S. Korean President: “There is an increasing likelihood of a food crisis globally due to climate change.”

UN’s Figueres explains: “If the community of nations is unable to fully stabilize climate change, it will threaten where we can live, where and how we grow food and where we can find water.”

According to a statement on the China Meteorological Administration’s Web site, cabinet members were told that there was no end in sight to the drought.

As I’ve written in my series on food insecurity, the expert consensus has been growing on the contribution of record high food prices to Middle East unrest.  So too has our understanding that as the Washington Post and Lester Brown explained, extreme weather and climate change have helped drive record food prices.

Into the discussion comes three important pieces.  First, the NY Times‘ John Broder blogs:

The United Nations’ top climate change official said on Tuesday that food shortages and rising prices caused by climate disruptions were among the chief contributors to the civil unrest coursing through North Africa and the Middle East.

In a speech to Spanish lawmakers and military leaders, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations climate office, said that climate change-driven drought, falling crop yields and competition for water were fueling conflict throughout Africa and elsewhere in the developing world. She warned that unless nations took aggressive action to reduce emissions causing global warming such conflicts would spread, toppling governments and driving up military spending around the world.

Second, Bloomberg has an equally remarkable piece, “Climate Change May Cause ‘Massive’ Food Disruptions,” which begins:

Global food supplies will face “massive disruptions” from climate change, Olam International Ltd. predicted, as Agrocorp International Pte. said corn will gain to a record, stoking food inflation and increasing hunger.

“The fact is that climate around the world is changing and that will cause massive disruptions,” Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer at Olam, among the world’s three biggest suppliers of rice and cotton, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. “We’re friendly to wheat, corn and soybeans and bearish on rice.”

Here’s more:

Shrinking global food supplies helped push the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s World Food Price Index to a record for a second month in January. As food becomes less available and more expensive, “hoarding becomes widespread,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at FAO, said Feb. 9, predicting prices of wheat and other grains are more likely to rise than decline in the next six months.

Corn futures surged 90 percent in the past year, while wheat jumped 80 percent and soybeans advanced 49 percent as the worst drought in at least half a century in Russia, flooding in Australia, excessive rainfall in Canada, and drier conditions in parts of Europe slashed harvests.

Corn may be the best-performing agricultural commodity, surging to a record in the first half, while wheat will advance as increased government purchases help “inflame” the market, said Vijay Iyengar, managing director of Agrocorp International, who’s traded agricultural commodities since 1986.

Global warming may help lift the prices of corn, wheat and rice by at least two-thirds by 2050, a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute showed in December. “There is an increasing likelihood of a food crisis globally due to climate change,” South Korean President Lee Myung Bak told his secretaries on Feb. 7, according to a statement.

“Corn is where demand is most imbalanced” against supply, Iyengar said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. “Increased purchasing by governments “tends to inflame markets,” he said.

Food prices have become too high for some developing countries to buy the agricultural products they need, raising the risk of food riots, French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said earlier this month.

“We don’t want too many storms, because that tends to contribute to excited decision-making,” Agrocorp’s Iyengar said, referring to supply problems influencing governments’ import policies and purchasing volumes. “It also puts pressure on the lower strata of people in various countries. You see the poorer people tend to hurt more.”

Governments in the region know that high food prices drive instability, so they have begun hoarding.  As I reported on Feb. 4, Scientific American said of the Egyptian situation:  “… there is no doubt that rising food prices added fuel to an already combustible mix,” and other MidEast countries “have been snapping up supplies of wheat in the world market to forestall any hint of food price spikes””or regime change.”

Back to Bloomberg:

Intensified Hoarding

Protests, prompted in part by rising food prices, spread across North Africa and the Middle East in the past month, driving Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile after 23 years in power and ending Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Sales and shipments of wheat by the U.S. to Egypt, the world’s biggest buyer, jumped to 2.9 million tons since June 1, more than six times higher than the same period a year earlier, according to USDA figures dated Feb. 3.

Algeria bought 2.95 million tons of wheat from Dec. 16 to Jan. 26, according to crops office FranceAgriMer. That was “probably” the most the country had ever bought in a five-week period, said Xavier Rousselin, the office’s head of arable crops. Loadings of French soft wheat destined for Morocco more than tripled to 1.16 million tons from 350,000 tons a year earlier, the company said.

Protests, prompted in part by rising food prices, spread across North Africa and the Middle East in the past month, driving Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile after 23 years in power and ending Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Whether such hoarding as a big impact on food prices or small depends on whether the crops this year are good or bad.  Right now the situation is worrisome (see my Feb. 9 post, “UN food agency warns severe drought threatens wheat crop in China, world’s largest producer it is“).

The third big story is that the NYT reported Monday:

China’s drought-control headquarters posted a statement on its Web site on Sunday that described conditions as “grim” across a wide area of the wheat belt in Northern China and called for emergency irrigation efforts.Agricultural experts say it is too early to assess the damage to the wheat harvest.

“We are in the winter months now, when it is typically drier anyway, so the seedlings should still be alive,” said an expert at Shandong Agricultural University who would provide only his family name, Wang. “But if the weather turns warmer and there is still no rain, then we will not be talking about lower agricultural production, but rather zero production, because the seedlings will all be dead.”

The worries go beyond China, which has essentially been self-sufficient in grain for decades. The concern is that China, with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, may need to import wheat in volume, creating shortages elsewhere….

According to a statement on the China Meteorological Administration’s Web site, cabinet members were told that there was no end in sight to the drought.

If the drought lasts a couple more weeks, it will be the worst in 200 years. As Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, put it in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.”

And that brings us back to Christiana Figueres’ must-read speech:

… if the community of nations is unable to fully stabilize climate change, it will threaten where we can live, where and how we grow food and where we can find water. In other words, it will threaten the basic foundation – the very stability on which humanity has built its existence.

Let us look at some factors:

1.  Reduced water supply and growing demand will in some places lead to increasing competition among different sectors of society, different communities and different countries. Already, one-third of all people in Africa live in droughtprone regions. The IPCC estimates that by 2050, up to 600 million Africans will be at risk of water stress.

2. On a global level, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns will lead to falling agricultural production and higher food prices, leading to food insecurity…. Recent experiences around the world clearly show how such situations can cause political instability and undermine the performance of already fragile states.

3. Changes in sea-level, more frequent and more severe natural disasters and water shortages have the potential to cause large-scale, destabilizing population movements. Migration, especially within a country, is not inherently problematic and is quite common in Africa. But what we have seen historically in terms of international migration will be tiny compared to the migration brought about by the magnitude of future pressures on vulnerable populations.

All these factors taken together mean that climate change, especially if left unabated, threatens to increase poverty and overwhelm the capacity of governments to meet the basic needs of their people, which could well contribute to the emergence, spread and longevity of conflict.

As you certainly know better than me, these are the reasons why militaries around the world are planning for climate change, adjusting their budgets, their strategies and their priorities….

What will be better?

o To continue to support a traditional global military budget that has risen 50 percent in real terms from 2000 to 2009 and continues to increase?

o Or to increase a preventive military budget investing into adaptation and low-carbon growth and avoid the climate chaos that would demand a defence response that makes even today’s spending burden look light?

… As mentioned before, no nation can flourish if its citizens are faced with climate change impacts and increasing prospects for conflict.

Hear!  Hear!

The time to act was years ago, but acting now is infinitely better than waiting until it is too damn late.

We were warned:

75 Responses to S. Korean President: “There is an increasing likelihood of a food crisis globally due to climate change.”

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    For the Record, These Remarks during the worst Winter in Korea’s history. The north likely has now a state of emergency.

    Breaking Video, posted within last 24hrs!
    South Korea sees heaviest snowfall in a century

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The period between meals, and that between crops, is the time interval that will prove crucial in collapse. The worst disasters of climate disruption are themselves less dangerous than the quick repercussions of food shortages. Of course this, tragically, vindicates Erhlich et al, to whom we ought to have listened decades ago, but we were all ‘techno-optimists’ and GE crops and ‘free markets’ were going to save us, despite the ravings of the ‘Green doom-merchants’. Sorry, I’m channeling the editorialists at The Fundament (aka The Australian). The really bad news is that, even if we get another miraculous remission, it only puts off the evil hour for a while, a short while.

  3. Scrooge says:

    But but but we will just adapt. I may ramble on this site, I like being here. I actually do know a bit about that part of the world. S Korea had a tough time this past year. Just talking to the common person they are having problems because of the cost of food. The US is big enough that we should always have some areas that do OK. S Korea is the same as a medium size state. One bad year like they had and the whole country suffers.

  4. risa bear says:

    Well, Joe, maybe it’s just Too Damn Late?

    Even when comes (some say it pretty much already has), collapse may not be as visible as most of us here expect. There will be media denials right through the worst of it. Dmitri Orlov:

    There was a bit of a die off in the Soviet Union after the Soviet Union collapsed. Life expectancy plummeted. The odd thing about it, I was there during that time, and it’s not really noticeable unless you happen to be dropping by the hospitals and the morgues all the time and going to a lot of funerals. You just don’t know that people are going away. Its more that people look at their school photos and realize that half their class is dead. And that’s a bit of a shock, but its more of a shock when you realize it than when its happening because you don’t really realize its happening. In fact human populations can shrink quite dramatically without anyone even within those populations really noticing. People just accept whatever is happening, tune it out, stop paying attention or cope with it some way.

  5. Robert In New Orleans says:

    I was reading the New Orleans Times Picayune this morning and noted three stories of interest. One story refered to Tunisian refugees fleeing by boat to Italy. The second story was about the rising world price of cotton. And the third story about severe weather in South Korea. I wonder how many other readers were able to connect the dots?

  6. Tyro says:

    At the risk of being labelled a concern troll (yet again), I have to point out that this is exactly the sort of human suffering which makes me so opposed to organic crops. We don’t have the luxury of pandering to superstition and naturalism when it comes at the expense of lower yields and more expensive food. It’s time we remembered that there is a real crisis and we need to be making things better, not making them worse!

    Science & compassion first!

  7. paulm says:

    Methinks that we are just plain idiots.
    How could we have ignored this problem for so long.

    Even now there is still no consensus on action.
    Sad. So sad.

  8. paulm says:

    And so many are still clueless…

  9. paulm says:

    Auz floundering…

    Darwin hammered
    Houses and cars were flooded and trees and powerlines crashed to the ground as more than 400mm of rain fell on Darwin ahead of an expected cyclone.

    In the Darwin suburb of Marrara, a record 435 millimetres of rain fell in 24 hours.

  10. paulm says:

    4 Risa, Yes.
    Its a bit like when do you know when a recession has started…

  11. Ziyu says:

    It probably doesn’t help that President Lee’s 4 Rivers project is shutting down food fields to make room for the mass industrialization of South Korea’s last clean river while also killing waterbirds.
    Tyro, the problem is that chemical fertilizers are carbon intensive to produce and pollute rivers and some areas are approving carcinogenic materials to be used in the soil at levels far above what scientists think should be the limit.

  12. Sou says:

    With the end of drought in many parts of Australia, “Australia had a record harvest, but too much rain at harvest time saw a large percentage of the crop downgraded to less than milling wheat quality, with traders seeing China in the market as a big buyer this year.”

  13. Deborah Stark says:

    Good evening, everyone. Just came across this:

    To Battle Drought, China Pumps $1 Million Into Artificial Rain

    China is a nation of superlatives, and its role in weather manipulation is no exception. (via Ecocentric)

    Beijing runs the world’s largest program in cloud seeding – the process of imbuing clouds with silver iodide to generate precipitation, usually in times of drought. This week, the world’s biggest rainmaking operation just got bigger….. (continued)

  14. Bob Lang says:

    The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”:

    – climate change

    – peak everything

    – hubris/denial

    – debt

  15. Michael T. says:

    Professor John Mitchell on The Climate Change Debate – New Scientific Perspectives

    “Professor Mitchell is one of the UK’s most eminent climatologists and Principal Research Fellow at the Hadley Centre, UK Met Office. Prior to this appointment, he was Chief Scientist in the Met Office from 2002-2006. and Director of Climate Science from 2006-2010. In a career spanning over thirty years, Professor Mitchell has contributed to research on climate modelling and has participated in all four IPCC Assessment Reports. He has an OBE and is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded the Hans Oeschger medal by the European Geosciences Union in 2004. He holds a PhD in atomic physics from Queen’s University, Belfast.”

  16. Ed Hummel says:

    To Tyro #6: Organic crops don’t destroy the soil the way “modern” industrialized farming does, and if done right actually enrich the soil. Industrialized farming just gives an illusion of feeding billions, but that just makes the coming crash that much harder on everyone since it has just encouraged the population to keep exploding over the last 60 years to its current grossly unsustainable size. Not only will a disruptive climate increasingly play havoc with crop yields as is already happening, but the increasing soil depletion and destruction will also contribute to failed crops at a time when we need every bit of food that can be grown. For that you can thank the false “god” of modern industrialized agriculture that treats soil as just one more resource to exploit and mine until it’s completely used up. Problem is, there is no substitute!

  17. David B. Benson says:

    Re: headline.


  18. K. Nockels says:

    #6 your not looking at the bigger picture, it has been the industrial farming brought to the world during the green revolution that has increased population to the point where we can not afford a bad year in more than a quarter of exporting countries without shortages and food price rises. Add Climate Change on even todays scale and look what we have, it will start to build and there will be no way to get caught back up. When oil prices rise so does food production costs not just for
    fertilizer but for the deisel to run the tractor, the combine.the load truck,the delivery truck,the silo elevator, the train than the fuel for the ship that takes it to where ever. All those things contribute to the
    cost of food, very soon organic food sold close to where it’s grown will be the cheapest.

  19. Cinnamon Girl says:

    Nice try, gorgeous, but Glenn Beck has outsmarted the world’s best yet again. Youse got it all wrong, see? Shortages and price rises for consumables can’t be due to climate change, it can’t be because of too many people, and it can’t be because of foreign demand, capiche? All together now with HeeBeeGB: it’s because of the Fed’s money printing campaign that feeds excess funds to speculators who in turn bid up futures prices. Now, don’t youse be asking why prices rise for consumables for which there is no futures trade, you savvy? That’s irrelevant; keep your eye on the ball, which is to deflect ill will away from HeeBeeGB’s belief-pets and thing-gods, and toward the hated one-guvment co-conspirators. This despite his original support for the fed bailouts, which surprisingly required money to accomplish. Now, if someone can discover that HeeBeeGB invests in hedge funds or private equity, then we might have something, see?

  20. Paulm says:

    Climate change….peak oil….climate change….peak oil……
    Which will will it be?

  21. PurpleOzone says:

    ABC News tonight explained that food prices are about too rise now due to the recent extreme weather. They cited Russian heat and fires, Midwest Amer. floods, etc. Also wholesale cotton has risen from .55 to $1.80 per pound, resulting in a $12 pair of jeans going to $14. Hanes may up prices by 1/3 (I already bought underwear 2 months ago in anticipation).

    They didn’t attribute the extreme weather to global warming exactly. But they did make clear the unusual weather.

  22. Mossy says:

    I just heard Lester Brown speak in Cambridge, MA. Remember, that China is our banker, and we’re in debt, big time. And remember that grain prices are set globally. So, what’s going to happen when China doesn’t have the grain it needs? Think the US is going to be spared because we can grow enough food? Think again!

    There’s only nine meals between everything being fine and anarchy.

  23. Chris F. says:

    Tyro #6: This is a specious argument that I’m sure we’ll here much more of in comming years. We do NOT need to go hog-wild (as we have been) draining our aquifers, dumping nitrogen on the soil, and pumping drugs into livestock to increase food production. Rather, we need to let something OTHER than maximum total food production set human population and consumption levels. Your proposal will forever doom us to grow and consume as much as we can, then panic when weather/climate/disease/hydrology problems reduce output. Our system needs margin to buffer humanity against such inevitable variation. Moving the “total human consumption” set point does not solve the fundamental problem.

    Are we humans really as smart as we think we are, or just glorified bacteria in a spherical petri dish?

  24. Prokaryotes says:


    James Hansen talks about the urgency of the climate crisis

  25. Colorado Bob says:

    The Chinese drought –

    “But if the weather turns warmer and there is still no rain, then we will not be talking about lower agricultural production, but rather zero production, because the seedlings will all be dead.”

  26. Colorado Bob says:

    Feb 16 (Reuters) – Australian insurers expect to pay out more than A$2 billion ($2 billion) for damage caused by deadly floods in the country’s northeast this year while Cyclone Yasi could cost another A$500 million, the Insurance Council of Australia said on Wednesday.

  27. Paulm says:

    “These coral samples, which date from 1639 to 1981, suggest that the summer of 1973-74 was the wettest in 300 years,” Lough said in a statement released by the American Geophysical Union, which will publish her study in an upcoming issue of the journal Paleoceanography. “This summer is now being compared with that record-settling one,” she said. The current La Niña is the strongest it has been since 1974.

  28. Pythagoras says:

    Perhaps it is time for the countries of the world to take diplomatic action against the United States to get our attention…

    – expel the diplomatic corps
    – refuse US Navy ports of call
    – switch to the Euro or Yuan as reserve currency
    – expel US military from bases or serve notice that leases will not be renewed
    – cancel or restrict visas to Americans
    – boycott American companies, such as the ubiquitous icons of Coca Cola, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Starbucks
    – spraypaint “Yankee Go Green” on American buildings overseas

    Other ideas?

  29. Barry says:

    Study after study shows organic farming raises more food per acre with less fossil fuel inputs.

    Next Big Agro talking point please…

  30. Barry says:

    Chinese hold total USA debt = 6% of one year of USA GDP.

    I don’t think China is going to extract anything of critical security interest of USA with only 6% of a single year’s income as leverage.

    Raw food prices are a tiny fraction of USA citizens pay for “food”. We pay for pretty boxes and mix-o-matic “value add”. Food is so cheap we throw about half of it away uneaten.

    As usual the world’s poorest folks will be the first to get hammered by food prices. We will still be pouring food into our cars, cruise ships and jet-setting long after billions go hungry it looks like.

    Unless, that is, we find our moral compass. Now where did we put that?

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Tyro #6, I don’t think that you are a ‘concern troll’, simply grievously mistaken. Organic farming produces greater yields of a greater variety of foods. It enriches the soil, keeping it fertile indefinitely. It is local, it empowers farmers, helps preserve farming communities, and crop and general biodiversity and lessens groundwater depletion. Industrial agri-business, your preference, on the other hand, is about to collapse as Peak Oil hits, it being completely dependent on cheap hydrocarbons. Agri-business is almost invariably monocultural and devastates the environment, wiping out biodiversity that thrives under organic farming. It uses far more herbicides and pesticides, including the hideous glyphosphate, and other poisons. It is immensely water profligate, draining groundwater rapidly. It destroys topsoil although not as rapidly in these days of non-till techniques as in the past. It destroys agricultural communities through the dumping of subsidised food that drives down food prices to the detriment of farmers. And in GE it has reached its ghastly apotheosis, a grab for total control by agri-business corporations, introducing plants that have contaminated all other strains of the same species, a deliberate act of genetic pollution that the corporate liars said could not happen. It, of course, happened immediately and ubiquitously, and now we have to cope with ‘superweeds’ immune to the common pesticides. I don’t think that you are ‘concerned’-the very opposite, in fact.

  32. Tyro says:

    @Ed – all studies have shown that organic crops require more land (and so more water and more oil) than conventionally grown crops. That means less food at a higher price. Where’s the illusion? When we’re talking about lives of real people, I think it’s time to get down to brass tacks and start dealing with real figures and real evidence. If you’re saying that we need to go to organic farming and reduce our population, what you’re saying in your coy, euphemistic way is that we need to let a few billion people starve to death. If that’s the solution that the organic movement proposes, I think people should know so that they can make a proper, informed decision and consider some alternatives. Synthetic pesticides on the one hand, civil unrest and mass starvation on the other.

    @Zizu – why do you think that non-synthetic pesticides are any better? And surely this concern – while worthy of consideration and discussion in its own right – is avoiding the question. Namely: since organic farms produce less food per farm at a higher price, it is making the problem of food scarcity worse! This whole blog post is talking about a global food crisis so I think any response should really keep that in the forefront, rather than trying to change the subject.

  33. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Prokaryotes, the talk by Hansen was in 2007, even though the vid is new. Not much has been done since then, so it looks like we’re on track for the middle Pliocene if we don’t change course soon. (And I like your handle.)

    Tyro, organics may produce less tonnage per acre, but it’s the opposite when you consider food value, organics typically have higher percentages of protein and nutrients and are far healthier, unless you try to push the crops. And they can produce high yields, here’s one example:

    Do you work for Monsanto by any chance?

  34. Ziyu says:

    Tyro, the solution is to limit the population growth. Not by letting people starve, but by putting restrictions on the number of children people can have. That way, food shortages can be avoided and chemical pesticides that contribute to water pollution and climate change won’t be necessary.

  35. Dickensian American says:

    Tyro, I just don’t see what you are on about. I laid out many rebuttals in another thread. You’ve made vague assertions that “you’ve looked into this a bit.”

    But after spending just five minutes looking at page after page of search returns after googling “organic vs conventional yields,” I just see study after study–some peer reviewed, some admittedly not–but regardless still study after study asserting exactly the opposite of what you have been claiming about organic farming. Not only do all these studies show that organic farming is far better for the longevity of the soil as well as downstream ecosystems, but in most cases the plants are healthier, more genetically diverse and disease resistant, produce tastier and more nutrient rich crops but in many cases, when looked at year over year, with many crops from soybeans to strawberries, organic practices produce HIGHER yields with LESS water input.

    Not sure where you’ve gotten your information from that has you convinced that organic is a scam that will inevitably starve the world.

  36. Wyoming says:

    Let me jump in here for a bit.

    I am an organic farmer. I used to be an electrical engineer and spent a full career with the USG. Years ago when I became aware of the the implications of AGW and peak oil I chose to forgo my previous well compensated existence and become an organic farmer. Among the reasons for doing this was that, having spent my professional career in the national security arena, I recognized AGW and peak oil as the most significant human security issues that we will ever face as a species. I completely overhauled my lifestyle with the intention of being part of the solution. If there is a solution. Time to get to the point.

    I farm organically because I think it is part of the solution. We eventually need to get away from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic for now is not the full answer as there are many issues that folks, who promote it but do not practice it, are not fully cognizant of. Yes we do grow crops that are superiour quality and of greater yields than the typical industiral vegetable farm (I grow vegetables). But there is more to this story of small organic versus industrial farming. I raise only 3 1/2 acres of crops and gross about $30,000/acre. I think that the maximum potential of my land is about $40K/acre given the soil quality and the intensity of our growing practices (if you are still thinking that this is a long term sustainable situation take a little more time). This small farm requires a labor input of 5-6 full time farmers during the summer (my wife and I work about 3000 hrs/yr each). You don’t have to think about those numbers very long for the phrase “living wage?” to pop into your head do you?

    Now we do grow a lot of food on a small area. Much in excess of the industrial model. But how do you extrapolate to feed 7 billion via these methods. This is the core issue that is not often discussed. And is the trigger for the type of uniformed comments comparing organic versus industrial farming that spark much debate. Think of the vast infrastructure of small farms, housing, buildings, equipment that would need to be created across the industrial world to convert to the small farm organic model (we have spent the last 80 years getting rid of it). The issues are vast and complex. Land ownership, property tax rates, no support infrastructure to name a few. People we will have.

    Most organic farmers do not grow food via organic gardening techniques. They do it via commercial farming techniques. This is not your back yard garden we are talking about. Farmers need to make a living. Gardening techniques are for subsistence not making a living. For instance: I have a 45 HP tractor, a tranplanter, a spader, a power harrow, a bed former, a cultivating bar, a plow for digging potatoes, a chisel plow, a 2-wheel BCS tractor with a plow, a flail mower, a tiller, 2 other walkbehind tillers, a mower, a large refridgerated room for vegetable storage, a ford van for going to the market, a pickup for farm work, a large greenhouse, 3 farm buildings, a lot of irrigation equipment, piles of tools, etc. You get the picture (and I am not really heavy on equipment compared to many). I started with almost no equipment and soon realized that you will grow enough food for you and your family, but you cannot make any money until you scale up. And there is the rub. Volume of crops and a minimal income only show up when the scale of equipment reaches the point that those petroleum “energy slaves” are doing most of the work. Sounds like civilization doesn’t it? Most organic produce grown for sale in the US is grown via full INDUSTRIAL methods with the execption that the pesticides are restricted (not banned just regulated) and synthetic fertilizers are not used. The equipment is the same for both large organic and industrial farms. Economy of scale. 50% of the organic greens sold in grocery stores in the US come from one farm located in CA and AZ. A 20,000 acre operation. This operation defines industrial. There are endless examples like this. Think about trying to grow 1000 acres of corn or wheat without equipment. Over time this dynamic will change, but not until the much reduced population are once again small farmers who make poverty wages.

    I firmly believe that industrial farming techniques (whether we are growing organically or not) are our only hope of growing enough food to avoid a catastrophic population collapse as AGW and peak oil clamp down on us and reverse economic growth and start really shrinking the population. People have to eat or there is total war. Industrial farming operations will be one of the last 2 places fuel is reserved for. Farmers will always get the diesel and other fuels needed to produce food or you won’t have any place to go home to.

    I could go on for hours on this subject but I may be getting to far from the topic. Maybe Joe will have an open thread where we can discuss the future of agriculture.

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    Re, Crop Yields

    Monsanto crops are less resistant to droughts or climate change in general. Further they pose an long term threat for the entire ecosystem. Because bio-engenieered crops have been shown to contaminate the entire US and with time possibly the world.

    Biochar increases jungle crops yields by 800%

    Go figure, at end of movie

    The Secret Of El Dorado

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    “We eventually need to get away from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. ”

    Say that you mean mineral oil, based fertilizer. If we factor in “Peak Oil”, we see now a worst cast scenario unfolding before our eyes – without anyone taken care of this equation so far.

    The Answer again is Biochar!

  39. Prokaryotes says:

    “The equipment is the same for both large organic and industrial farms”

    That too has changed, look up the electric tractor for example and ofc energy generation. Farming communities with decentralized energy generation and the complete clean tech portfolio plus Biochar to sequester carbon are the future (If you want to survive).

  40. Chris Winter says:


    Without looking up the figures, I think that a single crop grown the industrial way — immense acreage, tractored and harvestered, with plenty of oil-derived fertilizer and pesticides, can outproduce the same area using organic methods.

    But the crux of the matter is that organic methods permit a mix of crops on the same field. Thus the total food output can be better with organics, as others have pointed out. Also, smart crop rotation maintains soil quality better. To cut to the chase, the industrial way is worse all around.

    One good source for this is Bill McKibben’s Eaarth. A large part of its content is devoted to the benefits of small, hand-tended farms.

  41. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes, South Korean President. Everybody is concerned about the likely food shortages from climate change. It needs concerted global efforts to abate the climate change as the saying goes, WHILE GLOBAL WARMING IS THE CAUSE, CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE EFFECT. I am glad Leaders of Nations are focusing their attention on this crucial effect.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

  42. Colorado Bob says:

    Carlos has stalled 15 NM south of Darwin, and hasn’t moved in 6 hours. This is after a suburb there received 17 inches yesterday.

  43. Colorado Bob says:

    (Reuters) – Climate change could put trillions of investment dollars at risk over the next 20 years, a global study released on Wednesday said, calling for pension funds and other investors to overhaul how they allocate funds.

  44. Wyoming says:

    Prokaryotes @39 “That too has changed, look up the electric tractor for example ”

    Don’t forget that you are talking to an electrical engineer here not just a working farmer. You need to actually do some research on electric tractors. There is a lot of hype and no meaningful capability available now or likely to arrive in the near future. Look into the energy required for a tractor to perform given tasks and the storage capability of feasible batteries, charging issues, where the electricity to charge them comes from (coal anyone?), costs in real terms. Of all the articles I have read on this concept I have never found a practical solution to the real engineering concerns. Not to say that I am against such ideas just that the technology is not there yet.

    Biochar. There are a lot of claims being made about biochar. I have researched this to a moderate extent and will note that there has been virtually no scientifically performed research on the entirety of the issue. How do you make large amounts of this material in an non-polluting manner as the volume that we would need is truely gargantuan. Backyard biochar manufacturing, as described on the internet is pretty polluting and produces a meaningless volume. What is the actual measured effect of biochar in the soil on growing a variety of crops. I have seen no good studies. What soil types does it work well with and which does it not? Are there drawbacks to its use that we are not yet familiar with? Normally there are always issues as there are few perfect solutions in life. Currently its cost is prohibitive if purchased commercially. If I remember correctly it was approx $2000/ton last I checked.

    Both of the above may be part of the solutions we will use in the future. We can onlyu hope and work on solutions. But my point above is that we have to get from where we are to where we are going. There are no transporters. Think of the industrial infrastructure required to design, manufacture and service a fleet of hundreds of thousands of electric tractors. If the technology was there today how long would it take to get them in the field. What do we do in the meantime? Do we turn off all the diesel tractors. If one is going to switch out inefficient equipment then I suggest that diesel tractors are one of the most valuable machines ever made and that a better choice might be to legislate the elimination of air travel for tourism and cruise ships.


  45. Colorado Bob says:

    Germany faces a soggy future of extreme rainfall and flooding in the coming decades caused by climate change, according to the country’s leading meteorologists and disaster protection officials.

  46. Wit's End says:

    I really don’t understand how people like Lester Brown can talk about food shortages without ever mentioning that even the most conservative scientific estimates of crop yield loss from the toxic impact of tropospheric ozone are about 10% of potential production. Ten percent is a lot of food, and with the levels of ozone rising and expected to continue to rise, you’d think it would be taken into consideration along with droughts and other extreme weather from climate change – especially because, as the ICP makes clear, ozone exposure increases the negative impacts of weather, insects and disease.

    I spent the last two days reading through publications by the International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops. Excerpts posted here:

  47. Wyoming says:

    Chris @40

    Not necessarily. Giant organic farms are just as efficient as giant industrial farms depending on the crop. It is the gotchas’ that often crop up that can disrupt this. What happens to the 10,000 acres of organic tomatoes when late blight starts to show up in a region. The orgganic operation is largely helpless (some copper based fungicides help sometimes, but they will often have total loss from that point on. The non-organic operation starts a heavy spray program (yuck! I know) and will often times have a full harvest. Albit with additional hits to the bottom line. Invasive stink bugs are another issue in my area. They were brought in from asia about 10 years ago and have reached our part of the states. There is no known organic solution known yet to deal with them. Total tomato crop losses have occured on organic farms not far from mine. In small scale organic farming no tomatoes means you lost money for that year.

    Yes, over the long range, industrial techniques are not sustainable. And depending on your definition they are not sustainable over the medium range either. But it is worth noting that even small scale organic, as practiced in the Western world, is not sustainable either. It just takes longer to wear out the land. Only the Asians have practiced a system of agriculuture that worked over the long term (circa 4000 years) that appears to have been largely sustainable. We will likely have to return to that model and ones like it in the future, but we are not quite ready for that type of transition yet. We have about 6 billion too many people right now. And let me know when you are ready to implement the composting of all human waste as part of your fertilization program. The time will come. Kind of makes a mockery of the recent Food Safety Act doesn’t it?

  48. Colorado Bob says:

    TROPICAL Cyclone Carlos has dumped more rain on Darwin in the past 24 hour than Cyclone Yasi inflicted on any town in a single day.

    Weather Channel senior meteorologist Dick Whitaker said Darwin recorded a total of 339.6mm of rain during the 24 hours ending at 9am today.

    “This is an all time 24 hour rainfall record for the city,” he said.

  49. John McCormick says:

    RE # 36

    Wyoming: “I could go on for hours on this subject but I may be getting to far from the topic.”

    This is the topic. I am a micro-gardener barely able to fill a few baskets with crops. Northern VA weather would appear to be good for me but cloudy days, absence of bees, poor soil (marine clay) and time and water required are certainly cutting into my yield.
    You describe a challenge few, if any of us, appreciate. Please tell us more. Your suggestion that Joe post a thread on this topic is one he should abide.

    My sister living in West Central CT talks about the number of farm barns, green houses, chicken coops that collapsed under the weight of this season’s snow. This is the infrastructure organic farmers can hardly afford to replace. I don’t think a greenhouse is going to be insurable in CT in the future and maybe not in the present.

    We who hope for solutions and fixes on most any problem we collectively face have little or no experience in the fix we propose. And, we assume that, if it is really a good fix, it will be adopted around the world while there is still time. You describe a much different frame of reality and we must hear more from you. Soon.

    Good luck with the next crop and thank you, your wife and helpers for your huge contributions to a better world.

    John McCormick

  50. Prokaryotes says:

    Re Wyo, “Biochar. There are a lot of claims being made about biochar. I have researched this to a moderate extent and will note that there has been virtually no scientifically performed research on the entirety of the issue.”

    Please have a look, there have been several serious studies about Biochar and it turns out that Biochar might be really that magically.

  51. Dickensian American says:


    Appreciate the informed input you’ve brought to this conversation. To be succinct if I am reading your assessments correctly, you are saying that Tyro’s repeated claims that organic farming a) always requires more land; b) always requires more irrigation; and c) always requires more petroleum input are not true. But you are also saying that though industrialized small farm organics are a step in the right direction, they are far from a complete set of solutions for sustainable food production.

    Am I reading you correctly?

  52. Wyoming says:

    John @49

    Hey neighbor! I farm in No. VA. I have a lot of time to talk today because I have a cold and my wife threatened me with further bodily harm if I went outside to work.

    Marine clay huh? Are you right on the Potomac? I am out west near the Shenandoah. We have silt/loam here. Pretty decent soil, but not like that black gold found in the midwest.

    The issues you mention are not often well understood. Soil types and conditions make a huge difference in the productivity of land. Not all soil is created equal. There were good reasons that the folks that farmed my land left for the Ohio River valley and points west in the 1800’s. But we need to start farming all this land again. No more pet horse properties.

    Irrigation water. There are a host of articles on the future problems with access to fresh water. This will eventually bring global agriculture yields down significantly. People are often surprised when I tell them that even here in VA where we get 40 inches of rain a year you must have irrigation if you are growing large amounts of vegetables. You can get by without it if you are growing grain of course. Mostly. Droughts being the exception.

    Lots of greenhouses and barns were crushed here last winter in our giant snowstorms. Big rainstorms are no fun either.

    The practical details of any undertaking are always more complicated than first glance. One of the topics that really interests me is how do we bring the large numbers of young people into farming. The entry costs, even at the low end, tend to be prohibitive. And the wages available suck.


  53. Wyoming says:

    Dickensian American @51

    A fair statement.

    It is not an exageration to say that we (the global we) have backed ourselves into a nasty corner. We live in a finite world and, while we may not have been aware of that as a group until the fairly recent past, we must learn to live in a sustainable fashion.

    The trouble is how do we get from where we are to where we need to be. Paths which appear to have promise (like Joe’s wedges) require that the global group sign on for the ride. The core issue with the resistance to that commitment is it asks everyone to give up their way of life. Since we appear to have evolved to have a mind which heavily discounts the future for present gain it is hard (impossible) for many to make the rational leap to any kind of commitment. Instead you will get irrational resistance.

    In an ideal world we would not have 7 billion people. They are not sustainable. But we cannot just turn them off and park them in the corner of the garage. We have to manage their reduction in a way that does not result in catastrophic collapse. Thus my opinion that any reasonably efficient way to grow food will not be abandoned in the near or medium term. We do eventually need to get to the point where we do not burn huge amounts of fossile fuel to grow food. But how to get there is the problem.

    It is easy to get depressed when thinking about this. There are no magical solutions. Only hard work and persistance have a chance. When large numbers of people walk away from their unsustainable lives and commit to an alternative path then you know the tide is turing. There is no evidence of that yet.


  54. Wyoming says:

    Prokaryotes @50

    I truely hope that biochar will turn out to be part of the solution. I have never seen a magical solution to anything so I will have to wait for proof I guess. I note that in the article you linked to it says:

    “Our analysis shows that sustainable global implementation of biochar can potentially offset a maximum of 12% of current anthropogenic CO2-C equivalent (CO2-Ce) emissions (that is, 1.8 Pg CO2-Ce per year of the 15.4 Pg CO2-Ce emitted annually), and that over the course of a century, the total net offset from biochar would be 130 Pg CO2-Ce. We also show that conversion of all sustainably obtained biomass to maximize bioenergy, rather than biochar, production can offset a maximum of 10% of the current anthropogenic CO2-Ce emissions. The relative climate-mitigation potentials of biochar and bioenergy depend on the fertility of the soil amended and the C intensity of the fuel being offset, as well as the type of biomass. Locations at which the soil fertility is high and coal is the fuel being offset are best suited for bioenergy production. The climate-mitigation potential of biochar (with combined energy production) is higher for all other situations.”

    Note that this analysis indicates that we can offset a MAXIMUM of 12% of CURRENT anthropogenic CO2 emmissions or you can use the sustainably obtained biomass to generate biofuel and offset 10% of human emmisions that way. There are interesting issues this brings up. You must use sustainable biomass to make your biochar or you are not accomplishing anything. At a loss of only 2% of capability you can use that same biomass to to make Fuel! I bet a bunch of people out there will choose fuel over biochar. The article also says that biochar is mostly useful in improving poor soils and marginal land. This may mean that it would not be extremely useful for many farmers. There are always issues. This is intereesting but real research is just beginning. Their analysis showed that clearing land for growing the biomass to be used in biochar production was not sustainable. This seems to imply that land currently used in some form of production would be needed but that might not be practical or possible for a variety of reasons. So this might mean that only a relatively small amount of land (in global terms) would be available. This might work even then…over a long period of time due to the slow growth in production capability. Thus we arrive at a need for a bridge to the future again. This type of problem is similar to that which exists when folks start talking about using draft animals to farm again. The two main problems with such a switch is that it takes about 20-25% of a farms land to grow the horse fuel thus taking out of food production a significant proportion of the arable land. Second is that there are so few draft animals in existence today that it would take a good 40 years to breed the numbers back into existence that would be required to do all the farming. An interesting side note is that one of my grandfathers was a draft horse breeder in Wyoming up until the 1920’s when the introduction of tractors slowly wiped that business out.

    When folks with the serious credentials (comparable to those of Joe, Hansen, Gavin Schmidt and others in climate science) who are experts in soil science, chemistry and agriculture come to concensus that biochar has the ability to actually make a real meaningful difference then it is time to move on the issue.


  55. Prokaryotes says:

    Wyo, great that you took the time to read more into this landmark nature staudy from last year. Yes, it needs to start somewhere. And more and more studies and trials are rolled out worldwide.

    This movie highlights the gains and potential on farming in particular

    Biochar on The Farm

  56. Prokaryotes says:

    Chinese companies mass producing fake rice out of plastic

    Learn more:

  57. Tyro says:

    @Ziyu re “limit population growth” – that may be a part of the solution but unnecessarily reducing our food production in order to be “organic” just makes the problem worse, an issue you keep dancing around.

    @Dickensian American – can you provide links to these studies so we can be on even footing?

    Nature magazine published a good overview of many of the myths of organic crops, the text is here:

    (If you have nature access, also at:

    In addition to discussing (and dismissing) the claims of health & environmental benefits, they say:

    Developments in the past 25 years have shown how conventional agriculture can be much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than organic farming8. A conventional farm can match organic yields using only 50–70% of the farmland.

    That’s a huge difference!

    And for special note to CP readers (Attention Joe Romm!)

    With this novel conventional approach, now in commercial operation throughout Europe, total fossil-fuel use and carbon dioxide production are much lower than in organic farming, and because of carbon recycling it is much more sustainable.

    Of course this shouldn’t be any surprise as modern farms can use all of the techniques available to organic farmers plus all of the technological advances which organic farms are blocked from.

    Many organic farms use a form of crop rotation which must directly reduce the yield, but even when the crops are planted a Danish study found organic crops yield 21-37% less (for grains, 12-18% for fodder beets):

    Where are you getting your information?

  58. Tyro says:


    Monsanto crops are less resistant to droughts or climate change in general. Further they pose an long term threat for the entire ecosystem.

    That’s certainly not true. There are several GMO crops which have been engineered to provide superior resistance to floods, here’s one clear demonstration from a test plot:

  59. Tyro says:

    @Chris Winter,

    But the crux of the matter is that organic methods permit a mix of crops on the same field. Thus the total food output can be better with organics, as others have pointed out. Also, smart crop rotation maintains soil quality better. To cut to the chase, the industrial way is worse all around.

    But modern farms can use exactly this same technique if they think it will benefit them. Farmers aren’t stupid and they want to have farm land producing crops well into the future so if this is a real benefit, why do you think that they’re not doing it as often and why should they be forced into this if they decide it’s not in their best interest?

    But anyway, since we’re talking about civil unrest and famine, restricting the options of farmers so they produce less food at a higher cost sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’m not sure how you think that your argument ameliorates this in any way.

  60. Prokaryotes says:

    Your video has nothing about drought resistaince, it features “rice to survive complete submergence”.

    Monsanto’s Bt Cotton Kills the Soil as Well as Farmers

    A recent scientific study carried out by Navdanya, compared the soil of fields where Bt-cotton had been planted for 3 years with adjoining fields with non GMO cotton or other crops. The region covered included Nagpur, Amravati and Wardha of Vidharbha which accounts for highest GMO cotton planting in India, and the highest rate of farmers suicides (4000 per year).

    In 3 years, Bt-cotton has reduced the population of Actinomycetes by 17%. Actinomycetes are vital for breaking down cellulose and creating humus.

    Bacteria were reduced by 14%. The total microbial biomass was reduced by 8.9%.

    Vital soil beneficial enzymes which make nutrients available to plants have also been drastically reduced. Acid Phosphatase which contributes to uptake of phosphates was reduced by 26.6%. Nitrogenase enzymes which help fix nitrogen were reduced by 22.6%.

    At this rate, in a decade of planting with GM cotton, or any GM crop with Bt genes in it, could lead to total destruction of soil organisms, leaving dead soil unable to produce food.

  61. Tyro says:


    That’s interesting – do you know anything about the details of how the study was conducted and where it was published? The links just point to the home page of an advocacy group, not to the research.

    As to Bt being a problem, are you aware that Bt is one of the approved pesticides for organic farms and is used extensively on all crops, not just cotton? If it’s as harmful as you say, this is just as big of a problem for organic farmers. I don’t see how pointing to this problem should somehow support the argument for organic crops, even if it is valid.

    And I have to take exception to the way you go from a single study of a single GM cotton crop and extrapolate to every single GM crop. If there are real problems, you should be able to discuss them rather than using this sort of strawman.

    I thought that the video was a good illustration of how a GM crop can significantly outperform other rice strains under changing climate. You’re right that it doesn’t deal with drought, it deals with flooding, a problem facing many crops under climate change. Don’t you think that this issue is serious enough that farmers should be able to use them? If you needed a successful crop to survive, why wouldn’t you hedge your bets with the GM crop?

  62. Prokaryotes says:

    Tyro said “extrapolate to every single GM crop. If there are real problems, you should be able to discuss them ”

    Ok, for a start a few points i collected from a quick look at the wiki, which is the target of edit wars, meaning kind of biased, in favor of GMO’s.

    Wikipedia GMF

    As of January 2009 there has only been one human feeding study conducted on the effects of genetically modified foods.

    Many proponents of genetically engineered crops claim they lower pesticide usage and have brought higher yields and profitability to many farmers, including those in developing nations.[68] For example, a 2010 study by US scientists, found that the economic benefit of Bt corn to farmers in five mid-west states was $6.9 billion over the previous 14 years. They were surprised that the majority ($4.3 billion) of the benefit accrued to non-Bt corn.

    In 2009 three scientists (Vendômois et al) published a statistical re-analysis of three feeding trials that had previously been published by others as establishing the safety of genetically modified corn.[102][103][104] The new article claimed that their statistics instead showed that the three patented crops (Mon 810, Mon 863, and NK 603) developed and owned by Monsanto cause liver, kidney, and heart damage in mammals.

    studies have found DNA from M13 virus, GFP and even ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (Rubisco) genes in the blood and tissue of ingesting animals.[115][116]

    In the mid 1990s Pioneer Hi-Bred tested the allergenicity of a transgenic soybean that expressed a Brazil nut seed storage protein in hope that the seeds would have increased levels of the amino acid methionine. The tests (radioallergosorbent testing, immunoblotting, and skin-prick testing) showed that individuals allergic to Brazil nuts were also allergic to the new GM soybean.[119] Pioneer has indicated that it will not develop commercial cultivars containing Brazil nut protein because the protein is likely to be an allergen

  63. Prokaryotes says:

    Bittman: Why Aren’t G.M.O. Foods Labeled?

    If you want to avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, MSG, or just about anything else, you read the label. If you want to avoid G.M.O.’s — genetically modified organisms — you’re out of luck. They’re not listed. You could, until now, simply buy organic foods, which by law can’t contain more than 5 percent G.M.O.’s. Now, however, even that may not work.

  64. Prokaryotes says:

    Conservatives and Liberals defeat New Democrat GMO bill

    “Once again we see these two major parties putting the interests of their big business buddies ahead of everyday farmers whose livelihoods can be destroyed in an instant from contamination by genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops.”

    “It has been an honour for me to bring this important debate to the forefront in the House of Commons,” stated Atamanenko. “While the fight for C-474 has been lost, New Democrats will continue to fight for Canadian Farmers and Consumers.”

  65. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: John McCormick | Post #49

    John wrotes to Wyoming:
    …..You describe a challenge few, if any of us, appreciate. Please tell us more. Your suggestion that Joe post a thread on this topic is one he should abide…..

    I agree! I would like very much to have Wyoming share as much as he has time for on his experience with and knowledge of farming. I know a lot of people in my sphere who would also be very interested in reading Wyoming’s extremely informative commentary.

  66. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Wyoming | Post #52
    …..The practical details of any undertaking are always more complicated than first glance. One of the topics that really interests me is how do we bring the large numbers of young people into farming. The entry costs, even at the low end, tend to be prohibitive. And the wages available suck…..

    It is very exciting to think about “bringing large numbers of young people into farming.” It’s been my observation that a lot of young people (and not-so-young, frankly) are interested in developing skills sufficient to successfully participate in the establishment and maintenance of fairly large urban plots, as described below:

    Detroit community gardens grow optimism
    Plots thicken as youth groups, nuns, grow fresh food, brighten neighborhoods

    Myrtle Thompson stood in the middle of her enormous garden on Manistique on Detroit’s east side as close to 200 tourists milled up and down the rows of squash, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, strawberries and soon-to-be very large pumpkins.

    As “ooohs” and “ahhhs” could be heard over the hum of cicadas, Thompson’s proud smile said it all. Two years ago, these were four vacant lots strewn with garbage, abandoned cars and overgrown trees.

    Walking up to her, Ron Omilian, an architect from Grosse Pointe Park, gave Thompson a hearty handshake.

    “Congratulations!” he said in earnest. “This is the future, you know. And you’re a big part of it.”…..(continued)


    February 2011
    Dorchester (Boston), Massachusetts
    Urban Agriculture BRA Hearing February 10th

    From the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA):
    An important public hearing, and milestone, in the City’s Urban Agriculture Rezoning Initiative will take place on February 10, 2011, when the BRA Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed Urban Agriculture Overlay District (UAOD) for Mattapan/South Dorchester that would allow urban agriculture on four city owned properties….. (continued)

    NOTE: Dorchester, by far the largest neighborhood within Boston city limits, was once primarily farmland. There is a great deal of energy and enthusiasm building here toward reclaiming empty lots and other large unused areas for the purpose of growing food for local consumption.


    Scroll down a bit on this page to see a story on Wil Bullock who works with urban kids and gets them interested in farming:

    City Farmer News


    Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)

    Here’s their Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program (which is FILLED for 2011!)

    Just some ideas. Hope you’re getting over that cold!


  67. Tyro says:

    @Prok – you’re jumping all over the place. We started talking about famine and food insecurity, then environment, then soil, then cotton, now you shift gears to Brazil nuts. I don’t know if you agree or disagree with any of the points we’ve talked about and by just ignoring them and moving on, it feels like you aren’t interested in discussion but rather just on attacking GMOs.

    Yes, tinkering with genetics could introduce allergens but that is old science and it’s fairly easy to test to see if there are big enough changes to warrant concern. That’s why your comment on Brazil nuts could even talk about this concern! This is tightly regulated so I don’t know what you think the problem is. And, to compare, so-called organic foods also have means of generating mutations such as bombardment with radiation. The problem is that this is uncontrolled and the results are uncertain, so it’s just as likely that allergens crop up this way and again, there is no labelling to indicate what’s going on.

    I won’t go further into the labelling of GMOs more since that is yet another huge side-track from the discussion of providing food for the hungry and coping with climate stress. Do you have anything further to add or are you going to continue to try to shift attention elsewhere?

  68. Prokaryotes says:

    Contrary what Monsanto and the other GMO companies claimed, GMO’s have been proven to contaminate the entire ecosystem and spread. Many farmers have problem because GMO crops contaminate their farms.

    But to get back to my initial statement, it was proven that drought resistant crops are not drought resistant and yield 7% less when compared to natural crops. And basically common sense dictates that without water there is no harvest or very little . So it’s a lot of hype … hence that’s why you actually present something totally opposite to drought resistance. :)

    The development of tolerant crops by genetic engineering, on the other hand, requires the identification of key genetic determinants underlying stress tolerance in plants, and introducing these genes into crops. Drought triggers a wide array of physiological responses in plants, and affects the activity of a large number of genes: gene expression experiments have identified several hundred genes which are either induced or repressed during drought.

    But not everybody is convinced that these crops will make a big difference. “It’s good news, but it’s not great news,” says David Zilberman, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Berkeley. No crop will survive a severe drought, he says, and other factors such as nutrient availability and soil quality are at play during water shortages, which tend to be more frequent but less severe than droughts. “It will be useful for a small number of really important areas,” Zilberman says, “but my feeling is that people expect altogether too much from drought tolerance.”

    Creating drought-tolerant plants has proved to be a difficult challenge for plant breeders. Whereas resistance to a particular herbicide might be pinned down to one gene, the response to drought plays out across the genome.

  69. John McCormick says:

    Joe Romm,

    It would be a valuable education for us to hear from Wyoming on an initial and serial explanation of how he and his wife and crew struggle to make a living, in the next growing season, on their oraganic farm in No Va.

    Perhaps he can tell us, in a series of updates, how fruitful his enterprise and how much assistance he will need to break even and expand.

    We need a dose of reality here.

    John McCormick

    John McCormick

  70. Tyro says:


    WRT the first link, I think it’s very interesting, thank you for providing it. You say “it was proven that drought resistant crops are not drought resistant and yield 7% less when compared to natural crops”. That’s actually opposite to what your own source says, namely that GMO crops significantly outperformed under water stress and matched performance when water was sufficient::

    Transgenic plants performed significantly better under water stress, with consistently higher yields over conventional varieties. Importantly, there was no difference in performance between transgenic and controls in conditions of sufficient water, demonstrating that the technology has no yield-drag11. Multi-location trials have confirmed yield increases due to enhanced protection to drought to be 15-25 percent compared to non-transgenic controls

    As to why I presented a video on flood, I’d think that was clear – it was simple and visual. If you want more details, Joe Romm had a post just today about how climate change is resulting in more floods! It is an important issue and farmers need to confront this. In particular, they need all the tools available to solve this very difficult problem.

    The big question I keep coming back to is why do you think that eliminating huge swaths of potential options will somehow help matters. If there are some ideas of organic farming which is shown to be successful like crop rotation then I think we should adopt that into standard farming practice, but where is the case for cutting off so many options?

  71. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Prokaryotes, I’d say Tyro is a Monsatan troll, and he’s really earning his stipend. I suggest anybody interested in the manifest failings of GE crops visit the Institute of Science in Society. They have a wealth of information on this evil technology that is being shoved down our throats by weight of money. And Vandana Shiva has said a lot over the years on the truth of organic versus oil/chemical agri-business. Of course Tyro can cite ‘studies’ that prove that black is white and dung chocolate, and I’m sure he’d eat it and smile if the price was right. As for biochar, have you seen ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’? One of the gardens visited by Monty somethingorother was deep in the Amazon rain forest, and he didn’t have to dig deep to find the secret of its fertility, in a rainforest where soils are generally poor and nutrients recycled by fungi from falling leaves and dying trees. It was a rich, black layer of biochar, and we now know that the Amazon once supported vast populations fed by this means.

  72. Ed Hummel says:

    Tyro, I just happened to run through the rest of the posts since I wrote the other day, and I have to say that I agree with Mulga. I assumed that any rational person understands that there is no way that we’re going to support the present population, never mind main stream projections to 9 billion or some such number, with an unsustainable system based on inputs of fossil fuels at every step from field preparation to supper. So yes, I was implying that the population would have to be greatly reduced in order for sustainable, organic methods to be reasonable. However the reduction happens, it will happen since if we don’t figure out some way of getting back to pre-industrial numbers (1 billion max??) in a humane manner, nature will do it for us in all kinds of nasty ways that we will be helpless to prevent, no matter how smart or powerful we think we are.

  73. Tyro says:


    I understand that we have a problem feeding the world and this is going to get worse not better, both as the population grows and climate changes. That’s what the initial blog post is about. I think that it is increasingly urgent and important that we find solutions which are viable today and into the future. The cost of failure is death on a large scale. I hope that we both agree on all of this.

    I’m talking solutions and if you think that anyone else is giving any, please tell me what you’re seeing. If there’s some ideas in organic farming that are valuable then let’s talk about them. Which ideas are good and worth spreading? If people seriously believe that the entire suite of organic regulations are necessary then let’s talk – why must pesticides be “natural” rather than sustainable or soil-friendly? Why must we forbid all engineered genetic changes while permitting random ones, even those generated by megadoses of radiation? Why is dosing farms with metals like copper better than modern fungicides? Why is spreading manure and organic sludge (with it’s associated viral and bacterial infections) better than controlled applications of fertilizer?

    I don’t see any pro-organic arguments use any evidence or coherent argument except to attack the excesses of industrialized farming. Well guess what, organic farms are going industrial as well. If it’s industrialized farming and monocultures which are the problem then let’s say that and drop the organic excesses.

    However the reduction happens, it will happen since if we don’t figure out some way of getting back to pre-industrial numbers (1 billion max??) in a humane manner

    Do you really think using euphemisms like a population “reduction” can make what you’re talking about any less monstrous? China has had a 1 baby per family law for years and its population is still growing.

    I’ll admit, genocide is one way to solve the climate debates but if that’s your serious proposal, I think you’ve lost your place at the discussion.

    It boggles my mind how you can say things like this and then accuse me of being resistant to reason and shilling for corporations.

  74. Tyro says:


    Of course Tyro can cite ’studies’ that prove that black is white and dung chocolate, and I’m sure he’d eat it and smile if the price was right.

    When the only way to defend your position is to attack the evidence and science, you’ve forfeited the right to call others closed-minded and resistant to reason.