May 22 2008 - Posts on warmwell.com
May 22 2008 ~ mass death of bees in southern Germany blamed on insecticide
Farming Today reports that Germany has banned the use of "one of Europe’s most common pesticides. A mass death of bees in southern Germany is being blamed on an insecticide which is regularly applied to the seeds of crops like maize and oil-seed rape." The programme asked, "With Britain’s bees in sharp decline could farmers be unwittingly contributing to their mass death?"
Thanks to the Smallholders Online newsletter (No. 248), we read that ".... "Gaucho", a broad-spectrum insecticide made by the Germany-based chemical giant Bayer, was banned in France in 1999 due to its toxicity to bees and other forms of life -- including humans -- but its replacement, "Regent", from another German giant, BASF, is just as dangerous say beekeepers and biologists." More
Bill Wiggin asked DEFRA yesterday what research has been commissioned into beekeeping and bee health in the past few years - and what research is to be commissioned in each of the next five years. The flatness of Jonathan Shaw's answer seems oddly unsatisfactory in view of Albert Einstein's now much quoted remark that "if bees were to disappear, man would only have a few years to live"
The latest Foot and Mouth outbreak is in Equador. There is no question of mass slaughter nor even the automatic slaughter of the young bulls that are sick. "Measures applied: Quarantine, Movement control inside the country, Zoning. Vaccination in response to the outbreak (s) , Disinfection of infected premises/establishment(s), No treatment of affected animals" The affected farm has had "Quarantine .. applied on the farm and movement restrictions are implemented in the area. This event coincides with the beginning of the first phase of vaccination against FMD in 2008, which allows a better control of the disease."
May 22 ~ The threat of GM terminator seeds - back again
The practice of seed-saving and seed sharing is at the very heart of small-scale farming and central to the livelihoods of 1.4 billion people in the developing world. But its future – and the food security of those who rely on it – is now under serious threat. Sol Oyuela, the Environmental officer of Progressio, an international development charity which chairs the ‘UK Working Group on Terminator Technology’, writes in today's Guardian about the threat to the world's poorest farmers from "terminator" technology - genetic engineering that results in plants producing sterile seeds. The highly controversial technology is currently controlled by a temporary UN ban - but this is
"... now under threat from a powerful alliance of biotech companies and countries with vested interests.... We fear the ban will once again come under pressure at this week's UN summit on the convention on biological diversity in Bonn. ...the EU and, by implication, British taxpayers are contributing to the development of the technology through a £3.4m EU research project "Read Progressio's report "Against the Grain"
May 22 2008 ~ The relentless rise of the seed multinationals has already locked millions of farmers into buying commercialised seed
Extract from Progressio's report "Against the Grain"
"Seed industry concentration and market forces are undermining small-scale farming in developing nations. The facts are shocking:Read "Against the Grain"
The danger is that Terminator is the logical next step in seed companies’ bid to privatise plant life and would leave farmers with no choice at all...."
- As market demand for commercial crops rises, small producers are forced to abandon local and indigenous varieties.
- Seeds which people once saved now have to be sourced from seed companies while foodstuffs farmers once grew on their land now have to be bought from shops.
- The top 10 seed companies control 55% of the total commercial seed market.
May 22 2008 ~ "What is land for, what skills are necessary and where does the public interest lie?"
Even now that oil has surged past $133 a barrel, the consequences of the oil price surge are not waking us from the complacent dream of plenty. The FT quotes Jeffrey Currie of Goldman Sachs “This industry is experiencing severe long-term supply constraints, and the focus on speculators is missing the big picture..” As the FT says, concern is now "fast moving into the mainstream"
This is why we have been warning since 2004 on warmwell that to talk of a post-agricultural era is frankly suicidal for the UK.
Between 1997 and 2004 (can this really have been the last year of official figures?) 80,000 farmers and farm workers left agriculture. How many in the most recent four years? The recent parliamentary debate (see below) on supermarkets suggests that there are woefully few MPs who see the dangers of relying on supplies from abroad. Most continue to regard supermarkets as infinite food providers, and the provenance and supply of foodstuffs even now seems not to be any concern of the government. We are indeed sleepwalking into a crisis. In the words of Professor Tim Lang's recent City University London lecture
"What is land for, what skills are necessary and where does the public interest lie?"Even the EU is beginning to notice that waiting until 2013 to make changes will not do. We live and work in a finite global ecosystem, with exhaustible resources and capacities. How far must home food production decline before government and companies start seeing it as a real issue? Tim Lang says, "Why are we buying food from other people which should be feeding developing countries?”
May 22 2008 ~ " traditional farming practices....considered of high nature value"
A series of studies jointly realised by the WWF and the Dutch government were presented to the European Commission last Thursday. The WWF's Yanka Kazakova of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme said that small farmers "..make a significant contribution to securing environmental benefits and services, from biodiversity to drinking water and flood management. The fact that high nature value farmland payments exist at all in these rural development programmes is noteworthy," Ms Kazakova said. "Now they just need to be targeted more effectively." Focusing on the "economic viability" of farms effectively disqualifies subsistence and semi-subsistence farms. EU agricultural support is supposed to help precisely this sort of farming, but instead is mostly directed at large landowners and agribusiness. ( See article at Euobserver.com)
May 22 2008 ~ The CAP is not scheduled for a root and branch reform until 2013 - but...
The Independent gives details of EU proposals put forward yesterday by the Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel. It seems at last to be being accepted that there is an urgent need to accelerate food production, support "traditional" farms and encourage "high-quality" foods.
"...money would be shifted to rural development programmes, including attempts to encourage biodiversity and protect rivers and streams from pollution. Some could also go to new direct subsidies to smaller, traditional farms, producing high-quality foods. Set-aside payments would be abolished and dairy quotas eased and then abolished by 2015. If approved by the 27 EU governments, the plans would sharply cut the huge payments received by some high-profile landowners in Britain, including the Queen, the Duke of Westminster and the Duke of Marlborough. The Queen is believed to earn £500,000 a year from the CAP. Under yesterday's proposals, she would lose £80,000. It remains to be seen whether the British Government will accept the idea of "capping" ...."Read in full
May 22 2008 ~ Many are watching Brazil's reaction to the live export suspension and are backing a permanent ban on long distance transport of animals for slaughter.
As the "Handle with Care" campaign puts it, ".. there is no humane way to transport live farm animals long distances. And the live trade is totally unnecessary when chilled and frozen meat has been transported around the world for over 125 years." At present, 100,000 cattle a year endure a three-week land and sea journey from Brazil to Lebanon, during which many animals die from heat stroke, trauma and respiratory disease. . The Public Prosecutor of the Pará State in Brazil, Benedito Wilson Sá, is fighting to ban live animal exports from one of Brazil's busiest ports, Belém. Live exports are currently suspended. It is the first time ever that animal welfare has been a factor when halting live exports from a port. The Public Prosecutor also argued that live exports damage the environment, discourage tourism and are ruining the state's slaughterhouse industry. Although one appeal from the export industry has already been defeated, the temporary live export suspension won by Mr Wilson Sá still faces legal challenges. The London registered charity, World Society for the Protection of Animals, believing that the UK and other EU countries should be leaders in improving animal welfare, asks for names to attach to a letter to the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.
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