Know : March Against Monsanto

March Against Monsanto

On May 24, millions of activists from around the world will once again March Against Monsanto, calling for the permanent boycott of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other harmful agro-chemicals. Currently, marches will occur on six continents, in 52 countries,with events in over 400 cities. In the US, solidarity marches are slated to occur in 47 states.

Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation based in the United States. Monsanto is also the largest producer of genetically engineered (GE) seeds on the planet, accounting for over 90% of the GE seeds planted globally in 2003. Throughout its history, Monsanto has developed chemical products which have eventually become controversial or been banned, including DDT, Agent Orange, Bovine Growth Hormone, and PCBs.

GMOs are not adequately monitored to ensure public safety. Long term, independent, peer reviewed studies were not conducted before GMOs were introduced for human or animal consumption.

Monsanto has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to obstruct all labeling attempts; they also suppress any research containing results not in their favor. The scientifically established health risks include, but are not limited to: organ damage, sterility, infant mortality, birth defects, auto-immune conditions, allergies and increased cancer risks. GMOs have been partially banned by Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, New Zealand, Peru, South America, Russia, France, Switzerland and Costa Rico, and are currently labelled in 62 countries. Despite this, factory farm animals throughout the world are still fed GMOs.

In India, more than 250,000 farmers have committed suicide after Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds did not perform as promised. Farmers, left in desperate poverty, are opting to free their families of debt by drinking Monsanto pesticide, thereby ending their lives. Many farmers in other countries are also stripped of their livelihood as a result of false promises, seed patenting and meticulous legal action on the part of Monsanto and other big-ag interests. In many parts of Africa, farmers and their communities are left to choose between starving or eating GMOs.

An “Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs),” http://www.i-sis.org.uk/list.php, signed by 828 scientists from 84 countries, detailed concern regarding GMOs coupled with a call for immediate 5 year suspension of GMO crops in order to conduct “a comprehensive public enquiry of agriculture and food security for all.”

Josh Castro, organizer for Quito, Ecuador’s march observes, “Ecuador is such a beautiful place, with the richest biodiversity in the world. We will not allow this Garden of Eden to be compromised by the destructive practices of multinational corporations like Monsanto. Biotechnology is not the solution to world hunger. Agroecology is. Monsanto’s harmful practices are causing soil infertility, mono-cropping, loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, and contributing to beehive collapse. GMO crops cross pollinate with traditional crops, risking peasant farmers’ livelihood.”


Courtesy and Source : http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/

Food We Eat : Potato (Part 1 of 2)

potato_walkingThe funny thing about potatoes is, since we all grew up with them, we think we know all about ‘em. In fact, there is a lot of misinformation about potatoes; sometimes people think of them as a fattening starch, when in reality, they’re a healthy, fresh vegetable. 

The potato (Solanum tuberosum) belongs to the solanaceae family of flowering plants. It originated and was first domesticated in the Andes mountains of South America.

Potatoes produce more food per unit of water than any other major crop

The potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people worldwide eat potato, and global total crop Production exceeds 300 million metric tons.

There are more than 4,300 varieties of native potatoes, mostly found in the Andes. They come in many sizes and shapes

There are also over 180 wild potato species. Though they are too bitter to eat, their important biodiversity includes natural resistances to pests, diseases, and climatic conditions.

Potato is vegetatively propagated, meaning that a new plant can be grown from a potato or piece of potato, called a “seed”. The new plant can produce 5-20 new tubers, which will be genetic clones of the mother seed plant. Potato plants also produce flowers and berries that contain 100-400 botanical seeds. These can be planted to produce new tubers, which will be genetically different from the mother plant.

Potato Field : Courtesy : Wallpaper.net

Potato Field : Courtesy : Wallpaper.net

Potatoes can grow from sea level up to 4,700 meters above sea level; from southern Chile to Greenland. They are produced in over 100 countries worldwide.

One hectare of potato can yield two to four times the food quantity of grain crops. Potatoes produce more food per unit of water than any other major crop and are up to seven times more efficient in using water than cereals.

Since the early 1960s, the growth in potato production area has rapidly overtaken all other food crops in developing countries. It is a fundamental element in the food security for millions of people across South America, Africa, and Asia, including Central Asia.

potato plant

Origins of the Potato

The potato, from the perennial Solanum tuberosum, is the world’s fourth largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C.

In 1536 Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru, discovered the flavors of the potato, and carried them to Europe.  Before the end of the sixteenth century, families of Basque sailors began to cultivate potatoes along the Biscay coast of northern Spain.  Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.

Eventually, agriculturalists in Europe found potatoes easier to grow and cultivate than other staple crops, such as wheat and oats. Most importantly, it became known that potatoes contained most of the vitamins needed for sustenance, and they could be provided to nearly 10 people for each acre of land cultivated.

fresh potato

In the 1840s a major outbreak of potato blight, a plant disease, swept through Europe, wiping out the potato crop in many countries. The Irish working class lived largely on potatoes and when the blight reached Ireland, their main staple food disappeared. This famine left many poverty-stricken families with no choice but to struggle to survive or emigrate out of Ireland. Over the course of the famine, almost one million people died from starvation or disease. Another one million people left Ireland, mostly for Canada and the United States.

Nutrition Facts

January-01-08-New-Potato-Label1Potatoes are an excellent, low fat source of carbohydrates, with one-fourth the calories of bread. Boiled, they have more protein than maize and nearly twice the calcium. An average serving of potatoes with the skin on provides about 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber.

When boiled, a single medium sized potato contains about half the daily adult requirement of vitamin C, as well as significant amounts of iron, potassium and zinc. Potato also contains substantial amounts of vitamin B and valuable supplies of essential trace elements such as manganese, chromium, selenium and molybdenum. The high vitamin C content enhances iron absorption.

Potatoes have toxic components known as glycoalkaloids in leaves, sprouts, and stems, which are meant to protect the plant against fungi and insects. They can be removed by peeling and cutting away the green areas.

More and more, studies are showing they are a perfect fit for a healthy diet, assuming you go easy on the butter and sour cream. So-called “low-carb diets” love to malign potatoes. In fact, research shows potatoes are a great tool in weight loss. They are low in calories and are full of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Is naturally fat-free and sodium-free, Has only 110 calories, Contains 45% of the daily value for vitamin C, Is packed with as much or more potassium (620 mg) than either bananas, spinach, or broccoli, Provides 10 percent of the daily value of B6; and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc.

Some other interesting facts about Potato

  • Potatoes were the first vegetable grown in space
  • Potatoes are the best-selling side dish in American restaurants
  • Potatoes have one of the first commodity groups to develop and use an FDA-approved nutrition label
  • Only 19% of Americans rate potatoes as being “great” for gluten-free. Seriously? Potatoes are TOTALLY gluten-free.
  • Less than 3% of Americans meet the FDA guidelines for potassium intake. Quick, eat a potato!
  • Research suggests that diets rich in potassium and low in sodium reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke. Helloooooo potato!
  • Research also indicates that diets high in potassium-rich fruits and vegetables may help maintain lean body mass and bone
  • In addition to vitamins and minerals, potatoes also have an assortment of phytochemicals with antioxidant potential, most notably carotenoids and anthocyanins
  • Potatoes have shown to help keep you feeling full, longer. Great!

coming up in part 2, Potato in global agriculture, Adulteration, best ways to eat potatoes, and many facts..

FOOD : You may read or ignore, your choice. But we Care for you

It’s a wake up call.

You may be eating Italian pasta or sipping Peruvian coffee or Hyderabadi Dum Biryani or much simple fruit salad. Whatever you may eat to live, everything had originated from the roots once deepened into the soils in search of life. That was organized and done as agriculture for our existence. Many of has a little awareness or concern about what happens in agriculture. This is a mild eye opener. Somewhere some farmer decides to quit agriculture when you are reading this now and move on to live in a small town or any urban habitat.

Naveen's p h o t o g r a p h y

Naveen’s p h o t o g r a p h y

This happening is well justified by many factors.

>> A small farmer’s children got a good job and earning well so he need not to do agriculture anymore. The economy of their family got developed.

>> Only rich landlords can afford the expenses of agriculture and small farmers are unable to tackle the increase in the prices of basic commodities of living and agriculture.

>> In many cases farming / agriculture is still wrongly viewed as an uneducated man’s job and for them the paid employment is a prestigious occupation and a valid reason to quit agriculture as the generation practicing ages.

>> Apart from all these reasons one of the major factors is the environmental issues and depletion of resources. This includes both human induced-natural and purely human created environmental problems. We can list water scarcity, soil depletion, global warming, pollution, etc. here.

The point here is not to discuss how to solve the problems faced by agriculture. The question is Will agriculture itself may survive for the next generation as an occupation or it will be remembered as “a human way if cultivating crops in the history books”?

The alarming rate of conversion of agricultural lands to real estates is a major threat. Like reserved forest areas no government has strictly regulated fate of agricultural lands. Because most of the agriculture has been done on Private lands belongs to the farmers, where big landlords retain their property they amassed while the small farmers are easy targets. The small farmers are large in number and hardly have any savings to count on, if nature or river water fails them once. More than two times if they fail to get return on investment they are forced to quit their occupation. The ultimate bail out comes to them is by selling off their little lands. Even if they manage to stay back there lies only a tough and painful recovery ahead. Whatever the crops they reap in one season, the rate they get on sales in not sufficient enough to bail them out of debts.

Even small farmers without any loans also just do their occupation as an act of survival.  The earnings would not suffice their emergency needs, children’s education, a normal lifestyle and a little saving for the future.

All these make it very difficult to  carry on an occupation like agriculture. Practically speaking, if you were from an agricultural or agriculture depended family backdrop, you can feel the intense on these words.

On news or in school or in many documentaries you might have seen agriculture is still the world’s largest occupation. More than the number of engineers or doctors or a software professional, farmers were more in number. But the rate is taking the reverse gear now. The lack of interest in agriculture is fuelled by the attraction towards urban lifestyle. Very few countries worries about their farm lands and are propelling their industrial growth and looking that as the way to improvise their economy.

Of course here and there campaigns, financial support for agriculture / farmers are happening. Even the Indian government has launched a call centre to support farmers over the phone. But if we look at the bigger picture and see it over all the shrinking of agriculture has to be the bitter truth. We cannot conceal it for our satisfaction and tap ourselves everything is fine.

We are putting our entire future generations on a risk of starvation by reducing the farm lands. Japan has no land so they do agriculture on ships, what is the reason for countries like India? We have vast land to put us in the seventh place.

There are connecting links between the food we eat in cities, the farmers working on soils, the shrinking agricultural lands, the government policies towards protecting agricultural lands, increasing suburban real estates, our imaginary glamour on urban life and Air conditioned occupation and our individual social responsibilities.

There is a single common line connecting all these facts. FOOD

We can’t survive by eating artificial and synthetic amino compounds like in sci-fi movies. If we do that stage we would have killed all other species on the earth. Food comes from agriculture. That’s our life line. Hope we can save agriculture.

Explore more possibilities, options, ideas, questions and logics on Complex Perspectives & Life

Words by Din

 Image Courtesy : Naveen Gowtham