Wednesday's in the Field

Karen Adler's picture

Breeding “Organic Ready” Corn

Amidst the controversy over transgene (GMO) contamination—a growing concern for organic farmers, researchers, consumers, and advocates—plant breeder Frank Kutka has been working to develop an “organic ready” line of corn that will maintain its non-GMO integrity. Corn is one of the top three genetically modified crops, alongside cotton and soy. In 2014, 89 percent of the corn acreage in the U.S. is planted in herbicide-tolerant transgenic corn.
 
Kutka has just started his fourth year of an OFRF/Seed Matters-funded research project, Developing “Organic-Ready” Maize Populations with Gametophytic Incompatibility. Corn is wind pollinated and readily crosses with other varieties. However, this breeding work uses naturally occurring genes derived from popcorns and the ancient grain teosinte that create a screen against crossing with transgenic, or genetically modified (GMO) corn. 

 

Karen Adler's picture

Putting the Earth Back in Earth Day

“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil... There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” --Charles E. Kellogg /USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1938

How often do you think about the earth beneath your feet?

If you are a farmer or soil scientist, it’s many times a day. Otherwise, probably not very often, since our soil is something that most of us take for granted. But did you know that half of our topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years, and we’re now losing it at rates 10 to 40 times faster than it can naturally be replenished? Currently, 40% of the soil used for agriculture throughout the world is classified as degraded or seriously degraded.

Karen Adler's picture

Balancing Conservation and Food Safety on Organic Farms

 

The practices of conserving and fostering biodiversity and natural resources are at the heart of organic farming, and are part of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). At the same time, ensuring that the food we eat is safe is an obvious priority for farmers and consumers alike. Conflicts that have emerged between these important goals make it critical for organic farmers to understand how they can be co-managed. OFRF is gratified to fund resources that help farmers find this balance.

Karen Adler's picture

Sowing the Seeds of Organic Integrity

At the recent EcoFarm Conference in California, I attended a session called “Keeping GMOs out of Organic Food and Farms.” The panel included representatives from an organic food company, an environmental advocacy group, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and an organic dairy. At a time when the clamor for organic food is greater than ever, these activists, along with thousands of people involved in organic food and farming all over the world, are concerned about the growing threat of GMO (genetically modified organism) contamination.

One thing is clear: we are at a crucial tipping point regarding the future of organic juxtaposed against the genetic engineering of our food supply. And on the frontline are seeds—the very basis of life. As Vandana Shiva says, “Seed is created to renew, to multiply, to be shared, and to spread. Seed is life itself.”

Mark Keating's picture

Good News for Organics in the Latest Federal Spending Bill

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

            In a hopeful sign Monday that Washington is returning to the peoples’ business, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees released a compromise fiscal year 2014 budget which both chambers will vote on this week. The spending bill sets funding levels for specific government programs using the budget ceiling of $1.1 trillion agreed to by the House and Senate Budget Committees back in December.

Mark Keating's picture

FSMA Rules Threaten Small Organic Farmers: Comment Deadline Friday

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Advisor            

            This Friday, November 22 brings to a close your opportunity to comment on the FDA’s proposed rules for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Making your voice heard in an informed, constructive manner is essential for protecting the rights of farmers and consumers to build the organic and local food systems, which are our surest path to a sustainable future.

            The organic community has always supported fair, practical and efficient regulations to improve food safety, but virtually nothing in FDA’s current proposal satisfies those conditions.  As drafted, it would cripple small- and medium-sized farming operations with burdensome and expensive compliance requirements http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/food-safety-comments-top-10/   which cannot be justified by what we currently know about food safety.  Provisions in the proposal would largely eliminate the use of natural fertilizers including compost, require farmers using irrigation to test their water weekly and severely restrict the burgeoning local foods movement.

Udi Lazimy's picture

Rural America Remains Relevant

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a recent speech that rural America is “becoming less and less relevant” in agricultural politics.  While we agree that the USDA and farm legislators need a more “proactive message, not a reactive message,” as Vilsak pointed out, the reason we don’t have farm legislation for the upcoming 5 years is because it is precisely farm-state, rural legislators who are standing in the way. 

Udi Lazimy's picture

Organic Farmers Stand Strong

Well folks, it’s over. The flurry of nonstop campaign ads, tele-campaign calls and colorful glossy mailings has ceased, and it’s now time to move forward. While we’re disappointed that California voted down Proposition 37, we’re optimistic about other elements that unfolded on Tuesday.

Udi Lazimy's picture

It's Spooky Not Knowing What's In Our Food

For many, Halloween is about embracing our more secretive sides and seeing what lurks among the shadows. The one thing I don’t want veiled in mystery, however, is the content of my food. OFRF believes that we have a right to know what’s in our food. Giant agri-corporations, on the other hand, want to keep us all in the dark about whether the food they produce contains ingredients that have been genetically modified. That’s why they are spending tens of millions of dollars to oppose California’s Proposition 37, which would require not only that foods containing GMOs be labeled, but that any such products would no longer be allowed to be labeled as “natural”. 

Udi Lazimy's picture

Celebrating Good Food and Supporting Organic Farmers

As people all over the U.S. gather to celebrate good food, we here at OFRF are excited about a great opportunity to get YOU engaged in calling for reforms at the federal level in support of organic farmers.
 
Its OFRF’s 2012 Farm Bill NOW petition! SIGN IT NOW and show your support for organic farmers, economic development, conservation, and all the other wonderful benefits of organic.  

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