Saturday, 16 April 2011

Planet for Sale

Alexis Marant (interview here) has directed a new film called "Planete a Vendre" which will be on French TV April 19th 2011.

The Global Land Grab blog posts with more details, explaining the dangerous logic behind what's going on:

“To feed the 9.2 billion people expected by 2050 will require doubling agricultural production. A boon to investors who pushed up from 5 to 175 billion in speculative capital invested in agricultural commodities between 2000 and 2007.”

There's also a trailer here showing the factors that are now driving most wealthy Middle Eastern countries, for example, to get a-hold of poorer people's land overseas and make sure that their populations, which are also still increasing, will continue to be able to import most of the food they demand.

Don't ask where the poor will be able to grow their food in the future ...

Friday, 15 April 2011

As ye Sow ...

Film-maker Mirjam von Arx talking about her film Seed Warriors: “Financially it’s almost ridiculous how little money you would need to get going, but it’s just incredibly difficult, from what we’re told, to raise it and to get governments to give money.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m not so sure we can trust in humans to do the right thing, but I think there is a possible solution. If we’re doomed, it’s because we’re too stupid – not because it can’t be done.” SwissInfo.

Annals of Botany Blog tells us that 87% of Economist online readers believe the world needs to spend more on agricultural research, while in the comments, Jeremy Cherfas wonders how well-founded the public’s grasp of the facts actually is. Not being too sure myself, when it comes down to cold numbers, I did what you do these days in that situation, and google.

According to the Science in Farming website “In the United States, there has long been a mixture of publicly funded and private research, but, until recent decades, publicly funded research was predominant … Public funds spent on agricultural research increased persistently, especially after World War I, reaching about $2.1 billion by the mid-1980's.”

By contrast however, as pointed out in Lee R Martin’s book “A Survey of Agricultural Economics Literature: Agriculture in economic development 1940s to 1990s” (1992) “developing countries usually under-invest in agricultural research." It's also demoralising to discover that vitally important research into agroforestry or institutes like the Centre for Forestry Research struggle along on tiny amounts; a few tens of $million a year on a global basis.

The problem, it seems to me, boils down to the fact that at one extreme, way too much money is splurged by the wealthy industrialised nations on research which is directed towards the capital and technological intensification of agriculture - very profitable for a minority, but with massive negative externalities for the environment, biodiversity, and us ‘little people’ at the bottom - whereas far too little is spent on the ecologically and socially beneficial research that we really need to create a secure and healthy farming sector that benefits us all, people and planet.

We will increasingly pay a heavy price for that imbalance.

Hat-tip to commenter Survivalist, and AgBioBlog.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Yellow Water on the Run

Agreeing to Be Seen to Disagree

Last month Nick Clegg said to David Cameron: "“If we keep doing this we won’t have anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.”

And now looking at the election leaflets though the door; on the one side of their Focus news-sheet the Liberal Democrats wail, "Tories destroy Devon", while on the other side they trumpet "LIB DEMS 1st YEAR IN GOVERNMENT" with little vignettes celebrating nice things they have done for us ... er ... hang on a minute ...

Just how dim-witted do they think we are?

Meanwhile those cabinet colleagues, Cameron and Cable are, sure enough, busy generating column inches of "disagreement" over immigration.

I'm not the only one to smell a rat here, Sarah Hayward does too: "Vince’s intervention, Cameron’s speech and the pre & post media coverage of both appeal directly to core voters of both parties and it’s clearly designed to enable both Coalition parties to express a separate identity prior to polling day in May."

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

BOGOF Redbridge!

Over Barkingside way the clever councillors are past masters at smoke and mirrors, a talent that comes in very handy in these days of entropy in the incredible shrinking society. B21 reports on the ‘two-for-one’ police officer offer that may not be quite what it seems …

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

It's All a-Happening!

Starting tomorrow there's a three-day conference on land-grabbing in Brighton. Speakers include Tania Murray Li, who:

"... critiques land deal mainstream thinking and brings labour consequences to the centre of her analysis. She highlights how land deal dispossession leaves some without shelter, food or the means of (re)production. Like Olivier de Schutter, she is not convinced by arguments in favour of a 'code of conduct' to make land investments 'pro-poor'. Rather, she argues that, where safeguards have been effectively put in place for the rural poor, they have been the result of political organisation and social mobilisation: "Without such struggles, and such settlements, even the most assiduous regulatory regime has no purchase"..."

And, for those over Sussex way next weekend, there's a celebratory walk  in St Leonard's Forest on Saturday the 9th, organised by Action for Access. "You will see that the Forestry Commission is in the middle of a huge programme of restoration work to bring back the heathy rides and the old broad-leaved forest, to make glades and restore worn pathways. This is brave work, and comes not a moment too soon, for the early decades of their ownership, after their purchase in circa 1951, did great and harsh damage to what was left of the old forest ecosystem." And more events planned for May as well ...

April 17th and 18th sees Free Our Seeds, an invitation "to participate in two days of action during which we will make clear our opposition to EU policies and our intention to resist against them."

"We are not prepared to accept that the basis of our livelihood is handed over to multinationals. In the future we intend to maintain and pass on the heritage of our plant varieties. The main event will take place on 17 April, the day of international peasant resistance declared by Via Campesina, followed by a demonstration on the 18th. If you cannot come to Brussels, organise similar events in your countries, cities and villages!"

Not too much sign of peasant resistance 'ere in North Devon ...

Uz, um, peasants, up here be just a little bit more sedate, with the Orchards Live 20th anniversary Tea Party taking place in Kings Nympton village hall on the 1st of May.