May 21, 2014 by Lee Hart

GMO crops and dairy cattle hit the spotlight

A U.S. based organization called Center For Food Safety is keeping the public and the media advised of challenges against genetically modified crops and animal welfare issue.

I just read an article from the Center reporting that two counties in Oregon have now voted to ban production and growing oftomato-fish genetically engineered crops.

Voters in both Jackson and Josephine Counties in southwest Oregon passed local initiatives by a two-thirds majority to ban the production of any GMO crop although specific concerns are about crops such as sugar beets, BT corn and GMO alfalfa.

Sounds like there was quite a campaign fought between the pro and con forces.  Both Monsanto and Syngenta waged a campaign in support of keeping GMO crops, while opponents raised nearly $1 million for a campaign to support the ban.

These are what are called local initiatives pertaining to those counties. However the impact on producers wanting to grow GMO crops isn’t across the board. The state of Oregon legislature passed a bill last year prohibiting local governments from regulating genetically modified crops. It reads as though Jackson County is exempt from this order, however, because it was further along in the referendum process when the bill was passed. The bill does apply to Josephine County, so the vote banning GMO crops there is a mute point, unless Josephine County takes the state to court. The issue may not be over yet.

The votes in Oregon follows the move by counties in California, Hawaii and Washington to impose similar bans against GMO crop production in recent years.

In reading some of the press reports in Oregon it doesn’t appear the protest over GMO crops was centered around food safety issues as much as it was a fight against “corporate bullies” and “resisting the corporate take over of our food supply.”

The head of the Oregon Farm Bureau said because of the State bill that is in effect the vote in Josephine County “was a colossal waste of taxpayer time and money.” Barry Bushue said “regrettably ideology defeated sound science and common sense.”

DAIRY FARMS ARE MAPPED

The Center of Food Safety also recently released a digital map showing the public where factory dairy farms can be found inDairy map Wisconsin. When you click on one of the orange dots on the map, another screen opens that provides a brief profile of the operation.

Most of these Wisconsin dairy farms have between 1,000 and 4,000 head of dairy cattle. A few are under 1000 head. The profile of each farm details its location, name of the local watershed, describes its manure storage system, storage capacity and amount of manure generated. The profile also points out whether the farm has ever had any environmental or record keeping violations. The profile shows a farm may have five million gallons of manure storage capacity, but produces 12 million gallons of manure. So a reader might wonder where does the surplus seven million gallons go. If you weren’t raised on a farm you might not be aware of manure-spreading days.

The Center says it is important for the public to know where these Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or “factory farms” are located. “The industrial meat industry is trying to keep consumers in the dark, but these massive operations have significant impacts on the environment and overall health of the community,” says a lawyer for the Center.

The article doesn’t say that any of these farms have caused any environmental or human health issues, but the release does point out “Excess nutrients in CAFO runoff, like nitrogen and ammonia from animal waste, put both the environment and human health at risk…It is estimated that over one million Americans get their drinking water from groundwater that is moderately to severely contaminated by nitrogen.”  And in case you didn’t know “the Centers for Disease Control recognize that the closer children live to a CAFO, the greater the risk of asthma symptoms.”

The release doesn’t say these farms are doing anything wrong or causing environmental problems, but to me there is a lot of innuendo (read between the lines) messaging. In the criminal world it might be comparable to saying “here is where a possible sex offender lives in your community.”

The world is watching.

Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Hart

Lee Hart


Lee Hart is a long-time farm writer, and honorary member of the Alberta Institute of Agrologists, with many observations on the agriculture industry, who never hesitates to admit he is wrong (should that ever happen.)


« The definitive world fieldwork tour Precision farming really takes off »