3-3-08 - DREAM/VISION - I was in a kitchen with Whitley Strieber
and his wife Anne. They were sitting at the kitchen table talking to
(I don't know if I was actually there or just observing them from a
spirit point of view as I didn't say anything to either one.
Whitley was lamenting to Anne how that every time he said
something, the ETs made it happen.
Note that Whitley and Art Bell wrote the book, "The Coming
Global Superstorm," which was made into the movie "The Day After
Tomorrow" . I have heard them talk about this factor on several radio
Right after Whitley said this, I had a vision similar to the
one I had in 1999 where the sheet of ice came down through Canada but
stayed above the United States border. This time, the sheet of ice came
down further all the way into the United States as far as Oklahoma in an
arch. Fortunately, the coastal states were spared on both sides.
I have to ask, "Are the ETs doing it because Whitley said it,
or is it that Whitley gets his information the same way I do, the
pictures and ideas are implanted into Whitley's head just like they are
was the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, and the love a mother bears
for her child. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, the sister of
Jupiter, and the mother of Proserpine. Ceres was a kind and benevolent
goddess to the Romans and they had a common expression, "fit for Ceres,"
which meant splendid.
Ceres, the goddess of agriculture
was beloved for her service to mankind in giving them the gift of the
harvest, the reward for cultivation of the soil. Also known as the Greek
goddess Demeter, Ceres was the goddess of the harvest and was credited
with teaching humans how to grow, preserve, and prepare grain and corn.
She was thought to be responsible for the fertility of the land.
was the only one of the gods who was involved on a day-to-day basis in the
lives of the common folk. While others occasionally "dabbled" in human
affairs when it suited their personal interests, or came to the aid of
"special" mortals they favored, the goddess Ceres was truly the nurturer
was worshipped at her temple on the Aventine Hill, one of the Seven Hills
of ancient Rome. Her festival, the Cerealia, was celebrated on April 19.
Another special time for Ceres was Ambarvalia, a Roman agricultural
fertility rite held at the end of May. Ceres is portrayed holding a
scepter or farming tool in one hand and a basket of flowers, fruits, or
grain in the other. She may also be wearing a garland made from ears of
The history of the Gaia idea
This is how the modern idea of Gaia started, how it has evolved
from an idea to an hypothesis, and how it has become, perhaps, a
reanimation of Hutton's theory of evolution.
by James Lovelock
In 1961 I was invited to participate as an experimenter in the first
NASA lunar and planetary explorations. The work involved brief visits
to the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California. I
soon became interested in the methods NASA proposed to detect life on
Mars. They were for the most part based on experience with laboratory
organisms here on Earth. The bacteriologists proposed sending culture
media to grow bacteria from the Martian soil.
To me, this seemed an unsatisfactory approach. It could fail to detect
the presence of life for many reasons. Martian life might not include
bacteria, and even if it did, the biochemistry might be different. The
experiment might land at a barren site. I suggested that they try a
more general experiment, a planetary one, instead of a local search at
the site of landing. For example, simply analyze the chemical
composition of the martian atmosphere. If the planet were lifeless, it
would be expected to have an atmosphere determined by physics and
chemistry alone, and the chemical composition would be close to the
chemical equilibrium state. But if the planet bore life, organisms at
the surface would be obliged to use the atmosphere as a source of raw
materials and as a depository for wastes. Such use of the atmosphere
would change its chemical composition. It would depart from
equilibrium in a way that would show the presence of life. I was
joined in this study at this point by Dian Hitchcock and together we
examined atmospheric evidence from the infrared astronomy of Mars. We
compared this data with our knowledge of the sources and sinks of
gases in the atmosphere of the one planet we knew bore life, Earth. We
found an astonishing difference between the two planetary atmospheres.
Mars was close to chemical equilibrium, and it was dominated by carbon
dioxide. The Earth's atmosphere, in great contrast, is in a state of
deep chemical disequilibrium. In our atmosphere, carbon dioxide is a
mere trace gas, and the coexistence of abundant oxygen with methane
and other reactive gases are conditions impossible on a lifeless
planet. Even the abundant nitrogen and water are difficult to explain
by geochemistry. No such anomalies are present in the atmospheres of
Mars or Venus, and their existence in the Earth's atmosphere signals
the presence of living organisms at the surface. Sadly, we concluded,
Mars was probably lifeless.
The Earth seen from space as a dappled white and blue sphere is now
a visual cliche. But when we first saw it, few of us were untouched by
the beauty of our planet. That view from outside has irreversibly
altered our thoughts and feelings about the Earth.
Strangely similar was the way the top-down view of atmospheric
chemistry, gathered at JPL, became for me a revelation of the Earth.
But this revelation was no aesthetic vision, it was hard science, the
chemical analysis of the Earth's atmosphere. It revealed a gas mixture
like that of the intake manifold of a car engine, oxygen and
combustible gases mixed. This is very different from the exhausted,
carbon dioxide dominated, atmospheres of Mars and Venus.
Much more than this, we know that the chemical composition of our
atmosphere is steady and constant. Changes do occur, but only slowly
compared with the residence times of the gases. One afternoon in 1965
at the JPL, when thinking of these facts, the thought came to me in a
flash that such constancy required the existence of an active control
system. At that time I lacked any idea of the nature of the control
system, except that the organisms on the Earth's surface were part of
it. I learned from astrophysicists that stars increase their heat
output as they age, and that our Sun has grown in luminosity by 25%
since life began. I realised that, in the long term, climate also
might be actively regulated. The notion of a control system involving
the whole planet and the life upon it was now firmly established in my
mind. Sometime near the end of the 1960s I discussed the idea with my
neighbor, the novelist William Golding. He suggested the name Gaia as
the only one appropriate for so powerful an entity.
I first stated the Gaia hypothesis in 1972, in the journal Atmospheric
Environment. Shortly after this I began a collaboration with the
biologist Lynn Margulis that has continued to this day. The first
statement of the hypothesis was: "Life regulates the climate and the
chemical composition of the atmosphere at an optimum for itself."
I now realise that this statement was wrong. What we should have said
is: "The whole system of life and its material environment is
self-regulating at a state comfortable for the organisms." This may
seem to you to be just a fine point of definition. But it laid us open
to the criticism that we had proposed a sentient Gaia able to control
the Earth consciously. Nothing was further from our minds. From the
start, Gaia has been a top-down systems view of the Earth, the hard
science view of a physical chemist with an interest in control theory.
This was never some trendy new age pseudo-science.
Gaia is a proper theory that makes testable predictions. For example,
here is the Gaian view of carbon dioxide. Michael Whitfield and I in a
1982 Nature paper proposed that the geochemical weathering of rocks
was, by itself and in the absence of life, insufficient to account for
the low contemporary level of carbon dioxide. In the real world, we
observed, the system includes the organisms as well as their
environment. This is a much more powerful pump for carbon dioxide than
geochemistry alone, and should be able to remove carbon dioxide from
the atmosphere and sustain a much cooler and, for the organisms, more
comfortable climate than would otherwise be possible. We predicted
that the removal of carbon dioxide from the air would depend on the
growth rate of the organisms and would therefore be dependent upon the
temperature. If the temperature was too low, carbon dioxide would
accumulate in the atmosphere, but as the temperature rose, carbon
dioxide would be removed at a faster rate, and an equilibrium
temperature would be established.
In 1989 the American scientists Volk and Schwartzman confirmed part of
this prediction by showing that the rate of rock weathering is
increased by a factor of 1000 when organisms are present. This is much
more than is needed to enable a powerful physiological regulation of
climate and carbon dioxide. We think it could account for the 300-fold
decline in carbon dioxide since life began on Earth.
I do not know whether Gaia theory is right or wrong. To me it is just
a useful way of looking at the Earth. To illustrate what I mean by
useful, I shall now describe how Gaia theory makes theoretical models
easy by eliminating deterministic chaos, and conclude with a Gaian
account of one of the Earth's essential systems, the sulphur cycle,
and the way it may link with climate and ocean salinity.
The model Daisyworld and its lessons for biodiversity
By far the most useful and constructive criticism we received of
early Gaia was from Ford Doolittle, who said that there was no way for
organisms to regulate the climate other than by foresight and
planning, which was impossible. I agree with him, and it was his
criticism that forced me to rethink our proposal. My answer was a
simple mathematical model of Gaia, called Daisyworld. This model
captures the essence of what I mean by a geophysiological system.
Imagine a planet just like Earth, and orbiting a star just like the
sun. This imaginary planet has a surface of bare earth, but is well
watered and capable of supporting plant growth. It is seeded with
daisies of two different colours, one dark and the other light. The
star that warms Daisyworld is like our own sun, one that warms up as
it grows older. The object of the model is to show that the simple
growth and competition for space between the two daisy species can
keep the temperature of Daisyworld constant and comfortable over a
wide range of radiant heat output from the star.
This is Daisyworld evolves. At the start of the first season, after
the planetary temperature reaches 5 degrees Celsius, daisy seeds begin
to germinate. After their emergence, dark coloured daisies, which
absorb more heat, are at an advantage, since in the feeble sunlight
they alone would be warm enough to grow. The few seeds produced at the
end of the season would nearly all be of dark daisies. At the start of
the next season, dark daisies would dominate and soon begin to spread,
warming themselves and the area they occupied. Then, with explosive
positive feedback, temperature and daisy growth would rise until a
large proportion of the planetary surface was covered by dark daisies.
Their growth, though, would not continue indefinitely for two reasons:
first, too high a temperature suppresses growth, and second, on a warm
planet there would be competition for space from light coloured, heat
reflecting daisies. As the star warmed, the planetary ecosystem would
change from one dominated by dark daisies to one dominated by light
coloured daisies. It is the nature of stars to grow hotter as they
age, and eventually the ecosystem of daisies would collapse when a
total planetary surface cover of light daisies was insufficient to
keep the planet cool.
The model is quite general, and works as well if the growth of the
organisms alters the cloud cover or the abundance of greenhouse gases.
Indeed, models of the early Earth where bacterial ecosystems regulate
climate and gas composition work just as well as does Daisyworld. The
geophysiological models are robust in a mathematical sense, use
equations in their natural nonlinear form, and are almost entirely
insensitive to the initial conditions. Daisyworld is in fact the
mathematical basis of Gaia theory.
It might seem that the great stability of these geophysiological
models is in contradiction to the inherent instability leading to
deterministic chaos, which is a general property to evolving systems
of nonlinear differential equations. It would be wrong to conclude so;
Daisyworlds are more like islands of stability in a sea of chaos, the
exception that "proves" the rule.
The damping effects of population density are well known to confer
some stability on both natural and model ecosystems. What we have in
Daisyworld is something quite different, a tightly coupled system made
stable by environmental feedback. Perhaps the nearest to it is in the
work of the ecologist, Tilman, who also included the environment in
his models. In Daisyworld, unlimited growth does occur, but only when
positive feedback is needed to bring the system rapidly to its stable
state. This is illustrated in Figure 3 by the rapid rise of
temperature and daisy population at the origin of Daisyworld. It may
be some time before evidence and observation confirms or denies the
existence of systems like Daisyworld on the Earth, although it is
already possible to argue, from the geochemistry of rock weathering,
that this mechanism operates for the long term regulation of
atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate. For the moment let us assume
it to be a fair model and see how species richness and diversity can
be examined on this imaginary planet. First, there seems to be no
limit to the number of species that can be accommodated in Daisyworld
models. Figure 4 illustrates the evolution of climate and population
on a world inhabited by thirty types of coloured plants, twelve types
of herbivores, and three carnivores. During its evolution this system
is perturbed continuously by a progressive growth of solar luminosity.
It takes a robust system to continue to regulate and remain stable
when so perturbed. The peaceful coexistence of daisies, rabbits and
foxes is remarkable in itself, even without the perturbations. Note
how the diversity index reaches a maximum when the system is most
comfortable and is low at the extremes. This is perhaps similar to the
well known increase of diversity with latitude and altitude.
Analysis shows biodiversity on Daisyworld to be greatest when all
is well with the ecosystem, but when rapid change, well within the
limits of toleration, is taking place. Biodiversity is least when
either the system is so stressed as to be near failure, or when it is
healthy but there has been a prolonged period of steady state. When
the system is rich in species, the relaxation time after a
perturbation is very long in terms of the generation time of
Does this say anything about our present condition? We usually regard
the great diversity of organisms in equatorial regions as a steady
natural state. I wonder if instead we should regard this great
diversity as an indication that the ecosystem or the Earth itself was
healthy but has been recently perturbed. The most likely perturbation
is the sudden shift from the cool period of glaciation a mere 10,000
years ago. If this view is right, then biodiversity is a symptom of
change during a state of health. What seems important for sustenance
is not so much biodiversity as such, but potential biodiversity, the
capacity of a healthy system to respond through diversification when
the need arises. In the Amazon and other regions under threat,
destroying biodiversity will reduce the reservoir of apparently
redundant or rare species. Among these may be those able to flourish
and sustain the ecosystem when the next perturbation occurs. The loss
of biodiversity rarely occurs alone; it is part of the destructive
process of converting natural ecosystems to farm land. It is the whole
process, the loss of biodiversity and the loss of the potential of the
region to sustain biodiversity, that makes the clearance of tropical
forest so dubious an act. Geophysiology also views the biodiversity of
the humid tropical rain forests to be linked with their capacity to
act as natural air conditioners for their region. Simple calculation
shows that the value of the forests as air conditioners is worth
hundreds of trillions of dollars per year.
|What is eaten in one week around the world
Take a good look at the family size &
diet of each country
availability & cost of
what is eaten in one week
The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07
The Revis family of North Carolina (Sure hope
families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this
Food expenditure for one week $341.98
The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
: The Casales family of
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09
: The Sobczynscy family
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27
Egypt : The Ahmed
family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
Ecuador : The Ayme
family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Bhutan : The Namgay
family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
COULD YOU LIVE ON THE LESSER AMOUNT?
A US shopper in Virginia stocks up amid fears of global food
(Reuters: Jim Young)
April 28, 2008
So far the threat of a global food crisis has not affected
Australia, but there are worrying signs appearing in the United
States where some worried locals are beginning to hoard
Two bulk US retailers are rationing some sales of imported rice
and that's been enough for some Americans to begin stocking up.
It has also rekindled America's survivalist movement.
One leading survivalist warning of lean and hungry times ahead
is Jim Rawles, a former US intelligence officer and editor of a
survivalist blog, who lives in California.
Mr Rawles says he thinks the food shortages being seen in the
United States could soon become a matter of survival.
"I think that families should be prepared for times of crisis,
whether it's a man-made disaster or a natural disaster, and I
think it's wise and prudent to stock up on food," he said.
"I've encouraged my readers to do this for many years, and the
ones that have are now in a situation where they can just spend
charity to their neighbours if there are full-scale shortages."
He says there are thousands of people in the United States
stocking up to prepare for the possibility of a food shortage.
"On a small scale, I'm sure there's hundreds of thousands. In
terms of real serious survivalists, it's probably just in the
tens of thousands that are actively preparing and the folks that
are going to two, three or four-year supply of food," he said.
He says it is a major situation with food with other potential
calamities that concern him as a survivalist.
"If you get into a situation where fuel supplies are disrupted
or even if the power grid were to go down for short periods of
time, people can work around that," he said.
"But you can't work around a lack of food - people starve,
people panic and you end up with chaos in the streets."
Mr Rawles says he has been very well prepared for many years.
"We have more than a three-year supply food here at our ranch,"
"We've got quite a bit if wheat, rice, beans, honey, rolled
oats, sugar, you name it. We've got large quantities salted
"Most of it is stored in five-gallon plastic food grade
He says that before this food issue came to light, he would
normally be prepared for other types of civil unrest or disaster
"For earthquakes or flood, famine, whatever," he said.
"We anticipated a situation where there might be a disruption of
food supplies, but we're more looking at a classic
socio-economic collapse or even a nuclear war."
But Mr Rawles says he did not expect he would be preparing for a
food shortage several years ago.
"Not per se, because we've been living in a land of plenty for
many, many years," he said.
"We haven't had food rationing in the United States since World
War II, so it wasn't very high on anyone's priority list."
He says the location of his survival ranch in the US is secret.
"We don't actually reveal our location, even at the state
level," he said.
"All that I'm allowed to say is that we're somewhere west of the
Rockies. We intentionally keep a very low profile.
"We just don't want a lot of people camping out on our doorstep
the day after everything hits the fan."
Emptying the Breadbasket
Decades of Great Plains' wheat as king
and low prices everywhere are over
Holly Deyo NOTE: We have posted
articles continuously for the past year detailing depletion of US
and global grain reserves to record lows, grain thefts in Kansas,
food shortages, rising food prices and resulting food riots, in
hopes that you are getting this message: As tough as it might
be right now, this is definitely the time to purchase significant
food stocks. If you have missed any of these articles, please
check the Food & Water ARKives for
2007. This issue is too vital for you not to get the entire
The Midwest is at the heart of our wheat and corn production.
All it will take is one
bad drought - which Iowa expects. For the past 6 months
North Dakota is in the
worst drought ever - and now possibly
a global drought - and our food supplies will take a
Extreme flooding like the Midwest just experienced and is
happening now along the Mississippi are wiping out food crops.
With escalating fuel costs, there will come a point when truckers
are unable to make a living and simply have to shut down.
Daily news address rampant concerns over rice, wheat, corn and
soybean shortages. And now
food rationing and
hoarding is creeping into reality...
It's not enough that a huge portion of our grains goes to biofuel,
tenuous crops are further impacted by a higher global demand for
wheat-based foods on dinner tables. If drought, as addressed
above, hit's America's read basket our remaining crops will be in
Stock up now - buy in bulk - and
pack for long-term storage any grain products and foods you
regularly consume. It's easy, it's great insurance and will save
you loads of money in the long run. The longer you delay, prices
are only going to escalate, your options will dwindle, along with
selection. Please do this before your options close.
When reading news articles, it is our hope you'll read beyond
the headlines and hear the unspoken message - a quiet
urging to prepare.
April. 29, 2008
By Dan Morgan
The Washington Post
At Stephen Fleishman's busy Bethesda shop, the era of the 95-cent bagel
is coming to an end.
Breaking the dollar barrier "scares me," said the Bronx-born owner of
Bethesda Bagels. But with 100-pound bags of North Dakota flour now above
$50 -- more than double what they were a few months ago -- he sees no
alternative to a hefty increase in the price of his signature product, a
bagel made by hand in the back of the store.
"I've never seen anything like this in 20 years," he said. "It's a
Fleishman and his customers are hardly alone. Across America, turmoil in
the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza,
pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers.
But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming
U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat
products doubtful at best.
Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the
high-quality wheats used in Fleishman's bagels, many farmers are cutting
back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone
corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers.
"Wheat was king once," said David Braaten, whose Norwegian immigrant
grandparents built their Kindred, N.D., farm around wheat a century ago.
"Now I just don't want to grow it. It's not a consistent crop."
SHOVED ASIDE BY OTHER CROPS
In the 1980s, more than half the farm's acres were wheat. This year only
one in 10 will be, and 40 percent will go to soybeans. Braaten and other
farmers are considering investing in a $180 million plant to turn the
beans into animal feed and cooking oil, both now in strong demand in
China. And to stress his hopes for ethanol, his business card shows a
sketch of a fuel pump.
Across the Red River and farther north, in Euclid, Minn., Don Strickler,
63, describes wheat as "a necessary evil." Most years, he explained,
farmers lose money on it. Still, it provides conservation benefits and
can block diseases in soybeans and sugar beets when rotated with those
Wheat's fall from favor, little noticed when it was cheap, has been long
coming. Though still an iconic symbol of American abundance -- engraved
on currency and praised in song -- the nation's amber waves of wheat
have been increasingly shoved aside by other crops. The "breadbasket of
the world," which had alleviated hunger and famine since World War I,
now generally supplies only a quarter of world wheat exports.
U.S. farmers are expected to plant about 64 million acres of wheat this
year, down from a high of 88 million in 1981. In Kansas, wheat acreage
has declined by a third since the mid-1980s, and nationwide, there is
now less wheat in grain bins than at any time since World War II -- only
about enough to supply the world for four days. This occurs as
developing countries with some of the poorest populations are rapidly
increasing their wheat imports.
MULTIPLE FACTORS PLAY A PART
Driving south from Grand Forks, N.D., on a freezing spring day, a
motorist travels through a landscape that looks like a scene from the
movie "Fargo." Mile after mile, fence posts rise from the snowy fields
on each side of the ruler-straight highway. It looks like classic wheat
country. But come summer, much of it will turn green from corn and
"Last summer it looked like Iowa around here," Braaten said.
Science, weather, economics and farm policy have all played a part in
U.S. wheat yields per acre have increased little in two decades, partly
because commercial seed companies have all but abandoned investments in
improved varieties, preferring to focus on the more profitable corn and
soybeans. Subtle warming changes in the climate and the recent
availability of new plant varieties that thrive in cold, dry conditions
have pushed the corn belt north and west.
In 1996, Congress gave a strong nudge to these changes by passing
legislation allowing wheat growers for the first time to switch to other
crops and still collect government subsidies. The result is that farmers
received federal wheat payments last year on 15 million acres more than
"Every year now, we're in a battle for acres," said Neal Fisher,
administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission. "We have a lot on
our plates as we try to manage the challenges that wheat faces."
"If our comparative advantage is corn and soybeans and Russia's is
wheat, having these shifts occur over time is not the end of the world,"
said Edward W. Allen, a senior economic analyst at the Agriculture
But in the long run, said USDA wheat analyst Gary Vocke, "The forces
leading to the trends are still in place." Though supplies may rebound,
he and other experts doubt that prices will drop to prior levels.
That poses serious concerns for countries that historically have counted
on the United States to have inexpensive wheat on hand to cushion
A RUN ON AMERICAN GRAIN
The U.S. government stopped holding large stocks of wheat in the 1980s,
but the United States, nearly alone among wheat producers, allows
countries to shop here even when others have shut off exports.
This free-trade policy resulted in a run on the 2007 U.S. wheat crop
this year by foreign buyers taking advantage of the favorable dollar
exchange rate to stock up, even as Ukraine, Argentina and Kazakhstan
"It was a perfect storm," said Jochum Wiersma, a grains specialist with
the University of Minnesota.
Problems started last summer with poor European harvests and a
disappointing winter wheat crop in the southern Great Plains. U.S.
prices moved above $7 a bushel, then crossed $10 after Australia
harvested yet another drought-damaged crop in December. As supplies of
wheat ran low, foreign countries began grabbing limited stocks of
premium wheat from the northern plains -- the variety used to make the
flour for Fleishman's bagels. Morocco, its own harvest of wheat to make
traditional couscous inadequate, jumped in with a purchase of 127,000
"With low stocks and a weak dollar, things fly off the shelf faster than
they used to," said David Brown, chairman of the American Bakers
Association's commodity task force. "There's just not enough acreage
coming back into production to replenish these stocks."
The reverberations were felt from Strickler's farm to Fleishman's shop
-- and far and wide across world wheat markets. When Strickler checked
his records recently, he found he had sold 850 bushels, about a
truckload, for a record $20 a bushel. That's a receipt he plans to frame
and hang on his wall.
But the same events put a squeeze on Vance Taylor, general manager of
North Dakota Mill, the huge state-owned flour mill that looms over Grand
Forks. Taylor's mill processes the spring-planted wheat grown along the
Canadian border and prized by bakers of bread, bagels and other premium
flour products. This spring wheat is high in protein and gluten, which
helps breads rise and imparts texture. Among the mill's products are the
bags of Dakota King flour that Fleishman uses to give his bagels their
special chewy quality.
Suddenly Taylor couldn't find enough wheat. On Feb. 4, the state's
Industrial Commission, headed by the governor, approved a rare waiver
allowing the mill to buy spring wheat from Canada if needed. But in late
March, the commission rescinded the waiver, which was highly unpopular
with U.S. farm organizations. That left Taylor with a shortage of 1
million bushels before the August harvest. Since then, he said, he has
found enough domestic wheat to get him through.
But prices rose rapidly down the supply chain.
"We raised our selling prices after the flour mills raised theirs," said
Ted Lentz, president of Lentz Milling of Reading, Pa., which distributes
North Dakota flour to bakeries from New York to Virginia. "Some of our
baking customers have reduced their flour purchases up to 20 percent
because of the higher prices."
A RETURN TO WHEAT?
Whether 2008's high prices will lure many farmers back to wheat is still
a matter of debate.
The ethanol boom, in particular, is providing strong incentives to keep
former wheat acres in corn. Within a year, Braaten will be able to truck
his corn to three modern ethanol refineries, one already built and two
others near completion. These huge distilleries will need corn from an
area about the size of Rhode Island, and many of the acres will come at
the expense of such traditional crops as wheat and sugar beets.
Corn has even begun to make inroads in the western part of the state,
where sparse rainfall and the short growing season traditionally have
ruled out most crops except wheat, barley and oats. Spurred by the
availability of cheap coal for power and a local cattle industry that
will buy the dry byproducts for feed, a new ethanol plant opened last
year in Richardton, west of Bismarck, the capital.
"There's getting to be more and more corn all the time," said Clark
Holzwarth, the refinery's commodity manager.
At current prices, farmers like Braaten can make more money from an acre
of corn than from an acre of wheat, according to North Dakota State
University economist Dwight Aakre. But wheat's biggest problem is
susceptibility to disease, which has turned many farmers against it.
They remember the 1990s, when fusarium head blight, commonly called
"scab," devastated successive wheat crops. After that, many farmers
switched to new varieties of hybrid corn and genetically modified
These seeds are protected by patents and licensing agreements, requiring
farmers to buy a new batch each year. That produces strong financial
incentives for the companies .
Research might solve many of wheat's problems, but commercial companies
say the opportunities for profit are limited. In 2004, Monsanto, the
world's largest seed company, shelved its research on a wheat plant that
had been genetically modified to tolerate chemical weed killers.
The milling industry has been resistant to using such genetically
modified wheats, so wheat plants have to be improved the old-fashioned
way, by laboriously selecting those with the desired qualities in test
plots. That is an expensive and time-consuming process.
Even then, there is no assurance that farmers will buy the seed year
after year. That is because of the nature of the wheat plant, an
unusually complex organism originating in the Middle East thousands of
years ago. Unlike hybrid corn, which loses its productivity after the
first year, seeds from improved wheat varieties can be saved and
replanted for several years without significant loss of yield.
Syngenta, a large seed company, is still working to develop improved
wheat, but Rob Bruns, who heads the North American cereal seed
operation, acknowledged that it's difficult to create "enough critical
mass to pay for the higher tech investments."
The upshot is that most wheat research is now consigned to public
colleges with limited amounts of federal and state funds.
NEW BREEDS PROVE DIFFICULT
At North Dakota State University, wheat breeder Mohamed Mergoum helped
develop Glenn, a new wheat based on a cross with Chinese plants. "It's a
joy to make a difference in the life of the growers," said Mergoum, who
worked earlier in the international program that developed
higher-yielding "green revolution" wheats.
Glenn has proved resistant to scab, but it hasn't achieved universal
acceptance among farmers.
Strickler, the farmer in Euclid, Minn., gave it a try one year but
stopped using it after finding that a lot of the kernels cracked when
they were separated from the chaff during threshing. As he sees it,
Glenn is another example of how devilishly difficult it is to develop
positive new traits in wheat without other problems arising.
James A. Anderson, a plant breeder at the University of Minnesota,
predicted that the seed companies will continue to make inroads in wheat
country with new kinds of corn and soybeans.
"They've definitely moved into the spring-wheat region with dedicated
breeding," he said. "They're trying to get whatever acreage they can and
sell more of their seed."
These developments suggest that the days of a bagel for less than a buck
may not return to Bethesda anytime soon. Though prices have dropped from
their March high, Fleishman is still paying close to $50 for a bag of
"I feel helpless. I go with the flow," he said recently at his store. He
is getting ready to change his menu boards to reflect a new price:
He is not happy about it. "There's a psychological barrier, and a
certain segment will be resentful," he said. "They'll get angry and feel
gouged. People don't understand about food prices."
Morgan writes for The Washington Post on contract and is a fellow at the
German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy institution. Staff
writer Jane Black contributed to this report.
LOGAN, Ohio, July 10, 2003
It's only mid-morning in Logan, Ohio, but, as CBS News
Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports, some of the food is already
running out. Twice a month in this small town on the edge of
Appalachia, groceries are given away. You could call it a "line"
of the times, because in a growing number of American communities
making ends meet means waiting for a handout.
The line stretches down the road and out of sight and most, like
Ginger Walls, never imagined they'd be here.
She says of her food situation at home, "Well, my cupboards aren't
real full, and my kids don't have a lot to choose from."
Many are embarrassed, and didn't want to talk, but they are far
from alone. Each year an estimated 30 million Americans go hungry.
Some places, like Logan, have it worse than others.
"We're not really on the bottom, but we're at a point where we
still need the help," says Rob Calender.
Virginia Luzier admits to needing the help. She says without the
trunkful of groceries she'd go hungry.
"I just live on Social Security and that's not a very good
living," says Luzier.
The line makes clear that any economic recovery has bypassed this
community. When it started two short years ago, volunteers fed 17
families. Now it's well over 500.
Goodyear is just one of at least a half dozen plants around here
that have relocated or closed in the last few years, taking with
them thousands of jobs: jobs that have been counted on for
generations and jobs that won't be coming back.
Not everyone is unemployed, but many live on minimum wage. You
have to make hard choices, they say, and the free food they
receive means more money to clothe the kids or in some cases buy
"I don't have enough money to buy three of my prescriptions," says
Mary Travis. "I'm on nine, so you have to do without."
And food inventories are dwindling.
At the local office of America's Second Harvest, a hunger relief
organization that gave away 81 million pounds of food last year in
Ohio alone, donations are drying up at a terrible time.
"We've seen an 18 percent increase in the demand for services in
just the first three months of this year," says Lisa Hamler
Podalski. "We're seeing a new phenomena. Last year's food bank
donors are now this year's food bank clients."
Back on the line, Walls wonders about priorities and waits with so
"I find it very hard to see Americans providing for all the other
countries, and yet we're suffering so," says Walls. "It's just not
right, we're supposed to look out for ourselves: our brothers and
© MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
Gene-engineered Seeds of Destruction!
The Coming Food Shortage!
A new danger to basic human freedom...
by F. William Engdahl | From the October 2004
I would like to address the
issue of genetically modified foods, or "GM crops," as it is often
called in English. The right and ability of every country to produce
food to feed its population is under attack.
Here the nature of the threat is
deliberately obscured by concerted efforts of governments,
international organizations such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO, as
well as a handful of powerful agribusiness corporations.
Much has been written on the subject
of GM plants and food. What is little-discussed is the geopolitical,
or more precisely, the geo-economical strategic significance of the
recent spread of GM crops from the United States, now to Asia,
Africa, Latin America and the EU itself.
First, though, what GM foods are
not: They are not a miracle variety of crops that will end world
hunger or malnutrition. They are not a safe alternative to the use
of chemical pesticides to make food safer for human diets. Nor has
there been any serious, independent scientific long-term studies to
determine the human safety of a diet based on GM plants and animals
fed with GM soybeans, corn and other plants.
Dr. Arpad Pustzai, the world’s
leading scientist doing research on GM effects on animals at
Scotland’s Rowett Institute, found alarming evidence of danger to
their organs, including the brain. He was fired in 1997 for saying
so, on the direct intervention of Tony Blair and Monsanto.
Few scientists today dare to risk
their career by speaking out. And too many take large university
financial research grants from Monsanto and the other GM giants to
produce "friendly" research. The arguments in favour of using GM
foods are based on lies, fraud and political intimidation. Today the
U.S. State Department AID program refuses emergency famine aid in
Africa except in the form of GM crops.
GM plants as they are spread to
every corner of our planet, are being spread with virtually no
regulation of their health or other consequences. Most information
about effects of GM foods comes from Monsanto and companies with an
interest in promoting their use. The few independent studies that
exist and testimony of farmers suggest GM crops need significantly
more pesticide and typically produce lower yields, even harvest
failure in cases of various cotton crops in India.
GMs are not "wonder food." So what
is the issue of GM crops? Why did President Bush, in June 2003, just
after the fall of Baghdad, make GM crops a strategic priority?
Today, fewer than half a dozen giant
multinational companies control the world market in GM
seeds—Monsanto, Cargill and DuPont of the USA, Syngenta of
Switzerland and one or two other smaller players. Monsanto is by far
the dominant player, selling some 91 percent of all GM seeds and
most herbicide, with a total monopoly of GM seeds for certain crops
Since the Thatcher Revolution in
England in the 1970s and the Reagan era, what is called "free
market" economics has been raised to the level of religious dogma in
the industrial world, starting with Britain and the U.S. With the
spread of GM seeds, this "marketization" process has taken on a
dangerous new dimension: Everything is being made into a commodity
and priced according to its "market," even fresh water.
As a result of the genetic
engineering revolution, for the first time in mankind’s history the
entire planet is threatened with the commercial control of most of
world food supply by a handful of private corporations—most of which
are controlled by U.S. or UK financial groups.
The stakes here are so high that
British Environment Secretary Michael Meacher was fired by Prime
Minister Tony Blair in June, 2003, for refusing to endorse GM crops
without long-term government studies of the possible effects on
humans, animals and the environment.
What’s new and alarming about GM
crops is the fact that a handful of private corporations, led by
Monsanto, have used their influence in Washington, D.C. and in the
World Trade Organization (WTO) to patent and claim monopoly rights
on the basic food seed supply of humankind.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann
Veneman is a former director of a Monsanto subsidiary. Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld’s old company, G.D. Searle is part of Monsanto.
Monsanto enjoys a status in Washington, D.C., that few corporations
outside Halliburton enjoy.
Be very clear. This is not an issue
of the private sector engaging in free competition. Governments,
starting with the U.S., have enabled the creation of these
staggering monopoly rights over human food production. This is a
perverse anti-competitive policy being spread in the name of "free
market," against governments or independent farmers trying to
control their own food independence.
The U.S. Supreme Court, the same
court which gave George Bush the presidency, ruled in December,
2001, that a private company, Pioneer Hi-Bred seeds of DuPont, had
the right to patent plants based on a genetically modified
alteration, and prohibit others from selling seeds of any related
varieties without paying a royalty fee to DuPont. That was an
Genetic engineering, or biotech,
became a large growth industry in the U.S. after 1986. That year,
vice-President George Bush, the father of today’s Bush, hosted a
private White House meeting with the heads of Monsanto to discuss
the "deregulation" of biotechnology, on the argument it would
stimulate growth and create jobs. As president in 1991, the same
Bush issued an executive ruling declaring that GM products need not
have any special control for health or safety. Bush ruled that GM
corn or other plants were "substantially equivalent" to normal
soybeans or corn and, hence, should "not be hampered by unnecessary
This executive order meant GM
products have no effective regulation today. The U.S. government
refuses even to label foods having GM. This opened the floodgates to
Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta and the agribusiness multinationals.
Monsanto Canada vs. Percy
This past May, the Supreme Court of
Canada issued a ruling which will greatly advance the corporate
control of the world’s future food supply for the GM lobby. The
court ruled in favour of Monsanto and against a Saskatchewan farmer
In 1997, Schmeiser, a life-long
family farmer, discovered herbicide-resistant rapeseed growing wild
in a ditch next to his field. The seeds came from a nearby
Monsanto-planted GM field.
In 1998 Monsanto sued Schmeiser in a
million dollar suit demanding he pay Monsanto royalties for the
unwanted plants! He took the case to the Supreme Court. Finally on
May 21, in a ruling applauded by Monsanto and the agro-industry, the
Court ruled against Schmeiser claiming he infringed on Monsanto
Patent monopoly, even though Monsanto admitted in court he had not
planted its seeds or used its herbicide. The contamination was
carried by wind.
The Court cited the WTO principle of
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPs, as
its grounds. The polluted not the polluter, must pay in this ruling.
Now Monsanto and other major GM
agro-companies are hiring private Pinkerton detectives to spy on
farmers. Monsanto offers a free leather jacket as reward for anyone
informing on neighbor farms thought to be contaminated with Monsanto
GM crops. Former Canadian Mounted Police are hired by Monsanto to
threaten farmers unless they agree to buy seeds and herbicides from
Monsanto has a free "hotline" to
report suspected cases of GM contamination. North American farmers
are being forced to sign with Monsanto and others for their GM
seeds. They are forbidden to use seeds for replanting. They must buy
new seeds from Monsanto each year, also paying a technology license
The significance of this Canada
ruling, in wake of U.S. Supreme Court and government rulings, is
enormous. Look closer at the WTO TRIPs.
Free trade in agriculture is today
at the heart of the WTO. Under the treaty of the World Trade
Organization, created by the GATT Uruguay trade round in the early
1990s, multinational corporations now have the right, enforced by
WTO sanctions, to collect royalty payments for "intellectual
The Uruguay agreement, ratified by
all GATT member countries under enormous U.S. pressure, allows a
corporation for the first time, to patent a specific plant variety,
even though that plant might have been in the public domain in say,
Pakistan or Peru or Mexico for thousands of years. The WTO term is
Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The
U.S. pushed the controversial TRIPs agreement through GATT, accusing
developing countries of "piracy" in not paying due royalties to
multinationals, claiming U.S. companies were losing hundreds on
millions in unpaid fees for their fertilizer and seeds. Mickey
Kantor, the U.S. trade representative who negotiated those Uruguay
round TRIPs, today sits on the board of Monsanto.
The TRIPs WTO agreement includes
patent rights on GM plants. In 2002, the Swiss agri-tech company
Syngenta announced successful sequencing of the rice genome and took
patents on parts. Under TRIPs, Syngenta claims as its "intellectual
property" what may potentially be most of the rice grown in
Pakistan, India and Asia.
Using TRIPs, Syngenta tried to take
control of the entire gene bank of Indira Gandhi Agricultural
University with its 24,000 rice samples held in trust for Indian
farmers. It was prevented in India only by mass protests.
Monsanto dominates patents on
soybeans, corn, cotton and other major crops. Early this year
Monsanto filed a patent in Munich, and won, giving it exclusive
ownership of Nap Hal, the special wheat used to make Indian Chapati,
the flat bread staple of north India.
Monsanto’s major problem is how to
collect royalty payments from millions of small peasant farmers.
Collecting patent payments for GM seeds in developing countries is
Not so, if terminator seeds, or
GURTs, are sold. Terminator technology, which Monsanto paid $1.6
billion to acquire, allows introduction of a "suicide gene" into
plants such as corn or cotton or soya or potentially, even wheat.
A farmer using terminator seeds no
longer will be able to share seeds with other farmers or plant his
own in following years. He will be forced to turn to Monsanto each
season to buy his existence, in the form of more suicide seeds, as
well as the special herbicides Monsanto has developed to be used
The original developers of
terminator technology, Delta & Pine Land Seed, which Monsanto bought
in 1998, specifically noted that the rice and wheat markets of
China, India, Pakistan and such major population countries was the
target of terminator. The political implications of such a
development are easy to imagine.
The Monsanto public relations
maneuver "not to commercialize" terminator seeds was clearly
designed to defuse growing opposition to proliferation of GM seeds,
to buy time while allowing them to spread GM crops to the world’s
largest growing areas—North America, Argentina, Brazil and now, the
EU since this April. Once GM crops are spread, it would be simple to
shift to terminator.
In February 2003, at a meeting of
the International Seed Federation in Lyon, France, Monsanto released
a paper titled, "The Benefits of GURTs." It argued that terminator,
in fact, would benefit poor farmers. Monsanto argues, in a new ploy,
that terminator would hinder spread of unwanted GM genes to non-GM
plants, promoting the same idea in new clothes as a "biosafety"
tool. Clearly they believe opposition to terminator and GM is
waning. Reports are that Monsanto would be ready to introduce
commercial terminator seeds in 3-4 years.
Overall, Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta
and a few other private giants have world rice control in their
sights. This would be equal to gaining control over the basic food
supply of all Asia.
The Trojan horse of GM
The giant GM seed companies use the
WTO to demand that a country accept their rights to control patents
on their own rice! In most cases, the U.S. or foreign seed company
developed the GM variety patent based on seeds obtained from Asian
seed banks such as that of the International Rice Research Institute
in the Philippines. Rockefeller Foundation funds financed the deal.
Using TRIPs rights of WTO, patents
and pressure from WTO, Monsanto and others are forcing Asian
countries to draft new laws to mandate payment of royalties to the
companies for seed and to prohibit farmers from using other seeds or
hybrid seeds, arguing their corporate R&D costs need to be paid!
National scientists, often trained on Rockefeller Foundation grants
at Monsanto in the U.S., are sent back to push GM seeds in Thailand,
Philippines or other developing countries.
Over the past 18 years, the
Rockefeller Foundation has played a decisive role worldwide in
spreading the acceptance of radical practices of genetic
modification to countries and laboratories where a direct U.S.
government research program would be greeted with greatest
suspicion. The Rockefeller Foundation is, in effect, the Trojan
horse of GM proliferation.
Rockefeller has acquired key
scientists from select developing countries to be educated and
trained in the U.S. or other industrial countries under its
auspices. It has done this by funding GM research and by using its
influence in government and other agencies and NGOs. To date more
than 400 leading scientists from the Philippines to Thailand to
Kenya to China have been trained and cultivated by the foundation.
The Rockefeller Foundation has a
murky past since its creation in 1914 out of the Rockefeller
Standard Oil Trust. Well before 1945, the foundation had been a
leading funder of eugenics research, work made infamous by the Nazi
race purity experiments. This included Rockefeller support to the
American Eugenics Society and the Population Council. After the war,
Rockefeller shifted profile to champion the causes of environment,
resource scarcity and over-population. The policy remained one of
global population reduction. At the same time the foundation
promotes GM crops to "solve world hunger" it supports WHO research
on inserting abortion chemicals into Tetanus vaccines for Third
Kissinger and NSSM 200
In 1972 President Nixon named John
D. Rockefeller III, to chair the Presidential Commission on
"Population and the American Future." The same Rockefeller created
the Population Council in 1952, and called for "zero population
Rockefeller’s Commission on
Population and the American Future laid the foundation for Henry
Kissinger’s National Security memorandum (NSSM) 200, "Implications
of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas
Interests "of 1974. NSSM 200 cited how population growth, where it
may impact access to mineral resources in developing countries,
becomes a U.S. national security concern of the highest priority.
NSSM 200, which was made policy by
President Ford in 1975, made population control and birth reduction
official U.S. foreign policy. It stated, "World population growth is
widely recognized within the (U.S.) government as a current danger
of the highest magnitude calling for urgent measures."2
NSSM200 was officially revoked as
U.S. policy in face of heavy Vatican pressure. It continues to this
day, unofficially, as U.S. foreign policy, enforced via third
agencies, such as the IMF and World Bank, as their
"conditionalities" for emergency financial aid through the World
Health Organization and other "humanitarian" organizations.
In an April, 2002 article in
Australia’s The Age, Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist Sir
Macfarlane Burnet advocated biological warfare as a form of
population control. It would appear that the proliferation of GM
seeds for every vital crop is part of such a biowarfare strategy.
"We’re tempted to say that nobody in
their right mind would ever use these things," Stanford biology
professor Steven Block stated in another context. Block hastened to
add, "But not everybody is in their right mind!"
Block, a consultant to the U.S.
government, warned, "Any technology that can be used to insert genes
into DNA, can be used for either good or bad."
Genetic engineering can create rice
with enhanced vitamin A, but can just as well create seeds
containing highly toxic bacteria. U.S. researchers first did this in
The Bush Administration has
repeatedly refused to back a legally binding Biological and Toxin
Weapons Convention, arguing it needs the freedom to develop defense
against biowarfare. Freedom can work both ways however.3
Genetic manipulation opens the
possibilities in the hands of a malevolent power, to unleash untold
harm on the human species. Even were GM plants to increase crop
yields, this potential for control of the food supply of entire
nations is too much power to give to any single corporation or
government. Essential foods, like fresh water, are no ordinary
commodities to be sold under rules of an imposed free market. They
are basic human rights as the right to breathe or drink fresh water.
We should not tempt any government with the power that present GM
strategists advocate over our food security.
Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket
of the World
America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now
confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major
retailers in New York, in areas of
New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of
flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are
also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain
Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 21, 2008
Costco Warehouse in
Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and
occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the
large sacks of rice they usually buy.
"Where's the rice?" an engineer from
Palo Alto, Calif., Yajun Liu, said. "You should be able to buy
something like rice. This is ridiculous."
The bustling store in the heart of Silicon Valley usually sells
four or five varieties of rice to a clientele largely of Asian
immigrants, but only about half a pallet of Indian-grown Basmati
rice was left in stock. A 20-pound bag was selling for $15.99.
"You can't eat this every day. It's too heavy," a health care
executive from Palo Alto, Sharad Patel, grumbled as his son loaded
two sacks of the Basmati into a shopping cart. "We only need one
bag but I'm getting two in case a neighbor or a friend needs it,"
the elder man said.The Patels seemed
headed for disappointment, as most Costco members were
being allowed to buy only one bag. Moments earlier, a
clerk dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking
them from another customer who tried to exceed the one-bag
"Due to the limited availability of rice, we are
limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing
history," a sign above the dwindling supply said.
Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few
days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few
weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at
Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls
or e-mail messages yesterday.
An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there
were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being
imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings
attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to
bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the
price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.
The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern
by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of
more serious trouble to come.
"It's sporadic. It's not every store, but it's becoming
more commonplace," the editor of SurvivalBlog.com, James
Rawles, said. "The number of reports I've been getting
from readers who have seen signs posted with limits has
increased almost exponentially, I'd say in the last three
to five weeks."Spiking food
prices have led to riots in recent weeks in Haiti,
Indonesia, and several African nations. India recently
banned export of all but the highest quality rice, and
Vietnam blocked the signing of a new contract for foreign
"I'm surprised the Bush administration
hasn't slapped export controls on wheat," Mr. Rawles said.
"The Asian countries are here buying every kind of wheat."
Mr. Rawles said it is hard to know how much of the
shortages are due to lagging supply and how much is caused
by consumers hedging against future price hikes or a total
lack of product.
"There have been so many stories about worldwide
shortages that it encourages people to stock up. What most
people don't realize is that supply chains have changed,
so inventories are very short," Mr. Rawles, a former Army
intelligence officer, said. "Even if people increased
their purchasing by 20%, all the store shelves would be
At the moment, large chain retailers seem more prone to
shortages and limits than do smaller chains and
mom-and-pop stores, perhaps because store managers at the
larger companies have less discretion to increase prices
locally. Mr. Rawles said the spot shortages seemed to be
most frequent in the Northeast and all the way along the
West Coast. He said he had heard reports of buying limits
at Sam's Club warehouses, which are owned by Wal-Mart
Stores, but a spokesman for the company, Kory Lundberg,
said he was not aware of any shortages or limits.
An anonymous high-tech professional writing on an
investment Web site, Seeking Alpha, said he recently
bought 10 50-pound bags of rice at Costco. "I am concerned
that when the news of rice shortage spreads, there will be
panic buying and the shelves will be empty in no time. I
do not intend to cause a panic, and I am not speculating
on rice to make profit. I am just hoarding some for my own
consumption," he wrote.
For now, rice is available at Asian markets in
California, though consumers have fewer choices when
buying the largest bags. "At our neighborhood store, it's
very expensive, more than $30" for a 25-pound bag, a
housewife from Mountain View, Theresa Esquerra, said. "I'm
not going to pay $30. Maybe we'll just eat bread."
How Much Does
Ethanol Cost Us
Lately there’s been some
discussion in the comments regarding just how much the
corn diverted to ethanol production has affected the world
wide food shortage. Aside from ethanol we’ve seen rising
demand as well as crop failures in various parts of the
world because of drought and global warming cooling. Also
rising populations and rising affluence in the poorer
countries is leading to a very significant rise in demand.
(And that’s a good thing in my opinion.)
Our discussions have always been
unsatisfactory because nobody’s come up with any hard data
one the relative effect of these various factors. I
stumbled upon some data from
The Economist this morning.
This year the overall decline in stockpiles
of all cereals will be about 53m tonnes?a very rough
indication of by how much demand is outstripping supply.
The increase in the amount of American maize going just to
ethanol is about 30m tonnes. In other words, the demands
of America’s ethanol programme alone account for over half
the world’s unmet need for cereals. Without that programme,
food prices would not be rising anything like as quickly
as they have been. According to the World Bank, the grain
needed to fill up an SUV would feed a person for a year.
America’s ethanol programme is a product
of government subsidies. There are more than 200 different
kinds, as well as a 54 cents-a-gallon tariff on imported
ethanol. That keeps out greener Brazilian ethanol, which
is made from sugar rather than maize. Federal subsidies
alone cost $7 billion a year (equal to around $1.90 a
So America’s ethanol program is directly
responsible for the lost of 60% of the worlds stockpiles.
Add to that the ethanol programs in Europe and I think you
could say that ethanol was the driving force in the
shortage of food that we’ve recently seen.
Now of course the other side could say
that droughts and other crop failures reduced production
by an amount equal or greater than the 30m tonnes that the
US ethanol program consumed. And that’s a fair point, but
I think you have to consider that you’ll never have a
perfect growing season world wide.
The other think that’s remarkable in this
article is just how much the ethanol subisdy is costing
us. When we fill up with a gallon of ethanol it’s costing
the taxpayer (you and me) $1.90 in addition to the $3.40
we’re paying the friendly guy inside the pump. Plus we’re
paying in higher food prices as well.
I think we gotta apply the brakes to this
ethanol thing until the world’s farmers can catch up with
increased production. I’m not saying to quit producing it,
but let’s cut down on the mandates.
Published on Friday, April
25, 2008 by
The World Food Crisis
by John Nichols
The only surprising thing about the global food
crisis to Jim Goodman is the notion that anyone
finds it surprising. “So,” says the Wisconsin
dairy farmer, “they finally figured out, after all
these years of pushing globalization and
genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of
feeding the world we’ve created a food system that
leaves more people hungry. If they’d listened to
farmers instead of corporations, they would’ve
known this was going to happen.” Goodman has
traveled the world to speak, organize and rally
with groups such as La Via Campesina, the global
movement of peasant and farm organizations that
has been warning for years that “solutions”
promoted by agribusiness conglomerates were
designed to maximize corporate profits, not help
farmers or feed people. The food shortages,
suddenly front-page news, are not new. Hundreds of
millions of people were starving and malnourished
last year; the only change is that as the scope of
the crisis has grown, it has become more difficult
to “manage” the hunger that a failed food system
accepts rather than feeds.
The current global
food system, which was designed by US-based
agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto
and ADM and forced into place by the US government
and its allies at the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and the World Trade
Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by
pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash
crops for export and alternative fuels rather than
grow healthy food for local consumption and
regional stability. The only smart short-term
response is to throw money at the problem. George
W. Bush’s release of $200 million in emergency aid
to the UN’s World Food Program was appropriate,
but Washington must do more. Rising food prices
may not be causing riots in the United States, but
food banks here are struggling to meet demand as
joblessness grows. Congress should answer Senator
Sherrod Brown’s call to allocate $100 million more
to domestic food programs and make sure, as
Representative Jim McGovern urges, that an overdue
farm bill expands programs for getting fresh food
from local farms to local consumers.
Beyond humanitarian responses, the cure for
what ails the global food system — and an unsteady
US farm economy — is not more of the same
globalization and genetic gimmickry. That way has
left thirty-seven nations with food crises while
global grain giant Cargill harvests an 86 percent
rise in profits and Monsanto reaps record sales
from its herbicides and seeds. For years,
corporations have promised farmers that problems
would be solved by trade deals and technology —
especially GM seeds, which University of Kansas
research now suggests reduce food production and
the International Assessment of Agricultural
Science and Technology for Development says won’t
end global hunger. The “market,” at least as
defined by agribusiness, isn’t working. We “have a
herd of market traders, speculators and financial
bandits who have turned wild and constructed a
world of inequality and horror,” says Jean
Ziegler, the UN’s right-to-food advocate. But try
telling that to the Bush Administration or to
World Bank president (and former White House trade
rep) Robert Zoellick, who’s busy exploiting
tragedy to promote trade liberalization. “If ever
there is a time to cut distorting agricultural
subsidies and open markets for food imports, it
must be now,” says Zoellick. “Wait a second,”
replies Dani Rodrik, a Harvard political economist
who tracks trade policy. “Wouldn’t the removal of
these distorting policies raise world prices in
agriculture even further?” Yes. World Bank studies
confirm that wheat and rice prices will rise if Zoellick gets his way.
Instead of listening to the White House or the
World Bank, Congress should recognize — as a
handful of visionary members like Ohio
Representative Marcy Kaptur have — that current
trends confirm the wisdom of the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy’s call for “an urgent
rethink of the respective roles of markets and
governments.” That’s far more useful than blaming
Midwestern farmers for embracing inflated promises
about the potential of ethanol — although we
should re-examine whether aggressive US support
for biofuels is not only distorting corn prices
but harming livestock and dairy producers who can
barely afford feed and fertilizer. Instead of
telling farmers they’re wrong to seek the best
prices for their crops, Congress should make sure
that farmers can count on good prices for growing
the food Americans need. It can do this by
providing a strong safety net to survive weather
and market disasters and a strategic grain reserve
similar to the strategic petroleum reserve to
guard against food-price inflation.
Congress should also embrace trade and
development policies that help developing
countries regulate markets with an eye to feeding
the hungry rather than feeding corporate profits.
This principle, known as “food sovereignty,” sees
struggling farmers and hungry people and says, as
the Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal observes,
that it is time to “stop worshiping the golden
calf of the so-called free market and embrace,
instead, the principle [that] every country and
every people have a right to food that is
affordable.” As Mittal says, “When the market
deprives them of this, it is the market that has
John Nichols is a co-founder of Free Press
and the co-author with Robert W. McChesney of
TRAGEDY & FARCE: How the American Media Sell Wars,
Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy — The
© 2008 The Nation
CAPTION: Honduran security forces deploy
in the capital Tegucigalpa on April 17
to keep union members protesting high
food prices from approaching the
presidency. (Orlando Sierra, AFP via
Bush calls for approval of $770 million in
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
President Bush urged Congress Thursday to
approve $770 million to help alleviate dramatically
escalating food prices that threaten widespread hunger
and increasing social unrest around the world.
In a surprise midafternoon appearance at the White
House, Bush announced he is asking lawmakers to
approve the additional funds for
global food aid and development programs. The
money — to be directed primarily at needy African
nations — is being included in a broader $70 billion
Iraq war funding measure for 2009 that the White House
sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday.
"In some of
the world's poorest nations, rising prices can mean
the difference between getting a daily meal and going
without food," Bush said. "The American people are
generous people and they're a compassionate people. We
believe in the timeless truth `to whom much is given,
much is expected.'"
The new money comes on top of $200 million Bush
ordered released two weeks ago for
emergency food aid. It also is in addition to a
pending $350 million request for emergengy food aid
funds. Because the new funds are part of a 2009
budget, they wouldn't be available for distribution
until the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, even if
they are approved sooner.
Even so, Bush called it "just the beginning" of
the U.S. effort to help. He said the United States
would spend a total of $5 billion this year and next
on food aid and related programs.
"America's in the lead, we'll stay in the lead
and we expect others to participate along with us," he
The new funds are aimed at meeting immediate
needs with direct shipments of food aid, and the White
House said they would allow for millions more people
to get help. Emergency aid accounts for $620 million
of the request, said Steve McMillin, deputy director
of the president's Office of Management and Budget.
The funds also have long-term aims, with $150
million aimed at boosting U.S. programs to help
farmers in developing countries increase productivity
and make cash purchases of local crops, so communities
are less in need of emergency help in the first place.
The issue has become more urgent recently
because of food shortages and rising prices that,
combined with high gas costs and rising home
foreclosures, are putting a huge squeeze on families
at home and abroad. What has been termed the first
global food crisis since
World War II has resulted in cries for help
from United Nations officials and raised questions
about how Bush will respond.
Some have blamed the food crisis in part on
Bush-backed policies that push food-based biofuels
such as ethanol as
alternative energy sources. Bush says diverting
corn and soybeans into fuel is still a smart approach,
though he favors increasing funding for research into
eventually using wood chips or switchgrass rather than
Bush's top economic adviser,
Edward Lazear, said ethanol made from corn is
responsible for just 2-3 percent of the overall
increase in global food prices, which are 43 percent
up this year over last year.
Bush's announcement drew praise from several
"Millions of people around the world may be
saved from starvation if we can quickly move forward
with the president's request," said Sen.
Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "Global aid is not only the
right thing to do; it's the smart and safe thing to
do. I commend the president for his leadership."
The United States is the world's largest
provider of food aid, delivering more than $2.1
billion to 78 developing countries last year.
Surplus U.S. Food Supplies Dry Up
USDA has almost no extra food
to combat hunger at home and in developing nations
May 1, 2008
By Sue Kirchhoff
Journal and Courier - Lafayette, IN
WASHINGTON - As the farm economy collapsed in the 1980s, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture was saddled with mountains of surplus cheese,
corn and other foods that it socked away in warehouses and even caves.
As recently as 2003, the USDA had to buy so much powdered milk to
support dairy prices that beleaguered officials shipped some to U.S.
ranchers for cattle feed.
While the previous surpluses were costly and sharply criticized, much of
the food found its way to the poor, here and abroad. Today, says USDA
Undersecretary Mark Keenum, "Our cupboard is bare."
U.S. government food surpluses have evaporated because of record high
prices that mean farmers are selling their crops on the open market, not
handing them over to the government through traditional price-support
programs that make up for deficiencies in market price.
Worldwide, food prices have risen 45 percent in the past nine months,
posing a crisis for millions, says the United Nations' Food and
Because of the current economics of food, and changes in federal farm
subsidy programs designed to make farmers rely more on the markets,
large U.S. reserves may be gone for a long time.
The upshot: USDA has almost no extra food to supplement the billions in
cash payments it spends to combat hunger at home and in developing
A coalition of religious and farm groups, in an open letter to Congress
this week, warned that low supplies increase the risk of hunger and
higher prices, calling for creation of a strategic grain reserve.
"As a matter or national security, our government should recognize and
act on its responsibility to provide a stable market for food in an era
of unprecedented risk," says the letter from the National Family Farm
Coalition and various groups.
Others experts say large government stockpiles are not only unnecessary,
they are counterproductive. That includes John Block who, as President
Reagan's USDA secretary during the 1980s, went to enormous lengths to
get rid of extra food: giving commodities to farmers as payment for
idling land, offering surplus grain as a subsidy to exporters and
holding cheese giveaways for the poor.
"We shouldn't have large reserves stacked up. It was very costly for
us," Block said, noting that for years he was accused by other nations
of depressing their farm sectors by dumping extra U.S. food on world
Still, even he terms the current world situation "shocking" in the sense
that prices for so many types of food have risen at once.
The USDA's sole remaining sizable stockpile contains about 24 million
bushels of wheat in a special government trust dedicated to
international humanitarian aid. The special food program, which also
holds $117 million in cash, has dwindled from its original
147-million-bushel level as Republican and Democratic administrations
have used it but not fully replenished it.
Photo: An official at a farmers' cooperative watches as corn is
unloaded at an Iowa distribution center last year. Surplus stores of
such crops are increasingly rare. (By Bryan Ray)
That leaves the Bush administration with less flexibility to respond
quickly to international food aid needs. President Bush in mid-April
drew $200 million from the Emerson Humanitarian Trust, named after
former congressman Bill Emerson, a Missouri Republican. Bush's action
followed a desperate plea from the United Nations for food aid.
Thursday, the president announced he would ask Congress for $770 million
in separate, additional funding to meet international needs.
But USDA Secretary Ed Schafer, at a recent food aid conference, says his
agency faces tough decisions about managing the rest of the reserve in
times of widespread hunger. "How far do we draw down?" he asked. "Do we
take it down to zero because we need it? Do we hold some in there
because who knows what's going to happen for emergency purposes later?"
Domestic nutrition programs, supported by once-bountiful commodity
supplies, also face increasing stress. In a sign of how tight the
situation has become, Keenum last summer dug into little-used legal
authority to barter the last remaining USDA raw cotton and other surplus
for about $120 million of canned meat and other processed goods
desperately needed by domestic food banks and international programs.
"Now that we've created the program, it would be great if we had more
stocks we could convert," Keenum says. "We just don't."
The fact that USDA's larders are depleted doesn't mean the country is
out of food. The vast majority of U.S. grain is in the hands of farmers
and private firms. Overall, the United States is expected to have
carryover supplies of 241.9 million bushels of wheat this year, for
example. But the USDA situation is indicative of broader trends, with
domestic and international grain supplies in decline.
Total U.S. wheat stocks are down from 777 million bushels in 2001, and
are the lowest since World War II. The USDA says that's about a 35-day
supply of wheat and notes that farmers in Texas are already starting to
harvest a new crop. The American Bakers Association estimates the
country has a 24-day supply of wheat compared with the previous
three-month level on hand.
International grain supplies are the tightest in three decades, and
prices of wheat, corn, rice and other food staples have doubled or
"The whole world has gotten fairly sanguine about food supplies," says
Bruce Babcock, director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural
Development at Iowa State University. "Advances in logistics and
just-in-time production have allowed the world to get by on very low
stock levels for a very long time. We kind of undershot it this year."
But Babcock says a strategic food trust like that proposed by farm and
religious groups raises tough policy questions: How would it be managed?
When would it be tapped? Whom would it benefit? And how would USDA keep
it from acting as a disincentive to advances in productivity?
There is some basis for comparison. The nation for years has maintained
a strategic petroleum reserve as a form of energy security. The White
House, which now wants to increase supplies in the reserve, is in a
struggle with members of Congress who say such a move is unwise at a
time when oil prices are above $100 a barrel.
Congress, so far, has responded to the growing food crisis by proposing
a major increase in nutrition funding in a five-year farm bill now under
debate. Lawmakers and the White House are also prepared to spend more
money for international programs. The U.S. in the last year provided
more than $2 billion in foreign food aid.
"The commitment is there to deal with the international and domestic
situation ... in a formidable way," says Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.,
chair of a House subcommittee that funds food aid.
But there has been no major re-examination of one of the major factors
contributing to tight supply: recent federal laws mandating increased
production of corn-based ethanol.
Many farmers today are growing crops for fuel, not food, a development
outside of USDA control and one that makes it more difficult for the
government to manage crop production. As much as a third of the corn
crop could be dedicated to ethanol production.
The USDA accumulates stockpiles several ways. It buys dairy products
when prices are low. Farmers who grow wheat, corn, soybeans and other
grains can forfeit their crop to pay off loans. The USDA can buy crops,
including fruits and vegetables, when surpluses develop.
The federal government spends more than $60 billion a year on food
stamps, the school lunch program and other nutrition aid. Much of the
support is in cash, but the programs can also benefit from surplus
commodities. The USDA on Thursday announced it would buy $50 billion in
pork products for feeding children and school lunch programs, as part of
its effort to cope with rising food prices. The move also helps pork
producers who have been hit by rising grain prices.
In general, higher prices mean federal spending is rising, and many
school districts are being forced to raise lunch prices. Tight prices
and low supplies have probably had the most immediate impact on food
banks, which face rising caseloads and falling private-sector donations
as the economy slows.
"USDA food truly is some of the most nutritional that we receive. We are
located where there is no food industry other than retail groceries and
small restaurants. ... We could not feed the people we need to without
the support of the USDA," says Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the
Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee. America's Second
Harvest, a network of 205 food banks serving 25 million, is seeing a 20
percent rise in its caseload.
Food banks and other programs receive $140 million in annual commodity
donations, which could rise to $250 million in the five-year farm bill
under debate. The USDA provides extra food via a bonus program, buying
surplus goods as they become available.
The program is an add-on that varies from year to year, though food
banks have come to rely on it. The bonus began to dry up several years
ago as food prices rose, plummeting from about $250 million in 2003 to
$58 million last year. The USDA barter program has partly picked up the
The Emerson Trust, the reserve for humanitarian aid, was created when
the government was swimming in supply. The trust isn't the main U.S.
food aid program but is an important backstop that's been tapped seven
times since 2002 to aid Africa and Iraq.
The trust has been sporadically replenished since the mid-1990s. In
addition to wheat, it now holds $117 million in cash: enough to buy
about 14.6 million bushels of wheat at the current price. Still, that
would leave overall supply down about two-thirds from original levels.
International feeding organizations, which have pushed for years to get
the trust replenished, note that it is the only U.S. stockpile for
emergency needs. Now, at a time when it is desperately needed, they say,
the stocks are not there.
Food aid "is going to have to be significantly higher if we're going to
continue to play the role we've played in the past; ... $117 million is
not much," says Lisa Kuennen-Asfaw of Catholic Relief Services.
As is the case with many food programs, use of the trust has been
politically charged in the past. For example, wheat growers have
protested that pulling wheat out of the trust during times of low prices
depresses markets even more. Companies that have been paid for years to
hold supplies of wheat for the trust don't want to lose their payments.
USDA's Keenum says the U.S. government has the will and the money to
continue providing needed resources to hungry people.
"We're not seeing a shortage of food in this country," Keenum says. "The
issue is having the resources to purchase food for international and
Tens of Thousands Riot Over Food Prices
May 5, 2008
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Tens of thousands of people rioted over high
food prices in Somalia's capital Monday, prompting hundreds of shops to
Somalis burn tires and throw stones during a demonstration against
record-high inflation that worsened on May 5, 2008, by the devaluation
of the local currency in the face of rising food prices, in the
country's capital of Mogadishu. (By Abdurashid Abikar, AFP/Getty)
An Associated Press reporter saw several people injured in the protest
The protesters included women and children, who began marching to
protest the refusal of traders to accept old 1,000-shilling notes, which
they charged was causing inflation.
Soon after, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, hurling
stones that smashed the windshields of several cars and buses.
Rocks also were thrown at shops, and chaos erupted at the capital's main
Hundreds of shops and restaurants in southern Mogadishu closed their
doors for fear of looting.
Skyrocketing food prices, stoked by rising fuel prices, unpredictable
weather and growing demand from India and China's burgeoning middle
classes, have sparked sometimes violent protests in the Caribbean,
Africa and Asia in recent months.
Date: Tue, Apr 29, 2008
Food crisis out of control
Have you noticed food costing more when you shop? Here's why --
we're plunging headlong into a world food crisis. Rocketing
prices are squeezing billions and triggering food riots from
Bangladesh to South Africa. Aid agencies say 100 million more
people are at risk of starvation right now. In Sierra Leone
alone the price of a bag of rice has doubled, becoming
unaffordable for 90% of citizens. Fears of inflation stalk
the whole world, and the worst could be yet to come.
threaten to starve millions and make us all less secure --
sign the emergency petition for action to stop the world food
We need to act now -- before it's too late. As Ban Ki-Moon holds a
high-level UN meeting on the crisis, we're launching an urgent
campaign with African foreign minister and human rights campaigner
Zainab Bangura. Click below to see Zainab's video message and
add your name to the food crisis petition -- we need to raise
200,000 signatures by the end of this week to deliver a
massive global outcry to leaders at the UN, G8 and EU:
The prices of staple foods like wheat, corn and rice have almost
doubled, and the crisis is slipping out of control -- so
we're calling for immediate action on emergency food aid,
speculation and biofuels policy, while asking forthcoming summits
to tackle deeper problems of investment and trade.
The global food crisis touches and connects us all,
creating a tsunami of hunger for the poor and damaging economies
and squeezing citizens in the rich world too. But solutions are on
the horizon if leaders act fast  -- sign the petition at the
link below now, then forward this email and ask friends and family
to do the same:
Paul, Galit, Ricken, Graziela, Iain, Mark, Pascal and the whole
1. BBC: "How to stop the global food crisis":
"The New Economics of Hunger", Washington Post, 27 April 2008
2. Zainab Bangura, Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, video message
to Avaaz members
3. Chinese news citing World Bank figures:
Reuters: "Rising food prices to top UN agenda"
4. See BBC article above, and "Rising Food Prices" by Alex Evans
(Chatham House report)
UN scientific report on fixing the world food system:
The Guardian: "Credit crunch? The real crisis is global hunger",
Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning
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world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice"
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