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The Dutch Weed Burger is made from three types of algae. The Dutch Weed Burger

By William Moomaw and Asaf Tzachor

Our planet faces a growing food crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people are regularly undernourished. By 2050, an additional 2 to 3 billion new guests will join the planetary dinner table.

Meeting this challenge involves not only providing sufficient calories for every person, but also assuring a balanced diet that includes the protein and nutrients that are essential to good health. In a newly published study, we explain how marine microalgae could be a sustainable solution for solving global macro-hunger.

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Union of Concerned Scientists

Monsanto’s marketing efforts would have you believe that its product line—centered around genetically engineered (GE) seeds and the chemicals used to grow them—is a silver bullet to addressing the world’s food and agricultural challenges. And this sales pitch has been extremely effective—so effective, in fact, that even well-educated elected officials, anti-hunger advocates, and everyday people often assume that such an approach is the only option to prevent hunger, reduce pollution, and adapt to climate change. These misconceptions in turn drive important policy decisions, including research priorities and allocation of taxpayer dollars.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture rebuts these myths and demonstrates that the company’s practices are actually holding back the development and expansion of better, cheaper, science-based ways of achieving results for farmers, consumers, and the environment.

But we don’t have $120 million to spend on lobbying and PR efforts like Monsanto does to help us get attention to this critical issue—and that’s where you come in. We need your help to set the record straight on Monsanto and its products’ shortcomings, and give sustainable agriculture a fighting chance. Help change the conventional wisdom, one tweet or Facebook post at a time. And if you're not on Twitter or Facebook, you can help spread the word here.

Eight ways Monsanto fails at sustainable agriculture—What’s your “favorite”?

1. Promoting Resistance

Monsanto's RoundupReady and Bt technologies lead to resistant weeds and insects that can make farming harder and reduce sustainability.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Its GE tech creates pesticide-resistant weeds & insects #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/xmLcj2
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2. Increasing Herbicide Use

Roundup resistance has led to greater use of herbicides, with troubling implications for biodiversity, sustainability and human health.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Herbicide-resistant weeds = >use of these harmful chemicals #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/yn1mOH
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3. Spreading Gene Contamination

Engineered genes have a bad habit of turning up in non-GE crops. And when this happens, sustainable farmers—and their customers—pay a high price.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Engineered genes can contaminate organic & other nonGE crops #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/xuW3cl
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4. Expanding Monoculture

Monsanto's emphasis on limited varieties of a few commodity crops contributes to reduced biodiversity and, as a consequence, to increased pesticide use and fertilizer pollution.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Tight focus on few GE crops cuts biodiversity/ups pesticides #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/xykXj0
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5. Marginalizing Alternatives

Monsanto's single-minded emphasis on GE fixes for farming challenges may come at the expense of cheaper, more effective solutions.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: GE focus undermines simpler, cheaper, more efficient fixes #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/yqa8qV
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6. Lobbying and Advertising

Monsanto outspends all other agribusinesses on efforts to persuade Congress and the public to maintain the industrial agriculture status quo.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Huge lobbying/ad $$ keep industrial ag on top #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/xA4Q1v
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7. Suppressing Research

By creating obstacles to independent research on its products, Monsanto makes it harder for farmers and policy makers to make informed decisions that can lead to more sustainable agriculture.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Blocking independent research prevents informed policies #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/zHS2gS
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8. Falling Short on Feeding the World

Monsanto contributes little to helping the world feed itself, and has failed to endorse science-backed solutions that don't give its products a central role.

1 of 8 ways Monsanto fails @ sustainable ag: Rejects world hunger solutions not involving its products #MonsantoFail http://j.mp/ApcKGV
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Got other ideas for how Monsanto fails at sustainable agriculture? Tweet your response with the hashtag #MonsantoFail.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Worldwatch Institute

The holidays are a time for putting others before ourselves. And with the recent news that the world’s population has surpassed 7 billion, there are a lot more “others” to consider this year. Nearly 1 billion people in the world are hungry, for example, while almost the same number are illiterate, making it hard for them to earn a living or move out of poverty. And 1 billion people—many of them children—have micronutrient deficiencies, decreasing their ability to learn and to live productive lives.

“As our global community continues to grow, so does the need to consider—and act on—the challenges we all face,” says Robert Engelman, president of the Worldwatch Institute. “Far too many women, children and men are living with less than they need and deserve.”

Fortunately, there are thousands of organizations working tirelessly in communities at home and abroad to fix these problems.

One Billion Hungry

“Although the number of undernourished people worldwide has decreased since 2009, nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, a number that is unacceptably high,” according to Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project. Malnutrition contributes to the death of 500 million children under the age of five every year, and in Africa, a child dies every six seconds from hunger.

But more and more organizations, such as the United Nations’ World Food Programme, are using homegrown school feeding (HGSF) initiatives to alleviate hunger and poverty. HGSF programs in Brazil, India, Thailand, Kenya and elsewhere work to connect local producers with schools, helping to provide children with nutritious and fresh food while providing farmers with a stable source of income.

One Billion Tons of Food Wasted

Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food—a third of the total food produced for human consumption—is lost or wasted each year. Within the U.S., food retailers, food services and households waste approximately 40 million tons of food each year—about the same amount needed to feed the estimated 1 billion hungry people worldwide.

Organizations around the world are working to educate people on the importance of conserving food. In New York City, City Harvest collects surplus food from food providers and distributes it to more than 600 shelters and other agencies. And in West Africa, farmers are using the power of the sun to dehydrate fruits such as mangos and bananas. Experts estimate that, with nearly all of their moisture removed, the fruits’ nutrients are retained for up to six months, allowing farmers to save the 100,000 tons of mangos that go to waste each year.

One Billion Micronutrient Deficient

Nearly 1 billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, including a lack of vitamin A, iron and iodine. Each year, between 250 million and 500 million children with vitamin A deficiencies become blind, and half of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

These problems could be alleviated by improving access to nutritious foods. In sub-Saharan Africa, AVRDC–The World Vegetable Center works to expand vegetable farming across the region, boosting access to nutrient-rich crops. And Uganda’s Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (Project DISC) educates youth about the importance of agriculture and nutritious diets. Students learn about vegetables and fruits indigenous to their communities, as well as how to process and prepare these foods for consumption. “If a person doesn’t know how to cook or prepare food, they don’t know how to eat,” says Project DISC co-founder Edward Mukiibi.

One Billion Overweight

Lack of access to healthy food doesn’t result only in hunger. More than 1 billion people around the world are overweight, and nearly half of this population is obese. Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were considered overweight in 2010. Surging international rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis are being attributed to unhealthy diets, and 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of overweight or obesity.

The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, has urged countries around the world to make firm commitments to improving their food systems. In Mexico, where 19 million people are food insecure yet 70 percent of the country is overweight or obese, De Schutter has called for a “state of emergency” to tackle the problem. He attributes the hunger-obesity combination to the country’s focus on individual crops and export-led agriculture, and argues that a change to agricultural policies could tackle these two problems simultaneously.

Nearly One Billion Illiterate

More than three-quarters of a billion people worldwide—793 million adults—are illiterate. Although the number of people unable to read has decreased from 1 billion in 1990, illiteracy continues to prevent millions of people from moving out of poverty. For farmers in particular, being illiterate can limit access to information such as market prices, weather predictions and trainings to improve their production.

New communications technologies are providing part of the solution. A team of researchers known as Scientific Animations Without Borders is helping illiterate farmers around the world learn how to create natural pesticides or prevent crop damage using solar treatments, by producing short animated videos accessible on mobile phones. In India, farmers can receive daily updates via text or voicemail on weather and crop prices through subscription services set up by major telephone companies. Kheti, a system operated by the U.K.’s Sheffield Hallam University, even allows farmers to take pictures of problems they are having with their crops and to send them in for advice. With more than 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally, projects such as these have the potential to reach and improve the lives of many around the world.

As we gather together this holiday season to reflect on the things most important to us, let us also take the time to remember the billions of others who share our planet. Too many of the world’s neediest people will start the new year without sufficient food, nutrition or education. But by acknowledging and supporting those organizations around the world that are finding ways to nourish both people and the planet, we can all make a difference.

For more information, click here.

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