Need versus greed at Rio+20

Posted November 10, 2011 by Shiney Varghese   

Used under creative commons license from Rodrigo_Soldon.

Twenty years after the original Earth Summit, leaders will meet again in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the environmental limits to development. 

Over the last month, U.N. agencies, Member States and civil society groups have been busy: they made well over 600 contributions toward Rio+20, the next United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (U.N. CSD), to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The inputs submitted by the stakeholders will be assembled into a compilation document by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), where a Rio+20 Dedicated Secretariat has been established to support the U.N. CSD bureau in steering the preparatory process leading up to Rio+20. The compilation document will form the basis for developing the draft that will be negotiated at Rio+20.

As I said in an earlier blog, Rio+20 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit, held in the same city where heads of states came together to address what was then seen as the priority issue: environmental limits to development. If anything the situation is much worse now.

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Will the G-20 learn to listen?

Posted November 8, 2011 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

Used under creative commons license from shivalichopra.

The reformed Committee on Food Security includes the participation of 11 constituency groups, including farmers, fisherfolk, women and NGOs, who coordinate their efforts to influence global food policies. 

Since the first food crisis erupted in 2008, there have been a number of debates at the multilateral level about why our food system is failing and what needs to change. One important outcome is that a broader range of groups are weighing in on the issue, and finding the right forums to do so. The Committee on Food Security (CFS) brings together the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)—the three leading U.N. food agencies—along with donor governments and agencies, and creates a new space for civil society input. The reformed CFS includes the participation of 11 constituency groups, including farmers, fisherfolk, women and NGOs, who coordinate their efforts to influence global food policies.

Such a participatory process can be messy, but it can also yield innovative solutions and new agreements on how to deal with such issues as food price volatility and land grabs. IATP’s Sophia Murphy attended the latest meeting of the CFS meeting in Rome last month. In a new commentary, she discusses what emerged from those discussions, and how the narrower agreements reached by the G-20 may be undermining those accords. 

Read IATP's latest commentary, "Stepping up: Will the G-20 allow the CFS to function? Will other countries allow the G-20 to stop them?"

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Raise more voices for effective farm policy—now!

Posted November 7, 2011 by    

ParentEarth creates online videos to help increase parent's awareness of food policy, currently the Farm Bill is a focus.

The projected course of action regarding the Farm Bill changed dramatically over the past two weeks. The general expectation was a spring 2012 Farm Bill, with the possibility that Presidential election politics would push things back to potentially 2013. Now it seems that the odds-on favorite is to have a Farm Bill introduced any day now as part of the super committee budget reduction process.

As IATP’s Ben Lilliston described last week, the super committee process would throw democracy and transparency out the window:

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A hell of a way to write a Farm Bill

Posted October 27, 2011 by Ben Lilliston   

Used under creative commons license from Wyoming_Jackrabbit.

The Farm Bill has a direct effect on the more than 900 million acres in farmland in the United States, the country's 2 million farmers and the 43 million Americans on food assistance. 

If you want to see what political dysfunction looks like, take a look at how Congress is bungling the nation’s most important food and farm policy—the Farm Bill. The sprawling Farm Bill sets policy for the next five years and is directly relevant to our 2 million farmers, the 43 million people on food assistance and the more than 900 million acres in farmland. It’s also tied less directly to things like rising rates of diet-related disease, rural depopulation and economic struggles, and the water quality and quantity of our nation’s rivers and streams. In other words, it’s a big deal.
The writing of the Farm Bill begs for a deliberative, open discussion of ideas and perspectives on how to best meet the nation’s goals. Instead, there is a strong chance the chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will submit detailed Farm Bill proposals to the so-called Super Committee by the end of October. The 12-member Super Committee will consider these recommendations in secret. Then, the Super Committee’s proposal on the Farm Bill will be presented after November 23 and put to a simple up or down vote in December.
No hearings, no amendments, no debate. Under this scenario, we may have very little idea about what is in the Farm Bill until after it has passed.

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What does the occupation of Wall Street have to do with agriculture?

Posted September 30, 2011 by Ben Lilliston   

Used under creative commons license from marniejoyce.

The occupation of Wall Street protests originated from a July call to action by Adbusters to oppose growing corporate control over democracy and government.

Now two weeks in, the occupation of Wall Street originated from a July call to action by Adbusters to draw a line in the sand on the growing corporate control of our democracy and government—and in particular, Wall Street’s influence.
Agriculture markets have been especially hard hit by Wall Street’s political prowess. Wall Street deregulation has not only made the stock market extremely volatile, it has increased prices and price volatility in agricultural markets. The cost of protecting against price volatility are considerable for the future of agriculture not only in the U.S., but around the world.  
In 2008, we reported on the role a new wave of financial speculators, operating through commodity index funds controlled by Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, played in creating extreme volatility in agriculture commodity markets—and ultimately contributing to rising global rates of hunger. Wall Street speculators were able to enter commodity futures markets after a successful and systematic decade-long lobbying effort to dismantle strong market safeguards. According to Wall Street Watch, from 1998–2008, Wall Street invested over $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions in support of their deregulatory agenda.

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Women and the right to food

Posted September 26, 2011 by Sophia Murphy   

Used under creative commons license from IRRI Images.

In mid-September, I had the pleasure to attend a two-day consultation run by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL), housed at Rutgers University (which, by the way, I was told boasts a freshman year this year that includes no less than 46 percent first generation university students. Kudos!). The consultation was the third that the CWGL has held with U.N. Special Rapporteurs—last week's was with Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Dr. de Schutter is in the first stages of preparing a report on women's rights and the right to food, which he will present to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in March 2012. CWGL assembled a group of some 30 people to discuss the report, focusing on the right to food, gender equality and macro-economics. It was a great two-day brainstorm with a lot of smart and experienced (mostly) women. Fun and stimulating and useful.

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The G-20's opportunity on food reserves

Posted September 23, 2011 by Sophia Murphy   

Used under creative commons license from CGIAR Climate.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has accepted an invitation to host the World Food Program's pilot emergency food reserves project. Farmers, like these in Kaffrine, Senegal, are some of the hardest it by food price volatility.

This post was originally featured on the Triple Crisis blog.

G-20 development ministers meet on Friday in Washington, D.C. One of the items on their agenda is a proposal developed in June for the G-20 agriculture ministers to allow the World Food Program to develop a pilot proposal for an emergency food reserve. The decision was possibly the most important outcome in an otherwise thin summit communiqué: however circumscribed, we know that food price volatility correlates with low stocks, and that providing stocks is a proven way to curb excessive volatility. We also know that in emergencies, in most of the poorest countries, it takes an average of 90 days to bring food into food-deficit areas. 90 days is too long. The costs of working in emergency conditions are also too high, in both resources and human life. There are cheaper, better ways to ensure food is available when it’s needed: a reserve in the food-vulnerable regions is one of them.

The pilot is to be part of the G-20 Action Plan on Food Price Volatility. Preparation of the proposal included extensive consultation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which accepted an invitation to host the pilot project.

Between the last days of June and just last week, an astonishingly short period of time, the WFP coordinated a process among a number of intergovernmental and national agencies; coordinated the drafting of a report, which is both a feasibility study and pilot project proposal; found a willing partner region (ECOWAS); worked with an ad hoc group of interested G-20 governments who provided oversight; and managed some outreach to NGOs with experience in humanitarian emergencies and stocks policies. It is an impressive achievement. Bravo.

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Big changes for school food

Posted September 6, 2011 by Ben Lilliston   

Schools across Minnesota are bringing fresh, local produce into their lunchrooms during Farm to School month. (Photo: Dover-Eyota Schools)

Like most parents in Minnesota, last week I received an information packet from my daughter’s school. It was the annual get-ready-for-school packet, full of various forms and fall activities for her school in St. Louis Park. Deep in the pile was a bright orange flyer from the school lunch room. This year, they will be offering grass-fed, high–omega 3, all-beef hot dogs from Thousand Hills—a small, Minnesota company. That’s right. Grass-fed beef from a company previously most likely to be found in your local food co-op or natural food store—now in my daughters lunchroom. Also, this September, during Farm to School Month in Minnesota, the school is offering apples, squash, tomatoes and potatoes all grown by local farmers. And hormone-free milk, whole grain brown rice and fresh fruit at every lunch.
These are huge changes in the lunch program since my daughter began school five years ago, and what’s happening in St. Louis Park is not unusual. IATP’s JoAnne Berkenkamp and Lynn Mader have been working with the state’s school nutrition association (a.k.a., the lunch ladies), to greatly expand Farm to School programs all over the state. Participation has skyrocketed from 10 school districts in 2006 to over 123 last year. Find out what’s happening this year at

Healthy food that supports local farmers. What could be better for our next generation of eaters? 

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Honoring the hands that prepare our food

Posted September 6, 2011 by    

Used under creative commons license from National Farm Worker Ministry.

This post originally appeared September 4, 2011 on The Huffington Post.

In many cultures, it's common before a holiday meal to give a prayer of thanks for the food and the people that prepared it. At these times, we may think of our family members in the kitchen, or possibly the hard-working farmers we met at the farmers market.

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Governor Dayton: September is Farm to School Month in Minnesota

Posted August 29, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo   

Farm to School in Minnesota has been continually growing, and now it's been  recognized by the state for its importance to students and local farmers.

Last Thursday, Governor Dayton declared September Farm to School Month in Minnesota. The proclamation request was initiated by IATP as part of its ongoing Farm to School efforts.

Read the press release for more on Governor Dayton's proclamation.

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