Archive for December, 2010

The former United States ambassador to France suggested “moving to retaliation” against France and the European Union (EU) in late 2007 to fight a French ban on Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) corn and changes in European policy toward biotech crops, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks on Sunday.

Former Ambassador Craig Stapleton was concerned about France’s decision to suspend cultivation of Monsanto’s MON-810 corn and warned that a new French environmental review standard could spread anti-biotech policy across the EU.

“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits,” Stapleton wrote to diplomatic colleagues.

President George W. Bush appointed Stapleton as ambassador to France in 2005, and in 2009, Stapleton left the office and became an owner of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Bush and Stapleton co-owned the Texas Rangers during the 1990s.

Monsanto is based in St. Louis.

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So far, the world has always managed to meet the challenge of food productivity. In fact, today we have 25% oversupply measured in calories after losses. The challenge is to provide access to food for the poor. The strategy of ecological intensification using organic principles and practices is a new paradigm to feed the world while empowering the poor and mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss.

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Paul Nicholson, the EHNE’s Via Campesina representative, is a featured author in Food First’s upcoming book, Food Movements Unite! In a recent interview he shares his views on food sovereignty:

“Food sovereignty is a perspective for changing society and an alternative to the neoliberal policies, from a social and community perspective. This means that food sovereignty is much greater than food security. It’s the political right to control polices and the public goods and define what we eat from a social perspective, not just an individual one. And within the framework of neoliberal politics this is clearly not going to happen. The theory and practice of comparative advantage has resulted in the massive destruction of the rural world because it reduces everything to the criteria of competition without any basis for social or labor rights. At the same time, it generates environmental costs that are then socialized. We have to reveal that neoliberal policies are the causes of the poverty, exclusion, and misery that exist in the world. And although we know that neoliberal policies have failed in this day in age, they continue to drive models of production that are absolutely destructive. The response we can give to such policies is Food Sovereignty that brings together all movements: rural, urban, from the North and from the South. Food sovereignty as a right of the people is an integral demand for social movements from around the world.

We think that the new pathways and the new food and agriculture policies should be based on the kind of Food Sovereignty that is not just for farmers, but a collective right of the people. It is the right of citizens to determine food and agriculture policies, to decide what and how to produce and who produces. It is the right to public goods like water, land, and seeds. We need policies based on solidarity among citizens and between consumers and producers. We need to regulate markets because it is impossible to maintain agrarian policies based on market liberalization. We need socially sustainable, ecologically produced food that provides work for people everywhere.”

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While the U.N. climate talks in Cancún are reaching a critical stage, many delegates have begun looking toward the 2011 U.N. climate summit scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa. Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke speaks with one of the leading South African climate change activists, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International.

See the video.

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Imagine if trucks full of food stopped driving into your town or city every night. Or if the electricity grid went down for a while during the winter.

What would you eat?

Even those of us who grow lots of our own food might have to resort to factory-filled cans, victims of supermarket shelves emptied of fresh food in a manner of days.

But Glenn Beck-style pseudo-survivalism, or peak-oil-fueled fears aside, those who want to eat local just during the cold months also face challenges. In most places mid-winter, even committed locavores’ gardens are frostbitten and food co-ops are stocking foreign fruits and vegetables.

To keep produce fresh in the most low-carbon manner, people in the northeastern United States call on Chris Chaisson. His company, Vermont-based Whole Farm Services, offers farmers, gardeners, and communities an array of very old-school — now very hip — crop storage services. From root cellars to ice houses, these technologies may just become integral to a sustainable food future.

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Chris Chaisson in front of a house with solar panels


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The world’s family farmers and farm workers are ready to take action on climate change and they can do it quickly without new or expensive technologies.

The earth’s atmosphere is polluted with 390 ppm of CO2, well past the dangerous tipping point of 350 ppm.

If the world’s 12 billion acres of farms and rangelands were transitioned to organic, we could pull 50 ppm of that carbon down from the atmosphere and store it safely in the soil.

The Earth’s living soils hold three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. Before industrial agriculture and deforestation, these same soils stored twice as much carbon organic matter – six times the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today.

Using organic farming and ranching to put CO2 back where it belongs in the soil could mitigate greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 6 billion tons of carbon per year.

Here’s how it’s done.

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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Emails Disclose Numerous Environmental, Procedural Concerns; FDA may Approve Genetically Engineered Salmon as Soon as Nov. 23

Washington, DC – After submitting a Freedom of Information Act request, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch received numerous recent internal documents and emails from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) exposing startling concerns with AquaBounty salmon – a controversial genetically engineered (GE) fish the FDA may soon approve as the first GE food animal for human consumption.

The documents reveal that, as late as last month, the FDA had not adequately fulfilled a requirement under the Endangered Species Act to consult with both FWS and another federal agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to determine whether approval of AquaBounty’s salmon might impact wild, endangered Atlantic salmon.

“Nice work Greg,” Denise Hawkins, PhD, FWS Regional Geneticist wrote to a coworker in September. “Especially pointing out that there is no data to support the claims of low survival in the event of escape, which I agree with you all is a big concern.  I also agree…that using triploid fish [which AquaBounty claim have undergone a sterilization process] is not foolproof.  Maybe they [the FDA] should watch Jurassic Park.”

Despite AquaBounty’s claim to produce only sterile salmon, the company admitted that up to 5 percent of their GE salmon eggs could be fertile, prompting the FDA to label the company’s claims “potentially misleading”.


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It’s win-win-win: A new report finds that an organic dairy is better for 1) you, 2) the planet, 3) the cows.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—In 2006, a United Nations report raised some eyebrows when it found that cow flatulence accounts for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the tailpipe emissions from the transportation sector combined. A 2009 study out of the University of California–Davis put the number closer to 3 percent, but no matter which way you look at it, your cup of milk could be a significant source of pollution. To figure out which farming systems are more sustainable than others, a new report looking at four scenarios finds that grass-based, organic dairy farmers operate much more lightly on the planet, while often producing milk that’s healthier for people. It’s better for cows, too: They live significantly longer and under better conditions than chemical-based dairy operations.

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NOTE: This is only the latest in a series of major legal victories against GMOs!!

San Francisco, CA – Today Federal District Judge Jeffrey S. White issued a preliminary injunction ordering the immediate destruction of hundreds of acres of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet seedlings planted in September after finding the seedlings had been planted in violation of federal law.  The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety on behalf of a coalition of farmers, consumers, and conservation groups.  The lawsuit was filed on September 9, shortly after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed it had allowed the seedlings to be planted.


The court outlined the many ways in which GE sugar beets could harm the environment and consumers, noting that containment efforts were insufficient and past contamination incidents were “too numerous” to allow the illegal crop to remain in the ground. In his court order, Judge White noted, “farmers and consumers would likely suffer harm from cross-contamination” between GE sugar beets and non-GE crops. He continued, “the legality of Defendants’ conduct does not even appear to be a close question,” noting that the government and Monsanto tried to circumvent his prior ruling, which made GE sugar beets illegal.


Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said, “USDA thumbed its nose at the judicial system and the public by allowing this crop to be grown without any environmental review.  Herbicide resistant crops just like this have been shown to result in more toxic chemicals in our soil and water.  USDA has shown no regard for the environmental laws, and we’re pleased that Judge White ordered the appropriate response.”


Plaintiff Center for Food Safety’s Senior Staff Attorney George Kimbrell said, “Today’s decision is a seminal victory for farmers and the environment and a vindication of the rule of law.  The public interest has prevailed over USDA’s repeated efforts to implement the unlawful demands of the biotech industry.”

The plaintiffs—The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club—had immediately sought a court order to halt the planting.  On September 28 Judge White ruled that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by allowing the plantings without analyzing the potential environmental, health, and socioeconomic impacts of growing GE sugar beets.  Judge White heard testimony from the parties during a three-day hearing in November before issuing today’s ruling.


Monsanto created “Roundup Ready” crops to withstand its Roundup herbicide (with the active ingredient  glyphosate), which it then sells to farmers together with its patented seed, for which it charges farmers a substantial “technology fee.”  Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced it had opened a formal investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in Monsanto’s use of such patented crops.  Growing previous Roundup Ready crops such as soy, cotton, and corn have led to greater use of herbicides.  It also has led to the spread of herbicide resistant weeds on millions of acres throughout the United States and other countries where such crops are grown, and contamination of conventional and organic crops, which has been costly to U.S. farmers.  There is also evidence that such herbicide-resistant crops may be more susceptible to serious plant diseases.


In an earlier case the court ruled that USDA had violated NEPA by allowing the crop to be commercialized without first preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  In August the court made any future planting and sale unlawful until USDA complies with federal law.  (USDA has said it expects to complete an EIS in spring 2012.)  But almost immediately after the ruling, USDA issued permits allowing companies to plant seedlings to produce seed for future Roundup Ready sugar beet crops, even though the crops are still illegal to grow, and no EIS has been prepared.  The seed growers rushed to plant the seed crop in Oregon and Arizona, apparently hoping to outrun the legal action to stop it.  In this latest case, USDA argued that the seedlings were separate from the rest of the sugar beet crop cycle and had no impact by themselves, but Judge White rejected this.  He found that the law requires USDA to analyze the impacts of not only the seedlings, but the rest of the Roundup Ready sugar beet production process as well, before any part of that process can begin.


Courts have twice rescinded USDA’s approval of biotech crops. The first such crop, Roundup Ready alfalfa, is also illegal to plant, based on the vacating of its deregulation in 2007 pending preparation of an EIS.  Although Monsanto appealed that case all the way to the Supreme Court and the High Court set aside part of the relief granted, the full prohibition on its planting – based on the same initial remedy granted here, the vacatur – remains in place.


This case is Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. C10-04038 JSW (N.D. Cal. 2010). http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/SBII-ORDER-granting-preliminary-inj.pdf


It is often assumed by international parties that genetically modified (GM) crops have been eagerly adopted in the U.S. without effective opposition. This is incorrect. Over the past decade, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and a wide ranging coalition of consumer, farm and environmental organizations has used groundbreaking legal victories, market pressure and grassroots campaigns to halt the spread of GM crops in the U.S. and therefore potential spread of these crops internationally.


Since 2002, U.S. activists–lead by CFS–have successfully stopped the commercialization of GM wheat, rice, alfalfa, sugar beets, bent grass and “biopharm” crops (crops that have been engineered to produce pharmaceutical drugs) and GM food animals, including salmon. Most notably, in April 2010, CFS battled the agribusiness giant Monsanto in the U.S. Supreme Court. In June 2010, the Supreme Court announced its decision, in which CFS was victorious in maintaining the national ban on the planting and sale of GM alfalfa – so that it remains illegal to sell or plant this crop. Perhaps most importantly, the Supreme Court officially recognized that the threat of “biological pollution” – specifically the potential of GM crops to contaminate organic and conventional crops — was a justified and sufficient legal basis for farmers to sue the government and corporations who were responsible. This is of major importance as theU.S. highest court recognizes the damage that GMOs can cause to biodiversity and affirms that this harm can be the basis for wide ranging legal actions against government approval of such crops and corporations who market them.


CFS recently achieved another major victory in the courts – in August 2010, a federal court judge banned the sale and planting of GM sugar beets, following the court’s September 2009 decision that held the government’s approval of Monsanto’s pesticide promoting GE sugar beets “illegal.”  Additionally, on September 28, 2010, another federal court decision declared even the planting of GM sugar beet seedlings on a limited number of acres to be a violation of law. In lieu ofU.S. ratification of the CBD, these cases collectively represent a landmark body of national case law pioneered by CFS and others that protect the public, the environment, and farmers from the dangers of GM crops as well as preserve the public’s right to choose non-GM crops and food. These successful campaigns also mean that, internationally, the threat of export of contaminated wheat, rice, alfalfa, biopharmaceuticals, beets and GM animals has been significantly reduced or eliminated. (For brief summaries, citations and media on the recent legal victories in the U.S. halting the planting and sale of GM crops, please see our website: www.centerforfoodsafety.org).



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The Toledo Ecotourism Association (TEA) is a group of Mayan and Garifuna villages located in the rainforest and other endangered eco-systems in the southern part of Belize.  The mission of the TEA is to create jobs in the villages, keep tourism to a manageable level, and educate visitors about the beauty and value of the indigeous cultures and the environment that the native people inhabit.  To meet these goals, the TEA has several programs, one of which is Sustainable Agriculture — finding and practicing alternatives to slash and burn.  There is a video which tells more about TEA.

See the video

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