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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

RIP Jack

It is tempting not to say anything at all, as so many others have said it far better than I could. It would be easiest. I could avoid having to splash water on my face, all that.

But it would be a betrayal to a man that truly inspired me, that inspired so many of my friends, that made so many of us really believe in politics.

It is easy - and all too common - to throw around platitudes for public figures after their death. The funny thing is, Jack Layton was a man that I loved to talk about while he was alive. I don't think it was even a month ago that my husband and I were sitting on Captain Tightpants' bed, lamenting the latest moves of the Harper government and quite earnestly wishing and hoping that Jack would one day hold the office of the Prime Minister. We spoke then of the different face he put on politics - one of positivity, hope, and optimism. It stung, and made me smile a little, to see some of those words echoed in his final letter to Canadians.

Jack Layton was a man you felt you knew - I'm honoured to say that I've met him, and what's really cool is that isn't at all a rare thing - who wasn't trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes or make you believe in a false image of himself or of the New Democratic Party. He simply identified issues that really mattered, and did his best to go after them. He was a tremendous ally to youth, students, seniors, families, First Nations, the LGBT community, and marginalized people everywhere. And he did his work with vigor, humour, passion, and above all, positivity. Under Jack's leadership, politics didn't seem such a dirty game. He made it accessible, lively, vital, and even fun.

His final words speak clearly of the need to continue to fight the good fight. It is not a call to arms, but an open invitation - to join together in doing the right things, the best things, for the best of reasons. For love - of country, and of our fellow citizens.

Jack, you will be dearly missed.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."
- Jack Layton 1950-2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Small Victory for Organic Farmers

Precedent has now been set for organic farmers to sue biotechnology companies whose GMOs contaminate their crops...
(NaturalNews) Purveyors of conventional and genetically-modified (GM) crops -- and the pesticides and herbicides that accompany them -- are finally getting a taste of their own legal medicine. Minnesota's Star Tribune has reported that the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm surrounded by chemical-laden conventional farms can seek damages for lost crops, as well as lost profits, caused by the illegal trespassing of pesticides and herbicides on its property.

Oluf and Debra Johnson's 1,500-acre organic farm in Stearns County, Minn., has repeatedly been contaminated by nearby conventional and GMO farms since the couple started it in the 1990s. A local pesticide cooperative known as Paynesville Farmers Union (PFU), which is near the farm, has been cited at least four times for violating pesticide laws, and inadvertently causing damage to the Johnson's farm.

The first time it was realized that pesticides had drifted onto the Johnson's farm in 1998, PFU apologized, but did not agree to pay for damages. As anyone with an understanding of organic practices knows, even a small bit of contamination can result in having to plow under that season's crops, forget profits, and even lose the ability to grow organic crops in the same field for at least a couple years.

The Johnson's let the first incident slide. But after the second, third, and fourth times, they decided that enough was enough. Following the second pesticide drift in 2002, the Johnson's filed a complaint with the Minnesota Agriculture Department, which eventually ruled that PFU had illegally sprayed chemicals on windy days, which led to contamination of the Johnson's organic crops.

PFU settled with the Johnson's out of court, and the Johnson's agreed to sell their tainted products as non-organics for a lower price, and pull the fields from production for three years in order to bring them back up to organic standards. But PFU's inconsiderate spraying habits continued, with numerous additional incidents occurring in 2005, 2007, and 2008, according to the Star Tribune.

After enduring much hardship, the Johnson's finally ended up suing PFU in 2009 for negligence and trespass, only to receive denial from the district court that received the case. But after appealing, the Johnson's received favor from the Appeals Court, which ruled that particulate matter, including pesticides, herbicides, and even GM particulates, that contaminates nearby fields is, in fact, considered illegal trespass, and is subject to the same laws concerning other forms of trespass.

In a similar case, a California-based organic farm recently won a $1 million lawsuit filed against a conventional farm whose pesticides spread through fog from several miles away, and contaminated its fields. Jacobs Farm / Del Cobo's entire season's herb crop had to be discarded as a result, and the court that presided over the case acknowledged and agreed that the polluters must be held responsible.

The stunning victories of both the Johnson's and Jacob's Farm / Del Cobo against their chemical-polluting neighbors is huge, in that it represents a new set legal precedent for holding conventional, factory farming operations responsible for the damage their systems cause to other farms. And with this new precedent set, many more organic farmers, for instance, can now begin suing GMO farmers for both chemical and genetic pollution that drifts onto their farms.

Many NaturalNews readers will recall the numerous incidents involving lawsuits filed by Monsanto against non-GMO farms whose crops were inadvertently contaminated by GM material. In many of these cases, the defendants ended up becoming bankrupted by Monsanto, even though Monsanto's patented materials were the trespassers at fault.

Be sure to check out the extensive and very informative report compiled by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) entitled Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers for a complete history of Monsanto's war against traditional American agriculture.

But it appears that the tables are now turning. Instead of Monsanto winning against organic farmers, organic farmers can now achieve victory against Monsanto. In other words, farmers being infringed upon by the drifting of GM material into their fields now have a legal leg to stand on in the pursuit of justice against Monsanto and the other biotechnology giants whose frankencrops" are responsible for causing widespread contamination of the American food supply.

Genetic traits are highly transmissible, whether it be through pollen transfer or seed spread, and organic and non-GMO farmers have every right to seek damages for illegal trespassing when such transmission takes place. It is expected that many more organic farms will step up and begin seeking justice and compensation for damage caused by crop chemicals, GM materials, and other harmful invaders.

For too long, Monsanto has been getting away with suing farmers whose crops have become contaminated by Monsanto's patented genetic traits and chemical materials, and winning. Thankfully, the justice system seems to now recognize the severe error in this, and is now beginning to rightfully hold polluters and trespassers responsible. Monsanto, your days are numbered.