January 29, 2009

A very exquisite sculpture

My first University experience was in a backwater town in a visual arts department and I honoured in sculpture. We all aspired to kinetic work like this: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=2xZCgFl6SRs , although it all pales in compared to the wonders of nature:

So what is it CDC? Delusional parasitosis or a nano/transgene pathology?

There is a mystery a foot in California and pockets of Texas and Florida. The Center for Disease Control has taken on the task of investigating the mysterious syndrome, effecting thousands of individuals. The CDC has contracting the research to Kaiser Permanante and the pathology to the US Army, but the budget for their study is minuscule ($300,000+) considering the preliminary data and possible source of the disease.
About 10 years ago, patients started presenting with bizarre symptoms marked by skin legions, strange colourful fibers that erupted from the skin and neurological symptoms such as "brain fog" and painful skin sensations. In that 10 years the diagnosis has evolved from Delusional Parasitosis, Obsessive Picking Disorder and is now referred to as Unexplained Dermopathy or Morgellons Disease.
There are some, including California Neurologist Ed Spencer, who believe this is a disease related to nanotechnology given the nature of fibers that withstand burning at temperatures of 1400F and of the unknown materials found in the fibers in the patients skin. see Randy Wymore of the University of Oklahoma has examined these fibers in multiple patients and can find no natural precedent for the material. Listen to an interview with Randy Wymore here http://www.healthsciences.okstate.edu/morgellons/Wymore_1-2.mp3 or check out his research at the University of Oklahoma. Another mysterious finding by Suny researcher Vitaly Citovsky found that "Morgellons skin fibers appear to contain cellulose. This observation indicates possible involvement of pathogenic Agrobacterium, which is known to produce cellulose fibers at infection sites within host tissues"..."PCR screening indicated the presence of Agrobacterium genes derived both from the chromosome and from the Ti plasmid, including the T-DNA, in tissues from both Morgellons patients". Agrobacterium (the common soil bacteria causing tumorous Crown Gall) is used extensively in biotechnology to introduce the transgene into genetically modified plants.

January 28, 2009

aluminum nano particles in your chocolate bar?

As I have written elsewhere, the use of nanoparticles are already prevalent in food packaging and some food products in N.A. Regulations seem to be slow to follow the technology in Europe as well. This despite alarming concerns for their safety.

Legislation urged for nano based materials
By Jane Byrne, 23-Jan-2009

Switzerland’s Centre for Technology Assessment (TA-Swiss) has called for the existing legislation on foods and chemicals to be adapted to meet the demands of nanotechnology.

"The Bern-based TA-SWISS, which describes its role as imparting knowledge that is as independent as possible on the repercussions, opportunities and risks of new technologies, has conducted a study into nano packaging materials and food additives already in use in Switzerland.

The report, Nanotechnology in the food sector, concludes that in view of the international flows of goods, global or at least Europe-wide regulation is required in relation to nano-particles in packaging and products. ....

In the form of composite films, wafer-thin nano coatings of aluminium, for example, or aluminium oxide protect snacks or chocolate bars packed in them from oxygen, water vapour and flavour substances. Nanoparticles are also used in polyethylene terephthalate PET bottles, to improve the blocking properties of bottles against oxygen in particular".

Countries bartering for Food

Nations turn to barter deals to secure food

By Javier Blas in London

Published: January 26 2009 23:32 | Last updated: January 26 2009 23:32

Countries struggling to secure credit have resorted to barter and secretive government-to-government deals to buy food, with some contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a striking example of how the global financial crisis and high food prices have strained the finances of poor and middle-income nations, countries including Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Morocco say they have signed or are discussing inter-government and barter deals to import commodities from rice to vegetable oil.
article here

More about toxicity of round up

Studies on the toxicity of Glyphosate (and other Monsanto creations like Aspartame) are heavily guided by corporate science in North America. Scientists outside of here are either a little braver or capable of greater independence. I've compiled a collection of some of these studies indicating the toxicity of the chemical soup.

Here is the link to yesterday's post. Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells

Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of human cells exposed in vitro to glyphosate

Monroy CM, Cortés AC, Sicard DM, de Restrepo HG.
Laboratorio de Genética Humana, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, D. C., Colombia.
"Several investigations suggest that it can alter various cellular processes in animals...CONCLUSIONS: The levels of cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of glyphosate occurring in mammalian cells suggested that its mechanism of action is not limited to plant cells."

Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase
"Some agricultural workers using glyphosate have pregnancy problems, but its mechanism of action in mammals is questioned. Here we show that glyphosate is toxic to human placental JEG3 cells within 18 hr with concentrations lower than those found with agricultural use.."

2007: Martínez Adriano; Reyes Ismael; Reyes Niradiz
[Cytotoxicity of the herbicide glyphosate in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells]

"This in vitro study confirmed the toxic effects on human cells by glyphosate and its commercial preparations. Commercial formulations were more cytotoxic than the active component alone, supporting the concept that additives in commercial formulations play a role in the toxicity attributed to glyphosate-based herbicides".

Time- and Dose-Dependent Effects of Roundup on Human Embryonic and Placental Cells
"The cytotoxic, and potentially endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup are thus amplified with time. Taken together, these data suggest that Roundup exposure may affect human reproduction and fetal development in case of contamination. Chemical mixtures in formulations appear to be underestimated regarding their toxic or hormonal impact...
...the herbicide Roundup, as sold on the market, is far more toxic than the product which is known and approved to be its active ingredient: glyphosate".

And More:
Toxicity in sperm

Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells

January 26, 2009

New study on Round-up toxicity

Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells

Nora Benachour and Gilles-Eric Séralini*
University of Caen, Laboratory Estrogens and Reproduction, UPRES EA 2608, Institute of Biology, Caen 14032, France
Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2009, 22 (1), pp 97–105
DOI: 10.1021/tx800218n
Publication Date (Web): December 23, 2008
Copyright © 2008 American Chemical Society

We have evaluated the toxicity of four glyphosate (G)-based herbicides in Roundup (R) formulations, from 105 times dilutions, on three different human cell types. This dilution level is far below agricultural recommendations and corresponds to low levels of residues in food or feed. The formulations have been compared to G alone and with its main metabolite AMPA or with one known adjuvant of R formulations, POEA. HUVEC primary neonate umbilical cord vein cells have been tested with 293 embryonic kidney and JEG3 placental cell lines. All R formulations cause total cell death within 24 h, through an inhibition of the mitochondrial succinate dehydrogenase activity, and necrosis, by release of cytosolic adenylate kinase measuring membrane damage. They also induce apoptosis via activation of enzymatic caspases 3/7 activity. This is confirmed by characteristic DNA fragmentation, nuclear shrinkage (pyknosis), and nuclear fragmentation (karyorrhexis), which is demonstrated by DAPI in apoptotic round cells. G provokes only apoptosis, and HUVEC are 100 times more sensitive overall at this level. The deleterious effects are not proportional to G concentrations but rather depend on the nature of the adjuvants. AMPA and POEA separately and synergistically damage cell membranes like R but at different concentrations. Their mixtures are generally even more harmful with G. In conclusion, the R adjuvants like POEA change human cell permeability and amplify toxicity induced already by G, through apoptosis and necrosis. The real threshold of G toxicity must take into account the presence of adjuvants but also G metabolism and time-amplified effects or bioaccumulation. This should be discussed when analyzing the in vivo toxic actions of R. This work clearly confirms that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not inert. Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from R formulation-treated crops.

See http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx800218n

Mars Inc and Seeds of Change.

Seeds of Change (in case I'm not the only one that didn't know) is owned by Mars Inc. the largest Candy Corporation in the world now that Birkshire's Warren Buffet has helped finance the scoop up of Wriggly's.
One of the largest privately owned Corporations, the Mars family is reclusive and worth tens of Billions. I'll have to find my purple dragon carrots elsewhere, as I won't support Mars Inc. and their appalling chocolate trade, exploitation of southern hemisphere farmers and the pushing of the nanofood front. They have pioneered nanotechnology in packaging and sensors:
"Nanotechnology will dramatically extend food shelf life. Mars Inc. already has a patent on an invisible, edible, nano wrapper which will envelope foods, preventing gas and moisture exchange. ‘Smart’ packaging (containing nano-sensors and anti-microbial activators) is being developed that will be capable of detecting food spoilage and releasing nano-anti-microbes to extend food shelf life, enabling supermarkets to keep food for even greater periods before its sale. Nano-sensors, embedded into food products as tiny chips that were invisible to the human eye, would also act as electronic barcodes. They would emit a signal that would allow food, including fresh food, to be tracked from paddock to factory to supermarket and beyond." see Nano foe

They also have patents on nano material additives for food flavour enhancement and preservation.

"Mars Inc. US Patent US5741505 nanoscale inorganic coatings: Inorganic nano-coating applied directly to a food product to provide moisture or oxygen barrier to
improve shelf life and/or flavour impact. Coating materials include permitted additives silicon dioxide (E551), magnesium oxide (MgO, E530) and titanium
dioxide (E171). Applications include hard sugar confectionery, ready-to-eat cereals, biscuits, crisps" see

Note: these metalic nanomaterials are used for sensors as well as antimicrobials and studies have shown that they are toxic.

Avoiding Monsanto in the garden

You may want to avoid purchasing and planting vegetable seed varieties that belong to Monsanto, and because they bought up Seminis, the list is extensive. Varieties like red sails lettuce, bush butternut, packman and green goliath broccoli, ceddar cauliflower. Because Seminis sells to most seed companies (not Fedco) and licenses its varieties to third parties for organic seed production, their business is sown extensively throughout the seed world. If you want to navigate around these varieties seedsandseedsaving.blogspot.com has a good list to help out.

January 24, 2009

Poor Farms

Down the road there is a cemetery in a meadow that is all that is left of a Poor Farm that the County of Annapolis ran in the 1800s and the turn of the century. Apparently there were quite a few all over Nova Scotia (Marshalltown, Woodsville Halifax...). There are census records kept for the "inmates" - the infirm, elderly, impoverished and disabled who lived and laboured there for their keep. I'll have to get to St. Mary's University in Halifax to track down some literature on this, as the internet is pretty unhelpful. A poor farm is one of the settings for the 1969 film about Helen Keller A Miracle Worker. And here is an article about Saint Mary’s University anthropology student's field work on a Poor Farm site in Cole Harbour.

California farmers slash planting to cope with drought

The Canadian Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Some of the nation's largest farms plan to cut back on planting this spring over concerns that federal water supplies will dry up as officials deal with the drought plaguing California.

Farmers in the Central Valley said Thursday they would forego planting thousands of acres of water-thirsty canning tomatoes and already have started slashing acreage for lettuce and melons.

As growers in Fresno and Kings counties prepared to sow their dry fields with tomato seeds this week, the giant water district that supplies the irrigation for their sprinklers warned them to think again.
Read the article

January 23, 2009

Playing For Change: Song Around the World "Stand By Me"

This comes thanks to my elder brother over at raspberry rabbit.

Jazz Grandmother

On a lighter note, check out, if you haven't already, my Grandmother in this 1928 vitaphone swinging with Band Beautiful. Irving Berlin composed a score for them in the Zeigfeld Follies. They had spent the previous year traveling around the world with their show. My Uncle has her scrapbook, which I've never seen. While I do take after my grandmother in many ways, a music talent I have very little of. Lets just say, I did carry a bassoon home 3 miles from school on a regular basis, and I struggled through years of bassoon lesson agony with that ackward old maple horn. It spent more time under the shade of a tree while I played kick the can. In this video she picks up the bassoon, after the cello the banjo and clarinet like nobody's business. She never told me she played the bassoon. Want more 20s Jazz? Check out this sexy sizzling hot dance.

Arundhati Roy: What is effective resistance?

And in an interview about the Mumbai attacks

"Next Generation Biofuels": Bursting The New "Green" Bubble

Letter challenges unrealistic promises from an unsustainable industry
ETC Group. Jan. 15bio
United States--A diverse alliance of organizations published an open letter [1] today in the U.S. and internationally warning of the dangers of industrially produced biofuels (called agrofuels by critics). The letter explains why large-scale industrial production of transport fuels and other energy from plants such as corn, sugar cane, oilseeds, trees, grasses, or so-called agricultural and woodland waste threatens forests, biodiversity, food sovereignty, community-based land rights and will worsen climate change. With the new Obama Administration slated to take office Tuesday, the letter's originators warn that if Obama's "New Green Economy" runs on agrofuels it may trap the U.S. in a dangerous "Green Bubble" of unrealistic promises from an unsustainable industry.

January 22, 2009


why do I feel so unusual?

I've had quite a few raised eyebrows, strange looks and inquire among acquaintances and neighbours when asked what I'm going to grow, the reply being: salads, brassicas, specialty stuff like radicchio. japanese turnip and fennel. When asked "whats that?" I have to think , "exactly!"



The farm has frozen up again. The slick film of water that was on on the river yesterday is just another layer of ice under the new snow. I'm going to sweep off a section and skate, at least a little ways away with Joanie Mitchell in my head. I do have a river, but I can't skate away; My cows and the beautiful soil, dormant in the rye under the snow, keep me anchored here. I am another organism here with some ingenuity to thaw out by the fire, and some basic nature to sleep. Thaw and freeze, awaken and sleep...
And by the fire I think: What about the soil organisms? The soil bacteria, the fungus, the arthropods? Where do the earthworms go? I am slightly jealous of the Indian and Australian garden bloggers descibing their warm lush gardens. But here in the Northern hemisphere we rest and metabolize in the slowest of fashion. We hold the lifeforce precious in the fold of sleeping tissue. We are potential yet realized. We are a powerful thing yet to come.
The life that is so very alive but silent, holding, surviving, potent in its dormancy: it will rise again and burst out in its brilliancy. Wait for it! It will transform us. It is like the activists among us. We are here. We may be dormant. But we will rise. So rest, metabolize slowly, and get ready!

January 21, 2009

Nanobama for nanopropogama

each face is 1/2 micrometre and made from 150 million carbon nanotubes here

January 20, 2009

human microbiota

"Within the body of a healthy adult, microbial cells are estimated to outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one. These communities, however, remain largely unstudied, leaving almost entirely unknown their influence upon human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition." here

As I was chawing down on a gobful of comfrey for my injured arm, I had a wee epipheny. I had just come from the barn where I watched the calves restless in the wombs of the cows as they chewed away at their cuds. I was thinking about all the microbes in their saliva and in their stomachs. I had softened some dried comfrey in hot water and as I was chewing the comfrey, holding it in my mouth a little longer than most things I might eat (because it was course and I wanted to draw out the juices) I understood these bacteria that were making enzymes to assist break the cell walls of that comfrey, in a very friendly way. When I swallowed I visualized it enter another community of organisms that would continue assisting to make these elements available to my body. I've thought about this before, but today I realized it: I have communities of organisms inside of me which are working with me to keep me alive, and in this they are alive! Without bacteria we would die. And our genome contains hundreds of genes from bacteria. This is a very intimate relationship and its remarkable that very little study has been done of it. Symbiosis is the key to life.

Pete Seeger on the Mall

Barack Obama invited life-long political activist Pete Seeger to lead the singing of Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land. It is chilling and wonderful with all the original, usually censored, verses included. I confess to be caught up in the hope and possibility.

"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me".

January 19, 2009

A great Interview with Alan Kapuler

Over at Bishop's Homegrown Alan has a fabulous interview with Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds, molecular biologist, organic farmer, painter and pioneer of the organic seed movement. The interview is here.
Check out Kapuler's paintings here

Ash bucket ass tumble

No worries about the pipes freezing up today as the temperatures are above 0 and the water is running in rivulets and slick sheets on the surface of the ice. It is a treacherous walk to the barn. The cows have the planks up across the barn door, open but contained, so they and their very big bellies, won't slip and fall. And then voila, what did I go and do! A very nasty slip with my bent arm behind me, squashed under my (little) body. I lay on the wet ice sheet, dirty ash all over me long enough to feel a chill and get annoyed for feeling sorry for myself. Now I am a slightly crippled madwoman farmer. Ah, but nothing will stop me! Climbing up to the loft of the haybarn is easier than coming down. And I have perfected the art of the one arm manure fork maneuver. I am believing it is just badly pulled tendons, but if it is worse in the morning I'll go for an xray.

January 18, 2009

hello mudder- hello fadder - how is it - your just madder

Spelt is third from left.

Spelt, quinoa, kamut are not "grains", so sayeth the Canadian Grain Commission. No, the food stuff of the ancients and lucrative crop for organic farmers are "matter other than cereal grain". The CGC is mandated (by the people of Canada) to ensure the fair treatment of farmers, assisting in the infrastructure to get the grain to market. see. Spelt which is higher in protein and minerals than wheat was grown in Iran 5,000 years ago. Quinoa, "the Mother grain" has been cherished in the Andes for 6,000 years...and its my favorite grain.

Country Guide
Spelt, quinoa, Kamut not "grains": CGC

Don't count on protection from the Canadian Grain Commission if you're growing Kamut, spelt or quinoa.
The CGC on Friday ruled that the three crops, often described as "heritage" or "ancient" grains, are not considered "grain" as defined in the Canada Grain Act.

Thus, the CGC will not set up a grade schedule for the crops, nor will a farmer selling any of those crops be eligible for payment security coverage on deliveries, if a CGC licensee doesn't pay the farmer. Those commodities won't be included when the CGC calculates its security requirements for its licensees.

This also means farmers who grow any of the three crops will not have the right to refer to the CGC to determine grade and/or dockage.
read the whole article

Obama's Ag team

Could it really be that Obama is considering Dennis Wolff of Pennsylvania for Deputy USDA Secretary, another Monsanto croney, responsible for banning non-rBST/rGBH labeling from milk in Pennsylvania and setting up a fake food labeling advisory commitee to do it.
Check out La Vida Locavore for more information about the characters out of a Grim's fairytale that are jostling into position for under secretaries, like former past president of the National Pork Producers Council Joy Philippi, who although a proponent of factory farming, may not have been responsible for this.

Frozen pipes

I am feeling very grateful today for running water. My tap ran this morning to fill my kettle, but when I went to wash - it ran dry...oh shit! My pumphouse had frozen up.
I had reinsulated the pumphouse this fall and have been leaving the light to provide a little heat: the light had burned out and it was very cold last night. Even the cows with their thick winter coats have frosty chins. I spent the morning thawing out the pump room and thankfully there are no busted pipes. I had to melt snow to collect enough water to prime the pump but we're in the water action on this little farm again. I'll be leaving the tap to trickle until this blistery cold weather has past. I'm off to soak in a hot bath.

January 17, 2009

farmer's hands

photo: Life Magazine Ed Clark
The evidence of nurturing, milking, thinning and weeding weave a tale in the tissue and callus, hangnails, muscles and cracks of those wonderful tools that are so adept and willing. How very beautiful and powerfully expressive are the hands of farmers. I always notice people's hands...they reveal a lot about the life and character of the individual. I googled "dirty fingernails farmer class" wondering if anyone was writing about the disdain our culture has for the uncouth working sod with those heretical hands. Instead I found a fabulous blog by a young woman farming, and she said:
"I am inordinately proud of my hands. My fingertips are pitted from the horse nettle thorns hiding among more innocuous weeds. The skin on the sides of my index fingers refuses to come clean—it is cracked and stained brown from winter and weeding. My fingernails have never been shorter, and yet somehow, when I think that they have no quick left, the dirt still finds a way beneath them. The skin on my left index finger has blistered away at one point from the sharp, taught line of the tomato trellising twine. My hands are callused, cut, never quite clean. They declare, more eloquently than I ever could, that they are useful".
She is yeomanfarmgirl. She has a great blog.
At the markets, customers exclaim about the state of my hands and many people have advice for creams and of course, gloves. Its never been easy for me to keep a pair of gloves on for long. I've tried a number of models, thanks to well intentioned friends or family who think I ought to protect myself from the dirt and thorns. But I lose them, or rip them and they're just ackward- they get inbetween and I can't feel the soil or grip the weeds beside the tender plant. And I like this contact, this attentive precision. The intimacy leaves its mark on willing hands but I think they are beautiful for it.

Bread from scratch, starting from the soil

From City Farmer

Watch Growing Grains in the City - kids learn to make bread in How to Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

January 16, 2009

The value of locally bred varieties

I'm getting excited for the coming season now that I'm hunkering down to plan my new garden and order the seeds that I'll need. The problem is I`ve ordered a lot of seed catalogues and they are still trickling in. William Dam came yesterday and I am waiting in particular for a couple of smaller, local, seed company catalogues. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I moved to my new farm in Nova Scotia from BC in late spring last year. I focused on plowing and cover cropping last summer to prepare for this season and the small house garden I did plant were sown with seeds brought with me from BC. Some of the varieties that I have had great success within in BC, didn`t thrive in my new garden. So this is why I look forward to trialing varieties from Hope Seeds. They are a small seed company in New Brunswick and key to their philosophy is `"that the future of sustainable agriculture lies with small, local, organic farmers and that much work is needed to develop a top-quality, decentralised seed bank of varieties that best meet their needs". They are working to develop varieties with natural resistance to pests and diseases, that are adapted to maritime conditions and organic growing methods. This is well worth the wait.

Check out this article about this wonderful small business in Small Farm Canada

Research that indicates hazards of Genetically Modified food

New research adds to the weight of damning evidence against the safety of GM food
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

The Italian government’s National Institute of Research on Food and Nutrition has just published a report online in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry documenting significant disturbances in the immune system of young and old mice that have been fed the GM maize MON 810 [1]. This follows hot on the heels of results released by the Austrian government showing that GM Maize Reduces Fertility & Deregulates Genes in Mice (SiS 41) [2]. These revelations confirm a string of previous findings on adverse health impacts of GM food and feed, leave us in little doubt that GM is Dangerous and Futile (SiS 40) [3]. Proponents should stop misleading the public that GM food and feed is safe. Read more about these reports here

The Institute for Science in Society has compiled a dossier of 160 referenced articles:
Hazards Ignored, Fraud, Regulatory Sham, Violation of Farmers' Rights

A comprehensive dossier containing more than 160 fully referenced articles from the Science in Society archives presented to the European Parliament 12 June 2007

The contents of the Dossier can be viewed here:

January 14, 2009

Have your say - no to gmo ethanol corn

You have until January 20 to voice your opposition to Syngenta's genetically modified Alpha-Amylase corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking public comment on a petition to deregulate corn genetically engineered (GE) to produce a microbial enzyme that facilitates ethanol production. Comments can be submitted on the the Federal eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2007-0016 Click on "Add Comments" to view public comments and related materials available electronically.

see the Kerr Center for more information

Who owns Monsanto? It could very well be you.

Who owns Monsanto? The answer appears to be we do, at least those of us who have pensions, insurance and/or saving accounts. Like an unruly mob, where the individual is swept up in the anonymity of the numbers, responsibility and conscience is muted when it comes to investments and pension funds. The system of shareholder capitalism, where massive powerful corporations have huge numbers of shareholders, including all kinds of mutual fund holders, capital managers, insurance companies, etc., makes it easy to be anonymous and check ones ethics at the door. Monsanto insiders own less than 10 % of the corporation, the remainder is controlled by money managers and mutual funds. With the dumbing down of our time, the bloody trail and fascist consequences of our money is concealed by the illusion that we have no power to effect change. We have tremendous power, it is only limited by our willingness to pay attention and act. Here is a link with a breakdown of Monsanto's major shareholders.

January 13, 2009

EU poised to ban pesticides

The European Parliament has voted to tighten rules on pesticide use and ban at least 22 chemicals deemed harmful to human health.
The UK government, the Conservatives and the National Farmers' Union all oppose the new rules, saying they could hit yields and increase food prices.
The rules have not yet been approved by the 27 member states' governments.
The draft law would ban substances that can cause cancer or that can harm human reproduction or hormones.
UK farmers say the law would "seriously threaten" UK food production. It could wipe out the carrot industry and seriously affect many other crops, the National Farmers' Union has warned. more


cows in the snow

I grit my teeth and bought a digital camera today. What with the cold shutting down the battery, the fact that I didn`t buy a memory card and the little thing only holds 4 shots in its memory banks, this is the best I can do for today. Stay tuned for more.

Curls has her ears up because she doesn`t want to pose, she wants turnips! They are the small breed Belted Galloway heifers well along in calf.

Thats my hoophouse frame in the garden under the snow beyond Cheeky Butt and the fence.

January 12, 2009

electric tractor

I posted about an electric conversion of an Allis Chalmers G a while back and stumbled upon some modern electric tractors. Yes that is a solar panel mounted like a canopy. Check out the video on the company's website. They have a model that runs on tracks with 3 point hitch and PTO...and can be set up with a loader or an excavator.

Here is another site that discusses some older garden tractors and if you're interested in smaller electric equipment (tillers, chainsaws) this site has a good list of stuff.

6000 lb food on a city lot

The Choice to Farm

"The Choice to Farm: Of Five Farmers, and the Movement They've Joined is a small research paper devoted to the stories of farmers whom the author identified as college graduates with former non-agricultural careers or ambitions. This criteria was chosen to narrow the demographic of the farmers consulted to those individuals who had every opportunity to do something else but who decided to start farming. The Choice to Farm tells the stories of five farmers who have recently made this choice. The paper concludes with a brief analysis of new farmers as part of a national community working towards agricultural and food policy change, and the force of this community's momentum as a social movement." Anne Myers's The Choice to Farm

groping through a fuzzy universe

January 11, 2009

Could life be a random miracle

"The anthropic principle tries to understand how a random universe could evolve to produce DNA, and ultimately human intelligence. To say the DNA happened randomly is like saying that a hurricane could blow through a junk yard and produce a jet plane".
Deepak Chopra

January 9, 2009

Agribusiness As Usual

Obama's campaign ag adviser mounts a weak defense of industrial food
by Tom Philpott The Grist

Will Obama lead food and ag policy in new directions?

He raised hope late in the campaign season, when he indicated he had read -- and understood -- Michael Pollan's "Farmer in Chief" essay.

Since then, things have turned more dour. Obama made a boldly conventional pick for USDA chief -- a corn-belt ex-governor with ties to the GMO and biofuel industries. And now the chief adviser to this campaign on agricultural issues, Marshall Matz, has come out with a Chicago Tribune op-ed advocating a business-as-usual approach to ag policy. Matz co-wrote the piece with Democratic Party eminence grise (and farm-state politician) George McGovern.

The Matz/McGovern op-ed is a lightweight document that hangs on easy platitudes. It implies that in order to "feed the world," we'll need to rely on chemical-intensive, industrial-scale agriculture, largely centered in the U.S. (for the benefit of "those around the globe who lack America's productive resources.")

red soil

I've been a farmer of black soil for most of my farming life. The new digs here in the Annapolis Valley has a very red soil and its taking some adjusting to. My foot prints through the wet snow look like a bloody trail and the river's softening ice is streaked with rusty hues. Most of the barns in the area mirror the red of the soil: stark bold patches in a misty grey and white landscape. Even in the winter my clothes have a red tinged dust to them and the washing machine empties out an amber liquid. Where the river empties out to the ocean it is a dramatic merge of rust and green. This drama of colour I take in and feel deep as mirror of the intense stirrings in the wider world beyond this small farm. On my footprints prayers for Gaza.

January 8, 2009

play with your food

This looks like a really fun way to play with beautiful food on a cold afternoon. Hone your vegetable and fruit carving skills with Thai carving of chilli's, carrots, melons, cucumber here

Go Nina

I've Got Life

Synthetic Biology: be included in the debate

I have heard so many times, from so many people, the question: who decided that life should be patented? It happened without any public discourse, any inclusive ethical debate, no referendum among the people in church halls, in school classrooms, in town halls or parliamentary debate. It was decided in a court of law under probable pressure from interests of a commercial bent. The ramifications from that have been progressively more complex and abstract - issues of right and wrong in a quagmire of ignorance and feeble dissent, while over 25% of the planet's resources have been claimed for private ownership. How do we, the common people, engage? We find ourselves deep, not just with proprietary microorganisms, gene sequences, indigenous plant material and key food crops, but now the very real and encroaching fact of artificial life. We've been excluded, intentionally so, for its the elites around a board room table, not the people, that seek to direct the course of our future. This exclusion from participation in the course of our future is a siren call to our disintegrating democracy.
Today I listened to Arthur Caplan, Bio ethics guru, wag his tongue about the ethics of Synthetic Biology live via Woodrow Wilson Center. Ethicist to Craig Venture and not without his own conflict of interest, he was the sole ethicist on the panel. The deceptiveness of his argument that "there is no ethical lag" with Synthetic Biology because a few back room elites have hashed it over for a few year and published an article in 1999 (his own). Well done. But what about the public debate? What about those of us he condescendingly describes as "being left behind because you're not paying attention". How do we pay attention? Through the media, controlled by corporate interests who have a stake in how that technology progresses? How many people in Canada or in the US, can tell you what Synthetic Biology is? Let alone have access to the resources and forums to learn and debate. Have we been taught about the precautionary principle and concepts of risk assessment in our schools and in the media?
No. science leaps ahead and commerce takes hold before we the people have a voice. Its very cynical, intentional, elitist and very dangerous.
Caplan wants to frame the ethical issues only on the spiritual/ religious question: is it morally right to play god and make new life: to reduce life down to its molecular bits will offend people, and this will be the biggest hurdle, he says. I think this is a clever skirting of the equally important and intrinsically ethical questions of environmental safety, independently monitored risk assessment, corporate control of life and equitable access to the benefits. These latter issues he believes are policy issues. This is fundamentally wrong: philosophy, religion and ethics are where we need to look to strengthen our codes to live by as civil society.
Caplan asks: "why weren't the early warnings signals taken seriously...so policy can be engaged?" But he knows the answer. The early warning signals were hidden deep in technical papers; commerce/industry are rushing to commercialize the exploits of this technology before the public have the time and opportunity to reflect and take action. Its not quite "out of the barn" as Caplain puts it. Not quite, but almost. Do we really want corporate interests and military motives to build functional artificial life out of the genetic molecules that we know very little about, to release these into the biosphere, the consequences of which are not studied? I believe the overwhelming consensus would be NO! We need to be inclusive: to listen both to those from a secular, religious, scientific, intuitive, indigenous, etc, points of view.
Its our future. Lets talk about synthetic biology around the dinner table, in community halls, church task forces, community organizations and all levels of government. Lets not leave the design of our future to the military/industrial, scientific complex.
To help you understand a little more about synthetic biology I'd recommend this excellent report from the ETC Group.
Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology

If you want to listen to the podcast: Synthetic Biology: is Ethics a show stopper it will be available here

Write a letter to your local MP, church or community group. Here is a letter that could help you in your draft.

January 7, 2009

codes to live by

Winter has dug confidently in, frozen deep where the ground has been swept clean of snow or piled in deep drifts where the trees or buildings stopped its travels. Now there is an ice storm. The cows have deep furry hides and breath steam as does the cold water as it fills up their tubs.
When I started this blog in November, I had in mind a daily journal, perhaps a forum where others too had a chance to muse upon issues of importance in agriculture and food systems. I had no idea I would attract the number of visitors that I do (averages 75 visitors a day). As I was chopping turnips today for my dear pregnant heifers, I was thinking about the responsibility that such an endeavour implies: the need to be as clear, as accurate and as fair as one can. So when I posted yesterday about nanotech, I mentioned that the Soil Association had recently prohibited Nanotechnology in its standards and evaded the fact the Canadian and US Standard have not....yet (apparently this is imminent with the Canadian national standard). I didn't want to attract a plethora of organic nay sayers...and it was so disappointing - but that is wrong...it has to be spoken. Its ridiculous that the Certified Organic standard allows nanoscale material, at this unexamined state of their history, and it should be changed. now. Of course I look upon things through my own perceptions, like we all do; for me a belief that "natural" or ecological small scale farming systems are a better way to farm for our health and that of the biosphere. My bias also shows in my belief that industrial and corporal voices have become dominant in our culture and steer the direction of our decisions through the control of media and the manipulation of power and money. I have great faith in the medium of the internet and blogs (like those in my blogroll) to question, challenge and offer alternatives. I won't publish your comments if they attack me personally or are abusive, but am happy to be challenged and will admit if I'm wrong. I am a farmer: I have hope and carry expectations of renewal and transformation, and I have to act on that. There is a growing awareness that the foundation of our culture is in our food systems. We are witnessing a resurgence of interest in small farming and home gardening and this is very heartening. There are slippery slopes and dubious characters wanting to cash in on that phenomenon, and vigilance, strongly defined standard and hard work is necessary. How to balance ones beliefs and values with an openness to learning, that is my challenge.
I've procrastinated my seed order, and better get at it - the discount for Vesey's is over on Friday, and I hear rumour of a record year for seed sales with many new gardeners competing for the limited seed that is out there. Without those basic part -the seeds- all my codes to live by fall away.

January 6, 2009

Definitions seem unclear

When words like life, natural, transgenic and nano have wobbly definitions, how do standards and regulations navigate through?
When I was reading about bacteriophage yesterday, I came across an antimicrobial called Agriphage, a "natural" proprietary bacteriophage product from biotech company Omnilytics. It has been approved for use by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). Listex, another bacteriophage by EPI Food safety has been approved by the Dutch organic certifier SKAL (see previous link). Bacteriophage are nanomaterials being 20- 200 nano in scale. If genome engineering takes place on this nanoscale is it technically/legally called Genetic engineering/ GMO or Nanotechnology? see

Definitions of GMO involve the insertion, addition or change of genetic material with an organism. Viruses are not considered organisms, although there is controversy. "A virus is an infectious acellular entity composed of compatible genomic components derived from a pool of genetic elements". and see Wiki. So what is it - nanomaterial or life? Would an engineered phage meet the FDA's definition of natural as "ingredients extracted directly from plants or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically." A simple google search of phage engineering will give you an idea of the scope and scale of this manipulation.
Organic Certification is for many, a reliable source of food free of GMO.
Perhaps our safest bet, to avoid modified virus, is to follow the lead of the The Soil Association, who was last year the first Organic Certification Body to prohibit nanotechnolgy in the organic program. See: Organic Pioneer Says No to Nano.

January 5, 2009

A 50 Year Farm Bill

Published: January 4, 2009, New York Times Op Ed

THE extraordinary rainstorms last June caused catastrophic soil erosion in the grain lands of Iowa, where there were gullies 200 feet wide. But even worse damage is done over the long term under normal rainfall — by the little rills and sheets of erosion on incompletely covered or denuded cropland, and by various degradations resulting from industrial procedures and technologies alien to both agriculture and nature.

Soil that is used and abused in this way is as nonrenewable as (and far more valuable than) oil. Unlike oil, it has no technological substitute — and no powerful friends in the halls of government.

Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.

green wash: novel viruses sprayed on food and crops

Bacteriophages are viruses that attack bacteria. They have been compared to “space ships that are able to carry genetic material between susceptible cells and then reproduce in those cells” (Kutter, 1997). Bacteriophages are, in fact, very simple organisms that consist of genetic material (DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protein coat, a hollow protein tail and tail fibers". source

" ... recent advances in molecular biology have also allowed for the development of novel phage-derived antimicrobial agents, such as lysins and non-replicative phage-based lethal agents. Much of the research and development of these technologies has been conducted on a small scale, resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications and patents, but very few commercially available products to date. While the data available on many of these phage-based antimicrobials appears promising on a laboratory or pilot scale, their true efficacy will be explicitly realized once these technologies enter into broad clinical or commercial availability". here

There true "efficacy" may well be "realized", now that this experiment is being conducted in the societial lab with commercial release of several products and this link which also discusses the lack of testing and probable dangers.
Interesting note Bacteriophages "are very useful nano-structure tools".
Phages are also being used to produce nanowires: sensors and chips because of the "excellent template" of phages and their ability to self-replicate rapidly. For a startling article of the advances and commercial releases of novel phages and nanotechnology applications see the PDF Biotechnological Exploit of Bacteriophage Research

A leader in the technology: Wageningen, Food Valley Netherlands:
"Convergence of micro systems, fluidics, functional molecular cell design, and supra-molecular chemistry now brings all food size structures within reach, says Dr. Frans Kampers, director of BioNT (www.biont.wur.nl), the Wageningen, Netherlands-based research center focused on the fundamental science and technology of micro- and nanosystems and their applications in food and health. Kampers is the center’s strategic research coordinator in bio-nanotechnology. His remit encompasses quality assurance through sensing and diagnostics, food design, safety monitoring and control, innovative processing, encapsulation and delivery, and packaging and logistics.

The center’s location in Wageningen is no accident. This area aims to become to the food industry what San Jose, Calif., area is to the semiconductor industry. It’s even referred to as Food Valley (www.foodvalley.nl/english/default.aspx).

EBI Food Safety (www.ebifoodsafety.com), also in Wageningen, has developed the first commercial bacteriophage product, ListexTM, which targets Listeria monocytogenes-pathogenics with a 30% mortality rate. ListexTM was granted the U.S. FDA-GRAS (generally regarded as safe) approval in October 2006; organic EU approval in June 2007, and an extension of GRAS approval from the FDA and USDA for use with all food products susceptible to Listeria" read more

January 3, 2009


nano silicon wire wrapped around a hair

"Even such nominally altruistic sciences as medicine and plant-breeding have now become so deeply interpenetrated with economics and politics that their motives are at best mixed with, and at worst replaced by, the motives of corporations and governments. To reduce life to the scope of our understanding, is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale." Wendell Berry from here

Biosensors, bioelectronics and food here

Specifically, one of the primary privacy risks related to nanotechnology is the potential to implant microchips into humans. Researchers acknowledge that nanotech microchips could provide a great deal of added benefits, such as dispensing customized amounts of drugs, or alternatively aiding Alzheimer's patients through an implanted "assisted cognition" device to ensure these patients do not get lost.[87] These goals are laudable, but must be accompanied by the consideration that many technologies tend to "creep" into other areas. here

Little Brother's watching you - The future of surveillance is small, very small by Jim Thomas from The Ecologist

Invisible control is power. The founding editor of Wired magazine once suggested that the more significant a technology is, the less able we are to recognise it as a technology at all. Technologies such as writing and clocks long ago ceased to be noticed as technologies yet continued to be used by those in power to extend control. Today nanotechnology, and microscale technology, already operating in the realm of the near invisible, offer a new platform to do the same. We may be some way away from the molecular surveillance cameras that thicken the air of sci-fi dystopias, but as the fledgling nanotech industry emerges alongside the 'war on terrorism', a trajectory towards a nano surveillance society is coming worryingly into focus. More

human and self powered pumps

follow this link for an excellent collection of tradition pumps, including the self powering hydraulic ram.

A (not as pretty) modern version that looks pretty amazing. Its the "the Super MoneyMaker Pump—yes, that's the real name—sucks up water from sources as many as 30 feet below the ground, can spray it up to 40 feet high, and can even push it through 1,000 feet of hose to cover a larger section of land. In all, the pump can irrigate two acres of land, and costs only around $100". here

January 2, 2009

Necessities: food, water, cell phone

The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a survey where Americans were asked what they could not live without.

I have four of those things and still feeling entirely luxurious...
and I don't want to sound smug but its a jaw dropper and a clue as to why those combustable energy boys are busy with their lobbies.

And if I could set up my lap top on this puppy, I'd give up my washing machine. Build it if you can.

Growing Together: CSA resurgence

Community Supported Agriculture was introduced from Japan and Europe in the late 80s and experienced a swelling of support for the farms that began offering weekly boxes of seasonal produce that represented the share of food from their gardens. While, the original concept was close to Wiki's definition: "Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production". For most CSA's it is the season's vegetables that belong to the community, not the land. But I sure do like Wiki's definition and there are exciting movements toward that vision.
CSA's offer a stability for farmers that is difficult to find with other markets. With funds accessible in advance, a contract for the volume of food to plant, and often, a supporting community to assist with the work and planning for the endeavour, CSAs can provide the assurance of continuity. Once the shares are secured, the farmer can get to the work of farming and leave off with the marketing hat. Of the tonnage of government reports that seem to have been produced to analyse the phenomenon, this one, is particularly good in describing the variety of models that have developed and describes the the paradox between stability and profit. Wholesale and farmer's markets provide a bigger monetary return (but not necessarily profit as the expenses are higher) and so enable operating loans.
When I farmed in BC and sold at the Vancouver Farmer's market, we had 10-15 csa shares every year. It helped us get started with seed orders and scrape through until the market sales began. It was a lot of work for the volume of food, but the relationships that developed between our CSA family had a value beyond monetary..the trust and solidarity was a powerful motivator that reminded me about why I was doing this kind of work. When the Organic Delivery Businesses started in the mid 90s, a number of CSAs fell away: it was difficult to compete with delivery to the door, imported out of season fruit and produce, and custom boxes.
There is a resurgence in the CSA model that is moving back toward's its origin. Steven McFadden writing about the history and future of CSAs in a Rodale report , talks about cooperative farm csa's (like this one near Montreal) and land trusts (here) that will invigorate sustainable food communities:

"If CSA is going to have a solid and progressive third wave of growth and development, it’s not likely to be generated by a government program or by the publicity campaign of a well-intended nonprofit, or even so much by fear of terrorists or corrupt food. A solid third wave of development ought by rights to rise instead on merit: from a real assessment of the benefits that can come from creating and supporting community farms.
After 18 years, CSA has proven itself. Now many of the forces that have brought it to its state of early maturity are conspiring for what might well be another big wave of development. There is tremendous potential.
CSA can play a substantial part in a sustainable future. It has the potential to establish thousands of cells of environmental vitality in cities, suburbs and countryside, and to extend basic, healthy linkages among the people who make up a community.
As we know from its beginnings, CSA is not just a clever, new approach to marketing. Community farming is about the necessary renewal of agriculture through its healthy linkage with the human community that depends upon farming for survival".

Links to BC CSAs, Ontario CSA Directory

January 1, 2009

Some 2008 victories

Some 2008 good news highlights

* A new path for global agriculture
* UN: Organic farming can feed Africa
* New Zealand bans endosulfan
* EPA unveils new rules for fumigant pesticides
* Bhopal victory as India vows to pursue Dow
* Organic farm wins $1m pesticide drift suit
* California enacts new laws; halts LBAM spray
* Washington State investigates drift
* Canadian provinces ban landscape chemicals
* Bees thrive in pesticide-free Paris


A new beginning

For all of us who love nature, find wonder and solace there; in the cacophony of spectacular processes and creations, decay and regeneration, the cycling of nutrients and the interactions of organisms - let us take courage and hope. Even in the most artificial of concrete landscapes nature pushes through cracks, delights taste buds or draws one sensually deep. Nature allows me to easily live in the moment, to muster courage for the hard work of standing, of remembering, of speaking, of working for the change I believe is possible. I am grateful for having the senses and perhaps, humility, to enter in and know that I too am a part of nature. All of me. My mind and consciousness both arise out of the stuff of life: the molecules that make up our miraculous palate of life. This palate of life and the mysterious "suchness" that fires up those complexities into being- it is what I must stand for: the sacredness of life.
So it is with the belief in the resilience and inspirational power of nature that I offer a prayer for new beginnings in this year of revolutionary change. For there is no doubt that we are entering extremely paradoxical and critical times that will require philosophical leaps, mobilization, cohesiveness and willing transformation to avert the serious ecological and humanitarian crises that we are facing each day in more startling detail. There is no easy solution, no quick fixes, no coercive forces nor ponzi schemed bailouts that will take us there: we have to let go of the old and use the lessons of what failed us to rebuild. And we have to start here and now, with this new moment, from this one complex body and mind made up of those sacred molecules of life that we all share, that have cycled through the biosphere for millions of years. It is a perfect time now to remake our human economy to reflect our belonging to the biosphere.