Thursday, July 28, 2011

Slighting Chris Mpelkas:Cornell's lack of research

Message body

“‘Grow Lux’ are a special type of fluorescent lamp that has been marketed by lighting manufacturers. This type of lamp emits more light in the blue and red portion of the spectrum (the visual output looks somewhat purple) than the standard fluorescent lamp.  Little scientific evidence exists that suggests such light sources are better than a comparable cool white fluorescent light source.”
Please bear with me. I have been reading your online website concerning your successful construction and continuing production in your lettuce house at Ithaca NY. My daughter was a student there while it was under construction and put into production. I have purchased the product at Wegman’s. Congratulations on a great project. However, I have a bone to pick, and you are the contact person on the website.
  Gro-Lux is not “ a lamp marketed by lighting manufacturers”. It is a trademark of Sylvania/GTE. They are the only one’s selling Gro-Lux. It and the Wide Spectrum are specific lamps with a specific set of wave lengths. I’m sorry that you feel no research has been done on the the GRO-Lux and the Wide Spectrum Gro Lights technology that you or Cornell feels is worth mentioning..
Christos C. Mpelkas not only did a life time of research on this lighting technology, he was the driving force behind it’s creation and implementation.. He was in the Army Hydroponic WWII, and designed, coordinated, conducted, catalogued, and consulted on a multitude of experiments for 50 years nationally and world wide by everyone from the Army Food labs at Natick Mass. to urban hydroponic.installations in Japan, Huston Texas, and University of Alaska, 5000’ deep underground research and production facilities in Sudbury Canada, (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, tree seedlings) and the Rocky Mountain Nat. Park for growing replacement tree seedlings for our Nat. Park Service., to mention only a few,  using these lamps.
Chris, who was a plant physiologist and one of the very first photobiologists, also pioneered HID lighting and was involved with many projects with HID, HP sodium, and all other aspects of this field. He knew that the best “Action Spectrum” for biological lighting was a 1:1 ratio of the Standard and the Wide Spectrum Gro Lite’s. They still are! These lamps do not fill all the bills, he was aware of that and so am I .But to ignore the contribution of this man and his work is to make the entire field of food crop production, and us,  somehow smaller and less relevant..
Just because Chris disagreed with Dr.Langhans on his approach to lighting, (Langhan’s received instruction from Chris, by the way) is no reason to disregard him in the history of this technology. Chris was the #1 Pioneer in this field. To have an institution such as Cornell ignore a lifetime of development in this field, especially where Chris’ technology is being used in your lettuce house, is to slight his life’s work, at best. He is listed in Who’s Who, and has been published in ElSevier, Illuminating Engineers of America, countless academic journals and Sylvania Bulletins.  As you are an academic, and writing about this important aspect of growing food crops with indoor lighting seems to be your province, I would expect better from Cornell and their professors, and so would Chris. I’m sorry if I sound perturbed, but I am a little upset that this technology, that has been used since 1958, would be given such short shrift.
Below you will find an email string concerning questions asked of Sylvania/GTE about their programs. Chris was their photobiologist for 40 years, sold millions of lamps, and published hundreds of documents. Please paste the link into your browser for the full exchange. If you desire more information on Chris, please let me know. He was my partner and friend from his retirement until his passing.
Thank You
Dwight S. Collins
Controlled Environment Agriculture Inc
Medford, Ma.
"Jeff Waymouth" <jfwaymouth3@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
I have always wondered what's the story behind the the GROLUX Standard
>> because, when I started growing plants in my apartment in the 70's,
>> that lamp often seemed to be the only available fluorescent plant light
>> in many department stores. There were plant lights from GE available
 I'm afraid I can't answer that question. The only thing that I can say is
> that, for years and years, we had a photobiologist as a part of our staff.
> His name was Christos Mpelkas (Greek, Ionnis!) and knew more about all
> horticultural lighting applications than any person I have ever met.
> He retired about 10 or 15 years ago and died a few years ago.
> If you look deeply into the old engineering bulletins that GTE SYLVANIA put
> out, you will find his name associated with every single one.
> The only thing I can think of is that he knew this was the best
> formulation and insisted upon it.
> By the way, one thing I learned (long ago) from sitting in on one of his
> presentations is that the absolute best blend of light for sprouting and
> growing plants is NOT simply the GROLUX. It is a one for one mix of
GRO_LUX and GROLUX Wide Spectrum. That provides the best red to blue and
> red to far red ratios for general plant illumination.
> A personal thought here, I have never understood how people can talk about
> light for plant growth in terms using footcandles for an intensity curve.
> Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) is a much better measure, since
> footcandles are based on lumens whic are based on the human eye's
> sensitivity curve, which is heavily greeen weighted (peaking at 555nm)
> which is a color are amost plants do not use at all (or how do we see
> their leaves as greeen?)
> Jeff Waymouth
Re: Gro−Lux Standard Phosphor Identification
 Christos C. Mpelkas
Christos C. Mpelkas ’49, 80, of Mansfield, a noted plant physiologist who championed a method of rapidly growing crops without sunlight or soil, died Saturday 6 January, 2001, at Union Hospital inLynn following a short illness.
Mr. Mpelka's quest to grow lettuce, cucumbers, and other crops much faster and more efficiently took him from the deserts of the Middle East and the ravaged countrysides of Europe during World War II to abandoned copper mines in Canada, where he helped grow trees 5,000 feet below ground to , finally, the banks of the Mystic River, where he set up a "farm" in an 8,000-square-foot Medford warehouse.
 A native of Lynn, Mr. Mpelkas earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts atAmherst and a master's degree in plant physiology from the University of Connecticut. During World War II, Mr. Mpelkas served in the European, African, and Middle Eastern theaters and was specialist in an emerging form of agriculture called hydroponics, in which the plants were grown in nutrient-packed solutions instead of soil. He consulted on projects ranging from food factories in Japan to the proposed NASA space station. After retiring in 1990, Mr. Mpelkas helped develop a business called Controlled Environment Agriculture Inc. in Medford.
 He leaves his wife, Angeline (Vlahakis); a daughter, Katherine A. of Lynn; three sons, Charles C. of Norton, John C. of Lancaster, and William C. of Lynn; 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Organic trade Assoc. Sues Monsanto

By Danielle Magnuson
July 18, 2011
More than 270,000 organic farmers are taking on corporate agriculture giant Monsanto in a lawsuit filed March 30. Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the family farmers are fighting for the right to keep a portion of the world food supply organic — and preemptively protecting themselves from accusations of stealing genetically modified seeds that drift on to their pristine crop fields.
Consumers are powerful. For more than a decade, a cultural shift has seen shoppers renounce the faster-fatter-bigger-cheaper mindset of factory farms, exposéd in the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. From heirloom tomatoes to heritage chickens, we want our food slow, sustainable, and local — healthy for the earth, healthy for animals, and healthy for our bodies.
But with patented seeds infiltrating the environment so fully, organic itself is at risk. Monsanto’s widely used Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola seed has already turned heirloom canola oil into an extinct species. The suing farmers are seeking to prevent similar contamination of organic corn, soybeans, and a host of other crops. What’s more, they’re seeking to prevent Monsanto from accusing them of unlawfully using the very seeds they’re trying to avoid.
“It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement,” says Public Patent Foundation director Dan Ravicher in a Cornucopia Institute article about the farmers’ lawsuit (May 30, 2011), “but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement.”
Even as the megacorporation enjoys soaring stock, the U.S. justice department continues to look into allegations of its fraudulent antitrust practices (The Street, June 29, 2011):
“Monsanto, which has acquired more than 20 of the nation’s biggest seed producers and sellers over the last decade, has long pursued a strict policy with its customers, obligating them to buy its bioengineered seeds every year rather than use them in multiple planting seasons. Farmers who disobey are blacklisted forever.”
It’s a wide net Monsanto has cast over the agricultural landscape. As Ravicher points out, “it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.” Imagine a world devoid of naturally vigorous traditional crops and controlled by a single business with a appetite for intellectual property. Did anyone else feel a cold wind pass through them? Now imagine a world where thousands of family farmers fight the good fight to continue giving consumers a choice in their food — and win.
The Cornucopia Institute
March 30th, 2011
Lawsuit Filed To Protect Themselves from Unfair Patent Enforcement on Genetically Modified Seed
Action Would Prohibit Biotechnology Giant from Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Innocently Contaminated by Roundup Ready Genes
NEW York: On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.
Monsanto has sued farmers in the United States and Canada, in the past, when their patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops.
The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.
“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed can contaminate and destroy organic seed for the same crop. For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually impossible to grow as a result of contamination.
Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa also face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops as well.
Monsanto is currently developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.
“Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now,” stated Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families.”
“Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield in the marketplace and in the courts,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for The Cornucopia Institute, one of the plaintiffs. “Monsanto, and the biotechnology industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in Washington.”
In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case.
“Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false,” added Ravicher who is also a Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.
Ravicher continued, “Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher. “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”
The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature’s Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The return of a zero-sum world