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

Genetically Engineered Plants and Animals: The Ecology of Unknown Consequences

Imagine the primordial forest, a canopy dense with foliage, the floor strewn in dappled light. From the cool boreal woodlands to the tropical forests, trees have sustained complex ecosystems evolving over the millennia of time. Some trees live for decades and even centuries, laying down shade and forest duff, sustaining mosses, insects, birds and mammals. Their seed and pollen spread with the wind sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. What then could possibly go wrong with a forest of genetically engineered trees, a pasture of GE grass or genetically engineered animals? The answer is we don’t really know… but probably plenty. 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

Taking Stock and Moving Forward with the GMO Labeling Bill

moving-forwardIn July President Obama signed the bill S.764, establishing the first GMO disclosure standard for food in the US. The bill requires that the Secretary of Agriculture establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods. It represents a huge compromise for many on both sides of the debate. Big agriculture has always been against any disclosure standards, so they are disgruntled. The good food movement feels betrayed by the QR code and 800-number options that companies can potentially use.

So now no one is happy. How did we get here and how do we move forward? Continue reading

Solstice and Stevia the World Keeps Turning

earth-revolves-around-the-sunThis week we celebrate the first day of summer, my 57th summer solstice. This first day of the summer is when the North Pole is at its maximum tilt and slant towards the sun. The sun reaches its highest point in our sky, the warmth and light intensify in our northerner climes. We experience the longest day and the shortest night. As our world leans in towards the light, these turn and returns are symbolic of lessons that return, must be learned and relearned. Remembering our mistakes and taking heed for the future is key as we navigate the future of food and the planet. Continue reading