Hunger Games in the Heartland

We’re headed back to the dustbowl future in the heartland. But not to hear the USDA tell it.

As recently as six weeks ago, the Pollyannas of industrial agriculture were all over the industrial media trumpeting the imminent “huge” corn harvest in the United States.  They knew it was going to be huge (see, for example, Bloomberg News on May 24) because more US acres were planted in corn this year than ever, and because there is no such thing as global climate change. Well, they didn’t say that second part, but they assumed it. Because if they hadn’t, they  might have foreseen the disaster now unfolding. Continue reading

The Silence of the Bats

This brown bat is lucky -- he's just stunned momentarily. If there were white spots on his nose, he'd be dead. (Photo by Velo Steve/Flickr)

Is there anything Americans care less about than species extinction? It is as if their house were on fire, but they continue to watch TV because a) they didn’t need that stuff in the garage anyway, and b) it will probably go out by itself before it gets to the living room, c) it’s not their job to fight fires, and d) if it was really important it would be on television. Now that the fire has reached the living room — i.e., impending extinctions are a direct threat to the human food supply — Americans are at last responding. By turning up the TV. Continue reading

The Silence of the Bees

To be a bee, or not to be a bee, that is the question when the colony is about to collapse. (Photo by Doug88888.Flickr)

This is how the media deal with stories such as bee-colony collapse disorder. It is as if, on day one, they sight a forest fire approaching the city and begin to air breathless bulletins containing little information and wild speculation bout how bad it might get. On day two, the fire being bigger and closer, they go to wall-to-wall coverage and talk of nothing else. On day three, the fire is even bigger and even closer, but it’s old news. Back to celebrity divorces. Thus has the prospect of losing our honeybees — and one third of our food — dropped from the public radar. Continue reading

Soy: It Isn’t So

One of the worst things you could eat is a fresh soybean -- even sauteed, as these have been. But there are lots of soy products that are even worse. (Photo by FotoosVanRobin/Flickr)

Once upon a time there was a lowly bean. Unlike other beans, in its natural state it was highly toxic to people and animals. Poor people in Asia discovered somehow — no doubt through desperate trial-and-error — that when fermented, the soy bean was edible. It became part of their diet. In the late 20th Century, when the industrialized diet of the West was afflicting its people with heart disease, cancers and diabetes, it was noticed that the spare Asian diet of fish, rice and a little fermented soy bean was not making people sick. Thus began one of the largest and most successful food cons ever perpetrated.
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UN, Oxfam Reports: Brace for Impact.

Oxfam volunteers demonstrate for non-readers the combined effects of rising seawater (climate change) and rising food prices. (AFP Photo/Alexander Joe)

The drumbeat of dire warnings continues about the inevitable and imminent collapse of the world’s food supply before the combined onslaughts of industrial agriculture and climate change. Despite the increasing number of scientific reports documenting ever more ominous conditions and prospects worldwide, the response from the people who could conceivably do something about it has been a collective yawn. The two latest cries of “fire” in our crowded theater came this week: Continue reading

If You Eat Food, Do Not Read This

Meet the all-natural ingredient that, when crushed, is used to turn your yogurt red and is described on the label as “Natural Red #4.” (Photo by Stephen Begin/Flickr)

Unless you are very, very good at suppressing the gag reflex, you are not going to want to read a new blog put up by a former food industry executive, apparently as an act of contrition for his years of pushing food-like substances on an unwitting public. In his latest post, Bruce Bradley identifies a few of the things that are not only added to industrial food, but qualify under existing regulations for the label “all natural.” [Hair-trigger gag reflex? DO NOT CONTINUE READING.] Continue reading

The United States of Monsanto

It is no longer enough for the seed and chemical company Monsanto to use its rivers of cash to own and operate the United States Congress (in the language of corporations, there is no word for “enough”); it is now using the US Department of State as its global sales force. The objective, apparently, is to replace every plant grown for food on the planet with a genetically mutilated plant sold by Monsanto. With the help of the United States government, the project is well along.
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Monsanto: More Crimes Against Humanity

Monsanto’s declining reputation worldwide is reflected in this French street art of an imagined member of “Monsanto Youth.” (Photo by Thierry Erhmann/Flickr)

When we come to our senses and begin to mete out capital punishment to corporations, Monsanto will surely be the first to mount the scaffold (see Capital Punishment for Corporations: Time to Start). Just in the past week, there emerged two new examples of its abuse of the planet, two new indications of the catastrophe it is bringing down on all our heads. The general public, which could reasonably be expected to be at Monsanto’s gates with pitchforks and torches, yawned and went back to reality-TV reruns.

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USDA Gets Bad News on Superbugs: Shoots Messenger

Confined, crowded and stressed meat animals like these pigs are given 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year in the US, 80 per cent of the available supply, to make sure they grow. As a result, the seven million pounds administered to humans are becoming less effective. (Photo by Victor Sounds/Flickr)

This summer, the US Department of Agriculture received a report it had commissioned on the rise of infectious bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The report —  not a study, but a survey of existing studies — warned of a “growing public health concern worldwide” as more and more people are sickened and killed by infections against which modern medicines are helpless. (Just one of them, MRSA, now kills more people every year than AIDS.) And it was a powerful indictment of industrial agriculture’s role in creating these so-called “superbugs.” So the USDA did just what you would expect the government regulator of industrial agriculture to do: it buried the report.
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Zombie Weeds Attack: Desperate Farmers Resort to Hoes

No, the weeds didn’t kill the truck, but they are making the point that they will be there after the truck is gone. Zombie weeds, on the other hand, are making a much more aggressive point. (Photo by Dave 7/Flickr)

Farmers across the Midwest and South — those whose crops are not under water or blowing away in a hot, dry wind — are besieged by an enemy straight out of a stupid horror movie: an army of undead weeds that cannot be killed by chemicals. It’s as if you shot the heart out of an attacking enemy soldier and he just kept on coming. Cotton producers in the South have deployed armies with hoes to chop down weeds with stems up to four inches in diameter that shrug off the best herbicides that money can buy. Continue reading