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Archive | February, 2016

This is Not Food Labeling

QR codeMinorities, poor, elderly will be least likely to learn of hidden GMO ingredients.

The proposal to hide the labeling of GMO ingredients behind a scannable QR code ─ as proposed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and filed in a rush as a Senate bill by its mouthpiece Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) ─ is at its heart disingenuous, elitist, and discriminates against the poor and elderly.

These groups are immensely less likely to own expensive smartphones and pay for costly internet data plans. Just 27% of Americans 65 and older own a smartphone, and only half of people earning $30,000 or less own one. In lower-income groups owning these devices a one-fourth drop or lose their data plan due to cost. (Pew Research).

Even the top-selling smartphone, the iPhone, cannot read this code without an additional software download. An internet data plan is required. The time and trouble to scan each and every grocery item while shopping would be much greater than a glance at a label as is now done with other ingredients consumers take issue with such as salt, carbs, MSG, various artificial ingredients, etc.

One has to wonder if the 79-year-old Roberts, long an advocate of most anything Big Ag and Big Food proposes, has ever tried to scan a QR code himself.

Senator Roberts’ bill is disingenuous, elitist, and discriminates against the poor and elderly.

And the very logic used by the food industry to oppose GMO labeling ─ that changing of packaging will drive up food prices ─ is an even bigger issue when instead of adding a few small words an entire graphic element must be printed.

The real story is that this action is not only designed to kill the labeling of GMOs, but will provide the food industry with a convenient place to bury any future unsavory ingredients as well. For good. And that’s why the big-money backers of GMOs and junk food are doubling down on pushing this bad bill through the Senate.

Read this excellent summary about the Denial of the Right to Know act (DARK),  from Civil Eats: http://civileats.com/2015/07/20/5-things-to-know-about-the-dark-act/

To learn about the industry-sponsored study claiming food costs will rise with labeling (even though that is what the same groups now propose), read this article from Organic Consumers: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/cost-labeling-genetically-engineered-food-will-be-minimal

A Passion for Quality Meat

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

by Samm Simpson

Alice and Simon Carter (front) with Lucy, Amanda, Matilda and Will Carter on their farm in North Carolina.

Alice and Simon Carter (front) with Lucy, Amanda, Matilda and Will Carter on their farm in North Carolina.

In 2007 Amanda Carter discovered the underbelly of the industrial food system after she and her husband, Will, drove from North Carolina to Washington state in their newly converted grease-powered panel truck.

Carter wrote a research paper on yellow grease, replete with details on roadkill, chicken carcasses and scraps being recycled into animal feed. She decided her family would never eat commercially fed animal protein again.

“We’d already eliminated trans fats, HFCS, hydrogenated oils, Red #40 and artificial flavors, so we decided we’d raise our own meat.”

The Carters experimented with broilers and rabbits and practiced humane backyard processing while introducing Simon and Alice, their first two children, to farm life. Carter developed a feed business, driving 800-mile round-trips to buy and supply non-GMO feed for her 150 customers. She crafted a newsletter with an eye to animal handling, health and ever-changing government regulations. Continue Reading →

Biochar as Substrate for Hydroponic Tomatoes

tomatoes USDA photoAs the use of soilless, hydroponic growing methods becomes more prevalent among crop producers, researchers are looking for new materials that can help growers save money, produce healthy plants and contribute to sustainable practices. The authors of a study in HortScience say that biochar, a charcoal-like material produced by heating biomass in the absence of oxygen, can help “close the loop” when used as a substrate for soilless, hydroponic tomato production. “This method could provide growers with a cost-effective and environmentally responsible green-waste disposal method, and supplement substrate, fertilizer and energy requirements,” said the study’s corresponding author Jason Wargent.

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Camelina Cover Crop Benefits Honeybees

story70_d3502-1-660x430pxCamelina is an herbaceous, yellow- flowering member of the mustard family whose oil-rich seed and cold tolerance has piqued the interest of USDA scientists for its potential as both a winter cover crop and biodiesel resource. Now, in the process of studying this plant, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have found that its flowering period can provide honeybees and other insects with a critical, early spring source of nectar and pollen that’s usually unavailable then. This is especially true in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, where about one-third of the nation’s managed bee colonies are kept from May through October.

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Cover Crops in Grazing Systems

cover crop winter pea, clover, cereal ryeNoble Foundation researchers are studying how cover crops could be part of a year-round grazing system that provides economic and environmental benefits to farmers and ranchers. Noble Foundation research agronomist James Rogers, Ph.D., received a three-year conservation innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service to conduct the research. The grant will support Rogers in determining how much moisture is used and/or conserved by summer cover crops and how those crops impact production of grasses and legumes consumed by livestock (commonly called forages) during the winter months. Moisture is a key  component of crop and forage production. Sufficient moisture levels boost pasture quantity and provide benefits to soil, which ultimately helps farmers and ranchers. “We need to determine whether the cover crops take moisture away from or preserve moisture for winter pasture,” Rogers said. “Preserving moisture will allow for earlier fall production. However, if the cover crops use up the moisture, winter pasture production is limited.”

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Dicamba Drift

stelprdb1101707Dicamba herbicide drift onto plants growing adjacent to farm fields causes significant delays in flowering, as well as reduced flowering of those plants and results in decreased visitation by honeybees, according to researchers at Penn State and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. “Because of the challenge of glyphosate-resistant weeds, new types of transgenic crops that are resistant to synthetic-auxin herbicides including dicamba and 2, 4-D will be widely planted in coming growing seasons, raising concerns about damage from these drift-prone herbicides,” said John Tooker, associate professor of entomology, Penn State. The team examined the crop species alfalfa (Medicago sativa), which requires insect pollination to produce seeds, and the native plant species common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), which is highly attractive to a wide range of pollinator species. “We found that both plant species are susceptible to very low rates of dicamba — just 0.1 to 1 percent of the expected field application rate can negatively influence flowering,” said Tooker. “By extension, we expect that other broadleaf plant species are similarly susceptible to this sort of damage from drift-level doses.”

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.