August 10, 2008


1.  This is a pretty good article on the evolving symbiotic relationship between Botswana and DeBeers, including this, which I had forgotten about:
Practically from the start, it entered into a 50-50 joint venture with the government; about a decade ago, it also sold the government a 15 percent stake in the company. (De Beers has only two other shareholders: the South African-based Oppenheimer family, which has controlled the company for over 100 years, and the publicly traded Anglo-American Corporation.)
2.  The latest research in the debate over the nutritional value of organic vs. conventional food seems to point to a draw.  Just glance down the "related stories" column to see the give and take in this one over the years.  I'm not sure that this sentence at the beginning of the article is true however, "Many people pay more than a third more for organic food in the belief that it has more nutritional content than food grown with pesticides and chemicals."  There are undoubtedly a subset of consumers who purchase organic foods for that reason but I think the current market for organic products is driven more by "life-style consumers" who are leery of pesticides and chemicals for a plethora of reasons - ethical, moral, environmental and yes nutritional.

3.  Related:  I've had a post sitting in my draft box for about four months now on the rising cost of fertilizer inputs and the consequences of those costs in the midst of the global food crisis and proposed solutions relating to it, but it looks to be sitting there for a while longer.  So, I was glad to see this post at Global Dashboard pointing to a briefing (pdf) on the rise in select food and fertilizer prices.  Here are some figures:
Cotton - up 29%

Beverages - up 41%

Wheat - up 61%

Maize - up 108%

Rice - up 185%

Urea (a key nitrogen fertiliser) - up 160%

DAP (a major phosphate fertiliser) - up 318%    
And here is the closing paragraph that tracks with things we've said here before:
In the longer term, the paper suggests, the focus needs to be on more integrated soil fertility management with greater use of organic materials [i.e. compost and manure] together with smarter use of inorganic fertilisers - an area of work that the big agricultural research institutes like CIMMYT are already focusing on heavily. Moving towards more integrated soil fertility management already makes sense for reasons of environmental sustainability. If fertiliser prices fail to fall in the longer term, these areas of research are also going to be one of the critical front lines in feeding 10 billion of us.
4.  Related:  Will the economic bust stifle organic food?  More thoughts on a food movement not just food choices.

6.  Related:  Freedom Gardens.

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