Top | Newsletter 2011

Culinate Newsletter February 2 11

(mailing, James Berry)

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 h1. Dear readers,

 I always appreciate the daily links food writer Michael Pollan posts on his website, but late last week one in particular really grabbed my attention: "BREAKING NEWS: USDA to Fully Deregulate Monsanto’s Genetically Engineer Alfalfa — Gene Contamination of Feed, Milk, Meat and Other Products to Follow…".

 Reuters' story on the decision offers a few more details, but as I understand it: Alfalfa is a plant fed to cows. So-called Roundup Ready alfalfa has been genetically modified by Monsanto, makers of Roundup (an herbicide), so that alfalfa crops can be sprayed with Roundup and not die (normally a dose of this herbicide would be lethal to the plant).  

 What does this mean exactly besides the obvious thing that Monsanto will now be able to sell both Roundup and Roundup Ready alfalfa seed to the same farmers? Writers I look to for analysis of politics and food have weighed in, including Sam Fromartz, Barry Estabrook, Marion Nestle, and Tom Philpott — several expressing concern that organic alfalfa planted near the Roundup Ready crops may be contaminated through pollination. Such contamination would jeopardize their organic certification, which doesn't allow GMOs. No organic feed; no organic meat or dairy. 

 Meanwhile, opponents of the USDA decision will probably challenge it in court.

 While genetically modified food was the subject of a Culinate 8 not long ago, I know it's about as complicated a topic as we can find to discuss in the realm of food. That said, GM food is pervasive: More than 90 percent of the cottonseed oil, canola oil, and soybeans grown in the United States are from GM crops, and GM meat is becoming a reality. As we consumers seek to learn more about where our food comes from, and the food system becomes increasingly more complex, we're going to have to work harder just to understand what's on our plates.

 Kim Carlson
 Editorial Director

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story1text: "Mark Kurlansky is a prolific food writer; his latest book is a collection of related fictional tales, connected by edibles." 
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story2text: "If you've tried to take a jar of homemade jam on a plane recently, you know the end of Joan Menefee's cautionary tale." 

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recipe1text: "No eggs, no butter, no wheat flour: A lemon-laced cookie for everyone, from Elizabeth Gordon."
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recipe2text: "Chocolate is the secret ingredient in this beloved loaf that just may become your family's favorite."

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