Tag Archives | Agriculture

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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Golden Rice: A ‘Good’ GMO?

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants. (IRRI CC)

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants. (IRRI CC)

Could Golden Rice, a genetically modified strain of rice that imbues the grains with beta carotene, be the GMO that proves the exception to the Monsanto-led madness of Roundup Ready crops? Amy Harmon reports for the New York Times:

One bright morning this month, 400 protesters smashed down the high fences surrounding a field in the Bicol region of the Philippines and uprooted the genetically modified rice plants growing inside.

Had the plants survived long enough to flower, they would have betrayed a distinctly yellow tint in the otherwise white part of the grain. That is because the rice is endowed with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium, making it the only variety in existence to produce beta carotene, the source of vitamin A. Its developers call it “Golden Rice.”

The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug.

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Pooping Canadian Geese May Have Spread Monsanto GMO Seeds

pooping geeseMonsanto’s GMO lifeforms have a habit of mysteriously popping up in places where they were not expected to be found.

In the case of Canada, where GMO wheat is not approved, geese may have caused the crop’s escape from a controlled experimental site, the Ottawa Citizen reports:

Canada geese may have spread seeds of genetically modified wheat grown at the Central Experimental Farm, documents from Agriculture Canada show.

The fear is that these geese may have left poop with living GM wheat seeds that could allow GM wheat to spread outside the controlled field. The issue blew up in 2012, taking the Agriculture Canada department by surprise.

GM wheat is not approved in Canada. Many growers, including the Canadian Wheat Board, strongly oppose it, saying that growing GM wheat will make all Canadian wheat harder to sell in Europe and Asia. And the last thing any grower wants is to have ordinary wheat crops accidentally mixed with the GM varieties.

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Why Poor Kids in the US are Fat and Hungry and What to do About It

photo_09I was thinking about Buckminster Fuller, dedicating his life to help humanity. I was really seriously thinking about this. I wanted to do it. I wanted to seriously consider it and then do it and not take it back. Then soon after this, I went to my friend’s (liberal not Fundy) Presbyterian church and the message was about feeding the hungry. After church we had a luncheon and watched a DVD about how to end Childhood hunger in America. It was called A Place at the Table, and it explained how hunger and obesity are related. Because of the US system of Farm subsidies, corn, wheat and soy are really cheap and so food companies use these commodities to make lots of junk food. The subsidies were created for family farmers recovering from the depression, but now huge agribusinesses get 70% of it. Vegetables and fruit are smaller operations and don’t get many subsidies and so fruits and vegetables have gone way up and commodities have gone way down.… Read the rest

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Inside Monsanto’s Rural Police State

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Truthout on the regime of rural surveillance and suspicion instituted by multinational seed companies:

The GMO regime has initiated a “new era of feudalism,” by powerful multinationals who have consolidated their control over the lives and practices of farmers everywhere.

Monsanto boasts one of the largest corporate security operations in the world, with agents working both openly and undercover in rural counties throughout the United States and Canada. Monsanto’s investigators show up at front doors, and in some cases in the middle of farmers fields, making accusations, brandishing surveillance photos and demanding to see the farmer’s private records or to be handed over their hard drives.

Monsanto also has its own toll-free tip-line (1-800-ROUNDUP) where farmers are invited to inform on their neighbors, as thousands have reportedly already done. “Instead of helping each other with barn-raisings and equipment sharing,” a CFS report states, “those caught saving seed, a practice that is hundreds of years old, were turned into ‘spies’ against their neighbors, replacing the atmosphere of cooperation with one of distrust and suspicion.” Critics accuse the company of fraying the delicate social fabric which holds farming communities together.

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European Union To Ban Pesticides Linked To Mass Bee Deaths

bee deaths

Via the BBC:

The European Commission will restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among EU states on the issue. Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations. A report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded that the pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.

There was ferocious lobbying both for and against in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Nearly three million signatures were collected in support of a ban. Chemical companies and pesticide manufacturers have been lobbying hard – they argue that the science is inconclusive, and that a ban would harm food production.

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