Category: Down on the Farm

Emily Litella: Act II

By , January 4, 2013 11:10 am

A leading environmentalist and opponent of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), Mark Lynas, has issued a blunt statement that he was wrong to oppose GMOs.

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering—what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

Emily Litella was available for comment.

Norman Borlaug would be pleased.

The Food Nazi–or is that Fascist?–Wants the Government to Pick Winners and Losers

By , March 2, 2011 12:34 pm

Elites. Can’t help themselves. Mark Bittman is at it again. If the government gets something wrong–defined as, something Bittman doesn’t like–well give ’em another bite at the organically grown apple:

Agricultural subsidies have helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, a two-soda-a-day habit and its accompanying obesity, the near-demise of family farms, monoculture and a host of other ills.

Yet — like so many government programs — what subsidies need is not the ax, but reform that moves them forward. Imagine support designed to encourage a resurgence of small- and medium-size farms producing not corn syrup and animal-feed but food we can touch, see, buy and eat — like apples and carrots — while diminishing handouts to agribusiness and its political cronies.

I really don’t have time to Fisk the entire article, so here is one more clip, and I’m off:

Thus even House Speaker Boehner calls the bill a “slush fund”; the powerful Iowa Farm Bureau suggests that direct payments end; and Glenn Beck is on the bandwagon. (This last should make you suspicious.) Not surprisingly, many Tea Partiers happily accept subsidies, including Vicky Hartzler (R-MO, $775,000), Stephen Fincher (R-TN, $2.5 million) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN $250,000). No hypocrisy there.

Left and right can perhaps agree that these are payments we don’t need to make. But suppose we use this money to steer our agriculture — and our health — in the right direction. A Gallup poll indicates that most Americans oppose cutting aid to farmers, and presumably they’re not including David Rockefeller or Michele Bachmann in that protected group; we still think of farmers as stewards of the land, and the closer that sentiment is to reality the better off we’ll be.

By making the program more sensible the money could benefit us all.

Apparently playing to his audience, Bittman takes unrelated cheap shots at the usual right-wing suspects, appears to agree that farm subsidies are subsidies we should end, but then makes one final pitch–if we just make the program more sensible.

Yeah, like that will happen. As Bittman reported about New Deal farm programs a few paragaphs above the last quote,

That wasn’t the plan, of course. In the 1930s, prices were fixed on a variety of commodities, and some farmers were paid to reduce their crop yields. The program was supported by a tax on processors of food — now there’s a precedent! — and was intended to be temporary. It worked, sort of: prices rose and more farmers survived. But land became concentrated in the hands of fewer farmers, and agribusiness was born, and along with it the sad joke that the government paid farmers for not growing crops.

And this time it will be better because a new, smarter group of elites is in charge? Of course.

Bittman should take up selling the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bountiful Baskets – St. George, Utah

By , February 20, 2011 11:08 pm

Saturday morning at 7:00 AM I drove up the street from my mother’s winter home to St. George’s Sandstone Elementary to pick up my first Bountiful Basket. My daughter had been raving about them for some time now, so I had to check them out.

Verdict? She’s right. For just $15, this is what I got:

No, I didn’t walk away with all of those baskets. They gave me two, one from the left (vegetables) and one from the right (fruit). Here’s a close up of the fruit basket.

My mother tells me that as much as I got, the baskets are often much fuller. I highly recommend taking advantage of the Bountiful Baskets in your town.

A Majority of Uniformed Americans is a Whole Lot of Nothing

By , February 16, 2011 9:58 pm

About the only thing I agree with Mark Bittman on in this column is that GMO food should be labeled. The rest is, well, an argument built on perhapses and supported by a bunch of maybes. Here’s a whiff:

In one paragraph he writes,

[That a transgenic fish could escape and breed with a wild fish] is impossible, say the creators of the G.E. salmon — a biotech company called AquaBounty — whose interest in approval makes their judgment all but useless.

So AquaBounty’s judgment is almost useless on this subject. Fair enough. Their economic interest calls their impartiality into question. They could be–probably are–biased. Let’s not rely on what they say, Bittman says.

But then he writes,

The subject [of GMO food] is unquestionably complex. Few people outside of scientists working in the field — self included — understand much of anything about gene altering. Still, an older ABC poll found that a majority of Americans believe that G.M.O.’s are unsafe . . .

So, few people understand this stuff, but he’ll cite a survey of those who don’t to support his protest against GMO food. Uninformed people think the stuff is unsafe, and I’m supposed to care? Like AquaBounty, their judgment is probably useless–unless you’re Mark Bittman and need some maybes to support your perhapses.

Update:That Bittman didn’t cite the source for his “older ABC poll” bothered me, so I Googled “abc g.m.o.” and found at least three “older” ABC polls in the first five hits. My educated guess is that Bittman is referring to this one from June 19, 2001 (also found here). That poll says that 52% of the people polled says GMO food is unsafe, 35% unsafe, while 92% want it labeled.

But in quoting this poll, Bittman ignores a trend, one that works against him. A July 13, 2003 ABC poll says, “There have been gains in the belief that genetically modified food is safe to eat – up 11 points since 2001, to 46 percent.” Moreover, whereas in 2001, 55% said they would be less likely to buy GMO food if labeled as such, 52% took that position in 2003. In other words, the trend is against him.

Cameraman Catches Guy in Funny Costume Abusing Fish

By , February 8, 2011 10:48 am

“We’re not sure where she’s been, but now she speaks Russian, has a few tattoos, and insists that we call her Kiki.”

By , February 3, 2011 5:36 pm

Great little story from The New York Times about the theft–and eventual return–of a backyard chicken named Gertrude.

I can relate, well, not totally. Gertrude, the protagonist in the Times’ story, is a Rhode Island Red, my three dumb clucks are Buff Orpingtons. My chickens have never left the yard, while that’s the reason for Gertrude’s story in The Times.

You’ve never met my chickens? If you’ve been reading my blog, you actually have met them. If you haven’t been reading–and even if you have–here they are at a more mature age:

We’ve had them since they hatched about 10 months ago. And though they give certain meaning to the words chicken sh*t and dumb cluck, our backyard wouldn’t be the same without them, nor would our breakfast. After the initial investment for coop, food, and feeders, my Dumb Cluck #1, #2, and #3 almost pay for themselves.

The Chicken or The Egg?

By , January 30, 2011 8:46 pm

I know the answer

The chicken came first:

Then the egg:

The secret’s out.

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