Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From the guy who brought us (information about ) tomato slavery...

I pay attention to Barry Estabrook, the James Beard award-winning Journalist who wrote the March 2009 Gourmet article "Politics of the plate: the price of tomatoes."

Mostly, I pay attention because I like to look at off-season, cardboard tomatoes and call them "slave tomatoes" or "tomato slavery." They're gross anyway, so Estabrook lends further justification to avoid them by claiming, "If you have eaten a tomato this winter, chances are very good that it was picked by a person who lives in virtual slavery." Read the article if you want to find out more, but basically the demand for off-season produce has led some industrial farmers to convince immigrant workers that they will be kicked out of the country if they do not basically work for free. Or something like that.

Anyway, the news today is that a group representing 60 organic farms, small farms and seed companies is suing Monsanto to preempt being sued over patent infringement. Why? Monsanto owns the DNA in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Should GMO plants cross-pollinate with plants on land where the farmers do not purchase seed from Monsanto, the farmer might be sued for unlicensed copyright infringement. This suit is pressing now because patents for sugar beet GMOs and alfalfa GMOs, two plants with an enormous potential for unintended cross-pollination:

Both crops can easily cross contaminate with non-GMO plants. Alfalfa’s pollen is carried by the wind and can travel distances of up to five miles. Most sugar beet seed—GMO and conventional—is grown in a small area in Oregon in plots adjacent to where conventional and organic table beet and chard seed is also produced.

Anyway, it's a good article, it comes from tomato slavery guy, and I'll be interested to see what happens.

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