Tag: food

…effectively outlaws the saving of seeds from one season to the next

While the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were kept secret from the public and policymakers during negotiations, US negotiators relied heavily on input from the corporate insiders who populate the US government-appointed Industry Trade Advisory Committees.

[Seed industry lobby group] BIO spent roughly $8 million on lobbying each year while the TPP was under negotiation, paying firms like Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld $80,000 annually to lobby for patent provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

The results of this lobbying blitz were unknown until the final text of the agreement was released in November of last year… Experts have called the TPP a ‘big win’ for the biotech seed industry, and many warn that the trade deal will further enrich seed companies at the expense of farmers’ rights.

[The Trans-Pacific Partnership] effectively outlaws the saving of seeds from one season to the next, a practice the majority of the world’s farmers rely upon. Farmers are prohibited from saving, replanting, and exchanging protected seed, and breeders* are granted exclusive right to germplasm**.

– Exerpted and adapted from The Trans Pacific Partnership will hurt farmers and make seed companies richer by Alex Press, in The Nation, June 10, 2016.

* In this context, “breeders” means large-scale corporations or other institutions that carry out plant breeding to develop new crop varieties. It excludes small-scale farmers, or local seed sellers or coops, who don’t have the money to pay for lawyers to register and apply for patents for their seeds, or the time, money and extra land that would be required to carry out the seed trials that would be required for the patent application to even be considered.

** “Gerplasm” technically means the DNA or genetic material of a particular plant crop; practically it means seeds.


Producing more food won’t feed the poor

I suggested she try this exercise: “Put yourself in the poorest place you can think of. Imagine yourself in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. Now. Are you hungry? Are you going to go hungry? Are you going to have a problem finding food?”

The answer, obviously, is “no.” Because she — and almost all of you reading this — would be standing in that country with some $20 bills and a wallet filled with credit cards. And you would go buy yourself something to eat.

The difference between you and the hungry is not production levels; it’s money. There are no hungry people with money; there isn’t a shortage of food, nor is there a distribution problem. There is an I-don’t-have-the-land-and-resources-to-produce-my-own-food, nor-can-I-afford-to-buy-food problem.

Look at the most agriculturally productive country in the world: the United States. Is there hunger here? Yes, quite a bit. We have the highest percentage of hungry people of any developed nation, a rate closer to that of Indonesia than that of Britain.

Is there a lack of food? You laugh at that question. It is, as the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler likes to call it, “a food carnival.” It’s just that there’s a steep ticket price.

A majority of the world is fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, some of whom are themselves among the hungry. The rest of the hungry are underpaid or unemployed workers. But boosting yields does nothing for them.

So we should not be asking, “How will we feed the world?,” but “How can we help end poverty?” Claiming that increasing yield would feed the poor is like saying that producing more cars or private jets would guarantee that everyone had one.

– Exerpted from Don’t Ask How to Feed the 9 Billion by Mark Bittman

Conflict between developed and less developed countries on plant genetic resources

The following is an exerpt from ‘Intellectual Property in Global Governance: A Development Question’ by Chidi Oguamanam, published by Routledge, 2012.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the UN specialized agency that “leads international efforts to defeat hunger”. Created in 1945, the same year as the UN, the FAO was critical in the international initiative to address post-war global hunger. The FAO’s functions span the provision of technical, scientific, educational, and research support with the aim of improving conservation of natural resources, global nutrition, food and agricultural practices, and the overall marketing and distribution of food and agricultural products. The FAO functions to influence national and international action toward “the adoption of international policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements”. Perhaps more importantly, the FAO is a putatively neutral forum where both less developed and developed nations interact and negotiate and debate policies pertaining to agriculture, food production and global hunger. In this regard, the FAO has been described as “a flashpoint of conflict between developed countries of the northern hemisphere and the developing countries of the southern hemisphere regarding appropriation, exploitation, and proper legal treatment of plant genetic resources”.

The conflict between developed and less developed countries on plant genetic resources is driven by a number of interrelated factors. The first is a shared concern over global genetic erosion and the depletion of agricultural plant genetic resources. In the past century, losses of varieties of several major crops are estimated at 80-90%… The second reason for the north-south conflict over plant genetic resources is the suspicion of the underlying motives of industrialized countries for establishing ex situ gene banks for the conservation of the world’s priciest genetic resources, most of which were from the global south, under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

In regard to the suspicion surrounding CGIAR, there is continued skepticism in less developed countries over the role of the World Bank as CGIAR’s chief sponsor and in regard to the unresolved issue of intellectual property arising from dealings in genetic materials in CGIAR and in other public gene banks. Also, there is an impression in some quarters that CGIAR and other public gene banks were perspicaciously set up by industrialized countries not necessarily as a conservation strategy but as a way to ensure control and a continued flow of the south’s genetic resources to the north, which could not be guaranteed in the postcolonial era… with the decline of the empire system governments lacked the military presence and legal authority to compel [the new] sovereign nations to yield valuable genetic resources. After all, under the colonial arrangement, the funneling of genetic resources was a brazen and, some would argue, “legitimate” activity given that colonial outposts of the south were practical extensions of empire. Under this theory, the formal end of colonialism necessitated the creation of a platform for legitimate funneling of less developed countries’ genetic resources by hitherto colonial interests.

Taking advantage of prevailing intellectual property regimes… seed breeding and allied agro-tech corporations in the North… continued to exploit publicly held plant genetic resources as well as those in CGIAR ex situ seed banks, obtaining intellectual property rights. They are able to effectively exclude natural and original suppliers of those plant genetic resources from benefiting from the resulting innovation… in the supplying communities, there was virtually no mechanism for protecting farmers’ valuable knowledge or for rewarding their contributions in the generation of important plant genetic resources which are the mainstay of modern entrepreneurial agricultural biotechnology.

– Exerpted from ‘Intellectual Property in Global Governance: A Development Question’ by Chidi Oguamanam, published by Routledge, 2012.

The only legitimate use of biomass

The only legitimate use of what international entities and companies call “biomass” is as food for living beings and the restoration of soil fertility. The emissions released as a result of energy misuse should be reduced at the source, bringing an end to wasteful consumption. We need renewable energy sources that are decentralized and controlled by the people.

– From ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW! Position Paper of La Vía Campesina, published by La Via Campesina.

Golden rice, in pictures

The world’s most vitriolic propaganda war is about… rice. Golden Rice.

Time magazine cover

Time magazine: “This rice could save a million kids a year… but protestors believe such genetically modified foods are bad for us and the planet. Here’s why.”

Golden rice now!
‘Golden rice now’ logo from goldenrice.org


A slogan in dutch, from AllowGoldenRiceNow.org

An information sheet about golden rice published by IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), a member of the CGIAR consortium, showing the stages in the approval process of Golden Rice, from small-scale laboratory tests to large field tests to market tests. At the end is a happy family getting ready to eat dinner. To the top right is the flag of the Philippines.

“Golden rice, oh no!” From the article All those involved in Hunan golden rice incident penalized by Rebecca Lin.

Greenpeace: “Hands off our rice”.

Genetically engineered (GE) ‘Golden’ rice illusion. Fake remedy for vitamin-A deficiency.

From Greenpeace international

Two men holding a yellow banner which reads: 'Greenpeace's Crime Against Humanity 8 million children dead AllowGoldenRiceNow.org'
“Greenpeace’s crime against humanity 8 million children dead” – Patrick Moore protests against Greenpeace’s protests against golden rice.

A protest against golden rice in the Philippines.

From the article Militant farmers destroy ‘Golden Rice’ facility by asingh in Asian Pacific Post.


Media Advisory. Hundreds of farmers oppose unsafe, genetically modified Syngenta Golden Rice at anniversary of PhilRice! Farmers to cook traditional rice and vegetables rich in vitamin-A! Please cover!

A pamphlet announcing a protest against Golden Rice in the Philippines in 2011, from Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon Philippines.


“Defend our rice! Fight for our rights!”

From the article Asian farmers unite to stop Golden Rice, published by GRAIN.

A graph titled 'Golden rice - solving vitamin A deficiency?'

Graph ‘Golden rice – solving vitamin A deficiency’, from the article 10 grains of delusion: golden rice seen from the ground published by GRAIN.

‘Golder rice patent’ Cartoon from ETC Group. “In the spirit of fairness and equity we’ve decided to give our patents to the golden rice endeavour. We found the patents pretty much useless and I’m sure they’ll be just as beneficial to the poor!”

ETC Group – Golden rice ‘benefits’: a cartoon showing two very fat kids sitting in a classroom. “New item: scientists say that 3 kilos of Golden Rice per day could end vitamin-A deficiency and prevent blindness among children.” “I can see the blackboard OK – but I can’t see my feet!”

Our food systems have emerged by default

The current global food systems is efficient only from the point of view of maximising agribusiness profits and producing huge volumes of exportable cereal commodities. They are highly inefficient on every other count: almost 1 billion people are still hungry and undernourished, while 1.4 billion are overweight and obese; millions of small-scale farmers are unable to live from food production; and the natural resource base on which food production depends is being rapidly degraded.

Why we would freely choose a system whose benefits accrue to so few at the expense of so many? The answer is: we haven’t. Our food systems have emerged by default, by diktat and by virtue of the effective veto power of agribusiness to any reform running against its interests. The greatest deficit in the food economy is the democratic one.

Food democracy must start in cities and municipalities. By 2050, when the world population will have reached 9.3 billion, about 6.3 billion of these inhabitants will live in cities. It is vital that these cities identify logistical challenges and pressure points in their food supply chains and develop a variety of channels to procure their food.

Many cities are already making strides in rebuilding their food systems. Toronto boasts an ambitious local food strategy. Durban’s Agroecology Delivery Programme has reinforced local, sustainable supply links, while city-level strategies to integrate local family farms into the food supply have flourished in Brazil.

However innovative these local initiatives are, they can succeed only if they are supported and complemented at national level, yet the Bali Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December showed how global processes can block ambitious food security reforms. Though India could temporarily safeguard its National Food Security Act, the message to all other WTO members was that they should think twice before increasing support for their farmers – even though rich countries have provided much higher support for years with impunity.

– Olivier de Shutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Food security eludes almost 1 billion, somewhat paraphrased).


People use the word “traditional” to name what they are used to. This word allows us to avoid thinking about how, when and why our patterns of work, trade and family life came to be. When we think of something as “traditional,” we make it seem natural or divine rather than historical. But everything has origins and causes. In this chapter, I use quotation marks around the word “tradition” because I want to encourage the reader never to use the word again as if she knows what it means.

– Harriet Friedmann, ‘Remaking “traditions”: how we eat, what we eat and the changing political economy of food’.