Friday, February 15, 2008

The Future of Agriculture

Anybody with an interest in the future of agriculture -- of food -- in the US (and the rest of the world, really should read this article about the impact of recent budget cuts by the Bush administration on agricultural research in public institutions, and what it means in terms of agribusiness not only increasing its profits at the US taxpayers' expense, but also ultimately curtailing research into areas of farming that aren't wrapped around patents and genetic engineering.

From the article:

The future of agricultural research at America's land-grant institutions belongs to biotech conglomerates like Monsanto. And it seems likely that it's a future of chemical-dependent, genetically modified, bio-engineered agriculture. In stark contrast to how the federal government and many states are wallowing in red ink, the St. Louis-based Monsanto boasted more than $7 billion in annual sales in 2007 -- simply the latest in four years of record-smashing profits. And so when our president says that the time has come for public land-grant institutions to get cracking at "leveraging nonfederal resources," you can be sure that Monsanto's ears perk.

But, it doesn't take a presidential invitation to get Monsanto to sink its roots in the land-grant system. Those roots are already planted. Iowa State's campus boasts a Monsanto Auditorium and the school offers students Monsanto-funded graduate fellowships on seed policy with a special focus on "the protection of intellectual property rights." Kansas State has spun off Wildcat Genetics, a side company whose purpose is the selling of soybean seeds genetically engineered to survive the application of Roundup® -- the result of a decades long relationship with Monsanto, the pesticide's maker.

It looks like the future of organic farming research in North America will be left in the hands of folks like Dr. Elaine Ingham of Soil Foodweb, Inc.. Unfortunately, Soil Foodweb, Inc. isn't churning out the next generation of agricultural scientists, which is why agribusiness' increasing control of American universities and other academic institutions conducting research should be especially worrisome.

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