abundance

The Environment

"Genetically engineered crops are the best way to deal with pests, weeds, droughts, and floods."

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What are the most environmentally sound ways of growing food? Are genetically engineered foods better for the environment?

The makers of genetically engineered seeds like to claim that this new technology makes farming lighter on the planet, reducing pesticide and herbicide use, for instance. But are genetically engineered seeds really better? What does the data and farmers experience show? This section explores the ways we can best farm with nature at heart.



What is one of the greatest contributors to climate change AND one of its greatest potential solutions?

The way we produce and distribute our food. The global food system accounts for one third of global greenhouse gases. Sustainable farming has a huge opportunity to help us reduce our global emissions  and support food systems that make our communities more resilient to climate change.

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Take Action

For a Fairer Farm Bill

In case you haven’t heard, things are heating up on Capitol Hill around the Farm Bill, the federal policy that shapes food, farm, and nutrition policy. Now’s our time to flex our collective muscle and speak up for a fair farm bill. Will you join us?

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Food Heroes

Food Hero: FEEST

FEEST is the Food Education Empowerment and Sustainability Team! Based in Seattle, FEEST creates on-the-spot youth-driven cooking – of ideas and ingredients! – in the kitchen. Decisions are made communally about what will be prepared to create the day’s menu and serve up a delicious, healthy meal followed by a family-style feast – all while learning more about food and its […]

The Nelson Family, dairy farmers in Minnesota, happy all together at sunset.

Food Hero: The Nelson Family

The Nelson Family in Minnesota used to raise their cattle conventionally, until illness and financial difficulties made the alternative path obvious. They switched to organic and selling milk though Organic Valley, a cooperative of farmers. Now they run a thriving family farm business. See them reflect on their transition and where it’s led them.

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Q & A

Question:

Is there really a connection between Roundup Ready crops and no-till?

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No-till is one form of “conservation tillage,” a variety of techniques by which farmers plant without first plowing.  The idea is to minimize soil disturbance, leave last year’s crop residue on the soil, and so reduce soil erosion.  USDA reports show clearly that use of conservation tillage jumped from the 1980s through mid 1990s, then leveled out.  Soil erosion likewise plummeted over this period, only to level out from the mid 1990s on.  RR crops, introduced in the mid 1990s, have not promoted con-till.  Instead, it was policies in the 1985 and 1990 Farm Bills that tied subsidies to use of soil-conserving practices.  (See this link, pp. 43-51.)

Featured voice: Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst

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Question:

I’ve heard farmers can be sued for saving GE seeds to replant. Is this true? And how do the companies get away with this?

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A series of U.S. Patent Office and court decisions in the 1980s allowed firms to patent living organisms: first, a GE bacterium, and soon after plants.  Monsanto has exploited its patents on GE seeds to outlaw seed-saving, as a form of patent infringement.  This forces farmers to return to the market each year to buy new (patented) GE seeds.  Because the biotech giants now own half the world’s seed supply, and public sector breeders are dying out, farmers have ever fewer non-GE, non-patented seed choices.  Monsanto has sued and collected tens of millions of dollars from thousands of farmers for allegedly saving the company’s patented seeds.  Seed patents would be even more disastrous in developing countries, where poor farmers cannot afford commercial seed and are vitally dependent on seed-saving for survival.

Featured voice: Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst

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Question:

I’ve heard both that GE crops increase and decrease pesticide use. What’s the story here, both can’t be true!

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The best independent study to date, based on gold-standard USDA data, shows that GE crops have increased pesticide use by 404 million lbs. in the 16 years from 1996-2011.  A modest decline in chemical insecticide use has been swamped by a huge increase in herbicide spraying thanks to Roundup Ready crops and the “superweeds” they’ve spawned.  And worse is yet to come.  Biotech companies are poised to introduce a host of new crops resistant to older, more toxic herbicides, like dioxin-laced 2,4-D, which was part of the Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam.  These crops will dramatically escalate toxic herbicide use, and foster still more intractable superweeds resistant to multiple herbicides.  Totally unsustainable.  Biotech industry-funded reports that purport to show reduced pesticide use are “simulation studies” based on demonstrably false assumptions.

Featured voice: Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst

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Reports and Resources

Standing on the Sidelines: Why food and beverage companies must do more to tackle climate change

For the food and beverage industry, climate change is a major threat. For millions of people, it means more extreme weather and greater hunger. The Big 10 food companies are significant contributors to this crisis, yet they are not doing nearly enough to help tackle it. As part of the Behind the Brands campaign, Oxfam calls on the Big 10 to step up and take action on climate change.

Dishing up a Non-GMO Thanksgiving

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving with real food? The Non-GMO Project created a helpful graphic to keep GMOs off the table – check it out!

Common Ground, Common Future

Today, humanity faces a serious challenge. Much of the Earth’s biodiversity—the richness of its many species of flora and fauna—is at risk. The areas that are home to the greatest numbers of at-risk species are also home to large numbers of rural people, many of them desperately poor. Local agriculture, as the chief provider of food and livelihoods to these people, must expand to meet rapidly growing world demand, keep up with burgeoning populations, and prevent hunger. Yet agriculture, as currently practiced, is a chief cause of the destruction of valuable habitats, pushing species towards extinction. Agriculture cannot be curtailed, but if policies are not changed, large numbers of endangered species of all types will be lost in the next fifty years. But there are solutions. Around the world, farmers, scientists, and environmentalists are finding methods to conserve habitats and preserve species while boosting food production and improving the incomes of the poor. These innovations are based on the belief—borne out by empirical evidence—that humans and wild species can share common ground and prosper in a common future. Productive farming and effective conservation can occur on the same land through sound science and policy. It is to those innovators, whose stories are told here, that this report is dedicated.

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From the Blog

Stop the TPP Fast Track

If you flex your civic muscle one time this month – or even all year – now is the moment! Join us in calling on your representatives to send a loud and clear message to say no to a Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Worth a Hill of Beans? (We think so.)

You may have heard already, but I'm delighted to share with you the exciting news that the Scientific Advisory Committee for the federal nutrition guidelines -- which inform everything from SNAP to school lunches -- recommended for the first time in history that Americans choose a more plant-centered diet for both health and environmental reasons.

Insider Secrets on How the Biotech Industry Shapes the Story of GMOs

Hot-off-the-presses, check out Seedy Business: What Big Food is hiding with its slick PR campaign on GMOs by Gary Ruskin, co-founder of the U.S. Right to Know Network for some amazing scoops on how the biotech industry has fought its information wars, including an eye-popping section about the Council on Biotechnology's new online home for spin, GMOAnswers.com.