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Published April 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

‘Sustainably grown’ not clear

As ever more products circulate around the world in our global economy, we rely heavily on labeling to find out exactly what we are buying. Many, if not most, consumers have some degree of trust in those labels.

By: Lindsey Aull, Bismarck

As ever more products circulate around the world in our global economy, we rely heavily on labeling to find out exactly what we are buying. Many, if not most, consumers have some degree of trust in those labels.

Senate Bill 2438, already passed by the state Senate and soon to come to a vote in the House, creates a commission through the Department of Agriculture, which will determine and label if a product is “sustainably grown” in North Dakota.

Sustainability within North Dakota agriculture is certainly a worthy topic, one that does deserve attention. However, “sustainably grown” is quite a subjective and broad term, one which has much potential to be misused and misrepresented.

For example, there is disagreement in our country and around the world about the role of genetic engineering in our food supply. Would genetically engineered soybeans sprayed with Roundup now be considered “sustainably grown in North Dakota” because they came from a no-till field?

North Dakota has a strong contingent of farmers and ranchers who use organic practices and other ecological approaches to their work. There are also groups such as the 30-year-old Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society working to promote sustainable agriculture within the region.

It’s alarming that this bill appears to be more a product of agribusiness than one coming from the groups and individuals who have kept sustainable agriculture alive in this state for so long.

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