Can Indoor Farms Feed Humanity?

Is indoor farming a healthy alternative to the mass production of Genetically Modified Organisms? Given GMO toxicity, will governments adopt indoor farming instead?

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
July 22, 2011

Depending who you talk to, scientists and trend forecasters believe that in 30 years time, most people will live in urban centers -so much for Arthur C. Clarke’s rural communities prediction-. Also in 30 to 40 years, food will be one of the most, if not the most valuable commodity. The one characteristic that all commodities have in common to make themselves valuable is its scarcity. Diamonds are not valuable because of how easy they can be harvested. Water does not spur conflict because of its transparent color. These two commodities are valuable because overall they are scarce or are becoming scarce.

Scarcity is a trait that diamonds and water are beginning to share with food. The reasons for this varies in different parts of the world, but my educated guess is that the main cause is food price speculation. Given this fact, does it not make sense to look for ways to guarantee food availability for all? Well, not if it is for food speculators to decide. Fortunately, each of us has the power to decide for ourselves.

The next great thing when it comes to food supply is having our own food greenhouses. Food greenhouses can vary in size, and that is one of their beauties. They can be small enough to feed an individual, a family, a small community or a whole city. But greenhouses are not the novelty here. The new great alternative -at least for me- is vertical farming, that is, having our own greenhouses where we can plant our own food in the middle of the city we live in. It is its verticality what gives this kind of farming its charm. Since more and more people decide to move to the large urban centers, and food there is usually less available than, say, the countryside, vertical farming becomes a space efficient, alternative for those who have the space in their homes or communities.

On a personal note, vertical farming is all urban humans need in order to be food independent, much like farmers are in rural areas. But a key point here is that since we have the choice -no matter what the government says- to feed ourselves with our own food, it is a great opportunity to choose healthy food. In other words, clean seeds, clean vegetables and fruit instead of GMO seeds and GMO agricultural products. Depending on what your urgency for food is and where you are located, it is urgent that you go out and scout for clean, organic seeds before they are just a thing of the past. That’s right. With a handful of companies pushing for bans on organic farming and food monopolies, it only makes sense to be food independent while we can. Here is where vertical farming comes in.

Population Growth vs Food Availability

Although many people relate food scarcity to overpopulation and say the planet is running out of food and space, research shows that at current levels, the planet could feed its whole population in an area the size of Texas. Because some researchers believe human population will grow out of control in the next decades, they estimate that there will not be enough food for everyone. However, studies done by organizations like the Population Research Institute show that the world’s population will grow to 9 billion to then stabilize and decrease to a healthy level, naturally. Studies also show that there is currently enough food to feed everyone on the planet.

So why are some researchers and politicians sounding the alarms of overpopulation and food scarcity on the wrong tones? My own research by talking to people in those two groups show that it is a combination of economics, corruption and ignorance. In fact, overpopulation has been profoundly unmasked as a lie and although food scarcity is a problem in many parts of the world, it is not a result of overpopulation, but food price speculation, food monopolies and war.

Going back to Vertical Farming, according to the Spiegel Online, urban agriculture may be a solution to feed more people, in more places in the world. “Agricultural researchers believe that building indoor farms in the middle of cities could help solve the world’s hunger problem. Experts say that vertical farming could feed up to 10 billion people and make agriculture independent of the weather and the need for land. There’s only one snag: The urban farms need huge amounts of energy.”

But despite any snags, people in countries where space is a luxury are already planning and executing vertical farming projects. In South Korea, independent researchers are already cultivating food in indoor greenhouses. “Heads of lettuce are lined up in stacked layers. At the very bottom, small seedlings are thriving while, further up, there are riper plants almost ready to be picked.”

In his book The Vertical Farm, Dr. Dickson Despommier explains how vertical farming may be the solution to world hunger with or without overpopulation.

“An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world’s urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.”

How does vertical farming compare to traditional outdoor farming. Here is a list of reasons why vertical, indoor farming is an option to be food independent and plant your own fruit and vegetables regardless of whether you have a five story building available for planting or not.

Advantages of Vertical Farming (From TheVerticalFarm.com)

  • Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
  • No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
  • All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
  • VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
  • VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
  • VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
  • VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
    evapotranspiration
  • VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
    parts of plants and animals
  • VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
  • VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
  • VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
  • VF creates new employment opportunities
  • We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on
    earth
  • VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
  • VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical
    LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.
  • VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water
    and land for agriculture

Dr. Dickson Despommier believes we are at the doors of another farming revolution. Although this new way of being food independent may not be available to everyone at an industrial level, people can take the methods and techniques and adapt them to their corner of the world. Humans had to experiment for hundreds or even thousands of years to understand how farming techniques could play to their benefit. However, growing crops is now taken for granted. Masses of land that were once used to feed ourselves before are now unused or turned into wastelands mainly because of government or corporate intervention.

That is why vertical indoor farming is such a great alternative to attain food security.

See a complete photo gallery of vertical farming prototype projects here.

Competing Currencies: A Defense against Profligate Spending

by Rep. Ron Paul

The end of June marked what is hopefully the end of the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. For months the Fed has purchased hundreds of billions of dollars of Treasury debt, enabling the government to fund its profligate deficit spending, push the national debt to its limit, and further devalue the dollar. Confidence in the dollar is plummeting, confidence in the euro has been shattered by the European bond crisis, and beleaguered consumers and investors are slowly but surely awakening to the fact that government-issued currencies do not hold their value.

Currency is sound only when it is recognized and accepted as such by individuals, through the actions of the market, without coercion. Throughout history, gold and silver have been the two commodities that have most fully satisfied the requirements of sound money. This is why people around the world are flocking once again to gold and silver as a store of value to replace their rapidly depreciating paper currencies. Even central banks have come to their senses and have begun to stock up on gold once again.

But in our country today, attempting to use gold and silver as money is severely punished, regardless of the fact that it is the only constitutionally-allowed legal tender! In one recent instance, entrepreneurs who attempted to create their own gold and silver currency were convicted by the federal government of “counterfeiting”.

Also, consider another case of an individual who was convicted of tax evasion for paying his employees with silver and gold coins rather than fiat paper dollars. The federal government acknowledges that such coins are legal tender at their face value, as they were issued by the U.S. government. But when it comes to income taxes owed by the employees who received them, the IRS suddenly deems the coins to be worth their full market value as precious metals.

These cases highlight the fact that a government monopoly on the issuance of money is purely a method of central control over the economy. If you can be forced to accept the government’s increasingly devalued dollar, there is no limit to how far the government will go to debauch the currency. Anyone who attempts to create a market based currency– meaning a currency with real value as determined by markets– threatens to embarrass the federal government and expose the folly of our fiat monetary system.  So the government destroys competition through its usual tools of arrest, confiscation, and incarceration.

This is why I have taken steps to restore the constitutional monetary system envisioned and practiced by our Founding Fathers. I recently introduced HR 1098, the Free Competition in Currency Act. This bill eliminates three of the major obstacles to the circulation of sound money: federal legal tender laws that force acceptance of Federal Reserve Notes; “counterfeiting” laws that serve no purpose other than to ban the creation of private commodity currencies; and tax laws that penalize the use of gold and silver coins as money. During this Congress I hope to hold hearings on this bill in order to highlight the importance of returning to a sound monetary system.

Allowing market participants to choose a sound currency will ensure that individuals’ needs are met, rather than the needs of the government. Restoring sound money will restrict the ability of the government to reduce the citizenry’s purchasing power and burden future generations with debt. Unlike the current system which benefits the Fed and its banking cartel, all Americans are better off with a sound currency.

The 2000-Page Power Grab any Dictator Dreams About

In the words of the very same legislators who created the new financial bill, ‘No one will know until this is actually in place how it works’…, said Christopher Dodd, democrat from Connecticut.  The new bill gives sweeping powers to the president, whoever it is, to determine what is done with many aspects of American citizen’s lives.  “…it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” added Dodd.

WSJ

After more than 20 hours of continuous wrangling, Congressional Democrats and White House officials reached agreement on the

Lawmaker Christopher Dodd (D), next to senator Richard Shelby.

final shape of legislation that would transform financial regulation, avoiding last-minute defections among New York lawmakers that had threatened to upend the bill.

After months of uncertainty about how the U.S. would craft new rules, the agreement offers the clearest picture since the financial crisis of how markets and the government will interact for decades to come. The common thread: large financial companies are facing a tougher leash.

he bill is expected to have enough support to become law. Both chambers plan to vote next week. The margin in the House and Senate will likely be close because most Republicans are expected to oppose the measure.

If the bill passes, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the package into law by July 4. Thursday’s agreement also gives the president leverage going into a weekend summit of world leaders in Canada, where he will prod other nations to rewrite their rules.

“This is about as important as it gets, because it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), a chief architect of the compromise.

In two important ways, the agreement is tougher on the banking industry than officials in the Treasury Department anticipated when they first drafted their version of the bill 12 months ago.

Lawmakers agreed to a provision known as the “Volcker” rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, which prohibits banks from making risky bets with their own funds. To win support from Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), Democrats agreed to allow financial companies to make limited investments in areas such as hedge funds and private-equity funds.

The move could require some big banks to spin off divisions, known as proprietary-trading desks, which make bets with the firms’ money.

The bill also includes a provision, authored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark), which would limit the ability of federally insured banks to trade derivatives. This provision almost derailed the bill following vehement objections from New York Democrats. Ms. Lincoln worked out a deal in the early hours of Friday morning that would allow banks to trade interest-rate swaps, certain credit derivatives and others—in other words the kind of standard safeguards a bank would take to hedge its own risk.

Banks, however, would have to set up separately capitalized affiliates to trade derivatives in areas lawmakers perceived as riskier, including metals, energy swaps, and agriculture commodities, among other things.

A panel of 43 lawmakers spent two weeks reconciling differences between a bill that passed the House in December and the Senate in May. They concluded their negotiations along party lines at a little after 5 a.m. ET in a Capitol Hill conference room marked by tension, levity and exhaustion. Senior administration officials, including Treasury Department Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, arrived late in the afternoon to try and quell the feud between the New York delegation and Ms. Lincoln.

Major components of the bill, including the derivatives provisions, were negotiated in the hallway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building as the clock neared midnight. At one point, after hearing of an offer from Senate Democrats, Rep. Melissa Bean (D., Ill.) exclaimed: “Are you flipping kidding me? Are you flipping kidding me?”

Democrats hailed the agreement as a tool to prevent the kind of taxpayer-funded bailouts that stabilized the economy in 2008 but left divisive scars. Many Republicans said the bill could have unintended consequences, crimping financial markets and access to credit.

“My guess is there are three unintended consequences on every page of this bill,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) said of the nearly 2,000-page bill.

The deal comes as the banking industry is still struggling to regain its footing. Hundreds of banks have been dragged down by bad loans and investments. The violent restructuring of the U.S. banking sector two years ago has left just a few companies controlling a vast amount of the deposits, assets and financial plumbing of the country.

Government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain a multibillion dollar drain on the U.S. Treasury, and largely untouched by this proposal. And the banking sector in parts of Europe remains fragile.

The legislation would redraw how money flows through the U.S. economy, from the way people borrow money to the way banks structure complicated products like derivatives. It could touch every person who has a bank account or uses a credit card.

It would erect a new consumer-protection regulator within the Federal Reserve, give the government new powers to break up failing companies and assign a council of regulators to monitor risks to the financial system. It would also set up strict new rules on big banks, limiting their risk and increasing the costs.

The legislation gives the Securities and Exchange Commission new powers to regulate Wall Street and monitor hedge funds, increasing the agency’s access to funding. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would also have new powers under the bill, which would try and force most derivatives to face more scrutiny from regulators and other market participants.

To pay for some of the new government programs, the bill would allow the government to charge fees to large banks and hedge funds to raise up to $19 billion spread over five years. The assessment is designed to eventually pay down a part of the national debt.

The broad contours had been set for weeks and mostly mirror a proposal the White House has pushed since last summer. But the last few days represented a mad dash of political maneuvering to iron out final details.

Negotiations went into Friday morning, with New York Democrats and White House officials meeting to address the bill’s potential impact on New York, which relies on the financial industry for employment and tax revenue.

To win broader support, Democrats softened the bill’s impact on community banks, auto dealers, and small payday lenders and check cashers.

From the beginning, lawmakers opted against a dramatic reshaping of the country’s financial architecture. Instead, they moved to create new layers of regulation to prevent companies from taking on too much risk.

For example, regulators decided not to order a sweeping consolidation of the regulatory agencies policing finance. They also decided not to bust up large financial companies, despite pressure from liberal groups.

But they did create a process for seizing and dismantling faltering companies, tools the government lacked in 2008 during the seemingly chaotic events surrounding Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and American International Group Inc.

Democrats are banking on stronger government regulators to constrain risk in the financial system and prevent a future banking crisis—or at least blunt its impact.