Studies document substantial differences of GM maize and GM soybean from their conventional non-GM counterparts, exposing a permissive regulatory regime that has failed miserably in protecting public health and biodiversity.
by Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji
A fully referenced and illustrated version of this article is posted on ISIS members website and is otherwise available for download here.
Several new studies carried out by scientists independent of the biotech industry are showing up glaring differences between GMOs and their non-GMO counterparts. This makes a mockery of the regulatory principle of ‘Substantial Equivalence’ which has facilitated approvals of GMOs with practically no protection for public health and the environment  (see  The Principle of Substantial equivalence is Unscientific and Arbitrary, ISIS news).
The principle of ‘Substantial Equivalence’
The concept of ‘Substantial Equivalence’ was first introduced in 1993 by the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), an international economic and trade organisation, not a public health body. The principle states that if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent to an already existing food product, it can be treated the same way as the existing product with respect to safety. This concept has greatly benefited the trade of GM produce, allowing it to effectively bypass regulatory requirements that would apply to novel food and other products including novel chemical compounds, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and food additives, all of which require a range of toxicological tests and can be subject to legal limitations on safe consumption/intake.
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Misleading claims by Discovery and other channels help to fuel wildlife massacres.
There are, I think, two factors at work. The first is the desire to eliminate all risk from our lives, to move through a world that is safe, predictable and tame, with “no alarms and no surprises”.
The second emerges paradoxically from the consequences of that desire. Having achieved, or almost achieved, the object of the great civilisational quest – To Know What Comes Next – we have been rewarded with a new set of unmet needs. Without natural hazards, without the thrills and spills we evolved to withstand, our lives sometimes feel exceedingly dull. We have gained much from the predictability we’ve manufactured, and lost something too.
Both impulses, I believe, inform the Western Australian shark cull. The cull appears to be unscientific and counter-productive, a grand act of vandalism that endangers the top predators – already greatly depleted – which sustain the ecosystem of the seas. But it is motivated by a desire with which many people can connect: to ensure that nothing untoward ever happens to anyone, even to those who venture into the wild waters of the Indian Ocean, which the premier of Western Australia now hopes to remodel as a giant hotel swimming pool.
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An excellent look at transforming one Perth property along permaculture lines.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. — John Muir
The eradication of wolves from Yellowstone National Park is a classic example of the Us and Them approach to wildlife management — where a simplistic, selfish and reductionist mindset sees nature as something to battle and compete against, rather than recognising that each wildlife entity has an important role to play in helping the systems we depend on to flourish. While the important role each ‘character’ plays out in the grand ‘theatre’ of life is rarely fully understood, even by the more eco-literate amongst us, this is where we, the human actor, need to treat the world around us with humble respect. Whilst we may not completely understand the importance of specific elements in the eco-system around us, at the very least we can learn to submit to its greater wisdom — recognising that these systems functioned long before our machines, our economy, and our greed came along to destroy it.
The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is a classic example of the far reaching — and might I also say rapid — effects of putting things back the way they were….
Now, if only we, the human element, could come to understand the meaningful role we should be playing in this grand theatre….
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‘Protected’ patches of land are the only spaces some creatures have left to explore, find food, and make their homes — away from all the angry traffic. But mucky rubbish flows all over the place when people put pollution into streams and rivers.
Plastic, metal, styrofoam and other manufactured materials clog up our waterways. So if you chuck stuff in the street you can expect to have to drink it later on. Ewww!
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A Dead Sea Valley family home with their typical front ‘lawn’
(Photo © Craig Mackintosh)
Looking at the state of the Islamic World these days, it seems like Muslims don’t really care much about the environment. Canals which carry Nile water to irrigate farmlands in Egypt are so full of rubbish they frequently get blocked up, stagnate and spread disease. The once-mighty river Jordan has been so diminished in these dark days it is down to a muddy trickle you could probably jump over if you wouldn’t be shot before you landed on the other side. Saudi Arabia has pumped its aquifers dry to such depths that they may take thousands of years to replenish.
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Photo © Craig Mackintosh
Marcin Gerwin: Permaculture is currently hardly known in Poland. Could you explain what it is?
Geoff Lawton: Permaculture is a design science. It’s a system that supplies all the needs of humanity — all the basic needs and all the intricate needs — in a way that also benefits the environment. It works from the intimate small space of human habitat right up to the broad, damaged ecosystems which can be repaired with the design science system.
To learn it you need to go through the training course so that you can understand all the disciplines and how they connect together, because it’s a holistic design science where multiple disciplines connect together — similar to an ecosystem. It’s like an ecosystem of knowledge where the connections are more important than the actual disciplines, so that you can understand how you can integrate not only living systems but also built infrastructure in a way that all elements within the matrix are benefited by overall design.
MG: Could it be useful in a city also?
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There’s a lot we need to accomplish in order to create the sustainable future we’re dreaming of. Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. In order to keep our spirits up, it’s important to have daily reminders of what we aspire to create.
Finding an inspiration that’s meaningful, making a commitment to apply it in a concrete way every day, and then seeking feedback and support in our endeavor, all work together synergistically to change our world from the inside out. This activity can make the seemingly enormous task of shifting our culture towards sustainability manageable, and even fun, as we engage our peers and mentors in the process. By focusing on the area of our lives we have the most control over – ourselves – we also become living examples for others to follow, quite possibly the most valuable resource we can develop for future generations.
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How the government’s farming policies have produced a perfectly designed system for flooding your home.
It has the force of a parable. Along the road from High Ham to Burrowbridge, which skirts Lake Paterson (formerly known as the Somerset Levels), you can see field after field of harvested maize. In some places the crop lines run straight down the hill and into the water. When it rains, the water and soil flash off into the lake. Seldom is cause and effect so visible.
That’s what I saw on Tuesday. On Friday, I travelled to the source of the Thames. Within 300 metres of the stone that marked it were ploughed fields, overhanging the catchment, left bare through the winter and compacted by heavy machinery. Muddy water sluiced down the roads. A few score miles downstream it will reappear in people’s living rooms. You can see the same thing happening across the Thames watershed: 184 miles of idiocy, perfectly calibrated to cause disaster.
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Children planting pumpkins. Photo by Jeanine Carlson
Though women receive the majority of all college degrees in the U.S., and are well represented in the work force, they are very under-represented in positions of high-level leadership. Most of the women I’ve encountered in permaculture note analogous patterns: often, women constitute 50% or more of the participants in PDCs, yet occupy disproportionately few of the positions of leadership and prominence in lucrative roles, such as designers, teachers, authors, speakers, or “permaculture superstars.”
To address this situation, this article drafts “A Pattern Language for Women in Permaculture.” Each pattern can be applied in many ways and names a core solution to a problem that undermines women’s full participation and leadership. Just as words connect to form a language, one can connect these patterns to form a language that describes good social design practices.
This approach is modeled after the book, A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander et al, in which the authors write, ”Each pattern may be looked upon as a hypothesis… and are therefore all tentative, all free to evolve under the impact of new experience and observation.” Using the same analogy, I invite your input to help craft this new language.
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