Six consequences for consumers of labeling GMOs

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Labeling of genetically modified organisms in food has been debated for decades. Whether the labels should be mandatory, voluntary, or third-party based like Kosher has been widely disputed.

For a long time we’ve all discussed what would happen if/when GMO labels hit the stores. Some groups claimed that there was no cost at all to just label food. Other groups predicted serious impacts on the budgets of consumers. In Vermont, GMO labeling legislation took effect on July 1, and we are already beginning to see the reactions by food producers and distributors. We don’t have any data yet on how consumers respond but we can examine what the companies are doing at this point.

Every tidbit so far has been an example of “told you so.” Some companies are embracing their GMO supply chain and doing the charm offensive. Some are swapping out ingredients. Some are raising prices. Some are eating their price differences (which, of course, will hurt small business the most). Some may simply opt-out of selling in the Vermont market.

Things may shift was we get closer to the deadline, or change completely if the court battles resolve. But here’s what we know about the current state of play. Here are six real consequences of GMO labeling:

unnamed (1)1. Labeling is “expensive”.

Campbell’s was the first company to go public with their plans, in this piece from the NYT. They will now label all their products across the U.S., because labeling for one state was not workable for them—and would be “incredibly costly”. The Chief Executive of Campbell said about their own program, “Ms. Morrison said that complying with Vermont’s law was expensive….” No, it’s not just some text on the can. It’s reviewing the supply chain, checking all the recipes, evaluating the logistics, exploring sourcing options, etc. Anyone who tells you it’s just a bit of text has no grasp of this, nor of the $1,000/day penalty for getting it wrong. Small producers are acutely aware of how much the changes will cost them (in the example here that’s $10,000). Their budgets are far less flexible than those of Big Food, and it will be hard to know if some of them just choose to stop selling into that market.

2. Labeling is confusing.

In the same NYT piece, we find that plain SpaghettiOs must carry a GMO label. But meatball SpaghettiOs do not need to. Since they are regulated by different agencies, meat-containing products are exempt. How this adequately informs consumers has yet to be adequately explained to me. I’m sure someone will try in the comments. We also know that the state of Vermont can’t handle the incoming questions at this time, and according to a Wall Street Journal piece: “The office of Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, which is responsible for enforcing the state law, has been deluged with questions. Its website now warns that the office won’t reply to email inquiries about GMO labeling and asks companies to stop calling.” That’s informative.

3. Companies will swap out ingredients.

The same WSJ piece above included reports of a small pasta business that had to make changes to their recipes to avoid the labeling hassles and possible penalties. They had been using canola oil–which may be herbicide tolerant GMO, or herbicide tolerant non-GMO. Surely even if they were using the non-GMO version but people saw it on a label, the tractor-chasing legal teams would light up with glee. In any case, they have now switched to olive oil. This raised their costs by 10 percent, without a similar increase in sales. Other small companies are retiring some products (how’s that for choice?). Maybe Big Food can eat those kinds of costs, but this hurts a small business.

unnamedAnd that said, if you actually think Big Food doesn’t pass the costs along in some way, I’d like to sell you this charming Vermont GMO-free covered bridge….

4. Swapping out ingredients raises prices.

We know this from Ben & Jerry, in fact. Interestingly, in early comments on this, B&J said: “Ben & Jerry’s has no plans to raise prices as a result of the transition….” Later we learn, also from the WSJ article: “It took about three years just to remove GMOs from ingredients like cookie dough and caramel, and the new products averaged 11% higher in price.” About that bridge, my prices just went up.

5. Changing recipes alters products — in unpleasant ways.

Besides some products simply disappearing due to the hassle of finding new sources, other products may get modifications to avoid GMOs with surprising results. We’ve watched multiple examples of products losing vitamins as they got their Non-GMO Project status. In the case of not-Heath-Bar-Crunch, customers were dismayed by the new flavor. I have to say, though, the most surpising thing to me was adding new allergen labels as a result of their switch. One company switching away from cottonseed oil has opted for peanut oil: “that switch introduced a new allergen the company had to warn consumers about.” Swell. If you have an allergy as I do, you’ll have to be aware of ingredient changes to products you’ve bought all along. Let’s hope that parents of kids with allergies don’t miss these changes because their kids could get hurt.

6. Some companies will opt out of shipping to Vermont.

An article by the Associated Press covered another aspect of the challenges: shipping. One company was facing serious logistical issues, which are also costly.

Herr Foods Inc., a midsize snack food company based in Philadelphia, is considering pulling its products from Vermont if the law takes effect, said Daryl Thomas, senior vice president for sales and marketing. “Just the logistics, the expense are horrendous,” he said.

And this doesn’t include the costs of getting it wrong, with the very steep penalty and ensuing the legal nightmares. Yeah, labelers want choices. The choice to remove other people’s favorites. In addition, small shop owners are losing sleep over the downstream consequences of opting-out:

“As a retailer, there’s all sorts of ways that this could backfire on us as a state, and a small independent guy like myself if I’ve got nothing on my shelves or I’ve got limited (supply) and my competitors have no problem with the staying power, we’re done,” said Ray Bouffard, owner of Georgia Market in Georgia, Vermont.

get_outAgain, we see that small business stands to be harmed by the whole scenario. And Big Food and Big Chain probably continue to swim in the shark-infested waters. Is that what labelers wanted? Really? A win for the Bigs? Well done.

These are the known issues. Other unknowns at this point include the impacts on sales, legal penalties, enforcement costs, and other financial effects. Another possibility is harassment of companies. “Some of the feedback that these companies are getting is boycotts from groups against the use of GMOs…”. We’ll have to assess this on the real roll-out, but I’ve known this was the goal all along. If you think that labels are going to stop the shouting, see me about that bridge again.

Update 6/27/2016: Coca-Cola will not ship some products to Vermont after July 1.

Update 6/30/2016: Products disappearing, confusion ensues. I don’t hate to say “I told you so.”.

Update 7/1/2016: Labeling day! Price Chopper loses 3,000 products over GMO law 

And here’s Bernie Sanders using a QR code.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 8.31.58 AM

Update 7/2/2016. Consequences continue to roll in. Baby formula is becoming unavailable.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 8.33.00 AM

This article originally appeared on Biology Fortified as Six real consequences of GMO labeling – you may be shocked by #5! and was reposted with permission of the author.

Mary Mangan, Ph.D., received her education in microbiology, immunology, plant cell biology, and mammalian cell, developmental, and molecular biology. She co-founded OpenHelix, a company providing training on open source software associated with the burgeoning genomics arena, over a decade ago. All comments here are her own, and do not represent her company or any other company. You can contact Mary via twitter: @mem_somerville

  • I’d like to know if “may contain GMOs” is an acceptable label. I’m guessing not.

    • mem_somerville

      According to the last guidence doc I’m aware of, that is an option. This is the PDF link: http://ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/Consumer/GE_Food/Guidance%20-%20Rule%20CP%20121%20Annotated.pdf

      The part I see about it is CP 121.02 Labeling:

      (ii) Disclosures on packaged, processed foods shall read “Produced with Genetic Engineering,” “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering,” or “May be Produced with Genetic Engineering,” as appropriate.

      • Thanks!

        Although

        “May be” may be used to modify “Produced with Genetic Engineering” only when the food’s manufacturer does not know, after reasonable inquiry, whether the food is, or contains a component that is, produced with genetic engineering.

        That leaves open to interpretation what constitutes ‘reasonable inquiry’.

        • mem_somerville

          Yeah, well, the whole thing is a lawyer’s dream. But I have seen labels that say something like this one, for cheddar Goldfish in the past:

          …VEGETABLE OILS (CANOLA, SUNFLOWER AND/OR SOYBEAN)…

          So they don’t even have to state which of the oils it is, they can dodge that. So it could be HT canola which is GMO or non-GMO (because there are both), it could be HT sunflower (non-GMO, because most are), or yes/no soybeans too. Nightmare.

          • First Officer

            The Vermont Law’s cell fusion definition of GMO’s also opens up a whole can of free ranging worms. Some cane sugar may fall under that definition, as well as broccoli and others.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Well, there are 12 months before enforcement begins — may be time enough to train up a small army of righteous “concerned consumers” who will exploit every opportunity to police every farm market and grocery in Vermont searching for these rare possible GMOs, like your broccoli. I mean, it would only be the patriotic thing to keep Vermont’s AG buried beneath complaint forms in the interests of public safety, law and order.

            Here’s the link to get us started. Anybody you know who lives near Vermont or who maybe passes through Vermont on business or vacation ought easily to be able to find time to file a few dozen complaints each trip.

            http://ago.vermont.gov/hot-topics/ge-food-litigation.php

            Pass the link around, recruit anyone who can fog a mirror, do your part to keep the brave little state of Vermont safe from those icky scary GMOs!

          • First Officer

            How do we know a person did not know and not lying on a sworn statement? What if we believe the independent agency is, itself, in error? I/e the NonGMOProject certifies some broccoli that has been bred with cell fusion?

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Well, I’d say we need right now to identify all produce that MAY HAVE BEEN exposed to cell fusion technology – broccoli, as you point out, but also any other product with even a remote possibility of any connection with any genetic engineering technology as described in the Vermont law. Then, whenever I see anything resembling one of those suspect products in a famers market, grocery or farm stand anywhere in Vermont my reaction should appropriately be one of grave concern and deep seated fear bordering on hysteria. If there is no label or signage, or if the signage is not 100% in compliance with the Vermont law, then as a brave and patriotic American citizen I am compelled to act out of concern for life and limb and the food rights of the fragile people of the great law and order state of Vermont! It is the compassionate thing to do. See something, say something!! Snap photos, fill out and file that complaint form at once, before any evil carnage can result.

            As for knowing “intent”, why hell, FO, as a consumer I’m not possessed of the power to determine any of that. It is enough that I exercise my “right to know” by freaking out and filing the complaint with the Vermont AG’s office. The true foodie patriot instinctively understands the safe thing to do is file first, file often and let the AG sort it all out. That’s how food policing is correctly done! As consumers, Vermont has made it clear we are helpless potential victims, incapable of reasoning on our own so surely there can be no foul if we move briskly to bring evil purveyors of suspect foods to the tender attention of the AG’s food cops. You and I, FO, are not expected to think, only to exercise our God given right to know. After all, it is not our intent to file a false report – no, we just suddenly “know” and out of fear and an abundance of precaution we file — the equivalent of dialing 911. That’s how this new law is supposed to work. If not, then Vermont will need to change it.

            So, who among us can begin to populate a complete list of all produce and food that might be a GMO according to the Vermont law? That’s where we begin, no?

          • First Officer

            Aye, aye, sir ! For Liberty, Justice and the American way!

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Yep. And also for our right to know and our determination to make the world a better place in our own estimation.

            For the cause!!

          • agscienceliterate

            “Warning: All food grown and produced in Vermont MAY contain GMO’s. Eat at your own risk. Additional disclaimer: This food contains DNA .”

    • Good4U

      Here are some labeling statements that I’d like to see attached to GMOs:
      > Contains no organic fecal matter
      > Safer than organic
      > Contains less mycotoxins than organic
      > Contains less insect parts than organic
      > Grown with less pesticides than organic
      > Safer for the environment than organic
      > Not blessed by Dr. Oz, Mercola, Food Boobs, or any east Indian foodie guru that appears on TV and shills for the organic industry

  • Marsha Holderfield

    GMOphobes = Anti Science

    • People have legitimate concerns for GMO products. It’s not anti-science. Science has always been a doubled edged sword come on. Don’t get all dogmatic with your love for science defending their morally ambiguous studies.

      • “legitimate”… Happy to entertain a scientifically based concern that differentiates GMOs as a class from non-GMOs.

  • RastaBob

    Shorter – OH NOES! Too expensive!! I am not a GMO freakout person but is it really too much to put it on the fricken label? So let them swap out ingredients – if that what a certain type of consumer wants, well let them have it.

    • agscienceliterate

      Telling a consumer that there are genetically engineered ingredients does not say anything about the food that is helpful to the consumer. It only describes a process, much like mutagenesis is a process without a label. You will find that most people who advocate for a label are anti-GE pro-organic activists who are calling for labeling only for their own political agenda. And I do not believe you have a right to force meaningless labels on my food, in order to support your own political agenda.

      • RastaBob

        How the hell is a label hurting you in any way? You guys are just as annoying as the Anti-GMO idiots.

        • agscienceliterate

          As you have read here numerous times, labeling for just one gene altering process, without yielding any additional relevant nutritional or safety information, requires segregation of that specific product from planting through harvest, storage, transport, processing, and packaging, and that is expensive to everyone involved in the food chain. Voters have realize this, and thus rejected labeling in the last four ballot initiatives in California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.
          The United States Senate just passed a reasonable compromise on this measure, by a two thirds margin, with ole Bernie Sanders in the minority of course.
          But you sound like a dog on a bone. You sound like you want to try again, so go fer it.

        • Farmer with a Dell

          GMO labeling imparts no useful information but it does conveniently single out and stigmatize a product, places it irretrievably in the crosshairs of irrational paid hate mongers like Andrew KImbrel and Ronnie Cummins
          .
          .
          “We are going to force them to label this food. If we have it labeled, then we can organize people not to buy it.”

          — Andrew Kimbrell, executive director, Center for Food Safety.
          .
          .
          “The burning question for us then becomes how – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2 percent market niche to the dominant force in American food and farming? The first step is to change our labeling laws.”

          — Ronnie Cummins, president, Organic Consumers Association

    • Arthur Doucette

      Because we all have to pay for this silliness.

      • RastaBob

        AGAIN – labeling will NOT raise prices. Typical fear tactics – and I don’t care if GMO’s are in the food – I just hate the blatant lies put out there and parroted by you people.

        • Arthur Doucette

          Of course it would.
          Testing is expensive and time consuming.
          And testing would have to be done extensively in order to determine if a product contains GE ingredients or not. That cost is passed on.
          And then of course there is the enforcement costs, labeling doesn’t work if the end products aren’t verified, again more costs, and yes those costs are passed on.
          Finally, it would preclude new GE crops because new crops couldn’t compete (when only your crop requires a label to be added who would buy it?) but we know GE crops have kept prices down, so those costs would also go up.

          The only blatant lies are by those claiming that prices wouldn’t rise.

    • Farmer with a Dell

      Hmmm…”…what a certain type of consumer wants…”

      So then, if I develop a craving to discriminate or stigmatize, then a label should be developed straight away to humor me? And consumers will have to pay for it, not me? Well now, that does have possibilities!

      Or, have you cleverly preempted my “wants” by specifying those are reserved only for a “certain type of consumer”, for some special interest? Am I being singled out and discriminated against?

      • RastaBob

        Where did you get the idea that a new label is SO expensive to make? Just do it – problem solved – but you parrot the food industry talking points endlessly.

        • Farmer with a Dell

          And, thus, you confirm your bigotry and elitism with a “money is no object” attitude. Must be empowering to think of yourself as that “certain type of consumer”. Smug bastard.

        • Good4U

          Rasta…..have you yet considered that you, yes you, are a GMO? In point of fact, there are organisms of several different species inhabiting your body which are rampantly and uncontrollably trading DNA, every minute of every day. That’s right, this very moment, in your gut, you have genetic modification taking place, yet you control none of it. You just didn’t know it before now, but now that you do, Rasta, in accordance with Vermont law (and federal law if you get your desire) you will now exit your comfortable office and go to the nearest tattoo parlor to get the following imprinted on your forehead: “I am a walking, talking, breathing GMO”. In your own words: Just do it – problem solved. You’ll feel better for having done so. Get back with us in a year so and tell us how your love life is coming along.

          • RastaBob

            Look – I am a microbiologist with a degree from the University of Michigan – your word salad of biological nonsense tells me that you don’t know what the fuck you are attempting to babble about – read a book and get back to us.

          • agscienceliterate

            If you are truly a microbiologist, you would understand the nuances and complexity of labeling considerations, from a science perspective. Instead, you post simplistic naive activist agenda positions. Start sounding like a scientist.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            As a microbiologist, please explain why genetically engineered foods represent a safety hazard sufficient to warrant mandatory warning labels. Not interested in your personal beliefs here, looking for a scientifically valid explanation. Please cite appropriate references.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I am less concerned about GMOs threat to human health and more concerned about the millions of acres of farmland that is treated with Roundup several times per year. I think GMOs have potential to improve farming as we know it. But, I wouldn’t consider current Roundup Ready style GMOs to be an example of that. What are your thoughts on the no-till organic cover cropping method using roller crimper to lay down the cover without herbicide? They are getting 45-55 bushels of soy per acre with this method at University of Wisconsin using absolute no herbicide.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            The cover crop – roller crimper – no till planter (cc-rc-ntp) method has attracted a lot of attention and what unbiased observers will say is ‘it shows promise’. This is what is always said about alternative agriculture favorites.

            We’ve looked into it — we’re interested in anything that saves soil, saves fuel, saves inputs…and that works reliably, year in and year out.

            When the cc-rc-ntp method has been subjected to unbiased field trials over several planting seasons it has consistently returned inconsistent results. Some seasons show truly impressive results, especially in soybeans. But the next couple seasons can be a bust. Always a lot of excuse making and apologizing, too much.

            Simple reason for the inconsistency – the cc-rc-ntp system relies upon a lot of things going right throughout the entire process. First the cover crop has to be a near perfect catch and weather has to support rapid, uniform growth to keep weeds at bay. Next the cover crop has to be a near perfect stand when roller crimped — it has to be just the right stand density, just the right height and texture, just the right brittleness in the stem to lay down and stay laid down. Next the no till planter has to encounter perfect soil conditions for planting and the new planted crop must have ideal weather conditions for germination and establishment. Finally, the crop must have soil conditions, available fertilizer and perfect weather conditions for early growth to rapidly fill the rows and shade weeds out of competition.

            If all of these things coincide the technique is outstanding! When any one of these things gets a little crossways the results are disappointing. When several things are uncooperative the result is a crop failure. Mother nature is a bit too mischievous most seasons to flawlessly let all the moving parts come flawlessly together. The technique shows promise, as proponents like to say, but it’s not nearly ready for prime time out here in the real world.

            Maybe if you used cc-rc-ntp methods on some of the irrigated ground in very temperate climates, like California, you could achieve reliable results by just turning the water on and off at critical moments. Or maybe if you teamed up cc-rc-ntp techniques with some of that crop insurance you hate so much, well maybe then the seasons with poor crop results could be offset a little, but you’d need crop insurance that’s one hell of a lot better than what’s out here now.. Anyway indemnifying failed crops doesn’t feed a nation. And besides, we don’t prefer to farm that way around here.

            We prefer farming techniques with sufficient flexibility that can be managed to grow robust healthy growthy productive crops nearly every season. Among the hard lessons we’ve learned around here over 5 generations is that hoping for remarkable good luck is not, in itself, a winning strategy. Rather, we’ve observed that whatever can go wrong very likely will go wrong, and often at the very worst possible moment.. Your cover crop – roller crimper – no till planter setup is, at this time, still much to vulnerable to the natural idiosyncrasies of Mother Nature to make a reliably useful addition to our tool kit. But, get it fixed up and working right nearly all of the time and we will among the first to adopt it. That’s always been our tendency and that’s what’s made us the big successful modern farm you love to hate, chimpy.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Is it true that you don’t qualify for crop insurance if you grow cover crop with your cash crop? That is what Gabe Brown talks about. He is a master cover cropper who is making more money than all of his neighbors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxIyKfWf9kU

          • Farmer with a Dell

            No, ‘ol Gabe has garbled the facts. That’s not a put down, either, because crop insurance is one of the most complicated and convoluted masterpieces of obfuscatory ass covering bureaucracy you could ever hope to be bamboozled by. Just take a couple days, imagine you’re a real farmer and visit the official USDA and RMA websites describing the insurance products that might be available to you.

            What you will learn is there are countless products, few of which you qualify for and practically none of which you might experience precisely the nature and degree of crop loss that will qualify you to successfully file a claim. Don’t waste your time on websites promoting or selling the insurance – as with all marketing they make it sound like a goddam bonanza. But just send ’em your money though, and see how that works our for you.

            Probably what Gabe Brown is whining about has to do with the prevented planting coverage in some of the policies. See, Gabe’s method of beginning with a hearty cover crop of rye leaves him a lot of wiggle room with his intention to mop that beautiful crop down and plant through it another crop he wishes to insure. Gabe’s planting window is narrowed and pushed back from that of the typical farmer, so the risk to the insurance company is that Gabe will buy a policy, make just one or two premium payments and then claim he couldn’t get planted and the insurance company may not be able to squirm out of paying up. They would suffer a loss, and that is to be avoided at any cost. So Gabe ain’t gonna be qualified to purchase that policy. Neither am I and neither are you under those conditions. We all will, however, be cheerfully and aggressively offered another meticulously crafted policy with which we have precisely a snowball’s chance in hell of ever benefiting from in any significant way.

            Anyway, why would Gabe want to piss his tremendous wealth away on crop insurance when his crops never fail, as he would have us believe? Something doesn’t add up, and that’s all too common with alternative agriculture salespeople.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Exactly, Gabe only mentions crop insurance one time for about 5 secs in the video, saying that he doesn’t even waste money on crop insurance anymore and that he probably wouldn’t even qualify for most of the policies since he grows a cover crop. I would be willing to bet that Gabe’s operation is more profitable than yours. Would you like for me to get his numbers and for you?

          • Farmer with a Dell

            So there you have it, chimpy. Few of us real farmers “waste money on crop insurance”. Just like with your own car insurance and now Obamacare, most farmers only pay for the crop insurance that’s mandatory in order to participate in conservation programs and potentially to qualify for some credit vehicles in the future. Your own misinformed obsession with crop insurance, on the other hand, is purely as a devoted tool of your handler’s anti-agriculture agenda. Your cult’s bumbling crusades and frantic witch hunting are a comic farce. Like I keep saying, that’s why we laugh at you fools and cash the checks.

            And, no, you don’t want to “get his numbers” and make a mine is bigger than yours contest out of this. I wouldn’t want to embarrass ol’ Gabe when we both simultaneously flop them up on the table. Just like with your studied misconceptions about genetic engineering technology, agronomy, botany, crop insurance and farm subsidies, your comprehension of agricultural economics and business is laughable. You do not want to get mired down in your boundless ignorance there, too, chimpy.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            So, how much do you pay in crop insurance premiums per year if you don’t mind me asking? Here’s Gabes Numbers for 2012 that I got from his video. His yield wasn’t spectacular but his expenses are quite a bit lower than the average $4 per bushel his neighbors or paying, and his net income significantly higher.
            2012 corn
            income/acre: 142 bu/acre @ $6.98/bu = $991.16/ac

            Expenses: Cost per bushel $1.44

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Suffice it to say we seem to do OK. Nope, not gonna post any of our numbers up here. Some of them are unique enough to be a dead giveaway for anyone to figure out who I am and where we farm. That would amount to an open invitation for you hateful anti-agriculture shitheads to come sneaking around to vandalize our vulnerable farming operations, stalk and harass my extended farm family & those of our farm crews and otherwise practice your shitty hateful little depredations upon us. Anyway, if you are determined to do some meaningful data mining I recommend you begin here:

            https://finbin.umn.edu/

            Besides, ol’ Gabe’s preferred method of farming won’t transplant outside of his little microclimate anyway, same way Minnesota agriculture won’t thrive in New Mexico and Florida agriculture won’t successfully transplant to Amish country in Pennsylvania. See, you anti-agriculture cranks are myopic, you just don’t get it. Always superficially comparing apples to oranges and trying to con us into thinking they’re the same thing and thinking you’ve suckered us into believing you know what your talking about. You sound just like an insurance salesman. Nope, ain’t buyin’, chimpy, try hittin’ on another rube.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I am not anti agriculture. I am anti tilling, as it leads to soil erosion and runoff. Out of organic farmer who is tilling vs cover crop gmo farmer who burns down his cover with herbicide, I would choose the latter because at least he isn’t tilling the soil. What are your thoughts on tilling, and keeping the soil covered? Do you think it is important to have soil covered?

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Heh, I thought you might be a creationist but, yeah, we keep our soils covered as much as reasonably possible. Have for a long time. My grand dad was using cover crops occasionally – they’ve been known for a couple of centuries. You altie jerkoffs certainly didn’t invent those. We’ve been pleased with no-till. We keep working with conservation programs – it’s an expense but we can afford it and we feel it’s worth it. We’ve been farming here for 5 generations and our crops and livestock have never been healthier or more productive. We intend to keep farming here for as many more generations as offspring are interested. All your asinine fears of our soils all being depleted and washed into the sea are overblown and just another way for you to foment a calculated misunderstanding of contemporary farming. Fact is farming in America is responsive and responsible, it has demonstrated consistent improvements in soil conservation, crop yields, farm safety…and we continue to improve. Not perfect, nothing ever is, but to hear you malicious assclowns tell it we somehow are magically producing record crops from a barren wasteland. It is astonishing how so many people are no smarter than to believe that nonsense.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            So, roughly what percentage of your acreage do you till vs no-till if you don’t mind me asking?

          • Farmer with a Dell

            I’d say a little more than 80% of all our corn and beans are no-till. Maybe 50%, or so, of small grains are no-till. Taters, of course are not no-till – not commercially possible.

            The thing with farming is to be flexible and customize your approaches to be most appropriate for conditions at hand. Still do some minimum till, even a little targeted moldboard plowing on a few farms we work. Good reason. All our soil and topography are not ideal for no-till. Some of our crops in rotation are benefited by a bout of tillage.

            When you get working your grammie’s vast acreage in Indiana, chimpy, you’ll come to understand how it comes to be one-size doesn’t fit all. When you get that far let me know and I’ll send some armchair experts around to hate you for not doing everything the way they naively insist you should. I’m sure you will appreciate that.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Thanks, I’m actually already doing a bit of farming helping my parents with their small commercial hass avocado grove, and I have noticed that having our soil covered with either wood chips or leaves greatly improves health of our trees. I agree that one size does not fit all, but I think that having cover crops or some sort of mulch on top of the soil is beneficial most of the time. I just stumbled across this video of our buddy Gabe Brown. Looks like he’s doing TED talks now. You seem very passionate about farming and seem to know at lot about the subsidized crop insurance asect of farming. Have you considered doing a TED talk on your best practices for obtaining best subsidized crop insurance policy? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfTZ0rnowcc

          • Farmer with a Dell

            We’re not much for making public appearances around here. Mostly prefer to listen and let the real experts do the lecturing. Anyway, the Dutchess complains I’m hardly fit to be around people most of the time. I listen to her too. You bet I do.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I am quite impressed with Gabe Brown’s lecturing and TED talks regarding his operation, and hope that he inspires more farmers to use his methods.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            OK, so you’re easily infatuated, as long as it’s kept simple. We get it.

            Knock yourself out, chimpy.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            So, I am curious why you claim to be doing no-till on 80% of your land, but then you give all of the excuses about how your land is not suited for no-till method?

          • Farmer with a Dell

            You are delusional, chimpy. When I start “giving excuses” will be when your unicorns start giving pony rides. So, see what you can do to make that happen instead of just talk, talk, talking about it.

            About 90% of our ground works fine with no-till. That’s remarkably good considering our little place in the world isn’t nearly as flat and dry and predictable in it’s weather patterns as North Dakota, the epicenter of your infatuation. Your hero’s magic method works for him where he is. It doesn’t transport to a differing microclimate worth beans (pun intended), for all the reasons I’ve previously stated. Review and learn the material, chimpy.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            this is your quote from comment yesterday “All our soil and topography are not ideal for no-till. ” Now, you are saying about 90% of your ground works fine with no-till, and you are calling me delusional?

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Right. All of the ground is not suited, “only” about 90% (which is huge). You want to parse and quibble now, you pathetic little puke? Considering you seem to think all ground everywhere is suitable for no-till technologies that exist today, and considering how friggin delusional you’ve demonstrated yourself to be, you don’t even recognize how fortunate it is to have that percentage of suitable ground. It’s like talking to an eight year old. Hey, you’re not an eight year old, are you?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Okie Dokie, so do you raise any livestock?

          • hyperzombie

            He sounds like a snake oil salesmen.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I have noticed you are very passionate about herbicides. You should do a TED talk on how great herbicides are.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Yeah, it works for him in North Dakota. Not everywhere is like North Dakota. Thank God.

            Actually I recognize a familiar pattern in his story and his chart of soil health over two decades and a half. Says his soils had, like 1.5% organic matter in the 1990’s,up to over 10% today, a full generation later. Here’s how all that went down, I am quite certain:

            Ol’ Gabe probably was farming on the ranch owned by his father in law during the early 90s and together they managed to finish mining out the soil on the place, they were goin’ broke and FSA finally cut them off. Their creditors put ’em on cash only. That forced a nice 5 or 6 year fallow spell to give the soil a rest. Then the old man signed the place and what was left of the equipment over to his daughter and Gabe so the sheriff couldn’t get it.

            By then Gabe’s wife had worked her way up to a good job off the farm and Gabe was at home farming around the wet spots a little bit and farting around growing some pea fowl and such. Still on cash only everywhere, so he got real creative to grow a few more crops. After just 20 years he has the place up to where he is back ranching a little bit. And if he takes care to pull soil samples from around the edges of the cow & chicken pasture he can ring up some impressive soil health scores. Like Joel Salatin, he now makes more money speaking, writing and giving tours than he does actually farming.

            Ol’ Gabe emphasizes that he cut ties with FSA and the government, but I’ll wager he hasn’t been welcome at the FSA service center since about 1998. Been farmin’ with credit cards ever since. But hey, he’s farming, so more power to him, I say. That doesn’t mean he has to badmouth you and me, intoning that we are carelessly destroying our farms the same way he and his father in law ruthlessly mined theirs out 25 years ago.

            Least the guy could do was put the damned place back in shape after nearly ruining it the way they did. I’m not so easily impressed as chimpy. ‘Course, nobody’s as easily taken in as our girl chimpy.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            So, do you raise any livestock on your operation?

          • hyperzombie

            “I am not anti agriculture. I am anti tilling”

            You see that is your problem, you shouldn’t be anti anything in Agriculture. It blinds you to what works best.
            Tillage in Central Manitoba is essential, cool wet spring weather makes it almost impossible to to grow a decent crop without tillage. Tillage in most of the Netherlands is essential, or the salts will build up and kill the crops.

            You need to use the best methods for the area that you farm in, and that includes Deep tillage, summer-fallow, and No/min till.
            That is the problem with folks like you that get an idea into your heads and then claim that farmers dont know what they are doing because a Manitoba farmer is not using cover crops. BTW cover crops dont work here as well, the growing season if far to short.

          • hyperzombie

            “Maybe if you used cc-rc-ntp methods on some of the irrigated ground in very temperate climates, like California”

            not only does it shade the weeds but it also shades to soil, lowering the temps. A big problem for this method in cooler regions like Canada. Even no till is rarely practiced around here. It is wet and cool in the spring, and you need some heat for good germination.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            You got that right. Get too much trash on the surface and it’s nothing but trouble every step of the way. That’s the sort of obvious stuff these self-taught armchair activists don’t comprehend. For them, if they see in the talking points where a modest amount of trash over the surface is effective, then the useless hammerheads immediately go wild and believe if a little is good, then more is better…and more…and m-o-o-a-a-a-rrr.

            Fact is, let crop waste get the upper hand and you’re locked in a futile wresting match with cold wet soils, shading, molds and fungus, slugs, field mice and voles. And that’s to say nothing of long trash winding and wadding up under your planter if you get the least little bit cross-grained on the damned stuff.

            When we were first learning no-till we had a damned fine experienced machine operator (but an irreverent mechanic) on the planter. Good God, the guy was unusually slow and stopping every couple bouts, getting out and mucking around with the new planter, which made us nervous ’cause like I said he wasn’t a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination and the planter was expensive and complicated in its own counter-intuitive way. When I drove up to see what was up he stormed out of the cab of the planting tractor on the headland and cussed me out, jumped in his pickup and peeled out for home for the day. Didn’t know what to make of it ’till I climbed up and picked up where he left off. Son of a bitch, how that thing would trash up! Climbed up and down all that day. Every time had to deal with a a bunch of adjusting cap screws that had been manhandled with vice grip pliers. Damned near cost me my sanity before the day was out, plus I had to drink with our operator for two days before he would come back to work with us. I learned a little lesson in HR that week. Nearly lost a good man who was possibly the most skilled operator we ever had and who was perhaps the most dangerous man with a pair of pliers who ever lived.

          • Good4U

            Rasta…..even U of M wouldn’t award you any degrees if you failed to understand the processes involved with transduction, which has been happening in the biological world since the beginnings of life. Find your micro textbook (the one your sports coach held up and told you to skim just so he could pass you) and read it for a change. The only way big blue might have given you some sort of a degree is if you played football.

          • RastaBob

            You are a complete idiot – football? Is that all your little bitty brain could come up with? Because I don’t believe in your bizarre campaign to belittle people who think that a little labeling is a good thing – you go off on your pathetic rant. And what is your advanced degree in genius?

          • RastaBob

            sorry to be a month late, but I think anyone’s dream would be to play for U of M’s football team. Then I would be well educated, have a chance to play in the NFL, and say no when you ask me if I wanted fries with that.

    • mem_somerville

      Yes, raising food costs on your wealthy Whole Foods shopper might not be that big a deal–but this hurts people on lower incomes. Thank you for your privileged take on this, though. We are really most worried about your happiness, after all.

      And swapping out ingredients is not what I want. And if you swap them for peanut oil and peanut flour it could have very serious consequences for some people (me, a consumer, included).

      But your comfort is paramount, of course. Please forgive us for trying to keep costs low and people safe.

      • RastaBob

        Why do you think GMO’s would lower the price? When does any company lower the price? You are living in a dream world – a little labeling would NOT raise prices – just a scare tactic that you embrace without thinking. And your sarcasm really needs some work jerkoff.

        • Farmer with a Dell

          See, rastaboob, this is where you naive yuppie shitheads expose your willful ignorance.

          Of course modern technology, including genetic engineering, keeps us maximally productive and competitively priced…even cheaply priced sometimes. That’s the whole point of the exercise. Take technolgy away and, oops, production efficiency falls, relative cost of production rises, retail price increases accordingly. Simple cost of doing business, jerkoff.

          Of course singling out one inconsequential trait in a product stream is complicated, inefficient and expensive. Whenever I have to sort the magic beans from the normal ones, and keep ’em separate, I have my work cut out for me around here. Gotta train everybody to know and respect the difference. Gotta have separate growing arrangements. Gotta have separate harvesting arrangements. Gotta have separate storage arrangements. Gotta be absolutely certain when I say these here beans is magic beans that, by God, they are, every goddam one of ’em — or risk getting fined and having my ass sued off.

          Think it through with an example maybe you can relate to, rastaboob. Do you think it is more or less costly to segregate blacks from whites, provide separate facilities for each , police and enforce all that? Would that be a worthwhile investment, jerkoff?

          Of course changing a label is expensive. You clueless elitists imagine it’s simply a matter of re-configuring how a few drops of ink are arranged. Being naive asshats, what you wouldn’t understand is what stands behind label statements. These are not changed whimsically unless you are aching to be slapped with fines and have your ass sued off. Nope, even the language has to be researched and underwritten by legal eagles who do not work for peanuts. Then there is the actual retooling to create the new packaging. And negotiating the slotting fees in the supermarket. Everything in this world costs money. If you weren’t still living at home mooching off your mommy you would know that, jerkoff.

    • hyperzombie

      if that what a certain type of consumer wants, well let them have it.”

      They can have it now, just buy Organic and Non GMO.

  • Overqualified Worker

    Sure, screw up the entire planet while your at it. Can someone tell me why I can “opt out” of an email list but can’t “opt out” of this global GMO experiment? Why are we not demanding that we have a control group for this experiment? I want to be in the control group. Guess I’m moving to Vermont. This is WACK!!!! Why are the pro lifers not up in arms about this? This is screwing with all life forms not just unborn humans!!!! Bottom line is we don’t want to eat GMOs. Deal with it. At least I can still vote with my dollars!!!!!

    • JP

      You can “opt out.” Buy organic or non-GMO verified labeled food. Real simple.

      • However you can not ‘opt out’ of organic. Since there is no organic labeling requirement like there is now (in VT) for GMOs, it’s possible that your non-labeled produce is actually organic.

        • Farmer with a Dell

          Excellent point! Why are we farting around with ridiculous warning labels for “GMO”, which is a rigorously researched and tested production method, one that over 20 years has generated billions of meals without incident? Why instead aren’t we clamoring to label the proven safety risks of organic foods? In one outbreak alone, organic sprouts killed 50 people and sickened thousands. During that same outbreak microbiological testing of a variety of organic vegetables from a variety of sources revealed contamination with the same species of fecal bacteria. Tests have also revealed unexpected pesticide contamination on nearly 50% or organic produce in the U.S. and Canada. Product recalls for organic food are on the rise due to contamination with various dangerous bacteria.

          Organic foods have failed the precautionary principle and are proven unsafe. They should be singled out and labeled accordingly.

          Potentially deadly organic food – JUST LABEL IT!

      • Actually, there is another option. All the people who so fear GMOs can just grow their own damn food. All of it.

        Welcome to the 19th century.

    • mem_somerville

      Enjoy your foraging. It will be especially fun in the winter in Vermont.

    • Damo

      Overqualified?? Under-educated is more like it. There is no experiment, it is done. Get over it.

    • agscienceliterate

      Go ahead. Vote with your dollars. Buy organic. Buy non-GMO certified. Lots of choices for you. Obviously, thousands of safety studies, billions of meals served to humans and livestock, and over two decades of consumption are not good enough for you. You should definitely stick to organic. Oh, but you better ignore the recent FDA letters to whole foods for filth, the poisonings that happened last year at chipotle, and the recall of organic healthy non-GMO Cliff bars. Other than that, you might be OK, if you’re good with manure is a fertilizer. Your choice! Eat up!

  • mem_somerville

    More consequences rolling out: now the Kosher community is having trouble getting their products. Remember: the law said that labels would benefit the religious communities. So activist used them as pawns, clueless that it would hurt them.

    https://twitter.com/mem_somerville/status/752117468286619649

    • Farmer with a Dell

      Yep. Significant impacts upon kosher and Mexican and Asian ethnic foods. Big impact on spices of all sorts. Surprisingly big impact on tea products. Also quite a few hippie dippie health foods and several popular regional baked goods and artisanal products gone missing from store shelves.

      A lot less choice for grocery shoppers. That’s obviously a win for the food police, who know best what people don’t need and what they should be consuming.

      Here’s an MSExcel list of some 3000 products the supermarket chain Price Chopper will no longer be shipping into Vermont stores:

      http://blackpearl.wcax.com/documents/PC%20Master%20Non%20Ship%20List%20to%20VT%206.28.16.xlsx

      So good to see so many food producers with integrity declining to cave in to special interest pressure mandating a discriminatory vanity label. Really highlights the misaligned marketing goals of scab outfits like Campbell’s, General Mills, Kelloggs — these fools rushed to label their products to placate a few activist zealots who would never buy those products anyway. Effectively slapped the rest of us consumers in the face, consumers who once did purchase their products, but no more.

  • “3. Companies will swap out ingredients.

    The same WSJ piece above included reports of a small pasta business that had to make changes to their recipes to avoid the labeling hassles and possible penalties. They had been using canola oil–which may be herbicide tolerant GMO, or herbicide tolerant non-GMO. Surely even if they were using the non-GMO version but people saw it on a label, the tractor-chasing legal teams would light up with glee. In any case, they have now switched to olive oil. This raised their costs by 10 percent, without a similar increase in sales. Other small companies are retiring some products (how’s that for choice?). Maybe Big Food can eat those kinds of costs, but this hurts a small business.”

    And this right here is why I refuse to support GMO based foods and Monsanto, not just for health risks but for economic fascism. It’s bullshit and I see what they’re doing. Monsanto is creating an empire similar to the East Trading Company and Big Tobacco. They’re clearly dominating the food market by trying to own all the seeds and roots they see, ruining small businesses and keeping natural foods more expensive and genetically tainted/altered foods cheap. All for what?

    Power and greed is enough reason to risk the poisoning of citizens. And these big corporations with all the money in the world to afford non-GM foods, do everything in their power to work around health food regulations just so they don’t have to change their recipe crying like pissbabies about it. And you wonder why GMO’s are banned in 26 countries. Are their economies in trouble? No. Are their citizens healthier? Hard to say, many probably still import or some people illegally smuggle GMO seeds, it’s too early to tell if GMO’s really do damage DNA but they surely do alter it to where pro-GMO folk can’t live without it.

    If only governments would simply regulate vegetables, fruits, and grains this wouldn’t be an issue, but people seem to dismiss and overlook the possible damageable effects of altering our DNA by consuming altered DNA. Not to mention the incredible and provable environmental damages of the animal agricultural business itself is the leading cause of climate change and third world hunger. Overfishing is becoming a real threat to ocean life and the main reason the Great Barrier Reef is dying. These corporations like Monsanto are fucking up the natural ecosystem.

    GMO-phobia and hysteria surrounding it isn’t like the vaccine denial, this is a sociopolitical and health issue that is legitimate concern especially when companies complain about 10 cent raises on their products which is a copout excuse and then go around laws because corporations can and will since they’re treated like people. Let’s say GMO’s aren’t a huge risk to our health but not a solution regarding natural health. What good will our special GMO food be if civilization loses its global infrastructure due to climate change (immense weather irregularities), massive solar flares, or a meteor wiping out electrical grids and crops in a hundred or two hundred years? Not only will people die from the initial catastrophe, survivors will have to adapt to non-GMO based foods and medicines all over again. Will this wipe out even more people in developed countries who’s bodies are not used to non-genetically modified foods with weak immune systems?

    • You do realize that crop patents are not unique to Monsanto or GMOs?

      it’s too early to tell if GMO’s really do damage DNA

      That’s patently absurd. What we eat does not change our DNA (beyond the possibility of epigentic changes) and if it did, it would not be unique to GMOs. There’s nothing magic about GMOs that makes them as a group any different than all the other genomes out there. If you compared the genomes of a GMO crop and a non-GMO equivalent, unless you knew exactly what change to look for, you would not be able to tell them apart.

      possible damageable effects of altering our DNA by consuming altered DNA

      All DNA is ‘altered’. How you alter it is irrelevant. What matters is the exact alteration, and GMO and non-GMO crops have equal potential to be harmful. That’s why we test new crops, no matter how they’re created.

      Will this wipe out even more people in developed countries who’s bodies are not used to non-genetically modified foods with weak immune systems?

      The fuq?