AcresUSA.com links

Tag Archives | GMO

Genetic Drift: Protecting Your Crops from Contamination

Genetic drift is one of the most common problems organic farmers in the United States face. Recently, my husband Klaas looked across the road at our neighbor’s farm and said in a horrified tone, “You know, if Harold plants Bt corn on that field next year, we won’t be able to plant organic corn anywhere on this farm.” This sudden realization, born in the increasing knowledge that organic

Seed contamination can occur when farms cross-pollinate, or when waterways carry contaminants into other fields.

farmers can no longer ignore the impact of their neighbor’s genetically modified crop varieties, struck us hard. We had thought that the neighbor’s corn pollen might affect a small portion of our nearest field, something that appropriate buffer zones would take care of, never really thinking it could render many downwind acres unsuitable for corn. But it certainly could. This is the reality of organic farming today.

The impact of genetic drift can affect my farm, my planting plans, my certification, my income — not on just a few rows, but possibly on many acres. The scariest part of this reality is that the farmer won’t know if contamination has occurred until it’s too late, and then there is relatively little he can do to prevent it. To be prepared for the 2000 crop, organic farmers must start thinking of GMOs as being their problem too.

Continue Reading →

Interview: Researcher, Writer Jim Thomas Discusses Suite of Emerging Synthetic Biology Technologies

jim thomas headshotCulture of Disruption

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

For 20 years, Jim Thomas has been at the forefront of international policy debates and campaigns on emerging technologies with Greenpeace International and ETC Group. Steward Brand called him “the leading critic of biotech.” As a strategist and organizer working with civil society partners, Thomas has repeatedly led successful international campaigns of global importance. In the late 1990s he was one of less than a dozen leaders of a high-profile national movement to prevent the introduction of GM food and crops into the United Kingdom market. He played a major role in achieving and strengthening the United Nations moratoria on geoengineering, ocean fertilization and Terminator seeds. He also helped secure the first global UN agreement on Synthetic Biology and halt geoengineering projects in Ecuador, Philippines, UK, the United States and Canadian/Haida territory. Thomas is co-author of numerous ETC Group reports and his writing has been published in many media outlets including The Guardian, The Times UK, Slate, Huffington Post, The Ecologist, New Internationalist and RSA
Journal. He has been a featured speaker around the world for audiences as diverse as La Via Campesina (peasant movements) and grassroots activists to government ministers and CEOs. He has appeared in 10 documentary films. Thomas was born in Zambia, grew up in the UK, worked on several continents and now lives near Montreal, Canada.

Continue Reading →

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

Interview: Scientist, Author, Activist Vandana Shiva Leads Movement to Restore Sovereignty to Farmers

Acres U.S.A. is North America’s monthly magazine of ecological agriculture. Each month we conduct an in-depth interview with a thought leader. The following interview appeared in our January 2016 issue and was too important not to share widely.

Vandana ShivaAmericans who visit India often come back more or less overwhelmed by its vast size and complexity, and if they are not stunned into silence they are at least much less willing to engage in generalities. Timeless beauty, explosive economic growth, persistent poverty and about a billion people all make for an intense experience if you’re used to the predictable movements of cars and shoppers. One thing that does emerge from the ancient nation’s recent history, though, is the way societies that seem chaotic and disorganized to outsiders actually offer opportunities for their citizens who are willing to act with boldness, imagination and fierce resolve. Gandhi was one such actor, and Vandana Shiva may well be another. Increasingly well-known here as an author and lecturer, her popularity makes her a pain in the neck to proponents of industrial agriculture. (Corporate ag apologist Michael Specter recently honored her with an attack in The New Yorker.) It’s a whole other story back in India, however — there Shiva is a force for change not only among the commentariat but also on the ground. She agitates for legislation and political change at one end of society while leading a movement to empower farmers at the other. Shiva is that rarity in modern life, an intellectual who sees possibilities for action in the world outside her study and moves to set them in motion, working with fellow sojourners to build and sustain a counterforce opposing the corporate status quo over the long haul. On a recent trip to California, Shiva spoke with Acres U.S.A., covering an amazing amount of ground. Readers who need a little context are advised to consult Wikipedia on the Bhopal disaster — a 9/11-scale tragedy linked to agricultural chemicals — in particular and modern Indian history in general.

Vandan Shiva interviewed in Acres U.S.A. magazine

Read the interview here (PDF).

Opinion: Growing Doubt on Genetic Engineering, GMOs

by Jonathan R. Latham, Ph.D.

By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my Ph.D. Into these plants we were putting DNA from various foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria.

I was not, at the outset, concerned about the possible effects of GM plants on human health or the environment. One reason for this lack of concern was that I was still a very young scientist, feeling my way in the complex world of biology and of scientific research. Another reason was that we hardly imagined that GMOs like ours would be grown or eaten. So far as I was concerned, all GMOs were for research purposes only. Gradually, however, it became clear that certain companies thought differently. Some of my older colleagues shared their skepticism with me that commercial interests were running far ahead of scientific knowledge. I listened carefully, and I didn’t disagree. Today, more than 20 years later, GMO crops, especially soybeans, corn, papaya, canola and cotton, are commercially grown in numerous parts of the world. Continue Reading →

Book review: Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth Book Review

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth by Steven Druker

by Steven Druker, review by Simi Summer, Ph.D.

Safe food activists and concerned consumers alike will not want to miss the newest entry into the GM food debate by public interest attorney Steven Druker. Endorsed by Dame Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, the book has been launched at a critical time in the history of national and global food production.

Unwanted trends in the name of “sustainable agriculture” and international agricultural development point to the success of the Green Revolution in deceiving innocent farmers through biotechnology. This includes the widespread distribution of GM seeds to “solve” world hunger. Likewise, many countries with strict labeling laws, that have banned GMOs, are now considering commercial planting of GM crops. This reflects a change in collective thinking which seriously challenges international GM blockades currently in place. On the home front, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, otherwise known as the Dark Act, has been making headway, while GMO labeling supporters are busy letting congress know that this is not the kind of legislation they want implemented.

Although Druker’s book addresses the most current food safety concerns in an indirect manner, his topic is timely. He offers a compelling historical exposé of the way in which both the government and leading scientific bodies have convincingly misrepresented the facts about biotechnology. Druker claims that when GMO crops were first approved for commercial use in 1992, the government covered up and ignored the warnings of their own scientists, lied about the facts and subsequently violated federal food safety law by allowing these foods to be sold and marketed without using standard testing to prove that they were safe. Continue Reading →