Crop Neutrality; Pesticides and Sperm Count; Star Trek's Vision of Food - Food Matters May 2015

Crop neutrality
Synopsis: Today’s farm subsidies, and it seems farm subsidies are necessary in our current economic realities, favor the narrow commodities of corn, soy, wheat, cotton and a few others  - despite clear indications that the health of Americans, and their farms, benefit from crop diversity. To accomplish a realistic change in the system that moves us to a more diverse array of crops, the author recommends that we gradually move our crop programs from crop specific subsidies to crop insurance that allows farmers to protect against both crop failures and price movements. This change will reverse policies that favor particular commodities and will encourage farmers to incorporate much more diversity both reducing their reliance on a few crops and bringing a broader array of products to the market.
Pesticides and sperm count
Synopsis: In a study published by the journal Human Reproduction, sperm counts for males consuming fruits and vegetables known to have high quantities of pesticides are 50% lower than for those who eat the smallest amount of these items. The high pesticide items? Apples, strawberries, celery and spinach. For those looking to have a family (and maybe those worried about testicular cancer whose incidence is increasing), maybe the reasons to buy true organic produce just got stronger.
California Drought – Apocalyptic Schadenfreude
Synopsis: First, for those who forgot, schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. In this case, the author chastises those who look on the epic drought in California as the just desserts (deserts?) for a cushy California lifestyle. The “schadenfreuders” believe that living in less temperate climes is more sustainable and that it is little wonder that Californians ran out of water – there is no way California can support 40 million people. The author points out that 80% of California’s water is used for agriculture. California’s water problem is a problem for the entire nation as the central valley alone, which takes up 1% of the landmass of the US, produces 25% of the food the nation eats. Almonds alone use 10% of the California’s water supply while all residential use is only 12%. More efficient water use in agriculture – and this resonates throughout the West – must be addressed. The almond is targeted as the devil in California’s water woes, but few know that alfalfa is the state’s largest crop and biggest water user. One almond uses 1 gallon of water, but it is a big boon to the economy and is so profitable that it attracts owners the likes of TIAA-CREF who boast they are now one of the globes top 5 almond producers.  Alfalfa and cotton acres are shrinking but almonds are expanding. Economics certainly drives the water issues. See two articles below.
Are we getting closer to Star Trek’s vision of food?
In small labs throughout the country, and especially Northern California, really smart guys are tinkering with DNA- they call it hacking DNA- to create many unusual things. We remember the cloned lambs, but these scientists, who are not working for large corporations but rather in communal labs in their spare time, are able to sequence DNA cheaply and freely create. Apparently some of these nerds are vegans that really miss cheese. So they are working on, and apparently close to, creating cow’s milk without any animal parts. Transport me back to France – I love the cheese from Normandy.

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