News bites, April 2002

This article was originally published in April 2002

Researchers warn of genetic contamination of organic seeds


Researchers from the University of Maine are urging organic corn farmers to take special precautions to prevent their crops from being cross-pollinated by genetically engineered corn in nearby fields. Michael Vayda and John Jemison of UMaine completed a two-year study that confirms that organic crops can be contaminated by pollen from biotech crops.

“Farmers who plant within 100 feet of transgenic crops can expect some pollen transfer,” says Vayda, a molecular biologist.

While working on their study, Vayda and Jemison also found low levels of genetically modified seed in bags of conventional seed. What this suggests “is that organic growers should be very sure of their seed source,” Vayda says.

Tom’s pioneers a new standard for recyclable packaging

Tom's of Main logo

Tom’s of Maine has introduced a plastic deodorant stick, believed to be the first in the industry.

The use of the anti-perspirant is a daily ritual for millions of Americans. However, its packaging is not traditionally recyclable. Because it is a multifunction package, a deodorant stick uses a complex mixture of plastic that, once combined, can’t be recycled. Since it requires a “hot fill,” the package must prevent leakage, yet the elevator mechanism inside must also slide easily and smoothly when cold. Until now, these performance requirements necessitated the use of two separate but integrated parts that combine high-density polyethelene (HDPE #2) with polypropylene (PP#5).

In the new Tom’s packaging, both the fill cavity and the elevator mechanism are made from polypropylene, so the entire package may be recycled as #5 plastic. Consumers who do not have #5 recycling available in their communities are encouraged to return their empty deodorant packages to Tom’s, a policy already in place for Tom’s recyclable aluminum toothpaste tubes.

“Deodorant is one of our biggest lines, but it was the only product package that wasn’t recyclable,” says Tom’s of Maine Bill Hetzel. “At Tom’s, we’re committed to offering recycled packaging wherever available.”

Organic agriculture helps tackle hunger in developing countries


Organic agriculture has a fundamental role to play in tackling world hunger. A new study commissioned by Greenpeace, “The real green revolution” by researcher Nick Parrott of Cardiff University in Wales, reveals that organic farming in developing countries today is already producing yields far in excess of those achieved by conventional agriculture. Farmers are reporting successful harvests especially in regions where resources are low and farmland is managed traditionally, without chemicals or genetic engineering.

“Contrary to widespread opinion, the study proves that organic agriculture works very well in developing countries,” says Oliver Knowles, spokesman of Greenpeace UK. “This is why we must do even more to counteract the trend for dominance of the agro-markets by corporations operating globally. The problem of world hunger cannot be tackled with genetically modified crops, but by promoting a form of agriculture that takes account of a region’s local, social and cultural structures and the farmers’ traditional knowledge.”

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