Thursday, April 30, 2009
Six years ago, Science dedicated a major story (reported by the admirable Bernice Wuethrich) to evidence that “after years of stability, the North American swine flu virus has jumped onto an evolutionary fast track.”
But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution? Probably the same thing that has favored the reproduction of avian flu.
Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China — an immensely productive ecology of rice, fish, pigs, and domestic and wild birds — is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal “drift” and episodic genomic “shift.” (More rarely, there may occur a direct leap from birds to pigs and/or humans, as with H5N1 in 1997.)
But the corporate industrialization of livestock production has broken China’s natural monopoly on influenza evolution. As many writers have pointed out, animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in schoolbooks." (Thanks Marcy)
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
- "Keep tabs on respiratory symptoms. If you or someone in your family develops symptoms suggesting a cold or the flu, be alert for persistent or worsening symptoms, particularly a high fever.
- Stay home if you're sick. If you do have swine flu, you can give it to others starting about 24 hours before you develop symptoms and ending about seven days later.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Flu viruses can survive for two hours or longer on surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops.
- Take extra precautionary measures if you visit or live in an affected area. Travel to Mexico has not been restricted, but some airlines are waiving fees for changing your travel plans.
- If you have a chronic condition, such as asthma or heart disease, it's a good idea to wear a breathing mask when you're out in public in affected areas.
- Be prepared. Ask your health care provider or county health department about infection-control plans in case of a serious swine flu outbreak. The antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) reduce the severity of symptoms. "
Monday, April 27, 2009
"Watzl and his co-workers compared the polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity of Golden Delicious apples grown under organic and conventional conditions over a three year period (2004-2006).
According to their findings, in 2005 and 2006 the antioxidant capacity was 15 per cent higher in the organic fruit than the conventionally produced fruits. Organic apples grown in 2005 also had a higher polyphenol concentration, said the researchers.
On the other hand, no differences between the organic and conventional fruit were observed when the researchers compared fruit from 2004 and 2006."
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Now Diamond's protagonist is fighting Diamond. A two-page complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on April 20 seeks $10 million from the New Yorker's publisher, Advance Publications, claiming Diamond's story falsely accused Wemp and fellow tribesman Isum Mandigo of "serious criminal activity" and "murder." "
Saturday, April 25, 2009
One of the problems of these new semi-colonial plantations is that much of the food produced there will naturally be exported to the countries that put up the money – to China, South Korea and the Arab world – rather than consumed where the food is produced. This might actually lead to increased food scarcity in the host countries where the projects are located. Large-scale foreign-owned farms could also threaten the lives of native farmers, now working the land. Often without title to ownership, they face the threat of expulsion by the newcomers.Feeding the rich might end up starving the poor. "
Patrick Seale in the Saudi Gazette
Between rethoric and practice From Global Voices Online
It was cut for content and word count; below is my longer version." (Thanks Marcy)
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
"There is significant danger of focusing only on agriculture rather than a more integrated rural development that enables people to secure good productive jobs in agriculture as well as in other sectors. Ironically, part of the key to developing a vibrant agriculture sector will be making investments that help people do things other than agriculture. This way labor productivity increases in agriculture and standards of living in rural space improve. The other key concern that needs to be addressed is exposure to volatile food prices on international markets. There is no way around the reality that MENA countries will need to buy a significant – and increasing – share of their food on international markets. The key is to manage this exposure in new and innovative ways to reduce the potential for food prices shocks without going bankrupt in the process."
"Where markets are not working or too small, there may be strong arguments for public intervention. A good example is the grain storage business. There are strong arguments for this being in the hands of either the public or the private sector. But what’s important is to look at the full picture. If there’s enough competition in the private sector, then it probably makes sense to put it there. If it’s in the hands of the public sector, then the thing to focus on is the efficiency of operations and governance."
The web page also contains links to good articles on Food security in MENA.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Top 10 Lies of the Iraq War
Remembering the biggest collection of untruths in diplomatic history which has helped perpetuate a tragic war.
"In the democratic Western world, where free speech is as sacrosanct as eating disproportionate amounts of junk food, it is still difficult to find a film that truthfully depicts Arabs in their own territory, never mind Arabs living in someone else’s – particularly when that territory is as self-congratulatory as the United States or Australia. In both countries, self-examination tends to be an exercise in historic revision, a cleanse of the memory as opposed to the admission of a present injustice. "
And their line on Palestine is excellent: they call Israel "the zionist entity" and the latest issue has an article denouncing normalization.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I tasted many foods, some of which were totally new, such as qaimach, which is kind of solid cream rolled into cylindrical shapes and eaten with bread and preferably covered with the syrupy purple mulberry jam they make locally. Qaimach is made by heating buffalo milk and shaving off the solid film that accumulates at the surface. It is served with milk around it and the taste is reminiscent of the immature buffalo mozarella that is still milky and oozes milk when cut open. The photo below is of qaimach. The same process is used to make sartou from sheep milk, but it comes as flat layers rather than rolls. Qaimach seems to be preferred by most.
The cheese souk is fabulous, and one can buy plenty of cheeses and dairy products: whey, locally called laur, white cheese (Kurdi panir). Yoghurt (mast) is sold in metallic containers covered with cheese cloth. Below: kishk balls, next to US imported almonds. The imported almonds cost half as much as the local, small almonds which have a strong taste of cyanide. Good for the heart, the vendor told me.
Friday, April 17, 2009
"Consumers don’t just expect companies to do no harm in communities they source from, but to actually contribute to development, a major international survey commissioned by FLO International indicates – and they appear to be sticking by their principles despite the economic woes.
In recent weeks two major manufacturers, Cadbury and Mars, have both made pledges to make ethical sourcing a core part of their strategy in the coming years (although Mars' is geared towards sustainable production rather than Fairtrade). Some commentators have expressed surprise at the timing of these pledges, since the recession is causing great attention to spending, especially on treats and luxury goods.
However the new report, commissioned by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and conducted by Globescan, indicates that huge increases in sales of Fairtrade products in a number of European countries in 2008, compared to 2007."
I am here to look at the planning of the sustainable agriculture component of the Erbil Green belt, which is a 2 km wide ring circling the city, 12 km from the center. The city on a loess plain is at the foot of a mountainous area. It is framed to the North by the Great Zeb river and to the South East by the Small Zeb river. Both rivers meet south of the city and feed into the Tigris.
I had a meeting with a couple of people who work in the city and asked them about food. This is what I learned:
What they eat:
Breakfast: Yoghurt and cheeses, bread, eggs. Yoghurt and cheeses can be made from either cow or sheep milk.
Lunch: Rice and meat based, with stews or soups. Salad. Sometimes fruits. Meat is most often sheep, followed by beef. There are goats in the mountains but their meat is not appreciated. Poultry is often used. Once a week or so burghul replaces rice.
Dinner: Can be left overs from the lunch or like the breakfast.
Bread accompanies all meals. There are at least 6 kinds of breads:
1. Baladi, made in the tannour with local wheat flour.
2. K0leray baroun (local wheat flour)
3. Nani Hawrami (local wheat flour)
4. Samoun which is like small baguettes and is made with imported flour either on stone (hajari) or "automatic".
5. Ruqaq or Nani Tiri, which is like the lebanese marquq and is made from local wheat flour
6. `Aysh which is like Arabic bread (pitta) and is made with imported flour.
I will try to taste them all.
I also asked about cheeses and was told of the while baladi cheese, and of the jaji cheese which is like the darfieh cheese, but is matured in a lambskin skin instead of goat skin, and to which a special herb added for flavour. There is also the Leur, another white cheese.
I also asked about the origin of food:
Bread wheat: A lot is imported but people prefer the local wheat to make bread and burghul. But local sources do not appear to be sufficient.
Dairy: Can be imported from Turkey, Syria or Iran, but is also produced locally although quantities are insufficient. People might prefer the local or the imported depending on their taste and on their concern for hygiene. The people i talked to said that people believe Turkish products are better "controlled" for sanitary quality. Local products are made in small scale back kitchen factories.
Meat: Can be imported from Syria, Turkey or Iran or local. Local is preferred but insufficient.
Fruits and vegetable: as above.
Basically people prefer local sources but there are not enough of them.
People purchase food from 3 sources: the neighborhood souks, shops, or from itenerant vendors who sell fruits and vegs on pushcarts. There is a central wholesale food market called I think "gumruk" or al `alwa.
We discussed foods and recipes and I was told that one very traditional food is stuffed sheep tripes and intestines and hooves and brains and heads and tongue. I thing the name is Patcha, but I'll check again. Men wake up at 5 AM, go to the hamam till 6 and then go for a Patcha breakfast before setting off for work. I decided to try it, so we went to a restaurant that makes it. It was good. A bit heavy, but good.
On the field trip to visit the area of the Green Belt, I saw lots of wheat that had remained dwarf because of the lack of rain. I met Delshad, a farmer in his 40's from a tiny village called Bar `oshter and asked him about farming around Erbil. He plants 65 dunums, but in Kurdistan a dunum is 2,500m2 (in Lebanon it is 1,000m2). He also has 500 heads of sheep and a large poultry (broiler) production unit that looked artisanal. He complained about the absence of rain and told me about his rotation of wheat or barley then fallow then chickpea. He sells the ton of wheat to the government for $500. He gets the sheep feed from the government and sells the milk (manual milking) in the surrounding villages and the meet at the central Erbil food market. He buys the poultry feed and has a new generation every 2 months. He seemed content and showed me with prode his tractor that cost $50,000. He also plants vegetables which he irrigates from an artesian well by furrow irrigation. I couldn't learn more because he spoke very little Arabic and we had to communicate through the driver.
On the way I saw more dwarfed wheat and very few fruit trees. The few small orchards I saw looked like they were apricots.
"It's from Clifford Wright's "Mediterranean Feast." The legend is that in 1282, when the French ruled Sicily, a group of French soldiers disrupted a Sicilian Easter celebration, harassing the Sicilian women and "molesting" one of them. (The background is that the French were commandeering food from Sicilian peasants for their impending attack on Constantinople, while the Aragonians and the Byzantines were both trying to stir up popular revolts against them.) Within minutes, writes Wright, all the French soldiers were dead. Soon the uprising spread to monasteries and convents, and "foreign friars" were required to say the word ciciri, Sicilian for chickpea, a word that French people supposedly could not pronounce. Those who could not say the word were killed.
--paraphrased from p. 495, Mediterranean Feast, cites Steven Runciman's The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later 13th Century."
This came about because during a recent discussion we remembered that, in the early years of the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970's, there was a joke (in poor taste) circulating in Lebanon about how the Kataeb (and their allies) used to stop cars on their check points looking for Palestinians and that they would recognize them by showing them a tomato and asking them to name the fruit. The Lebanese say "Banadoura" while the Palestinians say "Bandora". Those who pronounced wrong were pureed.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
"Saudi Arabia is putting $800m into a new public company that will invest in overseas agricultural projects.
The move signals a large step-up in Riyadh’s efforts to outsource supply for the kingdom’s food needs.
The plans have raised concerns about Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Gulf states exporting from poor countries in Africa which suffer from chronic food shortages. Mr Obaid tried to dispel those fears saying that although a “big portion” of the crops would be exported back to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom would leave some of the food it produced overseas for the local market."
But...Financial Times March 4
"Saudi Arabia has announced the arrival of the first food crop harvested in Saudi-owned farms abroad, in a sign that the kingdom is moving faster than expected to outsource agricultural production.
Rice, harvested in famine-hit Ethiopia by a group of Saudi investors, was presented to King Abdullah recently and comes as other countries are still in the early stages of investing in overseas farms."
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today. " (Thanks Marcy)
In one poster, Nasrallah’s head appears rising like a genie on smoke from a bong.
The poster reads: (In red) “Nasrallah aims at destroying Israel entirely.” The campaign is based on the allegation that Hizbullah funds its activities in Lebanon and alleged activities in Palestinian areas through drug trafficking.
In white font the poster reads: "Hizbullah has the obvious purpose of flooding Israel with venom which forms a strategic danger against Israel. We should not give him the chance to destroy Israel and we should counter drugs internally and externally.”
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
KB: Well, one is distorting the science and denying the health effects of their products. (Recently) a study was done showing that how close people lived to fast food restaurants predicted their likelihood of obesity. The study was really quite well done. So the National Restaurant Association then came out with their own statement that basically trashed the study and more or less called it junk science.
Now, this is a perfect repeat of what tobacco did for many years. They said smoking doesn't cause lung cancer. There is not definitive evidence. There aren't good-enough studies. It's junk science. It's just the advocates out to get us. And then they denied that second-hand smoke was killing people. They denied that nicotine was addictive. You can go on and on and on. Well, so here comes a (food) study that's pretty persuasive. It certainly supports other studies showing a link between fast food consumption and obesity, and what did they do? They trashed the science. They deny it's the case. In all likelihood, they will pay scientists who they know to produce results favorable to them to disprove this finding. It's all part of the same script."
Monday, April 13, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Another brilliant strategy of the UFW was its campaign against pesticides. Farmworker illness and death from exposure to DDT and other toxic insecticides were commonplace, yet the only federal regulations were those that protected the growers from being "wrongly accused of causing harm." Through a nationwide publicity campaign, the UFW convincingly showed that a union contract was the only way to limit growers' use of pesticides, which would protect the health of consumers as well as farmworkers. This campaign provides a model for connecting the issues of environmental and social justice." (Thanks Marcy)
I want to work on the rights of farm workers in Lebanon, especially women and marginalized groups such as Bedouins and migrant labor.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Boycott, divestment and sanctions are peaceful means of civil resistance to oppressors. Support the Palestinian and Lebanese people in resisting occupation and oppression.
alf shukran as Marcy would say.
The director general of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, Atwah Abu Freih, said, “We are surprised at this frivolous behavior of the Israeli Lands Department, demolishing lands of people who owned that land before the creation of Israel."
I want his title.
I wonder what the corporate organizers of the World Water Forum would make out of that? Maybe they'll call for privatizing reconstruction?
Palestine is our hope. In resistance, in steadfastness, in commitment, and even in agriculture and trade.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Review of Dambisa Moyo's book: Dead Aid
Monday, April 6, 2009
"Ben & Jerry’s campaign to ensure produce from clones is detectable in the food chain shows that bundling biotech in with conventional produce remains unacceptable – but lessons from GM do not seem to have been learned.
Last week the Unilever-owned ice-cream brand revealed that a website purporting to sell ‘perfect milk from perfect [cloned] cows’ was an April Fools’ prank – but a prank with a serious message.
It was intended to raise awareness that produce from the progeny of cloned animals may be in the food chain – but no-one, manufacturer nor consumer, can tell it from conventional produce."
From Global Research (Thanks Rania)
"One of the most potentially dangerous bills we’ve ever heard of is trying to sneak its way through Congress right now, in the sheep’s clothing of so-called modernization” of food safety. HR 875 (text of bill) is a bill put up by Monsanto and other monolithic corporations trying to seize totalitarian control over all agriculture.
It was introduced by Rosa DeLauro, whose husband WORKS for Monsanto, and is ultimately about one thing, defining ONLY their own GMO products as “safe”. What makes the bill so dangerous is that it is heavy on penalties including prison time, while at the same time being incredibly vague about what would actually trigger those sanctions. HR 875 is nothing but a Trojan horse, with an invading army to be designated later, in the form of an bureaucratic administrator (most likely a corporate lobbyist shill) with draconian LAW MAKING POWER to make up their own definitions so that all competitors are either driven into bankruptcy or locked up. There are problems with food safety we can talk about, but HR 875 is not going to make us safer, any more than invading Iraq made us safer. It MUST be stopped. "
Stop HR 875 Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum959.php
Friday, April 3, 2009
Land Day was launched in 1976, as a commemoration of the deaths of six Palestinian citizens of northern Israel killed by the Israeli military as they demonstrated against expropriation of their land. It has become an important symbolic day of action across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, highlighting the plight faced by farmers like Jamal al-Bassyuni and his family, who live in Ezbat Beit Hanoun on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip." (Thanks Marcy)
Thursday, April 2, 2009
We are writing to invite you to endorse April 26 as International
Seeds Day (ISD) to educate the public at your city about patent seeds, genetically modified food, agribusiness under globalization and
Order 81. Please find the incomplete list of endorsers below.
People worldwide acknowledge the sixth anniversary of the Iraq War
on March 19/20. But many don't know of another war taken place
in Iraq. It is the war against Iraqi farmers and the future of agriculture.
April 26 (2004) marks the fifth anniversary of the issuing and signing
of Order 81 (see full text below) by Paul Bremer, the administrator of the
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) who was appointed in 2003.
Order 81 gives full rights to American agribusiness corporations such
as Monsanto to control the future of Iraqi seeds and agriculture, prohibits
Iraqi farmers from reusing their traditional seeds and forces them to buy
seeds and Agricultural material from USA companies.
Endorsers will participate in some or all of the following:
* publicize April 26 as an International Seeds Day (beginning on
March 23) on the Internet, via email, postage mail and/or in their events.
* organize teach-ins or any other event they see fit on April 26 to
educate about patent seeds, the future of agriculture, terminator seeds
technology and Order 81.
* help publicize the International Seeds Day (ISD) through alternative and
mainstream media as well as post the list of events taken place on
April 26 worldwide beginning on March 31 through alternative and
mainstream media on Internet, distribute via emails and announce in
We greatly appreciate your help in making ISD a worldwide success.
Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS)
P.O. Box 425125
Cambridge, MA. 02142 USA
Tel: 1 (617) 86-INEAS (864-6327)
Website: http://www.INEAS.org <http://www.ineas.org/>
"A recent joint study from Yale University and the University of Michigan has compared the food industry’s marketing strategies to those of the tobacco industry in the 1950s.
“Because obesity is now a major global problem, the world cannot afford a repeat of the tobacco history, in which industry talks about the moral high ground but does not occupy it,” the authors wrote."
28.6% of the Lebanese live below the poverty line with less the $4 a day.
51% of the citizen do not have access to constant health coverage.
75% of the work force does not have access to retirement funds.
40% of the workforce is illegal and not covered by the labor law.
45% of the economically active do not have a job in Lebanon.
0.05% of the inhabitants own 45% of the bank deposits ($34 billions).
66.66% of commodities and services are controlled by monopolies.
and much much more on what he calls "the outcome of 16 years of Harirism exerted with the full support of the traditional political players including the Amal movement and the Progressive Socialist Party (Jumblat)".