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Archive | Eco-Living & Health

Rethinking ‘Pandora’s Potatoes’

Former Genetic Engineer for J.R. Simplot & Monsanto, Dr. Caius Rommens Questions Biotechnology Safety, Authors Book on His Work with Potatoes

Dr. Caius Rommens

For 26 years, Dr. Caius Rommens was an ambitious and prolific genetic engineer. He held positions of great responsibility at major corporations. As director of the company’s biotech effort from 2000 to 2013, he developed GM potatoes for the Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Company, the leading U.S. producer of frozen French fries. These GM potatoes are being sold under innocuous names such as Innate, Hibernate and White Russet in thousands of supermarkets across the United States and Canada. They are not labeled as GMO.

Eventually, growing doubts about his GM creations led Rommens to question the validity of the simplistic dogma of biotechnology and renounce his career. His re-evaluation of the data and study of the broader scientific literature has given him insight into the risks and fallacies of the GM potatoes he created. He recently published a slim volume entitled Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs to communicate what he has learned. Continue Reading →

Reducing Food Waste: Compost Production Recovers Nutrients for Soil Benefits

When you consider our nation’s health, the quality of our food, its decreasing nutritional value and the increased degradation of our farmland, it’s not a pretty picture — and the challenges related to these issues keep growing.

Green waste used as part of a mixture of ingredients for compost.

By 2050 the world’s population will likely reach close to 9 billion people. To feed everyone, we’ll need to globally produce more food. Yet, almost 40 percent of food currently produced ends up in landfills.

According to ReFED, a collaboration of over 50 business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States, American consumers, businesses and farms spend $218 billion per year growing, processing, transporting and disposing of food waste.

Food waste is a global problem. The 2017 Food Sustainability Index ranks 34 countries from best to worst. In France, No. 1 on the Index, supermarkets don’t toss food approaching its sell-by date; they must donate it to charities or food banks. This has lowered the country’s annual wastage to 1.8 percent of its total food production. Germany, Spain and Italy, which follow close behind, also scored high with agriculture-related conservation and research and nutrition education. Continue Reading →

Meet The Sioux Chef: Revitalizing Native Foodways

From the plains of the Midwest, a new and surprising trend in the world of healthy local food is gaining ground thanks to Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux and founder of The Sioux Chef, a nonprofit organization aiming to revive the traditional Native American diet through hands-on education and the use of indigenous ingredients.

Worlds of Flavors at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone.

I first heard Sherman speak at the Missouri Organic Association conference where he was keynoting at the event’s locally produced organic dinner. He took the stage and held 600 people rapt with attention as he spoke with passion and wisdom about Native American history and their foodways and the need to rediscover the indigenous foods that nourished native peoples around the world for hundreds of thousands of years.

A Different Path

Sherman grew up on and around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This vast, almost wild stretch of American High Plains is located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota. The reservation is flanked to the north by the stark beauty of the Badlands and to the northwest by the ponderosa-topped Paha Sapa (Black Hills).

As a child, Sherman ate what everyone around him ate — a standard fare prepared with government commodity rations handed out monthly to those living on the reservation as part of a food allotment program going back to the mid-1800s. Sherman points out that while the variety of foods in the commodity allotments are a little better today than they were when he was growing up, they never contain fresh fruits, vegetables or meats and were never meant to be a “nutritional program,” but rather an emergency ration. Continue Reading →

Tropical Agriculture Conference Topics Range from Greenhouse Management to Soil Humus, on Day 2

BELMOPAN, Belize — Perhaps it was better when the power went out. The lack of microphones forced Ronnie Cummins with Regeneration International to start Wednesday’s Tropical Agricultural Conference shouting over the passing trucks.

The extra volume didn’t hurt the critical nature of his message.

Crowd at the Tropical Agriculture Conference

Crowds listen to speakers rotating between five stages, talking about regenerative agriculture.

“Thank you for what you do every day, and I’m going to thank you in advance for what you’re going to do in advance every day,” Cummins said. “The next 10 years, what you do, what I do, what we all do around the world, we either move in a regenerative direction, or it’s going to get very, very difficult for our children.”

Continue Reading →

First Ever Tropical Agriculture Conference Brings Regenerative Agriculture Experts to Belize

BELMOPAN, Belize — Belize Ag Report Publisher Beth Roberson sat in the second row, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Belizean Senator Godwin Hulse. The country’s minister of everything from agriculture to environment to immigration was held up in traffic, but would be arriving soon.

Andre Leu speaks at the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belize

André Leu with Regeneration International helps kick off the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belize on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

The crowd was patiently waiting. It’s summer in Belize, the temperatures are in the 80s, and around us a city surrounded by hundreds of miles of jungle. Roberson, also a farmer, had attended the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show last year, and with the help of Belize officials and Regeneration International, returned to her country inspired to start a movement.

Now, less than a year later, she was watching the first day of the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Conference in the nation’s capital. Moments earlier, speakers like André Leu, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin and Alvaro Zapada Cadavid had introduced the audience to silvopasture and pastured poultry techniques.

Continue Reading →

Veteran Farmers Making a Difference

Veterans are once again taking up the call for our country as veteran farmers. Charley Jordan stops to listen to the quiet and to feel the breeze as his cattle graze in the distance. The silence is a stark contrast from the thunderous helicopter rotors he knew in the Army.

Tom Bennett has removed his staff sergeant stripes and left the Marines, but he now brings the same gung-ho attitude to sustainably raising his pigs and chickens.

Richard Gwilt no longer breathes the cordite he once did as a range master and paratrooper. His days in the 101st Airborne are over. Today he serves as director of operations for the Desert Forge Foundation, a nonprofit located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that is dedicated to transitioning veterans to farmers. The former chief warrant officer raises horses, cows and chilies, among other crops.

Tom Bennett has removed his staff sergeant stripes and left the Marines, but he still has the same gung-ho attitude, which he has been able to apply to raising pastured pigs and chickens. He has found a vocation that allows him to apply the problem-solving skills that he honed in the military.

Many veterans come home to a life completely different from the one they grew accustomed to in the military. Some aren’t lucky enough to adapt. For thousands of veterans, farming has become that new life: an occupation that is saving both them and agriculture.

There are currently more than 23 million veterans in the United States. When their service ends and their tours are over, veterans often have no place to turn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s vets are more likely to be unemployed than both civilians and veterans of prior conflicts. Through 2012, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent — compared to about 7.9 percent for the general U.S. population. Continue Reading →