What dangers are threatening our food supply?

There are many things one can say about farming but “easy” sure isn’t one of them. Many things can threaten a farmer’s crop, insects, weeds, poor soil, lack of water, diseases, lack of labor, well this list could go on and on but most people are aware that there are lots of things a farmer has to deal with, just like all of us in whatever work we do.

For this post I am going to focus on a singular happening in our corner of the world that most of us have not seen in quite some time. This year we had a very dry winter and spring. This caused the plants in the foothills surrounding our valley to dry up quickly, much sooner than usual. Up in those foothills lives an insect called the Beet leafhopper.beet leafhopper

This particular little beastie is vector of a disease that is deadly to certain crops and because it can be so devasting, there was a program that the government used to carry out to spray the foothills when the beet leafhopper populations were high so that they did not desend into the valley and raise havoc to the crops below. Well, for a varity of reason, enviornmental and monetary, that program was cut way back and now they only spray ditches, roadsides and abandonned fields. So this year as the hills dried up and the large number of leafhoppers desended into the valley looking for food what did they find? Tomatoes!

Processing tomatoes has become a big part of the valley crops cycle. Many farmers have spent a lot of money putting field into drip irrigation to help conserve water and they are planting tomatoes because they yield very well with drip irrigation. But not long after planting they starting seeing plants stop growing and turn a sickly color and die. curly top All over the valley, thousands of acres of tomatoes are affected, some just a few plants here and there and some as many as 50-80% of the plants were infected.

Ok, so what is the point, other than many farmers are going to take it in the shorts because a pest damaged their crop. Isn’t that part of farming? What does this have to do with a threatend food supply. Well in all seriousness, no one will starve if we grow a few thousand tons less of tomatoes this year. But think about it. Remember the potato famine in Ireland? There is a disease that is devasting bananas right now too. We are on our 4th pesticide spray to try to keep our tomatoes from being infected and we all know that more pesticide sprays is really not a sustainable way to go. I thank the stars we are not trying to grow organic tomatoes this year. The best option would be of breed a variety of tomatoes that is resistant to this disease, but so far, through normal breeding techiques, that hasn’t happended.

What if they fould a way to genetically modify a tomato to be resistant to this? No more need to spray the hills or ditch banks or roadsides. No more multi pesticide sprays to try to ward of the leafhopper. Less pesticide sprays are what people want, right? Oh yea, I forgot, GMO food is that evil “Monsanto” thing. So what is it that people want anyway? How are we to protect our food supply and cut down on pesticide use if we can’t even use the best technology out there to fight off diesease, make plant more drought tolerant, yeild more, need less pesticides,etc. Maybe some are thinking that farmers shouldn’t have planted so many tomatoes and that our monculture type of farming is to blame. Well, seriously, a guy had to make a living and there are only so many things one can choose to grow. The choices of what to plant has a lot of componets to it. It isn’t like deciding what to put in your backyard garden.

Well, this post is long enough. Just one little scenario to think on the next time you eat something made from tomatoes and “like” another rant on the evils of “Monsanto”. There is a world to feed and a lot less land to do it on. Just think about that next time you are at the grocery store.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Elaine Cavaletto on June 7, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Thank You Sara for your down to earth comments.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Gard on June 7, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Hi there,

    Thanks for a modern farmers perspective on GMO. Personally, I fear that GMO is the next big plague. It’s not so much the fear of eating them, but rather the naivety in thinking that we can control the consequences of introducing certain genes into the eco system that worries me. I have agree though, that for a farmer in your position, it may still be the least bad solution to choose from. Normal organic farming probably wouldn’t help you out in any way.

    However I see you touch on the very root of the agricultural challenges: monoculture. And much more interesting is that you touch on the very reason why you do monoculture: you have to make a living. That’s the same reason I sit in front of a computer 8 hours a day, not seeing my kids. I would do things very differently if I didn’t have to “make a living”, most of us would.

    It’s the way we have organized society around the need to earn money that’s the true problem. The way that the money system is organized makes us all do all kinds of crazy things to stay alive basically. Would you even dream of introducing GMO to your farm if you didn’t have to think about earning money? My bet is that you would do something similar to permaculture. Without addressing the issues with our money system, we will surely destroy our food supply. Money, as we use them today, is the biggest threat to our food supply.

    Have you ever read ‘Sacred Economics’ by Charles Eisenstein? It’s a really good book, and it explains in detail how we ended up in this money-mess, and suggests how to get out of it by changing money slightly.

    Reply

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