Blog | July 11, 2014

Amanda’s Farm and Food Roundup

AmandaA growing number of Americans are making the switch to unpasteurized, or raw, milk, despite warnings from regulatory agencies. As more consumers seek raw milk for the its beneficial bacteria, many still worry about the possibility of contamination and the lack of national standards or guidelines. Now, the Raw Milk Institute is trying to change the negative view of unpasteurized milk, making it more accessible to the public. By setting high standards and monitoring every step of the process, the Raw Milk Institute aims to produce safe products with the benefits the pasteurized milk lacks. Still, regulatory agencies don’t plan on backing raw milk anytime soon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that raw milk isn’t entirely safe under any circumstances. State by state, legal treatment of raw milk varies, but overall national regulatory agencies don’t feel comfortable putting the products on everyone’s grocery shelf.

Meanwhile, in Vermont, legislators have approved the sale of raw milk at farmers markets in the state.

Global warming may have met its match in the form of a tiny yet powerful aquatic fern that turns excess nitrogen in the air into valuable plant food. Azolla, commonly known as duckweed, has caught the eye of researchers at Duke University, who want to sequence the plant’s genome to better understand and harness its power. Citing evidence of the plant’s presence on earth nearly 49 million years ago when the amount of carbon in the atmosphere dropped by 80 percent and temperatures in the Arctic dropped to 8 degrees, researchers believe that Azolla could have the potential to combat rising temperatures. While some say this might be coincidental, researchers are pushing for further study of the plant with the belief that it could allow farmers to abandon the use of artificial fertilizers and reduce the negative impact on the environment.

In the fight to make GMO labeling mandatory, the opposition has adopted an unexpected tactic: producing non-GMO foods. Cargill, a privately owned manufacturer, has taken an avid stance against GMO labeling, yet recently started to produce non-GMO soybean oil, corn and beans. The company maintains its anti-labeling stance on the ground that the label could be misleading, leading consumers to believe that GMO foods are not “substantially equivalent” to other foods. However, they also see a strong market potential in offering non-GMO products. In the face of fierce competition and an increased demand for non-GMO foods, other companies may follow Cargill’s lead and benefit from selling both GMO and non-GMO products.

Starting this summer, a total of 19 farmers markets in Utah will accept food stamps. The initiative, supported by Utahns Against Hunger, aims to put healthier food on the table of low-income households by encouraging food stamp recipients to shop at their local farmers market. This program will also benefit the community by bringing more costumers to local family farmers – for each dollar spent in food stamps, $1.70 is generated back into the community.

Recent research from the Netherlands revealed controversial findings about neonicotinoids, a class of pesticide that makes up 40 percent of the global market. Neonicotinoids are used to coat seeds, affecting the entire plant as it grows rather than just selected sections. Unfortunately, this includes the plant’s pollen and nectar, killing helpful bees and dwindling the food supply of birds, Dutch researchers say. Pesticide manufactures are calling the study invalid, reminding researchers that correlation does not mean causation, yet scientists can find no other way to explain the decline in bird population. The pesticides can also remain present in the dirt after the affected plant has died, allowing new plants to absorb the poisons. Researchers believe that continued use of the pesticides could cause “a wide range of negative biological and environmental impacts.” European countries have already banned certain neonticotinoids due to their harmful effects on bees, but no similar protections exist in the United States.

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