September 18, 2014

What is the future for our dairy farms?

Painting by Linda Jacobs

" 1947 there were over 11,000 dairy farms dotting Vermont’s landscape. When we began farming in 1998, that number had dropped to 1,815, and in 2011 the number dipped to under 1,000 remaining dairy farms for the first time in the state’s history. Of those remaining, more than 200 farms are organic operations. "

September 16, 2014

The decline of the small farm - The Washington Post

Painting by Linda Jacobs    A  Backroad in the Ozarks
"As of 2011 — as is true with much of the country's wealth — the vast majority of America's farm land was controlled by a small number of farms. The top 10 percent of farms in terms of size account for more than 70 percent of cropland in the United States; the top 2.2 percent alone takes up more than a third."
        To see a chart of this trend over time, follow this link.
The decline of the small American family farm in one chart - The Washington Post

Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture - GMOS

    Crop scientists in the constant struggle to increase crop production have in recent years waded into new methods of engineering the genetic components of plants, beyond the techniques of what we have always considered to be traditional cross-breeding. This has happened under the radar of American consumers, who woke up to discover that about "70% of processed foods contain at least one ingredient from a genetically engineered (GE) plant—largely due to the widespread adoption of GE corn and soybean by farmers." 
     Proponents claim no evidence exists that these genetically modified plant derivatives are "less safe than their non-genetically engineered counterparts."     Consumers are not so sure, and the issues related to genetically engineered plants are much more complex. These include seed ownership, genetic drift into adjacent non-engineered or organic crops, effects on the environment of possible increased herbicidal application, effects on other invertebrates and animals when insecticidal properties are embedded in plants, and incidents when new untested strains are grown in insecure locations. 
    If consumers, for whatever reason, want to avoid genetically modified crops, they are often advised to purchase organic items or avoid purchasing anything that contains corn, soy, or other ingredients from plants that are genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumers are asking for more clarity, and are asking for GMO labelling laws. However, the food industry is pushing back.

"Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo’s bill seeking to preempt state GMO labeling efforts and codify FDA’s GMO-free food labeling standards has added two new co-sponsors. Republican Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Anne Wagner of Missouri signed on to the bill, HR 4432, Sept. 10, bringing the total cosponsors up to 34."

    Since there are so many ways in which researchers could invent new GMOs, I actually think we need to go one step further and ask that any ingredient that derives from a GMO patented plant should be so indicated. Although a simplistic idea, if you can patent it, we should be able to ask that you label it.  Only then will we begin to be assured that what we eat is truly safe.