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The Seed Emergency: The Threat to Food and Democracy

Vandana Shiva, Al Jazeera English
Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis – and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.

New Delhi, India – The seed is the first link in the food chain – and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty – and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty. In India, 95 per cent of cotton seeds are reportedly controlled by Monsanto, a US biotechnology corporation (EPA)

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved – and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.
(6 February 2012)

Farmers Can Grow Food for All, as Long as Ecosystems Hold

Rudy Ruitenberg and Tom Randall , Bloomberg
… The concept of “peak food,” that the production will reach an apex that can’t be topped, is more a function of population than of agricultural limits. The world should be able to produce enough food to feed everyone when the human numbers peak late this century, says José Graziano da Silva, director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, the strains on the global pantry are real. While the Earth has plenty of natural inputs — land, nutrients and water — humans face a growing challenge to manage them.

… “We need to improve production,” Graziano da Silva said. “The problem is how to do that without destroying the natural reserves, as we are doing now, wasting water, erosion of soils, destroying forests.”

For the last five years, assurances by agriculture specialists that food production will hold up were overshadowed by surging food bills, price swings and shortages, caused mostly by drought and flooding, that prompted social unrest. During the food price spike in 2007-2008, more than 60 food riots occurred from Haiti to Egypt. Anger over food prices fueled the Tunisian unrest that toppled dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
(6 February 2012)
This article and the following one are part of a new Sustainability section in Bloomberg’s offerings. Good for you, Bloomberg!

Peak Water: The Rise and Fall of Cheap, Clean H2O

Peter S. Green, Bloomberg
The Earth’s surface is mostly water, yet across increasingly large swaths of the planet, H2O reservoirs are drying up. This isn’t a metaphor, and it’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact that’s changing the destinies of companies and nations.

Three of the world’s greatest rivers, the Colorado in the U.S., the Nile in Egypt and the Yellow River in China, have been so depleted by cities, farms, factories and dams along their banks that they often no longer reach the sea. Growth in the desert city of Las Vegas, which depends on Colorado River water contained by the Hoover Dam, has been stunted not only by a spectacular real estate crash, but by a 46 percent drop in the amount of water in Lake Mead, behind the dam. Simply put, there’s no more water to be taken.
(6 February 2012)