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  • Aflatoxin: A Toxic Potential of Climate Change

    One of the most toxic and carcinogenic threats in the human food supply is a natural chemical called “aflatoxin”; the chance that it will contaminate a crop is enhanced by drought and/or insect damage – both conditions expected to be more common with the onset of climate change. More

  • What’s Happening With The US Fruit And Vegetable Supply?

    Most public health and nutrition experts would say that it would be better if Americans ate even more fruit and vegetables than they do because of their value in addressing obesity, cancer and other health concerns. How does that goal reconcile with these recent supply statistics? More

  • Food Price Spike Persisting

    The UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization has released its monthly index of global food prices for November, and it shows persistently high prices across major food categories. More

  • Who Owns America’s Farmland?

    Nationwide, farmers only own 60% of the land they farm. In many of the most productive row cropping areas of the Midwest, the percent of farmer-owned land is significantly lower (see Map above from the USDA, 2007 Census of Agriculture). Much of our farmland resource is owned by non-farmers and rented to those who actually […] More

  • Why Does Organic Seem Larger Than It Is?

    For a long time we have been hearing that “Organic is the fastest growing segment of the food industry.”  Organic advocates make the claim that Organic could “feed the world” or that it could be “the solution to global warming.”  There is definitely enough buzz about Organic to make all of this seem plausible.  The […] More

  • In Defense of Orange Juice

    (8/11 edits in italics below based on feedback from citrus industry scientists).  A recent blog post on a site called “Food Renegade” is apparently getting quite a bit of attention on the internet.  It was critical of not-from-concentrate (NFC) orange juice because it involves the use of flavor additives and because oxygen is removed from the […] More

  • Genetic Contamination May Not Mean What You Think It Means

    In the debate about GMO crops, the “threat of genetic contamination” is often raised as a reason  to reject the technology.  Is this threat real?  Does it justify acts of vandalism?  Could it lead to the “End of Organics“?  Is it actually an over-blown issue?  To answer these questions it is necessary to put this […] More

  • Toxics: The Long Term, Low Dose Question

    Each year, the USDA generates an extensive set of data which demonstrates that modern American consumers face no real threat from toxic pesticide residues on their food.  This is particularly true in terms of “acute toxicity,” or short-term poisoning.  Someone would have to eat thousands to millions times their own body weight to kill themselves […] More

  • The Greenpeace Australia GMO Wheat Action: A Sad Day For Bread. A Sad Day For Science

    On July, 14, three Greenpeace activists dressed in hazmat suits scaled a fence, and used weed whips to destroy a GMO wheat experiment in Canberra, Australia.  The experiment was being conducted by CSIRO (the USDA equivalent for Australia).  The activists posted video of the attack on You Tube.  They also posted “explanations” by activists who could […] More

  • Imitating Erasmus

    Desiderius Erasmus is a hero of mine.  He was a 16th century monk from Rotterdam who maintained correspondence with most of the educated world of his day.  He translated the Hebrew Scriptures to the vernacular language.  On behalf of the Pope, he wrote grand theological works like “The Freedom of the Will,” which was a […] More

  • Are High Global Food Prices A New Norm?

      FAO (The food and agriculture organization of the United Nations) released their June estimate of global food price indices yesterday.  The new numbers were mixed, but not encouraging overall. Sugar was up 15% over the month. All the other indices were nearly flat: Dairy up 0.2%, Oils down 0.6%, Meat down 1.5%, Cereals down 1.3%. […] More

  • glass half full

    10 Existential Threats To Global Agriculture

    I tend to be a “glass half full” sort of person, particularly about the prospects of successfully feeding the 9-10 billion people we expect by 2050.  My optimism is based on daily contact with the innovative public and private entities who develop technology for agriculture.  It is also based on the track record of small […] More

  • Apple Crop for 2009: Safest On Record

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published a new version of their criminally misleading, “Dirty Dozen list” based on data from the 2009 crop that the USDA released this spring.  Apples got the questionable honor of topping that list. I know a lot about apple growers and the Integrated Pest Management techniques that they employ […] More

  • cropduster spraying pesticides

    A Rational Analysis of the USDA Pesticide Residue Data

    When the Environmental Working Group (EWG) makes its annual “Dirty Dozen List” of fruits and vegetables with pesticide residues, it does so without paying any attention to which chemicals were found or what level was detected. This is why it is so misleading.  To do the analysis properly does take a lot more “work” – […] More

  • Don’t Let The Environmental Working Group Diminish Your Quality Of Life!

    One of the best things about living in a developed country in the modern world is that we have year-around access to delicious and healthful fruits and vegetables at remarkably affordable prices.  In the last 50 years there has been a dramatic increase in the availability and diversity of produce, and many examples of significant […] More

  • My Dirty Dozen List

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a “dirty dozen” list each year based on a criminally misleading interpretation of the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service, PDP pesticide residue data.  The data actually demonstrates that the pesticide residues on foods are virtually all lower than the strict tolerances that have been set by the EPA.  What the […] More

  • Way Too Much Angst About GMO Crops

    From what I read on various blogs and comment streams, there is WAY TOO MUCH ANGST OUT THERE about GMO crops. Too much angst because every significant panel of scientists that has reviewed this technology has concluded that it is as safe as any other domesticated food crop.  Too much angst because the reality is […] More

  • Food Price Spike Continues But Slows

    Today, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released it’s food price indices for May 2011.  It was a mixture of somewhat encouraging news and not so encouraging news.  There are indications that we may have reached the peak of the spike at levels comparable to the last spike in 2008, but there is no […] More

  • Bacteria Made Your Lunch – Revisited

    Bacteria are one of the few reasons that I can remain optimistic about future prospects for feeding humanity.  We who are involved in feeding the world face many challenges in addition to population growth (climate change, peak oil, growing Asian middle classes..).  Still, we might just pull it off because we have microscopic friends that […] More

  • Biofuels For Transportation: Been There, Done That

    There is a great deal of controversy about the wisdom of diverting a significant percentage of the US corn crop into the production of ethanol to fuel cars.  Something like 25-30% of the crop will probably be used this way in 2011 which sounds alarming in the face of global food supply issues that have […] More

  • Sustainable Wheat Production Through Intensification

    Last week I had the honor of meeting Dr. Jason Clay, Vice President of the World Wildlife Fund.  We were on the same panel at CropLife America’s second annual National Policy Conference.  Jason got the opportunity to promote his main project which is influencing major commercial entities in the food chain to promote intensification of agriculture […] More

  • Whistleblower Casts Doubt On The Integrity Of Organic Certification

    Mischa Popoff is a hard core Organic farming advocate.  He grew up on an Organic farm in Saskatchewan and went on to become a licensed, independent Organic inspector.  He still believes in the ideals of the Organic movement that he traces back to the early 18th century at the dawn of the faith-driven founding of […] More

  • The World Food Prices Spike Continues (4th Installment)

    The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) released their global food price index data today showing what happened in April.  Last month there had been a glimmer of hope that the upward price trend was reversing, but as many predicted that was not a trend that continued.  Dairy, Oil and Sugar prices on […] More

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