1.Farming Today on GM
2.Think organic, Rome summit urged
3.Policies we need to feed the planet
1. Farming Today on GM

The whole of BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme this morning (5 June) was about GM crops

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In the programme Mark Holdstock interviews Michael Jack MP, chair of the parliamentary Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, at the UN Food Security conference in Rome, asking him, whether the UN's call for a 50% increase in global food production meant use of GM was inevitable:

"I don't think necessarily that what could be called the high-tech solution is necessarily the right one”¦ We need to consider all our agricultural technology tools, but we have also heard some very powerful contributions calling for organic agriculture to increase its yields in an environment in which it can build on the traditional methods used by farmers for a very long time. The organic material is there and available, and it builds on the skills of the indigenous farmer."

Not surprisingly, US Secretary of State, Ed Schafer took a different view:

"If you look at the substantial yield increases that are needed for increased, not only numbers of people, but consumption, as economies get better there's no way these are going to be met without immediately putting into play GM foods. If we had 20 years to do this, we could breed things and introduce the products. But biotech allows us to step into that arena right away [???!!!!], displacing the gene and get away from the time period. In the US, GM has increased corn production by 50%, reduced pesticide and herbicide use, and is better for the environment." [???!!!!]
2. Think organic, Rome summit urged

Send a Cow is urging global leaders meeting in Rome to invest in small-scale organic farming as the best way out of the world’s food crisis for the poorest of the poor.

The summit, organised by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, is discussing how to address the rising cost of food, which is pushing millions of people worldwide into hunger and leading to riots in some areas.

Send a Cow, which runs sustainable agricultural programmes in Africa, says that poor rural people in developing countries can best protect themselves against increased costs in food prices by moving towards self-sufficiency.

And they can avoid the rising cost of chemical fertilisers which are based on oil by using composted manure to fertilise their land. Even before the recent hike in fuel prices, most very poor farmers in Africa were unable to afford such fertilisers, and struggled instead to grow food on infertile land.

"Evidence from our programmes, and from recent scientific research, shows that organic farming presents both a short-term and a long-term answer to rising food prices," said Send a Cow's Chief Executive Martin Geake.

"By using composted manure and organic agricultural techniques, farming families can triple their yields in just one growing season. And unlike chemical fertilisers, compost does not deplete the land, but protects it for future generations.

"I urge the Rome summit to recognise that organic farming is the most affordable, viable and sustainable option for Africa’s rural communities."
3. Policies we need to feed the planet
The Guardian (Letters), June 5 2008 pment

Please stop trotting out the same old nonsense about China and India. US government figures show that neither country sucks in feed grains from the international market. Although their demand for grain is rising, that growth is slowing down. It is our consumption, not theirs, that is the bigger problem.

Dr Tom MacMillan
Executive director, Food Ethics Council
The plight of small-scale farmers has rightly been in the spotlight at the UN food crisis summit this week. Yet the potential of organic agriculture to provide such farmers a way out of poverty has been ignored. By using manure-based compost rather than oil-based chemical fertilisers, poor farming families can protect themselves from the rising costs of fuel. And, by adopting organic farming methods, they can dramatically increase their crop yields and move away from reliance on global food markets, and towards self-sufficiency.

Martin Geake
Chief executive, Send a Cow
Your article (Greener and leaner - how the west could stave off disaster, May 31) rightly points to the need to strengthen the agricultural sector in developing countries after "years of chronic underinvestment".

Simple affordable technologies designed to lift, store and distribute water such as the treadle pump (a foot pump that can lift water from a depth of up to six metres) or drip irrigation kits have been shown to double smallholder farmers' income in a year, as they allow land to be productive outside the rainy season. Yet, as your article correctly indicates, only 4% of agricultural land in Africa is irrigated, so the best "new green revolution" would be the introduction of accessible, affordable and appropriate technologies for African smallholder farmers that effectively increase agricultural production per acre.

Neil Jeffery
Chief executive, International Development Enterprises
It is imperative that the European Union takes immediate action to reverse its policies that are contributing to the global food crisis. It must stop pushing poor countries to open up their food and agriculture sectors, whether at the World Trade Organisation or through bilateral trade deals. Clear evidence shows that these policies lead to massive swings in price for farmers and consumers, and greater dependence on imported foods.

Crucially, the EU must tackle its Common Agricultural Policy that distorts food prices and allows the dumping of surpluses on to world markets, forcing poor farmers out of business. The CAP must be reoriented towards securing healthy food for people in Europe, sustainable production methods and stable prices for farmers and consumers globally.

Finally, the EU must halt its rush to biofuels which has had a disastrous impact on food prices. European leaders must take urgent action to help developing countries achieve meaningful food security.

Richard Miller
ActionAid UK,
Tony Juniper
Friends of the Earth,
John Hilary
War on Want,
Benedict Southworth