This years keynoters

Eric Toensmeier - Regenerative and Perennial Agriculture for Climate Stabilization
Friday, August 12, 7:30 pm

Climate change is already making our planet less inhabitable, with droughts, floods, and severe weather events on the rise. Stabilizing the climate is perhaps the central challenge for humanity in the early decades of this century. Globally, a massive switch to regenerative practices, perennial crops, and regional self-reliance are essential to sequester carbon and reduce emissions. The organic farming and gardening community is already on the forefront of these efforts, but much more is required. Regenerative agriculture is a multipurpose strategy, addressing soil building, regional self-reliance and food sovereignty, perennial farming systems development, climate justice, and productive conservation. As farmers, gardeners, food system organizers, and citizens, it is time for us to reorganize agriculture to address the climate crisis.


Eric Toensmeier has spent twenty years exploring edible and useful plants of the world and their use in perennial agroecosystems. He is the author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. Both books have received multiple awards, including the American Horticultural Society Garden Book of the Year and ForeWord Magazine Home and Garden Gold Medal Book of the Year Award, Garden Writer's Association Silver Medal and American Library Association Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title.

His current project is promoting perennial farming systems, including agroforestry and perennial staple crops, as a strategy to sequester carbon while restoring degraded lands, and providing food, fuel and income, and ecosystem services. He presents on perennial food production systems to groups ranging from Mexican agronomists, Maya villagers, seed bank directors, urban farmers, and aspiring permaculture entrepreneurs. Eric is a founding Board member of the Apios Institute for Regenerative Perennial Agriculture and recently founded the Bosque Comestible project, an online Spanish-language user-generated database of useful perennials for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, with an international team.

Eric has worked for many Massachusetts farming NGOs. He started and ran the Tierra de Oportuniades urban farming project for Nuestras Raíces Inc. in Holyoke Massachusetts, served as a program specialist for the New England Small Farm Institute, and organized workshops for NOFA/Mass in the mid-nineties.

His urban homestead is a model of how to apply permaculture to a small space with poor soils, featuring over 200 useful perennial and self-seeding species on 1/10 of an acre. Eric's writings and photos can be viewed at

Ignacio Chapela - Food Sovereignty against the Financial, Climatic, and Transgenic Disruptions of Agriculture
Saturday, August 13, 7:00 pm

What is the appropriate role of human intervention in the genetic make-up of non-human species? What forces have driven the development and growth of the transgenic manipulation of life? And what are the known and the likely consequences of this intervention? Ignacio Chapela will speak about the historical development of transgenesis, an unprecedented and far-reaching intervention in Nature, and one where farmers stand as the first-and often last--line of decision for the rest of humanity and indeed for the rest of the living world.

Of immediate importance for farmers world-wide is the question of seed sovereignty, as well as the maintenance of seed diversity, both of which are threatened deeply by the emergence of patent-driven transgenic crops (or GMOs). However, there are wider implications of these interventions in the environment now that GMOs are being proposed-and in many cases already deployed-as agents for the agro-fuel (aka "biofuel") industry, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as for fisheries and many other possible applications. Out of the original Faustian dream of producing "super-crops", now we see in the offing the field release of many diverse organisms, all transgenically manipulated: algae, bacteria, fungi, insects, fish, as well as trees, grasses and non-commodity crops.


Dr. Chapela is associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley, and Senior Scientist at the Norwegian Center for Biosafety, GenØk.

Dr. Chapela trained as a microbial ecologist, specializing in fungal symbioses. He has held various research posts in the UK, Switzerland and both coasts of the US, where he developed an active research program integrating bench- and field biology with policy.

Before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, Dr. Chapela, a native of Mexico, worked in the agro- and pharma industry, academia and policy-making institutions. In addition to his work on microbial ecology he has also engaged in research on the access, ownership and stewardship of genetic resources. Dr. Chapela has been actively involved in discussions and policy-making for conservation of wildscapes and non-commodity natural resources.

Prof. Chapela was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences' Special Committee on the Environmental Impacts of Transgenic Crops.

Starting in 1996 Dr. Chapela has advised national governments and multilateral institutions on policy-making on genetic engineering and sovereignty over genetic resources. He assists indigenous organizations and NGOs in Latin America and elsewhere to meet challenges related to genetic engineering.

Prof. Chapela is actively involved in the debate on biodiversity loss, its economic and social consequences and its connections to technology policy. He joined the board of directors of the Council for Responsible Genetics (Boston) in 2003, and is also a Scientific Board member of the Sunshine Project, dedicated to bring light into the world of biowarfare/biodefence.

He conducts research and development in public approaches to the mapping of DNA sequences at real geographical scales of space and time.

Dr. Chapela founded The Mycological Facility in Oaxaca, Mexico, a facility dealing with questions of natural resources and indigenous rights, based in and run by indigenous communities in Oaxaca.

Dr. Chapela has collaborated on several films, including "The Future of Food" and is working with the director of that film, Deborah Koons Garcia, on a new film titled "The Symphony of Soil."

He made world headlines with his pioneering documentation of GMO contamination of indigenous corn varieties in Mexico (2001).

For Non-Conference Registrants

If you are not registered for the day of the conference when a keynote program is taking place, you can still attend the program by coming to the Campus Center Auditorium and paying a $15 admission fee at the door.

2012 Keynoters

2011 Keynoters

2010 Keynoters

2009 Keynoters