FAMINE: Starting this month, the lawmakers of Vermont have put the most “food insecure” segment of their population at even greater risk in order to solve a “problem” that never existed in the first place. After caving to demands from anti-ag protesters two years ago, the governor signed legislation that mandates GMO (genetically modified organisms) identification labels on all products. It is now a reality.
It sounds simple enough, but as Joanne Lidback of the Global Farmer Network reported, “It involves a lot more than slapping statements in fine print on packages of food. It will force food companies to reformulate their products, driving up the cost of production all the way back to the farm gate. Prices will jump and consumers will pay the difference.
“Some estimates have suggested that mandatory GMO labels will push up the ordinary American grocery bill over $400 to $500 per year in additional food costs. A new report from the Corn Refiners Association says the amount may even exceed $1,000 per year.”
We say it all the time: Don’t let fear overwhelm facts. Which ironically leads us to our next …
FEAST: A Purdue University study on GMOs found that banning them would lead to “higher food prices, a significant boost in greenhouse gas emissions due to land-use change and a major loss of forest and pasture land.”
“This is not an argument to keep or lose GMOs,” said researcher Wally Tyner, professor of agricultural economics. “It’s just a simple question: What happens if they go away?”
Eliminating all GMOs in the United States, the Purdue study indicates, would result in corn yield declines of 11.2 percent on average. Soybeans lose 5.2 percent of their yields and cotton 18.6 percent. To make up for that loss, about 102,000 hectares of U.S. forest and pasture would have to be converted to cropland and 1.1 million hectares globally.
Greenhouse gas emissions would increase significantly because with lower crop yields, more land is needed for agricultural production, and it must be converted from pasture and forest.
“Some of the same groups that oppose GMOs want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the potential for global warming,” Tyner said. “The result we get is that you can’t have it both ways. If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, an important tool to do that is with GMO traits.”
FEAST: Close to 40 farms in Wisconsin’s Door and Kewaunee counties have joined forces to address area groundwater concerns in a new collaborative effort. Called Peninsula Pride Farms, the coalition is a non-profit organization seeking to unite farmers and other environmental stakeholders in order to meet the region’s water quality concerns.
A house divided cannot stand, and those farmers — confronted by a coalition of profiteering activists and NIMBY neighbors — were smart enough to circle the wagons, set aside competitive relationships and begin a proactive approach to an issue of community concern.
Peninsula Pride already received an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and is working with University of Wisconsin-Extension and The Nature Conservancy to identify problems and create solutions. The group’s members include crop operations and large and small dairies. Members are required to submit a nutrient management plan for critiques. The organization plans on instituting the Department of Natural Resources work group’s voluntary standards and hosting a series of field days throughout the spring and summer.
It will be interesting to see those in the non-farming sector who demand solutions are willing to work for solutions as well.
FEAST: We applaud a broad spectrum of leaders — in government, non-profits, large landowners, homeowners and industry, among others — who are working collaboratively to ensure the survival of the monarch butterfly.
Through the establishment of thousands of small milkweed oases throughout the U.S. and eastern Canada, the North American butterfly species is reversing recent years of population decline.
It’s important to understand that by protecting the species we protect our own: According to the Sand County Foundation: 70 percent of native vegetation depend on insect pollinators for reproduction, which impacts 30 percent of our human crops.
According to Monarch Watch, 90 percent of all milkweed/monarch habitat exists within the agricultural landscape, so farmers are — rightly — taking a leading role in the restoration initiative.
“The fate of the monarch butterfly hangs in the balance, and its future is dependent on all of us. We can either choose to let its decline continue or we can decide to do something about it,” said Dan Ashe, Fish & Wildlife Service director.
We couldn’t agree more.
FAMINE: Subway restaurants has firmly joined the ranks of Chipotle and Starbucks as eateries that are willing to imply bad practices among American farmers as long as it benefits their bottom line.
Worse yet, their multimedia advertising push for “antibiotic free chicken” isn’t even truthful: A closer look at the chain’s official antibiotics policy shows they actually do support the use of antibiotics in farming, as long as they are not used to promote growth. Their website states: “Our policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but not for growth.”
Of course, Subway knows that the average consumer isn’t going to read the fine print, so in essence they are having it both ways: Implying there’s an inherent “evil” in the use of antibiotics, while they quietly continue selling poultry kept healthy with antibiotics. And if they throw their producers under the bus in the process, it’s a price they’re apparently willing to pay.