When it comes to food in America, we’re witnessing a sea change. Organic sales jumped 11 percent last year. Meanwhile about 84 percent of U.S. consumers now say they buy at least some organic food and two-thirds of Americans are in favor of requiring labeling on products containing genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. So it’s not surprising that some large food companies are spending money to coax consumers back to their side of the aisle. Read more
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The majority of America’s farms rely heavily on herbicides—lots of them. So when the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the United States’ most widely used weed-killer, glyphosate, as “probably” carcinogenic to humans three months ago, it was big news.
Now, the same group–the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that 2,4-D, another commonly used weed killer, is “possibly” carcinogenic to humans. Here’s what you need to know about the decision and the chemical, which is the third most-widely used herbicide in the U.S. Read more
Earlier this year, Bill Nye, renowned as the “science guy,” made news for changing his mind about genetic engineering (or GMOs) after a visit to Monsanto, the pesticide and seed giant at the forefront of the biotechnology industry.
Nye is an emblematic science educator, who has done a lot to kindle the interest of young people in science, to defend the validity of evolutionary science, and raise awareness about climate change. Until recently, he spoke and wrote about GMOs as environmentally risky technology. Read more
A farmer in Missouri is helping Chipotle take its “food with integrity” commitment one step further—to organic. Steve McKaskle, owner of McKaskle Family Farm, the only organic rice farm in Missouri, supplies a growing number of Chipotle restaurants in his region with organic long grain white and brown rice. Read more
Last fall, at the peak of the contentious, expensive fight over Oregon’s ballot measure to label genetically engineered foods, about 100 people gathered at Portland’s Warner Pacific College for an unusual forum on the topic. Held in the Christian college’s chapel, the event put aside the familiar debates over health and the environment to take up a less-discussed, less earthly issue: What does God think of GMOs? Read more
Monarch butterflies are in trouble. These popular insects, which have captured the public imagination with their several-thousand mile migrations, have been steadily disappearing for the past 20 years. Now, Monsanto says it wants to help turn the tide. Can the seed and pesticide giant seen by many as responsible for the monarchs’ decline make a difference for these pollinators? Or will its next batch of genetically engineered (GE) crops make matters worse? Read more
Last fall, the Culinary Breeding Network organized the first-ever Variety Showcase in Portland, Oregon, an event that brought together plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, produce buyers, culinary educators, and some of the city’s best chefs to taste and evaluate the most exciting new open-pollinated vegetable crops being grown in the Pacific Northwest. It’s tempting to dismiss a bunch of chefs swooning over exotic carrots as a farm to table cliché, but the event refocused attention on the most fundamental aspect of farming and cuisine: the seed.
Few farms save their own seeds. Most rely on a few major seed companies that control the majority of seed production in North America. Historically, the development of new seed varieties was a core public service offered by land-grant universities with strong ties to local communities. Read more
You may have heard of the new genetically engineered Simplot potato. It was made with a new GE technology called RNAi (RNA interference), a technology for which many important gaps remain in our understanding.
In fact, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently asked a panel of independent scientists for advice about this technology, which alters the function of genes in the plant, the scientists wrote a detailed report [PDF] that warned the agency of risks that could sometimes result in harm.* And, they noted that current regulations were not well designed to address these risks.
But those concerns didn’t keep the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—the agency with the greatest responsibility to prevent environmental impacts of GE plants—from approving the Simplot potato. Read more
Snowville Creamery, based in Pomeroy, Ohio, is a small dairy operation, but its owner, Warren Taylor, has big ideas. Taylor wants to change the food system—from one based on factory farms and GMOs to one based on local, sustainable, non-GMO, and organic farms and foods. He is starting with his own operation. Read more
Yesterday, five weeks after the November election, campaigners for Oregon’s Measure 92—one of the nation’s most closely watched efforts to require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods—officially conceded defeat.
Last month, the measure trailed by less than 2,000 votes, triggering an automatic recount. The recount revealed that the measure had been defeated by a mere 837 votes, making it among the closest statewide elections in Oregon’s history. Though the measure failed, along with similar efforts in California, Colorado, and Washington over the past two years, the narrow margin in Oregon makes me more sure than ever that we will see mandatory labeling soon. Read more