Wednesday, August 31, 2011

GMOs in International Aid Policy

Kenya is officially allowing the importation and growth of genetically modified organisms in their country. The National Biosafety Authority has approved GMOs and created regulations that allow fr GMO sale in the country.

Kenya's agriculture agency still has to create a system that allows an accepting farmer to grow GM maize without it spreading or contaminating a neighbor farmer who does not wish to use GMO crops. The approval of GMOs in Kenya is considered a great victory in the United States, especially for US based seed companies. Monsanto is already involved with field trials of GMO cotton and cassava. The country's biotechnology research programs are funded by Monsanto and also some projects are funded by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.

Hilary Clinton has encouraged Kenya to "welcome new technologies to bolster drought tolerance, disease resistance and crop yields". She has included GM technology as a strategy for long-term US food aid as is described in this Daily Nation Article, "US Urges long-term food aid for Kenya".

The seeds in USAid-funded programs including the Programme for Biosafety Systems were provided by American multi-national corporations.

Read more from this Daily Nation Article "US hand in embracing genetic products"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some rootworms are developing resistance to GM corn

Rootworms are now eating Bt corn which was genetically modified in order to be rootworm-resistant. The resistant bugs are not yet widespread, but if the bugs become more numerous and widespread, farmers may be forced to resume the use of pesticides.

As farmers continue to use the GM cop, this will hasten the development of the GM -resistant bugs.

Last month, rootworms collected from Iowa fields were able to pass resistance to the corn crop's toxins onto the next generation. The development of the resistance in these fields has been attributed to planting GM crops three consecutive years in a row.

Farmers are supposed to plant one fifth of their fields with un-modified corn where non-resistant rootworms would take refuge and then would dilute the GM-resistant gene pool, however may farmers do not practice this crop diversification.

Monsanto assures everyone that this might be an isolated incidence and it is unclear of how widespread the GM resistant rootworm might become . . . but it is estimated that about one third of the corn grown in the U.S. has Monsanto's "Cry3Bb1 gene" which is the main gene which carries the toxicity for rootworms in GM corn. If one third of our nation's corn crops contain the gene, it seems that the potential for widespread resistance is significant. This finding also could signal the development of superbugs which are resistant to other forms of GM crops.

Scientists are working on a new genetic modification to overcome superbugs called "RNA interference" which, Sarah Laskow explains in her Grist article "Monsanto fail: GMO crops are losing their pest control powers," builds genetic code into plants that "turns off essential genes of any bugs that eat it." As Laskow writes "At least, we hope it only applies to bugs."

For more information check out:
Wall Street Journal:
America BLOG:

Monday, August 29, 2011

GMOs as a Solution

I was on vacation and missed all this GMO-debate excitement, but it deserves a belated blog post.  Last week, this op-ed article in the New York Times by Nina C. Federoff prompted a strong response from anti-GMO activists.  Federoff argues that world hunger, the trends of climate change, require greater research on genetically modified (GMO) foods.  She further argues that the Environmental Protection Agency’s hesitance about GMO crops will make them too costly and impede research and development.
Federoff sites the example of the Green Revolution as proof that technology can feed the world.  The Green Revolution of course was able to produce these higher agricultural yields while running an ecological debt to soil, water reserves and nitrogen.  Now agricultural soils are seriously depleted, the nitrogen cycle has been completely interrupted by fertilizer production and the areas practicing this intensive agriculture are facing severe water shortages.  Federoff also points out that more livestock feed must be grown as more of the world’s population is consuming meat or making it a staple of their diet. She concludes that GMO development is not dangerous and that molecular methods have the same hazards as crop modification through other methods. 

This video Farmer to Farmer: The Truth About GM Crops shows the reality of GMOs and the trouble with herbicide resistant weeds.  "We've just been relying too heavily on Round-Up, in every crop."

Farmer to Farmer: The Truth About GM Crops from Pete Speller on Vimeo.

Anna Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Hot Planet, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund has also responded to this article with her own titled: Why GMOs Won't Feed The World (Despite What You Read in the New York Times).  She argues that instead of GMO technology, the global food system requires an investment in “sustainable intensification”.  When Anna Lappe writes about sustainable intensification, she is referring to “producing abundant food while reducing negative impacts on the environment” like the ecological debts I mentioned earlier.  The Food and Agriculture Organization has echoed these sentiments, especially with this report, Save and Grow which I  mentioned in the blog a little while ago.  The FAO has taken the position that the present industrial food system cannot meet the challenges of climate change and hunger. GM crops are owned and promoted by some of the world's largest corporations, when the demand for local and organic is what is actually increasing (in virtually every region of the world).  Only a decentralized, consumer-controlled food system can satisfy this need, no technology, no matter how extraordinary it is, can take the place of this policy change to benefit farmers and consumers. Lappe also addresses Federoff’s claims that GM crops are more environmental because they require less fertilizer or pesticide.  “An analysis of 13 years of commercialized GMOs in the United States actually found a dramatic increase in the volume of herbicides used on these crops”. 

Federoff's assertion that GMOs are necessary to produce enough feed to produce enough meat to feed a growing affluent population is especially offensive when this highlights the worst inequalities and inefficiencies of the global food system.  Federoff recommends that we use GM crops (threatening the environment) to feed more animals (which produce animal waste contaminated with antibiotics and greenhouse gases), while this diet further harms the animals (this post will remind you that GM feed has been linked to startling rates of livestock miscarriages), in order to feed our world's richest, fussiest eaters (who are prone to high blood pressure and heart disease from this addition to their diet)? Meanwhile, countries like Peru and Hungary, which have stable food supplies but no where near the surpluses of the United States, have banned GMO foods. 

In the mean time, it seems that there are not enough obstructions to slow the spread of GMOs around the world.  Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has filed a lawsuit against the White House Trade Representative, Office of Management & Budget and the State Department to release documents describing their partnership with the GMO industry.  The U.S. government is accused of entering a joint venture with the agricultural biotechnology industry to remove parries to the production and spread of GE crops.  PEER claims that the Biotechnology Industry Association  asked the White House for assistance in overcoming barriers to GMOs in wildlife refuges and the objections from GE-averse nations.  The government’s Agriculture Biotechnology Working Group, of 35 officials from 10 agencies, formed to promote GE agriculture.  

Why is the government taking biotechnology's side in this debate?  Why is this issue being framed as obstructions to research and scientific development and food solutions instead of taking precautions about GMOs' potential impact on animal, human, plant and ecological health especially with the evidence that GMOs or the Round-Up sprayed all over them may cause a wide range of potentially life threatening health conditions?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Youth Food Movement

Today, two articles came to my attention: one about a newly established American FoodCorps and the Youth Food Bill of Rights drafted at the Rooted in Community Leadership Summit.  The youth food movement is really inspiring.  Let's be honest, when kids stand up and demand more vegetables in their diet, they're understanding something that parents, the food industry and our government seem to have completely missed.  Large portions of the movement have originated in the inner city and among under privileged parts of the population which are really effected by absence of consideration for nutrition and health in food policy.  

The FoodCorps "places motivated young leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service."  FoodCorps was founded in 2009, but their first round of 50 volunteers is starting this summer, they are being trained to deliver nutrition education, establish school gardens and bring local food into school in order to cut obesity rates down to below 5% by 2050.  This Grist Article, "FoodCorps will teach kids, link farms and schools" highlights the investment FoodCorps is for our country with health-related obesity costs projected to reach $344 billion by 2018 according to Deb Eschmeyer, a FoodCorps founder.  Having graduated from college in May, and having panicked about my employment options for a couple months leading up to graduation, I can testify that these kinds of fellowship opportunities are in high demand in a time when 1 in 5 recent college grads is unemployed.  I got lucky in my transition between a youth food activist to a (kind of) professional food activist, but many grads need opportunities like GreenCorps.  

The Youth Food bill or Rights website explains: "The last farm bill was in 2008. There will be a new farm bill in 2012. We need a farm bill that prioritizes health and our next generation."  

On July 29, 2011 Youth Leaders from all across the nation came together at the 13th annual Rooted In Community Leadership Summit to create a Youth Food Bill of Rights. The Dignity Dialogues that took place to create this declaration inspired us to envision a Healthy Food System and enact Youth Food Bill of Rights. We have faced discrimination based on the color of our skin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, socio-economic status. We envision a food system which will respect our identities while providing us equal access to these rights.We the youth are committed to these rights and believe that all people locally, nationally, and globally are entitled, regardless of , or any and all other forms of discrimination.
    We the Youth declare, state, and demand the following rights for all people around the world with an emphasis on equality.  We demand healthy, organic, local, humane, affordable, sustainable, and culturally appropriate food for all people and especially low income people of color and low income people in our communities that are the most oppressed and hurt by the current food system.
  1. We demand respect for mother earth, for the Food Justice and Food Sovereignty culture, and for the indigenous cultures that are working to establish their own autonomous food systems.  All must respect and protect the land that grows our food.
  2. We demand an end to the mistreatment of workers, farmers, animals, and the environment, that is caused by our current food system.
  3. We demand government funding for more nutrition education, and awareness in our communities, and for all communities.  Education on things such as, but not limited to, health, seasonal produce, and diet related diseases, farming, organic, sustainability, alternative methods of farming and any and all subjects that those communities demand.  People have the right to know what’s in their food, and to decide what to eat.
    We promote educating parents on nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
    Schools in our communities and all over the world must establish and be leaders with the tools and education that promote a healthy lifestyle. We recommend that schools recognize youth lead fitness programs as tools for success.
  4. We the youth demand more healthy food choices in our schools, and in schools all over the world.  We want vending machines out of schools unless they have healthy choices.  We need healthier school lunches that are implemented by schools with the ingredients decided on by the Youth. We demand composting in schools and in our neighborhoods.
  5. We the youth call for the termination of any and all Genetically Modified seeds, plants, and produce.  We want a policy from the governments all over the world that ends GMO’s, no exceptions.
  6.  We the youth absolutely don’t want any chemicals or pesticides in our food!
  7. We the Youth demand a ban on High Fructose Corn Syrup and other additives, and preservatives that are a detriment to our and our communities’ health.  This must be implemented by our government, and governments around the world.
  8. We demand food that is grown within a 100-mile radius of our homes. We don’t want food traveling thousands of miles using up fossil fuels to get to our homes.
  9. We the youth demand that everyone working in the food system must be treated with respect, treated fairly, and earn at the minimum, a just living wage. For all those that are working in the food system we demand a model like the Domestic Fair Trade Association to be implemented.
  10.  We demand the implementation of regulations from all governments and peoples on a global scale that prevent corporations from globalizing our food systems and our world as we recognize this as seriously costly to global and local human health. 
  11. We demand an end to the subsidy of cash crops, including corn and soy beans.  Rather than our tax dollars going to subsidies for industrial farming, we demand financial support for small organic farmers.
  12. We want a restructuring of the process of being certified organic and fair trade.  This must come from the people and from grassroots movements across the world.
  13. We the youth demand that a policy be enacted allowing for unused land to be made available for communities to farm and garden organically and sustainably.
  14. We believe farmers and all people should have the freedom to save their seed.  Any law that prevents this should be reversed; no law shall ever be made to prevent seed saving.
  15. We demand an end to industrial farming, which accounts for one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Tighter regulation and steps must be made that will decrease the amount of emissions every year.
  16. We demand more farmers’ markets instead of super markets.  The number of farmer’s markets must be increased every year until there are more farmers’ markets than super markets.
  17. We demand the continuation and respect of all cultural history and significance of food and agriculture.  We must work to restore, remember, and regain our food culture, practices, and traditions in farming.
  18. We want healthy options in corner stores while empowering the community to make better food choices.  We demand more jobs for youth to work with our communities to make this happen and help them control their food systems.
  19. We demand school assemblies to recruit more youth to promote food justice.  The continuation of the movement for Food Justice, Food Sovereignty and cultivation of future Youth leaders is necessary for feeding our youth, our nation and our world. 
Why are none of these principles represented in our 2008 Farm Bill? Can Congress begin to implement these basic elements of a fair, nutritious, environmental food system in the 2012 Farm Bill?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Canola Contamination

Photo: Bob Baker, ABC
As more law suits against Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations crop up, the main concern driving this legal action is contamination of organic seeds and cross pollination between genetically modified and unmodified plants.  Even when precautions are taken and seeds are claimed to be sterile, this continues to occur and can have severe legal consequences for the farmer whose crops are contaminated and is viewed as a potential ecological disaster. 
This article from Australia Broadcasting Corporation highlights the unpredictability of GM contamination and that it is impossible for GM contamination to be prevented if these crops continue to be planted in so many areas requiring widespread transportation. 
A truck carrying GM canola caught fire, causing the contents to spill onto the side of the road.  The government just lifted a ban on GM canola last year, and this has infuriated those who are against GMOs including farmers and environmentalists.  The seeds that spilled from the truck have since germinated on the roadside and a nearby farmer is concerned about contamination. 
Nearby non-GMO farmers are calling for the moratorium in Western Australia to be reinstated.  Another ABC article focuses on the Safe Food Foundation's decision to seek legal advice in responding to the canola spill.  GM contamination is a likely result of spills like this.  Last year, scientists at the University of Arkansas found populations of wild canola plants with genes from genetically modified canola in the United States. Canola can interbreed with 490 different species of weeds around the world, and one quarter of them are found in the United States.  The scientists then completed sampling in a large area, traveling over 3,000 miles of highway to test the canola on the roadside.  There was wild canola in about 46% of the sites on the highway and about 83% of this canola contained herbicide resistant genes from genetically modified canola.  It's not surprising that Western Australia is reconsidering their moratorium.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ample Harvest and Urban Garden Scavengers

Even the White House is looking to home gardens and urban agriculture to improve our food system and food access inequalities.  The Campaign, is a national program that enables Americans who grow food in a home garden to donate excess harvest to registered local food pantries. was first created by Gary Oppenheimer because few food pantries had websites or any type of online presence for people to find them.  Since then the National Gardening Association partnered with  AmpleHarvest,.org to inform members of the opportunity to donate produce.  In July of 2011 the program partnered with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s move!” initiative with the goal of creating a healthier America. "Let's Move Faith and Communities" is a challenge to community leaders, faith-based and neighborhood organizations to help enact a number of programs and achieve specific goals including hosting 10,000 new community gardens or farmer's markets and hosting 1,000 new Summer Food Service Program Sites. 
Ample Harvest has brought fresh produce to more than 4,000 food pantries across the country adding 100 just in the month of July, 2011.  Ample Harvest estimates that more than 700,000 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to food pantries.
Local governments are taking similar approaches to leftover food in abandoned gardens.  In the New York Times article, At Vacant Homes, Foraging for Fruitby Kim Severson, exposes the acceptability of scavenging in abandoned gardens.  Areas with high foreclosure rates mean many empty houses and abandoned gardens.  There are government efforts to turn abandoned land into food – in Multnomah County, officials offer property seized for back taxes to community and governmental organizations for gardens.  Even after homeowners have left, these gardens provide for people living in the area.  These two trends demonstrate the importance of small gardens and urban agriculture in addressing food access problems now and in the future.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Minimizing the Impact of Your Cheese
This article "Is cheese killing the planet?" in Grist last week raised the issue of cheese production’s carbon footprint.  Many of us know that meats, especially beef and lamb have the highest carbon footprints on the planet.  A huge amount of energy is required to grow the food and supply the water for an animal to mature, and the green house gas emissions from livestock are greater than those produced by the entire transport sector. 
However, the number three worst product in terms of green house gas emissions (after beef and lamb) is cheese.  The carbon footprint is higher than other sources of meat and considerably higher than milk or yogurt.  The reason for this high carbon footprint is that a lot of milk is required to make cheese and the same input carbon footprint and methane outputs are associated with the production.
Other than reducing the amount of cheese you eat, the next best change to make is where your cheese is from.  “Well-managed, grass-fed systems generate far fewer environmental impacts, and they’re certainly a more ethical way to raise animals . . .”  Dairy farms have high environmental values despite their carbon emissions, when sustainably operated, they require fewer chemicals and pesticides, reduce water pollution, can fertilize soil, leave habitat for birds and small animals, and occupy land that would probably be converted to housing developments if cows didn’t live there (especially in Connecticut). 
Also, lower-fat less dense cheese have lower GHG emissions because when some fat is removed it is used to make butter reducing the inputs of dairy into the cheese without wasting dairy.  Younger cheese is generally considered more energy-efficient.  Feta, chevre, brie, camembert and mozzarella are considered “greener” cheese because they don’t require a lot of aging or processing. 
For local cheese sources (here in Connecticut) think about the following CT NOFA member farms:
Holbrook Farm
And for local milk:
The Farmer’s Cow (not a farm, but a Connecticut dairy coop that is probably available in your supermarket). 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Market Forces from the Union of Concerned Scientists

This report from the union of concerned scientists finds that more regional and local food systems create more jobs than the industrial food system. The numbers of farmers markets nationwide more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, and allows customers to invest directly in farmers and in their local economies.
The report explains that regional food systems reduce the social cost of food when compared with the private production costs, subsidies and externalities of food products.  Regional markets increase the competition in markets which have become increasingly monopolized by big agriculture corporations.  Local agriculture also localizes economic impacts of local food systems can be greater than those of conventional markets, because if food is purchased directly from a farmer than most of the revenue remains is retained in the area and this helps to stabilize local economies. 
The report found that the Farmers Market Promotion Program could create 13,500 jobs nationally over a five-year period, if reauthorized, by providing modest funding for 100 to 500 farmers markets per year (out of over 6,000 markets nationally). 13,500 jobs isn't much, but when added to the benefits of strong local economies, access to healthy food, and reduced food transportation costs, it seems like a no-brainer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thinking Ahead to Fall and Winter Harvests

While you’re getting lots of fruits and veggies in your home garden now,  you should be planning ahead to extend your growing season into the fall! For fall and winter harvests, you can start to plant seeds in July and early August. 
This website from the Hudson Valley Seed Library recommends planting the following seeds this week:
Arugula, Beets, Bok Choy, Carrots, Chinese Cabbage, Lettuce, Mibuna/Mizuna, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard, Tatsoi, Tendergreen, Turnips
Johnny’s Seeds website also has some helpful tools for you to plan your fall planting.  Check out the fall-planting calendar and seed-starting date calculator for advice on when to plant your seeds and when it is safe to do so.  For information on when to expect a frost in your area checkout this form.
Massaro Farm in Woodbridge, CT
Would you like some more information about fall and winter harvests? Think about CT NOFA’s On-Farm Workshop: Planning for the Fall and Winter Harvest next Monday, August 15 from 5:00pm to 8:00 pm.  Steve Munno, the Farm Manager of Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge, CT will discuss what and when to plant in order to have a good fall and winter harvest.  Here is a brief description of the workshop: “We’ll sow seeds directly in the ground and prepare others for future transplanting.   We’ll also have a chance to work with low hoops and floating row cover, which you can use to protect your crops from frost and help extend your harvest season.”
Registration is $10 for CT NOFA members and $15 for non-members.  Attendance is limited, so please preregister by calling the office at (203) 888-5146, printing and mailing this form or using our online registration. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Herbicide Recall

About three weeks ago, Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog included a story about the potential link between a DuPont herbicide named Imprelis, and the death of thousands of Norway spruce and white pine trees this summer.  Trees in or near areas treated with Imprelis are turning brown and dying along the East Coast and in the Midwest. 
The EPA conditionally approved Imprelis for sale last October.  To conditionally register a product means that the registration is granted even though all the data requirements to prove the safety of the product have not been satisfied, but the EPA assumes that no significant adverse impacts to the environment are possible as a result of the pesticide or herbicide application. 
Complaints that the herbicide caused tree deaths made DuPont first advise landscapers to refrain from using Imprelis near Norway spruce and white pine. The company has now voluntarily stopped the sale (after being strongly urged to do so by the EPA) of the herbicide because of its threat to trees and has organized a product return and refund product for mid-August.  The EPA wrote letters to the DuPont Chief Executive Ellen Kullman urging the company to release thousands of confidential documents that include details on Imprelis’ safety and the threat it might pose to plant life. 
This herbicide was advertised as the most scientifically advanced turf herbicide in over 40 years, and was used to control dandelions, clover, plantains, wild violet and ground ivy.  The chemical aminocyclopyrachlor is considered safe for humans, but is highly soluble in water and highly mobile in the soil.  The chemical spreads into the environment and is persistent.  The herbicide continues to effect non-target trees and despite being kept away from these trees when applied, has still been absorbed by the roots causing damage or death in the tree.  
 Imprelis was widely used in order to eliminate fairly benign plants (clover is actually good for your yard, it fertilizes the soil to make grass healthier and more durable), and forces us to ask ourselves if it’s worth the risk.  This loss of trees is comparable to the damages of emerald ash borer and other diseases and pests which have destroyed American trees, however this was completely caused by people, and only with the goal of improving the appearance of lawns and landscaping.  


Monday, August 8, 2011

In case you missed it!

Our city farm and garden tour was on Saturday! The weather held out and our 19 garden sites were on display with their wide variety of vegetables, flowers and some livestock!  Check out our photos on facebook, and this article in the New Haven Independent and this blog post by one of our gardeners!
 Selling tickets at the market
 Rebecca Kline at the Fair Haven Comunity Health Center and Chabaso Bakery Garden
 Sherill Baldwin shows me her garden in Fair Haven
 A home garden in Lenox Street, check out the sweet potatows (on the lower left), and raised beds! This garden had apple trees, hazelnut plants, peas, peppers, grapes, heirloom tomatoes . . . variety is really the spice of life here!
 Descending from Vincent Kay's workshop into his urban garden!
 Jessica Nelson's container garden.
 The Bioregional Lifeboat Garden on Whitney Avenue.
 The Yale Farm
Students working on the Farm.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Garden Tour Today

Today is the CT NOFA City Farm and Garden Tour! Come find CT NOFA at the Wooster Square Market (across Chapel Street from Wooster Square) and buy your tickets! Only $20 to visit 19 gardens, attend workshops, receive meal deals and attend a film screening of "Truck Farm".
We've also put together a last minute bike tour for which you can receive information at our booth! It's a beautiful day, think about spending it in New Haven's urban farms and gardens!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Plant Science Day

Yesterday I attended the Plant Science Day at Lockwood Farm in Hamden, Connecticut.
Plant Science Day is an annual event hosted by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. I’ve never been to Plant Science Day, but it was a fun experience for the first time! With a technical demonstration tent, a main tent, two barns and many exhibitor’s tents there were a lot of organizations represented and a number of scientists presenting research on Connecticut agriculture, much of it about dealing with plant diseases and pests.
There were a number of booths educating attendees about invasive insects harming Connecticut’s agriculture and wildlands. I even got a tattoo of an Asian Longhorn Beetle on my hand (so I know it’s appearance like the back of my hand!) One of the booths was CT NOFA's own, keep an eye out for us at other agriculture/environmental events around the state!

There are several experimental plots around the farm, growing what seemed like every variety of agricultural plant that could survive in a Connecticut climate. The were trials of specialty peppers, sweet potatoes, specialty eggplants, pumpkins, edamame and so many other interesting crops. The farm is also host to a number of experiments (keeping CAES true to their name) like control of blight on American chestnuts and growing chestnut hybrids.
There was an entire tent dedicated to arguably Connecticut's least favorite insect, the deer tick, but there was also some research which indicated that some botanical-based products, like garlic, can be used to reduce tick activity in your yard.
The bird and butterfly garden was the most beautiful aspect of the farm, and butterfly identification tours were lead through the garden every hour.

The Century Farm Award was presented to a farm that has been in family operation for more than 100 years. This year Collins Powder Farm in Enfield, CT received the award. The farm was first established in 1868 and is still overseen by the Collins family and is about 180 acres (with 158 acres in farmland preservation!)
After this presentation, Greg Schaan, the President & Chief Executive Officer, Imperial Nurseries, Inc. He discussed the vital role of nurseries in the state of Connecticut's economy. The horticulture industry produces about $1 billion in the state ot Connecticut, half of the entire contribution of agriculture to the state's economy. More than 46,000 acres of land are in production and the industry employs 48,000 people in the state.

Mr. Schaan shared that one of the main obstacles for the industry is the rising price of petroleum because so many products are petroleum based and the transportation costs are rising. He also discussed the role CAES has in the horticulture industry. They service the industry by inspecting plants to insure that they a clear of diseases and pests.

Having seen these facilities and the great job CAES did planning this event, I sincerely hope that the states budget cuts do not harm the CAES' program, and that they can continue to do their good work.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GMOs Solution for World Hunger

How many times have you heard the argument that we need GMOs in order to feed a growing population and take care of starvation and malnutrition? It seems to be the main argument in favor of genetically-modified foods.  This is frustrating for proponents of organic agriculture, since many studies show that over time, organic agriculture and sustainable farming practices have higher or equivalent yields to conventional agriculture.  An article in Huffington Post yesterday by John Robbins asked that exact question: “Can GMOs Help End World Hunger?”
His article looks at the actual efficacy of golden rice, since it was first publicized in Time magazine.  Golden rice is engineered to produce beta-carotene which can be converted to Vitamin A by the human body.  This became the main focus of the biotech industry’s advertising, that their research and products could end world hunger. 
However, as John Robbins discusses in this article, golden rice does not grow well in the areas with high rates of malnutrition and hunger . . . well not without the help of pesticides and herbicides.  Additionally, malnourished people are not able to efficiently absorb Vitamin A in this form.  Finally, the company which engineered golden rice, Monsanto, has also genetically modified the seeds so they cannot be saved from year to year, and will need to be purchased over and over again by the low-income farmers in developing countries. 
Once again, anti-GMO activists are able to demonstrate that they are not “anti-science” or “anti-solutions” but that they are anti-business.  There is enough food to feed the world, the fact that it is concentrated in the hands of just a few corporations in developed countries is already the main problem.  To embrace one type of rice patented by one company as the worldwide solution would be the agricultural equivalent to the atomic bomb. Definitely check out the article on the Huffington Post site, it's a very well-written, concise explanation of the holes in the "world hunger" argument in favor of GMO production.

Monday, August 1, 2011

An article from the Times of Zambia

I post on the blog frequently about organic agriculture's implementation abroad, especially in developing countries.  Yet another article about organic agriculture’s role in farming reform and climate adaptation in Zambia should draw our attention to organic as more than an alternative form of agriculture, but as the way best suited for the future.  In the United States, because organic produce is generally more expensive it is perceived more as a luxury for the wealthy, or something for vegans and Toyota Prius drivers.  But, in many other places, organic is becoming the solution to some huge obstacles in food production which entire countries, regions and continents are facing. 
This article, by Jessie Ngoma-Simengwa, mentions the threat that climate change poses to developing countries, and the fact that agricultural activities have large carbon footprints thereby contributing to climate change causing green house gas emissions.  While the Green Revolution refocused food production on crop yields, the issue is becoming long-term sustained production and productivity. With organic agriculture being the method encouraged to guarantee continued food production and climate resilience, there should be more incentive to grow this way in the United States (look at the ongoing droughts in America's southern regions).  Additionally, the research completed and techniques mastered in the United States can be shared with these vulnerable regions and are likely to be more helpful and effective than plain food aid.