Secret trade deals

The campaigning group GMO Inside isn’t only about genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered) food. It’s also about the secret trade deals which, says Shireen at GMO Inside, threaten the food on our plates. From the United States Shireen looks West to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and East to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These are the two huge trade deals that I told you about last July. Back then, I understood less than I understand now.

You can scroll down Shireen’s article to watch a film which explains ‘the complex issue of trade’ so that it doesn’t seem quite so complex. Or watch it here: Free Trade vs Fair Trade.

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Trade across the Pond

The World Development Movement (WDM) wants poverty to end. ‘WDM campaigns against the root causes of poverty and inequality. We are a democratically-governed movement made up of local campaign groups based in towns and cities around the UK. Our staff in London and Edinburgh co-ordinate hard-hitting campaigns that challenge the powerful and seek to bring about economic justice for the world’s poor majority.’

I don’t know these people very well yet but right now, I’m glad of their campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States. WDM isn’t very impressed by the official European view of the TTIP which says that we’ll gain jobs and economic growth.

In an open letter to our UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, WDM says that the TTIP isn’t really about jobs and growth. According to this point of view, the TTIP is about giving power to huge corporations.

WDM tells us more about why trade agreements, including the TTIP, affect all of us. ‘Trade deals affect many aspects of our lives, whether we live in the UK or in the global south. There are trade deals about food, water, shelter, energy, health, education, land, transport, communications and knowledge. 2014 is an important year for trade because new trade deals are being negotiated which would take trade into many more areas. These deals are shrouded in secrecy and the most aggressively neoliberal of any to date. For many countries in the global south, trade has the potential to support their economies in a way which will reduce poverty and inequality. But it can also expose their economies to risk and insecurity which they are unable to control. Dominance by foreign multinational corporations, where the benefits of trade do not reach the host country, is a serious problem…

‘Even trade deals between rich countries, such as the EU and USA, can have an impact on the global south. For example, the [TTIP] involves such significant economies that whatever is agreed has influence beyond the countries which negotiated the deal. It will be difficult for poorer countries to assert themselves and insist on a different model, even though they could play no part in the negotiations. TTIP is best understood as a blueprint which could set the standard for trade around the world. Furthermore, if countries outside the deal want to trade with any one of the 28 countries in the deal, they are likely to have to comply with the rules of the whole group.’

A blueprint for trade around the world, shrouded in secrecy. Feel reassured?

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The Value of Soil

argylesock:

argylesock says… This film is brilliant – easy to watch and so important.

Originally posted on thinkingcountry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=403sT9CGRl0

A clever little film from the ELD Initiative (http://eld-initiative.org/) on the value of soil and the reasons why we should be pursuing sustainable land management systems.

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Films about trade across the Pond

The biggest free trade deal in history is being negotiated now. If it goes ahead, which it probably will, this will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA).

Dry politics, perhaps, but it’s worth thinking about the TTIP because we’re all living on this Earth.

Here’s a film in which activists from both sides of the Pond explain why, in their opinions, the TTIP is dangerous. They say that the TTIP would give too much power to big corporations.

Here’s another film in which European activists take us on ‘a journey through the lobby jungle in Brussels.’

I’m grateful to bilaterals.org (‘Everything that’s not happening in the World Trade Organization’) for drawing attention to these informative, watchable films.

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Image of the Week: Varroa Parasitic Mite

argylesock:

argylesock says… Varroa mites are bad news for bees. This is the third of three articles about pollinators, from the Wellcome Trust blog, which I’m passing on today.

Originally posted on Wellcome Trust Blog:

B0009404 Varroa destructor, honey bee mite, SEM

This week’s image is of the little mite that might cause the end of food production as we know it. The varroa parasitic mite attacks the honey bee populations needed to pollinate a range of valuable crops including sunflowers, almonds and tomatoes. After attaching itself to the underside of the bee, the mite sucks the hemolymph, a substance that surrounds all the bees’s cells.

It is only possible to see this varroa mite so clearly because the image was created using a scanning electron microscope. Verroa mites are actually only 1.5mm by 1mm making them almost impossible to see on a live adult bee. In reality this mite would also be a red brown colour providing camouflage against the surface of its victim. All images created with a scanning electron microscope are originally colourless, and in this image the purple and green colouring was added later to help us see…

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Feature: Protecting the pollinators part 2 – bees and disease

argylesock:

argylesock says… Here’s the second of three articles about pollinators, from the Wellcome Trust blog, which I’m passing on today.

Originally posted on Wellcome Trust Blog:

False-coloured scanning electron micrograph of a honeybee. Credit: David McCarthy and Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images.

False-coloured scanning electron micrograph of a honeybee. Credit: David McCarthy and Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images.

Insect pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees and hoverflies, are in decline. The £10 million Insect Pollinators Initiative aims to find out why. In the second of two articles, Chrissie Giles looks at four of the projects funded through the initiative to find out what the researchers are planning.

For years, a pathogen called deformed wing virus existed in honeybees in the UK. It caused no visible symptoms and appeared to have little effect on the health of the infected bees. This all changed when the Varroa destructor mite invaded the UK in 1992. The levels of deformed wing virus in bees exploded, leading to catastrophic consequences for hives all over the country.

The Varroa mite that transmits deformed wing virus can have a devastating effect on honeybees, but it and this virus are by no means the only threat to these insects. A number of other viruses and microorganisms can…

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Feature: Protecting the pollinators part 1 – bees and ecology

argylesock:

argylesock says… We need bees and other pollinators. We really, really need them. Here’s the first of three articles about pollinators, from the Wellcome Trust blog, which I’ll pass on today.

Originally posted on Wellcome Trust Blog:

WN66 pollinators
Insect pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees and hoverflies, are in decline. The £10 million Insect Pollinators Initiative was launched to find out why. In the first of two articles, Chrissie Giles speaks to the head investigators of five of the projects.


We all know that bees make honey, but they do much more for the food we eat. Bees and other insects, including wasps and hoverflies, pollinate plants. By transferring pollen from the male parts of flowers to the female parts, they’re a vital part of the process that eventually leads to fruit, nut and seed production.

For some crops, such as melons, no pollinators means no fruit. For others, no pollinators means a lesser harvest. This widespread role of insects in food production is reflected in insect pollinators’ economic value – estimated to be around €153 billion (£130bn) globally in 2005.1

But pollinators are under threat. Research published in 2006…

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