Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

Plus, what's in the news about foods, systems and regulations around the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

California voters to decide on GMO labeling announces the following huge step towards mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods:

Polls show overwhelming support for historic labeling initiative

(First reported June 12, 2012)  Last night, the California Secretary of State’s office announced that the Right to Know initiative to label genetically engineered foods will be on the state’s November ballot. The historic initiative would be the first law in the United States requiring labeling of a wide range of genetically engineered foods.

“We’re thrilled that Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote for the right to know what’s in our food,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign. “This initiative is pretty simple. It's about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families.”

The initiative requires labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – which are plants or meats that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration occurs in a laboratory and is not found in nature.

Polls show nearly unanimous support across the political spectrum for labeling of genetically engineered foods. Nine out of ten voters in the U.S. and in California back labeling, according to recent polls (see Mellman 2012Reuters 2010Zogby 2012). An April poll by San Francisco TV station KCBS found 91% backed labeling.

The California Right to Know initiative is backed by a broad array of consumer, health and environmental groups, businesses and farmers. Major endorsers include Public Citizen, Sierra Club, American Public Health Association, United Farm Workers, California Certified Organic Farmers, Organic Consumers Association, Consumer Federation of America, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Organic Valley, Dr. Bronner’s, Eden Foods,, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now! and the California State Grange.

Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms in the Sacramento Valley, noted that the United States stands out as one of the few developed nations that does not provide consumers with simple labels to inform them if their food has been genetically engineered. “More than 40 other countries - including all of Europe, Japan and even China - already label genetically engineered food. Californians deserve to be able to make informed choices too," Lundberg said.

"As a doctor committed to the health of people and the environment, I strongly believe that people have a right to know, and to choose for themselves, whether to eat foods that have been genetically engineered," said Robert Gould, MD, president of the SF-Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Susan Lang, a Sacramento mother of two who was one of thousands of volunteers who worked to place the initiative on the ballot, said passing the Right to Know initiative is in the best interests of everyone in the state. "I want to know whether the food I’m buying contains genetically engineered ingredients. All the parents I know want to have this information too,” Lang said. 

The California Right to Know initiative is widely regarded as the best chance to achieve GMO labeling in the United States, and the campaign has generated significant national interest in the growing movement for transparency in our food system, as reported in a recent front-page New York Times story.

In March, more than one million people submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a petition for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, more than any other petition in FDA history. Twenty states have tried to legislate GMO labeling, but none have succeeded due to intense opposition from corporate special interests.

“All eyes are on California, and the voters of this state will support our right to know what’s in our food when they vote this November,” said Stacy Malkan from the Right to Know campaign.

More info: Contact Stacy Malkan, 510-542-9224;

For more information about the California Right to Know campaign, see

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Poppies, daisies, and a rainbow

It has been a challenging spring. After the balmy winter came sudden heat in late March, followed by a spate of frosts in April, generous warmth in May, and now a series of heavy downpours in early June. It is no wonder that some crops struggle to adjust to this mixed bag of offerings from above. Farmers are having to contend with poor seasons for asparagus and fruits like apples and  peaches, the fruits not having set because of the frosts. Salad greens and starter plants in the greenhouses performed miracles early on, then flagged in the sudden onset of extended heat. Early markets saw healthy sales of arugula, baby kale, Swiss chard, beet tops, and lovely baby spinach and baby lettuce mix. The greenhouses then over-heated, and so began the annual anxious wait for the transition to field production to materialize. It is never smooth and recent washout rains have set things back significantly. So, sorry to Riverdale farmers market customers for not yet putting in an appearance. And sorry to restaurant buyers ready to roll with our tardy fresh local organic field greens.

As for us on the farm, life remains sprinkled with blessings – a cherished visit from my sister Jill who lives in Berlin and hadn’t been here to share our home in the hills before; birthdays prompting a happy spring fling with friends on a delightful holiday weekend evening; and now, after yet another thunderstorm brought buckets more rain, we are treated to the sight of poppies and daisies enveloped in a late afternoon rainbow. Now, let the sun shine in and the rows of greens, herbs and root crops explode into growth. Alongside these we have lavender, garlic, sunflowers and tomato season to look forward to. We have a lot of work to do to bring it all to market, with local help coming this year from Ray, Arie, Anne, and Jocelyn.