Opinion/Editorial Archive

‘Made In Rural America’ But Not For Americans

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Honey Colony
by Brett Barth, Buzzworthy Blogs

Credit: NRCS

The steady creep of prices at your grocery checkout might have you wondering about frosts and droughts and the many other challenges confronting agribusiness. That’s kind of you, really, but stop. Truth be told, these are roaring times in the U.S. Farming industry.

According to a recent report from The Council of Economic Advisors, net farm income in 2013 (a function of the handful of industrials that control most American farmland) hit a 40-year high and marked a 46 percent increase in growth since 2008. As President Obama noted in a recent speech, “agriculture is thriving.” Read Full Article »

Why Congress Should Care About the Beepocalypse

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Roll Call
by Rep. John Conyers Jr. and Michael Shank

Credit: Devcore

This year, food security is set to suffer another big setback, and the culprit could not be cuter: honeybees. Last winter, America’s beekeeping industry lost nearly half of all its bee colonies. And the numbers keep falling. Last summer, in the largest bee kill on record, more than 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Oregon as a direct result of exposure to an insecticide applied to trees for cosmetic purposes.

The killing has gotten so bad that people are calling it a beepocalypse. This is a serious situation. One-third of the food produced in North America depends on pollination by our honeybees. Nearly 100 varieties of fruits depend on honeybee pollination, from almonds (which are California’s third-largest export) to avocados to apples to cranberries. Read Full Article »

Hydroponic’s Organic Label is All Wet

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Washington Post
By Barbara Damrosch

zinnia hydroponicsHydroponic gardening could not be more different from organic gardening if it tried. Maybe you’ve seen a hydroponic greenhouse operation, or a home gardener’s kit, in which plant roots are bathed in a solution of chemical fertilizers but never come into contact with any soil. It is a clever and useful system that can be used in places where the soil is contaminated, or one where a living soil does not exist, such as Mars.

Organic gardening, on the other hand, is a practice in which we participate in a natural system already in place, and it is complex beyond our ability to know. The living interactions of microbes, animals and plants in the soil are what created Earth’s atmosphere and keep it livable. If we don’t disrupt them, they give us healthful food with all the nutritional subtleties we’ve evolved to need.

According to James W. Brown, writing on the Web site of CropKing, a company that sells greenhouses and hydroponic equipment, the word hydroponic suffers from an image problem that the word “organic” might correct. By using a system whereby certain bacteria digest organic matter to create nutrients in a separate location, which are then “delivered to the plant via solution,” growers can “market their produce as being organic because that will command a premium price.” The process, says Brown, is “certifiable under the guidelines of the National Organic Program” (NOP).

But that’s just because the NOP is dragging its feet. Read Full Article »

Abundance Doesn’t Mean Health

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The New York Times
by Mark Bittman

grocery-store-pick-upThe relatively new notion that around a third or more of the world’s population is badly (“mal”) nourished conflates hunger and diet-spawned illnesses like diabetes, both of which are preventable.

Both result from a lack of access to quality food, which in turn can result from a lack of money. No one with money starves, and the obesity-diabetes epidemic afflicts predominantly people on the low end of the income scale. With money comes good food, food that creates health and not “illth,” to use John Ruskin’s word. With a lack of money comes either not enough food or so-called empty calories, calories that put on pounds but do not nourish. Read Full Article »

Crop Flops: GMOs Lead Ag Down the Wrong Path

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

by Tom Philpott

Before I respond to Nathanael Johnson’s assertion that the “stakes are so low” in the debate over GMOs, I want to address a smaller point. “The debate isn’t about actual genetically modified organisms — if it was we’d be debating the individual plants, not GMOs as a whole,” Johnson writes.

crop_dusterThat’s a good place to start: actually existing GMOs. What traits are on the market today, in use by farmers? First, I’ll note that there’s no shortage of land devoted to GMOs. Since the novel seeds hit the market in 1996, global GM crop acreage has expanded dramatically, reaching 420 million acres by 2012, reports the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. That’s a combined landmass more than four times larger than California. The pro-GMO ISAAA hails this expansion as “fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.”

Yet, for all of that land devoted to GMOs, there are just two traits in wide use: herbicide resistance and pest resistance (Bt). Note, in the below ISAAA chart, the “<1″ at the bottom. That represents the percentage of all global GMO acres planted in crops that aren’t either herbicide- or pesticide-tolerant: that is to say, less than 1 percent. Read Full Article »