Food sovereignty

An alternative to global industrial agriculture

At the conclusion to an article on the global food crisis, Walden Bello discusses an idea put forward by an international farmer's group, Via Campesina:

Nitrogen bomb

‘Science': nitrogen as important as carbon in climate change

Speaking of the troubles associated with industrial agriculture and its fertilizer regime, check this out: The public does not yet know much about nitrogen, but in many ways it is as big an issue as carbon, and due to the interactions of nitrogen and carbon, makes the challenge of providing food and energy to the world’s peoples without harming the global environment a tremendous challenge. The speaker is University of Virginia environmental sciences professor James Galloway (quoted in an AP piece), talking about his paper published (abstract here) in the latest Science. According to Galloway, "We are accumulating reactive nitrogen …

The farm bill, Archer Daniels Midland's man at USDA, and me

I loathe the farm bill but can’t bring myself to accept the Bush administration’s party line

People keep asking me what I think about the new farm bill — the one that will soon likely become law, since both houses of Congress passed it with majorities that would withstand Bush’s threatened veto. I hate it; it fails utterly to make the investments we need to rebuild local and regional food systems around cities and in rural areas. But I think I hate the Bush administration’s vision for agriculture even more. The debate between Congress and the Bushies has changed little over the past few months. Back in February, I wrote: None of the versions of the …

Why that organic label on your milk doesn’t tell the whole story

Tastes great, but who’s paying the health-care bills? As a writer, one of my goals is to demystify farming for non-farmers — to remind people that their food comes from somewhere, grown by someone, often drawing down finite resources. Less than 2 percent of Americans farm, yet all of us eat. Whether you’re scarfing a Whopper or savoring a farmers’ market peach, food has a history tied to people and the earth; and that history matters for both. The organic label, for all its success, sometimes complicates my job. Rather than challenge consumers to learn more about their food, the …

Congress finally passes veto-proof farm bill

Defying President Bush’s veto threat, the Senate joined the House Thursday in voting “yay” on the $289 billion omnibus legislation that covers everything from farm subsidies to food stamps. In both chambers, support for the bill tallied strong enough to override Bush’s threatened veto. The legislation has bitterly divided the sustainable-agriculture world. Supporters acknowledge the bill is deeply flawed, but argue it contains important gains in conservation, nutrition, and school lunch programs that would be lost if the bill failed — at least until a new and comprehensively better farm bill could be passed. Critics counter that the small victories …

'The Saudi Arabia of fertilizer'

One big corpration dominates the soon-to-be-prized potash market

Industrial agriculture currently stands as humanity’s big plan for "feeding the world" as global population moves toward 10 billion and the earth warms. Increasingly, as oil supplies tighten and prices rise, we’re looking to industrial ag to fill our gas tanks, too. Unhappily, this relatively new form of farming relies utterly on three elements — two mined (potassium and phosphorus) and one synthesized from natural gas (nitrogen) — to maintain the productivity of soil. In other words, unless we quickly move toward other agriculture models, we’re likely to see increased geopolitical competition for these fertilizer resources, outsized power for the …

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