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Norman Borlaug, Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M, received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in developing and propagating more productive and disease resistant strains of wheat and other grains.  This contributed to the so-called Green Revolution, about which he notes

From 1965 to 1985, the heyday of the Green Revolution, world production of cereal grains — wheat, rice, corn, barley and sorghum — nearly doubled, from 1 billion to 1.8 billion metric tons, and cereal prices dropped by 40 percent.

Today, wheat provides about 20 percent of the food calories for the world’s people. The world wheat harvest now stands at about 600 million metric tons.

 

But now the world's wheat supply is under great threat, at the same time as rising fuel petroleum prices and the conversion of corn to ethanol are also creating problems for price and availability of grain.   Much of the world potentially faces a real food crisis.  

Borlaug has an op ed in today's New York Times entitled Stem Rust Never Sleeps which begins with this paragraph outlining the dire situation the world possibly faces:

WITH food prices soaring throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, and shortages threatening hunger and political chaos, the time could not be worse for an epidemic of stem rust in the world’s wheat crops. Yet millions of wheat farmers, small and large, face this spreading and deadly crop infection.

Almost all of the wheat commercially grown today is vulnerable to a new strain of stem rust, Ug99 (so labeled because it first appeared in Uganda just before the end of the last century). For the vast majority of us who are so removed from the production of our food that we do not understand the impact of a grain disease Borlaug explains clearly that stem rus

can turn a healthy crop of wheat into a tangled mass of stems that produce little or no grain. The fungus spores travel in the wind, causing the infection to spread quickly

and that variants of this plant disease have been responsible for major worldwide famines, and even in the US we have seen major grain losses from stem rust in 1903-05 and 1950-54.  Wheat is of course not only a source of protein for many Americans (although probably too many of us get too much of our protein from meat for our own well-being), but is also a major source of foreign exchange.  According to one site I found,in 2005-06 the U. S. was the third largest exporter of wheat, sending over 57 million tons abroad that year, an amount equal to 9% of the world's entire production.

One would think that the American government would recognize the thread to the world's stability a sudden decrease in the availability of wheat would represent, and would do all in its power to ameliorate the effects of the new strain. And, as Borlaug points out, when Mike Johanns was Secretary of Agriculture, he moved aggressively to have the US take the lead in developing an international strategy to address the looming threat.  This was combined with aggressive financial aid from the Agency for International Aid to assist Asian and African nations in developing their own research.  

But now Borlaug finds a different and disturbing pattern from the administration:

The State Department is recommending ending American support for the international agricultural research centers that helped start the Green Revolution, including all money for wheat research. And significant financial cuts have been proposed for important research centers, including the Department of Agriculture’s essential rust research laboratory in St. Paul.

The implications of this new direction are frightening.  Besides the possible threats to US agriculture, Borlaug points out the actions represent an abandonment of our commitment to halve world hunger by 2015.

In his penultimate paragraph, which he uses to set the frame in which he urges a recommitment to the efforts that produced the green revolution, Borlaug writes:

If millions of small-scale farmers see their wheat crops wiped out for want of new disease-resistant varieties, the problem will not be confined to any one country. Rust spores move long distances in the jet streams and know no political boundaries. Widespread failures in global wheat production will push the prices of all foods higher, causing new misery for the world’s poor.

I have never lived on a farm.  My experience in growing food has been that of many in suburban communities, of growing a few fruits and vegetables perhaps sufficient for part of one family's needs, with a little extra.  As children my sister and I, along with our mother, spent a lot of time learning how to do things properly and were able to delight in eating homegrown produce and in sharing our extra by swapping with neighbors for theirs.  In the two and half decades since moving into my current home our agricultural experience has been to benefit from the production of a now deceased 70-year-old Apple tree.  I claim no great expertise on matters of agronomy.  

I have often wondered about the trade-offs involved in the green revolution.  Certainly the production of food stuff was greatly increased and made somewhat more stable.  On the other hand, the approach made agriculture more energy intensive, and has led to a spreading of monocultural agriculture - planting all of one's fields with one crop, and with one variant of that crop.   While this is certainly more efficient from the standpoint of the producer, it makes the crop far more vulnerable to things like plant diseases, and requires constant monitoring and the ongoing development of new strains resistant to newly arising variants of plant disease.  And certainly the increased availability of grain has contributed in no small part to the explosion of populations as nations were better able to feed the increasing number of people.  This has placed increasing strain on other resources in a fashion that is clearly not sustainable should populations continue to expand.  

But in the short term it is irresponsible to for this nation to walk away from the international system it helped create and thereby subject many to the threat of starvation and the concomitant threats of civil disorder and international conflict:  nations will go to war to ensure the food necessary for their people to survive.

Like it or not, the world in the short term must fully maintain the mechanisms of the green revolution, or millions will die.  While we should encourage major changes in how we feed the world's people - our current approach is far too energy intensifve - and we should also recognize that all nations need to address issues of population growth, it is inhumane to abandon those who are dependent upon our current mechanisms while we seek to find better and more sustainable ways of providing the nutrients we all need to survive.

And the issue is not only that of how we grow and what we grow.  We are or soon will be at peak oil.  That commodity is essential for the maintenance of our current system of growing food, and humanity cannot afford to have so much of what may be a dminishing resource used wastefully in powering of inefficient means of personal transportation.  That is an additional pressure on the ability of the world to feed its people.  A meaningful national energy policy would recognize many concerns of our current approach - air pollution, paving over of land causing runoff rather than recharging underground water source, financial transfers to oil-producing nations, the military costs of assuring access to a regular supply . . .   but to these we also need to recognize the threat to the world food supply that our extravant consumption of petroleum represents.  And in world in fear of hunger, regardless of the reasons that cause that fear, is a world that will be unstable.  And an unstable world threatens us all.

Read the Borlaug.   And perhaps each of us can consider our own part in the global interconnection of feeding us all. Perhaps then we can ensure that our political discussions do not ignore issues such as this?

Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:06 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  mojo mug for those so inclined (100+ / 0-)

    do with this what you will.   My primary concerns in posting this diary were two

    1. Make people aware of the Borlaug op-ed
    1. perhaps nudge us all to consider how actions as simple as what we eat and drive have a huge impact upon the future of world stability

    peace

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:08:40 AM PDT

    •  From top to bottom (14+ / 0-)

      Bushco has waged a multifronted war on the environment, on "terra", on science, on transparency, on privacy, on accountability, on International law, on the Geneva conventions, on middle classes, on education.... and on and on. I am reminded of the text scroll running across the CNN screen during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, just under Bush's mug,(presumably referring to a statement the chimp had made)  which read "Bush: worst disaster in US History".

      Ain't that the truth.

      Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change... Yes, we can!

      by Lisa Lockwood on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:23:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hi Ken (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken

      I need to go back through and re-read the diary in more detail but I can say very easily that the so-called Green Revolution was NOT a good thing and it's certainly not something to call for more of.

      There's a brand new UN report out calling for a change in agriculture to organic methods in order to help the food crises in the world. I can send it your way if you'd like.

      The thing is, humans think they can simplify nature into easy to understand components and then control it but they can't. Nature is complex and our goal should be to work with nature on its own terms, to not diminish its complexity but instead understand it to the extent that we can, accept that we don't know everything, but take heart in the fact that we don't need to fully understand it for it to work. Humans have worked with nature for millennia, it's only now that we're trying to go against it (a losing battle). We've got superior science and technology now, to understand and work WITH nature better than ever before, and that's what we should do.

      •  so true (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OrangeClouds115

        I'm really not an expert on the subject but it seems to me that we're fighting a losing battle no matter what we do. The more we come up with ways to kill disease, the more disease-resistant organisms will evolve.

        Will we ever come up with a way to catch up? If we have green technology we might - though as I said I'm no expert.

        I think one of our biggest problems is our huge population, too -- I've heard people say that technology has always managed to sustain us before, but the planet surely has a carrying capacity somewhere ahead. It seems to me that perhaps our problems with energy and food supply are symptoms of this larger issue.

        (By the way, tk, I'll be at Langley tomorrow.)

        •  I've read some really, really hopeful things (0+ / 0-)

          Have you ever seen the website Path to Freedom? It's a family in Pasadena who grows tons of food on a very small amount of land. Yes I think our population is putting pressure on the planet for sure but so is our way of life. If we could even cut back on our insane meat habit we'd help out. I'm not even advocating turning us all into vegetarians. There are sustainable ways to raise meat but even simply raising less of it unsustainably would be a step forward. It's a huge strain on our resources, far more than the production of any other type of food out there.

  •  My mother (24+ / 0-)

    grew up as the daughter of a poor wheat farmer in Washington State.  This news struck her in a way that nothing else I've seen ever has- which makes me think we ought to be damn concerned.

  •  We have walked away from many international (20+ / 0-)

    obligations. This disturbs me, but does not surprise me. How ironic will it be when the international community develops resistant wheat strains, leaving America vulnerable to crop devastation. I sincerely hope we will survive this administration. I'm beginning to have my doubts. I'm off to read the op-ed!

    By the way, thank you for an informative, well written, non-candidate diary. It's always refreshing.

    "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

    by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:18:42 AM PDT

    •  issue matter as much as candidates (14+ / 0-)

      and this is one that affects us all

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:22:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course it is, but I don't believe any of the (6+ / 0-)

        candidates, McCain included, wouldn't jump on this if the problem is as described. What motive on earth would preclude a sane response to an international crisis? As I read the op-ed, I had to conclude there are vested interests who have quietly pushed the administration into this position. Perhaps there are already resistant strains being developed privately. It's possible we will see another type of war over food, or a breakdown of international property law, as countries "unlawfully" grow patented resistant varieties. It's just a guess at this point, but I sense there is an opportunity to use food as a weapon, and this administration is taking that opportunity.

        "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

        by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:33:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "use food as a weapon" (16+ / 0-)

          at least of economic dominance

          that might be the point

          after all, it is clear this administration has tried to gain dominance over world oil supplies

          and there are those very connected with this administration who have been very involved with the privatization of water supplies, especially overseas in major cities

          food, fuel, water

          and to quote the sage  - "if you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow."

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:36:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Africom, has been offering aid (6+ / 0-)

            to African Countries if they will house American Military bases. See Africom.

            "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

            by Owllwoman on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:45:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Even Nixon... (11+ / 0-)

            sold wheat to the Soviets, our most feared enemy at the time.

            What might that tell us about the current administration?

            It tells me that even though I thought I'd never see a more cold-blooded bunch of thugs than the Nixon Administration, they've more than met their match with the Bush gang.

            "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

            by RonV on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:47:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm old enough to recall those days. IIRC (5+ / 0-)

              Nixon came under some criticism for that. Perhaps he'd read some history, remembered that a hungry populace tends to revolt!

              A hungry, desperate USSR would have been much more of a threat to world stability!

              When people starve half-a-world away, e.g. Sudan, Sahel, etc. sufficiently far enough away to be both invisible, and to represent no immediate threat to USA.

              The North Koreans are routinely starving. Which is more a potential problem than existence of WMD.

              Aloha   ..  ..  ..

            •  Nixon also sold fertilizer plants to the Chinese. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RonV, dolphin777, judith2007

              I heard David Gergan on NPR a few years ago, he said the first order the Chinese government placed when Nixon opened trade with them was for 13 fertilizer plants -- they were at risk of massive starvation.

              There's a great book called "Forty Centuries of Farmers," written in the early 1900's by an English agronomist just after China opened up to the west. It adds lovely understanding and context to the idea of the weight of population, to how much China had been controlling their water and nutrient supply to maintain the population even then.

              When you understand the dangers chemical fertilizers pose to soil fertility over time, and combine that with the dangers of monocropping, it's easy to see that we've not had any favors done by our government when it comes to food. We've only put off the reckoning so that there are even more of us to suffer.

              "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

              by zic on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:51:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  reminds me of the movie "Total Recall" (8+ / 0-)

            if they could charge us for air, they would.

            If u will not vote for the Dem. nominee, no matter who that is, go apologize 2 the youth of this nation. U've helped put in "100 years of war no Choice McCain."

            by Clytemnestra on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:20:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Monsanto. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wino, dolphin777

            You can be assured Monsanto is onto this.  If they are The Only One with (patented, of course) resistant wheat? Voila!  The world is at its feet, literally.

            "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

            by 417els on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:52:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Speak of the Devil (0+ / 0-)

              Senesco Technologies Signs License Agreement with Monsanto Company

              Senesco Technologies, Inc. (AMEX: SNT) today announced that it has signed a license agreement with Monsanto Company, which will enable the two companies to incorporate Senesco’s proprietary yield and stress technology into corn and soybeans. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

              Senesco has shown that its technology can yield a variety of beneficial traits in agricultural products, including increased yield, and resistance to environmental stresses.

              See here and here.

              http://www.monsanto.co.uk/...

              Besides those "environmental stresses," the plant technology licensed to various companies produces extra strong plants resistant to predators and disease without application of pesticides and herbicides.

              So why aren't the seeds and plants on the market now?  Not all use bioengineering but all encompass only native genes.

              Funny you should ask.

              Why would a Monsanto or Dow want to share their revenue until they have to?  Who needs war with the eco terrorists of Greenpeace and Sierra Club?

              Better millions starve and eventually life be wiped out by global warming.

              Way God intended it I guess.  Women have always been hard to understand.

              Best,  Terry

        •   (6+ / 0-)

          What motive on earth would preclude a sane response to an international crisis?

          A belief in the biblical apocalypse.

          Ya don't interfere w/ an angry God, lest his/her anger be turned to you.

          Stranger than fiction? At this point,the truth is stranger than japanese cartoons...

          by Remembering Jello on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:38:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Capitalism offers plenty of motives (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sandblaster, Remembering Jello

            for enabling/encouraging crises.

            Authoritarianism does as well.

            As does imperialism/militarism and any of the other ideological and practical worldviews that are rooted in domination.  I don't think we have to look just at religious domination/fear-mongering to find potential motives for not averting potential crises.

            Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

            by a gilas girl on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:53:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  How about (5+ / 0-)

          the fact that whenever there is a worldwide shortage, some people profit big time?

          That alone would motivate the Bushies to avoid dealing with the problem.

          You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into. - Jonathan Swift

          by A Mad Mad World on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:40:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  walked away??? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neon Vincent

      or run away kicking and screaming.  One thing is consistent in the Bush/Cheney Administration: not simply the distrust of multilateral, international systems and institutions, but the strong goal of destroying and obliterating them, regardless of  the area of the world or expertise they work in. They are unilataeralists to their very cores.

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:48:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Spores spreading on the jetstream (11+ / 0-)

    Enough to give any boiologist nightmares.  Well, that and monoculture.

    •  The "Great Hunger" in Ireland was partially (12+ / 0-)

      a result of monocropping one particularly productive but susecptible variety of potato.
      Fungal and viral plant diseases are very difficult to control and very easy to spread. As we write, there are little insects making their way up the east coast on wind currents to chew on and infect corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, you name it. If you don't have a resistant variety or effective pesticide, sometimes you just have to stop growing the plant (eliminate the host).

      "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

      by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:43:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Monsanto to the rescue,heh heh. (7+ / 0-)

        With Bats, and Bees dying ,they need to take a hike.  We cannot engineer our food and not expect a result we didn't want.

        "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

        by Owllwoman on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:49:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  "...corn, beans, squash, tomatoes..." you just (5+ / 0-)

        enumerated the New World plants cultivated by the native peoples!

        How ironic/karmic!!

        Aloha  ..  ..  ..

        •  I wasn't channeling, I went to an ag. conference (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, mattman, Unduna, 417els, dolphin777

          a couple of weeks ago, these were the crops most farmers needed to know about, along with onions. There was also this:
          Three Viruses Threaten Watermelon, Squash, Pumpkins, Cucumbers And Now Green Beans

          "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

          by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:15:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OMFG! Doesn't leave much. What'll we eat?!N/T (0+ / 0-)
            •  Soylent Green? nt (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mattman, zic, dolphin777
            •  Farmers deal with this all the time! You wonder (5+ / 0-)

              how they sleep at night. (Answer: sometimes they don't.)
              This is why we need to keep up ag research and development. Breeding resistant varieties, reducing pesticide use while harvesting a viable crop, it's all so important. Nature is always throwing curveballs, we don't help by making conditions favorable for these types of crossover threats.

              "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

              by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:41:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Grass-fed meat? (7+ / 0-)

              Pastured meat requires no grain, can be raised on areas that aren't conducive to grain production, and if done well, can be healthy to the environment. Many parts of the great plains require huge amounts of water to grow grain but the native grass environment is perfect for large herds of ruminants if they are herded properly.

              There are some ranchers out west who have paid attention to the ways the native ruminants, such as buffalo, worked with the natural environment and have copied these bahaviors for their cattle herds. (keeping the herd moving, allowing all "pests" such as coyotes and prairie dogs) They also ruthlessly cull their herds and are in the process of creating a breed of beef cow that is adapted to the high prairie ecosystem.

              The meat itself is also healthier with a better ratio of Omega3 to Omega6 fatty acids.

              It's not quite a truism that meat must be bad for the environment, nor is it true that it is bad for us. What we need is a more rational, and less factory-oriented, beef production system. We also have to get used to a less-fatty beef. Grain fed is fattier, but the fat content is not as good for you as the fat content of a grass-fed cow.

              If you're concerned with the health implications of meat, I would suggest reading Gary Taubes' "Good Calories Bad Calories" for a good discussion of the science behind our current nutritional conventional wisdom.

              Plane

              Dance like it hurts, love like you need money, work when people are watching. - Dogbert

              by PlaneCrazy on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:13:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Has there been any success breeding "beefalo"? (0+ / 0-)

                eom...

              •  Bring back the praries and the longhorns! I (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wino, dolphin777

                recently spoke to a grass cattle grower who had the same things to say. I find the meat superior, some prefer the "sweetness" of grain fed. I also found out if the animal is finished on grain, it destroys almost all of the benefits from its grass fed life.
                As far as the prairies, bring back the longhorns and let'em roam.

                "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

                by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:41:36 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  you should look at work of Poppers (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  the fan man, 417els, Wino, dolphin777

                  Frank and Deborah -  google search that will provide some links

                  Frank and I overlapped at Haverford College.  The Poppers have been arguing for years that most productive use of plains is not the kind of agriculture now practiced, and argue for an establishment of a Buffalo Commons that would provide meat and a productive living without the intensive intervention of our current approach and certainly without the long-term damage to the environment.

                  Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

                  by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:45:11 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  A prolonged drought in plains could produce a (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  the fan man

                  "Dust Bowl" far worse than legendary event!

                  Aloha   ..  ..  ..

                •  You're half right. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dolphin777

                  Yes, bring back the prairie.  And the bison.

                  I've read that there were an estimated 50 million bison before the Europeans arrived.

                  I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

                  by tle on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:00:10 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Bison and cattle both can be good (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    PlaneCrazy

                    One of the holistic ranchers I knows often opens his talks with the following:
                    Q: What's the difference between cattle and bison?
                    A: The bison had a better PR agent.

                    Don't get me wrong, I'm not running down bison.  We need diversity in our animals, and the bison are important.  We have a wonderful rancher in our area who runs bison on 3,000 acres of prairie, and it's fantastic!  But cattle aren't necessarily "bad."  

                    It's all in how they are managed.  If they continuously graze an area, they will create a dustbowl.  But if the ranchers does managed grazing, even plain old cows can be used to restore native grasslands!  Holistic ranchers use fencing to make the cattle mimic the behavior of wild bison -- grazing close together and moving frequently to new pastures.  That short, intense grazing and hoof impact is what the prairies evolved with, and we've seen amazing results.  It also allows meat -- whether it's beef, bison, lamb, goat, or other -- to be raised on lands that are not really suitable for plowing, without grain-feeding.

                    Again, it's a question of HOW the animals are raised. Some people are now raising bison in feedlots, on grain, just like mainstream cattle.  Just because it's bison doesn't make it any better for the environment or human health under those conditions.

                    Diversity and management.  Raise a wide variety of plants and animals, that are adapted to the region, using methods that work with Nature rather than trying to poison her into compliance.  Thanks to the energy of the sun, agriculture is not a zero-sum game.  We have a constant influx of energy that we can harvest, whether directly through crops or indirectly when grazing animals eat grass.  But it takes breaking out of the industrial agriculture model, which is NOT "green"!

                    •  part of it stems from (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      judith2007

                      the distinction between understanding the land as the food producer's partner rather than simply a resource to be exploited.  

                      The difference between native populations' relationship WITH the land, and the immigrant/settler populations' (i.e. primarily European) relationship TO the land.  This is more than simply two "little words".

                      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

                      by a gilas girl on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:59:46 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

                      Both bison and cattle are herding ruminants. Both have approximately the same impact upon the environment if managed well.

                      Bison are bigger and better adapted to defending themselves from large predetors like wolves, but since we don't have any of them anymore we really don't that adaptation so much. Bison are also not as easy to work with because they're truly not a domesticated animal, and their massive size. They still retain a fair amount of native aggression and can be much more dangerous than the nastiest hereford bull.

                      While I can completely appreciate massive herds of bison roaming the plains, for food, cattle have been bred to optimize meat production for thousands of years.

                      I think large swaths of the great plains could be turned into large animal parks, similar to some of the parks in east Africa, with re-introduced herds of buffalo, antelope, wolves, etc... Other parts could be used for large-scale, eco-friendly cattle ranching. One would provide tourism dollars, the other would help reduce the need for grain for cattle feed while providing good quality nutrition. There would still be plenty of room for farming grain and bio-fuel crops, but we need to be intelligent about it. Those areas requiring intensive irrigation for agriculture should be left to the cattle and bison reserves. Those areas that are more conducive to sustainable agriculture can be used for that purpose. But this is an incredibly complex knot to unravel, and it won't happen overnight. But to point to bogus statistics that say it takes so many pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, doesn't help the situation.

                      Plane
                      Whose food eats grain and grass, but he doesn't.

                      Dance like it hurts, love like you need money, work when people are watching. - Dogbert

                      by PlaneCrazy on Sun Apr 27, 2008 at 06:15:02 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Don't have the facts at hand, but.. (0+ / 0-)

                      IANAR, but..  I read a fascinating book about the Great Plains ("Grass"?) that included info about the differences between the way cattle and bison feed, and how that affected the landscape.  I can't argue that careful management doesn't address that, but I got the impression that bison don't need the careful management.

                      As for raising bison in feedlots, that's just obscene.

                      I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

                      by tle on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 07:34:03 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  It is the factory system (0+ / 0-)

                applied to food production that is unhealthy for humans, animals and the planet, not the meat in the diet per se.  Thank you for pointing out this somewhat disturbing leap in logic that becomes a "truth".

                Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

                by a gilas girl on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:56:52 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  IIRC during the Potato Famine, choicest lands (7+ / 0-)

        in Eire were dedicated to wheat cultivation-- which was then exportd to England!

        Potatoes will grow in much poorer soils, and became the dietary staple of poorer people.

        Some of the most chilling, hard-hearted words I've ever read, were uttered in Parliament during that awful time.  Elites of the time were very resistant to aiding the starving Irish--in any way.

        The enmity and distrust is long and deep between the two peoples. When the "Troubles" erupt in Eire, unspoken, but present, are such events as these.

        Aloha  ..  ..  ..

        •  When Cromwell transported my ancestors (0+ / 0-)

          to the colonies, he was careful to make us work off the passage.  'Indentured Servitude' makes it sound so neat
          in the schoolbooks, but Ethnic Cleansing is more to the point.

          So what has this Ivy educated middle class Cracker done to prepare for retirement ?   A small farm with plenty of rain and a mild climate, out of the reach of our current Lord Protector.

          Extension services at county, state and provincial levels have been guiding farmers and gardeners with sound advice for a long time.  Check your local agencies for resistant crops.

          And work your ass off to save our country from the Lord Protector, and the rest of the NeoCon  killers.

  •  Your understanding of this issue (15+ / 0-)

    and this diary is a big help to those visiting who lack a deep understanding of where food comes from, the issues behind the dirt, and the dirt behind the issues.
    But the Neo-con way is always to sit back and rub hands together with glee of potential profit in the face of natural disaster. De-stabalization is a good thing, frees up the natural resources for extraction. Just part of the God-given trifecta. Cuts down on having to use our military to destabilize.
    All those pesky (starving) people cleared out of the way! Don't worry, Monsanto will save us!

    We are going to beat the absorbent undergarments off of Mr. 895th in his class of 899.

    by emmasnacker on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:37:47 AM PDT

    •  I don't have real understanding (6+ / 0-)

      with my formal scientific education ending with one genetics course as a freshman in college.

      I know people who are seriously involved in such issues.  And I read extensively and try to understand, asking questions of those who do truly understand.

      As a student of history there are some things that are readily understood even by those of us who are not scientists - monocultural agriculture is ultimately destructive.  But we have become as a world so dependent upon it that we cannot quickly change to an approach that is more sustainable.  We have to balance short term and long term needs and consequences.

      If this diary can provoke a few people to think a bit more deeply, and to nudge someone to start the process from the ground level of making changes, then perhaps it has been worth the time to post it.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:41:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Undoing the globally integrated food system (12+ / 0-)

        has to be part of it.  I think that those of us that try to buy locally and support biodiversity and sustainability in our foodstuffs are on the track toward the solution.  Let the biologists continue to develop their strains, but the real effort should go to extricating ourselves from such a fragile system.

        Honest Republicans are not very bright. Bright Republicans are dishonest. There are no intelligent, honest Republicans any more.

        by ajbrown on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:53:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes and no (7+ / 0-)

          perhaps yes to a large degree in the long term.  But in the short term it is impossible - too many people are dependent upon it economically and for nutrition.

          Also, there is so much interconnection between food policy and free trade and nations attempting to grow their populations (only a few have recognized the long-term folly of such an approach).

          We have many interrelated crises rushing towards us.  Shortage of fuel - this is already leading to deforestation of mountains and foothills, and total mountaintop removal, and the latter is occurring here as the former occurs in poor countries;

          shortage of potable water

          shortage of fertile land

          shortage of food

          climate change

          rapid spread of antibiotic resistant strains of diseases

          we are fouling the only nest we have, the Earth.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:59:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Overpopulation is the root cause (6+ / 0-)

            But world population control is not often mentioned as a solution.

            Unless mankind  can impose a sustainable reproductive limitation on itself, the mother nature will do it for us.

            In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen.- Louis Brandeis

            by crystal eyes on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:47:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It was when I was a kid in 1972. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dolphin777

              But the idea of overpopulation makes abortion seem more acceptable. And if the end of the world is near, who care if we run out of food?

              "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

              by zic on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:56:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And when God sayeth (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                zic

                be fruitful and multiply...
                Does that give us license to breed like fruit flies?

                Religious prohibition against birth control is a crime against the planet.

                In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen.- Louis Brandeis

                by crystal eyes on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:28:10 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  What the world needs is (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dolphin777

              a homo-sapiens-specific sterility plague.

              I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

              by tle on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:02:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Over-population (0+ / 0-)

              Maybe it's mismanagement.

              I want to create my own culture, I don't want to be entertained. - Lawrence Lessig (-7.25/-5.54)

              by barz9 on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:34:56 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I support free spay and neuter clinics for all! (0+ / 0-)

                In every nation, in every land.

                If you are against "on demand" abortions, how about "on demand" vasectomies instead?

                Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

                by Fabian on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:45:16 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Please just kill yourself (0+ / 0-)

                  I meant a mismanagement of resources, not population.

                  I want to create my own culture, I don't want to be entertained. - Lawrence Lessig (-7.25/-5.54)

                  by barz9 on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:21:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It's a mismanagement of population. (0+ / 0-)

                    There was nothing more depressing than hear that Palestinian women were encouraged to have as many children as possible in an attempt to dominate Israel by sheer numbers.  Each child a cherished treasure or each child a disposable martyr?

                    And truly, is there nothing more irresponsible than to create a child that you neither intend to or have the means to support?  

                    Every culture has a way of dealing with surplus human population.  Some of them use infanticide.  Some sell their sons and daughters into slavery and brothels.  Some push them into hazardous and grueling labor.  Some marry them off.  Some turn them into soldiers.

                    Most species have predators that keep populations at sustainable levels.  Humans have only disease, starvation and each other.  Humans are predators.  We prey on the weak and the helpless, the young and the old.  The more stressed a population is, the greater the opportunity for the predators among us.

                    In other words, wise population management reduces the level of misery and increases the overall productivity.  Poor population management means more humans and more human misery.  

                    Repeat after me:
                    There is a Global Economy but...
                    There is NO Global Ecology.

                    Ecologies, the very webs of life that sustains all within them, are by definition local and regional.  There is no such thing as a Global Ecology.  Even though our technology allows us to use cell phones all over the world to transfer funds electronically, that does not work for food, water or shelter.  There is no Global Ecology.

                    Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

                    by Fabian on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 03:14:03 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  your subject line says so much! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dolphin777, judith2007

          It has, for far too long, been the American way to say "Hey! You nomads! Quit your wandering and eating dates and drinking that nasty camel milk! Here, settle down and raise cows. We'll raze that forest to make you some pasture. There ya go, now you can be like an American. Oh, we'll sell you seed and chemicals too."

          We are going to beat the absorbent undergarments off of Mr. 895th in his class of 899.

          by emmasnacker on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:03:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We began some of this thinking many years ago: (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            emmasnacker, 417els, OHdog, redtex

            Native Americans were "encouraged" to abandon their generations-long way of life-- in favor of the European agrarian model.

            First convert to Christianity; then cut males hair; teach men how to farm, which was regarded as an occupation of Native females; discontinue hunting of animals, that had so long provided shelter, clothing, as well as food; quit speaking native tongues; wear European-type clothing, which was dependent on slave-grown "King" cotton from the south and the New England mills that manufactured the finished product -- in short do it OUR WAY!!

            IMHO the biggest problem of these measures was the Judeo-Christian view of humankind as ruler over  all lifeforms, with very little regard for stewardship!

            Dominionship v. the Native concept of all things interconnected, in harmony.

            Aloha   ..  ..  ..

        •  The danger comes from multiple sources (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, Unduna, 417els, dolphin777

          Plant disease is a symptom of an underlying problem: unhealthy plants that are being kept alive through chemical rescue.  The so-called Green Revolution sparked increased yields because the high-nitrogen fertilizers burned up the organic matter in the soil, releasing nutrients that sparked growth.  Over time, as we've killed our soils, the yields per ton of nitrogen applied have gone DOWN.  

          As you force growth through the application of large amounts of synthetic nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, the plants become unhealthy and susceptible to evey disease.  It's not that different from humans.  Feed a person nothing but twinkies, and they're much more likely to catch every bug that comes around and ultimately develop a fatal condition.  When the plant gets sick or is attacked by insects, the mainstream agriculture douses them with chemicals to kill the bug, which does nothing to improve the health of the plant. It's like putting a person on dialysis without even bothering to ask why their kidneys failed in the first place.  

          Combine high-nitrogen fertilizers with chemically-sterilized soil, poisons that disguise the early stages of diseases and insect invasion, varieties that have been bred to succeed on chemical inputs, and vast monocultures, and you have a recipe for disaster. Simply developing new varieties will not change anything about why the crops are failing.  

          Recipe for success: Plant a variety of species -- wheat, amaranth, quinoa, spelt -- in biologically-active soil.  Pick strains that are adapted to the area, rather than what makes the best export (which is one reason so many crops are failing in 3rd world countries that have been trying to export their way out of poverty).  Monitor them closely, looking for any signs of less-than-perfect health, and treat the underlying causes as soon as you see the problem.  This may mean correcting mineral imbalances in the soil or boosting the microbiology. Address disease and pests in a manner that does not harm the plant at the same time, or at least compensate for any harm inflicted.  

          We can grow more than enough to still provide food aid, while also helping the poorer countries develop methods for growing their own food that do not leave them reliant on Monsanto, ADM, and Cargill.  Studies show that organics can produce as great ir greater yields than conventionally grown crops.  The old studies claiming the opposite were a farce -- they simply stopped using chemicals and claimed that was "organic," without restoring any of the lost microbiology or nutrients.  

        •  Agriculture "Shock Doctrine" anyone? (0+ / 0-)

          what better way to get big argi busineess into everything than to exploit a crisis by withdrawing funding

          If u will not vote for the Dem. nominee, no matter who that is, go apologize 2 the youth of this nation. U've helped put in "100 years of war no Choice McCain."

          by Clytemnestra on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:26:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  "Monocultural agriculture is ... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dolphin777, slowheels, judith2007, redtex

        ultimately destructive" gets to one of the roots of the problem. (there's a large, complex root system to this problem)

        One way to help this is to buy as much as you can locally. A lot of farmers are starting to offer programs where you can buy produce or other farm products from them directly. This offers you better quality food, that takes less fuel to get to you, and encourages local farms to grow a variety of products.

        Plane

        Dance like it hurts, love like you need money, work when people are watching. - Dogbert

        by PlaneCrazy on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:17:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Deep doo-doo this way comes. (6+ / 0-)

    It may not hit us as hard or as quickly as it is hitting the rest of the planet, but we are all in for big trouble as a result of these stupid political decisions about the worlds food supply.

    Loss of the wheat crop (how many years does it take to recover from something like that?) and diversion of food to make ethanol may be just the tip of the iceberg.

    Now, we find out that those wonderful GMO crops that we have foisted on the rest of the world (and ourselves) actually produce less of a yield than traditional seed stock.

    What's next?

    "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

    by RonV on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:41:20 AM PDT

  •  Monsanto and wheat rust (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, RonV, sandblaster, dolphin777

    http://www.atimes.com/...

    Get William Engdahl's book, "Seeds of Destruction."

    •  Good article (0+ / 0-)

      Lots of info, some extremely alarming:

      Borlaug, the former Rockefeller Foundation head of the Green Revolution, is active in funding research to develop a fungus resistant variety against Ug99, working with his former center in Mexico, the CIMMYT and ICARDA in Kenya, where the pathogen is now endemic. So far, about 90% of the 12,000 lines tested are susceptible to Ug99. That includes all the major wheat cultivars of the Middle East and west Asia. At least 80% of the 200 varieties sent to CIMMYT from the United States can't cope with infection. The situation is even more dire for Egypt, Iran, and other countries in immediate peril.

      Even if a new resistant variety were ready to be released today it would take two or three years' seed increase in order to have just enough wheat seed for 20% of the acres planted to wheat in the world, CIMMYT agronomists estimate.

  •  Bush Admin is using food shortage to push GMO (10+ / 0-)

    Nina Fedoroff (Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State) is the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. She has an editorial in this week's "Green Genes" issue of the journal Science. The main thrust of the editorial is that the pressure on food crops  requires that nations lower their regulations on GMO food crops.

    A new Green Revolution demands a global commitment to creating a modern agricultural infrastructure everywhere, adequate investment in training and modern laboratory facilities, and progress toward simplified regulatory approaches that are responsive to accumulating evidence of safety. Do we have the will and the wisdom to make it happen?

    I am not totally opposed to GMO foods but the new laboratory facilities she mentions are most likely inside trans-national corporations. Moving the entire world to patent protected and profitable GMO is not part of the answer but probably part of the problem.

    Obama: Pro-Defense. McCain: Pro-War

    by OHdog on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 04:45:03 AM PDT

  •  Time for a commercial break "Quinoa, it's whats (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, dolphin777, judith2007, Losty

    for breakfast." Along with amaranth, triticale, and spelt. Nutritious, tasty, easy to grow under a variety of conditions. Oh, you don't need a license to grow them either. Or Roundup.

    "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

    by the fan man on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:06:17 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for including (5+ / 0-)

    this paragraph in your diary:

    I have often wondered about the trade-offs involved in the green revolution.  Certainly the production of food stuff was greatly increased and made somewhat more stable.  On the other hand, the approach made agriculture more energy intensive, and has led to a spreading of monocultural agriculture - planting all of one's fields with one crop, and with one variant of that crop.   While this is certainly more efficient from the standpoint of the producer, it makes the crop far more vulnerable to things like plant diseases, and requires constant monitoring and the ongoing development of new strains resistant to newly arising variants of plant disease.  And certainly the increased availability of grain has contributed in no small part to the explosion of populations as nations were better able to feed the increasing number of people.  This has placed increasing strain on other resources in a fashion that is clearly not sustainable should populations continue to expand.  

    Borlaug himself bears a certain degree of responsibility in creating the conditions under which stem rust poses such a threat to global stability.  In that sense, his article has a bit of chickens coming home to roost to it.

    On the other hand, he is doing the responsible thing in pointing out the immediate danger we are facing.

    He opened Pandora's box.  Now, like her, he is trying to close it.

    Unfortunately, it is already too late.

    •  much of life consists of tradeoffs (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      litho, Janet Strange, melvin, redtex

      and one would think with the experience available to us we would recognize that something that addresses an immediate need may not be an unalloyed benefit over the long term

      I wish we had leaders who would remind us of this

      that includes business leaders whose horizon seems not to extend beyond the quarterly earnings report and its impact upon their stock options and other forms of compensation

      it also should apply to political and military leaders.  Iraq is but the most recent of many such examples.

      Peace.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:21:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Is Borlaug Pandora?-- or Cassandra?! n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Nice headline from Borlaug! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dolphin777, barz9

    And an excellent piece. Thanks for the alert.

    Of all the various and manifold forms of insanity pushed as policy by this administration, cutting ag research may just take the cake. If ever there were a time to increase it, that time is now. Globally and here. The effects of the Australian drought should be a wake-up call, along with the rust epidemic (or epiphytotic).

    This country is not immune. The nightmare scenario for the US if it insists on neglecting agriculture is to wake up some day and find ourselves dependent on food imports from countries that had a bit more foresight.

    To be fair, it doesn't begin and end with the Bush administration. Across the west, univeristies founded as land grant colleges with the express purpose of improving agriculture are abandoning their ag departments wholesale to fund more glamorous chairs in business administration, public policy (god help us), so-called journalism, etc.

    With this

    But in the short term it is irresponsible to for this nation to walk away from the international system it helped create and thereby subject many to the threat of starvation and the concomitant threats of civil disorder and international conflict:  nations will go to war to ensure the food necessary for their people to survive.

    I could not agree more. But what else would one expect from a crew that has walked away from the Geneva conventions and every other international effort, including those started by this country?

    What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

    by melvin on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:13:55 AM PDT

    •  More people involved (0+ / 0-)

      More people need to be involved in the production of food in this country. So many people scoff at the idea of real work in this country. They deserve to die. I attended WVU, a land grant college, and the most popular major are journalism, advertising and marketing.
      You're right about the bush administration. I get tired of people blaming everything on them. They are only the current head of a many headed hydra.

      I want to create my own culture, I don't want to be entertained. - Lawrence Lessig (-7.25/-5.54)

      by barz9 on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:09:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The best way to push someone toward terrorism (6+ / 0-)

    and/or civl war is poverty and starvation.

    Can we afford to have the great majority of the world starving, fighting and dying?

    I will be traveling to the third world this summer and all this has me greatly concerned.. not just for my safety but for the well being of those I will come in contact with.

    What better beacon for those who are hungry to want to fight us , than a country and people known throughout the world for it's waste.

    If u will not vote for the Dem. nominee, no matter who that is, go apologize 2 the youth of this nation. U've helped put in "100 years of war no Choice McCain."

    by Clytemnestra on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:17:23 AM PDT

  •  Seed banks (8+ / 0-)

    Biodiversity,the cornerstone of the earths food, has been eroded by modern agriculture.  Luckily, in the race to secure super plants and push high yielding  monoculture there have been many groups that save and store as many wildtype varieties of plant seed as they can find.    The germplasm of species that have  been  threatened with extinction as a result of environmental degradation or monoculture practices is stored in vaults in the north pole. http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    Hopefully, somewhere in the world is a rust resistant strain of wheat ....probably a low yielding unappreciated little ugly scrawny plant found on the side of a field somewhere yet in its genes it  harbors a resistance to rust.  

    If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. James Madison

    by ScienceMom on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:22:47 AM PDT

  •  Gives new meaning to "Rust Belt" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Janet Strange, Sassy, 417els, dolphin777

    This is an administration that has never had in mind anyone's interests but the wealthy.  Anyone else can go to hell.

    I don't expect much in the way of significant action from our government on this. Down in the trenches the scientists and mid-level managers will do what they can, but the politicos in the Dept. of Agriculture and the White House will be saying "Let Them Eat Cake."

    You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into. - Jonathan Swift

    by A Mad Mad World on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:45:09 AM PDT

  •  It's looking bad in Africa (7+ / 0-)

    if this source is correct:

    Wheat Crop Failures Could be Total, Experts Warn

    On top of record-breaking rice prices and corn through the roof on ethanol demand, wheat is now rusting in the fields across Africa.

    Officials fear near total crop losses, and the fungus, known as Ug99, is spreading....

    David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors, said the deadly fungus, Puccinia graminis, is now spreading through some areas of the globe where "crop losses are expected to reach 100 percent."

    Losses in Africa are already at 70 percent of the crop, Kotok said.

    As if the asexual wheat rust spores weren't enough of a problem:

    However, Ug99 has another ace up its sleeve. The spores blowing in the wind now are from the asexual stage that grows on wheat. If any blow onto the leaves of its other host, the barberry bush (Berberis vulgaris), they will change into the sexual form and swap genes with whatever other stem rusts they find. Barberry is native to west Asia. "As if it wasn't challenging enough breeding varieties that resist this thing," laments Ward. "All I know is that what blows into Iran will not be the same as what blows out."

    Billions at risk from wheat super-blight

    Laissez-faire was never a good idea; in practice it is ruinous. - Bill Moyers

    by terabytes on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:01:44 AM PDT

  •  "...wars and rumors of wars". (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man
    1. conquest;
    1. war;
    1. famine;
    1. death...

    The Endtimers must be approaching orgasmic these days!!

    Aloha   ..  ..  ..

  •  This is so very alarming. (5+ / 0-)

    I heard a UN official on NPR yesterday talking about the poorest of the poor sometimes eating mudpies to stave off hunger. The unthinkable, he said, is happening: The price of the dirt is getting too high for the very poorest.

    It sounds preposterous to us, living here, so removed, but this guy was genuinely begging the people of the US to wake up to the scope of this catastrophe.

    "They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. [...] That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." -Handmaid's Tale

    by Cenobyte on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:37:56 AM PDT

    •  Exactly. I saw a clip on the news (0+ / 0-)

      probably PBS where a woman in Haiti was making mud cookies to sell. She was saying that this mud was particularly nutricious and made the best cookies. Her mother had shown her this when she was a child. And that was before news of the food riots. I wonder if she used up all that mud.

      All I want is....Impeachment followed by Imprisonment!

      by Temmoku on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:47:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  it was probably Haiti (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, Temmoku, dolphin777

      he was referring to. The poverty there is severe, and food prices have doubled. But - it is not mud or dirt they are eating - it is a specific clay mixed with spices, oil a and salt. This is a common practice throughout the world and  thou not healthy it imparts some of the nutrient missing from the diet. In Haiti this practice is becoming more common because of the cost of real food.

      "Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs collapse." - Al Gore

      by parryander on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:47:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the clarification. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        parryander

        The UN official I heard on NPR used the term dirt, and referred to "mudpies," but I didn't know there was anything special about them.

        "They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. [...] That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." -Handmaid's Tale

        by Cenobyte on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 03:24:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the clay (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cenobyte

          comes from a region around Hinche - central plateau. Most places (the US included) clay-eating is associated with pregnancy and poverty, but there is a Haitian born kossite who mentioned his middle-class aunties do it also.

          "Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs collapse." - Al Gore

          by parryander on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:47:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  oh - I should add (0+ / 0-)

          that the words dirt and mud are used to sensationalize the food crisis. The crisis is very real, but it's hard to get people to pay attention without something unusual.

          "Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs collapse." - Al Gore

          by parryander on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 05:49:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True dat. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            parryander

            Thanks -- I wouldn't even know where to get such information as you've provided.

            "They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. [...] That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." -Handmaid's Tale

            by Cenobyte on Sun Apr 27, 2008 at 06:38:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Here's the sort of language I've been hearing: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              parryander

              Above all else, food inflation is about the hunger of the poor, and if there's one anecdote that drives home the desperate suffering, it's the story of mothers in Haitian slums who have been feeding their children mud pies mixed with oil and sugar to try to make their hunger pangs go away.

              "There's something really massively wrong when people are forced to eat mud," says Seton Hall University law professor and freedom from hunger activist Frank Pasquale. "The world simply cannot sit and watch this happen. People like (Indian economist) Amartya Sen might say there has never been a famine in a democracy but what we're seeing here could be a world first.

              That's from the Australian.

              "They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. [...] That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." -Handmaid's Tale

              by Cenobyte on Sun Apr 27, 2008 at 07:56:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  yes (0+ / 0-)

                the story has spread everywhere. And although I am trying to correct the specifics (clay versus mud), the larger picture is correct. What pains me is that poor Haitians have been doing this for years, although it has become more common lately. This is not new, just the reporting of it. The Haitian food crisis, as with all the others is complex, and I guess if it takes an image like this to grab the worlds attention, so be it.
                Like Katrina, Haiti will disappear from our collective concerns soon enough. I will continue to return and try to put a face on it...

                "Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs collapse." - Al Gore

                by parryander on Sun Apr 27, 2008 at 10:41:09 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  And it's not just wheat (6+ / 0-)

    The North American pine forests are under attack from beetles. The beetles aren't being killed off naturally anymore. Far fewer forest fires and winters not cold enough to kill them off have led to an explosion of their numbers.

    Ranchers in Texas are under threat because grasshoppers are outstripping the vegetation supply. Once again, most winters are too warm to kill most of them off.

    Bats in the northeast are dying off from a strange malady that leads them to not survive winter hibernation. One of the symptoms is a white fungus that grows over their noses and skin.

    These are just three examples I've heard of recently on NPR or the mainstream media, and they are just the barest tip of the iceberg.

    If something drastic isn't done soon about climate change, I personally feel that our technologically advanced civilization will not survive in anything like it's present form.

    The doomsday SF books of the 60s & 70s are coming to pass.

    "The chief weapon of the sea pirates was their capacity to astonish." Kurt Vonnegut

    by Thorby Baslim on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:41:02 AM PDT

    •  People don't talk about the obvious. (0+ / 0-)

      Are the pine forests dying?  Yes.  Can we prevent it?  No.

      Then what should we do?

      Replace the pine forests with something that isn't susceptible to the beetles.  We practice ecological engineering all the time, we just don't call it that.  I think of it as giving evolution a boost.  If the pine forests are doomed, then evolution will fill the niche sooner or later.  It's to our advantage to make that sooner.

      Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

      by Fabian on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:23:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is the wheat in danger all wheat (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    417els, Temmoku, terabytes

    or are they cloned crops, stands of genetically identical  wheat a la Monsanto? This makes a difference.

    Without the genetic variations of sexual reproduction, any crop -- doesn't matter if it's wheat, corn, cotton, of cattle -- grown in massive groupings is a severe risk, because they all have the same weakness. The ability to survive threats is the great gift of natural selection. It doesn't guarantee any individual's right to survive (and I believe this is at the core of the religeous right's rejection of it, not 'creation myths,') but it does guarantee the chance for a species so survive if it can generate the right defenses fast enough.

    But this world we've made of clone crops grown in monocrop plantations, reminds me of our hospitals, where we kill all but the strongest of microbial life with chemicals ans warehouse our weakest.

    Pretty stupid ideas, both.

    We'd be better off thinking like we're being selected. That means recognizing that mono crops are a giant invitation for some other critter trying to survive to come and snack out. For wheat plantations, it's a fungus that answered the call. (That it's a fungus also might indicate there's a mineral imbalance in the soils, but that's my inner organic farmer speaking. Microrizhial relationships often form to exchange minerals for sugars, and I'd wonder if the other bacteria that would normally keep the fungus in check are gone due to chemical fertilizers.)

    It also means recognizing that if we are so fragile that a single infection of a food crop puts us at risk of starvation, then just maybe, there are too many of us. When I was a kid in the '60's and '70's, overpopulation was commonly discussed. Today, we've given in to the religeous right, and the problem never makes it onto the radar. (And don't spit crap at me about the industrial world's declining population. We're a single species, and our population is increasing. Even in the industrialized world.)

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

    by zic on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:46:18 AM PDT

  •  Pass the Prozac, please (0+ / 0-)

    While I wasn't aware of this and am grateful to be made aware of it, part of me thinks it'd be great to be medicated before coming to Kos to read the bad news every day.

    Hopefully a fungicide - preferably, something natural - can be found or developed. Until then we can throw this on the pile of impending-yet-ignored- by-this-administration problems (like global warming and many others) that could prove disastrous.

    But hey, at least we won't die at the hands of the "terrists". We'll just starve, or run out of clean water, or fuel, or we'll burn up, or freeze, drown, etc., etc.

    It makes me pine for the "good old days" of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviet Union.

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:23:18 AM PDT

    •  We have the solutions (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl, Neon Vincent

      It can be overwhleming, but there's an answer staring us in the face: local, organic agriculture.  Using aerobic compost tea, a relatively cheap and very safe input, crops can be grown using 50-75% less water than conventional crops (the same holds true for urbanites' lawns!).  Organic crop yields can be as high or higher than conventional crops, with higher nutritional value.  And since conventional chemicals are petroleum-based, going organic reduces our dependence on oil.  And then you can add in the energy savings from buying local.  Permanent grasslands, holistically managed while raising meat, actually sequester large amounts of carbon, reducing greenhouse gases.  It's a win-win-win.

      There is a cost -- organics takes more knowledge, management, skill, and labor.  And no one gets rich from selling new chemicals, big equipment, or genetically engineered seeds, so the big companies don't want to change.  We need consumers to demand that agriculture go to a truly healthy, safe, and secure method, rather than the constant bandaids that are used to keep the fundamentally flawed industrial ag going.

      •  our economy isn't set up (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fabian, Snud, judith2007, Neon Vincent

        to do the "harder" thing.  For the last 200+ years our economy has thrived and grown on the principle of labor-reduction, labor-saving, ease.

        that is a fundamentally different mindset: do it the hard way, because in the end it will be better.

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:16:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  is high intensity farming necessarily monoculture (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, judith2007, evictorial

    or non organic?  Of course we can't go back to how we farmed a 100 years ago, that would be a disaster.  But lots of farmers are doing organic and getting good results now, and even if it were 10% less efficient, just eliminating waste in the system would cover that easily.  And then here is what I just found:

    March 17, 2008 -- By Carol Flaherty

    Organic winter wheat isn't supposed to yield 100 bushels per acre, but it did at Bozeman in 2007.

    Scientists are still trying to figure out how a plot of organic winter wheat at the Post Research Farm west of Bozeman hit the 101 bushels per acre mark. Nearby organic test plots were almost as good, yielding "in the high 90s," said Perry Miller, Montana State University cropping systems researcher.

    The precedent-setting harvest was on a plot that had been managed organically for four years prior to the 2007 winter wheat crop. The system used winter peas in the year preceding winter wheat planting. Winter peas accumulate nitrogen from the air and "fix" it in nodules on their roots. The peas were used in place of commercial fertilizer. When a crop is used this way, it is called "green manure."

    "I still can't fully explain where all the yield came from," Miller said. "I thought we might have a 70-bushel-per-acre crop. The first inkling that it would be a big yielder was when we started combining and realized that we needed to get bigger sample bags. The timing of moisture must have been near perfect, because in July we had only a tenth of an inch of rain and 100-year record-breaking heat, too."

    http://www.montana.edu/...

    Taking money out of research is just the worst thing they could do!

    everybody love somebody...

    by toys on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:32:56 AM PDT

    •  The researchers still don't get it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EdlinUser, toys

      Toys, I appreciate that you saw this article as a positive thing. But it makes me angry!  I followed the link to the university's website, and it looks like all they are doing is crop rotation and not using synthetic chemicals.  That's not the way to see what organics can do!  Of course they're surprised by a good yield -- they're setting the system up to fail.  Talk to any good sustainable agriculture consultant, and you'll develop a system that includes crop rotation, restoring the microbiology of the soil, small amounts of natural NPK, and micronutrients.  

      These researchers' methods are like saying that you want to improve someone's diet, so you cut out all of the junk food and have them eat nothing but whole wheat -- no vegetables, no fruits, no meats, no supplements.  Yes, you've taken away the poisons and put in one good item.  But without the full range of nutrients, the person still won't be truly healthy or reach their full potential.  

      Most agricultural departments in universities get the vast majority of their funding from chemical and Big Ag companies.  They don't understand, and don't seem to want to understand, how to truly change the system.

      •  Cover crops are conventional? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        toys

        Hardly.  In fact, cover crops are part of good sustainable agriculture.  Even a regular gardener knows that bare soil is a bad thing.  Mulch is used to retain moisture, inhibit weed growth and add organic matter to the soil.  Cover crops do the same thing, but they are an added expense since fields must be sowed with the cover crop and turned under.

        Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

        by Fabian on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:19:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't mean they were conventional (0+ / 0-)

          I meant that JUST doing cover crops and stopping the use of pesticides was not the way to test how "organic" crops can do.  Yes, cover crops are part of sustainable agriculture.  But doing research on how well wheat can grow "organically" by doing nothing other than cover crops means the researchers do not understand the scope of what organics can be.

          •  Well, if you do research properly (0+ / 0-)

            you separate out each individual variable and examine them solo.  No till versus low till versus cover crops versus weed control via tilling.  Organic nutrient inputs versus non organic.

            The list goes on and on and on.  That's how I would do it.  I believe that organic and sustainable agriculture practices can reduce the need for costly inputs while maintaining a certain(if lower) level of productivity.  But my belief isn't going to change many minds.  Good solid research, hard cold facts, crunchy numbers - those are the things that will convince people to change.

            (I tour the Ag Campus at OSU almost every year.  I cringe at how much money goes into Turf Science research.  We're talking golf courses, not pasture for livestock.)

            Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

            by Fabian on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 03:22:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  That's why we have the Farm Bill! To promote (0+ / 0-)

        good farming practices!

        Here a quote:

        "If I could grow a viable pumpkin patch on five acres, I might consider doing that," he said. "But I can't."

        In fact, Davis says he has neighbors who are trying to grow organic wheat.

        "They have a family farm, and they want to make sure that if organic farming is the wave of the future that their offspring have some experience with it."

        But, Davis said, he recently spoke to one of his neighbors who told him that the project wasn't working out — labor costs were too high.

        "You know," he said, "it's the market."

        Yep, can't subsidize organic wheat, just not competitive.

        everybody love somebody...

        by toys on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 08:46:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  so reasonable, this thought: (0+ / 0-)

    But in the short term it is irresponsible to for this nation to walk away from the international system it helped create and thereby subject many to the threat of starvation and the concomitant threats of civil disorder and international conflict:  

    But let's be honest, when has the current government of this nation NOT beeen irresponsible in the short term??

    They don't even have the conceptual capacity to grasp "the long term".  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:42:29 AM PDT

  •  Support your local plant geneticist (0+ / 0-)

    as well as horticulture research at Ag colleges and universities, such as -
     Citrus variety collection
    Horticulture research

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 11:53:19 AM PDT

  •  teacherken - been thinking about this all day (0+ / 0-)

    could this be the "Shock Doctrine" applied to argiculture?

    If u will not vote for the Dem. nominee, no matter who that is, go apologize 2 the youth of this nation. U've helped put in "100 years of war no Choice McCain."

    by Clytemnestra on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 07:22:09 PM PDT

    •  have not read Klein book, thus (0+ / 0-)

      cannot answer.   It is I suppose possible, but methninks that given how Johanns reacted while in DC there are enough people who would object if that becamse evident.  It may be as little as not wanting money to go to things other than the war.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 09:26:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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