Emilio Godoy – Pope Francis Joins Battle Against Transgenic Crops

August 13, 2015

MEXICO CITY, Aug 11 2015 (IPS) – A few centuries ago, the biotechnology industry would have been able to buy a papal bull to expiate its sins and grant it redemption. But in his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis condemns genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without leaving room for a pardon. In his second encyclical since he became pope on Mar. 13, 2013 – but the first that is entirely his work – Jorge Mario Bergoglio criticises the social, economic and agricultural impacts of GMOs and calls for a broad scientific debate. Laudato Si – “Praise be to you, my Lord” in medieval Italian – takes its title from Saint Francis of Assisi’s 13th-century Canticle of the Sun, one of whose verses is: “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” It is the first encyclical in history dedicated to the environment and reflecting on “our common home” – planet

This Can’t Be Happening – 07.29.15

July 31, 2015

Host Dave Lindorff interviews Andrew Leslie Phillips, journalist, fimmaker and former station manager of Pacific Radio flagship station KPFA in San Francisco, about his latest focus: teaching and promoting the concept of permaculture, a holistic approach to sustainable human society that focuses on individuals, families and local communities. Phillips, a native of Australia, joined the conversation from his home in Hancock, NY, where he has lived for the past ten years. Download this episode (right click and

World’s Largest Indoor Vertical Farm Breaks Ground in Newark, New Jersey – Lorraine Chow

July 20, 2015

Newark, New Jersey will soon be home to the largest indoor vertical farm in the world. The city just broke ground on the massive, 69,000-square-foot AeroFarms headquarters that’s capable of producing up to 2 million pounds of vegetables and herbs annually once it’s in full operation. The new $30 million complex dwarfs Japan’s (already impressive) 25,000-square-foot vertical indoor farm, which had been the world’s largest until now. Merging agriculture and the latest in technology, the AeroFarms system relies on LED lights, aeroponics (where plants basically grow in nutrient-rich mist) and climate control. Plants grow in stacked racks without sun, soil or pesticides. In the Bloomberg video below, AeroFarms CEO and co-founder David Rosenberg explains how conditions such as lighting, oxygen, carbon dioxide, temperature and pH balances can be optimized inside the farm to create the perfect growing environment. “If we’re talking about feeding a planet of 8 billion or 9 billion, we need a new paradigm of how we grow our food. This is it. This is the future,” Rosenberg said about the project. According to projections from the United Nations, the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, 86 percent of whom will live in cities that might be far-removed from traditional farms. For people who live

You call this stewardship of Earth? BY ALLEN ARMSTRONG AND IRIS SANGIOVANNI

July 20, 2015

This column is a collaboration between a retired engineer and a university student regarding our perceptions of climate change. Allen Armstrong: As a 75-year-old grandfather, I represent the latest generation responsible for the Earth as it is, to be passed down to Iris, a 20-year-old student, and, later, to the generation of my grandchildren. What sort of stewards have we been? What sort of Earth will we be leaving? When I was Iris’ age, in 1960, the average temperature of Earth was 1.5 degrees cooler than it is today. Carbon dioxide was 305 parts per million in the atmosphere; it’s now 400. Fossil fuel emissions are now three times as great. Sea level has risen 7 inches. THE FUTURE LOOMS The ocean has become more acidic, coral reefs are dying, we have overfished the oceans and our fertilizer runoff has created dead zones that didn’t exist when I was young. Glaciers are melting. Water supplies are threatened. Read

Organic is bee-friendly, shows new report

July 10, 2015

An important and timely report just released by The Organic Center shows that organic farming practices are effective in maintaining the health and population of important crop pollinators, predominantly bees, which have been declining at an alarming rate in the past decade and threatening global food security. Titled “The Role of Organic in Supporting Pollinator Health,” the report reviewed 71 studies detailing current threats to our pollinators and the impact of organic practices. It found that organic methods not only reduce risks to bees, but actively support the growth and health of populations of bees and other pollinators. The paper outlines pollinator-friendly techniques used by organic farmers that can also be incorporated into conventional farming systems. “Our paper takes an in-depth look at the challenges faced by honey bees and other pollinators, and we look at organic as a model for supporting pollinator populations,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “We hope this report acts as a tool to educate policymakers, growers and consumers. Bee-friendly practices being used by organic farmers can be adopted by all producers to foster healthy pollinators.” Seventy-five percent of all crops grown for food rely on pollinators, mostly honey bees,

Study: Groundwater from aquifers important factor in food security

July 9, 2015

Thirsty cities, fields and livestock drink deeply from aquifers, natural sources of groundwater. But a study of three of the most-tapped aquifers in the United States shows that overdrawing from these resources could lead to difficult choices affecting not only domestic food security but also international markets. University of Illinois professors of civil and environmental engineering Ximing Cai and Megan Konar, along with graduate student Landon Marston and Lehigh University professor Tara Troy, studied groundwater consumption from three main aquifer systems. Reliance on these aquifers intensified so much from 2000 to 2008 that it accounted for 93 percent of groundwater depletion in the U.S. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The U.S. Geological Survey identifies the Central Valley aquifer in California, the High Plains aquifer in the Great Plains states, and the Mississippi Embayment aquifer in the lower Midwest as being managed unsustainably, which means that water is being extracted from the aquifer faster than it is replenishing. “Deep groundwater is like natural gas. If you use it, it takes a while to recharge,” Cai said. “Unsustainable usage means the water table is lowered, which makes it more difficult and more expensive to pump

Scientists warn of species loss due to man-made landscapes

July 7, 2015

Study found 35% fewer bird species in agricultural habitats Researchers say farmland is a poor substitute for natural areas but simple improvements could make a difference to biodiversity conservation Research led by the University of Exeter has found a substantial reduction in bird species living in cultivated mango orchards compared to natural habitats in Southern Africa. The results, which are published today in the journal Landscape Ecology, highlight the value of assessing habitats prior to land use change to predict the impact of agriculture on biodiversity. The researchers monitored bird populations across cultivated mango orchards and natural habitats in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere region in South Africa. They found that replacing a natural habitat with an agricultural landscape can result in a substantial decline in the richness of species living within the region. The scientists were aiming to ascertain whether agriculture could add novel habitat elements and thereby support additional bird species complementary to those already present in the natural areas – but found that in contrast, there was a loss of 35% of the bird species within the farmed land. One of the study’s authors, Dr Frank Van Veen of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of

California’s drought: the canary in the coalmine? – Maude Barlow

July 7, 2015

On April 1, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered officials to impose mandatory water restrictions in his drought stricken state for the first time in history. The news was carried around the world.  “Climate change” was named as the culprit — and it is. Glaciers are melting in the arctic and drastically-reduced snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has lowered the amount of run-off that the state depends on for water renewal. But there’s another side to this story and it’s this: human abuse and mismanagement of water is actually a cause of climate change, and that needs to be placed at the center of our thinking about environmental destruction and regeneration. In this sense, California is the ‘canary in the coalmine’ of a growing water crisis, and what’s happening there shows why all of us must transform our thinking, action, and relationships to this most precious of resources. For decades, there has been massive engineering of the state’s water supplies through pipelines, canals and aqueducts in order to supply a small number of powerful farmers inCalifornia’s Central Valley. Eighty percent of all water in California goes to agriculture, much of it to grow water-intensive crops for export. Alfalfa hay, for example, which is mostly exported to

100,000 German beekeepers call for GMO cultivation ban

July 6, 2015

German beekeepers have called for a nationwide ban on cultivating GM plants, reports the German NGO The call by the German Beekeepers Association (DIB), which represents almost 100,000 beekeepers, comes after Europe adopted controversial legislation enabling member states to opt-out of the cultivation of GMOs that have been approved at the EU level. Under the law, a member state can ban a GMO in part or all of its territory. But the law has come under heavy criticismfor failing to provide a solid basis for such bans. The beekeepers are urging Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) to implement a Germany-wide ban on cultivation. The Minister pleads, however, for letting each state decide individually. The beekeepers counter that a piecemeal approach will not work. Bees fly up to eight kilometres in search of food, the DIB said, so a juxtaposition of GM crop cultivation zones and GMO-free zones within Germany would be “environmentally and agriculturally unacceptable”. “Bees know no borders,” the DIB added. The beekeepers’ demand for a nationwide ban could bring them into direct conflict with the new opt-out law, as experts warn that such bans may not be legally solid. National GMO cultivation bans will be tough to uphold Read

Pope Francis and Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time

July 1, 2015

Pope Francis and Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time Gary Null & Richard Gale Progressive Radio Network, July 1, 2015   Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, speaks not only on behalf of ardent environmental and social activists but also for the protectors of animal rights and opponents of the horrendous conditions farm animals face before being slaughtered to satiate the world’s taste for dead flesh. It is a clarion call not just to Catholics but to all citizens of the world to wake up to the destructive course humanity is embarking upon and the annihilation of the very infrastructure upon which human survival and the endurance of all other species depends. There is reason to feel optimistic that an international leader, responsible for the spiritual direction of 1.2 billion Catholics would take this stance against the powers who are determined to alter and destroy life as we know it.   By focusing on the many benefits of preserving our environment, ecology, farmlands, and communities and cultures, the Pope is pointing the way towards what should be done if he can make one further step; that is to adopt a fully vegetarian or vegan diet. Even if only 10%
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