65.000 person opposition against Syngenta patent on tomatoes

65.000 x opposition against Syngenta patent on tomatoes

All-time record high for mass opposition filed at the European Patent Office

12 May 2016 / A mass opposition will today be filed against a patent on tomatoes held by the Swiss company Syngenta. 65.000 individuals from 59 countries and 32 organisations are supporting the opposition. Never before have so many people been involved in an opposition at the European Patent Office (EPO). They are all opposing the Syngenta patent, which claims tomato seeds, plants and fruit as an invention, but which actually originate from crossings with tomato plants discovered in Peru and Chile. 

“This is an all-time record number of opponents involved in a case at the European Patent Office. The huge support for this opposition will send a very strong signal to European politicians to take much stronger action against patents on plants and animals,” Iga Niznik says for Arche Noah in Austria, who will be a member of the delegation filing the opposition today.

“Our oppositions shows that European citizens no longer want to let the big corporations to take control of our food production through patent rights. We have to stop these patents now,” says Jörg Rohwedder from the European campaign network WeMove.

In 2015, the European Patent Office (EPO) granted patent EP 1515600 to Syngenta, which claims tomatoes with a high content of so-called flavonols. These compounds are supposedly beneficial to health. The patent covers the plants, the seeds and the fruits. This so-called “invention”, however, is simply a product of crossing tomatoes originally from Peru and Chile with varieties currently grown in the industrialised countries. European patent law is meant to prohibit patents on plant varieties and on conventional breeding. For this reason, the opponents want the patent to be revoked completely. All in all, around 1400 patent applications on conventional breeding have been filed at the EPO so far, and around 180 patents have already been granted.

“Such patents are endangering the future of conventional plant breeding,” says Ulrike Behrendt, a professional tomato breeder, “The patent does not meet the requirements to claim an invention, but simply describes existing characteristics of plants. Future plant breeding and plant breeders will be negatively affected by such patent monopolies. The financial risks and legal uncertainties can negatively impact future innovation in plant breeding, especially for small and medium plant breeders.”

Development organisations have also been warning about the consequences of patents on plants and animals. “This patent constitutes hidden biopiracy,” says François Meienberg for Bern Declaration, “The tomatoes were originally discovered in Peru and Chile, before seed samples were taken to the US and conserved. From there Syngenta had access to the seeds and then claimed further breeding as its ‘invention’. The countries of origin are basically being robbed of their biological treasures.”

Members of the European Patent Organisation refused to agree to a meeting with the opponents as requested. Today, the Committee on Patent Law is also holding a meeting at the EPO. This Committee includes delegates from member states of the European Patent Organisation. At the meeting, the Committee will discuss the implementation of current prohibitions in patent law, which exclude patents on plant and animal varieties and conventional breeding. Currently, these prohibitions are applied by the EPO in a way that renders them ineffective. The organisations behind the mass opposition are demanding that the member states of the European Patent Organisation now take decisive action to stop further patents on plants and animals. The Administrative Council, which can make decisions on rules of implementation of the prohibitions will have its next meeting at the end of June.

“We will continue to fight seed monopolists and our resistance is growing. Nobody should be allowed to claim living beings as their invention,” says Ruth Tippe, who is closely monitoring patents on plants and animals for No Patents on Life!

The opponents include the following organisations: Arche Noah (AU), Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) (DE), Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Umweltbeauftragten der Gliedkirchen in der EKD (AGU) (DE), Associacio de varietas locals de les illes Baleares (ES), Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall (DE), BioForum Vlaanderen (NL), Brot für die Welt (DE), Bionext (NL), Bund Naturschutz in Bayern (DE), Campact (DE), Ecologistas en Acción (ES), Ecologistas en Acción – Palencia (ES), Confederation Paysanne (FR), Erklärung von Bern (CH), Evangelischer Dienst auf dem Lande (De), Federation Nationale de l´ Agriculture Biologique (FNAB) (FR), GAIA – Environmental Action and Intervention Group (PT), Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (DE), IG Nachbau (DE), Katholische Landvolkbewegung Freiburg (DE), Kultursaat e.V. (DE), No Patents on Life! (DE), No Patents on Seeds! (EU), ProSpecie Rara (CH), Red Andaluza de Semillas “Cultivando Biodiversidad” (ES), Red Canaria De Semillas (ES), Red de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando” (ES), Reseau Semences Paysannes (FR), SWISSAID (CH), Utviklingsfondet (NO), WeMove (EU), Zentrum Gesellschaftliche Verantwortung der EKHN (DE), Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft (DE).

Contacts and informations:

Iga Niznik, Arche Noah, +43 650 999 13 05iga.niznik@arche-noah.at
Jörg Rohwedder, WeMoveTel +49 178 4078433joerg@wemove.eu
Ulrike Behrendt, Kultursaat: + 49 1786358188 ulrikebehrendt@freenet.de
François Meienberg, Berne Declaration: +41 (0)44 277 70 04food@evb.ch
Ruth Tippe, No Patents on Life!: + 49 (0) 173 1543409rtippe@keinpatent.de

The patent
The opposition

International Day of Forests and Water

On the March 21st, International Day of Forests, FAO HQ will host a special celebration in recognition of ‘Forests and Water’. During the event the Land and Water Division will present ‘Forests and Water in Practice’ with examples of watershed management dealing with changes in rural production processes in a framework of market-driven agricultural development.

Read more >>
Watch the webcast LIVE: Monday 21 March 2016 – 12PM CET >>

 

LAC Countries Take Action Towards Ending Hunger by 2025

3 March 2016: The 34th Session of the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) adopted a number of measures to achieve the region's goal to eradicate hunger by 2025, five years ahead of the deadline agreed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Goal 2 is End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, and the Goal's first target calls to, “by 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.”

The LAC conference focused on three priorities: consolidating regional efforts towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition; promoting family farming, inclusive food systems and sustainable rural development; and the sustainable use of natural resources in the context of adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management.


In his address to the Conference, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva commended the region's advances in combating hunger, and said LAC countries have an opportunity to be the first region to achieve SDG 2. He said FAO will continue supporting key activities such as the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean initiative, and the Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).


Conference delegates decided to develop a priority regional initiative on the sustainable use of natural resources in the context of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, which will focus on climate change adaptation in Latin America's Dry Corridor, a region experiencing more frequent and erratic droughts caused by climate change. Other outcomes include: agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to support implementation of the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), which took place in 2014; agreement with Consumers International on strengthening action to reduce obesity in the region; and a new initiative to support family agriculture, inclusive food systems and sustainable rural development.


The FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean takes place every two years to coordinate efforts in eradicating hunger and establishing FAO's regional priorities. The 34th session took place from 29 February to 3 March 2016, in Mexico City, Mexico. [FAO Press Release, 25 Feb] [FAO Press Release, 1 Mar] [FAO Press Release, 3 Mar] [Conference Website] [Video Coverage (in Spanish)] [Hunger Free LAC Initiative] [CELAC Plan for Food and Nutrition Security and Eradication of Hunger 2025] [IISD RS Story on 2016 CELAC Summit]



read more: http://larc.iisd.org/news/lac-countries-take-action-towards-ending-hunger-by-2025/


 

Permaculture Design for International Development

Here is the announcement for Quail Springs permaculture design certification (PDC). course for International Development at Quail Springs this May.

We just heard there is a chance that Steve Gliessman, the grandfather of Agroecology, may be able to teach. We will get confirmation in April as to whether he will be able teach here this year.

www.quailsprings.org

Permaculture Design Course for International Development

Quail Springs Permaculture

Southern California, USA

May 9-22, 2016

For More Information

TEDx University College of the Cayman Islands

Did you get a chance to see Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, etc.) doing her TED talk on Monday evening? If not, you can catch her online at:http://www.ted.com/talks/shonda_rhimes_my_year_of_saying_yes_to_everything

Her talk entitled “My year of saying yes to everything” was absolutely inspiring.

But that’s what TED is about, as you already know if you were one of the 124 people who registered for this past Tuesday’s simulcast at UCCI of the big TED 2016 event in Vancouver, Canada.

However, nothing beats the thrill of seeing live speakers, engaging with them face-to-face, and discussing those great ideas with other TED event attendees.

Of course, the cheapest admission ticket for TED 2016 in Vancouver was US$8500. (Not an admission price that just anyone can afford in these challenging economic times.)

So, keep in mind that just next month, on March 19th, you can experience the same excitement of live speakers and great ideas at TEDxUCCI 2016. The theme this year is FutureVision…and it will undoubtedly be the most insightful TEDx ever for investigating the many pressing issues facing Cayman and the world.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., you’ll hear great talks on topics including conservation, energy use and production, the ocean’s potential, heath, technical literacy, economic and social sustainability, creative professions, and dealing effectively with today’s complex world. There will also be a new production by the UCCI theatre arts students and great food prepared by UCCI’s Hospitality students.

Nick Robson of the Cayman Institute shall be presenting a talk entitled Predicting The Future. Come out and be entertained and hopefully learn a thing or two.

Early Bird 2-for-1: Bring a Friend for Free!

Through the end of this week, two registrants can pay just one admission fee to attend TEDxUCCI 2016. Both people must register for the TEDxUCCI 2016 event online atwww.TEDxUCCI.ky and then both registration confirmations can be taken to the UCCI campus within 10 working days for payment. As long as both registrations were made before February 21st, only one admission fee will be charged.

Admission costs $25 for non-students and $10 for students. But this week’s 2-for-1 special can provide as much as a 50% savings for TEDx-enthusiasts on a budget. TEDxUCCI 2016 is hosted by UCCI and generously sponsored by the Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth & Sports and Foster’s Food Fair.

To register or for more information, go to www.TEDxUCCI.ky or contact info@TEDxUCCI.ky

 

The Great Change: Taking Our Carrots to Paris

The Great Change: Taking Our Carrots to Paris:

“Leave the sticks to others. We are carrot people.” If we had one do-over for our presentation at the Paris COP21 Climate Su…

The Great Change: Taking our carrots to Paris. By Albert Bates

If we had one do-over for our presentation at the Paris COP21 Climate Summit, it would have been to bring along a voice recorder so we could have a better recollection of our talk. Caught up in the moment, trying to make non-functioning audio, video and skype connections work, and quickly, the idea of recording slipped by. We have only what we can pull from our feeble memory, so here we go.

Than it was our turn to take to the microphone and give a rousing close about the weaknesses of the proposed treaty, the cost of 20-years delay, and the need now to go beyond zero and take more carbon from the atmosphere than is being emitted. “Emissions reductions will not save us now,” we said, “but photosynthesis can.” We pointed to the sources and sinks, saying the atmosphere was passing its pollutants and heat to the oceans but the oceans were already overwhelmed. Only vegetation and soil remained as viable sinks. As climate warms further, as it must, they too will be stressed and absorption will diminish. Time is of the essence. We showed our slide from Exxon's recent report saying that the world will still be 85% dependent on fossil fuels in 2040. They base their conclusion on images such as this one, and assume that everyone would just as soon exchange the bullocks and handmade plow for a large horsepower tractor.

Actually, that method of plowing is obsolete. It releases gigatons of greenhouse gases from the very place where we can still safely store them — in the soil. That style is being replaced with a suite of tools that produce more food per land area and net sequester more carbon every year, build soil, store water, and increase the resiliency of land to withstand storms, floods and droughts. Our tools include no-till organic farming, agroforestry, aquaponics, keyline design, holistic management, remineralization, biochar from biomass energy production, and permaculture. According to recent report by the UN Commissioner on Human Rights, “ecoagriculture” is the ONLY way we are going to feed the population of the world by 2040. Then we need to go beyond that and perform what Mark Shepard calls “restoration agriculture,” building back the web of life and returning us to a garden planet. Click on the link below for the complete blog.

http://peaksurfer.blogspot.com/2015/12/taking-our-carrots-to-paris.html

 

 

The Economics of Happiness

Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction; financial instability and unemployment.

There are personal costs too. For the majority of people on the planet life is becoming increasingly stressful. We have less time for friends and family and we face mounting pressures at work.

The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance—and, far from the old institutions of power, they're starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm — an economics of localization.

We hear from a chorus of voices from six continents including Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Michael Shuman, Juliet Schor, Zac Goldsmith and Samdhong Rinpoche – the Prime Minister of Tibet's government in exile. They tell us that climate change and peak oil give us little choice: we need to localize, to bring the economy home. The good news is that as we move in this direction we will begin not only to heal the earth but also to restore our own sense of well-being. The Economics of Happiness restores our faith in humanity and challenges us to believe that it is possible to build a better world.

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the_economics_of_happiness/

 

New NASA data show how the world is running out of water

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.

Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end

The aquifers under the most stress are in poor, densely populated regions, such as northwest India, Pakistan and North Africa, where alternatives are limited and water shortages could quickly lead to instability.

The researchers used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater aquifers. The satellites detected subtle changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, noting where the heavier weight of water exerted a greater pull on the orbiting spacecraft. Slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013.

“This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the studies.

But the NASA satellites could not measure the total capacity of the aquifers. The size of these tucked-away water supplies remains something of a mystery. Still, the satellite data indicated that some aquifers may be much smaller than previously believed, and most estimates of aquifer reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the research.

Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed.

“The water table is dropping all over the world,” Famiglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”

The health of the world’s aquifers varied widely, mostly dependent on how they were used. In Australia, for example, the Canning Basin in the country’s western end had the third-highest rate of depletion in the world. But the Great Artesian Basin to the east was among the healthiest.

The difference, the studies found, is likely attributable to heavy gold and iron ore mining and oil and gas exploration near the Canning Basin. Those are water-intensive activities.

The world’s most stressed aquifer — defined as suffering rapid depletion with little or no sign of recharging — was the Arabian Aquifer, a water source used by more than 60 million people. That was followed by the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan, then the Murzuk-Djado Basin in Libya and Niger.

California’s Central Valley Aquifer was the most troubled in the United States. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields, where drought has led to an explosion in the number of water wells being drilled. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations. But the new law could take two decades to take full effect.

Also running a negative balance was the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer, which stretches across the southeast coast and Florida. But three other aquifers in the middle of the country appeared to be in relatively good shape.

Some groundwater filters back down to aquifers, such as with field irrigation. But most of it is lost to evaporation or ends up being deposited in oceans, making it harder to use. A 2012 study by Japanese researchers attributed up to 40 percent of the observed sea-level rise in recent decades to groundwater that had been pumped out, used by humans and ended up in the ocean.

Famiglietti said problems with groundwater are exacerbated by global warming, which has caused the regions closest to the equator to get drier and more extreme latitudes to experience wetter and heavier rains. A self-reinforcing cycle begins. People living in mid-range latitudes not only pump more water from aquifers to contend with drier conditions, but that water — once removed from the ground — also then evaporates and gets recirculated to areas far north and south.

The studies were published Tuesday in the Water Resources Research journal.

Famiglietti said he hoped the findings would spur discussion and further research into how much groundwater is left.

“We need to get our heads together on how we manage groundwater,” he said, “because we’re running out of it.” More

 

 

The World’s Most Hostile International Water Basins

At the launch of A New Climate for Peace, a new report on climate-fragility risks produced for the G7 by a consortium of international partners including the Wilson Center, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Christian Holmes called water a common denominator for climate risk.

“How you manage your water programs…has a huge amount to do with how you mitigate the prospect for increased fragility,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the obvious that’s so easy to miss, and I think that the obvious on water as it relates to economic development is, essentially, the question of sustainable water supply.”

One of the most striking infographics from A New Climate for Peace touches on that question of supply. Using data from Oregon State University’s Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database and adapted from a graphic that originally appeared in Popular Sciencelast year, the map shows the world’s most active – and tension-filled – international water basins.

Water is a common denominator for climate risk

The Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database measures not only the frequency of hostile events in a basin, but cooperative ones as well, each on a sliding scale. Hostile events range from declarations of war (zero recorded from 1990 to 2008, the period of time encompassed by the graphic) to leaders using “language of discord.” Cooperative events range from “mild verbal support” to “voluntary unification into a single country.”

The total number of events is indicated by shades of blue – the darker the blue, the more transboundary events, both positive and negative. This is essentially the “hot list” of international water basins – which regions have the most official and unofficial chatter over water.

Circles superimposed on the basins represent the total number of hostile events. As the description text points out, however, “circle size does not automatically translate into conflict danger.” In some places, transboundary institutions and diplomatic frameworks allow different actors to work through their differences. Cooperative hostility, if you will. In the Danube River Basin, for example, the high number of “hostile” events is mitigated by strong cooperative incentives associated with European integration. Likewise in North America, where Canada, the United States, and Mexico share several basins with a high number of hostile events, there is little chance of violent conflict.

Water basins in South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa are major hotspots with a high number of hostile events and weaker institutional frameworks to mitigate them. The Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Salween, Tigris-Euphrates, and Jordan basins witness a very high number of interactions, suggesting at least that continued dialogue could be a way forward to mitigate the risk of violent conflict or fragility. The Nile Basin has less activity reflecting the stalled negotiations between the basin’s 10 member states to replace colonial-era water agreements. The Mekong Basin, where the largest member, China, does not participate as a full member of the Mekong River Commission, shows less activity as well.

The map does a great job illustrating why it can be difficult to answer the question, where is the highest risk of water-related violence? Tensions between states and other freshwater basin actors isn’t necessarily a sign of impending violence if there’s a framework to resolve them. Likewise, lack of communication over a major natural resource can be a bad sign for cooperation when the resource in question is the Nile. More

More infographics from ‘A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks’ are available on NewClimateforPeace.org.

 

Society will collapse by 2040 due to catastrophic food shortages, says Foreign Office-funded study

A scientific model supported by the [UK's] Foreign Office has suggested that society will collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages if policies do not change.

The model, developed by a team at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, does not account for society reacting to escalating crises by changing global behaviour and policies.

However the model does show that our current way of life appears to be unsustainable and could have dramatic worldwide consequences.

Dr Aled Jones, the Director of the Global Sustainability Institute, told Insurge Intelligence: “We ran the model forward to the year 2040, along a business-as-usual trajectory based on ‘do-nothing’ trends — that is, without any feedback loops that would change the underlying trend.

“The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots.

“In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption.”

The model follows a report from Lloyds of London which has evaluated the extent of the impact of a shock scenario on crop production, and has concluded that the “global food system is under chronic pressure.”

The report said: “The global food system is under chronic pressure to meet an ever-rising demand, and its vulnerability to acute disruptions is compounded by factors such as climate change, water stress, ongoing globalisation and heightening political instability. More