A pragmatic approach | GM | Biochar | I am ecological!
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Ecological News

Newsletter of the
Ecological Agriculture Australia Association

No. 29 | November, 2015
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  • Editorial
  • A pragmatic approach
  • Genetic modification
  • Glyphosate & your health
  • Biochar
  • Ecological education
  • Mulloon Creek
  • An aboriginal story
  • I am ecological!
  • Membership
  • Join us!

Artwork of the month

Orange poppies

‘Orange poppies’
Johannes Bauer

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 "the only proven carbon sequestration technology anywhere near scale-ability or commercialization is photosynthesis

~  anon  ~

The Big History
Anthropocene Conference

Join leading Australian and international academics and researchers from the natural and social sciences to explore the most pressing issues of our time.

Where: Macquarie Theatre, Building W2.4A, Macquarie University, Sydney

When: Wednesday, 9 December - Friday, 11 December, 2015 | 9am - 6pm

A great line up of speakers and a conference with great relevance to the future of agriculture.

Click image for details

A Big History Conference | The Anthropocene


Rahamim Ecological Learning Community
Erin Earth


Two EAAA members play a significant role on the international stage 

The first is David Pocock who needs no introduction. David was a key player in the Wallaby world cup bid and was rated highly as a strong contender to be awarded the player of the series. David is a student of the Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture at CSU, Orange. Congratulations David.

CSU and the Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems course (BEAS)

The second award winner is EAAA member Dr Mary Cole of Vervale, Victoria, who has received the award of International Who’s Who Professional of the Year 2015-2016 in recognition for her exemplary leadership qualities & unwavering dedication to her profession. Dr Cole runs an Agriculture Pathology and Biological Farm Services Laboratory at Vervale. Well done Mary.

It is with great sadness that the EAAA can reveal that after nearly 15 years of producing ecologically educated agricultural graduates CSU has decided to axe the BEAS. There hasn’t been an official announcement but the EAAA understands that the announcement will be soon. It is understood the program will cease to take new students in 2016 but will maintain existing subjects until all current enrolled students graduate.
This is a sad outcome for a course that received excellent reviews from those who have studied in the program and those who have graduated and gone on to work in the industry in various capacities. At one point in its existence the BEAS was attracting more students in the distance mode than the more conventional Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management also offered through CSU Orange campus. From the EAAA’s assessment CSU’s failure to appoint a course leader three years ago, after the existing leader retired, and their reshuffling of the curriculum subjects two years ago to homogenise the program with existing agricultural science subjects at Wagga campus, led to a circumstance where the course lost its momentum. Despite this the numbers entering the course have been reasonable compared with some other courses at the School of Agriculture & Wine Sciences.
The ending of the BEAS course will mean that students wanting to enter the agricultural profession and to study it from an ecological perspective will have to do so through the new Bachelor of Agroecology which will be offered by The National Institute for the Environment at Thurgoona TAFE (near Albury) starting in 2016.
If you are concerned about CSU’s intention and would like to express an opinion please write to the Dean of Science ( and cc to the Head of School, Agriculture and Wine Sciences (
The EAAA is comprised of many students and graduates of the BEAS.
The Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture takes shape

Our third story is a story about change and hopefully one which offers hope for the ecological movement.  It concerns the formation of the Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture (AIEA). Members of the AIEA Working Party are currently developing the business structure of the organisation (to be a cooperative). This will require considerable effort over the next few weeks to create a business plan which is a necessary step in the process of being accepted as a cooperative. All going well the Institute will be created early in 2016. This will probably take the place of the EAAA.


Kerry Cochrane

Editor | EAAA President

A Pragmatic Approach to Promoting Ecological Agriculture Australia Association to Mainstream Agriculture


Editor comment: There are two main approaches to agriculture – the conventional industrial approach that depends on chemicals or the organic approach that shuns chemicals. The two methods are like chalk and cheese. There is a third option however called ecological agriculture which leans towards organics but isn’t organics. The emphasis in ecological agriculture (or agroecology) is not so much on the product produced but on the process which produces the product. The process which the ecological approach leans on relates to the role of natural ecology and social ecology in the production of food and fibre. The suggestion is that it is only in the absence of knowledge about these forms of ecology that chemical farming is able to get a foothold.

This raises the interesting question as to whether there are ways that the EAAA can gain traction with practitioners from mainstream agriculture in ways that the organic movement has been unable to do? This is a question that engaged Mudgee based former broad acre farmer Will Sutton. The following is Will Sutton’s letter which you are invited to respond to on Facebook or by sending a response to the editor (


"A Pragmatic Approach: I have been involved in broad acre agriculture for a long time and have seen and experienced all the changes, ups and downs and challenges we face as farmers. Along with many of my farming colleagues we are constantly challenging the “science” that is put before us to achieve greater profitability and financial sustainability. There are many new farming techniques that have helped us to survive ever changing natural and financial circumstances, but many of us feel we are “chasing our tails” trying to stay ahead of the game. Many would take on more regenerative forms of agriculture but there are constant pressures being put on farmers through poor commodity prices, poor seasonal conditions (climate change) and the general vagrancies of farming. When looking at more regenerative forms of agriculture farmers are looking for proof that alternative ways of farming, for example biological inputs rather than conventional inputs really work. Input costs ...  "  ... Continue reading

10 Questions about GM foods

Genetic Modification



Will Sutton raised the issue of GM and of course GM is a complex issue to get one’s head around. There is no standing in the middle with this issue -  one is either for it or agin it, although, perhaps, there are those who haven’t made up their mind as yet. If this is you then here is a short report that will help you decide!
Do GM crops increase yield, reduce pesticide use, deliver more nutritious foods or help with climate change? And what is the evidence of this?

‘10 questions about GM foods’, a new short report from the authors of ‘GMO Myths and Truths’, was published in August 2015 as a free download by the sustainability and science policy platform Earth Open Source.

Claire Robinson, co-author of the new report with genetic engineers Dr Michael Antoniou and Dr John Fagan, said:

        “At just 11 pages plus references, ’10 questions’ is designed for people who may not have the time to read ‘GMO Myths and Truths’, which extends to 330 pages. ’10 questions’ is ideal for giving to friends, family, politicians, and journalists, when a longer document is not appropriate.

“ ‘10 questions’ explores the big questions around GMOs, and presents the evidence that inevitably leads to the conclusion that there is no credible evidence for claims that GM crops increase yield, reduce pesticide use, help humanity meet the challenges of climate change, deliver more nutrition, and are safe to eat and for the environment.

“Internationally, the biggest questions about GMOs are related to their ability to ‘feed the world’ and their impact on food security. Deeply linked to issues of patenting and intellectual property rights, these questions ultimately lead to the question of who is the sovereign power in a country where the food supply is ultimately controlled by a multinational corporation.”

‘10 questions’ is based on the extensive evidence collected in ‘GMO Myths and Truths’.
Does glyphosate cause birth defects?

Glyphosate and our health

Now to Roundup and its essential ingredient glyphosate. The issue that is raising its very ugly head in the media is - Does glyphosate cause birth defects?

The answer to this question lies inside the following link:

The making of biochar and why?

The making of biochar and why?

By Sebastian Klein

In his recent book Atmosphere of Hope, Time Flannery points out that at current rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in addition to existing atmospheric GHG concentrations we are quite certain to overshoot 2°C of warming by the end of the century. This even accounts for successful attainment of current national emissions targets worldwide.

The premise of his book is that we will need a suite of innovative technologies that do not have likely side-effect impacts on other vital biological and geo-physical systems. He discusses a range of technologies, but one that stands out is the use of bioenergy.

As a wise crack at one conference stated, the only proven carbon sequestration technology anywhere near scale-ability or commercialization is photosynthesis. However, the area of reforestation required to restore carbon concentrations to levels similar to pre-industrial levels is, according to Flannery, up to 7.5 million square kilometres, the area of mainland Australia. Those trees then need to be nurtured to maturity and sustained for at least half a century. A big task - even in the more fertile corners of the planet.
Bioenergy and production of biochar is, in my view, a critical candidate for the suite of technologies required to ... continue reading
What role education?


What role should be the educational role of the Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture? Education of course is one of its goals but what shape should this take and how might it engage people and their creative nature? This is a question that you might expect from an educator but what about a sheep producer from Reid’s Flat near Cowra. Rosemary Hook reflects deeply on these issues and suggests a need for an educational approach that isn’t necessarily orthodox. 

"I am not an educator and am very aware that my thinking lacks the depth and breadth of those who are.  What I have written here may well have already been thought through by others.  Even so, I thought it useful to ask the following questions, intended to be thought provoking, to ensure robust discussion.

Do we really know what ecological agriculture is?

We have a good idea as to what ecological agriculture is not, and many ideas as to what would be better than “industrial”, “technological” or high input agriculture but given that people like Rupert Sheldrake are saying we do not yet fully understand the nature of the planet/life, can we really say what ecological agriculture is and how it should be practiced?  If not, what does this mean in relation to the aim/structure of the “education goal”?

Technicians or "aware beings"?

What sort of person/farmer is the AIEA aiming to "produce"? A person/farmer who follows a "recipe" or one who understands the concepts involved and is able to implement a farming system that is appropriate for his landscape/family/community and able to adapt the system as necessary and as his/her understanding develops? I think this is a particularly important issue in the management of land in the peri-urban landscapes.

Following are a couple of quotes that I think are apposite: ... continue reading


A Report on the recent field day at Mulloon Creek, Bungendore


By Will Sutton


I recently attended a field day at Tony Coote’s, “Mulloon Institute”. The day was essentially to investigate the results they were achieving with the repair to the riparian zone along the Mulloon Creek.
It has been a collaborative approach with about twenty land holders above and below Mulloon Creek Natural Farms, “The Old Farm” and “Duralla”, involved in the repair to the riparian area of the creek. 
The services and guidance of well known "land regenerator" Peter Andrews are being used. The project was started about eight years ago and is being monitored by both the Mullon Institute and several government bodies(??). The results are impressive, with bank erosion almost eliminated and the bed of the creek actually rising, along with permanent, steady flowing water, where as previously in flood events the high flow would erode both the bank and bed of the creek.
It’s all about slowing down the water velocity. In the water course itself “natural” barriers such as logs ... continue reading
An aboriginal story

An aboriginal story

By Kerry Cochrane

Last week I attended an excellent conference held at Charles Sturt University on the theme of Biodiversity and Dreaming. One of the speakers was Bruce Pascoe, author of Dark Emu which is about the history of aboriginal agriculture in Australia.  What Bruce demonstrated in his talk was that the various tribes of this country had quite sophisticated farming techniques and as such they can in no way be labelled as hunters and gatherers.  This newsletter will run a series of stories over the next few newsletters with excerpts from his book to demonstrate some of the techniques that historians have unearthed.

Dark Emu, p69:

Specialist nets were used for particular fish and crayfish and required skill and patience to construct. Some of the nets took experienced net makers three years to complete and were up to 270 metres long. Sturt saw a ninety-metre net across the Darling River, “of the very finest craftsmanship”. Hume also observed intricate and extensive net making on the Darling River.

Robinson remarked on the incredibly successful operation of a fish trap at Pambula, on the South Coast of NSW, as well as the whale fishery at Boydtown, just south of Eden, where Yuin people adopted the European tools and boats into a tradition of hunting whales that had been operating for hundreds perhaps thousands, of years. Ritualised interaction with killer whales encouraged the mammals to herd larger whales into the harbour where they would be driven into shallow water and harvested by the Yuin who would then share the feast not just with neighbouring clans but the killer whales themselves who would receive the tongue.


Agronomy corner



Professor Stuart Grandy from New Hampshire University shines a light on soil organic matter and organic cropping systems:
Video - Soil Organic matter accumulation

A new catchcry – I AM ECOLOGICAL which almost rhymes with I AM ORGANIC  


View the following 2 minute YouTube video and you will understand: 

I am ecological | I am organic
Journal of Spirituality, Leadership & Management. Vol 8 No. 1

Spirituality Journal Edition

The latest edition of the Journal of Spirituality Leadership & Management (SLaM) is now available. Please go to
Included is an interesting story on mindfulness.



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