Category Archives: bees

3 Picks: GoSun Oven, Migratory Beekeeping, Kroger Saves

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) GoSun stove reinvents solar cooking: By Lloyd Alter. “The GoSun stove cooks your food in an evacuated tube, retaining almost 90% of the heat energy concentrated on it and reaching 550 degrees F in minutes. It is absolutely brilliant for a number of reasons, and is going to change the way we think about solar cooking…” This is a Kickstarter Project.

2) The Mind-Boggling Math of Migratory Beekeeping: By Ferris Jabr. “Some researchers, beekeepers and journalists have argued that migratory beekeeping is one of the primary reasons that so many bees die each winter as well as an explanation for colony collapse disorder (CCD)—the sudden and mysterious disappearance of an entire hive’s residents, save for the queen and a few stragglers. Bringing so many bees together all at once in Central Valley and other flowering sites guarantees that they will spread viruses, mites and fungi to one another as they collide midair and crawl over each other in the hives. Forcing bees to gather pollen and nectar from vast swaths of a single crop deprives them of the far more diverse and nourishing diet provided by wild habitats. The migration also continually boomerangs honeybees between times of plenty and borderline starvation.”

3) Companies Unplug From the Electric Grid, Delivering a Jolt to Utilities: By Rebecca Smith and Cassandra Sweet. “On a hill overlooking the Susquehanna River, two big wind turbines crank out electricity for Kroger Co.’s Turkey Hill Dairy in rural Lancaster County, Pa., allowing it to save 25% on its power bill for the past two years. Across the country, at a big food-distribution center Kroger also owns in Compton, Calif., a tank system installed this year uses bacteria to convert 150 tons a day of damaged produce, bread and other organic waste into a biogas that is burned on site to produce 20% of the electricity the facility uses. These two projects, plus the electric output of solar panels at four Kroger grocery stores, and some energy-conservation efforts are saving the Cincinnati-based grocery chain $160 million a year on electricity, said Denis George, its energy manager. That is a lot of money that isn’t going into the pockets of utilities….”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

3 Picks: Mob Grazing, Wild Bees, Magical Solution


Photo by Free Photo Fun @Flickr CC

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Mob Grazing as a Tool: By Fae Holin. This is the cover story for the current (online) edition of Hay and Forage Grower magazine. It is an update to the North Dakota farmer’s successful use of multiple cover crops, no-till, and mob grazing which produces healthy soil microbes, soil which retains moisture, and reduces the need for fertilizer while increasing productivity…. “The producers I’ve talked to who I feel are doing it well are the ones saying, ‘I use it as a tool.’” A mob strategy “needs to be very elastic, very responsive to what you are seeing.” (See previous N.D. farmers post on b.p.a.) I was also happy to see this report out of Nebraska about similar studies being done there, funded with state lottery money.

2) How Wild Bees Will Save Our Agricultural System: By Hillary Rosner. This SciAm article will bring you up to speed on the whole bee situation, including the fact that the U.S. Army has become involved because bee health is a national food security issue. We need to focus on habitat for the health of ALL bees, not just one bee, the honeybee…. “M’Gonigle thinks the honeybee crisis could be “a kind of blessing in disguise” because “it forces us to think, ‘What are we going to do to keep our food production going?’ In the long term, it might be that we look back and say, ‘Wow, this was a good thing, a good way of getting us to reprioritize and start thinking about conservation of native species.’” As I watch a mix of honeybees and their wild cousins dart among purple flowers in one of Kremen’s hedgerows, it is easy to see what he means. Our entire modern-day agricultural system has grown up with honeybees, so we have never had to really consider the fact that relying on a single pollinator is probably not sustainable.”

3) Wave goodbye to global warming, GM and pesticides: This article out of Ireland was sent to me by a valued reader. One should never fall for magical solutions … or, first sentences like this one. I’m including this for entertainment purposes only…. “A GROUNDBREAKING new Irish technology which could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough is set to change the face of modern farming forever. The technology – radio wave energised water – massively increases the output of vegetables and fruits by up to 30 per cent…”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

The Editors of Scientific American Take a Stance Against GMO Food Labeling

The September issue of Scientific American is all about food. I’m a subscriber, but unfortunately my issue hasn’t arrived, yet. With article titles like Processed Food: A 2-Million-Year History, Return of the Natives: How Wild Bees Will Save Our Agricultural System, The Truth about Genetically Modified Food, Science Reveals Why Calorie Counts Are All Wrong, and Invasive Species Menu of a World-Class Chef (about eating bugs), needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading my hard copy.

It is a significant development in the world of GMO awareness and journalism, that the Sci-Am editors have written “Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea – Mandatory labels for genetically modified foods are a bad idea”, telling us that 20-some states now have the issue on ballots. Below, I’ve chosen some excerpts.

Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people’s health [see “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food”]. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques—which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another—genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not. (The GMO-fearing can seek out “100 Percent Organic” products, indicating that a food contains no genetically modified ingredients, among other requirements.) … Americans who oppose genetically modified foods would celebrate a similar exclusion. Everyone else would pay a price. Because conventional crops often require morewater and pesticides than GMOs do, the former are usually more expensive. Consequently, we would all have to pay a premium on non-GMO foods—and for a questionable return. … Antagonism toward GMO foods also strengthens the stigma against a technology that has delivered enormous benefits to people in developing countries and promises far more.

Buying GMO free food is easy enough to do already without requiring the industry to label it GMO-Free. Just buy organically labeled food, buy from your favorite local organic farmer, or grow your own.

This Sci-Am article is one more nail in the coffin of those who are anti-GMO activists. In one of the Sci-Am articles, plant molecular biologist Robert Goldberg expresses despair at the fact that the arguments against GM haven’t changed in forty years.

GM activists are anti-science. They are anti- the rest of us. They are the anti-, anti-, anti- crowd in general. Often, they do not understand what they oppose. Genetic modification is the issue that separates the food production illusory idealists from those of us grounded in the real world of economics and science and most important of all, from the actual producer’s level.

One can support the science of GM and still want to see biodiversity, bee health, and farm methods which preserve our soil and keep our water clean.Those are separate issues. Those issues often rely upon policy choices or special interests, but please don’t blame GM science for that.

Some of the formerly religious on this issue are turning around, are starting to get it. We all know the Mark Lynas story, still less than a year old. I was quite surprised to see the prominent environmental site, Grist, recently hire Nathanael Johnson to ease the Grist readers into opening their minds about the debate, and he’s doing a nice job. But disappointingly, just this week I saw NYTs food writer, Mark Bittman, embrace the ongoing anti-, anti- of Tom Phillpot who writes anti- for Mother Jones. Not to be left behind by Grist, Philpott says that he’ll make an exception for using GMOs for oranges (only), following the widely read NYTs piece, “A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA” related to citrus greening, a disease wiping out our U.S. orange crops. And, Michael Pollan continues to reinforce the anti-science thinking of these two influential writers (Philpott and Bittman) via Twitter.

Well, guess what? Citrus greening isn’t the only disease or pest threatening crops that feed humans. New threats surface constantly and they are quietly dealt with by our scientists, too often unappreciated and taken for granted by the vast majority of us.

Let’s face it. Most of us are spoiled rotten when it comes to getting food, as compared to any other age in human history. Most of us are no longer hands on when it comes to growing food. We just drive to the store, make our selection from the infinite choices we find there, come home and prepare it, or eat what others prepare for us. And we like it that way. Yet, somehow we feel entitled to go after the real-world producers who do the sweaty work and take on the countless risks involved that are required to actually grow our food.

Oppose this technology and there is blood on your hands. Science without GM lacks the potential to feed as many people, and feed them as nutritiously. We need to look no further than the very unfortunate Philippines story from two weeks ago, when activists destroyed the GM rice trials of Golden Rice, a rice modified to produce Vitamin A to prevent blindness and death of children in vulnerable populations.

GM technology is advancing rapidly and can help solve food growing challenges such as weather resilience, improved nutrition, yields, pest and disease resilience.

Good environmentalists should support genetic modification. And why should the rest of us pay higher food prices because activists oppose this important science and want GM labeling?

ALSO SEE: Biotech Crop Adoption Around the World and a Statement about GM Activism, and Synthetic Biology – What Does it Mean for Agriculture?