Eat Local Guide


Roundup: GMOs Here And Abroad, Subsidy Cuts Coming And Best Small Food Towns

Courtney Lowery Cowgill (New West Magazine — Apr 14, 2011)

Genetically modified food has gone from being a niche issue to a full-blown mainstream topic of concern and the national media is taking note.Genetically modified food has gone from being a niche issue to a full-blown mainstream topic of concern and the national media is taking note.

The latest in a string of national publications tackling the issue is this month’s issue of Audubon magazine in which writer Alisa Opar sets out to detail the “promise and peril” of genetically modified food. Overall, it’s a good read and while it misses depth in some parts, it makes up in context and history.

Here’s the nut:

What’s certain is that plants and animals awaiting approval hold both promise and peril. The promise is intriguing. Monsanto’s drought-tolerant corn, for instance, might withstand the drier conditions climate change is expected to cause. Then there’s the South Dakota biotech company whose cattle are resistant to mad cow disease; an “Enviropig” that produces low-phosphorous manure (which could reduce water pollution from industrial hog farms); and another pig that produces omega-3, so consumers could get their dose of heart-healthy fatty acids from bacon instead of fish oil or flaxseed.

Yet no one knows exactly what will happen when transgenic products are released into the environment. After decades of dependence on Roundup, an herbicide applied to transgenic crops ranging from sugar beets to cotton, it has come to light that one of the world’s most popular pesticides is lethal to amphibians.

Meanwhile, the European Union is inching closer to allowing outright bans on genetically modified crops. According to this report from Reuters, EU lawmakers on Tuesday that EU countries should be allowed to ban GMO crops out of environmental concern. And:

EU countries should also be free to ban GM crops to protect local plants, habitats and alternative farming practices such as organic production, the European Parliament’s influential environment committee said in a vote in Brussels.

In Canada too, the government is taking a (small) stand against GMO. The Epoch Times reports that
Canada’s National Research Council has decided that it will not research GMO wheat:

The government agency said in a statement that developing GMO wheat is will not be one of its objectives, “We will be developing a number of tools that will be used to reduce the breeding cycle, increase yield, and adapt to climate stresses. GMO varieties are not contemplated at this time.”


The Wall Street Journal this week laid out just how threatened farm subsidies are. Which is to say: Very. From Bill Tomson and Siobhan Hughes’ report:

A group of conservative lawmakers has set its sights on these direct payments, and even farm-state Democrats who like the program say high crop prices make the outlays of about $5 billion a year harder to justify. Recently, the National Corn Growers Association, an industry lobby group, urged Congress to revamp the program, fearing it would be eliminated altogether.


Author Elizabeth Helman Minchilli makes a strong case this week on The Atlantic for ditching the search engine when you’re looking for dinner ideas and cracking open a cookbook instead.


The United Farmworkers of America and the the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation have released a new study on the state of farmworker issues.

Civil Eats this week digs into the results and finds a grim picture.

Here’s a link to the full report.


The Bay Citizen and the New York Times put out a nice piece this week digging into the shortage of slaughterhouses in California and how that is stymieing the local food movement in the Bay Area.

And, if you’re interested (and have a strong stomach) this video piece from Liza de Guia of Food Curated (a cool site, by the way) tells a nice story of a local butcher in Hartwick, N.Y.


According to research from Cornell University graduate student Jenny Wan-chen, detailed in this piece in the Los Angeles Times, people think organic food has fewer calories, more fiber and less fat.


Two interesting ranking stories this week in the food sphere:

The site ecosalon details the most important food stories of 2011 so far. On the list: how foodies can save the green movement, Mark Bittman’s arrival on the New York Times op-ed pages and farmworker justice.

The Daily Meal this week honored ”9 Great Small Food Towns,” including Ithaca, N.Y., Evanston Illl, Lawrence, Kan., and Asheville, N.C.

(It was a disappointment to see no Western towns on the list. Boulder? Missoula? Santa Fe? All good choices. Maybe it’s time we did an index of our own. Suggestions?)

Courtney Lowery Cowgill is a writer and editor (formerly of these pages) who also runs Prairie Heritage Farm, a small farm in Central Montana. She and her husband grow vegetables, turkeys, ancient and heritage grains and sometimes a little ruckus. As a farmer and writer, she works on and follows food and agriculture issues closely and each week, rounds up the top stories on the web in this arena for New West. Have an ag story you think should be included in next week’s roundup? You can reach Courtney at courtneyatnewwestdotnet  (courtneyatnewwestdotnet)  .

View the complete article at New West Magazine

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