Monday, September 30, 2002

Clinton-commissioned report on US ecosystems released by the Heinz Center. New ERS report on organic food, with some suspicious numbers. E.g., only 3% of organic food is alleged to have been purchased somewhere besides supermarkets and natural food stores; but later on the note the dramatic increase in farmer's markets which they claim now serve 2.7 million people -- cf. the Times's article on their popularity (in Cali, of course).

later on, discussing the drought-stricken corn/soy harvest, the ERS says

Forecast U.S. soybean export value remains unchanged at $5.4 billion, despite the drop in volume, as the drought pushes prices to a 5-year high.
We want to grow more shit in order to sell it for less, so we subsidize chronic overproduction [NYT]:
Mr. Stern estimated that the average cow in Europe received about $2.50 a day in subsidies, and that the average cow in Japan received nearly $7 a day. By contrast, he said, 75 percent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $2 a day....

Mali lost about $43 million as a result of plunging cotton prices, which was significantly more than the $37 million in foreign aid it received from the United States. Over all, according to Oxfam, the American government spends three times as much on cotton subsidies as it does on foreign aid for all of Africa.

[note that the Times (or their source) after citing the overall numbers for the US farm bill, switches to the cost per cow in Europe and Japan, not the US.]
The vast majority of that aid to Mali was in the form of credits to buy GM corn that U.S. taxpayers subsidized the overproduction of, and which Mali did not want because Monsanto is going to sue the fuck out of them in a few years, and the WTO is going to make them pay.

Also, this guy argues that not knowing where your food comes from is a benefit of the division of labor -- which is true, up to a point.

Another (industry-funded) report trumpets the benefits of Bt Maize for small Spanish farmers. Insights include:

At this scale of use, a conservative estimate of the average improvement in yield (a range of 1.8 to 2.5%) suggests an increased crop of 88,000 to 125,000 tonnes. This would give the farmers an extra �11 � 15 million in income at current prices.
See above for why that number is a fantasy -- even ignoring the fact that their yield increase is only a guess. In fact it's not really a report at all, just an excerise in creative math.

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