Posts Tagged ‘CookingUpAStory’

Posted on June 18, 2010 - by

Seeds Of Life: Open Pollination (video)

There has been tremendous interest in a past post written about Monsanto’s ‘gift’ of hybrid seeds to Haiti.  I thought we should follow up with a bit about exactly how pollination works, to grasp the immense implications of gifting hybrid seeds to a country like Haiti. – Lisa Madison, FRESH

Guest post by Cooking Up a Story

Organic Seed Breeder, Frank Morton Working In the Field; Wild Garden Seed, Philomath, Oregon

Continuing with our Seeds of Life series, Willamette Valley organic seed breeder, Frank Morton, explains the benefits of open pollination in plant breeding, and the important role for farmers in the selection process to continually improve plant varieties for better local adaptation.

In open pollinated plant varieties, pollination can occur from the pollen of related species that sometimes travel great distances (as measured in miles), by insects, wind, and birds.

Open pollinated plants can be selected over time to breed a desired mix of traits, and the seeds from these plants can be reused over successive generations with highly favorable results. In particular, Morton says, organic farmers want organically bred seeds, that is, seeds which are designed to work well in an organic system. Organic farmers place a strong emphasis on maintaining soil fertility, and do not use commercial fertilizers, and other chemicals to artificially boost production yields. Organically bred seeds, may be bred for roots that travel deeper through the ground to acquire the necessary supply of nutrients that a healthy plant may require. By contrast, an organically grown seed, means only that the seeds were grown on organic soil, but will not have been bred to do better under an organic farming system.  Keep Reading….


Posted on February 25, 2010 - by

Raj Patel: Food Sovereignty

This post and accompanying video was originally published by our friends at Cooking Up a Story.

Part 3 of 3-part series.  First two segments can be found here:

Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing, explains what food sovereignty means, and why people around the world are fighting to have a say in their own food system. This is as much a fight for social and economic justice as it is a fight to protect the environment, along with the ability of communities, states, and nations to determine their own food and agriculture policies.

To read this post in its entirety, click here.


Posted on January 26, 2010 - by

Sustainable Energy: Thermal Banking Greenhouse Design

This post and accompanying video was originally published by our friends at Cooking Up a Story.

sare-post-logoThis is the second in a series of “how-to” videos showcasing the knowledge and creativity of farmers who are have worked with the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE)—either as grant recipients, cooperators or leaders. In the first video, Jeanne Carver (Imperial Stock Ranch, Eastern Oregon) described her ranch’s approach to value-added marketing. Now we turn to the Midwest where Steven Schwen of Earthen Path Organic Farm (Lake City, Minnesota) has built an innovative greenhouse that allows him to extend his growing season while reducing energy costs. SARE’s Farmer-Rancher Grants program provided critical assistance for Schwen in the beginning phases of his project.

At Minnesota’s latitude, farmers who can extend their growing season have a distinct advantage in the marketplace: By offering a product outside the “normal” growing season, they can receive a higher price. That’s what Schwen has done with his greenhouse vegetable production, starting earlier in the year with seedlings of warm-season vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and peppers), and continuing production into the fall and even the winter months when he grows cold-tolerant crops such as salad mix, cilantro, scallions and carrots. Season extension is a common enough practice, but what makes Schwen’s operation so unique is the added innovation of thermal banking, which significantly reduces the energy costs of running a greenhouse for cold-season production. Schwen’s simple description of thermal banking is that it’s like a savings account: Instead of money, you save (or store) energy for future use. In this case we are talking about the heat that accumulates in a greenhouse during the daytime, especially on sunny days.

For more, click through to Cooking Up A Story


Posted on January 5, 2010 - by

Seeds of Life: David Vs. Goliath

This post and accompanying video, the first in a new series called Seeds of Life, was originally published by our friends at Cooking Up a Story.

In an ongoing David versus Goliath legal battle, Frank Morton, an organic seed breeder in Philomath, Oregon, along with the plaintiffs listed in this lawsuit, have successfully sued the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), for failure to require an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet plant. In the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled on September 21, 2009 in favor of the plaintiffs— Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds— requiring that APHIS prepare an environmental impact statement, and setting in place the remedy phase of the trial, scheduled to begin today (December 4) to decide the fate of next year’s transgenic sugar beet crop.

This interview took place this summer prior to Judge White’s September ruling in favor of Frank Morton, and the other plaintiffs.

This ruling marks a resounding renunciation of the USDA/APHIS 2005 decision to deregulate and thus allow the unrestricted commercial development of “Event H7-1”, a Glyphosate tolerant sugar beet engineered by Monsanto and the German company KWS. Deregulation opened the door for transgenic sugar beet production in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. The judge ordered that an environmental impact statement be conducted because USDA/APHIS failed to adequately consider the impact on the environment from stated cross contamination concerns, and the socio-economic impacts on consumers (eaters), farmers, and other market participants over the question of the continued availability of non-transgenic sugar beet crops.

In 2006, most of the sugar beet production was from conventional seeds but the Roundup Ready transgenic variety increased sharply in 2008 to about 60% of production, and rose again this year to estimates as high as 95% of the total U.S. market. The United States is among the largest producers of sugar, more than half comes from the production of sugar beets. Most of the U.S. sugar beet seed is produced in the Willamette Valley, where between 3000-5000 acres of sugar beet seeds are grown each year. The sugar beet plants grown from these seeds occupy areas of the western and mid-west regions of the country; the largest concentrations of (harvested) acres are in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan.

From Frank Morton’s perspective, his livelihood depends upon the ability to produce organic seeds that are not contaminated with transgenic genes spread from neighboring GMO related species of plants. In the Willamette Valley, an elaborate, but voluntary system exists to coordinate the growing of a diversity of crops to prevent the accidental cross-pollination and contamination that can occur naturally between related species. In the case of sugar beets, Morton’s Swiss Chard organic seed is commercially threatened by neighboring GMO sugar beet plants; the tiniest of contamination if it were to occur, would prevent him from selling his Swiss Chard organic seeds to his customers here and abroad. In addition, the introduction of any GMO crops into the ecologically unique Willamette Valley without a thorough environmental impact study sets a dangerous new precedent for more unregulated transgenic crops to follow.

For more, click through to Cooking Up a Story.