May 30, 2004

Follow up

I was a scheduling refugee, but I'm glad that the other classes didn't work out. I think that the integration of technology helped a good deal in teaching and learning the material, both for the abundance of electronic sources and learning the basics some of the new technologies. Also guest speakers made the class more real than any webpage could do.
I think that the six credit class combined with the Global Stewardship Program would be better because it would allow for expanded study. I felt as though we just scratched the surface of what is there. In light of my refugee status and probable C-school major, i think the six credits would attract more students as a first choice who otherwise wouldn't take such a class. Though the smaller class was nice, more than seven people need to have at least a basic understanding of where their food comes from and who is affected by consumer purchases. I only took one class, so another class wasn't an issue for me, but I think that the ablility to concentrate solely on one subject during Spring term would allow for returns exceeding the doubling of time input.

Posted by Dennis at 07:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

FAO State of Food and Agriculture

The FAO has just released its 2003-2004 issue of this summary, and news media like MSNBC and USA Today are touting its message as "Biotech foods endorsed by U.N. agency" and "U.N. food agency endorses biotechnology's use for farming". I've snagged the FAO report in pdf form:

Agricultural Biotechnology
World and Regional Review
Statistical Annex

Posted by oook at 01:27 PM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2004

Consolidation in Agriculture

There are several studies on corporate consolidation in the food and agriculture sector. Perhaps the most detailed is this one by Heffernan and his team. An udate of an earlier an study, they discover that the consolidation has extended into the retail part of the commodity chain where ever fewer corporations control the grocery stores. Here is another discussion from a group in England.

And just so not all seems bleak, here are some folks who believe in the future of small farms and a magazine for farmers with a difference.

Posted by Ron at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

Paraquat ...and Soybeans

See some stuff I've put together --another for the Saints and Demons collection!
And take a look at my soybeans collection too.

Posted by oook at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

Europe to scrap subsidies

Subsidies aren't the only issue in the WTO trade negotiations. There are also concerns about domestic supports for sensitve crops and the problem of access to European and US markets by the developing countries. Some people think this announcement is just talk and won't lead to much in the actual negotiations, but we'll know later this week.

EU set to scrap farm export aid
Monday, May 10, 2004 Posted: 7:54 AM EDT (1154 GMT)

KILLARNEY, Ireland (Reuters) -- The European Union is ready to eliminate its
lavish subsidies on farm exports to galvanize sluggish world trade talks
provided its main partners do the same, EU trade chief Pascal Lamy said on

Details of the proposed move, long demanded by critics of its generous farm
subsidies, have been sent to members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
just days before ministers from several WTO states hold a potentially
crucial meeting in Paris.

Posted by Ron at 05:13 AM | Comments (0)

The problem with free markets

I found the video to an eye opener. I've often heard that unrestricted free trade is ruining developing nations and their economies, but I've never understood why. I guess I've always assumed that free trade is a good thing, and it can be, but not when it is used to drive out local farmers and destroy jobs, industries, and lives in foreign nations.
I feel that the US government, and other governments with similiar policies, have their rules and ideas confused. I can't see how it makes sense to let the big coorporations get bigger, while poisoning the earth and the food they produce, and paying them to do so. At the same time, making it harder and harder for the organic and small farmers, who grow and produce more efficient, more environmentally friendly, and better quality products, to compete in local and global markets. With all the studies we heard about on the video about how small farmers are producing more output per acre than the larger farms, one would think the government would be more interested and show greater concern for the small farms. But that's not how it works. Instead, the government promotes larger, less efficient farming industries, and allows the amount of waste that would sicken the average individual. Millions of tons of produce are wasted every year as it sits and decays in the countless silos that litter the countryside.
Clearly something needs to be done. Besides being unfair, it just doesn't seem morally right to allow a larger, more wealthy country to under bid other countries and drive out local farmers. Thousands upon thousands of jobs are being lost each year as free trade becomes more abundant. Subsidies are destroying everything that markets used to be based on. At one point, markets functioned on who offerend the best product. Now that no longer seems to matter.

Posted by tweardy at 12:43 AM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2004

The Issues Confronting the U.S. Economy

The issues that confront the small farmer in the United States and beyond are expansive and innumerable. For one, the United States as a whole relies on massive amounts of cultivation and production of various agricultural products. Through this video, we as the privileged come to realize the tough situation and stipulations that the United States economy puts on farmers. Due to this demand for a very high product output, the economy demands high yield that most farmers cannot meet. Thus, the advent of big-time companies producing processed instead of organic products has helped to meet these demands but at an expense to the true American farmer. As for what can be done to save or incorporate this small producer, there really is no answer. At this time, the success of the processed food system has led many farmers to bankruptcy or low-wage jobs in the very factories that drove them out of employment. These new processed foods come at a cheaper price because they cost less to produce, and also because the work is done mainly by machine instead of human labor.
The issue of subsidizing land for large corporations is a touchy subject. On one side, you have these corporations that are claiming their product is fufilling the demand in the economy at a cheaper price so that all Americans can enjoy their food. However, on the other side, we have the small farmer and producer of a more organic, less processed, higher quality of product who feels slighted at the government's actions of giving land they could use to these already wealthy corporations. They must sit by and watch their livlihood pass to these multi-million or billion dollar companies. Thus, one can conclude that the small farmer, who was once successful, is now a dying breed. What can we do about this? For starters, these very farmers need to elect representation to the government in high places where their concerns or needs can be viably considered. Things such as subsidies for them, increased demand of the processed product (and therefore higher prices which will even out the cost in the market) and to open the market to the small farmer.
By letting big-time corporations dominate the food industry, the U.S. government is letting the overall health and quality of America's products to decline. These processed foods do not have the nutritious characteristics that are in organic products. This leads to a more unhealthy American and world population. Even a bigger issue, it puts Americans out of jobs.

Posted by Horning at 01:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 07, 2004

More on subsidies

A thoughtful article on the potential impact of the WTO cotton decision from the New Scientist

Als, for an alternative view, from a developing-country perspective, of the impact of trade and agricultural policies, take a look at the articles on the Third World Network site

Posted by Ron at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004


Another apocalyptic vision, this time having to do with honeybee parasites

Posted by oook at 11:02 AM | Comments (2)

May 05, 2004

Politics of Food,- Assignment

There was a lot of talk in the video 'Global Banquet' we saw today about farm subsidies. The issue is controversial, even though everyone seems to agree that subsidies are in some way bad. The Heritage Foundation in unequivocal about it, though Crop Choice brings up some nuances, particularly in the light of the recent WTO decision on cotton.

In general terms, or with respect to the subject of your project, write a comment here about what you think US agricultural and trade policies are or should be. What should the US be trying to achieve with these policies and how should we go about it? Is there a role for some kind of subsidy? For whom? How should it work? (Due next Monday at 9am)

Posted by Ron at 11:46 AM | Comments (6)

Food allergies

I got to thinking about various diseases and other afflictions that are linked to food systems, and did a bit of searching on allergic reactions. Take a look at what I've found for your topic. Surface just scratched, of course...

Posted by oook at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2004


Here is a rare journalistic view in English of the current situation of the Zapatistas and Chiapas. News from my home town!

Posted by Ron at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

Milk History and Commodification

While searching for sites about the history of milk and how it became a staple commodity in the US, I found out more about health related issues and more about how milk became such a huge part of our national identity. First, Ancient Egyptians and early Mesopotamian cultures incorporated milk in their diets and worshipped cows in their societies. Cows, goats, and other milk-producing animals were vital in European diets as well for cream, butter, cheeses, keifer, and milk. As the work on a dairy farm is extremely tedious, small families often kept only a few number of cows to provide for their needs and did not really sell the dairy products for profit. At this point, I found several sites advocating the health benefits of raw milk to the human diet. In raw milk, there are several proteins that can be beneficial to our health. However, when milk became more marketed and milking machines were invented, health officials advocated pasteurization as a way to ensure that no harmful bacteria were in the milk. Pasteurization, however, destroys all healthy proteins so that essentially, the consumer is drinking the by-products resistant to extreme levels of heat. Current milk drinking, therefore, does not benefit humans.
Several articles went further to talk about lactose intolerance. Interestingly, after infancy the body makes less and less lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose in milk because we do not need it. That is why more adults are lactose intolerant today- they simply don't need milk in their diets. All adults do need calcium, but other sources are better for extracting the mineral.

Posted by Hannon at 12:11 PM | Comments (2)

May 01, 2004

Food study resource

Prof. Blackmer points us to this web resource called Wild Fermentation an amazing resource of food history and related subjects. Lots of good links to other sites. The book is on order for the library.

Posted by Ron at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)