Thursday, October 25, 2012

How we can eat our landscapes

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.


Empowering Women Farmers Is Key to Food Security

South Asian countries should focus on empowering women to be confident farmers, says an agricultural policy document released in Colombo. ”Empowered women farmers as can increase their income, develop a stable rural livelihood and contribute to ensuring food security,” said the Global Development Network (GDN) policy brief.

It was one of five documents released at a two-day workshop that brought together policy makers, agricultural researchers, experts and private sector players from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. It noted that the SanghaKrishi experiment in Kerala in which 2.5 Lakh women farm 10 million acres of land “shows that if women are supported with land ownership schemes and index-based insurance to become independent food producers, then they can play a significant role in ensuring food security”.

It quotes Pooja, a farmer who benefitted from the scheme, as saying: “Now that we work in a group, we earn at least 70,000 rupees each per harvest. We can help each other out because we know we will earn from our crops. We are able to get loans easily from a bank and a family can borrow from within the group to pay for children’s education. That family can then repay the other members without interest.”  More than 44,000 such groups now exist in Kerala.

The policy briefs are the outcome of 12 months of effort during which five country research teams from leading South Asian universities and organisations, along with the project steering committee and research assistants, reviewed extensive published and unpublished research on five vital agricultural development issues. They are part of GDN’s global research project “Supporting Policy Research to Inform Agricultural Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia” that is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The aim is to help shape North-South and South-South debates on agricultural policies. It seeks to enrich the body of knowledge related to agricultural issues. In doing so, it draws from the existing knowledge base, especially cross-country research findings,” explained George Mavrotas, project director and chief economist at GDN.

The project output includes 10 agricultural policy briefs, 10 policy research papers and 10 project documentaries. These will now be presented before the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington next month and before the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome.

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in New Delhi, with offices in Cairo and Washington, GDN supports researchers in developing and transition countries to generate and share applied social science research to advance social and economic development. It works in collaboration with 11 regional network partners as well as international donor groups and governments, research institutes, academic institutions, think tanks and 12,000 individual researchers worldwide.

Principles for responsible investment in agriculture to be developed

FAO | 22 October 2012


Rome — A two-year consultation process to develop principles for responsible investment in agriculture that respect rights, livelihoods and resources was approved by the 39th Session of the Committee on World Security (CFS), which ended on Saturday at FAO headquarters.

Consultations will be carried out at global and regional levels under the auspices of CFS, the foremost inclusive platform for everyone to agree on policies that ensure food security and nutrition for all. The intergovernmental body is open to effective and meaningful participation by UN bodies, civil society, the private sector, agricultural research institutions, financial institutions and philanthropic foundations.

The principles should be seen as complementary to the "Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security" endorsed by CFS in May this year after inclusive and participatory negotiations. They will build on existing frameworks and guidelines, and not duplicate work by others.

FAO estimates that the investments required in developing countries to support the required expansion in agricultural output to meet projected demand in 2050 amount to an average net annual investment of $83 billion. This total includes investment needs in primary agriculture and necessary downstream services such as storage and processing facilities. This represents an increase of about 50 percent a year over current levels.

The principles will address all types of investment in agricultural value chains and food systems including smallholder producers, research, extension services and technology transfer. They will include foreign and domestic, public and private small, medium and large-scale investments.

To be effective, the principles should address the concerns of both host countries and investors. Policy and regulatory frameworks need to ensure that development benefits are maximized.

Food insecurity in protracted crises

CFS also recognized the seriousness of food insecurity and malnutrition in countries in protracted or recurrent crises. A multi-stakeholder consultation process was agreed that will result in an Agenda for Action designed to ensure the food security of people affected by such crises, which are often not covered by existing emergency aid and development assistance.

A Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition

Another important achievement of the week was the adoption of the first version of a Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition (GSF). The GSF will improve cooperation, coordinate actions and support partnerships at global, regional and country levels to prevent future food crises, eliminate hunger and ensure food security and nutrition for all.

Policy recommendations on social protection and climate change

During the week, there were two policy round tables. The first on food security for social protection recommended adopting the principle that disadvantaged people are already penalized. Governments should put in place programmes to ensure the food security and nutrition of the most vulnerable is protected, including the first 1,000 days after conception.

Climate change policy recommendations included increasing public and private investment and international cooperation to enhance food security and nutrition, and developing strategies to deal with food-related climate change issues. These include weather forecasting, risk management tools and support for small holder farmers. Finally, governments should support farmers to help them increase production and mitigate problems caused by climate change.
Source: FAO

Monday, October 8, 2012


10/17 8am at the Obama campaign office 2278 Market St., SF

-    Obama promised to label GMO food during his 2008 campaign, but didn’t.
-    Obama appointed a former Monsanto LOBBYIST to be the FDA’s ‘food czar’. A LOBBYIST is deciding what’s safe for your kids to eat.
-    Obama appointed a former Monsanto exec to head the USDA.
-    Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks prove Obama’s choice for Secretary of State uses her position to push Monsanto on other countries.
-    Obama’s choice for Attorney General refuses to investigate Monsanto for violating anti-trust laws.

Herbicide and Pesticide Use Damage Humans, Environment:

Glyphosate causes moderate to severe liver damage in fish and aquatic life, since herbicide runoff can reach both groundwater and seawater:

Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA (You literally ARE what you eat!):

Widely Used Herbicide Commonly Found in Rain and Streams in the Mississippi River Basin:

Patenting Staple Foods (Bremer’s Order 81) Is Ruinous to Iraq’s Agriculture:

“There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.” – American Academy of Environmental Medicine

Glyphosate use on genetically modified crops spawns new soil pathogen that is a “serious threat to the environment, livestock, and human health” - Don Huber, Emeritus Professor at Purdue University and senior scientist on USDA's National Plant Disease Recovery System, plant physiologist and pathologist for over 40 years.

 RSVP: Occupy The GMO Candidate SF!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Delicious, hard-to-find fresh, Andean herb available!

Huacatay: Pronounced 'wah-kah-tie', it is sometimes called Peruvian black mint. This herb is central to much Andean cooking and is the Peruvian cousin of the marigold, a version of tagates minuta. Huacatay  has very aromatic leaves which are ground into a paste (usually with a mortar and pestle) that adds flavor and depth to many Peruvian Andean dishes.

Tagetes minuta is used as a culinary herb in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Chile and Bolivia, where it is called by the quechua term huacatay. It is commonly sold in Latin grocery stores in a bottled, paste format as black mint paste

Delicious FRESH Aj√≠ de Huacatay can be made in minutes and it keeps for quite some time. Try to make it in advance of using it as the flavor improves with time. Put in squirt bottles or simply put in bowls as a dipping sauce. As a condiment, it is at home along-side Pollo a la Brasa as it is Beef, Pork, and Fish.  

A little goes a long way. Most huacatay sauce & pesto recipes use about a half cup to a cup of chopped leaves.  It can be dried, used as a medicinal tea, steam distilled for essential oil, and made into a spray for organic gardening pest control, which is what I’m mostly growing it for. 

The New World peoples have been using Tagetes minuta as a flavorful beverage, a medicinal tea, and a condiment since pre-contact times (Rees 1817). The local names vary by region, most commonly found in the literature as; chinchilla, chiquilla, chilca, zuico, suico, or the Spanish term anisillo.

A beverage is prepared from Tagetes minuta by steeping a "half-handful" of the dried plant in hot water for 3 to 5 min. The beverage may be consumed warm or cooled, and may be sweetened to individual taste (Neher 1968).

For medicinal use, a decoction made by steeping a "double handful" of the dried plant in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes is used as a remedy for the common cold; including upper and lower respiratory tract inflammations, and for digestive system complaints; stomach upset, diarrhea, and "liver" ailments. The decoction is consumed warm, and may be sweetened to individual taste (Neher 1968; Parodi 1959; Cavanilles 1802).

Tagetes minuta is used as a condiment in Chile and Argentina. It is popular in rice dishes and as a flavoring in stews. In northern Chile suico is so highly prized that many people actively collect wild populations to dry a sufficient supply to last the winter (Kennedy pers. commun.).

Tagetes minuta is often referred to as a weed. Cabrera (1971) states that ".... Spegazzini mentions that this plant is a common weed of cultivation in the lower Rio Negro Valley...." Spegazzini and Cabrera appear to not understand the native outlook on "weeds." The farmers view the "weeds" as a second crop. Many of the Latin American farmers who do not practice industrialized agriculture will leave volunteer plants of Tagetes minuta in their fields. This second crop is beneficial in several ways: first, rapid growth of T. minuta quickly shades out other plant species that may be of less use to the farmer, second, it can be harvested for personal use, or for sale in city markets, and third, has been reported to aid in the retention of humidity in the field (Jimenez-Osornio 1991).

Tagetes minuta is commercially grown and harvested for its essential oils which are used in the flavor and perfume industry as "Tagetes Oil." The oil is used in perfumes, and as a flavor component in most major food products, including cola beverages, alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, puddings, condiments, and relishes (Leung 1980). Brazil is one major producer of T. minuta for Tagetes Oil (Craveiro et al. 1988). Worldwide production of the oil was around 1.5 tonnes in 1984 (Lawrence 1985). 


Tagetes minuta is rich in many secondary compounds, including acyclic, monocyclic and bicyclic monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, thiophenes, and aromatics (Rodriguez and Mabry 1977). There is evidence that the secondary compounds in Tagetes are effective deterrents of numerous organisms, including: fungi (Chan et al. 1975), fungi pathenogenic on humans (Camm et al. 1975), bacteria (Grover and Rao 1978), round worms in general (Loewe 1974), trematodes (Graham et al. 1980), nematodes (Grainge and Ahmed 1988), and numerous insect pests through several different mechanisms (Jacobsen 1990; Saxena and Koul 1982; Maradufu et al. 1978; Saxena and Srivastava 1973). Many closely related plant secondary compounds have demonstrated medicinal value in humans (Kennewell 1990; Korolkovas and Burckhalter 1976) In vivo human studies of the secondary compounds of T. minuta have not been reported, although other Tagetes species have proven medically safe and efficacious (Caceres et al. 1987).

Hethelyi et al. (1986), determined anti-microbial activity of five secondary compounds in Tagetes minuta; beta-ocimene, dihydrotagetone, tagetone, (Z)-ocimenone, and (E)-ocimenone. When tested on 40 strains of bacteria and fungi, the essential oil of T. minuta had a 100% inhibitory effect on Gram-positive bacteria, a 95% inhibitory effect on Gram-negative bacteria, and a 100% inhibitory effect on fungi.

Hudson (1990) tested the many different secondary compounds for anti-viral activity, and determined that thiophenes demonstrated the greatest anti-viral action at the lowest doses, and with the least toxicity overall. Of the thiophenes, molecules with two or more thiophene units showed the highest activity. In all cases, the best success was against viruses with envelopes. Hudson tested 32 thiophenes, evaluated their efficacy and determined the 10 most effective ones. Atkinson et al. (1964) first reported the thiophenes found in Tagetes minuta. A comparison of Atkinson's results to those of Hudson, shows that 7 of the 10 most effective anti-viral thiophenes are found in Tagetes minuta.

The work of Hethelyi et al. (1986) and that of Hudson (1990) indicate that the use of Tagetes minuta as a medicinal beverage by indigenous people may have a valid biological basis, although in vivo work has not been published. Further work is warranted, and could be used to aid in the marketing of herbal products of Tagetes minuta

Chandhoke and Ghatak (1969), working with experimental animals, determined that the oil of Tagetes minuta has hypotensive, bronchodilatory, spazmolytic, anti-inflammatory, and tranquilizing properties. These actions are in accordance with the reported folk use of the beverage as a medical decoction. Given that generations of South Americans have used T. minuta as a beverage and condiment, it seems that use in moderation causes no ill effects; however additional toxicology studies would be necessary prior to marketing the plant as a beverage. 
Interesting additional info:

Huacatay for pest & fungal control in the garden: A product for killing subsurface and surface soil pathogens including nematodes, wire worms, cut worms, worms, insects, fungi and plant and soil surface pests comprises an extract derived from the plant Tagetes minuta.
Antiviral activity of root extracts from Tagetes minuta against Herpes simplex virus:

Antiviral composition for the treatment of plant viruses comprising an effective amount of Tagetes minuta oil:

Isolation of the insecticidal components of Tagetes minuta (Compositae) against mosquito larvae and adults:

Tagetes minuta: A Potential New Herb from South America by Jacqueline A. Soule: