Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rodale: Farming is the cure for global warming

Rodale Institute Begins Mission to Fight Global Warming – with Farms

New CEO Tim LaSalle Calls Organic Farming "The Brightest Hope for Our Planet"

KUTZTOWN, PA – Timothy J. LaSalle took over as CEO of the Rodale Institute with a mission: to tell the world that a practical solution to global warming already exists. And farmers are standing on it.

Rodale Institute has proved that organic practices, sometimes referred to as regenerative farming, can remove about 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year and sequester it in an acre of farmland. Thus if all 434 million acres of American cropland was converted to organic practices, it would be the equivalent of eliminating 217 million cars – nearly 88 percent of all cars in the country today and more than a third of all the automobiles in the world.

"The way that we farm may be the single biggest – and most undervalued – way that we can mitigate global warming," said LaSalle, a native Californian and a former agriculture professor at Cal Poly. He added that he came to Rodale Institute, headquartered on a working organic farm in Pennsylvania, because he believes Rodale's 60-plus years of leadership in organics can offer solutions to many of the most serious issues of the day – from nutrition and famine prevention to global warming.

The idea is simple: Soil is a natural carbon storehouse and farming techniques that depend upon petroleum-based practices disrupt this natural process. The ecological impact of these conventional agricultural practices is made worse by greenhouse emissions from fertilizer production and nutrient losses. The result is that U.S. agriculture, using petroleum-based methods, contributes nearly 10 percent of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly 30 years of research in Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial, the nation's oldest side-by-side scientific study of organic and conventional practices, has proved that organic practices, which do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, can be the single biggest way to mitigate global warming.

Paul Hepperly, Ph.D., research director at Rodale Institute and Fulbright Scholar states, "We've shown that organic practices can do better than anyone thought at sequestering carbon, and could counteract up to 40 percent of global greenhouse gas output." Hepperly, who is helping other nations implement organic farming systems, explains that using soil-building crops and compost to support cash crops helps to build soil carbon levels while keeping productivity in line with conventional systems.

"The world is taking climate change seriously," says LaSalle. "The U.S. presidential candidates are being questioned about their environmental platforms. Major corporations are trying to be green in practice and products. Timing is everything and 21st Century regenerative farming is the brightest hope for our planet to reverse the effects of global warming, and to protect and improve the health of farmers, global citizens and future generations."

Rodale Institute has recently launched a new website,, where everyone who wants to make a difference can learn how to take practical steps to fight global warming right now by the way they shop, eat, garden and support our nation's farmers.

CONTACT Paula Gray Hunker Communications & Policy Director

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Two worlds to choose between

I don't know when it happened but at some point, the things I most regretted about how the world was going, seem to come together in my mind as "corporate." Before that, there seem to be endless losses coming from all directions - shops that had closed, towns that were highways of ugly franchises strung out like trash along the banks of a river, degraded food, everything speeded up into ... nothing of value. Rushing toward ... nothing of value. Leaving behind in the whirlwind of speed, and the intensity of work, work, work, all the relationships that matter. Friends, family, people in shops, children on the street, old people. The world began to fall out between those world views - corporate versus people. Corporate versus community. Corporate versus local businesses. Corporate versus real.

A South Asian Indian I know said it was happening in India, that people didn't have time for each other anymore, at least not the middle class as it got ahead. I asked what it was like before. He said people literally kept their doors open and people would drop by anytime and take time with each other. And now, no? No, it was changing. People were interested in money now and when friends dropped by, in some subtle way a judgement was made whether it was "worth" spending time with that person, was there a value in it. He said it was a great loss because before, everyone was welcome and there was always time for people, and relationships were close and easy. Now, life was about work and money.

There used to be 22 dairies in Bartow County, Georgia. 22. Now there are two. In the surrounding 5 counties there are only 4 total. A repairman who came to the house said his father was a farmer in Pike County - cotton. He is black and only rented the land then. Now, there are no farms around there, everything is owned by corporations. He said there used to be a service station on every corner years ago, and they did repairs. Gone. Only big corporate gas stations now. Used to hardware stores.

We got snookered. We sold our birthright of connection to each other for cheaper goods and a faster life and the image of more money, but it was all a corporate mirage of "the good life" when the real good in life has nothing to do with any of that. It would have been better to pay more to a neighbor in his local store and keep the store and the fabric of that interconnected world, and just buy less things in general, than have so much, so cheap, so needless, and lose the world that we once had.

What is it like for this generation which doesn't even know that previous world? It exists in some places still but so much has been swept away. We have a lot of rebuilding to do, to bring our world back to wholeness.

I have come to believe we can only do that by getting off the corporate grid - growing our own food, generating our own electricity, slowing down, and more than anything else we do - taking time for each other.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Creating our own international PR firm in 2 easy steps

The previous article lays to rest the central and most hypocritical claim of Monsanto - that GMOs grow more food so are good for feeding the starving of the world. It is essential that it get out as widely and deeply as possible.

If we each do just two things, we can do it.

1. Each month, call and also send emails to the editors of newspapers in your state (make at least 10 calls and send at least 10 emails), asking them to run a story.

They will see this current material is critical information in relation to the current food crisis.

Each month, repeat sending material if you feel it is needed. If you sense you are making progress and the editors are beginning to know and trust you, you can call about and send something new about Monsanto and/or sustainable agriculture that feels significant.

Calling helps a lot. Editors will get to know you and you, them.

2. Post the material to at least 10 internet sites that are new to you, so you will NOT be singing to the choir. You can, for instance, post to a range of religious groups, to university groups, to public school groups, to retired groups, women's groups, to rotary clubs, to business groups, to automotive groups, sporting groups of all kinds, etc. Use your imagination.

Optional: If you prefer to work in another area besides where you live - perhaps where there are now food crises, for example - find papers there to send material to, find internet groups in those areas, and go about this the same way (though calling editors will be harder so perhaps write them personal notes instead).

It is a blanket approach in either case, with you taking responsibility for reaching people in one limited area and finding more and more avenues to enter each month you pass information. If you keep the numbers of calls, emails and posts limited, you won't feel overwhelmed and might even enjoy thinking what you want to send the next month. And as you get to know editors, you might look forward to talking to them. If 10 is too many for you, do 5. But claim your territory and the responsibility of being the PR person for it.

The point is to have anti-GMO material be common knowledge and to get to know other kinds of people through it, as many as possible.

If we each do these 2 things only, and regularly, together we will be forging a huge, international public relations firm working for stainable agriculture and against Monsanto and GMOs. We will be expending little time and no money.

We need to do this because the giant and muscular campaigns by PR companies like Burson-Masterller, which are designed to scare and confuse the public in order to insert more GMO crops, are going into gear around the world right now. Their employers, the corporations which first caused the food crisis, have set those campaigns in motion in order to use the crises to insert GMOs where there has been resistance (working off the shock doctrine), and thus to take more control over food and be able to profit maximally from increasing crises, wherever they occur.

If you have friends to join you in this, if you have spare moments to do more for fun, great. Whether you are in the US, in India, in Australia, wherever, reach your newspapers (and any other media you wish) and post like the PR genius you are.

Truth is devastating to evil so we need to be generous and stop sharing it only among ourselves.

Controversial GM crops produce less than normal crops

Sunday, 20 April 2008
By Geoffrey Lean

Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study - carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt - has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research - reported in the journal Better Crops - because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?’”

He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.

The GM crop - engineered to resist Monsanto’s own weedkiller, Roundup - recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop’s take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya’s yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.

The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.

The Nebraska study suggested that two factors are at work. First, it takes time to modify a plant and, while this is being done, better conventional ones are being developed. This is acknowledged even by the fervently pro-GM US Department of Agriculture, which has admitted that the time lag could lead to a “decrease” in yields.

But the fact that GM crops did worse than their near-identical non-GM counterparts suggest that a second factor is also at work, and that the very process of modification depresses productivity. The new Kansas study both confirms this and suggests how it is happening.

A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over. (See graphic above.)

Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.

Critics doubt whether the company will achieve this, saying that it requires more complex modification. And Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington - and who was one of the first to predict the current food crisis - said that the physiology of plants was now reaching the limits of the productivity that could be achieved.

A former champion crop grower himself, he drew the comparison with human runners. Since Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile more than 50 years ago, the best time has improved only modestly . “Despite all the advances in training, no one contemplates a three-minute mile.”

Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted - the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development - concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger.

Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: “The simple answer is no.”

© 2008 The Independent

Monday, April 21, 2008

Come on in. Pull up a seat. We have a world to save.

We can't wait anymore to get along.  We have to look at each other's families and give a damn. Whether they vote different from us, whether they look different from us, whether they pray (or don't pray) different from us, whether they have a history of hating us and we them, we have to care about them.  We have to knock off the hating.   

Because we are standing on the brink, folks.  To pull back from  it is going to take looking at each other with sympathy - knowing we all want to live, all love our families, all are afraid, all are mortal, all seek joy.  

We have to find each other now so we can save what matters.