Category: Genetically Modified Organisms

BorlaugThe world’s most important farmer was born 102 years ago today.

The late Norman Borlaug worked on his family’s Iowa farm from the time he was 7 and attended a one-room schoolhouse through eighth grade. Graduating high school during the Great Depression, he received a scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where he studied forestry. In graduate school he switched to the study of plant pathology  — a decision that would lead to a Nobel Prize and the saving of over a billion lives. As Gregg Easterbrook said, Borlaug was the man who defused the ‘population bomb.’

And as James Wanliss writes at The Stream, there is no greater hero of the last century than Norman Borlaug:
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Former Indiana Governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels

Former Indiana Governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels

If it seems your writer is obsessing over genetically modified organisms in this space, it’s only because the progressive side of the equation won’t let it go. Team Anti-GMO includes the radicalized religious shareholder activists of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow. Whether it’s misrepresenting the science or ignoring it completely, these groups celebrate every GMO labeling initiative and perform handstands every time a corporation commits to producing organic products.

Even more distressing than cherry-picking science to support incorrect conclusions is Team Anti-GMO’s failure to address the morality of their campaigns against disease-, pesticide- and drought-resistant foods. In fact, it’s amazingly distressing that nuns, priests, clergy and other religious affiliated with ICCR and AYS would circle their wagons around an initiative so deleterious to efforts to alleviate world hunger.

So imagine the delight conjured by the Feb. 25 remarks made by Purdue University President Mitch Daniels at the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va. The former Indiana governor succinctly makes the case for GMOs, which was excerpted last weekend in The Wall Street Journal: (more…)

bananaMuch real estate on this blog has been devoted to extolling the scientifically proven safety and morally indispensible qualities of GMOs, and much shade cast by your writer at the religious shareholder activists acting to curtail or eliminate GMO use.

No legitimate scientific research has proven GMOs unsafe, and the promise GMOs hold for feeding the world’s poorest is extraordinary. Why, then, the reservations of such progressive groups as As You Sow and Green America? Could it be they simply are intent on being a fly in the ointment of corporations responsible for bringing GM seeds resistant to drought, pests and pesticides to market?

The previous question was prompted by actions by student activists at Iowa State University. As reported by Julie Kelly in the Wall Street Journal, ISU students collected more than 57,000 signatures for a petition opposing human-feeding trials that paid $900 to students willing to eat fortified superbananas for four days. The superbananas contain copious amounts of beta carotene, which the human digestive system converts to Vitamin A – as in: the letter “A” that stands for “Absolutely necessary for preventing blindness and other inconvenient Third World problems not quite prevalent on the ISU West Lawn.

However, blindness, stunting and deaths resulting from Vitamin A deficiencies are prevalent in Uganda. Notes Kelly: “40 percent of children under age 5 are vitamin-A deficient, according to a 2011 health survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.” To which the ISU students respond: “Tough beans, no superbananas for you, Uganda.” The ISU students also submitted their petition to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “which is investing more than $2 billion to improve agriculture in the developing world, including through the banana project.”
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Your writer persistently has defended genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from the community of religious shareholder activists in this space. Among these activists are the religious investors affiliated with Green America, including As You Sow.

Even outside Green America’s orbit, AYS members continue to reject science and the concomitant reduction of world hunger. Just last week, AYS released its 2016 Proxy Preview wherein it boasts:

GMOs: Just two proposals concern themselves with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 2016, a drop from recent years for an issue that has tended to move in and out of prominence in the shareholder scene. Harrington Investments has filed resolutions at Monsanto on the subject every year since 2011. This year, it earned 5.2 percent on a request for a report about glyphosate, known widely by its brand name Roundup. The resolution came on the heels of recent action labeling it as carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organization and the state of California, and asked for an assessment of the company’s response to “public policy developments,” as well as a quantification of “potential material financial risks or operational impacts…in the event that proposed bans and restrictions are enacted.”

Napa, California-based Harrington Investments, Inc., a “socially responsible investment” outfit, trumpeted in a recent press release its coalition to fight the use of gyphosates:

Efforts behind Harrington’s resolution have culminated with a monumental coalition: three generations of women will stand together at the Monsanto Company Annual Meeting of Shareholders this Friday, January 29, 2016. Rachel Parent, teenager and founder of KidsRighttoKnow.com of Canada, Anne Temple, mother and leader of Moms Across America, and Beth Savitt, grandmother and President of the Shaka Movement of Hawaii are uniting to represent their generations of women concerned about the harms of GMOs and pesticides across the globe.

Monumental? One has to wonder where these women get their information, because it’s wrong. Monumentally wrong both scientifically and morally. (more…)

gmo-food1Last year, the House passed a bill to preempt states from imposing mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food (GMOs). But as Daren Bakst notes, “While it looked like the Senate was going to follow suit, in the last minute, the new Senate bill would actually effectively mandate the labeling of genetically engineered food.”

“In the Senate bill, there would be a national mandatory labeling requirement unless the Secretary of Agriculture determines that there has been substantial participation by labeled foods in voluntary labeling,” says Bakst. “The Secretary has to develop regulations to clarify the process, but there has to be at least 70 percent substantial participation after two years.”

Here is what you should know about GMOs and GMO food labeling: 

What are genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?
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Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, March 10, 2016
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Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!

Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!

If you grew up outside the African and South American continents you can be forgiven for thinking cassava is the latest variation of salsa music or perhaps the funky new energy beverage trendy hipsters are drinking these days. In Africa, however, 500 million individuals recognize cassava as a dietary staple much like the rest of the world enjoys potatoes and rice.

Native to South America, cassava was introduced to Africa by Portuguese colonists. Many cassava species exist in South America, however, that cannot be exported to Africa due to cassava mosaic disease, a virus exclusive to Africa. Eighty percent of the African cassava crop perished from mosaic disease in the 1920s, resulting in widespread famine. Other threats to the cassava include such pests as the cassava mealy bug and the cassava green mite.

Addressing this Third-World problem requires some agricultural-science expertise, which most certainly will chagrin the scientifically challenged, anti-genetically modified organism crowd. Because, you know, frankenfoods and such. Readers will remember Green America, among the most outspoken group of GMO detractors. Green America boasts Ceres and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing affiliations. In turn, these affiliates trumpet their relationships with religious shareholder activists As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Green America’s outspokenness on GMOs includes reposting a Sept. 2014 article by Debbie Barker, International Programs Director, Center for Food Safety, in which she cavils:

Similarly, the biotech industry touted that cassava, one of the most important starch crops in Africa, was enriched with greatly increased protein content using genetic engineering. However, the research article claiming the elevated protein was later retracted when it was found that the purported increased protein did not exist.

While Barker’s assertion may contain some verity, it’s also quite shortsighted. After all, while the initial protein content of GM cassava may fall short of desired results, it’s also important to ensure the cassava plant depended upon by millions for nourishment is resistant to viruses and pests. Methinks Ms. Barker doth protest too much. You gotta walk before you can run, and recent developments reveal GM cassava is picking up a head of steam. (more…)

mayonnaiseReaders will forgive their writer for being clueless when it comes to the connection between religion and mayonnaise. Ever since Woody Allen’s character pondered converting to Roman Catholicism in the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters by schlepping home a Bible, Crucifix, loaf of Wonder Bread and a jar of Hellmann’s mayo, I’ve wondered what on earth the condiment reference meant. About the sacrilege associated with Allen’s Wonder Bread allusion the less said the better, even during the Lenten season.

Yet earlier this month nonprofit Green America celebrated the Unilever company’s latest non-genetically modified organism (GMO) entries in its Hellman’s Mayonnaise lineup:

Green America congratulates Unilever on two new products announced today—Hellmann’s organic mayonnaise and Hellmann’s “Carefully Crafted” egg-free dressing and sandwich spread. Both products are made with non-GMO ingredients. The announcement of these products follows the introduction of Hellman’s non-GMO olive oil mayonnaise last year.

Hellmann’s USDA certified organic mayonnaise is made with all organic ingredients including organic/non-GMO and cage-free eggs. Hellmann’s “Carefully Crafted” sandwich spread is an egg-free, and cholesterol-free spread made with non-GMO ingredients.

The Green America press release goes so far as proclaiming the condiment brand “iconic,” which I suppose automatically grants it religious status among some faiths. So, there’s that. (more…)