Tag Archives | Agriculture

Want to Change the World? Read This First

260px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17Richard Heinberg writes at Common Dreams:

History is often made by strong personalities wielding bold new political, economic, or religious doctrines. Yet any serious effort to understand how and why societies change requires examination not just of leaders and ideas, but also of environmental circumstances. The ecological context (climate, weather, and the presence or absence of water, good soil, and other resources) may either present or foreclose opportunities for those wanting to shake up the social world. This suggests that if you want to change society—or are interested in aiding or evaluating the efforts of others to do so—some understanding of exactly how environmental circumstances affect such efforts could be extremely helpful.

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The First GMO Field Tests

Tulelake welcome signBrooke Borel explains what we fight about when we fight about GMOs at Modern Farmer:

In the spring of 1987 in Tulelake, a tiny California farming town four miles from the Oregon border, a small band of scientists wearing yellow Tyvek suits and respirators paced across a field spraying potato plants from handheld dispensers. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency perched on ladders above and checked air monitors to make sure the contents of the dispensers weren’t spreading beyond the field’s boundaries. Dressed in billowy white safety jumpers and peaked caps, the EPA agents looked like apocalyptic bakers.

Nearby, journalists eagerly took notes and snapped photos of this eerie scene, which would become national news — this was the world’s first field experiment of a controversial new technology: genetically modified organisms.

Benign Beginnings
The organism in the Tulelake test was a modified version of the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, or ice-minus. In its natural state, P.

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Your Food Is Poisoning You

Crop Spraying - geograph.org.uk - 445532Is there anything left that’s safe to eat? Devon Jackson writes for Outside that “[f]or years, an underground movement has claimed that the very food we eat—by virtue of the pesticides and herbicides we so commonly use—is poisoning us. Until now, they’ve been (at best) ignored and (more often than not) mocked. Suddenly though, it looks like the joke has been on us all along”:

There’s a scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the Air Force subjects Richard Dreyfus and his fellow Third Encounterers to the media. The press conference is actually going pretty well, the media seem to be on the verge of believing these people—until one of them, a bearded old hermit type (Roberts Blossom) launches into a speech about how he once saw Bigfoot. Credibility: shot.

Such is the case, too, with people who’ve been trying to link celiac disease (and other ills) with the use of the herbicide glyphosate.

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Five Dangerous Substances Big Ag Pumps Into Your Meat

Chicken Farm 034Buy your meat direct from your local farmer or go vegetarian! Here’s why, via EcoWatch:

It is no secret that in the war against meat pathogens in commercial U.S. meat production, the pathogens are winning. The logical result of the tons of antibiotics Big Meat gives livestock (not because they are sick, but to fatten them up) is clear: antibiotics that no longer work against antibiotic-resistant diseases like staph (MRSA), enterococci (VRE) and C.difficile. Antibiotic-resistant infections, once limited to hospitals and nursing homes, can now be acquired in the community, Florida public beaches and on the highway behind a poultry truck.

Big Meat has found some novel ways to retard the growth of salmonella, E.coli and listeria on commercially grown meat, but it does not necessarily want people to know about them and these substances are conspicuously absent from labels.

1. Chlorine Baths

If you want to know the most problematic ingredients in our food supply, just look at the items the European Union boycotts, starting with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hormone beef and chicken dipped in chlorine baths.

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The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of Pot Farming

six riversJosh Harkinson writes about the ugly side of marijuana as a cash crop for Mother Jones via Medium:

STARTING ABOUT 90 MILES northwest of Sacramento, an unbroken swath of national forestland follows the spine of California’s rugged coastal mountains all the way to the Oregon border. Near the center of this vast wilderness, along the grassy banks of the Trinity River’s south fork, lies the remote enclave of Hyampom (pop. 241), where, on a crisp November morning, I climb into a four-wheel-drive government pickup and bounce up a dirt logging road deep into the Six Rivers National Forest. I’ve come to visit what’s known in cannabis country as a “trespass grow.”

“This one probably has the most plants I’ve seen,” says my driver, a young Forest Service cop who spends his summers lugging an AR-15 through the backcountry of the Emerald Triangle—the triad of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties that is to pot what the Central Valley is to almonds and tomatoes.

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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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