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The Centrality of Seed: Building Agricultural Resilience Through Plant Breeding

Wheat Breeding

by Salvatore Ceccarelli, PhD

Five of the global issues most frequently debated today are the decline of biodiversity in general and of agrobiodiversity in particular, climate change, hunger and malnutrition, poverty and water. Seed is central to all five issues. The way in which seed is produced has been arguably their major cause. But it can also be the solution to all these issues. … Continue Reading

Students Protest the University of California’s War on Agroecology

Gill Tract Farm March 2012

(UC STUDENTS’ OPEN LETTER TO THE EXTERNAL ADVISORY BOARD OF THE AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY INSTITUTE (ASI) & SAREP)

As the students of the University of California, we come to you today to share our often silenced voices, our vision, and concerns we have about our common future. Our intention here is not to disrupt but rather to be present with you, share some stories, and to plant a hopeful seed in your hearts and minds as you enjoy this amazing food.

As documented in numerous studies, including a report from Food & Water Watch entitled “Public Research, Private Gain”, our University ­- a public trust and land grant college ­- faces an ever greater threat of privatization which deepens systemic racial and socioeconomic inequity. … Continue Reading

No Scientific Consensus on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms

October 21, 2013 Biotechnology, News 1 Comment
ENSSER

Press release from ENSSER:

There is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, according to a statement released today by an international group of more than 90 scientists, academics and physicians.[1]

The statement comes in response to recent claims from the GM industry and some scientists, journalists, and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops were generally found safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls these claims “misleading”, adding, “This claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.” … Continue Reading

How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves

SRI-grown Rice in China

by Jonathan Latham

The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His record yield of 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about 4 tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than 8 tons.

Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection. … Continue Reading

New Report Links Food, Climate and Agricultural Policies

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Understanding of the ‘problem’ of agriculture took a giant step forward in 2007 with publication of the UN IAASTD report. This report, which was as important for agriculture as the IPCC reports have been for the climate, pinpointed a move to ecology-based agriculture as the key to meeting many other fundamental needs such as clean water, safe food and sustainability. What the IAASTD didn’t do, at least directly however, was to focus on politics, especially the obstacles to progress in improving agriculture.

A new report, The Wheel of Life:  Food, Climate, Human Rights and the Economy (Sept. 2011), released by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation, usefully complements this deficit. … Continue Reading

How Agriculture Can Provide Food Security Without Destroying Biodiversity

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

According to conventional wisdom, the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte (pop. 2.5 million) has achieved something impossible. So, too, has the island of Cuba. They are feeding their hungry populations largely with local, low-input farming methods that enhance the environment rather than degrade it. They have achieved this, moreover, at a time of rising food prices when others have mostly retreated from their own food security goals.
… Continue Reading

Valuing Folk Crop Varieties for Agroecology and Food Security

Valuing Folk Crop Varieties

Dr Debal Deb, Founder-Chair, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, India (Photo Credit: D. Deb)

On May 25, 2009, Hurricane Aila hit the deltaic islands of the Sunderban of West Bengal. The estuarine water surged and destroyed the villages. Farmer’s homes were engulfed by the swollen rivers, their properties vanished with the waves, and their means of livelihood disappeared, as illustrated by the empty farm fields, suddenly turned salty. In addition, most of the ponds and bore wells became salinized.

… Continue Reading

Bee Learning Behaviour Affected by GMO Toxin

October 21, 2008 Biotechnology, Environment, News Comments Off on Bee Learning Behaviour Affected by GMO Toxin

Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Concerns over bees, especially the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) have rarely been higher. Although there are few hard data there is a general consensus that both solitary and social bee populations are declining and that recently the still-mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) has dramatically worsened this situation. No definitive cause for CCD has yet been established but there is widespread agreement that CCD is caused by more than one factor (Calderone, 2008 ; Oldroyd, 2007).
… Continue Reading

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Commentaries

Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science but Genetic Engineers Often Are

Elizabeth-Henderson (photo courtesy Audrey Horn)

by Elizabeth Henderson At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation. I …

Unsafe at any Dose? Diagnosing Chemical Safety Failures, from DDT to BPA

US Chemical Production

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell. Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned …

God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

crispr-cas9

by Jonathan Latham, PhD For the benefit of those parts of the world where public acceptance of biotechnology is incomplete, a public relations blitz is at full tilt. It concerns an emerging set of methods for altering the DNA of living organisms. “Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle …

Biofuel or Biofraud? The Vast Taxpayer Cost of Failed Cellulosic and Algal Biofuels

The now-bankrupt Kior site in Columbus, Mississippi

By Almuth Ernsting Biofuels consumed today are usually ethanol made from the sugar in sugar cane (or sugar beet) or they may be made from starch in grains. In the US this is mostly corn starch. Alternatively, biodiesel may be made from plant oils such as soybean or canola oil.

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Reviews

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

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