Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dr. Shiva Is Wrong

At Blog for Rural America, Steph Larson reports on the organic farming conference. Including this nugget:

To a packed audience, Dr. Shiva remembered the roots of industrial agriculture, which was born out of a need to find different uses for the chemicals of war [emphasis added]. Now seeds are patented and controlled by only a few multi-national corporations, while producers are driven further into debt and suffer from hunger. As agriculture becomes more consolidated and fewer people control our food supply, Dr. Shiva asserted that the very health of our democracy is at risk.
The bolded phrase is ridiculous nonsense, though a meme popular among the left food community. (Dr. Pollan repeated a version of it in "Omnivore...". )

The reference presumably is to the Haber-Bosch process, which was developed before WWI in order to avoid the need to import nitrates from Chile. The nitrates were particularly important in European agriculture. Now gunpowder originally was made of sulphur, charcoal, and saltpeter (or "nitre" or potassium nitrate). And Germany's access to Chilean nitrate during WWI was cut off by the British blockade, so the Haber-Bosch process was used to make nitrate for explosives. "The Alchemy of Air" is a fast-moving narrative of the developments in this area.

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