The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Chinese Populace Rejects GM Foods

Corn is harvested at a farm in Shandong province, Sept. 28, 2013. (Photo/Xinhua)

The resistance to genetically modified foods by the populace is consistent in almost every country where they are “literally” trying to ram it down people’s throats.  Here’s an article about the uncertain fate of GM food imports into China posted in Want China Times:

In November of 2013, China rejected imports of 600,000 tonnes of US-grown corn on the grounds they it was a genetically modified food not approved in China.
Since then, more than 400,000 tonnes of US corn has been turned away by Chinese authorities for the same reason.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg in China where genetically modified food has been a fiercely debated issue, and not one that will be resolved soon.
In July, 2013, 61 top Chinese scientists appealed to Chinese leaders to facilitate the commercialization of GM rice.
Around the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture attempted to convince the public of the safety of GM foods through state-run newspapers and news agencies, stating that no harmful side-effects had been reported for GM foods that had been stored for more than two decades.
This argument, however, could not silence those who doubt GM food’s safety because they claim that the lack of reports that GM is unsafe do not mean the foods are safe for human consumption or the environment. Some critics also expressed concerns that China’s dependence on imported GM foods would jeopardize its security, especially in the event of any conflicts with food producing countries.

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New Chinese President Looking to Religion to Fill Moral Void

Corruption has become so bad in China, the new president is now looking to religion to potentially fill the moral void.

The predictions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that the new Chinese President, Xi Jinping, might come forward with humane reforms in dealing with Tibet appear to be coming true. The Central Tibetan Administration reported on Sept. 30, 2013, “Xi Jinping hopes traditional faiths can fill moral void in China: sources.” Continue reading

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As Societies Urbanize Food Importation Increases

This is a phenomenon I’m finding in article after article all over the world.  As societies urbanize, they become more and more dependent on food imports.  In his piece “Do You Remember How Real Organic Food Looks and Tastes Like?” Vladimir Stoiljkovic documents how many Serbian villages are now populated mainly by the elderly as young people leave to find work in cities like Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis.  As a result of this migration:

…only elderly remain to work the land and tend the cattle. However, due to the age limit and all it brings, they are not capable to work the land anymore like they used to, so more and more households in Serbia are abandoned and left to waste.
As a result of this and strong import lobby, the supply of domestic agricultural products from Serbia in shops and markets is decreasing.Serbia, once a country with respectable agriculture and livestock, has in a relatively short time become dependent of food imports. The citizens of Serbia have come to a situation where, instead of Serbian, they every day eat potatoes from China, beans from Tajikistan and apples from Italy, because there is no alternative, especially not in larger supermarkets of the known distribution chains in Serbia, which are, by the way, owned by foreign companies.


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Historian Free to Exhibit Kurdish Folklore

Shvan Goran spotlights the opening of folklore and cultural exhibitions taking place in Duhok’s local museum through the efforts of historian Rafa’at Rajab in the Kurdish Globe:

In the centre of Duhok, a city which is stepping towards modern life, there is an old fashioned building where hundreds of ancient antiques and artefacts have been kept in the shape of a museum. As you enter the hall, these ancient pieces brighten your face and make you feel proud of being a part of this history. The museum is a part of the Directorate of Folklore in Duhok. 
Rafa’at Rajab, a man of his middle age, is the head of Folklore Directorate. He is a man of deep interest in folklore and Kurdish culture, and of humbleness in his manner towards anyone wants to talk to him about folklore. He will tell everything about the museum as you ask him. He knows about every single piece of antiques and artefacts the museum has.
Rafa’at sees folklore as identity of nations. He says the nation with folklore is an original nation with its own history, indicating that every nation has to take interest and pay attention to their history and folklore by collecting folklore antiques and artefacts, including its various topics such as stories, myths, songs and what’s related to literary folklore works. On the other hand, he points out that a nation of ancient history and folklore has to be concerned with collecting those instruments that have been made by golden hands for satisfying their needs during a period of time in the past. Continue reading

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Marketing Co-op Seen as Last Defense Against Free Trade

Why do governments sign these trade agreements that negatively impact their local producers?  This article by Jimmy Laking, in the Phillipine Baguia Midland Courier, underscores the need to strengthen farmers marketing cooperatives to cope with the onslaught of vegetable products from China, that will flood the market, when the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement comes into effect:

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan underscored last week the need to strengthen the farmers marketing cooperative to cope with the challenges of the free trade that is set to begin on 2015.
He said with the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement two years from now, the country will be flooded with vegetable products that can come in without need for tariffs.“Hence, let us be one in the preservation of the vegetable industry by strengthening the marketing cooperative,” Fongwan told participants to the province-wide basic cooperative course conducted at the capitol.The participants represented more than 50 primary cooperatives in Benguet.Fongwan said the biggest threat remains the People’s Republic of China where the cost of production is much lesser than in this region because farmers need not pay taxes.“Our fear is that with the (unlimited) entry of their products, our industry will be threatened because of the excess in production,” he said. Continue reading

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This Week’s Rant

Howard Schnieder in the Washington Post posits that, with the fall of China’s superstar status, more rapid change in the relations between China and the US may be possible.

It’s an informative piece that nevertheless leaves me in a sputtering, almost incoherent rage.  The author notes that “some members of Congress” still worry about  the loss of jobs to China? Are you kidding? These trade agreements were responsible for the closure of thousands of factories in the United States, which were shipped to China.  Millions of jobs were lost, creating blighted communities in the Midwest now referred to as the “rust belt.” In the meantime our favored-status trading partner China provides subsidies to state-owned businesses, controls the movement of investment capital into and out of the country, and regulates a financial sector dominated by state-owned banks and state-dictated interest rates.  And, this is considered “free trade?”  The betrayal of laborers and the middle-class, who built this nation, by their Congressional representatives for the benefit of their large corporate donors is infuriating.  Any Congressperson who votes to continue these policies should be kicked out of office and sued for malpractice.

Labor leaders, some members of Congress and other groups in the United States still worry about the loss of jobs to China and argue that the country’s currency and other strategies to boost exports continue to give it an unfair advantage. Ebbing Chinese growth has meant a slower rise in U.S. exports to the country. Coming at a time when the U.S. economy seems to be firming and imports are on the rise, that produced a record trade deficit with China of $440 billion last year.

…investment by U.S. companies into China has slowed, while Chinese companies — looking for technology, growth and other opportunities that have become harder to find at home — are increasingly going overseas, sometimes with controversial results.  The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled on Wednesday to hold a public hearing about the proposed takeover of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, by a Chinese company trying to lock in supply for an increasingly meat-hungry nation and gain access to U.S. technology.

Changes in U.S. monetary policy and the potential for rising interest rates may divert even more capital from China, said Cornell University economist and China expert Eswar S. Prasad. The dropping cost structure for energy in the United States, meanwhile, coupled with the steady rise in China’s labor bill, has the potential to further change international investment patterns. China, Prasad said, will likely press U.S. officials for a better understanding of those trends.

Overall, U.S. officials say they expect the economic pressures being felt inside China to push the country toward some of the decisions that the United States and other Chinese trading partners have long advocated: cutting subsidies to state-owned businesses, allowing freer movement of investment capital into and out of the country, and deregulating a financial sector dominated by state-owned banks and state-dictated interest rates.

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The Truth About Organic Foods from China

The information provided by Dr. Josh Axe in his post  The Truth About Organic Foods from China is disturbing but not surprising.  There has been one scandal after another regarding the substandard quality of products imported from China.  Why should organic foods be any different? As long as shoddy standards, little regulation and rampant corruption exist, these scandals will continue.  I’ve posted Dr. Axe’s entire article and links to his sources:

There are articles all over the Internet right now about “fake organic” food from China. Wanting to keep you informed, I read through many of them. The problem was, they all seemed to quote other sources and reading on, I found that these sources quoted other sources and so on. There didn’t seem to be any credible first-hand sources for this information. Was this all just rumor run rampant, as Whole Foods claims?

Whole Foods has been accused of selling these “fake organic” foods from China but they claim that “any product sold as organic in the US, regardless of where it’s grown, must be certified to the USDA’s National Organic Program standard by a USDA-accredited certifier.”

Well, I wanted to know more about this USDA certification of imported organics. It took quite a bit of digging but what I eventually found was more disturbing than any of those copycat articles.

I found frightening information about all food from China, frightening lack of regulation concerning organic food from China, and, worst of all, shocking information about our National Organic Program (NOP).

Before I go on, I want to reassure you about your options. You don’t have to break the bank buying all of your foods organic. Read which foods are commonly pesticide-ridden and those that usually aren’t in How to Buy Organic. I’ll tell you about the “beyond organic” movement that has arisen in response to NOP problems. Check out this source here to learn more, What is Beyond Organic? Continue reading

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And you thought it was bad here

From Ally Bruschi’s article in The Daily Mail:

Endless food scandals throughout the past few years have Chinese consumers growing suspicious and weary of their grocery store produce —enough so for more well-off families to begin seeking organic alternatives to their traditional foods.

For example, Catherine Ho Wai-man and her family have stopped buying produce from neighborhood markets after Ho found “a suspicious white substance leaching out from the greens she had bought at a stall.”

As an alternative, the family has started growing their own greens in the backyard of their home, located in a northern Beijing suburb. In the winter, the family shops for organic produce at high-end supermarkets, willing to accept the higher costs in exchange for ensured food safety.

Many urban residents in Beijing, however, live in tiny apartments and lack the garden space and economic resources to adopt the Ho family’s solution. While the government struggles to live up to its pledge to protect its people from hazardous foods, many city-dwellers have taken extra precautions with washing, peeling, and boiling their produce before consuming or cooking it.

Some city residents have found solutions in eco-farms, which produce organic foods that can be delivered to your home for around $20 per week. The eco-farms aim to bridge the trust gap between consumers who fear for their personal health and safety and producers who need to sell their food.

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Telecoupling – A Holistic Understanding of Sustainability

Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability highlights a recent study by  led by Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability:

In the new issue of Ecology and Society, Liu, director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS), and his colleagues lay the groundwork to understand how an action on one side of the world has enormous socioeconomic and environmental consequences thousands of miles away – and how it doesn’t stop there. Telecoupling shows how environmental and socioeconomic actions lead to reactions and feedbacks – and then to more repercussions that reverberate globally.

The study posits that, “Sustainability can be understood better when different types of interactions are integrated across multiple coupled human and natural systems.”

The [study’s] authors use the trading of soybeans as an example of the far-reaching complexities that result.

Soybeans are a booming commodity in China – used for food, vegetable oil and animal feed. The telecoupling framework uses five components (systems, agents, flows, causes, and effects) critical to assembling the whole picture.

Systems are where humans and nature interact. Explosive growth and increasing urbanity has sent the Chinese shopping elsewhere for soybeans. Brazil has stepped up to the plate to meet the demands and has suffered environmental consequences as delicate rainforests are converted to farmland. China, on the other hand, has been converting farmlands back to forests.

The entire study can be found at Ecology and Society.