Judge orders destruction of biotech beets

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has ordered the destruction of all genetically engineered sugar beets that seed companies planted in September.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco found that the U.S. Department of Agricultural improperly granted permission for the plantings without a detailed environmental review. White said his order will take effect Dec. 6 to give the companies time to appeal.

The companies couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit in September alleging the USDA’s action violated an earlier decision by White.

The environmental groups say Monday’s ruling affects beets planted in Oregon and Arizona. The sugar beets are genetically engineered with a bacteria gene to withstand sprayings of a popular weed killer.

Judge orders destruction of biotech beets

Modified corn spreads the love around

A study published in the Oct. 8 edition of the journal Science, finds that widespread planting of genetically modified Bt corn throughout the Upper Midwest has suppressed populations of the European corn borer, historically one of corn’s primary pests.

The area wide suppression has dramatically reduced the estimated $1 billion in annual losses caused by the European corn borer, even on non-genetically modified corn.

Bt corn, introduced in 1996, is so named because it has been bred to produce a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills insect pests.

Corn borer moths cannot distinguish between Bt and non-Bt corn, so females lay eggs in both kinds of fields, says William Hutchison, professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota.

Once eggs hatch in Bt corn, young borer larvae feed and die within 24 to 48 hours. Because it is effective at controlling corn borers and other pests, Bt corn has been adopted on about 63 percent of all U.S. corn acres.

As a result, corn borer numbers have also declined in neighboring non-Bt fields by 28 percent to 73 percent in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, depending on historical pest abundance and level of Bt-corn adoption.

The study, the first to show a direct association between Bt corn use and an area wide reduction in corn borer abundance, documents similar declines of the pest in Iowa and Nebraska.

Seed industry is key component of Hawaii agriculture

By Alicia Maluafiti

Since the demise of pineapple and sugarcane, the seed industry has helped diversify Hawaii’s economy and kept important ag lands in agricultural production by investing millions of dollars into failing infrastructure such as roads, buildings and irrigation.

Not only does this ensure that those farmlands remain productive for future generations, but the investment has saved small farmers and the state from having to pay for those improvements.

While we applaud the Sierra Club for turning its attention to food security (Name in the News, Star-Advertiser, Oct. 22), the comment by Robert Harris that farmers are having difficulty finding land to farm “because it’s all being used for seed corn” is a gross misstatement.

The agricultural biotech industry, which includes seed corn research companies, operates on only 5 percent of the available prime agricultural lands in the state. Of those acres, approximately 8,000 are actively used for crop production, which conserves water and results in a smaller environmental footprint.

Recognizing the difficulty of farmers to secure land, many seed companies now collaborate with farmers to put new and displaced farmers back on agricultural land at affordable prices. Farmers large and small are growing a variety of crops side by side, and many now even supplement their income by growing seed crops. In addition, seed companies lease land to cattle ranchers, who are another important part of Hawaii’s food security picture.

Master Gardeners Visit Waimanalo

HONOLULU — What’s new in mulch? Trouble with your root balls? Master gardeners from around Hawaii made a field trip to Waimanalo Sunday to learn about the latest techniques and innovations in Hawaii agriculture.

The Waimanalo Agricultural Station is like the promised land for master gardeners. It’s where the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture tends test beds, conducts research on organic gardening and develops the newest techniques in soil management.

Master gardeners are volunteers, trained by university extension service programs, who are able to educate the public on gardening and horticultural issues.

Master gardeners came from all around the state Sunday for a field trip to the Waimanalo Agricultural Station.

“I think as a master gardener we get so focused on our own islands. Coming together to be master gardeners of Hawaii rather than just our island, we share different programs that are going on. We find out what can we bring back and augment on our island,” said Melanie Stephens, a master gardener from Maui.

Monsanto Income Drops by Nearly Half

Executives of Monsanto told skittish investors on Wednesday that earnings per share would grow 13 to 17 percent in the next fiscal year and that the company was on its way to fixing problems in its seed business that have undermined the confidence of Wall Street.

The remarks, in line with some previous assurances by company executives, were made as Monsanto reported that net income for the year that ended Aug. 31 had dropped by nearly half from a year earlier.

“I believe we’ve taken steps to allow our company to return to growth,” Hugh Grant, the chief executive, told analysts and investors Wednesday on a conference call.

He said the seed business was going to offer “more products at more price points” to help regain the trust of farmers who have been put off by high seed prices and lower-than-expected yields for some products, particularly Monsanto’s new SmartStax corn.

Comment to: Approval of GM salmon for eating is premature

Comment author notstupid555
Originating Article By Ira Zunin

If FDA doesn’t approve GM salmon to at least some extent, I don’t see how you can do any of the monitoring/study work that Dr. Zunin proposes or do anything to address global hunger because there will be no GM salmon businesses and no market for sale of GM salmon.

While Dr. Zunin says he is suggesting a careful, planned approach, his advice is actually tantamount to killing the GM salmon initiative from the start. By the way, Dr. Zunin has many degrees, but is his advice based on his “science course in middle school” or actual scientific expertise and study?

FDA considers approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption

FDA considers approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 6, 2010; 5:16 PM

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to approve the first genetically modified animal for human consumption, a highly anticipated decision that is stirring controversy and could mark a turning point in the way American food is produced.

FDA scientists gave a boost last week to the Massachusetts company that wants federal approval to market a genetically engineered salmon, declaring that the altered salmon is safe to eat and does not pose a threat to the environment.

“Food from AquAdvantage Salmon . . . is as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon,” the FDA staff wrote in a briefing document.

Those findings will be presented Sept. 19 to a panel of scientific experts which will advise top officials at the FDA whether to approve the altered salmon. The panel is holding two days of meetings to hear from FDA staff, the company behind AquAdvantage and the public.

AquAdvantage is an Atlantic salmon that has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, which allows the salmon to grow twice as fast as a traditional Atlantic salmon. It also contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon.

Rural areas fear loss of crop Sugar job loss could devastate Idaho town, threaten co-op

By DAVE WILKINS

Capital Press

Farmers aren’t the only ones uncertain about the future of the sugar beet industry in the wake of a federal judge’s decision to ban the planting of Roundup Ready varieties.

The uncertainty extends to the rural communities where sugar beets are grown.

“If (seed companies) don’t have enough beet seed for everyone here, it will devastate this area. That’s our cash crop,” Randy Jones, mayor of Paul, Idaho, said in an interview.

Hundreds of people work at the Amalgamated Sugar Co. beet processing plant in Paul, a farm town of 1,000 people. The plant processes beets grown all over Southern Idaho, from the Treasure Valley to the Blackfoot area.

But a ruling by a federal judge in California on Aug. 13 makes Roundup Ready sugar beets a regulated crop again, meaning that it can’t be grown commercially.

Beet growers have grown Roundup Ready varieties almost exclusively the past two years because it provides superior weed control and thus higher yields. Now growers are faced with the prospect of converting back to conventional varieties, and it’s not clear how much of that is available.

Jones worries that a serious seed shortage could affect the local sugar factory and his town’s economic future.