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 agriculture." Now, Rodale promotes organic ag, so industrial-minded critics will be tempted to dismiss its data. But that would be wrong -- its test plots have an excellent reputation in the ag research community, and the Institute often collaborates with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
Over five million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States and close to 3 million of those children take medication for their symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But a new study reported in The Lancet last month found that with a restricted diet alone, many children experienced a significant reduction in symptoms. The study’s lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands, said in an interview with NPR, “The teachers thought it was so strange that the diet would change the behavior of the child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, the teachers said.”
Dr. Pessler’s study is the first to conclusively say that diet is implicated in ADHD. In the NPR interview, Dr. Pessler did not mince words, “Food is the main cause of ADHD,” she said adding, “After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior. They were no longer more easily distracted, they were no more forgetful, there were no more temper-tantrums.” The study found that in 64 percent of children with ADHD, the symptoms were caused by food. “It’s a hypersensitivity reaction to food,” Pessler said.
What chickens eat and how they are raised makes all the difference in determining their overall health and susceptibility to salmonella, according to a new study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. Researchers from the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety (UGCFS) discovered that conventional chickens are nearly 700 percent more likely to develop salmonella than organic chickens, which has huge implications in food safety.
ans of organic milk now have a compelling argument for their choice: New evidence says it's better for you.
There are more unsaturated fats in organic milk than in conventional milk, according to a research team at Newcastle University in Northern England. In addition to containing omega-3 acids, organic milk's conjugated linoleic acid (also called CLA) has anti-cancer properties and is believed to have many health benefits for the heart. The results of this study were published in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Dairy Science.
Organic growers say that, without safeguards, their foods will be contaminated by genetically modified crops growing nearby. The genetic engineering industry argues that its way of farming is safe and should not be restricted in order to protect organic competitors.
Into that conflict comes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who for two years has been promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants. But in recent weeks, the administration has announced a trio of decisions that have clouded the future of organics and boosted the position of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Vilsack approved genetically modified alfalfa and a modified corn to be made into ethanol, and he gave limited approval to GE sugar beets.
The announcements were applauded by GE industry executives, who describe their genetically modified organisms as the farming of the future. But organics supporters were furious, saying their hopes that the Obama administration would protect their interests were dashed.
On Friday, the Center for Food Safety, a group critical of genetically modified crops, sued federal regulators, alleging the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recent approval of genetically modified alfalfa was illegal. The center alleges the approval is based on faulty information, and that genetically modified alfalfa will damage the organic industry because it could contaminate conventional or organic alfalfa. The alfalfa, developed by Creve Couer-based Monsanto, is engineered to withstand applications of the herbicide Roundup, which kills weeds but not the crop.
Given the demand for salmon, it is no surprise that a Frankenfish has emerged — a lab-created hybrid that could soon become the first genetically engineered animal approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption. The company behind these manufactured fish promises that they will not affect ones from an ancient and wild gene pool.
Here we go again. It is human to think we can trick nature, or do it one better. It is human to think a tsunami would never knock out a nuclear plant, a hurricane would never bury a city and a deepwater oil drill would never poison a huge body of water. In the gods of technology we trust. Until they fail. And then, we feel helpless and small and wonder what they — or we — were thinking.
"Agriculture is at a crossroads," says the study by Olivier de Schutter, the UN special reporter on the right to food, in a drive to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model of industrial farming.
So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations demonstrated average crop yield gains of 80 per cent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests, it says.
Recent projects in 20 African countries resulted in a doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere, it adds.
Turns out, the secret ingredient of Pete and Kelly Mahaffy's fertile 200-acre dairy farm - a member of the Organic Valley co-op - is waste product from seafood processors.
Six to eight truck loads a day deliver shells and shrimp husks to their dairy farm on the Coos River during crab season's peak.
It's a nutrient-rich, slowly decomposing fertilizer the couple spreads thinly over pastures during the rainy months.
As a jaded observer of the meat industry, even I'm flummoxed by this fact: It's standard practice on factory chicken farms to dose those unfortunate birds with arsenic. The idea is that it makes them grow faster -- fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming -- and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis.