Biotech critics are calling on Oregon lawmakers to overturn a prohibition against local government restrictions on genetically engineered crops because statewide regulations haven't been enacted. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature passed a law that preempted cities and counties from setting their own rules over seeds, which blocked most local ordinances banning genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Groups that opposed the preemption bill say state inaction since then has justified the passage of House Bill 2469, which would carve out an exemption allowing local GMO regulations.
There’s an economic argument to limiting immigration to the U.S.: Cut down on the supply of foreign labor and wages will improve for native-born Americans. But new research shows the equation isn’t that simple. A team of economists looked at the mid-century “bracero” program, which allowed nearly half a million seasonal farm workers per year into the U.S. from Mexico. The Johnson administration terminated the program in 1964, creating a large-scale experiment on labor supply and demand. The result wasn’t good news for American workers. Instead of hiring more native-born Americans at higher wages, farmers automated, changed crops or reduced production.
Cargill Inc. said it plans to spend $2.7 million (C$3.5 million) to expand and upgrade its beef facility in Guelph, Ont., where the company processes 1,500 head of cattle each day. The Ontario government will supplement the cost of the expansion project by contributing about $442,000 (C$582,000), a move that Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said will help the province remain competitive, according to a release from the agency. The Cargill project also is expected to help maintain the 1,600 local jobs at the plant west of Toronto.
Researchers from China’s Northwest A&F University used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to create 11 cows whose added genes made them resistant to a TB-causing bacterium. Throughout various experiments, including real-world exposure to the germ, the TB-proof cows lived up to their name. They showed fewer signs of infection and less bacterial growth than a control bovine group. And in a move that could have even bigger implications for the development of gene-editing in animals and humans alike, nine of the cows were bred using a newer form of CRISPR that the researchers said reduced the risk of side effects like unintentional genetic mutations.
The planting of a new experimental crop of genetically modified (GM) wheat will take place this spring after the UK government gave the final go ahead. The GM wheat has been engineered to use sunlight more efficiently and has boosted greenhouse yields by up to 40%. Researchers in Hertfordshire now want to see if they can replicate these gains in the field.
A new audit that potato growers some growers will complete this season seeks to provide a common standard for sustainability. A small number of U.S. growers were picked last season for a trial run with the new Potato Sustainability Audit. This season, the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America will roll out the audit on a large scale. Growers doing business with major potato buyers — including Lamb Weston, J.R. Simplot, McCain Foods, Cavendish Farms, Basic American Foods, McDonald’s and Sysco — will be asked to complete a 104-question survey assessing the sustainability of their operations. Twenty percent of growers surveyed will be audited in person. During the audit, growers will be asked for more in-depth explanations and records pertaining to 13 mandatory questions from the list and 27 optional questions of the auditor’s choice. Based on performance, growers will be ranked as basic, steward, master or expert.
Russia plans to ban temporarily imports of beef and beef products from New Zealand from Feb. 6 after finding the feed additive ractopamine in some samples, Russia's agriculture safety watchdog said. The watchdog, known as Rosselkhoznadzor in Russian, said it was also considering banning fish imports from New Zealand due to traces of mercury in some supplies. New Zealand is not covered by a wider ban on most Western food imports which Moscow introduced in 2014 in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Swiss pesticides and seeds group Syngenta (SYNN.S) pushed back the expected closure of its agreed $43 billion takeover by ChemChina [CNNCC.UL] to the second quarter of 2017, but said it was making progress in winning regulatory approval for the deal. The transaction is important for China, the world's largest agricultural market, which is looking to Syngenta's portfolio of chemicals and patent-protected seeds to help bolster food supplies for its huge population.
Former chicken farmers in five states have filed a federal lawsuit accusing a handful of giant poultry processing companies that dominate the industry of treating farmers who raise the chickens like indentured servants and colluding to fix prices paid to them. The farmers located in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas allege that the contract grower system created by Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, Koch Foods, and Sanderson Farms pushed them deep into debt to build and maintain chicken barns to meet company demands. They say the companies colluded to fix farmer compensation at low levels to boost corporate profits, making it difficult for the farmers to survive financially. They are seeking class action status for the suit filed in federal court in Muskogee, Oklahoma
The Farm Belt is hurtling toward a milestone: Soon there will be fewer than two million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase. Across the heartland, a multiyear slump in prices for corn, wheat and other farm commodities brought on by a glut of grain world-wide is pushing many farmers further into debt. Some are shutting down, raising concerns that the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s. The U.S. share of the global grain market is less than half what it was in the 1970s. American farmers’ incomes will drop 9% in 2017, the Agriculture Department estimates, extending the steepest slide since the Great Depression into a fourth year. “You keep pinching and pinching and pretty soon there’s nothing left to pinch,” said Craig Scott, a fifth-generation farmer in this Western Kansas town. Farming has always been a boom-and-bust enterprise. Today, the swings are sharper and less predictable now that the farm economy has become more international, with more countries growing food for export as well as for their own populations. American farmers’ share of the global grain trade has fallen from 65% in the mid-1970s to 30% today, giving them less sway over prices. More producers and more buyers around the world also mean more potential disruptions from bad weather, famine or political crisis.