Vanilla Shortage?

By Augustine Fou from New York, USA (VanillaOrchidUploaded by Orchi) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AVanilla_spec._-_Flickr_003.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
By Augustine Fou from New York, USA (VanillaOrchidUploaded by Orchi) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Now that food manufacturers (in this case specifically Nestle) are pledging to use natural ingredients, there appears to be a huge shortage of vanilla. The amount of natural vanilla from vanilla beans available worldwide will only supply a small fraction of the demand. See this Chemical and Engineering News article regarding all the options that are available to food producers. Most of the options (other than synthesizing from petrochemicals) are very expensive. At the heart of the matter is the question: “What constitutes natural?”. Continue reading “Vanilla Shortage?”

Desi Seeds
Compete with Monsanto

Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

In this IndiaTimes article, Madhvi Sally reports that India is preparing to release an indigenous GM cotton. The new variety reportedly does not infringe on Monsanto’s intellectual property rights and should produce a better yield than that previously used. The key genetic trait is the time it takes from planting to harvest. This strain reduces that time by about a third, reducing the chance for pests to ruin the crop (late season pink bollworm infestation).

Is GMO-free Even Possible?

See this Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy article about whether it is possible/practical to actually produce/deliver a GMO-free product to market. There are several sticking points to pulling this off all along the process, from sowing & pollination, harvesting, storing, and transporting grain. The concept of Identity Preservation has been around for some time. If the procedures developed for IP grain are specified in a grain contract and followed to the letter, it is possible to bring to market a GMO-free crop. However, this chain of evidence is only as strong as each link. There is extra labor involved at each step, for instance making sure that equipment is cleaned between crop runs (extra labor), or that grains are stored in separate containers in storage (extra investment for elevator operators). There are financial incentives to pull this off, since contracts for non-GMO crops pay extra. Organic growers have been successfully pulling it off for some time. The stakes are even higher now with the proliferation of GM crops. This will be a topic that we’ll be watching more carefully in the future. Testing is also going to be more critical to make sure that crops are not tainted with GMOs.

Is GMO-free even possible? By Stella Blu from Canada (Spruce Grove Grain Elevator) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Stella Blu from Canada (Spruce Grove Grain Elevator) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Kenyan GMO Trials Delayed

In a turnabout decision, Kenya’s NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority) has ruled out immediate trials for GMOs, now requiring the Agriculture ministry to revisit policy. The agency had approved field trials to begin but now says that researchers need to wait for the ministry to approve it. If that happens, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) will begin trials that will likely take up to two years, after which seed multiplication and supply will happen.

The ban on GMOs in Kenya started in 2012, based on a study linking GMOs and cancer in lab rats. The report was later retracted.

 

Sugar in a Tight Spot

By jenlightFloNight at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.0], from Wikimedia Commons
By jenlightFloNight at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Between the U.S.’s reduced need for sugar (replacements are in full bloom) and the new requirement to label GMOs, the sugar business is in a downturn. Since sugar imports are produced from beets that are grown from GMO seed, technically it can’t be labeled as non-GMO, despite the fact that chemically it is identical to sugar from non-GMO beets. The particulars of the new labeling law are still being ironed out so it remains to be seen how this will turn out. See this Food Dive article about Mexican sugar imports.