FEBRUARY NETWORK NEWS

23.2.11

Geoff Tansey’s five year stint with the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) as one of their six‘Visionaries for a Just and Peaceful World’ has just ended. 

On 1st June 2010, an event in Brussels hosted by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), which ‘empowers citizens and civil society with the European Union’, presented the six different projects.

Geoff spoke about the tragedy of the world’s food distribution. One billion people on the planet are undernourished, more than 1 in 7 people; two billion people are micronutrient deficient, the 1.2 billion people that are overweight can be added to the numbers of the suffering and these numbers have been getting worse in his 35 year working life.

The expanding patent system withholds vital technologies from the less fortunate and globalization affects the third world as local foods are exported for profit to the rich first world.

He has a vision of a world in which the rules and laws of the international community become more humane and fair, creating an atmosphere where food is available and sustainable for everyone, no matter what their place in society or their state’s position within the international community.    

Geoff has begun to open up lines of communication that will affect change. By connecting with food security related NGOs and informing the general public through publications, including his influential book ‘The Future Control of Food’, he hopes, eventually to put pressure on the government. The book has been translated into Arabic and Spanish and Geoff is looking forward to visiting China, for the launch of the Chinese translation.

Progress has been made, the world has become more aware, but the job is far from done.      

Since he has started work, 35 years ago, the world’s food situation has deteriorated and global warming will add to the problem. Competition over scarce food is also becoming fiercer, with the rich and strong having the edge.

Geoff still hopes for a world that is more diverse, agro-ecological, with more equitable farming systems, striving to build a critical mass that will tip the scales.

He now intends to write a book which can easily be read by all and will focus on the factors which are blocking progress towards a food-secure world.

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15.2.11

Tracy’s screening was well-attended. She writes, “We had over 300 people from the European Parliament and NGOs watching the film Pig Business. We will have a Congress screening hosted by Robert Kennedy Jnr on March 9th”. Her summary:

 

MEPs José Bové, Dan Jørgensen and Janusz Wojciechowski organised the screening 

José Bové, once a farmer himself, has for many years opposed genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture, and after being arrested for dismantling a McDonalds hamburger outlet that threatened to destroy his local town economy, is now a member of the European Parliament. 

He agreed to co host an event I planned at the Parliament and insisted we screen my documentary Pig Business.  

I was sceptical that busy MEPs and officials would bother to watch an hour long polemic revealing the true costs of factory farming, but to my surprise the room was packed full with MEPs, EU Council and Commission officials, environmental, health and animal welfare NGOs, and the international press. 

Cheap’ meat would be very expensive if the factory farms were forced to pay their true costs 

As reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy will be debated in the European Parliament this summer, three MEPs José Bové, Dan Jørgensen and Janusz Wojciechowski  organised the screening to inform their colleagues in the EU Parliament and Commission that ‘cheap’ meat would be very expensive if factory farms were forced to pay their true costs. 

José in his presentation after the screening said, “following  the deregulation of markets and open ports, come the big firms, like Cargill, Tyson and Smithfield and with them the concentration of production that is causing the elimination of small farmers.” 

75% of aid goes to 25% of farmers  

Bové continued,  “if the CAP supports a system of agriculture that destroys the environment and makes poor quality industrial products, I do not see why Europeans would want to subsidise it.  Everyone knows that 75% of aid goes to 25% of farmers. This is unacceptable” 

Janusz Wojciechowsk, another fighter for the survival of small farmers in the EU Parliament, chose to co-host the EU screening as much of the film was shot in his native Poland.  At the time I was filming in 2005 his political party was trying defiantly to resist the assault by the US giant Smithfield Foods on the livelihoods of Poland’s family farms and thriving rural communities. 

Smithfield had taken advantage of the previous government’s neo-liberal policies of free trade while Poland was in transition to a market economy, and Smithfield was wreaking havoc on their environment, economy and pigs by buying up ex state farms for what its CEO boasted were ‘small dollars’. 

Exploitation of cheap labour and lax environmental standards gives ‘competitive edge’ 

Smithfield’s exploitation of cheap labour and lax environmental standards in Poland gave it the competitive edge so many EU farmers must either get big and externalise their costs on to the broader community or get out of pig farming. 

The event was held to highlight the hidden costs of factory farming on pigs, people and the planet and of course the farmers themselves. It followed a ‘winter of discontent’ for pig farmers facing low supermarket prices for pork, high feed costs, a health scandal caused by animal feed contaminated with dioxin, and the recent discovery that flies are spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria from intensive farms to neighbouring urban areas. 

Following the screening and presentations from a panel of experts, there was a heated discussion that reinforced the film’s findings that factory farms across Europe disregard legal animal welfare standards, threaten human health by over- reliance on antibiotics and force traditional farmers out of business. 

 Andrea Gavinelli, Head of the Animal Welfare Unit of the European Commission, said after the event “The screening was a moment of transparency and reflection. It brought a clear message about what is really happening that people don’t know.” 

A recent survey found that 50% of consumers across the EU believe that pigs are ‘fairly well treated’ and have no idea of the horrendous conditions suffered by pigs in factory farms. 

I believe that pork should be labelled with the production method. As eggs must be labelled if they are from caged hens, why does the same rule not apply to pigs which are raised in concentrated pens? Consumers who have watched Pig Business say they will never buy factory pork again. 

Not least due to the threat to human health as Coilin Nunan, advisor to the Soil Association, warned “human health is at risk because the routine preventative use of antibiotics in factory farms is causing an increasing number of diseases such as campylobacter and salmonella to become resistant to antibiotics. 

In the UK, primogeniture has kept the size of farms relatively large. However, it’s a different story in Europe as Friends of the Earth food campaigner, Mute Schimpf explained, “The average farm in Europe is 12 hectares. If we develop a vision for food and agriculture policy, let’s think about the farmers in Europe and not about the lobbies and unions that just think about the bigger farms which should be competitive enough; they don’t need public support” 

Gerald Choplin,  from European Coordination Via Campesina, which represents farmers from 70 countries, said, “In the EU there aren’t many farmers but there are too many pigs”. He continued, “Because of the very good attendance it was very useful debate and very helpful for our work not only against big factory farms and for small scale traditional farming methods, but the fact that there were many people from big business and from the Commission, it showed that they also felt obliged to hear the debate around a very different CAP”. 

Though I am largely against giving powers to the EU to dictate rules on nations, when our DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman argues that CAP support for farmers should be phased out, following the American model of allowing family farmers to be bankrupted by unfairly subsidised competition, I am relieved that her free trade agenda will be over-ruled by the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos. His proposals are to limit subsidies to industrial size farms and increase payments to farmers whose competitiveness is reduced by their obligation to adhere to higher EU standards, and for their provision of public goods, such as conservation of biodiversity, which are not remunerated by the market.  

However, I prefer another option that pulls the unpopular term protectionism out of the bin. I believe that food and agricultural goods should be exempted from World Trade Organisation (WTO) global trade rules so that all nations and regions have the right to protect themselves from low cost and low welfare imports. 

Farmers could then be protected from the vagaries of the global economy and produce food for local markets. Governments can then procure high welfare and sustainably produced meat from local farmers for public services like schools and hospitals. The giants should be taxed to remunerate society for the true costs of their production. 

Next month I will be holding another screening at the US Congress, co hosted by Bobby Kennedy Jr, nephew of John Kennedy the late President.

After that I will be back in Brussels working on Janusz Wojciechowski’s suggestion that we invite a few sympathetic MEPs to join us in compiling a declaration on the need for CAP to stop financing industrial farming, spend more on supporting traditional small and medium scale mixed crop and livestock farming and introducing method of production labelling.

 

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 14.2.11

Alison Williams and her webmaster have begun to upgrade the website of UNGA-Link UK (the UK Network for Civil Society Link with UN General Assembly) see UNGA-Link Home Page. 

Since September 2007 UNGA-Link has functioned as a voluntary network within the United Nations Association, UNA-UK. 

She writes: “It will take a bit more time to get all the pages up-to-date and to finish uploading the newsletters – and it’s bound to remain a Work in Progress for some time yet. Until now, the occasional newsletters have been the only fresh input to the site.”  

Alison reminds website readers who are not familiar with UNGA-Link that it is for   ‘everyone out there who believes the United Nations would function more effectively with systematic input from Civil Society – “We, the peoples”  ‘.

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10.2.11

 

A memorable SGR newsletter 

 

As mentioned in the post about Alan Cottey, here is news about many of the articles in the latest SGR newsletter – a vintage edition, in the writer’s opinion. 

Steve Schofield will want to see the article on arms conversion, and Ian Davis will be drawn to the article about drones. Remembering Molly Scott Cato’s earlier work with Green Audit and her forthcoming visit to Finland [scroll down] she will surely read the article by Prof Claus Montonen.

As some links did not transfer, those wishing to read those articles should follow this link: http://www.sgr.org.uk/publications/sgr-newsletter-no-39 

Feature articles 

  • A new era for arms conversion?
    Dr Stuart Parkinson argues that recently announced military cuts coupled with an expanding ‘green’ economy suggest the start of major shift in the UK economy.
  • The Strategic Defence and Security Review – missing the point?
    Prof Paul Rogers argues that only with a fundamental change in approach will the UK’s defence and security strategies be ‘fit for purpose’. 
  • Nuclear adventures in Finland
    Prof Claus Montonen reveals disturbing evidence of shortcuts, overspending and commercial infighting during the construction of Olkiluoto 3 – the first of a planned new generation of nuclear power stations in Europe. 
  • Research investment decisions: time for change
    Dr Helen Wallace highlights the failure of the biotech economy and argues that decisions on R&D investments should be made more democratic and accountable. 
  • Energy and climate change – time for hope or concern?
    Some recent developments in the energy and climate change fields, both in the UK and internationally, have given rise to optimism while others are major cause for concern. Martin Quick CEng investigates. 
  • Census 2011 – who will have access to the data?
    With a subsidiary of major arms company, Lockheed Martin, being a lead contractor for the UK’s 2011 census, Dr Geoff Meaden asks if the data collected will really be secure. 
  • Beyond Trident: AWE prepares for the future
    Dr Peter Burt examines the major redevelopment of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, and points out how new facilities could allow the UK to sidestep international controls on nuclear weapons development. 
  • Climate change – are we still sure?
    Climate scientists have had a poor press in recent months. Dr Stuart Parkinson investigates whether this is a sign that the scientific evidence of climate change is less robust, or just media misrepresentation. 
  • Transport and land-use: time for a rethink?
    Prof Hugh Barton reports on the results of a major academic research project into future urban form and transport, which throws uncomfortable light on some of the government strategies for tackling climate change. 
  • Armed drones: how remote-controlled, high-tech weapons are used against the poor
    Dr David Hookes explores the ethical and legal implications of the growing use of armed, unmanned planes in the ‘war against terrorism’. 
  • Challenging commercialism in research assessment
    Sally Hunt describes the campaign by the University and College Union challenging proposals that aim to assess the quality of university research on the basis of ‘economic impact’. 
  • Synthetic life – too much, too soon?
    Dr Michael Reinsborough asks whether synthetic biologists are rushing ahead with development of associated technologies before the science is properly understood. 
  • FiT for purpose? Renewable energy funding in the UK
    Prof David Elliot critically assesses the financial mechanisms offered by the UK government to stimulate growth in renewable energy technologies.

  

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Currently in Australia – will he have seen this article? Thanks to Karen for the link.

Colin Hines: founder of the Green New Deal

Colin Hines

Colin Hines: ‘Industry knows the green movement isn’t brown bread and sandals’ Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

“I have rattled round the environment movement for decades,” says Colin Hines. It’s a self-deprecating description of a career that spans 30 years, spent tackling issues ranging from population and food to nuclear proliferation and international economics. Now he believes he has come up with the financial solution to the two greatest dilemmas of our time: how to save both the planet and the economy.

Hines started out as a liberal studies lecturer at a London community college, which sparked his interest in population. He went on to join Greenpeace International and became co-ordinator of its Economics Unit. It was at this point that he realised the importance of working with the establishment as well as against it. “Initially we were on the outside waving a flag, saying there was a problem. But in the 80s and 90s at Greenpeace we tried to work with people to find a solution while not losing our edge.”

International trade and its impact on the environment became his main interest and Hines started to focus on the finance sector. “Industry knows the green movement isn’t brown bread and sandals. They’ve been up against us so long they’ve absorbed some of our ideas, they’ve adapted. Finance is something we haven’t gone for hard enough.”

Hines gathered a group of experts to tackle the looming financial, energy and environmental crises. Called the Green New Deal Group (a nod to the inspiration they found in President Roosevelt’s New Deal, an economic programme which helped pull the US out of the depression in the 30s), these experts published a groundbreaking report in 2008 which laid out major structural changes to national finance – particularly taxation – and plans to tackle energy conservation. Hines has been promoting their ideas ever since. The key to the future, says Hines, is localisation and he wants to create a “carbon army who’ll crawl over every building in Britain, making it energy efficient. It would be labour-intensive work that could predominantly be done in Britain by British people. That’s the great thing about face-to-face caring and infrastructure renewal. They’re two big sources of jobs and they can’t be outsourced. This sort of localisation will help us take control of the economy, give us energy security and make our existence more sustainable.”

Hines’s current hope for the Green New Deal is Birmingham, where he helped form the group Localise West Midlands. “It’s wonderful doing things in Stroud and Totnes, but Birmingham is the biggest local authority in Europe. They’re doing exactly what we suggest – using a mix of public and private money to fund a large-scale project. The city’s serious about it, and Birmingham is a hard-arsed place: if they’re doing it, then who knows?”

Read about the other five ‘ethical pioneers’ here

 

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Molly Scott Cato

 

Molly’s academic work, strangely enough, has not been covered in other posts on this site.

She has been invited to give a keynote address to the International Co-operative Alliance’s Co-operative Research Conference [24–27 August] in Mikkeli, Finland – her theme: the link between green economy and co-operatives.

She will be teaching at the Ruralia Institute in Helsinki, a co-operative research institute which also focuses on organic agriculture. 

An overnight ferry will take her to teach at St. Petersburg State University, where a course designed from material in Green Economics [2009] is already under way. 

Her new book, Environment and Economy [Routledge], pluralist in approach, is designed to allow people to learn and teach about the environment-economy tension without having to follow a neoclassical path. Publisher’s blurb here.  

A new website has been set up to explore Green Economics, a nascent discipline with many interesting and conflicting ideas. A paradigm has not yet been established, so there is an open arena for lively discussion.

 Molly’s invitation: “Green economics is open to new ideas. I hope you will join us and share yours.”

 

Tracy Worcester

On February 9th, Tracy Worcester’s powerful film, The Hidden Costs of Factory Farming – Pig Business: Time for Change will be screened in the European Parliament’s Paul Henry Spaak Building. 

She is heartened by the response to publicity and writes: “Over 200 people have already registered to attend, including 24 confirmed MEPs, 39 assistants and 150 NGO representatives, as well as media representation from CNN, Reuters and more.”

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Alan Cottey’s update: 

 

I. Highlights from Scientists for Global Responsibility 

  • In October 2009 SGR published the 80 page report The Detrimental Effects of Commercial Influence on Science and Technology by Chris Langley and Stuart Parkinson “…there is growing evidence that the science commercialisation agenda brings with it a wide range of detrimental effects, including bias, conflicts of interest, a narrowing of the research agenda, and misrepresentation of research results”. 
  • In October 2010 SGR coordinated an Open Letter on Public Science Funding and Nuclear Weapons Research to Prime Minister David Cameron, signed by 36 UK professors As senior scientists and engineers, we are deeply concerned that while the government is threatening to cut public funding for research and development as a whole, it appears to be committed to maintaining high levels of military-related R&D …”
  • In December 2010 Chris Langley contributed to the  BBC Radio 4 documentary Ivory Tower which debated the serious concerns about growing commercial involvement in UK universities. 

 

II. Some Forthcoming SGR Events

4 February, Rochdale: Presentation at a training seminar for science teachers, entitled What is Science for? Debating the Relevance of Science in the Modern World by Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director, SGR.

21 May, London:  SGR Conference Emerging Technologies: Are the Risks Being Neglected?

For full information about these and many other SGR activities, see  www.sgr.org.uk  

  

III. Alan’s recent and near future activities in a private capacity, or as a UEA Fellow include 

 – publishing a paper entitled The Shadow of the Bomb: a Study of Degree-level Nuclear Physics Textbooks in Power and Education. “The work investigates how the textbooks relate to an aspect that is relevant and    important but almost wholly avoided, namely nuclear weapons.” [1]

 – producing a preprint (on which feedback is currently solicited) entitled The Wisdom of Sages: Nuclear Physics Education, Knowledge-inquiry, and Wisdom-inquiry. “I infer a strong desire to express something important about wisdom, which is however even more powerfully suppressed by the ideology of knowledge-inquiry.” [See Alan’s networker page] [2]

 – facilitating workshops (last year on Trustworthy and Trusted Science, this year on Learning and Surviving Together) at the Discourse Power and Resistance series of conferences  www.dprconference.com 

 – attending the Space for Change gathering, 21 – 27 February, www.climatecamp.org.uk “a space to learn from our past experiences and figure out what part we can play within the climate justice movement”. 

 – studying an expanded view of the peculiar times in which we live. “For an adequate understanding we need to appreciate, all at once, the disparate time-scales of geology, archaeology, history and current affairs.”
 

Ed: Next week the subjects of some articles in the latest excellent SGR newsletter will be listed.

  
 

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2.2.11  
 

Video recordings: FSC meeting in the Commons

 

 Sabine McNeill has issued a press release about the meeting on January 25th – see earlier report.

All recordings listed below can be seen on http://edm1297.info/2011/01/30/video-records-of-last-meeting-in-house-of-commons/

   

1. Nic Dakin, the supportive MP of victim veteran Stanley Embling  

2. Gedaljahu Ebert -1: Bankrupt victim and expert in bankruptcy law

3. David Fabb, whose group of ten solvent companies was bankrupted by accountancy company Deloittes.

4. Gedaljahu Ebert -2: Bankrupt victim and expert in bankruptcy law

5. Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North

6. Peter Oakes  

The following videos that were too long for her blog can be viewed on http://bit.ly/hFbs3h

  • Targeted individual Maurice Kirk
  • Myself about Royal Charters and the Public Inquiry
  • Most experienced Paul Talbot-Jenkins
  • House of Lords Host Lord Ahmed
  • Chairman Austin Mitchell MP – part 1
  • Chairman Austin Mitchell MP – part 2
  • Supportive MP John Hemming
  • Supportive MP John McDonnell 

To see the videos go to: http://edm1297.info/2011/01/30/video-records-of-last-meeting-in-house-of-commons/

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