against genetically modified crops is being fought over GMO wheat. And the weapon the GMO supporters are using is drought. In a recent New York Times opinion piece entitled “We Need GMO Wheat”, GMO advocates Jayson Lusk and Henry I. Miller make seemingly reasoned arguments worthy of any high school debating team in favor of developing drought-tolerant wheat. Look closely at the arguments and they start to come apart.
The article generated over 400 responses before comments were closed. As always, they’re worth reading — no, we’re not suggesting that you read all 438 of them — because they demonstrate the strong feelings coming from both sides of the issue. But they also underscored some of the fallacies that Lusk and Miller proffer. (more…)
Is there another, potentially harmful genetic modification in the works about to be slipped past the public and scientists concerned about human and environmental health?
That possibility was announced this week in the pages of The New York Times ahead of a meeting held Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency on the potential risks of the new technology. While the Times article promoted the benefits of the new technology known as RNA interference, it also noted that several experts had serious questions about its use in the world outside the laboratory. (more…)
The battle to label foods containing GMOs has seen some obvious setbacks in the last year. When the ballot initiative in Washington State went down this fall, many pundits could only see the defeat. What the results also reveal is a groundswell of support for labeling GMOs, evidenced by the narrow margins of defeat after the GMO industry (food manufactures, corporate agriculture, and genetically modified seed producers) outspent pro-labeling forces by millions and millions of dollars.
Food producers might be beginning to realize the marketing potential of declaring their products GMO free. General Mills has announced that they will make their best selling cereal Cheerios without GMOs. (more…)
– In Europe, the number of scientists and other experts contesting EU chief science adviser Anne Glover’s statement that genetically modified foods are no less risky than conventional, natural grown foods continues to grow. Over 275 specialists have signed a document that states that GM foods have not been proven safe and that existing research raises concerns, according to GM Watch, a European organization that monitors and reports on issues relating to genetically manipulated food sources.
Dr Angelika Hilbeck, chair of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), which published the statement, told GM Watch, “We’re surprised and pleased by the strong support for the statement. It seems to have tapped into a deep concern in the global scientific community that the name of science is being misused to make misleading claims about the safety of GM technology.” (more…)
We knew that the forces allied against GMO labeling — not just the large chemical corporations that manufacture genetically manipulated plant seeds and the products (herbicides, pesticides) associated with them, but stand-ins for the corporate food industry as well — would go on the offensive after defeating labeling initiatives in Washington State and California. Now we’re getting a clue as to the direction this movement will take.
Grist reports that the National Grocery Manufacturers Association, a group that provides name cover for corporations including Coca-Cola, ConAgra and General Mills as well as Bayer CropScience, has written the Food and Drug Administration. The letter declared the Association plans to push for use of the label “natural” on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. The New York Times also has the story. (more…)
–False Assumptions and GMOs: The spread and use of genetically modified crops in the production of food is a highly controversial topic… no need to tell you that. The arguments for their use are often based on false assumptions. This wonderful article from Ensia, a magazine that comes from the University of Minnesota’s environmental department, highlights some of the wrong thinking in terms of increasing food production that is often sold to us as an important reason for the growing of GMO crops.
The writer, Jonathan Foley, reminds us that most of the GMO crops grown aren’t grown as food and are only involved indirectly in the production of other, processed foods. Here’s how it opens:
You’ve probably heard it many times. While the exact phrasing varies, it usually goes something like this: The world’s population will grow to 9 billion by mid-century, putting substantial demands on the planet’s food supply. To meet these growing demands, we will need to grow almost twice as much food by 2050 as we do today. And that means we’ll need to use genetically modified crops and other advanced technologies to produce this additional food. It’s a race to feed the world, and we had better get started.
Foley points out that much of this need for more food really isn’t due to an increasing population. It’s due to changing diets. As economies grow and people become richer, they eat richer diets. This means more meat, more dairy, more processed products. Foley argues that we need to change our thinking about our diets and the kinds of food we eat. Only then will we have enough food to feed our ever-increasing global population. (more…)
Yes, there’s some finger pointing going on after the defeat of Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative earlier this month. But, surprisingly, not really all that much. Most of it is directed at the huge amount of money spent by seed companies Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and the Grocery Manufactures Association that fought against labeling. But there are other issues here.
Maybe the central question here is how something like labeling, an idea with consistent high support among the public, can be so easily defeated. And this requires a look at the opposition tactics. One aspect that’s been pointed out is that the opposition often says it too supports the consumer’s right to know. But it argues that the Initiative as proposed, was poorly written with too much confusion and too many exceptions written in to it. This of course was the same tactic used to defeat the California labeling initiative, and many of its claims were based on exaggeration and out-and-out falsehood. (more…)