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Food & agriculture - Mar 5

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Australian PM: Farmers to adapt for climate change

Matthew Franklin, The Australian
KEVIN Rudd has warned farmers they should not expect taxpayer-funded drought relief unless they agree to change their farming practices to make themselves more resilient on climate change.

And Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has flagged greater support for research on genetically modified foods to help food exporters deal with climate change and boost overseas competitiveness.

Speaking to an Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics conference in Canberra yesterday, the Prime Minister said the Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance scheme was out of date.

"The policy is based on a model of a one-in-25-year drought and assumes rainfall will return to past seasonal conditions and does not factor in climate change," he said. "The Government wants to ensure ... that any assistance provided improves the resilience of farmers and farm businesses for the future."
(4 March 2008)

USA Grain Exports - Where to, how much?

Doug Low, The Oil Drum: Europe
This post looks at the role the USA plays in global grain (wheat, corn, sorghum) and soybean (soya bean) trade, since the USA is to a large extent the world's breadbasket and there are concerns over this role in the light of the current corn-to-ethanol expansion. The article begins by looking, very briefly, at how similar concerns were raised about 20 years ago, due to the potential effects of global warming on US grain production.

In 1990, Martin Parry published the book Climate Change and World Agriculture. Table 1.2 from the book gives an excellent summary of the major role the USA played in cereal exports in 1988:
(4 March 2008)
Doug Low served as editor of the ODAC Newsletter.

In Highland Peru, a Culture Confronts Blight
(text and audio)
Joanne Silberner, All Things Considered, NPR
In remote farms in the Andes Mountains, elevated thousands of feet above sea level, climate change is threatening a crop that is part of the region's identity: the potato. Farmers here say warmer temperatures are opening the door to the disease that caused the Irish potato famine. And unusual cold snaps during the growing season are also causing problems. The disease could be particularly devastating to Peru, because in these villages the potato is more than just a food - it's a culture.
(3 March 2008)

NGOs Wary of Doomsday Seed Vault

Keya Acharya, IPS News
Agricultural non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in India and elsewhere are criticising the newly-opened Global Seed Vault (GSV) at Svalbard in Norway as fundamentally unjust in its objectives.

The Barcelona-based agriculture lobby, GRAIN, with branches in major developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, says a serious deficiency of the seed vault is that it deals basically with state and private-body depositors to the bank, thereby excluding the rights of poor farmers who cannot access these seeds.

GRAIN says the GSV’s ex-situ storage system takes unique plant varieties away from farming communities that originally created, selected, protected and shared the seeds. Farmers, it holds, do not know how to access the scientific and institutional framework involved in setting up the system and are excluded.
(4 March 2008)

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