Archive for May, 2008
Vote Hemp reports today that the Hemp for Vermont Bill, H.267 was passed into law. Farmers across the nation have been working on passing laws allowing them to farm industrial hemp as a cover crop to alternate between (usually) corn harvests as it’s a quick-growing, sustainable plant which fixes nitrogen in the soil. All sorts of products can be made from hemp and it’s fiber and the market for these types of products is growing. In the U.S., makers of hemp products must import the raw material representing a missed economic opportunity for domestic farmers.
Vote Hemp also has a comprehensive section detailing the North Dakota Industrial Hemp legislation (passed) and resulting struggles with federal law, such as a lawsuit filed by North Dakota farmers against the DEA.
An historic victory for human rights was reached yesterday. On Friday, May 23, the Coalition of Immokolee Workers (CIW) signed an agreement with fast food giant Burger King to work together for better working conditions in the fields. In addition to the requested increase in pay to tomato pickers, an additional penny per pound, the agreement includes stipulations for terminating BK’s buyer relationship with any vendor that fails to pass along the payment to the workers, fails to obey basic worker rights and provide safe, dignified working conditions, where some workers have been living and working in slavery conditions. The signing took place on Capitol Hill with the presence of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and follows several months of scandal where Burger King executives were accused of publishing libelous comments about the CIW on blogs.
As for what’s next, Lucas Benitez of the CIW said:
There are companies — like Chipotle in the restaurant world and Whole Foods in the grocery industry — that already make claims to social responsibility yet, when it comes to tomatoes, fall far short of their lofty claims. It is time, now, that those companies live out the true meaning of their marketers’ words.
Following veto override votes of 316-108 in the House and 82-13 in the Senate, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 has been enacted into law…
The Food, Conservation and Energy Act makes historic new investments in food, farm and conservation programs that are priorities for all Americans, which is why a broad, bipartisan coalition voted overwhelmingly to pass this bill.
Our world is plastic-our food comes packaged in it, most of our stuff is made of it and now our environment is becoming composed of it. As demonstrated in Garbage Island, a documentary film on vbts.tv, plastic is now a major component of our oceans. In the documentary, Thomas, Jake, and Meredith spend three weeks at sea traveling to, and collecting samples at, the giant Garbage Island in the Pacific Ocean. What is striking is that instead of great piles of plastic bags and bottles, the crew find that the plastic has mostly broken down into tiny little pieces that are ingested into the food system up and down the food chain.
Thomas, in Garbage Island:
I came out here expecting to see, like, a trash dump- pieces in the water that you could pull out, but instead what I got was an even ruder awakening. Looking out right now you don’t see the garbage; sometimes you see shit float by; most of the time you don’t, you just see water; but what’s in that water is a fucking thousand times worst than a coke bottle, because what it is, is every part of a coke bottle busted down into a little digestible morsel.
These little plastic morsels act as sponges and sop up Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in our environment, making them extra harmful. POPs are chemicals, like DDT and agricultural pesticides, that have seeped into our environment and cause adverse health effects.
An extra piece of footage appending the film is an interview with Vom Saal at the University of Hawaii, Hilo. He discusses the health affects of our new plastic world, namely the affects of Bisphenol A, a synthetic compound produced for use in plastics:
If you look at the incidence of diabetes and the production of Bisphenol A, they parallel each other identically.
Not only does plastic corollate with the diabetes epidemic, but also with obesity, infertility, breast cancer and many other diseases endemic in modern society. Watch the film and say no to plastic whenever you can. Do your veggies really need that extra plastic bag for the trip home from the grocery store? Re-use glass jars for drinking, or get a re-fillable water bottle that won’t seep dangerous chemicals into your beverage. We all need to do our part to keep ourselves and the world healthy.
The United States Farm Bill historically gives huge subsidies to “commodity” agricultural products. These are things like corn, soy and wheat. “Specialty crops” are everything else, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, basically fruits and vegetables that you picture growing on a farm. The truth is, we don’t eat much of the “specialty” variety and one of the main reasons is that farmers are not financially rewarded for producing them. They are, however greatly subsidized by the federal government for growing those commodity crops greatly out of balance with what a human should be consuming. According to the Washington Post:
[This year’s] bill assures growers of basic crops such as wheat, cotton, corn and soybeans $5 billion a year in automatic payments, even if farm and food prices stay at record levels.
The Farm Bill outlines these subsidies every five years and it’s about to go to the desk of President George W for signature to decide our food and nutrition programs for the next five. He has vowed to veto it. It’s important to point out that this farm bill is still grossly unfair to nutrition programs and farmers who are actual stewards of the land. But though it unjustly favors industrial, chemical farming, the subsidies outlined for organics and other sustainable practices are revolutionary in the history of this bill. It’s been a long battle to get these programs added and congress has finally come to agreement. According to California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF),
If the veto holds, several options are possible, including an extension of the 2002 Farm Bill for 2 more years (until a new President is in office) or for 5 years.
This means two more years of no subsidies to organic farmers, less funding for nutritional programs, and continued payouts to giant industrial ag companies.
Check out this great video from Free Range Studios where an Apple and a Twinkie battle over the Farm Bill:
Just like the oil companies, who are making record profits off the demand and high prices for gasoline, the international private food suppliers are making a killing off the food shortages.
Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.
Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.
Similarly, the Mosaic Company, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, saw its income for the three months ending 29 February rise more than 12-fold, from $42.2m to $520.8m, on the back of a shortage of fertiliser.
If there was ever a demonstrative situation to show how perverted a globalized, private food system is, this is surely it. A local, sustainable food source is a human right, not a means to profit.
Here are links to two different websites where you can measure how your lifestyle impacts the planet. I’m not sure how accurate these are and I haven’t done any research about the companies sponsoring the tools, but they provide a nice interactive way to check out how “green” you actually are.
And if you haven’t seen it, make sure to check out the online movie, The Story of Stuff.