Tag Archive: pesticides

Sep 18

Canada Organic Trade Association: A guiding light

September 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s landmark book Silent Spring. In many respects, this book launched what is considered the modern environmental movement in North America. It was a catalyst to major changes in regulation, the government’s role in public and environmental health, and in many ways announced the birth, in earnest, of today’s organic community.

Pause and think a moment of this woman who made such fundamental change as a contrarian amidst the feverishly innovative and entrepreneurial post-war era, when the miracle of chemistry was being integrated into everyday life. She was in many respects a solitary voice, an outsider by her gender and strong conviction, and a questioner of how sustainable our decisions to date had been.

At the time of Silent Spring, we were on a long road to sickness: companies were advertising the uses of DDT to protect crops, livestock and even babies. Dairy cows and their feed were sprayed with the toxic compound. Children frolicked in the plumes of community spray-trucks. Families were sold DDT-laced wallpaper for their newborn’s bedroom to protect them from “pests.”

Today, some of our food is being impregnated at the genetic level similar pesticides— still “miracles” of science to save us from vague threats, and still questionable in their necessity or long-term sustainability.

This fall will also mark the 40th year of IFOAM, when a community came together of those who were unconvinced that chemical death-agents could sustain our life on the planet. These individuals helped shape the vision of an alternative system of organic agriculture and values, and how it could be practiced in nations all around the world.

Then, 20 years ago, we took a sobering moment in Rio to question what the future of our toxic and warming world might look like, and to try to shift it, collectively, to a more sustainable future. And then we returned again this year, with many great achievements to celebrate, but the conviction that more has to be done to truly make a difference.

50 years, 40 years, 20 years ago: major milestones on our road to sustainability. So what will this year bring—will California choose to label GMOs and by so doing help shape the continent? What will we see in five years’ time—will organic agriculture prove its resilience and restorative qualities in a world of unpredictable and extreme weather shifts? And what will we realize in the next 50 years that will ensure our descendants can enjoy the same gifts we were given?

That question is the same one that Rachel Carson faced in 1962: we each must internalize sustainability, we must question every day how the things we do, support, make, or buy either sustain or drain our world of its diversity and its life. This is a daily moment, and a personal one; but we are all, collectively, shaped by its outcome.

Matthew Holmes
Canada Organic Trade Association
www.ota.com
Organic Week in Canada
www.organicweek.ca

Aug 31

Zakho Small Villages Projects: Pushing for Organic Agriculture in Iraq

In 1997, Zakho Small Project Villages (ZSVP)started its organic agriculture activities in Iraq. Through the dissemination of organic agriculture techniques, awareness raising on environment and pesticide hazards, rural extension and  training courses for farmers, rural women, agriculture department staff and students, ZSVP pushed for Organic Agriculture in Iraq.

At that period, we (as an NGO interested in Organic Agriculture) faced many problems with the government, first because of economic sanctions. Indeed, the main goal of the government was to produce food without taking any consideration to the value, health and environmental issues. Secondly, we faced problems with the FAO policy in Iraq, as the FAO due to the UN resolution 986 (Oil for Food) was regularly importing a lot of agriculture chemicals  and distribute to or oblige farmers to receive these chemical inputs as a condition to receive other equipments.

Until 2003, organic activities were focused on Northern governorates of Iraq, but after this date, our organic program expanded to cover other areas of Iraq thanks to the support of international organizations.

In 2009, the Organic agriculture department is founded in the Ministry of agriculture in Iraq which expected to play an important role in dissemination of organic agriculture among farmers especially in middle and southern governorates.

During 2010-2012, many conferences and meetings arranged by universities and Iraqi academics recommended to adopt organic agriculture as a mean to reduce the deterioration in the environment and agriculture land which was caused by the successive Gulf wars between 1980-2003.

Organic Grape Production in Iraq

In 2010 and for the first time in Iraq, 37 farmers (Grapes growers) were organically certified  and work is ongoing to increase the land organically cultivated and certified farmers.

Today, organic agriculture is studied in colleges of agriculture in the Kurdistan region and Iraq especially to graduate students.

These are important achievements that need to be underlined, however there are still many challenges the organic farmers have to face in Iraq. They include:

  • Drought and desertification problems and lack of will from the government to tackle this problem;
  • Lack of law and legislation in Iraq to provide a legal framework for organic production;
  • Non availability of organic inputs and high prices if available;
  • Lack of organic marketing of farmers’ produce;

These challenges can be overcome by organizing advocacy campaigns for the protection of agricultural land in Iraq against unsustainable practices, procedures and the government’s mismanagement of soil and agricultural land. The governement should be pressured to create a legislation and framework for organic production, as well as for marketing and certification of organic products.

IFOAM can contribute and play an important role in arranging training programs on organic agriculture for farmers and rural women. This is why ZSVP is Proud member of IFOAM.

Dr. Abid Alli Hasan
Zakho Small Villages Program Coordinator in Iraq
zsvp@yahoo.com 

Feb 27

ILEIA: Small-scale Farmers Deserve Recognition!

A few years ago I had a series of interesting discussions with small-scale farm families in South India who had shifted from conventional to organic cotton production. I asked them what the most significant changes were which they had experienced. There were some remarkable answers. One woman farmer said: “Since the pesticides have left our house we can sleep peacefully. There is no more harassment from the pesticides dealer who comes in the night to collect his money”. Another woman explained: “Now that the cotton is grown organically, we can intercrop it with sorghum and vegetables for home consumption. Finally we can eat our own vegetables”. A farm labourer calculated that by working on an organic cotton farm she would spend Rs 3,000 less per year on hospital bills, and would earn 10 “extra” days of income because she did not fall sick any more due to over-exposure to pesticides. These women told in very concrete terms what sustainable farming means to them: it is about human dignity and peace of mind, about growing and eating your own food, and about healthy working conditions. And of course it is about earning a reasonable income, as the male farmers emphasised. The shift from non-sustainable to sustainable farming can literally mean the difference between misery and a decent life.

Photo_ILEIA_1Sustainable family farming is not only the way forward to these Indian cotton farmers, it is a possible future for 400 million small-scale farmers – and it is essential for the future of our planet. By facilitating the exchange of concrete experiences world wide, ILEIA and its AgriCultures Network partners in Latin America, Africa and Asia have contributed to an increased awareness and conviction, at local and global levels, that sustainable family farming is part of the solution (we use the word “sustainable” as we want to include all forms of agriculture that respect people and nature, even though they may not be strictly organic). Over the past decades we have collected, published and shared several thousands of experiences, and the body of knowledge on sustainable farming continues to grow every day. It forms a living testimony of the wisdom and resilience of family farmers around the world. Our key message to Rio therefore is: Sustainable family farming deserves recognition.

While many policymakers still believe that family farming is inefficient and something of the past, things are beginning to change. There is a growing consensus among farmers’ and civil society organizations and among scientists and influential actors within the UN institutions that sustainable family farming means better livelihoods for millions of people in the rural areas, and is also key to the future of the planet. The paradigm shift that has been called for is on its way as many millions of farmers are already practicing and developing sustainable methods every day. But it needs to be completed and there are major obstacles to be removed. IFOAM plays a very important role in this process of building a growing and inclusive organic+ movement. Let’s join forces on the way to Rio, and beyond.

Edith van Walsum
ILEIA – Centre for Learning on Sustainable Agriculture
www.ileia.org
www.agriculturesnetwork.org