Friday, September 27, 2013

Home Depot and Lowe’s: Stop Selling Bee-Killing Plants!

Petition Statement
     A growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids (neonics), the world’s most widely used pesticide, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Unfortunately, many of the “bee-friendly” seedlings and plants sold to unsuspecting consumers in your stores have been pre-treated with neonicotinoids at much higher doses than are used on farms, where levels of neonicotinoid use are already raising concerns among beekeepers and scientists.
     I find there to be an increasing number of petitions in the world and have wondered about their usefulness.  I believe they do work.  Politicians respond to two things.  Money from corporations and pressure from voters.  If the pressure is great enough and the politician does not respond accordingly they won't be reelected and subsequently won't receive corporate funding.  The pressure has to reach a level where it is reported on by mainstream media.  This is how Europeans got the EU to ban neonicotinoids.
     Please sign the petition here.  There are currently 44,000 signatures. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing

     Marla Spivak, entomology professor at the University of Minnesota discusses the challenges that bees are facing today and what we can do to help them.  In the United States since the end of World War II (l945) the number of bee colonies has decreased from 4.5 million to 2 million.  This coincides with the movement from the family farm to large corporate monoculture agroindustry.  The vast majority of food production today is done with large, monoculture farms that have replaced natural, nitrogen fixing, fertilizing cover crops like clover and alfalfa (bee food sources) with synthetic fertilizers; herbicides used on these farms have created a food desert where bees can't survive; and the increased use of pesticides and particularly the systemic neonicotinoids has created a situation where bees, the perfect environmental receptor (bodies covered with hair) are carrying back to the hive and depositing a mixture of toxic agrochemicals.  These factors along with mites, diseases and the mass transport of bees for pollination have created a difficult environment for the bees to survive.
     Marla  discusses possible solutions like the use of cover crops and hedgerows on farms, the reduction of agrochemicals and the planting of bee friendly plants.  She has developed a strain of bees, the Minnesota hygienic line which are able to detect infected larvae in the hive and remove them to cleanse the hive of the disease or parasite.  Work on increasing hygienic behaviour in bees is being done throughout the world and is a possible solution but requires the population domination of hygienic bees (both drones and queens) to be successful.  This is a long term prospect which most beekeepers are aware of and support.
     Locally, on September 27th at 8 p.m at Eternal Abundance (1025 Commercial Drive) there will be a screening of the documentary "Saving the Life Keepers - The new science of sustainable beekeeping". Watch the trailer:  "Saving the Life Keeper"   The master beekeeper Brian  Campbell and the film  director and producer Jocelyn Demers will be at  this event for a Q and  A.

March Against Monsanto

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fair Trade Honey

     In an ideal world we would produce all of our own food locally and organically but in reality we import a significant portion.  Much of this comes from developing countries where farmers have traditionally been exploited by greedy buyers who set the price far below a liveable earning.  The concept of "Fair Trade" has empowered these farmers and provided them and their communities with a fair income which has allowed them a healthier, happier lifestyle. This documentary "Hope is Golden" is about the beekeeping cooperatives in Brazil’s arid Caatinga region that produce Fair Trade certified honey.
     The Fair Trade organizations provide funding for the infrastructure required by farming cooperatives in developing countries.  "Fair Trade International" began 25 years ago and in 2012 the number of Fairtrade producer organizations grew by 16%.  It works and it is growing.  Please support fair trade for all products including honey, tea, chocolate, sugar, fruit, flowers and coffee.  For more information go to Fair Trade Canada or Fair Trade USA.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

American Farmers Sue Monsanto

     A group of American organic and conventional family farmers today presented to the U.S Supreme Court a challenge to Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seed and protection from litigation over contamination by the G.E seed.  Hundreds of farmers have been sued by Monsanto because their crops were contaminated by neighbouring farmers G.E seed.  

For Immediate Release
Jim Gerritsen
(207) 429-9765
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
American Farmers Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to Seek Protection from Genetic Contamination and Invalidate Monsanto's Patents on Genetically Engineered Crops

New York - September 5, 2013 - A group of 73 American organic and conventional family farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to hear their case against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical and biotech seed giant's patents on genetically engineered seed. In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, the plaintiffs have been forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

In a June 10th ruling earlier this year, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a group of organic and otherwise non-GMO farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto's transgenic seed patents "because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not 'take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).'"

"While the Court of Appeals correctly found that the farmers and seed sellers had standing to challenge Monsanto's invalid patents, it incorrectly found that statements made by Monsanto's lawyers during the lawsuit mooted the case," said Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto. "As a result, we have asked the Supreme Court to take the case and reinstate the right of the plaintiffs to seek full protection from Monsanto's invalid transgenic seed patents."

The Petition filed today by lawyers for the family farmers may be found here.

The plaintiffs brought the pre-emptive case against Monsanto in March 2011 and specifically seek to defend themselves from nearly two dozen of Monsanto's most aggressively asserted patents on GMO seed. They were forced to act pre-emptively to protect themselves from Monsanto's abusive lawsuits, fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto will sue them for patent infringement.

"We have been farming for almost forty years and we have never wanted anything to do with Monsanto," said Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and President of lead PlaintiffOSGATA.  "We believe we have the right to farm and grow good food the way we choose.  We don't think it's fair that Monsanto can trespass onto our farm, cjim gerritsenontaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing on their patent rights.  We don't want one penny from Monsanto. American farmers deserve their day in Court so we can prove to the world Monsanto's genetically engineered patents are invalid and that farmers deserve protection from Monsanto's abuse."

In the case, the plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seed are invalid because they don't meet the "usefulness" requirement of patent law, according to Ravicher. Evidence cited in the plaintiffs' court filings proves that genetically engineered seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically engineered seed - increased production and decreased herbicide use - are false.

As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in 1817, to be patentable, an invention must not be "injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society," and "a new invention to poison people ... is not a patentable invention."  Because transgenic seed, and in particular Monsanto's transgenic seed, is "injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society" and threatens to "poison people," Monsanto's transgenic seed patents are all invalid.

With the rapid adoption of Monsanto's genetically engineered seed technology, America's farmers have been faced with a rampant rise in superweeds, with more than 49% of U.S. farmers reporting glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34% that farmers reported in 2011. In addition, scientists are reporting the growing failures of Monsanto's genetically engineered insecticide-corn, with reports from scientists in the Midwestern corn belt states detailing the rise of super insects becoming resistant to the genetically engineered Bt toxin, leaving farmers vulnerable to the voracious corn rootworm, the number one threat to corn farmers.

"For the past twenty years, Monsanto has used its political and financial power to foist a deeply flawed technology on America's farmers, consistently underestimating the real risks of genetic engineering while putting America's farmers, the environment and the public in harm's way simply in the name of profit," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of more than 650,000 farmers and citizens. "As the leading arbiters of justice in the U.S., it behooves the Supreme Court to hear this important case to protect America's farmers from abusive patent infringement lawsuits and invalidate Monsanto's flawed patents as their products have been shown to be damaging to human health and the environment and failed to live up to the marketing hype."

Complete background on the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto lawsuit is available here.

About OSGATA: The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is a not-for-profit agricultural organization comprised of organic farmers, seed growers, seed businesses and supporters. OSGATA is committed to developing, promoting, and protecting organic seed and it's growers in order to ensure the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture. 
# # #

     Below is the documentary "David vs Monsanto" which follows the long battle and eventual victory of farmer Percy Schmeiser over Monsanto.  The documentary reveals the ruthless, merciless methods used byMonsanto to destroy the farmer whose crops were contaminated by neighbouring genetically engineered seeds (Monsanto the Evil Empire).
     Presently if a goose flies over your house and poops out a genetically engineered seed which takes root in your yard you can be sued for patent infringement.

                "Without Seed Freedom there is no Food Freedom"
Vandana Shiva (The Future of Food and Seed)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bayer sues the European Commision for the right to kill Bees

     The European Commission recently made a landmark decision restricting or banning the use of systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides.  This came after years of protests and overwhelming scientific studies supporting the lethal and sublethal effects of systemic pesticides on pollinators.  This week Bayer responded by suing the European Commission for their right to kill bees.  This from "Sum of Us":

"Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world's largest chemical corporations, claim that the ban is "unjustified" and "disproportionate." But clear scientific evidence shows their products are behind the massive bee die-off that puts our entire food chain in peril.

Just last month, 37 million bees were discovered dead on a single Canadian farm. And unless we act now, the bees will keep dying. We have to show Bayer now that we won't tolerate it putting its profits ahead of our planet's health. If this giant corporation manages to bully Europe into submission, it would spell disaster for the bees.

Sign the petition to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their bee-killing lawsuits now.

The dangerous chemical Bayer makes is a neonicotinoid, or neonic. Neonics are soaked into seeds, spreading through the plant and killing insects stopping by for a snack. These pesticides can easily be replaced by other chemicals which don’t have such a devastating effect on the food chain. But companies like Bayer and Syngenta make a fortune from selling neonics -- so they’ll do everything they can to protect their profits.

The EU banned these bee-killers this past May, after a massive public campaign and a clear scientific finding from the European Food Safety Authority that neonics pose huge risks to bee populations. Bayer fought against the ban every step of the way, using tactics taken from Big Tobacco -- pouring millions into lobbying and fake science to stop decision-makers from taking action.

Now, we have to defend this landmark ban for the bees, and our food supply. Sign the petition now to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their aggressive lawsuits!

We have to stand up for the European ban now, from Europe and from around the world. The current ban only lasts for two years before it's up for review, and Bayer is now determined to stop it before it even comes into force in December 2013. If it is allowed to intimidate the European authorities with impunity, then the pressure to overturn the ban will be huge. This will be a massive victory for the poison industry, and a devastating loss for the bees, and all of us. It will make every environmental regulation more difficult, because companies that can't win on the facts can use their enormous profits to fund expensive, baseless lawsuits.

Bayer is an enormous company with a ton of public-facing brands. Neonics are a big part of its bottom line, but it can't afford poor publicity on a global scale. And if word gets out that Bayer is wrecking our ecosystem and threatening a creature responsible for pollinating a third of all our crops, the company will have to back down.

SumOfUs staff and members have literally just gotten of the plane from a convention in Chicago where we took the fight for a ban in the US right to the industry itself -- so we know how important it is to hold the line.

Sign the petition to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their bee-killing lawsuits now. Let's build on this landmark victory and take the bee-killing pesticide ban global."

     Unfortunately North America is far behind Europe and most of the rest of the world in terms of responding to urgent environmental concerns.  This is because the agrochemical corporations control our political system through campaign funding and lobbying and a continuous revolving door of personnel between corporate headquarters and Washington.
     Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada is urging Harper's Conservatives to follow the European Commission’s lead and ban the neonicotinoid pesticides:
     “I believe the precautionary principle should guide our action here. Canada can stand up to the chemical industry. It’s a matter of political will,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
      “Neonicotinoids are another example of the negative long-term consequences of pesticides. Any advantage to individual crops is wiped out by the massive destruction of crop pollinators across the country and the resulting drop in productivity of many of our food crops,” said Kate Storey, Green Party’s Agriculture Critic.  “It would be economically smarter to ban neonicotinoids and put research into organic ways of working with nature,” added Storey (Ban Neonicotinoids in Canada).
     Please help Elizabeth May and the Green Party ban the use of systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides in Canada by signing this petition.

     The effects of the systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides are not exclusive to pollinators as their inherent, long lasting systemic nature makes every part of the plant toxic (including morning dew on the plant); the toxin accumulates in the soil and leaches into the groundwater effecting the entire ecosystem and it's inhabitants (i.e birds ...).  Environment Canada recently did a study on the potential for leaching of neonicotinoid pesticides from agricultural lands into surrounding wetlands.  The results showed staggeringly high accumulations in most surrounding wetlands.  Dr. Jeroen van der Sluijs of Utrecht University stated, "The pollution was so bad that in some places the ditch water could have been used as an effective pesticide".  "This substance should be phased out internationally as soon as possible".  He added that half the 20,000 tonnes of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid produced each year are used to treat fleas and other pests in cattle, dogs and cats and as such are not subject to the EU ban.  "All of this imidacloprid ends up in the surface water".  The scientists found several cases of extreme water pollution with imidacloprid levels 25,000 times the limit.  A powerpoint of the Environment Canada study can be viewed here.


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