Archive | May, 2014

Farmers Battle GMO Contamination

gmo-contaminationFood & Water Watch in partnership with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) released survey results revealing contamination from GMO crops is happening and non-GMO farmers are paying the price.

The survey of farmers across 17 states is an effort to fill the data gap that was used to justify an inadequate policy recommendation by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Heavily weighted with biotech proponents, the committee gathered for a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 to establish a protocol for coexistence and to design a compensation mechanism for farmers who are economically harmed by contamination from GMO crops.

Unfortunately, the committee was unable to estimate the costs associated with GMO presence on non-GMO and organic farms due to a lack of data. Their final suggestion for a compensation mechanism was a form of crop insurance that included, in one proposal, a premium to be paid by producers of non-GMO crops.

“If USDA really wanted to know if contamination was happening, all they had to do was ask organic grain producers who take great pains to keep their crops from being contaminated,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Now USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem.”

  • Survey highlights include:
  • Nearly half of respondents are skeptical that GMO and non-GMO crop production can coexist.
  • Over two-thirds do not think good stewardship alone is enough to protect organic and non-GMO farmers from contamination.
  • Five out of six responding farmers are concerned about GMO contamination impacting their farm, with 60 percent saying they are extremely concerned.
  • One out of three responding farmers have dealt with GMO contamination on their farm. Of those farmers, over half have been rejected by their buyers for that reason. They reported a median cost of a rejected semi load (approximately 1,000 bushels) of $4,500.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

A Mighty Big Backyard—Texas Organic Farm Continues Growth

JGG Planting

Now encompassing more than 200 acres, Johnson’s Backyard Garden began in Brenton Johnson’s backyard

by Claire Bontempo

The Johnsons of Johnson’s Backyard Garden, or JBG, can’t seem to grow vegetables fast enough, but they’ve managed to keep up with the demand and remain a successful local organic farm located just outside of Austin, Texas. From the very beginning it has been all about organic. “I never even considered farming a different way. I didn’t have a history of farming so I’ve never farmed anything but organically,” said Brenton Johnson.

In 2008 JBG became certified organic by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Now encompassing more than 200 acres, the farm began in Brenton’s backyard on a cozy 30 x 50-foot plot in 2004. That spring he ventured to the local farmers’ market for the first time with his yield of vegetables. Continue Reading →

Neonicotinoid Risks Outweigh Benefits

spraying-pesticidesCenter for Food Safety released a scientific literature review which reveals that neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments offer little benefit, do not increase crop yields and cause widespread environmental and economic damage. In particular, neonicotinods have been implicated in bee population declines and colony collapse. The authors examined 19 peer-reviewed studies of the relationship between neonicotinoid treatments and actual yields of major U.S. crops. Eight studies found that neonicotinoid treatments did not provide any significant yield benefit, while 11 studies showed inconsistent benefits. For more information visit www.centerforfoodsafety. org.

This report appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Children

IVInfections caused by a specific type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise in U.S. children, according to a study published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. While still rare, the bacteria are increasingly found in children of all ages, especially those 1-5 years old, raising concerns about dwindling treatment options. “Some infections in children that have typically been treated with oral antibiotics in the past may now require hospitalization, treatment with intravenous drugs or both, as there may not be an oral treatment option available,” said Dr. Latania K. Logan, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center.

This summary appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Grasping the True Value of Cover Cropping

cover crop

Photo by USDA NRCS

Planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops is even more valuable than previously thought, according to a team of agronomists, entomologists, agroecologists, horticulturists and biogeochemists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Research, published in Agricultural Systems, quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonization and weed suppression. Researchers simulated a three-year, soybean-wheat-corn rotation with and without cover crops in central Pennsylvania, which presented agroecological conditions broadly representative of the Northeast and mid- Atlantic regions. The cover crop rotation included red clover, frost-seeded into winter wheat in March, and winter rye, planted after corn was harvested in the fall. The research, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, used simulated management practices, including tillage, synthetic fertilizer use and mechanical weed control.

This report appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.