Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:25:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Tale of Three Farms—in the Shenandoah Valleyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/a-tale-of-three-farms-in-the-shenandoah-valley/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/a-tale-of-three-farms-in-the-shenandoah-valley/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 20:20:54 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17461 by Mark Kastel I admit I’m kind of crazy. I don’t take too many vacations. But I do get out of my office frequently and really enjoy the opportunity to meet our members, and new folks, around the country while visiting their farms. In the middle of August I was invited to speak at the annual conference sponsored by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, an excellent group offering the assistance of lawyers to

The post A Tale of Three Farms—in the Shenandoah Valley appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
by Mark Kastel

I admit I’m kind of crazy. I don’t take too many vacations. But I do get out of my office frequently and really enjoy the opportunity to meet our members, and new folks, around the country while visiting their farms.

In the middle of August I was invited to speak at the annual conference sponsored by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, an excellent group offering the assistance of lawyers to farmers who are involved in direct marketing when they are, all too often, harassed by federal, state and local regulators. As giant corporations sicken and, literally, kill our citizenry, some of our very best and safest farms are finding it harder to operate.

Rodney Martin

Before my speech in Staunton, Virginia, I met with two excellent farmers. This really pumped me up since I have to, figuratively, swim in the (organic) manure lagoons all too often when doing investigations of giant factory farms gaming the system. When I meet excellent, authentic certified organic farmers, truly walking their talk, it’s a wonderful morale boost.

I first met with Rodney Martin, who I knew when he was a former organic dairy producer living in Pennsylvania. A while back he relocated to the Shenandoah Valley and, in addition to operating an excellent pastured poultry operation, he is a member of a group of Mennonite farmers doing their own distribution of pasture-raised eggs from about 10 farms. Their primary market is the Washington, D.C. metro area, including Whole Foods stores.

Rodney showed me his mobile facilities.  I was impressed with his innovations for providing water and feed outdoors and how they are easily relocatable. Rodney and the other farmers he works with, who raise 250 to 1,200 birds each, move their mobile coops every day or every other day.

Unlike larger commercial producers, they let their pullets (young birds) outdoors at 6 to 8 weeks. So before these birds arrive at the farm, and ready for egg production at about 16 weeks, they are already quite familiar and comfortable with being outdoors.

Rodney’s 700 birds are rotated in an 8-acre field giving them 500 square feet each. This is the gold standard.  This approach differs dramatically from the 2 square feet, outdoors, that the corporate-friendly National Organic Standards Board recommended for organic poultry operations. (Right now the USDA requires “access to the outdoors” but the specific amount of space is not specified.)  It also differs from Organic Valley, the nation’s largest name-brand organic egg purveyor, which requires 5 square feet per bird.  Rodney’s approach even exceeds the European Union’s requirements of 43 square feet for organic producers.

In addition to the shade the chickens currently enjoy under the mobile coop, the farmers’ next innovation will be experimenting with pulling some additional flat rack wagons out in the field so the birds can seek comfort underneath.

During the winter months, Rodney simply pulls his mobile coop into an overhang, attached to the barn, and the birds can continue to come and go as weather permits.

Jesse Hershberger

From the Martin farm it was a short drive to visit Jesse Hershberger and his son, who milk 140 to 165 cows organically.  Their farm was originally purchased by Jesse’s father in 1965. They switched to organic management in 2007.

Illustrating a respect for grazing requirements inherent in organic production, Jesse’s family irrigates and puts a lot of time into managing and clipping (mowing) their pastures to control weeds and promote regrowth after grazing.

I really appreciate both of these busy farmers, on a hot summer day, taking the time to provide me with tours of their operations and tell me their stories, including what initially motivated them to get involved in organics. It’s one of the true joys of my job.

After a day of interesting meetings at the Legal Defense Fund conference we were treated to a wonderful dinner, and tour the next day, at the farm operated by Joel Salatin and his family (currently including four generations).

Joel Salatin

We ate well.  Very well (including a nice doggie bag for my train ride home from Chicago and onto Wisconsin). Although Joel had invited me to his farm on a number of occasions over the years, a grand tour sponsored by the conference I was speaking out was my first opportunity to take him up on the offer and I was excited about it. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Joel is one of the premier practitioners of intensive grazing of all species of livestock. And of course, he’s a widely respected educator and author.

The tour started with Joel’s “egg-mobile.” Each mobile set-up is rotated in about 50 acres. Joel says it is important to get the birds far away from the site where they were raised so you can break them of their homing habit. And these birds do a lot of beneficial work on the farm, in addition to the eggs they provide, by cleaning up the pastures following beef cattle being rotated through. This greatly reduces insects and harmful parasites and improves fertilization/nutrient retention in the pasture.

The birds need to be locked in the mobile coops for only one day before they imprint on their new homes enough to come in at night and to use the nesting boxes. The first day does take a bit of encouragement to get the birds in.  After that, they are pretty much on their own.

Like Rodney Martin, the Salatins pull their mobile coops in a covered shelter in the winter. In their case it’s to giant hoophouses that grow vegetables during the summer. They are joined by hogs and rabbits in the structures.

After viewing the laying hens, we took a look at broilers that are rotated to a new spot of ground every day (using “chicken tractors”), assuring excellent nutrition from fresh grass and pasture improvement.  Unlike most commercial operations, these chickens are not living with poor air-quality and in their own excrement.

Next it was over to watch some of the young pigs rooting around in their wooded pasture. I’m telling you, if you are a pig, this would be the life!

Joel’s beef cattle and turkeys all enjoy mobile structures to provide shade, and all these different species are integrated into one management program that continues to improve fertility around the entire farm.

Our tour, which was preceded by a hearty breakfast, was capped off with a great chicken barbecue, a few interesting speeches, and an extended Q&A with the Joel and and his son Daniel .

Winston Churchill once said, “When you find the work you love, you will never work again.”

It’s with great gratitude that I recognize our members continue to employ me, and other Cornucopia staff, so we can continue to work hard to protect the organic label, and other marketing vehicles that connect farmers and consumers who seek truly authentic food.

Within days I was back in my office refreshed and ready to dive once again, if necessary, into the organic manure lagoon that’s been created by the unholy alliance between corporate agribusiness and the USDA. Through their marketing propaganda, they want to have us believe that the products they sell come from farms like those operated by Rodney Martin, Jesse Hershberger, and Joel Salatin and their families.

Our job is to make sure that these hard-working farm families are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by companies playing fast and loose with the spirit and the letter of the law.

The post A Tale of Three Farms—in the Shenandoah Valley appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/a-tale-of-three-farms-in-the-shenandoah-valley/feed/ 0
The Next Great GMO Debatehttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/the-next-great-gmo-debate/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/the-next-great-gmo-debate/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 00:17:48 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17458 Technology Review by Antonio Regalado Deep inside its labs, Monsanto is learning how to modify crops by spraying them with RNA rather than tinkering with their genes. The Colorado potato beetle is a voracious eater. The insect can chew through 10 square centimeters of leaf a day, and left unchecked it will strip a plant bare. But the beetles I was looking at were doomed. The plant they were feeding on—bright green and carefully netted

The post The Next Great GMO Debate appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Technology Review
by Antonio Regalado

monsantoDeep inside its labs, Monsanto is learning how to modify crops by spraying them with RNA rather than tinkering with their genes.

The Colorado potato beetle is a voracious eater. The insect can chew through 10 square centimeters of leaf a day, and left unchecked it will strip a plant bare. But the beetles I was looking at were doomed. The plant they were feeding on—bright green and carefully netted in Monsanto’s labs outside St. Louis—had been doused with a spray of RNA.

The experiment took advantage of a mechanism called RNA interference. It’s a way to temporarily turn off the activity of any gene. In this case, the gene being shut down was one vital to the insect’s survival. “I am pretty sure 99 percent of them will be dead soon,” said Jodi Beattie, a Monsanto scientist who showed me her experiment.

The discovery of RNA interference earned two academics a Nobel Prize in 2006 and set off a scramble to create drugs that block disease-causing genes. Using this same technology, Monsanto now thinks it has hit on an alternative to conventional genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. It can already kill bugs by getting them to eat leaves coated with specially designed RNA. And if the company succeeds in developing sprays that penetrate plant cells, as it’s attempting to, it could block certain plant genes, too. Imagine a spray that causes tomatoes to taste better or helps plants survive a drought.

Monsanto isn’t the only one working on genetic sprays. Other large agricultural biotech companies, including Bayer and Syngenta, are also investigating the technology. The appeal is that it offers control over genes without modifying a plant’s genome—that is, without creating a GMO.

That means sprays might sidestep much of the controversy around agricultural biotechnology. Or so companies hope. What’s certain is that a way to accomplish the goals of genetic engineering without having to develop a GMO could bring commercial rewards. Sprays might be quickly tailored to do battle with an insect infestation or a new type of virus. Not only could this be faster than creating new GM crops, but the gene-silencing effects of RNA interference last only a few days or weeks. That means you might spray on traits such as drought resistance in times of water shortage without affecting the plant’s performance in times of normal rainfall.

Beattie showed me a large glass jar in which dried, purified RNA glistened like crumbled packing peanuts. A few years ago, this much RNA might have cost $1 million, one reason few would have thought to spray it from tractors rumbling through rows of corn. But the cost of making RNA has plummeted. Monsanto estimates that it now costs $50 a gram. A tenth that amount, the company says, is potent enough to kill 100 percent of beetles on an acre of plants.

At Monsanto I met Robb Fraley, the company’s chief technology officer, who oversees a research staff of 5,000. Three years ago Fraley designated the RNA sprays as one of Monsanto’s new areas for product development. He thinks that within a few years they will “open up a whole new way to use biotechnology” that “doesn’t have the same stigma, the same intensive regulatory studies and cost that we would normally associate with GMOs.” He’s told people he thinks the tools are “incredible” and “breathtaking” and that “of all the platforms we are working on, this is the one that reminds me the most of the early days of biotech.”

It was Fraley who made Monsanto’s first GM plants in the 1980s—petunias resistant to a plant poison. Today, Monsanto has revenues of about $9 billion a year from GM seeds for crops that produce the insect toxin Bt or resist the weed killer Roundup. GM corn, soy, and cotton plants now spread across 180 million hectares. And it has generated a public controversy just as vast. To its strongest critics, the company is simply “Monsatan.”

But with the RNA spray technology, which Monsanto calls BioDirect, the company may have found something that will bedevil opponents. The sprays are made from a ubiquitous molecule that degrades quickly in soil. They can be genetically precise enough to kill potato bugs but spare their ladybug cousins. And so far, consuming RNA molecules appears no more toxic to people than drinking a glass of orange juice. As Monsanto put it in a letter to U.S. regulators, “humans have been eating RNA as long as we have been eating.”

Public opposition, regulations, and the slow pace of plant breeding mean that on average, bringing a new GM crop to market costs more than $100 million and takes around 13 years. But imagine you wanted to fight a plant virus, says James Carrington, head of a Missouri nonprofit called the Danforth Plant Science Center and an advisor to Monsanto. “If you can gain control with a spray, you can envision a product that can change very rapidly, that you can test faster, experiment with faster, and bring to market faster,” he says. “You could respond to issues as they arise.”

Not everyone is convinced, though, that applying RNA will be commercially feasible or any less controversial than genetic modification. “The public is not accepting GMOs, and this could be more alarming. People are going to say you are taking the RNA and spraying this in the open,” says Kassim Al-Khatib, a plant physiologist at the University of California, Davis. “The acceptance of biotech has to be there before you can deliver another approach. This isn’t a technology for tomorrow. It’s for the day after tomorrow.”

When I met Fraley, he didn’t deny that there are obstacles—in fact, that’s what reminds him so much of biotech’s early days. He says no one yet understands exactly how to get RNA inside a plant’s cells using a field sprayer—at least not with the sort of inexpensive, works-every-time efficiency farmers would be looking for. Many insects are also not easily affected. Monsanto has been spending millions to crack these problems, collaborating with biotech companies specializing in drug delivery. “We’re still a few breakthroughs away,” he says.

Weed control

The cells of plants and animals carry their instructions in the form of DNA. To make a protein, the sequence of genetic letters in each gene gets copied into matching strands of RNA, which then float out of the nucleus to guide the protein-making machinery of the cell. RNA interference, or gene silencing, is a way to destroy specific RNA messages so that a particular protein is not made.

The mechanism is a natural one: it appears to have evolved as a defense system against viruses. It is triggered when a cell encounters double-stranded RNA, or two strands zipped together—the kind viruses create as they try to copy their genetic material. To defend itself, the cell chops the double-stranded RNA molecule into bits and uses the pieces to seek out and destroy any matching RNA messages. What scientists learned was that if they designed a double-stranded RNA corresponding to an animal or plant cell’s own genes, they could get the cells to silence those genes, not only those of a virus.

Some GM plants already use RNA interference to disable unwanted enzymes, or to kill viruses or pests. The Flavr Savr tomato—the first genetically modified crop to be approved in the United States, back in 1994—harnessed the mechanism to block an enzyme that makes tomatoes soft, so they could ripen longer on the vine. Like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready cotton and corn, the Flavr Savr was a GMO. Its seeds have an extra gene that manufactures a specific RNA molecule. Since then, companies have engineered a few other plants to take advantage of RNA interference. This year a Granny Smith apple genetically modified to silence a gene that turns apple slices brown won clearance from regulators. Before that, the Hawaiian papaya industry was saved by plants engineered to produce RNA that defends against the ringspot virus. And Monsanto is awaiting approval to sell corn plants that use RNA interference to kill the western corn rootworm. That plant is the first GMO to incorporate an insecticidal RNA into its genetic makeup.

But what if you could just spray the RNA on instead of tinkering with a plant’s genome? A chemist named Doug Sammons was the first person inside Monsanto to have the idea. He studies weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide that Monsanto markets as Roundup. These weeds have become a huge problem for farmers and for Monsanto. Sammons determined that some resistant weeds have as many as 160 extra copies of a gene called EPSPS. That’s the very enzyme glyphosate interferes with, blocking plant growth. The super-weeds had found a trick to overwhelm the herbicide.

Sammons thought the weed’s extra genes could be knocked back into line with RNA interference. The problem was that since weeds are wild, Monsanto didn’t have any way to control their genetic makeup, as it could with a corn plant. “So he came to us and said, Why don’t we just spray it on a plant? We were like, ‘Really?’” says Gregory Heck, a research manager at Monsanto. “We’d only thought of [GMOs] until that time.”

It seemed unlikely to work—but it did, according to Monsanto. In lab tests and at a roadside plot in Illinois that’s been overrun by weeds, a mixture of Roundup and double-stranded RNA coded to match the EPSPS gene made resistant weeds wilt. According to Monsanto’s patents, the technique also involved spraying a silicone surfactant that let the RNA molecules slip into air-exchange holes in the plant’s surface. Somehow, soaking the leaves with RNA caused the silencing effect to spread through the entire plant, affecting it long enough to let the herbicide take hold.

The technology could give Monsanto a new, exclusive formulation of Roundup (which lost its original patent several years ago) and help deal with the troublesome weeds, which have spread across U.S. farmland. “It’s definitely a prize if you can reënable glyphosate,” says Heck. But the company’s scientists saw that it could do much more: they could theoretically reach in and temporarily block any gene in any crop. “It could be a weed or a corn plant,” says Lyle Crossland, a senior program manager at Monsanto. “You could just dial in the sequence information. You could turn off the gene that makes fruits brown; you could do something with drought tolerance, photosynthesis. We have a lot of probing going on.”

Some plant experts aren’t convinced it’s practical yet. Stephen Powles, director of the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative and a professor at the University of Western Australia, told me he’d had a “bit of a go” at repeating Monsanto’s weed experiment but hadn’t been able to make it work. “Getting double-stranded RNA sprayed onto plants and getting it into plants, and killing a plant, is not easy, and in fact it’s very, very difficult,” he says. “There’s the formulation technology, the shelf life, and can it bounce around in the back of a pickup for a week at 110 °F.”

Richard Jorgensen, a plant biologist who was the first to observe RNA interference, thinks modifying traits with a spray “might be really patchy” compared with a true GMO. Say you wanted to turn flowers a specific color. “Would you spray it every week and hope it gets into every cell in the plant bud? I think there are lots of limitations compared to [GMOs],” he says. To Powles, however, the idea of spray-on traits has strong appeal. “It’s a way of elegantly targeting particular genes and turning those genes off. And there are undesirable trait genes in everything,” he says.

Skunk works

After the weed discovery, which occurred in 2010, Monsanto began spending heavily to build a position in RNA technology. It took over a company called Beeologics, which had found a way to introduce RNA into sugar water that bees feed on in order to kill a parasitic mite that infests hives. That company had also come up with a much cheaper way to make RNA.

Monsanto also began trying to crack the problem of getting RNA into plants more efficiently. It paid $30 million for access to the RNA interference know-how and patents held by the biotech company Alnylam, and it did a similar deal with Tekmira, an RNA delivery specialist based in Burnaby, British Columbia. Monsanto is also the financial backer of a 15-person company called Preceres, a kind of skunk works it established just off the campus of MIT, where robotic mixers are busy stirring RNA together with coatings of specialized nanoparticles.

The startup was created by drug delivery specialists, including MIT professors Daniel Anderson and Robert Langer, who have spent a decade learning how to get RNA drugs into human cells—a problem so difficult it almost derailed the idea of such medicines. Anderson told me the crop project faces substantial difficulties, too. “It’s easier to envision if you are injecting a person in their veins, but if you are spraying out of a plane, that would be a whole different set of challenges,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about wind currents with drugs.”

The basic task at Preceres is how to get a large, electrically charged molecule like RNA to move through a plant’s waxy cuticle and into its cells. To do it, researchers there are working to encapsulate the RNA in synthetic nanoparticles called lipidoids—greasy blobs with specialized chemical tails. The idea is to slip them into a plant, where the coating will dissolve, releasing the RNA. Formulations get shipped out to St. Louis for testing in greenhouses.

Roger Wiegand, the company’s CEO, says the company is also trying to kill insects that aren’t as easily affected by RNA as the potato beetle. “There are insects that just laugh at naked double-stranded RNA,” he says. Those include a caterpillar now infesting Brazil’s soybean crops. He says some of the formulations get tested for endurance in caterpillar spit that Monsanto sends to Cambridge.

If they are able to sort out the delivery problems, Wiegand thinks, RNA sprays will be “a big frickin’ deal” and “a breakthrough at the same level GMO plants were.” Yet so far, only a few scientific publications even mention the idea of RNA sprays. That makes it hard to judge companies’ claims. And many aren’t talking at all. Bayer declined to comment on its research program. So did Syngenta, which in 2012 paid $523 million to acquire Devgen, a European biotech with which it had worked on RNA insecticides.

One project I did learn about is led by Nitzan Paldi, an Israeli entrepreneur who’d been a cofounder of Beeologics. His current startup, called Forrest Innovations, is investigating a solution to citrus greening disease, a blight that’s destroying Florida’s citrus industry and is also present in Brazil. Caused by bacteria spread by an invasive insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, it leaves oranges hard and discolored, with juice the flavor of jet fuel. Last year, 22 percent of oranges in Florida suddenly fell off the trees.

Paldi isn’t willing to disclose exactly how he’s applying the RNA, but he did say he’s hoping to block genes involved in the trees’ reaction to the bacteria. It’s their immune response to the infection that causes the greening symptoms. If the treatment works, Paldi believes, an RNA intervention could sail past regulators. With growers desperate, and the prospect of no more Florida orange juice, the public may be open-minded too. “We are potentially riding in on the horse and saving the day,” he says.

Killer match

At Monsanto, the effort to develop an RNA spray to kill potato beetles has overtaken the weed idea. It could reach the market by 2020, says Jeremy Williams, a Monsanto geneticist who directs the insect program. The company has settled on a gene target and has begun efforts to make the spray rainproof so it grips the plant leaf and doesn’t wash away for at least a week.

One reason the potato beetle is an interesting target for RNA sprays is that it’s famous for becoming resistant to conventional insecticides. Since 1952, it’s developed resistance to more than 60 of them, starting with DDT. But RNA interference is a means of attack that Williams doesn’t think will be easy to overcome. If the beetle does evolve to resist an RNA molecule, he says, geneticists could easily launch a new assault: just “slide the sequence over” by a few letters or target several genes at once.

Monsanto has also been interested in the problem facing orange growers. It collaborates with Wayne Hunter, a spiky-haired entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research laboratory in Fort Pierce, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, where grapefruit and orange orchards are affected by citrus greening disease. With assistance from Monsanto, Hunter has been trying to kill the psyllid insect with RNA. He toured me through a plot of 100 orange trees, explaining that he’d drenched their roots with RNA or injected it into their trunks. Hunter’s most interesting result is that orange trees seem to soak up double-stranded RNA and hold onto it. He applies a relatively huge dose to each tree, about 200 milligrams, and finds traces of the molecules still in their canopies three months later.

In Hunter’s lab, psyllids were feeding on cuttings from trees resting in cups of liquid spiked with double-stranded RNA. Hunter was testing specific sequences that match crucial genes in the insect. One, which codes for arginine kinase, interferes with its ability to make energy.

Before picking a target, scientists can sift through online archives of DNA data to avoid matches with the genes of friendly insects, like honeybees. It takes an exact match of about 20 consecutive genetic letters for RNA interference to work. The resulting double-stranded RNA molecules, usually about 200 letters long, are then fed to other species, including bees, aphids, and whiteflies, as a practical test for “off target” effects. Monsanto has found that its sequences—which it calls triggers—usually don’t affect any but the most closely related species, bugs in the same genus. “The differences are genetic,” says Hunter. “The genes of insects are not identical. If it does not match, it does not kill.”

In contrast, conventional insecticides wipe out helpful insects along with the bad ones. To stave off the greening disease, growers in Florida have been applying such chemicals as often as every two weeks. One, imidacloprid, is restricted in Europe for its suspected link to bee colony collapse. “We’ve just got to get away from hard-core pesticide use,” says David Hall, leader of the subtropical-insect research unit that Hunter works in.

So far, it looks as though RNA treatments would be at best an adjunct in the orange groves, not a silver bullet. RNA doesn’t knock bugs out instantly, as a chemical neurotoxin does. In Hunter’s lab, insects only start dying after four days, and some live two weeks. “It’s a biopesticide—it takes longer,” he says. Perhaps partly for that reason, the field study of 100 trees supported by Monsanto yielded ambiguous results. The trees remained covered with psyllids, but they might have flown in from elsewhere. Hunter is planning to try again in a large enclosed greenhouse where he can apply RNA to every tree, mimicking what would happen if growers used an “area-wide” application.

Meanwhile, growers are trying anything. Some grind up infected trees. There is also a GM tree that’s resistant to the blight, thanks to an added gene from a spinach plant. But even if consumers accepted GM orange juice, those trees couldn’t be planted fast enough to replace the millions of sick ones in Florida’s groves. Hunter’s RNA molecules probably won’t arrive soon enough either. “We are still 10 years away,” he says. “That is a problem with this technology. Around here, there is an enormous amount of pressure to come up with a solution.”

Big questions

People on Monsanto’s public relations staff told me they hoped to communicate better on RNA sprays than they had on GMOs. (Visitors to the company’s offices can pick up a handout titled “12 Myths about Monsanto”; number 1 is the rumor that it bars GMOs from its own cafeteria.) Until now, the sprays have been too deep in the R&D pipeline to attract the attention of GMO opponents. But plants genetically engineered to use RNA silencing have drawn attacks. In 2012, the Safe Food Foundation in Australia alleged that experimental wheat developed by the Australian government could kill people. They said the RNA trigger designed to change the plant’s starch content might match the gene for a human liver enzyme and interfere with it, too. The charge was fanciful, mostly because RNA does not appear to make it past a person’s saliva or stomach acids. Even so, says Wiegand, “the big question any skeptic will raise is: ‘If you are killing insects, what will this do to me?’”

Monsanto has been laying groundwork for the inevitable safety debate. It sent staffers to grocery stores and farm stands to collect fruits and vegetables that appeared to be suffering from viral infections. Analyzing these, they found thousands of fragments of viral RNA, many of which closely matched human genes. Yet it’s not known that anyone has been harmed by RNA in produce. Given this “history of safe consumption,” the company concluded, mere matches between RNA triggers and human genes have “little biological relevance.”

Last year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked a panel of experts to help it decide how to regulate RNA insecticides, including sprays as well as those incorporated into a plant’s genes. In an 81-page letter to the agency, Monsanto lobbied against any special rules. It said RNA products should actually be spared safety tests it called irrelevant, including those designed to assess whether they were toxic to rodents and whether they could cause allergies, as well as in-depth studies of what happens to the molecules in the environment. Only proteins cause allergies, Monsanto said. And when the company doused dirt with RNA, it degraded and was undetectable after 48 hours.

Company research probably won’t ever satisfy critics. The National Honey Bee Advisory Board told the EPA that using RNA interference at this point would put natural systems at “the epitome of risk” and could be as regrettable as our earlier embrace of DDT. “We are decades away from enough scientific understanding to allow sustainable and predictable use of this technology under field conditions,” they said. The beekeepers worry that pollinators could be hurt by unintended effects. They made the point that the genomes of many insects aren’t yet known, so scientists can’t predict whether their genes will match an RNA target.
The EPA’s advisors, in their report last year, agreed that there was little evidence of a risk to people from eating RNA. But is there some kind of ecological risk? This question they found harder to answer. Monsanto paints RNA as safe and quick to disappear, yet the aim is to make it lethal to insects and weeds, and the company wants to develop longer-lasting formulations. How long? In Hunter’s trees the molecules persisted for months. What’s more, Monsanto’s own discoveries have underscored the surprising ways in which double-stranded RNA can move between species.

These unfolding discoveries suggest that complex biology is at work, leading the EPA’s advisors to say that the “potential scale” of RNA used in agriculture “warrants exploration of the potential for unintended ecological effects.” RNA may be natural. But introducing large amounts of targeted RNA molecules into the environment is not. The advisory panel concluded that “knowledge gaps make it difficult to predict” exactly what problems might arise.

Yet the biggest challenge to RNA sprays, Nitzan Paldi told me, isn’t going to come from regulators. The real problem can be summarized in a single word: Monsanto. “For half the world, that is enough to know it’s evil,” he says. “Monsanto is introducing a new technology, full stop. But Monsanto is also the best way to make this real. For the scientifically literate, this is the dream molecule.”

The post The Next Great GMO Debate appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/the-next-great-gmo-debate/feed/ 0
Frack No!http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/frack-no/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/frack-no/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:24:07 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17439 Sign the Petition to Ban the Use of Frack and Sewage Wastewater for Growing Organic Food The USDA needs to tighten federal standards to prohibit the use for crop irrigation of fracking wastewater from oil and gas drilling, and from the nation’s municipal sewage treatment systems, in organic food production. Research shows that the copious amounts of frack wastewater, a byproduct of the hydraulic fracturing technique in gas and oil production, are contaminated with toxic

The post Frack No! appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Sign the Petition to Ban the Use of Frack and
Sewage Wastewater for Growing Organic Food

CI_FrackThisWastewaterPetitionThe USDA needs to tighten federal standards to prohibit the use for crop irrigation of fracking wastewater from oil and gas drilling, and from the nation’s municipal sewage treatment systems, in organic food production.

Research shows that the copious amounts of frack wastewater, a byproduct of the hydraulic fracturing technique in gas and oil production, are contaminated with toxic chemicals and oil.  And recent reporting has indicated its use in growing organic food in California.

Effluent from sewage plants, which co-mingles waste from domestic and industrial sources, can contain pathogens and drug residues in addition to heavy metals and toxic chemicals and should similarly be prohibited for use in the growing of organic food.

Please add your name to the petition to let the USDA know that fracking and sewage wastewaters should not be used to grow organic crops.

Published research indicates that certain plants are very efficient in taking up chemical and pharmaceutical residues from the soil where they then can accumulate in the plant’s tissue.

Recycled/treated oil or gas wastewater used for irrigation can be contaminated by a variety of chemicals, including industrial solvents such as acetone and methylene chloride, and hydrocarbons (oil components).

Sewage sludge was banned from organic use due to concerns that the domestic waste stream and industrial sewage are combined, thus rendering the byproducts contaminated with heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other toxins found in industrial sewage.  But the use of wastewater from sewage plants is still allowed.

To keep organic food as pure as possible it’s important that we quickly, promulgate regulations that will ban risky wastewater uses, as tempting as this is in drought-impacted states like California, from contaminating our food supply.

Click here to sign the petition to ban the use of fracking and sewage wastewater in the growing of organic food.

The post Frack No! appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/frack-no/feed/ 0
Junk Food Marketing Targets Communities of Colorhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/junk-food-marketing-targets-communities-of-color/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/junk-food-marketing-targets-communities-of-color/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 21:02:52 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17432 by Rachel Zegerius Source: Frankie Leon Some of the same conventional processed food companies that are listening to their customers’ demands to remove synthetic and artificial ingredients are, simultaneously, being investigated for target-marketing nutritionally poor foods directly to communities of color. A recent report by the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity examines TV food advertising, and other forms of marketing, to young Hispanic and Black consumers. The research shows that

The post Junk Food Marketing Targets Communities of Color appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
by Rachel Zegerius

Source: Frankie Leon

Some of the same conventional processed food companies that are listening to their customers’ demands to remove synthetic and artificial ingredients are, simultaneously, being investigated for target-marketing nutritionally poor foods directly to communities of color.

A recent report by the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity examines TV food advertising, and other forms of marketing, to young Hispanic and Black consumers.

The research shows that these young people receive a “double dose” of promotions for products high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. In fact, two‐thirds of food ads viewed by Hispanic children and teens promote fast food, candy, sugary drinks, and snacks.

food-advertising_v2

The companies studied spent a whopping $440 million on such ads while just 3 percent of ads ($10 Million) promoted healthier alternatives like yogurt, other dairy, and 100% juice. The amount spent on TV ads for fruits, vegetables, and pure water? Nada.

Public health experts are concerned that exposure to racially/ethnically targeted food marketing contributes to poor diet and health disparities for young African Americans and Latinos, including higher rates of obesity and other diseases. Advocates and policymakers have proposed numerous obesity prevention actions, including the need for dramatic changes in targeted marketing practices from key stakeholders within industry.

Carol Hazen, director of advocacy resources for the Food Marketing Initiative at the Rudd Center, noted in an interview with Al Jazeera, “When you add together target marketing and the disparate rates of diet-related diseases, what you have is a social justice issue.”

Research like this can help us identify opportunities to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities, young people of color.

The post Junk Food Marketing Targets Communities of Color appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/junk-food-marketing-targets-communities-of-color/feed/ 0
Meet the Nation’s First School District to Serve 100% Organic Mealshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/meet-the-nations-first-school-district-to-serve-100-organic-meals/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/meet-the-nations-first-school-district-to-serve-100-organic-meals/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:58:06 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17427 Common Dreams by Nadia Prupis Source: Center for Ecoliteracy/USDA “This program successfully disrupts the cycle of unhealthy, pre-packaged, heat and serve meals that dominate school kitchens.” When schools in California’s Sausalito Marin City District return to session this August, they will be the first in the nation to serve their students 100 percent organic meals, sustainably sourced and free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). More than 500 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy in Marin

The post Meet the Nation’s First School District to Serve 100% Organic Meals appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Common Dreams
by Nadia Prupis

Source: Center for Ecoliteracy/USDA

“This program successfully disrupts the cycle of unhealthy, pre-packaged, heat and serve meals that dominate school kitchens.”

When schools in California’s Sausalito Marin City District return to session this August, they will be the first in the nation to serve their students 100 percent organic meals, sustainably sourced and free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

More than 500 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy in Marin City and Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito will eat fresh, local food year-round, thanks to a partnership with the Conscious Kitchen, a project of the environmental education nonprofit Turning Green.

“Students everywhere are vulnerable to pesticide residues and unsafe environmental toxins,” Turning Green founder Judi Shils said on Tuesday. “Not only does this program far exceed USDA nutritional standards, but it ties the health of our children to the health of our planet. It’s the first program to say that fundamentally, you cannot have one without the other.”

The organization says meals will be accompanied by nutrition and gardening education. The Conscious Kitchen previously served 156 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy, where it first tested the program starting in August 2013. Over the course of two years, the founders said, disciplinary cases decreased and attendance increased.

Moreover, the program will address the controversial issue of GMOs in school food. As environmental news outlet EcoWatch reports:

This program is the first to take a stand against GMOs. While the long-term effects of GMOs are still uncertain, a growing body of evidence links them to a variety of health risks and environmental damage. An estimated 80 percent of items on most supermarket shelves contain GMOs, and they are ubiquitous in school food programs.

Nutritional experts have long pointed out that food and beverages in schools have a long-term impact on children’s health and well-being. The 2010 Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act required schools in the U.S. to update their meal provisions to meet new USDA nutritional standards and offer more whole wheat products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins to children who receive subsidized school lunches.

But as the Berkeley-based nutritional nonprofit The Edible Schoolyard Project explains, it is equally important to prioritize food education.

“Schools that incorporate an integrated approach to edible education—combining local, seasonal food procurement strategies with hands-on lessons taught in the classroom, kitchen, and garden—are far more likely to sustain healthy school meal initiatives,” said Liza Siegler, the organization’s head of partnerships and engagement.

As Justin Everett, consulting chef with the Conscious Kitchen, explained on Tuesday, “By embracing fresh, local, organic, non-GMO food, this program successfully disrupts the cycle of unhealthy, pre-packaged, heat and serve meals that dominate school kitchens.”

The post Meet the Nation’s First School District to Serve 100% Organic Meals appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/meet-the-nations-first-school-district-to-serve-100-organic-meals/feed/ 0
Industry Watchdog Asks USDA to Ban Use of Wastewater From Fracking and Sewage Systems for Organic Food Productionhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/industry-watchdog-asks-usda-to-ban-use-of-wastewater-from-fracking-and-sewage-systems-for-organic-food-production/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/industry-watchdog-asks-usda-to-ban-use-of-wastewater-from-fracking-and-sewage-systems-for-organic-food-production/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 16:31:18 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17419 The Cornucopia Institute has formally called on the USDA to tighten federal standards to prohibit the use of fracking wastewater from oil and gas drilling for irrigation in organic food production.  In addition, the Wisconsin-based farm policy research group is also asking the USDA to ban wastewater from the nation’s municipal sewage treatment systems.  Solid waste produced by the same facilities is currently prohibited. Fracking Wastewater Pit Source: Faces of Fracking The organic industry watchdog

The post Industry Watchdog Asks USDA to Ban Use of Wastewater From Fracking and Sewage Systems for Organic Food Production appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
The Cornucopia Institute has formally called on the USDA to tighten federal standards to prohibit the use of fracking wastewater from oil and gas drilling for irrigation in organic food production.  In addition, the Wisconsin-based farm policy research group is also asking the USDA to ban wastewater from the nation’s municipal sewage treatment systems.  Solid waste produced by the same facilities is currently prohibited.

Fracking Wastewater Pit
Source: Faces of Fracking

The organic industry watchdog has launched a national petition drive to the USDA calling for new regulations to prohibit the wastewater practices.

Cornucopia pointed to research that shows that the copious amounts of wastewater, a byproduct of the hydraulic fracturing technique in gas and oil production, is contaminated with toxic chemicals and oil. Recent reporting has indicated its use in the growing of organic food in California.  Effluent from sewage plants, which co-mingles waste from domestic and industrial sources, can contain pathogens and drug residues in addition to heavy metals and toxic chemicals.  This is also a concern of Cornucopia’s.

“Because of these potential contaminants, spreading sewage sludge is explicitly banned in organic production,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “To keep organic food as pure as possible it’s important that we quickly promulgate regulations that will ban risky wastewater uses, as tempting as they are in drought-impacted states like California, from contaminating our food supply.”

Published research indicates that certain plants are very efficient in taking up chemical and pharmaceutical residues from the soil where they then can accumulate in the plant’s tissue.

“Recycled/treated oil or gas wastewater used for irrigation can be contaminated by a variety of chemicals, including industrial solvents such as acetone and methylene chloride, and hydrocarbons (oil components),” said Jerome Rigot, PhD, a staff scientist at Cornucopia.

Rigot continued, “As an example, irrigation water provided by Chevron contains a variety of contaminants, including several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene, toluene, xylenes, and acetone; several hydrocarbons; a high concentration of sodium chloride (table salt), other halide salts (bromide, fluoride, chloride), heavy metals, and radioactive metals (2 radium isotopes). Many of these compounds are potential and known carcinogens.”

Fossil fuel industry lobbyists have succeeded in preventing the public from even knowing what chemicals are being used in the fracking wells. This has exposed groundwater, and the general environment in many parts of the country, to unknown but likely risks. California has tougher disclosure requirements.

“This is a wake-up call that the organic standards need to be tightened,” said Dr. Rigot.
The organic standards were developed before the fracking industry emerged.

Cornucopia’s Kastel added, “Our contention is also that there are toxic constituents contained in that effluent of municipal wastewater being used for irrigation.  Since the organic standards clearly ban sewage sludge (what the industry politely calls ‘biosolids’), those compounds would disqualify that wastewater from use in organics as well.”

Sewage sludge was banned from organics due to concerns that, in the U.S., the domestic waste stream and industrial sewage are combined thus rendering the byproducts contaminated with heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other toxins found in industrial sewage.  Cornucopia noted that all of the sewage sludge, and a vast preponderance of wastewater, that is currently being landspread is being applied to conventional farm fields.

“We urge everyone concerned about these wastewater practices to sign the petition to the USDA.  But while we wait for the USDA to take action, a little research to learn where your organic food is coming from will pay dividends,” Kastel said.

Cornucopia states that the vast majority of family-scale organic farms around the country do not use any risky irrigation water. The families that farm these operations are eating the food out of their own fields, unlike the owners of large industrial operations, producing both organic and conventional produce, that typically work under contract to a major agribusiness.

“By eating as close to home as possible, and buying  food that is labeled both local and certified organic, consumers are getting the freshest and most nutritious food possible, and protecting their families from industrial-scale operations that might be more likely to use risky practices,” said Kastel.

Correction/clarification: an earlier version of this new story referenced fracking water being used in organic production in the Modesto, California area. The wastewater being used in Modesto is coming from their municipal sewage treatment plant. Published reports of water from hydraulic fracturing, being used in organic production, reference Kern County, California.

The post Industry Watchdog Asks USDA to Ban Use of Wastewater From Fracking and Sewage Systems for Organic Food Production appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/industry-watchdog-asks-usda-to-ban-use-of-wastewater-from-fracking-and-sewage-systems-for-organic-food-production/feed/ 0
GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Healthhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/gmos-herbicides-and-public-health/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/gmos-herbicides-and-public-health/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 22:24:34 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17398 The New England Journal of Medicine by Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. Image source: Will Fuller N Engl J Med 2015; 373:693-695August 20, 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1505660 Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not high on most physicians’ worry lists. If we think at all about biotechnology, most of us probably focus on direct threats to human health, such as prospects for converting pathogens to biologic weapons or the implications of new technologies for editing

The post GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
The New England Journal of Medicine
by Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.

HerbicideSpray WillFuller
Image source: Will Fuller

N Engl J Med 2015; 373:693-695August 20, 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1505660

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not high on most physicians’ worry lists. If we think at all about biotechnology, most of us probably focus on direct threats to human health, such as prospects for converting pathogens to biologic weapons or the implications of new technologies for editing the human germline. But while those debates simmer, the application of biotechnology to agriculture has been rapid and aggressive. The vast majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are now genetically engineered. Foods produced from GM crops have become ubiquitous. And unlike regulatory bodies in 64 other countries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of GM foods.

Two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape. First, there have been sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops, and still further increases — the largest in a generation — are scheduled to occur in the next few years. Second, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GM crops, as a “probable human carcinogen”1 and classified a second herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a “possible human carcinogen.”2

The application of genetic engineering to agriculture builds on the ancient practice of selective breeding. But unlike traditional selective breeding, genetic engineering vastly expands the range of traits that can be moved into plants and enables breeders to import DNA from virtually anywhere in the biosphere. Depending on the traits selected, genetically engineered crops can increase yields, thrive when irrigated with salty water, or produce fruits and vegetables resistant to mold and rot.

The National Academy of Sciences has twice reviewed the safety of GM crops — in 2000 and 2004.3 Those reviews, which focused almost entirely on the genetic aspects of biotechnology, concluded that GM crops pose no unique hazards to human health. They noted that genetic transformation has the potential to produce unanticipated allergens or toxins and might alter the nutritional quality of food. Both reports recommended development of new risk-assessment tools and postmarketing surveillance. Those recommendations have largely gone unheeded.

Herbicide resistance is the main characteristic that the biotechnology industry has chosen to introduce into plants. Corn and soybeans with genetically engineered tolerance to glyphosate (Roundup) were first introduced in the mid-1990s. These “Roundup-Ready” crops now account for more than 90% of the corn and soybeans planted in the United States.4 Their advantage, especially in the first years after introduction, is that they greatly simplify weed management. Farmers can spray herbicide both before and during the growing season, leaving their crops unharmed.

But widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate.5 In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 — from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014. Global use has increased by a factor of more than 10. Not surprisingly, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged and are found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. Fields must now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.

The first of the two developments that raise fresh concerns about the safety of GM crops is a 2014 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve Enlist Duo, a new combination herbicide comprising glyphosate plus 2,4-D. Enlist Duo was formulated to combat herbicide resistance. It will be marketed in tandem with newly approved seeds genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, 2,4-D, and multiple other herbicides. The EPA anticipates that a 3-to-7-fold increase in 2,4-D use will result.

In our view, the science and the risk assessment supporting the Enlist Duo decision are flawed. The science consisted solely of toxicologic studies commissioned by the herbicide manufacturers in the 1980s and 1990s and never published, not an uncommon practice in U.S. pesticide regulation. These studies predated current knowledge of low-dose, endocrine-mediated, and epigenetic effects and were not designed to detect them. The risk assessment gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children, thus contravening federal pesticide law. It failed to consider ecologic impact, such as effects on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. It considered only pure glyphosate, despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.

The second new development is the determination by the IARC in 2015 that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen”1 and 2,4-D a “possible human carcinogen.”2 These classifications were based on comprehensive assessments of the toxicologic and epidemiologic literature that linked both herbicides to dose-related increases in malignant tumors at multiple anatomical sites in animals and linked glyphosate to an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans.

These developments suggest that GM foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health that were not examined in previous assessments. We believe that the time has therefore come to thoroughly reconsider all aspects of the safety of plant biotechnology. The National Academy of Sciences has convened a new committee to reassess the social, economic, environmental, and human health effects of GM crops. This development is welcome, but the committee’s report is not expected until at least 2016.

In the meantime, we offer two recommendations. First, we believe the EPA should delay implementation of its decision to permit use of Enlist Duo. This decision was made in haste. It was based on poorly designed and outdated studies and on an incomplete assessment of human exposure and environmental effects. It would have benefited from deeper consideration of independently funded studies published in the peer-reviewed literature. And it preceded the recent IARC determinations on glyphosate and 2,4-D. Second, the National Toxicology Program should urgently assess the toxicology of pure glyphosate, formulated glyphosate, and mixtures of glyphosate and other herbicides.

Finally, we believe the time has come to revisit the United States’ reluctance to label GM foods. Labeling will deliver multiple benefits. It is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced. And the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer. We hope, in light of this new information, that the FDA will reconsider labeling of GM foods and couple it with adequately funded, long-term postmarketing surveillance.

SOURCE INFORMATION

From the Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York (P.J.L.); and the Department of Crops and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA (C.B.).

REFERENCES

  • 1. Guyton KZ, Loomis D, Grosse Y, et al. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate. Lancet Oncol 2015;16:490-491
    CrossRef | Web of Science | Medline
  • 2. Loomis D, Guyton K, Grosse Y, et al. Carcinogenicity of lindane, DDT, and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. Lancet Oncol 2015 June 22 (Epub ahead of print).
  • 3. National Research Council, Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health. Safety of genetically engineered foods: approaches to assessing unintended health effects. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004.
  • 4. Adoption of genetically engineered crops in the U.S. Washington, DC: Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us.aspx).
  • 5. Duke SO. Perspectives on transgenic, herbicide-resistant crops in the United States almost 20 years after introduction. Pest Manag Sci 2015;71:652-657
    CrossRef | Web of Science | Medline

The post GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/gmos-herbicides-and-public-health/feed/ 0
NBC/Consumer Reports: Poisons in Beef — “Certified Organic Beef Safer Option”http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/nbcconsumer-reports-poisons-beef-certified-organic-beef-safer-option/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/nbcconsumer-reports-poisons-beef-certified-organic-beef-safer-option/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 12:57:40 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17390 TODAY Well-known Maryland certified organic farmer Nick Maravell does an eloquent job making the case for the superiority of organic beef. Could certain kinds of ground beef pose a greater risk to your health than others? Consumer Reports is raising concerns with a new investigation. NBC’s Tom Costello shares a first look at their findings with TODAY. Read the Consumer Reports Beef Report here. Mark Kastel on advertising: …We apologize for forcing you to sit through

The post NBC/Consumer Reports: Poisons in Beef — “Certified Organic Beef Safer Option” appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
TODAY

Well-known Maryland certified organic farmer Nick Maravell does an eloquent job making the case for the superiority of organic beef.

Could certain kinds of ground beef pose a greater risk to your health than others? Consumer Reports is raising concerns with a new investigation. NBC’s Tom Costello shares a first look at their findings with TODAY.

Read the Consumer Reports Beef Report here.


Mark Kastel on advertising:

…We apologize for forcing you to sit through this advertisement (normally we do not allow any type of advertising on the Cornucopia website). But, of course, NBC is driven by advertising revenue and there is no such thing as a free lunch. However, here’s one observation:

Servers in restaurants work their asses off for, usually, not the best pay or work conditions. Most don’t have the luxury of going home to a grand laundry room with a state-of-the-art, large pair of matching stainless steel washers and dryers. Advertising does such a great job of selling the American dream, doesn’t it?

For extra credit read the award-winning book, Nickeled and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich, for a greater appreciation of how hard the people who make our lives easier work and how challenging their lives really are.

MAK

The post NBC/Consumer Reports: Poisons in Beef — “Certified Organic Beef Safer Option” appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/nbcconsumer-reports-poisons-beef-certified-organic-beef-safer-option/feed/ 0
Butter Unlikely to Harm Health, but Margarine Could Be Deadlyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/butter-unlikely-to-harm-health-but-margarine-could-be-deadly/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/butter-unlikely-to-harm-health-but-margarine-could-be-deadly/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 20:58:27 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17377 The Telegraph by Sarah Knapton Source: Steve Johnson Saturated fat does not increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes or early death, a study has shown Saturated fat found in butter, meat or cream is unlikely to kill you, but margarine just might, new research suggests. Although traditionally dieticians have advised people to cut down on animal fats, the biggest ever study has shown that it does not increase the risk of stroke, heart

The post Butter Unlikely to Harm Health, but Margarine Could Be Deadly appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
The Telegraph
by Sarah Knapton

Source: Steve Johnson

Saturated fat does not increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes or early death, a study has shown

Saturated fat found in butter, meat or cream is unlikely to kill you, but margarine just might, new research suggests.

Although traditionally dieticians have advised people to cut down on animal fats, the biggest ever study has shown that it does not increase the risk of stroke, heart disease or diabetes.

However trans-fats, found in processed foods like margarine raises the risk of death by 34 per cent.

“For years everyone has been advised to cut out fats,” said study lead author Doctor Russell de Souza, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, at McMaster University in Canada.

“Trans fats have no health benefits and pose a significant risk for heart disease, but the case for saturated fat is less clear.

“That said, we aren’t advocating an increase of the allowance for saturated fats in dietary guidelines, as we don’t see evidence that higher limits would be specifically beneficial to health.”

Saturated fats come mainly from animal products, such as butter, cows’ milk, meat, salmon and egg yolks, and some plant products such as chocolate and palm oils.

In contrast Trans unsaturated fats or trans fats – are mainly produced industrially from plant oils for use in margarine, snack foods and packaged baked goods.

Guidelines currently recommend that saturated fats are limited to less than 10 per cent, and trans fats to less than one per cent of energy, to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

However the new research which looked at 50 studies involving more than one million people found there was no evidence that saturated fat was bad for health.

It backs up recent research from the University of Cambridge that found saturated fat in dairy foods might protect against diabetes.

Last year leading heart scientist Dr James DiNicolantonio of Ithica College, New York, called for health guidelines on saturated fats to be changed in an article in the British Medical Journal.

The “vilification” of saturated fats dates back to the 1950s when research suggested a link between high dietary saturated fat intake and deaths from heart disease.

But the study author drew his conclusions on data from six countries, choosing to ignore the data from a further 16, which did not fit with his hypothesis, and which subsequent analysis of all 22 countries’ data.

Nevertheless the research stuck and since the 1970s most public health organisations have advised people to cut down on fat.

However the new research found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and death for any reason, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, ischemic stroke or type 2 diabetes.

In contrast, consumption of industrial trans fats was associated with a 34 per cent increase in death, a 28 per cent increased risk of death from coronary heart disease, and a 21 per cent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Despite the research British health experts cautioned against changing to a diet which was high in saturated fat.

Prof Tom Sanders, Emeritus Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London, said: “It would be foolish to interpret these findings to suggest that it is OK to eat lots of fatty meat, lashings of cream and oodles of butter.

“Death rates from CVD have fallen in the UK by about 55 per cent since 1997 despite the rise in obesity for reasons that remain uncertain but this may in part be due to changes in the food supply particularly fewer trans and more omega-3 fatty acids.”

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian, British Heart Foundation, added: “While saturated fats were not robustly associated with total or deaths from CHD, this does not mean we should all go back to eating butter – the studies that this review is based on can’t show cause and effect.

“Rather, it highlights how difficult it is to understand the true relationship between diet and our health.

“Diets high in saturated fat are linked to raised cholesterol levels, a risk factor for CHD. But when one nutrient is reduced it will be replaced by another and, depending on what this is, it can have positive or negative health consequences.”

The research was published in the British Medical Journal.

The post Butter Unlikely to Harm Health, but Margarine Could Be Deadly appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/butter-unlikely-to-harm-health-but-margarine-could-be-deadly/feed/ 0
Why Cities Should Invest in Beekeepinghttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/why-cities-should-invest-in-beekeeping/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/why-cities-should-invest-in-beekeeping/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 16:45:14 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17372 Sustainable Cities Collective Source: Andria Cities looking for sustainable economic growth might consider investing in a seemingly unlikely source: urban beekeeping. Contrary to what one might expect, urban bees survive better, produce more honey, and are healthier than rural bees. Furthermore, urban bees have a winter survival rate of 62.5 percent, compared to just 40 percent for their rural counterparts. Urban bees also produce, on average, 26.25 pounds of honey in their first year, while

The post Why Cities Should Invest in Beekeeping appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Sustainable Cities Collective

Source: Andria

Cities looking for sustainable economic growth might consider investing in a seemingly unlikely source: urban beekeeping. Contrary to what one might expect, urban bees survive better, produce more honey, and are healthier than rural bees. Furthermore, urban bees have a winter survival rate of 62.5 percent, compared to just 40 percent for their rural counterparts. Urban bees also produce, on average, 26.25 pounds of honey in their first year, while the yield for rural bees is only 16.75 pounds.

In light of these facts, cities should capitalize on and invest in urban beekeeping. Cultivating beehives in an urban context will not only help cities develop economically, but will also have a positive impact on bee health and—by extension—the agricultural community.

Bees Thrive in an Urban Environment

In short, beehives located in cities produce healthier and more productive bees. The reason is that urban bees have access to greater biodiversity, resulting in a more varied diet and stronger immune systems. Although it might seem natural that hives would thrive best in rural environments, modern monoculture farming exposes bees to less diverse plants types and more pesticides.

Bee health is particularly important today because over the past decade, bee populations have been drastically declining due to colony collapse disorder (CCD). CCD has no identified cause, yet has contributed significantly to shrinking global bee populations every year by 30 percent since 2006Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, have been linked to bee disappearance, and their use is considered to be one of the possible drivers of CCD.  However, urban bees are not exposed to this harsh chemical, which means they are less likely to die off from CCD, especially considering that cities are generally healthier homes for bees.

Bees Benefits Local Communities As Well

In the future, agriculture may turn to renting urban bees to pollinate their crops, granting urban beekeepers tremendous economic opportunity. Bees and other animal pollinators contribute to 35 percent of global food production, making bees essential for agriculture and plant life. And, as bee populations decline, the need for secondary sources of pollen for agricultural production grows. Thus, demand for renting out honeybees is increasing. In California, for example, bee population fallout became so dire for the agricultural sector that in 2014, Los Angeles changed the law, allowing urban beekeeping to reinvigorate local bee populations. While urban beekeeping will not replace large-scale apiculture, it may help support areas that are most affected by diminishing bee populations.

Because some of the world’s largest honey exporters are developing countries such as Ukraine, Turkey, and Mexico, urban apiculture wields extraordinary possibility for growth. And, as a business, apiculture has immediate impacts on regional development. Furthermore, since most of the labor is executed by the bees, beekeeping is low-tech and neither a time nor labor-intensive task. Residents can easily start a few beehives as a secondary source of income by selling honey as a cash crop or even as an export crop. Additionally, honey has the advantage over perishable crops in that it never spoils, allowing producers to stock honey for as long as they need. Finally, honey also has medicinal purposes, cultural value, and nutritional density, making it a useful source of carbohydrates for food insecure areas.

How Leadership Can Help Urban Beekeeping Flourish

Many nonprofit organizations have already recognized the value of beekeeping for developing countries, serving as models that regional and local governments should follow, as public investment could have an even bigger impact. One organization, Bees Without Borders, helps people in Fiji, Uganda, Haiti, and Kenya use beekeeping for additional income, and works on initiatives in these countries with the belief that apiculture can be a tool for sustainable communities. Their work in Uganda, for example, tripled the number of beekeepers who have access to the honey market in 2014, doubling average sales per beekeeper by the end of the project.

Similarly, Bees Abroad is utilizing beekeeping as a way to reduce poverty. One of their initiatives in Southern Cameroon works to establish permanent local honey markets, and in 2012, they achieved a 49 percent increase in honey sales. Finally, Bee World Project supports rural and agricultural beekeeping in developing countries, and is currently working with women’s groups in the Dominican Republic to triple the price they receive per kilogram of honey. Most work to promote beekeeping as a tool for community development has taken place in a rural context.

However, urban beekeeping is recently yielding some success in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris, mainly as resources for restaurants and hotels. As a whole, urban beekeeping clearly has benefits for diverse sets of individuals. However, unsubstantiated fears about bees and swarms in densely populated areas hold urban beekeeping back. Founder of NYC Beekeeper’s Association and Bees Without Borders Andrew Coté argues that bees do not threaten urban populations, and notes that bee swarms occur when bees are the most subdued. Educating policymakers and citizens will help quell fears about the danger of bees in cities.

Urban apiculture is not only a great economic opportunity for developing cities, but it’s a necessary investment for both bee health and agricultural stability.  Supporting responsible development programs and laws can help cultivate urban beekeeping as the backbone of a sustainable urban economy.

The post Why Cities Should Invest in Beekeeping appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/08/why-cities-should-invest-in-beekeeping/feed/ 0