Agriculture

Natasha Geiling – With Twice The Protein As Quinoa, The Pulse Might Be The Year’s New Hot ‘Superfood’

January 7, 2016

Move over, quinoa, kale, and açaí– 2016’s newest superfood might come in a familiar package (or can). Pulses — the dried edible seeds of legume plants, which include things like lentils, dried peas, and beans — are hoping to get their moment in the spotlight, thanks in part to a United Nations campaign to make 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Pulses have twice the protein of quinoa and require just 1/10 the amount of water needed to produce beef. Pulses are already a well-known entity outside of the developed world — according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, pulses make up nearly 75 percent of the average diet in developing countries. Nutritionally, pulses are a key source of protein for those who don’t have access to, cannot afford, or choose not to eat meat — containing between 20 and 25 percent protein by weight, pulses have twice the protein of quinoa, making them an attractive replacement for meat-based protein. Read

Matt Kelly – Meet This Third-Generation Farmer Who Converted His 1,400 Acres to Growing Organic Food

December 29, 2015

In the U.S., corn is our big crop: 94 million acres farmed in 2012. It’s followed by soybeans (76 million acres) and wheat (49 million acres). There’s also the 55 million acres used to grow hay for livestock. And keep in mind that the majority of this corn is being used to feed animals; the remainder is used to manufacture starch, sweeteners, corn oil, beverage and industrial alcohols, and ethanol. We also export up to 20 percent of the corn we produce. The soybeans we use for animal feed, to make hydrogenated vegetable oil, or export up to 40 percent. Wheat we use for flour, but the amount we grow in this country has decreased 30 percent since 1981 because of the financial incentives for farmers to grow corn; we also export up to 50 percent of the wheat still produced. Contrast this with the 4 million acres used for vegetables and 5 million acres covered with orchards. And the tiny 572,000 acres used to grow sweet corn. The kind of corn you actually eat. The kind of corn actually grown to be real food for people. Read

Former CDC Director Julie Gerberding sells 38,368 shares of Merck Stock for $2.3 Million

December 29, 2015

Julie Gerberding was in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2002 to 2009, which includes the years the FDA approved the Merck Gardasil vaccine. Soon after she took over the CDC, she reportedly [1]completely overhauled the agency’s organizational structure, and many of the CDC’s senior scientists and leaders either left or announced plans to leave. Some have claimed that almost all of the replacements Julie Gerberding appointed had ties to the vaccine industry. [2] Gerberding resigned from the CDC on January 20, 2009, and took over as the president of Merck’s Vaccine division, a 5 billion dollar a year operation, and the supplier of the largest number of vaccines the CDC recommends (article here [3]). Read

DAN BREZNITZ – Trans-Pacific Partnership is a wonderful idea – for China

December 28, 2015

The website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proudly describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership as “Made in America.” It does so to position this treaty, made up of a motley crew of allies, as a bulwark of free competitive markets against China. It is only fair, then, to judge the TPP on these merits: Will it lead to freer, more competitive markets and more rapid economic growth? Does it offer a better future for the U.S. and Canadian middle classes? Worryingly to those of us who believe that entrepreneurship is crucial for economic growth, the TPP is failing on its declared goals. Once ratified, the agreement will make our markets less free and less competitive, and it will particularly hurt innovation-based entrepreneurship. This could not come at a worse time for our future economic growth, since, as The Economist has just reported, we are already at historic lows in the formation and growth of new companies and historically high levels of concentration across many industries. Read

MARTHA ROSENBERG – Brave New Food: GEs and Clones are Heading to the Dinner Table

December 17, 2015

Consumers, safety activists, Big Food, biotech companies and many of the US’s importing and exporting partners have been closely watching to see if the FDA would approve the genetically engineered AquAdvantage Salmon, which it did last month. Of course unlabeled GE crops are eaten by millions and GE animals have been created to make human drugs largely under the public radar. Still the AquAdvantage Salmon is the first approved GE animal destined for the US dinner table. The AquAdvantage Salmon is not the only GE food animal in the works. Scientists at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where Dolly the cloned sheep was created, have spent years creating chickens that can be used as “biofactories” to make eggs with interferon and other disease-fighting substances. Read

Millet: The missing link in prehistoric humans’ transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer

December 15, 2015

New research shows a cereal familiar today AS BIRDSEED WAS CARRIED ACROSS EURASIA BY ANCIENT SHEPHERDS AND HERDERS LAYING THE FOUNDATION, IN COMBINATION WITH THE NEW CROPS THEY ENCOUNTERED, OF ‘MULTI-CROP’ AGRICULTURE AND THE RISE OF SETTLED SOCIETIES. ARCHAEOLOGISTS SAY ‘FORGOTTEN’ MILLET HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN MODERN CROP DIVERSITY AND TODAY’S FOOD SECURITY DEBATE. The domestication of the small-seeded cereal millet in North China around 10,000 years ago created the perfect crop to bridge the gap between nomadic hunter-gathering and organised agriculture in Neolithic Eurasia, and may offer solutions to modern food security, according to new research. Read

Crawford Kilian – The Silent Epidemic Killing White American Women

December 14, 2015

A momentous new report took up just six pages in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The title had no spoilers: “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” The authors were Anne Case of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and Angus Deaton of Princeton, the recent winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. They presented a calm account of a social, political, and ethnic disaster that has struck the United States but no other industrial nation apart from the countries of the former Soviet bloc. In the 15 years between 1998 and 2013, about half a million Americans died years sooner than they should have. Read

Joseph Stigliz – When Inequality Kills

December 14, 2015

his week, Angus Deaton will receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare.” Deservedly so. Indeed, soon after the award was announced in October, Deaton published some startling work with Anne Case in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – research that is at least as newsworthy as the Nobel ceremony. Analyzing a vast amount of data about health and deaths among Americans, Case and Deaton showed declining life expectancy and health for middle-aged white Americans, especially those with a high school education or less. Among the causes were suicide, drugs, and alcoholism. Read

Colin Todhunter – The Toxic Agriculture Of Monsanto And Big Agribusiness vs Agroecology Rooted In Communities And Locally Owned

December 11, 2015

Based on the results on his farm in Gujarat, Indian farmer and campaigner Bhaskar Save demonstrated that by using traditional methods, his yields were superior to any farm using chemicals in terms of quantity, nutritional quality, biological diversity, ecological sustainability, water conservation, energy efficiency and economic profitability. Bhaskar Save died in October, but in 2006 he published a now quite famous open letter to the Indian Minister of Agriculture and other top officials to bring attention to the mounting suicide rate and debt among farmers. He wanted policy makers to abandon their policies of promoting the use of toxic chemicals that the ‘green revolution’ had encouraged. According to Save, the green revolution had been a total disaster for India by flinging open the floodgates of toxic agro-chemicals which had ravaged the lands and lives of many millions of farmers (for example, read about the impact in Punjab). He firmly believed that organic farming in harmony with nature could sustainably provide India with abundant, wholesome food. Read

Julia Wright – Farmers would do better to understand the land than grow GM crops

December 10, 2015

Suppose your relationship is falling apart and you want to save it. To find the best counsellor, you might search online or ask your friends. It’s no different in agriculture. The rational response to any food or farming dilemma is to test and compare different options to see which is most effective as a solution. Except when it comes to genetic modification (GM). I have yet to hear of a research trial where a newly developed GM crop has been compared with other approaches to address the problem it claims to solve. If the goal was to identify the most effective solution, this would be very odd – but if the real goal is to find a use for the technology, it makes perfect sense. Here’s an example from my work in the subtropics (I better not name the country). In the 2000s, one region experienced several consecutive years of severe drought. The worst affected area saw over 3,000 wells dry up, and over 2,000 of its cattle lost. Many farmers were unable to sow their staple maize crop. The easy culprit was climate change, since temperatures had risen half a degree in recent years. What was less frequently pointed
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