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News - Maine Farm to Food

BDN: Local pesticide bans are a mistake

On 03, Dec 2019 | No Comments | In Blog, Featured, Featured Articles, News, Pollinator Health | By Admin

For centuries, physicians have been controlling human diseases using all the tools available to them: proper nutrition of patients, sanitation, early disease diagnosis and intervention through medicines, including those derived from natural sources, chemicals and with more recent innovations, such as gene editing.

Likewise, farmers also control plant and animal diseases using the same approaches — proper plant and animal nutrition, sanitation, early disease diagnosis and intervention through natural, chemical and genetic sources.

Read more here:

22

Oct
2019

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MAINE VOICES: Forest products industry has much to celebrate

On 22, Oct 2019 | No Comments | In Blog, News | By Admin

New investment in plant modernization and new goods heading to market mean the industry is back on the rise.

After some of the toughest years in the long history of Maine’s forest products industry, a new, stronger forest economy is emerging. Just a back-of-the-envelope tally shows investments of about $1 billion is revitalizing our industry.

Read more here.

Bangor Daily News: Local pesticide bans are a mistake

On 28, Jun 2019 | No Comments | In Blog, Featured, Future of Ag, News | By Admin

By Dean Cray, opinion guest column. • June 26, 2019 11:03 am

For centuries, physicians have been controlling human diseases using all the tools available to them: proper nutrition of patients, sanitation, early disease diagnosis and intervention through medicines, including those derived from natural sources, chemicals and with more recent innovations, such as gene editing.

Likewise, farmers also control plant and animal diseases using the same approaches — proper plant and animal nutrition, sanitation, early disease diagnosis and intervention through natural, chemical and genetic sources.

The terms vary, but the products used to control diseases are analogous. If the affected organism is a human, the common term is medicine. If it’s an animal, the term is veterinary medicine. If it’s a plant, the term is pesticide. The word pesticide doesn’t sound as soothing or healing, but pesticides are indeed plant medicines. And there are several kinds of pesticides.

Many of the stressors plaguing these different fields of work are the same — bacteria, insects, fungi, viruses, etc. And they all have an equivalent objective: effective human, plant and animal health management.

To achieve that, each relies on a known set of approaches: identify the problem, quarantine the impacted areas so that the disease doesn’t spread, and implement evidenced-based strategies to ensure a healthy result. In farming and land management, that includes techniques such as crop rotation, use of more tolerant varieties of plants, targeted soil nutrition and manipulation of harvest dates to avoid blight or insect infestations.

It’s only when other approaches don’t provide adequate control that other scientifically-proven interventions are brought into the picture such as chemical and gene editing treatments.

Indeed, these are the principles that form the basis of integrated pest management, where several approaches are incorporated into a holistic, comprehensive and sustainable treatment plan that is environmentally sound and cost effective.

Simply stated, integrated pest management is the most effective tool we have available to protect our health and that of crops and the environment. For the eight years that I served as a state representative on the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, integrated pest management was by statute and I believe still is the policy of the state of Maine. But several towns and cities are attempting to take away a key element of integrated pest management by passing or voting on municipal ordinances that preclude the use of synthetic pesticide applications not just on town owned property, but also on privately owned residential lawns and lawns and gardens.

This is a misguided solution in search of a problem and an infringement on our private property rights. When used following the directions, these applications aren’t harmful. To quote the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, integrated pest management “is a comprehensive, decision-making process for solving pest problems in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings,” and by using it, “informed decisions can be implemented to achieve optimum results in ways that minimize economic, health, and environmental risks.” And the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Pesticide Data Program annual survey corroborates that integrated pest management is working.

We can all relate to wanting our families to live in a non-toxic environment, but banning the use of synthetic pesticides will simply mean residents will lose the ability to choose how to protect their properties.

Often a treatment plan involves several strategies. The same goes for a healthy garden and backyard. Just as physicians cannot always effectively protect us from human maladies without chemical interventions, neither can farmers, foresters, landscapers nor passionate gardeners when disease or insect outbreaks strike. Think browntail moths, West Nile virus, avian flu, poison ivy or encephalitis.

These problems impact not just vegetation, but humans as well. That’s why integrated pest management is the most effective tool we have to protect our health, crops and environment. Towns and cities should not be precluding its use.

Dean Cray is a Somerset County commissioner and former state representative who served on the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

https://bangordailynews.com/2019/06/26/opinion/contributors/local-pesticide-bans-are-a-mistake/?amp

15

Jan
2016

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Why we shouldn’t label GMOs

On 15, Jan 2016 | No Comments | In Blog, News | By Admin

In 2016, it is estimated that the global population may increase by as many as 80 million people. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges associated with this rise in population will be figuring out how to feed these millions of people. Undoubtedly, genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, will be an important part of the solution.

However, even as these new and exciting technologies develop, an increasing number of people in the United States and other countries are choosing to avoid consuming GMOs under the unfounded pretense that they are unsafe or unnatural. This is despite the fact that a recent Pew and American Association for the Advancement of Science study found that 88 percent of relevant scientists agreed that GMOs posed no threat to human health or safety. Only 57 percent of the American people trusted the safety of GMOs in the survey.

Regardless of this, GMO labels still may seem like a harmless expression of the freedom to advertise and the consumer’s freedom to buy what they would like. Unfortunately, though, the repercussions are far more severe. This is because labeling GMO-free foods gives validity to the fear that GMOs are dangerous by taking the place of scientific evidence in the GMO debate. Not only does this mean that the labeling of GMOs is actually misinforming the consumer, it also drives consumption away from the bioengineering industry. This ultimately decreases the motivation and capital for the research and development of genetically modified foodstuffs and other biotechnology that we need to see improved upon if we want to feed the 7.4 billion people who will be living on Earth at the end of this year.

Expecting these developments isn’t unreasonable considering that we’ve seen biotechnology improve our global food supply countless times. For example, in 2015 alone, two especially exciting developments occurred in our supermarkets concerning GMOs. The first of these was the creation of a new breed of potato by the J.R. Simplot Company dubbed the “Innate potato,” which does not bruise as easily and is missing the chemical acrylamide, which naturally occurs in potatoes and is carcinogenic. The second was the U.S. approval of a breed of genetically modified salmon that has already been consumed for several years in parts of Europe.

What makes these organisms special is that they are part of the future of sustainable agriculture. In the case of the new “AquAdvantage salmon,” a gene has been altered that causes the salmon to grow larger in less time with less feed than conventional fish breeds. Also, the Innate potato is more sustainable than older potato varieties, as it can be shipped and stored without fears of the potato becoming brown or mushy.

Not surprisingly, it’s innovations like these that will ensure that we will be able to feed our ever-growing population in a safe and sustainable way. And even if a GMO is created in the future that has a dangerous substance in it, we can all but guarantee that a hazardous franken-ear of corn or pod of peas will never find its way into American supermarkets, as the USDA and FDA rigorously test all new genetically modified foods before they can be sold.

Ultimately, this decade holds the potential to revolutionize the way humans feed each other, but only if we embrace these technologies instead of rejecting, labeling and stigmatizing them.

Ethan Brouder is a science enthusiast and amateur writer who lives in Cumberland.