Tag Archives: agriculture

Fukushima fallout hits farmers

By Suvendrini Kakuchi, July 30, 2013. Source: Inter Press Service

Cranes stand around tsunami-crippled four reactors, from left, Unit 1 to Unit 4, at Fukushima Dadi-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan Sunday, March 11, 2012. Photo: AP /Kyodo News

Cranes stand around tsunami-crippled four reactors, from left, Unit 1 to Unit 4, at Fukushima Dadi-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan Sunday, March 11, 2012. Photo: AP /Kyodo News

Life for Yoshihiro Watanabe and his wife Mutsuko, mushroom and rice farmers from Fukushima, has changed drastically since the disastrous meltdowns in the Dai Ichi nuclear plant that was hit by a massive tsunami after a 9.0 strong earthquake struck on Mar. 11, 2011.

“Dangerous levels of radiation from the crippled nuclear reactors have effectively forced us to stop our mushroom cultivation and reduced our farming income almost 80 percent,” Watanabe told IPS.

He added that the family is also taking extreme care to protect their health by choosing only “safe” food, resulting in “a nerve-wracking lifestyle.” Exposure of food to radiation increases cancer risks.

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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Nuclear power, Pollution

Fracking our food supply

By Elizabeth Royte, November 28, 2012.  Source: The Nation

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an investigative reporting nonprofit focusing on food, agriculture and environmental health.

Photo: The Nation

Photo: The Nation

In a Brooklyn winery on a sultry July evening, an elegant crowd sips rosé and nibbles trout plucked from the gin-clear streams of upstate New York. The diners are here, with their checkbooks, to support a group called Chefs for the Marcellus, which works to protect the foodshed upon which hundreds of regional farm-to-fork restaurants depend. The foodshed is coincident with the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that arcs northeast from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into New York State. As everyone invited here knows, the region is both agriculturally and energy rich, with vast quantities of natural gas sequestered deep below its fertile fields and forests.

In Pennsylvania, the oil and gas industry is already on a tear—drilling thousands of feet into ancient seabeds, then repeatedly fracturing (or “fracking”) these wells with millions of gallons of highly pressurized, chemically laced water, which shatters the surrounding shale and releases fossil fuels. New York, meanwhile, is on its own natural-resource tear, with hundreds of newly opened breweries, wineries, organic dairies and pastured livestock operations—all of them capitalizing on the metropolitan area’s hunger to localize its diet.

But there’s growing evidence that these two impulses, toward energy and food independence, may be at odds with each other.

Tonight’s guests have heard about residential drinking wells tainted by fracking fluids in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Colorado. They’ve read about lingering rashes, nosebleeds and respiratory trauma in oil-patch communities, which are mostly rural, undeveloped, and lacking in political influence and economic prospects. The trout nibblers in the winery sympathize with the suffering of those communities. But their main concern tonight is a more insidious matter: the potential for drilling and fracking operations to contaminate our food. The early evidence from heavily fracked regions, especially from ranchers, is not reassuring.
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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydrofracking, Pollution, Water, Women

March Photo of the Month: GMO Protest, Sacramento, CA 2003

Protest in Sacramento, California during a meeting of the WTO’s Agricultural Ministers, hosted by the USDA in June 2003 in preparation for the WTO summit in Cancun that fall.  Global Justice Ecology Project co-founder Orin Langelle joined allies at this WTO miniterial to organize protests against the development of dangerous and uncontrollable genetically engineered trees.  Photo: Langelle/GJEP 
Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates the international STOP GE Trees Campaign.  We recently produced a briefing paper on the current status of genetically engineered trees, as well as a history of the campaign to stop GE trees, which we have led since 1999.On March 29th, Global Justice Ecology Project co-organized aconference on Synthetic Biology in Berkeley.
Industry plans to combine the use of GE trees and the use of manufactured and totally synthetic lifeforms to create so-called “advanced cellulosic biofuels.”  These synthetic organisms have never existed before and there is no way to know what would happen if they “escaped” into the environment.  This is a reckless technology that must be ended.Genetically engineered trees live for decades, can spread their pollen and seeds for up to hundreds of miles, making them much more dangerous than agricultural crops.  GE versions of native trees like poplar and pine will inevitably and irreversible contaminate native forests with their pollen and seeds, leading to total disruption of the forest ecosystem.  GE eucalyptus trees are non-native, invasive, highly flammable and deplete ground water.
Today the issue of GE trees is more urgent than ever with industry proposals to commercially release millions of GE eucalytpus trees in huge plantations pending with the USDA.  If approved, these plantations will exacerbate droughts and cause massive firestorms.  They must be banned.


Also check out the GJEP Photo Gallery, past Photos of the Month posted on GJEP’s website, or Langelle’s photo essaysposted on GJEP’s Climate Connections blog.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle

Farmers Condemn the Durban Platform: Sustainable peasant agriculture is the genuine solution to climate change

(Jakarta, 16 December 2011) La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasants, small-scale and agricultural family farmers, denounces the attempts of the largest carbon emitters to further escape their historic responsibility to make real emission cuts and push for more false and market based solutions to the climate crisis. This Durban Platform, the latest climate deal struck at the UNFCCC 17th Conference of Parties in Durban, allows the polluters to get away with even more polluting while securing their market mechanisms.

The UNFCCC has hailed the Durban Platform as a breakthrough and a way forward in the fight against climate change. But what is there to hail as closer inspection shows that there are no commitments for real emission cuts from the developed countries. Others have said this was a success as it saved the Kyoto Protocol but in fact, the only thing that was saved are the market mechanisms of the Protocol. The second commitment period was not agreed and in fact postponed to next year but all the while, secured that market mechanisms would continue to be operational. The Green Climate Fund, which will be controlled by the World Bank if ever funded by industrialized countries (clearly unconcerned about their historical debt with the global south), is likely to be a source of financing false solutions in the most impacted countries.

Most disturbing of all from Durban is the opening of the doors for agriculture to be included in the carbon markets. Agriculture, which has since recently, not been included in the negotiations, will now be discussed in subsequent negotiations and the writing on the wall tells us that these would be the initial steps for agriculture to be included in carbon markets. The proliferation of side events on “climate smart agriculture” promoted by the agro-industry showed the high agribusiness interest to tap this new bonanza. La Via Campesina strongly denounces this move and reiterates its call to keep agriculture out of carbon markets as agriculture should not be treated as a mere carbon sink and that carbon accounting should not determine agricultural policy.

Peasant based agro-ecological agriculture, what La Via Campesina continues to promote and practice through its members in several countries around the world, is the best way to cool down the planet. La Via Campesina promotes peasant agriculture as the way to feed people with healthy food and at the same time to guarantee a balance in the ecosystem and the farms. The logic of carbon markets and trading run counter to the system of agroecology and should not be allowed to enter into agriculture.

We are now at the worst moment for agriculture, small farmers and for nature. The impacts of climate change are steadily worsening, leading to harvest failures, destruction of habitats and homes, hunger and famine and loss of lives. The future of humanity and the planet is in critical danger and if these false solutions push through, it will be a catastrophe for nature, future generations and the whole planet.

Now, more than ever, it is even more urgent for the demands and proposals from the Cochabamba people’s agreement to be pushed forward.

Read La Via’s declaration: La Via Campesina Declaration in Durban

See video coverage in English, in the following links:

Elizabet Mpofu: Not One Step Back

Chavannes Jean-Baptiste: Agribusiness is the Problem

La Via Campesina takes part in the Global Day of Action

Thousands March at U.N. Climate Summit in Durban to Demand Climate Justice

Vea vídeos sobre La Vía Campesina en Durban, en español/portugués:

Vídeo: Campesinos llegan a Durban a reclamar por cambio climático

Alberto Gomez en Durban: Tenemos que estar

A Via Campesina no Dia de Ação Global pela Justiça Climática

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Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Green Economy, Videos

La Via Campesina opposes the inclusion of agriculture in carbon

Source: La Via Campesina

JAKARTA, 11 APRIL 2011, As the first session of climate negotiations for the
year come to a close in Bangkok, Thailand, it is clear that the urgency of
avoiding a climate disaster and delivering climate justice remain unaddressed.

La Via Campesina, the global movement of small-scale and family farmers, is
severely dismayed at the attempts of the developed countries to further escape
their historic responsibility to make real emission cuts and push for more false
and market based solutions to the climate crisis.

As the planet undergoes even more climate change induced extreme weather changes
that have impacted on small scale farmers in different parts of the world
including unpredicted rains that have resulted in harvest failure in the
Southeast Asian region, the urgency increases for real solutions and for real
and deep emission cuts.

Developed countries however are pushing for the voluntary pledge mechanism
listed in the controversial Cancun Agreements in order to move away from the
mandated program of working towards legally binding commitments to cut
emissions. A United Nations Environment Programme study itself has stated that
with the current pledges under the voluntary pledge system, the world will move
towards a global warming of 2.5 to 5 degrees Celsius before the end of the
century. A warming that will clearly destabilize the planet and imperil hundreds
of millions of people as science have shown that the safe limit is below 1 or
1.5 degrees Celsius.

It is even more disturbing that in the debate on the agenda, some developed
countries have begun to push for the inclusion of agriculture in the carbon
offsetting mechanisms. Transnational corporations and advocates of biochar and
GM crops are pushing for the inclusion of agriculture in the carbon markets with
plans to convert half a billion hectares of land in Africa to biochar feedstock
plantations. Although still in a nascent state, La Via Campesina is raising the
alarm bells on this as early as now and denouncing this as a false solution that
will further imperil small-scale and family farmers around the world, promote
land grabbing and increase widespread hunger in the world.

With just a few more months till the UNFCCC COP 17 in Durban, La Via Campesina
is calling for a rejection of the Cancun Agreements and the push of
transnational corporations and developed countries to escape their historic
responsibility and their push for more false solutions. We laud the efforts of
countries like Bolivia who have bravely stood their ground, rejecting the Cancun
Agreements and continue to call for climate justice. We call for all governments
to stand for climate justice and uphold the people’s solutions and demands
listed in the Cochabamba People’s Agreement which upholds the rights of the
people and of Mother Earth and is a concrete solution to the climate crisis.

La Via Campesina reiterates its call that a concrete and genuine solution to
climate change is sustainable small-scale and family farmer agriculture. Many
studies have shown that agro-ecology will not only feed the world but it will
also cool the planet.

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Action Alert:‘Responsible’ Soy: misleading consumers

Cross-posted from Rainforest Rescue

Almost all non-organic meat, eggs and dairy sold in supermarkets comes from animals fed on genetically modified (GM) soy. That’s important for you to know, but it’s not on the label. Even worse, this soy will soon be called ‘responsible.’

The label has been developed by the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). The RTRS consists mainly of companies that have a strong interest in expanding the soy industry. Members range from soy producers and grain dealers to the biotech, pesticide, animal feed and oil sectors. They include BP, Shell, Cargill, Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto. A few NGOs are also on board, notably the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The ‘responsible’ soy scheme will not reduce the massive pesticide use that poisons people and the environment in South America. It will not stop land conflicts. It will not even stop deforestation. It will definitely not reduce soy imports. But it will create a ‘green’ label for GM crops. For the first time, a genetically modified crop, designed to be sprayed with massive amounts of pesticides, will be labelled ‘responsible’.

That is why environmental and social organisations are writing to supermarkets and food companies, asking them not to mislead their customers. We – Friends of the Earth International, the Global Forest Coalition, Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue), European Coordination Via Campesina, Food and Water Europe and many others – strongly oppose the RTRS’s attempt to greenwash soy. We want to reduce Europe’s dependence on imported soy and call for radical changes in the way food is produced.

Please join us and tell the supermarkets that you don’t accept the RTRS’s misleading label. Sign the form and your message will be sent to supermarkets and food companies all over Europe. Please distribute this action and inform your friends as well. Thank you very much for your support.

For more information on the impacts of soy production, see http://www.toxicsoy.org


Dear Sir or Madam:

This year a new label will be launched for so-called ‘responsible’ soy. However, the criteria proposed by the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) do not guarantee any level of ‘responsibility’. Soy monocultures can still expand at the expense of forest and small farms; massive pesticide spraying will continue to poison people and the environment.

Irresponsible soy production in the South will continue
Soy for animal feed is grown in large monocultures in South America. Massive amounts of toxic pesticides are used on the mostly genetically modified (GM) crop. Local communities and their environment are poisoned, and children are especially vulnerable. To increase soy production, small farmers and indigenous people are pushed from their land and forests and valuable natural areas are destroyed. RTRS soy will not stop this and labels like Soja+ are even weaker. Many social and environmental organisations have voiced clear opposition to the ‘responsible’ label.

Irresponsible animal industry in the North will continue
Over 34 million tons of soy are imported into Europe each year. Most of it is used to feed animals in factory farms. These are highly polluting to water, soil and air and cause much animal suffering. Most of the industrially produced dairy, eggs and meat comes from animals fed with GM soy.

In fact, most people don’t even know that they indirectly consume GM products, because it is not on the label. Exploiting the natural resources of the South to enable an over-production of animal products in the North can never be responsible or sustainable. Instead, factory farming should be abandoned and animal feed should be locally produced.

Stop the greenwash
Labels on food are meant to inform people, not to confuse or mislead them. Soy monocultures are not responsible. The RTRS label could therefore be seen as label fraud. Don’t buy the greenwash message. Instead it would be better to inform consumers about what they are buying by introducing a ‘fed with GM soy’ label for meat and dairy products.

Click here to sign the letter and take action!

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Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years, Says New UN Report

Source: SRFood.org

GENEVA – Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report* shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.


“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live – especially in unfavorable environments.”

Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.

“To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects,” De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”

“Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today,” De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agroecology on food production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation — and this this is what is needed in a world of limited resources. Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3

The report also points out that projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh recorded up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers.

“Knowledge came to replace pesticides and fertilizers. This was a winning bet, and comparable results abound in other African, Asian and Latin American countries,” the independent expert notes.

“The approach is also gaining ground in developed countries such as United States, Germany or France,” he said. “However, despite its impressive potential in realizing the right to food for all, agroecology is still insufficiently backed by ambitious public policies and consequently hardly goes beyond the experimental stage.”

The report identifies a dozen of measures that States should implement to scale up agroecological practices.

“The approach is also gaining ground in developed countries such as United States, Germany or France,” he said. “However, despite its impressive potential in realizing the right to food for all, agroecology is still insufficiently backed by ambitious public policies and consequently hardly goes beyond the experimental stage.”
The report identifies a dozen of measures that States should implement to scale up agroecological practices.

“Agroecology is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies supporting agricultural research and participative extension services,” De Schutter says. “States and donors have a key role to play here. Private companies will not invest time and money in practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don’t open markets for chemical products or improved seeds.”

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food also urges States to support small-scale farmer’s organizations, which demonstrated a great ability to disseminate the best agroecological practices among their members.

Strengthening social organization proves to be as impactful as distributing fertilizers. Small-scale farmers and scientists can create innovative practices when they partner”, De Schutter explains.  “We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations.  The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

“If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report, we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some regions where the hungry live,” De Schutter says.  “Whether or not we will succeed this transition will depend on our ability to learn faster from recent innovations. We need to go fast if we want to avoid repeated food and climate disasters in the 21st century.”

(*) The report “Agro-ecology and the right to food” was presented before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This document is available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian at: www.srfood.org and http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/annual.htm

Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization.  For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur, visit: www.srfood.org or http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm

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World Bank, food crisis and agriculture

Cross-posted from Bretton Woods Project

By Ama Marston

As record high food prices have contributed to unrest in North Africa and beyond, the World Bank’s unwavering faith in markets has stirred debate about how best to address the multitude of factors underlying a global crisis in food prices. Meanwhile, World Bank president Robert Zoellick continues to champion efforts to bring agriculture into carbon markets.

In January, Zoellick delivered a pro-market message addressing food prices in the UK newspaper the Financial Times. “The answer to food price volatility is not to prosecute or block markets, but to use them better,” he argued, urging the G20 leaders to put access to food at the top of its agenda. He also emphasised that trade barriers contribute to spikes in food prices and that food aid should be allowed to move more freely.

This differs from both French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who blamed commodity speculators for the price increases and Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman, who emphasised the impacts climate change is beginning to have on agriculture.

Incongruent conclusions

At end January, Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food responded in an editorial to the nine measures Zoellick set out for the G20 to address the food crises. “Although welcome, these measures tackle only the symptoms of the global food system’s weaknesses, leaving the root causes of crisis untouched,” he concludes. “These measures may mitigate the consequences of peak prices, but they are inadequate to avoiding the recurrence of shocks.” He instead argues that the G20 should support countries’ ability to feed themselves and that the international community should work to establish food reserves and a global reinsurance mechanism. Support for farmers’ organisations, protection for access to land and limitation of financial speculation are among the recommendations set out by De Schutter. He also highlights the need to defend the human right to food and to complete the transition to sustainable agriculture.

Despite widespread concern about market volatility, Octaviano Canuto, vice president of the Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) Network, has stated that there is no need for market regulation. This market-led approach is consistent with the Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan (see Update 69) and the 2008 World Development Report on agriculture (see Update 61, 58).

In stark contrast, the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Least developed countries report 2010, proposes active international management of commodity markets, including food markets, to ensure that the poorest countries benefit. UNCTAD’s proposals include “taxation measures to reduce speculation in global commodity markets”, “innovative commodity price stabilisation schemes” and emergency finance to protect poor countries during commodity price shocks.

In addition, Zoellick’s Financial Times commentary proposed giving countries access to fast-disbursing support as an alternative to export bans or price capping or fixing. Duncan Green of NGO Oxfam has taken exception to Zoellick’s opposition to ‘price fixing’. “If by that he means deliberate government intervention to stabilise prices for consumers and producers, [it] has been an effective tool… to reduce food insecurity and provide incentives for farmers to increase food production,” he writes in a blog response. If Zoellick’s speech is indicative of a wider approach, “the Bank seems to have a myopic focus on maintaining the integrity of trade and markets”, concludes Green.

“The Bank has to wake up to the complex reality around it and abandon the view that markets alone will solve everything”, adds Alex Wijeratna, a campaigner from ActionAid.

Zoellick’s article also brings smallholder farmers into the debate.  However, he focuses on proposals such as sourcing some of the humanitarian food aid from them while larger structural issues remain unaddressed.

A new report on small scale farming from think tanks International Institute for Environment and Development and Hivos details the myriad of challenges smallholder farmers face and the ways in which they have often been detrimentally impacted by market bias and export orientation (see Update 58). “A strong push within the donor community, particularly from [the World Bank and IMF] but also from a number of bilateral donors, to deregulate and encourage private sector activity also led to a renewed emphasis on exports”, notes the report.

Multilateral efforts

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), of which the Bank is a supervising entity, now has pledges of $925 million to deliver on food security commitments made at the 2009 L’Aquila G8 summit (see Update 71).  However, only $263 million had been received by July 2010, leading civil society groups to fear that there will be a shortfall of funds. In the US, 28 NGOs have written a letter to encourage President Obama to push forward $100 million of what they expect to be a $250 million US contribution in 2011.

The GAFSP’s private sector window has raised concerns since it will be channelled through the Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which has been accused of supporting controversial agricultural lending. In November GAFSP meetings, the IFC agreed to make development indicators for measuring GAFSP outcomes available to NGOs. It also confirmed that environmental and social safeguards will apply to financial intermediaries, which seems to be in contrast to the IFC’s stated policy (see Update 71).

Private sector lending

Following exposeés that the IFC was backing private sector investment that can lead to land displacement, the Bank joined with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UNCTAD and others to devise principles for agricultural investment, focussed on land in particular (see Update 71). These principles were critiqued for not being strong enough nor participatory in their development. They are now to be discussed and negotiated by the multi-stakeholder Committee on World Food Security (CFS), with hopes of delivering agreed standards at a FAO meeting in Rome in October.

Continued market approaches

At the Cancuún climate talks in December 2010, the Bank held a high-level event to re-launch a “roadmap for climate and agriculture” (see Update 73).  Resulting from the meetings in the Hague in October last year, this was contentious due to the lack of participation and the heavy emphasis on bringing agriculture into carbon markets, among other issues. In addition, at the UK parliament in February, Zoellick called for the next round of UN climate negotiations in South Africa in December to focus on soil carbon sequestration.

According to US NGO Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) the Bank has yet to clarify a methodology for measuring amounts of carbon in the soil for it’s first soil carbon sequestration project in Kenya, because it is too costly to measure. “More needs to be learned about the World Bank’s methodology, its environmental integrity and the social impacts of the project,” concludes an IATP briefing on agriculture released in December. “[T]he simplification of methodology in the Kenya pilot substantiates the idea that transaction costs are indeed high for such schemes.”

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