• What is the value of bees?

    What are bees worth to our economy? A group of researchers have attempted to do the math, and the result shows exactly why we need to protect our pollinating bees but also why we can’t rely on economic worth alone to make our arguments for saving threatened species.

    It may sound slightly abhorrent to put a price on a living creature–and, to an extent, it is. But calculating the monetary worth of wildlife and, in particular, their place in the overall economy has become a useful way for researchers to communicate to governments and even businesses that they need to take a closer look at preventing species die-out. When it comes to bees however, researchers have found an interesting fact that they say shows the worth and the shortcomings of this approach.

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  • Record low snowpacks in Southwest is bad news for water supplies

    Nine states report record low snowpacks. A report from the US Department of Agriculture states, “the largest snowpack deficits are in record territory for many basins,especially in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada where single – digit percent of normal conditions prevail. Very low snowpacks are reported in most of Washington, all of Oregon, Nevada, California, parts of Arizona, much of Idaho, parts of New Mexico, three basins in Wyoming, one basin in Montana, and most of Utah.” This region is undergoing the warmest winter temperatures since record keeping began in 1895.

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  • Why Dedicating Land to Bioenergy Won't Curb Climate Change

    This post originally was published on WRI.org.

    How does bioenergy contribute to a sustainable food and climate future?

    new WRI paper finds bioenergy can play a modest role using wastes and other niche fuelstocks, but recommends against dedicating land to produce bioenergy. The lesson: do not grow food or grass crops for ethanol or diesel or cut down trees for electricity.

    Even modest quantities of bioenergy would greatly increase the global competition for land. People already use roughly three-quarters of the world’s vegetated land for crops, livestock grazing and wood harvests. The remaining land protects clean water, supports biodiversity and stores carbon in trees, shrubs and soils -- a benefit increasingly important for tackling climate change. The competition for land is growing, even without more bioenergy, to meet likely demands for at least 70 percent more food, forage and wood.

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  • Small farms the key to increasing food production

    All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN - and it's justified by the need to 'feed the world'. But it's the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

    The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

    The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual 'State of Food and Agriculture', which this year is dedicated to family farming.

     

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  • Good job: were using less water!

    Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years. According to a new USGS report, about 355 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the entire United States during 2010.

    This represents a 13 percent reduction of water use from 2005 when about 410 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970.

    “Reaching this 45-year low shows the positive trends in conservation that stem from improvements in water-use technologies and management,” said Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior.  “Even as the U.S. population continues to grow, people are learning to be more water conscious and do their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country.”

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  • The Spotted Lanternfly, colorful invader

    The spotted lanternfly has officially arrived in the U.S., and leaders in Pennsylvania are hoping it won't be staying long. The invasive pest poses a threat to fruit orchards and grape vines, along with forests and the timber industry. It was detected in Berks County, northwest of Philadelphia.

    "Berks County is the front line in the war against Spotted Lanternfly," Agriculture Secretary George Greig said in a news release. "We are taking every measure possible to learn more, educate the public and ourselves and eliminate this threat to agriculture."

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  • World losing 2,000 hectares of farm soil daily to salt damage

    Salt-spoiled soils worldwide: 20% of all irrigated lands — an area equal to size of France; Extensive costs include $27 billion+ in lost crop value / year. UNU study identifies ways to reverse damage, says every hectare needed to feed world’s fast-growing population. Every day for more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries have been degraded by salt, according to a new study — Economics of Salt-induced Land Degradation and Restoration — published today by the UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

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  • The Aral Desert: Once a Sea - Now, All Dried Up

    The Aral Sea is a well known environmental disaster zone. But this year, it got a whole (lot) worse, writes Anson Mackay, as its biggest basin dried up completely to expose a toxic, salty wasteland. With continuing irrigation and declining river flows due to climate change, the desert is only set to expand. The Aral Sea has reached a new low, literally and figuratively. New satellite images from NASA show that, for the first time in its recorded history, its largest basin has completely dried up. However, the Aral Sea has an interesting history - and as recently as 600-700 years ago it was as small, if not smaller, than today.

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  • How "Natural" are Naturally Labeled Foods?

    A wide variety of packaged food that carry the label "natural" on US supermarket shelves were found to contain substantial amounts of genetically modified organisms (GMO), according to product testing organization Consumer Reports. Tests on dozens of common food products including breakfast cereals, crisps and infant formula found almost all of them contained recognizable levels of GMOs. The research results has led to Consumer Reports to now call for the mandatory labeling of GMOs in food and a ban on the "natural" label, which suggest products don't contain the controversial ingredients. >> Read the Full Article
  • What's best for creating drought resistant plants? Traditional breeding or GM?

    Reports show that traditional breeding techniques are years ahead of GM technologies in developing crops to withstand drought and poor soils, writes Lawrence Woodward. Yet GM advocates are sticking rigidly to their script even as the evidence mounds against them. Since its launch in 2010, the Improved Maize for African Soils Project (IMAS) has developed 21 conventionally bred varieties which have increased yield by up to 1 tonne per hectare. >> Read the Full Article