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New York PTA’s proposed bans on GMOs, milk from rBST-treated cows flunk science

Genetic Literacy Project | Posted on September 22, 2016

Is it really possible that New York State will ban school kids from eating sweet corn grown almost completely without insecticides and free from brain-damaging mycotoxins?  From time to time, elected boards of education and similar organizations have proposed some science-defying stances; resolutions against teaching evolution and accepting climate change stand out historically. Now, the New York State Parent Teacher Association (NY PTA) has earned an “F” in science 101 with proposals that would ban foods made using genetically engineering or that contain GE ingredients. To make things worse, the PTA is also urging a ban on dairy products produce with recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST, also known as rBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone). "New York State PTA supports legislation and regulations that ban GMOs and GE foods from use in food and beverages provided by school meal programs and vending services, and be it further that until such ban is in effect, all school districts be encouraged to prohibit the use of foods and beverages that contain GMOs and GE foods provided by the school meal programs and vending services." The PTA also called for warning labels on any milk or other dairy product produced using recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBST. This hormone exists naturally in cows, and injecting the cows with rBST, which is genetically engineered to be chemically identical to “wild type” BST, significantly increases production of milk. This makes dairy farming more productive and reduces the environmental impacts of cows (fewer cows makes the same amount of milk).

FDA seeks comment on antimicrobial use in animal feed

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 20, 2016

Agency requests information on how to establish appropriate durations of use for therapeutic products The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is entering the next phase of its efforts to mitigate antimicrobial resistance by focusing for the first time on medically important antimicrobials (i.e., those important for treating human disease) used in animal feed or water that have at least one therapeutic indication without a defined duration of use. As the agency completes its work to implement changes under Guidance for Industry #213, which will, once fully implemented, limit the use of these drugs to therapeutic-only use under the oversight of a veterinarian, it is now turning its attention to ways to address those antimicrobials that may be legally used in food animals for no defined length of time.

Natural chickens, natural eggs don't exist

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 20, 2016

In reality, there is nothing “natural” as people imagine. Why do chickens and eggs have to be any different? Neither chickens, nor hens, corn, soybeans, the ground itself are as they were in the idyllic past.Groups and individuals are looking for natural foods, with no processing, no chemicals, no genetic modifications, cage-free eggs, slow growth chickens, organic chickens and a long etcetera.However, humans have always processed foods. Although made with "natural" products, jams, bread or a bowl of rice have all undergone a process. And when our ancestors were adding vinegar to preserve foods, a chemical was added: acetic acid.On the other hand, when humans stopped being nomadic and agriculture was born, the selection of plants and animals with the best features began. Therefore, genetic modification and manipulation also started. We have modified everything, as Luque said.

Responsible use in poultry rather than antibiotic-free

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 20, 2016

Dr. Peter Spring, of the Bern University of Applied Sciences, said striving for responsible antibiotic use may be a better strategy than going 100 percent antibiotic-free. With its decade-old ban on growth-promoting antibiotics, the European experience may provide some insights for American poultry producers ahead of the imposition of the United States’ own rule changes on antibiotic use.  While the continent switched its production practices, not every country established a robust program to monitor treatment of animals, use of certain medications and development of anti-microbial resistance. In 2008, two years after the EU ban on all antibiotic-growth promoters, The European Commission – the EU’s executive body -- asked for harmonization of surveillance programs for collecting data on antimicrobial sales and usage.  Spring said monitoring programs are important to understanding how well the antibiotic bans are actually effecting the level of treatment birds are receiving and help health officials and farmers know who’s using what. Additionally, the monitoring programs help determine whether antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance are linked.  Spring said producers felt like the 2006 ban meant they were safe from resistance issues, but antimicrobial resistance actually increased in the years following the ban. The development of monitoring programs throughout Europe was needed to get a better grasp on what may be contributing to the resistance problem. Not having the monitoring systems set up when the ban was enacted was a mistake, he said.  Denmark is often mentioned in studies about European antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance because the country established a monitoring program before many of its peers, he said.  Many other countries have followed the Danish example since then.

Survey shows how food standards differ by generations

Feedstuffs | Posted on September 20, 2016

It’s no secret that Millennials are changing the food and nutrition landscape, but Baby Boomers have their own set of unique ideas about what they want on their plate.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation recently dug deep into what Boomers think about food and nutrition in the “2016 Food & Health Survey” and found that perceptions of the healthfulness of certain foods vary dramatically among generations, especially between Boomers versus Millennials.  The survey revealed that Boomers look for different health benefits from their food compared to other generations, particularly Millennials, according to the survey results. They are also more likely than Millennials to be interested in health benefits associated with foods such as weight management, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to be interested in benefits of mental health, muscle health and immunity associated with foods.  “IFIC’s consumer research continues to provide valuable insights into consumer perceptions on a number of issues related to food and nutrition,” said Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer of the IFIC Foundation. “These results further show how diet is not ‘one size fits all.’ This is especially apparent across the generations.”  Boomers showed a distinct definition of a healthy eating style compared to other generations. The survey found that Boomers are more likely than the general population (32% versus 22%) to define a healthy eating style by moderation/serving size and portions. Additionally, Boomers are more likely than Millennials (30% versus 17%) to define a healthy eating style as including certain foods they consider healthy.

How many unsolved foodbourne illnesses occurred today?

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on September 20, 2016

Because I am a food industry attorney, my reputation is invariably tied to the successes and failures of the food industry as a whole.  And, as a result, I tend to care deeply how the industry is doing.  What I have learned over the last decade is that, whether we choose to accept it or not, there are a lot of food companies, every day, that are selling products that are making people sick.  Just look, for instance, at the growing list of recent examples which include Blue Bell, Dole, General Mills and CRF.  In each of these examples, the companies involved were selling foods that had become unknowingly and intermittently contaminated with pathogens over long periods of time.  While some companies, like the examples I just cited, are eventually associated with resulting illnesses, the vast majority escape detection.  We now know it’s happening because, as a result of PulseNet, we can watch it happening. While this system has allowed the government to solve many high-profile outbreaks over the last 20 years (linking consumers sickened by a pathogen sharing a common DNA strain to a single food product), the vast majority of foodborne illnesses uploaded into the PulsenNet database remain unsolved. What this means is that, every year, there are a large number of food companies that are unknowingly processing and distributing foods that are contaminated with pathogens which are making people sick.

JBS and Marfrig send first batches of fresh beef to U.S.

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on September 20, 2016

The three main beef producing companies in Brazil -- JBS, Marfrig and Minerva – have received authorization to start exporting fresh beef to the United States this month, the first shipments since the North American market was formally opened to Brazilian exporters in August. Brazil is allowed to export up to 64,000 metric tons of fresh beef to the United States per year, competing in a quota with other Latin American countries. The expectation is that Brazilian exporters can occupy much of this quota, since the volume was never fully reached by the other competing countries, according to Marfrig.

Food Critics Should Be More Transparent About Transparency

Huffington Post | Posted on September 19, 2016

Critics who intentionally disregard the progress toward greater transparency only serve to discourage it by refusing to give credit where credit is due. So, I encourage food system critics to be transparent about genuine progress among food producers just as I encourage producers who haven’t yet embraced transparency to build on the positive momentum. There is no denying the ability of transparency to increase consumer trust.

Is It a GMO or Not?

Pacific Standard | Posted on September 19, 2016

A new generation of genetically modified organisms will be genetically indistinguishable from non-GMOs.  There are many potentially useful genetic modifications that scientists can now make to crops and livestock that don’t involve adding foreign genes, however. An example of this kind of next-generation genetic engineering wasrecently published by the small, Minnesota-based biotechnology companyRecombinetics. Scientists at the company created hornless dairy cows by using genetic engineering to put a naturally occurring bovine mutation into a normally horned cattle breed. How should we define what counts as a GMO — do we care about the process used to create them, or simply the end result? Second, GMOs clearly can be used to address important ethical and environmental problems in agriculture that are difficult to tackle by other means. As the technology gets better and less expensive, more companies will design GMOs to solve these problems, especially small companies that aspire to achieve some social good. That means choosing whether or not to eat a GMO won’t be as simple as deciding whether to avoid food with foreign genes produced by Big Agriculture. Sometimes, GMOs might be an ethical choice.

Opinion: Agriculture should dig deep into social purpose

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 19, 2016

While purpose-driven organizations can't be manufactured and must be rooted in authenticity, there are tools to help define an organizational purpose. In our view, there could be no better sector suited for purpose-driven planning than agriculture. After all, food - healthy and sustainable food - is the foundation not only for health and wellness, but also for allowing people and societies at large to thrive. Add to that a growing food culture, and the opportunity is ripe for purpose-driven food and agriculture organizations.