GroundTruth Blog

GroundTruth: PAN's blog on pesticides, food & health

Judy Hatcher's blog
By Judy Hatcher,

The news that a prestigious panel of 17 independent experts has deemed glyphosate — the world's most popular herbicide — to be "a probable human carcinogen" prompted the usual scoffing and stalling from Monsanto and others invested in agribusiness.

But this time, there might just be enough concern and momentum to stop inundating our fields and rural communities with this problematic chemical.

Lex Horan's blog
By Lex Horan,

It’s been a rough year for McDonald’s. Everyone — from the company’s top executives to mainstream press — agrees that the fast food giant is struggling. The company’s sales have fallen for the past six quarters, and other measures of company success — traffic, income, and net revenue —  are all down as well. Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s new CEO, said it himself: “We are not on our game.”

I’m no financial analyst. But as I read the headlines day after day about McDonald’s slump, it’s clear to me that the company has a few straightforward opportunities to start reshaping its brand. In short: McDonald’s should spend less time marketing itself as a socially responsible corporate actor, and more time making real changes to do business more responsibly. And as we’ve been saying in the Toxic Taters campaign, real action to protect communities from pesticides used to grow McDonald’s potatoes is one important place to start.

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

Citrus groves account for quite a bit of chlorpyrifos use — a highly hazardous insecticide that's been banned from use in homes and on pets because of risks to children's developing brains. It also has serious impacts on farmers, farmworkers and rural communities and for years, we've been calling to restrict its use in agriculture as well.

But the pesticide industry continues to heavily promote the use of chlorpyrifos. And one of the pernicious pests it's purported to control — the Asian citrus psyllid — can indeed introduce a deadly disease, but organic citrus growers from California to Florida are successfully managing the pest in ways that avoid use of harsh poisons. No brain-harming insecticide needed.

Ben Lilliston's blog
By Ben Lilliston,

Farmers are no different from any buyer – they want to know what they’re buying, how much it costs and its expected performance. But in the brave new world of agricultural seeds, where multiple traits and technology are stacked like Microsoft’s operating system, it’s becoming more and more difficult for farmers to separate out what is really needed and discover how much each piece is costing them. In the case of neonicotinoid (neonic) seed coatings used as a pesticide, both the effectiveness and costs are somewhat of a mystery, according to a new paper published by IATP today.

As farm income is expected to drop more than 30 percent from last year, farmers are carefully examining all input costs to see where they can save. With their financial cost and actual effectiveness unclear, neonic seed coatings may be one of those places to cut costs. But the real cost of neonics likely goes well beyond the input price. A growing body of science directly implicates neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides as a contributor to the significant decline of bees and other pollinators. Neonics are applied in multiple ways in agriculture and horticulture but are most prevalent as a seed coating material for commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Based on convincing and mounting evidence, beekeepers, scientists and other individuals concerned about pollinators are working together to spur regulatory action and shifts in the marketplace to reduce the use of neonics.

In May 2015, the White House issued an interagency National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators.  The strategy focuses on efforts to restore honey bee loss, increase monarch butterfly populations and restore pollinator habitats. But the White House plan virtually ignores the on-the-ground farm economics that directly contribute to rising neonic use in seed coatings – specifically the role of a few large companies that have a stranglehold on the seed market. This concentrated market power in the seed industry has allowed a few multi-billion dollar companies like Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto to significantly limit U.S. farmers’ choices around seed coating.

In most cases the seed is coated with neonics whether wanted or not and our paper found that this lack of choice has made it difficult for farmers and their advisors to assess the actual value of these pesticides in crop production, or to understand their true financial and environmental costs. Most farmers understand the value of pollinators to plant growth and the food system and would not intentionally harm them.  However, without credible information on the risks or the freedom to choose their seed coating, farmers are left with little choice but to accept what their seed company delivers.   

The good news is that there are independent seed companies and dealers able today to provide farmers with information and choice around seed coatings. Representing a small segment of a highly consolidated industry, independent seed producers and dealers are able and willing to respond to market changes and farmer preferences associated with not only neonics, but also other areas of market interest, such as non-genetically modified organisms (GMOs), certified organic, cover and specialty crops. But a farmer’s ability to choose what kind of seed coatings they want as part of their crop management system should be the rule, not the exception, in the seed market. 

One of the most basic and necessary aspects of a free market is available and accurate information about products and their efficacy, cost and benefits. It should go without saying, then, that in a competitive marketplace, farmers should receive accurate, up-to-date information from researchers and other farmers at field days about the costs and benefits of neonics and other seed coatings related to both crop production and the environment, including pollinators. Yet, this isn’t happening with neonics or other seed coating ingredients today. We need credible, farmer-led field trials that compare different seed coatings and traits, and that information should be shared with other farmers. And those findings should be compared with the effectiveness and costs of other pest control approaches, such as integrated pest management (IPM), that have proven benefits and economic returns. Only with complete information and choice – about neonics and other crop management tools – can farmers make smart choices that allow them to produce crops and take care of pollinators and the environment.

You can read the full paper: Unknown Benefits, Hidden Costs: Neonicotinoid seed coatings, crop yields and pollinators.

- See more at: http://www.iatp.org/blog/201508/pollinators-and-the-rigged-neonic-seed-market#sthash.C8AuHc1y.dpuf

Farmers are no different from any buyer — they want to know what they’re buying, how much it costs and its expected performance. But in the brave new world of agricultural seeds, where multiple traits and technology are stacked like Microsoft’s operating system, it’s becoming more and more difficult for farmers to separate out what is really needed and discover how much each piece is costing them.

In the case of neonicotinoid (neonic) seed coatings used as a pesticide, both the effectiveness and costs are somewhat of a mystery, according to a new paper published by IATP today.

Medha Chandra's blog
By Medha Chandra,

Children around the globe are routinely exposed to pesticides — and sometimes the outcomes are drastic. It’s been over two years since school children in a village in Bihar, India fell severely ill from eating a pesticide-laden lunch, leading to the death of 22.

I’m writing to remember that tragic and avoidable incident, and to remind myself that children remain at risk — here in the U.S. and around the world — when our industrial agricultural system continues to depend on the use of highly hazardous pesticides.

Kristin Schafer's blog
By Kristin Schafer,

Years ago, at a meeting of diplomats in Geneva, a freshly expressed vial of breastmilk was passed around the room. As dozens of men in suits squirmed, my friend and colleague Sandra Steingraber explained exactly why the global chemical treaty they were negotiating mattered so very much.

That treaty passed. And around the globe, nature's best food for babies is now less compromised by chemicals. This World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, we celebrate this important progress — and note that we still have work to do.

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,



As a California resident and taxpayer, I’m more interested in protecting my state’s soil, air, water and pollinators than supporting corporate profits from agriculture.

Earlier this month, Congress started the long, complex and very political process of deciding how funds will be spent next year for "food, agriculture and rural development." In other words, exactly which parts of the Farm Bill will get our tax dollars next year.

Paul Towers's blog
By Paul Towers,

[7/23/15 Update: This morning, the House voted to pass the DARK Act 275 -150. The bill is now headed to the Senate.]

The Monsanto-backed bill to undercut GMO labeling efforts just got worse. Faced with increased push-back at state and local levels, the pesticide/biotech corporation — and its allies in Congress — are attempting to further limit choice in the food and farming system.

In this latest version of what critics have dubbed the "Denying American's Right to Know" or DARK Act, industry has snuck in a provision that would limit the authority of local government to create rules on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Linda Wells's blog
By Linda Wells,

Monsanto has really been on a roll lately — with the company's new pesticide-intensive genetically engineered (GE) crop system being approved, Obama gaining Fast Track Authority for the TPP,  and the introduction of an even scarier version of the "DARK Act" to block GE labeling.

But just when we thought Monsanto was as big and bad as it could be, the agricultural giant out-Monsanto's itself. In case you missed the news, Monsanto, the largest seed company in the world, is putting in aggressive offers to acquire Syngenta, the largest pesticide company in the world. Because global domination of just one market is never enough. 

Kristin Schafer's blog
By Kristin Schafer,

Last month's groundbreaking DDT study — linking exposure in the womb to increased risk of breast cancer — represents more than an interesting footnote in the story of this legacy pesticide.

Not only is DDT still in our environment more than 40 years after it was banned in the U.S., it also continues to be sprayed inside homes in many African countries as part of malaria control programs — a practice that could be quadrupling the risk, it turns out, of breast cancer among daughters of women exposed to the chemical during pregnancy.