viernes, abril 30, 2010


Malthus, Biofuels and Free-Market Environmentalism

by Carmelo Ruiz Marrero, World War 4 Report

The Washington DC-based Worldwatch Institute is no ordinary environmental organization. Founded by environmental maverick Lester Brown, a man hailed by the Washington Post as "one of the world's most influential thinkers," Worldwatch was the first environmental think tank ever. Since its founding in 1974 it has published thoroughly researched reports on global environmental issues ranging from fisheries depletion and China's soaring resource consumption to green economics and renewable energy.

The organization has also assumed brave and highly principled positions, for example exposing the downside of technologies like nuclear power and genetic engineering, as well as the military's impact on the environment—issues most mainstream environmental groups dare not touch. Regarding organic agriculture and local food production, their research in recent years has been top-notch. Worldwatch senior researcher Brian Halweil's book on the international local foods movement, Eat Here, deserves no less acclaim than the writings of Michael Pollan and Carlo Petrini.

But progressive environmentalists have long had mixed feelings about the organization because of its technocratic approach to global environmental problems, enthusiastic support for Green Revolution agriculture, and Malthusian world view. In the 1980's Worldwatch had a long and protracted debate with Frances Moore Lappe and her fledgling organization Food First. The subtitle of the epochal book Food First, co-authored by Lappe, said it all: "Beyond the Myth of Scarcity". The book's thesis—that the apocalyptic "population vs. resources" equation put forth by Thomas Malthus in the 19th century (and by Paul Ehrlich in the 20th) is plain wrong, and that hunger can and does exist where resources and food are plentiful—put Lappe and company in direct contradiction not only with Worldwatch but with the conventional views of the mainstream environmental movement and its supporting foundations. Worldwatch underwriters, which included the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, no doubt were pleased with the organization's defense of the Green Revolution and Malthusianism (1).

Lester Brown left Worldwatch in 2001 to form the Earth Policy Institute. Since then, some observers have perceived Worldwatch to be moving into some rather questionable positions and endeavors. In 2007 it joined the global debate on biofuels by releasing a report which highlighted the economic, social and environmental problems posed by the biofuels boom. (2) But, quite incredibly, the report's conclusions fell way short of its analysis and gave biofuels a rather glib and uncritical thumbs-up.

Then in February 2009, Worldwatch released another report on the subject, titled "Smart Choices for Biofuels", co-authored with the Sierra Club. (3) This report should be regarded with skepticism and concern. Its authors are good at pointing out the pitfalls and problems of biofuels but in the end—and against all logic—conclude that biofuel production can be made sustainable with a few reforms here and there. They assume from the start that biofuels are desirable and inevitable. The industrialized North's voracious and irresponsible consumption is unadressed, and endless economic growth remains unquestioned. Reports like these can do more harm than good, since their most immediate and obvious effect will be to confound and divide the environmental movement on this issue.

In June 2009, Worldwatch released a report, co-authored with Ecoagriculture Partners (EAP), on the relationship between agricultural practices and global warming. (4) But some of the report's recommendations are questionable and controversial, to say the very least, especially "biochar" and "voluntary markets for greenhouse gas emission offsets."

Two months before the report's release, 147 organizations from 44 countries had signed on to an international declaration against biochar, denouncing it as a false solution to climate change. According to the declaration's press release:

Civil society groups have called for caution on Biochar in view of serious scientific uncertainty. Many share concerns that this technology would lead to vast areas of land being converted to new plantations, thus repeating the unfolding disasters which agrofuels cause. They point out that large scale financial incentives for biochar or other soil sequestration could result in large scale land conversion and displacement of people. (5)

As for carbon offsets and market-based approaches to address global warming, these have been constantly denounced as false solutions by climate justice advocates, like the World Rainforest Movement, the North America-based Mobilization for Climate Justice and the Global Forest Coalition.

EAP describes its proposal thus: "Ecoagriculture recognizes agricultural producers and communities as key stewards of ecosystems and biodiversity and enables them to play those roles effectively. Ecoagriculture applies an integrated ecosystem approach to agricultural landscapes to address all three pillars, drawing on diverse elements of production and conservation management systems." (6)

But University of California entomologist Miguel Altieri, one of the biggest authorities on agroecology worldwide, argues in an extensive critique that ecoagriculture is no more than a corporate-friendly mockery of organic agriculture. (7) EAP director Sara Scherr fired off a furious response to Altieri, accusing him of misstating and mischaracterizing her organization's activities and philosophy.

Any weighing of the relative merit of each side's arguments must consider Altieri's consistent, principled and highly erudite defense of the principles of agroecology and progressive political positions in light of EAP's list of "partners". These include the World Wildlife Fund—vilified for its support for NAFTA and its collaboration with the Roundtable of Responsible Soy, a high-profile attempt to rationalize the millions of hectares of unsustainable soy monocultures in South America. (8) Other EAP partners include pillars of what could be called pro-corporate eco-capitalist nature conservation, like the Nature Conservancy, which also campaigned for NAFTA and has been accused of greenwashing soy monocultures in Brazil through its controversial partnership with Cargill grain corporation. (9) There's also Conservation International, strongly criticized by civil society groups for its activities in Mexico's Lacandon jungle, and the Katoomba Group, a pioneer in developing rationales for "ecosystem markets." (10)

Altieri reported in 2004 that EAP's partners included European biotech giants Bayer Cropscience and Syngenta (through its charitable foundation), as well as Croplife International, a trade association that represents the "plant science industry" (read: genetically engineered crops). As of July 2009, none of these appear on EAP's web site as partners or supporters—apparently the organization wants to keep the appearance of critical distance from the biotech industry.

On July 8 2009, Worldwatch and EAP unveiled a new initiative: "a two-year project to point the world toward innovations in agriculture that can nourish people as well as the planet, supported by a $1.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project will focus specifically on sub-Saharan Africa." (11)

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Gates Foundation's joint endeavor with the Rockefeller Foundation to address the problem of hunger in Africa, has not gone without controversy. In March 2009 the Oakland Institute released a report titled "Voices from Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa", which features essays and statements of leading African farmers, environmentalists, and civil society groups which directly challenge AGRA's plans for the continent. (12) Well-founded critiques of AGRA were also presented by GRAIN (13), the ETC Group (14) and Food First (15).

Furthermore, in November-December 2007 the west African country of Mali hosted an international meeting on Alternatives to the Green Revolution (read AGRA). Attendees—over 150 participants from 25 African countries and 10 non-African countries—included farmers, pastoralists, environmentalists, women, youth and development organizations.

The Worldwatch/EAP initiative intends to research "practical solutions for creating sustainable food security." Most of the "practical solutions" mentioned in the press release— rainwater harvesting, adding nitrogen-fixing plants into crop rotations, farmer-run seed banks, and involving women in decision making—cannot be thought of as innovations by any definition of the word. They are what organic and family farmers have always been doing. Other solutions mentioned, like "tapping international carbon-credit markets", reflect once again a blind faith in discredited "market solutions".

What's most upsetting about the two joint Worldwatch/EAP communiques is their silence about the IAASTD report (also known as the Agricultural Assessment), an enormous document that is to world agriculture what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to global warming. Written by over 400 experts under the auspices of the World Bank and UN agencies, with the full participation of civil society, governments and industry, and subjected to two independent peer reviews, it is the most thorough appraisal of world agriculture ever undertaken. It concluded that business-as-usual Green Revolution agriculture is not an option. As an alternative, the report's authors recommended small-scale agroecological production that utilizes local resources, precisely what organic farmers worldwide have been doing all along. As for genetically engineered crops, the Agricultural Assessment expressed caution and skepticism, which did not sit well with the biotechnology industry.

The IAASTD report was released over a year ago, Worldwatch itself took note of it in an April 18, 2008 communique. (16) To approach the subjects of world hunger and sustainable agriculture without reference to the Agricultural Assessment is to court genuine ignorance.

The alternatives to the Green Revolution model and misguided market "solutions" can be summed up in two words: food sovereignty. This innovative concept is the product of one of the most remarkable, democratic and inclusive collective thinking processes in history. It was formulated and refined through years of dialogue and debate among dozens of small farmers organizations from all over the world over a period of years, culminating in the Nyeleni Declaration issued at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty in Mali in 2007. The main architect of the food sovereignty concept is worldwide peasant federation Via Campesina, probably the single most important civil society organization in the world right now.

Global civil society is currently carrying out an exciting, hopeful, inclusive, bottom-up dialogue on food sovereignty, climate justice and the future of agriculture, which is breaking with old paradigms and offering proposals that radically break with the conventional wisdom of industrial civilization. But sadly, Worldwatch seems to have decided to play it safe instead and turn to mainstream partners like EAP, and play along with major funders like the Gates Foundation. Especially sad, considering that the organization has repeated times shown courage and willingness to step out of the herd on sensitive and important issues. It is not my intention to single out the Worldwatch institute—unfortunately it is far from being the only environmental group that has followed this sorry trend.


Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator. His articles have been published by Synthesis/Regeneration, Alternet, Corporate Watch, The Ecologist, Earth Island Journal, E Magazine, the CIP Americas Policy Program, Food First, and many other media. He currently heads the Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety.


1. Worldwatch was founded with a $500,000 grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Philanthropic foundations founded and controlled by the Rockefellers, like RBF and the Rockefeller Foundation were key in conceiving and funding the Green Revolution. See Mark Dowie's book American Foundations: An Investigative History (MIT Books, 2002), and also Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett's Thy Will Be Done: Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil (Harper Collins, 2005).
2. "Biofuels for Transport: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century," Worldwatch Institute
3. "Smart Choices for Biofuels," Worldwatch Institute
4. "Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use," Worldwatch Institute
5. "Biochar, a new big threat to people, land, and ecosystems," Rainforest Rescue
6. I normally do not consult the Wikipedia as a primary source, but the EAP web page specifically directs inquiries to ecoagriculture's Wikipedia entry:
7. Altieri, Miguel. "Agroecology vs. Ecoagriculture," Institute of Science in Society
8. See,
9. "Conservation Corp.: Enviros Ally with Big Grain," Multinational Monitor
10. Katoomba Group
11. "Worldwatch Institute Launches Initiative to Assess Agricultural Methods' Impacts on Sustainability, Productivity," Worldwatch Institute
12. "Voices From Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa," Oakland Institute, March 2009
13. "A new Green Revolution for Africa?" GRAIN, December 2007
14. "Food Sovereignty or Green Revolution 2.0?" ETC Group, April 2007.
15. "Ten Reasons Why the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations' Alliance for Another Green Revolution Will Not Solve the Problems of Poverty and Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa" by Eric Holt-Gimenez, Miguel A. Altieri and Peter Rosset. Food First, October 2006 (PDF)
16. "International Commission Calls for 'Paradigm Shift' in Agriculture," Worldwatch Institute

For more information on what is biochar and what is wrong with it:

For more on AGRA:

For more on IAASTD:

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miércoles, abril 28, 2010

15,000 attended rally against GE in Madrid.

15,000 attended rally against GE in Madrid.

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Brussels, Belgium — Billboards of European Health Commissioner John Dalli and President of the Commission José Manuel Barroso depicted as chefs cooking up 'GE recipes for disaster' were placed around Brussels today. This is part of Greenpeace's response to the controversial Commission approval of GE potato cultivation in Europe - the first such approval since 1998.

President Barroso continues to push a pro-GE agenda, going as far as removing the Environment Commissioner from any decision involving GE licensing and placing Health Commissioner Dalli in this role. Dalli's first decision was to approve the GE Potato Amflora for cultivation in Europe, an extremely disappointing decision considering the medical expert opinions which stressed the importance of antibiotics being affected by the potato's genetic makeup.This decision flies in the face of the will of several EU member states, the advice of medical experts, including the advice of the World Health Organisation and European Medicines Agency, and - most importantly - the EU public.

As part of our GE-free Future Bus Tour across Europe, and in partnership with Avaaz we have been collecting signatures calling for a moratorium on GE crops in Europe. Together we have over half a million signatures.

The last stop on our GE-free Future Tour was Madrid, where this past weekend thousands of people gathered in the city center to show their opposition to the Spanish and EU Commission's support for GE crops and to call for a moratorium on GE crops in Europe. At the rally Greenpeace joined Friends of the Earth, and groups like Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG), to call on the Spanish government to act on the wishes of it's citizens and ban GE crops.

The day before we delivered this message directly to the Spanish Ministry of Environment. The GE-free Future Tour bus pulled up at the entrance to the ministry building to deliver bags of GE maize, while our activists peacefully demonstrated with banners addressing Spanish President Zapatero and asking him to support a ban on GE.

Madrid was also the last stop on our GE-free Future Tour of Europe which began on March 24 in Amsterdam and included activities calling for a GE-free future in Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, France and Spain. We collected petition signatures both online - as people followed the bus tour via the Facebook group,as well as offline. Ministers, chefs, farmers and members of the public visited our bus at it's various stops to make it clear that they don't want to be force fed GE food.

In Luxembourg, the Ministers of Environment, Agriculture, and Health - Marco Schank, Romain Schneider, and Mars Di Bartolomeo - called for a moratorium on GE in the EU. In Hungary a delegate of the new green party, Lehet Más a Politika (LMP), Tordai Bence announced his support for the petition in front of media, while the mayor of Rome and a former Minister of Agriculture, Gianni Alemanno, put his signature directly on our GE-free Future Bus. The Danish Minister of Environment, Karen Ellemann, told media and public gathered at our tour stop that Denmark would introduce a national ban on the GE potato approved for cultivation by President Barroso.

Danish Minister of Environment, Karen Ellemann, visits our GE-free Bus.

Our billboards in Brussels today are bringing that opposition to GE crop cultivation directly to Barroso's workplace, as will the petition already signed by half a million EU citizens. A GE-free future is getting closer - we are gathering 1 million signatures and we need your help. Add your voice and invite friends and family to join you in calling on the EU Commission to act - and make a GE-free future a reality.

See all of the fantastic images from our GE-free Future bus tour:

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martes, abril 27, 2010

One quarter of US grain crops fed to cars - not people, new figures show

New analysis of 2009 US Department of Agriculture figures suggests biofuel revolution is impacting on world food supplies

Grain mountain

A grain elevator in Illinois. In 2009, 107m tonnes of grain was grown by US farmers to be blended with petrol. Photograph: AP Photo/Monty Davis

One-quarter of all the maize and other grain crops grown in the US now ends up as biofuel in cars rather than being used to feed people, according to new analysis which suggests that the biofuel revolution launched by former President George Bush in 2007 is impacting on world food supplies.

The 2009 figures from the US Department of Agriculture shows ethanol production rising to record levels driven by farm subsidies and laws which require vehicles to use increasing amounts of biofuels.

"The grain grown to produce fuel in the US [in 2009] was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels," said Lester Brown, the director of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington thinktank ithat conducted the analysis.

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UN launches GM network for developing countries

1.UN launches biotech network for developing countries
2.The biotech cradle is ready to rock

NOTE FROM GM WATCH: The first article reports on how the United Nations has lauched a new network - the International Industrial Biotechnology Network (IIBN) - to target "developing countries wanting to make more of their biotechnology resources". We're told that among other things, IIBN "plans to target Africa for collaborations later this year." (item 1)

The IIBN network we are told "will be co-ordinated by the Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries [IPBO], Belgium." According to its website, "[IPBO] is an initiative of Ghent University". IPBO is situated "near the Ghent Biotech Valley, Europe's largest plant biotech cluster, IPBO is a central node of an international network for R&D in plant biotechnology." It "was founded by Prof. Em. Dr. Marc Van Montagu on June 13, 2000."

Marc Van Montagu is a GM pioneer - the first scientist to co-develop a GM plant (1983). He is also a keen lobbyist for GM crop acceptance with strong industry links. He is President of the European Federation of Biotechnolgy (EFB), which has an extensive corporate membership of around 100 public and private companies, including Monsanto Europe. EFB also has a number of national bio-industry associations as members, including the US's major trade body for biotech - BIO, and the association of German biotech companies (VBU), of which Bayer is a member.

Van Montagu was also the cofounder of Plant Genetic Systems. PGS Inc. was regarded as one of Europe's most successful biotech companies and went on to be bought by AgrEvo/Hoechst which was later incorporated into Aventis which, in turn, was taken over by Bayer. Van Montagu was also involved in founding the biotech firm CropDesign, of which he was a Board member from 1998 until 2004. CropDesign was later acquired by BASF Plant Science.

Van Montagu is also a member of the industry linked pro-GM lobby group, the Public Research Regulation Initiative (PRRI).

Interestingly, Van Montagu also has close links to Suzy Renckens, the former leading European Food Safety Authority bureaucrat at the centre of a major scandal after she moved directly from overseeing GM regulatory affairs at EFSA to working for Syngenta, where she's Head of Biotech Regulatory Affairs for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Nearly all Renckens scientific publications were co-authored with Marc Van Montagu.

EXTRACT: Ghent is moving ahead with an initiative similar to the University of Guelph Research Park, except all about biotechnology. It's driven by startup companies that have been squirreled away, working diligently on advances in the likes of functional foods and nutraceuticals, waiting for their own market to open up. (item 2)

1.UN launches biotech network for developing countries
Carol Campbell, 22 April 2010

2.The biotech cradle is ready to rock
Owen Roberts
Guelph Mercury [Canada], April 26 2010

lunes, abril 26, 2010

Scientists show ‘growing’ fuel is waste of energy

Grist admin avatar badge avatar for Tom Laskawy

by Tom Laskawy

It's no mystery where Grist comes down on the food vs. fuel debate, aka the Great Ethanol Boondoggle. But it's nice to see the science continuing to support our side of the argument (via Science Daily):
Using productive farmland to grow crops for food instead of fuel is more energy efficient, Michigan State University scientists concluded, after analyzing 17 years' worth of data to help settle the food versus fuel debate.

"It's 36 percent more efficient to grow grain for food than for fuel," said Ilya Gelfand, an MSU postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study. "The ideal is to grow corn for food, then leave half the leftover stalks and leaves on the field for soil conservation and produce cellulosic ethanol with the other half."

Other studies have looked at energy efficiencies for crops over shorter time periods, but this MSU study is the first to consider energy balances of an entire cropping system over many years. The results are published in the April 19 online issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"It comes down to what's the most efficient use of the land," said Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of crop and soil sciences and one of the paper's authors.

The researchers go on to observe that using some of the crop waste from, say, corn fields to make fuel (while reserving the rest to plow back into the soil) increases the efficiency of the process. But they also point out that that technique won't provide nearly enough fuel for our gas tanks.

They also hold out hope, as do many in the biofuel industry, for cellulosic biofuels that can be grown on marginal land. But the fact is that a cash crop on marginal land is worth even more on prime farmland -- once we go that route it will be very hard to keep biofuel crops from displacing food crops, especially in the developing world.

The conclusion I draw from this study is that it's a terrible idea to put fuel in competition wtih food for productive farmland. The system is designed to favor fuel production at this point and now we know that's actually a waste of energy, rather than a source. With any luck, this new data will be included in the EPA's controversial review of its indirect land-use calculations for the climate impact of biofuels.

Ultimately, I do think biofuels have a role in our economy, but it will be through farmer cooperatives that grow and process biofuel for their own tractors and not for suburban warriors and their SUVs.

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The New Food Wars: Globalization GMOs and Biofuels

domingo, abril 25, 2010

COMMENT: This is one outrageously simplistic and utterly ignorant article. Who is clueless enough to buy these "consulting" services? I believe some debunking is in order.

Entrepreneurship, technology … and agriculture?

Waldemar Ramírez, San Juan Daily Sun
April 25 2010

First of all, and for the sake of the reflections presented in this article, let’s agree on a couple of definitions:
n Entrepreneurship: The willingness and ability of an individual to seek investment opportunities to successfully establish and run an enterprise.
n Technology: The process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants, including all of the infrastructure necessary for the design, manufacture, operation, and renovation of those solutions. It is a product of engineering and science, that is, it results from the study of the natural world.
That settled, and as I have shared before, I must confess it is very disappointing to confront the lack of attention that the formula of “entrepreneurship + technology” is receiving in our country as a possible spearhead to break our economic stagnation. Even at this stage in the 21st century, the government of Puerto Rico’s so-called “strategic model for a new economy” (MENE, by its Spanish acronym) timidly proposes a “transition to the knowledge-based economy” — a paradigm and a conversation that is already over 20 year old!
In an environment of overstretched public service, the self-employed nature of entrepreneurs would be an obvious path of economic development to follow. But, furthermore, entrepreneurs are not just self-employed, they are cost-efficient job creators. As described by management guru Peter Drucker, an entrepreneur is a person who perceives business opportunities and takes advantage of the scarce resources using them profitably.
It would seem that we are stalled awaiting for Obamic solutions, that we don’t dare to formulate our own answers. We have enough elements to successfully pursue high-tech niches related to bio-sciences and computing, among others. We have an enviable pool of experienced managers and technology professionals, world-class researchers, and academic institutions with strictly accredited curricula. And we know the markets that are seeking solutions to their big challenges in aforementioned areas. If anything, we may need to foster a culture that facilitates and supports the specific conditions to strengthen our ecosystem so that innovation and technological development are the everyday and not the exception.
The E+T+A formula
Furthermore, this formula of “entrepreneurship + technology” has another facet we have so far totally ignored. I’m referring to agro-entrepreneurship development. We are still dealing with agriculture as some sort of melancholic theme, an artisanal endeavor evocative of something precious already lost. The aforementioned MENE presents an objective aimed at revitalizing agriculture, but that’s as far as it goes. The MENE’s stated goal is creating 260,000 jobs between now and 2017. And the catalog of strategic initiatives identified and to be funded by the government to create these jobs, does not include anything pertaining to agriculture.
Now, is agro-entrepreneurship development a real option, or is it just a quixotic proposition? … The University of Puerto Rico’s School of Agricultural Science, which came into existence in 1911, has a staff of educators and researchers with an extraordinary preparation and experience. They offer programs in food science and technology, agricultural economics and agrobusiness, livestock industry, agricultural and bio-systems engineering, crops protection and agro-environmental science. The school campus provides a unique setting in a privileged position to serve as an international center for studies, training, and research in the fields of agricultural sciences. Does the government intend to use this asset to boost our economy? Has this even been considered? Are we interested in getting a greater return on the investment this college represents?

The new opportunity

In fact, the so-called knowledge-based economy represents great opportunities for the formulation of a new agriculture. To enable and promote this we could capitalize on biotechnology, starting from possible applications such as genetic improvement of plants and animals, diagnosis and control of pests and diseases, and the use of plants as soil decontaminants. In spite of some controversies between hardcore environmentalists and proponents of biotechnology applications to agriculture, evidence indicates that the newer techniques offered by these applications are more precise and more predictable — and yield a more useful product. In fact, genetic engineering, the newest manifestation of biotechnology, is indeed a refinement of less precise methods of genetic modification that have been applied for centuries. Genetically engineered plants permit more efficient water usage and encourage wider use of environmentally friendly cultivation, decreasing soil erosion and releasing less CO2 into the atmosphere

Similarly, we could take advantage of our expertise in information and communication technologies to transform agriculture processes into a highly efficient and productive endeavor. The increased yields —offered by both biotechnology and information technology applications — are environmentally important because they avoid the need to increase the amount of land put under cultivation. Any innovation that decreases agricultural “inputs” — the factors that contribute to the costs of food production — benefits everyone involved in the path, from the soil to the dinner plate.
An additional definition…
In light of the previous discussion, let’s consider an additional definition to go with those of Entrepreneurship and Technology provided earlier.
n A new agriculture: The sustainable practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, raising livestock and preparing and marketing the resulting products, obtained through a coordination of policies addressing the following elements:
n a research agenda supporting the interdisciplinary science approach needed;
n an extension (or transfer) plan supporting the transition from the lab into sustainable agriculture;
n an incentives program to support agro-entrepreneurs who do take steps to redesign their operations to leverage on technology and eliminate environmental damage; and
n a marketing policy that will inform consumers and remove barriers faced by entrepreneurs eager to find and exploit new opportunities.
So, the question is: Can we afford to ignore this opportunity? Do we need to wait until some federal program pushes us into that direction, or can we initiate a genuine effort now?

___________________________________The author is Principal Executive of Integrant Consulting Associates (, a firm dedicated to facilitate superior performance levels in leaders and enterprises. You can contact him at .

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viernes, abril 23, 2010

Genetically modified crops are not the answer

By Dr. Hans Herren and Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman - 04/22/10

The Senate is considering a bill that would overhaul the way Americans deliver foreign aid. With more people going hungry than ever before, the bill’s attention to global hunger could not come at a better time. The Global Food Security Act would streamline the aid process and focus on long-term agricultural development. But something has gone awry inside the bill. A closer look reveals that its otherwise commendable focus may be seriously undermined by a new clause lobbied for by one of America’s largest seed and chemical companies.

This bill includes a mandate that we spend foreign aid dollars developing genetically modified (GM) crops. No other kind of agricultural technology is mentioned. Unsurprisingly, Monsanto has lobbied more frequently on this bill than any other entity.

The trouble with a mandate for GM crops is this: it won’t work. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates that GM crops don’t increase crop yields. USAID has already spent millions of taxpayer dollars developing GM crops over the past two decades, without a single success story to show for it, and plenty of failures. A recent, highly touted partnership between USAID and Monsanto to develop a virus-resistant sweet potato in Kenya failed to deliver anything useful for farmers. After 14 years and $6 million, local varieties vastly outperformed their genetically modified cousins in field trials. Another 10-year USAID project for GM eggplant in India recently met with such outcry — from scientists and Indian farmers alike — that the government put a moratorium on its release. Growing insect resistance to genetically modified cotton and corn shows that the technology is already failing farmers and will continue to fail over the long term. Sadly, today’s GM obsession shows every indication of duplicating the first ill-fated “Green Revolution” that trapped millions of farmers on a pesticide treadmill while devastating the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend.

Fortunately, we have alternatives. Improved farming practices, conventional breeding and agro-ecological techniques deliver far better results, without the risks and high input costs that accompany GM seeds. A 2008 study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found that “organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and … is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.” Even the chief agricultural scientist of Punjab — a home of the Green Revolution —argues that Indian farmers should farm organically.

Meanwhile, the World Bank and UN agencies have completed the most comprehensive analysis of world agriculture to date: the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). This four-year study — by more than 400 scientists and development experts from 80 countries and approved by 58 governments — found that reliance on resource-extractive industrial agriculture is risky and unsustainable, particularly in the face of worsening climate, energy and water crises. It noted that expensive, quick fixes — including GM crops —fail to address the complex challenges that farmers face, and often exacerbate already bad conditions. Instead, the IAASTD highlighted the need to build more resilience into our food systems by increasing investments in agro-ecological sciences, small-scale biodiverse farming methods and farmer-led participatory breeding programs.

The success of ecological agriculture rests not only in its immediate outcomes of better and more reliable performance, but also in its ability to address the underlying cause of hunger: poverty. Congress could learn from the thousands of Kenyan farmers who have obtained bumper crops and higher household income through the ecological pest management system known as “push-pull.” By planting a variety of grasses in and around their cornfields, these farmers have suppressed insect pest and weed populations, reduced input costs, doubled or tripled their corn harvest, increased forage for livestock, supplied their families and local markets, paid off debts and set aside money to pay for school, medicines and other needs. No amount of gene-splicing (or lobbying or advertising) by Monsanto has ever accomplished this much for an African family.

Ultimately, tackling global hunger and poverty requires more than a focus on production technologies. The bigger, more fundamental challenge today is about restoring fairness and democratic control over our food systems. This requires strengthening local food economies, increasing small-scale farmers’ control of seed and land, and —importantly — breaking up corporate monopolies in agriculture and establishing fairer regional and global trade arrangements.

If Congress is serious about addressing world hunger, they should take their lead from the most comprehensive science and from farmers on the ground — not from Monsanto lobbyists.

Herren is co-chairman of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and president of the Millennium Institute and BioVision. Ishii-Eiteman is a lead author of the UN-sponsored IAASTD Global Report. She is senior scientist and director of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Pesticide Action Network.

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jueves, abril 22, 2010

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Oxfam America’s endorsement of biotechnology sets a very dangerous precedent of being used by the industry in their struggle to force the adoption of GM crops in spite of strong global resistance. The book based on the outcome of Oxfam America’s project and the shocking endorsement of transgenic crops in the face of diverse and voluminous literature countering their stance, threatens to damage Oxfam’s relationship with longtime allies and its reputation as an independent organization. Oxfam, with this study, appears to be siding with corporations, who have used cotton in their efforts to promote GM crops as a whole. Bt cotton is a Trojan horse for future GM crops, including sorghum, cassava, maize, rice and all the staple crops in the world.

This reckless move also raises questions whether Oxfam America’s position endorsing GM crops is a result of significant funding from the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. The Rockefeller Foundation provided financial support for Oxfam America’s Biotechnology and Development report. In November 2009, Oxfam America received a $491,270 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “to support the monitoring of bacillus thuringiensis cotton impact in West Africa.” These two foundations are explicit promoters of biotechnologies. The Gates Foundation has important ties with Monsanto, the leading company in the biotechnology industry, which has been using ‘revolving doors’ with Foundations and Government Agencies, to erase obstacles and reach its current leading position on the market. Unfortunately, historically and today, agroecological research and development receives a fraction of what biotechnology R&D receives, which this grant by the Gates Foundation perpetuates.

Furthermore, Oxfam America supports the Global Food Security Act of 2009, also known as the Lugar-Casey Act, and claims it will “improve long-term food security by investing in long-term agricultural development.” The section 202 of this Act includes “research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including gm technology.” This bill gives favored treatment of biotechnology that is controlled by two or three companies, mostly by Monsanto which has invested over $8.6 million in lobbying Congress last year to pass the Lugar-Casey Act.

Oxfam America is surrendering to the biotech industry and their corporate extensions and private foundations. By doing so it is selling out those it has committed to help and support, including resource-poor farmers, and all those defending health, biodiversity, and the environment. We hope Oxfam America will retract its stance on biotechnology and join the global farmer, environmental, and justice movements united around the world calling for an end to corporate domination and contamination of our food.


African Biodiversity Network
African Centre on Biosafety, South Africa
Biowatch, South Africa
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj/Indian Farmers Association, India
Cathy Rutivi, IAASTD Advisory Bureau Member, Sub Saharan Africa
Center for Food Safety, US
CNOP (Coordination Nationale des organizations Paysannes/ National Coordination of Peasant Organizations), Mali
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), Malaysia
Development Research Communication and Services Centre (DRCSC), India
Earthlife Africa, South Africa
Food First, US
Global Village Cameroon(GVC), Cameroon
GRABE, Benin
Grassroots International, US
International Development Exchange (IDEX), US
Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia
Surplus People's Project, South Africa
Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group, India
Kalanjium Unorganised Worker's Union, India
Kalanjium Women Farmer's Association, India
Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab, India
Dr Mira Shiva, Initiative for Health , Equity and Society, Diverse Women for Diversity, India
Ndima Community Services, South Africa
PLANT (Partners for the Land and Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples, US
Tamilnadu Resource Team, India
Tamilnadu Women's Collective, India
The South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE), South Africa
Safe Food Coalition, South Africa
Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam/Farmers Association Of Tamil Nadu, India
The Oakland Institute, US
Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, India

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miércoles, abril 21, 2010

USDA downplays own scientist’s research on ill effects of Monsanto herbicide

martes, abril 20, 2010

El glifosato y la censura

Argentina: fumiguen a la ciencia

Andrés Carrasco, investigador del CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas) denunció como un acto de censura el veto del organismo oficial a la charla prevista para la Feria del Libro 2010, sobre los efectos deformantes y enfermantes del glifosato, el herbicida con el que se fumigan los campos para el monocultivo de soja transgénica.

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Transgénicos, ¿Cómo está Europa y cómo estamos nosotros? Campaña contra la presidencia española de la UE

El Comisario de Sanidad y Protección al Consumidor de la Unión Europea, John Dalli, inauguró su cargo el 2 de marzo de 2010, autorizando 3 importaciones de maíces transgénicos de Monsanto y la siembra comercial de la patata transgénica "Amflora" de la multinacional BASF.

Esta patata, que contiene dos genes de resistencia a antibióticos, se usará para producir amilopectina, un almidón empleado para fabricar papel. A pesar de que huele mal, sabe mal y aumenta el riesgo de inhabilitar antibióticos humanos, también se empleará en la alimentación animal. Aunque sus defensores afirman que no habrá contaminación porque las patatas no tienen polen ni variedades silvestres, estos tubérculos rebrotan espontáneamente y se mezclan con la siguiente cosecha. Según BASF, este almidón reducirá el consumo de agua, aditivos y energía en la producción de papel y supondrá 30 millones de euros en contratos para los productores de patata europeos.

John Dalli defiende esta patata porque la Agencia Europea de Seguridad Alimentaria (AESA) sostiene que "es poco probable que los 2 marcadores de resistencia a antibióticos tengan efectos sobre la salud humana y el medio ambiente”. Sin embargo, la normativa europea sobre transgénicos exige desde 2001, eliminar dichos marcadores si constituyen un riesgo para la salud. La Agencia Europea del Medicamento, el Centro Europeo de Control y Prevención de Enfermedades y la Organización Mundial de la Salud, han advertido del riesgo de inutilizar los antibióticos de uso humano y animal. Dos científicos del panel de expertos en riesgos biológicos de la AESA han mostrado su desacuerdo aunque no les han permitido expresarse públicamente. Sus discrepancias han sido ocultadas tras un dictamen conjunto de los Paneles de Transgénicos y de Riesgos Biológicos.

La patata transgénica no produce mucho más almidón que una patata cualquiera. BASF podría haber eliminado los marcadores de resistencia a antibióticos porque hay otras alternativas. No lo ha hecho por ahorrar costes y porque nadie le ha obligado. Francia, Italia y otros países miembros de la UE rechazan esta decisión. Para callar a los Gobiernos discrepantes (no es el caso del estado español), la Comisión prepara para el verano una normativa que legalice las Zonas Libres de Transgénicos (ZLT), ahora alegales en Europa.


Nunca se debió romper la unidad antitransgénica mantenida frente a los gobiernos del PP para negociar una ley de coexistencia entre cultivos transgénicos y no transgénicos con el gobierno del PSOE en 2005 [6] y acabar suplicando en 2009 al Defensor del Pueblo, que nos defienda de los transgénicos. Aunque en mayo de 2007, con la primera promoción para la firma del documento “Democracia, precaución y medio ambiente” [7] los partidarios de negociar la coexistencia en 2005 anunciaban conjuntamente que era imposible, esta declaración se limitaba a hacer un pronunciamiento sin exigir medidas al gobierno. Quienes quisimos sumarnos a esta declaración reclamando dicha exigencia, no sólo no lo conseguimos, sino que fuimos borrados de las firmas por discrepar de una declaración tan unitaria como inútil [8]. La izquierda "plural" hegemonizada por el PSOE, se mueve sólo por los intereses electorales contra el PP, pervirtiendo cualquier finalidad social o ecológica. Por el bien de todos, ha llegado la hora de reconocer los errores. Aún hoy los promotores de dicha estrategia mantienen un patético doble lenguaje del que se deriva “transgénicos no, pero sí” [9]. Ha llegado el momento de mirar hacia delante. La unidad es necesaria, pero sobre bases integras y transparentes, acompañadas de un compromiso real en parar realmente y no sólo de palabra, la producción, el consumo y la importación de productos transgénicos. La unidad antitransgénica, es incompatible con la ausencia de una autocrítica respecto a las políticas imprudentes, erróneas y sectarias que rompieron el movimiento, crearon conflictos entre nosotros y fortalecieron a las multinacionales biotecnológicas.

Por segundo año, la COAG nos llama a movilizarnos en Madrid, el 17 de abril, Día de las Luchas Campesinas, bajo el lema NO A LOS TRANSGÉNICOS y nos facilita transporte gratis. ¿Cuándo empezará la COAG a pedir a sus agricultores que dejen de sembrar maíz transgénico y a prestarse para cultivos experimentales? ¿Pedirá la COAG a sus agricultores que no siembren la patata BASF para defender la salud de las personas y del medio ambiente? ¿Cuándo empezaran las burocracias agrarias a cuestionar la cantidad de plaguicidas que se emplean en los mal llamados cultivos convencionales? ¿Quién protegerá a los agricultores ecológicos de la contaminación transgénica? ¿Por qué, si los sindicatos agrarios mayoritarios en Cataluña están contra los transgénicos, el cultivo de maíz transgénico ha crecido un 11% en el último año?

La COAG ya sabemos lo que es. El verdadero problema somos nosotros, los que nos llamamos consumidores responsables y productores agroecológicos. ¿Qué clase de movimiento de productores y consumidores agroecológicos es el que se coloca bajo la tutela de grandes organizaciones, burocratizadas, sostenidas con fondos del estado y de Europa y comprometidas de hecho con una agricultura y una alimentación industrializada, mercantilizada y globalizada?

Acudamos a la manifestación de Madrid proclamando alto y claro:






Pilar Galindo, La Garbancita Ecológica

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Contacts: George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety, 415-826-2770

John Bianchi, Goodman Media, 212-576-2700

Diverse Interests Back CEnter for Food Safety, Oppose Monsanto In Upcoming High Court Hearing on Biotech Alfalfa

States, Scientists, Organic And Conventional Farmers, Food Companies, Exporters, Former Govt. Officials, And Legal Scholars File Briefs In Support

Seven Amicus Briefs Filed In All

Washington, DC – April 19, 2010 — A myriad of interests – ranging from food companies to farmers unions to scientific experts and legal scholars – have filed briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Center for Food Safety and opposed to Monsanto in a case to be argued on April 27, Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms. This will be the first genetically engineered crop case ever heard by the High Court.

All lower courts that have heard the case temporarily stopped the planting of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” alfalfa because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to analyze the crop’s impacts on farmers and the environment. Although it is undisputed that USDA violated environmental laws and that the agency must rigorously analyze the crop’s impacts if it is to again approve it for sale, Monsanto is arguing that the lower courts should have allowed the planting of the now-illegal crop to go forward anyway.

The Attorneys General of California, Oregon and Massachusetts filed a brief on behalf of their citizens supporting the Center, emphasizing the “States’ interests in protecting their natural resources and their citizens’ rights to be informed about the environmental impacts of federal actions.” The States note “immense” ramifications for all environmental protection should Monsanto prevail, which would damage the States’ interest in “protection of wilderness, habitat preservation for endangered species, watershed protection, [and] air quality.”

Leading organic businesses and trade groups – including Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms, the Organic Trade Association, United Natural Foods, Eden Foods, Annie’s, Clif Bar and Nature’s Path Foods – warned of the imminent threat from unwanted biotech contamination to their businesses. The $25 billion-a-year organic industry, the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture for more than a decade, is at particular risk from the effects of contamination because alfalfa is pollinated by bees, which can fly many miles to cross-pollinate different fields. Organic dairy alone is a one-billion-dollar-a-year industry and depends on organic hay as the main forage for its cows. These commercial entities warned that “widespread planting of RR alfalfa imposes massive risk and uncertainty on the continued viability of organic dairy farming” and that overturning the lower courts would “irreparably harm” their ability to grow and sell organic food.

Conventional farmers and exporters filed a similar brief, warning of lost overseas alfalfa markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East that reject biotech-contaminated crops. The Arkansas Rice Growers Association, which produces approximately half of all exported U.S. rice and which in 2006 lost their overseas markets from a biotech rice contamination episode, voiced similar concerns: “Genetically engineered (“GE”) crops have already contaminated conventional crops, resulting in damages of over a billion dollars to the rice trade, and ruinous results to many of Amici’s export operations.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists and nearly a dozen other scientific experts warned that allowing the planting of Monsanto’s alfalfa would “bring with it certain predictable, serious risks of irreparable harm to farmers and to the public” that will “continue to contaminate agriculture and the environment indefinitely.” The scientists highlighted the “spread of unwanted transgenes to surrounding fields and wild plant populations and the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds. Both events are likely, and when either occurs, the resulting harm is effectively irreversible.” Contrary to Monsanto’s assurances, the experts underscored for the Court the “near certainty of irreparable harm” from the “collective risks” of allowing planting before USDA’s assessment is complete.

Finally, over a dozen law professors, scholars and several former General Counsels of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) filed two separate briefs explaining that, contrary to Monsanto’s mischaracterizations, the processes and standards used by the lower courts were entirely correct. CEQ is the expert federal agency charged with overseeing the statute in question in the case, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): “A court is well within its equitable discretion to enjoin an unprecedented activity from proceeding until after a proper environmental analysis, required by statute, has been conducted.” By “prohibiting further sale and distribution of Roundup Ready alfalfa, the district court followed Congress’s directive.” The law professors “vast scholarship includes over two hundred law review articles, six casebooks, and the leading treatise on NEPA law. Although law professors often write about what law should be established, here they write to defend law that is already well-established.”

Environmental groups including the National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Center for Biological Diversity also filed briefs in support of CFS.

A full list of those filing briefs, as well as background and related information, are available Here.

Full List of Amici:

Amicus brief from California, Oregon, and Massachusetts

Amicus brief from CROPP Cooperative (Organic Valley), Montana Organic Ass’n, Nat’l Cooperative Grocers’ Ass’n, Nat’l Organic Coalition, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Organic Seed Alliance, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Ass’n, Organic Trade Ass’n, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, United Natural Foods, Inc., Eden Foods, Inc., Annie’s, Inc., Clif Bar & Company, Nature’s Path Foods, Inc., Purist Foods, Inc., Stonyfield Farm, Inc., and Straus Family Creamery

Amicus brief from Arkansas Rice Growers Association, Rice Producers of California, New England Farmers Union, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, FedCo Seeds, Inc., Nat’l Farmers Union of Canada, Genetics International, Eckenberg Farms, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Amicus brief from Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for Responsible Genetics, Dr. Steven R. Radosevich, Dr. Paul E. Arriola, Dr. John Fagan, Dr. E. Ann Clark, Dr. Don M. Huber, Dr. Rubens Onofre Nodari, Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, and Caroline Cox

Amicus brief from Dinah Bear, Robert Glicksman, Oliver Houck, Daniel Mandelker, Thomas McGarity, Robert Percival, Zygmunt Plater, Nicholas Robinson, and Gary Widman

Amicus brief from Natural Resources Defense Counsel and Prof. Craig N. Johnston, Prof. Michael C. Blumm, Prof. David W. Case, Prof. Jamison E. Colburn, Prof. William F. Funk, Prof. David K. Mears, Prof. Patrick A. Parenteau, Prof. John T. Parry, Prof. Melissa A. Powers, and Prof. Mary C. Wood

Amicus brief from Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, and Center for Biological Diversity

Heather Whitehead
True Food Network Director, the Center for Food Safety
t 415/826-2770 f 415/826-0507 c 510/501-8092 |

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lunes, abril 19, 2010

¡Maldito sea el glifosato!

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domingo, abril 18, 2010

IRRI under siege


Posted: 15 April 2010

On 12 April 2010, close to 1000 farmers from different parts of the Philippines, joined with representatives of farmers organisations from other Asian countries such as Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam, to gather at the main gate of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Laguna (Philippines). Inside, IRRI celebrated its 50th anniversary, while outside these farmers were calling, once and for all, for IRRI's abolition. Another 2000 farmers in Bacolod City and North Cotabato, in central and southern Philippines respectively, did parallel rallies in solidarity with those in Los Banos. Through phone messaging, they shared with the protesters at the IRRI gate their firm resolve that IRRI's 50th year should be its last.

“What is golden with IRRI's golden anniversary? The Philippines is the world's top rice importer now,” according to Congressman Rafael Mariano, Anakpawis party list representative, who took the blazing afternoon sun to join the farmers.

As expected, none from IRRI's top management came out. Here was an Institute that claims to feed half of the world's population, yet it couldn't face these poor farmers who spoke about the three million people who have already died of hunger since the start of this year, while 1.23 billion suffer from malnutrition. Here was an Institute that proclaims to be the home of the Green Revolution in Asia, yet it couldn't afford to hear the real accounting of how its programmes have wreaked havoc on farmers' fields across the region. Here was an Institute that vows to improve the health of rice farmers and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable, yet it refuses to acknowledge the casualties of its chemically-laden rice research operations. Several former field workers of IRRI died over the years from their exposure to hazardous chemicals while others, who were in the protest, continue to suffer from pesticide-related symptoms. Had anyone from IRRI's management or trustees come out, they would have heard from several organisations in Asia that pesticide poisoning remains rampant among rice farmers who plant IRRI-developed varieties.

“The land that now houses IRRI were acquired from us farmers who were promised employment at IRRI, which has tenure that could be passed on to our children. What IRRI did however was terminate us even before we could get to our retirment. Some of us have already died from pesticide-related illnesses, and not one of our children could even find employment at IRRI. IRRI is a liar and we should get rid of it,” according to one former IRRI field-worker who were among those whose lands were acquired by the University of the Philippines (UP) for the use of IRRI back in the late 1950s.

“IRRI is like a broker for large TNCs (transnational corporations). It was used as an intrument to promote the notion that pesticides are necessary for farmers to grow rice. But as a result, this has caused many forms of illnesses on the liver, kidney, brain, among farmers, and even still births. We have to put a stop to this,” says Dr Romy Quijano, a toxicologist from UP.

“We do not believe that IRRI's rice research is for a better world. What IRRI is doing is rice science for a bitter world, for a corporate world, for TNCs world,” according to Anakpawis' Mariano.

IRRI should understand that the action in front of their gate was not merely about closing IRRI. The farmers had no illusions that IRRI would voluntarily heed their call. But April 12th was historic nonetheless. It was a day for farmers from across Asia to make it clear that, for them, IRRI has lost whatever legitimacy it once had in rice research and farming. As the farmers said very emphatically: 50 years is enough. It was not a gentle request for IRRI to close shop. It was an indictment on IRRI's future.

“IRRI is the enemy of the Asia's peasants. We want it out of the Philippines or anywhere in Asia. We want IRRI out now because it has done nothing for the people. IRRI is useless,” according to Erpan Faryadi of Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement in Indonesia.

Related resources:

A brief slideshow of the April 12 event at IRRI:

IRRI's IPR policies - public mandate, private motives:

Feeding the corporate coffers: why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia's small farmers:

50 Reasons why IRRI should be shut down:


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viernes, abril 16, 2010

Bayer admits GMO contamination out of control

Thursday, April 15, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.


Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company's Liberty-brand herbicide. The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.


The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion.

Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices. The jury disagreed, finding Bayer guilty of carelessness in handling the genetically modified crops. The company was ordered to pay farmers Kenneth Bell and Johnny Hunter $2 million.


Bayer is still being sued by more than 1,000 other farmers from Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

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