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Showing posts from April, 2016

Strawberry History; Favorite Websites

Strawberry is a popular fruit with tremendous commercial value, and while everyone loves a good strawberry, are they actually getting better? This week’s podcast talks to Dr. Jim Hancock, strawberry breeder from Michigan State University.  Dr. Hancock explains strawberry’s wild history, from cultivation by indigenous people in Chile, to colonists moving them around the world, to spies taking them home to the king.  Modern challenges and solutions to sustainable production are discussed.In the second part of the podcast professional speaker and agvocate Michele Payn-Knoper (Cause Matters Corp.) talks about effective ag communication and her favorite places to find good information on science and agriculture.Foodinsight.org  — geneticliteracyproject.com — thefarmerslife.com — Foodie Farmer PLEASE WRITE A REVIEW ON iTUNES.

Reposted: Earl's Plays Antibiotic Beef Card

Folta Note:  We don't have Earl's Restaurant in Florida. However, notes from Canadian friends suggest they have a raging Chipotle on their hands.  The chain has eliminated Canadian beef based on an illusion health claim.   The note below is from Lesley Kelly, and appeared on her Facebook page. I'm proud to repost her eloquence here, and hope that others share the message. 


Dear Earls Restaurants,
I thought we had a great thing going but...I’m going to have to break up with you.
I can say I’m not surprised. We all saw this coming. You’ve joined the ranks of the Chipotles and A&Ws and have thrown your neighbour (the farmer), the Canadian agriculture industry and our struggling economy under the bus with your recent announcement to source meat from outside of Canada under the “Certified Humane” label. What exactly does that label mean anyways?
You see, when you joined this club, it indirectly applies that our food system is not one of the safest in the world. It misrepresents …

Why This Recognition Means More than You May First Believe

The news that I was the recipient of the 2016 CAST Borlaug Agricultural Communications Award added a new extreme to the wild emotional dynamics of the past twelve months.  Celebrate, suffer; dance, cry; hurt, heal. Quit, start, refresh, retreat. Lather, rinse repeat.
Back in August and September 2015 I read in disbelief that I was part of Monsanto’s “inner circle”, one of their “strategic advisors” with “close ties” that “took money to lie about science” and “used undisclosed funds to thwart labeling efforts.”  I read the websites, I read the articles.  The person I was reading about was not the person in the mirror.
But in the day of the internet, the person in the mirror is forced to take the yoke that the most devious person installs.  You become, in perception, who they decide you are.  You lose control of your own persona—that is left to those that want to destroy you.
There is nothing you can do if you are a mostly unknown public scientist that has a minor social media presence.…

Arctic Wheat? More Non-Browning Crops!

Those quick to criticize genetic engineering in food were not pleased with the Simplot non-browning potato or the non-browning Arctic Apple.  In these cases the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) is disabled using a genetic engineering approach. Without this enzyme, plant materials do not turn off colors upon exposure to air, keeping postharvest quality high.

Everyone from Michael Hansen to Dr. Oz went on the warpath, generating fear and doubt about the safety of the apple upon its release.  Criticisms abounded on the web, claiming that the new products were dangerous, that PPO was important, and that nobody knows what is going to happen if we eat non-browning produce. 

Those of us that think about food and crop biology on a daily basis know of examples where defects in PPO have been of interest for a long time.  One great example is the golden raisin.  No PPO activity, and plant breeders and consumers celebrated new little dried weird fruits that were clear and golden rather than dark and…

How to Hassle a Scientist

When you can pick through someone's emails, you can assemble the story you want to tell, and use that manufactured story to harm their reputations.  Facts don't matter. If you had 5000 pages of someone's communications, what story could you tell?  The climate deniers and anti-GMO folks have it down to a science. 
I'm seeing it happening today, again.  Over on Twitter I have still been enduring hostile harassment, this time from another set of claims from another newly-established account.  They again play off of the tired trope that I'm some agent of Monsanto and am financed by them. 

This is posted for two reasons.  

1. Does their repetition of the same misinformation lead others to have questions?  I'm glad to clarify them here. 

2. It is good to show how they cherry pick unrelated events and make them seem related by strategically gluing them together. 



On the left, my words.  On the right, a letter in my emails that were confiscated under public records laws. 

Wh…

Tips on Selecting a Hormone-Free Chicken

Tip 1.  Go buy a chicken.  Tip 2.  Enjoy. 


This free range chicken is certified as "No Added Hormones", which is correct, because hormones are not used on chickens. 
     Without a doubt, today across America concerned consumers will purchase poultry selected because producers promise it is free of hormones. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that most don't know what hormones are or why they would even be used.  However, hormones are in the elusive cluster of compounds known to be evil in food, but nobody really knows why. 

Hormones are one of the corners of the Rhombus of Food Anxiety.

Talking Biotech #32 -- In Search of Celiac-Safe Wheat

This week's podcast talks about the efforts at Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and the work of Dr. Chris Miller.  He's searching for wheat varieties that lack the sequences in the proteins that comprise gluten (giladin and glutenin) that trigger immune response. These could be very helpful in breeding new varieties. There also are gene-editing solutions in the works. 
With guest host Kevin Klatt from Cornell University.

Voluntary Labeling Needs Momentum

Over the last few years I've watched battles brew and millions of dollars be spent on a silly proposition-- how do we legislate a means to separate good food from good food with a decoration on the box?

So in my ever-evolving opinion-- voluntary labels are the solution, but the industry must move fast before new legislation is on the ballot, and before activists move the goalpost. 

The issues of labeling food that contains hints of ingredients that were produced in a plant that has been genetically engineered are extremely problematic.  Scientists see little utility, as it confuses the public, provides zero useful information, stands to scare consumers, and if mandated, will substantially raise prices. 

Every state will have different rules (and Vermont will not require cheese made with GMO enzymes to be labeled, go figure) and segregation of materials is already leading to more issues for growers. More on that later. 

The way around? Voluntary labels. 


The Vermont labeling requirement…

Talking Biotech -- Coffee Episode!

While we don't normally think about it, it comes from a plant!  Making matters worse, coffee production has an array of challenges that could threaten availability.  I'm not talking about late-night Dunkin Donuts weirdos. Diseases, pests, and a variety of other issues may become formidable barriers between you and that crazy awake feeling. 
The podcast features Hanna Neuschwander from World Coffee Research.

McGuire et al. Breast Milk Study Fallout, COI, and Sensationalism

Why I'm Standing Up.

Last year my email records were willingly released to activists without a lot of worry. I've been a public scientist for 30 years or so working in research about light and its role in plant growth and development. All public funded, except for a sprinkle of strawberry industry funds.  Nobody really seems to get too excited about that. 

But I always enjoy engaging the public in discussing any science topic, especially in agriculture and especially in genetic engineering. Some people get very excited about that. 

The organization that requested my records, US Right to Know (USRTK), is highly funded by elements of the organic movement. That's not organic farmers per se, or organic researchers. They like me just fine-- I support lots of organic research. 

The search was financed by a radical wing of the movement sworn to decry modern farming and its technological ornaments.  I took US-RTK at their word that they were simply looking to understand influence of c…

Voluntary Labeling Spreads- Time to Move Goalpost

As I mentioned last month, several food companies are using the Vermont language on their food labels nationally, and doing so voluntarily.  This is perfect for the people that demand a "right to know" despite the fact it does not tell them much.  

Campbell's and others are brilliant for making the voluntary change, and doing it in accordance with Vermont's rules.  You want to know?  Here you go! 


Smucker's is not made with GE ingredients, but there are potentially traces of something in there... Corn?  Cottonseed oil?  Their voluntary statement is a C.Y.A. so they can sell in VT.  

The voluntary labels provide the information that activists wanted-- anyone wanting to know if there is an ingredient present through genetic engineering can see that.  

Here's the problem for them:

If every product is voluntarily labeled, then why do we need state laws to force products to be labeled?  After all, you wanted a right to know, and know you know. 

As I've said from the…

Wine and Herbicides

Here we go again.  

The folks over at Moms Across America have been posting lots of information about herbicides showing up in places they don't belong.  The most recent is their alleged detection in wine.  The claim levels around 1ppb, which is realistically detectable, but they make many mistakes in the assay.

1. No negative controls. 
2. No method shown for extraction/detection
3. No technical replication (one sample is all that is read)
4. And many more!




In comparison to actual carcinogens, not too shabby!

I don't doubt these numbers could be true in reality, but I don't think these are worth considering.  They are not peer reviewed.  The come from a website where MAM has fabricated data in the past, like in the Stunning Corn Comparison. 

Plus, their organic farm shows equivalent detection, which means they are either using glyphosate or that the detection is providing some noise at the baseline, like from cross-reactvity.  Again, no negative control is shown. 

Plus 1ppb of a s…

Glyphosate in Wine and Breast Milk?

This week's podcast interviews Drs. Shelley McGuire and Thomas Colquhoun.  Both are experts in examining various biological matricies for rare compounds, and discuss recent internet claims that glyphosate is showing up everywhere. 



Listen to the podcast here.