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Agriculture News

Salmon open flood gates for human consumption of GM animals

Financial Times | Posted on December 9, 2017

When it was revealed over the summer that genetically modified salmon was now being sold in Canada, the backlash from anti-GM environmental groups was fierce. The source of the stink was a two-line disclosure in the quarterly earnings of AquaBounty Technologies, a US biotech company, which stated it had sold a small amount of its AquAdvantage salmon. Engineered to grow at twice the rate of regular salmon, it is also believed to be the first example of a genetically engineered animal bred and sold for human consumption. The road to market has certainly been a long one. AquaBounty won approval to sell in Canada in 2016 after a six-year wait. But obtaining the green light from regulators is only one part of the story. Many consumer and environmental groups remain outright opposed to GM salmon being sold at all. Although the AquAdvantage salmon are all sterile, a common concern is that fertile GM species could escape into the wild and hurt natural species by interbreeding or beating them in the competition for resources.

The real question on NAFTA and agriculture

The Hill | Posted on December 7, 2017

The disruption of NAFTA withdrawal could affect family farmers on both sides of the border. Under WTO rules, Mexico has the right to raise tariffs substantially on many farm goods. The U.S. has mostly committed to lower tariff ceilings, but there are some exceptions, such as imports of red meat, for which the U.S. currently applies a 18 percent tariff on imports from non-NAFTA countries. However, both countries could decide to apply tariff rates (which would apply to all trading partners) that are much lower than the ceilings they have committed to under the global trade rules.


Low food prices are hurting farm state economies

Wall Street Journal | Posted on December 7, 2017

South Dakota and Iowa are the only two states in the country where gross domestic product fell in the second quarter. Ultra-low crop and livestock prices stemming from a global oversupply have squeezed farm incomes, pulling down Iowa’s GDP 0.7% and South Dakota’s 0.3% from the prior quarter.Elsewhere, low farm prices dented growth in 23 other states but not enough to tip them into decline, the Commerce Department said in a recent report. Overall, U.S. GDP advanced 2.8% nationwide during the same period. (These GDP figures exclude federal military and civilian activity located overseas, making the U.S. tally slightly lower than the more widely reported 3.1% growth rate for the second quarter.)Despite low prices, farmers in the U.S. and globally keep producing, suggesting that agriculture will continue to weigh on economies across the Great Plains and other states that are disproportionately dependent on farming and ranching for growth.

California extends vote on dairy quota program

Capital Press | Posted on December 7, 2017

The department has sent out 1,054 ballots, and only 400 had been returned before the deadline was extended from Dec. 4 to Dec. 22. At least 51 percent of eligible producers must vote to advance a stand-alone quota program if California joins the federal milk marketing order system.

Some Idaho milk producers lose contracts

Capital Press | Posted on December 7, 2017

Increasing milk production and buyers’ inability to continue to move excess milk out of state is expected to reduce Idaho’s dairy herd by 10,000 cows in the next few months.he cause is an increase in milk supply and the inability of buyers to continue to move any oversupply to surrounding states because of high costs. Buyers have done that in the past to balance markets during the peak production period of spring through fall, he said.The bottom line is that even without a significant increase in cow numbers, dairymen’s efficiency in turning feed to milk continues to increase milk production per cow. Idaho is now at a point where increasing milk supply is forcing dairy farmers to sell off cows, he said.

13 states launch new legal challenge to California egg law

Capital Press | Posted on December 7, 2017

More than a dozen states banded together Monday to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a California law requiring any eggs sold there to come from hens that have space to stretch out in their cages. In a lawsuit filed directly to the high court, the states allege that California’s law has cost consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually because of higher egg prices since it took effect in 2015. The lawsuit argues that California’s requirements violate the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and are pre-empted by federal law.

Everything you need to know about CRISPR gene editing

WIRED | Posted on December 7, 2017

Biology has undergone a seismic shift as researchers around the globe have embraced a revolutionary technology called gene editing. It involves the precise cutting and pasting of DNA by specialized proteins—inspired by nature, engineered by researchers. But it’s Crispr, with its elegant design and simple cell delivery, that’s most captured the imagination of scientists. They’re now using it to treat genetic diseases, grow climate-resilient crops, and develop designer materials, foods, and drugs.When people refer to Crispr, they're probably talking about Crispr-Cas9, a complex of enzymes and genetic guides that together finds and edits DNA. But Crispr on its own just stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats—chunks of regularly recurring bits of DNA that arose as an ancient bacterial defense system against viral invasions.

Are the anti-GMO and anti-vaccine movements merging?

Cornell | Posted on December 7, 2017

Visit the March Against Monsanto website and you'll see a strange ad peppering the pages, among the usual dubious stories about the evils of Monsanto, GMOs, pesticides and so on. It's an advert for a "docu-series" called Vaccines Revealed, claiming that it is "Exposing the biggest public health experiment... ever!". Click through and you'll be confronted with typical anti-vaccine conspiracist propaganda, alleging sinister corporate "experiments," huge damage done to so-called "vaccine injured" people, and entreaties not to go around "blindly jabbing lab made cocktails into our bodies." This ad is no accident — March Against Monsanto now carries explicitly anti-vaccine stories on its site.What struck me about Vaccines Revealed in particular was the list of so-called experts featured in the documentary. Here, sandwiched between lead anti-vaxxers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Andrew Wakefield (of MMR-autism infamy), is Stephanie Seneff, listed as a Senior Research Scientist, MIT. )The most influential anti-GMO group in the US, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), has also been directly involved in anti-vaccine campaigning. Earlier this year, OCA — alongside anti-vaxxer groups the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, the Minnesota Natural Health Coalition and the Minnesota Vaccine Freedom Coalition — organized a meeting targeting Somali-Americans in the state, among whom vaccination rates have plunged.According to National Public Radio, the activities of OCA and other anti-vaccine groups have led directly to a resurgence of measles among the Somali-American community. The measles outbreak resulted from myths spread by OCA and other groups about vaccines supposedly causing autism. As the Washington Post reported, discredited doctor Wakefield was another of those featured at events in the state. Wakefield's theories about MMR vaccine and autism have led to a worldwide resurgence in preventable childhood diseases, leading inevitably to the deaths of some young children.

FDA Releases Annual Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2016 for Use in Food-Producing Animals

FDA | Posted on December 7, 2017

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published its annual report summarizing sales and distribution data for all antimicrobial drugs approved for use in food-producing animals. The 2016 report shows that antimicrobial sales decreased from 2015 to 2016, with domestic sales and distribution of all antimicrobials decreasing by 10 percent and domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials decreasing by 14 percent. In previous years (between 2009 and 2015), overall sales volumes increased annually.

Coping with fire loss, looking for solutions

Capital Press | Posted on December 7, 2017

The owner of one small ranch in Washington state is trying to educate firefighters on the value of rangeland and change policy that allows them to disregard it.Like many ranchers throughout the West, Molly Linville is trying to recover from a horrific fire season, but she’s also is trying to change how firefighters view rangeland and a state wildfire policy that allows them to let it burn.“Firefighters look out here and they don’t see anything. It’s wasteland in their minds. I thought they didn’t care. I said I lost everything and I got blank looks. What I’ve learned is they literally don’t understand the value of rangeland,” says Linville, 42, who operates the 6,000-acre KV Ranch, mostly by herself while her husband works overseas.