Jul 23, 2014
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February 2014 Archive for John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block, AgWeb.com

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

Genetic Engineering to the Rescue

Feb 27, 2014


It’s not new news to report that genetically engineered products are under assault. We are in free trade talks with Europe. The EU public is adamantly opposed to GE food. There are bills in 23 of our state legislatures to label foods that contain GE products. The naysayers have a loud voice.

However, you don’t hear a whisper out of them opposing genetically engineered medicines. Biotech health products have exploded. Totally unacceptable. Where is the logic?

Ring spot virus was devastating the Hawaiian papaya industry. To the rescue came Rainbow – a (GE product) resisting ring spot. If you go to Hawaii, you will be served GE papaya.

Now, we face another challenge – much more widespread and closer to home. The orange industry is under assault by an expanding bacterium. This new bacterium started infecting our citrus crop about 10 years ago. Citrus is threatened in a number of states, including George, South Carolina, Texas, California, and especially Florida. Millions of orange trees have been destroyed, cutting Florida citrus production to the lowest level since 1969.

Researchers are working frantically to find a solution to the "citrus greening" disease. Today, there is no known cure.

The last thing the industry wants to do is turn to genetic engineering to save their apples (oh, I mean oranges). However, Texas A&M University is coming to the rescue. They are introducing "spinach genes" into citrus trees to provide the citrus resistance.

Field trials are under way to give birth to a new GMO. This is not a done deal yet, but if proven successful, the next challenge will be to get public acceptance of GE orange juice. Maybe GE could save our oranges as GE saved the papaya.

Eventually, the public will come to appreciate the true value of this advanced science. They will come to accept the safety of the product.

GMOs have been subjected to more testing worldwide than any other products. They are safe, according to such well-respected organizations as the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Science, and the European Food Safety Authority.
 

Nature is Still Stronger than Man

Feb 20, 2014

We are experiencing one of the coldest winters that we have seen in decades. The news is reporting about all the flights cancelled. It has been a challenge on our farm to make sure we have the heat for our baby pigs. Natural gas prices have gone through the roof, soaring more than 40%. Al Gore says, "The science is settled -- no more debate about global warming."

But, wait a minute. This is cold, frigid weather with killer ice storms. How can this be called global warming? Well, they don’t call it global warming anymore. They have conveniently said that the "greenhouse gasses" that mankind is releasing into the atmosphere is causing severe "climate change."

That we have climate change makes more sense. In fact, we have always experienced climate change. We have suffered with scorching summertime heat, and spent winter in the deep freeze.
Between 1900 and 1940, the earth was warming. We didn’t have that many cars belching out greenhouse gasses then either. In 1940 to 1975, the climate turned colder. There were alarming articles written about the "new ice age" coming. Then, it started warming again.

That’s what triggered the new "global warming religion." Surprise! For the last 17 years, we are not warming. We are not cooling. We are marking time. That is in spite of the fact that, globally, we are creating more CO2 than ever before. President Obama, just back from California, blamed the drought out there on global warming. In a speech at Georgetown University, the President falsely claimed that the earth has been warming over the last 15 years.

I don’t understand how the global warming crowd can claim that they have science on their side. Just look back 2 or 3 thousand years. We had a "medieval warm period" and later a "little ice age." We have always experienced climate change, but it’s hard to blame it all on carbon dioxide gas.

We can’t manage the weather. Nature is stronger than man.

 

McDonald’s Is OK

Feb 13, 2014

Here is a new way to lose weight. Go on a steady diet of fast food – nothing else, just McDonald’s.
John Cisna and 3 of his students dined at McDonald’s, and only McDonald’s, for 90 days – 270 consecutive meals, and they lost weight. He did not eat just salads. He ate quarter pounders and ice cream, too.

However, Mr. Cisna carefully calculated his calories every day; 2,000 per day was his limit. He also was careful to eat the right balance of protein, fat, and carbs and exercise 45 minutes each day.

Cisna, who was overweight in the beginning, lost 37 pounds, but even more impressive is that his bad cholesterol level dropped from 170 to 113. So, what’s the point of all of this? What have we learned?

Cisna had this to say. "It’s choice. We all have choices. It’s our choices that make us fat – not McDonald’s."

I’m not surprised at these results. The "know it all" critics can place the blame on fast food restaurants, but that’s not really fair. Consider a big burger. You have meat (protein), you have cheese (dairy), you have bread (carbs), you may have tomato (vegetable). For, dessert, you might choose some ice cream. I don’t’ think that is too bad. It makes me hungry to think about it.

I realize that an individual’s DNA can make a big difference. Some people find it much more difficult to manage their weight. Too many calories without exercise and you will probably gain weight. Calories are not equal. We need to eat a variety of foods to give us the correct balance.

I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. I believe the reason we have a national obesity problem is simple. Food is very inexpensive and it tastes good. If food was really expensive, only the rich would be fat.

In the end – it is not where you eat. It is what you eat, and how much you eat.

 


 

A Farm Bill At Last

Feb 06, 2014

After two years of debate, political fights involving the nutrition advocates and farm groups, we have a farm bill. Remember, 80% of the $956 billion is for food programs and the remaining 20% is for farm support.

The $8 billion reduction in food stamps doesn’t sit well with liberals, and a lot of conservatives don’t feel that farm spending was cut enough – even though the direct payments were eliminated from the bill.

The meat industry is very unhappy that country of origin labeling (COOL) was not fixed. Farmers and meat processors face the costly and inefficient possibility that the labeling of meat will become almost impossible to accomplish – trying to separate animals depending on where they were born, raised, and fattened for market is crazy. Canada and Mexico are ready to take this issue to the World Trade Organization. We haven’t heard the last of this mess.

The centerpiece of the farmer safety net is the federal crop insurance, which is expanded and receives more federal subsidy. Crop insurance will be tied to conservation compliance. In one respect, if you buy subsidized crop insurance, you should be expected to meet certain conservation standards to quality. On the other hand, this is just more red tape and regulation.

I think the farm bill is too complicated. We have two new supports – agriculture risk coverage and supplemental coverage option. If crop prices fall too low, they guarantee support.

I said earlier – everyone is not in love with the farm bill legislation. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) had this to say: "When you look at the policies of this report, we have a return to government subsidies and farmers planting for the government. I cannot march backwards and deliver more spending, more regulations, and more waste." Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was almost as critical. They are both strong voices for agriculture and have been for years.

From my point of view, I am glad that we have a five-year farm bill. My biggest concern is that the level of crop insurance and target price supports in the bill will encourage over-production and distort farmer planting decisions. The market should signal to the farmer what to plant and not the government.

We now have five years to watch and wait to see how the bill works.


 

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