Chances are you live a stone’s throw away from a Thai restaurant in your neighborhood, and you’ve got a go-to local favorite for pad thai. These days I often find myself traveling north of Berkeley, where there’s quite a few wonderful Thai eateries clustered in Albany, El Cerrito and San Pablo locales.
Farmers can now deliver data from their fields, minute by minute, to big agribusiness companies like Monsanto or John Deere. Those companies promise to use the data to help farmers make money. But some farmers worry that it could threaten their privacy and give the big companies too much power.
At Colorado State University, billions of seeds and other genetic material sit inside a giant storage vault. They’re kept there in case of a loss of plant or animal life on a regional or global scale. But the investigation into GMO wheat in Oregon has raised questions about security at the facility.
Government investigators are trying to solve an agricultural whodunit: How did genetically engineered wheat that was never approved for sale end up in a farmer’s field in Oregon? Some are raising the possibility of sabotage; others suspect simple human error.
Across the corn belt, farmers are pulling out all the stops in their war on the corn rootworm. They’re returning to chemical pesticides, because the weapons of biotechnology — inserted genes that are supposed to kill the rootworm — aren’t working so well anymore.
The prize is sometimes called the “Nobel Prize for food and agriculture.” And this year’s winners include Monsanto executive Robert Fraley, a pioneer in genetically engineered crops. If there’s a single person who personifies the company’s controversial role in American agriculture, it’s probably Fraley.
Monsanto has said that it won’t sue anyone for accidentally growing trace amounts of its patented crops. Now, that promise is legally binding, a federal appeals court says.
The high court ruled unanimously that when farmers use patented seed for more than one planting in violation of their licensing agreements, they are liable for damages.
Congress on Thursday approved stopgap funding legislation that includes language explicitly granting the USDA authority to override a judge’s ruling against genetically modified crops. Critics denounce the measure as the “Monsanto Protection Act.” But it seems to be codifying powers the USDA already has exercised in the past.
On its surface, the case is about whether farmers can use seeds derived from patented crops. But the bigger question is, how much control does a company have over its patented products once they’re in the hands of consumers?
Many farmers are worried that the biotech giant will sue them if a patented gene gets accidentally incorporated into their crops. But in a departure, one Monsanto lawyer says that only farmers that specifically take advantage of the company’s technology would face a lawsuit.
Should California require labeling of genetically modified foods? That’s the goal of Proposition 37 on the November state ballot. Supporters say GMO labeling will provide California consumers with valuable information, while detractors claim it will simply add unnecessary confusion and cost to the food system.