We were sitting in a field of sweet corn in Minnesota in the late summer of 2013. A pile of 200 husked and partially eaten ears of that same corn sat at our feet. After tasting that many ears of sweet corn in one sitting, most people would swear off the traditional flavors of summer for good. But not the two of us: A couple of graduate students studying to become classical plant breeders. Along with our collaborators, we were particularly excited that day. Read more
In the fields of Iowa where I grew up, organic soy and corn does indeed exist alongside genetically modified (or “GMO”) varieties. But the policy allowing so-called “coexistence” of organic and GMO crops now in place in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one-sided and precarious at best.
More than 90 percent of the soybeans and corn grown on U.S. soil are from GMO seeds, which are modified to withstand heavy applications of herbicides and pesticides. Among those pesticides is 2,4-D, which contains the same chemical used in Agent Orange. Read more
Normally, news that Costco is test-marketing a new farm-raised salmon wouldn’t exactly make headlines—but this fish tale is different than the others.
This is the story of a salmon that has the potential to move the aquaculture industry away from the practice of using wild-caught forage fish as food for larger species—a practice that concerns both environmentalists and scientists. Species like anchovy, sardines, and menhaden are the very cornerstone of the ocean’s food web. Too much pressure on these important stocks could have profound ripple effects if we continue scooping them out of the ocean to feed farmed fish. Read more
As we were roasting sweet corn on our barbecue grills last summer, we wanted to know: Was this the same corn on the cob we’ve been eating all our lives or was it a new type of corn genetically engineered by Monsanto to contain an insecticide and resist weed killing chemicals? Read more
Lawmakers in Kauai today will decide the fate of a hotly debated bill that would require agri-biotech companies to disclose details about the pesticides they are using as well as the genetically modified crops they are growing on the Hawai‘ian island. Following the recent demise of Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, Bill 2491 has turned Kauai into the latest battleground in the fight over genetically modified crops. Read more
Tomorrow Washington State voters will decide on The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, also known as I-522. This initiative will mandate labels on all foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in grocery stores. It follows on the heels of last year’s Proposition 37, a similar ballot measure in California that drew national attention and massive campaign coffers on both sides of the issue. Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated, 51-49 percent. Read more
The hotly contested battle over GMO labeling just got hotter in Washington state. The latest wrinkle comes just a few weeks before November 5, when voters decide on I-522, the ballot initiative that would mandate labels on all genetically modified food sold in grocery stores.
Opposition has been fierce; the No on 522 campaign has raised $17.2 million, a record for monies raised against a statewide initiative, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. From the opposing war chest, $7.2 million came from the Grocers Manufacturers Association (GMA), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing hundreds of food and beverage companies. But unlike the GMA-funded opposition to Prop 37, a similar initiative in California last year, the GMA-funded opposition to I-522 has been a mystery–until now. Read more
Twitter-land was abuzz last week with news that a formerly ardent critic of genetic engineering (GE) has recanted his position. Mark Lynas gave a long mea culpa speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, in which he apologized to the world for tearing up GE crops back in the day, and for what he described as his “anti-science environmentalism.”
Unfortunately, Lynas then went on to ignore the weight of scientific evidence (more on that below). He claimed that GE crop production is good for biodiversity and necessary to feed the world, that organic farming is bad, and that “there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment.” He then quickly slammed the door shut on public debate, pronouncing “discussion over.” Many of us in the global scientific community were left shaking our heads, bemused if disappointed in Lynas’ anti-science rhetorical flourishes. Read more
If you want to bury an unsavory news story, the afternoon before Christmas vacation is a good time to break it. The FDA chose December 21 to release its Environmental Assessment (EA) of the genetically modified “AquAdvantage“ salmon. This move quietly slid the fish closer to making history as the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The public was given 60 days to comment on a farmed salmon that American fish farmers wouldn’t be allowed to raise, but American consumers would nonetheless be allowed to eat.
If the announcement’s timing suggests FDA wants the application to flow smoothly, also consider that it has been 17 years since AquaBounty first applied for permission to sell its recombinant Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The company has paid a heavy price for trying to be first. Read more