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Archive for January, 2011

Last week President Obama and Secretary Vilsack approved Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa despite overwhelming public protest. This move fundamentally undermines the organic industry, especially organic meat and dairy. In approving GMO alfalfa the Obama administration has caved to Monsanto and made it harder for family farmers to make a living and for consumers wanting to eat safe, healthy foods.

This decision is a devastating blow to our democracy and the basic rights of farmers to choose how they want to grow food on their land and protect the rights of consumers who are increasingly buying organic and sustainably grown food for its positive health and environmental impacts. Please join us in telling President Obama that you’re deeply disappointed in his decision and want a ban on GMO alfalfa.

 

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The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must.”   –  Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods MarketOrganic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

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A leaked document from the EPA shows that the agency has knowingly allowed a highly toxic pesticide for bees, to be sold and used nationwide by Bayer, the third-largest producer of pesticides in the world.

Below is an except from Tom Philpott’s in-depth Grist.org article on the recent leak which came into the hands of a Colorado beekeeper.

“An internal EPA memo released Wednesday confirms that the very agency charged with protecting the environment is ignoring the warnings of its own scientists about clothianidin, a pesticide from which Bayer racked up €183 million (about $262 million) in sales in 2009.”

Shocking is the clarity of their scientists language in the leaked study itself–

“Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis.”

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Our search for rootedness has brought us back to the Philippines, back to communities in the south where Robin spent a year over three decades ago.

We spend time with the family of a rice farmer, Delia, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Delia, her husband Romulo, two daughters, one son, and three grandchildren live in a simple but roomy house on the edge of their rice field. Behind the house is a tilapia-filled fish pond with papaya trees growing on one side. A few pigs are housed by the fish pond, and fifteen chickens have free range of the property. Vitamin-rich greens grow at the far edge of the pond, and two towering jackfruit trees provide shade as well as ingredients for delicious meals. Theirs is an example of what we call a “rooted” life; among other things, they eat mainly what they grow and raise.

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Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley on Gross National Happiness, his country’s traditions, and the importance of democracy.

Bhutan has pioneered the use of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of progress, instead of the more commonly used GNP. GNH measures not only economic activity, but also cultural, ecological, and spiritual well-being.

YES! Magazine Contributing Editor Madhu Suri Prakash attended a meeting of educators from around the world, convened by the government of Bhutan in December 2009, to encourage them to make the happiness of all people the central organizing principle of their philosophy of education. In September 2010, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley visited the United States to promote GNH education and economic theory. Madhu was granted an interview with the prime minister at the Pennsylvania State University, hours after he received the university’s highest honor as a distinguished alumnus.


Jigmi Thinley portrait

Madhu Suri Prakash: Ten months ago, you welcomed educators from different continents with moving words about promoting the happiness of your people and spreading the idea of Gross National Happiness to other nations. What help does Bhutan need to achieve its aspirations?

 

Prime Minister Thinley: I don’t think, by way of material support, Bhutan is really in need of much, especially in respect to the pursuit of GNH. But outside perception, positive perception and expression of moral support—making the people of Bhutan feel that they are doing the right thing—is a great source of inspiration and help. I am encouraged by the growing interest in this philosophy of development, or alternative development paradigm, as more and more people see it.

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California’s Sixth Appellate District Court upheld the right of Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo to sue Western Farm Service for damages caused four years ago when organophosphate residues moved via fog from nearby conventional vegetable fields onto Jacobs Farm organic herbs destined for Whole Foods.

This precedent-setting decision has significant ramifications for all organic farmers, nearby conventional farmers, and both the seed and biotechnology industries. In short, the court upheld the right of an organic farmer to sue and win damages to cover economic losses even when a conventional production input (in this case, insecticides) is applied legally and in accord with all requirements.

In short, when an applicator applies a pesticide, the applicator henceforth owns responsibility for any adverse impacts associated with the application. In many similar cases involving pesticide drift or off-target movement, applicators and/or farmers have successfully used the defence that they followed the label, and hence should not be held accountable.

The agrichemical industry hired top-notch attorneys and submitted amicus briefs before the appellate court in the hope of overturning the decision. They were unsuccessful, and must now decide whether to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.

Source: Kurtis Alexander, “Appeals court: Organic farm can seek damages from pesticide company,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 22, 2010

 

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Let It Burn

“A fabulous Easter gift,” commented Monsanto Director of Development Initiatives Elizabeth Vancil. Nearly 60,000 seed sacks of hybrid corn seeds and other vegetable seeds were donated to post-earthquake Haiti by Monsanto. In observance of World Environment Day, June 4, 2010, roughly 10,000 rural Haitian farmers gathered in Papaye to march seven kilometers to Hinche in celebration of this gift. Upon arrival, these rewarded farmers took their collective Easter baskets of more than 400 tons of vegetable seeds and burned them all.[i] “Long live the native maize seed!” they chanted in unison. “Monsanto’s GMO [genetically modified organism] & hybrid seed violate peasant agriculture!”

According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, coordinator of the Papay Peasant Movement (MPP), “there is presently a shortage of seed in Haiti because many rural families used their maize seed to feed refugees.”[ii] Like any benevolent disaster capitalist corporation, Monsanto extended a hand in a time of crisis to the 65 percent of the population that survives off of subsistence agriculture. But not just any hand was extended in this time of great need, rather: a fistful of seeds. The extended fist was full of corn seeds, one of Haiti’s staple crops, treated with the fungicide Maxim XO. With similar benevolence, not just any tomato seeds were donated to the agrarian peasants, but tomato seeds treated with Thiram, a chemical so toxic the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled it too toxic to sell for home garden use, further mandating that any agricultural worker planting these seeds must wear special protective clothing.[iii] Happy Easter! Monsanto’s web site’s official explanation for this toxic donation is that “fungicidal seed treatments are often applied to seeds prior to planting to protect them from fungal diseases that arise in the soil and hamper the plant’s ability to germinate and grow. The treatments also provide protection against diseases the seed might pick up in transfer between countries.”[iv] However, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, “repeated exposure [to Thiram] can affect the kidneys, liver and thyroid gland. High or repeated exposure may damage the nerves.”[v]Why would Monsanto be so eager to donate seeds that could potentially compromise the health of so many famished people?

 

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