Blog | May 17, 2013

Toni’s Farm and Food Roundup

ToniThe USDA recently announced $19.5 million in grants towards research on the impact of climate change on dairy and beef cattle. Researchers from universities across the nation are set to work together through a Coordinated Agricultural Project award in order to determine what cattle farmers need both short and long term. The project is designed to strengthen rural communities through knowledge on how to prepare and sustainably face climate change as a cattle producer. The information gained through the research will be used to educate cattle farmers and ranchers in the future.

The Supreme Court unanimously sided with corporate giant Monsanto in a case that is sure to shake both agriculture and biotechnology industries. The case involved an Indiana soybean farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, who took Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready soybeans from a local grain elevator. The soybeans are resistant to the Roundup pesticide also produced by Monsanto. Bowman proceeded to plant his own seeds in future years, which had the same Roundup resistant characteristic. Though Bowman argued that the seeds were “self-replicating,” the court ruled that it was Bowman’s own actions that led to the eight generations of seed copying. The decision will be beneficial to innovative industries, which patent inventions that could be duplicated; however, with companies like Monsanto dominating much of the food industry, prices could continue to rise for consumers.

In other Monsanto news, a report was recently released by Food and Water Watch detailing international lobbying for biotech products, which is funded, in part, by US tax dollars. In crafting the report, cables from 2005 to 2009 that were released on Wikileaks in 2010 from 926 diplomatic agencies in over 100 countries were studied, resulting in the finding that officials in US State Departments lobby for specific biotech companies, such as Monsanto. In 2009, a cable from an embassy in Spain requests for US government intervention to battle Monsanto opposition. The intervention came four years after Monsanto was fined $1.5 million for bribing an official in Indonesia, directly breaking the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Community food activists argue that these acts are harmful to local food systems and regional governments working against GMO crops. Monsanto and US officials both contend that these products are necessary to increase global food production. The report further explained that the US State Department promoted GMO products through pamphlets sent to Slovenia as well as DVDs sent to high schools in Hong Kong.

U.C. Berkeley police arrested four people on Monday for trespassing and interfering with police forces. These criminals were not up to what you might think, however; they were arrested for the act of gardening. Resilient farmers and activists are keeping the Occupy the Farm movement alive in California, as angry occupiers took over a 12-acre University of California space to replace the abandoned weeds with veggies and flowers. Though police broke up the protest and plowed over the seedlings, occupiers expressed plans to return to the site this weekend. The plot was originally donated to the school in the 1920s and dedicated to organic growing and research. Since then the land goes mostly unused with plans to convert the space into housing, a grocery store and a parking lot. The movement began on Earth Day 2012 when activists executed similar planting, which was followed up by ten forums on the importance of the space in the past year. Though University of California administration was invited, no one attended any of the discussions.

The Senate Agricultural Committee approved the Agricultural Reform Food and Jobs Act, more commonly deemed the 2013 Farm Bill, in a 15-5 decision this week that will move onto Congress next. Though the bill is long overdue since the extension of the 2012 farm bill, many food and farm activists are angered over the contents of this $100 billion law. The problem, in part, sprouts from the excessive lobbying of corporate giants that fail to represent smaller entities like family farms and organics. The power of agribusiness was exemplified when Vice President Joe Biden made an agreement on New Year’s Eve with Senator Mitch McConnell that resulted in the loss of programs including some that would support beginning and minority farmers, healthier diets, organics and renewable energy.

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