August Hunger Notes: Candidates say little about poverty and hunger, Growing organic agriculture, Can farmers accept the prairie? and more

by Lane Vanderslice

Lane Vanderslice, Hunger Notes editor

August 15, 2016

By Lane Vanderslice

See Binyamin Appelbaum’s The millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton barely mention: the poor in the New York Times.

Two good stories on agriculture.

A big debate is whether organic agriculture can produce enough to feed the world.  (The alternative is standard commercial agriculture which has its own problems, including using a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides with damaging effects  on the environment.)  Can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone? by John Reganold in The Guardian addresses this issue with a (somewhat) qualified yes: organic farming systems produce yields that average 10-20% less than conventional agriculture, but they are more profitable and environmentally friendly.

Weeds and any other plant except the crop grown are anathema to farmers using standard commercial practices. But, according to Iowa State University researchers, the wild thicket protects soil from erosion and serves as habitat for hundreds of species, including the threatened Monarch butterfly.  Thus, a very interesting article by Daryl Fears in the Washington Post: Iowa farmers ripped out prairie; now some hope it can save them.   Is there a way for them to coexist?  Can the farmer and the prairie be friends?

Two articles look at specific disadvantages of trade.

Our charity can have harmful effects.  We give our used clothing to charity.  Much of it is not used in the United States, but bundled and sold abroad (with the proceeds for the charity used in the United States).  These used clothes are sold at such a low price that they undercut domestic production in a number of developing countries, especially in Africa, leading to unemployment and lower income in textiles and associated industries, especially cotton production, and thus in the countries themselves. (Textiles are viewed as a key industry in poorer countries, creating jobs, being relatively easy to establish, and with strong linkages to agriculture.) After suffering from this problem for many years, East African countries established a ban and are preparing for it.  Read this article from the Kenyan website Coastweek:  Tanzania empowers youth with tailoring skills as East Africa ban on used clothes, shoes nears.

Finally, a good article on how international trade has spread many diseases worldwide. Ships bring your coffee, snack and TV set, but also pests and diseases  by Baher Kamal of Inter Press Service.  Though there is much talk about the gains from trade and calculation of the benefits (as in the current debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership),  these huge costs are not factored into the assessments made, nor are those who gain from trade assessed damages to pay for the costs.

Lane Vanderslice is the editor of Hunger Notes