Sustainable Agriculture News Bulletin
Volume 2, Number 11
July 23, 1993
MONSANTO REPORTS RECORD SALES OF ROUNDUP
In spite of severe flooding that has disrupted crop production in the
Midwest, the chemical giant Monsanto is reporting record sales of
their Roundup herbicide this spring. The company's second quarter
income doubled to $200 million, up from $105 million a year earlier.
While the company makes many products ranging from artificial
sweeteners to carpet fibers, it is the Roundup product that boosted
company earnings over the past year. "The primary source of our
outstanding performance this quarter is the agricultural group's
family of Roundup herbicides," said company chair Richard Mahoney.
He said the reason behind the jump in Roundup sales was the move
to conservation tillage methods by more U.S. farmers. Minimum and
no-till techniques reduce input and labor costs as well as soil erosion.
On the other hand, farmers generally are forced to use herbicides
like Roundup to control the weeds in their fields.
Source: Scott McMurray, "Monsanto Earnings Soar on Record Sales of
Roundup," WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 21, 1993.
DEVELOPING WORLD NEEDS MORE THAN SUSTAINABLE
In a recent article in PANOSCOPE, Miguel Altieri, a Chilean agronomist
teaching at the University of California-Berkeley, said that Third
World farmers need more than just a sustainable method of
agricultural production. Altieri argues that as sustainable agriculture
has caught on in the North, larger development agencies and
research organizations have sought to export the philosophy to the
South. He writes that sustainable methods of agricultural production
are undesirable when pursued within a system based on
privatization and the free market, which these agencies also promote.
He calls sustainable agriculture a "technical fix" that substitutes
biological inputs for chemical ones while ignoring the needs of
farmers in the Third World. "A truly sustainable agriculture
demands more than just changes in inputs," Altieri writes.
Sustainable agriculture needs land reforms to support small-scale
producers and farm machinery needs to be redesigned to handle
mixed cropping techniques preferred by many smaller farmers
throughout the developing world. "It [also] requires a change in the
political and economic priorities which determine prices of crops and
land, encourage corporate ownership and control of farm production
... and promote production for export rather than domestic
consumption," he says.
Miguel Altieri, "The Market Seizes on Organic Farming," PANOSCOPE,
EC PROPOSAL TO CUT METHYL BROMIDE 25% NOT GOOD
A European Commission proposal to cut the production and supply of
the soil fumigant and ozone depleter methyl bromide by 25% by the
year 1996 does not go far enough, according to the PESTICIDE
ACTION NETWORK'S (PAN) UPDATES SERVICE. PAN says that the
reduction can be achieved using current emissions-reducing
equipment, which means the chemical can still be used at its present
level. The organization denies claims by the chemical industry that
there are no alternatives to methyl bromide. Crop rotation and
steam sterilization are already being used in many EC member states.
"If the EC starts planning now, a coordinated research program could
support an orderly-phase out of remaining methyl bromide uses by
the year 2000, if not sooner," PAN concludes.
Source: "Industry Dilutes EC Proposal to Cut Methyl Bromide Use,"
PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK'S UPDATES SERVICE, July 14, 1993.
FLOODING EXPECTED TO INCREASE RATE OF SOIL EROSION
With much of Midwestern farmland under water, experts are
predicting some of the worst soil erosion in years. "This is one of the
most severe years we've seen for erosion," said Jim Jensen of the
Iowa State University Extension Service. In fact, he said, some fields
have lost more than 20 tons of soil per acre in a single rain. That
level is four times greater than what is considered a "tolerable" level
of erosion. In addition to erosion, the floods are washing farm
chemicals and animal wastes into streams and rivers. While the
large volume of water will eventually dilute the chemicals, the
erosion may provide farmers with an incentive to use more
chemicals next spring in an attempt to replenish their soil. No-till
farming has helped to ebb the erosion process in Iowa in particular,
according to Jeffrey Vonk of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS).
Earlier in the decade, less severe storms had actually caused more
erosion, he said. "This isn't great news to the farmers who are
suffering, but at least there's some indication that we're having some
success curbing erosion," said Vonk.
Last week, conservation groups said that the loss of wetlands has
severely increased the risk of flooding after heavy rains. "The water
goes higher and goes downstream faster," said Kevin Coyle of
American Rivers, because flood-control projects "have tried to
engineer away the flood plain." He recommended allowing the flood
waters to take over some farmland and compensate farmers. Bret
Hulsey of the Sierra Club recommended changing the scope of flood
insurance programs to focus on moving people and buildings out of
areas that frequently flood. "That's probably the best investment for
the American people, convert these low-lying areas to farm land,
wildlife preserves or green spaces," he said. George Halford of the
Army Corp of Engineers said the incessant rain, not flood control
projects, were to blame for the summer floods. Dave Lane of the
American Farm Bureau Federation agreed, saying, "With the rains we
got this spring, there'd still be a flood." The Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee is expected to hold a wetlands hearing in
the next few weeks.
Source: Scott McMurray, "Midwest Deluge Thwarts Efforts to Protect
Soil," WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 20, 1993; Charles Abbott, "Give
River More Room, Conservationists Say," REUTER, July 15, 1993.
FLORIDA FARMERS REQUEST DUPONT DOCUMENTS IN
Attorneys for several Florida growers who are suing the DuPont
chemical company for crop damage allegedly caused by its Benlate
product have asked the Broward County Court to hear arguments
aimed at getting the company to release several internal documents.
The Florida Department of Agriculture has been fighting with
company officials for months in an attempt to get them to release
documents it says proves DuPont knew about the potential harmful
effects of Benlate. Last month, DuPont rejected a subpoena by
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Crawford, saying the state
lacks the authority to force the company to produce documents or
company officials for a hearing. The first of several Benlate trials is
already underway in Georgia. The first Florida trial is expected to
begin in August.
Source: "Florida Growers Press DuPont for Documents," REUTER, July
EXPANDING URBAN AREAS TAKING OVER FARMLAND
At a news conference last week, the American Farmland Trust (AFT)
said that urban sprawl is taking over some of the nation's most
valuable farmland. Farmers are under increasing pressure to sell
their land to developers, said AFT President Frank Grossi. He said he
hopes the appointment of Richard Rominger as Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture will help enforce the Farmland Protection Policy act and
the Farms for the Future Act which are designed to save productive
land for agricultural purposes. Rominger is a former board member
Source: "Suburban Sprawl Gobbling Up Farmland," Farming Today,
UPI, July 19, 1993.
INDIAN MONSOON CAUSES VAST FLOODING, DEATH FOR 500
The summer monsoon in India, which is normally eagerly anticipated
by farmers, has wreaked havoc all over the Indian countryside. In
addition to 500 deaths and serious flooding, the Indian government
estimates that millions of dollars in agricultural production has been
lost. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao has promised to provide
farmers with disaster relief soon. Helicopters have already begun
dropping food supplies for residents who have had to flee their
homes for higher ground. The government, which earlier predicted
the Indian economy would grow by 6% this year, now called those
projections "unrealistic." The Economic Times said that given the
relatively early arrival of the monsoon, the annual flooding should
have a minimal effect on agricultural output overall.
Source: Edward Gargan, "Indian Monsoon Brings Floods and
Landslides; Death Toll is 500," NEW YORK TIMES, July 23, 1993.
WORLDWATCH SAYS FOOD SUPPLY UNABLE TO MAINTAIN
A recent study entitled Vital Statistics 1993: The Trends that Are
Shaping Our Future by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute
said that the oceans cannot keep up with the demands from a
growing population on fish supplies. Fish harvests have declined 8%
since 1988 and have consistently remained at around 97 million
tons. The scarcity of fish is just one of many elements which point to
a decreasing global supply of protein, the report says. In addition,
while soybean harvests are setting world records, output per person
has been in decline. World meat supplies have also fallen off since
1990. "We're seeing an overall tightening on the food front that at
least raises the possibility of declining per capita consumption on a
worldwide basis for the foreseeable future of seafood, meat produced
from rangelands and grain," said Lester Brown, president of
Worldwatch. The report also said worldwide use of fertilizer has
decreased due in large part to the removal of subsidies for their use
in Eastern Europe. Also, the world's ability to generate windpower
continued to grow last year while the world's nuclear capacity
Source: Lisa Bransten, "Population Growth Outstripping Food Supply,
Report Says," FINANCIAL TIMES, July 20, 1993; "Food Production
Isn't Keeping Up," DES MOINES REGISTER, July 18, 1993.
The USDA's Cooperative State Research Service produces a
quarterly newsletter called SMALL-SCALE AGRICULTURE. Items
of interest in the Summer 1993 issue include a calendar of events, a
list of farm safety rules and tips for small-scale agricultural
operations. For more information, contact USDA/CSRS, Office for
Small-Scale Agriculture, Ag Box 2244, Washington D.C. 20250.
FARMING WITH NATURE is a recent publication of the Green
Group in the European Parliament. The book begins with an
introduction about what went wrong with European agriculture and
the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The body of the book focuses
on critiquing last spring's reforms of the CAP and makes "green"
recommendations for "reforming the reforms." "This is an appeal to
everybody to work to achieve a sustainable and autonomous
farming, not to be discouraged but to seek improved cooperation,"
the authors say. For prices, bulk orders and other information,
contact The Green Group, WG Agriculture, MON 309, Rue Belliard 97-
113, B1047 Brussels. Belgium, Tel: (32 2) 284-3362, Fax: (32 2)
4TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DESERT
DEVELOPMENT, July 25-30, 1993, Mexico City, Mexico. FFI, contact:
Manuel Anaya Garduna, Scientific IV ICDD, Colegio de Post-
graduados, Montecillo, Edo. 1 de Mexico.
TRAINING PROGRAM FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, August
1-6, 1993, Conway, AR. FFI, contact: Community Development
Institute, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR 72035.
USDA PUBLIC MEETING TO DEVELOP A U.S. NATIONAL
NUTRITION PLAN OF ACTION, August 4, 1993, Washington D.C.
FFI, contact: Linda Elswick, World Sustainable Agriculture
Association, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 907 North Tower,
Washington D.C. 20004, Tel: (202) 347-0637, Fax: (202) 347-0634.
13TH ANNUAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE TOUR, August 5,
1993, Lincoln, NE. FFI, contact: Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Systems, 221 Keim Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583,
tel: (402) 472-2056.
NATIONAL COMMUNITY LAND TRUST CONFERENCE, August 5-
8, 1993, Cincinnati, OH. FFI, contact: Institute for Community
Economics, 57 School Street, Springfield, MA 01105, Tel: (413) 746-
NORTH CENTRAL REGION SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE WORKSHOP, August 15-18, 1993,
Columbus, Ohio. FFI, contact: Dr. Clive A. Edwards, Tel: (614)
292-3786. Fax: (614) 292-2180.
10TH ANNUAL SUMMER CONFERENCE & CELEBRATION OF
RURAL LIFE, August 13-15, 1993, Amherst, MA. FFI, contact: Julie
Rawson, Natural Organic Farming Association, 411 Sheldon Road,
Barre, MA 01105, (508) 355-2853.
ETHNOSCIENCES INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP, August 13-20,
1993, Sussex, U.K. FFI, contact: Tadue Caldas, Emerson College,
Forest Row, Sussex, RH18 5JX, U.K. tel: (44) 342-824622, fax: (44)
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON SOIL TESTING, PLANT
ANALYSIS AND PRECISION NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT, August
14-19, 1993, Olympia, WA. FFI, contact: Benton Jones, Jr., Evergreen
State College, (706) 546-0425.
THIRD NORTH AMERICAN AGROFORESTRY CONFERENCE, August
15-18, 1993, Ames, IA. FFI, contact: Dr. Richard Schultz, Department
of Forestry, 251 Bessey Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011,
fax: (515) 294-1337.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy , 1313 5th Street SE Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414, Tel:
(612) 379-5980 Fax: (612) 379-5982 EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org or
email@example.com. In addition to this news bulletin, the
Institute publishes a variety of news bulletins on agriculture, the
environment and international trade. These include: Biotechnology
Bulletin (weekly news bulletins on biotechnology); Trade News (daily
news bulletins on international trade issues); and Farm Policy News
(news bulletins on farm policy four times a week). The Institute
also maintains a wide range of computer-based information services
on the EcoNet computer network. Contact the Institute for more