Category Archives: Food Safety

Extra Credit #4- ‘Misleading Label’ – Reflection

During our October 21st Class, after Mr. SEVERSON gave his lecture on the Livestock Industry, he tasked the class with finding a, ‘misleading label’. He defined these labels as a marketing ploy used to trick consumers into paying more or simply buying a product for supposed added health benefits or desirable traits said product may have already possessed. Three examples he came across that we were not permitted to use were, ‘Gluten-free tomatoes’, ‘non-GMO salt’, and ‘organic? cat litter’…

Here are some products that I found in the health food section of the nearby PathMark (now ACME):

 

‘Gluten-Free’ & ‘non-GMO’ water

‘Blackwater’? – Horrible Brand name, but if this water only contains minerals- instead of what traditional blackwater has- there should be no organisms, modified or otherwise… & no gluten!

‘Non-fat’ Prunes

Prunes (& plums) don’t have fat…

‘Gluten-free’ Hazelnut Creamer

Nuts don’t have gluten…

Extra Credit #3- Center for Food Integrity ‘Gene Editing’ – Reflection

On October 9th, after a class discussing precision agriculture technology and data management, we were asked to do a reading from November 2018 on the Center for Food Integrity‘s ‘Gene Editing, Engage in the Conversation’ about speaking to opponents of gene-editing – namely the pre-2013 Mark LYNAS” of the world, anti-GMO supporter.

In the article, it is explained that gene-editing is the key to producing, ‘healthier, more affordable, and abundant food with less land and water-use’ and that consumers are, ‘inherently curious’ about the source of their food and how it’s produced.  It is the job of ‘Ag-vocates’ to explain biotech to those who are curious or misinformed.  It is helpful to provide tangible examples, and real-world visuals and anecdotes to aid in communication.

First, it is helpful to explain what gene-editing is, which is ,’the precise, intentional, and beneficial change of the genetic material of plants and animals used in food production for additional health, nutrition, and environmental benefits.’ Many consumers don’t believe plants even have DNA or contain genes.

When presenting knowledge about the gene-editing technique CRISPr to those consumers, finding experts whose knowledge is easily digestible is key.

Secondly, explain how gene-editing is beneficial to human health, i.e., use common ailments like cancers (leukemia, sickle cell, lung cancer) to frame gene-editing in a positive light.

Third, talk about how gene-editing has evolved with time. The process of cross-breeding plants with trial-and-error is a lengthy procedure that can take decades, while targeted editing is much quicker.

Fourth, find benefits that align with public desires.  Honing in on what consumers want, be it improved animal welfare or protecting the environment can be the key to swaying dissenters to the side of biotech.

Two analogies used to explain gene-editing are, ‘The Blueprint’ and, ‘the Encyclopedia’ to explain how making small aesthetic changes to a house does not make it structurally unsound or uninhabitable and can make it increasingly easy to find where the right resources are located, respectively.

Ultimately values, and not facts, are typically what sway both hearts and minds.

Finally, the article ends with a helpful glossary of terms and online resources, as well as the relatively recently established in 2016, ‘Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture‘. The Coalition is a collection of various entities from different fields who have shared values about gene-editing.

 

Non-GMO Labeling Extra Credit

Within the united states, GMOs, a genetically modified organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques for the benefit of the crops growth and the people, has become a controversial debate in the aspect of if a food should contain the GMO label which is beginning to effect the way food is being produced and purchased across the United States and the world. With the topic of GMOs, many consumers have developed little knowledge about the process in growing them and what they contain which has caused many to publish false information and consumers to become to believe that GMOs are bad. Essentially, with this developed belief, food companies have begun to take this as an advertising advantage and strategy to get consumers to purchase their product even though the product may not even contain genetics such as the product of Pink Himalayan Salt.

Pink Himalayan Salt, a product made of 98% of sodium chloride and contains other minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium that is mined from the rocks of the Punjab region of modern Pakistan, has no genes. However, because much of the public lacks education and knowledge of GMOs and the health of it, the public has come to believe that GMO free products are healthier, thus, causing many food companies to use this as an advantage to label products as GMO free so that the consumer will be more likely to purchase the product even though the salt contains no genes to be altered. Essentially, with labeling, a relationship of trust has been created between the producer and consumer because food labeling allows the consumer to know what’s in the product and purchase it based off of beliefs and individual desires which allows the consumer to know that the company is producing safe products based off of their beliefs; which can be an advantage to the food industry but it can also lead to focused markets and affect the products that are being labeled as GMO.

Mark Lynas Video

Mark Lynas is an environmentalist, who, over the course of almost 20 years, has changed his mind. Not only has he changed his mind, but he is also willing to admit it in the conference. He used to be someone who despised GM, but now that he has done a bit of research and gone deeper into the subject, he learned that they can be quite helpful in agriculture. He had so many opinions about GMs that he even wrote books about it. He believed that it created a need for more harmful pesticides, but he was wrong, some modification actually benefited the plants by decreasing the need for pesticides. Almost everything he believed in was not the whole truth. He wrote many books, all discussing environmental changes and how GMs effect it. He didn’t look at the whole truth, and went on his beliefs and didn’t see the other side. He finished his message by saying, let science rule the truth. That saying is why I know climate change is real, the earth is round, or other things that tend to be non believed when the scientific data is there. It’s important to look at both sides, and dig deeper into the subject.

Biotechnology in Agriculture

Biotechnology serves a huge purpose in todays agricultural firm. The basics is that people are genetically modifying crops and animals to produce more for the human world. These people make slight modifications to genes which makes them better for us and the producers.

I was surprised to see how long ago people were using biotechnology in agriculture. They started using it in 1966. They adopted this technique to yield increase, save energy, and to have better pest control. Some people may like to stay organic but overall I feel that GMO’s are beneficial for everyone.

EC Gene Editing

Gene editing is one of today’s biggest industries in agriculture. People have been wanting to know exactly how the gene editing is used because of course, people want to know what they are putting in their bodies.

So what is gene editing? “A METHOD OF SELECTIVE BREEDING THAT MAKES PRECISE, INTENTIONAL AND BENEFICIAL CHANGES IN THE GENETIC MATERIAL OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS USED IN FOOD PRODUCTION, WHICH CAN IMPROVE HEALTH, NUTRITION AND ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP.”

One thing that I was surprised to read about was that feeding the world is on the bottom of the gene editing priority list. I thought that would have been more towards the top.

There are many ways to edit genes. Another important one is CRISPR. CRISPR is a more precise way to edit the genetic code. To sum up this blog post, this article was very fascinating in the ways that people genetically modify our food source and could be very beneficial to our world in the future.

Genetic Editing Communication Extra Credit

Gene Editing, a unique technology that allows scientist to alter the genes of a given plant, has helped the food production industry by creating better and more efficient crops that allows farmers to produce higher yields with less of a use of land, water, pesticides, and other resources which ultimately helps the world in sustaining an adequate food supply of the growing population. However, with this new technology, many have begun to publish false information about the technology due to the lack of knowledge about the topic in which has resulted into the concerns of the public to arise making the need of communicating the truth of this product very important to understand today and in the future day time.

When communicating this topic, one should engage in conversation about genetic editing in food and agriculture and consider the consumers perceptions of gene editing, the power of shared values, know the genetic terms and definitions in genetic editing, and the coalition for responsible gene editing to effectively teach the public the essence of genetic editing. While engaging in a conversation about this particular topic, one should also embrace the skepticism of the person they are speaking to and inform them about the topic of genetic editing using scientific information going from the history to the benefits of genetic editing to people and the environment; such as gene editing allows plants to become more resistant to certain insects which allows for less use of pesticides, and overall listen to the other person and communicate the right information. Essentially, with communicating and using effective communication skills, one is able to help the agriculture industry by advocating genetic editing to the people which essentially allows the public to become more knowledgeable about this topic and become more comfortable in having genetic edited products.

Throughout this article, the topic of genetic editing was discussed which allowed me to develop a further understanding of the topic as well as learn the effective ways to communicate this topic to the people to get the truth out to the public. Essentially allowing many to become more knowledgeable and less fearful of this practice, which can help the agriculture industry in maintaining the practice to help the world in sustaining an adequate food supply today and in the future.

 

Confessions of an Anti-GMO environmentalist | Mark Lynas

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One of the world’s greatest challenges now has the opportunity to become a model for developing genetic techniques that could help save the global food supply and ultimately combat world hunger. Knowing the value of GM technology, helping farmers sustainability increase yields to feed a predicted 9.5 billion people with less land, water, and facing climate change—is at the forefront of the public’s moral responsibility.

Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution, died in 2009 however left an important message, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years”. Mark Lynas, a world-renowned pro-science environmentalist, was supposed to be a voice of reason much alike Borlaug. At the 2013 oxford conference he, unfortunately, began with an apology, he let us down. Lynas spent his life using science to prove the implications of climate change, in fact, he stated he was determined to make his first book on global warming scientifically credible.

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Lynas later led a life of contradiction, holding that he was strongly opposed to genetically modified organisms on the basis that it was marketed by big corporations later questioned by a critic, “Are you also opposed to the wheel because it is marketed by the big auto companies?”. It would be unfair to judge someone based on one single mistake however, it is challenging to overcome such hypocrisy. Perhaps his apology is acts as a greater reflection of today’s society—fake news, quick judgment, and serve apprehension of technology that doesn’t include the latest iPhone releases.

Mark originally argued that GMO’s were “living pollution” and ultimately unhealthy for people and the environment. He argued that GMOs meant increased pesticide usage and more pesticides meant an ecological crisis. In the following years and further research, Lynas discovered that GMOs require fewer pesticides, herbicides and produce higher yields with less land. Agricultural producers would be able to feed the global population with less harm to the environment and surrounding ecosystems.

Although Mark argued against GMOs initially with the concern for food safety and environmental implications, he supported organic agricultural practices and organic foods suggesting they were a healthier alternative and better to grow. In fact, many consumers run for the organic food section these days which is troubling. Lynas later found that organic crops grow slower, require more labor, more land, and are less eco-friendly and organic practices supply less food to the global supply than traditional methods.

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Lynas made a final plea that, “The GMO debate is over, it is finished, we no longer need to discuss whether or not it’s not safe…there has been a substantial amount of meals that have caused no harm”.

His foolish mistake to ignore science serves as a lesson for others to consider, are we willing to watch the world starve over the unnecessary fear of technology and opinions driven by emotion, not facts?

Mark Lynas GMO Speech

Mark Lynas, a world- renowned environmentalist, spoke at the 2013 oxford conference about genetically modified organisms and how his perspective on them changed when faced with science. During earlier years, Mark believed that GMOs were unhealthy for the people and the environment that used more pesticide’s then crops with their initial genetics; causing him to set up a campaign that was against GMOs and the usage of them. However, as the years proceeded forward, Mark slowly came faced with different experiences that led him to the scientific part of GMOs rather than the opinion of an Anti-GMO Environmentalist. This essentially led him to the discovery that GMOs use less pesticides and produce higher yields with less land which allows producers to feed more people with less of a need of additional investments such as, pesticides, that are believed to harm the surrounding ecosystems, people, and overall environment.

With this discovery, came a realization, that in years-time the world will need to feed the equivalent of 9.5 billion people with less land, water, fertilizer and pesticides with a global demand increase for food of 100%; to keep up with the growing population and the changes in economic stability within it. In addition to this realization, researchers proclaimed to the Anti- GMO Environmentalist and their act to remove GMOs would cause the world to face great hunger due to the lack of ability to feed the world with traditional or organic crops. Before this realization, Mr. Lynas also believed that organic crops were healthier and safer and would be better to grow overall. However, he changed his mind after the discovery that organic crops grow slower, need more labor, and more land to produce enough food to feed the world as well as are less likely to produce a good yield to contribute to the supply of food for the people.

With organic crops, he also found that they have caused more people to die and suffer, such as the Ecoli, breakout then GMO crops have in the 70 years they have been around. “The GMO debate is over, it is finished, we no longer need to discuss whether or not it’s not safe…there have been a substantial amount of meals that have caused no harm” (Mark Lynas). Essentially, Mr. Lynas was faced with scientific information instead of opinionated information which allowed him to realize that GMOs were safer and a more efficient technology to use now and in the future time and hopes that with this information, he will become a better environmentalist.

Fifers Orchards

September 28th, 2019, my class took a field trip to Fifers Orchards. At Fifers their main goal is to grow and sell high quality produce, while preserving the environment, serving the community, and maintaining family values. The Fifer family has been growing fresh fruits and vegetables since 1919. Fifers grows a variety of fruits and vegetable; strawberries, asparagus, blueberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, plums, cut flowers, and way more. They talked about their community supported agriculture club (CSA). This allows Fifers to get more active in their environment. People receive produce boxes and have a choice as to where they get it. People from further away can get access to these boxes with their multiple locations. Fifers is a big step in helping our agriculture every day.

Fifer Orchards: 100 years of farming!

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Fifer Orchards is a Delaware century- farm in operation from 1919 celebrating its 100 years of operation this season. The Fifer family strives to grow and sell high-quality produce while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values.

Fifer Orchards is a 3,000-acre farm growing a large variety of produce such as but not limited to: Asparagus, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Peaches, Sweet Corn, Pumpkins, and Strawberries.

Sweet corn is their number one profit bringing crop where this year they shipped sweet corn to New Mexico and Colorado where a shortage occurred.

Tomatoes are their most abundant crop on a per-acres basis and recently the Fifer family included high tunnels in their tomato growing plan.

Image result for black v white plastic on strawberriesOne of the most fascinating techniques Fifer Orchards is testing out this year is the use of black vs. white plastics on their strawberry crops in an effort to offset harvest time for the white covered crops so they don’t have an oversupply during the initial harvest period.  This allows them to, hopefully, increase their profitability.

Fifer Orchards is a beautiful farm with a lot of history and diversity I certainly plan on visiting again soon. 

Fifer Orchards Field Trip

Fifer Orchards was a great field trip it was cool getting to ride around in the bus and get to see all the fields. Seeing the pivot irrigation up close was amazing. I’ve never realized just how big they really are. I also never thought about the tires going flat and the plastic tires are a wonderful idea and definitely makes farmers jobs a lot less stressful.

I wish would have been able to see the packing system working I can only imagine how efficent this machine is and he said that its really out of date but it still looks in great condition. Before we got to the  packing system we walked through their freezer which was just packed with all their different produce. The diversity of fifers crops is really amazing they have from apples all the way to kale. I also really liked their store where I got a gallon of apple cider and donuts and they were both so good. That alone was worth the little drive.

Fifers Orchards

While I was unable to attend the field trip myself, my friend Mollie told me all about it afterwards. She told me that Fifers Orchards is a 3,000 acre family owned farm in Delaware. This farm is owned and operated mostly by the fourth generation of the family, who initially moved here from Virginia. Each family member has their own role in the operations of the farm and they stick to that role. Luckily, this has worked smoothly and everyone in this generation is happy with their role. On the farm, they grow strawberries, kale, cauliflower, peaches, apples, tomatoes, soybeans, and sweet corn. The crops are, for the most part, handpicked, which requires a lot of physical labor. The corn and grain crops are mechanically harvested. Luckily the produce is weighed and sized mechanically and stored in a cooler room kept at 31-36 degrees while the produce awaits shipment. Advancements in technology such as in irrigation, tractors to apply pesticides and herbicides, the cooler room to keep produce fresh, and of course the equipment to harvest the corn and grain crops have contributed to the success Fifers has had. Imagine carrying products out of the fields or spraying crops with pesticides by hand- that would take ages! Fifers is a family owned and very successful farm in Delaware through new technology, school outreach, and strong family relationships.

A Visit to Fifer Orchards

On Saturday, the class took a trip to Fifer Orchards in Wyoming Delaware. We got to see what kinds of crops they grew, and what methods they used for growing them.

For instance, on a lot of their crops (such as broccoli and kale), a center pivot irrigation system was used. This is where a large machine pivots in a circular shape around the field and sprays water in order to hydrate the plants. On other crops (such as peaches), they used drip irrigation. This is where crops are hydrated from the bottom to avoid getting the leaves of the plant wet, which can increase chance for disease, but this system is more inconvenient to use.

Some crops had unique structures associated with them as well. Strawberries used plasticulture where their soil was raised off the ground and covered in black plastic, and tomatoes used a high tunnel where there would be fabric shading the tomatoes in a similar fashion to a greenhouse. These methods both protect the crop during cold weather.

This trip was interesting, and it shed some light on both the physical growth side of farming as well as the marketing side once the crop is harvested.

Field Trip to Fifer’s Orchards

On September 28th the class took a trip down to Fifer’s orchards where we got to see in person the different techniques used to grow many of the different crops on their farm. We were taken on a tour of our bus around the farm with various different stops. On our first stop, we got to see the machine used in center pivot irrigation. On the next stop, we went to their strawberry fields and saw the raised plastic bedding they use to help with temperature control. afterward, we traveled to the storage center where we saw their loading facility where their products are loaded onto trucks and sent to their buyers. Then we entered the very chilly fridge where are all of their harvested crops are held at a much cooler temperature than the outside. in the end, it was a cool trip to be able to see many of the different techniques used to help with crop growth in person.