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Published January 14, 2013, 10:55 AM

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Sale of North Dakota pasta plan falls through, Minnesota crop crusher will serve time and pay damages, and a new food think tank website is launched.

By: Agweek staff and wire reports , Agweek

Vocal anti-GMO activist changes his tune

•Vocal opponent of genetically modified foods Mark Lynas spoke at the recent Oxford (England) Farming Conference and apologized for his attack on GMO crops, and for starting the anti-GMO movement. “I want to start with some apologies,” he said in his address. “For the record, here and upfront, I apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment. As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely. So I guess you’ll be wondering — what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.” Lynas also addressed feeding the growing world population and the need to grow more food on limited land.

Entrepreneurs launch Food Tank website

•They call it Food Tank: The Food Think Tank. Producers, consumers and those involved in the food system can go to the website, www.FoodTank.org, to participate in a discussion about what can be done about the world’s 1 billion obese people, the 1 billion hungry and the 2 billion who suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. The website effort was founded by food and agriculture activists Ellen Gustafson and Danielle Nierenberg. The developing site is designed to offer links to global resources for food and agriculture-related issues. “Over the last 30 years, the western food system has been built to promote over-consumption of a few consolidated commodities and has failed to be the harbinger of health as it spreads around the world,” the founders say. They also focus on the issue that a third of all food worldwide is wasted — 1.3 billion tons annually. “In the developing world, roughly 40 percent of all food goes to waste as a result of pests, disease and improper storage.” Gustafson and Nierenberg are looking to make food production and consumption more “economically, environmentally and socially just and sustainable.” Among the potential solutions include such things as market garden projects in rural Niger, rooftop gardens in Vietnam, and elsewhere. While not prepared to discuss policy objectives, Gustafson tells Agweek there’s a lot of agreement that U.S. policies might look at ways of helping farmers in the developing world, rather than shipping U.S. grain on U.S. ships. She says we can help farmers in the developing world without hurting American farmers and the group is raising funds for a meeting on the topic.

Crop crusher will serve time, pay for damages

•WILLMAR, Minn. — Bronson Cody Evenson, 20, of Willmar, Minn., was sentenced Jan. 8 to five years of probation, 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for driving his pickup through farm fields near Willmar, causing thousands of dollars in lost crop yields. Evenson also must pay $12,699.99 in restitution in the case, follow the recommendations of a chemical use assessment, submit to testing and not use or possess drugs or alcohol. District Judge Michael J. Thompson in Kandiyohi County (Minn.) District Court ordered Evenson to serve 30 days in jail starting Jan. 11 and the remaining 60 days can be deferred if he complies with the conditions of probation. The felony conviction of first-degree criminal damage will be reduced to a misdemeanor if Evenson complies with the conditions of sentence. The charges were filed after the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office received reports July 28 and 29 from farmers that someone had driven a vehicle through their fields near the Willmar airport and north of Pennock, Minn. A citizen later reported a pickup with cornstalks stuck to it, leading authorities to Evenson.

No sale for ND pasta plant

•CANDO, N.D. — The shuttered Noodles by Leonardo pasta factory in Cando, N.D., doesn’t look to be reopening anytime soon. A potential deal to sell the plant, which closed in October, apparently has fallen through. “We pulled our offer,” says Bruce Satrom, Colgate, N.D., an official with Bektrom Foods, a Monroe, Mich.-based manufacturer of private-label products with plants in Michigan and North Dakota. Bektrom had been negotiating with the family of Leonard Gasparre, who died in 2011. Gasparre built the Cando plant in the mid-1980s and added a plant in Devils Lake, N.D., in the 1990s. The Devils Lake plant closed last March, shifting operations to Cando. The Devils Lake plant had 15 employees, while the Cando facility had 33 at the time. In the early 1990s, the two plants had a combined 325 employees. Officials in Cando continue to work with the Gasparre family’s representatives to reopen the plant, according to JoAnn Rodenbiker, president of the Towner County (N.D.) Economic Development Corp. Noodles’ Devils Lake plant was purchased last spring by Ultra Green Packaging, which produces environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging products from wheat straw and other materials. The company is in the beginning stages of production at the plant.

Briefly...

Raw milk: A Freeport, Minn., farmer acquitted on charges of selling raw milk in Hennepin County is asking to have similar charges dismissed in Stearns County. Organic egg producer Alvin Schlangen has filed a motion to dismiss three of the six counts against him in Stearns County. In October, a Hennepin County jury found Schlangen not guilty of selling raw milk, operating without a food handler’s license and handling adulterated food. Schlangen faces those three charges in Stearns County. He also faces three other misdemeanors. Schlangen’s legal battles have become a rallying point for raw milk advocates. No trial date has been set for the Stearns County case.

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