09/13/18 2:00pm
ELEANOR P. LaBROZZI PHOTO Women secret agents of WWII will be the topic at Havens Barn on Saturday, September 15

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO
Women secret agents of WWII will be the topic at Havens Barn on Saturday, September 15

A weekly round-up of events and activities on Shelter Island.

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06/15/18 8:00am
JULIE LANE PHOTO Shelter Island students on a scavenger hunt for edible plants at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

JULIE LANE PHOTOS
Shelter Island students on a scavenger hunt for edible plants at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

It was a busy Friday at Sylvester Manor when elementary school students descended on the farm field in early morning to learn that the staff was preparing for the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickup scheduled for the following day.

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06/01/13 6:00am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Some of the North Fork's corn crops are known to be grown from genetically modified seeds.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Some of the North Fork’s corn crops are known to be grown from genetically modified seeds.

New York could become the first state in the nation to require that genetically modified foods be labeled as such, a move farmers say could put locally grown produce at a disadvantage.

State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) have sponsored legislation to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified food. The bills follow years of debate over the safety of genetically modified foods, which were introduced in the early l990s. Legislation has been proposed in several states, including California, where it was put before voters in 2012 as Proposition 37 and failed by a slim margin. Bills have been introduced more recently in Connecticut and Maine.

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is produced when genes from one species are extracted and artificially introduced into the genes of another, according to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary.

The practical applications of this process include giving a plant the ability to produce its own pesticide to deter insects, thereby saving farmers having to apply costly and potentially dangerous pesticides, according to the Institute for Responsible Technology, which investigates the risks and impacts of GMO foods.

Major GMO food crops include soy, cotton and corn, said Dale Moyer, associate executive director of agriculture for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk. It’s not employed on fresh fruits and vegetables such as oranges or peppers.

Varieties of sweet corn are the only GMO crops grown on the North Fork intended for human consumption, but they’re very limited, Mr. Moyer said. Some area farmers also grow field corn, used primarily as animal feed, he added.

Under the pending legislation sweet corn varieties grown from genetically modified seeds would fall under the mandatory labeling requirement.

“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food,” said Mr. LaValle. “Essentially, if a foodstuff is produced using genetic engineering, this must be indicated on its label.”

But Steve Ammerman, spokesperson for the NYS Farm Bureau, said mandatory labeling is unnecessary.

“We believe the policies should be based on sound science, and the science so far is that GMO foods are safe,” Mr. Ammerman said. “Labeling would imply that GMO foods are not.”

He argues that labeling will put GMO-grown products at a disadvantage when placed next to other produce. “If a consumer walked up and saw a label that said ‘Contains GMO,’ it misleads the consumer,” he said.

Kathleen Furey, director of GMO Free New York, said genetically modified foods have not been proven safe. There have not been any long-term, independent, peer-reviewed human consumption studies to support that claim, she said. The longest study to date on GMO foods ran about two years and involved rats, not humans, she said.

The study, led by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini, found that mice fed a diet of genetically modified corn experienced increased mortality, tumors and organ damage compared to a control group that was fed non-modified corn, said Ms. Furey.

“We deserve the right to know what were eating,” she said.

About 80 percent of what shoppers see on supermarket shelves contain GMOs, said Ms. Furey. Many of the products are processed foods, including infant formulas.

Consumers do have one way of spotting GMO-free foods. Certified organic foods do not contain genetically modified products, Mr. Ammerman said.

If labeling is mandated, farmers would rather see labeling say something like “GMO free” as compared to “contains GMO,” said Joe Gergela, director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

The legislation is expected to come up for a vote before the current legislative session ends June 20.

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12/10/11 4:34pm

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Joe Gergela, left, speaks with Lee Telega of Cornell's Office of Govt Relations and Kathryn Boor at Phil Schmitt farm

Local farmers and researchers hope a visit by the dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Saturday will result in increased funding and research for the East End’s agricultural community.
The Long Island Farm Bureau and Cornell Cooperative Extension arranged Dean Kathryn Boor to tour the Phil Schmitt & Son Farm in Riverhead, C J Van Bourgondien, Inc. greenhouse in Peconic, Bedell Cellars winery in Cutchogue, and Cornell’s research lab on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.
And it sounds like they might have achieved their goal.
Ms. Boor said afterward that she’d never been this far east in New York, although he mother went to college in Farmingdale 70 years ago.
“The scale of agriculture here is above anything I might have expected,” Ms. Boor told a reporter.
She said she was impressed with the North Fork’s soil, demonstrated by Bedell winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich, and the “ability of plants to grow so lavishly here on Long Island.”
Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said the goal was to show Ms. Boor examples of the different types of local agriculture.
As dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ms. Boor is a powerful person in the ag instrustry, and can be instrumental in helping Long Island farms get grant money and access to Cornell’s research, Mr. Gergela said.