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?

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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

Microbes Winning War on Terra

A bloom of deadly aspergillus on a cup of coffee. There was a misunderstanding: it likes its surroundings  hot and dry, not hot and black. (Photo by Albertstraub)

A bloom of deadly aspergillus on a cup of coffee. There was a misunderstanding: it likes its surroundings hot and dry, not hot and black. (Photo by Albertstraub)

While maximizing its profits, industrial agriculture has unleashed many deadly, slow-gathering threats on humanity. The downsides of mechanistic, chemically intensive (and now, genetically mutilated) food manufacture (please don’t call it “farming”) — air pollution, water pollution, loss of topsoil, food contamination — have become relatively well known, if not much discussed or dealt with. Now it is becoming obvious that mono-culture and animal crowding have set loose a new set of killers — a lethal fungus and a set of deadly bacteria — that no one seems to know how to stop.

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Corn Growers Suffer Quintuple Whammy

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

The failure of industrial agriculture is on display everywhere in America’s “breadbasket” — now we should probably call it the ethanol basket,  or the high-fructose-corn-syrup basket — and the consequences are already spreading around the world. You thought it was just a drought? It would be bad enough of that’s all it was, but it is much, much more. The count so far: Continue reading

Top Hedge Fund Guy Sees Worsening Global Food Crisis

Famine, as visualized by sculptor Rowan Gillespie on Custom House Quay in Dublin, Ireland. Famine is what hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham is really talking about in his latest investor letter. (Photo by William Murphy/Flickr)

The skipper of one of the larger hedge funds on the planet — $100 billion under management — has just laid out, again, in wonkish detail and with financial sophistication, the evidence that the industrialized world has fallen to its knees and is about to topple onto its face. He says, in short, Brace for Impact, and anyone who has  any interest in surviving the next couple of decades on Planet Earth would be well advised to read his report — and act accordingly. Continue reading

From American Drought to “Global Catastrophe”

Food riots erupted across North Africa in 2011 — this one in Algeria in January — after prices spiked. It’s about to happen again. (Photo by Magharebia/Flickr)

Some poet  invented the name “Arab Spring” as a label for the tsunami of public desperation that last year took down the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Poets and Pollyannas saw the events as an upwelling of love for democracy. Realists related them to the spike in world food prices that threatened the survival of whole populations and made them desperate for change — any change.  Now, thanks in large part to events unfolding in the American heartland, get ready for another, worse, spike. Continue reading