Media Mix, June 30, 2013

Toshimichi Yoshida

Toshimichi Yoshida

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, about the documentary Tous Cobayes? and the twin controversies of nuclear power and genetically modified organisms, though mostly the latter since it hasn’t received much attention in the Japanese media. Last winter I wrote a related column about heirloom seeds and how the Trans-Pacific Partnership could pave the way for more GM agriculture. Though I’m sure farmers are worried about this aspect of global commerce, they have been so focused on “protection” in the form of tariffs that keep out cheaper foreign products that the more insidious matter of GM seeds has been given less coverage. However, a more open acceptance of alternative farming methods seems to be a trend in the media now, as exemplified by a recent article in Aera about a method of vegetable farming that takes advantage of bacteria in the soil to ward off pests, thus making it unnecessary to use agrichemicals for that purpose. The method has even been given a cute name–kinchan cultivation, “kinchan” describing the bacteria in an endearing fashion. The method was developed by Toshimichi Yoshida, a former employee of the Nagasaki Prefecture Agricultural Association. Yoshida was in charge of promoting new forms of farming and he always felt uncomfortable pushing agrichemicals in his work, so he eventually quit and became an organic farmer. Through a trial-and-error process over a number of years he found that vegetables grown in soil that was filled with fermented bacteria naturally repelled destructive insects, which tended to eat only over-ripe vegetables. Moreover, he thought the resulting produce tasted better, so he’s dedicated his life to spreading the method, and established a non-profit organization, Daichi no Inochi no Kai, to that end. In essence, the method is simply a variation on the composting idea, and thus is more easily adopted by lay persons with small gardens. They keep their household organic waste in one place and mix it with soil to create bacteria and then use that soil for planting. Yoshida spends all his time traveling the country, lecturing on his method. Consequently, kinchan cultivation is mostly practiced on the community level rather than on a large commercial level, but the article says that some local governments are looking at it from a waste disposal perspective since it could cut reduce incineration costs. Obviously, this sort of alternative agriculture would take hold literally from the ground up, and large-scale farmers will probably think it’s too much trouble to use Yoshida’s method, but the point about alternatives is that the more people who come to believe them the more mainstream they are. As I said in the column, GMOs need to be discussed more fully and openly, because they can become mainstream without anyone looking, given the financial momentum behind them. Unfortunately, the idea that organic is more demonstrably safer and produces better quality food is less pertinent than the fact that fewer people can make money off of it.

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One Response to Media Mix, June 30, 2013

  1. junko parker says:

    I live in Australia, want to know how to plant vegetables your way, do you have a book I can buy? (junko

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