What if our newest invasive species is one that started in the lab and was unleashed on an unsuspecting world despite abundant warnings from scientists and others? And what if it is not even really “natural” to begin with? And what if this new invasive species, once liberated from a controlled setting, became even more potent and more persistent in the wild? Then you would be talking about genetically modified (GM) canola, which according to a report presented Friday at the Ecological Society of America, is now growing in the wild and is busily evolving into a plant that will outstrip our best efforts to contain it. It also has the potential to cross-pollinate and swap genes with other non-GM wild plants. More than 83% of the wild canola tested by researchers traveling through North Dakota tested positive for GM genes. But this is what’s really terrifying: some of the plants tested positive for resistance to both glyphosphate (Roundup) and glusfosinate (Liberty). Commercial GM canola is resistant to either Roundup or Liberty, not both. The dual resistance evolved in the wild, after the plants had escaped. The wild canola is doing what living things do—mutating and selecting for traits that will best ensure its survival. And all without our help.
In 2007, a group of hog farmers banded together to pool their resources and build markets for their high-quality pork products and the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association was born. Currently made up of 25 hog farmers, the group decided to make being Animal Welfare Approved a centerpiece of their production practices.
“The Animal Welfare Approved label tells our retailers and customers that our hogs are raised outdoors, on pasture, with high welfare standards,” said group president Jeremiah Jones (pictured at right with wife, Jessica) of Beulaville, North Carolina, whose sells his pork under the his private label Grassroots Pork Company. “We find that people want to know how we manage our animals.”
North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association members are proud of their farms and their product. The members run the gamut from North Carolina farmer Albert Jones, who grew up on his family’s farm and has been raising pigs the traditional way since boyhood, to Mike Jones (below), who worked in large hog confinement operations, an experience that caused him to leave pig farming for many years, until he founded MAE Farm. None of the farmers are related and being named Jones is not a NC Natural Hog Growers membership requirement. “However, it can make for some interesting meetings,” said Albert Jones, the group’s vice president (pictured at right).
North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association pork is currently sold at local farmers markets, direct from the farmers and in retail stores throughout North Carolina. A database of Animal Welfare Approved farmers and the outlets carrying their products can be found at www.animalwelfareapproved.us.