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The Unsettling of America

March 25, 2012 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on The Unsettling of America
The Unsettling of America

Book Author: Wendell Berry

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

In 2002, peasant associations from all over Asia organised an international scientific conference. The motivation for the conference was the fact that peasants and their leaders had no dialogue with agricultural scientists, either from their own countries or with those from abroad. A lack of support from scientists was not the only motivation however. The peasants had also come to believe that the science with which they were familiar was actively hostile to their way of life. As a result, many had demonstrated outside the UN-sponsored International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Phillipines, a research centre set up specifically to support farming in developing countries.

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Valuing Folk Crop Varieties for Agroecology and Food Security

Valuing Folk Crop Varieties

Dr Debal Deb, Founder-Chair, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, India (Photo Credit: D. Deb)

On May 25, 2009, Hurricane Aila hit the deltaic islands of the Sunderban of West Bengal. The estuarine water surged and destroyed the villages. Farmer’s homes were engulfed by the swollen rivers, their properties vanished with the waves, and their means of livelihood disappeared, as illustrated by the empty farm fields, suddenly turned salty. In addition, most of the ponds and bore wells became salinized.

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Does the Bio-Economy Add Up?

June 10, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, Commentaries Comments Off on Does the Bio-Economy Add Up?

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Experts do not have an entirely unblemished record of predicting the future of agriculture. In the 1950s it was envisioned that farms would be irrigated with water from icecaps that had been melted by nuclear explosions, this water (naturally) would be stored in ponds, also ‘dug’ by nuclear explosions. In the 1970s another generation of experts was predicting an era of remote control tractors and multi-story farms. Electromagnetic ploughing would prepare the soil for crops that would require only half an inch of recycled water per year and specially coated seeds would be blasted from pipes into crop-specific patterns channelled by underground magnetism (1).

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Transgene Escape! – But No One Has Called Out the Guards

February 4, 2007 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Environment Comments Off on Transgene Escape! – But No One Has Called Out the Guards

Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Centre for Food Safety

Introduction

One route by which transgenes (the genes engineered into crops) may cause harm is by permanently escaping from agricultural environments into wild or natural areas. This is not likely to happen with most GMO crop plants, because most crops have been hobbled by millennia of breeding and cannot survive without human intervention, such as planting and weeding. The addition of one or several transgenes generally cannot overcome this long history of domestication. However, most crops have wild relatives that they can interbreed with, thus passing crop genes and transgenes into these wild species. For example, over 20 important crops grown in the U.S. have related wild species they can mate with (1).
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Commentaries

Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science but Genetic Engineers Often Are

Elizabeth-Henderson (photo courtesy Audrey Horn)

by Elizabeth Henderson At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation. I …

Unsafe at any Dose? Diagnosing Chemical Safety Failures, from DDT to BPA

US Chemical Production

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell. Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned …

God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

crispr-cas9

by Jonathan Latham, PhD For the benefit of those parts of the world where public acceptance of biotechnology is incomplete, a public relations blitz is at full tilt. It concerns an emerging set of methods for altering the DNA of living organisms. “Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle …

Biofuel or Biofraud? The Vast Taxpayer Cost of Failed Cellulosic and Algal Biofuels

The now-bankrupt Kior site in Columbus, Mississippi

By Almuth Ernsting Biofuels consumed today are usually ethanol made from the sugar in sugar cane (or sugar beet) or they may be made from starch in grains. In the US this is mostly corn starch. Alternatively, biodiesel may be made from plant oils such as soybean or canola oil.

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Reviews

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

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