GroundTruth Blog

Paul Towers's blog

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They’re in our garden plants, sprayed on orchards throughout the state, and used as seed coatings on commodity crops in California and across the country. After five years of review, California officials have not only failed to complete an evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), they continue to allow more and more of these bee-harming chemicals into the market.

Fed up with the years of hand-sitting, PAN and our partners brought the state and pesticide manufacturers to court today.

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Bee-harming pesticides in our lavender and daisies? In the same week that an international body of scientists released a comprehensive global assessment of the harms of pesticides to bees, a new report shows that these very same pesticides are found in many of our backyard plants — at levels of concern — that are meant to support pollinators.

The report shows that 51% of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers (Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart) in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides — a key driver of declining bee populations. Concerning levels of the pesticides were found in places like California’s San Francisco Bay Area and in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. In some cases, multiple neonics were found in the same plant, in the leaves, stalks or flowers.

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Two. That’s the number of votes a bill to label genetically engineered (GE) foods recently fell short of in the California Senate. And not for lack of trying, or lack of public support. A powerful coalition of moms, farmers, businesses and public interest groups joined together to push the bill forward; they filled the Capitol halls, offices and phone lines of State Senators for days leading up to the vote.

After several attempts to bring SB 1381 to a vote on the Senate floor, including convincing several Senators to abstain from voting, it narrowly failed to pass. Still, the movement to label GE food in California and beyond shows no sign of slowing or backing down.

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Whew, three islands in four days. I recently returned from a whirlwind speaking tour in Hawai'i with Dr. Tyrone Hayes covering issues of pesticides, corporate control in agriculture and genetically engineered (GE) seeds.

Addressing the topic in high school auditoriums and community health clinics, it’s increasingly clear that people across the state want to build a food system that feeds them, protects community health and fragile ecosystems, and offers fair employment — including pushing back against corporate takeover of the islands' farming land. And they're making real headway.

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Last week, Swiss-based pesticide corporation Syngenta dumped tens of thousands of dollars into a county election in Southern Oregon. Sound familiar? It should. Still reeling from their recent defeat in Kaua'i, Syngenta and the rest of the "Big 6" don’t want to lose any more fights around pesticides and GMOs.

But Oregononians are holding their ground. Led by a group of farmers dubbed Our Family Farms Coalition, these residents put an initiative on the ballot that would restrict the planting of genetically engineered crops. The vote will be on May 20.