tagged w/ Biodiversity
India has sued Monsanto for “bio-piracy” — stealing indigenous plants, and then trying to develop genetically modified versions of them, without giving any compensation back to the local people or nation where the plant originated. Representing one of the most agriculturally bio-diverse nations in the world, India has become a primary target for biotechnology companies like Monsanto and Cargill to steal local plants whose unique traits have been bred over thousands of years by local farmers, genetically modify them, then sell the seeds back as their own patented technologyhttps://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/india-sues-monsanto-for-biopiracy/... more
A document signed by more than 50 civil society organizations (CSOs) is asking the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled to take place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, to ban the use of genetically modified foods.
2012 will mark 20 years since the last Rio Earth Summit, and the planet is worse for the wear, cites the document, stating that environmental, energy and financial issues are all at critical crisis levels. And the excessive financial burdens purchasing GMO seeds has on the world’s poor, in addition to the damaging health and environmental effects of biotechnology, makes the proposed ban a top priority for the world, cites the CSO-hub website, timetoactrio20.org.
Despite biotech companies’ promises of increased crop yields, drought and pest resistant seeds that can relieve the world’s hungry, genetically modified foods have yet to fulfill those promises. Pesticide resistant “superweeds” and insects are on the rise causing more use of the Monsanto pesticide, Roundup, which is now being found in ground and rain water. Farmers, including the planet’s poorest, are spending more money than ever before on buying Roundup Ready GMO terminator seeds instead of traditional and economical methods of saving seeds from each crop season.
The report cites studies showing there are one billion food insecure people around the world while more than double that are suffering from what Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, calls “diseases of affluence”—malnutrition caused from excessive consumption of highly processed foods (many of which contain genetically modified ingredients), meat and dairy products and lead to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Small-scale agroecological farming and other sustainable farming methods “developed in the framework of food sovereignty” currently feed about 70 percent of the world’s population, cites the CSOs’ document, stating that the UNCSD has an historical opportunity to eliminate world hunger, improve the environment and financial stability around the world by moving away from biotechnology. Market diversity and research support for small-scale farming could decrease the world’s seed prices by 30 percent—or about $9 billion annually, according to the document.
http://www.organicauthority.com/images/stories/misc/monsantodrips-ccflcr-SierraTierra.jpgA document signed by more than 50 civil society organizations (CSOs) is asking the... more
Full video report at the link
Last week, after many months of the kind of deep journalism that has become all too rare, Dan Rather’s investigative team aired a hard-hitting piece that lays bare the policy failures behind Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and zeros in on neonicotinoid pesticides. You can see the episode here.
The problem in five words? “The chemical companies do the testing.” To quote a key passage of this piece:
Rather: “The chemical companies do the testing?”
Beekeeper Steve Ellis: “Yes, they design the tests, they conduct the tests and they pay for the tests.”
Rather: “Not the EPA?”
Ellis: “Not the EPA.”
The politics behind how we regulate pesticides in the U.S. has a long history that runs deep. Yet this fact is simple: chemical companies test their own products for safety. And it should be a scandal.
More at the linkFull video report at the link
Last week, after many months of the kind of deep... more
Understanding of the ‘problem’ of agriculture took a giant step forward in 2007 with publication of the UN IAASTD report. This report, which was as important for agriculture as the IPCC reports have been for the climate, pinpointed a move to ecology-based agriculture as the key to meeting many other fundamental needs such as clean water, safe food and sustainability. What the IAASTD didn’t do, at least directly however, was to focus on politics, especially the obstacles to progress in improving agriculture.
A new report, The Wheel of Life: Food, Climate, Human Rights and the Economy (Sept. 2011), released by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation, usefully complements this deficit. It does this in part by drawing attention explicitly to some common myths on which support for conventional production-oriented solutions for agriculture are based. Among these myths are that hugely enhanced food production will be required in the future, that biotech (GMO) seeds are needed to solve hunger and mitigate climate change, and that traditional agriculture is wasteful and inefficient.
The Wheel then examines how major current crises—hunger, climate change, and ecological degradation—are deeply interlinked. Despite the evident linkages, however, government and international institutions typically address these issues as if they were disconnected from one another. Thus the IPCC, for example, still has not adequately considered agriculture as a contributor to climate change. The consequence of this disconnect, The Wheel of Life points out, is that many policies do not tackle root causes and therefore negative global trends have tended to intensify.
Confronting global hunger is one example identified in the report. Leaders on each end of the political spectrum uniformly assert that economic growth is needed to address hunger and poverty. Yet economic growth is typically conducted via industrial activities that contribute to climate change, which in turn, negatively impacts the ability to grow food.
Similarly, in addition to their effects on climate change, economic and trade policies can spur growth for a few while undermining the ability of small-scale farmers and rural communities to provide food for local populations. The Wheel of Life suggests these complex interactions help explain why, even though economic growth indicators have risen in many countries over the last decade, hunger rates have increased too, especially within the last several years.
To successfully remedy social injustices, climate change, and agriculture, The Wheel of Life argues that political action is needed that incorporates social and ecological needs. And it notes that while governments dither on climate change and agricultural reform, agribusiness is already positioning its products as the preferred solutions. The strategy proposed by The Wheel of Life is to incorporate civil society input into political and economic discussions. Some countries, such as Germany, already have productive dialogues with civil society, but in the US and Britain, for example, interactions are negligible. To encourage cooperation the report also provides a list of civil society organisations with compatible aims in the areas of climate change, agriculture, environment, human rights, women’s rights, and migration.
The Wheel concludes that lasting solutions to hunger and other major crises of our day must, above all, be guided by fundamentals of ecology.
“Policies and practices must begin with the ecological imperative in order to ensure authentic security and stability on all fronts-food, water, livelihoods and jobs, climate, energy, and economic,” writes report author Debbie Barker, international director at the Center for Food Safety. “In turn this engenders equity, social justice, and diverse cultures.”
---Understanding of the ‘problem’ of agriculture took a giant step forward in... more
In July I attended a public debate in London on the potential for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) to make international forestry more just. The debate brought together a wide variety of stakeholders in REDD in order to assess its possibilities and its frailties. The panel leading the discussion included John Vidal from the Guardian and representatives from DFID, ODI, and FERN among others. What became increasingly clear during the debate is that although the international community appeared to be pushing on with REDD, it remains a highly contested and confused idea.
For those still unsure of what the initiative is, REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests. It offers incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. However, the discussion highlighted fears that REDD may perpetuate, or even deepen, forest people’s historical dispossession from their forests.
The discussion focused on the concept of justice within REDD and the focal point of the evening turned out to be “local justice”. The question was - what is happening to the local people on the ground where these initiatives are implemented? It became increasingly clear, by hearing arguments from members of FERN and from those on the ground, that it is forest people that often are the ones who are most negatively affected by these projects. There is an overriding fear that REDD may not be dissimilar to other big money projects affecting the forests. For instance, a member of the audience, who had worked on a REDD project in Peru, stated that it was seen as more dangerous than palm oil plantations. The fear is that these projects can potentially, and almost by nature, take over entire forests, leaving indigenous people to lose the land earmarked for these REDD projects.
During the evening, several other members of the audience stated it was governments, and not large corporations, who were taking control of the forests. The ODI representative feared that REDD projects will reaffirm the ownership of the forests by the state. For example, as the government controls the carbon it trades, the forests fall under their control. This will go on to reinforce highly centralized, top down decision-making, something GBM works to move away from.
The panel was in agreement about what must be done, forest peoples and local communities must be included and able to make decisions for the future of forests in all REDD projects. Increasing evidence from Brazil and elsewhere indicates that tenure reform, that is placing control of forest resources into the hands of indigenous and other forest-dependent communities, contributes to local well-being and forest protection.
More at the linkIn July I attended a public debate in London on the potential for REDD (Reducing... more
Today in the United States, by the simple act of feeding ourselves, we unwittingly participate in the largest experiment ever conducted on human beings. Massive agro-chemical companies like Monsanto (Agent Orange) and Dow (Napalm) are feeding us genetically-modified food, GMO's, that have never been fully tested and aren't labeled. This small handful of corporations are tightening their grip on the world's food supply—buying, modifying, and patenting seeds to ensure total control over everything we eat.
The GMO Film Project (Untitled) tells the story of a father's discovery of GMO's through the symbolic act of poor Haitian farmers burning seeds in defiance of Monsanto's gift of 475 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds to Haiti shortly after the devastating earthquake. After a journey to Haiti to learn why hungry farmers would burn seeds, the real awakening of what has happened to our food, what we are feeding our families, and what is at stake for the global food supply unfolds in a trip across the United States in search of answers.
Are we at a tipping point? Is it time to take back our food? The encroaching darkness of unknown health and environmental risks, seed take over, chemical toxins, and food monopoly meets with the light of a growing resistance of organic farmers, concerned citizens, and a burgeoning movement to take back what we have lost.
We still have time to heal the planet, feed the world, and live sustainably. But we have to start now.
A film by Compeller Pictures
Directed by Jeremy Seifert
Produced by Joshua Kunau
Co-Producer, Elizabeth Kucinich
Associate Producer, Timothy Vatterott
Cinematographer, Rod HasslerToday in the United States, by the simple act of feeding ourselves, we unwittingly... more
Surveys over the past decade have consistently shown that Americans don’t want to eat genetically engineered (GE or GMO) food. Despite the overwhelming opposition to this risky new food technology, the biotech giant Monsanto continues to impose its unlabeled GMO’s onto our dinner plates.
The latest: Monsanto’s new GMO corn, intended for the frozen and/or canned corn market. This experimental corn will not be labeled, so consumers cannot know when they may be eating a GMO food that contains a toxic pesticide in every bite. Monsanto’s corn is a new GMO variety that has been genetically modified for three different traits, to resist two different insects and to withstand heavy spraying with Monsanto's toxic Roundup herbicide. Because there are already varieties of other insect-resistant and Roundup-Ready varieties on the market, federal regulators are not requiring ANY approval process—which means NO public comment on its introduction into our food supply.
CFS has teamed up with the Center for Environmental Health to urge major companies that make frozen and/or canned corn to take action to avoid Monsanto’s new crop. We need tell Del Monte, Bird’s Eye and other major food makers to reject this new GMO corn. General Mills (Green Giant, Cascadian Farms) and Trader Joe’s have already indicated that they will not use Monsanto’s new GMO sweet corn in their products—so can the other top companies!
Take action today! Send food makers a message that we don’t want Monsanto’s food experiments!
Neil Harrison, Del Monte (Del Monte, S&W)
Robert J. Gamgort, Pinnacle Foods/Bird's Eye
Roderick L. Allen, Allen's Inc. (Veg-all, Allen's, SteamSupreme, Freshlike, Freshlike Selects)
Kraig H. Kayser, President & CEO, Seneca Foods (Libby's, Aunt Nelly's, Read, Stokely's, Festal, private label brands)
Steven A. Burd, President & CEO, Safeway
David B. Dillon, Kroger
Michael T. Duke, Walmart
Craig R. Herkert- President, CEO, & Director, Supervalu
John P. Mackey, Co-CEO & Director, Whole Foods
Gregg Steinhafel, Chairman, President and CEO, Target (Archer Farms, Market Pantry)
PetitionSurveys over the past decade have consistently shown that Americans don’t want... more
GM Freeze today described Defra's decision to approve a GM wheat trial at Rothamsted Research as "a big mistake and premature".
The consent , issued today, includes provision to prevent the GM wheat crossing with couch grass and to stop wood pigeon feeding on the crop.
The group opposed the application during a public consultation in the summer including :
*The lack of market for GM wheat anywhere on the planet means it is a waste of time and money (some GBP1.28 million).
*Serious doubts about whether the GM wheat will work as stated.
*Lack of any data on potential health effects.
*Presence of an antibiotic resistant marker gene against European Medicines Agency advice.
*Risk of cross-contamination with other wheat crops and some grasses already problematic as arable weeds.
*Unknown impacts on predator and parasites populations, which already provide some control for aphid infestations.
*Unknown impacts on bird species, which feed on aphids as part of their diet.
*The potential for development of aphids desensitised to the alarm chemical after being continually subjected to the GM deterrent over time so that they do not respond to it when it is constantly produced by the wheat plants 24 hours a day 7 days per week.
GM Freeze asked Ministers to hold a public consultation on the use of synthetic animal genes in GM crops, as one of the key genes in the GM wheat "has most similarity to that from cow (Bos taurus)" according to the applicant.
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said
"It is clear from the authorisation letter that the Government's scientific advisors have concerns about the possibility of the GM wheat crossing with couch grass, a major arable weed, which could cause long-term problems for farmers if this wheat was ever grown on a commercial scale.
"There are also concerns about wild birds carrying the GM seeds off site, but there is no provision to deal with small birds, such a sparrows, or small mammals doing this.
"The key question Ministers need to answer is why they are funding research into GM wheat for which there is no market in the UK, Europe or anywhere else when other areas of proven, less risky agricultural research, such as agroecology, are crying out for additional funds.
The decision to approve an open-air trial of GM wheat is a big mistake and premature given the serious lack of information in the application.  We need to know far more about the alarm chemicals involved and the formation of wheat-couch grass crosses before we start genetically modifying a staple crop."
 See "Defra approves GM wheat trial" at www.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/09/16/gm-wheat-trial/
 See GM Freeze briefing See Objecting to an Application to Trial GM Wheat in Hertfordshire at www.gmfreeze.org/site_media/uploads/publications/GM_wheat_final.pdf
 See GM Freeze action “Object to trialling GM wheat” in the UK for more details at www.gmfreeze.org/actions/20/
http://www.opednews.com/populum/uploaded/chromosome--300-x-300--31940-20090516-7.jpgGM Freeze today described Defra's decision to approve a GM wheat trial at... more
Starting today, the National Park Service will begin the largest dam removal project in U.S. history as part of a sweeping effort to restore the Elwha River that runs through Washington's Olympic National Park.
The Elwha and Glines Canyon hydroelectric dams, built in 1913 and 1927, respectively, supplied electricity for nearly a century to thousands of Pacific Northwest residents. But the dams also severed Pacific salmon migration routes that were once among the country's most robust.
Prior to the construction of the two dams, the Park Service estimates that 400,000 salmon migrated annually up the 45-mile river linking the Olympic Mountains to the Juan de Fuca Strait. The river currently supports only about 3,000 chinook and chum salmon.
But NPS contractors today will begin using diamond-wire cutters to carve out 7.5-foot sections of the Glines Canyon Dam, slowly draining the Lake Mills reservoir behind it.
Then on Monday, workers will begin constructing a cofferdam upstream of the Elwha Dam to divert water from Lake Aldwell into channels that will dry the reservoir and allow for the destruction of the concrete dam, said Dave Reynolds, a spokesman at Olympic National Park.
The $27 million dam removal effort, 20 years in the making, will take about three years to complete, Reynolds said.
"It's going to be a long process," he said. "I see the start of dam removal as a huge milestone, but I like to think of it as a new beginning for the river. I think it's in keeping with the goals of the NPS to preserve the natural environment and to protect and restore natural processes."
Indeed, removing the dams and returning the Elwha River to a free-flowing state is the centerpiece of a $325 million effort to restore the entire ecosystem by allowing the chinook and chum salmon to swim as far as 70 miles up the river and its tributaries within the park.
As part of the effort, the U.S. Geological Survey is implementing a large-scale research and monitoring project to measure the ecological conditions before, during and after dam removal in an effort to determine the impact of the dams on the salmon.
"This is one of the biggest and most significant river restoration efforts the world has ever seen," said Bob Irvin, the president of American Rivers, a national conservation group that supports dam removal projects as a means of restoring river ecosystems. "We will witness a river coming back to life, with great benefits for people and the environment."
David Graves, northwest program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association in Seattle, said the return of the salmon will attract scores of animals to Olympic National Park that feed on the fish, including golden eagles.
"The ecological benefits of the project are incredible," Graves said. "It will be fascinating to see how quickly the ecosystem can restore itself in terms of the salmon returning and the benefits of this to the ecosystem in the park. For the past 100 years, [the river] has lost the benefits of the salmon and the nutrition they provide to over 130 species of plants and animals."
Abundance of caution
The project comes with risks, however. By virtue of being the largest dam removal project in the country's history, there is no blueprint for how to do it safely. Nor is there certainty that all possible scenarios have been evaluated and harm to wildlife and people adequately mitigated.
The Park Service has conducted a detailed environmental analysis of the possible impacts of the dam removals on Olympic National Park and the surrounding area. The agency also has completed 43 pre-dam removal projects, including shutting down the hydroelectric power-generation system that the dams supported, Reynolds said.
Among the possible outcomes NPS officials said they are closely monitoring are a surge in sediment flow downstream once the dams are breeched, potentially destroying wildlife, polluting drinking water and exacerbating downstream flooding.
An estimated 18 million cubic yards of sediment -- equivalent to more than 1 million dump truck loads -- have built up behind the walls of the two dams, and simply removing them would create strong water currents that stir up the sediment and cloud the water -- lowering water temperatures and ultimately killing fish downstream (Land Letter, March 31).
More at the linkStarting today, the National Park Service will begin the largest dam removal project... more
On Sept. 6, the European Union’s top court paved the way for farmers and beekeepers to recoup losses when their crops or honey become genetically contaminated from neighboring GM fields.
The European Court of Justice ruled that all food products containing GMOs – whether intentional or not – must undergo an approval process.
This marks a much stricter view than that being pushed by European Union Commissioner for health and consumer affairs, John Dalli, who wants no regulation of foods genetically contaminated “by accident,” a ludicrous idea given that coexistence ensures genetic contamination.
At the center of the dispute is Bavarian beekeeper Karl Heinz Bablok who joined with several others in suing the state when its research plots of Monsanto’s GM corn, MON 810, contaminated his honey.
In 2008, an administrative court banned Bablok from selling or giving away that honey. But in a bizarre turn, the Augsburg court also ruled that beekeepers have no claim to protection against the growing of GM crops. They immediately filed a new lawsuit. 
Discussing today’s ruling, attorneys for the beekeepers noted that they may now have “a claim for damages against a farmer if MON 810 pollen from his cultivation gets into their honey.” 
Attorneys Dr Achim Willand and Dr Georg Buchholz explained:
“If the beekeeper can no longer sell his honey, this is considered a major impairment causing a claim for damage. If the beekeeper moves his bees in order to prevent this impairment, it is also possible that the cultivator is liable for the additional work and expense of the beekeeper.”
They added that the “decision is important not only for beekeeping, but in general for the production of food and feed, as well as for trade.”
The new ruling will also apply to “imports containing traces of material from genetically modified crops that don’t have sufficient approval within the EU,” they said.
The European Court of Justice only “interprets EU law and does not settle the dispute itself,” notes Inf’OGM, a French group that maintains a neutral position on GMOs. Member states like Germany, France and Spain can apply the ruling however they deem fit in particular cases of genetic contamination. 
In describing the questions before the court, Inf’OGM explained that Monsanto failed to seek approval for genetically modified pollen. Instead, MON 810 approval only covers flour, gluten, semolina, starch, glucose and corn oil.
MON 810 approval is currently under reconsideration. It has been linked to organ damage in test animals  and its approval may be withdrawn. Until last year, it was the only GM crop approved for cultivation in the EU, although a total of 40 GMO food and feed products have been approved for sale. 
One of Commissioner Dalli’s first acts after taking office in 2010 was to lift the 13-year ban on BASF’s GM potato, Amflora. Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic took the bait and immediately suffered from 47 contamination events. 
Today’s ruling also overturns the court’s Advocate General recommendation this February which found that genetic material inadvertently transferred from GM corn to other living organisms “is no longer viable and is thus infertile, is not a living organism and, therefore, cannot be regarded as a GMO.” 
In that same recommendation, however, the AG maintained that any products containing GMOs should be regulated.
More at the linkOn Sept. 6, the European Union’s top court paved the way for farmers and... more
EXTRACTS: "We have tried to have ever more efficient farming, with fewer people, more machines and a greater dependency on pesticides, fertilisers, GM crops and energy, using 10 kilocalories to produce 1 kilocalorie. But that is only possible if there is cheap oil. The system is basically bankrupt." - Hans Herren, Co-Chair of the IAASTD
Dr Herren was dismissive of the concept of "sustainable intensification", the alternative view of food security with food production at its heart, championed by the UK Government-commissioned Foresight report. He described it as "an excuse to sneak in GMOs and to continue with business as usual".
CropWorld Global 2011: Changing our global approach to farming
Farmers Guardian, 1 September 2011
SOCIETY has gone 'properly wrong' in the way it produces and consumes food, according to Hans Herren.
Dr Herren, a renowned scientist and international development expert, is on a mission to promote what he insists is a better alternative to the current global 'industrial' food production system, which he describes as 'bankrupt'.
He is a leading advocate of agroecology, a holistic farming model based on organic principles, where food is produced by small family farms using green methods which nourish soils for future generations.
"We have tried to have more efficient farming, with fewer people, more machines and a greater dependency on pesticides, fertilisers, GM crops and energy, using 10 kilocalories to produce one kilocalorie. But that is only possible if there is cheap oil," said Dr Herren.
"The system basically is bankrupt, which is why we need to change it to a more modern, advanced system, which will create energy, rather than consume it, and is not dependent on fossil energy, but more on people and better science."
Dr Herren, originally from Switzerland, co-chaired the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology, (IAASTD), a three-year project involving more than 400 experts from across the world.
Its 2008 report called for a radical overhaul of the way the world produces food to 'better serve the poor and hungry'. It demanded a shift away from the 'focus on production alone' and a greater emphasis on methods which conserve natural resources, backed up by trade and subsidy reforms and investment in science, education and training.
Dr Herren described it as 'the mother of all reports on agriculture on a global and human scale', but admitted being disappointed about how little its findings had been implemented globally.
Dr Herren, who spent 27 years in Africa researching pest management and sustainable production, continues to promote agroecology through the US-based Millennium Institute, of which he has been president since 2005.
He said the key to future food security was not to use more inputs to produce more food per hectare, but to rely on techniques backed by 'solid science and agronomy - such as crop rotation with legumes and green manure, a cover crop grown to add nutrients to the soil - 'to enable the land to regenerate'.
But he also claimed it had been shown in experiments and in the field these farming methods can 'double, treble or even quadruple' yields in Africa.
He added: "Agroecology will produce food which is affordable because more people will be working, so they can actually afford it.
"We need to support small-scale and family farms, where more people get employed. We have 1.5 billion people who have no job. We really have to see all this in an inter-linked system."
He refuted the suggestion that, while agroecology may have merits in developing countries, where prevailing yields were relatively low and labour was abundant, it was unrealistic and idealistic to imagine it taking over in developed nations.
Instead, he insisted productivity levels could be maintained in developed countries if agroecology displaced intensive farming.
“It has been shown in the US that organic agriculture actually produces equally good yields as traditional agriculture,” he said. “But when there is drought or a flood, organic produces more as it is more resilient. There is no question we can deliver.”
The catch is that increased crop rotation would require a change in the way food is consumed. “You can’t disassociate consumption from production. In a rotation where you have more legumes someone has to eat those beans.”
He added people in urban-centric nations such as the UK and US would return to the land if agriculture became a ‘better and more rewarding job’ through greater investment, better prices for food and a reappraisal of farmers’ importance. “We need to look up to the farmer and down to the professor,” he said.
Dr Herren blamed the lack of wider support for this model of food security partly on what he claimed was a misconception of what it represented.
“We need to dispel this idea that agroecology is a back-breaking, low-yielding process and that we want to go back to grandfather’s agriculture. Actually, agroecology has a lot of science in it and a lot of knowledge,” he said.EXTRACTS: "We have tried to have ever more efficient farming, with fewer people,... more
Climate change, increasing population, greater demand for animal products, and the un-sustainability of current food production: All will challenge our ability to produce enough food in coming decades. Already there is evidence that climate change has reduced crop yields.
But the good news is that we already have many of the tools that we need to respond.
Tom Philpott at Mother Jones highlights a peer-reviewed article showing that small Mexican maize farmers have an important piece of the answer to these challenges.
The article suggests that there is a lot of genetic diversity in corn grown on traditional small Mexican farms that will allow food production there to adapt to climate change. Genetic diversity provides the building blocks of crop adaptability—the inherited differences between plants that is evolution’s way of allowing survival in changing environments.
The value of crop genetic diversity goes way beyond Mexican maize fields. Other scientists have documented large amounts of untapped genetic diversity in the world’s major crops wherever they have looked, such as in wheat and cassava. Breeders can use this, along with diversity found in wild species related to crops, to adapt our crops to climate change and to increase productivity.
When coupled with ecological farming principles that increase resilience in the face of drought, flood and rising temperatures, breeding can go a long way toward providing enough food sustainably by mid-century. For example, organic and similar practices build soil organic matter–this allows soil to hold more water which can help during drought. And breeding is already having success in developing drought tolerant rice, corn, and other crops, flood tolerant rice, many types of pest resistance, improved nutrient content, and much more.
Given all the evidence, it is perplexing that some scientists still want to put too many of our eggs in the genetic engineering (GE) basket. Currently, that basket looks pretty empty, with only a few crops resistant to herbicides and a few types of pests.
For example, Nina Federoff seems unaware of the potential of breeding, and the advances already being achieved through these scientifically sophisticated methods. In an op-ed in the New York Times, “Engineering Food for All” the former Bush-appointed Science Adviser to the Secretary of State lauds the wonders of crop genetic engineering, while tagging breeding as an “older” method that is “less capable”.
In a more blunt assessment during a public forum that I participated in at Dartmouth College several months ago, Federoff declared that crop breeding had run its course, and implied that GE was now our last best hope. She could not have been more wrong. The only way one can come to such conclusions is by omitting or overlooking loads of important science.
Most of the benefits from GE extolled in the op-ed are modest at best. They only seem impressive if you don’t compare them to the successes and potential of agroecology, agronomy, or breeding—which continue to achieve far more than GE. When looked at side-by-side, GE often pales by comparison to breeding.
more at the link.Climate change, increasing population, greater demand for animal products, and the... more
An evolving species knows to heed this call. President Obama the future is calling to you. You have the final say on this. What do you say to the indigenous people who now already suffer the effects of this toxic insanity? What do you say to the forest, rivers and wildlife? What do you say to the aquifer that provides sustenance for billions of people and is already suffering the effects of climate change and consumption? What do you say to the farmers whose livelihoods and land are at stake? What do you say to the climate balance of this planet already pushed to the tipping point?
History is being made outside the White House and it is not a political movement, it is a human movement.
The amount of people arrested to date is 1,009 and counting. How many will it take?
Thank you to all of those who risked and were arrested to stand up for our future.
I hope you know how many are standing with you.
YES to climate justice and a clean energy future!An evolving species knows to heed this call. President Obama the future is calling to... more
We just got some important evidence that this protest is working and that we’re breaking through to the mainstream media and the White House.
This morning, President Obama’s press secretary, Jake Carney, was questioned by reporters on Air Force One about our protest happening outside the White House. We’ve been trying to break through to the White House press corps for the last few days. Now, we know that we’ve struck a nerve.
Here’s the transcript from Air Force One:
Q: Also, anything on these protests outside the White House on this pipeline? Has the President decided against TransCanada’s permit for the pipeline? It’s the tar sands pipeline. There have been a lot of arrests outside the White House about it.
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything new on that. I believe the State Department has — that’s under the purview of the State Department presently, but I don’t have anything new on that.
Q: Is the President aware of the protests?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t talked to him about it.
Now, here’s the thing: while it’s great to see the press corps pushing the Administration to recognize our demonstration, the fact that Carney hasn’t yet briefed the President on the protest and the pipeline is a worrying sign about how out of touch this administration is on this issue.
“Just in the last two days everyone from the president’s chief climate scientist to an 84-year-old grandmother was arrested on his front doorstep,” said environmental author Bill McKibben, who is spearheading the White House protest. “This is the largest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement in a generation, and if they really aren’t even discussing it with the president, that signals a deep disrespect for their supporters, especially young people who have demonstrated that the environment is a top priority.”
We’re going to be pushing Carney and the Administration to make sure President Obama is hearing directly from people across the country who are here in DC risking arrest, and the many hundreds of thousands more that support this cause.
more at the link
That means either one of two things. He really hasn't told him because they already know what they are going to do and could really care less about this. Or this was just a deflection because he couldn't reveal anything more. Either way though, at least he didn't ask, what protest? He knew what was implied and that means they do know. Everyday more and more people are finding out about this and the toxic legacy it is bringing to our planet. And more and more people are standing up to say NO to this toxic carbon timebomb.
And that is because this is getting out through social media, the Internet and primarily because of the bravery and conviction of those who sit and stand in front of the White House. All of them. Some who I am sure thought long and hard of the residual effects this could have on their lives. And I thank them, because they also managed to do something I have wanted to see for a long time. They managed to bring the entire environmental movement together. I have always thought that we have not been as successful in getting this message out as we could be because we were too fragmented. Each organization with their own goals competing against each other rather then joining together for a common cause.
This now is the cause. Standing up at last for health, clean air and water, sustainability, climate balance, climate justice and the beginning of a time when our children will be able to look at us and say thank you for caring about the world they inherit from us.
This is what it is all about and President Obama, you know it too and you know what you need to do.
Keystone XL- NO!We just got some important evidence that this protest is working and that we’re... more
Maclean, IMD and RJ Wilson, 2011. Recent ecological responses to climate change support predictions of high extinction risk. Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1017352108.
New evidence confirms what scientists have long suspected: that climate change is already having major effects on many of the world's species.
Researchers report for the first time that the documented species responses – migration to a higher or cooler climate or changes in population – suggest actual extinction risks linked to climate change are almost double those that were predicted. Just as grim are future outlooks – almost one-third of species will be threatened by 2100.
Temperature, ocean acidity and other climate-related changes can set the stage for widespread extinctions by adding even more pressure to ecosystems already stressed by habitat loss, pollution, disease and other human-related impacts.
We are currently witnessing a mass extinction event, the sixth of such thought to have occurred in the Earth’s history. Mass extinctions were responsible for the demise of marine organisms more than 400 million years ago and the fall of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago – an event which led to the ascent of modern-day mammals.
The causes of these historical extinctions can only be guessed at based on geological records. But, the result then – as now – is a sharp reduction in global diversity of plant and animal species.
The current round of mass extinctions may be triggered by a combination of human-related environmental and ecosystem impacts, experts contend. In general, habitat loss, over harvesting, pollution and invasive species can combine with disease, parasites and other health problems to contribute to decreasing populations.
In addition, climate change is surfacing as a main threat to global biodiversity. The added stress of climate-related changes in temperature, rainfall, sea level or ocean chemistry put many plant and animal species at more risk. Especially hard hit are species that are not able to migrate to areas better suited to their needs.
While there is much debate on the cause of climate change, most scientists agree that the earth’s climate is changing at an accelerated pace. Ecologists have attempted to predict how temperature, ocean acidity or other climate-related changes might affect populations of different species or possibly cause extinctions.
Typically, scientists rely on models to predict the types and rates of extinctions. A new, growing body of studies now documents actual impacts and responses in a variety of species. These new studies make it possible to compare the theoretical with actual, observed responses.
No one knows for sure how many species live on Earth. More than one and a half million species are identified but tens – if not hundreds – of millions of species are estimated to live on the globe.
Biodiversity - the number of plants and animals in the world and their genetic variety – is important for a number of reasons. An organism-rich world provides direct benefits to humans. Many known and many yet-to-be-discovered resources can lead to the development of needed food, energy and medicines. Biodiversity also protects vital ecosystems that contribute to clean water and air against environmental damage from pollution and extreme weather.
More at the linkMaclean, IMD and RJ Wilson, 2011. Recent ecological responses to climate change... more
“The crops that we grow are the basis of our civilization,” Todd Leake said. “If anything belongs in the public domain it is the crops we grow for food.”
President Barack Obama's administration has been investigating monopoly concentration in the seed business for over two years. But when the President spoke on the steps of the Seed Savers Exchange, an independent seed company, he didn't mention tht inquiry once. Nor did he talk about business concentration in other areas of agriculture, despite hearings held by his Department of Justice all over rural America.
Last week President Obama held a town hall meeting on the grounds of Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange, an organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.
The stop was part of a larger strategy to appeal to rural voters as the campaign season begins. The president spoke about job creation and the gridlock on Capitol Hill, both issues of concern, to be sure.
But what would have really resonated with rural America is a re-commitment to working toward fairness in our farm fields.
The President should know that growing economic opportunities in rural America will take confronting the concentrated market power (and thus political and legislative power) in several agricultural industries. It will take fulfilling a campaign promise to fight for family farmers and ranchers by ensuring fair and transparent markets.
The President couldn’t have picked a better spot to make this point. His venue, Seed Savers, is home to a trove of genetically diverse seed. It is the perfect counterpoint to the alarming extent to which ownership of this vital resource is privatized and concentrated. The top three firms, for example, account for more than 75 percent of U.S. corn seed sales.
Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world, receiving royalties from nearly every acre of corn, soybeans, and cotton planted in the U.S.; it also has a hand in much of the vegetable and sugar beet seed supply. Indeed, this level of control over our plant genetic resources and the narrowing of diversity makes the mission of groups like Seed Savers Exchange so much more important.
Out of Hand
Monsanto has a lock on the soy and corn seed market.
Confronting the business concentration in the seed business is paramount for the success of farmers, especially new farmers and businesses seeking to cultivate a niche in agriculture. But just as seeds as an organism are complex, so is untangling the roots of seed concentration.
And this gets us back to President Obama’s missed opportunity at Seed Savers Exchange.
President Obama’s administration initially signaled a willingness to tackle the problem of monopoly in the seed business. His Justice and Agriculture departments held workshops last year on all aspects of agricultural competition.
These hearings were unprecedented. Farmers, ranchers, farm advocacy organizations, small businesses, and consumers were encouraged that the agencies were investigating consolidation in the seed, livestock, dairy, poultry, and food retail industries.
“We’ve waited a long time for justice in the heartland,” said Missouri state senator and farmer Wes Shoemyer at the first Justice/Agriculture workshop in Ankeney, Iowa, which focused in part on problems in the seed industry.
But the hope was short-lived. There is no indication that either agency is furthering these investigations or taking meaningful action on outcomes of the investigations. The agencies don’t even seem inclined to publish a report in response to the thousands of public comments personally delivered at the 2010 workshops.
And then the President appears at Seed Savers Exchange to talk about the rural economy and doesn’t mention seeds or any of the other issues brought up in his own administration’s workshops.
It would behoove the President to look at the comments received at these workshops before he talks about the rural economy. Tucked within the thousands of comments the agencies received are both evidence of the problems with too much concentration in the seed business and reasonable solutions.
“So how do we fix the industry?” Nelson asked. “I say we disallow any monopolies and the anticompetitive activities that come with them...I think we have to re-examine the safety and wisdom of granting long-term patents on living things.”
Indeed, even the assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Christine Varney, who has since left Justice, highlighted the problem of patents in her opening remarks: “You know, patents have in the past been used to maintain or extend monopolies, and that's illegal, and you can be sure, Secretary, that we are going to be looking very closely at any attempt to maintain or extend a monopoly through an abuse of patent laws.”
Such abuse of patent law has come in a variety of forms. Nelson said he’s witnessed the misuse of confidential GMO seed contracts, aggressively enforced through patent rights.
Indiana farmer David Runyon took to the microphone to recount his experience of being wrongfully pursued by Monsanto for alleged patent infringement. It turned out his conventional varieties of soybeans were contaminated by GMO material. He laid out the need to transfer liability to the patent holder in such events so that farmers aren’t pitted against each other.
“In my case whom do I sue but my neighboring farmers?” Runyon asked. “Because they are taking the liability when they sign that contract. And that's wrong. That's why it should go back to [the] patent holder.”
Woven within many comments was a plea for USDA to protect genetic diversity in seeds and breeds, and to keep germplasm public and accessible to our public land grant universities.
“The crops that we grow are the basis of our civilization,” Todd Leake said. “If anything belongs in the public domain it is the crops we grow for food.”
Fred Kirschenmann operates an organic farm in North Dakota and also serves as a distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He told the Obama administration officials, “We have lost about three-fourths of our crop seed stock -- that is the varieties of seeds that farmers have had available -- and about 30 percent of our livestock breeds, and as we move into a more uncertain future with more uncertain climates…we're going to need more diversity, not less, that are going to be locally adapted to these local conditions.”
Kirschenmann and others also pointed out that the future of our food supply relies on bringing young people into agriculture, which means ensuring they have a fair fighting chance at a profit.
“I believe our government has an obligation written in law not to pick winners and losers but to act as a referee and ensure the laws and regulations dealing with anticompetitive practices are enforced,” Nelson said.
These farmers’ messages were loud and clear, but they appear to have fallen on deaf ears. There has been no action (or even a peep) out of the Department of Justice. And President Obama didn’t mention his administration’s two-year investigation into the seed business when he spoke at the front door of an independent seed company.
More at the link“The crops that we grow are the basis of our civilization,” Todd Leake... more
If global warming continues as expected, it is estimated that almost a third of all flora and fauna species worldwide could become extinct.
link:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824091146.htmIf global warming continues as expected, it is estimated that almost a third of all... more
There is another earthquake shaking up Washington Dc this week: the beginning of what will hopefully be the shaking up of the status quo that has kept us from achieving the truly sustainable future we can give to ourselves and our children. Those continuing to sit in to stand up for humanity and all species in the wake of the effects of climate change and the absolute apathy and greed of corporations deserve our support.
And this is without regard to race, creed, or politics. This pipeline will affect ALL of us regardless of labels. Its dirty, toxic ingredients will threaten the water of the Ogalalla aquifer that irrigates our heartland. The burning of its ingredients will set off a carbon timebomb that will make the words "tipping point" all too real.
IT'S TIME TO BREAK THE ADDICTION.
The call to say NO to this pipeline is also a call to say YES to clean renewable energy. Clean energy jobs. Clean water. Respect for the rights of others.
This is the moral challenge of our time!
We cannot betray future generations for a quick buck. The price is simply too high.
So please, let's keep this going on Current. Let's keep giving these brave people our support and with each NO or other sign of encouragement we also tell President Obama that we the people are the voice and his NO is a vindication of his caring about that voice.
Keystone XL-NO!There is another earthquake shaking up Washington Dc this week: the beginning of what... more
Fonterra, the New Zealand based dairy giant is slashing its support for [already token support of] organic farming and moving further towards GE dairy farming [GE rye grass].
Meanwhile, Scion and Arborgen push ahead with their GE tree trials in Rotorua planting 336 GE pine trees.–Gary Cranston
Fonterra has taken its next step towards genetically engineered pastures, with its announced scaling back of organic production by half, according to the Soil Health Association of NZ.
Fonterra’s announcement yesterday of a 50% drop in support for organic dairy production, shows the dairy giant’s lack of support for good environmental practice or consumer health, and marks the next step to genetically engineered (GE) farmlands, according to the Soil Health Association of NZ.
“Fonterra has never really been committed to organic production, although aiming for 200 farms and a 140% increase in production from 2005. Just 200 farms was a very limited vision. Organic production across all New Zealand’s dairy herd should have been in any long term vision for clean green 100% Pure NZ,” said Soil Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“Organic production has been identified as the main obstacle to introducing GE grasses and crops into New Zealand in a Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MoRST, now Science and Innovation) report written by Terri Dunahay, an international biotechnology policy specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture.”
“Government also stopped real support for the organic sector following a briefing to the Agriculture Minister by Dunahay in 2009, yet Dunahay was duplicitous in every presentation I observed her. The misrepresentation of GE internationally, was appalling when Dunahay presented to Dairy NZ and the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand,” said Mr Browning.
“Dunahay and other United States lobbyists, along with New Zealand based pro-GE scientists fail to mention the significant GE contamination of non-GE farms, the loss of markets, the massive increase in herbicide use, the new resistant weeds and disease problems, higher seed and production costs, loss of biodiversity, or the human and animal health problems associated with genetic engineering (GE).”
Yesterday’s shock presentation to organic farmers in Taranaki and the Manawatu that their organically certified milk wasn’t wanted by Fonterra, because of reduced international demand, also included comment that organics caused “conventional” dairy production to be questioned as to its quality.
Best practice organics has improved soil structure and climate resilience, 43% more earthworm counts, 28% higher soil carbon sequestration, improved animal welfare, 33% less energy use, and a massive 58% reduction of nitrate leaching, yet is not valued well by Fonterra, because Fonterra’s conventional farming’s dirty environmental footprint, might be questioned more.
“The KPMG Agribusiness Agenda 2011 released in June, highlighted the potential lost opportunity of high net worth customers globally by New Zealand if support for organic market and production research is allowed to languish.” (4,5)
Organic dairy exports from New Zealand grew 400% between 2005-2009. Organic product sales in the USA grew 7.7% compared with total food sales increase of less than 1% in 2010, yet the New Zealand government is allowed funding for Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) to stop this June, and had already long stopped support for the Green Party initiated Organics Advisory Service that had assisted significant growth in organic certification.
“Fonterra missed retailing organic butter in New Zealand, and has failed to market its organic products well. Where was the Fonterra brands organic butter in New Zealand super market shelves? It wasn’t to be found. Blaming reduced markets when there has been continued growth in organic consumption internationally shows a lack of organic marketing commitment by Fonterra, not a lack of customers.”
“Fonterra and the government have spent millions of dollars on GE rye grass development, (6) while support has been stalled for the organic sector.”
“Most of Europe and Scandinavia and many other countries have targets for farm production conversion to organics, because the environmental and social benefits are well recognised, but in New Zealand there appears to be a blind adherence to short term economic benefit including GE, even when non-GE alternatives are proven.”
“When I asked on Friday, why the government had spent tens of millions on GE grasses, but had effectively stopped spending money on organics, Environment Minister Nick Smith told me, “We didn’t think there was any money in it,” “said Mr Browning.
“The planting of 336 GE pine trees by Scion and ArborGen at their Rotorua field trial site last week adds to the sadness of spirit New Zealand is suffering through short term financial aims by giant agribusiness, while it ignores the environmental and social health of Aotearoa New Zealand.”
More at the linkFonterra, the New Zealand based dairy giant is slashing its support for [already token... more
It's day 3 of the two week sit-in which will be the beginning of the movement of the people to stop this senseless destructive path we are on as a species. This is about more than a long piece of metal winding its way through our country. This is about the global repercussions of continuing to be addicted to that which is killing us and the ecosystems that sustain life on this planet.
And while I too know that to go "cold turkey" would be just as much a catastrophe, we must now work together to make those in government understand that to continue on this path without adequate transition is even more catastrophic. But yes, I know the score and the odds just as those sitting in Washington DC do. However, this is about the survival of civilization as we know it and that is simply the reality of it all. This is a moral imperative.
The link to the thread above was the first post in what I hope will be a series over the next two weeks to virtually protest this unnecessary pipeline and to stand in solidarity with those who risk arrest in trying to make President Obama understand that a YES to this will also affect the world his children will live in.
So once again, please use this thread to comment NO, or any other encouragement you wish to convey to those sitting in to stand up for us that we are with them in spirit.
If you truly love your planet and wish to preserve it, this is the time to make it known.
They want it all but they won't get it without a fight!It's day 3 of the two week sit-in which will be the beginning of the movement of... more