Thursday Roundup: Alfalfa and ‘Sanctuary State’

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Two views of the the decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow the growing of genetically engineered alfalfa:

In the Washington Post, author Barbara Damrosch writes that this GE Roundup Ready seed is “unnecessary.” 

“Alfalfa competes well with weeds in a well-managed system,” Damrosch writes. “But when RRA is grown, weeds will develop resistance to Roundup, as they have with the other crops that carry the Roundup Ready gene, such as corn, soybeans and cottons (sugar beets are next). This resistance could lead to the introduction of yet more powerful transgenic remedies that, in turn, would fail.”

And the trouble with GE seeds, she continues is that “you can’t recall them the way you can a car or a plastic towy. They’re out there for good. And no one knows what their full impact will be.”

Meanwhile, at The Atlantic, James McWilliams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We can Truly Eat Responsibly, tells us not to panic. 

McWilliams talks to people who say the possibility of contamination (of GE alfalfa getting mixed in with organic alfalfa) is pretty weak. McWilliams finds a University of California-Davis professor who has studied the likelihood of contamination and finds “a pretty low level of risk.”

Besides, even if there was contamination, McWilliams writes, “the impact would be, for all intents and purposes, benign.”

• The Census is releasing 2010 population figures state by state, so we’re seeing rural and urban comparisons piece by piece. Today: South Dakota.

South Dakota demographers report that their state grew 7.9% in the first decade of the new century, and that growth was driven primarily by the state’s two metro areas, Sioux Falls and Rapid City and in communities along interstate highways.

Like the rest of the country, the farm industry here has become much more efficient,” says Kenneth Blanchard, professor of political science at Northern State Universityin Aberdeen. “There just aren’t a lot of farm jobs. So people move away to the cities where they can find jobs.” 

• The Republican state senator from Hazard, in far Eastern Kentucky, has offered a resolution that would make Kentucky a “sanctuary state” for coal. 

Sen. Brandon Smith’s resolution would give state agencies jurisdiction over all coal-related environmental regulations (as opposed to federal regulators) and would require state agencies to “respect the rights of Kentucky coal operators.”

• How mixed up is this story?

It seems that the Transportation Security Administration recruits new workers at the Iditarod dog race in Alaska. People line the 1,150 mile route of the dog sled race and sponsors advertise along the way. 

Well, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has objected to spending money on the “cruel” event — and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano cancelled the TSA sponsorship. 

• Figures released today show that the price index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs has risen by nearly one percent in January, the single largest price increase since 2008. 

 

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