As Congress navigates its way through the 2012 Farm Bill process, Food & Water Watch today released a report that delineates the special interest lobbying efforts that shaped the 2008 Farm Bill. Food & Water Watch estimates that $173.5 million was spent by agribusinesses, commodity groups, food manufacturers and others to perpetuate policies that favor the largest food and agriculture industries. The public demand for broad-based reforms to the food system has been largely stymied by the special interest lobbying muscle that spent more than $500,000 a day during the 110th Congress.

The report, Cultivating Influence: 2008 The Farm Bill Lobbying Frenzy, finds that the 2008 Farm Bill was one of the most well-financed legislative fights of the past decade and breaks down the lobbying spending by more than 1,000 companies, trade associations and other groups. Read more

A new report highlights scientific research and empirical experiences from around the globe demonstrating that genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops have failed to deliver on its advertised promises.

Advocates of GMOs claim that biotechnology increases yields, reduces chemical usage, controls crop pests and weeds, and delivers “climate ready” traits such as drought-tolerance. However, the on-the-ground experience in many countries discloses that this technology has failed on all fronts. Read more

Bad federal policy and intensifying storms are washing away the rich dark soils in the Midwest that made this country an agricultural powerhouse and that remain the essential foundation of a healthy and sustainable food system in the future.

That’s the alarming finding of a new Environmental Working Group report that highlights innovative research by scientists at Iowa State University. The report is titled Losing Ground, and it shows in stark terms what industrial-scale crop production is doing to our soil and water in the Corn Belt. Read more

When it comes to improving conditions for farmworkers, a lack of good data is a huge obstacle. Anna Reynoso, the Mexico program director at the United Farm Workers UFW), says she’s never had a comprehensive source of answers to questions like what protections farmworkers have under the law, what type of challenges they face, or even how many of them are living in the US. “Finding this info has been a very piecemeal process as far as having to go to one agency or organization for one report at a time,” she says.

That’s why the newly released Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States is a big step forward for farmworker advocacy. The report, a joint effort by the Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) Foundation and the UFW (with additional support from Oxfam America), compiles crucial data on the six states (California, Florida, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, and Texas) with the largest farmworker populations. Read more

For years now, the most-asked question by detractors of the good food movement has been, “Can organic agriculture feed the world?” According to a new United Nations report, the answer is a big, fat yes.

The report, Agro-ecology and the Right to Food, released yesterday, reveals that small-scale sustainable farming would even double food production within five to 10 years in places where most hungry people on the planet live.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations,” Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report, said in a press release. “The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.” Read more

Interest in how our food is grown has been rekindled in recent years, with particular focus on sustainable agriculture. But what exactly is sustainable agriculture? Recently, everyone from certifiers like the Food Alliance, to resource groups like the National Center for Appropriate Technology, to producer groups like the California Farm Bureau Federation, to multi-stakeholder efforts like the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture have been clamoring for authority on the matter, framing up widely varying definitions and criteria to steer the national dialogue.

Last week, the National Research Council (NRC) upped the ante with the publication of Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems for the 21st Century. The report will surely be an important milestone on the path toward agricultural sustainability. Read more