Agriculture

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 keine-gentechnik.de. 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%

Stupidity and Intelligence: Science, GMOs and Our Food – Vandana Shiva

June 30, 2015

“Science” is derived from the scire – “to know”. Each of us should know what we are eating, how it was produced, what impact it has on our health. “Agroecology, not the mechanistic and blind paradigm of industrial agriculture, is the truly scientific approach to food production.” The knowledge we need for growing food is knowledge of biodiversity and living seed, of living soil and the soil food web, of interaction between different species in the agroecosystem and of different seasons. Farmers have been the experts in these fields, as have ecological scientists who study the evolution of microorganisms, plants and animals, the ecological web and the soil food web. In industrial agriculture the knowledge of living systems is totally missing since industrial agriculture was externally driven by using war chemicals as inputs for agriculture. Soil was defined as an empty container for holding synthetic fertilizers, plants were defined as machines running on external inputs. This meant substituting the ecological functions and services that nature and farmers can provide through renewal of soil fertility, pest and weed control, and seed improvement. But it also implied ignorance of the destruction of the functions by the toxic chemicals applied to agriculture. This complex knowledge

Cuba’s warming relations with the US may undermine its agroecological city farms – Julia Wright & Emily Morris

June 30, 2015

Cuba is a global exemplar of organic, agroecological farming, taking place on broad swathes of land in and around its cities, write Julia Wright & Emily Morris. These farms cover 14% of the country’s agricultural land, employ 350,000 people, and produce half the country’s fruit and vegetables. But can they survive exposure to US agribusiness? For more than 20 years, Cuba has been developing a sophisticated urban and suburban food system, producing healthy food, improving the environment and providing employment. But how will the sector survive if the economy opens up to US agricultural and industrial trade and investment? The first urban farms emerged spontaneously in Cuba out of the hardships of the early 1990s. People in towns and cities began to cultivate urban waste land and keep small livestock as a coping strategy. Possibly the first co-ordinated effort was the Santa Fe project in the north-west of Havana City, initiated in 1991. Taking advantage of the available resources within the community, empty urban space was reclaimed for food production to help overcome irregular and inadequate food supplies. The principles of organic, or agroecological, farming were used to overcome the lack of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. These included making compost from local

Food Security: a Hostage to Wall Street by COLIN TODHUNTER

June 29, 2015

In October of last year, World Food Day celebrated ‘Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth’. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s website, the family farming theme was chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. The aim was to focus world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, especially in rural areas. Family farming should indeed be celebrated because it really does feed the world. This claim is supported by a 2014 report by GRAIN, which revealed that small farms produce most of the world’s food. Around 56% of Russia ‘s agricultural output comes from family farms which occupy less than 9% of arable land. These farms produce 90% of the country’s potatoes, 83% of its vegetables, 55% of its of milk, 39% of its meat and 22% of its cereals (Russian Federation Federal State Statistics Services figures for 2011). In Brazil, 84% of farms are small and control 24% of the land, yet they produce: 87% of cassava, 69% of beans, 67% of goat milk, 59% of pork, 58% of cow milk, 50% of

Study Finds Fungicides May Also Contribute to Declining Bee Populations By Claire Bernish

June 25, 2015

The link between popular pesticides and declining bee populations has been the subject of controversy and the target of research for some time; but the soaring use of fungicides hasn’t received much attention as they were accepted to be harmless to the pollinators—until now. Two recent studies found fungicides to be the potential cause for deteriorating health in bumblebee and wild bee populations. Researchers in one study focused on bumblebees and revealed some startling evidence: bumblebees who visited fungicide-laden blossoms had smaller workers, feeble queens, and overall reduced colony size. In the second study, areas predominantly devoted to agriculture saw an overall reduction in wild bee populations, partly due to widespread fungicide use. Though neither study revealed incontrovertible proof, both found enough correlation between the popular chemicals and worsening bee health to warrant concern.     University of Wisconsin entomologist Hannah Gaines-Day and her team of researchers were asked by local farmers if fungicides were safe to use while crops were in bloom and bees were actively foraging. “It’s a group of pesticides that hasn’t been looked at too closely. Insecticides are meant to kill insects, so people have been really interested in how insecticides kill beneficial insects. But fungicides are not meant to

The Global GMO Food War Against Humanity

June 24, 2015

The Global GMO Food War Against Humanity Richard Gale and Gary Null Progressive Radio Network, November 18, 2014   After decades of rearing hogs, Danish farmer IbBorup Pedersen was alarmed at the growing incidence of malformations and biological defects among his newborn piglets. Deformities included gaps in piglets’ skulls, deformed bones, missing limbs and even a female piglet with testicles. Never having witnessed such large numbers of deformed pigs before, Pedersen realized that it was after switching three years earlier to Monsanto’s GMO feed– which had been grown with glyphosate–that these birth defects began to appear. Pedersen had the piglets’ bodies sent to a Danish laboratory for analysis. The results were clear; there were high concentrations of Monsanto’s glyphosate pesticide, commonly known as Roundup, in the piglets’ organs.[1] The analyses’ findings were subsequently published in a recent Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology.[2] Pedersen’s experience is another blow against Monsanto’s public relations campaign to convince governments, farmers and consumers that Roundup is one of the world’s safest pesticides and poses no risk to animal and human health. For many years Monsanto has stood by this myth with fanatical religious fervor against all existing independent evidence to the

The Deadly Duo of Genetically Modified Food and Toxic Pesticides

June 24, 2015

The Deadly Duo of Genetically Modified Food and Toxic Pesticides Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD Progressive Radio Network, August 12, 2014     After decades of rearing hogs, Danish farmer Ib Borup Pedersen was alarmed the growing incidence of malformations and biological defects among his new born piglets. Deformities included gaps in piglets’ skulls, deformed bones, missing limbs and even a female piglet with testicles. Never having witnessed such large numbers of deformed pigs before, Pedersen realized that it was after switching three years earlier to Monsanto’s GMO feed, which had been grown with glyphosate that these birth defects began to appear. Pedersen had the piglets’ bodies sent to a Danish laboratory for analysis. The results were clear: there were high concentrations of Monsanto’s glyphosate pesticide, commonly known as Roundup, in the piglets’ organs.[1] The analyses’ findings were subsequently published in a recent Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology,[2]   Pedersen’s experience is another blow against Monsanto’s public relations campaign to convince governments, farmers and populations that Roundup is one of the world’s safest pesticides and poses no risk to animal and human health. For many years Monsanto has stood by this myth with fanatical religious fervor against all
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