14 Jul 2009

Sanitizing Agriculture

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Fueled by litigation and media-fed paranoia, the dissociation between homo urbanicus and Nature has broken through to a fresh new level of insanity, as demonstrated by this SF Chronicle story. Retail buyers are now increasingly demanding that growers make a desert in order to grow sanitized greens.

Dick Peixoto planted hedges of fennel and flowering cilantro around his organic vegetable fields in the Pajaro Valley near Watsonville to harbor beneficial insects, an alternative to pesticides.

He has since ripped out such plants in the name of food safety, because his big customers demand sterile buffers around his crops. No vegetation. No water. No wildlife of any kind.

“I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop,” he said. “On one field where a deer walked through, didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.”

In the verdant farmland surrounding Monterey Bay, a national marine sanctuary and one of the world’s biological jewels, scorched-earth strategies are being imposed on hundreds of thousands of acres in the quest for an antiseptic field of greens. And the scheme is about to go national.

A must read.

All kinds of formerly common wildlife vanished in the aftermath of WWII, when the Department of Agriculture popularized tidier, edge-to-edge farming practices which eliminated the hedgerows, borders, and waste spaces where birds and small animals could find shelter and reproduce. One conspicuous result was Goodbye, wild ringneck pheasant! from my native state of Pennsylvania, just for instance.

One can just picture the mind-boggling toll of losses produced by the countless thousands of acres of sterile bird-weed-and-animal-free arugula growing to fill the produce bins of Whole Foods.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

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