Sustainable Agriculture Information
The campaign for mandatory GMO labeling laws has been going on for years. On July 29, President Obama signed a bill requiring labeling of foods that contain GMO.
As a result, over the next few years food producers will have to provide more information to consumers about the genetically engineered contents of their products. The Mandatory Labeling Bill places the onus on the USDA to develop not only the criteria for labeling, but also what the labels will look like.
Opponents of mandatory labeling argue that labeling genetically engineered foods will imply that those products are unsafe, which they say would be misleading since the FDA and other organizations have determined that genetically engineered foods are safe for human consumption. Those in favor of mandatory labeling, on the other hand, say that consumers have a right to know and to choose whether or not the food that they consume contains genetically modified ingredients.
Jo Ann Baumgartner’s interest in wild farming—the practice of integrating agriculture with local ecosystems to support both high crop yields and a healthy, biodiverse environment— started when she and her husband worked their own organic farm.
Baumgartner “came from an understanding and love of wild nature,” and had always relished a chance vacation or outing that let her be in the outdoors. While farming, she began to see connections between the land she cultivated and the wild places she loved. While working on a book about California’s endangered species, she noticed that many creatures were rare precisely because of agriculture, which has replaced the natural habitat of many species with crops grown in monoculture.
Founded in 1984, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit advocacy organizations for sustainable agriculture. Teaching children sustainable farming, public programming and lobbying for sustainable agriculture policy at the state and federal level are the daily work of the MFAI. Funded by federal grants and donations, the MFAI also assists retiring farmers in how best to manage their farmland and aids growers in the organic certification process.
Industrialized agriculture pollutes water, land, and soil; harms natural wildlife habitats; threatens natural resources, all while still leaving a billion people hungry around the world, charged a new policy brief by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science advocacy organization with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “American agriculture is at a crossroads: a point where we can either apply our scientific knowledge to create a vibrant and healthful food and farming system for the future, or double down on an outdated model of agriculture that is rapidly undermining our environment and our health,” the brief began.
While grassroots movements around the country have pushed back against industrialized agriculture for decades, the science has only recently caught up to the sentiment, said Doug Gurian-Sherman, plant pathologist and senior scientist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS.
“Scarcity and abundance are not nature given—they are products of water cultures. Cultures that waste water or destroy the fragile web of the water cycle create scarcity even under conditions of abundance. Those that save every drop can create abundance out of scarcity.” – Vandana Shiva, ‘Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit‘[i]
Humans, animals, and plants all depend on water to survive. It quenches our thirst, nourishes our livestock, and sustains our crops. Civilizations have risen and fallen as a direct result of access to clean water and agricultural irrigation. Today, despite increasing technological advances in farming, we are no less dependent on water.
Every day, the U.S. agricultural industry pours 128,000 million gallons of water into irrigation, according a 2005 USGS survey of national water resources.[ii]. Aquaculture and livestock production draw another respective 8,780 and 2,140 million gallons per day, but both are dwarfed by irrigated agriculture, which represents the second largest drain on the nation’s water resources, surpassed only by thermonuclear power.