Is There A SPOT In Your Future For A Personal GPS Tracking Device?

Hiking in Sunnmøre, Part 3: Skårasalen
Image by Severin Sadjina via Flickr

Are you an outdoor adventurer that loves to talk about where your travels are taking you, just as much as you enjoy exploring new frontiers? Maybe you’re just a concerned individual that takes comfort into knowing the whereabouts of your loved ones and that they’re safe. In either case, a SPOT just might be a little piece of technology that can help you stay in touch with others.

What is a SPOT and how does it work?

SPOT is a feature packed personal GPS tracking device that’s small enough to fit into your pocket. While cell phones are often plagued with poor coverage in remote areas, SPOT communicates over satellite, keeping you connected with friends and family from virtually anywhere in the world.

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Is Your Health At Risk With The Food Safety Modernization Act?

Farmers' Market
Image by NatalieMaynor via Flickr

There is not much time, and I highly encourage you all to act now because Senate Bill S.510 will go to vote by the Senate on November 29, 2010. Please start immediately, and go research Senate bill S.510, also commonly referred to as The Food Safety Modernization Act.

Since the main objective of ThePionnerWay.com is to promote awareness rather than propaganda, I will try to differentiate myself from most of the other sites reporting on this issue and let you all form your own opinions.

What is the purpose of The Food Safety Modernization Act?

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Does Your Home Qualify For Free Solar?

Solar panels being installed on a home
Image by tcktcktck via Flickr

Alternative energy sources, such as solar, is a great step towards sustainable living. Wouldn’t it be great if you qualified for free solar energy for your home? Well hang on, because depending on where you live, you just might!

I know that sunlight is free, but how do I get the hardware for free?

The hardware isn’t exactly free, but there are a few companies offering $0 down power purchase programs. The solar companies find investors and banks willing to front the money for a large number of installations so that you as the home-owner do not have to go out and secure a loan just to install solar on your home. Once installed, you simply pay monthly for the electricity by the kilowatt hour just like you currently do. The benefit is that you are now paying a lower monthly rate for clean renewable energy and your savings will simply increase over time.

OK, so how do I qualify for one of these $0 down power purchase programs?

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Wait, What’s Wrong With My Seeds?

My Trip to Comstock, Ferre & Co. + Free Seeds
Image by Chiot’s Run via Flickr

For those of you gardeners out there that prefer to grow your own fruits and vegetables, have you researched your seeds and do you know what you’re actually planting? Unfortunately not all seeds are the same and some seeds may be hybrid or genetically modified. If you care what you are eating then you have to be very careful about what you are planting.

What exactly are seed developers doing to seeds and why?

Large seed developers like Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, and Monsanto, are genetically modifying and patenting their seed technologies with claims of increased food production for farmers. Monsanto specifically, is engineering a line of genetically modified seeds with Roundup Ready Technology that produces plants that inoculate against the popular herbicide Roundup, which also happens to be a product of Monsanto. Monsanto isn’t just limiting seed modification to it’s herbicide resistant Roundup Ready Technology, but they are also using a process called “trait stacking” which allows them to produce seeds that are not only resistant to Roundup, but also contain insect control for pests above the ground as well as below the ground. It’s these “advantages” that Monsanto claims will help farmers produce higher yielding crops.

What kind of health risk do genetically modified seeds pose?

In the United States, the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition only reviews summaries of food safety data provided by the developers of the engineered foods. The FDA does not require any specific tests in order to determine that genetically modified food is safe. After review of the food safety data, the FDA does not approve the safety of the genetically modified food but rather, acknowledges that the developer of the food has determined it is safe. Published reports state that no adverse health effects attributed to genetically modified food have been documented in the human population, but without epidemiological studies, it is highly unlikely that any harm that might occur will be detected and attributed to genetically modified food.

Traditionally, farmers saved thier seeds year after year, using them to replant thier crops. Now that seeds are genetically modified, seed developers have protected the seeds under patents. GMO seeds are now subject to licensing by their developers in written contracts that prevent farmers from practicing the tradition of saving seeds for replanting purposes.  Now, because farmers cannot save and replant seeds, they are forced to purchase new seeds for each crop and with seed prices rising at extortionate rates, farmers are beginning to find that the “benefits” are just not worth the extra cost.

Which seeds should I buy and how can I tell if they’ve been genetically modified?

Because the FDA does not require special labeling of genetically modified food unless there is a “material difference” in the final product, responsible product suppliers often identify themselves by adding their own “Non-GMO” label. When buying seeds, look for the “Non-GMO” label or purchase Heirloom seeds sometimes known as “heritage” seeds. Also, be sure to stay away from hybrid seeds, and if you don’t see a “Non-GMO” label, then make sure that they are labeled as certified organic or 100% organic.

What kind of seeds do you use in your garden?

Super-sized Salmon Gets Delayed

Filet of an Atlantic Salmon
Image via Wikipedia

A highly controversial project, headed up by the biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies Inc., recently faced an FDA panel for review as to whether AquaBounty’s genetically modified (GM) fish could be sold for human consumption. The FDA panel sided with consumer advocates and ruled that the data provided by AquaBounty Technologies contained insufficient evidence as to whether or not the super-sized salmon harbors the potential for harm.

AquAdvantage Salmon, the ‘Frankenfish’ developed by AquaBounty Technologies, is an advanced-hybrid fish genetically modified to reduce the growing cycle. Growth-hormone genes from king (Chinook) salmon are inserted into the fertilized eggs of Atlantic Salmon, along with AFP genes from the eel-like Ocean Pout, that allows for the growth hormone to remain active during the summer and the winter. The combination of these genes allow the GM fish to reach maturity twice as fast as natural Atlantic Salmon. (18 months versus three years)

AquaBounty claims that their fish is reproductively sterile due to another genetic alteration (triploidy), and plans to raise the fish within contained farms to avoid any possibility of interbreeding with native species.

If the sound of eating GM salmon isn’t enough, what would you say if you didn’t know you were eating it? AquaBounty claims that AquaAdvantage Salmon is completely like natural Atlantic salmon in every natural way, plus current FDA rules only call for special labels for altered food when there is a “material difference” in the final product. Frightening, absolutely frightening.

Advocates of the genetically modified salmon say it’s just a matter of time before GM fish become an accepted part of the US diet, but opponents say it could never happen. Since many major salmon farms have rejected the idea of raising these GM fish, I’m for one hoping that the critics are right on this one.

If or when the FDA approves this salmon, some say genetically modified trout and tilapia could be next, and you guessed it, AquaBounty is already working on it.

How do you feel about genetically modified food landing on your plate?