Category Archives: Growing

If you don’t want Monsanto to own the world’s apples and apple trees, submit a comment

GMO apple
Source: Inquistr
Monsanto and companies like it that produce GMO (aka GE) seed want to own all the food produced in the world. They are working towards this goal bit by bit, using GMO seeds as an inroad to accomplish it. Don’t let them! If you believe in people owning our food supply as opposed to major corporations owning it and deciding when, where and how much we can eat then you need to submit a public comment saying so by 12 Sept 2016.

Submitting a public comment has become a very easy process and is fast. You can feel free to speak from your own heart or to use any part of my statement that you like. Additional information and facts are also available at Food Safety News.

Submitted by Kimi Wei on 27 August 2016:

Dear Sirs and Mesdames,

It’s absurd to even think of giving in to the whims of a public which, due to ignorance, concern themselves more with appearance than their own health and the consequences of being deprived of the right to eat good, healthy food and build communities around this simple human need.

GMO products give control over food sources to major corporations, as they control the sales of GMO seed and eventually, can even prevent farmers from using traditional seed – this is happening in several countries around the world. GMO seed also is much costlier than traditional seeds are.

While people may choose to be ignorant of the facts, there’s no excuse for government officials to fail in this area. You need to ensure that Americans continue to enjoy food sovereignty; that we not risk planet and personal health crises by using GMO products which may cause unforeseen negative long-range impacts; that food production is not turned over to entities concerned with profit at the expense of humanity; and that the planetary and natural protections offered by small-holder farmers who practice natural planting and growing are not replaced with Big Ag monoculture crops that are always highly destructive to planet and people.

Furthermore, in the United States GMO seed and plant producers have used GMO seeds as an excuse to steal away smaller farmers’ lands by claiming that seeds that invade adjacent farms by the wind or birds carrying them over are in fact being stolen by the smaller farmers. Successful legal claims have been made stating that the only remedy for this theft is for the GMO planters to take possession of farmers lands that were invaded by their seed. The fact that the farmers didn’t want GMO seed and were advocating for it to be blocked from invading their land, meant nothing to the GMO plant growers, or the courts.

To submit a comment by USPS mail (snail mail), send to:
Docket No. APHIS-2016-0043
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Thanks Howard Vlieger for sharing the opportunity to comment.

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Biofortification (golden rice, corn) is another tool GMO producers use to destroy food sovereignty

Biotech crop test
Source: Natural News
Biofortification is just another term for GE (aka GMO) crops that put the power and control of growing in the hands of corporate giants. GE crops are being used as a wedge to destroy soil and more importantly, to take control of growing away from small-holding farmers.

Today, GE producers are pushing “golden” corn and rice, that have been manufactured and promoted at great expense. They say the Vitamin A they are engineered to create will solve a dietary deficiency in certain countries. But we can also think about how differently food growing would be in poor regions of the world if billions had been invested to bring knowledge and valuable resources, such as water, to growers in poor communities. Why, they might be able to solve their Vitamin A deficiency problems in so many different ways.

Here are some additional problems with “orange” crops like corn and rice:

  • The Vitamin A ingredient in them derives from carrots, and it breaks down in storage.
  • People who consume orange crops may not have in their diet other nutrients needed to absorb Vitamin A.
  • The seeds are owned by the GE companies that manufacture them. They’re not giving up their patents, or control over them.
  • Growers still lack sufficient water to grow.
  • The unintended consequences of using GE crops like these, has not been mapped.

Additional information at http://www.gmwatch.org/news/archive/2013/15045-golden-rice-not-so-golden

Pres. Obama is making a flower highway for butterflies (really)

tagged monarch
Source: Anna Barnett on flickr
I know this headline sounds more like the title of a fantasy novel than a project the federal United States government is implementing. But it’s real – a real 1500 mile project that will connect Minnesota with Texas with habitat areas for Monarch butterflies all the way down the middle of our country. That’s the path these butterflies take on their way to winter in fir forests outside of Mexico City, Mexico. It will run north-south along Route I-35, pretty much the entire vertical length of the United States.

butterfly highway
Source: mexiconewsdaily.com

The Christian Science Monitor explains the plan:

The Xerces Society has already been working with the Federal Highway Administration to develop best practices for roadside management, including incorporation of flowering plants and milkweed and adapting mowing schedules to migration patterns… but the president’s plan is much broader than that.

“The idea is to use it as this iconic pathway to work with schools, farmers, ranchers, and park districts to improve habitats for 50 to 100 miles on either side of the I-35 corridor,” Dr. Black says.

North Carolina has a Butterfly Highway of its own. And, there are other Monarch protection projects coming to life in different parts of the United States – check out Monarch Joint Venture for details.

In May 2015 the Washington Post reported on Obama’s National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.

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The Shangri-la source of all the world’s apples is under threat of destruction

Kazakhastan apples via orexca
Source: Orexca
Modern apples are a product of bear selection and a mother-father pair of trees in the Tian Shen forests of Kazakhastan, where many tasty and supremely healthy varieties can still be found today. Techly contributer Riordan Lee explains:

After sequencing the entire genome, scientists have traced 90% of the billions of apples that have ever been, back to the Malus sieversii – the original wild apple.

This species was born deep in the heart of the Tien Shen forests – where dense covers of apple trees dominated the hilly, remote mountain ranges.

The reason most apples have that classic, sweet ‘apple’ flavour is funnily enough, because of bears.

In these Kazakh forests, bears, being the picky buggers that they are, would only pick and eat the sweetest apples.

Then they’d go and wander around poop everywhere and the seeds of these sweet, delicious apples were spread around.

Today, tourism and deforestation are threatening the Kazakh region’s, “highly disease resistant, sweet, and hard,” apple trees. Due to centuries of inbreeding, the genetic structure of apple varieties outside of Kazakhastan has become fragile and their immune systems are weak. Fruit from Kazakh trees has the power to save apples around when seedlings from their stock is merged with genetically weaker varieties the rest of us know and love.

We must protect our apples!

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Plant These for Bees

By Claire Jones
By Claire Jones

Look at the beautiful graphics Claire Jones and Hannah Rosengren created to show us the wide range of plants that bees like. Makes them easy to remember … now get into your garden and plant some!

plant these to save the bees
By Hannah Rosengren 2013
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Organic food industry is being overtaken by mega corporations – take a look

mega corps taking over food production
Source: Phil Howard, Michigan State University

Assoc. Prof. Phil Howard of Michigan State University tracks the evolution – or degeneration – of the United States’ organic food standard. Howard told the WaPo,

It’s easier than ever to access to foods,” he said, “and the prices have come down. On the other hand, there is continual pressure to weaken the national organic standards to increase profits – and the big companies have the clout to do that.

Still, it’s disconcerting to learn that organic has become corporatized, and Howard certainly isn’t the only sustainability professional concerned about the trend. Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumer’s Association explains what the fuss is all about:

While Cummins believes that this is still largely true in practice, he says that this will change over time. I see some troubling trends, especially in organic dairy. In that sector there is a major move toward moving production from family farms to industrial feedlot factory farms. Horizon controls 70% of the US organic dairy market, and last year it was bought by Dean Foods, he told CorpWatch..

³No way in hell can you be organic if you have over a few hundred cows. After a certain size, the operation cannot be ecologically sound anymore, among other things because of the amount of manure produced, added Cummins.

³In California there are huge organic farms that produce organic lettuce and carrots in large monocultures, using large energy inputs and receiving subsidized water- three elements that are anti-environmental and unacceptable for those who want ecologically sound farming, he adds.

In a 2002 study conducted at the University of California at Davis, Karen Klonsky documents that organic food production in California is already concentrated. Two percent of organic farm operations, about 27 growers, bring in over $1 million a year and represent over half of the organic sales in the state.

Indeed while over 90% of all U.S. farms are categorized by the USDA as small, the other 10% — big agribusiness — provide approximately 60% of all food sales.

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Protecting old growth forests & reducing livestock will hugely mitigate climate change

Biodiversity Plan & Aichi TargetsI was just reading a fact sheet on the contributions that Aichi (Japan) Biodiversity Targets can make to land-based climate mitigation. My son Ivan Wei brought it back from COP21 – the Paris climate talks that happened in December 2015. It brought out some quite interesting points:

  • Old growth forests provide better greenhouse gas mitigation than newly planted ones. Meaning, let’s take care of our trees.
  • Organic, eco-friendly agriculture is a great way to sequester carbon and get it out of the air, where it causes climate change.
  • 1/3 of food is being lost to spoilage and waste. By sharply reducing food waste, we will reduce the amount of new cropland that gets planted, which will in turn dramatically mitigate climate change.
  • We need to manage livestock growing much better and probably reduce our meat consumption.

The facts are pulled from the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, a multi-country 10 year framework adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Here’s the full Aichi Targets & Biodiversity Plan Synopsis.

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How converting farmland to solar fields affects rural residents’ quality of life & the future of agriculture

Solar Array
Solar Array is in Fuquay-Varina Source: Raleigh’s News & Observer
Maybe a few silly things were said by residents of Woodland, North Carolina about yet another solar farm proposal for town land. But there are excellent reasons for residents to reject a fourth solar installation. Woodland Councilman Ron Lane shares the facts:

The Strata Solar project was not doomed by irrational fears. The photovoltaic panels were proposed just 50 feet from residential homes, and the project was too close to State Route 258 leading into town.

Raleigh News & Observer reporter John Murawski explains that converting farmland to solar fields is not only a quality of life issue for local residents – it may be an important agricultural issue for our nation as well:

…resistance often flares up in areas that have become magnets for solar farms – agricultural communities with cheap farmland near electrical substations where solar farms can interconnect to the power grid, said Stephen Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center.

But the state’s remarkable transformation of soybean fields into rows of indigo panels is also alarming some agriculturalists. In a Nov. 30 letter to the state’s extension agents, N.C. State University crop science professor Ron Heiniger warned that the rapid spread of solar farms “may well be one of the most important agricultural issues of our generation.”

Heiniger’s call-to-arms, reproduced in at least one local paper, predicts that solar farms could shift land use to such an extent that “it is highly unlikely this land will ever be farmed again.”

Thanks to Thomas Beckett for setting the record straight concerning this matter. I joined the social media crowd in poking fun of Woodland’s residents but obviously, this is no joking matter.

Great gift: honor or memorialize somebody special by planting a tree in their name

plant seedling
Source: USFS Region 5 Flickr page
Honor or remember a friend, family member or colleague by planting a tree through the NJ Tree Foundation’s Memorial Tree Program.

EJ Victory: EPA agrees to expand neurotoxin ban to agriculture after court order

Farm worker Olivia Flores
Florida farm worker Olivia Flores. Foto courtesy Dave Getzschman for EarthJustice

15 years after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned chlorpyrifos from residential use, the agency has agreed to expand the neurotoxic pesticide ban to agricultural fields as well. Exposure to to this health and memory harming drug has continued for farmworkers, their children and rural residents. Field workers have direct contact with the pesticide drug when they are forced to return to recently sprayed fields … it drifts easily into neighboring yards and farms … and over time, it has entered water sources from which local dwellers drink. Drinking water contamination is particularly harmful to infants.

The announcement was a response to an EarthJustice petition. Calling EPA’s delay in regulating chlorpyrifos “egregious,” the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the agency to take meaningful action by October 30 2015 on the 2007 legal petition to ban the chemical. The EPA had postponed the agriculture ban because of a flawed study by its manufacturer, Dow Agrosciences, which argued that the chemical was not toxic in agriculture environments.

“This is what we have been seeking for years. EPA’s and other independent findings show that chlorpyrifos causes brain damage to children and poisons workers and bystanders,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney handling the case. “At long last, the agency is signaling its intention to protect children, workers and their families by banning this hazardous pesticide. It is imperative that EPA move quickly to protect workers and children by finalizing this important rule.”

“Given the incredibly strong science on the health harms of this pesticide, it’s absurd that EPA has taken so long to act,” said Dr. Margaret Reeves, Senior Scientist at PAN. “A ban will finally ensure that children, workers and families in rural communities are safe from this drift-prone, bad actor pesticide.”

In December 2014, EPA acknowledged the extensive body of peer-reviewed science correlating chlorpyrifos exposure with brain damage to children, including reduced IQ, delayed development, and loss of working memory.

Ordered by a court to take regulatory action based on its scientific reviews, EPA is now proposing to completely ban chlorpyrifos. This would end all uses of chlorpyrifos that result in residues on food, contamination of drinking water, or drift to schools, homes, and other places people are located.

“It’s a step forward on the path to environmental justice,” said Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice. “Farmworkers and their families, who are predominantly poor and majority people of color, bear the brunt of poisonings from pesticides and pesticide drift.”

If you would like to support Earthjustice’s work please make a donation.

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