As the sun crested the Berkeley hills early yesterday, I logged on to the Washington Post’s live feed of its daylong conference, The Future of Food. For the next 8 hours, I enjoyed a veritable feast of thoughtful, well-evidenced and deeply inspiring calls to embrace a new agriculture, rooted in community and ecological resilience. The messengers included the Prince of Wales — who seamlessly knitted together the challenges of our failing global food system with a clear vision for the future — Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva and many more.
Farmers are the stewards of the land; sadly, politics often dictate how they farm. In the coming days, Congress will make decisions on funding priorities for 2012, and dramatic cuts to soil conservation programs are being proposed.
We cannot afford to let this happen. Our nation’s ability to produce adequate healthy food, and to protect vital air and water resources, depend on how we treat the soil. Cutting soil conservation programs now will have devastating consequences long into the future. Call your Congressmember today and let them know healthy soil is well worth the modest investment.
Cherry blossoms are in full bloom here in Washington D.C. where I’ve spent the last few days participating in the Ecumenical Advocacy Days’ national conference for Global Peace with Justice. Along with some 700 participants, I heard inspiring stories of social justice work being carried out by communities of faith in the U.S. and around the world. Also on display were two under-appreciated facts that the U.S. food movement is slowly coming to appreciate: 1) the deep ties of communities of faith are critical to social change-making; and 2) women farmers are and will remain the real roots of global agriculture.
A new UN report released today is making headlines: Agroecological farming can double food production within 10 years, while mitigating climate change AND alleviating poverty.
Yes!! I was elated to read the morning’s coverage of this highly anticipated report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter. I've been writing on the very real need to prioritize policy support for and investments in agroecology for quite some time, but it is truly encouraging to see such a clear, affirming statement coming from the UN.
With tobacco, lead and alcohol we ultimately acted with precaution when the science on human health effects raised red flags – and we’ve saved millions of lives.
So what do you call it—wise, fiscally responsible, necessary?— when we act to promote farm practices that protect the natural resources that allow us to produce abundant, healthy food, even though the science on just how this is accomplished is not yet complete? Organic or ecological agriculture promises to do this and more. It also helps maintain vibrant rural economies and save lives by providing nutrient-rich food and eliminating the use of highly hazardous pesticides. Scientists now know that it can also help mitigate climate change.
In a new report, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stressed the need to transform agriculture and adopt “climate-smart” practices. No news there. The real surprise is what "climate-smart" ag does not mean for FAO.
Two successful organic producers were among those recently recognized for pest control innovation by California officials. The state's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced recipients of its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovator Awards last month, and among the awardees were Dixon Ridge Farms and Bonterra (Fetzer) Vineyards. I was delighted to see the two award winners featured again last week at the annual EcoFarm conference, a three-day gathering of thousands of organic growers, input providers, processors, distributors, academics, government agencies, non-profit organizations and eaters near Monterey, California.
Taxpayers care how federal money is spent on agriculture. We want the government to spend more to help farmers conserve natural resources, produce safe food and develop their communities — and less on direct commodity payments and price supports. This according to a study out of Oklahoma State University just released by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
Britain’s Chief Scientist has come out trumpeting the need for genetically engineered (GE) crops to feed the world, and the UK media is falling all over itself with blaring headlines that echo this badly misinformed sentiment (see Guardian, Telegraph coverage).
The source of all the hullabaloo is the UK’s release this week of its mammoth Foresight report, Global Food and Farming Futures. Using the occasion to espouse what seems to be his personal opinion, Sir John Beddington —the Chief Scientist in question — argues that “It is very hard to see how it would be remotely sensible to justify not using new technologies such as GM. Just look at the problems that the world faces: water shortages and salination of existing water supplies, for example. GM crops should be able to deal with that.” “Should?” Is that the best you can do, Sir John?
Yesterday, January 12th, I participated in Worldwatch Institute’s launch of its new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations to Nourish the Planet. The report presents a dazzling array of creative down-to-earth solutions from African farmers that can help solve the scourge of global hunger and poverty. I had the great pleasure of co-authoring the concluding chapter of this report.