Tag Archives: Agriculture

Mystery: No one knows what’s causing the big bee die-off

Every third bite of food we consume depends on pollination by bees. But the bees are disappearing and no-one seems to know why.

News of a mass die-off of bees first broke in 2006. By the spring of 2007 it was clear that the newly dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder was widespread. A quarter of all U.S. beekeepers had suffered losses and more than 30 percent of all bee colonies in the country were wiped out. Huge die-offs also came in Australia, Canada, Brazil, China, Europe and other regions. In Britain, losses averaged more than 30 per cent over 2007-08.

Is Globalization to blame?

Read more in The New Internationalist


UC prof says factory farming will reduce GHGs from livestock

In 2006, The UN’s Food and Agriculture organization published “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” a much-criticized report suggesting that livestock accounted for more greenhouse gases than the planet’s entire motor fleet.

Now, a University of California professor has published a study suggesting the FAO overstated the impact of meat and dairy production on Climate Change. Dr. Frank Mitloehner says more efficient production methods — i.e. factory farming and feedlots — will reduce greenhouse gases from livestock.  

He adds that less industrialised countries should be helped to satisfy their populations’ growing demand for meat and dairy by adopting western-style factory farming.

“My concern is not to feed more meat to people in the developed world but to make nutrition available to people who are undernourished,” he said. “The current systems in Brazil, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are very land-hungry because they are so extensive. We have the tools to show them how to do it using less resources.”

The FAO is doing a “Son of Livestock’s Long Shadow” report that should be completed next year.

Read more in The Ecologist.

Vandana Shiva: Green Revolution brought ‘water famine’ to India

Since 1966 – and as a consequence of the introduction of the Green Revolution model of water-intensive, chemical farming – India has over-exploited her groundwater, creating a water famine, Vandana Shiva writes.

Intensification of drought, floods and cyclones is one of the predictable impacts of climate change and climate instability. The failure of monsoon in India, and the consequent drought, has impacted two-thirds of the country, especially the breadbasket of India’s fertile Gangetic plains. Bihar, for example, has had a 43 percent rainfall deficit, and the story is the same in many other parts of India.

In the final analysis, India’s food security rests on the monsoon. Monsoon failure and widespread drought imply a deepening of the already severe food crisis triggered by trade-liberalisation policies, which have made India the capital of hunger. Read more in Resurgence.

Thailand forgives a billion in farmer debt

Thailand will cancel $1.3 billion worth of farmers’ debt, a move that could help placate a constituency increasingly hostile to the administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Thousands of demonstrators, many of them from Thailand’s rural heartland, are camped in central Bangkok and say they will remain there until Mr Abhisit resigns as prime minister. 

The debt forgiveness program echoes a smiliar one run by Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who is a hero to many rural Thais. While in office, he declared a moratorium on rural debt, cementing the loyalty of a formidable political constituency that remains to this day.

Mr Thaksin was removed in a military coup in 2006 and is in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year sentence for breaching conflict of interest laws, but his supporters have done consistently well at the ballot box. Read more in the Financial Times.

All about rice

Scientists and governments are worried about the effects Climate Change might have on rice production.

Here are 10 facts about rice and how it is produced.

– Asia is the biggest producer and consumer of rice. In 2007, 140 million out of a total of 156 million hectares of rice fields were in Asia.

– A member of the grass family, rice was first farmed about 10,000 years ago. Thought to be native to deltas around such Asian rivers as the Ganges and Yangtze, rice now grows on every continent except Antarctica.

– On average, it takes 3,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of rice. The majority of rice is grown in flooded (irrigated or rain-fed) fields and is known as lowland rice.

– The world needs an extra eight to 10 million ton of rice each year to meet needs and keep rice affordable.

– The world’s biggest rice exporters in 2008/ 2009 were Thailand, Vietnam and the United States. The biggest importers were the Philippines, Nigeria and Iran.

Read the other five at AlertNet.

UK community garden feeds body, soul

A group of dissatisfied neighbors in the English community of Newham pulled together, got funding, and created a blooming community garden where the work, and the rewards, are shared.

And not only does the community feed the body, it also feeds the soul.

“We wondered if there was a way to combine public art with a community garden,” says Andreas Lang, one of the founders. “We got involved in the consultation to try to influence what form the public art piece would take. Newham council was very helpful, paying for artists that we chose to come up with a proposal to present.”

Read more from The Ecologist.

High-fructose corn syrup v. cane sugar

Food science experts and industry veterans have criticized a Princeton University study that found high-fructose corn syrup makes people fatter than table sugar.

“The debate about which one is better for you is a false debate, because neither of them is good for you,” says Elizabeth Abbott, author of the forthcoming “Sugar: A Bittersweet History.” Read more