“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” — Archbishop Hélder Câmara
Suzanne Lindgren writes at Utne Blogs:
When it comes to feeding the world, most of us support the idea. We are taught from a young age that if someone is hungry it’s our moral duty to feed them, whether they live down the street or in another country. For decades, agriculture companies have used the noble goal of “feeding the world” to increase yields by any means possible, from genetic modification to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This logic has justified ecological destruction from prairies to rainforests. It has wreaked havoc on indigenous and small-farming communities. And with 870 million chronically undernourished people on earth right now, it has failed to get food to the people who need it most.
Instead of a fed planet, we have monoculture farms, poisons on food, and toxic runoff in our land and water. Into our air, the global agriculture industry emits about 14 percent of total greenhouse gases, according to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). If we include agricultural deforestation, that number jumps to 27.5 percent. “[I]t’s impossible,” writes CGIAR, “to address climate issues without including agriculture—and vice versa.”
Fortunately, real solutions aren’t difficult to imagine. Raj Patel interviewed one Wisconsin farmer, Jim Goodman, who seems to have a lot of this figured out.
Read more here.
Elizabeth Royte writes at the Nation:
Jacki Schilke and her sixty cattle live in the top left corner of North Dakota, a windswept, golden-hued landscape in the heart of the Bakken Shale. Schilke’s neighbors love her black Angus beef, but she’s no longer sharing or eating it—not since fracking began on thirty-two oil and gas wells within three miles of her 160-acre ranch and five of her cows dropped dead. Schilke herself is in poor health. A handsome 53-year-old with a faded blond ponytail and direct blue eyes, she often feels lightheaded when she ventures outside. She limps and has chronic pain in her lungs, as well as rashes that have lingered for a year. Once, a visit to the barn ended with respiratory distress and a trip to the emergency room. Schilke also has back pain linked with overworked kidneys, and on some mornings she urinates a stream of blood.
Comics artist Colleen Doran writes a quick and breezy intro to the world of farm shares and farm credit programs. Establishing trustworthy ways to get fresh, healthy, non-GMO food is going to become increasingly important. Doran gives an overview of what’s available and links to get started.
via A Distant Soil:
In almost every major metropolitan area, and most rural areas, you will find farm shares or CSA’s, “Community Sponsored Agriculture”.
A CSA is, basically, a food subscription service.
Depending on the program (and they vary widely between suppliers,) the CSA will supply weekly, biweekly, or monthly food subscriptions for a flat annual fee which will cover the farming season, usually around half the year. If you live in California where the season is long, you can get a year-round subscription.
The farm will provide you with a prescribed amount of food per drop based on whatever is in season.
Monsanto demands that anyone who plants a seed containing the its patented herbicide-resisting genes pay steep “technology fees.” The problem is that Monsanto’s plants amount to self-replicating patent machines, as the Monsanto-created genes spread through the ecosystem. NPR reports:
This farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, has been a loyal customer for Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” soybeans. Sometimes he bought ordinary soybeans from the local grain elevator or another farmer.
But here’s the problem: Monsanto’s soybeans account for 94 percent of all the soybeans grown in Indiana. So almost all the soybeans that Bowman could get his hands on contained the patented “Roundup Ready” gene. Monsanto found out and took Bowman to court [where he was ordered] to pay $84,000. An appeals court affirmed that decision.
The arguments and counter-arguments that both sides have submitted to the Supreme Court mostly focus on the reach of Monsanto’s patents — specifically, whether Monsanto really can demand a royalty for the planting of any soybean containing its patented genes.
CBS News ponders whether America is being poisoned by food we “improved” via technology:
Modern wheat is a “perfect, chronic poison,” according to Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who has published a book all about the world’s most popular grain.
Davis said that the wheat we eat these days isn’t the wheat your grandma had: “It’s an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said on “CBS This Morning.” “This thing has many new features nobody told you about, such as there’s a new protein in this thing called gliadin. It’s not gluten. I’m not addressing people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. I’m talking about everybody else because everybody else is susceptible to the gliadin protein that is an opiate. This thing binds into the opiate receptors in your brain and in most people stimulates appetite, such that we consume 440 more calories per day, 365 days per year.”
To avoid these wheat-oriented products, Davis suggests eating “real food,” such as avocados, olives, olive oil, meats, and vegetables.
Who would think that using one’s garden for, well, gardening would be a subversive act? Apparently, in the suburbs, it now takes a legal battle to grow edible plants in one’s yard. Via Good:
Urban farmers as outlaws: It’s becoming a familiar tale. Whether it’s a $2,500 fine for growing chard in Oakland or bans on backyard chickens in Pensacola, the civic agrarian often bumps up against the cold hard edge of the law.
Karl Tricamo of Ferguson, Missouri, on the outskirts of St. Louis, ripped the sod up from the front of his brick tract home last year and started tilling his modest plot. He delighted in the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers he raised just steps from his front door. Tricamo estimates that 80 percent of their vegetables now come from his former lawn.
Ferguson city officials, though, didn’t appreciate Tricamo’s industrious green thumb and cited him for violations of the “exterior appearance code.” Code enforcers routinely did creepy drive-bys or parked in front of his house observing the locavore scofflaw.
America: it was good while it lasted. After a summer of extreme weather patterns, half of the country is classified as disaster zones, Yahoo! News reports:
Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government’s list of natural disaster areas as the nation’s agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s addition of the 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S. counties — 1,584 in 32 states — have been designated primary disaster areas, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that’s considered the worst in decades.
As of this week, nearly half of the nation’s corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 37 percent of the U.S. soybeans were lumped into that category, while nearly three-quarters of U.S.
We typically don’t like to regurgitate press releases, but the following statistics from Consumer Reports show Americans to be so overwhelmingly in favor of eliminating the use of antibiotics in factory food animals that it seemed worth sharing:
A majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold in their local supermarket, according to a new national poll conducted by Consumer Reports. The poll is part of a report released today, “Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It,” available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.
Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has simultaneously launched a new marketplace campaign, urging supermarkets to sell only meat raised without antibiotics─starting with Trader Joe’s, one of the leading national chains best poised to make this commitment.
The dangers of using bio-engineered seeds and chemical pesticides in agriculture have been warned against by activists for many years, but now many farmers and food companies are sounding the alarm too, calling for government intervention. From Reuters via Yahoo Finance:
A coalition of more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies said Wednesday it is taking legal action to force government regulators to analyze potential problems with proposed biotech crops and the weed-killing chemicals to be sprayed over them.
Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, and Monsanto Co. are among several global chemical and seed companies racing to roll out combinations of genetically altered crops and new herbicides designed to work with the crops as a way to counter rapidly spreading herbicide-resistant weeds that are choking millions of acres of U.S. farmland.
Dow and Monsanto say the new chemical combinations and new crops that tolerate those chemicals are badly needed by corn, soybean and cotton farmers as weeds increasingly resist treatments of the most commonly used herbicide – glyphosate-based Roundup.