Monthly Archives: October 2010

Lot’s of organic inputs for farmers

The chemical-free-ness of organic is kind of a misnomer. There are actually lots of products (inputs) available for organic farmers to buy and apply. This press release just landed in my inbox from OMRI. That’s the Organic Materials Review Institute. They’re the folks who analyze farming products to determine if they deserve the “organic” seal of approval. The press release trumpets the glad news that now there are over 2000 products organic farmers can buy. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I’m glad the market is still so good that new players are getting in. On the other hand it seems ironic to me that a more “nature” way to farm now has over 2000 additives to choose from. The best thing I can say is know your farmer and know how (s)he farms. Read the whole press release…

The OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) Products List reached a milestone on October 7, 2010, for the first time exceeding 2000 listed products. OMRI, a global leader in materials review, performs comprehensive verification and listing of materials suitable for use in organic production.

“The OMRI Products List has grown steadily over the last 13 years, and we thank OMRI’s clients and supporters for working to ensure solid and consistent standards within the organic industry, and for helping us reach this milestone,” said Peggy Miars, OMRI Executive Director. “We at OMRI are proud to support the organic label through our history of solid integrity and reliable reviews.”

While OMRI staff may have paused to celebrate the landmark occasion, the organization is processing applications more quickly than ever. A new streamlined review process has completely eliminated the initial wait time for new applications while retaining the same rigorous standards that have made OMRI a cornerstone of the organic industry. “Now is a great time to submit an application, since we have made great strides in customer service,” added Miars. OMRI welcomed Miars in September, when she began her tenure as OMRI’s new Executive Director/CEO.

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Now it’s patriotic to eat organic

Opened a tub of organic yogurt last night and saw this…

It's the american thing to do.

The fine print says the following…

The President’s Cancer Panel recommends reducing cancer risk by choosing foods grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and synthetic growth hormones.

So I went to and read more. A link was provided to the recently (April 2010) released government report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risks, What We Can Do Now. It’s 240 pages long, but I did grab this bit from the Executive Summary…

Exposure to Contaminants from Agricultural Sources
The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which also are used in residential and commercial landscaping. Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting properties. Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contain nearly 900 active ingredients, many of which are toxic. Many of the solvents, fillers, and other chemicals listed as inert ingredients on pesticide labels also are toxic, but are not required to be tested for their potential to cause chronic diseases such as cancer. In addition to pesticides, agricultural fertilizers and veterinary pharmaceuticals are major contributors to water pollution, both directly and as a result of chemical processes that form toxic by-products when these substances enter the water supply. Farmers and their families, including migrant workers, are at highest risk from agricultural exposures. Because agricultural chemicals often are applied as mixtures, it has been difficult to clearly distinguish cancer risks associated with individual agents.

Read the whole report HERE. And eat organic!

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Filed under agriculture, food, food-health connection, organic, policy

Monsanto offering to pay farmers to help bail them out

Hurry boys! Start bailing!

What a shame. Weed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup) is getting so bad, that Monsanto is offering to PAY soybean farmers to use herbicides other than Glyphosate…

Monsanto Co. is paying farmers to increase the number of herbicides they’re using. The rebate program is designed to prevent more acrage from getting infested with weeds that are resistant to one particularly popular herbicide, Roundup.

What a beautiful system: 1) A magical chemical that magically kills all plant life. 2) A crop genetically engineered to be resistant to the magical chemical. 3) A wise and powerful corporation who manufactured the magic chemical and controlled the genetically engineered seed. Profits abounded (for the wise and powerful corporation). Farmers enjoyed fields so perfectly clear of weeds, as to be unimaginable before the term, “Roundup Ready” hit the late night TV commercial airwaves.

The future looked so bright.

Then the cracks started to appear. Instead of one application of the magic chemical, two and three became necessary to keep the crop perfectly clean of all weeds (the new industry standard). The warnings of resistance developing in weeds went out early. In 2000, I organized a conference and brought in Chuck Benbrook. He warned about resistance. The “experts” scoffed. I had one weed scientist tell me he didn’t think resistance COULD develop because of the mode of action of Glyphosate. Smart guy. Problem is, weeds are smarter.

Now it’s clear. Even the wise and powerful corporation sees it. Nature really does bat last.

One of the great selling points of Roundup Ready was that is was going to REDUCE the amount herbicide used on major crops in agriculture. Reduce! Numerous studies showed this wasn’t the case, and now Monsanto is paying farmers to use more herbicide, to save the effectiveness of the herbicide that was going to reduce herbicide use. Brilliant. And many farmers will line up and do it because they’ll believe this…

The use of additional herbicides will not only control Roundup-resistant weeds but add to farmers’ profits by increasing their soybean yields, said Michael Owen, an Iowa State University weed specialist who has been working on a multi-state study on the weed resistance issue funded by Monsanto.  One recent analysis in Iowa found that weeds early in the growing season could cut soybean yields 6 to 8 bushels per acre, he said.

The whole thing reminds me of 1912. Human endeavor and achievement  had reached a pinnacle of impressive proportion. Was there anything man couldn’t do? The staggering hubris was “unsinkable.” Then, on her maiden voyage Titanic hit an iceberg. Three hours later she was sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic. 100 years later, things haven’t changed much. The more spectacular our mastery of nature, the more monumental the failures.

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Yard harvesting

waste not!

I’ve often thought if I ever found myself to be a homeless, street person, the first thing I would do is panhandle a few bucks worth of change, head to the public library, find some books on wild edible plants and start photocopying pages.

If you know what to look for, food is everywhere. [Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.]

Another strategy might be to hitchhike to Denver, and sign up for the Denver Yard Harvest. This is one of the greatest ideas in history. Zillions of pounds of food rot every year in the backyards of people who don’t have time or just don’t want to hassle with picking the fruit. The DYH finds those trees, arranges for volunteers to pick the fruit, and, deliver it to homeless shelters, nursing homes, and other facilities where free, fresh food is greatly appreciated. Simple as that.

Every city needs a yard harvest group. It’s one of those ideas that makes such damn good sense you have to wonder why it isn’t happening everywhere.

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Birds and coffee in beautiful brazil

Here’s the latest video from Fazenda Ambiental Forteleza, the most wonderful organic coffee farm in all of Brazil!

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