Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group: John Jeavons and Jake Blehm

In this regular series we profile advisors of the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we feature John Jeavons, Executive Director of Ecology Action and Jake Blehm, Assistant Executive Director at Ecology Action in Willits, California.


John Jeavons at a GROW BIOINTENSIVE workshop in Mexico (Photo Credit: Amy Melious)

Name: John Jeavons

Affiliation: Ecology Action

Location: Willits, California

Bio: John Jeavons is the Executive Director of Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula, a 501 (c) (3) organization. He is known internationally as the leading researcher and method developer, teacher, and consultant for the small-scale, sustainable agricultural method known as GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farming.  He is the author of the best-selling book How to Grow More Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine (Ten Speed Press), which has gone into seven editions in seven languages, plus Braille.  There are over 550,000 copies in print worldwide.  He has authored, co-authored or edited over 30 publications on this high-yielding, resource-conserving Biointensive approach, including a five-part, peer reviewed article that appeared in The Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. Jeavons’ food-raising methods are being used in 141 countries and by such organizations as UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Peace Corps.

Name: Jake Blehm

Affiliation: Ecology Action

Location: Willits, California

Bio: Jake Blehm is the Assistant Executive Director at Ecology Action in Willits, California.  Ecology Action has provided training and education in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method of organic mini-farming to people from nearly 140 countries over the last 40 years.  He has worked in sustainable and organic agriculture for over 25 years, working in over 30 countries and visiting an additional 20 countries for agricultural service-learning and education, volunteering with organizations such as ACDI/VOCA and Winrock International.  He was worked in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Mali, Ghana, Cambodia, Guatemala, Honduras and several other developing countries. He began his career as a biological control producer and consultant, and later moved into leadership and organizational development work with agriculturalists.  He is an alumni of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, and was the Director of Programs for the California Ag Leadership Foundation.  Before joining ecology action, he was Director of Operations at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.  Jake received his B.S. in Agricultural Business/Economics at Colorado State University, his M.B.A. in Organizational Development from California Lutheran University and a Certificate in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

What is the relationship between agriculture and the environment? It very much depends on the type of agriculture practiced.  The methods, practices, and inputs all affect our relationship with farming.  Most conventional agricultural systems deplete natural resources and the environment’s ability to produce or maintain sustainable ecosystems on which all species depend.  We need to change this relationship to a healthy one.


What role can agriculture play in alleviating poverty and hunger worldwide?
For the majority of the world population, small-scale subsistence agriculture provides the only significant opportunity for addressing poverty and hunger while building sustainable fertility and conserving resources.  Healthy and vibrant local agro-ecosystems with appropriately developed infrastructure and markets can provide food security and economic opportunity.

Can you describe how GROW BIOINTENSIVE practices work and how they can help improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers? When properly used, the techniques included in GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable mini-farming can build the soil up to 60 times faster than in nature, while making possible per unit of production:

  • 67 to 88% reduction in water consumption
  • 50% reduction in the amount of purchased fertilizer required
  • 94% to 99% reduction in the amount of energy used
  • 100% increase in soil fertility, with an increases in yield
  • 200% to 400% increase in caloric production per unit of area, and a
  • 100% increase in income per unit of area.

What kinds of policy changes would you like to see implemented immediately to alleviate poverty and hunger? One good place to start would be to sequentially reduce crop subsidy payment programs. When the United States and European Union make farm subsidy payments, it changes commodity prices worldwide, and makes it very difficult for farmers from smaller developing countries to compete.  These farmers are forced out of the market, and the U.S. or other G8 countries end up needing to provide food aid or other economic assistance.  A better concept for agricultural support payments may be to pay farmers to build their soil fertility, sequester carbon, improve the soil’s water-holding capacity, reduce nutrient loading and develop better ecosystems.  These would provide multiple benefits and everyone would win.

Can you discuss the relationship between consumers in the United States and global hunger? When consumers demand a food supply that is not fully sustainable, we support a farming model that depletes our soil and degrades water, air, and species biodiversity. This, in turn, decreases our ability to alleviate hunger and malnutrition.  Why not support living, regenerative, local farming systems that support the improvement of the natural resources upon which the Earth depends?

Why should consumers in the United States care about the state of agriculture in other countries? Because a world with food security and social stability benefits us all.

What could be done to encourage more investment in an agriculture that assists with the alleviation of global poverty and hunger? A relatively small percentage of the developed world’s “security and defense” budget could provide the education, training, tools and other resources needed to increase food security, improved nutrition, healthy ecosystems and increased economic opportunity for hundreds of millions of people.  It simply takes the courage and political will to begin the building of a more fully sustainable world that works for everyone.

In Candide, Voltaire points the way: “The whole world is a garden and what a wonderful place this would be, if only each of us took care of our part of the garden!”  Each of us is needed.  And building a truly sustainable agriculture is an essential part of building sustainable communities. In order to accomplish this, we need to shift our perspective.  We need to stop growing just crops and begin growing living soil!

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Innovative Insurance to Protect Farmers

By Abby Massey

Dry soil because of drought in Samburu, Kenya (photo credit: Brendan Buzzard)

Farmers hit hard by last year’s drought in the Sahel region of Africa are facing another hard season. Nigeria, which is already suffering from a devastating drought, will need up to $130 million, according to the United Nation’s humanitarian chief John Holmes, to prevent widespread hunger. Such catastrophes make agriculture a risky business for farmers and insurers. And farmers across sub-Saharan Africa consistently have trouble finding access to insurance because the risks that they face are not only high, they are hard to assess.

A report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food ProgrammeThe Potential for Scale and Sustainability in Weather Index Insurance, analyzes index insurance and its ability to be scaled up, including case studies and examples of communities benefiting from the insurance. Typical crop insurance, which is hard for poor farmers to come by in sub-Saharan Africa—requires that insurers travel to farms to assess damages from a weather related event. Index insurance, on the other hand, utilizes an index or scale based on local yields and a specific weather event that will then provide the correct amount to be paid out.  This reduces cost for the insurer, making them more likely to provide service to a “risky” client such as a smallholder farmer. And, more importantly, it gives farmers the chance to survive weather catastrophes that could potentially devastate a community.

The report states that although index insurance is cost effective once implemented, it has high start-up costs and farmers not familiar with insurance can be skeptical about the system.  The report calls on NGOs, the private sector and multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank and World Food Programme, to give aid to private insurance companies who are hesitant to provide the insurance.

For more information see Improving Food Security with Crop Insurance and Innovation of the Week: Index Insurance.

Abby Massey is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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India Publishes Updated Greenhouse Gas Data

India’s Ministry of Environments and Forests released its greenhouse gas inventory of 2007 emissions Tuesday, making it the first developing country to publish emissions data this year. The ministry also announced that it will now publish an updated inventory every two years.India emissions inventory

The Indian government most recently released emissions data in 2006 based on 1994 figures. Since then, India’s emissions have grown at an average annual rate of 3.3 percent, increasing from 1.25 billion tons in 1994 to 1.9 billion tons in 2007. The report analyzes emissions from electricity use, transportation, agriculture, and land use change, the last of which actually serves as a net carbon sink in India, in contrast to many developing countries where deforestation is a major source of emissions.

India is now the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ranking behind China, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. When releasing the data, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh emphasized that India’s emissions are still one-quarter of those of the top emitters, the United States and China. He further highlighted that in the same period, from 1994-2007, India reduced the emissions intensity of its economy by 30 percent. India has announced plans to reduce emissions intensity by a further 20-25 percent between 2005 and 2020.

The Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment (INCCA), a network of scientists and research institutions established last October by Minister Ramesh, produced the report. In addition to the greenhouse gas inventory, INCCA has announced plans to assess climate change impacts in India and conduct long-term ecosystem monitoring. INCCA’s next report, a review of regional impacts from climate change on water resources, agriculture, forests, and human health, is scheduled for release in November.

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Innovation of the Week: Using Livestock to Rebuild and Preserve Communities

Anikole cattle is disappearing from Central and Eastern Africa (Photo Credit: ILRI)

For pastoralist communities like the well-known Maasai in Kenya, livestock keeping is more than just an important source of food and income; it’s a way of life that has been a part of their culture and traditions for hundreds of years.

But, in the face of drought, loss of traditional grazing grounds, and pressure from governments and agribusiness to cross-breed native cattle breeds with exotic breeds, pastoralists are struggling to feed their families and hold on to their culture.

The key, however, to maintaining the pastoralist way of life, at least in Kenya, may also be the key to preserving the country’s livestock genetic biodiversity, as well as improving local food security.“Governments need to recognize,” says Jacob Wanyama, coordinator with the African LIFE Network in Kenya— an organization that works to improve the rights of pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, “that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.” (See also: The Keepers of Genetic Diversity)

Anikole cattle, for example, a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa, are not only “beautiful to look at,” says Wanyama, but they’re one of the “highest quality” breeds of cattle because they can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—something that’s more important than the size and milk production of the cattle, especially as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa. And indigenous breeds don’t require expensive feed and inputs, such as antibiotics to keep them healthy.

More than just a consistent and reliable source of food, Anikole cattle also help preserve the pastoralist culture and way of life. Though most pastoralists recognize that  many of their children might choose to go into the cities instead of continuing the nomadic herding lifestyle of pastoralists, the preservation of Anikole cattle and other indigenous breeds will allow those that choose to stay to feed and support their families and community for years to come. (See also: Maintaining Links to Tradition in a Changing World)

And, similarly, in Mozambique, the International Rural Poultry Center of the Kyeema Foundation and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics are promoting livestock as more than just a means to improve food security.

The two organizations are partnering to work with farmers—most of them women—to raise chickens on their farms. Because women are often the primary caregivers for family members with HIV/AIDS, they need easy, low-cost sources of both food and income. Unlike many crops, raising free-range birds can require few outside inputs and very little maintenance from farmers. Birds can forage for insects and eat kitchen scraps, instead of expensive grains. They provide not only meat and eggs for household use and income, but also pest control and manure for fertilizer. (See also: Prescribing Improved Nutrition to Combat HIV/AIDS in Africa)

In Rwanda, Heifer International is helping farmers use livestock to rebuild their homes and improve their income after the devastating genocide that occurred 15 years ago.  Heifer began working in Rwanda in 2000, introducing a South African dairy breed, known for its high milk production, because, according to Dr. Karamuzi, “no stock of good [dairy cow] genes” was left in the country after the genocide.

And he says that these animals help prove “that even poor farmers can take care of high producing cows.” Heifer has certain conditions for receiving cows—including that farmers build a pen and dedicate part of their land to growing pasture—which made people skeptical, especially when they were used to letting animals roam freely to graze on grass. But as people began seeing the results of Heifer’s training, they become less suspicious and more interested in working with the group.

And these animals don’t only provide milk—which can be an important source of protein for the hungry—and income to families. They also provide manure, which provides not only fertilizer for crops, but also is now helping provide biogas for cooking to households raising cows in the country as part of a the National Biogas Program. And they give families a sense of security as they, and the entire country, continue to recover and rebuild. (See also: Healing With Livestock in Rwanda)

To read more about how smallscale livestock can improve food security and preserve and rebuild communities, see: Teacher Turned Farmer. . .Turned Teacher, Got Biogas?, Conserving Endangered Animal Genetic Resources in Kenya.

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P&G: Pūr Marketing Genius

I had the great opportunity to join a working group on sustainable consumption at the University of Minnesota this past week.  There I joined academic, NGO and corporate sustainability leaders to discuss how we can shift consumption patterns to being more sustainable (which not surprisingly meant consuming less to some of us, while to others it seemed to mean consuming more efficiently).

While there, I tried to use my 8 minutes of presentation time to encourage the corporate leaders in the room to use their significant power to lobby and market for products and initiatives that will both improve their bottom line in the long-term and simultaneously usher forth a culture of sustainability.

One example I pointed to: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. This company is suing other natural cosmetics and soap companies because the latter are calling their products organic but often still include toxic chemicals. This is a perfect case of a company using its financial resources in a way that if it succeeds will not only strengthen its market position, but will ratchet up the organic soap market and most likely force its competitors to actually use organic ingredients (or at least stop marketing their products as such). Either scenario will be good for both consumers and Dr. Bronner’s bottom line.

After describing that example, I offered a similar win-win proposal that could be applied by General Mills as there was a representative of the company at the meeting. Specifically: what if General Mills used its market power to introduce “Veggie Helper” to go along with its other Helper products (Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper, etc.).

Yum...

Through advertising and market visibility, these meat helpers normalize the idea of putting meat at the center of a meal and encourage people to eat hamburger and tuna—neither of which are sustainable foods. So what if General Mills started marketing Veggie Helper to make it natural and easy to eat a vegetable-centric meal? Over time, this market shift could both help deal with America’s obesity epidemic and lower America’s ecological footprint. (Globally, livestock production contributes 18% of greenhouse gases, nitrogen runoff, and many other social and environmental problems.)

Most importantly, I tried to explain that this would be beneficial for General Mill’s long-term profitability. The market—whether we accept it or remain in denial—is going to shift increasingly to mostly vegetable and grain-based as another 2 billion people populate the planet, more people become consumers, own pets (which eat lots of grain and meat themselves), and more entrepreneurs, corporations, and governments start displacing food crops with lucrative biofuel crops. Eventually grain prices will spike again, and with them so will meat prices. Will people still buy Hamburger Helper when Hamburger costs 18 bucks a pound?

General Mills seems to get that its business depends on a healthy Mother Nature to thrive—and is doing some important things to improve water efficiency of its operations for instance. But the idea of driving consumer demand in new directions even if it is less profitable in the short-run appears to be an anathema to most corporations, including General Mills it seems. So it was good to hear a wonderful case study the second day of the workshop that might offer an important lesson to General Mills and other businesses: that of Pūr Water Purification packets.

pur-packetGreg Allgood of Procter & Gamble (maker of the Pūr brand) described how P&G designed a new product for sale in developing countries that could purify unsafe water 10 liters at a time, using iron sulfate to bind with sediments and bleach to kill pathogens. The goal, of course, was to sell it at a profit. But unfortunately, it wasn’t profitable. The good news, Greg explained, was that instead of pulling the product completely, as executives at P&G first thought to do, they made it into a “non-profit” business, selling the packets at cost. Over several years, these 3.5 cent packets have had a great number of benefits, helping to purifying 2 billion liters of water, which according to Greg has saved 10,000 lives and averted 79 million days of diarrhea.

What Greg dwelt on less was the pure marketing genius of this effort. He showed a quick video of all the different leaders and celebrities praising P&G for this product, from Bill Clinton to Queen Latifah. So, for almost no cost, P&G is getting major marketing benefits and forging new partnerships with NGOs and international agencies that help green the company’s image. The company even uses this product to green the image of other P&G products, like a fragrance it sells in Europe, which if you buy P&G will donate 10 liters of clean water to a community in need(translation: 3.5 cents). Is that cheap greenwashing or what?!

But even better is that the Pūr packets are gateway products to selling other P&G consumer products. The same micro-entrepreneurs selling Pūr packets are selling P&G’s other products, like Pampers and Always. As you can imagine these are exactly what low-income individuals need in developing countries with no real waste disposal systems—completely non-recyclable disposable products!

Best of all, this is such a “feel good” project that even writing this, I feel uncomfortable. Here I am criticizing an effort to give people access to clean, safe drinking water. Am I so anti-corporation that I criticize even this? No, it’s just that this is such an insidiously clever effort by P&G to create markets for its products. Would P&G do this if all the marketing and cross-selling opportunities weren’t there? If they truly wanted to help shouldn’t they be reducing the air and water pollution their industrial facilities produce (the stuff that ironically ends up eventually contaminating someone’s water supply somewhere). Or if not that, they could provide truly sustainable water treatment technologies to communities—ones that can be used for years, like a ceramic filter instead of disposable packets of bleach (which according to Greg were at a per-unit cost one of the most expensive purification tools). Indeed, ceramic filters, unlike expensive single-use packets, would empower communities to purify their own water resources, instead of converting them into consumers and making them dependent on buying multinational corporations’ products to lead a healthy life. But of course, providing ceramic water filters or teaching communities how to use the sun’s UV rays to purify water doesn’t sell product or create an easy space to regularly sell people other P&G products. (An aside: for a wonderfully concise and practical description of free water treatment tools read the Hesperian Foundation’s A Community Guide to Environmental Health, specifically pages 92-99 of chapter 6—which you can download here.)

So, while I could go on about P&G’s diabolical marketing genius all day, what’s the point? I might as well complain about them selling diapers or Sunny D—both of which also need to go away but won’t any time soon. But complaining isn’t going to change anything. Instead let’s see if we can learn something from the company’s marketing prowess, and channel it into ways that actually retool the consumer socio-economic system so that it won’t destroy itself.

Returning to my Veggie Helper proposal, what if General Mills follows P&G’s lead and makes Veggie Helper a non-profit business product? Lower the goal so that the company simply breaks even and then uses it as a marketing tool to approach new potential allies. Perhaps not groups as radical as PETA but some of the middle-of-the road environmental groups, animal welfare groups and anti-obesity groups. How about Michelle Obama’s new anti-obesity task force? (I can see the ads already: “First Lady Obama just looooves Veggie Helper.”)

Then add to that all the cross-selling opportunities: like a recipe on the box of Veggie Helper that includes various “Green Giant” vegetables (another General Mills product) and joint coupon deals for these two product lines. Between stimulating sales of other General Mills products and the marketing value of partnerships, I bet that this would quickly prove quite lucrative for the company even without making huge direct revenues (just like Pūr packets did for P&G). And most importantly, it would lower meat consumption, obesity rates, and help insulate the company for the future when tuna is a luxury of the rich and hamburger is once again eaten only on special occasions. After all, if Mother Nature breaks down, General Mills won’t have a business (unless they take the Soylent Green route). P&G, on the other hand, will probably see Pūr packet sales skyrocket. Cha-ching!

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Africa needs “A Real Green Revolution”

By Amanda Stone

(Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

A recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development calls for a necessary and vital “green revolution” to be led by smallholder African farmers. The 2010 Technology and Innovation Report: Enhancing Food Security in Africa Through Science, Technology and Innovation was released last week, warning that sub-Saharan Africa is the region most likely to miss the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty.

Although per capita food production in Africa has declined over the past 40 years, the report urges that farmers can benefit from incorporating technologies such as low-cost drip irrigation and plastic water tanks for runoff.  The report also argues that smallholder farmers need to be at the center of policy in order for research, development, technology transfer and capacity building to meet real needs. While the report realistically recognizes that there are no quick fixes, it identifies several steps with the highest potential to improve productivity and food security in the short term.

To learn more about ways that technology and policy are helping small-scale farmers improve their livelihoods and food security see Innovation of the Week: Slow and Steady Irrigation Wins the Race, What Is an Appropriate Technology?, Re-Directing Ag Funding to Small-Scale Farmers for Improved Food Security, Seeding Food Security and Creating Game Plans for Investment and Policy to Improve Food Security.

Amanda Stone is a media and communications intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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Citizen Effect and Charlize Theron Recruit Citizen Philanthropists

(Photo Credit: Citizen Effect and CTAOP)

Oscar award winning actress Charlize Theron and her organization, the Charlize Theron African Outreach Project, have teamed up with Citizen Effect—a non-profit organization that empowers and inspires Citizen Philanthropists to choose their own projects and work directly with communities in the developing world. Together they will build an innovative foster home for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in Cloetsville, South Africa.  Find out how you can make an impact and help rebuild a South African community here.

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Acting It Out for Advocacy

This is the final blog in a three-part series about FANRPAN’s work. It was co-written by Sithembile Ndema, FANRPAN’s Natural Resources and Environment Programme Manager and Danielle Nierenberg.

Danielle Nierenberg with the staff of FANRPAN in Pretoria, South Africa (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

The Food and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network’s (FANRPAN) Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project aims at strengthening the capacity of women farmers influence in agriculture policy development and programmes in Southern Africa. It doesn’t sound especially entertaining—but it has some innovative strategies for bridging the divide between women farmers, researchers, and policy makers.

FANRPAN is using Theatre for Policy Advocacy to engage leaders, service providers, and policymakers; encourage community participation; and research the needs of women farmers. Essentially, theatre is being used to explain agricultural policy to people in rural areas, and to carry voices from the countryside back to government. Popular theatre personalities travel to communities in Mozambique and Malawi and stage performances using scripts based on FANRPAN’s research, to engage members of the community. After each performance, community members, women, men, youth, local leaders are engaged in facilitated dialogues.  The dialogues give all community member—especially women—a chance to openly talk about the challenges they are facing without upsetting the status quo. More importantly, it allows women to tell development organizations what they really need, not the other way around.

Ultimately, FANRPAN hopes to train women community leaders to use the theatre advocacy platform to discuss other issues and problems in their villages, including HIV/AIDS.  And because this project involves all members of the community, it doesn’t alienate men, but includes them in developing solutions.

For more information on FANRPAN and its work in Africa see the following www.fanrpan.org

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“Greening” Fisheries Could Calm Troubled Waters

By Stephanie Pappas

World Seafood ProductionFishing is a critical means of providing food, livelihood, trade, and economic growth in many developing countries—as well as the United States. In many small island developing nations and coastal countries – such as Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, and Ghana – fish provide at least 50 percent of the population’s total animal protein intake. And approximately 43.5 million people’s year-round incomes depend on fish production while another 4 million’s depend on seasonal jobs as fishers and fish product workers.

Yet, despite the important role of fisheries in maintaining economic and social well-being, “fisheries around the world are being plundered or exploited at unsustainable rates,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Speaking about the preview release of the UNEP’s Green Economy Report: A Preview, Mr. Steiner argued that the current fishing industry “is a failure of management of what will prove to be monumental proportions unless addressed.”

The Green Economy Initiative report, scheduled for release later this year, argues that investment in “greening” the economy across a range of sectors – including agriculture, fisheries, and water – can drive global economic recovery and lead to future prosperity, job creation, and improved environmental conservation.

Currently, some 52 percent of the world’s marine fisheries are fully exploited and producing at— or close to— their maximum limits. Another 28 percent of the world’s marine fisheries are categorized as overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion—a producing less than their maximum potential. And when fisheries collapse, there is more than just the loss of fish life to worry about: livelihoods, communities, and entire economies are ruined.

Though the current outlook on fisheries may be troubling, researchers say that all is not lost. According to the Green Economy Initiative’s report, an $8 billion annual investment in rebuilding and “greening” the world’s fisheries could have a positive, and lasting, impact on the fishing industry worldwide. Researchers say this investment has the potential to both increase fish catches and generate $1.7 trillion in long-term economic returns over the next four decades.

Some possible methods for “greening” fisheries highlighted in the report include providing job training in alternative jobs industries; reducing the size of fishing fleets to limit excess harvesting capacity; and providing additional funding for fishery management to expand marine protected areas.

To read more about fisheries and the impact of the fishing sector, see: Catch of the Day: Choosing Seafood for Healthier Oceans, Farming Fish for the Future, and Vital Signs Online: Global Fish Production Continues to Rise.

Stephanie Pappas is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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The GMO Debate Continues

(Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Check out the letter-to-the editor Dave Andrews, Senior Representative of Food and Water Watch and Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group member, wrote to the New York Times regarding genetically modified crops. His letter was a response to a recent op-ed by Pamela Ronald, a plant pathology professor at UC Davis and co-author of  Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food and James E. McWilliams, a history professor at Texas State University at San Marcos and the author of Just Food. They wrote about what they see as the potential role genetically engineered foods could have in helping feed people in the developing world.

To the Editor:

The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, was interviewed recently in the Vatican newspaper and had this to say about genetically engineered crops:

“The discovery and introduction of ‘genetically modified crops/seeds’ as a solution to world hunger problems and famine is trailed by great anxiety and suspicion about its intentions. The growing of corn by an African peasant farmer from corn seeds that he has kept from the harvest of the previous year gives him more food security than growing a genetically modified seed, which may give a high yield, but over whose availability he has no control.”

Cardinal Turkson has it right. The African farmer prefers to grow her own corn, not some foreign corporate import that denies real food security.

Dave Andrews
Senior Representative
Food and Water Watch

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