AcresUSA.com links

Archive | Eco-Philosophy

Scientists Make Ethanol without Using Plants

corn-fieldStanford University scientists have found a new, highly efficient way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. This promising discovery could provide an eco-friendly alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops, say the scientists. “We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure — a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and coauthor of the Nature study. Most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. In some parts of the United States, it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which, in turn, yields about 3 gallons of ethanol. The newly developed technique requires no fermentation and, if scaled up, could help address many of the land- and water-use issues surrounding ethanol production.

This article appears in the June 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Farmers Battle GMO Contamination

gmo-contaminationFood & Water Watch in partnership with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) released survey results revealing contamination from GMO crops is happening and non-GMO farmers are paying the price.

The survey of farmers across 17 states is an effort to fill the data gap that was used to justify an inadequate policy recommendation by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Heavily weighted with biotech proponents, the committee gathered for a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 to establish a protocol for coexistence and to design a compensation mechanism for farmers who are economically harmed by contamination from GMO crops.

Unfortunately, the committee was unable to estimate the costs associated with GMO presence on non-GMO and organic farms due to a lack of data. Their final suggestion for a compensation mechanism was a form of crop insurance that included, in one proposal, a premium to be paid by producers of non-GMO crops.

“If USDA really wanted to know if contamination was happening, all they had to do was ask organic grain producers who take great pains to keep their crops from being contaminated,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Now USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem.”

  • Survey highlights include:
  • Nearly half of respondents are skeptical that GMO and non-GMO crop production can coexist.
  • Over two-thirds do not think good stewardship alone is enough to protect organic and non-GMO farmers from contamination.
  • Five out of six responding farmers are concerned about GMO contamination impacting their farm, with 60 percent saying they are extremely concerned.
  • One out of three responding farmers have dealt with GMO contamination on their farm. Of those farmers, over half have been rejected by their buyers for that reason. They reported a median cost of a rejected semi load (approximately 1,000 bushels) of $4,500.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.