Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2012 Status Report
Wisconsin boasts the second largest number of organic farms in the U.S., ranks first among the states for the number of organic dairy and beef farms, and is third in the nation for organic vegetable farms. Published by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2012 Status Report provides a wealth of information on the opportunities and challenges facing Wisconsin’s organic farms and processors.
Studies Show Animals Fed on GM Diet Face Organ Problems
A new report reviewing 19 studies of mammals fed with commercialized GM soybean and maize which account for more than 80% of all GMOs grown on a large scale appears to indicate liver and kidney problems in the mammals fed on the GMO diet.
The report by Gilles-Eric Seralini et al is published in Environmental Sciences Europe. The authors studied raw data of 90-day-long rat tests that include biochemical blood and urine parameters of mammals eating GMOs modified for pest resistance. The tests were conducted as a result of court actions or official requests and the authors reviewed the studies in the light of modern scientific knowledge.
Though the tests may not point to chronic toxicity of GMOs the authors nonetheless cautioned that the signs highlighted in the kidneys and livers could spell the onset of chronic diseases and suggested that more detailed and prolonged studies be conducted. The authors stated that since no minimal length for the tests is yet obligatory by European law for any of the GMOs cultivated on a large scale this is socially unacceptable in terms of consumer health.
The authors also suggested an alternative to conventional feeding trials, to understand the biological significance of statistical differences. This approach will make it possible to avoid both false negative and false positive results in order to improve safety assessments of agricultural GMOs before their commercialization for cultivation and food/feed use and imports.
The impacts of glyphosate (Round-UpR) on soil biology and micronutrients
Dr. Guri Johal of Purdue University published the article "Glyphosate
effects on diseases of plants" in 2009, along with colleague Dr. Don Huber.
This paper is a fascinating read describing the effect glyphosate has on
soil biology and increasing the susceptibility of crops to a number of
diseases. It highlights what organic farmers already know about the
importance of the whole system and the interactions between soil biology,
micronutrients and plant health.
Iowa State University Takes Protection of Organic Products to Next Level
AMES, IOWA, December 4, 2009 - Under government regulations organic products are not permitted to contain preservatives such as nitrate or nitrite. Joseph Sebranek, an Iowa State University food science professor, has found a way to use natural ingredients to fight the potential of pathogenic contamination in organic products.
Dr. Don Lotter recently published these two papers in the International Journal of the Sociology of Agriculture and Food (Vol. 16, p. 31-49 & 50-68) critiquing the failure of the scientific community to assess objectively the implications of biotechnology. The report discusses the lack of regulation and the willingness of the federal government to comply with the wishes of biotech companies, the dismissal by the biotech community of extensive reports documenting serious ecological impacts of genetic engineering, including horizontal gene transfer and hybridization, and the flaws and potential repercussions of the process of genetic engineering. Dr. Lotter has compiled a list of cases in the scientific literature reporting detrimental health effects of transgenic plants, including negative developmental effects, links to cancer and mass allergic reactions to Bt pollen, along with well-documented reports of livestock mortality from grazing Bt cotton. The second half of the article takes the scientific community to task for not remaining objective in the evaluation of transgenic crops and for working to closely with biotech companies, as well as for allowing the silencing of research results that were unfavorable to the biotech industry.
Failure to Yield
This new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists criticizes the biotech industry for not living up to its oft repeated promise to increase yields and therefore combat world hunger. It reviews the evidence that genetically modified crops have not led to significant increases in yields and in some cases yielded less (as with RoundUp Ready soybeans). The report also examines some of the commonly held misconceptions relating to the actual benefits of herbicide tolerant and Bt genes to crop production.
Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years
The Organic Center, the Center for Food Safety, and the Union of Concerned Scientists Dec. 2009
According to this report, "GE crops have been responsible for an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2008)." Interestingly, pesticide use drops slightly during the first few years of use of GE crops (1.2%, 2.3%, and 2.3% per year for 1996-1998, respectively), but increased by 20% in 2007 and by 27% in 2008. This is largely due to a growing resistance to glysophate (aka "Roundup," the herbicide whose resistance was engineered into seeds, which was developed by Monsanto).
No Sure Fix: Prospects for Reducing Nitrogen Fertilizer Pollution Through Genetic Engineering
Union of Concerned Scientists 2009.
NSAC, December 9, 2009 - New report on biotechnology's inability to improve nitrogen efficiency in agricultural crops. Pollution from nitrogen overuse in agriculture is the largest domestic, human-caused source of nitrous oxide, a global warming gas that is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The biotechnology industry has tried to create commercial crops which are able to thrive with less oxygen; however a decade of research has provided no results. The report also states that traditional plant breeding and practices such as planting cover crops have proven to reduce the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers.
Organic and conventional
production systems in the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial:
Economic and risk analysis 1993-2006. Chavas, J.-P., J.L. Posner, and J.L. Hedtcke. 2009.
The trial this paper covers compares three cropping
and three forage systems at two sites in Wisconsin.
Two organic systems are
part of the comparison, one a diverse crop rotation and the other a diverse
forage system. The authors found that the organic systems were more profitable than the
conventional systems with one exception: the rotational grazing system at
Including organic premiums in the analysis was a crucial factor contributing
to the profitability of the organic systems; without organic premiums, the
organic systems were not economically competitive.
2007 Organic Farm Performance in Minnesota
A report summarizing the individual farm financial results for participants in the
Minnesota Organic Farm Business Management Project for 2007 with comparisons
to 2006 performance. Whole farm information and enterprise costs and returns are
reported. A total of 65 farms participated in the program.