Jul 16, 2016

Fix farming by junking the corporate model

By Elena Garcia

Australian farming is in crisis.

Family farmers are being taken over by corporate agribusinesses, their land is being polluted by mining companies and they are powerless to stop and the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths which keeps prices low for consumers by paying producers prices so low they barely cover costs.

At the same time there is increasing speculation in buying water rights. Farming cannot survive without clean water. The most reliable source of water is artesian, which the mining industry can draw from unregulated and pollute at will.

Meanwhile banks are foreclosing on drought-struck farmers so they can sell the still viable farms to corporations, both domestic and foreign.

Farmers cannot win this battle against the corporations without allies. Australia is one of the most urbanised countries on Earth. Almost 90% of Australians live in urban areas. We have some of the cleanest, most regulated food production in the world. If you want to protect that quality, it is time to support and protect our farmers.

Rural Workers: AUDIO

Elena Garcia is a socialist and organic beef farmer from Queensland. In this talk she addresses the brutal regime that farmers have to survive in order to farm and make a living.
She delivered the talk at the Socialism for the 21st Century Conference  held in Sydney during may 2016.
(Duration:21.40 )

Water under attack : Reports

Image: The Dee River at Dululu, 55km downstream from the Mount Morgan mine.
The blue colour comes from metals in the water. 
(Ian Townsend)
  • 50,000 abandoned mines poisoning our water. :The Dee River in Queensland is being killed by toxic water from an old gold mine. Mount Morgan is one of thousands of abandoned and unregulated mine sites, many of which are leaking contaminated ‘legacy water’ into river catchments. Ian Townsend investigates. 
  • There’s also this one on the disasters happening in the NT now:When a giant toxic waste dump spontaneously ignited at one of the world's largest zinc mines, serious questions were asked about how it could have happened. Jane Bardon investigates how regulators allowed a mine to operate with no known solutions to its massive waste problem.
  • And a similar situation in Tasmania:A third of Tasmania’s town water systems don’t meet national drinking water standards and residents in several towns have to queue at a communal tap. Why has the ‘clean, green’ state got such a problem with contaminated water?

Jul 15, 2016

Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science, but Genetic Engineers Often Are

By Elizabeth Henderson, Independent Science News | News Analysis
Scientific evidence shows that the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops in the US has led to an increase in pesticides used in agriculture -- and an increase in the residues of pesticides left in foods, among other disturbing trends.

At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for "independent science" and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation.

I would like to examine these words carefully to decipher what they mean, how those words are used by this farmer and by others, and suggest how the movement for locally grown organic food in this country should respond.

What is the meaning of 'independent science'? As co-chair of the Policy Committee for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), I have been an active participant in the coalition that is campaigning to pass GMO labeling legislation in NY State. In this capacity, I have spoken at public meetings, to the press and on radio interviews. A question that I have heard from proponents of biotechnology is "why do you organic farmers oppose science, like the climate deniers?"

Hunger in Venezuela? A look beyond the spin

By Christina Schiavoni and William Camacaro

You  may have seen the headlines about Venezuela – headlines that allude to food scarcity, rioting, people eating stray animals to survive, and a country on the brink of starvation. These stories are not only alarming, but perplexing, too. Is this the same country that was recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as recently as 2015 for having nearly eradicated hunger?[1] Is this the same country that has been the focus of international delegations and extensive alternative media coverage for its ‘food sovereignty experiment’ involving agrarian reform, food distributions programs, and direct citizen participation in the food system?[2] What’s going on?

There is a nuanced story behind the current headlines on Venezuela. It’s a challenging moment for average working class Venezuelans as they navigate long lines at the grocery store, a lack of key food staples, and inflated prices in order to feed their families.

But there’s not an overall food shortage — food is in abundance, with distribution serving a bottleneck.


Why changing our diet won't save the Earth

By Martin Empson

Diet of Austerity: Class, Food & Climate Change
By Elaine Graham-Leigh
Zero Books, 2015

Like the author of this interesting book on food and climate change, I have been struck by the way that the question of diet, and in particular meat eating, has become central to debates on tackling climate change.

In her introduction, Elaine Graham-Leigh notes the many ways that advocates for non-meat diets are inserting this message into the climate movement. Slogans that argue that only vegetarian diets can save the planet, or that genuine environmentalists are vegan, are common place.

But the argument has also reached higher levels, with NGOs, governments and politicians frequently advocating this approach.

Graham-Leigh's book is a challenge to this approach. She rightly argues that the danger is that veganism fails to address the real causes of climate change, will not actually have the desired effects and, most importantly, shifts the focus of blame for climate change onto predominately working class people.

Unusually for a book on the environment, class is a central part of Graham-Leigh's book. She notes that “as with discussions of austerity, it seems that those who have the least are the ones who have the greatest responsibility to be restrained in consuming it”.