Posts Tagged "food"

Bees: UK Government Ignores Scientific Recommendations

Posted by on Apr 26, 2013

Britain Needs its Bees - protest poster at rally against use of chemicals that destroy bee colonies

 Bees make a Significant Contribution to  the British Economy Replacing Bee Pollination with Hand Pollination Could Cost British Farmers £1.8 Billion  a Year in Labour and Pollen Alone. 

■ £510 million of annual total crop sales in the UK are pollinated by bees and other insects.

■ Replacing bee pollination with hand pollination could cost farmers £1.8 billion a year in labour and pollen alone.

■ The price of many fruits and vegetables would go up without bees. The price of British apples could double.

Beekeepers and others Protesting Outside The Houses of Parliament in London

Hundreds of British Beekeepers and others held a protest in London today to demand that Environmental Minister Owen Patterson backs moves to ban the worst bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides. Beekeepers were joined by food producers, gardeners and other concerned individuals.

*EFSA scientists have identified a number of risks posed to bees by three neonicotinoid insecticides.

Members of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have spent months hearing evidence on both sides of the argument and its report is unanimously in favour of the ban.

Even MPs from the Government’s own Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties agree Ministers should back a neonicotinoid ban – and dramatically improve the process for testing pesticide safety, but so far the Government has refused to follow the advice and implement this ban.


Sign the Bee Cause Petition organised by Friends of the Earth

Sign the GreenPeace Petition

Sign the Petition on 38 Degrees

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One beekeeper interviewed in this video says:

“I’ve lost three colonies of bees, my neighbouring beekeeper has lost four colonies of bees and we routinely had about 80 to 70 jars of honey a year and last year had 4.”

There is enough pressure on bees already to make their survival difficult, without the use of pesticides that are believed to be linked with the loss of millions of bees worldwide.

Some of the other damaging effects on bees are climate change, damage to their natural environments, other chemicals and toxins that humans have already unleashed on the planet.

“Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline. Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.
An ever-growing number of the UK’s leading retailers and manufacturers are recognising the threat these products pose by removing them from their shelves and supply chains – the Government must act now.
If we lose our bees and other vital pollinators it’ll have a devastating impact on our food, gardens and environment. We urgently need tougher pesticide restrictions and a British Bee Action Plan to tackle all the threats they face.”

— Andrew Pendleton — Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns


Fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett helped to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street

The demonstration took place ahead of the vote in Brussels on Monday that will decide whether Europe will introduce a two-year moratorium on a variety of neonicotinoid pesticides.

 “Britain abstained last time and has made no commitment this time, but we want them to support a ban across Europe. Some 73% of the British public support a ban on these insecticides, we want the Government to follow their lead.”

— Matt Shardlow, chief executive of nature conservation organisation Buglife, and one of the organisers of the protest


 “They started using these pesticides in the 90s. Since then there has been a rapid decline in the abundance and diversity of bee species globally.
 There is a mounting body of scientific evidence that these pesticides are having sub lethal effects and in effect making the bees sick. They can make them forget things, such as which flowers are rewarding to them, and impair their ability to reproduce, affecting their long-term survival.
 Bees are responsible for a large proportion of the world’s pollination, they are very important economically as well as ecologically.
 I would see a two-year moratorium as a start. If it came into effect, we would see bee species start to recover, and would then need to extend the ban further.“

— Robert Mitton, biological research graduate from London, and one of the protesters.


A Newcastle University Study found that one in five bees exposed to imidacloprid from the neonicotinoid family of pesticides, that is commonly used on UK crops including oilseed rape, were “unable to learn”.
This means the whole colony is affected because the bees rely on memory to find flowers and bring back nectar to the hive.

Other groups involved with organising the event included Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, and the Soil Association.

* The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is an agency of the European Union that provides independent scientific advice and communication on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain

Some of the Food Crops Pollinated by Bees…  

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Great Laws of Nature: Rediscovering Health

Posted by on Jan 26, 2012

The United Nations has declared 2012 the “Year of the Co-operative”
to celebrate and encourage the successful work being done
across the globe by co-operatives of all kinds.

One very inspiring story of co-operation comes from the heart of Canada via a video which explores the work being done through a Co-operative in Saskatchewan by a group of First Nations People who are reconnecting with Nature, learning and observing her natural laws, and getting back on the road to self-reliance.

Out of Nothing, the Creator made Rock, Water, Fire and Wind.


From these four substances He created the physical world of the Sun ..Stars, moon and earth. Then He made the plant species.

“What we have to do is we have to study Nature. Nature is the greatest teacher if you take time, and listen.”

William Ermine, Saskatchewan Elder explains: “Nature lives in harmony with itself, each looks out for the other, each protects the other. There is no warring, there is no gossip, there is nothing. They live in harmony side by side, they are not fighting over that piece of land that they grow from. That is organic, as designed by our Creator.”

To Each a Spirit of Life, Growth, Healing and Beauty
There are four kinds of plant beings – flowers, grasses, trees and vegetables. To each, the Creator gave a spirit of Life, Growth, Healing and Beauty. Each He placed where it would be most beneficial, and lend to Earth the greatest Beauty, Harmony and Order”

Daniel Musqua continues: “It’s a belief that everything has Life and everything has Spirit. We pray to these Plant Spirits. These Spirits were put here on this Earth to look after all living things. They are at work in the Universe, here.” Daniel, a First Nation Elder is also a 3rd Generation Organic Farmer.

“Everything here has a purpose in its natural state, and it’s that purpose that we have to try to emulate within that relationship with these plants. There are people believe all life is connected, you certainly hear from the mainstream society it’s good to talk to your plants, and that’s taken quite seriously by the First Nations.”

After plants, the Creator made Animal Beings, conferring on each, special powers.
Last, he made Man, the Keepers of the Earth.

The Great Laws of Nature
Written and Directed by Noah Erenberg
Edited by Bruce Little

Many thanks to Director Noah Erenberg for making this great documentary,
presented here courtesy of Muskoday Organic Growers Co-op Ltd.
If you want to purchase a copy of this video
please contact the producers through this link:
Muscoday Organics on Facebook

“We will take care of you, we will deal with your enemies, the other weeds and the other competitors, and in turn, you can feed us and take care of us at some point.

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Britta Riley: A Garden in my Apartment

Posted by on Nov 28, 2011

Britta Riley is an artist, exhibition designer, and social entrepreneur
who works with social media to create mass participation in solving
environmental problems.

Her artwork has been featured at MoMA NY,
the Whitney, the Venice Biennial, Ars Electronica, on the Discovery
Channel’s Planet Green, Good Morning America,NPR and hundreds of
other press venues.

In this video of her presentation at TEDtalks, she makes a very interesting point in contrasting what is proving to be the new enlightened way of shared world-community living, with the outdated and often damaging  “bully boy takes all” mentality that seemed to have seeped into the essence of giant multinational corporate thinking, which has apparently lost sight of humanity in its haste to try to monopolise all things, at any cost.

“I like many of you am one of the two billion people on earth who live in cities, and there are days when I palpably feel that I rely on other people for pretty much everything in my life and some days that can even be a little scary.

SOS: (Open) Source Of Solutions
But what I’m here to talk to you about today is how that same inter-dependence is actually an extremely powerful social infrastructure that we can harness to help heal some of our deepest civic issues, if we apply open source colaboration.

A couple of years ago, I read an article by New York Times writer Michael Collins in which he argued that growing even some of our own food is one of the best things that we can do for the environment.

Now at the time that I was reading this it was in the middle of the winter, and I definitely did not have room for a lot of dirt in my New York City apartment, so I was basically willing to settle for just reading the next wired magazine and finding out how the experts were going to figure out how to solve all these problems for us in the future. But that was actually exactly the point that Michael Collins was making in this article, that its precisely when we hand over the responsibility for all of these things over specialists that we cause the kind of messes that we see with the food system.

NASA’s Food for Starships
So, I happen to know a little from my own work about how NASA has been using hydroponics to explore growing food in space and that you can actually get optimal nutritional yields by running a kind of high quality liquid soil over plants root sytems.

Now, to a vegetable plant, my apartment has got to be about as foreign as outer space but I can offer some natural light and year-round climate control.

Fast forward two years later.
We now have window farms which are vertical hydroponic platforms for food growing indoors, and the way it works is that there’s a pump at the bottom which periodically sends some of this liquid nutrient solution up to the top, which then trickles down through the plant’s root systems, which are suspended in clay pellets, so there’s no dirt involved.

A Creative Alternative to Corporate Intellectual Property
Light and temperature vary with each window’s microclimate, so a window farm requires a farmer, and she must decide what kind of crops she is going to grow in her window farm, and whether she is going to feed her food organically.

Back at the time that the window farm was no more than a technically complex idea that was going to require a lot of testing and I really wanted to be an open project  because hydroponics is one of the fastest growing areas of patenting in the United States now, and could possibly become like Monsanto where we have a lot of corporate intellectual property in the way of people’s food.

Artist Britta Riley's practical demonstration of the power of shared creativity in her open-source Window Farming project

So, I decided that instead of creating a product, I was going to open this up to a whole bunch of co-developers. The first few systems that we created kinda worked. We were actually able to grow about  a salad a week in a typical New York City apartment window and we were able to grow cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, all kinds of stuff.

But the first few systems were these leaky, loud, power guzzlers that Martha Steward would definitely never have approved. So, to bring on more co-developers, what we did was we created a social media site on which we published the designs, we explained how they worked and we even went so far as to point out everything that was wrong with these systems. And then we invited people all over the world to build them and experiment with us. So actually now with us on this website we have 18,000 people and we have window farms all over the world.

What we’re doing is what NASA or large corporations would call R&D or Research and Development, but what we call it is R&D-I-Y, or Research and Develop It Yourself. So, for example, Jackson came along and suggested that we use air pumps, instead of water pumps. It took  building a whole bunch of systems to get it right, but once we did we were able to cut our carbon footprint nearly in half. Tony in Chicago has been taking on growing experiments  like lots of other window farmers, and he’s been able to actually get his strawberries to fruit for  nine months of the year in low-light conditions by simply changing out the organic nutrients.

And window farmers in Finland have been customising their window farms for the dark days of the Finnish winters  by outfitting them with LED growlights that they are now making open-source and part of the project. So window farms have been evolving through a rapid versioning  process similar to software and with every open-source project the real benefit is the interplay between people customising the systems for their own particular concerns, and the universal concern.

Free to Anyone, Anywhere
So my core team and I are able to concentrate on the improvements that actually benefit everyone, and we’re able to look out for the needs of newcomers, so for DIYers we provide free, very well tested instructions so that anyone anywhere around the world can build one of these systems for free, and there’s a patent pending on these systems as well that’s held by the community and to fund the project, we create products that we then sell to schools and to individuals who don’t have time to build their own systems.

Now within our community, a certain culture has appeared. In our culture  it is better to be a tester who supports someone else’s idea than it is to be just the idea guy. What we get out of this project is we get support for our own work as well as an experience of actually contributing to the environmental movement in a way other than just screwing in new lightbulbs. But I think that Eileen expresses best what we really get out of this which is  the actual joy of collaboration. She expresses here what it is actually like to see someone halfway across the world having taken your idea, built upon it and then acknowledging you for contributing.

We Need to “Do” More Than “Consume”
If we really want to see the wide consumer behaviour change that we’re all talking about as environmentalists and food people, maybe we just need to ditch the term “consumer” and get behind the people who are doing stuff.

Open source projects tend to have a momentum of their own what we’re seeing is that R&DIY has moved beyond just window farms and LEDs into solar panels and  aquaponic systems  7:20 and we’re building apon innovations of generations who went before us, and we’re looking ahead at generations who really need us to re-tool our lives now.

So we ask that you join us in rediscovering the value of citizens united and to declare that we are all still pioneers.”

For more information on window farming, see

Britta Riley’s own website: http://

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