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By John Ahni Schertow, April 14, 2014. Source: Intercontinental Cry

Leaders of the Unist’ot’en resistance camp held a press conference in Vancouver on April 7, 2014 in response to leaked information that the Provincial government is preparing an injunction against the camp. The camp is in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern BC on the route of the Pacific Trail fracked gas pipeline.

Premier Christie Clark has staked her political future on liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, more accurately called liquefied fracked gas or LFG. But pipelines from the fracking fields in the province’s north-east must pass through unceded Indigenous territory on the way to the coast. They therefore require the free, prior and informed consent of the people of those lands; consent they do not have and will not receive from the Unist’ot’en and the other Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans.

“While the elected leadership of some Indian bands have signed agreements regarding the Pacific Trail Pipeline, Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans have jurisdiction over their territories” says Freda Huson “The Unist’ot’en are standing up for our territory, and protecting Mother Earth on a global scale by keeping fracked gas in the ground.”

Huson asserts that both indigenous law and the Canadian Supreme Court Delgamuukw decision prevents Indian band councils from unilaterally authorizing projects on Unist’ot’en land. She asserts that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans have the right to free, prior and informed consent — the right to say no — regarding any major projects, such as pipelines, on their unceded territory.

Resistance camp spokespeople Freda Huson and Toghestiy were in Vancouver after attending two historic gatherings of Indigenous land defenders and climate justice activists. The first was in Victoria March 29 to 31 and the second April 4th and 6th in Vancouver. The gatherings brought together hundreds of people opposing fracked gas and oilsands bitumen pipelines for joint training and strategy development.

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Note: If global industrial agriculture must be abolished in order to maintain a livable planet, will we accept life without cheap limes?

And let’s be honest — The industry-backed narrative about a “broad scientific consensus” on GMO safety is just plain incorrect – see this statement here: No scientific consensus on GMO safety.

-The GJEP Team

By Drake Bennett, April 11, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped.  Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you are not a regular consumer of Mexican cuisine or gin and tonics, you may not have noticed that limes have become a luxury product. The price of the fruit has quadrupled over the past couple months, to $100 a carton. Mexican restaurants and bars have begun rationing limes, and some airlines have stopped serving the fruit all together.

Ninety-five percent of the limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico, and Mexico’s lime harvest is being held hostage—sometimes literally—by weather, criminal entrepreneurship, and disease. Severe rains last fall knocked the blossoms off of most of Mexico’s lime trees, decimating the current yield. Armed gangs linked to drug cartels have seized on the shortage, and the resulting price spike, to start grabbing lime shipments and stealing fruit out of the fields. Growers have had to hire armed guards, and all this has only driven prices higher.

Harvests are likely to rebound somewhat in the next few months from the effects of last fall’s storms. But another, longer-term threat to Mexico’s limes is a bacterial disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, that’s killing many of Mexico’s lime trees. Last summer the New York Times ran an in-depth story about the efforts of a U.S. Sugar (USGR) company, Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, Fla., to develop a genetically modified orange tree that could resist the disease, which growers in Florida fear could wipe out much of the state’s orange trees.

The goal of the project is to rescue the orange tree, but it could help the lime as well. Southern Gardens President Ricke Kress is spearheading the orange effort, and he says they’re already working on limes. “The greening disease affects all citrus, so we are doing work on all forms of citrus. We’re looking at orange, we’re looking at grapefruit, we’re looking at lemons, we’re looking at limes,” he told me. “There’s no reason the technology won’t work on all forms of citrus. It’s not specific to orange.”

The technology in question is the insertion of a spinach gene that codes for a protein that kills the HLB bacteria. It was developed by Erik Mirkov, a plant pathologist at Texas AM. The field trials on oranges and grapefruit have been quite encouraging: After 18 months, Mirkov says, the unaltered trees in the trial are mostly infected and the biotech ones are free of the disease. He has also successfully introduced the gene into lemons, which will soon be in field trials. With limes, Mirkov is just now introducing the antibacterial genes into seedlings.

Southern Gardens plans to commercialize only the orange. Kress says once the technology is developed, it will be available to the rest of the industry for a fee. “There will be some sort of cost assigned to the technology,” he says, “but today that can’t be defined, because we don’t know what it’s going to cost to get all the way through commercialization.”

Anyone who decides to do so will have to figure out how to overcome the public’s skepticism about genetically modified food—a skepticism that persists despite abroad scientific consensus about its safety. In Mexico, where the lime shortage is most strongly felt, a judge last fall ordered a halt to new GMO corn permits.

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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

Note: If global industrial agriculture must be abolished in order to maintain a livable planet, will we accept life without cheap limes?

And let’s be honest — The industry-backed narrative about a “broad scientific consensus” on GMO safety is just plain incorrect – see this statement here: No scientific consensus on GMO safety.

-The GJEP Team

By Drake Bennett, April 11, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped.  Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you are not a regular consumer of Mexican cuisine or gin and tonics, you may not have noticed that limes have become a luxury product. The price of the fruit has quadrupled over the past couple months, to $100 a carton. Mexican restaurants and bars have begun rationing limes, and some airlines have stopped serving the fruit all together.

Ninety-five percent of the limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico, and Mexico’s lime harvest is being held hostage—sometimes literally—by weather, criminal entrepreneurship, and disease. Severe rains last fall knocked the blossoms off of most of Mexico’s lime trees, decimating the current yield. Armed gangs linked to drug cartels have seized on the shortage, and the resulting price spike, to start grabbing lime shipments and stealing fruit out of the fields. Growers have had to hire armed guards, and all this has only driven prices higher.

Harvests are likely to rebound somewhat in the next few months from the effects of last fall’s storms. But another, longer-term threat to Mexico’s limes is a bacterial disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, that’s killing many of Mexico’s lime trees. Last summer the New York Times ran an in-depth story about the efforts of a U.S. Sugar (USGR) company, Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, Fla., to develop a genetically modified orange tree that could resist the disease, which growers in Florida fear could wipe out much of the state’s orange trees.

The goal of the project is to rescue the orange tree, but it could help the lime as well. Southern Gardens President Ricke Kress is spearheading the orange effort, and he says they’re already working on limes. “The greening disease affects all citrus, so we are doing work on all forms of citrus. We’re looking at orange, we’re looking at grapefruit, we’re looking at lemons, we’re looking at limes,” he told me. “There’s no reason the technology won’t work on all forms of citrus. It’s not specific to orange.”

The technology in question is the insertion of a spinach gene that codes for a protein that kills the HLB bacteria. It was developed by Erik Mirkov, a plant pathologist at Texas AM. The field trials on oranges and grapefruit have been quite encouraging: After 18 months, Mirkov says, the unaltered trees in the trial are mostly infected and the biotech ones are free of the disease. He has also successfully introduced the gene into lemons, which will soon be in field trials. With limes, Mirkov is just now introducing the antibacterial genes into seedlings.

Southern Gardens plans to commercialize only the orange. Kress says once the technology is developed, it will be available to the rest of the industry for a fee. “There will be some sort of cost assigned to the technology,” he says, “but today that can’t be defined, because we don’t know what it’s going to cost to get all the way through commercialization.”

Anyone who decides to do so will have to figure out how to overcome the public’s skepticism about genetically modified food—a skepticism that persists despite abroad scientific consensus about its safety. In Mexico, where the lime shortage is most strongly felt, a judge last fall ordered a halt to new GMO corn permits.

About these ads

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]]>

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

Note: If global industrial agriculture must be abolished in order to maintain a livable planet, will we accept life without cheap limes?

And let’s be honest — The industry-backed narrative about a “broad scientific consensus” on GMO safety is just plain incorrect – see this statement here: No scientific consensus on GMO safety.

-The GJEP Team

By Drake Bennett, April 11, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped.  Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you are not a regular consumer of Mexican cuisine or gin and tonics, you may not have noticed that limes have become a luxury product. The price of the fruit has quadrupled over the past couple months, to $100 a carton. Mexican restaurants and bars have begun rationing limes, and some airlines have stopped serving the fruit all together.

Ninety-five percent of the limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico, and Mexico’s lime harvest is being held hostage—sometimes literally—by weather, criminal entrepreneurship, and disease. Severe rains last fall knocked the blossoms off of most of Mexico’s lime trees, decimating the current yield. Armed gangs linked to drug cartels have seized on the shortage, and the resulting price spike, to start grabbing lime shipments and stealing fruit out of the fields. Growers have had to hire armed guards, and all this has only driven prices higher.

Harvests are likely to rebound somewhat in the next few months from the effects of last fall’s storms. But another, longer-term threat to Mexico’s limes is a bacterial disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, that’s killing many of Mexico’s lime trees. Last summer the New York Times ran an in-depth story about the efforts of a U.S. Sugar (USGR) company, Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, Fla., to develop a genetically modified orange tree that could resist the disease, which growers in Florida fear could wipe out much of the state’s orange trees.

The goal of the project is to rescue the orange tree, but it could help the lime as well. Southern Gardens President Ricke Kress is spearheading the orange effort, and he says they’re already working on limes. “The greening disease affects all citrus, so we are doing work on all forms of citrus. We’re looking at orange, we’re looking at grapefruit, we’re looking at lemons, we’re looking at limes,” he told me. “There’s no reason the technology won’t work on all forms of citrus. It’s not specific to orange.”

The technology in question is the insertion of a spinach gene that codes for a protein that kills the HLB bacteria. It was developed by Erik Mirkov, a plant pathologist at Texas AM. The field trials on oranges and grapefruit have been quite encouraging: After 18 months, Mirkov says, the unaltered trees in the trial are mostly infected and the biotech ones are free of the disease. He has also successfully introduced the gene into lemons, which will soon be in field trials. With limes, Mirkov is just now introducing the antibacterial genes into seedlings.

Southern Gardens plans to commercialize only the orange. Kress says once the technology is developed, it will be available to the rest of the industry for a fee. “There will be some sort of cost assigned to the technology,” he says, “but today that can’t be defined, because we don’t know what it’s going to cost to get all the way through commercialization.”

Anyone who decides to do so will have to figure out how to overcome the public’s skepticism about genetically modified food—a skepticism that persists despite abroad scientific consensus about its safety. In Mexico, where the lime shortage is most strongly felt, a judge last fall ordered a halt to new GMO corn permits.

About these ads

div { margin-top: 1em; } #google_ads_div_wpcom_below_post_adsafe_ad_container { display: block !important; }
]]>

Note: If global industrial agriculture must be abolished in order to maintain a livable planet, will we accept life without cheap limes?

And let’s be honest — The industry-backed narrative about a “broad scientific consensus” on GMO safety is just plain incorrect – see this statement here: No scientific consensus on GMO safety.

-The GJEP Team

By Drake Bennett, April 11, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped.  Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you are not a regular consumer of Mexican cuisine or gin and tonics, you may not have noticed that limes have become a luxury product. The price of the fruit has quadrupled over the past couple months, to $100 a carton. Mexican restaurants and bars have begun rationing limes, and some airlines have stopped serving the fruit all together.

Ninety-five percent of the limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico, and Mexico’s lime harvest is being held hostage—sometimes literally—by weather, criminal entrepreneurship, and disease. Severe rains last fall knocked the blossoms off of most of Mexico’s lime trees, decimating the current yield. Armed gangs linked to drug cartels have seized on the shortage, and the resulting price spike, to start grabbing lime shipments and stealing fruit out of the fields. Growers have had to hire armed guards, and all this has only driven prices higher.

Harvests are likely to rebound somewhat in the next few months from the effects of last fall’s storms. But another, longer-term threat to Mexico’s limes is a bacterial disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, that’s killing many of Mexico’s lime trees. Last summer the New York Times ran an in-depth story about the efforts of a U.S. Sugar (USGR) company, Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, Fla., to develop a genetically modified orange tree that could resist the disease, which growers in Florida fear could wipe out much of the state’s orange trees.

The goal of the project is to rescue the orange tree, but it could help the lime as well. Southern Gardens President Ricke Kress is spearheading the orange effort, and he says they’re already working on limes. “The greening disease affects all citrus, so we are doing work on all forms of citrus. We’re looking at orange, we’re looking at grapefruit, we’re looking at lemons, we’re looking at limes,” he told me. “There’s no reason the technology won’t work on all forms of citrus. It’s not specific to orange.”

The technology in question is the insertion of a spinach gene that codes for a protein that kills the HLB bacteria. It was developed by Erik Mirkov, a plant pathologist at Texas AM. The field trials on oranges and grapefruit have been quite encouraging: After 18 months, Mirkov says, the unaltered trees in the trial are mostly infected and the biotech ones are free of the disease. He has also successfully introduced the gene into lemons, which will soon be in field trials. With limes, Mirkov is just now introducing the antibacterial genes into seedlings.

Southern Gardens plans to commercialize only the orange. Kress says once the technology is developed, it will be available to the rest of the industry for a fee. “There will be some sort of cost assigned to the technology,” he says, “but today that can’t be defined, because we don’t know what it’s going to cost to get all the way through commercialization.”

Anyone who decides to do so will have to figure out how to overcome the public’s skepticism about genetically modified food—a skepticism that persists despite abroad scientific consensus about its safety. In Mexico, where the lime shortage is most strongly felt, a judge last fall ordered a halt to new GMO corn permits.

About these ads

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By Suzanne York, April 14, 2014. Source: How Many?

Image: Stephanie McMillan

Image: Stephanie McMillan

The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, warned that battles over water and food will erupt within the next five to ten years as a result of climate change.  As he was talking of the risks of climate change, the UN announced that food prices had risen to their highest in almost a year.

 At about the same time as these announcements were happening, the Oakland Institute released a report on the World Bank and land grabs, stating that the World Bank was destroying traditional farming to support corporate land grabs (where corporations, individuals and governments buy or lease prime agricultural lands, often displacing poor and marginalized communities who have lived there for generations).

The Uptick on News on Food Security

It’s easy for some to dismiss talk of food shortages and insecurity as just more “chicken little warnings” that have been wrong in the past.  But a look at recent news on food security should give people cause for concern.

Between 2011 and 2012, for instance, global production of grain fell 3 percent, largely as a result of droughts that hit corn production in the United States and wheat production in Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

Last week, an article from the Los Angeles Times reported that the challenge of feeding 1.3 billion people in a nation grappling with tainted food and polluted land is prompting Chinese companies to invest in farmland overseas.  China has 20% of the world’s population and just 9% of its arable land, and it is looking to acquire fertile farmland in countries around the world (China is not alone; India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are just some others doing the same).

Developing country governments are eager for foreign investments, and some have sold land for as little as fifty cents per hectare.

Pro-corporate Agenda

“The World Bank is facilitating land grabs and sowing poverty by putting the interests of foreign investors before those of locals,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

For example, due to policies driven by the World Bank, Sierra Leone has taken 20 percent of its arable land from rural populations and leased it to foreign sugar cane and palm oil producers. And in Liberia, British, Malaysian, and Indonesian palm-oil interests have secured long-term leases for over 1.5 million acres of land formerly held by local communities.

The Oakland Institute believes the World Bank’s strategy “still upholds a fundamentally pro-corporate agenda and a neoliberal vision of the economy.”  Indeed, land grabs are just a continuation of the global trade agenda that benefits the rich over poor and looks like a modern form of colonialism.

The Climate Question

In the face of growing inequality and inequity around the world, and increasing severity of the impacts of climate change, the issue of land grabs is unsettling.  The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global crop yields are beginning to decline (especially for wheat), raising doubts as to whether production could keep up with population growth.

“Climate change is acting as a brake. We need yields to grow to meet growing demand, but already climate change is slowing those yields,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor and an author of the report.

Promote Greater Rights

With the global population predicted to be over 9 billion people by 2050, and with that rise, an increase in land paved over for growing cities, the pressure to feed people will become a critical issue. There will be more and more pressure from developed countries to try and obtain food security for their own citizens.

Land rights and human rights must be strengthened and prioritized.  And poor countries and small holder farmers need to be supported by multilateral organizations like the World Bank, not put at risk by policies that only serve rich governments, corporations and elite.

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]]>

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

By Suzanne York, April 14, 2014. Source: How Many?

Image: Stephanie McMillan

Image: Stephanie McMillan

The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, warned that battles over water and food will erupt within the next five to ten years as a result of climate change.  As he was talking of the risks of climate change, the UN announced that food prices had risen to their highest in almost a year.

 At about the same time as these announcements were happening, the Oakland Institute released a report on the World Bank and land grabs, stating that the World Bank was destroying traditional farming to support corporate land grabs (where corporations, individuals and governments buy or lease prime agricultural lands, often displacing poor and marginalized communities who have lived there for generations).

The Uptick on News on Food Security

It’s easy for some to dismiss talk of food shortages and insecurity as just more “chicken little warnings” that have been wrong in the past.  But a look at recent news on food security should give people cause for concern.

Between 2011 and 2012, for instance, global production of grain fell 3 percent, largely as a result of droughts that hit corn production in the United States and wheat production in Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

Last week, an article from the Los Angeles Times reported that the challenge of feeding 1.3 billion people in a nation grappling with tainted food and polluted land is prompting Chinese companies to invest in farmland overseas.  China has 20% of the world’s population and just 9% of its arable land, and it is looking to acquire fertile farmland in countries around the world (China is not alone; India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are just some others doing the same).

Developing country governments are eager for foreign investments, and some have sold land for as little as fifty cents per hectare.

Pro-corporate Agenda

“The World Bank is facilitating land grabs and sowing poverty by putting the interests of foreign investors before those of locals,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

For example, due to policies driven by the World Bank, Sierra Leone has taken 20 percent of its arable land from rural populations and leased it to foreign sugar cane and palm oil producers. And in Liberia, British, Malaysian, and Indonesian palm-oil interests have secured long-term leases for over 1.5 million acres of land formerly held by local communities.

The Oakland Institute believes the World Bank’s strategy “still upholds a fundamentally pro-corporate agenda and a neoliberal vision of the economy.”  Indeed, land grabs are just a continuation of the global trade agenda that benefits the rich over poor and looks like a modern form of colonialism.

The Climate Question

In the face of growing inequality and inequity around the world, and increasing severity of the impacts of climate change, the issue of land grabs is unsettling.  The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global crop yields are beginning to decline (especially for wheat), raising doubts as to whether production could keep up with population growth.

“Climate change is acting as a brake. We need yields to grow to meet growing demand, but already climate change is slowing those yields,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor and an author of the report.

Promote Greater Rights

With the global population predicted to be over 9 billion people by 2050, and with that rise, an increase in land paved over for growing cities, the pressure to feed people will become a critical issue. There will be more and more pressure from developed countries to try and obtain food security for their own citizens.

Land rights and human rights must be strengthened and prioritized.  And poor countries and small holder farmers need to be supported by multilateral organizations like the World Bank, not put at risk by policies that only serve rich governments, corporations and elite.

About these ads

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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

By Naomi Klein, April 10, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A large field of fracking sites in a Colorado valley. 'The industrys singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane.' Photograph: Ted Wood/Aurora Photos/Corbis

A large field of fracking sites in a Colorado valley. ‘The industry’s singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane.’ Photograph: Ted Wood/Aurora Photos/Corbis

The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin’s fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.

According to Cory Gardner, the Republican congressman who introduced the House bill, “opposing this legislation is like hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies”. And that might be true – as long as your friends and allies work at Chevron and Shell, and the emergency is the need to keep profits up amid dwindling supplies of conventional oil and gas.

For this ploy to work, it’s important not to look too closely at details. Like the fact that much of the gas probably won’t make it to Europe – because what the bills allow is for gas to be sold on the world market to any country belonging to the World Trade Organisation.

Or the fact that for years the industry has been selling the message that Americans must accept the risks to their land, water and air that come with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in order to help their country achieve “energy independence”. And now, suddenly and slyly, the goal has been switched to “energy security”, which apparently means selling a temporary glut of fracked gas on the world market, thereby creating energy dependencies abroad.

And most of all, it’s important not to notice that building the infrastructure necessary to export gas on this scale would take many years in permitting and construction – a single LNG terminal can carry a $7bn price tag, must be fed by a massive, interlocking web of pipelines and compressor stations, and requires its own power plant just to generate energy sufficient to liquefy the gas through super-cooling. By the time these massive industrial projects are up and running, Germany and Russia may well be fast friends. But by then few will remember that the crisis in Crimea was the excuse seized upon by the gas industry to make its longstanding export dreams come true, regardless of the consequences to the communities getting fracked or to the planet getting cooked.

I call this knack for exploiting crisis for private gain the shock doctrine, and it shows no signs of retreating. We all know how the shock doctrine works: during times of crisis, whether real or manufactured, our elites are able to ram through unpopular policies that are detrimental to the majority under cover of emergency. Sure there are objections – from climate scientists warning of the potent warming powers of methane, or local communities that don’t want these high-risk export ports on their beloved coasts. But who has time for debate? It’s an emergency! A 911 call ringing! Pass the laws first, think about them later.

Plenty of industries are good at this ploy, but none is more adept at exploiting the rationality-arresting properties of crisis than the global gas sector.

For the past four years the gas lobby has used the economic crisis in Europe to tell countries like Greece that the way out of debt and desperation is to open their beautiful and fragile seas to drilling. And it has employed similar arguments to rationalise fracking across North America and the United Kingdom.

Now the crisis du jour is conflict in Ukraine, being used as a battering ram to knock down sensible restrictions on natural gas exports and push through a controversial free-trade deal with Europe. It’s quite a deal: more corporate free-trade polluting economies and more heat-trapping gases polluting the atmosphere – all as a response to an energy crisis that is largely manufactured.

Against this backdrop it’s worth remembering – irony of ironies – that the crisis the natural gas industry has been most adept at exploiting is climate change itself.

Never mind that the industry’s singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process in fracking that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane into our atmosphere. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases – 34 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the latest estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that is over a 100-year period, with methane’s power dwindling over time.

It’s far more relevant, argues the Cornell University biochemist Robert Howarth, one of the world’s leading experts on methane emissions, to look at the impact in the 15- to 20-year range, when methane has a global-warming potential that is a staggering 86-100 times greater than carbon dioxide. “It is in this time frame that we risk locking ourselves into very rapid warming,” he said on Wednesday.

And remember: you don’t build multibillion-dollar pieces of infrastructure unless you plan on using them for at least 40 years. So we are responding to the crisis of our warming planet by constructing a network of ultra-powerful atmospheric ovens. Are we mad?

Not that we know how much methane is actually released by drilling and fracking and all their attendant infrastructure. Even while the natural gas industry touts its “lower than coal!” carbon dioxide emissions, it has never systematically measured its fugitive methane leaks, which waft from every stage of the gas extraction, processing, and distribution process – from the well casings and the condenser valves to the cracked pipelines under Harlem neighbourhoods. The gas industry itself, in 1981, came up with the clever pitch that natural gas was a “bridge” to a clean energy future. That was 33 years ago. Long bridge. And the far bank still nowhere in view.

And in 1988 – the year that the climatologist James Hansen warned Congress, in historic testimony, about the urgent problem of global warming – the American Gas Association began to explicitly frame its product as a response to the “greenhouse effect”. It wasted no time, in other words, selling itself as the solution to a global crisis that it had helped create.

The industry’s use of the crisis in Ukraine to expand its global market under the banner of “energy security” must be seen in the context of this uninterrupted record of crisis opportunism. Only this time many more of us know where true energy security lies. Thanks to the work of top researchers such as Mark Jacobson and his Stanford team, we know that the world can, by the year 2030, power itself entirely with renewables. And thanks to the latest, alarming reports from the IPCC, we know that doing so is now an existential imperative.

This is the infrastructure we need to be rushing to build – not massive industrial projects that will lock us into further dependency on dangerous fossil fuels for decades into the future. Yes, these fuels are still needed during the transition, but more than enough conventionals are on hand to carry us through: extra-dirty extraction methods such as tar sands and fracking are simply not necessary. As Jacobson said in an interview just this week: “We don’t need unconventional fuels to produce the infrastructure to convert to entirely clean and renewable wind, water and solar power for all purposes. We can rely on the existing infrastructure plus the new infrastructure [of renewable generation] to provide the energy for producing the rest of the clean infrastructure that we’ll need … Conventional oil and gas is much more than enough.”

Given this, it’s up to Europeans to turn their desire for emancipation from Russian gas into a demand for an accelerated transition to renewables. Such a transition – to which European nations are committed under theKyoto protocol – can easily be sabotaged if the world market is flooded with cheap fossil fuels fracked from the US bedrock. And indeedAmericans Against Fracking, which is leading the charge against the fast-tracking of LNG exports, is working closely with its European counterparts to prevent this from happening.

Responding to the threat of catastrophic warming is our most pressing energy imperative. And we simply can’t afford to be distracted by the natural gas industry’s latest crisis-fuelled marketing ploy.

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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

By Naomi Klein, April 10, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A large field of fracking sites in a Colorado valley. 'The industrys singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane.' Photograph: Ted Wood/Aurora Photos/Corbis

A large field of fracking sites in a Colorado valley. ‘The industry’s singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane.’ Photograph: Ted Wood/Aurora Photos/Corbis

The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin’s fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.

According to Cory Gardner, the Republican congressman who introduced the House bill, “opposing this legislation is like hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies”. And that might be true – as long as your friends and allies work at Chevron and Shell, and the emergency is the need to keep profits up amid dwindling supplies of conventional oil and gas.

For this ploy to work, it’s important not to look too closely at details. Like the fact that much of the gas probably won’t make it to Europe – because what the bills allow is for gas to be sold on the world market to any country belonging to the World Trade Organisation.

Or the fact that for years the industry has been selling the message that Americans must accept the risks to their land, water and air that come with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in order to help their country achieve “energy independence”. And now, suddenly and slyly, the goal has been switched to “energy security”, which apparently means selling a temporary glut of fracked gas on the world market, thereby creating energy dependencies abroad.

And most of all, it’s important not to notice that building the infrastructure necessary to export gas on this scale would take many years in permitting and construction – a single LNG terminal can carry a $7bn price tag, must be fed by a massive, interlocking web of pipelines and compressor stations, and requires its own power plant just to generate energy sufficient to liquefy the gas through super-cooling. By the time these massive industrial projects are up and running, Germany and Russia may well be fast friends. But by then few will remember that the crisis in Crimea was the excuse seized upon by the gas industry to make its longstanding export dreams come true, regardless of the consequences to the communities getting fracked or to the planet getting cooked.

I call this knack for exploiting crisis for private gain the shock doctrine, and it shows no signs of retreating. We all know how the shock doctrine works: during times of crisis, whether real or manufactured, our elites are able to ram through unpopular policies that are detrimental to the majority under cover of emergency. Sure there are objections – from climate scientists warning of the potent warming powers of methane, or local communities that don’t want these high-risk export ports on their beloved coasts. But who has time for debate? It’s an emergency! A 911 call ringing! Pass the laws first, think about them later.

Plenty of industries are good at this ploy, but none is more adept at exploiting the rationality-arresting properties of crisis than the global gas sector.

For the past four years the gas lobby has used the economic crisis in Europe to tell countries like Greece that the way out of debt and desperation is to open their beautiful and fragile seas to drilling. And it has employed similar arguments to rationalise fracking across North America and the United Kingdom.

Now the crisis du jour is conflict in Ukraine, being used as a battering ram to knock down sensible restrictions on natural gas exports and push through a controversial free-trade deal with Europe. It’s quite a deal: more corporate free-trade polluting economies and more heat-trapping gases polluting the atmosphere – all as a response to an energy crisis that is largely manufactured.

Against this backdrop it’s worth remembering – irony of ironies – that the crisis the natural gas industry has been most adept at exploiting is climate change itself.

Never mind that the industry’s singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process in fracking that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane into our atmosphere. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases – 34 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the latest estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that is over a 100-year period, with methane’s power dwindling over time.

It’s far more relevant, argues the Cornell University biochemist Robert Howarth, one of the world’s leading experts on methane emissions, to look at the impact in the 15- to 20-year range, when methane has a global-warming potential that is a staggering 86-100 times greater than carbon dioxide. “It is in this time frame that we risk locking ourselves into very rapid warming,” he said on Wednesday.

And remember: you don’t build multibillion-dollar pieces of infrastructure unless you plan on using them for at least 40 years. So we are responding to the crisis of our warming planet by constructing a network of ultra-powerful atmospheric ovens. Are we mad?

Not that we know how much methane is actually released by drilling and fracking and all their attendant infrastructure. Even while the natural gas industry touts its “lower than coal!” carbon dioxide emissions, it has never systematically measured its fugitive methane leaks, which waft from every stage of the gas extraction, processing, and distribution process – from the well casings and the condenser valves to the cracked pipelines under Harlem neighbourhoods. The gas industry itself, in 1981, came up with the clever pitch that natural gas was a “bridge” to a clean energy future. That was 33 years ago. Long bridge. And the far bank still nowhere in view.

And in 1988 – the year that the climatologist James Hansen warned Congress, in historic testimony, about the urgent problem of global warming – the American Gas Association began to explicitly frame its product as a response to the “greenhouse effect”. It wasted no time, in other words, selling itself as the solution to a global crisis that it had helped create.

The industry’s use of the crisis in Ukraine to expand its global market under the banner of “energy security” must be seen in the context of this uninterrupted record of crisis opportunism. Only this time many more of us know where true energy security lies. Thanks to the work of top researchers such as Mark Jacobson and his Stanford team, we know that the world can, by the year 2030, power itself entirely with renewables. And thanks to the latest, alarming reports from the IPCC, we know that doing so is now an existential imperative.

This is the infrastructure we need to be rushing to build – not massive industrial projects that will lock us into further dependency on dangerous fossil fuels for decades into the future. Yes, these fuels are still needed during the transition, but more than enough conventionals are on hand to carry us through: extra-dirty extraction methods such as tar sands and fracking are simply not necessary. As Jacobson said in an interview just this week: “We don’t need unconventional fuels to produce the infrastructure to convert to entirely clean and renewable wind, water and solar power for all purposes. We can rely on the existing infrastructure plus the new infrastructure [of renewable generation] to provide the energy for producing the rest of the clean infrastructure that we’ll need … Conventional oil and gas is much more than enough.”

Given this, it’s up to Europeans to turn their desire for emancipation from Russian gas into a demand for an accelerated transition to renewables. Such a transition – to which European nations are committed under theKyoto protocol – can easily be sabotaged if the world market is flooded with cheap fossil fuels fracked from the US bedrock. And indeedAmericans Against Fracking, which is leading the charge against the fast-tracking of LNG exports, is working closely with its European counterparts to prevent this from happening.

Responding to the threat of catastrophic warming is our most pressing energy imperative. And we simply can’t afford to be distracted by the natural gas industry’s latest crisis-fuelled marketing ploy.

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April 8, 2014. Source: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

This year we dedicate the 17th of April, international day of peasant struggles, to the defense of seeds. Seeds are an essential basis for achieving food sovereignty because almost everything in agriculture depends on them: What we can plant and how it is grown; the quality and nutrition of our food, our ability to account for different tastes and cultural preferences; and also the wellbeing of our communities, our ecosystems and the planet. In this article we explain why this implies not so much the defense of seeds as such but especially the defense of peasant seeds—that is, seeds that remain in the hands of the peasant and family farmers of the world. We also give some examples of how we are carrying out this defense among the organizations in the 73 countries that make up La Vía Campesina.

The seeds used in agriculture are different from those that exist in non-cultivated nature. Until several thousand years ago the enormous diversity of peasant varieties of rice, potatoes, cabbages or barley did not exist as such. The richness of our nutrition today is based on the knowledge, practices, visions and needs of the peasant communities around the world that created them in the first place.

Despite this, agricultural seeds are not a permanent creation. At each life cycle, their qualities depend on their interaction with those that reproduce them. For example, the diversity of maize varieties are reflected in needs of the various peoples of the Americas—the different climates in the valleys, coasts or mountains; varying tastes and cultural preferences; and the changing qualities of the soils in different regions, whether rich or poor, rocky or humid. This was also the case in the Middle East where wheat and barley varieties were developed as well as in other parts of the world with all other crops.

This way of reproducing seeds according to local needs was kept in place for thousands of years. Although it was deformed by European colonialism that imposed monoculture plantations and many parts of the world in order to produce commodities such as cocoa, coffee, or sugar, this system did not change radically until the early 20th century. At that point, a vision of industrialized agriculture transformed food systems throughout the world.

The Seeds of Industrial Agriculture

We all associate industrial agriculture with chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers), with machinery, with the production of food transported thousands of kilometers in containers without being apparently damaged, with highly homogenous fruits and vegetables, with large extensions of monocultures and more recently with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). But do we realize that all of this would have been impossible if the industry had not first transformed seeds?

Already in the first half of the 20th century seeds began to be modified in the laboratories and experimental fields of companies interested in changing them. Transformations were necessary given that peasant farmers’ varieties presented many problems from the point of view of industrialization: In their outward traits and in the time needed to ripen they were not uniform and therefore could not be harvested with machinery. They also did not tolerate large amounts of artificial fertilizers. The variation in tastes, sizes, and substances contained in the multiple varieties of foods cultivated by men and women peasant farmers presented an obstacle to those who wanted to produce homogenous products.

As a result, for the food industry to develop it was necessary to transform peasant seeds and their diversity that impeded achieving uniformity and standardization. From the 1930s onward in the United States and in postwar Europe, this was achieved through scientific transformations such as ‘hybrid’ seeds or by mutations achieved through irradiation or the use of chemicals. Many governments supported this work of breeding so-called ‘improved’ varieties as part of an ideal of ‘modernizing’ their countries. At the same time, industry began to lobby in favor of laws that restricted, discouraged and in some European countries outright prohibited the use of peasant seeds. All of this was accompanied by a cultural paradigm in which the growing urban populations were made to believe that only industrial food could achieve the necessary yields in order to ‘feed the world’ through a ‘green revolution’ in which ‘improved’ seeds were central.

None of this was true. Today we observe the ruins of these supposed improvements: Soil erosion through the use of agrochemicals and machinery; pollution through transporting and packaging industrial food; the loss of taste and nutrition with was exchanged for ease in storing, transporting and preparing fast food; the loss of crop diversity through disuse; and the loss of a source of labor for millions of impoverished peasants and family farmers who were made dependent on markets and their whims, among many others. But behind this way of producing are the industrial seeds that make it possible. If we want to transform this broken system we must struggle to regain the use of our own peasant seeds.

The Current Situation Faced by Peasant and Family Farmers

We face many challenges today in order to reclaim the use of our seeds. The communities that try to reclaim what they themselves created throughout thousands of years face new laws and regulations that prohibit their use and that favor industrial seeds. Moreover, we face the threat of GMOs, another recent type of industrial seed with the potential of ruining our health and that of our ecosystems irreversibly.

Once industrial seeds have been created, the companies that invested copious resources and decades of research in transforming them seek to create monopolies in order to own and commercialize them exclusively. The privatization of seeds, already prevalent in the countries of the global North, is now becoming ever more aggressive in the countries of the South. There are two systems in the world that guarantee private property over seeds: On the one hand, patents that consider new varieties of seeds to be ‘inventions’ and therefore prohibit their use or sale to others during 20 years unless royalties are paid. On the other hand there is what is known as Plant Variety Protection system, especially as promoted by UPOV, an international institution that grants property rights to breeders that develop new varieties. Today, UPOV regulates not only seed commercialization but also other aspects such as what can be exported by whom and sets up a framework in which companies can destroy farmers’ varieties that they consider to be illicit. A crop variety may also be privatized through a combination of both systems.

These private property rights on seeds have an important impact on the lives and livelihoods of many men and women peasant and family farmers. For example, in Europe new regulations have led to the criminalization of farmers who reuse their seeds. In Germany, it is prohibited to re-sow the seeds some crops such as potatoes and cereals and seed companies have gone to great lengths in order to try to force farmers to declare what varieties they are using, intimidating them by threatening to proceed legally if they do not disclose this information. In France, there exist similar laws and wheat farmers of certain varieties must pay royalties when they sell their harvests.

In many cases these laws that have already been applied in Europe reach the countries of the South through the framework of free trade agreements. For example, in Colombia, free trade agreements signed between with the European Union have created monopolies for seed companies. This means that if farmers reuse the seeds that they once bought, or even if they do not register their own native varieties, they are criminalized. In 2011 the Colombian government confiscated and destroyed 70 tons of rice seeds. Only after a massive mobilization in 2013 in which peasant farmers’ organizations, supported by workers in mining and transportation as well as students, blocked the capital, the Colombian government was forced to suspend the laws that incriminated farmers. Although suspending the law was a welcome measure, this two-year measure has not been accompanied by a legal process that could stop peasant seeds from being considered illegal.

The quick expansion of such laws in the countries of the South is worrisome, especially in areas in which industry has relatively small margin and profit given the fact that peasant seeds continue to be used widely. This is especially true in Africa. Given that in Africa there still exist a great number of peasant farmers (two thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa) and that the ‘green revolution’ of the 20th century has had little impact in this continent, this part of the world is seen by industry as a new frontier for pushing the market for industrial seeds.

As new laws reach the African continent to impose industrial seeds, the latter are presented as beneficial, with governments hailing them as a way to resolve the problems of agriculture. Companies and Governments do not act alone but are supported by ‘development’ groups such as the New Alliance of Food Security and Nutrition promoted by G8 states, or by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The latter has promoted a new ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’ whose first goal is “improving Africa’s seed systems” according to its webpage. As usual, they try to promote the idea that farmers must be rescued by new technologies. What they do not say is that the problems of men and women farmers in Africa and in many other parts of the world are more related to imports of cheap of subsidized foodstuffs from Europe and United States that destroy local and national livelihoods and markets.

Recently, African farmers also face the threat of the advance of genetically modified seeds, especially since GMOs have been refused in areas in which the seed companies do good business, such as Europe. Genetically modified organisms are crops that have been manipulated by industry differently than the transformations carried out in the 20th century. They are the result of manipulating seeds using techniques that break with patterns in plant evolution through hundreds of millions of years. GMO seeds are not produced through fertilization but by modifying plant cells through complex techniques in laboratories. Today there exist numerous investigations that show the dangers to the health of plants, animals and ecosystems through GMOs. Despite this, in Africa programs exist that supposedly seek to help farmers, such as ‘Water-Use Efficient Maize for Africa’ are pushing for the advance of genetically modified maize and cotton. GMOs are in an experimental phase in Kenya, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and they have been permitted for planting in Sudan, Egypt, Burkina Faso and South Africa.

Contrary to what companies propagate in the media, GMOs do not result in higher yields and they have even become infamous for aggravating the problems they were supposedly developed solve, including weeds and pests. The companies in favor of GMOs that want to demonstrate that these crops can be relevant to farming communities frequently point to ‘golden rice’ (a variety not yet commercialized). This is a rice variety engineered to contain higher levels of beta-carotene, a substance used by the human body in order to produce vitamin A. But why should we look for these types of false solutions to the problems of poverty and malnutrition in rural areas? We men and women peasant and family farmers are capable of providing our own food and those of the people that we feed as long as we continue to have access to land, water, and to our own seeds, which we reproduce according to local needs.

Defending our own Seeds—Towards the Future

La Vía Campesina is made up of 164 organizations in 73 countries. The defense of peasant seeds is key to our work and is carried out differently from place to place. We defend our seeds in our fields when we sow, select and exchange them from one year to the next. We struggle for them in protests in the streets and in our schools. We also participate in national and international institutions where we claim that our demands be heard and respected.

We care for our seeds in ways that reflect the diversity of our cultures and needs. In many cases, seeds are selected directly by families. In others this is done at the level of the community, where they pass through many hands. Various organizations within La Vía Campesina have even formed cooperatives that produce large quantities of seeds, such as OESTEBIO, a cooperative of the movement of small-scale Farmers (MPA) in Brazil. The world over, women play an important role in reproducing seeds, from the women of the Latin American Confederation of Rural Organizations, CLOC, as well as the Korean Women Peasant Association, KWPA. The movements that make up La Vía Campesina also cooperate among each other. For example MPA in Brazil organized a solidarity project with peasant farmers of UNAC, the National Union of Peasant Farmers in Mozambique, sharing with them their experiences in preserving peasant seeds. These and many other experiences within La Vía Campesina have been compiled in a publication called Our Seeds, Our Future.

In La Vía Campesina we also participate in institutional spaces to demand that what are known as Farmers’ Rights to sow, reuse, exchange and sell our own seeds are respected. These rights have been defined by the UN Seed Treaty. However, they remains subject to national laws. For this reason we have denounced that treaties such as this one use the flowery language of respecting peasant and family farmers’ rights at the same time that these rights are not applied. We have criticized that until now these treaties have only served the industry for having better access to public seed collections housing the seeds of our grandparents. Although we recognize that it may be useful to store seeds in public collections, we also underline that the most important place for seeds are in the fields of men and women peasant farmers. It is here that seeds can adapt, year after year, to the new needs of our communities as well as to new climate conditions.

The struggle for peasant seeds is an important one. As we have described here, almost everything in agriculture depends on them. The industrialization of agriculture depended on industry’s transformation of production and consumption according to a vision based on international markets in which today a few transnational companies now control what we sow and eat. They are leading the aggression against farming communities whose livelihoods are denied, arguing that only industrial seeds can provide enough food and that they are the only answer to hunger, droughts or plagues.

However, along with millions of allies all over the world, we know that this is not the case. More and more people in the countryside and in the cities refuse the privatization of something as essential to the life of people and of the entire planet as seeds. We know that with peasant seeds we can feed everyone according to the real needs of our communities, rather than of corporations. We know that we can rely on peasant seeds to stop wasting energy by depending on fossil fuels and to produce without agrochemicals. We know that with peasant seeds’ capacity to adapt to new conditions in the fields we have the best chance of confronting climate change.

We will continue to defend our own seeds in our fields, on the streets, by raising our voices in institutional spaces, and within our own organizations. We will not recognize laws that privatize and destroy them. We will continue to struggle against ‘Monsanto laws’ and also against GMOs. In order to attain food sovereignty, seeds must remain in the hands of men and women peasant farmers all over the world.

Globalize struggle! Globalize hope!

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April 8, 2014. Source: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

This year we dedicate the 17th of April, international day of peasant struggles, to the defense of seeds. Seeds are an essential basis for achieving food sovereignty because almost everything in agriculture depends on them: What we can plant and how it is grown; the quality and nutrition of our food, our ability to account for different tastes and cultural preferences; and also the wellbeing of our communities, our ecosystems and the planet. In this article we explain why this implies not so much the defense of seeds as such but especially the defense of peasant seeds—that is, seeds that remain in the hands of the peasant and family farmers of the world. We also give some examples of how we are carrying out this defense among the organizations in the 73 countries that make up La Vía Campesina.

The seeds used in agriculture are different from those that exist in non-cultivated nature. Until several thousand years ago the enormous diversity of peasant varieties of rice, potatoes, cabbages or barley did not exist as such. The richness of our nutrition today is based on the knowledge, practices, visions and needs of the peasant communities around the world that created them in the first place.

Despite this, agricultural seeds are not a permanent creation. At each life cycle, their qualities depend on their interaction with those that reproduce them. For example, the diversity of maize varieties are reflected in needs of the various peoples of the Americas—the different climates in the valleys, coasts or mountains; varying tastes and cultural preferences; and the changing qualities of the soils in different regions, whether rich or poor, rocky or humid. This was also the case in the Middle East where wheat and barley varieties were developed as well as in other parts of the world with all other crops.

This way of reproducing seeds according to local needs was kept in place for thousands of years. Although it was deformed by European colonialism that imposed monoculture plantations and many parts of the world in order to produce commodities such as cocoa, coffee, or sugar, this system did not change radically until the early 20th century. At that point, a vision of industrialized agriculture transformed food systems throughout the world.

The Seeds of Industrial Agriculture

We all associate industrial agriculture with chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers), with machinery, with the production of food transported thousands of kilometers in containers without being apparently damaged, with highly homogenous fruits and vegetables, with large extensions of monocultures and more recently with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). But do we realize that all of this would have been impossible if the industry had not first transformed seeds?

Already in the first half of the 20th century seeds began to be modified in the laboratories and experimental fields of companies interested in changing them. Transformations were necessary given that peasant farmers’ varieties presented many problems from the point of view of industrialization: In their outward traits and in the time needed to ripen they were not uniform and therefore could not be harvested with machinery. They also did not tolerate large amounts of artificial fertilizers. The variation in tastes, sizes, and substances contained in the multiple varieties of foods cultivated by men and women peasant farmers presented an obstacle to those who wanted to produce homogenous products.

As a result, for the food industry to develop it was necessary to transform peasant seeds and their diversity that impeded achieving uniformity and standardization. From the 1930s onward in the United States and in postwar Europe, this was achieved through scientific transformations such as ‘hybrid’ seeds or by mutations achieved through irradiation or the use of chemicals. Many governments supported this work of breeding so-called ‘improved’ varieties as part of an ideal of ‘modernizing’ their countries. At the same time, industry began to lobby in favor of laws that restricted, discouraged and in some European countries outright prohibited the use of peasant seeds. All of this was accompanied by a cultural paradigm in which the growing urban populations were made to believe that only industrial food could achieve the necessary yields in order to ‘feed the world’ through a ‘green revolution’ in which ‘improved’ seeds were central.

None of this was true. Today we observe the ruins of these supposed improvements: Soil erosion through the use of agrochemicals and machinery; pollution through transporting and packaging industrial food; the loss of taste and nutrition with was exchanged for ease in storing, transporting and preparing fast food; the loss of crop diversity through disuse; and the loss of a source of labor for millions of impoverished peasants and family farmers who were made dependent on markets and their whims, among many others. But behind this way of producing are the industrial seeds that make it possible. If we want to transform this broken system we must struggle to regain the use of our own peasant seeds.

The Current Situation Faced by Peasant and Family Farmers

We face many challenges today in order to reclaim the use of our seeds. The communities that try to reclaim what they themselves created throughout thousands of years face new laws and regulations that prohibit their use and that favor industrial seeds. Moreover, we face the threat of GMOs, another recent type of industrial seed with the potential of ruining our health and that of our ecosystems irreversibly.

Once industrial seeds have been created, the companies that invested copious resources and decades of research in transforming them seek to create monopolies in order to own and commercialize them exclusively. The privatization of seeds, already prevalent in the countries of the global North, is now becoming ever more aggressive in the countries of the South. There are two systems in the world that guarantee private property over seeds: On the one hand, patents that consider new varieties of seeds to be ‘inventions’ and therefore prohibit their use or sale to others during 20 years unless royalties are paid. On the other hand there is what is known as Plant Variety Protection system, especially as promoted by UPOV, an international institution that grants property rights to breeders that develop new varieties. Today, UPOV regulates not only seed commercialization but also other aspects such as what can be exported by whom and sets up a framework in which companies can destroy farmers’ varieties that they consider to be illicit. A crop variety may also be privatized through a combination of both systems.

These private property rights on seeds have an important impact on the lives and livelihoods of many men and women peasant and family farmers. For example, in Europe new regulations have led to the criminalization of farmers who reuse their seeds. In Germany, it is prohibited to re-sow the seeds some crops such as potatoes and cereals and seed companies have gone to great lengths in order to try to force farmers to declare what varieties they are using, intimidating them by threatening to proceed legally if they do not disclose this information. In France, there exist similar laws and wheat farmers of certain varieties must pay royalties when they sell their harvests.

In many cases these laws that have already been applied in Europe reach the countries of the South through the framework of free trade agreements. For example, in Colombia, free trade agreements signed between with the European Union have created monopolies for seed companies. This means that if farmers reuse the seeds that they once bought, or even if they do not register their own native varieties, they are criminalized. In 2011 the Colombian government confiscated and destroyed 70 tons of rice seeds. Only after a massive mobilization in 2013 in which peasant farmers’ organizations, supported by workers in mining and transportation as well as students, blocked the capital, the Colombian government was forced to suspend the laws that incriminated farmers. Although suspending the law was a welcome measure, this two-year measure has not been accompanied by a legal process that could stop peasant seeds from being considered illegal.

The quick expansion of such laws in the countries of the South is worrisome, especially in areas in which industry has relatively small margin and profit given the fact that peasant seeds continue to be used widely. This is especially true in Africa. Given that in Africa there still exist a great number of peasant farmers (two thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa) and that the ‘green revolution’ of the 20th century has had little impact in this continent, this part of the world is seen by industry as a new frontier for pushing the market for industrial seeds.

As new laws reach the African continent to impose industrial seeds, the latter are presented as beneficial, with governments hailing them as a way to resolve the problems of agriculture. Companies and Governments do not act alone but are supported by ‘development’ groups such as the New Alliance of Food Security and Nutrition promoted by G8 states, or by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The latter has promoted a new ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’ whose first goal is “improving Africa’s seed systems” according to its webpage. As usual, they try to promote the idea that farmers must be rescued by new technologies. What they do not say is that the problems of men and women farmers in Africa and in many other parts of the world are more related to imports of cheap of subsidized foodstuffs from Europe and United States that destroy local and national livelihoods and markets.

Recently, African farmers also face the threat of the advance of genetically modified seeds, especially since GMOs have been refused in areas in which the seed companies do good business, such as Europe. Genetically modified organisms are crops that have been manipulated by industry differently than the transformations carried out in the 20th century. They are the result of manipulating seeds using techniques that break with patterns in plant evolution through hundreds of millions of years. GMO seeds are not produced through fertilization but by modifying plant cells through complex techniques in laboratories. Today there exist numerous investigations that show the dangers to the health of plants, animals and ecosystems through GMOs. Despite this, in Africa programs exist that supposedly seek to help farmers, such as ‘Water-Use Efficient Maize for Africa’ are pushing for the advance of genetically modified maize and cotton. GMOs are in an experimental phase in Kenya, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and they have been permitted for planting in Sudan, Egypt, Burkina Faso and South Africa.

Contrary to what companies propagate in the media, GMOs do not result in higher yields and they have even become infamous for aggravating the problems they were supposedly developed solve, including weeds and pests. The companies in favor of GMOs that want to demonstrate that these crops can be relevant to farming communities frequently point to ‘golden rice’ (a variety not yet commercialized). This is a rice variety engineered to contain higher levels of beta-carotene, a substance used by the human body in order to produce vitamin A. But why should we look for these types of false solutions to the problems of poverty and malnutrition in rural areas? We men and women peasant and family farmers are capable of providing our own food and those of the people that we feed as long as we continue to have access to land, water, and to our own seeds, which we reproduce according to local needs.

Defending our own Seeds—Towards the Future

La Vía Campesina is made up of 164 organizations in 73 countries. The defense of peasant seeds is key to our work and is carried out differently from place to place. We defend our seeds in our fields when we sow, select and exchange them from one year to the next. We struggle for them in protests in the streets and in our schools. We also participate in national and international institutions where we claim that our demands be heard and respected.

We care for our seeds in ways that reflect the diversity of our cultures and needs. In many cases, seeds are selected directly by families. In others this is done at the level of the community, where they pass through many hands. Various organizations within La Vía Campesina have even formed cooperatives that produce large quantities of seeds, such as OESTEBIO, a cooperative of the movement of small-scale Farmers (MPA) in Brazil. The world over, women play an important role in reproducing seeds, from the women of the Latin American Confederation of Rural Organizations, CLOC, as well as the Korean Women Peasant Association, KWPA. The movements that make up La Vía Campesina also cooperate among each other. For example MPA in Brazil organized a solidarity project with peasant farmers of UNAC, the National Union of Peasant Farmers in Mozambique, sharing with them their experiences in preserving peasant seeds. These and many other experiences within La Vía Campesina have been compiled in a publication called Our Seeds, Our Future.

In La Vía Campesina we also participate in institutional spaces to demand that what are known as Farmers’ Rights to sow, reuse, exchange and sell our own seeds are respected. These rights have been defined by the UN Seed Treaty. However, they remains subject to national laws. For this reason we have denounced that treaties such as this one use the flowery language of respecting peasant and family farmers’ rights at the same time that these rights are not applied. We have criticized that until now these treaties have only served the industry for having better access to public seed collections housing the seeds of our grandparents. Although we recognize that it may be useful to store seeds in public collections, we also underline that the most important place for seeds are in the fields of men and women peasant farmers. It is here that seeds can adapt, year after year, to the new needs of our communities as well as to new climate conditions.

The struggle for peasant seeds is an important one. As we have described here, almost everything in agriculture depends on them. The industrialization of agriculture depended on industry’s transformation of production and consumption according to a vision based on international markets in which today a few transnational companies now control what we sow and eat. They are leading the aggression against farming communities whose livelihoods are denied, arguing that only industrial seeds can provide enough food and that they are the only answer to hunger, droughts or plagues.

However, along with millions of allies all over the world, we know that this is not the case. More and more people in the countryside and in the cities refuse the privatization of something as essential to the life of people and of the entire planet as seeds. We know that with peasant seeds we can feed everyone according to the real needs of our communities, rather than of corporations. We know that we can rely on peasant seeds to stop wasting energy by depending on fossil fuels and to produce without agrochemicals. We know that with peasant seeds’ capacity to adapt to new conditions in the fields we have the best chance of confronting climate change.

We will continue to defend our own seeds in our fields, on the streets, by raising our voices in institutional spaces, and within our own organizations. We will not recognize laws that privatize and destroy them. We will continue to struggle against ‘Monsanto laws’ and also against GMOs. In order to attain food sovereignty, seeds must remain in the hands of men and women peasant farmers all over the world.

Globalize struggle! Globalize hope!

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April 13, 2014. Source: Biofuelwatch

Photograph: Ed Andrieski/AP

Photograph: Ed Andrieski/AP

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group on Mitigation of Climate Change released its “Summary for Policy Makers” [1]. Climate, energy and social justice groups [2] commend the IPCC for clearly acknowledging the close link between economic growth and increased greenhouse gas emissions but warn that the report falls far short on translating this insight into meaningful, holistic and bold pathways to mitigation.  They point to the disproportionate influence of economists, engineers and environmental managers, and a dearth of climate scientists, ecologists or other experts from key relevant disciplines in the group.

The groups are particularly concerned that large-scale bioenergy and biofuels, waste incineration, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) are referred to as “low carbon” in mitigation models, despite concerns raised elsewhere that some of those technologies are risky, unproven and could actually make climate change worse [3].  They are also decry IPCC’s support for increased use of fossil gas over the next few decades [4] and by their endorsement of failed market mechanisms, including cap and trade [5].

Tom Kucharz, Ecologistas en Accion asked: “Why did IPCC include natural gas as climate mitigation, despite growing evidence that methane emissions make fracking as bad or worse for the climate even than coal? How can IPCC seriously consider nuclear power to be an acceptable choice even as we are facing the consequences of the Fukushima disaster? And how can they class waste as a climate-friendly fuel for incinerators and cement plants when it results in toxic air emissions and increases overall resource and such energy use? Such claims are indicative of the narrow obsession with carbon accounting that disregards planetary systems and biodiversity, human rights, public health and, even methane emissions in the case of natural gas.”

Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch and Global Forest Coalition further elaborates:   “The IPCC’s position on bioenergy is confused:  They acknowledge concerns that large-scale bioenergy can increase emissions, destroy livelihoods and damage the environment. Yet they still class it as ‘low-carbon’ and even refer to bioenergy with carbon-capture and storage (BECCS) as a credible means of removing carbon from the atmosphere which they deem essential to meeting stabilization targets.It is a shame they put so much stock in something that would make things worse rather than better.”

Teresa Perez, World Rainforest Movement, adds: “The IPCC lists cap and trade and “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) amongst potential policy solutions, in spite of the fact there is no convincing evidence at all that either have reduced emissions. Market mechanisms only lead to further privatization and land grabs – and leave our future to the whims of financiers.”

The groups call for a more holistic assessment of real climate change solutions, not more “Business As Usual” economic analyses that imply we should accept a dead planet, or the suffering of millions if it is “more affordable.”  Real solutions must actually work. Also they must respect human rights and the rights of nature, protect the planetary systems on which continued human existence depends, put control over energy, food and water in the hand of accountable local stewards, fairly address overconsumption to meet basic needs for all, not just the greed of a wealthy few. Achieving real mitigation requires breaking free from the oppressive pressures of a globalized economy and a deregulation programme that only serves the wealthy corporate elite while sacrificing people and the planet’s ecosystems.

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April 13, 2014. Source: Biofuelwatch

Photograph: Ed Andrieski/AP

Photograph: Ed Andrieski/AP

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group on Mitigation of Climate Change released its “Summary for Policy Makers” [1]. Climate, energy and social justice groups [2] commend the IPCC for clearly acknowledging the close link between economic growth and increased greenhouse gas emissions but warn that the report falls far short on translating this insight into meaningful, holistic and bold pathways to mitigation.  They point to the disproportionate influence of economists, engineers and environmental managers, and a dearth of climate scientists, ecologists or other experts from key relevant disciplines in the group.

The groups are particularly concerned that large-scale bioenergy and biofuels, waste incineration, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) are referred to as “low carbon” in mitigation models, despite concerns raised elsewhere that some of those technologies are risky, unproven and could actually make climate change worse [3].  They are also decry IPCC’s support for increased use of fossil gas over the next few decades [4] and by their endorsement of failed market mechanisms, including cap and trade [5].

Tom Kucharz, Ecologistas en Accion asked: “Why did IPCC include natural gas as climate mitigation, despite growing evidence that methane emissions make fracking as bad or worse for the climate even than coal? How can IPCC seriously consider nuclear power to be an acceptable choice even as we are facing the consequences of the Fukushima disaster? And how can they class waste as a climate-friendly fuel for incinerators and cement plants when it results in toxic air emissions and increases overall resource and such energy use? Such claims are indicative of the narrow obsession with carbon accounting that disregards planetary systems and biodiversity, human rights, public health and, even methane emissions in the case of natural gas.”

Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch and Global Forest Coalition further elaborates:   “The IPCC’s position on bioenergy is confused:  They acknowledge concerns that large-scale bioenergy can increase emissions, destroy livelihoods and damage the environment. Yet they still class it as ‘low-carbon’ and even refer to bioenergy with carbon-capture and storage (BECCS) as a credible means of removing carbon from the atmosphere which they deem essential to meeting stabilization targets.It is a shame they put so much stock in something that would make things worse rather than better.”

Teresa Perez, World Rainforest Movement, adds: “The IPCC lists cap and trade and “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) amongst potential policy solutions, in spite of the fact there is no convincing evidence at all that either have reduced emissions. Market mechanisms only lead to further privatization and land grabs – and leave our future to the whims of financiers.”

The groups call for a more holistic assessment of real climate change solutions, not more “Business As Usual” economic analyses that imply we should accept a dead planet, or the suffering of millions if it is “more affordable.”  Real solutions must actually work. Also they must respect human rights and the rights of nature, protect the planetary systems on which continued human existence depends, put control over energy, food and water in the hand of accountable local stewards, fairly address overconsumption to meet basic needs for all, not just the greed of a wealthy few. Achieving real mitigation requires breaking free from the oppressive pressures of a globalized economy and a deregulation programme that only serves the wealthy corporate elite while sacrificing people and the planet’s ecosystems.

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By Haya El Nasser, April 11, 2014. Source: Al Jazeera America

California is known for the twin threat of natural disasters from drought and earthquakes, with both phenomena certain to give many residents serious concern.

But there is one group that is starting to reap serendipitous marketing ammunition from the state’s current historic drought and the ever-present worry of ground-shaking tremors: the anti-fracking movement.

“California faces two interlinked crises, a water crisis and a climate crisis, and fracking makes both of these problems worse,” said Kassie Siegel, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation group.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing — a method of high-pressure injection of substances to extract oil from rock formations — has become a hugely controversial subject across the United States. Defenders of the process, especially the oil and gas industry, hail it as a solution to America’s energy woes. Critics say it is highly pollutive and contributes to climate change at a time when the country should be moving away from fossil fuels.

But California’s unique circumstances have led to a different twist on the debate over fracking wells. “They use an enormous amount of fresh water … And fracking has been known to induce earthquakes,” said Siegel.

Drought and quakes are bound to get every Californian to stand up and listen. The state is in its third year of drought, and water reserves are so low that this year is on track to be the worst in 500 years. At the same time, the southern part of the state has been shaken by several earthquakes in recent weeks, and the specter of the Big One looms large.

“Those injection wells, when put near faults, create and aggravate seismic activity,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “In California, we’re starting to wonder. Is it being made worse?”

The anti-fracking lobby has pounced on the trigger words “drought” and “quake” in its campaign to ban the controversial process. The momentum has picked up statewide, although 95 percent of fracking in California is confined to rural Kern County, an oil-rich area that produces 60 percent of the state’s oil. Unlike the situation in the Northeast and Midwest of the U.S., all the fracking done in California is to drill for oil, not natural gas.

A bill proposing a statewide moratorium on fracking passed a Senate committee this week. In January, a state law that requires oil companies to obtain permits for fracking and to estimate how much water they’ll use took effect. State agencies are developing more comprehensive regulations, but many local governments are taking matters into their own hands.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

By Haya El Nasser, April 11, 2014. Source: Al Jazeera America

California is known for the twin threat of natural disasters from drought and earthquakes, with both phenomena certain to give many residents serious concern.

But there is one group that is starting to reap serendipitous marketing ammunition from the state’s current historic drought and the ever-present worry of ground-shaking tremors: the anti-fracking movement.

“California faces two interlinked crises, a water crisis and a climate crisis, and fracking makes both of these problems worse,” said Kassie Siegel, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation group.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing — a method of high-pressure injection of substances to extract oil from rock formations — has become a hugely controversial subject across the United States. Defenders of the process, especially the oil and gas industry, hail it as a solution to America’s energy woes. Critics say it is highly pollutive and contributes to climate change at a time when the country should be moving away from fossil fuels.

But California’s unique circumstances have led to a different twist on the debate over fracking wells. “They use an enormous amount of fresh water … And fracking has been known to induce earthquakes,” said Siegel.

Drought and quakes are bound to get every Californian to stand up and listen. The state is in its third year of drought, and water reserves are so low that this year is on track to be the worst in 500 years. At the same time, the southern part of the state has been shaken by several earthquakes in recent weeks, and the specter of the Big One looms large.

“Those injection wells, when put near faults, create and aggravate seismic activity,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “In California, we’re starting to wonder. Is it being made worse?”

The anti-fracking lobby has pounced on the trigger words “drought” and “quake” in its campaign to ban the controversial process. The momentum has picked up statewide, although 95 percent of fracking in California is confined to rural Kern County, an oil-rich area that produces 60 percent of the state’s oil. Unlike the situation in the Northeast and Midwest of the U.S., all the fracking done in California is to drill for oil, not natural gas.

A bill proposing a statewide moratorium on fracking passed a Senate committee this week. In January, a state law that requires oil companies to obtain permits for fracking and to estimate how much water they’ll use took effect. State agencies are developing more comprehensive regulations, but many local governments are taking matters into their own hands.