A link to this New York Times article showed up in one of my RSS feeds the other day. I don’t read the New York Times very much, and if this article is an indication of their current level of journalism, this must be the reason.
A few years ago in Europe they changed the rules in most countries concerning advertising in government funded media. It used to be banner advertising was allowed, but embedded advertising was generally not allowed. Embedded advertising is when a media company accepts payment for publishing an article. At first the amount of garbage that was showing up in the media here was so overwhelming and so offensive, people complained loudly. Now it’s a little less offensive, but still there. In America it’s been the norm for decades. I think for many of us here in Europe, the before and after picture of this rule change has been a real eye-opener.
The article above immediately set off my bullshit detector, and it stands out as a perfect example of the misinformation published these days by the food industry as embedded advertising. It’s almost written in Michael Pollan style.
In Europe the food industry recently spent a record setting €1 billion requiring new labelling on foods, listing ‘nutritional analysis’ such as fats, sugars, carbohydrates and so on. This article shows perfectly how the food industry manipulates our perception of food, into thinking they are the good guys and how they are trying to make healthy food for us. This article is a perfect example of how we’re supposed to learn to eat more processed foods.
The one thing I do agree with this article on is their comparison of themselves with the tobacco lobby of a decade or two ago. In many ways the food industry is much more powerful than the tobacco lobby ever was, and food is after all something we all need to eat. It’s nice to see them giving us proof, in their own words, of how we need to take them more seriously than we have ever taken the tobacco industry.
The press release is below.
Shumei International and Navdanya host events with Fukushima Farmers and Civil Society to Support SEED FREEDOM, GARDENS OF HOPE Campaign
TOKYO, February 20, 2013 – Today, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Shumei International announced the launch of SEED FREEDOM, GARDENS OF HOPE in Japan during a special symposium held at the United Nations University in Tokyo. SEED FREEDOM is a global campaign and movement started by environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva to spread awareness about the current precarious state of the global seed supply and its consequent threat to food security. Shumei International, a Japanese nonprofit organization that promotes Natural Agriculture, has partnered with Dr. Shiva’s organization Navdanya to promote the importance of saving seeds, protecting biodiversity, and supporting agricultural systems that work in harmony with nature.
As the 2nd anniversary of the Fukushima disaster approaches, the SEED FREEDOM campaign puts a spotlight on the growing need to build community resiliency and adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Japanese farmers and communities are facing serious concerns about nuclear radiation, climate change, environmental degradation and natural disasters. The “Seed, Soil and Food for the Future” symposium emphasized the critical relationship between the environment, agriculture, food and human life to build support for SEED FREEDOM. Starting a community seed bank is one of the ways SEED FREEDOM encourages people to protect the integrity, purity and diversity of natural seeds for the future.
“The disappearance of our biodiversity and of our seed sovereignty is creating a major crisis for agriculture and food security around the world. We must act before it is too late,” urged Dr. Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya and the SEED FREEDOM movement. “Seeds are the first link in the food chain and the repository of life’s future evolution. As such, it is our inherent duty and responsibility to protect them and to pass them on to future generations. The growing of seed and the free exchange of seed among farmers has been the basis to maintaining biodiversity and our food security.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), seventy-five percent of the world’s food is currently generated from only 12 plants and five animal species. Crop diversity is being lost at an alarming rate as farmers leave local varieties for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties, which require certain amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to produce. However, numerous studies have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Although there is no commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops in Japan, this is still an issue as approximately sixty percent of its food is imported and the labeling requirements of GMO ingredients in foods are not comprehensive.
The “Seed, Soil and Food for the Future” symposium explored new solutions to regain food and seed sovereignty based on respect for nature that recognizes the inherent power of natural seeds and soil to produce healthy food locally. Dr. Elaine Ingham, a soil microbiologist and chief scientist of Rodale Institute, addressed ways to grow more resilient crops through sustainable soil management. Mr. Seiji Sugeno, a farmer and the president of the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network explained the role of sustainable farming in community rebuilding and land rejuvenation following the March 2011 nuclear disaster. He was joined by a Natural Agriculture farmer Mr. Mamoru Azuhata, who shared his experience in Fukushima and seeing the positive impact of working in harmony with the land.
“Once soil life and its proper balances are understood, the need for all the toxic chemicals in industrial agriculture disappears,” said Dr. Ingham of Rodale Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S. pioneering organic farming through research and outreach.
The symposium drew more than 300 attendees from civil society and was supported by Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network, Slow Food Fukushima and Shumei Natural Agriculture Network.
“Food safety and agriculture are key issues for Japan right now. As farmers and consumers, we are at an important point in deciding our future and learning from our past,” said Alice Cunningham, director of International Affairs for Shumei International, which has Natural Agriculture farms around the world. “Shumei International is a part of SEED FREEDOM because we see the urgent need to shift our thinking towards the environment, and the seed is a crucial starting point.”
The court in Dendermonde, Belgium has convicted the 11 activists accused of ‘forming a criminal gang’ as part of their protest against a GMO potato trial planting. I posted about their lack of a fair trial a few days ago.
Have a look at their press release for more information.
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In a few days the verdict is due in one of the biggest challenges to democracy in Belgium in recent memory. The ‘Potato 11′, the people charged with the destruction of a GMO potato test field I posted about before, are facing disproportionately serious charges for what was little more than exercising their rights to free speech. In addition, during their trial, they were denied the right to present their own defence.
The following is from their own website:
Belgium – Judges deny anti-GMO activists a fair trial
Debate on GMOs refused by court
Dendermonde/Brussels, 15/01/2013 – In the presence of a huge crowd of supporters from a range of organisations, the court of Dendermonde (Belgium) has denied 11 anti-GMO activists the legal right to a defence in court. The court refused to allow defence witnesses to give their statements, and also refused to allow video footage to be shown. This is in violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees defendants the right to a fair trial. In response, the 11 field liberators and their lawyers decided unanimously to leave the court room.
In contrast to the vast majority of Belgian court cases, no independent investigating judge was appointed. This is despite the fact that the prosecution has politicised the trial by introducing the charge of forming a criminal gang. The summons to appear was issued directly by the public prosecutor. The investigation was therefore only conducted for the prosecution. In order to be a fair trial, the investigation should also be conducted for the defence. In order to ensure a fair trial, the defence lawyers wanted at least an investigation during the trial, including a number of defence witnesses and video clips. This was refused by the court. At this point the defendants and their lawyers left the courtroom, let the case continue in their absence, and took no further part in the trial.
The civil parties to the case – including ILVO (The Flemish Institute for Agricuture and Fisheries Research), VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology), University of Gent, Hogeschool Gent – put forward their case, and demanded damages.
The judgement is expected on 12th February: in the event of a guilty verdict, the activists will appeal.
The court has refused to allow a debate about sustainable agriculture, the role of GMOs, and pubic research. The struggle for freedom of expression, justice for activists, and a sustainable agricultural system will continue.
See you again soon in Dendermonde.
This is what the executive director of Greenpeace International has to say about the case: