Industrial Agriculture

Sustainable Food

Reversing roles, farmers sue Monsanto over GMO seeds

Genetically modified seed giant Monsanto is notorious for suing farmers [PDF] in defense of its patent claims. But now, a group of dozens of organic farmers and food activists have, with the help of the not-for-profit law center The Public Patent Foundation, sued Monsanto in a case that could forever alter the way genetically modified crops are grown in this country. But before you can understand why, it’s worth reviewing an important, but underreported aspect of the fight over GMOs. One of the many downsides to genetically engineered food is the fact that modified genes are patented by the companies …

Industrial Agriculture

U.K. guv takes threat of bee-killing pesticides seriously. Why doesn’t the U.S.?

Remember neonicotinoids? They’re the widely used class of pesticides that an increasing body of evidence — including from USDA researchers — implicates in the collapse of honeybee populations. Neonicotinoids are marketed by the agrichemical giant Bayer, which reels in about $800 million in sales from them each year. Germany (Bayer’s home country), France, and Slovenia have either banned their use outright or limited it severely. Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA has stood by its approval of them — even though its own scientists have discredited Bayer’s research purporting to declare neonicotinoids safe for bees, and the USDA’s chief bee scientist, Jeff …

the answer is blowing in the wind

Ask Umbra on flatulence and climate change

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, The other day I was sitting on the couch after a day of eating an onion-rich diet and wondered … how much impact can a person have on climate change by avoiding flatulence-producing foods? Resourcefully yours,Rob D. Troubled by your bubbles?A. Dearest Rob, I appreciate your desire to not turn the Earth into a Dutch oven, Rob. So let me cut to the cheese, if you will. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse of the National Institutes of Health, “most people produce about 1 to 4 pints a day and …

Organic matters

Organic farming just as productive as conventional, and better at building soil, Rodale finds

Organic agriculture is a fine luxury for the rich, but it could never feed the world as global population moves to 9 billion. That’s what a lot of powerful people — including the editors of The Economist — insist. But the truth could well be the opposite: It might be chemical-intensive agriculture that’s the frivolous luxury, and organic that offers us the right technologies in a resource-constrained, ever-warmer near future. That’s the conclusion I draw from the latest data of the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST), which Rodale calls “America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of conventional and organic …

A well-fed world is a vegetarian world

Samuel Fromartz doesn't like genetically modified food, but not for the reasons you think. We don't need more food, he argues in the Atlantic, but better access to food — there's actually plenty of food in the world for everyone to have enough, but most people can't get at it. GMOs don't do anything to improve that situation, they just make more of things — and what they make more of, specifically, is meat, since most GMO crops go to animal feed. That's the least efficient way to feed the world, says Fromartz: Meat is an inefficient source of calories, …

De-CAFO-nated

Introducing … the Vegan/Omnivore Alliance against Animal Factories

Every day, Americans eat more than a half pound of meat per capita — one of the highest rates on the planet. The vast majority of it is produced with methods that abuse the environment, animals, workers, and public health as a matter of course. The handful of companies that dominate U.S. meat production suck in more than 40 percent of the corn grown by our farmers — that’s more than 15 percent of the corn grown worldwide. Industrial corn, of course, is our most ecologically destructive crop. In our society, I can think of two broadly defined groups that …

China's ordering take-out

Can the United States feed China?

China is worried — and rightfully so — that it might not be able to feed itself.Photo: Jerrold BennettIn 1994, I wrote an article in World Watch magazine entitled “Who Will Feed China?” that was later expanded into a book of the same title. When the article was published in late August, the press conference generated only moderate coverage. But when it was reprinted that weekend on the front of the Washington Post’s Outlook section with the title “How China Could Starve the World,” [$ubreq] it unleashed a political firestorm in Beijing. The response began with a press conference at …

Fishermen find creative ways to get paid more to catch fewer fish

Fishing is ripe for innovation. New catch limits are critical for sustainability — without them, fish stocks would collapse, and then nobody has a job, plus a protein source vital for the planet's expanding population is wiped out. But they force fishermen to catch fewer fish, which means less money. A string of new programs and techniques are addressing the cash issue, allowing fishermen to make more scratch even as they bring in less catch. You've heard of energy audits for your home. Well, now Steve Eayrs, a research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, is conducting them …

Choice nuggets

Radiation-tainted milk in Japan, Pollan on food movement elitism, and more

When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the web. ——— Nuke disaster hits Japan’s food supply Note to planners: Don’t plunk highly volatile industrial projects onto rich farmland. Doing so ensures that industrial disasters will quickly cascade into food crises. Tragically, Japan’s Fukushima region isn’t just a source of nuclear-derived electricity. It’s also a major source of milk and vegetables — and its farmland has already been impacted by the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. From Saturday’s The New York Times: As Japan edged forward in its battle to …

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