February Food & Farms in the News


-by Kelly Sanderbeck, Development Director & Story Catcher

What’s the right way to feed the world? The Gates Foundation thinks GMOs are the answer.  But “GE crops have remained an industrial tool dependent upon costly inputs, such as patented seeds and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, that farmers in the most food insecure regions can ill-afford.” The U.N. believes agroecology is the way. Is there a happy medium?

“Ninety percent (more than 15 million) of the growers utilizing biotech varieties are resource-poor farmers in developing countries,” (Dr. Cathleen Enright, Executive VP, Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization). The problem is that the research touting GMOs is skewed, funded by those benefiting from the outcomes.

“The wheat farmers in my district don’t want it anywhere near their fields,” said Rep. Cary Condotta, a Republican from rural Eastern Washington, referring to genetically modified wheat. But after attending some seminars on genetically engineered foods, Condotta said he became aware of what he thinks are food safety issues. “People should be concerned,” he said. “There aren’t enough studies done on the potential long-term effects of this on human health. It can be scary. There are times we shouldn’t be messing with Mother Nature.” Even institutional investors are leading the push for a sustainability strategy as a hedge against large-scale risks. “While the Earth has plenty of natural inputs — land, nutrients and water — humans face a growing challenge to manage them.”

Some producers worry that the down trend for eating meat will affect their business, but at least we have some good news on the home front for school lunches (though pizza and French fries are still considered vegetables¦).  Other good news comes in the form of conservation where “practices applied to cultivated cropland in the Ohio-Tennessee River Basin are reducing losses of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fields and decreasing the movement of these materials into the Mississippi River and other waterways.”

There is some worry when you read an article titled, “Will the last farmer to leave Puget Sound please wish us luck?,” but here at the Trust we’re not seeing a dearth of young (or second career) folks wanting to farm. Instead their hurdles include finding land that’s affordable for commercial farming or land that is secure enough for a long-term lease, even when the development tides change.  In the words of Fran Korten, from YES! Magazine:  “Owning a farm may not be everyone’s dream, but my hunch is that the trends driving the urge to grow one’s own will only intensify.  So here’s to the under-30s (and a lot of over 30s too) who are leading the way to a healthier, happier food system.”

“It is increasingly understood that poverty, inadequate access to land and food, and unfair trade policies are the major causes of hunger in the world, rather than absolute shortage of food.  Additional factors contributing to food insecurity include declining investments in infrastructure (storage facilities, roads to markets) and increased diversion of food crops for biofuels and animal feed.”

1/25/12, The Center for Food Safety