|Welcome to the December 2011 Issue,
Sustainability: What is it and what has it got to do with spirituality and quantum physics? The following is a brief paper written by Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture Systems student Ben Humphries. Ben is 18 years of age and comes from Darwin.
Sustaining Agricultural Education – Where does Secondary Education Stand?
What are the challenges to future agricultural education and why do they exist? This has been explored by Joanne Dodd, read on.
In the 1990’s the Bachelor of Agricultural Science course I studied had one lecture on organic farming and a tour of a Permaculture property. For one subject I delivered a presentation on Biodynamics, for which I received an award for ‘bravery’. Sustainable agriculture at that time was presented as little more than the stubble retention and direct drilling technologies of Conservation Farming. Disheartened by this lack of consideration of ecology-based systems my path strayed from ‘conventional’ Agriculture.
EAAA Ecological Certification
In the last month, members of the EAAA board, interested parties and Pillar representatives met in Orange NSW, to converse and further Ecological Agriculture. A proposed EAAA Ecological Certification scheme was discussed in response to requests by the farming community and members. The scheme is currently under development and the EAAA will keep you informed of the progress.
Invitation to discuss: What is Ecological Agriculture?
What is ecological agriculture to you? Does the term resonate with you and need no further explanation! Perhaps it does stand out from industrial agriculture but the boundaries are blurred relative to organics! The EAAA would like to hear your views. To help you formulate your thoughts here is a link to Emeritus Professor John Ikerd from Missouri University and his paper on Ecology and Sustainability. To present your views please go to the forum at www.ecoag.org.au and the general section or Read More on the blog. We look forward to some interaction.
EAAA is on Facebook
We have now launched on Facebook. If you would like to join us, follow this link and click “like” Keep up to the minute with the EAAA community and our activities. Share relevant news and interesting links with us and add your comments to the EAAA Facebook wall.
Soil Life: Microbiology on the Farm
In the last edition of the EAAA newsletter David Savill spoke of his experiences with Dr Elaine Ingham’s two week workshop on soil biology. As he stated it was a great learning experience. To follow up on that, we include an article on Soil Life as told by Rodale Institute Technical Staff. As the EAAA understand it, Dr Ingham will not be personally involved in Australian workshops in the future but will be employed full time at the Rodale Institute.
World Soils Day 5th December, in Ode to Vital and Remarkable Dirt
December 5th is World Soil Day celebrating what in human terms is a non-renewable resource that has taken billions of years to evolve. One teaspoon of soil contains billions of organisms working in balance to sustain a series of complex and thriving communities made from the same elements as stars, plants and human beings, dirt is very much alive. Soil provides a number of complex functions supporting plant growth and the cycling of biological resources; it is the source of nutrients and water for agriculture and forestry systems; it acts as a sponge cleansing and cycling and providing a buffering system against environmental variability over the course of a day to seasonally in addition to storing and binding chemical and biological drivers; dirt provides habitat for the billions of organisms contained within it and the life above. Humanity has endangered this vital living resource with damaging methods of agriculture, mining practices, and urban development. Contra to the need to use soils within their capabilities, many soils today are still subject to being pushed beyond their limits. Some soil related links have been added to the EAAA web site. Share with EAAA your World Soils Day celebrations and email us your stories, articles and photographs.
Ecological Soil Assessment Guidelines – Join in the Discussion
A stimulating Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture – Rural Change Project was recently conceived in collaboration with EAAA. The discussion around observable ecological change on farm and resulting from land management practices was followed by a conversation about soils (amongst other things ecological). The questions of “what would ecological soil assessment look like, what indicators would be used?” gave rise to the need to have a dialogue about ecological soil assessment and the development of guidelines that can capture ecological practices and that are useful to farmers. Do you have any ideas? You are invited to participate in the discussion on the EAAA Forum or if you would like more information email here.
Lynn Margulis 1938-2011
Biologist Lynn Margulis died on November 22nd. Lynn was also associated with the Gaia hypothesis based on the ideas of James Lovelock. “…Her ideas were generally either ignored or ridiculed when she first proposed them; symbiosis in cell evolution is now considered one of the great scientific breakthroughs.” John Brockman in Edge.org
Good news on the GM front
The Prime Minister’s Office in India has cancelled Monsanto’s seed MOU with Rajasthan Agricultural Universities. While what was being undertaken was a great seed robbery under the supervision of the State, it was being called PPP – Private Public Partnership. The MOU with Monsanto focused on Maize, Cotton, and vegetables (hot pepper, tomato, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, water melon). Monsanto controls the cotton seed market in India and globally. Monsanto controls 97% of the worldwide maize market, and 63.5% of the GM cotton market. And DuPont has had to initiate anti-trust investigations in U.S because of Monsanto’s growing seed monopoly. Thus the MOU would have deepened Monsanto’s monopoly over seed supply. The MOU violated farmers’ rights by handing over the genetic wealth of farmers to corporations without the consent of farmers, the MOU’s were one sided and biased in favour of corporate intellectual property rights. While public resources would have been freely given away to Monsanto as a subsidy, Monsanto’s IPR monopolies would have been protected. This was an MOU for “Monsanto takes all, the public system gives all”. It was clearly an MOU for privatisation of our seed and genetic wealth, our knowledge and a violation of farmers’ rights. The seed supplies that the agriculture universities were handing over to Monsanto were not the property of the state, nor of Monsanto. They were the common property of farming communities. For further reading or to contact the source, Dr. Vandana Shiva (Founder Director, Navdanya Trust)
ABC information on CSG
If you want to know more about CSG the EAAA recommends the ABC web site “Coal Seam Gas By The Numbers“. This provides an excellent data base on the issue which is comprehensive in its coverage. Highly recommended website.
Making Submissions with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)
A number of applications pertaining to GM have recently been made to FSANZ. Submissions are for a period of time, open to public comment. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) received an Application from Monsanto Australia Limited (Monsanto) on 27 May 2011. The Applicant requested a variation to Standard 1.5.2 – Food produced using Gene Technology, in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), to permit the sale and use of food derived from genetically modified (GM) soybean line MON87708, conferring herbicide-tolerance. Making a submission is your chance to influence the development of a standard or variation to a standard in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). FSANZ invites comments from the public when considering new food standards or varying existing standards in order to ensure that decision-making is underpinned by as much information as possible. To achieve this, it welcomes input from the public, from industry and from health professionals. The requirement to consult with the public is built into FSANZ’s legislation.
Gene Ethics, working for a GM free future, run campaigns, provide links for action, resources and are an excellent source of educational information on GM issues. “Gene Ethics envisages a safer, more equitable and more sustainable GM-free society.” Explore the website and subscribe to the e-newsletter.
The MADGE Digest (No #121, October 12th 2011), has an interesting YouTube on food labelling. Take a look. In case you want to know more about the Melbourne group of mothers who take action around climate change, why don’t you Google their name in Melbourne and see what emerges. The EAAA is in admiration for their energy, their values, and their vision.
Could the answer to our CO2 problems lie with the development of artificial photosynthesis? Would the arrival of artificial food and energy production via artificial photosynthesis signal the end of religion as we know it? The conjunction of these ideas lies not in the editor’s head but in that of Thomas Faunce, Australian Research Council Fellow in the College of Medicine, Biology and the Environment and College of Law at the Australian National University. Thomas Faunce believes the development of artificial photosynthesis is THE most critical development needed in a world that faces global change through excess CO2 emissions together with rising population numbers. Thrown into the mix of ideas is his belief that religions are a dying force. A fascinating combination of thoughts which can be heard on the ABC Radio National and Philip Adams Late Night Live program at this link .
When you hear the words barn yard raised poultry or free range eggs what images come to mind? When making your purchase do you reach for barn yard eggs or free range eggs? Is your decision based on the life of the chooks – if it is in a cage you don’t buy the eggs but if the chooks are free range you do – or perhaps you don’t really care about conditions and are motivated by price? If you are in the latter group then please go to the next item in the newsletter but if in the former and you are intrigued by what is in a label you are invited to follow the link and complete the test? Here is the Link.
‘Explosive’ Coal Seam Gas Emissions Report Suppressed
According to Australian non-profit think-tank, Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), a report thoroughly dismantling the claim coal seam gas (CSG) is “clean energy” has been suppressed by Worley Parsons, the company that compiled it, even though the company is under contractual obligation to deliver it. Recently Energy Matters ran this article.
Building environmentally sustainable farming communities in the South Pacific
Organic Matters Foundation gives South Pacific farmers a viable, sustainable alternative to chemical agriculture – one that delivers benefits directly to them and their families. “Everything we do at Organic Matters Foundation is underpinned by the belief that investing in people, strengthening communities and protecting the environment go hand-in-hand. By giving the people in greatest need, access to information we take for granted, we empower them to make more informed choices and in doing so help themselves, their community and the environment.”
Confused about macroeconomics and the American economy? Take a look at this 2 minute You Tube clip and you will know it all.
eXtension and Organic Agriculture
The Organic Agriculture Community of Practice (CoP) at the eXtension interactive learning environment has some useful guidance on how to control insects/weeds in organic crops. If you would like some good reading on this read more here.
Economic Analysis Reveals Organic Farming Profitable Long-Term
This story comes from the USA via the Canadian Organic Journal and via Science Daily (Sep. 1, 2011). Organic farming is known to be environmentally sustainable, but can it be economically sustainable, as well? The answer is yes, according to new research in the Sept.-Oct. issue of Agronomy Journal.
Research from “Ecology and Society”
A selection of up to date research is contained in this link including: “Climate Science, Development Practice, and Policy Interactions in Dryland Agroecological Systems”, “A Critical Systems Approach to Social Learning: Building Adaptive Capacity in Social, Ecological, Epistemological (SEE) Systems”, “Economic Behaviour in the Face of Resource Variability and Uncertainty”.