Archive for September, 2010

CAPE TOWN, Aug 27 (IPS) – Civil society organisations have reacted with outrage to claims that the international campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops is partly responsible for food shortages and food insecurity in Africa.

“Food insecurity in developing regions such as Africa is partially a result of the anti-GM campaign,” David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University in Britain, said during the 15th World Congress of Food Science and Technology held between Aug 22-26 in Cape Town, South Africa.

King added that, “many African countries have the idea that food that is not good enough for Europeans, is not good enough for Africans.

“In Europe, people might have a choice between conventional and genetically modified products. In Africa, this is not the case. Here, any food that is available is great.”

South African organisations that oppose the genetic modification of food, such as the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE), have condemned King’s statements.

“Africa’s food insecurity has nothing to do with the anti-GM campaign,” said Fahrie Hassan, media spokesperson at SAFeAGE.

It has in large part been caused by economic policy measures with strict conditions imposed on countries seeking loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund since the 1980s, he argued.

“Many governments of developing countries were forced to tell their farmers they should farm cash crops, which are predominantly meant for the export market, instead of focusing on subsistence farming for local use,” he added.

“In addition, European countries and the U.S. dump their food surpluses onto African markets while heavily subsidising their own farmers,” Hassan added.

Mariam Mayet, director of the non-profit African Centre for Biosafety (ABC), said that, “malnourishment in Africa is not just a result of food shortage, but of poverty. It does not matter how much food is available, if you don’t have money to buy it you are stuck.

“In addition, the plants the GM industry wants to produce in Africa are mainly cash crops that are not just meant for the export market but are to be used to feed pigs and cows in Europe and China and as bio-fuel and cooking oil.

“These crops are not meant to feed African people, thus they will not contribute to food security,” she added.

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The Consumers Union (CU) presented its comments on genetically engineered (GE) salmon labelling at a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearing and said the salmon could prove dangerous to consumers. The union also said it disagrees with the FDA’s assertion that genetic modification (GM) does not inherently comprise a “material” difference under the law and with FDA’s definition of what makes up a “material” difference.

Aquabounty Technologies Inc’s AquAdvantage Salmon mature twice as fast and grow almost twice as big as wild Atlantic salmon as its DNA is injected with the genes of Pacific salmon and an eel-like fish. Tests have shown their meat is safe for human consumption, and the FDA thus far has sided with the company’s product.

Regardless, CU believes that GE salmon should be labelled as such so consumers can know whether they are purchasing a GE animal.

The union found in a nationwide poll that 95 per cent of respondents said they thought food from GE animals should be labelled and 78 per cent strongly agreed.

The independent panel of veterinary scientists hired by the FDA to conduct the hearing this week urged the FDA to run further studies of the GE salmon before authorising its sale in stores.

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Organic food sales have taken off in China after a series of safety scares, including the disclosure that one in 10 meals is cooked using oil dredged from the sewer.

Police inspect illegal cooking oil in Beijing

Police inspect illegal cooking oil, better known as ‘drainage oil’, seized during a crackdown in Beijing Photo: AFP/GETTY

The Chinese now consume more than twice as much organic food as health-conscious Japan.

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Organic strawberry fields in Watsonville, Calif. (Greg Peck)

People buy organic produce because they believe it is more environmentally responsible, more healthful and tastes better than produce grown conventionally. When it comes to strawberries, turns out they’re right.

new study of 13 pairs of conventional and organic California strawberry farms over two seven-month growing seasons in 2004 and 2005 revealed that organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil more healthful and genetically diverse. In a surprising twist, the organic strawberries also had a longer shelf life than the other varieties.

The study, published Wednesday, is among the most comprehensive of its kind nationwide. To date, most research has looked at either organic farming’s impact on nutrition or the soil – not both. “There is no paper in the literature that comprehensively and quantitatively compares so many indices of both food and soil quality at multiple sampling times on so many commercial farms,” said lead researcher John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil, science and agroecology

Reganold said the research team chose to study strawberries because the berries are near the top of the list of produce that retains pesticide residues. According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberriesrank third out of 50 popular fruits and vegetables. In a single sample of conventionally grown strawberries, researchers found 13 kinds of pesticides.

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Camilo Mondragon, who runs a small farm in Watsonville, has never heard of Nate Beriau. But Mr. Beriau, a chef at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, goes out of his way to buy fresh strawberries from Mr. Mondragon.

“They taste great,” Mr. Beriau says. “I want a strawberry that tastes like a strawberry.”

Mr. Mondragon and Mr. Beriau are two links in a fragile new supply chain known as the San Francisco Foodshed Project, which was launched in July by several nonprofits and business groups to connect small, local farmers with diners within a few hours’ drive. The effort is part of a burgeoning movement nationwide in which nonprofits and businesses are trying to find viable models for distributing food locally.

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On 10/10/10, the planet is getting to work on climate change with 2800+ events in 150+ countries.

There will be a  Global Work Party to involve people in positive actions in their local communities to demonstrate how we can sharply reduce and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases and move back below the dangerous tipping point of 350 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere.

A worldwide shift of agriculture from chemical-intensive factory farms and industrial monocultures to organic practices could drastically reduce CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane emissions, and sequester a critical mass of carbon back in the soil, where it belongs. That’s why the Organic Consumer Association and 350.org are encouraging people to spend 10/10/10 working on a community garden or an organic farm in your local area.

Learn more about what’s happening!

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Around 1 million people in South Africa—the majority of whom are recent arrivals from the former apartheid homelands, Transkei and Ciskei— live in the shacks that make up Khayelitsha, Nyanga and the area surrounding the Cape Flats outside Cape Town.  Just under half, or 40 percent, of the population is unemployed, while the rest barely earn enough income to feed their families.

In Xhosa, the most common language found in the area, the word ablalimi means “the planters”. Through partnerships with local grassroots organizations, the aptly named, Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit organization working with the people living in these informal settlements, is helping to create a community of planters who can feed the township.

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