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Posts Tagged ‘Food security

Colombian Farmers Defeat Monsanto: Win Back Control of Seeds

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Sept. 17, 2013  By Oscar León The Real News - reposted at Food Freedom News

Colombians in Trafalgar Square show their support for the farmers' strike in Colombia. Protesters are demonstrating against the free trade agreement with the US; seed multinationals; GMO crops, and seed patents. Photo by Andres Pantoja

Colombians in Trafalgar Square show their support for the farmers’ strike in Colombia. Protesters are demonstrating against the free trade agreement with the US; seed multinationals; GMO crops, and seed patents. Photo by Andres Pantoja

On Sept. 10 in Colombia, after 21 days of a nationwide strike by thousands of farmers, who were supported by bus and truck drivers, miners, students, and others joining massive demonstrations in cities and towns all around the country in places as far as Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Cauca, Huila, Putumayo, Caldas, Cundinamarca, and Nariño, and blocking more than 40 roads, in an historic moment, protesting farmers forced the Colombian government to negotiate the rejection of a farm bill and the release of detained protesters.

On Sunday, September 8, Vice President Angelino Garzón met with the Strike Negotiating Commission in Popayan and agreed to suspend Law 970, the one that gave control over seeds to the government [which made it illegal for farmers to save seeds, any seeds, forcing them to buy patented ones].

They also were promised the release of the 648 arrested during the strike and the creation of a new mining law.

Under this first and provisional agreement, the government will compensate the farmers for their losses when competing with cheaper products imported under as much as ten free market treaties with countries all around the world. In other cases it will suspend the importation of such products.

The strike was ended and negotiations started to discuss the farmers’ proposals. The process of negotiation, as well as the final agreement and its implementation, will be verified by the United Nations.

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The New Politics of Food Scarcity

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Veteran world watcher Lester Brown sounds dire warning of spreading political unrest, conflicts, and deepening division between rich and poor as food prices soar and supply falls further and further behind rising demand, but does not point to obvious solution  Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

June 14, 2011                    The Institute of Science in Society

 

Soaring food prices and political unrest

Soaring food prices were a major trigger for the riots that has destabilized North Africa and the Middle East beginning December 2010 in Tunisia. Political unrest has since engulfed Algeria, Egypt, Jordon, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and spread to Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, and beyond [1-4]. Latin America is said to be at risk [5], and even Britain, if food prices continue to rise [6]. The UN Food Price Index has been hovering above 231 points since the start of 2011, and hit its all-time high of 238 points in February. The May 2011 average was 232 points, 37 percent higher than a year ago [7].

Richard Ferguson, global head of agriculture at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank specializing in emerging markets, told The Guardian newspaper in the UK [1] that the problems were likely to spread. “Food prices are absolutely core to a lot of these disturbances. If you are 25 years old, with no access to education, no income and live in a politically repressed environment, you are going to be pretty angry when the price of food goes up the way it is.” It acted “as a catalyst” for political unrest, when added to other ills such as a lack of democracy.

“Scarcity is the new norm”

Food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics [8], says Lester Brown, venerated veteran world-watcher, who also predicts that crises like these are going to become increasingly common. “Scarcity is the new norm.”

Historically, price spikes tended to be almost exclusively due to bad weather such as monsoon failure, drought, heat wave, etc., but today, they are driven by trends of both increasing demand and decreasing ability to supply. With a rapidly expanding global population demanding to be fed, crop-withering temperatures and exhausted aquifers are making it difficult to increase production. Moreover, the world is losing its ability to soften the blow of shortages. USA, the world’s largest grain producer, was able to rescue shortages with its grain surpluses in the past, or bring idle croplands into cultivation. “We can’t do that anymore; the safety cushion is gone.”

That’s why “the food crisis of 2011 is for real”, Brown warns, and why it may bring yet more bread riots and political revolutions. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, may not be the end, but the beginning.

Brown does not mention the huge speculation on agricultural commodities in the world financial markets that not only drives up prices but increases volatility, making it much more difficult for farmers and consumers to cope (see [9] Financing World Hunger, SiS 46). Olivier de Shutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, has referred to the 2007-2008 crisis as a “price-crisis” not a “food-crisis”, precipitated by speculation and not linked to insufficient food being produced, at least not yet, as Brown elaborates.

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Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Save the Honeybee

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Fresh evidence links neonicotinoid pesticides to death of the honeybees and spurs calls for banning the pesticides

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho January 24, 2011                Institute of Science in Society

Increase vulnerability to infection at minute doses

The honeybee’s vulnerability to infection is increased by the presence of imidacloprid, even at the most microscopic doses. This new research result by Dr Jeffrey Pettis and his team at the US Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory has remained unpublished for nearly two years, according to an ‘exclusive’ report in UK’s newspaper, The Independent [1]. Increased disease infection happened even when the levels of the insecticide were so tiny that they could not be detected in the bees that the researchers had dosed.

The neonicotinoid insecticides, introduced since the early 1990s, are increasingly used on crops in the US, Britain and around the world. Bayer, the German chemicals giant that developed the insecticides insists that they are safe for bees if used properly, but they have already been widely linked to bee losses. Imidacloprid was Bayer’s top-selling insecticide in 2009, earning the company £510 m.

Link to colony collapse of the honeybee

Neonicotinoids have attracted growing controversy since their introduction by Bayer in the 1990s, and have been blamed by some beekeepers and environmental campaigners as a potential cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), first observed in the US in 2006, in which bees disappear from hives en mass (see [2] Mystery of Disappearing Honeybees, SiS 34). Prof. Joe Cummins at ISIS was among the first to link neonicotinoid insecticides to CCD ([3] Requiem for the Honeybee , SiS 34); which had led to swift action on the part of the German Government in banning the pesticides ([4] Emergency Pesticide Ban for Saving the Honeybee, SiS 39).

Between 20 and 40 per cent of American hives have been affected, and CCD has since been observed in several other countries from France to Taiwan, though it has not yet been detected in Britain [1], where the area of cropland treated with neonicotinoids has gone from 0 in 1993 to more than 2.5 m acres in 2008.

Neonicotinoids bans

The chemicals have been banned already in France, Germany and Italy. In Britain, the Co-op has banned their use in farms from which it sources fruit and vegetables, but the British Government has refused to ban or suspend them.

Buglife director, Matt Shardlow, commented on the Pettis study: “This new research from America confirms that at very, very low concentrations neonicotinoid chemicals can make a honeybee vulnerable to fatal disease. If these pesticides are causing large numbers of honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies and moths to get sick and die from diseases they would otherwise have survived, then neonicotinoid chemicals could be the main cause of both colony collapse disorder and the loss of wild pollinator populations.

“The weight of evidence against neonicotinoids is becoming irresistible – Government should act now to ban the risky uses of these toxins.”

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Monsanto’s Roundup Triggers Over 40 Plant Diseases and Endangers Human and Animal Health

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Jeffrey Smith The world’s leading consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices

January 14, 2011   Institute for Responsible Technology

The following article reveals the devastating and unprecedented impact that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is having on the health of our soil, plants, animals, and human population. On top of this perfect storm, the USDA now wants to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa, which will exacerbate this calamity. Please tell USDA Secretary Vilsack not to approve Monsanto’s alfalfa today.

While visiting a seed corn dealer’s demonstration plots in Iowa last fall, Dr. Don Huber walked passed a soybean field and noticed a distinct line separating severely diseased yellowing soybeans on the right from healthy green plants on the left (see photo). The yellow section was suffering from Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease that ravaged the Midwest in 2009 and ’10, driving down yields and profits. Something had caused that area of soybeans to be highly susceptible and Don had a good idea what it was.

The diseased field on the right had glyphosate applied the previous season. Photo by Don Huber

Don Huber spent 35 years as a plant pathologist at Purdue University and knows a lot about what causes green plants to turn yellow and die prematurely. He asked the seed dealer why the SDS was so severe in the one area of the field and not the other. “Did you plant something there last year that wasn’t planted in the rest of the field?” he asked. Sure enough, precisely where the severe SDS was, the dealer had grown alfalfa, which he later killed off at the end of the season by spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide (such as Roundup). The healthy part of the field, on the other hand, had been planted to sweet corn and hadn’t received glyphosate.

This was yet another confirmation that Roundup was triggering SDS. In many fields, the evidence is even more obvious. The disease was most severe at the ends of rows where the herbicide applicator looped back to make another pass (see photo). That’s where extra Roundup was applied.

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Food prices can’t just be swept under the table

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“The reality is that the same speculators that caused the global economic meltdown through their illustrious trade in sub-prime mortgages, are betting on our food system now too.”

Madeleine Bunting 13 January 2011        guardian.co.uk

Soaring food prices threaten more unrest and must prompt a global rethink about agriculture and investment

The year started grimly with news of the food prices rising to the highest point since 1990, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. They have surpassed the 2008 prices that led to widespread rioting and unrest across the developing world; immediately, bloggers such as Duncan Green and Alex Evans were asking why there had been no riots. And just as they were posting, riots flared up in Algeria, with two killed and hundreds injured in the protests against soaring food prices. Across the border in Tunisia 14 were killed in clashes with the police. As the unrest spreads across northern Africa, Egypt is nervously trying to put measures in place to prevent any comparable violence, with extra supplies of meat being flown in from Kenya. An occupational hazard of blogging; no sooner have you posted, than somewhere in the world you have been outstripped by events.

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Written by laudyms

January 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Monsanto: the corporate scheme to control our food supply

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WalletPop

Monsanto: The evil corporation in your refrigerator

When we consider the rogue’s gallery of devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporations, we generally come up with outfits like Microsoft, Bechtel, AIG, Halliburton, Goldman-Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and the United States Senate. Yet somehow, Monsanto, arguably (WalletPop) – The most devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporation in the world has been able to more or less skulk between the raindrops — only a household name in households where documentaries like Food Inc. are regarded as light Friday evening entertainment. My house, for example. But for the most part, if you were to ask an average American for their list of sinister corporations, Monsanto probably wouldn’t make the cut.

It should. Read More Here

(NaturalNews) –

Monsanto: The world’s poster child for corporate manipulation and deceit

At a biotech industry conference in January 1999, a representative from Arthur Anderson, LLP explained how they had helped Monsanto design their strategic plan. First, his team asked Monsanto executives what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. The executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson consultants then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct. Read More Here

Also: (GardenState) – Cannabinoids Kill Cancer and Our Government Has Known for 36 YearsRead More Here

Also: (NYTimes) – What Do You Lack? Probably Vitamin DRead More Here

Stop Global Food Security Act Promoting GMOs

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Biotech corporations and mega-charities are promoting the GMO agenda as US foreign policy, and it must be stopped.

June 21, 2010   Dr. Mae-Wan Ho The Institute of Science in Society

The GM clause to food security

The US Global Food Security Act of 2009 (S. 384) sponsored by Richard Lugar (Indiana, Republican), Robert Casey (Pennsylvania, Democrat) and seven other US Senators in February 2009 is [1, 2] “A bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crises, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and for other purposes.”

However, the proposed amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 has proven controversial. It would “include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.”

The bill is supported by the US land grant colleges as well as InterAction (American Council for Voluntary International Action) and its 26 member organizations including WWF, Oxfam, Bread for the World CARE, Save the Children, and ONE [3]. The bill was passed through the Senate foreign Relations Committee on 31 March 2009, and the Senate is expected to vote on it soon in 2010.

Widespread opposition to GM mandate

In April 2010, 140 civil society groups, scientists, and development experts signed an open letter to US Senators, urging them to “strip the GM mandate” from the Global Food Security Act [4]. While the petitioners applaud the bill’s intention to reform aid programmes to focus on longer-term agricultural development and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises, they object to the clause effectively earmarking one agricultural technology – genetic modification – for billions of dollars in federal funding. US$7.7 billion goes with the bill, and no other farming methods or technologies are mentioned.

Not surprisingly, Monsanto has lobbied the hardest to support the bill. The US company is the world’s leader in the increasingly concentrated agricultural biotech industry, which is already subject to an anti-trust inquiry (see [5] US Farmers Oppose ‘Big Ag’ in Anti-Trust Hearing, SiS 46). Monsanto is likely to benefit most from the new research funding stream, and to profit from its patented products (both GM seeds and pesticides).

The petitioning groups represent the anti-hunger, family farms, farm-workers, consumers and those practicing and supporting sustainable agriculture. The letter delivered urges the Senate to reject the bill until it is made technology-neutral, and calls for agricultural research funding to concentrate on addressing local challenges faced by small-scale farmers, instead of mandating a specific and narrow technological fix, particularly one with little prospect of success and increasingly rejected by countries around the world.

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GM Food: Angel or Devil?

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A new book published in China examines GMO technology and its potential impacts on world food security. (full info at end) The foreword to the book was written by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho from the Institute for Science in Society.

Foreword
By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

It has been 16 years since the first genetically modified (GM) crop – Flavr Savr tomato for delayed ripening – was approved for commercial growing in the USA. It was also the year that I became a ‘science activist’, on realising how science itself was falling prey to corporate manipulation. Flavr Savr was soon withdrawn as a failure; but it was only a decoy, as agbiotech corporations like Monsanto were after much bigger game.

Genetic modification actually focussed on three major crops and two main traits: herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the enzyme targeted by the herbicide – 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) – derived from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens , and insect-resistance due to one or more toxins derived from another soil bacterium Bt ( Bacillus thuringiensis ).

Commercial planting of these crops began around 1997 in the USA, the heartland of GM crops, and increased rapidly thereafter. Though, thanks to strong resistance from informed citizens in Europe and other parts of the world, GM crops have remained confined, to this day, to less than 3 percent of global agricultural land, with 79 percent of the area planted concentrated in the USA, Argentina and Brazil [1].

In the USA, GM crops now occupy 85-91 percent of the area planted with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton. And it is the USA that’s now facing an ecological meltdown due to GM crops [2].

HT crops encouraged the use of herbicides sold as a package with the crop, resulting in herbicide-resistant weeds that demand yet more herbicides. But the increasing use of deadly herbicide and herbicide mixtures has failed to stall the advance of the dreaded palmer superweed that stops combine harvesters and break hand tools. At the same time, secondary pests such as the tarnished plant bug, against which Bt toxin is powerless, became the single most damaging insect for US cotton. The US corn belt, meanwhile, has been ravaged by yet another secondary pest, the western bean cutworm ( Striacosta albicosta ) [3]. Farmers are at a loss to deal with the crisis. They are being advised by misguided academics to use an armoury of more deadly herbicides and insecticides that accomplishes little else than make bigger profits for the same agbiotech companies that sell them the offending GM crops. Those farmers that have held out against planting GM crops, or want to stop planting them, are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible to buy non-GM seeds, as corporations like Monsanto have been consolidating their monopoly on seeds in the mean time [4]. In addition, they are offering new GM varieties with up to eight ‘stacked’ traits to keep farmers on the transgenic treadmill [5].

The situation is bad enough for farmers in the United States; but it has been deadly in India, where farmers do not have any state subsidies, unlike their counterparts in the USA, and many are already caught in a cycle of indebtedness from the ‘green revolution’ agriculture that depends on high chemical inputs.

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‘Land Rush’ as Threats to Food Security Intensify

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Biofuels policies and the 2008 financial and food crisis ignited  

a worldwide ‘land rush’ that’s increasing world hunger without addressing the underlying long term threats to world food security

“The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands….People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry.”

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

The Institute of Science in Society April 28, 2010

Grabbing the world’s ‘unused land’

In the past three years, foreign governments and investment companies have been buying or leasing vast tracts of farmland in Africa and elsewhere for producing biofuels or food for their own use [1].

This ‘land rush’ was triggered by the demand for biofuels, and accelerated [2] with the financial and food crisis of 2007/8 (see [3] Financing World Hunger, SiS 46).

Government policies promoting biofuels are based on the mistaken belief that fuels made from plants are ‘carbon neutral’, in that burning them would simply release the carbon dioxide fixed by photosynthesis and would not increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The European Union is aiming for10 percent of its transport on biofuels by 2020 [4] (Europe Unveils 2020 Plan for Reducing C Emissions, SiS 37). George W. Bush, for his part, proposed to cure the US’ “addiction to oil” by increasing federal budget 22 percent for research into clean fuel technologies including biofuels to substitutes for oil to power the country’s cars [5] (Biofuels for Oil Addicts, SiS 30). The hope is to replace more than 70 percent of oil imports from “unstable parts of the world” – the Middle East – by 2025.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation helpfully identified immense areas of ‘spare land’ in developing countries that could be used for planting ‘bio-energy’ crops to be turned into biofuels. The World Bank’s recent report on the 2008 commodities price hike includes a diagram entitled [6] “The stock of unused but potentially arable land is enormous”, depicting more than 700 million hectares of ‘unused’ land in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 800 m ha in Latin America and  the Caribbean.

Corporate farming for the rich

International agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds, UK pension funds, foundations and ‘individuals have been snapping up some of the world’s cheapest land, in Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana and elsewhere. Ethiopia alone has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007. Any land investors can’t buy is leased for about $1 per year per hectare. In many cases, the contracts have led to evictions, civil unrest and complaints of “land grabbing”, John Vidal reports in UK’s Guardian [1].

Nyikaw Ochalla, an indigenous Anuak from the Gambella region of Ethiopia now living in Britain but in regular contact with farmers in his region, told Vidal [1]: “All of the land in the Gambella region is utilised. Each community has and looks after its own territory and the rivers and farmlands within it. It is a myth propagated by the government and investors to say that there is waste land or land that is not utilised in Gambella.

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Financing World Hunger: How the financial markets create hunger and make huge profits

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“Food is produced by farmers everywhere in the world; but it is mostly bought and sold as commodities by ‘middlemen’, now mostly big corporations that trade globally, not just in a commodities market, but also in an elaborate financial derivatives market that pushes food prices up and creates price volatility.”

The Institute of Science in Society

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Peter Saunders

World food crisis rerun?

Food prices have been rising since 2003. By mid-2008, the food commodity price index peaked at 230 percent of its 2002 value, with most of the increase due to the grain prices. Corn and wheat both reached 350 percent and rice 530 percent respectively of their 2002 values [1]. The United Nations declared 2008 the year of the global food crisis even before prices peaked [2], and an estimated 150 million were added to the world’s hungry that year [3]. Although food prices have fallen from their peak, they remained well above 2002 levels;. By the end of 2009, more than a billion people are critically hungry, with 24 000 dying of hunger each day, over half of them children [3, 4]. The UN Food Programme faces a budget shortfall of US$4.1 billion.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food Olivier de Schutter blames [5] “inaction to halt speculation on agricultural commodities and continued biofuels policies”, and warns of a rerun of the 2008 food price crisis in 2010 or 2011. What happened in 2007-8 was a “price crisis, not a food crisis”, he says, precipitated by speculation in the financial market that was not linked to insufficient food being produced.

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