Agriculture Requires Fertilizer Inputs, and That’s Good

Harvest time by joinash via Flickr.

Harvest time by joinash via Flickr.

On a brown, August-dry field in Eastern Washington, a farmer in a combine cuts a 24-foot swath across a field of wheat. The harvested grain then begins a journey, first to the storage bin, then to the local elevator, on rail to a flour mill, by truck to a bakery, by oven to bread, and by car to a home where it is eaten. This is good; our foremost mandate to agriculture is to produce food. However, with this successful export of food from farm fields to nearby and distant cities comes a problem: the nutrients in the bread, the nutrients that we need from food, and that plants need to grow, are now far from the field they came from. How do we replace them?

High yields worsen the problem.  A typical irrigated winter wheat field will yield 140 bushels per acre; about 5,600 loaves of bread. For a center pivot circle of 100 acres, the nutrients in those loaves amount to 182 pounds of N, 70 of P2O5 and 49 of K2O and smaller amounts of other essential nutrients that do not have to be replaced every year. All this ends up somewhere else (in people’s bodies or in sewage treatment plants); it will not be returned to the field1. Continue reading.

Learn about regulation of GMOs

Anyone interested in how genetically engineered organisms are regulated in the US should check out the Stakeholder meeting presented by the USDA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) happening on November 19 from 8:30am to 12:00pm EST. You can find registration information for the webinar and the agenda at the BRS website.

The agenda includes highlights such as “Coexistence of Agricultural Sectors: A USDA Perspective” and “Global Trade and Acceptance of GE Crops”. There’ll also be a panel discussion about how BRS’s parent organization, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) interfaces with the EPA and FDA.

For more biotech news from BRS, you can view their news page or sign up for emails through their Stakeholder Registry.

Help GENERA by submitting links to outside analyses!

In August, we launched the Beta release of the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA). This is our long-term project to make it easier to find and understand the scientific literature on genetically engineered crops. When we released the beta version of GENERA we knew there was still a lot of work to be done, including adding and correcting citation information, funding, and outcomes for studies. We also got some feedback on its functionality (please take our survey!) and we are planning the next big update to occur in January. For this update, there is one section that we would like your help to build: links to outside analyses. Continue reading.

Kickstarter update: Two Weeks and Counting

Greetings, everyone! I have an update on the status of our Kickstarter rewards. We know you are eagerly anticipating getting your Frank N. Foode™ and Lanakila Ā. Papaya plushies, and a few of you have been checking in wondering what the status is. We had a couple more steps to finish, and a production delay which I will tell you about. But the good news is the plushies are being produced right now, and I have been told that there is less than two weeks left until they are finished! Continue reading.

“The GMO Deception” is, in fact, deceptive

Recycling can be a very good practice. Re-using components of electronics, waste paper, and food scraps that would otherwise head to the waste stream can be a great idea. However, sometimes re-use doesn’t bring any value. Recycling bad claims and ideas about GMOs helps no one. Unfortunately, The GMO Deception is a prime example of worthless recycling.

A stale, misleading, text worth only about 2 pounds of recycled paper.

A stale and misleading text worth only about 2 pounds of recycled paper.

I found out about this text from Marion Nestle’s blog. She promoted this book in a post and by blurbing for it: This week’s reading: The GMO Deception. It didn’t take me long to find more details about it at the publisher’s site, because I had already been over there that same week. Skyhorse Publishing had just published RFK Jr’s new book on thimerosal and vaccines. And I learned that they had also published Andrew Wakefield’s “Callous Disregard”. This did not bode well for my confidence in scientific rigor, of course.

Unwilling to pay for the book ($24.95 at the publisher’s site), I put my name into my local library queue and waited. My chance arrived a couple weeks ago, and I began to look over the contents. Continue reading.