Food and Biodiversity

The growth of the PGS movement over the last few years reflects the need to include small-holder farmers in the Organic Movement. In developing countries especially, most third party certified farms rely on distant export markets to cover the cost of certification, so products from those farms are not available to local consumers. By bringing more farmers into a system of committed organic production, and linking that to direct and local sales, PGS programs offer much wider access of organic products to local consumers.

 

Because PGS programs directly link up consumers and farmers they may also help to provide organic food at a lower cost to poor consumers. By selling directly to the consumer, farmers realize a higher price for their products than when they were sold to distributors while consumers pay less than when they purchased conventional bananas from retail shops.

 

By meeting the needs of small-holder farmers and local and low-income consumers, PGS programs are poised to grow even more quickly as awareness of Organic continues to grow globally. In turn, PGS programs have become integral to the future growth of the Organic movement. Programs such as PGS increase the awareness and availability of organic products of those who currently cannot afford to grow or consume such products.

The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity

It is urgent to take immediate action to preserve biodiversity. Nearly half of the world’s forests and around one-third of its species have been lost in the past three decades. We especially need to protect our forests, which host more than 70% of terrestrial biodiversity.

The 193 countries known as Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity so far failed to significantly reduce the rate at which biodiversity is being lost, despite their 2003 pledge to reduce these rates by 2010.

Stopping destructive logging is particularly urgent as this outrageous practice is killing not only biodiversity but also livelihoods. One of the solutions promoted Friends of the Earth is known as community forest management. It is much more than an alternative to destructive logging: it ensures the conservation of biodiversity but also provides sustainable livelihoods for forest-dependent people

As biodiversity disappears, people around the world are becoming more vulnerable to food shortages, health threats and loss of livelihoods.

1.6 billion people rely on forests, including 60 million indigenous people who are entirely dependent upon forests for their livelihoods, food, medicines and building materials.

Another major threat to biodiversity is posed by monoculture tree plantations. They have grave social and environmental impacts and must be stopped. Plantations are not forests; they are just the same as deserts, only green.

The current neoliberal economic system, which promotes privatization, exports and trade liberalization, is accelerating the decline of our planet’s biodiversity.

Green Idea of the week 87: Find out more – Visit http://www.cbd.int/2010/ for more information about the International Year of Biodiversity
The new report, jointly produced by La Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International and Combat Monsanto, provides snapshots of frontline struggles against Monsanto and other agrochemical corporations pushing genetically modified (GM) crops onto farmers and into the environment.

 

The testimonies and analysis contained in this report aim to inspire and unite consumers, activists and communities against the abuses carried out by Monsanto and other biotech corporations around the world.

 

The majority of Europe’s public remains opposed to GM food production and several countries in Europe now have national bans on Monsanto’s MON810 maize and BASF’s Amflora potatoes, despite the strong pressure of the biotech industry and of the European Commission to lift those moratoriums.

 

The use of GM crops destroys essential crop diversity, homogenises food, and eradicates associated local knowledge and culture. In this and other ways social inequality, poverty and the exploitation of natural resources are able to thrive within the global food system, which focuses on profit generation rather than sustainable food production and food sovereignty.

 

The combined area of all GM crops covers just 3% of agricultural land worldwide. 97% of agricultural land around the world remains GM-free. GM crop cultivation is predominately limited to a few countries: 90% of GM crops are grown in the US, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada. Almost 60% of GM crop field trials are carried out in the US.

 

The large majority of GM crops are grown for animal feed or agrofuels destined for rich nations rather than food for the poor and hungry.

 

Read the report - http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2012/combatting-monsanto/

Food prices have reached record highs over the last year, with prices of basic crops such as corn and rice hitting record highs. There have been food riots in countries across the world where food prices have hit the poor and vulnerable most hard and The World Bank is now warning us that the rising cost of food could lead to political destabilisation in over thirty countries worldwide.

 

The sudden price hikes, which follow many years of falling prices for agricultural produce, are a result of rising demand combined with supply shortages. US and European demand for crops for biofuels is competing with the demand for animal feed crops to produce meat for western consumption and increasing demand in emerging economies. Poor harvests in countries hit by drought have also affected supplies, while rising oil prices have pushed up fertiliser and transport costs.

 

Locally we are already feeling the pinch, as prices of certain food stuffs have skyrocketed and are no longer affordable to the poorer strata of our society. In poorer countries this is resulting in people not being able to feed themselves, hence starvation.

 

It is also worrying to note that in Malta we import approximately 80% of our food requirements. No wonder that recent local statistics show that the price of fresh agricultural produce has shot up by 27.2% in the past year.

 

The construction boom that we have witnessed over the past decades has drastically reduced our agricultural land and hence our food producing capacity. The ever decreasing price of agricultural produce ate away the farmer’s profit margins to an extent that many found it more profiting to sell their land for development and find work in the services sector. This does not imply that Malta is capable of ever becoming self sufficient in producing its own food requirements, but a lot more can be done to protect our remaining agricultural land and use it in a more sustainable way.

 

Friends of the Earth believes that the global nature of our food economy is at the heart of the problem. Countries around the world have been encouraged to rely on export-led production largely to feed high levels of consumption in the industrialised countries at the expense of local food sufficiency, leaving them vulnerable to sudden changes in price. As long as the prices were low, this trend was very convenient for Maltese consumers as we were importing agricultural produce for cheap.

 

Now that the global scenario is changing we need to produce enough affordable and nutritious food by ensuring a fair deal for farmers meeting local and regional needs, whilst also investing in research into farming methods which can protect ecosystems and help tackle climate change.

 

Some suggest that the solution to the current food crisis is to extend global markets, introduce more intensive agricultural methods and more genetically-modified crops. Friends of the Earth believes that these are false solutions that will deepen the model of dependence for developing countries and small farmers, and continue our dependence on high energy use, high water use and agrochemicals.

 

Food and Climate Change

Agriculture is in the front-line when it comes to feeling the effects of climate change. National and international governments must urgently implement measures to tackle climate change. In Malta Friends of the Earth is lobbying for the enactment of a National Climate Change Legislation that enforces a net decrease of 10% below 1990 levels.

 

Farmers in the developing world are already among those feeling the harshest impacts of climate change. Droughts in parts of East Africa have had devastating effects on local food suppliers. Farmers in the world’s driest regions face problems from increased desertification and soil erosion. This has an impact on our local immigration challenge as environmental migrants are increasingly looking towards Europe as the only way of escaping certain death.

 

Special farming techniques such as Organic and other modern sustainable farming methods have proven benefits in withstanding drought and flooding, but financial support and technical assistance from the developed world is desperately needed.

 

FoE Malta believes the impact of meat, dairy and other livestock products on land use must be urgently addressed. Intensive meat production is highly inefficient. For each kilo of beef, 5kg of high protein feedstuff is needed. Up to ninety percent of all agricultural crops are being used for animal feed. Europe imports every year 55 million tons of feedstuffs from the US, Brazil and other Southern countries, taking up land which could be used more efficiently to produce much needed food for human consumption.

 

At the same time, if we are to assess the true environmental and social damage of farming practices, these costs must be reflected in prices. The Government must begin the process of assessing the true cost of products. It must also be active at a European level where efforts to tackle this are slow and weighed down by vested interests.

 

We produce more than enough food to feed the world - the problem is ensuring a fair distribution of food supplies to allow enough nutritional food for everyone, without destroying the planet’s natural resources.

 

This article was published in the August 2008 edition of the Malta Economic Update.

 

Feature by Adrian Drago

‘We are fighting a war against fish. And we are winning!……. People say where are the fish gone? Where are they? We have eaten them!’ These are some of the grim comments made in the film ‘The End of the Line’ directed by Rupert Murray, narrating the sad reality of an ocean that will soon be depleted of fish due to overfishing and bad fishing practices, and putting the emphasis on a misinformed society that hardly reacts to this threatening situation.

The End of The Line is the winner of the One World Media Environment Award 2010, and is the world’s first major documentary about marine environmental devastation caused by the irresponsible actions of mankind. The film was screened on occasion of World Oceans Day on 8th June at the Elysium Visitor’s Centre at Gaia Foundation (Ghajn Tuffieha) in an event organized by Nature Trust (Malta) and Friends of the Earth Malta in collaboration with the Gaia Foundation.
fish
? Screenshot from the film highlighting the pile of devastation awaiting to be consumed at a fish market

A good number of followers from the two NGOs attended and shared the discussion on the main issues raised by the film. Scientists predict that if we continue fishing as we are now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048. Malta is mentioned in the film as the location of excellence in bluefin tuna catches. The film points the responsibility upon consumers who continue to buy and eat endangered fish, upon politicians that are reluctant to address the warnings of scientists, upon fishermen who fish illegally and irresponsibly surpass allowed catch quotas and, upon the global fishing industry that shall crumble upon its own greed and disrespect to life in the oceans.

The film proposes simple and doable solutions: fishing must be controlled by reducing the number of fishing capacity across the world; large areas of the ocean need to be protected through a larger network of marine reserves; consumers must be educated and provided with information so that they can choose to buy and consume fish from independently certified sustainable fisheries.

The evening was opened by short descriptions of current activities by Nature Trust (Malta) and Friends of the Earth Malta. Greg Nowell from Sharklab (Malta) gave a general overview on research of Mediterranean sharks and briefed the audience about a detailed marine survey at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay to be conducted in collaboration with the GAIA Foundation over 3 consecutive weekends to act as a snapshot of life within the bay.
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