Industrial Agriculture

Prop 37: Monsanto’s Lies and the GMO Labeling Battle…


From JOHN ROBBINS
Beyond Chron

You may have never heard of Henry I. Miller, but right now he is attempting to determine the future of food in this country. And he has enormous financial backing.

Mr. Miller is the primary face and voice of the “No on Prop 37” campaign in California. At this very moment, Monsanto and other pesticide companies are spending more than $1 million a day to convince California voters that it’s not in their best interest to know whether the food they eat is genetically engineered. And Henry I. Miller is their guy.

If you live in California today, he’s hard to miss. You see him in TV ads, hear him in radio spots, and his face is all over the expensive fliers that keep showing up uninvited in your mail box. Initially, the ads presented Miller as a Stanford doctor. But he isn’t. He’s a research fellow at a conservative think tank (the Hoover Institute) that has offices on the Stanford campus. When this deceptive tactic came to light, the ads were pulled and then redone. But they still feature Miller trying to convince the public that Prop 37 “makes no sense,” and that it’s a “food-labeling scheme written by trial lawyers who hope for a windfall if it becomes law.”

Actually, Prop 37 makes all the sense in the world if you want to know what’s in the food you eat. It was written by public health advocates, and provides no economic incentives for filing lawsuits.

Who, then, is Henry I. Miller, and why should we believe him when he tells us that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe?

Does it matter that this same Henry Miller is an ardent proponent of DDT and other toxic pesticides? Does it matter that the “No on Prop 37” ads are primarily funded by pesticide companies, the very same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe?

I find it hard to avoid the impression that Henry Miller is a premier corporate flack.

How to Feed the World’s Hungry: Ditch Corporate-Controlled Agriculture


From ALTERNET
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

A new report from the UN advises ditching corporate-controlled and chemically intensive farming in favor of agroecology

There are a billion hungry people in the world and that number could rise as food insecurity increases along with population growth, economic fallout and environmental crises. But a roadmap to defeating hunger exists, if we can follow the course — and that course involves ditching corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive farming.

“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. And today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production in regions where the hungry live,” says Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Agroecology is more or less what many Americans would simply call “organic agriculture,” although important nuances separate the two terms.

Used successfully by peasant farmers worldwide, agroecology applies ecology to agriculture in order to optimize long-term food production, requiring few purchased inputs

The World Needs Genetically Modified Foods?


From GM Watch

10 reasons why we don’t need GM foods

If you want to print this article as an A4 leaflet, download a PDF.

With the cost of food recently skyrocketing – hitting not just shoppers but the poor and hungry in the developing world – genetically modified (GM) foods are once again being promoted as the way to feed the world. But this is little short of a confidence trick. Far from needing more GM foods, there are urgent reasons why we need to ban them altogether.

1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis

A 2008 World Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices.[1] GM giant Monsanto has been at the heart of the lobbying for biofuels (crops grown for fuel rather than food) — while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GM foods!

“The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry.” — Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent of The Independent[2]

“The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s bullshit.” – Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales[3]

Wendell Berry Says Large-Scale Farms Killing Land as Well as Towns


From TED STRONG
Common Dreams

A passive populace obsessed with easy answers has led to an economy that is destroying America’s land, author Wendell Berry told a packed-in crowd at the University of Virginia on Thursday evening.

“Simple solutions will always lead to complex problems, surprising simple minds,” he said.

In a lecture in the full auditorium of the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture/Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Berry outlined the need for small-scale landholders engaging in forestry and farming, as opposed to the industrial-scale operations now in place.

The talk was so popular that seats in the auditorium ran out long before the 5:30 speech began. Eventually, a pair of university police officers shooed away the overflow crowd waiting outside.

Even some of those who made it inside were left without seats, and Berry invited them to sit on the stage near him.

Large-scale and corporate operations cause long-term damage to the environment and to rural cultures, he told the crowd.

Farm and timber economies that simply export raw materials for processing elsewhere kill towns because they also export jobs, he said.

“And then you will be exporting your young people to take those jobs,” he said.

Why Sustainable Family Farms are Crucial to the Future of the World


From John Ikerd
Professor Emeritus,
University of Missouri,
Columbia, MO

Family farms have always been an important part of our “better history.” Historically, farmers were held in high esteem in the United States and around the world. Thomas Jefferson believed strongly that the yeoman farmer best exemplified the kind of independence and virtue that should be supported by the new democratic republic. He believed financiers, bankers, and industrialists could not be trusted and should not be encouraged by government. In light of our current economic situation, “Jeffersonian Democracy” still makes a lot of sense.

Adam Smith, in writing the Wealth of Nations, noted that no endeavor requires a greater variety of knowledge and experience than does farming, other than possibly the fine arts or liberal professions. He observed that farmers ranked among the highest social classes in China and India, and suggested it would be the same everywhere if the “corporate spirit” did not prevent it. Smith also suggested a role for government in ensuring that “they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of people, should have a share of the produce of their own labor as to themselves be tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.”

Giant Hoax By Monsanto Continues – Genetically Modified Seeds Do Not Produce Higher Yields

From Union of Concerned Scientists

[As many of us have been saying for years, the only thing Monsanto has accomplished by genetically modifying seeds to withstand their poisons, is to increase the sales of those poisons, blanketing the earth and our bodies with their nasty, cancer-causing chemicals for profit. Their blatant bullshit about increasing higher yields is a con-job to force farmers to buy their seeds every year. Their executives and “scientists” should be pilloried in public humiliation in their own town’s public squares and tried for crimes against humanity. Mendocino County was first to ban their plants from our county. We will feed the world with small, local, organic farms. Thanks to Janie for link. –DS]

Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops (Union of Concerned Scientists)

For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields. That promise has proven to be empty, according to Failure to Yield, a report by UCS expert Doug Gurian-Sherman released in March 2009.

Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields. Failure to Yield is the first report to closely evaluate the overall effect genetic engineering has had on crop yields in relation to other agricultural technologies. It reviewed two dozen academic studies of corn and soybeans, the two primary genetically engineered food and feed crops grown in the United States.

Food, Inc. – Movie reviews from Acres USA and Roger Ebert


From Chris Walters
Acres USA

June 29, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Every weekday the public radio station where I live carries a program called Marketplace, ostensibly devoted to all things economic. The reporters and commentators on Marketplace sound a little more despondent every day, which is understandable. As bad as the economic news may be these days, the most depressing job at that show must be reading the name of its corporate underwriter, Monsanto, followed by a catchphrase including the term “sustainable agriculture.”

If everybody at Marketplace doesn’t yet realize what a horrible lie they are promoting in exchange for money, they will after they see Food, Inc. In an era when paid flacks, viral marketing specialists and the like know how to divert vast amounts of media oxygen, if you oppose one industry’s agenda, then it’s not at all cynical to note that your propaganda has to be better than their propaganda. Thus it is no slam at all to call Food, Inc. a work of superbly efficient and appealing propaganda.

As director Robert Kenner would doubtless agree, it helps when you have the facts on your side. The movie’s target is industrial agriculture, and industrial agriculture is a disaster of staggering proportions… The movie’s virtues lie in the skill, sometimes even the beauty, of its execution. Kenner mimics corporate-ag TV style with lush helicopter shots of endless rows of crops extending into the horizon like God’s own corduroy — except he lingers on shots a lot longer than any television spot ever could, and the prettiness of the image breaks down and turns unsettling.

Then there are the people, especially chicken grower Carole Morison, who is infinitely tired of the deceit she’s had to tolerate over many years in business with Big Poultry, and Joel Salatin [photo above], whose good humor and pleasure in his work takes over the screen. Salatin [see video below] has the physical authority of somebody absolutely at home in his skin, a quality that cannot be faked in front of a movie camera.

Part of Kenner’s agenda, like the books of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser (who act here as de facto narrators), is to connect viewers to the sources of their food. Here is where Food, Inc. is an unqualified success. Kenner somehow got permission to shoot inside a plant where hamburger meat is doused with an E. coli killer and turned into a gray slab for boxing, and he shows us CAFOs [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] and slaughterhouses. City dwellers will flinch when they see Salatin and his crew killing chickens by hand in their open-air facility, but only for a moment. It’s a wholesome and cheerful scene alongside the industrial horrors that have come before.

A few caveats need mentioning. Kenner confronts the issue

Organic Nutrition – The Latest Science


From Mark Keating
Acres USA

June 29, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

“If I were asked to sum up the results of the work of the pioneers of the last 12 years or so on the relation of agriculture to public health, I should reply that a fertile soil means healthy crops, healthy livestock, and last, but not least, healthy human beings.” So wrote Sir Albert Howard in 1945.

Sir Albert’s concise assessment of the human health benefits of eco-agriculture may be the first recorded response to the enduring question, Are organic foods better for you? For Howard, the nutritional superiority of organic foods was a direct consequence of the comaptibilit between eco-acriculture and the Earth’s first and most efficient farmer, Mother Nature. He perceived good health as the birthright of all living creatures and concluded that disease was inevitably connected to disruptions of the natural order, most frequently in the form of improper nutrition. Howard stated clearly and repeatedly that consuming an organic diet would impart human health and fitness in the same manner that crops raised on properly fertilized soils repel pests of all kinds.

Howard’s perspective was indeed shared by many of his pioneering peers, including Lady Eve Balfour, Sir Robert McCarrison, J.I. Rodale and Weston Price. Catalyzed by these visionaries, the emerging grassroots organic movement reflected an explicit rejection of the industrialized food production and processing system then transforming the American diet and landscape. Concern that an industrialized food supply would be nutritionally inadequate to promote human health drove the organic movement from its inception. For example, Lady Balfour wrote after her coast-to-coast trip across the United States in 1953, “The overall health picture of America is bad… Food is even more over-processed and sterilized than in England; much of the soil on which it is grown is more depleted; and there is an even wider use of poison sprays.” Imagine her reaction to the factory farms and rest stop food courts along a similar expedition today!

Howard attributed the nutritional superiority of organic food to the abundance of mycorrhizal fungi found in biologically active soils sustained by compost, crop rotations and cover crops. These fungi penetrate the fine root hairs of neighboring plants in a mutually beneficial relationship that facilitates nutrient uptake in both. Howard surmised that soluble, protein-rich compounds in the fungi were also absorbed by the plant and then incorporated directly into growing tissue. He saw these compounds as the building blocks for optimal amino acids and more sophisticated proteins that imbued organically raised plants with exceptional physical characteristics including resistance to disease. Howard also thought that these characteristics were transmitted through subsequent relationships in the food web, such as livestock grazing on healthy pasture and humans consuming food from organically raised crops and animals. Conversely, Howard postulated that a microbiologically weak soil would yield deficient amino acids and proteins that would invite disease in the plants and animals that consumed and incorporated them.

With the publication of Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring in 1962,