Toxic Green Slime Attacks America

Algae -- the rising tide that poisons all boats.  (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Algae — the rising tide that poisons all boats. (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America! What a great movie pitch! Awesome special effects! Multitudes of bikini-clad victims! Unfortunately, it’s true, so hardly anybody is interested. This summer, 21 states that we know of — most don’t even bother to keep records on this pestilence — closed beaches and issued public-health warnings when their waters became clogged with blooms of toxic green algae. At least one person and 20 pets have been killed by the slime, along with untold numbers of birds and wildlife. Yet no cable news network has gone wall-to-wall on this spreading, deadly threat — perhaps because there’s no mystery here. We know who the culprit is, and we know how to stop the threat. Continue reading

Feds: Poison Chicken Approved, Cantaloupe Farmers Jailed

sick chicken

This chicken is safe to eat. Just handle while wearing a biohazard suit, in a negative-pressure, double-sealed room, and cook for several days at 900 degrees.[See also: Handling the Ebola Virus for Dummies] (Photo by amslerpix/Flickr)

When 33 people died and hundreds were sickened from eating cantaloupe contaminated with listeria, the owners of the farm involved were hauled into court in handcuffs and charged with six criminal offenses. When hundreds of people were sickened by salmonella in chicken — seven different strains of salmonella, all resistant to antibiotic treatment — from a chicken plant that did the same thing last year, nothing happened. No prosecutions, not even a recall of the contaminated chicken. It’s being suggested that the latter outbreak is not being dealt with because of the government shutdown, but the real reason is far worse than that. Continue reading

Steroids for Cows: How to Gag a Hyena

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these -- sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals -- are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these — sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals — are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

It is possible to gag a hyena; the food industry has actually choked on its own latest solution to an economy-of-scale problem. The problem was created when the corn industry mandated (through its wholly owned subsidiary, the United States Congress) the use of corn ethanol in automobile fuel. Among the unintended consequences were an immediate tripling of the cost of corn, leading to  1) widespread famine in countries whose staple food is the tortilla, and 2) more importantly, decreased profits for cattle feedlots. The feedlots demanded, and got, a quick fix: a chemical that would reduce the amount of corn needed to fatten cattle by making them swell up. Oddly, not everything worked out well. Continue reading

Agriculture Running Amok

Indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids threatens to bring back the Silent Spring. (Photo by Mrs Gemstone/Flickr)

Indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids threatens to bring back the Silent Spring. (Photo by Mrs Gemstone/Flickr)

For many industries, rampant destruction of the world’s topsoil (in the US, at least three tons lost for every ton of crop, multiples of that in many other countries) and water (the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from agricultural runoff is the size of New Jersey) might be accomplishments enough, but not Big Agriculture. It is now busily poisoning a wide range of the world’s living things. The culprit — a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Brought to market just 20 years ago, they are the world’s most widely used pesticides. And only now are we finding out how deadly they are. Continue reading

It’s Official: Most Supermarket Meat a Biohazard

STAND BACK! DON PROTECTIVE CLOTHING! BIOHAZARD! INCINERATE AT ONCE! (Photo by Stuart Webster/Flickr)

STAND BACK! DON PROTECTIVE CLOTHING! BIOHAZARD! INCINERATE AT ONCE! (Photo by Stuart Webster/Flickr)

As I have written here a time or two [Meat Industry: Have MRSA on Us; USDA Gets Bad News on Superbugs: Shoots Messenger; and most recently, Microbes Winning War on Terra] the meat industry has for years, as a matter of course, been selling tainted meat. In the face of widespread coverage in the media (I’m kidding!) the industry has doubled down, and the situation is now much worse (I’m not kidding!). It may now fairly be said not only that most meat offered for sale in American supermarkets is contaminated with infectious bacteria, but that most is infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Continue reading

Dry and Drier Meets Dumb and Dumber

drought decal

(Photo by James Mallos/Flickr)

The consensus of climatologists (be warned, these are scientists, not real Americans) is that the drought now affecting almost all of the US west of the Mississippi River — more than half of the 48 contiguous states — will be at least as bad this year as it was last (when it was in many places the worst in a generation), and may well be worse. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, most agricultural operators in the worst-hit regions probably won’t pay any attention to the forecast. This is the equivalent of the captain of the Titanic, on being told there are icebergs ahead, saying “So what?” Continue reading

Plainview, Texas: Dead Town Waking

Longhorn beef cattle made Texas, as the statue suggests, and are killing Plainview, Texas, where the statue is located. Whose fault is it? (Photo by Brykmantra/Flickr)

Longhorn beef cattle made Texas, as the statue suggests, and are killing Plainview, Texas, where the statue is located. Whose fault is it? (Photo by Brykmantra/Flickr)

An all-time favorite movie line (The Missouri Breaks), uttered by Jack Nicholson leaning over Marlon Brando, who is starting up from sleep: “Do you know why you woke up? I just cut your throat.” That is the way Plainview, Texas, woke up the other day to some bitter truths, and a shortened life. The food industry giant Cargill on February 1 closed the Plainview beef processing plant that employed 2,300 people, ten per cent of the town’s entire population, representing nearly half the town’s families. The exodus from Plainview (Jimmy Dean’s hometown) has begun, and the town will probably soon be a ghost. But who, exactly, cut its throat?

Continue reading

Farmers Renounce Industrial Methods, Get World-Record Yields

This is how you set world records for growing rice in rural India -- no machines, no GM seeds, no chemicals. (Photo by yogendra174/Flickr)

This is how you set world records for growing rice in rural India — no machines, no GM seeds, no chemicals. (Photo by yogendra174/Flickr)

The grotesquely misnamed “Green Revolution” that since the 1960s has been replacing traditional farming around the world with genetically modified, mechanized, chemical-intensive, debt-ridden industrial agriculture has worked so well in India that a quarter of a million farmers there have committed suicide in 16 years. The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice calls it “the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history.” Now a group of small-plot farmers in Northeast India has rejected every tenet of modern industrial agriculture, and has stunned the world with unprecedented yields. Continue reading

USDA Report Foresees Collapse of Agriculture

Drought-stressed corn, maybe also toxic, bug-bit and weed-plagued, in Kentucky last week. (Photo by CraneStation/Flickr)

Drought-stressed corn, maybe also toxic, bug-bit and weed-plagued, in Kentucky last summer. (Photo by CraneStation/Flickr)

A new US Department of Agriculture report looking only at the threat of climate change implies that industrial agriculture will be on its knees in 25 years. “We’re going to end up in a situation where we have a multitude of things happening that are going to negatively impact crop production,” said Jerry Hatfield, lead author of the study. “In fact, we saw this in 2012 with the drought.” Ever the cheerleader for industrial agriculture, the USDA insists that corporate farmers will be fine for a couple dozen years as long as they increase irrigation, use genetically modified, drought-resistant seeds — and move. Continue reading

Industrial Agriculture Losing Ground Faster

After Tropical Storm Lee in September, 2011, topsoil stripped from the farms of the Northeast flows down the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay. (NASA/Goddard photo.)

After Tropical Storm Lee in September, 2011, topsoil stripped from the farms of the Northeast (the brown stuff) flows down the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay. (NASA/Goddard photo.)

A new study out of Iowa State University confirms that industrial agriculture (please don’t call it farming) continues to squander the precious topsoil on which its existence — and ours — depends. This is a problem that has nothing to do with global climate change, or peak oil, but that may hit us all harder and sooner than either. The bad news in the study is that the losses of topsoil are stunningly large. The other bad news is that they are getting worse, despite billions of dollars’ worth of “conservation” efforts. There is no good news. Continue reading