Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

News Feed

No sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed, study finds

Food-producing animals such as cows, pigs, goats, chickens and other poultry species now consume 70 to 90 percent of all genetically engineered crops.
A new scientific review from the University of California, Davis, reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed.

The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.

The review, led by Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals.

Titled “Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Populations,” the review article is now available online in open-access form through the American Society of Animal Science. It will appear in print and open-access in the October issue of the Journal of Animal Science.

Genetically engineered crops were first introduced in 1996. Today, 19 genetically engineered plant species are approved for use in the United States, including the major crops used extensively in animal feed: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beet.

Food-producing animals such as cows, pigs, goats, chickens and other poultry species now consume 70 to 90 percent of all genetically engineered crops, according to the new UC Davis review. In the United States, alone, 9 billion food-producing animals are produced annually, with 95 percent of them consuming feed that contains genetically engineered ingredients.

“Studies have continually shown that the milk, meat and eggs derived from animals that have consumed GE feed are indistinguishable from the products derived from animals fed a non-GE diet,” Van Eenennaam said.  “Therefore, proposed labeling of animal products from livestock and poultry that have eaten GE feed would require supply-chain segregation and traceability, as the products themselves would not differ in any way that could be detected.”

Now that a second generation of genetically engineered crops that have been optimized for livestock feed is on the horizon, there is a pressing need to internationally harmonize the regulatory framework for these products, she said.

“To avoid international trade disruptions, it is critical that the regulatory approval process for genetically engineered products be established in countries importing these feeds at the same time that regulatory approvals are passed in the countries that are major exporters of animal feed,” Van Eenennaam said.

Collaborating on the study was co-author Amy E. Young in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science.

The review study was supported by funds from the W.K. Kellogg endowment and the California Agricultural Experiment Station of UC Davis.

UC Davis is growing California

At UC Davis, we and our partners are nourishing our state with food, economic activity and better health, playing a key part in the state's role as the top national agricultural producer for more than 50 years. UC Davis is participating in UC's Global Food Initiative launched by UC President Janet Napolitano, harnessing the collective power of UC to help feed the world and steer it on the path to sustainability.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Media contacts:

Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 12:53 PM

UC joins commemoration of National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The observation started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and was expanded to 30 days by Pres. Reagan in 1988, to recognize the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos to the United States.

UC Cooperative Extension joins in the commemoration by sharing a sampling of its recent efforts to reach California Hispanics and Latinos. For more information about UCCE outreach to Hispanic and Latino communities in California, see UC ANR News and Information Outreach in Spanish.

CalAgrAbility helps disabled farmers and farmworkers stay in agriculture
Working on a farm is among the most dangerous of professions. “It's more dangerous to work in agriculture than in the police force,” said Esmeralda Mandujano, an educator for the UC CalAgrAbility program, located in Davis. CalAgrAbility is part of a nationwide effort funded by the USDA that supports agricultural workers with chronic disabilities or who have been injured on the job. Some conditions are very common, such as arthritis, deteriorating vision, hearing loss or mobility problems. Other ag folks face other challenges, such as amputations or spinal injuries. "We believe that solutions exist, and we are willing to do all we can to connect people with solutions that will give more control over their lives," Mandujano said. "We don't give out money, but we help them find ways to meet their needs." Bilingual staff members help locate resources, including low-cost modifications to the farm, home, equipment and work site operations. CalAgrAbility also provides technical assistance, education and training. For more information, contact Esmeralda Mandujano at (530) 753-1613, calagra@ucdavis.edu.

UCCE helps Hispanic farmers pursue the American Dream

Mark Bolda
Hispanic farmers in Santa Cruz County are pursuing the American Dream, and they have Mark Bolda for support. Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, spent three years working with farmers in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer. He learned Spanish and the value of agricultural extension. Since 2002, he has been using his language and teaching skills to reach out to Spanish-speaking farmers and farmworkers in California about research-based strawberry management practices. “When I do outreach, it's always in two languages,” Bolda said. Strawberry production is the ideal industry for immigrants to start as farm laborers and work their way up to becoming growers themselves. “With berries, you can rent a few acres and make money,” Bolda said. “I know a farmer who started with two acres and now manages a top-flight operation with 300 acres grossing $50,000 to $60,000 per acre. Hard work pays.” Some of educational meetings held in Spanish by Bolda and his colleagues have been so popular they have attracted growers from as far away as Baja California. For more information, contact Mark Bolda at (831) 763-8025, mpbolda@ucanr.edu.

Urban students give fresh ideas for conserving creek
Chollas Creek, which drains to San Diego Bay, is affected by pollution and choked by an infestation of invasive Arundo donax (giant cane). Community groups have removed Arundo, planted native species, and installed walkways, seating, shade structures and art to make the restoration areas attractive for outdoor activities. But the urban area around the creek, which has high population density and a high crime rate, continues to suffer from environmental degradation. To find out what young community members think about Chollas Creek and its surrounding outdoor areas, UC Cooperative Extension met with 35 youths from 5th through 12th grades from the neighborhood, including 31 from Latino cultural groups and four African Americans. Leigh Taylor Johnson, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Diego, asked the young people why the creek is important to them and to suggest ways to conserve water, reduce pollution and prevent the Arundo donax from infesting the creek. “I am in the process of analyzing the results,” Taylor Johnson said. “In general, I was very impressed with the insights and creative recommendations provided by the youthful participants.” Groundwork San Diego – Chollas Creek, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and Jackie Robinson YMCA partnered in this research. For more information, contactLeigh Taylor Johnson at (858) 822-7802, ltjohnson@ucanr.edu.

Resources available in Spanish for managing pests and applying pesticides safely

UC IPM Kiosk
The UC Integrated Pest Management program serves Spanish-speaking urban audiences with several short videos on common pests such as ants, spiders, snails, bed bugs, and mosquitoes. Quick Tips (Notas Breves) offer advice on many pest problems and information on using pesticides safely. There are also 16 touch-screen computer kiosks located in various locations around the state where users can find pest and pesticide information in English or Spanish. For maintenance gardeners preparing to take the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's Pesticide Applicators exam in the category Q, UC IPM offers a study guide and free online training course in Spanish. For agriculture audiences, there are several pesticide safety-related books and DVDs available as well as guidelines for managing strawberry pests.

Southern California landscapers get pest management training in Spanish
An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Spanish-speaking landscapers in San Bernardino County lack adequate expertise in integrated pest management (IPM) and safe use of pesticides, in part due to the rarity of training opportunities using the Spanish language. UC Cooperative Extension advisor Janet Hartin wanted to change this, and received a $125,000 competitive grant from the Department of Pesticide Regulation to expand integrated pest management education to Southern California Spanish-speaking landscapers. The project focuses on reducing groundwater and surface water pollution leading to water quality degradation due to overuse and improper use of pesticides and fertilizers. This grant funded educational services to Spanish-speaking landscapers at 13 workshops and hands-on as well as classroom training in 2013. Increasing educational services stressing pest prevention to this large clientele – which has quadrupled over 20 years – can significantly reduce overuse and misuse of pesticides in urban environments and improve the health and safety of the work environment for this important segment of the profession. For more information, contact Janet Hartin, (951) 313-2023, jshartin@ucanr.edu.

Mexico native to provide culturally sensitive nutrition programs to California Latinos

Karina Diaz Rios
For the first time, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist is headquartered at the UC Merced campus. Karina Diaz Rios joined UCCE on Sept. 2 as a specialist in nutrition, family and consumer sciences. “I look forward to getting involved in efforts to provide culturally sensitive nutrition programs to improve the well-being of Latinos in the Central Valley, with particular attention to those living in disadvantaged circumstances,” she said. Rios has practical experience as a private practice dietitian in her native Mexico. As a graduate student in Texas, Diaz-Rios studied ways to improve eating behavior for the early prevention of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in Hispanic communities. Before joining UC, she coordinated a nutrition and cooking program at Texas Tech University. “The Central Valley has numerous health and food security issues that cross all of our cultures and populations,” said Connie Schneider, the director of the UCCE Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program. “Dr. Diaz Rios is well suited to address Hispanic needs as well as our other many cultures, due to her experience, education and research.” For more information, contact Karina Diaz Rios at kdiazrios@ucmerced.edu.

Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Sacramento 4-H takes to the national stage

An innovative 4-H program developed in Sacramento will be featured on American Graduate Day 2014, a multi-platform PBS event broadcast live from Lincoln Center in New York on Sept. 27. It can be viewed on the web at http://americangraduate.org/grad-day and on participating PBS stations from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time.

Left to right, Marianne Bird, Gayle Craggs and Bonnie Lindgren will represent Sacramento 4-H on American Graduate Day 2014.
American Graduate Day is about the nation's high-school dropout crisis and the organizations working tirelessly to combat it. Producers found out about Sacramento's 4-H On the Wild Side program, in which trained teenagers work in partnership with adults to plan and implement a two-night camping trip for elementary school students. The teenagers learn leadership skills and get a chance to make a difference in children's lives; and the children get a chance to sleep outdoors and experience nature first-hand.

“I got to look at the stars. I saw the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and the Milky Way. It looked like a line of milk and glitter,” said one camper.

To tell the nation about this program, American Graduate Day 2014 has made arrangements for three Sacramento representatives to travel to New York City next weekend to be panelists on the show. They are Marianne Bird, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H advisor; Gayle Craggs, a Twin Rivers Unified School District teacher and 4-H On the Wild Side leader; and Bonnie Lindgren, a 4-H member who was an On The Wild Side teen leader for four years. (Lingren, 2014 McClatchy High School graduate, is now a freshman at Carleton College in Minnesota.)

Media contact: Marianne Bird, (916) 875-6423, mbird@ucanr.edu

For more information, see the attached PDF documents:

Posted on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 2:28 PM
Tags: 4-H (5), Marianne Bird (1), On the Wild Side (1)

Calendar with rare Pacific fisher photos available from UC Cooperative Extension

A Pacific fisher image from the new calendar.
A treasure trove of candid Pacific fisher photos has been compiled into an 18-month calendar that is being sold to raise awareness about the small, nocturnal carnivore.

The calendars – designed by Anne Lombardo, a UC program representative with the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project – are available for $12 each on the UCCE Central Sierra website.

Once widespread across the high elevation forests of the Sierra Nevada and in the coastal mountains of northwestern California, fishers are now found there only in two small isolated populations. One group lives near the California-Oregon border; the other in the southern Sierra Nevada between Yosemite and Sequoia national parks.

Two research studies of the southern fisher population – one led by the University of California in the Sugar Pine area south of Yosemite and the other led by the U.S. Forest Service in the Kings River watershed – have been documenting the fate of the animals for the past six years. During that time, forests were treated to reduce fire danger by thinning trees under 30 inches in diameter or by smashing down small trees and brush in a process called mastication. The research will determine whether the treatments have an impact on the fisher population. The Kings River project has been led by USFS research ecologist Craig Thompson since its inception. Thompson recently also took over leadership of the Sugar Pine project to complete the final two years.

In the Yosemite area, most of the fisher surveillance has been done by plane using radio telemetry to track fisher with transmitting collars. In the Forest Service study area, the radio telemetry surveillance has been done on the ground.

“Now that we are working more closely together, we have access to many more pictures,” Lombardo said. “They have done a lot of tracking in this area and taken some incredible photos.”

The calendar includes 20 photos of a creature that wildlife lovers rarely get to see because of the Pacific fishers' relatively small population and reclusive habits. Photos include kits with their mothers in the wild and also orphaned kits on their own at a wildlife recovery facility. The calendar marks the days between July 2014 and December 2015.

More information about the fisher projects in the Sierra Nevada may be found on the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project website.

Posted on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 9:22 AM
Tags: Anne Lombardo (1), Pacific fisher (2), SNAMP (2)

King Fire may put UC research forest to the test

Blodgett Forest King Fire Map - updated Sept. 19, 2014.
A key University of California, Berkeley, research station is threatened by the King Fire in El Dorado County. Blodgett Research Forest, 4,270 acres located 10 miles east of Georgetown, is home to scores of UC Berkeley investigations on trees and other plants, fish and wildlife populations, insects, diseases, soils, atmospheric chemistry and wildfire management techniques.

Backfiring — controlled burns to contain greater wildfire damage — are expected to begin today (Friday, Sept. 19) on the Blodgett property. The arson-sparked King Fire has burned more than 75,000 acres, triggering evacuations, incinerating trees, and closing Highway 50 and local roads. As of this morning the fire was only 10 percent contained, according to Calfire. University personnel have been evacuated from the research station and UC Berkeley fire experts in El Dorado County and on the Berkeley campus, based at the College of Natural Resources (CNR), are coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages wildfires in this region, and Calfire on priorities for defending the property.

“With 50 years of annual harvests and 40 years of annual measurements of permanent plots, Blodgett is the Rosetta Stone for the Sierra Nevada with respect to the interactions of forests, management and fires,” said William Stewart, a forestry researcher and co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Forestry. In addition, Stewart said, the half-century of monitoring gives Blodgett the longest continuous record on forests in the Sierra Nevada.

While the spread of the King Fire to Blodgett would result in a discontinuity in the long-term data collection, it simultaneously would launch the start of data collection on a new continuum—a unique opportunity to learn, fire experts say.

“You'll change that continuous record, but also start a whole new record that reflects the fundamental role of disruptive elements of Sierra ecology,” said J. Keith Gilless, CNR dean and a forest economics professor.

Researchers would also get valuable information on current experiments and hypotheses.

“Our investments in improving forest resiliency will be severely tested if the King Fire enters our property,” Stewart said. “We will find out how effective those investments have been.” For example, effectiveness of vegetation treatments, such as cutting low brush and young trees, or creating patchworks of smaller clear-cut areas, will be tested in a more severe way than is possible under normal research conditions.

“You never say, ‘let's light a really, really hot fire and see how the stand holds up,'” said Gilless. “But you can go in and do analysis after an event like this: We hypothesized these treatments would be effective; do they actually deliver when put to the test by an uncontrolled wildfire?”

Scientists are already preparing to collect data—soil samples, tree mortality rates, information on char height (burns to the trunks) and scorch height (burns to the treetops)— both to understand how the fire burned and increase the potential to bring back a healthy forest.

Not every tree dies in a wildfire. But damaged trees become more susceptible to pests and pathogens, which can kill them or inhibit the growth of other vegetation. “We can measure the potential resilience of a forest by understanding the level of damage and mortality, and how our forest-management practices influenced those outcomes,” said fire science professor Scott Stephens.

The researchers say it's also opportunity to employ adaptive management, a forestry best practice that involves learning from the results of each fire, analyzing what worked, what didn't, and why; and then applying those lessons.

With the fire advancing and Blodgett in an area currently slated to be allowed to burn, researchers are scurrying to organize their efforts.

“Unlike much of the research we do, an event like this imposes its own timetable. You have to deal with it in real time,” Gilless said. And while collective fingers are crossed that Blodgett will survive, Berkeley's fire researchers must prepare for any outcome. “Everything that transpires in nature is an opportunity to learn,” added Gilless.

A trove of past — and future — data

The research station is located in an area where danger posed by severe wildfires is very high. For the past two decades it has been a center for UC Berkeley research projects that evaluate the effectiveness of treated plots against control plots—unmanaged ecological reserves.

The findings from this research have already had broad impacts on how fires are managed locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally. Data gathered at Blodgett have helped scientists, forest managers, and fire experts understand:
• How different forest and fuel management techniques work over time;
• How forest management approaches affect biodiversity;
• How processes likenutrient cycling and carbon cycling actually operate in forests.

For example, biodiversity studies showed that a mosaic of tree sizes and openings create more habitat niches for birds and animals. Fuel treatment studies have show that reducing tree and shrub densities increase the probability that medium and large size trees can survive wildfires.

Stephens, whose recent research includes thinning young forests to reduce fire risk and greenhouse gas emissions, says the King Fire is a symptom of California's larger forest problem.

“Almost all of the Sierra Nevada is in a state of high fire hazard because of past fire suppression, and harvesting that focused on large trees,” a practice that left the more susceptible smaller trees and debris, increasing fuel loads. “It will take decades of active management to reduce hazards and produce resilient forests,” Stephens said. “This will not be easy but it is possible. If we don't get this work done, future generations will not enjoy forests as we have, and forests will be fundamentally different, with much more severe wildfire impacts. ”

Related Links

Fire map on UC Berkeley Center for Forestry
Incident Information System map
Blodgett Research Forest

Posted on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 9:17 AM
Tags: Blodgett Forest (1), wildfire (7)

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