One consumer's opinion on the White Russet, the new gmo 'tater

The USDA announced a "determination of nonregulated status" for a genetically engineered potato variety developed by J.R. Simplot Company on their (USDA's) website this week.  This new potato has some remarkable characteristics and presumably its creator would say offer some worthy improvements to our food supply.  

 I will steer clear of this 'tater and hold tight to my consumer dollars, be this a worthy spud or not.      

I will steer clear of this 'tater and hold tight to my consumer dollars, be this a worthy spud or not.  


Apparently the big gripe with our all-American-family-favorite, russet, is that the little brown tuber bruises easily and thus loses storage time in our pantries. But not so with this new spud, Simplot.  Due to gene-splicing it doesn't bruise as easily. The 'taters have been tested by throwing them in a barrel, then bashed and battering them. The spud showed some signs of bruising-- but the injury was a whole lot less than the bruising recorded in comparison to our old traditional potato. 

Plus, the 2015 potato is lower by half in a compound called acrylamide-- something which is naturally occurring in all of our much-loved 'taters and apparently by itself and in the huge quantities we'd never reasonably consume, might not be good for us. Acrylamide was demonstrated to be a carcinogen when fed in large quantities to some of those poor lab mice we test such things on. 

Huh... well, there you go.  Interesting stuff and pretty darn amazing what these genetic-food-seed-engineer folks can do.  Wow. 

I've no idea if this new potato's a good idea or not.  Perhaps this spud could be a positive addition to our food supply? (Btw, I am being very open-minded right now.)

But I won't be buying this potato. Sorry, I won't. And it's not because the spud's created via the process of gene splicing, (they refer to this veggie-wannabe as an "innate" potato-- guess "gene splicing" sounds too creepy.)  

In Mr. Innate Tater's favor, the genes spliced in were potato genes-- not blue jeans or hamster genes. And for me, a real layperson when it comes to genetic manipulation of our food sources, a 'tater gene in a 'tater sounds a whole lot less worrisome than those other options we've been reading about. So that's all good, I guess. But I still won't be buying Innate-the-'tater. 

And of course it is super interesting that I won't be using MY consumer dollars, more impressive yet, McDonalds and Frito Lay are not rushing to embrace Simplot's gene-spliced potato either. The reason, (so says the author of this article in Cornocopia,) current gmo discussion is such that consumers are so fearful of this new technology that once labeled, they (McDonald's and Frito Lay) fear they'll lose Our consumer dollars.

(And I just love reading this!)

Well gosh darn it, that's just not fair, huh?  Well, you know what? It's not! It's not right that just because something is labeled "gmo" that us (dumb, ill-informed, poorly educated, layperson-consumers) won't buy it. Even though this potato (or apple or salmon) could be better than all the billions of potatoes (or apples or salmon) that came before it/them. Potatoes could last longer in our pantries and a better, perhaps even more healthful potato could be available to us all.

Could. Agree, could.

But I will steer clear of this 'tater and hold tight to my consumer dollars, be this a worthy spud or not.  

It is because of you, FDA, and all our food-monitoring organizations in the United States; you have not done your job. I can't trust you, I do not trust you, when you say a food is okay for me and for my dear family and the folks I prepare food for.  You do not use good science, you don't use common sense.  

But truth be told, it's not your fault.  It's ours, it's mine.  We have put people in charge of monitoring our food system and have tethered their good judgment. We've passed laws that allow corporate greed to manipulate the organizations put in place to protect our food system. We've messed up. 

But the good news, due to consumer pressure sometimes corporations are forced to mend their ways.  My voice is one of the consumer choir.  When I read that consumers are changing the behavior of corporations, affecting the issues I care about-- in particular the food ones, the agriculture issues; when I read corporate reparations are being made to protect our soil, I'm damn happy.

And so, I embrace my inner consumer, I take my stand. My fists are raised with my dollars held tight and celebrate and claim my good old consumer power.  And give off a hearty, "ha ha!"

So yes McDonalds and Frito Lay, you are choosing correctly-- stay clear of this new 'tater since the word's out it's a gmo spawned spud and we consumers don't want 'em.  Were you to do so, you can be sure I won't be buying your fries or your chips.  I don't trust that the research has been done. I don't expect that my health was the top concern when the green light was given to these new products.  So nope, you'll lose my Whopper money.  

Of course, McDonalds and Frito Lay may not be counting on me for many sales already; 'can't claim to have spent many dollars at the golden arches recently. But just in case you are asking, Ronald, this consumer thought to share...

Prime Act, hey folks follow this!

Well this is pretty cool.  A bill introduced into the House last month that would allow California and all other states to pass laws re-permitting the sale of meat processed by "custom" animal processing facilities directly to individuals, groceries and restaurants, a right we lost in 1967.

A "custom abattoir" is a facility inspected and licensed in order to operate but one that does not meet the federal guidelines of their fully licensed counterpart. The meat from these, the custom abattoir, may only be sold for personal, household, guest, and employee use as the law stands now.  

This isn't something our little farm does much of by the way, though we have on occasion taken our pigs and sheep to Bar None Ranch on Tunitas Creek Rd and come home to fill our freezer with own meat.  And this is meat we are legally are not allowed to resell. The meat gets an an ugly blue, edible "not for resale" stamp.

If the The Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act passes and California chooses to move forward with putting these reformed regulations in place, no more ugly blue "edible" stamp and potentially we could make use or sell meat we raised here at our little farm at the Loma Mar store when the old gal is up and running, which would be great. We might grow into this, we might not. But wouldn't it be cool if we had the option?

So primarily our interest in this bill passing is as consumers of the goods from our local meat producing farms, the Markegard Grass-fed and the TomKat folks. We would very much appreciate the benefit of being able to buy meat that has been legally processed in San Mateo County. Currently there are no USDA-inspected abattoir in our county. Hauling animals up to Marin County obviously adds significantly to the transportation cost, the distance is stressful to the animals and also increases the chance that meat raised locally will be co-mingled with industrially-produced meat-- yuck-o.

We are hoping to see this act move forward. Potentially the Prime Act, H. R. 3187, could make a big difference in access to our locally raised meat in the South Coast.  Here's a link to follow the progress of this bill:  

Our guinea experience

We have two guinea hens these days.  Well, two guinea hens left that is.

We raised a number of them from little, cute keets to young, ready-to-have-access-to-the-whole-farm, hens.  We let them free of their brooder once they were of age, giving them the whole farm during the day and the turkey house we offered or at least counting on them finding safe quarters in the trees, at night.  

Unfortunately they passed on the offer of the turkey house and choose the trees instead. During the time we tried this nighttime solution, we lost a number of them to the raccoons who also call this place home. The hungry, masked villains would sneak into the trees, out onto the limbs and grab the little cuties while they were snoozing. (Guineas like chickens have an "lights out protocol" that means they are totally vulnerable to predators once it is dark, so safe quarters means high up on tiny limbs or some farmer-contrived safe zone like an area protected by an electrified fence.)

After losing too many of these little pin-head-sorta chickens, our solution has been to raise them with the (real) chickens.  It's a compromise we aren't delighted with as we loose the whole benefit of having the hens free-range.  But until we safely band (so as to not injure) all of our trees (at least the trees within the guinea girl's  preferred zone) with a collar of 2' flashing, we'd likely lose these last two ladies as well.  We may do the banding at some point as having a nice population of guineas would be an excellent addition to the doings of the little 'stead.  They are terrific tick removers and ticks are certainly a concern these days. So banding our trees may be a project we move higher up the list.

And a funny little addition to this history of our guinea raising adventure:  Early in our guinea parenthood much to our distress, we lost 2 of these little hens when while changing the water in their brooder-- two fast little birds popped out of the little keet nursery, slipped past our catch and in lickety-split-fashion with us (Lenny, Amy and Kate) in hot pursuit, made their way to next-door-neighbor, Memorial Park.  The micro guineas won and somehow got across the creek to their well-wooded new home.  

We hear them a year later still living and squawking in the park!  

Maybe the guineas survive better at the park 'cuz the raccoons are so well fed over there? Perhaps the stripy fatsos don't bother with (our) birds in their trees as they have such great offerings from the campers? It is puzzling, but hearing our guineas across the creek is another happy noise we enjoy from the park and makes us laugh when we hear their "sorta dreadful" squawking- ha, ha! Wonder what the rangers and visiting campers make of their guinea residents in the wild?

And here's what got me writing these guinea prose. Lots more handy info on these "goofy-looking" characters from Modern Farmer: