AquaBounty Technology's genetically modified salmon just got a hefty financial boost from the USDA: On Monday, the agency awarded the Massachusetts-based company $494,000 to study technologies that would render the genetically tweaked fish sterile. This would reduce the likelihood they could reproduce with wild salmon, should any escape into the wild -- a scenario that has many environmentalists concerned.
"I started this because I could not see the future in conventional farming," Kurt Unkel told the magazine. And their risk paid off. But the article left me wondering: Are transitions like this something the USDA will ever fully embrace?
With Wall Street and international investors bidding up the price of the land itself, it's not hard to imagine a future where most farmers aren't owner-operators but are hired hands on massive corporate farms. To avoid such a fate, we'll need more than just training programs and enthusiasm: It requires a willingness by the federal government to take on Wall Street and anti-competitive corporations. And so far, I'm not impressed.
One of my icons in the organic food and green movement is the Rodale family. You don't read about the Rodale family in the press much, but behind the scenes they are a silent multimedia publishing behemoth that quietly publishes mainstream books, magazines, websites and more about advice, health and wellness and the environment (they are the largest independent book publisher in the United States).
Today Rodale publishes books like Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, The South Beach Diet, Eat This, Not That! and many more. Their magazines include Women's Health, Men's Health, Prevention, Organic Gardening and more.
The Rodale family's commitment to organic food, sustainability and the right to healthy living is unparalleled. J. I. Rodale founded the American organic movement in 1942 when he launched Organic Gardening and Farming magazine. In 1947 J. I. launched the U.S. Soil Association, which today is known as the Rodale Institute and is a nonprofit organization.
"Similar growing conditions" -- there's an interesting tidbit. For all we know, then, Beneforté's glucopharanin content could pale in comparison to that of organic broccoli. Of course, this obsession with glucoraphanin is a silly and myopic distraction. Broccoli, by virtue of being a vegetable, is healthful and does not need to be improved upon. None of the myriad of chronic health issues affecting millions of Americans are due to "faulty broccoli" with low levels of glucoraphanin.
The biggest irony of this product lies in Monsanto's claim that Beneforté "help[s] maintain your body's defenses against the damage of environmental pollutants and free radicals."
There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.
If you sit quietly in Bill and Susan Gorman's pasture, you can hear the Jerseys rhythmically pulling mouthfuls of orchard, timothy and brome grass.
The Jerseys are efficient mowers, harvesting the pastures to produce milk that's marketed through Organic Valley. Bill Gorman milks them once a day in a big, old, red barn on his family farm. The cows are rewarded for their trip to the barn with oats and barley.
And now those unheeded warnings are proving prescient. In late July, as I reported recently, scientists in Iowa documented the existence of corn rootworms (a ravenous pest that attacks the roots of corn plants) that can happily devour corn plants that were genetically tweaked specifically to kill them. Monsanto's corn, engineered to express a toxic gene from a bacterial insecticide called Bt, now accounts for 65 percent of the corn planted in the US.
The superinsect scourge has also arisen in Illinois and Minnesota. "Monsanto Co. (MON)’s insect-killing corn is toppling over in northwestern Illinois fields, a sign that rootworms outside of Iowa may have developed resistance to the genetically modified crop," reports Bloomberg. In southern Minnesota, adds Minnesota Public Radio, an entomologist has found corn rootworms thriving, Bt corn plants drooping, in fields.
Levels of pesticides commonly encountered across the country in food as well as around the home are significantly increasing children's risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and could be causing an increase in the number of children living with the condition, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics.
Significant levels of the world's most-used herbicide have been detected in air and water samples from two U.S. farm states, government scientists said on Wednesday, in groundbreaking research on the active ingredient in Monsanto Co's Roundup.
"It is out there in significant levels. It is out there consistently," said Paul Capel, environmental chemist and head of the agricultural chemicals team at the U.S. Geological Survey Office, part of the U.S. Department of Interior.
Capel said more tests were needed to determine how harmful the chemical, glyphosate, might be to people and animals.
Organic farming is known to be environmentally sustainable, but can it be economically sustainable, as well? The answer is yes, according to new research in the Sept.-Oct. issue of Agronomy Journal. In an analysis of 18 years of crop yield and farm management data from a long-term University of Minnesota trial, an organic crop rotation was consistently more profitable and carried less risk of low returns than conventional corn and soybean production, even when organic prime premiums were cut by half.