Friday, 30 November 2012

School kids from Tumkur visited our Apiary

50 High school students came to our Apiary asked hundreds of questions about bees and beekeeping

Talking about the bee spacing

There was a cerana colony at the trunk of the coconut tree

 are our first Urban Beekeepers...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Peru Passes Monumental Ten Year Ban on Genetically Engineered Foods


Peru has officially passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients anywhere within the country for the next ten years

In a massive blow to multinational agribiz corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, and Dow, Peru has officially passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients anywhere within the country for a full decade before coming up for another review. 

Peru’s Plenary Session of the Congress made the decision 3 years after the decree was written despite previous governmental pushes for GM legalization due largely to the pressure from farmers that together form the Parque de la Papa in Cusco, a farming community of 6,000 people that represent six communities. 

They worry the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will compromise the native species of Peru, such as the giant white corn, purple corn and, of course, the famous species of Peruvian potatoes. Anibal Huerta, President of Peru’s Agrarian Commission, said the ban was needed to prevent the ”danger that can arise from the use of biotechnology.” 

While the ban will curb the planting and importation of GMOs in the country, a test conducted by the Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC) at the time of the ban’s implementation found that 77 percent of supermarket products tested contained GM contaminants. 

”Research by ASPEC confirms something that Peruvians knew all along: GM foods are on the shelves of our markets and wineries, and consumers buy them and take them into their homes to eat without knowing it. Nobody tells us, no one says anything, which involves a clear violation of our right to information,” Cáceres told Gestión. GMOs are so prevalent in the Americas that it is virtually impossible to truly and completely block them, whether through pollination or being sneaked in as processed foods.

“There is an increasing consensus among consumers that they want safe, local, organic fresh food and that they want the environment and wildlife to be protected,” wrote Walter Pengue from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, in a recent statement concerning GMOs in South America. “South American countries must proceed with a broader evaluation of their original agricultural policies and practices using the precautionary principle.” 

Note: This decree was signed into effect on April 15th 2011 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Poland should be proud. It’s the first nation in the world to formally finger Monsanto’s Bt-laced corn as a bee-killer.




Poland is the first country to formally acknowledge the link between Monsanto's genetically engineered corn and the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that's been devastating bees around the world, but it's likely that Monsanto has known the danger their GMOs posed to bees all along. The biotech giant recently purchased a CCD research firm, Beeologics, that government agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture, have been relying on for help unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of the bees. 

Now that it's owned by Monsanto, it's very unlikely that Beeologics will investigate the links, but genetically engineered crops have beenimplicated in CCD for years now. 

In one German study, when bees were released in a genetically engineered canola field, then fed the canola pollen to younger bees, scientists discovered the bacteria in the guts of the young bees took on the traits of the canola's modified genes. That proves that GMO DNA in pollen can be transferred to bees though their digestive system.

Many bee-keepers have turned to high-fructose corn syrup to feed their bees. High-fructose corn syrup is made from Monsanto's genetically engineered corn and that corn is treated with Bayer's neonicotinoid insecticides.

Bee colonies began disappearing in the U.S. one year after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market in 2004-2005. Even the EPA itself admits that "pesticide poisoning" is contributing to bee colony collapse. 

One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee's immune system. Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen back to the hive, where it's consumed by all of the bees. Six months later, their immune systems fail, and they fall prey to natural bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria. Indeed, pathogens such as Varroa mites, Nosema, fungal and bacterial infections, and IAPV are found in large amounts in honey bee hives on the verge of collapse.

Three recent studies implicate neonicotinoid insecticides, or "neonics" for short, which coat 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton seeds in the U.S. alone. They are also a common ingredient in a wide variety of home gardening products. As detailed in an article published by Reuters, neonics are absorbed by the plants' vascular system and contaminate the pollen and nectar that bees encounter on their rounds. Neonics are a nerve poison that disorient their insect victims and appear to damage the homing ability of bees, which may help to account for their mysterious failure to make it back to the hive. 



This was the conclusion of research which came out in the prestigious Journal Science. In another study, conducted by entomologists at Purdue University, the scientists found that neonic-containing dust released into the air at planting time had "lethal effects compatible with colony losses phenomena observed by beekeepers." A third studyby the Harvard School of Public Health actually re-created colony collapse disorder in several honeybee hives simply by administering small doses of a popular neonic, imidacloprid.
And further praise goes to Poland for banning it! This action followed protests by Polish beekeepers who showed the genetically engineered mutant Bt corn was damaging their honeybees - part of  a widespread phenomenon of massive bee deaths, often mislabeled as “Colony Collapse Disorder.”
Organic Consumers Association says it’s believed that Monsanto knew all along its GE pesticides posed a threat to bees. Research done by Beeologics has implicated monoculture farming and pesticides as making bees more susceptible to viruses, and some believe Monsanto’s recent purchase of that research firm is about controlling future “facts” about bee deaths.
Thankfully, Poland is no longer playing Monsanto’s game, and it’s time for the US and the rest of the world to get with Poland‘s program

Friday, 10 February 2012

Tribunal verdict vs. 6 agrochemical TNCs hailed, urgent action on recommendations urged



Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International hailed the verdict of the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) against the world's six largest agrochemical companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF after a historic four-day session that culminated in Bangalore, India yesterday(12-07-2011).
Victims and survivors of the pesticide industry from all over the world, represented by PAN International, testified before a distinguished international jury to indict the "Big 6" for human rights violations. Based on evidence presented before it, the Tribunal found the Defendant agrochemical TNCs "responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children's rights." (see the verdict here)
The Tribunal also found agrochemical TNCs responsible for violation of indigenous peoples' human rights, and further found that "their systematic acts of corporate governance have caused avoidable catastrophic risks, increasing the prospects of extinction of biodiversity, including species whose continued existence is necessary for reproduction of human life."
Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific Executive Director, said that the Tribunal's verdict is a victory for peoples who have been most affected by the Big 6's control over food and agriculture. "We are elated with the verdict. It affirms what people all over the world already know and are experiencing: that the pesticide industry is to blame and should be held accountable for the systematic poisoning of human health and the environment, loss of food sovereignty and self-determination, and increased world hunger and poverty," she said.
Endosulfan was indicted by several committees as the dissent over the use of the pesticide grew louder. Kerala banned the pesticide in 2005. Karnataka banned the pesticide in Februray 2011

The PPT, founded in 1979 in Italy, is an international opinion tribunal that looks into complaints of human rights violations. Borne out of the tribunals on the Vietnam War and Latin American dictatorships, the PPT has held 37 sessions so far using the rigorous conventional court format. While its verdicts are not legally binding, these can set precedent for future legal actions against Defendants, and can pressure governments and institutions.
Jurors for the PPT Session on Agrochemical TNCs are Indian legal scholar Upendra Baxi, British scientist Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, African environmental lawyer Ibrahima Ly, German economist Elmar Altvater, Italian professor Paolo Ramazotti, and PPT Secretary General Dr. Gianni Tognoni. (see profile of jury here)
The Tribunal said that the home States of the Big 6 (US, Switzerland, and Germany), have "failed to comply with their internationally accepted responsibility to promote and protect human rights," by not adequately regulating, monitoring and disciplining these corporations. The Tribunal further said that these States have "unjustifiably promoted a double standard approach prohibiting the production of hazardous chemicals at home while allowing their own TNCs unrestrained license for these enterprises in other States, especially of the Global South."
The Tribunal also found host States responsible for failure to protect the human rights of its citizens by offering "magic carpet type hospitality" to agrochemical TNCs and therefore not adequately protecting social movement activists or independent scientists from harassment, not limiting the "global corporate ownership of knowledge production in universities and related research sites," "not recognizing the value of indigenous knowledge and social relationships they create and sustain," and "not fully pursuing alternative and less hazardous forms of agricultural production without having learnt the full lessons from the First Green Revolution."
The Tribunal also found that the policies of World Trade Organization in relation to Intellectual Property Rights are "not balanced with any sincere regard for the grave long-term hazards to humans and nature already posed by the activities of agribusiness and agrochemical industries." International financial institutions, named in the indictment as the International Monetary Fund-World Bank, do not follow "a strict regime of human rights conditionalities" and "have yet to develop policies concerning their support for hazardous manufacture, application or process," said the Tribunal.
The Tribunal recommended that national governments should "prosecute the Defendant agrochemical companies in terms of criminal liability rather than civil liability." It also urged governments to take action to "restructure international law" to ensure the accountability of transnational corporations, to "accept a less heavy burden of proof on the victims and to fully commit to and legislate for the precautionary principle," and "to prevent TNCs from directly or indirectly harassing and intimidating scientists, farmers and human rights and environmental defenders."
It also urged international organizations and intergovernmental institutions to uphold human rights and the welfare of populations, and protect of biodiversity and ecosystems by subordinating the interests of corporations pursuing patents.
"The Tribunal's recommendations must immediately be acted upon, for they echo what civil society and people's organizations have been demanding for a very long time. The prosecution of the Big 6 must be started to bring justice to fruition for the thousands of victims and survivors of the pesticide industry. The precautionary principle must be put into place and the patent regime abolished, as recommended by the Tribunal. That is the only way to stop these human rights violations, which continue every day with impunity," said Rengam.
Rengam further added that the Tribunal just marks the beginning of an escalated international people's movement against agrochemical TNCs, which is now armed with a powerful verdict that can be used in every part of the world. "The next step towards justice and liberation from the Big 6's control will be determined by the people's unity, strength, and determination to stand up against corporate greed and aggression, just as was shown in this victorious PPT Session," she concluded. ###

Support the tribunal. Sign the petition at
http://www.agricorporateaccountability.net/petition.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods



New research shows that when we eat we're consuming more than just vitamins and protein. Our bodies are absorbing information, or microRNA.
Chinese researchers have found small pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to proteins in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.
The type of RNA in question is called microRNA, due to its small size. MicroRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been linked to human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. The Chinese research provides the first example of ingested plant microRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function.
Should the research survive scientific scrutiny, it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we're eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but information as well.
The Chinese RNA study threatens to blast a major hole in Monsanto's claim. It means that DNA can code for microRNA, which can, in fact, be hazardous.
That knowledge could deepen our understanding of cross-species communication, co-evolution, and predator-prey relationships. It could illuminate new mechanisms for some metabolic disorders and perhaps explain how some herbal medicines function. And it reveals a pathway by which genetically modified (GM) foods might influence human health.
Monsanto's website states, "There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans." This viewpoint, while good for business, is built on an understanding of genetics circa 1950. It follows what's called the "Central Dogma" (PDF) of genetics, which postulates a one-way chain of command between DNA and the cells DNA governs.
The Central Dogma resembles the process of ordering a pizza. The DNA knows what kind of pizza it wants, and orders it. The RNA is the order slip, which communicates the specifics of the pizza to the cook. The finished and delivered pizza is analogous to the protein that DNA codes for.
We've known for years that the Central Dogma, though basically correct, is overly simplistic. For example: Pieces of microRNA that don't code for anything, pizza or otherwise, can travel among cells and influence their activities in many other ways. So while the DNA is ordering pizza, it's also bombarding the pizzeria with unrelated RNA messages that can cancel a cheese delivery, pay the dishwasher nine million dollars, or email the secret sauce recipe to WikiLeaks.
Monsanto's claim that human toxicology tests are unwarranted is based on the doctrine of "substantial equivalence." This term is used around the world as the basis of regulations designed to facilitate the rapid commercialization of genetically engineered foods, by sparing them from extensive safety testing.
According to substantial equivalence, comparisons between GM and non-GM crops need only investigate the end products of DNA translation: the pizza, as it were. "There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods," Monsanto's website reads. "DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard."
The Chinese RNA study threatens to blast a major hole in that claim. It means that DNA can code for microRNA, which can, in fact, be hazardous.
"So long as the introduced protein is determined to be safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks," Monsanto's website goes on. In other words, as long as the pizza is OK, the introduced DNA doesn't pose a problem.
Chen-Yu Zhang, the lead researcher on the Chinese RNA study, has made no comment regarding the implications of his work for the debate over the safety of GM food. Nonetheless, his discoveries give shape to concerns about substantial equivalence that have been raised for years.
In 1999, a group of scientists wrote a now-landmark letter titled "Beyond Substantial Equivalence" to the prestigious journal Nature. In the letter, Erik Millstone et. al. called substantial equivalence "a pseudo-scientific concept" that is "inherently anti-scientific because it was created primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests."
To these charges, Monsanto responded: "The concept of substantial equivalence was elaborated by international scientific and regulatory experts convened by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1991, well before any biotechnology products were ready for market.
This response is less a rebuttal than a testimonial to Monsanto's marketing prowess. Establishing the concept of substantial equivalence worldwide was a prerequisite to the global commercialization of GM crops. It created a legal framework for selling GM foods anywhere in the world that substantial equivalence was accepted. By the time substantial equivalence was adopted, Monsanto had already developed numerous GM crops and was actively grooming them for market.
The OECD's 34 member nations could be described as largely rich, white, developed, and sympathetic to big business. The group's current mission is to spread economic development to the rest of the world. And while that mission has yet to be accomplished, OECD has helped Monsanto spread substantial equivalence to the rest of the world, selling a lot of GM seed along the way.
The news that we're ingesting information as well as physical material should force the biotech industry to confront the possibility that new DNA can have dangerous implications far beyond the products it codes for. Can we count on the biotech industry to accept the notion that more testing is necessary? Not if such action is perceived as a threat to the bottom line.
Image: Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock.


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