Category: Agriculture & Food
Filed in Agriculture & Food December 7 2016
Few issues capture the complex space millennials occupy better than food and farming. At a time when commodity agriculture is pervasive – regenerative, organic agriculture is experiencing a renaissance spurred on by millennials. Much has been written about millennials, a generation that occupies a peculiar place in history: the systems previous generations created and grew up with are faltering. Climate change is a reality we must address. No matter what else is said about millennials – a generation this author belongs to – one truth is that we face deep existential turmoil. In spite of current and future turbulence, millennials remain optimistic in believing that people have the power to effect change. This is abundantly clear in organic agriculture.
Organic agriculture was just agriculture in the pre-World War II period, signified by a lack of chemicals – industrialized agriculture became the way of the future in the post-war period. Our experiments in industrial agriculture led to increased corporate control of the food industry, a decline in the number of farms and farmers, and much less diversity in agriculture. By contrast, organic agriculture operates on a smaller scale, relies on crop diversity and soil management practices for pest control, therefore prioritizing environmental ... Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food , Environment & Climate , November 30 2016
To celebrate the recent World Food Day, learn how food production can be transformed from a greenhouse gas emitter to a carbon sink by improving soil biology.
“Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” This year’s message from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization for World Food Day is timely as the planet emerges from yet another summer of record heat. With changing climates and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, the world is facing real challenges with food production, exacerbated by the declining capacity of soils to hold water, buffer temperature shocks, and supply nutrients to food crops.
Agriculture as a Climate Change Contributor
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, over a 20-year period, agriculture accounts for about 22 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This makes agriculture the largest contributing sector to climate change. In comparison, industry emits 20 percent of greenhouse gases, electricity and heat production 17 percent, and other energy–related activities another 17 percent.
Agriculture as a Climate Change Solution
There is good news, however. Because the agricultural system is a living community, its capacity for greenhouse gas sequestration can regrow organically under management practices that allow the soil ecosystem to recover and thrive.
To do this, farmers have ... Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food June 9 2016
In order to understand how we arrived at today’s food system and the opportunity to expand into organics, some history is in order.
Prior to World War II the food economy in the US was typified by organic market gardens and small grocery stores that carried fewer than 500 items. Self-sufficiency was a necessity as the economic grip of the Great Depression remained. The food supply was local and the average farm size was 157 acres.
World War II changed everything, laying the foundation for today’s industrial food economy. With the need to feed millions of soldiers, packaged food production went into high gear. K-rations, a soldier’s staple, were the precursor to post WWII packaged foods. We went from K-rations to TV dinners.
And the manufacture of ammonium nitrate used in making bombs was redirected into making the synthetic fertilizers widely used today throughout our chemical-based system of agriculture.
Organic sales have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to over $40 billion today.
The debate is raging about the safety of Glyphosate (Roundup) and GM foods in general. Research has been mounting about how GM crops and associated farming practices have sickened our soil and contributed to climate change. A new understanding is emerging about ... Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food , Healthcare & Nutrition , May 5 2016
Joining forces, dairy farmers in the Netherlands and Uganda are learning from Indian experts about using medicinal herbs to prevent animal diseases and reduce the widespread reliance on antibiotics for livestock.
Many of us picture dairy farms with rolling green pastures and lazily grazing cows, but the vast majority of commercial dairy products come from intensive industrial farms optimized by modern technologies. Yet these “high-tech solutions” may also be the root of the industry’s main challenges.
A common problem on dairy farms—especially large-scale industrial farms—is mastitis, an udder infection that is responsible for 16.5 percent of dairy cattle deaths in the United States. In addition to shortening the cows’ lifespans, mastitis results in the production of lower-quality milk, with lower cheese yield and a shorter shelf life.
The most urgent problem related to antibiotic overuse is the development of drug resistance—when bacteria evolve to become stronger “superbugs” that are able to survive subsequent antibiotic applications. This resistance makes it increasingly difficult to cure bacterial infections in livestock as well as in humans, since many human medicines rely on the same types of drugs being used for livestock. Losing the effectiveness of antimicrobials renders many medical therapies increasingly risky, including organ transplantation and ... Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food December 21 2015
The key bases of our agricultural systems—the world’s land, water, and climate—ensure that farmers can feed the world. But these resources are being depleted, even as global demand for agricultural products is expected to mushroom in the coming decades. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that demand will be 60 percent higher in 2050 than in the three-year average for 2005–07. If nothing is done, this growth could overwhelm our food systems.
To save our global food system, it’s time to focus on conservation and efficiency. Here are five big ideas for doing this:
- Combating food waste.
- Reducing meat and biofuel production.
- Increasing water productivity.
- Conserving agricultural land.
- Infusing ethics into food trade.
Food trade will become an indispensable nutritional lifeline,” writes contributing author Gary Gardner in State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability. “As such, food trade cannot be treated as just another exchange of goods, and food cannot be treated as just another commodity.” Instead, protecting access to food as a human right will ensure that food cannot be withheld for political reasons. Already, 28 countries have explicitly listed a right to food in their national constitutions since the FAO advanced this concept in 2004.
Read more from Gaelle Gourmelon, ... Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food , Dining & Entertainment , Healthcare & Nutrition , Personal Care & Cosmetics , September 11 2015
There is increasing opposition to the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, more commonly known as “GMOs”. GMOs are artificially produced variants of plants or animals in which the genetic makeup of the organism has been altered to contain one or more genes not normally found in the organism’s DNA. Through genetic engineering, genes that control specific desired attributes in the native species are forced into the DNA of the GMO to give the host a similar trait. Because the genes of different, unrelated species are used, this process is called transgenic. GreenPages Directory supports consumer choice for Non-GMO products and listings that are identified as such can be viewed here: http://greenpagesdirectory.net/certifications/browse/non-gmo
The most common use of GMOs is in the farming industry where crops can be made resistant to parasites, frost and even herbicides. However, there are many applications for the modifying of organisms and the same biotechnological processes used to create corn impervious to RoundUp herbicide are used to produce Bovine Growth Hormone (rBST) to increase milk production in dairy cows; just as potatoes are modified to produce the effects of anticholera vaccine and spider genes are inserted into goat DNA to produce milk proteins that are stronger than ... Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food , Ecosystems, Wildlife & Biodiversity , October 30 2014
Flupyradifurone is a new neonicotinoid pesticide from Bayer. That’s right, another one!
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) explained that:
“Flupyradifurone may pose a risk to bees, non-target beneficial arthropods, and freshwater and saltwater invertebrates when used for foliar application. Flupyradifurone may pose a risk to birds and small wild mammals when used for soybean seed treatment.”
The neonicotinoid pesticide can enter the environment through a number of different insecticide applications and covers a large number of ‘pests’ in a variety of crops. It can also enter groundwater and aquatic environments through surface run-off.
Health Canada’s PMRA is accepting comments on Flupyradifurone until this Saturday, November 1st. Do you think Flupyradifurone should be allowed on the market? Share your thoughts today by visiting the Sierra Club website.
Read more on John Bennett’s blog, Sierra Club Canada’s Executive Director, originally published on the Sierra Club Canada website (www.sierraclub.ca):Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food , Environment & Climate , October 15 2014
Good news for earth and chocolate lovers: the Hershey Company has recently significantly strengthened its commitment to zero deforestation for all the palm oil it uses. The Union of Concerned Scientists – particularly Palm Oil Outreach Coordinator Miriam Swaffer – has been talking with The Hershey Company for nearly a full year about this policy.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Senior Scientist and Director of Climate Research and Analysis Doug Boucher writes on how the organization urged the Hershey Company to follow the science and the lead of the most advanced consumer goods companies, including competitors of theirs such as Nestle and Unilever. And they have.
Hershey’s stronger commitment to zero deforestation is significant for several reasons; because it is a strong policy by almost every criterion; because UCS has been working with the Hershey Company for nearly a year, urging energetic and scientifically rigorous action; and because I’ve liked their chocolate bars for an awfully long time.
Now, that’s a sweet deal. Read more on the Union of Concerned Scientists blog: http://blog.ucsusa.org/hershey-bars-global-warming-and-deforestation-a-sweet-new-policy-666Read More
Filed in Agriculture & Food , Ecosystems, Wildlife & Biodiversity , Healthcare & Nutrition , August 15 2014
Article By Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) for the GreenMoney Journal.
As more and more world attention focuses on threats from global warming and its impact on agriculture, organic production practices and principles are providing hope to an environmentally challenged planet.
Studies continue to mount showing that organic farms are able to support more species biodiversity than their conventional counterparts. In fact, in one of the latest studies, researchers from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland published findings in 2014 in the Journal of Applied Ecology showing that different agricultural methods affect the diversity of life on farms. Their research found that on average, organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms. In addition, organic farms had 50 percent high diversity in pollinator species such as bees.
“Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialized nations,” according to Sean Tuck of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Science, lead author of the study.
For farmers who diligently work the earth using organic practices—starting with rejuvenating and building healthy soils, this is not news. However, it is a message that they desire consumers, agricultural agents, and policymakers to ... Read More
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