Tag Archives | Agriculture

The Fiefdom Will Soon Be Complete: Wall Street Buying Up Farmland

PIC: LOC (PD)

PIC: LOC (PD)

Not merely satisfied with purchasing our foreclosed homes en masse and charging us to rent them back (thanks to a crisis they created), Wall Street has set their sights on America’s fertile soils. Sing it with me! This land is their land, this land is their land…

Via Tom Philpott at Mother Jones:

In a couple of posts last fall, I showed that corporations don’t do much actual farming in the United States. True, agrichemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta mint fortunes by selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, and grain processors like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill reap billions from buying crops cheap and turning them into pricey stuff like livestock feed, sweetener, cooking oil, and ethanol. But the great bulk of US farms—enterprises that generally have razor-thin profit margins—are run by independent operators.

That may be on the verge of changing. A recent report by the Oakland Institute documents a fledgling, little-studied trend: Corporations are starting to buy up US farmland, especially in areas dominated by industrial-scale agriculture, like Iowa and California’s Central Valley.

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Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?

Hazardous-pesticideIn recent years, no company has been more associated with evil than Monsanto, says Lessley Anderson, asking “why?” for Modern Farmer:

The house was raised above the ground, like a mushroom or a white ray gun, its rooms radiating out like spokes of a wheel. It was 1957 and this was the “House of the Future,” a prototype modular house created by Monsanto, in collaboration with M.I.T. to help solve the housing crisis baby boom America was in the middle of. Not coincidentally, the house was made of plastic, one of Monsanto’s products at the time.

“They imagined fast subdivisions of this house, like Levittown,” says Gary Van Zante, curator of architecture and design at the M.I.T. Museum.

While that never happened, Walt Disney did select it as an exhibition at his new Disneyland. For 10 years, until it was torn down, the chemical giant’s creation stood peacefully in The Happiest Place On Earth, where millions of people marveled at it.

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No, GMOs Won’t Harm Your Health

Soybean fields at Applethorpe FarmBefore y’all freak out, no disinformation is not endorsing GM crops. We do think it’s worth reading about what the proponents of genetically modifying crops are saying, however. In this article at Medium by Indre Viskontas of the Inquiring Minds podcast, Dr. Steven Novella argues that many of the fears surrounding genetically modified crops are unsupported:

With historic drought battering California’s produce and climate change expected to jeopardize the global food supply, there are few questions more important than what our agriculture system should look like in the future. And few agricultural issues are more politically charged than the debate over genetically modified organisms. Even as companies like Monsanto are genetically engineering plants to use less water and resist crop-destroying pests, activists are challenging the safety and sustainability of GM foods.

For this week’s episode of Inquiring Minds, I spoke with Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale University. Novella is a prominent voice in the skeptical movement, a scientific movement that, as he describes it, focuses heavily on explaining the truth behind “common myths—things that people believe that aren’t true.” So I asked him to help sort out fact from fiction when it comes to industrial agriculture in general—and GMOs in particular.

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The Great Forgetting

Photo: JLantzy

Photo: JLantzy

Lest we forget our once and former culture … Via Deep Ecology Hub:

The Great Forgetting refers to the wealth of knowledge that our culture lost when we adopted our new civilized lifestyle. The knowledge that allowed indigenous cultures to survive, the knowledge that we had once also been tribal and the understanding that we were but one mere culture of thousands. All of this disappeared in a few short generations.

The Great Forgetting accounts for an enourmous cultural collapse as once tribal people found themselves in a new and strange mass centralized society. New beliefs, new ways of life rushed into this cultural vaccuum to fill the void. But without being tested by natural selection over thousands of years this new culture was evolutionarily unstable.

It is only recently that the Great Forgetting has been exposed. Understanding it holds the key to making sense of our destructive culture.

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Monsanto Goes Organic

Yes, you read that right, Monsanto is concocting a line of trademarked organic vegetables. Let’s hope it takes off and they decide to give up on their favorite genetically modified varietals. Report from Wired:

…Changing the agricultural game is what Monsanto does. The company whose name is synonymous with Big Ag has revolutionized the way we grow food—for better or worse. Activists revile it for such mustache-twirling practices as suing farmers who regrow licensed seeds or filling the world with Roundup-resistant super­weeds. Then there’s Monsanto’s reputation—scorned by some, celebrated by others—as the foremost purveyor of genetically modified commodity crops like corn and soybeans with DNA edited in from elsewhere, designed to have qualities nature didn’t quite think of.

seminisSo it’s not particularly surprising that the company is introducing novel strains of familiar food crops, invented at Monsanto and endowed by their creators with powers and abilities far beyond what you usually see in the produce section.

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Peak Oil Can Wait: Peak Food Beckons

Ansel Adams - Farm workers and Mt. WilliamsonPeak Food is a term you may be hearing more of in 2014. The Guardian via Raw Story reports on a new study published in Nature dryly entitled “Distinguishing between yield advances and yield plateaus in historical crop production trends,” but within are some worrying findings:

Industrial agriculture could be hitting fundamental limits in its capacity to produce sufficient crops to feed an expanding global population according to new research published in Nature Communications.

The study by scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln argues that there have been abrupt declines or plateaus in the rate of production of major crops which undermine optimistic projections of constantly increasing crop yields. As much as “31% of total global rice, wheat and maize production” has experienced “yield plateaus or abrupt decreases in yield gain, including rice in eastern Asia and wheat in northwest Europe.”

The declines and plateaus in production have become prevalent despite increasing investment in agriculture, which could mean that maximum potential yields under the industrial model of agribusiness have already occurred.

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The Future of the World Food Supply is Logical, Well Known and Wrong

USMC-110804-M-IX060-108Jonathan Foley, Director of the Institute on the Environment, is looking to change the dominant narrative on the global food supply. He writes for ensia:

There’s a powerful narrative being told about the world’s food system — in classrooms, boardrooms, foundations and the halls of government around the world. It’s everywhere. And it makes complete sense when you listen to it. The problem is, it’s mostly based on flawed assumptions.

You’ve probably heard it many times. While the exact phrasing varies, it usually goes something like this: The world’s population will grow to 9 billion by mid-century, putting substantial demands on the planet’s food supply. To meet these growing demands, we will need to grow almost twice as much food by 2050 as we do today. And that means we’ll need to use genetically modified crops and other advanced technologies to produce this additional food. It’s a race to feed the world, and we had better get started.

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Global Food Supplies Threatened By Climate Change

Песня жаворонка(3264-2448)Will the Greedy Lying Bastards deny that this is a problem? A leaked draft of a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that food production is likely to go down by two percent (2%) each decade due to global warming. From the New York Times:

Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.

In a departure from an earlier assessment, the scientists concluded that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effects on crops in some places, but that globally they will make it harder for crops to thrive — perhaps reducing production over all by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, compared with what it would be without climate change.

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How Monsanto Is Planning To Profit From Climate Change

Landscape

Not everyone is either worried or skeptical regarding man-made global warming. Mother Jones on how Monsanto is eagerly banking on it:

Data to help farmers grow crops in a changing climate. Climate Corporation, which Monsanto is acquiring, sells detailed weather and soil information to “help…manage and adapt to climate change.” Monsanto thinks the ag data business will be a $20-billion market.

Insurance for when it’s too hot, cold, dry, wet, or otherwise extreme outside. Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans.

Drought-resistant corn. Monsanto lists the effects of climate change-related precipitation changes and droughts as a potential “opportunity.” This year, Monsanto started rolling out a new line of patented, first-of-its-kind genetically engineered corn seeds that are resistant to drought.

Cotton that needs less water to grow. The company is piloting genetically modified cotton that that can grow while using less water and survive drought.

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