Posts Tagged ‘children’

Occupy Boston: Smart, Savvy, and Aiming to Emulate Wall Street Protests

Occupy Boston: Smart, Savvy, and Aiming to Emulate Wall Street Protests

About 200 people in Boston express their outrage at America’s economic woes – and promise to take up the protest baton


Posted 28 September 2011, by Paul Harris, The Guardian,


There were socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, students, anarchists, computer hackers, the unemployed, and workers ranging from a vet to an accountant.

And, numbering around 200 and meeting to plot until late in the night, a group of Bostonians have decided to recreate the anti-Wall Street protests that are gripping New York.

Unlike previous attempts, such as a march that fizzled out in Chicago with just 20 people, the people behind Occupy Boston showed a strong dose of media savvy and organizational skill on Monday night, as they drew a committed crowd of volunteers to their cause: to occupy a slice of the city. Local TV crews were in attendance at the evening mass planning meeting, and it had been flagged on the front pages of Boston’s newspapers.

The move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York and comes as other events are also being planned in Los Angeles and Washington.


Organiser Marissa Egerstrom addresses the Boston general assembly

The crowd of Bostonians listened and spoke about their anger at the ills in the capitalist system in general and the financial industry in particular.

Gathering in the center of Boston Common, in the heart of the city, they heard various speakers promise to copy the New York protests. “Tonight we begin to show the world how to live in freedom and peace. Right here, right now, a new life is starting,” said Marissa Egerstrom, one of the organizing forces behind Occupy Boston.

Those were big words to say in front of just 200 people. But Occupy Boston aims to emulate Occupy Wall Street protesters, whose seizure of a downtown Manhattan park was first ignored by most of the media but has now generated headlines around the world, especially after police used pepper spray against peaceful women demonstrators.


Matthew Krawitz explains why he is joining the Boston protest

Many of those gathered on the Common, including nearly all the key organizers, had been to New York to witness the protests. One organizer, Matthew Krawitz, who brought his two daughters to the Common, had been in Manhattan for the first day of the protests there. Now the unemployed IT expert was helping set up something similar in Boston. “I’m here to give them a better future,” he said, referring to his two children.

In style and substance, Occupy Boston closely followed that of Occupy Wall Street, which was itself inspired by recent social movements in Spain and Arab countries. After the speeches different tactical groups were formed – covering everything from legal affairs to food to medical to media outreach – to prepare for the coming occupation.

Potential sites to be occupied included the Common itself and Dewey Square in Boston’s financial district. Potential dates were also picked, with some as soon as this coming weekend. The separate groups operated in a “leaderless” style that dragged on in often circular debates but were impressive for eventually coming to collective agreement.

The meetings lasted for several hours in the park, as crowds listened to rabble-rousing speeches and critiques of capitalism. It promised a striking protest to come, but at times offered an incongruous vision of Boston. Ringing the common where the protesters met are some of the most upmarket streets in the city, lined with million-dollar townhouses. And on the park itself, virtually next door to where scores of people talked of forcefully bringing down American capitalism, fellow Bostonians enjoyed games of tennis on brightly lit late-night courts, seemingly oblivious to what was going on in the darkness just 50 yards away.

But what was never in doubt among the disparate participants was a sense of outrage and injustice at America’s current economic woes. Bob Norkus, 54, had been out of work for a year. He has one simple desire. “Things need to be realigned. It’s 99 percent of us versus one percent of them. This is still a democracy if we care to grab it,” he said.

There were people with jobs in the crowd, too, and they were equally angry. Cynthia Brennan, 41, is a veterinary nurse. She had been inspired to come to the common by watching the popular revolts of the Arab Spring. “I was fascinated by Egypt. I was in front of al-Jazeera all the time. It needs to happen here,” she said.

Local government accountant Tim Larkin, 28, agreed. But he wanted to improve on the New York protests in Boston. “We have to be better than New York and have a stronger set of demands,” he said.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

Displaced women from San Juan Copala forced to suspend peaceful sit-in

Displaced women from San Juan Copala forced to suspend peaceful sit-in


Posted 29 September 2011, by , Intercontinental Cry,



A group of displaced Triqui women from the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala, have been forced by the government of Oaxaca to suspend their peaceful sit-in which began more than 12 months ago.

CREDIT: Municipio Autonomo De San Juan Copala

According to The Autonomous Community Council Of San Juan Copala, the government recently threatened to violently remove all women and children from the main plaza in Oaxaca city, where they have lived since August 2010.

San Juan Copala initially agreed to suspend the sit-in temporarily as part of a new agreement with Oaxaca government.

At the center of the new agreement, at least for the Triqui, is the right to return to the town of San Juan Copala, which Triqui Authorities evacuated just one month after the sit-in began.

The evacuation was ordered after paramilitaries threatened to execute all supporters of the autonomous municipality. Having already endured seven months of violence and inhumane treatment at the hands of the same paramilitaries, the Triqui simply couldn’t take the chance of ignoring the threat.

In addition to the right to return home, the newly formed agreement with Oaxaca included an understanding that the Triqui would suspend their sit-in for two days to make way for the “Grito de Independencia” celebrations on September 16. In exchange for this, the government promised to give the Triqui women and children temporary lodging; after which they could return to the plaza.

“But as is well-known of those who fail to govern this country, if anything distinguishes them it is their lack of honor… police fenced in the palace corridors preventing us from sitting in, and we were called again by the same officials who bring lies and deceit in order to present us with the offer of another round table,” said the Community Council in a Sept. 20 statement. The officials also asked the Triqui for ten days to respond to their principle demands.

“Not being capable of more resistance actions, and because our movement is one of peace and dialogue we again agreed with the warning [of returning to reinstate the camp]” said the Community Council.

However, they also decided to issue their a deadline of September 30th, giving the government more than enough time to adequately respond to the demands.

If the government fails to do so, the Triqui say they are going to reestablish the sit-in “at any cost” and where everyone “will take responsibility for what might happen.”

For news and updates on this situation, keep an eye on,, (links in Spanish only)

September 20, 2011

[Unofficial translation courtesy of You can view the original statement here.]

The displaced people of San Juan Copala may return this September 30th to the main plaza in Oaxaca if there is no response to their demands from Gabino Cué


Sisters, brothers we wanted to take a few days before sending word to let you know the reason why, after more than one year, we suspended the sit-in in the corridor of the government palace.

We did this in response to the hateful and false statements towards our dignity which some people have expressed in anonymity, which is the mask of cowards, and once it was known that the sit-in was suspended they started spreading an account that some of our people received money in exchange.

Throughout the resistance that has been principally sustained by women and children displaced from San Juan Copala, we have received a helping hand from many friends who selflessly decided to discretely walk with us in our fight, always respecting our decision.

As a result, we have received the cooperation that helps us with expenses, medical care and the company of brothers and sisters that have been with us at all times enduring the difficult conditions under which you live when you have no home and you live practically out in the open, and as if this were not enough there was the constant threat of eviction, especially with the prior government during which we were displaced on two occasions with the police force, to all of these friends we extend our heartfelt appreciation and promise that we have not sold out nor have we surrendered, simply that confronted with the threat of violent eviction of the sit-in on the part of the government, our Autonomous Community Council which are a part of our authorities, and that were here to strengthen our sit-in, made the decision that we do not have the ability in this moment to resist a violent eviction, because we do not want to jeopardize the physical integrity of anyone that is a part of our sit-in.

It is for this reason that on the evening of September 14th, we agreed to leave, accepting in only return a place to spend two nights because the agreement with the government’s representatives was that on the morning of September 17th we could reinstate the sit-in, but as is well-known of those who fail to govern this country, if anything distinguishes them it is their lack of honor and if they don’t have honor, then even less so do their words and that is why on September 17th we intended to reinitiate the sit-in, but police fenced in the palace corridors preventing us from sitting in, and we were called again by the same officials who bring lies and deceit in order to present us with the offer of another round table, then asked us for a period of 10 days to respond to our principle demands, not being capable of more resistance actions, and because our movement is one of peace and dialogue we again agreed with the warning on our part that if it didn’t happen before the 30th of this month, we will sit-in at whatever cost and that each individual will assume the responsibility of what happens to them, for this we call on those who have stood with us to await for the 30th, and to those who are interested in antagonizing and creating division we tell you that your words may create doubt in another of our friends who are not evil without realizing it, thus helping those you claim to be fighting.


September 20, 2011

Published on Sep 29, 2011 at 12:14am Some Rights Reserved

Stop the Machine! Create a New World!

Stop the Machine! Create a New World!


Posted 26 September 2011, by angelbabe43, Angelbabe43’s Blog,




A Call to Action – Oct. 6, 2011 and onward

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.

We call on people of conscience and courage—all who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment—to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening.

A concert, rally and protest will kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government.

Forty-seven years ago, Mario Savio, an activist student at Berkeley, said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

Those words have an even greater urgency today. We face ongoing wars and massive socio-economic and environmental destruction perpetrated by a corporate empire which is oppressing, occupying and exploiting the world. We are on a fast track to making the planet unlivable while the middle class and poor people of our country are undergoing the most wrenching and profound economic crisis in 80 years.

“Stop the Machine! • Create a New World!” is a clarion call for all who are deeply concerned with injustice, militarism and environmental destruction to join in ending concentrated corporate power and taking direct control of a real participatory democracy. We will encourage a culture of resistance—using music, art, theater and direct nonviolent action—to take control of our country and our lives. It is about courageously resisting and stopping the corporate state from destroying not only our inherent rights and freedoms, but also our children’s chance to live, breathe clean air, drink pure water, grow edible natural food and live in peace.

As Mother Jones said, “Someday the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”

We are the ones who can create a new and just world. Our issues are connected. We are connected. Join us in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 2011, to Stop the Machine.


Take the pledge and sign up to attend here. Let America know you are coming to make history and a new world!

“I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that criminal occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning .”

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China’s Solar Technology Pollutes Local Ecology

China’s Solar Technology Pollutes Local Ecology


Posted 21 September 2011, by Li Le, The Epoch Times,


Angry villagers argue with Jinko Solar staff over its pollution in Yuanhua Township, Zhejiang Province, Sept. 15. (Posted to an Internet forum by a Chinese blogger)

A four-day protest outside a solar manufacturing plant in a small Chinese township illustrates the harsh realities of China’s green energy manufacturing boom. While China is producing solar products for export at cutthroat prices, Chinese people get none of the green benefits. Instead they have to put up with the manufacturers’ cancer-causing pollution and get beaten up by police if they talk about it.

Villagers from Yuanhua Township of Haining City in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province had enough of a local solar company’s pollution. Anywhere between five hundred and a thousand local people staged a four-day protest that began on Sept. 15, to try and hold Jinko Solar Holding Co. accountable for its pollution and force an investigation into local residents increased cancer rate.

Authorities dispatched riot police who injured many protesters. Two local reporters who were on location were beaten by the solar company’s employees.

Jinko Solar Holding Co. is a manufacturer of solar silicon wafers and ingots. It was established in 2006 and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Local villagers told New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) that Jinko Solar Holding Co., has been discharging waste water since moving into the Hongxiao Village of Yuanghua Township in 2006. The pollution has caused fish to die and is threatening local people’s health.

Mr. Zhou, a villager, told The Epoch Times: “More than 10 villagers have developed leukemia and dozens have developed other cancers. We have been living in fear, and been constantly lodging complaints regarding the pollution to local authorities and the Jinko company.”

Because neither the authorities nor Jinko responded to their numerous requests, villagers went to the county government on Sept. 15 and demanded Jinko’s closure. But no one at the county government responded to them, so the villagers went on to Jinko’s, but were refused entry. Angry villagers then broke down the gate and rushed into the plant where they vandalized offices and work areas, Zhou said.

Protesters overturn and vandalize a vehicle; Yuanhua Township, Sept. 15. (Posted to an Internet forum by a Chinese blogger)

Jinko staff called the police, which quickly arrived, totaling one or two thousand. Police used tear gas to disperse people, injuring many, and took away an unknown number of villagers, according to Zhou.

One netizen said on a blog that he witnessed police beating even young girls and the elderly. He said he saw four police beating one elderly person.

Another netizen said: “A girl, aged 17 or 18, was chased and beaten into a coma and somehow fell into the river. Her body has not been recovered.”

Chinese media reported that protesters overturned eight cars in the solar company’s parking lot and damaged four police vehicles.

According to Zhejian Online News, Jinko staff beat two reporters from Zhejiang TV. The reporters’ video camera was also smashed and tapes were taken.

An NTDTV reporter called Jinko on the afternoon of Sept. 15. The person who answered acknowledged that there was a protest but would not provide details.

Haining municipal authorities announced on Sept. 17 that Jinko was ordered to stop production and that a villager surnamed Sun had been arrested for spreading “untruthful information” over the Internet.

Sun had posted information about the pollution produced by Jinko, saying it caused local people to have health problems.

Mr. Guo, a local resident, told The Epoch Times that a few years ago several young women working at Jinko had health checks because they weren’t able to get pregnant. Medical checkup revealed that they had radiation damage and would never be able to have children. After that came out, young women who planned on having families avoided working for the company, Guo said.

Local authorities dispatch riot police to squash the protest; Yuanhua Township, Sept. 15. (

Some Internet postings said that the company is located 300 meters (984 ft.) away from a daycare center and only 100 meters away from an elementary school, and that the impact on the health of the children and neighboring residents is devastating.

According to latest reports by Chinese media, local authorities have detained 31 people, while Haning Environmental Protection Department fined Jinko 470,000 yuan (US$75,625).

Local villagers said they are not satisfied with the outcome; they want Jinko to leave Haning City.

The production of silicon involves high energy consumption and high pollution, Hu Chuli, director of the Institute for Industrial and Technical Economic Studies, National Development and Reform Commission, said at China’s Low Carbon Technology Innovation Forum on Dec. 17, 2010.

Hu pointed out that in the solar photovoltaic industry, China accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s silicon production, yet Chinese people do not have the privilege to enjoy this kind of clean energy at all, because 95 percent of the production is for export.

In fact, the most unique characteristic of China’s solar photovoltaic industry is that production and resource consumption occur inside China, whereas product use and conservation of energy takes place outside of China, according to Meng Xiangan, secretary general of China Renewable Energy Society.

Hong Kong scholar and economics commentator, Larry Hsien Ping Lang said, “China protects the environment of other countries by exporting green products, but keeps all the pollution inside the country.”

Low labor cost in China, as well as disregard for the environment, and government subsidies to domestic enterprises make it often impossible for foreign companies to compete with Chinese manufacturing. California’s solar industry is an example according to Xia Ming, professor of political science at the City University of New York. Because of price subsidies paid by the Chinese regime and low labor costs, Solyndra, a California Solar company, announced bankruptcy on Aug. 31 Xia told the Epoch Times for a previous report.

Read the original Chinese article.

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More GM crops in Puerto Rico: Why We Should Worry

More GM crops in Puerto Rico: Why We Should Worry


Posted 20 September 2011, by Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero, ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento (Agencia Latinomericana de Información),


The US-based Monsanto company, the world’s biggest seed company and undisputed world leader in agricultural biotechnology, announced in June 2011 that it would increase its activities in Puerto Rico. Specifically, the corporation is investing $4.3 million in the construction of a 20,000-square foot laboratory for corn and cotton seed development in the southern municipality of Juana Diaz. These will be genetically modified (GM) seeds, no doubt, since Monsanto spends the bulk of its research and development budget on this technology. The announcement was made in Washington DC during the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual conference. Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation executive director Jose Perez-Riera and agriculture secretary Javier Rivera-Aquino were in the convention in a celebration mood with Juan Santiago, Monsanto’s chief of operations in Puerto Rico, while he was making the announcement.

Pioneer Hi Bred, Monsanto’s leading competitor in the GM seed business, is not far behind. That same month it inaugurated in the municipality of Salinas, several miles east of Juana Diaz, a 22,000-square foot seed laboratory. Pioneer, which has been in Puerto Rico since 1989, has been a subsidiary of multinational corporation Dupont since 1999. The Dupont-Pioneer corporate giant was the world’s largest seed company until 2005, when Monsanto surpassed it by purchasing Mexico’s Seminis seed company for $1.4 billion.

Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño attended the Pioneer laboratory’s festive inauguration and heaped praise on the agricultural biotechnology corporations that operate in the island. “Puerto Rico is an ideal place for bioagricultural research,” Fortuño said during the inauguration. “The island boasts a regulatory framework aligned with the U.S., an efficient transportation system, a longer growing season suitable for planting crops year-round, novel economic incentives, and a highly-educated workforce.”.

What’s wrong with all this? GM products are the subject of a worldwide heated controversy, whose participants include doctors and scientists as well as peasant movements, international organizations and political leaders, and has led to arrests, violent repression and persecution against scientists that have dared to contradict the official discourse on biotechnology. Since the 1990’s this debate has produced numerous books, television and newspaper reports, documentaries (both short and of full-length), scientific symposia, contentious international negotiations, and even protest marches and civil disobedience.

When we say genetically modified we mean an organism whose genetic code, or genome, has had foreign genes inserted into it through genetic engineering. The process of genetic engineering tears down cell barriers in order to make genetic combinations that would have never happened in nature, and it’s used in food and agriculture since the 1990’s. There are actually tens of millions of hectares of farmland planted with GM crops in the world, the great majority of them in only four countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Almost all these GM crops are soy and corn. The rest are mostly cotton and canola.

These GM crops do not yield more than their conventional non-GM counterparts, they are not more nutritional, and do not use less toxic agrochemicals. The majority were altered to be immune to a herbicide called Roundup, a product of Monsanto, and they are thus known as Roundup Ready. The rest produce their own pesticide, and are known as Bt crops. This soy and corn are used to make, among other things, flour, starch, cooking oil, high fructose corn syrup, biofuels and feed for the farm animals that give us meat, eggs and dairy.


A safe herbicide?

It goes without saying that foodstuffs derived from Roundup Ready crops can have substantial traces of Roundup. So, how safe is this herbicide for human consumption?

In June 2011 an international group of scientists and researchers, organized as Earth Open Source, published a report titled “Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?”. The document says that as early as the 1980’s Monsanto knew that glyphosate, active ingredient of Roundup, caused birth defects in laboratory animals; that the German government had this information at least since 1998; and, to quote from the report’s press release:

“The German government has known about these findings since at least the 1990s, when as the ‘rapporteur’ member state (of the European Union) for glyphosate, it reviewed industry’s studies for the EU approval of the herbicide. The European Commission has known since at least 2002, when it signed off on glyphosate’s approval. But this information was not made public. On the contrary, regulators have consistently misled the public about glyphosate’s safety. As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, BVL, told the Commission there was “no evidence of ‘teratogenicity’ (ability to cause birth defects) for glyphosate.” (Parentheses in original)

In 2010 a prestigious scientific journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology, published a peer-reviewed study, written by Argentine embryologist Andres Carrasco, leading researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet) and director of the molecular embryology laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires, which determined that glyphosate is extremely toxic for amphibian embryos in doses much lower than those used in agriculturural sprayings, as much as 1,540 times lower. And Argentina has over 20 million hectares (over half of the country’s farmland) planted with Roundup Ready soy, which receive over 200 million liters of glyphosate a year!

In August 2010 Argentina held its First National Encounter of Medics of Fumigated Towns, in which participating scientists, researchers, and academics wrote an open letter to agribusiness trade associations, from which we quote:

“The cancers and other severe illnesses are detected with more frequency now. As well as miscarriages, disruptions of fertility and the birth of children with birth malformations, which we find in very elevated rates. And respiratory, endocrine, hematological, neurological and psychic ailments are, also now, much more frequent in the systematically fumigated populations. Fumigated because they share the same geographic space as the agroindustrial and genetically engineered crops that you yourselves exploit.

… We, the doctors and other members of the health teams, the researchers, scientists and academics that analyze this problem, are certain that the increasing health ailments in the inhabitants of the fumigated towns are caused by the fumigations that you yourselves carry out.”

The Grupo de Reflexion Rural (GRR), an Argentine NGO that is critical of GM crops and industrial agriculture, has been documenting these horrors for years:

“Some time ago, the (GRR) took on the task of collecting information about the impacts of glyphosate on diverse Argentine populations: among other places, in the Ituzaingo neighborhood in Cordoba; Las Petacas, in Santa Fe; in San Lorenzo, also in Santa Fe; and Los Toldos in Buenos Aires. In each of these populations dramatic situations were detected. And precisely in the Ituzaingo neighborhood… over two hundred cancer cases in a population of hardly 5,000 inhabitants, as well as deformations among the newborn. Ituzaingo is a population surrounded by soy fields that are systematically fumigated. The spray from these fumigations arrives at the doors of the houses.”

In 2008 Chemical Research in Toxicology published a study by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a French specialist in molecular biology and professor at the University of Caen, which indicates that Roundup is lethal to human cells. According to Seralini’s research, doses far below those used on soy crops cause cell death in a few hours. “Even in doses diluted one thousand times, Roundup herbicide stimulates the deaths of human embryonic cells, which could cause deformations, miscarriages, hormonal, genital and reproductive problems, as well as different types of cancer”, Seralini told Argentine newspaper Pagina 12.

In 2005 Seralini had already confirmed that Roundup provokes toxic effects in human placental cells and embryos even in very low doses, in a study published by Environmental Health Perspectives. The herbicide kills a great proportion of these cells after only 18 hours of exposure in concentrations lower than those of agricultural use.

“He also emphasized that in solutions of between 10 thousand and 100 thousand times more diluted than in the commercial product it no longer killed cells, but it blocked their production of sex hormones, which could provoke in fetuses difficulties in the development of bones and of the reproductive system. He alerted about the possibility that the herbicide could be an endocrine disruptor, and called for new studies.”

Seralini’s study in Chemical Research in Toxicology focused on human umbilical cord, embryo and placental cells. The cells died in the 24 hours of exposure to the Roundup varieties. “A cell action mechanism was studied with four different Roundup formulations (Express, Bioforce or Extra, Gran Tavaraux, and Grand Tavaraux Plus). The results show that the four Roundup herbicides, and the pure glyphosate, cause cell death. Confirmed by the morphology of the cells after the treatment it is determined that, even in the lowest of concentrations, it causes important cell death”, says the publication.


Genetically engineered pesticide

Biotechnology companies assure us that the toxin secreted by Bt crops is harmless to human beings and that it dissolves in the human digestive system. Today we know both statements are wrong.

Bt toxin was found in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as in non-pregnant women, by doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec. Specifically, the study determined that the toxin was present in 93% of 30 pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of 80% of the fetuses, and in 67% of 39 non-pregnant women. The study has been accepted for publication in Reproductive Toxicology, a peer-reviewed journal.

Research funded by the Italian government published in 2008 found that laboratory rats fed with Monsanto’s Bt corn had abnormally high IgE and IgG antibodies, something that is typically associated with allergies and infections. They also had elevated levels of interleukins, which is associated to various diseases in humans, from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis to multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s. The animals also had abnormally high levels of T gamma delta cells, which is what happens in cases of asthma, childhood food allergies, and juvenile arthritis.

The insecticide produced by the tissues of Bt plants is the genetically engineered version of a natural toxin produced by Bacillus thuringiensis, a very common soil bacterium. Natural Bt has been used as pesticide in organic agriculture for decades. Biotech companies assure that this pesticide in its natural form is safe and that therefore its GM variant must be safe too. But today we know that natural Bt can have adverse effects if it is not used correctly.

According to scientific peer-reviewed studies (Vazquez et al), lab rats fed with natural Bt toxin suffered tissue damage and developed immune responses as severe as those caused by cholera toxin, and even started having adverse reactions to foods that previously had caused them no trouble.

Adverse reactions in humans have alse been documented:

In 1999 Environmental Health Perspectives published a study authored by I. L. Bernstein et al, which found that farm workers have developed immune system reactions when exposed to natural Bt.

In March 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Panel warned that published studies on animals and humans suggest that Bt proteins can cause allergies. The EPA ignored the panel, and it also ignored a 1993 Washington State Health Department report and a study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 1990 which documented that hundreds of people in the states of Washington and Oregon had allergy symptoms after Bt sprayings to eradicate the gypsy moth.

In India there are thousands of farm workers that have symptoms similar to the aforementioned cases reported in the USA- what these Indian farm workers all have in common is that they work with Bt cotton plants. “According to reports and records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as numerous investigative reports and case studies, workers are struggling with constant itching and rashes; some take antihistamines every day in order to go to work.”, according to researcher Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of “Seeds of Deception”.

We quote Smith again:

“When they allow livestock to graze on the Bt cotton plants after harvest, thousands of sheep, goats, and buffalo died. Numerous others got sick. I visited one village where for seven to eight years they allowed their buffalo to graze on natural cotton plants without incident. But on January 3rd, 2008, they allowed their 13 buffalo to graze on Bt cotton plants for the first time. After just one day’s exposure, all died. The village also lost 26 goats and sheep. One small study in Andhra Pradesh reported that all six sheep that grazed on Bt cotton plants died within a month, while the three controls fed natural cotton plants showed no adverse symptoms.”

Information on the hazards of Bt crops is not new. On May 22 2005, England’s The Independent reported the existence of a secret Monsanto report about Mon 863, one of their Bt corn varieties. According to the 1,139-page report, rats fed with this corn for 13 weeks had unusually high counts of white blood cells and lymphocytes, which increase in cases of cancer, poisoning or infection; low levels of reticulocytes, which can indicate anemia; loss of kidney weight, which can indicate blood pressure problems; liver necrosis; high blood sugar; and other adverse symptoms. Monsanto spokespeople assured that the company would make the report public, but did not do so willingly, invoking “confidentiality”, and at first only published an 11-page summary. It was not until a German court ordered its disclosure months later that the full text became public.

It is important to point out that this important information about Mon 863 is public not because of Monsanto’s good faith but because someone, most probably an employee with access to the company’s confidential documents took the risk of taking it to the press. If it were not for this anonymous hero, this Wikileaks of biotechnology, today we would be blissfully ignorant of the effects of this genetically engineered corn. We must ask then, Can there be other harmful GM foods that the biotech industry is feeding us knowing full well that they can cause harm to people?

This has been an extremely brief summary of health risks caused by the GM products that companies like Monsanto and Dupont are developing in Puerto Rican farmlands. For more information, please see the bilingual blog of the Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety (, a small collective founded in 2004 to alert the citizenry about the implications of GM crops and products.


A Spanish language version of this article was published in 80 Grados, a Puerto Rican online publication (


– Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, investigative journalist, environmental educator, and director of the Project on Biosafety. He is a Research Associate of the Institute for Social Ecology and a Fellow of the Oakland Institute, and has published over 1,000 articles over the last 20 years in the most diverse outlets, including Counterpunch, Inter Press Service, Corporate Watch, Alternet, Grist, Z Magazine, CIP Americas Policy Program, Food First, Earth Island Journal, and many more. His bilingual blog on all things progressive and ecological is updated almost daily ( His Twitter ID is carmeloruiz.

Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety, September 12 2011



Dario Aranda interviews Seralini.

Earth Open Source. Roundup and Birth Defects.

Inter News Service. El Vocero.

Kevin Mead. Caribbean Business.

Jeffrey Smith.


Bt crops


GMO’s in Puerto Rico (mostly in Spanish)



YES! But How? Composting Toilets


YES! But How? Composting Toilets

I’ve read that composting human waste is much more environmentally friendly than disposing of it in water-based sewage systems. Could I install a composting toilet in my home?


Posted 14 July 2011, by Oliver Lazenby, Yes!,



Our editorial interns answer your practical questions about sustainable living. Photo by Red Jar.

Standard water-based sewage systems account for about 30 percent of household water use: Even low-flow toilets use 1.6 gallons of water with each flush.

Composting toilets don’t use water and are odor-free and sanitary if maintained properly. In a matter of months, they break human waste down into unobjectionable compost. Municipal planning authorities across the country are coming around to the idea that composting toilets are not only better for the environment, but safe for public health, too.

One example comes from a private elementary school in Seattle with 233 students. The Bertschi School’s new science wing is designed to be completely self-sufficient, which includes composting human waste. A vacuum flushes the toilet into two composting tanks, which can hold a total of six months’ worth of waste. Janitors dump bark dust into the tanks to add carbon to the mixture, and slide a handle in and out to aerate.

Composting toilets can cost more than $1,000 at home stores, but the Humanure Handbook says you can do it yourself. Mount a toilet seat atop a 5-gallon bucket. Use sawdust to cover your “business,” eliminate odor, and encourage the composting process. Use undyed, unscented toilet paper. Add the results to the rest of your compost, making sure it’s safe from flies, rodents, and the like. Some people empty the bucket into a container like a 55-gallon drum.

This only works with a well-tended compost pile that gets hot enough to kill any pathogens. Experts recommend composting for a year to add a margin of safety, since common germs and parasites don’t survive that long in soil.

The result will make great compost for trees, flowers, fruits, and fruiting vegetables, although cautious gardeners avoid using it on root crops. Contact your County Health Department to find out the regulations about composting toilets in your area.

Oliver Lazenby wrote this article for Beyond Prisons, the Summer 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Oliver is an editorial intern at YES!


  • The Humanure Handbook, now in its 3rd edition, is a detailed source on the biology of composting human manure.
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Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security


Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security


Posted  19 September 2011, by Staff, United States Department of State,




Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Intercontinental Hotel
New York City
September 19, 2011

Moderated by Nick Kristof

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States; Nick Kristof, moderator and columnist for The New York Times; Reema Nanavaty, director for economic and rural development for the Self-Employed Women’s Association; Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever; His Excellency, President Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania; Kathy Spahn, president and CEO, Helen Keller International; Dr. Jose Graziano Da Silva, assistant director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, thank you very much and welcome to all.  You will have the opportunity in just a few minutes to hear from all of our distinguished panelists.  In addition to those who have been introduced, I want to recognize the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director general, Mr. Jacques Diouf.  Thank you, sir, for being here.  (Applause.)

I also want to recognize a longtime friend and leader in efforts against poverty and on behalf of human dignity, Dr. Muhammad Yunus.  (Applause.)

And on a personal note, I am pleased that I will be joined shortly in this program by USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah and I’m also pleased that one of our two congressional representatives, Representative Russ Carnahan from Missouri, is here.  So welcome to one and all.

And it’s a great pleasure for me for the third year in a row to meet during the United Nations General Assembly to focus on an issue that is critical to the global economy, global health, and the prosperity and well-being of billions of people worldwide:  agriculture and food security.

I don’t need to tell this audience that while we meet here in this beautiful hotel, nearly 1 billion people are suffering from chronic hunger, and in the Horn of Africa we are seeing the devastating impact of acute hunger and starvation.

Now, at the root of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is a man-made problem.  And we are all working together to try to alleviate the suffering and to save lives, and we’re also as an international community sending a very strong plea to the group al-Shabaab, which is continuing to prevent humanitarian organizations from getting aid to the people who need it, primarily women and children.  As a result, the United Nations warns that up to 750,000 people living in famine-stricken areas of Somalia could die in the next 120 days.

Now, all of us – my country, the international community – are supporting organizations that are saving lives, and we’re going to continue to do our part and we are going to redouble our efforts to press al-Shabaab to let us help.

Later today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah will outline ways that the international community and people all over the world can get involved in supporting those who are suffering in the Horn of Africa.

As we respond to this and other immediate crises, it is imperative that we stay focused on the long-term goal of strengthening global agriculture in order to produce more food, more nutritious food, and reduce hunger.  The United Nations estimates that we need to increase global food production by 70 percent by the year 2050 in order to meet growing demand.  That is a very serious challenge.

So what are we going to do to meet it?  Well, one way that we know would yield significant results is investing more in women.  This comes down to a simple matter of numbers.  Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries.  They’re involved in every aspect of agricultural production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting crops.  Yet women farmers are 30 percent less productive than male farmers, for one reason:  they have access to fewer resources.  They certainly work as hard and they, like farmers everywhere, are at the mercy of nature.  But these women have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, less access to training and the ownership of land.

As a result, they grow fewer crops, which means less food is available at markets, more people go hungry, farmers earn less money, and we’re back in to that vicious cycle.  The production gap between men and women farmers disappears when that resource gap is closed.  If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources, we could increase agricultural output by 20 to 30 percent.  That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.

And the incomes of women farmers would increase, which means more financial security for their families and more money circulating in local economies, which in turn will help other businesses grow.  Furthermore, because women tend to devote more of their money to the health, education, and nutrition of their children, a rise in their incomes pays off over generations.

In the report provided to you today, you will find several examples of the progress that can be achieved by supporting women farmers.  In Ghana, for example, if women and men held equal land rights, and if they both had the ability to use land as collateral to make major investments like irrigation systems or draft animals, women farmers would double their profits from farming.  Multiple studies in places from Honduras to Nepal, from the Philippines to Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, find that when women are involved in the design and field testing of new technologies, those technologies are actually adopted more rapidly, which increases productivity and incomes faster.

It is for reasons like these that the United States has focused on women farmers and our Feed the Future Food Security Initiative, which is a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy in the Obama Administration.  We have worked closely with our partners, including other nations, NGOs, private sector companies, and of course the multilaterals, to help make reaching women farmers a top priority for everyone working on this issue.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that the United States is allocating $5 million this year for a new gender program within Feed the Future.  This money will be used to fund innovative approaches to promoting gender equality in agriculture and land use and to integrate gender effectively into agricultural development and food security programs.  It will be used to expand our knowledge base.  We know that women farmers represent a major untapped resource, but we don’t know nearly enough about which approaches will change that.  So we need concentrated research about the obstacles facing women farmers worldwide so we know how to remove them, so women can contribute even more.

I would urge everyone here today and everyone working in this critical field around the world to bring us your best research proposals and programs to support women farmers.  We are looking for good ideas to support.

Conversations like the one we will have here today make me hopeful that we will succeed.  We have with us a distinguished panel of experts who will help us better understand the policies, programs, laws, and societal changes we must make in order to unleash the full productive capacity of women farmers.

I’m very pleased to welcome Nick Kristof as our moderator.  As many of you know, he and his wife, the journalist Sheryl WuDunn, have written a book Half the Sky about the role of women in society.  And they write, “Women and girls aren’t the problem.  They’re the solution, along with men.”  As we will discuss today, and as the short film we are about to watch on the role of women in agriculture will underscore, that’s a reality that we need to embrace worldwide.

As I said last week at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, I believe we are entering the participation age, with political transitions opening opportunities for people to shape their own destinies, and economic transformations creating new platforms for broad-based growth.  Every individual, men and women, boys and girls, everyone is poised to be a contributing and valued member of their societies.  When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.

So let us now turn our attention to the film – I think that’s the next item on the agenda – and then following the film, our moderator, Nick Kristof, will come to the podium or maybe sit here.

MR. KRISTOF:  I think I’ll – I’m lazy, I’ll sit here.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  He’ll just sit here to moderate our discussion.  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

(The film is shown.)


MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you all very much for coming.  If you’re from out of town, then welcome to New York.  We have a terrific panel, and I’m going to start by asking each of the panel members a question or two, then we’ll move onto a bit of a conversation here and then open it up to questions as well.  Secretary Clinton has to leave at 2 o’clock, and at that point, she will be succeeded by Raj Shah right here very seamlessly.  And it truly is sort of extraordinary for a Secretary of State to be hosting an event focusing not only on agriculture and food, but on a gender focus to improve that.  This is really something very new it seems to me.

And so, Secretary Clinton, maybe let me start with you, and you’ve made the economic case for investing in women to improve agriculture.  You also just gave an important speech a couple days ago for APEC on the same thing, but there’s still this gulf between this research, the evidence that you cited, the economic case, and the actual investments that happen and what actually happens on farms around the world.  So – and also I think that there’s – everybody in the room probably frankly agrees with you, but there are an awful lot of skeptics out there who think this is just kind of the latest politically correct fad.  So how do we go from bridging that evidence, that economic case into actually having an impact on the ground?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, Nick, I think that’s the stage we’re at, and I’m very pleased we are at that stage because up until now, many of us have been making the case.  We’ve made it on moral grounds, on cultural grounds, on social and political grounds, and we’ve seen progress, but I think making the case on economic grounds is what finally begins to open minds and change policies.  It is clear to us who are in this room – this is like preaching to the choir because I look out and I see so many leaders from around the world who have been working on agricultural and food issues, on gender issues, on poverty issues – it’s clear to us that the case now can be made.  We didn’t even collect data for decades.  We had no way of knowing what additional inputs provided to women farmers in Tanzania or Brazil or Bangladesh or anywhere else would actually mean.  And therefore, it was a harder case for us to make.

But since we’ve been gathering such data – and I thank FAO and other organizations that have been leaders in doing this – we can now put this movie together and talk about what happens when you have a leader like President Kikwete, who focuses on agriculture, creates corridors for agricultural productivity, and further focuses on making women more productive.  It works.  So you’ll hear from the champion architect of the Zero Hunger Program in Brazil.  It works.  So now when we go to heads of state or parliaments or international bodies and we make the case, it’s no longer that we’re making a case rooted in our sense of equality and justice and morality; we’re making an economic case that it’s going to raise incomes, it’s going to increase productivity, and given the economy in the world and given the severe challenges our food systems face, this is now an argument that can no longer be ignored.

MR. KRISTOF:  You alluded to this a moment ago when you mentioned the $5 million for research, but can you just speak briefly about what the government, what the Administration is planning to do to build that economic case and to make it at home and around the world?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  I can.  Let me give you a few examples.  Let me start with land reform, which is one of the most challenging issues that demands major political commitment.  If we do not have land reform that gives women co-ownership rights, gives women inheritance rights, we won’t crack the code on greater agricultural productivity because the women need to have more financial security, to be protected in case they’re widowed.  I mean, really some of the saddest stories that I’ve encountered in 20-plus years of doing this work are widows who are pushed off the lands that they tilled with their husbands.  And if we don’t protect against theft and give greater investment incentives, then we won’t get the productivity that is promised.  So Feed the Future will work on land reform.  Feed the Future will also support entrepreneurship development to encourage agricultural growth sector.

For example, in Mali, Feed the Future addresses women’s limited access to finance by providing training in financial management and completing loan applications.  I mean, it’s one thing to go to a woman farmer and say, “Gee, you could get credit.”  Well, they’ve never done that in their lives, and they’ve got to have support in understanding that.  And we know that land reform doesn’t have to be complex.  Let me just end with this one example.

In Ethiopia, the government is instituting a simple remedy:  Joint titles that have room for the names and photos of both husbands and wives.  It’s these kinds of interventions that we can draw attention to because then a woman’s photo, her name, is right there on the land title, and nobody can come and push her off her family land in the event she is widowed.

So there’s a lot of ideas, but that’s why I’m inviting this very distinguished group to give us more and better ideas, because we are open to making policy investments and research projects that will help us develop a new index to determine women’s productivity and access to resources, and to make sure that that’s then shared not only within Feed The Future and our own government, but broadly across the international community.

MR. KRISTOF:  President Kikwete, Secretary Clinton alluded to your focus on agriculture.  You also spent a lot of time in rural Tanzania listening to people.  I wonder to what extent does this make sense to you?  In Tanzania, are investments in women and agriculture going to get a better return?  What is the situation like in rural Tanzania, for example?

  Well, first, let me thank Secretary Clinton for convening this discussion and for inviting me this time.

Well, the truth of the matter is women are the major labor force for agriculture in Tanzania, I think for the rest of Africa.  They do the work of the farm, they till the farms, they take care of the farms, they hold harvest, and the men will take the crops to the market and take the money – (laughter) – and decide how to spend that money.

And for polygamist cultures of ours, the view is that very same money made another wife from the labor – (laughter) – of the one.  This is – but of course, the – of course, we are poor, but women are poorer than men in Africa.  The majority of us live in rural areas – Tanzania 80 percent.  We depend on agriculture, if we have good returns, to make an impact on alleviating poverty, then tackle the agricultural question.  Because agriculture is backward, agriculture, little use of science and technology in production.  The hand hoe, as you saw in the picture, is the dominant technology, very little mechanization, and because it’s the women who are working, then the women shoulder all this burden.

But women don’t own property in many of our societies.  They don’t own the land; the husband owns the land.  The women work on the land.  So what we really need to do to help the women, one is make sure that women have access to property.  And of course, it’s cultural, because in our country, for example, there are some societies where the girl child doesn’t inherit anything from the father.  It’s cultural.  But anyway, we’ve got to look into ways of changing some of these cultures.  Of course, some of them, we do it through legislation.  We make legislations that override the traditional cultures.  So if the lady continues to use the traditions, go to the local chiefs, she’ll be subjected to the cultures.  But if she goes to the national courts of law, then she gets these advantages.  So we’ve been trying to use the legislation to try to help women.

But of course, we need to help women get the inputs, get the high-yielding seeds, get the fertilizers, get the pesticides, the herbicides, but also benefit from mechanization.  We cannot continue to leave the women continue to till the land using the hand hoe.  Of course, it is a question of government policies on making these inputs available.  In our case, we have subsidies, subsidies for seeds, for fertilizers.  We have also studied a program of making small tractors available in the rural areas at affordable prices, where the government also subsidizes these prices.  But of course, one thing also important is credit systems; make it possible for women to access – to have access to credit so that they can get the input and so on.

MR. KRISTOF:  Mr. President, if one gives those – that kind of assistance to women, though, isn’t there a risk of a backlash among men, a sense of resentment that may undermine output?

PRESIDENT KIKWETE:  Well, of course, those who enjoy privileges will always like to – to maintain them is not easy, but I think times are changing, also, because times are changing with education, with economic realities on the ground.  You find less and less of the younger men having the inclination of becoming polygamists.  It’s more an old tradition, because it gives you – it’s many challenges.

Of course, those who remain traditional will have problems with that, but I think times are changing.  Times are changing with education and so on.  We don’t have a bigger problem now and we will not have a bigger problem in the future as more and more people have access to education and modern ways of living.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  Reema Nanavaty, this is your life’s work.  This is what you do every day in Gujarat and around India.  So can you tell us what the lessons are that you’ve learned?  What does work, specifically?  Where is there sort of robust evidence of an intervention that actually – in terms of gender, that actually does improve nutrition and improve agricultural output?

MS. NANAVATY:  Thank you so much, and thank you, Secretary Clinton.  I carry a special message from our president, whom you had met.  And when I read out the invitation, she said, “Oh, please do,” that the president is now thinking of the right thing that the world needs, and please share our experience that – how did we turn the food crisis into a development opportunity.

So what I’m going to share today in some of our lessons is the work of the 1.5 million women members that, today, I speak here on behalf of.  And I think the first and the foremost is organizing – organizing, first recognizing women as farmers, organizing them.  It’s a first, a must, and no shortcut to that.  And I think we also feel that once organizing women around work as farmers, getting meaningful productive work, then women are also, we feel, much more stable,
much more future oriented, and they build communities which are eager to take on new information, new opportunities.  And that’s what our whole experience – when we had the food crisis looming around, how we organized not a few thousand but around 254,000 women farmers.  We began from Gujarat, and this is their own agribusiness company.

So I think one lesson is that one has to invest in women, in poor, and letting them build their own agriculture based or farm-based enterprises.  And today, I think, as a result of our agribusiness initiative, we have our own brand, which touches around 1.1 million households and ensures them nutrition and food security.  We call – it is RUDI.  This is also our rural distribution network, and as a result of that, women have taken charge.  And we have around 4,000 seed banks.  We have fodder banks.  We have grain banks in 4,000-plus villages as well.

So I think this is – say that how do you integrate the financial market, the labor market, and the community market.  And it has to happen at all levels – the local, the national, and the regional and international levels.

MR. KRISTOF:  And one of the problems in development is that often something – either you experiment with something and it’ll be a wild success; you try to scale it up and it’s much less successful.  So how do you go from some kind of a small-scale success to actually scaling up the kinds of things we’re talking about so that they really work on a large scale?

MS. NANAVATY:  I think we all need to be much more tolerant, much more patient in order for women to scale up their own initiatives.  And our experience of four decades now shows that when (inaudible) in women in their enterprises, women are able to take it to scale.  I think the barriers are that the governments, the financial institutions, the private sector – everybody needs to come together and invest in women-owned, women-managed, and women-led enterprises in the field of agriculture.

Today, our RUDI is not only scaling itself in India alone, but we are taking it to Afghanistan, we are taking it to Sri Lanka, we are taking it to Nepal.  We have sisters who come from Ghana, who come from Malawi, and they all want to take it to their – into their folds.  So I think one has to invest, and basically it’s the governments, the private sector, and the financial institutions.  One – they need to invest so that women have access to and also control over land and grains and information, both.  And then they are able to integrate themselves into the mainstream markets.

One of the things I’ve learned is the degree to which business can be a huge engine for change.  And so Paul Polman, you’re from that world.  Can you talk a little bit – at Unilever – about how you go about making these kinds of business decisions and whether it is increasingly apparent in the business community that there is a real business case for these investments that put more money in the hands of women farmers, for example?

MR. POLMAN:  Yeah.  I’ll start – well, first of all, again, thanks for the opportunity as well to be here.  I’ll start with a confession.  To be honest, before I was on the panel, I really did not spend much time to look at it from an angle of women.  Now, I apologize for that, but then it became very apparent that when I looked at all the examples – I’m chairing right now a task force on the G-20 for food security, for example, leading up to the November meetings.  And the more examples I looked at, that – just the women kept popping up, and it was very, very clear that looking – not surprising, no? – looking at the programs that we are working with, that most of that is actually driven by women.

When we select things – to be honest, we are a 65 billion company; we buy agricultural materials, about 12 billion worth a year.  Fifteen percent of the world tea was our brand, Lipton, and some other things.  But it’s very clear when I called our people and I said, “Look at our tea plantations in Muvindi and – which is in your territory – or in Kericho in Kenya, the bulk of them are women.”  And then I said, “Are they more productive or not?  Because I have to be on the panel.”  (Laughter.)  And they are, so – (laughter) – so just to know.

The – and I was looking at the report we were writing for the food security, which goes to Sarkozy, and the U.S. Government has been actively involved in this as well, and getting the B-20, as we call it, the Business 20 input into the G-20.  And again, I’m ashamed to say we look at all the recommendations we make on increasing investments in agriculture, R&D, making it more sustainable, looking at nutrition as a driving factor, all the things that I’m sure you’re all well familiar with.  But again, we failed to look at it from the angle of women.

So one of the commitments I made this morning to someone – and I’ll make it here publicly – that I’ll take this report back home, and it cost me a few more hours, but we have to write it also from the angle of if we – with these statistics that the Secretary shared with us – if we could make that come alive, indeed it will go a long way to filling the gap of the 70 percent that we need in production to get to the 2050 targets.

The way we now – if I look at our programs, to be honest, from our company’s point of view, be it the small-hold farmer projects that we – that we’re having, originally a company like ours, with the volumes we need, you go to the world market, the ADMs, the Cargills, some of the origin markets, be it palm oil from Indonesia or Malaysia.  So that’s how you buy 80 percent, and otherwise, you simply cannot get the quantities you need.  But increasingly, it is important that we look at this a little bit differently and take core responsibility of some of the challenges that we’re facing on the same food, energy, water nexus that we’re talking about and going to tremendously more sustainable sourcing.

So we as a company have made a commitment to source all of our agriculturally based materials sustainably by 2020.   And that’s not an easy thing to do, and we will do that with small-hold farming.  And one of the reasons we’re sitting next to each other as a coincidence is not only finding it’s – we’re all on the same panel, but the green growth corridor in Tanzania, for example, is a wonderful example for us.  We currently work with about a million small-hold farmers.  We have made a public commitment to add another 500,000.  Again, not surprisingly, most of those will be women, and increasingly under an angle of the social, equitable, and sustainable elements of that.  And that is now becoming increasingly a part of our sourcing strategy.

MR. KRISTOF:  Kathy Spahn, one thing that I’ve learned from your organization, Helen Keller International, is that one of the keys of nutrition is not just calories, but is micronutrients.  And are we – I mean, have we become too focused on sort of quantities in trying to address this?  And do we kind of need to change the way we think about promoting nutrition and getting – and what women, indeed, need to focus on?

MS. SPAHN:  Well, first, I thank you for a question that is so near and dear to the lifeblood of Helen Keller International, but I also want to thank Secretary Clinton not only for convening this panel, but for ensuring there was a seat for civil society on the panel.  It’s very much appreciated.

And yes, we do need to take a broader view.  Calories are important.  They provide energy, but that’s not enough.  We need to ensure that foods are nutritious, and there’s a difference between food and nutrition.  You need to have food that has vitamins and minerals in it, what we call micronutrients.  A lot of staple crops that we’re talking about growing in larger quantities – maize, rice, cassava – they provide energy in their calories, but they are lacking in the micronutrients that are essential to meet the nutritional needs of very young children, and also to meet the nutritional needs of women of reproductive age.

Micronutrients like vitamin A, iron, zinc – they’re essential for physical and cognitive development.  They’re essential for the immune system to function properly.  So children who grow up deficient in those micronutrients can have really negative consequences in terms of their survival, in terms of health, in terms of growth, in terms of productivity.

Take vitamin A, which is at the core of our work, and it’s found in dark green, leafy vegetables; in orange fruits, the really good ones like mangoes and papayas; in egg yolks; in liver, vitamin A is essential to prevent blindness in young children, but it is also essential for child livelihood and child survival because vitamin A is necessary for immune system function.  So a child who gets calories that don’t have vitamin A in it is not going to be able to fight off common illnesses, whether they get a respiratory illness, they have diarrhea, a child who’s vitamin A deficient may die because their immune system can’t fight that off.  And in deference to the Secretary’s remark about the need for research and an evidence base, there is a solid evidence base about this.

Another key micronutrient that you’re all familiar with is iron.  Deficiencies in iron can result in reduced IQ in children, increased risk of maternal mortality, and decreased worker productivity from anemia.  And in times when food prices go up, what happens is that poorer families, to save money, buy the cheaper staple foods that are lacking in the micronutrients because micronutrient-rich foods – milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables – are much more expensive.  And this can have a horrible impact on growth and on health.

But there are solutions; I think that’s a key message.  There are solutions in supplementation with vitamin A, with zinc, with iron, but we also need to look, as we are today, at broader food base solutions.  So food fortification, wherein the processing of staple foods like cooking oil, you add vitamin A or in the milling of wheat flower, you add iron folate.  And then as we’ve been talking about, there is the agricultural aspect.  Homestead food production is a great example of community-based, women-centered, small-holder agriculture.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  If Kathy had her way, you would all come up and go away with a little pack of micronutrients or orange-flesh sweet potatoes or something as you left.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  And you’d be happy.  (Laughter.)

MR. KRISTOF:  Yeah.  And full of vitamin A.

Dr. Da Silva, you – in Brazil, you wrestled with and made extraordinary progress in these areas, but there must have been enormous cultural battles along the way when you did, indeed, put more emphasis in bringing women into the front.  So I wonder what lessons you can offer us from Brazil’s experience, from your effort there about how one can overcome these kind of cultural obstacles and how one avoids a backlash among men.

MR. DA SILVA:  Well, thank you for the question and thank you for an invitation, Secretary Clinton.  Yes, I would like to emphasize another – let’s say the other side of the coin – women’s not important for food production but also for food access and distribution.  This is the – perhaps the – in my opinion, the DNA of the mother.  The mother is who distributes the food in the house, especially (inaudible).  In Brazil, people that are hungry, they are hungry because they don’t have money to buy the food.  We have lots of food.  We are big exporters.  So the problem is how to access the food.  And what we did was to have a kind of cash transfer that’s more or less a Brazilian version of the food stamps.  In fact, I have spent six months in Santa Cruz, California searching for a good practice because this is another lesson.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do good things.  You just copy and adapt them.

And that’s exactly what we did.  We give to the mother a credit card – a visa credit card like that to buy food.  And why did we give her the money?  The reason that the president of Tanzania told us:  because when the man get the money from the market to the house, it disappears part of the money.  (Laughter.)  And money – mothers are sure that food first is not a slogan.  So we have been able to progress quickly in the (inaudible) and especially nutrition as we suffer from the (inaudible) in that sense.  There were resistance.  For sure there were resistance.  We – in the first moment, we made some legal consultation formally to the supreme court, and after we have been recommended to put in a law, now it’s a law in Brazil that the preference goes to the women.  So we have now around two million families receiving this kind of cash transfer, and 90, 95 percent goes to the mother.

How to avoid the resistance, involving civil society, especially organized civil society, but also the private sector.  From the beginning, from planning to implement the program and keep monitoring closely the program to – well, to find a way out of the problems.  It’s a big mistake if you try to make a pilot and then try to scale up.  As you said, this will incentivize immigration across the country from poorer areas to the cities, et cetera.  We try to do our best to do it quickly; not in a hurry, but quickly with participation of the organized society.  And it works.  And at the same time, it was very important to have the president directly involved, in fact.  This is an issue that the president should address directly his commitment, his self, to push the program.

And the whole idea of the Hunger Zero Program, let’s say the more important, is to improve local markets because when you have subsistence agriculture, poors live in poor areas, especially in rural areas.  Their – what they have is subsistence agriculture.  This is not enough to push local development.  So you have to, with the cash transfer, you give (inaudible) to improve local pushers power locally.  And you take this opportunity to implement structural programs like planting reform, like settlements, giving to the women the land rights, et cetera.  All of those things need to come together.  It’s false that you need urgency first and then structural change; you need to address both at the same time.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  At this point, we’d like to welcome Raj to join us and thank Secretary Clinton for joining us and for a really terrific engagement here.  (Applause.)
PRN: 2011/1535



Living with oil spill in Ogoniland

Living with oil spill in Ogoniland


Posted 18 September 2011, by George Onah,Vanguard Media,

As the convoy of cars from Bodo town conveying journalists veered into the road leading to Goi community, the air became fetid. The  air was so offensive that two members of the entourage made to throw up. The air had been poisoned by the smell of crude oil that had enveloped the river serving the five communities of Goi.

The deeper the convoy rolled along the tarred road towards the river, the stronger the smell of the deadly spill. The stench, it was learnt, is worse at night when the ebbing river returns. As the vehicles brushed through the grasses that have grown into the road, few youths and elders stared at the group with gloomy faces. The road had obviously not been in full use because the spill had emptied the clan of its population.

None of the onlookers offered a smile. While mothers clutched their naked pale-looking babies, the old people and youths stood akimbo wearing long faces. The appearance of the rural folks reflected the extreme trauma the oil spill had programmed their lives. Minutes later, many deserted houses came into view. As we approaches the inner part of Goi, we beheld a community under siege by a demonic crude oil. Most of the buildings were in a state of disrepair.

The occupants have since fled  because of the massive spill. Goi, said to be the oldest in the area, and with a population of nearly 60,000, is tucked on a quiet hill in Gokana Local Government  Area of Rivers State.  The Goi River, which  has its source as Bonny River, flows through Opobo Channel and Bodo West, with tributaries scattered around the villages of the clan.

While examining the volume of destruction, it was observed that an area of the river, where spring water was gushing, had been covered by a  mass of oil. The thick oil stretched all around the edges of the water which overlooks the swamp in the far end of the river. It was the community’s source of drinking water. Clearly, aquatic life in the river had gone extinct. Paramount ruler of the clan, Mene Livinus Kobani, said the spring water used to accommodate crocodiles and boa, which the community embraced as its deities.

According to him, “Mudskippers and periwinkles, which sprinkled along the shores of the river and welcomed visitors to the water, are all gone. With what has happened here, no one can fish in the next 50 years”. Scores of carcases of fishing canoes and other seafaring materials littered the shores of the river. Even all the farmland, where the waterfront slopes in the clan, had been made infertile.

The exposed roots of coconut and palm trees whose leaves flutter as the ebbing water returns had started dying from the roots to the fronds. Spokesman of the land Alhaji Muhammad M. Kobani said four villages and scores of canoes in the clan were razed by a mystery fire when the spill spread round the area.

The fire and the spill have, according to him, rendered over 30,000 of the communities inhabitants homeless. “Those who refused to move out are daily inflicted by various ailments. Because the people do not have any choice of drinking water now, they scoop whatever they can find including water polluted with benzene. As at last count, we have lost 15 people in one month. What is happening here is a gradual extinction of our people by oil spill”.

When Sunday Vanguard visited Bodo General Hospital, the medical doctor in charge refused to comment on the effect of the spill on the people. He said he would need authorisation of the state government to speak. But some patients, including pregnant women, old people and youths said they started experiencing pain and nausea as soon as the spill was noticed in their river, three years ago (2008).

Many pregnant women were said to be miscarrying at an alarming rate. Mr. Barinua, a resident, said he had spent all his life savings catering for his sick family since the spill was noticed in the community. “We spend so much money on drinking water. If you have to spend so much on water alone, what about food, school fees, hospital bills and others? This oil spill has scattered the community and many families”.

Oil Spill

Another resident, Mrs. Barigboma Williams, said she had lost three pregnancies in a row due to the “bad water, smell of oil every day and the general hardship” occasioned by the spill. “We cannot even relocate because of the financial implications. I used to farm and trade while my husband fished to sustain the family. But we have lost our sources of livelihood because of the spill”.

Sources of Spill
Narrating the sources of their woes, Alhaji Kobani said the first spill in the area was in 2004 and was ignored by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, because they said it was sabotage. He said the spill of 2008, which has remained till date, was accepted by SPDC as system failure at Bomu Manifold – Trans Niger Pipeline. The spokesman explained that Goi  has “always been at the receiving end of system failure and pipeline sabotage as claimed by Shell”.

The paramount ruler of the place, Mene Livinus Kobani, said he was taken aback that the UNEP report on the oil spill in Ogoniland did not mention Goi. Kobani said he was also surprised that the community has also not been involved in the distribution of drinking water by the Rivers State government.

Mene Kobani said, “Presently, there is no government or Shell presence in the community” and, for life to return to the area, they require a  health centre. My people want to return to the river to fish as well as to the land to farm. So, Shell should clean up the area and carry out remediation. We want adequate compensation from Shell and we want the company to build schools here.  Rivers State government should help us by supplying drinking water to this community”.

The lack of drinking water, he said, has contributed to the people leaving the area in droves. “The five sources of drinking water have been badly polluted. You see, only those who experience things would know the extent of pain. We are undergoing severe hardship in this community and the entire clan as a result of the oil spill here”.


Why I’m Donating My Heinz Award Money to the Fight Against Fracking

Sandra Steingraber beautifully shares why the fight against fracking is so important.


Posted 15 September 2011, by Sandra Steingraber, AlterNet,


Photo Credit: todbaker

I’m thrilled to receive a Heinz Award in recognition of my research and writing on environmental health. This is work made possible by my residency as a scholar within the Department of Environmental Studies at Ithaca College. Many past and present Heinz Award winners are personal heroes of mine–and Teresa Heinz herself is a champion of women’s environmental health–so this recognition carries special meaning for me. And it comes with a $100,000 unrestricted cash prize. Which is stunning.

As a bladder cancer survivor of 32 years, I’m intimately familiar with two kinds of uncertainty: the kind that comes while waiting for results from the pathology and radiology labs and the kind that is created by the medical insurance industry who decides whether or not to pay the pathology and radiology bills. Over the years, I’ve learned to analyze data and raise children while surrounded by medical and financial insecurities. It’s a high-wire act.

But as an ecologist, I’m aware of a much larger insecurity: the one created by our nation’s ruinous dependency on fossil fuels in all their forms. When we light them on fire, we fill the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases that are destablizing the climate and acidifying the oceans (whose plankton stocks provide us half of the oxygen we breathe). When we use fossil fuels as feedstocks to make materials such as pesticides and solvents, we create toxic substances that trespass into our children’s bodies (where they raises risks for cancer, asthma, infertility, and learning disorders).

Emancipation from our terrible enslavement to fossil fuels is possible. The best science shows us that the United States could, within two decades, entirely run on green, renewable energy if we chose to dedicate ourselves to that course. But, right now, that is not the trail we are blazing.  Instead, evermore extreme and toxic methods are being deployed to blast fossilized carbon from the earth. We are blowing up mountains to get at coal, felling boreal forests to get at tar, and siphoning oil from the ocean deep.

Most ominously, through the process called fracking, we are shattering the very bedrock of our nation to get at the petrified bubbles of methane trapped inside. Fracking turns fresh water into poison. It fills our air with smog, our roadways with 18-wheelers hauling hazardous materials, and our fields and pastures with pipelines and toxic pits.

I am therefore announcing my intent to devote my Heinz Award to the fight against hydrofracking in upstate New York, where I live with my husband and our two children. Some might look at my small house (with its mismatched furniture) or my small bank accounts (with their absence of a college fund or a retirement plan) and question my priorities. But the bodies of my children are the rearranged molecules of the air, water, and food streaming through them.

As their mother, there is no more important investment that I could make right now than to support the fight for the integrity of the ecological system that makes their lives possible. As legal scholar Joseph Guth reminds us, a functioning biosphere is worth everything we have. This summer I traveled through the western United States and saw firsthand the devastation that fracking creates. In drought-crippled Texas where crops withered in the fields, I read a hand-lettered sign in a front yard that said, “I NEED WATER. U HAUL. I PAY. “

And still the fracking trucks rolled on, carrying water to the gas wells. This is the logic of drug addicts, not science.  I also stood on the courthouse steps in Salt Lake City while climate activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for an act of civil disobedience that halted the leasing of public land for gas and oil drilling near Arches National Park. Before he was hauled away by federal marshals, Tim said, “This is what love looks like.”