Think Forward blog

The Council of Canadians is prepared to push the new Liberal government on key campaign areas

Posted October 20, 2015

More than a year ago the Council of Canadians set twin objectives for this federal election: to get out the vote and to defeat the Harper government. Both were accomplished last night. More than 17.5 million people, about 68 per cent of all eligible voters, cast a ballot in this election. That's a dramatic increase of almost 3 million voters from the 14.8 million people, or 61.4 per cent of eligible voters, who voted in May 2011. And last night not only was Stephen Harper defeated as prime minister, he resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. We celebrate both of these accomplishments.

We had felt though that the best likely outcome of this election would be a minority government. And if we had a system of proportional representation that would have been the outcome last night. Under that system, the Liberals would have won a minority government of about 133 seats (rather than a majority with 184 seats), the NDP 67 seats and the Greens 12 seats. We could have had a stable minority government through a multi-party coalition or accord. Instead, the Liberals won 54 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons with just 39.5 per cent of the vote. We believe this is wrong.

While we welcome Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau's election night speech that focused on hope, inclusion and the end of the politics of division and fear evident under the Harper government, we are deeply concerned by his party's support for 'free trade' agreements like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And with about 40 days until the critical United Nations COP 21 climate talks begin in Paris, the Liberals have only pledged "real climate change solutions" rather than more concretely an end to export pipelines and no new approvals for the tar sands.

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Algae: Raceway to the future?

Posted October 15, 2015 by Dr. Steve Suppan   

Used under creative commons license from agrilife.

 An algae raceway at Texas A&M AgriLife.

Can genetically modified algae feed and fuel the world, as scientific entrepreneur J. Craig Venter predicted in 2011? For entrepreneurs of manufacturing with algae biomass, the future is now. That was the message of the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) Summit held September 30th to October 2nd in Washington, DC. Yet, to the product developers who rely on synthetically modified microbes to genetically “edit” and customize algae for industrial and agricultural purposes, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on “new microbes” modified by “Advanced Genetic Engineering” posed a lot of questions.  For some of those questions, there are not yet answers; at least parts of the algal future are not now.

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The Hidden Cost (or Tax) of Food Dialogues®

Posted October 15, 2015 by Pete Huff   

Used under creative commons license from Donna Cleveland.

In the current media environment, there’s a lot of seemingly contradictory information about the “right” way to grow and eat food. Setting out to address these tensions in a public forum, the Food Dialogues® came to Minneapolis this summer. The event–entitled “Farm to Consumer: Bridging the Gap Between Consumer Concerns and Food Production and Sourcing Decisions”–was presented as an open panel discussion on the way the nation grows and eats food, now and into the future.

At first glance, the dialogue between actors such as Minneapolis Public Schools, a national leader in providing healthy, regionally sourced foods, and General Mills, a major financial backer for groups that fight improved school nutrition standards, appeared promising. Equally promising was the presence of the farm voice, specifically Riverbend farm, a small, community supported organic farm, side-by-side with Cargill, the nation’s largest privately held corporation. However, looking behind the curtain of this and other Food Dialogues® events around the country reveals the less objective agenda of those setting the stage–an agenda that had little interest in a real dialogue about the future of farming and food systems.

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A Tale of Two Food Prizes

Posted October 13, 2015

An OFRANEH youth brigade member waters sweet chili pepper in a family garden. Photos by Steve Pavey.

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.


What’s in a prize? The politics of distribution versus growth.

On October 14th in Des Moines, Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, run by African-American farmers of the southern United States and to OFRANEH—the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña).

The next day, hundreds of distinguished international guests will also gather in Des Moines, Iowa as Sir Fazle Hasan Abed accepts the World Food Prize in the name of BRAC—the world’s largest non-governmental rural development agency.

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"Our Lands Are Critical to Our Lives": Afro-Indigenous Hondurans Defend Land and Food Sovereignty

Posted October 8, 2015

Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of OFRANEH. Photo courtesy of Grassroots International.

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.


“Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty,” said Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, or OFRANEH by its Spanish acronym, in an interview.

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Alfredo's Story: Human Rights Defender Despite Imprisonment

Posted October 7, 2015

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.


“In the end we succeeded. But it cost us six years in jail, and five of my colleagues were assassinated. However we are still here, working, and pushing forward,” said Alfredo Lopez.

Alfredo, a well-known and respected community leader, is the vice-president of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), a partner of Grassroots International. OFRANEH organizes with indigenous, Afro-descendant Hondurans (known as Garifunas), whose ancestral territory contains some of the most breathtaking and fertile areas along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. And they also constantly face land grabs by agrofuel plantations, tour-resort developers and narco-traffickers.

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Defending Afro-Indigenous Land: Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras Wins 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize

Posted October 7, 2015

Garifuna youth brigade members remove a fence post in the area planted by narco invaders of the land prior to the 2012 land recovery. Photo courtesy of Steve Pavey.

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.


In 2015, the US Food Sovereignty Prize honors the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH by its Spanish acronym), Afro-indigenous farmers and fisherpeople who are defending their lands, waters, agriculture, and way of life. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, primarily African-American farmers across 13 states in the deep South, shares the prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.

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Black Farmers' Lives Matter: Defending African-American Land and Agriculture in the Deep South

Posted October 6, 2015

Food Sovereignty Prize Domestic Winner Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC)

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.


The 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize goes to two organizations that are demonstrating just how much Black lives matter, as they defend their ancestral lands for community-controlled food production. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, primarily African-American farmers across the deep South, shares the prize with the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, Afro-indigenous farmers and fisher-people. The prize will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.

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Dairy producers reject their inclusion in the Trans Pacific Partnership

Posted October 2, 2015

Used under creative commons license from mapper-montag.

English translation of original post by La Jornada

The Union of Dairy Producers of the Mexican Republic and the Mexican Dairy Federation asked the government to refrain from presenting offers in the negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which are being carried out in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, that have not been agreed to by the national sector.

The National Front of Dairy Producers and Consumers demanded that the product be removed from the negotiations. Alvaro Gonzalez Muñoz, the group’s president, explained that the risks are very high, since the nations that make up the commercial bloc will offer very low prices for dairy products, which will lead to the bankruptcy of the majority of the 250,000 producers.

Vicente Gomez Cobo, president of the Mexican Dairy Federation, indicated that the national negotiators “should not use milk producers as a bargaining chip. We are not like textiles or patented medicines.”

Salvador Alvarez Moran, president of the Union of Dairy Producers of the Mexican Republic, explained that the sector is going through a profound crisis, created by the oversupply of milk on world markets, which has led to a 70 percent drop in prices in the last year and a half. “The situation could get worse if we include dairy in the TPP, since New Zealand is the main exporter of milk and cheeses in the world. Its competitive advantages allow it to produce milk at half of what it costs in Mexico.”

He referred to the Mexican dairy supply chain, which is made up of 250,000 farms, of which 96 percent have fewer than 100 heads of cattle, and which generate 635,000 direct and indirect jobs.

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TPP’s shell game on dairy

Posted October 1, 2015 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

Used under creative commons license from cafnr.

Trade ministers and negotiators are meeting this week in Atlanta in what might be the final round of negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Leaving aside the fact that they first announced a “final” round nearly two years ago, it does seem that they are down to a few sticking points. As in so many trade agreements, whether and how to include agriculture is one of those points of controversy. This time, much of the debate focuses on just how much the member countries must open their dairy markets to imports, and whether Canada will be compelled to weaken its dairy supply management program.

These demands come at a time when dairy producers in many countries are reeling from falling prices. After increases in global prices over the last few years, farmers in many countries increased production. Then conditions changed dramatically. Russia banned dairy imports from the U.S, EU and Australia. China substantially increased its own production. According to USDA reports, the price of non-fat dry milk (the main reference price) fell from $1.77 per pound in 2014 to about $0.89 as of September 2015.

Wild swings in supply and demand have pushed many dairy farmers over the edge. According to an article in Bloomberg Business, the U.S. has lost more than 76 percent of its dairy farms in the last 25 years. In the article, Andrew Novakovic, an economics professor at Cornell, said, “This is a problem of globalization. You are exposing yourself to a lot of risk without a lot of control.”

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