Wednesday, August 20, 2008

As the crops grows

GMO Sugar beets may be entering the food supply, and since sugar beets provide a common ingredient, much like corn, to so much prepackages food, convincing the food companies not to accept it is an important goal now, before it is an standard industry crop that benefits only the GMO and pesticide companies. Read more at GristMill in "Not a Sweet Proposition."

A nice complementary piece in Grist about a recent inteview with Prince Charles and his view on sustainability and food. Included in the Grist summary piece are some stats about the modifications included in the bulk of GMO crops. Not health enhancing or yield enhancing benefits (slightly arguable, since if there are fewer weeds, in theory there could be higher yields), but rather, increased ability to resist pesticides like Roundup. I haven't read the entire Telegraph piece as yet, but the material on Grist is interesting in its own right.

And just how useful are those GM crops that mostly allow higher doses of pesticides? Short-lived as weeds adapt to those pesticides (ah, natural selection) and force changes to different crops with different resistances to possibly more dangerous pesticides. Superweeds by Tom Philpott summarizes what's going on in Arkansas as weeds adapt to Roundup and require additional doses of different herbicides, and for next year the extension service is recommending switching to a different seed that resists a different, possibly more dangerous, herbicide. What happens when products grown in soils dosed in these products are fed to children with developing nervous systems and the rest of us?

And further, the lastest installment of "Dispatches from the Fields" addresses the question of "Whatever happend to organic?" Meaning, why is organic falling by the wayside in favor of local, and is this a wise choice for consumers to be making. Their argument is that if yo're shopping for the healthiest/safest products, shopping local is not the best choice to be making, unless you can talk to the farmer and know the methods and products they're using. Just because they're local doesn't mean they are organic, but just because they don't pay for an organic certification doesn't mean they aren't conforming to such practices. Personally I try to stick with organic, in season, grown as locally as is possible (eg: no fresh tomatoes in winter). The downside is with my schedule, I don't get to many farmers markets, so I'm stuck with whatever the local Whole Foods manages to stock, which seems to me a small selection of what should be available in a given season, probably due to supply quantity demands in their contracts. Only larger producers can realistically compete.