“I see circumstances under which it could be useful for short-cutting a process that for traditional breeding might take many plant generations,” says Tom Willey, an organic farmer emeritus from California. The disruption of natural ecosystems is a major challenge to agriculture, Willey told me, and while the problem cannot be wholly addressed by genome editing, it could lend an opportunity to “reach back into genomes of the wild ancestors of crop species to recapture genetic material” that has been lost through millennia of breeding for high yields.
Debunking too often tends to be a team sport and just because it’s inevitable, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. In food and farm issues, only biotech drives more debunking than the Organic vs Conventional debate. When you are responding to misinformation the “other” side has already defined the terms of the debate and it’s hard to bust out of those frames. Often that means the big picture gets lost.
Recent reporting on organic dairy production in the Washington Post underscores a preoccupation with the aesthetic appeal of organics and little interest in the environmental impacts.
The weed management issue in Sherman County has been resolved but it still sheds light on three groups of stakeholders.
Alison Van Eenennaam explains how the Washington Post recently conflated organic with grass fed in an exposé of Aurora Dairy a massive organic dairy in Colorado.
Whoever thought that France and organic agriculture would be world leaders for the introduction of GE (genetically engineered) wheat? A stretch? Not as much as it might seem. What follows is the story of how plant breeders engineered a unlikely new crop through a series of sophisticated “conventional” techniques to move a use gene from a wild plant into wheat, despite the fact that the two plants could not be naturally crossbred.
In the organic/conventional debate, you’d think that organic production made up a significant portion of sales and production. In spite of the column inches devoted to discussing organic farming, it only accounts for about 5% of grocery sales, despite two decades of rapid growth. But even that masks how little organic production actually accounts for in the overall scheme of things.
A new paper shows that when organic farmers employ the conservation agriculture techniques of diverse rotations and growing in polycultures, we see the gap closes to around 9 percent. However, when conventional farmers also employ the same conservation techniques that boost organic yields, the gap widens to over 20 percent. So, why didn’t the authors promote this finding?
Whether pesticide use is still a major environmental concern in farming remains a central debate. Let’s look at the data.