Tag Archives: farming

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

Seed giants vs. US farmers

February 12, 2013.  Source: Center for Food Safety

seeds_iStock_sm-150x150Today, one week before the Supreme Court hears arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save our Seeds (SOS) – two legal and policy organizations dedicated to promoting safe, sustainable food and farming systems – will launch their new report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.

The new report investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues.

Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and Senior Writer for the Report, said today:  “Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain.”
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30 years of genetically engineered plants: Consequences of commercial growing in the US

Note:  As we enter the thirtieth year of genetic engineering of plants, the threat of GE trees is growing.  While GE food crops (commonly called GMOs) are ubiquitous, the large-scale, commercial use of GE trees can still be prevented.  To learn more about  the STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign, and to join Global Justice Ecology Project in the fight to ban GE trees, visit http://nogetrees.org

-The GJEP Team

February 2, 2013.  Source: Test Biotech

Mapuche woman protests outside of the Belgian Mission in Manhattan.  Photo: Langelle

Mapuche woman protests outside of the Belgian Mission in Manhattan. Photo: Langelle

Today in Berlin a new report was published presenting a critical assessment of the consequences of the commercial cultivation of genetically engineered plants in the US. The first genetically engineered plants were created 30 years ago in Europe and the US. Commercial growing in the USA began almost 20 years ago, but in the EU, acceptance of these crops is much lower. Nevertheless, companies are asking for further authorisations for cultivation, including in the EU. In the light of this development, past experience in the USA was assessed and recommendations made for the future handling of this technology in the EU. Some of the principal findings are:

  • Consequences for farmersBecause the weeds have adapted to the cultivation of the genetically engineered plants, farmers are experiencing a substantial increase in both working hours and the amounts of herbicide they require. Cultivation of insecticide-producing plants have led to “an arms race in the field” against the pest insects, which have adapted quickly. Genetically engineered plants have been created to produce up to six different toxins. Costs for seeds have increased dramatically, without there being a substantial increase in yields or significant savings in the amounts of spray required.
  • Impact on the seed marketThe seed industry in the USA is largely dominated by agrochemical industries such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. In future, it has to be expected that developments in the USA will be strongly influenced by the interests of agro-chemical companies pushing for the cultivation of genetically engineered plants.
  • Consequences for producers who avoid genetically engineered cropsContamination with non-authorised genetically engineered plants has already caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the USA.
  • Consequences for consumersConsumers are exposed to a whole range of risks regarding unintended substances from plant metabolism, from residues from complementary herbicides and from the properties of additional proteins produced in the plants. As yet, there is no way of monitoring the actual effects that consumption of these products might have.
  • Effects on the environmentThe cultivation of genetically engineered plants is closely associated with a substantial increase in the amounts of herbicide required. In addition, there is also an increase in environmental exposure to certain insecticides. In particular, the cultivation of herbicide-resistant plants leads to a reduction in biodiversity. Genetically engineered rapeseed has already managed to escape from the fields into the environment from where it cannot be withdrawn, and from where it evades any adequate control.

The study was commissioned by Martin Häusling, Member of the Green Group in the European Parliament. The English version of the study is published by Testbiotech.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

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

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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Percy Schmeiser vs Monsanto: The Story of a Canadian Farmer’s Fight to Defend the Rights of Farmers and the Future of Seeds

Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for patent violations when their security goons found GE canola in Percy’s canola fields.  The judge that ruled on the case ruled that it did not matter how the GE canola got onto his field, he was liable for breaking patent laws and the canola belonged to Monsanto.

This is extremely significant to the struggle against genetically engineered trees, since native versions of GE trees–like pine and poplar–can spread their pollen for up to hundreds of miles, widely contaminating wild forests.  These contaminated trees would then theoretically belong to the company that patented them, regardless of where they are found–on private land, on national park land, or on state land.

This is one more reason why the environmental release of GE trees must be stopped.

–GJEP Team


Cross posted from Democracy Now!

Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech giant Monsanto for years. When Monsanto seeds blew into Schmeiser’s property, Monsanto accused him of illegally planting their crops and took him to court. Ultimately his case landed in the Canadian Supreme Court. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1997 for fighting to defend the rights of farmers and the future of seeds.

Click here to listen to the interview.

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Paraguay: “Pause” Farming Expansion in Gran Chaco, Say Activists

Mother and child in the Gran Chaco. photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The following is of great interest to Global Justice Ecology Project.  GJEP is the North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition.  GFC thas it’s southern hemisphere office in Asuncion.  After the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil last year, GJEP’s Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle visited the Asuncion office.  While in Paraguay, Langelle was invited to the Gran Chaco region by the Ayoreo for a photo project entitled “Sharing the Eye .”

“Pause” Farming Expansion in Gran Chaco, Say Activists
By Natalia Ruiz Díaz

ASUNCION, Jun 17, 2010 (Tierramérica) – Extensive cattle farming in northwestern Paraguay is the leading cause of deforestation in the Gran Chaco, one of the world’s leading regions in biodiversity and South America’s second largest forested area, after the Amazon.

The non-governmental Guyra Paraguay Association reported to the Secretariat (ministry) of Environment (SEAM) that deforestation last year totalled 267,000 hectares, 17 percent more than in 2008, just in the northern provinces of Boquerón and Alto Paraguay.

The association’s study also found that in the first quarter of this year, 18,000 hectares of forested land disappeared from this rich ecosystem, located in the centre of South America, with 80 percent of that loss occurring inside Paraguayan territory.

The Gran Chaco is a semi-arid expanse of dense thorn scrubland that covers more than one million square kilometres: 25 percent in Paraguay, 62 percent in Argentina, 12 percent in Bolivia, and the remaining one percent in Brazil.

Eladio García, director of integrated environmental monitoring at SEAM, told Tierramérica that government regulation of the area is difficult due to the lack of resources.

“There is a complete lack of awareness about respect for natural resources,” said García, who noted the private landowners’ violations of the country’s existing land-use and land management laws.

Forestry Law 422/73, which regulates management and use of renewable natural resources, establishes that 50 percent of forests must be maintained on farms that are in preservation zones, and 25 percent on farms that are not.

The Pojoauju Association, an umbrella of dozens of non-governmental organisations, issued a statement earlier this month urging an “ecological pause” to logging in the area in order to establish a balance between economic production and forest preservation.

The association’s argument is that “the landowners and the agro-export companies are deforesting areas of the Chaco to transform the land towards livestock production and genetically modified soybean cultivation.”

“They are carrying out a process of grid-mapping the Chaco for a system that already destroyed the natural resources in the eastern region” of Paraguay, Víctor Benítez, an expert with the organisation Alter Vida, told Tierramérica.

The farmers in this process fail to take into account the location of fragile areas of biodiversity, protected areas or “uncontacted” indigenous groups, he added.

According to SEAM figures, there are just one million hectares remaining of the 3.5 million hectares of forest that existed in the 1970s in the eastern region, which encompasses 14 of the country’s 17 provinces, and where 97 percent of the 6.2 million Paraguayans live.

“It isn’t a call for a zero-deforestation law, but rather for the government, through its institutions, to declare an ecological pause,” said Benítez, though he did not specify how long the moratorium should last.

Law 2524 was enacted in 2004, prohibiting activities that transformed or converted forest-covered areas in the eastern region. The policy remained in force until 2006, and was then extended to 2013.

With that legislative tool, Paraguay was able to reduce logging 85 percent in that area, but it pushed farm expansion to the Chaco, as part of the development dream for that region.

A SEAM investigation found that most of the rural landowners of deforested areas are Brazilian, and are located in ancestral indigenous territory, in the extreme north of the Chaco.

Benítez believes there must be dialogue between the farmers and ranchers and the institutions representing the indigenous communities’ social, environmental and cultural interests.

About 51 percent of the national indigenous population — some 108,000 people — lives in the Chaco or western region, which covers 60 percent of the 406,752 square km of Paraguayan territory.

The Ayoreo community is one of the principal indigenous groups of the Gran Chaco, numbering about 5,600, with 2,600 in Paraguay and the rest in Bolivia.

The 2009 report “Paraguay: The Ayoreo Case,” prepared by the Amotocodie Initiative and the Native Ayoreo Union of Paraguay, indicates that about 100 of these indigenous peoples still live in the Chaco forests, outside of contact with the rest of Paraguayan society.

“In the Chaco there are areas that are clearly for livestock, to which we have no objection at all, and that is why we are calling for an end to land-use changes in the indigenous zone,” said Benítez.

The 2008 Agricultural Census found that in the western region there were about 3.9 million head of cattle, 37 percent of the national total.

The environmentalists say the responsibility for saving the Paraguayan Chaco lies with the authorities and depends on a commitment from society.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)

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