Join OSA in Seattle Tonight!

broccoli_mic2_smallJoin OSA’s Micaela Colley tonight (May 13) in Seattle for a Sustainable Path Foundation seminar at Town Hall. Speakers will focus on exciting developments in the Pacific Northwest region’s agricultural landscape and the impacts on eaters. Seminar participants will:

• Hear about the latest work to stem genetic erosion of agricultural crops.

• Learn how plant breeding is the foundation for our heirlooms of tomorrow.

• Discover why the Puget Sound Food Hub is part of the solution.

• Understand the impact consumers have on the Pacific Northwest regional food shed.

Speakers include Micaela Colley, Executive Director of Organic Seed Alliance; David Granatstein, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist, WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Lucy Norris, Director, Puget Sound Food Hub.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the seminar begins at 7:00 p.m. Cost is $5.00 at the door for general public.

Visit the Sustainable Path Foundation website for more information.

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DEADLINE EXTENDED: Organic Ag Research Symposium

NOVIC seed packets (peas)Call for Papers
Organic Agriculture Research Symposium
February 25 – 26, 2015
La Crosse, WI

The deadline for paper submissions has been extended to June 30, 2014.

The Organic Agriculture Research Symposium invites submissions for proposed research papers to be presented. The international symposium will take place immediately before the Organic Farming Conference organized by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), the conference invites researchers from all disciplines related to organic farming and food systems, and other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards.

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Washington Post Misses the Mark on Molecular Breeding Story

John_Purple BroccoliA recent Washington Post article by Adrian Higgins, titled, “Trait by trait, plant scientists swiftly weed out bad seeds through marker-assisted breeding” (April 16, 2014) overstates the potential of marker-assisted selection (a molecular plant breeding method) and makes the dubious claim that it’s the most promising plant breeding method available today.

We agree that marker-assisted selection (MAS) has a role in crop improvement and has helped breeders for a quarter century understand the relationship between genes and plant traits. It is good basic research. But MAS is just one tool in a plant breeder’s toolbox, with clear limitations, which the article largely dismissed.

Amid this rush to the “trendy sphere of molecular breeding,” as Mr. Higgins put it, we are seeing a troubling de-emphasis on, and de-funding of, classical plant breeding that produces dynamic, genetically resilient crops across diverse – and changing – agricultural environments.

If the past century of agriculture has taught us anything, it’s that there are no silver-bullet solutions to complex problems, MAS included. The danger with this centralized, one-size-fits-all breeding approach is that it results in diminishing crop diversity, as well as the diversity of breeders representing different interests in creatively solving agricultural challenges at the regional level. These are the concerns voiced by Drs. Goodman and Tracy, two of today’s preeminent breeding theorists, who were given short shrift in Mr. Higgins’ article. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations echoed this need for increased genetic diversity and decentralized breeding in creating the agricultural ecosystems of the future, while admonishing the “business-as-usual mindset.”

Classical breeding, rooted in field-based selection for the subtleties of a plant’s genetic response to environmental change, has proven to be highly effective for many traits that are more complex than can be discerned in a lab. Field-based selection can be practiced with limited resources and precision. Yet fewer funds are being directed to these breeding programs at our public institutions that for decades have delivered regionally adapted plant varieties to farmers and trained the next generation of breeders. We need to reprioritize classical breeding to help address our most pressing 21st century food and agriculture needs.

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Join OSA for ‘Open Sesame’ Movie Screening Tomorrow

4_6Join OSA’s Micaela Colley for a special screening of “Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds” this Thursday, April 24, beginning at 4:30 pm at Deer Park Cinema (96 Park Rd.) in Port Angeles, Washington. Open Sesame, from Open Pollinated Productions, is a groundbreaking film by award-winning filmmaker Sean Kaminsky. The film is currently screening at theaters across the U.S. and explores the issues affecting seed on a global scale, from GMOs to ownership to positive change. The film features renowned seed experts, including OSA’s John Navazio and Micaela Colley, OSA’s co-founder, Matthew Dillon, Vandana Shiva, and many more. Micaela will be leading a Q&A after the Port Angeles screening.

Here is a list of other screenings happening across the country this week:

April 23rd, Providence, RI

April 24th, Port Angeles, WA

April 25th, Hingham, MA

Request a screening in your community here. 

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Tell Congress You Support Mandatory GMO Labeling

Just Label ItLast week, a GMO labeling bill was introduced as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (H.R. 4432). What may sound like a welcomed effort to enhance transparency in grocery aisles is in fact an attempt by large food, chemical, and biotechnology firms to further reduce the chances that consumers will see GMOs labeled in the U.S. As written, the bill mandates voluntary GMO labeling, and would also:

  • Preempt states from enacting their own GMO labeling laws
  • Preempt the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring GMO labeling
  • Require FDA to define the term “natural” and allow GMO ingredients in “natural” foods
  • Tie the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) hands from instituting systems to allow absence claims, such as “non-GMO”

This legislation takes the opposite approach to labeling that Americans have asked for, and has therefore been dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. If you’re one of the 93% of Americans who support labeling GMO ingredients, call your representative today and urge him/her to reject H.R. 4422. You can also send an email here.

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