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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Dancing Cows, Spending Bills, and Slipping Ludes to Legislators

Uploaded: Jan 8, 2016

Cows are back in the news, or as we say…in the moos.

The Rose Bowl, New Years Day, Half Time Show…. Stanford band takes the shape of a farmer on field and then plays alongside a dancing cow. People immediately describe the action as a jab to the University of Iowa and to some dating website FarmersOnly.com, where “City folk just don’t get it.” They are right, I don’t get it. Why was this offensive?



One recent cow prancing insult I did pick up on however happened in December to city and country folk alike. That’s when Congress repealed a 2009 beef-and-pork-labeling law requiring our packaged meats to list their country of origin. And they also stopped small ranchers from volunteering to continue the process if they so choose to.

It’s a surprising turn of events in this, the people’s moment of locavore-homegrown enlightenment, no? Happened on the sly. Congress slid the changes into the year-end spending bill … kind of like Cosby slipping the ludes to the ladies. Anesthetized by the serious amount of distraction forced upon them, what’s a congressperson to do but say yes?

Word up is the World Trade Organization/WTO pressured the U.S. to stop the practice because Canada and Mexico kept complaining they were disadvantaged by it.

And Big Meat is dancing a jig.

And there’s more lunacy in la-la label land. If fish had feet, Big Salmon would also be jigging with the recent FDA approval of the first genetically modified animals for human consumption, AquAdvantage salmon. No public blessing or label required, at least not yet. (see this also addressed in the spending bill).

So tell me…

What happens to wild salmon if the engineered salmon escape?

What other genetically engineered food animals are coming to our grocery shelves?

Will I be able to know if my salmon is GMO or not?

If dancing fish concern you, come this Wednesday for a panel discussion on the issue, sponsored by the super-wonderful nonprofit CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). They host the Saturday (and Tuesday) San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Markets - an exciting event every week, and a perfect place to take out of town guests.

Genetically Engineered Salmon: What's Next?

Wednesday, January 13, 6-8PM
Port Commission Hearing Room, San Francisco Ferry Building
Embarcadero at Market St., 2nd floor

Talk followed by a reception with refreshments from the farmers market.

I think my New Years resolution is to start writing letters to elected officials… and to dance more.

See you at the Pioneer on Sunday.





Community.
What is it worth to you?

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 10, 2016 at 3:58 am

City folks don't get it. That is true. I am a son of a farmer from eastern part of India. Our family were farmers and we owned a few cows. They lived in our five acre estate. You build a bond with a living and breathing animal. So, it is not surprising some people took it offensive. Regardless, please respect cows; they deserve to live! They do no harm respectfully


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Jan 10, 2016 at 8:28 am

Sea Reddy, Thanks for the comment. Cows "are sacred" I agree, but sacred gods ans goddesses dance. I doubt that's how the offense was interpreted.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Plane Speaker, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 10, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Sacred cows are sacred cows. People dressed up as cows are not cows and not sacred and not sacred cows. -- What should be a sacred cow is the environmental genome, and it bugs me every time I think of it that plant and animal GMO products have been released into the environment with associated toxic pesticides and herbicides when these companies do not know what they are doing. The term "gene-splicing" has been a lie up until a year or so ago with the advent of the amazing CRISPER technology that allows actual pattern matching and "gene-editing" where there was really not such a thing before. For almost 40 years genes have been haphazardly shot-gunned into living cells into random areas and in the middle of active areas with unknown affects, and untested results. Perhaps OK for research but the results of these accidents, because they all were accidents, were forced on people unknowingly. One possible problem type with this was written about by Steven Drucker in his book "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth" with the story about L-Tryptophan. LT is a protein that is a precursor to the neurotransmitter seritonin that some people took to aid in sleep. Decades ago in Japan a company took the natural bacteria that is used to synthesize LT for humans, found the genes for LT production and increased them, duplicating them inside the bacterium to enhance their LT production, in several lines of increasing LT production. The unknown effects of what was done resulted in people getting sick and dying, in proportion to the number of enhancements of this bacteria, that is the more the bacteria was enhanced to product LT, the more people got sick and died. The reason is believed by some to be because of other toxics in the genetics of the bacterium what were tweaked by adding in the extra genetic material - but that could not be proven absolutely because the company in question destroyed the entire line, and tried to blame it on contaminants in the production line. Since the poisonings were proportional to the number of modifications in the bacteria line, and since the poisonings were all in one company, it is very much likely this was due to not understanding what was done to these bacteria fully enough. So while current genetic engineering technology is progressing with CRISPER, it is far from perfect, and even if it was, the understanding of how DNA really works and can be modified is still in its infancy. As late as 2012 major revisions in the understanding of how to decode DNA have taken place, while all this time we have been using the results of genetic modification - for profit - against the FDA's own regulations. It could be that a similar process is taking place in the production of another nutrient in human consumption ... that of vitamin B12, which not most people are deficient in due to the processed nature of our food. B12 is produced by bacteria, and if the same model is followed without understanding the bacteria and testing the result there could be a similar problem, and think of the possible magnitude of that. Without GMO labelling, and we know how labelling is untrustworthy in some cases, how can we tell what we are getting, or that it is safe? Companies are working to push anti-labelling laws to remove choice and information from the public ... and this kind of "nanny state" seems to be the kind our corporations can live with, while actually giving people support and a safety net in their lives is derided. So, due to understanding a little about what the history of GMOs in our country and economy has been, I am against the release of salmon in the environment, even thought they say that these salmon cannot breed or reproduce int he wild. The will compete and change the environment for natural salmon, and they are untested and unnecessary. We should hold our genetic legacy on this planet as a very important sacred cow in all seriousness and make it a high profile crime to change or disrupt it without complete testing, full understanding and the sign off or all governments affected.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter., a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

People have been genetically modifying animals and plants for centuries. This whole GMO business is just so much nonsense.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Menlo Voter ... maybe you could tell me the the first decade human being even genetically modified a plant to contain bacteria or animal genes, because it certainly has not been for centuries. How about you think about reading a book on genetic engineering, because there really is a reason they called it genetic engineering and not breeding, despite the fact that they are trying to run away from that label now.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter., a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 12, 2016 at 7:24 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Plane: humans have been cross pollinating, cross breeding, etc for centuries. The only difference now is that we have technology at hand that allows us to speed up the process.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Jan 12, 2016 at 8:05 am

I attended reThink Food at the Culinary Institute of America last fall. A collaboration of the CIA and MIT, this is a conference where food meets science. Many that attended from the food science world seemed almost past GMO's to a world where most our food will be grown without even soil! That's a Food Party! for another day, but here we must acknowledge that no matter what one thinks about GMO's, the US is a society based on the ability to choose for ones self. If things aren't labeled, this goes against everything we believe in.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bill, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Why was the Band offensive? Seriously? Having observed them for four decades they absolutely are not the Band of the 60's and 70's that both played well AND presented political satire while playing the Fight Song. The 2016 Rose Bowl came across consistently (before the Game and during Half time) as arrogant and demeaning--the clear message of elitism was in stark contrast the University, Athletic Department and Football team principles of inclusion, tolerance, hard work, commitment... They had nothing to do with the Game, the team and individual effort. They do not deserve University or Athletic Department support. There were plenty of students who wanted to go to the Game who should have gone in their place. Why don't you examine whether they did anything to support the team? They did not reflect the values of Stanford University Athletes that I know or have known. If you observed the entire presentation I think you would react differently...you make no mention of the fact that Stanford fans (young and old) joined people who were obviously Iowa fans in booing the Band's conduct


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Ah thanks Bill. So it wasn't the dancing cow? That did seem odd. Thanks. And tsk tsk Stanford Band. What did you do?


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