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: Reason.com) 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.
(Source: Reason.com)


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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy World Food Day!

The United Nations is celebrating World Food Day today. It is part of the UN's efforts to end world hunger. This year, the theme Family Farming: Feed the World, Caring for the Earth. Did you know that 98% of the world's farmers are run by families?

Because my family is also engaged in farming, I'm quite the fan of family farms and I'm glad the international community is dedicating this year to recognizing the important contributions family farms have across the world. 

Did you know that 97% of farms in the United States are family farms? Some of those farms have decided to use a business entity, such as a corporation, for liability and tax purposes. But that doesn't make them any less family oriented! Family farms are usually passed on from one generation to the next, so we take special care of our land to keep it well for future production. We also eat the food we produce, so we want to make sure it's safe and nutritious as well! 

If you'd like to learn more about World Food Day, you can find the official link for the U.S. here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Egg Suit Dismissed

In 2008, California voters passed a law that required certain farm animals be raised with a certain amount of space dedicated to each animal. Following passage of the ballot proposal, the California legislature added to the law by prohibiting eggs from other farms in other states from being sold in California unless the farms met the California regulations. 

I previously explained here why I thought the law was unconstitutional. 

And I wasn't alone! Missouri's attorney general filed a federal lawsuit against California, arguing that the law was unconstitutional by violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Five other state attorney generals' offices joined in the lawsuit as well.

Unfortunately, a federal judge threw the case out earlier this month. U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller dismissed the suit, because the states had only demonstrated that the California law would hurt egg producers outside of California, not all consumers. (Source: Des Moines Register.)

To no one's surprise, the Humane Society of the United States helped defend the law in court. They were overjoyed about the case's dismissal.

 While I still think California's laws are unconstitutional, this case does set a fairly scary legal precedent. Can a state really set a regulation that governs the activity of citizens in that state, but also in any other state? Essentially, that's how California's law operates - it creates regulations that California producers, as well as producers in other states, must follow if it wants to sell that product in California.

Putting aside actual food safety issues that may come up, these types of regulations could come up in other ways. Maybe Michigan doesn't want Washington apples sold in our markets. Our legislature could pass a law that would require only water from the Great Lakes could be used for irrigating our apple orchards. To go a step further and really stick it to Washington producers, if producers in other states did not comply with the regulation, their produce would be kept out of our markets. Obviously, it would be impossible, or very very costly, for Washington apple growers to irrigate with water directly from the Great Lakes. The law would essentially preclude all apples outside of the Great Lakes region from being sold in the State of Michigan, including Washington apples.

The idea may seem preposterous, but it is akin to what California has done for egg producers.

Following dismissal of the suit, many of the states involved in the lawsuit have expressed an interest in reviewing their legal options. Of course, an appeal of this issue is probably very likely. I'll keep you posted....

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kimmel Asks: "What is a GMO?"

Funny....until you realize these people have no clue what they're talking about and yet they're dictating ag policy....