This recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence that people have been doing selective breeding of plants–using evolutionary concepts of selection–as early as 10,000 years ago. This work continues today.

However, I post this research here with a warning. (more…)

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Nicholas Kristof has a nice summary of one of the major problems we face as a culture, antibiotic resistance of dangerous bacteria, due to massive overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. Read his NY Times column on the topic. If you don’t know about this problem, or, even if you do, this is a must-read article. Our Federal government (we won’t get into state government problems here) no longer watches out for public health, but focuses instead on the health of large corporations. This is the tragedy of modern American politics and governance. His article describes just one instance of this in agriculture, which is just one industry where this is true.

What would urban agriculture look like if it were industrialized? Everything on this site approaches urban agriculture from an ecological perspective. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, we find entrepreneurs looking at opportunities in the field. Some of those entrepreneurs will follow the current trends towards local, sustainable agriculture. But, others will see the opportunities and approach urban agriculture from the industrial approach. What will their agriculture look like?

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In yesterday’s mail I received a flier with an attention getting headline, “Don’t let Sacramento Politicians Remove Products From Your Grocery Bag”. Inside, another headline read “Banning Materials That Keep Our Food Fresh And Safe Is A Terrible Idea”, followed by “Soon, many common everyday products could disappear from grocery store shelves all across California.” The back page had a final fear-mongering headline “Your Favorite Products May Soon Disappear”. The flier had no indication on it of who it was from, except a small box that said “Paid for by BPAfacts.org”. It urged me to call a local California State Assembly member to urge him to vote no on a specific legislative bill. The text inside had no substantive information about what was at stake, other than that a substance, BPA, has been used as a coating to line canned food and beverages, “…a material that’s been safely used for 50 years in food packaging and a wide variety of plastic products like reusable water and baby bottles.”

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[WARNING: Long post. It’s long because it’s important. The myths surrounding industrial agriculture’s “cheap food” are widespread, and this post addresses those myths by responding to a “cheap food” blog post at Freakonomics.]

Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book Freakonomics, recently wrote in his blog about trying to make orange sherbet with his children (Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores?). Apparently, he wasn’t very good at it, spending far more than is reasonable for ingredients and making a product that wasn’t very good. This isn’t surprising, of course, for a first effort. What is surprising is that he used his first-time-effort failure to introduce an argument that eating locally produced food is inefficient due to lack of scale and specialization. In the process he exhibits an appalling ignorance of the locavore (local food) movement and industrial agriculture, plus he makes egregious rhetorical leaps. Let’s take a look. (more…)