Are Genetically-Engineered Animal-Replacement Products the Answer to Factory Farming?

I am an ardent opponent of factory-farmed animals. I care about food and agriculture, the latter I sometimes fear was our original fall from Eden. The beastly way we have turned animal production into a heartless row of cages and confinement displays our belief that we are somehow above the animal kingdom—we are now masters of the universe.

Is it possible that our next play at masters of the universe—genetic engineering— is a solution to factory-farmed animals?

What’s at risk as we search for the next solution to feed a hungry world? Continue reading

The GMO Labeling Discussion is Not Yet Over

It was June 2016 when the law passed requiring foods with GMO ingredients to be labeled. This disclosure was the first of its kind in the U.S., a milestone for food transparency and simultaneously a source of monumental discontent for many. The law requires that manufacturers disclose GMO presence but allows for digital means, such as QR codes or links, as a way to comply with labeling.

The law also mandated a study to identify potential challenges associated with the electronic options. The study found multiple problems related to QR codes or links.

As you read this, USDA is writing the regulations implementing the law, and the first draft will be coming out soon. There’s still time for USDA to hear from you on the study’s findings and craft a comprehensive, user-friendly standard. Continue reading

Serving up a Vegan Burger or Genetic Roulette?

Not all plant-based meat alternatives are created equal. For years the vegans among us have chomped down on black bean burgers and seitan chicken balls, alternatively feasting on Tofurky breast and stuffing. Animal rights groups laud the artisanal vegan meatloaf and tempeh bacon as righteous culinary trends. Who doesn’t want to see an end to confined animal feeding operations by voting with your vegan fork? As technological tongue twisters like CRISPR-CAS9 and Synthetic Biology are changing the face of medicine and agriculture, they are also landing directly onto your vegan plate. One of the newest plant-based products is sizzling with gene-editing techniques to create an impossible burger with potential hidden consequences. Continue reading

A Collision Course with Unintended Consequences

collisionIn an early morning jaunt to Sacramento last week my car was rear ended.  I serve on the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (who by the way are looking for new members), and was on my way to attend a subcommittee meeting when boom—a fine young man rammed me in the rear end of my car. As I recuperate from the trauma, I wax philosophical and wonder why this happened and what the long term unintended consequences will be. The same ruminations can be applied to the novel gene editing techniques that are racing towards us with accelerating speed. Are we all on a genetic collision course with unintended consequences?  Continue reading