Category Archives: Agriculture

Some worry about ‘industrial agriculture’ but who certifies the safety of farmers’ market produce?

Food-safety issues abound near U.S. Capitol
News21 reporters find salmonella-contaminated chicken, among other violations, at the Agriculture Department’s own farmer’s market in Washington
Maggie Clark, Esther French and Mattea Kramer

Outside the Department of Agriculture headquarters on Independence Avenue, government workers and tourists shop for fresh produce, poultry, popcorn, baked goods and hot lunches.

Like farmers’ markets across America, this one sponsored by the USDA is thriving, propelled by a national craving for fresh food and the perception that locally grown food is healthier than food mass-produced by big agriculture and sold in grocery stores.

But commercial tests found pathogens on raw chickens sold by a Virginia farmer at the USDA market that could be harmful if the poultry were not properly cooked, according to an investigation by News21, a national university reporting project at the University of Maryland. The same was true of poultry sold by a Pennsylvania farmer at a Vermont Avenue market nearby. (iwatch news)


Farmers Markets Thrive While Concerns Grow

Small farms and local markets bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety of food they sell and buy.
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The case for irradiation?

Laws Haven’t Kept Deadly Pathogens Out of Meat, Poultry
A complex system of self-regulation leaves the safety of meat and poultry largely in the hands of private companies.
Teresa Lostroh and Rachel Albin

Almost 9 million pounds of meat and poultry was recalled in 2010 because of the potential for foodborne illness after it had already been approved under America’s strictest food regulations.

While most of what Americans eat is the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Food Safety and Inspection Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees meat and poultry.

Every USDA-inspected food on the market – including steaks, chicken potpies and frozen pepperoni pizzas – carries a government seal indicating the food is “safe, wholesome and correctly labeled.”

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Unusually honest organic food report (even admits organic never found to be ‘better’)

Organic food no guarantee against foodborne illness

Eating organic may limit your exposure to pesticides. It may make you feel environmentally conscious. It can help support local farmers.

But scientists warn it won’t necessarily protect you against foodborne illnesses. Organics, like conventionally farmed foods, can harbor dangerous pathogens including E. coli and salmonella, News21 reports.

A 2006 study in the Journal of Food Science did not find a significant difference in the prevalence of E. coli between organic and conventional produce. And a 2009 Kansas State University study did not find a difference in the prevalence of E. coli between organically and conventionally raised cattle. (iwatch news)

It’ll benefit people, so naturally enviros are agin it

Homegrown GM Bean Won’t Fight Hunger, Critics Say
By Fabiana Frayssinet

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 4, 2011 (IPS) – Critics complain that a genetically modified bean developed in Brazil, resistant to one of the country’s most damaging agricultural pests, was approved without enough debate or guarantees that the crop will not affect human health or the environment.

The GM bean, named 5.1, was developed by Embrapa, the government’s agricultural research agency, to resist the bean golden yellow mosaic virus (BGYMV), whose main symptom is a bright yellow or golden mosaic on the leaves, as well as leaf wrinkling and rolling. The seeds and plants are also stunted, malformed and discoloured, and flowers are aborted, leading to the loss of between 40 and 100 percent of the beans.

According to Embrapa, the virus transmitted by the whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) causes annual losses of between 90,000 and 280,000 tons of beans – enough to feed six to 20 million more adults in this country of 192 million people.

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Cranks and scammers seek to sabotage advanced agriculture in the name of “consumer information”

Here’s some sad news for you guys – unless you only eat weeds and wildlife all your food has been modified and has been since the advent of farming.

In fact a lot has been modified very deliberately since Man learned to use fire for cooking (we alter the molecular structure of food to make it [more] digestible, palatable and/or nutritious).

Are “foreign” genes a particular hazard in foodstuffs? Of course not, some of our basic grains (wheats) contain 2 or 3 complete sets of 7 paired chromosomes – these are the staples of our diets that are made up of 2 or 3 complete genomes and have done for millennia, all without turning consumers into grasses.

Biotech enhanced foods are no more unusual or novel than strains developed by say chemical- or radiation-forced mutagenesis, a development not noted on packaging and information of no practical bearing on consumers.

Neither has biotechnology information any bearing on consumers except for scammers and fear mongers trying to extract premiums for inferior products by creating fear of competitor product. Amusingly none of the label promoters seem keen on such precise information being made prominent about their own products. How many worried young moms would buy that natural stone-ground wholewheat flour if the exact content of foreign materials (bug bits, rodent hairs, weed seeds, dust, grinding wheel residue and so on) was printed on the packaging? (Yes, there really is a percentage tolerance for “foreigns” in grains and flours and man, you should see what gets crushed for your fine wines ;-) )

Apart from organic and “natural food” fantasists (the same group stupid enough to consume raw [unpasteurized] milk) we have the misanthropes desperate to limit human population by suppressing more productive agriculture but they do not openly fly their people-hating colors during their sabotage efforts.

No one trying to foment hysteria over enhanced agriculture is acting in the best interests of humanity or the environment and the only reason to push labeling is to try to pretend biotech is somehow different or dangerous.

Group seeks labels on genetically altered food
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Oh noes! Harvesting timber is environmentally friendly

Wood is the greenest building material, USDA says

A report from the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday found that using wood in building products yielded fewer greenhouse gases than other common building materials, such as concrete and steel. According to the report, which analyzed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies, 2.1 tons of greenhouse gases were saved for each ton of carbon in wood products versus non-wood materials.

“This study confirms what many environmental scientists have been saying for years,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America.” (LA Times)

Credit where credit is due, the Toronto Star has this one right

Ending raw milk risk

Louis Pasteur was right — and so is an Ontario court ruling against the distribution and sale of potentially dangerous raw milk. Self-described advocates of “food freedom” may lament the finding against Grey County dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, and he vows to appeal. But public safety must come first.

The ruling by Justice Peter Tetley reverses an earlier, ill-judged decision that had allowed Schmidt to continue his raw milk operation on grounds that the farmer’s “cow share” cooperative did not violate health and safety regulations. While the sale of unpasteurized milk is banned in Ontario, farmers are allowed to drink their own product. Taking advantage of that, Schmidt had people buy a share of his cows and obtain raw milk as a result of their investment. Tetley didn’t accept that marketing dodge, and rightly so.

Almost 150 years ago Pasteur showed that heating milk to at least 63 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes kills harmful pathogens, including listeria, salmonella and E. coli. The procedure was so effective at saving lives it has become a standard public health practice. Indeed, Toronto was a leader in this area, passing a bylaw in 1915 requiring pasteurization of milk sold in the city (the Star played an important role in that campaign). Unfortunately, akin to the backlash against immunization, some people insist they’re better off without this protection. (The Star)

Misanthropic loons still trying to stifle crop development

Note the misinformation like “terminator technology” – hybrid seeds are generally infertile or revert to base stock after one generation – either way high-productivity hybrids are not suitable for seed saving, something which has absolutely nothing to do with biotechnology. Yes, some work was done to prevent illegal use of proprietary technology (like copy protection on music, videos and/or software that people shouldn’t but do steal – the same kind of thing that built the profits used for philanthropy by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ;-) ).

Either way “Big Agro” is the only way 9 billion people are going to be adequately fed on planet Earth, something farmer’s markets and superstitions like “organics” simply can not achieve. Retro nostalgia and primitive agriculture just won’t do the job. You could harvest between the ears of every greenie on the planet but you just won’t find enough crap to grow food for the current 7 billion population without using synthetic fertilizers and higher productivity crop plants. Get over it.

Battle Escalates Against Genetically Modified Crops
By Kanya D’Almeida

WASHINGTON, Oct 1, 2011 (IPS) – Home to a fast-growing network of farmers’ markets, cooperatives and organic farms, but also the breeding ground for mammoth for-profit corporations that now hold patents to over 50 percent of the world’s seeds, the United States is weathering a battle between Big Agro and a ripening movement for food justice and security.

Conflicting ideologies about agriculture have become ground zero for this war over the production, distribution and consumption of the world’s food.

One camp – led by agro giants like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – define successful agriculture and hunger alleviation as the use of advanced technologies to stimulate yields of mono-crops.

The other side argues that industrial agriculture pollutes, destroys and disrupts nature by dismissing the importance of relationships necessary for any ecosystem to thrive.

At the heart of this struggle is the debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which were given the green light in 1990 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated, “(We) are not aware of any information showing that GMO foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.” (IPS)

‘Climate proofing’ crops is a great idea – just don’t forget it is more likely to be cold we need to worry about and that CO2 is free aerial fertilization for crops

Scientists eye ‘windows of opportunity’ for adapting food crops to climate change

Increased aid from biotechnology needed in the next 2 decades to tap the genetic potential of seed banks

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK (3 OCTOBER 2011)—Responding to appeals from African leaders for new tools to deal with the effects of climate change on food production, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has released a series of studies focused on “climate proofing” crops critical to food security in the developing world.

The studies constitute various chapters in a new book titled Crop Adaptation to Climate Change from John Wiley & Sons, which was developed by an international team of the world’s leading climate and agricultural researchers to provide adaptation strategies for more than a dozen crops—such as potatoes, beans, bananas and cassava—on which billions of people depend worldwide.

The studies describe how climate change could threaten food production and how specific adaptation strategies could neutralize or at least significantly lessen the impact. They argue that investments are urgently needed to identify important genetic traits, including drought tolerance and pest resistance, which will be critical for helping farmers adapt to new growing conditions. (EurekAlert)

EU anti chemical madness causing yet more problems

EU ban on bracken pesticide is blasted
Scott Kirk

A EUROPEAN Union ban on a pesticide to control bracken has been criticised by leading conservation charities.

Millions of pounds has been spent removing bracken from the Lake District fells because it is a haven for disease carrying ticks, which can spread Lyme disease to humans and Louping Ill to grouse and sheep.

Bracken has spread significantly during recent years sometimes at the expense of other plants and wildlife.

The most effective weapon against it has been a pesticide called Asulam, which targets just the bracken, leaving other vegetation free to grow.

It has been used for decades, but was banned by the EU’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health over concerns about its safety when used on spinach and other food crops. The EU has been re-registering pesticides to adhere to higher food standards, and Asulam failed in one of the tests. (Westmorland gazette)

EPA Boosts Water Policing as Farmers Say Worst Fears Realized

EPA Boosts Water Policing as Farmers Say Worst Fears Realized
Mark Drajem

Fifth-generation farmer Kenny Watkins ran afoul of the U.S. clean-water police in 2009. His infraction: Planting hay in a pasture.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered Watkins to stop cultivating a 160-acre (65-hectare) tract in central California because he might destroy seasonal ponds and harm the San Joaquin River. Watkins has defied the decision and the federal government’s control over what he can grow on his farm.

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On the crime of “biofuels”

Biofuels May Push 120 Million Into Hunger, Qatar’s Shah Says
Rudy Ruitenberg

Biofuel policies in countries from Australia to the U.S. may push 120 million people into hunger by 2050 while doing little to halt climate change, said Mahendra Shah, an advisor to Qatar’s food security program.

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While we don’t necessarily agree geoengineering is always a bad idea we certainly don’t want any fool trying to cool the planet

Alan Robock On Geoengineering

There is an interesting seminar scheduled for September 27 2011. The announcement is reproduced below. Alan Robock and I differ on a number of climate issues, but he and I seem to agree on the risks of geoengineering. Alan told me that his papers on geoengineering can be obtained from http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/robock/robock_geopapers.html

I have highlighted text in the announcement in which he and I agree. His concern on geoengineering, which involves deliberate alterations in regional climate forcings, in addition to any effect on the global average radiative forcing, should also make him a proponent of the important role of land use/land cover change (i.e. a regional climate forcing) as a first-order climate forcing. (Roger Pielke Sr.)

They’ve finally biotech is under attack from misanthropes, especially in Europe

GM food solutions at risk from lobbyists, research suggests

Powerful lobby groups opposed to genetically modified food are threatening public acceptance of the technology in Europe, research suggests

Powerful lobby groups opposed to genetically modified (GM) food are threatening public acceptance of the technology in Europe, research suggests.

They are also hampering Europe’s response to the global challenge of securing food supplies for current and future generations, researchers claim.

Drawing upon a decade of evidence, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Warwick University say that Europe’s regulation of GM crops has become less democratic and less evidence-based since the 1980s.

Anti-GM groups such as organic food lobbyists and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dominate the decision making process, they claim, resulting in greater restriction of plant biotechnology research and development in Europe compared with most other parts of the world.

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WCR: Corn (i.e., CO2RN) v. Drought

Corn (i.e., CO2RN) v. Drought

Let’s think about the future of corn in the United States; no one would ever doubt the importance of this major agricultural crop throughout the world. Corn is used for everything from a food staple for humans and animals to a substitute for fossil-fuel based energy (well, not a very good substitute as things have worked out). The global warming crusade insists that droughts in the future will become more frequent and/or more severe thereby crushing corn production in the central United States. They eagerly point to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) where they conclude that “areas affected by droughts” have increased and will increase and that it is “likely” that there has been a human contribution to the observed pattern. We have covered this topic repeatedly here at World Climate Report, and we certainly encourage you to explore what we found on this highly controversial subject. (WCR)