Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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A serious food fight: GMOs in 4 countries

Salvadorn farmers vs MonsantoSalvadoran farmers vs GMOs. Photo: mintpressnews.com.

The United States: On March 15, a bill was narrowly defeated in the US Senate that would have blocked any state or local government from regulating or even requiring labeling of food products containing GMOs (genetically modified – or manipulated, more to the point – organisms.)  The House of Representatives had already passed a version of this repressive bill last year.

What are these people afraid of?  Knowledge. The more the rest of us know, the better decisions we can make. Opponents of the bill dubbed it the DARK Act – Deny Americans the Right to Know. The right to know is inherent in mandatory GMO labeling laws passed by Vermont and at least two other states so far. Vermont’s law survived a major corporate legal challenge last year and should come into force this July. Maine’s and Connecticut’s are expected to follow soon after.

Healthy food campaigners know from experience that the powerful corporations who co-wrote the DARK Act with their hirelings in Congress will keep trying. They need to keep us in the dark on GMOs, as on so many other crucial facts.

How far will they go? This far at least, as in their campaign to defeat a state-wide mandatory labeling referendum in Washington State: Opponents of GMO Labeling Broke Washington’s Campaign Finance Law. The real surprise is that they got caught.

Canada: 64 countries have instituted some form of mandatory GMO labeling. In Canada, we have none.  Over the past decade, several private members bills to that end have been defeated in Parliament.

A new citizens’ initiative, a petition to the Prime Minister, is currently circulating on Change.org: Label GMOs.

Initiated by Barbara Drury, a farmer in the Yukon, Label GMOs has already gathered over 30,000 signatures. You can add yours here.

Russia: Moving well beyond debates on labeling, the government of the Russian Federation is in the process of actually banning all GMO foods. Why and how this extraordinary initiative came to pass is a fascinating story, told here.

And the next step for Russia?  Become the world’s primary source of non-GMO food.  It follows rather organically, doesn’t it?

El Salvador: With less than half the area of Canada’s second smallest province (Nova Scotia), El Salvador is the most densely populated (currently about 6.4 million) country in Central America.  Its farmers, most of them working small parcels of land, face enormous obstacles just to survive, let alone thrive.  And like farmers in most countries, they also have to contend with relentless pressure from the agents of corporate agriculture to cede control of their seeds, methods, independence, and livelihoods.

Even so, against overwhelming odds Salvadoran farmers continue to defy not only one of the most powerful and aggressive corporate entities on the planet, but also an even larger and more insidious threat, the web of international trade agreements that are being spun over our heads and behind our backs. To these corporate-dictated, made-in-USA entanglements, we are endlessly told, resistance is futile.

Apparently not.

If the Salvadorans can do it, can we not?

 


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Good news: Scotland to ban growing of GM crops

Scottish Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead: “Banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status.”

Member of the Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone: “GM is not the answer to food security, and would represent further capture of our food by big business.”

Scotland, landscape 2

Details of the ban are here.

Similarly, in 2014 Russia banned the import and cultivation of GM crops.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “If Americans like to eat GMO products, let them. We don’t need to do that. We have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”

South of the border, the Conservative government of Britain has thrown open the door to GM crops.

In April, the European Commission reversed an earlier ban and approved the import of 10 new GM crops for human and animal consumption, including corn, soybeans, cotton and canola oil.

Meanwhile in the USA, the House of Representatives has just passed the perversely named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” which prohibits state and local authorities from requiring safe and accurate GMO labeling. By now it’s clear that when consumers know about GMOs, they tend to be skeptical. But when they don’t know… It’s unlikely the Act will encounter any resistance in the Senate or the White House, both deeply beholden to the agri-chemical leviathans.

There is just one fly in the banning-GMOs ointment, but it’s a big one: Under massive international trade agreements like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiated in secret by corporate lobbies, corporations can sue any government bold enough to enact sensible, democratic measures meant to protect the public and the earth if there’s a chance they might limit actual or even potential corporate profits. A ban on GM crops is as likely a target as any.

Still, in taking responsible action, governments of countries like Scotland and Russia set an inspiring example of what is possible.

For a sane conversation on genetic manipulation and food security, visit Canadian scientist/farmer Ann Clark in Bold Scientists, here.  Scroll down to chapter 2, Digging for thistles.

 


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Life & death in Monsantoland

monsantoland

Two recent events in Monsanto-land tell it all:

Lobbyist claims Monsanto pesticide safe to drink, bolts when offered a glass. (It’s caught on a gem of a video, embedded in the story). Raw Story, 27 March 2015.

Monsanto demands World Health Organization retract report on Roundup link to cancer.  EcoWatch, 26 March 2015.

For a good dose of sanity on GMOs, hunger, and post-oil farming, check out Ann Clark, plant physiologist and farmer, in Bold ScientistsRead an excerpt here.

Meantime, pass this on.  And have a nice day.

 

 


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A victory in El Salvador: Farmers defy Monsanto

El Salvador seedlings

The Monsanto and Dow corporations, both chemical behemoths, nearly always get their way, by a variety of means and with disastrous consequences on almost every continent. But in El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America:

“The farmers, who have already been consistently outperforming Monsanto with their local seed, which is far healthier and more productive, have just managed to bring about a giant defeat of Monsanto by preventing it   from supplying El Salvador with its seeds.”

The full story is here.

A rare victory, and an inspiring model for farmers everywhere.

 

 


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Food fight, high stakes

In Independent Science News, January 12, Jonathan Latham sets out a stark bottom line for the survival of multi-cellular organisms – eg human beings – on this planet.

Industrial agriculture

Latham: “The project to fully industrialise global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions, most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, massive human health problems, and so on. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialisation of food is not reversed our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms.”

So then, a matter of life and death. Jonathan Latham offers a recipe for survival.  It’s worth a try.

For a taste of how to feed the world on a human scale, visit with Ann Clark, plant physiologist and farmer, in Bold Scientists, chapter 2, Digging thistles. Read an excerpt here.


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New GM Crops: fields of insanity

A definition of insanity: If something clearly doesn’t work, do it again.  And again…

TRAUDT AERIAL SERVICEPhoto: Aurora Cooperative

The corporate leviathans that brought us GM crops promised no pollen spread. Fact: Any place these invasive crops are planted they spread pollen as far as wind and bugs can carry it, making it impossible to grow non-genetically manipulated crops for miles around.

The industry promised that GM herbicide-tolerant crops would need less chemicals to suppress competing weeds. Nature laughed. Fact: Very quickly, weeds developed tolerance to the most widely used herbicide, glyphosate. The resulting ‘superweeds’ already infest an estimated 70 million acres of US farmland, and they’re spreading rapidly.  It’s being called an agricultural crisis.  Another one.

The corporate solution to the new problem: Throw more chemicals at it. No surprise, chemicals induce dependency and generate enormous profits. The pushers are pushing hard – not that it takes much pressure – to get US government approval to sell the highly toxic 2,4-D herbicide/defoliant, infamous as a weapon of mass destruction in the US war on Viet Nam.

At the same time, the industry plans to release GM crops.2, corn and soybeans genetically manipulated to tolerate repeated dousing with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D. Details here, in Wired: http://www.wired.com/2014/09/new-gm-crops/.

For a saner path, stop in for a visit with Ann Clark, plant physiologist and post-oil farmer, in Bold Scientists, chapter 2, Digging thistles. Read an excerpt here.


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Good news from Chile!

From the newly elected government of Chile, an inspiring initiative on the genetic manipulation front:

Chile Derails ‘Monsanto Law’ That Would Privatize Seeds.

Chile protests GMOsPhoto: International Business Times

The bold move followed years of public protest against GMOs throughout Chile.

Alicia Muñoz, of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri) explains: “All of the resistance that rural organizations, principally indigenous communities, led during these past years was a success.  We were able to convey to the parliament how harmful the law would be for the indigenous communities and farmers who feed us all.  Big agriculture, or agro-business, is just that, a business.  It doesn’t feed our country.”

Meanwhile in Canada, the US and the EU, governments beholden to the agri-corps rush to do their profit-driven bidding.

The new government in Chile sets an example of what responsible governments can do when they attend to the needs of their people, rather than serve the grey ghosts that stalk the corridors of power.

Follow the international GMO battle in Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science, coming from Between the Lines, autumn 2014.