Friday, June 11, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2010 3:56 PM
Lawsuit Targets Harmful Public-lands Livestock Subsidy
WASHINGTON - June 10 - Today the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Oregon Natural Desert Association sued the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to compel them to respond to a 2005 rulemaking petition that seeks to increase the fee for livestock grazing across 258 million acres of federal public land.
"The federal grazing program is as fiscally irresponsible as it is ecologically harmful," said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "In responding to our petition, the government must now choose between correcting and continuing the subsidized destruction of America's public land."
The current grazing fee does not recover even the administrative costs of operating the program, leaving U.S. taxpayers to pay the difference. The fee also falls short of paying for the environmental problems this land use causes, and instead enables high levels of livestock grazing that harm ecosystems, degrade watersheds, and cause species decline. In 2010, the government charges just $1.35 per month to graze one cow and calf on public lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which is the lowest possible rate under the current fee formula.
"Given the massive budget shortfall our country is facing, we can no longer afford to subsidize a small group of ranchers to graze public lands at public expense," said Mark Salvo, director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign for WildEarth Guardians.
Although the Administrative Procedures Act requires the government to respond to rulemaking petitions, the Departments of Interior and Agriculture have not responded to plaintiff's 2005 petition. Today's lawsuit seeks that response.
"Our public lands are worth far more than cheap forage for private livestock operations," said Great Anderson, Arizona director of the Western Watersheds Project. "The agencies should take this opportunity to set an appropriate value for livestock use of these lands, which provide habitat for plants and animals, clean our air and water, and provide recreational opportunities for millions of Americans."
The conservation organizations are represented by attorney Marc Fink of the Center for Biological Diversity and attorney Matt Kenna of Durango, Colorado.
To see a copy of today's complaint, click here. To see a copy of the Center's report on assessing the full cost of public-lands livestock grazing click here.
Livestock grazing is one of the most ubiquitous and destructive uses of public land. It is also a contributing factor to the imperilment of numerous threatened and endangered species. Those species include the desert tortoise, Mexican spotted owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, least Bell's vireo, Mexican gray wolf, Oregon spotted frog, Chiricahua leopard frog, and dozens of other species of imperiled mammals, fish, amphibians, and spring snails that occur on western public land. Public lands livestock grazing is also a primary factor contributing to unnaturally severe western wildfires, watershed degradation, soil loss, and the spread of invasive plants - as well as annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 705,342 passenger vehicles.
Grazing fees apply to livestock grazing across 258 million acres of western public land administered by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management - 81 percent of the land administered by the two agencies in the 11 western states. There are approximately 23,600 public-lands ranchers, representing about 6 percent of all livestock producers west of the Mississippi River.
The low federal grazing fee contributes to the adverse impacts caused by livestock grazing on public lands for two primary reasons: (1) the below-fair-market-value fee encourages annual grazing on even the most marginal lands and allows for increased grazing on other areas; and (2) since a percentage of the funds collected is required to be used on range mitigation and restoration, the low fee equates to less funds for environmental mitigation and restoration of the impacted lands.
A 2005 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service grazing receipts fail to recover even 15 percent of administrative costs and are much lower than fees charged by the other federal agencies, states, and private ranchers. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the Bureau and Forest Service grazing fee decreased by 40 percent from 1980 to 2004, while grazing fees charged by private ranchers increased by 78 percent for the same period. To recover expenditures, the Bureau and Forest Service would have had to charge $7.64 and $12.26 per animal unit month, respectively.
CONTACT: Environmental Justice Groups
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, (520) 623-1878
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 757-4221
Published on Thursday, June 10, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
'So That Everyone Can Eat, Produce It Here': Food Sovereignty and Land Reform in Haiti
by Beverly Bell
Doudou Pierre is on the coordinating committee of the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security (RENHASSA). He is also a member of the International Coordinating Committee for Food Sovereignty, organized by Vía Campesina, the worldwide coalition of small farmer organizations. In addition, he is a member of the National Peasant Movement of the Papay Congress and the Peasant Movement for Acul du Nord. This week he will be heading North to the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit.
In the June 4, 2010, article, "Groups Around the U.S. Join Haitian Farmers In Protesting ‘Donation' of Monsanto Seeds," Doudou commented on the damage that Monsanto and other agricultural corporations could wreak on Haitian agriculture. Here, he speaks about how government investment in small farmers and in food sovereignty could impact Haiti's future.
We're putting together a national network, RENHASSA, to show what our alternatives are today. The whole peasant sector is coming together to tell everyone about the policies we want. Our mission is to advocate for Haiti to be sovereign with its food and to promote national production.
We're mobilizing politically for the policies we want. We publish articles and do community radio programs about our positions. We're also doing media campaigns and having meetings to educate people about growing for local and family consumption as much as possible, instead of buying food from other countries. People are starting to recognize and change their habits to just buy local goods.
Now, what must be done: the state must exercise its responsibility toward its people. When we talk about reconstructing Haiti, we can't just talk about houses. It's got to be a whole plan. We have to talk about reconstructing land, about total reforestation.
First, we have to decentralize the Republic of Port-au-Prince, which got created during the U.S. occupation of 1915 to 1934. Services now exist only in the capital. People died during the earthquake for an identity card or a copy of a transcript, because they had to come to Port-au-Prince to get them. Services must be in all departments [akin to states]. All the people who are in the countryside have to have the resources to stay there.
Second, and this is the essential element, is the relaunching of agriculture in this country. We were almost self-sufficient until the 1980s. We have to fight and pressure the state, so it prioritizes agriculture. Otherwise, we'll always have to depend on multinationals and non-governmental organizations for our food. The government has to take responsibility for that.
We're not in favor just of food security, which is a neoliberal idea. With food security, as long as you eat, it's good. But, we only produce 43% of our food; 57% is imported. We need food sovereignty, which means that so that everyone can eat, we produce it here at home. We could produce here at least 80% of what we eat.
You can't speak of food sovereignty without speaking of ecological, family agriculture. We need that and indigenous seeds. We need for peasants to have their own land.
We have threats from multinationals, mainly to grow jatropha [whose seeds produce oil which can be used for biofuel]. The Jatropha Foundation is lobbying hard to start growing. Jatropha puts us at risk, because we don't have enough land to be able to divert some toward biofuel. Haiti is only 27,760 square kilometers. Their plan would have us produce even less food and would force peasants to be expropriated. Plus, they'd be using a lot of water, which could create an ecological disaster. It's a death plan against the peasants.
We're mobilizing people against growing biofuel. Last October, when the government was considering giving contracts to grow jatropha, we held a big march and sit-in; we gave a petition to parliament. We said, "No, Haiti's land is for growing food." We met with the minister of agriculture and the World Food Program.
We're also mobilizing against GMO seeds, and we've just declared war against Monsanto. This battle has just begun.
Besides food sovereignty, our other main priority is integrated land reform. We can't talk about food sovereignty, if people don't have land. They have to have land to be able to market; that's the only way we can get away from food aid. Our plan is to take the land from the big landowners and give it to the peasants to work. And the food has to be organic, without any chemical fertilizers which destroy the land. We don't use anything [unnatural in our cultivation process].
Now, even if people have a little handkerchief of land, they don't have the technical support to let them plant. The state has to give us credit and technical support and help us store and manage water. Préval said he was doing agrarian reform in his first term. We called it agrarian demagoguery. He just gave out a few parcels, divided into very small plots, to his political clientele and political party, even to people who weren't in Haiti. And, his government didn't offer any technical support.
That's not what we need. The agrarian reform we want is for those who work the land to have the right to that land, with all its infrastructure.
The cultural reality of Haiti is that peasants each want their own little piece of land to produce their own food. But, there has to be cooperative land. Peasant organizations can create collectives to produce food for export and make money, but for that there has to be integrated land reform with technical support, credit, water, everything. We must have government support.
Right now, the government doesn't even exist for us. It's saying to the international community, "Here's our country. Come take it." They've given away the whole country, and now we have [U.N. Special Envoy Bill] Clinton, who is a tool of the big multinationals. So, on top of all our other fights, we have to fight to change the state.
Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds, www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Published on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 by Voice of America
Haitian Farmers Urged to Burn Donated US Seeds
Peasant group resists ties to multinational corporation
Haiti's farmers are being urged to burn seeds donated by U.S. agriculture giant Monsanto.
[Farmers near Petit Guave, Haiti prepare the soil for planting. (Photo: VOA - S. Baragona)]Farmers near Petit Guave, Haiti prepare the soil for planting. (Photo: VOA - S. Baragona)
e American company donated $4 million worth of seeds to Haiti to help the country rebuild after January's devastating earthquake. The seeds promise to help farmers in the hungry nation increase the amount of food they can grow.
But the powerful Haitian peasant group that's telling farmers to burn the donations says the seeds will change the way most Haitian peasants farm, tying them to multinational corporations and threatening the environment.
It's the latest example of the worldwide ideological struggle over how to feed a hungry planet.
Even before the earthquake, more than half Haiti's population was undernourished. The earthquake forced hundreds of thousands of people out of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and into the rural areas. They arrived with nothing but their appetites, the Haitian saying goes, putting extra strain on rural farmers.
"The right thing to do"
"Monsanto made this donation, simply put, because it's the right thing to do," said company spokesman Darren Wallis. "The needs in Haiti are significant and we have seeds that could help farmers not only grow food for themselves but, with an ample harvest, significantly impact the food security of other Haitian citizens."
So it may come as a suprise that Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the head of Haiti's Peasant Movement of Papaye (abbreviated MPP in Creole), wants the seeds destroyed.
"We consider introducing poisonous seeds in our country as a major attack," he says. "We want to say clearly to Monsanto, the American government who supports the idea, as well as the Haitian government. We want them to hear the voice of the peasants who say no."
Monsanto is perhaps best known for creating genetically modified crops, which draw fire from some environmental groups wherever they are introduced.
But the donated seeds are not genetically modified, says Christopher Abrams with the US Agency for International Development, which is helping to distribute them.
"The immediate association with genetically modified organisms versus what we were doing was unfortunately incorrect," he says. "But since then, it's created many, many opinions out there on what this means."
What it means, according to MPP chief Jean-Baptiste, is that, "Our farmers will stop being independent and rely on a multinational like Monsanto or any other multinationals that sell seeds."
Saving seeds vs. buying better seeds
Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have saved seeds from the previous season to start the next crop.
That began to change in the early 20th century. Researchers developed new techniques to select crop varieties that produce especially large harvests, resistance to diseases or drought, or other valuable traits.
The downside, however, is that the offspring of these varieties don't perform as well as their parents. So farmers have to buy new seeds every season.
It's a matter of weighing the pros and cons, says USAID's Abrams.
"If you have a good hybrid seed that works in Haiti that produces a good yield but it costs you a bit more on the front end, that becomes an economic choice that the farmer makes."
"Monsanto should have known"
While Abrams was surprised by the MPP's reaction, Robert Paarlberg, an agricultural policy expert at Wellesley College, was not.
"Monsanto probably should have known in advance that any gift of its hybrid seeds…would encounter resistance in Haiti, where activist leaders of this local peasant movement view Monsanto as an evil, alien multinational corporation," says Paarlberg.
He notes that the MPP is one of several grassroots organizations worldwide that opposes efforts encouraging farmers to use hybrid seeds and the nitrogen fertilizer that helps them perform at their peak.
He acknowledges that excessive fertilizer use has contributed to water pollution and other environmental problems in many parts of the world. But, he says, "Wherever farmers have refused to use hybrid seeds, their crop yields have remained much lower, and their income has remained much lower, and their access to food has remained much lower."
A matter of choice
"The trick is to make sure that farmers have a choice of either using their traditional varieties or, if they wish, using hybrid seed varieties," he adds.
Monsanto and USAID are offering that choice by making the seeds available through stores operated by Haitian farmers' associations. The stores sell the donated seeds at a discount and use the proceeds to buy supplies for the next season.
So farmers would have to buy the seeds before they could burn them in protest. Asked if he knew of any farmers who were burning Monsanto's donated seeds, the MPP's Jean-Baptiste said no, but he wishes they would.
© 2010 Voice of America
Monday, June 7, 2010
Groups Around the US Joined Haitian Farmers in Protesting "Donation" of Monsanto Seeds
Monday 07 June 2010
by: Beverly Bell, t r u t h o u t | Report
(Photo: Beverly Bell)
"We're for seeds that have never been touched by multinationals. In our advocacy, we say that seeds are the patrimony of humanity. No one can control them," said Doudou Pierre, national coordinating committee member of the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security (RENHASSA), in a recent interview. "We reject Monsanto and their GMOs. GMOs would be the extermination of our people."
A march held in Haiti June 4 for World Environment Day was called by at least four major national peasant organizations and one international one. The march's purpose was to protest the new arrival of Monsanto seeds. The day's slogans included, "Long live native seeds" and "Down with Monsanto. Down with GMO and hybrid seeds."
Several US organizations planned simultaneous events to protest the entry of the controversial multinational in Haiti.
Last month, Haitian citizens learned the news that the giant agribusiness Monsanto will be "donating" 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds. While the seeds are free this year, peasant organizations see a Trojan horse, with Monsanto seeking to gain a foothold in the Haitian market. Hybrid seeds typically do not regenerate, so that farmers would have to buy them again each year, and they generally require large quantities of fertilizer and pesticides (two products that also fill Monsanto's annual coffers). And while the Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto's offer of genetically modified (GMO) seeds this year because Haiti does not have a law regulating their use, there may follow a push to get GMOs approved, in which case Monsanto would be well-positioned. Moreover, the Calypso tomato seeds contain the pesticide Thiram, the chemical ingredient of which is so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency has banned it for home use in the US. (For more information, see "Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds.")
Monsanto representative Kathleen Manning commented in The Huffington Post on May 20, "It's disappointing to see people encouraging Haitian farmers to 'burn Monsanto seeds,' especially when the ones hurt by that action will be Haitian farmers and the Haitian people - not those of us watching on the sidelines."
Yet, the call to burn the seeds is based on a strong commitment of the Haitian peasant movement to food and seed sovereignty, which is the ability of local farmers to support themselves with local seeds for local consumption. Among the thousands of peasant organizations which exist among millions of peasant farmers, from village-level groups to national networks, food and seed sovereignty is a key principle. It has formed the basis of their national advocacy since the catastrophic January 12 earthquake. The linchpin of the reconstruction model that small farmers and many other sectors advocate is developing the country's agricultural potential. This would provide stable employment for the 60 percent to 80 percent of the population who are small farmers. It would improve prospects for food security, with an increase in consumption of domestic crops replacing the current dependence on imports, which now compose 57 percent of food consumed. Critical elements in strengthening peasant production include: government investment in agriculture, including technical support; the procurement of local food by USAID and other international agencies' food aid programs, instead of the products of foreign agribusiness; and restriction on the dumping of foreign food and seeds.
Pierre said, "If Haiti isn't sovereign with its food, if the government doesn't promote national production, we'll just always be opening our mouths to seeds and food aid so multinationals can make money off of us. We're for family agriculture which respects the environment." The coalition which Pierre co-coordinates represents 54 organizations from different sectors and regions throughout Haiti.
Below are some of the US-based events which protested the Monsanto seeds June 4. Also below are a few of numerous US initiatives, which are helping Haitian farmers get organic, Creole seeds.
AGRA Watch in Seattle planed a march June 4, ending outside the Gates Foundation office. AGRA stands for A Green Revolution in Africa, which is a multinational corporation-driven, GMO-driven program now being launched in Africa. The Gates Foundation has been a key promoter of AGRA. The group says, "The dumping of toxic seeds in Haiti is the latest in a series of unsustainable solutions that Monsanto has pushed on farmers around the world. If the Gates Foundation wants to support a truly sustainable agricultural system in Africa, they must divorce themselves from Monsanto. Haitian farmers and African farmers have said NO! to corporate control of their food systems. The Gates Foundation and AGRA must say no to Monsanto."
Rising in Solidarity with Ayiti in Chicago urged, "From Haiti to Chicago, reclaim our right to control our food and sovereignty!" June 4 a group of urban farmers and community members joined in a rally to burn GMO seeds in protest of Monsanto's "donation" to Haiti. Participants in the event also planted organic and heirloom seeds, and signed letters to USAID to protest the distribution of Monsanto's seeds in Haiti. The event also featured testimonials about the lack of access to food security, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, in neighborhoods in Chicago, and how this connects to the right to food sovereignty in Haiti.
Community Action for Justice in the Americas, Africa, Asia, in Missoula, hosted a protest, asking: "Bring posters, signs, or just come. Wear black /white, or lab coats, dust masks, goggles or Tyvek suits or creative costume! Bring drums, pots & pans ..." A personal email from a member of the group said, "The people in Missoula, Montana are paying attention and taking action for farmers in Haiti."
The Organic Consumers Association's network sent more than 10,000 emails to USAID and President Obama. Two dozen members have donated to the Seeds for Haiti project.
A coalition of US churches and foundations are supporting Foundation FONDAMA, a Haitian federation of farmers and local NGOs. The coalition has sent down several million dollars to purchase 86,000 kilos of local corn seed and 59,000 kilos of local pea seeds. (Seeds are available in Haiti, but small farmers have not had the money to buy them.) All of the farmers who belong to member organizations in Foundation FONDAMA have gotten seeds, allowing them to proceed with planting their spring crop. The donations have also purchased 13,300 machetes and 9,200 hoes. The US coalition has, moreover, sent a Massachusetts farmer to the village of Papay for the march, and hosted the leader of the Peasant Movement of Papay in New York and Washington for public, media, and Congressional meetings this week.
Like numerous other supportive groups in the US, Groundswell International's approach to seed sovereignty in Haiti pre-dates Monsanto's announcement. Through its Haitian partner Partnership for Local Development, Groundswell is strengthening the capacity of peasant organizations in Haiti to sustainably improve their agricultural production, income generation, food security, health and natural resources management. A Groundswell staff member wrote, "A key thing we'll be working on is trying to promote the alternative, which is Haitian production of 100 percent of their seeds so they don't need imports."
1. Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of the Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis . Monsanto denies that Thiram contains the toxic chemical ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs).
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Academic resigns from UK food watchdog over 'GM propaganda' (GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS)
UK Labour government's £500,000 public dialogue on GM food could be abandoned after second resignation
* John Vidal, environment editor
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 2 June 2010 14.37 BST
Food Standards Agency The Food Standards Agency is to ask the coalition government if it should continue with the GM dialogue. Photograph: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
A £500,000 public dialogue over GM food could be abandoned after a second member of the steering group overseeing it resigned, the government's independent food watchdog said today.
The Food Standards Agency, which had been commissioned by the Labour government to gauge the public mood on growing and eating the controversial foods, said that it would ask the coalition government if it should continue with the dialogue.
"There has been a major change in government," said Nathalie Golden, a spokeswoman for the FSA.
"It will need to be presented to ministers. It depends on the new government whether it goes ahead."
Professor Brian Wynne, the vice-chair of the 11-person steering group, today became the second member to resign in the past eight days.
Wynne, an academic specialist on public engagement with science, said in a letter to the group that the planned consultation was biased in favour of the (GMO)technology and was little more than propaganda for the industry.
He accused the FSA of having adopted a "dogmatically entrenched" pro-GM position and said that the dialogue could become a "public mistrust generator".
He was also heavily critical of FSA chair, ex-Labour minister Lord Rooker, who has described the public's sceptical position on GM food and crops as "anti-science".
His resignation follows that of Dr Helen Wallace, director of the thinktank GeneWatch UK who resigned last week in protest at the FSA's links with the agri-chemical industry which has been lobbying strongly to allow GM foods to be used more widely.
She alleged that some of the contractors being considered to run the project were already working for a major biotechnology company in order to "position the company as a positive force".
"It has now become clear to me that the process that the FSA has in mind is nothing more than a PR exercise on behalf of the GM industry," she said.
"In my view, this would be a significant waste of £500,000 of taxpayers' money. A process that was barely credible has become a farce.
"Taxpayers' money should not be wasted on a PR exercise for the GM industry."
Pete Riley, director of GM Freeze, a coalition of environment groups opposed to GM foods, said: "The GM public dialogue is now in chaos.
"The coalition government needs to look very seriously at how the FSA is attempting to use the dialogue process to gather information on what the public thinks about GM so they can the use it to manipulate public opinion in a pro-GM direction.
"This would be a gross misuse of public funds, and ministers need to put a stop to it.
"The FSA is far too close to industry on this issue, which is a deep disappointment for an organisation that was set up as an independent regulator and food safety champion for the public just 10 years ago."
But Golden said there were are no plans to delay the dialogue because of the resignations.
"The steering group is now in the process of identifying an organisation which might carry out the dialogue," she said.
"Once the steering group is in a position to suggest a body to do this, it will make a recommendation to the FSA board.
"The board will then ask ministers, before contracts are signed, whether the GM dialogue should proceed.
"The agency is completely independent. It is not at all a front for industry. We will all be considering the implications of these resignations."