Maya Rivera Mazorco, Sergio Arispe Barrientos
LEA EL RESTO: http://alainet.org/active/28191
Este es un blog bilingüe fundado en mayo de 2004, dedicado a proveer perspectivas críticas sobre biotecnología y bioseguridad … This is a bilingual blog, founded in May 2004, dedicated to providing critical perspectives on biotechnology and biosafety. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fundamental change in farming practice is needed to counteract soaring food prices, hunger, social inequities and environmental disasters. Genetically modified (GM) crops are highly controversial and will not play a substantial role in addressing the challenges of climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger and poverty. Instead, small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods are the way forward; with indigenous and local knowledge playing as important a role as formal science. Furthermore, the rush to grow crops for biofuels could exacerbate food shortages and price rises.
These are the conclusions to the most thorough examination of global agriculture, on a scale comparable to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. Its final report, The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), was formally launched at a plenary in Johannesburg, South Africa on 15 April 2008 [1-3] and simultaneously released in London, Washington, Delhi, Paris, Nairobi and a number of other cities around the world.
The IAASTD is a unique collaboration initiated by the World Bank in partnership with a multi-stakeholder group of organisations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environmental Programme, the World Health Organisation and representatives of governments, civil society, private sector and scientific institutions from around the world . The actual report runs to 2 500 pages, and has taken more than 400 scientists 4 years to complete.
In one mighty stroke, it has swept aside years of corporate propaganda that served as a major diversion from urgent task of implementing sustainable food production for the world. As UK’s Daily Mail editorial commented : “For years, biotech companies have answered critics by insisting genetically modified crops are essential to bringing down food prices and feeding the world's hungry. Well, now we know they’re not.”
The plenary was marked by some perennial disagreement over biotechnology and trade. During a long debate over biotechnology, the meeting very nearly collapsed . The United States and Australian government delegates objected to the wording in the synthesis report that highlighted concerns over whether the use of GM in food is healthy and safe.
Syngenta and the other biotech and pesticide companies had already abandoned the assessment process late last year. The impasse at the plenary was broken when the two countries agreed to a footnote in the report indicating their reservations about the wording, and to accept the report as a whole, along with Canada and Swaziland, but without adopting the report.
GM biotechnology and trade had been thoroughly debated over the four-year IAASTD process, and the final wording reflected scientific evidence. The report says biotechnology has a role to play in future though it remains a contentious matter. It further notes that patenting of genes causes problems for farmers and researchers.
The other 60 countries represented at the plenary adopted the report.
Biotech companies, trade bodies and associated scientists have exploited the food crisis to step up their propaganda for GM crops. And the UK government’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has been exposed for misusing substantial public funds to support marketing GM crops to UK farmers and issuing a misleading press release on how UK farmers are “upbeat” about GM crops [11, 12] (Marketing Masquerading as Scientific Survey and "UK Farmers Upbeat about GM Crops" Debunked, SiS 38)
Professor Watson told the Daily Mail : “Are transgenics the simple answer to hunger and poverty? I would argue, no.”
He said much more research was needed to establish whether they offer benefits and do not harm the environment. The industrialisation of agriculture, of which GM is a part, has led to the heavy use of artificial fertilisers and other chemicals, and these have harmed the soil structure and polluted waterways. The leeching of the soil of essential minerals means food is less healthy than 60 years ago.
The IAASTD states : “Assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable.”
The authors also warned that the global rush to biofuels was not sustainable. “The diversion of crops to fuel can raise food prices and reduce our ability to alleviate hunger. The negative social effects risk being exacerbated in cases where small-scale farmers are marginalised or displaced from their land.”
Professor Janice Jiggins of Wageningen University, one of the scientists co-authoring the IAASTD, questioned whether GM crops have been proven as safe : “There are many legitimate concerns about the presence of transgenics in food, as well as the safety standards that might be appropriate as these enter into animal and human food,” she said.
Ecological Agriculture: Mitigating Climate Change, Providing Food Security And Self-Reliance For
Rural Livelihoods In Africa
AU Headquarters, Addis Ababa, 26-28 November 2008
CONCLUSIONS and RECOMMENDATIONS
The Conference on Ecological Agriculture: Mitigating Climate Change, Providing Food Security and Self-Reliance for Rural Livelihoods in Africa was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 26-28 November 2008. It was organised by the African Union (AU), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), Ethiopia and the Third World Network (TWN).
Over 80 participants from 15 African countries - Benin, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe - attended the Conference. The participants included policy makers, agriculture experts representing governments, NGOs, farmers’ organisations, and universities, and international and regional bodies such as the AU, FAO, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UNEP-UNCTAD CBTF, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and World Food Programme (WFP).
The Conference was preceded by a field visit to the Axum area in Tigray Region in northern Ethiopia on 23-25 November 2008, to visit some of the communities of smallholder farmers that the Tigray Regional Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia and ISD have been working with on ecological agriculture since 1996. This was an appropriate experience to help focus attention on the aspects of the ecosystem that can easily respond to appropriate management, so as to stimulate discussion on experiences relevant for raising agricultural production, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa.
The following are among the significant views, conclusions and recommendations expressed by participants during the Conference. Detailed recommendations from the Working Groups that discussed some of the issues in-depth are annexed to this report.
The Conference heard several presentations and discussed the challenges facing African agriculture, not least among them the global food crisis, climate change and the conflicts with inappropriate biofuels development. Moreover, land degradation and the consequential loss of soil fertility, which are exacerbated by pests and erratic rainfall associate with climate change, are major constraints to improving agricultural production in Africa. Consequently, many local communities in African countries are food insecure. Trade policies also have implications for African food security and rural development, which need to be addressed, to stop the worrying trend of food import dependency and increasing vulnerability to external shocks.
The steep rise in petroleum prices and the consequent increase in the cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are making it essential to improve soil fertility and agricultural productivity in Africa through effective management of the local resources that are found in the agricultural and surrounding ecosystems. Many diverse and creative ecological agriculture (including organic agriculture) practices based on rich traditional knowledge and agro-biodiversity are found in Africa. Where supported by appropriate research and policy, it has been shown that these have been effective in tackling poverty and improving livelihoods.
In addition, this opens up the opportunity for Africa’s smallholder farmers to become recognized as organic farmers producing for the growing global market fetching fair prices for their products. The global organic market growth has been about 15 per cent per year over the past decade. Internal markets for organic products are also developing rapidly, particularly where consumers are made aware of the improvements to health from eating organic food.
The Conference heard presentations on the potential of ecological agriculture, including organic agriculture, to meet food security needs in Africa. Concrete examples and lessons learnt were presented from several African countries on practices that have successfully increased productivity and yields of crops, provided ecologically sound pest, weed and disease control, resulted in better water availability, met household and local food security needs, increased household income and improved livelihood opportunities, especially for women who are the majority of Africa’s farmers. Other presentations focused on the potential of ecological agriculture to mitigate climate change, and to provide farmers with the means to adapt to climate change.
Participants discussed the need for appropriate national policies to support and build the capacity of farmers and agricultural professionals to implement and mainstream ecological/organic agriculture in Africa. Some of the major barriers and challenges to a transition to ecological agriculture were identified, and recommendations for charting the way forward in terms of policies, action plans and regional and international cooperation were made.
1. Ecological agriculture holds significant promise for increasing the productivity of Africa’s smallholder farmers, with consequent positive impacts on food security and food self-reliance. This is demonstrated by efforts such as the Tigray Project, now working with over 20 000 farming families in Ethiopia, where crop yields of major cereals and pulses have almost doubled using ecological agricultural practices such as composting, water and soil conservation activities, agroforestry and crop diversification. Although Tigray was previously known as one of the most degraded Regions of Ethiopia, yet over the 12 years of the introduction and expansion of ecological agriculture, the use of chemical fertilizers has steadily decreased while total grain production has steadily increased.
2. As most poor farmers, particularly in degraded lands and in market-marginalised areas, are not able to afford external inputs, the principles and approach of the Tigray Project, based on ecological agriculture, offer farmers and their families a real and affordable means to break out of poverty and achieve food security, provided that relevant government commitment, support and capacity-building is provided to them.
3. Ecological agriculture also provides many other benefits, including to the environment, such as addressing land degradation and reducing the use of polluting chemical inputs, with consequent beneficial health impacts. Ecological agriculture helps foster agrobiodiversity and other essential environmental services, which improves agroecosystem resilience, helping farmers to better face risks and uncertainties. The productivity and diversity of crops also increases incomes and improves rural livelihoods.
4. Ecological agriculture has high climate change mitigation potential; for example avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, particularly nitrous oxide. Ecological agriculture practices such as using leguminous crops, crop residues, cover crops and agroforestry enhance soil fertility and lead to the stabilization of soil organic matter and in many cases to a heightened sequestration of carbon dioxide in the soils.
5. Ecological agriculture assists farmers in adapting to climate change by establishing conditions that increase agroecosystem resilience to stress. Increasing an agroecosystem’s adaptive capacity allows it to better withstand climate variability, including erratic rainfall and temperature variations and other unexpected events. Drawing on strong local community and farmers’ knowledge and agrobiodiversity, ecological agriculture improves soil quality by enhancing soil structure and its organic matter content, which in turn promotes efficient water use and retains soil moisture. Such conditions simultaneously enhance soil conservation and soil fertility, leading to increased crop yields.
6. The development and growing of biofuels should not compete with food and other crops, and thus require comprehensive impact assessments. Locally-controlled bioenergy production that makes use of agricultural waste and biomass, such as through biogas digesters, could provide sustainable energy generation.
7. Food and energy demand and climate change are inducing land use changes and land access issues, which threaten the viability of farming and rural livelihoods. The resilience of agroecosystems can only be built by empowering local communities, particularly women, to rehabilitate, adapt and improve their natural resource base for continued productivity, and by giving them the appropriate legal backing.
8. The implementation and scaling up of ecological agriculture face several constraints, including the lack of policy support at local, national, regional and international levels, resource and capacity constraints, and a lack of awareness and inadequate information, training and research on ecological agriculture at all levels.
If approved, Vilsack will oversee the world's most productive farmlands, and therefore, some of the world's most daunting environmental challenges. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will influence decisions of ethanol production and global food shortages, growing meat demand and livestock-related greenhouse gases, genetically modified organisms and organic agriculture, rural poverty and agribusiness consolidation.
Vilsack critics say he supported larger farms more than local, organic food production during his two decades in government. Yet observers from Iowa also describe the Democrat as a centrist who balanced the demands of farmers, environmentalists, and industry groups.
"I honestly believe he will listen to a broad sense of voices, having been through a lot here in Iowa," said Jerry DeWitt, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
The nomination angered some environmental groups, mostly from the organic community, because of Vilsack's support for large agribusiness and biotechnology.
"Vilsack's nomination sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration," said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association, in a press release.
Vilsack signed legislation in 2005 that preempted local cities and counties from restricting the sale of genetically modified seeds. Yet, according to the Center for Rural Affairs, he reportedly said biotechnology corporations should prove their products are safe before the seeds become available on the market - a more stringent requirement than the law currently states.The organic association also opposes Vilsack's nomination for his record on "aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations." When Vilsack was governor from 1998-2006, the number of hogs per farm in Iowa - the No.1 live animal exporter in the nation - rose from about 800 to more than 1,800 [PDF]. Meanwhile, the number of hog farms fell almost 50 percent.
As a state senator, Vilsack voted for a 1995 law that almost excluded livestock operations from public nuisance lawsuits because of significant demands on the plaintiffs. The Iowa Supreme Court later overturned the law as "flagrantly unconstitutional."
"We continue not to really come forward and recognize the impacts of more and more concentration of animals in our state," said Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, a lobbying group that represents more than 70 state organizations. "That is a big disappointment."
But the Humane Society of the United States supports his nomination, citing his responsive record on various animal rights measures. Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said he was not "extremely familiar" with Vilsack's record on factory farming, but Vilsack was the Humane Society's top choice, nonetheless.
"When you consider the other possible choices - like Rep. John Salazar and former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, who are closely aligned with the agribusiness industry - it becomes clear just how meaningful it is that someone like Vilsack was selected instead," Makarian said in an e-mail. "We expect him to be a reasonable and moderate voice on factory farming issues, and not someone who will automatically side with the knee-jerk positions of agribusiness."
As governor, Vilsack supported water pollution controls, renewable energy, and livestock market reforms.
After farm runoff contributed to growing problems of water pollution throughout the state, Vilsack expanded the state's annual water monitoring budget from $33,000 to $3 million. In his second term, he hosted a multi-stakeholder water summit that resulted in a new state water resources council.
"He really took on issues of impaired water and water quality, and it became...a pretty high profile focus of his administration," Heathcote said.
The agriculture secretary will have to collaborate with rural landowners in efforts to expand renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and geothermal nationwide. As governor, Vilsack strongly advocated alternative energy and helped usher some of the world's largest wind energy companies to his state - now the country's third largest wind energy producer.
Yet it was large clean energy corporations, more than local landowners, that generally profited from the investments, according to Iowa Renewable Energy Association board member Ed Woolsey.
"His forte is not working with landowners or farmers," said Woolsey, president of Green Prairie Wind Development and a Union of Concerned Scientists consultant. "His forte is working with big business and regulatory agencies to smooth the way for them to install large developments."
The energy policy that has captured most environmentalists attention has been Vilsack's strong support for ethanol. The next agriculture secretary will inherit the Bush administration's mandates for high ethanol production - 10.5 billion gallons of corn ethanol is required next year and 15 billion gallons by 2015.
Vilsack acknowledged ethanol's limitations, however, in a Rolling Stone interview after he announced his presidency in 2006. "Frankly, corn-based ethanol is not necessarily the wave of the future," he said. "Ethanol may be, but corn is not. There's not enough corn. There needs to be focus on switchgrass, on municipal waste, on timber, on other ways to produce ethanol that is more efficient."
Sustainable agriculture advocates [PDF] had hoped someone from within their community would be picked for the job. Despite the organic community's apparent disappointment, Vilsack garnered the support of several national environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and National Wildlife Federation.
Through modern methods found in biotechnology, researchers can accomplish the desired results, but in a more efficient and predictable manner (than in conventional plant breeding). In this process, a specific gene, or blueprint of a trait, is isolated and removed from one organism then relocated into the DNA of another organism to replicate that similar trait (my emphasis).
Etiquetas: Greg Revell
Las organizaciones campesinas no esperan que, de las manos de quienes han creado la enfermedad, ahora sea socializada la cura. Desde hace más de 10 años la alianza global de las organizaciones campesinas -La Vía Campesina- ha estado construyendo una propuesta alternativa para los sistemas alimentarios de los países, la soberanía alimentaria.
Puerto de Cargill en Asunción representa una "amenaza real", según ambientalistas
La salud de los 1,2 millones de habitantes de Asunción, la capital paraguaya, está corriendo "un serio riesgo" por las actividades del puerto granelero de la trasnacional Cargill, ubicado sobre el río Paraguay y a unos 500 metros de la principal toma de agua de la Empresa de Servicios Sanitarios del Paraguay (ESSAP).
Así se expresó en diálogo con Radio Mundo Real el dirigente ambientalista Elías Díaz Peña, de Sobrevivencia Amigos de la Tierra Paraguay. Las advertencias de la sociedad civil organizada al respecto no fueron tenidas en cuenta por las autoridades municipales, que aprobaron la habilitación del Puerto Fénix, donde Cargill montó un polo logístico y un centro de procesamiento de soja.
Se trata de un punto estratégico para la polémica firma sojera, ya que también está ubicado cerca de la carretera que une Asunción con la región del Chaco, que se presenta como el principal frente de avance de los monocultivos de soja a gran escala.
Los posibles derrames de combustibles, accidentes en las tareas de descarga y la manipulación de productos agrotóxicos representan una "amenaza gravísima" para la población capitalina. Además de embarcar la soja y sus derivados hasta el puerto uruguayo de Nueva Palmira, en el puerto de la Cargill desembarcan cantidades industriales de agrotóxicos, que forman parte del paquete tecnológico de la trasnacional.
En octubre de este año, según Díaz Peña, se registró un derrame de glifosato en las aguas del río Paraguay, pero los directivos de la Cargill no asumieron sus responsabilidades. Es evidente que la contaminación del agua pone en riesgo la salud de todos los asunceños que dependen del suministro de la ESSAP.
Hace 30 años la humanidad tenía un problema, la ciencia tenía una fascinación y la industria tenía una oportunidad. Nuestro problema era la injusticia. Las masas de hambrientos crecían y al mismo tiempo la cantidad de campesinos y agricultores menguaba. La ciencia, mientras tanto, estaba fascinada por la biotecnología, la idea de que podríamos manipular genéticamente los cultivos y el ganado (y la gente) para insertarle características que supuestamente superarían todos nuestros problemas.
La industria de los agronegocios vio la oportunidad de extraer las enormes ganancias latentes en toda la cadena alimentaria. Pero el sistema alimentario tremendamente descentralizado les impedía llenarse los bolsillos. Para remediar esta enojosa situación había que centralizarlo.
Todo lo que la industria tuvo que hacer fue convencer a los gobiernos de que la revolución biotecnológica podía poner fin al hambre sin hacer daño al ambiente. Pero, dijeron, la biotecnología era una actividad con demasiado riesgo para pequeñas empresas y demasiado cara para investigadores públicos. Para llevar esta tecnología al mundo, los fitomejoradores públicos tendrían que dejar de competir con los fitomejoradores privados. Los reguladores y controles antimonopolios tendrían que mirar para otro lado cuando las empresas de agroquímicos se apoderaran de las empresas de semillas, que a su vez compraron otras empresas de semillas. Los gobiernos tendrían que proteger las inversiones de las industrias otorgándoles patentes, primero sobre las plantas y luego sobre los genes. Las reglamentaciones de inocuidad para proteger a los consumidores, ganadas arduamente en el transcurso de un siglo, tendrían que rendirse ante los alimentos y medicamentos modificados genéticamente.
La industria obtuvo lo que quiso. De las miles de compañías de semillas e instituciones públicas de mejoramiento de cultivos que existían 30 años atrás, ahora sólo quedan 10 trasnacionales que controlan más de dos tercios de las ventas mundiales de semillas, que están bajo propiedad intelectual. De las docenas de compañías de plaguicidas que existían hace tres décadas, 10 controlan ahora casi 90 por ciento de las ventas de agroquímicos en todo el mundo. De casi mil empresas biotecnológicas emergentes hace 15 años, 10 tienen ahora los tres cuartos de los ingresos de esa industria. Y seis de las empresas líderes en semillas son también seis de las líderes en agroquímicos y biotecnología.
En los pasados 30 años, un puñado de compañías ganaron el control sobre una cuarta parte de la biomasa anual del planeta (cultivos, ganado, pesca, etcétera), que fue integrada a la economía de mercado mundial.
Actualmente, la humanidad tiene un problema, la ciencia tiene una fascinación y la industria tiene una oportunidad. Nuestro problema es el hambre y la injusticia en un mundo de caos climático. La ciencia tiene una fascinación con la convergencia tecnológica a escala nanométrica, que incluye la posibilidad de diseñar nuevas formas de vida desde cero. La oportunidad de la industria radica en las tres cuartas partes de la biomasa del mundo que, aunque se usa, permanece fuera de la economía de mercado global.
Con la ayuda de nuevas tecnologías, la industria cree que cualquier producto químico que hoy es fabricado a partir del carbono de combustibles fósiles puede hacerse a partir del carbono encontrado en las plantas. Además de cultivos, las algas de los océanos, los árboles de la Amazonia y el pasto de las sabanas pueden ofrecer materias primas (supuestamente) renovables para alimentar a la gente, hacer combustibles, fabricar aparatos y curar enfermedades, a la vez que eludir el calentamiento global. Para que la industria haga realidad esta visión, los gobiernos deben aceptar que esta tecnología es demasiado cara. Convencer a los competidores de que corren demasiado riesgo. Hay que desmantelar más reglamentos y aprobar más patentes monopólicas.
Y tal como ocurrió con la biotecnología, las nuevas tecnologías no tienen por qué ser socialmente útiles o técnicamente superiores (es decir, no tienen por qué funcionar) para ser rentables. Todo lo que tienen que hacer es eludir la competencia y las alternativas y coaccionar a los gobiernos para que se abandonen a su control. Una vez que el mercado está monopolizado, poco importa cuáles son los resultados de la tecnología.+
Etiquetas: Pat Mooney
News: How Obama's DOE head got $500 million BP bucks to bankroll Berkeley research—and what it means for our energy future.
December 18, 2008
Chu's role in creating the Energy Biosciences Institute may inform his approach to governing the Department of Energy, a major governmental underwriter of research, and one that will face pressure to partner with corporations in pursuing technological solutions to climate change. As the incoming Obama administration prepares to spend liberally to develop cleaner sources of energy, the structure of corporate-government partnerships will determine how the profits of that research return to taxpayers, and how rigorously scientists evaluate the downsides of controversial technologies such as biofuels.
In 2004, when Chu left a teaching job at Stanford to direct the Berkeley Lab, research partnerships between oil companies and California universities were in vogue. In 2002, Stanford had formed the Global Climate and Energy Project with $225 million in funding from General Electric, Toyota, ExxonMobil, and oil-services company Schlumberger. In 2006, UC-Davis established a biofuels research project with $25 million from Chevron. Capitalizing on the momentum, Chu pitched the BP deal as a natural evolution of the new research paradigm. "The motivation is that you have to start working with companies at the get-go," he told a March 2007 meeting of the UC Berkeley Academic Senate. "I think the University of California-Berkeley and the Berkeley Lab are the perfect place for this, so you can…get largely CO2-neutral fuels in a responsible way, in a way that is sustainable."
On the fifteenth of December, soy producers in Paraguay organised a ´tractorazo´, a tractor-display to show their fear for political change
and land reform. Long rows of farming machinery could be seen along some of the highways. The manifestation was not as massive as the organisers hoped for. On several places announced, the ‘tractorazo’ did not materialize – such as in Caaguazu in the centre of Paraguay, and the amount of attendents was far lower than expected. A video can be watched on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1xp8nPFprs
The goal of the tractoraza was said to be ”a secure Paraguay, where everybody lives together in respect of the law, no exceptions”, according to a communique of the organisers. The manifestation received strong support from most of the national press, banks, and the multinational ADM. Other companies like Cargill, Dreifus and Trociuk did not openly support the manifestations.
The mobilization is a reaction to the recent change of government, and the growing resistance against the soy model. A new Council for Agrarian Reform has been installed by the Lugo government, excluding the industrial soy sector, to their great dismay. Hundreds of land occupations by campesino movements have occurred all over the country, and in actions against fumigations have been held.
The organisations of landless, small farmers and trade unions therefore pointed out that the ‘tractorazo’ was mainly a plea against social change. “They have the machines, we have the people”, as one of their organisers said. “The peace and security they demand is a declaration of violence against the people that want a new Paraguay. They are looking for a scenario of confrontations if the Lugo government doesn’t give in to the interests of a corrupt minority”, the Frente Social y Popular pointed out in a declaration. In order to avoid possible escalation, no counter mobilisations were called for. The only exception was the district of San Pedro, where no big tractorazo´s were to be seen, but where thousands marched for social jusitice.
It is only four months since the new government has come to power and the time has come for real changes that the great majority of people in this land has been waiting for since a very long time. “Reforma agraria, urgente y necessaria“ is the claim heard all over the country. From September till December is the season for soy planting, and the organisations of small farmers and landless have shown their determination to enforce change by occupying land owned by big farmers.
This creates fear in upper sectors of society to lose some of their power. In that context, the ´tractorazo´ is a plea to stop land reform and other possible forms of change.
Is Ecological Agriculture Productive?
By Lim Li Ching, Researcher, Third World Network (November 2008)
A key question that is often asked about ecological agriculture, including organic agriculture, is whether it can be productive enough to meet the world’s food needs. While many agree that ecological agriculture is desirable from an environmental and social point of view, there remain fears that ecological and organic agriculture produce low yields.
This short paper will summarise some of the available evidence to demystify the productivity debate and demonstrate that ecological agriculture is indeed productive.
In general, yields from ecological agriculture can be broadly comparable to conventional yields in developed countries. In developing countries, ecological agriculture practices can greatly increase productivity, particularly if the existing system is low-input, which is the largely the case for Africa. This paper will focus mainly on evidence from developing countries.
Evidence from global modelling
A recent study examined a global dataset of 293 examples and estimated the average yield ratio (organic : non-organic) of different food categories for the developed and developing world (Badgley et al., 2007). For most of the food categories examined, they found that the average yield ratio was slightly less than 1.0 for studies in the developed world, but more than 1.0 for studies in developing countries.
On average, in developed countries, organic systems produce 92% of the yield produced by conventional agriculture. In developing countries, however, organic systems produce 80% more than conventional farms.
With the average yield ratios, the researchers then modeled the global food supply that could be grown organically on the current agricultural land base. They found that organic methods could hypothetically produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without putting more farmland into production.
Moreover, contrary to fears that there are insufficient quantities of organically acceptable fertilizers, the data suggest that leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use.
This model suggests that organic agriculture could potentially provide enough food globally, but without the negative environmental impacts of conventional agriculture.
Evidence from reviews of ecological agriculture projects
In a review of 286 projects in 57 countries, farmers were found to have increased agricultural productivity by an average of 79%, by adopting “resource-conserving” or ecological agriculture (Pretty et al., 2006).
A variety of resource conserving technologies and practices were used, including integrated pest management, integrated nutrient management, conservation tillage, agroforestry, water harvesting in dryland areas, and livestock and aquaculture integration into farming systems. These practices not only increased yields, but also reduced adverse effects on the environment and contributed to important environmental goods and services (e.g., climate change mitigation), as evidenced by increased water use efficiency and carbon sequestration, and reduced pesticide use.
The work built on earlier research, which assessed 208 sustainable agriculture projects. The earlier research found that for 89 projects for which there was reliable yield data, farmers had, by adopting sustainable agriculture practices, achieved substantial increases in per hectare food production - the yield increases were 50-100% for rain-fed crops, though considerably greater in a number of cases, and 5-10% for irrigated crops (Pretty and Hine, 2001).
Disaggregated data show:
The database on agricultural sustainability (comprising the 286 projects) was reanalyzed to produce a summary of the impacts of organic and near-organic projects on agricultural productivity in Africa (Hine and Pretty, 2008). The average crop yield increase was even higher for these projects than the global average (79%): 116% increase for all African projects and 128% increase for the projects in East Africa.
For Kenyan projects, the increase in yield was 179%, for Tanzanian projects 67% and for Ugandan projects 54%. Moreover, all case studies that focused on food production in this research where data have been reported, showed increases in per hectare productivity of food crops, which challenges the popular myth that organic agriculture cannot increase agricultural productivity.
READ THE REST AT: http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/susagri/susagri064.htm
*Brushing aside pressure, Obama taps a big-ag man as USDA chief
"Tom Vilsack was one of the first governors to see the promise of biotechnology. He has a very balanced view of agriculture and understands its potential." -- Ted Crosbie, vice president of global plant breeding and director of Monsanto's Iowa operations
"Governor Vilsack would be an outstanding choice for Secretary of Agriculture. He would bring great leadership and experience to the position. Governor Vilsack understands what it takes to increase agricultural productivity to meet growing global demand for food and feed." -- Paul Schickler, president of Dupont's Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of Monsanto few rivals in the genetically modified seed industry. (Both quoted from a Dec. 16 Des Moines Register piece.)
In 2007, Thomas Vilsack ended an eight-year stint as Iowa's governor. Before that, he had served as a state senator. During his time in Iowa politics, he promoted the interests of large agribusiness firms in several ways.
As a state senator, he voted for the infamous House File 519 in 1995, which stripped counties of the right to impose restrictions on CAFOs. In 2005, as governor, he signed into law House File 642, which barred local governments from regulating the planting of genetically modified seed.
In 2001, the Biotechnology Industry Organization named him "governor of the year" for his "support of the industry's economic growth and agricultural biotechnology research." Vilsack also briskly promoted biofuels as governor; he served as chair of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition.
After stepping down after his second term in 2007, Vilsack ran for president. When that bid failed, he joined the Minneapolis-based corporate law firm Dorsey & Whitney. The firm's broad range of corporate clients include food giants Cargill and Conagra. According to Dorsey & Whitney's website, Vilsack was hired to focus on "strategic counseling and advising clients in the fields of energy conservation, renewable energy, and agribusiness development." He also serves as a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products, where he sits on the advisory board with representatives of Monsanto, Dupont's Pioneer Hi-Bred, and the World Bank.
President-elect Obama has reportedly plucked Vilsack from those posts and tapped him to be USDA chief. The decision comes after a wave of hope that Obama might choose a less agribusiness-oriented candidate. I'll be writing more on this pick in the days to come.
Action Alert - Petition to Obama for MEANINGFUL GMO labeling
President Obama promised that genetically modified foods will require labels. Please sign the petition demanding comprehensive and meaningful GMO labeling; and thank him for giving us what we want, and deserve.
President Obama is finally going to get genetically modified (GM) foods labeled—something 270 million Americans have wanted for a long time. The Bush, Clinton, and Bush I administrations denied it to us, ignoring 9 out of 10 citizens in order to support the economic interests of the 5 Ag biotech companies that make GMOs.
Former FDA man Henry Miller admitted, "In this area, the US government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do."
Why don't the biotech companies want us to know that their products are in our food? Because we wouldn't eat them. According to a CBS/New York Times poll, most of us (53%) would avoid brands with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Close labeling loopholes
Outside the US and Canada, nearly all industrialized countries require GMOs to be labeled. But clear, comprehensive, and consumer-friendly criteria remain elusive.
Japan's laws allow food with a whopping 5% GMO contamination to go unlabeled. In Australia and New Zealand, loopholes exempt about 90% of their GM foods from labeling. Their law says that GM ingredients must be detectable in the final processed food in order to require labels. Thus, oil made from 100% GM soybeans, corn, cottonseed or canola (the four major GM crops) is unlabeled.
These loose labeling regimes have consistently angered citizens and there is momentum for tightening standards. In the EU, for example, they used to exempt undetectable GMOs but now insist on labels if any ingredient is DERIVED BY GMOs. Thus, they require traceability of ingredients to their GMO or Non-GMO origins.
The EU has another loophole that upsets citizens there (which we must avoid here in the US). Milk, meat, and eggs from animals fed GMOs don't have to be labeled. Many groups are working hard to change this EU law. In the meantime several European food companies publicly committed not to use GMO animal feed.
In the US, corporations have traditionally had the upper hand when it comes to negotiating details of regulations. We don't want that to happen with labeling.
President Obama is going to give us labeling—he promised us that. But will it be the citizens' labeling plan or Monsanto's?
Sign the petition today demanding comprehensive and meaningful GMO labeling, and thank President Obama for giving us what we want, and deserve.
But don't wait for labeling to avoid GMOs. Download our Non-GMO Shopping Guide, which gives tips and brands to help you choose healthier non-GMO food.
Author, Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception
Campesinos paraguayos se movilizan contra "tractorazo" patronal
Las movilizaciones de las patronales rurales, tan frecuentes por estos días en varios puntos del Cono Sur de América Latina, no representan los intereses de eso que se denomina como "campo".
Ese término genérico es utilizado con fines interesados por los empresarios del sector, alejados totalmente de las necesidades más urgentes y los impactos más negativos del medio rural.
En estos casos es necesario marcar los perfiles para evitar la confusión de algún desprevenido. En Paraguay, por ejemplo, las organizaciones campesinas están saliendo al cruce del llamado "tractorazo" convocado por las gremiales agropecuarias, que culmina esta noche en Asunción, la capital del país.
Los terratenientes, en su mayoría sojeros, piden mayor seguridad y la intervención del Ministerio del Interior en los supuestos "atentados" contra la propiedad privada.
A la movilización patronal se han sumado oportunistas de todo tipo, que han encontrado en estos reclamos una posibilidad real de desestabilizar al gobierno del izquierdista Fernando Lugo.
Pero no todo son señales negativas. Miembros del Frente Social y Popular –una coalición de organizaciones de base que no ha tenido reparos al momento de pedirle cambios de rumbo a la administración de Lugo- están advirtiendo que saldrán a las calles para "defender el proceso democrático" en caso que los productores resuelvan iniciar cortes de rutas.
A través de un comunicado, denunciaron que está en marcha una "campaña de presión y boicot" por parte de la oligarquía local, que utiliza la "publicidad engañosa" para lavar su imagen.
Los que ahora reclaman por "seguridad y trabajo" estuvieron más de sesenta años "protegidos" por los gobiernos del derechista Partido Colorado, y se enriquecieron "a costa de la vida y la salud de las familias campesinas".
Para graficar un poco más esta situación y entender el aumento de las tensiones en el campo paraguayo, escuchamos ahora una entrevista que Radio Mundo Real realizó hace algunas semanas a Juan Talavera, padre del niño Silvino, que murió envenenado por agrotóxicos en enero de 2003.
Spilling the Beans, December 2008
(Also available at Jeffrey Smith's blog on Huffington Post.)
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Bush's environmental legacy on GMOs is irreversible
In a few hundred thousand years, after all weather effects of 21st century climate change have disappeared from the earth's surface, after our quietly smoldering nuclear waste has been extinguished, two destructive impacts traceable to George Bush's policies will yet remain.
The first is extinctions. Species that have died out, including the subset resulting from Bush's environmental policies, will forever deprive our evolving biosphere of their contribution.
The second is genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses, who's DNA have been mixed and mangled by insertions from foreign species. Once released into the ecosystem, by intention or accident, the genetic pollution self-propagates. No recall by the Obama administration can clean up Mexico's indigenous corn varieties, now contaminated by our genetically modified (GM) corn. No executive order can remove or even identify the wild mustard plants now carrying altered genes bestowed on it by the pollen from its cousin, GM canola.
We all know stories that illustrate the exponential effects of invasive species. Here's my favorite, recalled in my book Genetic Roulette:
On Christmas Day 1859, the Victorian Acclimatization Society released 24 rabbits into the Australian countryside so that settlers could hunt them for sport and feel more "at home." The rabbits multiplied to well over 200 million, spreading out over 4 million square kilometers. That Christmas present now costs Australian agriculture about $600 million per year.
Will GMOs of today show up as the "Australian rabbits" of the future? While their impact on our ecosystem and diet is largely unstudied, that has not stopped the current and past administrations from presiding over the release of millions of acres of GM crops. Not only does each plant carry a gene from bacteria or viruses, its DNA has hundreds or thousands of mutations resulting from the disruptive process of genetic engineering. Reports suggest that the side effects of GMOs are quite dangerous.
Bush policies institutionalize GMO contamination
If we were to ban GMOs today, as is more than justified, some contamination from commercialized GM food crops will nonetheless carry forward in the gene pool of those (and related) species. This includes contaminants from our largest farmed GM crops, including soybeans, yellow corn, cotton, and canola, as well as the smaller crops: Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and crookneck squash. Newly added—in this year's harvest—are GM sugar beets and white corn. There are also GM tomatoes and potatoes no longer on the market, but whose genes and seeds, to some degree, continue to persist "out there." But the dirty laundry list actually includes over 100 different experimental GM crops, field trialed at more than 50,000 sites in the US since 1986.
Although the government is supposed to make sure that these trials won't contaminate the surrounding environment, a 2005 report by the USDA Office of Inspector General harshly condemned the USDA's abominable oversight. "Current regulations, policies, and procedures," said the report, "do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology." The agency's weaknesses "increase the risk that regulated genetically engineered organisms will inadvertently persist in the environment."
But George Bush's pro-biotech response was to further weaken the agency's GMO oversight—and he's trying to do it quickly, before Obama steps in. The proposed ruling makes gene escape more likely, even from GM crops designed to produce pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals.
Monsanto admits more contamination
As a backdrop to Bush's rushed proposal, Monsanto just admitted that an acre of its field trialed, not-yet-approved GM cottonseeds, was inadvertently harvested and mixed with approved cotton. It then entered our food chain as animal feed and cottonseed oil. Oops.
But the FDA, EPA, and USDA employed another of the Bush administration's institutionalized abdications of GMO oversight. They declared the cottonseed contamination safe, in spite of insufficient data to support their claim.
If Bush gets his new USDA rule into effect, let's hope Obama heeds the advice of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which "recommends that the new administration make revocation, revision and strengthening a top priority."
No that won't fully clean up our altered gene pool. But it will start to contain the runaway long-term genetic pollution that is now out of control.
© copyright Institute For Responsible Technology 2008
Etiquetas: Jeffrey Smith