Given the demand for salmon, it is no surprise that a Frankenfish has emerged — a lab-created hybrid that could soon become the first genetically engineered animal approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption. The company behind these manufactured fish promises that they will not affect ones from an ancient and wild gene pool.
Here we go again. It is human to think we can trick nature, or do it one better. It is human to think a tsunami would never knock out a nuclear plant, a hurricane would never bury a city and a deepwater oil drill would never poison a huge body of water. In the gods of technology we trust. Until they fail. And then, we feel helpless and small and wonder what they — or we — were thinking.
"Agriculture is at a crossroads," says the study by Olivier de Schutter, the UN special reporter on the right to food, in a drive to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model of industrial farming.
So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations demonstrated average crop yield gains of 80 per cent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests, it says.
Recent projects in 20 African countries resulted in a doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere, it adds.
Turns out, the secret ingredient of Pete and Kelly Mahaffy's fertile 200-acre dairy farm - a member of the Organic Valley co-op - is waste product from seafood processors.
Six to eight truck loads a day deliver shells and shrimp husks to their dairy farm on the Coos River during crab season's peak.
It's a nutrient-rich, slowly decomposing fertilizer the couple spreads thinly over pastures during the rainy months.
As a jaded observer of the meat industry, even I'm flummoxed by this fact: It's standard practice on factory chicken farms to dose those unfortunate birds with arsenic. The idea is that it makes them grow faster -- fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming -- and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis.
The next time you're feeling sick, think twice before going to your doctor for answers. Look down at your plate, instead.
Hidden in your hamburger or smoked ham may be something you didn't want or expect on the menu -- antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Instead of protecting you from infectious diseases, antibiotics might simply be making you sick.
"There's reality and there's perception," says George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, one of the country's biggest organic food companies. "And the perception is, consumers are saying they don't want any pollution in organic products. And whether that's realistic or not is another matter. But for sure, consumer perception is a real concern." Siemon cited a survey in which 77 percent of organics consumers said they would stop buying organic food if it contained GMOs.
What sort of antibiotic-resistant pathogens are growing on factory farms, along with all the cheap pork chops and chicken wings? And what level of threat do they pose to our health?
Well, we know that in total, factory-farm animals consume a jaw-dropping four times as many antibiotics as do people in the United States, thanks to diligent reporting by Maryn McKenna and Ralph Loglisci and work by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.)....And now we know of yet another means by which antibiotic-resistant nasties can make their way from meat factories into the broader community: through the cockroaches and flies drawn to the titanic amounts of manure produced on factory farms.
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!
Agricultural companies defend their stonewalling by saying that unrestricted research could make them vulnerable to lawsuits if an experiment somehow leads to harm, or that it could give competitors unfair insight into their products. But it's likely that the companies fear something else too: An experiment could reveal that a genetically engineered product is hazardous or doesn't perform as well as promised.
Whatever the reasons, the results are clear: Public sector research has been blocked. In 2009, 26 university entomologists — bug scientists — wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency protesting restricted access to seeds. The letter went public, but not most of the writers' identities. They were afraid of retaliation from the companies that might further hamper their research.
Even more than questionable approvals, it’s the unwillingness to label these products as such — even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction — that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?
A majority of our food already contains G.M.O.’s, and there’s little reason to think more isn’t on the way. It seems our “regulators” are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever.