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The Road to Cancun: Good News on the Climate Crisis

#253, December 2, 2010

In this issue:


Quote of the Week

The High Technology of Plants

"The potential for CO2 storage in soils is three times greater than the atmosphere. And since two-thirds of the Earth's landmass is covered with grass, the potential impact on the climate could be gigantic. In fact, NASA's Dr. James Hansen, the nation's leading climatologist, postulates that 50 ppm of CO2 could be sequestered in soils over the next fifty years.

"How? By employing the low technology of green plants, which pull CO2 out of the air and fix it into carbon compounds that are stored in the soil."

"The Carbon Ranch: Fighting Climate Change One Acre at a Time" by Courtney White

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Letters From Cancun

The Road to Cancun: Good News on the Climate Crisis

by Ronnie Cummins

Six staff members from the Organic Consumers Association and OCA's Mexico sister organization, Via Organica, are in Cancun, Mexico for the COP 16 global climate crisis summit meeting Nov. 29-Dec. 10. Here's a first-hand report on the Cancun summit and the global climate justice Movement by OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins.

"What we are witnessing today, here and everywhere, is the embryonic formation of a New Climate Internationale - farmers, workers, indigenous people, students, and consumers uniting to save the Earth from catastrophic global warming. What we are demonstrating on hundreds of thousands of organic farms and ranches; in thousands of community organizing projects; and in our direct action protests to stop coal plants, mega-developments, and deforestation is that a New World is possible - a new, relocalized climate-friendly Commonwealth, rising out of the rubble and ruins of the old..."

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Letters From Cancun

Cancun Can't Last as Long as Mangroves, Can Humanity Outlive Cancun?

by Alexis Baden-Mayer

Cancun's unsustainable beaches won't last as long as the mangrove forests that began being destroyed here when this little strip of paradise was first paved over 40 years ago. Last year, 80 million dollars worth of sand was dredged out from under octopuses to make up for losses caused by hurricanes that left waves lapping against hotel foundations. For the time being, this relatively small investment preserves billions in revenue from tourism, but, taking the long view, it's difficult to justify the "beach rescues." Already, 8 percent of the new sand has been swept away - even without any major storms. With the global climate crisis increasing the frequency and impact of extreme weather events, it is only a matter of time before artificial preservation of the beaches is no longer cost-effective. Inevitably, the sea levels will rise and turn Cancun into Atlantis.

But there is a world beyond Cancun and there are things we have yet to lose that are more precious than beachfront property. On the business-as-usual track we're taking now, climate change threatens the very elements of life, soil and water. Our hope of conserving soil and water is linked to whether we can save what's left of Cancun's mangroves and coral reefs.

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Support the OCA! Stop Big Ag and Frankenfoods

We depend on your donations to preserve strict organic standards, to fight against Big Ag, Monsanto and GMOs, and to build a global climate justice movement based upon organic food and farming. Please send us a tax-deductible donation today and we'll send you a free "Millions Against Monsanto" bumper sticker so you can help spread the word in your community. Please be sure to put "sticker" in the comments field of your donation.

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Alert Updates

Food Safety Bill Passes Senate, More Action Needed

A year after it was reported out of Committee, the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) passed the Senate, 73-25. The bill was sent to the House for their consideration, but is currently stalled because the Senate violated a constitutional requirement that tax provisions originate in the House. The only way for the Democratic leadership to get the bill to the President's desk now is for the House to pass a new version of the bill and send it back to the Senate for a final vote. That's only possible with a unanimous consent agreement to limit debate. The bill's chief opponent, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), will not agree to such a deal, so the bill is unlikely to become law.

Six important amendments shepherded by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition that protected local, small and organic producers threaten to be lost in this final shuffle if the bill miraculously passes in the final moments of Congress's short lame-duck session.

It's not beyond Food Inc.'s indentured servants in Congress to create this kind of hullabaloo for the very purpose of substituting a last-minute version of the bill that would help corporate agribusiness avoid meaningful regulation, while hurting their local, small and organic competitors.

We've all heard that passing legislation is like making sausage, but the safety of our food and the future of small, local and organic food producers is too important to be left to a last-minute process that could give powerful lobbyists the opportunity to perform 12th hour slights of hand.

Please call your Senator and tell them that the Food Safety Modernization Act is flawed - and, without the small/local/organic amendments, potentially dangerous - legislation. Ask Congress to instead encourage the FDA to fulfill its food safety obligations under existing law. Currently, the FDA only inspects 1% of the imports and 25% of the processing facilities in their charge, but seems to have unlimited resources to harass Amish farmers, raid food clubs and pull over raw milk deliverers.

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Alert Updates

Victory! Court Orders Destruction of Monsanto's Sugar Beets - Take Action By December 6

On November 30, the Center for Food Safety won a significant victory in its legal strategy to stop dangerous new genetically modified organisms when a federal judge ordered the immediate destruction of hundreds of acres of Monsanto's sugar beet seedlings and declared the seedlings had been planted in violation of federal law.

The court outlined the many ways in which GM sugar beets could harm the environment and consumers, noting that containment efforts were insufficient and past contamination incidents were "too numerous" to allow the illegal crop to remain in the ground. In his court order, Judge White noted, "farmers and consumers would likely suffer harm from cross-contamination" between GM sugar beets and normal crops. He continued, "the legality of Defendants' conduct does not even appear to be a close question," noting that the government and Monsanto tried to circumvent his prior ruling, which made GM sugar beets illegal.

Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said, "USDA thumbed its nose at the judicial system and the public by allowing this crop to be grown without any environmental review. Herbicide resistant crops just like this have been shown to result in more toxic chemicals in our soil and water. USDA has shown no regard for the environmental laws, and we're pleased that Judge White ordered the appropriate response."

Plaintiff Center for Food Safety's Senior Staff Attorney George Kimbrell said, "Today's decision is a seminal victory for farmers and the environment and a vindication of the rule of law. The public interest has prevailed over USDA's repeated efforts to implement the unlawful demands of the biotech industry."

Monsanto created "Roundup Ready" crops to withstand its Roundup herbicide (with the active ingredient glyphosate), which it then sells to farmers together with its patented seed, for which it charges farmers a substantial "technology fee." Growing previous Roundup Ready crops such as soy, cotton, and corn have led to greater use of herbicides. It also has led to the spread of herbicide resistant weeds, and contamination of conventional and organic crops, which has been costly to U.S. farmers. Herbicide-resistant crops are also more susceptible to serious plant diseases.

TAKE ACTION! USDA is currently considering approval of more plantings of sugar beets in the spring, before completing its court-ordered environmental impact statement. Tell the USDA not to approve this illegal planting:

Take Action


Alert Updates

Stop Frankenfish! Federal Scientists Fear FDA Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

Internal documents and emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request made by Food & Water Watch expose startling concerns with GMO salmon raised by scientists working at the U.S. Department of Interior's Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). The documents reveal that, as late as last month, the FDA had not adequately fulfilled a requirement under the Endangered Species Act to consult with both FWS and another federal agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to determine whether approval of AquaBounty's salmon might impact wild, endangered Atlantic salmon.

"Nice work Greg," Denise Hawkins, PhD, FWS Regional Geneticist wrote to a coworker in September. "Especially pointing out that there is no data to support the claims of low survival in the event of escape, which I agree with you all is a big concern. I also agree that using triploid fish [which AquaBounty claim have undergone a sterilization process] is not foolproof. Maybe they [the FDA] should watch Jurassic Park."

Despite AquaBounty's claim to produce only sterile salmon, the company admitted that up to 5 percent of their GE salmon eggs could be fertile, prompting the FDA to label the company's claims "potentially misleading". According to FWS internal emails, contrary to AquaBounty's claims that GE salmon would be grown in closed systems (and therefore unable to escape), FWS employees received news of a proposal to grow the fish in a facility that would discharge into the ocean off the coast of Maine.

"No matter what precautions you take, fish escape and once they do, there is no closing that door. So, that being said, I think it is very bad precedent to set," said one FWS program supervisor.

In the documents, high-ranking FWS employees, including Jeff Adams, a branch chief, complain of the FDA's failure to consult with FWS as required by law.

"The proposal [to approve AquaBounty salmon] also presents a situation where FDA, whose jurisdiction is not focused on natural resources, is entrusted with the authority to approve an application which poses such a threat to the country's natural resources," Adams said.

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Take Action to Stop Organic Cosmetics Fraud by December 10


Video of the Week

From Why Hunger: The Food and Climate Connection

What is simultaneously one of the greatest contributors to climate change and one of its greatest potential solutions? Believe it or not, it's how we farm and eat. Indeed, food and climate change are inextricably linked. The same global food system that is making us sick, increasing food insecurity, and polluting the environment is also contributing to climate change. Climate change, in turn, is contributing to rising rates of hunger and food insecurity. But the good news is all of us can be part of the solution. In fact, if you're working to change the food system, then you're already on your way to contributing to a cooler planet!



Little Bytes

Wikileaks Reveals Intel Efforts to Make Africa Safe for Monsanto

Dirty Little Secret in the Natural Foods Industry: Toxic Chemical Use

The Next Crash Will Be Ecological - and Nature Doesn't Do Bailouts

U.S. Government as Climate Criminal: The View from the Global South

The Carbon Ranch: Fighting Climate Change One Acre at a Time



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