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Author: DCWD40 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 2399  
Subject: Re: Interesting NYT piece Date: 3/10/2011 2:13 PM
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And most of the diehard adherents of industrial agriculture — sadly, this usually includes Congress, which largely ignores these issues — act as if we’ll somehow “fix” global warming and the resulting climate change.

I stopped reading right here. Name a single "industrial agriculture" employee (including consultants) that "acts" like the industry can fix global warming.

I follow the Farm Products industry.

http://biz.yahoo.com/ic/341_cl_all.html

Bunge, ADM, Cozan, Fresh Del Monte, Chiquita, Cresud, Calavo -- you name the company on the linked list. Big or small. Find the global warming fixer. I can't. Why can't the topic of discussion, sustainable farming, be done without untrue word pictures? Linking "climate-change deniers" with the industry begs for a clear reference that proves that point.

I brought the plight of S&W Seed to this board. Their alfalfa seed business is threatened by air-born genetically modified (GM) traits. They face a double risk. First, the buyers of their products test to verify that GM traits are not in their seed. They could lose sales without doing anything wrong on their property! Second, the "owner" of those traits could take them to court and claim they were using their traits without their permission. [See the risk section of their IPO filing to verify these risks.]

The issue of sustainable farming interests me. The 1990 farm bill (Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA)) addressed sustainable agriculture seriously. It is credited with using the term for the first time in US law. It made changes in the areas of food safety, nutrition information, environmental concerns and the overall research agenda. So, why isn't this the base point for the NY Times blog tirade?

http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/agnic/susag.shtml

Want to really educate yourself on all the terms for just this industry? Try this link:

http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/terms/srb9902.shtml

I like this comment in the introduction:

Some terms defy definition. "Sustainable agriculture" has become one of them. In such a quickly changing world, can anything be sustainable? What do we want to sustain? How can we implement such a nebulous goal? Is it too late? With the contradictions and questions have come a hard look at our present food production system and thoughtful evaluations of its future. If nothing else, the term "sustainable agriculture" has provided "talking points," a sense of direction, and an urgency, that has sparked much excitement and innovative thinking in the agricultural world.

And this about FACTA:

"Sustainable agriculture" was addressed by Congress in the 1990 "Farm Bill" [Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA), Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603 (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1990) NAL Call # KF1692.A31 1990]. Under that law, "the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

1) satisfy human food and fiber needs;

2) enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;

3) make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;

4) sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."


The issue in all this is the definition of sustainable. Is drip irrigation too capital intensive and, therefore, not sustainable? Saving water, to me, is at the heart of the "feeding of the world" long-term needs. But, some will not like the use of oil-based plastic to distribute water to trees. Some radicals want things as God made them. Rain is all that is sustainable. Radicals on the other side want to take new plant forms out of the greenhouse way too soon. As soon as "it works" they want it deployed. To me, neither discussion makes sense (expect for the as-God-made-it radicals who do us a favor by making us think what would happen if our high tech way of life was threatened by some comic event that sent every computer back to its plastic and silicon roots).

Before closing, let me take one shot at the UN report the NY Times reporter is focused on. You do not need to stop "industrial" agriculture to do what that report requests. If “agriculture should be fundamentally redirected towards modes of production that are more environmentally sustainable and socially just” there are hundreds of nations where that could start now. China? India? Others with big food import needs come to mind. If the answer is so simple, why isn't this the norm?

I was watching a 12/21/12 show last night and it had an interesting closing. After all its thoughts on the disasters that might come that day, they closed with what would happen if the US stopped exported its farm production. The claim was that 50% of the people in Africa would die.

Sustainable farming in the US has been a recognized and funded need since the 1990 farm bill. Where we are going with GM food products, especially in the light of the S&W Seed example, make me wonder if we have enough control over what we let out of the lab. It would not surprise me to hear, at some point, that all the cross-pollination has created weaker non-GM plants and that we need to replace our seeds in use. If that day comes, farm land will need to be protected for seed production and it will be years before the supply chain can be restuffed with stronger seed.

Please excuse my rant. I think the US has made great progress since 1990's FACTA and the NY Times would do itself a favor by hiring Alyce and letting her get the big bucks writing about this issue with an informed view (and an attitude that at least is based on fact).

W.D.
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