How Will the Feds React to New State’s Rights Industrial Hemp Growing Laws?

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They are probably not very happy about it and look for them to try and stop it. It could cut into the profits of some mega-corporations and as we all know, hemp is an environmentally friendly crop. Can’t have that, can we?

Not just for Canadian farmers anymore?

Oregon Hemp Farming Bill Becomes Law

New State Program for Hemp Farmers to be Established

August 4, 2009

SALEM, OR — Vote Hemp, the leading grassroots advocacy organization working to give back farmers the right to grow industrial hemp (the oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis), enthusiastically supports the decision of Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski to sign SB 676 into law today. The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 46 to 11 and the Senate by a vote of 27 to 2, permits the production, trade and possession of industrial hemp commodities and products. With the Governor’s signature, it now makes a politically bold commitment to develop hemp in a state whose slogan is “Oregon – We Love Dreamers.”

“I am glad that Oregon has joined the other states that have agreed that American farmers should have the right to re-introduce industrial hemp as an agricultural crop,” says SB 676 sponsor, Sen. Floyd Prozanski. “By signing SB 676 into law, which passed the Oregon Legislature with strong bi-partisan support, Governor Kulongoski has taken a proactive position allowing our farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, to provide American manufacturers with domestically-grown hemp, and to profit from that effort.” The new law sets up a state-regulated program for farmers to grow industrial hemp which is used in a wide variety of products, including nutritious foods, cosmetics, body care, clothing, tree-free paper, auto parts, building materials, fuels and much more. Learn more about hemp at

“Oregon’s federal delegation can now take this law to the U.S. Congress and call for a fix to this problem, so American companies will no longer need to import hemp and American farmers will no longer be denied a profitable new crop,” comments Vote Hemp Director, Patrick Goggin. “Under current federal policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it cannot be grown by American farmers. Hemp is an environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown commercially in the U.S. for over fifty years because of a politicized and misguided interpretation of the nation’s drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While a new federal bill in Congress, HR 1866, is a welcome step, the hemp industry is hopeful that the Obama administration will recognize hemp’s myriad benefits to farmers, businesses and the environment,” adds Goggin.

Many businesses in Oregon manufacture, market and sell hemp products, including Living Harvest, The Merry Hempsters, Wilderness Poets, Earthbound Creations, Sweetgrass Natural Fibers, Sympatico Clothing, Mama’s Herbal Soaps and Hempire. Living Harvest of Portland was recently ranked the third-fastest-growing company in Oregon, as awarded by The Portland Business Journal’s “Fastest-Growing Private 100 Companies” annual award. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to invest in hemp processing and production locally,” says Hans Fastre, CEO of Living Harvest. “This new law represents another step towards heightening the hemp industry’s profile within mainstream America and making hemp products more accessible to businesses and consumers.”

These Oregon-based companies have been on the leading edge of the growing hemp food and body care markets, which are currently estimated by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) to be $113 million in North American annual retail sales. The HIA estimates the 2008 annual retail sales of all hemp products in North America to be about $360 million. By allowing U.S. farmers to once again grow hemp, legislators can clear the way for a “New Billion-Dollar Crop.”

Hemp Farming Gains Support from More State Governments and Law Enforcement

According to the Illinois Valley News, Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said that he supports the legalization of industrial hemp. “I think it’s a good idea,” Gilbertson said in the article which appeared on July 29. “I think it’s a viable crop, and the entire county could benefit from it.”

On June 9, with little fanfare, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed the Maine hemp farming bill, LD 1159, into law. Maine’s House had previously passed the bill without objection, and the Senate later passed it by a strong vote of 25 to 10. The bill establishes a licensing regime for farming industrial hemp, although the licensing is contingent upon action by the federal government. Maine had previously passed a study bill that also defined industrial hemp. Like North Dakota, the new law in Oregon does not require a federal permit to grow industrial hemp.

During the 2009 legislative session, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Vermont all passed pro-hemp laws, resolutions or memorials. Sixteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation to date, and eight states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. Like North Dakota, where farmers are in a federal court battle over their rights to grow hemp under state law without fear of federal prosecution, the new law in Oregon does not require a federal DEA permit to grow hemp.

# # #

Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, nonprofit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop. More information about hemp legislation and the crop’s many uses may be found at or
source: Vote Hemp


Whole Foods promotes ‘kinder-gentler’ killing

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“It’s very specific,” “The pig document is 16 pages.”

The corporate ‘natural’ food chain Whole Foods has spent the last three years studying how to market the concept of a kinder, gentler life for animals destined to be slaughtered.

It’s a cold and calculating attempt to ease the conscience of ‘progressives with money’ who still want to indulge in meat eating and are willing to pay for it.

Perhaps this is better than factory farms but the fact still remains…..killing is killing.

Whole Foods chooses Nashville for pilot program

According to a blog on the Austin American-Statesman website by Whole Foods beat reporter Lilly Rockwell, Whole Foods has been discussing since 2006 the possibility of rating their meat products according to how well the animals were treated.Whole Foods south region spokesperson Darrah Horgan said the Five-Step Animal Welfare Rating is only being tested in the Nashville store.
“This tiered program highlights farmers who are improving the quality of life for farm animals,” Horgan said. “We do not yet have a date for rolling out this program nationwide, but it is our goal to do so in the near future.”


Whole Foods approached the issue methodically, spending the past three years looking at the treatment of cattle, ducks, broiler chickens, pigs and sheep to develop standards.

It is wrapping up its study of laying hens and turkey, and will move on to veal and dairy cattle.

“We already have natural meat standards, and in order to sell the meat in our stores, our producers must meet a certain level of care and treatment for animals,” spokeswoman Amy Schaefer said. “So this is more rigorous. It’s like the gold standard. We have decided to raise the bar further.”

The 10 pages of standards for chickens include that they must “be caught calmly and with a minimum of chasing,” and preferably in dimmed light to reduce stress.

A Very Inconvenient Truth

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Thomas Paine’s Corner


‘You see our meat eating habits are more closely related to the vulture, the jackal or other carrion eaters. This means that we can’t be described as carnivores. We are better described as necrovores or eaters of rotting flesh.’

by Capt Paul Watson

The meat industry is one of the most destructive ecological industries on the planet. The raising and slaughtering of pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys and chickens not only utilizes vast areas of land and vast quantities of water, but it is a greater contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry.

The seafood industry is literally plundering the ocean of life and some fifty percent of fish caught from the oceans is fed to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc in the form of fish meal. It also takes about fifty fish caught from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.

We have turned the domestic cow into the largest marine predator on the planet. The hundreds of millions of cows grazing the land and farting methane consume more tonnage of fish than all the world’s sharks, dolphins and seals combined. Domestic housecats consume more fish, especially tuna, than all the world’s seals.

So why is it that all the world’s large environmental and conservation groups are not campaigning against the meat industry? Why did Al Gore’s film Inconvenient Truth not mention the inconvenient truth that the slaughter industry creates more greenhouse gases than the automobile industry?

The Greenpeace ships serve meat and fish to their crews everyday. The World Wildlife Fund does not say a word about the threat that meat eating poses for the survival of wildlife, the habitat destroyed, the wild competitors for land eliminated, or the predators destroyed to save their precious livestock.

When I was a Sierra Club director for three years, everyone looked amused when I brought up the issue of vegetarianism. At each of our Board meeting dinners, the Directors were served meat and only after much prodding and complaining did the couple of vegetarian directors manage to get a vegetarian option. At our meeting in Montana we were served Buffalo and antelope, lobsters in Boston, crabs in Charleston, steak in Albuquerque etc. But what else can we expect from a “conservation” group that endorses trophy hunting.

As far as I know and I may be wrong, but my organization, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the only conservation organization in the world that endorses and practises vegetarianism. My ships do not serve meat or fish ever, nor do we serve dairy products. We’ve had a strictly vegan menu for years and no one has died of scurvy or malnutrition.

The price we pay for this is to be accused by other conservation organizations of being animal rights. Like it’s a bad word. They say it with the same disdain that Americans used to utter the word communist in the Fifties.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not an animal rights organization. We are exclusively involved in interventions against illegal activities that threaten and exploit marine wildlife and habitat. We are involved in ocean wildlife conservation activities.

Yet because we operate our ships as vegan vessels, other groups, and now the media dismiss us as an animal rights organization.

Now first of all I don’t see being accused of as an animal rights organization to be an insult. PETA was co-founded by one of my crew-members and many of my volunteers come from the animal rights movement. But it is not accurate to refer to Sea Shepherd as animal rights when our organization pushes a strict conservation enforcement policy.

And secondly we do not promote veganism on our ships because of animal rights. We promote veganism as a means of practising what we preach which is ocean conservation.

There is not enough fish in the world’s oceans to feed 6.6 billion human beings and another 10 billion domestic animals. That is why all the world’s commercial fisheries are collapsing. That is why whales, seals, dolphins and seabirds are starving. The sand eel for example, the primary source of food for the comical and beautiful puffin is being wiped out by Danish fishermen solely to provide fish meal to Danish factory farmed chickens.

This is a solid conservation connection between eating meat and the destruction of life in our oceans.

In a world fast losing resources of fresh water, it is sheer lunacy to have hundreds of millions of cows consuming over 1,000 gallons of water for every pound of beef produced.

And the pig farms in North Carolina produce so much waste that it has contaminated the entire ground water reserves of the entire state. North Carolinians drink pig shit with their water but its okay they say, they just neutralize it with chemicals like chlorine.

Most people don’t want to see where their meat comes from. They also don’t want to know what the impact of their meat has on the ecology. They would rather just deny the whole thing and pretend that meat is something that comes in packages from the store.

But because there is this underlying guilt always present, it manifests itself as anger and ridicule towards people who live the most environmentally positive life styles on the planet: the vegans and the vegetarians.

This is demonstrated through constant marginalization especially in the media. Any organization, like Sea Shepherd for example, that points out the ecological contradictions of eating meat is immediately dismissed as some wacko animal rights organization.

I did not set the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society up as an animal rights organization and we have never promoted animal rights in the organization. What we have promoted and what we do is oceanic wildlife and habitat conservation work.

And the truth is that you can’t practise solid and constructive conservation work without promoting veganism and/or vegetarianism as something that promotes the conservation of resources.

A few years ago I attended a dinner meeting of the American Oceans Campaign hosted by Ted Danson. He opened the dinner by saying that the choice he had to make was between fish and chicken for the dinner, and what was the point of saving fish if you can’t eat them?

Guest speaker, Oceanographer Sylvia Earle put Ted in his place by saying she did not think that he was being very funny. She said that she considered fish to be her friends and she did not believe in eating her friends. So neither Sylvia nor I ate dinner that night.

I met Sylvia again at another meeting, this time of Conservation International held at some ritzy resort in the Dominican Republic. Harrison Ford was there and the buzz was what could be done to save the oceans. I was invited as an advisor. I sat on a barstool in an open beachfront
dining plaza as the conservationists approached tables literally bending from the weight of fish and exotic seafood including caviar. I looked at Sylvia Earle and she just shook her head and rolled her eyes.

The problem is that people like Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, or the heads of Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and many other big groups just refuse to accept that their eating habits may be just as much a part of the problem as all those things they are trying to oppose.

I remember one Greenpeacer defending his meat eating by saying that he was a carnivore and that predators have their place and he was proud to be one.

Now the word predator in relationship to human beings has a rather scary connotation having nothing to do with eating habits, but for any human being to describe themselves as a carnivore is just plain ridiculous.

Humans are not and have never been carnivores. A lion is a carnivore as is a wolf, as is a tiger, or a shark. Carnivores eat live animals. They stalk them, they run them down, they pounce, they kill, and they eat, blood dripping, meat at body temperature. Nature, brutal red in tooth and claw.

I’ve never met a human that can do that. Yes we found ways to run down animals and kill them. In fact we’ve come to be rather efficient at the killing part. But we can’t eat the prey until we cut it up and cook it and that usually involves some time between kill and eating. It could be an hour or it could be years.

You see our meat eating habits are more closely related to the vulture, the jackal or other carrion eaters. This means that we can’t be described as carnivores. We are better described as necrovores or eaters of rotting flesh.

Consider that some of the beef that people eat has been dead for months and in some cases for years. Dead and hanging in freezers, full of uritic acid and bacteria. It’s a corpse in a state of decomposition. Not much that can be said to be noble about eating a cadaver.

But a little dose of denial allows us to bite into that Big Mac or cut into that prime rib.

But that one 16 ounce cut of prime rib is equal to a thousand gallons of fresh water, a few acres of grass, a few fish, a quarter acre of corn etc. What’s the point of taking a shorter shower to conserve water as Greenpeace is preaching if you can sit down and consume a 1000 gallons
of water at a single meal?

And that single cut of meat would have cost as much in vegetable resources equivalent to what could be fed to an entire African village for a week.

The problem is that we choose to see our contradictions when it is convenient for us to see them and when it is not we simply go into a state of suspended disbelief and we eat that steak anyway because, hey we like the taste of rotting flesh in the evening.

Have you ever thought why it is that with a person, it’s an abortion but when it comes to a chicken, it’s an omelette?

Does anyone really know what’s in a hot dog? We do know that the government health department allows for an acceptable percentage of bug parts, rodent droppings and other assorted filth to go into the mix.

And now tuna fish comes with a health warming saying it should not be eaten by pregnant women or small children because of high levels of mercury. Does that mean mercury is good for adults and non-pregnant women? What are they telling us here?

Eating meat and fish is not only bad for the environment it’s also unhealthy. Yet even when it comes to our own health we slip into denial mode and order the whopper.

The bottom line is that to be a conservationist and an environmentalist, you must practise and promote vegetarianism or better yet veganism.

It is the lifestyle that leaves the shallowest ecological footprint, uses fewer resources and produces less greenhouse gas emissions, it’s healthier and it means you’re not a hypocrite.

In fact a vegan driving a hummer would be contributing less greenhouse gas carbon emissions than a meat eater riding a bicycle.

Paul Watson (born December 2, 1950) is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a significant figure in the environmental movement and animal rights movement. He was named by Time Magazine in 2000 as one of its Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century….The first Sea Shepherd vessel, the Sea Shepherd, was purchased in December 1978 with assistance from the Fund for Animals. Sea Shepherd soon established itself as one of the more controversial environmental groups, known for provocative direct action tactics in addition to more conventional protests. These tactics have included, at times, ramming whaling ships at sea, and the scuttling of two ships in an Icelandic harbor. Watson remains the leader of Sea Shepherd today…..


Vanishing Topsoil Threatens Sustainability of Human Life on Earth

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by David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Earth’s topsoil is vanishing at such a rapid rate that scientists worry about the future of human food production.

“Globally, it’s clear we are eroding soils at a rate much faster than they can form,” said John Reganold, a soils scientist from Washington State University. “It’s hard to get people to pay much attention to this because, frankly, most of us take soil for granted.”

The Earth is covered with an average of only three feet of topsoil, the layer of dirt that provides the nutrients for most of the planet’s land vegetation, and is critical for producing food from agriculture. Healthy topsoil is a home to billions of beneficial microorganisms per handful, in addition to nutrients, fungi and worms that are critical to healthy plant life. But it forms very slowly, at a rate of only an inch or two per several hundred years. And around the world, topsoil is vanishing much faster than it forms.

“The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture,” said David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington and the author of the book “Dirt.”

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that U.S. cropland is eroding at 10 times the rate that it forms, and the United Nations has warned that soil degradation is a global crisis.

Pollution, changing weather patterns and paving over cropland for development are all significant contributors to topsoil loss. But according to Reganold, the major culprit is modern agriculture practices.

According to fifth-generation grain farmer John Aeschliman, tilling farmland between plantings is an unnecessary and destructive practice that leaves the soil vulnerable to washing away when the rain comes. Aeschliman advocates and practices “no-till” farming, which involves planting the seeds of his most recent crop amidst the stubble of previous years’.

“This soil is full of worms, bacteria and all sorts of life,” Aeschliman said of his own field. “And it stays put.”

“That stuff over there,” he said, gesturing to a neighbor’s field, “is just powder, brown dust. It’s dead. There’s no worms, no life in it.”

The new and true Green Revolution – Part one

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A call to arms for all farmers and gardeners interested in self sufficiency and natural agriculture to take a stand.

Astronomy Domine F-2 Sweet corn seed.
Hip-Gnosis Seed

The twentieth and twenty-first century have seen the rise of big agri-business by way of the green revolution, petrol-chemical agriculture, and the re-writing and destruction of historical agriculture which has been practiced for over 10,000 years. Never before have species disappeared so rapidly or completely and not only from our agricultural fields but also from their natural environments and never before has the role of supposed “ownership” and the artificial, dangerous, and untested genetic modification of plants and animals been an issue on the minds of farmers and consumers as it is today.

One of many paths to power as proven throughout history is the control of food supply. If one is to effectively control food supplies one must first control the seed. “He who controls the seed controls the feed.” as a friend of mine often says. Our seeds have been taken from our gardens and out of our hands, breaking a bond of generational knowledge and seed as saved and passed down for generation after generation often accompanied by much legend and information. Instead it has been stolen and locked up in litigation, red tape and ownership while being re-sold to the original owners in fanciful packaging for far too long now. I believe it is time we take our power back, returning it to the fields and families where it belongs all around the world.

In the responsible, sustainable, fields and farms of tomorrow we must make every effort to become more sustainable by any means necessary, and it is only by taking a stand and fighting for what we believe in that this effort will be realized. It is time for a true green revolution which will not consist of high priced amendments, petrol chemicals and false information, but instead will consist of deep spirituality, love, peace, knowledge, trade, and respect as well as firm footing and the bravado to fight for those things worth dying for. If all of these previous ideas don’t fall into line, none of this will mater and we will only further cater to corporate greed and the destruction of the very earth that feeds and nourishes us, it is indeed time to fight fire with nothing less than fiery passion!

We have watched, particularly in the United States, as our governments have made mistake after mistake while catering to the petrol-war machine and big business while driving the middle class completely out. Other countries are experiencing the same, particularly in Europe, while even others have seen far worse. Many Ideas are bandied about, most misguided, some just flat out wrong and morally unjustifiable while meanwhile around the world the layman continues to work with innovation, integrity, and pride within the basis of systems which are either completely new and innovative or thousands of years old and tested by time, never being heard or seen because they are not in a position of power to make such projects profitable for a corporation or government, often frowned upon because these innovative men and women don’t have the “required education” to be any more than a nobody in the eyes of the power brokers. While those of us who stand alone can prove a point, together we are and army and with the power to change our reality and purge our system of the evil which is infecting it.

Agriculture is but one small area, but a very important one to start with, for without food, ideas, culture, spirituality and niche roles cannot be realized.

The saving and trading of seed is paramount to sustainable agriculture and keeps many small farms afloat in a time of turmoil the world over. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and the world and the responsible inhabitants therein are raped we must stand up to those who would subdue us and cut the metaphorical throat of their bonds; materialistic desire and the cash flow which keeps their blood pumping. The unnecessary transition of material wealth coming annually from the poor to the rich in exchange for the privilege for one to grow their own garden and eat their own food without the option of saving seed is not only an insane idea but completely unprecedented in the annals of history

I am making a stand and a call that all of those responsible farmers and gardeners not only do what they can find it in themselves to do to be more environmentally responsible, but to also make it a point to show big agriculture and petrol business as well as our own governments that we are tired of being pushed around. Just like in the Victory garden campaigns of world war one and two, I call for you, the backbone of America to become more responsible in you use and treatment of the land and it’s resources as well as flying the flag of your independence in the face of those who would otherwise tread on you. False patriotism and alignments with ones own prideful sense of country will do nothing to help further these ideas, indeed they are the very reasons these ides are never cultured or seen to fruition.

It is time to implement green graffiti techniques, planting in public spaces for the good of the environment and the people, in a way that will leave you anonymous but also give you great pride. It is time to start implementing breeding projects which will give us our seed back by effectively saving, selecting and growing out F1 hybrid seeds or by using PVP type open pollinated seeds in new breeding experiments and distributing them world wide.

It is time to start the lobbying against the era of artificial genetic modification and to tell the Monsanto’s and governments of the world that we will not allow it; not here, not now, not ever. It is time to start making gardening more about feeding the earth and the family and less about feeding the rich; it is also time to make agriculture more spiritual and less mechanical.

It too is time to work harder than ever on and with a system of black market trading of seeds and the distribution thereof around the world, finding nooks and crannies into which much seed and plants can be exchanged with cultures around the world, further strengthening our bonds as responsible agricultural stewards and also as a human worldwide family working for the good of our mother, our environments, our nutrition, and our very soul and spirits. It is time to ensure genetic variability and bio-diversity while also working within regional and local agricultural systems and with the world at large. There are no boundaries other than those drawn on maps by men who set in underserved places of power! Internet technology makes this easier than ever before and should be utilized at every opportunity.

It is time to build bridges between the communities of the world and find our common ground, to work with innovative new ideas that will help solve modern dilemmas by way of forgotten technology or new options that are “Eco-Logically” sound.

It is time to encourage the youth of the world to become involved, to utilize local and regional resources to take back the land and farm the land that is too quickly being covered with low rent housing, build on flood plains and prone to disaster. Our misuse of resources, our laziness, our placidity, and the uninformed opinions of journalists who have never touched soil are slowly eroding not only our agriculture, but our very spirit and culture. The very “ terroir” of our lands has been raped and pillaged by power brokers for too long now. Pick up the shovel and put down the video games, experience reality as you never have! The youth are the key, if only they will realize what true knowledge and culture means.

Much work has been done by many dedicated people at our Homegrown Goodness site (http://Alan to work with diverse peoples, cultures and farming systems around the world to distribute and obtain seed which at times and in certain countries it is illegal export or import for fears that are solely corporately related. It is time that we all come together and shake hands, exchange culture, ideas, knowledge and seeds.

I too believe that it is time that we educate those who would otherwise not understand our passion, our beliefs and the facts about natural sustainable gardening, while instead of fighting those who would subdue us and who would otherwise become our adversaries. we shall instead prove deeply our point with sound research, observation, and hard impassioned work; sometimes one cannot wait for a door to open and instead has to kick the door down!

More to come in part two; “Bio-fuels, local agrarian living, practicing simplicity and humility, and working towards sustainable living!”

Also see: Wake up America!

It will take more than gardening to fix our food system

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May 30, 2008

by Stan Cox

Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates project for Tate Modern

I didn’t mean to lead anyone down the garden path. Adding my small voice to those urging Americans replace their lawns with food plants wasn’t, in itself, a bad idea. But now that food shortages and high costs are in the headlines, too many people are getting the idea that the solution to America’s and the world’s food problems is for all of us in cities and suburbia to grow our own. It’s not.

Don’t get me wrong: Growing food just outside your front or back door is an extraordinarily good idea, and if it’s done without soil erosion or toxic chemicals, I can think of no downside. Edible landscaping can look good, and it saves money on groceries; it’s a direct provocation to the toxic lawn culture; gardening is quieter and less polluting than running a power mower or other contraption; the harvest provides a substitute for industrially grown produce raised and picked by underpaid, oversprayed workers; and tending a garden takes a lot of time, time that might otherwise be spent in a supermarket or shopping mall.

So it was in 2005 that our family volunteered our front lawn to be converted into the first in a now-expanding chain of “Edible Estates“, the brainchild of Los Angeles architect/artist Fritz Haeg. We already had a backyard garden, but growing food in the front yard (which, as Haeg himself points out, is a reincarnation of a very old idea) has been a wholly different, equally positive experience.

Our perennials and annuals are thriving, we’ve gotten a lot of publicity, and I’ve been talking about the project for almost three years. Yet neither of our gardens, front or back, can stand up to the looming agricultural crisis. Good food’s most well-read advocate, Michael Pollan, has written that growing a garden is worth doing even though it can make only a tiny contribution to curbing carbon-dioxide emissions. He might have added that growing food is worth it even if it does very little to revive the nation’s food system.

World cropland: the pie is mostly crust

The edible-landscaping trend is catching on across the country, and with food prices rising, it has taking sadly predictable turns. A Boulder, Colo. entrepreneur, for example, has tilled up his and several of his neighbors’ yards and started an erosion-prone, for-profit vegetable-farming operation. It will supplement his income, but it won’t make a nick in the food crisis.

That’s because the mainstays of home gardening — vegetables and fruits — are not the foundation of the human diet or of world agriculture. Each of those two food types occupies only about 4 percent of global agricultural land (and a smaller percentage in this country), compared with 75 percent of world cropland devoted to grains and oilseeds. Their respective portions of the human diet are similar.

Suppose that half of the land on every one-acre-or-smaller urban/suburban home lot in the entire nation were devoted to food-growing. That would amount to a little over 5 million acres (pdf) sown to food plants, covering most of the space on each lot that’s not already covered by the house, a deck, a patio, or a driveway. (And in many places it couldn’t be done without cutting down shade trees and planting on unsuitably steep slopes).

That theoretical 5 million acres of potential home cropland compares with about 7 million acres of America’s commercial cropland currently in vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and 350 to 400 million acres of total farmland. The urban and suburban area to be brought into production would not approach the number of healthy acres of native grasses and other plants that are slated to be plowed up and sickened to make way for yet more corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains under the newly passed federal Farm Bill.

A nationwide grow-your-own wave would send good vibes through society, ripples that could be greatly amplified by community and apartment-block gardening. But front- and backyard food, even if everyone grew it, would not cover the country’s produce needs, much less displace our huge volume of fresh-food imports.

We could, instead, plant every yard to wheat, corn, or soybeans, which would account only for a little over two percent of the US land sown to those crops. Other policies, like dispensing with grain-fed meat and fuel ethanol, would free up far more grain-belt land than that.

Not even a poke in the eye

I’ve played a part in the promotion of domestic food-growing, and I now I seem to hear daily from people who believe that it’s the best alternative to industrial agriculture (as in, “I’ll show Monsanto and Wal-Mart that I don’t need their food!”). Even though most prominent home-lot food efforts, like the “100-Foot Diet Challenge“, also try to draw attention to bigger issues, the wider message can get lost in the excitement. Whatever its benefits, replacing your lawn with food plants will not give Big Agribusiness the big poke in the eye that it needs, nor will it save the agricultural landscapes of the nation or world.

To do that, the big-commodity market must be not just modified but overthrown. Until then, most of that two-thirds or more of the human calorie and protein intake that comes from grains and oilseeds (directly in most of the world or among Western vegetarians, largely via animal products for others in this country) will continue to be served up by a dirty, cruel, unfair, broken system.

Essential for providing vitamins, minerals, and other compounds, a highly varied diet is important, and home gardens around the world help provide such a diet. But with a world population now approaching seven billion people and most good cropland already in use, only rice, wheat, corn, beans, and other grain crops are productive and durable enough to provide the dietary foundation of calories and protein.

Grains made up about the same portion of the ancient Greek diet as they do of ours. We’ve been stuck with grains for 10,000 years, and our dependence won’t be broken any time soon.

The United States could emulate Argentina and a handful of other countries and by raising cattle that are totally grass-fed instead of grain-fed and thereby consuming less corn and soybean meal. But most of the world is utterly dependent on grains. The desperate people we saw on the evening news earlier this year, filling the streets in dozens of countries, were calling for bread or rice, not cucumbers and pomegranates.

Capitalism: It doesn’t go well with food

Humanity’s attachment to cereals, grain legumes, and oilseeds has acquired a much harder edge in the industrial era, but as a base for political and economic power, the staple grains have always been unsurpassed. Because they hold calories and nutrients in a dense package that can be easily stored for long periods and transported, the more fortunate members of ancient societies could accumulate surpluses. Those surpluses are recognized by the majority of scholars as necessary to the birth of market economies, which allowed the prosperous to exercise control over society’s have-nots. Eventually, states used control over grains to exert political power over entire populations.

Few foods could have filled that role. Noting that before grain agriculture came along, ancient Egyptians might have gathered a surplus of various foods from nature, most of them highly perishable, economic historian Robert Allen once wrote, “If all a tax collector could get from foragers was a load of waterlilies that would wilt by next morning, what was the point of having them?” The Pharaohs managed to exert control over the area’s population only after people started farming wheat and barley.

The even bigger problem with grains — which are short-lived annual plants, grown largely in monoculture — is that they supplanted the diverse, perennial plant ecosystems that covered the earth before the dawn of agriculture. We’ve been living with the resulting soil erosion and water pollution ever since.

Then, when grains became fully commodified a couple of centuries ago, things really started to go downhill. In discussing his new book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, Raj Patel cited India as an example: “The social safety nets that existed in India under feudal society had been knocked away by the British. If people couldn’t afford food, they didn’t get to eat, and if they couldn’t buy food, they starved. As a result of the imposition of markets in food, 13 million people across the world died in the 19th century. They died in the golden age of liberal capitalism. Those are the origins of markets in food.”

Indeed, if capitalism were a wine, it would be a wine that doesn’t go well with any type of food.

Most food today is produced not as an end in itself but as a by-product of a global economy with the singular goal of turning maximum profit. That is a dysfunctional arrangement, as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, the founder of ecological economics explained almost 40 years ago in his book The Entropy Law and the Economic Process: “So vital is the dependence of terrestrial life on the energy received from the sun that the cyclic rhythm in which this energy reaches each region on the earth has gradually built itself through natural selection into the reproductive pattern of almost every species, vegetal or animal … Yet the general tenor among economists has been to deny any substantial difference between the structures of agricultural and industrial productive activities.”

Industrial or commercial output can be increased by building more capacity, stepping up the consumption of inputs, taking on more workers, and pushing workers harder and for longer hours. Farming, by contrast, is inevitably bound by the calendar – by month-to-month variation in the capacity of soil and sunlight to support the growth of plants. It depends fundamentally on the productivity and the habits of non-human biological organisms over which humans can exert control only up to a point.

That clearly isn’t the ideal pattern for efficient wealth generation, so the past century has seen relentless efforts to mold agriculture into the factory model as closely as possible and, where that can’t be done, to graft more easily regimented industries — farm machinery, fertilizers, chemicals, food processing, the restaurant industry, packaging, advertising — onto an agricultural rootstock. In the US, the dollar outputs of those dependent industries are growing at two to four times the rate of agriculture’s own dollar output, putting ever-greater demands on the soil.

With a wholesale shift toward mechanization of US agriculture, 75 percent of economic output now comes from fewer than 7 percent of farms; furthermore, there has been a steep rise in the proportion of farms owned by investors living in distant cities (some of them perhaps avid urban gardeners).

Because, as Georgescu-Roegen showed, there’s a fundamental difference between the farm and the factory, the well-used term “factory farming” represents more an aspiration than an accomplished fact. Nevertheless, agribusiness’s attempts to defy natural rhythms and achieve industrial efficiency have been ecologically devastating. The biofuel craze, encouraged by subsidies that continue in the new Farm Bill, compounds the problem.

“We must cultivate our garden,” and …

To repair the broken system that supplies the bulk of the nation’s diet will require Americans to step out of the garden and into the public arena. Beyond working to get a better Farm Bill passed five years from now, we have to work together to break the political choke-hold that agribusiness has on federal and state governments.

With land and wealth being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands (and with more prisoners than farmers in today’s America) we have actually reached a point at which land reform is as necessary here as it is in any nation of Latin America or Asia. Only when we get more people back on the land, working to feed people and not Monsanto, will the system have a chance to work. Most home gardeners know that the root of the problem is political, but the agricultural establishment would like nothing better than to see us spend all of our free time in our gardens and not in political dissent.

Ironically, it’s that great troublemaker Voltaire who has too often been trotted out (and too often misquoted) as an advocate of withdrawing from the tumult of society, into tending one’s own property. Voltaire was indeed a gardener, and he did end his most famous novel by having Candide, after surviving so many far-flung hazards, utter those famous words to his fellow wanderer Dr. Pangloss: “We must cultivate our garden.”

However, with the publication of Candide in 1759, Voltaire entered the most politically active part of his life, as he “went on to a series of confrontations with the consequences of human cruelty that, two hundred-odd years later, remain stirring in their courage and perseverance,” in the words of Adam Gopnik.

If Voltaire could find the time for both gardening and radical political action, then all of us can do it.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Stan Cox is author of “Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine” (Pluto Press, April 2008). He conducts plant-breeding research and writes in Salina, Kansas.

Can Sustainable Agriculture feed the Population ! & Principles for Intentional Community

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

With the introduction of green revolution technologies, the food grain production has gone up manifold. Modern, high yielding varieties supported by technologies such as fertilizers, pesticides, mechanization, irrigation, etc have contributed to the magnificent increase in the production. Many developing countries like India have become self sufficient in food production.

On the flip side, modern farming has affected ecology and led to degradation of natural resources particularly soil and water. Moreover, under fragile ecosystem, the crop production is becoming stagnant and showing the signs of decline. The additional technological introduction is not contributing to any further increase in the production and a point of diminishing marginal returns is looming large over production front in agriculture.

Due to degrading environment and natural resources, no modern technology can assure indefinite increase in production. But the population is growing at an alarming rate, which is the potential cause for food crisis in the future.

In this backdrop, sustainable agriculture is considered a new road ahead by development visionaries. The agricultural community has no dispute over the idealness of the sustainable practices. But the real issue is about production potential to meet the food demand. No doubt that sustainable practices cannot yield to the same measure as modern practices in the initial stages of farming, but over the years, it can ensure similar and stable yields.

What are the key aspects to make it successful !

Eating junk food : We are eating more because we eat junk food. Modern practices have been harping on production in terms of quantity but not quality. Various researches have conclusively proved beyond doubt that food produced under sustainable or organic farming are better in nutritional quality. It has direct bearing on consumption. For example, farmers themselves have experienced that some traditional varieties of rice and finger millet can cook well and the quantity of grain or floor required for a family is 30-35% less compared to modern varieties under chemical farming. This is due to rich mineral content in those grains. Traditional varieties, evolved over thousands of years, under a particular agro climatic condition, adapt well and produce superior quality grains than the externally introduced ones. The milk of local animal breeds has more fat and proteins than the exotics. Sustainable agricultural practices produce better quality produce than the modern practices. Traditional or indigenous varieties adapt and produce better quality produce. Therefore, identification and introduction of superior local genetic resources in breeding process is an important scientific approach in sustainable agriculture to meet food demand in the changed scenario.

Post harvest management : The losses in transit, storage and distribution are too significant to ignore. Food Corporation of India has recorded 25-30% loss of food grains in storages, quite often. Sustainable agriculture can achieve a yield of 75-80% under conventional agriculture within a reasonable period of 2-3 years. Streamlining of post-harvest operations and minimizing the losses is a very important strategy to meet the food demand under sustainable agriculture. Creating decentralized infrastructure and distribution can have great impact on post-harvest management and reducing the losses.

Eco-friendly practices : Innovative practices have proved successful in obtaining yields comparable in some cases and much higher in some others. SRI (system of rice intensification) in rice, for example, with 30-40% less water consumption using semi-aerated soil condition can give additional yield of 50%, on an average. Similarly, mulching and other in-situ moisture conservation practices can improve yield under sustainable practices particularly under rain fed farming.

Food and crop diversity : Mono cropping, as a natural consequence of modern agriculture, tends to erode diversity in food and cropping systems. Out of known 4500 crop species in the world, hardly 20 are adding to 90% of our food requirement. Again, few varieties in each crop account for more than 90% of the production. Diversified food, due to rich nutritional value, has great potential to reduce consumption. Reinventing multi-cropping and species diversity in farming systems is central to sustainable agriculture.

Land diversion : Considerable land is being diverted every year through policies of the state. In 1970’s, large area under food grains was diverted to silkworm rearing in south India by establishing silk industry and motivating the farmers. Similarly, cotton is being promoted on large scale to boost export economy. Urbanization and industrial development policies are diverting areas under food grains and horticulture. This has to stop somewhere to ensure food production for the growing population. Increasing pressure on land through reducing the cultivable area pushes us to chemical and intensive farming, which is not ecologically sustainable.

Sustainable marketing : Promoting decentralized, local marketing processes gives stability to agricultural production. Cropping system determined by an agro climatic situation has to dictate agricultural market. This stabilizes the demand-supply chain. This, in turn, scales down unorganized production by the farmers dictated by fluctuating distant market, which is also a source of post harvest losses. Sustainable marketing and sustainable farming always go together.

Agro eco system : Reviving agro ecology is the sure way of increasing productivity and sustaining it. It enriches the soil through biomass, conserves other natural resources (water, insect and microbial environments) and creates microclimate. It creates pivotal role in recycling of nutrients to sustain soil productivity thus contributing to production.

Development policies : Achieving food production through sustainable practices needs teeth to state policies. Balancing export and domestic economies, putting a lid to urbanization and diversion of land, post harvest management and distribution, interventions in institutional research, etc can make it happen. Phase wise transition to sustainable agriculture and a meticulous plan for the future can take it forward.