Category Archives: Organic Farming

I’ve been a farmworker all my life. Here’s why you should buy organic food

The Sacramento Bee – BY RUDY ARREDONDO – Mar 10, 2019

Consumers who choose organic food to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure also help to create a safer and healthier food system for everyone, from farm to table. by Rudy Arredondo – President – National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association

Can an organic food–based diet reduce cancer risk? (3 min video)

A higher frequency of organic food consumption can reduce the risk of cancer, a new study finds. If the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.

Like millions of farmworkers who have labored in America’s fields and orchards, I know what it’s like to grow the food we eat using toxic pesticides. At 12, I worked as a “flag man,” waving in crop-dusting planes that would swoop down close to the plants — and us workers — to blast out a foggy spray of toxins that killed every bug in sight.

Along with the bugs, we were also sprayed.

Nobody told me these clouds of pesticides were dangerous, so I didn’t even wear a handkerchief over my face. My father almost died one time when a hose broke and exposed him to toxic fumes while he was applying ammonia treatments on a farm.

Many thousands of farmworkers, and some farmers, have been hospitalized and developed chronic, life-threatening illnesses from the chemicals we use to grow our food.

Like millions of farmworkers who have labored in America’s fields and orchards, I know what it’s like to grow the food we eat using toxic pesticides. At 12, I worked as a “flag man,” waving in crop-dusting planes that would swoop down close to the plants — and us workers — to blast out a foggy spray of toxins that killed every bug in sight.

Along with the bugs, we were also sprayed.

Nobody told me these clouds of pesticides were dangerous, so I didn’t even wear a handkerchief over my face. My father almost died one time when a hose broke and exposed him to toxic fumes while he was applying ammonia treatments on a farm.

Many thousands of farmworkers, and some farmers, have been hospitalized and developed chronic, life-threatening illnesses from the chemicals we use to grow our food.

OPINION

Consumers who choose organic food to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure also help to create a safer and healthier food system for everyone, from farm to table.

new peer-reviewed study shows how much of an impact eating organic food can have on the body. Following four diverse American families before and after they went on an all-organic diet, researchers found that the levels of pesticides in people’s bodies decreased dramatically after just one week of consuming organic foods and beverages.

After an all-organic week, levels of all detected chemicals dropped an average of 60.5 percent with a range of 37 percent to 95 percent depending on the compound, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Research.

In the families they studied, levels of chlorpyrifos, a widely used and highly toxic pesticide, fell by 61 percent in one week. Government scientists have recommended banning chlorpyrifos because of its links to increased rates of autism, learning disabilities and reduced IQ in children. Research shows that these risks are highest for the children of farmworkers and for children who are born and raised near fields where chlorpyrifos is sprayed.

Read on… SOURCE

India’s State of Sikkim Banishes All Pesticides and GMO, Watches Both Wildlife and Tourism Flourish

Global Research, By Nick Meyer   March 08, 2019

The organic movement has been seen as a fad and a trend by many, but others call it a necessity in a changing world where toxic chemicals are increasingly killing life from the bottom of the food chain up, including people as the story of terminally ill groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson demonstrated.

Organic agriculture is still a ways off from becoming truly mainstream in the United States, especially with companies like Bayer (now the owner of Monsanto) renewing their push for more pesticides and new technology-intensive methods of farming.

But even as the U.S. continues to approve new “longer-lasting” GMOs, harsh, toxic pesticides and other unnatural “innovations,” other parts of the world are anteing up on organic farming like never before.

While these changes have been far from simple, places like the Himalayan state of Sikkim in India are making immense progress, helping to support the health of pollinators, human beings, and the environment in the process.

Indian state first go 100% organic

In January 2016, the state of Sikkim, in the shadow of the world’s third-tallest peak Mt. Kanchenjunga, succeeded in becoming the first fully organic state in India, and probably the world. A few short years later, there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out, but the benefits are being seen first hand.

Bee populations are said to be rebounding, with plants dependent on bee pollination like cardamom providing much higher yields. Cardamom for example has risen by more than 30% since 2014, a reportfrom The Washington Post said.

Tourism to the region has also increased nearly 70% since the state went organic according to the BBC (see video below), and soil health has rebounded tremendously, as is usually the case when organic methods are applied. Marketed as an eco-friendly dream destination, the region boasts 500 species of butterflies, 4,500 types of flowering plants, and rare wildlife like the red panda, Himalayan bear, snow leopards and yaks.

The state also received a Future Policy Award 2018 at a UN ceremony in Rome, beating out 51 other nominees from 25 countries worldwide for best promoting agro-ecology.

While many farmers have struggled in the years following Sikkim’s mandated switch to organic, they have also said that their crop yields have rebounded to what they were before the change. In response to the increasing signs of success, Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has recognized the state for its contributions and pledged further support for organic farmers throughout India.

Thus far, there have also been concerns about ineffectiveness of the bio-pesticides being used in place of synthetic ones, as well as rising prices and diseases affecting crops.

The state has also had to rely on conventional crops from West Bengal to help feed its population while farmers continue to learn how best to maximize yields with assistance from government programs.

But positive signs abound, as shown in the BBC report below.

VIDEO: Will organic revolution boost farming in India? – BBC News (2 min)

VIDEO: Dr Vandana Shiva: the example of Sikkim – 100% organic state (2 min)

ARTICLE SOURCE

Agribusiness Is the Problem, Not the Solution

Consortium News – By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
in Kuala Lumpur – Feb 28, 2019

Livestock carcass in 2010  in Marsabit, in Northern Kenya, amid long drought. (Neil Palmer with CIAT via Flickr)

For two centuries, all too many discussions about hunger and resource scarcity has been haunted by the ghost of Parson Thomas Malthus.

Malthus warned that rising populations would exhaust resources, especially those needed for food production. Exponential population growth would outstrip food output.

Humanity now faces a major challenge as global warming is expected to frustrate the production of enough food as the world population rises to 9.7 billion by 2050. Timothy Wise’s new book “Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food,” argues that most solutions currently put forward by government, philanthropic and private sector luminaries are misleading.

Malthus’ Ghost Returns

The early 2008 food price crisis has often been wrongly associated with the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. The number of hungry in the world was said to have risen to over a billion, feeding a resurgence of neo-Malthusianism.

Agribusiness advocates fed such fears, insisting that food production must double by 2050, and high-yielding industrial agriculture, under the auspices of agribusiness, is the only solution. In fact, the world is mainly fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale, often called family farmers who produce over two-thirds of developing countries’ food.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, neither food scarcity nor poor physical access are the main causes of food insecurity and hunger. Instead, Reuters has observed a “global grain glut,” with surplus cereal stocks piling up.

Meanwhile, poor production, processing and storage facilities cause food losses of an average of about a third of developing countries’ output. A similar share is believed lost in rich countries due to wasteful food storage, marketing and consumption behavior.

Nevertheless, despite grain abundance, the 2018 “State of Food Security and Nutrition” report — by the Rome-based United Nations food agencies led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — reported rising chronic and severe hunger or undernourishment involving more than 800 million.

Political, philanthropic and corporate leaders have promised to help struggling African and other countries grow more food, by offering to improve farming practices. New seed and other technologies would modernize those left behind.

But producing more food, by itself, does not enable the hungry to eat. Thus, agribusiness and its philanthropic promoters are often the problem, not the solution, in feeding the world.

“Eating Tomorrow” addresses related questions such as: Why doesn’t rising global food production feed the hungry? How can we “feed the world” amid rising populations and unsustainable pressure on land, water and other natural resources that farmers need to grow food?

Family Farmers Lack Power

Drawing on five years of extensive fieldwork in Southern Africa, Mexico, India and the U.S. Midwest, Wise concludes that the problem is essentially one of power. He shows how powerful business interests influence government food and agricultural policies to favor large farms.

This is typically at the expense of “family” farmers, who grow most of the world’s food, but also puts consumers and others at risk, e.g., due to agrochemical use. His many examples not only detail and explain the many problems small-scale farmers, but also their typically constructive responses despite lack of support, if not worse, from most governments:

  • In Mexico, trade liberalization following the 1993 North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) agreement swamped the country with cheap, subsidized U.S. maize and pork, accelerating migration from the countryside. Apparently, this was actively encouraged by transnational pork producers employing “undocumented” and non-unionized Mexican workers willing to accept low wages and poor working conditions.
  • In Malawi, large government subsidies encouraged farmers to buy commercial fertilizers and seeds from U.S. agribusinesses such as now Bayer-owned Monsanto, but to little effect, as their productivity and food security stagnated or even deteriorated. Meanwhile, Monsanto took over the government seed company, favoring its own patented seeds at the expense of productive local varieties. A former senior Monsanto official co-authored the national seed policy that threatens to criminalize farmers who save, exchange and sell seeds instead.
  • In Zambia, greater use of seeds and fertilizers from agribusiness tripled maize production without reducing the country’s very high rates of poverty and malnutrition. Meanwhile, as the government provides 250,000-acre “farm blocks” to foreign investors, family farmers struggle for title to farm land.
  • In Mozambique too, the government gives away vast tracts of farm land to foreign investors. Meanwhile, women-led cooperatives successfully run their own native maize seed banks.
  • Iowa promotes vast monocultures of maize and soybean to feed hogs and produce bioethanol rather than “feed the world.”
  • A large Mexican farmer cooperative launched an “agro-ecological revolution,” while the old government kept trying to legalize Monsanto’s controversial genetically modified maize. Farmers have thus far halted the Monsanto plan, arguing that GM corn threatens the rich diversity of native Mexican varieties.

Much of the research for the book was done in 2014-15, when Barack Obama was U.S. president, although the narrative begins with developments and policies following the 2008 food price crisis, during the last year of former President George W. Bush. The book tells a story of U.S. big business’ influence on policies enabling more aggressive transnational expansion.

Yet, Wise remains optimistic, emphasizing that the world can feed the hungry, many of whom are family farmers. Despite the challenges they face, many family farmers are finding innovative and effective ways to grow more and better food. He advocates support for farmers’ efforts to improve their soil, output and wellbeing.

Eating Better

Hungry farmers are nourishing their life-giving soils using more ecologically sound practices to plant a diversity of native crops, instead of using costly chemicals for export-oriented monocultures. According to Wise, they are growing more and better food, and are capable of feeding the hungry.

Unfortunately, most national governments and international institutions still favor large-scale, high-input, industrial agriculture. This neglects more sustainable solutions offered by family farmers, and the need to improve the wellbeing of poor farmers.

Undoubtedly, many new agricultural techniques offer the prospect of improving the welfare of farmers, not only by increasing productivity and output, but also by limiting costs, using scarce resources more effectively, and reducing the drudgery of farm work.

But the world must recognize that farming may no longer be viable for many who face land, water and other resource constraints, unless they get better access to such resources. Meanwhile, malnutrition of various types affects well over 2 billion people in the world, and industrial agriculture contributes about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Going forward, it will be important to ensure affordable, healthy and nutritious food supplies for all, mindful not only of food and water safety, but also of various pollution threats. A related challenge will be to enhance dietary diversity affordably to overcome micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related non-communicable diseases for all.

Jomo Kwame Sundarama former economics professor, was United Nations assistant secretary-general for economic development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

SOURCE

How we can eat our landscapes (12 min)

Pam Warhurst: TED Salon, London, Spring 2012

The will to live life differently can start in some of the most unusual places. This is where I come from, Todmorden. It’s a market town in the north of England, 15,000 people, between Leeds and Manchester, fairly normal market town. It used to look like this, and now it’s more like this, with fruit and veg and herbs sprouting up all over the place. We call it propaganda gardening. (Laughter)00:40

Corner row railway, station car park, front of a health center, people’s front gardens, and even in front of the police station. (Laughter)We’ve got edible canal towpaths, and we’ve got sprouting cemeteries. The soil is extremely good. (Laughter)01:02

We’ve even invented a new form of tourism. It’s called vegetable tourism, and believe it or not, people come from all over the world to poke around in our raised beds, even when there’s not much growing. (Laughter) But it starts a conversation. (Laughter)01:19

And, you know, we’re not doing it because we’re bored. (Laughter) We’re doing it because we want to start a revolution.

Watch the Incredible Edible movement TED Talk (12 min)

Bonus: Incredible Edible Todmorden (11 min – 2013 – Youtube)

35,000 Hit Streets of Berlin to Demand Agricultural Revolution

Common Dreams – by  – Jan 20, 2019

“This protest shows that the desire for a different agricultural policy is now undeniable.”

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they’re “fed up” with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals, and rural farmers.

Many held placards reading “Eating is political” at the action in Berlin, which coincided with the so-called “Green Week” agricultural fair.

The protest also featured a procession of 170 farmers driving tractors to the rally at the Brandenburg Gate.

“This protest,” said Green party co-leader Robert Habeck, “shows that the desire for a different agricultural policy is now undeniable.”

As DW reports

Protesters called out by some 100 organizations asserted that alleviation of climate change and species depletion required a reorganization of EU farming policy, including subsidies, currently amounting to €60 billion ($68 billion) annually, including €6.3 billion allocated in Germany.

That flowed mainly to larger companies focused on boosting yields, they said, but instead the funds should be distributed better to avert further farmyard closures and rural village die-offs.

“With over €6 billion that Germany distributes every year as EU farming monies, environmental and animal-appropriate transformation of agriculture must be promoted,” said protest spokesperson Saskia Richartz.

Slow Food Europe captured some of the scenes on social media, and stated in a Twitter thread: “We believe that instead of propping up agro-industries, politicians should support the determination of small-scale farmers to keep climate-friendly farms, which are the future of agriculture.”

SOURCE

 

Organic farming goes for scale in prairies, pushes back on skepticism

OttawaMatters – Sept 2, 2018 (Canadian Press)

Travis Heide was raised on a conventional farm and used to take it personally when his wife, who grew up on an organic farm on Vancouver Island, talked about going pesticide and fertilizer-free.

Travis Heide was raised on a conventional farm and used to take it personally when his wife, who grew up on an organic farm on Vancouver Island, talked about going pesticide and fertilizer-free. Now, his the Saskatchewan-based farmer owns one of the biggest organic farms in Canada.

“Every time she talked about organic, it was like she was attacking the way I was raised.”

High prices for some organic crops helped push him to experiment with the practice in 2015 on farmland he secured through a partnership with property manager Robert Andjelic. Profits on the organic crop ended up helping offset losses on his conventional crop that year.

Heide has since gone all-in on organic and is pushing to see how big such farms can grow with a 16,200 hectare operation, as the industry matures and concerns mount about the impacts of conventional farming. The federal government, for example, recently moved to phase out nicotine-based pesticides that are linked to a rising number of honey bee deaths.

“What we’re not spending in chemical, we’re investing in people and machinery.”

Heide said he stuck with the model because it made sense on a business case, as demand grows for the products and the market matures, and other farmers are taking note.

SOURCE