tagged w/ Food Sovereignty
Did a recent scientific study just change the way we should think about the safety of genetically modified foods? According to Ari Levaux at the Atlantic, the answer is a resounding yes.
The study in question, performed by researchers at China’s Nanjing University and published in the journal Cell Research, found that a form of genetic material — called microRNA — from conventional rice survived the human digestive process and proceeded to affect cholesterol function in humans.
Levaux argues that this new study “reveals a pathway by which genetically modified (GM) foods might influence human health” which should cause us to completely revisit the question of GM crops’ safety. And he’s right to be alarmed, just a little off on the reasoning.
Let’s take a closer look at how this study applies to current GM technology, shall we?
I would argue that several studies have already suggested that existing GM foods might present a health risk. For example, this study in The International Journal of Biological Sciences found evidence that Monsanto’s Bt corn causes organ damage in lab animals. Then there’s this one which showed that GM soybeans can alter mice on the cellular level — an indication that genetically modified material survives digestion and is active in animals that consume it.
Of course, advocates of genetically modified foods will observe that the phenomenon of genetic transfer through consumption applies to all plants and that GM foods are therefore “substantially equivalent” to non-GM foods. As Levaux explains at length, this concept of substantial equivalence has been used by the biotech industry as well as our government to push GM foods through safety testing with minimal scrutiny. What’s Monsanto’s defense of all this? On its website, the company claims:
There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods … DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard … So long as the introduced protein is determined to be safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks.
So the fact that the Chinese team found active genetic material going from plants to humans isn’t really new and doesn’t really change what we know about how existing genetically engineered crops might affect us.
But what is new — and what Levaux missed — is that the Chinese study happens to involve exactly the kind of genetic matrieral — microRNA — that biotech companies hope to use in their next generation of genetically modified foods.
Today’s GMOs are almost entirely based on adding new genes to crops like corn, soy, and cotton in order to alter the way the plants function. And even then new functions are mostly limited to making plants either able to tolerate herbicides or to produce their own. But if biotechnology companies are successful in their efforts, there may soon be genetically modified foods that use microRNA — simply put, snippets of RNA whose potency were only discovered around a decade ago — to target, and block the function of specific genes in pests.
Thus the news that plant microRNA can survive digestion and affect human systems brings into question the wisdom of pursuing this kind of technology in food.
As explained to me by Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists and expert in genetically modified foods, microRNA technology is an area that biotech companies are actively pursuing. Monsanto itself has a whole web page devoted to the technology, which they call RNA interference.
Gurian-Sherman notes that the Chinese study — though requiring confirmation and follow-up research — raises “an initial red flag.” It calls into question “any general statement that [microRNA] technology would be inherently safe,” he adds.
He observes that humans and insects share a surprising amount of DNA material — evolution favors reusing and recycling genes even among creatures as different as insects and humans. If this research bears out, then it’s entirely possible that microRNA meant to target a specific insect gene will also have an effect — possibly unpredictable — in humans. This is especially true because, for technology like this to work as a pesticide, the microRNA must be present in high levels in the plant, which makes it even more likely the genetic material will make it all the way into the human gut.
UPDATE: Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union wrote to me after this post was published with an important point about the significance of the Chinese study. While he agreed that the main implications relate to the possible risk from microRNA-based GM foods, he also felt that this study did make a new and somewhat startling finding regarding how plant genetic material affects humans. As he put it, the study “showed that the miRNA not only survived digestion [in humans] but also was taken up and moved to other parts of the body where a specific impact was noted. The studies you cited — from Seralini’s lab and Malatesta’s lab — only show that GE crops can have an adverse effect on animals.”
more at the linkDid a recent scientific study just change the way we should think about the safety of... more
Hans Herren, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized scientist specializing in sustainable agriculture. He is president of the Millennium Institute, a non-profit development research and service organization dedicated to sustainable development. Dr. Herren co-chaired the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science & Technology (IAASTD), an initiative sponsored by the World Bank and United Nations in partnership with the World Health Organization that assessed global agriculture and recommended agroecological solutions to world hunger.
Dr. Herren has earned numerous awards that recognize his research achievements. These include the 2002 Brandenberger Preis for improving the living standards of Africa's rural population, the 2003 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the 1995 World Food Prize for his work developing a successful biological control program that saved the African cassava crop, and averted Africa’s worst-ever food crisis.
Dr. Herren’s work in agroecology in Africa has been credited with saving millions of lives by enabling African people to produce the food they need. He developed the “push-pull” system that uses simple but powerful bio-control strategies to effectively manage corn pests, resulting in large increases in yields.
There is much discussion today about the need to “feed the world” because of the growing global population. What do you think needs to be done in order to ensure there is adequate food for everyone in the world?
HH: The issue is less on how to feed the world than how to nourish the poor and hungry. Today we produce 4600 calories per person per day, so there is enough food to feed twice the present population. The problem is that we produce mostly cheap commodities rather than quality food. These cheap products, in addition to being of low nutritional value, are based on a few crops that carry a large ecological, social, and economic footprint. What is needed is to support farmers in developing countries to grow their own healthy food by providing information, know-how, financial support for inputs, and support for them to access markets, among others.
Food security is achieved when availability, access, stability, and utilization are assured equally for all. There is also a need for new and participatory research into sustainable agricultural practices, based on the principles of agroecology and organic farming, which would free farmers from dependence on external inputs such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Some agricultural “experts” are calling for another Green Revolution. What are your thoughts on this?
HH: What we need least is another Green Revolution. What is needed now is to move forward with the lessons learned from the Green Revolution, taking forward what has worked and leave behind most of it, since the Green Revolution has left agriculture dependent on external inputs that are non-sustainable and becoming more and more expensive since they are based on oil, a finite resource, and also synthetic fertilizers, also based on finite natural resources.
The way forward is to understand and work with the system in a holistic and integrated manner. Silver bullets, reductionism as often promoted by the agri-chemical industry are not solutions.
More at the linkHans Herren, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized scientist specializing in... more
Failed "Drought Tolerant" GMO Corn Won't Help Farmers!
The US Department of Agriculture's review of Monsanto's own data shows that years of investment into so-called "drought-tolerant" biotech crops have been nothing more than a risky and very expensive failure. Monsanto's new "drought-tolerant" genetically-modified corn variety MON 87460 does not perform any better than non-GMO varieties.
Ignoring the data, on December 21, 2012, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would allow unlimited planting of MON 87460. The company and the USDA have both admitted the crop will fare only modestly better than current conventional varieties under low- and moderate-level drought conditions. This means that this corn will be useful only for a fraction of corn acres – just 15 percent by USDA estimates.
In addition, in the United States and abroad there are several types of new, drought-tolerant corn, grown through natural breeding techniques that are likely to do as well or better than Monsanto’s corn. Data from U.S. researchers suggest that conventional breeding is producing drought tolerance two to three times faster than genetic engineering.
Only traditional breeding methods, coupled with agricultural methods that promote soil health, have proven capable of increasing stress tolerance and making plants more resilient to reduced water availability.
The danger is, now that MON 87460 has been deregulated, it will inevitably contaminate truly resilient varieties of organic and conventional corn, destroying the rich genetic diversity that the world's farmers have cultivated in the planet's infinitely varied micro-climates.
Please protect biological diversity by taking action to stop Monsanto's failed "drought-resistant" GMO corn.
To learn more about how genetic diversity -- not genetic engineering -- is the key to climate adaptation, watch this video:
Take Action Now! More at the linkFailed "Drought Tolerant" GMO Corn Won't Help Farmers!
The US... more
Earlier this year, the administration of the outgoing Peruvian President slipped in a decree that opened the door for GM seeds. But the subsequent outcry forced not only the resignation of the Agriculture Minister who'd introduced the decree, but also a 10-year ban on GMOs. But that ban wasn't signed into law by the outgoing Administration, so in November the new Peruvian Congress overwhelmingly approved the ban once again. Now the new law has been published in the Official Gazette with the support of the new Peruvian President, a known opponent of GMOs.
Peru Approves Moratorium on GM Crops
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
Below is an unofficial translation of a news article on the topic published in Spanish. For more news on the moratorium, see:
With best wishes,
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister,
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twnside.org.sg
To subscribe to other TWN information lists:www.twnnews.net
Peru approves law banning GM production for 10 years
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Congress have heard the cries of Peruvian farmers and have banned GMOs for ten years.
The effects of GM foods on people who consume them and on their crops have generated enormous controversy. In this light Peru has taken an important step to protect their local food producers, establishing a moratorium on income and production of genetically modified organisms. This law, which was approved on November 4, was published on December 9 in the Official Gazette.
The president of Peru, Ollanta Humala said that it came to this decision after hearing "the cries of agricultural organizations and civil society to take this important step in the defense of our biodiversity."
Living modified organisms (LMOs) for research are excluded from the norm, including those used as pharmaceuticals and veterinary as governed by specific rules.
Also the LMO or its derivatives for food imported for direct human and animal, or for processing, said the rule would fall in this first group of processed foods such as dairy meal, which have been manufactured using GMOs.
Congressman Jaime Delgado, who was the driver of the rule, said in a statement that the law establishes the moratorium in response to the need to avoid irreparable damage to the country's biodiversity and to achieve a prior environmental land.
The National Convention of Peruvian Agriculture (Conveagro) also welcomed the enactment of the law and that Humala has taken the decision "without yielding to pressure from powerful groups." In a statement, Humala said he "heard the cries of agricultural organizations and civil society to take this important step in the defense of our biodiversity."
The president of Conveagro, Lucila Quintana, said: "Now we have to tap the potential of Peru's diverse agriculture, food and tourism, as part of a national biosafety work and ensure agricultural production to achieve food security. "Earlier this year, the administration of the outgoing Peruvian President slipped in a... more
1. Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families
The fact that 46 million people -- about a seventh of the U.S. population -- now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America's food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is now set up, the problem is all but invisible to the rest of us.
Why are so many Americans using food stamps? Beyond our collective economic woes, a large part of the problem lies in the cost of food itself, which rose considerably in the last few years. Then there's the speculation market, which drives up the cost of commodity crops. Ethanol doesn't help, either.
2. The food we can afford could make us sick (or even kill us)
2011 saw the largest Class 1 (i.e. potentially lethal) meat recall in history, involving 36 million pounds of Cargill turkey tainted with multi-drug resistant Salmonella.
The listeria outbreak in cantaloupes was also the deadliest U.S. foodborne illness outbreak in 100 years.
Germany's E. coli outbreak over the summer was also the deadliest on record -- anywhere.
What happened to last winter's Food Safety Modernization Act -- the much-debated legislation that might have updated the regulations that would stop outbreaks like these? Well, to make a long story short, it was never funded. Who's hungry now?
3. GMOs aren't going anywhere
"Superweeds," resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, raise red flags.
Photo: Lost in FogTake a deep breath: 2011 began with the approval of GMO alfalfa (which could permanently change the organic milk industry for the worse). Less than two weeks later, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defied a court order and partially deregulated GMO sugar beets without completing an environmental impact assessment.
Meanwhile, concern about "superweeds," which are resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, raised red flags beyond the foodie and environmentalist communities; now big business is also worried. And our six-legged friends have outsmarted Monsanto too; an insect called the corn rootworm has become resistant to the company's Bt corn (which is supposed to be engineered to produce its own pesticides).
GMO business got especially fishy this year, as well: GMO salmon may also be inching toward commercial approval. The "frankenfish" appeared to be fast-tracked for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval during the first half of 2010, which would have made it the first genetically engineered animal food on the market. But in June, the House of Representatives blocked the FDA from spending money to approve the salmon. This seemed like a good sign, but in October, the USDA gave Aquabounty, the company looking to produce the salmon, a research grant -- meaning this fish is far from out of the picture.
4. Pesticides: Also here to stay for now
Methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, has been approved for use in California strawberry fields.Eaters may have plenty of evidence to suggest that agriculture should involve fewer pesticides (example: this recent piece about the weed killer atrazine in the rural water supply), but big agribusiness vehemently disagrees.
Last December's approval of methyl iodide (a known carcinogen) for use in strawberry fields in California has many advocates concerned about farmworkers, nearby communities, and water tables. Small bright spot: It has yet to be adopted widely, so many in the state are still working to make the short- and long-term consequences known. Some advocates are even calling for an end to all fumigants.
In May, we covered the fight in Congress to restrict the EPA's ability to regulate pesticides -- specifically when it comes to spraying near streams and waterways -- and the issue has yet to be put to sleep.
Meanwhile, there is now clear evidence linking a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids to recent honeybee die-offs, but top USDA scientists still refuse to recommend a ban. To make matters worse, honeybees aren't the only type of bee that's disappearing: Bumblebees are going missing, too.
5. Extreme weather is messing with our food
Between the drought in the Southwest, which wreaked havoc on farms and ranches in both the U.S. and Mexico, and Hurricane Irene, which hit the East Coast at the worst possible moment (peak harvest for farmers in New York state and elsewhere), 2011 was a terrible weather year. The result? Fewer pumpkins for Halloween, and a costlier Thanksgiving, to start with. But this year was also a reminder of the ways a shifting climate could make food production especially unpredictable in the future.
More at the link1. Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families
1. Urban farming is flourishing.
2. Young farmers make noise.
3. Local food isn't just delicious and eco-friendly.
4. Food Day makes a comeback.
5. We don't need industrial ag to feed the world.
Yes, the world's population is growing rapidly (see Grist's series "What to expect when you're expanding"), and the question of how to feed all 7 billion of us is an important one. Far too often, however, "feeding the world" has become code for farming with as many chemicals and GMO seeds as possible.
This year brought mounting evidence to the contrary, including a study published in Nature and another published in Science that say otherwise. The results of a long-term study by the Rodale Institute also proved that organic farming is just as productive as conventional, and better at building soil (this is key, since "yield" is at the heart of the "feed the world" discussion).
6. Despite the influence of the ultra-consolidated meat industry, the "ag-gag" bills went nowhere.
Early on in 2011, lawmakers in Florida, New York, Iowa, and Minnesota tried to pass so-called "ag-gag" bills that would have made it illegal to produce -- and in Minnesota to possess -- undercover videos of livestock factory farms. The bills were part of a coordinated effort by Big Ag, but the sustainable food movement organized to defeat them, and, in a rare win, succeeded.
7. Eaters are (a little) more aware of the people behind their food.
8. Food access got more attention.
Too many people around the U.S. still lack easy access to good, healthy food. Fortunately, activists and farmers made a lot of creative progress this year in helping to raise awareness and tackle the root problems.
A group of advocates from an Oakland-based organization called Live Real took to the road for the Food and Freedom Rides.
Tiny groceries made out of shipping containers: one way to increase food access.Fifty young people began working in schools, gardens, and advocacy organizations as part of the first class of Food Corps participants. We spoke with three of them.
Subsidizing farmers markets was shown to be an effective strategy for getting more healthy food into food deserts. And farmers themselves looked for creative ways to address food access, such as this give-a-dozen-buy-a-dozen program modeled after Toms Shoes.
Slow Food USA sought to show that supporting local farmers doesn't require going broke with its $5 Challenge. And a group of grad students tried out a model for small, portable grocery stores built out of shipping containers -- a potential solution for under-resourced areas without traditional grocery stores.
9. More information helps eaters make better choices.
10. The Occupy movement adds fuel to the fire.
Advocates and farmers jointed the Zuccotti Park gathering this fall, and we heard from a variety of folks who were occupying various aspects of the food system -- like one farmer who occupied the pasture.
Just as important as any march or rally, however, the activism taking place over last few months has gotten more eaters to think critically about where their food dollars are going, and to consider investing in local and sustainable food enterprises rather than Wall Street.
More at the link1. Urban farming is flourishing.
2. Young farmers make noise.
3. Local food... more
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday its decision to deregulate two Monsanto genetically engineered (GE) seed varieties: a corn variety engineered to resist drought conditions and an herbicide-resistant soybean engineered to produce more fatty acids than regular soybeans.
Regulators legalized the seeds after reviewing risk assessments, public comments and data provided by Monsanto.
Monsanto is planning "on-farm trials" of drought-tolerant corn, known as MON 87460, during the upcoming planting season "to give farmers experience with the product" and generate commercial data, according to a statement from the company.
The corn contains a protein gene from a bacterium that reportedly limits yield loss when corn plants are stressed by drought conditions.
Earlier this year, Truthout exposed a controversial program in five African countries that involves putting Monsanto drought-tolerant corn in the hands of farmers facing drought conditions. The program is part of an effort funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is working to establish a "Second Green Revolution" in Africa.
Critics say such efforts could replace traditional and sustainable farming methods with American-style industrial agriculture and prevent African governments from effectively regulating GE crops.
Last week, Truthout revealed that the USDA is taking steps to speed up the approval process for GE crops after industry groups put mounting pressure on top officials in recent years.
The USDA also announced a public comment period for two additional GE crop seeds, including another Monsanto soybean that is engineered to provide omega-3 fatty acids. Regulators have submitted favorable assessments of the seeds and are expected to approve them sometime next year. The public comment period on both products runs until February 27, 2012.
More at the linkThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday its decision... more
In this extract from his book, To Cook A Continent, Nnimmo Bassey argues that climate negotiations, from Durban in late 2011 onwards, will increasingly confront the issue of climate justice.
The atmosphere is a common space, a global commons. Industrialised nations pumped a disproportionate amount of emissions into the atmosphere and they have cornered a disproportionate amount of global resources, largely by exploiting nations that are on the other side of the coin. Climate impacts are already being felt in a severe way in Africa as well as in other regions of the global South. Centuries of exploitation have weakened the resilience of these regions and in tackling climate change these historical facts must be addressed. One way of addressing this is by the payment of climate debt to make the needed financial and technological resources available to these vulnerable regions.
The Conference of Parties at Copenhagen and the following one at Cancun did not generate outcomes consistent with scientific warnings that the world faces a severe climate crisis. Copenhagen ended with an accord spearheaded by President Barack Obama of the United States with the backing of the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) concocted in a 'Green Room' dreamed up by Denmark's conservative ruling party. In that room, Patrick Bond recalled, were 26 countries 'cherry-picked to represent the world. When even that small group deadlocked, allegedly due to Chinese intransigence and the overall weak parameters set by the US, the five leaders (Obama, Lula da Silva, Jacob Zuma, Manmohan Singh, and Wen Jiabao) attempted a face-saving last gasp at planetary hygiene.'12
The demand of climate justice is that those who created the climate problem must be the ones to mitigate it, and in the process must transform their economies and societies.13 There are two ways to go about making this happen. First, rich nations must reduce rapacious consumption patterns and address the climate crisis with real solutions and not ones that have been seen to be false. Second, the rich nations have to support the poor nations who are being forced to adapt to a situation they did not create. One practical way of making that happen is through support for sustainable, green development paths.
Among governments, the Bolivians have made the clearest call for climate justice while India and China have used related arguments to defend their growth paths. At a time when the world has been calling for a curtailment of polluting industrial establishments, China has been building new coal-fired power plants at a prodigious rate.14 It is interesting to note that while China is massively expanding its coal-powered plants, it is also quickly assuming leadership in the utilisation of wind power. The discourse on how much both China and India must do in tackling global warming must not overlook the fact that vast numbers of people in both India and China still require electricity supply and that meeting that gap requires huge financial outlays.
Following the catastrophic outcome of the United Nations climate negotiations held in Copenhagen in December 2009, President Evo Morales of Bolivia announced that the world would meet in Bolivia for a thorough and inclusive discussion on this vital issue.
The summit, held in Cochabamba in April 2010, attracted 35,000 participants from 140 countries. The summit stood in sharp contrast to the Copenhagen event in many ways. First, this was an assembly of governments and peoples. In Copenhagen no effort was spared in keeping civil society out of the conference: the conference was marked by lockouts of civil society, detentions of climate activists and outright brutality towards non-violent protesters on the streets. In Cochabamba the police were offering assistance and were also participants. Whereas Copenhagen showed a disdain for the voices of the people, Cochabamba was about raising the voices of the people. The only similarity between the events is that they were both held in cities whose names start with letter 'C' followed by nine letters.
The key outcome of the Cochabamba conference was the People's Agreement. This agreement demanded that countries cut their emissions by at least 50 per cent at source in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2013–17), without recourse to offsets and other carbon trading schemes. In terms of finance, the People's Agreement demands that developed countries commit 6 per cent of their GDP to finance adaptation and mitigation needs. The financial suggestions of the Copenhagen Accord are a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to secure vulnerable peoples and nations. The peoples of the world also affirmed that there is a climate debt that must be recognised and paid. The payment is not all about finance but principally about decolonising the atmospheric space and redistributing the meagre space left. Developed countries already occupy 80 per cent of the space.
The climate debt is also about taking actions needed to restore the natural cycles of Mother Earth and one clear way of achieving this will be through the proclamation of a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, with clear obligations for humans. Bolivia is in the forefront of promoting the adoption of this declaration at the United Nations. The People's Agreement recognises that the causes of climate change are systemic and that systemic changes are needed to tackle them. On this note, the model of civilisation that is hinged on uncontrolled development can only compound the crisis. The world needs to move towards living well and not continue on the path of domination of others and of conspicuous and wasteful consumption.
An area glossed over in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations is the role of industrial agriculture in climate change. The People's Conference debated this key sector and reached the agreement that the way to a sustainable future is through the enthronement of food sovereignty based on agro-ecological agricultural systems. The issue of access to water being a human right was also affirmed by the people and later on in the year by the United Nations.
In all, the People's Agreement recognises that real strategies to tackle climate change must be based on the principles of equity and justice in dealing with the structural causes. Without climate justice it will also clearly be impossible to achieve the much talked about Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Cochabamba resonated with calls for urgently securing the rights of Mother Earth as a means of reconfiguring our relationship with the earth and with each other – in a way that respects the past, today and the future. All these will be a pipe dream unless peoples' sovereignty is supported, restored or built across the world. Cochabamba was a turning point in the march to transform our world from the path of conflict, competition, exploitation and domination to a path of solidarity and dignity. It held a ray of hope for Africa.
More at the link
I posted this excerpt from this article because it hits the nail on the head about the mechanisms involved in the schemes being put forth by industrialized nations, the World Bank and corporations (industrial agriculture especially) looking to use this planetary emergency as a way to profit from it without really doing anything to address it. And that includes our seeds and water. Our voices now can make a dfference and they must be heard.In this extract from his book, To Cook A Continent, Nnimmo Bassey argues that climate... more
Oxfam's message at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2011, Durban, South Africa.Oxfam's message at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2011, Durban,... more
More than 250 people of different race and culture, including foreigner joins holding placards and banners demanding answers, representing Nepalese farmers in solidarity. Police stopped them from standing in front of the American embassy, which was there initial program.
"The ultimate goal of the protest is to put pressure on the Government of Nepal to
cancel their agreement with USAID and Monsanto Inc. and stop the proposed
hybrid maize pilot project from going ahead", on of the participant said.They also add "The introduction of Monsanto seed products into Nepal will have
disastrous consequences for the people of Nepal. Nepali farmers will
be forced into a relationship of dependancy with Monsanto Company.
Farmers will be worse off economically, soil and land will be
irreversibly damaged with the need for increased use of fertilizers.
thus decreasing chances of future livelihoods in farming and food
production. Nepal's international trade will also suffer.
http://www.demotix.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/large_610x456_scaled/photos/939565.jpgMore than 250 people of different race and culture, including foreigner joins holding... more
Mark Bittman has provided the ultimate Thanksgiving guide for anyone interested in making our broken food system work again. His exhaustive list of the 25 people or groups for which he is most thankful is a must-read.* It starts with nutritionist and food system reform pioneer Marion Nestle and ends with "anyone who's started a small farm in the last five years, and anyone who's supported one; anyone who cooks, and especially anyone who teaches others to cook." That covers a good portion of Grist readers, I'd like to point out. So good on all of you, too. Heaven knows, I'm thankful for you.
In the glass-half-full spirit, I thought I'd take a moment to point out some recent news developments for which we should also all be thankful.
The collapse of the deficit supercommittee
There are, no doubt, many reasons to be thankful for this. After all, we can cut our national debt by $7.1 trillion by doing absolutely nothing, so it's not clear why we need a bunch of old men sitting in a room to come up with ways to cut less by performing all sorts of budgeting gymnastics. But, more to the point, it also follows that no deal in the supercommittee means no Secret Farm Bill. Or at least it means that reformers might still get a chance to weigh in on farm policy, in hopes of moving it away from large, wealthy corporate farms and towards farms who need and better deserve the support.
The Secret Farm Bill, which is no longer a secret thanks to the Environmental Working Group, won't be entirely scrapped, I'm afraid. But at least it will probably move back to the more open House and Senate Committee process and will likely require a standalone vote from the full Congress. That fact alone may turn back the most egregious elements of Big Ag's attempted raid on the treasury. A more public process may ensure that such brilliant maneuvers as cutting the subsidy criteria from $1 million all the way down to $950,000 might be seen as the accounting tricks they truly are. That eligibility cut was admittedly a fiendishly clever move on the part of farm state representatives. After all, "No farm subsidies to nine-hundred-fifty-thousandaires" doesn't have quite the ring that "No farm subsidies to millionaires" does.
Marion Nestle does a nice job of summarizing the contents of the Secret Farm Bill, which will likely form the basis of the 2012 Farm Bill, warts and all. At least reformers know what they're up against.
More at the linkMark Bittman has provided the ultimate Thanksgiving guide for anyone interested in... more
If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A public hearing is being held in Corvallis, Oregon this Thursday, November 17th to determine if Genetically Modified sugar beets will be deregulated in Oregon.
Meanwhile, the public comment period maybe just a local distraction giving way to full federal deregulation without any representation of organic and conventional crop farmers.
Let us not forget that the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture held a formal hearing on Genetically Modified (GM) Alfalfa on Jan 20, 2011.
The hearing corresponded with an open 30-day comment period, designed to provide relevant testimony with regard to deregulation of Genetically Modified Alfalfa.
The democratic process neglected to include a single organic or conventional farming representative. Throughout the two hour hearing various legislators publicly humiliated the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak for even suggesting any compromise through talks with the organic and conventional communities. They all but ordered him to stand down his conversations with anyone but pro-GM enthusiasts (1:43:16).
Representatives left no seed unturned in honor of their allegiance to biotech crops and complete penetration into all foreign and domestic markets. In fact, Minnesota's Representative Collin Peterson referred to organic producers and consumers as "our opponents"(12:29).
Vilsak, even with his ties to Monsanto, was attempting negotiation with "so called Option 3" containing a minimal stop gap as an alternative to absolute contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa. In essence, planting barriers would have been implemented to maintain protective measures for the integrity of all seed varieties. Legislators blatantly mocked him and even pulled rank, saying that the Secretary of Agriculture does not have the authority to do anything but fully deregulate the crop without further ado. (35:38, 1:25:50, 1:29:15, 2:18:47)
It can be noted that Vilsak testified no less than three times that we were in the midst of the 30 day comment period, and in his opinion, the talks among all sides were providing necessary elements worthy of analysis for all agricultural markets concerned. (29:00, 1:44:00, 1:51:54)
The theme of the hearing centered around the economic burden of GM farmers if full deregulation didn’t go forth immediately (1:44:00). It was insisted by every representative that their loyalties were to the biotech community and that full deregulation was unquestionable without consideration for any form of barrier to protect other crops from cross contamination.
In regard to preservation of non GM crops, Texas Representative Michael Conaway begs the question, "how much of this is a definitional issue"? He questions organic standards and even insists that he "suspects that Genetically Engineered seeds will become the new organic". He blatantly suggests that legislative steps be considered to modify the language and thus re-define organic standards so that Genetically Modified crops can freely contaminate without restriction. He insists that it is merely a marketing issue and not an issue of health and safety. Conaway asks if we are just "hung up on the phrase organic, meaning something we grew ourselves in the backyard with whatever?"(2:33:00).
Concern was expressed by a number of speakers that GM crops are being promoted throughout the world as being no different than conventional crops, and if word got out that we established restrictive planting barriers, then it might be assumed that the GM crops were somehow different. That could put a damper on GM producers and their marketing potential. (30:45, 1:58:17, 2:18:47)
It was apparent, by the end of one sided discussion, that full deregulation and contamination remains unquestionable from the perspective of our democratic leaders. In other words, it is most notably a flagrant case of Contamination without Representation.
If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops. Public comments are being heard on Thursday from 4 PM – 9 PM at LaSells Stewart Center Construction and Engineering Hall 875 Southwest 26th St., Corvallis, Oregon.
Please see the full length video of the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture forum on GM Alfalfa, Jan 20 2011.
http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1269If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against... more
A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen on Utne Reader's list of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World," published in the November/December edition of the magazine on newsstands now.
Organic seed potato farmer Jim Gerritsen heads a trade association that is suing chemical giant Monsanto. (photo: Charlotte Hedley ) Gerritsen, wife Megan, and their four children run the Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, which produces and sells organic seed potatoes to kitchen gardeners and market farmers in all 50 states. Gerritsen is also president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and it was that role that led to the Utne recognition.
The nonprofit organization created a stir in food and farming communities when, with legal backing from the Public Patent Foundation, it filed a lawsuit in March against the chemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto. OSGATA has since been joined in the lawsuit by 82 other seed businesses, trade organizations and family farmers, which together represent more than 270,000 people.
The lawsuit questions the validity of Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seeds, and seeks protection from patent-infringement lawsuits for the plaintiffs should their crops become contaminated with Monsanto's transgenic crops.
"The viewpoint of Monsanto is that (in such a situation) we have their technology, even though we don't want it and it has zero value in the organic market," Gerritsen said. "We think they should keep their pollution on their side of the fence."
Laws prohibit certified organic crops from containing genetically modified ingredients, and Monsanto's patents prohibit farmers from growing its seeds unless purchased from the company. Yet pollen doesn't heed certification or patent laws, and regularly drifts from transgenic crops to contaminate nearby non-genetically altered ones.
To add insult to injury, Monsanto has a reputation for suing or threatening to sue farmers for patent infringement in cases involving its genetically altered seeds, action reported in numerous media outlets as wide ranging as the Columbia Daily Tribune, CBS News and the New York Times.
Despite this well documented legal tactic, Monsanto spokesperson Thomas Helscher stated in an email: "Monsanto has never sued and has publicly committed to not sue farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their fields. The company does not and will not pursue legal action against a farmer where patented seed or traits are found in that farmer's field as a result of unintentional means."
"Inadvertent" and "unintentional" are the key words here, but for farmers to prove that Monsanto's transgenic seeds are unwanted invaders in a court of law is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. A 2005 report from the Center for Food Safety, an organic-food and sustainable agriculture advocacy group, contends that Monsanto had at that time filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers. The report also contends that the corporation employed 75 people armed with a budget of $10 million devoted "solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers."
Pre-trial motions are still being filed in the lawsuit brought by OSGATA, with the most recent from Monsanto asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.
Helscher said the motion to dismiss results from the corporation's pledge to not sue farmers "where patented seed or traits are found in that farmer's field as a result of inadvertent means. Accordingly, there is no real controversy between parties and the OSGATA case should be dismissed."
Gerritsen views Monsanto's statements as part of a disinformation campaign designed to prolong the lawsuit.
"What they typically try to do is drag out lawsuits as long as they can, hoping the plaintiffs will run out of funding," Gerritsen said. He is confident OSGATA has the resources necessary to pursue this lawsuit for years, if necessary.
Unlike open pollinated crops such as corn and canola, which have suffered from widespread contamination by genetically modified seeds, potatoes remain relatively safe, Gerritsen said.
Monsanto developed multiple strains of transgenic potatoes in the 1990s under the name New Leaf. However, when major food companies such as McCain, which operates a french fry processing plant in Easton, and McDonald's rejected genetically-modified potatoes, Monsanto was forced to pull its transgenic strains off the market.
Gerritsen said the lawsuit will also seek to clarify what he sees as Monsanto's contradictory stance on its genetically modified seeds.
When arguing against labeling of transgenic food, Monsanto and other biotech companies claim that genetically modified seeds are substantially equivalent to traditional seeds. However, when seeking patents, the same companies claim the insertion of foreign genes creates unique seeds deserving of patent protection.
"Which is it?" Gerritsen asked. "It's one or other, but it can't be both. Is it the same? Or is it different?"
All genetically modified seeds are designed to do something different from the original seed. This can mean the modified seed will produce increased quantities of a particular substance inherent to the plant, manufacture chemicals foreign to the original plant, or withstand heavy applications of herbicides and pesticides manufactured by the same corporation seeking the seed patent.
Citing the revolving door between corporations (including Monsanto) and the government agencies which purport to regulate them, Gerritsen said, "we basically have a dysfunctional government. The Occupy Wall Street concept is to try to give power back to the people."
In the same vein, the lawsuit against Monsanto seeks to restore the power of citizens and farmers to choose food free from genetically modified organisms.A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim... more
Every night at Zuccotti Park, dinner is served around 7 P.M. What protesters may not realize is that their meals are made from fresh, organic produce donated by a dozen or so small farms located throughout the Northeast.
Since the early weeks of the protest, regional farmers have been coming down independently to Occupy Wall Street to donate fruits and vegetables. In those days, meals were prepared in volunteers' homes. Yet, as the protest quickly gained momentum, food preparation needed to get more organized, and Occupy Wall Street set up a daily dinner operation out of a soup kitchen in East New York, Brooklyn.
Once they got use of this professional cooking space, groups of farmers from different regional areas—from upstate New York, Vermont and western Massachusetts—started making regular trips down with produce.
"They all had this related thing: They're small organic farmers competing against big commercial and industrial farmers," says Heather Squire, the full-time Occupy Wall Street volunteer who manages the space. “The kitchen became a place for farmers to come together. It represented that place to take their issues to."
Now, participating farmers from Massachusetts and Vermont make deliveries twice a week, and they've created an organization to represent their efforts and raise awareness of issues affecting the rural small-farm community.
More at the linkEvery night at Zuccotti Park, dinner is served around 7 P.M. What protesters may not... more
70% percent or more of our food contains genetically engineered food brought by the bio-tech giant: Monsanto.
GMO is endangering people’s health and our environment at an alarming rate.
Cross-contamination is irreversible and good, organic crops are being jeopardized.
These seeds are incredibly expensive compared to the traditional ones and have been genetically modified to produce their own pesticide, to survive the spraying of the: “Roundup”, a potent herbicide and to self terminate.
This has lead our farmers to buy new GMO seeds each year and depend on Monsanto. As a result of this ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops, 125,000 farmers took their own lives.
These people were driven to debt, to economic distress, homeless and landless.
GMO has and is failing catastrophically.
This company is persecuting, bullying and bringing farms to bankruptcy.
GMO was never adequately tested for safety, actually more and more research shows its dangers to the human/animal health, polluting our crops and our water.
Monsanto did use false advertising; Monsanto poisons the third world and privatizes water. Its employees have passed through the so-called revolving door many times, they rotated between this industry and the public agencies: Clarence Thomas, Gwendolyn S. King, Linda Fisher, Jim Travis, Linda Avery Strachanand, Toby Moffet , Marcia Hale, Donald Bandle, George H. Poste, Michael Kantor and Michael Taylor all bending rules, finding loopholes to assure this company profits.
This technology is only exacerbating hunger, poverty, irreversible contamination and climate change in our world.
Bring down Monsanto’s monopoly on our food and a centralized agriculture.
Bring down Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.
Bring down the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides and chemicals alike.
Hold this company accountable for its damages to the world.
Organic agriculture, permaculture and biodiversity are the only answer to sustainability, to the preservation of our environment and our health.
We want you, as our government, as a body of representation of the people of the United States to invest billions subsidizing organic, environmental agriculture.
Bring down Monsanto’s poisoning, companies alike and the agrochemical industry once and for all as it is one of the greatest threats to the whole human race.
Please sign and share this petition on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
Repost this message:
Tell our Government: Bring Down Monsanto’s poisoning. Hold this company accountable for its damages to the world! http://bit.ly/bko2mZ
More at the link70% percent or more of our food contains genetically engineered food brought by the... more
Last week, we wrote about the likelihood that the $300 billion 2012 Farm Bill would take shape weeks before 2012 even begins, in the form of a dashed-off bill swept into the larger "super committee"-driven deficit-cutting process. As this week starts, that troubling prognosis remains.
In fact, last week, several congressional aides told agriculture trade publication Agweek that lawmakers planned to "work through the weekend to try to complete a Farm Bill proposal for the super committee in charge of deficit reduction by November 1." But so far, nothing decisive has been announced.
This might explain why the food and farming advocacy site Food Democracy Now sent out an email this morning with the subject line "24 hours to stop the Secret Farm Bill." The site asked subscribers to call a short list of senators and congressmen and tell them to say "‘No' to the Secret Farm Bill," because "rushing this vital piece of legislation behind closed doors is unfair and undemocratic."
Sustainable food advocates have been struggling to adjust to this new reality. As the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) described it last week:
No hearings, no amendments, no debate. Under this scenario, we may have very little idea about what is in the Farm Bill until after it has passed ... It's hard to overstate how messed up this is. We now have an environment where highly paid lobbyists thrive and citizen's voices, along with real reforms, evaporate.
Oxfam American chimed in with a list of reasons Occupy Wall Street supporters aren't likely to appreciate this rushed Farm Bill:
1. It was negotiated to satisfy high powered industry lobbies that pay lots of money to influence the Ag Committee.
2. It's a giveaway to big industrial farms at the expense of family farmers.
3. It promotes unhealthy, unsustainable farming practices at the expense of sustainable farming.
4. It targets conservation and nutrition programs for cuts disproportionately.
The bill's details remain unclear, but we know it will involve $23 billion in cuts. One Republican senator from Iowa went on record last week saying he believed the committee would cut $15 billion from farm subsidies and $4 billion each from conservation and nutrition. Another House conservative told the press that the cuts would "reduce farm subsidies about 20 percent and cut conservation spending about 10 percent. Nutrition programs, including food stamps, would be cut about 1 percent."
Advocates for sustainable and local food movements have rushed out two bills of their own, to be included in the larger Farm Bill process. The Local and Regional Food Bill would bolster support for family farms, and "expand new farming opportunities and rural jobs, and invest in the local agriculture economy." The Beginning Farmer Bill would help new farmers get access to capital (the lack of which is a well-known roadblock for beginning farmers) using microloans, matched savings accounts, and similar strategies.
Whether these additions have a chance of passing, or are simply symbolic, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, California food, farming, conservation, and environmental groups have been lobbying hard to have some say in the proposed Farm Bill. But the state -- whose agricultural industry is said to produce more than 400 different crops, employ 800,000 people and generate annual revenues of $37.5 billion -- will most likely continue to be left out of the discussion. One reason is that California farms don't produce the bulk of those commodity crops -- like corn, soy, and wheat -- that farm bills tend to concentrate on.
More at the linkLast week, we wrote about the likelihood that the $300 billion 2012 Farm Bill would... more
Governments are ignoring a vast store of knowledge -- generated over thousands of years -- that could protect food supplies and make agriculture more resilient to climate change, says a briefing published today by the International Institute for Environment and Development. [paper attached here]
It urges negotiators at the UN climate change conference in Durban later this month to give stronger support to traditional knowledge and address the threats posed by commercial agriculture and intellectual property rights.
The paper includes case studies from Bolivia, China and Kenya that show traditional knowledge and local farming systems have proved vital in adapting to the climatic changes that farmers there face.
This includes using local plants to control pests, choosing traditional crop varieties that tolerate extreme conditions such as droughts and floods, planting a diversity of crops to hedge bets against uncertain futures, breeding new varieties based on quality traits, and having systems in place to protect biological diversity and share seeds within and between communities.
But the paper warns that government policies tend to overlook such knowledge and fail to protect farmers' rights to grow traditional crops, benefit from their use and access markets.
“Policies, subsidies, research and intellectual property rights promote a few modern commercial varieties and intensive agriculture at the expense of traditional crops and practices,” says the paper's lead author Krystyna Swiderska, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development.
“This is perverse as it forces countries and communities to depend on an ever decreasing variety of crops and threatens with extinction the knowledge and biological diversity that form the foundations of resilience.”
The paper says that while modern agriculture and varieties may increase productivity, environmental stress and climatic variability mean the survival of poor farmers depends on more resilient and readily available traditional varieties.
“It is because of famers' intimate knowledge of nature that traditional farming practices have persisted for thousands of years and overcome climatic threats,” adds Swiderska.
“To sweep away all of that knowledge and the biological diversity it relates to in favour of a limited set of modern seed varieties means putting the private interests of commercial seed corporations ahead of the public interest of sustaining food and agriculture.”
More at the linkGovernments are ignoring a vast store of knowledge -- generated over thousands of... more
I went to the Occupy Wall Street march last week, as part of the NYC food justice delegation. We carried baskets of farmers’ market vegetables and signs reading “Stop Gambling on Hunger” and “Food Not Bonds.” Food justice advocates came out from around the city—urban farmers, gardeners, youth, professors, union members, and community organizers. The vegetables attracted a lot of attention. Food so often attracts a lot of attention—the New York Times is just one of the outlets to focus in recent days on the makeshift kitchen at Zuccotti Park. What was more surprising were all of the puzzled looks we got from the bloggers, photographers, and other marchers who wanted to talk to us. “What’s the connection here with food?” we were asked many times.
The connection of the protests with food, of course, runs from the local to the global, the specific to the ephemeral. Food justice advocates are connecting with Occupy sites all around the country to donate fresh, healthy, local food or to help find kitchen space. On a broader philosophical level, as Mark Bittman writes in the Times, “Whether we’re talking about food, politics, healthcare, housing, the environment, or banking, the big question remains the same: How do we bring about fundamental change?” But there are also clear and specific reasons that all of us working for a just and fair food system, as the food movement should make the connection between our work and Occupy Wall Street explicit and strong.
In the U.S. today, the richest one percent hold 40 percent of the wealth, while almost one in five Americans is on food stamps. Rampant Wall Street speculation on commodities is driving up food costs, small farmers are being driven off their land, and agribusiness holds monopoly control of our seeds and stores. In this climate, the struggle against massive wealth disparities, unregulated financial institutions, and excessive corporate power is our struggle as well. Two points in the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City address the food system. While barely scratching the surface of the potential connections, the protesters have provided an important opening for the food movement. Will we seize it?
Speculation Drives up Food Costs
At the most obvious level, as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy recently wrote, “Wall Street deregulation has not only made the stock market extremely volatile, it has increased prices and price volatility in agricultural markets.” That is, the relationship between government and Wall Street firms has turned food into commodity like any other, subject to the whims of the market. For decades, only people directly involved in agriculture (e.g., farmers) could freely participate in trade of futures of agricultural commodities (e.g., corn, soy, wheat). Outside speculators were allowed into these markets but with strictly enforced limits to how much they could buy. Futures trading served a practical purpose, giving farmers a guaranteed price for future harvests, and prices stayed relatively stable and reasonable for both buyers and sellers.
But in 2000, a wave of industry-backed deregulation raised and then removed these limits on speculation, which opened commodity markets to a flood of new players—these later included funds controlled by some of the biggest Wall Street firms looking for new investment opportunities after the housing bubble burst. Flooded with new investments unconnected to any direct stake in crop prices, in 2008, the commodity markets exploded, driving up grain prices worldwide. The grain price spikes were catastrophic for millions of people worldwide. Farmers, who sometimes benefit from high grain prices, mostly were no better off, because similarly skyrocketing energy prices also drove up prices of agricultural inputs.
In 2008 and 2009, the UN estimated that an additional 130 million people were driven into hunger by the food price bubble. Spontaneous food riots broke out in dozens of countries where chronic hunger is a reality. Today’s Wall Street protests are not unconnected to those; the effects of food and energy speculation continue in 2011. A study in June by University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Robert Pollin estimates that U.S. gasoline prices are $0.83 higher per gallon due to Wall Street speculation. The CEO of ExxonMobil said he estimates prices are $1.20 to $1.40 higher per gallon. And food commodity prices are as high, or higher, than they were in 2008—while 46 million Americans are now living below the poverty line, struggling with basic expenses like food.
A New Colonialism
Wall Street firms aren’t just gambling on food prices, they have begun speculating on land as well. Alerted to the potential market in agriculture, investors are buying up huge parcels of farmland all over the world, displacing the occupants, and converting subsistence production to cash crops—or, worse, simply leaving the land fallow and waiting for its value to increase. According to international NGO GRAIN, which first reported on this trend in 2008, more than 50 million hectares of land has been transferred from farmers to corporations since 2009. “Land grabs” have affected tens of thousands of people around the world who have been driven off their land–often violently–with little or no compensation, given no say in the process, and left with no recourse. For most of them, land is their livelihood; without it, the future is bleak.
More at the linkI went to the Occupy Wall Street march last week, as part of the NYC food justice... more
A report released Wednesday by the Washington- based Food and Water Watch (FWW) on the destructive impacts of GMOs added fuel to a two-decades-long fight by farmers, economists and experts against the FDA's conclusions.
"Genetically Engineered Food: An Overview" details how the genetic engineering of seeds, crops and animals for human consumption is not the foolproof answer long championed by agribusiness and biotechnology industries to feeding the world.
To the contrary, the study found that genetically engineered/modified (GE/M) organisms do not out-perform their natural counterparts, and their proliferation into vast tracts of cropland have caused a slew of environmental and health crises, and actually increased poverty by forcing millions of farmers to "buy" patented seeds at exorbitant prices.
According to the report, over 365 million acres of GE crops were cultivated in 29 countries in 2010 alone, representing 10 percent of global cropland.
"The United States is the world leader in GE crop production, with 165 million acres, or nearly half of global production," Patty Lovera, assistant director of FWW, told IPS.
"From only seven percent of soybean acres and one percent of corn acres in 1996, GE cultivation in the U.S. shot up to 94 percent of soybean and 88 percent of corn acres in 2011," she added.
The bulk of these crops came from seeds owned by Monsanto.
"Eighty-four percent of GM crops in the world today are herbicide- resistant soybeans, corn, cotton or canola, predominantly Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' varieties that withstand dousing with herbicide," Bill Frees, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and author of 'Why GM Crops Will Not Feed the World', told IPS.
"Pesticide and chemical companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow and Bayer have bought up many of the world's largest seed companies, and now call themselves biotech companies - this represents a historic merger of the pesticide and seed industries, which allows them to profit twice by developing expensive GM seeds that increase use of the company's herbicide products," he added.
Seed patents, an off-shoot of the "agro-biotech revolution" that also spawned GE/M, have had two negative consequences since their original issuance by the U.S. Patent Office in the mid-1990s, Frees told IPS: "They enticed pesticide companies to buy up seed firms; and they led to criminalisation of seed-saving."
"Farmers have saved seeds from their harvest to replant the next year for millennia," he added. "Monsanto is changing that. The company has already sued thousands of farmers in the U.S. for saving and replanting its patented seeds and won an estimated 85 to 160 million dollars from farmers, in lawsuits that have ruined farmers' lives, and (partially explains) why we have ever fewer farmers in America."
Ray Tricomo, a mentor at the Kalpulli Turtle Island Multiversity in Minnesota, told IPS, "People of colour must re-radicalise themselves and go on the offensive including the return to land bases, from Turtle Island to Africa and Asia."
"Ancient knowledge systems are to be painstakingly recovered, even if it takes centuries," he added.
And this is exactly what is happening.
Despite the deep pockets and aggressive efforts of Big Agro, a major pushback from a broad coalition of forces has limited 80 percent of GE/M planting to just three export-oriented countries: the U.S., Brazil and Argentina.
Nearly two dozen other countries, including the European Union and China, have passed mandatory GE/M labeling, and millions around the world are refusing seed patenting and developing seed banks to protect, share and preserve their seeds.
In Florida, the 4,000-strong Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is organising to resist farm wage-slavery and "seed-servitude". The Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil has organised 400,000 peasants to join forces with the nearly half-billion farms around the world that are responsible for producing 70 percent of the world's food.
Navdanya, an organisation in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, has united 500,000 farmers in their struggle to fight chemical dependency and save indigenous seeds, including preserving over 3,000 varieties of rice.
"For five years, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (CSD) had indigenous farmers from all over the globe come to speak against destructive farm practices and GMOs," King told IPS.
"During the Indigenous People's Permanent Forum, there were complaints about the harm caused by industrial agriculture and the acts in the name of agribusinesses. Farm workers like the (CIW) are protesting their fate," she added.
"They are picketing companies like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, letting the public know that their tomatoes were picked from workers who are basically slave labour."
"Third World Network is fighting back by exploring the problem of GMOs and publishing findings that scientists working on GMOs are capitalists using humans as guinea pigs in a global lab experiment," she added.
"[Numerous] deaths and disabilities have been traced back to a GM product emulating tryptophan. It took nearly 20 years to find the source of the problem," King told IPS.
"GM technology is antithetical to an agroecological approach to agriculture, our only hope for truly sustainable food production," Frees told IPS.
"Without radical change we will continue to have famines," he added. "Haiti is a good example of what happens when a country's farmers are put out of business by cheap, subsidised imports from a rich producer nation (here the U.S.)."
More at the linkA report released Wednesday by the Washington- based Food and Water Watch (FWW) on the... more
Four years ago Obama stated that GMOs need to be labelled because people have the right to know what they are eating. Since then as president however, nothing has happened and this has not even been mentioned.To the contrary, nothing but Monsanto insiders have been appointed by him with Monsanto and other bio.ag companies getting preferential treatment with no regulation of their products and no consumer disclosure. With more information coming out about the health dangers of GMOS and the reality of environmental/economic effects, it is imperative that Obama speak out on this as president when it matters most.
At the link you can tell Obama that GMOs need to be labelled now. It is time to stand up to the companies that use loopholes and vague references such as "substantial equivalence" to gain profit from these unnecessary untested organisms that threaten our health and environment.
I personally want to see them banned but until we can get momentum on that, labelling is the essential first step.Four years ago Obama stated that GMOs need to be labelled because people have the... more