Friday, February 27, 2009

Outcry against GMO's continues to grow

South Africa has been Africa's leader in terms of use of Genetically Modified crops. But the outcry against GMO's is growing stronger all the time as seen in recent press articles here:

EU court attacks GM crop secrecy

Anti-GM protest in Luxembourg, 20 Oct 08
Anti-GM campaigners have widespread support in the EU

Europe's top court has ruled that EU governments have no right to conceal the location of field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The European Court of Justice was responding to a case brought by Pierre Azelvandre in Alsace, eastern France.

He wanted to know where GM field trials had taken place in his local area. Continued here...

Germany May Ban Monsanto Corn, Minister Tells Berliner Zeitung

By Rainer Buergin

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government may revoke a license for the cultivation of Monsanto's genetically modified corn because neither consumers nor farmers want it, Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told the Berliner Zeitung.

Genetic engineering “has so far not yielded tangible benefits for the people,” the newspaper quoted Aigner as saying. Germany has granted a license for the cultivation of MON810 while France and Italy haven’t yet, due to environmental concerns, the newspaper said.

Continued here...

Leading scientists publicly denounce unethical use of children in GM experiments

This formal letter of protest relating to a severe breach of medical ethics has been sent by 22 senior scientists from around the world to the Tufts University School of Medicine, together with a call for these GM feeding experiments to be terminated immediately. Read more...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Top Bar Hives Produce More Honey

Case study: Mrs Nyani

With Practical Action's advice and training, Mrs Nyani's bees give her 480 bottles of good-quality honey a year, and with good access to market she can sell it at twice the price of honey she previously harvested before using the top bar hive. Surprisingly, Zimbabwe still imports 60% of honey for domestic needs. So there's a ready market for this liquid gold.

Mrs Nyani continues to use honey for medicinal purposes, and also makes floor polish from the beeswax the hives produce, and hopes to start producing candles as well. She has no fear of her family going hungry, and is passing on the benefit to others by teaching her bee-keeping skills to local women through the bee-keeping association.

"My friends the bees work hard for me so we need not go without food. Now I shall show others how to use their hives to good advantage."

From the Practical Action website.
Top bar hives are favored by Biodynamic Beekeepers and are considered a more natural way to keep bees. See the Barefoot Beekeeper website.

Shaping eco-leaders of the future

(click picture to enlarge)



Previously disadvantaged youths are to benefit from the donation of thousands of hectares of land to the Maharishi Institute by the Oppenheimer family

Prominent conservationists and philanthropists Nicky and Strilli Oppenheimer, of E Oppenheimer and Son and De Beers, this week donated the 4 500-hectare Ezemvelo nature reserve to the institute with the aim of promoting environmental and conservation-related education among South Africa’s youth

Nicky Oppenheimer said at the handover ceremony in Johannesburg that this was the fulfilment of a dream for the couple who had wanted to share “something special” since their purchase of the adjoining property 35 years ago

“We believe this will make a difference to the whole of South Africa,” he said

The reserve will be used to develop a rural eco-campus as well as promote ecotourism and conservation of the area situated on the Bankenveld, a transition ecozone between the grassland and savanna biomes, about 20km from Bronkhorstspruit

“Ecologically this is valuable as elements of both biomes occur within the reserve, creating a rich biological diversity,” said Duncan MacFadyen, manager of research and conservation at E Oppenheimer and Son

School-leavers attending the institute are taught not only business skills but also life skills through what is known as consciousness- based education, which includes transcendental meditation, the creation of a “safe, happy, harmonious” school atmosphere and the elimination of stress in the educational process as key elements

MacFadyen said more than 100 students had already attended structured leadership camps at Ezemvelo, with which a partnership had developed since its opening in Johannesburg a year ago

Although the donation of the reserve means that the land has been transferred to the institute, the Ezemvelo reserve, which boasts more than 34 species of animals and 250 bird species, will continue to remain open for business as an ecotourism destination

Taddy Blecher of the Maharishi Institute said the university’s intention was to create a showcase of sustainability using a maximum of possible alternative energy sources to move Ezemvelo off the electricity grid and to implement fair trade practices along with community upliftment programmes, such as access to further education

There were plans to expand the reserve to include an eco-campus where young people from previously disadvantaged communities would be trained for careers in conservation, guiding, eco-tourism management, organic farming, as well as alternative energy

Besides the eco-campus, the institute planned to create a centre of excellence in natural law-based programmes at Ezemvelo that would include consciousness- based education, a permanent exhibition venue for the total knowledge of natural law, a health spa, training in transcendental meditation and an organic vegetable farm

Dr Richard Peycke, the Maharishi Institute’s national director, said the combination of the university’s educational methods to develop the full potential of each person, combined with the beauty of the reserve, promised to create great future leaders for South Africa

Strilli Oppenheimer said she was confident that the institute would be successful in training future conservationists and environmentalists as the founders of the organisation had been with the training of business managers

“Ezemvelo Nature Reserve will be used as a tool, a rural, outcomes-based university, to allow these young men and women to connect and build their relationship with the environment we all so desperately want to conserve for future generations,” she said.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What Inspires You?

Huffington Post editorial,
by Russell Simmons Editor-in-Chief of Global Grind

Valentine's Day is here and we are thinking about love. Not the passionate, intense, anxiety-producing am-I-worthy/are-they-worthy kind of love. Not the dim the lights, cue the Al Green music, heart pounding, getting lucky kind of love that can leave you electrified or electrocuted by the object of your desire.

Today we are thinking about compassionate love. The kind that comes from empathy, affection, care, trust, and, above all, a shared respect for all people. This is the kind of love we are after, the kind you see when an elderly couple spend their time joyfully helping each other through aches and pains that escalate to terminal illness and end-of-life small gestures to insure that dignity and love are the last things they share. The kind of love that is everyday business as usual for teachers, physical therapists, nurses, well-diggers, and just about anyone of any profession who has the ability to be kind in handling their affairs no matter the chaos they may be living in.

We are thinking about the question "What inspires you?" and we are inspired by compassionate love. With great love all things are possible. This is true. In Mahatma Gandhi's words, "love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable. "Mother Teresa spent her life working to give a voice to the poor and to promoting love as an essential ingredient to life. Her life devoted to the poor was among the richest in human history. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned because of his actions to end the loveless and dehumanizing oppression of Apartheid. After surviving circumstances and abuses that would seem impossible to endure, this giant among leaders and humanitarians presided over the transition of South Africa to a post-Apartheid democracy with justice and compassion. In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote of love, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela both were awarded Nobel Peace Prizes, and Gandhi sadly was overlooked for that honor, but we can safely say we believe these three know their stuff and that love is central to human rights, civil disobedience, ending poverty, and achieving peace.

Continued here...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Agriculture and Climate Change

Distinguished panel tells packed room of environmental journalists that the way we grow our food matters to a heating planet.

A top USDA climate-change scientist, a university professor specializing in agriculture in developing countries, and the farm director at the Rodale Institute agreed: How we reward farmers to produce our food across the planet will have great bearing on our ability to dial down the mercury and deal with other coming consequences of global warming.

These specialists comprised the “Climate Change and Agriculture” panel, moderated by National Geographic Executive Editor Dennis Dimick, as part of a recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference that brought together environmental writers, educators, policymakers, industry leaders and special-interest groups from around the nation and globe, included Nobel Prize winner and International Panel on Climate Change chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, who delivered the conference keynote address.

Organic solutions for a broken food system
“It’s become painfully clear over the past few weeks that our banking system is broken, and I think it will become equally clear that our food system is broken,” said Rodale Institute Farm Director Jeff Moyer, at the October 2008 event.

The Rodale Institute, he said, has been working to connect the dots between agriculture and climate change and to help farmers make the necessary changes to become more environmentally responsible while maintaining yields. Research at the Institute has, Moyer said, shown that organic yields hold up to conventional ones—and even surpass them in times of extreme weather conditions such as drought or excessive moisture.

But in an age of global warming, he said, yield is not the most significant issue. “How we produce food is the critical issue,” he said.

In the Rodale organic research trials, Moyer said, “We are able to sequester three times as much carbon,” compared to conventional no-till systems, when utilizing cover crops, crop rotations and the application of compost. “We are changing the soil’s ability to support life, to sequester carbon and, ultimately, to feed us.”

Farming organically with a focus on long-term biological interactions actually turns soil into a carbon sink, or reservoir, while conventional farming with chemicals has the opposite effect of releasing carbon into the atmosphere, Moyer told the packed room.

Full Story here...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Malawi strikes organic gold

Poverty and penury often push people in Africa into innovation. So it was with Jailos Kanyanga. The story began when government agents arrived at Mr Kanyanga's compound in this central region of Malawi, and demanded that he immediately repay money he owed under a fertiliser credit scheme – with "no further excuses".

The sum involved was 3,750 kwacha (about £17) – an amount that it was unimaginable the poor subsistence farmer would have to hand. If he couldn't pay, the agents said, they would seize his 11 pigs – livestock Mr Kanyanga saw as ensuring the survival of his family of eight. He was lucky. The local pastor lent him the money. But it was then that Mr Kanyanga resolved he could not allow himself to fall into such peril again.

"I decided the only way out was to resort to the methods of growing crops using the composts that we were taught in the old days, when we didn't know fertilisers," he says. He gave up expensive chemicals and went back to the organic ways of his father and grandfather.