GMO-free news from the Netherlands

2014-10-16 |

FAO report: 500 million family farms form the backbone of agriculture

Frau Woman farmer in India (Photo: V.Reddy/CCAFS)

The world’s food security and environmental sustainability depend on the more than 500 million family farms that form the backbone of agriculture in most countries. This is the key message of a new report published today by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the occasion of World Food Day. According to “The State of Food and Agriculture 2014” report, 90% of the world's 570 million farms are managed by families, making them the predominant form of agriculture. Family farms produce about 80% of the world's food and are custodians of about 75% of all agricultural resources. The FAO report offers a lot of details about the size and distribution of agricultural holdings: 72% of the world's farms are less than one hectare in size but control only 8% of all agricultural land. Farms between 1 and 2 hectares account for 12% of all farms and control 4% of the land. In contrast, only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, but they control 65% of the world’s agricultural land. The report says that small farms produce a higher share of the world's food relative to the share of land they use, as they tend to have higher yields than larger farms within the same countries and agro- ecological conditions. However, many smaller farms are unable to produce enough to provide decent livelihoods for the families. The FAO says that family farms face the “triple challenge” of increasing yields “to meet the world’s need for food security”, achieving “environmental sustainability to protect the planet” and increasing productivity and diversifying livelihoods to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. The report argues that family farmers must innovate and improve their production and agricultural practices. However, innovation systems must take the diversity of family farms into account.

2014-10-16 |

Organic industry confused by GMO vaccines

A lack of clarity about which livestock vaccines are made with genetically modified organisms is creating confusion in the organic industry.

2014-10-16 |

Ghana: CRI experiment cultivation of GM rice

The Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at Fumesua near Kumasi has embarked on a trial cultivation of genetically modified rice.

2014-10-16 |

Genetic Engineering: A Military History

When most people think of "genetic engineering", they think of "Genetically Modified Organisms" and "Frankenfoods" and protests over Monsanto and "safety issues" with GMO foods. But the reality has always been that much of the genetic engineering research in the US has been carried out by the military, and the Pentagon was in on recombinant DNA technology almost from the ground floor, beginning way back in the 1970's.

2014-10-16 |

AFSA Slams Biotech Takeover of African Seed Companies

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is deeply concerned about the recent acquisitions by multi-national seed companies of large parts of SeedCo, one of Africa’s largest home-grown seed companies.

2014-10-16 |

USDA announces close and findings of investigation into the detection of GE wheat in Oregon in 2013

After conducting a thorough and scientifically detailed investigation into the detection last year of genetically engineered (GE) wheat growing in a single field on a single farm in Oregon, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has concluded that the presence of the GE wheat appears to be an isolated incident.

2014-10-16 |

USA: EPA gives go ahead to new weed killer for GM soy and corn

The Environmental Protection Agency today gave the green light to an herbicide designed for use with new genetically modified corn and soybeans.

2014-10-16 |

Stop GMO 2,4-D Tolerant Crops

CBAN: Canada has approved 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant GM corn and soy. On October 15, 2014, the US government also approved Dow's 2,4-D/glyphosate herbicide mix, to go along with GM 2,4-D tolerant crops. Now Dow AgroSciences has all the approvals it needs to start marketing these GM herbicide tolerant crops in Canada and the US.

Center for Food Safety: CFS condemned the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to approve Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo herbicide, a new blend of 2,4-D and glyphosate intended for use on Dow’s patented 2,4-D resistant (Enlist) genetically engineered corn and soybeans. EPA’s approval was the final hurdle for the heavily criticized new crop system and paves the way for commercialization and planting.

2014-10-16 |

UN Committee adopts weak principles on agricultural investment

FAO Plenary of the CFS (Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto)

The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the central and most inclusive intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder platform for food security and nutrition, yesterday adopted the Principles on Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the endorsement, praising the principles as a “new point of reference for all, providing guidance to governments, investors, businesses, farmers, local communities, intergovernmental organisations and civil society organisations.” Non-governmental organisation, however, doubt that the principles will live up to their objective of promoting responsible investment in agriculture and food systems that contribute to food security and nutrition. According to Oxfam, they are too weak, vague and in a number of areas actually worse than the standards that already exist. “Unscrupulous investors could find ways to use the principles to cover irresponsible deals”, Oxfam spokesperson Thierry Kesteloot said. He criticises that the principles put trade interests before human rights. The CFS civil society mechanism shares this concern, stating that human rights are undermined by repeated references that seek to subordinate human rights to trade agreements and rules. Moreover, the term ‘smallholders’ used in the document leaves out the millions of people who are landless but deeply involved in agricultural investment. Civil society also highlights the document’s failure to acknowledge that different production systems have different environmental impacts, allowing business as usual for agricultural practices that damage people and the planet.“While it claims to promote agroecology, it also supports ‘sustainable intensification’, which is a euphemism for chemical intensive agriculture,” said Gilbert Sape of the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific. The civil society mechanism warned the principles “will not help small-scale food producers and workers overcome the economic, environmental and political constraints that hamper their capacities, and they will not assist people who are struggling to defend their land, seeds and territories.” The principles have been developed over the past two years by a wide range of stakeholders; the final adoption was the responsibility of the CFS Member States.

2014-10-14 |

New report stresses need to reform and democratise food systems

RnWCover Cover of the new report

Global food security and the human right to food remain seriously threatened by the concentration of land ownership and corporate domination of food systems, according to a new report launched last week. The “Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2014” was officially presented at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome with the participation of the new UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Dr. Hilal Elver. It marks the ten-year anniversary of the Right to Food Guidelines, adopted by the FAO in 2004. "As we celebrate the progress made over the past decade, it is important to keep in mind that we will have to work even harder to realise the right to food in order that hunger and malnutrition no longer afflict humanity", Dr. Elver said. The report highlights the growing influence of companies in global food and nutrition governance as a major challenge: Multinational food corporations influence what ends up on peoples’ plates, leading to a higher consumption of processed foods. These unhealthy diets contribute to obesity and malnutrition in both industrialised and developing countries. At the same time, agribusiness and financial investors are taking control of natural resources. In Mali, for example, one million hectares of land have been appropriated in recent years, depriving small-scale food producers of their livelihoods. The expansion of mining in Sweden and the consequences for small-scale food producers - a topic also covered by the report - shows that land grabbing is a global phenomenon. The Watch analyses the “gains, concerns and struggles” in the years since the Guidelines on the Right to Food were approved and calls on governments to actively address the inequities in food systems. According to the authors, democratic institutions and mechanisms are needed that give those most affected by hunger a say in policy-making. The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch is published each year by a network of organisations, including FIAN International and the German development service Bread for the World.

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