Tag Archives | Agriculture

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

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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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Peak Soil: Why Nutrition Is Disappearing From Our Food

Nitrogen cycle-caThe secret to good health may start with dirt says Monica Nickelsburg, writing for The Week:

The fountain of youth may be made of dirt.

So supposes Steve Solomon in The Intelligent Gardner: Growing Nutrient-Dense FoodHe asserts that most people could “live past age 100, die with all their original teeth, up to their final weeks, and this could all happen if only we fertilize all our food crops differently.” It’s a bold statement, but mounting evidence suggests that remineralization could be the definitive solution to our nutrient-light diet.

Concerns about the quality of our food tend to focus on the many evils of modern industrial farming, but 10,000 years of agriculture have created a more insidious problem. The minerals and phytonutrients historically derived from rich soil are diminishing in our produce and meat. It takes 500 years for nature to build two centimeters of living soil and only seconds for us to destroy it.

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Dickson Despommier Discusses Vertical Farming at TEDxWarwick 2013

Dickson Despommier talks about the advantages of vertical farming.

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

via The Vertical Farm Project

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DisinfoCast: 73: Matt Nelson vs. Fat

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Picture: Matt Nelson (C)

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Matt Nelson once weighed over 400 pounds. Then he got mad, got educated, and did something about it. Tune in for a gimmick and guilt-free discussion about industrial agriculture, poisonous fast food, ignorance and what it took for one man to reclaim his own body.

Video of this interview is available:

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Space Farming: The Final Frontier

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Vegetable Production System (NASA)

What do you do next when you’ve successfully screwed up the Earth? Screw up Space too! Agricultural science is approaching its next frontier reports Modern Farmer:

Last year, an astronaut named Don Pettit began an unusual writing project on NASA’s website. Called “Diary of a Space Zucchini,” the blog took the perspective of an actual zucchini plant on the International Space Station (ISS). Entries were insightful and strange, poignant and poetic.

“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me,” wrote Pettit in the now-defunct blog. “I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini — and I am in space.”

An unorthodox use of our tax dollars, but before you snicker, consider this: That little plant could be the key to our future. If — as some doomsday scientists predict — we will eventually exhaust the Earth’s livability, space farming will prove vital to the survival of our species.

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Neo-Colonizing Africa Through GMO Crops

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Via This Is Africa, Paula Akugizibwe on conquering the world through the food chain:

While the science of GMOs may remain murky, the economics are crystal clear. The most obvious and direct of these is the matter of seed ownership and control.

Unlike traditional agriculture, in which seeds are the property of nobody in particular and nature at large, GMO farming places the ownership of seeds firmly in the hands of corporations, and entitles them to a share of profits from crop sales. GMO farmers are not allowed to save seed produced through their crops for use in the coming season, as they have always done.

Meanwhile, in some African countries such as Nigeria, genetically modified cotton is viewed as an ideal entry point for GMOs. “We don’t eat our clothes, so people are less concerned about cotton. This would be the first way in for GMOs,” explained Kola Masha, a Nigerian agribusiness advisor, earlier this year.

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