There’s a lot going on right now in the world of food and food production, and there are some really good articles out there to help you navigate the murky waters. Check these out:

An informative, well-written analysis of the late blight problem for this year’s tomato crop. I’ve heard a lot of fellow gardeners bemoaning late blight this year. But my tomatoes are going strong, and I haven’t seen this problem. After reading this article, I realized why: I started the majority of my tomatoes from seed. Most of the late blight has been caused by commercially produced tomato starts. Score one for the seed savers!

You may have heard rustlings about the new food safety bill. While few would deny that our food system needs some major safety checks, the food safety bill that recently passed the Housedoes very little to regulate the industrial farms. Whether small farmers have as much to fear as they think they do remains to be seen. This bill has yet to pass the Senate (they will vote when they re-adjourn this month), so let your voice be heard by contacting your state senators.

If you’ve been reading the Exchange this summer, you’re aware of some of the issues surrounding Monsanto. Now comes an interesting look at the evolution of coca plants in South America. Glysophate, which is the herbicide Monsanto developed and sells under the Round Up label, has been used in the war on drugs to kill coca and poppy plants. As with the so-called super weeds that have become resistant to Round Up, a new strain of the coca plant has emerged (or been developed) that is unaffected by Round Up. Governments, in their quaint governmental ways, are refusing to talk about the issue.

Ah, money. I love the way you pervert everything you come in contact with.


This past week was another wet one in central Kentucky. Because of that rain, many gardeners and farmers have had problems with late blight on their tomatoes. Mine are certainly starting to come down with it and other fungi and molds. Still, I’ve  picked more than 30 lbs. of tomatoes thus far and have saved seed from Black Russian, Striped (or Speckled) Roman, and Gold Nugget. All this rain makes for some mealy tomatoes. It’s definitely a good year for salsas, enchilada sauce, and marinara.

Speaking of putting food by, I am happy to announce the addition of a new writer to the blog. Vanessa, who’s garden was profiled a few weeks back, will write some entries on canning, pickling, and otherwise extending summer’s flavor. For those of you who don’t know her, Vanessa is one hell of a cook, a real innovator and creative genius in the kitchen. When she’s not besting Will Shorts and the Times crossword puzzle, she’s making ketchup (yes, ketchup), jams, incredible pickles, and the like. As canning remains a mystery to me, I am anxious to read V’s posts.

Would you like to write for the Exchange? I would like to increase the site’s content, and, more importantly, would like to add some different perspectives to what’s posted. As you know, if you ask two different gardeners what they think about something, you’re liable to get three different answers. If you’d like to write, please contact me via the comments section or by e-mail.

If you’re a regular reader, you’re already familiar with the story surrounding Monsanto’s new SmartStax corn seed. However, GMO seed is only part of Monsanto’s global strategy.

As reported last week, Monsanto has been working to change India’s intellectual property rights laws in order to control and profit from research conducted by university laboratories. Unfortunately for us, they have already achieved such breakthroughs in Canada and the United States.

This past week, Monsanto announced a new  research facility located in Manitoba, Canada, and an upgraded facility in Saskatchewan. The facility in Manitoba will be housed at the University of Manitoba, continuing a disturbing trend of the agri-giant embedding itself within a university structure. This is disturbing because of how much influence the company can wield on both the direction of research being conducted at the university and what happens with the research once it is completed.

As the article from last week pointed out, in America, this trend leads to less Federal agricultural research funding to U.S. land grant universities. With less Federal money, these schools will become more dependent on making money from the research they conduct. I’m not suggesting that it’s dangerous for money to be made on scientific research. However, if money and profit are the primary forces guiding what is researched and what isn’t, that leads to larger scientific and ethical dilemmas. When you consider that land grant universities are public institutions, the issue becomes even more pointed.

Finally, two links that further developments in the story surrounding Monsanto GMO seed. The Asia Times reports on the growing controversy surrounding the new SmartStax corn seed, the lack of thorough scientific testing done on this corn, and the evidence pointing to potentially dangerous side effects. What’s amazing is that this story gets more attention outside of the U.S. Not including the business and stock journals that reported it from an investment standpoint, most major U.S. publications have been silent.

The other link is to a frightening story out of South Africa, where three different varieties of Monsanto GM corn have failed. Clearly, all is not as good as the people in charge of our food supply would have us believe…

Folks, there’s much being done about our food and how it’s produced, and it is largely done without our knowledge or consent. It’s plain frightening. Despite of all this, or maybe because of it, I hope you take the opportunity to enjoy your time in the garden and the many fruits of your labor.

The story on Monsanto and Dow’s new SmartStax corn continues to draw scrutiny, this time from concerned parties in Canada, which joined the U.S. in approving the GM seed this week. At issue in Canada are concerns that a thorough enough environmental impact study was not conducted before approval.

In related news, Dissident Voice, an online peace and social justice newsletter, posted an interesting analysis of Monsanto’s role in overhauling India’s intellectual property rights laws. As you may know, Monsanto has patents on the seed it produces. If you are a farmer and you raise crops and save seed purchased from Monsanto, they will take you to court and sue the living bejesus out of you. This article focuses on the relationship between India and its potential market for GM crops and Monsanto’s expansion of its research and development efforts.

Whether due to the recession, a nostalgia for simpler times, or simply a return to common sense, the recent surge in interest in vegetable gardening is encouraging. Part of this story in Lexington has been the emergence of several community garden projects. Organizations such as Sustain Lex and Seedleafare doing a wonderful job of encouraging people to garden while providing them the resources and skills to be successful. On July 30, Jim Embree, director of Sustain Lex, has organized the 3rd annual Lexington Community Garden Tour. Details and a nice write up from the Herald are here.

Finally, this evening in Berea, Sustainable Berea is hosting its 3rd annual 100-Mile Potluck. Participants are asked to bring a dish made from ingredients found within 100 miles of Berea. They are also asked to share the recipe. This year’s potluck will feature a live auction. Items up for bid include more than 40 rain barrels, workshops on seed saving, and unique opportunities sponsored through local Berea businesses. The event runs from 5:30-7:30 and is being held at the Berea Community School.