UAF Cooperative Extension Service updates Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook

Sustainable Gardening 2015 cover

Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook” has been updated.

This publication was first produced in 2010 as an adaptation of “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook” and this is the first revision. It is used as one component in Master Gardener training programs for University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service volunteers in Alaska, but is also a must-have for all Alaska gardeners.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agriculture and horticulture agents have contributed their expertise to provide information on topics such as basic botany, lawns, vegetable gardening, orchards, entomology, pest management and more.

Call 877-520-5211 (toll-free in Alaska) to order the handbook, or check with Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office at 747-9440 to see if she has any copies available locally. The 490-page book costs $50.

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• Sitka residents say ‘No’ to genetically modified salmon during Feb. 9 rally

ProtestersOutside

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

Between 100 and 150 Sitka residents braved the wind and rain on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Crescent Harbor Shelter to protest the possible U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of genetically modified salmon (aka, GMO or GE salmon, or Frankenfish).

The rally (click here to listen to rally coverage from KCAW-Raven Radio) was in protest of a genetically engineered salmon from the Massachusetts company AquaBounty Technologies, called the AquAdvantage® Salmon. The GMO salmon starts with an Atlantic salmon commonly used in fish farms, but adds genes from a Pacific king (chinook) salmon to promote growth and genes from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that grows all year round instead of seasonally. According to AquaBounty, all of the commercialized fish will be female and sterile, and the fish are designed to be raised in fresh-water pens or tanks on land instead of the usual salt-water pens where most farmed Atlantic salmon are raised. AquaBounty promotes the fish as a faster-growing farmed salmon that takes half the time to reach maturity and be sent to market. To learn more about GMO salmon, read our post from 2010.

PaulRiouxSignsPaul Rioux — the Sitka resident who organized the rally with the help of local fishing groups, the Sitka Conservation Society, and others — said fishermen are concerned about what happens if these GMO salmon escape from pens. He noted that while AquaBounty said the fish will be sterile, other scientists said as many as 5 percent could be fertile, and that’s enough so that the GMO salmon as an invasive species could replace wild Pacific salmon within 40 salmon generations. DavidWilcoxSpeaksSignsDavid Wilcox, a 14-year-old Sitka resident who plans to run across the country to protest GMO foods, spoke for the other residents who said they were concerned with genetically engineered fish in general, and they worried this fish might go to market without being labeled as GMO salmon. (Click here to listen to Rioux, Wilcox and Ray Friedlander of the Sitka Conservation Society discuss why they held the rally during a Feb. 8 Morning Edition interview on KCAW-Raven Radio.)

SayNoToFrankenfishThe FDA, which has been looking at GMO salmon for more than a decade (AquaBounty started work on the fish in 1989), announced in December it planned to approve the genetically engineered fish, just in time for the holidays. At the same time, the FDA finally released environmental impact research papers it was supposed to have released in May. The FDA announcement also started a 60-day public comment period that was supposed to end on Feb. 25. On Feb. 13, the FDA extended the comment period until April 26. Sitka residents are encouraged to go to Regulations.gov and search for “GE salmon” (not “GMO”) to comment on the regulations before the April 26 deadline.

PatKehoeFrankenfishAlaska’s Congressional delegation agrees on few items, but Sen. Mark Begich, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young have been united for a couple of years in their efforts to stop Frankenfish. Sen. Begich this week introduced two bills banning GMO salmon. Last May, Sen. Murkowski introduced an amendment (that failed 50-46) requiring more study of GMO salmon by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). In the House, Rep. Young has been one of the most vocal opponents of Frankenfish and in February he introduced a bill requiring GMO salmon be labeled. In the Alaska House of Representatives, Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) introduced an anti-Frankenfish bill that passed out of the House Fisheries Committee this week.

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• Two FDA committees hear testimony about genetically modified salmon

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

This week, two different U.S. Food and Drug Administration committees have been taking testimony about the future of genetically modified salmon. On Monday, one committee — the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine — heard testimony about whether genetically modified salmon is safe to eat and if it should be approved. Tuesday, the other committee — the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition — heard testimony about whether or not genetically modified salmon should have special labeling.

The issue is over a genetically modified Atlantic salmon produced by the Massachusetts firm AquaBounty Technologies, known as AquAdvantage®. The AquAdvantage® fish not only includes a growth gene from a chinook salmon, which makes it reach market size in 16-18 months instead of the usual three years, plus there is a gene from an eel-like fish known as an ocean pout. According to AquaBounty, all of the commercialized fish will be female and sterile, and the fish are designed to be raised in fresh-water pens or tanks on land instead of the usual salt-water pens where most farmed Atlantic salmon are raised.

Many in the biotech, food and other industries are pushing for the FDA to quickly approve the commercial production of this fish. But some consumer groups, food safety experts and others want the FDA to slow or end the approval process until more is known about the fish.

On Tuesday’s Alaska News Nightly show, the Alaska Public Radio Network reported that it may be some time before genetically modified salmon reach the market. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that the FDA seemed to give preliminary approval to the fish’s safety and the main issue was who is responsible for telling the consumer the fish has been genetically altered.

AquAdvantage salmon eggs are grown in incubator jars in a laboratory. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

AquAdvantage salmon eggs are grown in incubator jars in a laboratory. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

The idea of a genetically modified Atlantic salmon is of special concern to Alaska’s fishermen. Many fish farms in British Columbia raise Atlantic salmon, and there have been times when Atlantic salmon have escaped from the fish farm pens and mixed with wild Pacific salmon, including in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game considers Atlantic salmon an invasive species, and already requests fishermen turn any Atlantic salmon caught in Alaska in to the nearest ADF&G office without being cleaned. According to ADF&G, there are concerns that Atlantic salmon might bring diseases to the five species of Pacific salmon and compete for food.

In addition to more recent cases of diseases among farmed fish and a high use of antibiotics, farmed Atlantic salmon also harmed the markets for Alaska fishermen trying to sell wild salmon (fish farming is banned in Alaska), and prices for Alaska fish dropped substantially when fish farms became more popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s only been in recent years that Alaska fishermen have started to regain some of their lost market share.

Sitka Conservation Society intern Molly Andrews has been keeping a blog this summer on the genetically modified salmon issue and what the fish could mean to Sitka. Molly’s blog has links to several stories about genetically modified salmon (recently called “Frankenfish” by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska). The blog also has contact information if people want to contact the FDA or other officials to make comments about genetically modified salmon.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publishes new sustainable gardening manual for Alaska

(The following is a press release from the University of Alaska Fairbanks news service)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has published a new comprehensive gardening manual.

“Sustainable Gardening: The Alaska Master Gardener Manual” was adapted for Alaska from an Oregon State University publication, “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook.”

The 490-page manual, which sells for $40, is a basic gardening text. It also offers information on soils and fertilizers, propagation, berry crops, pruning, composting, flowers, greenhouses and season extenders, lawns, plant diseases, pesticides and integrated pest management. The manual is a good resource for home gardeners and also will be used as one component in Extension’s master gardener training programs.

Michele Hebert, Extension’s Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent, was one of several people who contributed to the manual. She said gardeners need additional information to overcome the challenges and capitalize on the benefits of growing vegetables and flowers in the Far North.

The manual focuses on sustainable gardening practices, a holistic method for growing plants that is good for the environment, good for families and good for the community, said Hebert. “It takes a minimal input of labor, water, fertilizer and pesticides while building the soil into a healthy living system. A thoughtful balance is made between the resources used and the results gained.”

Other contributors to the manual include current and former Alaska Extension faculty Stephen Brown, Jeff Smeenk, Tom Jahns, Robert Gorman (of Sitka), Fred Sorensen, Julie Riley, Heidi Rader, Bob Wheeler, Peter Bierman and Jay Moore. Copies may be ordered through Extension’s toll-free line at 1-877-520-5211 or by clicking this link.

(The Alaska Public Radio Network ran this story about the book on the Tuesday, Sept. 7, Alaska News Nightly show.)

• Sitka Local Foods Network featured on APRN’s “Talk of Alaska” statewide call-in show about local food production

Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane was one of the featured guests for the Alaska Public Radio Network’s “Talk of Alaska” statewide call-in show hosted by Steve Heimel on Tuesday, March 30.

The topic of Tuesday’s hour-long show was “Local Food Production.” If you weren’t able to hear the show, you can listen to it by clicking this link and then looking for the arrow above the comments box. In addition to Kerry, the other featured guest was Tim Meyers of Meyers Farm in Bethel. Some of the topics on this show included community supported agriculture (CSA) farms, spring planting, the Sitka Farmers Market, the Sitka Seafood Festival, the new Alaska Food Policy Council, sac roe herring, composting, soil conditions and other issues.

Some of the clips from Tuesday’s Talk of Alaska show were reorganized into a news feature story that ran on Wednesday’s “Alaska News Nightly” half-hour newscast on APRN. The news feature used some of Kerry MacLane’s comments about the Sitka Local Foods Network, but there were several minor errors in the story about what’s going on in Sitka.

By the way, this isn’t the first time local food has been featured on Talk of Alaska this year. In October 2009, Talk of Alaska did a show “Our Food Supply” as a preview for the Bioneers of Alaska annual conference.

• Wanton waste of deer meat, a record high herring quota and other local foods stories in the news

Over the past couple of weeks, at least 10 Sitka black tail deer corpses have been found in Sitka with lots of edible meat still on the bone but the prime cuts missing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, state wildlife officials are searching for the hunters, and wanton waste charges may be coming for those involved. There were six deer found off Green Lake Road, then four deer were found near Harbor Mountain Road five days later.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages the responsible and sustainable harvesting of traditional subsistence foods, such as deer, but we must respect the resource and use the entire animal. Not only is leaving edible meat in the field wasteful, but the last couple of years have been down years for deer survival and the actions of these wasteful hunters may mean fewer hunting opportunities next year for hunters who need the deer to feed their families. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 747-3254 or, to remain anonymous, Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.

In other local foods news, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game established a record sac roe herring quota for the 2010 season, a quota of more than 18,000 tons (more than 4,000 tons higher than last year’s then-record quota). The commercial herring fleet is very happy with the higher quota, but KCAW-Raven Radio reports local subsistence gatherers worry that the record quota will harm their ability to gather herring eggs on hemlock branches, a popular subsistence and barter food for local Tlingít and Haida residents. They also worry two straight years of record quotas will hurt the resource, since herring also serves as a key forage food for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other species in the region.

The Juneau Empire reported that the State of Alaska asked for an extension to reply to an inquiry on subsistence management from the federal government. The federal government took over some management of subsistence in Alaska more than a decade ago because state laws weren’t in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which calls for a rural preference on subsistence in times of shortage, and the federal government may be expanding its role in subsistence management.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Alaska pork being ready for the freezer at A.D. Farms, and that pork will be sold at the indoor farmers market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The story included a wrap-up of other local foods available at the market, and it had a recipe for crock-pot cod.

Laine Welch’s Alaska fishing column was about how more local fish is appearing in school lunch menus.

The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Newsreader feature reported on several Arctic travelers getting trichinosis from eating undercooked bear meat. The National Post of Canada also had a story on travelers eating undercooked bear meat, while the New York Times had an article about how trichinosis is common in bear meat that isn’t cooked properly.

The Anchorage Daily News had an article about how Alaska’s rhubarb probably first came from Russia.

Miller-McCune magazine had an article about how Alaska’s complex salmon politics can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world.

The Alaska Public Radio Network reported on a woman from Aniak, Dee Matter, who has taken freezing her food to a new level. The story also was on APRN’s Alaska News Nightly show.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had a feature article about Kotzebue hunter and trapper Ross Schafer and the “Eskimo” way of life.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had an article about a conflict between farmers and hunters over the future of the Delta bison herd.

The Juneau Empire ran a story about glaciers providing an important food source.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote about magazine gifts for gardeners.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about Monsanto’s role in the business of agriculture, especially the way it squeezes out competitors in the seed industry.

Finally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog featured an article about a new study about food security challenges in Alaska.