Corn Commentary

NCGA President at NAFB Trade Talk

nafb-14-ncgaBiotechnology and GMO labeling, Waters of the U.S., and soil health were just a few of the issues on the mind of National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling at the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention where he did dozens of interviews with farm broadcasters nationwide.

Bowling says corn growers are very concerned about the growing number of initiatives nationwide called for labeling of GMO products, and passage of a temporary ban on biotech crop production in Maui where many agribusiness companies do research on new traits. “The issue in Hawaii is critical,” he said. “We Hawaii is a place we can grow crops all year long and the companies that test their traits out there needs to have the accessibility to those areas.” Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences have filed suit over the ban, which was passed by a slim margin, and a judge has blocked its implementation.

One of the most important issues facing farmers right now, in Bowling’s opinion, is the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule. “It’s not going to go away,” he said. “We need them to withdraw the interpretive rule and clarify what they mean to regulate and we need to make sure that it’s not overreaching.” Bowling recently had officials from EPA out to his farm in Maryland to take a look at ditches and ponds and get their opinions on how they would interpret the rule.

Bowling is pleased with NCGA’s participation in the Soil Health Partnership (SHP). “We understand that we need to be good stewards of the land,” said Bowling. “It’s all about doing the right thing at the right time and we want to make sure that the farmers that we represent have all the information that they can get.”

Bowling talks about a variety of other issues in this interview: Interview with Chip Bowling, NCGA president


2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Common Sense Prevails in Colorado

Last night, voters spoke across the country on a variety of issues. In Colorado, one point was certainly clear – voters saw through the poorly written propaganda of GMO-labeling Proposition 105.

“Results Wednesday morning indicated voters had rejected the proposal, 66 percent to 34 percent, with 94 percent of the precincts reporting,” according to the Denver Business Journal.

In the same article, DBJ cited Coalition for Safe Affordable Food spokeswoman Claire Parker as saying “By voting down Proposition 105 by a huge margin, Colorado voters delivered a resounding message against a mandatory labeling law that would have led to misinformation, inconsistencies and higher costs for consumers. American consumers deserve a consistent, national labeling standard based on sound science, not scare tactics.”

The voters of Colorado seem to agree. Consumers need solid information on the foods that they eat, not nebulous labels that fail to provide informed, scientific insight into this important subject.

Learn more about the coalition, of which NCGA is a member, by clicking here. For real answers to GMO questions from reliable scientists, not propaganda from anti-tech activists, click here.

Get to know about GMO, because good decisions like the one in Colorado come from a place of knowledge instead of reactionary responses based in fear.

When It Comes to Labels, WSJ Gets It Right

Today, The Wall Street Journal took a bold stance against the pro-labeling lobbies in Oregon and Colorado. Calling upon voters to exercise both common sense and rely upon scientific knowledge, “The Organic Food Protectionists” reveals the reasoning behind state-level GMO-labeling bills – and it isn’t as Populist as proponents would purport.

Opening with the brilliant summation “if you can’t beat them, ask the government to stigmatize them,” the article probes the true motivation behind the organic-farming interests that champion these bills. Explaining the issues involved, from protectionism to a lack of scientific basis for their claims, the WSJ takes on bills, and the big money covertly spent to back them, which would force labels meant to market organics at the expense of consumers.

Scrutinizing what is truly at stake in this debate, the article examines how labeling is both already available in the form of USDA-certified organic status to the long-term goals of labeling proponents, mainly a permanent moratorium on a safe, effective technology.

Arguing for a move away from “scare tactics,” the author urges support for sensible, scientific standards – something that would actually benefit anyone who eats.

The message is clear. Much of the pro-labeling, pro-organic hype depends upon consumer fear to drive exorbitant profits.

The answer is clear as well. Vote against Oregon Measure 92 and Colorado Proposition 105.

Orange Corn for Better Eyesight

orange-cornResearchers at Purdue University have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn, which could help fight vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, as well as macular degeneration right here at home.

The human body can convert provitamin A carotenoids into vitamin A, which plays key roles in eye health and the immune system, as well as in the synthesis of certain hormones. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year, half of whom die within a year of losing their eyesight, according to the World Health Organization. Insufficient carotenoids may also contribute to macular degeneration in the elderly, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly in Europe and the U.S.

“This study gives us the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids – and we can do so using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics,” said Professor of Agronomy Torbert Rocheford. Identifying the genes that determine carotenoid levels in corn kernels will help plant breeders develop novel biofortifed corn varieties for Africa and the U.S. The dark orange color of these corn varieties also makes them more culturally acceptable to consumers in African countries where yellow corn is generally fed only to animals, Rocheford said.

Note that he said this can be done by “natural” plant breeding, not “transgenics” which is another word for genetic modification. Genetically modified Golden Rice, which has been around for a decade now, was developed specifically to address vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries yet has been maligned and protested by GMO critics. Let’s hope they can speed up the “natural” process and get orange corn out there before too many more hundreds of thousands of children die.

Read more about orange corn from Purdue.

Late Night Laughs Point Out Ignorance, Pompous Propaganda

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel dished up a hearty helping of laughs seasoned with some satirical truth in a segment based on the Consumer Reports story on GMOs published earlier this week.

In the segment, a man-on-the-street crew asks farmers market consumers two questions. First, do they avoid GMOs? Second, do they know what the acronym GMO actually means?

For anyone who has tracked the correlation between common opinion on GMOs and factual knowledge of this technology, the results will seem predictable. For anyone who has followed just mainstream media coverage and first confronts this realization during a late night comedy show, they may be a bit shocking.

Why? While the vast majority of interviewees gaspingly reply that they try and avoid GMOs with great aplomb, all but one questioned has no clue what GMOs are. Those asked have only vague, convoluted explanations for their avoidance.

To watch the clip, click here.

The point has been made many times, but it seems to need reiteration. The more your know about GMO, the less likely you are to buy into bogus anti-GMO brainwashing.

Get real answers to you GMO questions by clicking here.

Know Your Enemy

carter-africaIt was 1997 when former President Jimmy Carter penned an op-ed for The Washington Times entitled “Forestalling Famine With Biotechnology.” He noted then that “extremist groups in affluent nations have begun to mount attacks against plant biotechnology” and that they were also concerned “that fertilizer and pesticides will “poison” the earth’s farmland, even when used in moderate amounts.”

Carter called that thinking “dangerously misguided” and said it would be “grievous that we have within our power the ability to prevent starvation, but fail to act on it.”

“Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy; starvation is,” he concluded.

That was 17 years ago when agricultural biotechnology was in its very infancy. A new study has taken a look at livestock productivity and health data from more than 100 billion animals covering a 29 year period from prior to 1996 when all animal feed was non-GMO, and the years since then as use has increased to more than 90%. The study done by animal biotechnology specialist Alison Van Eenennaam with the University of California-Davis conclusively found no abnormal trends in livestock health since GMO crops became commonly used as livestock feed. “Although this is field data, it really supports the wealth of scientific studies that have shown no deleterious effects from consuming genetically engineered feed in our livestock populations,” said Van Eenennaam. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences has just undertaken a comprehensive independent study of genetically engineered crops, sponsored in part by USDA.

The question is, will any results matter to the anti-GMO extremist groups that Carter warned about in 1997, to whom no amount of scientific evidence on the safety of genetically engineered crops will suffice. These groups consistently claim research on GMOs has been limited, is inconclusive, or is biased because it was funded by the industry.

These activist organizations are the enemies of biotechnology and arguably the enemies of our world’s very future. “Without adequate food supplies at affordable prices, we cannot expect world health or peace,” Carter said in 1997. The world could well be a better place if we truly turned our swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks and got on with the business of feeding hungry people.

Dr. Oz, Again? Can Someone Hand Me the Remote

ozLet’s get one thing straight from the get go. Dr. Oz is a professional celebrity who hawks his opinions for money. Whether fear-mongering or shilling for “magic pills,” he makes exaggerated, even unsubstantiated claims to get attention. Attention turns into ratings. Ratings turn into money.

There is one reliable way to stop his bogus claims. Turn off your television. Tell your friends how bogus he is. Explain that he is not watching out for their best interests. Repeat the above paragraph.

If everyone ignores him, he will go away.

With that said, Dr. Oz still basks in the glow of the Oprah-effect. Her blessing radiates like a golden halo around his head. She has sprinkled fairy dust on his tongue and now his words come out as if proclaimed by an angel sitting on its tip, chiming like golden bells in the ears of many.

What makes his brand of show business particularly heinous is that he capitalizes upon this image and on the M.D. behind his name.

Today, he will air a show bashing what he calls “GMO pesticides.” From the information already online, it appears to focus on Dow’s Enlist product which is still in the regulatory process. The episode’s preview shows children eating fruits and vegetables, flashes words like “president” in red type and contains the great Oz’s melodramatic warnings of an oncoming Armageddon.

The fact Enlist is meant for use on row crops and not fruits and veggies aside, the heavy-handed tactics employed conjuring the imagery used in dramatic interpretations of conspiracy theories.

The blatant fear mongering relates back to a letter sent to the EPA by a group of scientists. The “evidence” to which they point has been discredited time and time again. Yet, they trot it out another time as if facts do not matter; baseless fear trumps fact in their logic.

Some might be blinded by the signatories’ titles. Reading to the very end of the document, find the very last line.

“The signers of this letter have done so in their personal capacities. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes and do not imply any institutional position.”

The signatories have not been given the backing of their respective institutions in this matter. They are acting on their own behalf on this one.

Dr. Oz flashes the names of terrifying illnesses on the screen. He magnifies their claims and ignores the incredibly stringent standards any pesticide must meet to gain EPA approval.

Why would he do this? If you do not wish to simply refer to the first paragraph, consider what Dr. Oz said himself when testifying before Congress on some of the claims made on his show earlier this year.

“I actually do personally believe in the items which I talk about on the show. I passionately study them. I recognize that often times they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.”

Passionate or not, he clearly understands that what he says does not always pass for fact. He willingly creates panic and stress amongst those who place their trust in him. His credentials may have meant something once. Now, they seem sullied as he breaks his oath to “first do no harm” every time he misrepresents his program as factual advice provided by a caring doctor.

Together, let’s turn him off. Then, tell those we care about to do the same. Dr. Oz relies upon our complicity to promulgate his propaganda. Shutting him off will shut him down.

Food Fears and Avoidance

killer-tomatoesLast year, more people were killed by automobile accidents, heart attacks, lung cancer, and natural causes combined than by any one tomato. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

When you have plenty of food on the table, it’s easy for us in America to decide we want to avoid certain foods. I mean, lots of us may avoid things like Brussels sprouts or squid, for example. But there is a growing trend to cast certain categories of food or food ingredients out of our diets for a variety of reasons – weight loss being number one since just about any diet tends to cut out certain food segments. There are also a good percentage of people with serious food allergies or intolerances to things like shellfish, peanuts, gluten, lactose, sulfides or even strawberries that need to avoid them.

But there is a significant amount of the population that experts say are increasingly developing an unjustified fear of certain food ingredients, particularly genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Dr. David Just of Cornell University recently testified at a congressional hearing about biotechnology that many consumers are starting to adopt beliefs about GMOs with very little knowledge about them. “There’s a large and growing number of consumers that now stigmatize GMOs in the U.S.,” said Just. “Consumers associate GMOs primarily with some unidentifiable health risk.”

However, Just has done research that shows what happens once consumers understand the reasons for genetic modification. “When consumers are presented with direct explanations of the direct benefits they are much more willing to accept the technology,” said Just.

A study cited by Just
surveyed over 1,000 mothers about their attitudes towards high fructose corn syrup in an effort to determine what drives people to stigmatize certain food ingredients. Their primary findings were that some may overweigh the perceived risks of the avoided ingredient, and secondly, “some individuals who avoid ingredients may have a greater need for social approval among their reference group.” In other words, they may be doing it because it’s the trendy thing to do, not because they have any facts or knowledge to back them up.

Indicating perhaps that their beliefs are not strongly held, the study also found that “while HCFS Avoiders had negative attitudes toward HFCS, they were not willing to pay more (compared to non-avoiders) for products that were sweetened instead with table sugar.”

During his testimony, Just repeatedly commented that the industry needs to do a better job of communicating the benefits of biotechnology to consumers and goodness knows the industry is trying, but it still seems like it’s an uphill battle, since the most effective way of getting the message across seems to be one on one conversation. We all have a dog in this fight, so wherever you are – on the plane, in the store, in an elevator – start the conversation somehow and get the word out. We need to make it trendy and cool to support GMOs!

Marketing Magic

Yesterday, the Center for Consumer Freedom ran a story highlighting Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap’s verbal sleight of hand in promoting consumer information while clearly providing slightly deceptive details on its own products.

Reflecting upon the specifics of the situation, I got to thinking. The comments about Dr. Bronner’s could be applied to so many situations involving the marketing of both organic and non-GMO.

During a recent walk through the Barney’s cosmetic department in Chicago, a pale hipster accosted me ranting about the amazing non-GMO skincare line now available just to my left. Raving how exciting this addition was, he threw out a stream of inspiring, lofty adjectives to describe its virtues.

Confused as to why a non-GMO skincare line might yield superior results, I asked what he felt to be a terribly silly question from someone obviously unacquainted with the horrors of biotechnology.

Simply, how do GMO’s damage your skin?

Sputtering a stream of noncommittal, barely discernible propaganda, he claimed that everyone knew it was better. He had no clue as to why everyone came to this conclusion.

From picking up a bottle of magic soap to sinking serious cash into the clout-heavy, science-light scrubs, consumers feel pressured every day to pony up pretty sums for products developed with top notch marketing and second-rate science. Pressured to buy based on status instead of sound reason, we feel compelled to comply with something at its core based in capitalism and cloaked in the carefully-crafted, feel-good fallacies.

In the end, consumers get pick-pocketed by stylishly-clad, silver tongued shysters. We urge teens not to give in to peer pressure, not to be lemmings. Maybe, more adults should do the same.

Peer reviewed, sound scientific studies have shown repeatedly biotechnology and GMOs provide incredible environmental and, in the future, nutritional benefits while impacting people in the same way as non-GMOs.

Whether you slather it on your skin or sip it with a straw, someone will always try and spruce up a description to sell you on paying more for something just like you have had before. Think for yourself. Real facts show what is best for your physical and financial health.

Who Goes to CUTC and Why

cutc-14-novaset-burrisAs the name implies, the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference is a scientific and technical kind of meeting, which is organized every two years by the National Corn Growers Association with presentations focusing on the latest research, concepts and applications in the corn world.

A wide variety of people attend the event, such as Brian Burris with Novosep, a life sciences and biotechnology company with facilities all over the world. “I’m invested in the industry,” he said about why he attended the 2014 conference. He’s been to the conference before but not lately and was “looking for some intellectual stimulation and that objective was definitely fulfilled.”

As a chemist, Burris found this year’s focus on corn processing very interesting and he highly recommends the conference to anyone in the industry. Interview with Brian Burris, Novosep

2014 CUTC Photo Album



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