Archive for January, 2011

The members of La Vía Campesina, coming from 29 Mexican states and 36 countries from all over the world, and hundreds of national and international organizations, join our thousands of struggles in Cancun to demand of the United Nations Conference of the Parts on Climate Change, (COP 16), environmental justice and respect for Mother Earth; to denounce the ambitious attempts of governments – principally from the North – to commercialize all elements of life to benefit transnational corporations; and to get to know the thousands of solutions that the people have to cool the planet and stop the environmental devastation that today is seriously threatening humanity.


We denounce that governments continue to be indifferent in the face of the warming of the planet and instead of debating the necessary political changes to cool it, they debate over speculative financial business, the new green economy and the privatization of the commons.


The results of the official meeting, which took place between November 29th and the early morning of December 11th, are horrible news for peasant and working families, for all of humanity and for nature. Instead of confronting the climate crisis, the resolutions in Cancun will only worsen it, as they failed to establish binding agreements to reduce greenhouse gases and obligatory goals to reduce emissions; instead they strengthened carbon markets.


  • To promote these markets, they pushed forward different instruments such as the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) which we have denounced as false solutions. Through Clean Development Mechanisms, industrialized countries and multinationals can continue contaminating in their places of origin and still fulfill their emissions reduction goals through carbon certificates financing “clean development” projects in other places. CDM projects are also highly polluting and cause great environmental and social devastation, since projects such as large dams, methane recovery from industrial farming, massive dumps and plantations, etc. fall into that category. REDD inserts forests and agricultural land (if we are considering REDD plus) into the carbon market to benefit transnationals, and it poses a threat as the greatest land grab of all time. REDD means the privatization of forests, the expulsion of communities from their land and financial speculation.


  • A climate fund was also created, which will be administrated by the World Bank, although no money was promised (“mobilizing resources” is the only thing that has been discussed). This fund will not only be composed of public funds, but will also include private funds from transnational companies and transactions within the carbon markets.


  • A technology committee will be formed to facilitate the broad participation of transnationals and industry who will be able to impose their technologies without any type of environmental or social evaluation, and without questioning intellectual property or patents.


To summarize, the text that was agreed upon is a better-revised version of the Copenhagen agreement.


In Cancun, the business and nature speculation agenda triumphed, while they systematically threw out the demands that emerged from the World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, where some 35,000 participants from all over the world attended.


The agenda imposed in Cancun is that of the banks and investment funds, of the major gas, petroleum, carbon, electricity and automotive companies, of the agribusiness corporations and others who, as they propose to speculate on the climate and nature, are leading the whole world to the brink of a great catastrophe with irreversible effects.


The peasants of La Vía Campesina reject and disavow the results of Cancun, and we denounce and regret that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is quickly becoming a platform that legitimizes, broadens and creates the base for a new global economic order: Green Capitalism.


But in Cancun another meeting of social movements came together around the climate and systemic crises, and resistance struggles were strengthened and formed bonds. The mobilizations towards Cancun began in November 28th as a joint effort with La Vía Campesina and our allies the National Assembly of People Affected by the Environment, the National Liberation Movement and the Mexican Electricians Union, who organized three caravans that left from San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara and Acapulco and passed through some of the territories most emblematic of environmental devastation as well as the struggles and alternatives in these affected communities. Along these routes hundreds of towns and people opened their doors to us with generosity and solidarity. On November 30th we arrived in Mexico City with our caravans, we celebrated an International Forum and a march accompanied by thousands of people and hundreds of organizations that also struggle for social and environmental justice.


On our journey to Cancun other caravans, one from Chiapas, another from Oaxaca and one from Guatemala, after many long hours of traveling, met us in Merida to celebrate a ceremony at Chichen Itza and finally arrive in Cancun on December 3rd to install our camp for Life and Social and Environmental Justice, open our Forum and begin our week of struggle in Cancun. We hosted panels and conferences, workshops, assemblies, public demonstrations in city neighborhoods, meetings with our allies and a global action called “the thousands of Cancuns” which echoed across the planet and made it to the very rooms of the Moon Palace where the official meeting of the COP 16 was held. The march on December 7th united thousands of members of La Vía Campesina with our international and national allied organizations. Beyond manifesting our positions and demonstrating that we peasants are the ones cooling the planet, we backed the Bolivian and Tuvalu governments who are committed to the rights of Mother Earth.


As Vía Campesina we demand:


  • Resume the principles of the Peoples’ Accord in Cochabamba.
  • Establish a binding agreement to reduce by 50 percent greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries by 2017.
  • Allocate 6% of developed countries’ GDP to finance actions against the Climate Crisis in countries of the global south.
  • Total respect for Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Rights of Climate Migrants.
  • The formation of an International Tribunal for Climate Justice.
  • State policies to promote and strengthen sustainable peasant agriculture and food sovereignty.


From la Vía Campesina we make a call to assume collective responsibility for Mother Earth, proposing for ourselves to change production and consumption patterns that have provoked the crisis on this planet; to defend the commons and stop their privatization; to redouble efforts, to work intensively to inform, educate, organize and articulate to build a social force that can stop the tendency to convert the grave problems of the climate crisis into business opportunities and that can promote the thousands of peoples’ solutions; to revise and construct new spaces for international alliances; to prepare ourselves for the global referendum for the rights of Mother Earth and the real alternatives to the Climate Crisis; to prepare the second World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth; to promote the “thousands of Durban” and to arrive in 2012, at the Rio Summit plus 20, with a growing force.


No more harm to our Mother Earth!

No more destruction of the planet!

No more evictions from our territories!

No more death to the sons and daughters of Mother Earth!

No more criminalization of our struggles!

No to the Copenhagen agreement. Yes to the Cochabamba principles!






La Via Campesina
Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Born in 1993, La Via Campesina now gathers about 150 organisations in 70 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

International Operational Secretariat:
Jln. Mampang Prapatan XIV no 5 Jakarta Selatan, Jakarta 12790 Indonesia
Tel/fax: +62-21-7991890/+62-21-7993426
Email: viacampesina@viacampesina.org




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In a precedent-setting final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges for the first time that GE contamination of organic and conventionally grown crops presents a huge problem in the U.S.  Yet, the document falls woefully short of proving that GE alfalfa is safe for the environment or that it will afford all farmers their fair share of the US agricultural economy.  In fact, the EIS sorely lacks the type of rigorous scientific data and analysis that the public expects from the Agency to justify going forward with any type of deregulation of GE alfalfa.

That is why we are calling on our supporters to urge USDA to adopt a moratorium on the planting of GE alfalfa.

Read more and sign petition.


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In the 1990s, Monsanto found an ingenious way to sell large quantities of its broad-spectrum toxic herbicide RoundUp to farmers. The company’s scientists gene-spliced corn, soy, cotton, and canola with foreign DNA, enabling these “Frankencrops” to survive massive doses of RoundUp. Farmers could now repeatedly spray their fields with RoundUp, killing weeds but not the crop. Unfortunately, the collateral damage of heavy RoundUp spraying includes groundwater pollution, toxic residues in crops, and destruction of essential soil microorganisms. The Genetically Modified (GM) crops themselves create herbicide-resistant Superweeds and spread genetic pollution to organic and non-GMO crops as well as plant relatives. Last but certainly not least, Monsanto’s GM foods have been linked to serious health damage – not only for animals, but humans as well.

Today, a major portion of cropland in the US is sown with Monsanto’s “RoundUp Ready” corn, soy, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Eighty percent of these GM crops are then sold as animal feed to the nation’s 125,000 factory farms or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that produce most of the non-organic meat, dairy, or eggs sold in grocery stores or served in restaurants, schools, and hospitals. The other 20% of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organisms are laced into non-organic processed foods (soy lecithin, corn or sugar beet sweeteners, cooking oils, etc.) that are found in every grocery store aisle.

There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the US spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases. Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, US factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Low fruit and vegetable consumption is directly costing the United States $56 billion a year in diet-related chronic diseases.

Monsanto’s GM crops are highly profitable for the food industry, turning cheap, federally subsidized, genetically engineered crops and GE-fed animals into cheap, ubiquitous, junky foods. But from the standpoint of public health and environmental sustainability, Monsanto and their factory farm collaborators are nothing less than merchants of disease and death.

A critical mass of consumers would turn away from GMOs and Factory Farmed meat, dairy, and eggs – if they knew what they were eating. Please join and support OCA in our new Truth-in-Labeling campaign.


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On Tuesday, January 4, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, marking the end of the bill’s tumultuous road to passage and the beginning of what may prove to be another lengthy road to correctly implement and fund its provisions.

As reported in a number of previous blog posts, the bill – if funded – will be the first major overhaul of food safety regulations in nearly a century.  It provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to increase risk-based inspections, require mandatory recalls of tainted food, and more effectively trace foodborne illness outbreaks to their source.

For nearly two years, NSAC and other family farm advocates at the grassroots and in DC helped lead efforts to win small and mid-size farm amendments to the legislation. The bill is far from perfect, but several NSAC-backed amendments assure protections and size-appropriate alternatives from cumbersome, one-size-fits-all regulations for smaller farms and processors and for local and regional food systems, as well as some protections for wildlife and natural resource conservation and for organic farming.

Read more about this.


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Preserving the health in the soil while eliminating weeds.

Jeff Moyer has been farm manager/director at the Rodale Institute for more than 28 years, has served as chair of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board, and is a founding board member of Pennsylvania Certified Organic. He has also been working on perfecting an organic no-till system that reduces and even eliminates both tillage and the herbicides on which most no-till systems are dependent.

We’ve shared the challenges and successes of the experiences of Jeff and our research team on the website and at conferences nationwide, including free plans for the cover crop crimper/roller we use here at the Institute. But, Jeff has received so many questions over the years, he decided to write a book, Organic No-Till Farming. We cornered Jeff in his office here at the Institute and talked to him about the book, the system, and the state of agriculture in general.

“As a human being, you can hold your breath for 2 or 3 minutes, but that is not a sustainable respiratory system. For the last 100 years, ag has been holding its breath.”

~ Jeff Moyer
Tell me about organic no-till and how you came to write the book.

Well, you really need to read the book for the whole story but there are some simple nuts and bolts of organic no-till. Tillage is the primary tool organic farmers have to manage weeds in their production systems. But, we have known for a long time that we can use mulch to eliminate annual weeds from our gardens. So, the question became how can we use this technology on a field scale? The trick is to grow the mulch right in the field. So, the system is based on the use of cover crops and biology to manage weeds without tillage. With the invention of some unique equipment to mount on tractors we can manage the cover crops to create a mulch.


Read the rest of this article.


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The Director of Food Services at Rodale, Inc. talks about the challenges of sourcing sustainably, what every farmer should know about selling direct to chefs, and serendipity.

By Amanda Kimble-Evans


“In the last two years especially there have been tremendous strides in sustainable commercial kitchen equipment, environmentally friendly disposables, availability of organic foods and so on.”

~ Leah Nichols

How did you get into the food service industry and what led you to Rodale, Inc.?

I grew up on farms and had a grandmother who was a queen in the kitchen. Her extended family used to get together to make German sausage and other things, so food was always a big part of family life and something I loved. My aunt and Mum worked for a food service company when I was young and I started out with a temp job in food service when I was in high school. It just got in my blood and I could never escape the kitchen no matter how hard I tried.

Read the rest of this article.

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From:   THE SCOOP – January 2011 Organic Center Newsletter


The long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa was released by USDA on Thursday, December 16, 2010. The 2,300 page document identifies and analyzes three options – disapproval, approval without restrictions, and approval with restrictions to prevent gene flow from RR alfalfa to non-GM seed production fields. The first option was ruled out as unacceptable.

Potential impacts on the organic farming sector, and especially seed producers and organic dairy farmers, are evaluated in some detail in the EIS and its technical appendices, and were found to be modest and/or manageable.

In discussing the RR alfalfa EIS in a press call on December 16th, Secretary Vilsack said that “we don’t want to have judges say who can farm and who cannot…” In other press comments, the Secretary has emphasized the need to address and resolve the issues leading to litigation over emerging GE crops.

Earlier in the week, USDA officials invited a number of leaders in the organic community, including the CEOs of Organic Valley, Whole Foods, Stonyfield, UNFI, and OTA, to attend an “important” meeting December 20th in Washington, D.C. with representatives of the alfalfa and biotechnology industries.

The purpose of the meeting, attended by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, and several other senior USDA officials, was to explore “common ground” on how to provide for the peaceful co-existence of farmers planting GE alfalfa seeds, farmers growing conventional alfalfa, and organic farmers and food companies.

Coming just four days after the release of the RR alfalfa EIS, there was intense interest, and a degree of concern over this meeting among all stakeholder groups.

About 45 individuals attended the three-hour meeting. Secretary Vilsack explained that the USDA needed help from the alfalfa, biotech, and organic communities in identifying practical ways to achieve and sustain peaceful co-existence after approval of RR alfalfa. He said that in the absence of concrete ideas regarding how to move forward, all constituencies would have to accept what the Department decides upon when USDA issues its final decision later this winter.

The meeting included many remarkable comments and exchanges. Secretary Vilsack stated that the science case in support of RR alfalfa was not as strong and clear-cut as the biotech industry believes. He also stated that the legal foundation for USDA approval was not as solid as proponents claim, given the scope and nature of the possible adverse impacts and outcomes documented in the EIS.

In making this point, the Secretary was acknowledging USDA’s view that a decision to approve RR alfalfa, even with conditions, would likely be challenged in a new round of litigation, and that it would be a mistake to assume that the Department would win on the merits.

One representative of the biotech industry asked what the co-existence problem was and expressed the view that biotech, conventional, and organic farmers were getting along just fine now. He asked for evidence of real harm. Fred Kirschenmann participated in the meeting via speaker phone, and replied with a concrete example.

His farm in Windsor, North Dakota had made about $60,000 in net returns from the sale of organic canola annually for many years. When Roundup Ready canola was first introduced in North Dakota in the mid-1990s, Fred consulted with extension specialists, who said a two-mile buffer area should be sufficient to prevent gene flow from RR canola into his certified organic canola fields. He worked successfully with neighbours for a few years, and maintained such separation distances, but as RR canola became more popular, it became impossible to sustain such separation distances.

About the same time, buyers of Kirschenmann’s crop started asking for annual assurances that his canola crop was not contaminated with the RR gene. Without resorting to costly testing, the only way that a farmer can provide such assurance is to get a certificate or affidavit from his or her seed supplier stating that the company’s organic seed is free from GE contamination.

Once RR canola had gained significant market share and was widely grown in all parts of North America where canola is raised and seed produced, Kirschenmann was no longer able to find a seed dealer willing or able to make such a claim. And so, this market was lost.

The last part of the meeting focused on setting up a series of task forces to address the core issues – alfalfa hay and organic dairy, assuring purity of the organic alfalfa seed supply, and the true “hot potato,” how to cover the costs of ongoing monitoring and contamination episodes, i.e. a compensation mechanism.

Representatives of the organic community pledged to work with the Secretary in getting these task forces up and running, and expressed hope that some progress could be made.

A few of the alfalfa industry represents agreed to participate in the task forces, although no biotech industry participants did so during the meeting. After the meeting, one representative of the biotech industry said that he was “stunned” by what he had just heard and experienced. While most biotech industry representatives had little to say during the meeting, many were observed taking copious notes.



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THE SCOOP – January 2011 Organic Center Newsletter

A team of U.S. and Brazilian scientist have determined that applications of glyphosate herbicide on an early maturing variety of Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans dramatically reduces rates of photosynthesis and also decreases water use efficiency (WUE).

The paper explains that farmers have been reporting unexpected drought stress in some RR soybean fields, and that visual signs of plant stress are often observed following glyphosate applications. In additional, applications of glyphosate significantly impair plant nutritional status, because certain minerals in the soil become less bioavailable to root systems.

The research was carried out in the summer of 2008 at the State University of Maringa, Brazil.

Depending on the growth stage and rate of glyphosate application, rates of photosynthesis in glyphosate-resistant (GR) soybeans were reduced by 10% to 100%. A single, high-dose application reduced photosynthesis more so than the same amount of glyphosate applied over two applications.

According to the research team, “the volume of water that non-treated GR soybean plants required to produce 1 g of dry biomass is 204% and 152% less than required when the plant is exposed to 2400 g a.e. per hectare.”

Placing this remarkable finding into perspective, the scientists concluded that –

“GR soybean plants receiving a single application of the currently recommended rates of glyphosate (600-1200 g a.e. per hectare) needed 13-20% more water to produce the same amount of dry biomass than non-glyphosate treated plants.”

“Effects of glyphosate or its metabolites on WUE explains why GR soybean plants treated with glyphosate are more sensitive to drought and less efficient in converting water into biomass compared to GR plants that do not receive glyphosate.”

Source: Zobiole, L.H.S., et al., “Water use efficiency and photosynthesis of glyphosate-resistant soybean as affected by glyphosate,” Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, Vol. 97, 2010: pages 182-193

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In the January 5th post below, Eliot Coleman, the Maine farmer, educator and author of seminal books on organic farming, gave this parting advice:  “Vote with your dollars.”  He firmly believes that the entire agricultural cycle begins with individuals deciding what they will and won’t eat.  “You’re in charge.”

Here’s an organization that is taking this to a new level:

We are a network of people who want our spending to make a difference.

Carrotmob asks businesses to compete: Who will make the biggest change to their business in order to improve the world? The winner gets a reward: Our network will show up and spend money to support them. We can entice businesses to make social and environmental improvements if we give them a financial benefit for doing what we want. It’s the opposite of a boycott. Today we do community campaigns, and when enough people join we’ll have the power to change the largest companies in the world.

Learn more by watching Carrot Mob’s two videos.




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The scientific community has long agreed that our dependence on fossil fuels inflicts massive damage on the environment and our health, while warming the globe in the process. But beyond the damage these fuels cause to us now, what will happen when the world’s supply of oil runs out?

Peak Oil is the point at which petroleum production reaches its greatest rate just before going into perpetual decline. In “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate,” a new video series from The Nation and On The Earth productions, radio host Thom Hartmann explains that the world will reach peak oil within the next year if it hasn’t already. As a nation, the United States reached peak oil in 1974, after which it became a net oil importer.

Bill McKibben, Noam Chomsky, Nicole Foss, Richard Heinberg and the other scientists, researchers and writers interviewed throughout “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” describe the diminishing returns our world can expect as it deals with the consequences of peak oil even as it continues to pretend it doesn’t exist. These experts predict substantially increased transportation costs, decreased industrial production, unemployment, hunger and social chaos as the supplies of the fuels on which we rely dwindle and eventually disappear.

Read the rest of the article and see the video.


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