Agriculture

GMO plantings rise, greens cite environment risks
February 13, 2008 07:31 AM - Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Plantings of genetically modified (GMO) crops are increasingly widespread, a biotech industry body said on Wednesday, despite some public opposition and warnings by environmentalists that they may be unsafe. "After a dozen years of commercialization, biotech crops are still gaining ground with another year of growth and new countries joining the list of supporters," the biotech industry backed International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) said.

Biofuel Crops Increase Carbon Emissions
February 12, 2008 11:25 AM - , Organic Consumers Association

The conversion of forests and grasslands into fields for the plants offsets the benefit of using the fuel, researchers find. Greenhouse-gas output overall would rise instead of fall The rush to grow biofuel crops -- widely embraced as part of the solution to global warming -- is actually increasing greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing them, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Science.

New guide to reducing bycatch goes online
February 12, 2008 10:18 AM - World Wildlife Fund

As a service to the long-term sustainability of both fish stocks and fishing communities, WWF has established an online resource providing up-to-date information on bycatch (the capture of non-target creatures in fishing gear) and how to reduce it. The new website, accessed through WWF’s familiar www.panda.org portal, aims to take fishers, consumers and those simply concerned, through the whole bycatch story, from problems to proven or potential solutions.

Spain's grain trade eyes Argentina's GMO maize imports
February 12, 2008 10:13 AM - Reuters

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish grain traders and consumers hope the European Union will soon permit import of a variety of genetically modified maize that would allow supplies from Argentina to ease sky-high prices. EU rules currently allow imports of GA21 maize as long as it is processed, for example as corn gluten, but not in the form of grain. The GA21 gene is resistant to the herbicide glyphosphate.

Bush Proposes to Drive Down the Already Low Wages of Farmworkers
February 9, 2008 09:46 AM - , Organic Consumers Association

The Bush administration's Department of Labor announced plans to gut regulations governing the nation's agricultural guestworker program today. The proposed changes threaten to significantly cut farmworker wages, lower the bar on farmworker housing, and diminish government oversight of what is already a troubled program. The agricultural guestworker program has long been criticized by labor economists as an unnecessary and exploitative sop to the powerful agribusiness lobby, designed to provide farm employers with a steady supply of low-wage, docile labor. Decades of stagnant farm labor wages fly in the face of growers' perennial claims of labor shortages (the logic of labor markets dictates that shortages result in upward pressure on wages, as employers are obliged to increase wages to attract and retain workers).

Indian law 'strangulates' biodiversity research
February 5, 2008 10:23 AM - , SciDevNet

[NEW DELHI] A group of Indian botanists say that the country's stringent biodiversity laws are stifling research. In an article in the latest issue of Current Science (25 January), published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, the scientists say India's "draconian" rules on free exchange of biological samples could "totally isolate Indian biodiversity researchers and is akin to a self-imposed siege on scientists in the country".

Making Agriculture Sustainable

Agriculture is possibly the most important sector of global activity. It is a source of foods, fibers and, increasingly, fuel. It provides livelihoods and subsistence for the largest number of people worldwide. It is vital to rural development and therefore critical to poverty alleviation. Up to 40% of the land’s surface is used for agriculture, along with 70% of the world’s fresh water supply. Today, agriculture accounts for 38.7% of total global employment. Population growth and increasing affluence in some countries are increasing demand for food and changing the types of food in demand — from grain to meat, for example, a change that requires more farmland. More land is being used to grow fuel crops, and climate change and water scarcity are compromising the ability of agricultural lands to deliver quality produce.

Agriculture is Altering Mississippi River Chemistry
February 3, 2008 09:26 AM - , Organic Consumers Association

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana - Over the past 50 years, farming has altered the hydrology and chemistry of the Mississippi River, injecting more carbon dioxide into the river and raising river discharge, finds a study by researchers at Louisiana State and Yale universities. LSU Professor R. Eugene Turner and graduate student Whitney Broussard, along with their colleagues at Yale, tracked changes in the discharge of water and the concentration of bicarbonate, which forms when carbon dioxide in soil water dissolves rock minerals.

Is it organic or not?
February 2, 2008 12:12 PM - American Society of Agronomy

MADISON, WI, January 28, 2008 -- As organic farming becomes more common, methods to identify fraud in the industry are increasingly important. In a recent study in Journal of Environmental Quality, scientists successfully use nitrogen isotopic discrimination to determine if non-organic, synthetic fertilizers were used on sweet pepper plants.

Bush Threatens Farm Bill Veto: Opposes Public Nutrition, Biofuel and Land Stewardship Programs
February 2, 2008 12:01 PM - , Organic Consumers Association

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush opposes raising taxes to pay for increases in several programs in the new U.S. farm law, the top U.S. agriculture official said on Wednesday, as he underscored crafting a new farm bill as his top priority while in office. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, in his first sit-down with reporters since he was confirmed on Monday, said President Bush has told him now is the time to act on farm policy.

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