Archive for December, 2010

Amy Goodman on Democracy Now interviews Claudia Salerno,Venezuela’s lead climate change negotiator, comments on the media’s lack of coverage of the talks, interviews small farmers at the alternative Global Forum for LIfe and Environmental and Social Justice, and talks to Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solon about the secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that reveal new details about how the United States manipulated last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen.  Former Irish President Mary Robinson talks about the need for a global climate fund that will help poor people protect themselves from the growing threats of global warming.

See or listen to the program.

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Sign the petition today.

Join us in telling the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it is misleading for companies to classify genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as “Natural” or “Green.” We have untilDecember 10th to let the FTC know, as they are revising their Green Guides.

Genetic engineering doesn’t happen in nature. Scientists force genes from bacteria and viruses into plant DNA, which result in dangerous side effects. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine urges all doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets to everyone.

GMOs are not “Green.” GMOs use far more herbicides, damage soil and marine ecology, harm beneficial insects, and cross pollinate. Their self-propagating genetic pollution will outlast the effects of climate change and nuclear waste!

Tell Quaker, Kellogg’s and others: “Stop misleading us”

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Fourth-generation Ruesch Century Farm is surrounded by a shrinking dairying community, but their small-scale organic cranberry marsh is growing.

By Amanda Kimble-Evans

Ruesch Century Farm (www.organic-cranberries.com) has more than one claim to fame. They’re a 131-year old family farm that has seen four generations working the land, they were the first certified organic cranberry farm in Wisconsin, and they hand-rake their cranberry beds with a modernized version of an historical tool. We caught up with Brian Ruesch to hear more about how and why they do what they do.

What made you decide to grow cranberries organically?

As a young man, my father harvested cranberries for the big growers in Wood County, Wisconsin—the largest cranberry producing county in the world. He paid for this farm through his hard work on those cranberry farms.

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John Stossel’s recent roundtable segment on synthetic chemicals used in agricultural production was loaded with misinformation. While every American has the right to free speech, they also have the right to facts, particularly when their health is concerned. Here is the truth about just a few of the outrageous lies uttered during this program.

First, what are we really talking about? Pesticides, hormones, chemicals. Everyone is throwing these words around. What organic activists are fighting against are synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and other –cides that have been manufactured to kill and that have been shown to make us sick.

Claim  #1: Cancer rates aren’t going up, so chemicals don’t make us sick.

The President’s recent cancer panel (released under Obama by doctors picked by Bush) explored the connection between environmental chemicals and cancer. Their final report urged Americans to avoid these synthetic chemicals as much as possible because there is strong evidence that they greatly increase the risk of cancer.

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DR. PRESTON MARING was striding along a hospital corridor at double speed on a recent Friday morning, his tall frame, white hair and frequent gesticulations prompting waves of greetings from colleagues, who also took care to sidestep his forward momentum. His destination was the weekly farmers’ market he started in 2003, just outside the front door at the Kaiser Permanente medical center here.

“Since it’s mine, I made the rules — all organic,” he said as he skimmed by a line of stalls where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold to hospital workers, passers-by and even, he said, those bringing patients to the emergency room.

Dr. Maring, 64, a gynecologist and obstetrician with three decades as a surgeon, is well known as a former physician in chief at the hospital, the man who spearheaded the creation of its new pediatricneurosurgery unit.

But increasingly, his reputation and perpetual motion revolve around his conviction that in the health professions, the kitchen must become as crucial as the clinic. Food is at the center of health and illness, he argues, and so doctors must make all aspects of it — growing, buying, cooking, eating — a mainstay of their medical educations, their personal lives and their practices.

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the destruction of plantings of genetically modified sugar beets developed by Monsanto Co after ruling previously the U.S. Agriculture Department illegally approved the biotech crop.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in August banned the planting and sales of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” biotech sugar beets after determining that their approval in 2005 by the USDA was illegal. He said the government must conduct a thorough environmental review before approving the crop to comply with the law.
But shortly after the ruling, the USDA issued permits allowing companies to plant seedlings to produce seed for future GMO sugar beet crops.
In his ruling Tuesday Judge White said those seedlings “shall be removed from the ground.”
Earthjustice, a consumer group that brought the case against the USDA and had asked the judge to order the young plants be destroyed, said the action was the first court-ordered destruction of a GMO crop.


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THE world is planting a vigorous new crop: “agro-pessimism”, or fear that mankind will not be able to feed itself except by wrecking the environment. The current harvest of this variety of whine will be a bumper one. Natural disasters—fire in Russia and flood in Pakistan, which are the world’s fifth- and eighth-largest wheat producers respectively—have added a Biblical colouring to an unfolding fear of famine. By 2050 world grain output will have to rise by half and meat production must double to meet demand. And that cannot easily happen because growth in grain yields is flattening out, there is little extra farmland and renewable water is running short.

The world has been here before. In 1967 Paul Ehrlich, a Malthusian, wrote that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over… In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” Five years later, in “The Limits to Growth”, the Club of Rome (a group of business people and academics) argued that the world was running out of raw materials and that societies would probably collapse in the 21st century.

A year after “The Limits to Growth” appeared, however, and at a time when soaring oil prices seemed to confirm the Club of Rome’s worst fears, a country which was then a large net food importer decided to change the way it farmed. Driven partly by fear that it would not be able to import enough food, it decided to expand domestic production through scientific research, not subsidies. Instead of trying to protect farmers from international competition—as much of the world still does—it opened up to trade and let inefficient farms go to the wall. This was all the more remarkable because most of the country was then regarded as unfit for agricultural production. The country was Brazil.

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About this debate

For years advocates of agricultural biotechnology, notably genetically modified (GM) crops, have been at loggerheads with proponents of organic farming and other sustainable farming techniques. GM and organic are regarded as opposite ends of the farming spectrum. The former is usually characterised as high-tech, dominated by large seed companies and favouring large-scale industrial farming; the latter is seen as more traditional, less dominated by corporate interests and favouring small farms.

But the two camps have much in common. Trying to produce higher yields while using fewer chemicals, the aim of much GM research, is also the aim of organic farming. Both camps are looking for new ways to produce food that minimise environmental impact, can cope with climate change and can be scaled across the developing world. So it seems reasonable that advocates of sustainable agriculture should be open to the use of GM technology to achieve these aims, while fans of the high-tech approach should concede that they can learn a lot from traditional agricultural practices. Is it possible for these very different approaches to work together, or are the differences in philosophy too great to be overcome?

Read more and find out the results of the debate.

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A recent Citizen’s Jury, comprised of West African farmers, has called for agricultural research based on ecological practices, notgenetically modified organisms. The Citizen’s Jury is an innovative approach to problem solving that allows ordinary farmers to have a voice in the policy process. Adopted in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the approach works to democratize food systems throughout the world. The latest Citizen’s Jury was the continuation of a 2006 deliberation in Mali in which participants rejected the use of GMOs. It was comprised of forty jurors from four different West African countries selected to represent a wide range of interests and views. After weighing the evidence from all sides of the debate, the verdict was clear: Participants called for increased research on ecological farming practices that incorporated local seed varieties. They asked that research objectives both serve farmers and be set by farmers. Most importantly, jurors wanted to be better informed about the changing legislative landscape so they could ensure that policies reflected their needs. This citizen’s jury was a resounding rejection of the idea that African farmers want, or need, GMOs. To learn more about citizen’s juries and the latest decisions from West Africa, check out the IIED report Democratising Agricultural Research for Food Soveriegnty in West Africa.


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