Featured | Massachusetts Farm to Food - Part 2
Millions of people around the world will soon celebrate Earth Day, but for hundreds of New England’s dairy farmers, every day is Earth Day.
We’re talking about farmers like the Erb family. The Erbs own and operate Springvale Farms and Landaff Creamery in Landaff. This was one of three pilot farms that assisted the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences in creating an on-farm sustainability assessment tool, called the Vital Capital Index for Dairy Agriculture. This tool allows farms to measure what matters and establish a baseline of sustainability on farms. Read more…
On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed into law an Act amending the Agricultural Marketing at of 1946 which provides for a national bioengineered food di
Click on the link below to see the letter.
More than 600 million people could be fed each year if fungal diseases were controlled in the world’s five most important crops – rice, wheat, maize, soybeans and potatoes. Fungal infections destroy at least 125 million tons of these top crops each year, which provide the majority of calories consumed by people. Other crops like coffee and grapes can also be hugely impacted by fungi, with estimated crop losses globally of 15 and 20 percent, respectively. We need resistant varieties and crop protection products to keep our foods healthy.
See the full article and more here.
We have discussed CRISPR in terms of what it can do about agriculture, but to fully understand the impact of this amazing technology here a wonderful article about how CRISPR might be able to literally cure hearing loss.
This is an article from the MIT Technology Review.
Last week, the House Environment and Agriculture Committee recommended against passage of HB 1674, a bill which would have required labeling of genetically engineered food in Massachusetts. We wanted to share our reasons for voting against genetic labeling.
First, there has been no credible scientific study that proves that there is any material difference between GMO and non-GMO foods. No nutritional difference. No health safety difference. In fact, we have all been eating foods made with genetic engineering for more than 25 years. To that end, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations state that requiring the labeling of foods that are indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist.
Secondly, many legal experts tell us that this labeling bill is unconstitutional. Requiring food companies to label their products when there is no health or safety reason to do so fails the state interest test, undermines commercial free speech and violates interstate commerce. In fact, our neighboring state of Vermont, who passed its GMO labeling bill two years ago, is currently embroiled in a costly legal battle trying to prove that their bill is, in fact, constitutional. It only makes sense for Massachusetts to wait for the legal opinion in this case before we vote to mandate labeling here.
Thirdly, the bill is unenforceable. Our over-extended health and human services department, which will be charged with the administration and enforcement of this bill, has no experience in food labeling, and estimates the costs to enact the bill will be anywhere from $125,000 to $550,000 per year. Once again, who is going to pay for this?
And finally, product labeling is a federal, not a state, responsibility. The FDA determines what information needs to be present on our food labels, not to satisfy consumer curiosity, but for our health and safety. They, along with the AMA, the National Academies of Science, the World Health Organization and other trusted scientific organizations have all come out in support of foods made with genetic engineering, stating that foods made with this process are as healthy and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.
People who testified in the public hearing said they have a right to know. This label would inform them of nothing. Genetic engineering is a process, it’s not an ingredient. There are currently options for people who want to be sure their food has not been genetically engineered, buying certified organic, buying products labeled ‘GMO-free’, or scanning the SmartLabels on packages to get all the information a consumer could ever want, and that wouldn’t ever fit on a package label.
Rep. Bob Haefer of Hudson is the chair of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. Rep. Tara Sad of Walpole is the ranking Democratic member.
Saturday, January 30, 2016
Seabrook Rep. Max Abramson helped organize a contest to find Massachusetts’s dumbest law, and repeal it.
But he’s also trying to create a new dumb law.
Abramson is sponsoring legislation to require food manufacturers to label genetically engineered foods, or ingredients known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
We’ve been alternating the genetics of our food for millennia through selective breeding.
There is no evidence that genetic engineering represents any threat to public health. The campaign against the practice is fueled by unscientific paranoia.
Consumers who care about such things can find out what’s in their food more easily than ever before, allowing them to make informed choices.
While almost all processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients, companies can market to customers looking for alternatives. Putting a GMO-free label on their product would be far more helpful to consumers than forcing every food maker in the county to place a scary “Produced with Genetic Engineering” label on their packaging.
Imposing such stringent labeling requirements in a small state like ours will limit choices to Massachusetts shoppers. It would be a costly and unnecessary regulation for big food companies, and a burden not worth tackling for smaller competitors. Many would simply chose not to distribute their produce in Massachusetts.
Abramson’s move to trim back Massachusetts’s outdated laws is a good idea. His effort to impose new labeling requirements based on Luddite fears is not.
The Science of GMOs: Possibilities And Limitations
By The Exchange • Apr 23, 2015
Genetically modified organisms are a favorite villain of the modern food debate, with claims they threaten human health and the environment. But while many of these concerns have been debunked, media hype around this topic often distracts from the facts. We’re digging into that, and the possibilities and limitations of genetic engineering.
The US House of Representatives has passed the industry-backed voluntary GMO labeling bill – The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act 2015 – by 275 votes to 150, and rejected all four amendments it was asked to consider.
– which anti-GMO activists have dubbed the DARK Act (‘Denying Americans the Right-to-Know’) – would pre-empt state laws that mandate GMO labeling (such as Act 120 in Vermont) and set up a federal voluntary ‘non-GMO’ labeling system run by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Under the proposed federal legislation, which was introduced by Mike Pompeo (R-KS), firms would also be allowed to make ‘natural’ claims on foods made with ingredients from genetically engineered (GE) crops – which supporters hope will stop civil litigation over this issue from clogging up the court system.
Labeling of a food made with GE ingredients would only be required if two conditions are met:
1. There is “a meaningful difference in the functional, nutritional, or compositional characteristics, allergenicity, or other attributes between the food so produced and its comparable food”;
2. The labeling is “necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of the food so produced from being false or misleading”.
Meanwhile, food manufacturers will be permitted to claim that a food is non-GMO if the ingredients are subject to certain supply chain process controls, and cannot state or imply that non-GMO foods are safer than GMO foods.
For the Monitor
Poor people around the world are dying because they are denied GMO food. The safety of GMOs has been settled.
Walter De Jong, a potato breeder and geneticist at Cornell, says: “There is not a single documented case of anyone being hurt by genetically modified food.” Millions of people have been eating GMOs for decades, and no evidence exists that anyone has been harmed.
Labeling GMO food is not needed because it only raises doubt without reason. GMO opponents also want absolute proof that they are safe, but this is not possible in the real world. A GMO is just a very specific kind of cross-breeding.
What is the benefit of GMOs? They allow the addition of essential elements to crops that would not otherwise have them and reduce pesticide use. People in affluent countries can afford to avoid GMOs if they want to. Unfortunately some politicians in America and Europe are ignoring the science and using GMO scare tactics.
The real tragedy is that the leaders in some poorer countries are following the anti-GMO people and denying their people much-needed GMO food. We in the affluent countries need to set a good example and support GMOs because they can save poor peoples’ lives. Join me in saying: “I heart GMOs”!
A Pew Research Center study on science literacy, undertaken in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and released on January 29, contains a blockbuster: In sharp contrast to public skepticism about GMOs, 89% of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe.
That overwhelming consensus exceeds the percentage of scientists, 88%, who believe global warming is the result of human activity. However, the public appears far more suspicious of scientific claims about GMO safety than they do about the consensus on climate change.
Some 57 percent of Americans say GM foods are unsafe and a startling 67% do not trust scientists, believing they don’t understand the science behind GMOs. Scientists blame poor reporting by mainstream scientists for the trust and literacy gaps.
The survey also contrasts sharply with a statement published earlier this week in a marginal pay-for-play European journal by a group of anti-GMO scientists and activists, including Michael Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, and philosopher Vandana Shiva, claiming, “no scientific consensus on GMO safety.”
A huge literacy gap between scientists and the public on biotechnology is one of the many disturbing nuggets that emerged from the Pew Research Center survey, which was conducted in cooperation with the AAAS, the world’s largest independent general scientific society. The full study, released on January 29, is available here.
The eye opening take-away: The American population in general borders on scientific illiteracy. The gap between what scientists believe, grounded on empirical evidence, often sharply differs from what the general public thinks is true. The differences are sharpest over biomedical research, including GMOs.
- 88% of AAAS scientists think eating GM food is safe, while only 37% of the public believes that’s true—a 51-percentage point gap
- 68% of scientists say it is safe to eat food grown with pesticides, compared with 28% of citizens—a 40% gap.
- A 42-percentage point gap over the issue of using animals in research—89% of scientists favor it, while only 47% of the public backs the idea.