Friday, September 28, 2007


“Hardly a day has gone by this summer without opponents of GM maize - both environmental campaigners and small farmers - invading fields and trampling or cutting down crops. The protesters, led by the small- farmers' leader, José Bové, claim a citizens' right to destroy crops which, they say, threaten ecological calamity and the subjection of farmers to the whims of agro-industrial, multinational companies.” …. Belfast Telegraph Monday, August 27, 2007

Is this eco-fascism?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Many are making claims (perhaps as a marketing technique to increase profits) that milk produced from cows containing rbST is less healthy than conventionally produced milk. Milk from cows given supplemental bST contains no more bST than milk from cows not given the supplement, so the hormone itself is not a concern.

It is true however, that milk from cows that have been administered supplemental rbST contains higher levels of IGF-1 ( insulin growth factor-1). Research indicates that this level of increase is small.

In fact, the normal variation in naturally occurring IGF-1 levels among cows is much greater than this difference. Due to natural variation, it is just as likely that you will find a random organic cow that has much higher levels of IGF-1 than a random cow treated with rbST. With that said, should we be concerned with IGF-1 anyway?

Quote: “The amount of IGF-1 in milk is insignificant compared to the amount already produced in our bodies every day,” he asserts. “We swallow it in our saliva, and the amount we swallow daily is equal to the amount of IGF-1 in 95 quarts of milk. The amount produced in our whole body every day is equal the amount in 3,000 quarts of milk.”

Bauman further explains—and the American Cancer Society concurs—that there is no cause-and-effect chain linking bST, high levels of IGF-1, and cancer. “In fact, elevated levels are actually to be expected [when cancer is present] because IGF-1 is involved the turnover and repair of cells, including tumor cells.”

*Dale Bauman, professor of nutritional science and of animal science at Cornell University


Friday, September 14, 2007


I usually like to write my own posts, but this excerpt from a brochure (link:
provided my the Sandiego Center for Molecular Agricultue is very interesting and tells a story about biotechnology that everyone can relate to.

"Dad, are there any genes on my plate?" my 14-year-old daughter asked.What if
your child asked you this? An opinion survey showed that 70 percent of the
people have the mistaken idea that ordinary food does not contain genes,
whereas GM food does. Rather than explain to my daughter that every bite of
food on her plate has billions of genes, I told her a story.

"In the mountains high above Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Luis and
Jimena Rodriguez tend their small field of corn and beans.They are ‘organic’
farmers because they don’t have enough money to buy fertilizers or pesticides.
After they bring in the corn harvest, they store the ears in a large corn crib that
covers the entire back wall of their one-room house. It’s the safest place to store
the corn.This room also has their bed and the four kids sleep on the floor. After
the harvest is in, Luis goes to town to buy some pesticide to fumigate the corn
inside his house. In the house his corn is safe from rain, rodents, and thieves, but
not from insects. If he does not fumigate, the weevils will eat the stored corn. If
he does not fumigate, he will have more weevils than corn kernels in six
months’ time. Indeed, each female weevil lays about 100 eggs, and after the larvae
hatch, they burrow into the seeds. After thirty-five days mature insects
emerge and the cycle begins again. Half of those insects are females, so just
multiply 50 by 50 by 50 by 50 by 50 and figure out how many that is," I said to
my daughter.

"More than 5 million," she answered, "all coming from two weevils."

"Now suppose that the corn was genetically modified with a Bt gene to kill
those weevils, the parents and children wouldn’t have to sleep in those pesticide
fumes," I said. "Don’t you think those children would benefit from having
some genes on their plates?"

Monday, September 10, 2007


What is rbST? rbST is recombinantly (lab) produced bovine somatotropin. This hormone is given supplementally by dairy producers to increase milk production in their herds. Supplemental rbST helps increase the efficiency of conversion of feed to milk in the cow's body. Producers of all sizes and types are able to benefit from this as it increases milk production per cow by about 10% or more.

How is this good for the environment? --- It requires fewer resources to produce more milk.

Less feed, less waste, less land, less energy, less water, less erosion, less pollution, less methane, more Milk!

It is a testament of environmental stewardship practiced by the American farmer. It also is another example among many that I have provided to demonstrate how embracing modern science ( biotechnology) is more sustainable and resource friendly than many other trends in food and popular culture today.


Thursday, September 06, 2007


Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute writes a pretty interesting op-ed regarding organic farming in today's Star Tribune. One of the more important considerations is the upcoming farm bill. Organic growers are already asking for funding components, and special relief could be on a future 'wish list.'

"Otherwise, the public is being set up to make all kinds of "emergency" payments to organic farmers who had been preparing to sell their produce for "organic premiums" on the high-priced shelves of Whole Foods Markets. ........ With the higher yields of conventional farms, we can leave the steep hillsides for wildlife habitat. Shouldn't that be our environmental goal?"

Not to mention the benefits of biotech crops that dwarf both conventional and organic food when it comes to sustainability.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


‘CINCINNATI, Ohio – August 1, 2007 – The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) announced today it will complete the transition of milk it processes and sells in its stores to a certified rBST-free supply by February 2008.’

This press release says it all. Kroger is no longer going to buy milk from producers that use rbST in their herds.

This is very disappointing from an environmental stewardship perspective. Because supplementing with rbST increases milk production per cow by about 10%, we are able to devote fewer resources to milk production when it is used. Using fewer resources means a smaller environmental footprint on a per gallon of milk basis. And, it does this with no effects to animal or human health.

While rbST is not the solution to all of our environmental and world hunger problems, it is this sort of technological change that is necessary to feed an increasing population and to deal with problems like global warming.

It is Kroger’s duty to respond to consumer preferences. This could backfire in the long term. As consumers discover the health and environmental benefits of modern science and biotechnology on the farm, they will likely become more interested in these products. The massive adoption of zero trans-fat foods is one example. These products could not have been developed without advancements in plant breeding and genetic tools.

Unfortunately, discontinuing the use of rbST may send a signal to consumers that rbST and other beneficial biotechnologies are bad for the environment, and bad for human health. Lack of consumer demand for these life and environment enhancing products may lead to less interest, investment, and less R&D. Even worse, rent seeking businesses and politicians may use this sentiment to build support for increased regulatory scrutiny. The long term effects of this could leave us less prepared to meet future ecological challenges.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


While the cattle cycle should be in an expansion phase, it looks like at this point many people are finding themselves with little choice but to downsize. There are many options for dealing with drought conditions. Early weaning, sale, creepfeeding, or feeding hay earlier than normal.

Feeding is becoming less and less of an option. Not only is demand for hay up, but supply is down for the same reasons: drought. Fewer cuttings. A roll of hay that may have sold for $20 may now go for $70-$100. Higher prices are required to bring supply in with demand and that supply might have to come form greater distances or at greater costs than normal. Higher corn prices also make the breakeven price for feeders increase, In other words the price that feedyards are willing to pay is going to be less.

According to a recent article in a local newspaper, weekly cattle sales at the KY-TN livestock market in Guthrie have went from an average of 1500 head to 3000.