Aug. 11, 2008
10:48:10 am , by Rob Wood
, 475 words, 1863 views
Now for the second part of this little rant. As if the poor reporting about ethanol by NPR was not enough to keep me lit up all day another report about our friends at Monsanto comes out as well.
Monsanto is in the courts again. This time they are after the dairy industry. Monsanto has had a history of aggressively protecting the patents
for their GMO seeds. They are well within their rights to do so. However, their goon squads and thug-like tactics leave much to be desired. Monsanto is going after companies that label their dairy products rBGH-Free. Monsanto holds the patent on rBGH or recumbent bovine growth hormone. It is given to dairy cows to vastly increase their milk production. Many people, for various reasons, are not crazy about the use of this hormone. There are several dairy producers, marketers and retailers who have chosen not to use Monsanto’s product. These companies have been labeling their products rBGH-Free.
Makes sense to me that as a consumer I have the choice in the products I buy. Monsanto does not feel the same way. Just like their victory in keeping their GMO corn and soybean content off the labels. They are now in court arguing that dairies that choose not to use this product cant tell us they are not using it. Yes, if you are not aware of the fact that in the United States, supposed champion of the free market concept, a corporation has
influenced policy makers to prevent people from knowing about the GMO content in the products they buy. If you buy anything in the US that has
anything derived from corn or soybean it is a GMO. And the company that produces it is not allowed to label it.
This is something that regardless of political ideology everyone who buys food in this country should be up in arms. Monsanto has a right to protect
their patents. Monsanto has a right to make a profit. Monsanto has a right to protection under the law. Monsanto does not have the right to prevent me from knowing what I am buying. We all have the right to know about what products we buy contain. This is the very essence of free market capitalism.
The consumer is allowed to make a choice about the products they buy. We have the right to know what is in the foods we eat and the products we buy. When corporations become so powerful that they can do the kind of crap Monsanto is doing today it is time for people to get angry. Get angry and take action. Contact the FDA tell them you want to know what is in the food you buy. Contact your Congress people let them know how you feel. This is our government and it only works when we do.
Aug. 05, 2008
10:48:41 am , by Rob Wood
, 384 words, 419 views
In the past I have been chided for some of my blogs being “divisive” or “too political”. Well hold on to your hats folks because today I am just flat
I will start with an NPR report I heard earlier this week. The report referenced the state of Texas requesting a waiver from the federal government on the requirement to use ethanol in their fuel. For some reason the folks at NPR neglected to point out that this request by Gov. Perry’s office came after one of the largest poultry operations in country, Pilgrim’s Pride, made a $100,000.00 investment ... oops, sorry... donation to the Republican Governors Association. Did I mention Perry chairs that little group? This was all reported in the Houston Chronicle. Not some blogger or little known tabloid the Houston Chronicle.
To make things even more interesting, the folks at NPR neglected to point out that the waiver the Perry administration requested was put together not just by the good hard-working government employees of Texas, but by a group of Pilgrim’s Pride lobbyists and public relations people from the firm Public Strategies.
NPR did mention the Grocery Manufacturers Association joining with the fine folks of Texas in protesting the ethanol mandate. Of course the USDA and others have already discredited the GMA claims that all the cost increase of food has been caused by ethanol.
I am not really surprised when reporters get stuff wrong. They are reporters, not scientists or policy makers or even practitioners of the black
arts (you know: economists). They report what they see. I would request that if a simple blogger like myself can find this information that it is not all
that tough for them to get it right.
Aside from the failure of NPR to actually get even the facts of the Texas ethanol waiver story correct, I would not expect them to do much better
with the food-versus-food thing in general. Here at BidForGreen we have tackled this subject several times, and it looks like we have to do it
again. Ethanol is NOT causing food prices to skyrocket, and people are not starving to death because of ethanol. Ethanol, from corn, is not the perfect answer to our energy needs. It is however, a step we need to take.
Jul. 21, 2008
10:49:29 am , by Rob Wood
, 682 words, 557 views
Problems abound in the world today, much as they always have. Throughout human history we have faced war, famine and disease. Weather patterns have changed and once-vibrant farmlands have been reduced to deserts. Ecological variants have caused the downfall of thriving societies, sometimes due to poor resource management, some times due to the whims of nature.
Today many look at the world we live in and fear we are facing potential catastrophe on a global scale. Others argue that if we change our wasteful ways we can reverse our damaging course and avoid coming disaster. Others still see no problem or need to change.
In 1798 the reverend Thomas Malthus wrote of his concerns that humanity would soon outstrip our ability to feed ourselves. Malthus noted that unchecked population increases geometrically 2 to 4, 4 to 8, 8 to 16 and so on. Based upon the numbers he saw in 1798 he could easily see that human kinds population was going to outpace its ability to feed itself.
A few hundred years later and several generations after Malthus predictions, Garret Hardin wrote his “Tragedy of the Commons”. Hardin felt that the only way to insure we avoid the Malthusian it would be necessary that the human race relinquish its freedom, as Hardin put it, to “breed.”
Obviously, Malthus missed his mark, at least for a time. Hardin’s Tragedy has not yet come to pass either. We have staved off the disastrous consequences as perceived by both men with advances in agriculture and technology. That has allowed us to produce far more food with less land than ever before. The “green” revolution that introduced chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides has not come without serious ecological cost. We have learned how to mitigate many of the inherent problems to chemical-based farming but we still have a long way to go.
Now we begin to lean even more heavily on our agricultural and technological abilities. Along with the necessary food and fiber production we must have from the land we throw in energy production. More and more we depend on those who can work the land. Farmers have always been able to find ways to battle the elements and the markets to bring food to the tables of the world. It is truly sad to think that today we have more accountants and stockbrokers than we do farmers. We have less land in production and more urban sprawl eating up potential farmlands around the world.
Amazingly, farmers today are able to do so much more with so much less than ever before. Many farmers are switching to more sustainable less intensive methods of farming whenever they can. Many opportunities for people to purchase locally produced foods from farmers markets and even directly from on farm sales have become available.
We are beating the dire predictions of the past, and we are doing so in common sense ways. Thinking globally and eating locally, pursuing a sound bioenergy future based on respect for the land and the people who work it is our only hope for a sustainable future. We are doing these things and taking great strides toward that goal of a sustainable way of life. We are taking great steps but we need to do more.
If you are not buying foodstuff from local producers you should. If you are not supporting biofuels in your area you should. If you have not already turned an eye to the future, you must. And what is the best way to accomplish these goals? Of course, we think it starts here. Start by becoming a member of Bid For Green and signing up on our rss feed. This is a great way to start finding the green and sustainable products you want to use. BFG is also a great way to stay informed about things going on in the field of sustainability.
It’s an exciting time; stay with us. Be a part of what we are doing; spread the word about BFG to your friends and neighbors. And finally, hug a farmer if you can. We owe them more than we could ever repay.
Jul. 06, 2008
10:50:12 am , by Rob Wood
, 476 words, 411 views
Have you ever read or seen a Sherlock Holmes mystery? I have always loved those stories. I love the way Holmes takes what seems to be the smallest detail and used it to find the culprit. A speck of dirt from someone’s shoe, a bit of tobacco left at the scene of the crime, Holmes always found ways to use those seemingly meaningless clues solve the unsolvable.
All the things that Holmes looked at were smaller parts of the greater whole. The character was able to show the chain of events that connected
that bit of tobacco, or type of paper. All the little specks in the story where always interconnected in a complex way that in the end simply showed
the big picture to the brilliant mind of Sherlock Holmes.
In an odd way that enjoyment of Sir Doyle’s creation has gone a long way toward helping me understand the in, out and oddities of today’s energy
market. Let’s go back and look at market forces over the last couple years. We can start with the housing market in the US. There was incredible growth and lots of money made by people in the sub-prime mortgage market. It was a heck of a ride all the way till the point it collapsed and drug down several banks and lending institutions. All of a sudden the bubble burst and sent hundreds of speculators looking for the next big thing to make a fortune on. As money began to flow away from the sub-prime mortgages they begin to flood into other areas, especially oil.
As the sub-prime plummeted the oil futures shot up, nearly doubling in a year. No aspect of supply and demand caused the price to go up. No natural disaster in any part of the world caused it to go up. The practice of gambling on the futures market is what has caused the increase in a barrel
of oil to gush up to where it is at today.
Capitalism is a great and wonderful thing; it has allowed people to accomplish many wonderful things. Speculators and investment houses have helped many people meet their goals and accomplish their financial dreams. The market, however, should not be the ultimate arbiter of value in the world.
We should not allow futures trading on those things that are paramount to our survival, especially energy and food. We need investment in energy and agriculture but both industries carry more than enough of their own risk. We do not need to add more through futures trading in those markets.
If you want to gamble on Wal-Mart, great, take your chances with Boeing, or Quest. Leave energy and agriculture to the forces of supply and demand. We need to change the rules so that our future does not rely on the toss of the dice.
May. 18, 2008
10:51:19 am , by Rob Wood
, 635 words, 480 views
Over the past year there have been some fascinating conversations about the promise of ethanol. Within that same twelve-month period we have seen many organizations start crying out against the production of ethanol from corn.
Corn-based ethanol in the US has been labeled as a crime against humanity by some. People complain about the high cost of everything from gas for their cars, diesel fuel for trucks and the price of everything at Wal-Mart has gone up.
Many times we have discussed that corn-based ethanol is not the long-term solution to energy independence in the US. Cellulose-based ethanol holds the greatest hope there. But believe it or not this blog is less about ethanol and much more about land use.
So far, many people have focused the argument that we should not be using a food crop for fuel production. Others complain that farmers are putting too much land in corn right now to try and reap the benefits of a strong market.
I suggest those with the big beef about ethanol should maybe stop talking and start doing a little digging into research about who they are really benefiting by trying to derail ethanol.
In Missouri we have a mandate that we need to have 10% ethanol in our gasoline. Economists figure that with out that E10 requirement we would be paying as much as a dollar more per gallon at the pump. A dollar that would have gone to the oil companies now goes back to the agricultural sector in the US. Notice I did not say to the farmer. As much as I would like to see that happen, American farmers get pennies on the dollar for any of their crops including corn. So by trying to stop the use of corn-based ethanol you are trying to put another dollar in the pockets of the oil industry. And with the record profits oil companies are making now, they certainly need all the help they can get.
Next, for those of you out crying that we are taking food from the poor.
Perhaps you should look at a few other crops that are not providing food or fuel. We have tobacco, hemp and cotton to name just a few of the industrial crops grown in the US. These feed no one and fuel only industry. Should we stop growing them as well in order to produce more food to be given to poor nations? Given to nations with the best of intentions to help people who need it? Unfortunately also given in ways that help destroy opportunities for local markets and locally produced agriculture.
How about our Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) designed to pay people to not produce on their land? Literally millions of acres of CRP land is not being farmed. If you really want to shake things up in the US let’s go ahead and take away property rights and put together a national land use management plan. Now we can designate where people can build homes and businesses and keep productive agricultural lands in production. Hey, we just cured not only food production but urban sprawl as well. All we give up is the concept of private property, a cornerstone of capitalism.
So lets plow through all the bull. If you are fighting the rise of ethanol as a transportation fuel you are siding with oil companies. Without biofuels, they are the only game in town. If you are fighting ethanol you are against renewable energy. If you are against ethanol you are against any real opportunity to build a society based on the ideas and concepts of sustainability. So take a moment and really think about what is going on, let these ideas take root and grow in your mind. The world is not perfect, but it is good.
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