Starting in 2006, the government will require nutrition labels on food to also list trans-fats. That’s pushing companies to look at changing how they grow some crops. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Starting in 2006, the government will require nutrition labels on food to also list trans-fats.
That’s pushing companies to look at changing how they grow some crops. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Products containing hydrogenated soybean oil are high in trans-fats. So, Monsanto is designing a
new lower-fat, healthier soybean. Using conventional plant breeding, Monsanto will first do two
thing. One: reduce trans-fats and two: increase healthy monounsaturated fats. Shannon
Troughton is a spokesperson for Monsanto. She says a final step requires genetically altering the
“The third phase will take biotechnology techniques and make it completely free or as free as
possilbe of saturated fats.”
Except for a more nutritious rice given to the developing world for free, this is the first time a
grain has been genetically modified for reasons other than economic gain for farmers. Monsanto
indicates the new soy oil will be in products on the grocers’ shelves in about eight years if it’s
approved by government regulators.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Bill Erwin and a number of other Michigan apple growers are involved in a huge project to reduce pesticide use in orchards. Erwin says he's among those who will continue the practice.
No one likes the idea of pesticides in baby food. But nobody likes the idea of a worm in an apple either. So apple growers have been involved in a three year project to reduce pesticides, but still turn out a crop that’s not plagued by insects. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
No one likes the idea of pesticides in baby food. But nobody likes the idea of a worm in
an apple either. Apple growers have been involved in a three year project to reduce
pesticides, but still turn out a crop that’s not plagued by insects. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Gerber makes baby food. A lot of those little jars of fruit use apples in the mix. A few
years ago the Consumers Union, an arm of the magazine Consumer reports, called for the
end of the use of many of the pesticides that end up in children’s food. And the
Environmental Working Group issued a scathing report on pesticides in kid’s food. Like
other baby food makers, Gerber knew it had to do something. It started with improving
methods to wash off or peel off pesticide residue on apples. But, there was only so much
that could be done in the plant.
Todd DeKryger is with Gerber Baby Foods. He says Gerber’s plants did what they could
to get rid of pesticide residue, but it wasn’t enough.
“Our customers were telling us, ‘We don’t want residues in the products we buy from
Gerbers.’ We turn around and tell our growers ‘We need a product without pesticide
residues.’ And it’s really been amazing how they have really bought into that whole idea
of providing a product. You know, and they say ‘Hey, look. We fed our kids Gerber and,
uh, yeah, okay, this makes sense. Now, how can I help?'”
Gerber got some help from a firm based in North Carolina. The Center for Agricultural
Partnerships contacted Gerber at its main plant in Michigan as well as Michigan State
University’s Extension Service and apple growers. They had money to pay for
publications and free consultants for three years for growers who wanted to try a way to
control bugs in the orchards called ‘Integrated Pest Management’ or IPM.
Larry Elworth is with the Center. He says IPM. has worked for other types of fruit
growers, but expertise was needed for the particular climates and growing conditions in
Michigan’s apple orchards to make IPM effective.
“It’s become a way of managing pests that gives growers way more information to use so
they can actually outsmart the insects rather than always relying on a chemical as the way
to control them.”
(apple picking sound)
That all sounded good, but no one had tried it in the apple orchards on a large scale.
“Well, our main concern was whether it was going to work or not.”
Bill Erwin operates Erwin Orchards and Cider Mill.
(sound of rolling apples)
Apple pickers are plucking fruit and gently rolling the apples into a big wooden crate for
shipping to retailers. Erwin says it seemed risky to change farming methods in the
“We’ve been used to the chemistries. We’ve been used to the program and, uh, we
weren’t sure that using lighter chemistries was going to work and we weren’t sure that we
were going to be able to control the bugs.”
Erwin says pesticides are reliable. They kill bugs. The fruit looks good. And the orchard
is nice looking in that there’s no wildlife, bugs, birds or otherwise in the area for very
long. But Erwin says all the beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and spiders that eat bugs
that ruin fruit were also gone. Erwin says he noticed something else that bothered him –
humming bird nests – but no baby humming birds.
So, Erwin and a lot of other Michigan apple growers gave Integrated Pest Management a
shot. Erwin says they found using tactics such as mating disruption of pests works. The
worm in the apple is actually the coddling moth’s larvae which burrow into the fruit.
Apple growers used the female coddling moth’s pheremones against the insect. By
saturating the orchard with pheremones, males didn’t know which way to turn to find a
mate. No mate, no eggs. No eggs, no worm in the apple. And Erwin says he noticed
“Now we find humming birds. We find little baby humming bird nests everywhere in this
orchard. We see bluebirds out here. You never used to see those. And, so, we know we’re
doing something good with the environment and that makes us feel good about this
program. They’ve taught us something and it’s gonna be something we’re going to keep
And it appears the results are good.
The Center for Agricultural Partnership’s Larry Elworth says the three year project was a
“Growers had at least as good if not better quality apple crops than they had before. Fewer bites
from insects chewing on the surface. A lot fewer worms that had burrowed inside the
apples which gave them a higher quality crop and they actually got more revenue for
their crop than they’d been getting before. And they were also able to reduce their overall
costs for controlling insects.”
Gerber Baby Foods is relieved. By getting orchards closer to its plant to reduce pesticide
use, it’s ensured a local supply of apples. Otherwise, it meant trucking in fruit from
farther away and paying more for fruit that met consumers’ demands for pesticide free
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Milk production is big business in the upper Midwest. Now, the president of a biotech company in Wisconsin is milking a herd of cloned cows that he says could give the Great Lakes dairy industry a boost, but there are still questions about the health of cloned cows, and whether the milk they produce is safe for human consumption. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gil Halsted has the story:
Milk production is big business in the upper Midwest. Now the president of a biotech company in Wisconsin is milking a herd of cloned cows that he says could give the Great Lakes dairy industry a boost. But there are still questions about the health of cloned cows and whether the milk they produce is safe for human consumption. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gil Halsted reports:
(Sound of milk splashing into a sink)
Just outside the milking parlor at the Infigen Dairy a steady stream of milk is flowing from a pipe into a sink. It gurgles down the drain into another pipe that leads to a holding tank. Infigen president Michael Bishop says the milk is perfectly safe and nutritious but when the day’s milking is done he’ll get rid of it.
“Right now that milk is worth 15, 16 dollars a hundredweight and we’re dumpin’ it.”
The milk Bishop is dumping comes from 23 cloned cows. He produced them by removing the genetic material from an unfertilized cow egg and then inserting the DNA from the ear of a cow he wanted to reproduce. The result is a herd of cows that looks uncannily identical. There are no regulations requiring Bishop to dump the milk from his herd. But the FDA has asked all owners of cloned livestock to keep food products from their animals off the market until the agency decides whether or not to regulate them. The FDA is waiting for a National Academy of Sciences report on animal cloning due out later this spring before it makes a decision.
FDA spokesperson Stephen Sundlof says even if the report includes no red flags on food products from clones, the agency may require tests on the milk from cloned cows before it goes on the market.
“That would be to look compositionally at milk from cloned animals and compare that to milk from non-cloned animals to see if there was any substantial differences. But other than that we would likely find that those products were in fact identical to normal milk produced by uncloned animals.”
Michael Bishop is confident the milk his cloned cows are producing is perfectly safe for human consumption. In fact he says he’s already run the kind of test Sundlof is talking about comparing the milk of his cloned cows with the milk from cows at a neighboring dairy.
“Nothing new in the cloned cows… but there were variants in the bulk tank of a neighbor dairy, so it really turns out that the food product is more predictable. It’s gonna be the same in a cloned animal.”
But critics of cloning food say there are still lots of unanswered questions. Infigen isn’t the only company cloning dairy cows and several consumer groups are lobbying the FDA to put some strong regulations in place before milk from any of the diaries using the procedure is allowed on supermarket shelves. Joseph Mendelsen is with the Washington-based Center for Food Safety. He says there are a number of potential health problems for cloned cows. For instance they may be more susceptible to mastitis, and may require more use of antibiotics.
“Are there possibly subtle genetic differences that may affect the nutritional quality of the milk? I don’t think those issues have been looked at and they’re certainly not gonna be looked at with the scrutiny I think that consumers expect if we don’t have a mandatory regulatory system looking at cloned animals and the products derived from them.”
Infigen’s Michael Bishop agrees that regulations to insure the quality of the milk may be necessary, and he’s in favor of labeling the milk from cloned cows so consumers can make an informed choice.
“Americans are used to having choices and I believe they should have this choice. Let’s let science prove one way or the other if there’s a difference and then let’s let the marketplace decide if that product is going to be acceptable.”
Critics of cloning all say labeling should be required for food from cloned animals. But they’re even more concerned about the affect clones will have on genetic diversity. John Peck is the executive director of the Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defenders. He says an increase in the number of cows with identical genes will reduce the range of genetic diversity. And that means, he says, that herds of cloned cattle will be even more likely to face problems from disease and viruses.
“If you’re basically engineering in this uniformity, you’re also engineering susceptibility to catastrophic events, which we’ve seen that with other crops that are genetically engineered or hybrids that are vulnerable to one form of blight or rust or something that comes in from afar. The big question then is, who’s gonna pay for that? You know are the consumers gonna foot the bill when a factory farm of two thousand dairy cows all gets wiped out by one virus?”
But Michael Bishop says his cloned cows will not be any more at risk for disease than the original healthy cows they were cloned from. He predicts that once cloning catches on, farmers running large commercial dairies will begin adding clones to their herds to increase their efficiency.
“Because they’ll actually be able to create a more uniform consistent product from cow to cow to cow, and be able to predict how much hay, how much feed, and exactly what the outcome’s gonna be. Is it gonna be thirty thousand, thirty one thousand, thirty two thousand pounds of milk from the inputs they put in.”
how quickly large dairies turn to cloning for economic advantage though depends a lot on whether the FDA decides to impose restrictions on the milk the cloned cows produce.
For Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Gil Halsted.