The Weight of Thought

Since 1967, Israeli soldiers and ‘settlers’ in occupied Palestine have destroyed 800,000 olive trees in an attempt to force Palestinian farmers from their land, writes Megan Perry. ‘Our response to this injustice will never be with violence, and we will never give up and leave.’
Olive trees in the Holy Land are a renowned symbol of peace. Known as blessed trees, they are a lifeline for Palestinian subsistence farmers, providing for around 100,000 families.
But more than this, the olive trees provide a tangible link between Palestinians, their ancestors and their land.
Sadly, however, many of these trees are being violently destroyed as a form of collective punishment, in an attempt to force Palestinians from their land. Despite this desecration many Palestinian farmers are using farming as a form of resistance to fight for peace.

Since 1967, the Israeli military and illegal settlers have destroyed at least 800,000 olive trees. Some of these trees are nearly 1,000 years old - they are irreplaceable.

Japanese Movement Against TPP Growing

On February 24, Judge Naomi Buchwald handed down her ruling on a motion to dismiss in the case of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Assn et al v. Monsanto after hearing oral argument on January 31st in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Her ruling to dismiss the case brought against Monsanto on behalf of organic farmers, seed growers and agricultural organizations representing farmers and citizens was met with great disappointment by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiff lead attorney Daniel Ravicher said, “While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing. Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers. Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error.  In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law. Thankfully, the plaintiffs have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals, which will review the matter without deference to her findings.”

After two years of political wrangling that pitted rural agricultural interests known as “ruralistas” against environmentalists and many scientists, Brazil’s lower house approved legislation late Wednesday that would scale back the country’s vaunted forest protection code.

The legislation would clear the slate on older – and more often than not illegal – deforestation while scaling back protections along rivers and on hills. Deputies approvedthe main legislation in a 274-184 vote, and additional voting on 21 amendments advanced by the ruralistas went late into the night.

Details remain murky, but environmentalists immediately sounded the alarm. “O início do fim das florestas”Greenpeace Brazil proclaimed in a headline on its website. “The beginning of the end of forests.”

To be fair, such visions of doom should be considered in context. Although pressure on forests is on the rise, deforestation in the Amazon hit a record low last year. If Brazil can sustain and advance those gains, it would represent one of the most remarkable environmental success stories in recent decades. The fear is that weakening the law will reverse this progress and unleash a wave of new deforestation by convincing farmers and ranchers that Brazil doesn’t have the political will to truly enforce the law.

New Delhi, India - The seed is the first link in the food chain - and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty - and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty.

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved - and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.

The past twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of the control over seeds by a very small number of giant corporations. In 1995, when the UN organised the Plant Genetic Resources Conference in Leipzig, it was reported that 75 per cent of all agricultural biodiversity had disappeared because of the introduction of “modern” varieties, which are always cultivated as monocultures. Since then, the erosion has accelerated. 

The introduction of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation has accelerated the spread of genetically engineered seeds - which can be patented - and for which royalties can be collected. Navdanya was started in response to the introduction of these patents on seeds in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - a forerunner to the WTO - about which a Monsanto representative later stated: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.” Corporations defined a problem - and for them the problem was farmers saving seeds. They offered a solution, and the solution was to make it illegal for farmers to save seed - by introducing patents and intellectual property rights [PDF] on those very seeds. As a result, acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.