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GMO’s and The Environment

Farm to Food Gene Editing: The Future of Agriculture

On 25, Apr 2019 | In Blog, Featured, Future of Ag, GMO’s and The Environment, latest-news | By Admin

Curious about what gene editing is? Watch this video to learn how CRISPR is helping farmers grow better crops to feed our growing population.

VT Digger: Marie Audet: Farmers onboard with climate solutions

On 17, Aug 2018 | In Blog, Featured, GMO’s and The Environment, water quality | By Admin

  

VT Digger

As a lifelong dairy farmer, I bring a unique perspective to my work with the Governor’s Climate Action Commission. My family and I work with the land each and every day, and we value Vermont for its natural beauty and resources. We could not do what we do without clean water and healthy soil. Other members of the Climate Action Commission bring vital perspectives, too. This diverse group of 21 Vermonters is comprised of leaders in commerce, transportation, construction, energy and forestry.

On Aug. 20, we will present our year’s work to Gov. Phil Scott, highlighting our findings and outlining recommendations to meet Vermont’s climate goals of using 90 percent renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050.

Overall, our recommendations constitute a multi-pronged approach for reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from homes, businesses, transportation, communities and industries, such as forestry and agriculture.

Notably, some of our recommendations also focus on “negative” emissions – removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that agriculture can reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere by storing it in plant biomass and soils, contributing to a climate change solution.

Here in Vermont, farmers are at the forefront of understanding and meeting these challenges. Many of us are adopting practices and investing in technology to improve both water quality and soil health. Throughout the agricultural sector – whether dairy, beef, berries or vegetables – farmers are finding the critical balance of producing high-quality products and being good stewards of the environment.

How are we doing this? Farmers have increased planting of cover crops by over 60 percent since 2015 and have reduced tilling of the land. By keeping fields covered with plants all year long, farmers not only reduce soil erosion and prevent nutrient runoff, but also increase the amount of carbon the soil can hold. Combined with manure injection, such practices enhance the role that agriculture can play in helping Vermont to achieve its climate goals. Modeling estimates from the EPA Lake Champlain Phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) project a 40-50 percent increase in agricultural practices that protect water quality and sequester carbon over the next 10 years.

Vermonters understand that global climate change is a fundamental threat to the sustainability of natural systems and species diversity, and to the peace and safety of humanity. Given the magnitude of this challenge, we must all be a part of the solution. As a member of Vermont’s agricultural community, I believe all farmers are up to the challenge of continuing our efforts towards a clean, green Vermont.

Marie Audet: Farmers onboard with climate solutions

Jacques Couture: Consider the farmer, not the farming

On 26, Oct 2017 | In GMO’s and The Environment, latest-news, Progressive Farming | By Admin

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Jacques Couture, who milks a 70-cow herd in Westfield, about five miles from the Canadian border. When he’s not in the barn or out in the fields, he and his wife, Pauline, run Couture’s Maple Shop and a bed and breakfast at the farmhouse, which dates back to 1892.

When it comes to organic or conventional dairy farming, I’ve been on both sides of the fence – literally and figuratively – so the current demand by some vocal Vermonters that all dairy farmers convert to organic has got me a little perplexed.

I started dairy farming back in 1970, before organic regulations even existed, and then made the decision to transition to organic in 2006. I made a conscious choice to farm without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. It was a personal decision, one that I made for financial reasons as well, and I’ve never regretted it.

Does being an organic dairy farmer mean I think conventional or non-organic dairy farming is a terrible thing? Not at all. You’ll never hear me say anything bad about conventional dairy farmers in general. Like me, they get up before the sun, work long and hard, care for their animals and their land, as well as their families. They take pride in their product, are dedicated to their communities, and often struggle to make a good living.

Vermont’s conventional dairy farmers, like their organic neighbors, are responsible stewards of the land and produce healthy, nutritious milk.

Organic milk is produced without antibiotics, but “regular” milk is free from antibiotics as well. Cows sometimes get sick and require medicine, just like we do, and conventional dairy farmers are able to use antibiotics sparingly to help their cows get better. Their milk is separated from other cows’ milk on the farm, is disposed of immediately, and never enters the food supply. On organic farms, antibiotics are only used as a last resort, but that means that animal is no longer able to provide milk that meets organic requirements, or can’t be sold as certified organic beef.

Most conventional dairy farmers in Vermont no longer use bovine growth hormone (rBST, or rGBH) to increase production, a substance not allowed in organic dairying.

Many conventional dairy farms that have the available land pasture their cows, like organic operations. On organic dairy farms, the requirement for pasture time is 120 days. Many farms don’t have the pasture space to meet organic standards, for example, and that would mean driving some family farms out of business. And what would that serve?

When it comes to the land, you won’t find an organic or conventional dairy farmer who doesn’t focus on soil health and production. Both types of farms plant crops on their fields all year long even in the winter, like the cover crop winter rye, that helps increase soil health and minimize erosion of valuable topsoil. Yes, conventional farmers, like organic folks, use regenerative agricultural practices, like no-till and cover crops. The end goals, conventional or organic, are very similar: healthy, content animals to produce the best milk while safeguarding the land.

If conventional dairy farms use fertilizer and pesticides – and some don’t – they do it judiciously and work to avoid impacting local water sources and nearby lands. A word about pesticides: Organic farmers are prohibited from using man-made pesticides that are available to conventional farmers, but they are allowed to use certified organic pesticides and fungicides. All dairy farmers try to use the least amount of pesticides possible (for environmental and financial reasons), so no matter what’s used, using the safest ones in the least volume is every farmer’s goal.

The fact is, Vermont’s dairy community is a diverse one, and there’s room for everyone. Personally, I find the calls for “organic or nothing” dismaying and, in my view, a little impractical. While the demand for organic dairy, produce, meat and other foods is growing, conventional farming remains a necessary method that has the scale to meet our planet’s needs.

I find it unfair to pit conventional versus certified organic farming against each other. There are good and bad actors on both sides of the aisle! We shouldn’t paint either one with a broad brush or generalize. That would be unfair to those pouring their hearts and souls into producing food to feed the people of this world.

Again, I’ve farmed conventionally and organically. Is one better than the other? Did going organic mean I suddenly cared more for my cows or the planet? No. It was a decision that made the most sense for me and my dairy farm, just as conventional dairying is a personal choice for others.

I guess it comes down to a simple equation when considering the merits of organic or conventional farming: it’s the farmer, not the farming, that makes either the right choice — for the animals, the land, and the rest of the planet.

Vermont Dairy Farmers and Climate Change

On 13, Oct 2017 | In Featured, GMO’s and The Environment, Progressive Farming | By Admin

This is a great story about how climate change will impact the dairy and maple industries in Vermont.

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Aug
2017

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10 myths about farming to remember on your next grocery run

On 02, Aug 2017 | In Blog, Featured, GMO’s and The Environment | By Admin

Most of us don’t spend our days plowing fields or wrangling cattle. We’re part of the 99 percent of Americans who eat food but don’t produce it. Because of our intimate relationship with food and because it’s so crucial to our health and the environment, people should be very concerned about how it’s produced. But we don’t always get it right. Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider these 10 modern myths about the most ancient occupation. Read more…

31

Jul
2017

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Times Argus: Farmers as stewards of land

On 31, Jul 2017 | In Blog, Featured, GMO’s and The Environment | By Admin

July 29

There are a lot of exciting things happening on Vermont’s farms these days. We’ve just had the second Breakfast on the Farm event this year, where Vermonters from all over got a taste of what it’s like to live and work on a dairy farm. And, the University of Vermont is holding several Crops and Soils Field Days to highlight innovations, research and new approaches to farming. Read more…

GMO grasses could provide healthier forage for livestock, reduce environmental impact

Grasses of the future will make animals healthier, more productive and reduce their impact on the environment.

AgResearch scientist Tony Conner said advances in modern grasses would bring many advantages to farming.

The forage science group leader said the conference was timely given the work the organisation was doing in the area of forage science.  He said there were many benefits for New Zealand in building upon the DairyNZ forage value index and the emerging pastoral industry forage strategy.

“Our teams are engaged in underpinning science and plant breeding research to create high-performance forage legume and grass varieties for New Zealand farms and the international market,” he told farmers at the NZ Grasslands Association conference in Timaru last week.

“We develop animal safe endophyte strains that add value to production from elite grasses, and are also pursing research and development related to biofuels, speciality forages, new endophyte traits and animal/forage interactions. Our group is home to world-leading teams in the genetic development of forages and encompasses a broad range of capabilities with staff working in areas from fundamental to applied research.”

Most of the cultivars are commercialised through Grasslanz Technology.

An investment of $25 million over five years into genetically modified forages research was made possible with a grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour fund

“What we are doing is enhancing the ryegrass so that there is more energy and nutrition stored in the grass,” Conner said.

“This means the animals feeding on it are healthier, and therefore they become better producers for the farm. The result will be a major boost for the agricultural economy.”

“What we are also finding is that a by-product of these changes to the grass will be important gains as far as the impacts on the environment. This includes less methane gas produced by the animals and the change in nitrogen requirements with these grasses could reduce nitrate runoff.”

“We are mindful of the need to continue strong working relationships in this sector, including the scientists and its many stakeholders so that our advances are relevant to the industry.”

NZGA president, David Stevens of AgResearch, said the conference had been an opportunity for farmers and their agricultural industry business partners to hear from and quiz scientists who were taking the industry forward.

“It’s really about the interface of science and practice: what works and how can you get it to work. It’s summed up in the association’s motto: fuelled by science, tempered by experience.”

Leading local farms hosted  field trips during afternoon sessions including  a robotic but pasture-based dairy farm, intensive sheep and beef finishing with and without irrigation, and a more traditional breeding-finishing operation making use of some of the latest forages.

Taken from:

2017-06-08_09-40-13

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Apr
2017

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CLARA AYER: EARTH DAY IS EVERY DAY ON OUR DAIRY FARM

On 18, Apr 2017 | In Blog, Featured, GMO’s and The Environment | By Admin

April 16

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Clara Ayer on behalf of Fairmont Farm. She is a third-generation dairy farmer at Fairmont Farm Inc., which has two East Montpelier farms and one in Craftsbury. Fairmont currently employs 40 full-time and part-time employees and is a member of Cabot Creamery Cooperative.

More than one billion people will celebrate Earth Day all around the world on April 22. Here in Vermont on our dairy farm we treat every day like Earth Day.

Our mission at Fairmont Farm is to be a profitable dairy farm with the utmost consideration for the safety and happiness of our people, the cleanliness of our environment and the health of our animals.

We are responsible for over 3,600 acres of land which is used to plant and harvest corn and hay to feed our cows. We have worked with the Vermont Land Trust and currently own 1,675 acres of conserved land, however the best way to preserve land is to keep farms in business – our farm fields cover East Montpelier, Plainfield, Marshfield, Barre, Berlin, Calais, Montpelier, Craftsbury, Glover, Greensboro and South Albany.

Soil health is crucial to the health of our water and food supply. When a farm field is left bare, the topsoil can get blown away by the wind or washed away by the rain. We keep our soils in place by covering our fields with plants all year long. In the spring, we plant our corn. It grows through the summer and is harvested in the fall. Then, in the fall we plant a protective cover crop like the cereal grain winter-rye that grows through the winter. This keeps the soil in place through the snow melts and spring rains. Each 1 percent increase in healthy soil organic matter helps the soil hold 25,000 more gallons of water per acre.

Our corn and cover crops are planted without tilling up the soil, we leave the land intact and plant the seeds directly into the ground through any existing vegetation. When the soil is undisturbed the healthy root systems, the worms and the bugs all help the soil to retain nutrients much better while also doing the tillage work themselves, creating pathways for the water and nutrients to be absorbed. There are added benefits too – less equipment trips over the field which reduces soil compaction and fuel usage.

In 2016 we began piping manure to many of our fields instead of trucking it. Manure is transported to the fields through a pipeline hose that is connected to a tractor in the field and either spread or injected directly into the soil, sometimes up to 12 inches underground, which protects water quality and improves soil health. This further reduces the equipment trips over the field but also reduces the road traffic again helping with soil compaction and fuel consumption.

To watch a video that shows how cover crops and manure injection work visit:
go.uvm.edu/protecting-the-soilgo.uvm.edu/feeding-the-soil.

And, when you look out on the beautiful fields and open spaces of Vermont, remember the dairy farmers who are working hard to protect our most important natural resources.

Why Do Farmers Use GMO Seeds?

Why do the farmers choose to use GMO seeds? What do they see as the benefits that influence their decision to adopt GMO technology? Why are they willing to pay more for GMO seed than conventional seed? Are GMOs part of sustainable agriculture?

Read the Full Story Here:

http://vtdigger.org/2016/03/15/louise-h-calderwood-genetically-modified-crops-from-the-farmers-perspective/

89% Of Scientists Believe Genetically Modified Foods Are Safe

Pew Research Center study on science literacy, undertaken in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and released on January 29, contains a blockbuster: In sharp contrast to public skepticism about GMOs, 89% of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe.

That overwhelming consensus exceeds the percentage of scientists, 88%, who believe global warming is the result of human activity. However, the public appears far more suspicious of scientific claims about GMO safety than they do about the consensus on climate change.

Some 57 percent of Americans say GM foods are unsafe and a startling 67% do not trust scientists, believing they don’t understand the science behind GMOs. Scientists blame poor reporting by mainstream scientists for the trust and literacy gaps.

The survey also contrasts sharply with a statement published earlier this week in a marginal pay-for-play European journal by a group of anti-GMO scientists and activists, including Michael Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, and philosopher Vandana Shiva, claiming, “no scientific consensus on GMO safety.”

A huge literacy gap between scientists and the public on biotechnology is one of the many disturbing nuggets that emerged from the Pew Research Center survey, which was conducted in cooperation with the AAAS, the world’s largest independent general scientific society. The full study, released on January 29, is available here.

This survey, the first of several reports to be released in coming months, compares the views of scientists and the general public on the role of science in the United States and globally.

The eye opening take-away: The American population in general borders on scientific illiteracy. The gap between what scientists believe, grounded on empirical evidence, often sharply differs from what the general public thinks is true. The differences are sharpest over biomedical research, including GMOs.

  • 88% of AAAS scientists think eating GM food is safe, while only 37% of the public believes that’s true—a 51-percentage point gap
  • 68% of scientists say it is safe to eat food grown with pesticides, compared with 28% of citizens—a 40% gap.
  • A 42-percentage point gap over the issue of using animals in research—89% of scientists favor it, while only 47% of the public backs the idea.