Hay contaminated with Monsanto GMOs rejected for export

Grist – Thursday 12th September

Herein lies a strong argument on the risks of growing GMO. This story sends a salient warning of the dangers of GMO crop contamination. A farmer in the US has just had his crop of non-GMO alfalfa rejected for sale because it has been tainted by Monsanto ‘Round-up Ready’ GMO alfalfa. His buyer, who is selling to clients in the East Pacific – Korea, China and Japan, among others – can’t shift GMO alfalfa there because there is too much concern about health and environmental safety.

This isn’t the first case of crop contamination – last spring a strain of GM wheat that should have been eradicated after its trials, was found growing in an Oregon field. The problem is that once GMOs are introduced, there is no going back. Crop contamination could eradicate the possibility of organic production of food and ultimately destroy the critical biodiversity of crops. There isn’t any way to control this. With crops pollinated by bees and other insects, contamination is pretty inevitable.

If cases such as these keep turning up, US grain will become suspect and face increasing scrutiny and lost sales on the global market – the Oregon incident led to a temporary ban on US wheat imports in a number of countries. Perhaps this lastest contamination will be a wake-up call to all of us, reminding us of the financial and environmental risks that are at stake.

Pork it over: US OKs Chinese purchase of its largest pig company

Grist – Tuesday 10th September

The Chinese are trying to purchase the biggest pork processor in the US, Smithfield. Smithfield is industrial pig farming at its worst, so it’s hard to feel sorry about it heading to China, (except that things won’t be getting any better for the pigs.) However, the purchase has caused some discomfort in the US legislature which has yet to approve the sale, though it is likely to go through. China has been a long time adversary of the US, so selling-off one of the biggest companies in the food industry, has raised questions about US food security. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has asked how much of the US food supply foreign interests should own? It’s something to think about carefully, with climate predictions in mind, and not just in the US but in every country. How much control should outside interests have over the food supply of a nation?

The food we eat may not be providing us with the nutrients we need 

The Guardian – Friday 13th September

If you grow tomatoes in your garden then you know how much better they are from the ones you buy in the supermarket. Our food system, sadly, has forgotten that tomatoes should pop with rich flavour and sweetness. The breeding and transport of tomatoes for mass consumption hasn’t done them any favours. Many varieties are bred to grow to a uniform size and have an extended shelf life, all at a cost to any flavour.

Farmers, educators and activists in the US are calling for more attention to be paid to the quality of food, and that doesn’t mean a perfect unblemished apple. It means freshness and flavour begotten in natural ways without the use of GMOs, heavy pesticides and nitrogen fertilisers. It also means better nutritional value (fruit and vegetables actually ‘die’ about a week after they are harvested, with nutrient levels falling), not to mention the added bonus of great eating.

At the root of growing ‘quality’ food is healthy soil. Our industrial food production system is based on a ‘junk food’ ethic where we dump a lot of poisons onto the soil, artificially increase its productivity and then wreck it with irrigation on our way to desertification. What kind of ‘quality’ food can we expect to grow like that?

Monsanto ponies up and Big Ag pulls ahead in GMO labelling horse race 

Grist – Friday 13th September

Yes, they’re off again with mid-term elections in the US coming up in November. Washington State has an initiative on the ballot to label foods with GMOs and those on both sides of the battle are stocking the coffers. The pro-labelling contingent had been making some notable headway with their fundraising on the issue, bringing in some $3.5 million for their fight. However, as November draws nearer, Big Ag is weighing in. Monsanto has dropped $4.6 million to fight the initiative, with DuPont Pioneer adding another $3.2 million. We all know where this is headed – they will throw more money than God has to make this initiative (and the many others coming through the pipeline in other states) go away. It cost $42 million in California. Their pockets are deep when so much is at stake. Imagine letting people make an informed decision about what they eat! That might dent their profit margin.

How can Britain tackle its mountain of food waste?

The Guardian – Tuesday 10th September

Waste is one of the most significant issues in both food security and sustainable food. The environmental impact from the energy and water that goes into growing food that is never eaten is considerable, as evidenced in a recent UN report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The amount of food wasted also makes a big dent on our food security. If we used all the food that is wasted, we’d have far more food to eat and that could solve a lot of our hunger and malnutrition problems.

There are a lot of grass-roots initiatives addressing the issue of waste in small but significant ways. From the Gleaning Network, that picks up fruit and vegetables from farms where a crop is going to waste, to groups making a social activity out of using food that’s past its prime, to cook and share a tasty meal. We all need to start making a concerted effort to use up what’s in our fridge, even when it looks a little dodgy. While waste stretches into every nook and cranny of our food industry, there’s a critical shift to be made in how we think about it, and that happens on an individual level. When we all begin to take responsibility for our own waste, that shift in attitude will spread through-out the food system.

Tesco ‘foreign’ pork chop sold as British a one off, industry claims

The Grocer – Monday 16th September

Tesco’s had another embarrassing moment in the credibility of its food sourcing. After carving out a notable role for itself in the horsemeat scandal earlier this year, it has now had another ‘oops’ incident. In a one-off isotope test on its ‘British’ pork, done for Radio 4’s You and Yours and Farming Today, it was discovered that the pork (oops!) wasn’t British. All the way down the food chain of suppliers, Tesco, Cranswick and FA Gill were tripping over themselves to prove this was a one-off anomaly in the system, the result of human error. Even so, it did leave us muttering, ‘oh surprise, surprise.’

The Grocer’s Julia Glotz is right to question, ‘…is this a one-off mistake? Is this something that is perhaps a more fundamental problem in the industry?’

Photograph by Timo Newton-Syms

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