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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.
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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.
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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.

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US Crop Yield Increases Owe Little to Biotechnology

April 16, 2009 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, News Comments Off on US Crop Yield Increases Owe Little to Biotechnology

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

The latest advertising campaign from Monsanto claims that already its “advanced seeds… significantly increase crop yields…”, while since the mid-1990s the biotechnology industry has consistently proposed that higher yielding genetically engineered crops will be necessary to feed the world.
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Royal Society Science and Agriculture Study Criticised

October 15, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, News Comments Off on Royal Society Science and Agriculture Study Criticised

There are significant concerns about the long term security and sufficiency of global food-crop production due to the potential impact of many factors including climate change, population growth, changing consumption patterns and competing demands for land. The Royal Society is to study the extent to which the biological and related sciences can contribute to enhancing global food-crop production over the next 30 years within the context of changing global and regional demand during this period.
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Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank

June 4, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, Environment, News Comments Off on Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

A key aspect of transgenic agriculture is control of gene flow. Gene flow is important for many reasons including: 1) protecting intellectual property from unwanted incursions into farmers’ fields (and vice-versa); 2) maintaining the genetic integrity of crop cultivars; 3) maintaining labelling and consumer choices; and 4) biosafety risk assessments which presume limited transgene dispersion and that transgenic traits can be removed from circulation.

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India’s Colourless Revolution: Replacement of Traditional Oils by Soy and Palm Oils

May 12, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Commentaries, Health Comments Off on India’s Colourless Revolution: Replacement of Traditional Oils by Soy and Palm Oils
Replacement of Traditional Oils by Soy and Palm Oils

Dr Rashmi Sharma, Dept. of Chemistry, S.D. Govt. College, Beawar, India

The interrelationships between agriculture, food, cooking and health are highly complex and profoundly significant. A characteristic of complex relationships is that a change in any one component will have effects on the viability and functioning of each of the others. In India, where native seeds such as mustard, groundnut, sesame (til) and coconut are traditionally cultivated for their oil, this linkage can be clearly seen. With a high oil content, these seeds are traditionally extracted by cold pressing, an activity suited to small scale production and which utilises non-hazardous low-impact technologies. The resulting oils are nutritious, and high in natural flavours. And since they are traditionally used and stored in their unrefined state, they are long-lasting (1-4).

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New Report Links Food, Climate and Agricultural Policies

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US Crop Yield Increases Owe Little to Biotechnology

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Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank

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Commentaries

The Meaning of Life (Part I)

DNA double helix

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Many people date the DNA revolution to the discovery of its structure by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. But really it began thirty years before, conceived by the mind of John D Rockefeller, Sr. Thus it is fitting that DNA is named after him. …

The War Over Mangoes

Mangoes from Mexico

by Meredith Rector (Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR)) Growing mangoes in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca has racked up an enormous socio-political expense for the region far greater than the price tag on the fruit in the supermarket. For a Mexican drug cartel desperate to move product, hiding …

Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual Ban

Mosquito and DNA

by Jonathan Latham, PhD One of the central issues of our day is how to safely manage the outputs of industrial innovation. Novel products incorporating nanotechnology, biotechnology, rare metals, microwaves, novel chemicals, and more, enter the market on a daily basis. Yet none of these products come with an adequate …

Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life

Phytoplankton

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Test your understanding of the living world with this simple question. What kind of biomolecule is found in all living organisms? If your answer is “DNA”, you are incorrect. The mistake is very forgiveable though. The standard English-language biology education casts DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) as the …

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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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