Latest on the GMO Debate

Here’s some interesting contrast for you. Robert Fraley, the chief technology officer and executive vice president of Monsanto was awarded the World Food Prize, along with two other individuals. Fraley has been very instrumental in the introduction of genetically modified crops. He was awarded this prize on the basis of increasing the yield of food and its resistance to pests. However, as you all know, the introduction of GMOs into our food system has been controversial and has led to as many questions as answers. This award is just another notch on Monsanto’s walking stick, but a point of contention for environmentalists, or for that matter, anybody who eats. Read more in Andrew Pollack’s New York Times article.

On the other end of the spectrum, Connecticut has just become the first state to pass a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such. However, there is a kicker, and a strange one. The law required a “compromise” for it to pass, that requires four other states, one that borders Connecticut, to pass similar laws before it becomes effective. Massachusetts seems to be a strong candidate. It looks like the lobbyists did their job! Maybe it will backfire. Read more at’s article.


Researchers with Genetically Modified Corn

Sources: Pollack, Andrew. “Executive at Monsanto wins global food honor”. The New York Times. 19 June 2013.

“Connecticut passes first GMO food labeling law in US”. 5 June 2013.

Image: Next Generation Food Online

All About Bats!

As you know, we here at Urban Hermits are fascinated by our fellow creatures. One creature is an important pollinator and the only mammal that can fly (the flying squirrel does not truly fly): the Bat! Unfortunately, loss of habitat as well as a lethal fungal infection known as White-Nose Syndrome have seriously threatened the U.S. population. While some people find bats creepy, they provide benefits to humans by keeping the insect population in check, which I am thankful for during this time of year. Below are some interesting links about bats.

Penn State University’s Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center has recently seen a collapse in their bat population due to White-Nose Syndrome. Here are some interesting details about this problem.

Centre Wildlife Rescue in Centre County, PA provides information on rehabbing bats HERE

Finally, BBC Nature has a great article about “giving nature a home”. This includes tips about building your own bat box!

Sources: Barr, Bianca. “Shaver’s Creek witnessing collapse of Pennsylvania bat population”. Penn State News. 11 June 2013.

 “In pictures: giving nature a home”. BBC Nature. 11 June 2013.

Strohmier, Matt. “Rehabing bat with Centre Wildlife Care”. 14 June 2013.

Image: Cici, Caitlin. Penn State News.

Gone Organic: Former GMO Engineer Tells His Story

Organic Connections has just released an interview with Thierry Vrain, Ph.D., for­mer biotech engi­neer who now speaks out against the risks of genet­i­cally engi­neered foods. Vrain worked 30 years as a research sci­en­tist for the Canadian gov­ern­ment where he con­ducted studies on agriculture mod­i­fication. He was direc­tor of the biotech­nol­ogy depart­ment at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, BC. Today, Thierry Vrain has retired to a farm, is a gar­dener, a teacher, and a advocate for organic gardening—from soil health to GMO awareness.

Vrain: “When I hear we need genetic engi­neer­ing to feed the world, I cringe. It turns out that there is no increase in yield, no decrease use of pes­ti­cides, and the process is of highly ques­tioned safety. Even if genetic engi­neer­ing was per­fectly safe, I still ques­tion it because of genetic pol­lu­tion. Organic crops and foods are becom­ing contaminated. I’m also con­cerned about con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of the envi­ron­ment with antibi­otic resis­tant genes. Every GM crop has these genes. The pre­lim­i­nary evi­dence we have is that bac­te­ria in the soil and in the human gut are capa­ble of pick­ing those genes up. Considering the alarm I hear from med­ical peo­ple about los­ing antibi­otics, I think this should be a seri­ous concern.”

Read the interview here.

Below is a TEDxTalk given by Dr. Vrain on May 23, 2013- The Gene Revolution, The Future of Agriculture

Source: Ken Roseboro, Organic Connections, June 2013; Dr. Thierry Vrain, TEDx, 29 May 2013