New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Justice Begins with Seeds

August 15, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Reclaiming a Free, Fair, and Democratic Food System

by Devon G. Peña

I was recently at an international gathering in Seattle comprised of a diverse network of farmers, farm workers, union and community organizers, seed savers, plant breeders, consumer right-to-know activists, research scholars, students, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and elected officials. What we all shared in common is a thirst for justice and an understanding that “Justice Begins with Seeds,” which was the theme of the meeting organized by the California-based Biosafety Alliance.

The theme of the conference reflects part of a global social movement response to the enclosure of the biological heritage of humanity by the biotechnology industry — the “Gene Giants” like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta — which seeks to privatize ownership of seeds and make all living things patentable. (more…)

A Unique Struggle

August 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Politics

Farmworkers in Washington State Mobilize for Dignity, Rights

by Devon G. Peña

Burlington is not a very old city center and got its start in 1902 as a logging camp. Today the small town of 8,380, located in the  Skagit River watershed north of Seattle, does count with a prosperous fruit and vegetable agricultural industry. Of course, the industry relies on mostly migrant families for farm labor. This is especially the case during harvest work and strawberry crops present an opportunity for workers to seize the current condition of ‘labor scarcity’ and high demand for skilled pickers during harvest time to organize for their workplace rights. And that is exactly what has happened in the State of Washington, and not in the Yakima or Wenatchee valleys but on the western side of the Cascades where peri-urban farming is increasingly big business. (more…)

No Patents on Life

June 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Supreme Court Ruling Could Change Debate Over Transgenic Crops

by Devon G. Peña

In a historic 9-0 ruling on June 13th, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) rejected the patent claims of a private corporation, Myriad Genetics, which claimed that it held ownership of a gene that is associated with breast cancer. Use this link for the full text of the ruling: Association for Molecular Pathology, et al v. Myriad Genetics, et al.

The rare unanimous opinion was actually written by Justice Clarence Thomas who firmly rejected Myriad’s assertion that the DNA it isolated from the human body for its tests were patentable. Explaining the ruling for the court, Justice Thomas wrote: “We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.” Myriad Genetics patented the genes sequence in question — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — in 1995.

Myriad, which is now based in Salt Lake City, Utah, had patented the gene based on research conducted by Nary Clair King, at the time a professor at University of California-Berkeley and now a University of Washington Professor of Genome Sciences. (more…)

Indigenuity

June 05, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Family, Pancho McFarland

Sustainability and Community Autonomy in Urban Gardens

by Pancho McFarland

In the September 2012 issue of Z Magazine, Robert Hunziker reports that a climate change-induced food crisis in the Middle East was the central cause of the Arab Spring of 2011.  In Syria, the drought of 2006-2011 left 75% of farmers from the northeast and south with total crop failure. He writes that: “According to the UN, 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods totally wiped out.  One researcher notes that ‘the single factor that triggers riots around the world is food.’”  In 2007, 48 countries experienced food riots.

Meanwhile, in the US, the 12-month period between July 2011 and June 2012 was the warmest on record.  The Midwestern drought has destroyed the corn, soy and wheat markets causing prices in the US and around the globe to rise rapidly.  Hunziker concludes the article with this thought: “As certain as riots are expected in many underdeveloped countries in the world, a North American Spring is not out of the question.” (more…)

Traditional Agriculture

May 24, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Reclaiming Our Farmland from the Rural Oligarchy

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Traditional agriculture was the mother of human culture and societies. Small farmers raised food and created organized societies and Large carrot field, Coachella Valley, southern California. (Photo: Evaggelos Vallianatos)states. In ancient Greece, small farmers invented democracy and the polis. They also defended the state. Xenophon, an Athenian general, a student of Socrates, and philosopher of late fifth century BCE, praised agriculture as the mother of all the arts and sciences and civilization.(1)

However, the fall of the Greeks and the Romans and the following Dark Ages transformed agriculture more to the liking of plantation owners who worked the land with slaves. Then the nineteenth-century “industrial” revolution added mechanical power to the plantation and, thus, the industrialized version of agriculture came into being. This is a mechanical powerhouse that has been remaking modern science and society to serve the interests of large landowners and industrialists. The damage of this monstrous institution has been monumental, even threatening the survival of the Earth. (more…)

Civilizational Shift

May 09, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos, Politics

Old-Fashioned Activism to Confront the Food Monopoly

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

In the twentieth century, American agriculture abandoned its traditions of family farming. This was no small change. Like the centuries-long enclosure movement in England whereby the landlords used the law and violence to privatize the commons and throw out of the land uncounted number of peasants, American large farmers have been using the power of the state to bring about a civilization shift in rural America.

They transformed a way of life for raising food and sustaining democratic society to a massive factory industrializing both farming and food and farmers, making rural America a colony for the extraction of profit.

This tragedy left behind millions of broken family farms, contaminated water and land, and a wounded rural America.

According to the 1884 “Transactions of the California State Agricultural Society,” “there will be too few farms and these too large. A republic cannot long survive when the lands are concentrated in the hands of a few men. Any man will fight for his home, but it takes a very brave man to fight for the privilege of working for half wages.” (more…)

Just Enough

March 11, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Economy, Family, Jan Hart

Tomorrow Will Take Care of Itself…

by Jan Hart

For as long as I can remember money has been one of the most important relationships in my life.  I’m pretty sure I’ve paid as much attention to money as I have to any other relationship. I’m not proud of it. But maybe I’m getting better at putting relationships with people and my environment ahead of money.

I kind of had a fairy tale first bonding with money while I was young. I grew up in a middle class home and heard my parents talk openly about our finances and knew that we got along with money, and at times without it.  At 10 I bought my first 4H goat, Valentina, for $40. My father loaned me the money and I paid it off over the next year. He also taught me how to keep track of my income from chicken egg sales and allowance as well as my expenditures for chicken and goat food in a small brown spiral tablet. As long as I was a penny in the black it was good. (more…)