Monthly Archives: April 2008

Two major universities ramp up organic programs

hale to thee my alma mater...

Just as Illinois’ programs are crumbling, other ivory towers are starting to get it. Yesterday Washington State University announced they will offer the first on-line certificate on organic agriculture in the US…

“The program’s first core course, Soils 101, “Organic Gardening and Farming,” will be available summer semester, which begins May 5. The foundation course was developed by WSU Regents Professor John Reganold, an international leader in organic agriculture.”

Now today I learn that…

“[t]he University of Minnesota has approved a plan that will create new resources and programs for sustainable and organic agriculture. This is the result of an overall increase in funding for agricultural research and outreach that the University received from the 2007 Minnesota Legislature.

Read the whole U of M article HERE.

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The science of good food

science of good food

The Union of Concerned Scientists have a new on-line feature called Green Cuisine that features stories and recipes from “chefs and farmers working together to put healthy, seasonal, and environmentally friendly foods on tables from coast to coast.”  UCS recognizes that food production and consumption has environmental implications. In addition to Green Cuisine, the Food and Environment section focuses on antibiotics and food, genetic engineering, and sustainable food choices, all treated with scientific rigor. It’s science with a purpose!

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Update — where the candidates stand

white house goes organic?

Several months ago I did a little digging to see where the candidates (at that time) stood on ag issues, especially if there was any mention of organic ag or sustainability. Back in February there was next to nothing. Now, as the campaigns continue to slog on, the candidates have put more out on their positions on food and ag. The Future is Organic has put together a nice table containing position statements of everyone from Hillary left, including The Green Party, The Socialist Party USA and the The Socialist Workers Party (United States).

Whoever put it together did not bother including John McCain, perhaps assuming that no one reading The Future of Organic would possibly consider voting for McCain. I checked his campaign website and there is nothing posted on agriculture, but I’ve cut and pasted his response to question 18 in the questionnaire designed by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) to elicit responses and ideas from the 2008 presidential candidates regarding what environmental and conservation groups consider the most important national issues of the day. You can check out the LCV site and take a look at the other twenty-nine questions. None of the questions deal directly with agriculture.

Question 18: In recent years, the key agencies charged with protecting the safety and health of Americans and our food supply (U.S. EPA, FDA and USDA) have made decisions that put farm workers, children, and rural communities at high risk of exposure to pesticides known to be carcinogens, developmental toxicants, and neurotoxicants. For example, while more than 50 countries have banned all uses of the insecticide lindane, it is still approved by the FDA for pharmaceutical use in the U.S. And in August of 2006, hundreds of EPA staff scientists protested industry influence on the scientific integrity of the process that led to EPA’s blanket approval of continued use of the highly toxic organophosphate insecticides that many people are exposed to through food, water and air.If elected, how will you limit industry influence on these agencies, protect U.S. residents from these toxic pesticides, and promote the use of established, safer alternative pest control methods?

John McCain’s response…

“I believe that adherence to the law, sound science, transparency, and accountability must be hallmarks of the rulemaking process. As president I will ensure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to express their views fully, fairly, and transparently in rulemaking procedures. Regulatory decisions affecting the health, safety, and welfare for our families must be based on scientific facts and be rendered according to the dictates of the law without prejudice, ulterior motive, or inappropriate influence by any special interest. I also believe that the nation must make a commitment, with the federal government as a research partner, to the development and deployment of effective non-chemical alternatives to pest management.”

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Manufactured meat (no thanks)

Here’s a post from Dot Earth that left me with a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yes, scientist can now manufacture “meat”(!) Why? So we can enjoy what we all crave without feeling guilty about the cruelty and environmental destruction. It’s obviously THE answer…

But one could envision someday a model, say, of a solar-powered facility in southern California or Singapore basically turning sunlight and desalinated seawater into growth medium and then tons of cruelty-free, sustainable nuggets of chicken essence.

Chicken essence — yum. This sounds straight out of the Monsanto Lab.  Maybe they’ll use actual chicken DNA for that extra authentic chicken [insert appropriate french term here]. Sign me up. I can’t wait for the opportunity to purchase family-size vats of man-made chicken protein, flavored with natural sea water!

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The future of GMOs

sunset on conventional ag?

Conventional agriculture is taking some hits today. A new UN report says industrial ag has failed…

The report challenges the basic tenets of the green revolution, which are based on the use of increasingly aggressive and expensive chemicals that seem to not only threaten the very soils they are supposed to protect but also water resources, the air and even the farmers themselves. To the authors of the report, “the ecological footprint of industrial agriculture is already too large to be ignored.”

When we now have a growing body of research that indicates we can achieve equal yields with no chemicals, one has to ask, why are we continuing down this road? Now there is THIS report from the Soil Association suggesting that GM crops do not yield more and many times yield less than non-GMO counterparts…

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said:
“GM chemical companies constantly claim they have the answer to world hunger while selling products which have never led to overall increases in production, and which have sometimes decreased yields or even led to crop failures. As oil becomes scarcer and more expensive, we need to move away from oil dependent GM crops to producing food sustainably, using renewable energy, as is the case with organic farming.”

And from the latest The Organic and Non-GMO Report, which has developed into a very nice newsletter indeed…

Expert predicts GM crops will soon be obsolete

Andrew Kimbrell doesn’t see a bright future for genetically modified crops. Speaking at the Organic Farming Conference in Wisconsin in February, Kimbrell said, “Genetic engineering for food crops is over. Genetically engineered crops will be obsolete soon.”

Kimbrell, a public interest attorney and executive director of the Center for Food Safety, gives several reasons for his prediction. One is the rejection of GM food crops in Europe, Japan, and other GMO-sensitive regions. “The United States has lost millions of dollars in exports (due to the rejection of GM crops in Europe),” said Kimbrell. Resistance to GMOs in these markets also stopped the development of GM wheat and rice. He also said that the science underlying genetic engineering is obsolete, and that genetic engineers have not been able to develop any other GM traits besides herbicide resistance and built-in pesticides. “They can’t develop other things,” he said. Finally, Kimbrell said the anti-GMO movement will stop the technology. “We will put pressure on companies that buy GM sugar beets. There is no way this industry can survive.”

Kimbrell cited last year’s court decision blocking sales of GM alfalfa as another reason why GM crops will not last. That decision is likely to set a precedent that could be used to stop other GM crops. The Center for Food Safety, which filed the lawsuit that stopped GM alfalfa, recently filed another lawsuit to stop GM sugar beets.

Kimbrell said that field trials of so-called “biopharma” GM crops, once hailed as a promising technology to produce drugs, have plunged from several hundred a few years ago to just a handful now.

Consumers also don’t want GM foods. “No one gets up in the morning saying they want GM food,” he said.

Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report April 2008.


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