May 25, 2007

Farm, Food and Biofuels Report

United States

A handful of congressional representatives accepted a challenge to eat on $21 per week, the amount currently provided to food stamp recipients.

A small provision in the prospective Farm Bill may prevent local communities from restricting the growth of genetically modified organisms, such as pharmaceutical rice or cloned animals, that have been deemed safe by the federal government.

The path that melamine-tainted food took into the U.S. reveals that, more than just a food safety concern, this country has a serious port security loophole.

Penn State College has just opened the Agriculture and Environment Science and Policy Center to better address the intersections between natural and commercial ecosystems.

If you didn't catch it, a new set of school food standards aims to reduce obesity in children by setting voluntary guidelines for the "competitive" food sold in school vending machines.

The oil industry has discovered yet another excuse for not building or upgrading refineries and is now blaming biofuels for high gasoline prices.

Tom Philpott of Grist writes about how the ethanol craze is pitting agribusiness industries against each other and the way the practice of demonizing food allows a nifty grain like corn to be turned into a scapegoat for a poorly-run food system. Also, he interviews Sandor Katz about the joys of fermentation, which is the way food used to preserved for long term storage before there were things like indestructible Twinkies.

At the Ethicurean, two good food system and farm policy news roundups here and here, pointing to articles that defend veganism, discuss conservation measures in the Farm Bill, corporate greenwashing and the high merits of grassfed beef. Guest author Elanor Starmer writes about agriculture and the immigration debate, also giving a brief overview of the history of migrant farm labor in the U.S.

Some interesting theories about honeybee die-offs, including anecdotal observations about the health of organic hives and the trap of the bigger-is-better mentality.

The Iraq spending bill just passed in Congress includes $3 billion in agricultural disaster relief as well as a one-month extension to dairy price supports, aka, the MILC program. Now, you might be wondering what the big deal is with a one-month extension, and it's this: without that extra month, the program would have been ineligible to be automatically included in the next Farm Bill that would govern agricultural expenditures until 2012. The MILC program has had broad support in the agricultural lobbying community, largely in recognition of the fact that dairy producers would be backed into a take-no-prisoners approach to finding funding in other budgets.


Dave Johnson points out that Fair Trade coffee has its own market barriers that leave out more marginalized producers.

Much ink has been spilled over Peak Oil, but global demand and environmental constraints may indicate that we've passed peak milk and fish. Though with milk, it might also be that there's a producer shortage, at least in the U.S.

A Minnesota study indicates that biofuels might set the conditions for there to be another 600 million chronically hungry people in the world and the Japanese are concerned about food security as they forecast sharp increases in the demand for grain for human consumption to march alongside competition for that grain with biofuel production.

China's rising power, combined with good economic advice for developing nations is standing it in better stead than the World Bank in the eyes of some African countries for whom the message of 'privatize, privatize, privatize' has not proved helpful.

Africa has been deemed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be the continent most at risk from global climate disruption, and this article notes that the effects are already being felt in the extinction and endangerment of livestock breeds that depend on fragile, steadily degrading ecosystems.

Taken as a region, however, Southeast Asia puts in a fairly good bid to the claim of most at risk from climate change: 500 million of its residents live in areas vulnerable to sea-level rise. Though the area hasn't been a major focus of the international climate debate, between greenhouse emissions, forest burning for biofuel crop production and other agriculture, as well as the trade offs between meeting energy needs through either coal or hydropower, there's a lot to think about in terms of their place in the global climate picture.

Pakistan discovers a fifth bird flu outbreak in a week.

Posted by natasha at May 25, 2007 11:14 AM | Agriculture | Technorati links |