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Fruits & Votes is the Web-log of Matthew S. Shugart ("MSS"), Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis.
Perspectives on electoral systems, constitutional design, and policy around the world, based primarily on my research interests.
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26 April 2013
05 November 2012
The following are some loosely organized thoughts about an initiative measure on California’s ballot, Proposition 37. The proposal is for a requirement to label foods sold in the state that contain–or potentially contain–genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
As someone who has grown organic, usually buys organic, and has some belief (which I can’t claim to be proven) of an allergy to some GM products, I would be inclined towards a yes vote. However, this is not an easy one for me, because there are numerous problems with the measure.
When I look at the list of supporters and opponents, I don’t really like those I’d be siding with if I voted no. If we look upon it as a battle of organized interests over distribution of rents, I’ll go with the organic industry over Monsanto and DuPont every time. But if we’re concerned about good government and sensible consumer-information provision, it’s an easy no.
This is a bad way to go about labelling. Prop 37 has zero tolerance for GM traces,1 which means the standard for commingling will be stricter for conventionally grown foods than for organic. The EU and Australia/New Zealand standards allow trace amounts, and it’s almost impossible to avoid some cross-contamination. So almost every non-organic item will bear the label, if 37 passes. What use is that? It’s better to have a standard for “GM free” (but not organic, given that organic us GM-free, within the allowed tolerance) than to label almost everything conventional as (potentially) having GMO. And, of course, there already exist third-party certifications for GMO-free, or you can buy organic. On the other hand, if you agree that our political system has been mostly deaf to calls for stricter standards–as I do–then it’s an easy yes. To me, a yes vote is more a crying out for political attention than a vote for the specific set of standards this would impose.
Fortunately, as far as I can tell. Prop 37 doesn’t have an amendment clause preventing legislative adjustment. One principle I adhere to in most propositions is vote no, whatever the seeming merits, if only a subsequent initiative can amend the proposition. Others require 2/3 votes of the legislature to amend–also bad, but not as bad. I don’t see any such clause in this one, which I think means it would be just like an ordinary statute.
I also dislike, on principle, prop 37′s clause allowing lawsuits against retailers without a “harm” standard.
Further, I dislike that dried fruits are classified as “processed” and therefore subject to labeling requirement. It won’t affect me, because I eat only organic fruits, usually grown right under my own watchful eye. But on principle, this just is non-sensical. (The “processing” designation also applies to smoking, canning, and other preparations that involve only the fruit or vegetable, which is not how I think of “processed foods” more generally.)
I will probably end up voting yes, despite my very significant reservations. It will be a political vote for me, not a policy vote. And that’s all right; as long as we have this nutty initiative process, I might as well vote to push things in a direction I favor, even if the measure is very far from perfect. If I were to learn before Tuesday that I am wrong in my belief that this could be amended by future action of the legislature, I might vote no. For sure, there will be “amendments” from the courts, but that certainly doesn’t make this initiative particularly unusual.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (6)
14 July 2012
Sometimes, I go to great effort to try to protect the fruit from squirrels.
This chicken-wire basket worked. And was worth it. This is the only fruit the Hunza apricot tree has had since either 2010 (when we were away, so I would not know) or 2009 (when it had several fruits, before being transplanted to our current location).
It is an incredibly richly flavored fruit, and also has an edible kernel. (See previous discussions.)
07 May 2012
27 December 2011
The Hachiya persimmon season is almost done. And so is Chanukah.
The fruit is fantastic this year, and always at its best when it can ripen on the tree. The Hachiya is an astringent variety, which must be super-soft before it is edible.
05 December 2011
Here at F&V we rather like the idea of fruits figuring in a campaign.
Nathan Batto has all the juicy details at his Taiwan politics blog, Frozen Garlic.
20 November 2011
This is one of the more interesting examples of high-density orchard culture that I have ever seen.
On the road between Cromwell and Wanaka, on the South Island of New Zealand.
Alas, no campaign signs nearby.
(Click for another angle showing the close spacing more clearly.)
No, not the sign for the National Party, but the full enclosure to protect the trees–cherries, in this case. (Click for a closer view.)
Propagation: Seeds & scions (1)
Cromwell, South Island, New Zealand
If you want to see the fruits only, up close, click here.
So there are folks keeping alive the flame of Social Credit.
26 October 2011
The Arbor Day Foundation has posted a graphic that allows one to see how much the USDA “hardiness zones” have changed between 1990 and 2006. Not much in the West. But a lot elsewhere, especially in the Midwest.
14 October 2011
In the tradition of the season…
Click photo for a larger image
Some of our bounty now hangs in the sukkah.
Can you imagine needing a product that is produced far away, especially if you care about the process by which it is produced, perhaps for ethical reasons, and where you are uncertain whether the producers share your standards for proper processing? Of course you can, as nowadays you can buy tuna that is “dolphin safe” and lumber that is certified as not coming from rainforests, and of course, foods that are organic, gluten free, non-GMO, etc. The modern production and transportation chain of kosher foods also offers an obvious example.
One of the earliest examples of certification of production processes for a product traded from far away is the etrog for Sukkot. The etrog, a type of citrus fruit, can be grown only in very mild climates, such as those around the Mediterranean. Yet as centers of Jewish population moved northward in Europe, communities faced the challenge of ensuring that the etrogim they were purchasing met ritual standards.
Chief among the standards, as set by Ashkenazi rabbis, was that the fruit not come from grafted trees. Grafting was seen as a violation of the ban in Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9 on sowing one’s vineyard with a second kind of seed. (Sephardic rabbis have traditionally been less concerned about grafting.) When a fruit tree is grafted, a small branch from a tree that produces a desired variety of fruit is inserted into the stem of a different but closely related “rootstock”. Grafting thereby ensures that the fruit to be produced by the grafted tree is an exact genetic replica, preserving standards of quality and consistency from tree to tree. Almost all of our commercially available fruit, as well as the great majority of backyard fruit, come from grafted trees.
However, if one wants fruit of an ungrafted tree for ritual reasons, one faces a problem: it is impossible to look at the fruit and tell whether it came from a grafted or ungrafted tree. One can identify a grafted tree if one journeys to the orchard, but the fruit carries no evidence of its parent tree having been grafted. Therefore, by about the 14th century, there arose a process of supervision and certification of citron groves. (more…)
23 September 2011
So, who can identify what this project in the orchard is all about?
And, yes, we have had some interesting clouds these last two days. More:
06 September 2011
(Planted in “Fruits”; yes, I know that carrots are vegetables.)
23 August 2011
Just after lunch today, I saw the unmistakeable shadow of a large bird arriving at one of the trees just outside the house. I went outside and noticed two birds in the tree: an owl and what I believe to be a golden eagle that we have been seeing around lately.
The owl (a barn owl, I think) is peeking over the branch that heads off towards the right of the picture. The eagle is in the upper left.
We have an owl nesting box on the finca that has been in use since April, and we hear screeching every night. But I have not seen one in daylight before.
I am no bird expert, but the other one does not look like the hawks that frequent the place, and is much bigger than the hawks, in any case. It is quite likely a golden eagle. A couple of days ago I saw it feasting on a squirrel, so it is most welcome around here (as are the owls and hawks and anyone else hungry-for-squirrels).
Given that camera I had immediately available, and the need to shoot from some distance, the picture is not the clearest. But what a thrill to see these two in the tree!
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Propagation: Seeds & scions (1)
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F&V time: This blog's date function is so set as to start a new day at approximately local sunset. (Why, if we have "day" and "night," should a new "day" start in the middle of the night?)
FRUITS: Support your local, organic growers; and, plant vines and fig trees and pomegranates for the generations to come...
VOTES: For democratization and full representation, for environmental sustainability, social justice, and peace, always sincerely...
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