The Coming Roundup Revolution

From the New York Times:

By William Neuman and Andrew Pollack

DYERSBURG, Tenn. — For 15 years, Eddie Anderson, a farmer, has been a strict adherent of no-till agriculture, an environmentally friendly technique that all but eliminates plowing to curb erosion and the harmful runoff of fertilizers and pesticides.

But not this year.

On a recent afternoon here, Mr. Anderson watched as tractors crisscrossed a rolling field — plowing and mixing herbicides into the soil to kill weeds where soybeans will soon be planted.

Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.

To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.

“We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. “We’re trying to find out what works.”

Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.

“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans, cotton and corn.

The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds.

Roundup — originally made by Monsanto but now also sold by others under the generic name glyphosate — has been little short of a miracle chemical for farmers. It kills a broad spectrum of weeds, is easy and safe to work with, and breaks down quickly, reducing its environmental impact.

Sales took off in the late 1990s, after Monsanto created its brand of Roundup Ready crops that were genetically modified to tolerate the chemical, allowing farmers to spray their fields to kill the weeds while leaving the crop unharmed. Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.

But farmers sprayed so much Roundup that weeds quickly evolved to survive it. “What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said.

Now, Roundup-resistant weeds like horseweed and giant ragweed are forcing farmers to go back to more expensive techniques that they had long ago abandoned.

Mr. Anderson, the farmer, is wrestling with a particularly tenacious species of glyphosate-resistant pest called Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, whose resistant form began seriously infesting farms in western Tennessee only last year.

Pigweed can grow three inches a day and reach seven feet or more, choking out crops; it is so sturdy that it can damage harvesting equipment. In an attempt to kill the pest before it becomes that big, Mr. Anderson and his neighbors are plowing their fields and mixing herbicides into the soil.

That threatens to reverse one of the agricultural advances bolstered by the Roundup revolution: minimum-till farming. By combining Roundup and Roundup Ready crops, farmers did not have to plow under the weeds to control them. That reduced erosion, the runoff of chemicals into waterways and the use of fuel for tractors.

If frequent plowing becomes necessary again, “that is certainly a major concern for our environment,” Ken Smith, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas, said. In addition, some critics of genetically engineered crops say that the use of extra herbicides, including some old ones that are less environmentally tolerable than Roundup, belies the claims made by the biotechnology industry that its crops would be better for the environment.

“The biotech industry is taking us into a more pesticide-dependent agriculture when they’ve always promised, and we need to be going in, the opposite direction,” said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety in Washington.

Read the rest of the article, here.


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57 Responses to The Coming Roundup Revolution

  1. The obvious metaphor of this phenomenon is that in the Krishna consciousness movement there is now a strain of weed of Vaishnava aparadha that has grown up along with the KC movement that is now resistant to all the shastric herbicide there is for exterminating the weeds of personal ambition that are presenting themselves as devotional creepers yet meanwhile promoting, preaching and fostering heinous amounts of Vaishnava and Acharya aparadha.

    What happens when a whole society of Vaishnavas get indoctrinated into a culture of Vaishnava aparadha and become resistant to all the shastric prohibitions against such acharya aparadha?

    Well, look at ISKCON and it’s easy to see what happens.
    Srila Prabhupada’s pride and joy then becomes his shame.

    • Is your comment even relevant to this article?

      • Is the article relevant to a web site that is fundamentally about spiritual philosophy and human spirituality?
        What do weeds in the farmland have to do with the spiritual enlightenment of mankind?
        The topic is obviously an insult to anyone who comes to this web site for spiritual sanga, inasmuch as the topic is not even loosely associated with human spirituality.
        Now, if this web site was about farming or agribusiness, I could see how the article would fit. But, to post it in the same spot where a few days ago high level Gaudiya philosophy was being espoused just seems to be rude and crude.
        That is just my opinion. I am quite sure few will agree.

        • Just ignore the article which don’t suit your taste. What is need to make comments not relevant to the article?
          Also if you can write newer articles then it will be useful for editors as they run out of material to post.

          • I was trying to give an otherwise irrelevant topic some value by connecting it with Krishna and the dysfunctional KC movement.
            When I read the article and try to understand how a Paramahansa would see Krishna in the article, this is one of the ideas that came to me.
            Maybe some can’t appreciate my rather dry humor.

          • OK. I have some ideas. Maybe I will try submitting something.

        • I think it should be pretty obvious that the world around us does affect our lives which in turn affects our efforts in self-realization. You may think it rude to talk about the state of food in the world today in a space reserved for spiritual topics. But perhaps more than any other area in society, food speaks of the state of the collective mind. By what people consume nowadays in place of real food, and the dynamics behind such problem, its pretty clear that tamoguna is escalating on the planet. And without sattvaguna, without coming to at least to the human level, how are we to discuss strictly higher and higher spiritual matters?

        • KB, I think the article suits those people whose spirituality includes a philosophy of treading lightly on the earth…trying not to make too great an impact on the land… which is akin to what those of us who are vegetarian are trying to do. It is a type of moral harm reduction model and as such can help some live a more spiritual life free of the consequences of having done too much harm. It is also for those who cultivate the earth and live a simple life, which is very compatible with sadhana.

          However, people… It would not be the first time people draw a metaphor from another more literal argument. No harm there…. lets not be so reactionary we are welcoming people in the front while propping the door open for them in the back. As much as one member would do well to ignore articles they do not like (after all a website cannot please everyone and it is offensive to always think you can do better), other readers could do well to ignore comments that don’t suit them as well.

          • I agree I should not have commented.

          • You always have such bright and thoughtful answers. There is always a measure of depth and clarity in your views. I can only applaud your witty responses that certainly betray a fine intellect.

        • KB, in addition to core Gaudiya material the Harmonist also puts out material about a broader spectrum of topics that affect the world we live in, the environment being one of them. These issues affect everyone, even spiritual people like yourself, thus the relevance of such articles.

        • KB, I just want to state that I did catch your humor there and I thought it was pretty clever – making the weed thing a metaphor with the aparadha aspect of Iskcon’s history was very very apt. But I think the issue of roundup ready is just as relevant as the current problem in Iskcon – each in their own sphere, of course, but both equally relevant. You just have to make the metaphor work both ways, and then see that it is actually very precise, like a mirror. So if you can personally see the gravity of the problem of intistuted Vaishnava aparadha by iskcon, then perhaps you can appreciate the gravity of a product like roundup ready being pushed on nature unchecked. Same same principle.

          Continuing with the metaphor, it could be said that the heart of the leaders in Iskcon have hardened so that newer and newer strains of fabrications, lies, obliterations of facts and twists of sidhanta will need to be there to maintain a reality that should, long ago, have been expressed in a simple, natural “we are genuinely sorry, please grace us with your holy association”. And then let nature take its beautiful course.

  2. This is yet another example of the shortsightedness of the industrial mindset and unfortunately a predictable outcome. Humanity’s attempts at improving on nature usually fail miserably and in the end leave us with far bigger problems than they initially solved. When will we learn–when food no longer grows at all?

    • This article is actually very informative and balanced. It would come as a surprise to a lot of devotees but the present day agriculture is far more efficient and environmentally sound than it was 40 years ago. And the emergence of herbicide resistant weeds simply marks another phase of modern agriculture and the change of farming techniques.

      If the HK devotees want to give the world guidance on how to grow food better, they should actually show people how it is done, instead of just talking about it. But we all know they are pretty much incapable of doing that in any meaningful fashion. Instead they simply badmouth the current system that literally feeds them every day.

      Since early childchood I was involved in traditional farming and living close to the land was always very important to me. Over the last 20+ years I tried to grow some of my food, with somewhat mixed results. I was always a pragmatist who could appreciate the science of modern agriculture which feeds large part of the world, including me. Yes, modern agriculture has serious problems and drawbacks but it actually feeds billions of people all over the world. And that is something that needs to be respected.

      • I am sorry Kulapavana but if you are defending roundup ready and Monsanto at ANY level, I have to say that such stance is dellusional and very very dangerous. Its a total miss for a Gaudiya Vaishnava. It doesn’t matter how many people modern agriculture feeds in the moment or it will feed in a number of centuries to come. Its untinatural in the long run. It is destroying nature’s way, and if we destroy nature, at any level, we are taking the route of the impersonal: the one path to never be comtemplated by a sane jiva, what to speak of an aspiring follower of Mahaprabhu. The point is not to eat, but to eat for a higher purpose.

        Another thing is, ok granted someone like KB clearly is out of touch with how close our every day life, spiritual life, is to agriculture and its methods through the ages. But to say that no devotee currently is in touch with the land is absolutely unfair and a misrepresentation. Ramdas in Efland NC is a master gardner, a philosopher behind the plow, as Narasingha Maharaja once put it, and the proof is very tangible. The food he produces is not just food but produced consistently with an increased refined understanding of the essence of Srila Prabhupada and such other acaryas. Krishna Caitanya das in the same area, daily milks his protected cows and the milk he produces is like liquid seva – you should try it sometime. All this devotee food is non different than seva, actually, and so absolutely different than ordinary food.

        Feed the body and the soul simultaneously and see the real meaning of food as divine nature intended it. And how Monsanto actually belongs in hell.

        • No Prabhu, I am defending actual science, rationality, pragmatism, and common sense.

        • I am not saying that ‘alternative agriculture’ does not work, or that the current agriculture produces the best food. I know Ramdas, I know Krsna-caitanya, and I know other natural food growers among the devotees. I know the Amish and I know the Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic gardeners. I did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday… but IMO people who knock down modern agriculture are often ignorant of the challenges involved in feeding billions of people every year without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The farming science IS making progress, even if this progress comes in fits and spurts. Yes, most of the food it produces is inferior in quality when compared with organic or biodynamic food – but it is cheap, practical, and most importantly: AVAILABLE. So let’s give a credit to where credit is due, at least until the ‘alternative farming’ takes over in feeding the hungry masses of people.

          • This is like saying that one can’t critique the system unless they can propose a better way to feed 7 billion people. I think the point is that such agriculture is not sustainable and it fits snugly within a bigger lifestyle of unsustainability. An example: McDonalds is the largest single buyer of potatoes and beef in the country. In order to provide this supply, land and animals are used in ways that harm the environment, the animals, and the people involved in or near the production. The final product degrades the health of those who consume and feed into the mindset of over-consumption that is so prevalent. And then, how many burgers and fries end up in the trash anyway?

            Rather than trying to make modern over-consumption the standard of civilization, less wasteful lifestyles should be adopted and then lets see how the supplies would re-distribute across the world. Regardless, the fact is that these companies don’t care if people starve, so they are not even trying to make GOOD food more abundant; they just want to pass regulations (or lobby to loosen regulations) so they can continue to profit.

          • Nitaisundara: “This is like saying that one can’t critique the system unless they can propose a better way to feed 7 billion people.”
            You can critique all you want but very few people will be impressed with your proposed solution unless you can actually demonstrate that:

            1. The solution works in real life
            2. You actually live in that way
            3. Other people can adopt that approach without too much trouble.

            I am very far from supporting wanton exploitation of Mother Earth or overconsumption. I just don’t buy the make-believe ‘solutions’ to these problems. IMO the real solution to these problems is most likely to come from science and gradual change in people’s consciousness. If we can actually demonstrate to people points 1, 2, and 3 than their consciousness will begin to change.

          • But there is a real down to earth philosophical debate involved here. And one side of the debate has all the money. How can you expect alternative agriculture to feed the world if you don’t fund it and merely say “Well if you can show an alternative let us know.” Thus even those who cannot show an alternative have a duty to speak up if they believe that funding should be allocated for alternative models. As for science, alternative agricultural is as scientific as Monsanto.

          • Maharaja,
            I’m sorry but I don’t buy the argument that other side has all the money and that is the true reason alternative agriculture is not feeding everybody. Devotees poured tons of money into farming over the years and after 4 decades they have very little to show for it. Your sanga is perhaps an exception, but on the grand scale of things we are waaay behind the Steiner’s people or the Amish, which are still a tiny minority of food producers. Truth is, natural farming is not as simple as many people claim, and it is hard work. Yes, it is a real science, not wishful thinking. I worked on traditional farms of my grandparents and my uncle, I worked on Iskcon farms, and for years I worked on my own land. Still, I always made my living a a man of science and I am not blind to the limitations and quirks of alternative agriculture. I believe that gradually the ‘modern’ and the ‘alternative’ agriculture will converge, forming a practical and sustainable way to grow our food on a scale required to feed the earth’s population.

          • Kula-pavana,

            Modern agriculture in the US is so heavily funded that it dwarfs funding available for alternative agriculture. There is no comparison. To simply say that one does not believe that alternative farming will feed the world if it is well funded is to miss the entirety of the picture within which alternative agriculture really falls.
            Furthermore, the fact that alternative farming is not well funded does not mean that modern agriculture is a better reasoned approach and thus the well thought out powers that be do not see fit to fund alternative approaches. There is much more involved in deciding who gets the money. If the decision is largely determined by availability and cost of food, that in itself may be unwise. It may be wiser to farm such that food costs more and is better, leaving less money for other frivolous and even harmful pursuits.

            This then bring us to the full circle, the fact that advocacy of alternative farming is part of a larger advocacy: a change in lifestyle altogether. You cannot look at the way the world is going and say alternative farming will not feed it and therefore it is not pragmatic. I agree that it will not feed it, but I also feel that it should not be fed. People should be fed real values and real food and pay the real cost. People need to change, and if they are what they eat, then they need to change what they eat.

            At the same time I agree that a combination of insights from both modern agriculture and alternative agriculture will be the best solution. But until the financial balance begins to tip in the direction of alternative agriculture we will never realize this hybrid.

          • Maharaja,

            People will change (food and all) when you show them a practical working model of a better life and let them taste it. Out of a lot of Vaishnava gurus in the West you are perhaps best positioned to do that.

            Again, I disagree that it is about sufficient funding. IMO it all starts with a practical, sober approach that inspires people because they see the results. Throwing lots of money at a project allows a poorly conceived idea to last as long as the money is pumped into it.

          • People will become open to change when they understand the problems with the dominant system. Basically, when they have to. Good examples are already there but they are underfunded. There are plenty of examples of well conceived ideas that remain underfunded, especially when the majority is oblivious to the fact that they are funding an unsustainable venture.

      • Kula-pavana,

        I think you state the obvious by pointing out that the world is being fed by modern agriculture. No one disagrees there. The argument is whether or not such feeding is sustainable and if the food produced by it is the best food. Many thoughtful people say “No” to these questions, and they give good reasons for their negative. They are for the most part called environmentalists. You seem to be saying that they are uninformed. After all, it is these environmentalists that devotees are getting their information from (I hope). And in my experience many devotees (not all unfortunately) buy their food locally, food that is grown organically, like thousands of other concerned consumers. In your own community you have examples of devotees growing their own food and actively promoting alternative agriculture, devotees like Mathura and perhaps Mitrasena. By stating, as you have, that the state of today’s agriculture (in the US I presume) is environmentally better than it was 40 years ago you give the impression that the considerable discontent with the state of today’s agriculture is just hooey. Is that really what you mean to say? Surely you have seen movies like “Food Inc” and read a few good books that strongly disagree with this premise (if it is your premise), no?

        • Maharaja,
          Based on my observation, most devotees are flat out daydreaming when it comes to alternative agriculture. Yes, Mathura prabhu is doing it for real and I support him not just verbally, but by being part of his CSA circle. I garden as well, and have been for decades, so this is not just a theory for me.

          The real question is: can ‘alternative agriculture’ feed the present population of the earth, and IMO the answer to this question is ‘no’. There is very, very real science in agriculture, and the proof of that science is very much in eating.

          • So what you have then is not a food problem but an overpopulation problem. If you really know your subject you would know that land cannot be cultivated at the proportion of demand for food. Some land, most land actually, must stay vacant for long periods of time.

          • So what do you propose, Bhaktikanda-ji, to solve this overpopulation problem? That we all go organic and whack out all those who can’t be supported by the ‘sustainable’ agriculture?

            The reality is what it is and we have to face it with dignity and honesty. I have faith that eventually intelligence will prevail and people will solve their problems in a proper way. I am not waiting for an Armageddon – I’m waiting for the gradual dawn of Lord Caitanya’s era.

          • I feel that science also will move towards including some alternative modes of agriculture because of the damage inflicted by the existing means of agriculture. But the damage is not inflicted by modern science, it is inflicted by the mass consumption based society for which science is used as a maidservant.
            Secondly, if out of my limited knowledge which is inconsequential for the GV community I suggest that they look at who had the funds before modern science had them. The catholic church, the religious priests in India and the so called religious kings. What did they do? Guzzle up the funds in the name of religion and give nothing to people in return apart from bigotry, rigidity and hypocrisy. They did nothing for agriculture or feeding people saying that it is a completely material problem or they have to suffer their karma. Or even worse indulge in witch hunting etc and blame some outcastes or easy targets for calamities and hunt them down. So now after centuries at the top and disastrous results like those above, religious people say it is not fair that they are not allotted money for alternate agriculture. Even the need for alternate culture has been felt after science provided with bad solutions. Earlier the pope and brahmanical priests provided no solution and siphoned money. Certainly we can spend a lot of money in building temples and churches but is that great to do when the people inside( Catholic church, hindu priets, GV communities) talk big but fail to deliver spiritually.( criticize modern schools but produce worse schools than “demoniac” people) and let people starve, do honor killing, witch hunting and do nothing to solve either spiritual or material problems. Then go for fertility treatment and use painkillers which come from the same demoniac atheistic people and say these people no nothing about distance from the moon, cosmology etc. If we can brutally honest, the infant and maternal mortality rate in India was so high before 1900 and nobody even cared about health of women( all the priests etc mistreated women and outcaste women and nothing there) and then used karma as a device to control people. Then the same science actually has improved the survival rates for women and children atleast 20 fold.
            I feel science has a good way to even help alternate agriculture. In fact, the scientific method which relies on empirical observation has proved more effective than religious sermons to solve material problems. In fact majority of people who are advocating alternate agriculture in a serious, logical way are not from traditional religions like Christianity, Islam or Hinduism. Traditional religions never think about the impact their big structures that improperly constructed can have on environment. They are aloof from material welfare and are full of hypocrisy spiritually. That is plight today. Anyway again it is my opinion not a fact of GV because I don’t represent GV.

  3. Yes I agree. It is like the communists who bay for the blood of the capitalist counterparts. Certainly there are huge drawbacks to the modern agriculture techniques, but it is easy to find what is a good replacement which can sustain huge populations of the earth. It would good to balance both the traditional and modern views, though I don’t yet know how to do it.

  4. “Based on my observation, most devotees are flat out daydreaming when it comes to alternative agriculture. Yes, Mathura prabhu is doing it for real and I support him not just verbally, but by being part of his CSA circle. I garden as well, and have been for decades, so this is not just a theory for me.” -kulapavana-

    Why are devotees [who farm alternatively] “day dreaming”? Because they are using alternative practices or because they are devotees?

    It sounds to me that you are having a crisis of faith in devotees rather than a scientific approach to agriculture Kulapavana. Those devotees mentioned here are doing what every other organic farmer out there is doing, and doing it with tremendous success at that. Why are they alone “day dreaming”?

    The truth is, they aren’t. Those who understand the complex dynamics of sustainability aren’t shallow, non scientific fools, but rather they are the ones who understand the urgency of the situation. Those like you who miss the point, on the other hand, are great assets to corporations such as Monsanto whose obvious and only goal is profits at any cost.

    • Bhaktikanda: “It sounds to me that you are having a crisis of faith in devotees rather than a scientific approach to agriculture Kulapavana.”

      What I like is actual results, not big talk. Talk is very cheap, especially on the internet.

      I support the efforts of alternative farming devotees by buying their products and by helping in any way I can. I have a sizable orchad and a small garden as well, where I try to raise food using the combination of organic and non-organic methods because over the years I came to the conclusion that this is the most practical way to farm. It is a conclusion based on research and practice, not a conclusion based on faith or ideology.

  5. Audarya-lila dasa

    The organic revolution has already gotten much bigger due to consumer demand and the fact that conventional ‘scientific’ farming has failed many farmers who have turned to farming organically to keep their family business alive. This roundup problem is good because it will probably end up helping some farmers transition from farming methods that produce problems for people and the land to organic farming which produces healthy produce and healthy land.

    The truth of the matter is that not nearly enough research goes into pesticides, herbisides and GMO’s before they’re unleashed on the unsuspecting public. There is very little doubt that while science has improved crop yeilds and helped reduce the cost of production it has also contributed greatly to the pollution of the land, air and water and also to the increase in disease in the human population.

  6. “So what do you propose, Bhaktikanda-ji, to solve this overpopulation problem? That we all go organic and whack out all those who can’t be supported by the ’sustainable’ agriculture?

    The reality is what it is and we have to face it with dignity and honesty. I have faith that eventually intelligence will prevail and people will solve their problems in a proper way. I am not waiting for an Armageddon – I’m waiting for the gradual dawn of Lord Caitanya’s era.” -Kulapavanaji-

    Yea and what is this reality that “is what it is”? Putting it in your own terms, if one really is worried about others lack of food, then rather than poison the whole environment, one would do well to wack out oneself so to leave more food for one’s neighbor. But the concern is not with others. Behind Monsanto’s crocodile’s concern for the poor and the hungry is every one of us, at different degrees, failings in sobriety and will to sacrifice. Ultimately this is about each of us allowing materialism and self interest in our hearts. There needs to be sobriety and a revolution of the will in the world. That would be the real dignity and honesty to speak fabout in this situation.

    First you have to understand the two concepts ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’. These are not subjective wishy-washy emotional choices confined to the realm of free will, but very precise and scientifically proven reality. Food ultimately has to be originated from organic sources (God knows how well Monsanto wished it wasn’t so). And scientists on their turn know very well that the organic sources in the world can be tampered with to all living forms on the planet’s detriment. The fact that science (read scientists) compromises with the (wrong) human element, i.e., greed, is the one only subjective aspect in the whole picture.

    Regarding a solution to the overpopulation problem, I personally can’t think of anything more than to state the facts: Overpupalation is a problem. Obviously for a solution individuals we will have to abide by higher aspirations in life than just survival or the experience of a purely biological existence. Because even if that would be an acceptable scenario, humanity would still run into the problem that our resources are limited. Even if it comes down to human beings eating one antoher, there will never be enough food for un unlimited number of bodies on the planet.

    Basically it boils down to the fact that science alone cannot supply meaning to existence.

    • The reality is that there are billions of people on earth who need food, and that food has to be produced reliably, cheaply, and consistently from the available land, or these people will die. You and I may have the luxury of going organic when it comes to our food, but we may be a small minority.

      No, I do not have any illusions that companies like Monsanto see much more than profit in food production. But ultimately they have to produce useful products in order to stay in business and that is why they have to make sure their products result in food production. It is naive to think that monetary gain is always suspect and evil. To the contrary, as part of artha it is absolutely essential to existence in this world.

      • “The reality is that there are billions of people on earth who need food, and that food has to be produced reliably, cheaply, and consistently from the available land, or these people will die. You and I may have the luxury of going organic when it comes to our food, but we may be a small minority.

        No, I do not have any illusions that companies like Monsanto see much more than profit in food production. But ultimately they have to produce useful products in order to stay in business and that is why they have to make sure their products result in food production. It is naive to think that monetary gain is always suspect and evil. To the contrary, as part of artha it is absolutely essential to existence in this world.” -Kuapavana-

        The point you are missing Kulapavana is that Monsanto is not producing food at all. Their system is unable to produce actual food. It only goes on because of the flaws in the political system regulating the issue. What Monsanto is doing is actually destroying the natural system of food on the planet. Therefore their activities can NOT be characterized as artha. Because, (as you should know if you are going to bring up the argument) artha is a system that is consistent with sustainability – its natural according to the laws of the planet. But Monsanto’s acivities aren’t consistent with the natural laws of the planet. They are in fact of asuric nature.

        • I find it astonishing that an educated, experienced man like Kulapavana has any notion that our “food”-production system is anything but asuric, anti-human, anti-Earth. How is it possible not to have seen a clip from King Corn or Food, Inc.? How is it possible to avoid reading even a couple of paragraphs written by folks such as Michael Pollan or Eric Schlosser? And if you’ve encountered any of this information, how is it possible to remain so naive about the abuse of the earth, the animals, and the human race perpetrated by corporations such as ADM, Monsanto, and the others? We have to do what we can to change things back, to return agriculture, and the rest of our culture, to a human scale. Only then will anything it produces even count as any sort of artha.

          • Well said Babhru. While there are definite short-term advantages to industrial agriculture in terms of pushing up yields artificially through the extensive use of fossil fuels, the long-term price we pay is our health (due to the abysmal quality of the food produced) and, even more onerous, the health of the water and soil itself on which life depends. Industrial agriculture give us a false sense of what the land can support; it does not reflect the actual carrying capacity of the land we have available. We are literally eating oil, but what will happen as oil and other fossil fuels become more difficult to come by,and thus more expensive? The great food revolution that has made it possible for the planet to go into carrying capacity overshoot will end and reality will reassert itself, much to the dismay of the Monsantos and economists and those accustomed to cheap food from Wal Mart.

          • Babhru: “I find it astonishing that an educated, experienced man like Kulapavana has any notion that our “food”-production system is anything but asuric, anti-human, anti-Earth.”

            Prabhu, with all due respect, how many modern farming techniques are you personally familiar with? How many actual farmers do you know? What do you know about their work and life? It is very easy to climb a high horse and call for great sounding ideals and it is much much harder to actually produce food in accordance with those ideals that actually feed the needy population. Willie Nelson and his Farm Aid initiative do more to achieve sustainable farming ideals than all devotees all over the world put together. These are practical people, addressing practical issues in a way that works. Yes, there are various problems with modern agriculture, but until practical and effective large scale alternatives are implemented, and people are willing to pay significantly more for their food, nothing will change. We can huff and puff all we want but unless we demonstrate a better way it is just passing hot air.

          • For me as a devotee, the REAL problem with the modern food production is not the use synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides and herbicides, but raising animals for slaughter and inhumane conditions in the dairy industry.

          • Kulapavana: Prabhu, with all due respect, how many modern farming techniques are you personally familiar with? How many actual farmers do you know? What do you know about their work and life?

            Apparently you mistake me for a city mouse who only knows about growing food from books and educational films. Since you ask, here goes. My grandfather was a successful third-generation vegetable and dairy farmer on California’s Central Coast. After World War II, he gave his dairy business to his sons and continued to farm several large parcels, amounting to hundreds, if not thousands, of acres in Santa Barbara County’s Lompoc Valley, even while he served as municipal judge. I started growing when I was 4 or 5.

            I became an organic gardener in the 1960s, while I was still in the US Navy. I grew the first Tulasi plants in ISKCON, thousands of them, many well over eight feet tall, in Honolulu beginning in March of 1970. While there I also started and maintained organic vegetable gardens that helped feed the Deities and devotees there. I lived and worked on ISKCON’s organic farm on Hawaii in 1972-73. In the mid-’70s, I lived on a rather famous organic farm on Peahi Road on Maui. I also worked in one of Hawaii’s largest and best-known mango orchards, Yee’s Orchards in Kihei, Maui. The manager of the orchard wanted to hire me as the assistant manager, but I felt the need to move back to Honolulu.

            Even when I lived in cities (Honolulu and San Diego), I either had my own organic gardens, plots in community gardens, or both. More recently I own a home in the Big Island’s Puna district. Although I only have an acre, I have a mango grove (which I haven’t cared for as I would have liked) and maintained a year-’round vegetable garden and grow cocnuts, papayas, and bananas. I knew many farmers, large and small, organic and conventional, when I lived on the Big Island, and whatever vegetables and fruits didn’t come from our yard or our neighbors’ were bought from local farmers at the well-known farmers’ markets in Hilo and Puna.

            One of my friends on the Big Island is known as Ginger John because he started the cultivation of organically grown ginger root in Hawai’i in the early ’80s. These days he has several hundred acres under cultivation in the Puna and North Hilo districts using biodynamic and permaculture methods. He sells his produce, fresh and dried, all over the Big Island, as well as on the neighbor islands. He and his wife are among the hardest-working people I’ve ever known, and his farms are amazing.

            Even more recently, I’ve spent some time with Swami Tripurari and his disciples at his ashrams in Northern California and Costa Rica.

            You also wrote,

            For me as a devotee, the REAL problem with the modern food production is not the use synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides and herbicides, but raising animals for slaughter and inhumane conditions in the dairy industry.

            Modern agribusiness techniques and dairy farming are part and parcel of the same exploitative approach to food production. Moreover, our mother the earth is also depicted as cow in Vedic literature. Look: I have enough exposure to and experience with the dirt and cows to know the difference between the kind of farming my spiritual master advocates and the rapacious behavior of companies such as Monsanto and ADM. If anyone appears naive here, it is you. Sorry to be so blunt.

          • Babhru-ji, apparently after having exposure to both kinds of farming we arrived at different conclusions as to what is a practical way to feed the world.
            Farming will change and evolve to suit the taste and preference of the consumers, using all tools and methods that are available and effective. If we change the consumer, we will change the farming.

          • A word about the evolution of farming may be in order. The extent to which the dominant form of agriculture is becoming more environmentally sound (something you campion) is in direct proportion to the concerns raised by environmentalists, concerns that cannot be dismissed. Thus the voice of alternative agriculture is not merely hot air, even when it is not backed by an alternative model that the world is compelled to embrace. And when devotees who identify with environmental concerns speak in favor of them, even when they themselves have not established and alternative example, they should not be criticized for it, especially when the criticism is in defense of modern agricultural in terms of its being progressively more environmentally sound.

          • Yes, evolution of farming is the key issue IMO, and the voices of alternative farmers and environmentalists need to be heard and respected, just like the voices of actual farmers who make their living from agriculture. For these people agriculture is not a hobby, or issue they like to rally around. It is their livelihood, their way of life, their past, present, and future. They must be seen by the alternative farmers as partners, not anti-human enemies practicing earth-rape and demonic way of life. Most of them care very deeply about the earth, sustainability, and quality of the food they produce, taking great pride in their work.

            The evolution is ultimately about finding the best way to accomplish a goal. It is something pragmatic, something that has both success and failure built into it. And it is exciting to behold…

          • Kula-pavana: Yes, evolution of farming is the key issue IMO, and the voices of alternative farmers and environmentalists need to be heard and respected, just like the voices of actual farmers who make their living from agriculture.

            You’ve created a false dichotomy here, with your talk of “alternative” farmers and “actual” farmers. What cheek! I have known many “alternative” farmers over the past several decades who are decidedly not hobbyists. They farm to support their families, heal the earth, and change the culture. These folks are real farmers, and I’d like to see you denigrate them as hobbyists to their faces. And none of them I know sees your “actual” farmers as evil, but as people trapped by a rotten sytem.

            In his book The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan tells of the potato farmers he spent time with while researching the book. All of them know just how toxic they need to make the soil (and consequently the potatoes grown therein) to maintain the monoculture required to supply McDonald’s and other fast-food chains. Therefore, none of them he met would ever eat any of those potatoes. Rather, they have patches of organically grown potatoes for their families, friends, and farmers’ markets. Fortunately for the rest of us, more and more potato farmers are willing to make a living growing potatoes organically. And as more farmers figure out how to support themselves by fiddling around with “alternative” farming, which is simply farming more as it has been done traditionally, the prices will come down and they will be accessible to more of us.

            Perhaps you just need to get out a bit more.

          • The vast majority of US farmers produce food using non-organic methods. That accounts for more than 99% of food produced in this country http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic/
            I had no intention to disrespect organic farmers, only to point out the balances of this issue. I know farmers on both sides and respect them all.

          • More than 99% of what passes as food in the US isn’t really food. Did you know that the largest industry in the US isn’t even the arms industry, illegal drugs or pornography, but the pharmaceutical industry? Why? Because hardly any American reaches his or her sixties without some serious heart, blood, or some other organ condition. All as a result of a lifetime of consuming garbage, a diet that is not fit for humans or any other species for that matter.

            The only hope for this planet is in an alternative life narrative, one in which food, actual food, would be first on a list of legitimately human and then sanctified priorities.

          • This statement is not true, its absolutely based on projection or some other such twiked view of the reality of the situation. First of all you are clearly depicting US conventional farmers only as representative of “actual” farmers. But even 50 years ago American farming wasn’t representative of actual farming in the world at large. Sustainability means the whole planet is considered.

            Which bring us to the second problem with your statement: Perhaps these convetional American farmers are not necessarily demonic individually, but that they are absolutely ignorant of their own trade is a fact. How else would you explain the lack of logic in their way of life as dependents on nature and yet trampling on nature’s ways? Their ignorance cannot, actually, be seen but being a flaw of personal character. An actual integral steward of the land in the world today doesn’t have to, and does not compromise with the state of dominion of corporate interests over the health of the planet and the safeguard of the food we are meant to consume.

            These people don’t care for the land. They are ignorant, lazy, and lack integrity. Thats the reality.

          • Like the evolution of the Empire of Rome? 😀

          • In fact, we need to work on both. Farm policy is not strictly formed by consumers’ own desires. Here’s one area where you seem to be naive. The “demand” for cheap food has been created by food policies created by politicians too closely wedded to agribusiness money, boosted especially by Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, and by advertising. Butz’s policy was that farmers should get big or get out, and his policies were designed to make that happen. So whatever small farmers who are left are being sued out of business by Monsanto, and we’re stuck with a dependency on ADM and Cargill for “food” products. It has also contributed to a national epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

            We can change the demand by education and example, not by capitulation to an asuric system of wringing money out of the earth for the short term. Goodness, isn’t it time to wake up and smell the decaf fair-trade tea?

  7. *Willie Nelson and his Farm Aid initiative do more to achieve sustainable farming ideals than all devotees all over the world put together. These are practical people, addressing practical issues in a way that works.* – Kulapavana –

    Another ludricous statement. Its becoming increasingly evident that, if you’ve got an issue here, it is a personal thing with devotees but really not one with proper food production in the world today.

    Everybody knows that we Hare Krishnas as a people are actually a small number in the context of worldwide population. So “all devotees all over the world put together” is a stupid argument as far as making comparisons – we are a small number compare to almost any group, Willie Nelson’s honky tonky fan club no exception.

    But lets say, for the sake of argument, that the number of mouths fed in this feed’em-as-they-come-agriculture theory were indeed so large as to actually feed every single hungry human being on the planet, still it doesn’t mean these large ratios would be a good thing. As stated before, the planet is not designed to feed un unlimited number of human beings. There has to be balance and proportion. Large does not always mean good, and especially where food is concerned, we are seeing in the failure of Monsanto’s boasted super weed and pests resistant engineered crops that large tend to mean destruction in a not so long run. So, large numbers should not be supported and should not be celebrated in this matter. Such so called solution is as shotsighted as its proven to be disastrous. This so called science is not producing food but rather methodically destroying adequate food sources on the planet.

    • Bhaktikanda-ji: “Its becoming increasingly evident that, if you’ve got an issue here, it is a personal thing with devotees but really not one with proper food production in the world today.”

      If I have an issue with devotees it is only when they pretend to be experts in a field they really know very little about, be it science, agriculture, or something else. To give a simplistic example: to a person who only knows outhouse technology, providing waste removal service to a huge city may seem like an impossible task, and therefore such person will call to abandon the city and move to the countryside. But why would anybody take such ‘solutions’ seriously? Cities exist and are not likely to disappear and the technology to solve their problems exists as well.

      I think devotees should focus on things they know and are good at, avoiding bombastic and empty rethoric of ‘we are here to fix exerything and save the world because we know best’… The truth is: they very often don’t know best, which shows in the way they run their own affairs.

      You may be calling modern agriculture a disaster but it continues to feed the majority of people on earth and there is nothing even remotely likely to happen that will change that, as it is based on solid and time proven approach. The doomsday scenarios popular among the devotees are mostly based on fiction and wishful thinking. They may be good for preaching to the escapist crowd, but they do very little good to the long term credibility of our movement or the ideal of ‘simple living and high thinking’. To live a simple life you have to practice pragmatic thinking. Modern agriculture is being improved all the time by borrowing ideas from alternative farming or by studying the old ways. That is pragmatism.

      Farmers are naturally very interested in sustainability – I have not met a sigle one who was against it. But it has to be sustainability that actually works, and sustains not only the earth but the people as well.

      • Whether devotees speak or not about sustainability it doesn’t change the the fact that the quest for sustainability is real. And it isn’t an exclusively Hare Krishna thing either, as you try and make it sound, but quite the opposite, its a worldwide concept embraced by all types of groups and individuals. Why do you keep trying and making it a failed-devotee issue?

        And you speak of a “Sustainability that actually works“. This is redundance. Since when there is a sustainability out there that isn’t sustainable? Sustainable is sustainable, period, there is not need for breaking it down into categories as you attempt to do. It seems that the illogical argument and hot air here is yours. The argument really is a strawman one. Again, it is obvious you simply refuse to stay on topic, and the topic is that modern large scale non organic farming isn’t sustainable, no matter how you try and twist the issue.

  8. There is a good chance that the American/Global economy will suffer catastrophic blows in the near future. So, growing food and farming is all good, but I advise everyone to try and stock up a good reserve of dry grains, beans, lentils, peanut oil and ghee, salt, spices, lighters, candles and other such emergency survival foods.
    If the economy bellies-up or fuel gets scarce there will be riots and looting all over the country. ALREADY THERE IS FEAR THAT DETROIT IS ABOUT TO ERUPT IN VIOLENCE, RIOTING AND LOOTING ON A BIG SCALE THAT CAN IGNITE THE REST OF THE COUNTRY.
    So, all we can do is try and be prepared as best we can to survive the coming economic and social break-down.
    I have about a year supply of survival food in storage right now and am adding to it every month.
    I live on the edge of a wooded area that has years of wood fuel for cooking and heating.
    If the bottom falls out, at least we will have food until hopefully there is order restored after the civil uproar that will kill thousands if not millions as gangs from the city go about taking what they want from the weaker and the less prepared.

    I am hunkering down and minimizing my expectations for the future, but we can always hope that the social fabric doesn’t come undone and America can keep on unimpeded forever in the voracious pursuit of it’s unlimited lust for sense gratification.

  9. Kulapavana: Yes, evolution of farming is the key issue IMO, and the voices of alternative farmers and environmentalists need to be heard and respected, just like the voices of actual farmers who make their living from agriculture.

    You’ve created a false dichotomy here, with your talk of “alternative” farmers and “actual” farmers. What cheek! I have known many “alternative” farmers over the past few decades who are decidedly not hobbyists. They farm to support their families, heal the earth, and change the culture. These folks are real farmers, and I’d like to see you denigrate them as hobbyists to their faces. And none of them I know sees your “actual” farmers as evil, but as people trapped by a rotten sytem.

    In his book The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan tells of the potato farmers he spent time with while researching the book. All of them know just how toxic they need to make the soil (and consequently the potatoes grown therein) to maintain the monoculture required to supply McDonald’s and other fast-food chains. And none of them he met would ever eat any of those potatoes. Rather, they have patches of organically grown potatoes for their families, friends, and farmers’ markets. Fortunately for the rest of us, more and more potato farmers are willing to make a living growing potatoes organically. And as more farmers figure out how to support themselves by fiddling around with “alternative” farming, which is simply farming more as it has been done traditionally, the prices will come down and they will be accessible to more of us.

    Perhaps you just need to get out a bit more.

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