Back After a Pause and Updates

June 23, 2014 · Filed Under General, Political · Comment 

I haven’t been writing much lately, and I have lots of things to catch up on.  In the coming days and weeks I’ll start working on my backlog.

I’m sorry there have been some availability issues over the last few days.  I’ve switched to a service called Cloud Flare, and a configuration error meant the blog was unreachable for 48 hours or so.  One of the consequences of this change is the URL now has www in front.  Not my preference really, but a requirement of the current setup.  They say they are working on a technical solution so the www isn’t necessary, and when this happens, I will probably remove it again.

This change to an address with www caused the RSS feed to reset, so most of you probably got an announcement for new posts, even though they were just the old ones.

The reason for Cloud Flare is twofold.  First, now the blog is ‘in the cloud’, and is faster.  Not really exciting actually, but faster is better than slower!  The second reason are some security enhancements.  I’ve written before about hacking on this blog, and it’s really a serious problem.  Twice the blog has effectively be infected with malware, and went down for a period of time.  The source of this hacking is no secret.  Cloud Flare provided this nice graphic that illustrates the point well, for a representative 24 hours on my blog:

Screenshot from 2014-06-23 14:33:19

In case you thought all hacking on the Internet originated in Mongolia, there you go!  It’s really the US.

In this case, I’m pretty sure you can think Edward Snowden and NSA.

This hacking comes together with spam, either written in American English, from 10 years ago — mostly about tired things like Viagra, or it’s written in other languages and if you put them through Google translate, they translate like they were written in American English.  The spam follows all of the US rules for decency; like no 4-letter words but otherwise explicit language.  There’s absolutely no sensitivity to foreign cultures incorporated into the spam, and likewise no racial slurs or attacks on the cultures of others.  It’s incredibly obvious it all comes from the same source.

This also seems to go along with accusations that the US government forces software developers to put back doors into their products.  WordPress as well as PHP and Apache all seem to have a lot of obvious back doors that are not difficult to exploit.

For those of you aware of Internet issues, it’s also related to the US refusing to give up control of IANA, the authority that issues Internet address, which means the US has access to enough IP addresses in obscure places and embedded into the address space of others, that using filters to control the hacking is all but impossible.

Some of you may encounter problems leaving a comment or reaching the blog, because I do some IP filtering.  If Cloud Flare reduces the problem enough, I will take off my own filters and hopefully make the blog more accessible to more people.  In any case, please let me know if you have problems like this, so I can try to fix it.

Anyway, Cloud Flare has a system that monitors all of it’s customers websites simultaneously for hacking activity, and when it detects this, it filters those IP addresses for everyone else.  This is really the only defence against this kind of hacking, so let’s hope we see an improvement.  Already I’m a little doubtful.  I see a reduction in hacking, but it’s still pretty heavy.  A reduction is still better than nothing!

Plant Breeding For Permaculture

March 13, 2014 · Filed Under Food Sovereignty, Seed Saving, Seeds · Comment 

There are getting to be more and more discussion forums around.  I think this is a good thing.  Nicolas sent me an email recently to tell me about this one, where he is a moderator.  If you’re interested in permaculture, this is the place to go to find out more about your plants and their genetics.

Proposed New EU Seed Law Politically Dead

March 13, 2014 · Filed Under EU Seed Legislation, Food Sovereignty, Seeds · Comment 

On Tuesday, 11 March, there was a vote in the EU Parliament, the first of only 2 so-called ‘readings’, on whether to return the current seed law legislative proposal to the EU Commission.  This vote passed, meaning it will ultimately be returned to the Commission.

The seed industry is also claiming success!  They pointed out the vote was procedurally flawed, meaning it’s not valid.

The reality is that regardless of if the vote was procedurally flawed, it’s a political decision of the Parliament.  In order for the legislation to be passed, the Parliament and Council both have to agree, and the Council is now unlikely to continue working on the proposal knowing it’s virtually impossible for the Parliament to now agree.

If after the elections the Parliament begins working on the proposal, they now only have one more vote (‘reading’) remaining to pass it, and this is all but impossible to achieve.

The widely shared view among NGOs in Europe now, is that it’s politically dead, and can’t come back to life.  Even though it may technically remain in the Parliament and Council for some time, it will ultimately end up back at the Commission for redrafting.  Now what we hope is that this time they will start from the beginning with a proposal that takes into account the wishes and needs of consumers and the environment and not just industry!

Seed Law Update

February 13, 2014 · Filed Under EU Seed Legislation, Political, Seeds · Comment 

I’ve had lots of questions about the status of the pending EU seed law, and there’s a lot of misinformation circulating, so let me try to put it into some perspective.

Committee Votes

The proposal was made by the EU Commission last May, and since then it’s been in the EU Parliament and EU Council.  What happens in the Council is not always very transparent, and it may be they have not been very active with it.  In any case, I’m not sure about the Council.

In the Parliament, it has been in two committees with a sort of joint competency; the environment committee (ENVI) and the agriculture committee (AGRI).  Some 1600 or so amendments have been submitted while in these committees, making it clear there’s a lot of opposition and disagreement.  Both committees have now passed resolutions calling for the measure to be rejected, and sent back to the Commission for redrafting.  The ENVI committee did this at the end of January, and the AGRI committee last Tuesday.  These resolutions are only advisory however, and now there will be a plenary vote in the main floor of the Parliament.  The Council would also have to agree for it to be returned to the Commission.

Plenary Vote

In the plenary, the resolutions calling for rejection can changed and amended.  The seed industry is lobbying hard to keep the current proposal, with only some minor changes.  I guess almost anything can happen in this vote.

In addition, while the tentative date for this vote is now 12 March, this is an indicative date, and delays are certainly possible, if not probable.

There is also the possibility the EU Commission could voluntarily withdraw the proposal, but this is not considered likely.

Elections

EU Parliament elections are in May.  Not only will we likely have different MEPs, who may be less friendly to our side of the argument, but after fresh elections they may be less receptive to public opinion.  The chance is very good the current Parliament will find reasons to delay this measure until after the elections, so that it can be considered again by the new Parliament.

If it is considered by the new Parliament, they may decide to return the same proposal back to committee, and start the whole process all over again.

Return to the Commission ASAP

While the seed industry thinks the proposal can be fixed with a few small changes, this is not the position of most seed related NGOs around Europe.  It is certainly not our position.  The current proposal is not without some good aspects, but overall it’s seriously flawed and should be rewritten.

The best option now is for it to be returned to the Commission as soon as possible.  There is also the uncertainty where this measure rests with the EU Council, and if it were returned to the Commission, the Council would stop working on it.  The Council is not thought to be friendly towards issues of biodiversity.

If it is returned to the Commission for redrafting, this is expected to be completed by 2016, and then the whole process will start over again, but hopefully with a better proposal to work with.

European Plant Breeding Forum

February 9, 2014 · Filed Under Seed Network, Seed Saving, Seeds · 5 Comments 

A new plant breeding forum has started in Europe.  This is intended to be a European version of the Homegrown Goodness forum in the US.  Are you interested in plant breeding and seed saving from a European perspective?  Stop by, register and introduce yourself!

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