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GMO Labeling

27

Nov
2018

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Science makes bread taste better

On 27, Nov 2018 | No Comments | In Blog, Featured, GMO Labeling | By admin

Renegade bakers and geneticists develop whole-wheat loaves you’ll want to eat

Boston Globe: 3 policies for the future

Food is going high-tech — policy needs to catch up with it

BY THE BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL BOARD

or generations newspaper editorials have been the “eat your spinach” part of the operation. But what if that spinach can now be organic baby spinach, or hydroponically grown? What if we can eat it year round — and from just around the corner?

With a warming planet, the need for high-tech food and high-tech food policies is undeniable. Both are going to play an increasingly vital role in the planet’s future — and the way we eat. Here are a few ways to use science to steer food into a more sustainable path.

Learn to love GMOs, and resist efforts to demonize or prohibit them. Genetically modified food sets off alarm bells for purists, but crops designed to last longer or resist disease are increasingly necessary.

The good news is that new federal labeling regulations, which could become final by Dec. 1, will preclude the kind of state-by-state labeling regulations that Vermont had already indulged in and that Massachusetts has been perpetually on the cusp of enacting.

The even better news is that the science of food — of producing fruits with a longer shelf life, wheat that requires less water or fertilizer — is advancing so fast that even the foodie fearmongers can’t keep up.

First on the federal role: While moving at a glacial pace, the US Department of Agriculture has at long last brought forth a final set of regulations designed to implement a law passed by Congress in 2016 to deal with standards for disclosing bioengineered ingredients. Not surprisingly the new regs generated a huge amount of controversy — more than 14,000 comments received by the agency during the public comment period.

Assuming the regs are indeed finalized Dec. 1, they won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020. What consumers are likely to notice is that GMO labeling will become “BE food,” or “bioengineered food.” And since at least two-thirds of all foods sold in the US contain some ingredients in that category — consumers are indeed likely to see it everywhere.

What it will accomplish is to prevent every state and locality from drafting its own labeling laws and, in the process, making the free movement of good products from state to state difficult if not impossible. And it will let innovation continue unhindered.

The future of seafood in the United States is aquaculture. Even the king of seafood, Roger Berkowitz, acknowledges that. “The technology has gotten so good with submersible pens,” said Berkowitz, chief executive of the Legal Sea Foods empire. “It’s a game changer.”

Berkowitz is particularly excited about the prospect of fish farms in federal open waters. Aquaculture in Massachusetts is largely confined to shallow waters; think oyster beds on Cape Cod. Of course, this country for years has talked about offshore fish farming, but the time has come, with wild fish stocks dwindling. In 2017, the US imported a record amount of seafood, more than 6 billion pounds, and exported only about 3.6 billion pounds.

While Massachusetts and some municipalities have regulated aquaculture, what’s needed now is a federal regulatory framework to support aquaculture in the ocean. It hasn’t been easy navigating the concerns of environmentalists, fishermen worried about their own livelihoods, and ships attached to particular routes. The ocean may be big, but surprisingly not big enough to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Congress can play a big role: Get a bill that everyone likes. Here’s another thought: How about supporting aquaculture as part of the farm bill, something US Representative Seth Moulton would like to see. With Democrats taking back the majority in the House, maybe this could get done next year.

Clear federal policies could enable the prospect of fish farming using the infrastructure of offshore wind turbines. Without such policies, the future of fish farming will remain murky, because these operations are expensive and investors don’t like uncertainty.

“No one would spend a dime on that,” said Peter Shelley, senior counsel at the Conservation Law Foundation, which has been closely following the development of aquaculture in the ocean. “It makes Cape Wind look like a sure bet.”

Assume change. Farm and food policies tend to deal with what we eat and grow now, but climate change should end that way of thinking. The government and industry need to anticipate disruption, and be ready to adapt, rather than pour money into trying to preserve vanishing industries that can’t be sustained any longer.

Rising temperature of oceans, for example, have forced the cod and lobsters to flee north to colder waters. We lament the loss of cod in Massachusetts, but Southern fish species are flocking to us now. In other words, we need to get used to “Cape Mahi-Mahi.”

Warmer temperatures in New England could extend the growing season for blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and corn. That could be a silver lining for consumers and farmers’ markets.

Food policy is often inherently conservative: organic food fans and proponents of farm subsidies want different versions of the same thing, which is to cling to the way food’s always been. But food is going to change whether we like it or not — and our food policies should try to direct those changes, not stop them.

http://apps.bostonglobe.com/ideas/graphics/2018/11/the-next-bite/the-supply-chain-editorial/

25

Jan
2018

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GMO Labeling

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Internet of Things? That’s old hat. How about an Internet of Tomatoes?

On 25, Jan 2018 | No Comments | In Featured, GMO Labeling | By admin

Concord Monitor

You’ve heard, of course, about the Internet of Things plenty of times in this column. Maybe it’s time for a different IoT: the Internet of Tomatoes.

“About 88 percent of farms around the U.S. are small and medium size, and of those, nearly 100 percent have no instrumentation,” said Erick Olsen, whose title is smart agriculture manager for Analog Devices, a Massachusetts-based data conversion and signal processing giant that is targeted toward farmers. “What we’re trying to do is not break the system, but show that by proper measurement, a new way to look at a crop and judge its quality … farms can benefit.” Read more…

30

Oct
2017

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Non-GMO food labels are incredibly misleading—and could be harming you and the environment

On 30, Oct 2017 | No Comments | In GMO Labeling | By admin

By Quartz Media

We’re surrounded by information about the health and nutritional benefits of different food, but a lot of it conflicts—and it’s leaving people more confused than ever about how to make healthy food choices. Should we eat all organic? Does our food need to be natural, and fresh? One recent fad is to avoid genetically modified food.

GM food has negative connotations for many consumers because of general mistrust of the food production industry, but also because anti-biotech activists have been so effective at stoking concerns. It’s led to an sharp increase in non-GMO labels, even on products like salt, which can’t be genetically modified because sodium chloride is an inorganic compound that doesn’t contain genes.

But non-GMO labels do more than placate people concerned about scientists secretly tinkering with their food. They might persuade people to make a poor food choice. That’s because genetically modifying food can actually make it safer, by limiting the need for, say, pesticides. According to Pam Ronald, who studies genetics at the University of California, Davis and whose husband is an organic farmer, farms going non-GMO to meet consumer demand are causing major damage.

“These non-GMO labels have proliferated, and they’re really a problem,” Ronald told Quartz. “Because there’s no regulation, they can just spray anything they want. So what’s happening is… they’re going back to using [far] more toxic compounds. And I think that’s really a disservice to the consumer to market it as somehow being more healthy—when of course, it’s not, and it’s also more harmful to the environment.”

(A representative from the non-GMO Project was not available for an interview.)

Click here to learn more on how misleading labels confuse consumers, and some expert advice on how to actually make healthier choices. (Hint: it’s not choosing non-GMO.)

Editorial: No labels: Genetic paranoia comes to NH

On 01, Feb 2016 | No Comments | In Blog, Featured, GMO Labeling, Latest News | By admin

2016-02-01_9-35-54

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.

21

Jan
2014

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Reps. Tara Sad and Bob Haefner: Why labeling GMO foods makes no sense

On 21, Jan 2014 | No Comments | In Featured, GMO Labeling | By admin

We are members of the Environment & Agriculture Committee that studied House Bill 660, the bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, this past year. After 19 meetings during which we investigated every aspect of the bill in exhaustive detail, both of us voted against the mandatory labeling of foods made with genetic engineering. We’d like to share with you the reasons why.

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 20 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.

Second, 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. The court challenges that would likely follow passage of a GMO labeling bill would prove a backbreaking financial burden to our inadequate state general fund. When we were sworn in as state representatives, we took an oath to uphold the Constitution. We would be breaking that oath were we to vote for this unconstitutional bill.

Third, 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 American Medical Association, 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

Over the past year, voters in California and Washington have defeated GMO labeling bills. Let your representatives know that you think Massachusetts should do the same.

Rep. Tara Sad, D-Walpole, is chairman of the House Environment & Agriculture Committee. Rep. Bob Haefner, R-Hudson, is ranking minority member of the committee.