Big Ag’s Gifts for 2014

It’s a tradition of mine to write a note of gratitude to Big Ag for the many “gifts” they’ve bestowed upon us all over the past 12 months. Gifts that we didn’t really want, need, or–in some cases–didn’t even know about. Here’s my top 10 for 2014.


2014 saw a concerted effort by the meat industry to re-brand conventional beef production as “sustainable.” In November, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) — a “who’s who” of the global beef industry (plus a few agreeable environmental NGOs)–published a set of principles & criteria to guide the industry towards sustainable beef production. The problem is that leading NGOs contend it is (at best) an aspirational document–and at worst a distraction. As I recently said, while I applaud this effort, “The problem is that they [the GRSB] seem to be trying to define what they’re already doing as sustainable. The new principles seem more about marketing than actual change…” Time will tell how serious the GRSB members are.


In August, 500,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, temporarily lost their drinking water supply. Tests attributed microbial toxin contamination in the water system to an explosion of toxic blue-green cyanobacteria algal blooms. The cause? Research reveals that levels of phosphorus washed into the lake have increased dramatically over the last two decades with run-off from fertilizers used for industrial corn and soy production and manure pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). So who is fighting against regulations to control pollution entering the lake? A coalition of major agricultural and fertilizer industry interests, of course.


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