How Dr. Bronner’s is cleaning up its agricultural supply chain

August 13, 2018 by  
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Dr. Bronner’s may have a crunchy reputation, but it also has a down-to-earth focus on regenerative agriculture.

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How Dr. Bronner’s is cleaning up its agricultural supply chain

Concerned About GMOs in Your Food?

August 7, 2018 by  
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Remember when organic farming took the food world by storm … The post Concerned About GMOs in Your Food? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Concerned About GMOs in Your Food?

Red List expands to 26,000 endangered species

July 6, 2018 by  
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Japanese earthworms, the Mauritian flying fox and the Bankoualé Palm are joining over 26,000 species categorized as “endangered.” The latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List report  now identifies 26,197 plants and animals facing extinction, out of 93,557 facing serious environmental threats around the world. Australia’s reptile population possibly faces the most threats of all species. 975 reptiles native to the island — nearly every cold-blooded animal living there — have joined the list. In addition, seven percent of those are threatened with extinction due to changing environmental factors , including invasive species and climate change. Estimates from ICUN blame 600 million reptile deaths on feral cats, while a one-degree temperature change could cut the Bartle Frere cool-skink population by half over 30 years. Related: Conservationists sound alarm over US House bill that weakens Endangered Species Act While Australia is facing a mass extinction of reptiles, other areas across Asia could lose species over time. The Mauritian flying fox, an important pollinating species on Mauritius and Réunion, was also added to the endangered species list. Deforestation , cyclones, poaching and death from power lines have significantly reduced the population. In Japan, three species of earthworms were also added to the Red List and face extinction. Nuclear fallout from both World War II and the nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, combined with over-farming and city growth, are threatening the species. Animals also aren’t the only species that face extinction before the century’s end. The Bankoualé palm, a plant native to Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen, may also be relegated to textbooks. Between deforestation, drought , destruction from farming and water redirection, the palm could disappear entirely from Yemen first, leaving the Horn of Africa as its only remaining habitat. Although the outlook is grim for the newly endangered species , all hope is not lost. The ICUN is actively working with local populations to ensure both plants and animals can continue to thrive for generations. In Mauritius, a task force is working with farmers to protect crops and orchards with nets and other deterrents, reducing the need for population culling. Via ICUN

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Red List expands to 26,000 endangered species

Eating seaweed could reduce cows’ methane production

July 5, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of California, Davis have found a surprising food source that could help reduce cows’ methane production: seaweed. A recent study from the university suggests bovines who eat an experimental mix of special food and a specific strain of seaweed produce less greenhouse gas than their peers. According to Pennsylvania State University , agriculture contributes up to seven percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. Each day, ruminal animals (like cows) belch up to 264 gallons of carbon dioxide and methane. As much as 20 percent of agricultural methane emissions comes from animal burps alone. Related: How seaweed eating super cows will save the world To reduce those emissions, UC Davis researchers experimented with new feed combinations for cows. The cows’ hay is mixed with up to one percent of a naturally occurring red algae , Asparagopsis armata. To encourage the cows to eat the new food, molasses is added as a natural sweetener and to mask the salty taste and smell. To measure effectiveness, researchers take the livestock to a special “breathalyzer” chamber three times daily, where cows’ breath is measured for gas content in exchange for a cookie. The cows who ate the seaweed-mixed feed saw a significant reduction in methane production . Across three two-week experiments, cows who ate the highest mix of algae saw their methane production drop by half. The research team called the findings a “dramatic reduction in methane emissions.” But did it change the dairy cows’ milk? Although the seaweed-eating cows produced slightly less milk, the feed didn’t change the milk’s taste. A blind taste-test conducted with 25 people discovered “no off-notes” in the dairy products . Any hints of saltiness or fish did not transfer over to the cows’ milk production. Before seaweed can become a major part of agricultural feed, the industry must overcome several hurdles. This includes changing the seaweed flavor to be palatable to cows and growing enough algae for agricultural purposes. In addition, growing feed must be economically viable for farmers. Using feed to reduce cow emissions is part of a bigger plan to cut greenhouse gases in California. State Senate Bill 1383 mandated that farms must reduce their methane production by 40 percent over the next 12 years. Via NPR

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HOK designs aquaponics facility to alleviate Kansas Citys food desert

June 18, 2018 by  
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Nonprofit Nile Valley Aquaponics is raising fish in a Kansas City food desert—and they’re creating jobs, providing healthy food and promoting sustainable urban farming in the process. To help the nonprofit lead the community to greener and healthier living, American architecture and engineering firm HOK designed the Nile Valley Aquaponics Facility, which could double the annual harvest to 50,000 pounds of fish and 70,000 pounds of vegetables. The building would be constructed using sustainable building methods and feature resource-saving systems such as rainwater cisterns and a wind turbine. Designed to cover a 0.7-acre lot, the Nile Valley Aquaponics Facility aims to expand the nonprofit’s food production capacity and introduce additional eco-friendly farming features. Aquaponics is a closed-loop system for raising mercury-free fish in tandem with vegetables. The urban farming effort not only gives the community greater access to fresh produce and fish, but also provides low-income youth with economic and educational opportunities through jobs, lessons, field trips and mentoring. The new facility would include two new greenhouses that could increase the output of fish from 25,000 to 50,000 pounds and the production of vegetables from 35,000 to 75,000 pounds. A third greenhouse would be used for education. “Designed as a modern kit of parts, the new greenhouses will be constructed with economical, sustainable and easily procurable materials to promote the use of this model in other cities,” says HOK. Related: New Orleans golf course transformed into city’s biggest urban farm with an Eco-Campus The grounds would also include a community event space, marketplace for selling food and packaged goods, a chicken coop and run, beehives, rainwater collection cisterns, solar panels, a wind turbine and community-raised garden beds. The facility is designed to use zero pesticides and 90 percent less water than traditional farming. Nile Valley Aquaponics’ new brand identity, designed by Barkley, is woven into the facility through high-impact graphics that showcase the nonprofit’s mission. The projected fundraising goal for the Nile Valley Aquaponics Facility is $1 million. + HOK Images by HOK

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HOK designs aquaponics facility to alleviate Kansas Citys food desert

Beekeepers file a complaint against Bayer after glyphosate was discovered in honey

June 11, 2018 by  
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Beekeepers in France aren’t happy with Bayer . Agence France Presse reported (AFP) a beekeeping cooperative in the northern part of the country filed a legal complaint against the chemical giant after the controversial herbicide glyphosate was found in honey . The complaint was filed the same day as the close of Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto . The head of the beekeeping cooperative, which represents around 200 beekeepers, detected traces of glyphosate in three batches of honey from one of the members. A lawyer for the beekeeping cooperative, Emmanuel Ludot, told AFP the member’s hives are close to beet, rapeseed and sunflower fields, “But you also can’t forget the weekend gardeners who often tend to use Roundup .” Roundup, according to the news agency, “is the most widely used in France.” President Emmanuel Macron has said he’ll outlaw the weedkiller by 2021. Related: Monsanto will scrap its notorious name after acquisition by Bayer It is Ludot’s hope that this legal complaint will incite an inquiry to nail down the percentage of glyphosate in the honey batches and find if there are any health ramifications for humans. If glyphosate is detected in honey, the whole shipment is rejected, Famille Michaud president Vincent Michaud told AFP. Famille Michaud is one of France’s biggest honey marketers and Michaud said they “regularly detect foreign substances, including glyphosate.” Michaud said beekeepers usually say they’ll sell the honey at a market or roadside stand where there is no quality control if their shipments are rejected, “but this beekeeper had the courage to say, ‘I’m not going to be like everyone else; I’m going to file suit against Monsanto.’” On the date of Monsanto’s acquisition by Bayer, June 7, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said in a statement he was “proud of the path we have paved as Monsanto.” Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said, “Our sustainability targets are as important to us as our financial targets. We aim to live up to the heightened responsibility that a leadership position in agriculture entails and to deepen our dialogue with society.” The AFP said some scientists suspect glyphosate of causing cancer . Via Agence France Presse Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Beekeepers file a complaint against Bayer after glyphosate was discovered in honey

Soil Algae aims to improve soil quality through algae cultures

June 6, 2018 by  
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Algae : it’s not just for bodies of water anymore. Algae Research and Supply , a company based in Carlsbad, California that historically provides algae products for educational purposes, aims to bring its algae cultures to farmers across the world through a line of products called Soil Algae , so that farms may improve the health of their soil and boost production. In addition to offering its own algae cultures, Soil Algae also offers products that will allow farmers to cultivate the indigenous varieties of algae found in their fields. “Twenty percent of the microbial biomass in natural, healthy soil is algae, but many farmers only monitor and maintain bacteria and fungi.” said Matthew Huber, Chief Scientist at Algae Research and Supply, in a statement. “We want to bring Soil Algae to the public consciousness.” The company is now running a Kickstarter campaign to do just that. Algae Research and Supply originally became intrigued by algae’s agricultural potential when farmers continued to buy algae cultures from them. Upon digging into research, the company concluded that algae’s benefits for agricultural production should be more widely promoted, particularly as the world faces a crisis of growing populations and degrading soils. Some of the benefits of adding algae directly into irrigation lines include increased water retention through algae-produced polysaccharide, reduced erosion through its cementing effect in soil , more aerated soil, and a reduction of nutrient runoff through a process known as luxary uptake, which also decreases algal bloom in bodies of water. Related: Light-manipulating algae could boost solar power technology Soil Algae, specifically through bluegreen algae or cyanobacteria, is also capable of pulling nitrogen from the air and converting it into usable nitrogen within the soil. The added algae increases soil biodiversity, organic biomass, and the total humus found in soil, all good things for farmers keen to produce in healthy soils. “Algae in our soil has long been neglected but it is nevertheless important for soil ecology . We intend to correct that gap in knowledge,” said Huber. Via Soil Algae Images courtesy of Algae Research and Supply

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Soil Algae aims to improve soil quality through algae cultures

Monsanto will scrap its notorious name after acquisition by Bayer

June 4, 2018 by  
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“Monsanto” is a bad word in environmentalist circles. However, the company name so connected with concerns over glyphosate , the main ingredient in Monsanto’s product Roundup, will vanish following the company’s acquisition by Bayer — a deal described as “a marriage made in hell.” Bayer will retire the 117-year-old brand name Monsanto, The Guardian reported . Bayer said in a statement , “Bayer will remain the company name. Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio.” Related: Bayer’s proposed $66B Monsanto takeover is “a marriage made in hell” Activists say the deal will create the most powerful agribusiness in the world. In 2016, Bayer announced plans to acquire Monsanto, and said in their statement they signed an agreement for $128 per share later that year — which corresponds to a total cost of around $63 billion this year, considering Monsanto’s debt. Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann said, “We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring process to a standstill. We have to talk to each other. We need to listen to each other. It’s the only way to build bridges.” Campaigners have protested the takeover — Friends of the Earth said it would “increase control over farmers and cut out competitors, and allow it to become the dominant ‘Facebook of farming .’” Friends of the Earth Europe food and farming campaigner Adrian Bebb said Bayer “will become Monsanto in all but name unless it takes drastic measures to distance itself from the US chemical giant’s controversial past. If it continues to peddle dangerous pesticides and unwanted GMOs then it will quickly find itself dealing with the same global resistance that Monsanto did.” + Bayer Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos

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Monsanto will scrap its notorious name after acquisition by Bayer

Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat

June 1, 2018 by  
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Want to lower your environmental impact? Go vegan . That’s one idea researchers uncovered in what The Guardian described as the most comprehensive analysis thus far of farming’s impact on Earth. University of Oxford scientist Joseph Poore, who led the study, told The Guardian, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases , but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car .” “Animal product-free diets…deliver greater environmental benefits than purchasing sustainable meat or dairy ,” according to Oxford’s statement on the study published today in the journal Science . Scientist Thomas Nemecek of Swiss agricultural research group Agroscope joined Poore to create a database of close to 40,000 farms in 119 countries to assess environmental impacts of 40 major foods representing 90 percent of what we eat. Related: Here’s what could happen if America went 100% vegan They discovered that meat and dairy generate 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and use up 83 percent of farmland — but offer just 37 percent of protein and 18 percent of calories, The Guardian reported. Without dairy and meat consumption, global farmland use could be slashed by over 75 percent. The scientists also uncovered variability in producing the same food: for example, high-impact beef producers raising beef cattle on deforested land use 50 times more land and create 12 times more greenhouse gases than low-impact beef producers raising cows on natural pastures. But there’s still a sharp comparison between beef and plant protein like peas: even low-impact beef generates six times more greenhouse gases and uses 36 times more land. You might think grass-fed beef has a low environmental impact, but the researchers discovered the product’s impact was still higher than that of plant-based foods. Poore told The Guardian, “Converting grass into [meat] is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions.” Many food experts praised the study. The University of Edinburgh’s Peter Alexander told the Guardian he was impressed but said, “There may be environmental benefits, e.g. for biodiversity, from sustainably managed grazing and increasing animal product consumption may improve nutrition for some of the poorest globally. My personal opinion is we should interpret these results not as the need to become vegan overnight, but rather to moderate our [meat] consumption.” + University of Oxford + Science Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos

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Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat

The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley

May 28, 2018 by  
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Napa Valley , a world-famous symbol of American excellence in wine, is threatened by too much of a good thing. Ever-increasing wine production has inflicted damage on the region’s economy and ecology.  The industrialization of Napa has resulted in the loss of 95 percent of the oak trees that once covered the valley, and now locals are organizing to protect the area. “With great success came great money and outsiders,” Napa expert and journalist James Conaway told the Guardian . Only a few decades ago, the region was home to fruit orchards and livestock farms as well as vineyards. “Now it’s monoculture with a vengeance,” said Conaway. “Hundreds of miles of steel trellising holding up the vines from one end of the valley to the next. It has an industrial sheen.” Napa County contains California ‘s densest concentration of oak forests, a source of pride for residents that provides invaluable ecological services to the living things that call Napa home. The oak trees sequester carbon, capture rainwater and prevent erosion through their thick roots. The majority of Napa’s oak trees are found in the surrounding hills. However, one-third of the remaining oaks are standing on what is considered to be potential agricultural land. Related: 100% solar-powered winery keeps naturally cool with cork-insulated roofs  In response to the rapid expansion of the area’s  wine industry, local residents have organized around Measure C, an upcoming ballot initiative that would guarantee protection to much of the remaining oak woodland. While the measure would limit the potential growth of the wine industry, those in favor of it say that they are motivated not by opposition to the wineries, but by an understanding that the valley needs sustainable growth . “Something’s very wrong with the way we are thinking about our resources,” said Warren Winiarski, whose Napa cabernet sauvignon won an upset 1976 taste test victory in Paris and put Napa on the map. “They are finite. And yet we go on with development as though we could do that indefinitely.” Via The Guardian Images via Stan Shebs on Wikimedia Commons (1, 2)

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The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley

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