Too bad solid, scientific research hasn't been enough to drive that nail home. A 2010 United Nations study (PDF) concluded that organic and other sustainable farming methods that come under the umbrella of what the study's authors called "agroecology" would be necessary to feed the future world. Two years earlier, a U.N. examination (PDF) of farming in 24 African countries found that organic or near-organic farming resulted in yield increases of more than 100 percent. Another U.N.-supported report entitled "Agriculture at a Crossroads" (PDF), compiled by 400 international experts, said that the way the world grows food will have to change radically to meet future demand. It called for governments to pay more attention to small-scale farmers and sustainable practices -- shooting down the bigger-is-inevitably-better notion that huge factory farms and their efficiencies of scale are necessary to feed the world.
Suspicious of the political motives of the U.N.? Well, there's a study that came out in 2010 from the all-American National Research Council. Written by professors from seven universities, including the University of California, Iowa State University, and the University of Maryland, the report finds that organic farming, grass-fed livestock husbandry, and the production of meat and crops on the same farm will be needed to sustain food production in this country.
At the LTAR fields in Adair County, the (LTAR) runs four fields: one managed with the Midwest-standard two-year corn-soy rotation featuring the full range of agrochemicals; and the other ones organically managed with three different crop-rotation systems. The chart below records the yield averages of all the systems, comparing them to the average yields achieved by actual conventional growers in Adair County:
So, in yield terms, both of the organic rotations featuring corn beat the Adair County average and came close to the conventional patch. Two of the three organic rotations featuring soybeans beat both the county average and the conventional patch; and both of the organic rotations featuring oats trounced the county average. In short, Borlaug's claim of huge yield advantages for the chemical-intensive agriculture he championed just don't pan out in the field.
The odds that most of us laypeople will have any opportunity to influence this year's Farm Bill process are looking awfully slim. Sure, there's still a chance the current, nearly opaque supercommittee process, and the piece of it now known as "the Secret Farm Bill," could break down. If that happens, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) said last week:
It could proceed under a more normal legislative process through both the House and Senate committees early next year, or the current farm bill could be extended for a year, with the committees coming back to work on a new farm bill in 2013.
But it's also still very possible that the Farm Bill will be passed -- if not in secret, now that the word is out, then at least through a process that will put a pane of thick, soundproof glass between us and our lawmakers.
A growing body of medical research at leading universities and government laboratories suggests that processed foods and sugary drinks made by the likes of PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) aren’t simply unhealthy. They can hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.
“The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.”
Similar stories prompted the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, a new group that has grown out of the Hudson Valley in New York, to survey more than 1,000 young farmers nationwide in an effort to identify the pitfalls that are keeping a new generation of Americans from going into agriculture.
“Everyone wants young farmers to succeed — we all know that,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, who oversaw the survey. “But no one was addressing this big elephant in the room, which was capital and land access.”
It seems like a simple but critical mantra to follow: always know what you’re eating. Unless, of course, some sneaky biotech company decides that we no longer have the right to know whether or not they slip something potentially dangerous into our food. Seems like quite a trick, doesn’t it? Say hello to genetically engineered sweet corn and Monsanto, the misguided company that wants to sneak their product into stores—and into your dinner—without labeling it.
Seventy-eight percent of U.S. families say they are choosing organic foods, an increase from last year despite hard economic times, a survey indicates.
Christine Bushway, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, found four in 10 families indicate they are buying more organic products than they were a year ago.
Forty-eight percent of parents surveyed said their strongest motivator for buying organic is their belief that organic products "are healthier for me and my children." Other motivators included concern over the effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics on children, and a desire to avoid highly processed or artificial ingredients.
Nearly a decade after the federal rules for organic were implemented, 72 percent of parents are now familiar with the USDA Organic seal, up from 65 percent in 2009, the survey indicated.
he State of Ohio today agreed that it will no longer pursue regulations limiting labeling on organic dairy products. Ohio had attempted to prohibit statements on labels which informed consumers that organic dairy products are produced without antibiotics, pesticides or synthetic hormones. After the Organic Trade Association (OTA) sued the State of Ohio, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with consumers’ right to know and gutted the Ohio rule, finding that it was unconstitutional. Ohio has now agreed to abandon the rule rather than trying to revive it, recognizing that the First Amendment allows organic dairy products to proudly state that they are produced in accordance with the organic standards, without the use of synthetic growth hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics.
Agricultural experts warn against genetic engineering
Industrial agriculture will not suffice to provide food for a growing world population, say experts. Instead, sustainable and eco-friendly practices should be promoted. This requires a change of mindset in politics.
One billion people on our planet don't get enough to eat. It's estimated that by the middle of this century, there will be more than nine billion people living on earth. Current agricultural practices are among the biggest threats to the environment.
This means that unless more sustainable approaches are developed, the planet will become even less able to feed its growing population. The equation 'more input equals more output' no longer holds true in agriculture.
Genetically engineered corn, soy and plant oil should be disclosed on mandatory food labels, a coalition of more than 350 producers, trade groups and consumers said in a petition to U.S. regulators.
The U.S. should require added disclosure even when a product containing a gene-altered organism is similar to foods that aren’t bioengineered, the groups said today in the petition to the Food and Drug Administration. Stonyfield Farm, the organic-yogurt maker owned by Danone SA, and Dean Foods Co.’s Horizon Organic are among the coalition members.
Petitioners, led by the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, want to reverse a 1992 Food and Drug Administration policy that doesn’t require different labeling. Gene-altered seeds are used for almost 90 percent of U.S.-grown corn, 94 percent of soy and 90 percent of cottonseed, an oil-producing plant, the coalition said.