Category - Global Food & Agriculture

By ‘Editing’ Plant Genes, Companies Avoid Regulation

New York Times, By Andrew Pollack, January 1

Its first attempt to develop genetically engineered grass ended disastrously for the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. The grass escaped into the wild from test plots in Oregon in 2003, dooming the chances that the government would approve the product for commercial use.

Yet Scotts is once again developing genetically modified grass that would need less mowing, be a deeper green and be resistant to damage from the popular weedkiller Roundup. But this time the grass will not need federal approval before it can be field-tested and marketed.

Scotts and several other companies are developing genetically modified crops using techniques that either are outside the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Department or use new methods — like “genome editing” — that were not envisioned when the regulations were created.

The department has said, for example, that it has no authority over a new herbicide-resistant canola, a corn that would create less pollution from livestock waste, switch grass tailored for biofuel production, and even an ornamental plant that glows in the dark.

WFP suspends food aid for 1.7 mln Syrian refugees

(Reuters) – A lack of funds has forced the United Nations to stop providing food vouchers for 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.

“Without WFP vouchers, many families will go hungry. For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter, the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating,” said the U.N. agency, which needs $64 million to support the refugees for the rest of December.
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Saving Europe with MMT, or as goes Europe, goes the World…

Ian Welsh wrote, and we’ve commented, because while Ian provides penetrating analysis, there is no suggestion of solutions, for example those on which Marine Le Pen campaigns, which seem cogent: Restore the Franc, Restore Sovereignty, and Control Multiculturalism.
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“Butter is back”

From a NYT op-ed by Mark Bittman, resident culinary gadfly:

Julia Child, goddess of fat, is beaming somewhere. Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them.

That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease .(more at the link- it’s worth reading the whole piece)

Tobacco is undeniably still bad, but sugar and ultra-processed foods now head the evil food list again

German barn explosion caused by 90 farting cows

Salon, By Lindsay Abrams

On the many dangers of methane gas

Cows, man. Their manure, belches and flatulence are a major contributor to human-caused emissions of methane gas, itself sizable contributor to global warming. They pose a more immediate danger, too, the AFP reports:

Flatulence from 90 cows in a German barn sparked a methane gas explosion that damaged the building and left one cow slightly injured with burns, police said Tuesday.

“In the barn for 90 dairy cows, methane built up for unknown reasons and was probably ignited by a static discharge, exploding in a darting flame,” said local police in the central town of Rasdorf in Hesse state.

“Parts of the roof cover were slightly damaged and a cow suffered minor burns,” said police, adding that a fire crew rushed to the scene of Monday’s accident and a gas field crew later measured methane levels.

More at the link

The Awarding of the World Food Prize to a Monsanto GMO Executive Is a Travesty

TruthOut/Buzzflash, By Mark Karlin

On Thursday night, October 17, one of the three “nobel prizes” for agriculture — The World Food Prize — will be awarded to the executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto (who specializes in GMO research), Dr. Robert T. Fraley.

Also receiving one of the coveted agricultural honors is Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, founder and distinguished science fellow, Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc. Syngenta is a competitor to Monsanto in the global GMO and pesticide market.

According to the website of The World Food Prize:

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply — food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people. By honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal, The Prize calls attention to what has been done to improve global food security and to what can be accomplished in the future.

Even US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the Monsanto and Syngenta “laureates,” when the prizes were announced earlier this summer:

More at the link

…into that good night.

empire1
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

– Dylan Thomas

The poet was talking of old men, but the American Global Capitalist Empire seems determined to follow his advice. It will not to go gently, but like old men, it will go. We pretty much know what to expect when a person dies, but what can we expect when an empire dies?
Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius – and the madness is well underway.
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A Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water

(The Guardian) – Fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry and people thirsty

Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart’s case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking.

Decline and Fall – Drop Dead Date Pushed Up, New Pharaoh in Town 7/29

deadplanetDrop dead date pushed up – Man made pollution, mostly CO2, is accelerating at a rate that has a definite endpoint for world civilization as we know it.  Since accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere sticks around for hundreds of years, we won’t be able to change the cycle of oblivion once it gets rolling.  (Image: Takver)

In 2004, Lawrence Smith of UCLA pointed out that vast reservoirs of methane gas stored under Siberian permafrost could enter the atmosphere as global warming accelerated ice melts holding the tundra together.   By 2008, the beginning of the permafrost melt was imminent and warnings were sounded.  Now, we hear that the methane release, 20 times the pollution effect of CO2, will cost $60 trillion in adaptions to the damage to the environment (yes, $60 trillion).

What profound denial.  Why characterize catastrophic global climate change in terms of dollars?  Why not just say:  there is no chance to mitigate this emerging cycle of oblivion because world leaders won’t even mention the topic and by the time they do, it will be too late.  We’re done.  Stick a fork in us.

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Lies and liars

We all lie, to some degree. But not all lies are created equally.

My dad once said the worst kind of lie is when you lie to yourself.

We, collectively, the United States of America, are lying to ourselves on so many fronts, I don’t know where to begin.

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Heat Wave

It’s Sunday, about 9 PM and it’s still 101 degrees outside my door. The official high for the day was 108. I am told it’s worse out West. A couple of weeks back I told Sean Paul Kelley that we’ve done OK this year on rainfall. I lied. While we had timely showers during the spring, this killer heat wave has scorched the land, leaving green grass kiln-dried, like hay in a bale, and corn crops withered, several weeks before they should have.

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Horse slaughterhouses to reopen in US

The US government has given the go-ahead to a slaughterhouse that will produce horse meat for human consumption.

Global Post, By Samantha Stainburn, June 29

The US government has given the go-ahead to a slaughterhouse that will produce horse meat for human consumption. The plant, Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, is the first such slaughterhouse in the country in six years.

Congress banned funding for inspection of horse slaughterhouses in 2007, which stopped the production of horse meat in the US, but the ban lapsed in 2011.

“The administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter,” USDA press secretary Courtney Rowe told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Until Congress acts, the department must continue to comply with current law.”

Global Post: Horse Meat, Yea or Neigh.

Obama’s Covert Trade Deal

New York Times, By Lori Wallach & Ben Beachy, June 2

Washington — THE Obama administration has often stated its commitment to open government. So why is it keeping such tight wraps on the contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the most significant international commercial agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995?

The agreement, under negotiation since 2008, would set new rules for everything from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and Internet freedom. It would include at least 12 of the countries bordering the Pacific and be open for more to join. President Obama has said he wants to sign it by October.

Although Congress has exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade, so far the executive branch has managed to resist repeated requests by members of Congress to see the text of the draft agreement and has denied requests from members to attend negotiations as observers — reversing past practice.

While the agreement could rewrite broad sections of nontrade policies affecting Americans’ daily lives, the administration also has rejected demands by outside groups that the nearly complete text be publicly released. Even the George W. Bush administration, hardly a paragon of transparency, published online the draft text of the last similarly sweeping agreement, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in 2001.

Millions march against GM crops

Organisers celebrate huge global turnout and say they will continue until Monsanto and other GM manufacturers listen

AP, May 25

Organisers say that two million people marched in protest against seed giant Monsanto in hundreds of rallies across the US and in more than 50 other countries on Saturday.

“March Against Monsanto” protesters say they wanted to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Founder and organiser Tami Canal said protests were held in 436 cities across 52 countries.

Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits, or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But some say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment.

The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labelling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.

The “March Against Monsanto” movement began just a few months ago, when Canal created a Facebook page on 28 February calling for a rally against the company’s practices. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. Instead, she said, two million responded to her message.