1.GM sweetcorn preferred (again) - AgBioView
2.Engineered corn proves easy to swallow
NOTE: Andrew Apel's comments (in item 1) - about an article about a farmer who labelled his GE sweetcorn and found it still outsold conventional sweetcorn (item 2) - are typically misleading.
Referring to the recent row over Doug Powell and Shane Morris's 'wormy' sweetcorn research, Apel suggests:
'Anti-biotech activists... may shortly claim that this news piece [about the farmer] is fraudulent' (item 1)
That's absurd. This farmer makes no pretence that what he was doing was science, and he certainly hasn't tried to pass it off as such to a peer reviewed journal by witholding crucial information about the methodology he employed. Nor has he paraded an Award for Excellence for the published paper.
In fact, far from criticisng this farmer, we commend him for labelling his sweetcorn. That's great for his customers, quite apart from the example it sets. And note that the article says that 'some customers complained that GE corn was offered at all'. That means that if he had not had the decency to label it, those customers would never have known they were being offered genetically engineered corn and they would not have been able to exercise choice. And it's worth noting that a third of his customers chose not to purchase the GE corn.
Also, how his customers felt about buying 'Our own GE corn' (if they even understood the reference) from a farmer they (presumably) know and trust, is probably about as generalisable as how an organic farmer's customers might feel if (s)he started offering GM sweetcorn as an alternative.
There is, though, a very interesting point that comes out of this article, which Andrew Apel emphasises in his comments:
'consumers seem to have a mysteriously strong preference for non-wormy corn...' (item 1)
That's clear from what the farmer says. But Apel's completely mistaken if he thinks that lends support to Powell and Morris. The very opposite, in fact, because the researchers have claimed that it didn't matter that they labelled the non-GM corn 'wormy' in their research (and even Shane Morris has finally admited that it was labelled as such during at least part of the data collection period - contrary to what he and Apel had both previously claimed), because not a single consumer made any reference at all to the 'wormy' corn issue - or so Doug Powell, as the lead author, told the British Food Journal when defending the research.
Finally, Apel's comments imply that only we have used the 'f' word about Powell and Morris's account of their methodology, whereas in fact a leading researcher into scientific ethics has called their paper a 'flagrant fraud', while another scientist has accused Powell and Morris of making 'untrue statements' about their research. Curiously, the litigious Mr Morris has not made any legal threats as a result of the publication of these comments, nor has he even suggested they be withdrawn.
This - to parody Andrew Apel - invites a question: Can only 'anti-biotech activists' be libellous?
For more on this issue:
*Leading researcher into scientific ethics calls for paper to be retracted (New Scientist) http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19025533.300&feedId=gm-food_rss20
*Paper called 'a flagrant fraud' (Private Eye)
*Powell and Morris accused of 'making untrue statements' (sci blog) http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/09/would_you_eat_wormy_sweet_corn.php
1.GM sweetcorn preferred (again)
AgBioView, November 20 2007
Guest ed. [Andrew Apel's] note: Anti-biotech activists recently claimed that earlier findings of consumer preference for 'non-wormy' sweetcorn was a 'fraud.' Faced with accusations of libel, the activists retracted their claims. They may shortly claim that this news piece is fraudulent--who knows? Even so, consumers seem to have a mysteriously strong preference for non-wormy corn with fewer chemical sprays. This invites a question: Can only Green political lobbyists be 'green'?. See http://gmoireland.blogspot.com/ for more information.
2.Engineered corn proves easy to swallow
David Sneed SanLuisObispo.com, Nov. 15 2007 http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/story/193603.html
In what may be a first in the nation, the Avila Valley Barn now clearly labels corn it sells as genetically engineered and offers customers a choice of traditional corn.
Owner John DeVincenzo grows corn that is genetically modified to contain an enzyme that is toxic to insects but not people. The produce is labeled 'Our own GE corn.'
'People have the right to know what they are eating,' DeVincenzo said.
Environmentalists and local anti-GE food activists had been pressing DeVincenzo to label the GE corn since he first began growing it five years ago. In September, he agreed.
'We still don't think enough testing has been done on GE crops, but failing that, GE products should be labeled,' said Andrew Christie, director of the local chapter of the Sierra Club. 'We heartily endorse the precedent Dr. DeVincenzo is setting.' DeVincenzo is an orthodontist in San Luis Obispo.
Renata Brillinger of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture said she has not heard about this kind of labeling happening anywhere else.
'There are some voluntary labels for GE-free foods,' she said. 'We have distributed several hundred posters for farmers to use at their market stalls, but I haven't seen anything like this.'
The corn is grown on farmland near the Avila Valley Barn on Avila Beach Drive. It is the only genetically engineered crop DeVincenzo grows. This year, he grew about 12 acres each of genetically engineered corn and regular corn.
DeVincenzo said he started growing GE corn for practical reasons: It is cheaper to produce because it does not have to be sprayed to control corn earworms.
'It was strictly economics,' he said. By planting the modified corn, DeVincenzo did not have to use pesticides to control bugs and worms or pay for a worker to apply such chemicals. And there was some saving on fuel by not running a tractor.
Labeling the corn is also a good tool for measuring consumer preferences. The store offers the GE and traditional corn at the same price.
When DeVincenzo started the labeling, he thought the traditional corn would outsell the GE corn by a two-to-one margin. He was surprised to see that the opposite was true.
While some customers complained that GE corn was offered at all, DeVincenzo said the typical customer says they prefer the modified type because it is not shucked and looks fresher. Traditional corn has to be partially or completely shucked to eliminate ears that are infested with worms.
As a result, DeVincenzo's farm manager is recommending that half as much regular corn be planted next year.
In 2004, voters in the county turned down a ballot measure that would have banned growing any GE crops in the county. Such crops remain a controversial issue.
The journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences recently published an Indiana University study that found that GE corn pollen and other plant parts are entering streams near cornfields and may be killing aquatic insects called caddisflies.
DeVincenzo admits that the use of GE crops raises legitimate concerns, but he believes the environmental benefits of GE crops outweigh the drawbacks.
For example, traditional corn requires the spraying of insecticides every four days that can drift in the wind, and the tractor applying the insecticide emits greenhouse gases.
Even with spraying, some ears of corn are going to become infested with worms, so more land has to be planted with traditional corn to yield the same crop as field planted with GE corn.
'One has to measure the environmental impact of pesticides on our sensitive planet,' DeVincenzo said. 'The benefits and liabilities must be weighed in everything we do.'