Living on Earth looks at sargassum seaweed and Brazilian soy

The July 16 episode of Living on Earth had two interesting food-related pieces, each accompanied by a transcript and MP3 download:

The wide sargasso seizure: The first covered sargassum seaweed, the primary vegetation that collects in the Sargasso Sea, an area of calm waters in the Atlantic Ocean. Most of this seaweed comes from the Gulf of Mexico, where it is currently being suffocated by oil. Sargassum, it turns out, are a major habitat in the Gulf, much like grasses are in marshes, and so its death leads to trouble for anything using the seaweed for shelter or sustenance. In particular, blue-fin tuna larvae use the seaweed for cover and forage before they head out to open sea. An expert fears we could see “loss of that whole year-class of blue fin tuna” where sargassum is lost because of the BP oil disaster. (Living on Earth)

Soy, vey: Second, a Living on Earth reporter visits “Soylandia,” the cerrado scrubland of Mato Grosso, Brazil, where in the last few decades a natural savanna has been transformed into an agricultural powerhouse for soy, cotton, and corn. It’s a story of slow progression: breeding soybean varieties that were suitable for the hot, dry savanna; discovering the appropriate soil amendments; switching to a combination of no-till planting and heavy pesticide doses — Brazil is the world’s largest user of pesticides, according to the piece; and now genetically engineered soybeans that are resistant to Round-Up (which could lead to a future of super-weeds). And Brazil has big plans, hoping to increase soy production by 50% in the next decade, and lots of land — one expert says they can open up more new frontier land than the U.S. currently has under production. This agricultural revolution has come at a cost, of course, namely health problems for indigenous people from pesticide runoff, deforestation of hundreds of thousands of acres, and damage to the most biologically rich savannas on the planet. (Living on Earth)

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