- Author: Pamela Ronald
Reposted from Scientific America -- Food Matters Blog
Discussions about plant genetic engineering often reflect two starkly opposing narratives. On the one side are the angry mobs who invade research farms to destroy fragile green rice seedlings deemed “GMOs”. On the other, are the scientists who call for calm and respect for publicly funded research. Too often, it seems, there is little mutual understanding.
In a forum on September 5 hosted by the Boston Review Magazine, a group of journalists, activists, plant biologists, and farmers as well as academic experts in food security, international agricultural and environmental policy sat around a virtual table to find common ground. All accepted the broad scientific consensus that the process of GE does not pose inherent risks compared to conventional approaches of genetic alteration and that the GE crops currently on the market are safe to eat and safe for the environment. That agreement allowed the discussion to move forward to a more societally relevant issue- the use of appropriate technology in agriculture....
...What criteria can scientists, farmers and consumers use to assess which type of these genetic technologies is most appropriate for agriculture?
In his 1973 book Small is Beautiful, economist E. F. Schumacher states that an appropriate technology should be low cost, low maintenance and promote values such as health, beauty, and permanence. Environmentalist Stewart Brand used a similar framework to select new technologies for inclusion in his 1969 Whole Earth Catalog. One of the purposes of the Whole Earth catalog was to facilitate a creative or self-sustainable lifestyle.
We can apply Brand and Schumacher’s Buddhist economic criteria to evaluate modern agricultural technologies....
...Golden Rice is an excellent example of how a particular genetic technology can appropriately serve a specific societal purpose – in this case, enhancing the health and well-being of farmers and their families. It is a relatively simple technology that scientists in most countries, including many developing countries, have perfected. The product, a seed, requires no extra maintenance or additional farming skills. The seed can be propagated on the farm each season at no extra cost through self-pollination and improved along the way.
Can we conclude from the example of Golden Rice that all GE seeds fall into the category of appropriate technology? Unfortunately it is not that simple. Each agricultural technology must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. It is not informative to group all “GMOs” together without regard to the purpose of the engineering, the needs of the farmer, or the social, environmental, economic, or nutritional benefits.
- Author: Pallab Ghosh
Reposted from BBC News
The world's first lab-grown burger is to be unveiled and eaten at a news conference in London on Monday.
Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle which they combined to make a patty.
Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.
Critics say that eating less meat would be an easier way to tackle predicted food shortages.
BBC News has been granted exclusive access to the laboratory where the meat was grown in a project costing £215,000.
Prof Mark Post of Maastricht University, the scientist behind the burger, said: "Later today we are going to present the world's first hamburger made in a lab from cells. We are doing that because livestock production is not good for the environment, it is not going to meet demand for the world and it is not good for animals".
But Prof Tara Garnett, head of the Food Policy Research Network at Oxford University, said decision-makers needed to look beyond technological solutions.
"We have a situation where 1.4 billion people in the world are overweight and obese, and at the same time one billion people worldwide go to bed hungry," she said.
"That's just weird and unacceptable. The solutions don't just lie with producing more food but changing the systems of supply and access and affordability so not just more food but better food gets to the people who need it."
- Author: Marissa Palin
PROVIDENCE, R.I., June 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- One of every three bites of food comes from plants pollinated by honeybees and other pollinators. Yet, major declines in bee populations threaten the availability of many fresh ingredients consumers rely on for their dinner tables.
To raise awareness of just how crucial pollinators are to our food system, the University Heights Whole Foods Market store temporarily removed all produce that comes from plants dependent on pollinators. They pulled from shelves 237 of 453 products – 52 percent of the department's normal product mix.
Products removed included:
- Summer squash
- Green onions
- Bok choy
- Broccoli rabe
- Mustard greens
To help support honeybee populations, for every pound of organic summer squash sold at Whole Foods Market stores from June 12-25 the company will donate 10 cents to The Xerces Society for pollinator preservation.
"Pollinators are a critical link in our food system. More than 85% of earth's plant species – many of which compose some of the most nutritional parts of our diet – require pollinators to exist. Yet we continue to see alarming declines in bee numbers," said Eric Mader, assistant pollinator conservation director at The Xerces Society. "Our organization works with farmers nationwide to help them create wildflower habitat and adopt less pesticide-intensive practices. These simple strategies can tip the balance back in favor of bees."
More information available online./span>
- Author: Jennifer Rindahl
"Insects provide food at low environmental cost, contribute positively to livelihoods, and play a fundamental role in nature."
Insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people according to a recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: Edible Insects, Future prospects for food and feed security. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf
Over 1,900 species have reportedly been used as food. The most commonly consumed insects are beetles (Coleoptera) (31 percent), caterpillars (Lepidoptera) (18 percent) and bees, wasps and ants (Hymenoptera) (14 percent).
Highlights from the report:
- Insects are a highly nutritious and healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fibre and mineral content.
- The environmental benefits of rearing insects for food and feed are founded on the high feed conversion efficiency of insects. Crickets, for example, require only 2 kilograms of feed for every 1 kilogram of bodyweight gain.
- Because of their nutritional composition, accessibility, simple rearing techniques and quick growth rates, insects can offer a cheap and efficient opportunity to counter nutritional insecurity by providing emergency food and by improving livelihoods and the quality of traditional diets among vulnerable people.
- Insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science in both developed and developing countries.
"Insect rearing for food and feed remains a sector in its infancy, and key future challenges will likely emerge as the field evolves. As such, readers are encouraged to contact the authors with feedback on this book. Such contributions will undoubtedly assist the future development of the sector."
While it's unlikely many of us in the US will be dining on insects during this year's Memorial Day picnics, maybe someday soon those pesky ants will be forming the basis of grandma's famous potato salad.
- Author: Marissa Palin