Friday, 17 September 2010

Seminar Semi-subsistence farming in the EU

"Semi-subsistence farming in the EU: current situation and future prospects" The event has been re-scheduled for 13-15 October 2010, and will take place in Sibiu, Romania.

OPEN CALL for registration
Participation to the seminar is open and all those who wish to attend are invited to fill in the registration form available here.

Please note that:

•registrations will be accepted on first-come-first serve basis and will be closed when the expected number of participants is full. Therefore it is important to note that registration does not mean the place is guaranteed, and no travel or accommodation arrangements should be made before receiving a confirmation.
•the travel and accommodation are at participant's own cost
and have to be arranged by the participants themselves.
Content of the seminar
The main aim of the seminar is to assess the current situation regarding policies directed towards semi-subsistence farms in the EU-27, together with the challenges, needs and prospects they face, highlighting also their contributions to the rural environment and society.

The seminar will be attended by approximately 150 participants and the discussions are expected to contribute to a better understanding of the profile of semi-subsistence farmers needs and opportunities; and how semi-subsistence farms interact in society and with the environment. The results of the work are expected to contribute to a better targeting of rural policy interventions in different types of contexts.

Much of the seminar will be dedicated to in-depth parallel workshop sessions covering the following topics: semi-subsistence farming concepts and key issues, including understanding the meaning of the term in different Member States;

•wider implications of semi-subsistence farming for society and the environment, the delivery of environmental
•benefits, social issues including semi-subsistence farms as a social ‘safety net’;
•pathways for semi-subsistence farms, opportunities for and constraints to integration into the food chain,
•restructuring patterns for semi-subsistence farms and the potential importance of non-agricultural activities;
•the relevance of rural development policy instruments to semi-subsistence farms, EU rural development policy mechanisms available, how the available policy instruments are used in Member States and the impact of rural development policy on those farms;
•networking and semi-subsistence farming.

More information about the seminar can be found on:

Roundup link to birth defects

Groundbreaking study shows Roundup link to birth defects

International scientists confirm dangers of Roundup at GMO-Free Regions Conference in Brussels Brussels 16 September 2010 Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup, causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying and well below maximum residue levels in products presently approved in the European Union. This is reported in research (1) published by a group around Professor Andrés Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School and member of Argentina’s National Council of Scientific and Technical Research.
Carrasco was led to research the embryonic effects of glyphosate by reports of high rates of birth defects in rural areas of Argentina where Monsanto’s genetically modified “Roundup Ready” (RR) soybeans are grown in large monocultures sprayed from airplanes regularly. RR soy is engineered to tolerate Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the herbicide liberally to kill weeds while the crop is growing.
At a press conference during the 6th European Conference of GMO Free Regions in the European Parliament in Brussels Carrasco said, “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy.” Reporting of such problems started in 2002, two years after large scale introduction of RR soybeans in Argentina. The experimental animals share similar developmental mechanisms with humans. The authors concluded that the results raise “concerns about the clinical findings from human offspring in populations exposed to Roundup in agricultural fields.” Carrasco added, “I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low. In some cases this can be a powerful poison.”
The maximum residue level (MRL) allowed for glyphosate in soy in the EU is 20 mg/kg. The level was increased 200-fold from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg in 1997 after GM RR soy was commercialized in Europe. Carrasco found malformations in embryos injected with 2.03 mg/kg glyphosate. Soybeans can contain glyphosate residues of up to 17mg/kg.
In August 2010 Amnesty International reported that an organized mob violently attacked people who gathered to hear Carrasco talk about his research in the town of La Leonesa, Chaco province. Witnesses implicated local agro-industry figures in the attack.
Carrasco is also the co-author of a report, “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?” released on September 16 by a group of international scientists. The report documents a bulk of evidence in scientific studies on the harmful health and environmental impacts of GM RR soy and Roundup.
This report is released together with the testimonies of people who have suffered from such spraying. Viviana Peralta, a housewife from San Jorge, Santa Fe, Argentina was hospitalized together with her baby after Roundup spraying from planes flying near her home. Peralta and other residents launched a lawsuit that resulted in a regional court ban on the spraying of Roundup and other agrochemicals near houses.

(1) Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S.L., Carrasco, A.E. 2010. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9.
(2) GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?” is released on September 16 by Andrés Carrasco and eight other international scientists:


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

As expected

La Via Campesina denounces Gates Foundation purchase of Monsanto Company shares

Glendive, Montana. La Via Campesina (, a global peasant movement representing small farmers, landless workers, fisherfolk, rural women, youth and indigenous peoples, with 150 member organizations from 70 countries on five continents, has denounced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust s recent acquisition of Monsanto Company shares. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 1994 by Microsoft founder William H. Gates, and today exerts a hegemonic influence on global agricultural development policy. The Foundation channels hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that encourage peasants and farmers to use Monsanto's genetically-engineered (GE) seed and agrochemicals. In August the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the $33.5 billion asset trust endowment that funds the Foundation's philanthropic projects (and to which Bill & Melinda are trustees) disclosed that it purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto shares for just over $23 million.(1) According to Dena Hoff, a diversified family farmer in Glendive, Montana and North American coordinator of La Via Campesina, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust's purchase of Monsanto shares indicates that the Gates Foundation's interest in promoting the company's seed is less about philanthropy than about profit-making. The Foundation is helping to open new markets for Monsanto, which is already the largest seed company in the
world. Since 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has collaborated with the Rockefeller Foundation, an ardent promoter of GE crops for the world's poor, to implement the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which is opening up the continent to GE seed and chemicals sold by Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. The Foundation has given $456 million to AGRA, and in 2006 hired Robert Horsch, a Monsanto executive for 25 years, to work on the project. In Kenya about 70 percent of AGRA grantees work directly with Monsanto (2) , nearly 80 percent of Gates' funding in the country involves biotech, and over $100 million in grants has been made to Kenyan organizations connected to Monsanto. In 2008, some 30 percent of the Foundation's agricultural development funds went to promoting or developing GE seed varieties (3). In April the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and finance ministers from the US, Canada, Spain and South Korea pledged $880 million to create the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), managed by the World Bank to tackle world hunger and poverty. (4) In June GAFSP announced that it gave $35 million to Haiti to increase smallholder farmers access
to agricultural inputs, technology, and supply chains. (5) In May Monsanto announced that it donated 475 tons of seed to Haiti, which is being distributed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The administrator of USAID is Rajiv Shah, who worked at the Gates Foundation before being appointed by the Obama administration in 2009.

According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Haitian Peasant Movement of Papaye and Caribbean coordinator of La Via Campesina, it is really shocking for the peasant organizations and social movements in Haiti to learn about the decision of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to buy Monsanto shares while it is giving money for agricultural projects in Haiti that promote the companys seed and agrochemicals. The peasant organizations in Haiti want to denounce this policy which is against the interests of 80 percent of the Haitian population, and is against peasant agriculture - the base of Haitis food production.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also funds the US governments Feed the Future initiative, administered by the State Department. At a July 20 congressional subcommittee hearing on Feed the Future, executive vice president for Monsanto Gerald Steiner testified that Feed the Future is exciting not least because it recognizes both the business imperatives by which Monsanto and other companies must operate. "We want to do good in the world, while we also do well for our shareholders." Steiner mentioned Monsantos project to develop drought resistant maize for Africa, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.(6)

According to Hoff, Foundations, however well meaning, should not be setting food and agricultural policies for any nation of peoples. Democracy demands the informed participation of civil society to determine what is in the best interest of each nation's population. Doing well for
our shareholders seems an ulterior motive for meddling in the health and welfare of the planet and all its inhabitants in order to make a profit.

Perhaps not by coincidence, in July Monsanto's chief executive officer and president Hugh Grant purchased $2 million of company shares, and vice president and chief financial officer Carl M. Casale bought $1.6 million of shares. Grant and Casale have pocketed nice sums from selling Monsanto shares over the years. (7) Purchase of Monsanto shares by Gates, Grant and Casale could have been in anticipation of last weeks news that researchers published the genome for wheat, the staple grain for one-third of the world's population. For Monsanto, "a quality wheat genome map could potentially help in our efforts to bring better wheat varieties to farmers," said Monsanto. (8) In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $26.8 million to Cornell University to research wheat, and in May awarded $1.6 million to researchers at Washington State University to develop drought-resistant GE wheat varieties.(9)

The Gates Foundation continues to push Monsanto's products on the poor, despite mounting evidence of the ecological, economic and physical dangers of producing and consuming GE crops and agrochemicals. In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monsanto Co. vs. Geertson Seed Farms, its first case about a GE crop. The Court recognized that genetic contamination of
non-GE crops from transgene flow of DNA from GE crops, which occurs through the spread of pollen by wind and bees, is harmful and onerous to the environment and farmers. According to the web site of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AGRA and its partners have released more than 100 new varieties of improved seed across the [African] continent. (10)

La Via Campesina maintains that the best way to ensure healthy food, adapt to climate change, conserve soils, water and forests, and revitalize rural economies is with policies that promote food sovereignty and small-scale, agroecological farming systems the foundation of which is native seed varieties. The United Nations estimates that 75 percent of the world's plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers have abandoned native seed for genetically-uniform varieties offered by corporations such as Monsanto. Genetic homogeneity increases farmers vulnerability to sudden changes in climate and the appearance of new pests and diseases, while seed agrobiodiversity with native seed adapted to different microclimates, altitudes and soils is fundamental for adapting to climate change. Saving and replanting native seed increases agrobiodiversity and strengthens crops genetic plasticity (their capacity to adapt rapidly over
generations to changing growing conditions).

According to Henry Saragih, general coordinator of La Via Campesina in Jakarta, "La Via Campesina condemns this missappropriation of humanitarian aid for commercial ends and the privatization of food policies"