Tuesday, May 1, 2012

RONNIE CUMMINS: DEforestation/REforestation, Organic Farming vs. Factory Farming, Labeling GMOs, Food Revolution Summit

RONNIE CUMMINS brings to us information on DEforestation and REforestation Traditional Organic Farming versus Factory Farming. What is keeping us from changing, release of Methane from cattle. How we farm organic agriculture Public Health Crisis, cultural revolution, Political Action, Label it (GMOs), passing laws will make a difference and more...


Words of the Food Revolution Summit:

 Ronnie Cummins, the founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association, a non-profit network of 850,000 consumers dedicated to protecting organic standards and promoting healthy, just, and sustainable agriculture. Cummins is quite possibly the leading advocate for organic foods on the planet, spoke next.  Some of the highlights I took from his commentary included:
“Many consumers purchase ‘natural’ products and think they are like organic but just cheaper. But natural means very little in the marketplace. Most so-called ‘natural’ foods are not only grown or produced using pesticides, but also contain genetically engineered ingredients.”
“The USDA is supposed to represent all of the people of the United States, and it has a $100 billion budget.  That is our money that they are using.  But almost nothing in that budget is geared towards organics, sustainable farming, or traditional farming.  We need to stop subsidizing unsustainable industrialized agriculture.”
“Is organic agriculture capable of providing the bountiful harvests that we need?  In the developing world, where a majority of the world’s people live, organic farms are 2-5 times more productive than chemical-intensive agriculture, and in the industrialized world we can produce about the same yield per acre, without all the chemicals.”
...we’ll look at organic foods. In recent years, the market for organics has exploded. Are they an over-priced scam, or fundamental to your health and the health of our world?  And what is the difference between “organic” and “natural”?

Here is a small introductory excerpt of the interview:

Ocean Robbins:   Welcome to The Food Revolution Summit where we explore how you can heal your body and your world with food. This is Ocean Robbins and I am joined by my dad, John Robbins in welcoming our guest Ronnie Cummins. Ronnie Cummins is Founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association or OCA, which is a non-profit US-based network of 850,000 consumers dedicated to safeguarding organic standards and promoting a healthy, just, and sustainable system of agriculture and commerce. The OCA works on national and global campaigns that integrate public education, marketplace pressure, media work, litigation, and grassroots lobbying. Ronnie is editor of organicconsumers.org which has 30,000 visitors daily and the Organic Vice Newsletter which has 270,000 subscribers. His most recent book is Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers. Ronnie’s one of the leading champions for food safety in the world today. We’re so excited to have him on this call and here to interview Ronnie Cummins is my dad, John Robbins.

John Robbins:    Thank you Ocean and I join Ocean and all of our listeners, Ronnie, in welcoming you, and in congratulating you and in thanking you for your great work. Some of our interviewees are speaking about the connection between the food on people’s plates and our deteriorating life support systems, the really profound ecological impact of industrial agriculture. You have significant expertise in that; I read on much of what you’ve written about that, I’m always inspired by your passion and your clarity. Can you give our listeners some support in making that connection in terms of their daily choices?

Ronnie Cummins: Yeah so one thing that many of us are concerned about, in fact I think it’s the most serious issue humans have ever faced in our 100,000 year evolution 100 to 200,000 year evolution is this climate disruption. We simply have too much greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, black soot. If you look back at the history of the earth, the geological history of the earth there used to be 2 to 3 times as much carbon matter in the soil as there is right now. And where is that carbon matter now that used to be in our soils, that used to be in our forests, that used to be in our grasslands? Well, a lot of it is up in our atmosphere right now, so much of it that it has disrupted climate and threatens to detonate a weatherlike global warming which could literally exterminate all life on earth. And why is there so little carbon on the earth relative to say even 250 years ago in the beginning of the industrial revolution when there used to be two to three times as much carbon in the soil as now?

Ronnie Cummins: Yeah so one thing that many of us are concerned about, in fact I think it’s the most serious issue humans have ever faced in our 100,000 year evolution 100 to 200,000 year evolution is this climate disruption. We simply have too much greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, black soot. If you look back at the history of the earth, the geological history of the earth there used to be 2 to 3 times as much carbon matter in the soil as there is right now. And where is that carbon matter now that used to be in our soils, that used to be in our forests, that used to be in our grasslands? Well, a lot of it is up in our atmosphere right now, so much of it that it has disrupted climate and threatens to detonate a weatherlike global warming which could literally exterminate all life on earth. And why is there so little carbon on the earth relative to say even 250 years ago in the beginning of the industrial revolution when there used to be two to three times as much carbon in the soil as now?       
         
Well first of all we whacked down a large portion of the world’s forest and we have got to stop doing this, especially tropical rain forests. These are the wanes of the planet. If we don’t stop deforesting the earth and of course the major cause of deforestation nowadays is not timber companies; the major cause of deforestation are giant agribusiness corporations clean forests to plant palm oil plantations, to plant genetically engineered soybeans, giant cattle ranches are whacking down the tropical forests in Brazil and elsewhere to run cattle. We’ve got to stop the deforestation, in fact we’ve got to reforest the world.
The second thing is that we’ve got to get away from this gigantic overproduction and overconsumption of meat and animal products. The grasslands of the United States where the buffalo used to roam contained perennial plants, grasses that had roots that went 14-feet or more down into the ground. These held a tremendous amount of the carbon organic matter that’s now up in the atmosphere. We simply cannot be consuming meat and animal products at the rate we’re consuming it, where it comes from these giant pools of filthy animal factories. The industrialized countries have got to drastically reduce their consumption of meat and animal products. And what animals that are raised, need to be raised in the traditional, organic way eating grass for their whole lives and far smaller numbers of them.

The third point is that our you know we got 385,000,000 acres of cultivated cropland in the United States right now. The way that agriculture was carried out for 10,000 years was an organic-type of cultivation. Starting about 100 years ago, and really accelerating about 60 years ago, chemical companies realized that if you put toxic chemicals and toxic fertilizer on the soil you can get a short-term boost in production. So what we have literally done by pouring 12,000 pounds of toxic pesticides and 24,000,000 pounds of chemical fertilizers on the soil is we’ve killed the living earth. In other words, the soil food web below the surface of the earth, its use to retain all this carbon organic matter has been destroyed; it’s released it up into the atmosphere. In addition, nitrous oxide which is 2 to 300 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide is released from using this chemical fertilizer. Methane which is 20-50 times more damaging to the atmosphere and climate stability than carbon dioxide is released from these giant animal farms, and from the overproduction of animals for meat that are belching and farting and so on.

So we can sequester most of that excess carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide that’s in the atmosphere and restore the stability of the climate simply by changing the way that we eat, the way that we farm, and by treating mother earth with respect in regard to stop cutting down all the forests and let’s replant what we have. Just to point out, if we don’t stop doing this, not only is the climate going to become more and more chaotic but we’re literally killing the oceans because the ocean is trying to absorb all this excess greenhouse gas from the atmosphere but has reached capacity. The ocean is now getting more acidic, the plankton which represent the fundamental base of the food chain in the oceans is dying off at an alarming rate. So we’re heading for disaster, not only for humans but for every living organism if we don’t turn things around. It’s not just the coal plants, it’s not just the fossil fuel burning cars, it’s not just our totally insulated buildings and our overuse of things like air conditioning, it is what we eat every day and how we farm. We got to get back to the traditional ways of organic agriculture animal husbandry if we’re going to raise animals, and reforestation or we are going to be a species that is going to vanish from the earth.

John Robbins:    We thank you for those efforts. Meanwhile Monsanto and its allies ar telling us that only through genetically engineering seeds and animals can we feed the world. The meat industry is telling us that in order to feed our growing numbers we have to raise chickens in the dark with their breasts so heavy they can’t walk, and we’ve got to cram hogs into cages barely larger than the size of their bodies. All of these interests seem to depend on us believing that organic agriculture, food production done in harmony with the natural world can’t really feed the population. So the question I want to ask you is, is organic agriculture capable of supplying the bountiful harvests we need?

Ronnie Cummins: Yes well 100’s of studies that have been reviewed by the United Nations Foods and Agriculture Organization and other scientific research bodies have shown that where the majority of the people live, that is in the developing world not only are organic farming methods more productive but they’re 2 to 10 times more productive than these chemical agriculture plantations. So that’s where the majority of the people in the world live. Now in the industrialized world, where a minority of us live what long-term studies by the Rodale Institute and others have shown is that organic agriculture basically can produce at the same level as chemical intensive, genetically engineered agriculture. So in the industrialized world we’ll be able to produce as much without the collateral damage of organic, and in the developing world we’ll be able to produce 2 to 10 times as much. So the answer to that is not only can organic agriculture feed the world, it’s the only way it can feed the world. One really important point in the industrialized world when you have adverse weather conditions of drought or heavy rainfall which seems to be the new norm unfortunately, organic agriculture vastly out produces chemical agriculture under adverse weather conditions. And why is that? It’s because with organic agriculture the soil is alive, it’s like a sponge, it retains up to 40% more water and when you do have these torrential downpours it doesn’t just all wash away taking the fertile topsoil with it. It is soaked up in the soil. So given the fact that we’re going to go through unfortunately 100’s of years of weather which is disruptive, which is not predictable in the way it has been, we’re going to have to utilize organic agriculture. A second point is that the chemical inputs which are used so heavily in the industrialized world, the chemical fertilizer, the pesticides, the fossil fuel intensive systems of irrigation and long distance food processing and transportation, and cooling; we’re not going to be able afford to use fossil fuel the way that its being used in our food and farming system. So all these point to a future in which most of us are going to be farmers or else gardeners like we used to be before the turn of the twentieth century. We’re going to be eating local, healthy, nutritious, mainly plant-based food that’s produced within 100 mile radius of where we live

John Robbins: Well that will probably make us a healthier, and leaner, and brighter people, and certainly the only way that is sustainable. Today though more than half of the sewage that’s produced in this country ends up being treated and applied to gardens and farmland. Sewage sludge, it’s sometimes presented as a safe fertilizer, something like barnyard manure and euphemistically called things like biosolids or even I’ve seen it called biosolids compost but of course as you know it contains many industrialized chemicals, it contains medical waste, bacteria and viruses that are resistant to antibiotics...   







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