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The True Cost of Asparagus | CUESA

The True Cost of Asparagus | CUESA.

MARCH 14, 2014

The True Cost of Asparagus

The first tender spears of asparagus are always a welcome sight at the farmers market, a sign that spring is on its way. But some of that seasonal excitement is fading, now that bunches can be found on grocery store shelves throughout the winter.

“Asparagus has become available year round, whereas before it was just a springtime crop in the United States,” says Roscoe Zuckerman of Zuckerman’s Farm, whose asparagus season typically runs about 16 weeks, from February through May.

The recent influx of Mexican asparagus has farmers like Roscoe worried about the future. A fourth-generation asparagus and potato grower in Stockton, he farms about 260 acres of asparagus, a number that has been decreasing over the years as the wholesale market has shifted. He grandfather once grew 4,500 acres of green and white spears.

On the shelf, imported asparagus may be as cheap as $2 a pound. At such prices, it’s nearly impossible for domestic growers to break even. “Mexican asparagus is being bought wholesale at around $0.64 a pound,” Roscoe says. “My cost this time of year is about $1.03 a pound for harvesting and packing, and that’s without growing costs.”

Because the costs of harvest are so high, he has been cutting his losses by doing something no farmer wants to do: disking viable crop, which means cutting spears and leaving them in the field. “How can you grow a crop and not be able to sell it?” he laments.

Loss of Market Share

Asparagus was first planted in California in the 1850s in the fertile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and the state still leads the nation in asparagus production. But acreage has been in decline in recent years. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 12,000 acres of asparagus in 2012, down from 29,000 in 2003.

“The asparagus industry in our area is dying a slow death,” says Roscoe.

Over the last two decades, free trade agreements like NAFTA have contributed to this shift,dramatically changing what’s on the American plate. The glut of imports has created a year-round expectation for cheap asparagus, tomatoes, raspberries, and other seasonal crops.

While global trade seems like a win in terms of food availability and access, particularly in colder parts of the US, the elimination of tariffs means that wholesale prices have fallen, making it difficult for US growers to compete with countries like Mexico and Peru. Today, more and more Americans are eating asparagus, but it is estimated that imports make up as much as90 percent of the market.

Food of the Kings

Though it is referred to in the industry simply at “grass,” asparagus has historically been considered an aristocrat of the plant kingdom, commanding higher prices than most vegetables. Few consumers understand the patience and hard work that go into growing this unusual perennial crop.

Planting asparagus “crowns” is a significant time investment for farmers, as new plants must establish themselves for two or three years in the ground before producing harvestable shoots. Once mature, the plants may be harvested for up to 20 years, but only about half a pound of spears may be picked from each plant over the course of a season.

It’s a demanding plant that requires vigilant attention from growers. “Asparagus is temperature- and light-driven,” Roscoe explains. “For example, during a full moon, you have water that’s coming up in the soil, which gives the plants more oomph. You’ve also got light from the moon, so production usually spikes.”

On hot days, asparagus can grow upwards of 7 inches a day, which means that Roscoe may be sending workers out into the field to harvest from the same plants within 18 to 24 hours.

Fair Share for Labor

Harvesting asparagus is one of the more labor-intensive jobs in agriculture. Roscoe estimates that every spear is touched by human hands about 20 times from field to market, as it is cut, picked up, passed down rows, put in piles, and eventually sorted by size in the packing shed. Thick shoots come from younger, stronger plants, while the thin shoots are from older plants.

Second-generation farmer Thaddeus Barsotti ofCapay Organic, which grows 60 acres of organic asparagus for direct sales as well as wholesale markets, estimates that his asparagus harvest costs are 30 to 50% of the total production cost.

A discrepancy in labor standards is a significant factor in the higher price of locally grown asparagus. Zuckerman’s conventionally grown asparagus sells for $3.50 a bunch at the farmers market, while Capay’s organic asparagus is $5.

“In California, we’re required to pay minimum wage and we have Cal/OSHA responsibilities,” explains Thaddeus. “These things are important, and they are also expensive.” According to Roscoe, a Mexican laborer gets paid $10 a day.

Taking “Stalk” in Direct Markets

In a depressed wholesale asparagus market, both Zuckerman’s Farm and Capay Organic rely heavily on farmers markets and CSAs to keep their sales afloat. “The only business that I can make money at is farmers markets, which includes restaurant trade,” says Roscoe. He estimates that farmers markets make up half of his business.

Farmers markets also offer the opportunity to communicate the freshness of a locally grown product that is harvested the day before market, in contrast to asparagus that has traveled thousands of miles and may be a week old before it hits market shelves.

Direct channels also allow farmers to talk about the true costs of their product. Thaddeus notes, “I think free trade has its place, but it can make things difficult for local ag producers, because when a product comes across the border, people don’t know the story behind it.”

“That’s what’s cool about farmers markets, CSAs, and any direct connection farms can have with the consumer,” he continues. “People are willing to pay fair prices for fair food.”

Support Zuckerman’s Farm on Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday and Capay Organic on Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

See for yourself how Zuckerman’s asparagus is grown and harvested on our next farm tour on April 13. Buy tickets now.

Roscoe Zuckerman photo by Tory Putnam. Thaddeus Barsotti photo courtesy of Capay Organic.

The True Cost of Asparagus | CUESA

The True Cost of Asparagus | CUESA.

MARCH 14, 2014

The True Cost of Asparagus

The first tender spears of asparagus are always a welcome sight at the farmers market, a sign that spring is on its way. But some of that seasonal excitement is fading, now that bunches can be found on grocery store shelves throughout the winter.

“Asparagus has become available year round, whereas before it was just a springtime crop in the United States,” says Roscoe Zuckerman of Zuckerman’s Farm, whose asparagus season typically runs about 16 weeks, from February through May.

The recent influx of Mexican asparagus has farmers like Roscoe worried about the future. A fourth-generation asparagus and potato grower in Stockton, he farms about 260 acres of asparagus, a number that has been decreasing over the years as the wholesale market has shifted. He grandfather once grew 4,500 acres of green and white spears.

On the shelf, imported asparagus may be as cheap as $2 a pound. At such prices, it’s nearly impossible for domestic growers to break even. “Mexican asparagus is being bought wholesale at around $0.64 a pound,” Roscoe says. “My cost this time of year is about $1.03 a pound for harvesting and packing, and that’s without growing costs.”

Because the costs of harvest are so high, he has been cutting his losses by doing something no farmer wants to do: disking viable crop, which means cutting spears and leaving them in the field. “How can you grow a crop and not be able to sell it?” he laments.

Loss of Market Share

Asparagus was first planted in California in the 1850s in the fertile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and the state still leads the nation in asparagus production. But acreage has been in decline in recent years. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 12,000 acres of asparagus in 2012, down from 29,000 in 2003.

“The asparagus industry in our area is dying a slow death,” says Roscoe.

Over the last two decades, free trade agreements like NAFTA have contributed to this shift,dramatically changing what’s on the American plate. The glut of imports has created a year-round expectation for cheap asparagus, tomatoes, raspberries, and other seasonal crops.

While global trade seems like a win in terms of food availability and access, particularly in colder parts of the US, the elimination of tariffs means that wholesale prices have fallen, making it difficult for US growers to compete with countries like Mexico and Peru. Today, more and more Americans are eating asparagus, but it is estimated that imports make up as much as90 percent of the market.

Food of the Kings

Though it is referred to in the industry simply at “grass,” asparagus has historically been considered an aristocrat of the plant kingdom, commanding higher prices than most vegetables. Few consumers understand the patience and hard work that go into growing this unusual perennial crop.

Planting asparagus “crowns” is a significant time investment for farmers, as new plants must establish themselves for two or three years in the ground before producing harvestable shoots. Once mature, the plants may be harvested for up to 20 years, but only about half a pound of spears may be picked from each plant over the course of a season.

It’s a demanding plant that requires vigilant attention from growers. “Asparagus is temperature- and light-driven,” Roscoe explains. “For example, during a full moon, you have water that’s coming up in the soil, which gives the plants more oomph. You’ve also got light from the moon, so production usually spikes.”

On hot days, asparagus can grow upwards of 7 inches a day, which means that Roscoe may be sending workers out into the field to harvest from the same plants within 18 to 24 hours.

Fair Share for Labor

Harvesting asparagus is one of the more labor-intensive jobs in agriculture. Roscoe estimates that every spear is touched by human hands about 20 times from field to market, as it is cut, picked up, passed down rows, put in piles, and eventually sorted by size in the packing shed. Thick shoots come from younger, stronger plants, while the thin shoots are from older plants.

Second-generation farmer Thaddeus Barsotti ofCapay Organic, which grows 60 acres of organic asparagus for direct sales as well as wholesale markets, estimates that his asparagus harvest costs are 30 to 50% of the total production cost.

A discrepancy in labor standards is a significant factor in the higher price of locally grown asparagus. Zuckerman’s conventionally grown asparagus sells for $3.50 a bunch at the farmers market, while Capay’s organic asparagus is $5.

“In California, we’re required to pay minimum wage and we have Cal/OSHA responsibilities,” explains Thaddeus. “These things are important, and they are also expensive.” According to Roscoe, a Mexican laborer gets paid $10 a day.

Taking “Stalk” in Direct Markets

In a depressed wholesale asparagus market, both Zuckerman’s Farm and Capay Organic rely heavily on farmers markets and CSAs to keep their sales afloat. “The only business that I can make money at is farmers markets, which includes restaurant trade,” says Roscoe. He estimates that farmers markets make up half of his business.

Farmers markets also offer the opportunity to communicate the freshness of a locally grown product that is harvested the day before market, in contrast to asparagus that has traveled thousands of miles and may be a week old before it hits market shelves.

Direct channels also allow farmers to talk about the true costs of their product. Thaddeus notes, “I think free trade has its place, but it can make things difficult for local ag producers, because when a product comes across the border, people don’t know the story behind it.”

“That’s what’s cool about farmers markets, CSAs, and any direct connection farms can have with the consumer,” he continues. “People are willing to pay fair prices for fair food.”

Support Zuckerman’s Farm on Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday and Capay Organic on Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

See for yourself how Zuckerman’s asparagus is grown and harvested on our next farm tour on April 13. Buy tickets now.

Roscoe Zuckerman photo by Tory Putnam. Thaddeus Barsotti photo courtesy of Capay Organic.

The Radio Ecoshock Show: California Drought: Is this the big one?

The Radio Ecoshock Show: California Drought: Is this the big one?.

RADIO ECOSHOCK SPECIAL ON CALIFORNIA DROUGHT Despite recent rains, California’s reservoirs are near empty, snow-pack light, and groundwater depleted. Four experts on a drought that really started in 2006, impacts on economy, food, farming, and nature. Guests: Dr. Peter Gleick, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, David Schroeder, Dr. Reagan Waskom

http://tinyurl.com/lrqaxqe

THE CALIFORNIA DROUGHT IS NOT OVER!

Rainstorms finally arrived in California, after a 14 month drought with no significant rain. But the big reservoirs are still pitifully low, and snow pack is less than a quarter of normal. Hundreds of thousands of acres will not be planted, and food bills will likely go up in North America, and possibly around the world.

This is the Radio Ecoshock special on the California drought, as a case study of what we can expect in many parts of the Earth. I’ve lined up 4 experts all with something new for you.

Dr. Peter Gleick is a climate and water specialist who has been warning this could happen for years.

Dr. Reagan Waskom is another water and agriculture expert from Colorado.

We connect with boots-on-the ground water conservation specialist David Schroeder in Montclair, right on the edge of thirsty Los Angeles.

Finally, we get back to the big picture, as Professor Jay Famiglietti at University of California Irvine warns of depletion of the ground water under one of the world’s biggest food producing areas. That’s a trend all over the world, as we race toward peak water.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

PETER GLEICK: Is the drought climate change?

Our first guest is Dr. Peter Gleick. He’s president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, one of the world’s leading independent think tanks on water issues. Peter is also a scientist known around the world.

Peter introduced the term “Bellwether Drought” for this event. We know climate change threatens the water cycle. Scientists believe the wet areas (like the UK!) will get wetter, and the dry areas like California, will get dryer. So the dice are loaded for more droughts to occur in this major food producing area.

Dr. Gleick points out we could say this drought started in at least 2006. There have been several drier-than-normal years since then. Scientists have found records showing California has experienced droughts lasting more than a hundred years in the past, in the 1100’s for example.

So we may be asking if human-induced climate change has triggered this drought cycle. The causes of regional weather events are complex. We have ocean currents, natural cycles like El Nino and El Nina, and changes to the Jet Stream. All of those, especially the Jet Stream (as shown by the work of Jennifer Francis et al at Rutgers) can be influenced by climate change.

It’s a Bellwether event because whether or not we can nail down direct causation by climate disruption – it’s a sure test of what is likely during the coming decades. As in Australia, it is possible Euro-humans arrived in California during a cyclical wet spell that was bound to end. But have we hastened that process?

I also talk with Peter about desalination, it’s promises and obstacles. A new desalination plant has been build to feed the San Diego water system. But really, it’s so energy intensive and expensive that desalination cannot save the whole California agricultural system.

Peter Gleick is an influential scientist in many places. He talks about the global work his institute is involved in, and it’s heavy-duty stuff. It’s cool he Tweeted this program link out to his 11,000 plus followers.

You can download or listen to this 18 minute interview with Dr. Peter Gleick inCD Quality or Lo-Fi.

DR. JAY FAMIGLIETTI: Looking at the drought from space.

When the rains don’t fall in California, every one checks their wallet for rising food prices. But rain or not, cities and farmers are pumping out California groundwater at an alarming rate. Thanks to new satellite science, now we know how much of that unseen wealth has been depleted. It’s a problem for farmers and all humans all over the world, as we grab water stored over the ages, to keep us alive right now. At some point, the water runs out.

Dr. Jay Famiglietti is a Professor of Earth System Science, and Director of the Center for Hydrologic Modeling at the University of California, Irvine. He’s an expert’s expert.

When the federal government, and state agencies cut off water supplies, as they did just this past month, farmers don’t just roll over and die. All those who can start pumping up groundwater furiously. They’ve been doing that for decades, always at an increasing level. You may think ground water gets replenished with rains, but some of it was captured and contained over millions of years. When I have a glass of water in my village, that water is 100,000 years old.

So just like oil, ground water is a limited resource. When you run out, that’s it.

Amazing to tell, scientists can measure the rate of groundwater depletion in California from space. The twin GRACE satellites have shown the loss of mass in Greenland as the glaciers melt. Now scientists at the University of California Irvine report that California is setting new records for groundwater loss. The state is literally getting lighter.

Find out about the GRACE satellites here. Oh, and by the way, one of their top stories is the discovery that climate change is causing the Earth’s poles to migrate. Don’t believe that? Read about it here.

One result is the land starts to sink, once the water below is removed. That’s serious in the Sacramento delta, where so much of North America’s fruits and vegetables are grown. Once it goes too low, a rush of salt water, say from a storm surge, can take thousands and thousands of prime acres out of production.

Jay Familietti describes what we know. He says the average of prediction of when California will run out of groundwater at current rates is 60 years from now. After that, the glory days of big populations and big cities may be done. Some experts say it will come sooner than that.

That same story is being repeated, even worse, in countries like China and India. India is pumping out the water tables at an alarming rate. In both countries, as thousands of wells go dry, they drill deeper, and burn even more energy with bigger pumps, just to keep up. Some places are already out of water, and out of production.

Keep this story in mind as you build the big picture: peak groundwater. It’s coming.

By the way, I ask Dr. Famiglietti what happens to all the water we pump out for our fields and cities. Some of it goes into the ocean, to become salt water. The warmer atmosphere can hold 4% more water vapor already, since 1970, and that’s a huge amount. Other water ends up falling in those places that are already wet.

Don’t miss this 12 minute interview with Jay Famiglietti. It’s short but powerful. Listen or download in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Read a key article by Dr. Famiglietti “Epic California Drought and Groundwater: Where Do We Go From Here?“. And check out his LA Times Op-Ed from 2013, “California’s water house of cards“.

DR. REAGAN WASKOM – Feeding the western food supply

I was referred to Dr. Waskom by Michael Cohen of the Pacific Institute. Even though Waskom is the University of Colorado in Fort Collins, he’s one of the country’s wisemen when it comes to water supplies and our food system.

Reagan Waskom is the Director of the Colorado Water Institute, and Chair of the Colorado State University Water Center.

It turns out Colorado supplies much of the water to Southern California. We are not talking about the big food production areas, but more the heavy populations in places like Los Anglees. So what happens in Colorado matters a lot to California.

The good news is there is a heavy snow pack this year in Colorado. How useful that is depends on how fast the snow melt is, among other factors.

I ask Dr. Waskom what happens if California really is in a long-term drought. Could we replace all that food with farming somewhere else in the country?

Dr. Waskom has also been studying the big use of water by the fracking industry. We touch on that.

My final question is more personal: “You’ve taught a lot of students, and graduate students. Do you think young people are more disconnected from natural reality than when you were growing up?”

I learned a lot just talking with the man. You probably will too. Download this 17 minute interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

DAVID SCHROEDER on the ground outside of LA

I wanted to get you some reporting from right on the ground in southern California. Acting on a tip from a Radio Ecoshock listener, we’ve reached David Schroeder. He’s a Water Conservation Specialist with the Chino Basin Water District. That’s based in Montclair California, right on the edge of one of America’s biggest cities, Los Angeles.

We talk about where water for southern California comes from, and what to do when it doesn’t. Dave specializes in getting the public involved in tearing up grass to install natural vegetation, to use less water in the home, and so on. There isn’t much farming left in the south of the state. Now the challenge is huge cities and endless suburbs.

Dave lives in the mountains that used to be white with snow in winter, when I lived in L.A. many moons ago. No snow there this year he reports. That’s not good news for the coming fire season, for anything.

Download/listen to this 10 minute interview with David Schroeder in CD Quality

WRAP UP

That wraps up my Radio Ecoshock special on the California drought, 2014. I hope you learned, as I did, about where our water comes from, where it’s going, and the dangerous tightrope we walk trying to feed a growing world population during climate disruption.

Radio Ecoshock is provided free to more than 75 non-profit radio stations. I depend on your financial help to keep going. Find ways to support this program in this blog, and at the show archive and web site, ecoshock.org

I’m Alex Smith. As always, thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Posted by at 5:37 PM

The Realities of GMO and Petro-chemical Agriculture: Allergies, Toxins, New Diseases. | Global Research

The Realities of GMO and Petro-chemical Agriculture: Allergies, Toxins, New Diseases. | Global Research.

The Deceptions and Falsehoods of the GMO Lobby: Acquiesce Or Europe Will Become “Museum of World Farming”

Global Research, February 07, 2014
gmofood

British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is a staunch supporter of the GMO sector. Despite mounting evidence pointing to the deleterious health, social, ecological and environmental impacts of GMOs, Paterson has a blind spot that lets him ignore reality and allows him to lend unconditional support to the biotech conglomerates, the very concerns that regard Europe as a massive potential cash cow from which their GM crops have till now mostly been barred or restricted.

Paterson recently told the Oxford Farming Conference that Europe is likely to become “the museum of world farming” because of its failure to embrace genetically modified crops. He went on to state that the longer Europe continues to close its doors to GM crops, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether:

“Europe risks becoming the museum of world farming as innovative companies make decisions to invest and develop new technologies in other markets.”

Paterson said there was “compelling evidence” that GM crops could benefit farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy.

Nearly 50 countries around the world have either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products. However, EU member states will soon vote on whether to allow cultivation of a variety of maize that has been made insect-resistant through genetic engineering. If licensed, it would be the first GM food crop authorised for planting by the EU in 15 years.

Paterson said any decisions must be based on scientific evidence, in contrast to “politically motivated” delays and blocks to GM crops in the past.

He stated:

“I will continue to make the case for a regime that allows fair market access for products once they have passed Europe’s rigorous, independent scientific assessment.”

Paterson has previously indicated that he wants to relax British regulations on the cultivation of GM crops, and has said they have “environmental benefits”.

Owen Paterson has a track record of lending blind support to the GM sector with his factually incorrect statements. In 2013, he called concerns over the use of GM foods “complete nonsense” in an attack on public concerns about GMOs (1):

“I’m very clear it (GM) would be a good thing… The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits. Those benefits include a reduction in the use of pesticides because some GM crops are pest-resistant.”

Paterson also said that consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, so concerns about human health are misplaced and based on “nonsense” and “humbug.”

In another 2013 speech, Paterson stated that “seven million children” had gone blind or died over the past 15 years because “every attempt” to introduce a GM-rice fortified with sight-saving vitamin A had “been thwarted.”

Owen Paterson vs the reality of GMOs and petro-chemical agriculture

Paterson talks emotive, simplistic sound-bite stuff about dead children that might play well to sections of a wider misinformed public. It conveniently overlooks broader, more complex issues related to global poverty, the international system of finance, the ‘structural adjustment’ of local systems of agriculture that have destroyed indigenous food production, world trade policies and the corporate hijack of much of global farming by the West for its agribusiness industry (2).

Paterson’s stance typifies how powerful interests (or their mouthpieces) distort reality when faced with a situation that curtails their interests and profits. It is in their view their opponents who are ideologically or politically motivated and who engage in emotive scare-mongering, while it is they, the immensely rich and politically well connected, who have humanity’s interests at heart and are driven by science and altruism.

If the likes of Paterson are all too dismissive of those anti-GM/anti-MNC “disgusting enemies of the poor,” “ignoramuses” and “scientific jokers” (eg, Professor Seralni in France and Pushpa Bhargava in India) who supposedly engage in “lies,”, “nonsense” and “deceit” to counter scientific facts and the “safe frontier technology” of GMOs (3), perhaps they might be inclined to pay more heed to millionaire MP Zac Goldsmith, who is a member of the Conservative Party to which Paterson also belongs.

Hardly a dyed in the wool, anti-MNC leftie, Goldsmith last year claimed that Paterson is a puppet of the biotech industry and does not understand the dangers genetically modified crops pose to the ecosystem.

Speaking to The Independent newspaper on 3 July 2013, Goldsmith declared:

“He’s swallowed the industry line hook, line and sinker without talking to anyone with a different view. When designing policy that’s a dangerous thing, and I’m concerned big business is framing the debate for the government… The story so far suggests that GM is predominantly about the industry getting greater control over the food chain, rather than alleviating poverty or environmental concerns.” (4)

Paterson displays blatant disregard for the political hijack of food and agriculture and its regulatory bodies by powerful agribusiness and the consequent lax regulations governing its activities. His stance indicates he is probably part of that very problem. His claim about the reduced levels of pesticides is but one instance of his ignorance. This can be placed alongside his range of ignorance on the actual documented lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs and their deleterious health impacts (5,6,7,8,9).

His outbursts persist regardless of the destruction of indigenous, traditional patterns of agriculture whose productivity is often far better than any petro-chemical based and/or GMO-based ’green revolution’. If he wants to talk about “museums” then he may like to look at historical evidence pertaining to traditional farming in India and its much better levels of productivity compared with modern methods (9).

It is such a travesty that a senior politician, a ‘public servant’, seems content to become part of the problem by kowtowing to the massive well-documented GMO industry pressures and its global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (10,11).

And whether the public wanted them or not in the US, GM crops are prevalent there, despite there having been significant concern from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the FDA allowing GM products into the food chain. The concerns of the scientists were ignored, and by the time the public became aware, the GM products were firmly embedded into the US food production chain (12).

FDA scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored.

William F Engdahl has written on this and both he and the watchdog body Corporate European Observatory have raised serious concerns about deep-seated conflicts of interests within the European Food Safety Agency as well pertaining to the biotech sector and major food conglomerates (13,14).

As the GM food sector continues to push at India’s door, we should look to what the GM cotton sector has already ‘achieved’ there. The continued use of GM modified cotton has reduced yields, and the cotton bollworm has developed a resistance to the GM crops which contain the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin (15). This is resulting in an ever increasing barrage of profitable ‘innovations’ from the biotech sector. ‘Innovations’ and ‘R&D’ being trendy terms for attempting to keep on top of the damage being done to agriculture as each new ‘frontier’ product fails the farmer. More destined to fail technology replaces the older destined to fail products under the banner of ‘cutting edge’ developments (16).

The original ‘green revolution’ is now displaying its devastating long-term health and environmental impacts in Punjab (17). What price its potential ‘second coming’ in the form of GM food crops some years down the line? To answer that question, all we need to do is look elsewhere at the emerging outcomes referenced elsewhere in this article, not least five paragraphs further down through a recent article by Helen Paul on the impacts of GMOs in the Americas.

Paterson’s claims that the use of GM crops reduce the use of pesticides do not hold up. Research by a WashingtonState University team found that the use of herbicides and insecticides has increased dramatically since GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996 (18). And researchers at the University of Arizona found that multi-toxin GM crops (which are the most technologically advanced crops in use) quickly lose their ability to fend off pests, which is likely to lead to a complete failure of the GMO (19).

Moreover, there has been no proper research or monitoring by the companies producing GM crops of the effects on humans consuming products made with GM crops. Scientists like Dr Arpad Pusztai in the UK and Professor Seralini in France, who have published findings critical of GM crops and food, suffered a wave attacks designed to undermine their work (or careers) by supporters of the technology.

Minister Patterson’s pro-GM attitudes come as little surprise, though. The cosy relationship between governments and the biotech companies is well known, especially in the US (20), where there has been legislation passed that allows biotech companies to be totally free of any legal ramifications if their products cause harm (21).

Perhaps Owen Paterson should take heed of mounting concerns about the terrible health impacts of glyphosate and how GMOs drive the sales of this weedkiller and the deleterious impacts of GMOs on plants and humans (22). He could also take note at the provincial government of Chaco province in Argentina issuance of a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa, which showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region (and the use of glyphosate), the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province (23).

Or maybe he should read Helen Paul’s recent piece in The Ecologist (24). She discusses the unfolding social, health, environmental and ecological disasters of GM agriculture/petro-chemical agriculture on a country by country basis in the Americas and argues that a powerful message should be sent to the EU (and Paterson) that GMOs are not wanted there and that Europe should stop buying and importing the products of GM-driven genocide and ecocide in the Americas. She reveals how repression and displacement, often violent, of remaining rural populations, illness, falling local food production have all featured in this picture. Yet, she argues, we currently face a desperate, almost farcical push for GM crops in the UK and Europe, characterised by hyperbolic and inaccurate claims of which the frequent claims by Paterson no doubt typify.

Far from being a “museum of world farming” as Paterson, likes to claim, Europe could show the way to a rich and varied GM free, organic-based agriculture that provides nutritious, healthy food and jobs. At the same time, Paul argues, we should address the profound degradation of soils and accelerating biodiversity loss, caused to a great extent by the industrial model of agriculture to which genetically engineered crops belong.

Maybe politicians such as Owen Paterson are (unwittingly) content to be fodder for the wider political and economic that GMOs (and big dam, debt-inducing, dollar supporting, oil-dependent chemical agriculture) are tied to. It’s an agenda encompassing an integrated strategy that involves the (near) monopoly ownership and control and ultimate weaponisation of all water, seeds, food and food retail, land and energy, which in turn both fuels and is fuelled by militarism, conflict, debt and dependency (25,26,27,28). Across the planet, we see this agenda being played out via violent conflict, ‘free’ trade agreements (29,30) and the shaping of political agendas (31).

Notes

 1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9733589/Food-minister-Owen-Paterson-backs-GM-crops.html

2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vandana-shiva/from-seeds-of-suicide-to_b_192419.html

3) http://www.countercurrents.org/todhunter301212.htm

3) http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=573

4) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-mp-says-progm-environment-secretary-owen-paterson-is-industry-puppet-8686133.html

5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ9vAULNFzc

6) http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/new-study-confirms-wheat-autism-link-0

7) http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/it-time-acknowledge-roundup-herbicide-contraceptive

8) http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers

9) http://vidarbhatimes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/maharashtra-reports-btcotton-failure-in.html?m=1

9) http://www.globalresearch.ca/india-genetically-modified-seeds-agricultural-productivity-and-political-fraud/5328227

10) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/15/diplomatic-cables-gm-lobbying-us

11) http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Biotech_Report_US.pdf

12)  http://www.nongmoreport.com/articles/october2011/FDAignoredscientistswarningsGMfoods.php

13) http://www.shiftfrequency.com/f-william-engdahl-cancer-of-corruption-seeds-of-destruction-the-monsanto-gmo-whitewash/

14)  http://corporateeurope.org/efsa/2013/10/unhappy-meal-european-food-safety-authoritys-independence-problem

15) http://www.globalresearch.ca/harvest-of-hypocrisy-farmers-being-blamed-for-gmo-crop-failures/5322807

16) http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-agribusiness-and-the-destructive-nature-of-global-capitalism/5323232

17) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/309654/punjab-transformation-food-bowl-cancer.html

18) http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/how-gmos-ramped-us-pesticide-use

19) http://www.naturalnews.com/040120_gm_crops_monsanto_chemical_resistance.html

20) http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-controls-both-the-white-house-and-the-us-congress/5336422

21) http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-protection-act-signed-by-obama-gmo-bill-written-by-monsanto-signed-into-law/5329388

22) http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-roundup-glyphosate-weedkiller-in-our-food-and-water/5339244

23) http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/elpais/1-147561-2010-06-14.html

24)http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2267255/gm_crops_are_driving_genocide_and_ecocide_keep_them_out_of_the_eu.html

25) http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?280234

26) http://www.globalresearch.ca/sowing-the-seeds-of-famine-in-ethiopia/366

27) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eu-india-free-trade-agreement-india-up-for-sale-to-western-corporate-capital/5332214

28) http://www.globalresearch.ca/genetic-engineering-and-the-gmo-industry-corporate-hijacking-of-food-and-agriiculture/5317339

29) http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-eu-free-trade-agreement-a-corporate-stitch-up-by-any-other-name/5339789

30) http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-eu-free-trade-agreement-a-corporate-stitch-up-by-any-other-name/5339789

31) http://www.countercurrents.org/todhunter100213.htm

UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

To feed the world’s burgeoning population while saving it from exhausting natural land resources, the United Nations today issued a report for policymakers, “Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption With Sustainable Supply,” published Jan. 24 by the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve been increasing production on agricultural land, but scientists are now seeing evidence of reaching limits,” says Robert W. Howarth, Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology and a lead author of the United Nations report.

“We need to stop over-consuming land-based products. For example, one of our key challenges is overusing agricultural land for growing meat. There is just not enough land on Earth for everyone in the world to eat like Americans and Europeans,” says Howarth. “We don’t need to become complete vegetarians, but to put this into context and to help sustain feeding a burgeoning global population, we need to reduce our meat consumption by 60 percent – which is about 1940s era levels.”

The U.N. predicts the world’s population will be around 9.2 billion people in 2050, with the world’s less-developed regions contributing the most people. More cropland will be required to feed them. The report explains wide-ranging scientific options for sustainable, global land management. Expanding global cropland forever depletes environmentally needed savannahs, grasslands and forests.

If current conditions continue, by 2050 the world could have between 320 million and 849 million hectares more natural land converted to cropland. “To put things into perspective, the higher range of this estimate would cover an extension of land nearly the size of Brazil,” says the report.

Further, the U.N. report – compiled by noted international scientists – says that decoupling fuel and food markets would be a major component of sustainable resource management. Howarth says that countries must halve their current biofuel expectations to ease potential crises. “With widespread use of biofuels, rising petroleum prices will inevitably also drive food prices because biofuels are derived from cropland,” says the report. “Intolerable price increases for food may lead to spreading hunger, cause riots and sociopolitical disturbances.”

This difficult challenge reaches beyond agriculture and forestry. The report delves into energy, transportation, manufacturing, global health and family planning, climate protection and conservation.

Large areas with degraded soils must be restored, and improved land-use planning must be implemented to avoid building on fertile land, according to the report. An estimated one-fourth of all global crop soils is degraded, but nearly 40 percent of this degenerated land has strong potential for easy restoration.

To ease land pressures, the U.N. suggests more programs for economywide sustainable resource management; promoting a healthy diet in countries high in meat consumption; programs in family planning that slow population growth; and reducing food loss at the production and harvest stage in developing countries by increasing infrastructure, storage facilities and bolstering cooperatives.

Cornell.edu

Activist Post: Supreme Court Gives Monsanto Full Ability to Sue Farmers

Activist Post: Supreme Court Gives Monsanto Full Ability to Sue Farmers.

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

Do you remember the 2011 lawsuit from the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association 80+ plaintiffs (farmers and small businesses) against Monsanto? They were fighting biotech giant Monsanto’s ability to sue them for patent infringement when genetically modified seeds inadvertently appear in organic/conventional fields.

Yes, were talking about the wind or insects carrying GM seeds onto another farm, which to them is considered contamination. But instead of the ability for the farmers to sue for a ruined field, they can be cleaned out in court for not having permission to plant patented seeds. Monsanto workers have been found trespassing and gathering evidence on farmers’ properties. The lawsuit had sought protection from this overreach, as Monsanto has filed 140 of these suits and settled 700 without suing.

Organic farmer and President of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), Jim Gerritsen, had said:

Our farmers want nothing to do with Monsanto. We are not customers of Monsanto. We don’t want their seed. We don’t want their gene-spliced technology. We don’t want their trespass onto our farms. We don’t want their contamination of our crops. We don’t want to have to defend ourselves from aggressive assertions of patent infringement because Monsanto refuses to keep their pollution on their side of the fence. We want justice.

And later:

We don’t think it’s fair that Monsanto can trespass onto our farm, contaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing on their patent rights.

A June 2013 ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC conceded to the plaintiffs’ argument that contamination from Monsanto seeds would occur, but ultimately dismissed them: “because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not ‘take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower’s land).” (source)

As Rady Ananda points out, a “trace amount” in this ruling, only means less than one percentcontamination of a crop! Those are not the percentages of contamination in the real world – i.e. Monsanto can sue, sue, sue. Furthermore, less than one percent contamination still leaves the integrity of an organic crop ruined. It does not settle the issue of Monsanto trespassing on private land to take samples for infringement cases.

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After the federal court threw out the 2011 lawsuit based on Monsanto’s assurances, OSGATA plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court:

However, Petitioners risk being contaminated in amounts much greater than 1%, and thus remain compelled to forgo full use of their land and adopt genetic testing of their seed supplies in order to avoid being accused of patent infringement by Respondents.

When the plaintiffs asked Monsanto to pledge not to sue, the company responded: “A blanket covenant not to sue any present or future member of petitioners’ organizations would enable virtually anyone to commit intentional infringement.”

The Supreme Court would not hear the case* on Monday, thereby sealing the previous decisions in the district and federal courts. Monsanto can sue with full immunity if one percent or more of a farmer’s crop contains their patented seeds.

Kyle McClain, Monsanto’s chief litigation counsel told Reuters:

Monsanto never has and has committed it never will sue if our patented seed or traits are found in a farmer’s field as a result of inadvertent means.

The lower courts agreed there was no controversy between the parties, and the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case brings closure on this matter.

Image by Thierry Ehrmann, licensed under Creative Commons

* Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al. Supreme Court Case No. 13-303

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

Recent posts by Heather Callaghan:

Activist Post: USDA-Approved Agent Orange: It’s Coming to a Farm Near You

Activist Post: USDA-Approved Agent Orange: It’s Coming to a Farm Near You.

This caused damage to the ecosystem of Vietnam that is still present today. More than 5 million acres of forests were destroyed, and half a million acres of farmland were tainted. It will take centuries of nurturing for the land to recover.

The environment was not the only thing affected. Exposure to Agent Orange resulted in five horrible illness in those exposed: soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (including hairy-cell leukemia), Hodgkin’s disease, and chloracne. (source) What’s even worse is that the damage may not be limited to those directly exposed – it can affect offspring even up to 3rd and 4th generations.

Over a million US veterans were also exposed:

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided $16.2 billion in compensation to 1,095,473 Vietnam-era veterans.[i] The agency does not relate these service-connected benefit figures directly to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure or to any other possible cause of illness, nor does it provide data on total compensation for the years since the war ended.

Thousands of U.S. veterans returning from Vietnam reported health problems almost immediately and rapidly associated them with Agent Orange/dioxin exposure. Controversy over these assertions began just as fast, and continues now.

Many questions remain: Whether (and how to test whether) the illnesses of veterans and their offspring are related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposure; Levels of dioxin present in the chemicals; The accuracy of data about veterans’ exposure; Levels of corporate, military and government awareness of dioxin’s presence; Fixing of responsibility for the contaminant’s presence and liability for its damages; Details of research protocols, accuracy of findings and reliability of interpretations; and Decisions on who should pay what to whom for which possible courses of remedial action. This “blame game” has blocked action in both the U.S. and Vietnam, needlessly prolonging the suffering of millions of U.S. veterans and Vietnamese. – (source)And now, the USDA, in all of their infinite wisdom, intends to expose Americans to one of the deadly ingredients via our food supply.

Corn and soybeans are present in some form in up to 90% of the processed foods available today. So not only will we be exposed to the effects environmentally, anyone who eats processed food will be directly consuming it. Mmmm…Corn with Agent Orange Sauce…Yummy.

Some scientist argue that 2,4-D is not responsible for the horrible human toll extracted by Agent Orange, while others claim the weed-killer is deadly.

According to the Associated Press, scientists don’t believe 2,4-D to be responsible for health complications caused by Agent Orange, and have instead pinpointed the ingredient 2,4,5-T – banned by the EPA in 1985 – as the culprit. Previous findings by the EPA have also declared the weed killer safe to use, but other groups aren’t as confident.

As RT reported in the past, the Natural Resources Defense Council has linked 2,4-D to cases of cancer, genetic mutations and more. In addition the impact on humans, the Save Our Crops Coalition believes it will be extremely difficult to contain the application of the herbicide to a particular area.

“These herbicides have been known to drift and volatilize to cause damage to plants over ten miles away from the point of application,” the coalition claimed. (source)

Proven in the island petri dish of Molokai, the danger of GMO crops is not limited to the consumption of those foods. The farming methods themselves cause an epidemic of deadly health problems to those near the fields, including cancer, respiratory illness, and horrible skin disorders.

The EPA review of these experimental new seeds will occur over the next few months, and if approved (and we all know it will be since the EPA is as much of a sell-out as the USDA) farmers across the country will then be able to plant the new seeds douse the fields with 2,4-D throughout the growing season.

When the very air you depend on to survive is poisoned, what can you do? How can you prep for this?

Agent Orange. It’s coming to a farm near you.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, where this first appeared, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

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