FERN’s Friday Feed: About those Chinese mystery seeds…

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

What happened to all those mystery seeds from China?


“Conservatively, it is safe to say that tens of thousands of Americans received what they perceived to be Chinese mystery seeds in July,” writes Jason Koebler. “[A]t least hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans planted the seeds. Some people ate the seeds … Some people called 911. Emergency meetings and calls were held. The USDA’s Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance group (SITC), Customs and Border Protection, and the FBI began investigating. ‘Yes,’ David Stebbings, an officer with the SITC, emailed when alerted by authorities in New Hampshire about the seeds, ‘it’s starting to explode.’”

A racial reckoning inside the FFA


In May, the 700,000-member National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America), the nation’s largest student agriculture organization, was roiled first by statements it made over the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, and later by racist social media posts by one of its student leaders, writes Leah Douglas in FERN’s latest story. This prompted a protest by members demanding the organization dismiss the leader, and more broadly, to reform an organization where racial disparities have long been present.

How a profane, impatient farmer is ‘re-wilding’ the UK

The Guardian

By reintroducing everything from storks and beavers to water voles and wildcats, Derek Gow is forcing the UK to face up to the need to bring back native flora and fauna pushed to the margins of our modern world. “Many farmers are victims of a system that has become a race to the bottom in which the environment, livestock and people pay a heavy price for the consumer’s cheap food,” writes Phoebe Weston. “Gow believes farmers should farm in a way that respects nature … To many ecologists he’s a visionary; to government officials he’s a pain in the arse.”

Why your ‘whole wheat’ flour is ‘a joke,’ and why that matters


“Roller mills now produce a majority of the flour in the United States — which means the nutritious germ and bran are left behind, so that even ‘whole wheat’ flour becomes, essentially, refined white flour,” write Mark Bittman and Melissa McCart. And this has consequences for human health. “The vitamins and minerals that are lost with the germ and bran during roller milling and separation — specifically, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, copper, and folate — are the very nutrients that are most lacking among people in the United States.”

How Covid-19 swept the Brazilian slaughterhouses of JBS


“JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker, has vowed to keep the world fed during the coronavirus pandemic,” writes Ana Mano. “Executives say the company has added more than 15,000 new workers in Brazil this year to crank out cuts of chicken, pork and beef, a lot of it for export. The meat giant’s $629 million second-quarter net profit was almost twice what analysts expected. But that windfall has come at a cost: More than 4,000 JBS employees in Brazil are known to have tested positive for coronavirus and at least six have died from COVID-19.”