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World Bank report on land grabbing: beyond the smoke and mirrors

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Live Link: New from GRAIN | 16 September 2010  READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Last week, the World Bank finally published its much anticipated report on the global farmland grab. After years of work, several months of political negotiation and who knows how much money spent, the study was casually released on the Bank’s website — in English only. More

When Society Thinks Torture is Funny – Have We Crossed the Line?

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Lynn Swearingen (c) copyright 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

According to Amnesty International USA :

Since June 2001, more than 351 individuals in the United States have died after being shocked by police Tasers. Most of those individuals were not carrying a weapon. Amnesty International is concerned that Tasers are being used as tools of routine force — rather than as an alternative to firearms.

Before I hear another word about how “criminals” should know better – let us look at a two cases which thankfully did not end in death.

Even Blind Old Ladies Terrify The Cops (2004)

Eunice Crowder, you see, didn’t follow orders. Eunice was uncooperative. Worried a city employee was hauling away a family heirloom, a 90-year-old red toy wagon, she had the nerve to feel her way toward the trailer in which her yard debris was being tossed.

Enter the police. Eunice, who is hard of hearing, ignored the calls of Officers Robert Miller and Eric Zajac to leave the trailer. When she tried, unsuccessfully, to bite the hands that were laid on her, she was knocked to the ground.

When she kicked out at the cops, she was pepper-sprayed in the face with such force that her prosthetic marble eye was dislodged. As she lay on her stomach, she was Tased four times with Zajac’s electric stun gun.

And when Nellie Scott, Eunice’s 94-year-old mother, tried to rinse out her daughter’s eye with water from a two-quart Tupperware bowl, what does Miller do? According to Ernie Warren Jr., Eunice’s lawyer, the cop pushed Nellie up against a fence and accused her of planning to use the water as a weapon.

Lesson learned?  Let the Government take away your possessions – or be punished.

Tased in His Own House: California Man Sues Police (2009)

McFarland told ABC’s San Francisco affiliate KGO that he called 911 after slipping and falling on the steps at his house. In the video, his pants are torn. More

S 510 : Testor Amendment Means Nothing

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Lynn Swearingen (c) copyright 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Testor Amendment.  – It’ll free my direct sales to consumers. Or so the “opposition” to S. 510 seems to be saying now.

Once I started reading this,  “shock kept me up all night” would be an understatement.

Attempting to understand the logic behind the argument that somehow Legislators and AgriBusiness lobbyists are now “backing down” from the onerous control methods that have been written, fought for, and negotiated since the introduction of S. 510 in March of 2009 – I became even more confused.

Why suddenly would Sally Sunshine be allowed to sell her Strawberries to Safeway with no “involvement” under S 510?

The answer in short is she won’t. The “Grocery Store” will be required to keep records of Sally Sunshine. And in the event of “reasonable belief” or  “reasonable possibility” – Sally Sunshine is going down first.

The language is included here below (partial pages 122 and 123):

(G) GROCERY    STORES.—With    respect to a
17 sale of a food described in subparagraph (H) to
18 a grocery store, the Secretary shall not require
19 such grocery store to maintain records under
20 this subsection other than records documenting
21 the farm that was the source of such food.
The
22 Secretary shall not require that such records be
23 kept for more than 180 days.
24      (H) FARM     SALES TO CONSUMERS.—The
25 Secretary shall not require a farm to maintain
1       any distribution records under this subsection
2       with respect to a sale of a food described in
3       subparagraph (I) (including a sale of a food
4       that is produced and packaged on such farm),
5       if such sale is made by the farm directly to a
6       consumer. More

RUSSIAN SCHOLAR WARNS OF ‘SECRET’ U.S. CLIMATE CHANGE WEAPON

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 By Ashley Cleek
Live link: Radio Free Europe
July 30, 2010

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“HAARP (High-Frequency Active Aural Research Program), which has long been the target of conspiracy theorists, analyzes the ionosphere and seeks to develop technologies to improve radio communications, surveillance, and missile detection.

Areshev writes, however, that its true aim is to create new weapons of mass destruction “in order to destabilize environmental and agricultural systems in local countries.”

_____________________

As Muscovites suffer record high temperatures this summer, a Russian
political scientist has claimed the United States may be using
climate-change weapons to alter the temperatures and crop yields of Russia
and other Central Asian countries.

In a recent article, Andrei Areshev, deputy director of the Strategic
Culture Foundation, wrote, “At the moment, climate weapons may be reaching their target capacity and may be used to provoke droughts, erase crops, and induce various anomalous phenomena in certain countries.” More

GM in the public eye in Asia

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  Live Link:   GRAIN

Monsanto’s plans to push genetically modified (GM) food crops in Asia ran into a wall on February 9, 2010 when India’s Environment Minister put a moratorium on the introduction of a variety of GM brinjal (eggplant) containing Monsanto’s patented Bt gene. China too has been hesitant to approve GM food crops, notably GM rice. It appears that these Asian governments, both outspoken proponents of GM agriculture, are not only feeling the heat from their people’s strong resistance to GM food crops but are also being forced to think twice about turning their seed supplies over to Monsanto and the other foreign transnational corporations (TNCs) that control the global GM seed market. What they seem to be saying is, “Yes, we want GM seeds, but we want our public institutions to be involved in their development to safeguard the national interest.” It’s a pretty hollow argument, given how “public” research is in bed with corporate interests these days and how removed GM agriculture is from the needs of Asia’s farmers. For Asia’s small farmers is there really any difference between a national GM crop and a transnational one?

A fuzzy line between public and private in China

In his report imposing a moratorium on Bt brinjal, the Indian Environment Minister referred, amongst other things, specifically to India’s lack of a “large-scale publicly funded biotechnology effort in agriculture” that can serve as a countervailing power to Monsanto, and pointed to China’s publicly funded programme in GM, which he says is far ahead of India’s. 1 The moratorium is thus in part intended to give India time to catch up with the TNCs and its neighbour, and the long-term path still points to GMOs. This was not what the local protests against Bt brinjal across India were about. They were against GM crops per se, not simply Monsanto’s version. For the protesters, a strong national biotech programme is not going to shield Indian farmers from corporate profiteering and the other pitfalls of GMOs, as China’s example shows. More

GRAIN: Land grabs threaten Anuak

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Live link: GRAIN interviews Nyikaw Ochalla

Ethiopia is one of the main targets in the current global farmland grab. The government has stated publicly that it wants to sell off three million hectares of farmland in the country to foreign investors, and around one million hectares have already been signed away. Much of the land that these investors have acquired is in the province of Gambella, a fertile area that is home to the Anuak nation. The Anuak are indigenous people who have always lived in Gambella and who practise farming, pastoralism, hunting and gathering. Nyikaw Ochalla, an Anuak living in exile in the United Kingdom, is trying to understand what this new wave of land deals will mean for the Anuak and other local communities in Ethiopia.

How will these large-scale projects affect the agriculture of the Anuak?

The Anuak are a distinct people who have always had close ties to their environment. As an indigenous population, they have been marginalised by the government for many years. They sustain themselves mainly through farming, hunting and fishing, while some Anuak are also pastoralists.

The attraction of Gambella for foreign investors is its fertile lands. But the area is fertile because the local people have nurtured and maintained its ecological systems through their agricultural practices. They may not have had access to modern education but they have a traditional means of cultivation, which includes rotation. When the rainy season comes, they move to the drier areas and when the dry season comes they go along to the river banks, making sure that they manage their environment effectively. So all of the lands in the region are used. Each community looks after its own territory, and the rivers and farmlands within it. It is a myth propagated by the government and investors to say that there is waste land or land that is not utilised in Gambella. More

The World Bank in the hot seat

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New from GRAIN | 4 May 2010

 

GRAIN
May 2010

The World Bank is marching ahead with plans to facilitate global land grabs, while refusing to release a report that confirms the negative impacts of these deals for local communities. At its annual land conference last week, where the report was supposed to be launched, the Bank tried to redirect the land grab discussion towards “win-win” solutions. But its strategy failed, given the Bank’s staunch corporate bias and the growing public rejection of its “principles” for socially responsible land grabbing.

Read this new issue of Against the grain in English here:
http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=64. The Spanish and French versions will be online shortly.

Turning African farmland over to big business

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Read full article here

GRAIN

“MCC African partner countries are open for business”
Ambassador John Danilovich, CEO of the MCC, June 2008

When the European powers invaded Africa they brought with them their systems of private property. Laws were established based on these systems, in order to justify, entrench and facilitate the takeover of lands from local communities. But such laws were hardly ever applied or respected beyond the boundaries of the European farms and plantations. With independence, although the Western laws often stayed on the books, the African states assumed ultimate and often sole ownership of all lands in their territories. But in practice they did not have the power to manage these lands. So the vast majority of land in the African countryside, through the colonial period and up until today, has been governed according to local communities’ customary land practices. 1

These customary practices are often complex and rarely static. They have evolved over time, shifting with local power politics and adapting to new pressures, such as urbanisation, migration, deforestation or the fragmentation of lands. They are based on varied and overlapping rights and responsibilities, and profoundly integrated with local farming, fishing and pastoral practices. In official circles, these systems of land management have been marginalised and condemned for years, but today they are under unprecedented attack.2

Africa has become the new frontier for global food (and agrofuel) production. Billions of dollars are being mobilised to create the infrastructure that will connect more of Africa’s farmland to global markets, and billions more are being mobilised by investors to take over that farmland to produce for those markets. To get a sense of the extent of what is transpiring, one need only look at the massive oil-palm plantation planned for Liberia by the world’s largest palm-oil companies, or the joint Japanese–Brazilian project to transform vast areas of Mozambique into Brazilian-style soya plantations.3 There is no place for Africa’s millions of small farmers in this new vision. And, like the colonial powers that came before, the new wave of invaders needs a legal and administrative structure to justify and facilitate the takeover of these lands. More

Confronting the FAO to stop GMOs

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By GRAIN

Between 28 February and 3 March  2010, the Network for the Defence of Maize, the National Assembly of Environmentally Affected People and Vía Campesina–North America held an independent public hearing in Guadalajara, Mexico. The objective was to bring together the evidence and to elaborate the arguments for starting proceedings in international courts of justice against the Mexican government for deliberately permitting the introduction into the country of genetically modified maize. Mexico is where maize originated, thousands of years ago, and where today more than 1,500 native varieties grow, evolve, and are bred. The cultivation of these varieties is governed by a complex interaction of not only social relations, profound knowledge and trust, but also community resistance.

Ten years ago, Mexico’s government began to distribute large quantities of GM maize seeds in the countryside, in an illegal, undercover operation, and native maize in different regions began to be contaminated. In response, indigenous and peasant communities from many regions formed the Network for the Defence of Maize (Red en Defensa del Maíz). They exchanged local knowledge and experience, and decided to ban the introduction of GM maize in their regions. The network was a space where they could share views, and they became more convinced than ever that the best way of protecting maize was by growing it.

For these communities, agriculture is not a commercial activity but a way of caring for the planet through continuous work. Growing their own food is not only a way of understanding the complex relations between winds, water, forests, other crops, animals and soils but also of protecting human life and promoting justice. Only then can communities be sure that the diversity of maize will not be lost and that the natural and social fabric of relations that lie behind maize will not be weakened.

The decision to hold a first public hearing to make an international case against the Mexican government and the major corporations involved in GM agriculture and food stemmed from the perception that the Mexican judicial system is completely closed or corrupt, or both. Over the last decade the Mexican government has approved a set of reforms and laws to privatise, register, certify or ban what were once commons – water, forests, seeds, biodiversity. It has encouraged intellectual property rights through patents and other legal devices and supported the introduction of GM crops. These laws have created a huge new space for the big corporations to manoeuvre at large but restricted yet further the already limited legal space available to common people. The three most damaging measures have been: the land counter-reform that permits the privatisation of public or communal land; the approval of NAFTA, which provides the big corporations with a totally different set of rules with which to advance their interests; and the refusal to acknowledge indigenous rights in the Constitution. More

Social movements denounce World Bank strategy on land grabbing

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New from GRAIN | 22 April 2010

_______________________

On 26 April 2010, the World Bank is opening a major two-day conference on land at its headquarters in Washington DC. Seated at the table will be governments, donor agencies, researchers, CEOs and non-government organisations. The main topic of discussion? How to harness the fresh wads of cash being put on the table to build agribusiness operations on huge areas of farmland in developing countries, especially in Africa. The Bank calls these farm acquisitions “agricultural investment”. Social movements call them “land grabbing”.

At the meeting, the Bank will release a long-awaited study on this new land grabbing trend. Apart from assessing how many hectares are being bought and sold where, why and through whom, the Bank will present its solution to the risks and concerns raised by foreign investors — from George Soros to Libya’s sovereign wealth fund to China’s telecoms giant ZTE — taking control of overseas farmland to produce food for export: a set of “principles” for all players to follow. The FAO, UNCTAD and IFAD have agreed to support the Bank in advocating these “principles”. More

Feeding the corporate coffers: why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia’s small farmers

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GRAIN
April 2010

For decades now, hybrid rice has been promoted across Asia as a silver bullet for hunger. But a new collaborative briefing published by GRAIN and several other organisations in Asia and the Pacific* examines how hybrid rice has consistently failed Asia’s small farmers over the past decade. From Bangladesh to China, from the Philippines to Indonesia, the promised increased yield has been elusive in farmers’ fields, and the expansion of hybrid rice is now being linked to a recent upsurge of outbreaks of planthoppers across Asia. Hybrid rice is not being promoted for agricultural development but for the control over farming that it offers and the profits that it generates for the seed and agro-chemical companies.

This briefing looks at the main players behind the hybrid rice push, from the big transnational corporations like Bayer and DuPont and their partnerships with public research centres, such as IRRI, to the Chinese seed companies working with their government to develop hybrid rice overseas in countries such as Liberia, Uzbekistan, Papua New Guinea, and Timor Leste. It unpacks the hidden agenda behind hybrid rice and lays out the devastating consequences for small farmers if the push is not stopped.

The briefing is available for download here: here: http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=730. More

Land grabbing in Latin America

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GRAIN
March 2010

Communities in Latin America and around the world are faced with a new kind of invasion of their territories. Today foreign investors, whether agribusiness companies from Asia and the Gulf or US and European fund managers, are rushing to take over farmland in Latin America.

While media attention has focused on land deals in Africa, at least as much money and more projects are in operation in Latin America, where investors claim that their farmland investments are more secure and less controversial — ignoring the struggles over access to land being waged in practically every country on the continent. These land grabbers operate from a distance and wear a halo of neutrality. They are more difficult to identify and the legal mechanisms that communities can utilise to defend against dispossession, devastation or pollution are not clear.

This latest wave of invasions creates new challenges for communities and social movements in Latin America.

READ MORE 

Remembering La Gloria: New television documentary traces origins of the H1N1 pandemic back to pig farms in Mexico

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by GRAIN

This past November people from all over Mexico gathered in the Valley of Perote, where the village of La Gloria is located, for the fifth Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales [National Assembly of Environmentally Affected].

It is a large, periodical gathering of a network of communities and organisations struggling against environmental devastation in Mexico. The location for this most recent gathering was chosen in recognition of the importance of the local struggles against the large pig farms in the area, which had gained national and worldwide attention when the first human cases of pandemic H1N1 swine flu were traced back to La Gloria in April 2009.

This was the second Asamblea for the people of La Gloria and the first for an alliance of communities in the Valley of Perote who have now joined La Gloria in resisting factory farming. Out of the swine flu crisis, the struggle against factory farming has grown stronger, moving from isolated local resistance to a major component of a national movement.

A new documentary on the H1N1 pandemic and factory farming, based on the experiences of La Gloria and the neighbouring communities, now brings this struggle to an international audience and puts factory farming back on centre stage in the story of the H1N1 pandemic. READ MORE (Includes Video)

The Seed Monopolies: The warning signs were there

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By: S.D. Fields (C) copyright 2010   All Rights Reserved

Essentially the same thing is happening in agriculture that happened in 1913 with the Federal Reserve. Thomas Jefferson gave us a stark warning during his era….”The central banks and the corporations that grow up around them are more dangerous than any standing army”.
   I’ve got a new company slogan for Monsanto…………  

“PROFESSIONAL THIEVES & LIARS”

The warning signs have been around for years, so have the predictions. When I was a kid I remember a conversation between my dad and two neighbors. It was spring planting season during the mid 1970’s and we were standing along the road visiting. The focus of these men was the PVPA label on the bags of soybean seed. One remarked “You wait, one of these days those bastards will end up stealing this from us!” At the time and for several years to follow I had no clue what they where talking about; but I do now.

The PVPA was not a totally welcome event. Our genetic infrastructure had been loaned to private industry to enhance & market under their label. The fears were soothed by the exemption from infringement of “farmers’ right to save seed”.

Fast forward twenty five years. READ MORE

Stop the global land grab! GRAIN STATEMENT AT THE JOINT GRAIN-LA VIA CAMPESINA MEDIA BRIEFING

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 Rome, 16 November 2009                      Tell a Friend 

http://www.grain.org/o/?id=87

 “The question we should be asking is not “How do we make these investments work?” It is “What farming and food systems will feed people without making them sick, keep farmers on the farm instead of the city slums, and allow communities to prosper and thrive?”

For over a year a half now, we have been watching carefully how investors are trying to take control of farmland in Asia, Africa and Latin America as a response to the food and financial crises. In the beginning, during the early months of 2008, they talked about getting these lands for “food security”, their food security. Gulf State officials began flying around the globe looking for large areas of cultivable land that they could acquire to grow rice to feed their burgeoning populations without relying on international trade. So too were Koreans, Libyans, Egyptians and others. In most of these talks, high-level government representatives were directly involved, peddling new packages of political, economic and financial cooperation with agricultural land transactions smack in the centre. More

The other ‘pandemic’ – over one billion – are permanently hungry

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Seedling July 2009             

July 2009In this issue of Seedling:

The other ‘pandemic’ – Recent figures show that today more people than ever – over one billion – are permanently hungry. It is shocking to realise that 80% of these people are either farmers or farm labourers. Yet those in power continue to support an international food system that doesn’t feed the hungry but, instead, deprives even more people of adequate food.

Saying ‘no’ to mining Over the last decade communities around the world have become more vociferous in their opposition to large mining projects that destroy their way of life, damage biodiversity and exacerbate the climate crisis. In this special feature, activists from India and Ecuador describe their struggles.

Empty coasts, barren seas – In this article, GRAIN investigates how Asia’s small fishers stand under the proposed EU-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA).

GRAIN interviews Xue Dayuan – Xue Dayuan is Chief Scientist for Biodiversity at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences in China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Update on swine flu – Following our report on the swine flu outbreak in April 2009, we provide a short update here (July 2009).

and more….

Click here to go to the publication

The new farm owners

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The PPJ welcomes GRAIN.org to our roster.

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Corporate investors lead the rush for control over overseas farmland

GRAIN, October 2009

With all the talk about “food security,” and distorted media statements like “South Korea leases half of Madagascar’s land,”1 it may not be evident to a lot of people that the lead actors in today’s global land grab for overseas food production are not countries or governments but corporations. So much attention has been focused on the involvement of states, like Saudi Arabia, China or South Korea. But the reality is that while governments are facilitating the deals, private companies are the ones getting control of the land. And their interests are simply not the same as those of governments. More

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