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ARS Highlights Alternatives to Antibiotics for Animal Agriculture

As concerns grow about antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our food, environment, and hospitals, the Agricultural Research Service is trying to figure out the best alternatives for food animal producers, who have long relied on these miracle drugs for combating diseases and boosting feed efficiency.

Though antibiotic resistance is a known consequence of antibiotic use in both humans and animals, agricultural use has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as more consumers take an interest in how their food is produced. According to the most recent estimates, around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States each year are used in food animal production. Read more

The Corporate Hijacking of America’s Land-Grant Universities

If you live in the United States, you’re never far from a land-grant university.  There are more than 100 of these institutions, which go by names like Texas A&M, Iowa State University and the University of California.

This system of schools was initiated in 1862 with lofty goals in mind—elevating agriculture to the realm of science, offering the common citizen access to higher education, and pursuing research that helps farmers improve their fields and fatten their hens. The program was a major success, providing invaluable research that was freely shared with farmers, which revolutionized American agriculture.

Unfortunately, today these public institutions are increasingly serving private interests, not the public good. Hundreds of millions of dollars are now flowing from corporate agribusiness into the land-grant university to sponsor buildings, endow professorships and pay for research. One land-grant university, South Dakota State, is headed by a man who sits on Monsanto’s board of directors.   Read more

Wanted: Scientific Integrity on GMOs

As reported in this week’s UK Guardian, Nina Federoff spoke about threats to science at a meeting of 8,000 professional scientists. The former Bush Administration official (and former adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) and GMO proponent described her “profound depression” at how difficult it is to “get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.” I too have agonized over our inability to talk seriously about climate change.

However—and this is no small matter—by conflating fringe climate-deniers with established scientists raising valid concerns about the effects of GMOs, Federoff undermines the scientific integrity that she purports to uphold. The hypocrisy is astonishing. Read more

Eat to Defeat Cancer

Would you change the way you eat if it kept you from getting cancer or stopped the disease in its tracks? Could you see yourself adding more sustainable, fresh local foods to your diet every day if it might prolong your life?  Cancer researcher Dr. William Li, of the Angiogenesis Foundation, thinks you can.

Li’s work revolves around looking at the way that our blood vessels–every person has around 60,000–deliver oxygen and nutrients to the all our body’s organs, but can also feed cancers and grow tumors in the body. To prove his theory about the preventative powers of healthy food, his Angiogenesis Foundation has kicked off an Eat to Defeat campaign, that has a goal of signing up one million volunteers who are willing to increase their intake of healthy foods, and to become a part of his research. Read more

Monsanto-Tied Scientist Abruptly Quits Key USDA Research Post

On a slow Friday afternoon, a surprising bit of news came down the pike: Roger Beachy, head of  National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the main research arm of the USDA, has officially resigned his post, effective May 20.

Who is Beachy? When Obama hired Beachy in 2009, I got a case of policy whiplash, because it seemed to me that the administration kept whipping back and forth between progressive food-system change and agribusiness as usual. Beachy, you see, came to the post from the Danforth Plant Science Center, where had he served as the organization’s president since its founding in 1998. Nestled in Monsanto’s St. Louis home town, Danforth has long and deep ties to Monsanto. Read more

Study on School Gardens Brings Fresh Results

These days, we hear more and more about our food system in crisis: contamination, obesity, poor distribution, and environmental devastation.  To combat some of these issues, the school garden is a growing trend that aims to teach our kids a more direct connection to their food and eating habits.  It’s actually not a new concept.  During World War I and II, motivated by scarcity and national security issues, schools  became major suppliers of fresh produce.  Our government began the U.S. School Garden Army, promoting fruit and vegetable production, consumption, and health.  But now the format has entered modern times, up against modern ailments and a larger population.

It is one thing to plant a few sunflowers with Kindergarteners and another to install, maintain, and implement nutrition, cooking, and ecological curriculum that ensure a lasting impact on the students.  It’s not as easy as just planting some tomatoes and hoping our kids will get the message. We’ve all encountered a neglected schoolyard, tangled weeds and scorched earth, with evidence of good intention but stunted momentum.  To really hit home on the important seed to fork lessons a school garden can deliver, it takes tons of work, planning, thought, and consistency…a home garden times one hundred or more.  The hurdles involved are also great, from our national policies, to funding, to actual space available within our country’s concrete landscapes. Read more

Genetically Modified Canola Goes Feral. A New Superweed?

One of the primary concerns with transgenic (aka genetically modified) crops is the risk of genetic contamination, i.e. the transfer of engineered genes to wild versions of the same plant. The corporations involved in genetic engineering, such as Monsanto and Bayer CropScience, have time and again assured regulators and the public that this risk is minimal. Still, the government mandates “buffer zones” around such crops’ plantings and the corporations who sell the seeds have created their own protocols to ensure this kind of thing never happens.

Well, surprise! It’s happened. Big time. Read more

Why We All Need to Demand Organic and Worship the Worm

“What is wrong with us? Why do we seem to care so little about our own safety, our own health, and the future of our children?” asks Maria Rodale, farmer, author and CEO of Rodale Inc. “Why are we willing to pay thousands of dollars for vitro fertility treatments when we can’t conceive, but not a few extra dollars for the organic food that might help to preserve the reproductive health of our own and future generations?”

In her powerful and informative new book, Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe, Maria Rodale has done all of the thinking and the research about organic farming for us. Yay, we don’t have to think! Following in the path of her grandfather, JI Rodale, who launched Organic Gardening and Farming magazine in 1942 and her father Robert Rodale, who devoted his life to educating others on health and environmental issues, Maria Rodale explains why and how we must immediately begin to undo the damage we have done to the environment and to ourselves. Read more

GMOs: Further Study Needed

There have indeed been studies that have indicated genetically engineered crops like corn and soy might negatively affect our health. Most of these studies conclude by saying “more study is needed” — but further study never happens because Monsanto, which owns the patents of most GMO seeds simply won’t give them to independent researchers for scientific use without onerous restrictions. The federal government has been no help because under industry pressure the EPA and the FDA ruled back in the 1990s that GMO crops are “substantially equivalent” to their conventional brethren and they have shown no interest in re-opening the GMO can of worms. Read more