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Our very own CEO, urban farming pioneer and MacArthur “Genius Award” winner points the way to creating an innovative food system for inner-city communities.
In the face of financial challenges and daunting odds, Allen built the country’s preeminent urban farm—a food and educational center that now produces enough vegetables and fish year-round to feed thousands of people. The Good Food Revolution is the story of Will’s personal journey, the lives he has touched, and a grassroots movement that is changing the way our nation eats. To save enough of the crop to sell and to feed his family, Juma will have to harvest a month early. The United Nations forecasts that by 2050 the world’s population will grow by more than two billion people.
Before those grim visions could come to pass, the green revolution transformed global agriculture, especially wheat and rice. Proponents like Fraley say such crops have prevented billions of dollars in losses in the U.S.
The cassava plants in this petri dish have been genetically engineered to resist brown streak virus, a disease that’s spreading across sub-Saharan Africa, where cassava is a staple for 250 million people. The particular GM crops Fraley pioneered at Monsanto have been profitable for the company and many farmers, but have not helped sell the cause of high-tech agriculture to the public. Though there’s no clear evidence that Roundup or Roundup Ready crops are unsafe, proponents of an alternative vision of agriculture see those expensive GM seeds as a costly input to a broken system. Monsanto is not the only organization that believes modern plant genetics can help feed the world. Walking along the paddies, we pass other landmark breeds, each designated with a neatly painted wooden sign. Rice is the most important food crop in the world, providing more energy to humanity than any other food source. When the green revolution began in the 1960s, it was before the revolution in molecular genetics: IR8, the first miracle rice, was bred without knowledge of the genes that blessed it with high yields. For many decades IRRI focused on improving traditional varieties of rice, grown in fields that are flooded at planting time. Only a few of the rice varieties at IRRI are GM crops, in the sense that they contain a gene transferred from a different species, and none of those are publicly available yet. Traditional BreedingDesired traits are identified in separate individuals of the same species, which are then bred to combine those traits in a new hybrid variety. Genetic ModificationGenes identified in one species can be transferred directly to an unrelated species, giving it an entirely new trait—resistance to a pest, say, or to a weed killer.
If a mutation happens to produce a desirable trait, the plant is selected for further breeding.
Yet the institute’s entire breeding operation has been accelerated by modern genetics.
In 2006, for example, plant pathologist Pamela Ronald of the University of California, Davis, isolated a gene called Sub1 from an East Indian rice variety. Researchers at IRRI cross-pollinated Sub1 rice with a high-yielding, flavorful variety called Swarna, which is popular in India and Bangladesh.
The new flood-tolerant rice, called Swarna-Sub1, has been planted by nearly four million farmers in Asia, where every year floods destroy about 50 million acres of rice. The institute’s most ambitious project would transform rice fundamentally and perhaps increase yields dramatically.
C4 photosynthesis, unlike the submergence tolerance of Sub1 rice, is controlled by many genes, not just one, which makes it a challenging trait to introduce.
Zeigler decided on his career after a stint as a science teacher in the Peace Corps in 1972. Taylor and other researchers are in the early stages of developing genetically modified cassava varieties that are immune to the brown streak virus. In Africa, as elsewhere, people fear GM crops, even though there’s little scientific evidence to justify the fear. A paper published last March, for instance, documented an unsettling trend: Corn rootworms are evolving resistance to the bacterial toxins in Bt corn. The Search for a Less Thirsty Tomato  To find out how tomato plants resist drought, Danforth Center researchers cut their water ration 18 days after planting, then monitor them using three kinds of imaging. Morogoro lies about a hundred miles west of Dar es Salaam, at the base of the Uluguru Mountains. Every quarter mile or so we pass women walking alone or in small groups, balancing baskets of cassavas, papayas, or bananas on their heads. She stops at a one-room brick house with partially plastered walls and a corrugated metal roof. Unlike the farmers in Bagamoyo, Kibwana and her neighbors raise a variety of crops: Bananas, avocados, and passion fruit are in season now. Perhaps the most life-altering result of organic farming has been the liberation from debt. When I ask Maro if genetically modified seeds might also help those farmers, she’s skeptical.
The magazine thanks The Rockefeller Foundation and members of the National Geographic Society for their generous support of this series of articles.
Growing Dome® Tour April 22nd Earth Day at Growing Spaces® A Growing Dome is an investment that easily pays for itself – if you use it.
When compared to buying quality food from the store, the investment of a Growing Dome is definitely worth it.
But still – even though it makes smart economic sense, and sound health sense, it is still an investment up front.
Actually get into the driver’s seat, grip the wheel, tilt the rear view mirror, accelerate, and daydream about how it will feel when it’s yours. Come visit us here at the Growing Spaces facility and tour our 5 Growing Domes that are actively in Food Production.


Our on-site Growing Domes demonstrate a range of sizes, options, bed design layouts, and ways of Growing Food Year Round in the Rocky Mountains. We all know that the Growing Dome provides an ideal space and environment for growing your own food.
However, you probably won’t have much luck growing plants without grow beds filled with …dirt?
Fortunately, Pagosa Springs Earth Day activities includes a Compost Demonstration at the Archuleta County Extension Building.
So round out your Earth Day Growing Dome adventure with a Compost Demonstration at the Archuleta County Extension Building, only minutes away from Growing Spaces.
All directions begin from the intersection of Pagosa Street (Highway 160) & Hot Springs Blvd. We’ll have a product specialist get in touch with you to see if there are any Growig Domes in your area that are open to having visitors. Groundwork Hull operates within Groundwork Wakefield which is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England. The food we eat enormously affects our climate, water and soil—and we can have a say in whether our food is produced and distributed in a way that benefits us all. Our education system has traditionally held that reading, math, science and English classes form basic building blocks for success. Employing young people from the neighboring housing project and community, Growing Power has sought to prove that local food systems can help troubled youths, dismantle racism, create jobs, bring urban and rural communities closer together, and improve public health. By identifying genes and manipulating them, scientists hope to create new crops that will help us face the challenges of global warming and population growth. In Africa small family farms grow more than 90 percent of all crops, and cassava is a staple for more than 250 million people. Climate change and population growth will make life increasingly precarious for Juma, Kagembe, and other small farmers in the developing world—and for the people they feed. Half will be born in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 percent in South and Southeast Asia. Through selective breeding, Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, created a dwarf variety of wheat that put most of its energy into edible kernels rather than long, inedible stems. Even as the continent’s population increased by 60 percent, grain prices fell, the average Asian consumed nearly a third more calories, and the poverty rate was cut in half. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops are genetically modified to be immune to the herbicide Roundup, which Monsanto also manufactures. Modern agriculture, they say, already relies too heavily on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Late on a warm February afternoon Glenn Gregorio, a plant geneticist at the International Rice Research Institute, shows me the rice that started the green revolution in Asia.
The institute releases dozens of new varieties every year; about a thousand have been planted around the world since the 1960s.
Breeders today can zero in on genes, but they still use traditional techniques and ever more complex pedigrees. One is Golden Rice, which contains genes from corn that allow it to produce beta-carotene; its purpose is to combat the global scourge of vitamin A deficiency. For decades IRRI breeders patiently followed the ancient recipe: Select plants with the desired trait, cross-pollinate, wait for the offspring to reach maturity, select the best performers, repeat.
Seldom grown now because of its low yields, the East Indian rice has one remarkable characteristic: It can survive for two weeks underwater. Then they screened the DNA to determine which seedlings had actually inherited the Sub1 gene.
One recent study found that farmers in 128 villages in the Indian state of Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal, increased their yields by more than 25 percent. Rice, wheat, and many other plants use a type of photosynthesis known as C3, for the three-carbon compound they produce when sunlight is absorbed. White-bearded and avuncular, a self-described old lefty, Zeigler believes the public debate over genetically modified crops has become horribly muddled. Louis, plants get the phenotyping treatment, while scientists explain how the technology could benefit crops in a shifting climate. Taylor is collaborating with Ugandan researchers on a field trial, and another is under way in Kenya.
There’s a stronger argument that high-tech plant breeds are not a panacea and maybe not even what African farmers need most.
In 2009, while still an undergraduate at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, she helped start a nonprofit called Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). A few days after my visit with Juma in Bagamoyo, Maro takes me into the mountains to visit three of the first certified organic farms in Tanzania. Habija Kibwana, a tall woman in a short-sleeved white blouse and wraparound skirt, invites us and two neighbors to sit on her porch.
Soon they’ll be planting carrots, spinach, and other leafy vegetables, all for local consumption. Even with government subsidies, it costs 500,000 Tanzanian shillings, more than $300, to buy enough fertilizer and pesticide to treat a single acre—a crippling expense in a country where the annual per capita income is less than $1,600. Wild wheat (in hand) has virtues scientists hope to tap: It can tolerate temperatures that kill its domesticated kin. Outside his office a flock is descending on the green paddies; the mountains beyond glow with evening light. This is a ‘no strings attached’ opportunity for you to see, smell, and maybe even taste what it is like to Grow Your Own Food with the greenhouse that is disrupting the greenhouse industry.
If you have been around us for a while, you’ve heard it before, I’m sure. Intelligent Design, 7 Unique Features, Year Round Growing Environment. To get to know us, receive regular gardening hints and informative and inspirational offerings, sign up for our newsletter.


For most of the 20th century humanity managed to stay ahead in the Malthusian race between population growth and food supply.
One is high-tech, with a heavy emphasis on continuing Borlaug’s work of breeding better crops, but with modern genetic techniques. That means farmers can spray the herbicide freely to eliminate weeds without damaging their GM corn, cotton, or soybeans. Not only are they unaffordable for a small farmer like Juma; they pollute land, water, and air.
It now offers drought-tolerant varieties, including one that can be planted in dry fields and subsist on rainfall, as corn and wheat do. In a magnified cross section of a corn leaf (left), photosynthesis proteins are stained fluorescent green. On a rainy March morning, trailed by two of his four young sons, he’s talking with a technician from the big city, 28-year-old Deogratius Mark of the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute.
Juma is typical of the farmers Mark meets—most have never heard of the viral diseases.
It would be the perfect crop for 21st-century Africa—were it not for the whitefly, whose range is expanding as the climate warms. Will we be able to maintain that lead in the 21st century, or will a global catastrophe beset us?
Last March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world’s food supply is already jeopardized. Similar work at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines dramatically improved the productivity of the grain that feeds nearly half the world. Department of Agriculture found that pesticide use on corn crops has dropped 90 percent since the introduction of Bt corn, which contains genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that help it ward off corn borers and other pests.
Their contract with Monsanto does not allow them to save seeds for planting; they must purchase its patented seeds each year. Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using fossil fuels, and they themselves emit potent greenhouse gases when they’re applied to fields.
There’s a salt-tolerant rice for countries like Bangladesh, where rising seas are poisoning rice fields. IRRI creates GM varieties only as a last resort, says director Robert Zeigler, when it can’t find the desired trait in rice itself. In 2004 an international consortium of researchers mapped the entire rice genome, which comprises some 40,000 individual genes. The researchers didn’t have to plant the seedlings, grow them, and then submerge them for two weeks to see which would survive.
It would be an unprecedented boon to food security; in theory yields could jump by 50 percent.
Tomatoes are typically grown in hot, dry climates with a lot of irrigation water—more than 13 gallons per tomato on average. The farmers here are learning to plant strategically, setting out rows of Tithonia diversifolia, a wild sunflower that whiteflies prefer, to draw the pests away from the cassavas. How likely is it, she asks, in a country where few farmers ever see a government agricultural adviser, or are even aware of the diseases threatening their crops, that they’ll get the support they need to grow GM crops properly?
The same viruses that have invaded Juma’s field have already spread throughout East Africa. Scientists, he argues, can now identify and manipulate a huge variety of plant genes, for traits like disease resistance and drought tolerance. Since then, researchers around the world have been pinpointing genes that control valuable traits and can be selected directly. The use of compost instead of synthetic fertilizers has improved the soil so much that one of the farmers, Pius Paulini, has doubled his spinach production. Community supported agriculture (CSA) initiatives and farmers’ markets are proliferating. But in Europe and much of Africa, debates over the safety and environmental effects of GM crops have largely blocked their use. Half of our land and 80 percent of our water is used for agriculture, reports The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and pesticide use has increased 33-fold since the 1940s. CEO Maria Rodale what consumers can do to improve their health and environment, and her answer is unequivocal. A loaf of natural bread could be made with grains repeatedly sprayed with pesticides and man-made fertilizer. In the 1990s, if you were eating organic, you pretty much were eating food from a local farmer. But when the big companies came in and you could get organic produce grown in Mexico, it wasn’t the same anymore. Is it really greener to buy local hothouse tomatoes if, according to McWilliams, they can require up to 10 times the energy?
For instance, a shipper sending a truck with 2,000 apples across 2,000 miles would consume the same amount of fuel per apple as a local farmer who takes a pickup 50 miles to sell 50 apples. She says that these can be excellent ways to benefit our health, environment and local economies.
For example, a co-op can take years to form and is typically volunteer run, which involves a significant learning curve; it also often requires members to put up several hundred dollars long before the doors open.
Belonging to a CSA includes collective risk, so if it’s a bad crop year, member shares are affected.



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