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The Grass is Not Always Greener

In a press statement conveniently released just before the busy holiday weekend, the USDA stated that Scotts Miracle Gro's introduction of a new GM Kentucky bluegrass seed did not require any regulation. Despite ongoing protests and legal challenges from environmental groups, land managers, federal agencies and other organizations, the USDA's decision paves the way for the unregulated use of GM lawn seed in U.S. neighborhoods - and a potentially dramatic increase in the use of a toxic herbicide that is increasingly being linked to adverse impacts on human health and the wider environment. The introduction of GM glyphosate-resistant Kentucky bluegrass will force us all to become subjects of an experiment that should have happened in the USDA’s laboratories - not in our lawns, backyards, in our local neighborhoods, and in parks where our kids play. This experiment will further increase the use of this toxic herbicide, and will inevitably lead to the cross-pollination with wild relatives and the many environmental problems this will entail. The potential human health impacts have yet to be discovered, but I know I would plow my lawn up if I thought this seed was in it. For the sake of a few weeds, are the potential risks of GM lawns really worth it?
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Salmon: The First GM Farmed Animal?

News that an “efficient and environmentally sustainable” genetically modified (GM) salmon may be a step closer to commercial release had me reaching for a large pinch of salt—and not, I might add, to help season the dish. As some of you will know from my previous blogs, I am extremely skeptical about the real benefits that GM technology offers us all. Indeed, I have grave concerns about GM—not only about the potential environmental and health risks associated with the technology, but also the potential control that GM gives “Big Ag” over global food production. These concerns are just as relevant to GM fish production as they are to GM soy, cotton or corn. The difference, of course, is that, with fish, we are dealing with a living creature, where welfare is also an issue. On June 15, 2010, Massachusetts-based biotech company AquaBounty announced that it had moved a step closer to gaining formal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval of its AquAdvantage® Salmon. According to the AquaBounty website, the AquaAdvantage Salmon is genetically modified to “include a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon that provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon.” This enables “shorter production cycles and increased efficiency of production.”
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Genetically Engineered Animals: On the table, but not on the label!?

As of January 2009, you will now be able to purchase and consume products from genetically engineered animals - without one mention of that fact on the label. Whether you welcome or dread your first GE dish, we all have one thing in common--we won't know when we eat it. Our friends at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have decided that products from genetically engineered animals will not be labeled as such. The FDA says that it will not require labeling of products from genetically engineered animals because those products are not "materially different" from conventional ones. Ironically this ruling follows a recent Consumers Union poll which found that 95% of respondents favored labeling of milk and meat from genetically engineered animals. A spokeswoman for the FDA defended its decision, stating, "...the FDA doesn't require that a pork chop label specify [the breeding method of the pig]." Translation: the FDA has decided genetic engineering is just another way to breed animals and therefore, it doesn't make the meat, eggs or dairy from those animals any different from the meat, eggs or dairy out of grandma's barnyard.
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