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Nuclear Energy is past its expiry date, renewal energy is the future

Ground Reality - 9 hours 34 min ago



US President Barack Obama, left and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake their hands after they jointly addressed the media after their talks, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Seizing on their personal bond, Obama and Modi said Sunday they had made progress on nuclear cooperation and climate change, with Obama declaring a "breakthrough understanding" in efforts to free U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

Channuwala used to be a non-descript village in Moga district of Punjab. Like every other village in prosperous Punjab, Channuwala too suffered long power cuts, with electricity available for not more than 12 hours a day. But after the installation of two biogas plants having a capacity of 150-200 cubic metres, and with many villagers setting up their own biogas plants, more than 4,000 residents of Channuwala village today have the benefit of uninterrupted supply of electricity.
In a country which has the largest population of cattle in the world – roughly 300 million cows and buffaloes as per the 2012 Livestock census – harnessing alternate sources of energy from cowdung and biomass should have been accorded topmost priority. In addition, in a country endowed with abundant sunlight and a vast coastline, solar and wind power should have reduced the dependence on coal-based energy installations.  But it didn’t happen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now laying stress on renewal and clean sources of energy, and has promised to generate 100,000 MW from solar power in next few years. This is heartening by all standards.  
This brings me to the media excitement that I see all around from the so-called ‘breakthrough’ that has been achieved in Indo-US nuclear deal. With India accepting to shoulder the liability, with the assurance of putting together an insurance pool and thereby allowing the suppliers of nuclear equipment to go Scott free in case of a nuclear mishap, the question that nuclear energy is safe and clean is itself being defeated. Why should nuclear suppliers insist on not being held responsible in case of a nuclear accident if the technology is safe?
I don’t understand why and how nuclear energy is being called safe and clean. If it was so safe and clean I see no reason why the world should be increasingly moving away from nuclear energy.  After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, Germany has vowed to shut down all operating nuclear plants by 2022. In Italy, after a 94 per cent vote against nuclear power in a 2011 referendum, nuclear energy has been banned. France, which produces much of its power from nuclear reactors, too has promised to move away to safer resources by 2050. Even in the US, which has been aggressively pushing for the construction of nuclear plants in India, the entire focus of energy generation has been on shale gas.
Let’s look at the cost involved. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Between 2002 and 2008, cost estimates for new nuclear power plant construction rose from between $ 2 billion and $ 4 billion per unit to $9 billion per unit, while experience with new construction has seen costs continue to soar.” With the costs rising, the nuclear suppliers have been seeking government subsidies, including loan guarantees, tax credits.  Interestingly, some estimates point to the huge burden on taxpayers, stating that the plants cost more to taxpayers than the market value of power generated.
Nuclear energy today is the most expensive. 
With such an expensive source of energy, I don’t think Indian industry can be viable and competitive unless of course massive subsidies are provided to keep the nuclear plants running. If India can provide for massive subsidy support, I wonder why the same investment can’t be made for harnessing solar and wind energy. Let us not forget that way back in 1985 Forbes magazine had categorically termed the US nuclear industry “the largest managerial disaster in business history.” And this also points to the managerial failure to find a safe burial for the nuclear waste generated.
Notwithstanding the excitement and hype, many strategic analysts have said that even if India was to witness a rush for setting up nuclear plants, it would be at least 10 years before any additional energy production is possible. From the present contribution of 2 per cent, the availability of power is not expected to increase beyond 10 per cent of the total requirement from the new installation. 
This brings me back to the huge potential that exists in non-conventional energy resources. In solar alone, India is presently producing only 0.5 per cent of the estimated potential of 750 GW. This estimate is based on the wastelands that can be used for solar power generation. But I see no reason why rooftop solar power generation cannot replace the household (as well as commercial establishments like hotels/hospitals/malls) use of electricity.
In case of wind, Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has already given a green signal for stepping up the existing capacity, by promising to put up 10,000 MW of wind power installations every year. Add to this the massive potential that exists in biogas and biomass, India can easily chart a new pathway in meeting its growing energy needs. Given that the crude oil prices have fallen drastically, and are expected to stay low, the challenge to build up the country’s energy needs from clean, safe and non-conventional resources is immense and untapped. #
SourceNuclear Energy is past its expiry date, renewal energy is the future. ABPLive.in
Categories: Ecological News

Amazing Moringa: Medicinal, Edible & Easy to Grow

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 06:11

by Ansel Oommen – Permaculture Magazine

Source: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/amazing-moringa-medicinal-edible-easy-grow

The Moringa Tree, also known as the Drumstick tree is nearly entirely edible. It can grow with little water, has multiple times the amount of nutrients as oranges, carrots and milk, plus grows very well in regions of malnutrition. Could this tree solve the world’s food crisis?

In the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, a certain tree has long graced the region with its miraculous fruit. Hanging from its wiry branches are clusters of ribbed pods, each a foot in length. These pods, or drumsticks, have attracted the attention of mankind for millennia, and for good reason.

While the aptly named Drumstick tree has a rather slender appearance, it is anything but frail. A tropical native, this prolific powerhouse has spread its roots across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. And now, it seems to have anchored itself in American soil.

Part of a new wave of exotic vegetables, Moringa oleifera (MO) is a botanical platypus. A member of the order Brassicales, it’s a distant relative of both the cabbage and papaya. Its roots taste so much like its cousin horseradish, that it’s earned the title ‘horseradish tree’. Its fruit, a popular Indian vegetable, looks like a cross between an okra and a pole bean with the flavor of asparagus. Its cooked flowers mimic mushrooms in taste, while its leaves hint at spinach and lettuce. Its immature seeds are used like peas and if fried when mature, resemble peanuts.

Moringa root.

In fact, it’s hard to find a part of Moringa that isn’t edible. Even the bark is sometimes taken internally for diarrhea. But that doesn’t come as a surprise to the locals, who consider it a living pharmacy. Moringa has proven to be a multipurpose arsenal that dispenses some of the best secrets nature has to offer. For centuries, it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a host of ailments including anemia, bronchitis, tumors, scurvy, and skin infections.

Drought hardy and disease resistant, MO is a godsend during the dry season, when little food is available. The fresh leaves and branches serve as an excellent source of forage. Indeed, a Nicaraguan study confirms MO’s ability to boost milk production in cows without affecting its taste, smell, or color.

The leaves offer a spectrum of nutrition, rich in vitamins A, B, and C, as well as protein, calcium, and iron. They are so nutritious in fact, that they contain more vitamin A than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than bananas, and more protein than either milk or eggs! A traditional item in pickles and curries, the raw leaves are also perfect for salads.

As a result, Moringa could play a key role as a wholesome food source in impoverished nations, where malnutrition is often rampant. The World Health Organization has stressed the importance of amino acids and protein for growing children. Luckily, Moringa leaves are rich in these nutrients, with the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids and a host of protective phytochemicals.

When mixed in with different cereals, children regained normal weight and health status in 30-40 days, while the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) recipe for malnourished children took 80 days, double the difference.

“[It] is a very healthy satisfying food that meets all nutritive needs. It is cheap to produce, can be cooked or eaten raw, sold in the market, or dried as a powder to be sold over long distances,” added Nikolaus Foidl, a world leading agricultural researcher on Moringa.

Foidl has been studying the tree for over a decade in conjunction with the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. He has traveled to many countries, including Senegal, Honduras, Guinea Bissau, and Argentina, promoting the miracle tree’s cultivation by working with the locals.

In Nicaragua, he helped farmers utilize the leaf extract as a growth spray for other crops.

“Moringa leaves contain the growth factors gibberellin, kinetin, and some lower levels of auxin. We got up to a 25% increase in sugarcane and turnips, onions and radish.”

Such a bountiful increase should not be ignored, especially in areas where food shortage is an issue. Foidl, who has the financial support of the Austrian government, first came across the tree by accident.

He recounted, “By chance, I had a Jatropha plantation with rows of Moringa as windbreaks and the damn cows were always breaking down my fences to get to them. So I wondered, what is so special about this tree that the cows are willing to risk injury?”

That question has now led to a new understanding of MO’s multifaceted potential. As a vigorous hardy grower, it surprisingly does not require much water or soil nutrients once established. This makes it one of the most valuable tropical trees in terms of overall utility.

Like the leaves, the flowers too are edible when cooked, packed with calcium and potassium. As a bonus, they are not only incredibly fragrant, but also support native bee populations.

MO roots and bark, on the other hand, are used with caution. The bark contains the toxic chemicals moringinine and spirochin which can alter heart rate and blood pressure. However, they do show promise in the medical field. The inner flesh of the root is less toxic, and those of young plants are picked for a hot sauce base while the resin is added as a thickener. Interestingly, blue dye can be obtained from the wood, which is also used in paper production.

But if Moringa were a magician, it has certainly saved its best trick for last. The famed drumsticks contain all nine essential amino acids that humans must obtain exclusively from their diet. Often, they’re chopped into logs, boiled, and split into thirds lengthwise. The fibrous rind is inedible – rather it’s the soft jellied pulp and seeds that are sought after. These can be scooped out or scraped away by the teeth.

Hidden within the drumsticks are even more remarkable seeds. Loaded with protein, they also contain special non-toxic polypeptides that act as natural Brita filters. When ground into powder and mixed with water, they cause sediments to clump together and settle out. Then when strained through a cloth, they provide cheap access to clean water. Amazingly, just two seeds are enough to purify a dirty liter.

“It has been widely used at the village level in Africa to transform river water into drinking water,” shared Foidl. “I had a project working with the seeds in a wastewater treatment plant in Nicaragua (wastewater from 4,000 people). It was very effective – about 99.5% separation of turbidity in 30 minutes.”

In turn, the seeds themselves yield a valuable yellow oil called ben oil. Sweet, clear, and odorless, it doesn’t spoil easily – perfect for perfumes, cosmetics, and lubrication. It has also found use in cooking due to its high levels of healthy unsaturated fats.

For such a versatile tree, it’s almost hard to believe that Moringa is easily grown via seeds or cuttings. Foidl remarked, “It grows virtually better than willow.”

As agriculture becomes more expensive, managing the long-term productivity of the land is essential. Moringa solves this issue through a practice called high-density planting. The trees are grown closely together to increase the yield per given area, while at the same time reducing the need for herbicides. Because MO grows rapidly, it crowds out and suppresses neighboring weeds.

“The optimal density is 1 million plants per hectare (10 x 10cm spacing), where the losses of plants per cut are around 1% and the losses are compensated through vigorous sprouting,” explained Foidl. “Moringa is cut at a height of 15 to 25cm for vigorous regrowth.”

Moringa just before harvest. Foidl either harvest at 35 days of growth or 75.

Moringa harvested on rotation.

This practice allows for cutting every 35 days, totaling 10 harvests per year. In fact, 120 tons of dry matter can be harvested per hectare a year, 10 times more than corn and several times more than soy. As a result, there is a constant supply of fresh food, with little need for storage.

Moringa is in a unique position to address the issues of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and lack of clean water all at once, something no other plant can boast. It is even more valuable considering it is found widely throughout the tropics, in the regions where it is needed most, making this ancient tree a true modern day miracle.

Moringa’s growing regions and regions of malnutrition.

About the Author: Ansel Oommen is a garden writer, citizen scientist, and medical transcriptionist whose works have been published in magazines such as Atlas Obscura, Well Being Journal, and Entomology Today, among others. Discover more at www.behance.net/Ansel.

All images thanks to Nikolaus Foidl apart from Moringa root, thanks to Crops for the Future.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Danger zone: Earth crosses four planetary boundaries

Green Blog - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 18:46
Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the January 16 issue of the journal Science. The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

“Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human well being in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries,” says Lead author, Professor Will Steffen, researcher at the Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra. “In this new analysis we have improved our quantification of where these risks lie.”

The new paper is a development of the Planetary Boundaries concept, which was first published in 2009, identifying nine global priorities relating to human-induced changes to the environment. The science shows that these nine processes and systems regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth System – the interactions of land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide conditions upon which our societies depend.

The research builds on a large number of scientific publications critically assessing and improving the planetary boundaries research since its original publication. It confirms the original set of boundaries and provides updated analysis and quantification for several of them, including phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, land-system change, freshwater use and biosphere integrity.

Though the framework keeps the same processes as in 2009, two of them have been given new names, to better reflect what they represent, and yet others have now also been assessed on a regional level.

“Loss of biodiversity” is now called “Change in biosphere integrity.” Biological diversity is vitally important, but the framework now emphasizes the impact of humans on ecosystem functioning. Chemical pollution has been given the new name “Introduction of novel entities,” to reflect the fact that humans can influence the Earth system through new technologies in many ways.

“Pollution by toxic synthetic substances is an important component, but we also need to be aware of other potential systemic global risks, such as the release of radioactive materials or nanomaterials,” says Sarah Cornell, coordinator of the Planetary Boundaries research at the Centre. “We believe that these new names better represent the scale and scope of the boundaries,” she continues.

In addition to the globally aggregated Planetary Boundaries, regional-level boundaries have now been developed for biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, land-system change and freshwater use. At present only one regional boundary (South Asian Monsoon) can be established for atmospheric aerosol loading.

“Planetary Boundaries do not dictate how human societies should develop but they can aid decision-makers by defining a safe operating space for humanity,” says co-author Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen.



Nine planetary boundaries:
  • Climate change
  • Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction)
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion
  • Ocean acidification
  • Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles)
  • Land-system change (for example deforestation)
  • Freshwater use
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms)
  • Introduction of novel entities (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).
Categories: Ecological News

Vermont shuts down Fukushima-type nuclear power plant

Green Blog - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 18:08
A nuclear power plant near the town of Brattleboro, Vermont is being shut down thanks to local environmental activism. The Vermont Yankee plant ceased splitting atoms on Dec. 29 after more than 42 years of activity. The victory is one that will surely bring relief to activists and citizens alike, as the plant's reactor was the General Electric Mark I, the same design as that of Fukushima, which infamously melted down and exploded, spewing radiation into the atmosphere.

Due to a hefty push-back in 2010 from Citizen's Awareness Network, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 on Feb. 24 that year to phase Vermont Yankee out of operation after 2012. That has now come to pass, but it was largely the result of activists raising awareness of the possible negative health effects of the reactor. At the time of the vote, the plant was leaking radioactive tritium into the air following the collapse of a cooling tower back in 2007.

The structural dismantling of the plant, meanwhile, will not be completed until 2040.

The plant is owned by Entergy, a corporation that has a history almost as toxic as the fossil fuel it deals with. The company has a number of alleged misdeeds including stealing overtime wages from workers, overcharging customers, and having a general lack of regulatory oversight that likely contributed to the 2007 mishap.

A similar fiasco recently occurred at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Athens, Alabama, from which a leak of radioactive water released tritium into the environment sometime during the week of Jan. 5. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant, maintained that the leak was quickly stoppered and no significant public risk was presented. One could be forgiven, however, if he or she still had qualms about the integrity of the reactors, particularly as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that the plant's three units are at some risk from potential earthquakes. In the midst of climate change, that serves only to exacerbate already existing concerns.

The plant has long been in the crosshairs of Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation, a group representing concerned citizens, environmentalists, and workers. Garry Morgan, a retired U.S. Army medical officer who has monitored radiation around Browns Ferry for the group, remarked, "Any leak of radionuclide contaminant into the environment indicates a failure of oversight and/or attention to detail, maybe both, on the part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority." He added that cancer mortality rates have increased by 20 percent above the U.S. average since Browns Ferry began generating power in 1974.

The problem of leaking tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, does not end there. According to the Associated Press, the contaminant has leaked from at least 48 reactors - and perhaps as many as 65 - across the U.S., and often ends up in groundwater. This information was taken by AP from Nuclear Regulatory Commission records as part of their coverage on the matter. Furthermore, tritium from at least three of those sites - two in Illinois and one in Minnesota - has actually seeped into the drinking wells of residential homes, said the report.

In conclusion, while one plant with Fukushima-type reactors has been defeated, others remain, and are contributing to environmental toxicity. Greenpeace noted, "The world is still running more than 400 inherently dangerous nuclear reactors. Millions of people are at risk. Nuclear energy is not a necessary evil, because affordable, safer, and cleaner energy solutions exist. They are only a matter of political choice."
Categories: Ecological News

From Idaho to Utah, "wolf massacre" continues

Green Blog - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 17:19
An organization called Idaho for Wildlife hosted a hunting derby between Jan. 1 and Jan. 4 that resulted in the deaths of two dozen coyotes for the mere purposes of obtaining their fur or for taxidermy. The Idaho event came on the heels of a wolf killing in Utah during Dec., in which "Echo," the first wolf seen wandering about the Grand Canyon in 70 years, was likely the victim after crossing state lines and being mistaken for a coyote. The two tragedies added up to what was a very bad holiday season for wild canines.

The Humane Society's Idaho director Lisa Kauffman called the event, which occurred in Salmon, Idaho, a "wolf massacre." Though no wolves were killed, in which more than 125 hunters competed for cash prizes for whoever killed the most coyotes.

Though Idaho for Wildlife did have some positive-sounding aims - they noted "we tailor it around this time of year for family, to let the kids get out to learn to hunt, gun safety, and survival skills" - the purpose of hunting coyotes remains questionable as, despite the group's claims to the contrary, coyotes are not terribly fierce or problematic predators.

The event also gave hunters ample opportunity to kill wolves anyway, as is legal in Idaho - the wolf kills simply would not be worth any "prizes." Many animal rights activists feel that hunts like these toe a dangerous line, as many wolves are mistaken for coyotes and accidentally killed, the most recent case being in Utah on Dec. 28. The wolf, which was believed to be the same one photographed near the Grand Canyon earlier last year, is part of a species that was only just removed from the Endangered Species List in 2011 (as many feel, against better judgment).

Kauffman decried the hunting of coyotes in Idaho, as it was done for pure sport. She remarked, "Rewarding shooters, including young children, with prizes takes us back to an earlier era of wanton killing that so many of us thought was an ugly, ignorant, and closed chapter in our history."

Brian Ertz, president of nonprofit animal rights advocacy group Wildlands Defense, said, "People honestly believe that sterilizing the landscape of 'predators' will enrich their economy and preserve their culture." But "Americans in general are becoming more compassionate toward non-human animals, and our appreciation of ecology and the contribution of wildlife communities is growing. This awareness and compassion threatens any culture that predicates itself on an appalling disregard for the suffering of sentient beings."
Categories: Ecological News

No shortage of land, no environment clearance, no social impact assessment, massive tax holidays, and still SEZs failed to perform.

Ground Reality - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 13:13


I still remember vividly. Several years back, the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was presiding over an annual corporate awards function organized by a business newspaper. After Manmohan Singh’s address, the floor was set open for some questions from the audience.
Industrialist Anand Mahindra got up and asked a question which went something like this: “Mr Prime Minister, what should a young graduate from an Indian Institute of Management look up to in today’s not-so-attractive business environment?” To this, Manmohan Singh gave an answer, the gist of which was: “We are determined to set up exclusive export zones providing required incentive and support for the young entrepreneurs. Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is an idea whose time has come.”
The SEZ Act was passed in 2005. There was so much of excitement all around that all farmer protests over land grab were simply brushed aside.
Seven years later, the SEZ turned out to be a misplaced idea. According to an economic newspaper it was an idea long past its expiry date. With more than 50 per cent land allotted remaining unused, and with no significant role in creating employment and boosting exports, most of the SEZs that have been approved have turned into real estate havens. Not meeting the intended objectives of spearheading a manufacturing revolution, these SEZs were effectively used by the IT companies to avail tax incentives by shifting their offices into these zones.
A Parliamentary Standing Committee had in June 2007 estimated a revenue loss of Rs 1.75 lakh crore from tax holidays granted between 2005 and 2010. Reading the performance audit of the SEZs operations, between 2007-2013, by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) tells us the magnitude of the SEZ scam. Of the 576 SEZ projects approved, 392 were notified and only 170 are operational. While less than 48 per cent of the existing SEZs are engaged in any export activity, only 3.8 per cent exports came from these zones in 2013-14.
“Out of the 45,635.63 hectares of land notified for the development of SEZs, actual operations took place in only 28,488.49 hectares or 62 per cent of the land acquired,” the report states. In a scathing comment, CAG says “Acquisition of land from the public by the government is proving to be a major transfer of wealth from the rural populace to the corporate world.” With 50 per cent land lying idle, many developers had put the land to other industrial uses or used it for building real estate hubs and even mortgaged it to raise finances.
Interestingly, the Commerce Ministry had turned a blind eye to the gross mismanagement and violations of the SEZ Act. It is now considering to allow developers of SEZs to throw open apartments, schools and hospitals to people who live outside these zones. Land has also been used for setting up residential complexes or used for other industrial activity, not permitted under the SEZ Act.
Just to give you an idea as to what all kinds of tax exemptions were accorded, here is a list. The SEZs were given complete exemption from excise duty, custom duty, sales tax, octroi, mandi tax, turnover tax, as well as income tax holiday for ten years. Also spelled out were provisions for 100 per cent foreign direct investment, exemption on income tax on infrastructure capital fund and individual investment, and an assurance of round-the-clock electricity and water supply. The SEZ promoters were also been given a waiver from carrying out an Environment Impact Assessment.
Permitted to indulge in commodity hedging, external commercial borrowings up to US $500 million without any maturity restrictions, freedom to bring in export proceeds without any time limit and make foreign investments from it, exemption from interest rate on import finance, and setting up off-shore banking units with income tax exemption for three years and subsequently 50 per cent tax for another two years are some of the financial enticements. And if these SEZ units were to sub-contract production to local manufacturers outside the princely estates, there would be duty drawbacks, exemption from state levies and income tax benefits.
With these kinds of generous tax exemptions, and with huge tracts of land being made available, I fail to understand why the SEZs did not perform. This assumes significance at a time when a Land Acquisition Ordinance has been brought in simply to overcome the delays in getting land for the industries. If 45, 635 hectares of land and with practically no obligation for paying taxes, the industry has failed miserably to perform, what is the guarantee that more land for the industry will usher in a manufacturing revolution?
It was certainly a badly conceived idea. The undue haste with which the SEZ Act was passed in Parliament, and the swiftness with which the Ministry of Commerce had drafted the rules and implemented the Act remains unprecedented. At a meeting I had with the then Joint Secretary in charge of SEZs, I was told that I was the only one who was questioning the role of SEZs. “Everyone I meet is all praise for this great opportunity for boosting export growth and creating jobs,” I was told.
This only illustrates how the economic policies and frameworks are put into practice. Ministry of Commerce had gone ahead in its wisdom to aggressively promote SEZs without first assessing whether it will work or not. Nor did it care to have widespread consultations or any social and environmental impact assessments. This myopic approach led to a massive scam. Massive land resources were misused, and resulted in huge revenue losses.
To ensure that such a scam is not repeated, I have two suggestions: First, the then Commerce Minister and the concerned officials should be held accountable for the SEZ scandal. Good governance can never be enforced without holding ministers/bureaucrats responsible for their decisions. Secondly, the erring companies must be penalized for the failure to perform and land and other resources recovered from them with penalties. The industry must be made to understand that there are no free lunches. Such a step will send a right kind of signal to the industry. It must perform or perish. #
Categories: Ecological News

The Vandana Shiva Home Rule Tour- 2015

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 03:50

Center for Food Safety, 23 january 2015

Olelo’s LIVE recording of the Talk Story at Mamiya Theatre with Dr. Vandana Shiva, Makana, Andrew Kimbrell, Councilmember Gary Hooser, Walter Ritte, Senator Russell Ruderman, and Representative Kaniela Ing. Moderated by Ashley Lukens of Hawaii Center for Food Safety.

January 21, 2015

For more information: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/3670/the-vandana-shiva-home-rule-tour-january-21st–25th-2015

- http://seedfreedom.info/events/the-vandana-shiva-home-rule-tour/

- http://seedfreedom.info/events/the-vandana-shiva-home-rule-tour-on-maui/

- http://seedfreedom.info/coalition-pushes-for-pesticide-free-buffer-zones-around-schools/

                          
Categories: Ecological News

‘Seedy Business’: New Report Digs Beneath Agrichemical Industry’s High-Cost PR Machine

Navdanya Diary - Sun, 01/25/2015 - 03:03

by Sarah Lazare, staff writerCommon Dreams – 21 January 2015

‘The tremendous amount of money spent speaks to depth of public unease about GMOs,’ says lead author

“Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them,” states the report. (Photo courtesy of report)

Source: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/21/seedy-business-new-report-digs-beneath-agrichemical-industrys-high-cost-pr-machine

What exactly is the agrichemical industry hiding with its high-cost public relations and lobbying efforts to convince the U.S. public that genetically modified organisms and pesticides are safe?

According to a just-released study by the newly-formed nonprofit organization U.S. Right to Know, the answer is: A great deal.

Entitled Seedy Business: What Big Food is hiding with its slick PR campaign on GMOs, and authored by Gary Ruskin, the study aims to expose the “sleazy tactics” of corporations like Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

“Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them,” states the report. “The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.”

In fact, according to Ruskin’s calculations, the industry spent more than $103 million since 2012 on defeating state initiatives to mandate GMO labeling in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, with Monsanto alone spending over $22 million.

“The tremendous amount of money spent speaks to depth of public unease about GMOs,” Ruskin told Common Dreams.

The biotechnology industry—whose tactics include attacking scientists and journalists—switches its message depending on the regulatory environment, notes the report. For example, St. Louis-based Monsanto backs GMO labeling in the UK, where such labeling is mandatory, but strongly opposes it in the U.S. “Half of the Big Six agrichemical firms can’t even grow their GMOs in their own home countries,” states the report, due to health and environmental concerns in European countries.

Industry PR firms such as Ketchum—whose clients include tobacco corporations and the Russian government—have had considerable success in manipulating public opinion about GMOs. However, beneath the spin are a number of red flags about the environmental and human health impacts of agrichemical products.

According to the report, “big agrichemical companies have a well-documented record of hiding the truth about the health risks of their products and operations,” from the cancer-causing danger of polychlorinated biphenyls produced by Monsanto to the tragic human impacts of the chemical weapon Agent Orange, which was primarily manufactured by Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

Despite this track record, U.S. oversight of the industry is inadequate, according to the study, thanks largely to the anti-regulatory structures put in place by former Vice President Dan Quayle. The Food and Drug Administration, in fact, does not directly test whether GMOs are safe.

“This report presents a new argument for why the FDA regulatory process doesn’t work,” Ruskin told Common Dreams. “The FDA trusts agrichemical companies and the science they pay for, but the industry has repeatedly hidden health risks from the public so there is no reason to trust them.”

According to Ruskin, this is analogous to the pharmaceutical industry, where positive results get published over negative ones. “What we know is that agrichemical companies have repeatedly hidden health risks, repeatedly suppressed scientific results adverse to the industry,” Ruskin continued. “There is no registry of studies, no way to know. There are are no epidemiological studies on the health impacts of GMOs.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Africa’s land and seed laws under attack: who’s pushing for changes in Africa?

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 03:49

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, 22 January 2015

Report

Source: http://afsafrica.org/africas-land-and-seed-laws-under-attack-whos-pushing-changes-in-africa/

The lobby to industrialise food production in Africa is not only pouring money into plantation projects on the ground, it is changing African laws to serve foreign agribusiness as well. This is the main finding of a new report from the civil society organisations Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and GRAIN.

The report, “Land and seed laws under attack”, documents who is pushing what changes in these two battlegrounds across Africa. Washington DC, home to the World Bank, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the US Agency for International Development, stands out the biggest source of pressure to privatise African farm resources right now. But Europe, through the European Union and various donor mechanisms, is also deeply involved, providing funds and legal frameworks like the plant patenting scheme known as UPOV.

Privatising land and seeds is essential for the corporate model to flourish in Africa. With regard to agricultural land, this means pushing for the official demarcation, registration and titling of farms. It also means making it possible for foreign investors to lease or own land on a long-term basis. With regard to seeds, it means having governments require that seeds be registered in an official catalogue in order to circulate. It also means introducing intellectual property rights over plant varieties and criminalising farmers who disregard them. In all cases, the end goal is to turn what has long been a commons in Africa into a marketable commodity that the private sector can control and profit from at the expense of small farmers and rural communities.

“More than 80% of all seed in Africa is produced and disseminated through informal seed systems, that is, on-farm seed saving and exchange between farmers,” points out Bridget Mugambe of AFSA. “Marginalising and criminalising farmers’ seeds through UPOV and by introducing strict marketing regimes will be great for multinational seed companies but a disaster for our small family farmers,” she says.

The land privatisation agenda is also quite threatening. “In the name of land securitisation, which may sound great to vulnerable rural communities, donors and African governments are actually pushing to create Western-type land markets based on formal instruments like titles and leases that can be traded in one way or another,” explains Ange David Baïmey of GRAIN. “In fact, the explicit aim of many initiatives, such as the G8 New Alliance, is to secure investors’ rights to land.”

The thinking is to make Africa more attractive to business. But this will only erode the rights of rural communities prevent them from continuing to serve as the backbone of the region’s food and farming systems.

Get the report here: AFSA-GRAIN Report – Africa’s land and seed laws under attack – who is pushing for changes?

For more information, please contact:

Bridget Mugambe, AFSA, Kampala (EN)
b_mugambe@yahoo.com
+256775692499

Ange-David Baïmey, GRAIN, Accra (FR)
ange@grain.org
+233269089432

Million Belay (PhD.), Ethiopia (EN)

millionbelay@gmail.com
+251911402403  

AFSA, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, is a Pan African platform comprising networks and farmer organisations working in Africa. AFSA members represent small holder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, citizens and environmentalists from Africa who possess a strong voice that shapes policy on the continent in the area of community rights, family farming, promotion of traditional knowledge and the environment.

GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Why does the world need SHG's, just ask World Bank to perform the rope trick !

Ground Reality - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:32





For 60 years, India made a half-hearted attempt to reduce poverty. Why I say a half-hearted attempt is because the way the Planning Commission worked out a stringently low poverty line all these years, aimed more at ensuring a low budget outlay for fighting poverty, it lacked any meaningful commitment to make poverty history.  
Let me explain why it didn’t work. Perhaps this story will better explain. A poor person fell down in a 100-feet deep village well. Listening to his cry for help, a number of villagers collected and were exploring the options of pulling him out. Meanwhile, an economist, who happened to be passing by, saw the crowd and walked it to know what was happening. He told the villagers to step aside as he could be of help. Looking at the depth of the well, he immediately worked out that the man in the well probably had to energy to climb the walls to about 50 feet. So he told villagers to bring a rope of 50 feet that can pull out the man to safety.
The poor man, who was crying for help, finally was drowned.
This story tells you how all these years a futile half-hearted attempt was made, despite substantial budgetary outlays, knowing well that the poverty eradication strategy will not work.
In the last three decades, policy makers found a still better way of removing poverty. Knowing that much of the half-attempts being made was going waste, they realized the best way to remove poverty is to sweep the number of poor under the carpet. I still remember when Pranab Mukherjee was the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission (1991-96),  he brought down poverty in one shot from 37 per cent to 19 per cent. It was only after the next government took over, and replaced the Planning Commission members, that poverty was once again restored back to 37 per cent.
The business of poverty that actually extends to sweeping the poor under the carpet has now grown worldwide.  
Over the years I find that while most governments across the world have failed to stem poverty (except in countries like China), the international financial institutions are bending backwards to demonstrate that economic liberalisation helps in reducing poverty, and often drastically. This is being achieved by tampering with statistics, and often providing social indicators that don't actually measure up. One such classic example is the dollar a day measure adopted by the World Bank to define the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty.
Global empirical evidence is now emerging challenging the World Bank's deliberate underestimation of poverty. Recent studies have conclusively shown that in Latin America for instance actual poverty rates are twice than what the World Bank had projected. More recently, on April 11, 2014, a study by the University of Bristol concludes that the World Bank is painting a 'rosy' picture by keeping poverty too low due to its narrow definition. Dr Christopher Deeming of the Bristol University's School of Geographical Sciences is quoted as saying: "Our findings suggest that the current international poverty line of a dollar a day seriously underestimates global poverty."
Not even caring for such voices, World Bank has found another magic rope trick to remove poverty. Using the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) index, it has in its latest poverty vanishing trick reduced India’s poverty in one stroke from 400 million in 2005 to a very impressive 98 million in 2010. What Planning Commission could not do in 60 years, World Bank has done remarkably well in just five years – between 2005 and 2010.
I find the World Bank behaving like a pigeon when comes face to face with a cat. By closing it eyes, the pigeon fatally pays for its mistake thinking that the danger has gone away. Similarly, removing poverty by a statistical jugglery is a dangerous exercise. It’s therefore time for India not to bask in the glory of fake poverty reduction figures but to accept the dark reality.
Poverty in India is actually growing. If you raise the existing global poverty line from 1.25 dollars a day to just 1.5 dollars a day, as Asian Development Bank has shown, India’s poverty line swells to 584 million or 47.7 per cent of the population. In simple words, if the poverty line extends to Rs 90/day, which is a more realistic benchmark, the number of people below poverty line in India will be at least five times more than what the World Bank has estimated.
And makes me wonder. Why does the world need to move towards the next series of targets under the SHGs? Just ask World Bank to play around with statistics. 
Making Poverty History: All it needs is statistical jugglery. ABPLive Jan 21, 2015.bit.ly/1yKY93b
Categories: Ecological News

Seeds of Peace

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 20:34

by Dr. Vandana Shiva – Huffington Post Italy, 19 January 2015

Photo: Formidable Vegetable Sound System

Source [Italian]: http://www.huffingtonpost.it/vandana-shiva/semi-di-pace_b_6487600.html

We live in times whose signature is violence – from the killing of 134 innocent children in Peshawar to the massacres of 2000 by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the 17 in Paris just in the last month.

We must condemn this violence. But we must do more and understand its roots. Violence erupting in unpredictable places against innocents is growing and when any process grows in society, humanity needs to reflect on what is feeding it, from where does its nourishment come, and what can we do to stop the future explosion of violence overtaking the serenity and stability of everyday life, everywhere in the world.

Most analysis essentializes violence and makes it intrinsic to particular cultures. The dominant analysis based on fragmentation and reductionism, separates actions from their consequences. It allows no responsibility for the structural violence done to societies through wars and a globalized economy that has all the features of a war.

But violence is not essential to human beings or a particular culture. Just like peace, it is cultivated – its seeds are sown. We as humans across our cultural diversity and across our histories have potential to be both violent and peaceful.

The nourishment to the epidemic of violence in our times comes from structural violence of war, dispossession, uprooting and exclusion. It comes from robbing people of meaning, dignity, self-respect, security. This robbing of meaning, rights and dignity rooted in the diversity of cultures humanity has shaped, creates an inner vacuum which is filled with manufactured identities of a fundamentalist kind. Instead of identities growing positively and holistically from a sense of place and culture, identities get engineered into negative identities, defined only as the negation of the other.

The spread of wars and ecologically and socially disruptive globalization is uprooting people everywhere. The ultimate unfolding of this logic based on negative identities is extermination of the other. Powerful actors who have unleashed wars in Afghanistan and Syria do not take responsibility for the uprooting and brutalization of communities. In just one year, from mid 2013 to mid 2014, 3 million refugees have been forced out of Syria, 2.6 million from Afghanistan, 1 million from Somalia, and .5 million from Sudan. And even those who could not leave their homes as refugees have been made cultural and economic refugees by robbing them of their security and stability. Brutalized human beings spread brutalization.

Samuel Huntington, famous for his ‘Clash of Civilizations’, got it wrong when he said ‘we can only know who we are, when we know who we hate’. In India, the exercise of breathing with consciousness, ‘pranayam’, invokes ‘so hum’ – ‘you are, therefore I am’. We sow the seeds of peace every time we remember and celebrate our dependence of the ‘other’. Being open to the ‘otherness’ of the other creates conditions of compassion, peace, and wellbeing of all.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

This is how the World Bank destroys economies.

Ground Reality - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 11:11
The moment you read an analysis like India to Become Fastest Growing Big Economy published in Wall Street Journal on Jan 14, 2015 (http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/01/14/world-bank-india-set-to-become-worlds-fastest-growing-big-economy/?mod=e2tw) you realise how the World Bank destroys economies.

The article is based on a World Bank analysis. It says: "The Washington-based development institution raised its forecast for India, saying growth in Asia's third largest economy would accelerate in the coming years even as much of the world is slowing down. The reason? New Delhi is implementing changes that will make the country's economy more efficient and vibrant."

This is almost similar to how the World Bank had eulogised the economic policies of the previous NDA regime that led to the coining of the popular slogan: Shining India. The political debacle the ruling party had suffered as a consequence drove them out of power for the next 10 years. That's a slogan the party does not want to be reminded of.

But then, World Bank has nothing to lose. At a time when the global economy is down in dumps, World Bank needs a saviour to justify its existence. Such is the desperation for increasing growth that countries like Britain and Italy have already started including prostitution and drug sales in its growth computations. That surely is some development that the world should be proud of !

Going the China path is being aggressively advocated for India while at a time China itself has changed its growth roadmap. Former Chinese President had acknowledged that 12 to 14 per cent GDP growth was unsustainable and China will try to operate at an average of 7 per cent or so. After all these years of phenomenal growth in manufacturing, China now faces a slump. Its manufacturing exports have come down by 2.3 per cent, and as a study shows its manufacturing is now becoming uncompetitive. The first Chinese manufacturing company has already moved offshore to Africa, and it is expected China will lose 85 million jobs to Africa in the next few years.  With agriculture destroyed deliberately, and with farm lands turning unproductive because of massive pollution and also with more fertile land forcibly acquired, the bigger question the world faces is: Who will feed China in the years to come?

China is the world's worst environmental disaster. World Bank would never talk about the dark side. The reason? The bigger the disaster, the higher is the GDP. That's not the path that India needs to follow. India should be able to carve out a sustainable pathway for itself rather than following blindly the World Bank prescription. It surely has the acumen to work out an economic model that meets the aspirations of the person at the extreme end, and at the same time not push the country's environment into a disaster mode. I am hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would see through the global design, and not bend backwards to adjust to the failed economic thinking. As Jospeh Stiglitz rightly says the world is witnessing economic madness.

Some years back, the then Chinese deputy Minister for Environment Pan Yue had in an interview to the German publication Der Spiegel (Mar 7, 2005) had said: 'The Chinese miracle will end soon'. I share this interview again with the hope there would be some sensible people who would understand the disastrous implications of the World Bank prescription. It's an interview that every policy maker must read:

The world has been dazzled in recent years by the economic strides being made by China. But it has come at a huge cost to the country's environment. Pollution is a serious and costly problem. Pan Yue of the ministry of the environment says these problems will soon overwhelm the country and will create millions of "environmental refugees.

SPIEGEL: China is dazzling the world with its booming economy, which grew by 9.5 percent. Aren't you pleased with this speed of growth?

Pan: Of course I am pleased with the success of China's economy. But at the same time I am worried. We are using too many raw materials to sustain this growth. To produce goods worth $10,000, for example, we need seven times more resources than Japan, nearly six times more than the United States and, perhaps most embarrassing, nearly three times more than India. Things can't, nor should they be allowed to go on like that.

SPIEGEL: Such a viewpoint is not exactly widespread in your country.

Pan: Many factors are coming together here: Our raw materials are scarce, we don't have enough land, and our population is constantly growing. Currently, there are 1.3 billion people living in China, that's twice as many as 50 years ago. In 2020, there will be 1.5 billion people in China. Cities are growing but desert areas are expanding at the same time; habitable and usable land has been halved over the past 50 years.

SPIEGEL: Still, each year China is strengthening its reputation as an economic Wonderland.

Pan: This miracle will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace. Acid rain is falling on one third of the Chinese territory, half of the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless, while one fourth of our citizens does not have access to clean drinking water. One third of the urban population is breathing polluted air, and less than 20 percent of the trash in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable manner. Finally, five of the ten most polluted cities worldwide are in China.

Read the full interview here: http://archive.dea.org.au/~deaorg/archive_site/node/64
Categories: Ecological News

India awakening to desi breeds. This will give boost to A2 milk consumption.

Ground Reality - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 14:51


India is finally waking up to the importance of its native cow breeds. After the Govt provided some funds for the Gokul Mission, Ministry of Agriculture is setting up two research stations for improve the neglected breeds. One is in Mathura, the location of the other is still not finalized. Rajasthan is the first State to appoint a Minister for Cow Affairs. Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar has signed a MoU with Gujarat under which semen of Gir cows will be made available for developing 100,000 cows of local breeds, including Haryanavi cattle. A few years back when I first talked of how Brazil has become the biggest exporters of Indian breeds of cows, not many could believe that the cows that roam the streets in our country feeding on all kinds of garbage could be the prized possession of farmers far away in Brazil. So much so that in August last year, a prized pure bred Gir progeny bull in Brazil was auctioned in equivalent of more than Rs 6 crore. It is generally believed that Indian cows are low in productivity. It is for this reason that Indian cows are despised at home. But over half a dozen Indian cow breeds – Gir, Kankrej, Ongole, Sahiwalamong others -- are doing exceptionally well in Brazil. Milk yield from Gir in Brazil has now crossed 70 litres. Ironically, semen of pure bred Indian breeds is now being imported from Brazil into India. But more recently, world over there is a growing awareness about the nutritional superiority of the milk of the native breeds. This is measured in the form of A2 milk. Sale of healthy A2 milk in Britain and Ireland has reached Rs 10- crore in just one year after its launch. A2 milk is now available in 1,000 stores across UK and Ireland, including big retailers like Tesco, Morrison and Co-op. In Australia and New Zealand, A2 milk is now the fastest growing with a share of 8 per cent of the milk market, the sales increasing by 57 per cent in a year. Pepsi Foods too has been on the forefront, and now plans to take A2 milk to the European market outside Britain. Meanwhile, China too has emerged as a strong market for A2 milk after the scandal surrounding the sale of spurious baby milk powder some years back. It is expected, China’s intake of A2 milk in the rapidly growing infant food market will double by 2020. You will ask me what is A2 milk? Well, A2 is actually a beta-casein protein in the milk – A2 allele gene – that makes milk healthy and nutritious. Or to put it simply it is a particular character in some cow breeds that makes it milk qualitatively superior than what you have been drinking. What makes it more significant and relevant for us is that most desi cows and buffalo breeds contain A2 allele gene. In other words, 100 per cent of milk of desi cattle breeds contains the A2 allele making it richer in nutrients and much healthier than the milk of exotic cattle breeds.If you are not drinking A2 milk, the chances are that in the long term you are likely to suffer from allergies, diabetes, obesity and cardio-vascular diseases. While the exotic cattle breeds may be producing higher milk but because of the concentration of A1 allele gene in their bodies, the milk they produce is much inferior in quality.Studies by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, have established the superiority of A2 milk in Indian breeds. In a detailed study scanning 22 desi breeds recently, it found A2 allele to be 100 per cent available in the five high-yielding milk breeds – Red Sindhi, Gir, Rathi, Shahiwal and Tharparkar.In the remaining breeds, the availability of A2 allele gene was 94 per cent. Comparatively, in the exotic breeds Jersey and Holstein Friesian, the availability of A2 allele gene is very low. The economic cost of promoting desi breeds is relatively much higher given the health advantages, especially in a population where diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, allergies, digestive disorders are on an upswing. Since A2 milk builds up immunity, it certainly offers a big advantage over the commonly sold milk. In India, I am sure consumers would be willing to pay a premium if Mother Dairy and Amul for instance is able to sell A2 milk in pouches. At the same time, promotion for A2 milk will help farmers shift to traditional breeds which very well integrate with natural farming systems. Promotion of A2 milk will also make hundreds of gaushalasspread across the State turn economically viable. #1. A2 Milk may be the answer for appalling child malnutrition, and deteriorating health of Indians ABPLive.in  Jan 14, 20142.  Cows of a different kind. Orissa Post. Jan 15, 2014. http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/150115/p8.htm
Categories: Ecological News

A-Z Agroecology & Organic Food Systems

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 08:06

Becket Films, December 2014

A-Z Agroecology & Organic Food Systems from Becket Films on Vimeo.

This video is about the A-Z of Agroecology and Organic Food Systems that is held for the whole month of September at Vandana Shiva’s Bija Vidyapeeth, Earth University, at Navdanya each year. We were there in September 2014, filming for our documentary about Vandana Shiva’s life story, The Seeds of Vandana Shiva. We are beginning to organise and edit our footage. You can learn more about our project at vandanashivamovie.com.

 

Students talk about the A-Z of Agroecology Course at Navdanya from Becket Films on Vimeo.

In September 2014, filming for our documentary, The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, we spent a few weeks with Dr. Shiva in Northern India. She was on her farm, Navdanya, for the annual A-Z of Agroecology course which takes place from September 1 to September 31 each year. One day we checked in with several of the participants, who share their thoughts about the A-Z course in this clip. For more about our film, go to vandanashivamovie.com.

More information:

Earth University: http://www.navdanya.org/earth-university

Courses: http://www.navdanya.org/earth-university/courses-in-2014-15

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Like Yoga, it’s time for an International Day of Safe Food

Ground Reality - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 17:39


Not only yoga, with health problems accentuating in the recent past, the trend is also increasingly moving towards safe food. But while the popularity of yoga received a shot in the arm when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion of celebrating an International Day of Yoga was accepted by the UN, safe food has yet to get a political backing.
Although Michelle Obama has taken to organic farming in the premises of the White House, and is known to serve chemical-free food to guests, she has still not been able to convince the UN to have a special day marked for safe food. Nevertheless, the preference and intake for non-chemical farm produce has grown globally over the years, and is growing at a phenomenal pace.
According to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2013 sale of organic food has grown by more than 25 per cent since 2008. While in the US it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14 per cent between 2014 and 2018; in India too, the growth looks very promising.
The Indian organic food market is likely to grow by a phenomenal annual compound growth rate of 19 per cent between 2012 and 2016.
Interestingly, not everyone keen on organic food is banking upon an organic certification. For several decades now I have seen farmers in Punjab and Haryana, comprising the wheat bowl of the country, keep a small patch of cultivated land free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers for home consumption. While they drench the crops meant for the market with whole lot of pesticides, they ensure safe food for their own consumption.
I have also watched with interest a silent food revolution taking place. In the entire northwestern parts of the country, more and more households are relying on organic wheat – the Sharbati variety – coming from Madhya Pradesh. The organic wheat that is being imported from MP comes with no certificate. It is only through goodwill and faith that people are willing to pay a higher price for what they are told is a better quality produce. The atta from Sharbati wheat is relatively expensive but people are willing to pay a price for healthy food.

Several years back, India Today (Oct 15, 2007) had reported on its growing appeal in the metros. In a report entitled Grains of Gold, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Grains+of+gold/1/1561.html) it wrote: "India's granary Punjab still produces the lion's share of the country's wheat. But when it comes to taste, quality and other attributes, Madhya Pradesh's Sharbati tops the charts in demand in the metros. The lustrous, golden-hued grain commands premium price, being re-christened golden or premium wheat in wholesale and retail markets of Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad or simply, MP wheat in major North Indian markets like Delhi.” 
The primary reason behind the increasing consumer preference for non-chemical food products are the resulting health impacts. More and more people now realize that most babies born today carry persistent pesticides and other chemicals in their bodies. Lately, scientists have found 21 different chemicals in umbilical cord blood. With lifestyle diseases becoming more and more common, people are linking it to the food they eat. So whether we like it or not, the world is quietly moving towards safe food.
This will require changes at two levels. First of all, there are essentially two kinds of improved crops that have been developed by agricultural scientists: the high-yielding varieties (HYV) that need chemical pesticides to be sprayed to take care of insects and pests; and the genetically-modified (GM) crops that creates poison within the plant to kill certain kinds of insects, and at the same time require potent chemicals to be sprayed from outside too keep the other pests under control. Agricultural scientists need to now shift research focus towards organic breeding of crop varieties, which means developing crop varieties that are responsive to organic farming methods. 
Secondly, it’s time that the government steps in to encourage farmers to move towards non-chemical agriculture. Every year, huge stocks of wheat in Punjab and Haryana are spoiled in storage. At the same time, huge quantity of Sharbati wheat is imported from Madhya Pradesh to meet the local demand.
You will agree it will make tremendous economic sense for the Punjab (and also for Haryana) governments to encourage farmers to grow wheat without chemicals to cater to the growing local preference rather than allow its chemically-infested wheat to rot. And I see no reason why this can’t be done. If Punjab government can provide a subsidy of Rs 4,000 per acre for the paddy farmers to shift to cotton cultivation, I am sure a similar amount can be provided to wheat farmers to shift from chemical farming to non-chemical farming.   
Source: Like Yoga, it's time for an International Day of Safe Food
Categories: Ecological News

Corporate fiction

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 01/07/2015 - 06:59

The Asian Age, 6 january 2014

Photo Kartikey Shiva

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/corporate-fiction-661

“To claim that by adding one gene a corporation creates the seed and all future generations of that seed is an ontological flaw, a scientific outrage and an ethical violation.”

As the New Year begins, I feel compelled to reflect on how fictions and abstract constructions are ruling us; the nature of being and existence is being redefined in such fundamental ways that life itself is threatened. When corporations that were designed as legal constructs claim “personhood”, then real people who stand in line at polling booths, eke out livelihoods, and raise families lose their rights.

This has happened recently in Vermont and Maui. Residents of Maui County, Hawaii voted on November 4 to ban the growing of genetically modified crops on the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai until scientific studies are conducted on their safety and benefits. Monsanto and Dow Chemical’s unit Mycogen Seeds have sued the county in federal court to stop the law passed by the people. And Vermont, which passed a GMO labelling law through a legal, democratic process, is being sued by a conglomerate of corporations on the false premise of corporate personhood, and the influence of money as corporate “free speech”.

This is at the heart of new free trade treaties based on “investor rights”. Denying citizens the right to know violates the fundamental principles of food democracy. Dow and Monsanto sued Maui, thus subverting the democratic process that rests on the will of people, not on the power of corporations. This corporate jurisprudence needs to be reversed if human rights and the rights of Mother Earth are to be protected.

Corporate fictions that have already had disastrous impacts on the biodiversity of the planet, nations and on farmers whose time immemorial rights to save and exchange seeds are being criminalised under patent law and new seed laws.

When biotechnology corporations claim to have “invented” the seed and courts and governments uphold this fiction, millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of agricultural history gets erased.

Seeds are not automobiles or circuit boards; life cannot be manufactured. It is not an invention. It is not engineered, piece-by-piece, by a worker on an assembly line. Living organisms are self-organised complexity. Chilean scientists Maturana and Varela differentiated between two kinds of systems autopoietic and allopoietic. Autopoietic systems are self-organised and make themselves. Allopoietic systems are put together externally. A seed is an autopoietic system constantly self-organising, evolving and adapting to changing contexts. To claim that by adding one gene a corporation creates the seed and all future generations of that seed is an ontological flaw, a scientific outrage and an ethical violation.

India’s laws have a clear articulation that biological and living systems are not inventions. Article 3(d) of India’s patent laws states clearly that the discovery of a new property or a new use of a known substance is not an invention.

When corporations claim ownership of a seed that contains a gene from a Bt-bacteria, it is, in fact, a new use of a known substance. When they introduce the gene into a plant by “shooting” the gene through a gene gun into the cell of a plant, the reproduction of the cells and the life cycle of the plant is a biological process. The biotech industry is not assembling the organism, nor are they assembling future generations of seeds.

Section 3(j) of Indian Patent Act is a legal interpretation of the scientific principle of the self-organisation of life. That is why the Appellate Board of the Indian Patent Office ruled in the case of Monsanto’s climate resilience patent application: “the claimed method is considered as a series of generic steps modified by the plant cell… In the case like the present which does not involve a simple leap from prior art to the invention but rather entails a journey with many generic method steps that are essentially biological taken in sequence and we have found the invention is not involving inventive step, mere fact of human intervention would not change the position as we have otherwise found it not patentable in view of obviousness and new use of known substance.”

While the Indian law recognises that seeds make themselves, including future generations of transgenic seed, which have a gene introduced from an unrelated organism, the American laws treat the transgenic seed as a “machine” invented by corporations. This position of seeds as machines and corporations as inventors was elaborated in the US Supreme Court case of Bowman vs Monsanto. Bowman had bought mixed soyabean seeds from a grain elevator and planted them. Monsanto claimed that the seed being planted to get a crop was not the natural reproduction of a seed sprouting into a plant, which then produced the next generation of seed. The US Supreme Court upheld Monsanto’s claim that the reproduction of the plants in Bowman’s fields was a “replication of a machine” invented and patented by Monsanto.

From the very beginning, Monsanto’s push for GMO seeds has been for claiming creation and ownership of seed.

India’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001, has a clause on farmers’ rights, which states, “a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this act.”

The US would like to force India to adopt a false science and laws that dictate that seeds have been created by Monsanto and are therefore Monsanto’s property.

US President Barack Obama will be the chief guest at our Republic Day celebrations. It is time to start a planetary dialogue and a civilisational exchange based on us all being part of the

Earth family; and based on our inalienable right to Swaraj, including “bija swaraj (seed democracy).

We hope Mr Obama’s visit will enhance and deepen the common freedoms of the people of India and the US, and not just the freedoms of corporations, which are undermining the freedoms of citizens in both countries and across the world.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

                          
Categories: Ecological News

TV Special with Dr. Vandana Shiva in Indonesia

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 01/06/2015 - 11:06

Face 2 face with Desi Anwar – Metro TV, broadcasted on Dec. 21st, 2014

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

More information: http://seedfreedom.info/hayu-patria-adam-breasley-our-seeds-our-future-a-journey-of-food-sovereignty-impact-grant-2014/

                          
Categories: Ecological News

FRANCE 24 – The Interview: Dr Vandana Shiva: ‘Cotton has become a seed of slavery’:

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 07:20

France24, 16 December 2014

Source: http://www.france24.com/en/20141216-the-interview-vandana-shiva-environmental-activist-india-farming-suicides-cotton/

She turned a local fight against deforestation in central India into a global campaign for food security and biodiversity. Dr. Vandana Shiva is a scientist, activist and eco-feminist. A book of interviews with her has just come out here in France, entitled “Vandana Shiva: For creative disobedience”. She speaks to FRANCE 24 about her struggle.

Watch video here: http://www.france24.com/en/20141216-the-interview-vandana-shiva-environmental-activist-india-farming-suicides-cotton/                           
Categories: Ecological News

A good year for agriculture, a bad year for farmers

Ground Reality - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 11:34
Despite a deficient monsoon, 2014 was a year of record agricultural production. But the buoyancy in production failed to translate into a higher income for farmers. It was a year of disappointment for farmers.

During the agricultural year 2013-24, which ended in June 2014, farmers produced a record harvest of 264.4 million tonnes of foodgrains. Not only in foodgrains, quantum jumps were also witnessed in the production of oilseeds, maize , cotton and pulses. Production of oilseeds reached a record high of 34.5 million tonnes, a jump of 4.8 per cent. Maize production increased by 8.52 per cent to reach a level of 24.2 million tones. Pulses production reached an all-time high of 19.6 million tonnes, an increase of 7.10 per cent over the previous year. Cotton production too touched a record high.
In Kharif 2014 too, despite the shortfall in monsoon rains, farmers produced a bumper crop of rice, maize and cotton.
With such record production, and that too at a time when monsoon had acted as a damper, the nation remains indebted to the virile and hardworking farmers. Despite being at the bottom of the pyramid, Indian farmers have not failed the nation. Probably knowing this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, promised to provide more income in the hands of farmers by implementing the Swaminathan Committee report. BJP had time and again reiterated its promise of ensuring farmers a 50 per cent profit over the cost of production.
But in reality, farmers were given a paltry increase of Rs 50 per quintal in the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy and wheat, which translates into an increase of 3.6 per cent, not even enough to offset the additional burden from the prevailing inflation rate at that point of time. On top of it, basmati rice and cotton witnessed a crash in its prices. While basmati rice production had doubled in Punjab and Haryana, an alarming dip in prices was observed. Disappointed farmers sold basmati at prices ranging between Rs 1600-2400 per quintal, against a price of Rs 3,261 to Rs 6,085 they got last year.
In cotton too, prices slumped from an average of Rs 4,400 to Rs 5,200 per quintal last year to around Rs 3,000 this year, prompting the government to direct the Cotton Corporation of India to step in to buy at the procurement price of Rs 3,750 per quintal. Let us not forget that the jump in basmati and cotton production happened as farmers had incurred an additional cost on diesel to run tube wells for irrigation. Punjab and Haryana had recorded a 50 per cent shortfall in monsoon. 
As if this was not enough, Ministry of Food had issued a directive asking State Governments not to provide any bonus over the MSP. In case, the State Governments continue to provide bonus, the Ministry will withdraw from procurement operations. State Governments have also been advised to reduce procurement in view of the excessive stocks in storage. In other words, farmers are being increasingly left to face the vagaries of the markets.  
With the Food Corporation of India (FCI) being made to gradually withdraw from procurement operations, Chhatisgrah, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab are witnessing a deliberate delay in procurement operations. Chhatisgrah, which had promised to buy ever grain of rice produced by farmers, had limited rice procurement to a maximum of 10 quintals per farmers. After protests, it agreed to buy 15 quintals per farmer. In Punjab, an inordinate delay in making spot payments to farmers is being seen as a subtle message to farmers not to produce more rice.
Coming at a time when farming is already faced with declining incomes and rising indebtedness, the failure to prop-up agriculture will only add to the exodus from the farm. With land acquisition made easier, and also extending it to multiple cropped areas, agriculture has become a sacrificial goat in the road to economic growth. All talk of economic reforms has so far remained confined to the industry. Agriculture does not figure at all on the economic radar screen of the country. The implications it will have on the country’s food security in the years to come are being simply glossed over.   
The continuing apathy is clearly visible from the significantly low budgetary provisions for agriculture year after year. In 2013, agriculture received 19,307-crore from the annual budget kitty (exceeding Rs 16 lakh-crore), which is less than 1 per cent of the total budget outlay. This year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley provided only Rs 22,652-crore to agriculture and cooperation departments. 

Source: 2014 -- A good year for agriculture, a bad year for farmers. ABPLive.in 
http://www.abplive.in/incoming/2014/12/31/article465644.ece/2014-A-good-year-for-agriculture-a-bad-year-for-farmers
Categories: Ecological News

The Spiritual Ecology

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 12/31/2014 - 23:01

By One World News, 29 December 2014

The Tibet House held its Annual Lecture at the India International Centre recently. The topic of the lecture was ‘Spiritual Ecology’. The speaker was Dr. Vandana Shiva, a renowned author and activist and the pillar of strength for Navdanya. Dr. Vandana Shiva has done tremendous work in the field of ecology, and she has been responsible for the conservation of more than two thousand rice varieties and the establishment of one hundred and eleven seed banks.

Dr. Vandana Shiva answering a question – Photo credit: Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews

She started by thanking the Tibet House for inviting her for the lecture. She then said, “It’s been thirty years since I started to look for nonviolent solutions to agricultural problems that had become very violent. The web of life is the web of how nutrients flow through life, so the web of life is a food web. She quoted one of the Upanishadas saying, “Everything is food. Everything is someone else’s food.” The web of life is web of nourishment and feeding.” She then adds that the need of the hour is “Good Farming”. The more space humanity leaves for other species to flourish, the more humanity does better for itself. She said that we have been made to believe that somehow we have to close the space for the other beings to increase our share. It is a very reductionist way of thinking. It is, sadly, the dominant paradigm of the age. She said that she got involved in ecology in the famous Chipko Movement. For her compassionate action is the most powerful action.

Introduction of Vandana Shiva – Photo credit: Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews

She further adds that what is being talked about as “Investment” is only being seen through the prism of monetary terms. That line of thought could be very dangerous. She is trained in Quantum Physics and that has helped her throughout her life. She said that Quantum Physics has taught her that everything that is connected to the world. What one does to one affects the other. She then went onto advocating the importance of soil and its fertility. The soil had more sentient beings than the upper part of the earth. Those beings continuously create fertility for the soil. If only the earth had earth worms, they would be producing far more fertility than all the factories and fertilizers put together. The use of Nitrogen Phosphorous Potassium (NPK) fertilizers have damaged the soil immensely. Everything that we use as a pesticide is absorbed by the plants and the soil. And that translates to violence against the body. What people call lifestyle diseases are actually diseases caused by the kind of food we eat.

Spiritual Ecology – Photo credit: Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews

She further added that because everything is connected we need to be very careful about how we treat our world. The Arab Spring, when started was just a protest for bread. There was a great drought in Syria and nearly 8 million people were displaced. The situation escalated and we saw what become of the situation. How violent are the consequences of the violence we do to the nature? The rise of rebels, the rise of ISIS. Everything is related.

The chair and the speaker with the conversation – Photo credit: Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews

In the end, she said that in recent times ‘Development’ is the buzz word for everything. The externalities, which is the cost not counted, on environmental in India from chemical farming is a mammoth 1.2 Trillion dollars every year. Imagine what we can do with that much amount of money. It’s even bigger than the size of food economy. The destruction is bigger than the economy of food. Organic farming is the single biggest issue to solve the problem of Global Warming. Because it takes the Carbon Dioxide out of the air and puts it where it belongs, in soil, in the process increasing the soil fertility. Everyone in their backyard have to be a part of the solution. Everyone can be a participator in the non-violent solution to this climate havoc.

The Director of Tibet House – Photo credit: Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews

Related post: http://www.navdanya.org/news/479-navdanya-an-experiment-in-non-voilent-farming-and-food

                          
Categories: Ecological News
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