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Michael Pollan: The omnivore’s next dilemma
Michael Pollan, TED
About this Talk
What if human consciousness isn’t the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn’s clever strategy game, the ultimate prize of which is world domination? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see things from a plant’s-eye view — to consider the possibility that nature isn’t opposed to culture, that biochemistry rivals intellect as a survival tool. By merely shifting our perspective, he argues, we can heal the Earth. Who’s the more sophisticated species now?

About Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan is the author of The Omnivore¢s Dilemma, in which he explains how our food not only affects our health but has far-reaching political, economic, and environmental implications. His new book is In Defense of Food.
(February 2008)

Energy Farms blogging

Jason Bradford et al, Energy Farms Network
Energy Farms are a response to the dominant agricultural model of the so-called “Green Revolution” that turns soil to dust, chemicals to food, and food to fuel.

Using science, proven tools, and evolving methodologies the Energy Farm Initiative seeks to demonstrate systems of agriculture that can sustain both farms and communities in the face of climate change and peak oil. This program weaves threads of the Relocalization vision into a fabric of local currency, local food and biofuel systems, revitalization of local industry, and community cooperation.

Our aim is to build flexible systems that reduce dependence on high energy inputs and produce food and reliable renewable energy for local users. The steps in which this transition is manifest is the Local Energy Farm Initiative.
(February 2008)
Blogging on food and farming from the epi-center of relocalization, Willitts, California. Jason is a trained ecologist, now a peak oil journalist and activist.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Ecological Economics and Intensive Vegetable Cultivation
Can My County Feed Itself? Part 1. The Diet (part 2 of a 4-part series)

AI (Agricultural Intelligence)
KMO, C-Realm Podcast
In this installment, KMO speaks with Colin Tudge and David Blume about the possible applications of high technology, genetic engineering, robotics and artificial intelligence in farming.

Show notes:
(13 February 2008)

Will The Key Driver for the Relocalisation of Food Be Peak Oil, Climate Change or…. Obesity?

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
…a document produced by the British Cabinet Office recently … raises the … that the key driver for relocalisation, of food at least, will not be peak oil or climate change, but could in fact be the obesity crisis.

The paper is called Food: an analysis of the issues and was issued by the Strategy Unit at the Cabinet Office. It is not a policy document, rather it is the initial findings of a discussion process; the front page carrying the following caveat, “this discussion paper presents an analysis of a number of the key issues pertaining to food and food policy in the UK. It is not a statement of Government policy”. It is however a fascinating insight into thinking within Government about food, resilience, and what might be the prompts for a rethinking of food policy.

The report starts by identifying the fact that food culture within the UK is changing, consumers wanting healthier food, but also wanting cheaper food, a tension that has not been satisfactorily resolved. The UK is at the moment about 50% self sufficient in all foods, but between 55 and 70% for indigenous produce. We are also in a context of rising food prices.

In 2002, the most recent year for which there are figures, food related ill-health costs the NHS £6bn, which is 9% of its total budget. At the same time, malnutrition, mostly among the elderly, cost £7.3bn. Obesity is set to rise, and children and young people are most at risk from it. The public health challenge, according to the report, is “urgent and compelling”, and the paper argues that “the diet of the nation and our food culture should be considered in the round”.

…The healthcare system, fresh from appearing to have smoking, for many years the largest cause of preventable deaths, on the run, are looking around for the next battle to fight. Obesity has become that next battle, one that is inextricably linked to diet. The authors observe that 10% of annual mortality in the UK can be avoided with a good diet, and that obesity has trebled in 20 years, with a quarter of adults now officially obese.

I found it all rather intriguing. It suggests that the discussion is at least taking place that climate change means we need to rethink how we feed ourselves, and that that rethink could be far reaching (not an argument that will come as much of a surprise to regular readers of Transition Culture). What engaged my imagination is that clearly emerging at the forefront of Government policy is the urgent need to confront obesity in imaginative ways, and that that in turn leads to thinking about how we feed ourselves.
(14 February 2008)

2 Reports At Odds On Biotech Crops
Dispute Is Over Use of Pesticides

Rick Weiss, Washington Post
Take your pick:

The widening adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers around the world is reducing global pesticide use, increasing agricultural yields and bringing unprecedented prosperity and food security to millions of the world’s poorest citizens.

Or, it is fueling greater use of pesticides, putting crop yields at risk, driving small farmers out of business and decreasing global food security by giving a single company control over much of the world’s seed supply.

Dueling reports released yesterday — one by a consortium largely funded by the biotech industry and the other by a pair of environmental and consumer groups — came to those diametrically different conclusions.

The assessments highlight the controversy that still envelops agricultural biotechnology 12 years after the first gene-altered crops debuted commercially.

Both sides agree that genetically modified crops are gaining ground.
(14 February 2008)
Related from Tom Philpott at Gristmill: Attack of the superweeds
While global GMO acreage surges, herbicide-resistent weeds thrive