Seed corporations squeeze farmers; Organic milk delivers mom-friendly nutrition; Presbyterians fast for food sovereignty...
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS archive for complete information.
- Corporations squeeze farmers with seed patents
- Pesticides in Connecticut water spark concern
- Organic milk and apples deliver on nutrition & health
- Presbyterians fast for food sovereignty
On the eve of the World Seed Conference, researchers released a statement arguing that corporate control of seeds limits farmers' abilities to adapt to climate change. Lead researcher Krystyna Swiderska of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), stated, "Where farming communities have been able to maintain their traditional varieties, they are already using them to cope with the impacts of climate change. But more commonly, these varieties are being replaced by a smaller range of 'modern' seeds that are heavily promoted by corporations and subsidised by governments. These seeds have less genetic diversity yet need more inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers and more natural resources such as land and water.” The statement was released by researchers from the IIED in the United Kingdom, and partner organizations in China, India, Kenya, Panama and Peru. The China Daily reports that important, resilient characteristics of plants "such as drought and pest resistance could be lost forever.... Researchers say that one reason for this is that while theinternational treaty on the protection of new varieties of plants protects the profits of powerful private corporations it fails to recognize and protect the rights and knowledge of poor farmers. Small-scale farmers rarely benefit when outsiders such as corporate plant breeders make use of their traditional seeds to develop new varieties, because the plant breeders acquire the intellectual property rights when they test and register the new varieties. 'Traditional seed varieties are critical to help Chinese farmers adapt to climate change,' says Jingsong Li of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy in China." Many other researchers point out that in order to continue conserving and adapting their varieties, farmers also need to be allowed to freely save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Monsanto recently announced a 42% price hike on its most popular genetically modified seeds. In many areas of the country these seed lines are the only ones available for sale to U.S. farmers who have found seed-saving of any sort an increasingly dangerous practice as Monsanto aggressively pursues farmers and seed cleaners suspected of saving its patented seed lines.
Residents of a Stamford, Connecticut neighborhood have joined together to demand cleanup of a local park after two persistent organic pollutant (POPs) pesticides were found in their drinking water. The Stamford Advocate reports, "This summer, the city and state launched water tests of private wells in the area in response to a federal study showing unsafe levels of contaminants in soil within [a local] park, a site used as a landfill from the 1930s until the early 1970s." The state found levels of the pesticides dieldrin and chlordane at levels much higher than the state considers safe for humans. At one home, dieldrin levels were 43 times the state standard. The two pesticides were banned for most uses in the United States by the mid-1990s, and throughout North America by the end of the century. Both chemicals were on PAN's original Dirty Dozen Pesticides list because of their potential to harm human health and the environment. The Advocate reports the concerns of one neighbor, Netta Stern: "'What I would like to see is the government, at whatever level, clean this up and clean it up properly.'" According to Pesticide Action Network scientist Karl Tupper, "The Stamford water situation is an unfortunate demonstration of the threat that persistent pesticides continue to pose. The two contaminants that are turning up in these people's water were banned years ago, yet here they are. This underscores our need to end the use
of those few persistent pesticides that still remain on the market. Our grandchildren will face the consequences of our decisions today." Tupper, who will attend UN negotiations this fall to argue for a global ban of endosulfan, another hazardous POPs pesticide, added: "It's time for corporations and governments to end the distribution of these antiquated poisons and to support safer, healthier food and farming systems." Meanwhile, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy has agreed to provide bottled water for residents living on seven streets in the neighborhood and has said that the EPA will provide charcoal water filters for homes. Residents continue to seek a full clean up of the park, and to be switched to the municipal water supply.
After researchers found that infants raised on organic dairy products are 36% less likely to suffer from allergies in the first two years of life, the United Kingdom Daily Record reports that mothers in particular are increasing their purchasing of organic milk. The findings are from a Dutch study led by Dr. Machteld Huber that followed the lifestyle, diet and health of 2,500 pregnant women and their children for two years after birth. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study found that children who were fed organic dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt) were also less likely to develop eczema in their first two years of life. The Daily Record reported the reaction of one mother: "When Sarah Milne found out she was pregnant, buying organic milk became more important to her." According to Milne, "'Doctors tell you that you shouldn't take antibiotics when you're feeding your baby. It just makes sense to drink organic milk because the organic cows are fed a more natural diet and there is a very limited use of antibiotics.'" In related news, the UK Telegraph reported that the organically grown "Pendragon" apple, a variety grown in England for roughly 800 years, contains higher levels of plant compounds linked to health benefits such as reduced inflammation and lowering blood sugars. Medical News Today reported that, "Twelve organically grown and three non-organically grown varieties of apple were tested for a range of plant compounds with beneficial properties that have been linked to health-giving actions, including cholesterol and blood sugar reduction, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-aging effects." Pharmacist Michael Wakeman, who led the study, reported, "Of all the organic varieties, Pendragon was the best apple variety and contained seven of the eight kinds of healthy components at the highest levels. In contrast, the non-organic apples consistently had low levels … in both the flesh and the peel.”
Presbyterians across the United States signaled their commitment to address the global food crisis by focusing on "food sovereignty," supporting local and democratic control of food systems around the world. After a year of monthly fasts and reflection on poverty and hunger worldwide, members of the denomination are now thinking through local actions and policy shifts that democratize our food system. According to the Presbyterian Church USA, "Our food system is terribly broken. While giant industrial-style farms grow, millions of farmers are leaving failed farms as agribusiness privatizes and despoils our water, soil and biodiversity. This human-shaped system is cruel and immoral, especially considering that food production has outpaced population growth for decades. It is a tragedy because the economic practices and public policies that lead to starvation could be changed to ensure that all are able to feed themselves. Around the world, farmers, indigenous peoples, farmworkers, fisherfolk, environmentalists and citizens are calling for a new food system based on food sovereignty. Food sovereignty switches the tables so producers and consumers are in control rather than giant agri-food companies. The goal is healthy, culturally appropriate and sustainably-produced food for all people.'" Fasts were held the first weekend in September across the U.S.