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Today is World Food Day!

October 2009

Today is World Food Day!

World Food Day is celebrated every year on October 16 – the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945. World Food Day raises awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. This year’s theme for World Food Day is “Achieving food security in times of crisis.”

A critical issue related to food and agriculture that is finally gaining more attention is climate change. Industrial agriculture contributes significantly to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. Grassroots International partners and others who promote food sovereignty have been demonstrating the ways in which local agriculture using sustainable methods can help to cool the planet (see the report Towards a Green Food System: How food sovereignty can save the environment and feed the world).

Our partner La Via Campesina reiterated its call for the rights of peasants and small farmers, fishers, foresters and workers including indigenous peoples, women and men, to be recognized globally on World Food Day. La Via’s members around the world carried out actions as part of its campaign against genetically modified seeds (GMOs) and the control of seeds and this agriculture by a handful of transnational corporations especially Monsanto but also others like Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, Cargill, ADM, etc.

Our partners and grantees around the world are facing major challenges such as the growing land grab, especially in Africa, for agrofuel production in the name of “green” energy; and, now, as climate change exacerbates the growing food crisis, demand for arableland for growing food. This has resulted in countries like Saudi Arabia that lack arable land but have plenty of wealth (and even corporations like Daewoo), to attempt to buy or lease land in other regions like Africa to grow food for feeding its population, even as citizens of those countries where the land is being bought or leased go hungry. Our ally and grantee the Oakland Institute just released a new report, The Great Land Grab: Rish for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor. And recently, we copublished a new book on the food crisis with our ally and grantee FoodFirst, called Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice.

Our allies at the Center for Food Safety are urging Congress to address the impacts of industrial agriculture in the climate change bill that is currently being drafted. While the most recent version of the Clean Energy, Jobs and American Power Act begins to address harmful emissions caused by current agricultural practices, it still does not sufficiently address the significant impact agriculture has on climate change, and the significant potential it could have in reversing current destructive climatic trends.

Below is an alert sent out by the Center for Food Safety:


Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) released a version of a climate and energy bill, called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which calls for higher greenhouse gas emission reductions than the Congressional bill passed last July. One notable difference in this new draft version is the inclusion of language that begins to address harmful emissions caused by current agricultural practices.
While The Center for Food Safety applauds this development and the fact that global warming is finally being seriously addressed in Congress, the organization laments that the draft version still does not sufficiently address the significant impact agriculture has on climate change, and the significant potential it could have in reversing current destructive climatic trends.

“Though research unequivocally concludes that industrial agriculture is one of the major contributors to global warming, neither international nor domestic policies adequately take on this issue,” said Debi Barker, Director of the Center for Food Safety’s Climate Change and Agriculture Program.” Barker notes that at least 60 percent of all dangerous nitrous oxide (NO2) emissions and 40 percent of all methane (CH4) emissions are produced by industrial farming, primarily from the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and intensive livestock operations respectively.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international consultative body, reports conservatively that industrial agriculture accounts for at least 14 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists maintain that this number is even higher, falling in the 25 to 30 percent range when the total energy backpack of the current food system is taken into account.

“The environmental goals of climate legislation cannot be compromised, but without addressing the impacts of industrial agriculture practices on climate, that is exactly what’s taking place,” added Andrew Kimbrell, Founder and Executive Director of CFS. “If the United States is serious about creating real environmental change, this piece of legislation must recognize the impacts of industrial agriculture on climate and take steps to reverse trends by requiring a shift to low-impact, sustainable agriculture.”

A Rodale Institute study project that planet’s 3.5 billion tillable acres could sequester nearly 40 percent of current CO2 emission is they were converted to “Regenerative” organic agriculture practices. The same ten-year study submits that if U.S. cropland were converted to organic farming methods, we could reduce nearly 25 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“We applaud the inclusion of agriculture in this draft bill, but we urge lawmakers to take further decisive steps to stop practices that produce harmful emissions,” Barker concluded. “If we make a U-turn away from harmful industrial agriculture practices toward ecological, organic systems, we could quickly and significantly alter the course of climate change.”

The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents over 85,000 members across the nation. On the web at:

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