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Protesters in Denver rallied last summer at the state capitol, asking legislators to act on a GMO labeling rule. (File: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)
Protesters in Denver rallied last summer at the state capitol, asking legislators to act on a GMO labeling rule. (File: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Vermont is poised to become the first state to enact mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday he plans to sign a bill passed by Vermont lawmakers that would require foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, to be labeled as having been produced with “genetic engineering.”  

If Shumlin signs the bill, it would kick in on July 1, 2016. That would make Vermont the first state in the country to require GMO labels. Maine and Connecticut both passed GMO labeling bills, but those laws don’t go into effect until surrounding states pass similar rules.

Bales of corn stover, which can be used to create cellulosic ethanol, sit in a field (eXtension Farm Energy/Flickr)
Bales of corn stover, which can be used to create cellulosic ethanol, sit in a field (eXtension Farm Energy/Flickr)

Biofuels made in the Midwest from corn stover, the leftovers of harvested corn plants, may be worse for global warming than gasoline in the short term, according to a recent study. It’s casting doubt on the greenhouse benefits of cellulosic ethanol.

The peer-reviewed study was conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and appears in the journal Nature Climate Change. It modeled what the impact on carbon emissions would be if you took corn stover from fields across the Midwest to make ethanol. Usually, corn stover is left on harvested fields to improve soil health, but removing it would create more carbon dioxide emissions.

Corn ethanol is big business in the Midwest, but almost all the fuel is made from the grain, not the leftover stalks. Cellulosic ethanol is only produced on a small scale today, but two large cellulosic ethanol plants are being built in Iowa that would use corn stalks and other residue as their main fuel source.

(Kevin Lallier/Flickr)
(Kevin Lallier/Flickr)

Winter wheat farmers across the Great Plains are better off this year than last. Rain and snow has saturated soil in some areas. But drought still persists in large sections. As of April 13, 32 percent of the country’s wheat crop was classified as being in poor condition or worse.

Wheat farmers put this year’s crop in the ground last fall coming off one of the worst growing seasons in decades. In 2013 more than 10 million acres were lost to drought, late season freezes and blustery winds. So far this year, things are looking a bit better.

A change in precipitation has led to drought improvements in states where much of the country’s wheat is grown. One year ago the U.S. Drought Monitor showed more than 50 percent of the High Plains region, which includes Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas and the Dakotas, was in extreme drought. Now, just 5 percent has that distinction.

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