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Vitamin A Wars: the Downsides of Donor-driven Aid

September 24, 2012 Commentaries, Health 9 Comments
Growing leafy greens in India

Ted Greiner, Professor of Nutrition, Hanyang University, Korea (Photo Credit: Jon Orlando)

Surely one of the most precious of human dreams is to become rich and famous by doing good for others. And what could do more good than eradicating global malnutrition? Subtle variations on that theme have muddled the field of international nutrition for decades. Donor governments vary, but most want some proportion, and some want the vast majority, of their “donations” to poor countries to come back to them. Sometimes this is achieved by building up a cadre of domestic experts, or by providing products, including foods to the poor countries that will create preferences that will have to be satisfied by imports in the future. Meanwhile, those who feel uncomfortable with this way of doing things, and who ask why the capacity of developing countries cannot be built, and funds be provided to allow them to independently solve their problems, tend to get labeled as radicals. … Continue Reading

Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?

Malaysia: Deforestation for Agriculture

Jonathan Latham, PhD (Photo Credit: auspices)

Imagine an international mega-deal. The global organic food industry agrees to support international agribusiness in clearing as much tropical rainforest as they want for farming. In return, agribusiness agrees to farm the now-deforested land using organic methods, and the organic industry encourages its supporters to buy the resulting timber and food under the newly devised “Rainforest Plus” label. There would surely be an international outcry.

Virtually unnoticed, however, even by their own memberships, the world’s biggest wildlife conservation groups have agreed exactly to such a scenario, only in reverse. Led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), many of the biggest conservation nonprofits including Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy have already agreed to a series of global bargains with international agribusiness. In exchange for vague promises of habitat protection, sustainability and social justice, these conservation groups are offering to greenwash industrial commodity agriculture.
… 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

Food is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture

March 14, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on Food is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture
Food is Different

Book Author: Peter M Rosset

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Most people would probably agree that the world needs food and agricultural
systems that:
1) provide adequate, affordable, nutritious, tasty and culturally appropriate food,
2) offer rural people the opportunity for a living wage/income,
3) contribute to broad-based development and
4) conserve rural environments, cultural and culinary traditions

… Continue Reading

The Killing of the Countryside

December 1, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on The Killing of the Countryside

The Killing of the CountrysideBook Author: Graham Harvey

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Visitors to Britain are always being asked to admire the “unspoiled countryside” of a particular region, but landscapes are more than just photo opportunities. In only sixty years the British countryside has changed from being predominantly meadows and grasslands abundant with orchids and bees to virtual monocultures of rye grass whose wildlife is largely confined to clipped hedges and mown verges.

Many species of insects and flowers are all but extinct in Britain and the process continues. Today, the weed seed bank in farmed arable fields is estimated to be declining by approximately 3% per year. What has been lost and how we got here is the story of this book. Of all the ways that the UK landscape has been ‘spoiled’ , ugly development is perhaps the least of the villains.
ISBN: 0099736616 Publisher: Vintage (1998)

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Commentaries

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.

Why Chimpanzee-Testing in Medicine Had to End

Tracy at Chimp Haven

by John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C. A French man died last month and five others in the same clinical trial were hospitalized after they took an experimental drug. The drug had been deemed safe for humans after having been tested on chimpanzees in preclinical trials.

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 …

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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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