WBEZ | genetically engineered http://www.wbez.org/tags/genetically-engineered Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Majority of Illinois crops are genetically engineered http://www.wbez.org/news/science/majority-illinois-crops-are-genetically-engineered-110458 <p><p>The recent rainfall in Illinois has provided some welcome relief for many farmers who worry that too much or too little moisture is tricky for corn and soybeans.</p><p>But farmers like Lin Warfel, a Central Illinois farmer who grows corn and soybeans in Tolono, may have found a solution.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m nearing the end of my tenure, this is my 52nd crop, so I&rsquo;m trying to simplify everything and the simple way and easy way to do it nowadays is just plain corn and plain soybeans. Both of which are GMO.&rdquo;</p><p>Warfel started using corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified, that means scientists have been able to identify and multiply the strongest and best genes.</p><p>He says he doesn&rsquo;t necessarily have to worry about the weather anymore and has seen a huge difference in his yield compared to the years before GMOs were around.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GMO-Corn_0.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Around 89 percent of corn in Illinois is grown from genetically engineered seeds, according to the Illinois Farm Bureau." />&ldquo;About 25 years ago, we had a drought and this was before current genetics. My corn that year yielded just over 100 bushels per acre. With the change in the genetics, it was only 155. It was 55 bushels better than my corn was earlier because of genetics.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ilfb.org/">Illinois Farm Bureau</a>, 89 percent of corn in Illinois and 92 percent of soybeans are grown from genetically engineered seeds.</p><p>Warfel says GMO corn and soybeans are more likely to make it through harsh weather conditions.</p><p>&ldquo;It withstands too much moisture better or not enough moisture better. So, it&rsquo;s more productive, more consistently, than it used to be.&rdquo;</p><p>Warfel says using GMO crops also helps to reduce his bottom line. He spends less on fuel because he doesn&rsquo;t need to be out on the field twice cultivating it. He also employs fewer people because there&rsquo;s not as much work that needs to be done.</p><p>But not all farmers are on board with GMOs</p><p>Dave Bishop is the owner of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.prairierthfarm.com/PrairiErth_Farm/Homepage.html">Prairie Earth Farm.</a>&nbsp;His farm is also based in Central Illinois, but grows organic and conventional non-GMO produce including corn and soybeans.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there are better ways to address issues of pest resistance and weather changes to different kinds of crop rotation and cover crops. In my opinion, far better than genetically engineered crops.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop says he doesn&rsquo;t believe the hype that GMOs are better at resisting drought or too much rain.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that conventional crops yield as well. They are more profitable in most cases, at least here we have a significant premium in the marketplace for non-gmo crops.&rdquo;</p><p>But, Illinois Department of Agriculture director Bob Flider says despite the significant crop devastation due to the drought of 2012, crops were <em>still </em>able to survive.</p><p>&ldquo;If you think about the drought that we had a couple of years ago, quite candidly it was probably the worst weather conditions that we&rsquo;ve had in Illinois ever, in terms of the heat and the dryness, but yet we still had a crop. If we hadn&rsquo;t have had those kinds of seeds and scientific research that could grow and develop a crop we might have had virtually nothing and that would have been a disaster.&rdquo;</p><p>Flider says as resources around the world continue to become depleted, it&rsquo;s important to support research and find ways to increase production in order to feed the growing population.</p><p>And that is a topic that pits the debate of good versus bad when it comes to the overall impact of GMOs.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is Midday Host and reporter at WBEZ Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a></em></p></p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/majority-illinois-crops-are-genetically-engineered-110458 GMO supporter tells food industry meeting in Chicago to stop opposing GMO labeling http://www.wbez.org/news/gmo-supporter-tells-food-industry-meeting-chicago-stop-opposing-gmo-labeling-108935 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Mark Lynas edited.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mark Lynas has a knack for dropping bombshells at normally snoozy industry conferences.</p><p>Last January at an agriculture conference, the British environmentalist and writer made international news (and outraged fellow activists) by announcing that, after years of opposing genetically modified crops, he now supported them.</p><p>And Tuesday, <a href="http://www.foodintegrity.org/document_center/download/mediaroom/lynasreleasefinal2.pdf">at a food industry meeting near O&rsquo;Hare</a>, the invited speaker, let loose with another whopper. He told the group&mdash;many from the soybean industry&mdash;<a href="http://www.foodintegrity.org/media-room/audio-video"> that they needed to support federal efforts to label GMOs (GM or GE) in the U.S.</a></p><p>Big food and agriculture groups have long battled labeling efforts, including a pending bill in Illinois and a ballot initiative scheduled for vote next month in Washington state. So Lynas, who changed his presentation late Monday night, knew the statement would ruffle feathers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not here to tell them what they want to hear,&rdquo; Lynas told WBEZ after his speech at the Food Integrity Summit in Rosemont. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m here to challenge them and provoke them, which is why I told them today that they have to stop opposing GMO labeling. I believe people do have the right to know what&rsquo;s in their food, and they as an industry have a responsibility and a mandate to deliver on that.</p><p>&ldquo;The key issue here is transparency,&rdquo; said Lynas, who <a href="http://www.marklynas.org">posted his reasoning on his website Tuesday</a>. &ldquo;People are scared because they are not told what [food] they are in and it&rsquo;s a ridiculous situation. Because the industry hides behind the fact that these products aren&rsquo;t labeled they can&rsquo;t sell biotechnology on its real merits and its merits are real. There&rsquo;s a big reduction in pesticides and a big increase in productivity. But they can&rsquo;t make that case because they can&rsquo;t tell them that they are being used.&rdquo;</p><p>Several attendees were still digesting Lynas&rsquo; words during a coffee break after his speech.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I understand what he means about familiarity breeding acceptance, and I think it is really compelling and something I&rsquo;m going to need to think about a little bit more before I make a decision,&rdquo; said Susanne Zilberfarb of the Delaware Maryland Soybean Board. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of a reversal of what agriculture and the food companies out there have been working towards and so it&rsquo;s an interesting strategy. It wasn&rsquo;t what I expected. I&rsquo;ll tell you that.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked if this would mean a complete about-face for the food and agriculture industry, Jane Ade Stevens of the Indiana Soybean Alliance said: &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know that the industry has accepted that strategy but that is what he was suggesting we might want to look at. I think everything is on the table as far as the way you look at those things.&rdquo;</p><p>Late Tuesday afternoon Tom Helscher of Monsanto, a major U.S. producer of GM seeds and complementary pesticides, said that he was not familiar enough with Lynas&rsquo; comments to respond. But he added, &ldquo;we respect that people can have different views on this topic.&rdquo;&nbsp; Helscher directed WBEZ to Monsanto&rsquo;s online statement saying, &ldquo;We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risk.&rdquo;</p><p>Some GMO labeling supporters seemed pleased by the development.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this goes to show that you can be pro-labeling and pro-GE,&rdquo; said Scott Faber executive director of the national Just Label It campaign which seeks federal GMO labeling. &ldquo;Labeling is not a referendum on the technology but on a consumer&rsquo;s right to know. ...The more industry fights labeling, the more they create the impression that they have something to hide. Denying consumers the right to know does more to stigmatize the technology than anything that any GE opponents could do.&rdquo;</p><p>Faber says that, although Lynas is the highest profile labeling defector in the pro-GMO ranks, he&rsquo;s not alone.</p><p>Faber says that he believes many in the pro-GMO camp &ldquo;figure that the fight against labeling is more costly than labeling. The loss of confidence, brand reputation and consumer loyalty are far more costly to the food industry than simply putting the words &lsquo;may contain GE ingredients.&rsquo; &ldquo;</p><p>He notes that the Just Label It chairman, former Stonyfield yogurt chief, Gary Hirshberg, has frequently noted that his objections to current laws are less about the technology than the right to know.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>David Gumpert, a food policy journalist and author of &ldquo;Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights,&rdquo; sees Lynas&rsquo; statement as the start of a sea change among industry labeling opponents.</p><p>&quot;GMO labeling laws have already passed in CT and VT, and came close in CA,&rdquo; Gumpert wrote in an emailed statement to WBEZ. &ldquo;Labeling has been proposed in other states, plus Whole Foods Market is committed to labeling all its products. A tidal wave is forming behind labeling and labeling opponents are beginning to see the wave and deciding they should be getting on board. I expect more large food companies (who have been nearly unanimous against labeling) will begin voluntarily labeling as more consumers express the need to be informed.&quot;</p><p>Outspoken farmer Joel Salatin, who was featured in the film &ldquo;Food Inc.&rdquo; and Michael Pollan&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Omnivore&rsquo;s Dilemma,&rdquo; opposes GMOs but also sees federal labeling as government meddling. He was skeptical of Lynas&rsquo; statement.<br /><br />&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said to WBEZ Tuesday, &ldquo;because these guys are sharp as can be and they are seeing that they can turn this on its head by saying go ahead and label.&rdquo;</p><p>Less than two hours after Lynas finished his presentation, Center for Food Integrity CEO Charlie Arnot took the floor to report the results of a CFI survey on what causes consumers to lose trust in their food suppliers and even sparks outrage.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What the public told us was &lsquo;if you want us to trust you, even though you&rsquo;ve changed in size and scale, you need to be more transparent and share more information&rsquo;,&rdquo; Arnot said. &ldquo;...To me those are some good guidelines and we hope that will provide a roadmap for those in the food system to follow.&rdquo;</p><p>On the other side of the spectrum, activists were saying basically the same thing.</p><p>&ldquo;There will be growing support for labeling,&rdquo; Faber predicted. &ldquo;That is not because of concern about the technology necessarily. It is really part of a larger trend&mdash;consumers in general want to know a lot more about their food.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/meng">Monica Eng</a> is a WBEZ producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></p></p> Wed, 16 Oct 2013 09:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gmo-supporter-tells-food-industry-meeting-chicago-stop-opposing-gmo-labeling-108935 So long, and thanks for all the fish http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-03/so-long-and-thanks-all-fish-106180 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/8574520000/"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/calumetfisheriessalmon.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Smoked salmon at Calumet Fisheries in Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a></p><p><u><a href="http://aldi.us/us/html/service/11453_ENU_HTML.htm">Batavia-based ALDI</a></u>, Trader Joe&#39;s, and Whole Foods have pledged not to sell so-called Frankenfish in response to a campaign by 30 consumer and environmental groups, including <a href="http://www.foe.org/gefreeseafood"><u>Friends of the Earth</u></a>.</p><p>Remember when I said <u><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-01/rip-food-trucks-top-5-trends-2013-plus-one-wish-104644">Frankenfish is the new pink slime</a></u>?</p><p>As a reminder, &quot;<a href="http://www.aquabounty.com/products/products-295.aspx"><u>AquAdvantage&reg; Salmon (AAS)</u></a> [unfortunately acronymed IMHO] include a gene from the Chinook salmon, which provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon.&quot; The <a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0003"><u>FDA says it&#39;s safe</u></a>, but critcs fear a <em>Jurassic Park</em>-esque scenario if the genetically engineered farmed salmon ever escape into the wild. [BTW did you know&nbsp;<u><a href="http://www.jurassicpark.com/"><em>Jurassic Park 3D</em></a></u>&nbsp;hits theaters April 5?]</p><p>At issue are not only the fish, but that they would not require labelling as genetically engineered.</p><p>AquaBounty Technologies, the biotechnology company developing AAS, is also working on genetically engineered&nbsp;trout and tilapia. You may remember in the recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-seafood-shoppers-duped-mislabeled-fish-105671"><u>fish fraud reports</u></a> that tilapia is the most common substitute for snapper.</p><p>If you&#39;d like to let the FDA know what you think, you&#39;re in luck: the comment period has been extended until April 26. <u><a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899">Click here to &quot;Comment Now!&quot;</a></u>&nbsp;You might be asking yourself, &quot;<u><a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!faqs">Do my comments make a difference?</a></u>&quot; Why, that happens to be an FAQ. The answer: &quot;Yes.&quot;</p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/louisachu"><u>Follow Louisa Chu on Twitter.</u></a></em></p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-03/so-long-and-thanks-all-fish-106180