When it released a 408-page report on genetically engineered (GE) crops yesterday, the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) said claims about GE crops—both pro and con—“have created a confusing landscape for the public and policy-makers.” But the report itself might not clear up all the confusion.
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One year ago, an agency of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) declared that glyphosate (or Roundup), the world’s most widely used herbicide, probably causes cancer. Then, in the fall, the European Food Safety Agency’s (EFSA) responded with an assessment that disagreed with the WHO’s findings. Read more
A version of this post previously appeared on Modern Farmer.
Earlier this week the USDA reached out to Modern Farmer asking if Secretary Tom Vilsack, the only member of President Obama’s cabinet that has lasted through both terms in office, could give us a call. He wanted to plug the $17.6 million in grant money that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently made available for organic farming research, as well as a few other things he’s been working on to support the local food movement, or what the USDA often refers to as the “farm-identity preserved” market. But we got to chat about a few other things, too, like Vilsack’s recent trip to Cuba and his views on the GMO labeling debate. Read more
Today’s big food and agriculture companies work hard to protect their images. Companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Monsanto spend a lot of time and money diverting attention away from negative science related to their products and associating themselves with groups that promote healthy food and families.
For a long time, those tactics appeared to be working; but several of this year’s developments suggest that they might not work for much longer. In fact, you might say that 2015 was the year transparency re-entered the picture. Here’s a timeline of what happened.
Update: On Janury 28, 2016 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision, effectively putting the herbicide — and the new generation of GMO crops it was designed to be used with — back on the market.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an unusual move—it changed its mind. In a legal ruling, the agency said it would revoke its approval of a controversial new herbicide called Enlist Duo, which combined the weed killers glyphosate (Roundup) and 2,4-D.
The EPA had approved the Enlist Duo just a year earlier, despite considerable public opposition and “grave concerns” from about 50 members of Congress. Made by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo was specifically formulated to be used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered to resist it. And although it was initially approved for use in only six Midwestern states, the EPA extended that approval to an additional 10 states this past spring. Read more
Update: On January 29, 2016, the FDA banned imports of GMO salmon until the agency can publish guidelines for how it should be labeled.
Late last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AquAdvantage salmon—the first edible genetically engineered animal to earn such an approval. The salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies, are genetically engineered (GE) with DNA that causes them to grow to market size much faster than other salmon. And while many advocates have shown concern over the fish in recent years, the FDA has declared it safe to eat.
The AquAdvantage salmon will only be raised in contained, inland facilities in Panama, from eggs produced in Canada. Once harvested, they will be imported for sale in the U.S. But exactly when they could show up on store shelves remains uncertain. “It is too early to discuss commercialization plans, but there are several paths to market that are being considered,” AquaBounty spokesperson Dave Conley told Civil Eats. Read more
The debate being waged over whether or not to label genetically engineered (GMO) foods is an especially contentious one. On the floor of Congress, in the news media, in the halls of academia, and on social media sites, pundits on both sides are weighing in, taking pot shots, and resorting to a range of tactics to support their arguments.
The fight has become especially heated since late July, when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599—known by its proponents as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, and by its opponents as the “DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act”—which would block GMO labeling at the federal level. Read more
By all accounts, Americans want a more transparent food system. Recent polling suggests the majority of Americans favor labeling that tells them exactly how and where their food is produced. And yet, several bills are currently moving through Congress that could make it much harder to learn about the source of our food. Read more
Update: After we published this article, several House Democrats filed amendments, potentially disabling several key parts of the bill. What you see below refers to the bill’s original language.
At the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists tradeshow, a supplier of non-GMO ingredients told me that the “non-GMO tsunami is coming.”
Based on the growth of the non-GMO market in the past two years, that tsunami is already here. Sales of Non-GMO Project verified products have topped $11 billion per year, and now number more than 29,500. According to a report by Food Processing, new products with non-GMO claims increased by 45 percent in 2014.