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Smallholders Online Newsletter  Number 251
12 June, 2008

"Big business is killing small farming. By extending intellectual property rights over every aspect of production, and by developing plants that either won't breed true or don't reproduce at all, big business ensures that only those with access to capital can cultivate."
George Monbiot, The Guardian 10 June 2008

Section Index

Editor’s Corner

Featured Article 

Positive News



Bird Flu

Genetic Engineering Contamination of Food


Pesticide Residue

Global Warming/Climate Change

Letters to the Editor


Public Announcements

On the Light Side

Editor's Corner

Dear Readers,

That supermarkets are cheaper is a myth.  Of course, there are loss-leaders, specials which put local opposition out of business.  An example is bread.  Once you pass by the most frequently purchased goods and get further down the aisles you will find that prices are higher than your local greengrocer.  Buying local is actually a vote for a sustainable future and a vote for self-sufficiency and food security.  

Further consolidation of wealth and power
The Telegraph

"British high streets have lost nearly 3,000 greengrocers over the last decade, new figures have shown, highlighting the dramatic decline of traditional shops and forcing customers to pay more for their fruit and vegetables.

The closures highlight the 'slow death' of the British high street, which has been caused by the growing power of supermarkets and the increasing costs of running an independent business."

We may have thought the consolidation of wealth and power of the supermarkets had levelled off, but this is not the case.  How sad that in human society food is a commodity rather than a right.  This, of course is not new, but the impact this century is devastating as never before in the history of our species.  Will the high cost of petrol favour the small and local or is it too late?
Read the entire article Here

Best wishes,


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Featured Article 

Mary Critchley - the unsung heroine of

"This website has served as a rapier, puncturing the bladder of Government obfuscation, by publishing a highly informed, topical digest of news..."
Country Life editorial

" amazing labour of love...It has an extraordinarily complete, very up-to-date 'library' of daily news cuttings, reports, inquiry submissions and visits, Hansard speeches, letters from individuals, etc, etc" " invigorating and bold adventure.."   Countryside Alliance
In the spring of 2001, during the darkest hours of the FMD crisis, a new light began to shine when the Warmwell website first appeared on our computer screens. It was set up by Mary Critchley, who became so concerned about what was happening that she realised the need for a one-stop independent source of information to counter the often innaccurate and misleading media coverage of events. The website quickly established a formidable reputation for accuracy and behind-the-scenes detail that was difficult to find elsewhere. Updated several times a day when events were moving fast, Warmwell became central to the struggle of many farmers to save their livestock from needless slaughter, and played a key role in the more protracted struggle to bring scientific truths into the public domain.

That struggle continues to this day, and astonishingly, so does Warmwell. Throughout the intervening years, Mary has continued to run her website from a laptop, single-handed and unfunded, updating daily on a variety of issues. In so doing, she has shown an extraordinary commitment and tenacity that leaves we lesser mortals floundering in her wake. Her motivation seems simply to be a powerful sense of right and wrong, and a desire for honesty, openness and transparency in all things.

Rosie and I have had the pleasure of meeting Mary on two occasions; at the Bristol conference on FMD, and at the meeting that she organised at the Houses of Parliament to oppose the Animal Health Bill. How she found the additional time and energy, not only to attend conferences, but even to organise meetings that cut across political and scientific divides, I just don't know.
Opposition to entrenched positions adopted by those in authority is always a thankless task, but it is crucially important that informed opinion speaks out. I do believe that her outstanding contribution has made a difference, and that the progress made since 2001 on many fronts, whilst painfully slow, may not have happened at all without Warmwell.
Last week, I asked Mary via e-mail if she felt that "we" had collectively made any progress since 2001. This was her reply:
"One positive thing is the growing realisation that FMD was dreadfully badly handled in 2001 - whereas when we were trying to put in a word for sanity seven years ago, many people including farmers, thought we were wrong.  I can't blame them.  It is so comforting to put one's trust in the establishment and in far-off departments. Another is your own work in making smallholding seem so relevant and now that food security is at last in people's minds I think we might be seeing some real progress.  All the little blobs of mercury are joining up."
Unfortunately we both know how power can blind our leaders to the truth on the ground.  The people who get hooked on the narcotic of power are also those who seem to have had their common sense and humanity surgically removed.  Poor deluded David King, on yesterdays' Material World, said of 2001,
"We changed the policy and brought foot and mouth under control and the Cabinet was somewhat grateful..."

and yet did not fall dead on the spot.  He has no antennae and his assumption of his own automatic right and wisdom did the country a tragic disservice in his time as CSA - and yet no one would say it was deliberate callousness, poor man.  He is not a virologist and there are no virologists above the simple laboratory technicians in DEFRA  and no real virologist experts advising the government.

In 2001, as we know,  the real experts were ignored and one can only assume that this was and is out of arrogance.   Acknowledging ignorance and changing direction seems  to  those in power an unforgivable confession of weakness.  Even after the fiasco of 2001 this is still the case. That there is still no one with any field experience or expertise in vaccination against FMD advising the department is absolutely extraordinary when the quality of the modern vaccine make it such a potent tool for ending infection and preserving stock and livelihoods. Those  who are advising the government show such ignorance about vaccines and about the existing technologies for rapid diagnosis in the field that it is almost beyond belief."

I also asked if we will ever see a humane and informed official attitude to animal disease control:

"Until Bluetongue came along and forced both the EU and farmers to look again at the issue of vaccination I was not optimistic. Isn't it ironic that the bluetongue vaccines everyone now clamours for are untried - and yet the FMD vaccines , so advanced and safe, can only be "considered"?  That FMD vaccination protects animals  has been shown over and over again in other parts of the world - but, as you know of course,  the resistance to it rests on two things: a belief in "carriers" and the economic penalisation of the EU rules.  At Brussels last October, in the session in the EU Parliament, I asked about both.  Commissioner Albert Laddomada's reply drew groans from many of us, showing as it did his refusal to reconsider the scientific basis for the received wisdom behind both the notion of carriers and for the penalisation of vaccinates.  It is, of course, mere protectionism.  The EU wants to protect its trade. Meat producers are scared of the complicated rules for treatments demanded from vaccinated animals and are not able to get to grips with the issue.  The whole issue is certainly very hard to follow - (the language of  such regulations is labyrinthine) and DEFRA's personnel often do not seem up to the job of understanding, explaining nor - most important of all - of trying to get the rules changed.

The bottom line seems to be a delusion among those holding the purse strings that farming doesn't matter and that we can always import cheap food from abroad. I keep returning to this grim nonsense.  The present crisis of fuel and food looks to me to be a permanent crisis and  there are even signs that this is at last dawning on the government.  But papering over the cracks won't do.  A radical change in the way we produce food and protect our livestock is going to be a survival issue sooner or later. Which is why I am so enthusiastic about the Transition Initiative and about smallholding generally.  I am so cheered by those on the ground who resist the lure of power and just get on with the job of growing food and caring for people and animals.  Take the splendid Rob Hopkins of the Transition Town Initiative who, having sown the seed of enthusiasm for a renaissance of self-sufficiency and nurtured it with such skill,  always wants to slip quietly into the background.  His Transition Handbook encapsulates not only practical ideas of getting communities to look after themselves, but is also a brilliant blueprint for how to get people, from the grass roots upwards, to want to take responsibility.  A million miles from the top-down mindset of DEFRA and co."

A few years ago, Mary moved from the UK to a cottage in France, where she is about to take over an adjacent small patch of sloping ground to cultivate as a garden. She has even hinted that this new venture may occupy her time and energies to the extent that it might affect the future of the website. Knowing the depth of Mary's commitment, somehow I doubt this! But if the new garden should finally displace Warmwell from the central position it has occupied in her life for the last seven years, that would be a fitting climax to an extraordinary personal journey.

Alan Beat

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Small Farming more Productive

George Monbiot
The Guardian
Tuesday, 10 June, 20008

"Though the rich world's governments won't hear it, the issue of whether or not the world will be fed is partly a function of ownership. This reflects an unexpected discovery. It was first made in 1962 by the Nobel economist Amartya Sen, and has since been confirmed by dozens of studies. There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield.

In some cases, the difference is enormous. A recent study of farming in Turkey, for example, found that farms of less than one hectare are 20 times as productive as farms of more than 10 hectares. Sen's observation has been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. It appears to hold almost everywhere.

The finding would be surprising in any industry, as we have come to associate efficiency with scale. In farming it seems particularly odd, because small producers are less likely to own machinery, less likely to have capital or access to credit, and less likely to know about the latest techniques."

Read the entire article Here

6 June, 2008

Eight 'clone farm' cows born in Britain - and their meat could be on sale in months

By Sean Poulter
Daily Mail (on Sunday)

"Their mother is a clone – created in a U.S. laboratory with cells taken from the ear of a prize-winning animal.

Meat or milk from the calves, flown into Britain as frozen embryos and implanted into a surrogate, could be on sale here within months. Though food from clones is barred from the food chain, there are no legal safeguards over their offspring.

Details of the births came as a study found an overwhelming majority of consumers object to all 'clone farm' plans."

"......The food and farming department DEFRA has been accused of shocking complacency over clone farming.

Its officials admitted yesterday that they had no idea how many clone offspring are on British farms.

Four of the calves were born at Smiddiehill Holsteins in Albrighton, Shropshire.

This herd has since been broken up and sold and it is not known where the animals are now.

The FSA study, conducted by analysts at Creative Research, is the first in-depth investigation of public attitudes to clone farming."

"......It found that the more consumers learned about cloning, the more they objected. Authorities in the U.S. gave their approval to clone farm food in January.

There are suggestions that meat and milk from clones or their offspring could soon be in shops and restaurants there.

As the law stands, there is nothing to stop this food being imported to the UK without any controls or labels."

Read the whole story Here

Fishermen to picket Cork Airport

Friday, 6 June 2008

Fishermen will picket Cork Airport this morning in the second day of their protests against EU and Government neglect of the fishing industry.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen is claiming that the airport is the biggest import location for fish being brought into Ireland.

In several other locations around the country, fishermen will sell fish direct to the public to demonstrate the low prices they get for catches, compared to what the public pays in retail outlets.

The fishermen will sell fish at Dunmore East, Killybegs and Eyre Square in Galway, for the same amount they receive for their catches.

One of the biggest co-ops in the country at Castletownbere says Irish people do not realise that a lot of the fish they are being sold, in places like fish and chip shops, are cheap imports from southeast Asia and Africa.

The Federation has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to introduce import controls checking that fish being brought into Ireland have been legally caught.

Thanks to Ron Skingley for this submission

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Phil Chandler of Totnes, beekeeper, author and campaigner, speaks out against the use of pesticides around honeybees.  Phil is critical of the BBKA  [British Beekeepers Association], a charity, for accepting large donations from the manufacturers of chemicals most probably harmful to bees.  Watch this recent BBC news item here.

ISIS Press Release 09/06/08

Emergency Pesticide Ban for Saving the Honeybee

Prof. Joe Cummins' warning against neonicotinoid pesticides
in the killing of honeybees was dramatically confirmed,
resulting in swift action on the part of the German
Government. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Germany's emergency ban

The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food
Safety (BVL) suspended the registration of eight
neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatment products used in
oilseed rape and sweetcorn. a few weeks after honeybee
keepers in the southern state of Baden Württemberg reported
a wave of honeybee deaths linked to one of the pesticides,
clothianidin [1, 2]. Prof. Joe Cummins had warned
specifically against this class of new pesticides [3]
(Requiem for the Honeybee, SiS 34), widely used in dressing
seeds and in sprays, and "highly toxic to insects including
bees at very low concentrations."  His contribution to ISIS'
Briefing in the European Parliament in June 2007 [4]
(Scientists and MEPs for a GM free Europe, SiS 35) drew
attention to the danger of sub-lethal doses of
neonicotinoids and Bt biopesticides in GM crops, which could
act synergistically with pathogenic fungi in causing Colony
Collapse Disorder in the honeybee, and resulted in a
question to the European Commission by German MEP Hiltrud
Breyer [5] (Emergency Motion on Protecting the Honeybee, SiS
35), shortly after she has submitted an emergency motion to
ban the neonicotinoids.

Unequivocal evidence of pesticide poisoning

Walter Haefeker, president of the European Professional
Beekeepers Association, reporting to Chemical and
Engineering News said [1], "Beekeepers in the region started
finding piles of dead bees at the entrance of hives in early
May, right around the time corn seeding takes place."

It's a real bee emergency," said Manfred Hederer, president
of the German Professional Beekeepers' Association told The
Guardian [2], "50-60 percent of the bees have died on
average and some beekeepers have lost all their hives."

The incriminating evidence was so convincing that a press
release from the Julius Kuehn Institute (JKI), the German
federal agricultural research agency, stated: "It can
unequivocally be concluded that a poisoning of the bees is
due to the rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin
from the corn seeds."

Read the rest of this article here

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Positive News

There's a lot of interest lately in bees, and why they are disappearing.
Around here (SW Ireland, on the Sheep's Head Peninsula) there are a lot of Bumble bees this year, but no honey bees.
The lack of honey bees is probably because there are no hives that we know of within 5 miles or more.

However, the Varroa mite is a permanent problem for most conventional beekeepers, and is all too common in commercial hives.
Bumble bees do not seem to suffer in the same way with Varroa, most likely because they do not over-winter as a colony, but individual queens hibernate in holes and corners, to re-emerge in spring and form new colonies.

I say 'conventional' beekeepers, but I mean beekeepers who use conventional hives.
There are moves in the beekeeping world towards 'Top Bar Hives' that allow the bees to do things their own way, particularly regarding comb and cell size.
( See )
I can do no better in explaining the importance of this than to ask you to point your browser towards

But maybe the following quote from that site will explain all...

"Most of us beekeepers spend a lot of effort fighting with the Varroa mites. I'm happy to say my biggest problems in beekeeping now are things like trying to get nucs (nucleus) through the winter here in Southeastern Nebraska and coming up with hives that won't hurt my back from lifting or better ways to feed the bees.

This change in beekeeping from fighting the mites is mostly because I've gone to natural sized cells. In case you weren't aware, and I wasn't for a long time, the foundation in common usage by beekeepers results in much larger bees than what you would find in a natural hive. I've measured sections of natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter.  What most beekeepers use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter. If you translate that into three dimensions, instead of one, that produces a bee that is about half again as large as is natural. By letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems. One cause of this is shorter capping times by one day and shorter post capping times by one day. This means less Varroa get into the cells and less Varroa reproduce in the cells. I have mostly done this either with wax coated PermaComb (fully drawn plastic comb) or self drawn comb on foundationless frames or frames with blank starter strips. This size(4.9mm) has been found sufficient to resolve the mite problems.


Thanks to Ron Skingley for this exciting submission

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Bird Flu

Ref: 174/08
Date: 4 June 2008
Update on Avian Influenza in Oxfordshire: H7 strain confirmed as Highly Pathogenic

Following further laboratory results, the Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed that the strain of H7 Avian Influenza present in laying hens at the farm in Banbury is highly pathogenic.

Further laboratory tests are in progress to identify the N type and possible relationships with previously identified viruses. A detailed epidemiological investigation to better understand the origin and development of the disease is also underway.

The 3km inner and 10km outer Temporary Control Zone was established on 3 June with measures appropriate to a highly pathogenic strain. These measures remain in place and existing restrictions continue to apply.

These restrictions include the housing or otherwise isolation from contact with wild birds in the inner 3km zone. All bird gatherings in the Temporary Control Zone are banned. Other movements of birds and some products are also banned in the whole of the Temporary Control Zone. Defra is urgently considering whether any wider measures may be needed. Please see the Defra website for detailed information on the restrictions.

The Health Protection Agency has confirmed that the risk to public health remains low. The Food Standards Agency has also confirmed that there are no safety implications for the human food chain.

Poultry keepers are urged to be extremely vigilant, practice the highest levels of biosecurity and report any suspicions of disease to their local Animal Health Office immediately.

This bulletin may be found Here

Thanks to Alan Beat for this submission

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Genetic Engineering Contamination of Food


Health, Justice and Sustainability News Tidbits with an Edge!

TAKE ACTION- U.S. FORCES WORLD TO EAT GE FOODS:  Over the course of the next week, world leaders will be meeting in Rome at Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) of the United Nations to address the global hunger crisis. Top on the United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer's agenda is to push Genetically Engineered Crops on the world's hungry. GE crops are untested and unwanted by the majority of the planet's population. GE crops will only deepen the global food crisis. Use OCA's handy online tool to send an instant letter to the editor  of your local newspaper

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4 June, 2008

Bioenergy: Fuelling the food crisis? 

By Stephanie Holmes
BBC News, Rome 

".....campaigners claim the heavily subsidised biofuel industry is fundamentally immoral, diverting land which should be producing food to fill human stomachs to produce fuel for car engines.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director General Jacques Diouf agrees.

He says it is incomprehensible that "$11bn-$12bn (£5.6bn-£6.1bn) a year in subsidies and protective tariff policies have the effect of diverting 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption, mostly to satisfy a thirst for vehicles"

"....The US, which heavily subsidises corn cultivation for ethanol, insists that biofuels account for "only 2-3% of the food price increases".

"We recognise that biofuels have an impact, but the real issue is about energy, increased consumption and weather-related issues in grain-producing countries," US Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said.

".....But research from the Washington-based agricultural policy think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), has come to very different conclusions.

"We've done some analysis looking at the contribution of biofuels demand on cereals prices indexes. We found that for the price increase from 2006-2007, we attribute about 30% to biofuels," explains the institute's biofuels expert, Mark Rosegrant.

"The most direct effect is the diversion of land from corn, sugarcane and other crops to biofuels instead of food and seed that also shifts land out of other crops, sometimes out of rice and wheat. Once the price of corn starts going up, there was some shift from poor consumers in Africa to alternatives like rice."

".....The US continues to heavily sustain its corn-for-ethanol industry, paying out 50 cents a gallon for each of its 27 billion litres of ethanol produced.

Combined with farming subsidies, the ethanol sector receives a total of some $6bn in support each year. But the real hope, analysts say, lies not in conventional food crops, but so-called second-generation biofuels, which can be cultivated with little water and few fertilisers on marginal land that will not compete with food crops."

Editor's Comment:  It is difficult from media sources to make a decision as to the impact of biofuels and ethanol on the food shortage.  Over the last few months, the conflicting and contradictory research findings cloud the issue. 

Regardless of the statistics, there is a strong case supporting the opinion that using our precious agricultural land to feed cars whilst people starve is immoral and just wrong.
What do you think?

Read the whole story Here

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Pesticide Residue


Health, Justice and Sustainability News Tidbits with an Edge!

"Bowing to pressure from Monsanto and the agro-toxics industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced May 21 that it plans to eliminate pesticide reporting at National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The program has tracked national pesticide use and provided critical information for consumer groups, scientists, farmers and environmental groups monitoring pesticide use and hazards.. NASS' elimination of the Agricultural Chemical Use Database is a direct attack on consumers and farmworkers' Right to Know about pesticide residues and food safety. Pesticide reporting has become particularly important in the last ten years with Genetically Engineered crops requiring more and more pesticides."

Read the report Here

Child labour in Egypt's cotton fields

Today's News - 9 June 2008
Sam Allen  Soil Association

The Observer Magazine's Ethical issue runs a special feature on child labour in Egypt's cotton fields, 'Dirty Linen'.

"Children as young as five and six work 10 hour shifts Egypt's cotton fields, picking off bollworms, handling plants drenched with pesticides. Small farmers' livelihoods have been made worse by being encouraged to buy hybrid seeds from western agribusinesses that can't be saved for next year's crop,
'When my father was a cotton-farmer it didn't cost anything to grow his crops. You'd use the seeds from the previous year's crop, and your cow's manure for fertiliser. If you had a bad crop, you'd eat poorly for a year, but you'd be able to start again the next year. Now we have become dependent on these seeds and the labour of our families. I can no longer send my children to school; they must work here in the fields with me.'
The Observer Magazine (8 June, p.28)

Soil Association Comment.
Around a quarter of all insecticides and 10 per cent of the total pesticides used around the world go to grow non-organic cotton. For developing countries, it's more like half of all the insecticides used. It takes roughly 150g of agrochemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one t-shirt; 350g for a pair of jeans.
Headaches, nausea, eye problems and skin irritation are widely reported by cotton farmers and their families – including children – who work in the fields. WHO estimates that 3 million people suffer poisoning incidents and 20,000 people die in developing countries every year from pesticides, many of these linked to cotton production. The agrochemical industry's record is shameful. In 1976, the Swiss chemical giant, Ciba-Geigy deliberately over-sprayed unprotected children working in Egyptian cotton-fields with the insecticide, Galecron, to see how quickly they excreted the toxins, despite knowing that the active ingredient, chlordimeform, was a potential human carcinogen. During the same period, company publicity in Europe warned parents to keep their children away from Galecron.
Organically-grown cotton is different. As well as growing cotton, the 25,000 farmers now producing organic cotton in 22 countries also use their land to grow uncontaminated food for their families. Indian organic farmers plant pigeon peas between the cotton and make natural sprays from garlic, Chili and the Neem tree, all of which can also be eaten or used as medicines, as well as protecting the cotton crop.

Soil Association website:

Editor's Comment:  One of the best places to obtain organic cotton garments is Greenfibers company on the high street of Totnes.  View their products Here

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Global Warming/Climate Change

An Inhospitable Climate

Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act hits end of the road in Senate

Posted by David Roberts at 12:37 PM on 06 Jun 2008

The Weekly Grist
10 June, 2008

"The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act ran up against a wall in the Senate on Friday. A vote to cut off debate and move forward with the amendment process came up well short of the 60 needed -- 48 to 36. All but four of the Democrats present voted to move forward with the bill, as did seven Republicans and the Senate's two independents. Both major-party presidential candidates -- John McCain and Barack Obama -- said they would have voted to push the bill onward had they been there, but, well, sorry, they were busy. The bill's leading backers said they were pleased with the support they got, even though they came up short in the end. "The vote went better than we anticipated," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif). "This is a giant step forward," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). 'It may be a small step for mankind, but it's a giant step for the United States Senate. It puts us on the path to getting this done hopefully next year.'"

More Here

4 June, 2008

The great carbon bazaar

By Mark Gregory
Business correspondent, BBC World Service, India 

"Evidence of serious flaws in the multi-billion dollar global market for carbon credits has been uncovered by a BBC World Service investigation."

"......The findings reinforce doubts that the CDM is leading to real emission cuts, which is not good news for the effort to combat climate change.

And in one case a company is earning truly staggering sums of money from the carbon credits it is receiving - perhaps as much as $500m (£250m) over a period of 10 years - for a project it says it would have carried out without the incentive of the CDM."

"Indian chemical company SRF is also receiving substantial numbers of CDM carbon credits for eliminating an obscure industrial waste product known as HFC23, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

 We would have done it anyway
Mukund Trivedy, spokesman, SRF" 

Read the story from BBC NEWS:

Monday 2 June, 2008
BBC News

Images reveal 'rapid forest loss'

"High-resolution satellite images have revealed the "rapid deforestation" of Papua New Guinea's biodiversity rich rainforests over the past 30 years.

An international team of researchers estimates that the current rate of loss could result in more than half of the nation's tree cover being lost by 2021."

"........This report is a wake-up call to address the future of their forests; these issues have global impacts and should also galvanise the international community."

Editor's Comment:  This is the challenge of the century.  Can we organise effectively to stop this ecocide, or will governments build scrubbing robots instead?

Read the story from BBC NEWS:

8 June, 2008

Natural lab shows sea's acid path

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website 

Natural carbon dioxide vents on the sea floor are showing scientists how carbon emissions will affect marine life.

"Last month, scientists reported that water with CO2 levels high enough to be corrosive" to marine life was rising up off the western US coast." 

"......These observations confirm that some of the processes seen in laboratory experiments and some of the predictions made by computer models of ocean ecosystems do also happen in the real world."
"....Studying the impacts may prove easier than doing anything about them."

"'The reason that the oceans are becoming more acidic is because of the CO2 emissions that we are producing from burning fossil fuels,' observed Dr Turley [from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory]

'Add CO2 to seawater and you get carbonic acid; it's simple chemistry, and therefore certain.

This means that the only way of reducing the future impact of ocean acidification is the urgent, substantial reduction in CO2 emissions.'"

Read the whole article Here

Editor's Comment:  There are several factors playing out here.  A warmer ocean inhibits the growth of coccolithophores. [beings that absorb calcium carbinate]  Over the last 80 million years a single-celled marine algae called emiliania has absorbed carbon from calcium carbonate that has washed down from mountains. Calcium carbonate forms from weathering of rock. When these creatures die and settle to the bottom of "cool" oceans, they bury tons of carbon from the air thus completing a necessary carbon cycle.

"By precipitating chalk containing carbon dioxide stripped from the atmosphere, these beings have a massive cooling effect on the entire planet"  Animate Earth,  Stephan

One must remember that Gaia's climate controls are complex, composed of combinations of both positive and negative feedback mechanisms.  True, warmer oceans can absorb less CO2, but when the atmosphere contains more CO2, the oceans absorb more and becomes more acidic, thus killing off calcium absorbing lifeforms.  

Our industrial/political power structures and decision making groups have ignored fairly recent research that reveals the delicate balance obtained by an "animate Earth."  The research and proof is there, however the remedy does not go along with continued industrial growth.  The unwillingness of this power structure to cooperate with planetary control mechanisms will "cost the Earth."

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Letters to the Editor

Hi Sky
I am an avid reader of your newsletter and support much of what you lobby for. I also know the Court family who suffered the flu outbreak very well
I don't think Alan can know the family. They had a mixed farm with a dairy herd and suffered like may with the economic decline of proper Friesian milkers. In fact they sold the main house and yard and retained the land and set up a free range egg operation over a large acreage with movable sheds
I think they are victims of the system as many are and we should be more compassionate with our outlook at such a tragic time

Hi Jeremy
You are right on all counts. At the time, the news had just been released that the farm held 25,000 chickens, not the name or anything about the owners. We can all agree that many decent, hardworking farmers find themselves to be "victims of the system", as you put it. I don't believe I made, or implied, any criticism of the family themselves and I can certainly sympathise with the shock they must now be feeling.
The point remains that the vast majority of AI outbreaks occur on large scale poultry units of one type or another, involving tens of thousands of birds in close proximity. The available evidence strongly supports my view that a diversity of small scale, free range birds of local provenance are inherently safer than the centralised industrial model whose "biosecurity" consistently fails to protect against infection.

Hello Sky, Rosie and Alan,
Short comment:  Sky, I read that you were worried about offering too much negative news occasionally, I just want to say: Thanks for sifting through the news and bringing all this stuff to my (our) attention) as there are gems in every newsletter and I'm very pleased I signed up!  (I was particularly shocked and taken by the BBC Cooke ignoramus peace in the issue below, bloody hell!)
Bert Bruins

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4 June, 2008

Dear helpline

Name: Calum
Subject: Avian flu vaccine
Is the flu vaccine going to be available to back yard poultry keepers?

Hi Calum
Do you mean vaccine for birds or for people?
If for birds, it is illegal to use vaccine unless authorised by the EU. If for people, no vaccine exists as yet.

Subject: Local Smallholders Association

Good Afternoon,

Can you tell me the nearest Smallholders Association to us. We live at Pensarn Farm Cottage, Henllys, Nr. Cwmbran, Torfaen S.Wales. Post Code NP44 6HU.

Thanks for your Trouble.

Mike Rose.

The following is from:

The Rhubarb Compendium

Rhubarb leaves can be used to make an effective organic insecticide for any of the leaf eating insects (cabbage caterpillars, aphids, peach and cherry slug etc).

Recipe 1

Basically you boil up a few pounds of rhubarb leaves in a few pints of water for about 15 or 20 minutes,
allow to cool,
then strain the liquid into a suitable container.
Dissolve some soap flakes in this liquid and use it to spray against aphids.

So, next time you pick some rhubarb stems to eat, you can put the leaves to good use rather than just composting them (which isn't in itself such a bad use, I guess).

Recipe 2

Shred 1.5 kg (3 lbs.) rhubarb leaves
and boil in 3.5 liters (1 gallon) of water for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool and then strain. (use old utensils if you can - the rhubarb will stain most things and poison the rest.
In a small saucepan heat to boiling point 2.5 litters (2.5 quarts) of water and mix in 125 g (4 oz) of softened soap ends (any bits of soap left in the shower).
Allow to cool (stirring regularly to make sure all the soap is dissolved).
Add to the strained leaf mixture, stir vigorously, and the spray directly onto infested leaves.

The unused spray can be kept for a day or two, but keep your kids away its still quite harmful.

Thanks to Ron Skingley for this most useful tip

9 June, 2008

Dear helpline

Subject: Ploughing -

We have a small 1/2 acre of grassland which we want to plough to grow veg. We bought a single furrow plough for our compact tractor, but when cutting the first ridge, the grass just springs back into the furrow behind the plough, we also have a rotavator which chops up the grass but leaves thick fibrous roots on top. We cannot get the fine tilth for young plants, what are we doing wrong? Help


Dear Jane
I have no first hand experience of ploughing myself.  But from what I have read and seen, the earth should turn right over in the furrow to bury the grass from sight, so it sounds as if your plough is not "set" correctly. In the first instance, I suggest you contact the supplier that sold you the plough for advice/instruction. If that fails, you'll need to seek out a local source of ploughing knowledge for advice.
But I'm thinking that you won't be able to achieve the fine tilth that you desire just like that. Traditionally, land was ploughed in the autumn or early winter for the frost and rain to break down the surface structure; then it would be harrowed in the spring to work it into suitable condition. Nowadays many farmers plough in spring but then use power harrows and other implements to prepare the surface. The point is that ploughing serves only to bury the surface weeds, and is just the first of several stages in the preparation of a seed bed.
There are other, lower-tech options that could be used on the scale of half an acre. For example: buy some growing pigs in the spring and electric fence them onto part of the ground. When they have dug it over and eaten the weed roots, move them on to the next strip and repeat. On the first strip, fill in any deep holes, pick up large stones, then rotavate - and you're ready for planting. Aim to finish by the job by late autumn, killing the pigs for pork or bacon - meat as well as veg!
Another way is to lay out seed potatoes onto the grass at the required spacing and cover with a mulch several inches thick of old hay, straw or whatever material you can easily/cheaply obtain. The grass and most weeds will be killed but the potatoes push up through the mulch. At harvest, draw aside the remaining mulch layer and literally pick up the crop of potatoes from a clean soil surface, then dig out any remaining deep rooted weeds like docks before cultivating.
A third way is to build simple raised beds straight onto the grass using a layer of cardboard, then manure, then soil, then weed free compost (e.g. from an urban green waste recycler). These can be planted immediately, and "rolled out" progressively over the area to be covered at a pace that suits.
I've used all three methods and they all work.
Good luck and do let us know how you get on.

11 June, 2008

Dear helpline

Subject: Overgrown orchards.

I wonder if you can help advise me. I have two orchards, one has chickens in it and one has a lot of grass. What could I keep that would graze them but isn't a lot of trouble, it seems such a shame to have to keep strimming them. They are not overly big orchards so something smallish. Any suggestions gratefully received.


Hi Linda
Chickens eat some grass but are more interested in scratching for the invertebrates that live on and under it. Geese however are grazers first and foremost, and will keep an area of grass neatly trimmed if the number is correctly balanced to the area available. They are hardy and long lived birds that lay eggs in the spring and rear their own young if you wish. Like chickens, they need housing at night against foxes. Ganders may be agressive, but not all are, and you can choose to do without one altogether if not hatching the eggs. A pond is not necessary, but something like a child's paddling pool that can be emptied and cleaned out occasionally is ideal. You'll need to provide some supplementary feed in the winter months.
We learned the hard way that geese will quickly ring-bark and kill young apple trees, so if your orchards contain trees that were planted recently, these will require protective sleeves of small mesh wire for their first several years.
You don't say what area the orchards cover, but I suggest that you start with a small number of birds - say two females and a gander - and see how it goes, breeding more birds if you find the grass is outgowing their appetites. Cut the grass short and allow a little regrowth before the birds are introduced (they will not thrive on rank stemmy growth) and "top" it should it grow ahead of them until you find the right stocking rate.
Do let us know how it goes!

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Public Announcements

Biodynamic Forestry Workshop

  "Connecting with Woodlands & Being Creative with Trees"
Fri 11th - Sun 13th July
At: Botton Village Community, Danby, Whitby, N. Yorks, YO21 2 NJ
Cost: £95
Description of workshop:
The connection between people and forest needs developing from an early age and during this weekend some experiences will be shared of how to engage young adults with woodland work. This will be supported by a practical outdoor illustration. There will also be a practical demonstration of how to make woodland compost using the accumulating brushwood and debris of the forest floor and of course applying the biodynamic preparations. Compost in each planting hole can make all the difference since if they are going grow for hundreds of years trees need a good start in life. We will also make a 'Benjes Hedge' – a carefully constructed mound of twigs and small branches which can serve as a fence but also encourages nesting by small birds and other wildlife.  This practical part will be supported by a talk on the value and importance of continuous cover forestry.

            At the first Forestry weekend three years ago a presentation was given about a remarkable tree sculpture created in Germany several years ago. Taking the ground plan of the first Goetheanum building, which had been created entirely of wood, a life size reconstruction was conceived but this time using living trees. The pillars in the original building were made using wood from the seven planetary trees. In this ‘tree building’ the same tree species are used but planted and allowed to grow into mature trees. During this coming workshop we plan to identify a site in Botton where a similar project might be developed. To prepare this a full picture of what it entails and what it might grow into will be presented as an illustrated talk to the whole village.

The workshop is intended as a working conference involving all participants. It is intended as a forum in which particular experiences, issues and challenges can be shared and out of which new ideas and initiatives can be spawned.  The event is open to everyone interested in trees and forests.

Very best wishes - Jessica (admin)
Editor:  Contact Jessica for booking form and please book by 1 July.
Biodynamic Agricultural Association is a registered Charity to promote and foster the biodynamic agricultural impulse inspired by Rudolf Steiner
Contact details:  BDAA Office, Painswick Inn Project, Gloucester St, Stroud, GL5 1QG
Tel: 01453 759501   Email: Office(at) Charity Commission Number: 269036  Vat no: 791 2859 91

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