viernes, 4 de noviembre de 2011

Peru bans GM foods

Ok, I know I don't normally translate my Spanish posts into English, but we all like a little bit of good news, so that's what's on the agenda today: some good news from Peru.

Yesterday, the Peruvian Congress passed the moratorium on genetically modified organisms. Peru banning GMs might already ring a bell for you, because Congress actually already passed the ban in June this year, but the then president, Alan García, returned the legislation to Congress, arguing it to be incompatible with the country's responsibilities under WTO agreements....

Well victory has returned this week, and Congress has passed the moratorium for 10 years, with 98 votes in favour and two abstaining. The legislation bans the entrance and production of GMs in Peruvian territory, although it permits research into GMs in universities, and also imports of GM medicines.

This represents a victory for biodiversity, and a strong stand against the power of the biotechnology companies and their patented seeds. Congratulations Peru.

This post is proud to be part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday, adding its little grain to the wealth of knowledge and information about real food, healthy diets and sustainable agriculture. Interested? Read more here.

Perú prohibe los transgénicos

Hoy os traigo una buena noticia; una buena noticia peruana. Esta semana, el Congreso peruano aprobó la moratoria sobre transgénicos.

Quizás ya os suena algo de esta historia; será porque el Congreso ya lo aprobó en junio, pero el presidente por aquel entonces, Alan García, devolvió la legislación al Congreso, diciendo que era incompatible con las responsibilidades del país bajo acuerdos con la OMC....

Pues esta semana ha vuelto la victoria, y el Congreso ha aprobado la moratoria de 10 años con 98 votos a favor y dos abstenciones. La legislación prohibe el ingreso y la producción de organismos transgénicos en el territorio peruano. Está permitida la investigación de transgénicos en las universidades, y también la importación de medicamentos transgénicos.

Representa una victoria redonda por la biodiversidad, y una postura firme frente al poder de las empresas de biotecnología y las semillas patentadas. Felicidades, Perú.

Quieres más información? Mira aquí.

A meeting in Parliament

This week I made the epic trip outside the village gates, onto one bus and then another bus, and into London. To Parliament, oh yes. Through security and having our photos taken for the visitor pass, and through the enormous old hall, up the stone stairs, into a Committee Room with plush carpets on the walls, and media darling and general hero at life Jon Snow.

This was a meeting entitled 'COP17: Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security', with some oh-so-distinguished speakers: Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, who's done a whole load of very interesting things; David Nabarro, UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition, and; Melinda Kimble, Senior Vice President at the UN Foundation.

The speakers talked, and everyone listened carefully, nodding their heads in quiet agreement. The COP17 meeting begins at the end of this month in Durban, South Africa, and this was a plea for real action; a shout that we need to work towards a legally binding agreement long-term, and multiple agreements between different interested countries short-term. Agriculture must be put on the COP17 map in the same way that forestry already has been.

Giddy over the turnout of people that had some of us standing round the edges, or sat squat on the carpeted floor, they hammered home that these are choices, and that there must be a greater sense of accountability in decisions. Climate change and agricultural policy must be brought together, we must give special attention to women due to their key role in food matters globally, and agriculture must become "climate smart". Civil society and business are most probably the ones that will need to make the most noise, pulling reluctant governments along with them, urging them to leadership that is "transformative" rather than "transactional". And the media must wake up to climate change again, having falling asleep on the issue after the failures of COP16.

Good speakers, good arguments and a good feeling that if we work damn hard at this and make all the noise that we can, something could just about be done. But more inspiring, perhaps, we the comments; a sign that these speakers were preaching to the converted. I felt a wave of excitement as audience member Sir Crispin Tickell barked that we shouldn't feel we have to believe what the politicians say about the market being the solution for this mess. It's not, he said, and markets will not solve things; we need more intelligent solutions. My recent forrays into Permaculture fantasy were echoed by another comment and by Melinda Kimble; that we need more No-Till agriculture and more perennials, to keep that carbon right where it is, rather than digging and replanting.

Agriculture and climate change need to stop their feet back onto our agenda, and it is us, civil society and normal people, that have to make a noise about this. Action is needed right bloody now.

This post is proud to be part of Fight Back Friday November 4th at Food Renegade. Have a look!

jueves, 13 de octubre de 2011

A disapointment; CAP proposals

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU's policy of agricultural subsidies and programmes. You might not know all that much about it, but you are most definitely affected by it. In fact, paying for the CAP takes up just under half of the EU's total budget; an enormous amount.

The CAP is a serious magnet for debate about anything relating to fair trade, "dumping" (where subsidised commodities are sold to other countries at artificially low prices, thus undermining domestic production and markets), environmental issues, and basically anything related to farming or agriculture.
It has been modified many times over the years and yesterday new reforms were proposed for the post-2013 CAP.

Whilst there are some good changes (such as capping payments to the biggest farms, and requiring higher environmental standards for some subsidies), the moves are no way near strong enough if we are to create a genuinely equitable and sustainable agriculture in Europe. That good man, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter said, “The CAP is a 50 billion euro contradiction of the EU’s commitment to help put developing world agriculture back on its feet, and will remain so under today’s reform plans. Farm subsidies of this magnitude will always produce distortions”.

For those of you worried about food speculation, yesterday's CAP proposals will not bring you much relief either. Instead of bringing in measures to stabilise prices at fair levels, the proposals focus on insurance schemes to compensate farmers for low prices or environmental crises, which is a bit like putting a bucket under a leaky roof rather than fixing the leak itself.

Stanka Becheva, from Friends of the Earth, said, "Agriculture in Europe is in a mess – with farmers and wildlife disappearing at an unprecedented rate. We need a root and branch reform of European farming that benefits people and the environment. We need strict and bold measures addressing the challenges we face in protecting our soil, water, seeds and biodiversity for future generations. Today’s proposals don’t look any good".

Want more info? Look here:
The European Commission's Proposals
Article from The Guardian
Friends of the Earth's Background Briefing on the CAP

Charolais Cows

I've been buying books. Lots of them. A new term has begun with the MSc and I am trying to swot up, but one of my favourites is a skinny, pocket-sized number about British cow breeds, perfect for taking for walks in the countryside; "Know Your Cattle". Now I know that the 10 white cows in the field next door are Charolais, a breed known for utility rather than beauty, and the first Continental breed to be imported into the British Isles, in the 1950s.

miércoles, 12 de octubre de 2011

Saying goodbye to Spain

So after three happy years, I have moved home from Spain to England. I have said goodbye to tortilla and jamón, and hello to roast dinners and apple crumbles. We left at the end of another hot summer and one in which we finally made time to soak up the sun in our last weeks, relax on long windy beaches, and stuff ourselves silly.

Saying goodbye was sad and teary, and the 30-hour bus journey back was long and cramped. But it felt right, and gave me time to reflect on everything I will miss. Menús del día, balmy hot evenings and some truly wonderful friends. We wound along fast roads, watching slow cows on the Sierra de Guadarama chew on dark shrubs. Bye to soft and homely morcilla, bye to nights of greasy fingers sharing sardines and peppers, bye to some damn good cheeses, and bye to garlic and olive oil.

It is from watching Spanish food being bought, eaten and made that I became more able to channel my own food opinions. I both enjoyed a fragrant market culture with shiny fresh fish and juicy Valencian oranges, and got frustrated at the lack of prevalence of any (necessary) debates on food issues in the public arena. Spain is a massive producer of organic foods, but it exports over 90% of them. The public, especially the young, are increasingly buying at the big chain supermarkets, as Carrefour takes control of suburban food supplies. Free-range eggs are incredibly difficult to find, and very few of the public are aware of the GM corn being grown in their back gardens. A cultural emphasis on regional foods that embody traditions and customs has not prepared people for increasing corporate power and decreasing quality in the food system, and there is as yet very little discourse for normal people to talk about these issues.

But Spanish cuisine has changed the way I look at food. It is based on a confidence in the quality of ingredients, a trust in letting the raw materials shine by treating them simply. My cooking has altered with this attitude, although I still fry with butter. Food also has a different role in daily life; drink is never drunk without something to chew on; plates are always shared; food is not about who you are but the friends you have gathered around it.

So as I swap my cold caña for a not-so-cold Oxfordshire ale, and mornings once again begin with a round of hot tea, I can still taste the paprika on my lips and feel the deep-fried crunch between my teeth. As crispy fish turn into pork scratching, I think of it, and I can see us there all sat together on wooden stools, picking at shared plates of patatas with fried eggs, and boquerones en vinagre.

martes, 4 de octubre de 2011

Por qué es tan difícil cambiar el comportamiento de la gente?

Hoy estoy pensando en el porqué detrás de nuestras acciones, o mejor dicho, detrás de nuestra falta de acciones.
Acabo de leer un informe de 2006 titulado "Why is it so hard to change people's behaviour?" (Por qué es tan difícil cambiar el comportamiento de la gente?"). Trata de explorar las razones por las cuales la gente no efectúa cambios en su vida, cuando la gran mayoría de la población tiene por lo menos un ligero conocimiento de que este mundo no puede seguir así. Si es por el medio ambiente, los derechos humanos, la pobreza, la desigualdad de recursos, casí todos sabemos que no vamos por buen camino.

Por qué, entonces, nos cuesta tanto cambiar nuestra manera de vivir? Por qué seguimos comprando en el súper cuando sabemos que no da un buen trato a los productores y tienen un impacto negativo sobre comercios independientes en la zona? Por qué ponemos la calefacción con el primer susurro de frío, cuando sabemos que hay que minimizar nuestro uso de energía?

El informe trata de explicar la confusión que tiene un ciudadano o una ciudadana normal, y detalla los fallos en las estrategías del Movimiento por Cambio Global (así llama al conglomerado de organizaciones y gente que trabaja por diversos motivos para asegurar un mundo mejor). Obviamente las respuestas no son ni fáciles ni simples, pero es importante intentar entenderlas, porque hay demasiada gente que hablan de boquillla, o que simplemente están confundidos de lo que deberían de hacer.

El autor, Richard Docwra, dice que hay tres barreras importantes, que hacen que las personas carezcan de perspectiva sobre su situación y su sitio en el mundo. Son:
1) La complejidad del mundo moderno; el individual pocas veces ve el impacto de sus propias acciones.
2)La brecha entre nuestro "Radio de Impacto", y "Radio de Preocupación Moral"; es decir que nuestros valores no llegan a incluir el mundo entero, y los impactos de nuestras acciones se han alejado en tiempo y espacio.
3) Las influencias de la sociedad; desde nacimiento, somos socializados dentro del statu quo de "la búsqueda de crecimiento económico y ganancias". Los que consiguen ver fuera de eso muchas veces se sienten aíslados y confundidos.

Aunque Docwra también menciona la misma explicación de siempre, que somos egoístas, no le da un papel importante, explicando que si le das las herramientas para pensar libre e intelectualmente a una persona, lo hará.
Por lo tanto, su consejo para el "Movimiento" es aumentar la educación, con la idea de fomentar un pueblo que piensa por sí mismo, que tiene toda la información necesaria para desarrollar sus propios valores con su propia visión para el futuro. Docwra anima a las múltipes organizaciones y ONGs que forman el "Movimiento" a contextualizar los temas que promueven, en vez de tratarles por separado, a aclarar sus valores universales y a formar un verdadero movimiento global.

Esta semana en el máster, todo trata de crear políticas que efectúen cambios verdaderos, de saber como cambiar el comportamiento de la gente, e involucrarles en el cambio necesario. Poco a poco, me están dando las herramientas para poder convenceros más, y sí, manipularos y controlaros mejor, jeje!