The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › Seedbank in the Arctic - devastating article

Seedbank in the Arctic - devastating article

Merry & Burl H.
BeMerry
Portland, ME
Post #: 46
Here's an article from The Wall Street Journal, suggesting upcoming food shortages and dramatic price increases. Arends' perspective and suggested solution are skewed, but again: what do they know that we don't?

Load Up the Pantry
by Brett Arends
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.
No, this is not a drill.
You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.
Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.
"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)
Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to Bankrate.com. And those yields are before tax.
Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.
And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.
These are trends that have been in place for some time.
And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.
The reason? The prices of many underlying raw materials have risen much more quickly still. Wheat prices, for example, have roughly tripled in the past three years.
Sooner or later, the food companies are going to have to pass those costs on. Kraft saw its raw material costs soar by about $1.25 billion last year, squeezing profit margins. The company recently warned that higher prices are here to stay. Last month the chief executive of General Mills, Kendall Powell, made a similar point.
The main reason for rising prices, of course, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the middle class each year, and that means they want to eat more and better food.
A secondary reason has been the growing demand for ethanol as a fuel additive. That's soaking up some of the corn supply.
You can't easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.
If this seems a stretch, ponder this: The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it's the rosy memory of a bygone age.
The good news is that it's easier to store Cap'n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.
Ted M.
TedMarkow
Brunswick, ME
Post #: 39
It's a wise strategy to have some extra in the food pantry. This article suggests that food prices are not going to come back down, and it seems reasonable to believe.

I remember hearing someone (in this group?) saying that they belong to a food co-op. Is that still going on? I wonder if there is a way for this group to start one. I think bulk is the way to go.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 358
Ted, I recently joined the Food Now buying club (which is sub group, essentially, of the folks getting a coop going). I'm in my first cycle of placing an order but the buying club allows for purchases from United as well as from Crown of Maine Organics. I think I just saw that we've got an agreement with Frontier (herbs) as well. The club also takes advantage of one-offs (like "i'm going to visit my brother who does maple syrup...who wants to put in an order?") when they become available. The buying club seems to be growing fast enough that it will need its own space and de facto become the coop of sorts - the front phalange anyway.

Here's the yahoo group for the buying club:
http://groups.yahoo.c...­

You need to attend a new member orientation before placing your first order.
Susannah
user 3832381
Portland, ME
Post #: 29
FYI: In case it was missed, there was some previous discussion about the SeedBank you all may find interesting...check out the thread from Francesco's earlier message board post starting on Feb. 27, 2008 entitled, "Seriously Saving Seeds"
Ted M.
TedMarkow
Brunswick, ME
Post #: 44
Ted, I recently joined the Food Now buying club (which is sub group, essentially, of the folks getting a coop going). I'm in my first cycle of placing an order but the buying club allows for purchases from United as well as from Crown of Maine Organics. I think I just saw that we've got an agreement with Frontier (herbs) as well. The club also takes advantage of one-offs (like "i'm going to visit my brother who does maple syrup...who wants to put in an order?") when they become available. The buying club seems to be growing fast enough that it will need its own space and de facto become the coop of sorts - the front phalange anyway.

Here's the yahoo group for the buying club:
http://groups.yahoo.c...­

You need to attend a new member orientation before placing your first order.

Cool! Thanks, Lisa.
Elaine
user 3022592
Portland, ME
Post #: 132
Thanks a lot Lisa!

Merry, -- why of course! "Locally adapted seeds need to be planted, grown out, reproduced, and saved locally to keep up with the evolving habitat." Thanks a lot for the article!

Elaine
Elaine
user 3022592
Portland, ME
Post #: 133
I have to add that the idea of "Loading up the pantry" doesn't sit well with my heart. How is this different from hoarding? If people start doing this it'll cause panic buying and make prices rise all the more. Right now it's the starving poor who are in dire straits. When people discuss the causes of the food price crisis I listen carefully for one of the key reasons: the U.S. farm subsidies which pay farmers millions of dollars NOT to produce a thing. How can the poor in India etc. compete with this? Saw a good expose of this on TV not long ago. No one dares confront the elites who profit from this but in that particular program a few who profited acknowledged the great injustice of it.

Elaine
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 360
Elaine, you make an important point. I feel like there is a difference, for me personally, between having a stocked pantry as in "emergency preparedness" and hoarding. Hoarding somehow connotes having an abundance of something - maybe even in secret - that all my neighbors are desparate to have and are without (yes, you could argue that many people in the world are starving this very minute...are not those people also my neighbors?).

So the "emergency preparedness" version of pantry-stocking looks different to me than the "hoarding" version of pantry stocking. I struggle to find the words to define the boundary between one and the other however and will have to really examine this in my own life. Stocking the pantry for the "long emergency" makes this struggle even more challenging for me morally, but one we will all have to grapple with. I don't have the answer.

Having some basic staples on hand, however, allows me to a) have supplies to share with my immediate neighbors in times of need [indeed, they may have something that I lack and would reciprocate, etc. creating a web of cooperation and resiliance] and b) continue to function myself so that I can help others. If I have not prepared properly, then not only am I in trouble but I have no capacity to be of use to others. "In the event of an emergency, please affix your own oxygen mask first before assisting your neighbors..." That always felt weird to me but I understand the concept.

This is a sticky wicket for sure.

I absolutely draw the line at those who are speculating on grain futures (to the tune of 200 billion I heard recently from Russell Libby) at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Merry & Burl H.
BeMerry
Portland, ME
Post #: 48
Lisa,

I'm facing this same dilemma regarding what is hording and what is enlightened self interest as I write the "Preserving Maine's Commons" section of my book. Maine has valuable resources including forest, ample fresh water, ocean access, available farmland, relatively minimal overdevelopment, and low population density. We need policies in place to protect these commons badly or we will be colonized and exploited by the corporations as ruthlessly as any third world country. It is already happening with Nestles, aka Poland Springs. Where do you step over the line into exclusionary hording of valuable resources? How do you preserve an ecologically and socially responsible style of life in the face of desertification, water depletion, and ecological destitution elsewhere? I am convinced that Maine will face a huge influx of climate refugees fairly soon. How will we absorb them without allowing ourselves to be inundated? I feel, at this point, like I am simultaneously facing the dilemmas of impending financial poverty, on the one hand, and impending ecological wealth, on the other. Maine, I think, is in the same situation. We need, as a group, to be grappling with these issues.

Blessings, Merry
Ted M.
TedMarkow
Brunswick, ME
Post #: 48
I have to throw in with the food pantry advocates. This is actually a pretty old system - one that has been lost in modern times of convenience and the illusion of food security. That we have been able to get what we want when we want is a testament to "cheap oil", not to endless supplies of food. Well, the days of cheap oil are over and we need to get back to some basics, just as our grandparents and greats did.

I have no plans to stock vast quantities of grains and other staples, just enough to carry me through some time without wasting any of it. As Lisa alluded to, if I'm not around, how can I help anyone else?

Ted
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