Environment Groups Condemn Plans To Plant RoundUp Ready GM Crops In England

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Joint press release: GeneWatch UK, Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, Soil Association (Monday 10th March 2014)

Environment groups today wrote to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to condemn Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s support for growing GM crops in Britain (1). Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, GeneWatch UK, GM Freeze and the Soil Association expressed concerns that controversial RoundUp Ready GM crops might be planted in England as early as Spring 2015, leading to harm to the environment.

At the EU’s March Environment Council meeting, Paterson supported a proposal which would fast-track GM crops for commercial cultivation in pro-GM countries, whilst allowing anti-GM countries to opt out (2). The first GM crops in the pipeline for approval that are likely to be grown in England are Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready GM maize NK603 and Syngenta’s GA21. These crops are genetically engineered to withstand blanket spraying with the weedkiller glyphosate (brand name RoundUp). Monsanto has not withdrawn its application to plant NK603 in the EU, despite announcing in July 2013 that it would do so (3).

Previous plans to grow herbicide-tolerant GM crops commercially in the UK were abandoned in 2004, following the Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs), which showed that blanket spraying with weedkillers destroys important habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife (4). These concerns have been borne out in reality in the United States, where widespread planting of RoundUp Ready crops has led to a drastic decline in numbers of the iconic Monarch butterfly, due to the destruction of the milkweed habitat where they lay their eggs (5). ‘Superweeds’ which have evolved resistance to RoundUp  adversely affected nearly half of US farms surveyed in 2013, leading to major economic and environmental problems as spraying with other more toxic weedkillers has increased in response (6). Monopoly control over the seed supply, which is patented, has also led to major seed price hikes for farmers.

“Monsanto and other GM companies are desperate to push their GM crops into other countries before the devastating impacts on wildlife and farming destroy existing markets” said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, “The Government should not be caving in to commercial lobbying and putting British birds and butterflies at risk”.

“The Soil Association hope that David Cameron does not want to be remembered as the Prime Minister responsible for the beginning of the end of organic farming in England.  If GM crops spread, GM contamination will make organic farming impossible, and our growing organic market will have to be supplied with imported food”, said Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director.

“British consumers don’t want to eat GM food and both Scottish and Welsh governments have made it clear they are opposed to GM crops. So why are our representatives in Westminster doing their level best to hand over control of our food and our natural environment to big business?” said Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze.

“Ten years ago the UK Government reviewed the scientific, environmental and economic impacts of GM crops and food, and concluded they offered little benefit to the UK. Despite much huffing and puffing from its advocates, little has changed and the propositions on offer from the biotech industry are largely the same as they were. But the UK Government is so in thrall to industry hype that they want to deconstruct the EU single market – previously the only thing about Europe they wanted to keep – in order to grow GM crops that nobody wants”, said Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace UK.

LINK: http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=492860&als[itemid]=574352

Dutch Parliament Bans Glyphosate Herbicides For Non-Commercial Use

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From the end of 2015 onward the sale of Glyphosate -based herbicides to private persons, including the World’s number one herbicide ‘Roundup’, will be prohibited in the Netherlands over health fears.

Glyphosate is an ingredient of Roundup, which is sold to private persons as a weed control product. The Dutch Lower House gave consent to a motion by Dutch Member of Parliament Esther Ouwehand, which prohibits the sale of glyphosate to private individuals.

Glyphosate is increasingly associated with health problems such as infertility, birth defects, damage to the nervous system, Parkinson’s disease and several forms of cancer. In addition to health risks for humans, the usage of chemical pesticides can also lead to loss of biodiversity and difficulties with purifying drinking water.

In 2011 the Dutch Lower House asked for a total ban on the use of glyphosate outside the agricultural sector. Municipalities also use this pesticide for weed control and even private persons can buy it everywhere. Contrary to the wish of the Lower House the cabinet made all kinds of exceptions to the requested ban. Private individuals were allowed to use products containing glyphosate in their gardens, but not on their terraces. This is unclear, uncontrollable as well as irresponsible, given all risks to health and environment.

Now that the Party for the Animals motion has been adopted the cabinet has to get pesticides containing glyphosate, such as the commonly-sold RoundUp, off the shelves. Political parties PvdA, CU, 50+, GroenLinks, SP and PVV support the motion by Ouwehand, which she has submitted together with Gerard Schouw (D66).

Esther Ouwehand: “Agricultural pesticides in user-friendly packaging are sold in abundance to private persons. In garden centres RoundUp is promoted as harmless, but unsuspecting customers have no idea what the risks of this product are. Especially children are sensitive to toxic substances and should therefore not be exposed to it.”

The Lower House, led by the Party for the Animals, makes a stand against agricultural pesticides more and more. The Lower House supported motions by Esther Ouwehand for a ban on neonicotinoids, toxins that cause massive bee mortality. Moreover, at the urging of the Party for the Animals measures are being taken to restrict agricultural pesticides in order to protect residents. Ouwehand’s plea has recently been underlined by the Dutch Health Council.

Many people are concerned about the use of glyphosate in their living environment. This is demonstrated by dozens of reports at Gifkikker.nl, the notification centre that the Party for the Animals and foundation Bollenboos launched in April last year. The Dutch Health Council praised this initiative, because up until then civilians who worry about the use of pesticides in their neighbourhood could not turn to anyone with their concerns and complaints.

LINK: http://sustainablepulse.com/2014/04/04/dutch-parliament-bans-glyphosate-herbicides-non-commercial-use/

French Parliament Bans All Getetically Modified Corn

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France’s lower house of parliament passed a law Tuesday prohibiting genetically modified (GM) maize from being grown, citing environmental concerns. The law can be applied to any GM strain that is adopted at EU level.

The law follows a decree last month, which halted the planting of Monsanto’s insect-resistant maize MON810, which will be allowed for cultivation in the EU, Reuters reported.

But if any strain of GM crop is adopted in the future at EU level – including Pioneer 1507, which was developed by DuPont and Dow Chemical – it will be subsequently banned in France.

Pioneer 1507 could be approved by the EU later this year, after 19 of the 28 EU member states failed to gather enough votes to block it.

The law adopted Tuesday by France’s lower house (National Assembly) is similar to one rejected by the upper house (Senate) in February, which was seen as unconstitutional.

“It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GMO and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties” Jean Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told the National Assembly.

The current Socialist-led government in France, like the previous conservative one, has opposed the growing of GM crops because of public suspicion and protests by environmentalists.

Le Guen called for an EU system that would make sure that the decisions of member states not to adopt GM crops could not be challenged legally.

A debate on the future of EU policy is going on at EU level, with the European Commission suggesting an opt-out that would allow individual countries to ban GM crops.

The French ban on GM maize will now have to go to the Senate for approval. However, even if it is rejected again, the National Assembly will have the final say.

While France is against genetically modified crops, the UK argues that without them, Europe risks becoming “the museum of world farming.” Spain also says its own farmers have to be able to compete with those outside the EU – many of whom are growing GM crops.

GM crops, though still unpopular in Europe, are widely grown in the US and Asia.

LINK: http://rt.com/news/french-ban-gm-maize-736/

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United Nations Say Small-Scale Organic Farming Is The Future Of Food Production

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Farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food, a new UNCTAD report recommends.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 warns that continuing rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns must be treated as a collective crisis. It says that urgent and far-reaching action is needed before climate change begins to cause major disruptions to agriculture, especially in developing countries.

The report, subtitled Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate, was released today. More than 60 international experts contributed to the report’s analysis of the topic. The study notes that the sheer scale at which production methods would have to be modified under these proposals would pose considerable challenges. In addition, it would be necessary to correct existing imbalances between where food is produced and where it is needed, to reduce the power asymmetries that exist in agricultural input and food-processing markets, and to adjust current trade rules for agriculture.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 recommends a rapid and significant shift away from “conventional, monoculture-based… industrial production” of food that depends heavily on external inputs such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and concentrate feed. Instead, it says that the goal should be “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and foster rural development”. The report stresses that governments must find ways to factor in and reward farmers for currently unpaid public goods they provide – such as clean water, soil and landscape preservation, protection of biodiversity, and recreation.

Climate change will drastically impact on agriculture, the report forecasts, primarily in the developing regions with the highest future population growth, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Much slower agricultural productivity growth in the future and fast-rising populations in the most vulnerable regions will almost certainly worsen current problems with hunger, drought, rising food prices, and access to land. These pressures may easily lead to massive migrations, and to international tensions and conflicts over food and resources such as soil and water.

The report cites a number of trends that collectively suggest a mounting crisis:
• Food prices from 2011 to mid-2013 were almost 80 per cent higher than for the period 2003–2008;
• Global fertilizer use has increased by eight times over the past 40 years, although global cereal production has only doubled during that period;
• Growth rates in agricultural productivity have recently declined from 2 per cent per year to below 1 cent;
• Two types of irreparable environmental damage have already been caused by agriculture: nitrogen contamination of soil and water, and loss of biodiversity;
• Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are the single biggest source of global warming in the South. They also the fastest growing (along with emissions from transport);
• Foreign land acquisition in developing countries (often termed “land grabbing”) in recent years has amounted, in value, to between five and ten times the level of official development assistance.

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Astronauts To Grow Lettuce In Space Station

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Astronauts longing for fresh lettuce in orbit will soon have the chance to grow it for themselves: NASA is sending a mini-farm into space.

When the private spaceflight company SpaceX launches its next Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station on Monday (April 14), the capsule will be carrying a small plant growth chamber built to let astronauts grow “Outredgeous” lettuce in orbit.

The goal of the Veg-01 experiment, nicknamed “Veggie”, is to see how well plants grow in orbit. If these early tests go well and the food proves safe, scientists hope to expand the menu.

“Veggie will provide a new resource for U.S. astronauts and researchers as we begin to develop the capabilities of growing fresh produce and other large plants on the space station,” said Gioia Massa, NASA payload scientist for Veggie, in a statement. “Determining food safety is one of our primary goals for this validation test.”

Space is at a premium on a spacecraft and also on the International Space Station, so the Veggie chamber is built to collapse for transportation and when it is in storage. When fully deployed, it’s about a 1.5-feet (X meters) long, making it the biggest such plant chamber in space to date.

A version of the chamber has been tested on the ground, where lettuce and radishes were successfully grown at the Kennedy Space Center’s space life sciences laboratory. Veggie was developed by Madison, Wis.-based Orbital Technologies Corp.

NASA’s Veggie experimental space farm is slated to launch on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule at 4:58 p.m. EDT (2058 GMT). Visit Space.com for complete coverage of the Dragon mission to the International Space Station.

LINK: http://www.space.com/25478-astronauts-space-lettuce-nasa-veggie-farm.html

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Survival: Highgrove – Natures Kingdom

The first (1993) in-depth television examination of Prince Charles work on his estate at Highgrove in Gloucestershire, it particularly concentrates on the wildlife he has there I found. Cameraman Maurice Tibbles spent 18 months filming the story through the changing seasons and focuses on the Princes commitment to organic farming and conservation.

I liked this look into all wild life and their systems on an organic farm, a side you don’t always get to see in agricultural and horticultural documentaries. People seemed to like previous posts I made regarding a look at Highgrove so thought I’d share this as well.

Prince Charles Speech On The Future Of Food

I really enjoyed this talk by Prince Charles on sustainable food production, couldn’t fault it what so ever really, I particularly liked the part he discussed regarding farming subsidies and a redistribution of funds towards more sustainable systems of production. Make sure you watch the full talk to get the full context of his argument for including the “true cost” of how we are currently producing food and why it is we need to change.

The Prince of Wales told an audience of students and faculty (in May 4 2011) that the model of food production prevalent in the 21st century world just doesn’t work. This was at the “The Future of Food” at Georgetown University, hosted by Washington Post Live.

“We will have to develop much more sustainable, or durable forms of food production because the way we have done things up to now are no longer as viable as they once appeared to be,”

I suppose if your lazy, busy or have a short attention span you could watch this quick 10 minute speech he done on the same issue: