Most observers agree that we are facing big obstacles to producing enough food sustainably in coming decades. Issues of distribution and food justice remain paramount, but production must also be adequate, and the huge impact that agriculture has on the environment must be reversed. Read More
October 17th, 2013
In the land of humongous farms, the critical importance of small farms for food security is a counterintuitive message. But if we look at what most of the largest farms are growing in the U.S. Midwest, or Argentina and Brazil, it is corn and soybeans to feed livestock and biofuel production. Neither contribute much to supplying food—and especially good nutrition—to the billions who cannot afford meat. Meat is a welcome part of many diets, but besides being expensive, is also an inefficient means to produce protein. Read More
October 17th, 2013
At a glitzy awards ceremony this evening at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, three individuals will be awarded the prestigious World Food Prize. To the dismay of many, all three are experts on genetic engineering and pioneers of its early use in agriculture. Two actually work for agribusiness giants—Monsanto and its Swiss rival, Syngenta—that develop and sell this technology. Read More
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
July 29th, 2013
It’s a huge insect pest problem on soybeans, one of the country’s major crops. A recent paper estimates that it costs growers 2 to 5 billion dollars annually in lost productivity and insecticide use. But fortunately technology has an answer—several genes that control the pest, and can reduce or eliminate the need for chemical insecticides that harm people and the environment. Read More
July 25th, 2013
Farmers planting crops that can’t be sold? That doesn’t sound like a sensible proposition, does it? After all, seed cost money and so does the equipment to get them in the ground. Why grow ‘em if you can’t sell ‘em? Read More
June 20th, 2013
As reported in the New York Times, the prestigious World Food Prize was awarded today to a trio of scientists who had important roles in the early development of crop genetic engineering. One, Robert Fraley, is at Monsanto, and another Mary-Dell Chilton, is with another seed giant, Syngenta. The third is European scientist Marc Van Montagu. Read More
February 14th, 2013
It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. The President loves the First Lady’s bangs. Grammy-winner Kelly Clarkson loves fellow winner Miguel (now that she knows who he is). Babies (apparently) love Beyoncé.
And the Monsanto Company, the world’s largest seed and agrichemical seller, is making sure we all know how much they love American farmers.
December 18th, 2012
The new report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) addresses the state of U.S. agriculture research. The report notes that public funding for agricultural research has stagnated, while industry sources have increased greatly to 61 percent of the total—three times the amount from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read More
July 3rd, 2012
The Monsanto Company is raking it in—last week they reported third quarter profits of $937 million. Yes, you read that right: Monsanto’s profit for the three-month period ending May 31 amounted to nearly a billion dollars, up a whopping 35% from the same quarter last year. That raging river of cash flowing in must make it easy for the company to finance a flurry of advertising and lobbying extolling the virtues its products. According to Monsanto’s PR, the company is feeding a growing population, protecting natural resources, and promoting biodiversity.