Tag Archives | Farming

The Coming Chocolate Shortage

6c66ce92540fc24397b4a1d51cc0_grandeWould smiles still exist in a world without chocolate? We may find out. Global chocolate consumption is far outpacing cocoa production, portending an ominous future in which chocolate prices rise drastically, and cheap chocolate products as we know them become a relic of the past. The Independent brings the gloom-and-doom:

John Mason, executive director and founder of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council, has forecast that shortages in bulk production in Africa will have a devastating effect: “In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar. It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”

The reason for this unimaginable shortage – which has been presaged by the doubling of cocoa prices in six years to an all-time high over the past three decades – is simple.

Farmers in the countries that produce the bulk of cocoa bought by the multinationals who control the market have found the crop a bitter harvest.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Biodynamics: Natural Wonder or Just a Horn of Manure?

Steiner Berlin 1900Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic farming techniques have never made any sense to me, especially the fact that they seem to work! It also strikes me as odd that the Wall Street Journal would assign bad boy author Jay McInerney to write a report on the spread of biodynamics in the world of high end wine, but here’s what he found outside of the Bright Lights, Big City:

Burly, heavily bearded Stu Smith has been tending his vineyard atop Spring Mountain with his brother Charlie for more than 40 years. The Smith Brothers have gained a quietly loyal following for their Smith Madrone wines, despite eschewing such Napa conventions as new French oak, irrigation and Robert Parker raves.

Stuart, the more loquacious of the brothers, has been known to complain about the high alcohol and the high prices of many Napa wines. Recently he has directed his contrarian streak at a fashionable new target: biodynamic viticulture.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Eat Meat From Cloned Cattle

If you really enjoyed a steak from one cow, now you can have the exact same cow again! It’s like a Twilight Zone episode where your plate keeps refilling with the same piece of meat. In an attempt to increase production rate of quality meat, the US has been mass producing meat from cloned cattle. BBC has the report:

Some of the cattle cloned to boost food production in the US have been created from the cells of dead animals, according to a US cloning company.

Farmers say it is being done because it is only possible to tell that the animal’s meat is of exceptionally high quality by inspecting its carcass.

US scientists are using a variety of techniques to assess which animals have exceptional qualities.

These attributes include meat quality, productivity or longevity.

There is a long tradition of resurrecting dead animals for cloning – Dolly the sheep being a case in point.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Slowed Food Revolution

Photo: Christopher Thomas (CC)

Photo: Christopher Thomas (CC)

Obama seeks to boost demand for organic food but doesn’t offer meaningful support for the people who grow it. Heather Rogers reports for the American Prospect:

Morse Pitts has been cultivating the same land in New York’s Hudson Valley for 30 years. His operation, Windfall Farms, is the very picture of local, sustainable agriculture. From early spring to late fall, the farm’s 15 acres are luxuriant with snap peas, squash, mint, kale, and Swiss chard. Its greenhouses burst with sun gold tomatoes and an array of baby greens. Pitts, who is in his 50s and is tall with gray hair, doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides or any genetically modified seeds. He cultivates biodiversity, not just vegetables.

Twice a week, he hauls his produce 65 miles south to Manhattan to sell at the lucrative Union Square farmers market. His converted school bus runs on biodiesel he makes from used vegetable oil, which he is also trying to use to power his greenhouses.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Are Crop Mobs The Way To Survive The Apocalypse?

FarmOr maybe just a way for agricultural workers to survive the enduring recession that no amount of stimulus seems to end? In the New York Times:

“Who brought their own wheelbarrow?” Rob Jones asked the group of 20-somethings gathered on a muddy North Carolina farm on a chilly January Sunday. Hands shot up and wheelbarrows were pulled from pickups sporting Led Zeppelin and biodiesel bumper stickers, then parked next to a mountain of soil. “We need to get that dirt into those beds over there in the greenhouse,” he said, nodding toward a plastic-roofed structure a few hundred feet away. “The rest of you can come with me to move trees and clear brush to make room for more pasture. Watch out for poison ivy.”

Bobby Tucker, the 28-year-old co-owner of Okfuskee Farm in rural Silk Hope, looked eagerly at the 50-plus volunteers bundled in all manner of flannel and hand-knits.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

93% of Soybeans, 80% of Corn Grown from Genetically-Modified Monsanto Seeds

MonsantoRainPeter Whoriskey reports in the Washington Post:

For plants designed in a lab a little more than a decade ago, they’ve come a long way: Today, the vast majority of the nation’s two primary crops grow from seeds genetically altered according to Monsanto company patents.

Ninety-three percent of soybeans. Eighty percent of corn.

The seeds represent “probably the most revolutionary event in grain crops over the last 30 years,” said Geno Lowe, a Salisbury, Md., soybean farmer.

But for farmers such as Lowe, prices of the Monsanto-patented seeds have steadily increased, roughly doubling during the past decade, to about $50 for a 50-pound bag of soybean seed, according to seed dealers.

The revolution, and Monsanto’s dominant role in the nation’s agriculture, has not unfolded without complaint. Farmers have decried the price increases, and competitors say the company has ruthlessly stifled competition.

Now Monsanto — like IBM and Google — has drawn scrutiny from U.S.

Read the rest
Continue Reading