Article

'Climate-Smart Agriculture' - preparing for a corporate soil and climate-grab in Paris?

November 2015

Helena Paul

This article gives a brief history of ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’, and shows how currently the term can equally be applied to both industrial monocultures and agroecology. The level of corporate interest is high, including Monsanto, Walmart, Danone, and the big fertiliser companies. France, a keen member of the Global Alliance for ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (GACSA), and the host for December 2015 climate conference in Paris (COP21), has developed a proposal that risks defining the soil as a giant carbon sink to offset continued emissions.
Read the full article at The Ecologist

Dr Frances Kelsey: thalidomide and the precautionary principle

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August 2015

Helena Paul & Philip Bereano

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr Frances Kelsey, write Helena Paul & Philip Bereano. In 1960, she defied her bosses at the FDA to prevent the licensing of thalidomide in the USA, saving thousands from being born with serious deformities. Her tough approach to minimising the risk from new drugs contains lessons we ignore at our peril.

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Coming to your table?

GMO crops resistant to 'war herbicide' 2,4D

May 2014

Helena Paul

The US looks set to approve GM crops that resist the 'Agent Orange' pesticide 2,4-D as well as glyphosate, writes Helena Paul. If it does, the toxic chemical - created in WW2 to destroy enemy food supplies - will soon end up in animal feeds, and the food we eat.

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GM crops are driving genocide and ecocide - keep them out of the EU!

February 2014

Helena Paul

The unfolding human and ecological disaster of GM agriculture in the Americas must send the EU a powerful message, writes Helena Paul. We don't want it here, and we should stop buying the products of GM-driven genocide and ecocide abroad.

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Business and Biodiversity: A Licence to Operate

December 2012

Helena Paul

Business wants access to resources, capital and markets, and a seat at the global policy development table in order ensure it has a licence to operate. At a time of growing concern about pressure on natural resources and the need for sustainability, business also has to talk about biodiversity and sustainable development as a means to secure its business targets. But its motives, influence and outcomes in terms of biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefits need to be assessed. Before COP12, steps should be taken to reduce the direct and indirect influence of business on biodiversity decisions in order to assert the primacy of biodiversity as part of our global commons, to be governed by the CBD, not the corporate sector.
At COP 11, business was omnipresent. There were more than 70 events described as ‘business-related’ around COP11 in Hyderabad. It is worth looking a little more closely at the groupings involved. For example, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), originally commissioned by the G8 +5 was linked to several of them. The TEEB for Business Coalition has powerful founder members including a UK accountancy institute, large conservation organisations and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which was involved in 3 side events. This is a very large group whose emergence dates back to the Earth Summit of 1992. Top business clusters within WBCSD include 23 utilities and power companies, 17 oil and gas, 17 engineering, 17 chemical companies, 13 consumer goods, 13 cement, 12 mining and 11 tyre companies.

Canada in violation of international obligations to the CBD…

Ocean-fertilisation & Geoengineeiring scheme

October 2012

Helena Paul

While Parties at COP11 were considering Climate-Related Geoengineering (Agenda item 11.2), evidence was provided that Canada had broken the geoengineering moratorium. It had failed to prevent a geoengineering scheme from being carried out in the Pacific ocean, close to the Canadian west coast. The scheme involved dumping around one hundred tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean in July 2012. This created a plankton bloom that spread across some 10,000 square km of ocean. It was so large that it attracted the attention of ocean researchers.
The scheme has also created a media bloom that is spreading around the planet, initiated by the UK Guardian on Monday 15th October 2012. The one place where it does not seem so far to have penetrated is COP11 - and the CBD is where the geoengineering and ocean fertilisation moratoria were born.
There are many facets to this story. It turns out that one of the people behind the scheme is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc. This company formerly sought to carry out commercial dumping projects near the Galapagos and Canary Islands, and got into trouble with the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments, which honoured the moratorium and banned the experiments.
The initiator of the Canadian scheme apparently intended that it should yield lucrative carbon credits, something expressly prohibited under the moratorium (Decision IX/16, Section C, para 4). Indigenous People of the islands of Haida Gwaii were persuaded to set up the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation and to channel their own funds into a 'salmon enhancement project', which they were persuaded would revive their salmon catch and enhance the local ocean ecosystem.

Biotech Companies COMPACTing their responsibilties

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October 2012

Antje Lorch

In May 2008, on the eve of MOP4 in Bonn, six major biotech companies suddenly presented their "Compact" in an effort to undermine the then still ongoing negotiations about Liability and Redress. The Parties decided against it, continued negotiating and finally - at MOP5 in Nagoya - adopted the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress.
Unfortunately that doesn't mean that we have seen the end of the Compact. Four years later and the same six companies (Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Dow Agro Sciences, Syngenta, BASF and Bayer CropScience) together with the Global Industry Coalition (GCI) are still lobbying for it - but now they claim that they never wanted to stand in the way of the Supplementary Protocol, that they just want to provide countries with different options.
The text of the Compact has been amended since its first version, but the basic issues are still the same as they were at their presentations four and two years ago.

Narrow definition of damage

The Compact does not in any way address traditional damage, i.e. damage to property, health and life, other than damage to biological diversity as defined in the Compact. From this, it follows that a major portion of potential damage, such as damage to farmers and their livelihoods and health, will not be covered. (see D. Currie 2010, ECO 34(2)) Only significant damage to biodiversity going to be covered. What does this mean?
The Compact does not cover contamination, nor damages of which the Compact Tribunal assumes that they will heal by themselves; nor possible adverse effects addressed in the official risk assessment of the Competent Authority; nor on species for which solid baseline with all its natural variations has not been established (Compact, Art. 8).

Biofuels: how many are invasive alien species?

May 2012

Helena Paul

It was interesting to hear from Brazil this evening that the biofuels text was unbalanced and too negative about biofuels and that Jatropha, for example, is good for climate mitigation. It was also instructive to learn that there are no invasive alien species issues around biofuels. Considering that there a lot of scientific evidence points to some biofuels also being invasive species, it really made one wonder if some delegates realise that SBSTTA is actually a scientific body. Just some of the invasive alien species considered for biofuel include perennial grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), miscanthus (Miscanthus spp.), and giant reed (Arundo donax). Then there are trees such from the poplar family (Populus spp.), willows (Salix spp.) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp). In addition we have Jatropha (Jatropha curcas), African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), and moringa (Moringa oleifera). This is only a very short extract from a long list. A number of these species have already demonstrated their invasiveness in different regions. Some readily create an invasive monoculture that wipes out biodiversity. Others combine to create alien landscapes that superficially resemble simplified ecosystems.

We also heard from NGO Searice of the Philippines that algae ‘without a name’, destined for biofuel production, were going to be introduced in a marine sanctuary – an area of one million hectares close to the shore, a region regularly visited by dolphins and whales. The fact that these algae were apparently nameless caused Searice to wonder if they were actually a product of synthetic biology. Local communities successfully resisted the project, using the precautionary principle. However, these algae were also destined for release in other areas and we do not know what happened there.

Biodiversity should not be expected to earn its living in the market

May 2012

Helena Paul

On May 2nd 2012 a paper appeared in Nature entitled: A global synthesis reveals biodiversity
loss as a major driver of ecosystem change. It analyses existing data to show that biodiversity loss and extinctions are altering processes fundamental to ecosystem functioning and resilience, with major implications for us all. This is not a new message, but one that has constantly been ignored.

Real problems, false solutions

October 2009

Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Biofuelwatch, EcoNexus, NOAH & FoE Denmark

Three activities – no-till agriculture, biochar and more intensified livestock farming with reduced methane emissions – are likely to benefit from increased funding because of their alleged role in combating global warming. What is the evidence that these activities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions? What will happen to the world’s biodiversity and the global climate if these sectors are hugely expanded? And who is likely to benefit?

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