Wednesday, February 18, 2015


That's what economics calls services that business doesn't pay for. Katherine Paul has an excellent article at Common Dreams called Who should clean up Big Ag's mess?
An excerpt from the opening of the article should suffice to get you over there to read it:
A “Cow Palace” in Washington State threatens public health with its acres of untreated animal waste.
A city in Iowa spends nearly $1 million a year to keep illness-causing nitrates, generated by farm runoff, out of public drinking water.
And who can forget the plight of Toledo, Ohio, residents whose water last summer was so contaminated by farm runoff that they couldn’t even bathe in it, much less drink it?
For decades, America’s chemical-intensive, industrial farming operations have spewed nitrates and other toxic chemicals, animal waste, ammonia, antibiotics, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane gases into public air, waterways and communities.
How do they get away with it? Largely because lobbyists have seen to it that Big Ag is exempt from many of the rules and regulations that other industries, and even municipalities, are required to follow under the Clean Air Act (comments on exemptions here), the Clean Water Act (comments on exemptions here), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Safe Drinking Act, and others.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Landrace Preservation

Landraces of Andean maize
credit: Karl Zimmerer, Penn State

Science Daily is reporting that what is left of the world's crop diversity is being held by small farmers--that is, farmers who hold between three and seven acres (1-3 hectares) of land.
To quote from the Penn State news release:
What the census shows is that small farmers, in many cases women, are the ones preserving landraces of food crops. A landrace is a locally adapted, traditional variety of a domesticated species. Depending on the crop, farmers may plant anywhere from one to 15 different landraces. While the livelihoods of small land users are often precarious, these landraces provide vital farm and food resources. 
 Small farmers tend to plant different landraces in the same field, encouraging hybridization. Maize, for example, hybridizes quite easily, while potatoes do not. This means a farmer may plant 3 or 4 landraces of maize, but up to 30 or more landraces of potatoes.
But the landraces are not just preserved by farmers in remote rural areas. Frequently they are found also in peri-urban areas--where people live near, and depend upon urban areas--where people are growing local food for local consumption.
The press release alone makes for fascinating reading, and leaves us with some hope for the diversity of foods.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Plus ça Change c'est la même chose. CBC news is reporting that, while we may think that infant and toddler foods are made to the highest nutritional standards, in fact, they are still being made to shape tastes as the kids grow up. As the article puts it: "The sodium concentration in infant and toddler savory snacks in the latest study was comparable to plain salted potato chips." Are we surprised? We shouldn't be. This first came up back in the 1960s, with exactly the same problems, for exactly the same reasons, and with exactly the same defense.

Monday, February 2, 2015

American Samoa Crosses Their Collective Fingers

Hoping that the next scheduled cargo ship from the US arrives February 2nd. Apparently a dispute between dock workers and their employers at US ports has left Samoa concerned about their food supply.
Radio New Zealand reports:
American Samoa is beginning to feel the effects of shipping delays due to a work slowdown as union negotiations are underway in the United States.
The last food freighter that brought essential food supplies was four weeks ago and most stores have run out of eggs and milk.
Fresh produce is also in short supply driving up the prices of what's available with one store in the Tuala-uta area selling a single tomato for more than $2.
The Manager of the School Lunch Program Christine Fualaau says they have enough supplies for the 18,000 students at the moment but if there's any further delays they will run out.
Ms Fualaau says they bought milk from local suppliers anticipating delays.
She says they have enough to tide them over until the arrival of the next freighter set for February 2.
For produce the school program is using local vegetables and fruits.
The shipping delays have also postponed the start of production at the new Samoa Tuna Processors cannery.
 A similar problem is occurring in Canada's North; CBC is reporting that prices are so high, and the government of Stephen Harper's response has been so ill-thought-out, that they are now trying a boycott of the Northwest Company's grocery stores.