Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
Tom Vilsack speaks on December 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware after being nominated to be Agriculture Secretary by U.S. President Joe Biden. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Fresh cassava at a market in Bangkok, Thailand. Busakorn Pongparnit / Moment / Getty Images

By Sean Fleming

What thrives in poor soil, can tolerate rising temperatures and is brimming with calories?

The cassava – sometimes referred to as "the Rambo root." This plant could potentially help alleviate world hunger, provide economically viable agriculture and even put an end to soil erosion, according to research published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice.

Also known as yuca (but distinct from the ornamental yucca plant) the root of the cassava is a staple of many Caribbean and South American meals – and it will thrive in conditions too difficult for many other plants.

A Gateway Crop

"Evidence suggests (cassava) could potentially revive degraded land and make it productive anew, generating numerous positive socioeconomic and environmental impacts with proper crop management," said Maria Eliza Villarino, the report's lead author and a researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in the science publication, PhysOrg.

An estimated 40% of land in Colombia suffers from degradation, according to the alliance. It, therefore, "serves as a good testing ground for exploring the different possibilities that farming cassava could lead to."

The cassava could become a gateway crop, helping farmers bring once unproductive land back into use. Soil that has been revived could then be used to grow commercial crops like coffee or chocolate, corn or soy.

But Cassava Mustn't Tread the Same Path as Soy

The global market for soy is estimated at around $150 billion, and around 80% of all soy production comes from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina. Making space for soy farms has resulted in significant deforestation in parts of the Amazon rainforest, with the WWF estimating that "an area roughly the size of California" was lost to deforestation around the world between 2004 and 2017.

"We acknowledge that scaling up production of any commodity risks an increase in deforestation and biodiversity loss, and we need to do more research," Augusto Castro Nunez, a land-use and climate specialist at the alliance, said in the PhysOrg article. "But what we know is that we need something new; what has been done to prevent deforestation is not working, and this is something new."

Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.

Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and California businesses shutdown, the state's farmers continue to harvest, in this case, cilantro, as viewed along Santa Rosa Road in Santa Barbara County on June 13, 2020, near Lompoc, California. George Rose / Getty Images

By Iris Figueroa and Amy K. Liebman

COVID-19 is having disproportionate impacts on our nation's two million farmworkers, who as essential workers continue to toil in the fields despite numerous deadly outbreaks and no federal COVID-related workplace protections.

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Officers from the Sumatran Orangutan Foundation Lestari and the Orangutan Information Centre evacuate eight-year-old, female Sumatran orangutan trapped in the oil palm plantations on Sept. 1, 2015 in Langkat Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia. More than a third of large-scale oil palm expansion between 1990 and 2010 resulted in direct forest loss (about 3.5 million hectares in total) in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Clearing rain forests for oil palm plantations has destroyed critical habitat for endangered species like rhinos, elephants, tigers and Orangutan, which have all been pushed to the verge of extinction. Sijori Images / Barcroft India / Getty Images

By Ajit Niranjan

The way food is grown around the world threatens 24,000 of the 28,000 species that are at risk of extinction, according to a report published Wednesday that calls on world leaders to urgently reform the global food system.

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In the outskirts of Newark, New Jersey, tucked between a packaging manufacturer and an aquatics center lies a farm. Except, if you're driving down the nearby highway you probably wouldn't be able to tell that this particular farm is churning out thousands of pounds of greens each year. In fact, all you'll see is a bunch of buildings, because this is a vertical farming operation called AeroFarms, which grows all their food in a warehouse. Like the owners of AeroFarms, tech enthusiasts across the world have embraced the dream of vertical farming, exclaiming that their operations are the answer to feeding a growing global population, combating climate change, and eradicating food deserts.

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Farmers shout slogans along a blocked highway as they continue their protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms at Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghaziabad on February 2, 2021. PRAKASH SINGH / AFP / Getty Images

By Mahima Jain

Over recent months Raja, a farmer in India's Tamil Nadu state, has had a change of routine.

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Sedrick Kent Rowe Jr. from Albany, Georgia is the owner and operator of Rowe Organic Farms LLC. Black Farmers Network
Two of the four interconnected crises prioritized by the Biden administration — climate change and systemic racism — converge on Black farmers, The New York Times reports.
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Donald Pols (R), director of Dutch environmental organisation, Milieudefensie, and Channa Samkalden (L), lawyer for Milieudefensie react following the court ruling in the case that the organisation, along with four Nigerian farmers, filed against Shell over oil leaks that have allegedly polluted their villages, in The Hague, on January 29, 2021. REMKO DE WAAL / ANP / AFP / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Global environmental justice campaigners heralded a Dutch court's ruling Friday that Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary must pay punitive restitution to Nigerian villages for oil spill contamination that brought death, illness, and destruction to Nigerian farmers and communities.

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Sustainably farmed seaweed could help meet growing demand for plant-based food and environmentally friendly packaging. Malorny / Getty Images

By Karen Scofield Seal

Demand for plant-based food and nutrition is growing. According to recent retail sales data, grocery sales of plant-based foods in place of animal products grew 29% in the U.S. to $5 billion between 2017 and 2019.

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The Trump administration cites 161 vulnerable species that are already waiting in line ahead of monarch butterflies. Steve Satushek / Getty Images

The Trump administration said Tuesday that federal protection for monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act is still a few years away. The reason? The administration cited 161 vulnerable species that are already waiting in line ahead of monarchs.

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d3sign / Moment / Getty Images

By Amanda Fong

Food Tank is highlighting 26 books that help show young people that food can be a universal language. These stories illuminate the ways that food is used to show love, bring together communities, pass on traditions, and teach lessons. And their authors show that no matter a person's background and culture, nutritious food shared with loved ones can help bring anyone together.

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Hopi blue corn is being affected by climate change. Abrahami / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.

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