Inter Press Service » Biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 30 Aug 2016 01:12:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Ships Bring Your Coffee, Snack and TV Set, But Also Pests and Diseaseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:22:26 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146649 Containers pile up in the Italian port of Salerno. Photo: FAO

Containers pile up in the Italian port of Salerno. Photo: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 23 2016 (IPS)

“Every evening, millions of people all over the world will settle into their armchairs to watch some TV after a hard day at work. Many will have a snack or something to drink…

… That TV probably arrived in a containership; the grain that made the bread in that sandwich came in a bulk carrier; the coffee probably came by sea, too. Even the electricity powering the TV set and lighting up the room was probably generated using fuel that came in a giant oil tanker.”

This is what the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)  wants everybody to keep in mind ahead of this year’s World Maritime Day. “The truth is, shipping affects us all… No matter where you may be in the world, if you look around you, you are almost certain to see something that either has been or will be transported by sea, whether in the form of raw materials, components or the finished article.”

Yet few people have any idea just how much they rely on shipping. For the vast majority, shipping is out of sight and out of mind, IMO comments. “This is a story that needs to be told… And this is why the theme that has been chosen for the World Maritime Day 2016 is “Shipping: indispensable to the world.” The Day is marked every year on 29 September.


Over 80 Per Cent of Global Trade Carried by Sea

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. Photo: FAO

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. Photo: FAO

Meanwhile, another UN organisation–the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informs that around 80 per cent of global trade by volume and over 70 per cent of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide.

These shares are even higher in the case of most developing countries, says UNCTAD.

“There are more than 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations and manned by more than a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.”

A Floating Threat

All this is fine. But as another major United Nations organisation also reminds that not all is great about sea-born trade. See what happens.

A Floating Threat: Sea Containers Spread Pests and Diseases’  is the title of an information note issued on August 17 by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

FAO highlights  that that while oil spills garner much public attention and anguish, the so-called “biological spills” represent a greater long-term threat and do not have the same high public profile. And gives some good examples.

“It was an exotic fungus that wiped out billions of American chestnut trees in the early 20th century, dramatically altering the landscape and ecosystem, while today the emerald ash borer – another pest that hitch-hiked along global trade routes to new habitats – threatens to do the same with a valuable tree long used by humans to make tool handles, guitars and office furniture.”

FAO explains that perhaps the biggest “biological spill” of all was when a fungus-like eukaryotic microorganism called Phytophthora infestans – the name of the genus comes from Greek for “plant destroyer” – sailed from the Americas to Belgium. Within months it arrived in Ireland, triggering a potato blight that led to famine, death and mass migration.

“The list goes on and on. A relative of the toxic cane toad that has run rampant in Australia recently disembarked from a container carrying freight to Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot, and the ability of females to lay up to 40,000 eggs a year make it a catastrophic threat for local lemurs and birds, while also threatening the habitat of a host of animals and plants.”

In Rome, FAO informs, municipal authorities are ramping up their annual campaign against the tiger mosquito, an invasive species that arrived by ship in Albania in the 1970s. Aedes albopictus, famous for its aggressive biting, is now prolific across Italy and global warming will make swathes of northern Europe ripe for colonisation.

“This is why the nations of the world came together some six decades ago to establish the  International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) as a means to help stem the spread of plant pests and diseases across borders boundaries via international trade and to protect farmers, foresters, biodiversity, the environment, and consumers.”

“The crop losses and control costs triggered by exotic pests amount to a hefty tax on food, fibre and forage production,” says Craig Fedchock, coordinator of the FAO-based IPPC Secretariat. “All told, fruit flies, beetles, fungi and their kin reduce global crop yields by between 20 and 40 per cent.”

Credit: IMO

Credit: IMO

Trade as a Vector, Containers as a Vehicle

Invasive species arrive in new habitats through various channels, but shipping, is the main one, FAO reports.

“And shipping today means sea containers: Globally, around 527 million sea container trips are made each year – China alone deals with over 133 million sea containers annually. It is not only their cargo, but the steel contraptions themselves, that can serve as vectors for the spread of exotic species capable of wreaking ecological and agricultural havoc.”

For example, an analysis of 116,701 empty sea containers arriving in New Zealand over the past five years showed that one in 10 was contaminated on the outside, twice the rate of interior contamination.

“Unwelcome pests included the gypsy moth, the Giant African snail, Argentine ants and the brown marmorated stink bug, each of which threaten crops, forests and urban environments. Soil residues, meanwhile, can contain the seeds of invasive plants, nematodes and plant pathogens,” FAO informs.

“Inspection records from the United States, Australia, China and New Zealand indicate that thousands of organisms from a wide range of taxa are being moved unintentionally with sea containers,” the study’s lead scientist, Eckehard Brockerhoff of the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, told a recent meeting at FAO of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), IPPC’s governing body.

These phytosanitary (the health of plants) measures are intended to ensure that imported plants are free of specified pests.

Here, FAO warns that damage exceeds well beyond agriculture and human health issues. Invasive species can cause clogged waterways and power plant shutdowns.

Biological invasions inflict damages amounting to around five per cent of annual global economic activity, equivalent to about a decade’s worth of natural disasters, according to one study, Brockerhoff said, adding that factoring in harder-to-measure impacts may double that.

Around 90 per cent of world trade is carried by sea today, with vast panoply of differing logistics, making agreement on an inspection method elusive. Some 12 million containers entered the U.S. last year, using no fewer than 77 ports of entry.

“Moreover, many cargoes quickly move inland to enter just-in-time supply chains. That’s how the dreaded brown marmorated stink bug – which chews quickly through high-value fruit and crops – began its European tour a few years ago in Zurich.”

This animal actively prefers steel nooks and crannies for long-distance travel, and once established likes to set up winter hibernation niches inside people’s houses.

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Concern over Profit-Oriented Approach to Biodiversity in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/concern-over-profit-oriented-approach-to-biodiversity-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=concern-over-profit-oriented-approach-to-biodiversity-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/concern-over-profit-oriented-approach-to-biodiversity-in-latin-america/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 23:16:28 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146641 An indigenous peasant farmer holds native coffee grains he grows in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The sharing of benefits generated by genetic resources has become a controversial issue throughout Latin America. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

An indigenous peasant farmer holds native coffee grains he grows in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The sharing of benefits generated by genetic resources has become a controversial issue throughout Latin America. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Aug 22 2016 (IPS)

In July 2015, the Mexican government granted a U.S. corporation permission for the use of genetic material obtained in Mexican territory for commercial and non-commercial purposes, in one of the cases that has fuelled concern in Latin America about the profit-oriented approach to biodiversity.

The agreement, which is catalogued with the identifier number Absch-Ircc-Mx-207343-2, was approved by the National Seeds Inspection and Certification Service and benefits the U.S. company Bion2 Inc, about which very little is known.

Prior, informed consent from the organisation or individual who holds right of access to the material was purportedly secured. But the file conceals the identity of this rights-holder and of the genetic material that was obtained, because the information is confidential.

This is an example of confidentiality practices that give rise to concern about the proper enforcement of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, signed in that Japanese city in 2010 and in effect since 2014.

The protocol, a supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, in force since 1993, seeks to strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the protocol has been ratified by Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.

The protocol stipulates that each party state must adopt measures to ensure access to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources in the possession of indigenous and local communities.

That will be done, it states, through the prior informed consent and the approval and participation of these groups, and the establishment of mutually agreed conditions.

“The expectations of indigenous people are not well-covered by the protocol,” Lily Rodríguez, a researcher with the Institute for Food and Resource Economics at Germany’s Bonn University, told IPS.

She stressed that the protocol is “the opportunity to recognise traditional knowledge as part of each nation’s heritage and to establish mechanisms to respect their decisions with regard to whether or not they want to share their knowledge.”

Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the greatest biodiversity in the world, as it is home to several mega-diverse countries like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.

The questions covered by the Nagoya Protocol will form part of the debate at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held December 4-17 in Cancun, Mexico.

Indigenous groups and civil society organisations complain that the protocol recognises intellectual property rights for so-called bioprospectors, research centres or companies hunting for biological information to capitalise on.

Quechua peasant farmers plant quinoa seeds in Peru’s highlands. Civil society organisations and indigenous peoples are strongly opposed to the commercial use of Latin America’s genetic wealth. Credit: Courtesy of Biodiversity International

Quechua peasant farmers plant quinoa seeds in Peru’s highlands. Civil society organisations and indigenous peoples are strongly opposed to the commercial use of Latin America’s genetic wealth. Credit: Courtesy of Biodiversity International

Furthermore, the sharing of eventual monetary and non-monetary benefits for indigenous peoples and communities is based on “mutually agreed terms” reached in contracts with companies and researchers, which can put native people at a disadvantage.

In Guatemala, civil society organisations and indigenous groups have fought their country’s inclusion in the Nagoya Protocol, which it signed in 2014.

In June, a provisional Constitutional Court ruling suspended the protocol in Guatemala.

“We are opposed because it was approved without the necessary number of votes in Congress; indigenous people were not consulted; and it gives permission for experimentation with and the transfer and consumption of transgenics,” said Rolando Lemus, the head of the Guatemalan umbrella group National Network for the Defence of Food Sovereignty.

The activist, whose NGO emerged in 2004 and which groups some 60 local organisations, told IPS, from the Guatemalan department of Chimaltenango, that the use of biodiversity is part of the culture and daily life of indigenous people, whose worldview “does not allow profiting from ancestral know-how.”

Guatemala had accepted three requests for research using the medicinal plant b’aqche’ (Eupatorium semialatum), cedar and mahogany. The request for the first, used against stomach problems like worms, was in the process of being studied, and the other two were approved in October 2015 for research by the private University del Valle of Guatemala.

As a subsidiary to the Biodiversity Convention, the protocol also covers activities carried out since last decade, regulated by national laws, in different countries of Latin America, which are discussed in a regional study published in 2014.

Brazil, for example, has granted at least 1,000 permits for non-commercial research since 2003 and 90 for commercial research since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2005, Bolivia granted 10 genetic resources access contracts, out of 60 requests filed. Several of them involved quinoa and other Andes highlands crops.

Two of them were for commercial uses. But since new laws were passed in Bolivia in 2010, ecosystems and the processes that sustain them cannot be treated as commodities and cannot become private property. The legislation amounts to a curb on the country’s adherence to the protocol.

In Colombia there are permits to collect samples and to send material abroad. Since 2003, that South American country has granted 90 contracts, out of 199 requests, and has signed a contract for commercial research.

Although Costa Rica has not approved permits for access to traditional knowledge or genetic resources in indigenous territories, it has issued 301 permits for basic research and access to genetic resources and 49 for bioprospecting and access to genetic resources since 2004.

Bioprospecting involves the systematic search for, classification of, and research into new elements in genetic material with economic value. The role of the protocol is to ensure that this does not deprive the original guardians of their knowledge and eventual benefits.

Ecuador has received 19 requests since 2011 and in 2013 it negotiated a commercial contract.

For its part, Mexico has authorised 4,238 permits for scientific collection since 1996, and only a small percentage of requests have been denied.

Peru, meanwhile, requires a contract for every kind of access. Since 2009, it has authorised 10 contracts, out of more than 30 requests, and 180 permits for research into biological resources.

Ecuador is a good example in the region of the plunder of genetic material, as officials in that country complain.

The “First report on biopiracy in Ecuador”, released in June by the Secretariat of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, stated that Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States have improperly exploited their biological wealth.

Of 128 identified patents, companies from the U.S. hold 35, from Germany 33, from the Netherlands 17, from Australia 15 and the rest are held by firms in a number of countries.

“It all depends on how the governments of each country protect indigenous people, in accordance with their own legal frameworks,” said Rodríguez.

“If the legislation says that they will only negotiate prior consent, including clauses on mutually agreed conditions – if they aren’t in a position to negotiate, it would be good if the government supported them so the negotiations would be more equitable and favourable for native peoples,” she argued.

Lemus is confident that the suspension in Guatemala will remain in place. “We are thinking of other actions to engage in. People must have mechanisms to protect themselves from intellectual property claims and genetic contamination,” he said.

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The Time is Ripe to Act against Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:13:32 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146601

The author is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which co-organized with the Namibian government the Africa Drought Conference on 15-19 August in Windhoek. This Op-Ed is based on Barbut’s opening speech to the Conference High –level Segment.

By Monique Barbut
WINDHOEK, Aug 18 2016 (IPS)

Let us start with some good news.  Sort of.  The strongest El Niño in 35 years is coming to an end. [1]

In 2015/2016 this “El Niño effect” led to drought in over 20 countries [2].  There were scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding around the world.  Worst hit were eastern and southern Africa[3]

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

To understand what that means for people, you just have to look at the numbers about food insecurity[4].  32 million people in southern Africa were affected by food insecurity as a result.  Across Africa, 1 million children required treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

And though the worst of the drought is coming to an end, predictions are high (at about 75%) that La-Nina will arrive later in 2016. La Nina – El Niño’s opposite number – is known for the flooding it brings.

There may not be much relief for policy makers and people across Africa before the end of the year.

But then, if will be over, we can breathe again.  We can go back to business as usual – right?

Well…if you will allow me…for Albert Einstein…one of the definitions of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Going back to business as usual fits this definition of insanity very well.

  • We know the next El Niño droughts are likely to return regularly.  Probably as often as every two to seven years.
  • We know that the extent and severity of droughts will increase.  This is because of climate change and unsustainable land use.   Scientists have estimated that the fraction of the land’s surface regularly experiencing drought conditions is predicted to increase from less than 5 percent today to more than 30 percent by the 2090s[5].
  • We know we will miss our targets on water scarcity (6.4, 6.5 and 6.6) under the sustainable development goals[6].
  • We know poor people, who tend to be wholly dependent on natural resources like water and land to provide for their families, will suffer.

Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 percent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product.

Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild.  Or simply leave.

It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.

 

Especially if the cycle of drought disaster and recovery could be broken. 

Progress is starting to happen. Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam and Morocco, to name just a few countries, are now implementing drought plans with a strong emphasis on risk mitigation and preparedness.

And in the areas where land has been restored in Central and Eastern Tigray in Ethiopia, ecosystems and people seem to have fared better in recent El Nino related droughts than areas where no restoration has been undertaken.

But because by 2050, one in four people – up to 2.5 billion people – will be living in a country at risk of water scarcity, more needs to be done. Everywhere.  We must prepare better and manage drought risks proactively.

Africa has already done a lot[7] but needs to stay on its toes.

UNCCD is proposing three important pillars for your consideration.

 

Firstly, Early Warning Systems. 

Declaring a drought too late can have a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. Yet when you declare a drought, it can often be very subjective and highly political.

Africa would benefit from an effective Early Warning System (EWS) in all countries. The system would need good data and – equally important – local and traditional knowledge. It would guide you by providing timely information that you can use to reduce risks and to better prepare for an effective response.

 

Secondly, vulnerability and risk assessment.

Of course, no amount of early warning will work without action to protect the most vulnerable.

Some people and some systems are more vulnerable to drought as a result of social, economic, and environmental factors. So it is important to combine better forecasts with detailed knowledge on how landscapes and societies respond to a lack of rain.

Which communities and ecosystems are most at risk? Why are important sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, health vulnerable?

Then turn that knowledge into early intervention.

We can assure it would be highly cost effective.  Before the cost of a single late response is reached, you can “overreact” up to six times.

In Niger and Mozambique for example, the cost of an early intervention and resilience building efforts would lead to a cost reduction of 375 million US dollars in Mozambique and 844 million US dollars in Niger when compared to late humanitarian response to drought.[8]

 

Finally, drought risk mitigation measures.

We can identify measures to address these risks head on.  There are things that can be done at a very practical level to reduce drought risk, which if started right away, can deliver real and tangible benefits to your communities.

African countries could consider the development of sustainable irrigation schemes for crops and livestock or water harvesting schemes or the recycling and reuse of water. They can explore the cultivation of more drought tolerant crops, expand crop insurance schemes and establish alternative livelihoods that can provide income in drought-prone areas.

Investing in improved land management, for example, can improve on-farm water security by between 70 and 100%[9].

This would result in higher yields and more food security.   In Zimbabwe, water harvesting combined with conservation agriculture increased farmers gross margins by 4 to 7 times and increased returns on labour by 2 to 3 times. [10]

This is the type of proactive drought risk management, which could save lives and the livelihoods of millions of people, is something that we all should aspire to.

 

The Africa Drought Conference is a rare window of opportunity.

An opportunity for the continent to recognize that the traditional approach of “responding” to drought is no longer viable. It has proved to be ineffective far too often. Instead, Africa could lead a proactive drought revolution.

By investing in early warning systems and addressing their vulnerabilities head on, well-planned and coordinated drought action will have a positive ripple effect across sectors and across borders.

Nelson Mandela once said, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.

The time is ripe. Taking proactive action against drought is the right thing to do.

 

Footnotes

[1] http://media.bom.gov.au/releases/267/el-nino-ends-as-tropical-pacific-ocean-returns-to-neutral/

[2] List compiled from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/22/southern-africa-worst-global-food-crisis-25-years and https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/30/el-nino-is-over-but-it-leaves-nearly-100-million-people-short-of-food.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/22/africa-worst-famine-since-1985-looms-for-50-million

[4] https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/OCHA_ElNino_Overview_13Apr2016.pdf

[5]  WMO( 2011): Towards a Compendium on National Drought Policy, p. 9.

[6] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6

[7] i.e. The Sahel and Sahara Observatory (OSS), IGAD’s Drought Resilience Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI), the Southern Africa Development Community – Community Climate Service Center (SADC-CSC) or the African Drought Risk and Development Network (ADDN).

[8] Department for international development : The Economics of Early Response and Resilience Series, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226255/TEERR_Two_Pager_July_22.pdf

[9] Bossio, Deborah et al( 2010): Managing water by managing land: Addressing land degradation to improve water productivity and rural livelihoods, p. 540.

[10] Winterbottom, R. (et al.): Improving Land and Water Management. Working Paper, Installment 4 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future. World Resources Institute, 2013, p. 18.

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False Promises: Avoid ‘Miracle’ Rice and Just Eat a Carrothttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/false-promises-avoid-miracle-rice-and-just-eat-a-carrot/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=false-promises-avoid-miracle-rice-and-just-eat-a-carrot http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/false-promises-avoid-miracle-rice-and-just-eat-a-carrot/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 17:06:38 +0000 Vandana Shiva 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146509 TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.]]> Vandana Shiva. (Photo: The Seeds of Vandana Shiva film)

Vandana Shiva. (Photo: The Seeds of Vandana Shiva film)

By Dr Vandana Shiva
NEW DELHI, Aug 10 2016 (IPS)

Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, died on September 9, 2009. Alfred G. Gilman died on December 23, 2015.

Both were Nobel laureates and now both dead. Gilman was a signatory to a recent letter condemning Greenpeace and its opposition to genetic engineering.

How many Nobel laureates does it take to write a letter? Easily ascertained — the dead Gilman and 106 others were enlisted in “supporting GMOs and golden rice”. Correct answer — 107, dead or alive.

The laureates were rounded up by Val Giddings (senior fellow, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation), Jon Entine (author of Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People) and Jay Byrne (former head of corporate communications, Monsanto). Real people don’t have the luxury of getting Nobel laureates to write 1/107th of a letter, “chosen” folk do. Evidently.

Photo source: Vandana Shiva

Photo source: Vandana Shiva

Cornell University is a “chosen” institution – central to genetically modified public relations. The Cornell Alliance of Science is funded by Bill Gates, just like the failed golden rice experiment.

The Nobel laureates accuse Greenpeace of killing millions by delaying ghost rice — something the biotech industry accuses me of doing, for the same reason. Unlike golden rice — whose failure to launch is the industry’s own failure, the opposition to genetic engineering (and hence golden rice) is very real and successful.

As Glenn Stone, a rice scientist at Washington University, states: “The simple fact is that after 24 years of research and breeding, golden rice is still years away from being ready for release.”
Golden rice is a false miracle. It is a disease of nutritionally empty mono-cultures offered as a cure for nutritional deficiency. In fact, golden rice, if successful, will be 400 per cent less efficient in providing Vitamin A…’ - Vandana Shiva

It is Borlaug’s Green Revolution monocultures that contributed to malnutrition by destroying biodiversity, which destroys the diversity of nutrients we need to be healthy. As Navdanya research has shown, biodiversity produces more food and nutrition per acre. Borlaug’s ghost is still shaping the industrial agriculture “miracles” based on monocultures of the mind and spin in place of science.

It is now more than 20 years since the “miracle” golden rice began to be promoted as the excuse to allow patents on life.

The last time golden rice was resurrected when Patrick Moore of Allow Golden Rice Now was sent to Asia to push the failed promise. Women of the world organised and responded to Moore — Diverse Women for Diversity issued a declaration on International Women’s Day in 2015 titled Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, not Corporations and GMOs.

Golden rice is genetically engineered rice with two genes from a daffodil and one gene from a bacterium. The resulting GMO rice is said to have a yellow colouring, which is supposed to increase beta-carotene – a precursor of Vitamin A. It has been offered as a potential miracle cure for Vitamin A deficiency for 20 years.

But golden rice is a false miracle. It is a disease of nutritionally empty monocultures offered as a cure for nutritional deficiency. In fact, golden rice, if successful, will be 400 per cent less efficient in providing Vitamin A than the biodiversity alternatives that women have to offer. To get your daily requirement of Vitamin A, all you need to eat is one of the following:

Two tablespoons of spinach or cholai (amaranth) leaves or radish leaves
Four tablespoons of mustard or bathua leaves
One tablespoon of coriander chutney
One-and-a-half tablespoon of mint chutney
One carrot
One mango

So, if you want to be four times more efficient than 107 Nobel laureates, just eat a carrot!

Not only do these indigenous alternatives based on women’s knowledge provide more Vitamin A than golden rice ever will, and at a lower cost, but also provide multiple other nutrients.

Our critique of golden rice is that even if it is developed, it will be inferior to the alternatives women have in their hands and minds. Women are being blocked from growing biodiversity and spreading their knowledge to address malnutrition, by rich and powerful men and their corporations who are blind to the richness of the earth and our cultures.

Through their monoculture of the mind, they keep imposing monocultures of failed technologies, blocking the potential of abundance and nourishment. As I wrote in 2000, blindness to biodiversity and women’s knowledge is a blind approach to blindness prevention.

Grain.org concluded in Grains of delusion: Golden rice seen from the ground, way back in 2001: “The best chance of success in fighting Vitamin A deficiency and malnutrition is to better use the inexpensive and nutritious foods already available, and in diversifying food production systems in the fields and in the household.

The euphoria created by the Green Revolution greatly stifled research to develop and promote these efforts, and the introduction of golden rice will further compromise them. Golden rice is merely a marketing event. But international and national research agendas will be taken by it.”

The Giddings-Entine-Byrne Nobel PR stunt was timed to coincide with the US Senate vote on the Dark Act — the denial to Americans of the right to know what they eat. With two decades of the GMO experiment failing to control pests and weeds, creating super pests and super weeds instead, there is now an attempt to push through the “next generation” of GMOs — such as “gene drives” for exterminating nutrient-rich species like the amaranth.

Amaranth, a weed to the 107 Nobel laureates, is a richer source of Vitamin A than golden rice has promised it will be, when it grows up. The laureates would have us round up all the Vitamin A we already have in abundance, create deficiencies by exterminating it with RoundUp, and provide golden rice to alleviate the absence of Vitamin A.

Mr Gates is also supporting this failed miracle, as well as the failed communication through the Cornell Alliance for Science. He also funds the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and Harvest Plus, the corporate alliance for biofortification.

The corporate-controlled World Food Prize for 2016 has been announced for “Biofortification”. Scientists funded by Mr Gates have been given the prize for inventing an orange sweet potato. But the Maori in New Zealand had developed kumara, orange (beauregard) sweet potato, centuries ago.

Mr Gates is also funding the biopiracy research of James Dale of Queensland, who took the Vitamin A-rich indigenous bananas of Micronesia and declared them to be his invention.

The biopiracy of people’s biodiversity and indigenous knowledge is what Mr Gates is funding. The Gates fortification or Nobel fortification, will not nourish people. Fraud is not food.

Dr Vandana Shiva’s article was published in Go to Original – vandanashiva.comSource: TRANSCEND Media Service

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Forests and Crops Make Friendly Neighbors in Costa Ricahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:55:58 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146239 Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

While Latin America keeps expanding its agricultural frontier by converting large areas of forest, one country, Costa Rica, has taken a different path and is now a role model for a peaceful coexistence between food production and sustainable forestry.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) flagship publication The State of the World’s Forests revealed that commercial agriculture was responsible for 70 percent of forest conversion in Latin America between 2000 and 2010.

“What FAO mentions about the rest of Latin America, clearing forests for agriculture or livestock, happened in Costa Rica during the 1970s and 1980s,” Jorge Mario Rodríguez, the director of Costa Rica’s National Fund for Forestry Finance (Fonafifo), told IPS.“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness" -- Octavio Ramírez.

At its worst moment, during the 1980s, Costa Rica’s forest cover was limited to 21 to 25 percent of its land area. Now, forests account for 53 percent of the country’s 51,000 square kilometers, with almost five million inhabitants.

The country has managed to hold and even push back the advance of the agricultural frontier while strengthening its food security, according to FAO, which says that Costa Rica’s malnutrition rate is under 5 percent, something the organisation accounts as “zero hunger”.

“Here’s a learned lesson: there’s no need to chop down forests to produce more crops,” FAO Costa Rica director Octavio Ramírez told IPS.

Despite the increase in forest cover, FAO states the average value of food production per person increased by 26 percent in the period 1990–1992 to 2011–2013.

FAO attributes this change “to structural changes in the economy and the priority given to forest conservation and sustainable management” which were seized upon by Costa Rican authorities in a specific context.

“It has to do with the livestock crisis during the 1980s but also the priority given by Costa Rica to forest management,” said Ramírez, born in Nicaragua but Costa Rican by naturalisation.

In The State of the World’s Forests report, launched on July 18, FAO explains that Costa Rican forests were regarded as “land banks” that could be converted as necessary to meet agricultural needs.

“To keep the forest intact was looked upon as a synonym of laziness and unwillingness to work,” Ramírez explained.

But there were two key elements during the 1980s that led to better forest protection, the environmental economist Juan Robalino told IPS.

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Meat prices plummeted while eco-tourism became a leading economic activity in the country, explained the specialist from Universidad de Costa Rica and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center.

“This paved the way for very interesting policy-making, like the creation of the Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program,” said Robalino, one of the top experts in Costa Rican forest cover.

FAO states that a big part of Costa Rica’s success comes from PES, a financial incentive that acknowledges those ecosystem services resulting from forest conservation and management, reforestation, natural regeneration and agroforestry systems.

The program, established in 1997 and ran by Fonafifo, has a simple logic at its core: the Costa Rican state pays landowners who protect forest cover as they provide an ecosystem service.

From its launch until 2015, a total of 318 million dollars were invested in forest-related PES projects.  64 percent of the funding came from fossil fuel tax, 22 percent from World Bank credits and the remainder from other sources.

After studying PES impacts for years, Robalino explains the challenge for 2016 is to look for landowners with less incentives to protect their forests and bring them on board with the financial argument.

“The goal is to always look for those who’ll change their behavior because of the program,” Robalino stated.

Because of budget limitations, the program must decide which properties to work with, as applications exceed its capacity fivefold, according to Fonafifo director Rodríguez.

Priorities for PES funding include ecosystem services like watershed protection, carbon capture, scenic beauty and biodiversity conservation.

“Costa Rica learned that forests are worth more for their environmental services than because of their timber,” Rodríguez pointed out.

Fonafifo is now looking for new partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to launch a new program focused on small landowners who require more technical support, a road also favoured by FAO.

“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness,” said Ramírez, FAO’s local representative.

Both FAO and local experts interviewed by IPS agreed that PES seized upon a national and international crossroads to launch a program that despite its success, is not the only cause for Costa Rica’s recovery.

“Costa Rica’s success cannot be exclusively attributed to PES since other policies, like the creation of the National Protected Areas System and its education system, also played a major role,” Rodríguez explained.

Beyond this program, the country has a longstanding environmental tradition: close to a quarter of its territory is under some type of protection, the forestry law bans forest conversion, and sports hunting, open-air metallic mining and oil exploitation are all illegal.

The country’s Constitution declares citizens’ right to a healthy environment in its article 50.

“I remember my school teacher telling us students that we had to protect the forest,” Robalino recalled.

However, Costa Rica’s forest recovery didn’t reach all ecosystems in the country and left mangroves behind. Their area has diminished in the past decades.

According to the country’s 2014 report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, mangrove coverage fell from 64.452 hectares in 1979 to 37.420 hectares in 2013, a 42 percent loss.

This ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to large monoculture plantations on the Pacific coast, where the local Environmental Administrative Tribunal denounced the disappearance of 400 hectares between 2010 and 2014, due to human-induced fire, logging and invasion.

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Malawi Leads Africa’s Largest Elephant Translocationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 11:13:47 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146153 Elephants in a solar-powered holding pen in Malawi, which is carrying out a major translocation between conservation parks. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

Elephants in a solar-powered holding pen in Malawi, which is carrying out a major translocation between conservation parks. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
LILONGWE, Jul 20 2016 (IPS)

One of the world’s largest and most significant elephant translocations kicked off earlier this month within Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi.

Patricio Ndadzela, Malawi country director of African Parks, a non-profit conservation group based in South Africa that is leading the relocation, told IPS that so far, 10 bulls and 144 family groups of elephants have been successfully captured from the park and transported 300 kilometers by truck to their new home in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in central Malawi.

A few decades ago, around 1,500 elephants roamed Malawi’s biggest wildlife reserve, but now only a few herds totaling about 100 remain. The park is poised to be revitalised and serve as a critical elephant sanctuary for populations nationwide.

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve covers 1,800 square kms of Miombo woodlands and afro-montane forest along Chipata Mountain on the border with Ntchisi district. The relocation, which began on July 3, involves tranquilising the elephants by dart from a helicopter and loading them by crane onto trucks for the journey to Nkhotakota."It's a story of hope and survival. It is a story of possibility." -- Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks

The World Wildlife Federation notes that elephants remain under severe threat from ivory poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict. Since 1979, African elephants have lost over half of their natural range. Less than 20 percent of African elephant habitat is currently under formal protection.

Local engagement for a balanced ecosystem

But Malawi is setting an example for the rest of the continent in how to protect elephants with the full consent and assistance of local communities. Before embarking on this major translocation exercise, African Parks engaged peripheral communities after taking over the reserve in July last year from government. Zonal area committees were established at the traditional authority level. These are chiefs of jurisdiction in the four districts that border the reserve. The districts are Nkhota Kota, Mzimba, Ntchisi and Kasungu.

“We have had a good working partnership with African Parks, together with the local people. They are managing the reserve for 25 years.  So far a number of activities have been done in consultations with the local people,” says Malijani Kachombo, the Traditional Authority Mphonde in Nkhota Kota district.

“They then brought the issue of restocking endangered species so that we have a more balanced ecosystem. This promise that they made has now been fulfilled today. The translocation of 500 elephants is no more a promise but reality.”

The animals will be well secured now as a new fence is already under construction and communities have been given ownership of the reserve, said the chief.

Other animals were also relocated, including 23 zebras, 25 elands, 220 waterbuck, 284 impalas, 32 warthogs, 99 kudu, 200 sables and two collared black rhinos.

A special landing site

As part of their integration into the reserve, a special landing site for the animals was chosen that provided for basic needs. According to Samuel Kamoto, African Parks Manager for Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, the site was identified after confirming that it had adequate water, shelter and food for the animals.

More importantly, they considered the proximity of the landing site’s accessibility to the road, since the heavy trucks carrying the animals need to align the doors with the entrance of the holding pen.

“Elephants started arriving last night and we let them inside the holding pen so that they can rest and regroup as social beings and families. This enables the animals to settle down first other than just letting them out, which confuses them,” Kamoto told IPS.

Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Wildlife at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, John Kazembe, said that the move was a good option considering the fact that Liwonde National Park was relatively small. Overcrowding of elephant populations in Liwonde had led to the animals devouring large areas of vegetation and coming into conflict with local people.

“Elephant herds should be moved into the reserve at intervals so that the ecosystem is not overwhelmed by a one-off relocation,” Kazembe said.

Peter Fearnhead, Chief Executive Officer of African Parks, said “Most stories we hear about elephants in Africa are doom and gloom. This translocation of 500 elephants, which is a pivotal moment for Malawi who is emerging as a leader in African elephant conservation, is a story of hope and survival. It is a story of possibility.”

It’s hoped that this rich reserve, coupled with a good working partnership with the local populace, will enable the animals to resettle quickly.

The giant seven-week translocation is costing 1.6 million dollars, and has been made possible with support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Wyss Foundation, the Wildcat Foundation, Donna and Marvin Schwartz, Dioraphte and the People’s Post Code Lottery.

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Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarised Mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 12:44:27 +0000 Vandana Shiva 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146103 TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.]]>

TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.

By Dr Vandana Shiva
NEW DELHI, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

A recent report from the National Academy of Science of The United States, titled Gene Drives on the Horizon : Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”, warns:

Dr Vandana Shiva

Dr Vandana Shiva

“One possible goal of release of a gene-drive modified organism is to cause the extinction of the target species or a drastic reduction in its abundance.”

Gene Drives have been called “mutagenic chain reactions”, and are to the biological world what chain reactions are to the nuclear world. The Guardian describes Gene Drives as the “gene bomb”.

Kevin Esvelt of MIT exclaims “a release anywhere is likely to be a release everywhere”, and asks “Do you really have the right to run an experiment where if you screw up, it affects the whole world?”

The NAS report cites the case of wiping out amaranth as an example of “potential benefit”. Yet, the “magical technology” of Gene Drives remains a Ghost, or the Department of Defence of the United States Government’s secret “weapon” to continue its War on Amaranthus Culturis.

The aforementioned study on ghost-tech was sponsored by DARPA (The Pentagon’s Research Ghost) and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (The ghost of the Microsoft Monopoly). DARPA has been busy.

Interestingly, Microsoft BASIC was developed on a DARPA Supercomputer across the street from MIT, at Harvard. Where does DARPA end and MIT start? Where does Microsoft end and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation start.

The orientation of our technologies has been dictated by the DARPA-Mind, a Mechanical Mind trained in War, and Gates continues to colonise meaning, just as gates had done to our lands, and the Green Revolution has done to our food.

Our planet has evolved, in balance, creating balance, for 4.6 billion years. Homo sapiens emerged around 200,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, Peasants developed the selection and breeding of seeds and domesticated agriculture began.

Human creativity combined with nature to provide the abundance that allowed the evolution of societies and species. Humanity and Nature renewed each other, sustaining civilisation and providing the potential for the Industrial Revolution.

75 years ago DARPA-Mind began its Extermination Experiment, and sent humanity off-axis. The Chemicals, Materials, and Technologies acquired during “The War”, and patented (interestingly, the Internal Combustion Engine Patent belongs to Texaco), were forced on Amaranthus Culturis – The Cultures of Living Cycles.

DARPA-Mind called it “The Green Revolution”, colonised the meanings of those two words, and began Stockpiling Chemicals of War in Our Fields; there is nothing “green” or “revolutionary” about Extermination, it must be a secret service code name for the assault that now has the names “Gene Drives”, “CRISPR”, or more accurately, Genetic Engineering.

“CASE STUDY 6: CONTROLLING PALMER AMARANTH TO INCREASE AGRICULTURE PRODUCTIVITY

Objective: Create gene drives in Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri also called pigweed), to reduce or eliminate the weed on agricultural fields in the Southern United States.


Rationale: Palmer amaranth infests agricultural fields throughout the American South. It has evolved resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, the world’s most-used herbicide (Powles, 2008), and this resistance has be- come geographically widespread.”

Palmer Amaranth has emerged as one of the superweeds. Instead of seeing the emergence of Palmer Amaranth as a superweed, as a result of the failure of the misguided approach of Herbicide Resistant GMOs, Monsanto & Co – which includes investors, scientists, corporations, DARPA, and Gates, are now rushing to drive the Amaranth species to extinction through the deployment of an untested Tool.

The tool of gene editing and gene drives – genetic “Copy-Paste”. Untested DARPA-Mind Tools have real impacts on our world. Intelligence requires that we stop, and assess why the tool of GMOs is creating superweeds, instead of controlling weeds, as it promised. Such assessment is real Science.

The ‘DARPA-Mind report’ casually states potential harm:

“Gene drives developed for agricultural purposes could also have adverse effects on human well- being. Transfer of a suppression drive to a non-target wild species could have both adverse environmental outcomes and harmful effects on vegetable crops, for example. Palmer amaranth in Case Study 6 is a damaging weed in the United States, but related Amaranthus species are cultivated for food in in Mexico, South America, India, and China.”

A scientific assessment would tell us that plants evolve resistance to herbicides which are supposed to kill them because they have intelligence, and they evolve. Denial of intelligence in life, and denial of evolution is unscientific. 107 Nobel Laureates – including two that have long passed on – “signed” a letter in support Genetic Engineering a few days ago. Clearly ‘Science’ did not prompt that “communication”.

Amaranth’s root, the word amara – meaning ‘eternal’ and ‘deathless’ in both Greek and Sanskrit – connects two formidable Houses of the Ancient World. From the high slopes of the Himalayas, through the plains of north, central and south India, to the coastlines of the east, west and the south, Amaranth is a web of life in itself. Numerous varieties are found throughout the country. In fact, the Himalayan region is one of the ‘centres of diversity’ for the Amara-nth.

Amaranth, Amaranto, love-lies-bleeding, tassel flower, Joseph’s coat, or ramdana (gods own grain) is the grain of well-being. It is rich in names, nutrition, history and meaning. There are records of Amaranth cultivation in South and Meso America as far back as 5,000 B.C.

The sacred Amaranth criss-crosses the Ancient World, nourishing cultures from the Andes to the Himalayas. Amaranth is a sacred grain for the Indian Civilisation as much as it is for the Aztec Civilisation, civilisations in the shadow of time, yet very much alive. To force cultivation of cash crops that could be traded more easily, the cultivation of Amaranth was forbidden, and punishable by death.

The “pagan” grain that built civilisations was outlawed, to pave the way for Cash Crops for traders.

amaranto.com reports:

“Amaranth was also used as a ceremonial plant in the Aztec empire. In several days the religious calendar, Aztec or Inca women grind or roasted amaranth seed, mixing it with honey or human blood, giving it the shape of birds snakes, deer, or mountains and Gods, ate them with respect and devotion as Food of the Gods.”

The leaves of the amaranth contain more iron than spinach, and have a much more delicate taste. If Popeye – “the sailor man”, had Amaranth on his “ship”, he wouldn’t have needed canned food to fight off his nemesis – “the bearded captain”. Besides rice bran, the grain of the amaranth has the highest content of iron amongst cereals.

1 kilogram of Amaranth flour, added to 1 kilogram of refined wheat flour, increases its iron content from 25 milligrams to 245milligrams. Adding amaranth flour to wheat/rice flour is a cheaper and healthier way to prevent nutritional anaemia; rather than buying expensive tablets, tonics, health drinks, branded and bio fortified flour, or canned spinach from the ship.

The Amaranth is extremely rich in complex carbohydrates and in proteins. It has 12-18% more protein than other cereals, particularly lysine – a critical amino acid.It also differs from other cereals in that 65% is found in the germ and 35% in the endosperm, as compared to an average of 15% in the germ and 85% in the endosperm for other cereals.

When Amaranth flour is mixed 30:70 with either rice flour or wheat flour, protein quality rises, from 72 to 90, and 32 to 52, respectively. The Amaranth grain is about the richest source of calcium, other than milk. It has 390 grams of calcium compared to 10 grams in rice, and 23 grams in refined flour.

The diversity of Amaranth Greens are incredible, edibles that grow uncultivated in our fields. They are a major source of nutrition. Per 100 grams, Amaranth greens can give us 5.9 grams of protein, 530 milligrams of calcium, 83 milligrams of phosphorous, 38.5 milligrams of iron, 14,190 micrograms of carotene, 179 micrograms of Vitamin-C, 122 milligrams of Magnesium.

Amaranth is nearly 500% richer in Carotene than GMO Golden Rice – which is being promoted as a ~~~future miracle~~~ for addressing Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice has failed to materialise for 2 decades. Phantom technology?

The poorest, landless woman and her children have access to nutrition through the generous gift of the Amaranth .

Industrial agriculture – promoted by United States Foreign Policy – treated Amaranth greens as “weeds”, and tried to exterminate with herbicides. Then came Monsanto, with Round Up Ready crops, genetically engineered to resist the spraying of Round Up so that the GMO crop would survive the otherwise lethal chemical, while everything else that was green perished.

As was stated by a Monsanto spokesman during the negotiations of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Herbicide resistant GMOs “prevent the weeds from stealing the sunshine”.

This DARPA-Mind world view is distorted.

Firstly, what are weeds to Monsanto are food and nutrition for women of the South. Secondly, the sun shines with abundance for all. Sharing the sun’s blessing is a right of all species.

In Amaranthus Culturis – the world of biodiversity and the sun, scarcity is alien, there is merely abundance. Sharing abundance creates abundance. It is not stealing. Stealing is a concept created by Monsanto & Co. When farmers save and share seeds, Monsanto would like to define it as “stealing”.

When the sun shines on the earth and plants grow, Monsanto would like to define it as a plants “stealing” the sunshine, while Monsanto Co. privateers our biodiversity.

This is exactly how seed famine and food famine are engineered through a world view which transforms the richness of diversity into monocultures, abundance into scarcity. The paradigm of Genetic Engineering is based on Genetic Determinism and Genetic Reductionism.

It is based on a denial of the self organised, evolutionary potential of living organisms. It treats living organisms as a lego set. But life is not lego, meccano, or stratego. It is life – complex, self organised, dynamic evolution – auto poetic.

The right to food and nutrition of the people outside the US , and the right of the amaranth to continue to grow and evolve and nourish people, can be extinguished by powerful men in the US because they messed up their agriculture with Round up Ready crops, and now want to mess up the planet, its biodiversity , and food and agriculture systems of the world with the tool of gene drives to push species to extinction.

As in the case of GMOs, the rush for Gene Drives, and CRISPR-based Gene Editing are linked to patents.

Bill Gates is financing the research that is leading to patents. And he with other billionaires has invested $130 million in a company EDITAS to promote these technologies. Bayer, the new face on Monsanto & Co, has invested $35 million in the new GMO Technologies, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years.

“Biofortification” has been given the world food prize of 2016, yet biofortification is inferior to the nutrition provided by biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. The same forces promoting biofortification are also promoting the extermination of nutritious crops like amaranth, as well as rich indigenous cultures of food.

The project of deliberately exterminating species is a crime against nature and humanity. It was a crime when Bayer and others, of IG Farben, exterminated Jews in concentration camps, and is a crime still. The very idea of extermination is a crime. Developing tools of extermination in the garb of saving the world is a crime. A crime that must not be allowed to continue any further.

The DARPA-Mind is obsolete

We are members of an Earth Family. Every species, every race is a member of one Earth Community. We cannot allow some members of our Earth Family to allocate to themselves the power and hubris to decide who will live, and who will be exterminated.

A scientific assessment of the failure of herbicides and GMOs to control weeds , and the success of ecological agriculture in controlling pests and weeds without the use of violent tools will lead us to a paradigm-shift from industrial farming to ecological agriculture – to cultures of eternity.

Dr Vandana Shiva’s article was published in vandanashiva.com. Go to Original – vandanashiva.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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The Future of Food in Cities: Urban Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 17:28:43 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146004 A food garden at UN headquarters in New York City. Credit: Phillip Kaeding / IPS.

A food garden at UN headquarters in New York City. Credit: Phillip Kaeding / IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
NEW YORK, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this coming October will explore urban agriculture as a solution to food security, but here in New York City, it has shown potential for much more.

Record-high levels of inequality are being felt most prominently in the world’s cities. Even In New York City, the heart of the developed world, many urban communities have food security issues.

Since the year 2000, New York City food costs have increased by 59 percent, while the average income of working adults has only increased by 17 percent.

Forty two percent of households in the city lack the income needed to cover necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare but still earn too much to qualify for government assistance.

Last year, OneNYC was introduced, a plan specifically aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to lift 800,000 people out of poverty in a decade.

“OneNYC has high expectations and they are working hard in terms of addressing equity in the food systems, waste, and making sure that more and more of its citizens have access to good, healthy food.” Michael Hurwitz, director of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, which has been working on OneNYC, told IPS.

“In a city like New York City, urban agriculture can play a number of roles on top of feeding people, from education to safe spaces, and helping off-set food budgets.” Hurwitz told IPS.

"Within two months, a tough corner had become a corner of great, wonderful activity and it was because there were young people from the neighbourhood selling food to their neighbours.” -- Michael Hurwitz

Urban agriculture plays a significant role in feeding urban populations around the globe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities, producing what the Worldwatch Institute reports to be an astonishing 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food.

There are parts of the world where urban and peri-urban agriculture account for 50-75% of vegetable consumption within that city.

In Africa, it is estimated that 40 percent of the urban population is engaged in agriculture. Long-time residents and newcomers farm because they are hungry, they know how to grow food, land values are low, and fertilizers are cheap.

In the U.S., though, urban farming is likely to have its biggest impact on food security in places that, in some ways, resemble the global south —  that is, in cities or neighborhoods where median incomes are low and the need for affordable food is high.

Hurwitz saw this transformative power of agriculture when he was a social worker in Redhook, Brooklyn, a community where 40 percent of households were making less than $10,000 a year. He was working in community gardens with 16-17 year-olds in a court diversion program. The food that the kids grew, they took home or sold at farmer’s markets, local restaurants and stores.

“Our youth became leaders of change in their communities. A lot of the kids we worked with were kids that nobody else wanted to work with, but when they became the main source of healthy food in their neighbourhood at the organic farmers market, peers and adults would see that they were the ones actually bringing change to the community.”

This system is now significantly scaled up through GrowNYC, a non-profit that operates from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. GrowNYC works with 6,000 kids a year through tours, providing materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. Its sister program Grow to Learn manages all of the school gardens in NYC. It also runs a “Mini-grant program” and technical assistance and training for teachers to run the gardens.

As a specific case of development, the South Bronx, ranked the poorest of 435 congressional districts in the U.S.A. in 2010.  Home to 52,000 low-income New Yorkers, with nearly half (42%) below the poverty line, this NYC district has been called a “food desert”.

When GrowNYC went into one section in the Bronx, a police officer warned them: “You don’t want to come here, it’s just not safe,” Hurwitz remembers. “But within two months, a tough corner had become a corner of great, wonderful activity and it was because there were young people from the neighbourhood selling food to their neighbours.”

For years, GrowNYC’s “Learn it, Grow it, Eat it” Program has been working with schools in the South Bronx, helping people become environmental leaders, Hurwitz says. That program operated one of GrowNYC’s youth-run farm stands, training youth in entrepreneurial, business and agriculture to run their own farm stands.

“We’ve seen kids who started in our youth market go on to be managers within the program,” Hurwitz said.

In New York, it’s not just about producing a standardized bulk amount of food for communities in need, but reflecting the diverse cultures. “We have farmers in our program that are growing $150, 000 worth of food on an acre and a half in Staten Island,” according to Hurwitz. On this farm, Mexican growers are growing Mexican-specialty crops, to feed to the Mexican community in Staten Island who otherwise would not have access to traditional foods that they are accustomed to.

The big greenhouse operators are now moving in and have become all the rage. But growing a limited variety of high-end greens is not going to feed the urban population alone. “I would rather see the $2 million being spent preserving rural farms with the goal of feeding the urban population. That can play a crucial role in getting food into cities, ensuring everybody has access to that food, and making sure that farmland remains viable and affordable”, Hurwitz contends.

The number of people living in cities is expected to double in the next thirty years according to the Atlas of Urban Expansion.

The Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this October will be the first time in 20 years that the international community has collectively paid attention to the impacts of urbanization, and will form a new global urbanization strategy — the “New Urban Agenda.”.

“Food security is one of the big issues that is going to be dealt with in Habitat III in relation to urbanization” said Juan Close, director of UN Habitat said here last week.

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Record High Seafood Consumption Not Sustainable, Warns UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 00:12:21 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145969 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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African Fisheries Plundered by Foreign Fleetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:24:12 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145753 Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

By Christopher Pala
WASHINGTON, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

In 2011, Dyhia Belhabib was a volunteer in the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver when she was asked to participate in the Sea Around Us’s project to determine how much fish had been taken out of the world’s oceans since 1950 in order to better avoid depleting the remaining populations of fish.

Belhabib had studied fisheries science in her native Algeria, so she was initially asked to oversee the Algeria component. She ended up leading the research in 24 countries. And though she was an expert and an African, over the next five years, the world of African fisheries took her from surprise to surprise, many of them disquieting, just like Voltaire’s Candide. And echoing Pangloss, who repeats “All is for the best in the best of possible worlds” to a Candide dismayed at the state of the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization insisted the world catch was “practically stable.”

“The most depressing thing for me was the realization that African countries got no benefit at all from all the foreign fleets,” she said. “In fact, the fishing communities suffered a lot, and in most places, the only people who made money were the government officials who sold the fishing licenses.”

The study found that the global catch was 40 percent higher than the FAO reported and is falling at three times the agency’s rate. But under this picture of decline, Belhabib uncovered a dazzling array of cheating methods that highlighted the low priority most governments place on fisheries management – and implicitly on the health of the people who depend on the sea for most of their animal protein.

When Belhabib started with Algeria, she was puzzled to see that the government reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that between 2001 and 2006, it had fished 2,000 tons of bluefin tuna on average, and yet reported to the FAO that it had caught almost none. Belhabib discovered that for once, the FAO’s zero catch was not a metaphor for “We have no data,” as the study found in many countries. In fact, undeterred by the fact the Algerian fishermen didn’t know how to fish tuna with long-line vessels, the government had simply bought some boats and sold their quotas to countries that did, notably Japan and Italy.

The next country she tackled was Morocco, which took over the Western Sahara in 1975 over the objections of its nomadic people and the international community. The territory has unusually rich waters and two-thirds of Morocco’s catch comes from there. The study estimated the local value of the catch since 1950 at 100 billion dollars, but since it was almost entirely sold in Europe at twice the price, the real value of the catch was 200 billion dollars.

Had the Moroccan government insisted that foreign fleets pay 20 percent of that value, as the EU claims it does today in Morocco (in fact, the study found it pays 5 percent), it could have received a revenue stream of one billion dollars a year, which, had it gone entirely to the Western Sahara, would have doubled the GDP per capita of 2,500 dollars a year for its 500,000 people. Under the current agreement, the EU pays 180 million dollars for access to all of Morocco’s waters, or 120 million dollars for access to the Western Sahara’s waters. How much actually goes to the territory is unclear. Other nations pay far less.

Mauritania has a fleet of locally flagged Russian and Chinese large trawlers that haul in whole schools of small blue-water fish called sardinella. The coast is studded with idle processing plants built to turn them into fish meal, which is used as animal feed. Belhabib discovered that the ships were reporting to the government only a tiny fraction of their actual haul – some of it illegally taken from neighboring countries and selling the rest for higher prices in Europe. “The authorities had no idea,” she said. “They thought their fleet were landing and reporting their whole catch.”

In Senegal, which unlike Mauritania has a strong tradition of fishing, President Macky Sall expelled the Russians in 2012 because their ships had depleted the populations of sardinella, infuriating many Senegalese. “The Russians just got licenses in Guinea Bissau and went back to Senegal and continued to fish, though not as much,” Belhabib said.

The Senegal reconstruction also documented how the European bottom-trawlers severely depleted the country’s near-shore. As population pressure increased demand for cheap fish, the number of artisanal fishermen soared, and many went to work up the coast in Mauritania, where few people fish. But a conflict in 1989 with Mauritania resulted in the expulsion of thousands of Senegalese fishermen, even as the industrial fleets were increasing their catch off both countries, most of it stolen.

Out of desperation, hundreds of Senegalese fishermen and dozens of canoes over the past decade have been boarding Korean and Portuguese converted trawlers that drop them off near the coasts of other countries. There, they illegally drop baited hooks into underwater canyons out of the reach of bottom trawlers where large, high-value fish can still be taken. These spots, marine biologists say, have served as marine reserves, places where coveted, overfished species could reproduce unhindered – and are now being depleted too, pushing the stocks closer to collapse.

Belhabib’s team also discovered to her horror that subsidized European Union fleets had flocked to the waters of countries weakened by civil war, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia, increasing their stolen catch when the people needed cheap protein most.

They found that South Africa made no attempt to control or even report the extensive fishery in the rich waters off its Namibian colony; in 1969, for example, 4.8 million tons of fish worth 6.2 million dollars were caught, but only 13 tons were reported to the FAO. Today, Namibia has the best-managed fishery in Africa after effectively banning foreign-flagged fleets

Finally, examinations of illegal fishing determined that Spain, whose seafood consumption is double the European average, steals more fish than any other nation, followed by China and Japan.

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The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

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‘What Can We Do for You?’ Aid Projects Pour Into Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 16:25:06 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145525 Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

By Guy Dinmore
YANGON, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

International aid agencies, big and small, are beating a path to Myanmar, relishing the prospect of launching projects in a nation of 51 million people tentatively emerging from more than five decades of military rule.

Nay Pyi Taw, the grandiose but forlorn capital built in the dry-zone interior by the military junta 10 years ago, is starting to see flights filled with prospective aid workers, diplomats and businesses coming to lobby newly appointed ministers. Predictably, the elected civilian government, which took office in late March, is already under strain. Some ministries are still in the throes of reorganising following major reshuffles and mergers aimed at cutting costs.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate who is de facto head of government while barred by the constitution from holding the presidency, has a reputation among established aid workers in Yangon for harbouring considerable scepticism towards the development world. But a recent meeting with heads of UN agencies went well, with participants saying they were pleasantly surprised to be listened to and not receive a lecture.

Her scepticism is justified on some fronts. The aid effort during the past five years of quasi civilian rule was disjointed and often wasteful. Rents were driven up in Yangon and the private sector lost qualified staff to higher paying NGOs, even if it was good news for the bars and restaurants that open weekly.

Not all blame can be laid at the foot of the aid world, however. For example, international de-mining organisations have not been able to clear a single landmine over the past four years, despite Myanmar being one of the world’s most mined countries. But this is because the military and the ethnic armed groups locked in decades-long civil wars have failed to reach necessary agreements.

However, the military, known as the Tatmadaw, still holds powerful levers, including control of three key ministries. This poses a risk to prospective development partners as not all aid projects will be able to go ahead, even if the civilian side of the government agrees.

Still, enthusiasm is running high.

“A new era is starting with a lot of economic development and a new government that puts environment on the agenda, opening up a lot of opportunities,” Marion van Schaik, senior policy advisor for water and environment for the Dutch foreign ministry, told a workshop in Yangon this week held by the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“We need to help Myanmar get on the road of sustainable development,” she said.

Men build a fishing boat on a beach in Myanmar's Rakhine State. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Men build a fishing boat on a beach in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Rather than following the top-down approach of bigger agencies, IUCN Netherlands held the three-day workshop with Myanmar Environmental Rehabilitation-Conservation Network (MERN), an alliance of 21 local NGOs, to analyse development needs. The primary aim was to identify one or two “landscapes” where projects would focus on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations in public advocacy and lobbying.

This would include training for CSOs in dealing with the private sector, understanding financial flows and making such decisions as whether to “dialogue” with concerned businesses or resort to the courts – a risky undertaking in Myanmar where corruption in the judiciary is widespread.

Professor Kyaw Tint, chairman of MERN and a former director general of the Myanmar Forest Department, said in his opening address that the network aimed to be a strong voice on environmental issues promoting public awareness.

Speaking to IPS, the retired civil servant who worked under the former military junta said he was confident the new government would be staffed with more competent experts rather than being packed with military personnel as in the past. He particularly welcomed the commitment to tackling widespread corruption.

Carl Koenigel, senior expert on ecosystems and climate for IUCN Netherlands, said the Myanmar program known as “Shared Resources, Joint Solutions” in partnership with WWF Netherlands, was financed under the Dialogue and Dissent program of the Dutch foreign ministry, with funding of one million euros over five years. The aim is to safeguard “international public goods” in food security, water provisioning and climate change resilience.

IUCN Netherlands has similar projects in 16 countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Mining, dams and agri-business were a focus of the first day of discussions as participants sought to identify geographical areas and issues where projects could have the best chance of success. A points-based ranking system was used with groups allocating marks under various headings, including climate change impact, biodiversity loss, risks to water and food supplies, and the consequences of such sectors as mining, infrastructure and agri-business.

Given conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups around the country’s diverse frontier regions, part of the conversation focused on whether goals were achievable in such a context, and at what risk.

Kachin State in Myanmar’s far north is home to some 100,000 civilians living in IDP camps since renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army erupted in 2011. The stakes are high in the resource-rich state. The township of Hpakant boasts the most valuable jade mines in Asia that have devastated the environment while producing revenues worth billions of dollars a year, although a relatively small proportion reaches government coffers.

China’s multi-billion-dollar project to build the giant Myitsone hydro-power project, suspended by the previous military-backed government, hangs over the future of Kachin, with the new government under Chinese pressure to restart work, despite concerns to the environment and the danger of further fuelling ethnic conflict. Pollution of waterways through gold mining, deforestation due to illegal logging, opium poppy cultivation and rampant drug abuse, plus expanding agribusiness complete the picture.

With the KIA regarded as an illegal armed group, formal dealings under areas it controls could result in prosecution under Myanmar’s “unlawful association” law. This means in effect that many foreign aid agencies may find themselves confined to working in government-controlled territory.

Similar concerns were expressed over the difficulties of working in the western state of Rakhine, where the minority Muslim community of some one million people lives under government-enforced segregation from the Buddhist majority, with limited freedom of movement and access to public services.

The first day of discussions narrowed a shortlist of possible “landscapes” to working within Kachin State, the southern delta area of Ayeyarwady (linked to Kachin by the Irrawaddy river), and the far southern region of Thanintharyi. The latter is one of the most bio-diverse areas in southeast Asia, but threatened by mining and major infrastructure projects, including a planned Chinese oil refinery, a deep-sea port backed by Japan and the development of trans-Asian highways linking to Thailand and beyond. The expansion of agribusiness through companies linked to the former military regime, particularly in rubber and palm oil, has also resulted in extensive deforestation.

Despite its relatively small budget, IUCN Netherlands points to the possibility of bringing about meaningful change through well targeted advocacy, citing the example of a project in Cambodia linked to the drafting of a new forestry law with nationwide implications. Projects in Myanmar should avoid being a “drop in the ocean”, Koenigel said.

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Polynesian Voyagers Bring Messages of Hope to UN on World Oceans Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 03:58:04 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145499 The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2016 (IPS)

Polynesian voyagers who have sailed the world by canoe using ancient navigation skills will bring pledges they collected along the way to the UN on Wednesday as part of World Oceans Day celebrations.

The voyagers sailed the Hōkūle‘a canoe to New York to deliver the pledges from countries and communities committed to doing their part to help save the world’s oceans to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator told IPS that they were inspired to collect the declarations after Ban sailed with them in Apia, Samoa in the Summer of 2014.

“He gave us this bottle (capped) with his own handwritten note of his pledge to work with the membership of the UN (for) the betterment of the ocean,” said Thompson.

Thompson is master navigator of the Hōkūle‘a canoe. The voyagers uses the ancient traditions of Polynesian navigation to travel the oceans without technical instruments, knowledge which almost became extinct, but has been revived through decades of training.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Hōkūle‘a has recently returned from a 37-month voyage covering about 50,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean.

“We are sailing on the belief that there are millions of people that are working for kindness and caring and compassion for the earth even though we’re not connected,” said Thompson. “We just want our voyaging canoe and our community to (be) part of that movement.”

The Hōkūle‘a canoe was launched 41 years ago, the first of its kind launched in over 600 years, says Thompson.

“It was our vehicle to allow us to explore and rediscover our ancient traditions primarily in voyaging and in navigation.”

“It was a reconnection not just to our culture, and to our tradition, and to our ancestors, but also reconnection back to the Pacific Islanders.”

Over that time, he says the voyagers have seen many changes in the oceans and peoples of the region.

“We’ve been witness to watching shifting change, not only in what’s been happening to the oceans physically, but what’s been happening to the relationship between islanders and the ocean in the biggest ocean, that’s the Pacific.”

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976." -- Nainoa Thompson.

During this time, Thompson says that he has observed increasing awareness around the Pacific of the science of the negative impacts on the oceans such as climate change and acidification.

“I think part of the solution to figure out how to protect the oceans is going to really require a meshing and a coming together of both science and technology with indigenous knowledge — those people who have lived and known these islands for generations and thousands of years.”

Thompson says that he has personally learnt a lot from his own teacher, who he described as the only known master navigator.

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976.”

Thompson describes Piailug, who came from a tiny island called Satawal in Micronesia, as “a window into the ancient world and the ancient oceans.”

Satawal is “only a mile and quarter long and half mile wide,” yet the people who live there have a phenomonal “knowledge of the oceans, and of the stars, and the heavens, and the atmosphere, and the winds, and the clouds, and the sea life, and the sea birds,” said Thompson.

“We were lucky to have (Piailug), he changed the whole world view from another native group that was losing language and culture to a whole new world where we were the greatest navigators.”

“He came back and trained us for 30 years.”

“In that process we tried to understand really the importance of listening to your elders and spending time and trying to protect and preserve their knowledge of the ocean because it was getting so lost so quickly.”

“Extinction of cultural values and cultural lifestyles are happening everywhere so Mau singlehandedly shifted that whole mindset.”

“Back in 1975 there were no canoes, there were no voyages, there were no navigators. In Polynesia now there’s about 2500 active sailors,” said Thompson.

He added that learning the navigation skills helped his generation to better understand the oceans.

“The thing about the navigation is it forces it you to do two things: to observe and secondly to understand nature.”

Thompson says that his generation now has a responsibility to share this knowledge with the children of Hawaii and the world.

He says that there is also a need “to move education towards catching up with the real core issues that our children need to know.”

“The worldwide voyage is a relationship between those who are exploring, those who are learning, those who are bringing things back and getting it embedded into schools.”

The President of the University of Hawaii sailed with the Hōkūle‘a from Washington DC, to New York, and the Superintendent of the Hawaiian public schools system will also be joining the Hōkūle‘a at the UN on World Oceans Day.

Thompson said that ensuring that the knowledge was shared with Hawaii’s students was important because in the past that knowledge had been lost when it was banned from schools.

“The problem of why we know so little of native people is because it wasn’t taught in schools and Hawaiian culture, language and geneology was outlawed by policy by public and private schools back a hundred years ago.”

“The way to change that is really to change what you teach in schools.”

The voyagers plan to share the knowledge they collect of people who are doing great things to protect the oceans with the children of Hawaii.

Many of these examples also include school children, such as is the case with oyster farming in New York.

“New York was considered the largest oyster population in the world, the indigenous people lived directly off the sea food, that’s all they needed.”

However eventually the water became so polluted that the oyster larvae couldn’t survive, but more recently some New York schools have begun breeding the oysters themselves.

“The equation is that if you plant reefs of oysters, if you get a billion oysters you can filter the harbour in three days,” said Thompson.

New York restaurants have now got involved, and Thompson described the program as an example of how the economy and environment can work together for the better.

“That’s an equation that Hawaii needs to figure out, and that’s an equation that the world needs to figure out, but it’s happening in very special places.”

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Coral Reef Tourism in Danger as Reefs Struggle to Adapt to Warminghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 15:51:00 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145490 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/feed/ 0 World Oceans Day – A Death Sea Called Mediterraneanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2016 12:18:08 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145459 Credit: World Oceans Day

Credit: World Oceans Day

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 6 2016 (IPS)

While the United Nations identifies 17 major regional seas in its planning, the Mediterranean is perhaps the most dramatic case as it has gone from being the so-called cradle of civilization to be a cemetery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants. And it is most probably also the most polluted water basin the whole world. See this report.

The Mediterranean covers a surface of 2,5 million square kilometres and is surrounded by 22 countries, which together share a coastline of 46,000 kilometres, and are home to around 480 million people across three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.

But it is also a sort of a huge salty lake, being a semi-enclosed sea with only two tiny points of contact with open oceans-the Suez Canal in the East and the Gibraltar Straits in the West.

This implies that its waters need between 80 years and 150 years to be renewed as a result of its contact with open oceans, according to the Athens-based UN Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Actions Plan (UNEP/MAP).

In other words, a drop of polluted water remains there, circulating for a whole century on average.

Add to this that of its total population, nearly 1 in 3 inhabitant–or over 160 million—are permanent residents in urban centres situated along its coasts. And that some 180 millions tourists visit its shores annually, this making a total of some 340 million people concentrated in the coastal area during the peak holiday seasons.

Result: millions of people dumping in the Mediterranean their domestic and urban solid and liquid wastes. The problem becomes more evident if you consider that up to few years ago, over 40 per cent of coastal urban centres lacked sewage treatment facilities, and 80 per cent of waste water was disposed off in the sea untreated, according to UNEP/MAP.

20.000 Tonnes of Petrol Per Year

Then come industrial activities as a key source of pollution, mainly from the chemical, petro-chemical and metallurgy sectors. Just some examples:

— Some 60 refineries dump into the sea nearly 20.000 tonnes of petrol/year;

— Chemical products used in agriculture generate runoffs containing pesticides, nitrates and phosphates,

— Other industries such as the treatment of wastes and solvent generation, surface treatment of metals, production of paper, paints and plastics, dyeing, printing and tanneries, bring more pollution to the sea.

Maritime Traffic

But the Mediterranean sea is also under pressure from intense maritime activities: with 30 per cent of all international sea-borne trade by volume originating from or directed to its ports or passing through its waters, and nearly 25 per cent of the world’s sea-transported oil transiting it, maritime traffic and sea-based pollution are among the key causes of pollution of this sea.

A fisheries worker unloading the morning's catch. Credit: FAO

A fisheries worker unloading the morning’s catch. Credit: FAO

Just consider that an estimated 2,000 merchant vessels of over 100 tonnes are at sea at any given moment, with a total of 200,000 crossing the Mediterranean annually.

But it is not only about pollution produced by such a heavy maritime traffic. In fact, it is estimated that 50 per cent of all goods carried at sea around the world are dangerous to some degree.

The point is that some of the hazardous and noxious chemicals are far more dangerous than oil, although the quantities of these products transported by sea in the Mediterranean are only a fraction of the volume of oil carried by tankers.

On the other hand, operational oil pollution from ships include a variety of discharges of oil and oily mixtures that are generated on board. These include oil discharges into the sea, comprising oily ballast waters, tank washing residues, fuel oil sludge and bilge discharges.

Marine Litter

Now UNEP/MAP has just launched its new updated Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean, within the framework of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), held last month in Nairobi.

Marine litter has been confirmed as a critical issue in the Mediterranean, exacerbated by the basin’s limited hydrological exchanges with other oceans, as well as pressures from its densely-populated coasts, highly-developed tourism, along with the impacts of 30 percent of the world’s maritime traffic transiting the Mediterranean sea and additional inputs of litter from rivers and heavily urbanised areas.

Marine litter and microplastics. Credit: UNEP

Marine litter and microplastics. Credit: UNEP

Compared to the 2008 assessment, this updated report provides data on waste and plastic inputs to the sea for each Mediterranean country and specifies the most important sources of litter, changes in their composition and transport patterns presenting updated results of modelling and provides a comprehensive review of existing data for the four compartments of the marine environment (beaches, surface, seabed, and ingested litter).

It also provides original data and information on micro-plastics, on derelict fishing gear and their impact and details the general reduction measures, especially those that are important for the Mediterranean Sea.

World Oceans Day

All the above might be lost in the ocean of information related to this year’s World Ocean Day, marked on June 8.

According to a United Nations report, world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.

“Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.”

Marking the World Oceans Day, the UN has underlined facts and figures:

— Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume;

— Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods;

— Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at 3 trillion dollars per year or about 5 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product;

— Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.

— Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.

— Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein.

— Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.

— Subsidies for fishing contribute to the rapid depletion of many fish species and prevent efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate 50 billion dollars less per year than they could.

— As much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.

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Mega Dams Remain Controversial Source of Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mega-dams-remain-controversial-source-of-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mega-dams-remain-controversial-source-of-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mega-dams-remain-controversial-source-of-energy/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2016 03:04:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145454 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mega-dams-remain-controversial-source-of-energy/feed/ 0 Wildlife Trafficking Needs to Be a Policy Priority in Asia Pacific Before It Is Too Latehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/wildlife-trafficking-needs-to-be-a-policy-priority-in-asia-pacific-before-it-is-too-late/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wildlife-trafficking-needs-to-be-a-policy-priority-in-asia-pacific-before-it-is-too-late http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/wildlife-trafficking-needs-to-be-a-policy-priority-in-asia-pacific-before-it-is-too-late/#comments Sun, 05 Jun 2016 06:34:49 +0000 Isabelle Louis and Jeremy Douglas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145441 Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director, United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific]]>

Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director, United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific

By Isabelle Louis and Jeremy Douglas
BANGKOK, Jun 5 2016 (IPS)

This year’s World Environment Day on June 5 puts the spotlight on the illegal trade in wildlife. The problem has particular significance in Asia, which is the destination for most of the ivory taken from 20,000 to 25,000 elephants and the horns of more than 1,200 rhinos killed in Africa every year. Demand in the region is driven by fast growing middle and upper classes with an appetite for exotic pets, décor, food and fashion.

While several iconic species including rhinos, tigers and elephants are now in decline, with some populations pushed to the brink of extinction, it is actually less known species such as pangolins, turtles and reptiles that are most frequently smuggled across borders and consumed in the region. And although it is difficult to obtain an accurate valuation of the regional wildlife trade, it is known that prices of some species are subject to speculation – often driven by proximity to extinction – and that the profits made by organised crime are significant.

Despite a variety of national and international instruments to counter the problem, transnational criminal groups have been able to circumvent regulations and to launder illegally sourced wildlife into legal markets. This often happens through fraud, advanced smuggling techniques, or more simply with corruption. The size of some recent seizures – several tonnes of ivory were intercepted over the past few years in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam– and the variety of nationalities of the couriers arrested leaves no doubt about the organised and transnational nature of wildlife trafficking.

We are paying a heavy price. The illegal wildlife trade undermines our ability to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted last year. Ivory from a poached elephant is worth about US$21,000 a kilogram while a living elephant can generate more than US$1.6 million in economic activity. The illegal wildlife trade also has serious negative impacts on biodiversity, leading to the extinction of species and damage to habitat. The environmental impact of the illegal wildlife trade also goes beyond the immediate detrimental effects on target species, and can result in the spread of diseases or introduction of invasive species when live animals are moved across international borders.

In a landmark resolution last year the United Nations General Assembly called on countries to declare the illegal wildlife trade a serious criminal offence. Discussions at the second United Nations Environment Assembly that has just taken place in Kenya May 23-27 reaffirmed the urgency of stepping up efforts to combat wildlife crime through concrete actions at the national level and through expanded international cooperation. There are also signs that leaders in this region have started recognise the significance of the problem – the last ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime added trafficking in wildlife and timber to the list of priority transnational crimes for the region to address. Given the size of the market for wildlife in Asia it is important that political statements in the region are followed up with concrete actions, and that the illegal wildlife trade is treated as a serious organised crime like drug trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, terrorism, and arms smuggling.

Addressing the illegal trade in wildlife will require collective coordinated action, working across source, transit and destination countries, in the most strategic hotspots across the supply chain. It is important to shift the focus of the criminal justice response from couriers and poachers to trade controllers and corrupt facilitators. Legal loopholes need to be closed and laws and penalties made tougher in conjunction with anti-corruption provisions. And hopefully greater public awareness will bring pressure to bear on governments to enforce laws.

As we mark World Environment Day, the United Nations is calling on everyone to stop wildlife trafficking. Everyone has a role to play from lawmakers, community leaders, police and customs officers, prosecutors and judges, to businesses and average citizens. We urge you to join us in calling for zero tolerance. Wildlife trafficking needs to be stopped.

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Closing the Gaps in Fight Against Wildlife Trafficking in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/closing-the-gaps-in-fight-against-wildlife-trafficking-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closing-the-gaps-in-fight-against-wildlife-trafficking-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/closing-the-gaps-in-fight-against-wildlife-trafficking-in-latin-america/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 16:57:46 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145408 Because of their biological wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean are a source and destination of trafficked species. In the photo, trafficked parrots in a cage after being seized. Credit: World Animal Protection

Because of their biological wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean are a source and destination of trafficked species. In the photo, trafficked parrots in a cage after being seized. Credit: World Animal Protection

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 2 2016 (IPS)

Although it violates the international conventions that regulate the wildlife trade, it is possible to go online and find websites to buy, for example, axolotl salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum) or spiny softshell turtles (Trionyx spiniferus).

These websites reflect new trends in the trafficking of plant and animal species, which help fuel the smuggling of wildlife and form part of the ‘Deep Web’, made up of pages that search engines cannot find.

Despite the magnitude of the damage to biodiversity, Latin America and the Caribbean have made scant progress in fighting wildlife trafficking. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, celebrated on Jun. 5, is Go Wild for Life.“People have to be taught that they should not purchase wild animals or plants. That would be enough to cut down trafficking to sustainable levels.” -- Juan Carlos Cantú

Because of their biological wealth, Mexico, Central America and the Amazon rainforest – which is shared by Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela – are the main sources of trafficked plant and animal species in the region.

“Latin America represents significant criminal activity, because there are several countries considered megadiverse, which makes this region highly vulnerable to trafficking,” Roberto Vieto, with World Animal Protection, told IPS.

Vieto, who is wildlife campaigns officer for Latin America at the London-based international animal welfare organisation, said wildlife trafficking has seen a resurgence in the region, driven by online trade.

The World Wildlife Crime Report, published May 26 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela headed the region in terms of seizures of trafficked wildlife in the 2004-2015 period.

This region accounted for 15 percent of global seizures, while North America represented 46 percent, the Asia-Pacific region 24 percent, Europe 14 percent and Africa one percent.

The seizures indicate that the main destinations for reptiles, mammals and birds trafficked from this region are the United States, Europe, and more recently, China.

UNODC reports that some 7,000 species have been discovered in seizures worldwide. And the European Union reported in February that wildlife trafficking generates anywhere between 8.9 and 22.25 billion dollars a year. That makes it one of the four main transnational criminal activities, along with drug, weapon and people trafficking.

Smuggling, forgery of documents, and the mixture of legal and illegal products are the favorite techniques used by traffickers of wild species. In the photo are small birds in tin cans and a cage, discovered during a seizure in Brazil. Credit: World Animal Protection

Smuggling, forgery of documents, and the mixture of legal and illegal products are the favorite techniques used by traffickers of wild species. In the photo are small birds in tin cans and a cage, discovered during a seizure in Brazil. Credit: World Animal Protection

Wildlife seizures are an indicator of the scale of the phenomenon. To cite just one example, authorities in Mexico seized more than 200,000 specimens between 2007 and 2011 and arrested 294 suspects.

Part of the SDGs

The elimination of wildlife trafficking forms part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), number 15 is dedicated to protecting ecosystems, and target number seven is “Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products.”

“The problem is very serious,” said Juan Carlos Cantú, the representative in Mexico of the U.S.-based Defenders of Wildlife. “For certain species, trafficking is the only threat they face. International trafficking is focused on endemic species, the rarest ones, the ones that are the most threatened by extinction.”

In Latin America, there are legal vacuums, and laws against wildlife trafficking are not always adequately enforced.

One illustration of this: in its first “National report on the traffick of wild animals”, published in 2014, the Brazilian organisation Renctas concluded that more than one million caimans – related to alligators – are poached every year in wilderness areas in Brazil, and their hides are taken to neighbouring countries for processing and export.

In 2015, Defenders of Wildlife stated in its report “Combating Wildlife Trafficking from Latin America to the United States” that the five most frequently seized animals in the region are queen conches, sea turtles, caimans, crocodiles and iguanas.

The lucrative Chinese market poses an enormous threat to species like the totoaba, sea cucumbers and sharks. The capture of the totoaba, a fish that is endemic to the Gulf of California in northwest Mexico, whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, is a death sentence for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a rare species of porpoise only found in the same area.

Traffickers often use legal documents to hide illegal activities or forged permits to smuggle specimens. As UNODC notes, certain markets are especially vulnerable to the infiltration of illegally sourced or trafficked wildlife.

In the photo, an inspector from Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency carries a box of parrots seized in a 2011 operation against the trafficking of protected species of birds. Credit: PROFEPA

In the photo, an inspector from Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency carries a box of parrots seized in a 2011 operation against the trafficking of protected species of birds. Credit: PROFEPA

Smugglers and their clients take advantage of legal gaps in the region. For example, in Brazil it is illegal to sell wild animals, but it is legal to own them if they were raised in captivity.

Requests for protection

For the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Johannesburg Sep. 24-Oct. 5, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras asked for the inclusion of four kinds of lizards from the Abronia genus in Appendix I – species for which CITES prohibits international trade.

In one illustrative case, Mexico asked for the inclusion of 13 species of rosewood (Dalbergia calderonii) in Apendix II - species in which trade must be controlled – to protect the tree from logging for timber.

Sharks are the perfect illustration of incoherent and contradictory regulations and laws. Most Latin American nations allow them to be sold, but ban their capture for the purpose of removal of their fins, which are in high demand in Asia and provide an incentive to blur the distinction between the legal and illegal markets.

The global gendarme

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in effect since 1975, regulates more than 5,600 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants from overexploitation through international trade, in accordance with the degree of risk of extinction.

But the millions of species that aren’t covered by CITES can be illegally bred and raised and internationally traded.

Furthermore, national markets are also outside of the reach of the convention, if it cannot be proved that specimens or products have crossed international borders, in contravention of CITES.

In the case of Latin America, since at least 2010 most of the countries have not presented their biennial reports to CITES on how they are implementing the convention, despite the importance of oversight and monitoring in the fight against trafficking.

That gap is going to close, because in its annual meeting in Geneva in February, the CITES Standing Committee decided that its member states must provide statistical information every year on seizures, which will go into an annual report, the first of which will be published in October 2017.

Vieto and Cantú agree on the importance of raising public awareness so that people understand they must not buy wild animals. “Educational campaigns are needed to reduce the consumption of products, step up enforcement of existing regulations and laws, and bolster international cooperation,” to fill in gaps at a local level, said Vieto.

For Cantú, the key is reducing demand. “People have to be taught that they should not purchase wild animals or plants. That would be enough to cut down trafficking to sustainable levels,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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New International Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 16:27:29 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145337 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/feed/ 0