Full list: Agriculture in the News

CBS St. Louis: Process to Produce Hemp Oil in Mo. for Medicinal Purposes has Begun

Fred Bodimer
November 3, 2014
Full Article

UIS (KMOX) – Today kicks off a 30-day period when the Missouri Department of Agriculture will accept applications to produce hemp extract in the state.

Only two contracts will be awarded.

“Non-profit organizations are the applicants that are eligible to receive one of up to two licenses for production of hemp,” says Sarah Alsager with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

“The only use that this new rule will allow use of hemp for is for the purpose of producing cannabis oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy,” she says, or those with severe, persistent seizures.

The state health department estimates about 1,000 people will eventually apply to use the treatment.


Beef Magazine: USDA Eases Into Enforcement Of Animal Disease Traceability Rule

Burt Rutherford
10/30/14
Full Article

While the long and often controversial effort to develop a national animal identification (ID) system may not be completely finalized yet, complying with animal ID and movement regulations is now the law of the land.

And it has been for a while. U.S. cattle producers and their veterinarians have been working under USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule for the past 18 months. However, USDA and state animal health officials have been emphasizing education and cooperation rather than enforcement in an effort to achieve compliance with the ADT rule, according to Chelsea Good, Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) vice president of government and industry affairs.

Speaking during a webinar sponsored by GlobalVetLINK, Good says the ADT rule became effective on March 11, 2013. For the first year the rule was in place, USDA and state animal health officials concentrated on education, explaining the requirements and nuances of the rule to cattle producers. In March 2014, USDA announced it would begin phase 2 of implementing the rule, which includes enforcement.

However, Good says USDA doesn’t intend to take a heavy-handed approach to enforcing the rule. “But they are going to pursue penalties in situations where an individual is repeatedly failing to comply with ADT requirements, despite receiving education and opportunities to come into compliance.”

Good says quite a few letters of information have been sent to producers regarding compliance with the ADT rule and LMA is beginning to hear about some investigations as the first cases of enforcement come to light. “But in terms of actual case numbers, we’re pretty low at this point,” she adds.

For cattle producers, the biggest area of compliance is moving sexually intact cattle 18 months of age or older across state lines. The rule does not apply to cattle moved in-state, she says, nor does it apply to feeder cattle. USDA plans to address rules for feeder cattle movement in a separate regulation to be published later, she says.

Cattle that fall under the rule must be identified and have an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI), commonly called a health certificate. However, the ADT rule gives states quite a bit of flexibility on what can be considered an official ID and official paperwork, so check with your local veterinarian and your state veterinarian’s office for specifics.

According to Good, USDA has outlined three enforcement priorities. “First, the cattle that are required to be officially identified are, in fact, identified; second, that ICVIs or health certificates are properly administered; and third, that the collection of ID is happening at packing houses.”

Given the flexibility that states have in implementing the ADT rule, Good says developing a resource, such as a smartphone app, as a one-stop information source for all state and federal requirements is important. The United States Animal Health Association and the National Institute of Animal Agriculture, along with state animal health officials, are pursuing such a resource, she says.

In addition, at least one private company, GlobalVetLINK, has a beta version of an electronic certificate of veterinary inspection in the works, along with state-by-state information regarding cattle movement and import regulations. Kaylen Henry with GlobalVetLINK hopes a final version will be available to veterinarians by the end of the year.


NPR: Colorado, Oregon Reject GMO Labeling

November 05, 2014
Full Article

An effort to label genetically modified foods in Colorado failed to garner enough support Tuesday. It’s the latest of several state-based GMO labeling ballot measures to fail. UPDATE: A similar measure in Oregon was also defeated by a narrow margin.

Voters in Colorado resoundingly rejected the labeling of foods that contain the derivatives of genetically modified – or GMO – crops, with 66 percent voting against, versus 34 percent in favor.

In Oregon the outcome was closer, with fewer than 51 percent voting against the measure. Political ad spending in Oregon was more competitive than in Colorado, where labeling opponents outspent proponents by millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a proposal in Maui County, Hawaii, skipped the labeling debate altogether. Voters there narrowly approved a moratorium on GMO crop cultivation. The state has been a battleground between biotech firms and food activists. Some Hawaiian farmers grow a variety of papaya genetically engineered to resist a plant virus.

Colorado’s Proposition 105 would’ve required food companies to label packaged foods with the text “produced with genetic engineering.” Oregon’s Measure 92 says food labels would need to include the words “genetically engineered.” Many processed foods contain soybean oil, corn syrup, refined sugar and cottonseed oil. Those oils and syrups are often derived from GMO crops that farmers have adopted over the last 18 years. Few whole foods, like the ones you see in the produce aisle, are genetically engineered, though some GE varieties of sweet corn, squash and papaya are approved for sale in the U.S.

The failed measures in Colorado and Oregon follow a nationwide trend. Similar ballot questions in California and Washington state were rejected in 2012 and 2013, respectively. This summer, Vermont’s governor signed the nation’s first GMO labeling requirement into law. It’s supposed to take effect in 2016, but a coalition of biotech firms and farmer groups have filed suit to prevent that from happening.

Groups opposed to GMO labeling poured big money into efforts to quash the ballot measures, spending more than $15 million in Colorado alone. In Oregon, opponents of labeling raised more than $18 million, making the ballot measure the most expensive issue campaign in the state’s history. Most of that money came from large seed corporations like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, and from processed food companies like Pepsi, Land O’ Lakes and Smucker’s. All of that outside money opened labeling opponents up to criticism of being tied to corporate interests.

Supporters of GMO labeling efforts took issue with opponents’ claims that the measure would result in the cost of food going up and increase the burden on farmers. Despite Tuesday’s loss at the ballot box, Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the national Center for Food Safety, which supports labeling efforts, saw a silver lining in the outcome.

“Despite an aggressive and deceptive anti-consumer campaign, hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters spoke up in favor of GE food labeling,” Kimbrell said in a statement.

Even with a down vote in Colorado, don’t expect a dramatic shift in the debate around genetically modified crops.

Labeling proponents say the elections have been bought, not just in Colorado but in California and Washington state as well, and vow to keep trying. Earlier this year, the Grocery Manufacturers Association – which includes members like Kraft and Pepsi — proposed its own voluntary national labeling standard, but that effort has yet to gain any significant traction at the federal level.

 


Times Argus: Scientist, food activist lauds VT GMO law

By Stefan Hard
11/4/14
Full Article

SOUTH ROYALTON — An anti-GMO activist said Vermont’s new labeling law is the only choice Americans have if they wish to oversee the bioengineering industry.

A wall-to-wall, standing-room-only crowd packed Vermont Law School’s Chase Center on Monday night to hear a lecture from Vandana Shiva, an anti-GMO activist who sang the praises of Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

“I’ve come all the way to congratulate this law school,” Shiva said. “What you’ve done in Vermont and what the law school has done is — in our times, in the year 2014 — path breaking.”

A physicist by training, Shiva is the author of 20 books, including “Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply.” She was drawn to issues surrounding agriculture following the Bhopal disaster of 1984, when pesticide gas vented by Union Carbide killed thousands.

On the world stage, Shiva is a controversial figure whose assertions have not always aligned with science. While she didn’t make the claim Monday night, in the past she has cited high suicide rates among farmers in India being due to the farmers having to purchase expensive GMO seeds.

However, Shiva’s claim that GMO crops do not result in higher yields is supported by a 2009 study from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Shiva called GMO crops “Descartes’ ultimate victory, when food is measured by weight and yield, instead of by taste and nutritional quality.”

“It’s not producing nutrition. It’s producing commodities for trade and profit,” Shiva said.

Shiva asserted that GMO fertilizers are borne out of war efforts, made in the same facilities that once made explosives. Noting the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Shiva claimed the CIA distributed potentially explosive fertilizers to keep up with efforts by the Soviet Union.

“It’s an anti-food system based on the mentality of warfare and the tools of warfare, and of course it can’t make peace with the Earth,” Shiva said.

Shiva noted a central paradox to companies that produce GMO seeds: A GMO seed is “novel” and therefore proprietary, while at the same time a part of nature, leaving the creator of the GMO blameless for any negative effects — either environmental or nutritional — that the modified food might have.

Shiva also noted the lack of laws in the United States governing genetic engineering, and said Vermont’s GMO labeling law is the only recourse the public has to oversee the industry.

“This challenge will make a difference to the whole world,” Shiva said of the GMO labeling law.


Brattleboro Reformer: Farm to Plate tackles food equity issues

By HILARY NILES / VTDigger
10/25/2014
Full Article

KILLINGTON — Vermont’s food system has grown $1.7 billion of new economic activity in just five years, but one out of seven children in the state are considered “food insecure.”

More than 600 new agricultural businesses have cropped up in Vermont since Farm to Plate’s founding in 2009. But 16 percent of the state’s migrant dairy farm workers don’t have eight hours in a row to sleep any day of the week.

An estimated 3,400 jobs have been created, but some of those workers rely on food stamps to get by.

Vermont is ahead of the curve in a lot of ways, Richard Berkfield told an audience of at least 200 New Englanders who gathered at the Killington Grand Resort and Conference Center on Thursday. But not when it comes to food access.

Berkfield is a member of Vermont Farm to Plate’s food access “cross-cutting” working group. Farm to Plate, administered by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, is designed to strengthen the role of local food in Vermont’s economy and communities.

The cross-cutting group is charged with linking all the network’s conversations back to access for people who have trouble obtaining healthy, local food even as its profile continues to rise.

On Thursday, the message of access served as counterpoint to an otherwise buoyant chorus of excitement about the bounty of Vermont farms and farm businesses. The dual message was intentional.

“If we don’t find a way to build a food system that is equitable, just and accessible to all, including good wages and working conditions,” VSJF executive director Ellen Kahler said, “we’ll be just repeating many of the realities of our current, industrial scale food system.”

Barriers to healthy food

“I’ve had people tell me ‘I cannot afford not to shop at the farmers’ market,'” Karen Ranz, a volunteer with Rutland Area Farm and Food Link said in a “deep dive” session on food access.

Ranz, an alum of the Americorps Vista program, gets by with the help of federal food assistance. She said she recently saw something at a farmers’ market she could both use and afford: vegetables in a basket. They were seconds, selling cheap. She walked away with a giant acorn squash for $1.

“That’s what I need. That’s what I need more of,” Ranz said.

Grocery stores and farms around the state have plenty of it. But the way food is aggregated and distributed puts the “seconds” harvest to waste or to compost, she said.

Accessing fresh, locally produced food can be a luxury for some. When a family is living on minimum wage, Berkfield said, the stark reality is that food choices fall below rent or medical care on the scale of priorities.

But access is not just a matter of how much the cash register rings up, he said. Some Vermonters don’t have transportation to get to the grocery store. Others don’t have a stove to cook what food they bring home, or potable water to cook it with.

‘Concealed stories’ of the food system

But Abel Luna, of the organization Migrant Justice, followed up later in the day to tell a very different story of agriculture in Vermont.

Shumlin’s rosy picture “is not the reality I see when I go out to the farms,” Luna said.

Last spring, Migrant Justice successfully lobbied for driving privileges for undocumented workers. They continue to try to bring attention to the living and working conditions of migrant workers, as well as the challenges facing farmers who employ them.

Cynthia Parker, a senior associate with the Massachusetts-based Interaction Institute for Social Change, described the migrant worker experience as one of many “concealed stories” within Vermont’s food system.

Among Farm to Plate’s goals — in conjunction with developing and supporting agricultural business models — is to reveal the hidden, access the remote, draw out the silent. The approach reflects a broader regional conversation about building racial and social equity into a new food system.

Tom Kelly is founding director of the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute, home of Food Solutions New England (of which Farm to Plate is an active member). In an interview, Kelly said Food Solutions New England is prioritizing race in food system conversations because, even in predominantly white Northern New England, race is relevant as a fundamental form of discrimination and as the shape of the future.

“Just because we look one way now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to look that way 20 years from now, or 40 years from now,” Kelly said.

He also subscribes to a theory (known as “standpoint theory”) that there’s more to learn about any system from the perspective of the most oppressed within it, whether the oppression is based on race, class or other factors.

“If you’re thinking hierarchically, then things like food access and equity become add-ons,” Kelly said. He wants to see food access and equity addressed by food systems groups right alongside the business viability of farms.

This “systems” approach is one the state’s top agricultural official subscribest to. Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said in an interview that it’s helpful to look at a system — such as food production, distribution and access — comprehensively.

“You begin to understand the complexity,” Ross said. “And when you understand that, you’re able to implement solutions that are more effective.”

‘How do we make progress?’

Ross said the migrant worker story should not be a surprise to anyone, because similar stories of hardship and injustice are concealed in every industry.

“The question is, how do we make progress on these things?” Ross said.

Some participants expressed concern that the gathering’s emphasis on food equity and access would generate a lot of conversation, but little action. Part of the challenge is emotional overload, they said. Or not knowing where to start.

Mike Good, a food security program assistant at Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, said another factor makes it hard to bring stories of hardship into the light, especially surrounding agriculture in Vermont: the state’s brand.

There’s a sense of needing to protect Vermont’s picturesque, pastoral image, Good said. “It helps drive these issues underground in Vermont.”

At this year’s Farm to Plate gathering, the Vermont brand and the otherwise hidden stories are both on display.

 

 

 


VT Digger: Public responds to proposed GMO labeling rules

By John Herrick
10/23/14
Full Article

The Vermont Legislature passed the nation’s first GMO labeling law, now state officials must figure out how it will be carried out.

The Attorney General’s Office took comments on proposed rules for labeling genetically engineered ingredients in food products during a public meeting Wednesday in Montpelier, the second in a series of hearings on the rules.

State law requires food manufacturers and retailers to label certain products containing genetically modified ingredients sold after July 1, 2016. Act 120 is being challenged in federal court by industry trade groups, who say the law is unconstitutional and warn it will increase food prices.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell asked the judge to dismiss the case, and released proposed labeling rules this month. His office expects to have a final rule established by July 2015.

There are a variety of genetically engineered ingredients in processed foods, such as corn, sugar beets, canola oil, sugar beets, cotton seed oil and alfalfa grain. Some raw agricultural products are also genetically modified, such as sweet corn, rainbow papaya and summer squash.

The audience Wednesday asked questions specifically about which products must be labeled, who discloses the information and how they do it. Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz explained how the state is addressing these concerns.

For packaged foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, manufacturers must place a “clear and conspicuous” label anywhere on the packaged. Retailers are responsible to labeling certain unpackaged products. The label must read, “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Daloz said it should be the same type size as the “Serving Size” label on the back of food packages.

“It’s not a warning, it’s not in big letters, but it has to be easily found,” he said.

But for other foods it is less simple. For example, Daloz said the law was silent on unpackaged processed foods, such as bulk, bakery or deli items.

According to the rules, retailers are required to label these products. Daloz pointed to a photo of a bulk bin full of lentils with a label stating “Produced with Genetic Engineering” next to the per pound price as an example. (Lentils, however, are not produced with genetic engineering for sale to consumers, he said.)

If 75 percent of the product’s ingredients by weight are genetically engineered, the label can read, “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” If the manufacturer does not know, the product can be labeled, “May be Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The modifier can only be used if the manufacturer attempts to determine whether their product contains genetically engineered ingredients, Daloz said.

Products containing genetically engineered ingredients cannot use the word “nature,” “natural” or “naturally” on the package or in advertising, according to the proposed rules. The prohibition does not apply to trade, brand or product names or the name of ingredients.

Certain animal products, processing aids, alcoholic beverages, unpackaged taxable restaurant food for immediate consumption, certified organic food, medical food and products containing less than 0.9 percent genetically engineered ingredients are exempt from the labeling requirement, according to the rules.

Manufacturers can rely on the statements from an original manufacturer who swears the product does not contain genetically engineered ingredients, Daloz said.

The rules do not regulate food sales on the Internet, but these sales are not explicitly exempt under the law. Daloz said the labeling requirement applies to Internet sales if a retailer has a physical location in Vermont.

Food grown in Vermont but sold out of state does not have to be labeled, he said.

The attorney general can issue a civil penalty as high as $1,000 per day, per product, under the proposed rules. The consumer protection division will enforce the law.

The Attorney General’s Office will develop a final draft rule, which then must be approved by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.


VPR: Know Your GMOs: 2016 Labeling Law

By Jane Lindholm
10/22/14
Full Article

Last spring the legislature passed a law requiring foods that contain genetically modified organisms – or GMOs- to be labeled. That labeling will go into effect in 2016, and the details of how that labeling would work were left up to the Attorney General to figure out.

The AG’s office has just released an early draft proposal of the GMO labeling rules. And the office is holding meetings around the state this week to give manufacturers, farmers, grocers, and regular citizens a chance to take a sneak peek.

Vermont Edition talks with Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz, who worked on the new rules, to get a sense of what’s in them.

Under these new rules, two types of labels will appear in grocery stores: one for raw, agricultural commodities (like grocery store produce), and one for packaged, processed food (like juice, canned goods and frozen food). These labels will identify each product as one of the following: “Produced with Genetic Engineering”, “May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering”, or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering”, he said.
“It doesn’t enable producers to just turn a blind eye on their sources, but it also doesn’t require them to exhaustively search back all of the chain to the fields,” he said.

The first type of label, for agricultural commodities, will appear on every sign that identifies the produce and its price, while the label for processed foods will be featured on the side of the package next to the Nutrition Facts label, he said.

“It’s not a warning- it’s nothing like that,” Daloz said. “It’s just information for consumers and people who are interested in knowing this before they make a purchase.”

“Our thought process has been: that’s where people look for information about what’s in the product,” he said. “And this is just factual information about how the product was produced. That seems to be the most logical place.”

So what’s the difference between “Produced with Genetic Engineering”, “May Be Produced” and “Partially Produced”?

“Any label has to say ‘Produced with Genetic Engineering’,” Daloz said. “That said, a producer can modify that phrase by saying ‘Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering’, or ‘May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering’.

In order for their product’s label to say ‘Partially Produced’, a producer would have to show that that product contains no more than 75 percent material produced with genetic engineering. If it’s more than that, the label will read ‘Produced with Genetic Engineering.’

A third option is “May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering.” This type of modifier can only be used when a producer doesn’t actually know if their product contains genetic engineering.

“This might be a circumstance where a small scale producer receives inputs from a lot of different manufacturers, and doesn’t know whether their corn syrup is or is not GE, but there is a pretty good likelihood that it is,” Daloz said. “To be on the safe side, on the labeling, they label it “May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering”.

“It doesn’t enable producers to just turn a blind eye on their sources, but it also doesn’t require them to exhaustively search back all of the chain to the fields,” he said.
“Where the labeling occurs is when someone is offering a food for retail sale in Vermont that contains food produced with genetic engineering, and that means that they know that the food contains GE material,” he said.

In order to prove that a product does not contain GMOs, a producer has two options. They can either go through a verification process through a third party, like The Non-GMO Project, or get a certification or sworn statement from the vendor.

“What our rules propose to implement is creating a system by which those third parties could apply to the Attorney General’s office to be approved to verify for producers out there,” Daloz said.

If a company doesn’t get the verification that its ingredients are GMO free, there’s a second option: getting a certification or sworn statement from the farmer or miller who sold the ingredient in question.

Food that does not contain genetically engineered components does not need a label.

 


Capital Press: Organic industry confused by GMO vaccines

A lack of clarity about which livestock vaccines are made with genetically modified organisms is creating confusion in the organic industry.

Mateusz Perkowski
Full Article

Genetically modified livestock vaccines are causing consternation in the organic industry, which is having a hard time deciphering which vaccines are made with prohibited methods.

The conundrum of keeping genetically engineered vaccines out of organic production will be considered during the Oct. 28-30 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board, which advises the USDA on organic policy.

“The challenge is we need a new definition of ‘excluded method,’” said Jean Richardson, a retired environmental studies professor and an NOSB member who is studying the issue.

Vaccines produced with genetic engineering are officially banned from organic livestock production but in reality most certifiers don’t require farmers to document they’re using non-GE vaccines, according to an NOSB document that will be reviewed at the upcoming meeting.

Farmers and certifiers lack an easy way to identify vaccines that have been manufactured with genetic engineering, the document said.

“The problem is you really can’t tell them apart,” said Mark Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog group. “Even though a problem exists, there’s no way to currently enforce the prohibition.”

It’s known that vaccines for certain livestock diseases are made with genetically modified organisms — such as pathogens that have been altered not to cause illness but still trigger an immune response — but the brands are not readily discernible, according to the NOSB document.

The USDA has been reluctant to create a list of vaccines that specifies which ones rely on GMOs because it may inaccurately “imply a deficiency” in such products, the document said.

Vaccines produced with some biotech methods do contain certain words on their labels — subunit, vector and chimera — that could assist organic farmers and certifiers, the NOSB document said.

However, it’s possible that other vaccines not flagged with those terms may also be produced with methods that should be excluded from organic production, said Richardson. That’s because the organic definition of biotechnology doesn’t neatly align with the USDA’s definition.

For example, some vaccine manufacturers use naturally occurring strands of DNA or bacterial viruses to reconfigure the genetic sequences of pathogens, the NOSB found. An NOSB working group that analyzed such methods was unable to agree whether they are excluded from organic production.

The USDA, which regulates organic standards, may ultimately need to set a cut-off date for new technologies, Richardson said. Techniques developed before that date would be considered “traditional breeding” and techniques developer afterward would be excluded from organics.

Another concern is that some information about how livestock vaccines are produced is submitted confidentially to the USDA, the NOSB document said.

Kastel said the USDA needs to determine which vaccines cannot be used on organic livestock but the agency has been hesitant to do so.

Callyn Kircher, farm program manager for the organic certifier Oregon Tilth, said her agency is compiling a database of inputs used by farmers to see what vaccines are common in organic production.

The organization could then try to figure out if any are made with GMOs, she said.

While Oregon Tilth wants to prevent the introduction of genetically engineered vaccines into organic livestock, it’s waiting on guidance from the USDA’s National Organic Program on enforcing the prohibition, Kircher said. “We really don’t have clarity on that yet.”


University at Buffalo News Center: Buffalo, ‘Rust Belt radicals’ put food (policy) back on the table

A new study outlines seven factors that led one of America’s poorest cities to embrace farming, urban chickens and more
By Charlotte Hsu
October 15, 2014
Full Article

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Food, food everywhere. But not a bite to eat.

That was the story in Buffalo leading up to the 21st century: Nestled in a region loaded with farms and orchards, the city nevertheless housed many neighborhoods where fresh fruits, meats and vegetables were in short supply.

So how, in just one decade, did Buffalo become a leader in urban agriculture, with some 60 community gardens coloring its postindustrial landscape?

All this, in one of America’s most impoverished cities.

It’s a story that matters for the Rust Belt — and the rest of the country, says University at Buffalo researcher Samina Raja, lead author of a new case study of the topic in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

“Food is critical to people’s well-being, and to understand how Buffalo has done this is an important lesson to understand for planners and other cities,” Raja says. “We are not Seattle or Madison, Wis., and what makes this case study interesting is that it shows what is possible in a resource-strapped city.”

The new study focuses on the nonprofit Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP), which established the first urban farming project in Buffalo.

Buffalo’s narrative is compelling because activists managed to remove food from the shadows of urban planning, giving it a prominent place in efforts to rewrite land use and zoning laws, Raja says. It’s a big shift in thinking: Just a few years back, the city published a comprehensive plan that mentioned food four times in 134 pages, Raja and her co-authors write.

Raja, PhD, is principal investigator of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab in the UB School of Architecture and Planning.

In the case study, she and other colleagues write that Buffalo’s food movement started outside of City Hall, with “Rust Belt radicals” farming vacant land in the early 2000s. From there, the effort blossomed into a full-on campaign to engage policymakers in amending local laws.

Change came quickly once it started: Milestones included a city ordinance approving urban chicken coops in 2010, and city resolutions supporting community gardens around the same time, according to the study. A draft of Buffalo’s new Green Code, which will govern land use and zoning, encourages urban agriculture on vacant land. Apiaries for beekeeping, greenhouses and farm stands are allowed by the code, which is under review.

Seven Ways to Get Food Noticed In Your City:

The new case study provides a blueprint for activism, listing seven ways the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) and partners put the conversation about food back on the table in Buffalo:

  1. Engaging in “ordinary, incremental, persistent practices”
    Changes in local laws followed years of on-the-ground action by MAP, which grew food, sold it to low-income residents, and raised fish on an urban aquaponics farm.
  2. Building a diverse but unified coalition
    MAP’s “Rust Belt radicals” had limited policy reach on their own, so they partnered with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, government officials, farmers and others to get messages out. All had a shared vision for improving Buffalo’s food system.
  3. Balancing incremental and systemic change
    MAP built urban farms (incremental change), while also pushing lawmakers to amend land use laws (systemic change).
  4. Nurturing communitywide capacity
    MAP trained hundreds of youth to produce, distribute and sell food, and worked with partners to send policymakers to food-related workshops. This created a large body of experts with the know-how to move Buffalo’s food policies forward.
  5. Responding nimbly to windows of opportunity
    MAP and its allies jumped at the chance to advise planners writing the city’s new Green Code. Such windows of opportunity may open rarely; activists must take advantage when they do.
  6. Getting support from local government
    Continual engagement with city planners and councilmembers resulted in an awareness of problems surrounding food, which in turn led to proposals for new laws.
  7. Connecting food to the popular issues of the day
    Economic revitalization is a priority for post-industrial cities across the Rust Belt. Recognizing this, MAP lobbied policymakers on the idea that food — and good food policy — could be vehicles for economic development.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported the study. Raja’s co-authors were Diane Picard, executive director of the Massachusetts Avenue Project, UB postdoctoral researcher Solhyon Baek and former UB master’s student Cristina Delgado.


Oregon Live: GMO labeling in Oregon: Measure 92 turns state into ‘battleground for food culture’

By Dana Tims
October 16, 2014
Full Article
Forces for and against mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods sold in Oregon agree on almost nothing.

Proponents say labeling is akin to a Freedom of Information Act when it comes to food choices. How, they ask, can the relatively inexpensive labeling of important food choices be bad for consumers and society?

If there is one slender thread on which both sides concur, it’s that the Nov. 4 fate of Measure 92 could play a pivotal role in how the contentious and politically costly issue plays out elsewhere across the United States.

David Bronner, whose Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps company is a major donor to the Yes on 92 campaign, agreed. “Oregon,” he said, “is absolutely a battle ground for food culture right now.”

If Measure 92 passes, it would make Oregon the first state in the U.S. to pass a labeling measure at the ballot box. The Vermont Legislature approved a labeling bill, set to take effect in 2016, but it’s being challenged in court.

Money for and against the measure is pouring into the state, just as it did for narrowly defeated initiatives in California in 2012 and Washington in 2013. Measure 92 remains on track to go down as the costliest ballot measure in state history.

Measure 92:
A yes vote: Would require food manufacturers to label genetically engineered packaged foods as “Produced With Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced With Genetic Engineering.” Retailers of genetically engineered raw foods would be required to include “Genetically Engineered” on packages, bins and shelves. Suppliers would be required to label shipping containers. Animal feed and food served in restaurants would be exempt.
A no vote: Would retain existing law, which does not require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The opposition comes from large food and grocery manufacturers and chemical companies such as Monsanto. A new, $2.5 million contribution from the company, reported Thursday morning, put the No on 92 Coalition past the $10 million mark in total money raised.

Supporters, drawn from organic food producers, food-safety nonprofits and small independent contributors, have contributed more than $5.4 million to the Yes on 92 campaign.

Ad campaigns from both sides will increasingly fill the airwaves from now until Election Day.

On its face, the issue seems straightforward: Should foods that are genetically engineered – a process of joining genetic material from one or more species of organism to change one or more of its characteristics – be labeled to reflect that?

Opponents, framing their arguments much as they did in California and Washington, call the measure hopelessly flawed. It’s rife with loopholes and exemptions, they say, and riddled with hidden costs that will harm consumers and producers alike in the long run.

Food sold in restaurants, for instance, would not require labeling. Neither would meat or milk from cows, even if they’d been fed GMO corn or alfalfa. The same goes for other meat and dairy. The same goes for other meat and dairy.

George Kimbrell, the senior attorney running the Center for Food Safety‘s Northwest regional office in Portland, co-authored the measure.

More than 60 countries already require GMO labeling, he said. This measure relies heavily on labeling language used elsewhere to decide what’s covered and what’s not, Kimbrell said.

Restaurants are left out, for instance, because federal standards for them are different from those for packaged foods. Meat and dairy products are exempt because labeling laws elsewhere don’t cover them, he said.

As for backroom segregation requirements, Kimbrell added, they are no different from current store practices of keeping foods labeled organic apart from non-organic offerings.

“They know that opposing this measure outright is a loser politically because 90 percent of the American public supports mandatory labeling,” Kimbrell said. “Knowing that, they are left to poke niggling holes in the wording about how poorly written it is. It’s a façade.”

Oregon farmers have their own differences when it comes to GMOs.

Kevin Richards works on his family’s 600-acre farm near Madras, where they raise hybrid carrot seed, wheat, peppermint and herbicide-tolerant GMO alfalfa.

Richards worries that Measure 92 would require him to label the alfalfa, making it harder to market out-of-state. He’s also concerned that the need to keep alfalfa separate from the farm’s non-GMO crops would require purchase of additional transportation equipment.

“And for farmers growing GMOs next to those who don’t, there will be significant costs of maintaining buffers, which will reduce the total amount of available land,” Richards said. “All of the burden is going to fall directly onto smaller farmers.”

Not so, Kimbrell said.

“The only thing a farmer growing GMO crops has to do,” he said, “is tell their supplier they are selling them GMOs so it can be labeled that way.”

In addition, a farmer’s sworn affidavit saying the farm does not intentionally mingle GMO and non-GMO crops is enough to let a supplier then take both to market.

While both sides debate the measure, others note that Oregon has experience with GMOs and related laws.

Steve Fry owns Fry Family Farm, a 90-acre certified organic operation in the Rogue Valley. He lives in Jackson County, where voters last year passed Oregon’s first ban on raising GMO crops. After a bumpy first few months, he said, farmers are figuring out how to live with it.

“Before, if you were growing GMO sugar beets next to my chard seed, that wasn’t being a good neighbor,” Fry said. “Now you have to care.”

Ervin chaired an ad-hoc committee of 11 scientists brought together in 2008 by the National Academy of Sciences to study GMO food safety. The group concluded that genetically modified foods are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods.

Although he’s trying to remain neutral on Measure 92, Ervin said, “My feeling is that, in general, if you can give consumers information to help them make their decisions, that’s beneficial.”

Given his training as an economist, he questions opposition claims that Measure 92 could drive up food prices by $500 per year for a family of four.

“The estimate I’m most comfortable with puts the figure at around $2 to $3 per year per consumer,” he said, noting a recent Consumers Union report that set the median increase at $2.30 per person annually. “To me, that sounds like it’s in the ballpark.”

Strauss, the Oregon State University forestry scientist who opposes Measure 92, ceded some ground of his own by acknowledging that development of herbicide-resistant crops has led some farmers to vastly increase their use of herbicides. That, in turn, has led to an explosion of “superweeds,” primarily in the Midwest, that are impervious to sprays.

“However,” Strauss said, “GMO crops may have accelerated this, but the real issue is overuse of herbicides, not GMO crops. The whole notion of whether GMOs are safe or not is a ludicrous way to frame the discussion.”

Soon, he said, new GMO foods will be introduced that should make people rethink any blind opposition. They include soybeans containing healthier oils, soy with higher levels of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, and potatoes that, when fried at high temperatures, produce half the amount of the carcinogen acrylamide.

When it comes to Measure 92, that level of discussion may take voters too far into the weeds. Some will brush up on the genetics involved, while others will simply insist on having more information about what’s in that package of food they are buying.

“However this is resolved,” said PSU’s Ervin, “it will be very interesting to watch it play out.”