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October 03, 2007 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-10-03

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B The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 - The Michigan Daily B

FOOD From page 4B

smallerproportionofits income on country. But the affordability has
food than in any other developed its own cost. Faced with an abun-

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dance of cheap food, Americans
have a high daily caloric intake
and are beset with a host of food-
related afflictions - a high inci-
dence of obesity, diabetes, heart
disease and stroke.
I often hear the question - why
is organic food so expensive? This
is the wrong question. The right
question is - why is regular food
so cheap? Although the check-
out price is low, the full cost is
much higher. Agricultural sub-
sidies, which now cost taxpay-
ers over $25 billion per year, go
to conventionally produced food.
Conventional agriculture aggra-
vates environmental deteriora-
tion through soil erosion, runoff
of synthetic fertilizers and pesti-
cides into wetlands, biocide poi-
soning of non-target plants and
animals, greater greenhouse gas
emissions and loss of native bio-
diversity. Programs to reverse
this damage are funded by tax-
payers. And finally, most research
funding, whether from federal
or industry sources, is directed
toward conventional agriculture.
Thus we pay for conventional
agriculture at many stages. In
contrast, organic agriculture pays
its own way. Ongoing research is
revealing other benefits of organic
food and farming. A recent study
from the University of California
at Davis showed that organically
grown tomatoes had higher levels
of anti-oxidants (anti-aging, anti-
cancer compounds) than conven-
tional tomatoes did. A long-term
study of organic and conventional
methods of raising grains at the
Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania
found that the organic system,
usingcover crops, sequesters more
carbon in the soil than the no-till
conventional system.
The conventional lore is that
the yields from organic farming
are well below those of chemi-,
cally intensive farming - hence,
organic food must remain a niche
market in the global food system.
A group of us on campus decided
to investigate whether the yield
data from the scientific literature
supports this claim. On a field
trip for a course I teach with
Ivette Perfecto, called "Food,
Land, and Society," we visited
Garden Works, a small organic
farm north of Ann Arbor. There,
an impressive patchwork of veg-
etables undergoes several har-
vests each growing season. We
asked Farmer Rob how much
produce comes from his 2.5 acres
each year. His answer was 27
tons. That's a lot. If he can grow
27 tons of produce on 2.5 acres,
why can't organic agriculture
feed the world?
For a year, eight of us combed
the literature for studies compar-
ing the yields of organic and non-
organic crops and analyzed the
results. What we found differed
from the conventional lore. Our
results, based on 293 yield com-
parisons of plant and animal foods,

showed that organic agriculture
has the potential to feed the entire
human population based on the
amount of agricultural land cur-
rently in use. We also found that
leguminous cover crops, grown
between normal cropping peri-
ods on current cropland, could fix
more nitrogen than all of the syn-
thetic nitrogen fertilizer currently
Our study was published in
the June issue of the journal
"Renewable Agriculture and Food
Systems." The paper attracted
attention at a conference on
organic agriculture sponsored by
the Food and Agricultural Orga-
nization of the United Nations,
and subsequently, several press
releases reported that the FAO
was supporting organic agricul-
ture. We have received inquiries
from all over the world about
our paper, and the reception has
largely been enthusiastic. There
has also been a backlash. Both
academic crop ecologists and a
spokesman for a right-wing think
tank have criticized the validity
and accuracy of our data. Ironi-
cally, their standards seem to dif-
fer for the studies that come to the
opposite conclusion from ours. A
colleague at the FAO has notified
us that lobbying on behalf of con-
ventional agriculture increased
after they circulated press releas-
es promoting organic agriculture.
Could organically
grown food feed
the world more
High stakes are involved, because
global agribusiness corporations
make billions of dollars each year
selling synthetic fertilizers, syn-
thetic pesticides and genetically
modifiedseeds. Butmore andmore
people are aware of the benefits of
organic farming, of eating food in
season, of supporting local farm-
ers and of the impacts of farming,
on ecosystem services locally and
So enjoy the bounty of the har-
vest. Also, know that what you
choose to eat will have a wider
impact reaching all the way to the
farmworkers, the farmers, the soil,
the earthworms, the grocers, the
Secretary of Agriculture, the mon-
arch butterflies migrating to Mex-
ico and beyond. Through our food'
choices, we affect the world.
- Catherine Badgley is a
research scientist in the Museum
of Paleontology and an assistant
professor in the Department of
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

And why your credit score is more
important than you think

apa John's Pizza gave out
free pizzas a couple of weeks
ago to University students.
All students had to do was trek out
to the pizzeria on Huron Street,
show their MCards and then
sign up for a credit card with the
woman sitting at a discrete table in
the corner of the store.
The deal wasn't quite what stu-
dents expected after reading fliers
scattered around campus, which
didn't mention credit cards. But
several students applied for cards
anyway. They'd made it out to
Huron Street. They wanted their
What thenew cardholders didn't
realize was while they opened the
accounts for free, it's likely their
credit scores paid the cost.
The credit industry is full of
unexpected snares that lower
credit scores, but for college stu-
dents whose credit histories have
barely begun, hits to their scores
do more than tarnish their finan-
cial reputations. Enough credit
missteps could even put a recent
graduate's career on the line.
Sanyika Calloway, now a finan-
cial adviser, said her original
career aspirations were ruined
because of the credit hole she dug
herself into during college.
After graduating early from
Norfolk State University with a
high grade point average, Callo-
way had the qualifications to land
interviews for several communi-
cations jobs in New York City, but
she couldn't get her foot in the
door. Midway into another rejec-
tion, she found out that her stained
credit history was the reason why.
More than 60 percent of
employers look at applicants' cred-
it reports when evaluating their
employability, Calloway said, and
it can make the difference between
an offer and a rejection.
She said students make the mis-
take of thinking that little slip-ups

will boost
your score.
card) companies
are very interest-
ed in the amount
of credit you're
using compared to the
amount you have," Det-
weiler said.
But instead of opening
cards offered through pro-
motions, Business School
Prof. Sreedhar Bharath said
you should gradually collect
three or four big name cards
over a couple of years. A conscien-
tious credit seeker can find cards
with good interest rates and pay-
ment conditions.
Applying for a new card only
once or twice a year shouldn't do
significant damage to your score,
Bharath said.
A good strategy for credit build-
ing is taking out a few good cards
now and usingthem regularly. One
of the biggest boosts to a score is
an account that's been open for
Make sure you like the condi-
tions of your first card, because
closing an aged account will surely
make your score dip.
But you can't just hide a card
under your bed. Not using your
card for as little as two months
could cause the account to deacti-
vate, Bharath said.
The credit card industry has
many nuances. Even financial
experts can have ahard time sum-
marizing the calculation system
used by credit bureaus. Getting
into the game now isn't a bad idea.
One surety is that a good, clean,
long credit history is sure to deliv-
er the benefits of a high score. But
right now you're also the indus-
try's prey of choice, and giving
you ample opportunities to screw
yourself over is only going to make
them money.

How your bulging wallet will deflate
your credit score

Contact us at: 617-373-3244


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