The latest mystery surrounding GMOs isn’t just about what’s in them, but how they’re making their way into fields where they don’t belong. Just as the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service abandoned an investigation into unwanted GMO wheat planted in an Oregon field in 2013, the Montana State University’s Southern Agriculture Research Center uncovered more peculiar plants in their field. The unapproved GMO wheat was found when workers tried to clear a field using glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide. Some wheat survived exposure to the herbicide because it carried a gene for glyphosate tolerance that Monsanto had inserted into some of the GMO varieties. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple to point the blame at Monsanto for this one – genetic tests showed that the wheat was a combination of different types created by a breeder and not sold as a seed from a corporation. Fortunately, this wheat was grown in a test field and not put on the market for unsuspecting customers to buy.
By grossing $35 billion last year, the organic business finally got the USDA to listen up and pay attention. On Monday, the USDA announced $52 million to support local food systems and organic farming research as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. This investment is just the beginning of $30 million a year for marketing programs to help young farmers reach consumers and $125 million over the next five years for organic farming research that has often been brushed to the side in budget plans. Still, some say that these funds are not sufficient to sponsor the rapid rate of organic and local food market growth expected in coming years.
One of the best things about shopping at the farmers market is the trust you gain in the people who provide your food. But recent findings show some farmers market vendors are frauds, picking up wholesale produce and re-marketing it as their own locally sourced products for a higher price. In California, Governor Jerry Brown is cracking down on the cheaters by allotting $1 million for an army of inspectors to verify the source of food at farmers markets across the state. In 2013, 19 vendors were fined for fraud, and the state hopes this investment will stop impostors and clean contraband crops from local stands.
Many have rallied against GMO crops on land, but California is ready to take on freaky food in the water, too. A new law in the Golden State prevents the production of GMO salmon in all of the state’s waters, including the Pacific Ocean. The legislation is meant to protect native populations of trout and salmon, which could become contaminated if bred with new “frankenfish” in local waters.
At the Harvest the Hope Concert in Neligh, Nebraska, Willie and Neil shared a stage to stand up for farmers, ranchers and Native Americans whose land lies in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline. Proposed six years ago, the 1,179 mile line was planned to carry oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast refineries, but has met opposition from residents along the path. Many worry that it could spill into the Ogallala Aquifer, contaminating the water source for much of the area’s cropland. Neil and Willie played for a crowd of 8,000 on the farm of Art Tanderup, who has refused to let the pipeline invade his land. Because the pipeline crosses international borders, President Obama will have the final say in its approval.