Agriculture

Andrea Germanos – The Solution to Climate Change Right Under Our Feet

April 28, 2015

What if there were a risk-free way of helping to mitigate climate change while simultaneously addressing food and water security? A new report from the Center for Food Safety’s Cool Foods Campaign says that such an opportunity is possible, and it’s right below our feet. Soil & Carbon: Soil Solutions to Climate Problems outlines how it is possible to take atmospheric CO2, which is fueling climate change, and plug it into the soil. Far from moving the problem from one place to another, this shift can reduce ocean acidification because the oceans are no longer the sink for vast amounts of CO2, and can regenerate degraded soils by providing needed carbon. The report lays out the problem in this way: Humans are altering the chemistry of where carbon is stored, and climate change is a manifestation of that alteration. Another way of looking at the problem is that too much of the carbon that was once in a solid phase in the soil is now a gas. As a result, there is too much carbon in the atmosphere, too much in the ocean, but not enough stable carbon where it once was, in the soil. Read

Restoring Communities – Martin Adams

April 27, 2015

A proper community is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members—among them the need to need one another. The answer to the present alignment of political power with wealth is the restoration of the identity of community and economy. —Wendell Berry Every being on this planet is imbued with consciousness simply by virtue of their existence. Each being has an innate nobility, a dignity that can’t be tarnished, though the suffering of our human experience often blinds us to this reality. We’re all intimately connected to all that is, because we’re a part of life. When we seek to own a part of nature, we usually do so because we see ourselves as separate from nature. Yet we are deeply interconnected to one another and the Earth. And since every human being needs land in order to simply exist, doesn’t it follow that the value that land freely offers to all human beings would best be freely shared with all? Aside from the ethical implications that arise when we don’t share the value of land with one another, we’ll continue to experience a host of

Feeding the Future Through Agroecology – M. Jahi Chappell, Tara Ritter

April 23, 2015

The devastating drought in California, home to much of the country’s fruit and vegetable production, is spurring discussions about the future of food production in a new age of climate change. When broaching the topic of solving the future food dilemma—feeding a growing population while using the same amount of land and facing more volatile weather events—the arguments typically fall into one of two camps: 1.) produce more food on less land through the use of technology, chemicals, and genetically modified seeds, or 2.) turn to decentralized and diversified farming practices that naturally boost soil health and farm resilience, such as diverse crop rotations, cover crops, reducing tillage where it makes sense, and building local food systems. Feedstuffs, a weekly newspaper for agribusiness, recently ran an article on the topic of solving the future food dilemma that included results from an Oklahoma State University study called FooDS (Food Demand Survey). FooDS is a national online survey which includes at least 1,000 individuals each month, measuring consumers’ priorities, expectations, and awareness and concern about various food and agriculture issues, among other topics. When such studies appear in an agribusiness publication, one might expect them to highlight the benefits of technological fixes to farming problems. However,

Organic Food Industry Explodes as Consumer Demand Spikes – Lorraine Chow

April 22, 2015

Looks like organic food has gone from a new-age trend to a staple in supermarkets and many American diets. According to a new analysis from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), organic food sales in 2014 jumped 11 percent to $35.9 billion, claiming almost 5 percent of the total food sales in the U.S. The numbers are a huge spike since the OTA first kept record in 1997, where organic food sales only totaled around $3.4 billion, accounting for less than 1 percent of total food sales. Fruits and vegetables—the number one selling organic category—raked in $13 billion in sales, a 12 percent increase from the prior year. Organic fruits and vegetables now account for 12 percent of all produce sold in the nation. Organic dairy also jumped 11 percent in sales last year to $5.46 billion, the biggest percentage increase for that category in six years. Organic food has consistently far outshone the three percent growth pace for the total food industry, the OTA said. There are many reasons why more consumers are buying organic, including the perception that it’s healthier, more sustainable and has fewer pesticides. As we previously reported, the Rodale Institute found that there is 7 percent pesticide residue in organic foods as opposed to 38 percent in conventional produce. Read

Rural Rebellion in Northern California – SHEPHERD BLISS

April 22, 2015

Rural folk from four Northern California counties came in mid-April to a magical juncture where the life-giving Russian River empties into the majestic Pacific Ocean. Though the small, unincorporated village of Jenner is a popular recreational destination, pleasure was not the intention. Our mission was to preserve agrarian lifestyles and environments from further colonization by industrial wineries. Large corporate wineries–owned mainly by outside investors–were the main target. Water and California’s worsening drought were discussed. Some reported that wells had gone dry after large wineries dug as much as 1000 feet into the ground to extract precious, limited water for their factories. It takes about 30 gallons of water to make one glass of wine. “Our water is being exported,” reported one person. “Save water, drink wine” bumper stickers appear on cars and as signs outside wine tasting rooms. Given the large amount of water it takes to make wine, this advertisement is not true. From Agriculture to Monoculture Sonoma County currently has 70,000 acres (and growing) of wine grapes and only 12,000 acres of food crops. As grapegrower Bill Shortridge says, “We’ve gone from an agriculture that benefitted all, to a monoculture that benefits a few.” Modifying an old statement,

Here’s the Real Problem With Almonds – Tom Philpott and Julia Lurie

April 16, 2015

Almonds: crunchy, delicious, and…the center of a nefarious plot to suck California dry? They certainly have used up a lot of ink lately—partly inspired by our reportingover the past year. California’s drought-stricken Central Valley churns out 80 percent of the globe’s almonds, and since each nut takes a gallon of water to produce, they account for close to 10 percent of the state’s annual agricultural water use—or more than what the entire population of Los Angeles and San Francisco use in a year. As Grist’s Nathanael Johnson put it, almonds have become a scapegoat of sorts—”the poster-nut for human wastefulness in California’s drought.” Or, as Alissa Walker put it in Gizmodo, “You know, ALMONDS, THE DEVIL’S NUT.” It’s not surprising that the almond backlash has inspired a backlash of its own. California agriculture is vast and complex, and its water woes can’t hang entirely on any one commodity, not even one as charismatic as the devil’s nut almond. And as many have pointed out, almonds have a lot going for them—they’re nutritious, they taste good, and they’re hugely profitable for California. In 2014, almonds brought in a whopping $11 billion to the state’s economy. Plus, other foods—namely, animal products—use a whole lot more water per ounce than almonds. Read

Monsanto is the Dept. of Homeland Security for food – Jon Rappoport

April 16, 2015

“Whenever people encounter a crazy idea, a high-flying absurd notion, they reject it out of hand. That’s the first impulse. ‘No, no one would believe that. It’s ridiculous.’ But as time passes, and this crazy idea is repeated over and over again, people make adjustments to their own minds. ‘Well, maybe it’s true, a lot of important authorities accept it, so maybe I should accept it. I guess it does make sense.’ This is the process of buying a cover story, buying an egregious lie meant to obscure a hidden truth.” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport) Being the US government means being on permanent wartime status. Wherever it is possible to fantasize enemies, enemies are there. They must be conquered. They must be stopped. It’s a vast cover story that, among other benefits, provides enormous profits to the military industrial complex. Here’s an addition to the cover story: to accomplish this war on everything that moves, advanced technology must be deployed—and those who resist the omnipresence and domination of the technology are considered potential terrorists. Even a small organic American farmer on an acre of land can qualify as a threat, because he appears to oppose the technology of genetic engineering, as

Food, Farming and Climate Change: It’s Bigger than Everything Else – Ryan Zinn

April 14, 2015

Record-breaking heat waves, long-term drought, “100-year floods” in consecutive years, and increasingly extreme superstorms are becoming the new normal. The planet is now facing an unprecedented era of accelerating and intensifying global climate change, with negative impacts already being widely felt. While global climate change will impact nearly everyone and everything, the greatest impact is already being felt by farmers and anyone who eats food. When we think of climate change and global warming, visions of coal-fired power plants and solar panels come to mind. Policy discussions and personal action usually revolve around hybrid cars, energy-efficient homes and debates about the latest technological solutions. However, the global agriculture system is at the heart of both the problem and the solution. Industrial agriculture is a key driver in the generation of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, heavy machinery, monocultures, land change, deforestation, refrigeration, waste and transportation are all part of a food system that generates significant emissions and contributes greatly to global climate change. Industrial agricultural practices, from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to synthetic fertilizer-intensive corn and soy monocultures, genetically modified to tolerate huge amounts of herbicide, not only contribute considerable amounts of GHGs, but also underpin an inequitable

US Agribusiness, GMOs And The Plundering Of The Planet

April 10, 2015

Small family/peasant farms produce most of the world’s food. They form the bedrock of global food production. Yet they are being squeezed onto less than a quarter of the planet’s farmland. The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful land speculators and agribusiness corporations. By definition, peasant agriculture prioritises food production for local and national markets as well as for farmers’ own families. Big agritech corporations on the other hand take over scarce fertile land and prioritise commodities or export crops for profit and foreign markets that tend to cater for the needs of the urban affluent. This process displaces farmers from their land and brings about food insecurity, poverty and hunger. What big agribusiness with its industrial model of globalised agriculture claims to be doing – addressing global hunger and food shortages – is doing nothing of the sort. There is enough evidence to show that its activities actually lead to hunger and poverty - something that the likes of GMO-agribusiness-neoliberal apoligists might like to consider when they propagandize about choice, democracy and hunger: issues that they seem unable to grasp, at least beyond a self-serving superficial level. Small farmers

Saving Seeds: Farmers Rise Up Against Industry-Backed Laws

April 10, 2015

For millennia, the practice of saving and exchanging seeds has been fundamental to crop production in farming communities across the globe. Now, faced with a growing push on the part of governments and corporate agribusiness to limit this practice and thus threaten the food sovereignty of millions, farmers worldwide are fighting back. International peasant farmer and food justice groups La Via Campesina and Grain on Wednesday released a new publication detailing how corporate interests are threatening these age-old techniques through privatization, so-called free trade agreements, and aggressive ‘seed laws,’ and what small farmers and indigenous groups are doing to resist these efforts. According to the publication, entitled Seed Laws That Criminalize Farmers: Resistance and Fightback(pdf), since the rise of ‘seed laws,’ which grew from the large-scale production and commercialization of seeds, the traditional practice of seed saving and sharing has been under threat. While ‘seed laws’ often refer to intellectual property rules such as patent laws, the report notes that the criminalization of peasant seed practices comes in a number of forms, including “those that regulate trade and investments; regulations related to the health of plants; certification and so-called ‘good agricultural practices’ related to marketing; or so-called biosafety regulations.” These laws are often passed at
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