December 22, 2010

The Common Interest vs Big Ag

Consulting with the people for a roadmap to sustainable development; this is what all the fuss is over.

"We’ve been saying for years that the United States government is joined at the hip with Monsanto and pushing GMOs as part of Monsanto’s agenda on the rest of the world. This lays bare the mechanics of that effort. We have Craig Stapleton, the former ambassador to France, specifically asking the U.S. government to retaliate and cause some harm throughout the European Union."
Jeffery Smith in Democracy Now interview

From the Wikileak cable
Subject: France and the WTO AG BIOTECT CASE

1. (C) Summary: Mission Paris recommends that that the USG reinforce
our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by
publishing a retaliation list when the extend "Reasonable Time
Period" expires. In our view, Europe is moving backwards not
forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with
Austria, Italy and even the Commission. In France, the "Grenelle"
environment process is being implemented to circumvent science-based
decisions in favor of an assessment of the "common interest."
Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent with
implications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation. Moving to
retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to
EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.
In fact, the pro-biotech side in France -- including within the farm
union -- have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin
to turn this issue in France. End Summary.


November 30, 2010

Can't argue with this apple?

photo of the cisgenic apple from: Researcher bites into forbidden fruit

Also see here for background story

A central theme of biotech public relations is, in their words to " placate the misinformed public opinion by using clever technologies to circumvent traditional unfounded criticisms of biotechnology."

Enter Cisgenics, where the industry contends that
" most of their (the public's) weak arguments are disabled via these techniques. Unfortunately, the end product is the same, maybe even less effective, than if traditional transgenic approaches were used, and it takes a lot more time and money to make it happen.

This is just one example of how scientists are cleverly working around warped public perception problems to solve real issues, and enhance sustainable production. Cisgenics will be at least a stop-gap solution in the European Union until public education and perception refocus real problems in sustainable agriculture. For now, the practices of cisgenics may be the central means of introducing traits to plants that can benefit the consumer and environment without the lengthy breeding process, and most of all without raising the ire of those that seek to stop transgenic technology.

quoted from cisgenics-transgenics without the transgene

November 15, 2010

symbiosis in the garden

I love growing covercrops, and have experimented with several over the years. I like to interplant clover in tomatoes and peppers, and have grown asparagus in a permaculture system with dutch clover. I have used field peas and austrian winter peas in a mix with oats for a summer green manure, but apart from those examples, I have not been very adventurous with legumous cover crops.

Rhizobium bacteria live in the cells of legume root nodules of and are estimated to carry out 50-70% of the world's biological nitrogen fixation.

"The nodulation process is a series of events in which rhizobia interact with the roots of legume plants to form a specialised structure called a root nodule.
The process involves complicated signals between the bacteria and the roots. In the first stages, the bacteria multiply near the root and then adhere to it. Next, the small hairs on the root's surface curl around the bacteria and they enter the root. Alternatively, the bacteria may enter directly through points on the root surface. The method of entry of the bacteria into the root depends on the type of plant. Once inside the root, the bacteria multiply within thin threads. Signals stimulate cell multiplication of both the plant's cells and the bacteria and this repeated division results in a mass of root cells containing many bacterial cells. Some of these bacteria then change into a form that is able to convert gaseous nitrogen into ammonium nitrogen (that is, they can "fix" nitrogen). These bacteria are then called bacteroids." source

In return, the microbes get high-energy carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis in the host plant. There are different species of rhizobia and they are associated with different plants: the soil bacteria that is a symbiont of clover is different than the species engaged with lupines, for example.

I have many nitrogen fixers growing wild in the pasture, and expect that soil conditions for these are better suited for my soil and climate conditions; there is vetch, red clover, white clovers and lupine for example, but no alfalfa. I expect that because these plants are thriving there is a healthy community of the soil bacteria that each of these plants require to provide the symbiotic relationship necessary to fix nitrogen in the plant. I value these natural precedents and try to take my cue from the pasture ecosystem in my garden.

Blue Lupin is good plant for nitrogen, phosphorus and deep soil
penetration. It is a very good at extracting and concentrating minerals in the soil so when the plant material decomposes it made available for the next generation of plants. Hairy and common vetch are excellent for nitrogen fixation, although they won't produce as much biomass as clover,so seeding with a mix of rye or oats will add this bulk.

White dutch clover, once established provides an excellent hardy cover for paths in the garden and will withstand foot and even tractor traffic down the beds.

Here are some great resources

Organic Ag Center; Green Manure Options
Attra Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures

November 11, 2010

traces of the past

"I haven’t seen that much of the world honestly, but from what I have seen, this area strikes me as being particularly beautiful but also haunted by its history. History that most of us are completely ignorant of – including the expulsion of the Acadians, the Micmac who were pushed out of parts of the Annapolis Valley, and the history of slavery, since the Planters brought slaves with them from New England and Rhode Island and South Carolina and that needs to be thought through or remembered. So, there’s a lot there. That landscape, as beautiful as it may seem to the naked, untrained eye, is also a landscape which hides and shrouds an awful lot of, in some cases, very negative history. And in fact, I find that one of the most compelling aspects of the Valley, in that, here again is this great beautiful landscape, but behind it or beneath it, is this incredible history of sometimes great pain and tragedy"
George Elliott Clarke, from an 2001 interview in the Gaspereau Press

I live on the lower Annapolis River. The oxbows and river inlets are still discernable on the river that was called the Dolphine then, and apart from the odd unfortunate whale nothing gets past the tidal generating station at the mouth of the river at Annapolis Royal. Click on the map from the early 1700s of the Acadian villages on the lower river. The oxbow where my old farm lies is between the names Broussard and Beaulieu, just up river from the Chapel of St. Laurent.

Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil probably grew up near here, learning Mi'kmaq, growing food, hunting, discovering and modifying the lay of a land where battles raged. Bloody creek is just up river. Beau Pre is directly across from this Oxbow. A burial ground exists on the old paper deeds but a road now goes over it, and a subdivision's common area overlays the bones which are unmarked except for marsh grass, wild plum, apple and giant ancient oak.

And then there is Beaulieu! It appears that the only record of the Acadian Beaulieu is Louis Fontaine dit Beaulieu. He was married to Mary Magdelene Roy who was Mi'kmaq and possibly African, her father being La Liberte Roy a free man born in St. Malo, on the Cape Sable census in 1681 (La Liberte la neigre) and later Port Royal.

Who were they? How did they live? Why have they been erased from the cultural and (almost from the) physical landscape on the lower oxbows of the river? Was it their interracial cooperation that threatened? Or the gentle sustainable interaction with the landscape? Or their independence? Cultural genocide is a story told in oaks with ancient limbs, in old stone wells, and pathes past old foundations to citrine laced streams. The story is yet told, waiting to get past the dam of cultural bias.

October 20, 2010

small and underreported

Project Censored top 25 underreported stories includes:

Nanotech Particles Pose Serious DNA Risks to Humans and the Environment

Story links to a number of studies indicating genetic damage caused by atom sized nanoparticles.

October 16, 2010

Yet another attempt to snuff out local food security

National Farmers Union Oct 14 Press Release:

Campaign Against Canada–EU Trade Agreement

SASKATOON, Sask.─ “Today, the National Farmers Union is launching a national
campaign against the threat to the democratic rights of farmers and citizens posed
by the proposed Canada – European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and
Trade Agreement (CETA). The NFU’s campaign objective is to inform farmers and
citizens of what is being bargained away, and to have the agreement scrapped”, said
Terry Boehm, President of the National Farmers Union.
The National Farmers Union obtained a draft of the secret text of the agreement this
spring. The fifth round of negotiations will occur in Ottawa next week, and the
Canadian Government has announced that it will ratify the deal in 2011. Canadians
are largely unaware of the agreement and what is being ceded to the demands of
the European Union. Canada has very little to gain in the agreement as European
Union tariffs average only 2%.
Canadian farmers will lose a great deal and be subject to draconian intellectual
property rights enforcement measures. CETA could virtually eliminate the age-old
practice of farmer’s saving, reusing, exchanging, and selling seed from their crops.
“Using farm saved seed could cost you and your farm. The farmer’s land,
equipment, and crops can be seized for an alleged infringement of intellectual
property rights attached to plant varieties owned by global seed corporations
such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta”, said Boehm. “Canada’s dairy, poultry,
and egg supply management will also be at risk”, added Boehm.
“The National Farmers Union has joined social justice organizations to raise the
alarm over the inability, under CETA, of our elected governments to favour locally
procured goods and services. All levels of government including municipalities and
our cities will be prohibited from giving preference to local food and locally owned
businesses and services. Product and food safety will be at risk as Canadian
standards cannot exceed international technical standards. Imported products and
food cannot be inspected until after a problem has occurred. Canada must accept
any of the European Union’s 27 member countries’ certificates. If one province or
territory accepts a European Union product, all provinces and territories are banned
from refusing the product”, said Boehm.
One only has to look at the results of Canada’s slavish support of liberalized global
trade over the last twenty years, to see the results. Canada’s farmers have tripled
exports, but farm debt has tripled as well reaching $64 billion. Moreover, realized
net farm income from the markets has been negative since 2002.
“Today, the National Farmers Union calls on all farmers and citizens to stop this
march over the next cliff, by informing their elected officials at all levels, that the
losses under CETA, a global corporate bill of rights, will not be tolerated”, concluded
National Farmers Union President, Terry Boehm.


September 29, 2010

Canadian Constitution Foundation champions food freedom

Karen Selick litigation director of the CCF

"Michael and I will be asking the court to rule that the Charter right to “life, liberty and security of the person” includes your right to make independent decisions about your health and the food you eat."

read more about this here and at Michael Schmidt's site the Bovine

Is my excitement justified in thinking this could be about a larger issue of food choice freedoms (labeling of cloned meat, transgenics), shall I get out the celebratory beverage?

dairy farmer's drink it

In a recent survey of 2,185 milk producers published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 88.7 per cent “reported that they or their families consume unpasteurized milk from their bulk milk tanks.”

September 24, 2010

More people weigh in on global agriculture

"I have now been 20 years in a multilateral organisation which tries to develop guidance and codes for good agricultural practice, but the real, true issues are not being addressed by the political process because of the influence of lobbyists, of the true powerful entities," said Dr Samuel Jutzi, a director of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation at a summit in London this week.


Mama comes on a Tractor

from Gallery of Chinese Propaganda Posters (1925-2006)

200 Highlights from the collections of the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, and Stefan R. Landsberger (University of Amsterdam, Leiden University).


U.S. getting more 'local" as a response to regulatory gap(ing holes) in nano regulation?

"the nanotechnology industry played a central role in driving states toward taking on nanotechnology oversight, because industry's principal stance on the issue has been to urge the federal government to "slow-walk" nanotechnology regulation. Denison presents examples of industry blocking or slowing down even modest proposals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain better information about nanomaterials over the last several years, and how it continues to do so, even though no EPA action to date would actually regulate, or place any restriction on the production, or use of, any nanomaterial."

Richard Denison
Environmental Defense Fund.

July 23, 2010

War Era Food Posters Exhibit

A fascinating exhibit of posters from the National Agricultural Library:
When Beans Were Bullets is available online with its physical version at the National Agricultural Library, Maryland, June 21 to August 30, 2010.

July 8, 2010

label genetically engineered food cause we are what we eat

In May of 2011 Codex meets in Quebec and labeling is still very alive on the table: "The federal policy on labelling foods derived from biotechnology remains under discussion with Canadians and international standards organizations such as Codex Alimentarius", Health Canada states. In fact at the Codex meeting this spring a significant Canadian retreat from the overt backing of the US position that GE food is substantially equivalent, was evident. No wonder ...its become clear that is both incorrect and only a piece of the problematic puzzle. We have 10 months to think about, talk, coalesce our strategies and ensure we get mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods established next year in Canada.

Keep an eye on CBAN to help their ongoing campaign, which targets the pressuring of Health Canada.

But I think plural is best (strategieS) the debate must reach wider than the issues of toxicity and oontamination/transgene pollution to include the freedom of choice to live morally, a conscientious or religious objection.

It is amazing to me that this has never been challenged as a Charter issue, its not as if people aren't writing about it for eg. Could we mount a campaign that encompasses all of us who understand life has deep complexity, mystery, organization to engage in devotion and service to the sanctity of life one should be free to not eat transgenic, engineered food. Could we motivate spiritual communities to proclaim and demand that? the Council of Churches, Buddhist Sangas, Indigenous Councils, Muslim , Jew, Hindu, Pagan Urban dwellers and small lesbian farmers? I think so!

My brain today has been offering up quotes from sunday school lessons a very long time ago:

I am the bread of life

By the fruits shall ye know them

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It was in the beginning with God. All things were made through it and without it was not any thing made that was made.

Labeling GMOs closer: "Substantial Equivalence" faltering

From CBAN Press release

Canada & Codex: GM labeling – US Increasingly Isolated
May 12, 2010

Canada at the UN Codex meeting on GM food labeling: Negotiations continue, U.S. increasingly isolated

Your actions worked – again!

Thanks to your letters, the Canadian government delegation to the UN
Codex meeting last week did not boldly ally itself with the U.S.
position against GM food labeling. The U.S. failed in their attempts
to stop the negotiations.

The Canadian government did not speak up to support the nonsensical
position from the U.S. that GM foods are no different from foods
produced through conventional methods. Though not yet actively
supporting a positive position on GM labeling, Canada did not obstruct
the meeting and the U.S. was not able to put an end to the
negotiations. Out of the over 50 countries at the negotiations, the
U.S. was only supported in its position by Mexico, Costa Rica, and

Codex recommendations on GM labeling could protect developing
countries from challenges brought through the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. was trying to put an end to the UN Codex negotiations on GM
labeling but the negotiations will continue. There will be an
important Codex meeting in May 2011 in Quebec City – and we must
continue to pressure the Minister of Health. The Canadian
Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) will continue to take action and
monitor this issue, as well as collaborate with U.S. groups. Please
see below from Consumers Union in the U.S.

For updates and more information: Cban

moral principles of informed consent

Thus far, the moral debate concerning genetically modified foods (GMF) has focused on extrinsic consequentialist questions about the health effects, environmental impacts, and economic benefits of such foods. This extrinsic approach to the morality of GMF is dependent on unsubstantiated empirical claims and fails to account for the intrinsic moral value of food and food choice and their connection to the agent's concept of the goodlife. I develop a set of objections to GMF grounded in the concept of integrity and maintain that food and food choice can be intimately connected to the agent's personal integrity. I argue that due to the constitution of GMF and the manner in which they are produced, such foods are incompatible with the fundamental values and integrity of certain individual moral agents or groups. I identify three types of integrity that are threatened by GMF: religious, consumer, and integrity based on certain other moral or metaphysical grounds. I maintain that these types of integrity are sufficiently important to provide justification for political and societal actions to protect the interests of those affected. I conclude by proposing specific steps for handling GMF consistent with the moral principles of informed consent, non-maleficence, and respect for the integrity of all members of society. They include mandatory labeling of GMF, the implementation of a system for control and regulations concerning such foods, and guaranteed provision of conventional foods.

Assya Pascalev
You Are What You Eat: Genetically Modified Foods, Integrity, and Society;
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

The EU recognises the consumers' right to information and labelling as a tool for making an informed choice. Since 1997 Community legislation has made labelling of GM food mandatory for foods containing or are derived from GMO.

Canadians should not let up their demands to provide consumers their birthright as Canadians, protected in our charter. We have the right to choose the foods that are morally. spiritually and ethically acceptable to us. It is our responsibility to ensure the unobstructed enjoyment of these rights.

July 7, 2010

negative results

Quite the Journal title I tripped into the other day:

Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine
. I'll look to see if there is an Agricultural Biotech equivalent. Oughta be

July 3, 2010

a good market...

I love a good market. The crowd is full on and happy, the sun is shining and the plump lush piles of vegetables disappear in record time. After the rush I set back up quickly, in those sweet slower intervals, when conversation is possible. Until its inundation again: the pyramid of bagged peas and fluffy basil, the romaine towers, the glistening organized carrots...everything attacked lovingly and whisked away leaving a tablecloth to cover in bounty again. Then that last lonely dill bunch or radicchio hit the road and the wallet is plump. Tuck away the cash box, tidy up all the empty lugs, and go visit with happy people.

June 25, 2010

EU committee votes to further study nanofood

"The EU Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee
has voted that food produced using nanotechnology should be "excluded from the novel food list, and thus the EU market, until the possible health effects of nano production can be fully assessed." link

June 23, 2010

Don't give up the good alfalfa fight

KANSAS CITY, June 23 (Reuters) - More than 50 U.S.
lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Agriculture Department to
keep Monsanto's (MON.N) biotech alfalfa out of farm fields,
despite a Supreme Court ruling this week that cleared the way
for limited planting pending environmental reviews.

The lawmakers said the biotech alfalfa presents too great a
risk to conventional and organic agriculture to ever allow it.


June 18, 2010

Monsanto vs Haitians

"On June 4th about ten thousand Haitian peasants marched to protest US-based Monsanto Company’s ‘deadly gift’ of seed to the government of Haiti. The march was seven kilometers from Papaye to Hinche, in a rural area on the central plateau, and was organized by several Haitian rural social movements that are proposing a development model based on food and seed sovereignty instead of industrial agriculture. Slogans for the march included “long live native maize seed” and “Monsanto’s GMO & hybrid seed violate peasant agriculture.”

Haitian peasants march against Monsanto Company for food and seed sovereignty Via Campesina

"On June 4th, 10,000 peasant farmers gathered in protest in Haiti to burn more than 400 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds donated to the country by Monsanto. This was a hugely symbolic gesture and one that the rest of the world needs to listen to. Haiti is asking for our help in establishing a local, sustainable food system from the rubble that the country currently lies in. This is our opportunity to raise our voices in protest against Monsanto's involvement in the fragile beginnings of true food sovereignty in Haiti".

The Fight against Monsanto in Haiti Huffington Post

"Seeds are the center of food sovereignty. Without our seeds we cannot have food sovereignty. We want a system that relies as little as possible on any external products, like seeds or fertilizers. We want to produce something that is good and healthy for everyone. To be sovereign is to have control over seeds and land, techniques and knowledge—everything necessary for food."

Elias Freitas Mesquita, Creole Seed Project

Civil Eats
Five Questions Monsanto Needs to Answer about its Seed Donation to Haiti

June 16, 2010

Lilbuddy Macteeth gets a flock

I picked up four orphan lambs day before yesterday, almost weaned but I found an old goat to keep them company and provide a bit of refreshment. When they are done I'll have a bit of milk for my tea and possibly collect up enough to make cheese, which I haven't done for a very long time. Giving the lambs a bit of diluted milk twice a day is building intimacy between the lambs, the goat and I but Lilbuddy was nowhere to be seen this morning for chores. He hit the wire yesterday and I think he associates that pain with those creatures. This evening he joined us, trembling, then barking then whimpering as I milked the goat and fed the lambs. I think he understands we all belong and the little farm is a full circle now that we have some critters again.

Here they are!

June 11, 2010

remay tales

I had a tragic comedy here last night on the farm involving remay, or agricultural fabric...for non-gardeners that is a lightweight woven fabric that covers crop to prevent insect from landing and feasting or spreading disease and is an organic farmer's standby for salad greens and other sensitive things (carrots if rust fly is troublesome, for eg). It also speeds growth.

The remay on my old farm came in the long roll of 500 feet and we had these length of beds. One day coming home from market I witnessed a small wind tunnel that had grabbed an end and sucked it high (100 feet) into the air. I had a good view on the road above the valley where the fields lay as the tractor with loader full of rocks raced to the scene and helpers jumped and ran and tugged to get the long white sheet out of the wee tornado and constrained from whipping out the wee seedings.

Wind plays havoc here too, but have yet to see a tornado (just hurricane remnants), and yesterday's show was just my own damn fault: I was in hurry, it was late and I hungry and little Buddy was barking at the birds down in the creek - poised for trouble. It was time for dinner and the evening dog excursion...but I had one last task to do and I was rushing. I had weeded all day and the last task task was to till up the old salad and spinach beds to free up some space to plant. The garden is getting tight now for the tractor, so I eased into position, let down the tiller and set the pto in gear. I was focused on steering my old rig clear of the dill and beets in the beds on either side of the wheels, but I misjudged where the tiller dropped - I caught the remay end of the adjacent bed. I didn't notice for a good 20 feet. It had yanked the fabric off the turnips, lifting the little roots with it and rolled up neat on the shaft of the tiller. Amazing it rolled up clean and even and only tore where the tines ripped it the first few turns.

The turnips (Hakurai japanese salad)were ready to pick and were surprisingly undamaged. Buddy had to wait whilst I cussed and laughed and unrolled remay from the tiller (and then dealt with the turnips). On retrospect designing a tool that winds up a roll could be inspired here. Ditto with harvesting.

June 2, 2010

farmers are old

I can no longer think of my self as an exception: the young farmer! I am now part of the depressing statistic - farmers are old
See also The Greying of Farmers

I'm 50 tomorrow; Its neither old nor young but it is a half century.

My get cold quick feet may be the harbinger of a slow accumulation of creaks and complaints. I see the suffering of others I know and love and wonder when and if it will change. Can I slog on until....its sustainable bodily, socially.

Irony is, these pockets of fertility and bounty dotted everywhere in rural Canada seem to be ever more hitting the button of "safe haven" for local communities come some immanent disaster, market collapse, corporate crop failures, etc.
Its the wisdom of the land's perspective that keep these ancients hugged close, hanging on for dear life to these small farms knowing it will inevitably, tragically have to change.

May 28, 2010

"sheet" compost

I've got two styles of compost going this year, one of which I've never done and I'm excited by it.

My compost is the heart of the farm, in a lovely interface between the plants and animals and soil organisms; potent elements come together and weave me nostalgic and at ease...perhaps its the beneficial organisms and the atmospheres they create.
Anyway, I pile layers of materials intuiting balances of texture, nitrogen, carbon, moisture and I turn it with the bucket of my tractor every so gets hot and turns a lovely black.

This year I decided to use some of my neighbours free horse manure and am sheet composting down the center of a new field that is in buckwheat and oats (not interplanted). I layered manure, sawdust from a woodworking friend's shop and ditch muck which was beside this new field. Let it sit and I confess, ran the rototiller to incorporate the material. I guess its not true sheet composting. I may incorporate it when I disk in the buckwheat( the oats I hope to harvest) but its tempting to plant bush squash in it now and indeed I may do that.

May 27, 2010

Spring farm photos

Lil bud shaking dirt off the grass clods, peas in background.

he has lots of sticks to choose from as I have a scrap fence in progress

Notice Bud's skill on path walking, here garlic and onions sets visible, seeds just up. Jumping over beds is still a work in progress as exemplified below (broad beans).

Click the pic to enlarge the spinach, salads, turnip and radish under the row cover.

the early starts are out and transplanted from the hoophouse and its now planted to basil.

May 6, 2010

A look at the Land Grab

Found a very valuable surce of information on the corporate octopus's consumption of land in a collection of daily stories from a range of sources. Food Crisis and Global Land Grab is worth checking out.
This week an article from Grain on the World Banks stalling and readying seven principles for “socially responsible” land grabs, and another on the double punch to Africa: From bleeding Africa to grabbing the land.

April 28, 2010

"The battle over genetically modified crops is being waged before the U.S. Supreme Court -- the first time the nation’s highest court is specifically weighing in on genetically modified organisms and the federal approval process that allows them to roll out from the laboratory to the nation’s farm fields.

The fight is between seed giant Monsanto Co. and Geertson Seed Farm, a far smaller Idaho-based rival, and the case revolves around whether Monsanto should be prevented from selling its genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds.

The biotech behind the seeds was reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and later approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to the company’s product launch in 2005.

Geertson has argued that such seeds should not be allowed to be sold, because of concerns that they can cross-contaminate nearby fields planted with organically produced alfalfa. They also argue that because these GMO seeds have been engineered to resist a commonly used herbicide that Monsanto makes, killing off such unwanted plants would be extremely difficult.

Monsanto argues that such fears are far-fetched and that such cross-pollination is unlikely. Instead, the company contends that using its seeds helps the environment because farmers don’t have to use as much weed killer on their fields. (Monsanto said in court filings that alfalfa, which is used to feed livestock, is grown on about 22 million acres across the nation.)

In addition, “the plaintiffs in the case have not demonstrated that continued planting of the crop was likely to cause irreparable harm to other alfalfa growers,” the company said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. (The italics were an emphasis that Monsanto used.)

A lower court sided with Geertson and, since 2007, Monsanto has been barred from selling these seeds nationwide. So the issue now before the Supreme Court is whether the lower court had the authority to order such a far-reaching ruling under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Both sides faced off before the court on Tuesday. A ruling is expected later in the year.

But here’s the real question that farmers and environmentalist are asking: Considering the USDA is slated to wrap up an environmental study on this and other issues next year, and the agency reportedly is expected to approve sales of such seeds, will the court’s ruling matter in the long run?

-- P

Monsanto moves up the food chain claiming meat.

"The global coalition "No Patents on Seeds" has issued an alert. It pertains to the latest patent filed by Monsanto. In a pending patent application (filed on Jan 29, 2009) from Monsanto even bacon and steaks are claimed: Patent application WO2009097403 is claiming meat stemming from pigs being fed with the patented genetically engineered plants of Monsanto.

I looked at the patent claim, and found it to be simply absurd. The patent is filed for an invention: "Method for Feeding Pigs and Products comprising Beneficial Fatty Acids." To me, this looks to be a simple improvement in the feeding process, but if you read the claims carefully you realise how cleverly Monsanto has drafted it to include almost everything under the sun. Which means, Monsanto (which already has a patent on pig breeding) actually now lays claim over the entire production cycle of pig rearing -- from what goes into the feed, to pig breeding processes and finally to the production of pork."

Read more from Devinder Sharma at Ground Reality; Understanding the politics of food, agriculture and hunger

The "No Patents on Seeds" alert where you can link to the absurd patent.

April 26, 2010

food inflation

This is not loaves and fishes inflating:

U.S. Food Inflation Spiraling Out of Control. From here

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today released their Producer Price Index (PPI) report for March 2010 and the latest numbers are shocking. Food prices for the month rose by 2.4%, its sixth consecutive monthly increase and the largest jump in over 26 years. NIA believes that a major breakout in food inflation could be imminent, similar to what is currently being experienced in India.

Some of the startling food price increases on a year-over-year basis include, fresh and dry vegetables up 56.1%, fresh fruits and melons up 28.8%, eggs for fresh use up 33.6%, pork up 19.1%, beef and veal up 10.7% and dairy products up 9.7%. On October 30th, 2009, NIA predicted that inflation would appear next in food and agriculture, but we never anticipated that it would spiral so far out of control this quickly.

The PPI foreshadows price increases that will later occur in the retail sector. With U-6 unemployment rising last month to 16.9%, many retailers are currently reluctant to pass along rising prices to consumers, but they will soon be forced to do so if they want to avoid reporting huge losses to shareholders.

Food stamp usage in the U.S. has now increased for 14 consecutive months. There are now 39.4 million Americans on food stamps, up 22.4% from one year ago. The U.S. government is now paying out more to Americans in benefits than it collects in taxes. As food inflation continues to surge, our country will soon have no choice but to cut back on food stamps and other entitlement programs.

Most financial experts in the mainstream media are proclaiming that the recession is over and inflation is not a problem in the U.S. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that rising food and gasoline prices accounted for 58% of February's year-over-year 3.85% rise in retail sales. NIA believes price inflation is beginning to accelerate in many areas of the economy besides food and energy, and all increases in U.S. retail sales this year will be entirely due to inflation.

March 25, 2010


The lil Bud won't sit still for an honest pic,,,I'll see if I can improve on these today and capture some visuals of this (after the rain came, now frozen, windy but the sun is out) buddin place.

March 22, 2010

reduced tillage and dryland farming

We've had no rain to speak of for a few weeks and word is it'll be a dry year; Eric and Anne Nordell have powerful and well developed tools to produce healthy soil and crops in dry conditions. Here is a good video that, although modeled with horses, could be applied to any power regime. Also worth watching to check out Eric's swell beard.

March 19, 2010

GE Seed controls

Time to act!
Because of our voices there is a chance Bill C-474 can pass: Next debate March 29!

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small men big women: gloves!

Is it just me or is it pretty hard to find good work gloves for these big woman hands? I expect its a small man's size too. The small brands are minuscule; the medium are ridiculously roomy. The inbetween, the regular, they are hard to come by.

February 25, 2010

Crop Mob

"The Crop Mob, a monthly word-of-mouth (and -Web) event in which landless farmers and the agricurious descend on a farm for an afternoon, has taken its traveling work party to 15 small, sustainable farms. Together, volunteers have contributed more than 2,000 person-hours, doing tasks like mulching, building greenhouses and pulling rocks out of fields".

Read about this spontainous happening in the New York Times. Great new word: agricurious!
Although the snow is still deep here and the wind biting, I'm always open for a crop mob.

February 22, 2010

Post-humus porker

The Enviropig, the freakin franken porker that should only be a cartoon character, appears to be close to government approval, a Canwest News Service reported on Friday and confirmed here.

"The technology is simple, if you know how to raise pigs, you know how to raise Enviropigs!"
uh...depends on how ya raise a pig.
I'd compost that phosphorousy manure, feed the crops - let the oinkers have a bit of grass even.
But Enviropig is engineered to shit minimal phosphorous so the waste can get flushed (and not pollute waterways). Factory farming steps out of the circle of the farm.

From a 1999 Globe story on the lab chops: "After they get a handle on phosphorus, the scientists want to take a look at nitrogen, the other major pollutant found in pig manure and the one associated with its rank odour."

This kind of treason to our farm animal genome meets with so little pause, alarm or resistance because there are too many other distractions: wars, earthquakes, famine, olympics. We have no ethical roadmaps drawn out for the designers of our food. We as consumers and farmers need to start excercising our rights to choose what we eat.
The pig might help us do it. Who wants to eat it? 10-30% of Canadians? That isn't enough stakeholder to excite profits to the lifescience pioneers.

artist Nathan Meltz

A perfect factory pig is no surprise and has been talked about for awhile now. Water pollution and stink are the sticky bits in public interfaces and so the genes spliced in Ecopig are logical. But what else are they up to? Monsanto lurks in the wings and has patents on pigs. With declining numbers of small farms and pig breeds fewer and further between, the road ahead could look like porkicide.

Have we lost the right to eat food as god/goddess/motherearth made it, or shall we ride this ugly piggy to the courts before it goes to market?

We need to mobilize and take to the Supreme Court, the right to choose what we eat (labeling) as a matter of conscience and religion.

February 7, 2010


When I was 11 or 12, in the early 70s, a dozen kids and I blocked a rough road in the woods, it was our special place. Excavators and dump trucks were pushing up a new subdivision. Although we had found burial mounds in "our woods", the knowledge that this place was the ancient (4,000 year) home of the Samas people (Songhees- Chekonein) wasn't the motivation for our activism. It was an indignity to nature and our sweet experience of it that had us dragging boulders and logs to voice our injury . It is 40 years later, and a narrow forest corridor is all that is left of "our woods". There is no such courtesy for the village of Sungayka, for which this woods was adjacent. The longhouses, the peninsular fortification, the house posts...all obliterated. Whilst a treaty intended a corridor (a means to access culture and place), the agreement was lost in the imperialist moments, a beach hotel was built for the amusement of Victorians, and the place was eviscerated, subdivided and overlain with new cultures. The Hudson Bay put in a large farm above. A people of long sustenance on a piece of land disappeared, no photo exists, no marker reminds.

The new peoples of Cadboro Bay don't seem live with an ecosystem, but on or over it. It is now hundred sailboats, cement playground creatures, a bustling University corner village. A starbucks. The beach and sea, the eroding stones, the middens in the gardens, the sacred pool, the cultural stones in foundations and walls are underfoot everywhere.

The ancient village site at Cadboro Bay will be surveyed as required by the Chekonein treaty, somehow, eventually. Until the treaty (one of the Douglas treaties) is honoured or compensation for its violation is agreed upon, all those occupying territory in Cadboro Bay are advised to note and honour the features a careful walk can reveal.

Sustainable cultures that lived here before

I've been returning to my roots, family and the ecosystems of my youth and facing the connections and significance my past has to my life right now.

One of my favorite place of old is a remarkable spit with a gary oak and arbutus hook and a grassy trombolo on Saltspring Island called Walker's Hook. It is an ancient Salish sacred village Syuhe'mun, whose significance was trounced 5 years ago with the leasing of the (private) land to a Sablefish (black cod) "farm".

The trombolo drains the effluent from the fish farm above and pushes through an estimated 700 ancestors of Kuper Island Penelakut. The excavation for wells and pipes dug up 13 skeletons.

In my new home, on a lower oxbow of the Annapolis river, the Mi'kmaq, the black loyalists and former slaves, and the Acadians have been almost completely erased from the physical and cultural landscape.

The inhabitants of Africville who were removed from their community received an apology today and the land to rebuild a church and cultural center. This is a good beginning toward reconciliation to the Black loyalist settlers and descendants of Nova Scotia's first slaves. It comes in a week there is some discourse on the racism that surfaces on a regular basis for people of colour (and diversity in general) among some "long" rooted people (ancestors of the British/Scottish, planters and loyalists settlers) In the Black Heritage month it has erupted again with a cross burning on a multiracial couple's lawn in the Windsor area.

I believe it is essential to recognize the history of slavery, expulsion and genocide of this place in Nova Scotia. Without wide eyed open reconciliation, racism has a place to root. I am reflecting on how best to acknowledge, honour and celebrate Acadian and Mi'kmaq and black settler presence in my neighbourhood in the lower Annapolis River. Whether this cultural renewel can be aided by writing, archeology, memorial stones and fences, multi racial immigration , I'm unsure. What can I do to remember the people who lived gently on the land a question I have to ask.

January 30, 2010

rice politics

Published on Saturday, January 30, 2010 by The Nation
'New Haiti,' Same Corporate Interests

by Isabel Macdonald

In the wake of the earthquake that has killed more than 100,000 people in Haiti, the foreign ministers of several countries calling themselves the "Friends of Haiti" met on Monday in Montreal to discuss plans for "building a new Haiti." Participants in the Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti, who included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; representatives of international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive came to what Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, the conference chair, referred to as a "road map towards Haiti's reconstruction and development." However, the Latin American countries of ALBA--the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas--who held a counter-conference, and several grassroots Haiti solidarity organizations, who organized protests outside the conference, expressed skepticism that the "Friends of Haiti" and the international financial institutions would work to further the interests of ordinary Haitians.

keep reading

The West Indies Free Zone "tax-exempt plants assembling for export, which are known as maquiladoras in Spanish. "The investment climate [in Haiti] is much warmer than the temperature in this room," Canadian ambassador Gilles Rivard remarked at a conference, with North American apparel firms—Gap, Levi Strauss and American Eagle Outfitters and from Citibank and Scotiabank. The New York Times correspondent noted that "Haiti's extremely low labor costs, comparable to those in Bangladesh," are what "make it so appealing." (NYT, Oct. 5)"

Interest in Haiti's maquiladora sector seems to have grown after the government turned back efforts earlier this year to raise the minimum wage in the industry to 200 gourdes a day (about $4.97)".

from here

January 21, 2010

Trails of the Triffid

"If you're going to play around with [genetically modified] crops, once the genie's out of the bottle, once it's in the environment, you can't control it,"

"Mysteriously, Triffid has reappeared in commercial crops".

Flax is mainly self-pollinated but around five percent of pollination occurs through insects. There are no prolific wild relatives in Canada that cross with flax.
Yet it spreading through the prairies and ending up overweight in the inspector's samples, and in organic fields? Like transgenic corn in Mexico, flax has been prohibited and yet contamination is widespread and significant in both countries, both crops. Is this a covert policy to slip in genes in the genome and win compliance with inevitability of its spread?

Alan McHughen (read about him in Brewster's Kneen's book Farmageddon, which if you cannot find in your library is available here McHughen is the designer of the GMO flax and apparently promoted his book with a big mail out of packages of Triffid flax.

And then there is this:

SASKATOON, SK—Grain company Viterra wants to force all farmers wishing to grow flax in 2010 to purchase certified seed. A Viterra spokesman delivered that message in a presentation on January 11 at the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon.
Viterra and others are pushing the requirement for certified seed as a purported solution to the problem of the Triffid contamination in flax shipments to Europe. Triffid is a genetically modified variety not approved in Europe. But the NFU believes that the proposed certified seed cure is the wrong one, and that there will be long-lasting and negative side effects.
“The best solution is to test the seed supply, both farm-saved seed and certified seed,” said NFU President and flax producer Terry Boehm. He continued: “It is false to simply assume that certified seed is safer than farm-saved. For one thing, it is almost certain that the certified seed system is the source of the Triffid contamination farmers are now facing. Furthermore, it has now been determined that two varieties of flax are contaminated with Triffid at the breeder seed level".

More from the NFU

here's to the right to choose raw milk

Dairy farmer Michael Schmidt walks out of a Newmarket courthouse not guilty of bovine milky mischief.

"The judgment is the culmination of a three-year legal battle that has made Mr. Schmidt a star in a growing international food-rights movement fuelled by mistrust of the industrial food system.
Today's ruling means that raw, or unpasteurized, milk produced by Mr. Schmidt's cows – heritage Canadiennes bred near the town of Durham, Ont. – can legally be distributed to the small network of consumers who have bought “cow shares” in exchange for access to the animals' unprocessed milk". Globe story

And Michael Schmidt’s blog.