Category Archives: Industrial agriculture

Busted! Research on food waste shows no need for GM crops

foodwaste-(1)An increasing population needs an increasing food supply, right? At least, that’s the excuse politicians and corporations have been force-feeding the public, justifying their pursuit of genetically modified foods. They tell us that organic processes and farming techniques in tune with nature just aren’t up to the task of feeding the nearly 7 billion people on the planet.

That myth is now busted, and the proof is in the nearly 222 million tons of food wasted by industrialized nations every year. “If we eliminated this unnecessary food waste, we could potentially provide 60-100 percent more food to feed the world’s growing population,” writes Andrew Gunter in his Huffington Post article, “Big Ag Profits From Food Waste.”

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Filed under Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Solutions, Waste

Earth Minute: Anne Petermann on Neonics

A farmer spraying crops with insecticide in Bedfordshire. Photograph: David Wootton/Alamy published in The Guardian

A farmer spraying crops with insecticide in Bedfordshire. Photograph: David Wootton/Alamy published in The Guardian

Neonicotinoids, or Neonics, an insecticide nerve poison widely used in homes, gardens and farms, have been found to be 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT, and are contributing to shocking declines in bees, pollinators, earthworms, birds and bats.

They also known to contaminate streams, ponds, rivers.

Not surprisingly, the pesticide lobby-influenced Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Agriculture are misrepresenting or remaining silent about the dangers of neonics.

But a major study by the American Bird Conservancy last year clearly documented the “massive impacts on American songbirds”  from these pesticides and criticized the EPA for failing to act.

Ole Hendrickson, a member of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides explained the danger, “Instead of wiping out the top of the food chain, killing hawks and eagles as DDT did, neonics are wiping out the bottom of the food chain. [...] Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once said if we wipe out the world’s insects, we will soon follow them to extinction.”

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

 

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Filed under Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Industrial agriculture

GM agriculture does not deliver higher yields than organic processes

bananas-925216“Failure to Yield,” a study produced by the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists, shows that the bio-fortification of bananas in Uganda and genetic engineering of bovines in the “1000 bull genome project” does not actually combat hunger, malnutrition or result in higher yields. A recent article in the Inter Press Services by Julio Godoy explains how these two projects fall short when compared to traditional, organic methods.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

How ‘the New DDT’ Wreaks Havoc on the Bottom of the Food Chain

Note: This new report documents another instance of industrial agriculture wreaking havoc on ecosystems and harkening a new Silent Spring.  It is also one more reason why the model of industrial GMO crops must not be applied to trees, or we risk the threat of Silent Forests.

–The GJEP Team

By Stephen Leahy, June 24, 2014.  Source: MotherBoard

The same insecticide nerve poison that is contributing to the shocking declines in bees and other pollinators is also behind the sharp declines in many other insect species, along with insect-eating birds and bats. Even important creatures like earthworms, which keep our soils healthy, are being damaged by systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids (neonics) and fipronil, a new four-year international meta-analysis has found.

“It’s the new DDT but different,” said Ole Hendrickson, a former scientist at Environment Canada and member of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides that complete the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) analysis. It’s the first examination of all the science on the topicmore than 800 studies. The task force is compromised of 50 independent scientists from all over the world who spent the last four years trying to figure out why so many bees, butterflies, and other insects are disappearing.

“Instead of wiping out the top of the food chain, killing hawks and eagles as DDT did, neonics are wiping out the bottom of the food chain,” Hendrickson told me. “Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once said if we wipe out the world’s insects, we will soon follow them to extinction.”

Read more of Leahy’s article on Motherboard at VICE

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Industrial agriculture, Pollution

Will Brazil turn the Amazon into a factory of genetically modified trees?

Source: ejolt (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade)

By the World Rainforest Movement.

Will the Brazilian government give a permit to plant genetically modified eucalyptus trees on a commercial scale? That’s the breakthrough expected by Suzano, one of the biggest Brazilian pulp and paper companies, and its fully owned biotechnology firm Futuragene. To export pulp and to feed its paper mills in Brazil, the company has planted almost 400 thousand hectares of large-scale monoculture fast-growing eucalyptus plantations in seven Brazilian states.

Suzano´s argument that this is a safe enough technology can be countered by the risks and especially the huge uncertainties that exist around this new technology which should at least postpone any introduction at commercial scale for now. Even the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that has seriously failed by allowing certification of millions of hectares of large-scale monoculture plantations in spite of the many negative social and environmental impacts, at least applies the rule that GE technology should not be used in certified plantations. At least for this reason then, FSC should decertify Suzano, an FSC-certified company.

But another argument deserves a strong and immediate reply: Suzano argues that their new genetically engineered eucalyptus tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by introducing such trees, Suzano affirms it will need less land and could therefore reduce the use of chemical inputs and make more land available for food production.

That looks convincing. However, the experience in Brazil itself shows a quite different story. According to EJOLT´s report “A Global Overview of Industrial Tree Plantations”, in the past decades the Brazilian eucalyptus trees that are used in industrial plantations succeeded to achieve a 60% increase in productivity per hectare (not using genetically engineered trees), increasing from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently. More important however is that the area covered by these plantations in the country never decreased for that particular reason. They actually increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today, and the Brazilian plantation industry plans to duplicate this area by 2020. The Brazilian “success story” of being the country with the highest wood productivity per hectare worldwide has never been a reason to use less land, on the contrary. Higher productivity gave these companies such an advantage that they expanded their plantations and pulp mills more and more, increasing their profits.

Suzano´s move to GE eucalyptus trees to increase productivity even more also attends its aim to explore a new use of its wood: producing pellets to be exported for energy production, to co-fire with coal in the UK. For this reason, Suzano has expanded its plantation in the Northeastern state of Maranhão over the past years, causing new conflicts with traditional communities that have been experiencing that their communal territories used for cattle grazing, fruit collection and other activities, get invaded by eucalyptus plantations. This has led to several conflicts, which gave reason to include Suzano in the recently launched EJOLT´s Atlas on Environmental Conflicts.

To summarize, Brazilian experience has learned that rather more than less lands will be occupied when productivity increases, and rather more than less conflicts will arise. Suzano´s demand for commercial planting of genetically modified eucalyptus trees led WRM, together with groups in Brazil and Latin America, to launch a letter to the Brazilian authorities to express their deep concern and urge the Brazilian government not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

A statement from the international Stop GE Trees Campaign in support to this letter is available for sign-ons.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture

Biotech companies set to be given legal right in decisions to ban GM crops in EU

May 27, 2014. Source: Sustainable Pulse

stop-the-crop-644x322

A new GM law being discussed in Brussels this week could grant biotech companies, like Monsanto and Syngenta, unprecedented power over decisions on whether to ban genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.

The new law is being promoted as a way to give governments more sovereignty over decisions on whether to ban GM crops. However, the current proposals give biotech companies the legal right to decide whether a ban should be allowed. If companies refuse, governments are forced to fall back on vague, non-scientific legal grounds upon which to ban GM crops, opening the door to legal challenges.

Adrian Bebb, food campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “It is an affront to democracy that companies like Monsanto will be given legal status in any decision to ban their products. Governments must be able to ban unwanted and risky GM crops without needing the permission of the companies who profit from them.”

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Genetically engineered tree industry halted in Oregon, New Zealand

Note: This decision in New Zealand, pulling the reigns on commercial release of genetically engineered (GE) trees, comes on the heels of a major victory against GE crops in Oregon’s Rogue Valley.  Global Justice Ecology Project has learned from county commissioners in Oregon that the recently approved ban does, in fact, cover GE trees (although specific enforcement regulations are yet to be written).

However small, these victories are important in stopping an industry hellbent on turning forests into factories of “designer” trees to fuel the industrial machine.

-The GJEP Team

May 22, 2014. Source: Voxy

Photo: New Zealand Forest Managers

Photo: New Zealand Forest Managers

The High Court decision to uphold the Sustainability Council’s appeal on genetic engineering (GE) is a win for New Zealand’s primary sector, the Green Party said today.

The High Court has upheld the Sustainability Council’s appeal against the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision, which allowed organism’s resulting from new novel GE techniques to be signed off without public consultation. Scion (Forest Research Institute) had asked for a determination which may have allowed them to grow GE trees without public notification or process. This would have also allowed food crops using the same GE techniques to be commercialised without any requirement for public consultation.

“The Court has ruled that the EPA didn’t have the ability to allow these GE organisms to be signed off via a loop hole,” said Green Party GE spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“The original decision would have allowed a free for all using this new GE techniques before the European Union (EU) has even set rules about them. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Report: Governments must stop supporting unsustainable livestock production

May 22, 2014. Source: Global Forest Coalition

 

An aerial view of soy fields near Mariscal Estagarribia, Boqueron, part of the dry Chaco region of Paraguay. Farmers are cutting into the second largest forest in Latin America outside the Amazon, which is threatening the lifestyle of some of the world's last uncontacted people and the local wildlife. Photo: Photograph: Glyn Thomas/Friends of the Earth

An aerial view of the Chaco region of Paraguay.  Photo: Glyn Thomas/Friends of the Earth

new report and briefing paper launched by Brighter Green and the Global Forest Coalition on the International Day of Biodiversity highlight the negative impact of unsustainable livestock production in South America, the continent with the highest deforestation rates on earth, and the need to redirect the more than US $50 billion in subsidies that is supporting this industry.

The report, Impacts of Unsustainable Livestock Production in Paraguay, which will be launched tonight at an event organized by Espacio Organico, Cultura y Participacion and the Global Forest Coalition in Asuncion, highlights how both cattle ranching and the production of soy as feedstock for the intensive livestock industry are causing devastating impacts on forests, biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay.

“In 2013 alone, more than 268,000 hectares of forest were destroyed to expand cattle ranches in the Western half of Paraguay, turning it into the area with the highest deforestation rates on the planet” highlights Dr. Miguel Lovera of the Centro de Estudios e Investigacion de Derecho Rural y Reforma Agraria de la Universidad Católica de Asunción (CEIDRA) the main author of the report. “Indigenous Peoples, including tribes that have lived in voluntary isolation until now, are the main victims of this trend.” Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution