tagged w/ Organic Farming
At the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting this year, Bob Stallman, the group’s president, lashed out at “self-appointed food elitists” who are “hell-bent on misleading consumers.” His target was the growing movement that calls for sustainable farming practices and questions the basic tenets of large-scale industrial agriculture in America.
The “elitist” epithet is a familiar line of attack. In the decade since my book “Fast Food Nation” was published, I’ve been called not only an elitist, but also a socialist, a communist and un-American. In 2009, the documentary “Food, Inc.,” directed by Robby Kenner, was described as “elitist foodie propaganda” by a prominent corporate lobbyist. Nutritionist Marion Nestle has been called a “food fascist,” while an attempt was recently made to cancel a university appearance by Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” who was accused of being an “anti-agricultural” elitist by a wealthy donor.
This name-calling is a form of misdirection, an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies. And it gets the elitism charge precisely backward. America’s current system of food production — overly centralized and industrialized, overly controlled by a handful of companies, overly reliant on monocultures, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, chemical additives, genetically modified organisms, factory farms, government subsidies and fossil fuels — is profoundly undemocratic. It is one more sign of how the few now rule the many. And it’s inflicting tremendous harm on American farmers, workers and consumers.
During the past 40 years, our food system has changed more than in the previous 40,000 years. Genetically modified corn and soybeans, cloned animals, McNuggets — none of these technological marvels existed in 1970. The concentrated economic power now prevalent in U.S. agriculture didn’t exist, either. For example, in 1970 the four largest meatpacking companies slaughtered about 21 percent of America’s cattle; today the four largest companies slaughter about 85 percent. The beef industry is more concentrated now than it was in 1906, when Upton Sinclair published “The Jungle” and criticized the unchecked power of the “Beef Trust.” The markets for pork, poultry, grain, farm chemicals and seeds have also become highly concentrated.
America’s ranchers and farmers are suffering from this lack of competition for their goods. In 1970, farmers received about 32 cents for every consumer dollar spent on food; today they get about 16 cents. The average farm household now earns about 87 percent of its income from non-farm sources.
While small farmers and their families have been forced to take second jobs just to stay on their land, wealthy farmers have received substantial help from the federal government. Between 1995 and 2009, about $250 billion in federal subsidies was given directly to American farmers — and about three-quarters of that money was given to the wealthiest 10 percent. Those are the farmers whom the Farm Bureau represents, the ones attacking “big government” and calling the sustainability movement elitist.
cont.At the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting this year, Bob Stallman,... more
Organic farming not only heals the Earth, it is healing the souls of those who need it most.
The helicopters heard overhead are from Camp Pendleton, just over the hill from this 3-acre farm. Today, Archipley is training vets and active duty personnel returning to civilian life for careers in organic farming. It's not an easy job, he says, but veterans are up to the task.
Mr. ARCHIPLEY: We're a type of population that needs more than just a dollar. We need a purpose, and this is one way to give us purpose.
HILLARD: The six-week course called Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training has been approved by Camp Pendleton's Transition Assistance Program. One of the new students, veteran Ron Vaughn(ph) is taking great care to harvest a live bouquet of basil in one of the farm's greenhouses.
Mr. RON VAUGHN: You can plant this right in the water, and it will still keep growing.
HILLARD: The Marine sergeant did two tours in Iraq and was wounded in Fallujah. And the farm, Vaughn says, has given him a new sense of purpose.
Mr. VAUGHN: I went in the Marine Corps so I could serve my country, you know? Now that I've gotten out, guess what? I still want to serve, and you go small-scale organic farming, that is me being able to serve the community.
HILLARD: Vaughn was able to attend this program with a scholarship from the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. Michael O'Gorman is a longtime farmer and the organization's executive director.
Mr. MICHAEL O'GORMAN (Executive Director, Farmer-Veteran Coalition): And the more we work with the veterans and the more we work in this process, the more we understand that there's healing in being needed.
HILLARD: O'Gorman says his organization works with farmers across the country.
Mr. O'GORMAN: Our goal is to mobilize this entire community, then welcome with open arms the returning veterans and look to them for a source of new, young talent going into our industry.
HILLARD: One of those new farmers may be Cory Pollard. Growing up in San Diego, he enlisted in the Marine shortly after high school. He served three tours in Iraq as a rifleman. Today, he's cradling a seedling in his hands.
Mr. CORY POLLARD: Before I got here, I didn't know what chard was, didn't know what kale was, but, you know, nonetheless, I've been here and I never thought I would see myself farming.
HILLARD: Working alongside Pollard in the greenhouse is 26-year-old Carlos Rivera. Both men went to Camp Pendleton and ended up serving in Iraq together. After leaving the Marines, Rivera says he got a job in the city, but it stressed him out.
Mr. CARLOS RIVERA: This is different. You're working outdoors and working with other vets. And I have my own little garden out there in my patio where I live. And I love going out here.
HILLARD: He says it's his dream to one day have his own small farm, something like what he has found here.
Mr. RIVERA: The sounds of trees and the birds singing and leaves falling down.
HILLARD: Rivera has been working on the farm for a year. He says he's not only found the job he loves, but a certain peace of mind. For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.Organic farming not only heals the Earth, it is healing the souls of those who need it... more
If you eat organic foods, there's a good chance it started here, at High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott, Vermont. OneDegreeTV visits Tom Stearns to discuss the process of cultivating, selecting and breeding better organic seeds, and how he and others in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom are helping to change the way we eat.If you eat organic foods, there's a good chance it started here, at High Mowing... more
Is organic food really more expensive than non-organic? Not if you factor in associated costs of the industrial food complex (health care costs related to poor diet, cost of fossil fuels for massive distribution networks...). OneDegreeTV visits Tom Stearns to discuss the "real cost of better foods."
If you're eating organic food in the U.S., there's a good chance it started here, at High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott, Vermont.Is organic food really more expensive than non-organic? Not if you factor in... more
"Even as traditional environmentalism struggles, another movement is rising in its place, aligning consumers, producers, the media and even politicians. It's the food movement, and if it continues to grow it may be able to create just the sort of political and social transformation that environmentalists have failed to achieve in recent years.
That would mean not only changing the way Americans eat and the way they farm — away from industrialized, cheap calories and toward more organic, small-scale production, with plenty of fruits and vegetables — but also altering the way we work and relate to one another. To its most ardent adherents, the food movement isn't just about reform
— it's about revolution."
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2049255,00.html?xid=rss-mostpopular"Even as traditional environmentalism struggles, another movement is rising in... more
A major battle over Roundup Ready (RR) genetically modified alfalfa has emerged because it represents a huge contamination threat to organic and conventional agriculture, and opponents don't believe USDA's proposed plan to allow it to be grown with restrictions will work.
Alfalfa is grown on 22 million acres in the US, making it the fourth major crop after corn, soybeans, and cotton.
Organic farmers use alfalfa extensively. "Alfalfa is a feed staple for all organic livestock, and the most common legume in organic crop rotations in northern states," says Jim Riddle, organic outreach coordinator at the University of Minnesota.
GM alfalfa is a huge threat because it is pollinated by bees and other insects that travel great distances and grows wild near roads, ditches, and yards. "You don't have that with corn, soybeans, or cotton," says Bill Freese, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety. "Those things make it more problematic."
According to a paper by Geertson Seed Farms, one of the biggest potential problems is that GM alfalfa will cross pollinate with wild alfalfa, which will become the dominant weed variety because it has the Roundup Ready herbicide tolerant trait. Weedy GM alfalfa will in turn become a source of pollen and seed that will contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa fields.
"GM alfalfa will be everywhere," says Dag Falck, organic program manager at Nature's Path Foods.
USDA's Environment Impact Statement proposes an option whereby RR alfalfa would be grown with restrictions. The EIS lists production states according to three tiers. In 27 Tier 1 states, which include most eastern and southern states where no commercial alfalfa is grown, there would be no restrictions on RR plantings. RR alfalfa seed production would be limited in 14 Tier II and nine Tier III states where farmers must maintain isolation distances of five miles between GM and non-GMO alfalfa. Tier II states, such as Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, are primarily in the Midwest and Tier III states, such as Arizona, California, Oregon, and Wyoming, are in the West.
EIS ignores roundup weed resistance, impacts on honey
Freese and others question the need for RR alfalfa. "Only 7% of alfalfa is treated with herbicides. It grows so densely that it crowds out weeds."
Approving RR alfalfa, he says, will make it a "chemical dependent crop."
The EIS also ignores the impact on honey, and the fact that bees will gather nectar from GM alfalfa plants and convert into honey. "This is another entry point for GMOs (into foods)," says Riddle.A major battle over Roundup Ready (RR) genetically modified alfalfa has emerged... more
A well written piece by Paul Krugman appeared in the NY Times yesterday that gives a truthful view on the current protests we are seeing in relation to food prices and world weather events and the effects of climate change. I have been reporting and writing about sustainable agriculture here for a couple of years now primarily in regards to the effects of climate, speculation, world policy regarding loans and food grown for export, types of sustainable agricultural practices, seed patents and the effects of monoculture GMOs on the world's economy, health, environment and food sovereignty.
It is no overstatement to state that we are in a climate/food crisis. Recent events in Australia, Russia, China, Africa and Latin America for example have not only been a part of rising prices but also in giving us a glimpse of what life will be like in a warming world. Agriculture, its cultivation, its very existence is under threat by an ongoing assault of erratic and intensifiying weather/climate events, pesticides, expansive and destructive industrial agricultural policies and practices that see more land going to growing non food items, lack of food access and the effects of GMOs and the transgenic contamination they bring which has already affected not only the traditional corn varieties of Mexico's culture and livelihood, but crops around the world which works against what we must now be doing to save our agriculture.
As we look to the future our ability to provide for our needs is being made much harder by our own actions. As we see our population approaching a projected 9 billion within the next several decades we must begin to seriously understand the role our actions play in the world we see before us, and the world we will leave successive generations. The ability to feed ourselves and plant seeds that preserve our global biodiversity is being attacked by those who would profit from both their ownership and their demise.
In this century there will be no greater challenge to our species than working to preserve the planet that provides our food, our water, and our lives. What Mr. Krugman states here is not to be taken lightly. Climate change is indeed upon us, and its reach goes far beyond the political differences that have kept this urgent crisis from being faced as it must be now. The protests in Egypt and around the world are warning signs as well as hopeful signs. If we do not deal with the root causes of this crisis including and most importantly climate change, the world of our making will not be one we will be able to inhabit. This does come down to the very seeds we plant in our soils, and in our consciences.
Excerpt by Mr, Krugman:
"While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning."A well written piece by Paul Krugman appeared in the NY Times yesterday that gives a... more
"The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must." - Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011
In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto's Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America's organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it's time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for "coexistence" with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.
In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and "seed purity," gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.
In exchange for allowing Monsanto's premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants "compensation." In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers' and rural residents' risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil's crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay "compensation" (i.e. hush money) to farmers "for any losses related to the contamination of his crop."
In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for "public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry," even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government "oversight" of Frankencrops such as Monsanto's sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: "The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must."
Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?
According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack's previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.'s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it's time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto's unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.
WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI's sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.
From their "business as usual" perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs.
Whole Food's Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called "Natural" Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs
The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM's $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called "natural" processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called "natural" products (no doubt WFM's lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they're all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.
Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as "natural."
Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called "natural" food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22449.cfm"The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops... more
ROGUE AGENCY CHOOSES “BUSINESS AS USUAL” OVER SOUND SCIENCE
CENTER ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE LEGAL CHALLENGE TO USDA’S FLAWED ASSESSMENT
The Center for Food Safety criticized the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers USDA acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). On a call today with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack reiterated the concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed, yet the Agency’s decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters.
“We’re disappointed with USDA’s decision and we will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”
On Monday, the Center sent an open letter to Secretary Vilsack calling on USDA to base its decision on sound science and the interests of farmers, and to avoid rushing the process to meet the marketing timelines or sales targets of Monsanto, Forage Genetics or other entities.
CFS also addressed several key points that were not properly assessed in the FEIS, among them were:
•Liability, Implementation and Oversight — Citing over 200 past contamination episodes that have cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales, CFS demands that liability for financial losses incurred by farmers due to transgenic contamination be assigned to the crop developers. CFS also calls on USDA to take a more active oversight role to ensure that any stewardship plans are properly implemented and enforced.
•Roundup Ready alfalfa will substantially increase herbicide use – USDA’s assessment misrepresented conventional alfalfa as utilizing more herbicides than it does, which in turn provided a false rationale for introducing herbicide-promoting Roundup Ready alfalfa. In fact, USDA’s own data shows that just 7% of alfalfa hay acres are treated with herbicides. USDA’s projections in the FEIS show that substantial adoption of Roundup Ready alfalfa would trigger large increases in herbicide use of up to 23 million lbs. per year.
•Harms from glyphosate-resistant weeds – USDA’s sloppy and unscientific treatment of glyphosate-resistant (GR) weeds ignored the significant contribution that RR alfalfa could make to their rapid evolution. USDA failed to analyze how GR weeds fostered by currently grown RR crops are increasing herbicide use; spurring more use of soil-eroding tillage; and reducing farmer income through increased weed control costs, an essential baseline analysis.
“We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said Pat Trask, conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in the alfalfa litigation.
The FEIS comes in response to a 2007 lawsuit brought by CFS, in which a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of glyphosate herbicide, sold by Monsanto as Roundup. The Court banned new plantings of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a more comprehensive assessment of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs.
“Last spring more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the USDA highly critical of the substance and conclusions of its Draft EIS on GE Alfalfa,” said Kimbrell. “Clearly the USDA was not listening to the public or farmers but rather to just a handful of corporations.”ROGUE AGENCY CHOOSES “BUSINESS AS USUAL” OVER SOUND SCIENCE
An organic farmer in the Great Southern says he will sue the owner of a neighbouring farm, after being stripped of his organic certification because genetically modified canola was found on his property.
Kojonup farmer Steven Marsh alleges the GM material blew in from a neighbouring property belonging to Michael Baxter.
Mr Marsh says he will lose a significant amount of income without his organic certification.
"Clearly I'm facing losses because I've lost my premiums on those crops and products I produce," he said.
"How long those seeds are going to be in that ground and viable now because they are just everywhere, we've got to ascertain."
He says he has been left with no option but to take legal action.
"Nobody enjoys pursuing their neighbour but what do we do?" he said.
Mr Marsh's lawyer says the damage bill could reach millions of dollars.
Mr Baxter has vowed to defend the allegation and says he will have the backing of multinational biotechnology company Monsanto, which certified his GM crop.
Western Australia's organic farming community has rallied behind Mr Marsh.
The state president of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Kim Hack, said previously that Mr Marsh has the support of many farmers across the state.
"We're going to back him all the way and he's being backed up by conventional farmers as well," he said.
The Network of Concerned Farmers' Julie Newman also said previously that this case highlighted that GM farmers could face legal action if neighbouring properties are contaminated.
Ms Newman said the State Government had failed to listen to calls for a risk management strategy.
"The GM farmer should be worried because they are ultimately liable and this is an avenue where the non-GM farmer can say right we'll follow this example and we'll do the same and it could be a class action if you're not sure who causes it," she said.
The Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said earlier the government was working with Mr Marsh to try to regain his organic status.
He said while he is confident the incident is a one-off, the department would look at measures to prevent a repeat.
Mr Redman said there are no plans to reinstate a ban on the growing of GM canola.An organic farmer in the Great Southern says he will sue the owner of a neighbouring... more
Hemp History Week is about education and it's also about political action. We hope to generate 25,000 letters and emails addressed to President Obama and Attorney General Holder.
Please get involved today by taking the following quick and easy actions:
Send a Virtual Postcard to President Obama and Attorney General Holder with Vote Hemp's email system.
Write a letter or email to your representatives asking them to support hemp farming.Hemp History Week is about education and it's also about political action. We... more
Yale's Timothy Dwight common room is packed. The room quiets down, and a couple hundred Ivy affiliates surrender their ears ... to a farmer.
The man, the farmer, the legend, is Eliot Coleman, educator, advocate of Four Seasons Farming (a year-round farming philosophy of his own creation), and author of several seminal books on organic farming. For nearly 40 years, Coleman has championed the organic farming cause, testing his methods on one and a half acres of the very successful Four Seasons Farm, on his property in Maine.
"Of course organic farming can feed the world," Coleman said. The audience was dumbstruck.Coleman began by explaining that it was his taste for adventure that got him into farming. In his mid-twenties, Coleman was hiking, trekking, and climbing mountains, hauling a 90-pound bag of gear, venturing into nature for three or four weeks at a time: "It was a heck of a lot harder than farming," he said. Coleman defines farming as a socially responsible adventure; the best adventure he has had so far, with the decades of dedication to the cause a hard-hitting testament to that fact.
In addition to farming and adventure, Coleman loves reading—a combination that birthed the success of his farming practice. Coleman briefed us on his story: he was a "kid from New Jersey" who started out at Williams College as a geology major, ending up with a master's in Spanish literature, with absolutely no background in agriculture. Apart from having a sense of adventure, and paying attention to the systems already present in nature (a skill that he learned while hiking and mountain-climbing), Coleman got started in agriculture by reading old gardening books from the 1800s, to learn how people grew crops before pesticides and fertilizer. "I'm a Jeffersonian farmer," Coleman said, "I read things." What he learned, apparently, is alarmingly simple: You just have to grow them correctly.
Coleman explained that he utilizes a system of crop rotations based on regular soil amendments, and he uses the presence of pests to gauge if he is growing correctly: "Pests are the best Professors of Agriculture," he said. He began to wax lyrical about nature, the force that is his second love (after his longtime wife, Barbara Damrosch, a renowned horticulturalist and author, who was seated in the front row).
"Nature is the most elegantly designed system," Coleman said, going on to propose his theory that nature's "flaws" are actually in man's understanding of nature, not in nature herself. I began to get a sense of the greater mythology that governs Coleman's practice. It seemed that if only we work with nature, instead of trying to control her, then we, too, could match the success of Coleman's approach. "This mountain doesn't have a top!" he exclaimed, reminding us that there is always more to learn.
Coleman segued to the heart of his story: He told us that he turned part of his 40 acres of rocky, woody land, with an initial soil pH of 4.3, in the harsh conditions of Maine, into a 1½ acre farm that yields $120,000 worth of produce a year. "Of course organic farming can feed the world," Coleman said. The audience was dumbstruck; it was almost as if Coleman was responding to that feeling in the room when he said, "The word 'impossible' scares people off of things that if they tried, they'd realize weren't so impossible."
We have seen unsettling changes in the hydrologic cycle and in the world of water in general this past year which have affected economy, health, and agriculture as well as water access. Climate events were the big news in 2010 with droughts, floods, glacier melt and stronger storms (both rain and snow) leading us to the reality that we indeed have entered a period of consequences regarding our climate.
The BP Gulf Oil Ecocide that is now virtually forgotten is still working its evil on the Gulf, with an 80 mile stretch all the way to the bottom of oil with no life present. The Arctic also saw its second lowest ice extent this past November and the melting is affecting ocean currents in line with a La Nina weather event.
Floods are now taking place in the North of Australia that cover an area as big as France and Germany combined that have stranded 200,000 people, with people saying it is now a catastrophe of "biblical" proportions. Pakistan, India, China, Latin America, the Southwest and Northeast US, all examples recently of climate events where the reality of what we are doing to affect the hydrologic cycle is becoming more evident and that is also related to oversaturation of land and oceans with CO2. The proliferation of dams globally is also a factor that we must now also consider regarding our concerns about water access and availability.
As climate change bears down on us water will be affected drastically regarding both access and quality in relation as well to pollution, privitization, politics and outdated infrastructure (which led to Ireland's current water woes.) Yet, governments of the world (Cancun the most recent example with water left out again) are woefully unprepared for the effects bearing down on us as we continue to push out 90 million tons of Co2 along with other GHGs daily which exacerbates the release of methane from permafrost, which then effects the atmosphere, glaciers, all the way to ocean currents which effect our climate in both extremes. And that does not even take into consideration climate refugees which are already beginning to leave lands due to sea level rise, drought, dying of crops, livestock, etc.
How are events like these not in the consciousness of all sentient beings? How can we say Happy New Year unless we are truly resigned to changing the factors that lead us to disasters like these?
In the coming year we must become more involved in seeking water justice, food security and climate justice for all peoples of the world. We can no longer leave it just in the hands of governments in collusion with corporations seeking to profit off the misery of others. The challenges we now face regarding our global water resources are challenges that if not addressed now will bring nothing but hardship for those feeling the effects of climate change the worst, and those who are the prey of interests using land and water for profit at the expense of our planet's sustainability and the cultural/economic sovereignty of those nations.
Therefore, in reviewing the year gone by and looking ahead we must all become part of the Water Justice Movement in whatever way we can. Whether it is in protest, in writing, in educating, in conserving, it is incumbant upon us all to become part of the solution. Seventy percent of our planet is now is some stage of environmental stress. The signs are evident, the message is clear. We can no longer afford to close our eyes, ears and hearts to the work at hand.
In this year I will be working to provide potable water to those in need through organizations that make a difference, as well as standing up for indigenous people of the world in regards to their land and water, writing my book in earnest and doing all I can to conserve. Whatever you do however small you may think it is, just remember that many raindrops together make a flood, only this flood should be one that turns the tide for true water justice, food sovereignty, climate balance and peace.
This year, let's make it happen.
Thank you for all of the support on this blog.We have seen unsettling changes in the hydrologic cycle and in the world of water in... more
In 1998 and 1999, former Health Canada scientist, Dr Shiv Chopra, along with two co-workers, Drs. Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert, testified to the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry that they were pressured by senior supervisors to approve drugs of questionable safety, including the genetically engineered cattle drug, Bovine Growth Hormone (rBST) – then produced by Monsanto and Eli Lilly.
In return for their whistleblowing, the scientists were fired from their government positions.
Since then, Chopra has been an outspoken critic of corporate agriculture and its pocket regulators. In this interview by natural health advocate Dr Joseph Mercola, Chopra discusses the five toxic elements of the food supply that should be banned immediately. GM foods are one of them. Chopra also talks inspiringly and from practical experience about how ordinary people can reclaim the food production system from the control of the corporations.
The Toxic Five: Why Are They Still in Our Food?
A Special Interview with Dr. Shiv Chopra
By Dr. Mercola
DC: Dr. Shiv Chopra
DM: Dr. Joseph Mercola, DO
Video of interview plus transcript at:
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/08/14/chopra-interview-july-2010.aspxIn 1998 and 1999, former Health Canada scientist, Dr Shiv Chopra, along with two... more
WA government hides GM canola test results
Wednesday, 23 December, 2010: A West Australian organic farmer is in limbo, awaiting state government test results and facing genetic manipulation giant Monsanto's legal wrath. Steve Marsh's organic farm has been decertified over GM canola contamination from a neighbour's farm.
Monsanto revealed today that it would give legal support to the GM grower if Mr Marsh sought redress for his losses through the courts.
"For years we called for Farmer Protection laws because GM contamination was inevitable once the Gene Technology Regulator issued unrestricted and unconditional commercial licences," says Gene Ethics Executive Director, Bob Phelps.
"And just this week, the regulator has licensed Monsanto trials of GM canola designed to survive even more repeated sprayings of Roundup herbicide. This will add to the burden of unmanageable herbicide tolerant weeds that already cost Australian land managers over $4 billion per year.
"The West Australian Government sampled the GM canola contaminating 60% of Steve Marsh's land weeks ago but Agriculture Minister Terry Redman is keeping the test results secret until Christmas eve at the earliest.
"Yet Steve's own strip tests found GM canola on his land and last week his organic certifier NASAA [National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia] confirmed GM and suspended his certification for at least a year. Steve has lost the premiums that come from marketing his organic produce that has zero tolerance for anything GM, as Organic Standard AS6000 requires.
"That's typical of how the minister treats farmers. Redman has not kept one promise on GM canola segregation and handling, despite claiming 'GM and non-GM canola can be segregated and marketed separately,' when he lifted the GM ban this year. He also welshed on his promise to publish the sites of GM canola farms so that non-GM growers could take evasive action.
"Monsanto's Tony May was present when Redman lifted the GM canola ban and he also sold 20% of the state's public plant breeding company intergrain to Monsanto for a song. They immediately announced that GM wheat is their joint research priority.
"Minister Redman has a responsibility to pass Farmer Protection laws early in 2011 to compensate organic farmer Steve Marsh and all the other growers who will be GM contaminated.
"Minister Redman must give Steve Marsh the Christmas present he needs, by announcing the GM test results today and promising a Farmer Protection law. He must give all farmers the non-GM crop choices that he promised, without economic loss or decertification from GM canola contamination," Mr Phelps concludes.
NOTES TO EDITORS
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/industry-sectors/gm-strain-blows-organic-status-away/story-e6frg95o-1225975191363, The Australian, December 23.
More background and media reports at www.geneethics.orgWA government hides GM canola test results
Wednesday, 23 December, 2010: A West... more
My final video for 2010 from the Sustainable Agriculture Group on GMO news. We need to see the momentum gaining more in 2011. Here's hoping that the coming year brings us one year closer to a GMO free world to protect the biodiversity and health of our food and planet.
Thank you to all who have supported my endeavors and posts this year.
JanMy final video for 2010 from the Sustainable Agriculture Group on GMO news. We need to... more
We are at a crossroads regarding the effects of climate change on our food and water resources. Fossil fuel industrial agriculture is responsible for 1/3 of the GHGs that are now exacerbating consequences that will take us to a tipping point if we do not look to more sustainable ways of agriculture. Already, 50% of our topsoil has been eroded in the last fifty years, and deforestation for biofuel as well as cattle ranching, oil drilling, etc. along with what we are currently doing to peatlands, grasslands, wetlands and old growth forests that sequester much of the carbon that is now escaping is bringing us to that tipping point ever faster.
This video shows us what can be accomplished when people understand this and take a positive step in using these sustainable methods. Soil carbon sequestration on a global scale could sequester up to 40% of the current GHGs that are exacerbating drought and soil nutrient deficiencies. This is a positive way to plan for a cleaner healthier future that does not require time and huge sums of capital in bringing the solution to the fore. We already have them at our disposal.
Organic farming. Agroecology. Biodynamics. Permaculture.
Nature's way of solving the climate crisis.
BTW, I deleted the previous entry on this because I was tired of coming into the thread and seeing the same disruptors and the same fights. So thanks Current for providing that option. ;-)We are at a crossroads regarding the effects of climate change on our food and water... more
Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing from their hives.
Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables.
Vanishing of the Bees follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capital Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees.
Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and mother earth. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss. Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing... more
Mark Van Horn, director of the student farm at the University of California, is nearly lost as he walks through a yellow cloud of wild sunflowers around the edge of a field of tomatoes and sweet corn.
Research here on wild sunflowers, he says, shows they are home to lady beetles and parasitic wasps, which are good bugs that kill bad bugs.
“The sunflowers help us provide a bed-and-breakfast for beneficial insects and keep them going year round,” he said. “And native sunflowers are a lot better at it than domestic. There’s a lot more insect biodiversity in wild sunflowers.”
While conventional farmers have a quiver full of chemical arrows to battle the invasion of weeds and pests, the organic farmer has a tougher row to hoe. There simply aren’t organic bug sprays that can match the power of synthetic chemicals and almost nothing in the way of organic herbicides.
Instead, there’s a growing understanding among organic farmers of ways to harness natural systems as part of what is called integrated pest management.
And there’s a small burst of new research into organic farming techniques as a result of the 2008 farm bill, which finances a range of agricultural programs at a total of $307 billion. For years such research was financed at $3 million a year, and though the funds are still minuscule compared with conventional agricultural research, it’s now $20 million annually for the next few years, and may increase further. Instead of five to seven research grants per year, there are now two dozen.
“You aren’t considered a kook anymore if you do this kind of research, as you were in the 1980s,” said Fred Kirschenmann, an organic farmer and a distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa.
Research on organic agricultural ecosystems in the last few years has made some key findings and refined techniques organic growers use.
A paper published in Nature this year confirmed what organic farmers have long suspected — that conventional farming can make the pest problem worse. David Crowder, an entomologist at Washington State University and an author of the paper, says that if there are more varieties of plants around the field, and no broad-spectrum pesticides, as in organic farming, it promotes balance among insect species, rather than letting one species dominate. “There are more natural enemies and they do a lot better job in organic fields controlling pests,” Dr. Crowder said.
Natural enemies are key to the organic approach. Eric Brennan is the lone full-time organic researcher for the Agriculture Department, and he works in the Salinas Valley, the so-called salad bowl of America, where some 80 percent of the country gets its salad greens. One of the most difficult pests is the lettuce aphid.
The treatment of choice for commercial organic lettuce is to plant an ornamental flower called alyssum among lettuce beds, taking up 5 to 10 percent of the total field. Hoverflies live in the alyssum and need a source of aphids to feed their young, so they lay their eggs in the lettuce. When they hatch, the larvae start preying on the aphids.
“If you were an aphid on a head of lettuce, a hoverfly larva would be a nightmare,” said Dr. Brennan. “They are voracious eaters of aphids. One larva per plant will control the aphids.” Dr. Brennan is studying the most effective configuration of lettuce and alyssum beds.
Some organic strawberry farmers use “trap crops” to lure insects away from their cash crop. Lygus bugs cause the berries to deform. But the bugs like alfalfa better than strawberries, so some farmers plant one bed of alfalfa for every 50 rows of berries. As the lygus bugs crowd into the green growth, a giant tractor-mounted vacuum cleaner comes by and sucks them up. Other farmers simply suck the bugs off the strawberry plants.
cont.Mark Van Horn, director of the student farm at the University of California, is nearly... more