Friday, March 25, 2011

Agricultural Subsidies in the US and new GM crops in Africa

The USDA “rural” subsidies aren’t so much rural as agricultural. Most people living in rural areas in the US are not farmers and don’t receive a penny through the USDA. What the USDA does fund, however, is highly skewed away from what most people would like in our agricultural subsidies:
The report found that the USDA spent nearly twice as much to subsidize just the 20 largest farms in each of 13 leading farm states examined as it invested in rural-development programs to create economic opportunity for the three million people living in 1,400 towns in the 20 most-struggling rural counties in the same 13 states.

Current policy encourages big farms to get even bigger. Fewer farmers means fewer people in rural America. As farms consolidate, the population in the countryside declines. As the farm population declines, small towns also decline as less farmers need supplies and services. Rather than sustaining rural life, the current farm commodity system subsidies the decline of rural life.
Interesting agricultural fact in Uganda: “A typical adult here eats at least three times his or her body weight in bananas each year…” The spread of banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) is threatening that.
 Kamenya, a powerfully built 37-year-old, was forced to dig up 1,500 of his 4,500 plants, destroy them, and allow the soil to lie fallow for at least six months. He also had to sterilise his farm tools. This eventually helped control the disease, though he still has problems…. In central Uganda, one of the main banana-growing regions, BXW hit up to 80% of farms, sometimes wiping out entire fields.
Local researchers are working on creating GM bananas to deal with BXW. Kamenya responded to the anti-GM food crowd: “Most of the people against this have choices. Somebody who is hungry does not have a choice. GM, organic or whatever – you have to feed the people."

At the end of the article, it even provides instructions for making typical Ugandan mashed banana (matooke). For comparison, I have about 2 bananas a day and still do not quite eat my weight in bananas every year. I do eat more than the Lovely and Gracious’ weight in bananas, though.

The first GM cassava seeds are out in Nigeria. CR41-10 was designed to resist cassava mosaic disease.

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