Archive for the 'News' Category

13
Feb
12

Edible Backyard Summer Festival

The lovely Kath Irvine has invited to give seedsaving workshops at the Edible Backyard Summer Festival this February. I’ll also have the new collection of LovePlantLife Seeds available. Very excited! I’ve been to a herbal workshop at Kath’s before and can’t wait to spend two days back there in her wonderful garden with such a fantastic group of presenters.

There are no doorsales for this event so email kath@ediblebackyard.co.nz to book your place today!

 

21
Jan
12

A quick round-up: Less glyphosate, more mind-dump.

Valerian – Used by many to help with sleep. Flowering prolifically here right now, but there’s not much sleeping going on.

For 9 months I almost had the perfect baby–happy, healthy and slept like a hibernating bear! From six weeks my little darling slept through the night – 11-12 hours. And now the bear has awoken and won’t go back to sleep.

My mind is off on more tangents than a trigonometry convention. And so time to note them down here so I can be held to task later, when I finally get some sleep. I will someday sleep again, right?

In the works right now, I’m a’workin’ on:

  • NZ Food Bill – I’ve been trying to write something on this for the last two months. Every time I try, I get more confused. I’m trying to write something that illuminates rather than adds to the murky misinformation and just plain scaremongering out there now. Something will be up soon, hopefully before the bill gets passed.
  • While we talk about Bills, find out about the Natural Health Products Bill and have your say, so we don’t get into the same mess.
  • Working on posts about blood pressure, water meters, a GE primer, organic farming and seed collecting.
  • Planning a new Friday feature for the blog, which I think is pretty exciting.
  • And I’m working on a new website…actually, two. Details as they happen.
  • And I’m thinking it’s about time for a redesign for this one.
  • I’ve got a couple of seedsaving workshops coming up. Look out for Edible Backyard’s Summer Festival and the Sustainable Home & Garden Show.
  • I’ve kept it simple this year and I’m only growing several types of lettuce, herbs, flowers and beans for seed at the moment.
  • I’m updating the seeds and info that you can buy online. And thank you to the dear people who are buying my seeds on Trade Me. You’re keeping me in raspberry slice and I am eternally grateful.
  • My garden beds need to be rescued from a forest of lemon balm.
  • I’m building a more organised area for raising seeds at home so I can do more seedlings and better germination testing.
  • Zinnias – I have a wee obsession forming. Think my old potato bed is about to get a makeover.

All of this unfolds around an upwardly mobile baby menace and a hungry, hungry husband. So stuff is happening but sometimes the pace is a bit glacial. Stay tuned for more exciting botanical adventures.

07
Jan
12

NZ Food Bill Madness

Please repeat after me: the NZ Food Bill does not make gardening illegal and it won’t be rushed in over xmas holidays. (Politicians have long summer holidays – not back until Feb 7)

Nice to have everyone talking about food policy though!

More on this later….

03
Jan
12

Bring the noise: Summer is definitely here

To me, the arrival of summer is a real three stage process. There are three very clear, progressive signs that we are here. The first being the glorious arrival of flowering pohutukawa. The second, the brief sightings of my pasty-white legs. The third and final ‘yeah it’s actually really summer now’ signal–the raucous behaviour of thousands of cicadas wanting to get laid. This male cicada photographed today on my clothes line deafening the neighbourhood.

12
Dec
11

Being fair to Fonterra

Previously, I have noted with disdain, some of the activities of Fonterra that I have not found favourable. Because my Mama raised me right I thought I should give praise where praise is due.

It has been announced that it will be mandatory to fence all waterways on Fonterra farms as condition of supply. Bloody good work! This is a fantastic step forward.

Cows trampling, polluting and eating their way through waterways and verges has caused significant damage. Water pollution, toxic algal blooms, habitat destruction – nasty realities of rural streams and waterways.

River Dog (trailer) from James Muir on Vimeo.

11
Dec
11

Hungary: My enviro-refugee destination

I may have ranted on election night the desire to find another country to live for the next couple of years. And it’s taken me awhile but I have come up with a few options should I wish to run away. One option is Costa Rica, for reasons already discussed. Next on the list may just be Hungary. I’ve always had a soft spot for the land of paprika, but since they destroyed 1,000 acres of  Monsanto’s GMO-maize? I think I’ve got a real crush on the place. 

March 2011, all genetically modified organisms (GMO) were banned in Hungary. The March legislation required that seed must be tested for genetically modified organisms (GMO) before it goes on sale. So when in July officials tested maize in the field and found it was a Monsanto messed-with variety, officials dug the crop under before pollen could be spread.  Kick-ass!

And cherry-picking further Magyar facts to highlight Hungary as my destination choice of the week:

  • Hungary was the first country to ban DDT in 1968.
  • Hungary is ranked 6th in the world for environmental protection. (But Anna, who are the top 3 I hear you say? Well, it’s Sweden, Germany and Iceland.)
  • The country is a thermal water wonderland.
  • The Tokaj area of Hungary gave birth to the world’s first botrytised wines, which I’m awfully partial to. And the region itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Imre Makovecz – Extraordinary man, whose wooden, organic architecture I fell for many years ago.
  • Budapest is amazingly gorgeous and has such a brilliant examples of Art Nouveau.

26
Nov
11

Smelling the roses

I spent Election Day smelling the roses, literally. As there has been so much manure on the campaign trail, I thought it only fitting. I’m now as sunburnt as a Raspberry Ice floribunda. But I don’t think it’s that making me feel ill.


I’ve been staying up late surrounded by Whittaker’s chocolate wrappers, with a mad twitchy left eye thing going on. It’s the look of furrowed concentration that is the most alarming as it will probably cost me more than supermarket shelf moisturiser to repair the lines. I got this idea ya’see. And clearly because I don’t have enough to do…..I’m launching a new project. Yes, another one. So I’ve been out shooting it up, preparing prettiness for you. Prepare for prettiness people!

23
Nov
11

Becoming New Fonterraland: GE, TPPA and BS


Holstein Freisian dairy cow – there’s 4.4 million of them in New Zealand. Image from Wikipedia. This is not a diatribe against cows, as previously stated I really do like the beasties.

So news is out that National seek to allow the introduction of genetically engineered organisms into New Zealand. You know New Zealand–that previous bastion of 100% Pure; that primary exporting country that has so, so much to loose from lax biosecurity, resource-depletion, dirty dairying, environmental degradation and/or GE-contamination? Are we still a nation or are we quickly becoming a corporation? Should we be renaming ourselves New Fonterraland?

Government ministeries don’t do things with huge policy implications off their own backs. Especially during a period of public service restructure and redundancy. But Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, apparently had no idea that his Ministry was compiling a study into how much money can be made by changing genetic engineering laws. The reason anyone found out about it? MfE put out to tender the study that looks at promoting greater use of novel organisms  in the open environment.

“They are working against a brand strategy for ethical applications of new organisms in containment. They have forgotten gorse, and possums, and the refusal by the Insurance industry to cover GM organisms,” says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

So why is NZ’s GE-free status at risk? Well, lobbying from two major power players–Fonterra and the US-backed biotech industry.

Fonterra: Dairying with GE–dropping quality, going for quantity

Fonterra wants GE pastures. This year it dropped it’s support for organic dairy production by 50% at a time when organic markets continue to rise. Organic dairy exports from New Zealand grew 400% between 2005-2009. Organic product sales in the USA grew 7.7% compared with total food sales increase of less than 1% in 2010. So why drop support for a ever-growing value-driven niche? Because organic production has been identified as the main obstacle to introducing GE grasses and crops into NZ.

But in this report, GE lobbyists “fail to mention the significant GE contamination of non-GE farms, the loss of markets, the massive increase in herbicide use, the new resistant weeds and disease problems, higher seed and production costs, loss of biodiversity, or the human and animal health problems associated with genetic engineering (GE),” says Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Fonterra are ready to overlook all of this hoping to see 20% higher production over the next couple of years. Fonterra apparently is only interested in returning higher profits to investors, shafting the rest of the country in the process. They’ve managed to do it with milk prices, now they’re stepping it up a notch.

Biotech businesses want more billions

The US biotech industry isn’t happy with it’s $50.7 billion a year revenue. It wants to weaken GE laws as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) allowing companies like Monsanto to sell it’s genetically modified organisms to a farming nation.

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement should have been the main political issue this election. Loss of sovereignty and backroom deals by National for the TPPA will complete the introduction of GE crops into NZ . To have Pharmac, tobacco regulation, intellectual property, pro-corporate regulatory biases, finance, foreign investment, mining, water rights and GE straight-jacketed by a mega-treaty done in secret (All documents except the final text will be kept secret for four years after the agreement comes into force), is an astounding affront to New Zealand as a nation.  And why is the government pursuing it? What does New Zealand hope to gain from this? Helping Fonterra gain access to the lucrative US market. Feel sick yet?

New Zealand: Value-driven?

Our point of difference as a nation, our brand, our selling point, how we can add-value to New Zealand products–is being sold out to open up room for the big boys of the industry to rape and pillage? Our world-renowned environment, our precious birds, our native flora, our health and welfare all put at risk by organisms that aren’t fully understood.  There is no going back. Once they are here they are here

Threats of future enviro-degradation, monopolisation and health concerns from novel organisms don’t seem to scare most people.The incredible lack of knowledge and apathy on these issues is because people live more in the day to day, the future can be worried about in the future, we’ve still got to get through today. But New Zealand consumers are going to have to very quickly face up to decisions about eating GE. Feeding GE grass to cows that we then eat and get dairy products from (and NZers eat a lot of beef and dairy), is a very close relationship with novel GE organisms. Do we trust our scientists and the corporations that fund them enough to bypass all evolutionary safeguards, test all possible permutations and be concerned enough about the consequences to let those organisms loose into our environment and our bodies?

And no we don’t know the full ramifications of GE in our food supply–it simply hasn’t been around long enough. We’re only just finding out that plants you eat can affect the regulation of some of your genes through the effects of plant-derived miRNAs.

Vote this Saturday

It seems almost certain that National will returned to power this election. But please consider voting for the Greens–the only party willing to stand up on this issue. With clear environmental, child poverty and economic policies, the Green Party are important players in New Zealand politics. Hopefully a strong Green presence in parliament will mean that these issues are addressed and don’t turn into policy pushed through under urgency.

References

‘Super-grass’ aims to boost milk production (02 Mar 2010)

BioTechnology Learning Hub: Amazing Ryegrass

GM grass may not be so green (18 Jun 2011)

Something smells bad (15 Jun 2011)

Warning on GM laws from the NZ Sustainability Council (10 Nov 2011)

GE law probe a big surprise (20 Nov 2011)

GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment

Soil & Health / Organic NZ

Trans Pacific Partnership Watch

New Zealand Green Party

10
Nov
11

Early adopter or invasive species?

Much like kudzu, LovePlantLife is everywhere, climbing all over the internet, invading your social media space.

A day after Google+ launched it’s +Pages, LPLL was up there staking it’s claim in the latest ‘social’ real estate. Quick, aye? Finger on the pulse. Actually it was completely accidental, but thanks Paul Callaghan for keeping me in touch with the world.

Due to too little time and a magpie tendency with plant info, I’ll be sending out little dispatches from my Google+ and Twitter. All being fortuitous, I shall do a wee wrap up of the goodies here each week.

Image credit: Emiliana at sxc.hu

02
Nov
11

Biosecurity and the RWC: How much will that cup really cost us?

What happens when you drop the border protection standards for a primary exporting country, just so rugby fans can get into the country quicker? ? ? ?

Industry group Horticulture New Zealand is right to be concerned by a drop in NZ’s border control for the Rugby World Cup. They claim more than 270,000 passengers have walked straight through our international airports without having bags x-rayed.

“If we are simply doing this to save 15 minutes for rugby fans, then I really hope they’ve got this right. Because the risk is enormous – $800 million alone, just in the Bay of Plenty, not to mention upwards of 5000 jobs lost. All it takes is one Queensland Fruit Fly, found in one monitoring trap, on one orchard. International markets will close to us, for at least a year, if not longer,” said HortNZ president Andrew Fenton.

Just when you thought that $1.2billion was more than enough for New Zealand to spend on the Rugby World Cup.

Tiny insects couldn’t really cause that much damage, right?

This comes on the back of a new report from industry group Potatoes NZ. The nation’s chip supply, is at the mercy of a tiny potato/tomato psyllid Bactericera cockerelli. The pest has cost the potato industry over $100million in the last 3 seasons alone. One of the resulting diseases of infestation is liberibacter that causes zebra chips. I prefer ghost chips myself.




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