The Killing Fields: Industrial Agriculture, Dead Zones and Genetically Engineered Corn
The Huffington Post – Thursday 1st August
It really doesn’t get more depressing than this story. Agricultural pesticide run-off concentrates in the Mississippi River and flows out to the sensitive ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, creating huge algae plumes, which suffocate a wide range of other life-forms and lead to vast ‘dead zones.’ Each year, the dead zones get bigger and more numerous. Such wilful negligence towards the environment should be a criminal act. Elizabeth Kucinich, of Food and Water Watch, a recent participant in one of our Highgrove leadership collaboration days, clearly connects all the dots making vividly evident what’s so very wrong with the way we farm. What are we doing to our beautiful planet?
The demon drink: war on sugar
The Guardian – Sunday 4th August
Sugar is gaining wide recognition as the most damaging contributor to obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses generated by our poor eating habits. Sugar has been targeted for a public health battle on a par with tobacco, especially when delivered in the form of fizzy drinks – talk of a tax on these is rife. This is an extensive piece on the dangers of sugar and none of it is good. Fructose, which most people see as a ‘natural’ sugar (it’s in fruit and fruit juice), is particularly damaging largely because it contributes the addictive sweetness to food and drink. But fructose is the key sugar in high fructose corn syrup, a kind of ‘super’ sugar that is almost ubiquitous in fizzy drinks. With our sugar consumption up 30-40% since the 1970s, we’ve got a big, bad habit on our hands that we’re going to have to start breaking.
GM rice approval ‘edging closer’
BBC News – Tuesday 6th August
The Philippines are on the verge of introducing GM Golden Rice into the country as a means of combating malnutrition. The rice, developed by bio-tech giant Syngenta, carries vitamin A and has been heralded by the likes of Owen Paterson as a cure-all for childhood blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency. Sounds great? However, it’s not quite that simple.
Introducing the GM Golden Rice threatens the diversity of natural varietals on the island nation. The impact of crop contamination by the GM rice is as yet unknown, but could potentially be devastating. As a means of tackling malnutrition, there are simpler and more holistic methods to addressing the problem than reaching for the lastest technology whose long term impact is unknown. The piece makes the point that vitamin A is abundant in a wide range of fruits and vegetables available in tropical countries and improving farmers’ access to a diverse range of seeds is one way to ensure the population has a more diverse diet.
It’s important to always remember that there is no going back with GM. Once it is introduced, crop contamination is inevitable, as the Oregon wheat case proves. The implications of this in the long term is a significant reduction in crop diversity, and that may threaten endemic malnutrition across the world.
Poultry linked to antibiotics-resistent E coli deaths
Farmers Weekly – Monday 5th August
SFT’s Policy Director, Richard Young, has commented consistently on the risk of microbial antibiotic resistance resulting from overuse in industrial farming. Resistant strains develop in factory farmed animals and transfer to humans. New research is now evidencing this, citing 280 deaths from superbugs found in chicken meat alone. You can multiply this across the spectrum of industrially farmed meat.
Chief Professor Dame Sally Davies raised a warning call about the disappearance of antibiotics from the tool kit of medicine if their overuse was not more rigorously controlled. Industrial farming is the key culprit as antibiotics are used heavily and largely prophylactically, to control infection in overcrowded conditions where animals are stressed and their health is not optimised. The superbugs that have evolved out of this pose a real and growing threat to public health, so perhaps some regulation – of both antibiotic use and industrial farming methods – is in order?
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