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Links With Your Coffee - Monday


  • Public debate about organic farming draws sharp comments

    Remember it's not an either or question

  • Sunday Sacrilege: Prometheus’ sin

  • First Case of Animals Making Their Own Essential Nutrients: Carotenoids
    No other animals are known to make the potent antioxidants. Until now scientists thought the only way animals could obtain the orangey-red compounds was from their diet.
    "It is written everywhere that animals do not make carotenoids," said Nancy Moran, leader of the UA team that overturned the conventional wisdom.
    Carotenoids are building blocks for molecules crucial for vision, healthy skin, bone growth and other key physiological functions. Beta-carotene, the pigment that makes carrots orange, is the building block for Vitamin A.

  • Uptalking is back, with an ironic twist
    Have you noticed more people uptalking? You know, that tedious habit of speaking in a rising cadence, with, like, an especially perky uplift in tone at the end, so your sentence sounds like a question? Even though it isn't?

  • Evidence Based Voting
    Alongside the science of individual claims, it’s also worth looking at what the parties say about science itself.

  • Freedom of Speech
    An appalling restriction on freedom of speech; not a content-neutral prohibition on leafleting in particular places: the conviction was based on the content and viewpoint of the speech.

  • Believers Without Belief
    It's going viral - the notion that faith is a practice; that belief in God doesn't actually commit the believer to... well, any belief; doesn't commit him or her to a belief about the existence of... well, anything.



An article from this morning's NYT noting the problem with Roundup and Roundup Ready crops. More "food for thought"--

I asked the folks at biofortified forum for their take on the article since they are more knowledgeable than I am, and already there are some interesting replies.

Norm, did you see this article I posted in the comments a few days ago?

"Monsanto is dealing with the resistance issue, said spokesman Darren Wallis. 'We've identified only a small number of Roundup Ready resistant weeds -12.'"

12 seems like a pretty big number to me.

I'm not positive but believe there are other herbicides that have even more resistant weeds than roundup does. It's inevitable evolution provides a means for plants to evolve and become resistant to anything that gets in their way. Roundup has been around for what 20 years so it's not surprising that weeds are becoming resistant.

Thanks GS,

I was surprised to read such an objective article from the NYT - until I read this:

"And Dow Chemical is developing corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, the defoliant used in the Vietnam War."

2,4-D was the original broad-leaf weed killer from the 1950's, and is a component in nearly every residential lawn weed killing product sold today. I'm not saying it's totally harmless, but telling the uninformed it was a component of Agent Orange seems like a deliberate attempt to scare people and play on their ignorance.

The agent orange thing: so many writers like to use scare tactics. Personally, I'd look it up before I got all wigged out about the ingredients, but the article reinforces what i already know: weeds are "smart." Brain location? Can't find it, but they are crafty. I've noticed that many crop up as mock versions of the non-weed plants nearby, so I hesitate to pull them up during early growth, which is the easiest time for removal. It's no surprise that herbicide-resistant weeds are appearing. The big deal is how do humans out think weeds?

I agree with your conclusion, but isn't it hard to take seriously, a writer who would use such trickery? What else in there is a half-truth?

I'd like to see us do away with corn and soybeans - they're really not good for us, or the animals we feed it to.

I agree with your conclusion, but isn't it hard to take seriously, a writer who would use such trickery? What else in there is a half-truth?

Agreed; this stuff irritates me as well. I've had to send rebuttals emails to good-hearted liberal friends who send me missives with good ideas but bad facts/lies in them. If you can't find actual information to support your conclusions, you are either not searching well or you're hell bent on something with no merit.

re: "Public Debate on Organic."

The presumption in this piece that cow manure is the only alternative to petro-based agricultural nitrogen fertilizer is a pretty good indicator of ignorance about farming organically.

Actually, while cow manure is an excellent source of organic matter (which increases the water retention capacity of the soil), it isn't a great source of nitrogen. It's not hot with nitrogen like chicken shit.

We plant corn where the soy, and other nitrogen fixing legumes were planted the previous year. Chickens get the corn kernels, cows get the stalks. We get the soybeans (yes, they are very good for us, a key source of non-mammalian protein.) As soon as the pumpkins are out of the produce field, we plant vetch and fava as winter cover crop. Not only does this help reduce soil pudding from the cows (who winter in the produce field), but come spring this cover grows up and is turned under. Vetch can fix up to 300 lbs of nitrogen per acre. We don't need artificial fertilizers in the pastures because we inter-plant clover, alfalfa, trefoil with the grass. After 3-4 years in alfalfa/clover hay, on the level areas, we swap the produce into that section and use all the nitrogen that's been 'banked' there by the legumes.

Yum fava beans! I'd love to visit your farm. Thanks for the detail. There are definitely other ways to improve soil. I finally ordered "Dirt! The Movie" so I can share it with my friends.

There is no question that organic farming has its benefits and but for the definition of organic there are GM techniques that could add value. The argument is not that organic is not good but that it's not enough, that it is takes far more land to produce the same quantities of food that are produced using modern alternatives.

I know you have chickens and cows but what of farmers that don't. Do you have enough spare chicken shit to fertilize the world.

While I'm thinking about it you may be the perfect person to ask. I understand that organic farmers spray BT on their crops. Do you also do that?

If you had plum trees would you use the virus resistant GMO plant?

My visits to Mexico & Jamaica lead me to believe that chicken shit is in wide abundance in the developing world.

Plus, egg and chicken farms have plenty to spare. I recall reading similar articles about Petaluma, Calif. and Little Rock, Ark., both of which are major chicken producers. So there appears to be no shortage of chicken shit.



re: "The argument is not that organic is not good but that it's not enough, that it is takes far more land to produce the same quantities of food that are produced using modern alternatives."

I understand that's the argument. I disagree that Organic is either less production or less modern.

One might cite studies and statistics till the cows come home. All I know is what I've learned. For ten years I've kept detailed production records, tracked all inputs and periodically tested soils. In the beginning I got yields that rarely or barely met the published 'expected' yield data for each product. The soil was hard pack, high in mineral but essentially bereft of organic matter. Now, for the last 5 years, we consistently exceed published yields on most everything, from soil that has been heavily enriched by tons of pond weed, compost, scratch hay mulch, cover cropping, but NO additions of artificial fertilizer, or GE seed. We do freight in some chicken feed, about half our hay, some seed. Otherwise external inputs are pretty trivial.

Land grows MORE, not LESS productive the healthier it is kept. GE Pest resistant plants are a solution for problems that RESULT from unsustainable industrial agricultural practices that rely upon manufacture and transfer of petrochemical based noxious stuff, to grow product subsidized by the taxpayer to sell at below cost of production. What can't be stuffed down the throats of livestock, is then shipped off to countries whose people crowd in cities with no food and no work while farm land lies fallow.

Organic Farming is Modern. It's even Scientific. Not only that, it is actually the SENSIBLE thing to do.

re: "I understand that organic farmers spray BT on their crops. Do you also do that?"

No. We've had few insect control issues. Perhaps because of the bird habitat hedge rows lining the fields, and the inter-planting of different produce species, and crop rotation between them, so far

we've been lucky about that. In a few cases I might find a broccoli plant that aphids have located. I just pull it out and toss it in the chicken house. Usually finding a buggy plant means I root around about soil moisture and fix whatever water thing isn't working right. Insects tend to attack plants that are in marginal health. If one keeps the soil ealthy, then it is more likely that all the micro-nutrients in the soil will be available to the plant thereby keeping it's own natural and highly evolved protection mechanisms at peak strength. Further, by maintaining high levels of organic matter in the soil, water retention improves and soil temperatures are moderated which strengthens the root structures of the plants.

Insect infestations are an indicator of something wrong. They are NOT "just the way it is."

There is a better way.

re: "If you had plum trees would you use the virus resistant GMO plant?"

No I would not. We do have plum trees. We once have encountered virus issues with one of the fruit trees (I think it was an apricot). We removed it and put in a pear instead. Some varieties and fruit don't do as well as others in different environments. Likewise in the nut orchard, we've found that the chestnuts and hazelnuts thrive, and pecans not so much so we plant more of the former.

Seems to me that this virus is only a problem if one grows in an area where this particular virus exists AND one's market (presumably humans) can or will only eat plums.

If it's such a great invention, this GE plum, I hope that the label and ads will tout it as a breakthrough GE enhanced plum. Some consumers might like to choose that.

Gotta say, I do rather see this as a GE 'solution' in search of a problem.

best regards.


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