Category Archives: Organic Farming

DANISH RESEARCHERS ANNOUNCE NEW ORGANIC VERIFICATION TEST

Natural Products – Jim Manson – August 29, 2019

RESEARCHERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN SAY THEY HAVE DEVELOPED A NEW ORGANIC FOOD VERIFICATION TEST.

Rather than focusing on the presence of pesticide residues, the new test looks at how organic crops are fertilised, which the Danish researchers say offers a “deeper, more accurate” analysis of whether an organic food label is accurate.

Having an alternative, or complementary, verification test will help maintain confidence in organic at a time when organic fraud has become a significant problem in some parts of the world. 

“Nobody really knows the extent of this type of fraud, but we have seen bad examples from abroad that extend well beyond organic products. Rice made of plastic, wine with toxins, artificial honey, etc. There is not always a health risk associated with food fraud, but it is clear that when you pay a higher price, you expect the product that you are paying for. And, of course, honest producers must be protected,” says assistant professor Kristian Holst Laursen.

“While a major eco-labelling scandal has yet to occur in Denmark, we often forget that our diet is sourced globally, and that our foods are often imported from countries where problems have been documented. For example, in southern Europe, where a large quantity of organic fruits and vegetables are sourced,”

Kristian Holst Laursen’s research group is currently working with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the method is said to be ready for further testing, approval and use by public agencies and commercial interests.

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The 9% lie: industrial food and climate change

Local Futures – Jul 26, 2019 – Ronnie Cummins

The Climate Emergency is finally getting the attention of the media and the U.S. (and world) body politic, as well as a growing number of politicians, activists and even U.S. farmers.

This great awakening has arrived just in time, given the record-breaking temperatures, violent weather, crop failures and massive waves of forced migration that are quickly becoming the norm. Global scientists have dropped their customary caution. They now warn us that we have to drastically reduce global emissions – by at least 45 percent – over the next decade. Otherwise, we’ll pass the point of no return – defined as reaching 450 ppm or more of CO2 in the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2050 – when our climate crisis will morph into a climate catastrophe. That’s when the melting polar ice and Arctic permafrost will trigger catastrophic sea rise, fueling deadly forest fires, climate chaos, crop failures, famine and the widespread disintegration of society as we know it.

Most people now understand that we must quickly move to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, and reduce our fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. But it’s far less widely understood that energy conservation and renewables can’t do the job alone.

Alongside the massive political and economic campaign to move to 100% (or nearly 100%) renewable energy as soon as possible, we must put an end to the massive emissions of our corporate-dominated food and farming system and start drawing down and sequestering in our soils and forests billions of tons of “legacy” CO2 from the atmosphere, utilizing the enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, reforestation and land restoration.

Regenerative Agriculture” refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improved water infiltration and storage in soils. Regenerative practices include:

• Reduction/elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals.

• The use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures.

• Integrating animals with perennial and annual plants to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm.

• Grazing and pasturing animals on grass, and more specifically using a planned multi-paddock rotation system.

• Raising animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

If regenerative food, farming and land use – which is essentially moving to the next stage of organic farming, free-range livestock grazing and eco-system restoration – are just as essential to our survival as moving beyond fossil fuels, why aren’t more people talking about this? Why is it that moving beyond industrial agriculture, factory farms, agro-exports and highly-processed junk food to regenerating soils and forests and drawing down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to re-stabilize our climate is getting so little attention from the media, politicians and the general public?

The International Food Information Council Foundation released a poll on May 22, 2019, that found that “22 percent [of Americans] had heard of regenerative agriculture and 55 percent said they had not heard of it but were interested in learning more.”

Why don’t more people know about the incredible potential of regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, to fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food? Why is it that the U.S. and global climate movement until recently has focused almost exclusively on reducing emissions through renewable energy?

Our collective ignorance on this crucial topic may have something to do with the fact that we never learned about these things in school, or even college, and until recently there was very little discussion of regeneration in the mass media, or even the alternative media.

But there’s another reason regeneration as a climate solution doesn’t get its due in Congress or in the media: powerful corporations in the food, farming and forestry sector, along with their indentured politicians, don’t want to admit that their current degenerate, climate-destabilizing, “profit-at-any-cost” production practices and business priorities are threatening our very survival.

And government agencies are right there, helping corporate agribusiness and Big Food bury the evidence that these industries’ energy-intensive, chemical-intensive industrial agricultural and food production practices contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuel industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)repeatedly claim that industrial agriculture is responsible for a mere 9 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA explains, GHG “emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils and rice production.”

After hearing this 9-percent figure regurgitated over and over again in the media, most people draw the conclusion that food and farming aren’t that important of a factor in global warming, especially when compared with transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing and heating and cooling our buildings.

What the EPA, USDA, Big Ag, chemical, and food corporations are conveniently hiding from the public is that there’s no way to separate “U.S. agriculture” from our “food system” as a whole. Their faulty math (i.e. concealing food and farming emissions under the categories of transportation, manufacturing, etc.) is nothing but a smokescreen to hide the massive fossil fuel use and emissions currently belched out by our enormously wasteful, environmentally destructive, climate-destabilizing (and globalized) food system.

USDA and EPA’s nine-percent figure is ridiculous. What about the massive use of petroleum products and fossil fuels to power U.S. tractors and farm equipment, and to manufacture the billions of pounds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are dumped and sprayed on farmlands?

What about the ethanol industry that eats up 40 percent of our chemical- and energy-intensive GMO corn production? Among other environmental crimes, the ethanol industry incentivizes farmers to drain wetlands and damage fragile lands. Taking the entire process into account, corn production for ethanol produces more emissions than it supposedly saves when burned in our cars and trucks.

What about the massive release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from factory farms and the GMO, monocrop industrial grain farms that supply these feedlots and CAFOs with animal feed?

What about the methane emissions from the fracking wells that produce the natural gas that is used in prodigious amounts to manufacture the nitrogen fertilizer dumped on farmlands – fertilizer that then pollutes our waterways and creates oceanic dead zones as well as releasing massive amounts of nitrous oxide (300 percent more damaging than even CO2) into our already oversaturated atmosphere?

What about the 15-20 percent of global fossil fuel emissions that come from processing, packaging (most often non-recycled plastic), refrigerating and transporting our highly processed (mainly junk) food and agricultural commodities on the average 1,500 miles before they reach the consumer?

What about the enormous amounts of GHG emissions, deforestation and ecosystem destruction in the international supply chain enabling Big Box stores, supermarket chains and junk food purveyors to sell imported cheap food, in many cases “food-like substances” from China and overseas to undernourished and supersized U.S. consumers?

What about the enormous emissions from U.S. landfills where wasted food (30-50 percent of our entire production) rots and releases methane, when it could be used to produce compost to replace synthetic fertilizers?

A more accurate estimate of GHG emissions from U.S. and international food, farming and land use is 44-57 percent, not the 9 percent, as the EPA and USDA suggest.

We’re never going to reach net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030, as the Green New Deal calls for, without a profound change, in fact a revolution, in our food, farming, and land use practices.

This essay is part of The Organic Consumers Association’s Regenerative Agriculture campaign. To sign their petition in support of a Green New Deal that puts regenerative food, farming, and land use front and center, sign here if you’re a farmer, and here if you’re an activist or a green consumer.

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The Eco-Rebels of the Himalayas – Video 25 min

DW Documentary – Jul 24, 2019 – 25 min

An Indian state in the Himalayas has completely transformed its agriculture and switched to organic farming. Sikkim has become a model for the rest of the world, because its farmers only cultivate their fields and plantations in a sustainable way.

In 2010, the Prime Minister of Sikkim launched the so-called “Organic Mission,” developing the state into a model of sustainable farming. To protect its own organic farmers and consumers, the Sikkim government has even imposed an import ban on conventionally produced fruit and vegetables. This means that the authorities have the power to bury or destroy vegetables and fruit contaminated with pesticides and agrochemical giants such as Bayer or BASF are not welcome in Sikkim.

Would that approach also work in Germany? The growing demand for organic food in this country offers farmers an opportunity to switch to sustainable farming. But in Germany the percentage of land under plough conforming to sustainable methods remains very low. Although the government has set a target of 20 percent organic by 2030, this figure had already been proposed by Gerhard Schröder’s red-green coalition back in 1998. Germany is still far from meeting its demand for organic food. That means fruit, vegetables and cereals have to be imported from Spain, Italy, Turkey or even further afield. Critics accuse the government of a lack of commitment and an excessive dependence on lobbyists from the agrochemical industry and farmers’ associations. The incentives for organic farming are extremely poor. Can Germany now learn from far-off Sikkim?

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True cost of cheap food is health and climate crises, says commission

The Guardian – Jul 16, 2019 – Damian Carrington

The commission said agriculture produced more than 10% of the UK’s climate-heating gases and was the biggest destroyer of wildlife Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

The true cost of cheap, unhealthy food is a spiralling public health crisis and environmental destruction, according to a high-level commission. It said the UK’s food and farming system must be radically transformed and become sustainable within 10 years.

The commission’s report, which was welcomed by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, concluded that farmers must be enabled to shift from intensive farming to more organic and wildlife friendly production, raising livestock on grass and growing more nuts and pulses. It also said a National Nature Service should be created to give opportunities for young people to work in the countryside and, for example, tackle the climate crisis by planting trees or restoring peatlands.

“Our own health and the health of the land are inextricably intertwined [but] in the last 70 years, this relationship has been broken,” said the report, which was produced by leaders from farming, supermarket and food supply businesses, as well as health and environment groups, and involved conversations with thousands of rural inhabitants.

“Time is now running out. The actions that we take in the next 10 years are critical: to recover and regenerate nature and to restore health and wellbeing to both people and planet,” said the commission, which was convened by the RSA, a group focused on pressing social challenges.

The commission said most farmers thought they could make big changes in five to 10 years if they got the right backing.

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ORGANIC CREATES 30,000 NEW JOBS IN SPAIN IN JUST FIVE YEARS

Natural Products – Jim Manson -July 5, 2019

Supermarket giant Carrefour had a major presence at the Madrid show, emphasizing the key role in growing organics being played by conventional retail.

AN EXPANSION OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN SPAIN GENERATED 30,000 NEW JOBS BETWEEN 2013-2018 AND CONTINUES TO CREATE NEW JOBS AT A RATE OF 500 A WEEK. 

The striking figures were revealed by Javier Maté, general deputy director of Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, in comments given to journalists ahead of last month’s inaugural Organic Food Iberia event in Madrid. 

Maté sees expansion of Spain’s organic sector as an investment in the future that will deliver “important economic value and opportunities for numerous families across many regions”.

Maté praised the new trade event, commenting that it created the opportunity “to unite producers, suppliers and distributors in one place”, adding that such a showcase would help to further enhance the organic industry’s prospects, which continues to deliver double digit growth in Spain. 

Speaking at the event itself, Fernando Miranda, secretary general of the Ministry of Agriculture, commented on the growing domestic market for organics in Spain, helped by the increasing availability of organic in mainstream retail. In fact, he said, organic sales in the conventional retail channel had this year exceeded that of the specialist channel for there first time.

Miranda emphasized organic’s strategic role as part of Spain’s agricultural mix, commenting that it delivered on the triple pillars of “quality, added value and environmental sustainability”.

Spain’s organic market is currently worth around EUR2.2 billion, up 10% on 2018. Around 475,000 Spanish citizens consume organic every week. 

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