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Ecological News

Sage Grouse Saves the Day: BLM Halts Idaho Oil Lease Auction After Protests from Enviro Groups

Environews.tv - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 13:46

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/012118-sage-grouse-saves-day-blm-halts-idaho-oil-lease-auction-protests-enviro-groups/"; reddit_title = "Sage Grouse Saves the Day: BLM Halts Idaho Oil Lease Auction After Protests from Enviro Groups"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Idaho) — Conservation groups are celebrating a rare win for the environment, animals, and cleaner air as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has called off a proposed oil and gas lease sale set for March near eastern Idaho’s Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, an important habitat area for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus).

Arguing the sale violated federal plans to protect the vulnerable bird, conservation groups also stated fracking and drilling is harmful to other wildlife and land use opportunities, which the groups said the BLM failed to take into account when scheduling the sale.

“This is an important victory for Idaho’s imperiled sage grouse and other wildlife threatened by fracking and drilling,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “Fracking destroys wildlife habitat and pollutes air and water, so halting this sale was the right decision. It’s good to see the Bureau of Land Management acknowledging the risks and uncertainties of turning this land over to the oil industry.”

The questionable value of Idaho’s oil and gas deposits has, thus far, kept development of these resources to a minimum in the state. But on June 28, 2016, Alta Mesa Idaho confirmed that one of its 16 wells was producing crude oil – a first in the Gem State. For now, that won’t be enough for the green light near Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

“We thank the BLM for recognizing that it did not have enough information about greater sage grouse to go forward with oil and gas leasing,” said Kelly Fuller, Energy Campaign Coordinator at Western Watersheds Project. “Since 2008, this area of Idaho has been closed to sage grouse hunting because not enough is known about this small, vulnerable population. If there isn’t enough information to allow hunting, there certainly isn’t enough to allow drilling and fracking.”

Energy development, livestock grazing and invasive grasses that encourage wildfire, have threatened the greater sage grouse and its habitats throughout the West. Obama’s 2015 compromise to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list is now being changed by the Trump Administration. Still, the greater sage grouse has now played a part in limiting the possible oil and gas development this lease sale would have involved.

A full-feature EnviroNews documentary titled Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! explains the majestic bird’s unintended role this way:

At EnviroNews, we’ve often referred to Centrocercus as the “monkeywrencher bird” – not because it threatens to monkeywrench the economy, but because it singlehandedly, by its very existence, has the ability to monkeywrench the exploits of all the aforementioned industries (including oil and gas) – all by way of a listing to the Endangered Species Act.

The successful protests will keep 800 acres out of the hands of oil and gas companies – at least for now. While the Trump Administration has done its best to decrease the amount of land protected as national parks and monuments and roll back Obama-era environmental regulations, it appears one small bird and a lack of due diligence have forced the BLM to pump the brakes. However, the sale has only been postponed until the agency decides to do the proper environmental studies related to the east-central Idaho sage grouse population.

While there is “no way of knowing how long the BLM will take to do its environmental assessment,” according to an email from Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar, it is clear if the leasing process moves forward, “the sage grouse population in this area will be faced with a new and industrial form of disturbance,” which “could cause major problems for a population that may not be in a position to move to other habitats.”

For the moment, Idaho’s greater sage grouse population, and the people who live in the state, can breathe a little easier.

RELATED:

At EnviroNews, we’ve often referred to Centrocercus as the “monkeywrencher bird” – not because it threatens to monkeywrench the economy, but because it singlehandedly, by its very existence, has the ability to monkeywrench the exploits of all the aforementioned industries – all by way of a listing to the Endangered Species Act. Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! – The Granddaddy Endangered Species Battle of Them All

(EnviroNews Nature) – On World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2017, EnviroNews Nature released one of the largest and most expansive documentaries ever published on a wildlife species in peril – the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The academic yet entertaining film spans a plethora of topics and includes…

Sparks Fly at Heated ‘Bomb Train’ Meeting in Idaho’s First Oil-Patch Battle

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Payette, Idaho – A heated and starkly divided public appeal hearing over a railway transportation facility, a.k.a. “bomb train station,” went down in Payette County Idaho on December 4, 2014. The highlights, EnviroNews Idaho’s in-depth report, and excerpts from the transcript are as follows: Joli…

Residents Furious About Being Force-Pooled Into Idaho’s First Fracking

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Boise – Until recently, Idaho had almost no oil or gas wells and didn’t need a regulatory Oil and Gas Commission, but new rules allowing for the use of fracking and other technology, while outlining key industry practices like waste water disposal and natural gas…

These Species Should Be ‘Endangered’ But Aren’t Due to Political Horse Trading, Report Reveals

(EnviroNews Colorado) – Special-interest politics – not sound science – decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten…

Amidst Accusations of Bribery, Corruption, Payette Commissioners Sign off on Natural Gas Plant

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Payette, Idaho – To virtually no one’s surprise, on January 5, 2015, the Payette County Commission voted unanimously to shoot down three congruent appeals heard last month, and to uphold a previous decision by the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to allow a…

Payette County Admits Allowing Oil Company to Break the Law on Road Use

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Payette, Idaho – What’s easier than making oil and gas companies follow the law? How about changing the rules? That’s what officials in Payette County, Idaho are attempting after it became apparent current regulations are not being complied with. The oil and gas industry could…

Press Conference Footage: DOI With 4 Western Guvs: No Endangered Listing for Greater Sage Grouse

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Commerce City, Colorado – On Sept. 22, 2015, hand-in-hand with four western-state governors and the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell handed down what was surely the most anticipated wildlife announcement in United States history. The…

Birdbrained? Trump Admin Attacks ‘Historic’ 2015 Sage Grouse Plan, Enviro Groups File FOIAs

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On August 4, 2017, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke published a memorandum calling for the immediate revision of the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. This memo follows up on his June Secretarial Order to review sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) protections…

Obama Administration Comes Out Against NDAA Sage Grouse Rider

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Washington DC – In a surprising environmentally-friendly move today following the Department of the Interior’s green light for Shell Oil Company’s arctic drilling ambitions yesterday, the Obama Administration came out against a controversial rider in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that…

Will Redrawing Core Sage Grouse Areas in Wyoming Help Save the Bird From Extinction?

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Douglas, Wyoming – In late April a gloomy report was issued by Pew Charitable Trusts that claims there is a 98.7 percent chance greater sage grouse will go extinct in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin in 30 years if the current course continues. The Powder River…

Sec. Sally Jewell Announces DOI Will Not List Bi-State Sage Grouse as Endangered

(EnviroNews Nevada) – Reno, Nevada – To the dismay and disappointment of environmentalists, conservationists and biologist alike, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced on April 21, 2015 (which also happened to be Earth Day) that the bi-state sage grouse will not be making its way…

The post Sage Grouse Saves the Day: BLM Halts Idaho Oil Lease Auction After Protests from Enviro Groups appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Dr Vandana Shiva submits objection to Bayer-Monsanto Merger

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 18:59
Press Statement Monsanto is pretending to have sold business to a four year old company Tierra Agrotech with a paid up capital of 1 lakh rupees.  This needs urgent investigation:  Dr Vandana Shiva

New Delhi, January 20, 2018: Raising objections to the proposed merger between Monsanto and Bayer, Dr Vandana Shiva on Saturday submitted her comments and objections to the Competition Commission of India through an email and courier.  Bayer-Monsanto merger if comes through will be the largest cash acquisition. It is pegged at USD 66 Billion. Not only will it have a huge impact on the agri-business of the Europe and United States, but will have consequences globally for farmers and citizens. The proposed merger is perhaps one of the biggest convergences of agribusiness and pharmaceuticals which will adversely affect competition and free trade not only in India but the world. Speaking in this context Dr. Shiva said:”The Bayer Monsanto merger is not arithmetic issue of economic concentration. It is a political issue. If the mergers go through, it will be spelling the end of peoples’ rights, democracy and constitutional safeguards.  In 20 years time Monsanto has illegally captured the cotton seed sector violating biosafety laws and corrupting regulatory agencies.” She said, “Indian farmers have suffered for Monsanto’s profits and their Bt cotton has left a legacy of poison and death all over the cotton belts of India. Bt cotton which claimed to control pest has failed and now farmers are also dying because of pesticide poisoning.” “Monsanto illegitimate monopoly is based on the false claim of having a patent on Bt Cotton seeds. India’s patent laws do not allow a patent on seed all that Monsanto has is patent on the method of introducing Bt genes into Cotton. Yet it has used this false claim to a patent, it does not have to lock the Indian seed industry in fraud licensing agreements, collecting illegal royalties from farmers which is the root cause of their distress. Monsanto even has challenged the competition commission of India, when it is investigating Monsanto’s Bt cotton monopoly,” she said. “An approval of the merger will, therefore, be an approval genocidal monopoly that continues to kill our farmers,” she noted in the letter to the CCI.  To conclude she stated that, “Bayer and Monsanto have based their application for merger on false claims and misleading information. They are therefore liable to pay penalty. At a time when Monsanto is illegally spreading Round-up ready Bt cotton to millions of acres without approval,  Bayer Monsanto claim that they are withdrawing from the Round-up Ready market. The merger application falsely claims that Monsanto is no longer in cotton seed business. Monsanto is pretending to have sold business to a four year old company Tierra Agrotech with a paid up capital of 1 lakh rupees.  This asset sale needs urgent investigation”.
For any further information please contact I S Singh on 9910589956.  Monsanto-BAYER “Combination” – Comments Submitted to Competition Commission of India

MoBay Combination Submission CCI copy

Date: 20th Jan 2018

To,

The Secretary,
Competition Commission of India,
The Hindustan Times House,
7th Floor, 18-20, Kasturba Gandhi Marg,
New Delhi-110001

Subject : Objections and Comments on proposed Bayer Monsanto  Combination as provided under sub-section (3) of section 29 of the Competition Act

Comments submitted by 

Name: Dr Vandana Shiva

I submit my comments and objections to the proposed combination between Bayer and Monsanto. The first part is substantive objections to the Bayer application in the context of the of past and potential violations of the Competition Act, 2002. The Second part is my comments on the general impacts of the Bayer Monsanto merger for farmers rights , food security and sovereignty in India and globally.

As the Bayer Application for merger stated, “The Proposed Combination is in the nature of an acquisition (under Section 5(a) of the Competition Act, 2002). As a result of the Proposed Combination, Monsanto will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer.”

Under Section 29(2) of the Competition Act 2002, the Competition Commission, being of the prima facie opinion that the combination of Bayer and Monsanto is likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition, has directed the parties seeking a merger and combination to publish details of the combination for bringing it to the knowledge or information of the public and persons affected or likely to be affected by such combination.

The CCI must block the merger because it is an Anti Competitive Agreement violating Section 3 of the Competition Act, It must be rejected under Section 4  because it increases the potential for the abuse of dominant position which the company being acquired, Monsanto, has already engaged in – in the case of Bt cotton. Bayer must also be penalised under Section 44 and 45 of the Competition Act because it has made false statements and is guilty of omitting material relevant to the assessment of the combination. The details of such false statements and omissions have been specifically mentioned in this written objection para-wise. According to Section 44, Bayer is thus liable to a penalty.

Read more News Tags: Corporate MergersPoison Cartel Also read: Poison Cartel Fact Sheet

“Stop BAYER / MONSANTO” days of action in Germany

25-29 April 2017, Cologne and Bonn Germany

Navdanya writes to CCI for rejection of merger of Dow- Dupont

Navdanya, 9 April 2017

Navdanya welcomes CCI order on buyout of Monsanto by Bayer AG

27 March 2017

People’s Assembly on Dow-DuPont crimes of Genocide and Ecocide

29 November 2016, Bhopal, India

Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly

14 – 16 October 2016, The Hague, Netherlands

Bayer-Monsanto Merger

By Ruchi Shroff, 16 October 2016

Ending a Century of Ecocide and Genocide, Seeding Earth Democracy

By Dr Vandana Shiva – Common Dreams, 12 October 2016

US Monsanto-German Bayer merger: Shiva sends SOS to PM

By Dhirendra Kumar – Millenniumpost, 20 September 2016

The Corporate War Against The Planet, People and Democracy

Navdanya International, 15 July 2016

Opposing the BAYER and Monsanto merger – The fight for a GM-free agriculture must be strengthened

27 June 2016, Berlin, Germany

Open letter to the Chairman of the Board of BAYER

The Steering Committee of the Monsanto Tribunal, 8 June 2016

                          
Categories: Ecological News

10 of 12 National Park Service Board Members Resign in Protest, Interior Smears Them for Not Stopping Sexual Harassment

Environews.tv - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 15:15

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/012018-10-12-national-park-service-board-members-resigns-protest-interior-smears-not-stopping-sexual-harassment/"; reddit_title = "10 of 12 National Park Service Board Members Resign in Protest, Interior Smears Them for Not Stopping Sexual Harassment"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — Washington D.C. — The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) delivered an acrimonious attack directed at the members of the nonpartisan National Park Service Advisory Board (NPSAB) who resigned en masse after concluding their “requests to engage have been ignored.” Board meetings are required to be held twice yearly, but the NPSAB last met in November 2016, during the waning months of the Obama Administration.

Nine of the 12 members departed on January 15, 2018. A tenth member resigned two days later. In a letter from Tony Knowles, Chair of the Advisory Board, to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the former Alaska governor wrote, “For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the NPSAB and the DOI as prescribed by law.”

In response, Todd Willens, Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Interior, released a statement accusing Board members of ignoring sexual harassment issues at NPS. The statement read, “We welcome their resignations.” But, according to National Parks Traveler, the Advisory Board “has nothing to do with the day-to-day field operations of the National Park Service.”

The Charter of the NPSAB gives it authority to advise on national historic and natural landmarks, yet it was not consulted during Zinke’s review of 27 national monuments nor the recommendation to significantly downsize Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Neither was the Board consulted on the Park Service’s proposal to more than double park entry fees. Many fear fees as high as $70 per vehicle could hinder access for lower income families, counteracting efforts by the NPSAB in recent years to bring more visitors of color to the parks.

“With all of the issues facing our National Park system, from a more than $11 billion maintenance backlog to budget cuts and staffing issues, this is the very time the Advisory Board should be consulted,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association in a statement. “Instead, they are being ignored while the Administration continues to carry out their war on parks.”

The National Park Service has been without a director since January 3, 2017, although a new deputy director, Paul Daniel Smith, was named on January 9, 2018. As a former NPS employee, Smith was reprimanded by the Inspector General in 2006 for using his influence to improperly allow Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to chop down trees at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park.

“Our parks are in jeopardy,” former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told NPR’s “Here & Now” show in the wake of the NPSAB resignations. She called the lack of meetings and inability to have their voices heard a “slap in the face.”

While ignoring the Advisory Board, Zinke created two new bodies: the so-called “Made in America” Recreation Advisory Committee is comprised mainly of park concessionaires, RV and boating industry representatives, according to the Denver Post, while the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council is likely to feature firearms and ammunition manufacturers, said The Wilderness Society.

The departing NPSAB Chair Knowles went on to lament in his letter saying, “from all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside.”

The post 10 of 12 National Park Service Board Members Resign in Protest, Interior Smears Them for Not Stopping Sexual Harassment appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Celebrating the misery of small and marginal farmers.

Ground Reality - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 10:09


Farmers displaying the cut-out of the cheque they received as farm loan waiver in Punjab -- Pic Hindustan Times 
Whenever the government waives crop loans or provides any subsidy to farmers, it makes a show of it. Minister are seen handing over certificates or cheques to farmers at ceremonies akin to post-match presentations at IPL. Such ceremonies are now being held at district level with state ministers, MPs and MLAs in attendance to show how farmer friendly the government is. 
But when it comes to industry, huge tax concessions, bank write-offs and doles are provided quietly. In fact, many a time massive subsidies in the name of incentives for growth are covered so much in secrecy that it takes quite an effort to dig out the figures from official records. I have never seen captains of the industry lining up to receive the write-off certificate from the Finance Minister or the Commerce Minister. In fact, the impression being given is that writing-off of corporate bad debt leads to economic growth. Waiving farmer’s outstanding loan is perceived as credit indiscipline leading to upsetting of the national balance sheet.
Launching the first phase of the much awaited farm debt waiver scheme in Punjab with a lot of fanfare, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh handed over huge cut outs of cheque amounts to the beneficiary farmers. While popular singer Gurdas Mann regaled the audience with Punjabi songs, I don’t understand the logic behind such pomp and show. After all, the 47,000 marginal farmers who received cheques, totalling Rs 170-crore, will end up facing more humiliation in their villages where they will now be called karzai. Living with this unfortunate tag for the rest of their lives will not be as easy as we may think. Even the appeal made by the well-known economist Dr S S Johl requesting the government not to ask the beneficiary farmers to make a beeline for receiving the debt waiver cheques fell on deaf ears.
A few days after the loan waiver song and drama event Punjab quietly announced a power subsidy of Rs 748-crore to the industry. 

Some months back, it was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who handed over certificates, depicting the amount of farm loan waived to farmers, at a glittering ceremony. Home Minister Rajnath Singh too was present in one of these ceremonies. This was followed by loan waiver events at the district level where the state ministers presided. A total of Rs 36,000-crore was waived off by Yogi Adityanath’s government benefitting farmers to a maximum of Rs 1 lakh. In Maharashtra, another Rs 30,000-crore of outstanding farm loan has been promised. In Karnatkaka too, Rs 6,000-crore of waiver was announced by the state government.
Put together, farm loan waivers given by various states add up to approximately Rs 75,000-crore.  Even Part II of the Economic Survey for 2016-2017 presented in August, raised concern over farm loan waivers stating that these waivers eat up as much as 0.7 per cent of the GDP. Let’s not forget that despite the concern expressed in the Economic Survey a lot of political mileage was extracted by the state governments which demonstrated their benevolence towards farmers by turning the waiver ceremonies successfully into public events. I wouldn’t be surprised if taking a cue from Punjab where singer Gurdas Mann took to the stage, in future loan waiver ceremonies are converted into mega events with Bollywood film stars invited for dance performances.
While the entire effort is to publicly express love for the farmers showing how much the government actually care for farmers, nationalised banks quietly wrote-off corporate bad debts of Rs 55,356-crore in the first six months of this financial year, 2017-18. As I said earlier, this write-off was hidden from public glare and it required a newspaper to use the Right to Information (RTI) to obtain the data from the Reserve Bank of India. I therefore don’t understand. Why does it require the political parties to make a pomp and show for farm loan waivers while keeping their extra love for companies under wraps? Why talk of only the political parties, even the media and mainline economists (read the Economic Surveys) only brand farm loan waivers as an economic disruption. The basic objective is to demonise farm loan waivers.
A year earlier, in the financial year 2016-17, banks had written off Rs 77,123-crore of the bad debts. In the past 10 years, banks have struck down a total of Rs 3,60,000-crore of corporate bad debts. What to talk of public events where corporate bigwigs are made to queue up to receive cheque cut outs of the write-off amount, even the name of the beneficiary companies are never disclosed. The Ministry of Finance as well as the Reserve Bank of India have repeatedly appealed to the Supreme Court not to disclose the names of the corporate bank defaulters as it would not be desirable for economic growth. In reality, the Finance Ministry does not want the chief executives of these defaulting companies to be known as karzai. Naming them would end up publicly shaming them.  Different strokes for different people.
A majority of the farmers who have ended their lives actually take the fatal route to escape the humiliation that comes along with indebtedness. What hits most is when they see their names and pictures plastered in tehsil headquarters. The defaulting farmers’ pictures on posters look as if they are militants wanted by the police. And then, when the banks come and take away their tractor and puts them on public auction or for that matter any other movable property, it becomes difficult for the defaulting farmer to even look into the eyes of fellow villagers. Their children are normally scoffed-off and taunted as belonging to a karzai family. The social ostracization that follows is what forces them to commit suicide. I therefore don’t know how the farm loan beneficiaries in Punjab would be able to stand up to the trauma inflicted by the large cut outs handed over to them.
Celebrating the misery of small and marginal farmers is not an expression of care. It only adds to the humiliation a farmer is being forced to live with. Let’s not forget, a farmer is born in debt and dies in debt. #     
Categories: Ecological News

In Historic Speech, Jeff Flake Compares Trump to Stalin, Blasting Trump’s Lies, While Defending the Press and First Amendment

Environews.tv - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:31

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/011718-jeff-flake-compares-trump-stalin-blasting-trumps-lies-defending-press-first-amendment/"; reddit_title = "In Historic Speech, Jeff Flake Compares Trump to Stalin, Blasting Trump’s Lies, While Defending the Press and First Amendment"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Politics) — Washington D.C. — On January 17, 2017, Senator Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor and lambasted President Donald J. Trump, on the same day the President was set to announce recipients of his own fabricated “Fake News Awards.” Trump said his prizes would be going to the “most corrupt and biased [members] of the Mainstream Media.” But apparently, Jeff Flake wasn’t amused.

The Arizona Republican has been highly critical of the President since announcing his plans to retire from the Senate last October. Flake compared Trump to Josef Stalin and pointed out that other present-day dictators like Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela are now on the Trump “fake news” bandwagon, attempting to undermine and discredit the press at every opportunity.

Read the complete transcript to Senator Flake’s speech below:

Mr. President, near the beginning of the document that made us free, our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” So, from our very beginnings, our freedom has been predicated on truth. The founders were visionary in this regard, understanding well that good faith and shared facts between the governed and the government would be the very basis of this ongoing idea of America.

As the distinguished former member of this body, Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” During the past year, I am alarmed to say that Senator Moynihan’s proposition has likely been tested more severely than at any time in our history.

It is for that reason that I rise today, to talk about the truth, and its relationship to democracy. For without truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr. President, our democracy will not last.

2017 was a year which saw the truth — objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government. It was a year which saw the White House enshrine “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, as justification for what used to be known simply as good old-fashioned falsehoods. It was the year in which an unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press was launched by that same White House, an assault that is as unprecedented as it is unwarranted. “The enemy of the people,” was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017.

Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements. And, of course, the president has it precisely backward — despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.

I dare say that anyone who has the privilege and awesome responsibility to serve in this chamber knows that these reflexive slurs of “fake news” are dubious, at best. Those of us who travel overseas, especially to war zones and other troubled areas around the globe, encounter members of U.S. based media who risk their lives, and sometimes lose their lives, reporting on the truth. To dismiss their work as fake news is an affront to their commitment and their sacrifice.

According to the International Federation of Journalists, 80 journalists were killed in 2017, and a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists documents that the number of journalists imprisoned around the world has reached 262, which is a new record. This total includes 21 reporters who are being held on “false news” charges.

Mr. President, so powerful is the presidency that the damage done by the sustained attack on the truth will not be confined to the president’s time in office. Here in America, we do not pay obeisance to the powerful — in fact, we question the powerful most ardently — to do so is our birthright and a requirement of our citizenship — and so, we know well that no matter how powerful, no president will ever have dominion over objective reality.

No politician will ever get to tell us what the truth is and is not. And anyone who presumes to try to attack or manipulate the truth to his own purposes should be made to realize the mistake and be held to account. That is our job here. And that is just as Madison, Hamilton, and Jay would have it.

Of course, a major difference between politicians and the free press is that the press usually corrects itself when it gets something wrong. Politicians don’t.

No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions. And Mr. President, an American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract, who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.

Now, we are told via Twitter that today the president intends to announce his choice for the “most corrupt and dishonest” media awards. It beggars belief that an American president would engage in such a spectacle. But here we are.

And so, 2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it. In this effort, the choice is quite simple. And in this effort, the truth needs as many allies as possible. Together, my colleagues, we are powerful. Together, we have it within us to turn back these attacks, right these wrongs, repair this damage, restore reverence for our institutions, and prevent further moral vandalism.

Together, united in the purpose to do our jobs under the Constitution, without regard to party or party loyalty, let us resolve to be allies of the truth — and not partners in its destruction.

It is not my purpose here to inventory all of the official untruths of the past year. But a brief survey is in order. Some untruths are trivial — such as the bizarre contention regarding the crowd size at last year’s inaugural.

But many untruths are not at all trivial — such as the seminal untruth of the president’s political career — the oft-repeated conspiracy about the birthplace of President Obama. Also not trivial are the equally pernicious fantasies about rigged elections and massive voter fraud, which are as destructive as they are inaccurate — to the effort to undermine confidence in the federal courts, federal law enforcement, the intelligence community and the free press, to perhaps the most vexing untruth of all — the supposed “hoax” at the heart of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

To be very clear, to call the Russia matter a “hoax” — as the president has many times — is a falsehood. We know that the attacks orchestrated by the Russian government during the election were real and constitute a grave threat to both American sovereignty and to our national security. It is in the interest of every American to get to the bottom of this matter, wherever the investigation leads.

Ignoring or denying the truth about hostile Russian intentions toward the United States leaves us vulnerable to further attacks. We are told by our intelligence agencies that those attacks are ongoing, yet it has recently been reported that there has not been a single cabinet-level meeting regarding Russian interference and how to defend America against these attacks. Not one. What might seem like a casual and routine untruth — so casual and routine that it has by now become the white noise of Washington — is in fact a serious lapse in the defense of our country.

Mr. President, let us be clear. The impulses underlying the dissemination of such untruths are not benign. They have the effect of eroding trust in our vital institutions and conditioning the public to no longer trust them. The destructive effect of this kind of behavior on our democracy cannot be overstated.

Mr. President, every word that a president utters projects American values around the world. The values of free expression and a reverence for the free press have been our global hallmark, for it is our ability to freely air the truth that keeps our government honest and keeps a people free. Between the mighty and the modest, truth is the great leveler. And so, respect for freedom of the press has always been one of our most important exports.

But a recent report published in our free press should raise an alarm. Reading from the story:

“In February … Syrian President Bashar Assad brushed off an Amnesty International report that some 13,000 people had been killed at one of his military prisons by saying, “You can forge anything these days, we are living in a fake news era.”

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has complained of being “demonized” by “fake news.” Last month, the report continues, with our president, quote “laughing by his side” Duterte called reporters “spies.”

In July, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro complained to the Russian propaganda outlet, that the world media had “spread lots of false versions, lots of lies” about his country, adding, “This is what we call ‘fake news’ today, isn’t it?”

There are more:

“A state official in Myanmar recently said, “There is no such thing as Rohingya. It is fake news,” referring to the persecuted ethnic group.

Leaders in Singapore, a country known for restricting free speech, have promised “fake news” legislation in the new year.

And on and on. This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President. Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible.

We are not in a “fake news” era, as Bashar Assad says. We are, rather, in an era in which the authoritarian impulse is reasserting itself, to challenge free people and free societies, everywhere.

In our own country, from the trivial to the truly dangerous, it is the range and regularity of the untruths we see that should be cause for profound alarm, and spur to action. Add to that the by-now predictable habit of calling true things false, and false things true, and we have a recipe for disaster. As George Orwell warned, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

Any of us who have spent time in public life have endured news coverage we felt was jaded or unfair. But in our positions, to employ even idle threats to use laws or regulations to stifle criticism is corrosive to our democratic institutions. Simply put: it is the press’s obligation to uncover the truth about power. It is the people’s right to criticize their government. And it is our job to take it.

What is the goal of laying siege to the truth? President John F. Kennedy, in a stirring speech on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America, was eloquent in answer to that question:

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

Mr. President, the question of why the truth is now under such assault may well be for historians to determine. But for those who cherish American constitutional democracy, what matters is the effect on America and her people and her standing in an increasingly unstable world — made all the more unstable by these very fabrications. What matters is the daily disassembling of our democratic institutions.

We are a mature democracy. It is well past time that we stop excusing or ignoring — or worse, endorsing — these attacks on the truth. For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost.

I sincerely thank my colleagues for their indulgence today. I will close by borrowing the words of an early adherent to my faith that I find has special resonance at this moment. His name was John Jacques, and as a young missionary in England he contemplated the question: “What is truth?” His search was expressed in poetry and ultimately in a hymn that I grew up with, titled “Oh Say, What is Truth.” It ends as follows:

“Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,

For the limits of time it steps o’er.

Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst.

Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,

Eternal… unchanged… evermore.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

The post In Historic Speech, Jeff Flake Compares Trump to Stalin, Blasting Trump’s Lies, While Defending the Press and First Amendment appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

True or False: Three Mile Island: America’s Worst Nuclear Accident? — Expert Weighs In (and the Answer Might Surprise You) (Pt.7)

Environews.tv - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 23:06

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(EnviroNews DC News Bureau)Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the seventh in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the continuously-unfolding crisis on the ground at Fukushima Daiichi in eastern Japan. The transcript is as follows:

Excerpts from History Channel Video on Three Mile Island

History Channel Narrator: Saturday, 10:00 a.m.: Reporters at Three Mile Island are now asking questions not to get a news story, but to have a sense of whether they should be running for their lives. From almost the moment the story reached them, the press has felt there was no one in authority they could trust. Met-Ed (Metropolitan Edison Co.) officials obviously are spinning the facts, and the NRC reactions are confused and contradictory.

Among the people most concerned by the confusion is the President of the United States. Jimmy Carter is a trained engineer and a veteran of the Navy’s illustrious nuclear submarine program. He now tells NRC Commissioner Joseph Hendrie that he wants a personal representative at Three Mile Island to take charge of activities and report directly to him…

At the same press conference, the Governor makes a shocking announcement – one that will do much to at last end many people’s fears.

Governor Dick Thornburgh: President Carter will be paying a visit to the area to make a personal on-site visit…

History Channel Narrator: Carter doesn’t hesitate. He starts downriver toward Three Mile Island. The President tours the plant. The tour does not uncover any new facts for the President’s consideration or the public’s consumption. Its purpose is simple: restore public confidence.

Josh Cunnings (Narrator): Thank you for joining us at the EnviroNews USA news desk for this seventh of 15 short films in our mini-series, Nuclear Power in Our World Today. I’m your host Josh Cunnings.

False advertising is a very, very serious crime. Well, ok, maybe not so much, and companies do of course get away with it every single day in America — but still, it’s just bad form, and enterprises caught doing it should at the very least be exposed for it.

But, who would want to be notoriously known as the site of the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history – and why?

We explore this topic as we review yet another excerpt from the bombshell interview between former nuclear industry executive and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen, and EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry. Let’s listen in.

Urry: You’ve mentioned Three Mile Island a couple of times since we’ve been speaking, and I believe the marquee at Three Mile Island proudly boasts that it is the site of America’s worst-ever nuclear accident. Is it?

Gundersen: You know, I think there’s probably two that are worse, and when I went to school in ‘70, I never knew of the worst one. I think the worst one was Santa Susana – which is right outside of LA.

Urry: Rocketdyne?

Gundersen: Some people call it “Rocketdyne,” which was the company that ran the facility, and Santa Susana is the location. In 1959 there was a meltdown there, and the government covered it up until the 80s. So, I went to school ten years afterward – ’69, ’70, ’71, ’72 – and we knew nothing about it.

Urry: And they had two subsequent meltdowns at that site as well I believe – in the 60s.

Gundersen: Yeah. It became so highly contaminated that even now it’s difficult to clean it up, and the surrounding suburbs have some awfully strange increased incidences of cancer that I attribute to the accident that occurred in ’59. You know, what’s happening now there is that the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are looking the other way as the contractor tries to tear it down and ship that stuff…

Urry: Is that Boeing at the moment?

Gundersen: Yes. Boeing is ripping it down and shipping it to other, just regular sanitary landfills, as opposed to doing it right and shipping to radioactive landfills in Utah or Texas. They just don’t want to spend the money, and they want to be done with it. I was involved in some litigation on Santa Susana, and it was clear to me that one of the things they do is they measure the radiation on-site before they ship the stuff away, and they forget to take out the fact that the site is highly radioactive. So, they have a high background, and based on that high background they say, “Well, this material’s clean.” If they had just driven it down the road a couple miles and inspected it, [they] would have seen it’s much hotter than background, in which case it should have gone to Utah.

Urry: Hmm. It’s also been mentioned to us that although this site has been prioritized to be a Superfund, the state [of California], for whatever reasons, has fought and fought to keep this off the Superfund list. I mean, on a site that’s this severely contaminated, with a full-blown meltdown, with no containment dome no less – I mean, how are they able to keep a site like that off the Superfund list?

Gundersen: I think there’s a lot of political pressure not to. One for money, and two, they just don’t want the population which… You’ve got to remember, 50 years ago, LA was not anywhere near as big, and the suburbs weren’t there either. But now, the suburbs have encroached around this, and they really don’t want a frightened population that might litigate, and run the cost of the cleanup up.

Excerpt from CNN News Report

Don Lemon — Anchor, CNN: Developing story about the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant – the site of the significant commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history…

Cunnings: While CNN and others have reported that Three Mile Island is the site of the worst-ever nuclear accident in the U.S., nothing could be further from the truth – and unfortunately, [due to] TMI’s false advertising and erroneous reporting by the media, most Americans go on thinking Three Mile Island is as bad as it gets on U.S. soil.

In 2013, Emerson Urry was in a sit-down interview with legendary environmental activist and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich when the topic of Rocketdyne spontaneously came up in the conversation. Let’s just say that Three Mile Island’s catchy marquee and slogan didn’t in the least fool team Brockovich regarding the true identity of America’s worst radioactive incident.

Urry to Brockovich: What local California environmental issues do you find most pressing, and which ones are you participating with most actively?

Brockovich: California is covered in red dots and locations that we’re dealing with.

Urry: Yes.

Brockovich: You know, there’s a whole lot of issues going up on the Bay, and we’ve got things in the San Joaquin Valley; PG&E polluted out there just like they did in Hinckley. You’ve got similar problems in Bakersfield; two issues down in Carson. We’re doing Beverly Hills High and oil problems and nuclear meltdowns. There’s a lot. It’s sad.

Urry: Yeah.

Brockovich: You know, I get drawn back in in the situation with Rocketdyne, which is just right over our shoulder here, and communities reporting too many people with cancer. There’s definitely a lot of issues in the state of California.

Urry: It’s interesting because people think of California [and they think of such] a green progressive state, and we were just discussing how, pretty much right down the road over here, we had, I think the third of fourth largest oil spill in the history of the world over at Taft. [Editor’s Note: Correction: EnviroNews has now concluded: the Taft Lakeview Gusher #1 oil spill of 1910 was the world’s largest.]

Brockovich: Oh absolutely. I thought you were going to say Rocketdyne and the nuclear meltdown.

Cunnings: In December of 2013 EnviroNews California expanded on the Brockovich-Urry dialog with an article of its own, wherein two studies on the site were discussed. One study indicates that Rocketdyne released up to 459 times more radiation into the open environment than did Three Mile Island. Just a small difference of magnitude there. Ever so slight.

With Gundersen, Urry also mentioned two subsequent meltdowns at Rocketdyne, which is also correct. Two more meltdowns did indeed happen there — one in 1964 and another in 1965. But the 1959 accident was indeed the granddaddy of them all.

Rocketdyne had been conducting research on an experimental sodium reactor when things went horribly wrong. EnviroNews’ own Shad Engkilterra reported on the incident this way:

For 14 days, radioactive material was vented into the open air. There is no record as to exactly how much or what kind, though there are sources that say it was immeasurable because the measuring equipment that was available at the time did not have the ability to read emissions that high. What is known, is that deadly plutonium and strontium were indeed released during the episode.
This experiment took place before the widespread adoption of containment domes for nuclear power plants, and thus the radioactive material fell out unrestrained, to wherever the winds and air currents carried it.

Excerpts from the Testimony of John Pace, Eyewitness to the 1959 Nuclear Meltdown at Santa Susana

John Pace (speaking to audience): On the ’59 reactor meltdown, I was there. I was 19 years old at the time. I worked for Atomics International from January 5 to November 9 of 1959. That’s the period of time that I worked there. But that was the critical time. That’s when everything happened…

What I want to show you on this particular picture real quick is, the reactor building, you see there’s no containment building, and that’s the way they was built back in 1959 – as [an] experimental reactor, and it wasn’t required to have a containment building…

Now, here’s a picture of me. I finally got in there. This is when I was 20 years old. [This] was about a month before the accident happened. I came to work on my shift, I didn’t think anything was wrong, just like a regular shift, and I came through that door, and then there I looked as I came through that door and I said, “Uh oh. Something’s not right here. There’s something going on that I don’t know about. Am I supposed to be here?” All these questions were running through my mind. [I closed] the door real quietly so I wouldn’t disturb. But, around that console, they call it where I’m sitting at, there was men all lined up around that console, and they [were] discussing what happened on the nuclear accident. As I stood there and listened, it scared me to death to hear what they [were] talking about…

Anyway, I was talking to them and I heard about how they barely shut the reactor down. The reactor had run away on them… The reactor has an automatic shutdown on [it]; that didn’t work. And then they finally had to put the control rods down in the reactor all the way trying to stop it, [and] it still wouldn’t stop it. So, what they had to do, they had to release the nuclear radiation straight out of the reactor out into the atmosphere. This has not been talked about, but I was there and I know it happened. It went out over the San Fernando Valley; it went over the eastern end of Simi Valley. The winds were blowing in that direction. This might be a surprise to many out there, but that’s what actually happened…

And then the men asked him, “Can we tell our families about it? It went right over our own homes. We live in Chatsworth, Canoga Park, all those areas. Can we let our wives know what had happened?” And the three men got together and talked about it and they [came] back to them and [said], “No, you can not. No, [we] don’t want anyone saying a word about it. We’ll report what happened to the public in our own due time.” And then he turned around and came over to me where I’m standing taping up the door and all that, and he got right up next to like a sergeant in the military right in my face and said, “You will not say a word about what happened here today!” And he really got stern about it and scared me half to death in the fashion he had done that. So, here I am talking to you right now; I was not supposed to say a word. This is something I have to say to all of you. [It’s] something that’s very important to me to be able to let you know what actually happened. It’s been with me 55 years. I’ve know this, but this is my first opportunity…

Now, here’s a picture of me working on the sodium pump. This sodium pump was what turned out to be the cause [of] the nuclear accident. This is me working on it, finishing it up, putting clear on the pump over the asbestos. And that’s not a very safe thing do, messing with asbestos. But, that’s the pump there that caused the accident…

Marvin J. Fox said, “I want you guys to take and restart the reactor up. We want to find out what caused the reactor to go down.” So, he gave us an assignment that we had to restart the reactor. And it was a very scary thing. I was on that crew. I was right there…

So, what they [did], they took for two weeks, like it’s been advertised, it’s been said… you’ve heard it a hundred times maybe… Why did we start it and do all this? It was a very foolish thing. We [were] told to do it by the boss man…

What they’d do, every 24 hours roughly, they would take and shut down the reactor and then restart it again until they figured out for sure that it was that pump that was the cause of it. And every time they shut the reactor down, more radiation was released from the reactor out into the atmosphere. It could have been towards Simi Valley. [It] could have been towards Topanga Canyon…

Now, where this tall piece of equipment is right there, is where the reactor sat. As we were working on the reactor we had to have the door open to let the radiation out. The radiation was high enough that we had to get it out of the building as much as we could to be able to work in there. So, that’s what went on for those two weeks…

Now, [here’s] another picture of me here on top of the reactor with my supervisor next to me. We’re lining up some equipment. It was that equipment you seen in the last picture there. On top of that reactor — see all those holes there – that’s where the fuel elements would go down in the reactor. On those holes, they had O-rings around those holes and they were leaking. And I had radiation coming up on me and my supervisor while we [were] lining that equipment up. So, we [were] always continually getting radiation bombarded…

This is a seal around the core of the reactor. It keeps the radiation from leaking out. We had to cut that because they wanted to get the small pieces out of the reactor…

[This is a] large plug right there. We had to have it in the right spot to get the broken pieces of fuel elements out, as well as the fuel slugs. There [were] 81 fuel slugs that [were] dropped in the bottom of the reactor from all the broken fuel rods, or fuel elements there that we had to get out. So, we had to do that six or seven times before we got all those out, and all us men that’s in that picture got exposed to the radiation coming out from around the edge of it, as well as in the center there.

Cunnings: Just last year, LA’s NBC4 dropped a media bomb on Boeing when they revealed downright scandalous lobbies and political payoffs in an attempt to thwart cleanup efforts at that site.

Excerpt #1 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Joel Grover – Investigative Reporter, NBC4: In Woodland Hills, Canoga Park, Simi Valley and other neighborhoods, people are afraid. They think that chemicals and radiation from the Santa Susana Field Lab have made them and their families sick. Now, the NBC4 I-Team has uncovered evidence that big business interests working behind the scenes with government bureaucrats have managed to stonewall a full cleanup of the site.

Excerpts #2 and #3 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Grover: This woman almost got it cleaned up…

Grover to Linda Adams: You’re wiping away tears talking about Santa Susana…

Grover: She’s Linda Adams, the former head of California’s Environmental Protection Agency, who served both Democratic and Republican governors.

Adams: They depended on me to get it done.

Grover: Years ago Adams heard stories…

Unknown Resident #1: Every single house on my street had cancers…

Grover: …of people like these who lived near the former test site, including children who’d lost their eyes to a cancer often linked to radiation exposure.

Grover to Adams: Did you feel there needed to be a full cleanup of the contamination?

Adams: Absolutely. Those chemicals don’t stay on the mountain. [The] population is below the site.

Excerpt #4 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Grover: This toxic site was once run by Rocketdyne, but is now owned by Boeing – one of the state’s largest employers, and a big contributor to California politicians – including Governor Brown. Even though Boeing didn’t own it when most of the nuclear and rocket testing took place, as the current owner, they’d have to pay the millions of dollars it would take to fully clean it up – with some help from NASA and the Department of Energy, which also used parts of the site.

Grover to Adams: Did you sense Boeing was spending a lot of money to kill a full cleanup?

Adams: Absolutely. They had formed a large army of lobbyists to do everything they cold to stop cleanup to that level.

Grover: It’s been like a game of musical chairs: a former environmental aide to Governor Brown, a former head of the state EPA, and the former chief lawyer of the DTSC (California Department of Toxic Substances Control), have all switched sides and worked on behalf of Boeing to kill a full cleanup of Santa Susana.

Liza Tucker – Consumer Advocate, Consumer Watchdog: It’s a very smart and very evil strategy.

Excerpts #5, #6 and #7 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Sheila Kuehl — Former California State Senator: The Boeing Company has employed cadres of people…

Grover: In 2007, State Senator Sheila Kuehl went after Boeing.

Kuehl: There are cancer clusters of various kinds of exotic cancers, all around this site…

Grover: Senator Kuehl managed to get a bill passed ordering the DTSC to force Boeing to fully clean up Santa Susana, restoring it to the way it was before the nuclear and rocket testing. But Boeing went to court and got the law thrown out, saying the site was being unfairly singled out by being held to such a high cleanup standard.

Adams: It was an uphill battle.

Grover: So, EPA Secretary Adams stepped in in 2009 and got NASA and the Department of Energy to sign agreements guaranteeing they would fully clean up their parts of Santa Susana. But Boeing wouldn’t sign a similar agreement.

Adams: We were outnumbered.

Grover: According to internal emails we obtained, Boeing lobbyists were privately meeting with DTSC staffers to influence the cleanup requirements.

Grover to DTSC Barbara Lee – Director, DTSC: There are those that think that your agency is too cozy with Boeing.

Lee: I haven’t seen it and I’ve looked for it.

Grover: Today, five years later, Boeing is proposing to turn Santa Susana into parkland for recreational purposes.

Dan Hirsch — Nuclear Policy Instructor, University of California: Boeing is proposing that it only have to clean up something of the order of a few percent of the contamination.

Grover to Lee: Are you concerned contamination from that site is still spilling into neighborhood communities?

Lee: I don’t believe that there is a current exposure to communities.

Adams: I don’t know how anyone could be saying that. All the evidence I’ve seen shows there is a threat.

Excerpt #8 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Unknown Resident #2: The Government doesn’t want to admit that it killed its own people.

Chuck Henry – Co-Anchor, NBC4: Tonight the NBC4 I-Team reveals that dangerous secrets [were] kept behind this fence in a place called Area IV.

Unknown Resident #3: I just want the truth out there.

Henry: A terrible nuclear accident, radioactive gasses leaked over Los Angeles, and a Government cover-up. The big question tonight: Did the toxic fallout cause people, including children, to get sick and die?

Colleen Williams – Co-Anchor, NBC4: That nuclear accident happened a long time ago – 1959 – one of the worst in U.S. history – just 35 miles from downtown LA. Tonight Joel Grover and his team have uncovered proof – 56 years later – that the fallout from this accident is even worse than the Government has ever admitted. Joel is here right now with the I-Team’s yearlong investigation. Joel?

Grover: Well Colleen, you might be wondering why we should care about a nuclear accident that happened more than half-a-century ago? Because, as you’re about to see, thousands of people in the San Fernando and Simi Valleys have been secretly exposed to dangerous radioactive fallout, and there’s evidence if you live close to the hot zone you could still be exposed or even get sick.

Excerpts #9 and #10 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Grover: A government press release said simply, there had been a minor “fuel element failure” at the reactor, and there had been “no release of radioactive materials” to the environment.

Grover to John Pace: Did the government lie to the public?

Pace: Yes they did. And that’s one of the reasons I’m here. What they’ve written in that report is not even close to what actually happened. The radiation in that building got so high it went clear off the scale.

Excerpt #11 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Grover to Group of Sick Residents: How many think your cancers or cancers in your family are related to Santa Susana?

Entire Group of Sick Residents (in Unison): I do!

Excerpts #12, #13 and #14 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Grover: For our investigation, the I-Team collected and combed through more than 15,000 pages of documents, which reveal what the Government has yet to publicly admit: that there were secret releases of radiation from Area IV that might have caused many cases of cancer.

Grover to Pace: Were the workers allowed to tell their wives, their families, what was going on?

Pace: No they were not. They were sworn in secrecy.

Grover: But buried in the archives of NASA, which used part of the Field Lab, we found this document, which confirms the 1959 meltdown led to a release of radioactive contaminants. And in the files of the U.S. EPA, we found interviews with former Santa Susana workers who we tracked down, like Dan Parks.

Grover to Parks: Did you witness releases of radioactive gas?

Parks: Certainly.

Grover: Parks’ job was to monitor radiation in Area IV in the 1960s, and he says he frequently saw workers release dangerous radiation into the air from three different reactors.

Parks: It was supposed to be a secret…

Grover: And he says workers would often dispose of barrels of radioactive waste from reactors by taking them out to what were called the “Burn Pits.”

Parks: …and they would shoot it with this high-powered rifle. It was a volatile explosion beyond belief. Fire, smoke; if the wind was blowing to the valley, it would blow it in the valley.

Grover: And he says that radioactive smoke blew right onto workers like Ralph Powell, an Area IV security officer.

Powell: I saw the clouds of smoke engulfing my friends that are dying now.

Grover to Powell: You fear that you brought radiation home?

Powell: Yes. I was told that maybe I tracked in some radiation. I suspect it caused the death of my son. I’ve never got that out of my mind.

Excerpt #15 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Grover: We had a lot of questions for the federal agency in charge of the nuclear reactors at Area IV: the U.S. Department of Energy. Like, why the Government still hasn’t publicly admitted that radiation was released into the air over LA for years? The Energy Department said no one would be available to talk to us for this story…

Grover to John Jones – Department of Energy, Federal Project Manager: Mr. Jones, I’m Joel Grover with Channel 4.

Jones: Nice to meet you.

Grover: So, we showed up at a public meeting to try and talk to the Energy Department’s project manager over the Santa Susana Lab, John Jones.

Grover to Jones: Will anyone from your agency talk to us at all?

Jones: My public people have talked to you. I’ve said all I’m going to say.

Grover: You’ve said nothing.

Jones: Thank you for your time.

Excerpt #16 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Williams: An NBC4 I-Team investigation exposing “LA’s Nuclear Secret” triggers a major call for action tonight — a big development in the wake of our reports.

Henry: We’ve revealed how a contaminated nuclear and rocket test site could threaten the health of thousands in Southern California. The I-Team’s Joel Grover is here now with the story. Joel?

Grover: Well, some of the area’s most influential leaders have signed these letters, calling on the state to make sure the Santa Susana Field Lab is fully cleaned up without delay. The Field Lab is a place that some people believe is literally killing them.

Excerpt #17 From NBC4 Documentary “LA’s Nuclear Secret”

Mitch Englander: We need a full cleanup. And nothing short of a full cleanup is reasonable or acceptable.

Grover: LA City Councilman Mitch Englander also signed the letter after watching the I-Team’s Nuclear Secret reports.

Englander: I can’t thank you enough for exposing what I think has been a major Government cover-up over decades.

Grover: In their letter elected officials are calling on the DTSC to reject Boeing’s latest requests, that it not be required to clean up the vast majority of the contaminated soil at the former test site.

Englander: My mom died at 50 years old of a brain tumor.

Grover: Councilman Englander grew up in Canoga Park and says his whole family developed unexplained illnesses. They lived just three miles downwind from Santa Susana.

Englander: I do suspect that their illnesses were related, as so many other families…

Grover: According to that letter, Boeing’s own estimate is that 96 out of 100 people exposed would get cancer from the contamination if they were living on a certain portion of Santa Susana and eating food grown in their gardens.

Cunnings: If one thing’s for sure, it’s that the mess left behind at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory is still festering and it needs to be addressed – and hopefully, for the surrounding communities, as soon as possible.
As bad as the massive 1959 Rocketdyne meltdown was, according to Gundersen, it isn’t the only covered-up large-scale nuclear cataclysm that has occurred in the United States.

Gundersen: There’s one other accident that has to be right up there with Santa Susana…

Urry: Let me guess. Is it INL (Idaho National Laboratory)?

Cunnings: Just to break in with a quick note here. Urry is referring to several little-known reactor meltdowns – of which some were created intentionally by the good ol’ U.S. Government – at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), also in the 1950s.

Gundersen: No. It’s not.

Urry: Darn it. (Laughs. Snaps fingers.)

Gundersen: It was actually on a Native American reservation, and it was called Church Rock, and it was a mill-tailing site which is, after the ore is taken out of the ground, it’s stripped with acids so that the uranium comes off – and this huge acid pond of highly radioactive stuff burst. A dam burst, there was a 20-foot gash in the dam, and hundreds of millions of gallons of radiation ran down into this river at Church Rock. Now, it occurred three months after TMI (Three Mile Island), and it occurred on a Native American reservation.

Urry: What reservation was that?

Gundersen: It’s the Navajo reservation on the Utah-Nevada border there. And I’m sorry I can’t remember the river. But had it occurred in a more populated area where the news trucks could have gotten to, and frankly, had it occurred, not to Native Americans, but to, you know, voters…

Urry: It would have been Love Canal, but instead we didn’t even hear about it?

Gundersen: Right. Right. The most liquid radiation was from Church Rock, the most gaseous radiation was from Santa Susana.

Cunnings: Maybe AmerGen LLC, in charge of the Three Mile Island site today, should consider coming clean (pun intended), and taking down words of false advertising that appear on the marquee. Perhaps a token effort of respect should be offered up to the victims of the far worse disasters at both Santa Susana and Church Rock.

We say this not to take anything away from the poor victims of Three Mile Island. All we’re saying is that TMI should at least be honest about the size, scope and scale of these various catastrophes.

Tune in tomorrow as we shift gears big time halfway through our 15-part mini-series, and we commence discussions on the simply massive and ongoing crisis at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.

For EnviroNews USA, this is Josh Cunnings. Thank you for watching and good night.

Excerpt from the Testimony of John Pace, Eyewitness to the 1959 Nuclear Meltdown at Santa Susana

Pace: Some people have heard about the trash pile we had out in the back of the reactor. This is a picture of it right here. Nobody knows that it was there. Being there, I was able to catch this picture at the right moment. We had out there; it was about 15 feet high, had all that plastic I showed you was out there. It was all covered with radiation. We had furniture from the office was out there, where Bonnie used to work in. The whole building at one time got contaminated from breaking a fuel rod element off in the reactor, and [that] contaminated the whole building. We couldn’t even get around the building for about, almost two miles around the building. And all that furniture from the offices went right out in the back in that pile there. And records too. Records are hard to find. That’s where they are. They went right there and they got thrown away.

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Categories: Ecological News

Trump Admin Announces It Will Strip Canada Lynx of Endangered Species Protection

Environews.tv - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 12:57

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/011318-trump-admin-announces-will-strip-canada-lynx-endangered-species-protection/"; reddit_title = "Trump Admin Announces It Will Strip Canada Lynx of Endangered Species Protection"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Nature) — Washington D.C. — You’ve probably never seen a Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) in the wild. And if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) pulls off its plan to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the elusive wildcat, conservationists say you might never get the chance.

On January 11, 2018, the USFWS released a scientific review of the Canada lynx in the contiguous U.S., concluding the species “may no longer warrant protection” under the ESA.

Despite admitting the possibility of the creatures being “functionally extirpated” from some of their main population centers during this century, the agency will nevertheless “begin development of a proposed rule to delist the species.”

The tufty-eared, long-legged cousin of the bobcat (Lynx rufus) grows to about three feet long and weighs up to thirty pounds. It prefers dense forest habitat and feeds primarily on the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). About 2,000 Canada lynx remain in total spanning Maine, northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Montana, northeastern Idaho, north-central Washington and western Colorado.

In 2000, the USFWS designated the cat as a threatened species in the contiguous U.S., qualifying it for protection under the ESA. Following significant delays by the agency in devising a recovery plan, conservation groups filed a lawsuit.

In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruled the USFWS had violated the ESA through its delay and mandated the agency to either release a plan by 2018, or determine that such a plan would be unnecessary. The agency chose the latter.

Despite the agency’s decision, its review, Species Status Assessment for the Canada Lynx — Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment, painted a dismal picture for the future of the species.

In particular, the USFWS noted that lynx require hundreds to thousands of square kilometers of boreal forest habitat with “dense horizontal cover and robust populations of its primary prey, the snowshoe hare.” Yet the document predicted “declining forestland” in the U.S. and “human-caused fragmentation of the already naturally patchy pattern of lynx habitat.”

Factors identified by the USFWS as impacting lynx and snowshoe hare habitat include roads, development, logging, and trapping.

Canada Lynx Caught in Foothold Trap

The agency also pegged climate change as one of the creature’s biggest threats, since the current amount and duration of snowfall is already at the “minimum thresholds believed necessary to give lynx a competitive advantage over bobcats and other mesocarnivores.”

Disconcertingly for wildlife lovers, the agency documented a decline of habitat in five out of six of the lynx’s main areas, with populations in each unit “likely to be smaller and their distributions reduced in the future.”

“This is a political decision — pure and simple. This administration is throwing science out the window,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC). “The best science tells us that lynx are worse off than they were when originally listed in 2000 — we’re seeing lower numbers, more range contraction, and [we] now understand the significant threats posed by climate change.”

Lynx Canadensis — Photo via Wikimedia Commons — Credit: Keith Williams

“The Service’s abrupt about face is an obvious attempt to abandon the good work toward recovering this climate-impacted species because saving lynx from extinction is not aligned with the Trump Administration’s climate-denial and emphasis on maximizing resource extraction on our public lands,” said Bethany Cotton, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians (Guardians). “The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to stop playing politics and stick to the science clearly showing lynx need our help.”

If the USFWS moves forward with delisting Canada lynx, conservation groups say they plan on suing.

The agency’s lynx decision comes on the heels of a controversial Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan released at the end of November, which conservationists say also turns a blind eye to science when stronger endangered species protections are needed.

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Categories: Ecological News

A walk through one of the richest village in India.

Ground Reality - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 17:43

A beautiful view of the snow-clad Kiari village in Shimla district, Himachal Pradesh, India. The imposing structure in the centre is the village temple. 
From a distance it looks like any other village in the hills. Perched on the mountain slopes, Kiari is a tiny village in the Jubbal-Kotkhai belt of Rohru tehsil of Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh. What makes it however a lot different from the image of a village that we normally carry is that it was once rated as the richest villages in Asia.

To see how the one time richest village in India (now some people rate it as the second richest, the richest also I am told is situated in the Shimla district), I drove to Kiari. About 45 kms from Shimla. The road winds its way through the mountains to reach the village. As my car enters the village market, the very first impression I get is that it is a well-to-do village. The village market is much cleaner then what I have so far seen in the hills and it opens into a relatively well kept parking lot.

  
Village market, Kiari

I am greeted by village elders. After exchanging pleasantries, we walk into the village to take a look. I am pleasantly surprised to see the tile-paved pathway that leads to the village temple. This was certainly beyond my expectations. I wasn't expecting a neat and well-kept pavement and that too in a village far away from the madding crowd. I asked Sunil Chauhan, an orchard owner, as to what actually brought prosperity in the village. I was expecting him to tell me how the introduction of apple cultivation changed the face of the village -- from subsistence to prosperity. Instead, what he told me was not what I could have ever imagined: "Almost 99 per cent of the males in this village had been in Government service. My father was a teacher in a Government school, and my grandfather too was in government service. So is the case with most people in the village." Being in Government service provided them an assured regular income or in other words ensured income security. Apple cultivation of course subsequently added to the village wealth.

Adds Devendra Singh Chauhan, an ex-President of the Gram Panchayat: "Because of income security, this village could take risks and exhibit entrepreneurship. Before apple cultivation came in, which of course brought in additional wealth, we had earlier taken to cash crops like potato. The average landholding size then was about 20 bighas, which is quite a handsome landholding in the upper hills. It has now come down drastically." Accordingly, most village elders were well-educated, with quite a few getting educated from Lahore at that time. Better education coupled with economic security helped them to take advantage of several government schemes.

"At that time it was a Union Territory (UT). Since 1962, Kiari had in a number of government surveys come up as a relatively prosperous community. It was primarily because money deposits from the village had swelled that a subpost office was opened in Kiari way back in 1967. It was in 1981-82 declared as "Bachat Gram" (a village with high post office deposits). I decided to visit the post office, again a very well kept office. Jagat Ram, the Gram Dak Sewak, had been in service for 39 years. He told me that the post office now serves some 29 villages in the near vicinity. "Not many letters come in now, and most of the dak is for the schools and banks." The village has two branches of banks -- the State Bank of India and a Cooperative bank. Even now the village post office carries more deposits than the two banks.



      Sub-Post Office in Kiari started in 1967. 
The imposing structure of the village temple speaks a lot about the prosperity in the region. It is now being renovated, a part of the lofty complex has already been decked up. Besides, the village has a primary, middle and a high school. It has a primary health center and a veterinary center plus a telephone exchange. In fact, much of the necessary infrastructure already exists in this village. "Most children in the government schools are of the Nepali labour. Our own children are mostly studying in Shimla," informs Mr Chauhan. I then decided to sit with some village elders for a discussion. We walked to the very well kept house of a prominent resident, Rajender Chauhan. From the discussions it emerged that despite the prosperity, most young people had moved out. They preferred to live in the city. Most residents who had stayed back were the elderly parents. When asked why is that the youngsters are attracted to the city life, Mr Rajender explained that one indication can be drawn from the fact that it has become difficult to find matches for their children. "You may be earning Rs 1-crore from apple cultivation but the girls no longer are interested. They want their prospective groom to be in a job in a city, even if it is earning them a fraction of what managing an apple orchard would give." How about the girls from the village? What about their matrimonial preferences? "They too prefer a groom from the cities."  

This certainly is a worrying trend. Most sociologists would ascribe the lack of opportunity in the villages to be the primary reason behind the push migration that we generally encounter. But what I witnessed in Kiari is a strange phenomenon wherein people are even moving out of prosperous villages. In fact, this trend is visible all across the apple belt of Himachal Pradesh. I can understand why hundreds of village in economically insecure Uttarakhand region lie abandoned. That's a typical case of push migration, where people move out in search of better prospects. But how does one define the relatively prosperous villages in upper region of Himachal Pradesh too turning into ghost villages? # 

Categories: Ecological News

Glyphosate and Arsenic: a Deadly Cocktail

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 01:39

Navdanya International, 9 January 2018

The toxicity of Pesticides is not only a result of the active principles declared by manufacturing companies, but also of co-formulants, which are often kept hidden or unreported in the authorization and marketing process. The alarm comes from Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini of the French University of Caen who has recently published his latest study in the journal “Toxicology reports”, which shows that glyphosate-based herbicides contain heavy metals, such as arsenic. These co-formulants are not declared or declared as “inert”,  and are covered by industrial  secrecy of manufacturers, despite their proven toxicity: tested on human cells, co-formulants, composed of petroleum residues, have a very detrimental effect as they act as endocrine disruptors.

Seralini’s report confirms what has already been denounced by Navdanya and multiple civil society organizations at the recent Monsanto Tribunal and on subsequent occasions: the regulatory processes are far from transparent and democratic, as big agribusiness companies are able to  intervene in political decision-making and interfere with regulatory agencies procedures. Consequently, the health risks of consumers and workers are very high. On the occasion of the Monsanto Tribunal, Navdanya International had interviewed Professor Seralini when were anticipated the results of the study now published.

Glyphosate was patented by the Monsanto Company in 1974 as an herbicide with the competent authorities.  Commercial herbicides are  never composed of Glyphosate alone and are instead mixed with other chemical formulants .  Glyphosate-based herbicides are the most widely  used pesticides in the world, and from 1995 the main pesticides sprayed on GMO plants. Agricultural GMOs such as Roundup-tolerant soy and corn  are transgenic plants also for human consumption and animal feed.   Most of these plants are modified so as to contain glyphosate-based herbicides such as RoundUp (the herbicide produced by Monsanto), which leads to high levels of residues of glyphosate and other formulants entering the food chain.

Gilles-Eric Séralini declared the following:   “We call for the immediate transparent and public release of the formulations and above all of any health tests conducted on them. The acceptable levels of glyphosate residues in food and drinks should be divided immediately by a factor of at least 1,000 because of these hidden poisons. Glyphosate-based herbicides should be banned”.

Dr Vandana Shiva, scientist and environmentalist, declared the following: “Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini was the first scientist to do a two-year in depth study on glyphosate and GMOs, which showed the impact on vital organs such as kidneys and tumours and published in reputed scientific toxicology publications. Monsanto has regularly attacked him as was confirmed in the revelations in the Monsanto Papers which show Monsanto’s direct involvement in trying to discredit Dr Seralini. Legal proceedings have established Dr Seralini’s high credentials as an independent scientist and the scientific frauds of Monsanto. Dr Seralini has come up with new findings which provide scientific evidence that the formulants inside glyphosate based herbicides contain toxic heavy metals such as arsenic“.

Dr Vandana Shiva concluded with a statement on the global situation, bringing the example of what is happening in India: “It is time society and government wake up to this threat to protect science and public health. They should ban glyphosate/ Round up/GHB as well as round up resistant crops. A CICR-Nagpur reports in April confirmed that Monsanto has illegally planted unapproved Roundup Ready BT Cotton. They should criminally be investigated for poisoning India with arsenic. Monsanto is also promoting the role of Round up (GHB) as a desiccant, thus poisoning our wheats, our dals and our other crops. The government needs to ban the use of Round up as a desiccant (spraying poisonous chemicals on crops to dry them faster) and criminally investigate who is responsible for this public health disaster”.

Also read:

The Toxic Story of RoundUp: Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology

Report

9 FAQ about pesticides

Fact sheet

A matter of fraud: hidden poisons in pesticides

Interview with Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Applying a tincture of iodine here and there will not address the agrarian crisis.

Ground Reality - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 12:20

Pic: DNA
The below then expected performance by BJP in keenly-watched Gujarat elections has been largely attributed to farmers’ anger arising from the continuing agrarian crisis. While the effort by the BJP leadership is to play it down, the rebuff by rural Gujarat can fuel a nationwide electoral trend bringing out the stark India-Bharat divide.
In the run up to 2019 parliament elections, there are still 8 more assembly elections to go. Among these are States like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, where the rural vote share is very large. These are also the States where farmers’ protests have been quite regular and predominant, with farmers even resorting to stopping vegetable and milk supplies to the urban centres in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh leading to gunning down of five farmers in police firing.
What has been happening in Gujarat is happening across the country. In fact, the rural distress is more pronounced in other parts of the country reflected in soaring farmer suicides numbers. Maharashtra alone has recorded 1,497 farm suicides since the loan waiver was announced six months ago. Two years of back-to-back drought, followed by the demonetisation blow has taken a severe toll of farm incomes. While the cost of production has increased, farmers are unable to get a reasonable price often forcing them to throw their produce onto the streets.
Even in Gujarat, farmers were unable to realise the minimum support price of Rs 4,450 per quintal for groundnut, often selling at prices ranging between a minimum of Rs 2,675 per quintal to a high of Rs 2,750 per quintal. In Cotton, the prices had slumped from Rs 6,000 a quintal a couple of years ago to around Rs 4,400 per quintal. Although just before elections, the government declared a bonus of Rs 500 per quintal for cotton and another Rs 50 per quintal for groundnut, farmers do see through the intent which is primarily aimed as an election sop. This is an encouraging trend. If farmers across the country were to express their anger by exercising their franchise against the ruling dispensation then only the ruling elite will understand that something is terribly going wrong in the hinterland.
Let’s look at some other crops. For urad dal, against the MSP (including bonus) of Rs 5,400 per quintal, farmers across the country suffered a loss varying between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,800 per quintal.  For Soyabean , the prices had prevailed at a low of Rs 2,660 and 2,800 against the MSP of Rs 3,050 per quintal. In case of Groundnut it becomes clear that farmers have in reality been forced to incur a net loss of Rs 1,740 per quintal. For moong, against the MSP of Rs 5,575 per quintal, farmers earning was in the negative, a loss of more than Rs 1,600 per quintal on an average. Wheat, paddy, bajra, sunflower, mustard, onion, potato and tomato did not fare any better.
The slump in prices had aggravated farmers’ anger. But it’s not only low prices that plague agriculture pushing farmers deeper and deeper into a livelihood crisis, it is a whole plethora of structural changes that farming is crying for. Applying a Tincture of Iodine here and there will not address the agrarian crisis; it requires a radical overhaul with the economic growth model shifting to rural India. But what I read in the newspapers as the bold measures Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to announce in the forthcoming budget to fix rural distress does not give me hope. It only shows that the mandarins in the corridors of power have not come to grips with what ails agriculture.
The proposal to direct State governments to procure all crops from farmers for which MSP is announced so as to provide a ‘minimum assured price’ to farmers is in reality a meaningless initiative. It is simply an exercise to pass on the buck to the state governments, who will then be alone blamed for farm distress. Absolving itself of any responsibility, the Centre knows that the state governments are already under pressure to raise finances for the promised farm loan waivers, where is the money for undertaking procurement. 
There are 24 crops for which MSP is announced every year but in reality only two crops, wheat and rice are procured. To some extent, cotton and sugarcane growers also get assured prices. But considering that only 6 per cent farmers get the benefit of MSP, the challenge to extend the MSP regime to the remaining 94 farmers who are dependent on the exploitative markets, is certainly monumental. It cannot happen unless the government shifts its investment priorities to constructing APMC regulated mandis. At present, the country has only 7,600 mandisagainst the requirement of 42,000 mandisin five km radius. It requires shifting bulk of the Rs 6.9 lakh crore allocated budget for constructing more mandisinstead of more roads.
Increasing credit to farmers by another Rs 1 lakh crore or extending the eNAM (National Agriculture Market) platform too is aimed to help commodity trading and not farmers. More of the same is not the answer. #
Is the Centre paying attention to the lessons from Gujarat? DNA, Jan 2, 2018. http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-is-the-centre-paying-attention-to-the-lessons-from-gujarat-2572198
Categories: Ecological News

The new Gujarat Model: When farmers express their anger through the electoral franchise

Ground Reality - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 10:44

Not the right way, but this is how Gujarat farmers have been expressing their anger over low prices. This didn't work. Voting against the ruling party at the recently concluded State Assembly elections did work. All eyes are now on the Budget 2018 where the Government is expected to announce some 'bold decisions' to fix rural anger. -- Indian Express photo
"I hope the anger that Gujarat farmers have demonstrated is also reflected in other parts of the country in ensuing elections. Only then will the ruling parties accept that something is terribly going wrong in the hinterland."The Congress' revival in Gujarat stunned many even though it lost the assembly election to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress made maximum gains in rural Gujarat. Of the 109 seats in rural Gujarat, the Congress won 62. In contrast, it only won 15 seats in the cities. Why did rural Gujarat oust the BJP after voting overwhelmingly for the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha election?Devinder Sharmabelow, distinguished food policy analyst, agricultural scientist, author and activist, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf why rural Gujarat voted against the BJP.Going by the election results there appears to be tremendous anger among farmers against the BJP. Is it so?One of the hidden pointers of the Gujarat election is the agrarian crisis that has been ignored for the last several years. This vote is primarily a reflection of that.In April, you told me 'Farmers are dying and the country is rejoicing'.
Do you think the pollsters and exit polls missed this issue when they conducted their surveys?
Let us for a moment keep the pollsters aside. The problem is the mainstream economists and the media. They have deliberately ignored agriculture, taking it as a downmarket subject all these years.The result is that when farmers were dying, we were rejoicing. Even now we talk of the revival of the economy without even mentioning the grave tragedy on the farm. The high growth rate does not reflect the kind of deep tragedy that we witness on the farms.We were applauding this model as if rural India does not exist. Ignored all these years, what do you expect the farmers to do?The only way to express their anger is through their right of franchise. They have to wait for five years to exercise their vote, and the Gujarat farmers have done it. I only hope the anger that Gujarat farmers have demonstrated is also reflected in other parts of the country in the ensuing elections.Only then will the ruling parties accept that something is terribly going wrong in the hinterland.What are the reasons for the anger? The Gujarat model of development was considered to be an ideal one.The Gujarat vote is simply a reflection of the agrarian crisis going on across the country. It is only because of elections that it has come into visibility (now). What is happening in Gujarat is happening across the country, and much worse in certain regions.Secondly, the Gujarat model of growth was banking on the growth of heavy industries which means giving them concessions like cheaper credit, land almost free of cost, giving electricity, water and so on and so forth. And this happened at the cost of rural areas.How long can you convince people that growth is happening when they know their household economy is drying up? How long can you tell people that we are trying to go for 8 to 9 percent growth when they know how difficult it is becoming for them to run their home? This rosy picture has been relentlessly created by the media and mainline economists. They are the real culprits as they painted a rosy picture when the realities were quite different. Even now, after the Gujarat verdict, mainline economists are not willing to accept that the shift in votes from the BJP in the Saurashtra region is a reflection of the direct link with rural anger. The other category you spoke about are pollsters. They would have reacted on this issue if the media had been talking about. I don't think it is fair to expect some kind of brilliance from the pollsters. After all, they too come from the same urban mindset.Since the media did not show rural distress, the pollsters too ignored it.Till the Saurasthra results came out, the media was not even willing to acknowledge that there was something terribly going wrong in rural Gujarat.One report said Gujarat's farming sector witnessed a remarkable 8.15 percent Compounded Annual Growth Rate between 2012-2013 and 2015-2016, and now that has fallen. Is it true?Gujarat had good rainfall for 9 years between 2002 and 2011. Once the rainfall became scanty, the crisis worsened. The crisis was there, but the mainline economists as well as the policy makers refused to see it. It's like the pigeon closing its eyes when a cat approaches.What made matters worse was the crash in prices. After two years of back to back drought, 2016-2017 has been awful for farmers. Prices of all commodities have crashed in the market and the government has no idea what to do about it.The government has belatedly launched procurement at MSP (minimum support price) for farmers for cotton and groundnut crops, but in reality several reports have shown that farmers are getting 20 to 25 percent less than the minimum support price.Why have the prices of commodities crashed?Prices of some crops are internationally linked. Let's say, cotton. Prices of cotton have crashed internationally too. Two years ago, cotton prices were around Rs 6,000 per quintal. Now it has come down to Rs 4,000 per quintal. During election time the government announces Rs 500 per quintal as bonus. Do you think farmers don't realise that it is an election sop? Look at the prices of groundnut, and pulses. This year the prices have crashed.Across the country, name any crop -- potato, onion, pulses etc -- and you'll find the prices are on a downward slide.Demonetisation had a role to play, but all put together farmers continue to get distress prices. So what do you expect farmers to do?For three years farmers suffered silently and the government looked the other side. If you remember, at the time of the 2014 elections, Prime Minister Narendra D Modi had himself promised that if elected his government would give 50 percent profit over the cost of production as recommended by the (M S) Swaminathan committee.     That is one reason why rural India voted conclusively for the BJP in 2014. Farmers are still waiting for the promise to be delivered.Are Indian farmers so well informed that they know about the Swaminathan report in detail?Yes, they know. The one whose shoe is pinching, only he knows how painful it is. Farmers have been living with the crisis all these years, and they know where the solution lies. They know that they are being denied their rightful income.Modi promised them that his government will give them 50 percent of profit. Farmers could see a ray of hope in what Modi promised. But eventually, the government went to the Supreme Court and filed an affidavit saying it cannot give what it promised. The farmers know this news too.The major farmers' union in Gujarat is the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, which is an affiliate of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The vote in Saurashtra clearly shows that the farm distress is so acute that even the BKS did not go along with the BJP. Or perhaps their hold on the farmers has weakened.Surely, the farmers didn't go by the BJP's electoral promise. Let's accept: Farmers are not that foolish. They too can distinguish between a jumla and a commitment. The agrarian distress is pan-India.Take Madhya Pradesh, for example. Not a day passes when farmers are not on the streets protesting against the government. The problem is not only in Gujarat, but all across the country.The BJP has certainly pushed farmers' issues to the backburner all these years. This goes well with the dominant economic thinking that believes in pushing farmers out of agriculture.In fact, there is another school of thought that says it is cheaper to import food then to grow it within the country. Then RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, for instance, used to say that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are moved out from the villages into the cities, because cities are need of cheaper labour. Cheaper labour is required for infrastructure, real estate and highways. In other words, agriculture is being sacrificed to keep economic reforms alive.This flawed economic thinking is what has acerbated the agrarian crisis. Successive governments have therefore been creating economic hardship that forces farmers to quit farming.A Gujarati friend told me farmers are partly to be blamed as they switch between cotton, pulses and groundnut only in Gujarat, and therefore they are in distress. They do not go for other crops. Why?Please tell him to go and farm in a village. These are the fellows who have done equally more damage to farmers. This urban thought, which I find quite widespread, comes from a complete disconnect with the realities of rural India.If you think getting farmers out of distress is so simple, why don't you go and demonstrate it yourself? Tell your friend to stay in the village for some time at least. Sitting in the city and romanticising about crop diversification is easy. It's like Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne.If it was so easy, you think the farmer wouldn't like to try it? But the reality is that whatever a farmer tries, what he doesn't know for sure is that the match is already fixed. He will continue to harvest losses.The Narmada waters have reached Gujarat. Why has this not benefited the farmers of Gujarat? Also, we have schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. Are these schemes not working on the ground?I find this argument absurd. Educated people tell me that farmers are now getting crop insurance under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna so they should not be in crisis anymore.What they don't realise is that the Bima Yojna only covers crop losses. It is not an insurance for profit. After all, doesn't a farmer need to rear his family, provide education to his children, take care of the health expenses of the family?Did you ever hear that the MSP a farmer gets includes house rent, education allowance for children, medical reimbursement? Why not? Isn't a farmer a citizen who needs to get the basic entitlements that everyone in the city gets?Bima Yojna is required, but it is like a social investment aimed at taking care of his crop losses. It is not an income for the farmer. Don't the salaried class insure their vehicles, houses and also have life insurance?Does it mean if their life and health is insured, they should not get monthly salaries?Why do they then need the 7th Pay Commission? Let's be fair in our arguments. My question, therefore, is, if you are giving farmers crop insurance that does not mean you are giving him his rightful income. What farmers need is income, a profit over his cost of production.To keep food inflation in control, successive government have denied farmers their rightful income. This is what I call as Farm Theft. Just like 'wage theft' in the case of workers, farmers in reality have been penalised to cultivate food.We must understand that what farmers need is income, and no amount of diversion into issues like mandir, masjid, Aurangzeb or Padmavati can address the terrible farm crisis. They had no other way to express their anger, but to vote.Are you saying that the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is not working?While the intent may be correct, the implementation has been awful. The details that are available in the public domain clearly show that the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has actually worked more as profit insurance for the insurance companies.Roughly of the Rs 22,000 crore (Rs 220 billion) premium amount they collected, only Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion) was the amount spent on compensating crop losses. The remaining Rs 14,000 crore (Rs 140 billion) plus was neatly pocketed by the companies.I think there is no lucrative business than crop insurance. It was a bonanza for the insurance companies, not for farmers. #Source: Why BJP lost rural Gujarat Rediff.com Dec 21, 2017http://www.rediff.com/news/interview/must-read-why-bjp-lost-rural-gujarat/20171221.htm

Categories: Ecological News

‘Alleluia Anyway’: Soothing the Fire-Stricken Communities of NorCal With Original Choir Music

Environews.tv - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 21:50

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/122117-allelujah-anyway-soothing-fire-stricken-communities-norcal-original-choir-music/"; reddit_title = "‘Alleluia Anyway’: Soothing the Fire-Stricken Communities of NorCal With Original Choir Music"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews California) — Santa Rosa, California — “The fires came down and burned night and day. All we could do is watch and pray. They left the landscape all black and grey — Alleluia anyway.” Those were the words sung on December 10, 2017, by soloist, conductor and Music Director Sarah Saulsbury of the Occidental Community Choir (OCC), to a packed-in crowd at the Glaser Center, in the heart of Santa Rosa, California — a community decimated but not destroyed, by one of the worst wildfires in U.S. history, only two months ago.

“Alleluia Anyway” isn’t just a song about gratitude in spite of palpable fire-caused despair, in fact, it’s “mostly autobiographical,” Salsbury explained to local EnviroNews California. And “Alleluia Anyway” was also the theme of the concert itself.

“I came up with the title for the concert first; it just expressed something for me about resilience, and choosing to look for and hang on to that which gives us joy in dark times,” Salsbury said. “I wrote it before the fires, and added that verse later.”

But “that verse” definitely struck a chord with the still-recovering locals in the crowd that night — an audience that endured the incineration of some 7,500 homes and businesses in the unprecedented event — this, as another monstrous fire named “Thomas” rages into its third week in the greater Los Angeles area in what is now the second worst fire in California history, behind only the Santa Rosa event.

It’s now the middle of December when fire season is usually over, and Governor Jerry Brown is calling these climate-driven events the “new normal” for the Golden State. With more smokey dark times on the horizon in drought-stricken California, it may be crucial for communities to learn how to heal with music and say “Alleluia Anyway” — in spite of these tragic events. Certainly Salsbury and the Occidental Community Choir have set a good example of how this can be done.

“The fires were a trauma for everyone, and we did have one member who lost his home in Fountaingrove and had to move away and drop out,” Salsbury told EnviroNews. “Everyone was reeling for a few weeks, but then I think it actually helped us to feel a stronger emotional connection with each other and the music — and a more profound sense of mission, in terms of bringing some kind of beauty and catharsis to the community, through the music.”

And speaking of the music, Salsbury takes only half credit for the song “Alleluia Anyway.” About midway, the piece transitions from Salsbury’s autobiographical journey to another song called simply, “Alleluia.” That piece has been sung many times by the choir over the years and has become an OCC classic. Written by pianist, composer and local music legend William Allaudin Mathieu, it features Baroque-sounding progressions and some counterpoint too, building to it’s largest fortissimo climax at the very end — which was also the end of the December 10 concert. The piece left the audience clapping with ecstasy, and following multiple jubilant bows, choir members immersed themselves amongst the audience for a beautiful encore too.

But Alleluja Anyway, as amazing as it is, certainly wasn’t the only awesome musical expression coming from OCC at the Glaser Center on December 10 — not by a long stretch. The 80-plus minute concert featured numerous original compositions, written by members of the choir themselves. And that is the unique tradition of this amazing little 40-year-old choir stationed in Occidental, California: most of the songs it sings are originals — composed and arranged by members of the choir.

Adding to the innovative program was a fun-filled Christmas tune titled, “Easy to Assemble” by Robin Eschner, wherein two soloists, after much struggle with the instruction manual, actually assembled a shiny new tricycle on stage by the end of the song, to the audience’s amazement. Another song called “Let it Rain” by Randal Collen, lifted the crowd’s spirits with a melodious lilting solo, sung by alto Blythe Klein, over the accompaniment of rainsticks and percussion. And that wasn’t Klein’s only big contribution to the program.

One of the highlights came in the second song of the night; a hauntingly beautiful original carol called “Christmas is Love,” co-written by Klein and long-time choir accompanist and bass singer Gordon Stubbe.

All in all, the night was a smash — and it surely helped to brighten the spirits of most in the audience, many of whom are still recovering from the nightmarish flaming episodes of last October.

In conclusion, Salsbury told local EnviroNews California:

Music, and indeed all the arts, have the power to heal. Bad art and ugly music can have a strong negative effect too. But we are vibrational beings, and the “good vibrations” of singing [affect] the singer and the listener at every level — cellular, chemical, hormonal, spiritual and emotional. So yes, music and sound in general can lead to healing. And making music and art that is true and beautiful is an important way to resist tyranny, despotism, and [the] fascism of our current government, [as well as the] soul deadening mediocrity of our current culture, which so much reflects the spiritual bankruptcy of capitalism run amuck.

The post ‘Alleluia Anyway’: Soothing the Fire-Stricken Communities of NorCal With Original Choir Music appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Absolute power comes from absolute control of food --- My interview

Ground Reality - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 10:11

Is this what we have done to our planet? This painting has been done by the French artist Michel Granger. 
The industrial food production model, developed in the United States and Europe since WWII, and lately widely adopted in South America, is unsustainable and is destroying both the planet and its inhabitants...
Industrial food production has already struck a death-knell for the planet. The large high-input, high-yield monocultures, coming equipped with heavy farm machinery running on subsidised fossil-fuel, and laced with potent agro-chemicals have not only depleted soil health, but polluted oceans, rivers as well as ground water and has massively contaminated the environment. The decimation of plant and animal biodiversity, and the loss of accompanying ‘traditional knowledge’ has in turn impoverished communities that have lived in synergy with the bio-resources. With the natural resource base highly plundered over the past few decades, modern agriculture has left behind a trail of sorrow.
Whether it is Argentina and Mexico where a circle of poison escalated by the application of chemical pesticides, including the controversial Glyphosate pesticide, has caused extensive suffering among women and children; or in India where aerial spray of Endosulfan in cashew plantations in Kerala for some decades had inflicted innumerable diseases/disorders among the people, and lately a train carrying cancer patients from the food bowl of Punjab, engaged in high-intensive agriculture, toneighbouring Rajasthan has come to be known as ‘Cancer Train’, the devastation chemicals have left behind is enormous. With six companies controlling pesticides production, and the same companies also claiming intellectual propriety over ‘improved’ seeds, the control over agriculture becomes complete.
The emergence of commodity value chains and eventually the way the international trade regime have been designed, developing country farmers have been forced to de-skill, abandon agriculture and migrate to the cities in search of menial jobs. Still worse, the forceful opening of the developing country trade barriers, and consequently inundating with highly subsidised food supplies, has already turned 105 of the 149-odd Third World Countries into food importing countries. Thank heavens, US President Donald Trumps has dumped the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade treaties otherwise the damage would have been irretrievable. The North would have produced food, and the South would have been perpetually standing with a begging bowl.
What role/responsibility does it play/have on the hunger crisis in many regions, on climate change and on farmers crisis in many part of the globe?
The demise of the farmer has been the biggest casualty that a combination of industrial agriculture, emergence of factory farms and suitably-tailored trade policies has inflicted on the developing countries. After the US, followed by EU and now the developing countries, farmers are being pushed out of agriculture. Way back in 1996, the World Bank had directed India to move out 400 million people – double the combined population of UK, France and Germany – from the rural to the urban areas in the next 20 years, by 2015. International Financial Institutions and Credit rating agencies have been reminding time and again. Successive governments have been merely following the directive, creating policies that make agriculture non-economical in the bargain so that farmers have little choice but to quit agriculture. Farming is increasingly coming into the hands of Corporate.
Producing food and then carrying it all the way to different parts of the world has created ‘food miles’ which exacerbates global warming. But ever since the Global food crisis in 2007/8, the multinational companies are now in a race to grab farm land. Studies have shown that an area equivalent to the cultivable area in China and India has already been purchased or leased in Africa, South America and Asia. On the contrary, in my understanding the best way to address hunger for any developingcountry is to have production by the masses, and not production for the masses. Small farmers need to be gainfully employed, in the sense that farming is turned into a profitable enterprise. At a time when the world is in the midst of a jobless growth, only a sustainably vibrant agriculture can now provide livelihoods, save environment, reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, and thereby boost the global economy.
With severe droughts for many months now, millions of people across the world are facing starvation and water shortages (Horn of Africa, North-east Nigeria, Yemen etc). How did we get to that point again?
In 1987, ten years after Pol Pot had ravaged through Cambodia, I landed in Phnom Penh, the capital of the country, then called Kampuchea (I was then a Visiting Fellow to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines). For some years, Kampuchea was reeling under a famine-like situation. I found the international media had flocked to Kampuchea expecting an official declaration of a famine. When an American journalist asked me whether I expected Kampuchea to undergo a famine I replied it is unlikely considering the country has been able to cultivate a lotof rice. The journalist was disappointed, and I recall vividly what he told me: “Then, there is no story for me.”
The fact is that Kampuchea had lost all its rice varieties during the time Pol Pot was on a rampage. Luckily, the country had deposited some 150 of traditional rice varieties with IRRI, before Pol Pot emerged on the scene. IRRI had returned the seed varieties back to Kampuchea, which had made it possible to undertake rice cultivation on a large area. Why am I narrating this incident is that although the United Nations has already declared that more than “20 million people, across four countries, face starvation and famine” and it requires an emergency aid of $ 4.4 billion to meet the extraordinary humanitarian challenge, what is needed after the emergency situation is taken care-off, is to address the “root cause of famine”. Political stability apart, the region also needs investment in livelihood options which means primarily focusing on restoring agriculture, livestock and the rural infrastructure.
Revival of traditional agriculture, depending on the water availability, and providing adequate farm prices and market infrastructure is what is immediately required. Like Kampuchea, the only way to providing a lasting solution is to bring back agriculture.
What are the responsibilities of governments and their public policies and choices? In the West?
It is clear that the international community hasn’t drawn any lessons. Let me give you one example. At the World Economic Forum 2011 at Davos, business leaders from 17 private companies announced the launch of a global initiative — New Vision for Agriculture — that sets ambitious targets for increasing food production by 20 percent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ton by 20 percent, and reducing rural poverty by 20 percent every decade. While all the targets seem very attractive, the fact remains that world does not need to produce more. As per USDA, the worldalready produces food for 13.5 billion people, which means for double the existing population. Roughly 40 per cent of the food produced globally is wasted every year. The challenge should therefore be to drastically reduce food wastage rather than to raise production thereby causing more environment depletion.
The 17 agribusiness giants include Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International.
Well, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Every global crisis provides an opportunity for business. Multinational giants are quick to grab it. In the years to come, the political leadership across the world had welcomed the initiative not realizing that it is the industrial farming model that has created the global food crisis in first instance — soil health devastated, excessive mining of groundwater has dried aquifers and chemical pesticides have contaminated the food chain. As if this is not enough, theG-20 countries are further trying to push in policies that provide marketing support for their industrial agriculture. For instance, the emphasis is on forcing the developing countries to open up for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. Basically, the governments in the West are only trying to prop up the commercial interests of its MNCs.
No lessons seem to have been drawn. While agriculture has turned into one of the biggest contributor of Green House Gas Emissions (GHG), a recently CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) study indicating 41 per cent contribution coming from agriculture, livestock and forests, the world is literally heading towards a tripping point. But I don’t see any international effort being made to reverse this damaging trend. Even the Paris Accord is almost silent on this. Thereason is simple. The global agribusiness industry controls the global climate change narrative too. Business as usual is not the way forward. But the report of the IAASTD, jointly conducted by 400 scientists from across the globe, and supported by World Bank and UN, continues to gather dust.
Rich and industrialised countries should not use multilateral platforms to treat the developing countries as mere markets. Just like developed countries first created an appropriate environment for building self-sufficiency, they should also allow developed world to attain domestic food security.
In India? 
From an era of food self-sufficiency, India is gradually moving to be an economy of dependence. Successive governments have pushed in policies that promotes privatization of natural resources, takeover of farm land, integrating Indian agriculture with the global economy, and moving farmers out of agriculture – in essence the hallmark of the neo-liberal economic growth model. The result is clearly visible.
According to Down to Earth magazine, food import bill for 2015-16 stood at Indian Rs 1,402,680,000,000. This was three times more than the annual budget for agriculture. Successive government’s have actually been following a policy prescription that was laid out by the World Bank as early as in 1996.
A former vice-president of the World Bank and a former chairman of Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a body that governs the 16 international agricultural research centers, Dr Ismail Serageldin, had forewarned a number of years ago. At a conference organised by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai a few years back, he quoted the World Bank to say that the number of people estimated to migrate from rural to urban India by the year 2015 is expected to be equal to twice the combined population of UK, France and Germany.The combined population of UK, France and Germany is 200 million. The World Bank had therefore estimated that some 400 million people would be willingly or unwillingly moving from the rural to urban centres by 2015. Subsequent studies have shown that massive distress migration will result in the years to come. For instance, 70 per cent of Tamil Nadu, 65 per cent of Punjab, and nearly 55 per cent of Uttar Pradesh is expected to migrate to urban centres by the year 2020.
These 400 million displaced will constitute the new class of migrants – agricultural refugees. Twice the number of people that are expected to be displaced by global warming worldwide are alone be pushed out of agriculture in India.
Sacrificing agriculture is being seen as a pre-requisite to economic growth. Economic reforms need cheaper labour and it is believed that people displaced from agriculture will be able to meet the ever growing demand for daily wagers. This comes coupled with economic policies that aim at reducing fiscal deficit and the current account deficit. Just like the controversial austerity measures in theEuropean Union, the thrust of the economic policies is to cut down on social security, public investment in food, agriculture, health and education. International Financial institutions, credit rating agencies and the multilateral trading organisations have all been pushing for fiscal reforms. This is accompanied with increasing privatisation of natural resources, encouraging corporate agriculture and as well as pushing for public-private partnership projects. I don’t understand the blind acceptance of apolicy directive which actually reduces dependence on domestic strengths, including the massive labour force, and instead shift to displacing a large percentage of the population from the rural areas.
For a country like India, which has 600 million people directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture, I don’t see any merit in a demographic shift. With the world facing jobless growth, and India being no exception, sensible economics tells us that the effort instead should be to make farming more profitable, more economically viable thereby providing gainful employment in the rural areas. Agriculture alone has the potential to revitalise the Indian economy, be a pivot of inclusive growth. What India needs is a production system by the masses, not production for the masses. Whether it is the US or EU, the fact is that their trading interests lie in capturing the huge domestic market that India provides. Unfortunately, India refuses to capitalise on its unique available strength that its vast market provides, and is willingly adopting policies and approaches that actually ends up benefit the western economies. All that India is likely to be content with is the trickle down impact.
Why are farmers considered differently - often despised - while they feed the world? Where does it come from and since when?
Since the days of the Great Depression, the US has been pushing for policies that push farmers out of agriculture. Several writers have shown that the US actually pushed nearly 100 million people out of farming in the beginning of the previous century. The dominant economic thinking was to drastically cut down on the work force engaged in farming, and shift them to industries, as the only viable way to achieve economic growth.
After the 2nd World War, US agriculture turned increasingly towards intensive cultivation, depending on application of chemicals, mostly left from the war, which in turn increasingly brought the American agriculture in corporate hands. What was achieved in the US, was quickly followed in Europe after the war. Industrial production of food, heavily subsidised, required more access to markets and therefore agriculture was aggressively pushed to be part of the World TradeOrganisation (WTO), which came into existence in 1995. Studies have shown that in the past 30 years, more so after the Structural Adjustment was unleashed by the World Bank/IMF, 105 of the 149 countries classified as Third World Countries had turned into food importing countries.
Whatever remains by way of protection for agriculture in some developing countries now faces erosion at the altar of international treaties like Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), being currently negotiated among 16 countries, including the 10-member ASEAN block and China, New Zealand and Australia. Zero per cent duty import for 92 per cent of traded goods is being negotiated, and this is likely to open up the flood gates for cheaper and highly subsidies imports, of both agricultural and industrial goods in countries like India. It will take away the right from India to protect and ensure the livelihood security of its 600 million farmers.
Over the past few decades, the economic thinking veers around the idea that farmers are no longer required. As you rightly said, they are simply despised. In India, farmers are considered to be a burden on the economy. Successive governments are looking for opportunities to offload this burden as quickly as possible. The economic thinking is that the monumental task of producing food canbe performed by the corporations. Trade policies, intellectual property rights, and investment treaties are enabling concentration of rights into the hands of powerful corporations. Not more than 6 to 7 multinational corporations engaged in agribusiness are actually formulating global policies that merely strengthen their control over food. The G-7, the G-20 and platforms like the World Economic Forum are merely facilitating the process of control of food. Academia, and policy makersthe world over are simply creating justification and logic for the entire food chain to be passed on into the hands of a handful of corporations.
Food is the most powerful weapon. He who controls food can easily manoeuvre the national sovereignty, including that of the emerging countries. Unfortunately, the world has failed to lean from what India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru had once said: “It is very humiliating for any country to import food. So everything else can wait but not agriculture.” On the other hand, the world is being further divided. I have often feared that we are coming to a stage when the North will be the food provider. And the South will be standing with a begging bowl.
As I have often said: “Absolute power comes from absolute control of food” So far, the food chain is in the hands of three dominant players. The technology companies, like Monsanto and Bayer; the trading companies – Cargill and ADM; and finally, the Supermarkets – Wal-mart and Tescos. I see a convergence taking place in the years to come. Three players are swiftly merging into one – the future food factories. Many universities in US/EU have come up with designs for the future foodfactory, but the most worrying part is that the World Bank is considering how to subsidise it. It will be the end of farmers then. It will also be a curtain raiser for the romance of food that we have all been indulging in.
In your opinion, what is the consumer's power - in the rich countries, in India, in China - to change things for the better ? How ?
Ever since the notorious application of Agent Orange in World War II, the powerful pesticides industry has managed to hoodwink the regulations to pollute the ecosystems and leave behind a trail of destruction. The Poison papers, a compilation of 20,000 documents that expose decades of collusion between the pesticides industry and regulators has been prepared by the BioScience resource Project. A recent University of Sheffield points to the ‘ecological footprint’ left behind by ahugely unsustainable farming system that has shrunk the future of British agriculture. But still, the international community is unwilling to work towards a pesticide-free world.
It is here the consumers can make a difference. If the consumers demand pesticides-free food, there is no reason why the retail trade will not be able to provide. Once the demand for pesticides-free food picks up, I see no reason why farmers will not increasingly come under pressure to cultivate without the application of pesticides and chemical fertiliser. The sale of organic food in recent years haspicked up enormously in America, Europe and India. The sale of A2 milk too has picked up in recent years. I see this as a major development which can shape the future of agriculture, move towards sustainable farming systems.
Consumers rejecting genetically-modified food is primarily the reason why Europe has stood as a wall against the import of GM food from America. European governments are refusing to buckle under pressure to allow for GM foods. This is because of the public pressure. The challenge therefore lies in educating the consumers, creating wider awareness about their food habits. Once the consumers realise that they are responsible for the environmental damage the world is facedwith, they will change. They are willing to reduce their ‘ecological footprint’. #
This interview by French journalist Catherine Andre was done in Aug 2017
Categories: Ecological News

Governments in CO/UT/NM/AZ Deliberately Derailed Mexican Wolf Recovery, Documents Reveal (Investigative Report)

Environews.tv - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 18:57

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/122017-governments-co-ut-nm-az-deliberately-derailed-mexican-wolf-recovery-documents-reveal/"; reddit_title = "Governments in CO/UT/NM/AZ Deliberately Derailed Mexican Wolf Recovery, Documents Reveal (Investigative Report)"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Colorado) — After decades of deliberation the final revision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (the Plan) was released at the end of November, but former USFWS officials tell EnviroNews it strays far from scientists’ minimum recommendations for recovery of the gray wolf subspecies.

Meanwhile, a series of documents reveal lawmakers and agencies in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona — the four states central to recovery efforts — have been deliberately hamstringing wolf revival efforts for years.

David Parsons, former Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the USFWS from 1990 to 1999, told EnviroNews Colorado that instead of working to expand and stabilize wolf populations, the agency watered down the Plan and “essentially turned its mission over to the states” of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona — states that have repeatedly opposed many aspects of wolf recovery.

The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), a.k.a. “el lobo,” was hunted to near-extinction during the late 1800’s and 1900’s. In 1976, it gained protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and by 1982 the USFWS launched the original Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan to keep the keystone predator from being wiped off the face of the earth.

The agency’s captive breeding program released three lineages of Mexican wolves into the wild in the U.S. starting in 1998, with Mexico releasing wolves in 2011. Today, 113 of these creatures inhabit central and southern Arizona and New Mexico while 31 wolves live in the northern Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico.

Despite this modest rebound in numbers, poor genetic variability and limited high-quality habitat free from human encroachment means the future of the Mexican wolf remains bleak.

In 2014, Parsons joined a coalition of conservation groups in a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against the USFWS for delaying completion of the Plan. In 2016, a court settlement required the agency to finish the plan by November 2017.

To achieve full recovery, the final Plan recommends the release of more captive-bred specimens in an effort to establish two “genetically diverse Mexican wolf populations distributed across ecologically and geographically diverse areas in the subspecies’ range in the United States and Mexico.” The estimated $178 million cost of recovery is to be borne by federal and state governments and NGOs.

The Plan’s ultimate goal is to increase Mexican wolf populations in the U.S. to 320 wolves and 200 in Mexico over the next 25 to 35 years, at which point the USFWS would remove the subspecies from the Endangered Species List.

Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

In late 2011, the USFWS convened the Science and Planning Subgroup of the Recovery Team (the Subgroup) — staffed with independent scientists — which recommended a minimum of 750 wolves in the U.S. and 100 in Mexico, with three separate populations of 200 to 300 wolves, before delisting.

Parsons said that faced with these numbers, ranchers “just went ballistic.” Though stakeholders were sworn to secrecy, the Subgroup’s internal working draft was leaked and pro-ranching and hunting voices, including U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), pushed back hard against the Plan.

“They just blew the thing up in the media,” said Parsons. “Fish and Wildlife Service, true to fashion reacted by just quitting — they canceled the next meeting of [the Subgroup]… and never held another one.”

In November 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region’s Biological Report for the Mexican Wolf determined that wolf numbers wouldn’t be based on science alone, but also what is “socially acceptable in light of the expected ongoing issues around livestock depredation and other forms of wolf-human conflict.”

“They essentially asked the states how many wolves they could tolerate,” Parsons said. “They called it a social tolerance limit based on their perception of social tolerance and not backed by any science whatsoever.”

Parsons also pointed out that, aside from the special interests associated with ranching and hunting, polls have shown the vast majority of the public in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado are in support of Mexican wolf reintroduction and recovery.

Dave Parsons With Wolf Pup

Another bone of contention within the Plan is the way it limits the Mexican wolf’s range to south of Interstate 40, which runs east to west across northern New Mexico and Arizona.

The Science and Planning Subgroup recommended including sections of eastern Arizona and New Mexico, the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona and southern Utah, and the Southern Rockies area of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado as “three major core areas of suitable habitat… capable of supporting Mexican wolf populations of sufficient size to contribute to recovery.”

A 2015 study published in Biological Conservation concluded that “most of the [Mexican wolf’s] historic range in Mexico is currently unsuitable due to human activity” with a high probability of wolves in those regions being killed by people.

However, due to “geopolitical reasons,” the USFWS chose to leave out the Grand Canyon and Southern Rockies regions in the Plan, according to notes from an April 2016 Mexican Wolf Recovery Planning Workshop in Mexico City, Mexico.

Mexican Gray Wolf — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Parsons said the reason these two areas were excluded involved pushback from the state governments of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, maintaining that “state game and fish departments are controlled by game commissions and game commissions in most western states are appointed by the governors and they are stacked primarily with hunters and ranchers.”

“State governments are generally beholden to livestock and hunting interests, particularly outfitters,” wrote Bryan Bird, Southwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife, in an email exchange with EnviroNews Colorado.

He said that the opposition is “emotional and not based in fact,” pointing out that wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies hasn’t had “any measurable affect on hunting success and there are programs in place for wolf and livestock coexistence.”

While some may disagree with the assertions made by Parsons and Bird, there’s no question these four states have opposed myriad components of wolf recovery for years.

In 2015, the governors of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona sent a joint letter to then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and USFWS Director Daniel Ashe stating they “do not support recovery of the Mexican wolf across regions and landscapes that are not part of the subspecies’ historical range.”

The letter insisted the states would “oppose the expansion, release, and occupancy” of Mexican wolves north of I-40 and that the focus of the recovery should be in Mexico. The governors argued the Endangered Species Act does not “specifically authorize” recovery of a species outside its historical range, and asserted that to do so would be “neither necessary nor scientifically supported.”

Parsons contended that the historical range question isn’t “settled science,” explaining that for a “species that was once continuously distributed from Mexico City to the Yukon and is capable of dispersing [hundreds], even thousands, of miles, it is impossible to draw a bright line that demarcates the range boundaries of different subspecies.”

Historical range aside, he said “the key issue that gets overlooked in this debate is where is the best available habitat for recovery of Mexican wolves today?”

Mexican Gray Wolf at the Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a quest for clarity, EnviroNews contacted all four of the governors’ offices involved. Arizona and New Mexico did not respond, but the offices of Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Herbert (R-UT) did. EnviroNews made relentless attempts with both Governors to get one query answered. That question:

In a joint letter dated November 13, 2015, signed by Governors Hickenlooper, Herbert, Ducey and Martinez, to then-Secretary Sally Jewell and Director Dan Ashe, the Governors stated, “Our States oppose the expansion, release, and occupancy of Mexican wolves north of I-40 in the States of Arizona and New Mexico and into Utah and Colorado.” Since the entire states of Colorado and Utah lie north of I-40, is your position that Mexican wolves have no place in Colorado or Utah’s wilderness whatsoever?

The answers to that question were less than satisfactory. After significant delays, Shelby Wieman, Deputy Press Secretary for Governor Hickenlooper, told EnviroNews the Governor simply couldn’t offer any clarity because, “at this point, given the complexity of the plan, and the issue itself, we’re just going to stick with [our original] statement. That’s all that we would like to comment at this point,” Wieman concluded.

The statement Wieman was referring to comes from Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who said in a statement to EnviroNews Colorado:

Our initial sense is that this is good plan from a Colorado perspective, though we continue to review it to ensure our interests [are] adequately reflected. The plan does appear to be based on sound, and the best available science, reflecting the true historic range of the wolf. Colorado appreciated the opportunity to participate in the entire recovery planning process.

After asking Herbert’s office whether el lobo should be allowed to exist at all in Utah, following days of repeated requests and what seemed like an initial willingness to answer the question, Anna Lehnardt, Digital Media Director for Governor Herbert, told EnviroNews, “I’ve checked in on this, and we don’t have a comment at this time.”

The 2015 joint governor’s letter also brought up a concern with the possibility of the Mexican wolf mating with the gray wolf (Canis lupus), which the governors said would “threaten the genetic status of Mexican wolves” and impede recovery. But the governors aren’t the only officials working to stymie the return of the Mexican wolf across these western states.

In 2016, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission passed a resolution opposing the release of any wolf subspecies into the state, while urging the Mexican wolf remain within its historic range.

Also in 2016, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish sued USFWS to stop the release of captive wolves into the state. While the preliminary injunction was initially granted, it was later overturned and the case is now back in federal court.

In 2011, the New Mexico Game Commission backed out of the Mexican Wolf Recovery program altogether.

In 2010, the Arizona Game and Fish Department sent a letter to Congress asking for the gray wolf, including the Mexican wolf, to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act.

In 2010, Utah passed Senate Bill 36 requiring its own Division of Wildlife Resources to remove any wolves found within state lines. The state also threatened legal action against the USFWS if the Plan recommended expanding the range of Mexican wolves into the state.

Regarding Senate Bill 36, EnviroNews also asked Herbert’s office, “In March of 2010 you signed Senate Bill 36 into law directing Utah’s Division of Wildlife Services to remove any wolf found within Beehive State boundaries. Is it your position that wolves have no place in Utah’s ecosystem at all?” To which EnviroNews got the same answer from Lehnardt: “We don’t have a comment at this time.”

Mexican Gray Wolf at the Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While the future of the Mexican wolf is less dire than it was in decades past, Parsons and conservationists believe the current Plan is insufficient for full recovery of the subspecies.

“Limiting the numbers and range of the Mexican gray wolf is a major blow for ecologically relevant recovery,” Bird concluded.

On November 29, Earthjustice, on behalf of Parsons, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Endangered Wolf Center, and the Wolf Conservation Center, filed a sixty-day notice of intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act in the Plan.

The groups argue the Plan “contains shortcomings that will hinder — if not prevent — Mexican wolf recovery and [that it] threatens to lead to the extinction of this iconic species.”

On the heels of its minor rebound from the brink of annihilation some thirty-six years after the launch of the original Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, the fate of this majestic and misunderstood animal will now be in the hands of the U.S. federal court system.

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Categories: Ecological News

Punjab turns into a graveyard for farmers

Ground Reality - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:16

Pic courtesy: Tribune
Punjab, the food bowl of the country, is faced with a paradox of productivity. Ever since the launch of the Green Revolution in 1966, Punjab has been producing a record grain surplus year after year, and yet it has over the years turned into a graveyard of farmer suicides. There is hardly a day when reports of farmers committing suicide do not appear in Punjab newspapers.
Take a look at the food procurement figures for 2017-18 marketing year. Of the total wheat procurement of 308.24 lakh tonnes, Punjab had contributed 117.06 lakh tonnes, thereby providing more than 37 per cent of the country’s wheat requirement. In case of rice, for which the procurement season is still in progress; Punjab has already contributed 174.35 lakh tonnes till Nov 28. This is 67 per cent of the total rice procurement of 258.18 lakh tonnes. In other words, Punjab continues to be the top contributor to the national food kitty. Whichever year, and the extent of climatic aberrations, Punjab has dutifully delivered food for the country.
Now hold your breath. A bumper grain production year after year belies the grave tragedy that has been worsening with each passing year. According to a survey conducted by the Punjab Agricultural University, as many as 16,000 farmers and farm labourers have committed suicide in the past 17 years, between the year 2000 and 2017. This comes to an average of 900 suicides per year. Of these, 83 per cent committed suicide buried under mountain of unpaid debt, and 76.1 per cent owned less than 2 acres of land. Every third farmer is below the poverty line. Still worse, nearly 66 per cent of these farmers and farm labourers who took their own lives were young. Surely, like all young, they too had a dream. But what made them to abruptly put an end to their lives?
Take the case of these two brothers -- Roop Singh, 40, and his younger brother Basant Singh, 32. Both jumped into the Bhakra canal a few weeks back. They were residents of Patiala district in Punjab. Both the brothers together owned 2.5 acres of land and were cultivating another 30 acres on contract. But unable to generate any profits, the outstanding debt continued to swell. While the two sons ended their lives in November 2017, their father too had committed suicide some 10 years earlier, in 2008. Two generations of the family were consumed by the scourge of mounting farm debt.The tragedy that struck the family in Punjab symbolises the agony that the entire farming community is living with. Those who have refrained from taking the extreme step are no better. They continue to somehow survive, living in acute stress, mental agony, depression and surviving hoping against hope. Still, the bigger question that remains unanswered is how can the food bowl turn into a hotbed of farmer suicides? How can Punjab be in the deadly grip of an unending agrarian crisis?
That such a tragic serial death dance is being enacted in a state which is considered to be the most prosperous as far as agriculture is concerned tells us clearly that the crisis is the outcome of an inherently flawed high crop productivity linked intensive farming model. I have heard agricultural economists and policy makers often shift the blame to low crop productivity, failure to go for crop diversification and lack of irrigation. In a State which has 98 per cent assured irrigation and where the per hectare yields of wheat and paddy match international levels I see no reason why then farmers should be dying.
As per the Economic Survey 2016, the per hectare yield of wheat in Punjab stands at 4,500 Kg/hectare which matches the wheat yields in United States. In case of paddy, the average yield is 6,000 Kg/hectare, quite close to the paddy productivity levels in China. With such high yields and with abundant irrigation available why farmers should be dying? To say that these farmers are lazy, drunkards and do not spend the loans for the purpose they take cannot be true. If it was so, I see no way Punjab could have topped global crop productivity; how Punjab could feed the entire country with its grain surplus every year, and that too continuously for the past 50 years.
Punjab is in a terrible crisis because of the economic and development policies that encourages intensive agriculture. To meet its food requirements, erstwhile Punjab (including Haryana that later split) became the focal point of a highly intensive agriculture, beginning with wheat, rice and then followed with the shift towards cultivation of cotton as a cash crop. While intensive farming played havoc with soil fertility necessitating more application of chemical fertilizers; excessive use and abuse of chemical pesticides has contamination the food chain as well as the environment. The result is that Punjab is fast turning into a cancer hub. 
Still worse, as the PAU report points out, intensive cultivation of cotton subsequently turned it into a suicide crop. The genetically modified Bt cotton, and the resurgence of the white fly insect attack followed by the failure of the crop varieties to withstand pink bollworm attack, added to the mounting debt. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the farm suicides have taken place in predominantly the cotton belt, comprising the six districts of Sangrur, Patiala, Mansa, Bathinda, Barnala and Faridko. Incidentally, these six districts are also the constituency of the two political families – Prakash Singh Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh.
The tragedy is that we haven’t learnt any lessons. While the Ministry of Agriculture and Niti Aayog are pushing for the same policies for the rest of the states, wanting them to ape Punjab’s level of crop productivity, the resulting human tragedy is being simply glossed over. As if this is not enough, the effort now is to push Punjab deeper into the environmentally harmful web of agribusiness, which requires more intensive farming adding to more Greenhouse Gas Emissions. It’s like moving from the frying pan literally into fire.
What Punjab desperately needs is to move away from the intensive cropping system. If we have to save farmers, Punjab has to move towards an ecological sustainable farming system, implemented in a time bound manner. It requires a shift in the research mandate of the PAU accompanied by policies and programmes that encourages farmers to shift without suffering any economic loss. Addressing the sustainability crisis without providing an assured monthly income will be meaningless. Punjab must take the lead by setting up a State Farmers Income Commission, with mandate to work out a mechanism to provide a guaranteed income linked to agro-ecological farming practices. 
Categories: Ecological News

These Species Should Be ‘Endangered’ But Aren’t Due to Political Horse Trading, Report Reveals

Environews.tv - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 18:03

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(EnviroNews Colorado) — Special-interest politics — not sound science — decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition.

The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten species of animal, insect, and plant — including Mexican wolves, ocelots, north Atlantic right whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles – the survival of which remains uncertain, thanks to industry meddling with politics surrounding the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“[We] are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump Administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.

The greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), North American wolverine (Gulo gulo), dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), and Hermes copper butterfly (Lycaena hermes) are species that the report says are in desperate need of listing under the ESA, yet all have been denied this protection.

Once 16 million strong across 11 states, greater sage grouse numbers have plummeted to approximately 208,000 after half of the species’ historic sagebrush habitat was destroyed by oil, gas, and coal extraction, grazing, real estate development, and other threats.

Suppressed notes the wild bird’s “extreme sensitivity to oil and gas development,” citing a paper that documented a reduction in numbers after drilling wells within a few miles of a lek, or mating location.

Greater Sage Grouse — Sage Hen Hollow, Utah — Photo by: Emerson Urry — for: EnviroNews

In 2011, the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy recommended that no oil and gas leasing, no mining, and only limited energy infrastructure development should occur on priority habitats if the species is to be preserved.

Yet, the Suppressed report found that “after pressure from state governments and oil and gas officials,” local resource management plans allowed up to 70 percent habitat destruction in critical areas. Suppressed also highlights other development loopholes, and reveals wells drilled up to 0.6 miles away from leks in some states.

Today, even the weak protections that do exist are being undermined by Department of Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, according to the Endangered Species Coalition and other conservation groups.

“Secretary Zinke has signaled an intent to relinquish federal responsibility for sage grouse habitat conservation, and instead focus on scientifically discredited practices like captive rearing and predator control, which pander to ranching interests but do nothing for sage grouse, and will likely worsen their declines,” Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, told EnviroNews Colorado.

“Under Secretary Zinke, science is taking a back seat to political considerations when it comes to wildlife protections,” Huta said to EnviroNews. “Since long-time industry officials and opponents of endangered species are now in leadership positions in the Department of Interior, is it really any wonder that science isn’t guiding decisions on greater sage grouse [and] Mexican wolves?”

Where the sage grouse is concerned, aside from energy extraction, livestock grazing reduces vegetation, making it difficult for birds to hide from predators and keep their nests safe, while hunting is still allowed in eight of the eleven states where the species resides.

Adding insult to injury, invasive cheatgrass is displacing native plants and creating fuel for wildfires, which can negatively impact grouse habitat. West Nile virus has also taken a toll on the bird. Without Endangered Species protection, conservationists worry the future of the greater sage grouse looks bleak.

The prospects for the North American wolverine aren’t much better. Thanks to trapping and habitat loss, the total number of animals has dwindled to between 250 and 300, remaining in just a few regions in the continental U.S, scattered throughout the Northern Rocky and Cascade Mountains. The loss of essential snowpack due to climate change is now one of the predator’s biggest threats.

North American Wolverine

Also in dire straits is the dunes sagebrush lizard, which lives only among shinnery oak trees in the Mescalero and Monahan Sand Dunes of New Mexico and Texas. Energy development from the solar, wind, oil and gas sectors, coupled with off-road vehicles, and sand mining (for fracking), continue to whittle away this reptile’s remaining habitat.

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

Another unlisted species, the Hermes copper butterfly, lives in small colonies in San Diego County, California and Northern Baja California, Mexico. Of 57 known historic populations, only 17 remain – again, thanks to habitat loss from human encroachment and ravaging wildfires.

Hermes Copper Butterfly (Lycaena hermes) — Photo by: Douglas Aguillard

Unfortunately, even listing a species under the ESA doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. The following organisms are technically “protected” under the ESA, yet haven’t received enough safeguards for recovery, according to the report:

• Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) — With only 53 of the wild cats remaining in Texas and a meager handful in Arizona, Trump’s proposed border wall would likely impair this species’ connectivity with populations in Mexico.

• Mexican wolf (Canis lupis baileyi) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan ignored its own scientists’ recommendations for minimum numbers and range required to rebound this subspecies of gray wolf.

• Pacific leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) — This long-distance swimmer struggles to survive against driftnets, egg harvesting, boat propellers, and plastic pollution.

• Pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) — Dams on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have cut off the chances for this rare fish to repopulate its native waters.

• San Jacinto Valley crownscale (Atriplex coronata var. notatior) — This annual plant grows only in the floodplains of Riverside County, California, and remains at risk from agricultural and real estate development.

• North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glaciali) — Thanks to entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, seismic surveys, military sonar, and pollution, only about 450 of these majestic sea mammals remain.

Science is supposed to rule the day when it comes to the Endangered Species Act. However, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species makes a strong case that the energy, real estate, ranching, hunting, fishing and other industries are the real power behind the throne.

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Categories: Ecological News

India should blame itself for WTO deadlock over public stockholding

Ground Reality - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:51

A stitch in time saves nine. That is exactly what India failed to do. The deadlock over a permanent solution to the issue of public procurement of food is the outcome of repeatedly postponing a legal protection measure that India needed the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to put its stamp on.If only India had acted—when it was required to act—there would have been no room for any “deep disappointment” at this stage.At the root lies the temporary reprieve granted under the ‘Peace Clause’ provision that restricts any country to challenge India’s procurement of staple foods for its food insecure population. The ‘Peace Clause’ that was affirmed in July 2014 does provide India an exemption for all times to come, but will for all practical purposes ensure that a sword of Damocles keeps on hanging for perpetuity. Finding a permanent solution to the critical issue was therefore a necessity.The United States has refused to oblige. It is increasingly under pressure from its 30 farm commodity export groups, which have time and again, expressed concerns at India’s “price support programmes that have more to do with boosting farm incomes and increasing production than feeding the poor”. The US is, therefore, keen to see that India dismantles its food procurement operations or is forced to freeze the procurement prices so as to keep it within the prescribed limits. A low price to Indian farmers will be a serious disincentive resulting in a short-fall in domestic production. The US farm export groups see a huge market here. The US has nothing against feeding the poor under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) but want India to source supplies from the US instead.In other words, it takes away India’s right to buy food for the disadvantageous populations from its own resource poor small and marginal farmers at the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Nearly 99.15 per cent of India’s 600 million farmers fall in the category of resource poor.Since India has already exceeded the limit prescribed under the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) for developing countries that treats the procurement price beyond the permissible de minimis level of 10 per cent of the total value of production as agricultural subsidy, India is under pressure to prune its procurement prices. Although India claims that it is still far away from breaching the 10 per cent level, when it computes the agricultural subsidy in the terms of US dollars, the US also knows that when presented in terms of Indian rupees, India has already breached the de minimis level by a whopping 24 per cent in case of paddy and is fast inching the threshold level for wheat.These US farm commodity export groups, which ironically receives monumental federal support every year, have questioned the need to provide any relaxation in current discipline even on a temporary basis. Accordingly, such an exemption will result in more subsidy outgo and result in further damage to US trade interests. There is no denying that the US had more than doubled its subsidy from $61 billion to $130 billion between 1995 and 2010. Further, the US-based Environmental Working Group has worked out that the US paid a quarter of a trillion dollars in subsidy support between 1995 and 2009. These subsidies have not been reduced in the subsequent farm bills, which every five years makes a budgetary provision for farm support programme. Most of these subsidies are presented under the Green Box in WTO parlance that does not require any cuts to be made. India’s food procurement comes under the amber box provisions and requires to be drastically pruned.This was of course well-known. But at the Bali WTO Ministerial in 2013, the then Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma initially had insisted that the Trade Facilitation Agreement, a treaty that the developed countries were pushing aggressively, be taken simultaneously with public stockholding of food in India (along with some other developing countries under the G-33 banner).No trade facilitation without food security proposal. But at the final stages, for some strange reasons, Anand Sharma softened his stand and agreed to support the demand for trade facilitation. Although the WTO director general Roberto Azevedo had appreciated India’s position on food security and had agreed to work out a permanent solution in the next four years, by the XI WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires in Dec 2017, I see no reason why India should have given up so easily.Anand Sharma had made the right noises in the media but when the final moment came, he readily signed the trade facilitation agreement. All he could wrest in the bargain was a four year 'Peace Clause' for the food subsidy issue that is crucial for not only India's food security but also food self-sufficiency.The deadline for bringing each member country on board for a Trade Facilitation Agreement was July 31, 2014. The NDA government had taken over, and like it always has been, India made the right kind of noises but at the end signed on the dotted line.“India has made it clear that state-funded welfare schemes for the poor are non-negotiable, and it is willing to take the blame for delaying WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement rather than hurt the interests of small farmers,” the Hindustan Times (July 21, 2014) reported. India, in fact, was threatening to stretch the deadline for launching a new trade facilitation treaty to December 31, 2014, extending it by six months so as to seek an early solution to India’s food security needs in the meantime. Nothing like that happened. Empty warnings remained unheeded.Indian trade officials knew this was the only way to seek a permanent solution. In the same news report, trade officials were quoted as saying: “India’s concern is that once TFA is implemented, none of the developed countries is likely to come back to the negotiating table to discuss food subsidy or any other non-binding outcome of the Bali Ministerial,” Hindustan Times reported.Indian went to the Nairobi WTO Ministerial 2015, led by the then Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, affirming to seek a permanent solution for public stockholding programmes and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to protect small farmers from import surges. Again, loud noises before the conference, but at the end failing miserably to emerge out with some concrete outcomes. A news report in Mint (December 21, 2015) summed up the disappointment: “In the final analysis, it is clear that India failed in its objectives to secure credible outcomes on its demands for SSM, permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security... Perhaps this is the first time that India left a WTO ministerial meeting so diminished.”I am, therefore, not surprised to see India returning back from the XI WTO Ministerial empty handed, without a permanent solution for the critical issue of food security.It has all been the outcome of India’s own doing.#
Categories: Ecological News

The black hole of Indian economy

Ground Reality - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 14:40
Image courtesy: Newsfirst 
Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council chairman Bibek Debroy has stirred a hornet’s nest. Admitting that revenue worth 5 per cent of GDP is lost to corporate tax exemptions, he said unless these exemptions are eliminated, the tax-to-GDP ratio is not going to go up. 
And what kind of tax exemptions are we talking about? As per a reply given in Parliament, Rs 6.11-lakh crore of tax concessions was given in 2015-16 alone. In the 12-year period, between 2004-05 and 2015-16, the total tax concessions given to the industry, earlier clubbed under the category of ‘Revenue Foregone’ in the Budget documents, is almost equal to a whopping Rs 50-lakh crore.
Yes, you heard it right. Rs 50-lakh crore.
This is the black hole of Indian economy. I have still not added the revenue foregone figures for 2016-17 fiscal, simply because the sub-head Revenue Foregone has now been erased from the budget documents. This came after extensive lobbying by some well-known economists who wanted the Revenue Foregone category to go as it brought bad name to the industry. The Finance Ministry complied but it certainly does not mean that tax exemptions have been removed. This is clearly evident from what Debroy further states: “If these tax exemptions were eliminated, the tax-to-GDP ratio will be 22 per cent.” 
For several years now, I have emphasised on the urgent need to eliminate tax exemptions being doled out year after year to India Inc. Some economists had argued that these tax exemptions were necessary to provide an impetus to revive industrial growth, increase manufacturing, boost exports and create jobs. But the industry continues to slog, manufacturing is down and exports are being provided with more subsidies, only 15 million jobs were created in the ten year period 2004-05 to 2013-14, and another 6.5 lakh jobs added in the three year period between 2014 and 2017, India continues to be faced with jobless growth.
If these tax concessions were eliminated and the additional revenue generated was instead used effectively for social betterment programmes aimed at removing hunger, malnutrition and poverty, India could have made poverty history. If the removal of the entire annual subsidy on LPG cylinders, adding to Rs 48,000-crore, is being calculated as a massive financial saving good enough to remove poverty from the country for one year; using the same yardstick my analysis shows that Rs 50-lakh crore given as tax exemption was good enough to wipe out poverty for 100 years.
If even a fraction of the huge revenue foregone had been invested in agriculture; much of the grave agrarian distress that prevails could have been addressed. Agriculture continues to be starved of financial resources, and with each passing year the public sector investment has been on the decline. Of the 3.30- lakh farmer suicides across the country in past 21 years, Punjab alone has recorded 16,000 farmers suicide since the year 2000. While 98 per cent of the rural households in Punjab continue to live under debt, as many as 94 per cent of indebted households have more expenditure than income.
As a result, with incomes declining farm credit keeps on piling. With mounting indebtedness killing farmers, the demand for waiving outstanding loans is met with stiff resistance. Recall, a few months back the Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch had worked out that Rs 2.57-lakh crore of farmers’ loans expected to be waived-off in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, will amount to 2 per cent of India’s GDP. What Merrill Lynch computed was based on a hypothetical estimate, which in reality is not going to happen. So far only about Rs 80,000-crore of farm loan waiver have been promised in UP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, only a fraction of it has been actually delivered.
This year alone, Rs 55,356-crore of bad debt of India Inc was written-off in the first six months of the financial year. While Merrill Lynch never told us how much will the corporate tax exemptions add up to in terms of tax-to-GDP ratio, nor did the media hold prime time shows seeking waiver of the debt write-offs, the total corporate bad debts written-off by the state owned banks in 10 years, between 2007 and 2017 swelled to Rs 3.60 lakh. This works out 2.8 per cent of the GDP.
In addition, an estimated Rs 10-lakh crore, and that includes what is being written-off by banks, has been classified as stressed loan. These are being restructured and an appropriate ‘haircut’ is being allowed to settle the amount. A recent news report says that the Stressed Asset Stabilisation Fund, created in 2004, to recover IDBI banks bad loans for instance has settled certain cases with ‘haircuts’ of more than 90 per cent. Haircut basically means the stressed amount that the bank will not be able to recover. I don’t know why a similar haircut is not being allowed to small farmers in Punjab (with land less than 5 acres) who have been denied a loan waiver of Rs 2-lakh if their outstanding loan amount exceed this limit by even Rs 100.
To remove the inherent anomalies a beginning has to be made to restructure the economy. Removal of tax exemptions is the first step. #
Sinkhole in the tax landscape. DNA. Dec 12, 2017http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-sinkhole-in-the-tax-landscape-2566886
Categories: Ecological News

Gene drive extinction technology is a war against the planet and biodiversity

Navdanya Diary - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:37

Navdanya International, 7 December 2017

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested by U.S. Military, companies and foundations on gene drives, a highly controversial technology aimed at genetic extinction.

This is what emerges in The Gene Drives Files a set of over 1.200 emails, obtained by civil society investigators under Freedom of Information requests. The emails document how the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the largest single funder in gene drives technology, as demonstrated by a stunning financing of some 100 million dollars already invested on accelerating the research. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also heavily invested in the development of the technology with a $1.6 million payment  to the Public Relations firm “Emerging Ad”  aimed at influencing the discussions on the subject at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (see recent article by Jonathan Latham on “Independent Science News”), and at repealing a call by a large number of civil society ngos, including scientist and academic institutions, that the CBD impose an international moratorium in keeping with the precautionary principle. The emails throw light on how the regulatory process, originally meant to protect the environment and the genetic integrity of species on our planet, is deeply influenced by the hidden interesets of proponents of the technology strategically recruited by the Gates Foundation.

Once again we find far reaching decisions on the future of our ecosystems being made without transparency and through secretive and unethical practices.  Gene drives have the potential to dramatically transform our natural world and humanity’s relationship to it, wiping out entire species, irreversibly damaging the planet’s life-sustaining biodiversity and altering the genetic balance of the ecosystem. But again we see that ethical considerations and ecological consequences are of no import to those who stand to profit hugely from the development of such a technology, be it militarily as a covert war instrument, or materially in the agribusiness and big pharma worlds of power and profit.

A recent article of the New York Times reports that Dr Kevin M. Esvelt, who was among the promoter of Crispr technology at Harvard University, has recently “discovered an unacceptable risk”  as “altered genes might spread to places where the species isn’t invasive at all, but a well-established part of the ecosystem”.

The same mindset, which led to the stockpiling of chemicals of war in our fields with the Green Revolution, later developed today’s failed genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp ready soy and corn. But the same weeds that GM herbicide tolerant technology was supposed to control have been developing resistance to the extent that today approximately 92% of RR cotton and soybeans in the US south-eastern states are infested by superweeds like Palmer Amaranth.   In the meantime the consequent increased use of these chemicals in fields has led to  further contamination of our soils and the environment. Monsanto & Co – which includes investors, scientists, corporations, DARPA, and Gates Foundation – continues dogedly  to rely on this misguided ‘techno-fix’ approach, now with gene drives technology to solve the failures they have created themselves,  another tool on the path of unbridled profit and control.

This simplistic approach carries the risk of driving the whole Amaranth genetic population to extinction. The National Academy of Science of The United States, in its report titled “Gene Drives on the Horizon : Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”,  sponsored by the same DARPA and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, itself indicates the risks: “Gene drives developed for agricultural purposes could also have adverse effects on human well-being. Transfer of a suppression drive to a non-target wild species could have both adverse environmental outcomes and harmful effects on vegetable crops, for example. Palmer amaranth in Case Study 6 is a damaging weed in the United States, but related Amaranthus species are cultivated for food in Mexico, South America, India, and China.” Thus our food security and health are once again knowingly being put at risk through the same blind technological mindset which led to the failure of the Green Revolution. 

It’s clear that the value of Amaranth as a vital, nutritious, sacred and ancient food crop in many areas and cultures of the world is not considered relevant by the “militarised minds” of single-minded scientists who only see solutions to problems through the act of killing (see Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarised Mind, by Dr Vandana Shiva, July 2016) and who chose to ignore the potential consequences on food security and health in their narrow perspective.

Under the guise of doing good for humanity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to undermine the scientific debate on the dangers of gene manipulation. Through biased and pseudo ‘science’, disguising public relations as science and directly targeting decision-makers, they directly increase their influence and pressure on governments and institutions. Similar patterns we have seen in the glyphosate risk assessment debate, which last week led to a 5 years renewal of the license in the EU, in spite of the concerns about loopholes, conflicts of interest, corporate interference and pressure on regulatory bodies as described in the  ‘Monsanto Papers.’

The failed industrial agriculture model that has brought us poisons, weedicides, Round-up ready crops, superweeds, is now bringing us gene drives. Gene drives technology is a rough tool, based on an outmoded mechanistic and reductionist paradigm and vision of science, which ignores and denies the self organized, evolutionary potential of living organisms as well as their complex, dynamic evolution. It is sad times indeed when philanthropy embraces such a short-sighted approach, knowingly putting at risk our health and our environment. To quote Dr. Vandana Shiva: “The one who uses public relations disguised as science for driving species to extinction and robs people of their commons, is not practicing philanthropy, but ecocide”.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

When the dreaded Pink boll worm strikes back

Ground Reality - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 10:09

Pic: The Hindu
Former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha decision to lead the Kapus, Soyabean, Dhan (Cotton, Soyabean, Paddy) Parishad protest in Akola in Maharashtra, and the drama enacted over his ‘detention’ and release, has drawn attention to the damage inflicted by a tiny insect pest -- pink bollworm. This dreaded pest – the tiny wily worm that eats the cotton balls, has destroyed nearly 70 per cent of the standing crop in Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton grower, and another 20 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, besides causing extensive damage in Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat.
Pink bollworm resurgence has been so severe that reports of farmers unable to harvest even a kilo of cotton forcing them to uproot or burn the standing crop have poured in from several parts of the country. In Maharashtra alone, more than 80,000 farmers, till Nov 30, have sought and applied for crop compensation. With Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis having accepted Mr Sinha’s demand for compensation for the crop losses, the number is expected to swell in the days to come. Former Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar too has thrown his weight behind the beleaguered farming community, already reeling under a terrible agrarian crisis, to demand an adequate crop compensation package. 
Out of a total of 42 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation in Maharashtra, standing crop in 20.36 lakh hectares in 18 districts has been ravaged by pink bollworm. While the crop loss has been estimated to exceed Rs 15,000-crore, ginning mills too are finding it difficult to source cotton this year. Of the 150 ginning mills in Maharashtra, only about 100 are in operation and that too working at 50 per capacity. The bleak crop prospects have also hit cotton exports. According to industry estimates, the exports this year will be one-fifth less, coming down to 6 million bales (of 170 kg each) against the earlier estimate of 7.5 million bales.
Not only have a surge in crop losses, failure of genetically modified cotton to ward off insect pests also has taken a heavy human toll.  News reports of 50 farm workers succumbing to suspected pesticides poisoning, at least 25 lost their eyesight and another 800 admitted to various hospitals in Maharashtra had come in. Another 6 deaths and hospitalisation of a few hundred more have been reported from Tamil Nadu’s cotton belt – Perambalur, Ariyalur and Salem. The tragedy primarily occurred because the genetically modified Bt cotton crop had failed to resist the dreaded bollworms pests as a result of which farmers have been forced to resort to sprays of deadly cocktails to curb the insect menace.
First the pesticides treadmill, and then the noose thrown by genetically modified crop varieties, I find that like the legendary warrior Abhimanyu in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, cotton farmers are also being pushed into a chakravyuha from which there is no way out. Let me illustrate. Mahabharta tell us the story of valiant Abhimanyu who died fighting while trying to force his way through a chakravyuah. He had learnt the art of smashing through the seven layers of the human chain of the chakravyuah. But didn’t know how to come out. In lot many ways, I find the Indian farmer is also like Abhimanyu. He has been forced to get into a chakravyuah but does not know how to emerge out of it.
As a senior agricultural scientist had once told me: “In the early 1960s, only six to seven major pests were worrying the cotton farmer. The farmer today is battling against some 70 major pests on cotton.” The greater the attack of insect pests, the more is the use and abuse of potent chemicals.Just four years after its release in 2002 with much fanfare, Bt cotton became susceptible to the pest it was supposed to guard against. This was the first generation GM crop introduced by Monsanto-Mahyco. In 2006, the first generation genetically modified cotton was replaced by a still more potent Bollgard-II. As the area under Bollgard-II grew, the Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) first first sounded a warning bell. “There is resistance to Bollgard-II. We have collected some insects. They are eating up the cotton balls,” the then CICR Director Keshav Kranti had told the media. Instead of making an effort to take the farmers out of the chakravyuah thrown around by Bt cotton, the biotech industry is now ready with a still more potent Bollgard-III.  
Even prior to the failure of Bollgard-II recorded by CICR scientists, 80 per cent crop loss was reported in the cotton belt in Raichur in 2014, causing an estimated loss of Rs 40 lakh. In 2015, Bollgard-II failed to protect the crop in Karnataka resulting in a huge crop loss. Over the years, excessive use of chemical pesticides had upset the insect equilibrium as a result of which some of the minor pests turned into major pests. The devastation that followed was seen in Punjab (also in Haryana and Rajasthan) when whitefly destroyed two-third of the cotton crop causing an estimated loss of Rs 800-crore and leading to the suicide of 15 farmers.
Since the days of Bollgard-II, insecticides use has increased from 0.5 Kg per hectare in 2006 to 1.20 kg in 2015. The Cotton Advisory Board in India estimated the cost of cultivating cotton increasing by three times ever since Bt cotton was first introduced in 2002. Farmer suicides have also seen an upsurge in the cotton belt in the same period. But I find no sincere effort being made to emerge out of this chakravyuah.
There are two possible pathways to emerge out of the crisis. First and foremost, is the onus of the entire loss that farmers have suffered should be borne by the seed companies. Although Maharashtra has filed FIR against 5 seed companies that were supplying Bt seeds, the loss burden should not be with the state governments. I do not agree with Sharad Pawar when he says the State should compensate farmers. The makers of Bt cotton seed should pay for the losses. The seed Act also needs to make it abundantly clear.
Second, instead of introducing the third generation Bollgard-III varieties, and thereby compounding the existing crisis, the agricultural research focus should shift to alternative methods. Agricultural universities should be directed to stop any further research on GM cotton, and shift the focus to bio-control and integrated pest management techniques that sparingly use pesticides as the last resort. Already Burkina Faso has shown a remarkable jump of 20 per cent in cotton productivity after phasing out Bt cotton. Turkey too has shown excellent results with IPM techniques. Rejecting GM cotton, and restricting the use of chemical pesticides, Turkey has doubled its cotton yields. #
बीटी कॉटन के चक्रव्यूह से बाहर आना होगा Dainik Bhaskar. Dec 9, 2017https://www.bhaskar.com/news/ABH-LCL-bt-cotton-has-to-come-out-of-the-maze-5765023-PHO.html

Categories: Ecological News
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