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GMO Supporters Have a Fit as Cargill Offers Non-GMO Products

When grain processing giant Cargill recently tweeted that it was working closely with the Non-GMO Project about verifying the company's ingredients, GMO [genetically modified organism] supporters had a Twitter fit.

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Catherine Ulitsky, USDA / Flickr

Regenerative Agriculture Can Save the Planet

A diverse group of farmers, food companies, scientists, non-profit and advocacy groups from more than 100 countries have joined together to support a definition for "regenerative agriculture," as a way to rebuild soils, produce nutritious food and address the growing threat of climate change.

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​GMO-Ethanol Corn Contaminates Non-GMO White Corn Used in Tortillas

Enogen, a genetically modified corn for ethanol production, has contaminated non-GMO white corn grown in Nebraska and used to make flour for tortillas and other products.

According to Derek Rovey, owner of Rovey Specialty Grains in Inland, Nebraska, a few of his contract farmers who grow non-GMO white corn had their crops contaminated by Enogen corn.

"We've had some growers who've had some problems [with Enogen]. Their corn was right next to Enogen fields," said Rovey.

Enogen's GMO trait was detected in the white corn using GMO strip tests, said Rovey.

He also said that flour made using his company's white corn tested positive for Enogen last summer.

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Debunking 'Alternative Facts' About Pesticides and Organic Farming

With the growing demand for organic foods in the U.S., there has been a backlash from agribusiness groups, companies and individuals who see organic as a threat to their interests. These critics accuse the organic industry of using deceptive marketing practices to get consumers to pay more money for organic food. Another line of attack has been that organic farmers use lots of pesticides, some of which are more toxic than those used by conventional farmers.

The reality is that some organic farmers do use pesticides but such products are primarily derived from natural substances, go through a strict regulatory approval process to ensure they are not harmful to the environment and human health and are only allowed to be used when other pest control methods aren't successful.

The fact is that the organic farming and food movement is based on producing healthier foods without the use of toxic pesticides.

25 Organic-Approved Synthetic Pesticides vs. 900 Conventional

However, organic farmers, like their conventional counterparts, face challenges with weeds, insects and diseases. To help address those challenges, the National Organic Program allows the use of certain natural-based and synthetic substances as pesticides. The National Organic Program's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances details about 25 synthetic products that are allowed to be used in organic crop production. These include alcohols, copper sulfate and hydrogen peroxide. By contrast, there are some 900 synthetic pesticides approved for use in conventional farming.

There are also many natural-based substances used as pesticides that are allowed in organic farming. These include neem oil, diatomaceous earth and pepper.

"When you look at the substances themselves and not at the use rates, organic represents the least toxic set of substances," said Nate Lewis, farm policy director at the Organic Trade Association. "The difference is pretty striking."

Most pesticides allowed for use in organic farming are derived from plants or bacteria. "They have their roots in nature," said Charles Benbrook of Benbrook Consulting Services, an organic consulting firm.

The majority of organic-approved pesticides are used in fruit and vegetable production, said Lewis. Very few are used in organic grain production.

"Least Toxic Pesticides Available"

According to Lewis, pesticides approved for organic crop production must go through the most rigorous review of all pesticides. All pesticides must first be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine their toxicity. EPA sets tolerances, "which are the maximum amount of a pesticide allowed to remain in or on a food." If it is a synthetic pesticide to be used for organic farming, the National Organic Standards Board then reviews it and will recommend whether or not to allow it to be added to the National List. Then, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) or the Washington State Department of Agriculture will review the product to ensure it complies with the national organic standards.

According to Lewis, just one synthetic pesticide approved for organic farming has been assigned an EPA tolerance—spinosad, an insecticide derived from a soil microorganism. Other synthetic pesticides on the National List, as well as the natural-based substances, are considered safe enough that they don't even need an EPA tolerance.

"The EPA considers organic-approved pesticides to be the least toxic and most safe pesticides, so safe they don't even need to establish a tolerance for what's healthy or what's safe on crops," Lewis said.

One of the most widely spread myths about organic-approved pesticides is that organic farmers use Rotenone, a broad-spectrum insecticide known for its toxicity. While it has been used in the past, the current reality is that the EPA has banned Rotenone for use in the U.S, though Lewis says it is still used in some countries that grow organic bananas. "The NOSB [National Organic Standards Board] has passed a recommendation to prohibit it outright. We are awaiting NOP [National Organic Program] action on that."

Copper Controversy

Critics also cite the use of copper-based pesticides, which are used as fungicides in organic and conventional fruit production.

Copper does have issues. Kelsey McKee, OMRI's review program and quality director, cites documents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA that describe concerns with the use of copper.

"In general, these concerns include adverse effects on soil microorganisms as well as adverse effects on human, aquatic and terrestrial life during farm level application or from residuals in food," she said.

In an October 2015 review of copper, the National Organic Standards Board acknowledged that it is "both harmful in the environment when misused and absolutely necessary to grow many crops to protect against disease."

The National Organic Standards Board called for additional study on copper for the next review of the material to see if it should continue to be on the National List.

In a comment to a Scientific America article on organic pesticides, Rob Wallbridge, an organic farmer in Quebec, said that copper is not absorbed by plants and washes off "which is good for risk of consumer exposure." He also said that organic certification standards "require monitoring and restrict producers from using copper sulfate if copper is accumulating in the soil at excessive levels."

Copper is also exempt from an EPA tolerance and is an essential nutrient, according to Brian Baker, consultant at Belcairn Concerns and former research director at OMRI.

Baker emphasizes that conventional farmers also use copper. "If they think it is so bad, why don't they stop using it?"

Pam Marrone, CEO and founder of Marrone Bio Innovations, agreed. "Organic growers get flak about copper, but conventional farmers use a lot more copper than organic farmers."

She also said the copper formulations used by conventional farmers contain higher risk inert ingredients than formulations used in organic production. "The inert ingredients in organic approved copper have to be on the approved list for organic and are food-grade and low risk," she said.

Marrone, whose company develops biopesticides for organic production, said there are organic and OMRI-approved alternatives to copper on the market. These include Zonix and Polyversum and her company's Regalia. The OMRI Products List also includes non-synthetic alternatives such as biological fungicides and botanical extracts such as cinnamon oil and clove oil.

Foliar Spray Bt Not the Same as GMO Bt

Then there is the debate over organic-approved Bt insecticide versus genetically engineered Bt crops. Critics say the organic industry is hypocritical by allowing the use of a foliar Bt spray to kill insects while opposing GMO crops containing genes from the Bt or bacillus thuringiensis bacterium.

Benbrook called such criticism spin. "It's a completely different situation. Bt toxins in GM sweetcorn are inside the kernel and remain there when the corn is cooked and eaten. People who eat that sweetcorn will get a high dose of Bt toxins."

By contrast, the Bt foliar spray breaks down quickly and doesn't remain on the plant. "There is zero human exposure to foliar Bt spray," Benbrook said. "Implying that the GMO Bt is the same as the foliar spray is a lie."

Pesticides May Be Used Only as a Last Resort

Perhaps the most important point in the discussion about the use of pesticides in organic agriculture is the fact that the organic rules require that approved synthetic pesticides be used only as a last resort.

"The standards say you must apply practices like having cover crops and crop rotations and things that create health in the whole ecosystem and your farm," said Dag Falck, organic program manager, Nature's Path. "After you've demonstrated and documented to your certifier that you've done these steps, if they are not adequate to control the problem, then only are you allowed to use things from the National List."

According to Falck, many organic farmers don't even consider using synthetic substances from the National List. "They say, 'that's not how I do things,'" he said.

For many consumers pesticide residues on food are a big concern and organic foods have been shown to contain far less pesticide residues than conventional foods. Benbrook, who has done extensive work on pesticide residues in organic foods, said: "When you compare organic versus conventional food, it is absolutely inarguable that organic food reduces dietary exposure to pesticides by 98 percent."

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5 States That Grow the Most Organic Food Per Acre

A new report has found that U.S. land for organic farming reached 4.1 million acres in 2016, a new record and an 11 percent increase compared to 2014.

As of June 2016, the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. reached 14,979, a 6.2 percent increase of 1,000 farms compared to 2014 survey data.

The Mercaris Organic Acreage Report found that the top five states in organic cropland are California, Montana, Wisconsin, New York and North Dakota. California leads the U.S. with 688,000 acres. However, Montana has seen a 30 percent increase in organic farmland, reaching 417,000 acres in 2016, an increase of 100,000 acres since 2014 and adding 50 new organic farms.

The report also estimates that North Dakota, Colorado and New York all increased their organic farming acres by more than 40,000 since 2014. North Dakota has surpassed Oregon as the fifth leading state in organic acreage. Oregon is sixth followed by Colorado and Texas.

Scott Shander, an economist at Mercaris, attributes the increase in organic acres to farm economics and consumer demand for organic foods.

"The organic industry is growing and with lower commodity grain prices, and farmers are looking to add value and meet consumer demands," he said.

According to Alex Heilman, a sales associate at Mercaris, the number of organic acres is likely to continue increasing, especially with larger companies such as General Mills and Ardent Mills launching programs to increase organic acres.

"I think we will see more of an impact of those programs in the next few years as more farmers start the transition process (to organic)," he said.

Organic alfalfa/hay was the leading organic crop grown with more than 800,000 acres in 2016. This was followed by organic wheat, corn and soybeans with 482,000, 292,000, and 150,000 acres respectively. Organic oats reached a record level of 109,000 acres in 2016. Organic wheat showed the greatest increase with nearly 150,000 more acres since 2014 and a 44 percent increase since 2011. Plantings of organic corn increased by 58,000 acres since 2014.

The percentage of acres planted to organic crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans and oats remains small compared to conventional crops in the U.S. Organic corn accounts for only 0.31 percent of total corn acres; organic wheat was 0.9 percent of total wheat acres; organic soybeans were 0.2 percent of total soybean acres. Organic oats account for the highest percentage of an organic crop with 3.6 percent of total oat acres.

Acreage of both organic corn and soybeans has seen small increases as a percentage of total acres for both crops in the past few years, according to the report. This may be due to the fact that the U.S. is importing large amounts of organic corn and soybeans, which is depressing the U.S. market and prices for both crops. According Shander, 25 percent of organic corn and 75 percent of organic soybeans used in the U.S. are imported.

"It's a global market that is dictating U.S. prices," he said. "Demand for organic corn and soybeans is still growing strongly, but production in the U.S. is not growing as fast so more of the production will be international."

Illegal Herbicide Use on GMO Crops Causing Massive Damage to Fruit, Vegetable and Soybean Farms

Last year, Kade McBroom launched a non-GMO soybean processing plant in Malden, Missouri, and was optimistic about the potential to serve the fast-growing non-GMO market.

But now McBroom sees a potential threat to his new business from herbicide drift sprayed on genetically modified crops. This past spring, Monsanto Co. started selling GM Roundup Ready Xtend soybean and cotton seeds to farmers in Missouri and several other states. The seeds are genetically engineered to withstand sprays of glyphosate and dicamba herbicides. The problem is that the Xtend dicamba herbicide designed to go with the seeds has not yet been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leading many farmers to spray their GMO soybeans and cotton with older formulas of dicamba—illegally.

An aerial photo showing drift damage on a non-dicamba resistant soybean field next to a dicamba resistant soybean field.Kade McBroom

May Not Be Able to Grow Non-GMO Soybeans

While Monsanto's GMO crops can tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops can't. As a result, dicamba, which is known to convert from a liquid to a gas and spread for miles, is damaging tens of thousands of acres of "non-target" crops in southern Missouri and nine other states, mostly in the South. An estimated 200,000 acres are affected in Missouri alone, though the EPA puts that number at 40,000. Non-GMO and even GMO, soybeans that aren't dicamba resistant are damaged as well as peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and other crops.

"Farmers are so mad," said McBroom, who has spoken with several farmers in his area about the problem. "I'm assuming there will be lawsuits."

Two farmers who grow non-GMO soybeans for Malden Specialty Soy told McBroom that they may be forced to grow dicamba tolerant GMO soybeans to protect their farms from dicamba drift.

Damaged soybean plant leaves.Kade McBroom

"When my suppliers say 'I'm going to have to quit growing non-GMO soybeans and start planting dicamba beans just to protect myself' it becomes an issue," he said. "They don't want to go that route, but they may not have a choice."

For now, McBroom says his business is fine, but warns: "If they don't get this under control it will be a threat."

Peach Producer Lost 30,000 Trees

The dicamba drift problem extends beyond non-GMO soybeans to many other crops. Missouri's southern "Bootheel" region is known for its agricultural diversity. Farmers grow a wide range of crops including cotton, rice, wheat watermelon, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peaches, sweet potatoes, peas, popcorn and peanuts. Many of those crops are threatened by dicamba drift.

"At its core, this is a concern for the diversity in southeast Missouri agriculture," McBroom said. "This is affecting everyone that isn't growing dicamba tolerant crops including non-GMO crops, fruits, vegetables and home gardens."

A damaged peach tree.Kade McBroom

Bader Peaches, Missouri's largest peach producer, is suffering massive losses according to owner Bill Bader. "We will lose 30,000 trees," he said.

Bader, who also grows soybeans on his farm in Campbell, Missouri, estimates his yield loss on the beans may be as much as 40 percent.

Bader estimates that 400-500 farmers in his region have been affected. "If they don't get compensation 60 percent will be out of business in two years," he said.

Who is to blame for the problem? "We need to go after Monsanto. These farmers are being hung out to dry," Bader said.

University of Arkansas weed specialist Bob Scott agrees. "This is a unique situation that Monsanto created," he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Monsanto responded by saying that they introduced the new GMO seeds because they promised farmers better yields. The company also said that farmers were warned to not use the older dicamba formulations and that their new formula will have lower volatility to reduce the drift threat

GMO-Herbicide Treadmill Continues; Loss of Farmer Choice

Soybean and cotton farmers in the South face significant weed problems, particularly with palmer's amaranth or "pig weed," which has developed resistance to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Monsanto developed the Xtend system with dicamba to address the resistance, allowing the company to continue keeping farmers on a GMO-herbicide treadmill.

But the effectiveness of the dicamba GMO system—like that of the Roundup Ready GMO system—is likely to be short-lived. A University of Arkansas study published earlier this year found that pigweed plants would develop resistance to dicamba in just three generations.

This year farmers grew an estimated 2 million acres of dicamba tolerant GMO soybeans. The biotech giant aims to increase that to 15 million acres, a troubling prospect to Kade McBroom.

"If 2016 is a preview of the dicamba era, anybody not growing dicamba resistant crops is in trouble, plain and simple," he said.

One of the worst parts of this whole debacle is that farmers—by being forced to grow dicamba resistant GMO soybeans—are losing the choice of what they can grow. Ironically, Missouri passed a "Right to Farm" measure in 2014 that protects farmers' right to grow what they want. Now, the rich agricultural diversity of southern Missouri could turn into an industrial monoculture of GMOs and toxic herbicides.

"If this keeps up, 'right to farm' will become more like the right to farm dicamba tolerant crops," McBroom said. "Neighbors are determining what the people around them can and can't grow. When you start taking options away from farmers, you start taking away opportunities."

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Big Food's Win Over GMO Labeling Bill Shows Failure of Democracy


In 2014, Vermont passed the first legislation in the U.S. to require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. A year earlier, Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling bills though these were dependent on several other states passing similar laws.

Best of Democracy: Lawmakers Respond to the People

Passages of these three bills were textbook examples of democracy in action. The states' citizens lobbied their legislatures to introduce the bills, public hearings were held, experts spoke for and against the bills and lawmakers debated the measures. The bills ultimately passed because the lawmakers recognized that the People wanted them approved.

Vermont's bill passed overwhelmingly in both the state's House of Representatives and Senate and Gov. Pete Shumlin signed the bill shortly thereafter.

This is how democracy is supposed to work, right? Citizens see an issue of concern that needs to be addressed and they contact their elected representatives who respond by passing a law. This is what happened in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.

As Tara Cook-Littman, who spearheaded Connecticut's labeling initiative, said: "GMO labeling is about people taking back power and getting lawmakers to take action in the interests of the people and not corporations. If we don't use our voices it's not democracy. We proved in Connecticut that we do have power and can make democracy work."

Worst of Democracy: Lawmakers Pander to Corporations

Contrast those initiatives with U.S. federal government action on GMO labeling in the past year. Heavy lobbying by large food and agriculture corporations and groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association led the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce the Orwellian-named "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act."

The bill, dubbed the "DARK Act" (Deny Americans the Right to Know), aimed to stop Vermont and other state GMO labeling laws and establish a meaningless system of voluntary GMO labeling. The DARK Act passed the House but a similar bill failed to pass the U.S. Senate this past March mainly because the people told their senators to vote against it.

Following the Senate defeat and with Vermont's GMO labeling law set to take effect July 1, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) drafted a compromise of the DARK Act, making GMO disclosure mandatory and not voluntary as in the House bill. But there was no requirement for an on-package statement as the Vermont law mandated.

Stabenow's compromise essentially snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for labeling supporters because many major food companies were already putting GMO labels on their products sold nationwide to comply with Vermont's law.

The Roberts-Stabenow bill has been described as a "non-labeling GMO labeling bill" since, among its many flaws, it allows food companies to continue their stonewalling of GMO information by putting QR codes on products that can only be read by smartphones. Imagine a busy mother at a supermarket with several children in tow pulling out her smartphone to read QR codes on 20 or 30 food products. Or imagine the many mothers that don't even have smartphones trying to get GMO information. According to marketing communications expert Peter Quinn, the use of QR codes has virtually been abandoned because they have proven to be so ineffective and a "technology wild goose chase."

"Needs of the People Have Been Ignored"

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said: "The Stabenow-Roberts GMO bill is confusing, misleading and unenforceable. It does nothing to make sure consumers know what they're eating."

In contrast to Vermont's GMO labeling bill—the Roberts-Stabenow bill had no hearings, no public input, no committee debate and was rushed to be introduced—and passed in both the Senate and House. Behind the push were Big Food and Ag and their millions of dollars in lobbying.

So while the GMO labeling efforts in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine demonstrated the best of democracy—working for the people as America's founders intended—the Roberts-Stabenow bill showed us the worst of democracy—with its pandering to the narrow interests of big business at the expense of the wishes of the people. And the bill makes the successful democratic efforts in those states null and void.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said the bill was "not what's in the interests of the American consumer, but what a few special interests want."

With their support for this bad piece of legislation and continued obfuscation of GMOs, Big Food and Ag have assured themselves more years of consumer distrust and targeting by advocacy groups, leading to PR disasters. A few food companies, such as Campbell's and Dannon, have decided that transparency is the best policy, but for many others this may be a tough lesson to learn.

As of July 22, the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill, S.764, has not yet been signed into law by President Obama but the White House said after Congress passed the bill that he would sign it. More than 80,000 people have petitioned the White House urging Obama to veto the bill. Florida Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan also urged the president to veto the bill. In a letter to Obama, Buchanan called the legislation a "sham bill that pretends to offer disclosure but in truth has so many loopholes that it is meaningless."

Heirloom Non-GMO Corn Is Helping Sustain Mexico’s Heritage and Farmers


It's not often that a conversation inspires an idea leading to a project that improves people's lives and potentially transforms an industry. But that's what happened to Jorge Gaviria, founder of Masienda.

While serving as a host and translator at the G9 Chefs Summit at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York in 2013, Gaviria heard chefs discuss responsibly sourced ingredients.

Masienda / Facebook

This inspired him to travel to Mexico and learn about the country's rare heirloom corn varieties. He got the idea to work with smallholder farmers there to buy their corn, import it to the U.S. and supply restaurants, which would make delicious tortillas using the corn.

In 2014, Gaviria founded Masienda, which is a combination of the words "masa" or corn flour and "tienda" or store, to accomplish his goal.

Jorge Gaviria, founder and CEO of MasiendaMasienda

Sourced Landrace Non-GMO Corn Varieties

"I gained an appreciation for the storied history of corn," Gaviria said. "The more I learned the more I wanted to create opportunities for farmers and to connect chefs to them."

Mexico, particularly the southern state of Oaxaca, is known as the birthplace of corn.

"Mexico has been producing corn for 12,000 years," Gaviria explained.

The country has as many as 59 landraces or locally adapted, traditional varieties of corn, according to Martha Willcox, Maize Landrace Improvement Coordinator at CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), who has helped Gaviria with his project.

Masienda partner grower, Catarino and his family in Oaxaca.Masienda

"Maize is the culture in Mexico," she said. "Everyone eats maize every day and there are 2,000 culinary applications."

Within those 59 landraces, Gaviria says there are "tons of varieties" of corn, including many colors such as white, blue, red and yellow.

"There is a huge amount of diversity in the landraces," Willcox said.

Masienda sources its corn from Oaxaca, whose corn varieties are among the most rare and diverse in Mexico. Gaviria buys the corn from the region's smallholder farmers who have been growing these corn varieties for generations.

"These farmers are custodians of a very precious commodity," said Alan Tank, former assistant vice president of the National Corn Growers Association and an adviser to Masienda. "The value it represents to them and to the world is nothing short of phenomenal."

As an Iowa farmer, Tank appreciates the value of Mexico's corn heritage. "Being part of family farm, I understand the need for biodiversity and preserving it," he said.

Masienda

Provides Needed Income to Farmers

The average size of the smallholder farms range from about 2 to 12 acres. Oaxaca's farmers are poor with 62 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Masienda's purchase of the farmers' excess corn—most of the corn they need for food—provides the farmers with income they would not otherwise receive.

"We are providing a fair price to the farmers for growing the corn and having a big impact on rural communities there," Gaviria said.

"It's a way to provide markets with good prices for farmers who have continued to grow these landraces," Willcox said.

This year Masienda is working with 1,200 farmers after starting with 100 in 2014. Willcox and CIMMYT helped Gaviria identify the best corn varieties, connect with the farmers, source the corn and pay the farmers.

Masienda imports 10 to 15 different landraces. According to the company's website, this is the first time in history these corn varieties have been available outside of the remote, indigenous communities of Oaxaca.

Masienda supplies corn to about 100 restaurants, mostly in the U.S. with a few in Canada.

One of those restaurants is Taquiza in Miami, Florida. Owner and chef Steve Santana uses blue and white bolita corn varieties to make masa flour, which is then made into tortillas and chips.

Santana is enthusiastic about Masienda's corn. "Visually it's really cool looking and the flavor is unmatched," he said.

Santana could buy much cheaper U.S. domestic corn but he prefers the heirloom varieties.

"I like knowing that farmers are getting treated well throughout the supply chain," he said. "We are preserving a little history; this is pure food in its natural state."

Masienda

Non-GMO Market Opportunity

Masienda is growing exponentially. In just two years, the company's corn imports grew from 40 tons in 2014 to 80 tons last year and 400 this year.

The company is also co-branding tortilla products with Chicago-based restaurant Frontera Grill and plans to sell its own branded products.

Gaviria says the market potential for the landrace corn is huge. According to the Tortilla Industry Association, the U.S. tortilla market is worth $12.5 billion.

Most tortillas in the U.S. are likely made from genetically modified corn since more than 90 percent of the corn grown here is GMO. But with the soaring demand for non-GMO foods, there is great market potential for Mexico's heirloom non-GMO corn.

Mexico has not approved production of GMO corn, but last August a Mexican judge overturned a September 2013 ban on plantings of GMO corn, paving the way for field trials of the controversial crop.

The concern is that GMO corn production could cross pollinate and contaminate Mexico's landrace corn varieties. In 2001, University of California scientist Ignacio Chapela published a paper documenting GMO contamination of some of Oaxaca's landrace varieties. Willcox thinks this may have occurred when Mexican migrant workers brought back GMO seed from the U.S. and planted it.

However, she said: "I haven't seen evidence (of GMO contamination). I don't worry about it. It's still not legal in Mexico."

Gaviria sees GMOs as a threat to Mexico's corn biodiversity. "GMOs could have a fundamental impact on the tradition and scope of preservation," he said.

Provides Vehicle to Preserve Landrace Corn

Gaviria has ambitious plans for Masienda. "We want to educate consumers on what corn can and should taste like and provide an alternative supply chain to what we've conventionally known in the U.S. for the last 50 plus years," he said.

In the process Masienda aims to support smallholder farmers, sustainability and biodiversity.

"What Masienda does and represents is nothing short of essential," Tank said. "It provides a vehicle to ensure landrace genetics can be preserved and protected. It allows farmers to capture value. What better way to preserve the landraces than to create a market for them so they are preserved for history."

Willcox says Masienda is an exciting project with a lot of potential: "It's a conservation effort, a development effort and a research effort."

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