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Sustainability:
Agriculture & Forests

August 28, 2009




  The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct. To say, as many do, that the difficulties of nations are not due to people but to poor ideology or land-use management is sophistic.   January 1995   E.O. Wilson 003105

Agricultural Sustainability Webpage.     Union of Concerned Scientists 003095

Ethiopian Farmers Talk About Population Pressure.   Farmers, from Amhara Region in the Rift Valley, are acutely aware that farm sizes shrink with each generation and speak of the need for access to family planning. Rural Ethiopians currently have an average of six children. With scientists they discussed the feasibility of African agriculture adapting to climate change. Population pressure had only been mentioned in passing, until the session with the farmers. Ethiopia has a 2007 population of 74 million, but many say the county's population is more likely closer to 80 million. In the workshop only one presentation mentioned family planning. The project includes promoting sustainable living for future generations. Preliminary results suggest that the family planning component has been well received and that contraceptive use, may have grown to over 30% of married couples. These results illustrate how much Ethiopian men and women in remote areas want contraception. The need for family planning in rural Ethiopia is high at 36%. Over one-third of women in rural Ethiopia want to stop childbearing or space their next birth by at least two years, but they are not currently using contraception. More than eight in ten Ethiopians earn their living from farming, but as families grow over time, plots are divided into smaller pieces that are less able to support the families that tend them. Climate change, combined with population pressure are having a tremendous impact on their lives. Integrated population, health and environment projects that link a range of needs, including the desire for smaller families, show great promise. Ethiopia is working to expand such promising programs.   December 15, 2009   Population Action International 023550

Global: Climate Will Hit Women Hard .   In Africa, poor women farmers will likely be the hardest hit by climate change because of their economic and social inequality, leading to poverty and greater dependence on the state, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A study of disasters in 141 countries found that women and children were 14 times more likely to die than men during a disaster. Rural women produce more than half of all the food that is grown - up to 80% in Africa, 60% in Asia, and 30%-40% in Latin and North America, according to the Women's World Summit Foundation. In South Africa, not enough is being done by local government to help rural farmers, who are mainly women, to adapt to changing weather patterns and plant crops better suited to the climate, or to cope with increased rainfall or flooding. Climate change could mean women spending more time trying to meet their food and water needs for their families, reducing the quality of their lives. "Women can play a critical role in either hindering or promoting vital climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives relating to energy consumption, deforestation, burning of vegetation, population growth, development of scientific research and technologies and policy making." Productivity is also expected to drop 20%-50% during a new el Niño weather event, which forecasters say is likely to bring below-average rainfall from October to March.   August 20, 2009   Business Day (South Africa) 024130

Ethiopia: Southern Region Gripped by Food Shortage .   Rains that came too little and too late after harvest time led to the [current] food shortage 370km south of Addis Ababa. Farmers who had prepared their land could only sow 50-70%. A critical water shortage has been reported in parts of Somali Region, particularly in Warder, Gode, and parts of Afder and Shinile zones. "The current hunger season is particularly severe and will be longer than normal this year," FEWS Net said. The distribution of therapeutic food has been suspended by some agencies and families have lost children to malnutrition-related illnesses and say they are concerned about the surviving ones. The food tastes like sweetened peanut butter and is made from peanut paste, vegetable oil, sugar, milk powder, vitamins and minerals. The UN Children's Agency, UNICEF, estimates that 242,000 children under the age of five from 309 districts in Ethiopia will suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) this year. Increased numbers of cases have been reported from Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR), Oromiya and Somali regions. A shortage of "routine medications", such as gentamicin and crystalline penicillin, had also caused difficulties in the treatment of severely malnourished children with medical complications and diseases, especially malaria, which exacerbates malnutrition.   August 2009   IRIN News (UN) 024145

Ethiopia: Southern Region Gripped by Food Shortage .   Rains that came too little and too late after harvest time led to the [current] food shortage 370km south of Addis Ababa. Farmers who had prepared their land could only sow 50-70%. A critical water shortage has been reported in parts of Somali Region, particularly in Warder, Gode, and parts of Afder and Shinile zones. "The current hunger season is particularly severe and will be longer than normal this year," FEWS Net said. The distribution of therapeutic food has been suspended by some agencies and families have lost children to malnutrition-related illnesses and say they are concerned about the surviving ones. The food tastes like sweetened peanut butter and is made from peanut paste, vegetable oil, sugar, milk powder, vitamins and minerals. The UN Children's Agency, UNICEF, estimates that 242,000 children under the age of five from 309 districts in Ethiopia will suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) this year. Increased numbers of cases have been reported from Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR), Oromiya and Somali regions. A shortage of "routine medications", such as gentamicin and crystalline penicillin, had also caused difficulties in the treatment of severely malnourished children with medical complications and diseases, especially malaria, which exacerbates malnutrition.   August 2009   IRIN News (UN) 024146

U.S.: New, Highly Toxic Pesticide is Greenhouse Gas 4,780 Times More Potent Than CO2.   The Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Pesticide Action Network, and the Sierra Club recently asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny a request from Dow AgroSciences for a permit allowing it to release large amounts of sulfuryl fluoride onto 65 acres of test plots in farm fields in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California. The chemical is intended to sterilize soil in farm fields, but is a toxic pesticide "4,780 times as potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide", according to Pesticide Action Network. The permit would allow the release of 32,435 pounds. "A car that gets 30 miles per gallon would have to be driven 23 million miles - the distance of a trip circling the world over 930 times" - to cause as much global warming that the test would emit. Craig Segall of the Sierra Club said "We're asking EPA to nip this problem in the bud." Sulfuryl fluoride also poses significant human health and ecological risks, due to its high toxicity. The EPA needs to carefully reviewed the health risks for those exposed to the chemical or considered the impacts of the releases on endangered species and other wildlife.   Karen Gaia says: the more people there are to feed, the more we need to resort to drastic measures to feed them.   July 13, 2009   Center for Biological Diversity 024059

Hunger: Agriculture has role to play Truth about Trade & Technology.   The overall number of undernourished people in the world has risen to 963 million, compared to 923 million in 2007. For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a dream. The lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a reality. Lower prices and the economic crisis could force farmers to plant less food and unleash another round of dramatic food prices next year. The majority of the world's undernourished live in developing countries, and there is a growing concern emerging in the developed world as a result of economic instability. The National Farmers Union (NFU) and Feeding America called for immediate actions to ensure the availability of a sufficient food supply for all Americans. A survey shows that more and more Americans are turning to food banks to put food on their tables. A reported 30% increase in demand for food at food banks over the previous 12 months. Unemployment is the primary reason for the increases for emergency food assistance. While unemployment and economic hardship have been largely to blame for the growing crisis in America, limitations on the use of technology at the farm also negatively affect the nation's ability to produce affordable food. If the food produced on U.S. farms is not affordable, then true sustainability really hasn't been achieved. In the next 40 years, the amount of food that will need to be produced to feed the world's growing population will be greater than the amount already produced throughout the history of humankind. That is a huge challenge for farmers and ranchers around the world, and is only achievable through continued access to technology, improvements in genetics, proper animal care and efficiency in production. Producers must be allowed to make choices regarding the technology they apply, Product safety, wholesomeness, convenience and affordability are most often the deciding factors. In the 1940s, a single farmer/rancher fed 19 others. Today's U.S. farmer/rancher feeds 144 other people. Farmers and ranchers, universities and the food production sectores need to openly and aggressively talk more about the productivity gains achieved. A recent analysis showed that productivity gains have resulted from the adoption of technology, as well as improvements in cow genetics and management practices. If productivity per cow continues to be negatively affected as a result of the removal of technology, particularly recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), affordability of dairy products at the retail level will be significantly influenced, and the overall sustainability of the food system will be compromised. The goal of reducing the carbon footprint in tandem with feeding a hungry world is only possible through improving productivity with the technology used at the farm level. More cows will be needed to meet the demand of the future, but through the use of technologies and husbandry, the required increase in productive efficiency potentially can be greatly reduced.   Karen Gaia says: Cows require a lot of resources that might be better put to other types of agriculture.   January 01, 2009   Truth About Trade & Technology 023484

Update on the Terra Preta Article.   The fundamental problem with most tropical soils is their low organic matter contents relative to relatively fertile temperate soils. As a result, nutrients in tropical soils tend to be leached out or mineralized, resulting in low fertilities and long fallow periods in tropical croplands and grazing lands. The solution to this problem was discovered by Amazonians thousands of years ago, and spread to 1-10% of Amazonia. However the technology was never transferred to European immigrants to the new world. The issue attracted international attention around 2001, resulting in soil scientists from around the world now working to discover how to replicate the large expanses of the still-fertile ancient soils ("Terra Preta") that Brazilians extract and sell. Success seems certain given the scientific capabilities of modern-day soil scientists relative to those of ancient Amazonians. Success would almost certainly reduce, or eliminate, the hunger being experienced by about 0.8 billion of the world's population, most of whom are part of the 75% of the world's population that live in tropical countries. Success could also create an additional carbon sink large enough to hold all current and future anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to around 2100. Photosynthesis would draw these atmospheric greenhouse gasses into the terra preta. This could produce a net zero release of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and restore global surface temperatures to those prior to the industrial revolution in a matter of decades. Deforestation and illegal logging provide the primary threats to the success of large-scale creation of new terra preta. The terra preta strategy for addressing global warming would also reduce, or eliminate, the need for shifting cultivators to abandon their cropland every three or so years and clear a new patch of tropical forest. Follow the link above to the new terra preta article.   December 2008   Bruce Sundquist wsebpage 023506

'Arid Aquaculture' Among Livelihoods Promoted To Relieve Worsening Pressure On World's Drylands.   Using ponds filled with undrinkable water for fish production is one option experts have proven to be an alternative livelihood for people living in desertified parts of the world. Alternatives to crop and livestock rearing will be needed in order to mitigate human causes of desertification. Researchers say using briny water to establish aquaculture in Pakistan not only introduced a new source of income, it helped improve nutrition through diet diversification. It was possible to cultivate some vegetables with the same type of brackish water. Other promising alternatives include: 1. The manufacture and marketing of soap derived from olive oil and fragrances from dryland plants. 2. Developing sustainable drylands ecotourism, which brings income while encouraging villagers to conserve ecosystems. 3. Harnessing solar power. 4. Producing wool and sand-based handicrafts for sale to visitors. Options have the potential to reduce the pressure on marginal drylands, and yield higher income per investment than traditional livelihoods. Innovations are needed to ensure long-term sustainability and to avoid desertification in the face of growing population pressures. People living in drylands need help from all quarters and all levels of government. The alternative will be a migration in two or three generations that will stagger the world's capacity. Drylands are home to nearly a third of the global population. Drylands degradation results from droughts, inappropriate irrigation, deforestation, overgrazing, and poor land use practices. Traditional designs for water storage cisterns and ponds, can be improved with modern materials and techniques. In parts of Egypt, new desalination technologies using solar energy were successfully introduced. In China participating families were trained in entrepreneurship and business principles. Future plans include producing organic chicken and eggs.   Ralph says: Not a mention of slowing or halting the population growth. Surely that is the best way to solve these problems!!!!!! Oh sorry I forgot, TABOO   November 11, 2008   ScienceDaily 023327

The Breadbasket of South Korea: Madagascar.   South Korea's Daewoo Logistics negotiated a 99-year lease on 3.2 million acres of farmland on the dirt-poor tropical island of Madagascar, which is off southern Africa's Indian Ocean coast. The lease takes up nearly half of Madagascar's arable land. 75% of the leased land will be put into corn and 25% into palm oil - to be used as biofuel. Daewoosaid that the crops would "ensure our food security" and would use "totally undeveloped land which had been left untouched." South Korea is the world's third-largest importer of corn. Daewoo's move may not be the most effective way of promoting food security. Riots have occured in dozens of countries across the world over the past year as poor people have found themselves unable to pay the rocketing prices for staples such as rice, corn and sugar. 70% of the Madagascar's 20 million people live below the poverty line. The U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) runs food-relief programs there because of the frequency with which they are struck by cyclones and droughts. The idea of a corporate giant growing food to be consumed by people and animals in Korea raises "ethical concerns," says the head of the FAO'S Trade Policy Service in Rome. The British company Sun Biofuelsis is planting biofuel crops in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania. Countries of the oil-rich Persian Gulf desert states import most of their food are also looking at Africa. African governments are eager to get capital into agriculture since most African farmers lack money for fertilizer, basic tools, fuel and transport infrastructure to efficiently grow crops and get them to market. Even though international organizations have plowed billions into health and education, agriculture in Africa has lagged, exacerbating the food crisis of the past year. Daewoo plans to invest about $6 billion to build the port facilities, roads, power-plants and irrigation systems necessary to support its agribusiness there, which will create thousands of jobs for Madagascar's unemployed. And jobs will help the people of Madagascar earn money to buy their own food - even if it is imported.   Karen Gaia says: if Daewoo sells produce from farmland in Madagascar to the relatively rich Koreans, where are the theoretical newly-rich Madagascar people going to import their food from? This only makes sense if supplies of food are unlimited somewhere on this planet.   November 2008   Time 024109

Forests to Fall for Food and Fuel.   Demand for land to grow food, fuel crops and wood is set to outstrip supply. Only half of the extra land needed by 2030 is available without eating into tropical forested areas. There is poor progress in reforming land ownership and governance in developing countries. We are on the verge of a last great global land grab. It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone. About 515 million hectares of extra land will be needed for growing crops and trees by 2030, but only 200 million hectares will be available without dipping into tropical forests. The amount of agricultural land required to meet the projected food demand in 2050 would be about three billion hectares, nearly all in developing countries. The world currently has about 1.4 billion hectares of arable land and about 3.4 billion hectares of pasture. Since the spectacular successes of the Green Revolution, advances have been slow. In some areas, yields are falling. Eating into tropical forests to create extra agricultural land would, exacerbate climate change, with deforestation accounting for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Reform of land ownership is crucial, if large-scale pillage of tropical forests is to be avoided. Only by protecting the rights of the people who live in and around the world's most vulnerable forests can we prevent devastation. But progress in reforming ownership has been slow, with only a few countries such as Brazil, Cameroon and Tanzania handing over significant tracts to local communities. Who owns rights to the trees - the rich Western countries, or the people who live in the forest areas? About two-thirds of the world's current violent conflicts are driven by land tenure issues.   July 14, 2008   BBC NEWS 023401

With the Right Technology and Policies, India Could Help Feed the World. Instead, it Can Barely Feed Itself.   India's arable land is second only the US, its economy is one of the fastest growing, and its industrial innovation is legendary. But its output lags behind potential. For some staples, India must turn to already international markets, exacerbating a global food crisis. This country is growing faster than its ability to produce rice and wheat. India's growing affluent population demands more food and a greater variety. Farmers, subsisting on small, rain-fed plots, are poor, and inflation has soared past 11%, the highest in 13 years. The Green Revolution introduced high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, expanded the use of irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers, and transformed the northwestern plains into India's breadbasket. But since the 1980s, the government has not expanded irrigation and access to loans or to advance agricultural research. Groundwater has been depleted at alarming rates. Changes in temperature and rain patterns could diminish India's agricultural output by 30% by the 2080s. Family farms have shrunk in size and a mounting debt is driving some farmers to suicide. Many find it profitable to sell their land to developers. Many are experimenting with high-value fruits and vegetables but there are few refrigerated trucks to transport their produce to supermarkets. An inefficient supply chain means that the farmer receives less than a fifth of the price the consumer pays. One farmer has seen the water table under his land sink by 100 feet over three decades. By the 1980s, government investment in canals fed by rivers had tapered off, and wells became the principal source of irrigation, helped by a policy of free electricity to pump water. In Punjab, more than three-fourths of the districts extract more groundwater than is replenished. Between 1980 and 2002, the government subsidized fertilizers and food grains for the poor, but reduced its investment in agriculture. Today only 40% of Indian farms are irrigated. The summers are hotter, the rains more fickle. India raised a red flag two years ago about how heavily the appetites of its 1.1 billion people would weigh on world food prices. For the first time, India had to import wheat and in two years it bought about 7 million tons. Today, two staples of the Indian diet are imported in ever-increasing quantities, but could supply food to the rest of the world if the existing agricultural productivity gap could be closed. But some farmers make more money selling out to land-hungry mall developers. For years a farmer could sell his crop to a private trader, but for many it was easier to go to the nearest government granary, and accept their rate. For years, those prices remained low, and there was little incentive for farmers to invest in their crop. After two years of having to import wheat, the government offered farmers a higher price for their grain: farmers not only planted more wheat but also sold much more of their harvest to the state and the country's buffer stocks were at record levels. The country would not need to buy wheat on the world market this year, but how long it will remain the case is unclear. From one quarter comes pressure to introduce genetically modified crops with greater yields; from another lawsuits to stop it. And from another pleas to mount a greener Green Revolution. A British research institution, said: "This time around, it needs to be more efficient in its use of water, energy, fertilizer and land."   June 22, 2008   New York Times* 023269

Population Key to Global Food Crisis.   Author David Stringer says 20 million of the poorest children are threatened with the "first global food crisis since World War II." The price of rice has more than doubled in the last five weeks. The World Bank estimates food prices have risen 83% in three years. Various reasons are offered, rising fuel prices, unpredictable weather, rising demand from India and China, the increase in demand for meat and dairy products. Various solutions were suggested. Plant genetically modified crops that can withstand drought or that produce more nutrients. And yet, there was no mention of the main driver of hunger: too many people. Policymakers are missing the point if they believe producing more food will solve the problem, when the increase in population outstrips the increase in food production. Two points are coming home to haunt us. The increased production relied heavily on the use of fossil fuel and artificial fertilizers. Even though more food was produced, it did not keep up with the increase in world population. Voluntarily limiting population size is a touchy subject. Some of the world's religions won't listen to arguments in favor of stabilizing our population. Our current administration prohibits aid to any organization that promotes family planning through contraception. This is short sighted. 25,000 people die each day of starvation and poverty. Vermont could grow enough food to feed all of our residents. But that will not include exotic fruits and vegetables or large quantities of meat and dairy products. It is past time for our policy makers to face up to the fact that our world only has enough crop land and fresh water to provide for a population that is less than we now try to support.   June 05, 2008   Burlington Free Press 023271

Is India Falling Into the Malthusian Trap?.   India provided the final stage to re-enact Malthus theory on growth pattern between population and food grain production in the 1960s, when India was plagued by booming population growth and a diffident growth in food production. Malthus was the first economist by training to teach at the college founded at Haileybury in England by the East India Company. The theories of Malthus, as propounded in an essay on the principles of population as it affects the future improvement of society, were sown then, centuries before the India's foodgrains crisis of the 1960s. Over 200 years after his doctrine was published in 1798, the Malthusian theory has come back to haunt the Indian economy all over again. Agricultural production has dipped from 3.8% cent in 2006-07 to 2.6% in 2007-08. Between 1950-51 and 2006-07 the production increased at an annual 2.5%, which was ahead of the population growth of 2.1%. But during 1990-2007, foodgrains production dropped to 1.2% as population growth averaged 1.9%. This disproportionate growth between foodgrains production and population growth does not fully explain the present crisis, which is beginning to assume global dimensions. This is where the theories of David Ricardo, another classical economist of the eighteenth century, come in handy. He developed theories which showed that economic development is not universal. Instead, he helped prove that countries do not develop at the same pace and that development often accentuates economic and social inequity. The strident growth since the 1990s has nurtured a middle class demanding greater volume and better quality food. The volume of food consumed by the burgeoning middle class and the upper crust has grown significantly. This would also have contributed to the crisis that is unfolding in the food sector. There has also been a slower growth in the agricultural sector. This has been pronounced since 1996-97, mainly as a result of the acceleration in the growth of industry and the services sectors. There was also a demand from a shift in cultivation from coarse to fine cereals. This shift seems to have eventually led to a fall in the area under foodgrains production, declining at an annual rate of 0.26% from 1989 to 2006. The poorest segments of society paid the highest price for this shift. On a long-term basis, the consumption of cereals fell from a peak of 468 gm per day in 1990-91 to 412 gm in 2005-06. The consumption of pulses declined from 42 gm to 33 gm. For upper and middle class, any reduction in cereal consumption would have been more than made up by their increased intake of milk, eggs and meat. But no such shifts for the poorer segments. There is no doubt that the impact from decreased food consumption would have hit the poorest segment the hardest. The crisis in foodgrains production has been compounded by a surge in global demand and prices. Fast growing economies of China, Brazil and East Asia have precipitated the demand. Several of the food surplus countries across the world have been shifting from food crops to bio-fuels. India was quick to seek to purchase foodgrains. But this proved insufficient and the UN sees more people going hungry in Philippines as rice prices soar. We will see growing reports of starvation around the world as a result of population growth combined with the diversion of food grains into biofuel production.   May 21, 2008   Business Line 023020

UN Sees More People Going Hungry in Philippines as Rice Prices Soar.   UN warned that the Philippines may have to feed people as the price of rice soars out of reach of ordinary households. We see people who would be eligible for assistance, in many countries. The UN provides food aid to about 1.1 million of the Philippines' 90 million people. The UN was unlikely to ramp up its food aid to the Philippines since it is considered a "middle-income country" with lower priority. Manila could have to boost spending on subsidies to maintain current prices of the lowest-quality rice that it sells to the poor. People spend 70% of their income on food and are having a struggle meeting their needs. The fields that get enough water have never been more productive, but a lot have no irrigation. For decades, governments have been encouraging a boom in services and skyscrapers, but not the capacity to grow more rice. It's a failure to recognize the importance of agriculture. At the center of the storm is the Philippines, the world's largest importer of rice. But because global rice supplies are so tight the Philippines is having a hard time fulfilling an import order of around one million tons. The country is paying exorbitant prices for whatever rice it can get its hands on. A shortfall of 10% is expected for 2008. Why can't the Philippines, and other countries in Asia, produce enough rice to feed themselves? Thailand, the world's largest producer, has 9.82 million hectares of rice fields. The Philippines has 4 million hectares of productive farmland spread over 7,000 miles. The Philippines lacks a river delta, which by providing an abundant water source, allows Asian countries like Vietnam, India, and Cambodia to produce higher rice harvests. Rising oil prices have made rice more expensive to produce,. Pests in Vietnam have wiped out 200,000 tons; and the collapse of Australia's rice production due to drought has eaten away at global rice stocks. Government spending on agriculture accelerated in the 1960s and '70s, it slowed by half throughout the 1990s. In 2002, the Philippines invested only $0.46 for every $100 of agricultural output, a level consistent with the rest of Asia. Asia is a slacker when it comes to investment in agriculture. Instead, Asia is transforming farmland into office parks and suburbs. Manufacturing is demanding more and more water. The most important factor, there are simply more mouths to feed. The population in the Philippines has grown by 2% a year since 2000, leading to a corresponding leap in rice consumption. And exploding middle classes are eating more rice – and more meat. Meat production requires huge amounts of water, labor, and grains to feed cattle. Governments throughout Asia have assumed they could always import more and more food. Stocks of rice are at their lowest since 1976, depleted by a combination of population growth, less farmland, poor planning, and bad weather. Filipino officials said that the country is spearheading a regional meeting of 10 Asian countries to discuss the crisis. In the Philippines, Arroyo's response has been to flood markets with highly subsidized rice, broker a quick deal with Vietnam for 2.2 million tons of rice, and call for a halt on converting farmland into development space. In the long term, developing countries and the international community need to increase investment in agricultural research. Last week, President Arroyo announced a $1 billion investment to improve rice production.   April 22, 2008   France24 022989

Philippines: Roots of Asia's Rice Crisis.   Governments have been encouraging services and skyscrapers, but not the capacity to grow more rice. That neglect is one of the central causes of the rice crisis. The Philippines is the world's largest importer of rice. But because global rice supplies are tight, causing India, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam to restrict exports, the Philippines is having a hard time importing around one million tons. The country is paying exorbitant prices for whatever rice it can get, driving up prices around the world to double last year's. A shortfall of 10% is expected for 2008, causing fears that food riots could erupt as they have in Haiti, Egypt, Mexico, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. At the center of the storm lies a simple question: Why can't the countries in Asia produce enough rice to feed themselves? Some reasons are beyond the control of the Philippines and Indonesia and Malaysia. Their farmland is spread over thousands of miles and different islands, production, maintenance, and transportation make rice cultivation expensive and difficult. Thailand has 9.82 million hectares of rice fields. The Philippines 4 million hectares spread over 7,000 miles. The Philippines also lacks a river delta, which by providing an easy and abundant water source, allows Asian countries to produce higher rice harvests. Other factors include rising oil prices have increased fertilizer and transportation costs; pests in Vietnam, have wiped out 200,000 tons; and the collapse of Australia's rice production due to drought has eaten away at global rice stocks. Spending on agriculture accelerated in the 1960s and '70s, pumped into irrigation systems, fertilizer, and rice breeding that spawned the Green Revolution, it slowed by half throughout the 1990s, according to one study. In 2002, the Philippines invested only $0.46 for every $100 of agricultural output, a level consistent with the rest of Asia. It means that Asia is a slacker when it comes to investment in agriculture. Instead, Asia is transforming farmland into office parks and suburbs. In the Philippines, half of irrigated land has been transformed into urban development in the past two decades. Most important of all, there are more mouths to feed. The population in the Philippines has grown by 2% a year since 2000, one of the highest rates in Asia. Exploding middle classes with more money and bigger appetites are eating more rice, and more meat that requires huge amounts of water, labor, and grains. Governments throughout Asia have assumed they could always import more and more food. India, China, and Cambodia, among others, have imposed strict export restrictions, leaving countries like Malaysia and the Philippines to scramble for any deals they can grab. Solutions could take the form of food-for-work programs, targeted school feeding programs, and conditional cash transfers. These types of programs are more effective than price controls or universal food subsidies. In the Philippines, Arroyo's response has been to flood markets with subsidized rice, broker a deal with Vietnam for 2.2 million tons of rice, and call for a halt on converting farmland into development space. But as the crisis mounts, observers agree that Asia needs a second Green Revolution, a movement launched in the 1960s that resulted in double rice yields through better irrigation and investments in rice technology. Developing countries and the international community need to increase investment in agricultural research and development to develop new disease resistant, higher-yielding varieties. President Arroyo announced a $1 billion investment to improve rice production. The money would go to seed production and training and loans to farmers, as well as updating irrigation and transport systems. Small farms show that investments can pay off. Four years ago, the local government introduced a plant-now pay-later scheme, allowing farmers to buy seeds from a bank, rather than planting their own.   April 22, 2008   Christian Science Monitor 023022

World Facing Huge New Challenge on Food Front.   Food shortages are driving prices to record highs. In the past grain prices have spiked because of weather-related events, but the current doubling of grain prices is the cumulative effect of accelerating growth in demand and other trends that are slowing the growth in supply. In the face of rising food prices and spreading hunger, the social order in some countries is beginning to break down. In Sudan during the first three months of this year, 56 grain-laden trucks were hijacked. This threat has reduced the flow of food into the region by half, raising the specter of starvation if supply lines cannot be secured. In Pakistan, flour prices have doubled and food insecurity is a national concern. In Egypt, the bread lines at bakeries are often the scene of fights. In Yemen, food riots turned deadly, taking at least a dozen lives. Food scarcity involves the restriction of grain exports by countries that want to check the rise in their domestic food prices. Russia, the Ukraine, and Argentina are among the governments that are currently restricting wheat exports. The tight food supply the world is now facing is driven by the cumulative effect of several well established trends: the continuing addition of 70 million people per year to the earth's population and the desire of some 4 billion people to consume more grain-intensive livestock products, and the recent acceleration in the U.S. use of grain to produce ethanol. Little new land is brought under the plow unless it comes from clearing tropical rainforest which has heavy environmental costs. In scores of countries prime cropland is being lost to industrial and residential construction. New sources of irrigation water are even more scarce. During the last half of the twentieth century, world irrigated area nearly tripled, in the years since there has been little, growth. As a result, irrigated area per person is shrinking by 1% a year. Agricultural technology that can be used to raise cropland productivity is dwindling. Beyond this, climate change presents new risks. The collective effect of these trends makes it difficult for farmers to keep pace with the growth in demand. The result is tightening food supplies, rising food prices, and political instability. The world is only one poor harvest away from total chaos in world grain markets. Food security will deteriorate further unless leading countries can collectively mobilize to stabilize population, restrict the use of grain to produce automotive fuel, stabilize climate, stabilize water tables and aquifers, protect cropland, and conserve soils. Stabilizing population requires a worldwide effort to eradicate poverty. The challenge is to quickly alter those trends whose effects threaten food security. If food security cannot be restored quickly, social unrest and political instability will spread and the number of failing states will likely increase dramatically.   April 16, 2008   Earth Policy Institute 022985

World Facing Huge New Challenge on Food Front.   A fast-unfolding food shortage is engulfing the entire world, driving food prices to record highs. The current doubling of grain prices is the effect of accelerating growth in demand and trends that are slowing the growth in supply. The world has not experienced anything like this before. the social order is beginning to break down in some countries. In Thailand, rustlers steal rice by harvesting fields during the night. Thai villagers have taken to guarding rice fields with loaded shotguns. In Sudan, the U.N. World Food Programme is facing a difficult mission. During the first three months of this year, 56 grain-laden trucks were hijacked. Only 20 have been recovered and 24 drivers are still unaccounted for. This threat to U.N.-supplied food to the Darfur camps has reduced the flow of food into the region by half, raising the specter of starvation. In Pakistan, thousands of armed Pakistani troops have been assigned to guard grain elevators and to accompany the trucks that transport grain. Food riots are becoming commonplace. In Egypt, the bread lines at bakeries that distribute state-subsidized bread are often the scene of fights. In Morocco, 34 food rioters were jailed. In Yemen, food riots turned deadly, taking at least a dozen lives. In Cameroon, dozens of people have died in food riots and hundreds have been arrested. Other countries with food riots include Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, and Senegal. The doubling of world wheat, rice, and corn prices has reduced the availability of food aid, putting the 37 countries that depend on the WFP's emergency food assistance at risk. In March, the WFP appealed for $500 million of additional funds. Around the world, a politics of food scarcity is emerging. It involves the restriction of grain exports. Russia, the Ukraine, and Argentina are among the governments that are currently restricting wheat exports. Countries restricting rice exports include Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Egypt. These export restrictions drive prices higher in the world market. The chronically tight food supply is driven by the effect of trends that are affecting both global demand and supply. On the demand side, the trends include the continuing addition of 70 million people per year to the earth's population, the desire of some 4 billion people to move up the food chain and consume more grain-intensive livestock products, and the recent sharp acceleration in the U.S. use of grain to produce ethanol for cars. There is little new land to be brought under the plow unless it comes from clearing tropical rainforests, or from clearing land in the Brazilian cerrado. Unfortunately, this has heavy environmental costs: the release of sequestered carbon, the loss of plant and animal species, and increased rainfall runoff and soil erosion. And in scores of countries prime cropland is being lost to industrial and residential construction and to the paving of land for roads, highways, and parking lots for fast-growing automobile fleets. New sources of irrigation water are even more scarce than new land to plow. During the last half of the twentieth century, world irrigated area nearly tripled, expanding from 94 million hectares in 1950 to 276 million hectares in 2000. In the years since then there has been little, if any, growth. Meanwhile, the backlog of agricultural technology that can be used to raise cropland productivity is dwindling. Between 1950 and 1990 the world's farmers raised grainland productivity by 2.1% a year, but from 1990 until 2007 this growth rate slowed to 1.2%. And the rising price of oil is boosting the costs of both food production and transport. During seven of the last eight years, grain consumption exceeded production. After seven years of drawing down stocks, world grain carryover stocks in 2008 have fallen to 55 days of world consumption, the lowest on record. The result is a new era of tightening food supplies, rising food prices, and political instability. With grain stocks at an all-time low, the world is only one poor harvest away from total chaos in world grain markets. Business-as-usual is no longer a viable option. Food security will deteriorate further unless leading countries can collectively stabilize population, restrict the use of grain to produce automotive fuel, stabilize climate, stabilize water tables and aquifers, protect cropland, and conserve soils. Stabilizing population is not simply a matter of providing reproductive health care and family planning services. It requires a worldwide effort to eradicate poverty. Eliminating water shortages depends on a global attempt to raise water productivity similar to the effort launched a half-century ago to raise land productivity, an initiative that has nearly tripled the world grain yield per hectare. None of these goals can be achieved quickly, but progress toward all is essential to restoring a semblance of food security. This troubling situation is unlike any the world has faced before. The challenge is to quickly alter those trends whose cumulative effects threaten the food security that is a hallmark of civilization. If food security cannot be restored quickly, social unrest and political instability will spread and the number of failing states will likely increase dramatically, threatening the very stability of civilization itself.   Karen Gaia says: As has been shown in Bangladesh, it is not necessary to reduce poverty in order to bring down fertility rates. In fact, if fertility rates are not brought down, there may be no way to reduce poverty.   April 16, 2008   Earth Policy Institute 023012

Riots, Instability Spread as Food Prices Skyrocket.   Riots over the costs of basic foods have brought the issue to the forefront of the world's attention. The World Bank President said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty. "The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap to meet emergency needs," he said. The World Bank announced a $10 million grant from the US for Haiti to assist poor families. Rice prices have risen by around 75% globally and more in some markets. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice costs half of the daily income of a poor family. The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend 75% of their income on food. In Haiti, the prime minister was kicked out of office Saturday, and hospital beds are filled with wounded following riots sparked by food prices. In Egypt, rioters have burned cars and destroyed windows of buildings. In the US and other Western nations, more and more poor families are feeling the pinch. The issue is fueling debate over how much the rising prices can be blamed on ethanol production. Some environmental groups reject the focus on ethanol in examining food prices. Analysts agree the cost of fuel is among the reasons for the skyrocketing prices. A major reason is rising demand, particularly in places such as China and India. Demand is soaring, supply has been cut back, food has been diverted into the gas tank. It's added up to a price explosion.   April 14, 2008   CNN 022993

Riots, Instability Spread as Food Prices Skyrocket.   Riots over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point. While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day. The international community must fill the $500 million food gap to meet emergency needs. Governments should be able to come up with this assistance and come up with it now. The World Bank announced a $10 million grant from the US for Haiti to help poor families. In two months, rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75% globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family. The price of wheat has jumped 120% in the past year, the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75% of their income on food. If food prices go on as they are today, then the consequences on the population in a large set of countries will be terrible. At the end of the day most governments, having done well during the last five or 10 years, will see what they have done totally destroyed. In Haiti, the prime minister was kicked out of office Saturday, and hospital beds are filled with wounded following riots sparked by food prices. In Egypt, rioters have burned cars and destroyed windows of numerous buildings. In the US and other Western nations, more and more poor families are feeling the pinch. The issue is fueling a debate over how much the rising prices can be blamed on ethanol production. This corn-to-ethanol subsidy which our government is doing really makes little sense. Corn is the single most inefficient way to produce ethanol. Numerous analyses have demonstrated that the price of oil has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because it is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation. Another major reason is rising demand, particularly in places in the midst of a population boom, such as China and India. Also, climate shocks are damaging food supply in parts of the world.   April 14, 2008   CNN 023017

Food Crisis Looms in Bangladesh.   With the price of food skyrocketing, poor and overpopulated Bangladesh is one of the world's most vulnerable nations. Economists estimate 30 million of the country's 150 million people could go hungry. Bangladesh faces a decrease in arable land due to industrialization and the ever-growing population. Its low-lying land is reeling from floods and a cyclone last year that destroyed some 3 million tons of food crops and left millions homeless and hungry. The price of rice has jumped by more than 30% since then and nearly half the population survives on less than $1 a day. Approximately 10,000 textile workers demanding better wages clashed with police near the capital. Dozens of people were injured in the violence. The Government has opened more than 6,000 outlets distributing rice at roughly half the market price. But "the government failed to build enough stock of food, and because of that the situation has become volatile," said Ahmad, of the Bangladesh Development Council. Major opposition parties have threatened street protests if the government fails to rein in rising prices. India has agreed to ship 400,000 tons of heavily discounted rice to Bangladesh, but it could take weeks to arrive. Because of high food prices, the Asian Development Bank warned that inflation could reach 9%. Bangladesh is not the only country with food problems. There have been riots in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal. A confluence of problems are driving up prices. Soaring petroleum prices, which increase the cost of fertilizers, transport and food processing; rising demand for meat and dairy in China and India, resulting in increased costs for grain, and the ever-rising demand for raw materials to make biofuels. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it's facing a $500 million shortfall in funding this year.In Bangladesh, leaders are scrambling for solutions. Last week a senior official suggested people eat potatoes instead of rice.   April 12, 2008   The Associated Press 022991

Food Crisis Looms in Bangladesh.   With the price of food skyrocketing poor and overpopulated Bangladesh is one of the world's most vulnerable nations. An adviser warned of a "hidden hunger" in Bangladesh and economists estimate 30 million of the country's 150 million people could go hungry. "We fear some 30 million of the ultra poor will not be able to afford three meals a day". Bangladesh faces a decrease in arable land due to industrialization and the ever-growing population. Its low-lying land is reeling from major floods and a devastating cyclone that destroyed 3 million tons of food crops and left millions homeless. The price of rice has jumped by more than 30%, a major problem in a country where nearly half the population survives on less than $1 a day. About 10,000 textile workers demanding better wages to meet the higher food prices clashed with police. Dozens of people, were injured in the violence. The government has opened more than 6,000 outlets distributing rice at roughly half the market price and announced plans to open more. But the government failed to build enough stock of food and the situation has become volatile. The government needs to build a buffer stock immediately. If not, the situation will worsen. Opposition parties have threatened street protests if the government fails to rein in rising prices and growing discontent could threaten the political balance. India has agreed to ship 400,000 tons of heavily discounted rice to Bangladesh, but it could take weeks to arrive and officials are uncertain it will be enough. There have been riots in the African nations of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal. Rising prices have hit poor countries like Haiti and Peru and even developed countries like Italy and the US. A confluence of problems are driving up prices. They include petroleum prices, rising demand for meat and dairy in China and India, and the ever-rising demand for biofuels. As of December, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls. In Bangladesh, leaders are scrambling for solutions.   April 12, 2008   Associated Press 023019

The Return of Malthus.   Cheap food, like cheap oil, may be a thing of the past. The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence, but this promise was a "scam." Even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. Even Brazil's use of ethanol from sugar cane accelerates the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation. Land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food. Alongside the theme of neutralizing the farm lobby is a hint of population- control politics that we haven't heard about since the late 1960s, when widespread affluence was considered a problem in the West. The idea that food prices will remain high could be seen as a harbinger of food rationing and famine, and that food supplies can't keep up with a population that grows exponentially. But now; with so many people wanting to eat luxuriously, the resources for everyone to eat at all are being consumed by the more affluent. Since it takes about 700 calories' worth of animal feed to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef, developing countries want to imitate the standards of living that Americans have inaugurated and this leaves little room for conservation. The problem is an explosion of those who expect middle-class comforts. The package of expectations and the ideology of entitlement that goes along with it, will probably come under increasing fire. On a related note, Merrill Lynch analysts explaining that American households spend more on debt service than food.   Karen Gaia says: Nepal, for example, is currently experiencing food shortages. It has only a small middle class. It's real problem is too many people and not enough land to support them.   April 07, 2008   PopMatters.com 022919

US California: More Mouths to Feed Means Less Land to Feed Them On.   California's farmland is threatened by the state's population growth. Even as the number in California soars toward 40 million, the land and water resources needed to feed these multitudes are shrinking. The farmlands are shrinking because the millions added to our population every decade are competing with farmers for water and the same land that is best at producing food. When homes can be built to house hundreds of new residents on the land occupied by a single farm, urbanization will displace agriculture. Fertile soils, irrigation water during the growing season, and a moderate, Mediterranean climate allow for year-round cropping. California cultivates more than 350 crops. Only a handful of other regions on earth have the same unique combination of soil productivity, mild climate, and available water as the San Joaquin Valley. In California, especially the Central Valley, productive farmlands are being split up into unproductive rural ranchettes or hobby farms. Between 1990 and 2004, land was being developed at nearly twice the historic rate. Rapid population growth, of course, is driving this trend. In the most important agricultural areas like the Central Valley, nearly three-quarters of the area developed was farmland. Nearly half of all farmland lost was high quality, classified by the state as prime farmland, unique farmland, or farmland of statewide importance. By 2050, if the state's population projections come to pass, an additional 2.1 million acres would be urbanized. Reducing the rate of land conversion by increasing density will merely slow but not stop the attrition of California's farmland. These are the lands that with the proper stewardship could produce food virtually in perpetuity. Food prices are mounting globally with the addition of 70-80 million more mouths to feed every year, diversion of food crops into biofuels production, increasing consumption of meat, and rising energy prices. All of these put upward pressure on prices. Unsustainable population growth must be checked. Since virtually all present and projected growth is from immigration and higher average immigrant fertility, these must be reduced. If we don't, then one day California will struggle just to feed its own citizens.   April 2008   Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) 023008

Global Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production (HANPP).   Humanity's impact on the biosphere exceeds natural variability in many cases. Up to 83% of the global terrestrial biosphere as under human influence. HANPP, the "human appropriation of net primary production," is an indicator that the area used by humans and the intensity of land use. It is a measure of human activities compared to natural processes. Then follows a very long and detailed section on different definitions. One of the strengths of HANPP is that it can be assessed in a spatially explicit way, i.e. it is possible to produce maps of HANPP that localize the human impact on ecosystems. In this case, the three above-mentioned parameters must be calculated in a spatially explicit way, using geographic information systems (GIS) technology. The most important factors influencing NPP in the absence of human activities are climate and soil quality, and there follows another long and detailed section on this subject. There follows estimates of global HANPP given by different authors. HANPP is a major indicator of human pressures on ecosystems. HANPP relates to global sustainability issues such as endemic malnourishment of a large proportion of world population, the ongoing conversion of valuable ecosystems (e.g., forests) to cropland or grazing land with detrimental consequences for biodiversity and global, human-induced alterations of biogeochemical cycles. The analysis of socio-economic drivers of HANPP as all as of its ecological impacts should remain high on the agenda of sustainability science. In particular, understanding the interrelations between HANPP and changes, especially those related to transitions from agrarian to industrial society, should be a priority of global change research.   March 14, 2008   The Encyclopedia of Earth 023085

Common Wealth.   The 21st century will see the end of American dominance as new powers continue to grow. Yet the changes will be deeper than a rebalancing of economics and geopolitics. The challenges of sustainable development—protecting the environment, stabilizing the world's population, narrowing the gaps of rich and poor and ending extreme poverty—will render passé the idea of nation-states that scramble for markets, power and resources. The challenge of the 21st century will be to face the fact that we have reached the beginning of the century with 6.6 billion people in a global economy producing an $60 trillion each year. In some locations, societies have outstripped the carrying capacity of the land, resulting in chronic hunger, environmental degradation and a large-scale exodus of desperate populations. We are crowded into an interconnected society. Continue, and the world is likely to experience growing conflicts, intensifying environmental catastrophes and downturns in living standards. Yet for a small annual investment of world income, across the world, our generation can harness new technologies for clean energy, reliable food supplies, disease control and the end of extreme poverty. By overcoming cynicism, ending our view of the world as an enduring struggle of "us" vs "them" and instead seeking global solutions, we have the power to save the world for all. To make the right choice, we must understand four trends. Our bulging population and voracious use of the earth's resources are leading to unprecedented crises. Humanity has filled the world's ecological niches; there is no place to run. While many of the poor are making progress, many of the very poorest are stuck at the bottom. Nearly 10 million children die each year because their communities are too poor to sustain them. This has ignited violence across the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. We have adopted a global treaty for climate change; we have pledged to protect biodiversity; we are committed to fighting the encroachment of deserts, and the world has adopted the MDG's to cut poverty, hunger and disease by 2015. Sustainable systems of energy, land and resource use that avert the most dangerous trends of climate change, species extinction and destruction of ecosystems, stabilization of the world population at 8 billion or below by 2050. The end of extreme poverty by 2025, a new approach to global problem-solving based on cooperation among nations. The Green Revolution which lifted China and India out of chronic hunger, built on an a combination of high-yield seeds, fertilizer and irrigation. In large parts of Africa Polio is nearly eradicated. Food production is soaring in Ethiopia and Malawi because modern farming techniques have been brought to peasant communities. There is no shortage of examples of how we can attain our goals, only a shortage of will to carry these successes to other vital arenas. The world's producers and consumers regard the air as a free dumping ground for climate-changing greenhouse gases. We need to correct market forces, by taxing carbon emissions that are offset by tax reductions elsewhere,in order to create the right incentives. We need to expand our public investments in clean technologies. Population stabilization requires a determined investment in girls' education, health services and child survival. And we should first help the poorest of the poor to get above survival levels of income. None of it can happen by itself. Ours is the generation that can end extreme poverty, turn the tide against climate change and head off a massive, thoughtless and irreversible extinction of other species. Ours is the generation that must solve the conundrum of combining economic well-being with environmental sustainability. We will all need to subdue our fears and cynicism. In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.   Karen Gaia says: I don't think the writer realizes that, with the upcoming shortage of oil and minerals such as phospate, both necessary for fertilizer, that the green revolution is unsustainable.   March 13, 2008   Jeffrey D. Sachs 023162

A Global Need for Grain That Farms Can't Fill.   Everywhere, the cost of food is rising sharply due to runaway demand. The economy of the world's developing countries have been growing at about 7% a year, an unusually rapid rate that means hundreds of millions of people are getting access to a better diet. Farmers the world over are producing flat-out. American agricultural exports are expected to increase 23% this year to a record $101 billion, while grain stockpiles have fallen to the lowest levels in decades. Scarcity and high prices will last for years and is likely to present big problems. Rising food prices in the US are helping to fuel inflation reminiscent of the 1970s. Overseas the increases are depriving poor people of food, setting off social unrest. In the long run, the food supply could grow. The big question is whether such changes will be enough to bring supply and demand into better balance. The Agriculture Department forecasts that farm income this year will be 50% greater than the average of the last 10 years. Prices have more than tripled, partly because of a drought in Australia and bad harvests elsewhere and also because of global demand. In seven of the last eight years, world wheat consumption has outpaced production. Stockpiles are at their lowest point in decades. In Pakistan, thousands of paramilitary troops have been deployed to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Over all, food and beverage prices are rising 4% a year, the fastest pace in nearly two decades. The Agriculture Department forecasts that world wheat production will increase 8% this year. As the newly urbanized and newly affluent seek more protein and more calories, "diet globalization" is playing out around the world. Demand is growing for pork in Russia, beef in Indonesia and dairy products in Mexico. Rice is giving way to noodles, home-cooked food to fast food. Nigeria grows little wheat, but its people have developed a taste for bread which has been displacing traditional foods made from cassava root. Demand was also rising in many other places, at the same time, drought and competition from other crops limited supply. Bread prices in Nigeria have jumped about 50% and bakers started making smaller loaves.   March 09, 2008   New York Times* 022992

U.S.: A Global Need for Grain That Farms Can't Fill.   Barley, sunflower seeds, canola and soybeans are all up sharply. "For once, there's reason to be optimistic," Mr. Miller said. But the prices are causing pain far and wide. Everywhere, the cost of food is rising sharply. Many factors are contributing to the rise, but the biggest is runaway demand. Developing countries have been growing at about 7% a year, an unusually rapid rate. Millions of people are, for the first time, getting access to the basics of life, including a better diet. That jump in demand is helping to drive up the prices. Farmers are producing flat-out. American agricultural exports are expected to increase 23% to $101 billion, a record. The world's grain stockpiles have fallen to the lowest levels in decades. Everyone wants to eat like an American but if they do, we're going to need another two or three globes to grow it all. Investors are betting that scarcity and high prices will last for years and is likely to present big problems in managing the American economy. Rising food prices in the US are helping to fuel inflation reminiscent of the 1970s. The increases that have already occurred are depriving poor people of food, setting off social unrest. More land may be pulled into production, and outdated farming methods in some countries may be upgraded. Rising prices could force more people to cut back. Will such changes be enough to bring supply and demand into balance. Farmers are flourishing. Income this year will be 50% greater than the average of the last 10 years. Last month barley was $6.40 a bushel. Soybeans were $12.79 a bushel, up from $8.50 in August. Last year, prices of corn were high because of new government mandates for production of ethanol. This year, so many crops look like good bets, and there is so little land on which to plant them. Farmers' own costs are rising rapidly. Prices have more than tripled, partly because of a drought in Australia and bad harvests elsewhere and also because of unslaked global demand for crackers, bread and noodles. In seven of the last eight years, world wheat consumption has outpaced production. In Pakistan, thousands of paramilitary troops have been deployed to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Malaysia has made it a crime to export flour and other products without a license. In the US, the price of dry pasta has risen 20% since October, flour is up 19% since last summer. Food and beverage prices are rising 4% a year, the fastest in two decades. World wheat production will increase 8% this year. In the US, plantings are expected to rise by two million acres, helping to drive prices down to $7 a bushel. "Diet globalization" is playing out around the world. Demand is growing for pork in Russia, beef in Indonesia and dairy products in Mexico. Rice is giving way to noodles, home-cooked food to fast food. Nigeria has a growing middle class. Median income per person doubled in the first half of this decade, to $560 in 2005. Nigeria grows little wheat, but its people have developed a taste for bread, displacing traditional foods like eba, dumplings made from cassava root. Nigeria's wheat imports in 2007 were forecast to rise 10% more. But demand was rising in many other places, from Tunisia to Venezuela to India. Bread prices in Nigeria have jumped about 50%.   March 09, 2008   New York Times* 023018

Rush for Biofuels Threatens Starvation on a Global Scale.   The rush towards biofuels is theatening world food production and the lives of billions of people. In his first important public speech since he was appointed, as Chief Scientific Advisor in the UK he described the potential impacts of food shortages as a problem which rivalled that of climate change. It's very hard to imagine how we can see the world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous demand for food. By 2030,the world population would have increased and a 50% increase in food production would be needed. By 2080 it would need to double. But the rush to biofuels means that land has been given over to fuel rather than food. Already biofuels have contributed to the rapid rise in international wheat prices. Shoppers in the UK faced price rises because of the soaring cost of feeding livestock. The Government welcomed a target requiring 10% of all fuel sold in British service stations to be derived from plants within 12 years. The US Farmers planted 90.5 million acres of corn in 2007, 15% more than a year before. In due course 40% of that corn ends up in petrol tanks, and the world will face a costlier time feeding itself. The prospect of food shortages over the next 20 years is so acute that all must tackle it immediately. An extra six million people are born every month. Growing enough food for everyone was challenged, because of climate change, which was likely to lead to a shortage of water. The supply of water will be put under further pressure because of the increased number of people who need it. The production of a tonne of wheat, for requires 50 tonnes of water. Demand has grown enormously, particularly in China and India. By 2030 energy demand is going to be up by 50% and demand for food is going to be up by 50%.   March 07, 2008   Times Online 022815

China: Food Security: Moving Towards the Precipice?.   The Chinese government has imposed temporary price-controls on basic food products after the consumer price index jumped to an 11-year high. Rising food prices reflected a global trend driven by population growth, changes in dietary trends, demand for biofuels, and climate change. China and the world are accelerating toward a precipice. China's demand for meat is a significant factor and the increasing demand for feed grains on the world food market. China's population is large and growing, and its demand is rising rapidly. But this is a global crisis traceable to ignorant leadership almost everywhere. China's leadership has been more sensible than that of the US, at least China is trying to control its population! Most Americans can afford to pay more for food. Since the US is the world's leading exporter of grains, absolute shortages are not likely soon, other than perhaps short-term shortages of meat if livestock producers sell off their herds because they can't afford to feed them. China is more constrained and more water short. China will likely have other problems: it may become harder to import foods, and higher food prices will impact a large segment of the Chinese population. China's foreign exchange may be able to overcome much of the problem, although if it enters the military confrontation with the U.S. over Caspian Basin fossil fuel stores that both countries are planning on, both could suffer a fatal nuclear convulsion. This is a slow, long-term crisis; it calls for an assessment of China's agricultural system with an eye to making it as sustainable as possible, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and artificial fertilizers and pesticides. It is important to anticipate climate trends and adapt to them. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative but agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases. And, the sooner China's population policies are successful, the greater China's chances of survival. Grain reserves are at their lowest level in the last decade. Cereal grains comprise the feeding base of humanity, although a growing portion of them are fed to livestock. The high water needs of modern grains mean that the most productive food production depends on irrigation, and most of the areas that can feasibly be irrigated already have been. As climate disruption proceeds, it is possible that the climates in regions of good soils will become less favorable to crop agriculture. Climate change will require expenditures to continually adjust the water-handling infrastructure, and it seems that this will result in more serious mismatches between where water is needed and where it is available. In Asia, rice and wheat crops are growing at very close to their high temperature limits, so more heating could have drastic direct impacts on yields. The boom in biofuels is causing a displacement of crops grown for food. In the last year or two, this seems to be the biggest cause of food shortage and rising prices, but it is just an exacerbation of an already tight situation. Global warming and the "oil peak" will constrain the use of fossil fuels, and the production of fertilizers in the next few decades. Water shortages are appearing and may get worse. Agriculture in many developing regions, is largely undeveloped and unproductive in modern terms. Unless priority is given to maintaining and increasing agricultural production, the picture will be very bleak.   February 28, 2008   Economic Observer 022789

Asia Faces Growing Rice Crisis - Real One.   Leading rice-exporting nations are reducing sales overseas to check domestic price rises. Previously healthy buffer stocks in Thailand are shrinking. The ban by India intensifies a worldwide rice shortage that drove up prices by nearly 40% last year. An additional 50 million tonnes of rice is needed each year up to 2015 to plug the demand-supply gap. Additional agricultural land for growing rice is extremely limited, while rice consumption is growing worldwide and wheat stocks are hitting record lows. Unregulated private cross-border trading makes exact figures hard to come by. India's rice export ban comes at a sensitive time ahead of the final annual budget. India's ban on rice exports follows a gradual limiting of exports over the past few months. The ban extends to all exports of rice except government-to-government trading, but excludes exports of basmati rice, a more fragrant, long-grained and expensive variety. Bangladesh, needs food grains after Cyclone Sidr in December destroyed $600 million worth of the country's rice crop. To cope with the crisis, the Bangladesh government floated global tender notices for 300,000 tonnes of various varieties of rice. India's export ban caused 300 rice trucks to be stranded in India-Bangladesh border zones. A famine threatens remote areas of southeast Bangladesh after millions of rats devastated food crops. The animals turn to ravaging rice stalks and vegetables in the affected region. Higher incomes across Asia are leading to increased consumption of grains and vegetables and of meat, which leads to more grain being diverted for use as cattle fodder. In the short term, prices can spike as natural disasters ranging from severe drought and floods cause havoc on agriculture. Vietnam suspended exports to protect domestic needs, while Thailand plans to auction an additional 500,000 tonnes of rice to cater to increasing international demand. Food scientists are developing sturdier varieties of rice that can withstand climate challenges as well as higher yielding seeds. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in January announced a grant of $19.9 million to help 400,000 small farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa access to improved rice varieties and better growing technology.   February 25, 2008   Asia Times Online 022781

Sustainable Future Will Require Food Production Innovation.   Doubling food production by 2050 while conserving resources, or even reducing the amount of land available for production agriculture, stands as a paradox. Two forces are on a collision course: technology and sustainability. It is ironic how innovative production technologies such as cloning, bovine somatotropin and some bioengineered seeds are being shunned. Equally pressing will be feeding a world population estimated to top 9 billion by 2050, which will require a second Green Revolution aimed at doubling food production in the first half of this century. Doubling food production while conserving resources, which include maintaining or even reducing the amount of land available for agriculture, stands as a paradox. Success requires squeezing more crop production per acre, more milk per cow and more meat per chicken. To achieve such results, consumers must accept technology and the promise it holds for future production. Bioengineered corn and soybeans have made significant penetration into the U.S. market, but wheat and rice are limited due to trade issues. Bovine somatotropin has made inroads into the U.S. market, but it faces a backlash in international acceptance and a push in the US for more "natural" foods. Animal cloning, which the FDA proclaimed to be safe, has received a very cool reception. Despite the The U.S.D.A. called on technology providers to continue their voluntary moratorium on sending meat and milk from animal clones into the food supply. The International Dairy Food Association, supports the U.S.D.A.'s decision on the voluntary moratorium, citing the risk of losing access to international markets and the potential for a reduction in domestic milk demand. A faulty criticism of biotechnology is it does much for producers, but little for consumers. As sustainability continues to gain momentum the opportunity looms for scientific innovation and environmental activism to merge. Bioengineered seeds allow farmers to grow more crops per acre while using less pesticides, fertilizer and even water. Drawing more milk from fewer cows is beneficial; and the rapid genetic selection and breeding of the most productive livestock is beneficial. In the very near future, such benefits will be essential to nourish a growing global population while preserving environmental resources.   Karen Gaia says: Eating less meat is much more likely to be the necessary solution.   February 13, 2008   CattleNetwork.com 022723

Sustainable Food Confronts Elitist Past.   Dinner at the Berkeley, Calif.-based Chez Panisse is a pricey education in sustainable food from the Yale Sustainable Food Project's inspiration: Alice Waters. The idealistic Waters and her much-hallowed restaurant have become the epitome of the recent trend in food culture calling for a return to natural, local ingredients and seasonal cooking. Most Yalies come to sustainable foods working on the student farm, and the all-sustainable Thain Family Cafe. At $28 to $80 per person for dinner, a subsidy from the University covers the additional cost of sustainable ingredients. But it's more than many students are willing pay to study food. Sustainable ingredients are more expensive than those that are conventionally produced, and have given sustainable food the reputation of being inaccessible and elitist. The movement's proponents agree that it is more efficient in the long run to follow tenets of sustainable-food production. Sustainable practices meet the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Something is sustainable if it does not degrade the resources upon which it depends. This means that fertilizers and pesticides made from fossil fuel are not used, and that the food doesn't travel farther than it has to. Students had begun asking the University for organic food in the dining halls in 2000 and this led to an initiative focused on food, sustainablity and agriculture. Chez Panisse menu items include herb jam with flatbread, lardons and chervil. Leek and Potato Galette, Grilled Chicken in Spiced Yogurt and Mint. and Olney's Squash Gratin. There's a reaction to it being fancy food at a fancy university. But YSFP's menu items followed a Western gourmet aesthetic. Waters is not a proponent of fancy foods, her recent book is entitled The Art of Simple Food and its recipes are ordinary. In 1994, Waters focused on educating children about their food and where it comes from. Students work in the garden, cook the harvested produce and finally eat their creations. There is usually initial resistance to the food they cook in the classroom, but students gradually turn toward eating the fresh produce they have grown. Unfortunately for YSFP, proponents of sustainable food have done little to alleviate that perception of gourmet elitism in the past. The University cannot avoid teaching about food; they instruct by purchasing ingredients and serving them in its dining halls. How do we make sustainable food not elitist anymore, how do we make it understandable that this is of the people, for the people? The only viable solution is to establish organic farming on a massive scale with a jump-start investment by affluent environmentalists. Farms would make little profit at first, but once the price goes down organic produce will be competitive. While each university has its own set of programs, most of them have run into similar criticisms of sustainable food being inaccessible or impossible to execute on their campuses. This generation will also be responsible for initiating a cultural shift in how much Americans are willing to pay for food. Sustainable food does cost more than what Americans are currently accustomed to spending. But processed foods made with corn or soybeans are usually heavily subsidized by the government. The complex farm subsidy system needs to be examined and revolutionized.   February 12, 2008   Yale Daily News 022719

Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008.   The US is generating global food insecurity. The world is facing a severe food price inflation as grain and soybean prices climb. Wheat trading breached $10 per bushel for the first time. On January 11th, soybeans traded at $13.42 per bushel, the highest price ever recorded. Prices of food products made from these commodities and those made indirectly, such as pork, poultry, beef, milk, and eggs, are on the rise. In Mexico, corn meal prices are up 60%. In Pakistan, flour prices have doubled. China is facing the worst food price inflation in decades. In industrial countries, prices of food staples are climbing. By late 2007, the U.S. price of a loaf of whole wheat bread was 12% higher than a year earlier, milk was up 29% and eggs 36%. In Italy, pasta prices were up 20%. It is a matter of demand outpacing supply. In seven of the last eight years world grain production has fallen short of consumption. These shortfalls have been covered by drawing down grain stocks, but the carryover stocks have now dropped to 54 days of world consumption, the lowest on record. From 1990 to 2005, world grain consumption, driven by population growth and rising consumption of grain-based animal products, climbed by an average of 21 million tons per year. Then came the demand for grain used in U.S. ethanol distilleries, which jumped from 54 million tons in 2006 to 81 million tons in 2007. This more than doubled the annual growth in world demand. If 80% of the 62 distilleries under construction are completed by 2008, grain used to produce fuel will climb to 114 million tons, or 28% of the projected 2008 U.S. grain harvest. If the food value of grain is less than its fuel value, the market will move the grain into the energy economy. An economics team calculates that with oil at $50 a barrel, it is profitable to convert corn into ethanol as long as the price is below $4 a bushel. With oil at $100 a barrel, distillers can pay more than $7 a bushel for corn and still break even. The World Bank reports that for each 1% rise in food prices, caloric intake among the poor drops 0.5%. In early 2007 the update of projections, taking into account the biofuel effect on world food prices, showed the number of hungry people climbing to 1.2 billion by 2025. A rise in food prices shrinks food assistance. The WFP reports that 18,000 children are dying each day from hunger and related illnesses. At the end of January, Russia will impose a 40% export tax on wheat, effectively banning exports. Argentina closed export registrations for wheat indefinitely. Viet Nam, the number two rice exporter after Thailand, has banned rice exports for several months. Rising food prices are translating into social unrest. Recently rising bread prices in Pakistan have become a source of unrest. In Jakarta, 10,000 Indonesians gathered to protest the doubling of soybean prices that have raised the price of the national protein staple. As economic stresses translate into political stresses, the number of failing states could increase even faster. We enter this new crop year with the lowest grain stocks on record, the highest grain prices ever, the prospect of a smaller U.S. grain harvest as several million acres of land go back to soybeans, the need to feed an additional 70 million people, and U.S. distillers wanting 33 million more tons of grain to supply the new ethanol distilleries. Corn futures for December 2008 delivery are higher than those for March, market analysts see even tighter supplies after the next harvest. The crop program that satisfies scarcely 3% of U.S. gasoline needs is not worth the human suffering and political chaos it is causing. U.S. taxpayers, by subsidizing the conversion of grain into ethanol, are financing a rise in their food prices. It is time to end the subsidy for converting food into fuel and to do it quickly before the deteriorating world food situation spirals out of control.   January 24, 2008   Earth Policy Institute 022604

Fertiliser at a Price - If You Can Get It.   Supply problem with fertilisers in spring 2008 is now a reality. World demand is outstripping supply. This coming season, the most likely situation is a shortage. World demand for grain production for feed and biofuel was currently outstripping supply and that was driving the demand for fertilisers. These are "unprecedented times" as far as the fertiliser market was concerned. "We are sold forward for a few months now and are not actually offering product at the moment but we will re-issue prices when we have a better fix on the situation," an agent said. "There is very good reason for having a soil anlaysis done and not spending money on a type of fertiliser you might not need." "India still needs to buy more tonnes for December and with time and product running out fast in China expect this bull run to continue well in to 2008." While UK farmers might be cringing at current prices, they were even higher in some markets and ammonium nitrate was not arriving in any volumes as vessels went to more lucrative destinations than the UK.   Ralph says: As a boy I lived on a farm in Eastern England (Norfolk). A herd of cattle lived in a large covered enclosure where the straw that was left after removing the grain, was scattered every day as a clean bed for the animals. Once a year this bed, which was by this time about six feet thick, and soaked with manure, provided anough fertilizer for the hundreds of acres (and our garden) that was planted in the Spring. A totally closed loop. No fertilizers added.   November 28, 2007   Guardian (London) 022350

Green Fuels Will Save the Earth - Or Not.   The earth is too small to accommodate all the biofuels projects, and this raises doubts whether green fuels will ever wean the world off crude oil. The idea of producing an endless supply of inexpensive fuel seemed almost too good to be true. It has become clear that it will not be possible to grow enough crops to cover global demand for food and fuel, especially as water is becoming scarce. A biofuel boom has sharply boosted agricultural prices, sparking worries over food supply as the world's population continues to grow. An analyst calculated that the world would need an additional 100 million hectares of farmland if all countries were to blend 5 percent of biofuels into the cars. The land, about half the size of Indonesia, would match roughly the total additional land available for farming on earth. While sugar was the most land-efficient feedstock for ethanol, it needs plenty of water. It would take several years before we could turn agricultural waste into fuel ethanol. For biodiesel, there is also no alternative feedstock to edible oils, in the foreseeable future. Oil prices have soared 40% this year but once-lowly palm oil has jumped by 60%. So now palm oil costs $735 a tonne, making crude a bargain at $593 a tonne. Even in the US, the world's top ethanol producer profits are squeezed at biofuel plants by high corn costs and low ethanol prices. In Southeast Asia, many biodiesel projects have been also put on backburner due to the poor returns. The rise in raw material prices for palm and corn is setting off alarm bells for governments worried about the rising cost of basic foods. The world would need an additional 10 million tonnes of vegetable oils a year to meet demand from both the food and fuel sectors. Global output of vegetable oils rose to 153 million last year from 100 million tonnes 10 years earlier. But the annual increase was falling short of the required 10 million this decade. We are right at the beginning of the history of jatropha as a commercial crop, but in the first step we have taken, we have seen a more than 50% increase on the performance of the wild seed ... This gives us a lot of hope of what jatropha could do in future.   November 26, 2007   Reuters 022325

Triple Threat Looms Over Africa's Rural Poor, Warns UN Agency Chief.   Africa's rural poor are facing rising food prices, climate change and population growth and require a more concerted action to help the vulnerable people. Time is running out to build resilience among the millions of rural Africans who often have to go hungry. WFP operations remain under-funded by as much as $168 million overall. We must help people to protect themselves and their families. West Africa faces a difficult challenge against the elements as the Sahara Desert creeps further south each year, consuming arable land or pastures. Global commodity prices are soaring, driven by the rising cost of fuels. The prices of staples have surged this year, placing them out of reach of many consumers. The impact of the higher international prices has led to tensions and could turn into a food crisis unless more funds are pledged by donors. The overall cost of WFP reaching a hungry person has gone up by 50% in the last five years. Around 1.5 million children under five in the Sahel region are now acutely malnourished. This kills more than 300,000 children every year and stunts the growth of those who survive. WFP is working with NGOs to help local communities adapt to climate change, such as constructing small dams, completing irrigation projects and contribution to schemes that reduce soil erosion or promote reforestation. But continued population growth, combined with low school enrolment, is adding to the squeeze on the rural poor across Africa.   November 15, 2007   United Nations World Food Programme 022550

Triple Threat Looms Over Africa's Rural Poor, Warns UN Agency Chief .   Africa's rural poor are facing rising food prices, climate change and population growth and require a more concerted action to help the vulnerable people. Time is running out to build resilience among the millions of rural Africans who often have to go hungry. WFP operations remain under-funded by as much as $168 million overall. We must help people to protect themselves and their families. West Africa faces a difficult challenge against the elements as the Sahara Desert creeps further south each year, consuming arable land or pastures. Global commodity prices are soaring, driven by the rising cost of fuels. The prices of staples have surged this year, placing them out of reach of many consumers. The impact of the higher international prices has led to tensions and could turn into a food crisis unless more funds are pledged by donors. The overall cost of WFP reaching a hungry person has gone up by 50% in the last five years. Around 1.5 million children under five in the Sahel region are now acutely malnourished. This kills more than 300,000 children every year and stunts the growth of those who survive. WFP is working with NGOs to help local communities adapt to climate change, such as constructing small dams, completing irrigation projects and contribution to schemes that reduce soil erosion or promote reforestation. But continued population growth, combined with low school enrolment, is adding to the squeeze on the rural poor across Africa.   November 15, 2007   United Nations World Food Programme 023333

Feed People, Not Cars.   A growing group of human rights and environmental activists point to the dangers that biofuels pose to environmental sustainability and the livelihoods of communities around the world. Most of the policies envision substituting biofuels for fossil fuels without reducing our overall consumption of energy. These proposals are backed by agribusiness, biotech companies, and oil interests that are now investing billions in ethanol and biodiesel plants. But agrofuels are not easily renewable because the Earth's landmass is itself a finite resource. To produce 7% of the energy that the US gets from petroleum would require converting the country's entire corn crop to ethanol. Growing agrofuels on a mass scale is already jacking up food prices, depleting soil and water supplies, destroying forests, and violating the rights of indigenous and local people. Agrofuel plantations in Brazil and Southeast Asia are being created on the territories of indigenous peoples who have traditionally lived in and protected these ecosystems. Agrofuel expansion threatens to divert the world's grain supply from food to fuel. Corn will become more expensive. Already in June soaring demand for biofuels is contributing to a rise in global food import costs. Small-scale farmers in Colombia, Rwanda, and Guatemala feel compelled to grow luxury crops such as flowers and coffee for export while their families go hungry. The crops required to make enough biofuel to fill a 25-gallon tank could feed one person for a year. Agrofuels Don't necessarily reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. The most common method of turning palm oil into fuel produces more carbon dioxide emissions than refining petroleum. Corporate plans for expanding biofuel production involve destroying ecosystems to create massive plantations that rely on chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides to maximize production. A five-year moratorium on the conversion of land for agrofuel production should be accompanied by the development of new energy technologies that do not compromise global food security. Creative and practical solutions for meeting our energy requirements -including some local, sustainable biofuel programs - are being developed around the world. We can support proposals for developing sustainable renewable energy sources, while recognizing the need to reduce overall consumption and protect everyone's basic right to food.   Ralph says: If the world population continues to grow the use of corn for bio-fuel will no make much difference. Many will starve.   October 31, 2007   Jerusalem Post 022177

Soil Erosion a Global Threat: Dirt Isn't So Cheap After All.   Soil erosion is undermining food production and water availability, and is responsible for 30% of the greenhouse gases. Soil and vegetation is being lost at an alarming rate, which in turn has devastating effects on food production and accelerates climate change. Every year, 100,000 square km of land becomes degraded or turns into desert. Food production has kept pace with population growth by increasing 50% between 1980 and 2000. But it is doubtful if there will be enough food in 2050 with three billion more mouths to feed. Global food production is declining. Soil degradation is producing growing shortages of water. Soil and vegetation act as a sponge that holds and gradually releases water. Soils are under greater pressure than ever with governments subsidising crops to produce biofuels. Biofuel crops use a lot of water. In future, there will not be enough water to grow the food we need. Biofuels do little to help the problem of climate change, but preventing deforestation and soil loss is the quickest and easiest way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Land degradation and desertification may account for 30% of the world's greenhouse gases. These changes to the land also alter the water, temperature and energy balance of the planet. Climate change makes land degradation worse and more extensive, through changes in precipitation and increased evaporation that trigger more extreme weather. Keeping carbon molecules in the soil, forests and grasslands is the quickest way to address climate change. There is money to be made by storing carbon in the soil and vegetation. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules under the Kyoto treaty need to be changed to ensure the triple benefits from climate mitigation, climate adaptation and sustainable development for the poor are achieved. Other policy changes are needed for conservation of soil and vegetation and restoration of degraded land to ensure humanity's future survival. Ending the 30 billion dollars in food subsidies that contribute directly to land degradation would be a good start. Soil, water, energy, climate, biodiversity, food production are all interconnected, which demands integrated policy-making. There is also no formal agreement on protecting the world's soils. It is possible to restore degraded lands with enough resources. It is better to preserve than restore.   Karen Gaia says: and if we ignore population, all our gains will be wiped out.   October 06, 2007   IPS 022023

India;: Ten Per Cent Growth Amid the Dance of Death.   Indian agriculture is again at crossroads. Growth in agriculture has decelerated and when forests are destroyed, soil fertility is diminished or water table plummets to dangerously low levels, the rural poor have no option but to migrate to towns and cities in search of jobs. For a country to be able to build up food-grain reserves, sustainable agriculture isthe path to equitable growth, development and national food security. But the green revolution technology came with enormous environmental costs. Monoculture, mechanical ploughing, soil erosion, the extension of crops into forests and the use and abuse of chemicals have contributed to the second-generation environmental impacts that the intensively farmed lands of the country are still grappling with. The green revolution has collapsed. Village after village are turning into a cesspool of deprivation and mounting indebtedness arising from the blind adoption of intensive farming systems that the government promoted. Villages are being put on sale in many parts of the country. The unforeseen slump in agriculture growth has affected the industrial growth rate which concerns the prime minister. In a move to prop up agricultural growth, the prime minister has called for reversing the trend in investment in agriculture, stepping up credit flow to farmers, strengthening future farming, creating a single market for agricultural produce and providing the latest technology to farmers. The prime minister's approach is aimed at compounding the existing crisis. What is needed is a fresh approach, but unfortunately, the prime minister is fostering a farm strategy that has failed in the US and Europe. In the US, only seven lakh farmers now remain on the farm. In Europe, one farmer every minute quits agriculture. The strategy has to be different. Nearly 42 lakh government employees and two crore state employees will receive a salary bonanza that will cost the state exchequer more than Rs 1,00,000 crore a year. For the 11 crore farming families, all that is being promised is more credit. More than 1,200 farmers in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra have committed suicide after the prime minister's Rs 3,750-crore relief package was announced. In other parts, the rural landscape remains equally depressing. With agriculture turning into a losing proposition, more than 40% of the farming population has expressed the desire to migrate to urban centres. The average income of a farm household in 2003 stood at a paltry Rs 2,115. A peon in government service has an average monthly packet at least five times more. The farmer is at the mercy of the moneylender or the banker. For nearly 6% of the population, 85% of its earnings comes from crop cultivation and wages earned by family members. The farm earnings of marginal and poor farmers have dropped to less than that of a daily wage labourer. Farm income over the years has eroded. While government employees continue to get the benefit of pay hikes, annual increments, medical allowances, paid holidays and financial loans, the farmer remains out of bound for all these bounties. Surviving against all odds, and despite the low earnings, farmers have worked hard to ensure national food self-sufficiency. A healthy and vibrant farm sector will only benefit the national economy. Probably the only way to ensure the economic viability of the farm sector is to either enlarge the scope of the sixth pay commission to include farmers or to set up a separate pay commission for the farmers. Based on minimum land-holdings, and de-coupled from production, there is immediate need to ensure farmers get an assured income. The National Farmers Commission should be entrusted to work out a minimum farm income. Irrespective of productivity, and depending upon the agro-climatic conditions in which a farm is situated, a formula that entails a minimum income has to be worked out. This is the least that needs to be attempted to provide the ailing farm sector a reprieve. There is no other way to pull agriculture out from the tragic abyss of the prevailing crisis.   Karen Gaia says: This is the price of unsustainability. The advantaged win while the disadvantaged pay the price.   September 29, 2007   HardNews Magazine 021989

Fresh Water Scarcity - a Potential Cause for Warfare.   Less than 1% of the world's water is readily available freshwater. There is an increased chance of low-level armed conflicts regarding freshwater resources. Nations believe that water is of a strategic importance and due to this mentality, the development of a riparian policy that several countries will agree to is nearly impossible. Most of the world's water supply is used for agriculture. The lack of a suitable water supply limits the amount and kind of industries a nation may undertake. This can cause tension within a country due to the inability to create employment and pay its debts. Saudi Arabia will deplete its groundwater supplies in about fifty years. 216 rivers flow through two or more countries. Thirty-one nations receive more than one-third of their water from rivers that cross international borders. Water availability has been a problem in some parts of the world for a long time. This problem will be exacerbated by population growth in developing countries. The population in some areas of the world is too high for the quantity of water available and it is predicted that this issue will reach critical mass around 2035. Increases in the level of development increase the amount of water consumed. Projects reduce the amount of protective vegetation. The vegetation slows water flow so that it can permeate the soil and renew groundwater supplies. Some solutions: Desalination systems convert saltwater to freshwater. Some areas have polluted water and water filtration systems could be profitable. Farming could benefit from the development of more plants that are drought resistant. Irrigation systems could be improved to reduce water loss and hydroponics where the water is constantly reused.   September 17, 2007   Alt3.co.uk 021926

Global Food Crisis Looms as Climate Change and Population Growth Strip Fertile Land: 'Ignorance, Need and Greed' Depleting Soil; Experts Warn Competition Will Lead to Conflict.   Climate change and increasing population could trigger a global food crisis as countries struggle for fertile land. To keep up with the growth in population, more food will have to be produced over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined. In many countries poor farming practices and deforestation will be exacerbated by climate change leaving vast areas unsuitable for crops or grazing. Competition may lead to conflicts and environmental destruction Researchers called on countries to impose guidelines to ensure that soils are not degraded so badly they cannot recover. This is urgent as securing food and reducing poverty can impact efforts to curb the flow of people, environmental refugees, inside countries as well as across national borders. Land degradation is among the world's greatest environmental challenges. Some 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded. In Central America, 75% of land is infertile, Africa, a fifth of soil is degraded, and Asia, where 11% is unsuitable for farming. The majority of soil erosion is caused by flooding or poor irrigation. Ploughing damages soil, as does repeated planting in fields. Some pressures on soil resources come from human needs, where people don't have any option but to grow crops or farm animals. But farmers try to meet markets. And sometimes, land is cleared that should not have been, or grazed when it shouldn't have been. Increased competition over depleted resources would lead to conflict. According to the UN, 854 million people do not have sufficient food. The population has risen between 1980 and 2000 from 4.4 billion to 6.1 billion and food production increased 50%. Many countries are opting to plant biofuel crops. If we can improve agricultural practices across the board we can dramatically increase our food production from existing lands, without having to clear more or put more pressure on soils. Crop rotation, sowing at the right time of year, basic weed control, are what is needed.   Karen Gaia says: it is always easy to give advice on what should be done, but somehow practice usually seems to lag behind the advice. Is it because it is not as simple as it sounds?   August 31, 2007   Guardian (London) 021860

Between Hungry People and Climate Change, Soils Need Help.   To provide for a rapidly growing population, more food must be produced in the coming 50 years than in the last 10,000 years combined. But land degradation and desertification are undercutting the soil's ability to produce more food, causing a crisis that affects one-third of all people on Earth. An international forum will highlight the roles land care and soil conservation play in the implementation of global environmental agreements. While caused in part by global warming, land degradation and desertification also contributes to climate change. Soil and vegetation is being lost at an alarming rate which has devastating effects on food production and accelerates climate change. Land degradation and desertification may be a genuine threat to the future of humankind. Between 1980 and 2000, the global population rose from 4.4 to 6.1 billion and food production increased 50%. Many countries are starting to grow biofuel crops. Unless land quality is restored, securing food in many places will become a crisis of growing proportions. The same applies to services provided by the ecosystems of the world, such as water storage and biological diversity Forests are being reduced at an alarming rate and large areas are being overgrazed. Policy changes that improve conservation of soil and vegetation and restoration of degraded land are fundamental to humanity's future livelihood. This is an urgent task Land degradation is linked to global climate change in many ways. It reduces carbon sequestration capacity of land, particularly as a result of loss of vegetation, and it creates adverse local weather patterns through loss of vegetation cover. There is significant potential to harness carbon finance for restoration of land in such a way as to ensure triple benefits from climate mitigation, climate adaptation and sustainable development. The key principle of land care is that the people at a grassroots level have to be involved in designing and implementing soil conservation measures.   August 31, 2007   Environmental News Service 021867

Global Food Crisis Looms as Climate Change and Population Growth Strip Fertile Land.   Climate change and an increasing population could trigger a global food crisis in the next half century. More food will have to be produced worldwide over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined. But in many countries poor farming practices and deforestation will leave vast areas unsuitable for crops or grazing. Competition may lead to conflicts and environmental destruction. Researchers at a UN-backed forum on sustainable development called on countries to impose farming guidelines to ensure that soils are not degraded so badly they cannot recover. This is an urgent task as the quality of land for food production, as well as water storage, is fundamental to future peace. The UN ranked land degradation among the world's greatest environmental challenges. Some 40% of the agricultural land is seriously degraded. Among the worst affected regions are Central America, where 75% of land is infertile, Africa, where a fifth of soil is degraded, and Asia, where 11% is unsuitable for farming. The majority of soil erosion is caused by water, through flooding, poor irrigation, and winds. Ploughing also damages soil, as does repeated planting. Some pressures on soil come from human needs, where people don't have any option but to grow crops or farm animals. But in other instances farmers try to meet markets. And sometimes, and that's cleared that should not have been, or grazed when it shouldn't have been. Increased competition over lead to conflict and the losers will inevitably be the environment and poor people. 854 million people do not have sufficient food for an active and healthy life. The global population between 1980 and 2000 rose from 4.4 billion to 6.1 billion and food production increased 50%. By 2050 the population is expected to reach 9 billion. The threat of a food crisis is exacerbated by fears over energy with many countries opting to plant biofuel in place of food crops. If we can improve agricultural practices we can dramatically increase our food production from existing lands. Simple things like good crop rotation, sowing at the right time of year, basic weed control, are what is needed.   August 31, 2007   Guardian (London) 022018

Import-Export Business - How Globalization is Smothering U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Farms.   President Bush roiled U.S. vegetable farmers by announcing a crackdown on undocumented workers. Last week, Smithfield Foods inked a deal to export 60 million pounds of U.S.-grown pork to China. These events, illustrate that the globalized food system continues to gain traction. Bush's move puts a squeeze on U.S. vegetable growers, and will likely result in more food from nations with weaker environmental regulations. More industrially produced food result in more pressure on soil and water resources, more greenhouse-gas emissions, and more fertile land made vulnerable to suburban sprawl. As U.S. fruit and vegetable farms have scaled up to meet the demands of buyers like Wal-Mart, they've come to rely on low-wage and highly flexible workers. These mega-farms specialize in one or two crops, and rely on poisons to keep pests and weeds away. Most estimates say 70% of U.S. farmworkers are undocumented. For several seasons now, farmers have had to scramble to find enough workers to harvest their crops. One factor has been an increasingly militarized border, another has been the building boom. In New York's Hudson Valley, where workers come from Mexico and Central America, apple growers fear a bumper crop could largely wither on the branches. It's a very labor-intensive industry, and there is no local labor supply. In Arizona farmers are hiring inmate labor. But an Arizona prison official acknowledged that inmates can offset only a fraction of the state's farm-labor shortage. Fruit and vegetable farming, like manufacturing over the past generation, has entered a relentless hunt for cheap labor markets and lax regulatory regimes. The U.S. is already outsourcing an increasing share of its fruit and veg production. But with marketing relationships and trade infrastructure in place, nothing stops distributors from buying cheaper Mexico-grown lettuce over California product, or New Zealand apples over those grown in New York or Washington. When farmers can no longer work their land profitably they generally sell it to developers, and succumb to low-density sprawl. That's already happening in California. Production of the fruits and vegetables we consume shifts to nations with weaker regulatory regimes than ours, meaning more agricultural chemicals released into the biosphere. And increasing distances mean burning more fossil fuel to haul from farm to table. While U.S. vegetable farming gets squeezed between labor shortages and global competition, other forms of U.S. agriculture, industrial grain and meat production, thrive in the global marketplace.   August 30, 2007   Grist Magazine 021857

With the World Population Growth Outpacing Food Supply, Say Goodbye to the Era of Unlimited Improvement.   The consequences of excessive rainfall in the late 18th century were predictable. Crops fail, the harvest would be dismal, food prices would rise and some people would starve. Nine years later, Malthus published "Essay on the Principle of Population." His insight was simple but devastating. "Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio," but "subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio." Put it another way: humanity can increase like the number sequence 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 (average of four children per woman), whereas our food supply can increase no faster than the number sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 We are much better at reproducing than feeding ourselves. Superficially, mankind seems to have broken free of the Malthusian trap. The world's population has increased by more than six since Malthus' time. Yet the global average daily supply of calories consumed has also gone up on a per capita basis, exceeding 2,700 in the 1990s. The conventional explanation is the succession of revolutions in global agriculture, culminating in the postwar "green revolution" and the current wave of genetically modified crops. Since the 1950s, the area of the world under cultivation has increased by roughly 11%, while yields per hectare have increased by 120%. Yet as Malthus said, food production could increase only at an arithmetical rate, and a chart of world cereal yields since 1960 shows just such a linear progression, from below 1 1/2 metric tons to around 3. Contraception and abortion have been employed to reduce family sizes. Wars, epidemics, disasters and famines have increased mortality. Together, vice and misery have managed to reduce the rate of population growth from 2.2% annually in the early 1960s to about 1.1% today. The UN expects the world's population to pass the 9 billion mark by 2050. But can world food production keep pace? We must average 4 tons per hectare to support a population of 8 billion. Yields now are just 3 tons per hectare, and a world of 8 billion people may be less than 20 years away. Global warming and the resulting climate change may well be inflicting permanent damage on some farming regions. Our effort to switch from fossil fuels to biofuels is taking large tracts of land out of food production. World per capita cereal production has already passed its peak not least because of collapsing production in the former Soviet Union and sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, there is a worldwide surge in food demand. The IMF recorded a 23% rise in world food prices during the last 18 months. When I wanted a Philly cheese steak last week, I had to pay through the nose. That's because cheese inflation is 4%, steak inflation is 6% and bread inflation is 10%. Steak is now 53% dearer than it was 10 years ago. For a long time, we have deluded ourselves that "illimitable improvement" was attainable. As the world approaches a new era of dearth, and misery we are set to make a mighty Malthusian comeback.   Karen Gaia says: While this article is accurate about the food supply and rate of population growth, it is not true that the mortality rate is going down. Not taken into account is the lowering of the infant mortality rate. The slowing of population growth can be attributed to voluntary family planning, which has resulted in the average birth rate in the world going down to less than three children per woman.   July 30, 2007   Los Angeles Times 021902

Losing Soil.   In 2002 a UN team assessed the food situation in Lesotho, South Africa. Their finding was that agriculture faces a catastrophic future; crop production is declining and could cease altogether over large tracts of the country if steps are not taken to reverse soil erosion, degradation, and the decline in soil fertility. Nearly half of the children under five in Lesotho are stunted physically. Whether in Lesotho, or elsewhere, the health of the people cannot be separated from the health of the land. The thin layer of topsoil that covers the planet's land surface is the foundation of civilization. This soil was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. Plants protect the soil from erosion. Human activity is disrupting this relationship. Within the last century, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation. The foundation of civilization is crumbling. The accelerating soil erosion can be seen in the dust bowls that form as vegetation is destroyed and wind erosion soars out of control. Each example of these is associated with overgrazing, deforestation, and agricultural expansion, followed by retrenchment as the soil begins to disappear. The overplowing of the U.S. Great Plains for example, led to the 1930s Dust Bowl. Kazakhstan, saw its grainland area peak at just over 25 million hectares around 1980, then shrink to 14 million hectares today. Even on the remaining land, the average wheat yield is a far cry from the nearly 8 tons per hectare that farmers get in France. A similar situation exists in Mongolia, which is now forced to import nearly 60 of its wheat. Saharan dust storms have increased 10-fold during the last half-century. In Heilongjiang, Hunan, Tibet (Xizang), Qinghai, and Xinjiang, wind erosion of soil made it clear that the only sustainable use was controlled grazing. Chinese agriculture is now engaged in pulling back to land that can sustain crop production. Water erosion also takes a toll on soils. Pakistan's two large reservoirs are losing roughly 1% of their storage capacity each year as they fill with silt from deforested watersheds. Ethiopia, a mountainous country with highly erodible soils on steeply sloping land, is losing an estimated 1 billion tons of topsoil a year, washed away by rain. Fortunately there are ways to conserve and rebuild soils.   July 27, 2007   Earth Policy News 021646

No Sustainability Since Agriculture.   Many have come to understand that we humans have to eaten and reproduced ourselves into a 'cul-de-sac' as our ability to produce food has been swallowed up by human reproduction excesses to go above and beyond even the enormous (but temporary) increases in carrying capacity offered by fossil fuel driven technological and cultural improvements in agricultural production. There is a basic flaw in our food production culture. Agriculture is unsustainable in the long term because it opens up nutrient conservative ecosystems and allows leaching of fertilizer elements to the sea so over time the capacity of these lands decreases irreversibly in the absence of inputs of exogenous nutrient supplements. The Amerindian practice of using fish (reversing to flow of nutrients to the sea) to fertilize, beans, corn and squash -- in temporary clearings in the forest (before the soil carbon had been burnt off by microbial activity) may have worked for a very long time to support a stable and small population of shifting agriculturalists.   July 22, 2007   The Future of Sustainability 021618

Ageing Population Threat to Rural England.   The diversity and sustainability of communities in rural England are under threat as young people opt for urban living. There are now 400,000 fewer young people in rural areas than 20 years ago. Since 1987, the proportion of young people in rural areas has fallen from 21% to 15%. The average age of people in the countryside is now 43.6 years, five years higher than in towns and cities. This is putting a strain on rural services, and the lack of affordable housing is another serious problem. The average price of a house in rural areas was 22% higher than in urban areas in 2006. The area devoted to oil seed rape as an energy crop nearly doubled between 2005 and 2006 to 187,000 hectares. There has been a 3.6 times increase in wind power capacity over the last three years, enough to supply around 300,00 homes. More than 4m hectares of farmland is under an agri-environment scheme. Land that is organically farmed or in conversion to organic is a fraction of total agricultural land but has increased from 2.7% in 2003 to 3.1%, and there are now nearly 400 vineyards in England and Wales. The government must reverse the damage it has done and ensure villages and market towns become sustainable communities. That means building more affordable homes and investing in better services. A spokeswoman for Rural Affairs (Defra) responded: "The majority of rural areas are thriving and the government seeks to ensure that people have equality of opportunity in both rural and urban areas.   July 17, 2007   Guardian (London) 021594

Organic Farming Yields as Good or Better.   US researchers claim that organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming. Findings contradict arguments that organic farming is not as efficient as conventional techniques. Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base. Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have chemicals and pesticides to produce food.   July 11, 2007   Planet Ark 021556

Humans Gobble One Quarter of Food Chain's Foundation.   The original farmer did not have an large impact on the world. Now, thousands of years later, modern agrarians-along with engineers, foresters and consumers control 23.8% of all the world's photosynthesis. Using FAO statistics for 2000, an ecologist calculated the difference between the energy produced by plants in the absence of humans and the photosynthetic energy available to ecosystems after humans have taken their share. Due to human activities, in particular land use, 23.8% less photosynthetic energy remains than would be available without human activities. More than half of the human share of photosynthetic energy comes from farming. The human share is 63% in southern Asia and 11% in central Asia and Russia. As the human population continues to rise the human share will eat up more and more of the available biomass. That share could rise should a shift to biofuels occur. Land-use on a local scale undercut the web of life in Austria-from breeding bird species to crickets to the plants themselves. It is clear that a remarkable share of global photosynthetic production is used to satisfy the needs and wants of the humans on this earth.   July 02, 2007   David Biello 022770

The Fight for the World's Food.   In Britain the price of cereals has jumped by 12% in the past year. And milk on the global market has leapt by nearly 60%. We may be reaching the end of cheap food. Sixty years ago an average British family spent more than one-third of its income on food. Today, that figure has dropped to one-tenth. But agricultural commodity prices are surging. Two main drivers suggest that cheap food is about to become a thing of the past due to the increased consumption and the use of crops as an alternative energy resource. As these two forces combine they are setting off warning bells around the world. Rice prices are climbing, butter in Europe has spiked by 40% in the past year. Wheat futures are at their highest level for a decade. In Mexico there have been riots in response to a 60% rise in the cost of tortillas. The supermarkets cannot shield us for long. The European Commission no longer has reserves to cushion its citizens. Its mountains of unsold butter and meat have disappeared after reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy. Corn is consumed indirectly. The milk, eggs, cheese, butter, chicken, beef, ice cream and yoghurt is all produced using corn and the price is influenced by the price of corn. In the past 12 months the global corn price has doubled. In six of the past seven years, we have used more grain worldwide than we have produced. World grain reserves have dwindled to 57 days the lowest level of grain reserves in 34 years. The reason is the diversion of grain crops into the production of ethanol. 30% of next year's grain harvest in the US will go straight to an ethanol distillery. In Europe farmers are switching to fuel crops to meet the EU requirement that bio-fuels account for 20% of the energy mix. But bio-fuels are not a green panacea,and the stage is set for competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles, and the world's 2 billion poorest. The ethanol boom has seen sugar prices track oil prices and the same is set to happen with grain. In the developed world this could mean a change of lifestyle. Elsewhere it could cost lives. Soaring food prices have already sparked riots in poor countries that depend on grain imports. More will follow. Jean Ziegler, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, accused the US and EU of hypocrisy for promoting ethanol production. He said producing ethanol instead of food would condemn hundreds of thousands of people to death from hunger.   Ralph says: Not a word about the basic cause of this (and so many other) problems. OVERPOPULATION!   June 23, 2007   The Independent 021620

Neglecting Our Soil May Be the Root Cause of Many Environmental Problems.   Head of Soil Research at Aberdeen said that healthy soils form the basis of agriculture, forestry and ultimately our water and tourist industries. However, Scotland's soils are increasingly subject to man-made threats, including climate change, new building, and pollution. All that Scotland is famous for depends on healthy soil and we must take care of this vital resource. There are very few aspects of our daily lives that aren't dependent on our soils and once soil is gone, it is effectively gone forever. In some areas the growing of certain crops and the regulation of water quality could soon become compromised. Higher temperatures will lead to the loss of organic matter and alter the sort of crops grown, whereas the predicted increased rainfall is likely to lead to greater soil erosion. A soil monitoring system has started compiling a Scottish soil strategy. A report critically assesses the current evidence on soils, and makes a number of recommendations. One of the main threats comes from building pressure. An area of soil equivalent in size to Dunfermline is lost permanently every year through new building. Much of this is likely to have been prime agricultural land, and questions must be asked regarding the long term sustainability of this trend. The area of agricultural land lost per annum could produce approximately 9000 tonnes of wheat. The main pollution threats come from acid rain in the uplands, and the heavy metals within organic wastes applied on lowland agricultural areas. There are more living things in a teaspoon full of soil than there are people on the planet. And soils can become unwell and even die if not cared for properly.   June 22, 2007   Innovations report 021422

U.S.;: Family Feud Why Agribusiness Giants Are Facing Off Over Corn Ethanol.   The rapid price increase for corn, inspired by federal policies that encourage transforming corn into ethanol, is jacking up food prices and squeezing low-income people. This has given rise to a "food vs. fuel" debate. You either support cheap corn, and a food supply that serves the poor, or you support the ethanol boom, whose goal is to "break our dependence on foreign oil." A report by The Wall Street Journal outlines the growing rift within the agribiz lobby. When corn was cheap and overproduced the entire agribusiness lobby rallied around the ethanol cause. But now that ethanol is taking food from feedlots, the community has grown less friendly. Tyson has been complaining about corn prices. Its CEO told the Wall Street Journal that elevated grain prices, linked to ethanol, would add $300 million to the company's costs this year. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is raising its voice as well. It finds government intervention and the group has demanded an end to government tax credits for ethanol and a cut to the import tariff on foreign ethanol. They are demanding free markets and free trade. The growing rift in the agribiz lobby is concerning the politicians who cater to it. Presidential hopefuls feel compelled to favor the allegedly fuel that's going to free us from Middle East oil, but support for corn-based ethanol is starting to wane. Legislators continue to aid ever-increasing ethanol use, but more of them are capping the amount of corn that can be used. The shine is off corn ethanol, and its explosive growth appears to have peaked. The corn-based ethanol never had a shot at significantly reducing petroleum use. Its energy-saving potential is thin, if not imaginary. The backlash plays into Tyson and its peers, who hate ethanol because it interferes with feeding cheap corn to confined animals. Last fall, U.S. farmers scrambled to plant corn anywhere they could and will likely harvest the largest corn crop in U.S. history. If Congress pulls back support for ethanol, the corn price will tumble and will mean a windfall for feedlot operators, and will likely spur government commodity payments to corn growers under the farm bill. In essence, we're being asked to choose between low-quality food and low-quality fuel. We should reject both.   Karen Gaia says: if we hadn't produced so many people, there would be enough food and fuel for all.   May 24, 2007   Grist Magazine 021228

Crop Prices Soar, Pushing Up Cost of Food Globally.   The rise in food prices is causing distress, especially in poor nations and could contribute to slower global growth. Politicians in markets where costs are sensitive are moving to counter rising prices before they cause unrest. But it remains unclear whether a longer-term bout of food-price inflation is in the offing. One of the chief causes is demand for ethanol and biodiesel which has driven up the price commodities, leading to higher costs for everything from beef to eggs to soft drinks. Several years of economic growth is also raising food consumption. In China, food prices are climbing at 6%, more more than three times of a year ago. The U.S. is seeing food costs rising 3.1% in February from the year before and are expected to rise faster than the general rate of inflation this year. U.S. consumers are likely to see higher prices for everything from milk to cereal to soda pop, since corn is used to feed livestock and make high-fructose corn syrup. Some economists believe the increase in crop demand can be met without straining the global economy. Prices could come back down over time, if more land that could be put under cultivation. Technological advances could also help boost production. Higher farm prices could boost incomes for the rural poor in developing nations. But many countries are facing shortages of land and water. Average food prices in China have grown faster in the past five years, as more agricultural land is taken up for factories or high-rise condominiums. China and India appear to be reaching a point at which nothing short of a bumper crop will meet local needs and prevent surges in food prices. In fact, they have achieved high production of some crops only to see prices continue to climb. Global grain stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, and could become even tighter if farmers divert more crops to make ethanol. Central banks have tried to ignore surges in food prices as long as they didn't get out of hand. But a sustained food-price inflation, could force banks to keep interest rates higher. India, has increased interest rates several times over the past year in part to combat food-price inflation. Since the 1970s, central banks have come to believe that they can avoid raising interest rates in the face of transitory increases in food and energy prices if they have established enough credibility as inflation fighters. The inflation risks may be greatest in developing economies. In the Philippines, food accounts for 50% of the price index. In Thailand, about 35%. In the U.S., only about 15%. China has begun limiting corn-based ethanol plants to ensure there is enough corn for humans and livestock. Chinese stockpiles of surplus corn now stand at only about 30 million metric tons, down from more than 100 million tons at the end of the past decade. Although China remains a net exporter of corn, analysts believe it will become an importer in the next few years. China will have to allow the proliferation of large but efficient corporate farms. This would be difficult for China because it needs to preserve jobs for the millions who live in rural areas. In addition to raising interest rates, Indian officials have also lifted import duties on corn and barred exports of wheat, to make sure supplies are available for domestic consumption. The main problem is that yields of some crops aren't growing fast enough to keep up with India's rapidly increasing food demand. India's corn production has climbed about 4% a year since 2001, while demand has been increasing nearly 5.5%. The requirements are going up much faster than what you can produce in India.   Ralph says: Here we go again, all the great experts giving their ideas and NO ONE even mentions POPULATION GROWTH. Why is India fast running into famine??? Too many people and then the rest of the world will be expected to provide food. --- Offer them condoms.   April 09, 2007   Wall Street Journal 021097

Uganda;: Desertification is Staring You in the Face.   Uganda's population was six million in 1962, and is now 28 million. Yet the area of land remains the same, apart from new miles of land where Lake Victoria and other Lakes have dried up. There is high population pressure, and consequently pressure on land. The government and its leaders enacted Article 237 (b) of the 1995 Ugandan Constitution that calls for environmental conservation. Environment affairs concern us; but issues of conservation have hit centre stage without any reaction from society. Environmental sustainability is an obvious factor for increased agricultural production and the sustainability of the environment promotes sustainable utilisation of the natural resources when environmentally friendly practices are upheld. The government of Uganda put in place the relevant laws so that actors are automatically authorised to carry out this work without any antagonism. The immediate strategy is to train farmers and other natural resource users on best practices, especially on the mountain sides and other areas susceptible to degradation.   Karen Gaia says: Somehow I don't think that conservation is going to be enough.   March 28, 2007   Africa News Service 020731

Bangladesh;: Planned Use of Precious Land.   It is important for Bangladesh to make the best use of its lands. Bangladesh is limited to 55,000 square miles of land whereas its population is over 140 million, 200 million people by the year 2030. That means meeting their needs of food, housing, industry, environmental sustainability and recreation from such limited land. There is need to make the best possible use of land. Bangladesh has remained economically viable, because it could produce nearly all the food required. But, the supply of agricultural land is shrinking. Urbanisation, expansion of homesteads for an ever-increasing number of people and other non-agricultural uses lead to the loss of a significant area of agricultural land annually. The unregulated growth of urban life, absence of effective zoning of lands have been leading to loss of agricultural lands. Lands are getting degraded from unregulated polluting activities. Preservation of land or maintaining bio-diversity are the most neglected areas. All need to be addressed under a comprehensive land use plan. This exists in paper but needs to be updated and made comprehensive. More significant would be its effective implementation without any loss of time. Few things have been done to start the implementation of the National Land Use Policy that was adopted in 2001.   Ralph says: No mention of reducing the population growth. Of course with the loss of space for crops the population will eventually be depleted. --- in a natural and cruel manner.   March 27, 2007   The New Nation 020722

World's Most Important Crops Hit by Global Warming Effects.   Global warming has led to a fall in the yield of some food crops. Rising temperatures between 1981 and 2002 caused a loss in production of wheat, corn and barley that amounted to 40 million tons a year. Scientists warned that the findings demonstrated how climate change was having an impact on the global production of staple foods. The study analysed yields of cereals from around the world. There was a trend showing cereal crops had lower yields during a time when the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides became more intensive. The fall in cereal yields could be linked with increased temperatures during the period. The impacts are small compared to the technological yield gains over the same period, but demonstrate the negative impacts of climate trends on crop yields. Production of wheat, rice, maize, soybeans, barley and sorghum accounts for more than 40% of the land in the world used for crops, 55% of the non-meat calories in food and more than 70% of animal feed. It was assumed that farmers have not adapted to climate change by selecting new crop varieties. The study revealed a fall of between 3% and 5% for every 0.5C increase in average temperatures.   March 19, 2007   The Independent 020692

India;: Pitfalls of the Second Green Revolution.   Indian agriculture is in the midst of a crisis by preparing to introduce a second Green Revolution that will push farmers out of agriculture altogether. The number of people migrating from rural areas to urban centres in India by the year 2010 would be close to 200 million in search of menial jobs. By 2020, India could have the world's largest number of megacities, with populations of over 10 million each. Numerous national policies are facilitating this distress with the policies that make way for the big agro-industries. Indian industry and business are upbeat about the potential of agriculture. the 'reforms' are clearly aimed at bringing profits for the owners of the industries. Policies that encourage contract farming, future trading in agricultural commodities, leasing of land, the formation of land-sharing companies, and the setting up of special purchase centres, will all drive a majority of India's farmers out of agriculture. The agricultural reforms that are being introduced are destroying the land's capacity to produce. Industry-driven agriculture will aggravate the existing crisis. The new technology will keep a majority of farmers outside its ambit. Reforms, such as enlarging the scope of future trading are aimed at helping agribusinesses. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh invested huge amounts into industry-driven agriculture that destroyed millions of rural livelihoods. The rate of farmer suicides in both states has been increasing as they have made it smoother for big agri-industry to move into the rural areas. The RS Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Research and Education, launched by George Bush, is expected to bring Indian agriculture under the direct control of US corporate groups. Two multinational giants Wal-Mart and Monsanto are part of this initiative. They have said they are interested in the increased trading opportunities that India offers. One objective is a transfer of genetic engineering. The US has used the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ask India why it is curtailing the import of genetically modified food, without ascertaining the reasons for the agrarian crisis, which is due to the imposition of a damaging technology. In America, the entry of retail chains in the agricultural sector has transferred the profits and farmers earn only 4% from whatever they sell. In 1990, farmers could earn 70%. Nowhere in the world has big agribusines worked in cooperation with farmers. In North America and Europe, agribusiness companies have pushed farmers out of agriculture. Only 900,000 farming families are left in the US. In 15 countries of the European Union, the number of farmers has dwindled to less than 7 million. A similar process will lead to a catastrophe in India. The Economic Survey talks of dismantling the minimum support price and the procurement-based food subsidy system in India. This will enable food retailers to directly purchase from farmers and have to face the vagaries of the market. The big challenge lies in making agriculture more sustainable for the small and marginal farmers. In some areas agriculture faces a severe crisis of sustainability. Punjab and Haryana are fast heading towards desertification. The private corporations, bank on intensified farming practices, drain the soil of nutrients, suck groundwater in a few years and leave the once-fertile lands almost barren after four or five years. They then hand back the barren and unproductive land to the farmers. Contract farming is the modern version of 'slash and burn' agriculture. We must ask how will the second Green Revolution aggravate the existing crisis? Will it allow agribusinesses to take possession of the farm land and then destroy its production capacity? With what untold consequences will the vital power to produce food be shifted into the profiteering hands of multinational food giants?   January 15, 2007   Word Press 020048

Eating Meat Contributes to Climate Change, UN Study Confirms.   A FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) report is the latest research linking meat-eating with environmental destruction. Animal farming presents a "major threat to the environment" and should rank as a focus for environmental policy. The livestock sector is affecting climate change through greenhouse-gas production. The ranching and slaughter of animals generates an estimated 18% of greenhouse-gas emissions. Livestock emit methane and other greenhouse gasses through excrement and belching. The FAO estimates that cow manure and flatulence generate 30% to 40% of total methane emissions from human-influenced activities. As demand for meat grows, so does the need for pasture and cropland, making deforestation an additional concern. Extensive grazing also takes a toll on arable land. The livestock sector accounts for 8% of human water use. Animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries and pesticides also contaminate water supplies. From 2000 to 2002, consumers in the US ate on average approximately 38.5 million tons of meat per year. North America had one of the highest methane emissions from livestock manure management in the world in 2004. The US is a leader in CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer. But the National Cattleman's Beef Association said that "animal agriculture in the US contributes minimally to the production of total greenhouse gases." The EPA shows agriculture, including non-livestock activities, accounted for 6% of national greenhouse-gas emissions in 2004. The transportation sector accounted for approximately 27%. But a national food-education organization said that US consumers are harming the environment through their appetite for meat, and American food choices are being exported. Meat is becoming a staple in diets of countries that once ate few animal products. World meat production is expected to double by 2050. It is probably not a bad idea to suggest that if more people used less animal products we can sustain a larger number of people on earth. The FAO advocated technological solutions and changes in farming policies. The UN suggested soil-conservation methods, feeding methods that reduce livestock's gas emissions, and improved irrigation and manure management systems. Work with livestock contributes 40% of global agriculture Gross Domestic Product and employs 1.3 billion people. Educating consumers about their food choices is essential.   Karen Gaia says: the more people there are, the more animal farming has an impact on the world. And even the developing world has a large share of the farm animals.   December 07, 2006   http://newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_item&it 019688

Exploding U.S. Grain Demand for Automotive Fuel Threatens World Food Security and Political Stability.   This year's harvest of 1,967 million tons is falling short of consumption by 73 million tons. In six of the last seven years world grain production has fallen short of use. The growth in world grain consumption during the six years since 2000 averaged 31 million tons per year with 24 million tons consumed as food or feed. The growth in grain used to produce ethanol averaged nearly 7 million tons per year. Investment in crop-based fuel production is now driven by the price of oil and has become hugely profitable. This has led to a jump in groundbreakings for new ethanol distilleries. These plants will consume 39 million tons of grain per year. Considering recent acceleration in new groundbreakings and the scores of new ethanol plants in the planning stages, and these distilleries could easily absorb an additional 40 million tons of grain. By 2007, we need a rise of 73 million tons to overcome the 2006 production shortfall and 24 million tons of additional output to cover the growth in food and feed needs. If we add 39 million tons to supply the new distilleries cited above, for the U.S. alone we are looking at a growth in demand of 136 million tons of additional grain. The chances of such a huge jump in the harvest are not good: Farmers must also contend with shortages of irrigation water and the prospect of heat waves as the earth's temperature rises. Escalating competition is already driving up prices. The one-third of the corn byproduct that emerges from the distillery will offset the loss of corn for feeding. Consisting mostly of fiber and protein and containing little energy, it is better suited to feed beef and dairy cattle. Corn importers like Japan, Egypt, and Mexico are also worried about the reduction in U.S. corn exports, which are 70% of the world total. In some importing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in Mexico, corn is the staple food. Wheat and corn prices have climbed by a third or more over the past several months. Wheat and rice prices will likely follow corn prices upward. By the end of 2007, the competition between automobile owners and the world's 2 billion people who want simply to survive will be on center stage. 854 million people are chronically hungry and some 24,000 of them, mostly children, die each day. The world needs a strategy to deal with the emerging food-fuel competition.   November 03, 2006   Earth Policy Institute 019675

Saving Life on the Edges of the World.   Communities that lived off fishing and forest produce in the south of Chile for centuries have begun to leave because the environment cannot sustain many of them. In North Africa communities that lived around oases for centuries have begun to move out. The indigenous people of these areas are working with the environment to develop new sustenance for themselves and others. But as conditions become close to impossible, many of these places need help. An initiative identified about 200 agricultural systems that are threatened by climate change, rural impoverishment, exodus to urban areas, and other such dangers. These systems provide food security and potentially all humanity will need them in the future. 75% of rural poor are custodians of amazing agricultural methods. But globalisation is a challenge and small-scale farmers, and humanity could lose these heritages. The GIAHS (Globally Important Agriculture Heritage Systems) initiative has identified seven pilot sites in Peru, Chile, China, the Philippines, and at oases in the Maghreb in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. In Morocco, 36% are living below the poverty line. The increasing population pressure on the resources of the oases and the intrinsic poverty are destabilising the ecosystem. Over the next seven years the GIAHS project will work with indigenous communities to implement new conservation methods. The objective is building on local people and communities to recognise the importance of these systems so that they can maintain them. One site is located around Machu Picchu at 1900 metres above sea level, going up to Lake Titicaca at 3,800 metres. The path links two different municipalities and four communities of 1,800 peasant families. The project here is aiming to conserve ancient traditional agricultural technologies. You increase the possibility to earn from the land, you can limit migration. There has been 20% reduction of permanent migration and 50% reduction of temporary migration due to direct participation of local communities in land preservation. While men more and more frequently go to the big cities to work, women stay at home and rediscover the traditions which otherwise would have been lost. The GIAHS project is intended to eventually encompass 100 to 150 such systems worldwide and guarantee the sustainability of these agro-eco systems.   October 26, 2006   IPS News 019225

Chemically Dependent Decades After Silent Spring, Pesticides Remain a Menace --Especially to Farmworkers.   According to a USDA report, between 1964 and 1982, pesticide use in the U.S. by three yimes, peaking at 600 million pounds annually. This has been accompanied by mounting evidence of their ill effects on public health, particularly that of farmworkers. A study from Canada shows that women who had worked on farms were nearly three times as likely to develop breast cancer. A joint venture of several public-health agencies has revealed direct links between chemical farming and both prostate cancer and retinal degeneration. A link has also been established between pesticide use and Parkinson's disease. The book Silent Spring sparked a backlash against pesticides, which build up over time in soil, groundwater, and the bodies of animals. The chemical industry's response was to promote pesticides that break down rapidly. But they are more dangerous at the time of application. This shifts the risk onto farm ecosystems and farmworkers. The shift occurred later in Mexico and chemicals that had been banned in the US were reappearing in Mexican fruit and vegetables. Use of the quicker-to-break-down chemicals then exploded in the global south, which had tragic consequences for farmworkers. Despite strong standards requiring respirators, rubber coveralls, and other gear, such requirements werey violated by large landowners. Fully one-third California's farmers violated regulations and 88% of the violations stemmed from employer negligence. Many products from the pesticide class of organophosphates-- which began as a nerve gas developed by Germany during World War II, remain legal in the United States. Two months ago, the EPA approved use of 32 organophosphates . Heavy pesticide use helped bring about short-term gains in crop yields and to these firms, pesticide-related deaths and maladies are a cost that lands in someone else's ledger. Farmworker health has become a sacrifice at the altar of cheap food. Consumers owe it to farmworkers to demand an end to, or at least a severe reduction in, pesticide use.   October 18, 2006   Grist Magazine 019066

Pollinators' Decline Called Threat to Crops.   Species that pollinate North American plant life are losing population. This trend could damage commercially important crops, since three-quarters of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization. American honeybees, which pollinate more than 90 commercial crops in the US, have declined by 30% in the last 20 years. This poses a challenge to agricultural interests such as California almond farmers, who need about 1.4 million colonies of honeybees to pollinate 550,000 acres of their trees. By 2012, the state's almond farmers are expected to need bees to pollinate 800,000 acres. Birds, bees, bats and other species that pollinate North American plant life are losing population, according to a study released yesterday by the National Research Council. This "demonstrably downward" trend could damage dozens of commercially important crops, scientists warned, since three-quarters of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization. American honeybees, which pollinate more than 90 commercial crops in the United States, have declined by 30% in the last 20 years. This poses a challenge to agricultural interests such as California almond farmers, who need about 1.4 million colonies of honeybees to pollinate 550,000 acres of their trees. By 2012, the state's almond farmers are expected to need bees to pollinate 800,000 acres. Rene E. Robinson, an entomologist at the University of Illinois and one of the 15 researchers who produced the report, said U.S. farmers had to import honeybees last year for the first time since 1922, underscoring the extent of the problem. "The honeybee industry is at a critical juncture," Robinson said. "The time for action is now." Introduced parasites have hurt the honeybee population, and pesticides have also taken a toll. Bats, which have declined as vandalism and development have destroyed some of their key cave roosts. The declines have been gradual and in some instances are hard to quantify. A decline in pollinator populations is one form of global change that has potential to alter the shape and structure of ecosystems. Animals carry pollen and transfer it from one flowering plant to another, sometimes over significant distances. Animal pollinators fertilize more than 187,500 flowering plants worldwide. Other pollinators include hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as wild bees. Many ordinary citizens fail to grasp how important pollinators are to food production. The diversity of bee species has declined by 40% in Britain and 60% in Holland since 1980. North American farmers have imported bees but they could bring new pests, parasites and diseases with them.   October 18, 2006   Orange County Register 019080

Can Industrial Agriculture Withstand Climate Change?.   If current warming trends continue, farmers will face conditions that change rapidly and unpredictably. It's worth asking whether modern U.S. agriculture techniques, are up to the challenge. One weak point is our reliance on fossil-fuels. Farmers look mainly to fertilizers derived in part from natural gas. Worldwide use of fertilizers increased more than tenfold overall. Moreover, U.S. agricultural production tends to be highly concentrated in a few areas and leans on long-haul travel. The popularity of frozen "convenience" food puts more distance between consumers and their sustenance. Globalization means we haul in lots of food and ship out loads of corn and soy. Imports and exports are both expected to top $60 billion this year. Addiction to cheap fuel isn't the food system's only potential weak point. Another is the loss of biodiversity. Agriculture has relied on biodiversity to adapt to challenges from pests and diseases. To cite an example, potato farmers in Peru have never experienced crop failure, because genetic diversity ensured resistance to pests. In Ireland, though, where the genetic basis for potatoes was severely narrower, disaster struck. In the U.S. and Europe, plant breeders have for a century sought to rationalize biodiversity. Now their goal has been to replace traditional species, which show broad variability, with "pure" hybridized varieties that produce highly uniform results. A study shows that 97% of seed varieties that were available in 1903 had vanished by 1983. Today, the world's key genetic storehouses are the places where our staples originally came under cultivation. These "centers of diversity," have been subjected to erosion as hybrid varieties have proliferated. Unlike the robust crops of old hybridized cultivars depend on doses of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and irrigation. History offers many examples of societies that faced rapid climate change and environmental damage. For some, food-production methods proved durable; in other cases, food production faltered and societies collapsed. India, already parched, seems unready for global warming. And the US seems vulnerable too. Our food system deserves more attention. In the end, its salvation may lie in the hands of small-scale farmers using traditional seed-saving and fertility techniques.   October 04, 2006   Grist Magazine 018889

Need for Water Could Double in 50 Years, U.N. Study Finds.   More than two billion people are facing a scarcity of water and in the next 50 years, the amount of water needed will double. A water crisis would fuel violent conflicts, dry up rivers and increase groundwater pollution. Rural poor would have to clear more grasslands and forests to grow food. The authors of this report concluded that countries confronting severe water shortages cannot employ the strategies for increasing food production that have had success over the past half-century. Since 1950, the acreage of land under irrigation has tripled. But some parts of the world are reaching the limits of their water supplies. Sub-Saharan Africa has lacked the financial wherewithal to build dams and irrigation systems to get water to farms and homes where most people live. We have to grow more food with less water, and we can't keep expanding the land used. In Africa, governments and donors should focus on inexpensive, small-scale methods for irrigating often widely scattered plots of land. Farmers could use tanks to store rainwater and use simple drip irrigation during dry spells. They could operate treadle pumps to tap into groundwater. While these technologies may be simple, installing them on a national scale and maintaining their use would be no easy matter. Farmers need credit, crop insurance and roads to get their products to market. They need AIDS treatment, and they need fertilizers to nourish their land. The report raised the specter of global climate change, and its potential to alter patterns of rainfall, especially in the poor countries near the Equator. The more rapid glacial melt in the Himalayas means increasing the water flowing into India, Nepal, Pakistan and China, but it may mean much less water in future years.   August 22, 2006   Global Policy Forum 018524

Ull Professor Works to Save Soil.   The movement toward soil sustainability means finding ways to increase the standard of living while diminishing the negative impacts on the environment. This concept has gained support over the past few years. Coupled with the expansion of the global population a majority of our environmental dilemmas are the result of traditional agricultural practices. Experts are pushing the political and scientific communities to investigate such problems as topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination and pollution from agricultural runoff and they are addressing the farming industry’s heavy dependency on herbicides, pesticides and non-renewable resources. Crop production, however, cannot stop while researchers search for more innovative and economically viable options. Sustainability practices at the University of Louisiana range from intensive grazing management, aquaculture studies with crawfish, wildflower cultivation and collection, nutria studies, water quality monitoring, wetlands conservation and the development of alternative energy sources. The “Solar House” includes passive solar collectors and photovoltaic panels, designed to demonstrate less reliance on non-renewable resources. A lagoon system processes waste water before it is released. The crawfish center examines the economic and environmental impact of crawfish production in Louisiana. Another concept is permaculture, which involves the practices of hybrid and organic farming. Louisiana’s climate is challenging th because of its combination of high humidity and temperature that attracts pests and weeds. The University of Louisiana was awarded a $1.7 million grant for the cultivation, collection and storage of Louisiana wildflower seeds that will be held in storage for planting at welcome centers throughout the state. The flowers will minimize the need for grass mowing, reduce soil erosion and beautify the area. The group’s objective is to enhance global capacity to improve agricultural methods and sustain natural resources. At the university’s facilities, studies interact from a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, agribusiness, agronomy, environmental restoration, soil science, horticulture, biology, chemistry and resource conservation.   July 14, 2006   The Advocate 018031

US Biotech Companies Urge Africa to Catch Up.   Dow AgroSciences specializes in the provision of "innovative crop protection, seeds, and biotechnology solutions." The reluctance of African countries to establish regulatory frameworks to guide the use of biotechnology will be one of the continent's undoings. The continent faced the risk of isolation because of its reluctance to embrace biotechnology. Biotechnology has the potential to improve biodiversity, reduce insecticide use, advance food security and transform agriculture in the next 10 years. Africa's solution to drought and crop diseases may be in growing genetically engineered crops specifically tuned to resist weather conditions and mature quickly. This could result in saving crops from losses of harvests, which are followed by hunger and starvation. Nearly 200 million people in Africa are undernourished. The consequences are manifest in the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition. The FAO stated that 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa were in need of urgent food assistance. They included Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Somalia and Zimbabwe. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to almost one-quarter of the developing world's food-deprived people. Surveys revealed that 33% of African children are stunted, underweight, or emaciated. The majority of African countries still do not favor GMO crops or foods due to the lack of systems to safeguard biodiversity. This is so despite the fact that more than 35 countries have signed the Cartagena Protocol, that seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by biotechnology. Agricultural science and technology must work with local governments and scientists to make biotech available starting with capacity building and infrastructure for the approval of regulatory frameworks and adoption of the technology. Issues that need to be addressed,include the availability of seeds to farmers at affordable prices and providing safety procedures to protect human beings and the environment during field trials. This may not be possible if the governments do not understand people's needs and how technology can solve them. We cannot underestimate the importance of establishing strong regulatory frameworks to protect the environment and the food chain. Proponents of GMO argue that Africa has serious food gaps and should embrace biotechnology farming for enhanced food production and nutrients. Since 1996 , the global planted area of biotech crops has soared 4.2 million acres in six countries to 222 million acres in 21 countries in 2005. At present, most African countries cannot advance GM crop research because national policies or regulatory systems are not prepared to deal with safety requirements. Only South Africa and Nigeria have a specific policy for biotechnology. South Africa began growing its first genetically modified commercial crops in 2003, with cotton farmers reporting yields improved up to 89%. It was also among the 11 developing countries where biotech crops have increased income of 7 million poor farmers. Research is ongoing that is focusing on staple crops in many developing countries. These include rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, cowpea, banana and maize. Researches are focusing on problems such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, and pest resistance. Farming is the most important economic activity in Africa, occupying 60% to 80% of the population and contributing 30% to 50% of the GDP in African countries. Eighty percent of farming is in the hands of small-scale farmers and remains an unattractive occupation and those involved are members of the lowest rungs in the poverty index. Lands in developing countries, especially in Asia, are degraded due to exploitation and they must be helped to restore their soil fertility if they are to grow commercially attractive crops and compete in the global food economy.   June 17, 2006   Islam Online 017766

Global Warming Screwing Up Wine Country.   Wine grapes are temperature-sensitive, and if the globe gets hotter, wine-producing regions may lose optimum climate for their grape varieties. Already, warmer temperatures in southern Spain are driving grape growers to shade vineyards, develop heat-resistant grapes, and move to the mountains. Climate change could reduce the world's grape-growing regions by nearly 80% by the end of the century. Other regions may warm up enough to become prime wine country, in the U.S., those could include upstate New York, coastal Michigan, the Puget Sound area and Virginia. Meanwhile, dozens of vineyards in California are doing their bit by running irrigation systems on solar power.   June 01, 2006   Santa Cruz Sentinel 017673

Tanzania: Ruaha Basin: Ecology on Verge of Destruction.   The Ruaha River Basin is crucial to the national economy being among the national grain baskets. The catchment zones drain into the Mtera, Kihanzi and Kidatu rivers whose hydro-electric power generation dams provide the national grid with over 60% of electric power. But poor farming methods, population explosion, destruction of the environment within the hundreds of smaller catchment basins, water diversion and other activities have caused the drop of water levels downstream at alarming pace. The World Wild Fund-UK (WWF) began an environmental conservation project to save the basin and its water catchment areas. The project has saved various water catchment areas that were already under threat of extinction. Despite initial resentments, the involvement of everybody give the initiative a sense of ownership. Farming water user associations have been formed and work in liaison with the local government. The object of the programme is to ensure that by 2010 there would be a multidisciplinary river basin management team. At the same time it was hoped that the survey conducted in the course of the project implementation would establish the cause of the alarming drop in the water levels in the entire River Ruaha system. As the project progresses it is important to consider the importance of the Ruaha River Basin, to the entire nation. The basin controls the nation’s economy as an agriculturally productive zone and the entire economy relys on the power generated. The shortfall in power generation from the drop in water levels has impacted the economy with the growth falling by 17%, according to the Central Bank of Tanzania. The government and community must strive to save this ecosystem. fe are in an exclusive but growing club rare species getting costly protection even as the world faces what may be the worst wave of extinctions since the dinosaurs. But in the region, where rare species are found nothing is being done to save them. Experts say it is impossible to set a ceiling on the value of a species and that willingness to pay may be widening, posing risks for businesses like mining, industry or logging that affect the habitats of rare animals or plants. Indeed, the unabated destruction of the environment means destruction of man himself.   May 29, 2006   Guardian (London) 017580

Population Hearings Open in UK Parliament.   Parliamentary Hearings have opened in London into how population growth is effecting the UN Millennium Development Goals. Population has been an almost taboo subject in international discussions. The seven MGD goals relate to poverty and hunger, univeral primary education, gender equality and empowerment of women, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases and environmental sustainabilty. The UN defines environmental sustainability as "using natural resources wisely and protecting the ecosystems on which our survival depends." The question is how far has population growth made that aim more difficult, and how far will slowing future growth make it easier to achieve? The UN says: "sustainability will not be achieved with current patterns of resource consumption. Land is becoming degraded. Plant and animal species are being lost. The climate is changing. Marine resources are being overexploited." But few references are made to how population growth is responsible for driving these disastrous changes. There are no references to population policies as such. It states that "close to 2.4 billion people worldwide will still be without improved sanitation in 2015." 100 million people are added to the urban communities of each year, which are growing three times faster than rural areas - or by three per cent a year. Almost 1 billion people live in conditions of overcrowding, little employment or security of tenure, poor water, sanitation and health services, and widespread insecurity. There has been a reluctance to grapple with such population factors in a systematic way. The important question of migration was left to be dealt with at a future conference. What counts is not the number of people alone, but their impact on the environment. The important factor is the increase in the human impact as living standards rise around the world, and migrants adopt high consumption life styles. If China were to achieve a First World living standard the impact on the planet’s environmental resources would double. The Earth Policy Institute highlighted the environmental impact of industrial development in India and China, whose combined ecological footprint exceeds that of the US or Europe. Some question whether the UN projection of world population rising to 9.1 billion by 2050 can be possible. We face two urgent major challenges: restructuring the global economy and stabilising world population. In the last four decades, an area half the size of the US was cleared of tropical forest. Population growth is a primary cause of forest decline, interacting with poverty, corruption, inequitable access to land, and wasteful consumption alongside growing demands for wood products. The dominant force is probably the demand for farmland for subsistence farming. Social investments linking education, health, micro-credit and family planning with conservation programmes show promise and could help sustain the forests, while slowing population pressures. Global freshwater consumption grew six-fold in the last century and demand continues to grow while climate change threatens to increase areas of low rainfall in Africa and elsewhere. Agriculture accounts for more than 70% of water use, and demand is bound to grow as population increases. Demand for industrial and household use is expected to double by 2025, and to increase up to five-fold in China. There is a danger of collision between rising world population and shrinking water resources, that make the emergence of conflict more rather than less likely. The lack of water and agricultural land is a significant factor to the conflict in Darfur. Stabilising population will help conserve water as a finite resource, and ease the danger that wars over water will spread around the world. Human activities have severely degraded 11% of the world’s arable land: an area the size of India and China combined. As a result, every year the world’s farmers must feed 77 million more people with 27 million fewer tons of topsoil. In Africa farm holdings have shrunk as the population has grown, and per capita yields have fallen by as much as 30% over the last three decades. Some 65% of the region’s agricultural land has been degraded. While Africa’s population grew by 3% a year in the three decades to 1996, its annual food production increased by only 1.9%. Malnourished children in Africa could grow from 29 to 41 million between 1980 and 2020. China has lost arable land equivalent to all the cropland in Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands combined. By 2030, the urban population is projected to reach 5 billion or 60% of the world’s population. But in many of these urban centres, especially in the least developed countries, a high proportion of the residents live in miserable conditions. Urban communities are generally in a better position to take part in self-help schemes to improve their homes. They may also be more motivated to plan smaller families, providing they have the means to do so. Cities put enormous pressure on resources far beyond their borders and it is imperative to slow their growth, before they become unmanageable. The developing world is becoming a major contributor to climate change. In China, emissions of carbon grew from 1.5 to 2.8 metric tons per capita between 1980 and 1996, while its population grew from 984 million to 1.22 billion. Increasing human numbers and mounting development pressures are taking a heavy toll on coastal wetlands, mangroves, sea grasses, coral reefs and biodiversity in general. Rapidly expanding populations and the growth of cities along coastlines has also contributed to a rising tide of pollution in nearly all of the world’s seas. The population of the 50 least developed countries is projected to pass from 0.8 billion in 2005 to 1.7 billion in 2050. These are also the countries that are most affected by HIV/AIDS and the half million women who die each year from childbirth-related causes. Many are suffering from environmental stress and a shortage of land. In Pakistan fertility rates remain high, much irrigated land is stressed by salinization and the population is projected to grow from 159 million to 228 by 2025 and 295 by 2050. For these and many other poor countries it is quite wrong to assume that the population bomb has been defused.   Unfortunately, no country like the U.S. can absorb the large numbers of excess people in India, China, or Pakistan (or any other countries) without serious impact to its own environment and sustainability.   May 21, 2006   People & the Planet 017449

Global Food Supply Near the Breaking Point.   The world is eating more food than farmers grow, and grain stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years. Rising population, water shortages, climate change, and the costs of fossil fuel-based fertilisers point to a calamitous shortfall in the world's grain supplies. Today more people rely on farmers to produce their food but in five of the last six years, global population ate more grains than farmers produced. There isn't much land left for new food-producing areas, and what is left is of poor quality or likely to turn into dust bowls if exploited. There are no technological magic bullets waiting in the wings. Biotechnology has made little difference so far. Even if the biotech advances come about in the next decade, they will boost yields little more than 5% globally. Hunger is a stark reality for more than 850 million people, including 300 million children. How can the number of hungry not explode when one, two and possibly three billion more people are added to the global population? Many Canadian and U.S. farmers are going out of business because crop prices are at their lowest. Farmers are told overproduction is to blame for the low prices. However, most North American agribusiness corporations posted record profits in 2004. With only five companies controlling the global grain market, there is an imbalance of power. There are enormous amounts of food stored in central Canada but thousands of people there are forced to rely on food banks. Inequity and poverty are at the heart of the hunger problem. Economic inequity is becoming more widespread and the present situation is likely to worsen with climate change. An estimated 184 million people in Africa alone could die from floods, famine, drought and conflict resulting from climate change. Millions more in other parts of the world will also perish. One group envisions poor regions using renewable energy to power a new, and clean, era of prosperity. Another vision is already making a difference. With some money to buy better seeds, fertiliser, a share in a water source, and a bed net to fend off malaria hundreds of thousands of villagers in the Millennium Villages project are now able to grow enough food and sell the surplus. Making a difference in Africa's food security and poverty issues means development assistance to spread the project to the more than 100,000 villages in Africa. Shifting from a global food production system to local food for local people would go a long way towards addressing inequity. The whole fabric of the food production system needs to change, or hunger and malnutrition will only get much worse. North America's industrial-style agricultural system is a bad idea and maybe the worst on the planet.   May 17, 2006   Inter Press Service/World Watch 017472

Food, Sustainability, and the Environmentalists.   by Tom Philpott It's important to wonder how we'd get around in an era of super-high oil prices but we should worry about what we'd eat. The old-school farming relies on animals and farm wastes that are recycled into the soil. The industrial-organic farmer is likely shipping in composted manure from far-flung places, while the conventional grower is hauling in a processed petroleum product. Most small vegetable farms don't have enough animals to produce the nitrogen we need. Could organic farming feed the world?" In essence, can sustainable farming feed the world?" To which the only wise response is, "can unsustainable farming feed the world?" The amount Americans pay for food as a percentage of income has leveled off about at 10% while growth in real wages has stagnated. It is a vicious cycle: We need our food supply as cheap as possible to feed low-wage people; we need lots of low-wage people to sustain our cheap-food system. This cycle consumes resources and damages the environment. How have we kept our food so cheap? One way is by opening our market to foreign-grown food. Another way is subsidies but the payments urge overproduction, which pushes prices down and eats into farm incomes. In a culture where food production takes place in such abstraction, food becomes banalized into minimal rituals of ingestion, digestion, and expulsion. I seriously doubt that industrial agriculture -- or its bastard child, industrial-organic -- can last much longer.      March 21, 2006   Grist Magazine 016860

Environmental Sustainability: Population, Poverty and the Environment.   Changes in population size, rate of growth and distribution have a far-reaching impact on the environment. The largest population increases and the most fragile environmental conditions are found in poor countries. This threatens sustainable development and produces further deterioration in living standards and quality of life. Integrating population into economic and development strategies will speed up sustainable development and poverty alleviation. The two most serious deficiencies are contaminated water and polluted air. Land fragmentation, eroded slopes and degraded soils are contributing together with unplanned growth of cities, fed partly by migrants from rural areas. Millions have settled in slums and shantytowns without basic services. The majority of the rural poor have clustered on low-potential land. Because they have been pushed or squeezed out of high-potential land, the rural poor often have no choice but to overexploit the marginal resources available to them. Food and water security are becoming critical issues in many developing countries. Population growth is creating a demand for stepped-up food sufficiency and while world food production is projected to meet consumption for the next two decades, long-term forecasts indicate persistent and worsening food insecurity in many countries. The FAO of the UN estimates that to meet the needs of the world’s population in 2020, food production will have to double.   Ralph says: 'Food production will have to double' - That is a frightening statistic!!!!!!!   February 08, 2006   UNFPA 016343

Africa's Hunger - a Systemic Crisis.   The UN's FAO is warning that 27 sub-Saharan countries now need help. But what appear as isolated disasters are systemic problems. It is African agriculture that is in crisis, and according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, has left 200 million people malnourished. The FAO highlights civil strife, refugee movements and returnees in 15 countries, and it declares in need of urgent assistance. Drought is only sited in 12 countries. Africa's wars, coups and civil strife are responsible for more hunger than the natural problems. Four issues are critical: underinvestment in rural areas as Africa's elites respond to political pressure, mainly from cities. This is compounded by corruption and mismanagement. Wars and political conflict result ın refugees and instability. The continent has suffered from 186 coups and 26 major wars in the past 50 years. There are 4.8 million refugees in Africa. Farmers need stability before they can produce the food societies need. HIV/Aids depriving families of their most productive labour, in southern Africa, over 30% of sexually active adults are HIV positive. Sub-Saharan Africa's population has grown faster than any region over the past 30 years, despite the millions of deaths from the AIDS pandemic. Between 1975 and 2005, the population more than doubled, rising from 335 to 751 million, and is currently growing at a rate of 2.2% a year. In some parts of Africa land is plentiful, but in others it has forced farming families to subdivide their land time and again, leading to tiny plots or families moving onto overworked land. In the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea some land is so degraded that it may never produce a descent harvest. In addition to natural nutrient deficiencies in the soil, soil fertility is declining by the year through "nutrient mining", whereby nutrients are removed over the harvest period and lost through leaching, erosion or other means. A continent that was more than self sufficient in food 50 years ago, is now a massive food importer. In 1966-1970, net exports averaged 1.3 million tons of food a year, by the late 1970s Africa imported 4.4 million tonnes of staple foods a year, a figure that had risen to 10 million tonnes by the mid 1980s.      January 31, 2006   BBC News 016308

Bionic Growth For Biotech Crops; Gene-Altered Agriculture Trending Global.   Since genetically modified crops were planted a decade ago, the acreage worldwide has been growing, last year jumping 11% to 222 million acres. The crops are gaining in countries such as China, India and Brazil, with small cotton farmers embracing a technology that allows them to grow more cotton while reducing the use of pesticides. Rice could be on the verge of a transformation. Iran has commercialized gene-altered rice and China is ready to do so. Widespread acceptance could put crop biotechnology into the hands of the millions of small rice farmers who grow nearly half the calories eaten by the human race. Commercialization of rice that has been genetically altered to resist insects has implications for alleving poverty, hunger and malnutrition for all biotech crops and their acceptance on a global basis. Proponents welcomed the findings saying it demonstrates their usefulness for farmers and society. But two groups attacked the new report disputing the impact of gene-altered crops noting that the technology is concentrated in a handful of countries, with the US, Argentina, Canada and Brazil accounting for 90% of the world's biotech acreage. The technology is used in mainly cotton, corn, soy and canola. Industry claims that the technology would alleviate poverty in Africa have proven illusory, a point echoed by a report from environmental group Friends of the Earth. Growing biotech crops can hurt farmers' export markets in countries that are skeptical of the technology. Even after a decade, biotech crops are grown on under 1% of the world's arable land. But by 2005 farmers were planting them on 222 million acres in 21 countries. Almost a third of the agricultural land in the US is planted in gene-altered crops, and more than half in Argentina and Paraguay. Brazilian farmers had been illegally planting biotech crops for years, but that country has now legalized them and the acreage there is growing rapidly. 2,000 scientists in China are working on gene-modified crops. Bacterial genes give some plants the ability to resist worms, and others gain the ability to survive heavy applications of herbicides that kill nearby weeds. But a controversy in Europe in the late 1990s had advocacy groups saying the crops posed unnecessary environmental risks. The US has been trying to open the European market, with some success. Five of 25 European countries are now growing at least small quantities of biotech crops. The US filed a complaint against Europe over the issue with the WTO and a ruling is expected soon. The European Commission ordered Greece to permit a variety of gene-altered corn.      January 12, 2006   Washington Post 016169

China Maps.   When China's central authorities worked on an economic agenda of 'constructing a new countryside', they were considering rural desolation and stagnation. A remote village on the country's dry, barren loess plateau may one day disappear as more and more villagers leave to cities for a better living. Telecommunication services are unavailable when ill people need to go to a clinic in a village several kilometers away. The Chinese government is showing increasing concern over its rural areas, where more than 60% of its 1.3 billion population live. Authorities have listed "building a new countryside" as top of next year's economic agenda. "New countryside" was defined as one where farming production grows, and farmers enjoy a good living in villages with democratic management, a clean natural environment and healthy morals. The state will increase its financial injections into rural areas, increase income and improve rural infrastructure and public services. Rural areas will be the major destination of state investment. Since the country's urbanization drive began, agriculture and the countryside became a damper in China's overall economic growth. The result was a rapid urban boom leaving most rural areas stagnant. The per capita annual income for rural residents in 2004 was 2,936 yuan, 6.8% up from the previous year, but the country had 26.1 million rural people under the poverty line. The average income for urban residents was 3.21 times higher. While 42% of urbanites can have their medical expenses shared by cooperation mechanisms, nearly 90% of rural residents do not have such a privilege. The government has made a series of policies including the exemption of the farming tax, and a promise of offering free compulsory education to all poor rural children. Favorable policies are crucial for the well-being of people who stay in rural areas since it is impossible to urbanize quickly.      December 16, 2005   Xinhua 015915

Farming Claims Almost Half Earth's Land, New Maps Show.   New maps show that 40% percent of the Earth's land is given over to agriculture. The maps suggest that an area roughly the size of South America is used for crop production, while 7.9 to 8.9 billion acres is used to raise livestock. With the world's population growing rapidly, the pressure is on farmers to find new land. How can we produce food from the land while preventing negative consequences, such as deforestation, water pollution, and soil erosion? Past land-use data shows how agriculture has spread over the centuries. In 1700, just 7% of the world's land was used for farming. Figures from the FAO suggest that total farmland increased by 12.4 million acres annually between 1992 and 2002. In Brazil, huge areas of rain forest have been replaced by soybeans, fueled by demand for soy from China; 72% percent of land cleared for crops was previously pasture for livestock. It is not clear how much is replacing forests versus other land cover, but it is likely that these pastures were rain forest. If current trends continue, we should expect to see increased agricultural production at the cost of increased tropical deforestation driven to provide crops that are used as feed for cattle. Countries with the least suitable agricultural lands are likely to be the ones hardest hit by increased food demand. By some estimates, we can double the amount of cultivated land by using the potential lands in Latin America and Africa, however, these unexploited areas are not suited for agriculture, and using them would mean clearing valuable natural ecosystems. The issue is what we are going to do to the environment in the process of producing food. One potential could be using new technology to improve productivity while reducing the use of water and potentially harmful chemicals. The precision system, being developed by NASA, would use satellite data to help farmers decide how to use their resources with pinpoint accuracy based on the requirements of different areas. The next phase is to build a database to help design localized plans for land use. It will truly be a new experiment that bridges science, decision-making, and real-world environmental practice.      December 12, 2005   015872

Earth is All Out of New Farmland.   The Earth is running out of fertile land, and food production will soon be unable to keep up with the world's burgeoning population. More than one- third of the world's land is being used to grow crops or graze cattle. Satellite images and agricultural data was used to create maps of global land use that show a large part of our planet is being used for either growing crops or grazing cattle. Only 7% was being used for agriculture in 1700. The Amazon basin has seen some of the greatest changes, with the rainforest being felled to grow soya beans for China and the EU. Cropland areas have decreased slightly in the US and Europe and being gobbled up by urbanization. There is little room for further agricultural expansion. The question is, how can we continue to produce food from the land while preventing negative environmental consequences. Scientists now now believe the role of snow in maintaining the Earth's climate is more important than previously thought. In a world without snow, not only would global temperatures rise but the amount of permanently frozen land in the world would also go up. Global warming is expected to melt around 10% to 20% of the world's snow in the future. Snow tends to cool the air above it and stops the Earth from overheating. Without snow, we will see warming over northern Eurasia and North America annually, and a globally averaged warming of 0.8C. Snow provides a warm insulating blanket over the ground, and without it, vast areas of land would become permanently frozen. As a result, the permafrost would expand equatorwards by 500 to 1,000km, even though the overlying air warms by several degrees.      December 07, 2005   Taipai Times 015886

Manchester United Boss in US Clash with Greenpeace.   At risk is the future of the menhaden fish, which breeds in Chesapeake Bay and lives along America's eastern seaboard. Vast shoals are being vacuumed up at a time, threatening the ecosystem, and this has set Greenpeace against the American billionaire Malcolm Glazer whose family owns Omega Protein Corp, which fishes the bay. Mr Glazer's son is also a director of Manchester United. Greenpeace staged a protest demanding a moratorium for the fishery, and an end to the company taking menhaden out of the bay, claiming its 66 vessels and 30 spotter planes are threatening the entire stock. Sports fishermen claim that striped bass are starving because its principal food, menhaden, is disappearing. The menhaden also filters sea water for its food, cleaning up the pollution. The demonstration was the latest in a struggle to convince US Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to control catches until the true position of this valuable fish can be assessed by scientists. 12 hearings are being held to gauge public opinion after which a decision will be taken. The commission rejected a proposal by Omega to cap its take at 135,000 tonnes annually for the next four years. Critics say the proposed cap was larger than the current catch. Against the company is a cooperative of conservation and recreation organisations. The commission is suggesting a cap of 110,400 tonnes until more research can be done. Scientists do not have a clear picture on what is happening. A former fishery biologist said a robust menhaden population would remove nutrients which avoids having to pay a tax to treat sewage going into the bay. Support for Omega came from the National Association for Colored People (NAACP). The Reedville plant employs about 250 people in the fishing season, making it the third largest fishing port in the US. Greenpeace said that at the rate Omega is going, these jobs won't be there in a couple of generations. The best type of omega-3 is found in fish, high in two fatty acids crucial to health and Western diets contain very little omega-3. Hydrogenation removes it. Omega-3 is said to benefit depression, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), heart disease and period pain.      July 24, 2005   Richmond Times-Dispatch(US) 014739

Climate 'Key to African Future'.   The G8 meeting to alleviate poverty in Africa will fail unless action is taken to halt climate change, environment groups claim. The Working Group on Climate Change calls for deeper emission cuts in rich countries and for the G8 to make new funding available to help poor countries adapt to global warming. Governments had to recognise that dealing with climate change was part of the answer of getting people out of poverty in Africa. The working group wants rich countries to go far beyond Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gasses. They want: an end to fossil fuels in Africa and help for local people to use renewable energy; Increased support for small-scale agriculture; A flexible approach to respond to climate change at a local level. New data suggests the impact of climate change on crop production will be more severe than thought. Africa is predicted to be one of the worst hit areas of the world. The changes in weather patterns have potentially disastrous consequences for a continent which relies so heavily on rain-fed agriculture. African scientists need to be trained to deal with the changing climate such as by collecting weather forecasting data that would allow farmers to take action to protect their crops.      June 20, 2005   BBC News 014158

Proposal Would Allow Fish Farming Off US Coasts.   Citing pilot projects off New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, the administration is sending a bill to Congress to establish regulations for fish farming. Currently in the United States it focuses largely on freshwater fish, though there also are some ocean farms raising shellfish as well as shrimp and salmon. Farming of saltwater species has become increasingly common, with much of the catch sold in the US. Fish farming has drawn criticism from environmentalists, saying the problems with fish farms include the discharge of solid waste, the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and other potentially harmful chemicals and the escape of farmed fish. Seafood demand is expected to increase and the NOA Administration say the US has fallen behind. Currently the US imports 70% of the seafood eaten here. Currently, the US does not have a structure in place to allow aquaculture operations in federal marine waters. The bill would permit fish farming up to 200 miles off the coast, to be regulated by NOAA. "Our goal is to develop a sustainable aquaculture program that balances the needs of fishermen, coastal residents and visitors, seafood consumers, the environment, and the aquaculture industry," said NOAA. There are advantages to locating fish farms off shore including water depth, currents, and water quality. Maine salmon-farming companies say they have complied with state regulations but they were sued over alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Currently, only 14 of the 45 permanent ocean pens where salmon grow off Maine's coast are being utilized because of a federal court ruling. At New Hampshire's Open Ocean Aquaculture program nine miles offshore, fish scientists are experimenting with farming cod, Atlantic halibut, haddock, summer flounder, and other species. The project hopes to show that these species can be raised offshore without harming the environment.      June 08, 2005   The Christian Science Monitor 013969

The New Harvest of GM Cotton.   Evidence from the fields shows Monsanto's claims about its BT cotton variety to be spurious. A study of 481 Chinese farmers in five provinces found that after seven years of cultivation they had to spray up to 20 times to deal with secondary insects, bringing a net income of 8% less than conventional cotton farmers. Failure of BT cotton crops in India resulted in the suicides of an estimated 700 farmers in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, to escape debt incurred by buying the expensive GM seed. BT crops have been attacked by a disease unseen before which affected BT more than the non-BT cotton crop. Genetic engineering and BT cotton will neither revolutionise the countryside nor improve food security, but a new farm economy based on the principle of food sovereignty and farmers' rights as the centrepiece of the country's economic development model will.   June 01, 2005   IPS News 018900

Uganda: Women Benefit From Dairy Farming.   Local efforts to reduce on poverty in Sironko have scored through a Women dairy co-operative society. 500 exotic cows have been given out to women at family levels and had resulted in a decline in poverty levels at households. The co-operative started with 9 cows and now boasts over 500 exotic cows that benefit more 1000 people at household level. If the current trends continue, there would be more than 1000 animals in a year's time. The government plans to introduce zero grazing livestock farming in Kapchorwa, and should borrow lessons from the Women dairy co-operative that can help the government programme take off. President Yoweri Museveni had donated more 20 exotic cows to the project to boost the efforts of local women in the fight against poverty.   Sorry, this article did not say what these non-grazing 'exotic' cows eat. ;-)   April 06, 2005   The Monitor (Uganda) 013445

Fish Farms Tied in Study to Imperiling Wild Salmon.   Farm-raised salmon can be vulnerable to sea lice, but there has been disagreement about the extent to which the parasites spread to wild fish. Canadian researchers suggest that fish farms are producers of parasites and juvenile fish become infested just by swimming near them. The young fish may turn into secondary sources of infestation for other wild fish out at sea. A study adds to the debate over the wisdom of turning to aquaculture to replace wild fish. The findings suggest the parasite problem occurred wherever wild fish shared the ocean with fish farms but experts claim the correlation that the researchers reported was not evidence of cause-and-effect. They would have to show that the lice that are on the fish originated on the farms. Sea lice live in salt water, and wild salmon first encounter them when they swim down river to the sea. The parasites bite fish to feed on their blood, creating lesions that can disturb the fishes' osmotic balance with sea water. With the advent of fish farms, the juvenile fish encounter unusually large numbers of parasites. In April and May 2003, researchers trapped 5,500 pink and chum salmon swimming in a fjord that is also home to two salmon farms. The scientists concluded that the fish were free of parasites until they neared the farms but by the time they passed them they could be so infested they ended up spreading parasites as they went. One expert said this was not enough to convict the fish farms. But another researcher said evidence was consistent with the hypothesis that wild fish near fish farms were affected by sea lice.      March 30, 2005   New York Times* 013341

Public Enemy Number One Rehabilitated in China After 10 Years.   Lester Brown, once reviled by Chinese officials and academics for his environmental study "Who Will Feed China?," has been rehabilitated a decade after shocking the communist leadership. Brown was awarded an honorary professorship by the China Academy of Sciences (CAS) for his work that once made him "public enemy number one." In 1994, Brown predicted that a loss of cropland from rampant urbanization, industrialization and environmental degradation, and water scarcities would make it difficult for China to feed a growing population and become increasingly dependent on limited international grain stocks which could prompt price shocks around the world as countries vied to feed their peoples. To hear from a foreigner that China would be dependent on the world for its food was something the leaders had to deny. The famine, attributed to the revolutionary theories of Mao Zedong, killed up to 30 million Chinese in three years. Brown's book noted how the international grain trade is tied to world water shortages, with grain imports being exported to regions lacking water. Despite the spike in grain production in 1998, production has dropped every year since then except for last year. China had a 4.6 billion dollar agricultural trade deficit last year, with imports increasing by 48% over 2003. In 2004, China imported 24 million tons of corn, 7.3 million tons of wheat and nearly 23 million tons of soy beans and soy bean products. Brown has cautioned that China's economic miracle is expanding at an unsustainable rate and is creating tremendous pressures on resources while bankrupting the environment.      March 23, 2005   Agence France Presse 013211

War-torn Countries Fight to Protect Genetic Variability of Crops.   Abu Ghraib was the home of Iraq's main seed bank and plant breeding programme, where plant scientists packed up more than 1000 seed varieties and shipped them to Aleppo for safe-keeping. In the chaos that followed the invasion in 2003, the seed bank was destroyed and its equipment looted. When the time is right, the seeds will form the basis for plant breeding to restore Iraqi agriculture. Among the seeds are varieties with inbuilt resistance to heat, drought and salinity that could be invaluable for plant breeding programmes worldwide. Wars threaten the world's genetic heritage and hence its capacity to feed itself in the future. Some of the recent conflicts have been fought in areas where important crops originated, and most of the genetic diversity essential for future breeding still resides. From southern Israel to Iraq is the genetic heartland of wheat and barley. Cambodia is home of rice, the world's most widely consumed grain. But the curators of seed banks and scientists are fighting back using a strategy they call "smart aid". In Iraq, that means reinstating varieties. Elsewhere, smart aid means searching out potentially useful varieties in strife-torn landscapes. In some places, varieties have been lost forever. In past emergencies, aid agencies relied on seed shipments from abroad, often of insufficiently tested varieties. Afghanistan is the genetic heartland of vegetables such as carrots and radishes, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and numerous fruits, including grapes, melons, figs, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches and pears. Social disruption and fitful central planning have uprooted much knowledge about seeds. In the early 1970s, the country had 22 agricultural research stations. All have been abandoned or confiscated by warlords. The seed collection in Kabul was destroyed by mujahedeen. Researchers put together a collection of key samples and, during the days of the Taliban, hid them in the basements of houses in Ghazni and Jalalabad, before fleeing the country. When they returned looters had destroyed remnants of the collection. The seeds were scattered on the floor, only the plastic containers were taken. Much of the collection was irreplaceable but some varieties were also held abroad and have been shipped back for propagation. One hope is that researchers can use these seeds to develop improved varieties of fruit trees and revive the horticulture. In pre-Taliban days, fruits and nuts were a major crop, but many orchards have been chopped for firewood or died for want of irrigation. Afghanistan used to be the world centre for almonds, with more than 60 native varieties. Fortunately, samples have been stored in seed banks round the world, and now along with saffron, cumin and other crops, will replace opium poppies in the rural economy. A hectare of poppies earns farmers eight times as much as a hectare of wheat. If a scorched-earth policy is implemented to rid the country of poppies, the farmers will be in need of a new cash crop. In the Palestinian territories, decades of conflict have left a parched wilderness, populated by goats. But they are the home to 2500 plant species, many related to some of the world's key food crops including the wild grasses (Triticum) that early farmers turned into wheat 10,000 years ago. Plant breeders are anxious to help Palestinian farmers, but the occupation has turned the hills into a time capsule where collectors are combing the hills for grasses with unique attributes, such as genes for drought-tolerance. In Iraq, too, plant collectors are keen to explore long-neglected areas. They plan to go to northern Iraq to search for the many varieties of wild wheat believed to have survived in remote valleys. Oat farmers are benefiting from genes found in a disease-resistant wild oat discovered in the West Bank in the 1960s and a drought-tolerant barley by crossing a traditional variety with an ancestor found in the West Bank. The new variety produced half a tonne of grain during one of the driest years on record. In a world suffering droughts, the benefits could extend far and wide. New varieties continually need new genes to maintain their vigour, fight off evolving pests and respond to changing climate. Those genes may be stored in seed banks, growing in forgotten fields or scattered among the fast-disappearing wild grasses from which farmers' varieties were themselves first bred. Cassava is the staple the Congo. Its roots are packed with carbohydrates and its leaves are a protein-rich green vegetable. But when a new strain of the mosaic virus arrived thousands of people were threatened with starvation as the cassava yields crashed. A resistant strain was developed, with thousands of seedlings for emergency distribution. Disaster in Cambodia in the 1970s, while scientists know of 2500 Cambodian rice varieties in existence, there were once many thousands more and until about 40 years ago, a typical farmer would grow a dozen or more varieties, for different needs and to ensure a harvest whatever the weather. The Khmer Rouge emptied the cities in the name of rural development, but caused chaos with forced migrations and the collectivisation of farms. Pol Pot banned traditional deep-water rice varieties, and replaced them with Chinese varieties that failed to flourish, and rice production fell by 84%. After the ousting of the Khmer Rouge, refugees brought back some of the old varieties and scientists repatriated a handful of varieties that had been collected from Cambodia months before the Khmer Rouge took over. But hundreds of varieties disappeared, which contained unique genetic traits that could have boosted future production. A study found that in one district the 15 most adapted deep-water varieties were all lost and knowledge about what to plant where also disappeared. As well as helping agriculture recover from the ravages of war, smart-aiders are working out ways to make it less vulnerable in the first place. One important factor is supporting informal seed exchange. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 saw the collapse of the potato harvest, which relied on commercial production and distribution of seeds. But the informal market in bean seeds was barely disturbed. Commercial or government seed distribution systems are vulnerable to disruption, but local seed markets can survive and recover more quickly. Unfortunately, farmers are abandoning their traditional varieties in favour of a shrinking number of modern ones. And the expansion of patent laws means that seed distribution is becoming commercialised. The latest example comes from Iraq, where Paul Bremer introduced US-style rules that outlawed farmers exchanging patented seeds.      January 22, 2005   New Scientist 012704

The Coming Cliff - Eating Fossil Fuels.   The US and Canada feed much of the world. According to CNN, Britain's Independent and Jane's Defence Weekly, world oil and gas reserves are 80% less than predicted and little thinking has been devoted to the crises certain to follow. Human beings draw their energy from the food they eat. Until the last century the energy in food was derived from the sun that set a limit on the amount of food that could be generated and therefore placed a limit upon population growth. To increase food production, you had to increase the acreage under cultivation. Human population grew by displacing everything else and appropriating more and more of the available solar energy. When Europeans could no longer expand cultivation, they began the task of conquering the world. Today, virtually all of the productive land on this planet is being exploited by agriculture. When agricultural output could expand no more by increasing acreage, new innovations made possible a more thorough exploitation of the acreage. With every increase in food production, the human population grew. Nearly 40% of all land-based photosynthetic capability has been appropriated by human beings. The rest of nature is forced to make do with what is left. In the 1950s and 1960s, agriculture underwent a drastic transformation resulting in the industrialization of agriculture resulting from more productive food crops and world grain production increased by 250%. The additional energy provided fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation, increasing the energy flow to agriculture by 50 times that of traditional agriculture. In the U.S. 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American, broken down as follows: 31% for inorganic fertilizer, 19% for field machinery, 16% for transportation, 13% for irrigation, 08% for livestock (not including livestock feed), 05% for crop drying, 05% for pesticide, and 08% miscellaneous. The production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy of 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel. In the year from June 30 2001 until June 30 2002 the U.S used 12,009,300 short tons of nitrogen fertilizer, equivalent to the energy content of 96.2 million barrels of diesel fuel. Between 1945 and 1994, energy for agriculture increased 4-fold while crop yields increased 3-fold. We have reached the point of marginal returns - yet, due to soil degradation, increased pest management and energy costs for irrigation, modern agriculture must increase its energy expenditures to maintain current crop yields. Total fossil fuel use in the U.S. has increased 20-fold in the last 4 decades and agriculture accounts for 17%. The U.S. food system consumes ten times more energy than it produces in food energy - made possible by nonrenewable fossil fuel. As fossil fuel production begins to decline within the next decade, there will be less energy available for the production of food. Intensive agriculture is unsustainable. Soil erosion, overtaxed cropland and water resource lead to greater use of fossil fuels. More fertilizers and pesticides must be applied, irrigation water requires more energy to pump; and fossil fuels are used to process polluted water. The expanding human population is putting increasing pressure on land availability. The development of solar energy or biomass must be at the expense of agriculture that consumes fully 85% of all U.S. freshwater resources. The production of 1 pound of maize requires 1,400 pounds (or 175 gallons) of water. Modern agriculture is unsustainable and is damaging the land, draining water supplies and polluting the environment. Worldwide, more nitrogen fertilizer is used per year than can be supplied through natural sources and water is pumped out of underground aquifers at a higher rate than it is recharged. By 2025, the U.S. will cease to be a food exporter due to domestic demand. The impact on the U.S. economy could be devastating, as food exports earn $40 billion annually. More important, millions of people around the world could starve to death without U.S. food. We could utilize livestock manures that are now wasted. Perhaps most effective would be to eliminate meat from our diet altogether. To achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the U.S. must reduce its population by at least one-third. For sustainability, global population will have to be reduced from the current 6.32 billion people to 2 billion-a reduction of 68%. The end of this decade could see spiraling food prices and the coming decade could see massive starvation on a global level.      January 16, 2005   Dale Allen Pfeiffer 012637

U.S.: Food and Population.   In the 1940s, Los Angeles County led the nation in farming income, now it leads the nation in population density. Elsewhere in California, about 50,000 acres of farmland vanish each year. Georgia, Ohio, and Texas each have had more than 150,000 acres of agricultural land consumed by development that is being stoked by population growth and the desire for more space. Average property lot sizes have doubled in the past two decades. According to a study by the American Farmland Trust, "Housing developments are encroaching on the rural West and could replace more than 24 million acres of ranchland by 2020. More food to feed more people suggests a need for more farmland and ranchland. Instead, both are disappearing rapidly.      2005   Think Population 015685

U.S. Cutting Food Aid That Is Aimed at Self-Sufficiency.   In one of the first signs of the tightening federal budget, the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid. The administration has said it was unable to honor earlier promises and would pay for food only in emergency crises like that in Darfur. The cutbacks come when the number of hungry is rising for the first time in years. As a result, charities have eliminated programs that intended to help the poor feed themselves through improvements in farming, education and health. Catholic Relief Services had to cut back programs in Indonesia, Malawi and Madagascar. Officials say the food aid budget was at least $600 million less than what charities would need. The administration attributed the cutbacks to the demands this year, especially in Africa, and the delay in approving a budget. The majority of resources is going to emergency food aid. One administration official voiced concern that the best way to avoid future famines is to help poor countries become self-sufficient with cash and food aid now. Several members of Congress are trying to convince the administration that food aid should not be cut. Representative Emerson, Republican of Missouri, led an effort that persuaded the administration to release 200,000 tons of grain for emergency food aid to Sudan. Now she is lobbying to finance foreign food aid programs fully and increase the money. She also said Europe should increase its food aid and relieve some of the pressure on the United States, which is the largest donor to UN food programs. Further complicating aid is a debate at the WTO over concerns that the US has used food aid to dump surplus.      December 22, 2004   New York Times* 012504

U.S. is Slashing World Food Aid Contributions; Disasters, Emergencies Hit Amid Budget Deficits.   Demands on the US food aid program is forcing the government to cancel food shipments and scale back donations. The US uses its agricultural riches to provide half, and sometimes more, of the aid to feed the world's hungry. But a threefold increase in emergency food demands this year, a U.S. deficit and tight budget restrictions are making it impossible for the US to fulfill its commitments with an estimated $650 million shortfall. The U.S. Agency for International Development USAID is diverting resources from long-term development programs, which address the health and food needs of people suffering chronic hunger. USAID has canceled or delayed food orders placed by humanitarian agencies including feeding vulnerable children, AIDS patients and health care for mothers and infants. Because of food aid shortfall, USAID postponed paying for 20 new projects and delayed payments for some existing programs. Food shipments might resume soon, but there may be cancellations or delays. Catholic Relief Services anticipates that the cuts will leave more than 1.5 million without food assistance and could leave 1.2 million children without schooling, 1.2 million mothers and infants without nutrition and 1.6 million farmers without farm tools. USAID has canceled shipments of 12,860 metric tons of food for Indonesia, Eritrea and Malawi. It delayed the 85,640 metric tons to a dozen programs in Africa and South and Central America. American cutbacks have forced Save the Children to put several programs on hold in Africa and slash its food operations in Tajikistan, Central Asia, by 50%. The UN has received more than 50% of its funds from the US and is bracing for cuts in financial support for its non-emergency operations. It is seeking donations from China, Russia and India. In southern Africa, the WFP's appeal for $171 million to feed 2.8 million people has generated only $11.5. Food stockpiles run out next month in Lesotho. There are less food aid resources in the US and huge demands because of Sudan. What makes this year's budget shortfall serious is its impact on development projects and no relief in sight. In the Bush administration's 2005 budget, $1.183 billion was allocated for Food for Peace with $468 million earmarked for emergencies and the rest for assistance. Earlier this month, after requests from Congress and the aid community, the administration released 200,000 metric tons of wheat from an emergency food reserve to meet increased demands in Sudan. USAID has a $650 million shortfall and with no clear indication of when or whether food shipments will resume, humanitarian agencies are making plans to lay off employees and to tell beneficiaries that they cannot expect assistance this year.      December 19, 2004   Baltimore Sun 012489

Number of Hungry Rising, U.N. Says.   Despite an increase in the world's wealth, the UN food and agriculture agency says that after a steady decrease, the number of hungry people rose to nearly 852 million, an increase of 18 million since 2000. Five million children are dying from hunger every year. The world is producing enough food, but the problem is the access of people to jobs, resources, land and money. The UN labor organization, reported that half of the world's workers, 1.4 billion people, earn less than $2 a day. Oxfam reported that the aid budgets of rich nations are half what they were in 1960. Members of the UN have pledged to cut world poverty in half by 2015. In the latest survey of 2002 the number was up to 814.6 million, with an additional 28.3 million from countries in transition and 9 million from the developed world, 80% live in rural areas and over half are subsistence farmers. Competition from the wealthiest farmers, subsidized by their governments, has been blamed in part for the inequity. Trade ministers continue working to reduce these subsidies at trade talks next year. Thirty countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America cut the percentage of hungry people by at least 25% by focusing their development programs on small farmers. The Zero Hunger Program of Brazil was singled out as a model, it provides free school lunches but only buys food from local farmers, so that the money raises the standard of living of subsistence farmers throughout the country. The basic problem of malnutrition and hunger is providing the resources to a family through income and social services. The children under three are most vulnerable to disease and death and without nutrition, it is difficult for them to recover and lead productive lives.      December 08, 2004   New York Times* 012348

U.S. Food Imports Increase, May Match Exports This Year.   The ever-increasing appetite for foreign foods and beverages in the U.S. is among the reasons the nation is expected to pay as much for imported farm products in fiscal 2005 as it earns by selling agricultural products abroad. If the forecast is accurate, 2005 will mark the first time since the late 1950s the country didn't record an agricultural surplus. U.S. consumers are projected to buy more foreign foods this year, helping push the value of all U.S. agricultural imports to $56 billion up from $52.7 billion last year. The value of U.S. farm exports is projected to fall to $56 billion from a peak of $62.3 billion in the prior year. The nation exported $9.6 billion more in farm products than it imported. The forecast is subject to shifts in exchange rates, GDP and foreign production. The country's evolution into a food importer would erode its balance of trade with the rest of the world - until now the farm sector has dependably produced a surplus to offset the consumer goods from Asia. The U.S. trade deficit is running close to $600 billion. Total imports for the nine months ending in September were $1.079 trillion, up from $934 billion last year. This year, imports of agricultural products are less than 5% of total imports, and exports are about 7% of total exports. Many of the imported goods are items not produced by U.S. farmers and immigrant populations demand imports from their homelands. Americans' demand for imported food, in terms of volume tends to rise in line with population growth, but the value varies according to import prices. Beef, for example, is among the fastest-growing food imports, rising 47% in value and 23% in volume in 2004, compared with 2003. Beef imports are projected to rise by $300 million, this year, because of higher prices. Red-meat imports in general have risen in recent years, to around 1.9 million tons in fiscal 2004 from 1.7 million in 2000. The weaker dollar should slow the growth of imports and help boost exports, the report said. But the dollar's decline hasn't done much to shift the trade balance in favor of American goods.      November 25, 2004   Washington Post 012492

Millions in Ethiopia Said to Need Food Aid.   Four million Ethiopians would die each year without food aid. Now, foreign aid should focus on lifting this nation out of poverty, rather than keeping people alive with handouts. Millions of people in the famine-prone northeastern highlands are worse off and more vulnerable than ever. It is shocking that after 20 years millions of children still experience hunger, yet donors have shown a lack of political will and a shortsighted approach to aid. Tony Blair is set to attend a meeting of a commission to assess the economic, political and social crisis in Africa and develop policies to help the continent. Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world with the average annual per capita income of $100. Donor countries must inject more investments in education and health care in a bid to help the country break out of poverty. The sum invested in long term development has been paltry.      October 04, 2004   Associated Press 011759

Despite Bumper Harvest, World's Cupboard Grows Bare.   The FAO is meeting in Rome and the top item is food security. The world is on the brink of a global food crisis. But leaders heard similar forecasts three decades ago and did nothing. The FAO estimates that 842 million people were undernourished in 1999-2001 and has grown since then by 18 million in poor countries and by 9 million in those nations moving from communism to market systems. More than three-fourths of developing and in-transition countries are not on course to attain the goal. 76 million people a year are added to today's population of 6.2 billion. By midcentury, there could be 9 billion mouths to feed. The world's grain harvests have for four years fallen short of consumption and have pulled down grain reserves to 59 days, the lowest level in 30 years. The world should have 70 days of grain supply after each harvest and fortunately, this year's harvest is superb. The crops of wheat, corn, and rice are up 20 to 30%, the soybean crop has doubled. Yet we were not able to boost stocks, and this bumper crop was just enough to satisfy world consumption. If harvests are normal, world food reserves could become dangerously slim. Widespread famine was averted in the past because of big boosts in production in key areas. Within 10 years, the world had surpluses instead of shortages. Unfortunately, no higher-yield grains are in the offing, and arable land is shrinking. The FAO's wants more spending to bring the latest technologies to the people most in danger of hunger. Also greater efforts to encourage birth control in nations, where most population growth will be occur. Also to have farmers control their use of water and the world to tackle global warming more seriously, as a 1C rise in the temperature cuts grain yields 1%. It's dangerous to get too complacent.      September 27, 2004   Monitor, The(Uganda) 011665

Agriculture Alternatives


Aquaculture Holds the Promise of Sustainability.   Specialists say aquaculture can help spur the recovery of natural populations of aquatic species - and provide food and income for small-scale farmers in developing countries. Asia continues to dominate the farming of aquatic species, accounting for approximately 92% of the world harvest. According to the UNFAO, annual production from commercial fishing has stabilized at about 95 million metric tons, while aquaculture has increased by almost 9% each year since 1970. Aquaculture's probably producing about 50% of the fish that are eaten. The most problematic problem is the spread of non-native species, when farmed fish escape. The best way to avoid this is to raise only fish that are native to that area. Other potential problems include pollution from excessive feeding and waste products, and the clearing of environmentally sensitive land to create ponds. Also, when the ponds are filled with salt water the salt can contaminate the soil. When practiced sustainably, aquaculture can benefit the environment by reducing pressure from commercial fishing and helping to rebuild wild populations. Disease, poor water quality and decades of overharvest have drastically reduced the Chesapeake Bays natural oyster population and aquaculture is a way to bring the oysters back. Oysters are removed and replaced with disease-free hatchery seed and allowed to grow until 60% are at least 10 centimeters long. Aquaculture contributes to local food security and generates income. The demand for seafood is expected to increase, and aquaculture will continue to be the most rapidly growing food production system.   January 26, 2009   The Cutting Edge 023590

Terra Preta - An Inexpensive, If Not Profitable, Solution to the Problems of Global Warming and Developing World Hunger.   A technology for diminishing the fertility difference was developed about 7000 years ago, by Indian tribes in Amazonia. The technology was never transmitted to European settler. Modern man discovered this ancient technology around 1870, and this attracted widespread interest among soil scientists around 1950. As a result, scientists from many parts of the world are now busy trying to reproduce the technology, including the ability to spread the fertile tropical soils over large areas. Throughout Amazonia one finds countless patches, roughly 50 acres (0.2 km2) in size, of fertile soil with depths of up to about 2.0 meters (04D1). Patches 350 to 500 km2 in size have also been found (04D1). Modern-day Brazilians extract this fertile "terra preta" (a fine dark loam) and sell it. Terra preta soil organic matter content is about 50 times greater than that found in typical low fertility tropical soils Terra preta also contains three times as much phosphorous and nitrogen as surrounding soils. Tropical rains don't seem to leach nutrients from fields of terra preta soil. Terra preta soils are often 1-2 meters deep, far deeper that global average topsoil thicknesses and "self-propagates" (somewhat like sourdough bread), perhaps due to some microorganism. It now appears that among the first effects will be the elimination of global warming as a result of the improved tropical soils creating a huge carbon sink. The likely side effects include huge economic benefits to developing nations, and probable major reductions in both human hunger and tropical deforestation. This would suggest that elimination of global warming could be accomplished at very low cost. For most tropical soils, fertility resides in the plant life growing on these soils and in the decaying leaves, stems, branches, trunks, roots and fruit of dead plants. This difference in soil fertility, in combination with the higher population growth rates in tropical nations, probably explains why the bulk of the world's hunger is found in tropical nations. The basic reason for the difference in soil properties is that the organic matter contents (carbon) of most tropical soils are roughly a third of what they are in most temperate soils. The useful forms of key soil nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other elements) are to be found associated with the soil organic matter. So with less soil organic matter these key nutrients tend to leach out into surface waters and ground waters draining the soil. The formation of organo-mineral complexes makes the soil more fertile as a result of the stable organo-mineral complexes remaining in the soil, effectively increasing the soil organic matter content. Converting ordinary tropical soils into terra preta can double or triple crop yields. It has been calculated that simply by replacing the "slash-and-burn" agriculture by "slash-and-char," up to 12% of the carbon emissions produced by human activity could be eliminated.   Ralph says: There is so much information in this article that anyone interested should read the entire publication(follow the link).   September 2008   Bruce Sundquist webpage 023443

U.S. Is Creating 3 Centers for Research on Biofuels.   The Energy Department is creating three start-up companies with $125 million each in capital, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Madison, Wisconsin; and near Berkeley, Calif. They will involve numerous universities, national laboratories and private companies. The goal is to bring new technologies to market within five years to support Bush's goal of reducing gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years. The centers will focus on finding naturally occurring microbes that can break down plants and trees, to give access to cellulose that can be converted into liquid fuels. Today, companies trying to commercialize cellulosic ethanol use heat and acids an expensive process. They have focused on cellulose which is made up of six-carbon sugars, found in grains that have been turned into fermented products like beer for thousands of years, and of five-carbon sugars, which cannot be fermented by ordinary means. The centers will also work on creating new crops that produce lignin that is easier to deal with. Ethanol is increasingly used as a gasoline substitute, but that has driven up the price of corn. There are other sources of biomass that has nothing to do with corn or any other food, such as switch grass. In another area, it would help establish laboratories to test designs for wind turbine blades up to 300 feet long. The size has tripled in the last five years and could triple again, but would require blades of lighter materials. The centers, each to be financed by $25 million a year, are to be fully operational by Sept. 1, 2009.   Karen Gaia says: if they are cutting down rainforest to grow switch grass, that is not a good idea either.   June 26, 2007   New York Times* 021456

Massive Diversion of U.S. Grain to Fuel Cars.   Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising. The use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol is creating consequences throughout the global food chain. In Mexico, the price of tortillas is up by 60% percent. Angry Mexicans have forced the government to institute price controls on tortillas. Food prices are also rising in China, India, and the US, 40% of the world's people. Vast quantities of corn are consumed indirectly in meat, milk, and eggs in both China and the US. In China, pork prices were up 20% above a year earlier, eggs were up 16%. In India, the food price index in 2007 was 10% higher than a year earlier. The price of wheat has jumped 11%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the wholesale price of chicken in 2007 will be 10% higher than in 2006, the price of eggs will be up 21%, and milk 14%, and this is only the beginning. As more and more fuel ethanol distilleries are built, world grain prices are starting to move up toward their oil-equivalent value. In this new economy, if the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will move it into the energy economy. Some 16 of the 2006 U.S. harvest was used to produce ethanol. With 80 or so ethanol distilleries under construction, nearly a third of the 2008 grain harvest will be going to ethanol. Since the United States is the leading exporter of grain, what happens to the U.S. grain crop affects the entire world. The world's breadbasket is fast becoming the U.S. fuel tank. The UN lists 34 countries as needing emergency food assistance. Food aid programs have fixed budgets. Protests in response to rising food prices could lead to political instability that would add to the list of failed and failing states. President Bush set a production goal for 2017 of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels. Given the difficulties in producing cellulosic ethanol at a competitive cost and the mounting public opposition to liquefied coal, most of the fuel to meet this goal might have to come from grain. This could leave little grain to meet U.S. needs, much less those of the countries that import grain. The risk is that millions of those on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder will start falling off as higher food prices drop their consumption below the survival level. In 2007, 18,000 children are dying every day from hunger and malnutrition. There are alternatives. A rise in fuel efficiency standards of 20% over the next decade would save as much oil as converting the entire U.S. grain harvest into ethanol. One option is plug-in hybrids. Adding a second storage battery to a gas-electric hybrid car along with a plug-in capacity allows most short-distance driving to be done with electricity. If this was accompanied by thousands of wind farms that could feed cheap electricity into the grid, then cars could run largely on electricity for the equivalent cost of $1 per gallon gasoline. Toyota, Nissan, and GM, have announced plans to bring plug-in hybrid cars to market. It is time to decide whether to continue with subsidizing more grain-based distilleries or to encourage a shift to more fuel-efficient cars. The choice is between a future of rising world food prices, spreading hunger, and growing political instability, or one of stable food prices, sharply reduced dependence on oil, and much lower carbon emissions.   Karen Gaia says: No mention of there being too many people and too many people with large appetites for energy. Time to conserve energy. Move closer to your work and shopping. Move where you can walk or bicycle to whereever you need to go. Go from a multi-car family to a one car family and save money on gas, car insurance, and the car itself. And let's get away from globalization and back to bioregionlism. Take the farms away from the corporations and let the local people go back to farming. And give women access to ways to keep their family size small.   March 21, 2007   Earth Policy News 020801

The Short-term Solution That Stuck Where U.S. Agricultural Subsidies Came From, and Why They're Still Here.   Between 1995 and 2005, the government paid farmers $164.7 billion. What are taxpayers gaining in return? Nearly a third ($51.3 billion) of total farm payments from 1995 to 2005 went to corn which causes significant environmental damage in the growing phase, and more than half of U.S. corn production is used as feed for animal-feeding. U.S. farmers, helped by agribusiness industry tend to churn out food faster than Americans can consume it, and this leads to ever-lower prices. The Roosevelt administration made farm support a linchpin of the New Deal and to keep prices at a reasonable level,tried to manage farm output. When prices began to fall, the government would pay farmers to leave some land fallow. In bumper-crop years, the government would buy excess grain and store it. In lean years the government would release some of that stored grain, mitigating sudden price hikes. Federal power could not keep prices at levels that could sustain farmers' livelihoods. The technological revolution overwhelmed the government's ability to limit supply. The government could pay farmers to take acres out of production, but it couldn't stop farmers from milking every last drop from each remaining acre. In the early 1970s, rather than focus on supply management, the agency moved to jack up demand, the USDA sought overseas markets. As a price-boosting strategy, the Soviet grain sale succeeded. The Soviets bought a full quarter of the 1972 wheat crop, and prices surged, by a factor of four. Rather than urge farmers to hold land fallow or store excess grain, they were asked to flood the market with the whole harvest. If such a strategy were to lead to overproduction and low prices, in the short term, the government would support farmers with direct payments when prices dipped below the cost of production. In the long term, new markets would be opened overseas. The U.S. has moved aggressively to open markets for U.S. goods overseas, but export growth has failed to keep up with ever-rising yields. And a short-term solution, direct payments to farmers, has morphed into an institution.   Ralph says: Do not worry, using corn to make ethanol will soon take away any surplus crops. Karen Gaia says: Corn fuel will wreck the soil and suck up water, so it is not sustainable. We also subsidize unrenewable fuel (oil) in the form of the Iraq war.   January 30, 2007   Grist Magazine 020168

X Prize Foundation Offers $10 Million Prize for Creator of Eco-Friendly Car.   The X Prize Foundation is launching a contest to see who can design the best mass-producible, low-emissions vehicle, cheap enough to sell 10,000 units a year, with a fuel economy of at least 100 miles per gallon. The 'automotive' industry is stuck, but the technologies to build superefficient vehicles exist. Why stop at 100 mpg?" asks MIT student Robyn Allen, who has been working with colleagues to build a car that will get 200 mpg. The prize will be awarded in 2009, after a series of races in a variety of driving conditions.   2007   Nature magazine 020805

Is Sustainable Agriculture An Oxymoron?.   Farming in its current form is destroying topsoil and biodiversity and is unsustainable. Permaculture, although it encompasses many disciplines, orbits most fundamentally around food. Scholars break human cultures into five categories based on how they get food. Foragers (or hunter-gatherers), Horticulturists, Agriculturists, Pastoralists, and Industrial cultures. A Farming culture is also a conquering culture. Turning protein into energy exacts a high metabolic cost and is inefficient. Starches and sugars are more easily converted into calories than protein, and calories are the main limiting factor in reproduction. A group getting its calories mostly from plants will reproduce faster than one getting its calories from meat. Also, farming loosens the linkage between ecological damage and food supply. If foragers decimate the local antelope herd, it means starvation and a low birth rate for the hunters. If the hunters move or die off, the antelope herd will rebound quickly. But when a forest is cleared for crops, the loss of biodiversity translates into more food for people. Soil begins to deplete immediately but that won't be noticed for many years. When the soil is finally ruined, which is the fate of nearly all agricultural soils, it will stunt ecological recovery for decades. A growing population needs more land. Depleted farmland forces a population to take over virgin soil. Expansion is built into agricultural societies. Industrial society allows the least diversity of all, tolerating only a single global culture. Forager cultures, on the other hand, are usually very site specific: they know the habits of particular species and have a culture built around a certain place. They rarely conquer new lands, as new terrain and its different species would alter the culture's knowledge, stories, and traditions. The easy calories of agriculture were gained at the cost of good nutrition and health. Evidence at some archaeological sitex show that farmers there had more tooth problems typical of malnutrition, more anemia, were shorter, lived shorter lives, and had an increase in spine degeneration indicative of a life of hard labor, compared to their forager forebears in the same area. Agriculture did not become a reliable source of food until fossil fuels gave us the massive energy subsidies needed to avoid shortfalls. When farming can no longer be subsidized by petrochemicals, famine will once again be a regular visitor. Agriculture needs more and more fuel to supply the population growth it causes. Farming before oil depended on animal labor, demanding acreage for feed and pasture. We now use 4 to 10 calories for each calorie of food energy. Agriculture needs inputs from vast additional acreages for fertilizer, animal feed, fuel and ore for smelting tools, and so on. Farming must always drain energy and diversity from the land, degrading more and more wilderness. Under population growth and land hunger, Earth's ecosystems will increasingly be converted into human food and food-producing tools. Forager cultures have a built-in check on population, since the plants and animals they depend on cannot be over-harvested without immediate harm. But agriculture has no similar structural constraint. With agriculture, power begins its concentration into fewer and fewer hands. He who controls the surplus controls the group. Personal freedom erodes naturally under agriculture. An industrial culture puts costs upon rural places via pollution and export of wastes. These tendencies explain why, now that the US has shifted from an agrarian base to an industrial one, Americans can no longer afford to consume products made at home and must turn to agrarian countries, such as China and Mexico, or despotic regimes, such as Saudi Arabia's, for low-cost inputs. Horticulture is the most efficient method known for obtaining food, measured by return on energy invested. It may take several millennia, as we are learning, but agriculture will eventually deplete planetary ecosystems, and horticulture might not. Horticulturists use polycultures, tree crops, perennials, and limited tillage, and have an intimate relationship with diverse species of plants and animals. We may need to create a culture in which surplus, and the fear and greed that make it desirable, are no longer the structural results of our cultural practices. The horticultural way of life may offer the road to human freedom, health, and a just society.   August 16, 2006   Energy Bulletin - USA 018464

Ethanol Decent on Efficiency but Not on Greenhouse Gases, Study Finds.   New research claims that replacing fossil fuels with corn-based ethanol is energy-efficient but doesn't cut greenhouse-gas pollution. Ethanol results in a net energy gain of about 20%, but the pollution generated in processing the corn offsets any gains in greenhouse-gas emissions. The author of several studies questioning ethanol's energy efficiency disagrees with the findings, saying they failed to factor in farm machinery and overestimated the value of corn byproducts. But all agree that the future of ethanol is not corn, but higher-cellulose plants like switchgrass and willow trees.      February 08, 2006   Nature.com 016290

Internationally Renowned Kansan on Quest for Earth-friendly Crop.   Modern agriculture erodes the soil, contributes to pollution and needs to be transformed. Wes Jackson and a team of scientists are working to develop perennial grain crops that would grow in mixtures mimicking the natural prairie and save the soil from being lost or poisoned by herbicides. Jackson has long been concerned about the sustainability of agriculture. His Institute has developed a perennial winter-hardy sorghum and has a graduate research program, which awards up to $9,000 per year to students for natural systems agriculture research. The program is meant to fund research that might otherwise not be done because it’s considered too long-term, risky or unnecessary. Some questioned whether Jackson’s perennial crops would be as productive as current crops. A winter wheat breeder and professor at Washington State University, said there were huge problems in agriculture today and this is one approach. He’s got people from Australia to Sweden listening to what he’s saying. Before 2000, the researchers put most of their effort into domesticating native prairie species and perennial plants that grow wild in other places. Today, they are hybridizing annual crop plants such as wheat, sunflower and sorghum with related perennial species. The Institute is working to develop high-yield plants suitable for crop farming and someday would yield as much as current crops after decades of breeding. If one counted soil retention and resource conversation, perennial grains would be more productive even before they were equal in producing bushels. The Institute has developed a perennial winter-hardy sorghumut winter hardiness is only one trait needed for the plant to be suitable for farming, many of the sorghum plants were too tall, or have seeds that were too small, or other traits that made them look much different from the farm crop, so researchers are trying to reassemble the whole group of traits. Genetic engineering doesn’t fit the Institute’s goals because it entails working with a single gene to make a change to a plant and there isn’t one gene for perenniality. Jackson estimates the work will take more than two more decades.      November 13, 2005   LJ World 015612

U.K.: Wave, Wind, Sun and Tide is a Powerful Mix - Research at Oxford shows how renewables can plug Britain's energy gap, says Oliver Tickell.   Britain is facing a power gap of 2,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity, almost 40% of peak national demand by 2020, as ageing, power stations are shut. There is a growing consensus that only nuclear power can plug that gap without contributing to global warming. The output of technologies that harness wind, wave, tide and sun is too variable and unpredictable to provide more than a small part of electricity needs. Meeting the target of 20% renewables by 2020 could mean getting 15% from wind and other intermittent sources, with the balance coming from renewables such as biomass and landfill gas. And that, is as much intermittency as the system can take. Any more there will be need reserves of expensive, polluting backup capacity, whenever the wind. Research at Oxford University shows that by mixing sites and technologies, you can reduce the variability of electricity supplied by renewables. If you plan the right mix, renewable and intermittent technologies can be made to match real-time demand and reduces the need for backup. It puts renewables ahead of nuclear power, which runs at the same rate all the time regardless of fluctuations in demand. Electricity production could be optimised by creating a mixture of 65% wind, 25% dCHP, and 10% solar cells. The high proportion of wind is because the wind blows hardest in the winter, and in the evening when demand is highest. The domestic combined heat and power also produces more at peak times, when demand is strongest. Solar makes a smaller contribution, and produces nothing at night, but is important as it kicks in when other production is lowest. It is essential to disperse the generators as widely as possible. By increasing the separation you can be sure that power is always being generated somewhere. This approach is effective in reducing standby capacity. If offshore wind power alone provided an average 3,500MW of electricity, 10% of demand in England and Wales, it would need to be backed up by a standby generating capacity of 3,135MW - 90% of average production. But using this mix of technologies, only 400MW of standby capacity would be needed just 11%. Wave power output is concentrated into autumn and winter, when demand is greatest: 75% of wave power is produced between October and March. Tidal power is predictable, but variable. A marine-based system works best when it includes both tide and wave which has lower variability, is better at meeting demand patterns, and makes better use of transmission infrastructure. Britain's available renewable resources could realistically provide some 35% of the UK's electricity, marine and dCHP each 10-15%, and solar cells 5-10%. More than half the UK's electricity could come from intermittent renewables.      May 12, 2005   Guardian (London) 013660

Human Compost Boosts Harvests in Mozambique.   Human compost has changed the face of farming in Mozambique Matimangwe, 2,300 miles from the capital is where the demands of hunger and disease have dramatically transformed organic agricultural practices. The EcoSan is a latrine system in which human waste is formed into a compost that is 100% more effective than conventional fertilisers. Many villagers thought it tantamount to eating their own faeces, but their doubts disappeared. WaterAid introduced the concept to the sprawling village, helping to revolutionise organic farming. It took a ÂŁ10 to build Mr Ajibo's EcoSan, the remainder was Mr Ajibo's contribution in the form of bamboo poles and traditional ropes he fetched from the bush. All the human waste excreted into the pit became properly managed resources that put the village on the road to food sufficiency. Diseases spawned by the traditional latrines were consigned to the past. Once a hand-dug latrine is filled and soil and ash are added, it is covered for up to eight months while the family moves on to the next pit. During the composting, harmful pathogens die off due to lack of moisture and a rich humus remains. There has been a marked improvement in diseases caused by improper sanitation since this was introduced but the latrine has dramatically increased harvests. Before the introduction of the system, the farmers could barely produce a harvest to feed their families from the four hectares they tilled, using artificial fertilisers. But now lush green leaves of maize and lettuce blanket the earth where the compost has been used. Where it had not, crops had wilted into a pale yellow colour with no hope of recovery.   This is nothing new. The Chinese have used human fertilizer for eons.   December 15, 2004   The Independent (UK) 012454

Get Tough on Car Emissions, California Politician Tells Ottawa.   The California politician who spearheaded tough car emissions urged Canadian lawmakers to follow suit. The new regulation requires car manufacturers to reduce exhaust pollution in cars and light trucks by 25%, and in larger trucks and suv's by 18% by 2016. Seven other states, including Rhode Island, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts, are adopting the same measures. It is claimed the changes will add more than $1,000 to the cost of a car. But the automobile manufacturers pegs the extra cost at over $3,000 per vehicle. The Canadian government asked car manufacturers four years ago to cut emissions by 25% by 2010 but little progress has been made and the manufacturers say the industry will be hurt by the changes. The government may have to impose regulations if car makers keep dodging the issue.      November 18, 2004   CBC News 012154

Drunk on Ethanol.   With the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, the idea was to require the use of gasoline with at least 2% percent oxygenates in areas where clean-air standards weren't being met and thus more carbon monoxide, toxic hydrocarbons, and smog-producing compounds would get burned up. This created a future for the corn-produced oxygenate ethanol. Fourteen years later there are 78 ethanol plants in 19 states and 1% of all corn goes into ethanol. But the program has turned out to be a failure. Ethanol dirties the air more than it cleans it and requires plantings of corn, which destroys habitat and pollutes soil and water. Corn demands herbicides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizers, while creating the most soil erosion. There is another polluting oxygenate from natural gas, MTBE. Ethanol separates from gasoline when it encounters moisture; so unlike gasoline with MTBE, gasohol cannot pass through existing pipelines. Instead, ethanol must be shipped separately and can be added only to a special gasoline. MTBE is among the worst smelling and tasting additive and its taste and odor in tap water showed the porous condition of underground gasoline storage tanks. It is estimated there are 150,000 MTBE-contaminated sites nationwide. There has been progress in fixing the tanks. In 2002 some ethanol plants were emitting 10 to 12 times more pollutants than anyone realized. The priority for last session's energy bill was liability relief for manufacturers of MTBE who had polluted groundwater. Corn Belt legislators disapprove of such relief for ethanol's competitor and waivers from the oxygenate requirement by California, New York, and Connecticut. Evidence from the National Academy of Sciences show that modern blends of gasoline without ethanol or MTBE burn more cleanly and the motor and refining industries have evolved since the early 1990s, oxygenates aren't necessary anymore. Corn Belt politicians are candid about why the obsolete oxygenate requirement needs to stay in place. It helps farmers from my state expand their markets. The use of ethanol increases air pollution as it evaporates faster than gasoline and releases volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides. In October 2002 the EPA settled with 12 ethanol plants in Minnesota, with civil penalties ranging from $29,000 to $39,000 and requiring them to spend about $2 million cutting back on emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, particulates, and other hazardous pollutants. With each gallon of ethanol you get 12 gallons of sewagelike effluent produced by the fermentation/distillation process. Soil is being lost from corn plantations 12 times faster than it is being rebuilt, and meeting the fuel requirements of one year's worth of U.S. population growth with ethanol would cost: 52,000 tons of insecticides, 735,000 tons of herbicides, 93 million tons of fertilizer, and the loss of 2 inches of soil. Yet one-tenth of all corn grown in the US is used to produce ethanol and the corn belt has lost about 70% of its wetlands. In some areas, corn is irrigated by pumps that suck water from the ground faster than it percolates back and the pumps are powered by natural gas.   If all of these terrible things happen because of the 10% of corn used to make ethanol, what about the 90% used for food?   September 2004   Audubon Magazine 011509

Integrated Pest Management in Agriculture.   Agriculture in Bangladesh contributes 32% to the GDP with 22% from crops. Bangladesh has to maintain production at a sustainable basis to feed the increasing population. There has been an increase in rice production to 26 million metric tons per annum with 84%. As cultivable land is decreasing, production has to increase and reducing pest attacks can increase production. "Pest" refers to insects, pathogens, weeds, nematodes, mites, rodents and birds. The annual loss due to insects is 16% for rice, 11% for wheat, 20% for sugarcane, 25% for vegetables, 15% for jute and 25% for pulse. Use of pesticides has been the primary method of pest control and in 2003, 3,866 metric tons of ingredients of pesticides were used in Bangladesh but there are negative consequences. (a)All are imported using foreign exchange, (b) excessive use threatens the sustainability of production and (c) is a threat to the overall environment. To find an alternative has become imperative and the government has adopted IPM the Integrated Pest Management The (IPM) programme will be expanded to safeguard crops and combat environmental degradation. The FAO defines IPM as: A pest management system that utilizes techniques and methods in as compatible a manner as possible and maintains the pest populations at levels below those causing economic injury. This started in Bangladesh in 1981 with the rice crop and has promoted the IPM concept. A total of 1137 officials and others were given IMP training with the primary objective to enable farmers to grow healthy crops and increase their income on a sustainable basis while improving the environment and community health. IPM training has been designed so that even the illiterate farmers are able to understand because the majority cannot read and write. In the 2nd phase the target is to train a total of 195,000 farmers on IPM and 1,950.000 farmers will be exposed to IPM through 7.800 field days. This will promote the establishment of 7,800 IPM clubs. The IPM Club concept has proven itself in sustaining the IPM concept amongst the farmer community. The members of the club meet regularly and discuss field situations and find solutions. The clubs charge a monthly membership fee used from chicken and duck farming to buying and renting rickshaws, micro credit management, fish culture in rice fields and ponds, to producing healthy seeds. Having gained the IPM knowledge, the rice farmers have reduced the use of pesticides by about 85-95% with an increase of yield of about 10-16%. Vegetable farmers have reduced the use of pesticides by 55-80% with an increased yield of 12-19%. Estimated rate of return on investments in increased household income is 220 -- 250%.      August 31, 2004   The Daily Star 011391

Nettle Fabric Could Be Eco-Friendly Replacement for Cotton.   Replacement for cotton fabric made from stinging nettles could be the next big thing in eco-friendly fashion. Nettles don't need much water or protection from pests, and provide habitat for many insect species and small birds. Hemp and flax are eco-friendly replacements, but produce rough fabric, whereas nettles make soft and silky fabrics. One Italian fashion house has perfected a nettle fabric, but cannot find enough farmers to grow the nettles.      October 01, 2003   London Independent 007998

U.S.: Tilting Over Windmills in the Sea.   Thousands of wind turbines proposed for the Eastern Seaboard are whipping up both outrage and approval. All eyes are on Nantucket Sound, where a coalition is working to stop the offshore wind farm. The 417-foot-tall windmills would be 6.8 miles off Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, the estates of the wealthy. This has created rifts among environmentalists. Kennedy opposes the placement of windmills along the coast. Winergy LLC, is seeking permits for 2,137 turbines in six states and will bring on partners or sell the permits to other businesses that would build and operate the turbines. It is estimated it would cost $3.6 million for each turbine. The number of land-based turbines has grown to 15,000 but produce less than 1% percent of the nation's power. Unanswered is how deadly turbines are to migrating birds. Boosters say the new towers would feature slower-moving blades. At inland sites, developers won approval by promising to conduct studies of migratory bird fatalities. Each windmill off the Atlantic coast can produce a megawatt of power. The near expiration of a tax incentive has helped make wind-generated electricity affordable. Wind energy costs 3.5 to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared with 3.5 to 4 cents from coal-fired plants and 4.5 cents for gas-produced electricity. With the 1.8-cent incentive, wind farms are less costly than other energy producers. The tax credit is expected to be renewed. The DoE wants to increase wind energy to 5% by 2010. Waterfront owners don't want their views marred, any more than Texans and Floridians. Maryland gave permission to build 97 towers along 13 miles of mountaintop over the objections of some who said they would mar the landscape. Northampton County, Va., asked Winergy, to move a 271-turbine farm closer inshore so it would fall within local waters. County officials saw tax revenue and job opportunities. The turbines require maintenance, and operators will pay taxes for the right to run cables into the power grid.      May 20, 2003   Washington Post 006698

Indonesia: Cheap Coffee 'Threatens Wildlife'.   Overproduction of the coffee beans used in instant coffee may contribute to the loss of animals in Sumatra. Areas of Indonesian forest being cut for coffee plantations increased by 28% between 1996 and 2001. 70% of Lampung's coffee production occurs inside and adjacent to Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park -one of the strongholds of Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinoceros. Their populations are declining due to the loss of their forest home. Deforestation rates within the Park were shown to be directly related to the price of coffee paid to farmers. Throughout the 1990s, coffee production accelerated while prices plummeted. The demand for coffee continued and it was the second leading export product from developing countries, and the US the biggest importer. Despite recent low prices, Indonesia has announced plans to expand coffee production in Lampung that will result in increased threats to large mammals. Higher yields of quality coffee that can be grown among indigenous shrubs and trees would allow a reduction in acreage while boosting prices. Large mammals avoid forest boundaries and are affected by deforestation. Compared with mining or rearing livestock, coffee cultivation is eco-friendly.      April 27, 2003   BBC News 006607

Why Vegans Were Right All Along: Famine Can Only Be Avoided If the Rich Give Up Meat, Fish and Dairy.   A humane concern for animal welfare and growing shortages of water and thus grain argue strongly for basing our diets more on vegetables and grains rather than on meat. "As the population rises, structural global famine will be avoided only if the rich start to eat less meat". Currently, 800 million people are malnourished or starving. Since 1950, the number of farm animals on earth has risen fivefold as increasing numbers of people in developing countries acquire a taste for meat rather than grains, so that they now outnumber humans by a factor of three and, more importantly, consume half of the world’s grain. But grain production is increasingly limited by finite sources of phosphate fertilizer and, more importantly, fresh water. The author notes that poultry convert grain to meat about three times more efficiently than do cattle, and that fish are even more efficient protein producers. But a complete switch to these species to supply protein in the human diet only delays the day of reckoning. In addition, current industrial conditions of poultry production are barbaric, and many marine fisheries are near collapse. These limits on global grain production along with the growth in the human population argue "that the only sustainable and socially just option is for the inhabitants of the rich world to become ... broadly vegan."   st   December 24, 2002   Common Dreams 005123

Takoma Park Silo to Fuel Corn-Burning Stoves.   The town of Takoma Park, Maryland, has built a silo that holds 21 tons of corn to be used as a fuel to heat 12 homes in the town's Save Our Sky home-heating cooperative. Mike Tidwell helped convince officials to erect it so that townspeople could fuel up easily. The pioneers expect to keep more than 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the next year by switching from natural gas and electric heat. Takoma Park has a greenhouse gas reduction policy. Advocates say corn as a fuel is cleaner and less expensive than virtually all others, as well as a perpetually renewable resource.   [Corn is not a renewable resource because it depends on water and soil, two resources that are no longer in abundance. While burning corn may be cleaner, carbon dioxide is still a product of burning plant materials.]   November 18, 2002   Los Angeles Times 004699

FAO: Potential of Solar Energy Systems in Rural Areas Often Still Untapped.   We should not only use solar systems for household lighting, but also for pumping drinking water, irrigation, cattle watering, small cottage and agro-industries, facilitating educational radio and TV programs and health services." said a A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report (FAO) report. Nearly 2 billion people have no access to electricity. As prices drop the size and number of smaller-scale services will become more readily available. Solar power can operate drip irrigation for high-value crops and water supplies for people and their herds in remote areas and help develop the retail sector and technical workshops. The installation and maintenance of photovoltaic electricity helps create jobs.   October 23, 2000   FAO 003177

Pesticides: Scientists Promote Natural Locust Killer.   A Nigerian research group funded by the World Bank, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has developed a natural pesticide designed to kill crop-destroying locusts and grasshoppers. A naturally-occurring fungus marketed as Green Muscle provides a "highly effective" control option and is "safer and more environmentally sound than the present range of chemical pesticides," Swarms of locusts have long plagued farmers around the world, according to Future Harvest, a nonprofit research group A locust invasion between 1986 and 1989 impacted countries from West Africa to India and consumed an amount of vegetation per day equivalent to the food needs of 200 million people. The fungus was used successfully in August in a mass spraying in Niger. [Pesticides are often unregulated and misused in third world countries. As soil deteriorates or drought occurs, resulting in lower crop production, farmers desparatly turn to pesticides.]   October 23, 2000   Future Harvest 005538

Gas-busters: Algae Comes to the Aid of Coal-Fired Plants.   Algae, sunlight and photosynthesis can be used to absorb carbon dioxide from the combustion of coal and lower emissions from an average-sized power plant by 20%, according to a team of scientists at Ohio University who have received a $1.07 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Carbon dioxide resulting from the coal burning is force through tubes of running water as it passes through the smoke stack. The combination of carbon dioxide and water creates bubbly bicarbonates, ions that form when carbon dioxide is made soluble in water. The water is then forced through a series of screens covered with living algae exposed to sunlight filtered by a special system of solar panels, satellite dishes and fiber optic cables. The filtering system was developed by scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "The algae basically drink the bicarbonates," said David Bayless, lead researcher on the project. Oxygen is the by-product and the expended algae can be used as fuel for biomass incinerators or as fertilizer. A blue-green algae able to survive in the almost-boiling water of hot springs in Yellowstone National Park was used in the process.   [Coal burning is one of the leading causes of greenhouse emissions]   July 29, 2000   ENN 003185

Plant Oils Give Petroleum a Run for the Money.   With the impending crisis foretold by the world's over-reliance on non-renewable resources such as petroleum, farmers are stepping forward with their own solution. Pointing out that plant oils and fats have the same base chemical structure as petroleum, Professor Bernard Tao of Purdue University calls this agri-solution "the obvious substitutes." Fossil fuels were plants millions of years ago, and Tao explains that the essential ingredient of both petroleum and plant oils is hydrocarbon, a carbon atom surrounded by hydrogen atoms. Gasoline ranges from between 7 and 10 hydrocarbons in length, with diesel fuel coming in at 15 carbons long, while plant oils are 14 to 18 hydrocarbons long. This means that if plant oils are to be used as a fuel source, modern gasoline engines are not going to be able to handle the change. However, Tao cites that the shorter a chain of carbons is, the more explosive the fuel can be, and thus suggests that perhaps tropical crops like coconuts, which have shorter stands of hydrocarbons when compared to wheat or corn, be transgenetically modified to create oils closer to the 8-carbon ideal. Further, Tao points out that most petroleum is used into create inks, paints, and coatings, espousing a belief that plant oils could easily replace fossil fuels in these products, as was the case before World War II. In the move from a black gold economy to a green gold economy, Tao concludes that the need for petroleum is never going to go away, thus confirming that monitoring and reducing the use of existing petroleum is crucial.   July 18, 2000   ENN 003184

20th Century Power System Incompatible with Digital Economy.   Power interruptions due to the vulnerability of central power plants and transmission lines cost the United States as much as $80 billion annually, reports the Worldwatch Institute in Micropower: The Next Electrical Era.  "The kind of highly reliable power needed for today's economy can only be based on a new generation of micropower devices now coming on the market. These allow homes and businesses to produce their own electricity, with far less pollution." Fuel cells, microturbines, and solar roofing, are as small as one-millionth the scale of today's coal or nuclear plants-and produce little if any of the air pollution of their larger cousins. Wind power, small geothermal, microhydro, and biomass systems also hold important roles in the emerging decentralized electricity system. Located close to where they are used, small-scale units can save electricity consumers millions of dollars by avoiding costly new investments in central power plants and distribution systems. The First National Bank of Omaha, in Omaha, Nebraska, hooked its processing center up to two fuel cells that provide 99.9999% reliability. Widespread adoption of micropower in the U.S. could cut power plant carbon dioxide emissions in half. In developing nations, small-scale power could lower carbon emissions by 42% relative to large-scale systems. In rural regions, where 1.8 billion people still lack access to electrical services, small-scale systems are already economically superior to the extension of transmission lines-and environmentally preferable to continued reliance on kerosene lanterns and diesel generators. Many electric utilities, however, perceive micropower systems as an economic threat and often place barriers in the way of micropower. In the developing world, the opportunity to leapfrog technology exists, but will outdated central power plants win out?   July 13, 2000   World Watch Institute 003178

Report Calls For New Technologies In Rural Areas.   A new report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Energy Council (an industry group), wants to help rural areas to "leapfrog" directly from primitive energy sources to renewable and sustainable energy technologies without relying on fossil fuels. Most rural residents depend on burning wood, dung and crop residue to provide energy for cooking and heating their homes. But these energy sources cause indoor air pollution, put pressure on the local environment and require women and children to spend long hours collecting fuel. 1.4 billion now have electricity, but the increase has barely kept up with population growth and tends to benefit the wealthy. Suggested alternative energy technologies including wind, solar cells, and biomass gasifiers and digesters. The drawback is that people must be trained in these new technologies.   January 17, 2000   United Nations News 003187

Three U.S. States - North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas - Have Enough Harnessable Wind Energy to Supply National Electricity Needs.     Currently, 1/5 of electricity is generated by hydropower. But Worldwatch says that this source is dwarfed by the potential of wind. China could double its current generation of electricity using only wind. Previews of the new energy economy can be seen in the solar electric roofs of homes in Japan and Germany; the wind turbines dotting the Danish countryside; and the new wind farms in Spain and in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Texas.   2000   World Watch State of the World, 2000 003182

Solar Thermal Technology Deemed a Success.   Immediately applicable to sun-drenched markets where energy costs are high. In Daggett, Calif, 2,000 giant mirrors reflect sunlight onto a centrally located 300-foot tall receiver. Molten salt flowing through the receiver is heated to 1,065 degrees Fahrenheit and transferred to a storage tank where it generates electricity on demand by churning a steam generator. The facility generates 10 megawatts of electricity which is enough to power 10,000 homes. The heat is retained into the night, so electricity is generated long after the sun sets. In the United States it is cost prohibitive, with coal and natural gas being less expensive, but in the Middle East, where electricity is expensive and there is abundant sunlight, the technology is immediately applicable.   August 31, 1999   ENN 003188

Scientists Develop Genetically Engineered Salt-Resistant Plant.   Since 1/3 of the world's irrigated land is contaminated by prohibitive levels of salt, this could dramatically increase global food production. Such plants can thrive even when salt levels are twice the amount that would kill a normal crop of corn. Scientists tested this genetic engineering on Arabidopsis thaliana, which is a member of the Mustard family, which includes broccoli and cauliflower. About 10 million hectares of crops are lost each year because of the high level of salts in the water used for irrigation. Large areas of North and South America, Australia, Asia and Europe have experienced a serious decline in crop productivity due to salinity of soils.   August 20, 1999   BBC 003114

Replanting, New Logging Techniques Could Save the Amazon.   The Rio do Norte mining company (a joint venture whose partners include U.S. companies Reynolds and Alco), is changing the notion that the jungle must be destroyed to tap its riches -- reforests with the same species it cuts down in the heart of the rain forest, 1,736 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro. The company is reinvesting 10% of its dividends in the reforestation. Many simply would plant eucalyptus, a fast-growing Australian import, and turn the area into a paper and pulp producer when the ore runs out. Birds and animals are returning to the replanted forest, but about 5% of the original species have been lost. Following the reduced-impact techniques, the land must be left untouched for 30 or 40 years to regenerate. Greenpeace believes that the Amazon rain forest will be wiped out in 80 years if multinational logging companies continued deforestation at current rates. Many scientists believe the deforestation is accelerating global warming. A recent study by the Tropical Forest Foundation and the U.S. Forestry Service in conjunction with local logging companies, has shown that planned extraction is cheaper than unplanned logging.   July 19, 1999   AP 003115

Chinese Ethnic Group Saying Good-bye to Out-of-date Farming Methods.   The Yao tribes in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have abandoned the farming method of burning off the mountainside and have begun using more ecologically-sound farming techniques. Since logging and the burning of forests were banned in the 1980s in the Dayao Mountains, forest coverage has increased to 73% from 39% and mountain slopes are now covered with fir and fruit trees and spice bushes (including anise, which brought in 30 million yuan in export earnings last year. In Bama 3,400 Yao households have moved out of small huts into larger buildings. Instead of using straw and tree branches for fuel, cleaner energy like marsh gas is being used, with 70% of the farmers having marsh gas pits in their courtyards. Decomposed straws from the marsh gas pits are used to fertilize their fruit trees instead of chemicals.   June 30, 1999   Xinhua 003113

Environment: Forests' Survival Linked to Smaller Populations..   According to a study from Population Action International, a declining population growth could be the key to the ultimate survival of forests in poor countries. PAI sees a bit brighter future "with the emerging possibility that world population will peak before the middle of the next century." The growing desire for smaller families is a promising trend. About half of the world's aboriginal forests -- those which covered the Earth after the last ice age -- have disappeared. In the last century, global wood consumption has tripled, and so has the worlds population. Per capita consumption has remained the same. Forest cover per person fell by 50% from 1960 to 1995, from 1.2 hectares to 0.6 hectares. Forty countries, mostly poor, have a per capita forest cover of less than 0.1 hectares, and consequently watershed degradation and flooding, as well as the loss of rare plant and animal species, and scarcities of products like timber, paper and firewood. Greatest at risk are Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central America. Much of the loss is due to increased need for farmland and commercial logging. US inhabitants use 15 times more lumber and paper as a resident of most developing countries, but most of the wood consumed in the North comes from trees grown there. 3 billion people depend on wood for cooking and heating. Poor women and girls must walk long distances for wood and are often forced to drop out of schools or to forgo micro-enterprise. Poor countries even lack the necessary paper needed for education.9 PAI   January 1999   Inter Press Service 003116

Renewable Energy - There's Hope.   Driven partly by concerns about climate change and partly by depletion of fossil fuel resources, the world energy economy is undergoing massive reconstruction, shifting from historically heavy reliance on oil and coal to renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar cells. While wind use was expanding at 22 percent a year from 1990 to 1998, and solar at 16 percent per year, the use of oil was growing at less than 2 percent, and that of coal was not increasing at all. Glimpses of the new emerging energy economy can be seen in the solar cells rooftops of Japan and Germany and in the wind farms of Denmark, India, Spain, and the U.S. states of Minnesota, Wyoming, and Oregon.

The foundation is being laid for the emergence of wind and solar cells as cornerstones of the new energy economy. The growth in world wind generating capacity from 7,600 megawatts in 1997 to 9,600 in 1998 was concentrated in a handful of countries. Germany led the way, adding 790 megawatts of capacity followed by Spain with 380 megawatts, Denmark with 308 megawatts, and the United States with 326 megawatts. Within the developing world, India is the unquestioned leader with more than 900 megawatts of generating capacity in operation. With the help of the Dutch, China began operation in 1998 of its first commercial wind farm, a 24-megawatt project in Inner Mongolia.

In 1998, sales of solar cells jumped 21 percent. Growth is being fueled by a new photovoltaic roofing material that generates electricity. In Japan nearly 7,000 rooftop solar systems were installed in 1998. The new coalition government in Germany announced the goal of 100,000 solar roofs. In response Royal Dutch Shell and Pilkington Solar International are together building the world's largest solar cell manufacturing facility in Germany. Italy joined in with a goal of 10,000 solar rooftops.

While oil and coal use have expanded by just over 1% annually since 1990, use of solar cells have expanded by 16% and wind power by 26%. Wind power already supplies 8% of Denmark's electricity, 15% of Germany's Schleswig-Holstein, and 23% of Spain's northern state of Navarra (up from 0% in only 3 years). Worldwide, wind power potential is several times more than hydropower, which now supplies 1/5 of the world's electricity.   June 1998   World Watch Institute 003186

Renewable Energy Systems

Book Review:
Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making,
by Howard T. Odum; Wiley, 1996 ;
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471114421/brainfood.a

From page 314 we find that in 1993 total US fuel use was 4.78 x 10e24 sej increasing about 2% per year ever since). From page 187 we find that total net solar radiation absorption for Alaska and the lower 48 was 4.48 x 10e22 sej. In other words, the US is presently using fossil fuels more than 100 times greater than the total absorption of solar radiation across the entire US!

So-called "renewable" energy systems are evaluated differently than "nonrenewable" energy systems. In order to be "renewable", an energy system must produce enough net energy to reproduce itself.

Different kinds of energy have different "qualities". For example, a BTU of coal is fundamentally different than a BTU of wood. Coal contains more energy per pound than wood, which makes coal more efficient to store and transport than wood. Oil has a higher energy content per unit weight and burns at a higher temperature than coal; it is easier to transport, and can be used in internal combustion engines. A diesel locomotive wastes only one-fifth the energy of a coal-powered steam engine to pull the same train. Oil's many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times more economic value per kilocalorie than coal.

Directly and indirectly it takes about 1,000 kilocal of sunlight to make a kilocalorie of organic matter, about 40,000 to make a kilocalorie of coal, about 170,000 kilocal to make a kilocalorie of electrical power, and 10 million or more to support a typical kilocalorie of human service. So when renewable energy systems are evaluated, both inputs and outputs must be converted to solar eMjoules (or "sej") and compared. (There are ten different sets of equations to convert energy to sej: http://dieoff.com/emergy.pdf ) The difference between the sej input and sej output is known as the "net sej".

Calculations show that solar cells consume twice as much sej as they produce. http://dieoff.com/pv.htm So even if all the energy produced were put back into production, then one can only build half as many cells each generation -- they are not sustainable. Even if the sej efficiency of solar cells doubled, ALL of the energy produced would have to be used to manufacture new cells, which still leaves a zero net benefit to society!

Traditional measures of "net energy" for solar cells may be improving but "net sej" may be getting worse because there are ten different sets of equations to convert energy to sej. The only way to know is to DO THE STUDY. http://dieoff.com/emergy.pdf

H.T. Odum's solar "eMergy" (eMbodied energy) measures all of the energy (adjusted for quality) that went into the production of a product. Odum's calculations show that the only forms of alternative energy that can survive the exhaustion of fossil fuel are biomass (burning wood, animal dung, or peat), hydroelectric, geothermal in volcanic areas, and some wind electrical generation. Nuclear power could be viable if one could overcome the shortage of fuel. No other alternatives (e.g., solar voltaic) produce a large enough net sej to be sustainable. In short, there is no way out.

The fact that our society can not survive alternative energy should come as no surprise, because only an idiot would believe that windmills and solar panels can run bulldozers, elevators, steel mills, glass factories, electric heat, air conditioning, aircraft, automobiles, etc., AND still have enough energy left over to support a corrupt political system, armies, etc.

[ If you are interested in more specific details, read the messages at http://www.egroups.com/messages/energyresources or write to me at mailto:j@qmail.com ]

003183 Sustainability_EnergyAlternatives`M



Plants and Population: Is there time?.  
    Economists tended to be optimistic, except for Africa. The cite enormous 1960-90 gains, they expect yields to continue to increase and they expect, with effort, food per person to increase, but severe regional mismatches will occur.
  1. Agronomists tended to be skeptical. They see absolute limitations on yields due to constraints of light, water, and nitrogen, plus suppressions due to pollution, urbanization and institutional restrictions.
  2. Biotechnologists tended to be optimistic. The see enormous gains coming from genetic engineering, many known and many to come.
  3. Ecologists tended to be skeptical. They see institutional constraints, and technological gains being offset by off-site degradation and societal disruptions. For example, doubling the use of nitrogen fertilizer does mean more food, but not a doubling, while simultaneously causing large increases in pollution.
L. Rupp comments: "Who would you choose to throw in your lot with? Economists, who tend to operate on an infinite growth model, along with the biotech/industrial complex?" ... "Or throw in with the agronomists and ecologists, who, really understand food production?"   December 5, 1998   National Academy of Science 005641


Pesticides: Scientists Promote Natural Locust Killer.   A Nigerian research group funded by the World Bank, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has developed a natural pesticide designed to kill crop-destroying locusts and grasshoppers. A naturally-occurring fungus marketed as Green Muscle provides a "highly effective" control option and is "safer and more environmentally sound than the present range of chemical pesticides," Swarms of locusts have long plagued farmers around the world, according to Future Harvest, a nonprofit research group A locust invasion between 1986 and 1989 impacted countries from West Africa to India and consumed an amount of vegetation per day equivalent to the food needs of 200 million people. The fungus was used successfully in August in a mass spraying in Niger.   [Pesticides are often unregulated and misused in third world countries. As soil deteriorates or drought occurs, resulting in lower yields, farmers use more and more pesticides]   003111

Fish Farming May Soon Overtake Cattle Ranching as a Food Source.   Aquacultural output has grown at 11% annually over the past decade and is the fastest growing sector of the world food economy. By the end of this decade fish farming will overtake cattle ranching. Both oceanic fisheries and rangelands are reaching their productive limits. Beef production almost tripled from 1950 to 1990. Four fifths of beef production is from rangelands. In the same period, the oceanic fish catch more than quadrupled. Since 1990, there has been little growth in either beef production or the oceanic fish catch. Cattle require 7 kilograms of grain to add 1 kilogram of live weight; fish add a kilogram of live weight with less than 2 kilograms of grain. Taking into account land and water scarcity, fish ponds hold the advantage over feedlots in producing low-cost animal protein. 85% of fish farming is in developing countries. China accounted for 2/3 of world aquacultural output in 1998, with 21 million tons of fish. India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Thailand all have thriving aquacultural sectors. Japan, the United States, and Norway are aquaculture leaders among industrial countries, with Japan producing high-value species such as scallops, oysters, and yellowtail, while the U.S. produces mostly catfish and Norway produces mostly salmon. Between 1990 and 1996, China's farmers raised the annual pond yield per hectare from 2.4 tons of fish to 4.1 tons, producing mostly carp in either a fish polyculture (several varieties of fish at different levels of the food chaing) or growing rice and fish together. Salmon are carnivorous and require up to 5 tons of feed fish for each ton of salmon produced. The waste produced by farmed salmon in Norway is roughly equal to the sewage produced by Norway's 4 million people. Shrimp are often produced by clearing coastal mangrove forests which protect coastlines and serve as nurseries for local fish. Mangrove destruction can cause a decline of local fisheries that will actually exceed the gains from shrimp production, leading to a net protein loss.   World Watch Institute 003112

The only forms of alternative energy that can survive the exhaustion of fossil fuel.   are burning biomass (wood, animal dung, or peat), hydroelectric, geothermal in volcanic areas, and some wind electrical generation.   dieoff.com 003175

Oceanic Hydrates: an Elusive Resource.   Methane hydrate is frozen underneath the ocean floor. Hydrates decompose into water and methane on being brought to the surface, yielding 150 units of methane and 0.85 of water. The truth is that there is no evidence from all the worldwide research and extensive coring for any massive hydrate deposits.   dieoff.com 003176

Sea Thermal Power.     seasolarpower.com 003179

Fusion: Dead Mars Dying Earth.   by Dr. John E. Brandenburg and Monica Rix Paxson. Physicist Dr. Bruno Coppi, a leader in fusion experimentation, presents fusion as the only guarantor of a "soft landing" after oil depletion, and that a large, highly focused effort should be able to produce dramatic results soon - three years to prove viability and maybe seven more years to market it.   book review by Amazon 003180

Horizon Solutions.   A web site devoted to sustainability solutions.   solutions-site.org 003181


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