It’s rare when a plant breeder goes from developing genetically modified crops at a major biotechnology company to breeding varieties for organic and non-GMO farmers. Jane Dever, associate professor at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research and Extension Center, is unique in having done just that. As global cotton breeding manager for Bayer CropScience, Dever put genetically modified or (GM) traits into cotton plants. Now she focuses on keeping GM traits out of organic cotton varieties. Read more
There’s no better way to celebrate the beginning of spring than to stock up on seeds and get ready to break new ground. Gardening always keeps you guessing, because you never know from one season to the next what might delight you, and what might disappoint you. Inevitably, some seeds sprout and thrive while others rot, wither, or fall victim to fungus or critters. That’s life. Read more
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
Today, February 27, is an Occupy Our Food Supply day of action. The following essay is just one of several related posts that will be appearing online to mark the day.
The biggest corporate takeover on the planet is the hijacking of the food system, the cost of which has had huge and irreversible consequences for the Earth and people everywhere.
From the seed to the farm to the store to your table, corporations are seeking total control over biodiversity, land, and water. They are seeking control over how food is grown, processed, and distributed. And in seeking this total control, they are destroying the Earth’s ecological processes, our farmers, our health, and our freedoms. Read more
A new report highlights scientific research and empirical experiences from around the globe demonstrating that genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops have failed to deliver on its advertised promises.
Advocates of GMOs claim that biotechnology increases yields, reduces chemical usage, controls crop pests and weeds, and delivers “climate ready” traits such as drought-tolerance. However, the on-the-ground experience in many countries discloses that this technology has failed on all fronts. Read more
There is a lot of talk these days about the need for more new entrants willing to fill in when older farmers retire (the average age of farmers in this country is 57 years old). But there has not been much discussion about rebuilding the support system, from infrastructure to community, that will keep those young farmers on the land.
The Hudson Valley Seed Library is an example of an effort that does both of these things–building community by supporting member-growers, employing local artists who design their seed packages, and holding events–like an art opening for this year’s “Art Pack” designs taking place at the Horticultural Society of New York this Thursday evening (more info below)–as well as providing a service to local growers: regionally adapted seeds. I spoke to Ken Greene this week about their work. Read more
I have committed theft…and am proud of every minute of it. It all started on my 30th birthday a couple of years ago in a rented Alfa Romeo on a road trip across the Tuscan hillside. The victim was a sweet, juicy yet firm pear at the peak of its season. Desperately wanting to capture the fabulous adventure I was having and in an effort to perhaps hold onto the inescapable ticking of time, I gently spit out the last pear seed into a small pocket of paper and tucked it into my backpack. A week later, after an extended stay on a working cheese farm and vineyard, I duped customs officials in Milan by declaring nothing, inwardly flushing with trepidation that they would discover the two blocks of aged pecorino, vacuum-packed sleeve of boar salami from Terre Madre or gasp! my precious stolen seed. I slipped through without a bit of confrontation and began the process of dream vacation come down. Read more
Many gardeners are currently pulling up plants and preparing beds for fall. They are laying parts of their garden to rest while their squash lay about, curing in the sun. Some gardeners are already turning their backs on their plots and projecting their green minds through winter and into next spring. But fall is not the time for complacency in the garden. It’s a great time to sneak in some late plantings of lettuce and greens—and it’s the ripest time of year to save some seeds. Read more
This post is part of a series called Roof Garden Rookies, which explores my attempt, as an amateur gardener, to grow a garden on the rooftop of my building in lower Manhattan. My roof garden was recently featured in the New York Times.