A 501(c)(3) non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to thoughtful planning and policies for sustainable growth, stewardship of our natural, cultural and historical resources and the protection of the rural character of our region.
The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat.
But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.
An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.
The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.
“Bayer in the U.S. is known largely for its pharmaceuticals, with scientists who developed modern Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer.” And you might need a little of both to process the company’s latest deal; a massive $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto. Here’s more on the deal that could reshape the world’s food supply. (If Bayer/Monsanto’s pesticides make you sick, don’t worry. Bayer/Monsanto has a drug to help you. Synergy!)
Bayer in the U.S. is known largely for its pharmaceuticals, with scientists who developed modern Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer. But the deal would pivot the 117,000-employee company more towards its farm-targeting business in agriculture chemicals, crop supplies and compounds that kill bugs and weeds.
“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”
As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results…
SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.
This clip showing industrial food production is both beautiful and disturbing..
The public hearing on the proposed permit (VPA00076) took place Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Madison County High School. The Virginia Water Control Board will render a final decision to deny or approve (or approve with amendments) the application during its next regular meeting on June 27th. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am.
General Assembly Building, House Room C 9th & Broad Streets, Richmond, Virginia 23219
Only those citizens who spoke at the hearing on June 8 and/or submitted a public comment by June 17, 2016 will be permitted to address the Water Control Board on June 27.
In certain situations, Virginia and Pennsylvania continue to allow the land application of organic waste to be nitrogen-based, guaranteeing a massive over-application of both nitrogen and phosphorus and proving that agricultural economic concerns continue to trump concerns about water quality.
Pollution is an externality and its real cost is never accounted for. In Virginia, dairy manure is applied assuming that 35 percent of the nitrogen is available to the next crop because it takes time for microbes to decompose the organic material in the waste and release the nutrients for plant uptake.
What happens to the other 65 percent of the nitrogen? Unless nitrogen fertilizers are considerably reduced for subsequent crops — which is not required and rarely done — much of the excess nitrogen is pollution. It is easy to understand why animal waste — poultry litter, sewage sludge and manure — accounts for half of all agricultural nutrient pollution, or a little more than a quarter of Bay nutrient pollution because less than half of the disposed nitrogen and phosphorus ends up in the crop.
The cleaning products in your home may be harboring hazardous ingredients. Many brands make it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to learn what ingredients are in them. These products commonly contain chemicals that can cause reproductive problems, exacerbate asthma, burn or irritate your skin and harm the environment. Some have even been linked to cancer.
All those chemicals wind up going down the drain, where they ultimately wind up in streams, rivers, municipal drinking water and sewage sludge applied as fertilizer to agricultural land.
By now, most conscientious eaters know that Big Food uses tons of antibiotics to make animals gain weight with less feed thus driving antibiotic resistant bacteria and infections. Antibiotics are also used to prevent illness in the extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions of “factory farms.” What people may not realize is that Big Food has repeatedly defeated government attempts to regulate and prohibit antibiotic use, and that Big Pharma and Big Food, not the government, actually call the shots. In 2008, the egg, chicken, turkey, milk, pork and cattle industries stormed Capitol Hill over the proposal to prohibit the use of Cefzil and Keflex (important human drugs called cephalosporins), claiming they could not “farm” without the drugs. They won.
In 2014, the FDA tried regulation again, proposing a voluntary plan in which drug makers would agree to remove the use of “growth promotion and feed efficiency” on antibiotic labels and the drugs would only be used to prevent disease. Did the government really think Big Pharma and Big Meat would undercut their own profits and meat producers would comply?
Soon after the announcement, Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union, told me it was likely Big Pharma would simply replace “growth production” with “disease prevention” on the labels and continue the routine antibiotic use. Cattle producers could continue to feed grain instead of grass to animals even though it produces more liver abscesses, then treating them with the antibiotic Tylosin to “prevent disease,” he told me.
So far, according to the FDA’s 2014 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals, domestic sales and distribution of livestock cephalosporins increased by 57 percent between 2009 through 2014, antibiotics like clindamycin by 150 percent and antibiotics like gentamicin by 36 percent. Thanks for nothing, FDA.
“Our food system today allows terrible pollution of water and the degradation of soil, climate and endangered species. It subsidizes the large wealthy farmers the most and allows unhealthy food to be promoted and served to our kids and poorest families. It wastes nearly half the food produced. Until we become more strident and say “NO MORE,” our small farmers and ranchers — who love their work — will continue to fail in extreme numbers and our poorest families will continue to disproportionately die from diet related disease. Many farms are clearly too small to survive, not too big to fail. And that stark contradiction reveals an American misconception of what is important in the world.”