August 16th marks ten years since the passing of the legendary Japanese farmer and author Masanobu Fukuoka, who initiated the natural farming movement. Here’s a documentary on his life and work, along with notes by Larry Korn, Fukuoka’s American student and the translator of his book, ‘One Straw Revolution,’ considered the ‘bible’ of natural farming.
pesticides & herbicides
Grown over a million acres of farmland, the HMT rice variety – developed by Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade, a small cultivator and self-trained plant breeder – brought a measure of prosperity to several hundred thousand farmers in Maharashtra and neighbouring states. Bharat Mansata pays tribute to the legendary farmer and seed saver who died on Sunday
Bayer’s $66 billion takeover of Monsanto represents another big click on the ratchet of corporate power over farming and food. With the ‘Big-Six’ of global agribusiness now set to turn into the ‘even bigger three’, farmers and consumers face more GMOs and pesticides, less choice, and deeper price gouging. Agroecology has never looked more attractive.
From The Guardian: Insects are multitudinous beyond our imagining, and have triumphed for hundreds of millions of years, in every habitat. This makes all the more alarming the great truth now dawning upon us: insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them.
From The Citizen: “Hitler used organophosphate gases to execute thousands in his gas chambers, we are now using the same to kill our farmers in the open fields,” said Kishor Tiwari on the recent deaths of more than 40 farmers from pesticide poisoning in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal. Tiwari heads a government task force for farmers’ welfare.
As much as any book can, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” changed the world, by describing it. An immediate best-seller, this classic book launched the modern environmental movement, which, in turn, led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of green laws. On the 55th year of its publication, a tribute.
From The Indian Express: According to Kishor Tiwari, chief of a Maharashtra government task force for the welfare of farmers, more than 40 farmers had died and at least 2,000 more hospitalised from pesticide inhalation in Vidarbha and Marathwada. He has termed the deaths of farmers from pesticide inhalation as “genocide committed by the state”.
From The Guardian: Chemicals and agribusiness giant Bayer has approached the European Union to approve its $65bn takeover of Monsanto, eliminating direct competition between two of the biggest players in the industry. If approved, the merger would be an extremely risky consolidation of corporate power, and a serious threat to food supplies and farmers worldwide.
From Scroll.in: Honeybees, which play a vital role in pollinating food crops, are declining at an alarming rate in India. It is not just pesticides that are contributing to their decline. Ironically, it might be the very efforts to promote bees in India that could be leading to a further decline in their diversity and prevalence.
From The Intercept: In a lifetime spent battling the chemical industry while enduring extreme personal tragedy, 72-year-old Carol Van Strum amassed disturbing evidence about the dangers of industrial chemicals —and the practices of the companies that make them, including Dow and Monsanto. Now, her archive, dubbed ‘The Poison Papers’, is finally in the public domain.
Hundreds of Endosulfan-affected people, this time from Karnataka, are threatening to sit on a fast until death from May 27 to demand better care from the government. Here are exhaustive reports from Down to Earth magazine, which first exposed the issue in 2001, chronicling one of the worst and longest-running pesticide poisoning episodes in history.
From The Wire: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is currently assessing the likely adverse effects on competition of the proposed merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont. If it goes through, the merger will create the world’s biggest chemical and materials company. But there are a dozen reasons and more why it must be stopped.
The Guardian reports: It’s a myth that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population, according to UN food and pollution experts. Their new report is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments to obstruct reforms.
Safe Harvest is a conglomeration of eight civil society organisations that have been working towards and promoting non-pesticide management (NPM) practices among some of India’s poorest and most disenfranchised communities. Today, they work with a farmer base of close to 50,000 across 11 states, many of whom have seen a 20% rise in their income.
There’s no such thing as ‘healthy food’ if it’s not produced by sustainable farming systems on living soils, Patrick Holden told the recent ‘Food: The Forgotten Medicine’ conference. But after 70 years of industrial farming, there’s a huge job to be done to restore depleted soils and the impoverished genetic diversity of seeds and crops.
EcoSnippets reports: According to Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologists, his patented ‘smart pesticides’ can provide a safe and nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects – and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms. In fact, pesticide industry executives have called it “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed.”
Christian Schwägerl writes: According to data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. So far, only the decline of honeybee populations has received attention, mostly because of their vital role in pollinating food crops. The rest of the insect world has been widely ignored.
Europe recently took an extraordinary vote, refusing to grant Monsanto a license for its main product and cornerstone of its empire – the cancer-linked weed killer glyphosate. A key role was played by a massive campaign initiated by activist organization Avaaz, with 2 million signing their petition to the EU. Here’s how they did it.
Valiya Chirakula Pakshikal (Birds With Large Wings), directed by Dr. Biju, has been declared 2015’s Best Film on Environment. It explores the disastrous environmental and public health consequences of pesticide use, based on real-life events in Kasargode, Kerala. On this occasion, here’s a look back at the manmade disaster that continues to haunt Kasargode residents.
Bill McKibben reports: On March 3, across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, for a few hours, crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above “normal” for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization. Two degrees Celsius is the must-not-cross red line.