This week in Dakar, Senegal, 75,00 people from 132 countries have converged for the 11thWorld Social Forum—an inspiring and energizing week of workshops, seminars, panels and celebratory cultural events. The forum is being held at Cheikh Anta Diop University, where PAN Africa's Dr. Abou Thiam teaches. This year, the theme of the World Social Forum, “Another World is Possible,” has been given new meaning to Africans, with the electrifying developments in Egypt and Tunisia uppermost in many participants' minds.
In a new report, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stressed the need to transform agriculture and adopt “climate-smart” practices. No news there. The real surprise is what "climate-smart" ag does not mean for FAO.
At the annual World Economic Forum this past weekend in Davos, Switzerland, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Director Rajiv Shah stood beside CEOs from Monsanto and other infamous giant corporations, and announced U.S. support for a “New Vision for Agriculture.”
Yes, you should be worried.
Britain’s Chief Scientist has come out trumpeting the need for genetically engineered (GE) crops to feed the world, and the UK media is falling all over itself with blaring headlines that echo this badly misinformed sentiment (see Guardian, Telegraph coverage).
The source of all the hullabaloo is the UK’s release this week of its mammoth Foresight report, Global Food and Farming Futures. Using the occasion to espouse what seems to be his personal opinion, Sir John Beddington —the Chief Scientist in question — argues that “It is very hard to see how it would be remotely sensible to justify not using new technologies such as GM. Just look at the problems that the world faces: water shortages and salination of existing water supplies, for example. GM crops should be able to deal with that.” “Should?” Is that the best you can do, Sir John?
Please join me today in urging the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to block approval of GE alfalfa. Things are moving quickly in Washington, and frankly, they aren't looking good. Ignoring rulings from three District courts and the Supreme Court, the demands of over 50 members of Congress and concern expressed by his agency’s own scientists (not to mention farmers and the public), Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is apparently refusing to take action to prohibit the planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.
Yesterday, January 12th, I participated in Worldwatch Institute’s launch of its new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations to Nourish the Planet. The report presents a dazzling array of creative down-to-earth solutions from African farmers that can help solve the scourge of global hunger and poverty. I had the great pleasure of co-authoring the concluding chapter of this report.
I’m back from Washington D.C., where I participated in the final workshop of the Department of Justice (DOJ) addressing corporate concentration in agriculture. First, many thanks to all of you who shared your concerns with me before I left. I was proud to be able to stand before the panel of DOJ officials and deliver your messages.
The 50 biggest biotech and agrochemical trade groups spent over $572 million from 1999 to 2010 on lobbying. That’s more than half a billion dollars! According to a new report from Food & Water Watch, the annual rate was a steady $30-$40 million per year until about 2006, when this industry apparently began courting Congress in earnest — as the annual figure nearly doubles between 2006 and 2010. And as Business Week reports, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) — the world's largest biotech lobby group — spent over $2 million in the third quarter of 2010 alone, lobbying Congress as well as the National Institute of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture Department, Health and Human Services Department, Food and Drug Administration and other agencies, to keep genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals unregulated and on the market.
Several of my friends have just returned from The Hague, Netherlands, where they joined nearly 1,000 people from 80 countries in a Global Conference on Climate, Agriculture and Food Security. With the planet on the precipice of climate chaos and nearly a billion people hungry, the stakes in finding genuine solutions could not be higher. And with only three weeks left til the UN Conference on Climate in Cancun, the Hague meeting had the potential to do something really useful. Like champion a global transition to climate-resilient ecological agriculture, with enough financial and policy support to enable farmers around the world to adapt to and survive the stresses of climate change. Alas, it did not.
25,000 villages in Pakistan are about to lose their fertile farmland to wealthy investors from oil-rich Gulf states. That’s villages, not villagers. In Tanzania, a Swedish agrofuels company is in the process of acquiring a lease on up to 500,000 hectares of land, in order to produce sugarcane ethanol on an industrial scale. That’s about 2,000 square miles of land. Lack of informed consent among villagers who reside on the land, and potentially enormous impacts on the communities’ food and water supply are at issue.