Farmers, Indigenous people and rural communities around the world celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity last week. But casting a long shadow was the news that big funders and new NGOs are teaming up with the pesticide-biotech giant, Syngenta, in a renewed effort to push genetically engineered rice forward in Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Nicknamed “golden rice,” this untested, highly controversial GE crop threatens biodiversity across the region and risks bringing economic and ecological disaster to Asia’s farms.
It was chile peppers, not strawberries, that saw the first use of cancer-causing methyl iodide to sterilize California soil. And today, community leaders from Fresno and throughout the Central Valley gathered at the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner's office to urge officials to stop any future use of the chemical in their community.
My mom hackles are up. GE toxins are turning up in umbilical cordblood and the blood of pregnant women, according to a study by independent Canadian doctors. And what might be the effect of these toxins on developing fetuses? No one really knows. Let me tell you why this is big news.
All this time, Monsanto has based its assertion that crops engineered to contain the bacterial toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are harmless on an assumption that the toxin breaks down in the digestive system and so never enters the rest of the body. Regulators have been repeating this to us for over a generation. Now it turns out that the Bt toxin is not only surviving in our guts, but is making its way on into our bloodstreams — and if we’re pregnant, into the soon-to-be-babies in our bellies.
Healthy crops come from healthy soil. Soil fertility depends on an incredible diversity and abundance of soil critters, from the microscopic to the flying and creepy crawly. Together these critters cycle nitrogen (N) and many other essential minerals and nutrients, making them available to plants. The complexity of what goes on in healthy soil is truly awe-inspiring.
A key group of organisms that provide the soil with one nutrient that's often in short supply are the N-fixing soil bacteria. And according to a recent study by UK scientists, it turns out these organisms do a better job when they're working on organic farms.
With gas prices well over $4/gallon, conversation with my neighbors frequently turns to the vulnerability of our fossil-fuel-based economy and to the future of our planet. The good news I can share today is that organic farms — besides being good for the soil, environment and our health — are proving to be much more energy efficient than conventional systems.
Organic farmers Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin have made a life-long commitment to sustainability and social justice. And as reported in PAN's spring newsletter, they recently won confirmation of their right to farm free of pesticides in a $1 million court case.
Larry and Sandra started farming in San Mateo County, California, in 1980, producing fresh organic culinary herbs. Then in 1985 they began working with the Del Cabo community in Baja California, Mexico, to develop a source of organic fruit and vegetables during the off-season. Today, Del Cabo Cooperative is a thriving community of 400 farmers that sells organic produce across the U.S.
A big thanks to all who came out Monday night and joined us in what was a lively conversation on Growing Food Democracy: Connecting Global Lessons to Local Action. I was thrilled to see such interest and to meet so many people in the Bay Area so deeply engaged in the work of building a just and sustainable food system.