Posted April 3, 2013 by Dr. Steve Suppan
The Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia has the largest collection of ancient mosaics in the world. Most of the mosaics, depicting Roman, Greek Phoenician and Nubian life, gods and royalty, are incomplete. Some have had to be radically reconstructed, with the help of archeology and very skilled and imaginative art conservationists. The Bardo mosaics have something in common with the World Social Forum (WSF): it is impossible to see more than a handful of the WSF’s nearly one thousand events, but it is possible to reconstruct a sense of the whole from some of its pieces.
The slogan of this WSF is The Revolution for Dignity. For a U.S. audience, this may seem like a strange slogan, but the Revolution in Tunisia, which deposed a dictator, began in January 2011 when a vegetable vendor harassed by police for operating without a license burned himself to death, literally crying to be treated with dignity. In a country with an unemployment rate of 60 percent and a large part of its wealth parked in European banks, rather than invested to create jobs, to be treated with dignity does not seem to be asking very much.
Dignity is, in part, about valuing human health and safety. One of the daily indignities in Tunisian life is the search for a clean public toilet, including toilets at the El Manar campus of the University of Tunisia, the site of the WSF. In a panel on the crises of water and climate change, a Tunisian activist explained that university toilets were neglected because the university itself was neglected. Water to flush a toilet was two and a half times as expensive as bottled water. Further, in a country where potable water was in short supply because of extensive contamination of water by fertilizers and pesticides, plastic water bottles littered the streets because there is no recycling industry in Tunisia. A professor of chemistry at the University said that Tunisia desperately needed a recycling infrastructure, both to remedy a catastrophic degree of unemployment and to begin to repair Tunisia’s ravaged environment.
At IATP’s event “Regulating to protect the environment, public health and worker safety: Challenges of Nanotechnology,” Tunisian pesticide researcher and environmental activist Semia Gharbi gave a thorough review of damage caused by lack of protection for workers using pesticide, pesticide caused public health problems, and lack of regulation of pesticides due to the power of agribusiness exporters. A telling sign of the extent of industry influence is that the Arabic word for “medicine” and “pesticide” is the same (as it is in Hindi and many other languages). Pesticides, used to control household and garden pests, are sold on the same shelf on packaged foods.
Brazilian professor of law Wilson Engelmann discussed how nanotechnology presented an unprecedented challenge for Brazilian legislation, regulation and jurisprudence. Traditionally in Brazil, law is written after a factual basis for the law has been agreed. In the case of nanotechnologies, products are commercialized in the absence of law, but in the presence of large degree of uncertainty about the effects of nanomaterials on the environment, public health and worker safety. Professor Engelmann said that sustainable nanotechnology would require a high degree of cooperation among natural and social sciences, and a broad public debate to develop law that would enable it to be subject to public control rather than imposed on the public. He concluded that nanotechnology was so complex that it should become the subject of international law and regulation rather than starting from national legislation.
Dignity is also about valuing public discourse. Brazilian professor of sociology Tania Magna discussed her research on the marketing of products claiming to incorporate nanomaterials, including products for children and infants. One of the characteristics of Brazilian nanotech marketing is to present products “with nano” as the future in a country advertized by elites as “The Country of the Future.” Research into nanotechnology is difficult, however, because much of this new technology, though developed with public money, is not made available to the public but is only published in expensive journals, often foreign, that are too expensive for many Brazilian library subscription budgets. Furthermore, Brazilians scientists said they would conduct any regulation needed of nanotechnology, hence there was no need for them to talk with social scientists, much less with the public.
Retired professor of sociology Paulo Martins discussed his public engagement project in nanotechnology, which includes a near weekly webcasting of Nanotechnology Inside Out. With the help of young Tunisian technical and translation volunteers, both the IATP and Brazilian Research Network on Nanotechnology, Environment and Society panels were webcast to six universities in Brazil.
Dignity is also about the ability to chart one’s path. The struggle to get the Group of 20 governments to regulate their commodity and finance markets made a small appearance in my commodity market regulation presentation. A bigger review of the whole G-20 agenda was presented by Russia’s Boris Kagalitsky. He bravely noted that civil society movements, including those in Russia, were losing most of the battles to advance an economy in which everyone prospered. He said that the G-20s “development” agenda would reduce Russia to a commodity export dependent country with a huge capital flight resulting from the privatization of state resources. He invited WSF participants to engage in the G-20 struggle and said that St. Petersburg, the site of the next G-20 summit, is a beautiful city.
In the meantime, back in the U.S., I read of ongoing challenges to new commodity market regulations or even to prosecute high profile malefactors like HSBC because of fears that the jailing of an executive would cause a loss of market confidence. It reminded me of a display at the Bardo Museum in which the rulers of ancient Carthage walled themselves off from their subjects. The ongoing G-20 failure to change the banking culture of regulatory defiance and evasion to one of compliance is a grave danger not only to the global non-financial economy but to our individual dignity. Indeed, we urgently need a Revolution for Dignity.
Posted April 1, 2013 by Kathleen Schuler, MPH
Healthy Legacy’s 2013 legislative agenda is making great progress. We are supporting three bills this legislative session that address priority chemicals in children’s products. After countless committee hearings, two of our bills have completed their committee paths and await floor votes in both houses.
Our third bill, the Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA) of 2013 requires that manufacturers report the presence of a priority chemical in their children’s products and requires the eventual replacement of these harmful chemicals with safer alternatives. This bill passed through several committees in each house, but was voted down on March 18 in the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill was transformed through the committee process into a strong reporting bill that harmonizes with Washington and would put Minnesota on a solid path to address priority chemicals. We thank our chief authors Sen. Chris Eaton and Rep. Ryan Winkler for their leadership and hard work on these bills.
Thanks to the Minnesota legislature, the work of state agencies and the Healthy Legacy coalition, Minnesota is already a leading state in protecting children from toxic chemical exposures. We need to take the next step and assure that we have policies to address all priority chemicals by passing TFKA. We will be back in 2014!
Healthy Legacy is a diverse public health coalition that works to phase out the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is a co-founding member of the coalition.
Posted March 28, 2013 by Shiney Varghese
For well over a decade, IATP has advocated for alternatives to the current water governance regime that privileges profit over people, communities and ecosystems. In advocating against neoliberal approaches to solving water crises, we have argued for the promotion of the right to water and the right to food, for the precautionary principle and for the need to respect our common but differentiated responsibility to protect our commons.
This month, as the United Nations celebrates World Water Day, and as many organizations at the World Social Forum celebrate Water Justice Day, we offer Water Governance in the 21st Century: Lessons from Water Trading in the U.S. and Australia, a new paper that looks at the possibilities for water governance based on on cooperation rather than competition. We look at the experiences of water trading in Australia and North America for relevant lessons to help chart a path for just and sustainable water governance in 21st century.
As water insecurities increase globally, there is an increasing emphasis on demand-management approaches, which for the most part emphasize market mechanisms as a means to ensure water security for all. Water trading is one of the market based mechanisms that helps transfer water from one user to another. It involves buying and selling water rights (which are permanent access entitlements), or water allocation entitlements (which are seasonal and temporary). This process results in the re-allocation of water among competing uses by facilitating the transfer of water from low-valued to higher-valued uses. This approach is gaining ground as climate uncertainties grow, as corporations want to control water for their value chain and as scarcity conditions give rise to the idea of water primarily as an economic good.
The new IATP paper focuses on the experiences in the western United States and southeastern Australia, both regions in which sophisticated institutional frameworks have been developed that recognize water as a limited resource and an economic good, and which facilitate the re-allocation of water through market mechanisms such as water trading. We show that water markets often exacerbate failures in water governance (manifested as economic or physical water scarcity) and that the third party effects associated with water trading (which have been well documented) are only the most evident symptom of the underlying governance problems.
Instead, we should consider a holistic framework that considers water as a commons, questions the premise that water trading is a transaction that takes place between only two parties, and urges caution to ensure that wider social concerns are not neglected. We propose the use of the public trust doctrine in order to protect both public use and public interest. The former is concerned with access to the commons for current generations, while the latter is concerned with conserving the commons in the interest of current and future generations [of all beings]. We suggest that the combined use of the commons principles with public trust doctrine or its principles provides a way forward to resolve the problems that have arisen in the context of water trading in the western United States and southeastern Australia.
We conclude by suggesting that allocation of water should not be based on commodification and economic efficiency alone. The national water sector reforms underway in many countries should consider the hidden costs of existing market based approaches, and should be premised on the notion of water as a commons, available first and foremost for public purposes (including the realization of right to water and right to food). In sum, public policy rooted in cooperation and mutual responsibility, instead of competition, would help address the crisis in shared commons such as water. In this International Year of Water Cooperation it is extremely timely and appropriate.
Read the full report: Water Governance in the 21st Century: Lessons from Water Trading in the U.S. and Australia.
Posted March 26, 2013 by Dale Wiehoff
Rotisserie chicken, chicken nuggets, Kung pao chicken, chicken livers, Buffalo wings, chicken Kiev, lemon chicken, chicken soup, barbecue chicken, chicken salad, fried chicken—there is no denying that the U.S. loves chicken. According to the USDA, poultry production exceeds $20 billion annually, with over 43 billion pounds of meat produced. The National Chicken Council estimates per capita consumption of chicken in the U.S. at over 80 pounds a year. What’s surprising is that it hasn’t always been this way. This is the story of how an Italian immigrant farmer and his son helped launch the industrial production of chicken.
Prior to World War II, chicken was reserved for special occasions. If you lived on a farm back then, the arrival of visiting relatives meant roast chicken for dinner. Sunday dinner with the family was often graced with chicken and peas. Farm flocks were generally the domain of women and children to earn some cash selling eggs. Back then, chickens for eating were a by-product of egg production (that is, chickens would be butchered only when their laying days were done), with the modern broiler industry only starting to take shape in the 1920s and 30s in places like the Delmarva Peninsula on the Atlantic coast.
Flock sizes grew from a rooster and few hens to some flocks with 10,000 or more chickens, but it wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s when vertical integration of the broiler industry occurred and chicken factories with hundreds of thousands of birds appeared. Before that, flocks were an assortment of breeds, with names like Jersey Giant, California Gray, Wyandotte and Rhode Island Red. The turning point for industrial chicken came when the Atlantic and Pacific supermarket chain held a national contest for the “Chicken of Tomorrow.”
A&P, Arbor Acres and the Chicken of Tomorrow
In 1945, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (or the A&P as it was universally known), the country’s largest poultry retailer, sponsored a national contest in partnership with USDA to produce a breed of chicken that would grow bigger, faster and put on weight in all the right places. The idea that a supermarket and the USDA would partner to develop a breed of chicken seems odd today, but the A&P was no ordinary supermarket chain.
In the age of Wal-Mart and Target, A&P looks almost quaint, but in the history of food retailing, A&P was the dominant force for many decades, having created the model of high-volume, low-cost food marketing. Marc Levinson’s The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America tells the story of how a small tea-importing and animal hides company grew starting in the 1860s into the largest retailer in the world, reaching annual sales of $1 billion and owning over 16,000 stores nationwide by the end of the 1920s.
Through vertical integration and a policy of demanding volume discounts from manufacturers and wholesalers, A&P drove thousands of Mom and Pop retailers out of business. In 1945, the U.S. Justice Department won a conviction of A&P for criminal restraint of trade. The conviction had little impact on A&P’s business, but the giant supermarket chain took every opportunity during the trial and appeal to improve its image through press releases and public service work. The “Chicken of Tomorrow” contest was part of A&P’s damage control.
Farmers and breeders from across the country took part, submitting eggs for hatching at specially built facilities where the chicks were hatched and raised in controlled conditions on a standard diet. The chicks were closely tracked and monitored for weight gain, health and appearance. After 12 weeks, the birds were slaughtered weighed and judged for edible meat yield. In 1946 and 1947, a series of state and regional contests took place and from them 40 finalists were chosen to compete for the national title of Chicken of Tomorrow. In 1948, and again in 1951, Arbor Acres White Rocks won in the purebred category. The white feathered Arbor Acres birds were preferred to the higher preforming dark feathered Red Cornish crosses from the Vantress Hatchery. Eventually the two breeds were crossed to become the Arbor Acre breed that came to dominate the genetic stock of chicken worldwide.
Arbor Acres was run by Franks Saglio, an Italian immigrant who grew fruits and vegetables in Glastonbury, Connecticut on a small family farm. His son, Henry, started raising chickens for local sales. It was Henry’s birds that eventually won the Chicken of Tomorrow contest, from which the family went on to build a national breeding business which sent parent stock to all the major broiler companies in the country. In addition to supplying Arbor Acres breeding stock, the company also developed techniques and facilities to promote the best performance of the birds. Driven by processors’ demands for more and cheaper chicken, the broiler industry went through a rapid vertical integration process with hatcheries, growers, feed mills and processors all merged into larger and larger commercial farms. The Saglio family helped found the National Chicken Council, the chicken industry’s public relations and lobbying organization.
Arbor Acres, the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) and Nelson Rockefeller
Here is where the story takes a big turn. In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller bought Arbor Acres and took it global through his company, International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC).
Nelson Rockefeller left government service the same year A&P held the first Chicken of Tomorrow contest, and in 1947 set up two new organizations to demonstrate his alternative approach to President Truman’s Point IV Program for technical assistance to developing countries. The American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) was Rockefeller’s policy arm and IBEC was the business arm. Called by some the Rich Neighbor Policy, Rockefeller’s private development companies initially brought U.S. capital and technology to places like Brazil and Venezuela to jump start modern consumer capitalism. IBEC began with $3 million from Nelson Rockefeller, and $21 million from Standard Oil. IBEC’s investments included poultry production, supermarkets, housing, agribusiness and textiles.
In addition to demonstrating that U.S. capital and American know-how could create a thriving middle class in places ruled by autocrats and populated by the poor and illiterate, IBEC had a Cold War agenda as well. As Nelson Rockefeller was known to say, "it's hard to be a Communist with a full belly.” Many of IBEC’s operations were located in countries where Standard Oil was pumping oil and nationalist and peasant uprisings were occurring.
IBEC’s model undercut peasant production of food, replacing it with a capital-intensive system. To make this system work required, on the production side, a steady supply of feed grain, and on the consumer-side, a way to distribute and sell the meat that looked more like A&P than traditional open air markets and bodegas. In 1949, IBEC formed a joint venture with Cargill to build grain elevators in Argentina. Cargill had been hoping to enter the Latin American market and the IBEC partnership opened the door, first in Argentina and then in Venezuela and Brazil. Today, Cargill has over $8 billion invested in Latin America and 25,000 employees. By 1956, according to an IBEC consultant reporting on supermarcados in Venezuela, it could “truthfully be said that the modern supermarkets are displacing the old fashioned ‘bodegas.’” (In 1969, 14 of the 17 IBEC supermarkets in Buenos Aires were burnt to the ground by nationalists when Nelson Rockefeller came to visit.)
With IBEC’s purchase of Arbor Acres, the AA genetic stock—as it is known in the trade—went global, starting in Latin America and moving quickly to Africa, Asia and Europe. In Asia, one IBEC employee, John Rogers, founder of Rogers Enterprise International, setup Arbor Acres joint ventures with leading agribusiness companies, including Charoen Pokphand Foods with operations in Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia and India; the San Miguel Corporation in the Philippines; and Mitsui and Co. in Japan. Still today, 50 percent of the chicken raised in China comes from the Arbor Acres genetic stock.
Not all of IBEC’s development projects were as successful as Arbor Acres, and by the 1970s IBEC started to divest of it holdings. In 1980, when it merged with Booker McConnell Limited of Great Britain, IBEC changed its name to Arbor Acres. Since then, Arbor Acres has changed hands several times and is currently owned by Avigen, a chicken breeder selling three brands of chicken—Arbor Acres, Ross and Indian River in 130 countries worldwide.
What do you get when you combine a family farm, a supermarket contest and a global corporation? It is a bad joke, and even more, it misses the real question we have to answer: What have we lost to the creation of industrial chicken?
Let’s start with the chickens. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) there has been a marked decline in the past half century of farm livestock breeds. “Up to 30% of global mammalian and avian livestock breeds (i.e., 1,200 to 1,500 breeds) are currently at risk of being lost and cannot be replaced.” A Purdue University study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that 50 percent or more of ancestral chicken breeds have been lost and that the greatest decline in chicken diversity took place in the 1950s with the introduction of industrial chicken production.
The thousands of farmers who took part in the Chicken of Tomorrow contests disappeared even more quickly than the breeds. They were replaced by ever larger chicken operations managed by farmers with little control over their farms. The remaining farmers are faced with signing bad contracts with immense transnational chicken processors that control every aspect of the process, from cage to carcass.
Despite the best efforts of the breeders to develop disease-resistant birds, the combination of chickens bred to gain weight and muscle rapidly, plus living in very confined cages, has led to sicker birds requiring more and more antibiotics. The declining diversity of breeds has also contributed to less resistance to disease. The use of antibiotics to keep battery-raised chickens healthy has contributed to widespread bacterial resistance to antibiotics, creating a public health crisis.
Everybody knows that if you can’t describe the flavor
When Henry Saglio died in 2003, according to his New York Times obituary, he was the “father” of the poultry industry. In 2000, Henry formed a new company called Pureline Genetics because of his growing concerned about the use of antibiotics in chicken production. Pureline’s drug-free breeds couldn’t penetrate the market, and by 2009 was sold to Centurion Poultry in Lexington, Georgia.
We are still eating the Chicken of Tomorrow, but it is time for a new contest, a contest not for a new Chicken of Tomorrow, but rather for a new kind of agriculture, one that is less focused on corporate profits and more focused on producing strong healthy farms and food.
Posted March 25, 2013 by Dr. Steve Suppan
IATP's Dr. Steve Suppan is blogging from Tunis, Tunisia, the site of the World Social Forum.
In Tunisia, important events begin with a poem. The interpretation technology was not working yet, but poetry is difficult to translate in any event. The opening session of the World Forum on Science and Democracy was no less significant because of a momentary technology glitch.
The very notion of science and democracy may seem antiquated or self evident. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a Center for Science and Democracy, which is petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA) to allow FDA scientists to speak with the public about their work without vetting from their managers. But here, the birthplace of the democratic revolutions of 2011—called the “Arab Spring” by Western journalists—nothing is taken for granted. As a representative of IATP, the only U.S. NGO at a conference of about 200 academics and NGOs from around the world, I am surprised to discover what is taken for granted.
The newly elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the University of Tunisia, our host, begins his welcoming remarks with a quote from the French-Algerian writer Albert Camus, writing in the midst of the Algerian revolution of the 1950s against French occupation of Algeria: democracy is to be able to choose and to allow one to choose without imposition. If this seems an odd way to open a quasi-academic conference, the quote from Camus prefaced an eloquent discussion of how scientists, such as the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and the U.S. anthropologist Gregory Bateson, show how human interdependence, beginning with mother and child, is the basis of all democracy.
I came prepared to present on the application of nanotechnology to fertilizers and its implications for soil health and biodiversity. Tunisia is major producer of phosphorus for fertilizer. The presentation was derived from an upcoming IATP report, Nanomaterials in Soil; Our Future Food Chain?, but the open windows of the lecture hall and the brilliant Tunisian sun made the text and images nearly illegible. No matter.
The discussion about a presentation long on words to describe what could not be seen but had to be taken on faith was lively but surprising. I explained how technology assessment offered a way to create a democratic dialogue between scientists and the citizens who paid for much of their education and research. I outlined how in the United States, government and corporate scientists worked on nanotechnology projects with no public input in comparative technology choice or investment of public money for products that sometimes harm public and environmental health. The application of treated sewage sludge—biosolids, to use the EPA approved term—now including nanomaterials from the nanotechnology production waste stream is an example of a technology investment with no citizen participatory technology assessment.
Despite the heroic efforts of interpreters, more than a few questions assumed that technology assessment would prevent developing countries from building their own advanced technologies. What right did the West have to deny Iran nuclear energy? If developing countries were denied such advanced technologies, how would they develop? I explained that a better technological choice for decentralized energy might be solar energy, but this short answer did little to counter an old belief that all advanced technologies bring enlightenment, progress and democracy.
But just this first day of the Science and Democracy World Forum has shown me that I understand even less of the world than I had supposed. I have learned, however, that a university which welcomes a debate on science and democracy with a poem and an elegant presentation on the human interdependence of democracy has much to teach us.
Posted March 15, 2013 by Andrew Ranallo
Antibiotics and ethanol seems like a non sequitur, unfortunately that’s far from the truth. A petition filed by IATP and partners shows why and asks the FDA to ban the use of antibiotics in ethanol byproducts as unnecessary and illegal.
After the ethanol production process is complete, the leftover, nutrient-rich grains used in the process (known as distillers grains with solubles) are often sold as animal feed. Many livestock producers depend on distillers grains as a cheap, nutritious feed option that helps put weight on animals. The issue is, despite available alternatives, many ethanol producers use antibiotics in their fermentation vats to prevent bacterial infections, so when the leftover grains are sold as animal feed, the antibiotics follow—adding even more unnecessary antibiotics to their already overloaded systems.
The petition focuses on evidence that this practice is unregulated and unmonitored, despite the fact that it adds to the antibiotic exposure in food animals. The FDA, despite acknowledging antibiotic resistance as one of their top concerns, has done nothing
Instead, the FDA has left the issue up to ethanol producers and pharmaceutical companies. In response, IATP, along with the Center for Food Safety, has filed a petition asking the FDA to halt antibiotic use in the production of distillers grains.
Posted March 15, 2013 by
I’m sure you care as much as I do about having a working antibiotic around when you really need one, or your child needs one.
It’s no idle concern. In the last two weeks, both CDC’s Director and England’s chief doctor warned about people soon dying—the latter called it a “catastrophic threat”—from the lack of antibiotics to treat people felled by bacterial infections resistant to multiple drugs.
Apparently, Senators on the HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) would rather put their heads in the sand. This is the year they renew ADUFA, the law by which FDA collects money from pharmaceutical companies to regulate the antibiotics these companies sell for use in food animals.
Leaders of the HELP Committee, including Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa, the leader hog producer, are fighting hard to keep any mention of antibiotic resistance out of the debate over ADUFA.
This is not only cynical, it’s dangerous. Even beginning students know the more we expose bacteria to antibiotics, the more they develop resistance to them. And thanks to the last version of ADUFA, the FDA finally collects data from pharmaceutical companies showing that four-fifths of all the antimicrobial drugs sold anywhere in the U.S.—nearly 30 million pounds per year—go for use in food animals; ninety percent of them are sold with no prescription.
Harkin, other HELP Committee members and the FDA want us to forget about all this. At the only public hearing on ADUFA last week, there was not a physician or public health witness anywhere to be seen. And not coincidentally, no mention of antibiotic resistance.
Fortunately, two strong Senators have stood up to lead on this issue. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) have offered to amend the next version of ADUFA to greatly improve the data Big Pharma would have to report to the public. For the first time, it would include, for example, specifics on how the medicines being sold are being delivered to animals, and how they are marketed—i.e., over-the-counter, prescription, etc. This is critically important to public health.
At this point, Chairman Harkin, the FDA and the rest of the committee oppose the Gillibrand/Feinstein provision. Worse, it increasingly looks like the HELP Committee may strip the bill of even the minimal collection of animal antibiotics data that happens currently.
Call your Senators today, and no later than Monday, March 18, when the ADUFA bill will be finalized. Ask them to tell Senator Harkin they support including the Gillibrand/Feinstein provision in the bill. Here is what they need to hear:
The following Senators on the Committee especially need to hear from you.
Posted March 13, 2013 by Asian Farmers' Association
The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) joins the South East Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and other network partners in the campaign against the commercialization of Golden Rice, as well as other GMOs, in the Philippines.
In line with its desire to achieve rice self-sufficiency for the country, the Philippine government has declared 2013 as the National Year of Rice. While this may be good on the surface, it is quite alarming that part of the efforts to achieve rice self-sufficiency involves the commercialization of Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice variety that is said to be vitamin A-enriched.
In addition to concerns over risks to health, environment, biodiversity, and infringement of farmers’ rights and livelihood, AFA believes that the best way to eliminate Vitamin-A deficiency is by eating a variety of nutritious foods that are usually found in diversified and integrated farming systems by smallholders, and which the government should support instead.
Thus, AFA joins hands with SEARICE and its network partners in issuing a call against Golden Rice commercialization by voicing objections, demanding a moratorium and, ultimately, halting its cultivation.
We ask friends and partners to uphold the right to safe food and the protection of farmers and the environment by supporting this campaign.
For more news and information, go to www.asianfarmers.org.
This blog was originally published March 7, 2013 by AFA.
Posted March 8, 2013 by Shiney Varghese
As the world was getting ready to usher in the New Year, most Indians were mourning the death of one of their young women, gang-raped on the night of December 16 on a bus that she boarded along with her companion. This is not the first time a woman was raped while travelling, nor was it the first time a young middle-class woman was gang-raped. Yet it galvanized the young and the old, women and men of India in a manner that had not happened before. There were many gatherings across the country to protest and mourn; there was an outpouring of grief and anger online too.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I am most acutely aware of the grim reality faced by most women in this world: gender-based violence. It manifests itself differently in different cultures, but is omnipresent all the same.
Gendered violence is intrinsically linked to women’s livelihoods as well, such as women’s roles in agriculture and food systems: as farmers, agricultural laborers, food processors, and finally as the main persons responsible for providing and preparing food for homes.
Sheelu, a feminist activist with Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, realized early on that sexual violence was an everyday reality for the women that the collective worked with, whether they were engaged in a household related activity (collecting water or firewood) or an economic activity (collecting fodder, employed in a agri-processing factory). Campaigns against gender-based violence quickly became one of the central focuses of the women's collective. These campaigns, in turn, created the conditions for the collective’s members to begin other work to empower women within the community and the region to address resource rights to improve their livelihoods. They became much stronger political actors able to more effectively claim their rights to food and land, something they could not have done without first addressing the violence that held them back at every turn.
Violence against women occurs in a multiple contexts: in the family, in the field, at the workplace, during caste, religious and communal conflicts, as well as by police and state officials. Sexual violence is used to control women (within the household or within the community), or the class/community she belongs to (e.g., in conflicts over land, inter-caste or communal violence or state-sponsored violence) in the event of a conflict. In contexts where women have no access to economic assets, they often have no recourse but to tolerate domestic violence.
Moreover, if the woman belongs to a community that is already in the margins of society, such acts of violence are often carried out with impunity, as is in the case of indigenous women in Canada, Native American women in the United States or Dalit women in India. According to Violence Against Dalit Women, the plight of Dalit (SC) women “seems much more alarming when one looks at the data pertaining to serious crimes such as rape and murder.” Simply put, women’s bodies often become the battleground for a number of different kinds of fights: cultural, communal, ethnic, racial, social, economic and domestic, and these fights can take place anywhere, public or private.
In the case of developing countries that are undergoing rapid urbanization and industrialization, the state can perpetuate or be complicit in human rights violations, as can be seen from the attempts to silence vocal women such as Soni Sori and several other less well known women in India. Similarly, when communities faced with displacement or destruction of livelihoods choose to exert their right to homeland and livelihoods, companies in search of metals and minerals may even resort to violence to silence them. Survivors of the gang rape of the eleven Q’eqchi’ women of Guatemala are suing the Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals Inc. and its subsidiary HMI Nickel for its role in the violence against women protesting its operations.
But the winds are changing: Thousands of ordinary women around the world joined organizers of one billion rising marking a day of action to protest against violence against women and girls last month. As if in recognition of the changing mood of millions of people, when the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-57) meets at the United Nations in New York this week (March 4–15), its focus is on violence against women and the priority theme is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. A multitude of events are held this International Women’s Day to protest violence against women, seek justice and celebrate the distance we have traveled over the last century.
Posted March 6, 2013 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn
The 16th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) began this week in Singapore. That trade deal has the potential to become the biggest regional free-trade agreement in history, both because of the size of the economies participating in the negotiations and because it holds open the possibility for other countries to quietly “dock in” to the existing agreement at some point in the future. What started as an agreement among Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore in 2005 has expanded to include trade talks with Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. Japan and Thailand are considering entering into the negotiations, and others are waiting in the wings.
And yet, despite the potential of this agreement to shape (and in very real ways override) a vast range of public policies, there has been very little public debate on the TPP to date. Governments have refused to release negotiating texts. Media attention on agriculture and the TPP has focused on New Zealand’s insistence on access to U.S. dairy markets and Japan’s concerns over rice imports.
While important, that debate is much too narrow. The TPP is not only about lowering tariffs. It has the potential to greatly expand protections for investors over those for consumers and farmers, and severely restrict governments’ ability to use public policy to reshape food systems. The fundamental causes of recent protests across the globe over food prices, the rising market power of a handful of global food and agriculture corporations, as well as the dual specters of rising hunger and obesity around the world, point to the need to transform the world’s food systems, not to lock the current dysfunction situation in place.
In Who’s at the Table? Demanding Answers on Agriculture in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, IATP raises questions around investment, food safety (especially in emerging new food technologies), procurement and competition policy that should guide an informed public debate around the right rules for agricultural trade.
Trade policy should start from such goals as ending global hunger, enhancing rural and urban incomes and employment, and encouraging a transition to climate friendly agriculture—not from the bottom line of multinational corporations. The burden of proof should be on governments to demonstrate that the commitments being negotiated in the TPP will advance the human rights to food and development. Given the stakes for agriculture and food systems in all of the countries involved, they should include all stakeholders in a frank discussion of the trade rules that are needed to ensure that food sovereignty, rural livelihoods and sustainable development take precedence over misguided efforts to expand exports at any cost. That is what should be on the table in Singapore.