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Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability

Hazards of GMOs: Nucleic Acid Invaders from Food Confirmed

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Dr Mae-Wan Ho  Institute of Science in Society  June 11, 3014

New research confirms that DNA fragments derived from meals, large enough to carry complete genes, can escape degradation and enter the human circulatory system, and so can RNA, raising serious concerns over new nucleic acids introduced into the human food chain via genetically modified organisms.

Food RNA gets into blood and so does DNA

We have alerted readers to research showing how tiny RNA molecules in food eaten can circulate in the bloodstream and turn genes off in the body [1], raising concerns over the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which introduce many novel and synthetic nucleic acids into the human food chain ([2] How Food Affects Genes, SiS 53). New research shows that pieces of DNA large enough to code for complete genes can also escape degradation in the gut and enter the human circulatory system, and the presence of circulating RNA from food is much more extensive and widespread. Read the rest of this entry »

Organic Standards Under Fire

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WHAT’S AT STAKE       Organic Consumers Association

Organic Standards Under Fire:     SOS

Chemical and energy-intensive industrial food and farming poses a mortal threat to life on the planet.

Monsanto and Food Inc. are rapidly destroying the soil, contaminating water, reducing biodiversity, and destabilizing the climate.

Meanwhile consumers are being stuffed with junk foods that make us fat and sick.

Industrial agriculture’s fatal harvest includes trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and filthy, disease-ridden factory farmed animal products, laced with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, nano-particles and bacteria.

While a cornucopia of healthy food alternatives are available at the local level, from small organic farmers to urban gardeners to raw milk distribution networks and community supported agriculture projects, the USDA National Organic Program is the only system to provide certified national and global standards for organic food that is distributed regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Foods labeled “USDA Organic” are the gold standard for health and sustainability at the retail and wholesale level. Organics provide a beacon of light in grocery store aisles to guide consumers away from GMOs and chemical-tainted junk foods.

Consumer demand for healthy and eco-friendly food has built the organic market into a $30 billion a year powerhouse, and has forced even the largest retailers, wholesalers and brand names to get into organics.

While we oppose the “Walmartization” of organic, we are happy to see that even our adversaries are being forced to market and sell organic products.

While OCA’s campaigns against worker abuses, GMOs, factory farming, and the many poisons used in industrial food production, are aimed at tearing down a deadly system, our work to keep organic standards strong guarantees that even the big corporate players must “play by the rules” if they are to call their products organic.

Unfortunately the big players (Monsanto, Kraft, Wal-Mart, General Mills, et al) keep trying to change the rules, which means we’ve got to keep fighting them.

Read more: OCA’s Ongoing Campaign to Safeguard Organic Standards

The future is organic: But it’s more than organic!

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Why we can’t afford Industrial Agriculture

by Dr. E. Ann Clark
Published Jan 14 2010 by University of Guelph, Archived Mar 7 2011  Energy Bulletin

 

INTRODUCTION
Organic will be the conventional agriculture of the future, not because of wishful thinking or because it is the right thing to do, or because of some universal truth revealed from on high.

You don’t need to be a utopian to see the agricultural landscape of the future dominated by organic practitioners – whether in the city or in the country – if you stop to ask yourself …why are we not organic now?

How did we get to where we are now, and not just in farming but in the entire agri-food system?

How did we evolve an agri-food system so centered on specialization, consolidation, and globalization? What drove us to an agri-food system that reportedly consumes 19% of the national energy budget – but only 7 of the 19% are used on the farm, with the remaining 12% incurred by post-farmgate transport, processing, packaging, distribution, and meal preparation (Pimentel, 2006)? Is this all the result of Adam Smith’s invisible hand – an inevitable and inescapable result of the unfettered free market or other universal principle in action – or is there more to it?

This paper will present the argument that the future is organic because the design drivers that have shaped and molded the current agri-food system are changing, demanding a wholly new, and largely organic, approach to agriculture. Efforts to make the current model less bad – more sustainable – are counterproductive because they dilute and deflect the creative energy and commitment that are urgently needed to craft productive, ecologically sound systems driven by current solar energy (Pollan, 2008). Although time does not permit coverage, post-oil design drivers will also necessarily demand not just organics but novel agri-food systems emphasizing

  • local/decentralized food production, and
  • seasonal consumption expectations,
  • from minimally processed foods.
  • Evidence will be presented to show that organic is not enough, however. Ecological soundness[1] will require a de-emphasis on annual cropping coupled with re-integration of livestock, both to mimic the principles that sustain Nature and to dramatically reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

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    Farmer-scientist group wants to ‘hack society’ through open-source technology

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    by Bonnie Azab Powell 29 Dec 2010     Grist.org

    One of the most frequent criticisms leveled against the sustainable agriculture movement is that its proponents want to send farmers back to 19th-century hard labor, with hand weeding and harvesting. Here’s an incredibly cool group of eco-minded “farmer-scientists” who aren’t in the least afraid of technology — and in fact believe in “creating industrial processes that are fully in harmony with ecologically responsible living.”

    The Open Source Ecology team’s first, ambitious project is the Global Village Construction Set — a sort of life-size Erector set of the most essential machines for building a “small civilization with modern-day comforts,” including housing and the means for food, energy, and technology production.

    40 machines

    The proposed set of essential machines. Eight prototypes have been built so far. Drawing: Courtesy of Open Source Ecology

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Vandana Shiva: Time to end war against the earth

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    Time to end war against the earth

    By Vandana Shiva
    When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth’s resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.

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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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    Let Rainforest Action Network Know Global Ecological Sustainability Depends Upon Ending Old Forest Logging

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    By Rainforest Portal, a project of Ecological Internet – March 13, 2010

    Rainforest Action Network is a key supporter of failed Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) efforts to “sustainably” log tens of millions of hectares of primary and old-growth forests for lawn furniture, toilet paper and other throw-away consumer items. As RAN celebrates its 25th anniversary, let them know old forests will never be fully protected as long as they and others unquestioningly support “certified” yet ecologically unsustainable first-time industrial primary rainforest logging. Demand RAN vigorously defend their support for first-time primary rainforest logging over an area two times as large as Texas, or resign from FSC immediately. Encourage RAN to spend the next 25 years working to protect and expand old forests to maintain a habitable Earth.

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    The Value of Nothing (Video Preview)

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    By Raj Patel          Organic Consumer’s Assn.

    Oscar Wilde observed, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Patel’s book, The Value of Nothing, shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. He reveals the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger (as much as $200), and asks how we came to have markets in the first place. Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our democratically bankrupt political system.

    Social organizations, in America and around the globe, are finding new ways to describe the world’s worth. If we don’t want the market to price every aspect of our lives, we need to learn how such organizations have discovered democratic ways in which people, and not simply governments, can play a crucial role in deciding how we might share our world and its resources in common.

    Our current crisis is not simply the result of too much of the wrong kind of economics. While we need to rethink our economic model, Patel argues that the larger failure beneath the food, climate and economic crises is a political one. If economics is about choices, Patel writes, it isn’t often said who gets to make them. The Value of Nothing offers a fresh and accessible way to think about economics and the choices we will all need to make in order to create a sustainable economy and society.

    To read the first chapter, click here: http://bit.ly/1ajaxZ. For more information on both Raj Patel and The Value of Nothing, visit http://www.rajpatel.org. Video directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy (http://www.thegardenmovie.com).

    NYC Activists Unfurl 35-foot Banner on High Line to Protest Park’s Use of FSC-Certified Amazon Wood

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    FSC lies- Amazon wood not sustain

    “We think there are well-intentioned designers and architects who have no idea that the FSC certifies wood from ancient primary forests, including the Amazon”….Ipê trees are typically 250 to 1,000 years old and grow an average of one or two trees per acre.

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    Questioning World Bank Palm Oil Funding and Forest Carbon Finance in Indonesia

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    indonesia forestRainforest Portal: Action Alert

    Ombudsman report on 20 years of corrupt IFC, World Bank Group lending to the Indonesian oil palm industry casts doubt on Bank’s fitness to manage international forest carbon funds that may emerge at Copenhagen climate talks.

    The World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) ignored its own environmental and social protection standards when it approved over a twenty year period nearly $200 million in loan guarantees for palm oil production in Indonesia. The IFC has temporarily frozen new investments in oil palm projects and is reviewing all current oil palm projects. The message must be conveyed to the World Bank that oil palm and any finance of industrial development that deforests or diminishes primary tropical rainforest must permanently end. And certainly oil palm — or any logging of primary forests, or replacement of primary forests with plantations — is not worthy of REDD forest carbon funding.

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