Shared posts

26 May 01:37

Stormy weather

by Adam
Storm clouds gather behind nascent apples earlier today at Nagog Hill Farm in Littleton.
Read more »
24 May 14:08

astoldbygengar: lets just be clear, if you spend the time baking a cake/cookies/brownies, you can...

saucie

via firehose
have you heard of my new religion? i'm pie-ous

astoldbygengar:

lets just be clear, if you spend the time baking a cake/cookies/brownies, you can eat as many of them as you want and the calories don’t count. you made those calories. you’re their god.

24 May 21:20

Affogato with Bourbon Cherry, Velvet Shiso sorbet cocktail At 50...





Affogato with Bourbon Cherry, Velvet Shiso sorbet cocktail
At 50 Licks, Portland

24 May 19:59

n-a-s-a: She lied. Nothing beats a your mom joke



n-a-s-a:

She lied.

Nothing beats a your mom joke

24 May 21:21

Hey otters









Hey otters

21 May 16:33

The Carrot Hack

by Nicola

Sowing seeds 460

People who sell seeds have always struggled with an inconvenient reality: Their merchandise reproduces itself.

So writes Lisa Hamilton, one of my fellow Fellows from the inaugural UC Berkeley/11th Hour Food & Farming Fellowship programme, summing up a problem that plant breeders have struggled with for generations: how to monetise the effort and ingenuity embedded in their work.

As Hamilton’s article, published in the June issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, describes, since the passing of the Plant Patent Act of 1930, breeders have relied on intellectual property law in order to profit from the years they invest in developing a useful characteristic in a plant — an easier-to-harvest broccoli, or a lycopene-rich red carrot.

In order for seeds to become a commodity and generate a profit, there had to be a reason for people to buy them year after year. Over the course of the twentieth century, the industry devised certain solutions, including hybrid seeds and “trade-secret” protections for their breeding processes and materials. But perhaps the most effective solution is the application of intellectual-property rights, of which the utility patent is the gold standard.

Before the Plant Patent Act, plant breeders complained bitterly that the reward for their achievements was frequently obscurity and poverty, in contrast to the fortunes being reaped by mechanical inventors such as Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

Luther Burbank, the first (and perhaps only) celebrity plant breeder, many of whose new fruit and vegetable varieties still fill our plates today, died before the Plant Patent Act was introduced, and frequently despaired over his inability to make a profit:

A man can patent a mouse trap or copyright a nasty song, but if he gives to the world a new fruit that will add millions to the value of the earth’s harvests he will be fortunate if he is rewarded by so much as having his name connected with the result…. I would hesitate to advise a young man, no matter how gifted or devoted, to adopt plant breeding as a life work until America takes some action to protest his unquestioned rights to some benefit from his achievements.

Burbank peach patent 460

IMAGE: Application for Plant Patent 15, “Peach,” filed posthumously by Luther Burbank’s widow on December 23, 1930.

But, as Hamilton explains, while the utility patent may have made plant breeding profitable enough for the multinational likes of Monsanto and Syngenta, the application of intellectual property law to nature is not without problems, from the eminently practical (it tends to constrain seed-sharing, which ultimately hinders “the very resilience of agriculture itself”) to the philosophical (can an element of the natural world, however much altered and “improved” upon by human ingenuity, really be owned by an individual?).

Her article, which you really need to read in full, looks at one renegade group of plant breeders who have banded together to launch a challenge to the prevailing model of seed IP: the Open Source Seed Initiative, which released its first open-source, un-patentable broccoli, kale, and celery seeds this past April.

ossi-meeting 460

IMAGE: A meeting of the Open Source Seed Initiative Group at the University of Minnesota in 2012, from the group’s website.

Missing from the final article, in the interests of streamlining, was one of my favourite anecdotes from Hamilton’s reporting: the carrot hack. The doctoral thesis project of Claire Luby at the University of Wisconsin, the carrot hack proceeds in the reverse direction to conventional plant breeding. As Hamilton explained to us, Luby is effectively “un-breeding” the American commercial carrot in order to free its genetic code for remixing:

The mesh bags represent the project’s first stage, for which she grew every commercially available carrot variety in the United States. There are 144 in all, ranging from the knobby French heirloom Tonda di Parigi to CrispyCut, a ten-inch long variety designed to be lathed into baby carrots.

Because carrots are biennial, they require two seasons to reproduce: during the first they grow their nutritious root, during the second they flower and produce seed. Luby is storing her harvest in the adjacent cold room, whose temperature of 41 degrees F will trick the plants into thinking they have passed through winter in two months. After Thanksgiving, for the project’s second stage, she will plant them in the greenhouse. As they flower, she will introduce ten thousand flies to cross-pollinate them en masse.

This is the opposite of what her fellow students will be doing this winter. They will mate specific pairs of plants to breed more targeted individuals. Luby will effectively un-breed her carrots, mixing their genes at random into a population that is wildly heterogeneous. The idea is to capture the entire range of genetics used in commercial carrots within a single collection. Breeders can then use that seed to produce new varieties. There’s only one catch: those new varieties can never be patented. That’s because Luby’s seed will be open source.

It’s an incredibly ingenious idea that, predictably, has not gone perfectly smoothly. In discussion with University of Wisconsin lawyers, Seminis (the largest developer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world, purchased by Monsanto in 2005) banned Luby from using its carrot germplasm. In the end, more than a third of the original 144 carrot varieties cannot be included in the open-source mash-up due to corporate restrictions. However, Hamilton told us, there’s still hope, because many commercial carrots come from the same original stock, and thus still share DNA:

By comparing DNA markers, Luby will map out where the carrots’ genes overlap. It’s possible that the seeds she can use will contribute many genes that are also found in the seeds she can’t use.

Hamilton’s reporting on this story is an important wake-up call to those of us who have never considered how seed IP affects what we eat, both now and in the future. It’s a complicated issue, and, as a result, growing corporate control of germplasm, and its equally problematic counterpart, declining public investment in plant breeding, rarely make headlines.

But, although it’s unclear yet whether the Open Source Seed Initiative or Claire Luby’s carrot hack can provide a viable alternative model to plant patents, what is utterly fascinating about Hamilton’s article is the way it demonstrates the importance of metaphor in opening new possibilities for imagining the world, and constraining others.

myers_in_field_hamilton 460

IMAGE: Jim Myers, professor of vegetable breeding and genetics at Oregon State University, photographed in a broccoli field at the university’s research farm by Lisa Hamilton.

Seeing seeds as software, for example, inspires certain solutions (a carrot hack! Linux for lettuce!) but creates other problems (how does licensing enforcement work when the open-source genetics are not marked in any way?). Elsewhere in Hamilton’s article, breeders refer to the idea of a “national park of germplasm” — a “genetic easement” that preserves, un-patented, enough of the important DNA of, say, commercial carrot varieties, for future generations of plant breeders, growers, and eaters. This idea of the natural world as a protected commons offers, in turn, its own set of tools and limitations.

In the end, it seems that one of the more valuable contribution those of us who are concerned about seed IP could make would be the gift of a new set of metaphors, to re-imagine how we relate to the natural world we make.

23 May 03:17

Cider Review: Distillery Lane Ciderworks Kingston Black

by Meredith
I received a fabulous array of awesome Mid-Atlantic ciders; many thanks to Patrick Huff of Cider Nation (http://cidernation.wordpress.com) and Crafty and The Beast (http://craftyandthebeast.com). He also does regular cider chats on Twitter. Check out the hashtag #ciderchat most Thursday evenings, and you'll find something useful and interesting. So tonight's cider review comes from that store of deliciousness.


I'm reviewing Distillery Lane Ciderworks' Kingston Black.

Previously, I reviewed their Traditional Dry Sparkling Cider. Here's a link to that review: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/08/cider-review-distillery-lane-ciderworks.html
You'll find a lot more background information on the company there.

I made an interesting discovery when looking up Distillery Lane's website. It is not only available at http://distillerylaneciderworks.com but also now at http://ciderapples.com  Both sites offer identical information on the cidery's history, name, event and availability. What I could not find enough information about was their selection of ciders, althrough their Facebook page has more info there than the main website. https://www.facebook.com/DistilleryLane

 To set this scene, this cider came with me to a dinner party with my husband and a couple of his fellow professors and their families. Lovely lovely people, many of whom already love good cider and wine. So of course, I asked them to help me taste through a bottle of something new over dinner. So these observations are not the products of only my fevered brain, but also those of my companions.

This is what Distillery Lane Ciderworks says about their Kingston Black.
It is rare amongst the hundreds of apple varieties grown today that one apple has proper amounts of sugar, acid, and tannins to make a high-quality, single varietal cider. Kingston Black, an apple first grown in Somerset, England, is one of these rare apples. Highly prized, but scarcly cultivated in America today, Kingston Blacks grow very well in our orchard.  It has a wonderful tartness and lovely finish. Serve chilled with poultry, mild fish or pork. We also bottle limited quantities of Kingston Black sparkling.
Additionally, I'd like to note ABV listed is 7.5%.




Appearance: Rich honey color, brilliant

This poured beautifully. Everyone appreciated the rich golden honey color. No visible bubbles to speak of, but I really didn't expect them in a still cider.

Aromas: oak, hints of apples, brightness


The Kingston Black smells fresh and bright, but with a hints of fresh apples, cherry, honey, and a few  interesting phenols. The oak aromas really jumped out at us after a few seconds.

Sweetness: semi-dry

Like other single varieties of cider I've tasted, issues of sweetness and dryness are almost swept aside because the flavors are about so much other than that. Even so, this has some sweetness and fruitiness, but it is more dry than sweet. Definitely a semi-dry in my book.

Flavors and drinking experience: complex, tannic, buttery

Because of the tannins and oak, this tastes in some ways like a REALLY gentle whiskey, or a bit of warming apple brandy. The individual notes in that experience are butter with a whipped cream aftertaste. Rather like the overall impression made by some bourbon barrel aged ciders, one can get hints of pancakes. Someone in the group astutely tasted notes of white chocolate. I found it a little minerally. The cider has very high tannins and fairly low acid. It tastes relatively little like apple, but we could detect bits of apple core, skin, and wood.  The Kingston Black tastes best when you let it flow over the whole tongue. You warm up to it and the cider itself is warming.

 We enjoyed this cider with grilled salmon and asparagus, wild rice salad with dried cranberries, and chocolate covered strawberries. The meal was delicious and the cider stood up well to all of those varied strong flavors. This is a cider to enjoy with food. I liked it plenty, but overall I still find cider blends to be more approachable than most single varietals. None the less, this one hit plenty of high notes for me. I love tannins, and this cider delivered them in spades.

Thanks again to my dinner companions and cider sharers!
25 May 17:39

I’m just a working dog



I’m just a working dog

21 May 22:24

Outer Space Up Close in Central Oregon

Image: John Foster

When Mars One, a non-profit Dutch company, announced its plans to create a human settlement on Mars, the prospect of living out our space-bound dreams suddenly became more realistic. But if you’re not interested in leaving Earth just yet, you could at least view beguiling planets, along with gas and dust formed nebulae, galaxies and colorful star clusters through a massive telescope, called “Big Doug”, at the 15th Annual Prineville Star Party on May 31st.

“It will be a great year for seeing planets such as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. People can expect to see ice caps on Mars, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, and even the division of rings of Saturn,” says Paul Patton resource specialist for eastern Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “The event is great for capturing the imagination of families. All you really need is two eyes to enjoy astronomy.” 

Located far from any sources of light pollution , the night sky in central Oregon unlike anything you'd be able to see in Portland. The free event, organized by The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, features a collaborative space art project, lessons on prehistoric stars, and even home-made rocket launches. 

Prineville Reservoir State Park is located at 19020 SE Parkland Drive, Prineville, OR 97754. Visitors can take a day road trip (bring water and snacks) or stay at the park campground. Campsites can be reserved at http://www.oregonstateparks.org

Schedule of events (May 31):

1:00pm Event begins (ongoing solar viewing, displays, and activities)

2:00pm “Cosmological Communication” with Jerry Niehuser of the Oregon Observatory

3:00pm “Audience Interactive Space Art”, with artist John Foster

4:0 pm “Prehistoric Stars, Prehistoric Earth”, John Fiedor, John Day Fossil Beds

5:00 pm “Design, Build, and Launch Your Own Rocket”

6:00pm Break

7:00pm “Fighting Light Pollution in the Pacific Northwest” David Ingram with the International Dark-Sky Association

8:00 pm“More Earths Than You Can Count; The Search for Exoplanets is Paying Off” with Dr. Jan Dabrowski of Marylhurst University

9:00pm Prizes!

9:30pm “Guided Tour of the Night Sky”, Jerry Niehuser & Don Nisewanger of the Oregon Observatory

10:00pm Stargazing begins!

Every other Tuesday: Weekend escapes, travel deals, lodging and dining picks, and ideas for Northwest getaways. (See an example!)
20 May 15:00

City Guide: Somerville, MA

by Stephanie
saucie

Lol

somervillecityguide

Today’s City Guide comes to us from Elizabeth Corkery, the artist and founder of Print Club Boston, whose work has been previously featured on Design*Sponge. Elizabeth launched Print Club in late 2013 as an online source for limited-edition, hand-pulled screenprints. A Sydney native, Elizabeth is a relatively recent Somerville transplant and has quickly involved herself with its diverse creative community, hosting screenprint workshops and collaborating with other local artists. Below are some of her favorite spots for coffee, wine, movies, fresh pasta and everything in between. Thanks for sharing your city with us today, Elizabeth! –Stephanie

Somerville. MA City Guide Somerville. MA City Guide 5_SomervilleTheatre 4_MorrisonHouse 2_UnionSqDonuts

Read the full guide after the jump…

(more…)








23 May 12:51

GMO labels cost families $800/year: Guess who paid for the study?

by Marion

Yesterday, Food Navigator reported that Cornell economists calculated that GMO labels would cost the average family of four a whopping $800 per year.

This seemed so improbable that I immediately wondered:  Who paid for it?

I clicked on the link to the study: Bingo!

The work on this report was supported financially by the Council for Biotechnology Information.

You won’t find the list of companies and groups that support the Council on its website, but Source Watch fills the gap.

I am increasingly alarmed by the increasing extent of industry research sponsorship—it’s become a huge issue in  studies of nutrition, diet, and health.

The influence of funding source on research outcomes is so predictable—many studies have now shown that industry-funded studies almost invariably produce results that favor the sponsor—that I’m batting nearly 100% on conflict-of-interest  checks, of which this GMO study is a particularly blatant example.

It’s not that industry pays investigators to find the desired answers to questions.  It’s more complicated than that.  It has to do with the way investigators ask and try to answer the research questions.  The industry favored biases get built into the study’s assumptions and controls, often (I think) unconsciously.

This study, for example, is based on an elaborate set of assumptions leading to the $800 per family estimate.  Other assumptions might give different results.   The authors do not discuss the limitations of their estimates, nor are they required to in this type of report.

But I’m willing to hazard a guess that independently funded studies would come to considerably lower estimates.

Moral: if a study produces surprising results that favor an industry position, look hard to see who sponsored it.

Addition, May 24:

A reader sent in further information about the Council for Biotechnology Information:

Council for Biotechnology Information

1201 Maryland Avenue, SW., Suite 900, Washington, DC 20024 USA

Phone: 202-962-9200 web site: http://gmoanswers.com

(CBI: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Council_for_Biotechnology_Information.

http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Council_for_Biotechnology_Information.

Experts: http://gmoanswers.com/experts. Founding members and supporting partners:

http://gmoanswers.com/about. There are also offices in Saskatoon (SK, Canada)

(http://whybiotech.ca)  and Mexico City (AgroBio Mexico: http://agrobiomexico.org.mx.)

24 May 03:41

dub0119: 高田馬場にあるしろくまカフェ☕️☕️☕️ ぱんだくんのパフェはなかなか抹茶が濃くて美味しかった…!

saucie

i was not this ambitious in my order at the takadanobaba pop up cafe. i guess i need to go back.













dub0119:

高田馬場にあるしろくまカフェ☕️☕️☕️
ぱんだくんのパフェはなかなか抹茶が濃くて美味しかった…!

23 May 20:00

inland-delta: bookplate from The Aurelian by Moses Harris,1766

by ushishir
saucie

Via Russian sledges



inland-delta:

bookplate from The Aurelian by Moses Harris,1766

23 May 18:02

A Visit to Schreiner's Iris Farm

by scottweberpdx
saucie

more on Schreiner's iris farm

Schreiners HEader copy
It's that time of year once again, kids...time for my annual trip to Schreiner's Iris Garden! It's become an annual tradition for me to visit their display garden and pick out a few new Iris for myself...check out a previous post HERE. Today's post is actually my visit from last year (2013) that I never got a chance to actually put together...and I figure it's better now anyway, since you still have time to visit yourself, should you want to!

Yellow Iris and Allium H
I adore Iris...I have all my life...with their beautiful form, rich colors and easy cultivation, you can't go wrong!

field of color
Yowza...talk about a riot of color!

Gorgous Bicolor
It truly is overwhelming when you first step into the garden...it's hard to even find a spot to focus.

FLowers all over
Such a wonderful abundance of color!

Iris border 3
One thing I love about Schreiner's is that, although there are growing fields nearby, this is really a display garden, so you get a better feeling of how these plants will look in a garden...and with other plants.

WIld Iris ROse
Delish! 'Wild Irish Rose'

Unknown Iris
I'm a sucker for Iris with contrasting standards and falls.

Wine REd Iris
What color!

yellow purple bicolor
I was really love ing this bi-color with the rich purple falls.

Yellow purple iris
And this yellow one with that blush of lavender at the base of the petals.

REd Columbine
While the Iris are the stars of the show, they amiably share the stage with many other plants in the beds...like this striking Columbine.

Purple Lupine Purple ALlium
And these fabulous Alliums and Lupines.

Orange King Iris
I'm not overly fond of orange, but I know a lot of people are...so for all you orange lovers out there...this one is for you!

swingtown 2
A little more to my liking...the rich purple of 'Swingtown'.

Unchain My Heart
For you, Grace, 'Unchain My Heart'.

Social Graces
I pretty much love this one...'Social Graces'.

Social Graces v
Seriously, that color, those ruffled edges...sigh.

Grand Canyon Sunset
I still can't decide if I like the color pairing of 'Grand Canyon Sunset'...yeah, the jury's out on this one.

Sentimental Rose bud
Other, I loved unconditionally, like 'Sentimental Rose'...here in bud...

Sentimental Rose
...just opening...

Sentimental Rose 5
...and fully in bloom!

Purple White Bicolor
A similar bi-color with wider, more flared petals.

Rio
'Rio' is another odd color combo...not even sure how I'd describe it...but I kinda like it!

Purple Columbine profile
Time for another breather from the Iris onslaught...lovely purple Columbine!

PInk and Purple Columbine
A rich raspberry red Columbine.

Purple Allium
More amazing Alliums!

purple and peach iris 3
I sort of like this Iris...but the purple may be a touch too punchy with the soft pink.

Pinky Iris
Ahhh...like a sip of cool strawberry lemonade on a hot, summer day!

pink iris 2
Love this one...a color that plays well with everything!

Peach Iris
Peach is that odd color that shifts so easily into other tones...this is just about perfect.

Paul Black
I love this one, 'Paul Black'...I adore the rich purples with orange beards.

No Other Love 9
This was one of my favorites on this particular day, 'No Other Love'...there is just something wonderful about that mix of colors.

No Other Love 6
Those luscious peach standards and those falls splashed with grapey purple.

No Other Love 3
Yup...love it!

mysery purple love
I wish I'd gotten the name of this beauty.

Not For Sale Iris Bed
Sadly, the folks at Schreiner's are needlessly cruel...they have several beds of Iris that are un-named varies, labeled only "NFS" (Not For Sale). Of course...I wanted THOSE Iris the most!

NFS heaven
Purple amazing-ness...wanted it.

Mulberry Iris 5
Apricot and mulberry together...yup, wanted it!

Mulberry Iris 4
Yeah...I really wanted this one!

crimson nfs
A similar pairing...with more reflexed falls.

mauve iris
A wonderful, subtle mauve.

Merlot 2
Another beautiful with merlot-tinted petals.

Diabolique
Oh well...it's good to have some things you can't have, right? 'Diabolique' thinks so...and it would gladly come to live in my garden.

Luscious Purple Bicolor bud
This was one of my favorites on this particular visit...a wonderful purple on purple beauty.

Luscious Purple Bicolor bud & Bloom
So striking in all phases of flowers...I was totally smitten.

Luscious Purple Bicolor 2
WANT!!!

Bold Fashion
The softer-colored 'Bold Fashion' scoffs at me.

Allium and LUpine
I really can never get enough purple.

Blue
For those who love a good blue, this one is for you!

Cherry Blossom Song
'Cherry Blossom Song' is on the short list of Iris I want for my garden this year...and from the size of the clumps, it's very vigorous!

Deep Blue Iris
WOW...loving this one!

Come away with me
I totally fell in love with this one, 'Come Away With Me'. I think there's a theme here...I was really into the peach/purple combo last year!

Deepest Black
Of course, I'm always a sucker for near-black flowers.

Blowing Kisses v
Especially paired with something light and delicate.

Absolute Star 2
The one Iris I REALLY was obsessed with last year, however, was this new introduction, 'Absolute Star'.

Absolute Star 8
It was just perfect...wonderful color, great form and size. Sadly, being a new introduction, it was $65/rhizome...yikes! I couldn't bring myself to spend that much...so I bought a few others instead...but this year it should be cheaper...and I may just take the plunge :-)

Alliums Iris Seating
I hope you enjoyed this little tour, and if you get a chance, I hope you visit Schreiner's for yourself...it's amazing...and this is the best weekend to go!
24 May 03:50

Polar Bear puns are the best kind of puns









Polar Bear puns are the best kind of puns

24 May 03:52

St. Vincent for WonderlandPhotographed by Nicolo Terraneo

saucie

for firehose

24 May 03:57

vickiwinters: Cartoon version #powells #cityofbooks #pdx...



vickiwinters:

Cartoon version #powells #cityofbooks #pdx Portland is awesome!

24 May 03:33

Photo







24 May 03:30

Photo



23 May 23:31

fuckyeahanimefood: Panda, Polar Bear, and Penguin have...



fuckyeahanimefood:

Panda, Polar Bear, and Penguin have croquettes while following Sloth, Shirokuma Cafe, Episode 48.

21 May 14:20

True Love

saucie

Via Tadeu

23 May 16:00

Mecha Panda

by John Farrier
saucie

via Tadeu

(Photo: unknown)

Pandas were an endangered species. Now anyone who opposes them faces extinction. Beware of Mecha Panda, whom The Womb Mates refers to as “Godzilla’s next opponent.”

-via The Geek Twins

23 May 02:00

Without Compunction

by thuudung

In which an inveterate punster, after a lifetime of wordplay, enters the Pun-Off World Championships. And completely chokes… more»

22 May 04:55

Focusing on Bee Indentification

by Jennifer Dennis
It's becoming more and more important to me to be able to identify the bee's that buzz around my yard. 

In the Pacific NW, we've seen a huge decline in our native bumble bee population. I've always been curious about bee's but now I feel compelled to know who is visiting my garden and to help them thrive.

I found a great resource here from the Pollinator Partnership to assist with bee identification.


I've learned that all the early bumbles bee's that I've seen in my yard thus far, have been emerging queens with an orange band on the back. Now..if I could only get a picture then I could really identify them, but I've narrowed it down to 2 more common types. It would be excited to see less common bumbles.

I like this source for Western Bumble Bee identification too.

The bee's have been enjoying my lupines and rhododendrons and the old snow ball tree. 


It's makes me happy to hear them buzzing around. 

Lastly, I just received my sign from Metro that I have pledged not to use pesticides in my yard. We have done this for years. 


So..Portland area gardeners, can you commit to using no pesticides in your yard and garden? We can go a long way to keeping our bee population healthy if we all making minor changes in the way we live. Click here for more information about going toxin free. And I encourage you to find out who is buzzing around in your gardens. It's just another level of connection to nature and it reminds us that for every action we make, there is a consequence.

Cheers, Jenni


21 May 16:33

The Carrot Hack

by Nicola
saucie

Via Russian Sledges

Sowing seeds 460

People who sell seeds have always struggled with an inconvenient reality: Their merchandise reproduces itself.

So writes Lisa Hamilton, one of my fellow Fellows from the inaugural UC Berkeley/11th Hour Food & Farming Fellowship programme, summing up a problem that plant breeders have struggled with for generations: how to monetise the effort and ingenuity embedded in their work.

As Hamilton’s article, published in the June issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, describes, since the passing of the Plant Patent Act of 1930, breeders have relied on intellectual property law in order to profit from the years they invest in developing a useful characteristic in a plant — an easier-to-harvest broccoli, or a lycopene-rich red carrot.

In order for seeds to become a commodity and generate a profit, there had to be a reason for people to buy them year after year. Over the course of the twentieth century, the industry devised certain solutions, including hybrid seeds and “trade-secret” protections for their breeding processes and materials. But perhaps the most effective solution is the application of intellectual-property rights, of which the utility patent is the gold standard.

Before the Plant Patent Act, plant breeders complained bitterly that the reward for their achievements was frequently obscurity and poverty, in contrast to the fortunes being reaped by mechanical inventors such as Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

Luther Burbank, the first (and perhaps only) celebrity plant breeder, many of whose new fruit and vegetable varieties still fill our plates today, died before the Plant Patent Act was introduced, and frequently despaired over his inability to make a profit:

A man can patent a mouse trap or copyright a nasty song, but if he gives to the world a new fruit that will add millions to the value of the earth’s harvests he will be fortunate if he is rewarded by so much as having his name connected with the result…. I would hesitate to advise a young man, no matter how gifted or devoted, to adopt plant breeding as a life work until America takes some action to protest his unquestioned rights to some benefit from his achievements.

Burbank peach patent 460

IMAGE: Application for Plant Patent 15, “Peach,” filed posthumously by Luther Burbank’s widow on December 23, 1930.

But, as Hamilton explains, while the utility patent may have made plant breeding profitable enough for the multinational likes of Monsanto and Syngenta, the application of intellectual property law to nature is not without problems, from the eminently practical (it tends to constrain seed-sharing, which ultimately hinders “the very resilience of agriculture itself”) to the philosophical (can an element of the natural world, however much altered and “improved” upon by human ingenuity, really be owned by an individual?).

Her article, which you really need to read in full, looks at one renegade group of plant breeders who have banded together to launch a challenge to the prevailing model of seed IP: the Open Source Seed Initiative, which released its first open-source, un-patentable broccoli, kale, and celery seeds this past April.

ossi-meeting 460

IMAGE: A meeting of the Open Source Seed Initiative Group at the University of Minnesota in 2012, from the group’s website.

Missing from the final article, in the interests of streamlining, was one of my favourite anecdotes from Hamilton’s reporting: the carrot hack. The doctoral thesis project of Claire Luby at the University of Wisconsin, the carrot hack proceeds in the reverse direction to conventional plant breeding. As Hamilton explained to us, Luby is effectively “un-breeding” the American commercial carrot in order to free its genetic code for remixing:

The mesh bags represent the project’s first stage, for which she grew every commercially available carrot variety in the United States. There are 144 in all, ranging from the knobby French heirloom Tonda di Parigi to CrispyCut, a ten-inch long variety designed to be lathed into baby carrots.

Because carrots are biennial, they require two seasons to reproduce: during the first they grow their nutritious root, during the second they flower and produce seed. Luby is storing her harvest in the adjacent cold room, whose temperature of 41 degrees F will trick the plants into thinking they have passed through winter in two months. After Thanksgiving, for the project’s second stage, she will plant them in the greenhouse. As they flower, she will introduce ten thousand flies to cross-pollinate them en masse.

This is the opposite of what her fellow students will be doing this winter. They will mate specific pairs of plants to breed more targeted individuals. Luby will effectively un-breed her carrots, mixing their genes at random into a population that is wildly heterogeneous. The idea is to capture the entire range of genetics used in commercial carrots within a single collection. Breeders can then use that seed to produce new varieties. There’s only one catch: those new varieties can never be patented. That’s because Luby’s seed will be open source.

It’s an incredibly ingenious idea that, predictably, has not gone perfectly smoothly. In discussion with University of Wisconsin lawyers, Seminis (the largest developer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world, purchased by Monsanto in 2005) banned Luby from using its carrot germplasm. In the end, more than a third of the original 144 carrot varieties cannot be included in the open-source mash-up due to corporate restrictions. However, Hamilton told us, there’s still hope, because many commercial carrots come from the same original stock, and thus still share DNA:

By comparing DNA markers, Luby will map out where the carrots’ genes overlap. It’s possible that the seeds she can use will contribute many genes that are also found in the seeds she can’t use.

Hamilton’s reporting on this story is an important wake-up call to those of us who have never considered how seed IP affects what we eat, both now and in the future. It’s a complicated issue, and, as a result, growing corporate control of germplasm, and its equally problematic counterpart, declining public investment in plant breeding, rarely make headlines.

But, although it’s unclear yet whether the Open Source Seed Initiative or Claire Luby’s carrot hack can provide a viable alternative model to plant patents, what is utterly fascinating about Hamilton’s article is the way it demonstrates the importance of metaphor in opening new possibilities for imagining the world, and constraining others.

myers_in_field_hamilton 460

IMAGE: Jim Myers, professor of vegetable breeding and genetics at Oregon State University, photographed in a broccoli field at the university’s research farm by Lisa Hamilton.

Seeing seeds as software, for example, inspires certain solutions (a carrot hack! Linux for lettuce!) but creates other problems (how does licensing enforcement work when the open-source genetics are not marked in any way?). Elsewhere in Hamilton’s article, breeders refer to the idea of a “national park of germplasm” — a “genetic easement” that preserves, un-patented, enough of the important DNA of, say, commercial carrot varieties, for future generations of plant breeders, growers, and eaters. This idea of the natural world as a protected commons offers, in turn, its own set of tools and limitations.

In the end, it seems that one of the more valuable contribution those of us who are concerned about seed IP could make would be the gift of a new set of metaphors, to re-imagine how we relate to the natural world we make.

19 May 20:56

nybg: libertyluna: The Secret Life of Plants (1979) Much as I...



nybg:

libertyluna:

The Secret Life of Plants (1979)

Much as I adore plant GIFs, I’m all too glad they don’t actually bloom this fast. There’s something unnerving about the tentaclyness of it all. —MN

21 May 15:18

Can we talk about this instead of #LeanIn?ps, thanks a lot,...

saucie

What was in my facebook feed this morning. They both work at Digitas. Thanks ladies, awesome job.



Can we talk about this instead of #LeanIn?
ps, thanks a lot, gals. 

21 May 14:40

Being Poor Makes You Sick

by Olga Khazan
Image
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

When poor teenagers arrive at their appointments with Alan Meyers, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, he performs a standard examination and prescribes whatever medication they need. But if the patient is struggling with transportation or weight issues, he asks an unorthodox question:

“Do you have a bicycle?”

Often, the answer is “no” or “it’s broken” or “it got stolen.”

In those cases, Meyers does something even more unusual: He prescribes them year-long memberships to Hubway, Boston’s bike sharing program, for just $5 per year—a steep discount from the regular $85 price.

“What we know is that if we are trying to get some sort of exercise incorporated into their daily routine, [the bike] works better than saying, ‘Take x time every day and go do this,’” Meyers told me.

The bike-prescribing program is paid for by the city. For patients without bank accounts, Boston even puts up its own city credit card. Meyers thinks the two-wheeled solution tackles several problems at once.

A Hubway bike in Boston (Louis Oliveira/Flickr)

“Boston is pretty compact, parking is always a problem, and getting around on a bicycle makes all the sense in the world,” he said. Plus, doctors at Boston Medical Center use their electronic medical records to prescribe the bikes, and they plan to measure how patients’ use of the bikes tracks with their weight and health over time.

Meyers realizes that sedentariness is one of the many ills that afflict the poor to a greater degree than the rich. People earning less than $36,000 are far less likely to exercise than those earning $80,000 or more. Low-income people may live in dangerous areas, have little free time, lack access to parks, or some combination.

The bike program is one example of the various ways physicians are attacking a vexing problem that’s not in any medical handbook: Poor patients are sicker, and their poverty actually makes them sick.

How ‘Toxic Stress’ Damages the Brain

One in every six Americans lives in poverty–for an individual, that means earning less than $11,670 per year. The immediate lifestyle implications of such an income are clear: It’s not enough to buy a decent one-bedroom apartment in most cities, let alone a gym membership, fresh produce, or access to high-end medical care. A healthy diet, as one study determined last year, costs $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy one.

And it’s well known that low-income people aren’t as healthy. People of a lower socioeconomic status have a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease, for example. Writing in the New York Times, Annie Lowrey found that though Virginia’s Fairfax County and West Virginia’s McDowell County are separated by just 350 miles, men in the richer Fairfax County have “a life expectancy of 82 years and women, 85, about the same as in Sweden. In McDowell, the averages are 64 and 73, about the same as in Iraq.”

But a growing body of evidence suggests that the very condition of living with no money, in a tumultuous environment, and amid stark inequality can alter individuals’ gene expression. What’s more, the pressure of being poor sometimes weighs so heavily that the body pumps out more stress hormones, which ravage the immune system over time.

Poor nutrition, trying times, and environmental toxins in childhood can turn certain genes “on” or “off.” Even poor children who seemingly overcome the hardships of poverty—by making good grades and adapting socially—tend to have higher levels of stress hormones, blood pressure, and body mass index than their wealthier peers.

"Exposure to stress over time gets under the skin of children and adolescents, which makes them more vulnerable to disease later in life," says Gene Brody, founder and director of the University of Georgia Center for Family Research.

“If you have a whole bunch of bad experiences growing up, you set up your brain in such a way that it’s your expectation that that’s what life is about.”

Child-rearing problems that are more prevalent among poor households, such as chronic neglect or a parent's incarceration, compound on money woes and congeal into something known as “toxic stress.” These “adverse childhood experiences” jab at the brain at critical moments in its development,changing the architecture of key brain structures and setting the stage for long-term anxiety and mood-control issues.

“If you have a whole bunch of bad experiences growing up, you set up your brain in such a way that it’s your expectation that that’s what life is about,” James Perrin, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told me.

In a groundbreaking study in Science last year, people who were primed to think about financial problems did worse on a series of tests that involved decision-making—a sign that physical scarcity can make it difficult for our brains to free up enough space for long-term planning.

One study found that the anxiety of living in poverty is a stronger predictor of mental health problems than going to war. Food-stamp recipients cannot use their benefits to buy diapers, and last year, a team of researchers at Yale University’s School of Medicine found that mothers who couldn’t afford diapers for their babies were more likely to feel depressed and anxious.

These worries can leave their mark on children, both in the form of a more volatile childhood environment and, potentially, through the mother’s own genetic makeup: Animal studies have shown that anxieties about certain stimuli can be hereditary.

Poverty can also deplete self-control. Smoking and unhealthy eating habits are more prevalent among the poor. A just-published study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that girls who were repeatedly exposed to poverty growing up were more likely to be overweight or obese as young women.

“Habits form early,” Daphne Hernandez, the study author and health policy professor at the University of Houston, told me. “You begin to crave those [inexpensive] foods, and making the transition to healthier foods is difficult. Even when you’re not living in poverty anymore, you may still be buying the cheaper foods.”

Hernandez found that for boys, childhood poverty wasn’t linked to adult weight problems—but that isn’t necessarily anything to celebrate. Hernandez thinks it's heavy childhood manual labor that’s protecting the boys from obesity. “If you live in poverty, you’ll enter the labor market earlier,” she said. “For girls, it’s babysitting, but for boys in impoverished communities, they’ll more than likely engage in construction work.”

All of these factors combined mean that when doctors treat poor patients, they’re facing not just one ailment, but two: the illness itself, and the economic fragility that underlies it.

“Our society in general has looked at the issue of poverty in two ways: either a social problem, or a mental-health problem,” said Nadine Burke Harris, a San Francisco pediatrician. “But it's also a serious medical problem.”

A Patchwork of Programs

Some doctors are incorporating the treatment of poverty-related obstacles into their medical routines. In addition to its bicycle program, Boston Medical Center operates a food pantry for food-insecure families.

There are also groups like Health Leads, which was started by the lawyer Rebecca Onie at Boston Medical Center when she was a Harvard sophomore. Today, Health Leads allows doctors in 20 clinics across the country to “prescribe” services like healthy food or safe housing to their low-income patients. Health Leads volunteers (usually med students) set up card tables in clinic waiting areas and try to connect patients with prescribed services.

sylvar/Flickr

“A busy mom, a single mom who has two kids and doesn't have a car—when she walks out of the doctor’s office, she will never be more motivated than she is right there,” Health Leads’ marketing director, Connie French, told me. “If all of this can happen in one environment, it's more likely she'll have the time to do the things she needs to do to stay healthy.”

One D.C. woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, recently met with Health Leads in the lobby of the office where she takes her grandson, who lives with her, for asthma treatment. The group told her that the roaches in her mobile home might be exacerbating his asthma and taught her how to trap them with roach motels.

Roughly two-thirds of Health Leads patients secure at least one resource—receiving food, getting their heat turned back on, or finding a job—within 90 days of speaking to a volunteer, Onie told The Atlantic in 2011.

In San Francisco, Burke Harris launched the Center for Youth Wellness, where each child gets a universal screening for adverse childhood experiences as part of his or her first doctor's visit. Depending on the roots of the patient’s stress, the Center may provide counseling for both mother and child. Or it might refer them to a practitioner trained in biofeedback—a type of meditative training that aims to bring relaxation through greater awareness.

“[The biofeedback specialist] hooks the kid up to a bunch of electrodes that measure things like heart rate and breathing,” Burke Harris said. “It helps them to bring a cognitive awareness to kids of their internal states. One thing we know that happens is that kids with toxic stress have decreased engagement of prefrontal cortex. When you have strengthening of the prefrontal cortex circuit, it helps to physiologically and neurologically balance effects of chronic stress.”

Payment and Culture Obstacles

The rub is that Medicaid and other insurance don’t cover many of these services, so the groups are often left scrambling for funds. As Perrin puts it, the programs are “being paid for with a combination of bubble gum and rubber bands.”

French told me that Health Leads also saw that, in addition to the roaches, the D.C. woman’s mobile home had very old carpet that needed to be replaced—but the organization can't afford to buy her new carpet right now.

Meyers said that Boston’s city government, which picks up the tab for the discount bike program, would probably tolerate “two or three” bikes being stolen before they pulled out, but “there are many ways that this could cause a problem. The thing might just end.”

Another challenge is getting primary care physicians to screen for toxic stress and other poverty indicators in the first place.

“That's something the medical community has not responded to at all,” Burke Harris said. “Physicians say, ‘What do you want me to do? I have a 15-minute patient visit.’”

Perrin said the connections between destitution and illness have grown so strong that he’s been moved to push for poverty-combating legislation from a medical point of view.

“We have a role to argue that we need to do things better for America’s families, like the minimum wage, and the Earned Income Tax Credit,” he said. “Those aren’t things doctors have traditionally talked about, but we’re starting to. If patients get the resources they need, we’ll have healthier people.”

This story originally appeared on The Atlantic.








21 May 16:00

3 Reasons to Get Excited about Division's Pizza Maria

He played lead baker at Thomas Keller’s famed Per Se for over two years, made some noise at New York’s legendary Sullivan Street Bakery, and has hit more high notes as head baker at Portland’s growing Grand Central Bakery empire since 2011. Now, after 18 years in in the bread biz, Sean Coyne is taken his talents (and wood-fired pizza dream) to 3060 SE Division St.

His 43-seat Pizza Maria is set to open May 28 next door to the new branches of Bollywood Theatre and Koi Fusion. Here are three reasons to be excited.

THE PIZZA

For the past month, Coyne has been test-driving ideas in a Mugnaini wood-fired oven in the back of Pizza Maria’s compact space. His style borders on the Neapolitan, and he cares about the kinds of things that haunt all obsessives: structural integrity, the right amount of blister and char, and the tricky art of natural fermentation. Heat is his game, with pies crackling in fire raging at 800-1000 degrees. Toppings in the lab right now suggest confident simplicity and an attention to Italian cheeses: tomato, hand-stretched mozzarella and basil; mushrooms with leeks and robiola cheese; onions with radicchio, piave cheese, and saba. Pies will be 12-inchers, and priced around $11-$15.

THE EXTRAS

Coyne’s small list of appetizers and desserts also showcase his passion for cheese and baking. I like that he’s making his own burrata, the soft, rich mash-up of mozzarella and cream, which he’ll pair with salsa verde and pizza bianca, a crackery “white” pizza popular in Rome and a star at New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery (not to mention served up the street on Division at Duane Sorenson’s Roman Candle Bakery). Coyne’s crostini and bruschetta, with changing toppings, are slated to start, and to finish, wood-fired crostadas, cannoli, and cookies. Drinks will center on Italian and Oregon wines, local beer, and aperitifs. “Value is important to me,” says Coyne. Wines will run around $7-$11 per glass, with bottles $20-$60. 

THE ATTITUDE

Coyne is shooting for a clean, modern, and casually stylish vibe, with marble top tables, Arabesque tiles, and a 10-seat bar. For him, the difference between opening a place in New York and Portland? “In New York, you’re trying to get on a Vanity Fair list. In Portland, you’re trying to hook up with a good source for flour. It’s a different conversation altogether.”

Stay up to date with opening details on Pizza Maria's website, and come May 28, hours will be: 5-10 pm, Mon-Thurs, 5-11 pm, Fri-Sat, closed on Sun. Stay tuned to Eat Beat for more details they unfold!

Pizza Maria
3060 SE Division St

Every Wednesday: Restaurant tips, cheap eats, recipes, and breaking food and drink news from all over the city. (See an example!)  
20 May 16:28

NPR To End 'Tell Me More,' Eliminate 28 Positions

saucie

every time they have a budget cut, they cut programming hosted by people of color. ARGHGHGHGH

The moves come as part of the network's effort to close this year's $7 million budget gap. Tell Me More host Michel Martin will remain with NPR.

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