Sunday, January 2, 2011

Is Malawi's 'green revolution' a model for Africa?

woman selling fruit at marketFood is plentiful at Ekwendeni's street market

The road side market in Ekwendeni, in Malawi's northern region, is bustling.

Piles of mangos, sacks of maize flour and large pots of peas and beans glisten in the afternoon sun. But six years ago it was a very different scene.

"When we had acute hunger, you wouldn't have found people selling peacefully like this. It shows that people are food secure. Supply has overtaken demand," says Edgar Bayani, a local agriculturalist who remembers when Malawi suffered severe food shortages.

He attributes today's bountiful food supply to a combination of good rains and the government subsidy programme.

'Ruining the soil'

The poorest farmers get 40% off the cost of fertilisers and seeds, as part of a scheme that has turned Malawi from begging bowl to bread basket.

In 2005 Malawi had experienced six successive years of food shortages, but since subsidies were introduced in 2006, they have had back-to-back food surpluses.

But is it sustainable? Mr Bayani says not.

"The fertiliser itself ruins the soil fertility and soil structure. It changes the chemical constitution. And economically we can't sustain it because it's funded by donors."

Down the road from the market is Ekwendeni's hospital where Canadian researchers started a project called Soils, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC) to help local farmers grow more diverse crops, including legumes like soya, pigeon-pea and groundnut, a much-needed source of protein.

Continued here

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sacred Sites near Ezemvelo

Located on or near Ezemvelo is the ancient sacred site known as "The Sacred White Cow". This is according to High Sansui Credo Mutwa when I spoke to him in September. Credo is also spoke at length about Adam's Calendar - an enormous sacred site in Mpumalanga. This site is being researched by Michael Tellinger who descibes the site on his website as:

"These mysterious ancient ruins consist of dwellings, forts, temples roads, irrigation systems and agricultural terraces that cover thousands of square kilometres. It is our estimate that more stone went into building these features than went into building all of the Egyptian pyramids. It is an archaeologist’s dream that will unveil even greater and more mysterious secrets in years to come.

There is an overwhelming consensus by scholars, academics and even mystics that southern Africa is the cradle of humankind and that this is where the first humans walked the Earth before migrating to the distant corners of our planet."

Michael was recently interviewed by a US based internet radio station Project Camelot. Hear the latest news on this project here:

More pictures of Adam's Calendar at and

Friday, January 8, 2010

Solar-Powered Irrigation Significantly Improves Diet and Income in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2010) — Solar-powered drip irrigation systems significantly enhance household incomes and nutritional intake of villagers in arid sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new Stanford University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The two-year study found that solar-powered pumps installed in remote villages in the West African nation of Benin were a cost-effective way of delivering much-needed irrigation water, particularly during the long dry season.

"Significant fractions of sub-Saharan Africa's population are considered food insecure," wrote lead author Jennifer Burney, a postdoctoral scholar with the Program on Food Security and the Environment and the Department of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford. "Across the region, these food-insecure populations are predominantly rural, they frequently survive on less than $1 per person per day, and whereas most are engaged in agricultural production as their main livelihood, they still spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food, and are often net consumers of food."

Burney and her co-authors noted that only 4 percent of cropland in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated, and that most rural, food-insecure communities in the region rely on rain-fed agriculture, which, in places like Benin, is limited to a three- to six-month rainy season.

"On top of potential annual caloric shortages, households face two seasonal challenges: They must stretch their stores of staples to the next harvest (or purchase additional food, often at higher prices), and access to micronutrients via home production or purchase diminishes or disappears during the dry season," the authors wrote.

Promotion of irrigation among small landholders is therefore frequently cited as a strategy for poverty reduction, climate adaptation and promotion of food security, they said. And while the role of irrigation in poverty reduction has been studied extensively in Asia, relatively little has been written about the poverty and food security impacts in sub-Saharan Africa.

Benin demonstration sites

To address the lack of data, Burney and her colleagues monitored three 0.5-hectare (1.24-acre) solar-powered drip irrigation systems installed the Kalalé district of northern Benin. The systems, which use photovoltaic pumps to deliver groundwater, were financed and installed by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a nongovernmental organization.

"As with any water pump, solar-powered pumps save labor in rural off-grid areas where water hauling is traditionally done by hand by women and young girls," the authors said.

Video here

Continues here

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Free Energy in 2010?

This story is making waves in the blogosphere right now so I thought I'd reproduce it here. I went to a lecture by Dr Steven Greer 10 years ago and have been following his work on new energy technologies ever since. This latest announcement from his Orion Project offers the promise of developing a "free energy" demonstration model as soon as March 2010. Such virtually free and clean energy would usher in an age of prosperity and peace for the world, since so many wars are fought over oil.

Top secret free energy scientist enters contract with Greer's Orion Project

On Christmas day, Steven Greer announced that the 'top secret' inventor they've talked about has been released early from military seclusion, and has contracted with them to bring a Tesla-related free energy technology to the world.

by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News
Copyright © 2009

On Christmas day, as "a Christmas present to the world," Steven Greer, M.D., and his science advisor, Ted Loder, Ph.D., from the Orion Project, announced on the World Puja Network that the "top secret" inventor they've talked about over the past year has been released early from military seclusion, and has contracted with them to begin bringing various technologies he has developed (in some cases at taxpayer expense) to the world, beginning with a free energy technology in the tradition of Nikola Tesla.

They are hoping to have a sample prototype to begin to disclose to the public this spring. However, much research and development, beta testing and durability testing will be needed before a completed device of several kilowatt output is ready for distribution to the public. Greer said that the Orion Project signed a contract with this top secret scientist some ten days prior to the Dec. 25 announcement.

Dr. Greer said:

"This is one of the most significant undertakings in the history of our country, as we try to bring forward, very boldly, and decisively, the sciences and technologies that would get our country off of oil and gas and coal and nuclear power; and into clean, free energy; so that every home and business and facility in America and the world may be running on this type of energy, without any costs, once you have the device in place; and without any pollution or impact on the environment."

Story continues here

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ezemvelo Biointensive Workshop report in Ecology Action Newsletter

Click to enlarge

Why we left our farms to come to Copenhagen

Speech of Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina

Via Campesina in Copenhagen 12-09

Opening of Klimaforum - Copenhagen Dec 7

Tonight is a very special night for us to get together here for the opening of the assembly of the social movements and civil society at the Klimaforum. We, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, are coming to Copenhagen from all five corners of the world, leaving our farmland, our animals, our forest, and also our families in the hamlets and villages to join you all.

Why is it so important for us to come this far? There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, we would like to tell you that climate change is already seriously impacting us. It brings floods, droughts and the outbreak of pests that are all causing harvest failures. I
must point out that these harvest failures are something that the farmers did not create. Instead, it is the polluters who caused the emissions who destroy the natural cycles. So, we small scale farmers came here to say that we will not pay for their mistakes. And we are asking the emitters to face up to their responsibilities.

Secondly, I would like to share with you some facts about who the emitters of green house gases in agriculture really are: new data that has come out clearly shows that industrial agriculture and the globalized food system are responsible of between 44 and 57% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Continued here

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Emotional scenes at Copenhagen: Lumumba Di-Aping @ Africa civil society meeting – 8 Dec 2009

"Africa has been asked to sign a suicide pact.”

The leak of a so-called ‘Danish text’ that would sideline the UN in future climate deals is reverberating around the Copenhagen negotiations. (see

Today I witnessed an unexpected and extraordinary outburst of candour from one of the key players in these negotiations — Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese by birth and chief negotiator of the so-called G77 bloc (which mostly consists of poor countries).

I attended an ad-hoc meeting in a meeting room of the Bella Center attended by about 100 African representatives of civil society and a few African parliamentarians (among them Lance Greyling, an MP from South Africa) this afternoon. The meeting was called at short notice and its agenda was not announced. After a few minutes of introductions Di-Aping was given the floor to speak to fellow Africans. Requests were made by organisers to turn off all microphones so as not to record what was going to be said, although Di-Aping made a point of turning his on, saying half-jokingly “they are probably listening anyway”.

He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” The room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologised to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”

Continues here:

Friday, November 20, 2009

New short film on western threats to traditional farming in Africa

A Thousand Suns tells the story of the Gamo Highlands of the African Rift Valley and the unique worldview held by the people of the region. This isolated area has remained remarkably intact both biologically and culturally. It is one of the most densely populated rural regions of Africa yet its people have been farming sustainably for 10,000 years.

Shot in Ethiopia, New York and Kenya, the film explores the modern world's untenable sense of separation from and superiority over nature and how the interconnected worldview of the Gamo people is fundamental in achieving long-term sustainability, both in the region and beyond.

For more information and to view other great films like this one, please visit the Global Oneness Project.

The film is free online and will be aired in USA in April on PBS television. There is also a short trailer on YouTube - click on the lower image above.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

President Chissano learns about Biointensive Agriculture

We had a four hour meeting yesterday with Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique about the situation of increasing population, and increasing scarcity of food, water and farmable soil in the world and especially in Africa.

The President expressed great interest in the 37 years of research on these issues by Ecology Action in the USA under the direction of John Jeavons. President Chissano sits on the Board of the World Food Prize and the Gates Foundation's Global Development Programme as a member of the programme advisory panel.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

UN Favours Organic

Organic agriculture combines modern scientific research with traditional farming techniques in a sustainable, efficient farming system. By working with natural processes and making use of locally available assets, poor smallholder farmers can build up the fertility and productivity of their farms while avoiding dependence on expensive external inputs. Growing markets for certified produce mean that organic agriculture offers an important opportunity for the rural poor in developing countries to benefit from international trade.

Increased food security

Organic agriculture builds up stocks of natural, social and economic resources over time, thus reducing many of the factors that lead to food insecurity.

Full report here

Manor House Agricultural Centre, Kitale, Kenya

Training session for farmers
The Manor House Agricultural Centre was founded in 1984 in response to a three-year drought. The Centre's training and research complex includes demonstration gardens and livestock facilities that provide a working model of bio-intensive agricultural systems for trainees, visitors and members of local communities.

The Centre provides practical training to young people, farmers and staff of government agencies and NGOs, as well as conducting adaptive research. By 2005, over 70,000 Kenyans had been taught bio-intensive agriculture either directly or indirectly by the Centre.

The main impact has been on vegetable production. Many have doubled their yields by adopting double digging and composting techniques, using local natural methods of pest and disease control (such as planting sunflowers to attract predators, using local plant extracts to control maize stalk borer, and intercropping to reduce tomato blight). There have been big savings on pesticides, as farmers have cut out their use.

A former pupil at Manor House, Susan Wekesa, tells how learning to use bio-intensive farming methods has impacted on her life: "My 0.3 acres of land is producing plenty and healthy vegetables that bring money to knock at my door in the wee hours of the day. I mean, people come knocking at the door of my house before 6:00 a.m. wanting to buy vegetables. Apart from food and money for my family, I am able to fertilize my soil from material that it produces and supports. BIA has recreated hope in me and my household. I can now face the future proudly".

From UNCTAD report here

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Essay on Biointensive is finalist in World Bank Essay Competition

Local Actions, Global Benefits

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ezemvelo Biointensive Workshop report on World Scouting Website

Swazi Scouts attend workshop on sustainable farming

From 16 to 20 September 2009, a five-day workshop on bio-intensive farming was held at Ezemvelo Nature Reserve in South Africa. Participants came from England, Kenya, Ireland, South Africa, Swaziland, USA and Zimbabwe. Swaziland was represented by members of the Swaziland Scout Association (SSA), Wandile Simelane and Sibonakaliso Mdluli. Simelane is a teacher and Scout leader at Manzana Primary School while Mdluli is a full-time volunteer of the Thirst for Life Scout Initiative.

The workshop put emphasis on small-scale farming that can be done on family back yards. Participants were taught the benefits of bio-intensive farming with regards to water conservation.

SSA has an initiative project known as Thirst for Life (TFL) whose flagship activity is a garden project that benefits over 150 HIV/Aids orphaned and vulnerable children from the project area community.

For more details, please read their full report here

Director of the Mozambiquan Farmers Union addresses Rural Poverty

Diamantino Nhampossa’s speech at the EU Forum on Sustainable Rural Development

Link to full speech

My country – Mozambique – is one of those African countries in which the consequences of colonization, neo- or re-colonization, and structural adjustment programs are visible. There is a growing number of poor people living in rural areas without basic public services like water, health services and education, while our main urban centres are showing a concentration of wealth in the hands a small group of people. The suburbs are becoming more crowded than ever, and everyday life is a big challenge. countries have many experiences of the negative impacts of mono-culture, and of GM crops, however this same methodology is being promoted in African countries such as Moçambique – why? We must learn from the lessons of the past, and be innovative and courageous in our aid and agriculture policies. If not, the errors of the past will simply be replicated, and small holder farmers will become even more impoverished, all in the name of globalization.

It is important to recognise the difference between “development” and advancement in technological terms. Technological advancement does not necessarily equate to improved standard of living for poor rural peasant farmers – more often than not it further entrenches their impoverishment. Technology is not always the panacea.

One alternative that is left to fight poverty on the Continent is the proposal that comes from the movement of peasants, indigenous, migrants, women and rural communities, confirmed during the international forum held early this year in Mali: that is Food Sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty gives priority to local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal - fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pictures of Biointensive Workshop at Ezemvelo

Click to Enlarge

President Chissano visits the Maharishi Institute

Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique, visited the Maharishi Institute in Johannesburg yesterday. This visit was inspired by his recent visit to Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa USA. Chissano was in Iowa as a member of the UN’s World Food Council, in which capacity he presented this years World Food Prize in Des Moines.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sustainable Mini Farming Centre to be established at Ezemvelo

Click on images to enlarge.

Tracy Gonzalez and Raj Solanki, along with their five-year-old son Makaiah, are just completing a six month internship learning biointensive sustainable mini farming with Ecology Action in Willits California, USA. From there they return to Fairfield, Iowa, USA to assist with setting up the Midwest Sustainable mini Farming Center at the maharishi University of management.

This will be one of three centers being established in the USA and part of a global network of teaching centres with at least one in every country. The first such sustainable mini farming in Southern Africa is being established here at Ezemvelo.


My introduction to GROW BIOINTENSIVE came from a workshop I took from Alex Kachan, a professor in the Department of Sustainable Living. ...He showed a video on the Tula project [in Mexico], and how it changed people’s lives in the area was so inspiring. I was in tears. I really connected with my desire to help people. I wanted to learn ... to be able to teach and help others. Raj and I talked for a long time about taking an Ecology Action workshop which we did last November. Meeting John [Jeavons] was life-changing as well. It was after this that I realized that sustainability is a much higher goal to shoot for (much higher than just organic) when looking for the best possible food, and, growing it sustainably yourself, well, you can do no better.

PDF version of the newsletter can be read online, click here. (You need to have a free google acct to read)

Monday, September 28, 2009

South Africa has widest gap between rich and poor

Study finds SA now falls below Brazil

By Donwald Pressly

South Africa has overtaken Brazil as the country with the widest gap between rich and poor, according to figures put together by a leading South African academic.

Haroon Bhorat, an economics professor at UCT, told a briefing at Parliament on Friday that South Africa was now "the most unequal society in the world" with a significant increase in income inequality.

"In the long run it is bad for growth. It is a threat to social stability and to growth itself. The long-run trend is a worrying one," he warned.

Bhorat said South Africa's Gini coefficient index - which shows the level of income inequality - stood at 0.679.

This figure is drawn from figures collated by Bhorat using Statistics SA's income and expenditure survey. The figures are based on household income in the 2005/06 year.

The coefficient has risen from the All Media and Products Survey figure of 0.66 in 2007, but is down from an uncomfortably high 0.685 in 2006.

He argued that South Africa had enjoyed a long period of growth which had sustained a growing social security bill, but the country was now in "a high deficit" environment and its ability to maintain these payments was being challenged.

But the news may not be as bad it seems.

According to presidential policy adviser Joel Netshitenzhe, the figure may not necessarily be accurate because state benefits targeted at the poor - and particularly the unemployed - of free basic water and electricity, access to health care and the social welfare grants which now go to over 13 million of the poorest of the poor may not be adequately reflected in the Gini coefficient.

In the 2009 Development Indicators report, issued by the Presidency's deputy director-general, Alan Hirsch, the Gini coefficient reached 0.666 in 2008. Bhorat puts the figure at a higher 0.679.

A value of one reflects complete inequality while a value of zero reflects complete equality. A Gini coefficient above 0.5 "is unacceptably high", according to the report.

Bhorat's office pointed to World Bank figures for 2007/08 which give South Africa a slightly lower 0.578 and Brazil at a wee bit lower - but still unacceptably high - 0.57. While other countries such as Bolivia at 0.601 and Botswana at 0.605 are higher, the figures are based on old household income figures - 2002 and 1993 respectively. Colombia's figure of 0.586 is also based on 2003 data.

Netshitenzhe's view is backed by National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who said even French President Nicolas Sarkhozy had asked for a review of the manner in which gross domestic product was measured "and what it tells us about anything".

Manuel said he was not sure how relevant the Gini coefficient data was "any longer".

Manuel, indicating that the indicators were presented "warts and all", gave the assurance that social welfare policies would continue.

While the indicators showed more and more people were moving out of the very poor bracket - ascribed largely to the welfare grants - Manuel said the country would not retract its welfare policies.

Bhorat made the point that Brazil might have improved its position because it had allied upliftment grants to educating children. Thus a parent received a grant on condition that a child was sent to school and attended regularly.

Hirsch attributed Brazil's success in moving down the inequality ladder "to more successful industrial policies" than South Africa. Brazil had implemented "a greater variety of industrial development programmes and small business support programmes".

The indicator document noted that the living standards measure in South Africa showed that those households earning the equivalent of just R1 080 a month had dropped to about 1 million. This was down from 3.4 million households earning the equivalent in 2000/01, when the comparable income was R742 a month.

The document noted that this could be ascribed to economic growth, expanding employment as well as the government's poverty alleviation initiatives.

Published on the web by Business Report on September 27, 2009.

© Business Report 2009. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Washington Post Reports Meat Eating is 'Huge Contributor' to Climate Change

Last week, the Washington Post summarized a number of recent reports indicating that one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint or greenhouse gas pollution is to reduce your meat consumption. Here are some quick highlights:

-A Carnegie Melon study found that the average American would benefit the planet more by being vegetarian one day per week than by switching to a totally local diet (heck, why not do both?).

-A University of Chicago study found that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading your gas guzzler for a Prius.

-The head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recommended that people give up meat one day a week to take pressure off the atmosphere.

-According to a 2006 United Nations report, livestock accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Although we've reported similar studies in Organic Bytes over the years, it's refreshing to see a mainstream media outlet finally bring attention to the topic. Americans seem okay being told they should recycle, drive less, and weatherize their homes, but something short-circuits when you ask them to reduce their meat consumption.

Read the full story here...

Group faults UK's £100m support for GM crops in Africa


By Roseline Okere

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has criticised plans by the government of the United Kingdom to spend about £100 million to support the growing of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Africa.

According to ERA, a new white paper shows that the UK government will dramatically increase spending on high-tech agriculture in the next five years, much of which will be on GM crop research.

The breakdown of the funding, ERA/FoEN explained, shows that bio-fortified crops, containing so-called added vitamins, will receive £80 million of development money, while £60 million will go into researching drought-resistant maize for Africa, while pest resistance will be funded to the tune of £24 million.

Reacting to the development in a statement issued in Lagos Monday, ERA/FoEN depicted the gesture as an "attempt to control, colonise and contaminate food supply under the guise of helping the Africa continent.

The group added that the white paper avoids the terms "genetically modified" even when scientists and development experts were clear that much of the money would be spent on GM crops.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey said: "It is extremely ridiculous that the British government overlooked contentious issues such as under-investment in African solutions to hunger, lack of infrastructure and extension services in rural communities and only narrowed our hunger challenge to yields and so-called vitamins. It is shocking that the British government would believe the claims of biotech industry to GMOs yield better than organic or conventional varieties at a time when empirical evidence has shown that such claims are not true."

Bassey reiterated ERA's position that Africans must be allowed to determine what they want to eat as well as how and where they want it grown, explaining that, a recent report from South Africa revealed that even indigenous chickens have refused to eat GM maize.

"If chickens will not eat it why should we? Do chickens have more brains than people? This unholy gesture should be an eye-opener to African governments that hobnob with the biotech industry and their allied research institutes that are only interested in providing un-African solutions to our challenges.

"Time and again we have said that the true test of the sincerity of the global North in addressing the food crisis in Africa is not the thrusting of GMO foods down African throats but to sincerely and without hidden motives listen to Africans and support ecological solutions being developed on the continent. Any attempt to arm-twist African countries into accepting GMO in the guise of aid will not be accepted," Bassey warned.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Smart chickens weren't be duped by foul play

The Sunday Independent, Aug. 2, 2009

By Eleanor Momberg

Chickens refusing to eat the maize they had been fed has led to the discovery that their feed had been genetically modified to include a well-known weed and insect killer.

Strilli Oppenheimer was recently approached by Dawid Klopper, the head gardener at the family estate, Brenthurst, informing her that her indigenous African chickens were refusing to eat the mealies in the chicken feed bought from a large supplier.

Concerned that the birds may be ingesting genetically modified maize, she instructed Klopper to have the maize tested.The chickens' diet was immediately changed to include organic vegetables, Oppenheimer stopped consuming the home-grown eggs and the maize was sent to the GMO testing facility at the University of the Free State for analysis.

The results confirmed Oppenheimer's initial suspicion - the maize had been genetically engineered to produce proteins that are toxic to certain insects and weeds. "It contained BT1 which makes the maize insect resistant, as well as Roundup which makes it weed resistant.

This is the first report we have had of chickens not eating GM feed," said a GM expert. While small quantities of BT1 and Roundup weed killer were found in the seeds, the concern remained with the cumulative effect of GM feed, not only on the chickens, but also on the eggs they produced for the family.

"This is of serious concern. Do you know that 96 percent of soya-based foods are genetically modified and that maize in South Africa is contaminated," asked Oppenheimer, pointing out that research by well-known scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai had shown that rats fed on GM potatoes suffered from a weakened immune system and stunted growth of their internal organs, including the liver, kidneys and brain.

Pusztai was fired by the Rowett Research Institute in the UK in 1998 after his research into the human nutritional consequences of GM. His findings had far-reaching implications for the biotech industry, which had contended that GM crops and products would not adversely affect human health.

International research has shown a direct link between certain types of genetic engineering and cancer.

Gundula Azeez and Coilin Nunan of The Soil Association, a UK environmental charity, stated in their paper, "GM Crops - the health effects", that international research had shown that milk, eggs and meat from GM-fed animals contained GM crop DNA, concluding that it was likely that people were frequently being exposed to GM DNA.

They concluded that because of the lapses in extensive safety assessments, there were "very good scientific reasons for being concerned about the safety of GM crops".

Rose Williams, acting director of Biowatch, said globally there was great concern that GM products had not been adequately tested in terms of their effect on people, animals and the environment.

"There has been no testing on humans, very limited testing on animals and very little research on environmental impacts. This is the case globally, but in South Africa even less work has been done, even though the commercial release of GM maize, GM soya and GM cotton has been approved."

Williams said concerns by NGOs such as Biowatch, the African Centre for Biosafety and SAFeAGE about the lack of control over GM crops and contamination of non-GM crops had largely been ignored.

"Government has not done enough to protect the public from the potential threats of GM foods. There is also the matter of liability - who will take responsibility for people's losses and any health problems relating to consumption of GM foods, whether they are for people or for animals.

"Williams said the contamination of non-GM crops was a real problem, with the biotech industry leading people to believe that co-existence of GM and non-GM crops was possible. "But it is not," she said.

While the recently implemented Consumer Protection Act called for the labelling of GM foods, the regulations linked to the measure had yet to be finalised.

About her chickens' refusal to eat their maize, Oppenheimer said: "They're smart."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When You Can't Go 100% Organic

Even if you can’t afford to buy everything local and organic, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a watchdog and research nonprofit, has identified the “dirty dozen”– those fruits and veggies that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. For these, it might be worth paying for the organic versions. Among conventionally grown, try sticking to the “cleanest 12.” The produce ranking was developed by EWG analysts based on the results of nearly 51,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2005. An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets showed that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead.

Or better still eat organic instead. Note conventionally grown peaches are the top of the "dirtiest" list.


Monday, July 20, 2009

New study: Nearly three-quarters of U.S. families buy organic products

Organic Trade Association PRESS RELEASE here...

GREENFIELD, Mass. (June 16, 2009)—Tightening their spending habits amid economic uncertainty, U.S. families, however, are not giving up their purchases of organic products. In fact, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. families buy organic products at least occasionally, chiefly for health reasons according to a new study to be unveiled this week.

Findings from the 2009 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, jointly sponsored by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and KIWI Magazine, also show that three in ten U.S. families (31 percent) are actually buying more organic foods compared to a year ago, with many parents preferring to reduce their spending in other areas before targeting organic product cuts. In fact, 17 percent of U.S. families said their largest increases in spending in the past year were for organic products.

“These findings reinforce the data collected in OTA’s 2009 Organic Industry Survey that showed continued healthy growth in U.S. sales of organic products,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s executive director.

“We are pleased that so many parents are continuing to choose organic. It’s inspiring to see the degree to which these parents are leading the charge for a healthier way of life among their families and friends,” said Maxine Wolf, chief executive officer for KIWI Magazine.

OTA collaborated with KIWI Magazine on the national research study to gauge attitudes and behavior of families concerning organic product purchases. Managed by RMI Research and Consulting, LLC, the study was fielded among U.S. households during April. Highlights of the findings will be presented in Chicago at the All Things Organic™ Conference and Trade Show keynote session “Into the Mouths of Babes—Parents’ Reflections on Organic for Kids” Thursday, June 18, at 9:30 a.m.

Compiling results gathered from 1,200 families across the United States, this research identifies and profiles those who promote buying organic among family, friends and co-workers, specifically exploring the role parents play as potential influencers. Data reveal the typical path of organic purchases, beginning with the most common points of entry and tracing this through succeeding product category purchases. The study also explores families’ organic grocery shopping experiences and their preferences for the way organic products are organized and displayed on the retail level. In addition, it examines consumers’ understanding of organic product labels.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy (