Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Linda Wells's blog

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What's up with the TPP?

If you're like me, you've known for awhile that the U.S. is negotiating a new trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but you haven't taken the time to figure out exactly why it matters. Hey, I don't blame us — there's a reason it's hard to understand: the corporations and governments negotiating the deal don't want our opinions slowing down their shiny new free-trade agreement.

In fact, if everything goes as planned, very few of us — not reporters, only a handful of legislators, and certainly not you and me — will get to read the deal before it is signed into law. But this past week there have been some big hiccups in that plan, making me think it is actually possible to stop this thing if we all start paying attention right now.

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Celebrating women in agriculture

This week I had the immense pleasure of attending the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture in Des Moines, Iowa. The conference was hosted by the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN), one of PAN's partners in our Midwest Drift Catching work.

With approximately 400 participants, the conference brings together women farmers, advocates and landowners from across the country to share resources and dialogue about solutions for transitioning to a more sustainable food system. It was an incredible event — three days of women sharing their deepest hopes and smartest strategies about how to improve agriculture.

Linda Wells
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All eyes on chlorpyrifos

Here in Minnesota, the state Department of Agriculture (MDA) just announced a review of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for all agricultural insecticides, but with a special focus on chlorpyrifos.

Why chlorpyrifos? Like many places around the globe, Minnesota has alarmingly high levels of chlorpyrifos in our lakes and rivers. And while chemical build-up in the environment is never a good thing, with chlorpyrifos it's especially troubling because of its well-documented harms to children's health.

Linda Wells
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GE labeling — gaining ground!

It’s amazing what can happen in a year. Just ten months ago, we watched as the ballot initiative to label genetically engineered (GE) food in California — Prop 37 — was defeated by massive spending from the "Big 6" pesticide and GE corporations. And now there is more momentum than ever for GE labeling across the country.

With bills already passed in Maine and Connecticut, a big fight gearing up in Washington State, and stores implementing their own GE labeling policies, it seems Monsanto and other opponents of labeling won't be able to hold back the tide for much longer. 

Linda Wells
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Mom on a mission

In our modern, chemical-filled world, many parents are constantly guarding their kids against exposure to pesticides and other potential health threats. Today I want to shine the light on just one of those hardworking parents: a mom named Andrea Stish.

Andrea recently moved to Rochester, Minnesota with her husband and their toddler. Since then, Andrea has been working tirelessly to protect her daughter from pesticides at city parks and in their own neighborhood. Now she's taking her case to city officials, calling for a commitment to pesticide-free parks and playgrounds to protect all the city's kids.

Linda Wells
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Whose food system? Court sides with Monsanto.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the much anticipated Monsanto v. Bowman case, addressing whether the corporation's patent protections extend past the initial sale and use of their RoundUp-Ready seeds. Unfortunately the justices landed on the side of Monsanto, reaffirming the stranglehold corporations have on seeds — and our food system.

I had hoped the Supreme Court might finally draw a line in the sand, placing a limitation on Monsanto's long string of successful legal suits against farmers. But, following the trend, the justices sided with Monsanto and upheld the $84,456 judgement against farmer Vernon Bowman.

Linda Wells
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Stacked in favor of Monsanto & Co.

Well, it's been signed. The biotech rider, or the "Monsanto Protection Act," as it has been appropriately dubbed, was signed into law last week by President Obama. What does this mean, and why is everyone so upset about it?

For me, this sneaky little earmark, which was introduced anonymously into the short-term funding bill to keep the government afloat, is just one more example of an unfair system stacked in favor of big agribusiness — and stacked against the rest of us.

Linda Wells
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Drift catching in the Midwest: Ready, set, go!

Whew! I just got off the road from a wintry, whirlwind tour of farms, churches and schools in Minnesota and Iowa. My colleague Emily Marquez and I completed our last of four Drift Catcher trainings, certifying 26 new citizen Drift Catchers.

The participants are passionate farmers and parents who are affected by pesticide drift each year and want to use PAN's monitoring technology to document that exposure. Together, we'll be working to highlight the very real problem of pesticide drift in the Midwest, and to work towards concrete ways to reduce the health and economic harms of pesticides.

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Superweeds spreading at warp speed

The near-exponential spread of herbicide-resistant "superweeds" across U.S. farmland is reminding us all that no matter how much the Big 6 pesticide corporations invest in research and development, they can't outsmart Mother Nature.

In just the past two years, the number of fields with glyphosate-resistant weeds has doubled. Farmers reported these particular superweeds on 61.2 million acres in 2012, up from 32.6 million acres in 2010. This, according to a new report by the agrichemical industry consultancy firm, Stratus.  

Linda Wells
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DuPont hires ex-police to patrol soybean farms

Seed and chemical giant DuPont just hired a fleet of ex-police officers to patrol the farmlands of North America.

The second-largest seed company used to rely on their partner/competitor Monsanto to play the industry ‘bad cop’ when it came to seed policing. But now DuPont executives have made it clear that they are not afraid to make some enemies as they protect the company's intellectual property interests in genetically engineered seeds. And they've hired an "agro-protection" company staffed by former police officers to do it.

Linda Wells

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