Jon Foley Envisions a "Third Way" for Agriculture

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Genetically Modified Foods and Human Health: What a Bore!

 Here's another refreshing Voice in the Food Wilderness.  Dr. Doug Powell, Professor of Food Safety from Kansas State University and publisher of barfblog  If you are bored with all the tired,  predictable GMO food hysteria look into this blog for a refreshingly humorous, but on target source of reliable information on that topic, and all orbits of the food safety universe for that matter.  Their rallying cry seems to be " We have a right to know if food will make us barf".

I think I like this bunch.

Anti-Biotech Terrorists Ruining Farmers Livelihood, Destroying Wilderness and Starving the World

So you think farming is "Natural"?  That was your first mistake.  There is nothing "Natural" about farming except in the overactive dreams of some armchair utopian "Naturalists".  You know the ones who proclaim, usually from the refuge of carpeted, air-conditioned comfort, that Big Farm is trying to poison us all and render the planet uninhabitable and, all the while,  may never have successfully tended a flower pot themselves. The first act of pulling out a weed by hand was the beginning of the long dark "Un-Natural"ascent of mankind out of the desperation of hunting and gathering and into the light of civilization. 
"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization."
- Daniel Webster

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monsanto Buys Into Beeologics: New Horizons in a Biologically Based Agriculture

Beeologics, an Israeli company, that has developed RNAi based commercial products aimed at stemming the tide of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees has recently been bought by the Monsanto company.  This is an exciting development in moving this new RNA interference genetic technology to the forefront of agricultural applications in pest management. 
RNAi technology is, in a nutshell, the very specific silencing of gene protein expression and looks like it will be a good fit in medical and agricultural pest management applications.  In CCD, the Beeologics product Remembee is used to shut down virus replication of the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, which is thought to be one of the major components of CCD. 
RNAi has very specific activity on the target disease or insect, non-target organisms are unaffected and can rest easy. RNAi probably has the potential for a more taylored, prescriptive activity than any other pest management technology available right now.  Check out the cartoon video that gives a good elementary understanding of RNAi, entertaining too.  Excellent illustration.

RNAi technology, another installment in the ongoing development of a high yield, biologically sound agriculture.  The potential is great for providing the needed increases in food production while preserving wildlife habitat and environmental integrity for future generations to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Azera: A New Botanical Insecticide from MGK for Organic Growers Receives EPA Approval

A new insect control alternative for growers, Azera, was registered with the EPA in September 2011. It also has approval with the National Organic Program and OMRI for use in organic systems. Azera, a product of MGK,  is a blend of two botanically derived active ingredients; azadirachtin and pyrethrin. Both of these natural chemicals on their own have proven track records of efficacy against a host of insect pests and together in a formulated pre-mix they compliment each other in a broader spectrum of insect control scenarios.

Pyrethrins are extracted from a flower that is a member of the chrysanthemum family, Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium, sometimes called the "Power Daisy". The flowers have been traditionally harvested from temperate regions that have well-drained volcanic soils in East Africa, China, Australia and Tasmania. 

Pyrethrins affect nerve transmission and provide a quick knockdown kill of a wide range of insects including aphids, caterpillars, beetles, flies, leafhoppers and others. (See Azera Label).   Other desireable characteristics of pyrethrins include low mammalian toxicity and relatively rapid breakdown in the environment.

 Azadirachtin, the other component of Azera, also has a long history of use in insect management.  The active ingredient is found in the seeds and fruit of the neem tree, native to India and grown in other tropical areas of the world.  The oil is pressed from neem fruit and seeds and azadirachtin is then extracted from the oil. 

Azadirachtin is slower in taking down insect pests, acting as a growth regulator inhibiting the molting process for immature insect stages and also as a feeding deterrent for some adult insects. The spectrum of insect control is similar to that of the pyrethrins.  Non-target impacts are also minimal with azadirachtin and the residual activity is short.

According to the label, Azera contains 1.4% pyrethrins and 1.2% azadirachtin and should prove to be an excellent addition to any organic pest control program. 

One caution with it's use is to avoid spraying when bees are a concern, the pyrethrin component is especially problematic in that case as it is also toxic to pollinators.  In fact,The Rachel Carson Council, Inc. listed Azera as one of it's "Products of Recent Concern" due to the bee hazard.  Can't escape the bee consideration even with organic products sometimes.

All-in-all with the combination of two different modes of action, enhanced efficacy, short residual, and low non-target impact, Azera should provide a solid one-two punch that will be a very useful tool for organic insect pest management.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green: Who Will Preside Over the New Cultural " Green Movement?

We've got an existential environmental problem. There is a disconnect between the perceived prosecution of the new "Green Movement" and reality. 
Let me tell you what I mean...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Flying Foxes Are After the Pink Ladies

This post is from the department of " Beyond My Universe".  Until today the prospect of flying foxes or fruit bats devouring orchard fruit had never entered into my consciousness.  Ground hogs, voles and deer were the only furry pests that I  had ever encountered in an orchard in the northeastern U. S.  An occasional land fox could be seen darting through the rows but they are always on my side, being excellent rodent predators.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bt Cotton in India: Is There a Problem?

Will someone please view these video clips and remind me why Bt cotton is such a wicked, evil, deception.  Why it is such an egregious, unconscionable exploitation of resource-poor farmers in India.  Oh, and also why it is that resource-poor farmers in India are adopting Bt cotton at a record clip, well over 80%.  Can't seem to reconcile these things.  Thanks.

Clip 1 - Before Bt cotton - If this doesn't make you cringe....


Here are some facts
 from 2010 ISAAA Report:

"In India, stellar growth continued with 6.3 million farmers growing 9.4 million hectares of Bt cotton, equivalent to 86% adoption rate."