Category: Sustainability2


 

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July 27, 2015

by Rob Wallace

The notion of a neoliberal Ebola is so beyond the pale as to send leading lights in ecology and health into apoplectic fits.

Here’s one of bestseller David Quammen’s five tweets denouncing my hypothesis that neoliberalism drove the emergence of Ebola in West Africa. I’m an “addled guy” whose “loopy [blog] post” and “confused nonsense” Quammen hopes “doesn’t mislead credulous people.”

Scientific American’s Steve Mirksy joked that he feared “the supply-side salmonella”. He would walk that back when I pointed out the large literature documenting the ways and means by which the economics of the egg sector is driving salmonella’s evolution.

The facts of the Ebola outbreak similarly turn Quammen’s objection on its head.

Guinea Forest Region in 2014

Guinea Forest Region in 2014 (Photo Credit Daniel Bausch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The virus appears to have been spilling over for years in West Africa. Epidemiologist Joseph Fair’s group found antibodies to multiple species of Ebola, including the very Zaire strain that set off the outbreak, in patients in Sierra Leone as far back as five years ago. Phylogenetic analyses meanwhile show the Zaire strain Bayesian-dated in West Africa as far back as a decade.

An NIAID team showed the outbreak strain as possessing no molecular anomaly, with nucleotide substitution rates typical of Ebola outbreaks across Africa.

That result begs an explanation for Ebola’s ecotypic shift from intermittent forest killer to a protopandemic infection infecting 27,000 and killing over 11,000 across the region, leaving bodies in the streets of capital cities Monrovia and Conakry.

Explaining the rise of Ebola

The answer, little explored in the scientific literature or the media, appears in the broader context in which Ebola emerged in West Africa.

The truth of the whole, in this case connecting disease dynamics, land use and global economics, routinely suffers at the expense of the principle of expediency. Such contextualization often represents a threat to many of the underlying premises of power.

In the face of such an objection, it was noted that the structural adjustment to which West Africa has been subjected the past decade included the kinds of divestment from public health infrastructure that permitted Ebola to incubate at the population level once it spilled over.

The effects, however, extend even farther back in the causal chain. The shifts in land use in the Guinea Forest Region from where the Ebola epidemic spread were also connected to neoliberal efforts at opening the forest to global circuits of capital.

Daniel Bausch and Lara Schwarz characterize the Forest Region, where the virus emerged, as a mosaic of small and isolated populations of a variety of ethnic groups that hold little political power and receive little social investment. The forest’s economy and ecology are also strained by thousands of refugees from civil wars in neighboring countries.

The Region is subjected to the tandem trajectories of accelerating deterioration in public infrastructure and concerted efforts at private development dispossessing smallholdings and traditional foraging grounds for mining, clear-cut logging, and increasingly intensified agriculture.

The Ebola hot zone as a whole comprises a part of the larger Guinea Savannah Zone the World Bank describes as “one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world.” Africa hosts 60% of the world’s last farmland frontier. And the Bank sees the Savannah best developed by market commercialization, if not solely on the agribusiness model.

As the Land Matrix Observatory documents, such prospects are in the process of being actualized. There, one can see the 90 deals by which U.S.-backed multinationals have procured hundreds of thousands of hectares for export crops, biofuels and mining around the world, including multiple deals in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Observatory’s online database shows similar land deals pursued by other world powers, including the UK, France, and China.

Under the newly democratized Guinean government, the Nevada-based and British-backed Farm Land of Guinea Limited secured 99-year leases for two parcels totaling nearly 9000 hectares outside the villages of N’Dema and Konindou in Dabola Prefecture, where a secondary Ebola epicenter developed, and 98,000 hectares outside the village of Saraya in Kouroussa Prefecture. The Ministry of Agriculture has now tasked Farm Land Inc to survey and map an additional 1.5 million hectares for third-party development.

While these as of yet undeveloped acquisitions are not directly tied to Ebola, they are markers of a complex, policy-driven phase change in agroecology that our group hypothesizes undergirds Ebola’s emergence.

The role of palm oil in West Africa

Our thesis orbits around palm oil, in particular.

Palm is a vegetable oil of highly saturated fats derived from the red mesocarp of the African oil palm tree now grown around the world. The fruit’s kernel also produces its own oil. Refined and fractionated into a variety of byproducts, both oils are used in an array of food, cosmetic and cleaning products, as well as in some biodiesels. With the abandonment of trans fats, palm oil represents a growing market, with global exports totaling nearly 44 million metric tons in the 2014 growing season.

Oil palm plantations, covering more than 17 million hectares worldwide, are tied to deforestation and expropriation of lands from indigenous groups. We see from this Food and Agriculture Organization map that while most of the production can be found in Asia, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, most of the suitable land left for palm oil can be found in the Amazon and the Congo Basin, the two largest rainforests in the world.

Palm oil represents a classic case of Lauderdale’s paradox. As environmental resources are destroyed what’s left becomes more valuable. A decaying resource base, then, is no due cause for agribusiness turning into good global citizens, as industry-funded advocates have argued. On the contrary, agribusiness seeks exclusive access to our now fiscally appreciating, if ecologically declining, landscapes.

Food production didn’t start that way in West Africa, of course.

Natural and semi-wild groves of different oil palm types have long served as a source of red palm oil in the Guinea Forest Region. Forest farmers have been raising palm oil in one or another form for hundreds of years. Fallow periods allowing soils to recover, however, were reduced over the 20th century from 20 years in the 1930s to 10 by the 1970s, and still further by the 2000s, with the added effect of increasing grove density. Concomitantly, semi-wild production has been increasingly replaced with intensive hybrids, and red oil replaced by, or mixed with, industrial and kernel oils.

Other crops are grown too, of course. Regional shade agriculture includes coffee, cocoa and kola. Slash-and-burn rice, maize, hibiscus, and corms of the first year, followed by peanut and cassava of the second and a fallow period, are rotated through the agroforest. Lowland flooding supports rice. In essence, we see a move toward increased intensification without private capital but still classifiable as agroforestry.

But even this kind of farming has since been transformed.

The Guinean Oil Palm and Rubber Company (with the French acronym SOGUIPAH) began in 1987 as a parastatal cooperative in the Forest but since has grown to the point it is better characterized a state company. It is leading efforts that began in 2006 to develop plantations of intensive hybrid palm for commodity export. SOGUIPAH economized palm production for the market by forcibly expropriating farmland, which to this day continues to set off violent protest.

International aid has accelerated industrialization. SOGUIPAH’s new mill, with four times the capacity of one it previously used, was financed by the European Investment Bank.

The mill’s capacity ended the artisanal extraction that as late as 2010 provided local populations full employment. The subsequent increase in seasonal production has at one and the same time led to harvesting above the mill’s capacity and operation below capacity off-season, leading to a conflict between the company and some of its 2000 now partially proletarianized pickers, some of whom insist on processing a portion of their own yield to cover the resulting gaps in cash flow. Pickers who insist on processing their own oil during the rainy season now risk arrest.

The new economic geography has also initiated a classic case of land expropriation and enclosure, turning a tradition of shared forest commons toward expectations whereby informal pickers working fallow land outside their family lineage obtain an owner’s permission before picking palm.

Palm oil and Ebola

What does all this have to do with Ebola?

Fig. 1 Palm Oil and Ebola

Fig. 1 Palm Oil and Ebola

The figure at top left (of Fig. 1) shows an archipelago of oil palm plots in the Guéckédou area, the outbreak’s apparent ground zero. The characteristic landscape is a mosaic of villages surrounded by dense vegetation and interspersed by crop fields of oil palm (in red) and patches of open forest and regenerated young forest.

The general pattern can be discerned at a finer scale as well, above, west of the town of Meliandou, where the index cases appeared.

The landscape embodies a growing interface between humans and frugivore bats, a key Ebola reservoir, including hammer-headed bats, little collared fruit bats and Franquet’s epauletted fruit bats.

Nur Juliani Shafie and colleagues document a variety of disturbance-associated fruit bats attracted to oil palm plantations. Bats migrate to oil palm for food and shelter from the heat while the plantations’ wide trails also permit easy movement between roosting and foraging sites.

Bats aren’t stupid. As the forest disappears they shift their foraging behavior to what food and shelter are left.

Bush meat hunting and butchery are one means by which subsequent spillover may take place. But to move away from the kinds of Western ooga booga epidemiology that wraps outbreaks in such ‘dirty’ cultural cloth, agricultural cultivation may be enough. Fruit bats in Bangladesh transmitted Nipah virus to human hosts by urinating on the date fruit humans cultivated.

Almudena Marí Saéz and colleagues have since proposed the initial Ebola spillover occurred outside Meliandou when children, including the putative index case, caught and played with Angolan free-tailed bats in a local tree. The bats are an insectivore species also previously documented as an Ebola virus carrier.

Whatever the specific reservoir source, shifts in agroeconomic context still appear a primary cause. Previous studies show the free-tailed bats also attracted to expanding cash crop production in West Africa, including of sugar cane, cotton, and macadamia.

Indeed, every Ebola outbreak appears connected to capital-driven shifts in land use, including back to the first outbreak in Nzara, Sudan in 1976, where a British-financed factory spun and wove local cotton. When Sudan’s civil war ended in 1972, the area rapidly repopulated and much of the local rainforest—and bat ecology—was reclaimed for subsistence farming, with cotton returning as the area’s dominant cash crop.

Are New York, London and Hong Kong as much to blame?

Clearly such outbreaks aren’t merely about specific companies.

We have started working with University of Washington’s Luke Bergmann to test whether the world’s circuits of capital as they relate to husbandry and land use are related to disease emergence. Bergmann and Holmberg’s maps, still in preparation, show the percent of land whose harvests are consumed abroad as agricultural goods or in manufactured goods and services for croplands, pastureland and forests.

The maps show landscapes are globalized by circuits of capital. In this way, the source of a disease may be more than merely the country in which it may first appear and indeed may extend as far as the other side of the world. We need to identify who funded the development and deforestation to begin with.

Such an epidemiology begs whether we might more accurately characterize such places as New York, London and Hong Kong, key sources of capital, as disease ‘hot spots’ in their own right. Diseases are relational in their geographies, and not solely absolute, as the ecohealth cowboys chronicled by David Quammen claim.

Similarly, such a new approach ruins the neat dichotomy between emergency responses and structural interventions.

Some disease hounds who acknowledge global structural issues tend to still focus on the immediate logistics of any given outbreak. Emergency responses are needed, of course. But we need to acknowledge that the emergency arose from the structural. Indeed, such emergencies are used as a means by which to avoid talking about the bigger picture driving the emergence of new diseases.

The forest may be its own cure

There’s another false dichotomy to unpack—this one between the forest’s ecosystemic noise and deterministic effect.

The environmental stochasticity at the center of forest ecology isn’t synonymous with random noise.

Here a bit of math can help. A simple stochastic differential model of exponential pathogen population growth can include fractional white noise of an index 0 to 1 defined by a covariance relationship across time and space. An Ito expansion produces a classic result in population growth:

When below a threshold, the noise exponent is small enough to permit a pathogen population to explode in size. When above the threshold, the noise is large enough to control an outbreak, frustrating efforts on the part of the pathogen to string together a bunch of susceptibles to infect.

Never mind the technical details. The important point is that disease trajectories, even in the deepest forest, aren’t divorced from their anthropogenic context. That context can impact upon the forest’s environmental noise and its effects on disease.

How exactly in Ebola’s case?

It’s been long known that if you can lower an outbreak below an infection Allee threshold—say by a vaccine or sanitary practices—an outbreak, not finding enough susceptibles, can burn out on its own. But commoditizing the forest may have lowered the region’s ecosystemic threshold to such a point where no emergency intervention can drive the Ebola outbreak low enough to burn out on its own. The virus will continue to circulate, with the potential to explode again.

In short, neoliberalism’s structural shifts aren’t just a background on which the emergency of Ebola takes place. The shifts are the emergency as much as the virus itself.

In contrast to Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan—history as shit happens—we have here an example of stochasticity’s impact arising out of deterministic agroeconomic policy—a phenomenon I’ve taken to calling the Red Swan.

Here, sudden switches in land use may explain Ebola’s emergence. Deforestation and intensive agriculture strip out traditional agroforestry’s stochastic friction that until this point had kept the virus from stringing together enough transmission.

Under certain conditions, the forest may act as its own epidemiological protection. We risk the next deadly pandemic when we destroy that capacity.

Rob Wallace is an evolutionary biologist and public health phylogeographer currently visiting the Institute of Global Studies at the University of Minnesota. He also blogs at Farming Pathogens.

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Monarch Butterfly Populations Are Rising Again After Years In Decline

 

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

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This year, we have published several stories about the dwindling monarch butterfly populations and some of the efforts that have been made to save the species. New reports last week have indicated that these efforts may actually be paying off, because Monarch populations are actually beginning to grow again. In Mexico, one of the main breeding areas for these butterflies, scientists believe that this year there will be at least three times as many of them this year than there was last year.

During a recent conference at the Piedra Herrada research reserve, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that Mexico and the US will be working together to create pesticide-free zones for the butterflies to flourish.

“Mexico, the U.S., and Canada have many species that don’t know our political borders, that cross the borders freely,” she said during a conference at the Piedra Herrada research reserve, adding that the three countries will be working together to rebuild the populations.

She told the audience that they hope to see “225 million monarch butterflies returning right here to Mexico every year. We believe we can get there by working together and it sounds like we may be on our way, we hope.”

“We are very glad to report that calculations done before the landfall of Hurricane Patricia showed the monarch presence could cover up to four hectares, a clear indication that the efforts mentioned by Secretary Jewell are having a positive effect,” Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano said.

“We estimate that the butterfly population that arrives at the reserve is as much as three and could reach four times the surface area it occupied last season,” he added.

For years, environmental experts have been warning about the steady decline of monarch butterfly populations. The causes of this decline have been largely speculation until recently, but a new report suggests that Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup Ready could be responsible.

The report was recently released by US environment watchdog Center for Food Safety and sheds new light on what has been happening with monarch butterfly populations.

According to the report, Monsanto’s herbicide has wiped out 99 percent of milkweed in corn and soybean fields in the US Midwest since 1999.

This has resulted in a decline of nearly 90 percent in monarch butterfly populations in the past 20 years.

Without the milkweed, the butterfly’s food supply is entirely cut out because caterpillars eat only milkweed plants, and then milkweed is needed again when it is time for the butterfly to lay their eggs.

Although this is a very serious problem, it is something that the average person can help to solve. Anyone with some space in their lawn or garden can plant milkweed to help reverse the trend that Monsanto started.

Below are some PDF guides which give you step by step instructions on how to plant milkweed and create habitats for monarch butterflies:

  1. Planting Native Milkweed Species
  2. Avoiding Non-Native Species
  3. Create Habitat for Monarchs
  4. Gardening for Monarchs

 

John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com. This article (Monarch Butterfly Populations Are Rising Again After Years In Decline) was made available via

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True Activist Exposing the truth one lie at a time

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The Star

East end given iodine pills as nuclear disaster precaution

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JasonParis from Toronto, CanadaFrenchman’s Bay (Pickering – Bay Ridges)     Wikimedia.org

Residents and businesses within 10 kms of the the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations will receive potassium iodide pills, meant to protect in case of the nuclear disaster.

If you live in Durham Region or Scarborough, you may have just been mailed a package of pills in a calming sky blue box. Those pills are meant to protect you in the event of a nuclear disaster — a disaster that you, living within a sensitive 10km zone surrounding the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations, would be on the frontlines of.

“A serious nuclear accident is extremely unlikely,” says Ontario Power Generation (OPG) spokesperson Neal Kelly.

“(But) we worked with Toronto Health and Durham Health and we came up with a plan.”

200,000 homes and businesses have just received potassium iodide (KI) pills in a $1.5 million OPG-funded project that is being run in conjunction with Durham Region and the City of Toronto. Also known as RadBlock, the pills prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, thus reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. As a gas, radioactive iodine can travel quickly and is easily inhaled.

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Darlington_Nuclear_GS.jpg: Jason Spaceman derivative work: — Felix König  ……….Wikimedia.org

“It’s for one thing and one thing only — and that’s to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer,” Ken Gorman, Durham Region’s director of environmental health, says of the pills. The pills are not blanket anti-radiation medication, Gorman adds, and they should only be taken as directed immediately after a radioactive release.

“Radioactive iodine would only be one of the radioactive elements that could be released during an emergency-type situation.”

In 2014, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) ordered OPG to distribute the pills for free to everyone living and working within the nuclear plants’ 10 km “primary zones” by the end of 2015. In Toronto, that means pretty much everyone who lives east of Morningside Ave. Previously, the pills were available at local pharmacies, but few residents bothered to pick them up.

 

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Global Research

Poisoned Agriculture: Depopulation and Human Extinction

Agricultural-Engineer-On-Field-Examining-Ripe-Ears-Of-Grain-GMO-Test-Crop

There is a global depopulation agenda. The plan is to remove the ‘undesirables’, ‘the poor’ and others deemed to be ‘unworthy’ and a drain on finite resources. However, according to Rosemary Mason, the plan isn’t going to work because an anthropogenic mass extinction is already underway that will affect all life on the planet and both rich and poor alike. Humans will struggle to survive the phenomenon.

A new paper by Rosemary A Mason in the ‘Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry’, indicates that a ‘sixth extinction’ is under way (the Holocene extinction, sometimes called the Sixth Extinction, is a name describing the ongoing extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch – since around 10,000 BCE). In her paper, ‘The sixth mass extinction and chemicals in the environment: our environmental deficit is now beyond nature’s ability to regenerate’, she argues that loss of biodiversity is the most urgent of the environmental problems, as biodiversity is critical to ecosystem services and human health. And the main culprit is the modern chemical-intensive industrialised system of food and agriculture.

Mason asserts there is a growing threat from the release of hormone-disrupting chemicals that could even be shifting the human sex ratio and reducing sperm counts. An industrial agricultural revolution has created a technology-dependent global food system, but it has also created serious long-run vulnerabilities, especially in its dependence on stable climates, crop monocultures and industrially produced chemical inputs. In effect, farming is a principal source of global toxification and soil degradation.

Without significant pressure from the public demanding action, Mason argues there could little chance of changing course fast enough to forestall disaster. The ‘free’ market is driving the impending disaster and blind faith in corporate-backed technology will not save us. Indeed, such faith in this technology is actually killing us.

Since the late 1990s, US scientists have written in increasingly desperate tones regarding an unprecedented number of fungal and fungal-like diseases, which have recently caused some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species and which are jeopardizing food security. Only one paper dared to mention pesticides as being a primary cause, however.

Mason cites a good deal of evidence to show how the widespread use on agricultural crops of the systemic neonicotinoid insecticides and the herbicide glyphosate, both of which cause immune suppression, make species vulnerable to emerging infectious pathogens, driving large-scale wildlife extinctions, including essential pollinators.

Providing evidence to show how human disease patterns correlate remarkably well with the rate of glyphosate usage on corn, soy and wheat crops, which has increased due to ‘Roundup Ready’ crops, Mason goes on to present more sources to show how our over-reliance on chemicals in agriculture is causing irreparable harm to all beings on this planet. Most of these chemicals are known to cause illness, and they have likely been causing illnesses for many years. But until recently, the herbicides have never been sprayed directly on food crops and never in this massive quantity.

The depopulation agenda

Mason discusses how agriculture and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) fit into a wider agenda for depopulating the planet. She notes that on the initiative of Gates, in May 2009 some of the richest people in the US met at the home of Nurse, a British Nobel prize-winning biochemist and President (2003–10) of Rockefeller University in Manhattan, to discuss ways of tackling a ‘disastrous’ environmental, social and industrial threat of overpopulation. The meeting was hosted by David Rockefeller Jr. These same individuals have met several times since to develop a strategy in which population growth would be tackled.

The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was involved in extensive financing of eugenics research  in league with some of the US’s most respected scientists from such prestigious universities as Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. The explicit aim of the eugenics lobby funded by wealthy élite families, such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harriman and others since the 1920s, has embodied what they termed ‘negative eugenics’, the systematic killing off of ‘undesired bloodlines’.

RF funded the earliest research on GMOs, which Mason regards as part of the depopulation agenda. The RF funded the earliest research on GMOs in the 1940s and effectively founded the science of molecular biology.

Mason cites Steven Druker to show the fraud behind GMOs and how governments and leading scientific institutions have systematically misrepresented the facts about GMOs and the scientific research that casts doubt on their safety. Druker has shown that GMOs can have severe health impacts, which have been covered up.

The Royal Society is the preeminent scientific body within the UK that advises the government. It has misrepresented the facts about GMOs and has engaged in various highly dubious and deceptive tactics to promote the technology.

Druker wrote an open letter to RS as it has an obligation to the British public to provide a public response and ‘put the record straight’ on GMOs. Although Sir Paul Nurse’s presidency of Rockefeller University terminated in 2010, after he assumed the Royal Society presidency, Mason notes that Nurse is said to have maintained a laboratory on the Rockefeller campus and has an ongoing relationship with the university.

She asks: is that why Sir Paul was unable (or unwilling) even to discuss GMOs with Steven Druker? Was he sent to London by the Rockefeller Foundation to support the UK Government in their attempt to bring in GM crops? The UK Government and the GM industry have after all been shown to be working together to promote GM crops and foods, undermine consumer choice and ignore environmental harm.

Mason then goes on to discuss the impact of glyphosate residues (herbicide-tolerant GM crops are designed to work with glyphosate), which are found in the organs of animals, human urine and human breast milk as well as in the air and rivers. She documents its widespread use and contamination of soil and water and notes that the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer’s assessment of glyphosate being a 2A carcinogen (probably carcinogenic in humans) is unwelcome news for the agrochemical industry. She also notes that Roundup usage has led to a depletion of biodiversity and that loss of biodiversity is also correlated with neonicotinoids. However, despite the evidence, the blatant disregard concerning the use of these substances by regulatory agencies around the world is apparent.

To provide some insight into the impact on health of the chemical-intensive model of agriculture, Mason shows that in the US increases in Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, breast cancer, oesophageal cancer, congenital anomalies and a growing burden of disability, particularly from mental disorders are all acknowledged.

She claims that plans are under way to depopulate the planet’s seven million plus people to a more manageable level of between 500–2000 million by a combination of means, including the poisoning and contamination of the planet’s food and water supplies via chemical-intensive industrialised agriculture. Mason also notes that health-damaging GMOs are being made available to the masses (under the guise of ‘feeding the poor’), while elites are more prone to eat organic food.

We may be gone before planned depopulation takes hold

Although Mason cites evidence to show that a section of the US elite has a depopulation agenda, given the amount of poisons being pumped into the environment and into humans, the thrust of her argument is that we could all be extinct before this comes to fruition – both rich and poor alike.

In concluding, she states that the global pesticides industry has been allowed to dominate the regulatory agencies and have created chemicals of mass destruction that can no longer be controlled. She has some faith in systems biology coming to the fore and being able to understand the complexity of the whole organism as a system, rather than just studying its parts in a reductionist manner. But Mason believes that ultimately the public must place pressure on governments and hold agribusiness to account.

However, that in itself may not be enough.

It is correct to highlight the poisonous impacts of the Rockefeller-sponsored petrochemical ‘green revolution’. It has uprooted indigenous/traditional agriculture and local economies and has recast them in a model that suits global agribusiness. It is poisoning life and the environment, threatening food security across the globe and is unsustainable. The ‘green revolution’ was ultimately a tool of US foreign policy that has been used in conjunction with various institutions like the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation. GMOs represent more of the same.

In this respect, Mason follows the line of argument in William F Engdahl’s book ‘Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation’, which locates the GM issue and the ‘green revolution’ firmly within the context of empire. Engdahl also sees the Rockefeller-Gates hand behind the great GMO project to a sinister eugenicist strategy of depopulation.

Mason’s concerns about depopulation therefore should not be dismissed, particularly given the record of the likes of the Gates and Rockefeller clans, the various covert sterility programmes that have been instituted by the US over the decades and the way agriculture has and continues to be used as a geopolitical tool to further the agendas of rich interests in the US.

To understand the processes that have led to modern farming and the role of entities like Monsanto, we must appreciate the geopolitics of food and agriculture, which benefits an increasingly integrated global cartel of finance, oil, military and agribusiness concerns. This cartel seeks to gain from war, debt bondage and the control of resources, regardless of any notions relating to food security, good health and nutrition, biodiversity, food democracy, etc.

Food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma notes the impacts in India:

“India is on fast track to bring agriculture under corporate control… Amending the existing laws on land acquisition, water resources, seed, fertilizer, pesticides and food processing, the government is in overdrive to usher in contract farming and encourage organized retail. This is exactly as per the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the international financial institutes.”

In Punjab, India, pesticides have turned the state into a ‘cancer epicentre‘. Moreover, Indian soils are being depleted as a result of the application of ‘green revolution’ ideology and chemical inputs. India is losing 5,334 million tonnes of soil every year due to soil erosion because of the indiscreet and excessive use of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research reports that soil is become deficient in nutrients and fertility.

And now, there is an attempt to push GM food crops into India in a secretive, non-transparent manner that smacks of regulatory delinquency underpinned by corrupt practices, which suggests officials are working hand in glove with US agribusiness.

As smallholders the world over are being driven from their land and the GMO/chemical-industrial farming model takes over, the problems continue to mount.

The environment, the quality of our food and our health are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and a type of looting based on something we can loosely regard as ‘capitalism’. The solution involves a shift to organic farming and investment in and reaffirmation of indigenous models of agriculture. But ultimately it entails what Daniel Maingi of Growth Partners for Africa says what we must do: “… take capitalism and business out of farming.”

It must also entail, according to Maingi, investing in  “… indigenous knowledge and agroecology, education and infrastructure and stand(ing) in solidarity with the food sovereignty movement.”

In other words, both farmers and consumers must organise to challenge governments, corrupt regulatory bodies and big agribusiness at every available opportunity. If we don’t do this, what Mason outlines may come to pass.

 

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Announced non-GMO vanilla in time for holidays
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by Christina Sarich
Posted on October 28, 2015
 I’d certainly like to bake some holiday cookies without GMOs, and when I initially heard McCormick would be rolling out a non-GMO vanilla, I thought it was pretty cool that like other food companies, McCormick is listening to its customers about what they really want in their food.

The company:

“…announced plans to take a leadership position in Organic and Non-GMO herbs and spices ahead of the peak holiday season.”

Unfortunately, the company says that it will be calling their vanilla non-GMO and only verifying this through their normal supply chain, and not necessarily through any transparent means, such as through the Non-GMO Project.

McCormick also claims that over 70% of all McCormick branded spices will be transitioning to either organic or non-GMO. Lori Robinson, Vice President of Corporate Branding, confirmed via an email to Project NOSH that the Non-GMO Vanilla extract will only be ‘verified’ through the company itself, but that they have considered going through the verification process via the Non-GMO Project.

All that the company claims isn’t necessarily up to standard, though. When a July study found that many dried oregano products made by McCormick contained fillers, they quickly issued a statement touting their “field to bottle” sourcing and that all of its oregano products are tested for purity and then “gently” dried to preserve flavor and color. That still doesn’t account for unnecessary fillers.

 

 

 

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Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

 

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‘A Pipeline Straight to Jail’

Posted on Oct 11, 2015

By Chris Hedges

Boris Franklin in a classroom at Rutgers. When he was in prison, he was a student under the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP), and he is now attending Rutgers under the university’s Mountainview Program. (Michael Nigro)

The defeat of the Harvard University debate team by a team from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskills elucidates a truth known intimately by those of us who teach in prisons: that the failure of the American educational system to offer opportunities to the poor and the government’s abandonment of families and children living in blighted communities condemn millions of boys and girls, often of color, to a life of suffering, misery and early death. The income inequality, the trillions of dollars we divert to the war industry, the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas and the refusal to invest in our infrastructure wrecks life after innocent life.

I spent four years as a graduate student at Harvard University. Privilege, and especially white privilege, I discovered, is the primary prerequisite for attending an Ivy League university. I have also spent several years teaching in prisons. In class after class in prison, there is a core of students who could excel at Harvard. This is not hyperbolic, as the defeat of the Harvard debate team illustrates. But poverty condemned my students before they ever entered school. And as poverty expands, inflicting on communities and families a host of maladies including crime, addiction, rage, despair and hopelessness, the few remaining institutions that might intervene to lift the poor up are gutted or closed. Even when students in inner-city schools are not the targets of racial insults, racism worms into their lives because the institutions that should help them are nonexistent or deeply dysfunctional.

I stood outside a prison gate in Newark, N.J., at 7 a.m. last April 24. I waited for the release of one of my students, Boris Franklin, who had spent 11 years incarcerated. I had ridden to the gate with his mother, who spent her time reading Bible verses out loud in the car, and his sister. We watched him walk down the road toward us. He was wearing the baggy gray sweatpants, oversize white T-shirt and white Reeboks that prisoners purchase before their release. Franklin had laid out $50 for his new clothes. A prisoner in New Jersey earns $28 a month working in prison.

 

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End Of The American Dream

The American Dream Is Becoming A Nightmare And Life As We Know It Is About To Change

American Flag - Proud To Be An American - Public DomainIs the United States an “exceptional” nation?  Well, the facts show that we are, but not for the reasons that you may think.  Now that it is election season, we have all sorts of politicians running around proclaiming that America is the greatest nation on the entire planet.  And just this week, Warren Buffett stated that “America’s great now — it’s never been greater“.  But is it actually true?  Is the United States still a great nation?  I would submit that the numbers suggest otherwise.  I love America, and in my opinion there is not much hope for us until we are willing to admit to ourselves just how far we have fallen.  The following are 36 facts that prove that the United States is an “exceptional” nation…

#1 According to a brand new report that was just released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has the fattest population in the entire industrialized world by a wide margin.

#2 That same report from the OECD also found that we are number one in child obesity.  In fact, at 38 percent our rate of childhood obesity is even higher than our overall rate of obesity.

#3 According to USA Today, the obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled over the past 25 years.

#4The Washington Post has reported that Americans spend an average of 293 minutes a day watching television, which is the most in the world by a wide margin.   And as I have discussed previously, more than 90 percent of the “programming” that we absorb is created by just 6 enormously powerful media corporations.

#5 One study found that the average American spends more than 10 hours a day using some sort of electronic device.

#6 By the time an American child reaches the age of 18, that child will have seen approximately 40,000 murders on television.

#7 The average young American will spend 10,000 hours playing video games before the age of 21.

#8 Out of 22 countries studied by the Educational Testing Service, Americans were dead last in tech proficiency, dead last in numeracy and only two countries performed worse than us when it came to literacy proficiency.

#9 In more than half of all U.S. states, the highest paid public employee in the state is a football coach.

#10 The percentage of wealth owned by middle class adults is lower in North America than it is anywhere else in the world.

#11 Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

 

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© Andrea Comas
A school district in Tennessee voted to cancel classes and shut down its schools as a result of a budget problem that has left the government unable to fund the facilities. The school director blamed Obamacare for its problems.

Clay County, Tennessee operates three schools total – one high school and two that cover pre-kindergarten through eighth grade – on a $9.5 million budget. However, now more than 1,100 students are sitting at home while officials try to figure out how to reopen the doors. A school board meeting last week saw the board voting 6-4 to close the schools. A separate vote to keep them open failed.

Notably, the county’s financial issues are not new. Clay County Director of Schools Jerry Strong told Associated Press that officials have been struggling with the budget for three years, and blamed county obligations such as state and government mandates, particularly the Affordable Care Act, for the monetary hole.

“Clay County’s inability to generate the revenue to offset the mandates is what’s caused this to come to a head,” he said.

 

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Uploaded on Dec 5, 2007

Peak Moment 87: In summer 2006 Judy Alexander embarked on an experiment to see how much food she could grow, and how many neighbors could benefit, from the garden around her house. Check out her homegrown rainwater collection and irrigation system – watering her 60+ edible crops. Meet the bees, the chickens and the worms. And catch her joy in producing so much food for so little effort.

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organic

(NaturalNews) Some organic food experts are worried that the term used to describe non-genetically modified crops and produce may soon become nearly meaningless, thanks in large part to undue (read corporate) influence on the Department of Agriculture.

According to Jerome Rigot, PhD, writing in a blog posted at the Cornucopia Institute, which promotes food safety backed by science, it may no longer be accurate to rely on the USDA’s “organic” labeling as remaining “true to its mandate of assuring consumers that food under this label is truly healthy and grown or raised with minimal impact to the environment,” as well as respecting “the health and well-being of the workers and animals involved.”

Rigot notes that, among other concerns, Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently downgraded its rating of the Agriculture Department’s organic seal and label. The director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Center for the magazine, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, testified to the National Organic Standards Board in late 2014: “Organic is slipping. And as a result, we have downgraded its rating from highly meaningful to meaningful.” He further noted that the rule of the magazine “is to help educate people about what organic means as well as what it doesn’t mean.”

Regarding these concerns, Rigot wrote:

As an example, the Cornucopia Institute filed formal legal complaints with the USDA in December 2014 against 14 giant poultry and dairy CAFOs (read: concentrated animal feeding operations or “factory farms”) for allegedly violating the USDA organic regulations requiring outdoor and pasture access. Each complaint was summarily dismissed, without an investigation, by the enforcement division of the National Organic Program (NOP), which stated, “The NOP has reviewed these complaints and has determined that investigation is unwarranted.”

Inept, corporatists or lobbyists

The determination was odd, says Rigot, because literally hundreds of high-res photos, satellite imagery and state regulatory documents were submitted as evidence to the NOP which, together, should have produced more than enough doubt to motivate someone to launch an investigation.

A former NOSB board member who manages the country’s first certified organic dairy farm, Kevin Englebert, was clearly disappointed by the NOP decision, seeing it as a lapse of the organization’s responsibilities.

“For the NOP to not even investigate these facilities means one of three things: 1) the personnel who made that decision are inept, 2) they are too close and friendly with corporate lobbyists and multimillion-dollar certifiers that are involved in the process, or 3) the most likely scenario, corrupt politicians are preventing them from enforcing the law,” he said, as quoted by Rigot, who intimated that elements of all three reasons might be at play.

He noted that the National Organic Program is a very small part of the Agriculture Department. However, many large corporations have a significant vested interest in organic foods, especially the processed foods industry (including General Mills, Smuckers, Coca-Cola, etc.), and similar to GMO corporations, they’ll do whatever it takes to expand their bottom line.

“Circumstantial evidence makes it reasonable to conclude that the same type of undue industry influence that appears to have prevented Vilsack and the USDA from acting quickly to end the Salmonella outbreak [in 2014] and limit the health toll is behind efforts to dilute the federal organic standards, control the NOP leadership, and limit or obstruct the ability of the congressionally authorized National Organic Standard Board from doing its job efficiently and with integrity,” Rigot wrote.

For more breaking news regarding organic agriculture, check out Organics.news, powered by FETCH.news.

Compromised board members

In September 2014, we reported that the Cornucopia Institute had conducted a study to examine the voting records and backgrounds of the 15 members of the NOSB.

The board is an advisory body created by the secretary of agriculture to make recommendations aimed at preserving and protecting the organic farming industry. What’s more, the board is also required to maintain and update the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances – a list that identifies substances and other compounds that cannot be used in organic crop and livestock production.

The NOSB’s seats are supposed to be filled with members representing farmers, environmentalists, public interest advocates, handlers, retailers, scientists and a USDA certifying agent. However, Cornucopia found in its study that corporate representatives were filling seats intended for farmers and other independent organic industry stakeholders, often leading to decisions that were not beneficial to the organic food and livestock industry.

Details surrounding that study are posted here.

Sources:

Cornucopia.org

NaturalNews.com

AMS.USDA.gov

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