2.Small farmers key to combating climate change
3.TAKE ACTION: Change We Can Believe In!
NOTE: Happy New Year!
1.A Change We Can Believe In - Dumping Industrial Agriculture
CommonDreams, December 30 2008
As 2009 approaches, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes nearly a billion people a day go hungry worldwide. While India supplies Switzerland with 80% of its wheat, 350 million Indians are food-insecure. Rice prices have nearly tripled since early 2007 because, according to The International Rice Research Institute, rice-growing land is being lost to industrialization, urbanization and shifts to grain crops for animal feed.
Yet, according to FAO statistics, world food supplies have kept pace with population growth. There is enough food to adequately feed everyone. Clearly, root causes of the food crisis lie in politics, problems with food distribution, poverty and a failure of the industrial food system to deliver its promises.
Dr. Bob Watson, chief scientist for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK, places the blame for the food price spikes on several factors; grain being shifted to animal feed, drought, increased use of grains for biofuels and speculation in food crops. While proponents assert that industrial agriculture is the only hope to end the food crisis, it appears that industrial agriculture is *causing* the food crisis.
A study by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) found, that as industrial farming practices are adopted in countries like India, small farmers and landless peasants are forced off the land. Hundreds of vegetables and weeds that were part of the traditional diet are wiped out by mono-cultures and herbicides used on the Genetically Modified (GM) crops. Thus, as Margaret Visser tells us, more rice and wheat produced in India really meant less food and less nutrition.
In 1995 Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro addressed the Society of Environmental Journalists stating "The commercial industrial technologies (the Green Revolution) that are used in agriculture today to feed the world... are not inherently sustainable." Even Shapiro, was admitting the Green Revolution would fail. As George Kent notes in /The Political Economy of Hunger/, "the benefits of Green Revolution yields went into the mouths of rich world denizens, in the form of meat and processed foods"
IAASTD concluded that small-scale farmers in diverse ecosystems should be the focus of efforts to get better quality food in the right places. Farmers need better access to knowledge, technology and credit, but was biotechnology *the* technology? Watson told the UK Daily Mail, "Are transgenics the simple answer to hunger and poverty? I would argue, no."
Study after study indicates small scale, integrated organic/low input sustainable production can produce more food, of higher nutritional value locally, where it is needed.
A 15 year study at the Rodale Institute showed similar yields for conventionally raised vs. organic corn and soy, with soil fertility being consistently higher in the organic systems.
The Broadbalk study in the UK, ongoing for over 150 years, shows higher yields in integrated organic systems over conventional systems with soil fertility remarkably in the organic system.
In 'This Organic Life', Joan Dye Gussow notes that prior to World War II, even with its harsh climate, Montana produced 70% of its own food, including fruit. Sustainably, organically on small farms.
The advantage of integrated organic and sustainable systems is even more apparent in the Global South where most farms are an acre or less. While "yield" per acre can be higher on large conventional farms, "total output" per acre, the sum of everything the farmer produces, is according to Peter Rosset in 'The Ecologist', far higher on small farms. More food, more nutrition, more animal feed.
Gardeners are familiar with the Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash, three food crops that thrive together. This system of intercropping, has long been practiced by small scale indigenous farmers. Integrating livestock, manure and crop rotation makes the system even more productive in terms of food per acre.
According to Rosset, economists at the World Bank realize that redistribution of land to small farmers would promote greater food production, yet due to corporate and political pressure, the industrial farming model is promoted as the standard that will "feed the world." Helena Norberg-Hodge notes that the industrial food system became dominated by the "need for corporate profits, not the need to feed the global population".
Industrial farming has been an abysmal failure at feeding the world. The best hope, according to the IAASTD report, long term research and countless generations of indigenous farmers, lies with "small scale farmers in diverse eco-systems".
As for the US, we need sensible food policy; less grain for animals, more home and community gardens, farmer owned grain reserves, energy policy that does not use food for fuel and an end to food price speculation. That is a "Change we can believe in".
*Jim Goodman, his wife Rebecca and brother Francis run a 45-cow organic dairy and direct market beef farm in SW Wisconsin. His farming roots trace back to his great-grandfathers immigration from Ireland during the famine and the farms original purchase in 1848. A farm activist, Jim credits over 150 years of failed farm and social policy with his motivation to advocate for a farmer controlled consumer oriented food system. Jim currently serves on the policy advisory boards for the Center for Food Safety and the Organic Consumers Association, and is board president of the Midwest Organic Services Association.
2.Small farmers key to combating climate change
Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, Dec 8 2008
Agriculture is responsible for 13.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions largely from synthetic fertilizers and large animal operations. GHG emissions””soil carbon loss, methane, and nitrous oxide””are largely results of large-scale agricultural operations in which soil carbon is depleted, methane from large animal feedlot operations is released unchecked, and synthetic fertilizers release nitrous oxide””a gas with 300 times the warming power of CO2.
The agricultural sector, including land use change for agriculture, has been estimated to make up anywhere from 28-33% of global emissions. Combined with the emissions created transporting food in our increasingly globalized food economy where the average bite to eat travels 1200 miles from field to fork, the industrial food system may be the largest single contributor to global warming.
In small-scale organic farming systems however, carbon is actually stored in the soil at a rate of about four tons per hectare. The Rodale Institute estimates that if the U.S. converted to organic agriculture on all its farmland, 25% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could be saved.
Small-scale sustainable agriculture is also vastly more resilient to climate change. After Hurricane Mitch devastated much of the Central American countryside a study of over 1800 conventional and sustainable farms showed that farmers using sustainable practices suffered less “damage” than their conventional neighbors. Diversified plots had 20% to 40% more topsoil, greater soil moisture, less erosion, and experienced fewer economic losses than their conventional farm neighbors. Not only can small-scale sustainable agriculture help cool the planet, it can provide a buffer against the worst effects of global warming.
The small farmers of La Via Campesina are calling for an international shift towards food sovereignty the right of all people over the resources to produce and consume abundant, culturally appropriate food. Their vision is one of agroecologically balanced, sustainable, family farms supported by local markets. Not only will this vision confront the injustices of a world food system where one billion people will go hungry this year while another billion are obese””it could help stave off climate disasters.
3. TAKE ACTION: Change We Can Believe In!
from People Putting Food First #124
1. Want to see the White House lawn become an example for growing local, organic foods? Sign the petition here.
2. Change we can believe in!
Sign a petition asking President Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who will implement the change we need to improve the quality of our food and our quality of life. We all eat. Get involved.
Other ways you can spread the message include:
1. Write a message at www.change.gov giving your vision of a better food system. 2. Write to those on your holiday or e-mail list asking them to sign the petition. 3. Ask Obama and Congress for no more corn for fuel.