Thursday, June 06, 2013

Toni’s Farm and Food Roundup

ToniClimate change is a growing concern on a global scale, and scientists may have found a small way to combat rising temperatures—breeding cows that are free of flatulence (say that three times fast!). Some livestock, including cows, release a tremendous amount of the dangerous methane gas into the atmosphere every year through the (less than glamorous) natural functions of farting and burping. Experts from six different countries came together to find a solution, discovering to no one’s surprise that all animals release this gas. From that finding, the researchers hope that through selective breeding they can breed animals with incessantly lower methane levels.

Connecticut recently became the first state to pass a bill with guidelines requiring labeling of GMO products, but the news comes with a catch. Governor Dannel Malloy will only sign the bill into effect if four other states in the region, including one state that is bordering Connecticut, adopt similar labeling laws. With 20 other states already considering similar legislative moves, including the Northeastern states New York, Vermont and Maine, the clause seems a likely possibility. The four states must have an aggregated population of 20 million people, with the population of New York already exceeding 19 million. Though a GMO labeling law was recently defeated in the state, those behind the bill are determined to put a similar version up for vote soon. Hesitance about the law is two-fold: if Connecticut were the only state to enforce the law it could potentially impact the state’s food economy, and there is fear that agri-business corporations could sue the state.

In light of the recent GMO frenzy, the popular brand of ice cream Ben & Jerry’s has taken a stand on the issue with a new plan to take all genetically engineered ingredients out of its products by the end of this year. The company is already well on its way, as 80 percent of its ice cream in the US and Canada and 100 percent in Europe is already GMO free. Taking its stance one step further, the announcement on the company’s website explained it hopes all Ben & Jerry’s ingredients are also Fair Trade certified in the same timeframe. By the end of this year, all of its products will carry a label regarding any GMO component. The news comes shortly after Whole Foods announced all of its products containing genetically engineered ingredients will be labeled by 2018.

A sign of the new wave of technology influenced farming, a potato farmer from Tryon, North Carolina is trying to save his farm by Internet crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a popular new fundraising technique that allows people to tell their story and request funding support from the public. David Best, of Best Acre potato farm, chose to use the popular Indiegogo site for his campaign and was quickly able to raise $200,000 to save his farm. Campaigns such as these are popping up around the country, giving new light to a field often thought to be out of the scope of modern technology. Best resorted to crowdsourcing after lenders denied him a loan to plant a crop this year, the first year in his life that the farm could be void of potatoes. To help draw in support, Heather Best, David’s wife, offered secret recipes to anyone that gave a donation of at least $20. Though the outcome is still shaky, the ultimate goal for the Bests is simply to keep the family farm just that.

When people think of agriculture, girl power doesn’t usually come to mind, but the USDA recently reported that female farm operators is a growing trend in US farming. With close to 1 million women operating farms in the country, a figure that doubled from 1982 until 2007, women now represent about 30 percent of total US farmers. Whether it is for health concerns, a love of dirt or dedication to community engagement, female farmers are taking on the practice with a fervent passion. In fact, there are already more women operating small farms in the country than men. Though there have been past movements of female farmers, like there was in the 1960s, some advocates feel the difference is in the respect women now receive from the farming community. To account for this, there has also been a rise in organizations supporting female farmers, like the National Women in Agriculture Association or the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

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