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HoneyColony prides itself on offering solid information when it comes to food politics, food insecurity,  honeybees, and health and nutrition. Here are some of our recent headlines.

 Beekeepers Eye Appalachian Surface Mines For Hives

It’s getting harder and harder for beekeepers to find land that hasn’t been tainted by chemicals, which is why beekeepers in Appalachia, Virginia say reclaimed surface mines make a lot of sense for the trade. Since April, West Virginia has test-run its tiny beekeeping operation on one former surface mine. The first year yielded more than 400 pounds of honey, which exceeded expectations and was an easy sell. The controversial mining method often involves scraping off sides of mountains or literally blowing off their peaks for coal, and filling nearby valleys and streams with the remnants.

“The stuff we plant in reclamation and restoration, the beekeepers love it,” said Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association president.

West Virginia wants to introduce beekeeping training for veterans and out-of-work coal miners, install hives at other mines, and provide honey from the initiative.

Monsanto/Bayer’s GM Plants Contaminate Europe Despite Ban

Despite a cultivation and seed import ban on the cultivation of genetically modified rapeseed in Europe, Monsanto and Bayer’s mutant plants are now freely growing, and now there’s no turning back.

The glyphosate-resistant GM plants were found growing along railway lines and in port areas at four sites in 2011 and 2012, with the most afflicted being the Rhine port of Basel and the St. Johann freight railway station in Basel, Switzerland.

Another finding that caused concern was the discovery of ‘outcrossing’ (transference of genetic material between differing plant strains) between Monsanto’s GT73 GM plant and two non-GM oilseed rape plants. This confirms fears that GM plants are capable of transforming conventional and/or organically produced plants into GM ones (i.e. ‘biorape’).

Food Insecurity: Can Organic Farming Feed a Hungry Planet?

How organic agriculture may contribute to world food production has been subject to vigorous debate over the past decade. According to Big Ag, we need monocultures, poisons, and genetically modified organisms to feed the world. Don’t believe the hype!

“It’s important to remember that our current agricultural system produces far more food than is needed to provide for everyone on the planet,” Claire Kremen, senior author of the Berkeley study said in a statement. “Eradicating world hunger requires increasing the access to food, not simply the production.”

According to the University of California, Berkeley, researchers found that the gap in crop yields between organic and conventional farming isn’t as wide as has been reported, and that certain organic farming practices may cut the gap even further.

Despite the surge in popularity of things like farmers markets and the local food movement, less than one percent of agricultural land is organically farmed.

But food insecurity can be solved. As the United Nations has reported, roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide goes to waste every year; the estimated 40 million tons thrown away annually in the U.S. alone could satisfy the demand of the world’s 1 billion malnourished people, according to food waste activist Tristram Stuart.

On average, the study finds, organic yields are 19 percent lower than conventional ones, although researchers say that difference can be cut almost in half through organic multi-cropping (growing several crops together in the same field) and crop rotation. The difference also varies widely depending on the crop.

Pesticides are killing honeybees and other vital pollinators as well as various other creatures. And 10,000–20,000 farm workers report pesticide poisonings each year.

Farming Gets A New Crop: Seaweed

A report last year from the World Resources Institute said we need to double farm fish production by 2050  if we’re to cope with the needs of a rising global population.

The problem is that the amount of pollution from fertilizers and antibiotics makes it unsustainable. Seaweed, on the other hand, is environmentally friendly: growing seaweed requires almost no inputs, apart from seed and sunlight. Which is fantastic given that our appetite for seaweed is growing.

Seeweed can be used as food and fertilizer. And it’s something that can be grown economically at smaller scale, making it suitable for fishing communities.

The Food and Agriculture Organization put the global market value of seaweed at $5 billion, with 99 percent of that currently coming from Japan and South Korea.


Avocado Might Be in Short Supply Soon

The global demand of avocados, a vegetable with loads of benefits,  has outpaced supply and farmers are feeling the pinch.

Avocados are a $435 million industry in California, which accounts for about 95 percent of the avocados grown in the U.S. But the drought has taken its toll and farmers in the southern part of California, where most of the avocados are grown, are letting their fields go fallow in the light of rising water and fertilizer prices and an influx of cheaper fruit from other countries

It takes 74 gallons of water to produce a pound of avocados, significantly more than peaches, lettuce, or strawberries.

According to Modern Farmer, there are indications that avocados could follow the same path as The Great Lime Crisis of Spring 2014, when lime imports slowed to a trickle, the prices skyrocketed, and many bars and restaurants were forced to go without — in part because Mexican gangs were demanding a cut of the profits, driving the prices even higher.

In Mexico, the $1 billion avocado industry has proven to be too lucrative for drug cartels to resist, and now in some cases they control every part of the avocado operation, from production to distribution.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll be eating guacamole come Super Bowl time.

Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.

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