Category Archives: Agriculture

Map of the day: Some of what’s at stake in Brazil


While the government of suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had blocked attempts to clear yet more of the Brazilian rain forest, the measure is moving forward under acting President Michel Temer, sponsored by a senator who is also the nation’s leading soybean producer,.

From the Washington Post, a map of what’s already been lost between 1988 and 2013:

BLOG Deforested

Pesticides, monoculture, climate threaten bees


And a threat to bees is a threat to some of the most nutritious foods we consume.

A timely warning from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization:

Bees make a priceless contribution to agriculture and are a bellwether for environmental health, working without pay while both delivering and reflecting biodiversity.

“A world without pollinators would be a world without food diversity – and in the long run, without food security,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said Saturday during a visit to Slovenia that ending at the national beekeepers’ festival.

Slovenia, a promoter of declaring May 20 the World Bee Day, has sought assistance from FAO in this endeavor and has already received its support and that of 53 countries at the last Regional Conference of Europe. The next steps include the technical committees of FAO and the FAO Conference in 2017. It would be one of the first concrete actions after the important agreement on Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change Agreement and  in line to achieve the Goals of Agenda 2030, stated Graziano da Silva.

Honeybees are the most famous of the pollinators, a group of species whose members fly, hop and crawl over flowers to allow plants – including those that account for over a third of global food crop production – to reproduce. Their absence would remove a host of nutritious foods from our diets, including potatoes, onions, strawberries, cauliflower, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, sunflowers, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa, he said.

Yet despite their critical role, we are courting collapse by increasingly exposing bees to ever-more numerous hazards, warned the Director-General.

Threats to bees include land-use change, pesticide use, monoculture agriculture and climate change, which can disrupt flowering seasons.

“Bees are a sign of well-functioning ecosystems,” Graziano da Silva said, adding: “To a great extent the decline of pollinators is also a sign of the disruptions that global changes are causing to ecosystems the world over.”

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day: Winners declared in Iraq war


From Mint Press News:

After Iraq War, Monsanto, Cargill & Dow Chemical Took Over Iraqi Agriculture

According to one environmental activist, under U.S. diplomat Paul Bremer’s orders, ‘Iraqi farmers are not allowed to save seeds, they are not allowed to share seeds … and they are not allowed to replant harvested seeds.’

El Nino brings a massive famine to Africa


The same temperature changes in east/west ocean currents that bring heavy rains to the Western Hemisphere bring drought to Africa and Southern Asia.

And as India swelters under record heat, Africa has been suffering from heat and drought, and with them, crop failures and livestock death on a massive scale.

The end result is famine.

From the Observer:

The scale of the crisis unfolding in 10 or more southern African countries has shocked the United Nations. Lulled into thinking that Ethiopia in 1985 was the last of the large-scale famines affecting many millions, donor countries have been slow to pledge funds or support. More than $650m and 7.9m tonnes of food are needed immediately, says the UN. By Christmas, the situation will have become severe.

Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola and Swaziland have already declared national emergencies or disasters, as have seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Other countries, including Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have also been badly hit. President Robert Mugabe has appealed for $1.5bn to buy food for Zimbabwe and Malawi is expected to declare that more than 8 million people, or half the country, will need food aid by November.

More than 31 million people in the region are said by the UN to need food now, but this number is expected to rise to at least 49 million across almost all of southern Africa by Christmas. With 12 million more hungry people in Ethiopia, 7 million in Yemen, 6 million in Southern Sudan and more in the Central African Republic and Chad, a continent-scale food crisis is unfolding.

“Food security across southern Africa will start deteriorating by July, reaching its peak between December 2016 and April 2017,” says the UN’s office for humanitarian affairs. The regional cereal deficit already stands at 7.9m tonnes and continues to put upward pressure on market prices, which are already showing unprecedented increases, diminishing purchasing power and thereby reducing food access. As food insecurity tightens and water scarcity increases due to the drought, there are early signs of acute malnutrition in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabawe.

More from Der Spiegel:

Meteorologists believe the natural disaster is linked to a climate phenomenon that returns once every two to seven years known as El Niño, or the Christ child, a disruption of the normal sea and air currents that wreaks havoc on global weather patterns. The El Niño experienced in 2015-2016 has been particularly strong.

The German news magazine also published a map of the affected regions:

BLOG Drought

Rallies across the world: March Against Monsanto


Narch agagaist Monstanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

March against Monsanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

Monsanto, the folks who brought you Roundup and all those patented Roundup Ready genetically modified crops they peddle, was the target and marches and rallies in more than 400 cities across the global today by folks angry at the firm’s control of so much of the world’s food supplies.

Big Agra’s been in a state of flux of late, with major mergers in the offing, as BBC News reported Thursday, when Bayer announced it wanted to buy the company:

There has been speculation for some months that Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, could become a target for either Bayer or BASF.

Bayer, which has a market value of about $90bn, is the second-largest producer of crop chemicals after Syngenta.

Monsanto, which has a market capitalisation of $42bn, attempted to buy Swiss rival Syngenta last year.

However, Syngenta ended up accepting a $43bn offer from ChemChina in February, although that deal is still being reviewed by regulators in the US.

Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto is expected to be bigger in value than the ChemChina-Syngenta deal.

More from Reuters:

Deutsche Bank analysts said a deal could shift Bayer’s center of gravity to agriculture, accounting for about 55 percent of core earnings, up from roughly 28 percent last year excluding the Covestro chemicals business Bayer plans to sell.

That would have a negative impact on sentiment among Bayer’s healthcare-focused investor base, the bank said.

Bayer, which has a market value of $90 billion, said the merger would create “a leading integrated agriculture business”, referring to Bayer’s push to seek more synergies from combining the development and sale of seeds and crop protection chemicals.

Most of the major agrichemical companies are aiming to genetically engineer more robust plants and custom-build chemicals to go with them, selling them together to farmers who are struggling to contend with low commodity price.

And, just for the fun of it, some voideos from around the world and an image or two.

First, the march in Saarbrücken, Germany, from Heidi Schmitt:

March against Monsanto, 21.05.2016 in Saarbrücken

On to Paris, via Ruptly TV:

France: Parisians rally against Monsanto

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Paris on Saturday for the ‘March against Monsanto,’ in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation. Protesters held banners reading: “GMO/Pesticides = the next sanitary scandal” and “GMO no thanks.”

The activists are protesting against Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products and the alleged monopoly that Monsanto has in the food supply market.

Saturday’s march will mark the fourth annual ‘March against Monsanto.’ The march is set to take place in over 400 cities in more than 40 countries around the world.

Then off to Innsbruck, Austria with Klaus Schreiner:

2016 Monsanto Marsch Innsbruck

And then back to France and a march in Bordeaux from Gilbert Hanna:

Contre Monsanto and CO à Bordeaux marche internationale

Next, Amsterdam, via kafx:

March against Monsanto

And an image from Basel, Switzerland, via GM Watch:BLOG Monsanto Basel

Then to Toronto, via SupportLocalScene:

March Against Monsanto 2016 at Yonge & Dundas

Program notes:

Yonge and Dundas sees the Millions March Against Monsanto 2016 marching in downtown Toronto, Canada, May 21st 2016.

Next, an image form New York by Alex Beauchamp:

BLOG Monsanto NYC

Then to Japan with Ruptly TV:

Japan: Thousands protest against Monsanto in Tokyo

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Tokyo for the ‘March against Monsanto’ on Saturday, in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation.

Finally, via GM Watch, a scene from China:

BLOG Monsanto Taipei

Lake Mead hits an all-time low, bad news for L.A.


A major source of water for Southern California, Southern Nevada [including Las Vegas], and Arizona is running dry.

From the Palm Spring Desert Sun:

The nation’s largest reservoir has broken a record, declining to the lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s.

Lake Mead reached the new all-time low on Wednesday night, slipping below a previous record set in June 2015.

The downward march of the reservoir near Las Vegas reflects enormous strains on the over-allocated Colorado River. Its flows have decreased during 16 years of drought, and climate change is adding to the stresses on the river.

As the levels of Lake Mead continue to fall, the odds are increasing for the federal government to declare a shortage in 2018, a step that would trigger cutbacks in the amounts flowing from the reservoir to Arizona and Nevada. With that threshold looming, political pressures are building for California, Arizona and Nevada to reach an agreement to share in the cutbacks in order to avert an even more severe shortage.

Lake Mead and the Colorado River are major sources of water for Southern California, especially the farms of the Imperial Valley and the taps of Los Angeles.

And while Northern California’s two largest reservoirs are above seasonal normal levels and a third is at its normal, Central and Southern California reservoirs are all below normal levels.

From the California Department of Water Redsources:

BLOG Res

India hits record high temp; 2016 to set record


From the India Meteorological Department, a map of weather conditions, with residents of the regions marked in red urged to take immediate action to protect themselves from the killer heat.

From the India Meteorological Department, a map of weather conditions, with residents of the regions marked in red urged to take immediate action to protect themselves from the killer heat.

India is suffering from a devastating heat wave that is destroying lives and crops and depleting the nation’s water supplies.

And today, in a year which has seen the hottest April in recorded history, India set a new temperature record.

From USA Today:

India sweltered to a scorching 123.8 degrees Thursday, setting a new all-time high that breaks a 60-year-old record, the India Meteorological Department said.

Officials recorded the blistering temperature in Phalodi in Rajasthan state in the northwestern part of the country. It bests a record most recently set in 1956 of 123.1 degrees in the city of Alwar, also in Rajasthan. That temperature was also recorded May 25, 1886 in Pachpadra in the same state.

The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth is 134 degrees in Death Valley, Calif., on July 10, 1913.

More on the impacts of the devastating Indian heat wave from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

The prolonged heat wave this year has already killed hundreds and destroyed crops in more than 13 states, impacting hundreds of millions of Indians.

Hundreds of farmers are reported to have killed themselves across the country and tens of thousands of small farmers have been forced to abandon their farmland and live in squalor in urban slums in order to earn a living.

Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the western states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and overall officials say that groundwater reservoirs are severely depleted.

In some areas, the situation is so bad the government has sent in water by train for emergency relief.

And some more context, yet more frightening, from Bloomberg:

The number of climate records broken in the last few years is stunning. But here’s a new measure of misery: Not only did we just experience the hottest April in 137 years of record keeping, but it was the 12th consecutive month to set a new record.

It’s been relentless. May 2015 was the hottest May in records dating back to 1880. That was followed by the hottest June. Then came a record July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March—and, we learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday—the hottest April. In an age of rising temperatures, monthly heat records have become all too common. Still, a string of 12 of them is without precedent.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the magnitude of the new records. The extremes of recent months are such that we’re only four months into 2016 and already there’s a greater than 99 percent likelihood that this year will be the hottest on record, according to Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

If NASA’s Schmidt is right, 2016 will be the third consecutive year to set a new global heat record—the first time that’s ever happened. So far, 15 of the hottest 16 years ever measured have come in the 21st century.

But relax, India. Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, the chair of the Senate Environment Committee who says the Bible proves human-caused climate change isn’t real, has some help to throw your way:

BLOG Inhofe