Okay, yes, sometimes corn is a vegetable. But most of the time, it’s something else entirely—highly processed corn syrup in a can of soda, for example, or a fast food burger made from a corn-fed cow. Sadly, today the average American is eating too much of those junk foods, and not enough fruits and vegetables. But while the impacts on public health are dramatic (see this recent report on the costs of diet-related heart disease, for example), that’s not the whole story. Read More
October 24th, 2013
Small Insect’s Big Lessons for the Farm Bill: Agroecology and Breeding Top Monsanto’s Industrial Agriculture
August 26th, 2013
My last post discussed the success of public sector scientists who discovered and developed genes in soybean, using conventional breeding, that confer resistance to the invasive soybean aphid. These insects cost US farmers billions of dollars per year.
In contrast, an article in the New York Times in late July used the dramatic example of citrus greening disease, which is threatening the citrus industry in the US, to tout the possibility of GE to remedy challenging pest problems. Whether these will eventually work is far from certain. But we should keep in mind that while such future promises catch the public’s eye, breeding continuously makes significant advances in crop improvement. Read More
August 20th, 2013
In a recent post, I wrote about the health benefits—and attendant reductions in health care spending—that could be achieved if public policies helped all Americans to eat healthy foods instead of subsidizing ingredients for junk food. While data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) consistently show that people in every state and at every income level are falling short of dietary recommendations for fruits and vegetables, low-income Americans have the steepest hill to climb.
They also have the most to gain. That’s why I was excited to learn recently about an innovative organization in New York City that is putting public and private funds to work to increase access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables for residents of some of the city’s most economically ailing neighborhoods. Read More
The $11 Trillion Reward (Or, How Congress Could Improve Health, Save Lives, and Shrink the Deficit in One Easy Step)
August 8th, 2013
It’s August in Washington, DC, and that means two things—the tomatoes at my farmers market are juicy and delicious, and Congress has cleared out and gone home. Both highly anticipated events, but this year, the two are linked in an unusual way.
You see, when Congress split last week, they left a critical piece of food and farm legislation to grow cold on their plate. And while you might think that the “Farm Bill” is mostly of interest to farmers, a new report unveiled by UCS this week shows that we all have a huge stake in what Congress does (or doesn’t do) with this legislation. Read More
July 19th, 2013
The current farm bill debate is unprecedented, shaking to its very foundation the powerful alliance of commodity and food stamp interests that has driven farm bills for decades. The failure of the House to include a nutrition program in its version of the farm bill, while lavishing public monies on farmers to encourage commodity crop production, is the height of hypocrisy…and mean-spirited as well. Read More
May 9th, 2013
Agriculture is at a crossroads. While highly productive in the U.S., it is also destructive of the environment, vulnerable to climate change, and highly resource intensive. In short, it is unsustainable. Read More
November 20th, 2012
What with buttery mashed potatoes, cheesy macaroni, and pies begging to be topped with whipped cream or ice cream, Thanksgiving turns out to be a pretty dairy-heavy holiday. Which makes the findings of our new report, Cream of the Crop: The Economic Benefits of Organic Dairy Farms, particularly timely. Read More
October 26th, 2012
October 24th, 2012
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly announced that the nation’s certified organic farmers enjoyed sales of more than $3.5 billion in 2011. On this second annual Food Day—a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, sustainable food—it seems fitting to highlight this “good news” story that hasn’t received much attention. Read More
August 8th, 2012
Although I live on the East Coast far from the current drought, I get periodic reports from the front lines from my sister, who lives with her husband in eastern Kansas on 70 acres of grass and woodland. When I visit them next week, I’ll see for myself the brown expanse of grass that used to be their lawn and the ever-lower water level in the catfish pond. They have harvested their hay field early and stored it to help feed their three horses, especially important now that local hay supplies are tight and prices are skyrocketing. Read More