Corn Commentary

How to Write Like an Angry GMO Expert

judeDr. Jude Capper is a livestock sustainability consultant, professor of animal sciences, and a “bovidiva” according to her blog of the same name.

Last week she did a great post entitled “Activism 101 – How to Write Like An Angry Internet “Expert” on GMOs.” An asterisk after the word “expert” points to a footnote:

*Note that being an “expert” does not involve education, higher degrees or being employed within the industry in question. Nowadays you can only be an expert if you are entirely impartial, third-party, and preferably know nothing whatsoever about the system in question. On that basis, I’m off to write a book about Zen Dentistry.

She offers nine points on how to write like an angry GMO expert, the final one being – “If all else fails, invoke the name of the evil that must be named….ahem, Monsanto. If you say it three times into a mirror, an ancient agricultural god will appear and wreak vengeance upon the earth. Honestly, I saw it on Oprah.”

Jude is hilarious, satirical, and often outrageous and if so much of this blog post were not sadly true it would be a lot funnier.

Read it and weep or LOL – or both.

Oil Survey Shows Ethanol Is Clearly A Target

What was the second biggest policy story of the year in eyes of the petroleum industry? According to a recent membership survey by the American Petroleum Institute reconsidering biofuel (ethanol) blending. What was the second biggest transportation, storage and refining story of the year? The battle over biofuels blending. And what was listed 2nd on oil’s list of things they most want to see happen in 2014? Yep, reduction in EPA blending requirements.

Most of the public are too focused on their jobs, raising families and just paying the bills to have a deep understanding of the growing role of biofuels and renewable ethanol in our nation. However, years of education by supporters of the domestic fuel have generated a basic awareness of ethanol’s benefits such as job creation, reducing greenhouse gas, and providing a fuel choice that makes us less reliant on imported petroleum.

Because of this hard fought and well deserved perception that ethanol is good, many of my friends have been asking me lately what the heck is going on with the rash of negative information related to ethanol. How did proven ethanol suddenly become a bad idea over night? Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol to be blended in our fuel supply has been getting a lot of media attention.

Put simply, the oil industry has always been ok with ethanol as long as the market share didn’t get too large. In fact they need a certain amount of ethanol because it allows them to provide a high octane product at less cost…meaning more margin for them. Without ethanol they would be forced to do more extensive and costly refining in order to produce a product that won’t leave your car sputtering curbside.

But in today’s market things have changed. Increasing domestic oil production, more fuel efficient vehicles and a soft economy have shrunk the volume of fuel needed. Thus big oil finds themselves looking at the bigger market slice on ethanol’s plate and thinks “hey we want some of that back.”

The unspoken part of the previous statement is “and yes we will pay nicely to get it.” And they have done so in recent years. Their most recent onslaught has been sustained by millions of dollars of lobbying, advertising and poor pseudo-journalism.

You might be inclined to think the family farmers and independent businessmen that make up the ethanol industry are just paranoid but given the aforementioned high priority petroleum has placed on this issue, “it ain’t paranoia if they’re really out to get ya.”

 

Journal to Retract Seralini Rat Study

Today, Corn Commentary shares a guest post that originally ran on The Farmers Life. This blog, authored by Indiana farmer Brian, provides a window into ag and thoughtful, open conversation about the issues impacting farmers today.

Journal to Retract Seralini Rat Study

Last year French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini made news when a paper by his team was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.  Data concerning long-term feeding of genetically modified Monsanto corn and the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) in the Seralini study suggested the rats being studied developed cancerous tumors.  Of course this news spread around the internet like wildfire among those who detest biotech crops.  Finally they had a really high profile study published proving their point.

Criticism of Seralini Study

The scientific community widely criticized the study’s statistical methods.  The number of rats used was questionable, and the data drawn from test and control groups seemed incomplete at best. Test groups of Harlan Sprague-Dawley rats used in the feeding study were given various amounts of NK603 corn over a two-year period.  Test subjects were also given varying amounts of glyphosate in drinking water.  Control rats received non-GM corn and regular drinking water.  Rats fed GMO corn and glyphosate developed tumors during their two-year life span, and pictures of tumor riddled rats plagued the internet.

Seralini rats as described by scientist Kevin Folta. “Sometimes the way data are presented can expose the relative objectivity and hidden intent of a study. Left-rat that ate GMO corn. Center- rat eating GMO corn and roundup. Right- rat fed roundup. Their associated tumors shown on the right. Wait! What about the control rats, the ones that also got tumors? How convenient to leave them out!”

Seralini rats as described by scientist Kevin Folta. “Sometimes the way data are presented can expose the relative objectivity and hidden intent of a study. Left-rat that ate GMO corn. Center- rat eating GMO corn and roundup. Right- rat fed roundup. Their associated tumors shown on the right. Wait! What about the control rats, the ones that also got tumors? How convenient to leave them out!”

But what about the control rats?  They developed tumors as well.  Sprague-Dawley rats are known to develop tumors during their lifespan. In fact a majority of them are known to do so within two years.  Further analysis of Seralini’s data shows rats fed NK603 corn and Roundup-laced water sometimes had less incidence of tumors than the control group.  Shouldn’t that bit of information thrown up some red flags possibly before the study was originally published inFood and Chemical Toxicology?  Flags were thrown for and by many scientists, and now the tables are turning as the editor of the journal, A. Wallace Hayes, stated this week he would retract the paper from the journal if Seralini did not withdraw it himself.

When I first heard news of Seralini’s study in 2012 I was skeptical as you might imagine.  Livestock have been fed GM corn and soybeans for almost 20 years now.  If it was so awful as to cause all the ailments claimed by those who seem to pander to anti-GMO sentiment I think it stands to reason that farmers would have backed off the stuff long ago.  But that kind of logic doesn’t fit the narrative of GMO = Bad.  The Seralini paper was, and likely still is, validation for those who were predisposed to interpret it as definitive proof that biotechnology should be outlawed.

Seralini Going Forward

Although I am glad to see this fear mongering study being pulled from publication I’m afraid the damage has already been done.  And if you’re a GMO hater you can still easily feel like you’ve won.  I’ve already seen the internet gearing up to portray the retraction as a result of great pressure applied to the journal by Big Ag and the politicians supposedly paid off by industry money.  People who believe such narratives don’t have to change their minds when new information comes to light.  Even if the old information was questionable to begin.  All they need do is move the goal post.  Kevin Folta agrees “we’ll see the wagons circle“ while suggesting steps for Seralini to take since he is standing behind his team’s research.

Science is a process, and I’m happy the process is working.

To view the original post, click here.

Corn Oil Loves Your Heart

A new study shows that corn oil is better than extra virgin olive oil when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

corn-oil-heartThe findings were presented recently at the American Society for Nutrition’s Advances & Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference by lead researcher, Dr. Kevin C Maki with Biofortis, the clinical research arm of Merieux NutriSciences.

“The study results suggest corn oil has significantly greater effects on blood cholesterol levels than extra virgin olive oil, due, in part, to the natural cholesterol-blocking ability of plant sterols,” said Dr. Maki. “These findings add to those from prior research supporting corn oil’s positive heart health benefits.”

Corn oil has four times more plant sterols than olive oil and 40 percent more than canola oil. To the extent that plant sterols play a part in reducing blood cholesterol levels, they could have an important role in a heart healthy diet.

Corn oil is also better for your pocketbook, by far, and no research is necessary to tell you that. The average price for a gallon of corn oil is about $10, while a gallon of extra virgin olive oil will run you $30 or more. Love your heart and your wallet at the same time!

Harvest in the Bin

2013 corn harvestThe 2013 harvest is considered completed at this point and the overall consensus is that it was a strange year that turned out well in the end.

Lance Honig with USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service says it looks especially good compared to 2012. “Last year with the extreme drought, we’d be hard pressed not to be above last year,” he said, adding that the growing season this year was certainly different than last year but no more normal. “What is normal these days? Nobody knows what a normal is.”

Despite all the challenges that faced farmers this season, the nation’s corn crop is on track to be a record high 14 billion bushels, according to the November crop production forecast, which was the final one of the season. “So the next report will be the final end-of-season numbers coming out January 10,” said Honig. NASS is beginning the process this week of surveying some 80,000 farmers for that report “so we can capture that actual harvest information from them.”

Leah Guffey interviewed Lance at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual Trade Talk last month: Interview with Lance Honig, USDA-NASS

Found this YouTube video from Cross Implement in central Illinois using Luke Bryan’s Harvest Time to help celebrate this special time of year!

Chick-Fil-A Makes a Bitter Blunder

Chick-Fil-A announced that, like so many others before it, the company will make the myth-based marketing maneuver to remove high fructose corn syrup from its sauce. Instead of standing for sound science and maintaining the current quality of its astoundingly popular products, these big chickens have bowed to the bogus peer pressure cited by brands when hitching their image to the anti-HFCS hype.

As Corn Commentary has pointedly examined so many times before, all sweeteners, whether they come from cane, corn or beet, are equally safe when consumed in moderation. No reputable research proves HFCS poses additional problems. No well-informed person would believe the haters’ hype after thoughtfully dissecting the data.

Yet Chick-Fil-A portends the play to be a result of consumer concerns. Whether their marketing mavens foolishly fell for the sugar industries’ self-interested simulation of actual angst or they generated the faux fears to mask the fatty truth, Chick-Fil-A is slipping on the Spanx and donning the holier-than-thou anti-HFCS halo to make itself more attractive.

Let’s show them that consumers won’t fall for their mock makeover. Tweet @ChickfilA today letting to let them know that American diners won’t be duped. Just because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t sweeten their sauce with HFCS their profits won’t grow fatter. #BitterBlunder.

Oil Giants Lining Pocket in Wake of EPA Announcement

If you happen to be an ethanol proponent and you get asked by friends over the holiday what all the hub-bub is about related to the Environmental Protection Agency and their recent ethanol snub, just tell them to follow the money.

You see the stock values of four of the five biggest oil companies surged by a combined $23 billion in a single day after the Obama administration proposed to scale back the biofuel blending requirements, according to Americans United for Change.

“Big Oil hit the jackpot, but we are risking a huge slowdown in the development of next generation biofuels that are our best hope for reducing America’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil,” said Brad Woodhouse, the group’s president.

It almost appears that the administration is succumbing to the pressure and millions of dollars spent by big oil to slander ethanol in order to avoid another self-inflicted political wound, said one Washington insider. “Obamacare is too white hot for them to risk another hot potato and the petroleum industry made a lot of noise in Congress. The only way to overturn this EPA proposed action is to make them equally uncomfortable.”

In the interim one unavoidable fact remains in the favor of ethanol proponents…the Renewable Fuels Standard was designed by Congress to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and give consumers a fuel choice. It has done that nicely and created jobs and saved consumers money in the process.

It has honestly been awhile since the nation’s family farmers who grow corn have been in a political gunfight of this magnitude, but this is a fight worth winning. Corn prices below the cost of production should provide a powerful incentive. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead and be prepared to take action when the time comes.

In Defense of the RFS

defend-rfsAgainst a backdrop of golden distillers grains, a parade of speakers from state and federal government leaders to local corn farmers and ethanol plant owners spoke out Friday in Iowa against the EPA proposal to lower the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014.

“The EPA proposal for 2014 guts the RFS which would lead to higher gasoline prices and lower farm income,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw at the “Protect the RFS” event held at Lincolnway Energy near Nevada, Iowa..

“The federal government made a commitment to renewable energy, and the EPA is undermining the commitment,” said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). “All of us who support homegrown, clean-burning energy and forward-thinking energy policy need to speak out and let the Administration know that its proposal is short-sighted and irresponsible.”

“We all need to stand together in opposition to this EPA proposal,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who started a website and petition drive ProtectTheRFS.com.

Others who spoke at the Iowa RFS Coalition event included Congressman Steve King, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and former National Corn Growers Association president Bill Northey, Iowa Corn Growers Association President Roger Zylstra, Lincolnway Energy CEO Eric Hakmiller, Absolute Energy CEO Rick Schwarck, among others.

The EPA publicly announced the proposal on November 15, but it has yet to be published in the Federal Register, which must be done before comments can be submitted. What has been published in the Federal Register is a notice for a public hearing to be held on the proposal Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. “The event will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end when all parties present who wish to speak have had the opportunity to do so.” This could be a very long hearing.

In World of Polluters Oil Has No Rivals

oil & $100 billThey call it black gold and Texas Tea but I prefer to call it environmental anathema; that rare combination of disgrace and abomination.  Better that than using the words that I would like to use that got my mouth washed out with soap as a child.

Ok, Thanksgiving is almost upon us so I want to purge a little bile so I will enjoy the day a little more. What better target than Big Oil?

You know, those heavily subsidized global scale polluters who control…I mean contribute to every politician to make sure they have their bases covered. Well after an announcement today, I guess we will see how well their “investment” pays off.

It seems gas and oil are almost singlehandedly responsible for the bulk of all the man-made global warming emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Chevron, Exxon and BP are among the companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, according to a new analysis.

The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

I have always been a big fan of irony but this week takes the cake.  It seemed bizarre that earlier this week EPA announced their proposal to significantly weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard, reducing the volume of renewable fuels like ethanol for 2014; thus making us even more dependent on oil.

Odd that an agency with “Environment” in their name would turn away from a program that has cut emissions of greenhouse gas by 110 million metric tons, making it one of the most successful programs in the EPA arsenal. This is the equivalent of taking more than 20 million vehicles off the road.

Now it will get even more interesting to see how this same administration that purports to be on a crusade to fight greenhouse gases will deal with Big Oil now that the emperor has no clothes.

 

 

 

Classic + Ag Connect = Really Big Show

nafb13-aem-classicWith corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum growers all part of the Commodity Classic, who thought it could get any bigger?

But it will definitely be bigger in 2016 when Classic joins forces with AG CONNECT expo to become what may well be the biggest farm show on Earth.

“2016 will be the opening salvo into a new bigger, better,” said 2014 Commodity Classic chair Rob Elliott of Illinois. “The synergy aspect of it could be fairly significant.”

I talked with Rob at the NAFB Trade Talk about the partnership for 2016, as well as what is in store for 2014 in San Antonio and a little bit about this season on his farm near Monmouth, Illinois. Interview with Rob Elliott, NCGA

Sara Mooney, AG CONNECT show director with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, says there are lots of details to work out in the next two years, but they are really excited. “The producers that attended AG CONNECT and our exhibitors and other stakeholders are really going to find that this combined event is really greater than its two parts alone,” she said. “More technology, more engagement with the whole ag community, more experts to talk to, more industry leaders – just more of that quality experience.”

Listen to my interview with Sara here: Interview with Sara Mooney, AEM

2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album



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