Hawaii Pushes for Labeling

hawaii

For decades, GMO corporations have been growing and testing GM crops in Hawaii. The copious amounts of sunshine and rainfall in its year-round growing climate, in addition to its isolation, make it an ideal place to grow GM crops. However, Hawaiian’s are now concerned about the health and environmental impacts of pesticide use that comes with cultivating GM crops, and are pushing for regulating GMOs.

Hawaii County Bill 79, would “prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising, growing, sale and distribution of transgenic organisms” on the island of Hawaii, aka the Big Island. The bill will be debated at a hearing today of the county council’s public safety committee.

And Kauai County Council Bill 2491, introduced last week, would impose a moratorium on the experimental use and commercial production of GMOs until an environmental impact study is completed. The legislation would also create new permitting requirements and procedures for growing such crops after the study is complete, including rules on the use of chemicals.”

Read the original story here.

 

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GMOs in Uganda: More Beneficial?

banana

Recently, Uganda has been considering a bill to allow GM crops. Because roughly 80% of Ugandans grow at least part of their own food, GM crops could benefit them more than your average American, who rely entirely on the supermarket.

Bananas are an essential food for Ugandans – even more important that wheat. In some regions, for the past decade, bacterial wilt disease has cut banana yields by 30% to 50%. There are no chemicals or pesticides to end the disease either. However, at the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda, scientists put a pepper gene into the plant and made a banana that is resistant to the bacteria. They want to give away the GM banana for free to millions of Ugandans, but currently it is not legal to grow GMOs in Uganda. Until the government passes a GMO law, this crop can’t be utilized.

There is also a virus-resistant cassava, which is a starchy tuber crop that is resistant to drought, poor soils and climate change. The hardiness of this crop makes it important in protecting families from famine.

Bananas and cassava can grow from clippings, so there is little worry about private corporations controlling seed supplies for them. But there is more worry about other GM crops that do have seeds because that would give power to someone to control the seeds. Raised prices, if a company owned GM seeds, are not something farmers can afford. There are also worries about introducing the use of pesticides (since many grow organically) affecting other populations (like bees and fish).

What do you think? Could GMOs help Ugandans fight hunger?

Read the original story on NPR.

 

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GM Salmon to be Labeled

 

salmon

In the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 20th, an agricultural spending bill for the fiscal year 2014 was approved. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski sponsored an amendment that would require at least $150,000 in the budget to allow for genetically engineered salmon to be labeled. It passed with a 15-14 vote. The FDA is not concerned about the safety of the salmon, which grow twice as fast as regular salmon, but they are more concerned with the introduction to the market causing contamination of the regular stocks of salmon.

 

Read more here.

 

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USDA Approves Non-GMO Label For Meat

Earlier in June, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service approved the use of the Non-GMO Project label on certified meat. Since meat and eggs can’t be directly tested for GMOs, their feed is tested instead. This new label will clarify that the feed fed to the animals is non-GMO.

So far only three meat companies have been approved – Mindful Meats, Pitman Farms, and Hidden Villa Ranch.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune.

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Farmer Assurance Provision or Monsanto Protection Act?

crops

The Farmer Assurance Provision is in a section of a bill (in Section 735 of US H.R. 933) that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 26th, 2013. This bill allows farmers to continue to grow crops while legal challenges regarding the safety of the crops are going on.

Upsets have arisen from the fact that this was slipped into a spending package that averted a government shutdown. Critics call this the Monsanto Protection Act because it doesn’t allow courts to halt the sale or planting of controversial GM seeds if health issues arise. Those against the bill believe it is harmful to allow the planting of new GM crops “while the agency conducts further review, after which time it’s likely too late to undo any harm”[3].

But supporters point out that “the legislation does not…allow farmers or seed companies to sell seeds proven to be harmful. Rather, it provides legal consistency so farmers and businesses do not get yanked one way or the other based on the temporary findings of competing court systems…” [1].

In 2010, the Center for Food Safety and some organic farmers convinced a court that GE sugar beets had environmental and health dangers (with no evidence), and a federal judge ordered all the seedlings to be pulled from the ground. GE sugar beets made up 95% of the nation’s crop and this technicality would have destroyed as much as half of America’s sugar production. The USDA ruled to allow planting of GMO sugar beets in July 2011[1].

Those in support believe that this protects farmers from such court technicalities.

Those against believe this just provides protection for Monsanto and other GM seed producers and is “a special interest loophole” [2].

What do you think? Say a new GM crop is approved and is released onto the market, but then studies find potential health risks upon consumption. What should happen during the time that GM crops are being re-evaluated? Should farmers be allowed to continue to plant and grow the GM crop if there are potential health risks? Or should they be forced to destroy their crops causing them financial harm, even if there is no actual health risk found?

Please comment with your thoughts!

References
1. Anon. Don’t Misrepresent the Farmer Assurance Provision. BIOtechNow [Internet]. [cited 2013 June 26]. Available from: http://www.biotech-now.org/food-and-agriculture/2013/04/dont-misrepresent-the-farmer-assurance-provision

2. Simon M. Is Outrage Over the Monsanto Protection Act a Turning Point for the Food Movement? Huffington Post [Internet]. 2013 May 23 [cited 2013 June 26]. Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michele-simon/monsanto-protection-act_b_3327270.html

3. Anon. Senator seeks to overturn so-called Monsanto Protection Act. NY Daily News [Internet]. [cited 2013 June 26]. Available from: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/push-overturn-monsanto-protection-act-article-1.1352178

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