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extreme weatherBusiness as Usual

It was news to me but apparently something that passes for normal practice these days is the buying and selling of weather derivative contracts, financial products bought and sold by industrial corporations and the financial services industry for the purpose of making a profit out of climate instability.

These aren’t just fly-by-night insurance scams but standard, widely used products designed and marketed by energy companies and industrial giants such as Enron and Koch Industries.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

So when for example, representatives of the energy industries in Britain stand in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee and argue that taxes on their products, those “Green Levies” designed to be redirected into renewable energy sources should be scrapped, we need to realise that they do so in the knowledge that for them, and their brothers in globalised industry, it doesn’t matter if the climate further destabilizes – they’re going to make huge profits from selling insurance products to those on the front line (those who can afford them, of course), then trading said products on the “free” market.

Caught in the StormA Vested Interest

Why bother then to confront and grapple with the causes of climate instability? All you need to do to stay in business is to analyse, predict, then profit from climate change and the worldwide imperative to adapt.

To put it another way these are companies – including energy companies – that have a vested financial interest in continued climate change. Some might even call this an incentive to keep fear of the consequences of weather instability in the forefront of people’s minds, (fear after all is the most effective tool to apply when selling insurance) without actually having to do anything about it.

Big Data

Technically weather derivatives are financial products rather than insurance policies and like any other comparable construction can be traded on the derivatives market. Given the way in which such products are structured, and the fact that payouts are triggered based on observed weather conditions rather than specific losses, information and data analysis are at the core of this expanding market. Whoever has first access to the most refined data is going to be streets ahead of their competitors. So it’s no surprise to hear that the first significant “big data” acquisition has been made by agricultural giant Monsanto, with its purchase of data science company Climate Corporation.

14rain6Another Day, Another Dollar

Scarcely a day goes by without reading of some new way that corporations have found to infiltrate the legislative process, corrupt the path of scientific impartiality, or influence the flow of information reaching the public. These people never sleep it seems.

By binding farmers to an inescapable genetically modified merry-go-round in which the company at the centre receives cash flow from all directions Monsanto makes virtual serfs of its clients. Blinding them with modified science and a vast body of data that only they control adds another link to the chain of dependency Monsanto has “creatively” engineered to tighten its grip on the world’s food production and save us all from starvation.

4269sotmr-weather-insurance-crisis-disaster-resizeGroundup

We need to forget about the fantasy of globalised business producing creative, innovative solutions to the climate crisis and helping us out of this mess. Their creativity has been solely in the service of protecting and maximizing profit margins whatever the weather, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Politics has sold its soul, lured by the dangling carrot of limitless economic growth, seeming to spend most of its time justifying the appropriation of common resources for the benefit of private organisations and facilitating the destruction of Nature by non-sustainable development.

We know that big changes are coming, that some will be within our powers to manage and many won’t. Genuinely creative ideas, techniques, strategies and solutions are arising, often quite literally, from the ground up, as fledgling organisations such as the Transition Network, the Occupy movement and many others bypass the established chain of command and take matters into their own hands. Such groups are at least offering a body of fresh ideas, and a blueprint or framework for a sustainable alternative. But those who believe that we can buy, sell, or bargain our way out of trouble are living in an absurd dream.

For a concise and readable analysis of so-called weather derivatives see the article below.

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Nine 9

Agrochemical crop spraying in Argentina has increased ninefold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Yet the South American nation has a hodgepodge of widely ignored regulations that leave people dangerously exposed, and chemicals contaminate homes, classrooms, and drinking water. Doctors and scientists are warning that uncontrolled spraying could be causing health problems across the nation.

bp14

Residents gather to speak on health concerns they have about agrochemicals in the main square of Alvear, in Santa Fe province, Argentina on March 9. In the heart of Argentina’s soybean business, house-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, as well as higher rates of hypothyroidism and chronic respiratory illnesses. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

See the original article here:  Potential effects of agrochemicals in Argentina      (17 photos)

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Edad_1212

Things you should know about Glyphosate

1. It is the best-selling herbicide in the world and the most widely used in Europe. Some 650,000 tonnes of glyphosate products were used globally in 2011.

2. The global market for glyphosate was worth US$6.5 billion in 2008

3. Glyphosate is toxic to all plants – unless they have been genetically modified to resist it.

4. Independent studies of glyphosate have suggested that the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) should be 12 times lower than the level in force in the EU.

5. Studies have shown that glyphosate may be linked to changes in the human hormone system, birth defects and cancer.

6. Glyphosate is combined with other chemicals in weed killer – and these alter the toxicity of the final product, making it as much as 150 times more toxic.

7. The evidence used in the glyphosate approval process in 2002 relied entirely on studies paid for by the pesticides industry, many of which have not been published. Indeed the industry has asked that 130 studies be kept secret.

8. In some parts of Europe (eg UK), glyphosate is sprayed on to crops before they are harvested – to dry the crop out and make it easier to harvest.

9. There are 14 applications for GM glyphosate tolerant crops currently awaiting approval in the European Union. Glyphosate use is predicted to increase by as much as 800% by 2025 if GM glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet, maize and soybean are grown in the EU.

10. Industry studies focus almost exclusively on short-term, high dose animal trials – but real life exposure occurs over the long-term, at low or fluctuating doses.

11. Monsanto produced more than half of the world’s glyphosate in 2012.

12. Maximum Residue Levels in food and feed have been steadily increased – not because of scientific evidence, but because of the growing use of glyphosate in agriculture.

Source: Friends of the Earth, Europe  June 2013

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Seeds-of-Freedom_PosterWhat does it mean for a small farmer in a traditional society to be confronted by an agribusiness juggernaut that intends to consign him, his family, and his methods of sustainable food production to the dustbin of history?

This film gives farmers and activists in Africa, Asia, and Latin America the opportunity to tell us about their experiences as they undergo the appropriation of their land and the corruption of their time-honoured methods by those who treat expressions of biological diversity as commodities to be privatised, manipulated, bought and sold.

Western chemical and agribusiness corporations have long understood that the key to controlling the world’s food supply is control of the essence of life itself: seed. Control of seed supply quite simply means control of the farmer and, as we can plainly see happening in the US, consolidation of the food supply into the hands of a small number of corporate entities.

Narrated by Jeremy Irons, and featuring interviews with a range of experts this short documentary packs a powerful punch. Its visual beauty, the words of farmers of three continents who are on the front line of this struggle, and the concise and direct message that it conveys will leave a deep and lasting impression on all who see it.

Seeds of Freedom is produced by The Gaia Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network, in collaboration with MELCA Ethiopia, Navdanya International and GRAIN.

Selected Quotes

“All traditional cultures have been based on the recognition that the most important reason we are here on earth is to play our role in maintaining life in its diversity. Because seed contains life, seed has been central to reproducing the culture of life. And if you look at rituals, in India, in Africa, in Latin America, seed is at the centre of it”.
Vandana Shiva

“Our traditional crops are good for eating, while the modern crops can be exported. But we can’t eat coffee.”

Norman Karima
Traditional Farmer, Kenya

“I think the real concern is that there is an increasing corporate control of the seed chain, and increasingly that means that a very small number of people are having a massive influence over the way in which farmers are able to farm. Traditional practices of saving seed are now under threat, and what that does essentially is to put corporate profit ahead of farmer’s ability to feed themselves and their communities.”
Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) Brighton Pavilion

“They are chemical companies first and they are seed companies second. If you control the seed you control the profit from growing food.”
John Vidal
Environment Editor, The Guardian

“By controlling the seed you control the farmer, by controlling the farmer you control the whole food system. And that’s the legacy of genetic farming.”
Liz Hosken
Director of the Gaia Foundation

“It has nothing to do with feeding the world, it has nothing to do with tackling some of these huge issues we face today. It’s about control of the food sector, the food economy.”
Zac Goldsmith MP (Conservative)
Former environmental advisor to Prime Minister

“In reality it is all about stopping farmers from having their own seeds. And at the same time the eradication of independent food production. The corporations want control of food production in the hands of a very few.”
Ramon Vera Herrera
Editor GRAIN International

“The agrochemical and GM industry claims that small-scale agro ecological farming is backward and inefficient. But the reality is that in spite of the unrelenting pressures they face it is these farmers that feed 70% of the world’s population.”
Narration

“If we look at the ancestral way we find the solution to rebuild what has been destroyed.”
Mphatheleni Makaulule
Mupo Foundation, South Africa

Seeds of Freedom homepage

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Roundup97,000,000

In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate (Roundup)was sprayed on soybeans alone in the US.

Despite industry claims to the contrary glyphosate herbicides have long been linked to health problems in humans.

This scientific study, first published in 2003 and available on the Science Direct website on the effects of Roundup and other glyphosate based products on humans (and other living things) indicates a clear link between the use of glyphosate-based herbicides and pesticides and cell-cycle dysregulation, a hallmark of tumor cells and human cancers: Glyphosate-based pesticides affect cell cycle regulation

See also: Friends of the Earth EuropeGlyphosate briefings: reason for concern

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Using a litany of lame and hackneyed justifications British Environment Minister Owen Paterson gave the GM industry a big boost yesterday by stating that the UK was prepared to “lead the World” in implementing a more relaxed regulatory framework for GM experimentation. Clearly, following the recent G8 summit US corporations and politicians have decided that what’s needed in Europe is a compliant mouthpiece to act  in their stead.

The statement elicited a number of reactions from some wiser heads and even a stinging rebuttal from Joanna Blythman in the Daily Mail, no less. Below are a few highlights:

salogo“Owen Paterson’s GM dream will make it harder to feed the world. The British Government constantly claim that GM crops are just one tool in the toolbox for the future of farming. In fact GM is the cuckoo in the nest. It drives out and destroys the systems that international scientists agree we need to feed the world. We need farming that helps poorer African and Asian farmers produce food, not farming that helps Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto produce profits.”

~ Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director

new_friendsoftheearth_logo“Paterson remains blinkered by the unfulfilled promises of GM crops. GM technologies have consistently under-performed, despite claims from the biotech industry. Where GM crops have been planted they are locking farmers into buying inputs and costly seed, while encouraging resistant weeds and insects and not delivering the increased yields as promised. The main causes of hunger – poverty and global inequalities in the distribution of food cannot be resolved by GM crops,”

~ Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth

gw_logo“Paterson appears to [ignore] any science not peddled by big corporations. Only industry-funded research shows any benefits from GM crops, which do not increase yields and are having harmful effects on the environment in North and South America,”

 ~ Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK

greenpeace_logo“Paterson should be asking what works rather than blindly following agribusiness propaganda. The international consortium of research centres …. has used non-GM techniques to produce dozens of varieties of drought-tolerant maize, increasing African farmers’ yields by 20 to 30%. A host of other successes include blight-resistant potatoes and crops enriched with vitamin A, iron and other essential nutrients.” 

Doug Parr, chief scientist, Greenpeace UK

 

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9090%

the approximate percentage of soy in the US genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.

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