Too many countries have in history experienced the devastation of not only failed harvests, but also gross agricultural policy mismanagement.
The Great Famine of the 1930s in the Ukraine, which resulted in millions starving to death, is just one of many. It was a direct result of a political decision to impose a centralised and industrial agriculture model that obliterated centuries of farmers’ know-how. The results were so catastrophic that the Ukraine government describes it as genocide.
“Monsanto fully supports UK food manufactures and retailers in their introduction of these labels. We believe you should be aware of all the facts before making a purchase.”
This quote comes from an advertisement that Monsanto ran in the UK in the late 1990′s when consumers demanded that genetically engineered food be labeled. Monsanto may not have initially liked the idea, but as the policy became inevitable, they began running ads in support of labeling, to pretend they supported it all along. The European Union mandated labeling of all genetically engineered foods in 2003.
Nearly a decade later, California may become the first state in the US to require genetically engineered food to be labeled. With only a few days until the proposal is put to a vote, Monsanto has already given over $8 million to a front group that is blitzing California’s airwaves with anti-labeling advertisements. The “No on 37″ group has raised well over $40 million so far, with Monsanto as the largest donor.
What gives? Do Monsanto executives think it’s okay for British parents to know what’s in the food they feed their kids, while treating America’s children as “guinea kids”?
Vote Yes on Proposition 37 to ensure the labeling of genetically engineered food in California, because we have the right to know.
With less than a week to go before California voters decide whether they want food that contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be explicitly labeled as such, the board of the American Association for the Advance of Science (AAAS) has proclaimed from its prestigious perch that those who want Frankenfoods to be labeled are little more than emotional nuts who know nothing about science.
That the AAAS would enjoin this battle is hardly a surprise, given its longstanding ties to Monsanto and other companies with a direct interest in the outcome. But the group says that its real motivation for opposing mandatory labeling is because doing so would “mislead and falsely alarm consumers.”
“Our concern is that ideology not trump science here,” AAAS Chief Executive Alan Leshner told the LA Times. “We do regulation of foods to protect the public health.” Continue reading →
These seeds are ready for the press. The fruit itself is turned into "Palm oil," while the nut is used for "Palmiste oil." This is the local variety grown by smallholders.
Ecological and economic welfare are two sides of the same coin and having to choose between developing economies and societies on one hand, and protecting the environment on the other, is a false dilemma. This false dilemma is often used by private companies to dismiss civil society and local communities, mislead policy makers, and then carry on with questionable practices.
Let me explain. Sub-Saharan Africa has been the scene of a huge land grab in recent years, with overseas governments and businesses buying up or securing long-term leases on large tracts of land. Some of the deals are straightforward acquisitions but many are contentious to say the least.
According to a number of the agribusiness corporations that are investing heavily in developing vast palm oil plantations throughout Central and Western Africa their primary aim is bringing much-needed revenue to local economies, providing jobs and improving the lives of the people living there. Don’t let yourselves be fooled by this seemingly altruistic discourse: we rarely hear any mention of the millions to be made in trying to satisfy the unquenchable global thirst for palm oil. Could this be the real motivation?
It is a 2 day drive from the capital Yaounde to the South West of Cameroon, to the area where the American company Herakles Farms is starting a huge new palm oil plantation. Going there we pass by several vast palm oil and banana plantations. Plantations seem to be big business already for years in Cameroon. But when we stop to visit the plantations, the only thing we see is poverty.Local people are driven away from their farms to make space for plantations, are forced to settle elsewhere, and plantation workers are imported from other areas in Cameroon. Plantation wages are low compared to a farmers income in this region. Also the occasional hospitals and schools supplied by the plantation companies don’t look very reliable.
Fossil fuels are killing our climate and we need to find alternatives.
It’s a simple message that most people get, but what happens when one of the supposed alternatives also becomes not just a climate killer, but a driver of hunger? Then surely it’s time to stop and rethink? Continue reading →
Farmer working in a watermelon field in an Indian province
On this World Food Day, I am in Rome where government ministers attending the World Committee on Food Security are facing up to a sobering reality: the food world system is badly broken. From climate change, to biofuels and GE foods, it’s time we take stock and look for solutions.
“Don’t forget to eat the redwood sorrels!” I was on a hike in Julia Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur, CA with a close friend. As we were hiking she was teaching me about these small edible heart-shaped plants called redwood sorrels. When you chewed on the leaves, they taste just like the skin of a fresh green apple. Though we had a picnic lunch packed all I could think about was how these wild growing plants could taste just like the apple in my backpack. This experience taught me more about the food I consumed. I never stopped to consider what it was I was putting into my body and how it would affect my health. I never considered the consequences of my consumerism or the industries I was supporting nor the environmental impacts the food system in the US had on our planet. It was then I realized I have the right to know what I am eating and I wanted to learn more. Continue reading →
Among these ripple effects are a major spike in food prices. (For those on food stamps, even a slight increase can make a big difference and that program could face serious cuts according to the latest House Farm Bill). And what crop is most at threat due to this historic drought? Corn, but not only because of its demand as a food source and livestock feed. Forty percent of corn is used for ethanol in fuel due to the Renewable Fuel Standard which mandates a certain amount of U.S. biofuel production. That 40 percent is therefore removed from the food supply.