Tag Archives | Agriculture

USDA Report Shows Rocketing Food Prices – Global Revolution?

source: www.fao.org

source: www.fao.org

The back story to the revolutionary overthrow of longstanding dictatorships in the Middle East is that the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, et al couldn’t afford even basic foods and weren’t going to stand for the elites hoarding all their countries’ resources any longer.

The U.S Dept. of Agriculture’s Outlook Forum suggests that syrocketing food prices will continue, with possibly disastrous consequences around the world. Adam Gordon analyzes the situation for Forbes:

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) annual “Outlook Forum” in Washington D.C., usually draws a polite trickle of insiders and commodities traders, but on February 24 the forum’s venue was overrun with 2,000 attendees.

At the event, USDA chief economist Joseph Glauber warned of record farm prices for corn, wheat, and soyabeans for 2011, and resulting US food inflation of at least 4% this year and next as prices work their way through the supply chain.

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China Produces “Rice” Made From Plastic

Raw Story reports:
China's history with food safety is a rocky one, but even in the annals of robbery and abuse, this will go down in infamy. Various reports in Singapore media have said that Chinese companies are mass producing fake rice made, in part, out of plastic, according to one online publication Very Vietnam. The "rice" is made by mixing potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic. The potatoes are first formed into the shape of rice grains. Industrial synthetic resins are then added to the mix. The rice reportedly stays hard even after being cooked. The Korean-language Weekly Hong Kong reported that the fake rice is being sold in the Chinese town of Taiyuan, in Shaanxi province.
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Legal War Starts Against GM Alfalfa Seeds

Roundup_herbicide_logoI’m sure I’m not the only one who feels utterly betrayed by the Obama Administration’s capitulation to corporate interests — Monsanto and the agribusiness giants in this case — in approving the use of genetically-modified “Roundup Ready” alfalfa seeds without any meaningful protections for organic and non-GM farming. Fortunately there is a very strong litigation culture in the United States. I encourage everyone to join the battle to reverse the U.S. Government’s decision. UPI reports on the first legal salvo:

Washington is endangering consumer and farmer rights and hurting the environment by green-lighting genetically modified alfalfa, a public-health group said.

Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell of the non-profit Center for Food Safety vowed to seek a court order immediately reversing and voiding the U.S. Agriculture Department’s approval of “Roundup Ready” alfalfa — the fourth Roundup Ready crop approved for U.S. commercial-farming use, after soybeans, corn and cotton.

“We will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment and consumer choice,” Kimbrell said.

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Tyson Foods Revokes Activist Chicken Farmer’s License To Raise Chickens; Farmer Sues & Loses Appeal in U.S. Supreme Court

TysonFoodsMark Sherman reports on the AP via Yahoo News:

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from a former Tennessee poultry farmer who sued Tyson Farms after losing his contract to raise their chickens.

The justices did not comment in turning away Alton Terry, who said Tyson cut him off because he helped organize area farmers and complained about the company’s practices. Lower courts had previously dismissed the lawsuit.

Terry, essentially, argued that he lost his contract to raise chickens on his 12-acre farm, because he squawked too much.

Terry was a poultry farmer who brought together a group of area farmers and told them they had the right to complain about Tyson’s practices. He also raised concerns directly with Tyson, among the world’s largest meat companies.

Terry says Tyson and other big companies have too much sway over farmers, and federal courts also have bowed to agribusiness interests by setting too high a standard for the farmers to succeed in court.

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Genetically Modified Canola ‘Escapes’ Farm Fields

CanolaPlant

Photo: Heather LeMoine/North Dakota Tourism

Geoffrey Brumfiel reports for NPR:

Genetically modified crops are commonplace in fields across the United States, but a new study suggests that some plants have spread into the wild. A survey of North Dakota has turned up hundreds of genetically modified canola plants growing along roads across the state.

The results, presented Friday at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Pittsburgh, show that the vast majority of feral canola plants in the state contain artificial genes that make them resistant to herbicides. Researchers also found two plants that contained traits from multiple genetically modified varieties, suggesting that genetically modified plants are breeding in the wild.

“What we’ve demonstrated in this study is a large-scale escape of a genetically modified crop in the United States,” says Cindy Sagers, an ecologist at the University of Arkansas, who led the study.

Canola plants are used in cooking oil and animal feed, as well as some forms of biodiesel, and nearly all of America’s canola is grown in North Dakota.

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Hedge Funds Accused of Gambling with Lives of the Poorest as Food Prices Soar

Hunger Casino

Image: World Development Movement (WDM)

Katie Allen writes in the Guardian:

Financial speculators have come under renewed fire from anti-poverty campaigners for their bets on food prices, blamed for raising the costs of goods such as coffee and chocolate and threatening the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries.

The World Development Movement (WDM) will issue a damning report on the growing role of hedge funds and banks in the commodities markets in recent years, during which time cocoa prices have more than doubled, energy prices have soared and coffee has fluctuated dramatically.

The charity’s demands for the British financial watchdog to follow the US in cracking down on such speculation comes against a backdrop of cocoa prices jumping to a 33-year high as it emerged that a London hedge fund had snapped up a large part of the world’s stock of beans. On Friday, traders say, Armajaro took delivery of 240,100 tonnes of cocoa — the biggest from London’s Liffe exchange in 14 years and equal to about 7% of annual global production, according to the Financial Times.

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Genetically Modified Salmon Near FDA Approval

Photo: Atlantic salmon

Photo: Atlantic salmon

While most people are wondering what will happen to the fishing industry in the Gulf, Massachucettes geneticists are raising quick-growing Atlantic salmon.  Les Blumenthal of McClatchy Newspapers writes:

WASHINGTON — They may not be the 500-pound “Frankenfish” that some researchers were talking about 10 years ago, but a Massachusetts company says it’s on the verge of receiving federal approval to market a quick-growing Atlantic salmon that’s been genetically modified with help from a Pacific Chinook salmon.

Though genetically engineered crops such as corn and soybeans have been part of the American diet for several years, if the Food and Drug Administration approves it, the salmon would be the first transgenic animal headed for the dinner table.

“I would serve it to my kids,” said Val Giddings, who worked as a geneticist at the U.S. Agriculture Department for a decade before becoming a private consultant.

The financial rewards could be enormous.

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New EPA Scrutiny for Commonly-Used Herbicide Atrazine

AtrazineJim Morris and M.B. Pell write on the Center for Public Integrity:

After years of fielding complaints about the ubiquitous weed-killer and water pollutant atrazine, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to take a closer look at the product, used on corn and other crops, mainly in the Midwest. Some of those complaints are documented in a database produced by the Center in 2008 as part as of our perils of the New Pesticides investigation.

Last week, an EPA advisory panel began assessing the latest science on the chemical, frequently found in surface waters and groundwater, and two more meetings of the advisory group are planned for later this year.

The Perils of the New Pesticides project includes a tool that allows the public to search 15 years of previously undisclosed EPA data for reported environmental and health effects of specific products. A search of “atrazine” produces 242 pages of results from 1992 through 2007.

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Amazing Rice Field Art In Japan

This story from Hemmy.net is one of the first sites I found taking about this. Since then, the Guardian reported on it. Via Hemmy.net:
Every year, farmers in the rural town Inakadate, Japan create rice field art by using red rice in with their regular rice in special patterns. A few others fields in rural Japan also followed the trend of this beautiful rice field art. Rice Art in Japan
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Monsanto: The #1 Most Unethical Company In The World

Grace Kiser writes on the Huffington Post:
Can ethics be quantified? Or, better yet, can a lack of ethics be quantified? This week, the Swiss research firm Covalence released its annual ranking of the overall ethical performance of multinational corporations. The idea behind the Covalence research is that there's value — both for companies and consumers — in measuring corporations against an ethical standard. (We're hoping this idea also applies to Wall Street firms.)

Monsanto

Monsanto, the Missouri-based agriculture giant, ranked dead last in the Covalence ethical index. The company, which leads the world in the production of genetically-engineered seed, has been subject to myriad criticisms. Among them: the company is accused of frequently and unfairly suing small farmers for patent infringement.
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