The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Oxford Study Attacks Regenerative Agriculture — Monsanto Ally?
The British Empire has schooled the world in colonialism, with resulting devastation in India, Africa and the Americas. While the colonies' revolutionary army was successful in defeating the British redcoats more than 240 years ago, today we face a new kind of threat from the United Kingdom.
A University of Oxford think-tank, the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), has come out with a report, Grazed and Confused, that likens 100-percent grass-fed beef to that produced on a 10,000-cow confined animal feedlot operation (CAFO) like Harris Ranch on Interstate 5 in Central California—calling them basically the same in climate impacts.
Think, for a moment, how absurd that is. One has to wonder why this Oxford think-tank is being so deferential to Monsanto and the GMO/fertilizer industry, which profits via the planet-killing, health-destroying CAFO model.
The Monsanto Connection to Oxford University
It seems that Monsanto has deep and enduring connection to the University of Oxford (UO). Monsanto has paid out to UO through various business ventures more than $50M pounds ($75M US).
Also, Oxford University Press has published a flattering book, written by Robert Paarlberg, full of Monsanto puffery: Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know.
In 2006, the Guardian reported that UO professor and Oxford resident Dr. Richard Droll wrote and testified that Monsanto chemicals did not cause cancer, while he "was receiving a consultancy fee of $1,500 a day in the mid-1980s from Monsanto, then a major chemical company and now better known for its GM crops business."
Oxford University has advertised a Monsanto Senior Research Fellowship.
The search function on the FCRN website produces only one link for Monsanto (a very favorable article on CRISPR, a new GMO 2.0 technique). How could a supposed climate independent food research group not be writing about the high impacts of the agrochemical sector within the areas in which it claims expertise, such as health, food access, environment and climate change?
The FCRN website makes the following statement:
Our principles of impartiality, academic rigor, and interdisciplinarity inform our vision of a fair, healthy, and ethical food system that sits within environmental limits.
They fail to mention their university's conflict of interest regarding Monsanto. Why are they silent about Monsanto's role in creating an unhealthy and unethical food system? It's convenient for Monsanto and the giant synthetic fertilizer industry to have this "green credentials" think tank to discredit the small ranchers who have created a soil-health building meat production system that has no use for Monsanto merchandise.
Many of the U.K.'s wealthy families and investors hold vast acreages in Argentina, where cancer rates have skyrocketed in towns near the heavy spraying of Monsanto RoundUp on GMO soy fields. Now perhaps FCRN is just an anti-meat cheerleader. Either way, the report is damaging.
Dazed and Confused
A better title for FCRN's report might be Dazed and Confused, given how unscientific the paper is. It completely discounts the climatic and ecological damage done by the Monsanto and DuPont GMO mono-crop corn and soy supplied to CAFOs.
The authors did not bother to compile a full life-cycle analysis comparing climate impacts of industrial meat to grass pasture meat. They skipped over a 2016 paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, which reported that 18.9 billion pounds (8.6 billion kilograms) of glyphosate were used globally. It takes 454 MJ of energy to manufacture 1 kg of glyphosate, one of the most energy-intensive pesticides. Significantly, it requires 5.8 times as much energy to produce a kilo of glyphosate as it takes to produce a kilo of nitrogen. The largest global users of glyphosate are GMO corn and soy grown primarily for cows.
During the entire 127-page report, the terms "soil health," "soil ecosystem," "soil microbes" and "topsoil loss" aren't mentioned at all. And they failed to mention the vast amounts of synthetic nitrogen from fracked, methane-belching wells applied to grow the GMO corn: 300 times more damaging to our climate than carbon.
The distinguished and well-respected U.K. Sustainable Food Trust was also critical of the report, stating:
The report focuses exclusively on greenhouse gas emissions, and while it does accept that grassland can sequester carbon, it fails to understand the vital necessity of returning degraded cropland to rotations that include grass and grazing animals, in order to rebuild carbon and organic matter levels, and the potential of integrating grazing livestock production with crop production in genuine mixed farming systems, to address a wide range of the food system problems currently faced ... The only sustainable way to obtain food from grassland is to graze it with ruminants. With the growing global population it would be irresponsible not to do that.
In one conclusion, the FCRN report states, "Grain-fed intensive livestock systems use less land and so cause less damaging land use change." Yet the destruction of forest and savannah lands in South America for soybean farms to feed CAFO animals is in the millions of hectares. GMO corn and soy are two of the most damaging systems for land and habitat that the world has ever seen.
Our Food Choices Matter
It's a fact, as outlined in the Guardian, that CAFO cows are an ecological disaster.
The CAFO industrial-meat system is a cancer-linked, bee-killing, carbon-busting, soil-destroying, nitrous oxide-emitting, air- and water-polluting, ocean-acidifying human and planetary health disaster. (Learn more about industrial ag's role in destroying the planet's oxygen system).
Millennial moms, generally distrustful of the industrial food system, are now moving to better choices, from pasture-raised meat and dairy products to leading-edge vegan options. Nut milks and cheeses from cashews, coconuts, or almonds are gaining popularity within this age group.
Many Starbucks customers are saying no to industrial-milk lattes and choosing coconut milk, or going to cafés serving organic dairy options.
STARBUCKS, Destroyer of the Seas.
If you care about a livable planet, stop buying industrial, grain-fed meat and milk. We need a "big tent" approach to solving the climate crisis. Some may choose to reduce meat consumption, while others will focus on buying 100 percent grass-pastured meat. Going plant-based and eating little or no meat is another viable dietary option.
Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds and enhances ecosystem services. The FCRN authors chose to ignore the growing body of work of regenerative agriculture that shows the many benefits accruing to human and environmental health from changing our farming systems. According to Stanford researchers, the ability of well-managed soils to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated and could "significantly" offset increasing global emissions.
See the recent article How to Start a Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Your Community.
The Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes book Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment, is a good place to start learning about the impact of cows and meat on the planet. It turns out that taking care of the land leads to better nutrition in the food that's raised. Pasture-raised meat has six times the levels of Vitamin E and several times the Omega-3 and CLA (beneficial fatty acid) levels of industrially raised beef, which often contains drugs and antibiotics numbering in the hundreds.
Why Monsanto Is Freaking Out About the Rise of Grass-Fed Beef
The countries that supply much of the GMO soy used by industrial cattle feedlots in the U.S. and the European Union are Brazil and Argentina. Meanwhile, Monsanto's GMO corn and soy crops in North America are losing market share as the company faces massive lawsuits in the U.S. due to RoundUp's link to cancer.
Clearly, the rising tide of pasture meat replacing CAFO meat is bad for Monsanto's bottom line. Sales of pasture beef have about doubled every year since 2012, as reported in the 2017 report Back to Grass: The Market Potential for U.S. Grassfed Beef:
Grass-fed beef, when produced using regenerative grazing practices, can have many benefits for human health, animal welfare and the environment. Consumers are beginning to recognize this, and demand for grass-fed beef is growing strongly.
Cows eat grass; therefore they don't need to consume vast amounts of GMO corn and soybeans. Less GMO corn planted means less cancer-linked, soil-killing RoundUp being sprayed. If consumers can understand that pasture-raised beef is better for them than CAFO meat, they'll change their buying preferences and sales of beneficial pasture-raised beef will go up, while Monsanto profits from agricultural products with a multitude of negative impacts for animals, humans and the environment will go down.
The German Der Spiegel magazine recently profiled how Monsanto manipulated science in its article, Monsanto Faces Blowback Over Cancer Cover-Up:
A release of internal emails has revealed that U.S. agrochemical giant Monsanto manipulated studies of the company's herbicide, Roundup. Experts believe the product causes cancer—and the consequences for the company could be dire.
And Monsanto's relentless scorched-earth policy is a primary cause of an "ecological Armageddon," with a dramatic 75 percent plunge of insect numbers in past 25 years in German nature reserves. The windshield test shows that splattered insects have almost disappeared—you just don't see them on the road compared to a few decades ago. As insects and pollinators disappear, so will birds. Conventionally grown corn and soybeans for cows are leading us down a dark path—and the end of nature.
FCRN to "the Rescue"
Fake news doesn't happen just in politics. After the Grazed and Confused report came out, it began spreading virally across the web. One headline in the New York Post read: Your Grass-Fed Burger Is Making Climate Change Worse.
To quote from this article:
Environmentally conscious meat eaters have touted grass-fed meat as a solution to help negate the impact of cows on the environment. But unfortunately, it's not that simple. Raising grass-fed cows also leads to deforestation—another big climate change issue—as farmers chop down forests in order to expand their pastures.
The above is a red herring, and the piece as a whole should make Monsanto blush for its brazen spinning of untruths. Vast tracks of Amazon forests are being cleared to grow GMO Monsanto soy for industrial meat (FCRN conveniently left that out of its report).
Grass-Fed Beef Is Powered by Sunlight and Plants
Today, thousands of ranchers across the U.S. and Canada graze cattle on mostly sun-grown grasses that require zero pesticides and few to no fertilizers, deriving water from the sky and soil.
The Circle Ranch in west Texas is restoring high desert rangelands, conserving water and thus improving habitat for all species of birds and animals.
Gabe Brown runs a holistically managed 5,000-acre mixed-crop pasture operation in North Dakota, producing 100 percent grass-fed meat—an approach based on farming and ranching in nature's image. Brown is featured in the video Soil Carbon Cowboys and the forthcoming book Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body, and Ultimately Save Our World by Josh Tickell.
Per Gabe, "One thing that is important to remember is that with approximately 32,000 tons of atmospheric nitrogen above every acre there is really no reason for the use of any synthetic nitrogen. If farmers would diversify crop rotations, add cover crops and grazing, and proliferate nitrogen-fixing bacteria, there would be no reason for the synthetic fertilizer."
Here's some of the good news included in a recent report on the kind of pasture grazing Brown and ranchers like him are doing:
The authors propose that the majority of GHG emissions of many current tillage-based cropping and feedlot-based livestock production systems can be avoided, and even reversed, by ecologically sensitive management of ruminants in mixed crop and grazing agroecosystems through increased carbon sequestration as well as changes in cropping practice. They note the following additional potential benefits: improved soil nutrient cycling, increased soil stability, enhanced watershed function, increased production of healthy food, and enhanced biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
CAFO Meat Powered by Monsanto, Tillage and Oil
The story of CAFO meat begins with Monsanto growing experimental GMO crops on Maui and Kauai islands next to schools and homes, thus subjecting the locals to toxic pesticides (with pockets of birth defects and cancers).
The GMO seeds are grown in Monsanto labs and dipped into bee-killing neonics (banned in the EU) from the German chemical giant Bayer (with which Monsanto is merging). The seeds are then trucked to American farms or shipped to South America by giant ocean freighter along with RoundUp, Monsanto's petroleum-based herbicide.
Farmers growing corn and soy for animal feed apply synthetic fertilizers derived from natural-gas fracked oil that releases huge amounts of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas pollutant. The fields are then sprayed two to three times with RoundUp, including a coating for the final ripe grain.
The grain is packed onto trucks and freighted to a port where it's loaded onto container ships, then transferred to giant GHG-belching oil extractors that crush the crops using hexane, a toxic byproduct of gasoline production. The hexane-and-RoundUp-laced soy and cornmeal is then transported to the feedlots to be fed to cows packed 5,000 to 10,000 to a pen for fattening, while the oil byproduct is sold to the junk food industry for cookies, crackers, and candies. Imagine the toxin-belching carbon footprint created by these processes.
Highly concentrated decomposing manure from animals packed in small spaces releases methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. And the cows, meant to live in a natural setting and eat grass, grow sick from tight living conditions and poor feed quality unless they're fed a daily ration of antibiotics. Unlike happy cows munching sweet, green grass, those unhappy cow stomachs then belch more GHG emissions.
Yet FCRN fails to mention this Monsanto/DuPont/Chevron/Exxon/fracking ecological nightmare, and instead discredits small ranches growing local meat from local grass without the need for chemical inputs.
The bottom line: No matter what the authors' motives were, they're working to convince people that one's choice of meat doesn't matter, pasture soil health doesn't matter, less RoundUp doesn't matter, reduction in NOX-exuding fertilizer doesn't matter, and better nutrition doesn't matter. The end result is that Oxford University is protecting Monsanto's market share while helping to destroy vast ecosystems and while also boosting cancer levels.
The next time you buy beef or dairy, make sure it's from 100 percent grass-pasture cows.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone-depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.
Formosa Plant May Still Be Releasing Plastic Pollution in Texas After $50M Settlement, Activists Find
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.
Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.