Thursday, January 12, 2012

Conference to Look at Future of Food and Genetic Engineering

The subject of genetically engineered (GE) food will take center stage at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 33rd annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty, in Granville, Ohio (Licking County) on February 18-19, 2012.

Andrew Kimbrell, the founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment, will be a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at the event. Kimbrell is one of the country’s leading environmental attorneys, and an author of numerous books and articles on environment, technology and society, and food issues.

“Andy’s message will be getting to the heart of food sovereignty,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director and the event’s organizer. “Will people have a choice to eat GE-free food? Will farmers have the choice to grow GE-free food?”

The conference is the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, and draws more than 1,000 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest. In addition to Kimbrell, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Woody Tasch; more than 70 informative, hands-on workshops; two full day pre-conference workshops on February 17; a trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

On Sunday, February 19 from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m., Kimbrell’s keynote address, “The Future of Food,” will explore a food system at a crossroads. Kimbrell will describe the conflict between a food system increasingly reliant on pesticides, fertilizers, monocultures, and genetic engineering and surging consumer demand for healthy, local, organic, humane, and environmentally safe food. He will provide an up-to-date summary of this struggle and ways consumers and farmers can work together for a new food future.

Earlier in the day, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., Kimbrell will lead a workshop, titled “Genetic Engineering: The Battle for Safe Food, Public Health, and Environmental Protection.” He will describe the negative health and environmental effects of GE food, and CFS’s public education, advocacy, and legal work intended to safeguard the food system against a flood of deregulated GE products.

In response to the USDA’s unrestricted approval of GE Roundup Ready alfalfa, Kimbrell said the USDA has become “a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”

GE crops, such as alfalfa, threaten to contaminate organic and conventional non-GE crops through pollen drift, storage, transportation, and processing. GE crops have also been linked to pest and weed resistance, and the increased use of pesticides and herbicides. Recent consumer polls indicate consumer distrust of GE technology and the desire to have GE food labeled.

“What we constantly see is a failure of the media and of policymakers to really say, ‘The problem here is industrial agriculture,’” Kimbrell told Organic Connections. “They want us to see these events as scary isolated incidents instead of indicators of how dangerous and unsustainable our industrial food system has become. The sleight of hand is to try to treat each incident in its own isolation and not understand that they’re all connected to the larger systemic failures and problems of industrial agriculture.”

Kimbrell is author of 101 Ways to Help Save the Earth, The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life, Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food and general editor of Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture.

His articles on law, technology, social, and psychological issues have also appeared in numerous law reviews, technology journals, magazines, and newspapers across the country, and he has been featured in many documentary films, including “The Future of Food.”

In 1994, Utne Reader named Kimbrell one of the world’s leading 100 visionaries. In 2007, he was named one of the 50 people most likely to save the planet by The Guardian-U.K.

All events will take place at Granville Middle and High Schools, 248 New Burg St. in Granville. Pre-registration is required. Cost for the conference is $115 for OEFFA members and $175 for non-members, and meals must be purchased separately. Prices vary for late registrations, students, and one-day only registrations. Go to for more information or to register online and receive $5 off the registration fee.

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