December 15, 2011

The People indict Agrochemical corporations

Tribunal verdict vs. 6 agrochemical TNCs hailed, urgent action on recommendations urged

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International hailed the verdict of the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) against the world's six largest agrochemical companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF after a historic four-day session that culminated in Bangalore, India yesterday.

Victims and survivors of the pesticide industry from all over the world, represented by PAN International, testified before a distinguished international jury to indict the "Big 6" for human rights violations. Based on evidence presented before it, the Tribunal found the Defendant agrochemical TNCs "responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children's rights." see the verdict

Read the whole Press release

What is the Permanent People's Tribunal?

* The Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) is an international opinion tribunal founded in 1979, in Italy based on a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples".
* It looks into complaints of human rights abuses submitted by the communities facing the abuses.
* It uses the rigorous conventional court format.
* It issues indictment, names relevant laws and document findings.
* While its verdicts are not legally binding, these can set precedent for future legal actions against, in this case, agrochemical corporations.


December 14, 2011

fundamentally screwed

The conservative government who won the last election by a popular vote of 39% has this to say about the democratic process for Canada's wheat farmers.

"Let me be clear, we will never reconsider western wheat and barley farmers' fundamental rights to market their own wheat and barley," Federal Agriculture Minister Ritz said. CBC Winnipeg

Ritz's words (from an Ottawa area farm) followed A Federal Court judge's ruling last week that the Agriculture Minister "breached the Canadian Wheat Board Act by making changes without holding a plebiscite for producers".

Here are some voices of Canada's wheat farmers:

December 11, 2011

North Mountain woods

The mountain to the north of the farm has lost most of its autumn leaves. The orange clad hunters have abandoned the woods so it is safe to venture in. We go up looking for the fire and orbital agate veins that sudden chunks along leaf choked streams tease up. Or black crystal magnetite that sticks to a magnet and will get you lost as the compass needle swings a jig. The deer are still hiding out, but there are grouse and white rabbits and wild apples rotting in hidden vales. The walks and a few good books by the fire distract me from the work left undone, which can wait till spring; the fields are tucked in with a flush of fall rye, the garlic is rooted and the chickens are in the freezer. It has been my strategy since living in Nova Scotia to leave the farm to enjoy rest and perspective for the winter (while working in some remote camp). This year we will brave the Atlantic storms in this old house that my sweetheart has made into a warm and exciting home, Joy and gratitude spring up every day at the miracle of love in its beautifully unexpected permutations. I found an old lapidary unit, a gem maker of unknown vintage but solid character, and I am learning to cut the magical stones that cross my path, find pleasing patterns and grind out their potential. I have ground out a fingernail or two in the learning curve and have found a strategy for not getting soaked in an icy cold shop. The colours of the north mountain woods are in the stones whose patterns swirl and fuse some ancient stories that I am humbled by and hope to be present for with fingers intact. The stonework is a welcome transition from the laborious and often thankless work of market gardening to a creative process that while a new unexplored medium, feels like a comfortable old friend

December 9, 2011

Prayer for Snow

let our weary bodies rest
let it snow deep and long
have the north wind give her best
whirl and sweep an icy song
with us in warm and grateful lifts
reflect upon three fruitful seasons
with bluegrass lullabies in time to drifts
larders full and no laborious reasons
to rise or strain or bend or task
just dance that amber dormant glow
until the earth warms and lifts the wintry mask
oh please just please let it snow

April 13, 2011

very creepy milk

felt sculptor Stephanie Metz from the Over bred series

CBC and others reported last week on the Chinese success in engineering and cloning milk cows with human genes to express human milk proteins. Today the Chinese authorities have approved it for testing. Is this not the final straw? Oh its just China. Or is it?

Recent progress in recombinant DNA technology as well as in embryo manipulation and transfer has made the introduction of specific genes into the germline of animals relatively commonplace. With appropriate genetic constructs expression of the inserted genes in transgenic animals can be controlled in a tissue-specific and in a differentiation- specific manner; thus, it is now possible to consider alteration of the composition of milk produced by a lactating animal in any of a variety of ways. There is a growing list of foreign milk proteins that have been expressed, and one can envisage placing almost any protein gene of interest under the control of the cis-acting promoter and enhancer elements of a milk protein gene. Modification of milk composition can be extended not only to the proteins of commodity value but also, by manipulation of key metabolic enzymes, to fat, lactose, and other minerals in milk.
Here from American researchers.

The U.S. and Australia and interestingly, the Netherlands, have been researching transgenic livestock for over 20 years, including mammary gland secretions. But, as this story mentions, after all the hard work, public repudiation has prevented its fruition. That is a lot of research dollars (our money) and profits haven`t been taken. China is one of many places where that is going (to start) being done. The Netherlands food bio is actively involved in Sabre and is a key sponsor of innovative food tweaking and and wish we were all as malleable as our Chinese comrades. The scientist in charge of China's gmo bovines, Ning Li, is the Sabre coordinator for China. Expertise, decades of research and probably funding...who knows what other favours, are visible in those transgenes.

But we can't keep ordering double doubles and make milk mustaches ...can we? When is enough?
My suggestion for humanizing milk?

Lay off our cows; their genes belong first to cows or cow divas and second to farmer's and milk drinkers due to the century old traditions of breeding, nuturing and naming, continuously, said beast: it is common property. Common trust. Common interest.
Imbue milk with human kindness. That way. Not mother's milk coming out of industrial bioreactors. Not that definition of who we are. Mother's didn't give up the name of their milk...its called Mother's Milk and it belongs to women. (God would I love to be in a room with some old feminists farmers right now).

This will only happen (good milk) if there is a tradition and deep cultural acceptance of physical work and discipline to farm on human scales communities around small farms and homesteads cooperating, ecological and numerous.

March 8, 2011

kathe_kollwitz Sythe

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its 2011 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report this week, just in time for today's International Women's Day. The report illustrates how better investments in female farmers would prevent malnourishment in 100-150 million people, because of the ways women are likely to allocate resources in a food-shortage-threatened world.

"The report shows the hard economic numbers behind a message we've known for a long time, which is that women are crucial for agricultural security,"

March 4, 2011

Poll tells us what we know: we want labels

An MSNBC poll is asking “Do you believe genetically modified foods should be labeled?”

41,000 people have participated as of today with 96% answering “Yes. It’s an ethical issue — consumers should be informed so they can make a choice.”
You can vote here

One argument used to resist genetically modified organism/genetically engineered (GMO/GE) labeling sounds an awful lot like nanny-state thinking: “We must not allow labeling of GMOs because, given a choice, people would make the wrong choice.”
.... Forbes published a column insisting that we must not have GMO labeling. Why? Because then people would avoid such products.
Take a moment to absorb that interesting proposition, from a magazine which is supposed to be about business and economics. Not merely economics, but free market economics.
Can there be a “free market” when consumers are denied the right to make their own choices?
Can there be a “free market” when taxpayer subsidies are used to shore up a product which consumers don't want to buy?
GMO crops would have no place in an agriculture economy based on sound, free-market principles. As in, cost of production should not exceed market-value of end-product.
Fact: GMO crops cost more to grow than they are worth in the market.

Read more of Deb Baumann's great revelation of the obvious in Let the free market decide, Lake County News

Smoking mirrors will shatter

Monsanto's press release, Statement About Alleged Plant Pathogen Potentially Associated with Roundup Ready Crops asserts:

"Monsanto is not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready® crops are more susceptible to certain diseases or that the application of glyphosate to Roundup Ready crops increases a plant’s susceptibility to diseases".

Yet this statement can be shown as evidently false by following the (reliable) research listed here:

Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants (G.S. Johal�, D.M. Huber)

Some diseases increased in glyphosate weed control programs. (pathogen noted in bold. disease in italics, researcher and date of study)

Apple: Canker Botryosphaeriadothidea; Rosenbergerand Fargione(2004)

Banana: Panamadisease Fusariumoxysporumf. sp. cubense Harper(2007)

Barley: Root rot Magnaporthegrisea Smileyetal. (1992)

Bean: Anthracnose Colletotrichumlindemuthianum; JohalandRahe(1984, 1988, 1990)

Bean: Damping off, Pythiumspp. ; JohalandRahe(1984)

Bean: Root rot Fusariumsolanif. sp. phaseoli; Harper(2007)

Bean: Hypocotylrot Phytophthoramegasperma; Keenetal. (1982)

Canola: Crownrot Fusariumspp. Harper(2007)

Canola: Wilt Fusariumoxysporum ; Harper(2007), LargeandMcLaren(2002)

Citrus: Citrusvariegatedchlorosis Xylellafastidiosa ; Yamada(2006)

Citrus: Crownrot Phytophthoraspp; Yamada(2006)

Cotton: Dampingoff Pythiumspp. Harper(2007)

Cotton: Bunchytop Manganese deficiency ; Harper(2007)

Cotton: Wilt F. oxysporumf. sp. vasinfectum Harper(2007)

Grape: Blackgoo Phaeomoniellachlamydospora; Harper(2007)

Soybeans: Root rot Corynesporacassiicola; Huberetal. (2005)

Soybeans Targetspot Corynesporacassiicola; Huberetal. (2005)

Soybeans: Sudden Death Syndrome Fusariumsolanif. sp. glycines ; Keen et al. (1982)

Soybeans: Root rot Phytophthoramegasperma ; Keen et al. (1982)

Soybeans: Cystnematode Heteroderaglycines Geisleretal; Kremer et al. (2000)

Soybeans: Whitemold Sclerotiniasclerotiorum; Harper(2007)

Sugarbeet: Yellows Fusariumoxysporumf. sp. beta ; Larson et al. (2006)

Sugarbeet: Root rot Rhizoctoniasolani ; Larson et al. (2006)

Tomato: Crownrootrot Fusarium; Bramhall and Higgins(1988)

Tomato: Wilt Fusariumoxysporumf. sp. pisi; Harper(2007)

Various: Canker Phytophthoraspp. Harper(2007)

Wheat: Barepatch Rhizoctoniasolani; Harper(2007)

Wheat: Glumeblotch Septoriaspp. ; Harper(2007)

Wheat: Root rot Fusariumspp. Fernandez et al. (2005, 2007), Harper(2007)

Wheat: Headscab Fusariumgraminearum ; Fernandez et al. (2005)

Wheat: Take-all Gaeumannomycesgraminis; Hornby et al. (1998)

March 3, 2011

transparency for risk assessment of Trangenic Salmon

Parliament Under Pressure to Stop Genetically Modified Fish: Motion in
the House of Commons requests transparency

Thursday, March 3, 2011.

Ottawa - Today in the House of Commons, New Democratic Party Fisheries
and Oceans Critic Fin Donnelly tabled a motion asking for transparency
and more study before genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon are
approved for human consumption.

US company AquaBounty has genetically modified a faster growing
Atlantic salmon by inserting a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon
and genetic material from ocean pout.

AquaBounty has asked the US Food and Drug Administration to approve
the GM Atlantic salmon for human consumption but the status of any
requests for approvals from the company to the Canadian government are
unknown because our federal departments refuse to disclose this

“Why won’t the government tell us if they are doing a risk
assessment?” asked Leo Broderick of PEI and Vice-Chair of the Council
of Canadians, “AquaBounty wants to supply the market with genetically
modified salmon eggs from PEI but Canadians have no clue if the
company has asked for approval here.”

AquaBounty is not planning to produce GM salmon in the US but is
instead proposing to produce all the GM salmon eggs on Prince Edward
Island and then ship the eggs for grow out and processing in Panama,
for selling into the US consumer market.

Today’s motion asks the government to explain its regulations and to
set up a system to notify Canadians about any requests for approval
and approval decisions. The motion also asks the government to
“prevent the introduction of genetically modified salmon destined for
human consumption into the Canadian food system until further
scientific studies are concluded by the relevant departments to
determine the impact of genetically modified salmon on human health
and on the health of marine species, ecosystems and habitats.”

“We call on all Members of Parliament to support the motion. It is a
request for basic transparency,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian
Biotechnology Action Network. "This cloak of secrecy is unjustifiable
and, frankly, ridiculous."

“DFO’s own scientists have acknowledged that genetically modified
salmon pose a real risk to our wild fish stocks,” said Catherine
Stewart of Living Oceans Society in B.C. “Any debate on this issue,
any scientific research informing the debate, must be made available
to all concerned citizens.”

Sixty fisheries and oceans conservation, environmental and social
justice groups released a joint statement in December 6, 2010,
opposing GM fish.

For more information:

February 27, 2011

New pathogen connected to Glyphosate: "an emergency"


Questions about the safety of a popular herbicide made by Monsanto Co have resurfaced in a warning from a U.S. scientist that claims top-selling Roundup may contribute to plant disease and health problems for farm animals.

Plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor Don Huber has written a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning that a newly discovered and widespread "electron microscopic pathogen appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings." He said the pathogen appears to be connected to use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.

Huber coordinates a committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System. He is a long-standing critic of biotech crops, such as Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybean and corn, which have been genetically altered to withstand treatments of Roundup herbicide.

In his letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Huber said the organism has been found in high concentrations of Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, which are used in livestock feed. He said laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the organism in pigs, cattle and other livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility.

The organism is also prolific in corn and soybean crops stricken by disease, according to Huber.

"I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status," Huber wrote. "In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency."

Read the whole Reuter's story

The extensive use of glyphosate, and the rapid adoption of genetically modified glyphosate-tolerant crops such as soybean, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa; with their greatly increased application of glyphosate for simplified weed control, have intensified deficiencies of numerous essential micronutrients and some macronutrients......Lost yield, reduced quality, and increased disease are the unfortunate consequences of untreated micronutrient deficiency.

Plant pathogens stimulated by glyphosate:

Botryospheara dothidea Gaeumannomyces graminis
Corynespora cassicola Magnaporthe grisea
Fusarium species Marasmius spp.
F. avenaceum Monosporascus cannonbalus
F. graminearum Myrothecium verucaria
F. oxysporum f.sp. cubense Phaeomoniella chlamydospora
F. oxysporum f.sp. (canola) Phytophthora spp.
F. oxysporum f.sp. glycines Pythium spp.
F. oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum Rhizoctonia solani
F. solani f.sp. glycines Septoria nodorum
F. solani f.sp. phaseoli Thielaviopsis bassicola
F. solani f.sp. pisi Xylella fastidiosa

Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor, Purdue University

Dr. Huber's letter

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!

This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen’s source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.

For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.



COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University

Monsanto's press release, Statement About Alleged Plant Pathogen Potentially Associated with Roundup Ready Crops asserts:

"Monsanto is not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready® crops are more susceptible to certain diseases or that the application of glyphosate to Roundup Ready crops increases a plant’s susceptibility to diseases".

Yet this statement can be shown as evidently false by following the research listed here:
Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants (G.S. Johal, D.M. Huber)

January 22, 2011

local sweet potatoes from the peanut man

Under deep hay in the insulated pumphouse in my big barn back home is a treasure of sweet potatoes that I grew last year. They are massive, well coloured and delicious and have been growing in the valley for over 30 years. This is how I found them:

I stopped for smokes at a small store in a town down the valley last spring and an aged man with big dirty hands and a cheeky grin was hanging out the front. He looked me up and down and asked me "do you want to see my peanuts". The word was incongruous and I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I excused myself to hear again that indeed it was "peanuts" he wanted to show me (the "T" was obscured in his valley accent) I wavered a moment and then agreed, because he was ancient I guess, and off we went behind the store to a series of small sheds. He insisted I come in, as there was a double door and he didn't want his "peanuts" to get cold. His cheeky grin became diabolical. It was then I noticed the sweet potato slips in pots under lights through a grimy window and I went in with him. Hundreds of peanuts green and a smaller number of sweet potato slips. He has been growing peanuts in the Annapolis Valley for over 70 years, having started them in a school science project and planting them thereafter faithfully every year. The sweet potatoes he had started from tubers he found at a store 30 years ago and it was these massive beauties that interested me. I left laden with a dozen slips. I hope he is still around, because for sure I will be going to see his peanuts this spring. And if the mice or rot have got my sweet spuds lets hope his dirty hands and cheeky grin are still preserving something special indeed.

January 19, 2011

the stupidity of googone

I have another couple of months work to save for a tractor and blown in insulation before I return home to the farm. I have moved companies and am working in a large camp perched lucratively beside a large black gash in the snowy boreal forest. It is surrounded by frosty poplars, under great plumes of oily steam with beams of lights thrusting skyward. The trailers are perfectly aligned with matching porch lights lit at the same frequencies. My job is to remove all evidence of industrial and human debris from surfaces and appliances: I am a janitor.

There is a large boot room one first enters that is the threshold of this establishment and where the black gooey bitumen encroaches daily carried in on boots, gloves, PPE, etc. The rules for removal of all outside clothing is strict and they are left on hangers, shelves and the floor of this room. The union workers ("boys" as they are called) strip down to sweats, longjohns, moccasin or sneakers and then exit the boot room into the more easily managed neutrality of the halls and diningroom. Apart from a "GetRDone" poster one could then be anywhere.

One of the tools of my trade is a solvent called googone that I am required to use. After the room is assembled in order, scrubbed and vacuumed, I erase every blot of the oilsand that dared enter and interior spaces are as clean as is necessary to forget real consequence.

The joyful sky ballet of the ravens or the butt end of a bobcat sneaking back into the poplars and the full blue moon shining her light over rows of endless trailers is nature intruding in this carefully controlled world. I worry that there may soon be a substance equivalent to googone to rub out moon light or coyote tracks, lest the power of the natural world detract from the business at hand.