Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I highly recommend viewing the following documentary: The Future of Food by Deborah Koons Garcia. It provides an excellent overview of the issues and dangers surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and their impact on our health, on the environment, etc. and on the very future of our existence...
Please click on the title ( link) above to view the entire video on google video and share it with as many people as you can. Thank you!
UPDATE 1-German court rejects Monsanto plea to end GMO maize ban
HAMBURG, May 5 (Reuters) - A German court on Tuesday rejected an urgent application from U.S. biotech company Monsanto to end Germany's ban on cultivation of Monsanto maize containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, had requested an urgent decision to lift the ban imposed on April 14 by German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner stopping cultivation and commercial sale of Monanto's MON 810 GMO maize which prevented it being sown for this year's harvest.
The court in Braunschweig in north Germany rejected an application for an emergency ruling to overturn Aigner's decision so as to allow sowings for the 2009 crop.
Monsanto now has the option of taking normal legal action against the decision, the court said. But there was no indication of when a decision on such action could be made.
A statement from the court said Germany's law on GMOs laid down that a ban on a new plant variety did not need to be justified by proven scientific research which showed without doubt the crop to be dangerous.
It was enough when research showed there were indications that the crop could be dangerous, the court said.
The court ruled that German authorities had not made an arbitrary or biased decision in imposing the ban.
Monsanto would consider further legal action against the ban, said the CEO of its German unit Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane. The court had damaged the freedom of farmers to use new technology, she said in a statement.
The European Union had already approved the maize type as safe and studies quoted by the German government in making its ban had already been previously examined by the EU, she said.
MON 810 GMO maize is resistant to the corn borer, a moth whose caterpillars damage maize plantings, reducing yields.
The court statement added: "There is no proven scientific evidence that the genetic maize could lead to increased danger to the environment."
"But new studies could indicate that the poisonous substance (generated by genetic mutation) could not only have an impact on the pests which it is aimed at combating, but also on other insects."
On April 27, Aigner allowed open air test cultivation of a potato containing GMOs developed by German chemicals group BASF, saying trials presented no threat to public health or the environment.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Keiron Henderson)
European biofuels firms scramble for 'idle' lands in poor countries
EUOBSERVER/BRUSSELS - Massive tracts of land in Africa, Russia and Ukraine are being bought up or leased by richer countries to ensure access to food and for production of biofuels - a development that could result in unrest as locals begin to lose access over their territory.
An area roughly the same size as the amount of farmland in Germany is in play and at a cost of tens of billions of euros.
China has secured 2.8 million hectares in the Democratic Republic of Congo for oil palm.
This phenomenon, a product of the twin food and fuel crises of last year, is threatening local communities whose traditional use of such lands is being undermined by the food and energy security needs of others.
This all comes from a warning issued on Monday (11 May) by the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), an agricultural research centre funded by an alliance of 64 governments around the world.
A year after the global food crisis that saw food riots and protests spread throughout the developing world - and even to some rich countries - a number of nations have learnt their lesson.
These countries - largely emerging nations such as China, India and the Gulf states - feel they must ensure food security for their people, even at the cost of the food security of other countries.
At the same time, exacerbating the problem is the scramble by mainly European firms for so-called idle or marginal lands on which to grow biofuels.
Stung by the criticism of scientists last year that using farmland for such crops can actually boost carbon emissions and increase food prices, biofuels firms have been scouting about for cheap ‘wasteland'.
"EU policies is certainly contributing to Western biofuels investment," Ruth Meinzen-Dick, one of the report's two authors, told EUobserver,
"When you hear the word ‘wasteland' or ‘unused', it usually does have some use, just not uses that are officially recognised," she added, "whether as a village common or as pastureland, gathering nuts, honey, or for rattan."
The danger is, her report warns, that these companies risk setting off unrest as communities react to the loss of their lands.
Jatropha, palm oil
Details about the deals, the size of land purchased or leased, and the amount invested are often murky and shrouded in secrecy, according to IFPRI, but they highlight a number of agreements.
UK-based Sun Biofuels has secured land in Ethiopia and Mozambique for the cultivation of biofuels produced from jatropha, as well as some 5,500 hectares in Tanzania for the same purpose. Britain's CAMS Group has also purchased 45,000 hectares for jatropha biofuels in Tanzania. The researchers found that another 10,000 hectares have been secured in Nigeria by Trans4mation Agric-tech, also of the UK.
Ethiopia is home to 13,000 hectares secured under a contract farming agreement with Germany's Flora EcoPower for biofuel crop cultivation.
Sweden's Skebab has secured 100,000 hectares in Mozambique for biofuels as well.
Meanwhile in the east, Denmark's Trigon has secured 100,000 hectares from Russia. Sweden's Alpcot Agro has secured 128,000 hectares and Black Earth Farming 331,000 hectares in the country. Landkom, a UK firm, has leased 100,000 hectares in Ukraine.
Food production meanwhile is usually the focus of the land acquisition by emerging economies. The UAE has secured some 378,000 hectares to grow corn, alfalfa, wheat, potatoes and beans, while Saudi Arabia is in the process of gaining access to 500,000 hectares in Tanzania.
Some emerging economies as well are also getting in on the biofuels bonanza. China has secured a whopping 2.8 million hectares in the Democratic Republic of Congo for oil palm and is hoping to access another 2 million hectares in Zambia for jatropha.
All told, the acreage secured through lease or purchase by Asian and European private and public investors amounts to 15-20 million hectares, at a cost of €15-20 billion ($20-30 bn).
By comparison, annual net official development aid by OECD countries amounted to around €90 billion ($120bn) in 2008, €50 billion of which came from the EU.
"Additional investments in agriculture in developing countries ... should be welcome in principle," the report says.
These land acquisitions could inject much-needed investment into agriculture and rural areas in poor developing countries, with the monies potentially creating farm jobs, improving rural infrastructure and aiding technology transfer.
But, avers the report, "the scale, the terms, and the speed of land acquisition have provoked opposition in some target countries" as local people lose access to and control over land on which they depend.
Often the agreements are not made on equal terms between the investors and local communities, resulting in smallholders who cannot effectively negotiate with these big players being displaced from their land and unable to seek redress in the event of foreign investors failing to live up to agreements.
Elsewhere, people may not have formal title to the land on which they depend, but instead use it under customary tenure arrangements. As a result, they are frequently pushed off the plot so that the official ‘owner' of the land can profit from the sale or lease to the investor.
According to IRIN, the UN's humanitarian information news service, the lease of coastal wetlands in Kenya by Qatar threatens to displace thousands of locals who use the region for produce and livestock farming. Local councillors have said they will go to court to prevent the government from leasing the property.
In Madagascar meanwhile, the IFPRI researchers write, negotiations with South Korea's Daewoo Logistics Corporation to lease 1.3 million hectares for maize and oil palm played a role in the political conflicts that led to the overthrow of the government in 2009.
Code of conduct
"It is possible to have win-win scenarios," said Ms Meinzen-Dick, "but it requires making sure that local people will at least be no worse off and hopefully derive some share of the benefits from the investment."
To this end, IFPRI has recommended a code of conduct for foreign land acquisition and is developing guidelines on negotiations with investors in tandem with the African Union. The researchers want to see transparency in negotiations so that existing landholders are informed and involved in any land deal negotiations.
There should also be respect for existing land rights, including customary and common property rights.
And when national food security is at risk, they say, domestic supplies should have priority and foreign investors should not have a right to export during an acute national food crisis.
The IFPRI-African-Union guidelines are to be presented to the continent's leaders at their July summit.
April 29, 2009
The controversy surrounding the use of biofuel in road fuel has heightened as one African publication accuses the biofuel industry of taking food directly out of the mouths of the hungry. Business Daily Africa’s article entitled ‘Africa to feed EU’s appetite for biofuels as its people starve’ explores the relationship between the European Union’s introduction of a biofuel directive in 2008 and rises in food prices.
In addition to concerns about the true carbon footprint and environmental cost of biofuel, a coalition of international charities accuses the EU Biofuel Directive (which requires all road fuel used by member states to consist of 10 per cent biofuel by 2020) of making biofuels much more profitable than feeding the hungry, the publication reports.
The French chapters of Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD) report that the figures speak for themselves; 232 kilos of maize are needed to produce 50 litres of ethanol — roughly enough to fill an average car tank, or enough to provide the amount of calories a child needs in a year.
Ambroise Mazal, who heads CCFD’s side of the campaign against biofuels told Business Daily Africa: ‘‘The problem remains that, as of today, the EU can produce a mere two per cent of the required total [to meet the Biofuel Directive]. European agriculture could potentially account for half of the required 10 per cent, but the rest will have to be imported from outside the EU.”
According to the publication, many African countries have expanded single-crop farming surfaces as a response to European hunger for biofuel, leading to land, water and other limited resources being diverted from scarce food-producing crops.
Several international institutions including the International Monetary Fund have acknowledged the social, economic and nutritional impacts on developing countries and their already tense food resources. Despite this, several African states have drafted policies in favour of biofuel crops.
Here in the UK, the Renewable Fuels Agency which was set up by the Government to implement the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), a response to the EU Biofuel Directive, commissioned the Gallagher Review last year to investigate the link between biofuels, rising carbon emissions and spiralling food prices.
The report concluded that the use of biofuels in road fuel had lead to some unintended environmental and social problems. An amendment was subsequently made to the first target set out RTFO, to 5 per cent biofuel by 2013-14 instead of the initial target of 5 per cent by 2010-11, but it failed to halt the demand for biofuel.
The UK exceeded its biofuel obligations last year, making around 2.7 per cent of the total UK road transport fuel supply. Research last year by Friends of the Earth found that some fuel suppliers were adding twice as much biofuel as required by law, bulking out their fuel with cheap biofuel and defying the RFO’s call to slow demand for the controversial ‘green’ fuel.
In Senegal, a country affected by food riots a year ago, up to 200,000 hectares (10 per cent of the country’s arable land) might be set aside for jatropha crops for biofuels.
Second and third generation biofuels are supposed to limit environmental and social impacts because of either the use of non food-producing crops or biomass such as algae and fungus.
‘‘That’s a sham,’’ insists Mazal, ‘‘because second generation fuels made from non-edible crops still take up arable lands and the research is far from developing sustainable biomass in laboratories.’’
To read the full article, visit Business Daily Africa.
What do you think? Should the EU and the UK halt obligations for biofuels until such time as we can be sure of the environmental and social impacts? Should fossil fuel suppliers be stopped from exceeding legal obligations on biofuel? Are biofuels green?