Soil & Sea: Reports from our producers
This article was originally published in October 2017
Farmers are planting more GMO sweet corn-on-the-cob than previously thought. Institute for Responsible Technology volunteers visited farmers markets and grocery stores in 14 states and found 31 of 55 vendors confirmed their sweet corn is GMO, while 24 said theirs was conventional non-GMO. In some cases, the origin of corn was unknown or the vendor did not want to say.
Washington apple farmers may get higher returns this fall with large crops expected and a decline in apple production in Europe, Mexico and Canada. The Washington State Tree Fruit Association estimates this year’s crop will yield nearly 131 million, 40-pound boxes. Europe’s apple crop reportedly declined 21 percent because of frost damage and weather. Mexico’s yield is down 30 percent and Canada’s is down by 5 percent.
Alaska’s Marine Safety Education Association is urging fishing crews to take time and think about further reducing risks to themselves and their vessels. This advice comes in a year with nine commercial fishing fatalities, plus swamping of several vessels in Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound due to weather and overloading, but fortunately no loss of life. The advice includes having respect for icing and anything that raises the vessel’s center of gravity; paying attention to weather forecasts; getting sufficient sleep; and encouraging crew to wear a personal flotation device. In a 15-year National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study, out of 210 fishermen who fell overboard and died, not one was wearing a flotation device.
The U.S. Senate has passed legislation to help clean up the garbage crisis in the world’s oceans. The Save Our Seas Act would encourage the executive branch to engage with leaders of nations responsible for most of the marine debris, support research into ocean biodegradable plastics, develop prevention and mitigation strategies, and quantify the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis. At press time, the bill was coming up for consideration before the U.S. House, where the House Oceans Caucus introduced companion language.
Organic trends up. Sales of organic food rose 8.4 percent in 2016, compared to 0.6 percent growth in food overall. According to a study by the Hartman Group in Bellevue, organic food accounts for 5.3 percent of total retail food sales, but almost 15 percent of veggies and fruit consumed in the U.S. is now organic. About 44 percent of shoppers said they would pay an additional 20 percent or more for organic vegetables, and 37 percent are willing to pay that much more for organic poultry.