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September 8-12 2014

GMO

GMOs—or genetically modified organisms—are a hot button issue in America and other nations around the world. Yet to be deemed safe for humans and the environment, GMOs are in many products we consume. In America, mandatory labeling of items containing genetically engineered ingredients doesn’t exist. Moreover, farmers who choose not to plant GMO seeds may find them in their fields, blown in by the wind. While we wait thorough testing, one thing is clear: a large percentage of individuals want to see genetically engineered foods labeled.

Farmer Joel Salatin reflects upon an time when his cows trampled a neighbor’s rose bushes, likening it to genetic drift, wondering why some corporations are not held to the same legal and ethical standards as others.

Perennial Plate introduces us to Vandana Shiva. Her organization Navdana rallies individuals living in India and elsewhere around heirloom seed preservation in an effort to support both biodiversity and culture.

Political food writer Jane Black gets to the root of what all the fuss over genetically-engineered crops is about in her piece written for the Stone Barns Center for Food. What does she discover? While much more testing and research is needed to understand the full scope of how GM foods affect us and our planet, the first step many would like to see taken is, quite simply, labeling foods containing GMOs. That way, they can make knowledgeable decisions about what they and their families eat while researchers investigate potential outcomes.

The Environmental Working Group introduces us to a chemical called 2,4-D. Already linked to a wide range of health concerns in humans, if its approved for broad use, results could be dire.

Sara Fulton-Koerbling returns with a first person perspective of the importance of seed saving in order to uphold our sense of place.

After learning about GMOs, you might be wondering what you can do. Our friends at Grace offer a solution: setting up a GMO-free kitchen.

Next, The Green Divas highlight GMO crops and the dangers they present to American farms and the environment.

Finally, food journalist Michael Pollan and food advocate Anna Lappé examine the GMO issue and its potential affects on farmers in developing nations.

 

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THIS WEEK’S TERMS

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM (GMO)

In 1996 the Organic Trade Association defined GMOs as those “made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes.”

The Non-GMO Project further defines GMOs to be “organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”

NON-GMO

“Freedom from the intellectual property restraints imposed by GMO seed companies allows farmers to maintain full control of their farm’s ecosystem, from choosing which varieties of seeds to grow to preserving a healthy chemical-free foundation for wildlife.” —Jessica Lundberg, Lundberg Family Farm

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED (GE)

GE describes the high-tech methods used in recent decades to incorporate genes directly into an organism. The only way scientists can transfer genes betweens organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques. The plants that result do not occur in nature; they are ‘genetically engineered’ by human intervention and manipulation.Home Garden Seed Association

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Jessica Lundberg is Vice President of People, Planet and Process as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Lundberg Family Farms, the United State’s leading producer of organic rice and rice products. A member of the Lundberg family’s third generation, she oversees the quality, human resources, safety and environmental initiatives at the company as well as the seed nursery, overseeing the maintenance, purity and development of proprietary rice varieties. Jessica advocates initiatives that would impose mandatory labeling of food products using GMO ingredients because she believes consumers have the right know what’s in their food.

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FILM DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR THE CLASSROOM

Excerpt from Lexicon’s Film Discussion Guide “GMOs”:

One controversy about GMOs is that there is no mandatory labeling in the US. Regardless of the consequences of GMOs, consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.

Why might companies not want us to know if a food contains GMOs?

Download Film Discussion Guide


When farmer Joel Salatin’s cows escape and destroy a neighbor’s rose bushes, he happily writes a check compensating her for damages; he’s brought to a pause, however, when he realizes that not all companies are held to the same standards. Joel writes:

“In the current state of our cultural thinking, not only is Monsanto not liable for trampling my rose bushes, our courts have decided that I should pay a royalty to Monsanto for the privilege of their life forms contaminating my farm, their company-owned patented beings trampling my rose bushes. Can you imagine my telling this nice neighbour: “Not only will I not pay you $50, I think you should pay me $50 for free tillage services?” My goodness, she could call the county’s district attorney and have me served with a warrant before lunchtime.”

Originally published on the Polyface Farm Facebook Page, Joel’s article is republished by Sustainable Food Trust, an organization “committed to facing challenges and exploring solutions for a food production system that causes the least possible harm to both humans and the environment. They are committed to the principles of “good science” and in sharing the findings of high quality research with as many people as possible. They believe that everyone should have access to information and resources and encourage collaboration between all those who take an interest in food – from farmers and consumers, to heads of industry and policy makers.”

Read Joel’s Full Article “Liberty, Well-Being and GMOs”

Joel Salatin works alongside his wife Teresa, son Daniel, daughter Rachel, daughter-in-law Sheri, apprentices, interns, rental farmers, staff & animals to manage Polyface Farms in the Swoope region of Virginia, USA. Joel wows packed audiences of all walks of life wherever he goes with his version of what he calls ‘Agritainment’. Joel has been labelled ‘The World’s Most Innovative Farmer’ by Time Magazine, and is the author of 8 books, countless articles, and has led seminars and courses with tens of thousands leaving changed in the way they eat, farm and live. Joel’s most recent title is Folks this Ain’t Normal is a best seller and further expands this Heinz Award winner’s profile and message across the world. A man who truly walks his talk is a must-see wherever he goes with his capacity to communicate the means by which consumers can engage with farmers and how farmers can take control of not just production but also processing, distribution and marketing.

Perennial PlateTWO OPTIONS

The story of an environmental activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and a farmer, Bija Devi, and their fight to preserve heirloom seeds in India amidst great opposition. Dr. Vandana Shiva began the organization Navdanya to provide support for biodiversity conservation.

The Perennial Plate is an online weekly documentary series dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating. Chef and Activist, Daniel Klein and Filmmaker Mirra Fine are traveling the world exploring the wonders, complexities and stories behind the ever more connected global food system.

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Political food writer Jane Black gets to the root of what all the fuss over genetically-engineered crops is about in her piece written for the Stone Barns Center for Food. What does she discover? While much more testing and research is needed to understand the full scope of how GM foods affect us and our planet, the first step many would like to see taken is, quite simply, labeling foods containing GMOs. That way, they can make knowledgeable decisions about what they and their families eat while researchers investigate potential outcomes.

Read Jane Black’s Full Report

jane-black-profileJane Black is an award-winning New York food writer who covers food politics, trends and sustainability issues. Her work appears in The Washington Post (where she is a staff writer), The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, New York magazine and other publications. She is currently at work on a book about one West Virginia community’s struggle to change the way it eats. Stone Barns Center invited Jane to be its guest columnist for the coming year, taking on complex, timely issues in food and agriculture that are important to our mission.


INFORMATION ARTWORK

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Local Book CoverTitle: Non-GMO
Featuring: Jessica Lundberg
Location: Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale, CA
Found on Page 96 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Freedom from the intellectual property restraints imposed by GMO seed companies allows farmers to maintain full control of their farm’s ecosystem, from choosing which varieties of seeds to grow to preserving a healthy chemical-free foundation for wildlife.

For the Lundberg Family, being able to choose which seeds to grow is a farmer’s right and a public asset. The use of GMOs has turned these assets into private goods and changed how farms operate. In addition, releasing them into the environment before their long term impacts are known may cause unintended consequences. Instead of relying on chemical inputs, for example, the Lundbergs employ nature’s own resources. Weed control is attained through careful water management. Water drowns out grass-type weeds, then is withheld to dry up the fields and control the spread of broad leaf plants. “We feel that the consumer has the right to know if they are consuming genetically modified food,” says Jessica Lundberg.

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Researchers have linked 2,4-D to hypothyroidism, suppressed immune function, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and other serious disorders. For these reasons, environmental and public health activists have long campaigned to ban it.

Now the EPA is about to decide whether to approve Dow’s Enlist® Duo, which is composed of 2,4-D plus glyphosate. If that happens, it is likely that Enlist Duo will soon be used broadly across the U.S. The USDA and Dow AgroSciences estimate that if 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans are approved, in five years they could cover up to 75 million acres — nearly half of the total corn and soybean acreage in the U.S. today. If these new varieties replace all glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans where Monsanto’s RoundUp® herbicide is used today, up to 154 million acres of American farmland would be sprayed with 2,4-D. The USDA concludes that 2,4-D use is likely to triple and could increases much as seven-fold, dramatically intensifying Americans’ risk of exposure to this toxic chemical.

Take action to oppose the new 2,4-D-resistant GE crops!

Environmental Working Group empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment, by driving consumer choice and civic action with breakthrough research and an informed public.

STORY BANK INTERVIEW

Find innovative ideas and facts from our interviews with Lexicon thought leaders.

Megan Westgate, Founding Director of the Non-GMO Project

Megan Westgate is the founding director of the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization offering North America’s only third-party standard and verification program for non-GMO foods. An avid baker, gardener and yoga practitioner, Megan’s mission in life is to protect our food supply, and empower people to nourish themselves body, mind and spirit. She lives on a 4-acre homestead in Bellingham, WA, where she and her husband Noah raise chickens, turkeys and lots of vegetables.

Download Interview

Planting Seeds for a Better Tomorrow

Conserving Arkansas’ Agricultural Heritage is a project of the Southern Center for Agroecology dedicated to protecting and improving the genetic diversity of unique heirloom seed varieties. CAAH works with a network of seed savers, small farmers, market gardeners, backyard gardeners and gardening enthusiasts throughout the region to preserve agricultural folkways and knowledge. Agricultural tradition is preserved and passed down to future generations of food producers by saving seeds and exchanging them with growers throughout the region along with the stories and meaning that have become part of their essence.

Sara Fulton-Koerbling attended a seed sharing event they hosted one particularly wintery day in 2013. Here, Sara recalls her experience planting saved seeds.

Shortly after moving to the Ozarks, I went to a seed saving workshop at the local public library in Marshall, AR. In addition to lending books, the library lends seeds! That day, I took copious notes from local growers Herb Culver of Bean Mountain Farms and Kate and Jay Murray of Mud Hollow Farms. I was just starting to grow my first large-scale garden, and I wanted to know everything. I asked for books on seed saving for Christmas, and Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth became my new coffee table book.

I went to my first seed swap at the Fred Berry Conservation Center in Yellville, AR on a cold February afternoon in 2013. I didn’t have any seeds to share, as I had never actually saved any. The organization Conserving Arkansas’ Agricultural Heritage, puts on annual seed sharing events all across Arkansas. We had a wonderful potluck lunch, and I learned about varieties of seeds that had been saved in that area of the Ozarks for generations. CAAH uses the slogan, “one for the cutworm, one for the crow, one to share, and one to grow.” Even though I didn’t bring any seeds to swap, CAAH gave me some to grow out, with the understanding that I would save seed to replenish the stock.

I have been growing green beans each season since I moved to Arkansas. Some years, they do great. Other years, I only have a few plants that thrive. In the Ozarks, I grew the Bammie Seaton variety, named after a woman from Searcy County. Now that I’m down in Little Rock, I’ve started growing the Bolita Bean. Both of these seeds have a story, a history, and a relationship to place.

My favorite thing about growing green beans, other than of course eating green beans, is that they allow my garden to fit in with my schedule. Early in the season, when there isn’t a whole lot ready to harvest, I am all about beans. The tiny tender pods are so easy to prepare, and I usually end up eating some as I harvest them. Later in the season, I inevitably fall behind on my garden to-do list, and sexy tomatoes and peppers are more competitive for my time than the workhorse pole bean. That’s okay. I can leave the beans unharvested without feeling guilty. By the time I get around to harvesting the dried out pods, the dried beans are ready to turn into a chili or soup whenever the cold weather rolls around. Plus, whatever I don’t cook up over the coming months becomes my seed for next year’s crop. Each year I plant saved seed gives a competitive advantage to the genetic material most suited to where I’m growing.

You might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with GMOs?”. The short answer? Pretty much everything. Saving seed is how people have been growing food since we domesticated plants and created agriculture in the first place. Genetically Modified Organisms are copyrighted, patented, and controlled by corporations. It is illegal to save seeds from a GMO plant. You can never benefit from a locally based variety, which has acclimated, literally, to where you’re growing. You also miss out on the food that has been selected over generations for the best flavor when you’re aiming for a plant that can withstand heavy pesticide use, long distance travel, and uniform color, shape and size. Saving seed gives you direct control over your very own food supply. Your harvest might not be the prettiest, and it would probably get passed over on the grocery store shelves, but it will be the best tasting, freshest, and most local food year after year.

Sara Fulton-Koerbling loves all things food. She is a sociologist and trained personal chef, a market gardener and passionate community organizer. In Little Rock, AR, she is the Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods Market. Sara also co-directs the Central Arkansas New Agrarian Society a grassroots organization dedicated to strengthening the regional economy and demonstrating sustainable living practices.

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Even if you shop at the farmers’ market or the healthiest grocery store in town, there is a chance that GMOs, chemicals, additives, pesticides and many other unsavory toxins are lurking in your refrigerator, cupboards and under your sink. Take a look in your cabinets and see how to make some sustainable improvements with the help of our friends at Grace Communications. If you know what to look out for, you can start creating a healthier and more sustainable kitchen with each shopping trip.

Set Up Your GMO-free Kitchen Today!

 

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GMOs, Monoculture and the American Food Industry

Imagine eating a plate of corn and soybeans every night for the rest of your life. With the alarming trend towards monoculture in North America, our food choices could become extremely limited in the future. GMO corn and soy are the top two crops grown in the U.S. today, covering nearly half of the nation’s farmlands. At least 88 percent of corn and 93 percent of soy are genetically modified. The rates of production of these two crops are growing at dizzying paces: 2 million acres of grassland were converted to corn and soy production within the last five years. Learn about the rise of monoculture with the Green Divas.

Link: Read more from the Green Divas to learn about GMOs and Monoculture

The Green Divas Show is a one-hour, weekly and interactive internet-based radio broadcast that inspires sustainable living from a guilt-free, low-stress perspective—making green information accessible to a broad audience using credible resources, humor and technology.

STORY BANK INTERVIEWS

Find innovative ideas and facts from our interviews with Lexicon thought leaders.

Dr. John Fagan, Founder & Chief Scientific Officer of Global ID Group

John Fagan, Ph. D. is a leading authority on sustainability in the food system. As Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Global ID Group, he pioneered the development of innovative tools to verify and advance food purity, safety and sustainability. These tools include DNA tests for genetically engineered foods, the first certification program for non-GMO foods, and a leading program certifying corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability in food and agriculture, which is now administered by the non-profit Pro-Terra Foundation. Dr. Fagan holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology from Cornell University.

Download Interview


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In this Q&A with the Nourish Initiative, food journalist Michael Pollan and food advocate Anna Lappé examine the GMO issue.

Michael-Pollan-Anna-LappeNourish empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment, by driving consumer choice and civic action with breakthrough research and an informed public. For the past twenty-five years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment. Anna Lappé is a widely respected author and educator, known for her work as an expert on food systems and as a sustainable food advocate. The co-author or author of three books and the contributing author to ten others, Anna’s work has been widely translated internationally and featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, Oprah Magazine, among many others.


Information Artwork Text

Local Book CoverTitle: Genetically Modified
Featuring: Delon “Rusty” Perry is a Papaya Farmer holding a Rainbow Papaya. Dennis Gonsalves is a USDA Agricultural Research Scientist (ARS).
Location: Volcano Island Fruit Company, Puna, HI
Found on Page 92 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

The Ringpost Virus nearly wiped out Hawaii’s papaya industry until Dennis Gonsalves had an idea. His team created a new transgenic red flesh variety called “Sunup”, then developed the F1 transgenic Rainbow by crossing the Sunup with a non-genetic Kapoho. After field tests conducted by the University of Hawaii proved the Rainbow’s resistance to PRSV, seeds were distributed for free to local farmers. Hawaii’s papaya industry has returned to production levels that preceded the invasion.

Here, farmer Delon “Rusty” Perry and Dennis Gonsalves stand together at the site of the first commercial use of a GMO papaya.

Recipe of the Week By Chef Ann Cooper

Chef-Ann-Cooper-thumbnailChef Ann Cooper is the Renegade Lunch Lady. She is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. She is also the founder of Food Family Farming Foundation.

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