Friday, October 24, 2014

Have You Seen This? Food Babe Messes Up Seed Treatment

Food Babe and some of her GMO-labeling friends have been spreading this meme around. The GMO-labeling campaigns are also using this idea to scare voters in Colorado and Oregon. 

Too bad they didn't think to ask a farmer why the seeds were blue (hint: it isn't because they're GMO seeds).

(A full article on this will follow on Monday!)

Farming Fridays!

Harvest Update

Harvest is in full swing over here -- and so is fall! As if we needed a reminder of the colder weather coming, most mornings we've been greeted by frost. Thankfully, it is late enough in the season that this won't affect any of our crops or yields. Of course, earlier frosts can definitely hurt our crops, including soybeans. 

But you definitely can't beat the view from the combine!!

We have been switching between picking corn and picking soybeans. It really depends on which fields are ready and which crops needed to be dried in the grain bins. Dad has been getting up and leaving the house by 6:30am -- even before the lawyer! -- and hauling to the granary. 

The view from the combine
In the field, we've been dumping the full combine into the grain cart (pictured above is one of our smaller trucks, not the grain cart). Then the grain cart unloads into the semi-trailer. The semi either gets dumped in the grain bins for drying or it makes the trip down to the granary. 

According to the Harvest map, the average yield for soybeans is 52 bushels per acre. For corn, it is around 155 bushels per acre. We'll just say that not all of ours has been that good... the weather really didn't cooperate this August. We needed more rain and a bit more heat.

So far we've harvested about 250 acres, with about  left to go 600. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Did Chobani Change Its Mind on GMOs?

At the beginning of the year, I reported that Whole Foods had stopped selling Chobani yogurt over a spat the grocery store had with the Greek yogurt brand's use of milk from animals eating genetically modified feed.

The spat went a little like this: Whole Foods only wanted to sell organic or non-GMO Greek yogurt. Chobani produces all of its Greek yogurt with milk from conventionally raised cows. Those cows were eating genetically engineered feed. Whole Foods seems to be under the impression that animal byproducts from an animal that has eaten GMO feed is also GMO. (Yes, under that same logic you and me and anyone that has ever eaten GMO food is now a GMO.) Whole Foods asked Chobani to source its product elsewhere so it was GMO-free. Chobani refused.

Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, stated that he wasn't interested in sourcing GMO-free milk for his yogurt, because the price would be through the roof. He would rather sell nutritious food to everyone over selling the same product with pricier ingredients to fewer people.

In a complete 180 degree turn, Chobani has stepped back from that lofty and honorable goal. 

Early this month, Chobani announced that it was partnering with Green America. If you aren't familiar, Green America is one of your typical, radical environmental groups that uses the same fear-mongering tactics we've seen from others. (For example, Green America is urging Starbucks to switch over to all organic milk. For my take on that, click here.) Together, the company and organization will look into options of sourcing Chobani's milk from animals not fed GMO feed. Chobani hasn't given a lot of details about this plan yet, but those in the diary business aren't very worried. (Source: Capital Press.)

The problem for dairy producers is that non-GMO feed is not only scarce, it's also super expensive. If they're forced to feed that to their cows costs will soar through the roof and supply really isn't there. Chobani has been quiet about the details and some dairy producers are worried that those additional costs would not be passed onto the company. Of course, that assumes that they could even get the feed.

Unfortunately, this seems like nothing more than a back door approach at trying to get farmers to move away from GMO crops. GE crops have allowed us to increase yields and decrease inputs. This helps farmers, the environment, and the costs consumers see. But when a major purchaser of the products wants to cave into pressure from radicals, we may see the effect go up the supply chain. In this case, it puts dairy producers in the middle of feed suppliers and their customers. 

In the meantime, Chobani is making business decisions directed by a radical "environmental" group that relies on fear-mongering instead of sound science.

But why?

Chobani may be on the brink of becoming a publicly traded company. It turns out the company is expanding its products beyond yogurt cups at the grocery store, including "yogurt bars" where customers can physically go into a Chobani location to purchase and eat their products. The brand wants to look good to potential investors and it wants the sale of shares to go really, really well. After falling out with Whole Foods, Chobani needs to pad its image a little bit. Healthy food is trendy and if the masses have been duped into thinking GMOs are bad, then Chobani wants to get some distance before it starts selling.

That doesn't make the situation any less disappointing, but taking certain positions on controversial issues is nothing new, especially when money is involved. So, for now, Chobani has to act like it wants to partner with Green America and look for non-GMO dairy products. With any luck, this scheme by Chobani will end as simply a marketing gimmick. Otherwise, your yogurt is going to get a whole lot more expensive.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another (Humorous) Take On Dr. Oz

So you're a doctor....? (Warning: Watch the language.)

Imagine in GMOs were subjected to such little scrutiny by the government!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Fraught with Problems

GMO corn
As voters in Oregon and Colorado get ready to cast ballots over the issue of GMO labeling, it might be a good idea for them -- and any other supporters of labeling -- to give Vermont's law a second look. If you can recall, Vermont passed a mandatory GMO-labeling law last spring.

Vermont's administrative agencies have been hard at work preparing to implement the new law. They recently released the proposed rules. You can take a look here.

As explained in this news article, the exceptions to the labeling rule pretty much eviscerates any chance the labeling had at actually being informative. Take cheese and beer for example:
Take the exception for foods that contain genetically modified "processing aids or enzymes." While it's not stated explicitly what these aids and enzymes are, it doesn't take much to figure out why the state has proposed this exception to the law.
"Beer, wine and cheese will also need special consideration, since the use of genetically modified enzymes is fairly common when making these products," noted a Whole Foods blog post last year.
How's that? In the case of cheese, it comes down to a genetically modified enzyme, FPC, that's used to make ninety percent of cheeses. It's expensive to make cheese without FPC.
Vermont, of course, is known for its cheese. And beer. Not surprisingly, the regulations also exempt alcohol beverages.
(Source: I certainly don't support GMO-labeling efforts, but how does that make any sense? Though proponents of the laws claim that they give consumers a choice and it is there "right" to know what's in their food, the resulting laws hardly meet those goals (if at all!).

Also included in the proposed rules is the proposed sworn statement. The sworn statement is meant to act as an exemption to the law. For example, if a grocery store can get a signed sworn statement from a farmer that the sweet corn is purchased is GMO-free, then the grocery store simply may rely ont he sworn statement and forego any labeling. The statement requires the signer to swear the food was not made from genetically engineered seeds and it was not co-mingled with any other GMO food. As you can imagine, such a system creates an odd set of regulations. On the one hand, a farmer has to keep all the GMO and GMO-free food separate, fill out these statements for each product, hope that nothing got mixed up, and risk perjury if it did. Alternatively, the grocery store has to keep the food separate, keep track of which sworn statement goes with which product (will they keep them in the display?), and hope that customers don't mix up the products in the display.

Did I mention that violating the law is going to cost you $1,000?

There may also be an strong argument that Vermont's law is unconstitutional. As I explained in the case of California's new chicken regulations, which California imposes on farmers that bring produce into the state, there could be a violation of the Commerce Clause lurking here. Again, one state may not impose "unduly burdensome" regulations on commerce from another state.

Attempting to figure out what foods require labeling under Vermont's law may be unduly burdensome enough!

Although a federal court dismissed the lawsuit over California's egg law, the labeling laws may have a better shot. The consequences are far more reaching than just one product (eggs) and require farmers and manufacturers to either source all non-GMO products or essentially have two completely separate and different assembly lines.

I won't even mention how crazy and chaotic all of this will be for any companies or farms that sell to Vermont and another state with a labeling requirement. Are those food producers supposed to have one line for Vermont's label, one line for the other state's label, and one line for non-GMO food? The reason we need the FDA to step up is obvious.

Furthermore, Vermont may not really be ready to tackle such a lawsuit:
Reports indicate the state may have to revert to bake sales to fund its defense of its labeling law, which is expected to cost upwards of $8 million. In August, the state announced it had raised just over two percent of the money it expects to need to defend the law in court. Since that time, reports indicate that donations had swollen to less than four percent.


The labeling law is inconsistent, confusing, and costly (for both the State of Vermont and food producers). But the real reason you can shake your head in disbelief is that all of this hoopla is completely unnecessary. Scientific studies showing that genetically modified crops are perfectly safe for human consumption and also are more environmentally-friendly. Vermont is literally going through all of this nonsense simply because the legislature fails to recognize science. At the end of the day, no one is going to be any more knowledgeable, no one is going to have "choices" or "rights" than they did before, and they're out of a whole lot of money.

Hopefully, Oregon and Colorado voters won't follow suit in November.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Farming Fridays!

A Closer Look At the Soybean Head

In our harvest pictures you may have noticed that the combine uses a different attachment (or "head") for soybeans than it does for corn. Of course, the choice of attachment is determined by the plant being harvested. 

As you can see for the video (sorry about the quality -- I need some better equipment!), all of the moving pieces on the head are working to pull the soybean plants into the center of the attachment. 

When the soybean head is running those long black pieces with the teeth rotate and help direct the plant toward the attachment.

These fancy little guys move side to side really quickly, much like a hedge trimmer. They cut the soybean plants at the main stalk. That obviously allows the finger (shown above) and the auger shaft (shown below) to pull the plant on the combine.

When the combine is running, the auger shaft is also turning. It has the metal spirals around it that direct the soybean plant toward the center of the attachment (which is pictured) and then the little fingers help guide the plants into the combine. Once inside, the machine will separate the beans from the pod and plants.

If you would like to learn more about how the combine works, I also suggest check out my friend's post on how a combine works.