Get Shah-ty: The Obama administration has nominated Rajiv J. Shah to serve as Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics of the USDA. (NYT Diner’s Journal Blog) Shah is the director of the agricultural development program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (bio) and has a medical/health-care policy background. This New York Times Magazine article from Oct. 2008 shows what sort of on-the-ground work Shah has been doing for the Gates Foundation: note how African sources in this piece take pains to distance themselves from India's Green Revolution. However, in this April 2008 Q&A for the Cattle Network, Shah says that GM seeds and biotechnology have just as much a role to play in Africa as irrigation systems and conservation practices. Not exactly the choice we'd like to see in this post: see next two snippets.
Bawlywood: In India, the Green Revolution system of farming is heading toward collapse. Farmers are running out of groundwater, have to buy three times as much fertilizer as they did 30 years ago to grow the same amount of crops, and face pesticide-resistant insects. (NPR)
Weed it and weep: A new study from Purdue University — funded by Monsanto, interestingly — indicates that farmers who rely on Roundup Ready crops are definitely seeing increased herbicide resistance in weeds. Money quote: the researcher said "farmers should treat Roundup and Roundup Ready crops as an investment and work to protect the technology" by rotating crops consistently and using two different herbicides. (Purdue University) OK, so a genetically modified seed that costs extra, that you have to re-buy every year, and the act of buying which represents a contract that Monsanto will hunt you to the ends of the earth to uphold — now that seed doesn't even do its one piddly job? GMO seeds rock.
Subsidizing the U.S. Saharas: The Associated Press has obtained records showing that the federal government handed out more than $687 millions' worth of subsidies, for both cheap irrigation water and for water-intensive crop growing, over the past two years to hundreds of farmers in California and Arizona, the most seriously drought-stricken states in the West. (Washington Post)
Kinda green jobs: Some big food processors, eager to avoid food-safety scandals, are paying other government agencies to do the FDA's dirty field work for them. "With industry itself footing the bill, some safety advocates worry that the approach could introduce new problems and new conflicts of interest," reports Andrew Martin. (New York Times)
Our dreams come true in a nightmare for Big Ag: The USDA's People Garden, which started off as an ill-planned PR stunt, is not only really happening, it's happening as a 100% organic showcase for food growing, reports Eddie Gehman Kohan, in a great post reported from the garden. And the effort is drawing out sustainability-minded USDA worker bees. (Obama Foodorama) Frankly, we're stunned and a little stoned on the awesomeness of this. Except we fear that somewhere, Monsanto and Syngenta lobbyists are sitting around a darkened bar plotting their response.
Hormonal imbalancing act: The EPA will require pesticide manufacturers to test 67 chemicals to determine whether they disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates animals' and humans' growth, metabolism and reproduction. It's about time — researchers like UC Berkeley's Tyrone Hayes have been sounding the alarm about atrazine, for example, for years. We hope the tests will be conducted by third parties; the article doesn't specify. (Washington Post)
No longer blue over blue crabs: The number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay increased about 43% last year, probably a sign that measures taken to protect the beleaguered bay icon are working for now. (Washington Post)
Could we just send Peanut Corporation of America into space? Researchers say that a salmonella vaccine could result from space studies. (Discovery News)
Vermonters save general store: The state of Vermont and rural community members join forces to save the state's oldest general store after a fire. (Rutland Herald)
N.Y. farmers launch organic dairy brand (Lancaster Farming)