Category Archives: Science

Small organic farms can (already) feed the world

Research, including studies presented at the conference in Istanbul, is showing that organic agriculture can deliver reliably high yields ”and that organic fields thrive in the face of disaster and duress, where chemical-reliant crops falter. Organic fields, for example, fare significantly better than chemically managed ones in the face of extreme weather, such as droughts or floods.

Anna Lappe, for takepart, 4 November 2014, Yes, Organic Farming Can Feed the World, Continue reading

Short-term profit misusing technical know-how beyond understanding of nature –Cosmos

Another Cosmos script Neil deGrasse Tyson read maybe he should have paid more attention to regarding the situation with short-sighted corporate monopolies misusing cherry-picked science to promote their profits at the expense of all of us and the only planet we’ve got.

Talking about the fall of the ancient Mesopotamia civilization, the script Dr. Tyson read for Cosmos Episode 11, The Immortals, says: Continue reading

N.deG. Tyson falls for the misuse of the authority of science that he decried in Cosmos

In his recent misstatements about GMO foods, Neil deGrasse Tyson has fallen for what he called the misuse of the authority of science, in Episode 7 of Cosmos, the Clean Room, which recounted Clair Patterson’s discovery of lead pollution by leaded gasoline. That use of lead had been promoted and defended by Robert E. Kehoe’s “scientific” papers.

The script Tyson read (but did not write) said: Continue reading

Science that’s proven safe by not the very same companies that stand to gain by its approval –Rachel Parent

14 year old Rachel Parent destroys a pro-Monsanto-GMO TV host on every point, from science to his ad hominem attacks against her. He twists, he turns, he avoids admitting when he’s defeated, and he loses bigtime. No summary can do this justice.

Mat Agorist posted for 30 August 2013 about the CNBC Lang & O’Leary show of 31 July 2013, 14 Year Old, Rachel Parent, Anti-GMO Activist, Destroys Establishment Shill, Kevin O’Leary, On Air

Meet Rachel Parent, a 14 year old activist, who knows her stuff! This brave girl should serve as a role model for all teens. If 10 percent of children had this girl’s drive and knowledge, we wouldn’t even be having this debate right now.

In this video Ms. Parent braves the establishment hack, Kevin O’Leary, and does outstanding. O’Leary hammers out the industry talking points like the good shill he is and Ms. Parent slams each and every one. Bravo Rachel Parent, thanks for doing what you do.

If you like the work of Rachel Parent and want to help, please visit her website at

Here’s the video:

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Monsanto crops: same as and different from natural crops?

If Monsanto’s crops are indistinguishable from non-GMO, aren’t natural crops prior art invalidating MON’s patents?

Ethan A. Huff wrote for 26 June 2013, Monsanto hypocrisy: GMOs supposedly identical to natural crops on safety, but unique for patent enforcement,

The biotechnology industry has pulled a fast one with regards to the legitimacy of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Straddling both sides of the fence, multinational corporations like Monsanto continually claim that their GM monstrosities are “substantially equivalent” to natural crops when it comes to their safety. And yet at the very same time, this ilk also insists that its products are uniquely different from natural crops when it comes to enforcing its patents, a clearly hypocritical and duplicitous stance that proves the illegitimacy of the entire GMO business model.

On its corporate website, Monsanto clearly expresses its opinion that Continue reading

Native plants in your yard for native wildlife

Nature is not something out there, apart from people. It never was, and nowadays people have built and farmed and clearcut so much that wildlife species from insects to birds are in trouble. In south Georgia people may think that our trees make a lot of wildlife habitat. Actually, most of those trees are planted pine plantations with very limited undergrowth, and in town many yards are deserts of grass plus exotic species that don’t support native birds. Douglas Tallamy offers one solution: turn yards into wildlife habitat by growing native species. Since we are as always remodeling nature, we might as well do it so as to feed the rest of nature and ourselves, and by the way get flood prevention and possibly cleaner water as well, oh, and fewer pesticides to poison ourselves.

Douglas Tallamy makes a clear and compelling case in Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

…it is not yet too late to save most of the plants and animals that sustain the ecosystems on which we ourselves depend. Second, restoring native plants to most human-dominated landscapes is relatively easy to do.

Some of you may wonder why native species are so important? Don’t we have more deer than we can shoot? Maybe so, but we have far fewer birds of almost every species than we did decades and only a few years ago.

Some may wonder: aren’t exotic species just as good as native ones, if deer and birds can eat them? Actually, no, because many exotic species are poisonous Japanese climbing fern on native Smilax to native wildlife, and because invasive exotics crowd out natives and reduce species diversity. From kudzu to Japanese climbing fern, exotic invasives are bad for wildlife and may also promote erosion and flooding by strangling native vegetation.

All plants are not created equal, particularly in their ability to support wildlife. Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends. My central message is that unless we restore native plants to our suburban ecosystems, the future of biodiversity in the United States is dim.

Tallamy had an epiphany when he and his wife moved to 10 acres in Pennsylvania in 2000:

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Higher climate temperatures mean more and faster tree deaths

Higher average temperatures acres of pine trees dead due to pine beetles mean much more frequent droughts and trees dying faster in droughts because of the temperatures. That plus pine beetles, according to research from 2009. Forestry is Georgia’s second largest industry in terms of employment and wages and salaries, more than $28 billion a year according to the Georgia Forestry Commission, plus an estimated $36 billion a year in ecosystem services such as water filtration, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and aesthetics, not to mention hunting and fishing. Climate change matters to Georgia’s forests and to Georgia.

The paper appeared 13 April 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, Temperature sensitivity of drought-induced tree mortality portends increased regional die-off under global-change-type drought, by Henry D. Adams, Maite Guardiola-Claramonte, Greg A. Barron-Gafford, Juan Camilo Villegas, David D. Breshears, Chris B. Zou, Peter A. Troch, and Travis E. Huxman, 106(17) 7063-7066, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901438106.

Fig. 1. Water relations progression and death dates.

All drought trees in the warmer treatment died before any of the drought trees in the ambient treatment (on average 18.0 vs. 25.1 weeks, P <0.01; Fig. 1A).

They say warmer trees dying faster in drought wasn’t due to a difference in amount of water. Instead, they infer the warmer trees couldn’t breathe.

Combined, our results provide experimental evidence that piñon pines attempted to avoid drought-induced mortality by regulating stomata and foregoing further photosynthesis but subsequently succumbed to drought due to carbon starvation, not sudden hydraulic failure. Importantly, we isolate the effect of temperature from other climate variables and biotic agents Fig. 3. Drought frequency and die-off projections. and show that the effect of warmer temperature in conjunction with drought can be substantial.

Our results imply that future warmer temperatures will not only increase background rates of tree mortality (13, 16), but also result in more frequent widespread vegetation die-off events (3, 35) through an exacerbation of metabolic stress associated with drought. With warmer temperatures, droughts of shorter duration—which occur more frequently—would be sufficient to cause widespread die-off.

How much more frequently? They calculated an estimate for that, too: five times more frequently. Of course, that’s for the specific kinds of forests they were studying, and the exact number may vary, but the general trend is clear: higher temperatures mean more frequent droughts, like drought in south Georgia the year-long drought we just experienced in south Georgia.

pine beetle tube

This projection is conservative because it is based on the historical drought record and therefore does not include changes in drought frequency, which is predicted to increase concurrently with warming (2, 37—39). In addition, populations of tree pests, such as bark beetles, which are often the proximal cause of mortality in this species and others, are also expected to increase with future warming (7, 9, 38).

Bark beetles, such as the ones that bored into this 19 inch slash pine and spread from there to twenty others I had to cut down to prevent further spread of the pine beetles. What happens when pine beetles spread is what you see in the first picture in this post: acres and acres of dead red pine trees. slash pine killed by pine beetles Monoculture slash pine plantations may show this effect most clearly, but look around here, and you’ll see red dead loblolly and longleaf pines, too.

The article is saying that if the beetles don’t get the trees weakened by droughts that will be much more frequent, the trees will die more quickly of suffocation, because the temperature is higher. Higher temperatures is something that should concern every Georgian in our state where forestry is the second largest industry and our forests protect our wildlife and the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.


Crop rotation for profit

Want better yields and the same or more profit? Stop buying pesticides, rotate more crops over longer periods, and mix in animals. Yet another study confirms this. Oh, and a hundred times less disease-causing pesticides in streams, and presumably also less pesticides in the food going to market.

Mark Bittman wrote for NYTimes today, A Simple Fix for Farming,

The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

Figure 3. Multiple indicators of cropping system performance.

The paper’s Figure 3 (above) illustrates that labor increased with crop rotation length, but so did yield, and profit remained the same or better. How can this be? Continue reading

Pesticide studies hitting a nerve

There’s quite the controversy about that recent study that shows that “inert” ingredients in Roundup are actually toxic. Apparently Dr. Séralini hit a nerve.

Some critics are making up stuff:

EFSA logo “The EFSA requested access to the raw data” —Jon Entine

That turns out not to be true:

No. EFSA has not requested raw data for the study as this information is not required at this stage of the review process.” —EFSA.

Monsanto logo Who previously actually did refuse to release raw data?

Monsanto only released the raw data after a legal challenge from Greenpeace, the Swedish Board of Agriculture and French anti-GM campaigners.

Here’s the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)’s rather vague statement about the recent study and EFSA’s FAQ clarifying that statement.

Here’s a much more substantive response from scientists supporting the Séralini cell toxicity study. The last item of that response:

GMWatch logo CRITICISM: GM has been in the food chain for years in the US. Why isn’t there evidence of people and animals suffering more tumours or dying earlier? Why aren’t Americans “dropping like flies?”

RESPONSE: Most GM crops are fed to farm animals, which have relatively short lives either for meat or dairy production and so there is probably not enough time for tumours to develop.

Americans have been eating GM food (soya, maize) for only a relatively short time in significant quantities in processed foods. So it may be too short a period for long-term effects such as tumour formation to be noticeable. However, we should also note that there is no labelling of GM foods in the USA and no monitoring of the population for ill-effects, so if GM food were causing ill health this would be going undetected.

Ill effects of Roundup went mostly unstudied until scientists in places like Austria (the first study above) and France (the second study) and Canada and Continue reading

Roundup causes DNA damage even when vastly diluted

Roundup (you know, the stuff that’s sprayed on cotton, soybeans, peanuts, and corn and drifts across the road) causes DNA damage even when diluted down to 450 times less than what’s used in agriculture, according to a scientific study from February 2012.

Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells, by Verena J. Koller, Maria Fürhacker, Armen Nersesyan, Miroslav Mišík, Maria Eisenbauer and Siegfried Knasmueller, Archives of Toxicology Volume 86, Number 5 (2012), 805-813, DOI: 10.1007/s00204-012-0804-8.

Glyphosate (G) is the largest selling herbicide worldwide; the most common formulations (Roundup, R) contain polyoxyethyleneamine as main surfactant. Recent findings indicate that G exposure may cause DNA damage and cancer in humans….

Since we found genotoxic effects after short exposure to concentrations that correspond to a 450-fold dilution of spraying used in agriculture, our findings indicate that inhalation may cause DNA damage in exposed individuals.

It’s probably not even the “active” ingredient, glyphosate, that’s causing this DNA damage, more likely one of its “inert” ingredients.

Sayer Ji wrote for Greenmedinfo 15 October 2012, Research: Roundup Herbicide Toxicity Vastly Underestimated,

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