How Pesticides Are Harming Soil Ecosystems

The first year after Jason Ward began transitioning his newly purchased conventional farm to organic production, he started seeing more earthworms in the soil beneath his corn, soybeans, and wheat fields. By the third year, he had spotted numerous nightcrawlers—big worms reaching up to eight inches long—on his 700-acre farm in Green County, Ohio.

With conventionally farmed land, “anything synthetic is hurting the natural ecosystem of the soil,” said Ward, whose acreage is now largely certified organic. “As you transition away from that, the life comes back.”

By life, Ward means the rich diversity of insects and other soil invertebrates—earthworms, roundworms, beetles, ants, springtails, and ground-nesting bees—as well as soil bacteria and fungi. Rarely do conversations about the negative impacts of pesticide use in agriculture include these soil invertebrates, yet they play a vital role in soil and plant health and sequestering carbon. Worms eat fallen plant matter, excrete carbon-rich casts and feces, cycle nutrients to plants, and create tunnels that help the soil retain water. Beetles and other soil insects feed on the seeds of weeds, or prey on crop pests such as aphids.


Agro-Eco Philippines Helps Transition Filipino Farmers to Agroecological and Organic Regenerative Practices

DAVAO, PHILIPPINES – Nearly one year ago today, Regeneration International (RI) signed the “Regeneration Philippines” pact, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Filipino League of Organic Municipalities Cities and Provinces (LOAMCP) and RI. 

Fast forward to today and we are blessed to have reconnected virtually with our friends in the Philippines, this time, through the addition of a new RI partner, Agro-Eco Philippines (AEP), an organization dedicated to “building resilient farming communities and sustainable economies.”

AEP began its work with small farmers in Mindanao or the Southern Philippines in 1991. Today, the non-profit government organization (NGO) works with 4,000 individual farmers in 300 farmers’ organizations in Mindanao, eastern Visayas and eastern Luzon. 

Its mission is to advocate for Filipino’s right to healthy food, alleviate hunger in poverty-stricken farming communities and teach farmers organic regenerative and agroecological practices that produce healthy food, increase the socio-economic livelihood of farmers, and build resilience against the effects of climate change. 

AEP also invests in the development of local markets through community-led research to help boost profits for smallholder farmers.

AEP and its work transitioning conventional Filipino farmers to agroecological and organic regenerative agriculture practices is showcased in our “Trails of Regeneration” video series, which highlights stories of regeneration throughout the globe. 

In our latest episode, “Agro-Eco Philippines Helps Farmers Go Organic,” AEP’s Executive Director Geonathan Barro discusses how the NGO has trained an impressive number of farmers on organic practices. Barro told us in a Zoom interview:

“So far, we have trained roughly 10,000 conventional farmers to go organic. The key is to build on the hard labor of the previous years without relying on middle men or corporate entities to distribute and process our products.”

AEP is firm in its belief that the role humans play on farms is a key component of agroecology. According to its website

“Farmers . . . are critical actors in agroecological practice and agroecological transformation. They are stewards of biodiversity and the real keepers of relevant knowledge for this agenda. It is therefore important that agroecological knowledge and technologies are developed on the basis of farmers’ own knowledge and experimentation. Further, this means that agroecology has to be context-specific and culturally appropriate. Agroecology makes best use of the human, social, and environmental capital available locally.”

Green Revolution forces farmers into degenerative farming model

The future hasn’t always been so bright for some farmers in the Philippines.

Since the launch of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, Filippino farmers have largely depended on degenerative agricultural models that have forced millions of farmers into debt due to the high cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that over time eroded the soil and polluted waterways. 

More than half a century ago, the Filipiino government, with influence from the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, created the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In 1962, the IRRI crossed Dee-Geo-woo-gen and Peta rice strains to create IR8 or “miracle rice.” By 1981, “miracle rice” accounted for more than 80 percent of total rice crops in the Philippines.

The “miracle rice” produced high yieldsten times the amount of traditional rice varietiesallowing the Philippines to go from being an importer of rice to a global exporter.

Unfortunately, the benefits of the Green Revolution were short-lived. They were also outweighed by the rising costs of high-debt, falling income and the environmental consequences of chemical-intensive agriculture. 

This chain of events is found in many developing countries that fell victim to big agricultural corporations selling high-yielding seeds that provide productive harvests the first year, but then require major increases in chemical inputs the following year. 

The allure of high (but unsustainable) crop yields has led to a system of enslaved farmers whose farmlands have been rendered unproductive without the application of synthetic and chemical inputs.

Over time, pesticides destroy key microbes in the soil and alter its ability to retain nutrients and water, which makes farmers more vulnerable to drought, floods, pests and crop-related diseases. This escalates production costs that put smallholder farmers at risk of bankruptcy. 

Filippino farmers campaigning against Monsanto’s Golden Rice, promoting regenerative systems of rice intensification and defending local seed sovereignty.

AEP teaches farmers organic regenerative practices that benefit the environment and the community

AEP is working to break the patterns of conventional food and farming systems by providing smallholder farmers with free access to local indigenous seeds and information on practices such as composting, cover cropping, seed saving, crop rotation and the integration of livestock. 

It also teaches farmers about agroforestry, the incorporation of trees into agriculture, and encourages the exchange of knowledge between fellow farmers.

Agroecological and organic regenerative farming practices have never been more important. Like many nations around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to food shortages in the Philippines. 

The silver lining, however, is that empty store shelves have encouraged locals to buy directly from their farmer. Not only does this help small farmers, but it also provides families with safe, nutritious food that builds a strong immune system, Barro told RI.

Selling direct to consumers, and removing grocery stores from the equation, has allowed Filippino farmers to sell their products for less money. 

Luz Astronomo, an AEP member and small farmer from Davao City, Philippines, told RI in a Zoom interview that he’s able to sell his produce for 60 percent less than other produce because everything he needs to grow it comes from his farm, including the seeds and organic inputs.

“So, we don’t have to sell our products at a high price,” he said. 

In many localities, conventional farmers are now buying food from organic farmers because the monoculture systems they depend on are failing to compete with the diversified agroecological systems practiced by AEP’s members. Barro told RI:

“These are very difficult times brought about by COVID-19, but these very difficult times have painted us a picture of what kind of agriculture the world needs to overcome such crises.”

Organic regenerative agriculture helps fight climate change

In addition to producing healthier food, agroecological and organic regenerative farming practices help mitigate climate change by building healthy soil that draws down excess atmospheric carbon and stores it in the ground.

Farmers are instrumental in addressing climate change because they experience the impacts of a changing climate, Barro said.

AEP recognizes this, too, which is why it now offers a course on soil quality management to teach farmers how to better manage soil when dealing with pests, disease and climate extremes. 

Mr. René Garcia, also a small farmer and member of AEP, says regenerative agriculture practices help restore key microbes in the soil. Garcia told us in a Zoom interview:

 “We are practicing regenerative agriculture to return microorganisms to the soil that feed the plants. By using the systems of rice intensification, which can reduce flooding in rice paddies and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and can also help conserve water and boost yields.”

AEP believes that all farmers can grow resilient to the effects of climate change by caring for their soil, ditching the toxic chemicals, producing and distributing food locally, and practicing and advocating for organic regenerative farming systems.

“Success stories of farmers that are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change will inspire people all over the world,” said Barro, adding that it gives people hope to know others are coming together to make this world a better place. 

Stay tuned for more stories of regeneration both in the Philippines and around the world. 

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. To keep up with news and events, sign up here for the Regeneration International newsletter.

En suelo dorado: Regeneration International se asocia con el proyecto de Myanmar Golden Ground para ayudar a los agricultores a cultivar sin químicos

ESTADO DE SHAN, Myanmar – En 2018, fui a Myanmar después que me asignaran una tarea de relaciones públicas para documentar un proyecto de prueba de un prototipo de dron que dispara vainas de semillas de manglar. Poco sabía entonces que esta tarea me llevaría a descubrir historias desgarradoras de agricultores expuestos diariamente, sin ropa protectora, a productos químicos no regulados altamente tóxicos, una tendencia que se está documentando en toda Asia, particularmente en los países limítrofes de China, donde la mayoría de estos productos químicos se originan.


La historia comenzó mientras trabajaba en la campaña de comunicación de mi tarea asignada en la oficina de mi compañero en Yangon, Myanmar. Allí tomé un libro titulado “Manual de agricultores orgánicos”. Escrito en birmano, este manual de agricultores está lleno de fotos e incluso dibujos que explican cómo evitar los riesgos de la agricultura convencional mediante el uso de insumos gratuitos y fácilmente disponibles que se encuentran en materiales orgánicos, cómo implementar diferentes técnicas de compostaje y cómo diseñar combinaciones de cultivos.

El “Manual de agricultores orgánicos” de Myanmar ha publicado cinco ediciones y vendió 5,000 copias a través de Golden Ground, uno de los pocos centros de capacitación orgánica del país. Golden Ground, fundada en 2014, está dirigida por Hlay Myint, quien escribió y publicó la guía completa.

Mientras hojeaba las páginas con ávido interés, una voz desde la parte de atrás de la oficina dijo: “Es a causa de estos químicos peligrosos”.

La voz pertenecía a una mujer local que trabajaba para la ONG involucrada en el proyecto de drones.

“¿Qué productos químicos peligrosos?”, le pregunté.

“Vienen de Tailandia, creo”.

“Entonces, ¿hay agricultores que ahora se están convirtiendo en orgánicos debido a los riesgos para la salud?”, pregunté.

Sí, ella dijo.

“¿Le gustaría que le presentaran al Sr. Hla Myint, el fundador de Golden Ground?”, preguntó.

“Sí”, le dije, “estaría muy interesado en conocerlo”.

“Él estará aquí mañana”, dijo la mujer. “Apoyamos su centro de capacitación hace un tiempo”.


Al día siguiente, un humilde caballero llegó vestido con un Loungyi, un vestido tradicional masculino de Myanmar, y masticando nuez de betel, una especie de nuez de palma que muchas personas consumen como el tabaco de mascar en algunas partes de Asia.

Me presenté como miembro de Regeneration International y la Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos y expresé mi interés en su trabajo ayudando a los agricultores.

Parecía tener prisa, en una visita rápida para recoger algunos papeles. Sí, debes venir, dijo. Me dio su número de teléfono. “Debo irme ahora o perderé mi autobús para ir al estado de Taunggyi Shan, donde está Golden Ground”.

“Antes de que te vayas”, le dije, “escuché que estás ayudando a los agricultores a alejarse de los agroquímicos tóxicos”. Se rió. “Sí”, dijo, “¡cientos! ¡En diez pueblos ya!”.

“Debes venir, debes venir”, dijo, mientras avanzaba rápidamente para tomar su autobús de 10 horas.

Yo estaba intrigado. Mis instintos me instaban a conocer a las personas en las 10 aldeas y crear reportes de prensa sobre los agricultores que se alejan de las prácticas nocivas en una región remota de la que la mayoría del mundo nunca escucha.

El estado de Shan es conocido por ser una zona de conflicto y es la región productora de opio y metanfetamina más grande del mundo. El tipo de lugar que invalida la cobertura del seguro, pensé. Pero afortunadamente esas historias solo suceden en los territorios del norte, bastante lejos de Golden Ground. La mayor parte del estado de Shan representa un granero para el país, con hectáreas y hectáreas de tierras agrícolas que producen, entre otras cosas, maíz, café, té, legumbres, jengibre y viñedos. Sí, tienen buen vino.

Entonces, decidí visitar el estado de Shan y reunirme con el Sr. Hla Myint. Pero no estaba solo: mi compañero birmano, Hsu Zin, estaba conmigo. Conocí a Hsu en Yangon, gracias a un hilo de redes sociales sobre mi trabajo. Hsu coordinaba el programa de empresas sociales del Consejo Británico para Myanmar y había vivido y estudiado en Londres. Naturalmente, habíamos hecho clic, convirtiéndonos en mejores amigos y luego, poco después, para mi gran fortuna, socios. Habíamos descubierto una pasión común por la educación, la agricultura orgánica y muchas otras cosas.

Hsu estaba encantada cuando le pregunté si estaría interesada en visitar Golden Ground y ayudar a traducir las discusiones con los miembros de la comunidad rural.

Así que ambos nos dirigimos a Shan State para encontrarnos con Hla Myint y visitar el centro de capacitación Golden Ground.

Fuimos recibidos primero en el centro de capacitación por uno de los colegas de Hla Myint, quien nos llevó a conocer a Hla Myint en uno de sus campos de papa, legumbres y jengibre.

Hla Myint es un hombre ocupado. Enseña cursos de una semana a docenas de agricultores y también proporciona seguimiento en las tierras de sus aprendices recién calificados, para garantizar que sus períodos de transición se realicen sin problemas. Así que no perdimos el tiempo. Le preguntamos si podíamos entrevistarlo sobre lo que hace y por qué.

“Los agricultores aquí son engañados”, dijo Hla Myint. “Primero se les promete alta productividad, pero en cambio se enferman y se endeudan. Estamos a pocas millas de China, donde los productos químicos no regulados que son muy perjudiciales para la salud de los agricultores se introducen de contrabando a través de la frontera con China. Hemos visto cánceres, abortos espontáneos y malformaciones de nacimiento en niños, todos los cuales se cree que fueron causados ​​por el uso de productos químicos no regulados ”.

Muchos agricultores compran estos productos porque son 10 veces más baratos que los químicos regulados por el gobierno de Myanmar. Y los agricultores no siguen ninguna de las instrucciones de dosificación. Incluso hemos visto a personas usar sus brazos desnudos para mezclar cócteles peligrosos de herbicidas y pesticidas altamente tóxicos. Por lo tanto, promovemos prácticas de agricultura orgánica para ayudar a cambiar algunas de estas prácticas.

¿Podemos conocer a algunos de los agricultores con los que trabaja?, le pregunté.

Hla hizo algunas llamadas telefónicas y en pocos minutos dijo que sí, hay un pueblo cercano donde podemos conocer a personas que han sufrido los efectos de estos venenos.

Mientras nos dirigíamos del campo de papas al vehículo de Hla, Hla notó algunos contenedores vacíos que habían sido arrojados cerca de su tierra. Su rostro se puso triste y confundido. “Mira esto”, dijo. “Aquí hay dos botellas de plástico con etiquetas marcadas en tailandés y chino. Esto es con lo que estamos lidiando. Está en todas partes. Me preocupa mucho que nuestros campos se hayan contaminado sin que lo sepamos.”

Cuando llegamos al pueblo fuimos recibidos por una familia de campesinos. Nos invitaron a tomar el té en su casa, una humilde casa de madera sin ventanas, sin muebles y con solo unos pocos cuadros en las paredes.

La familia se ofreció amablemente a cocinar arroz para todos, una forma de hospitalidad que fue directa al corazón. Habiendo viajado a muchos lugares remotos, no puedo evitar notar cómo los corazones más grandes y la hospitalidad incondicional siempre se encuentran con las personas más pobres. Siempre compartirán lo poco que tienen (té, arroz, su pedazo de carne único para ese día especial de la semana) y nunca pedirán nada a cambio. Es un placer dar la bienvenida a un extraño, especialmente si los visitantes han viajado lejos para honrarlos con su presencia.

Aquí nos encontramos con Ma Mya, una campesina de 35 años que había estado trabajando desde los 11 años. Su sonrisa era generosa. Nos hizo sentir como en casa. Nos sentamos y ella habló de su profunda experiencia como agricultor. Nunca solíamos usar productos químicos, dijo, pero un día fuimos empleados por terratenientes ricos y nos dijeron que los usáramos. Al instante me sentí enferma al usarlos. Afectaron mi visión y me desorienté mucho. No podía hacer la diferencia entre hombres y mujeres.

Luego entrevistamos a Maung Hla, su hermano. Las sustancias químicas lo enfermaron durante tres meses. “Al principio trabajaba normalmente”, dijo Maung, “pero con el tiempo comencé a sentirme mareado hasta que experimenté una parálisis parcial y no pude trabajar”.

Ma May y Maung Hla nos llevaron a conocer a su capacitadora de agricultores en una aldea vecina que estaba trabajando con su equipo en una gran plantación de pulso. Estaban ocupados cosechando, pero ella accedió a hablar con nosotros.

“Los productos químicos hacen que el suelo sea duro y degradado”, dijo. “En la época de mi padre, nunca necesitábamos usar productos químicos. El día que comenzamos (a usar los químicos), el trabajo se volvió costoso y, cuando se aplican, estos químicos nos queman los ojos y la piel ”.

No queriendo quitarle el precioso tiempo de cosecha de los agricultores, les agradecimos por hablar con nosotros y seguimos con Hla Myint. “Quiero llevarte a nuestras oficinas y conocer a nuestro equipo”, dijo.

Su equipo de oficina eran todos jóvenes y dinámicos defensores de las prácticas orgánicas. Nos dieron una presentación completa de sus actividades en el centro de entrenamiento Golden Ground y las 10 aldeas. Luego preguntaron sobre la agricultura regenerativa. “Queremos aprender más. ¡Estamos listos para capacitar a muchos más agricultores! ”

Luego les di algunos ejemplos de prácticas de agricultura regenerativa que les serían útiles, como las de los biorreactores de David Johnson y Main Street Project. Preguntaron si Regeneration International podría organizar un taller aquí algún día. Eso era posible, dije.

De vuelta en Yangon, llamé por teléfono a Andre Leu, director internacional de Regeneration International. Andre tiene una historia de amor con el estado de Shan, ya que estuvo allí en 1976 con Julia, su esposa. Se conocieron en el norte de Tailandia en 1976 y emprendieron una aventura para descubrir variedades locales de frutas en el estado de Shan. Andre y Julia luego continuaron un viaje de por vida y desarrollaron una próspera granja y negocio de frutas tropicales orgánicas en Australia.

Andre estaba muy entusiasmado cuando le conté toda la historia. Me encantaría volver al estado de Shan y conocer a los agricultores allí, dijo. Después de unos meses de coordinación, Andre, Julia, Hsu Zin y yo volvimos al centro de capacitación Golden Ground. Golden Ground movilizó a cientos de agricultores para asistir a un taller dirigido por Andre, y el Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería e Irrigación también asistió con docenas de estudiantes y algunos de sus mejores agrónomos.

Andre impartió un taller de un día sobre el manejo regenerativo de plagas y malezas, y produjimos este breve video para Trails of Regeneration (Caminos de regeneración):

Pronto habrá más información sobre esta historia, junto con un lanzamiento en video de todo el taller de Golden Ground y Regeneration International sobre control regenerativo de plagas y malezas.


Oliver Gardiner es el productor y coordinador de medios de Regeneration International para Asia y Europa. Para mantenerse al día con las noticias de Regeneration International, suscríbase a nuestro boletín.


Los líderes en la Cumbre de Gobiernos Locales Asiáticos para la Agricultura Orgánica resaltan el progreso e identifican necesidades futuras

GOESAN, COREA DEL SUR – Exuberantes montañas verdes, valles cultivados, altos estándares de agricultura orgánica, desarrollos de viviendas de alta tecnología energéticamente eficientes, energías renovables descentralizadas, ciclovías con techo solar, políticas alimentarias sin desperdicio y estrictos esquemas de gestión de residuos de circuito cerrado.

Este es el condado de Goesan, en Corea del Sur, hogar de Hansalim, una de las cooperativas de agricultura orgánica más grandes del mundo.

Hansalim alimenta a 1,6 millones de personas y emplea a más de cinco mil agricultores. Hansalim, un centro orgánico multimillonario gestionado en su totalidad por mujeres, es una empresa social muy activa que ha inspirado el movimiento orgánico en todo el mundo.

Es aquí donde Regeneration International participó en la 5ta Cumbre de los Gobiernos Locales Asiáticos para la Agricultura Orgánica +4 (continentes), la primera cumbre intercontinental sobre política orgánica, organizada en septiembre por la Federación Internacional de Movimientos Agrícolas Orgánicos (IFOAM) Asia.

La cumbre atrajo a más de 200 formuladores de políticas locales, regionales y nacionales de los cinco continentes que se esfuerzan por abordar múltiples crisis en los sistemas de producción de alimentos de hoy en día, como el uso generalizado de tóxicos y sus impactos en la salud pública.

La escena fue puesta en escena por Su Excelencia, Lee Cha Yong, alcalde del condado de Goesan, presidente de los Gobiernos Locales Asiáticos para la Agricultura Orgánica (ALGOA) y Louise Luttikholt, directora ejecutiva de IFOAM, quien dijo a la Cumbre: “Estamos ante cambios tan grandes que ni siquiera podemos imaginar lo que nos depara el futuro”.

El vicepresidente saliente de IFOAM, Frank Eyhorn, habló en la Cumbre sobre “las políticas coherentes que impulsan la sostenibilidad en la agricultura”.

Eyhorn enfatizó la importancia de las políticas agrícolas y cómo pueden hacer una de dos cosas: perpetuar prácticas y sistemas insostenibles, o apoyar la construcción de sostenibilidad.

Eyhorn recomendó centrarse en las políticas que mejoran los sistemas convencionales elevando el listón de lo que es aceptable, en otras palabras, elevando el estándar mínimo.

Andre Leu, director internacional de Regeneration International, embajador de IFOAM-ALGOA y ex presidente de IFOAM Organic International, se dirigió a la cumbre sobre por qué se necesita urgentemente un cambio de política.

Andre habló de la cruda realidad: detener las emisiones no será suficiente para prevenir un cambio climático catastrófico. Recordó a la audiencia de todas las ciudades importantes del mundo que se verán afectadas por el aumento del nivel del mar: Nueva York, Pequín, Lagos, Kolkata, Londres, Bangkok y muchas otras megaciudades. Esto podría, dijo Andre, causar migraciones forzadas en masa de proporciones inimaginables que resultarían en una ruptura total del estado de derecho.

Andre dijo que necesitamos extraer y capturar carbono rápidamente. ¿Cómo? Mediante la implementación de prácticas agrícolas orgánicas regenerativas, que tienen el potencial de extraer suficiente CO2 para prevenir el cambio climático severo.

Andre concluyó que se necesita con urgencia un cambio de política para apoyar una transición generalizada a los sistemas regenerativos, de modo que no solo detengamos el cambio climático, sino que lo revertamos.

Andre pronunció un segundo discurso de apertura en el que explicó que para implementar políticas dirigidas al desarrollo regenerativo, los consumidores deben estar totalmente a bordo y deben exigir una acción política que amplíe las prácticas de agricultura regenerativa que restauren el medio ambiente.

Andre dijo que la investigación de etiquetado de productos muestra que la mayor atracción para los consumidores es la salud. Es la salud lo que impulsa al 95% de los consumidores a invertir en la compra de productos orgánicos. Y esto nos lleva a la necesidad de centrarnos en comunicar mejor los impactos en la salud de los agroquímicos sintéticos, los aditivos alimentarios y los organismos genéticamente modificados (OGM).

Andre pasó a hacer una serie de puntos, que incluyen:

  • No hemos encontrado evidencia científica que demuestre que haya un nivel seguro de uso de pesticidas.
  • Los organismos reguladores hacen pruebas en los ingredientes principales de los agroquímicos, pero nunca las realizan en los aditivos petroquímicos que hacen que los agroquímicos sean más eficientes y más tóxicos.
  • Estudios independientes han demostrado que estos aditivos son cientos de veces más tóxicos que los ingredientes activos originales de los químicos. Así es como la gran industria agrícola se sale con la suya y sigue con el uso de estos agroquímicos.
  • La Organización Mundial de la Salud ha declarado una epidemia mundial en enfermedades no transmisibles como el cáncer, la diabetes, las enfermedades cardíacas y las enfermedades respiratorias crónicas, que se han convertido en las principales causas de mortalidad en humanos. Y el aumento en estas enfermedades es paralelo al aumento en el uso de pesticidas.
  • Estudios independientes han demostrado que la exposición de por vida al herbicida Roundup causa tumores, trastornos de la memoria, daño renal, daño hepático y disfunciones hormonales en ratas.
  • No hay evidencia alguna de ningún nivel seguro de exposición a pesticidas en niños. Las pruebas externas en ratas jóvenes muestran que son vulnerables a las cantidades más pequeñas de exposición. En los Estados Unidos, los bebés nacen con hasta 232 químicos en su cordón placentario. “Nuestros niños están siendo envenenados incluso antes de nacer. Para mí esto es un crimen”, dijo Andre. “El daño infligido por los pesticidas se transmite de generación en generación y todos están preocupados”.

Para apoyar estas declaraciones, Nakhyun Choi, director del Departamento de Agricultura Ecológica del Ministerio de Agricultura de Corea del Sur, hizo una presentación que reconoció la acumulación de agroquímicos nocivos en el cuerpo humano y cómo los bebés que amamantan son particularmente vulnerables, ya que estos venenos salen del cuerpo de las mujeres a través de la leche materna.

En una entrevista después de su presentación, Choi dijo que sabemos sobre el bioenriquecimiento del cuerpo, lo que entra queda. Por lo tanto, al comer alimentos provenientes de métodos de cultivo convencionales, todos tenemos una acumulación de productos químicos nocivos en nuestros cuerpos. La acumulación de agroquímicos tóxicos puede causar infertilidad, cáncer y depresión, agregó Choi.

Choi dijo que la investigación en Corea ha demostrado que los agricultores que practican la agricultura convencional con pesticidas tienen 2,4 veces más probabilidades de tener demencia que los agricultores que practican la agricultura ecológica. Todo lo que comemos en nuestras vidas se acumula en nuestros sistemas, dijo Choi, y es importante proteger a los consumidores.

Choi pasó a hacer una serie de otros puntos, que incluyen:

  • Mientras más alimentos contaminados comas, más se acumularán con el potencial de crear serios problemas de salud.
  • La infertilidad y la demencia están aumentando en Corea y representan problemas serios para una sociedad coreana que envejece.
  • Para resolver algunos de estos problemas, es importante promover una agricultura ecológica generalizada y una gestión racional de los recursos naturales como el suelo y el agua, y aumentar la biodiversidad y la captura de carbono.
  • En Corea, solo el 4,9% de la agricultura es ecológica y este es un gran problema. La mayor demanda de productos orgánicos proviene de las comidas escolares, pero necesitamos que esto se generalice.
  • El mercado ecológico en Corea del Sur tiene un valor aproximado de 1,1 mil millones de dólares americanos, pero esto podría aumentar significativamente con las medidas políticas adecuadas.
  • Corea del Sur ofrece paquetes de alimentos saludables para mujeres embarazadas y actualmente está trabajando arduamente para proteger a todos los ciudadanos y las generaciones futuras.
  • Se necesitan estrategias y políticas agrícolas ecológicas que se implementarán en Corea.

Esta cumbre histórica de líderes locales también dio una visión del mundo sobre algunas políticas innovadoras que se están desarrollando actualmente a nivel regional en los países en vías de desarrollo donde la llamada Revolución Verde ha causado estragos en el suelo y el bienestar de los agricultores durante décadas.

El progreso en la región del Mekong de Vietnam incluye:

  • En 2019, Vietnam promulgó su primera ley de agricultura orgánica, que cuenta con el apoyo de un sindicato de agricultores de 10 millones de miembros.
  • El vecino Laos está trabajando con la Organización de Agricultura y Alimentación de las Naciones Unidas (FAO) para desarrollar programas regionales de conversión agroecológica para pequeños agricultores, y Camboya se ha convertido en un ejemplo líder en Asia para ampliar las políticas agroecológicas y las prácticas agrícolas.
  • Pierre Ferrand, Oficial de Agroecología de la FAO para Asia Pacífico, dijo que la FAO está desarrollando un marco analítico, una herramienta para evaluar el desempeño multidimensional de la agroecología a nivel de granja en la región del Mekong que puede usarse para dar forma a futuras políticas locales, regionales y nacionales.

Sobre el progreso en África:

  • David Amudavi, miembro de la junta mundial de IFOAM, explicó el trabajo de BIOVISION Africa Trust, del cual es director. BIOVISION Africa Trust es una rama de la organización suiza BIOVISION, cuyo padre fundador es el conocido Dr. Hans Herren, quien también es co-fundador de Regeneration International.
  • Recientemente, Biovision Africa Trust, en asociación con Regeneration International, organizó la primera conferencia de Agroecología para África en Nairobi, Kenia. La conferencia fue un gran éxito, con más de 400 participantes de todo el mundo.
  • Los centros de innovación verde que Biovision Africa Trust ha establecido con el apoyo de GIZ Alemania, una agencia alemana de ayuda al desarrollo, han dado nueva vida a la extensión agrícola en África. Uno de los grandes éxitos en 2019 fue que Uganda se convirtió en el primer país de África con una política de agricultura orgánica, un gran paso para África, y muestra lo que es posible.

En una entrevista, Amudavi señaló que las políticas son muy necesarias en África para proteger la salud humana, animal y ambiental. Explicó que la mayoría de los suelos en África están muriendo debido a los efectos combinados de la agricultura químicamente intensiva y la emergencia climática.

Amudavi espera que Kenia, su tierra natal, sea el próximo país africano en presentar una política orgánica. Un proyecto de política sobre productos orgánicos está actualmente pendiente de aprobación por el Parlamento.


Otros esfuerzos en África se están realizando a través de la Iniciativa de Agricultura Orgánica Ecológica, que fue creada por jefes de estado africanos para recopilar conocimientos de organizaciones internacionales sobre la mejora de los sistemas agrícolas.

La Red Internacional de Eco-Regiones (INNER) también participó en la cumbre de IFOAM. Dirigido por Salvatore Basile, INNER trabaja con regiones de toda Europa donde los agricultores, los consumidores y los gobiernos locales tienen un acuerdo sobre la gestión sostenible de sus tierras, con las prácticas agrícolas agroecológicas orgánicas en el centro de sus decisiones. Esto incluye 49 regiones en Italia, 14 en Portugal y muchas más en Francia, Túnez, Alemania, Eslovenia y otros países.

Uno de los aspectos más destacados de la cumbre de IFOAM fue la Liga de Municipios, Ciudades y Provincias de Agricultura Orgánica de Filipinas (LOAMCP). LOAMCP representa cerca de 200 gobiernos locales y se está expandiendo rápidamente. LOAMCP fue una fuerza impulsora en la creación de ALGOA. Regeneration International está trabajando actualmente con LOAMCP para asesorar a la organización sobre la estrategia climática y la educación en torno a la agricultura regenerativa, y para promover las iniciativas de LOAMCP en todo el mundo. Para el año 2022, LOAMCP espera certificar 1.2 millones de hectáreas de agricultura orgánica.


Oliver Gardiner es productor y coordinador de medios de Regeneration International para Asia y Europa. (Con agradecimiento a la cooperación de IFOAM Asia). Para mantenerse al día con las noticias de Regeneration International, suscríbase a nuestro boletín.


Leaders at Summit of Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture Highlight Progress, Identify Future Needs

GOESAN, South Korea – Lush green mountains, farmed valleys, high standards of organic farming, hi-tech energy-efficient housing developments, decentralized renewables, solar roofed cycling paths, zero-waste food policies and strict closed-loop waste management schemes.

This is Goesan county, South Korea, home to Hansalim, one of the largest organic farming cooperatives in the world.

Hansalim nourishes 1.6 million people and employs over five thousand farmers. A multi-million-dollar organic hub managed entirely by women, Hansalim is a buzzing social enterprise that has inspired the organic movement worldwide.

It’s here that Regeneration International  took part in the 5th Summit of the Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture +4 (continents), the first intercontinental summit on organic policy, organized in September by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) Asia.

The summit drew more than 200 local, regional and national policymakers from five continents who strive to address multiple crises in today’s food production systems, such as the widespread use of toxics and their impacts on public health.

The scene was set by His Excellency, Lee Cha Yong, mayor of Goesan County, the president of Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) and Louise Luttikholt, executive eirector of IFOAM, who told the Summit: “We are facing changes so big that we can’t even imagine what the future holds for us.”

Outgoing IFOAM Vice President Frank Eyhorn, spoke to the Summit about “the coherent policies driving sustainability in agriculture.”

Eyhorn stressed the importance of agricultural policies and how they can do one of two things: perpetuate unsustainable practices and systems, or support the building of sustainability.

Eyhorn recommended focusing on policies that lift up mainstream systems by raising the bar of what is acceptable—in other words, by raising the minimum standard.

Andre Leu, international director of Regeneration International, IFOAM-ALGOA ambassador and former president of IFOAM Organic International, addressed the summit on why policy change is urgently needed.

Andre gave a reality check: Stopping emissions won’t be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. He reminded the audience of all the major cities in the world that will be affected by sea level rise: New York, Beijing, Lagos, Kolkata, London, Bangkok and many other megacities. This could, Andre said, cause mass forced migrations of unimaginable proportions that would result in full a breakdown of the rule of law.

Andre said we need to draw down and capture carbon fast. How? By implementing regenerative organic agricultural practices, which as the potential to draw down enough CO2 to prevent severe climate change.

Andre concluded that policy change is urgently needed to support a widespread transition to regenerative systems so that we don’t merely stop climate change, but instead reverse it.

Andre gave a second keynote address in which he explained that to implement policies aimed at regenerative development, consumers need to be fully on board, and they need to demand political action that scales up regenerative farming practices that restore the environment.

Andre said product labeling research shows the greatest pull for consumers is health. It is health that drives 95 percent of consumers to invest in buying organic. And this brings us to the need to focus on better communicating the health impacts of synthetic agrichemicals, food additives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Andre went on to make a number of points, including:

  • We have found no scientific evidence showing there is any safe level of pesticide use.
  • Regulatory bodies test the main ingredients of agrichemicals but never perform tests on the petro-chemical additives that make agrichemicals more efficient—and more toxic.
  • Independent studies have shown that these additives are hundreds of times more toxic than the chemicals’ original active ingredients. This is how big ag gets away with the use of these agrichemicals.
  • The World Health Organisation has declared a global epidemic in non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease, all of which have become main causes of mortality in humans. And the increase in these diseases parallels increases in pesticide use.
  • Independent studies have shown that lifetime exposure to the herbicide Roundup causes tumours, memory disorders, kidney damage, liver damage and hormonal dysfunctions in rats.
  • There is no evidence whatsoever of any safe level of pesticide exposure for children. Out-testing on young rats shows they are vulnerable to the smallest amounts of exposure. In the U.S., babies are being born with as many as 232 chemicals in their placental cord. “Our children are being poisoned before they are even born. To me this is a crime,” Andre said. “The harm inflicted by pesticides is passed down through generations and everybody is concerned.”

To support these declarations, Nakhyun Choi, director of Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of South Korea gave a presentation that acknowledged the build-up of harmful agrichemicals in the human body and how babies that breast feed are particularly vulnerable, as these poisons find their way out of women’s bodies through breast milk.

In an interview after his presentation Choi said we know about bio-enrichment of the body—what goes in stays in. Therefore, by eating food sourced from conventional farming methods we all have an accumulation of harmful chemicals in our bodies. Toxic agrichemical accumulation can cause infertility, cancer and depression, Choi added.

Choi said research in Korea has shown that farmers who practice conventional farming using pesticides are 2.4 times more likely to have dementia as farmers who practice eco-friendly farming. Everything we eat in our lifetimes accumulates in our systems, Choi said, and it is important to protect consumers.

Choi went on to make a number of other points, including:

  • The more contaminated food you eat, the more it will accumulate with the potential of creating serious health issues.
  • Infertility and dementia are on the increase in Korea and represent serious issues for an aging Korean society.
  • To solve some of these problems it is important to promote widespread eco-friendly agriculture and sound management of natural resources such as soil and water, and to increase biodiversity and sequester carbon.
  • In Korea, only 4.9 percent of agriculture is eco-friendly and this is a big problem. The biggest demand for organics comes from school meals but we need for this to become more mainstream.
  • The eco-friendly market in South Korea is worth about USD$1.1 billion, but this could significantly increase with the right policy measures in place.
  • South Korea provides health food packages for pregnant women and is currently working hard to protect all citizens and future generations.
  • Eco-friendly agriculture strategies and policies are needed and will be implemented in Korea.

This historic summit of local leaders also gave a worldview on some groundbreaking policies currently being developed at regional levels in developing nations where the so-called Green Revolution has wreaked havoc on soils and farmers’ well-being for decades.

Progress in the Mekong region of Vietnam includes:

  • In 2019, Vietnam enacted its first organic agriculture law, which is supported by a farmer union of 10 million members.
  • Neighboring Laos is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to develop regional agroecological conversion programs for small-scale farmers, and Cambodia has become a leading example in Asia for scaling up agroecological policies and farming practices.
  • Pierre Ferrand, FAO Agroecology Officer for the Asia Pacific, said FAO is developing an analytical framework, a tool to assess the multidimensional performance of agroecology at the farm level in the Mekong region that can be used to shape future local, regional and national policies.

On progress in Africa:

  • David Amudavi, IFOAM world board member, explained the work of BIOVISION Africa Trust, of which he is director. BIOVISION Africa Trust is a branch of the Swiss organisation BIOVISION, whose founding father is the well-known Dr. Hans Herren, who is also cofounder of Regeneration International.
  • Recently Biovision Africa Trust, in partnership with Regeneration International, organised the first conference of Agroecology for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was a huge success, with more than 400 participants from all over the world.
  • The Green Innovation centres that Biovision Africa Trust has been setting up with support from GIZ Germany, a German development aid agency, have given new life to agriculture extension in Africa. One of the great successes in 2019 was Uganda becoming the first country in Africa with an organic agriculture policy—a huge step for Africa, and it shows what is possible.

In an interview, Amudavi pointed out that policies are severely needed in Africa to protect human, animal and environmental health. He explained that most of the soils in Africa are dying due to the combined effects of chemically intensive agriculture and the climate emergency.

Amudavi hopes that Kenya, his homeland, might be the next African country to put forth an organic policy. A draft policy on organics is currently awaiting approval by parliament.

Other efforts in Africa are being made through the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative, which was created by African heads of state to gather knowledge from international organizations on improving agricultural systems.

The International Network of Eco-Regions (INNER) also participated in the IFOAM summit. Led by Salvatore Basile, INNER works with regions all over Europe where farmers, consumers and local governments have an agreement on the sustainable management of their lands by having organic agroecological farming practices at the heart of their decisions. This includes 49 regions in Italy, 14 in Portugal, and many more in France, Tunisia, Germany, Slovenia and other countries.

One of the main highlights of the IFOAM summit was the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities, Cities and Provinces of the Philippines (LOAMCP). LOAMCP represents close to 200 local governments and is rapidly expanding. LOAMCP was a driving force in the creation of ALGOA. Regeneration International is currently working with LOAMCP to advise the organization on climate strategy and education around regenerative agriculture, and to promote LOAMCP’s initiatives around the globe. By the year 2022, LOAMCP hopes to certify 1.2 million hectares of organic agriculture.

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. (With thanks to the cooperation of IFOAM Asia). To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

On Golden Ground: Regeneration International Partners with Myanmar Project to Help Farmers Go Chemical-Free

SHAN STATE, Myanmar – In 2018, I went to Myanmar on a public relations assignment to document a test project for a drone prototype that shoots out mangrove seed pods. Little did know then that this assignment would lead me to discover heart-wrenching stories of farmers being exposed daily, without any protective clothing, to highly toxic unregulated chemicals—a trend that is being documented all across Asia, particularly in countries bordering China, where most of these chemicals originate.

The story began while I was working on my assignment’s communication campaign at my partner’s office in Yangon, Myanmar. There I picked up a book titled “Organic Farmers Handbook.” Written in Burmese, this farmer’s manual is rich in photos and even cartoons that explain how to avert the risks of conventional farming by using free, readily available inputs found in organic materials, how to implement different composting techniques and how to design cropping combinations.

The “Organic Farmers Handbook” of Myanmar has published five editions and sold 5,000 copies through Golden Ground, one of the country’s few organic training centers. Golden Ground, founded in 2014, is led by Hlay Myint, who wrote and published the comprehensive guide.

As I was leafing through the pages with avid interest, a voice from the back of the office said: “It is because of these dangerous chemicals.”

The voice belonged to a local woman working for the NGO involved with the drone project.

“What dangerous chemicals,” I asked?

“They come from Thailand, I think.”

“So, there are farmers now converting to organic because of health risks?” I asked.

Yes, she said.

“Would you like to be introduced to Mr. Hla Myint, the founder of Golden Ground?” she asked.

“Yes” I said, “I would be very interested to meet him.”

“He will be here tomorrow,” the woman said. “We supported his training center a while ago.”

The next day, a humble gentleman arrived wearing a Loungyi, a traditional Myanmar male dress, and chewing betel nut, a kind of palm nut many people consume like chewing tobacco in some parts of Asia.

I introduced myself as working with Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association and expressed my interest in his work helping farmers.

He seemed in a hurry, on a swift visit to pick up some papers. Yes, you must come, he said. He gave me his phone number. “I must go now or I will miss my bus to go to Taunggyi Shan State, where the Golden Ground is.”

“Before you leave,” I said, “I hear that you are helping farmers move away from toxic agrochemicals.” He laughed. “Yes,” he said, “hundreds! Across ten villages already!”

“You must come, you must come,” he said, while swiftly moving on to catch his 10-hour bus.

I was intrigued. My guts were urging to go meet the people in the 10 villages and create media about farmers transitioning away from harmful practices in a remote region most of the world never hears about.

Shan State is known for being a conflict zone and is the largest opium- and methamphetamine-producing region in the world. The kind of place that invalidates insurance coverage, I thought to myself. But luckily those stories only happen up in the northern territories, quite a distance away from Golden Ground. Most of Shan State actually represents a breadbasket for the country, with hectares upon hectares of agricultural land producing, among other things, corn, coffee, tea, pulses, ginger and vineyards—yes, they have good wine.

So, I decided to visit Shan State and meet with Mr. Hla Myint. But I was not alone—my Burmese partner, Hsu Zin, was with me. I met Hsu in Yangon, thanks to a social media thread on my work. Hsu was coordinating the British Council’s social enterprise program for Myanmar and had lived and studied in London. We had naturally clicked, first becoming best friends then soon afterward, to my great fortune, partners. We had discovered a common passion for education, organic farming and quite a few other things.

Hsu was delighted when I asked if she would be interested in visiting Golden Ground and helping to translate discussions with rural community members.

So we both headed up to Shan State to meet Hla Myint and visit the Golden Ground training center.

We were greeted first at the training center by one of Hla Myint’s colleagues, who drove us to meet Hla Myint in one of their potato, pulses and ginger fields.

Hla Myint is a busy man. He teaches week-long courses to dozens of farmers and also provides follow-ups on the land of his newly qualified trainees, to ensure their transition periods happen smoothly. So we didn’t waste any time. We asked if we could interview him about what he does, and why.

“Farmers here get duped,” Hla Myint said. “First they are promised high productivity, but instead they become sick and fall into debt. We are just a few miles from China, where unregulated chemicals that are very detrimental to farmers’ health are smuggled across the border from China. We have seen cancers, miscarriages and birth defects in children—all believed to have been caused by use of the unregulated chemicals.”

Many farmers buy these products because they are 10 times cheaper than chemicals regulated by the Myanmar government. And the farmers don’t follow any of the dosage directions. We have even seen people use their bare arms to mix dangerous cocktails of highly toxic herbicides and pesticides. So, we promote organic farming practices to help change some of these practices.

Can we meet some of the farmers you work with, I asked?

Hla made a few phone calls and within a few minutes he said yes, there is a village nearby where we can meet people that have suffered from the effects of these poisons.

As we made our way from the potato field to Hla’s vehicle, Hla noticed some empty containers that had been dumped close to his land. His face became sad and confused. “Look at these,” he said. “Here are two plastic bottles with labels marked in Thai and Chinese. This is what we are dealing with. It’s everywhere. I am very worried that our fields have become contaminated without us knowing.”

When we arrived at the village we were greeted by a family of farmers. They invited us to have tea in their home, a humble wooden house with no windows, void of furniture and with just a few pictures on the walls.

The family kindly offered to cook rice for everyone, a form of hospitality that went straight to the heart. Having traveled to many remote places, I can’t help but notice how the biggest hearts and unconditional hospitality are always to be found with the poorest of people. They will always share the little they have (tea, rice, their unique piece of meat for that special day of the week) and never ask anything in return. It is their pleasure to welcome a stranger, especially if visitors have travelled far to honor them with their presence.

Here we met with Ma Mya, a 35-year-old farmer who had been working since the age of 11. Her smile was generous. It made us feel right at home. We sat down and she talked of her in-depth experience as a farmer. We never used to use chemicals, she said, but one day we were employed by rich landowners and they told us to use them. I instantly felt sick using them. They affected my vision, and I became very disoriented. I was unable to make the difference between men and women.

We then interviewed Maung Hla, her brother. The chemicals made him ill for three months. “At the beginning I worked normally,” Maung said, “but over time I started to feel dizzy until I experienced partial paralysis and was unable to work.”

Ma May and Maung Hla then brought us to meet their farmer trainer in a neighboring village who was working with her team on a large pulse plantation. They were busy harvesting, but she agreed to speak with us.

“Chemicals make the soil hard and degraded,” she said. “At the time of my father, we never needed to use chemicals. The day we started (using the chemicals), work became expensive, and when applied, these chemicals would burn our eyes and skin.”

Not wanting to take away any of the farmers’ precious harvest time, we thanked them for speaking to us and moved on with Hla Myint. “I want to take you to our offices and meet our team,” he said.

His office team were all young dynamic advocates for organics. They gave us a full presentation of their activities at the Golden Ground training center and the 10 villages. They then asked about regenerative agriculture. “We want to learn more. We are ready to train many more farmers!”

I then gave them a few examples of regenerative farming practices that would be of use to them, such as those of David Johnson Bioreactors and the Main Street Project. They asked whether Regeneration International could organize a workshop here one day. That was possible, I said.

Back in Yangon, I made a phone call to Andre Leu, international director of Regeneration International. Andre has a love affair with Shan State, as he was there in 1976 with Julia his wife. They met in northern Thailand in 1976 and went on an adventure to discover local varieties of fruit in Shan State. Andre and Julia then continued a lifelong journey and developed a prosperous tropical organic fruit farm and business in Australia.

Andre was very enthusiastic when I told him the whole story. I would be happy to return to Shan State and meet the farmers there, he said. A few months of coordination later, Andre, Julia, Hsu Zin and I returned to the Golden Ground training center. Golden Ground mobilized hundreds of farmers to attend a workshop led by Andre, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation also attended with dozens of students and some of their best agronomists.

Andre gave a one-day workshop on regenerative pest and weed management, and we produced this short video for Trails of Regeneration:


More on this story will come soon, along with a video release of the entire Golden Ground – Regeneration International workshop on regenerative pest and weed control.

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

Opinion: Pesticide Safety Unproven (André Leu)

It might surprise you to learn that there is no scientific proof of safety for the majority of the pesticides, additives or chemicals that companies put in our food and our body care and household products. Most are not tested, and when there is testing, it misses the vast majority of diseases at the normal rates at which they occur due to faulty protocols.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a global epidemic of non-communicable chronic diseases: “Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading cause of mortality in the world. This invisible epidemic is an under-appreciated cause of poverty and hinders the economic development of many countries. The burden is growing — the number of people, families and communities afflicted is increasing.”

You cannot catch these diseases from other people. Their multiple causes are a result of environment and lifestyle.


This Kansas Farmer Fought a Government Program to Keep His Farm Sustainable

Author: Kristin Ohlson | Published on: December 5, 2016

Editor’s note: This story was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, a non-profit investigative news organization.

In 2012, Gail Fuller’s 2,000-acre farm was at ground zero for the drought that decimated corn production throughout the Midwest. His corn and soybeans had barely squeaked through the previous dry summer, even as many of his neighbors in Lyon County, Kansas, saw their crops desiccate and fail in the unrelenting sun. But when the drought persisted into 2012, Fuller joined the ranks of farmers who told the companies that administered their federally funded crop insurance they needed compensation for ruined acres.

On a hot day in early August, the company’s adjuster and his boss arrived to inspect Fuller’s land. Fuller and the adjuster greeted each other warmly — they had gone to high school together and the adjuster used to work for Fuller, spraying pesticides on his land. But Fuller grew uneasy when he saw the two men lingering over remnants of turnips and other brassicas he had grown to keep the soil healthy in between regular crops. Fuller had tried to kill off these cover crops before planting his market crop, as crop insurance rules require, but high winds interfered with the herbicide application and some of them survived. He feared the insurance company might not honor his claim because of restrictions the federal crop insurance program places on the use of cover crops.

Sure enough, the insurance company withheld a six-figure payout and canceled coverage on some of his fields. Stunned and panicked, Fuller called his partner, Lynette Miller, and blurted, “I’ve lost my insurance!”


River Pollution Puts 323m at Risk from Life-Threatening Diseases, Says UN

Author: Arthur Neslen | Published on: September 22, 2016

Waste water, pesticide run-off and pollution threatens people across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Regulation, data and business action are needed.

A week before Russia’s Daldykan river was turned red by a leak from a metals plant, the UN issued a warning as chilling as it was overlooked: 323 million people are at risk from life-threatening diseases caused by the pollution of rivers and lakes.

Cholera, typhoid and other deadly pathogens are increasing in more than half of the rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to a UN environment programme (Unep) report. Salinity levels have also risen in nearly a third of waterways.

Asia has been worst hit, with up to 50% of all rivers now affected by severe pathogen pollution caused by a cocktail of untreated waste water disposal, agricultural pesticides run-off and industrial pollution.

In a telling footnote to the Russian Norilsk disaster, Nasa released satellite images on 15 September showing that far from being a one-off, the Daldykan river had turned red on multiple occasions in the past 20 years.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Hurt Farmers and Make Seed Companies Richer


Author: Alex Press

In March of 2009, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the biotech industry’s trade association and lobbying arm, submitted a letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which was in the early stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The letter came in response to USTR’s invitation for public comment to help develop negotiation objectives for the proposed trade deal, which at the time involved seven other Pacific Rim nations. The USTR broadly outlined the areas that it was interested in input on—the economic costs and benefits to the removal of tariffs, environmental and labor issues that should be addressed, trade-related intellectual property rights that should be considered—and BIO jumped at the chance to respond. “BIO will focus its comments on issues relating to (i) agricultural biotechnology and (ii) matters concerning intellectual property rights,” the six-page letter read. “BIO appreciates this opportunity to comment on the proposed TPP FTA, and we look forward to working closely with USTR as this initiative proceeds.”

And work closely they did. While the terms of the TPP were kept secret from the public and policymakers during negotiations, USTR negotiators relied heavily on input from the corporate insiders who populate the US government–appointed Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs). A representative from BIO sits on ITAC-15, the committee that focuses on intellectual property (IP) rights, and BIO spent roughly $8 million on lobbying each year while the TPP was under negotiation, paying firms like Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld $80,000 annually to lobby for “patent provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.”

The results of this lobbying blitz were unknown until the final text of the agreement was released in November of last year. Signed on February 4 and awaiting ratification by its 12 member countries—Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, United States, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, and New Zealand—the TPP is the largest regional free-trade deal in the world. While many have scrutinized its potential for offshoring jobs, lowering wages, and raising drug prices, few have paid attention to the TPP’s impact on the sector BIO prioritized above any other: agricultural biotechnology. Experts have called the TPP a “big win” for the biotech seed industry, and many warn that the trade deal will further enrich seed companies at the expense of farmers’ rights.

Agricultural biotechnology refers to a range of tools used to alter living organisms, including the tools of genetic modification. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the major product of these tools, which are commonly known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are produced through techniques that alter the genetic material “in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.”