April 30, 2009

GMO Alfalfa: legal trespass?

This was in my email box from and came from the Sanet MG list: SANET-MG@LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU

"A Saskatchewan court recently declared that the release to the environment of GM crops as in field tests and deregulation means that GM pollen and seed can go anywhere (alfalfa pollen goers a long way) in Canada. That court decision seems to be pure lunacy as it means that GM pollution of neighbouring crops cannot be considered trespass and there is no protection from it. Or for that matter the invasion by corporate lawyers demanding compensation for the GM crops that were produced by invading pollen.
Even though the US courts have stopped the planting of GM alfalfa and ordered an environment assessment because of the well known ability to pollute neighbouring crops Agriculture Canada seem willing to promote the pollution of organic and non-GM alfalfa as they did with GM canola.
The Canadian agriculture department fanatically promotes polluting GM crops in the face of evidence and common sense".

Stop GM Alfalfa in Canada
For more information and to see the list of groups endorsing the campaign: http://www.cban.ca/NoGMOAlfalfa

*Widespread Call Issued to Stop GM Alfalfa in Canada
*80 groups to fight the commercialization of genetically modified alfalfa

Press Release April 28 2009

Ottawa – Today, 80 groups including farmer associations and food businesses from across Canada joined the growing call to stop the introduction and field-testing of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa.

The alfalfa in question is genetically modified by Monsanto to be tolerant to the company’s brand name herbicide Roundup. Alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop on the market.

“The contamination of alfalfa would be inevitable and irreversible. We’ve already seen an end to organic canola due to GM contamination and we can’t afford to lose alfalfa,” said Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate. “Because it’s pollinated by bees, genes from Monsanto’s GM alfalfa would spread out of control.”


April 28, 2009

hogs and the swine flu

flooded hog factory

"In September 1999, almost immediately after receiving two strikes from Hurricane Dennis, Hurricane Floyd came roaring through Eastern North Carolina. In his path lay nearly 2,000 factory farm cesspools loaded with hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic fecal waste, wastewater treatment plants, factories and communities, many of which were in the flood plain." source and photo

And is this a coincidence that the year before this flooding a "highly pathogenic strain" wiped out thousands of sows in North Carolina:

"Since its identification during the Great Depression, H1N1 swine flu had only drifted slightly from its original genome. Then in 1998 a highly pathogenic strain began to decimate sows on a farm in North Carolina and new, more virulent versions began to appear almost yearly, including a variant of H1N1 that contained the internal genes of H3N2 (the other type-A flu circulating among humans)".

From Common Dreams; Swine Flu Crisis Lays Bare the Meat Industry's Monstrous Power

And see Tom Philpott: Swine-flu outbreak could be linked to Smithfield factory farms
regarding the epicenter in big Hog country Vera Cruz

April 27, 2009

bovine gender identity

There has been a bit of confusion in the comments about my cow's gender identity so I just wanted to clear that up.

Doris the cheeky butt and Alex T Bone look alike and as she is the nanny while Alex's Mom goes off foraging, her babe is the red and white belted beauty

So this is Doris

And this is T Bone

His family jewels was camera shy but are indeed acting out...in fact it does look like he's about to jump and practise (above) and there has been a fair bit of that going on with the calves. Bullocks will be bullocks.

April 26, 2009

Does pork carry the new H1N1 strain?

Russia may think so as it haults imports of US and Mexican Pork on precaution against swine flu. Bloomberg story here.

Although the official word is that one cannot get swine flu from eating pork (for example the CDC info sheet),
and Vilsack's statement:
"I also wanted to reassure the public that there is no evidence at this time showing that swine have been infected with this virus".

But as Obama Foodorama points out "there's currently no evidence because there hasn't been time to test the hogs".

the pork industry has seen new strains and off season occurances of H1N1 strains:

"Swine influenza virus used to be a seasonal problem as pigs would get sick in the fall and winter and then get over it. Today’s mix of SIV strains has turned swine flu into a year-round problem for pork producers.

Kurt Rossow, Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine, University of Minnesota, says that SIV cases seen in the past 6 months have shown “different H1N1 viruses and changes in H3N2 viruses as well. While it’s still out there and needs to be considered, the classic H1N1 is no longer the predominant SIV type". source

solar concentration and steam power


The Annapolis valley has been having its annual spring clean up where all manner of junk, of one person's order, gets set to the curb for the big brown trucks. Good timing, because as the work becomes full-on I like to day dream about something to build. Sometimes it gets built, and sometimes it is just very pleasurable to be weeding or shoveling and daydream about, in this case, a solar concentrator dish for steam power.

On the curb I found a dissecting microscope that works and a 4 foot satellite dish. A pal down the road, who scours the valley for treasures at the roads side has his eyes open for an antique (30s/4os) compressor because maybe we might make a steam engine out of it..oh and mirror bits. This is the type of place where you might find that kind of thing lying about as one person's junk.

I am going to set broken mirrors in the parabola that she is (maybe first I'll pop a microphone up in it to listen closer to the peepers (frogs) and birds) but it is a little steam engine that I really want to mount.
This great guy uses his to boil his spaghetti, but imagine if the pot were a pressure canner - it would make an interesting garden ornament, particularly if the steam powered a little engine that wound round a track, or spun a propellor on a wee hummingbird.
Or, ok, a practical thing then...perhaps an alternator would fit some how.

Perhaps the massive gold bowls found from Mayan antiquity were used to collect this electromagnetic power, perhaps that was what was on the spot we've assumed are cap stones on the ancient pyramids?

What I am sure of though is that sun to steam to electricity sounds good to me.

sunday evening farm pics

April 24, 2009

Sebelius supports consumer choice for rBGH milk

Kathleen Sebelius, in her last act as governor of Kansas before joining the Obama team as Secretary of Health and Human Services (which is in charge of the FDA and legalized rBGH to begin with) has vetoed Bill 2121 which would have prohibited labeling milk free of rBGH.

"House Bill 2121 contains a number of provisions relating to pesticide and fertilizer laws and fees as well as dairy inspection and dairy-related fees. Without these fees, Kansas could lose important programs that support essential agricultural business operations in our state. I urge the legislature to send me these components in an independent bill so I can affix my signature and the Department of Agriculture can effectively administer these programs," Sebelius said.

"However, the Bill before me also provides for changes in dairy labeling that could make it more difficult to provide consumers with clear information.

"The milk labeling provisions negatively impact a dairy producer's ability to inform consumers that milk is from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST).

"Supporters of the bill claim it's necessary to protect consumers from false or misleading information. Yet there has been overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation.

"Furthermore, I am concerned that patchwork labeling requirements that differ from state to state will make it too expensive, in an already troubled economy, to provide consumers with information regarding the dairy products they purchase.

"Therefore, pursuant to Article 2, Section 14 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, I veto HB 2121."

Jill Richardson writes about it here

April 23, 2009

mice, cows and me

Brrr. Its cold and windy and wet. The cows are bellowing to go out to pasture but I am reluctant to open up the gate; the ground is soft and they'll sink, slip and break the sod up into an unruly mess. They'll have to be patient in their paddock with their barn and last year's hay.

There are mice and wire worms making haste with the lettuce I transplanted into a hoophouse bed. Now its an empty row with little lettuce bits the mouse was too sloppy or full to finish. The beets in the same bed have been nibbled, I see... but the mouse prefers the brunia lettuce.

The beds I've planted in the field are swollen and heavy, the seeds sit in the cold and wet soil, their genes waiting for that warm signal.

We are all waiting for a warm signal.

I might just be the hobo poet on the road before long, if the mice. the wet and the wind keep it up.

April 22, 2009

how can I not find room for potatoes

After moving the huge pile of compost closer to the garden (and turning it in the process) and pushing over the new mountain of compost from the wintered cows, I have found a new spot for vegies -now I have room for potatoes. I can control them a little easier in new ground (weeds). I may be too late to locate really interesting varieties, we'll see, but I have grown an eclectic assortment of spuds, from rosy to bumpy to blue.

There is an excellent photo essay of potato varieties that have come out of the exceptional garden at subsistence patterns food garden. Check it out.

April 21, 2009

Resistant weeds; opportunity in a crisis


Nature has found a way past the deadly toxin associated with round-up, and from a plant with great diversity and dominance - pigweed has come out in full glory. Its an amazingly hardy plant and some can set 10,000 seeds. Horseweed/Canada fleabane is another resistant weed.

The superweeds are so bad some places they have had to hire hand weeders, or abandon land! And 2-4-D is being used... mixed with round-up, another deadly chemical cocktail. Great.

Monsanto knew that the round-up/gene trait gig would only last so long: it is a short sighted scheme. I can imagine and hope that farmers of GE crops are now furious, file suit and tumble the giant.

Resistance was predicted by scientist and activist alike - a super weed community explosion was inevitable.

Now what? More chemicals, this time deadlier.

We'll be back to good rotations, covercrops and mechanical weeding equipment, as well as small and labour intensive community and urban gardens eventually...why not stimulate that now.

the France24 article: Superweed Explosion threaten monsanto heartland

Stop Terminator/Suicide Seeds - Support the Bill to Ban them!

From C-Ban
Bill to Ban Terminator Re-introduced! Ask the Prime Minister to support Bill C-353 "Terminator Seed Ban Act"

Send an instant email http://www.cban.ca/terminatoraction

--- See below for a full list of actions you can take.

What is Terminator? Terminator Technology genetically engineers plants to produce sterile seeds at harvest. It was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the US government to prevent farmers from re-planting harvested seed and force farmers to buy seed each season instead. Terminator seeds have not yet been field-tested or commercialized. In 2006, Monsanto bought the company (Delta & Pine Land) that owned Terminator. Terminator is sometimes called Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTs) - the broad term that refers to the use of an external chemical inducer to control the expression of a plant’s genetic traits.

Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko (NDP) has reintroduced his Private Members Bill (C-343) to ban the release, sale, importation and use of Terminator technology.

Actions you can take:

1. Send an instant email at http://www.cban.ca/terminatoraction

2. Organizations can endorse the call for a ban: go to http://www.banterminator.org/endorse

3. Write a personalized letter. Remember: postage is free to your elected officials! You can use your postal code to search for your MP athttp://www.parl.gc.ca (Note: The New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois already support a Ban on Terminator in Canada.) For more information see http://www.cban.ca/terminator

4. Distribute Ban Terminator postcards in your community! To order postcards email btpostcards@usc-canada.org

5. Donate to support the campaign - the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network implements the Canadian strategy of the International Ban Terminator Campaign http://www.cban.ca/donate

6. Sign up to Ban Terminator news http://www.banterminator.org/subscribe

For more information: http://www.cban.ca/terminator or http://www.banterminator.org

compost and row cover

Gorgeous warm weather enabled me to get in and till over the fall rye in the garden and start spreading the compost. Last fall a neighbour gave me her huge pile of year old horse manure which took 14 truck loads to bring home! After turning twice it shrunk again to a 1/3 its size and its now beautiful, black, complex and sweet smelling.

The soil here is really silty, and I'm happy to provide organic matter in many ways: 3 cover crops (2 times buckwheat and fall rye, my neighbours nice compost, and soon my new compost from the cows bedding, manure,garden scraps, house compost and the remains of the cow's old, now moldy, turnips; I should be able to use this next compost for later plantings.

I planted the drier beds where the rye has dissicated and raked off the live rye clumps in the way of my seeder. I have an earthway seeder with some extra plates. Having 2 small seed plates saves some thinning. I like to beet/chard plates as well as this seed size is quite variable. I like to have one with every other hole duck taped off. I will cover some of the new beds with row cover: salad, salad turnip, and radish (tri-colour) when the wind dies down, but aye, its cold and blustery today. If you have ever tried to lay a 12 foot foot row of remay (row cover) down over 3 beds, in the wind, single-handed, you will know why I shall not attempt it.

Years ago, on my old farm, I was coming home from the market in the delivery truck, I saw our farm and its 15 acre vegetable fields below. There was a nasty wind with the little wild twisters and it had picked up the end of a sheet of remay and swung it up 50 feet into the air and was tugging for more. My partner was racing around in the tractor, its loader full of rocks, while wwoofers struggled to lay the sheet back down over tender, trampled, remay whipped salad.

Better wait for a calm day.

In this wind, I am glad to have the seeds in a little furrow and the soil to be a wee bit course. I have seen the remay rub out the seedlings in fine, silty dry soil.

Remay warms things about a degree or 3 and keeps insects like flea beetle, carrot fly, cabbage maggot fly, etc, off the plant.

pics coming.

One of the myths about Haiti

Haitians caused the floods and mudslides because they deforested the hillside for charcol.

"Over the centuries, the colonial powers cleared millions of acres of virgin tropical forests to make room for coffee, and millions more were degraded by erosion, damage to waterways and other secondary effects of production. In heavily deforested Haiti, about 80 percent of the loss of tree cover came from coffee production..." source and cacao, sugarcane and mango.

Some comparisons that indicate the difference in colonial and socialist care of its culture.

Average life expectancy cuba 76/80, Haiti 56/59

Average number of children per mother cuba 1.5, Haiti 3.7

Maternal deaths per 100,000 live births: cuba 45 , Haiti 670

Infant deaths per 1,000 births: cuba 7, Haiti 80

Adults HIV/Aids rate: cuba 0.1%, Haiti 3.8%

Doctors per 1,000 head of population: cuba 5.9, Haiti 0.3

Adult literacy rate: cuba 99.8% Haiti 52.9%

Unemployment rate: cuba 1.8%, Haiti 66%

Infant deaths per 1,000 births: 80

HIV/Aids rate: 3.8%

Doctors per 1,000 head of population: 0.3

Adult literacy rate: 52.9% (m 54.8%/f 51.2%)

Economic outlook: Not encouraging. After some slow progress, riots were sparked in 2008 by food price rises. UN officials admit Haiti is facing a job creation crisis, and depends on remittances and aid.

Main industries: Sugar refining, flour milling, textiles, cement, light manufacturing

Key crops/livestock: Coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum

Key exports: Clothing, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee

GDP: £2,541m (131st)

GDP per head: £269

Unemployment rate: 66% without formal jobs

Proportion of global carbon emissions: 0.01%

the old tangled kitchen garden

The robins are back, preening themselves up on the power line and poking around for worms in my house garden, the kitchen garden: the old multi-layered archaeological site around the house, where generations of people have grown food, buried scraps, and lost trinkets. which unearth with my fork as I shake loose couch grass root and loosen up soil.

When I moved here in May last year, I had my hands full with plowing and cover cropping the soil, which was old sod, for this year's garden; dozens of other projects (new waterline, repairing old rooves, fencing for the cows, etc) kept me from much work in the kitchen garden. Having a season to observe whats happening in a very old, ovegrown garden is a good thing; there are many treasures there like four variety of grapes, including a very tasty, small, rosy coloured mystery, which have propagated themselves copiously. There are egyptian onions, iris, chives, oregano, lavender, spearmint and gooseberries and a catoniaster that has entwined itself with loganberry in a into a huge tight ball of tangle. Raspberries have forged ahead everywhere, as has queen Anne's lace and yarrow.

I've pruned the grapes well back and am rebuilding the trellis. I composted and mulched, clipped, cleaned and mowed the 20 by 8' intof raspberries into semblances of order. Its raining today after three days of sunshine and its a good day to untangle the catonia-disaster.

I did manage to lay compost down in a third of my new garden (about an acre) and planted: mizuna, tatsoi and arugula, tri-coloured radish, japanese salad turnip and spinach. Beets and ruby chard are up in a bed in the hoophouse. I'll post pictures and write about my main garden later today.

April 17, 2009

Ecuador opens door to terminator seeds?

I'm exhausted from the day's work but this makes me take note...a thing worth precious vigilence.

ETC Group press release, April 17:

Terminating Food Sovereignty in Ecuador?
President opens door to Terminator seeds

On February 18, 2009, the Ecuadorian Congress approved a new Law on Food Sovereignty, which, among other important points, declared the country “free of transgenic crops and seeds.” However, in spite of vocal popular opposition, the legislation left the door open to approvals of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in “exceptional” cases. Now, President Rafael Correa has proposed several changes to the legislation – in what is known in Ecuador as a partial-veto – and sent it back to the Congress. The president's changes dangerously weaken the law and open the door to Terminator seeds.

read more

April 16, 2009

Farmers march for pig genes

Deutsche welle

"German farmers have marched on the offices of the European Patent Office to block a patent application connected to the genes of their prized livestock

In a rare show of solidarity, German farmers and environmentalists staged a protest to block a genetic patent application from getting the green light. The patent would protect the breeding of pigs that possess a naturally occurring gene linked to rapid growth.

Some 400 protesters parked tractors and herded pigs outside the European Patent Office in the German city of Munich on Wednesday. They also filed an appeal seeking to overturn a 2005 patent application (Patent EP 1651777) filed by US biotech giant Monsanto, and now owned by Newsham Choice Genetics".

Read more.

Watch the video Patent for a Pig.

April 15, 2009

bt corn banned in Germany

From a great site for gmo news Planet Diversity

Monsanto Uprooted: Germany bans cultivation of MON810 GM corn

Germany has banned the cultivation of GM corn, claiming that MON 810 is dangerous for the environment. But that argument might not stand up in court and Berlin could face fines totalling millions of euros if American multinational Monsanto decides to challenge the prohibition on its seed. The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German farmers will not be planting gentically modified crops: German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the cultivation of GM corn in Germany.

April 14, 2009

degradation ....take new root!

Stephen McFadden at The Call of the Land, has a post that is symbiotic to the current theme and comments, here on agrariangrrl - its nasty out there but we don't have to start from scratch and we are and will be the food pheonix rising! Great models and systems already exist, in this case urban gardens - I saw this so magnificiently when I was in Cuba.

"The existing and emerging agrarian models are oases of environmental health and stability. They bear potential to radiate out widely across the land as they are emulated, improved upon, and refined into networks.

Stories about these keystone agrarian models continue to appear in US and Canadian media, as well as internationally. These are not just good ideas and projects, they are essential."

Check his great post, As land and climate degrade, urban farms take root

Now I'm off to work on my great food sovereignty project (shovel in hand today to help move along water, clear drain pipes and think about new ditches.

Anne and Eric Nordell

Photo from New Rodale Institiute : A truley regenerative farming

These people are my hereos:

"Beech Grove Farm is located on 90 acres in north-central Pennsylvania. The Nordells
operate their diversifi ed vegetable farm using their own hands and four draft
horses. They grow the bulk of their cash crops on a well drained six-acre fi eld that
is divided into a dozen half-acre lots. At any one time in the growing season,
half the cropping area is in cash crops and the other half is fallow. A field of springplanted crops next has a year of fallow,
then summer-planted crops. On the fallow sections, they use two cover crops and
a bare fallow to control weeds. With this rotation sequence, they build their soil and eliminate weeds."

From Attra:
A Whole Farm Approach to Managing Weeds in Onions,
Eric and Anne Nordell’s Beech Grove Farm, Pennsylvania:

April 13, 2009

A Farm for the Future

This is a pretty amazing film. I found it at the Post Carbon Institute

"Filmmaker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon (U.K.) into a low-energy farm for the future. This video features excerpts from an interview with Post Carbon Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg".

One of Heinberg's quotes " Our energy dependence is equivalent to 22 billion slaves".

I`ll be looking forward to a part 2 of this in a few years time: I sure hope there is one, and that feeding people is one of the top 3 achievements: carbon neutrality and ecological health, being the other 2.

Permaculture gardens and tree farms are lovely and if one is lucky enough to have the land to feed yourself, is the best way to do that ecologically - But they can't feed the biilions on the planet, unless complete global redistribution of land, infastructure costs and somehow skill aquision is transfered to 10 - 50% of the population. I don`t see that happening before the real food-fuel crises. Permaculture takes long, laborious, minimal return, years of work and money (trees/shrubs are not cheap) to get established. While many incredible examples of permaculture design thrive, very few can feed more than a few families. Harvesting is particulary laborious. Most people could not afford to farm like this.

I believe plowing has a place in food production and but it can be reduced to once in a long while with long rotations, cover crops and diversity, with pastures brought into the rotation with grains and vegetables. This does requires power.

I think its folly to dismiss the horse. I`d suggest finding Eric and Anne Nordell`s excellent series of articles in the Small Farmers Journal on sustainable large market horse gardening. You`ll have to buy the back issues, but you can, and you won`t be disapointed!

As well there are electric tractors, conversions and new ones and I think they deserve far more attention.

On market gardens a biodiesel walk behind tractors may be an option for transition if materials are available for making the fuel locally without competeing for food or land resources (waste grease, for e.g.)

In Canada we have a lot of large beef farms too and the acreage for is vast and the hay making energy intensive, as is the grain production that goes into fattening up the steers at feedlots. I propose the government purchase these large acreages, close to towns and cities across the country and redistribute this land in 5 - 100 acre lots (depending upon the farming proposal) to farming potentates. We`ll need organic agriculture departments not threatened with closure, and mentoring with farmers and, yes, permaculture designers.

you have a 500 acre farm endowed with hedgerows and woodlot, a small scale intensive agriculture could thrive - each independent, yet interconnected. Trade becomes real goods - use of my horses to plow in exchange for grazing on the harvested market garden...or I grow you mangles and you give me the wool. What a lovely world!

But it won;t come to that until....it comes to that (when there are no more desk jobs, or waitress or call centers. We`d have to give people land, say title is earned after proving production of so much food with said amount of carbon debt.

That is what I think Rebecca Hosking should do to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low-energy farm for the future. Bring in the community of people it would take to do just that.

April 12, 2009

Snowing at Easter; but not in the hoophouse

The wind is howling and gusting from several directions, throwing a wet mess of snow every which way. A red soup in low spots and green vivid patches of grass through the snow is my walk to the barn.

The cows are closed up in the barn because Alex has a cold. And its nasty out there.
My hoophouse is full of tomatoes, peepers and basil among the other cooler weather seedling that can handle the cold. It is closed up tight too.

but the warm stuff is tucked under row cover and is on top of the manure pits I sunk in a few spots in the center of the house.

They survived last night's cold.

Here are some tomatoes and basil I was midway through transplanting.

Lettuce starts surviving

Here is lovely combination that seems to thrive together. Now I need to prick them out!

Post Carbon farming

Transition away from oil is a critical step that requires a plan ...now.

Food and Farming Transition; Toward a Post Carbon Food System
The Post Carbon Institute report with cooperation from the Soil Association of Britain.

Read the PDF report

What do they propose we transition to for a post carbon food system?

Animal and human power for vegetables, nuts and dairy
rotational crops for fertility and pest control
pastures meat
local non gmo seed developed for local crops
hedgerow/woodlots and biochar
on farm biofuel production for large (grain) operations
wind solar and other alternatives

Sounds like a fabulous list. How do we make it happen?

How do we make sure incentive monies are not sidetracked toward industrial bichar and ethanol production?
Will there be the workers willing to engage in the manual labour that the transition will necessitate?

How will the current drivers of modern agriculture (monsanto, cargill, syngenta, et al) fit in to the picture? Do they need to be transitioned themselves by the transference of authority - perhaps legislation to return governance of corporations to its shareholders is in order.

Urgency is needed to honour those farmers who have preserved many of these excellent traditional carbon minimal practices...we are getting old and have been treated badly. Ridicule and repudiation and ignorance by the FDA, Ag Canada, corporate bodies and large export farm organizations is more like it. But ask eaters what they want in their kitchens and let them decide!

Powerful corporate interests will transition only through real changes in participatory democracy.

April 11, 2009

Kemerova, Russia economic innovations: free land, support and seed

This is fabulous idea!

Farming to save crisis. Russia Today
11 April, 2009, 16:45

Russia’s Kemerovo region governor, Aman Tuleev, has come up with a plan to survive during the economic crisis. He plans to offer land, as well as privileged seeds and domestic animals to those in need.

Under the project, Kemerovo region authorities will give a quarter-acre to families with unemployed parents. The fortunate farmers will be offered assistance in tilling the ground, as well as in buying potatoes for cultivation. Meanwhile, those who decide to buy and rear cows will be granted 30 thousand rubles (around 900 dollars) in support. Meanwhile, those who cannot keep big domestic animals will have an opportunity to take rabbits for breeding.

Read the rest

April 10, 2009

Resistance not disease; bogus science

Livable futures blog describes the lunacy of some agricultural research in a post about an Op Ed in the NY Times regarding a study of pathogens in free range (324 pigs) vs. confinement pigs (298 pigs) where two free-range pigs were found to carry "the parasite trichinia".

Actually, what they carried was the where-with-all to fight the pathogens naturally - i.e. antibodies. What was also left out of the NY Times piece was that the "research" was paid for by the national pork board.

This is one of a growing waste heap of studies that are unabashedly biased, sloppy and becoming more transparently so. What kind of science is this? The aim is clearly to protect market share, and carry new products to market - they'll find what they need from the studies they pay for.

We are at a cusp now in the very perception of what is safe food.

Why the hyper focus on eradicating pathogenic bacteria "from farm to fork".
Why doesn't the pork board study antibiotics role in assisting to create a super bug? Or the consequences of residual bombardment of antibiotics on our inner family of friendly bacteria?

Having antibodies is a healthy part of being alive. We have many species of bacteria living symbiotically within. This study shows soil bacteria throws off the low down blues, and helps fight allergies.

What about the other urgent aspects of food safety?
Antibiotics in factory meat, hormones in milk, chemical residues, nano transmission, even perhaps slip-ups from engineered phages sprayed on meat or fresh veg.

There is growing public concern for real food safety and the veneer of propaganda is glaring but very thin. Let's use the opportunity to voice our other food safety concerns; I have yet to see discussion of the question of transgenic, chemical or nanoparticle toxicity in the news regarding the food safety bills - are they not mentioned? Where is this discussion?

The real momentum of cause, lobby and money toward food safety appears to be fo traceability. This would entitle government bodies and industry, presumably, insight to what is traveling to our "fork", but without labeling, the consumer would still be in the dark. That is absurdly and profoundly outrageous.

Hat tip to Jill Richardson.

hospital themed restaurant

April 9, 2009

Brazil: No to Liberty link rice

"The public hearing on GM rice held on March 18th in Brasilia clearly showed the almost unanimous resistance to introducing Bayer’s transgenic seed into Brazil. Embrapa (the largest state agricultural research company), IRGA (the Rice Research Institute of Rio Grande do Sul, a state responsible for 70% of Brazilian production of rice), Federarroz and Farsul (Rio Grande do Sul’s main producer organizations) officially opposed the release of the Liberty Link rice, genetically modified for tolerance to application of the glufosinate ammonium herbicide, also produced by Bayer."...

Clearly the science behind this gm crop is suspect:

"To give an idea of the kind of study presented by Bayer to CTNBio, one of the tests intended to prove the product’s food safety was undertaken with chickens. The auditorium burst with laughter when Bayer's representative was asked why they used chickens in the test if they don’t eat rice.

Sarah Agapito from the department of genetic resources of Santa Catarina Federal University presented a critique of Bayer’s data relating to the molecular description of the genetic modification introduced in the rice. Some of the analyses presented by the company are based on samples taken from a single plant. “Now, sampling from a single plant is not sampling,” Agapito said. In her view, the lack of scientific rigour is abundantly clear and the studies would not be accepted for publication by any scientific journal."

As the GM rice contaminates indigenous varieties, “A recall” [of the contamination] can't be made. (...) It’s a food security issue..."

Read the article

April 8, 2009

Obama and Geo-engineering? Yes, you can – but don't!

ETC Group
News Release
8 April 2009

Reported musing by Obama Advisor is dangerous

OTTAWA, April 8, 2009 – Today's reports[1] from an Associated Press
interview with U.S. Chief Science Advisor John Holdren claiming that
the White House could now be taking a serious look at geo-engineering
– including the radical proposal to shoot nanoparticles of sulphate
into the earth’s atmosphere – are causing alarm around the world. “If
this is somebody's trial balloon to test Obama's acceptance of geo-
engineering, the White House should shoot it down immediately,” says
Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group, an Ottawa-based civil
society organization that has been monitoring geo-engineering
technologies since 2006. Geo-engineering refers to large-scale,
intentional manipulations of the planet's climate and other systems.

Holdren is quoted as saying that an experimental measure such as
shooting sulphate into the atmosphere has “got to be looked at,”
adding, “we don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the
table.” As reported, these comments seem to signal a change from
earlier writings in which Holdren warned of “serious side effects” of

“The most disturbing aspect of geo-engineering is that unlike the
Kyoto Protocol, which requires a broad consensus to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, geoengineering is a luxury afforded only to
superpowers, who can unilaterally decide to adjust the earth's climate
to their liking. That John Holdren is reported as countenancing
shooting sulphate nanoparticles into the atmosphere is especially

“The potential side effects of polluting the upper atmosphere with
sulphates could be devastating – ranging from ozone depletion and
increased drought to threats to health,” explains Jim Thomas of ETC
Group. “Worst of all, once governments start shooting up these
particles into the atmosphere, we may find ourselves addicted.
Stopping would prompt a massive and sudden jump in temperature. Of all
the wacky geo-engineering schemes out there, this one is probably the
most dangerous and the most unjust. It would be irresponsible to
contemplate real-world testing of this technology.”

Holdren’s statement is being received with glee by geo-engineers who
have been campaigning for more research dollars and a higher public
profile. This week a group of geo-engineers are reportedly sending a
letter to the Obama administration asking that geo-engineering be
placed on the agenda for the preparatory meeting of the Major
Economies Forum on Energy and Climate being convened April 27-28th in
Washington D.C.[3] The looming failure of the Kyoto Protocol and
uncertain outcome of the Copenhagen climate negotiations in December
have politicians stargazing, hoping to find anything that could appear
to be a winning strategy in the fight against climate change.

“The White House must confirm that Barack Obama's meeting with
representatives of the sixteen largest economies to discuss climate
change later this month is not an attempt to convene some new
'coalition of the willing' to reengineer the planet,” asserts Diana
Bronson of ETC Group. “If the United States does indeed head down the
geo-engineering path they could find themselves in breach of
international law under the UN's ENMOD Convention [Convention on the
Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental
Modification Techniques]. If the White House wants to be constructive,
it should work with the United Nations to ensure that appropriate
oversight structures are in place to prevent unilateral deployment of
geo-engineering. Meanwhile, geo-engineering schemes, including real
world field trials, should be vigourously opposed.”

The AP's interview with John Holdren comes on the heels of reports
from the UK suggesting that both the government and the Royal Society
are giving geoengineering a sympathetic hearing. Earlier this week,
ETC Group sent a submission to the Royal Society on the question of
governance and geo-engineering. ETC Group's submission is available
here: http://www.etcgroup.org/en/materials/publications.html?pub_id=736

April 7, 2009

Farm subsidy reform tossed

Obama's plan to reform the farm bill so subsidies don't reach those with receipts above $500,000 got tossed out of the budget; The senate and congress approved highlights released thursday don't mention them.

Redirecting subsidies to local sustainable farming seems reasonable to me especially when you look at the largest recipients of the subsidies, which you can, on the Farm subsidy Database, The top "farm" was National rice with 7.7 million in subsidies.

But Obama's reform wasn't to include those to commmodity farmers, perhaps because their output is essential to foreign policy (shaping agricultural policies in the developing world). Without US soy, corn, rice, where would the trade deficit be?
And large commodity farms are essential to the biotech pr machine.

As the Tom Laskawy at the Grist points out,

"But we’d still have a system that encourages the overproduction of corn and soy and the underproduction of fruits and vegetables".

pricking out basil

I was pricking out in the basil in the hoop house yesterday, I worked up quite a sweat while the sun shone, but step outside and the wind was settling a chill out there. Inside it is a lovely sauna with the st aw bale plywood bench along one side and close to full with brassicas, lettuce, onions leeks herbs. The potting house has run out of room and my test of a the flat of climate for basil succeeded- and all the little cuties have survived.

The turnips have long gone as is the better quality hay and the cows are really eye-balling the fall rye in my garden on the other side of the electric fence tape. The ground is still wet and spongy but there is some firmer ground for them around the far side of the garden. So their first traverse onto the first stretch of their rotation begins today - I'm give them a tiny piece of the rye too - I'll put sunflowers and dahlias there after they move on. Alex is pretty happy.

April 6, 2009

Global Civil Society Opposes Charred Earth Policy

ETC Group
Press Release
April 6 /09

147 organisations from 44 countries warn against 'biochar' (large-scale charcoal) as a dangerous new false solution to climate change

An international declaration was today launched by 147 organisations opposing the growing hype and political support for Biochar. The groups signing the declaration "strongly oppose the inclusion of soils in carbon trade and offset mechanisms, including in the Clean Development Mechanism.” The groups further assert that ," the ‘biochar’ initiative fails to address the root causes of climate change.”

Read the whole thing. Here is a little excerpt:

“Large-scale support for biochar is premature and dangerous. Claims that biochar is retained permanently in soils and increases fertility are based on Terra Preta soils in Amazonia, which were made by indigenous peoples hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Those farmers used biodiverse organic residues and compost, as well as charcoal. Modern biochar is not the same. Some companies are making biochar out of municipal waste and tyres, others promote using biochar to scrub flue gases from coal burners and then using this combination as a fertilizer. Some plan to use giant microwave ovens to char trees – justifying this by pointing to ancient Amazonian soils is absurd.”

Epigenetic effects of chemicals (next generation's woes)

Epigenetics is the elephant in the room that industrial agriculture and its network of company science doesn't want to think about (it lurks in on synthetic biology too). Epigenetic effects are "usually taken to encompass changes in the genetic material — the genomic DNA and chromatin — that alter gene expression in a manner that is heritable during somatic cell divisions (and sometimes even in germline transmission)" here

No one really knows how it works, but its possible that what your grandmother ate effects some aspect of your phenotype. And corn belt babies may be passing, immune system disorders and sterility to what could be the last generation.

Many studies are indicating that agriculture chemicals, like Atrazine, are creating effects that don't surface initially, but for the next generation.

"In one study, Dr. Winchester says, baby rats exposed to atrazine, an herbicide that is banned in European countries, were born with no birth defects. But they developed problems including infertility, kidney and prostate problems, cancer and shortened lifespans as adults - and passed them on to their offspring.

That means agrichemicals could have effects for generations to come, he says".

This Globe and Mail article Risks of Birth Defects Linked to Month of Conception (when spraying takes place) describes the similar effects between Altrazine and the chemical bisphenol A, "a plastic-making compound able to act like a female hormone. Not only can it disrupt the hormonal systems of living organisms, but it does so at very low doses."

Devinder Sharma is right to question the short-sightedness of scientic studies in gm crops toxicity as well:

"If this is true of pesticides, I wonder how can the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) be satisfied with the so-called long-term tests done by Mahyco on Bt brinjal. The longest toxicity tests, which are for only 90 days, cannot assess long-term effects like the development of tumours or cancers from genetic modification. No safety can be concluded about Bt Brinjal based on this, and considering the above mentioned study on atrazine exposure in rats, it is obvious that the true impact can only be known when research spans for a few generations."

Some scientific study links

Developmental Immunotoxicity of Atrazine in Rodents

Neuroendocrine and behavioral effects of embryonic exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in birds

April 4, 2009

Sorting information

By god there is a lot of biosolids out there on the internet, misinformation, detritus.

It isn't so much the occurrences that are hard to sort: I saw the picture of Obama's deep low bow, it was swift - but also shocking. The tales spun of it are where things get stinky though. I'm willing to say it was more akin to Trudeau's piroette behind the Queen. But go ahead and watch for yourself, the whole video is fascinating.

But jeeze Obama, what was with the quality of your grin?
And why bow to a brutal, despot that bore the alleged 9l1 culprits and whose human rights record is among the worst.

Who are all the people in the picture? I see World Bank Zoellick and Stauss/Kahn of the IMF... Queen Elizabeth. Don't know the other people posing for this "family" photo in addition to the G20 leaders. Are kissinger, brzezinski, shapiro and others hiding behind those curtains?....But wait now we are entering deep, unknown territory and there is a poop alert.

I hope that there are actual people's aspirations behind the leadership of China, Brazil, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa - countries that were given more influence allegedly, and whose behaviour at this gathering has more decorum, than some. I can't help but note that with a few fabulously exciting exceptions, many of these countries have transferred the colonizers institutions to its own elite, or adapted the game, or are still colonized in principle. This does not represent the people of the world; it speaks for the elite of the world.

Why do these wealthy countries get to decide for us.

If indeed the actions will be to regulate and supervise shadow banking, hedge funds, tax havens...great.
We shall see.

I'm going to read some press from Latin America and see what their take is on it and will update this post here.

April 3, 2009

MEPs, Nanotechnology: no data, no market

The European Parliament's environment committee this week adopted a report by Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter which calls for tighter controls on nanotechnology, including the application of the 'no data, no market' principle contained in the REACH Directive.
More on this topic:

The own-initiative, non-binding report calls for products containing nanotechnology which are already on the market to be withdrawn until safety assessments can be made.

Read it here

What will it take to make it "binding"?

biosolids in the Annapolis Valley

Plan to fertilize fields with biosolids causes concern
Scientist understands 'ick factor' but says treated sewage is approved for use on farms
Tue. Mar 31 - 2:34 PM

A little bit of the city is coming to the country, and that has some people asking questions.

An Annapolis County farmer is preparing to spread biosolid fertilizer from Halifax Regional Municipality on hay and cornfields in the Clarence area.

Neighbours say they have concerns.

"I don’t think it’s ever been spread in the community before," said one woman who asked not to be named.

She wouldn’t name the farmer but said piles of biosolid fertilizer are appearing on the side of the roads, but the fields are still too wet to spread it.

"It can be quite stinky," said the woman. "Some people have complained that they almost get physically ill from it.

The whole article from the Chronicle Herald seems to have disappeared from the net (but you can buy it for 4 dollars here)

Nova Scotia's Ecology Action Centre's position paper (PDF)

Here is another story for those in the province following the blog - Bio-not-so-solids; Dumping sludge on farmland is a crappy idea, by Chris Benjamin in the Coast.

And here are the Nova Scotia Guidelines For Land Application and Storage of Biosolids in Nova Scotia, where distances from wells. waterways, time and covering (tarping) are clarified.

IAASDT Report: we need a PR machine in people acting

harvesting soy

Jill Richardson at La Vida Locavore posts about "the biggest report you've never heard about. I didn't know much about it. It was the Intergovernmental Plenary Session in Johannesburg, South Africa in April, 2008. Who is burying this important information?

"Over 400 scientists and 30 governments came together as the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) to write a report on the global food system. The director of IAASTD, Robert Watson, won a Nobel prize. Why hasn't anyone heard of this? Well... my guess is two-fold: 1) the report employed scientists not PR strategists and marketers and 2) the companies that have the big money to put into PR and marketing didn't like the results".

Farmers, scientists, NGOs, government, global bodies, came to conclusions that many of us have been saying for a long time.

"Multifunctionality of agriculture and the productivity and effectiveness of small household farms and gardens to provide food security was recognized.

The old ‘one size fits all’ approach of industrial agriculture was not sufficient to abolish poverty and hunger and caused irreversible damage to the environment everywhere it was introduced.

For poverty and hunger alleviation the paradigm shift will have to include solution packages that are tailored to the given situation and will include initially low-tech and certainly cost-free strategies"

from: The IAASTD report and some of its fallout – a personal note By Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Zurich, Switzerland

Biotech food giants could not come up with the science they trumpet. Take this claim as an example: "‘biotechnology is key to reducing poverty and hunger…’. They can't claim that.

They could not work with a huge majority in consensus about several matters: that context counts, that industrialized farming has some untenable human and ecological costs and that small, local and sustainable is productive.

Biotech can provide the PR and industry "science" to argue against those things, but not the facts. They picked up their marbles and left. Now this work is "discredited for not being "scientific". But they've changed the definition of that to mean convincing, haven't they? It is very much like, and perhaps related, to the shadow banking comic tragedy unfolding. They both involve pyramids with a very few on top and by god, lots of global suckers. They have massive numbers of indepted parties, control industry and governments profit and seek new toxic assets to keep the wheels going. But the masses of us want change.

We obviously need an accounting and a strict regulation of the life science, industrial farming industry and a reclamation of our governments to steer agriculture to a more sustainable central, just and bountiful place.

See Tom Philpots great article in the Grist, for example.

The photo is from a 04/08 BBC story, Global food system 'must change', about the IAASTD report.

The Report can be found on the IAASTD website

A Bad April fools joke: Prof. Pingo Detritus!

The hoax about a "multi F_ super food" foisted on the G 20, is still circulating around the net, set off by the link below and other's generous quotations from it.
The story is a crock, or rather, a pingo of detritus.

Read it for yourself at:

GM may be on the agenda at the G20 summit
Mark Henderson
The Times, April 1 2009

A few clues to its mischief:

"... involve the most ambitious use of multi-stacked genes to date, and has already been dubbed "a multi F-ing super food", because of its ability to feed, fuel and fortify the world, while helping to undercut the financial crisis.

In a press release Hugh Grant, Monsanto's CEO, commented, "Not only do one in three people go to bed every night malnourished and not knowing where their next meal will come from, but many of us can barely afford to run our hummers. ......

Prof. Pingo Detritus, who's been heading up the international project, said, "This breakthrough is of such monumental importance, that it's vital that the G20 leaders now unite behind this inspirational global endeavour ..."

Why is this important to check our facts?

First, we need hope as well as outrage. We have had some significant victories and made great ground in all sorts of ways:

-The Members of the European Parliament (MEP) are listening to the people, who are rationally cautious of GE food and are poised to toughen right up.
-Its apparent that the methodology and so called "peer review of the biotech corporation's studies are suspect and not surprisingly so given their tremendous influence with congress and government.
- substantial equivalence isn't holding up
- independent, peer reviewed scientific studies are showing very unacceptable results (something a lot of us suspected ) e.g.. feeding studies are showing toxicity,
-Many countries don't want it and have banned it
- crop disasters and disappointing results (e.g. 3 varieties of Monsanto corn in south African didn't set seed!)
-common folk, the world over are growing gardens and saving seed
- there are little bright lights of regional independence from gmos (GE crops) everywhere.
- and lots more examples

Credibility is a murky word on the net. Facts are easily destroyed or buried with some well positions strikes on one's authority, or fitness, to speak.

What is is left is fact checking and honest reassessment/discussion of what has been said. Trust is built with frankness and goodwill. The Dr. Pingo scenario, while certainly a possible future reality, is bloody well not with us now.
If we speak nonsense to argue against gmos or bad food safety bills, our credibility is questioned; there is no reasonable argument for discrediting the precautionary principle. There is ample to discredit the "multi F_ super food" story.
Does the industry help us along these blind treacherous alleys?