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Book of the Week: Organic No-Till Farming

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an Acres U.S.A. book, Organic No-Till Farming, written by Jeff Moyer. Copyright 2011, softcover, 204 pages. Normal Price: $28.00.

From Chapter 1: No-Till Basics

Organic No-Till Farming book

Organic No-Till Farming by Jeff Moyer

It is the hope and dream of many organic farmers to limit tillage, increase soil organic matter, save money, and improve soil structure on their farms. Organic no-till can fulfill all these goals.

Many organic farmers are accused of overtilling the soil. Tillage is used for pre-plant soil preparation, as a means of managing weeds, and as a method of incorporating fertilizers, crop residue, and soil amendments. Now, armed with new technologies and tools based on sound biological principles, organic producers can begin to reduce or even eliminate tillage from their system.

Organic no-till is both a technique and a tool to achieve farmer’s objectives of reducing tillage and improving soil organic matter. It is also a whole farm system. While there are many ways the system can be implemented, in its simplest form organic no-till includes the following elements:

  • annual or winter annual cover crops that are planted in the fall,
  • overwintered until mature in the spring, and then
  • killed with a special tool called a roller/crimper.

After the death of the cover crop, cash crops can be planted into the residue with a no-till planter, drill or transplanter. Whether you grow agronomic or horticultural crops, this system can work on your farm, and we’ll show you how to get started with this exciting new technology. Continue Reading →

Christopher Walken to Play Canadian Farmer Opposing Monsanto in Upcoming Film

Academy Award winner Christopher Walken and Golden Globe nominee Christina Ricci have begun principal photography on Percy, a Scythia Films production directed by Clark Johnson (The WireThe SentinelS.W.A.T.).
Christopher Walken plays a farmer entering a legal battle against Monsanto in the new film, Percy.

Christopher Walken will play a farmer who enters into a legal battle against Monsanto in the new film, Percy.

Based on actual events from the lawsuit starting in 1998, Percy tells the classic David-and-Goliath story of small-town Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser (Walken) and his unlikely crusade against a major conglomerate. When the company’s genetically modified (GMO) canola is discovered in the 70-year-old farmer’s crop, he challenges the multinational corporation’s legal right to patent life in the highest court. As he speaks out against the company’s business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle. Suddenly, he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against what they see as corporate greed.

Walken and Ricci, who plays anti-GMO activist Rebecca Salcau, are joined by the film’s impressive ensemble, including Roberta Maxwell (Brokeback MountainThe Postman) as Percy’s wife; Adam Beach (HostilesSuicide Squad) as Percy’s neighbor, Alton Kelly; Luke Kirby (Mambo Italiano) as Percy’s son; Martin Donovan (Ant-ManInsomnia) as the conglomerate’s lead lawyer, Rick Aarons; and Peter Stebbings (Immortals) as Rebecca’s NGO boss.

Production of the original screenplay written by Hilary Pryor and Garfield L. Miller commenced recently in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with additional production scheduled in Mumbai, India, and the surrounding area. Percy is produced by Scythia Films’ Daniel Bekerman (The Witch, Backstabbing for Beginners, Rememory), Ian Dimerman (Goon, How it Ends), Brendon Sawatzky (How it Ends), Pryor and Miller.

GE Food Labeling

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking public comments on the proposed rule to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard mandated by Congress in 2016 — a  standard for GE food labeling.

The goal of the standard is to provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) and to avoid a patchwork system of state or private labels that could be confusing for consumers.

According to The Center for Food Safety (CFS), public comments will be particularly important because the proposal presents a range of alternatives for public comments and makes few decisions, leaving considerable unknowns about its outcome.

For example, instead of requiring clear, on-package labeling in the form of text or a symbol, USDA proposes to allow manufacturers to instead choose to use QR codes, which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned and are intended to substitute for clear, on-package labeling.

Real-time access to the information behind a QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies often lacking in rural areas. As a result, this labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology.

Continue Reading →

Genetic Drift: Protecting Your Crops from Contamination

Genetic drift is one of the most common problems faced by organic farmers in the United States. Recently, my husband Klaas looked across the road at our neighbor’s farm and said in a horrified tone, “You know, if Harold plants Bt corn on that field next year, we won’t be able to plant organic corn anywhere on this farm.”

genetic drift from cornfields

Seed contamination can occur when farms cross-pollinate or when waterways carry contaminants into other fields.

This sudden realization, born of the increasing knowledge that organic farmers can no longer ignore the impact of their neighbor’s genetically modified crop varieties, struck us hard. We had thought that the neighbor’s corn pollen might affect a small portion of our nearest field, something that appropriate buffer zones would take care of, never really thinking it could render many downwind acres unsuitable for corn. But it certainly could. This is the reality of organic farming today.

The impact of genetic drift can affect my farm, my planting plans, my certification, my income—not on just a few rows, but possibly on many acres. The scariest part of this reality is that the farmer won’t know if contamination has occurred until it’s too late, and then there is relatively little he can do to prevent it. To be prepared for next year’s crop, organic farmers must start to realize that GMOs are their problem, too.

Continue Reading →

Interview: Researcher, Writer Jim Thomas Discusses Suite of Emerging Synthetic Biology Technologies

jim thomas headshotCulture of Disruption

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

For 20 years, Jim Thomas has been at the forefront of international policy debates and campaigns on emerging technologies with Greenpeace International and ETC Group. Steward Brand called him “the leading critic of biotech.” As a strategist and organizer working with civil society partners, Thomas has repeatedly led successful international campaigns of global importance. In the late 1990s he was one of less than a dozen leaders of a high-profile national movement to prevent the introduction of GM food and crops into the United Kingdom market. He played a major role in achieving and strengthening the United Nations moratoria on geoengineering, ocean fertilization and Terminator seeds. He also helped secure the first global UN agreement on Synthetic Biology and halt geoengineering projects in Ecuador, Philippines, UK, the United States and Canadian/Haida territory. Thomas is co-author of numerous ETC Group reports and his writing has been published in many media outlets including The Guardian, The Times UK, Slate, Huffington Post, The Ecologist, New Internationalist and RSA
Journal. He has been a featured speaker around the world for audiences as diverse as La Via Campesina (peasant movements) and grassroots activists to government ministers and CEOs. He has appeared in 10 documentary films. Thomas was born in Zambia, grew up in the UK, worked on several continents and now lives near Montreal, Canada.

Continue Reading →

This is Not Food Labeling

QR codeMinorities, poor, elderly will be least likely to learn of hidden GMO ingredients.

The proposal to hide the labeling of GMO ingredients behind a scannable QR code ─ as proposed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and filed in a rush as a Senate bill by its mouthpiece Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) ─ is at its heart disingenuous, elitist, and discriminates against the poor and elderly.

These groups are immensely less likely to own expensive smartphones and pay for costly internet data plans. Just 27% of Americans 65 and older own a smartphone, and only half of people earning $30,000 or less own one. In lower-income groups owning these devices a one-fourth drop or lose their data plan due to cost. (Pew Research).

Even the top-selling smartphone, the iPhone, cannot read this code without an additional software download. An internet data plan is required. The time and trouble to scan each and every grocery item while shopping would be much greater than a glance at a label as is now done with other ingredients consumers take issue with such as salt, carbs, MSG, various artificial ingredients, etc.

One has to wonder if the 79-year-old Roberts, long an advocate of most anything Big Ag and Big Food proposes, has ever tried to scan a QR code himself.

Senator Roberts’ bill is disingenuous, elitist, and discriminates against the poor and elderly.

And the very logic used by the food industry to oppose GMO labeling ─ that changing of packaging will drive up food prices ─ is an even bigger issue when instead of adding a few small words an entire graphic element must be printed.

The real story is that this action is not only designed to kill the labeling of GMOs, but will provide the food industry with a convenient place to bury any future unsavory ingredients as well. For good. And that’s why the big-money backers of GMOs and junk food are doubling down on pushing this bad bill through the Senate.

Read this excellent summary about the Denial of the Right to Know act (DARK),  from Civil Eats: http://civileats.com/2015/07/20/5-things-to-know-about-the-dark-act/

To learn about the industry-sponsored study claiming food costs will rise with labeling (even though that is what the same groups now propose), read this article from Organic Consumers: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/cost-labeling-genetically-engineered-food-will-be-minimal