May 16th, 2013
Selling seeds, selling out democracy: US State Department does biotech industry’s bidding
By Jacob Chamberlain
The U.S. State Department does the bidding of biotech giants like Monsanto around the world by “twisting the arms of countries” and engaging in vast public campaign schemes to push the sale of genetically modified seeds, according to a new report released Tuesday by Food & Water Watch.
The report, Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda, which pulls from over 900 State Department diplomatic cables (obtained via WikiLeaks), reveals an environment wherein US ambassadors act as sales representatives for the global biotech industry.
U.S. ambassadors and their staffs actively lobby foreign governments to adopt pro-biotechnology policies and laws, create “rigorous public relations campaigns to improve the image of biotechnology” and challenge “commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws.”
“It really goes beyond promoting the U.S.’s biotech industry and agriculture,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops.” Read Full Article »
May 15th, 2013
Industrial Model of Agriculture Is a Dead End, Scientists Say
Union of Concerned Scientists
WASHINGTON — U.S. agriculture is at a crossroads: continue the polluting, soil-depleting industrialized farming methods of the past, or invest in modern practices of the future. A policy brief and interactive web feature released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows how several key practices can produce the food we need today while protecting precious natural resources for the long term—benefiting American farmers, consumers and the environment.
“Industrial agriculture sounded good in the 1950s, but it’s not serving us well in the twenty-first century,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program and co-author of the policy brief. “To meet the environmental, resource, and production challenges of the future, scientists, policy makers and farmers must work together to invest in a more sustainable kind of agriculture.”
“The Healthy Farm: A Vision for U.S. Agriculture,” identifies and explains four key healthy farm practices that would modernize agriculture to meet today’s challenges: Read Full Article »
May 14th, 2013
By Jim Robbins
THE world’s worrisome decline in biodiversity is well known. Some experts say we are well on our way toward the sixth great extinction and that by 2100 half of all the world’s plant and animal species may disappear.
Yet one of the most important threats to biodiversity has received little attention — though it lies under our feet.
Scientists using new analytical techniques over the last decade have found that the world’s ocean of soil is one of our largest reservoirs of biodiversity. It contains almost one-third of all living organisms, according to the European Union’s Joint Research Center, but only about 1 percent of its micro-organisms have been identified, and the relationships among those myriad life-forms is poorly understood.
Soil is the foundation on which the house of terrestrial biodiversity is built. Without robust soil ecosystems, the world’s food web would be in trouble.
To understand more, scientists recently embarked on what they call the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative to assess what is known about soil life, pinpoint where it is endangered and determine the health of the essential ecosystem services that soil provides.
They are not just looking at soil in remote, far-off landscapes. One of the more intensive studies is taking place in New York’s Central Park. Read Full Article »
May 14th, 2013
Consumers Union Hails Historic Vermont House Vote As Major Victory For Labeling Of Genetically Engineered Food
Image courtesy of LtPowers
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, commended the Vermont House of Representatives for today’s historic vote passing H-112, requiring the labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food sold in that state, by an overwhelming margin of 99 to 42. The bill now moves to the Vermont Senate, which will take it up when the legislature returns January 2014. If the Senate passes the bill, Vermont will be the first in the nation to mandate GE labeling.
“Vermont’s historic vote today is a major victory for consumer demand for the labeling of genetically engineered food,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, a biologist and Senior Scientist at Consumers Union. “We commend the members of the Vermont House who voted for this bill, despite an onslaught of industry lobbying against it.”
The Vermont House is the first state legislative body to pass a bill to label GE food, although the state of Alaska passed legislation requiring labeling of GE fish. GE food is required to be labeled in 62 foreign countries, including all of the European Union, Japan, Korea, Australia, and India.
The Vermont bill will go into effect when two other states have passed similar legislation, or within two years from the date of signing. Labeling bills are also pending in Maine, Connecticut, and several other states. “All these states will be hard fought,” said Hansen. Read Full Article »
May 13th, 2013
British scientists say they have developed a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by 30%. The process was GMO-free.
The Cambridge-based National Institute of Agricultural Botany has combined an ancient ancestor of wheat with a modern variety to produce a new strain.
In early trials, the resulting crop seemed bigger and stronger than the current modern wheat varieties.
It will take at least five years of tests and regulatory approval before it is harvested by farmers.
Some farmers, however, are urging new initiatives between the food industry, scientists and government.
They believe the regulatory process needs to be speeded up to ensure that the global food security demands of the next few decades can be met, says the BBC’s Tom Heap. Read Full Article »