Busting Bellatti’s Bad Broccoli Breath

Most of you are familiar with Monsanto the seed giant. All of you are familiar with the cruciferous vegetable, broccoli. Some of you may know that Monsanto released a variety of broccoli last year purported to be better for you, called “Beneforté.” One year later, an article by a newly-registered dietitian named Andy Bellatti appeared on Grist to bust Monsanto’s ‘better’ broccoli, which some of you may have noticed. But none of you who finish reading this post will believe that Bellatti “busted” the Beneforté broccoli at all. The only thing he busted was his own research, journalistic, and dietetic integrity. Glusosino-What? There has been considerable interest in investigating the composition of foods to determine what parts of them can contribute to our health. (And what detracts from it too.)  Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have garnered considerable attention for their effects on the development of cancer. Research has revealed

The Cost Of Precaution

The graph above shows the relative production of these major US row crops comparing the years 1993-1995 (just prior to the introduction of biotechnology enhanced crops) and 2008-10 (the most recent available data which covers a a span which comes 12-15 years after biotech.  Soybean production has expanded 47% in this time-frame while corn is up 58% (far more than the quantity now being diverted for biofuel).  Both of those crops are predominantly planted to “GMO” varieties, while the various segments of the wheat crop remain non-GMO.  Until 2004 it looked as if North American growers would also get to plant biotech wheat, but a vigorous campaign led by Greenpeace succeeded in blocking the technology.  Many major European and Japanese grain buyers were concerned about potential consumer push-back (based on Greenpeace efforts), so they made a coordinated threat to boycott all North American wheat exports if any commercial GMO wheat

Private nonprofit foundations & Public Health: Potential conflicts of interest in corporate links

Corporate involvement in public health is a sensitive topic, but one I am largely against.  It is pretty clear that corporations usually get the benefit of bettering their brand image (which is often largely unhealthy processed products) at a low cost of sponsorship of health campaigns.  See plenty of great/unfortunate examples on blogs such as Food Politics, Weighty Matters, and Appetite For Profit, or my own criticisms of the ADA/Hershey partnership as a specific case.  Such relationships, as well as how government aid alters our attentions on health matters have been also discussed in length in the literature (see this table for examples). But what about the private nonprofit organizations pouring money into public health promotion? How much do personnel in these foundations that often overlap with public corporations influence public health decisions, and might these relationships sometimes prevent objective divisions of funding? This is difficult to answer and less studied, but a new paper in

Should the Gates Foundation sell its stock in Monsanto?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has been very active in the plant improvement field in the last few years. While funding projects from the Wheat Rust Ug99 project (of previous radio subject matter) to helping fund the IRRI, and promoting Pam Ronald’s book, Bill Gates et al are really trying to improve the agricultural conditions in more troubled nations while also raising awareness about the issue. Along with providing vaccines and working on eradicating diseases, they have a lofty set of millennium goals in agriculture. There are millions upon millions of hungry mouths to feed (and feed well), and they are hard at work making this possible through technology, infrastructure, and building a knowledge base within those countries so that they can continue to produce food under their own innovative powers. However, not everyone views the Gates Foundation’s involvement in the developing world as a good thing. Eager

Supreme Court decides on Alfalfa case

In what (for me) seemed like no time at all, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has issued its ruling on the Roundup Ready Alfalfa case. In a landslide 7:1 ruling (with one recusing), the high court has lifted the nationwide ban on planting genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant alfalfa. What does this mean for GE alfalfa and sugar beet plantings that have been affected by the courts? Although the social media chatter over the case was mostly characterizing it as crucial to win to “stop” GE alfalfa, it was really more about what the proper course of action is for the GE regulatory process, and whether a court can issue an injunction against planting GE crops while the environmental impact statement (EIS) is being drafted, without having to provide evidence of harm. For more background information, read my previous post about the case. In essence, the court was considering