tagged w/ big ag
Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director Anne Petermann and Board Chair Orin Langelle were in St. Louis over September 16 and 17 for the GMO-Free Midwest Conference and the Occupy Monsanto day of action. The events were organized by the Organic Consumers Association and the Gateway Greens Alliance.
Petermann spoke on the first day of the GMO Free Midwest conference on the dangers of genetically engineered trees at C.A.M.P. (Community Arts and Movement Project) near downtown St. Louis. Langelle spoke against the Green Economy during day two of the GMO Free Midwest conference. Day two of the conference was held simultaneous to the “12th International Symposium of Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms” at the Millennium Hotel, adjacent to the St. Louis arch.
The second day of the conference and the Occupy Monsanto actions which followed were held in celebration of the one-year Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.
The photo essay below is from the day of activities against Monsanto, both the conference at the Millennium hotel and the three actions that followed. The actions included a rally outside of the Millennium Hotel, an action at Whole Foods directed at their policy of allowing GMO foods to be sold in their stores, and an protest outside the world headquarters of Monsanto in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
–The GJEP Team
More at the linkGlobal Justice Ecology Project Executive Director Anne Petermann and Board Chair Orin... more
This New York Times article notes that, "The European Union has required such biotech labeling since 1997, and companies by and large have formulated their products so that they do not contain any genetically engineered ingredients and thus do not need labeling. Also, David Byrne, the former European commissioner for health and consumer protection, has said that there was no impact on the cost of products."
That point has been reinforced by Professor Chris Viljoen, a GM testing expert, who says, "There has never been a documented report that genetic modification labelling has led to a cost increase in food anywhere."
Uneasy Allies in the Grocery Aisle
New York Times, September 13, 2012
Giant bioengineering companies like Monsanto and DuPont are spending millions of dollars to fight a California ballot initiative aimed at requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. That surprises no one, least of all the proponents of the law, which if approved by voters would become the first of its kind in the nation.
But the companies behind some of the biggest organic brands in the country — Kashi, Cascadian Farm, Horizon Organic — also have joined the antilabeling effort, adding millions of dollars to defeat the initiative, known as Proposition 37.
Their opposition stands in sharp contrast to smaller, independent organic companies, which generally favor labeling products that contain genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s. And it has raised a consumer reaction on social media that has led some of the organic brands to try to distance themselves from their corporate parents.
"We want to be clear that Kashi has not made any contributions to oppose G.M.O. labeling," the brand said in a statement issued late last month after its Facebook page was inundated with comments from consumers saying they would no longer buy its products because its corporate owner, the Kellogg Company, has put more than $600,000 into fighting the ballot initiative.
But as recently as last week, consumers were still peppering the sites of Horizon, owned by Dean Foods; the J. M. Smucker Company, which has a number of organic products, and Kashi with expressions of betrayal and disappointment. "It is unconscionable for you to be funding the effort to defeat Proposition 37," one post said.
"Consumers aren't always aware that their favorite organic brands are in fact owned by big multinationals, and now they're finding out that the premium they've paid to buy these organic products is being spent to fight against something they believe in passionately," said Mark Kastel, a co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog and farm policy group that has been tracking corporate contributions in the ballot fight. "They feel like they've been had."
The uproar highlights the difference between large organic brands that have driven the double-digit growth of the organic market and the smaller, independent businesses and farms that most shoppers envision when they buy an organic peach or shampoo — companies like Nature's Path, one of Kashi's largest competitors.
Although certified organic products are prohibited by law from containing genetically engineered ingredients, organic companies generally favor the labeling law, contending that consumers have a right to know what is in the products they buy. What is left unsaid is that it may also be a marketing advantage for organic companies, distinguishing them from conventional food producers.
The parent companies, among them Kellogg, General Mills, Dean Foods, Smucker’s and Coca-Cola, declined to talk about their opposition to the labeling initiative, which is on the November ballot, referring questions to Kathy Fairbanks, the spokeswoman for the No on 37 campaign.
Last week, the organization released a study it had commissioned that estimated the initiative would add $1.2 billion in costs for California farmers and food producers. Ms. Fairbanks said that the higher costs could add as much as $350 to $400 to an average family’s grocery bill.
In addition, she said, the opponents believe the labeling would heighten what they call unfounded concerns about the safety of genetically engineered crops.
The European Union has required such biotech labeling since 1997, and companies by and large have formulated their products so that they do not contain any genetically engineered ingredients and thus do not need labeling. Also, David Byrne, the former European commissioner for health and consumer protection, has said that there was no impact on the cost of products.
But for more than a decade in the United States, most processed foods like cereals, snack foods and salad dressings have contained ingredients from plants whose DNA was manipulated in a laboratory. Regulators and many scientists say they pose no danger.
Americans, however, are becoming much more aware of the role that food plays in their health and well-being, and consequently want much more information about what they eat, including whether it contains genetically engineered ingredients as well as salt and trans fats. So far, opponents of Proposition 37 have committed roughly $25 million to defeat it, with the largest contributions coming from Monsanto ($4.2 million) and DuPont ($4 million), which have made big investments in genetically engineered crops.
Several food companies are not far behind. PepsiCo, Nestlé, ConAgra Foods and Coca-Cola, which owns the Odwalla and Honest Tea brands, have each put more than $1 million in the fight, while General Mills, which owns organic stalwarts like Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm as well as popular upstarts like Lärabar and Food Should Taste Good, has spent more than $900,000.
"We believe labeling regulations should be set at the national level, not state by state," General Mills said in a statement on its Web site.
Supporters of the measure thus far have mustered only $3.5 million from donors like Organic Valley, which has given $50,000, and Clif Bar and Amy’s Kitchen, which each have put in $100,000.
On Tuesday, Whole Foods, the retail mecca of the organic and natural foods movement, said it supported the California proposal, though with some reservations over the details — and without putting any money into the effort in accordance with its policy, a spokeswoman said.
Nature’s Path, an independent business, has put more than $600,000 into supporting the ballot initiative — even though it is a Canadian company. Some 70 percent of its sales and most of its production take place in the United States, said Arran Stephens, president of the company, but that is not why it is one of the biggest supporters of Proposition 37.
“We get to know what the salt content of our food is and the nutritional content, and producers have to state whether there are preservatives in it,” Mr. Stephens said. “But in the case of genetically modified organisms and whether they are in a product or not, we don’t know.”
Ronnie Cummins, founder and national director of the Organic Consumers Association, which represents some 850,000 members, said he expected the food and biotech companies that oppose the measure to spend roughly twice what they have already contributed by the time of the Nov. 6 election.
Nonetheless, Mr. Cummins said he expected it to pass. In a poll of 800 likely California voters in July by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University, 64.9 percent said they were inclined to vote in favor of Proposition 37 based on their knowledge at that time.
“The more ads they put out, the more they remind people that they're already eating foods with G.M.O. ingredients in them,” he said.
http://civileats.com/wp-content/uploads//grocery_aisle.jpgThis New York Times article notes that, "The European Union has required such... more
A widely publicized study claiming that there is no demonstrated difference in nutritional value between organically and conventionally grown foods just appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Broad mainstream media coverage produced headlines like Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce. The media failed to mention one point that may be of major interest.
The study relied on a statistical technique called meta-analysis. Over 200 plus scientific journal articles were combined as the data set for the study. The article co-author with recognized expertise in meta-analysis, Ingram Olkin, applied for a grant from Council of Tobacco Research (CTR) in 1976.
CTR was part of the infamous Tobacco Institute, an industry group of cigarette manufacturers. Ingram was on the faculty of Stanford University at the time. The authors of the current study diminishing the value of organic foods are also from Stanford University, with Olkin listed as a professor emeritus.
Olkin applied to the CTR to conduct a project on the statistical methods used in the Framingham Heart Study, the landmark project linking cigarette smoking with increased risk of heart disease. From publicly available tobacco industry documents, we find this from cigarette manufacturer lawyers:
“I met with Dr. Olkin and Dr. Marvin Kastenbaum [Tobacco Institute Statistics Director] on December 17, 1975, .at which time we discussed Dr. Olkin’s interest in multivariate analysis statistical models. Dr. Olkin is well qualified and is very articulate. I learned, in visiting with Dr. Olkin, that he would like to examine the theoretical structure of the “multivariate logistic risk function.”
The Tobacco Documents describe Katzenbaum as knowledgeable of “the tobacco industry’s participation in the public disinformation regarding the health hazards of tobacco use …”
According to internal tobacco company documents from cigarette manufacturers, Olkin received a grant from CRT and submitted a final paper in 1979. The paper could not be found online.
Olkin’s work for the Tobacco Institute was originally discussed by Robert N. Proctor in his January 2012 Google eBook, Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, University of California Press. Columbia University professor Andrew Gelman cited Olkin’s work in his September article in the journal Statistics and Ethics, which discusses the ethical challenges of statisticians when working for big business.
Objective statistical analysis was central to this study
Professor Olkin’s specialty, meta-analysis, was the research technique employed to generate the findings for the study designed to debunk the value of organic foods. Contrary to the conclusion that there’s little evidence of a difference in nutritional value, the article notes that “Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets.” The researchers say that they “did not identify clinically meaningful differences” in measures among adults. That’s a statistical inference. The study found “phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant.” Again, the statistical analysis negated a finding in favor of organic produce based on statistical analysis.
The researchers concluded::
“The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
The mainstream media picked up and ran with this relatively obscure research. The New York Times headline reads, Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce. Fox News had this to say: Study says organic food may not be worth the money. Bucking the tide, the Los Angeles Times editorialized against the study’s significance in a major editorial, the case for organic food.
Studies like the one out of Stanford are less about the quality of the research than they are about the headlines when mainstream media gets involved. In this case, the findings prop up conventional foods at the expense of organics by the mere mention of Stanford researchers claiming there’s no nutritional difference.
More at the linkA widely publicized study claiming that there is no demonstrated difference in... more
The US is facing one of the worst droughts in our history, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he doesn't want to "opine" as to the role of climate change.* That is not acceptable. The scientific links between climate change and drought are well established by his own Department, and it's Secretary Vilsack's responsibility to share that information with farmers and the American public.
Sign this petition to tell Secretary Vilsack to help America's farmers by giving them the truth about manmade climate change.
More at the linkThe US is facing one of the worst droughts in our history, but Agriculture Secretary... more
Willie Nelson and Farm Aid are in heaven right now!
The two minute commercial speaks for itself but we would appreciate some feedback from this community on this commercial.
Thank you Chipotle! We appreciate the support of small farms!Willie Nelson and Farm Aid are in heaven right now!
The two minute commercial... more
If you assume that Bill Gates is so well informed about all his philanthropic targets that you take his word at face value, you would be in good company, but you might be terribly wrong. Organizations well versed in the agricultural issues facing developing nations are saying his annual letter, released last week, is completely mistaken when it asserts that a lack of support for GMO crop development is responsible, in part, for allowing world hunger to endure. We interviewed Heather Pilatic, Ph.D., co-director of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), to show us the other, important side of the story.
TakePart: In the introduction to his letter, Bill Gates cites the Green Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, saying scientists created new seed varieties for rice, wheat, and maize, and that this resulted in increased crop yield and a decrease in extreme poverty around the world. Do you agree that this is a model to use moving forward?
Heather Pilatic: The Green Revolution is a story that some people like to tell, but it has little basis in historical fact. Take the Green Revolution’s origins in 1940s Mexico, for instance. It was not really about feeding the world; Mexico was a food exporter at the time. Rather, the aims included stabilizing restive rural populations in our neighbor to the south, and making friends with a government that at the time was selling supplies to the World War II Axis powers and confiscating oil fields held by Standard Oil (a funding source for the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the key architects of the Green Revolution).
We can also learn from India, the Green Revolution’s next stop after Mexico. India embraced the Green Revolution model of chemical-intensive agriculture. Now it is the world’s second biggest rice grower with surplus grain in government warehouses. Yet India has more starving people than sub-Saharan Africa—at more than 200 million, that’s nearly a quarter of its population. History shows that a narrow focus on increasing crop yield through chemical-seed packages reduces neither hunger nor poverty.
So no, we do not agree that the Green Revolution offers a promising model for addressing poverty.
TakePart: Bill Gates is urging that more money be donated to agricultural innovation, including crop GMOs, because "one in seven people will continue living needlessly on the edge of starvation." Of course, this argument worries all of us. Will you explain PANNA's perspective?
Heather Pilatic: We could not agree with Gates more on the first point. Investment in agriculture in the developing world is enormously efficient and more impactful on the ground than investment in just about any other sector. It is also true that more people than ever before are going hungry, needlessly. We have enough food to go around now. We disagree with Gates on two points—one scientific and one political.
First, the science. Most of the rest of the world's experts agree that GMOs are not what the world's poor need to feed themselves. The science simply doesn't bear this claim out. Our staff scientist was a lead author in the most comprehensive analysis of global agriculture ever undertaken, the UN & World Bank's International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (the IAASTD). After four years and with the input of over 400 experts, and reams of evidence, the IAASTD concluded that the developing world's best bet for feeding itself in the 21st century was explicitly not the kind of chemically intensive farming that accompanies GMO seeds. Rather, these experts found that smaller scale, farmer-driven, knowledge-intensive, ecological agriculture is one of the most promising ways forward for the developing world in particular. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has reported that ecological farming can double food production within 10 years. This is the kind of agriculture we should be investing in.
Second, the political—and this cuts two ways. We must finally recognize that hunger is a problem of poverty and access to resources, especially land, not agricultural yield. The solution to world hunger is a political one: stop kicking farmers off their land and dumping product on the world market that puts them out of business; protect farmers’ rights to save and exchange seed; kick the bankers out of food-crop commodities speculation, they're playing roulette with our food system; write fair trade policies; listen to the world's poor, they know what they need...in short, democratize food and farming if you want to address hunger.
Finally, here in the U.S., kick the farm lobby out of Congress and the pesticide industry out of our federal regulatory agencies (EPA & USDA). Together, these two special interests have a chokehold on U.S. farm, aid and trade policy, and dominate our agricultural research agenda in ways that make it possible for a smart man like Bill Gates to believe and prosyletize on behalf of an approach to agriculture that A, the rest of the world knows is defunct; and B, has failed—after 14 years of commercialization and billions of dollars in public research funding—to deliver on a single one of its promises to the public.
More at the linkIf you assume that Bill Gates is so well informed about all his philanthropic targets... more
A group of leading scientists, economists and farmers is calling for a broad shift in federal policies to speed the development of farm practices that are more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
Writing in the journal Science, they say current policies focus on the production of a few crops and a minority of farmers while failing to address farming’s contribution to global warming, biodiversity loss, natural resource degradation, and public health problems.
“We have the technology and the science right now to grow food in sustainable ways, but we lack the policies and markets to make it happen,” says John Reganold, a Washington State University soil scientist and the Science paper’s lead author.
Starting in the late 1980s, Reganold pioneered several widely cited side-by-side comparisons showing organic farming systems were more earth-friendly than conventional systems while producing more nutritious and sometimes tastier food. His Science co-authors include more than a dozen other leading soil, plant, and animal scientists, economists, sociologists, agroecologists and farmers.
The Science paper grows out of several national efforts to address concerns about farming’s impact on the environment, including the landmark 1989 National Research Council report, Alternative Agriculture, which recommended greater research and education efforts into sustainable farming. All the authors of the Science paper wrote the council’s 2010 update, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century.
The paper is particularly critical of the Farm Bill, which is slated for renewal next year. While only one-third of farmers receive payments under the bill, it has an outsized influence on production. It does little to promote sustainability, write the authors, while “distorting market incentives and making our food system overly dependent on a few grain crops mainly used for animal feed and highly processed food, with deleterious effects on the environment and human health.” Environmental impacts, says Reganold, include overdrawn aquifers, eroded soil and polluted water.
Meanwhile, he says, agricultural research and the field of “agroecology,” which adapts the principles of nature to farming systems, are finding new ways to grow abundant and affordable food while protecting the environment, helping farm finances, and contributing to the well-being of farmers, farm workers and rural communities.
cont.A group of leading scientists, economists and farmers is calling for a broad shift in... more
A prominent anti-logging activist was murdered along with his wife in Brazil on Tuesday, just hours before the country's Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly voted to let farmers destroy more of the Amazon.
The 410-63 vote defangs the 75-year-old Código Florestal (Forest Code), which has long required that farmers who own a piece of the Amazon preserve 80% of the land they own and farm only on the remainder. The new bill exempts small-scale farmers from the Forest Code and opens environmentally sensitive patches of land – such as hilltops, slopes, and watersides – to cultivation. It also grants amnesty to small-scale farmers who violated the law before July, 2008.
The bill has not yet passed to the Senate, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has vowed to veto it if the amnesty provision remains, but that hasn’t stopped farmers from preemptively chopping and burning forested portions of their property, leading to a sixfold surge in deforestation, with the greatest increase coming in Mato Grosso.
Death of an Activist
Also on Tuesday, anti-logging activist José Claudio Ribeiro "Ze Claudio" da Silva was gunned down along with his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, in rural Para inside the Praialta-Piranheira, a nature reserve where they had spent the last two decades as rubber-tappers.
First passed in 1934 and strengthened intermittently thereafter, the Forest Code is considered one of the world’s most progressive forest policies. Supporters of the Forest Code say it has played a major role in the rapid deceleration of deforestation rates in the Amazon over the last decade.
Before surging this past year, deforestation rates had fallen dramatically in Brazil. From a ten-year high of 2.7 million hectares in 2004, the rate dropped to 0.70 million hectares by 2009.
In a letter in the July 16, 2010, issue of Science, six Brazilian scientists wrote that the new rules “will benefit sectors that depend on expanding frontiers by clear-cutting forests and savannas and will reduce mandatory restoration of native vegetation illegally cleared since 1965.”
The scientists warn that CO2 emissions “may increase substantially”, and as many as 100,000 species might be put at risk of extinction if the proposal becomes law. “Under the new Forest Act,” the scientists said, “Brazil risks suffering its worst environmental setback in half a century, with critical and irreversible consequences beyond its borders.”
cont.A prominent anti-logging activist was murdered along with his wife in Brazil on... more
Last month, the University of Minnesota caused a stir when it decided to postpone the release of a film that focuses on the effect agriculture is having on U.S. waterways from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Troubled Waters – a film directed by Larkin McPhee for the University's Bell Museum of Natural History, part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences–was held up, according to University Relations (the university's PR office) to "allow time for a review of the film's scientific content." Yet ace reporting by Molly Preismeyer at the Twin Cities Daily Planet revealed that the film's team had already thoroughly fact-checked the film, and followed the review process utilized by the PBS science program NOVA. Attempts to get the university to outline a standard procedure for research-based films were not fruitful. Then the story shifted once again when Dean Allen Levine told Minnesota Public Radio that the film “vilifies agriculture."
Even though the University caved under pressure and allowed the scheduled premiere of the film to take place on October 3 and on October 5 on a local television station, the story of Troubled Waters has developed into a debate on academic freedom and the role a university’s donors should play in its research priorities.
Farmers at the center of the solution
Upon watching the film, I was surprised by what I saw. This is because a large portion focuses on farmers introducing new techniques to their fields that are reducing run-off and increasing soil fertility on their land. Instead of "vilifying agriculture," it seems the filmmakers worked hard to focus on farmer-based solutions–like those of brothers Dick and Jack Gerhardt, who created a tool that assesses how much nitrogen is needed in a given field by reading chlorophyll levels. The "GreenSeeker" allows them to apply one-third the amount of nitrogen as in previous years. Because farmers often apply excess nitrogen to insure yields, much of which ends up as run-off in local waterways, inventions like these have the potential to empower farmers to save money while reducing the environmental consequences of agriculture.
The film also gives a platform to farmers like Jack Hedin, who discusses using cover crops in winter on his vegetable farm to reduce soil erosion and run-off; Tony Thompson, who employs perennial grasses and wetlands that soak up run-off on his 4000-acre soybean and corn farm; and Dan Coughlin, who raises grass-fed cows instead of keeping them in confinement – which produces excess nitrogen-rich manure that often ends up in waterways.
Looking closely at the federal agriculture policies, the film specifically cites those promoting ethanol production as a large contributing factor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. In particular, the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard, which mandated that 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol be produced by 2022 – therefore spurring farmers to grow more corn and use more nitrogen fertilizer. (Just yesterday, the EPA raised the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline from 10 percent to 15, showing there is still strong support for these policies.) The film notes that ethanol remains controversial partly because it is seen as a means to lower dependence on foreign oil, but requires oil to produce the fertilizer that goes into growing the corn needed to make this alternative fuel. One researcher notes that it takes eight gallons of fossil fuel to produce 10 gallons of ethanol. Indeed, the film raises tough questions – many of which are not new to the discussion. So what motivated the university to call out the dogs?
Funding versus research
Not long after the news broke that Troubled Waters was being held up, it came to light that Vice President of University Relations Karen Himle was behind the film's purgatory. This information was notable because her husband John Himle is president of Himle Horner, a public relations firm that represents the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, a group that promotes both ethanol production and industrial agriculture practices. More troubling, as El Dragón at Fair Food Fight points out, is the fact that Cargill – which is a key player in ethanol production – has its VP on the University of Minnesota's board. And that the U of M also has a building on its St. Paul campus named for Cargill. In addition, the university has had funding put at risk by its research before, and so could be trigger-happy. Minnesota Public Radio reports:
"In 2008, two Minnesota Soybean groups threatened to pull $1.5 million in funding after the U of M released a study that said using soybeans and other crops for bio-fuels could worsen global warming."
Where research funding originates has become a major issue for deciding what will be researched. Currently, as I've written before, matching funds from outside the government are required to get USDA research grants –which allows corporate interests to affect the research taken on. And when USDA has performed ground-breaking research that has the potential to change policy, it has often been played down by those in high places. This influence bought by agribusiness has particularly been a problem at land-grant universities, where a lot of the agricultural research is taking place.
Controversies around agriculture at universities are not new, but it has become more frequent in recent years, as the public becomes more aware of food production methods and industrial agriculture groups feel threatened by the pressure to change. Just last fall Michael Pollan was scheduled to give a solo lecture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo when Harris Ranch Beef Company Chairman David E. Wood threatened to cut off $500,000 in funding to the university if he was allowed to do so. In response, the university changed its program to a panel discussion, which included industrial agriculture-friendly professor Gary Smith of Colorado State University and large-scale organic farmer Myra Goodman of Earthbound Farm. Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma was also the source of ire for industrial agriculture proponents when it was selected as "common reading" last summer for incoming freshmen at Washington State University.
All of this added controversy is doing one thing that cannot be denied: bringing more attention to the issues at hand by driving interest in reading the books and seeing the films at the eye of the storm. As for Troubled Waters, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to see it for yourself. It is unique in that it puts a face on the farmers at the heart of the discussion, gives a broader picture of the issues at hand, and outlines options – including one community's thriving alternative to ethanol–for building a more sustainable food system.Last month, the University of Minnesota caused a stir when it decided to postpone the... more
Nombulelo Siqwana-Ndulo (PhD)
FoodFirst, April 15 2010
Multinational seed and chemical companies looking to gain a new customer base in Africa are facing increasing resistance from both farmers and consumers. Nonetheless, they are making inroads by partnering with African institutions and governments that are eager to ‘modernize' their agricultural sectors. South Africa is of particular importance in this regard. The country has gone against the grain of general distrust of GMOs in Africa to become a gateway for the distribution of GM food aid; the commercialization and export of GM seeds; and experimentation with GM crops not approved elsewhere.[i]
But here too, they face mounting opposition. In July 2009, for instance, the South African government rejected the commercial release application for GM potatoes after the Executive Council, a government licensing body, concluded that the toxicology studies were "inadequate, scientifically poorly designed and fundamentally flawed." It was also reported that, in 2008/2009, 80% of Monsanto's GM maize in South Africa failed to produce a crop, leading critics to call for urgent investigation and a ban on all GM foods.
In 2002, the South African government, in partnership with U.S.-based biotech firm Monsanto, launched the so-called Massive Food Production Program (MFPP) in the country's Eastern Cape Province. The Eastern Cape is characterized by a dual economy in which the western half of the province (previously white South Africa under apartheid) is dominated by commercial agriculture while the eastern half consists of subsistence agriculture. After the advent of democracy in 1994, there was tremendous pressure to develop the rural economy here.
MFPP is a "flagship program" of the South African government designed to bring about agrarian transformation through a "green revolution."[ii]The program operates by granting subsidies (which are phased out over time) and credit to small farming communities to purchase fertilizers, pesticides and GM or hybrid seeds. Through MFPP, Monsanto has essentially been elevated to the status of a government "extension agency" responsible for educating and training farmers about GM seeds and technologies. Of course, as a private company, they are unlikely to share with farmers the potentially disastrous effects of planting their land with GM crops. Rather, they advise farmers to buy and use the recommended agrochemicals. They also instruct them to plant only GM maize, as a monoculture, instead of intercropping with beans or pumpkins as they have done for centuries to ensure their food security.
A white farmer interviewed by GRAIN, paid to mentor an MFPP community, acknowledged that the cost of the inputs was just too high for small farmers to afford on their own,without continuing to amass debt. He was quoted saying he was "tempted to tell farmers to just buy food with the money" as their losses would be less than growing the food themselves through MFPP.
South African farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the deception that GM seeds and technologies will bring development and pull them out of poverty, as their experiences have not born out these claims. In populations with low literacy levels, the farmers are given little or no information about the effects of planting GM seeds, until it is too late, that is. It is not surprising that western consumers who are largely literate and have access to information are wary of GM foods.
Tragically, even the government officials in charge of co-implementing the MFPP program are ignorant of GMOs. A number NGOs and Human Rights organization have taken on the responsibility of educating the farmers about the effects of planting GMOs.
The constitution of South Africa, hailed as one of the most progressive in the world, obligates the government to take steps to protect its citizens. As part of the Consumer Protection Act, the government is indeed drafting policies to regulate GMOs, but many NGOs say it is unclear who will implement and monitor these regulations.
What's more, the South African NGO Safeage reports that the U.S. seed company Pannar and the Swiss firm Syngenta are partnering with local businesses to introduce a program of their own called AfriCan, targeting the poor farmers inthe Eastern Cape who have yet to be reached. The project incorporates farmers into a contract-farming scheme linking them to credit, GM seeds and chemical inputs-much like MFPP. The pilot project, which hopes to be reproduced throughout Africa, was launched in March 2010 with 500 farmers (with .5 to 4 hectare plots) and will run for 18 months.[iii]
Despite claims that there have been no substantiated threats to human and animal health caused by GM crops, subsistence farmers who participated in the MFPP project testified to the contrary in a workshop held by the NGO Biowatch (SA). A farmer from the organization Siyazakha expressed her dismay of the quality of "mielies" (maize), a staple food, produced with"free" seeds from the project. She stated, "the mielies produced are making us sick; they break easily and are bad quality. When we give it to our chickens it affects them, we want to grow our own seed and protect them". Another small-scale farmer from Siyazakha, pointed out that using fertilizers destroys the soil after just a few years and food can no longer be grown on it. He stressed that they want use manure and produce crops using traditional farming methods.[iv]
cont.Nombulelo Siqwana-Ndulo (PhD)
FoodFirst, April 15 2010... more
A coalition of family farmers, consumers and other critics of corporate agriculture are calling on the U.S. government to crack down on what they see as unfair consolidation of the nation's food system into the hands of a few multinationals --particularly Monsanto.A coalition of family farmers, consumers and other critics of corporate agriculture... more
"Monsanto does not have the right to dictate the value of my life" -Joel Greeno
While farmers were the star of the show at last Friday's antitrust hearing in Ankeny, Iowa, the debate over the monopolization of farming is one where all of our interests are squarely at stake.
Anyone who eats and has a brain should be downright terrified that just a few giant businesses control the vast majority of food available to us as consumers. Perhaps that explains why more than 15,000 people submitted comments in anticipation of the hearings - four more of which are scheduled this year as a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To his credit, Attorney General Eric Holder seemed to be trying not to mince words in Iowa - always tough for an attorney - and particularly so for one under the right's atomic microscope. Noting that farming "has been at the core of the American economy ever since there was an American economy," he went on to say, "[W]e've learned the hard way that . . . long periods of reckless deregulation can foster practices that are anti-competitive and even illegal. . . . We know that a growing number of American farmers find it increasingly difficult to survive by doing what they've done for decades. And we've learned that some of them believe the competitive environment may be, at least in part, to blame."
Farmers who attended a pre-hearing meeting Thursday evening made the case for themselves. Noting that farming goes back "forever in my family," Todd Leake, who grows wheat, soybeans, sunflowers and navy beans in North Dakota, said, "The crops we grow are the basis of civilization. If anything belongs to the public domain, if anything belongs to the people of the world, it's the crops we grow for food."
Iowa hog farmer Larry Ginter, a long-time opponent of factory farms, also made the connection between the plight of American farmers and the struggles of so many people outside our borders, saying," "Labor, family farms, democratic rights are in a pitched battle against the dictatorship of capital. We've got to understand that this is an international struggle. Those Mexican workers coming up here are family farmers. Those Sudanese workers in the packing plants are family farmers and workers being driven off by the big dictatorship of capital. We have to understand that we are not alone in America." Urging his fellow farmers to action, Ginter concluded, "Nothing can happen on the farms unless farmers turn the wheel and plant the seed."
Wisconsin dairy farmer Joel Greeno, said "My parents' 29th wedding anniversary was a farm foreclosure. Their 30th anniversary was a sheriff's auction on the courthouse steps. My neighbor's farm was stolen from him that was owned since 1942 by his family. He came to ask how to get food stamps because he'd always lived off his farm, no longer had that, and said that his social security of $9,000 a year couldn't feed him. This has got to end. Washington has got to step up. DOJ is our only lifeboat. They have to fix this. They have to correct it. Monsanto does not have the right to dictate the value of my life, my work, and the food I produce. Kraft Food does not have the right to set the price of my milk, which they do without question."
Patrick Woodall, a research director for Food and Water Watch, and a panelist at the hearings said, "At the end of the day, farmers and activists could speak truth to power and delivered a tough message to the regulators that action was long overdue, it was time to bust the agribusiness trusts and level the playing field for farmers and consumers. Many audience members, like Marcia Ishii-Eiteman from Pesticide Action Network North America, also challenged the reliance on agrochemical inputs and the false hope of genetically modified crops.""Monsanto does not have the right to dictate the value of my life" -Joel... more
"Hundreds of butterflies, beetles and dragonflies are at risk of extinction across Europe with almost one-third of 435 butterfly species in decline, scientists have warned.
The loss of habitat caused by intensive farming, climate change, forest fires and the expansion of tourism is threatening with extinction 14% of dragonflies, 11% of saproxylic beetles and 9% of butterflies within Europe, according to the European red list report for the European commission.
'When talking about threatened species, people tend to think of larger, more charismatic creatures such as pandas or tigers, but we mustn't forget that the small species on our planet are just as important,' said Jane Smart of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation group which produced the report. 'Butterflies, for instance, play a hugely pivotal role as pollinators in the ecosystems in which they live.' "
When is the big Ag going to understand that soon its chemicals and logging will kill any future production?
Then, there won't be any more hailing greed but only poverty and survival.
Join the Organic Movement:
http://current.com/groups/organicgreen/"Hundreds of butterflies, beetles and dragonflies are at risk of extinction... more
"The paradox is there's this view that organic is elitist, it's expensive, it's a lifestyle choice for people who can afford it. As far as I'm concerned it's not elitist to believe, everyone should have the right to high-quality, nutritious food from sustainable farming systems. What's elitist is that a handful of corporations have got a vice-like grip on the farming systems and food."
Agro-chemical agriculture is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer through the government, organic farming isn't.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes between $10 billion and $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year. The particular amount depends on market prices for crops, the level of disaster payments, and other factors. More than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go to farmers of five crops—wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton.2 More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers."
"In the US, most organic farmers and those transitioning to organic farming get no subsidies at all, or very few, while huge chemical-intensive corporate farms (10 percent of US farms) get the lion’s share (80 percent) of the nation’s $20 billion in crop subsidies every year. In France, an organic farmer receives, on average, 20 to 40 percent fewer subsidies than a conventional farmer. In 2003, the EU support for Organic Agriculture was 635 million euros, whereas the total Common Agricultural Policy budget amounted to 50 billion. This means that Organic Agriculture received 1.3 percent of the agricultural support, yet, at the time it represented 3.9 percent of the total EU agricultural area."
No doubt that Organic food is expensive, a few more points:
Consumers are paying too much for organic food.
Reality Not so:
Crop rotations, organic animal feed and welfare standards, the use of good
husbandry instead of agri-chemicals, and the preservation of natural habitats all result in organic food costing more to produce. Non-organic food appears to be cheaper but in fact consumers pay for it three times over – first over the counter, second via taxation (to fund agricultural subsidies) and third to remedy the environmental pollution (or disasters like BSE) caused by intensive farming practices."
So here is the actual conclusion: Organic food is cheaper than conventional.
Reality doesn't make it look like that, it's just a good elaborated illusion.
We buy our food that is genetically engineered; It is stuffed with pesticides, herbicides, chemical additives, hormones and we pay for it with our taxes, that's one reason why it's so cheap.
Other hidden costs in conventional food not included in the price are the negative environmental impacts, the clean up costs for polluting our water and soil, more and more billions from our tax money are taken away and the corporations are "obviously" not accountable.
We are spending the same amount of money if not more for this franken-food, we are destroying our Nature and health.
Here is one of my favorite quotes:
‘We need to learn the lessons
of the real cost of production. We need to
ask ourselves not just why organic prices are
so high, but why conventional prices are so low’
A. Wilson, Waitrose2
It says it all.
We must change those policies, the small local organic farmers will go out of business and the future of our self sufficiency will be lost with it. We can decide who and what to support with our money and our voice.
We can stop their domination, their control, their monopoly, WE CAN!
Join the Organic Revolution:
http://current.com/groups/organicgreen/"The paradox is there's this view that organic is elitist, it's... more
"Well, I must say, we've really managed to screw ourselves over in this country food-wise. Left and right there's tainted meat and salmonella-laced lettuce, BPA-lined cans and chemically enhanced food-like products that will give you "anal oil leakage."
Now there's evidence that the reason for our obesity epidemic is that something we consume a lot of — at least 60 pounds a year — is actively damaging our ability to stay healthy. Yes, my friends, apparently high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) alters our body chemistry, causing it to grow more fat cells around vital organs and to spark early stages of diabetes and heart disease."
High fructose corn syrup is public enemy number one.
It derives from genetically engineered seeds, is killing our Nation.
It's in almost every product.
GMO, Monsanto are almost never mentioned in relation to High fructose corn syrup.
I keep finding all these articles blaming this substance but never addressing the problem at its source.
Our government has and is letting this happen.
No matter how many researches have and are being conducted that prove this substance to be very harmful, it still remains perfectly legal and represents our whole food system.
http://current.com/groups/organicgreen/"Well, I must say, we've really managed to screw ourselves over in this... more
Refined Vegetable Oils;
Fructose and Sucrose;
Fat Free and Diet Foods.
At the link you can read all about them, very informative.
I will highlight Soy protein as it is a very tricky food for Vegetarians, vegans and people that love proteins.
"Textured vegetable protein (TVP)found in vegetarian "Not Meat" products and Soy protein isolate found in most processed foods.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on the great soy debate, TVP or textured vegetable protein made from de-fatted soy flour is so processed that it hardly qualifies to be called a food anymore.
It is a highly processed and unhealthy food, it is NOT a health food."
It is GMO, it absorbs aluminum and becomes carcinogen from the processing method.
Organic soy only solves part of the problem, it still remains very unhealthy.
I am glad the author mentioned High fructose corn syrup which I despise and is number one public enemy.
Also I want to emphasize the notion that diet food does not mean "diet" means "unhealthier".
Refined Vegetable Oils;
Soft Drinks;... more
Have you seen this advertisement? Couched deep within the green-washed rhetoric of a recent Monsanto ad is an egregious claim:
Producing more. Conserving more. Improving farmers’ lives. That’s sustainable agriculture. And that’s what Monsanto is all about.
While the mainstream media and Big Ag pundits seem all too happy to watch how Monsanto and other biotech companies spin and co-opt the term “sustainability,” we at the Center for Food Safety (CFS) are on the front lines fighting against the corporate take-over of our food, farms, and future; advocating for REAL, sustainable, solutions to the problems of the biotech industrial agriculture model.
Over the next month, CFS will be bringing you videos from some experts with whom we work closely in the trenches—Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Anna Lappé, and CFS’s Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell—to help us tell you the real truth about the false claims put forth by Monsanto and other biotech companies. We’ll share with you why these leading activists support the work of the Center for Food Safety.
CFS has been fighting on your behalf since 1997. We have accomplished a lot – we’ve stopped GMO crops including wheat, rice, and alfalfa, and also dangerous pharmaceutical-producing crops. We’ve beat Monsanto in the courts, but they have the substantial resources to continue to challenge CFS; just this week, they asked for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider yet another appeal of our successful lawsuit stopping GMO alfalfa.
We can only accomplish these victories with the support of members like you. Please join Vandana Shiva in supporting our work, to raise the funds we need to continue to fight Monsanto in the courts, and to combat the twisted version of “sustainability” biotech company marketers are trying to foist on the world. We need your help, right now, to raise our goal of $100,000 this Fall — less than the amount Monsanto spent on just ONE AD on the back page of The New Yorker (about $140,000), to support our important workttp://truefoodnow.org/campaigns/messagefromvandanashiv/
Have you seen this... more
Oh yes, the entire world's fate regarding food now rests in the hands of Hillary Clinton, Monsanto's point woman in the Obama administration, the World Bank, The Gates' and Rockefellers ties to GMOs, and governments lining up with Big ag to make a killing on Gm demonseeds. Watch the slight of hand very closely on this as they use policy to exploit the poor with lies. And just one comment about Cheryl Mills's comments: You used a lot of words to say nothing. Only when food sovereignty and seed saving to preserve biodiversity and soil rests in the hands of those small farmers in not being slaves to companies like Monsanto will we see food security in our world. Monoculture will NOT solve this crisis.Oh yes, the entire world's fate regarding food now rests in the hands of Hillary... more
Corporate Agribusiness Proposes Regulating Itself Instead of Stricter Governmental Food Safety Oversight
CORNUCOPIA, WI: USDA hearings begin this week on a proposal that would authorize the development of production and handling regulations for a long list of fresh vegetables, primarily leafy greens. The first of seven national hearings starts Tuesday, September 22 in Monterey, California, and then will shift to other locations across the country.
The proposed marketing agreement would allow leafy green handlers to attach a USDA-backed “food safety seal” to lettuce, spinach, cabbage and other vegetables while prohibiting most organic and local farmers selling through farmers markets, CSAs, roadside stands, and those selling directly to retailers from using the same seal.
The plan, hatched and promoted by some of the nation's largest corporate agribusinesses that distribute vegetables, is similar to a controversial California agreement that was put into place after spinach, contaminated with E. coli bacteria, sickened 199 people in 26 states and left three dead in September, 2006.
“This proposed food safety agreement will do nothing to tackle the root cause of the food safety problem, which is, in most cases, manure from confined animal feeding operations that is tainted with disease causing pathogenic bacteria,” said Will Fantle, of the Wisconsin-based farm policy group, The Cornucopia Institute.
Industry proponents pushing this will be hard pressed to demonstrate that their proposal will actually prevent food borne illness. Just days ago, on September 18, Ippolito International, a signatory to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, recalled 1,715 cartons of spinach due to salmonella contamination.
But the proposed safety standards, which have been described as a “corporate-backed marketing ploy,” may give agribusinesses using the new food safety seal a boost and lead many consumers to assume that vegetables from industrial-scale monoculture farms, primarily in California, are safer than the leafy greens available from local growers around the country. And that has some farmers worried.
“I am concerned that organic, and small and medium sized local growers like myself, will become marketplace ‘second-class citizens' in the eyes of some consumers, by implying that my produce is less safe – when the very opposite is likely to be true,” said Tom Willey, a certified organic vegetable grower from Madera, CA.
In fact, the produce most likely to be implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks are the bags of leafy greens on supermarket shelves rather than organic produce bought directly from a farmer or when distributed to a local co-op or specialty retailer.
In addition, farmers who want to sell to handlers using the new food safety seal will likely have to implement costly record-keeping and testing protocols on their acreage. This is economically unfeasible for many small growers.
Some farmers may even have to undo decades of conservation and habitat-based improvements – such as water and shoreland stream buffers – in the attempt to isolate their crops from wildlife, that have never been proven to be the source of past contamination problems. "Isolating wildlife is a smokescreen deflecting concern away from factory farm livestock production which is demonstrated to create water, air and soil contamination," Fantle added.
The September 18th edition of the New York Times ran a disturbing cover story about widespread contamination of well water in states with high concentrations of industrial-scale livestock facilities. Contaminated water in rural areas, used for irrigation or for washing vegetables, has been implicated in past contamination incidents involving fresh vegetables.Corporate Agribusiness Proposes Regulating Itself Instead of Stricter Governmental... more