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.
When DDT was introduced more than 60 years ago, it initially scored victory after victory in the fight against malaria — nearly eliminating the deadly disease in many areas. But these wins were mostly short-lived, as mosquitoes rapidly developed resistance to the chemical. Today, its effectiveness is a fraction of what it once was; meanwhile an arsenal of better and safer anti-malaria interventions has been developed, including effective chemical-free strategies.
And so, under the auspices of the Stockholm Convention, the nations of the world have committed to phasing out DDT, while allowing it to be used in the short-term in those few places where it's still effective and other methods of malaria control are unavailable. This is an approach PAN enthusiastically supports.
Two successful organic producers were among those recently recognized for pest control innovation by California officials. The state's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced recipients of its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovator Awards last month, and among the awardees were Dixon Ridge Farms and Bonterra (Fetzer) Vineyards. I was delighted to see the two award winners featured again last week at the annual EcoFarm conference, a three-day gathering of thousands of organic growers, input providers, processors, distributors, academics, government agencies, non-profit organizations and eaters near Monterey, California.
As EPA hosted its second annual National Bed Bug Summit in Washington, D.C. this week, evidence continues to mount that bed bugs are increasingly immune to the pesticides being used to control them.
Bed bugs are providing a textbook example of how pests become resistant to pesticides. According to researchers at Ohio State University, when pesticides are applied to bed bug colonies, inevitably a small population survives and develops resistance to the chemical used. As these survivors reproduce, they pass on that resistance to their offspring, creating new generations of pesticide-resistant bed bugs.
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.
Endosulfan is in the news in India again, with new evidence of the insecticide's impact on children and bees.
On January 23, a report covered in The Hindu found that endosulfan is linked to declining honeybee populations in Idukki and Kasaragod districts in India. Scientists observed that the day following an endosulfan spray, local honeybees showed symptoms of poisoning and died. Corresponding declines in fruit yields were also reported where endosulfan had been sprayed, possibly reflecting the loss of the pollinators.
On January 27, Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack announced the USDA's decision to de-regulate Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa, allowing it to be grown anywhere and placing both organic and conventional farmers at risk. “We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said Pat Trask, a conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in litigation to prevent planting of GE alfalfa.
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?
Today Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians, called for the initiation of a new era of U.S.-tribal relations as he delivered the annual State of Indian Nations address. As he addressed tribal and U.S. government leaders in Washington, D.C., Keel noted the significance of the Obama Administration's December 16, 2010 announcement that the U.S. is "lending its support" to the The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. What's important now is implementation.