Posts Tagged ‘Farmers’
04/09/14 The Institute of Science in Society
Glyphosate’s metal-chelating activity causes bioaccumulation of toxic metals in the body, resulting in an estimated 400 000 cases in Sri Lanka and 20 000 deaths Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji
Sri Lanka is set to partially ban glyphosate-based herbicide use following a new peer-reviewed study linking it to a fatal chronic kidney disease epidemic badly affecting the country . Kidney problems have been further documented in other global regions, prompting an earlier complete ban by El Salvador late last year . A complete ban was initially proposed, but due to plantation sector representatives claiming a shortage of agricultural workers that would not sufficiently manage weeds without glyphosate, the government has now limited the ban to disease endemic areas . Even Brazil, one of the largest growers of glyphosate-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops has now filed a law suit by Federal Prosecutors to ban glyphosate along with 8 other dangerous pesticides . It is becoming increasingly difficult for government regulators and glyphosate producers to justify the use of this herbicide when other nations are banning the chemical outright in order to protect their citizens.
Glyphosate can impact human health in a number of ways, one of which is through its potent metal chelating abilities. Indeed, glyphosate was originally patented by Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1964 (U.S. Patent No. 3,160,632)  for this very function. Chelating mineral ions can lead to nutritional depletion in plants and animals, which has already been shown to cause health problems in both. In the case of this kidney disease epidemic, its chelation of metals such as arsenic in the water supplies is now though to lead to their bioaccumulation in the body, resulting in kidney failure and even death, as proposed in a new study  by Channa Jayasumana (Rajarata University, Sri Lanka), Sarath Gunatilake (California State University, USA) and Priyantha Senanayake (Hela Suwaya Organization, Sri Lanka) published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Glyphosate has also been linked to many other health problems including cancers (see  Glyphosate and Cancer, SiS 62), infertility (see  Glyphosate/Roundup & Human Male Infertility, SiS 62), along with neurotoxicity, reproductive problems, birth defects, and other problems (see  Ban GMOs Now, special ISIS report). Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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 , and even Britain, if food prices continue to rise . 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 .
Richard Ferguson, global head of agriculture at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank specializing in emerging markets, told The Guardian newspaper in the UK  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 , 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  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.
“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.”
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 . The United Nations declared 2008 the year of the global food crisis even before prices peaked , and an estimated 150 million were added to the world’s hungry that year . 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  “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.