Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Link-straveganza

Caroline Raffensperger has written a lovely essay at Common Dreams about the scale of personal actions as compared to the scale of the environmental breakdown we're facing:
Most people suffer from a sense of moral failure over environmental matters. The mismatch between being told to change our light bulbs when the planet seems in free fall—melting ice caps, polluted water supplies, drought—creates a needling angst and anxiety.  We know that we are in deep trouble, but feel that there is little we—or anyone—can do individually. Anne Karpf writing about climate change in the Guardian last year said “I now recycle everything possible, drive a hybrid car, and turn down the heating. Yet somewhere in my marrow I know that this is just a vain attempt to exculpate myself – it wasn’t me, guv.”
To fully acknowledge our complicity in the problem, but to be unable to act at the scale of the problem creates cognitive dissonance. And this “environmental melancholia,” results in hopelessness. It is not apathy we are feeling, but sadness that can be eased only with taking actions, mostly collective, scaled to the problems we face.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is forced to ask the question "In Standing Up for Big Ag, Are Universities Undercutting Their Own Researchers?"

In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court this month, advocates for academic researchers are urging the justices to reverse a patent-infringement decision that has given the Monsanto Company broad authority to restrict scientists’ study of genetically modified seeds. The decision, the advocates say, not only hurts farmers and fuels higher food prices; it also contributes to “the suffocation of independent scientific inquiry into transgenic crops.”
Not surprisingly, the case has also drawn the attention of higher education’s research establishment—but it’s pulling for the other side.
[...] George A. Kimbrell, senior lawyer for the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds, calls the universities’ stance disappointing. “It’s a very strange position for institutions that should be promoting the freedom of scientific inquiry,” he says. “Unfortunately, they’ve become beholden to the money and put that before their basic mission.”

The BBC is reporting on a minor case of mis-labelling:
The meat of some beef lasagne products recalled by Findus earlier this week was 100% horsemeat, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said.
On Monday Findus withdrew from retailers its beef lasagne in 320g, 360g and 500g sizes as a precaution.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the findings were "completely unacceptable", but Findus said it did not believe it was a food safety issue.
The FSA said companies would now be required to test their beef products.
"In order to get to the bottom of this, we're going to be requiring every company to test every product line," Catherine Brown, the FSA's chief executive, told the BBC.
"If we find any other cases, we will pursue our investigations vigorously until we find out what's happened and put a stop to it."
Ms Brown said it was "highly likely" that criminal activity was to blame for horsemeat being found in some meals.
 But really, this is more of an "ick" problem....

Funny or Die has a lovely parody of the "God Made A Farmer" ads.

The Guardian is talking about how to build resilient food systems:
All farmers, no matter their size, depend on the weather to the grow crops that feed the world, while providing a livelihood for their families and communities. This makes them among the most vulnerable to the changing climate. By 2050, if farmers are not assisted to meet these changes, agriculture yields will decrease with impacts projected to be the most severe in Africa and South Asia, with productivity decreasing by 15% and 18% respectively. Therefore, strategies to adapt to the significant shifts in weather patterns are greatly needed.

USAID, DuPont work with Government of Ethiopia to improve food security:
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today with Ethiopia and DuPont to boost maize harvests through increased use of hybrid maize seed, improved seed distribution, and post-harvest storage.
Maize is a significant contributor to Ethiopia’s economic and social development, providing jobs, income and food. This collaboration will help more than 30,000 smallholder maize farmers increase their productivity by up to 50 percent and help reduce post-harvest loss of maize by as much as 20 percent.
This collaboration advances agricultural development and food security goals set by the Government of Ethiopia and supported by USAID through the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, which is part of the U.S. contribution to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
Michelle Simon, author of Appetite for Profit, writes about the fallout from the recent vote on GMO food labelling in California:
Recent reports of secret meetings among industry reps and the Food and Drug Adminstration over GMO labeling piqued my interest, mostly because this critical aspect was missing: any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last month, Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association and one of the leaders of the GMO labeling effort, recently published an article about how “representatives of Wal-Mart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola and others” met with the FDA on January 11 “to lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.”
The story was then picked up by Tom Laskawy at Grist, who reported that at the meeting, a Walmart representative said the retail giant would no longer oppose GMO labeling and that “[o]ther food company executives agreed, saying that the fight had become too expensive, especially given the prospect of more state-level initiatives.”

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