Bits and Pieces: Soy Bean Oil Fuel, Migratory Farm Workers, and Runaways

This short series of reports includes news on soybean oil as fuel, lack of laws protecting migratory farm workers, and Operation Peace of Mind for runaways.

| September/October 1975

  • Migratory workers
    Migratory farm workers picking lettuce.

  • Migratory workers

SCIENTISTS ARGUE THAT TALC USED TO COAT SHORT-GRAIN RICE may contain asbestos: a known carcinogen. Major rice growers, on the other hand, contend their product's coating is perfectly safe, and comes off when washed. The Food and Drug Administration is right in the middle, of course, and can't seem to decide one way or the other. It's an interesting debate, don't you think? (Pass the brown rice, please.)

THE NETHERLANDS IS NUMBER ONE when it comes to recycling paper, says the National Association of Recycling Industries. The country reuses 40% of all the paper it manufactures — a phenomenal accomplishment — as compared to the United States, which manages a mere 19%. And we're the nation with a fetish for being "first" . . .

FILL 'ER UP WITH SOYBEAN SUPER! Iowa State University agricultural engineers recently staged a demonstration in which they successfully ran an engine on — yep, it's true — pure soybean oil. The researchers say they've also accomplished the same feat using corn oil, and point to the fact that some of Rudolph Diesel's earlier inventions were palm-oil powered. So if you're determined to drive a car while large sections of the world's population starve to death . . . modern technology is on your side.

IF CITY LIFE DOESN'T AGREE WITH YOU, you'd best find an alternative fast. A Stanford Research Institute study indicates that people in the United States will continue to concentrate in an increasingly large number of metropolitan districts of one million people or more (there were 12 such areas in 1940 . . . 29 five years ago . . . and the number is expected to jump to 44 in twenty-five more years). By the end of this century, says the report, two-thirds of the U.S. population will be residing in such regions . . . even though "an absolute majority of Americans would prefer living at a much smaller scale of community."

COULD YOU (COUGH) RUN THAT BY ME ONE MORE TIME? Dr. Fred T. Mackenzie — Chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences at Northwestern University — says pollution from fossil fuels is a regular godsend to plant life. In a recent speech before the American Chemical Society, Dr. Mackenzie calmly explained that the carbon dioxide produced by burning such substances is what plants breathe and convert to oxygen . . . which, obviously, makes plants greener, and Earth fresher. Of course, the good doctor's basic botany lesson apparently neglected any mention of those other nasty particulates belching forth from soot-stained smokestacks . . .

APPROXIMATELY 203,000 MIGRATORY FARM WORKERS were employed in U.S. agriculture during 1974, according to a recent report by the National Sharecroppers Fund, at an average individual annual income of only $2,276 for migrant farm workers. "It is estimated", the report observes, "that agribusiness saves itself $3 billion a year in labor costs as a result of low wages, the lack of collective bargaining, and non-enforcement of the laws to protect migrant labor."

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