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Rights to seed? | The Asian Age

Rights to seed? | The Asian Age | Organic Farming |
Genetically engineered seeds and crops (GMOs) have unleashed seed wars and knowledge wars.
The ...


Genetically engineered seeds and crops (GMOs) have unleashed seed wars and knowledge wars.
The only reason crops have been genetically engineered is to take patents on seeds and collect royalties. If during colonialism the concept of Terra Nullius (empty land or land belonging to no one) allowed the takeover of land and territories by the coloniser, a new concept of Bio Nullius (empty life) is being used to claim “intellectual property rights” on seeds, biodiversity and life forms. But life is not empty.
Seeds are not an invention. They embody millions of years of biological evolution and thousands of years of cultural evolution and farmers’ breeding.
When corporations claim patents, they basically “pirate” traits that nature and farmers have evolved. They pirate and patent the aroma of Basmati, the low gluten qualities of our native wheat, the salt tolerant, drought tolerant, flood tolerant traits of climate resilience our farmers have bred. This is not innovation and invention; it is biopiracy.
The only traits that the corporations have introduced into plants through genetic engineering are the toxic traits of Bt toxin and herbicide resistance. Besides being toxic, these traits have not reduced chemical use as has been repeatedly claimed. Navdanya’s studies in Vidarbha show a 13-fold increase in pesticide use since Bt cotton was introduced.
A report published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe shows that genetically engineered crops have led to a 404 million-pound increase in overall pesticide use from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011. This amounts to an increase of about seven per cent over the last 16 years. The data on increased chemical use shows that the claim — that Bt toxin crops will reduce pesticide use and herbicide resistant crops will reduce herbicide use — is false.
The Navdanya report, The GMO Emperor has no Clothes, shows that genetically modified crops have led to resistance, both in weeds and pests, demanding higher use of pesticides and herbicides. More than two dozen weed species are now resistant to glyphosate — the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, and farmers are being asked to spray Agent Orange, which was used in the Vietnam War.
The only way corporations can push GMO seeds on farmers is by destroying alternatives. They do this by blocking public breeding. India’s premier cotton research institute in Nagpur has not released a single variety in Vidarbha since Monsanto entered the cotton seed market.
The second strategy is to lock local companies into licensing arrangements. Sixty Indian seed companies only sell Monsanto’s Bt cotton.
The third strategy is to make local seeds illegal through compulsory licensing and registration laws. This was attempted in 2004 with the Seed Act. It took a seed satyagraha organised by us across the country and a parliamentary committee to prevent it from coming into force.
But in Europe, seed laws are already criminalising biodiversity and farmers’ breeding. This is why we have joined together as a Global Citizens Alliance for Seed Freedom to call for no patents on seeds and no to seed laws that promote industrial seeds and make local, open pollinated varieties illegal.
The Global Citizens’ Report on Seed Freedom ( written jointly by more than 120 groups and individuals was released on October 1, 2012, in New Delhi.
Seed is the first link in the food chain. And seed wars are leading to food wars. The California ballot initiative on labelling of GMO foods is the most current contest between citizens’ right to know and choose and corporate rights to force feed GMOs.
Seed wars and food wars are becoming knowledge wars. Just before the California initiative, an article was planted in the media across the world arguing that organic foods have no health benefit. It turns out that the so-called scientists from Stanford had done similar work for Big Tobacco during the debate on smoking.
While fraud science is used to promote GMOs, independent public scientists — who do high-quality research on biosafety and health and environmental impact of GMOs — are attacked by an organised mafia working for the industry that often masquerades as scientists.
Dr Arpad Putzai of the UK was driven out of his job when the results of his study commissioned by the UK government showed that the brains of the rats in his feeding study had shrunk, the pancreas had expanded and the immunity had collapsed. More recently, a study published by Dr Seralini in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology showed:
Death rates in rats fed the Roundup-Ready GM maize were 2-5 times that of the control group.
Female rats had a shockingly high incidence of mammary tumours.
Male rats suffered significant levels of liver and kidney damage.
Tumours were huge and many animals had three tumours by the time they died.
India’s Supreme Court set up a Technical Expert Committee to advise it on the gaps in the scientific biosafety assessment of GMOs. The committee recommended a moratorium on field trials of all GMO Bt crops, an assessment of the special problems of herbicide-tolerant crops and a ban on all trials of GMO crops, of which India is the centre of diversity.
The Supreme Court is supposed to ensure that the executive and the government functions constitutionally. The GMO lobby has written to the Prime Minister to try and undo the work of the Supreme Court and its technical committee. This is a subversion of our Constitution.
In August 2012, the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture tabled a report titled Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops: Prospects and Effects. Releasing the report at a press conference, the chairperson of the committee, Basudeb Acharia said, “The committee has come to the conclusion that since concerns on the potential and actual impacts of GM crops to our food, farming, health and environment are valid, GM crops are just not the right solution for our country.”
Again the GMO lobby wrote to the Prime Minister to undo the recommendations of the parliamentary committee.
Since GMOs can only spread via seed monopolies and by destroying our democracy and integrity of science and knowledge, we are better off without them.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

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News - Philippines: DA 12 promotes organic farming in public schools in the region

News - Philippines: DA 12 promotes organic farming in public schools in the region | Organic Farming |
Philippines: DA 12 promotes organic farming in public schools in the region (RT @Organic_Portal: #News - #Philippines: DA 12 promotes #organic #farming in public #schools in the region
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Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers | Organic Farming |

Genetic engineering as used in crop development is not precise or predictable and has not been shown to be safe. The technique can result in the unexpected production of toxins or allergens in food that are unlikely to be spotted in current regulatory checks.


GM crops, including some that are already in our food and animal feed supply, have shown clear signs of toxicity in animal feeding trials – notably disturbances in liver and kidney function and immune responses.


GM proponents have dismissed these statistically significant findings as “not biologically relevant/significant”, based on scientifically indefensible arguments.


Certain EU-commissioned animal feeding trials with GM foods and crops are often claimed by GM proponents to show they are safe. In fact, examination of these studies shows significant differences between the GM-fed and control animals that give cause for concern.


GM foods have not been properly tested in humans, but the few studies that have been carried out in humans give cause for concern.


The US FDA does not require mandatory safety testing of GM crops, and does not even assess the safety of GM crops but only “deregulates” them, based on assurances from biotech companies that they are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts. This is like claiming that a cow with BSE is substantially equivalent to a cow that does not have BSE and is thus safe to eat! Claims of substantial equivalence cannot be justified on scientific grounds.


The regulatory regime for GM foods is weakest in the US, where GM foods do not even have to be assessed for safety or labelled in the marketplace, but in most regions of the world regulations are inadequate to protect people’s health from the potential adverse effects of GM foods.


In the EU, where the regulatory system is often claimed to be strict, minimal pre-market testing is required for a GMO and the tests are commissioned by the same companies that stand to profit from the GMO if it is approved – a clear conflict of interest.


No long-term toxicological testing of GMOs on animals or testing on humans is required by any regulatory agency in the world.


Biotech companies have used patent claims and intellectual property protection laws to restrict access of independent researchers to GM crops for research purposes. As a result, limited research has been conducted on GM foods and crops by scientists who are independent of the GM industry. Scientists whose work has raised concerns about the safety of GMOs have been attacked and discredited in orchestrated campaigns by GM crop promoters.


Most GM crops (over 75%) are engineered to tolerate applications of herbicides. Where such GM crops have been adopted, they have led to massive increases in herbicide use.


Roundup, the herbicide that over 50% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate, is not safe or benign as has been claimed but has been found to cause malformations (birth defects), reproductive problems, DNA damage, and cancer in test animals. Human epidemiological studies have found an association between Roundup exposure and miscarriage, birth defects, neurological development problems, DNA damage, and certain types of cancer.


A public health crisis has erupted in GM soy-producing regions of South America, where people exposed to spraying with Roundup and other agrochemicals sprayed on the crop report escalating rates of birth defects and cancer.


A large number of studies indicate that Roundup is associated with increased crop diseases, especially infection with Fusarium, a fungus that causes wilt disease in soy and can have toxic effects on humans and livestock.


Bt insecticidal GM crops do not sustainably reduce pesticide use but change the way in which pesticides are used: from sprayed on, to built in.


Bt technology is proving unsustainable as pests evolve resistance to the toxin and secondary pest infestations are becoming common.


GM proponents claim that the Bt toxin engineered into GM plants is safe because the natural form of Bt, long used as a spray by conventional and organic farmers, has a history of safe use. But the GM forms of Bt toxins are different from the natural forms and could have different toxic and allergenic effects.


GM Bt toxin is not limited in its toxicity to insect pests. GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials.


GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on non-target organisms in the environment.Bt toxin is not fully broken down in digestion and has been found circulating in the blood of pregnant women in Canada and in the blood supply to their foetuses.


The no-till method of farming promoted with GM herbicide-tolerant crops, which avoids ploughing and uses herbicides to control weeds, is not more climate-friendly than ploughing.


No-till fields do not store more carbon in the soil than ploughed fields when deeper levels of soil are measured.No-till increases the negative environmental impacts of soy cultivation, because of the herbicides used.


Golden Rice, a beta-carotene-enriched rice, is promoted as a GM crop that could help malnourished people overcome vitamin A deficiency. But Golden Rice has not been tested for toxicological safety, has been plagued by basic development problems, and, after more than 12 years and millions of dollars of research funding, is still not ready for the market. Meanwhile, inexpensive and effective solutions to vitamin A deficiency are available but under-used due to lack of funding.


GM crops are often promoted as a “vital tool in the toolbox” to feed the world’s growing population, but many experts question the contribution they could make, as they do not offer higher yields or cope better with drought than non-GM crops. Most GM crops are engineered to tolerate herbicides or to contain a pesticide – traits that are irrelevant to feeding the hungry.


High adoption of GM crops among farmers is not a sign that the GM crop is superior to non-GM varieties, as once GM companies gain control of the seed market, they withdraw non-GM seed varieties from the market. The notion of “farmer choice” does not apply in this situation.


GM contamination of non-GM and organic crops has resulted in massive financial losses by the food and feed industry, involving product recalls, lawsuits, and lost markets.


When many people read about high-yielding, pest- and disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, and nutritionally improved super-crops, they think of GM. In fact, these are all products of conventional breeding, which continues to outstrip GM in producing such crops. The report contains a long list of these conventional crop breeding successes.


Certain “supercrops” have been claimed to be GM successes when in fact they are products of conventional breeding, in some cases assisted by the non-GM biotechnology of marker assisted selection.


Conventional plant breeding, with the help of non-GM biotechnologies such as marker assisted selection, is a safer and more powerful method than GM to produce new crop varieties required to meet current and future needs of food production, especially in the face of rapid climate change.


Conventionally bred, locally adapted crops, used in combination with agroecological farming practices, offer a proven, sustainable approach to ensuring global food security.



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In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people!

In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people! | Organic Farming |

And since 1999, it seems things have only gotten better when it comes to small-scale agriculture in Russia.  In 2003 the Russian President signed into law a further “Private Garden Plot Act&



“….Vladimir Megre, a Siberian entrepreneur, is the author of The Ringing Cedars Series. The story begins with Vladimir on a commercial trade run through some remote communities of Siberia. He starts to build an interest in the economic value of the Siberian cedar, and then pursues reports of a “ringing cedar,” an anomalous tree that stores cosmic energies and, after many hundreds of years, begins to ring. On his journey, Vladimir meets Anastasia, a young woman who has grown up in the Siberian wilderness. She brings Vladimir back to her forest glade and shares her advice with him regarding the raising of children, living a natural lifestyle, and illuminating the spirit of Creation that rests within every person.

For Vladimir, living a few days in Anastasia’s world is full of shocking and mystifying experiences. Humbled by the simple accommodations of a grass-lined dugout and not even a fire, Vladimir witnesses the abilities of Anastasia’s visionary “Ray,” as well as her astonishing somersaults, swings, and soaring through the forest canopy. Both the wild animals and the plants in her domain are seemingly tamed, observes Vladimir, as he watches the squirrels bring her food, the cedars shower her in pollen, and witnesses a show of acrobatics with the denizen bear!

As Vladimir’s critical interest in these phenomena grow, Anastasia stresses the importance of the wisdom she offers, offering the vision of an emerging culture re-united with Nature. Letting the children grow up in orchards and gardens full of our love is the key to reclaiming humanity’s Creator role on earth, and this new Age of Co-Creation will be realized when we empower our dreams with the purity of thought that comes from living a natural life.

"A typical Russian garden" by "uncommon vistas" on Flickr

This is the story of The Ringing Cedars. Whether one accepts it as fact or fiction, it is playing a massive role in transforming the culture of Russia, and in various communities around the world.

Dachniks is a term for the cottage-gardeners of Russia, and we become very familiar with their story in reading Anastasia. Leonid Sharashkin, editor of The Ringing Cedars Series’ English editions and a doctoral student in Agroforestry, is able to share with us the massive impacts of this gardening movement in the larger context of Russia’s agricultural economy:

“Currently, with 35 million families (70% of Russia’s population) working 8 million [hectares] of land and producing more than 40% of Russia’s agricultural output, this is in all likelihood the most extensive microscale food production practice in any industrially developed nation.

“According to official statistics, in 1999 more than 35 million families (105 million people, or 71% of country’s population) owned a dacha or a subsidiary plot and were cultivating it… The 35 million plots of these families occupy more than 8 million hectares and provide 92% of Russia’s harvest of potatoes, 77% of its vegetables, 87% of berries and fruits, 59.4% of meat, and 49.2% of milk.”

“When you look at the contribution of gardening to the national economy as a whole, it’s even more stunning,” Sharashkin said. “In 2004, gardeners’ output amounted to 51% (by value) of the total agricultural output of the Russian Federation. This represents 384 billion rubles (approx. US$14 billion!!!), or 2.3% of Russia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is greater, for example, than the contribution of the whole of electric power generation industry (317 bn rubles), significantly greater than all of forestry, wood-processing and pulp and paper industry (180 bn), significantly greater than the coal (54 bn), natural gas (63 bn) and oil refining (88 bn) industries taken together. The share of food gardening in national agriculture has increased from 32% in 1992 to over 50% by 2000.”


“Essentially, what Russian gardeners do,” he concludes, “is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.”

Though the dacha movement has its roots in Russia’s traditional peasant culture (and more recently in post-WW2 programs to boost agricultural production) the Ringing Cedars movement has had its own major contributions since the release of the books in 1996. A strong focus on planting trees and using non-timber tree products, permaculture principles like “no-dig” gardens, and fulfilling a spiritual relationship with the land are some of the new characteristics among the dachniks who have been inspired by Anastasia.

As well, the readers of Anastasia are also at the heart of a growing Russian eco-village movement. These are subsistence communities made up of multiple family estates, normally called “Kin’s Domains,” a term that appears in the books. Along with each family’s estate of between one and three hectares, these eco-villages may include community areas with a school, clinic, theatre, and festival grounds. Before the release of the Ringing Cedars books, Russia was without an eco-village movement; but in 2004, a conference of readers had attendants representing more than 150 eco-villages!

The spiritual affinity within the communities of the Ringing Cedars movement lies in their vision of re-establishing “Motherland,” an eco-culture where every person is fulfilling their role as a Divine Co-Creator. As readers go deeper into the series, Anastasia begins to reveal the path back to the state of a Creator Being, teaching about “The Science of Imagery,” of empowering our creative ability with pure thought, feelings, and a loving relationship with Nature. She also shares her stories about the history of the People of Earth, of the priests who led us into the Occult Age that is just now ending, and of the Beauty that was found in the gardens and rituals of an ancient Vedic race.


Anastasia also gives advice regarding the sowing of seeds, raising bees, and ideas for setting up a permaculture-style estate. Along with accounts of kombucha UFOs, ancestraldolmens (ancient burial chambers), and supernatural orbs, The Ringing Cedars Series contains a diverse array of paranormal tales, practical sustainability, poetic scripture, and cultural vision. For me, the books are a captivating read of personal, cultural, and spiritual significance.

Across Russia, “Garden Plot Acts” legislation is increasingly coming into effect, entitling each Russian citizen to a piece of land free from taxation and inheritable though the family line. I read this message of sovereign title to land for the purpose of spiritual fulfillment as a hopeful tiding of humanity’s future here on the planet. As I wander about visiting homesteads, farms, communities, and seeking the stories to inspire a natural and spiritual life, I have discovered Anastasia. It is one of those inspiring stories, and there are many blessings for us all on the path of Inspired Co-Creation…”

Read the whole story here on

From “Woman in”:

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Lady Bugs Are Your #1 Natural Pest Control

Lady Bugs Are Your #1 Natural Pest Control | Organic Farming |
Lady Bugs Are Your #1 Natural Pest Control...


Lady Bugs Are Your #1 Natural Pest Control by James Ellison

First, this bug has many names. Some of it's names are: lady bugs, ladybugs, lady beetle, asiatic lady beetle, Asian Lady Beetle, Asian Lady Bugs, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle. The Ladybird Beetle is the correct name for a Lady bug and are not bugs but are beetles. Worldwide there are nearly 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs of which 400 are found in North America. The Convergent Lady Beetle is the most common beneficial species of Ladybird beetle in North America.

The life cycle of all Lady Bugs are mainly the same. The eggs are laid in the spring. When they hatch the larvae will feed for a couple of weeks and then pupate into adults. During the winter they will hibernate or will have died in the fall. Springtime they awake to feed and lay more eggs again.

As a form of biological pest control Lady Bugs are widely used and are the best known. Besides eating their favorite food aphids they also eat mites, scales, whitefly, mealybugs and most other soft insects. They are known to eat cabbage moths, bollworms, tomato hornworms and broccoli worms. These bugs will eat up to 1,000 aphids in it's lifetime in both their larvae and adult stages.

The most common complaint against the Lady Bug is that when they are released they will fly off and let the aphids have their feast with your roses and tomato plants. But really only a part of your release will venture off, the rest will eat all the aphids they can find and then maybe fly off.

-There are a couple of tricks you can do to keep your Ladybugs-

1. Only release the ladybugs in the evening since they are not known to fly at night when it is cooler.

2. Take a can of soda and mix it with equal amounts of water and spray on the Lady Bugs just before you release them. The sugar will make the wings sticky for just a couple days so they will hang around at least for awhile and eat the pests. Since Lady Beetles claim certain areas home they will stay in your yard and make it their home and the females will start laying eggs in and around your garden.

-What about Lady Beetles in the house-

We are glad to have these beetles hang around and control the pests just like mother nature intended.If they stay at your place over winter they will look for a nice cozy place to stay and that is where your home comes into the picture.

These bugs don't seem to have any logic to picking a house they just have found yours and they like it there. In the yard and garden they were welcome guests, in your home not so welcome. What we want to do is ask the lady bugs to leave. They don't speak our language.

-So a few suggestions to try-

1. Get out your vacuum cleaner and find the hose attachment.

2. Get a nylon stocking and place it inside the hose with the top of the stocking overlapping the end of the hose and place the hose attachment end nozzle on this to keep the stocking on.

3. Start the vacuum and get the bugs cleaned up. This will keep the bugs alive and then you can take them outside and release in another area away from your home. Refrigerate for next spring or give them to a friend with a green house.

The ladybugs may be a problem outside the house also, help them relocate by:

1. Spray water at them with the garden hose.

2. Use your leaf blower and blow them away.

3. Upset the lady bugs and eventually they will move on to another location.

Needless to say they are a very beneficial bug, but for some people bugs are not their favorite. They can be helpful and at the same time create a problem. What we need to do is learn to live with our tiny friends and make sure they stay around.
About the Author

This article is provided courtesy of Basic Info 4 Organic Fertilizers You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.

Paul Stevens's curator insight, December 28, 2015 11:21 AM

Again, for insect problems, this is a decent informational article

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Prison » Five ways small-scale organic farming can save agriculture from America’s ‘greed for profit’ system

Prison » Five ways small-scale organic farming can save agriculture from America’s ‘greed for profit’ system | Organic Farming |

All around the world, the push to globalize the food supply by consolidating food production into large-scale, corporatized agricultural systems controlled by a select few is causing massive environmental destruction and immense poverty. And the only way to truly turn things around is to return to small-scale, independent, organic farming models in which people, not corporations, control the food supply, and grow quality food for their families and communities without government interference.

It may sound overly simplistic or even unrealistic in modern world terms, but small-scale farming methods that include growing a variety of crops on smaller plots, also known as biodiversity; rotating crops to maintain soil quality; and avoiding the overuse of harmful chemicals are still among the best ways to conserve land and ensure an abundant, nutrient-dense food supply. Apart from these methods, agriculture as we know it is doomed, as mankind will eventually greed itself into extinction.

“[R]eport after report — the kind governments and big organizations choose to override — tells us that the best way to ensure that everyone is well fed, sustainably and securely, is through farms that are mixed, complex and low-input (quasi-organic),” writes Colin Tudge in a recent editorial in the U.K.’s Guardian. “These must be labor-intensive (or there can be no complexity), so there is no advantage in them being large scale.”

Tudge warns about the dangers of greed-based agricultural consolidation and the elimination of people-driven agricultural models, noting how the ongoing separation of people from the land all around the world is destroying cultures, societies, and the planet at large. In the not too distant future, if current trends continue, the whole of humanity will have essentially been ultimately banished from its agricultural heritage into pauperism and starvation.

“Although industrial farming doesn’t feed everybody, has led to mass unemployment and the poverty and despair that go with it, and is wrecking the fabric of the world, it must prevail because it produces piles of short-term cash for the people who are calling the shots,” adds Tudge about the inevitable endgame of this centralized, top-down-control approach to agriculture.

Small-scale farming is humanity’s only chance at survival, prosperity

There are a number of reasons why small-scale farming methods are the only way to save agriculture from the greed-driven profit systems that are destroying it both in America and abroad. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, reason is that 1) small-scale farming methods promote individual rather than corporate ownership of food. When people control their own food supplies, corporations and the fascist governments they end up controlling are unable to transform agriculture into a centralized system driven by the maximization of profits through whatever means possible.



Another reason is that small-scale, bio-diverse farming methods ultimately 2) require fewer pesticides and herbicides to produce quality food, which means less reliance on multinational chemical companies to grow food. Small-scale farming systems, when utilized in balance with nature, end up producing 3) much more nutritious food with higher vitamin and mineral content as a result, which means a decreased human reliance on pharmaceutical drugs, hospital services, and other high-cost healthcare resources that are almost now universally controlled by greed-driven, corporate-controlled governments.

When common people are free to grow their own food on their own land for themselves, their families, and their local and regional communities, another beneficial consequence is a significant upswing in both the 4) availability of clean food and prosperity for all. Local economies thrive when individuals are free and able to reap the benefits of the fruits of their own labor, not when corporations are given free reign to seize control over all aspects of agricultural production, which they are only able to do by first stamping out all small-scale producers.

A decentralized farming model in which average families with land grow at least some crops on the family parcel has always been the most effective way for societies as a whole to avoid some of the devastating consequences of famine, blight, economic upheaval, and other disaster scenarios that would otherwise wipe out a centralized food supply in an instant. Backyard farms, after all, are what saved many American families from starvation during the Dust Bowl and after the Civil War, and they are precisely what will save families around the world today.

What both developing and developed countries need most in light of today’s global economic turmoil is a widespread reawakening about the importance of small-scale farming. 5) Small-scale farming is really the only viable, long-term solution to the problems of malnutrition and starvation, as both self-reliance and diversified food production remain the two most effective ways to maintain societal stability and survival, particularly in times of crisis.

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Myths about industrial agriculture

Myths about industrial agriculture | Organic Farming |
Organic farming is the "only way to produce food" without harming the planet and people's health.







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Vandana Shiva
Activist and author Dr Vandana Shiva is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.


Myths about industrial agriculture

Organic farming is the "only way to produce food" without harming the planet and people's health.

Last Modified: 23 Sep 2012 09:42






"The food revolution is the biggest revolution of our times, and the industry is panicking," says Shiva [AFP]

Reports trying to create doubts about organic agriculture are suddenly flooding the media. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, people are fed up of the corporate assault of toxics and GMOs. Secondly, people are turning to organic agriculture and organic food as a way to end the toxic war against the earth and our bodies.

At a time when industry has set its eyes on the super profits to be harvested from seed monopolies through patented seeds and seeds engineered with toxic genes and genes for making crops resistant to herbicides, people are seeking food freedom through organic, non-industrial food.

The food revolution is the biggest revolution of our times, and the industry is panicking. So it spins propaganda, hoping that in the footsteps of Goebbels, a lie told a hundred times will become the truth. But food is different.

We are what we eat. We are our own barometers. Our farms and our bodies are our labs, and every farmer and every citizen is a scientist who knows best how bad farming and bad food hurts the land and our health, and how good farming and good food heals the planet and people.

One example of an industrial agriculture myth is found in "The Great Organic Myths" by Rob Johnston, published in the August 8 issue of The Tribune. It tries to argue:

"Organic foods are not healthier or better for the environment - and they're packed with pesticides. In an age of climate change and shortages, these foods are an indulgence the world can't afford."

This article had been published in the Independent and rebutted, but was used by the Tribune without the rebuttal.

Every argument in the article is fraudulent.

The dominant myth of industrial agriculture is that it produces more food and is land-saving. However, the more industrial agriculture spreads, the more hungry people we have. And the more industrial agriculture spreads, the more land is grabbed.

The case against industrial agriculture

Productivity in industrial agriculture is measured in terms of "yield" per acre, not overall output. And the only input taken into account is labour, which is abundant, not natural resources which are scarce.

"Industrial agriculture is an inefficient and wasteful system which is chemical intensive, fossil fuel intensive and capital intensive."

A resource hungry and resource destructive system of agriculture is not land saving, it is land demanding. That is why industrial agriculture is driving a massive planetary land grab. It is leading to the deforestation of the rainforests in the Amazon for soya and in Indonesia for palm oil. And it is fuelling a land grab in Africa, displacing pastoralists and peasants.

According to the FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in Leipzig (1995), industrial agriculture is responsible for 75 per cent biodiversity erosion, 75 per cent water destruction, 75 per cent land degradation and 40 per cent greenhouse gases. It is too heavy a burden on the planet. And as the 270,000 farmers' suicides since 1997 in India show, it is too heavy a burden on our farmers.

The toxics and poisons used in chemical farming are creating a health burden for our society. Remember Bhopal. Remember the Endosulfan victims in Kerala. And remember Punjab's Cancer train.

Navdanya's forthcoming report "Poisons in our Food" is a synthesis of all studies on the health burden of pesticides which are used in industrial agriculture but not in organic farming.

Industrial agriculture is an inefficient and wasteful system which is chemical intensive, fossil fuel intensive and capital intensive. It destroys nature's capital on the one hand and society’s capital on the other, by displacing small farms and destroying health. According to David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agricultural sciences at Cornell University, it uses 10 units of energy as input to produce one unit of energy as food.

This waste is amplified by another factor of 10 when animals are put in factory farms and fed grain, instead of grass in free range ecological systems. Rob Johnston celebrates these animal prisons as efficient, ignoring the fact that it takes 7kg of grain to produce one kg of beef, 4kg of grain to produce 1kg of pork and 2.4kg of grain to produce 1kg of chicken.

The diversion of food grains to feed is a major contributor to world hunger. And the shadow acres to produce this grain are never counted. Europe uses 7 times the area outside Europe to produce feed for its factory farms.

Small farms of the world provide 70 per cent of the food, yet are being destroyed in the name of low "yields". Eighty eight per cent of the food is consumed within the same eco-region or country where it is grown.

Industrialisation and globalisation is the exception, not the norm. And where industrialisation has not destroyed small farms and local food economies, biodiversity and food are bringing sustenance to people. The biodiversity of agriculture is being maintained by small farmers.

As the ETC report states in "Who Will Feed Us", "Peasants breed and nurture 40 livestock species and almost 8,000 breeds. Peasants also breed 5,000 domesticated crops and have donated more than 1.9 million plant varieties to the world's gene banks."

"Peasant fishers harvest and protect more than 15,000 freshwater species. The work of peasants and pastoralists maintaining soil fertility is 18 times more valuable than the synthetic fertilisers provided by the seven largest corporations."

When this biodiversity rich food system is replaced by industrial monocultures, when food is commoditised, the result is hunger and malnutrition. Of the world's 6.6bn, 1bn are not getting enough food; another billion might get enough calories but not enough nutrition, especially micro nutrients.

Another 1.3bn who are obese suffer malnutrition of being condemned to artificially cheap, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor processed food.

Biodiversity of agriculture is maintained by farmers [EPA]

Half of the world's population is a victim of structural hunger and food injustice in today's dominant design for food. We have had hunger in the past, but it was caused by external factors - wars and natural disasters. It was localised in space and time.

Today's hunger is permanent and global. It is hunger by design. This does not mean that those who design the contemporary food systems intend to create hunger. It does mean that creation of hunger is built into the corporate design of industrial production and globalised distribution of food.

A series of media reports have covered another study by a team led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford's Centre for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school's Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, who did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods.

They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

This study can hardly be called the "most comprehensive meta - analysis"; the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyse. This already exposes the bias. The biggest meta-analysis on food and agriculture has been done by the United Nations as the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).

Four hundred scientists from across the world worked for four years to analyse all publications on different approaches to agriculture, and concluded that chemical industrial agriculture is no longer an option, only ecological farming is.

Yet the Stanford team presents itself as the most comprehensive study, and claims there are no health benefits from organic agriculture, even though there were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

Two days does not make a scientific study. No impact can be measured in a two-day study. This is junk science parading as science.

"Ecological, organic farming is the only way to produce food without harming the planet and people's health."

One principle about food and health is that our food is as healthy as the soil on which it grows is. And it is as deficient as the soils become with chemical farming.

Industrial chemical agriculture creates hunger and malnutrition by robbing crops of nutrients. Industrially produced food is nutritionally empty mass, loaded with chemicals and toxins. Nutrition in food comes from the nutrients in the soil.

Industrial agriculture, based on the NPK mentality of synthetic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium-based fertilisers leads to depletion of vital micronutrients and trace elements such as magnesium, zinc, calcium and iron.

David Thomas, a geologist-turned-nutritionist, discovered that between 1940 and 1991, vegetables had lost - on an average - 24 per cent of their magnesium, 46 per cent of their calcium, 27 per cent of their iron and no less than 76 per cent of their copper (Ref: David Thomas "A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991", Nutrition and Health, 2003; 17(2): 85-115).

Carrots had lost 75 per cent of their calcium, 46 per cent of their iron, and 75 per cent of their copper. Potatoes had lost 30 per cent of their magnesium, 35 per cent calcium, 45 per cent iron and 47 per cent copper.

To get the same amount of nutrition, people will need to eat much more food. The increase in "yields" of empty mass does not translate into more nutrition. In fact it is leading to malnutrition.

The IAASTD recognises that through an agro-ecological approach "agro-ecosystems of even the poorest societies have the potential through ecological agriculture and IPM to meet or significantly exceed yields produced by conventional methods, reduce the demand for land conversion for agriculture, restore ecosystem services (particularly water) reduce the use of and need for synthetic fertilisers derived from fossil fuels, and the use of harsh insecticides and herbicides".

Our 25 years of experience in Navdanya shows that ecological, organic farming is the only way to produce food without harming the planet and people's health. This is a trend that will grow, no matter how many pseudo-scientific stories are planted in the media by the industry.




Dr Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers' rights - winning the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) in 1993.



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Despite Economic Hurdles and Learning Curve, Family’s Hydroponic / Aquaponic Enterprise Turns Profit

Despite Economic Hurdles and Learning Curve, Family’s Hydroponic / Aquaponic Enterprise Turns Profit | Organic Farming |
Four years ago, Houston, TX-based Brenda Anderson and her family started VegOut! Farms, a hydroponic and aquaponic farm that grows organic and traditional produce for its local community.




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Despite Economic Hurdles and Learning Curve, Family’s Hydroponic / Aquaponic Enterprise Turns Profit

By Missy Smith / August 21, 2012 8:33 pm


Photo Credit: VegOut! Farms

For Brenda Anderson and her family, growing food is just as much about feeding and empowering their local community as it is about making a living. About 11 years ago, the family set out to start farming at the request of Anderson’s son Joshua. So, Anderson purchased a 22-acre ranch in Houston, Texas, and settled in with her family. And, about four years ago, the family—consisting of Anderson’s fiancé Jeff Koch, her sister and her two nieces—started VegOut! Farms, a hydroponic and aquaponic farm that grows organic and traditional produce for its local community.

Every year, VegOut! Farms produces about 94,000 pounds of beefsteak tomatoes in their three quarter acre hydroponic farm. They also grow cucumbers, eggplants and peppers hydroponically. Within their 3,000-square-foot aquaponic farm, VegOut! Farms produces organic lettuce and herbs, as well as fresh tilapia. In addition, squash, peppers and melons are grown within a large media bed; and, onions, beets and carrots are grown in vertical towers.

VegOut! Farms strives to use as many organic practices as possible, says Anderson. They use compost beds that help support the soil. They do not use fungicides or pesticides on the hydroponic farm, as the lack of any weeds or pests in the controlled environment greenhouse makes such inputs unecessary. They refrain from spraying chemicals on their soil gardens and only utilize beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps and BT proteins to maintain a natural and organic approach to farming. Sustainability is also at the forefront of VegOut! Farms’ operation. “All the water we use for the hydroponics is sprayed out onto our pasture, where we raise meat and show goats. We don’t waste anything. Fish waste is dissolved in the water. And, anything we flush off is dried and put into our soil bed. There’s nothing that we don’t use,” Anderson says.

Though VegOut! Farms has honed in on strong business and farming techniques, the operation is not without challenges. First and foremost, the economic hurdles have presented some challenges for their business. “It’s tough to find people to loan you money,” she explains. “If you don’t have land or equity already, it’s really tough for anyone to find money.” In addition, running a farm is also a learning process. “There is a learning curve. It’s not easy,” says Anderson. “Labor is tough. You have to really be willing to put in long hours, in addition to having a great banker, business plan and really sound business sense. It’s not just playing in the soil.”

Despite these challenges, VegOut! Farms is enjoying some success. “We are really happy to have made a profit this past year,” says Anderson. “Organic farming is tough, and I’ve seen too many people fail. It’s not something you can do overnight. It takes a lot of education, practice and hard work. Most of the students that come and do internships don’t want to work this hard. Farming is not easy. But, if you love farming, growing your own food and educating people, then it’s not a job. Then you can work those 10-,12-, 14-hour days. If you’re lucky enough to be profitable, that’s just a bonus.”

In addition to supplying the H-E-B supermarket chain (their main buyer) and farmers’ markets with fresh produce, the family also reaches out to people in their community to spread the word on home gardening. “We are advocates for education,” says Anderson. “Anyone can grow their own food. There is no reason for anyone to go hungry.”

This October, VegOut! Farms will offer hydroponic, aquaponic and soil culture classes, as well as farm tours, in conjunction with Houston Community College, in Katy, Texas, where Koch is head of the agriculture department, a position Anderson previously held.

Looking ahead, VegOut! Farms has many goals in place, including building another three-quarter acre greenhouse next year and offering pick-your-own berries. “We also want people to come to the farm and take part in free hands-on learning opportunities. There are a lot of things we’d like to do to grow our facility, and we have the space to do it.





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Indian Red Rice Revival Relies on Organic Farmers | Navara | Kerala | Ammini Ramachandran

Indian Red Rice Revival Relies on Organic Farmers | Navara | Kerala | Ammini Ramachandran | Organic Farming |
Increasingly rare Indian red rice known as navara is making a comeback in Kerala, India, thanks to the preservation efforts of organic farmers there.


When the mild winter arrives in south India around December or January, cool winds and pleasant temperatures replace the remnants of lashing rains from the northeastern monsoons. In the mountainous regions of central Kerala, the chill in the air signals the planting of medicinal Indian red rice, navara, a crop cultivated only once a year, usually between February and April. Navara, with its red bran layer is characteristic to Kerala.

Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medical system, calls it shastika rice and claims that it can restore imbalances in the human body. Navara rice is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols and has two or three times as much zinc and iron as white rice. It has the rare capability to enrich, strengthen, regenerate and energize the body. It is also used as baby food and replaces white rice on traditional days of partial fasting in many parts of India.

The red color, varying from light to dark red, is confined to the bran layer, but a touch of red remains on the grains even after milling. Navara grows fast compared to other varieties of rice; it takes around 60 to 72 days from planting to harvest, depending on the area of cultivation of and weather conditions. Navara rice is also resistant to insects and pests and can be stored for long time.

Bringing back a rare Indian red rice variety

Despite its medicinal properties, the cultivation of this rice variety is quite limited. Pure seeds have become difficult to find due to cross-pollination. Cultivating and preserving the seeds for this unusual variety is difficult.

Navara is a low-yield variety not well suited for commercial cultivation. The introduction of other, high-yielding varieties of rice in the 1960s and 1970s and the genetically modified varieties of the 1990s also adversely affected the cultivation of navara. Navara Eco Farm, a family owned farm in Chittur, Kerala, is pioneering the efforts to preserve navara rice. P. Narayanan Unny, the third-generation owner who took over the farm in 1995, has taken bold initiatives in his conservation efforts.

Unny decided to implement organic farming methods to preserve the crop’s medicinal properties. Converting to an organic methods was a challenge. After years of effort, he collected a sufficient quantity of navara seeds and gradually began cultivating only navara rice. Farm workers were taught organic farming skills, and the farm is mentoring neighboring farming communities and educating them the fundamentals of organic farming.

The cultivation of navara is a meditative process, passed down through generations. The rice fields are plowed, and farm workers sow the seeds and wait for a few days to replant the tender new shoots. Rice is traditionally farmed by hand; under cloudy or clear skies, men and women stoop in the deep mud and plant the rice, stalk by stalk. Soon the farm land is dotted with bright green bristles. Weeks later, the land is draped in vivid emerald, speckled with pools of reflective water. Slowly, the tall sheaves ripen, hanging in golden bunches.

When the leaves of the rice stalk start turning yellow, it is time for the harvest. Stalks are cut with iron sickles and tied in bundles to dry in farmyards and on roadsides. The whole farm becomes a large drying area. The languid air becomes heavy with dust and there is the constant sound of threshing as the grains are separated from the dried stacks. After threshing, the rice is ready for milling.

Historically the bran was removed from the grains by hand as people pounded them in ural (a stone or wooden trough) with ulakka (a long wooden or sometimes iron pole with a metal bottom). Two women would each pick up an ulakka, and together they would pulverize the grains. When one pole went in, other went up in the air; the two of them work in a synchronized motion. Now this laborious and time-consuming step is replaced by a special milling process that removes the hull without losing most of the bran.

Introducing organics

Unny’s long-term plan focused on organic farming methods, biodiversity and conservation. In 2006 the farm and its products were certified organic by the National Project on Organic Production, European Union and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He formed two associations of navara and palakkadan matta farmers and applied for geographical indication certification. In 2007, these two rice varieties were the first agricultural products in India to be registered with a geographical indication. India’s agriculture ministry honored Unny with the Plant Genome Savior Community Recognition Award for his conservation efforts.

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Wind turbine turns airborne moisture into drinking water

Wind turbine turns airborne moisture into drinking water | Organic Farming |
France's Eole Water has now created a turbine that can condense water in the air and make it safe for drinking.



Wind turbine turns airborne moisture into drinking water

France’s Eole Water has now created a turbine that can condense water in the air and make it safe for drinking.

10th September 2012 in Eco & Sustainability.

With wind power companies still trying to convince the sceptics of their benefits, we’ve seen forward-thinking innovators looking even further into the future, with airborne windmills and small scale wind farming. Taking a different approach, France’s Eole Water has now created a turbine that can condense water in the air and make it safe for drinking.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits a wind turbine offers, the company’s WMS1000 includes a fan that sucks in passing air as well as a cooling compressor in the generator compartment, which condensates passing airborne moisture. The water is then collected, filtered to World Health Organization drinking standards and delivered through a tap at the bottom of the turbine. According to Eole Water, the turbine can produce up to 1,000 liters a day. For communities situated in regions with few or low quality water supplies, the turbine could prove to be a vital resource. The following video demonstrates how the turbine works:

Tackling both environmental and social issues, the turbine has been in production for the past few years and has finally been delivered to Abu Dhabi to undergo testing in extreme weather conditions. If this is successful, perhaps Eole Water is a startup worth investing in?





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Farmers discover the power of flowers - Agriculture - VietNam News

Farmers discover the power of flowers - Agriculture - VietNam News | Organic Farming |
The flowers planted in rice fields in Mekong Delta An Giang Province may
look pretty, but they are there for a more sinister purpose: to attract
insects that kill pests.




The flowers planted in rice fields in Mekong Delta An Giang Province may look pretty, but they are there for a more sinister purpose: to attract insects that kill pests.Thousands of farmers in the province are taking part in a programme launched in Tien Giang Province at the end of 2009 by the International Rice Research Institute, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Plant Protection Department.

This year, farmer Tran Duc Thanh of An Giang harvested 4.5 tonnes of paddy from his 0.6ha rice field, an increase of 360 kilo compared to previous crops. He also saved VND600,000 (US$30) in production costs.

A member of the Tan Phu A1 Agriculture Co-operative in Tan Chau Town, Thanh has planted flowers on the edge of his paddy fields to attract bees, ladybugs and spiders, which eat brown planthoppers and rice-leaf folders. By planting the flowers, he can avoid using pesticides.

The province has also taught farmers new techniques and required that they plant quality seeds.

Under the programme model, they must reduce the number of rice seeds sown and the use of nitrogen fertilisers and plant-protection chemicals, as well as the volume of water used for irrigation. Post-harvest losses are also expected to be cut.

Trinh Van Dut, chairman of the Tan Phu A1 Agriculture Co-operative, said the cultivation of flowers near rice fields and the use of advanced farming techniques had helped raise profits by VND3 million ($140) per hectare per crop.

Nguyen Huu An, head of the An Giang Sub-Department of Plant Protection, said that 1,600 farmers in An Giang had planted flowers around 734ha of paddy fields.

He said that An Giang had set up 34 performance models in the area to train thousands of farmers.

Because of cuts in labour costs and pesticides, profits per hectare per crop are VND1.2-1.5 million ($50-70) higher than that of normal paddy fields.

In Vinh Long Province, 25 farmers in a 30-ha area in Vung Liem District's Hieu Nhon Commune have participated in the programme.

"Thanks to the prog-ramme, the costs to spray pesticides have dropped significantly," asid Vo Thanh Hai, deputy chairman of Hieu Nhon People's Committee.

Participating farmers have been given flower seeds, five kilos of rice seeds and advanced farming techniques. Farmers plant the flower seeds 10 days before they plant the rice seeds.

Sunflowers, daisies, cosmos, sesame, okra and other varieties of flowers that are easy to grow and yield many blossoms are planted along fields.

Farmer Ha Thanh Hung in Hieu Nhon's Hieu Minh A Hamlet said that previously he had sprayed pesticides to kill brown planthoppers at least three times for each crop. But now he does not use pesticides.

Vo Van Quoc, head of the Vinh Long Sub-department of Plant Protection, said: "This has reduced pollution significantly and created an ecological balance in the paddy fields."

Quoc said his department was drafting a plan to expand the programme and encourage more farmers to grow flowers to attract useful insects.

About 4,000 farmers, mostly in the provinces of An Giang, Vinh Long, Kien Giang, Ben Tre and Long An as well as Can Tho, have planted flowers along their paddy fields, amounting to a total of 2,000ha, according to the Viet Nam Farmers Association. — VNS

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Nutrition tip of the week: Are organic foods healthier?

Nutrition tip of the week: Are organic foods healthier? | Organic Farming |
You may have heard about a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that indicated organic food is neither more nutritious nor any less prone to bacterial contamination than conventionally grown foods.


You may have heard about a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that indicated organic food is neither more nutritious nor any less prone to bacterial contamination than conventionally grown foods. This study also found no evidence of a health benefit attached to organic food. Two hundred forty studies conducted from 1966 to 2011 were examined by researchers to look at nutrient and contaminant levels in food grown organically versus food grown conventionally.

Detectable pesticide residue was found in 7 percent of organic produce, even though by USDA definition, a food labeled organic must be produced without using conventional pesticides. Thirty-eight percent of conventional produce did have detectable pesticide residue, but none that exceeded the maximum allowed limits. Both organic and conventional foods were at similar risk for bacterial contamination.

Organic foods generally cost at least 25 percent more than conventionally grown counterparts and make up 12 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales. Most people buy organic products because they believe those foods are healthier or more nutritious, they are avoiding pesticides and other toxins, or because they feel organic farming is better for the environment.

Despite efforts by the food industry to equate the word “organic” with “nutritious,” this has never been the case. A tomato grown conventionally has the same nutrition profile as one grown organically. Remember, just because a processed food product has an organic label it doesn’t mean it is a healthy food. A pepperoni pizza made with organic ingredients isn’t better for you than a regular pepperoni pizza.

The Environmental Working Group analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine pesticide residue and ranks fruits and vegetables based on how much or how little residue is found. They estimate buying organic versions of the top 12 “dirtiest” foods would decrease our pesticide exposure by 80 percent. The 2012 “Dirty Dozen” include: apples, bell peppers, domestic blueberries, celery, cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries. You can download and print a handy shopper’s guide from

Regardless of the produce purchased, there are things you can do to further reduce your risk of bacterial or pesticide exposure.

Clean produce thoroughly with cold tap water. Fruit and vegetable “washes” have not been found to be any more effective than plain tap water, so you might want to save your money.
Remove and discard the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage.



Wash prepackaged items, like salad mixes, even though they may say they have been prewashed.
Scrub firm produce like melons and potatoes with a clean scrub brush.

Wash the outside of fruits and vegetables even if it won’t be consumed. (bananas, kiwi, avocado, etc)
Although edible peelings provide desirable fiber, consider peeling those fruits and vegetables (apples, potatoes, cucumbers, peaches and nectarines) on the dirty dozen list before eating, especially if given to someone at higher risk like small children, the elderly, pregnant women or anyone with a suppressed immune

Whether you choose to purchase organic depends on your priorities and if you have the extra money to spend on these products. Just keep in mind that they are not more nutritious, they may not be totally pesticide free and there is no advantage as far as bacterial risk. The benefits of all fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh any known risk of consuming pesticide residue.


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A Less Thirsty Future Through Engineered Crops? - The Equation

A Less Thirsty Future Through Engineered Crops? - The Equation | Organic Farming |

An important reason for considering the current state of genetically engineered drought tolerance, and its prospects, is to inform our investments in agricultural science to improve our ability to confront the challenges that Thompson and others have noted. Should those investments be based on our best information regarding what works, as we contend, or on the hope that we will find ways to make GE substantially cheaper and more effective?

And the truth is, we can make major headway toward answering agriculture’s challenges now–we don’t need to hold our breaths to see if GE will improve! We already have multiple ways to substantially address Thompson’s agricultural challenges, but we are not implementing them widely, or adequately supporting research to improve them.

Conventional breeding is already producing numerous drought tolerant crops, as noted in “High and Dry”. There is also substantial evidence from recent genetics studies to suggest that conventional breeding can continue to produce big improvements in drought tolerance and other traits, which is also discussed in the report. And there are clear benefits from ecologically-based farming systems that employ practices like long crop rotations (alternating crops from year to year) and the addition and recycling of nutrients and organic matter in the form of manure, mulches, and cover crops.

For example, Thompson wants to blunt the damaging effect of fertilizers and pesticides on the environment. But we already know that cover crops can typically reduce nitrogen fertilizer pollution by 40 to 70 percent, reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers, enrich the soil, and maintain or increase crop productivity. Cover crops are not widely used today due to misplaced policies like insurance penalties, and lack of research and infrastructure to make them more farmer-friendly. Other ecologically based farming methods can provide similar benefits.

The typical refrain from some promoters of GE is that we need all of these methods of meeting our agricultural challenges. That remains an assertion that has never been demonstrated, because there are probably several paths to achieving food security that include conventional breeding, agroecology, reducing food waste, empowerment of poor farmers (especially women), and more judicious consumption of meat, which is an inefficient source of protein and calories.

And Thompson never mentions that producing enough food alone won’t ensure that everyone is well fed, as the billion people who have too little food now demonstrates. It is not enough to understand the safety and efficacy of a technology, as Thompson contends, we also need to understand whether it may be compatible with justice and fairness.

One could argue that prudence suggests that every technology should be aggressively pursued unless there are compelling safety reasons to the contrary. In a world without substantial resource constraints, that might be the case. But in the real world of limited resources, we need to make informed choices. Our reports, and major reports like the IAASTD, are part of a growing body of evidence that supports an emphasis on agroecology, other agronomic and infrastructure improvements (e.g. more efficient irrigation and reducing waste) and conventional breeding, not GE.

And then there are the Errors

A second serious problem with Thompson’s article is that it contains several errors. He claims that DroughtGard increases water use efficiency (WUE; less water use in “normal” times). That’s important given that agriculture already uses about 70 percent of extracted fresh water. But Monsanto’s own data in their petition to USDA for deregulation shows that this is probably not true. Thompson makes the common mistake of equating WUE with drought tolerance, but the scientists who study WUE show that this is not the case. Typically, drought tolerant crops do not use less water. And there have been only 9 field trials testing experimental GE crops for WUE compared to thousands for herbicide resistance and insect resistance. This does not demonstrate a commitment by the industry to develop this trait.

Thompson also claims that the risks of GE have been well managed. This is emphatically contradicted by the millions of acres of resistant weeds that have arisen due to mismanagement, which in turn undermines his claim of reduced herbicide use. And insect resistance to Bt is now hot on the heels of weed resistance.

Finally, he compares GE food to GE medicine, expressing exasperation at the greater acceptance of biotech drugs. But these two applications of biotechnology present very different benefits. Medicine is a choice, and we may accept serious side effects because the alternative may be more dire. Food is a daily necessity, and when our food supply is inundated by GE, our choices become limited.

As we note in our report (and other work), GE may make some contributions to drought tolerance and other important agricultural problems in coming years. But that does not answer the question of whether those benefits outweigh problems and risks from GE, and certainly does not demonstrate that GE is needed to improve agriculture.

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Urban Green

Urban Green | Organic Farming |
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The 8 Most Interesting Ideas to Revolutionize Urban Farms

The 8 Most Interesting Ideas to Revolutionize Urban Farms | Organic Farming |
These vertical spaces could change how we grow.
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Water exec ventures into organic farming

Water exec ventures into organic farming | Organic Farming |


A HIGH-RANKING official of a water business firm has found “big opportunities” in agribusiness.

Three years after he retired from being chairman of Mactan Rock Industries Inc., a job he held for 38 years, Antonio Tompar is now venturing into integrated organic farming.


“I ventured into farming for, one, health reasons and, two, because this is a good industry that needs professionalism and good management. If handled well you can make money out of farming,” Tompar said in an interview.

Tompar said his family owns vast tracts of land in Cebu, Bohol and Iloilo, which he is currently developing into an integrated organic farm to supply organic vegetable to hotels and restaurants in Central Visayas.

He first developed the family’s 12-hectare property in Corella, Bohol. After a year, he developed the 30-hectare land in Asturias, Cebu and later a seven-hectare farm in Dumangas, Iloilo.

Excluding the land cost, Tompar said he invested about P2 million in the first three years just to get his farm operating, which includes purchase of planting materials and seedlings.

Prior to venturing into organic farming, Tompar consulted various industry experts. He attended a three-day session on organic farming in Bansalan, Davao del Sur to have first-hand knowledge in farm planting and management. He also joined the training sessions on organic farming initiated by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said he hopes to become a major supplier of organic vegetables in supermarkets in Bohol; and hotels and restaurants in Cebu and Iloilo.

Tompar’s farms currently specialize in organic lettuce planting which he said is “purely organic and can be eaten right away.” His farm adopted the vermiculture technology in sustaining the growth of his organic farms.

Vermiculture uses worms to turn waste into organic fertilizer.

Tompar’s average weekly harvest of lettuce in Bohol and Cebu is 100 kilos each and 50 kilos in Iloilo. He said revenues he collected from selling the lettuce through his dealers are given back as payroll for his employees.

Aside from planting vegetables, Tompar also allotted areas to plant coconut and native banana and introduce “inter-cropping” of coffee and cacao.

He said the pigs he raises in his farm in Bohol help support crop production because of their manire. These pigs are also roasted and served to customers in his 50-seater restaurant Tompar’s Farm Corella STK Grill.

He said any investment in agriculture will prosper given the huge demand for organic fruits and vegetables in the market.

“This is one industry that has a lot of potential but is largely untapped,” Tompar said.

“The promotion of organic farming in the country needs a lot of improvement for all farmers to feel that the demand in the market is increasing so farmers will opt to stay in agriculture and shift to organic farming,” he added.Tompar said the growing global trend of a healthy lifestyle increased the demand for organic products in the market.

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In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people!

In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people! | Organic Farming |
And since 1999, it seems things have only gotten better when it comes to small-scale agriculture in Russia.  In 2003 the Russian President signed into law a further “Private Garden Plot Act&#...



In 2003 the Russian President signed into law a further “Private Garden Plot Act” enabling Russian citizens to receive free of charge from the state, plots of land in private inheritable ownership. Sizes of the plots differ by region but are between one and three hectares each [1 hectare = 2.2 acres]. Produce grown on these plots is not subject to taxation. A further subsequent law to facilitate the acquisition of land for gardening was passed in June 2006. (according to a footnote in “Who We Are” by Vladimir Megre, pg. 42)

What other country raises so much of their food in such sustainable, organic, and non-GMO modes of production? While the European Union is setting the stage for agribusiness takeovers of major market share from traditional peasant farmers in places like Poland, Russia seems to be one of the few countries on the global stage moving so clearly in a sustainable and healthy direction.

And while organic farming gets a lot of media attention in North America, the fraction of agricultural land actually under organic cultivation is miniscule at 0.6%. The EU is a bit better at 4%. In spite of the minimal land area under organic cultivation, the movement for healthy agriculture in North America is under increasing siege by government “regulators”.

So what’s behind this wonderful new revival of Russian peasant agriculture? Could it be as simple as one person — Anastasia — a 40-year-old woman from Siberia who befriended a traveling Russian entrepreneur? Based on material Anastasia gave him, that entrepreneur, Vladimir Megre, has published nine books which have become underground best-sellers in Russia.

One of Anastasia’s imaginations, which Megre describes in considerable detail, is a future in which more and more people live on small (one-hectare) homesteads, which she calls Kin’s Domains. There they cultivate the earth to grow trees and raise vegetables and fruits of exceptional nutritional value, with enough surplus to sell. Anastasia imagines a national culture based on simple rural life in eco-villages like these, in which values of health, love, truth, freedom and beauty take precedence. Eventually she sees this leading to a booming business in eco-tourism as people from all over the world want to come to Russia and catch with their own eyes a glimpse of what humanity and the world can become.

Anastasia, however, is not just a simple peasant woman. In fact, she seems to be something of a spiritual adept, in the ancient Vedic tradition. In addition to her suggestions for agriculture and nutrition, she shares with author Vladimir Megre, insights on subjects as diverse as statecraft and the education of children. The books are an enjoyable and educational read. Though it’s sometimes tiresome to wade through Megre’s personal struggles with the material, I don’t think there’s anything I’ve seen yet that quite compares with what Anastasia has put before us in these few slim volumes. She describes her mission as helping people find their way through “the dark forces’ window of time”. And that’s something we could sure use some help with. Thanks Anastasia!

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The Farm Life Draws Some Students for Post-Graduate Work

The Farm Life Draws Some Students for Post-Graduate Work | Organic Farming |
The last Agricultural Census in 2007 showed a 4 percent increase in the number of farms, the first increase since 1920, and some college graduates are joining in the return to the land.




RED HOOK, N.Y. — It was harvest time, and several farm hands were hunched over a bed of sweet potatoes under the midday sun, elbow deep in soil for $10 an hour. But they were not typical laborers.

Jeff Arnold, 28, who has learned how to expertly maneuver a tractor, graduated from Colorado State University. Abe Bobman, 24, who studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, was clearing vines alongside Nate Krauss-Malett, 25, who went to Skidmore College.

Mr. Krauss-Malett said he became interested in farming after working in a restaurant and seeing how much food was wasted. Mr. Bobman had the same realization working in the produce section at a grocery store before college.

They had been in the fields here at Hearty Roots Community Farm in the Hudson Valley since 7 a.m. They all said they could not imagine doing any other job.

“Farming appeals to me, and probably to other people, because it’s simple and straightforward work outdoors with literal fruits from your labor,” Mr. Bobman said. “It doesn’t feel like you’re a part of an oppressive institution.”

For decades, the number of farmers has been shrinking as a share of the population, and agriculture has often been seen as a backbreaking profession with little prestige. But the last Agricultural Census in 2007 showed a 4 percent increase in the number of farms, the first increase since 1920, and some college graduates are joining in the return to the land.

Jordan Schmidt, a crew manager here at Hearty Roots, studied environmental science at Wesleyan. Ms. Schmidt, 27, did not have so much as a garden growing up, but in college, she said, she worked at a student-run farm and fell in love with agriculture. So she gave up on research science and moved onto a farm in Pennsylvania after graduating. This is her third season at Hearty Roots.

Hearty Roots, about 100 miles north of New York City, spans 70 acres with a clear view of the Catskill Mountains to the west. At the height of the harvest this year, the farm produced 8,000 pounds of vegetables a week — including peppers, beets and kale — and employed 10 workers. None of them came from farming backgrounds and most had heard about the job through word of mouth.

Ms. Schmidt recalled that her first time working on a farm, she loaded thousands of onions into a greenhouse to dry out, which was supposed to improve their flavor. But the roof was left uncovered, and when she returned the next day, many of the onions had been spoiled by the sun.

“They were caramelized,” she explained, lowering her eyes. Even with experience, she said, she still makes mistakes. Last year, she left a batch of sweet potatoes outside overnight, and they froze.

Still, she is experienced enough now to command a small group of farmers at Hearty Roots. It took some time, though, for her parents to come to terms with her profession.

“They’re like: ‘Can you make it like that? Can you make it and have kids?’ ” she said. But they have slowly come around, and now, Ms. Schmidt said, her mother is an organic food activist among her friends. (Her brother wants to be a writer.)

Hiring college students for the farm can have drawbacks.

“Most of the people here who work for me are here for one season and then move on to other farms, and so that’s actually the biggest challenge,” said Ben Shute, who owns Hearty Roots with his wife, Lindsey. “Every year it’s like training new people.”

But he said it was worth having such a staff.

“A lot of these people are like ambitious young people who want to farm for themselves,” Mr. Shute said, so they are motivated to learn quickly.

On the East End of Long Island, Sean Frazier, 23, and four others, all recent college graduates in their mid-20s, work on Quail Hill farm in Amagansett and have become close friends. Mr. Frazier, a Princeton graduate who until his senior year wanted to get a Ph.D. in physics, said his father wished that he was doing “something more intellectual, or something that’s harder.”

“He thinks I should be using my math skills,” Mr. Frazier said.

Like the workers in the Hudson Valley, the ones in Amagansett have had their share of misadventures. Mr. Frazier recalled that the first time he tried to collect eggs from under a chicken, he was pecked on his hands, surprisingly hard, and promptly switched (though briefly) to a feet-first technique.

Asked if he felt he was missing out on the city lifestyle, Mr. Frazier reflected for a moment. “I much more feel the opposite,” he said. “It would just really bother me to feel like I was inside all day and I was just missing out on everything that happened.”

The federal Agriculture Department said it did not have statistics on the number of college graduates who have become farmers in recent years, but Kathleen A. Merrigan, the deputy agriculture secretary, said in an interview that she believed the profession was becoming more attractive.

“I always joke that in the old days I used to go to a party and people would say, ‘What do you do for work,’ and I would say, ‘I work in agriculture,’ and I’d be left in the corner somewhere with my gin and tonic,” Ms. Merrigan said. “Now I say I work in agriculture and I’m the belle of the ball.”

In interviews at the two farms, the workers said that for them, farming was not a fad.

“I definitely want to end up living on my own farm — that’s definitely my life goal,” said Calvin Kyrkostas, Mr. Frazier’s co-worker, who graduated with a history degree from Oberlin College in Ohio.

Mr. Kyrkostas, 25, said he got into agriculture after working on a Missouri farm one summer in college. He said he became addicted to the feeling of accomplishment that came with seeing — and eating — the fruits of his labor after 15-hour workdays.

And then there was the tractor.

“I’m from Long Island, you know, I’m not a country boy, so it was cool to be able to hop on a John Deere,” he said. “It’s like every little boy’s dream to drive a tractor.”

“You don’t get into farming for the money,” he said. “You do it for the love of the game.”

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Cattle Now Being Fed Cookies and Candies Instead of Real Food

Cattle Now Being Fed Cookies and Candies Instead of Real Food | Organic Farming |
Livestock corporations have now begun feeding their cattle super cheap processed foods like cookies and candies, gummy worms, fruit loops, and chocolate.

Just when you thought the news couldn’t get any stranger regarding the disturbing state of the agricultural industry, it most certainly has. In an effort to slash costs and increase profits, livestock corporations have now begun feeding their cattle super cheap processed foods like cookies, gummy worms, chocolate, fruit loops and a whole list of candies. Fattening up the cattle thanks to a large percentage of sugar content and no real nutritional value, the disease-riddled cattle end up fetching a larger price for farm owners.The fruit loops-fed cattle also may end up on your dinner table, harboring even more dangerous additives than even cattle fed a diet of corn. Before accounting for the new diet of cookies and candy, conventionally raised cattle meat contains oftentimes an excessive amount of antibiotics (now admitted to be harming human health internationally), artificial hormones such as Monsanto’s cloned growth hormone rBGH, resistant bacteria, genetically modified organisms (from corn) and other contaminants. Now, however, a few new problematic substances have entered the equation.


Cattle on a Diet of MSG, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and GMOs

It is important to understand that almost all corn in the United States is genetically modified. Therefore, the ‘traditional’ factory farm diet of corn or grain is certainly not a safe option. It is, however, arguably better than 100% processed junk food that contains not just genetically modified organisms but ingredients like:

High-fructose corn syrupMSGHydrogenated oilsPesticides, herbicides, insecticidesAcrylamidesArtificial flavoringsArtificial coloringsArtificial sweeteners (like asapartame)

And many more. Each of these ingredients has of course been linked to a host of negative ailments ranging from cancer to cognitive disorders, however very few know the true dangers of such substances. High fructose corn syrup, for example, has been admitted to contain mercury — an element that is toxic in all forms. It is also important to note that the corn processed into high fructose corn syrup is, for the most part, always genetically modified. Such is also the case with aspartame, made from genetically modified bacteria waste. So now only are these cows being loaded up with processed food chemicals, mercury, and other additives, but they’re also still receiving GMOs.

Ice Cream Sprinkles As Food: “Anything that keeps the feed costs down.”

In other words, these cattle are being fed the typical American diet of processed foods containing GMOs, harmful additives, and zero real nutritional content. To give you a real life example, let’s examine one major dairy farmer who is literally feeding his cattle ice cream sprinkles. Dairy cattle owner Mike Yoder found a deal on ice cream sprinkles this summer, so he decided to go ahead and feed them to his cattle as their major food source. And as Yoder explains, it’s all about cutting costs — even if it means sacrificing your health:

“Anything that keeps the feed costs down.”

One candy producer, Brian Dill of Hansen Mueller, feels that it is justified feeding cattle chocolate, fruit loops, and ice cream sprinkles. According to Mueller, who markets the sale of chocolate to farmers as a way to cut costs, says that it really only comes down to ‘fat, sugar, and energy’. In other words, Mueller thinks it doesn’t matter what the cows eat. The only thing that matters to Mueller is that they get enough fat and sugar to maintain enough energy to be killed and shipped off to be eaten.

“That’s all it is,” he said.

The statements by this candy manufacturer rep and heads of the dairy cattle industry demonstrate the severe lack of care regarding the actual health of you and your family, the animals being fed these cheap processed foods, and the integrity of the environment. It also clearly shows that many such individuals are purely looking to increase profits, utilizing ‘anything’ that keeps costs down regardless of the price. In order to protect the health of you and your family, always remember to buy high quality organic. While 100% organic is the best along with locally grown market options, always look for the certified organic seal when purchasing food from a grocery store.

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Drought-decimated Corn Crop Creates Ideal Situation for Employment of Cover Crops, Says Purdue U. Agronomist

Drought-decimated Corn Crop Creates Ideal Situation for Employment of Cover Crops, Says Purdue U. Agronomist | Organic Farming |
Drought-decimated corn crops are likely to leave residual nitrate in soils after harvest, making this year ideal for farmers to plant cover crops, says a Purdue Extension agronomist.



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Drought-decimated Corn Crop Creates Ideal Situation for Employment of Cover Crops, Says Purdue U. Agronomist

By Purdue University / September 20, 2012 5:34 pm


News Release – WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Drought-decimated corn crops are likely to leave residual nitrate in soils after harvest, making this year ideal for farmers to plant cover crops, says a Purdue Extension agronomist.

Cover crops can “scavenge” residual nitrate and recycle it through biomass. The process helps reduce nutrient loss through leaching and runoff, and makes some of those nutrients available for the next cash crop.

“This year is a great example of when a cover crop is needed to trap the much larger amount of residual nitrate that will be present after the poor corn crop,” said Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University professor of agronomy. “Farmers who lose residual nitrogen also are losing the opportunity to trap that nitrogen and keep it in their fields for subsequent crop use.”

According to Kladivko, cover crops will benefit individual farms by building soil organic matter and potentially reducing next year’s nitrogen application. The practice also benefits regional water quality.

Although much of the Midwest is still in drought, rain has returned to many areas. With rainfall, residual nitrate will leach out the bottom of the root zone along with other essential nutrients. Those nutrients end up in local waters and eventually in the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Kladivko expects the amounts of nitrate lost to be much larger than usual this year. She said numerous studies have shown the highest nitrate losses in drainage waters following dry years.

Cover crops can help reduce these large losses.

Cover crops also can help farmers recoup part of the nitrogen fertilizer they applied to fields this season and provide benefits for future growing seasons.

Poor cash crop yields equal less crop residue being returned to the soil. Cover crops can offset some of that loss by protecting against soil erosion and providing food for soil organisms.

As the cover crops decompose during the next year, some of the nitrate taken up will be released back into the soil for use by the next cash crop, and some nitrate will help build soil organic matter.

The amount of nitrate uptake this fall and the amount of release next season depends on several factors, such as the amount of residual nitrate in the soil currently, the type of cover crop, the amount of growth this fall or spring if it’s a winter-hardy cover crop, the stage of cover crop at termination time and the decomposition rate of the cover crop in the spring.

While most farmers think of using cover crops after corn, they also can be useful after soybeans. As with cornfields, cover crops can add organic material and trap nitrate released by decomposing soybean residues.

Although the amount of nitrate taken up by cover crops is difficult to predict, Kladivko said it could be 50-100 pounds of nitrate per acre in a drought year. The amount released to next year’s crop also is hard to predict, but it could potentially be up to half of the nitrate in the aboveground biomass if the cover crops are terminated while in the vegetative state and they have a low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

Kladivko recommended planting cover crops such as oats, cereal rye, annual ryegrass or oilseed radish if the primary objective is to scavenge nitrate and build organic soil matter. If producers want to do fall grazing, she recommended planting turnips or crimson clover mixed with oats and cereal rye.

Whichever cover crop is planted, farmers need to plan for their future cash crop in the spring. Planning for cover crop termination is essential if the additional crop is to be beneficial and not hinder the planting of the next crop.



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How An Amsterdam School Uses Facebook Timeline In History Classes

How An Amsterdam School Uses Facebook Timeline In History Classes | Organic Farming |
A high school class in Amsterdam has started using it for educational purposes and you can check out the hard work they've done!



Facebook, despite its massive size, is one of the least talked about social media tools in the education technology world. But a high school class in Amsterdam has started using it for educational purposes and you can check out the hard work they’ve done!

Students at Het 4e Gymnasium Amsterdam have had their history class infused into their digital lives thanks to school principal Hans Verhage and the creative agency THEY.

The students have built Facebook Timelines for four history subjects:

- Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union
- Fashion from 1950 – present
- Inventions of the 20th Century
- Magellan’s Voyage

Historical events were represented by uploading a variety of media including audio, video, photos, maps, and historic documents.

“Many schools are anti- smartphones, sms, and Facebook because they feel that these things distract from learning. But you can also turn it around and make use of social media,” said Verhage.

Students and history buffs around the world are invited to view the timelines. And of course, to add their own comments.

View a short video about the project here.

Visit the individual History Timelines here:
- Fashion – 1950 To Now
- 20th Century Inventions
- Magellan’s Voyage


Do click the above link for an interesting video







Liz Bates's curator insight, May 11, 2015 11:39 AM

If your information involves telling a story this would work quite well. If your topic dosen't have much to do with time, it's not that useful

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Why organic farming is must- practice for Zambia, world | Zambia Daily Mail

Why organic farming is must- practice for Zambia, world | Zambia Daily Mail | Organic Farming |
Why organic farming is must- practice for Zambia, world...


DURING the 70s and 80s, Southern Province was the major producer of maize in Zambia but today the story is different! Why?
During the 60s, 70s and early 80s, Southern Province had the highest cattle population in Zambia but the story is different now! Why?
Today the world is complaining of adverse climatic conditions! Why?
The answer to the above questions is one, simple and the same! It is because of man’s selfishness that has caused all the above challenges!.
Man has excessively used chemical fertilizers which have in turn reacted in the soil to result in unproductive soils. The same soils which have yearly been robed away of its nutrients have not been replenished making them unproductive.
Chemical fertilizers have not only been reactive to the soils but also too expensive and not economical to the farmers. An average farmer in one hectare of a maize crop currently requires 10 x 50kg bags of fertilizer costing K2,800,000 compared to the returns of average 40 x 50kg bags of maize in the hectare which will give him K2,600,000. It leaves him with a loss of K200,000 per hectare without even considering the other cost of seed, ploughing, cultivating, weeding, harvesting, empty bags, transporting, storage, security, marketing etc.
The continuous use of chemical pesticides and herbicides to prevent and control animal plants and animal pests and diseases has also had a negative effect on plants and livestock production. Pets and vectors have become immune to the chemical pesticides.
The chemical sprays have killed beneficial living organisms which are supposed to help in supporting the agriculture industry. The chemicals sprayed on the crops and livestock have also contaminated the crops and animal products causing more harm to the living organisms which include people.
The workforce on most of the farms is not protected against the chemical contamination. These normally develop short and long-term effects from the chemicals they use over a period of time. These make them weaker and susceptible to more diseases and complications.
The many annual bush fires burn the organic matter which is supposed to be used by farmers to produce healthy plants and livestock. The effects of the bush fires leave the soils bare and barren.
The indiscriminate clearing of trees and grass is also contributing to making our land unproductive.
Organic farming on the other hand reverses the effect of the above practices.
Benefits of organic farming.
The goal of organic farming is to meet the needs of our present generation without jeopardising the needs of future generations at the same time.
Organic farming is said to be economically sound and sustainable, socially just and environmentally friendly.
Organic farmers diversify their agricultural business by growing several crops and rearing several types of livestock at the same time on the same piece of land ,which ensures to self-sufficiency and iprovides food nutrients, food security, livestock feed, soil organic matter, and energy.
The combination of livestock and crop production in organic farming makes it advantageous and it results in high yields, low costs of production, high net farm income, sustainability of soil living organisms’ resource base, production of healthy foods, sustainable production, less or no poison to the living organisms and workers on the farm as well as the environment.
Organic farming yields initially reduce during the first three years, then rise high every year due to build-up of soil living organisms and soil fertility. The soil living organisms and soil fertility increase the yields of organic farmers.
It has been proved from research that actually with a consistency of good practice, soil can be transformed within one year with some degree of difference in yields of some varieties of organic crops. The variation in yields is normally due to differences in nutrients requirements of respective crops.
According to research and trials conducted in several commercial export vegetables operations in southern and eastern Africa, results have shown that within the same year of conversion to organic farming, majority of crop yields have not reduced but steadily increased to between 20 to 25 percent.
Cost of production
Organic farming has lower costs of production than conventional type of farming. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides purchased are not incurred under organic farming. Additionally, the cost of buying feed for livestock and related veterinary bills is not incurred under organic farming and also the cost of replacing breeding stock is cheaper as it is done on the farm.
premium prices which buyers offer for organic crops and livestock products make organic farming more profitable. Although premium price is not yet appreciated in most districts of Zambia, Lusaka buyers of organic products are offering it.
The aspect of weed infestation in conventional farming is a challenge, but improved soil structure and good management practices, which include heavy mulching, have suppressed weeds in organic farms.
Net farm income
The net farm income for organic products is normally high because the high yield in organic farming translates into more money per same area of land. The other advantage is as a result of the premium prices for products which are on demand.
The intensive farm production puts the whole farm to use and makes the different enterprises complement each other thereby spread even risks of producing one type of crop on the farm at a time.
The above issue puts organic farming at an advantage compared to the other types of farming and makes organic farming an alternative and solution to the current world agricultural food security and hunger challenges.
The author is vice chairperson Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ).



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Foods that travel long distances. The entry of industrial processors in the handling, distribution and sale of food is worrying. We have seen the arrival of a host of exotic and everyday fruits and vegetables from faraway countries. The need to transport food over great distances leads to a new invasion of a whole lot of dangerous chemicals in order to preserve the food for long journeys across oceans (‘food miles’). After it has been ‘processed’, the food is again doused with chemicals or preservatives to keep even longer on super market shelves.

Foods that have not reached maturity naturally. Also to enable produce to travel long distance, farmers will take it down in raw condition, treat it with chemicals to resist storage insects, ripen it at destination with chemicals like calcium carbide before it reaches the consumer. So the final product that reaches us through supermarkets has very little connection with the place in which it was originally grown or with the way nature has designed them to be raised.

In some specific instances today safe food is almost impossible. Such food can only be unhealthy because the seller is bound to use chemicals. So eat less of it, if it cannot be avoided.

Foods that are highly processed. Human bodies have not been equipped by nature to eat unnatural food or unnaturally processed food or chemically contaminated food or chemicals. If we do so routinely, we cannot avoid their health consequences. For example, there is a very huge difference in the way the body is able to metabolise and absorb nutrients from wholegrain products compared to identical industrial products like packaged and refined flour. The latter is intimately related to dental caries—because of the absence of fibre—and constipation. Neither conditions are associated with the consumption of wholewheat. There are a multitude of such examples.

Foods that are highly refined. Fortunately in India (and chiefly because of the cost) processed food is still limited to a small section of the population. But as there are newer products, the focus shifts to refined food now than ever before. As such foods are promoted as instant, magical solutions to fatigued individuals or growing children—they are bound to lead to more unhealthy consumption. There is no ‘processed’ or ‘refined’ food that will match the nutritional qualities of the same product in its unprocessed, natural form.


Yet, even today huge quantities of foods available in India are naturally grown and come from natural sources. Take, for example, mushrooms and mahua from the forest; fruits like jackfruit and mango. Much of the milk and meat still comes from animals and goats that browse open areas and consume naturally available fodder and leaves. Thus, by and large however it is still possible, if one is smart, to continue to eat food that comes from natural sources, untouched by chemicals. And the good news is that there is a tremendous will to turn things around amongst a group of well-informed citizens. There is increasing awareness on clean foods and safe foods. Civil society associations and farmers associations have moved to promote a gradual return to organically or naturally grown food. In fact, there is already a large market developing within the country for organically grown food, reflected in the opening of more than 500 green shops in every major city and town.


Unfortunately, the encounter of modern consumers with organic produce is often soured by their price. Since organic farmers don’t use expensive pesticides and chemical fertilisers, organically grown food ought to be cheaper than conventionally grown food.

Here are two important considerations that have raised the price of organic produce.

First, land that has been used to grow crops with chemicals is devastated land. It has to be turned around and restored to health. Invariably, crops grown organically in such fields do not yield their best till 2-3 years. So to compensate for lower yields, costs may be higher. Once more and more farmers switch to organic and learn to grow food without chemicals, costs will come down. This is inevitable. You can be part of the process of bringing down prices. Support farmers who grow organically. In any case, organic food is better food, so be ready to pay more for it, just as you do for other classes of goods. If something is superior, you are always willing to pay more.

What’s more, since organic food has to be kept separate from conventional food, transported to special shops in towns and cities, this also adds to the cost of the food. The regulations require that it cannot be mixed at any stage with food grown with chemicals. The crop must also be certified as organically grown by outside inspectors who charge immodest fees.


There is a system in place which tries to ensure that any food sold as ‘organic’ must be certified as such by government-recognised certification agencies. For example, there is Agmark Organic. Other certifiers include groups like Ecocert, IMO, Skal, NOCA, PGS. Their trade marks will invariably appear on packaged organic food items. Any packaged item (including mangoes and grapes) that claim to be ‘organic’ on the carton, but does not carry a certifier’s label, will not be genuine.


By and large, the following principles should be kept in mind while sourcing your food:

Eat seasonal. You will solve much of your problems of sourcing safe food, if you depend largely on seasonally grown items. Don’t insist on purchasing mangoes in December and oranges in June, or import them from faraway places. You must know that all fresh food decomposes rapidly over time and in high temperatures and must therefore be chemically treated.

Eat local. Food grown locally is your best option, the closer the farm the fresher the food will be. Once you expose yourself to food imported to your market from faraway places, what you are doing is to expose yourself to food grown in unknown circumstances.

Eat Fresh. The third principle is to always prefer fresh to processed. Processed food is natural food with its life removed because processing destroys the original structure of food and therefore its nutritional assets.

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Infoshop News: Organic food: Still more than an elitist lifestyle choice

Infoshop News: Organic food: Still more than an elitist lifestyle choice | Organic Farming |

It happens like clockwork; every few months, a rant against local and/or organic food appears in one of the papers of record. The author is nearly always an educated man who uses the words “elite” and “elitist” at least 175 times while defending today’s corporate food system and implying directly or indirectly that changes to the status quo — which often inherently begin with those who can afford to make them — should be seen as suspect at best, and downright damaging at worst.

Organic food: Still more than an elitist lifestyle choice

By Twilight Greenaway

People who go to farmers markets in March probably aren’t doing it for the romance or comfort. (Photo by Sarah Gilbert.)

It happens like clockwork; every few months, a rant against local and/or organic food appears in one of the papers of record. The author is nearly always an educated man who uses the words “elite” and “elitist” at least 175 times while defending today’s corporate food system and implying directly or indirectly that changes to the status quo — which often inherently begin with those who can afford to make them — should be seen as suspect at best, and downright damaging at worst.

There was James McWilliams’ 2009 book, Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, and the whole array of anti-locavore screeds that accompanied it in the Atlantic and The New York Times. And among the many others that have come since were James Budiansky’s 2010 claim that locavores needed math lessons and Canadian academic and author Pierre Desrochers’ recent book, which argues that “locavores do more harm than good.”

Then last week, Roger Cohen, a British columnist for The New York Times and its European counterpart, the International Herald Tribune, joined the chorus by calling organic food a fable. In the op-ed, which was prompted by a Stanford University mega-study which questioned the nutritional value of organic foods and topped the Times’ most-emailed list over the weekend, he took an all-too-familiar tone:

Organic has long since become an ideology, the romantic back-to-nature obsession of an upper middle class able to afford it and oblivious, in their affluent narcissism, to the challenge of feeding a planet whose population will surge to 9 billion before the middle of the century and whose poor will get a lot more nutrients from the two regular carrots they can buy for the price of one organic carrot.

Ah, there they are again — those narcissistic, organic-eating straw men we all know and love. But Cohen doesn’t stop there. He dismisses organic as an “effective form of premium branding,” compares feeding your child organic baby food to sending them to private school, calls it an “elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype,” and returns to the oh-so-familiar assertion that organic can’t possibly feed our growing population in the years to come. It’s along these lines that he cries out: “I’d rather be against nature and have more people better fed.”

My first instinct with rants like this is always to ignore them. Especially since critics like Cohen have become so predictable in the dichotomy they return to again and again: The starving people here and in the developing world versus the wealthy Whole Food shoppers only interested in status and nostalgia. Oh, and premium brands, of course. I can’t ignore it this time, though — partly because this argument actually seems to work on some people. And the fact is premium brands — and the lifestyle marketing that often accompanies the higher-end organic products — are actually pretty obnoxious. But does that detract from the core purpose of organic agriculture? Not in my eyes, no.

I’m not going to take up space with a lengthy discussion of the value of organic food. Lord knows such discussions have been flooding the airwaves this week. As many have pointed out since the Stanford study was released, the nutritional value of the food has never been the main point of organics. And the study did conclude that organic is a significantly better choice when it comes to the presence of pesticide residue on produce and antibiotics in meat. But don’t take my word on it. I’ve collected a roundup of responses from a variety of smart people here.

Furthermore, Cohen also does a surprisingly good job of arguing for organics in his op-ed. He writes:

Now let me say three nice things about the organic phenomenon. The first is that it reflects a growing awareness about diet that has spurred quality, small-scale local farming that had been at risk of disappearance.

The second is that even if it’s not better for you, organic farming is probably better for the environment because less soil, flora and fauna are contaminated by chemicals (although of course, without fertilizers, you have to use more land to grow the same amount of produce or feed the same amount of livestock.) So this is food that is better ecologically even if it is not better nutritionally.

The third is that the word organic — unlike other feel-good descriptions of food like “natural” — actually means something. Certification procedures in both the United States and Britain are strict. In the United States, organic food must meet standards ensuring that genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, sewage and irradiation were not used in the food’s production. It must also be produced using methods that, according to the Department of Agriculture, “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.”

Um, yeah — that definitely sounds like a bunch of pseudoscience to me.

If I had the opportunity to wander around a Whole Foods with Cohen, I would dare him to find a single person in the store who wouldn’t identify the factors he’s listed above — “quality, small-scale local farming”; “food that is better ecologically”; and “standards [that ensure] that genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, sewage and irradiation were not used in the food’s production” — as critical. Much more critical than, say, looking bougie. In fact — if they’re anything like me — I’m guessing many of those people walk in to Whole Foods despite the fact that it will make them look bougie, for the exact reasons Cohen lists above.

Many of those same people are probably planning ahead, buying in bulk, and cooking at home more than is fun or convenient just to make it affordable to eat whole, local, and organic food. (Nothing says elite like scooping whole grains out of big plastic bulk bins and into plastic bags!) Some may also be spending less on other things — like iced lattes, for instance, or stuffed animals.

And it’s certainly not a simple division between “the people who eat all organic” and “everyone else.” As Kim Severson points out in today’s article, “More Choice, and More Confusion, in Quest for Healthy Eating,” most people are filling their grocery baskets with a “tumble of contradictions.” Severson speaks with a shopper whose basket is filled with “organic cabbage and jar of Skippy peanut butter. A bag of kale and a four-pack of inexpensive white wine. Pineapples for juicing and processed deli meat.”

What I like about the honesty of that portrait is that it hints at a larger truth: Few people view their food choices in an all-or-nothing fashion.

If we all ate, say, 20 percent organic food, it could make a real environmental impact (from fewer greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, to less weed killer in the water quality, to fewer miles of aquatic dead zone in the Gulf caused by synthetic nitrogen fertilizer). If we all ate 20 percent local food from small farms whose values we supported, we’d do a lot to keep those farms thriving; we’d also keep farmland from being developed at its current, rapid pace.

Cohen’s assertion that we must go against nature to “have more people better fed” clearly stems from hard facts about how many of us the planet can sustain. And he’s right — we do have to think carefully about the future of food on this planet. But I’d refer him to the argument some folks have been making for, oh, at least four decades that eating fewer resource-intensive foods (such as less meat and dairy) and reducing the 40 percent of food that we waste in this country (not to mention educating more women in the developing world and providing them with access to birth control as a way of stemming some of that population tide) would go an awful long way toward ridding us of that apparent Sophie’s choice.

But all that assumes that rants like Cohen’s are intended to be a genuine part of the ongoing, complex discussion of what to eat sustainably and why — an argument that I’ve seen shift and flex and adapt to new science quite a bit over the last decade. Cohen wants none of the above. This was made most clear to me when he asserted, in the op-ed’s last paragraph, that organic food is “a fable of the pampered parts of the planet — romantic and comforting.”

In fact, Mr. Cohen, I’d argue that the drive many of us feel to transform our impersonal, toxic, highly industrialized food system stems neither from romance nor comfort (although aspects of both can no doubt be found in food). On the contrary, it stems from a deep discomfort with what we’ve done to the land, the ocean, and our bodies over the last half-century, and an accompanying willingness to keep trying — even in the face of some very bad odds — to reverse .


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Farmers urged to go organic, shun chemicals - Agriculture - VietNam News

Farmers urged to go organic, shun chemicals - Agriculture - VietNam News | Organic Farming |
Farmers should increase the use of bio-organic products in agricultural production because it would sustain the health of soils, preserve biodiversity and improve people's health, delegates said at a forum held in Mekong Delta's Can Tho City last...




CAN THO (VNS) — Farmers should increase the use of bio-organic products in agricultural production because it would sustain the health of soils, preserve biodiversity and improve people's health, delegates said at a forum held in Mekong Delta's Can Tho City last week.Viet Nam's agricultural sector has over the last three decades mainly relied on intensive farming techniques that use chemical fertilisers, pesticides and other products to raise crop productivity, said Duong Van Chin, deputy head of the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute.

Chin said the intensive farming method has caused severe ecological imbalances, making the land less fertile and increasing plant diseases.

In addition, land and water environments in rural areas have been seriously polluted due to abuse of crop protection chemicals, he said, adding that pesticide residues in farm produce was still high, he said.

Nowadays, many countries have begun adopting organic agricultural practices, increasing the use of green fertilisers, compost and biological pest control, with the areas devoted to organic farming increasing.

Viet Nam too has called for increased use of bio-organic products in agricultural production in recent years, but the areas under organic farming was still very low, accounting for only 0.2 per cent out of the total agricultural production land, Chin said.

"I think the organic agriculture will have great chance to develop in the coming time to provide safe products for local consumption and export," he said.

He enumerated several advantages of using bio-organic products over chemicals including reduced costs, zero pollution and preservation of ecological diversity.

The environmental advantage was the biggest one yet, said Dr Tran Van Hai of Can Tho University.

He said bio-organic products did not kill natural enemies of pests and increased product quality considerably.

Scientists have developed several bio-organic products that can be used as a control agent for many fungal diseases on rice and other fruit trees, he said.

Chin said the Mekong Delta has about 20 million tonnes of rice straw a year and farmers mostly burn them, causing pollution.

"If we spray a suitable volume of the fungus trichoderma into the straw, it will become organic fertiliser and help improve long-term soil fertility. This will help reduce costs and environmental pollution from using synthetic fertilisers," he said.

Pham Van Quynh, director of Can Tho City's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the city has in recent years strengthened the use of bio-organic products in killing brown plant hoppers during the flowering time in rice.

"This method has been more effective than using large amounts of pesticides," he said.

The city has also used bio-fertilisers in planting vegetables and fruits, he said, adding that this not only helped increase crop productivity, but also resulted higher quality produce when compared with the use of chemical fertilisers.

The city planned to expand research and create more bio-organic products for plant protection, he said.

He said the city has conducted training and awareness programmes to instruct farmers in making bio-organic products themselves.

Nguyen Thanh Khinh, a farmer in Can Tho City's Thot Not District, said since applying bio-organic products in his rice field in 2009, his profit has increased by VND1.5-2 million per hectare.

Huynh Hai, a farmer in the same district, said the use of natural products has allowed him to save between VND2.5-3 million per hectare when compared with the use of chemical pesticides.

Phan Huy Thong, director of the National Agricultural Extension Center, said using bio-organic products in production was a must in modern agriculture, which targeted sustainable development as well as hygiene and safety.

"However, it does not mean that we absolutely stop using inorganic products in production, but that farmers must combine the use of bio-organic and in-organic products depending on actual circumstances," Thong said, calling for officials and farmers to be realistic in their planning and execution.

Currently, there are many kinds of bio-organic products available in the market, delegates told the forum, adding that the Government should develop concrete standards for these and enhance management of production and sales to ensure benefit of farmers.

In mapping out the country's development strategy for agriculture and rural development until 2020 with a vision up to 2030, the Government should pay more attention to organic agriculture development as the best way to ensure sustainable growth, Chin said.

More than 400 delegates, including scientists, provincial officials, agricultural scientists and farmers from many provinces and cities in the south attended the forum, which was co-organised by the National Agricultural Extension Center and Can Tho City's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. — VNS

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