A Woman’s Right To Choose Must Apply To All Women

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/valerie-keefe/abortion-law-canada_b_1595667.html

Writer, activist, candidate, unpaid political consultant, service-sector prole, and general nuisance

Reposted with permission

It’s been 24 years since the Supreme Court decided in Regina v. Morgentaler that governments had no right to interfere with the on-demand provision of reproductive health services, in this particular case, abortion.

Twenty-four years later, abortion is not just the law of the land, but firmly embedded in the political consensus. How embedded? Stephen Woodworth, a backbench Conservative MP introduced motion 312 into the commons in April. The motion would direct the government to select an all-party committee to discuss whether the current Canadian legal standard of whether or not life should begin at birth. The non-binding motion will be lucky to only lose 280 to 30. Stephen Harper and Gordon O’Connor have come out against it. The bill is utterly dead. But it was an excuse for people who are desperate to keep the conversation from moving forward to have yet another sandbox slapfight.

Specifically, a feminist group that calls themselves Radical Handmaids.

The Radical Handmaids are devoted to opposing this action despite the fact that there are more pressing issues, such as the large number of Canadian trans women who don’t enjoy on-demand access to the most important reproductive health procedure that they will ever need (Exogenous Endocrine Intervention). It’s far more important to Radical Handmaids that they oppose a go-nowhere bill that most Conservatives oppose then actually do the hard activism that requires saving women’s lives.

Why? Well, it couldn’t happen to have anything to do with the fact that the women being denied rights as we speak were assigned male at birth, could it? That trans women within much of the cis feminist movement are regarded as honourary women at best, our childhoods erased, our bodies essentialised as not female, and assertiveness shamed away, surely has nothing to do with this utterly weak commitment by feminists who claim to fight for a woman’s right to choose, but whose actions imply support only for a cis woman’s right to choose.

The reason is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Judy Rebick and CARAL, (the former testified in court on behalf of Vancouver Rape Relief’s position that they had the right to discriminate against incite against trans women), and much of the Canadian cis feminist movement as one can reasonably refer to en masse, have been as milquetoast on the right of trans women to access transition medicine on demand as one could imagine. Bland statements of support followed by no real action.

If Canadian cis feminists were this weak on fighting for the right to abortion on demand, a warm bath and a pint of gin would still be a leading method of inducing abortion in Canada, instead of the safe and dignified procedures available today.

It is time for cis feminists to say loudly — instead of the scattered voices of a few allies — that just as one cannot plausibly be anti-choice on abortion and a feminist, one cannot plausibly be anti-choice on transition medicine and a feminist.

It is time for estrogen (and testosterone) to be as accessible for those who can give informed consent as abortion is in Canada.

And it is time for my fellow feminists to do what they do best in the battle for equal medicine: Provide safe spaces for this to happen, to find conscientious objectors such as Henry Morgentaler and Russel Reid to the current system from within the medical community, and to challenge unjust law and unjust practice until it is, like Canada’s restriction of abortion, such a distant memory that people come out to protest someone suggesting there be a debate to roll back these rights, rather than being unable to get a forum in which to demand these rights in the first place.

It is time for a woman’s right to choose to apply to all women.

 Follow Valerie Keefe on Twitter: www.twitter.com/valeriekeefe


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No Longer At Sea: Kate Bornstein Talks Scientology

I keep hearing wonderful things about Kate’s new book.  Even though Kate sometimes infuriates the hell out of me we’ve met a couple of times and she is wonderfully witty and a genuinely terrific person have a conversation with.

If some one were to comp me a copy of her book, it would go to the top of my reading list and I would review it.  Otherwise  I’ll get around to reading it later this year when I have finished my memoir.

Even though I’m presently reading mainly fiction and avoiding the memoirs of sisters and brothers due to my own writing and the need to avoid cluttering my own thought processes with other voices.

I have a feeling there are a lot of pissed off people in Sea Org in Hollywood, where Scientology has become the monster that devoured wa wonderfully sleazy bohemian area.

This Review is from Religion Dispatches:  http://www.religiondispatches.org/books/atheologies/5988/no_longer_at_sea:_kate_bornstein_talks_scientology_|_%28a%29theologies_|_/

By Kristin Rawls
June 13, 2012

  • A Queer and Pleasant Danger
  • by Kate Bornstein
  • Beacon Press , 2012

Kate Bornstein is a trans activist and writer who first gained notoriety with the 1995 release of Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us. Now a staple in college courses, that book remains controversial for questioning the male and female gender binary.

Always forthcoming, Bornstein has nonetheless avoided writing, until now, about one period of her life: the twelve years she spent as a staff member in the Church of Scientology. Recently, I caught up with Bornstein to discuss her new memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger.

You say you wrote this book for your daughter—what do you mean by that?

My daughter, my ex-wife and my grandkids are all members of the institutionalized Church of Scientology. By canonical law, they’re not allowed to talk with me because I am “evil.”

My daughter was born into the Church of Scientology in the early 1970s. I left in 1981 when she was nine. And you know, I needed to leave. It was the end of twelve years, and I had to get the fuck out of there. I’ll be saying “fuck” here—you can change it if you have to! [That’s OK, carry on. -Eds.] Anyway, I figured, I’m 64 years old. I won’t be around much longer. If she ever wonders what happened, I want it there for her.

Continue reading at:  http://www.religiondispatches.org/books/atheologies/5988/no_longer_at_sea:_kate_bornstein_talks_scientology_|_%28a%29theologies_|_/

Transgender pioneer April Ashley given MBE

While others cite Christine Jorgensen as the sister who gave them the courage to go on and inspired them to dare live what they felt in their hearts, April Ashley was the one who provided that bit of hope and inspiration.

I was fifteen the year I read a serialized biography of her in a tabloid complete with pictures.  She was so pretty and glamorous, and lived an exciting life.

I was a transkid in a small isolated town in the mountains far from the big city and the freedom to be myself.

I clipped the articles and my parents found them.  I wound up coming out for the first time although they pretended not to hear me.

From Gay Star News:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/transgender-pioneer-april-ashley-given-mbe160612

Actress and model April Ashley was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for services to transgender equality

By Joe Morgan
16 June 2012

Actress and transgender pioneer April Ashley was given a MBE for services to equality today (16 June).

Ashley, 77, was the first British person to have gender reassignment surgery in 1960, and since has dedicated her life to transgender equality.

She was given a MBE, or Member of the British Empire, as part of the annual Queen’s Birthday Honors list.

On her website, she says: ‘In Paris, I debated with myself the decision to have a sex change. It was a hard decision. I knew I would be pioneering a dangerous operation.

‘The doctor told me there was a 50/50 chance I would not come through. However, I knew I was a woman and that I could not live in a male body. I had no choice. I flew to Casablanca and the rest, as they say, is history.’

After her tortuous 7-hour surgery, Ashley became a successful model and actress, appearing in movies like Road to Hong Kong. She was outed as transgender by The Sunday People in 1961.

Complete article at:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/transgender-pioneer-april-ashley-given-mbe160612

I Am A Woman Now

They are all women of a certain age; blue-haired ladies using canes, well-preserved sixty-year-olds walking small dogs in the park, or aging beauties meeting old beaus for a posh lunch. And they all have one thing in common: Dr. Georges Burou, who in the ’60s and ’70s operated a clinic in Casablanca where he performed groundbreaking sex-change surgeries.

In this beautifully photographed documentary, five transwomen reflect back on their lives as women, and the various paths that led them to surgery. In a mixture of interviews, home-movies, and scenes of their daily lives, we hear their stories. April, now every inch the British dowager, remembers her mother’s rejection and her early years in the navy. Corinne and Bambi reminisce about their days as showgirls at Le Carrousel in Paris and Colette talks about the difficulties of post-op dating; meanwhile, Jean recounts a life spent travelling back and forth across gender borders.

Wednesday, June 20, 1:30 PM
Castro Theatre

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Archivists as Activists

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/13356/archivists_as_activists

BY Sady Doyle
June 14, 2012

Can curation be a form of activism? And how well do New Yorkers know, or value, their city’s activist past? These are two questions raised by “Activist New York,” the first exhibition at the newly inaugurated Puffin Foundation Gallery at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit is comprised of 14 separate booths, each devoted to a separate chapter of New York’s activist history; the booths are designed to be removed and replaced over time with new ones that document different chapters of this history. The causes the exhibit explores are eclectic. There’s Stonewall, of course, and the suffrage movement and abolitionism. There’s also space devoted to the recent fight for bike lanes—a cause which, I’m sure, is a grand and noble one, but which is also probably not on anyone’s list of Things That Are Just As Important As Slavery. There’s even a display on mid-20th-century conservative activism, a gesture so big-hearted that it might even be unnecessary, were it not that the pamphlets about welfare-leeching hippies are objectively hilarious.

The exhibit uses mixed media to tell its story. Artifacts from the time are arranged in glass cases, and screens project images of historic events. Scrolls on the wall explain the significance of the time period. An exhibit on the activist theater of the 1930s, for example, contains a bust of actor and civil rights activist Canada Lee. A table for gay rights contains scrolling images of protesters, including one young man holding a sign reading “GOD IS GAY.”

This exhibit about activism and social change is designed to be active, and to change; to move and grow, both with time and with the visitor’s own participation. “It would be a terrible irony if an exhibit on activism allowed viewers to be passive,” says Museum of the City of New York’s chief curator Sarah Henry.

I attended the gallery on a quiet Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t crowded, but the people in attendance were fully absorbed, peering into touch screens and glass cases. To further engage museumgoers, the exhibit allows people to upload photos of their own activist movements, which are both projected on a wall and visible on the museum’s blog (activistnewyorktoday.mcny.org). This feedback loop allows the museum to reflect history in real time and democratically.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/13356/archivists_as_activists

Vaginas aren’t dirty, even in Michigan

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/15/vaginas-arent-dirty-even-in-michigan

A Michigan politician was banned from a debate after saying ‘vagina’ in a discussion about women’s health. Whatever next?

Naomi McAuliffe
, Friday 15 June 2012

What’s the worst thing you can call female genitalia? I’m guessing Jeremy Hunt just popped into your mind. Yet for Michigan state representatives, the most offensive thing you can say when debating the issue of abortion, is “vagina”. In a debate on a bill that would restrict abortion in a number of ways, state representative Lisa Brown finished her opposition speech with: “Finally, Mr Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.” She was subsequently banned from taking part in a debate on the school employee retirement bill.

Apparently, when discussing a medical procedure, it’s not really appropriate to use medical words. Well not about lady bits anyway. It makes me wonder what euphemisms would be acceptable. “Will the representative get his hand out of the otter’s pocket?” “Can the honourable gentleman refrain from trespassing in the lady cave?”

Delicate little flower, representative Mike Callton, reacted to Brown’s quim quip with: “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women.” Well thank you, Mike, the last thing I want is an informed political debate about my genitalia that involves the correct anatomical words.

This comes a month after a woman was thrown off an American Airlines flight for wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend: “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d fuck a senator.”

But while both statements may prove that the pro-choicers have the best jokes, what these clampdowns on legitimate freedom of speech demonstrate is that the tactic of the anti-choice movement (euphemistically called “pro-lifers”) to airbrush women’s bodies out of the debate on abortion. To be against abortion, you need to get round the uncomfortable fact that women and girls’ bodies must play host to your ideological opinions. You need to focus on the foetus and not an actual human being surrounding it.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/15/vaginas-arent-dirty-even-in-michigan

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Vagina, Vagina, Vagina

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/168429/vagina-vagina-vagina

Jessica Valenti
June 15, 2012

Yesterday, Michigan Representative Lisa Brown was banned from speaking after having the audacity to use the word “vagina” in a debate over an anti-abortion bill. Apparently, it’s not enough that Republicans have made it a political priority to roll back women’s reproductive rights—they also want to ensure that we remain silent as they do it.

Representative Mike Callton, for example, was absolutely scandalized by Brown’s comments: “What she said was offensive.… It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” (He does realize that this mixed company likely has vaginas, yes?)

I wished this latest GOP gaffe surprised me, but Republicans feeling squirmy about women’s “down-theres” while desperately trying to keep said “hoo-hoos” in check is pretty standard these days. We live in a country where it’s fine to legislate vaginas, but saying the actual word is forbidden.

Is it run of the mill misogynist disgust of female bodies? Puritanical pearl-clutching? Or simply sexist legislators who would rather not be reminded that the vaginas they’re attempting to control have pesky women with opinions attached to them?

No matter the reason, it speaks volumes about the way in which Republicans would like women to participate in policy conversations that effect their health and lives: they wish we would just shut up already. It would be so much easier if we just left the important decisions about women’s bodies up to men!

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/168429/vagina-vagina-vagina

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Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom Made History

From The Progressive:  http://progressive.org/elinor_ostrom_made_history.html

By Amitabh Pal
June 14, 2012

Elinor Ostrom, who passed away on June 12 from pancreatic cancer, made history by becoming the first and only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. Her research provided acute insights into how the world really worked. I was fortunate to interview her two years ago at Indiana University (where she taught for decades), just months after she was awarded the Nobel.

“I’ve been interested in democratic governance at the very base,” she told me. She focused on “the capabilities of people at the smaller scale: from schools and parks to fisheries and irrigation systems,” she said.

Ostrom made her name critiquing a concept in the social sciences called the “tragedy of the commons.” This concept assumes that common property will inevitably be overused and degraded in the absence of private ownership. Not necessarily so, Ostrom said. Through her study of communally owned property in places ranging from Southern California and coastal Maine to Nepal and Kenya, she demonstrated that democratically managed commons could be sustainably used and preserved.

At the same time, Ostrom was conscious of libertarians co-opting her work by arguing that it showed the lack of need for any large-scale governance.

“The important thing about large-scale is the court system,” she said. “For example, you would not have civil rights for people of black origin in the United States but for a federal court system and also the courage of Martin Luther King and others.”

Continue reading at:  http://progressive.org/elinor_ostrom_made_history.html

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Remembering Dr. Rosalie Bertell

From Beyond Nuclear:  http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2012/6/15/remembering-dr-rosalie-bertell.html

June 15, 2012

We mourn the passing of Dr. Rosalie Bertell, age 83, who died peacefully on June 14. Rosalie Bertell, scientist and Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart, was a tireless and compassionate advocate for those poisoned by chemical and radiological weapons and contamination.

Her book, “No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactice Earth” published in 1985, was the first book to reveal the dangers of low-level radiation.

Rosalie received her Ph. D. degree in Biometrics with minors in Biology and Biochemistry from the Catholic University of America, in 1966. Since that time she has worked as a biometrician and environmental epidemiologist. By choice, Dr. Bertell worked for the victims or potential victims of industrial, technological and military pollution with a particular emphasis on assisting the struggles of third world and indigenous people to preserve their Human Right to life and health. Her major concerns were with the dangers associated with economic globalization, war and the proliferation of chemical and radioactive pollutants as the result of preparation for war and the toxic products and processes developed from weapons research and production.

The International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH), of which she was Founder and Immediate Past President, opened its doors in 1984 in Toronto Canada and continues to serve as an institutional support for her work. She was also a founding member of the International Commission of Health Professionals, and the International Association of Humanitarian Medicine.

Continue reading at:  http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2012/6/15/remembering-dr-rosalie-bertell.html

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The Truth About Religion in America: The Founders Loathed Superstition and We Were Never a Christian Nation

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/155890/the_truth_about_religion_in_america%3A_the_founders_loathed_superstition_and_we_were_never_a_christian_nation/

The claim that America was founded as a Christian nation — a favorite of Right-wing Christians — is just not true.

By Kerry Walters
June 15, 2012

Once they begin  to circulate, falsehoods—like counterfeit currency—are surprisingly tenacious. It doesn’t matter that there’s no backing for them. The only thing that counts is that people believe they have backing. Then, like bad coins, they turn up again and again.

One counterfeit idea that circulates with frustrating stubbornness is the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation. It’s one of the Christian Right’s mantras and a favorite talking point for televangelists, religious bloggers, born-again authors and lobbyists, and pulpit preachers. Take, for example, the Reverend Peter Marshall. Before his death in 2010, he strove mightily (and loudly) to “restore America to its traditional moral and spiritual foundations,” as his still-active website says, by telling the truth about “America’s Christian heritage.” Or consider WallBuilders, a “national pro-family organization” founded by David Barton, whose mission is “educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country.” Called “America’s historian” by his admirers, Barton is a prolific writer of popular books that spin his Christian version of American history. And then there’s Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney and one-time professor at Liberty University School of Law. She’s another big pusher of the Christian America currency. Her 2008 polemic One Nation Under God proclaims that the Christian “foundational truths” on which the nation rests are being “eroded” by a “socialistic, secularistic, humanistic mindset” from which Christians need to take back the country.

Unlike some of the wackier positions taken by evangelicals—think Rapture—the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation has gone relatively mainstream. This is the case largely because the media-savvy Christian Right is good at getting across its message. A 2007 First Amendment Center poll revealed that 65 percent of Americans believe the founders intended the United States “to be a Christian nation”; over half of us think that this intention is actually spelled out somewhere in the Constitution. Conservative politicians sensitive to the way the wind blows are careful to echo the sentiment, or at least not to dispute it, even if they’re not particularly religious themselves. Recent GOP presidential aspirants Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry championed the claim with gusto. Even John McCain, who usually left the Bible-thumping to his Alaskan running mate, jumped on the bandwagon in his failed 2008 bid for the presidency by assuring a Beliefnet interviewer that “this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles” and that he personally would be disturbed if a non-Christian were elected to the highest office in the land.

So the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is widespread. In the currency of ideas, it’s the ubiquitous penny. But like an actual penny, it doesn’t have a lot of value. That so many people think it does is largely because they don’t stop to consider what “founded as a Christian nation” might signify. Presumably the intended meaning is something like this: Christian principles are the bedrock of both our political system and founding documents because our founders were themselves Christians. Although wordier, this reformulation is just as perplexing because it’s not clear what’s meant by the term founders. Just who are we talking about here?

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/155890/the_truth_about_religion_in_america%3A_the_founders_loathed_superstition_and_we_were_never_a_christian_nation/

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World Bank warns that euro collapse could spark global crisis

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/16/world-bank-euro-collapse-crisis

Europe ‘facing Lehmans moment’ says outgoing head Robert Zoellick as Greeks are warned over key election

, in Athens and
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 16 June 2012

The outgoing head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, will warn the G20 summit that Europe runs the risk of sparking a Lehman-style global crisis that will have dire consequences for developing nations.

As Greek voters go to the polls in elections that could determine the future of the eurozone, Zoellick told the Observer he was advising emerging nations to ready themselves for the consequences of events in the single-currency area.

The election of an anti-austerity government would spark the most serious crisis for the euro so far, following the apparent failure of a Spanish bank bailout last week. German chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday ruled out renegotiating Greece‘s bailout, saying the country must stick to its deals with international lenders. Unofficial polls suggest the conservative New Democracy party is ahead of the anti-austerity Syriza by four percentage points — though as much as 15% of the electorate remains undecided.

As all eyes focus on Athens, Zoellick said: “Europe may be able to muddle through but the risk is rising.” He added: “There could be a Lehmans moment if things are not properly handled.” The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 proved to be the trigger for the deepest slump in the global economy since the 1930s, and Zoellick said developing countries needed to “prepare for the uncertainty coming out of the eurozone and the wider financial markets”. He added: “It will be better if they can avoid piling up short-term debts that can come due in volatile periods and look to the fundamentals of future growth – infrastructure and human capital.”

Zoellick, whose five years at the bank has coincided with the financial and economic crisis, retires at the end of the month. Fearing that Europe’s sovereign debt problems could have spillover effects, he said the bank had been increasing its lending to support Bulgaria’s banking system and acting to prevent a credit crunch in south-east Europe. Steps were also being taken to protect countries in north Africa that were vulnerable to Europe’s debt crisis and trade finance facilities were being strengthened for francophone west Africa.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/16/world-bank-euro-collapse-crisis

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Climate change, food security and the G-20

From The Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy:  http://www.iatp.org/blog/201206/climate-change-food-security-and-the-g-20

by Julia Olmstead
June 15, 2012

From north to south, Mexican farmers are facing some of the most severe climate instability they’ve ever confronted. The northern states are suffering from what the Mexican government has called the worst drought the country has ever experienced; rain just won’t fall, and the crops that have been planted have dried up. In the south, they’ve had year after year of devastating floods, the result of which has been devastating topsoil loss on the uniformly hilly terrain.

Elias Ventura, a small-holder corn farmer in the state of Oaxaca, told me about the hopelessness of this situation when we sat next to each other yesterday at the seminar IATP is co-hosting this week in Mexico City, “New Paradigms and Public Policies for Agriculture and Global Food Systems,” in advance of next week’s G-20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. He said that he’s had either too much rain, or not enough, and that getting a good harvest under the unpredictable new weather extremes (that he said are the result of climate change) seemed like an impossibility. I asked him if the Mexican government provided any support when his crops failed and he gave me a resolute “No.” Not only would he be without the income that the crop would provide, but his community would have to adjust to a sharp decrease in food availability. This challenge Mexican farmers and rural communities face in the wake of climate change stands in stark contrast to the risk-management program the U.S. Senate has proposed for the 2012 Farm Bill, which would guarantee up to 90 percent of farmers’ revenue if crops fail or prices fall, but there are some similarities.

Neither government is offering farmers support to actually protect the actual crops already in the field through climate adaptation strategies—protection that would not only help protect farmers’ incomes, but also food security for everyone. In Mexico, that would probably look different than in would in the United States. Farmers like Ventura already practice certain agroecological principals—crop persity, a low dependence on fossil fuel-based inputs, etc.—but Mexico, under the guidance of neoliberal structural adjustment policies, did away almost entirely with agricultural extension programs decades ago. This means that farmers like Ventura do not have access to infrastructure improvements, such as basic irrigation systems, that could help manage water flow on the farm and make all the difference in whether a crop is lost or harvested. In the U.S., on the other hand, our agriculture policies have incentivized precisely the kind of production systems that will be most at risk from severe droughts and flooding: large tracts of monoculture corn or soy adapted to a narrow range of temperatures and precipitation.

So what does this have to do with the G-20? In a few days, leaders from 20 of the world’s largest economies will come together in Los Cabos, Mexico. Agriculture productivity—specifically, increasing food production—is supposed to be a priority, according to the Mexican government, which is currently the G-20 chair. If, in fact, this group of governments does decide to work together to make agriculture production a priority, it’s unlikely that they would be seeking to make agroecological principles the foundation of a plan to increase food security. This, however, according to the groups we are meeting with this week in Mexico City—civil society and campesino groups from around the world—is exactly what they need to do if we stand any chance of keeping small farmers on the land, addressing hunger and creating real global food security.

Continue reading at:  http://www.iatp.org/blog/201206/climate-change-food-security-and-the-g-20

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