Fertilizer Restrictions’ Unintended Consequences

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Want to fight climate change right now? Need to meet short-term targets for reductions in greenhouse gases? Then restrict applications of certain fertilizers. That should work…right?

Maybe. Maybe not. The jury is still out. Why? Because of the gap between theory and practice… the ideal and the reality… the noble aspiration and the unintended consequences. It could be that we are pushing ideas too soon and too fast. For instance, if we were to eliminate or drastically reduce fossil fuels before wind and solar are ready for prime time, we would be riding our bicycles to the grocery store to buy only locally-produced food, a particularly hard feat in the dead of winter.

Matching idealism with practical reality

Idealism is a powerful driver of a better world. But it works best only if married to worldly reality. The solutions we all seek for our ag system’s sustainability and responsible role in managing climate issues will take time and cooperation, not a rush to ill-considered magic-bullet thinking and win-lose confrontation.

We’re seeing evidence of that all around us. The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, with annual sales of roughly $100 billion. But government officials are implementing controversial plans to mandate changes to farming practices to meet targeted reductions in nitrogen emissions and buy-out programs for lands that can’t meet specified targets.  Producers have been outspoken in their concerns about the implications of such controls on the future of the farming sector.

Better still, ask farmers in Sri Lanka about the 2021 flash-cut to organic farming. Without available practical options to replace commercial fertilizers, farmers faced draconian reductions in farm output – and farm income. Reduced production threatened food shortages and dramatic price increases.

The resulting unrest saw an estimated 300,000 protestors take to the streets, prompting violence and forcing a government literally to flee for its life.

A proposed reduction in some fertilizer use by the Canadian government brought a flurry of opposition from farming and trade interests across the middle of the country, where wheat and other crop production is the economic lifeblood of more than one province.

But an interesting fact is that the countries using the most fertilizer are not yet in the political crosshairs.

The driving idea is to embrace new ag production techniques that overcome the problems identified with traditional commercial fertilization. Too much fertilizer, haphazardly applied, more frequently and copiously than needed, can actually harm the soil, deplete it of essential nutritive properties, lead to the release of too much carbon from the soil into the air, and harm the watersheds. Everybody seems to know that – including the farm community, and the fertilizer and input industry that serves them.

Superficially, it sounds oh-so-reasonable. After all, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ag is supposed to account for about 11 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s substantially less than other sources, such as transportation (27%), electricity (25%), and industry (24%). The fertilizer industry alone is about 1.5%, mainly through using natural gas.

Finding the best balance point

Proper delivery of commercial fertilizers, such as precision farming, helps reduce these risks. It finds the optimal balance point between the use of costly inputs and the crop productivity that makes the difference between profit and loss for producers. The practical reality of farming is the existential need to operate profitably.

Many farmers already embrace sensible regulatory guidelines on fertilizer applications, such as those in Minnesota that spell out when and under what conditions nitrogen may be applied in fields. More broadly, producers are embracing soil-replenishing regenerative agricultural practices. It includes things such as expensive high-precision application equipment, sophisticated analysis of soil nutrient needs, and use of crops and cropping patterns that feed organic biomass back onto the soil to enrich it and make it healthier, among other practices. It means more minimum-till and no-till, and greater use of cover crops.

The roster of innovations and practical, real-world experimentation and data-based decisions expands every day – and not in a committee room or a lecture hall, but in the actual fields where the desire to do good and noble and rewarding things meets cold hard reality.

Also in reality, the key consideration is balance. Farmers aren’t indifferent to environmental issues. It’s more than a do-gooder syndrome. It’s recognition of their status as stewards of the land – people at the front lines of protecting and preserving the natural resources base that makes their lives and livelihoods possible. They want to do the right thing and are working like hell to find the optimal balance point in how to maximize productivity and protect the soil, water, and air that keep us all alive.

It’s simple: the world needs fertilizers to have a prayer of meeting the food needs of a growing world. It needs those fertilizers most in the parts of the world that can least afford them, and places where the alternatives to commercial fertilizers are most lacking.

The desired level of efficiency and productivity remains elusive in many parts of our world. It’s especially challenging in areas without the extensive investment needed to improve the availability of equipment and infrastructure essential to creating more biomass, or advancing education and support critical to higher productivity.

Is regenerative ag the same as organic farming?

Much of the support for mandated reductions in fertilizer applications is based on faith in alternative methods of delivering important plant nutrients. Proponents sometimes simplistically refer to this as greater reliance on ‘organic’ farming. After all, organic farming is predicated on avoiding the use of harmful chemicals.

Casual use of the term “organic’ may be a convenient shorthand for the idea of an environmentally friendly approach to food production. But is technically incorrect in this instance. ‘Organic’ farming is simply compliance with regulatory guidelines on the avoidance of a select group of chemicals in farming. It has nothing to do with the ecological effects of such practices.

In short, ‘organic’ farming is focused on how our food is produced, not the consequences of those practices on our environment – and most importantly, our soil. For instance, the yield per acre for organic corn, soybeans, and wheat is at least 40% less than its conventionally-grown counterpart. Which means, more land under plow to feed the world today. And all organic fertilizers are not manure-based. Organic farming is based on natural nutrients but many of them can be made synthetically.

The more recent thinking about innovative approaches to better fertilization practices is to focus on “regenerative” practices – the complex mix of crops, crop rotations, tillage practices, water use and other conservation practices that rehabilitate and renew topsoil. It focuses on making the soil work harder to provide its own necessary nutrients.

Regenerative agriculture encompasses a more holistic approach to the ultimate goal behind the fertilizer debate – which is building a sustainable food production system capable of meeting the rising demand for food – and especially plant proteins.

The world recognizes the need to take a new, bigger view of how fertilizers fit into the need for a kind of new Green Revolution. We’re moving to understand how to use fertilizers more wisely, and how to deliver critical soil nutrients more effectively and more sustainably. But the solution isn’t an either-or choice. It’s an “and” answer.

Commercial fertilizers, organic farming and the regenerative soil movement are partners in getting the absolute best from our existing natural resources, while actually enriching them in the process. They are partners not just in better management of carbon sequestration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and best management of climate change. They are partners in feeding the world today and for future generations.

Even with aggressive implementation of soil-enriching practices and superior crop management practices, the responsible use of commercial fertilizers as a component of overall plant-nutrient management still promises to be the difference between failure and survival for many, many growers.

Digging in with Dr. Ray Goldberg

What strikes us about Dr. Goldberg’s passion is his desire to unite the food system, as evidenced in his most recent book, Food Citizenship. It highlights a series of interviews asking pertinent questions to those who think about health, nutrition, sustainability, food safety, and governance. He doesn’t believe there has to be a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser.’ He believes in capitalism which proves that companies can still work together to create value for the consumer and value for themselves. 

Dr. Goldberg understands that most corporations, farmers, scientists, and those who make our food believe in protecting the environment and making the high-quality, cheap food we have come to expect. His comments captured that idea repeatedly – the power of personal contact, real dialogue, and human interaction as the foundation of dispelling mistrust and suspicion and allowing those ‘win-win’ opportunities to proliferate. That, he observed, is a key to dealing with all the demands placed on the ag system – in adapting and evolving to deal with food security, environment, nutrition, better food products, etc. on top of feeding 9-10 billion mouths.

Dr. Goldberg is very proud of his latest accomplishment in creating the PAPSAC organization (Private and Public, Scientific, and Consumer Food policy symposium) which brings suppliers, producers, processors, distributors, consumers, scientists, and government leaders together to discuss how to utilize technology constructively and create a socially, environmentally, and economically-sound food system.

Together with John H. Davis, Dr. Goldberg developed the Agribusiness Program at Harvard Business School in 1955. From 1970 to 1997 he was the Moffett Professor of Agriculture and Business and head of the Agribusiness Program. Since 1997, he has chaired the Agribusiness Senior Management Seminars at Harvard Business School as Emeritus Professor and currently teaches a course on Food Policy and Agribusiness at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is also the author, co-author and/or editor of 23 books and over 110 articles on the global food system.

We hope you enjoy listening to our discussion with Dr. Goldberg.

Milk: Should you go ‘alternative’?

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Take a stroll down the dairy aisle in just about any grocery store, or pop into your favorite coffee shop, and you are sure to see a variety of alternative milks and non-dairy competitors piquing your interest. Whether you are vegan, lactose intolerant, looking for more protein, a fan of a thicker, denser flavor, or seeking something lower in calories, there is certainly a corner of the cooler for you.

Milk Alternatives

The key word here is alternatives. Much like plant-based meats and other protein alternatives are not the same as traditional meats in many ways, milk alternatives are not the same as cow’s milk. And furthermore, there are vast nutritional differences between all these ‘milks’.

It seems that as our options increase, so does our confusion. Is plant milk better than animal milk? Should I avoid dairy if I’m not lactose intolerant? Is soy good or bad?  Does oat milk have too much sugar?

This milk option confusion confronted me most recently at a visit to a Vermont farmer’s market. I grabbed my canvas bag and started my stroll through the tables of fresh produce, cheese spreads, and artisan goods. I came to a booth selling freshly brewed hot and iced coffees. As I stood in line, the patron in front of me ordered her large black coffee.

As the barista was pouring her cup, the patron began to stare, noticeably confused by the milk carafes in front of her: oat milk, whole milk, and almond milk. Her expression must have read “help me!” as the woman behind the counter set her coffee down and began to explain the differences in the selections in front of her:

“Okay, so you are familiar with whole milk, right? The primary difference between dairy milk and oat milk is that oat milk provides fewer nutrients, and most of the nutrients in it are fortified, meaning that they are added during processing rather than naturally occurring.

Whole milk also has about double the protein and half the carbs compared to oat milk. That said, lots of our customers love the sweet, creamy taste of oat milk, and it’s a nice option for those who are lactose intolerant.

I typically use almond milk for cooking, as it is a good one-to-one substitute for cow’s milk. And in my coffee, almond milk is the lowest in calories of the three options here but also the lowest in protein content.”

The woman smiled and cheerfully said, “I need all the nutrients and protein I can get! Whole milk it is!” I was so enthralled by the conversation. Over the course of a few sentences, the barista concisely provided a 411 on the milk options, of which I certainly would not have been consciously aware. When she handed me my medium iced latte I smiled and poured some almond milk since I had a protein-packed breakfast.

Nutritional Comparison of Milk Alternatives

According to Statista, milk-substitute consumption worldwide has more than doubled since 2013, and the same can be said for the U.S. But what are we actually drinking when we consume more and more of these alternatives? And which nutrients are we missing?

  • Cow’s Milk comes in many forms, including whole milk, 2%, 1% and skim. Whole milk is, in fact 3.5% fat, which has a 1.5% higher fat content than its 2% “reduced fat” counterpart.. Our bodies need fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like D, A, E, and K. Additionally, it is a significant source of protein, at about 9g per cup for whole and 8g for 2%. Cows milk is also considered a “complete protein” as it contains 9 of the essential amino acids.
  • Goat Milk is the closest nutritionally to cow’s milk. Some consumers may find that they have fewer digestive issues with goat milk when compared to other non-dairy milks. This may be because goat’s milk contains shorter chain fat molecules, and higher MCTs, making it easier to digest. However, goat’s milk contains lactose, so be wary of this if you have a lactose sensitivity.
  • Soy Milk took the non-dairy scene by storm starting in the ’90s, offering a tasty alternative to cow’s milk but without any digestive drawbacks. However, since then, anti-GMO activists have vilified this milk alternative, since 90% of soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified (as we know, GMOs are safe and are the most studied seed science. Read more here).
  • Oat Milk is known for its creamy taste, high iron content, and lower cholesterol. It also contains about 3 grams of protein per eight-ounce serving and does not contain all essential amino acids. It is a nice option for those who are lactose intolerant or have a nut allergy but be mindful of your carbohydrate intake, as oat milk can contain up to 24 grams per eight-ounce serving.
  • Rice Milk may seem ideal if you are lactose intolerant or have a nut allergy, as it’s made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup, and starch. As you can imagine, those ingredients don’t exactly make for a creamy or nutrient-dense beverage, so to sweeten the taste, manufacturers typically add thickening agents, flavorings, and sweeteners like guar gum and carrageenan.
  • Almond Milk is mostly water with a blend of almonds. It is most similar to rice and soy milk in that it is less nutrient dense, containing less fat and protein than cow’s milk. Many brands promote the high nutrient levels of vitamins E, D, and calcium in almonds, but fail to address the amount of water and almonds used in manufacturing (some brands’ almond volume in its milk is as low as 2%). Instead, large amounts of water are needed.
  • Coconut Milk is one of the only alternative milks that will likely come in a can or box and can be found in full fat and reduced fat versions. Reduced fat contains more water, whereas the full fat is mainly saturated, making it suitable for cooking. A benefit of coconut milk is that it contains primarily medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can be used as quick and lasting energy!
  • Hemp Milk, made from hemp seeds and water, packs a nutritional punch that even those suffering from nut allergies can enjoy. One eight-ounce glass contains upwards of 900 milligrams of anti-inflammatory omega 3s, all nine essential amino acids, 4 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat. It also contains a fair amount of vitamins and minerals, including A, E, B12, D, potassium, zinc, and iron.

The list of milk alternatives does not end there; there is peanut, hazelnut, flax, quinoa, pistachio, cashew, and even camel milk… yes, camel. Newest on the scene? Potato milk.

As you can see from the nutritional profiles and other considerations, no milk is created equal. Depending on your dietary needs, taste preferences, or values, be sure to also consider the recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals when making your milk selection.

Beyond Nutrients: Sustainability

We would be remiss if we did not address the environmental impacts of the various milk alternatives. There has been criticism over the impact of the dairy industry on climate change, specifically by way of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by dairy cows and cattle, but it is a complicated web.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) describes sustainable eating as “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.”

The FAO’s definition extends beyond just greenhouse gas emissions to include land and water use, labor, nutritional value, soil health, among others.

For example, when comparing cow’s milk with soy milk, soy produces significantly fewer GHGs and uses less land and water. However, almond milk uses roughly 17 times more water than cow’s milk per liter. In fact, it can take over a gallon of water to grow one single almond, depending on the producer.

Although dairy’s average GHGs across the globe are 2.5%, U.S. dairy farmers have already cut their carbon footprint by 63% from 1944 to 2006 by utilizing regenerative practices. Repurposing manure, using anaerobic digesters for energy, recycling wastewater, and utilizing genetic breeding practices to decrease the cow population by 65% are just some of the ways these farmers have done more with fewer inputs and outputs. And all the while, they’ve continued to satisfy global demand and meet the FAO’s guidelines for sustainable development.

This, that AND the other thing

I sat down to dinner after my visit to the farmers market with a big glass of 2% milk. Yes, I had almond milk with my coffee that morning AND I had milk with my dinner. In a world that seems constantly polarizing – always having to decide between this or that – remember there is room for AND, too. With a growing population and more mouths to feed for generations to come, everyone can choose how they enjoy their alternative and traditional milk products.

Meet D2D’s Lucy Stitzer

Lucy’s passion for ensuring people everywhere have access to healthy, safe, and sustainable food began when her first child of three was born. Lucy and two of her sons have a unique blood disorder which encouraged them to ‘eat well’ and live a healthy lifestyle. She began researching which foods are the most nutritious. What the young, working mom discovered was a vast and complex food system.

There was (and still is) a wealth of misinformation, fads, and outright lies about the global food system. Lucy’s journey with her sons inspired her to research and understand the science around food and food production. Lucy strives for a world where global food is grown sustainably, nutritiously, and affordably and will often ask food producers and industry experts, “what needs to change to achieve this objective?”

This is not easy as each country has its unique culture, income levels, political environment, and arable land. And most countries are not self-sufficient with their food supply, as many participate in global food trade. Yet still, the consumer can ask whether their food was grown sustainably using innovation, technology, and sound science.

Lucy loves excitement and fun activities with her three boys and husband. She runs, skis, golfs, gardens, rides motorcycles, and flies airplanes.

Meet D2D’s Hillary Kaufman

Hillary believes in the power of research to substantiate sound decision-making, especially when it comes to learning about our food system. Hillary’s earlier career centered on forecasting consumer trends and researching potential investment ideas in the healthcare and consumer goods spaces. But as her family grew, Hillary’s priorities shifted. So, in 2017, she enthusiastically joined D2D.

Given her love of cooking, she’ll write about the issues affecting our decision-making at the grocery store. This often includes all those gimmicky labels we see on our foods that make us falsely assume one product is superior. The worst offender to date? “Non-GMO” salt.

Meet D2D’s Hayley Philip

As the granddaughter of a farmer and growing up in California’s Central Valley, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions, Hayley applies her industry knowledge and natural curiosity to unearth the food myths traveling around today, including debunking popular fad diets, fast-nutrition, and myths about ‘quick’ dietary fixes. Hayley also researches and writes about the intersectionality of regeneration and sustainable growing methods that will safely produce enough food for future generations.

Hayley is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara with degrees in Sociology and Marketing.  She moved to New York shortly after graduation, where she worked in sales and marketing for almost a decade before joining D2D.

Meet D2D’s Garland West

Over his career, Garland has applied his academic training in journalism to coverage of agricultural, environmental, and trade policy in Washington and Europe for clients that include major corporate leaders and prominent global consulting firms. His resume includes postings in Washington, Minneapolis, London, New York, Chicago, and Detroit, both as a corporate executive and president of his own communications company. He is a published author and public speaker on agriculture, trade, and public policy matters, as well as a consultant to various organizations on organizational leadership.

He and his wife Nancy reside deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they maintain an animal sanctuary and savor a more contemplative and relaxed pace of life.

Introducing D2D’s “Digging in” podcast!

We will be talking with everyone in the food system, from farmers to scientists and nutritionists, to discuss important issues in their field. And we’ll connect the dots along the way by asking how these experts see the food industry working together to provide safe, nutritious food for all.

Please enjoy visiting our site to listen, and send us your thoughts as we embark on this new platform. Happy reading and listening!

– The Dirt to Dinner Team

Science or Suspicion: Which Dictates Gene Editing’s Future?

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Rule Britannia

This summer, the United Kingdom took the issue of biotechnology and genomics out of the shadows and back into the public limelight. The Tory government introduced legislation that would effectively exempt certain crops and animals from the stringent regulatory constraints currently in force regarding CRISPR.

The U.K.’s action is made possible by its exit from the European Union, where what many consider the draconian regulations severely inhibit the development of new plant and animal genetic advancements. In the E.U., the Genetically Modified Organism Directive issued in 2001 still applies, allowing any of the more than two dozen member states to completely ban the growth of GMO crops or imports of GMO organisms. The University of Dusseldorf’s Sarah Schmidt recently told Science magazine that getting a crop through the E.U.’s regulatory maze “would take years and about $35 million.”

But even outside the E.U. regulatory framework, the proposed U.K. changes to genetic regulation have renewed the same intense opposition. Opponents of the U.K. legislation cite familiar fears of unintended environmental consequences, economic harm to farmers and rural communities, too much market power by commercial interests, lack of transparency to consumers in product labeling, and more.

Genetic optimists hold that despite the clamor, the public opinion pendulum is swinging in what they consider the right direction. Opposition to GMOs remains strongest in Europe, while America and many other countries seem to be moving – at a snail’s pace to many – to recognize and gently embrace the potential within gene editing, CRISPR in particular.

They also point to the willingness of some countries in Africa and other areas most in need of increases in agricultural productivity to consider broader use of GMOs. The threat of imminent food insecurity seems to be a powerful pro-science motivator.

“The advent of new breeding innovations has presented Africa with…innovations [that] will improve the ease, speed, precision, cost and generation time of higher-yielding, superior varieties and breeds with durable resistance to pests, diseases, efficient use of water and nutrients, and adaptable to climate change.”

– Margaret Karembu & Godfrey Ngure, Breaking Barriers with Breeding, ISAAA 2021 Report

GMOs and CRISPR      

While GMOs and CRISPR are both gene editing tools, they differ in their technique. GMOs take a gene from one organism and insert it into another organism. CRISPR edits the gene within an organism. CRISPR offers a way to cut and paste genes within a plant or animal to correct flaws or mistakes or improve how the organism functions. It promises to be simpler, cheaper, and faster than other, more radical approaches to wholesale genetic manipulation and monumentally faster and less haphazard than natural selection. It also requires less cumbersome regulation when compared to GMOs.

Perhaps most appealing to many scientists, it seemed to undercut the hyperbolic fears of “Frankenfood” along with social and environmental degradation and general predictions of universal doom and midnight gloom advanced by anti-science critics.

The technique could help speed the development of more and better plants and animals, with specific benefits to the environment and better nutritional offerings. Imagine new and effective treatments for cancer and other devastating illnesses, altering the breeding patterns of disease-spreading mosquitoes, or the use of animals as much-needed organ donors.

To the curious scientific mind, the possibilities seem almost unending. 

And all the while, farmers could boost productivity and profitability, while hungry consumers everywhere could reap the benefits of more plentiful and nutritious food. Crops could be developed with characteristics that advance the growth of eco-friendly biofuels and plant-based proteins. Animals could be bred to be more productive, more resistant to disease, and less needy of antibiotics. Farmers could expand production into specific crops and animals important to all sorts of additional uses, including answers to climate change challenges. The highly efficient, productive, responsive, sustainable, resilient global food system everyone from Albania to Zimbabwe most wanted seemed tantalizingly close.

Source: bio.org

Promises, Promises

But a decade on, the promise within gene editing still seems more elusive than many would like, especially in global agriculture.

The Philippines last year gained attention when the country approved Golden Rice – a genetically modified rice variety bred to provide additional nutrition, including vitamin A to combat childhood blindness. (Bangladesh also is closely examining the value of allowing Golden Rice to be planted.) At the same time, the Philippine government also approved the use of Bt eggplant for food, feed and processing.

Previous efforts to introduce something this simple prompted violent street protests and burned crops. The intensity of the resistance puzzled many scientists and politicians alike, especially in the Asia region, where rice makes up as much as two-thirds of the daily diet of the average person (and even more among the poor).

The slow pace of adaptation isn’t unique to The Philippines. Gene editing – whether it is GMO or CRISPR – remains the source of animated and often extreme opposition from dedicated cadres of those adamantly opposed to genetically modified organisms in any form. Many environmental groups are at the forefront of opposition, citing fears of unforeseen environmental damages, economic threats to producers, and as yet unrecognized health issues, among other matters.

Many scientists and politicians see rays of sunshine peeking through the gray clouds of doubt and cynicism spun by anti-science factions. Global food and health organizations cite the slow but steady expansion of the roster of nations growing GMO crops.  

GMO crops are grown by about 17 million farmers worldwide, mostly in developed countries. Roughly 70 countries import or grow GMOs, and 29 biotech plant crops.

Top GMO crop-producing nations, in descending order, are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India. These five industrial countries produce the largest volume of GMO crops.

The remaining are in the developing world. 19 developing nations – where food needs are arguably greatest – now account for 53 percent of the world’s GMO crops.

Find more details on GMO crops around the world here.

The Data Tell the Tale

Advocates also point to the recently updated genetically engineered regulatory standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After a multi-year review process, the USDA in 2020 issued a new rule called SECURE – the Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient rule – that relaxes some of the more onerous requirements of previous regulations, but far from all of them. (There is no indication which took longer – the review of the genetic science, or the creation of the tortured acronym.)

The new regs sought to give greater developmental leeway for organisms with low-risk levels – those where conventional breeding techniques have demonstrated an acceptable level of safety.

While far from perfect for many in the scientific community, the new rule nevertheless reflects a slow movement toward recognition of the potential value of application of responsible genetic science to an evolving global food system.

GMO proponents also cite a recent letter from 110 Nobel laureates and over 3,500 scientists worldwide calling on GMO opponent Ice International to “re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and food improved through biotechnology; recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies; and abandon their campaign against GMOs in general and Golden Rice in particular.”

Adapt…Or Else

Britain is…doing something good for the world. It all adds up to a cause for optimism to most people. Our food system is in the midst of an important era of continuing adaptation to meet a more complex and demanding set of expectations.

It’s a lot to ask. But science – as CRISPR and GMOs in general indicate – can help us create the optimal food system. We want our food system to do far more than simply feed us. We want it to sustain and regenerate our environment. We want it to provide food that continues to become safer, more nutritious, and delivered in ever-greater choices that match our changing lifestyle.

We want the food system to be fair to all involved, and transparent for all to see how what they eat is produced, processed, and delivered. We want our food system to fight climate change, not contribute to it.

Digging in: Jim Wiesemeyer, Ag Policy Analyst

There’s probably no one in a better position to help us understand this incredibly convoluted – and important – situation. Jim Wiesemeyer has spent decades in Washington watching the ag scene, reporting every day on the ins-and-outs of developments on Capitol Hill, at the White House, at the Department of Agriculture, and all the places where decisions are made about food and ag.

Jim is well known for his commentary and especially his own podcasts on behalf of ProFarmer and Farm Journal. After you’ve listened to this episode of Digging In, check out his podcast at profarmer.com.