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Small Farms Are Best for the Environment, Climate Stability, & Feeding the World's Population

NOTE: Last week - from 16 to 20 June, BIO held its grand business convention
- BIOtech International, at the San Diego Convention Center, and according
to the post-convention press release the event attracted 20,108 people at
$2,300 a piece!

Given the monies also pouring into Monsanto's coffers during the global food
crisis triggered by the Bush subsidised ethanol boom, the state of ag
biotech would seem to be bouyant.

But interestingly, at exactly the same time as the big BIO bash was underway
in the States, a more modest number of people from over 100 countries were
meeting in Modena/Italy for the 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, to
consider such issues as the pressures on biodiversity, the risks of GM
technology and the long term needs of agriculture in a world where emissions
of greenhouse gases and dependency on fossil fuels desperately need to be

And during IFOAM's session on GM, it became clear that the GM industry is
coming under growing pressure from within its US heartland - with Monsanto's
GM hormone injected into cattle (rBGH) being increasingly phased out under
food industry pressure; increasing concern among big food manufacturers over
GM regulation, and Obama committed to GM labelling.
Small farms best for environment: organic group
By Mathias Wildt
Reuters, June 20 2008

MODENA, Italy - Small-scale, not industrial farming, is the answer to food
shortages and climate change, organic farmers argued this week.

Meeting at the Organic World Congress this week, the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements IFOAM -- --
criticized a recent U.N. food summit for touting chemical fertilizers and
genetically modified (GM) crops rather than organic solutions to tackle
world hunger.

The World Bank says an extra 100 million people worldwide could go hungry as
a result of the sharp rise in the price of food staples in the last year.

At the U.N. food summit in Rome this month, the World Bank pledged $1.2
billion in grants to help with the food crisis.

"The $1.2 billion the World Bank says will solve the food crisis in Africa
is a $1.2 billion subsidy to the chemical industry," said Vandana Shiva, an
Indian physics professor and environmental activist speaking at the forum in

"Countries are made dependent on chemical fertilizers when their prices have
tripled in the last year due to rising oil prices," she said. "I say to
governments: spend a quarter of that on organic farming and you've solved
your problems."

She said industrial farming was based on planting a single crop on vast
surfaces and heavy use of chemical fertilizers, a process that used 10 times
more energy than it produced.

"The rest turns into waste as greenhouse gases, chemical runoffs and
pesticide residues in our food," she said.

In contrast, organic farms could increase output by 10 times by growing many
different species of plants at the same time, which helped retain soil and
water, she said. "In a one-acre farm in India they can grow 250 species of
plants," she said.

Shiva has began a civil disobedience campaign in India against the patenting
of natural seeds, particularly of crops that resist flooding and drought and
can better withstand climate change.

"We need this worldwide. Seeds are for everyone," she said.

According to IFOAM, a quarter of greenhouse gases are emitted by
industrially farmed crops and livestock. The proportion rises to 40 percent
when including the emissions caused by transporting commodities around the

IFOAM members also criticized the production of fuel from grains, citing a
U.S. university study that it took 1.3 gallons of fossil fuel to make 1
gallon of ethanol from corn.

The United States and Brazil defended their use of corn and sugar cane to
make ethanol to fuel cars at the UN food summit saying it was a minor factor
in food price inflation.
How organic agriculture contributes to combat desertification

The 2008 theme of the Day is 'Combating Land Degradation for Sustainable
Agriculture' and because the International Federation of Organic Agriculture
Movements representing is convinced that Organic Agriculture can contribute
significantly to mitigate and even reverse the negative impacts of
unsustainable land use and to stem further desertification it joins the
international community to mark 17 June World Day to Combat Desertification.

Desertification refers to land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry
sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic
variations and human activities like conventional agriculture.
Desertification is caused mainly by overcultivation, overgrazing,
deforestation and poor irrigation practices, which result in organic matter
loss, soil contamination, erosion, soil compaction and sealing, salinization
and long-term loss of natural vegetation.

The international community has long recognized that desertification is a
major economic, social and environmental problem of concern to many
countries in all regions of the world. As early as 1977, the United Nations
Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) adopted a Plan of Action to Combat
Desertification (PACD). Unfortunately, despite this and other efforts, the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded in 1991 that the
problem of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas had
intensified, although there were "local examples of success".

Desertification is a worldwide problem that directly affects over 250
million people and a third of the earth¹s land surface. It is especially
concentrated in developing countries. Since 1990, about 6 million hectares
of productive land have been lost each year around the world.
Desertification causes food insecurity, famine, poverty, and human
displacement that can give rise to social, economic and political tensions.
Thus, the vicious circle of further poverty and further land degradation

Combating desertification requires an integrated approach. Organic
Agriculture [1], including techniques such as windbreaks, shelterbelts and
reforestation, should be promoted and strengthened with socio-economic
measures that address insecure land tenure systems and promote sustainable
human settlements.

Organic Agriculture helps to improve soil fertility, prevent wind and water
erosion, improve water infiltration and retention capacity and reduce
surface and ground water consumption and contamination ­ all measures
contributing to bringing land back to life.

Gerald A. Hermann, IFOAM¹s President, emphasizes that ³Farm practices that
do not take care of the soil and its organic and living content undermine
the very resource agriculture depends on ­ the land.²

Angela B. Caudle de Freitas, Executive Director of IFOAM, strongly advises
that "Governments, development agencies and donors should promote Organic
Agriculture in their agricultural development efforts to reverse
desertification where it has occurred and to prevent it from expanding. The
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) should encourage
governments to adopt Organic Agriculture as a tool to combat

[1] Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of
soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes,
biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of
inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition,
innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair
relationships and a good quality of live for all.