The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, an organization dedicated to assisting Palestinian farmers in the fight for sovereignty over their trade and their land, was born in 1986. ElRahman, the organization’s board chairman, visited the United States for the first time this year to receive a Food Sovereignty award from the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance on October 15 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Read about ElRahman’s story here, at Progressive.org.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators are holding closed-door meetings in Australia this week and next.
President Barack Obama wants to announce a TPP deal when he’s in Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in mid-November. So U.S. negotiators are looking to finalize the 12-country deal despite mounting evidence that this dangerous corporate fantasy should not be completed — now or ever.
As negotiators rush to meet Obama’s arbitrary deadline, some members of Congress are seeking to revive Fast Track in the upcoming lame-duck session after the elections.
Fast Track would allow the president to sign the TPP without congressional approval and then railroad the deal through Congress in only 90 days with limited debate and no amendments. Congress — which has constitutional authority over trade — would be forced into an up-or-down vote on the TPP with no opportunity to change the dangerous parts of the deal.
We cannot allow this to happen.
The TPP threatens to impose binding, retrograde rules on non-trade matters that affect our daily lives — undermining food safety, restricting Internet freedom, raising medication prices, rolling back financial regulations and anti-fracking policies, and more.
Some members of Congress are working on a replacement for Fast Track, a so-called “Smart Track.” It is not yet clear if this will be the real Fast Track replacement we so desperately need, or just another anti-democratic Fast Track in disguise.
A real replacement for Fast Track would guarantee Congress a steering wheel and an emergency brake for runaway “trade” deals. For example, Congress should be able to vote to approve an agreement before it is signed by the president.
We are pleased to announce that NFFC President, Ben Burkett was awarded the 2014 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award on October 27th. The award was given to Ben primarily for his work with The Federation of Southern Cooperatives and their Land Assistance Fund, which aims to enhance and stabilize income for family farms across the south.
October 27th, 28th, and 29th
In conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and with the express support of Pope Francis, a variety of movements representing those who are most disadvantaged and most excluded from society are taking the lead in organising the World Meeting of Popular Movements, which will be held in Rome from October 27th to 29th.
We are very glad of this unique occasion to give visibility to the excluded and to let their voices be heard within the Vatican itself. We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for this opportunity, which is one more demonstration of his constant accompaniment and closeness – not only to those of us who suffer injustice but also to those among us who are uniting to struggle against it.
The Meeting is primarily directed towards the organisations and movements of the excluded. It is expected that 100 delegates from different backgrounds and walks of life will take part. Delegates will represent: a) those who suffer from employment insecurity, temporary workers, migrants, and those involved in the popular sector, informal and/or self-employed workers, workers who lack legal protection, union recognition or labour rights; b) landless peasants and indigenous peoples or those who are at risk of being driven off the land because of agricultural speculation and violence; c) people living in slums and informal settlements, the marginalised, those who have been evicted from their homes, the forgotten, those who are without adequate urban infrastructure. Representatives of the trade unions and the social and human rights organisations that have accompanied the processes of organisation and struggle of the above-mentioned sectors will also be taking part in the meeting.
Bishops and other church workers from a number of countries have also been invited, in order to stimulate dialogue and collaboration with the Church. The meeting will be conducted in Spanish, French, English, Italian, and Portuguese. It will conclude with the promotion of an international body for coordination between popular movements, which will have the support and collaboration of the Church.
The main objectives are:
- To share Pope Francis’ social thinking, especially the items that he includes in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, and to discuss it from the perspective of popular movements.
- To develop a synthesis of the vision of popular movements with regard to the causes of the world-wide growth in social inequality and increase in social exclusion, particularly with respect to land, labour and housing.
- To reflect collectively on the organisational experiences of popular movements as ways of solving the injustices described above – and to include in our reflective process a discussion of our practices, our forms of interaction with institutions, and our propects for the future.
- To propose grassroots popular alternatives to address the problems – war, displacement, hunger, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, exclusion – brought about by finance capitalism, military arrogance, and the immense power of transnational companies. Discussion will be based on the point of view of persons and peoples who are poor, and it will be imbued with the vision of building a peaceful, free, and fair society.
- To discuss the relationship of the Popular Movements with the Church, and how to move forward in creating a permanent body to coordinate our collaborative work.
We hope this Meeting will mark a milestone in the articulation process of popular movements strengthening a transformative perspective, empowering the poorest sectors and making visible the popular view about the serious problems humanity is facing.
Please read more about the meeting here.
News Release: October 22, 2014
Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states
San Francisco, CA – A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.
Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that were engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.
Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett believes the approval has left communities who rallied against the herbicide feeling abandoned by a government that should be paying attention to the people it serves.
“The voices of independent family farmers are being drowned out by the revolving door of corporate and government agency heads,” said Burkett, who serves as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It’s time for our government to pay attention to the farmer concerns about the negative impacts of herbicide-resistant GMO on our food supply.”
“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor. “2,4-D is a giant step backwards – it’s just a terrible idea.”
The lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.
The groups are challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), arguing that the EPA did not adequately analyze the impacts of 2,4-D on human health. They will also argue that the approval violated the Endangered Species Act, as there was no consult by the EPA with the Fish & Wildlife Service.
“Rural communities rely on EPA to take its job seriously — to fully consider potential health impacts before introducing new products or allowing a dramatic increase in use of a hazardous and volatile chemical like 2,4-D,” said Pesticide Action Network North America’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD.“Instead, EPA has given the greenlight to an enormous increase in toxic pesticide exposure.”
While the EPA proposed initially to restrict the use of Enlist Duo to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, it’s anticipated another 10 states will follow. The agency is currently accepting comments until November 14, 2014 on whether to register the herbicide cocktail in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.
“Sadly, our environmental watchdog is playing lapdog to the chemical industry, ignoring hundreds of thousands of comments urging it to do otherwise,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “The EPA is aiding and abetting the toxic spiral of using more and more pesticides to feed the industry’s sale of more and more genetically engineered crops while guaranteeing that 2,4-D use on our farmland will increase tremendously. The EPA’s heedless refusal to properly assess the impacts of expanded on human health, to the toxic chemicals associated with this herbicide, and failure to acknowledge any of the deadly effects on endangered wildlife, is grossly irresponsible – we intend to stop it.”
“This case will determine to a large extent the direction of U.S. agriculture in the coming years,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety. “EPA and USDA have bowed to the chemical industry and rubber stamped these genetically engineered crops whose sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use and fatten the bottom line of Dow and Monsanto. Unless stopped, these crops will lead to a massive increase in the spraying of toxic chemicals and an increasing plague of herbicide resistant weeds that will choke America’s farmlands and threaten the livelihoods of our farmers.”
“EPA’s unfortunate decision to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered crops will more than triple the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by the end of this decade,” said Environmental Working Group’s senior policy analyst Mary Ellen Kustin. “Such an increase of a known toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems is unconscionable.”
“The toxic treadmill has to stop,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment.”
“When the EPA approved Enlist Duo, it knew this pesticide would contaminate our streams and rivers,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is absolutely no doubt that the pesticide will harm dozens of endangered species like the American burying beetle, pallid sturgeon, and highly-endangered freshwater mussels.”
On September 16, 2014, the USDA issued its decision deregulating Enlist corn and soy, further paving the way for the EPA to approve the herbicide’s use on these crops. During the official public comment period on the USDA’s analysis of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans this spring, 400,000 citizens submitted comments opposing the crops. In June, another half million people sent their objections to EPA during their public comment period. Just this last month, a quarter million people told the White House to reject Enlist crops and Enlist Duo. Earthjustice collected more than 125,000 of the comments logged against the agency’s authorization for use of the powerful herbicide.
Betsy Lopez-Wagner, Earthjustice (415) 217-2159
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network (916) 588-3100
Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity (202) 817-8121
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides (202) 543-5450 ext. 19
Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition (202) 421-4544
Shannon Van Hoesen, Environmental Working Group (202) 939-9141
Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community, joined us in Washington DC today after being a recipient of the Food Sovereignty Prize, awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, in Des Moines, Iowa just last week. Ms. Guillen spoke at the National Food Day Food Justice Panel, co-sponsored by the Food Chain Workers Alliance . The panel also included Barry Estabrook, writer and author of Tomatoland, co-producer of the new film Food Chains , Jose Oliva, Associate Director of Food Chain Workers Alliance, and Ricardo Salvador from The Union of Concerned Scientists.
World Trade Organization Rules Against Popular U.S. Country-of-Origin Meat Labels on Which Consumers Rely
Compliance Panel Says U.S. Policy Still Violates WTO Despite Changes Made to Comply With 2012 WTO Order; U.S. Should Not Change COOL Policy
NOTE: Public Citizen will hold a press briefing about this ruling on the morning of Thursday, October 23. Speakers will include Roger Johnson (president, National Farmers Union), Lori Wallach (director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch), Elizabeth J. Drake (partner, Stewart & Stewart), Patrick Woodall (research director, Food & Water Watch) and a representative of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. Stay tuned for the teleconference number and more information.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel against U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policies sets up a no-win dynamic, and the Obama administration should appeal the ruling, Public Citizen said.
If the administration were to weaken COOL, U.S. consumers would lose access to critical information about where their meat comes from at a time when consumer interest in such information is at an all-time high and opposition would only grow to the administration’s beleaguered trade agenda. If the administration again were to seek to comply with the WTO by strengthening COOL, then Mexico and Canada – the two countries that challenged the policy – likely would continue their case, even though cattle imports from Canada have increased since the 2013 strengthening of the policy.
The ruling further complicates the Obama administration’s stalled efforts to obtain Fast Track trade authority for two major agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both of these pacts would expose the United States to more such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies.
“Many Americans will be shocked that the WTO can order our government to deny U.S. consumers the basic information about where their food comes from and that if the information policy is not gutted, we could face millions in sanctions every year,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Today’s ruling spotlights how these so called ‘trade’ deals are packed with non-trade provisions that threaten our most basic rights, such as even knowing the source and safety of what’s on our dinner plate.”
The WTO compliance panel decided that changes made in May 2013 to the original U.S. COOL policy in an effort to make it comply with a 2012 WTO ruling against the law are not acceptable and that the modified U.S. COOL
policy still constitutes a “technical barrier to trade.” The panel decided that the strengthened COOL policy afforded less favorable treatment to cattle and hog imports from Canada and Mexico, despite a 52 percent increase in U.S. imports of cattle from Canada under the modified policy. The panel stated that the alleged difference in treatment did not “stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions.”
The United States has one chance to appeal this decision before the WTO issues a final, binding ruling. Under WTO rules, if the U.S. appeal fails, Canada and Mexico would be authorized to impose indefinite trade sanctions against the United States unless or until the U.S. government changes or eliminates the popular labeling policy.
Today’s ruling follows a string of recent WTO rulings against popular U.S. consumer and environmental policies. In May 2012, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labels<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-dolphin-tuna-5-16-12.pdf> that, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against a U.S. ban on clove-, candy- and chocolate-flavored cigarettes <http://www.citizen.org/documents/release-on-wto-cigarette-ruling-4-4-12.pdf>, enacted to curb youth smoking. In each of those cases, U.S. policy changes made to comply with the WTO’s decisions also have been challenged before WTO panels similar to the one that issued today’s ruling.
“The WTO again ruling against a popular U.S. consumer protection will just spur the growing public and congressional concerns about the big Pacific and European trade deals the administration is now pushing and the Fast Track authority to railroad through Congress more agreements that undermine basic consumer rights,” said Wallach.
The COOL policy was created when Congress enacted mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat – supported by 92 percent of the U.S. public<http://www.greenerchoices.org/pdf/ConsumerReportsFoodLabelingSurveyJune2014.pdf> in a recent poll – in the 2008 farm bill. This occurred after 50 years of U.S. government experimentation with voluntary labeling and efforts by U.S. consumer groups to institute a mandatory program.
In their successful challenge of COOL at the WTO, Canada and Mexico claimed that the program violated WTO limits on what sorts of product-related “technical regulations” signatory countries are permitted to enact. The
initial WTO ruling was issued in November 2011. Canada and Mexico demanded that the United States drop its mandatory labels in favor of a return to a voluntary program or standards set by an international food standards body in which numerous international food companies play a central role. Neither option would offer U.S. consumers the same level of information as the current labels. The United States appealed.
The WTO Appellate Body sided with Mexico and Canada in a June 2012 ruling against COOL<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-wto-rules-against-yet-anohter-consumer-protection-policy-06-29-12.pdf>. The U.S. government responded to the final WTO ruling by altering the policy in a way that fixed the problems identified by the WTO tribunal. However, instead of watering down the popular program as Mexico and Canada sought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded with a rule change<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-USDA-stands-firm-on-COOL-rule.pdf> in May 2013 that strengthened the labeling regime. The new policy provided more country-of-origin information to consumers, which
satisfied the issues raised in the WTO’s ruling. However, Mexico and Canada then challenged the new U.S. policy. With today’s ruling, the WTO has announced its support for the Mexican and Canadian contention that the U.S. law is still not consistent with the WTO rules.
Timothy A. Wise and Kristin Sundell believe the claims about the need to double food production by 2050 are unfounded. According to ActionAid’s report, “Rising to the Challenge: Changing Course to Feed the World in 2050,” the solutions lie not in the rush to increase industrial food production but in supporting sustainable and productive farming practices among small-scale farmers – particularly women – in developing countries while halting the diversion of food to biofuels and reducing the obscene levels of waste and spoilage that keep one-third of the world’s food from nourishing anyone.
Continue reading the Food Tank article here
Across the United States, communities are fighting to defend the resources they need to produce food. On this World Food Day, Oakland-based Food First/the Institute for Food & Development Policy and the Netherlands-based Transnational Institute release a report exploring how corporate control of the food system is undermining the livelihoods of farmers, farmworkers, fisherpeople, communities of color, and indigenous peoples in the United States. The report also cites numerous examples of community-based resistance, grassroots solidarity, and broad-based alliances that are resisting the corporate takeover of land and resources.
While a new wave of “land grabbing” has been sweeping the globe, the trend is not confined to poor countries of the Global South, the report argues. In the United States, land and other resources are being concentrated in the hands of new financial and institutional actors—thanks to policies that favor profits over people, and finance over food. The report identifies five cross-cutting themes that affect how land and resource grabs are occurring: labor, race, finance, water, and climate. These areas, the report notes, are also important sites of resistance and potential transformation.
Titled “Land and Resource Grabs in the United States: Five sites of struggle and potential transformation,” the report is authored by Food First researchers Zoe Brent and Tanya Kerssen. It is the seventh issue in Food First’s Land & Sovereignty in the Americas briefs series, which pulls together research and analysis from activists and scholars working to understand and halt the alarming trend in land grabbing—from rural Brazil and Central America to US cities like Oakland and Detroit—and to support communities in their efforts to protect their lands as the basis for self-determination, food justice, and food sovereignty. The series is a project of the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas Activist-Researcher collective, coordinated by Food First.
The full brief is available for free download at: http://foodfirst.org/publication/land-resource-grabs-in-the-united-states/
To learn more about the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas Collective project, visit:http://foodfirst.org/land-and-sovereignty-in-the-americas/
Thousands of dairy farmers in the United State are realizing many of the short-comings of the new margin insurance program (called the Producer Protection Plan) that is being strongly supported by difference experts all across the United States. It has come to light that nearly half of dairy farmer’s costs of operating their dairy farms will not be covered by the new Producer Protection insurance program.
Please read more about the concerns with the Producer Production plan at the Dairybuisiness press release here.