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GMOs Are 'Safe as Conventional Choices,' says Tufts Study

Ag Pro | Posted on October 24, 2016

Genetically modified foods should be considered “as safe as conventional choices,” according to Timothy Griffin, associate professor at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program.  Griffin and 20 other scientists reviewed 900 research publications and concluded in their 398-page report that “genetically engineered crops are as safe as conventionally grown crops.” The extensive two-year review found no apparent health risk or environmental impact of growing and consuming genetically modified crops. Most Americans are familiar with the term genetically modified, or GMOs. Many producers now mark their products with a “GMO-free” label. “Claiming that a food is made without GMOs doesn’t mean that particular food is healthy, and I think that’s where some consumers get hung up,” says  Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition and health education specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “I like to compare genetic modification of crops to vaccines for humans. In many cases, altering the genes helps the crops fight off certain diseases and pests. Without GMOs, we wouldn’t be able to produce this volume of food that feeds the world,” says Jill Scheidt, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Hormel sued again over ‘natural’ claims

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on October 24, 2016

A Florida man, on behalf of a class of consumers, has filed a lawsuit against Hormel Foods alleging that the company’s “100% Natural” and “No Preservatives” claims on its product labels are false and misleading, according to federal court documents. The lawsuit, filed Oct. 11 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Division, comes as the Food and Drug Administration mulls whether to formally regulate the term “natural,” which the agency now understands to be that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”

Clean coal: Firm claims world's first commercially viable, zero-carbon power plant is 'game changer'

Independent | Posted on October 24, 2016

A revolutionary technique to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations has been shown to work on a commercially viable basis for the first time, the company behind it has claimed.  If true, the breakthrough could allow coal to continue to be burned on a large scale around the world without producing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. A 10-megawatt power station in Chennai, India, is currently using CCSL’s system to generate electricity on a commercial basis while capturing some 97 per cent of its carbon emissions. CCSL says it developed a new solvent that makes the carbon capture process up to 66 per cent cheaper than traditional methods, costing $30 per tonne of carbon compared to $60 to $90.

Warning for US egg producers: Beware of free-range hens

Watt Ag Net | Posted on October 20, 2016

Glenrath Farms has a profitable egg business, one of the U.K.’s largest, whose hens lay around 1.5 million eggs per day. John Campbell, the company's chairman, told the audience at the United Egg Producers’ Annual Board Meeting & Executive Conference in Miami Beach, Florida, on October 18, “I strongly advise any egg producer to avoid free range. It (free-range rearing for hens) is a disaster waiting to happen.”  What makes these statements remarkable is the fact that Glenrath Farms has made a lot of money supplying free-range eggs to U.K. consumers. When asked about why his company got involved in free-range egg production, given Campbell’s opinion, he said, “We did it because we made a lot of money.” He explained that while free-range production can be very profitable, it requires a lot of small flocks which are very hard to manage. Giving the hens outdoor access increases disease risk, exposes them to predators and requires more labor and management.

In push for G.M.O.s, China battles fears of 8-legged chickens

NY Times | Posted on October 20, 2016

For many in China, the term “genetically modified food” evokes nightmares: poisoned seeds, contaminated fields, apocryphal images of eight-legged chickens.  China and the global agricultural industry are betting billions of dollars that they can change those perceptions. They are starting with farmers like Li Kaishun.  Mr. Li is an agricultural thought leader. The 39-year-old millet, corn and peanut farmer in China’s eastern Shandong Province quickly adopts new techniques to bolster production, such as mixing pesticides with his seeds before he plants them as a way to reduce overall pesticide use. He rents land from local farmers, giving him 100 acres in a country where the average farm takes up only one-quarter of an acre.  The next innovation he wants: genetically modified crops. That view appeals to DuPont, the American seed giant, which offers Mr. Li and his family discounts on seed, pesticides and fertilizers to cultivate those views.  Many Chinese officials see G.M.O. science as a way to bolster production in a country where large-scale farming is still uncommon — a legacy of the Communist Revolution, when land was stripped from landlords and given to peasants. China also hopes to better feed its growing and increasingly affluent population on its own. But even if China succeeds in building a vibrant industry, it has to persuade a frightened public that genetically modified food is not another Chinese food scandal in waiting.

New Jersey Has a Bold Plan to Turn Supermarket Food Waste Into Energy

Grub Street | Posted on October 20, 2016

A new proposal by Jersey lawmakers is poised to make the Garden State a serious player in the food-waste fight. Under a bill that’s moving through the legislature, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, and other establishments that produce considerable food waste (104 tons per year at first, then 52 tons after the first three years) would be required to separate and save all leftover scraps. These scraps would then be converted into renewable energy used to power homes, schools, and businesses statewide. In terms of design, the idea is similar to the new food-waste rules in New York City, but would obviously be for the entire state of New Jersey. As the bill is currently worded, so-called “large food-waste generators” located within 25 miles of an authorized waste-to-energy facility could either ship over their unused food, or pay a fine and continue heaping it onto the $160 billion food-trash pile Americans create every year. According to statistics, New Jersey also ranks fifth-worst in the nation in terms of renewable-energy generation, right next to Delaware and Rhode Island, so this bill could also finally give the state some mid-Atlantic bragging rights.

L.A. schools allow chocolate milk back in

Los Angeles Times | Posted on October 20, 2016

After a five-year drought, chocolate and strawberry milk are making their way back into public school lunchrooms in Los Angeles.   With a vote of 6 to 1, the Los Angeles Unified School District loosened a district-wide ban on sugary, flavored milk that took effect in 2011. The board approved a pilot program to study the effects of reintroducing flavored milk in a small group of schools, all of which must volunteer to take part in the experiment. t is not that board members believe children aren’t consuming enough sugar. Rather, the decision to re-examine milk offerings stemmed from concern that the district is throwing out an obscene amount of food — 600 tons of organic waste each day, according to a 2015 district study. Much of what’s being taken to the landfill is the plain milk that schools are encouraged by federal law to offer, but that students aren’t enthusiastically drinking.

Ag Groups Question Dannon on Sustainability

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on October 20, 2016

A group of farm organizations has sent a letter to officials at Dannon questioning the company’s pledge to be more sustainable. In April, Dannon announced a pledge to use fewer genetically modified ingredients, a goal that includes the feed given to milk producing cows. The pledge also vowed to label GMOs in its products by December 2017 and the ambition to offer products coming from a more sustainable agriculture. But six groups representing ag producers don’t see this as a sustainable goal at all. In the letter to Dannon President and CEO Mariano Lozano, the groups say this pledge would force farmers to abandon safe and scientifically backed farming practices. Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation says concerns about the impacts of GMO feed in the dairy supply are unfounded. “There’s no such thing as genetically modified milk just because a cow may consume corn or soybeans,” he said. “That actually has been very clear in the science, and the recent legislation signed into law by the President clarifies you don’t have biotech milk just because you have GMO grains that go into the cattle.” Galen says that pledges like Dannon’s are misleading to consumers.

Does the ‘consumer’ really want cage-free eggs?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on October 20, 2016

Former McDonald’s executive, Robert Langert, said: “Quality is redefined as feeling good about the food we eat.” He said the fast food giant shifted a few years ago from an operational focus to being customer driven, and adopting the cage-free purchase pledge fits into this focus on the customer. “No one is closer to the consumer than McDonald’s,” he said. Egg producers who questioned Langert didn’t agree with his assessment of what consumers want. These egg producers cited the fact that the vast majority of U.S. consumers pass up cage-free eggs in the retail case and purchase less expensive eggs produced by cage-housed hens. Cage-free egg production and sales in the U.S., including organic eggs, still represent only about 10 percent of the U.S. total. Langert either wasn’t able or willing to explain the real methodology that a consumer brand company goes through in evaluating what consumers want, but it is obvious it involves a lot more than just looking at current point-of-purchase decisions. Langert cited three megatrends that he said are shaping purchase decisions by companies like McDonald’s. Consumers want to know where there food comes from, how it is processed, and what ingredients are in it. To meet these three consumer requirements, Langert said food producers and processors need to figure out how to be transparent. He said food and agriculture companies are generally bad at this now.

Culvers mourns death of CEO, speaker at MLC summer conference

Journel Sentinel | Posted on October 20, 2016

Keiser died on Saturday of natural causes, the firm said. With his death, co-founder Craig Culver will take over as interim CEO until a successor is named.  Keiser would have turned 61 on Monday. Keiser worked for Culver's for more than 20 years and was a driving force in the chain's expansion, the company said. Since 1996, Culver's has grown from 44 restaurants to 580 spread across 24 states.  Almost all of the restaurants — known for its "Butter Burgers" and frozen custard — are franchises.