The Fight Over Food Deserts Starts with Fair Wages

This June the City of Chicago approved Walmart’s bid to open up dozens of new facilities, beginning with grocery stores in the city’s chronically underserved South side. Just a month earlier the company committed $2 billion dollars to fight hunger in the U.S. But behind the high profile donations is a decidedly less charitable story repeating itself throughout corporate America.

In large part fueled by Michelle Obama’s goal to eliminate food deserts in seven years, Walmart has set the PR machine in motion around its new battle cry: “The Great Grocery Smackdown:” Read more

Detroit: A Tale of Two… Farms?

recent article in The Wall Street Journal celebrated the Hantz Farms project to establish a 10,000 acre private farm in Detroit. The project hinges on a very large land deal offered by financial services magnate John Hantz to buy up over 2,000 empty lots from the city of Detroit. Hantz’s ostensible objective is to establish the world’s largest urban mega-farm.

I say “ostensible” because despite futuristic artists’ renderings of Hantz Farms’ urban greenhouses, presently John Hantz is actually growing trees rather than food. The project website invites us to imagine “high-value trees… in even-spaced rows” on a three-acre pilot site recently cleaned, cleared and planted to hardwood saplings. These trees, it seems, are just a first step in establishing a 200 acre forest and eventually–pending approval by the City Council–the full Hantz megafarm.

In the short run, the purchase by Hantz cleans things up, puts foreclosed lots back on the tax rolls and relieves the city of maintenance responsibilities. If the tree farm expands, it could provide a few jobs. In the long run, however, Hantz hopes his farm will create land scarcity in order to push up property values–property that he will own a lot of. Read more

Monsanto in Gates’ Clothing? The Emperor’s New GMOs

If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch’s recent announcement of the Foundation’s investment of $23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead.

If you are one of those people who believes the axiom that Monsanto is the farmer’s friend (and the corollary, that its climate-ready, bio-fortified GMOs can save the world from hunger) you will not be surprised, disappointed, or find any conflict of interest in this investment.

But if you are part of the growing population who gets their information about GMOs from scientists who are not beholden to corporate funding, has a problem with anti-trust issues, or is getting queasy about the increasing monopoly power of philanthropy capital… it’s time to say the Emperor has no clothes. Read more