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One quarter of US grain crops fed to cars – not people

One quarter of US grain crops fed to cars – not people


A grain elevator in Illinois, US. In 2009, 107m tonnes of grain was grown by US farmers to be blended with petrol. Photograph: AP

London Guardian
January 22, 2010

One-quarter of all the maize and other grain crops grown in the US now ends up as biofuel in cars rather than being used to feed people, according to new analysis which suggests that the biofuel revolution launched by former President George Bush in 2007 is impacting on world food supplies.

The 2009 figures from the US Department of Agriculture shows ethanol production rising to record levels driven by farm subsidies and laws which require vehicles to use increasing amounts of biofuels.

“The grain grown to produce fuel in the US [in 2009] was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels,” said Lester Brown, the director of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington thinktank ithat conducted the analysis.

Last year 107m tonnes of grain, mostly corn, was grown by US farmers to be blended with petrol. This was nearly twice as much as in 2007, when Bush challenged farmers to increase production by 500% by 2017 to save cut oil imports and reduce carbon emissions.

More than 80 new ethanol plants have been built since then, with more expected by 2015, by which time the US will need to produce a further 5bn gallons of ethanol if it is to meet its renewable fuel standard.

According to Brown, the growing demand for US ethanol derived from grains helped to push world grain prices to record highs between late 2006 and 2008. In 2008, the Guardian revealed a secret World Bank report that concluded that the drive for biofuels by American and European governments had pushed up food prices by 75%, in stark contrast to US claims that prices had risen only 2-3% as a result.

Since then, the number of hungry people in the world has increased to over 1 billion people, according to the UN’s World Food programme.

“Continuing to divert more food to fuel, as is now mandated by the US federal government in its renewable fuel standard, will likely only reinforce the disturbing rise in world hunger. By subsidising the production of ethanol to the tune of some $6bn each year, US taxpayers are in effect subsidising rising food bills at home and around the world,” said Brown.

“The worst economic crisis since the great depression has recently brought food prices down from their peak, but they still remain well above their long-term average levels.”

The US is by far the world’s leading grain exporter, exporting more than Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Russia combined. In 2008, the UN called for a comprehensive review of biofuel production from food crops.

“There is a direct link between biofuels and food prices. The needs of the hungry must come before the needs of cars,” said Meredith Alexander, biofuels campaigner at ActionAid in London. As well as the effect on food, campaigners also argue that many scientists question whether biofuels made from food crops actually save any greenhouse gas emissions.

But ethanol producers deny that their record production means less food. “Continued innovation in ethanol production and agricultural technology means that we don’t have to make a false choice between food and fuel. We can more than meet the demand for food and livestock feed while reducing our dependence on foreign oil through the production of homegrown renewable ethanol,” said Tom Buis, the chief executive of industry group Growth Energy.

Kissinger’s Plan For Food Control Genocide

Food Shortages in 2010

Biofuel Industry Destroying Amazon Rainforest

 



U.S. wants farmers to use coal waste on fields

U.S. wants farmers to use coal waste on fields

Washington Post
December 23, 2009

The federal government is encouraging farmers to spread a chalky waste from coal-fired power plants on their fields to loosen and fertilize soil even as it considers regulating coal wastes for the first time.

The material is produced by power plant “scrubbers” that remove acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide from plant emissions. A synthetic form of the mineral gypsum, it also contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.

The Environmental Protection Agency says those toxic metals occur in only tiny amounts that pose no threat to crops, surface water or people. But some environmentalists say too little is known about how the material affects crops, and ultimately human health, for the government to suggest that farmers use it.

“This is a leap into the unknown,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This stuff has materials in it that we’re trying to prevent entering the environment from coal-fired power plants, and then to turn around and smear it across ag lands raises some real questions.”

With wastes piling up around the coal-fired plants that produce half the nation’s power, the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture began promoting what they call the wastes’ “beneficial uses” during the Bush administration.

Part of that push is to expand the use of synthetic gypsum — a whitish, calcium-rich material known as flue gas desulfurization gypsum, or FGD gypsum. The Obama administration has continued promoting FGD gypsum’s use in farming.

The administration is also drafting a regulatory rule for coal waste, in response to a spill from a coal ash pond near Knoxville, Tenn., one year ago Tuesday. Ash and water flooded 300 acres, damaging homes and killing fish. The cleanup is expected to cost about $1 billion.

The EPA is expected to announce its proposals for regulation early next year, setting the first federal standards for storage and disposal of coal wastes.

EPA officials declined to talk about the agency’s promotion of FGD gypsum before then and would not say whether the draft rule would cover it.

Field studies have shown that mercury, the main heavy metal of concern because it can harm nervous-system development, does not accumulate in crops or run off fields in surface water at “significant” levels, the EPA said.

“EPA believes that the use of FGD gypsum in agriculture is safe in appropriate soil and hydrogeologic conditions,” the statement said.

Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, which advocates for more effective enforcement of environmental laws, said he is not overly worried about FGD gypsum’s use on fields because research shows it contains only tiny amounts of heavy metals. But he said federal limits on the amounts of heavy metals in FGD gypsum sold to farmers would help allay concerns.

“That would give them assurance that they’ve got clean FGD gypsum,” he said.

Since the EPA-USDA partnership began in 2001, farmers’ use of the material has more than tripled, from about 78,000 tons spread on fields in 2002 to nearly 279,000 tons last year, according to the American Coal Ash Association, a utility industry group.

About half of the 17.7 million tons of FGD gypsum produced in the United States last year was used to make drywall, said Thomas Adams, the association’s executive director. But he said it is important to find new uses for it and other coal wastes because the United States will probably rely on coal-fired power plants for decades to come.

“If we can find safe ways to recycle those materials, we’re a lot better off doing that than we are creating a whole bunch of new landfills,” Adams said.

EPA Approves Use of Human Sewage to Grow U.S. Food

 



Toxic Sewage Sludge in Your Food

Toxic Sewage Sludge in Your Food

Mercola.com
December 16, 2009

The increasing use of sewage sludge as fertilizer for your food is an under-publicized and often hidden threat.

Sludge is the toxic mix that is created by our municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Just about anything that is flushed down toilets or that ends up in sewers is in this sludge; the pollutants in sludge come not just from household sewage, but also from every hospital, industrial plant, and stormwater drain.

For a long time, sludge was simply dumped in the oceans. Over time, it became apparent that this was an environmental and human health disaster. An alternative solution has been pushed since the 1980’s by the U.S. government. The EPA determined that a good way to dispose of treated sewage sludge was to legally distribute it as a cheap alternative to fertilizer.

Unsurprisingly, scientific analysis of the poisons in sewage sludge shows it’s the wrong, and dangerous, solution for U.S. farmers and communities. Unfortunately, many American farmers and gardeners are unknowingly using sludge-derived “compost,” which is given away free in many cities throughout the United States.

As a result, farms and homes across the country have been unknowingly spreading hazardous chemicals and heavy metals on their fields, lawns and gardens.

Meanwhile, Michael Mack, the chief executive of Syngenta, a Swiss agribusiness giant that makes pesticides, is waging war against the organic movement as a whole. He argues that, “Organic food is not only not better for the planet. It is categorically worse.”

“If the whole planet were to suddenly switch to organic farming tomorrow, it would be an ecological disaster,” he said. Pesticides, he argued, “have been proven safe and effective and absolutely not harmful to the environment or to humans.”
Of course, Mr. Mack dismissed the notion that Syngenta, a company that sold nearly $12-billion worth of “crop protection” technologies last year, felt threatened by the organic movement.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

If you’re looking for a compelling reason to switch to a primarily organic diet, the fact that it is free from sewage sludge fertilizers is a very good one. Sewage sludge, or “biosolids” — as they’re referred to with a PR spin — began being “recycled” into food crops when, ironically, it was realized that dumping them into rivers, lakes and bays was an environmental disaster.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that about 50 percent of all biosolids are recycled to land. This sludge is what’s leftover after sewage is treated and processed.

Your first thought may be the “yuck factor” of human waste being used to fertilize your food, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Every time a paintbrush gets rinsed, an old bottle of medications flushed, or solvents are hosed off a factory floor, it ends up in the sewage system.

So it’s not surprising that a past analysis of sewage sludge by the Environmental Working Group found:

    *Over 100 synthetic organic compounds including phthalates, toluene, and chlorobenzene
    *Dioxins in sludge from 179 out of 208 systems (80%)
    *42 different pesticides — at least one in almost every sample, with an average of almost 2 pesticides per survey sample
    *Nine heavy metals, often at high concentrations

And it was sewage sludge that was partly blamed earlier this year for contaminating the White House lawn, and Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden, with lead.

This toxic sludge has been masterfully spun by PR masters into an acceptable, even “green,” fertilizer. Even San Francisco, arguably one of the “greenest” cities around, has been distributing toxic sewage sludge to homeowners and schoolyards and calling it “organic compost”! Nevermind that in 2008 its sludge was found to contain industrial chemicals, disinfectants, phenol, pesticides and solvents.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has recently petitioned San Francisco to stop this “compost” giveaway, lest it contaminate backyards and communities with toxic chemicals, but the sludge is still being widely used all across the United States.

If you want to get the real dirt on how this toxic sewage sludge has become such a popular fertilizer, I strongly encourage you to read Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry. It’s written by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, the authors of one of my favorite exposes on the PR industry, Trust Us, We’re Experts, and does not disappoin

What is Going On With the State of Agriculture in the United States?

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and the once respectable business of farming in the United States is a perfect example of how true this statement can be.

Gone are the days when farmers grew food according to the laws of nature, with a deserved respect for the Earth and its resources. Nowadays, with the exception of the small but growing movement of organic and sustainable farmers, it may surprise you to learn that farming — once the symbol of all that’s natural and wholesome — creates some of the worst pollution in the United States.

That’s because most “farming” today is nothing like the small farming of our ancestors. The Farm Sanctuary points out that farm animals produce 130 times more waste than humans. And agricultural runoff is the primary reason why 60 percent of U.S. rivers and streams are polluted.

Meanwhile, in areas where animal agriculture is most concentrated (Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Illinois and Indiana round out the top five states with the most factory-farm pollution) bacteria known as pfiesteria is common in waterways. Not only does pfiesteria kill fish, it also causes nausea, memory loss, fatigue and disorientation in people!

Aside from the pollution, factory farms use vast quantities of resources. According to FactoryFarm.org, industrial milking centers that use manure flush cleaning and automatic cow washing systems, go through as much as 150 gallons of water per cow per day!

Energy costs are even steeper.

A 2002 study from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that industrial farms use an average of three calories of energy to create one calorie of food. Grain-fed beef is at the top of the list of offenders, using 35 calories of energy to produce one calorie of food! And this does not even take into account the energy used to process and transport the foods, so the real toll is even larger.

The Agribusiness Giants are Getting Out of Control!

On top of the environmental assaults, you have agribusiness executives like Michael Mack, the chief executive of pesticide manufacturer Syngenta, making outrageous statements like “Organic food is not only not better for the planet, it is categorically worse.”

What?!

His entire argument was based on the premise that organic farming takes up more land than non-organic farming for the same yield.

He obviously must have missed the recent study that examined a global dataset of 293 farming examples, which found that in developing countries organic systems produce 80% more than conventional farms. And a review of 286 projects in 57 countries found that farmers who used “resource-conserving” or ecological agriculture had increased agricultural productivity by an average of 79%!

    “It is clear that ecological agriculture is productive and has the potential to meet food security needs … Moreover, ecological agricultural approaches allow farmers to improve local food production with low-cost, readily available technologies and inputs, without causing environmental damage,” Lim Li Ching, the study’s author, writes.

Really, the question we should be asking ourselves shouldn’t be ‘Can organic or sustainable farming feed the world?’, but ‘How can food production possibly continue as it is?’

When I hear someone extolling the virtues of “modern” agriculture and wondering how “organic” or “sustainable” farming could possibly be the solution, I maintain that the fact we have come to accept inefficient, industrial practices, including dousing our food with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as a viable way to grow food is the real wonder.

And then I always look at the source, which in this case is a pesticide giant CEO … which makes his motives very clear, indeed.

How Can You Find Safe Food for Your Family?

There are still safe food options out there, but it does take a bit of digging to find them. Your local grocery store is generally NOT going to be the best source for healthy, fresh food.

So, short of starting your own sustainable farm (which you can do on a small-scale in your own backyard), you can find safe food options by supporting sustainable agriculture movements in your area.

Make it a point to only buy food from a source you know and trust, one that uses safe and non-toxic farming methods. This will do your health a major favor and support the small family farms in your area. You’ll receive nutritious food from a source that you can trust, and you’ll be supporting the honest work of a real family farm instead of an agri-business corporation.

EPA: CO2 is a deadly gas, but uranium, mercury, arsenic, rocket-fuel and drugs in drinking water is perfectly safe.