Can we have everything we want?

or just what we need?

Why is only 30% of the farm land in the U.S. actually being used?
quote from Robert Zubrin

compiled by Dee Finney


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 each other.
(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 shows.  

The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber
(Mass Market Paperback - Dec 26, 2000)
23 Used & new from $0.01

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 into mine.

Also see:




Ceres 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

She 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.

Ceres 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 of mankind.

Ceres 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 corn.



The history of the Gaia idea
by James Lovelock

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.

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 individual species.

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.

exerpted from:


What is eaten in one week around the world

Take a good look at the family size & diet of each country , and the
availability & cost of
what is eaten in one week


Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07


United States: The Revis family of North Carolina (Sure hope most American
families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.)

Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico : The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland : The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
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


Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23



 CAPTION: A US shopper in Virginia stocks up amid fears of global food shortages.
 (Reuters: Jim Young)
April 28, 2008
Peter Ryan
Houston Chronicle

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 supplies.

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," he said.

"We've got quite a bit if wheat, rice, beans, honey, rolled oats, sugar, you name it. We've got large quantities salted away.

"Most of it is stored in five-gallon plastic food grade buckets."

He says that before this food issue came to light, he would normally be prepared for other types of civil unrest or disaster anyway.

"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 2008 and 2007. This issue is too vital for you not to get the entire picture.

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 serious hit. 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 deep weeds.

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.


Chance of US Drought Seen; Food Squeeze Feared
Mississippi River Flooding Dooms Farmers

The New Economics of Hunger
Load Up the Pantry
Americans Hoard Food As Industry Seeks Regs
Sam's Club, Costco Limit Rice Purchases Nationwide
Let Them Eat Cake: Famine and Revolution Go Hand in Hand
Japan's Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations
Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World
UN Chief Warns World Must Urgently Increase Food Production

Already We Have Riots, Hoarding, Panic: the Sign of Things
A Global Need for Grain That Farms Can’t Fill
Surging costs of Groceries Hitting Home

Wheat Supplies, Already Tight, May Be Hurt by Global Drought
FAO Sees Record World Food Prices Staying
Forget Oil, the New Global Crisis is Food
Food Inflation and Food Shortages
Food ... and How It's Going to Change the World

Potential Drought Predicted for Iowa and What That Means for Food Supplies
Food Prices to Continue to Climb in 2008
Tight Supply May Hit Grain Stability
Fears Over Food Price Inflation
Australian Food Prices to Skyrocket
Saudi Food Prices Seen Up 30% in '08
US Farms Data Feed Cereal Price Hike Fears
Grains Likely to be More Volatile
‘Panic Buying’ in the Grain Markets

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 nightmare."

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."


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 crops.

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.


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 beans.

"Last summer it looked like Iowa around here," Braaten said.

Science, weather, economics and farm policy have all played a part in the changes.

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 were planted.

"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 Department.

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 shocks.


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 blocked exports.

"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 tons.

"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."


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 soybeans.

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.


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 flour.

"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: probably $1.10.

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 life-saving medicine.

"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 many others.

"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 sisters."

Gene-engineered Seeds of Destruction!

The Coming Food Shortage!

A new danger to basic human freedom...

by F. William Engdahl | From the October 2004 Idaho Observer

       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 like soybeans.

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 ominous ruling.

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 regulation."

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 Schmeiser

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 Percy Schmeiser.

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.

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 fee.


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 property."

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 difficult.

Terminator seeds

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 with them.

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 proliferation

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 World mothers.

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 growth."

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 1986.

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.

Original Article



Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World

Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 21, 2008

MOUNTAIN VIEW, 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 stocks.

At a 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 cap.

"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, 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 rice sales.

"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 wiped out."

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 gallon).

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.



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 to give.”

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 New Press.

© 2008 The Nation

ORIGINAL 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 Getty)

Bush calls for approval of $770 million in food aid

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON - 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 said.

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 food crops.

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 quarters.

"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 Agriculture Organization.

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 nations.

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 markets.

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 tripled.

"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 slack.

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 domestic needs."


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 close.

Photo: 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 in Mogadishu.

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 Bakara market.

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

Dear friends,

Rocketing prices threaten to starve millions and make us all less secure -- sign the emergency petition for action to stop the world food crisis

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[1]. In Sierra Leone alone the price of a bag of rice has doubled, becoming unaffordable for 90% of citizens[2]. Fears of inflation stalk the whole world, and the worst could be yet to come.

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.[3]

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 [4] -- sign the petition at the link below now, then forward this email and ask friends and family to do the same:

With hope,

Paul, Galit, Ricken, Graziela, Iain, Mark, Pascal and the whole Avaaz team


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", George Monbiot

ABOUT AVAAZ is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

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