Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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Shaking up the White House hive

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As I spoke to a packed room at the EcoFarm Conference late last month, it was clear that many of us eagerly await the unveiling of the White House's new plan to protect bees. But if recent events are any indication, officials aren’t getting the message that pesticides are a key part of the problem. Just one day before my talk, EPA approved another bee-harming pesticide.

With this recent decision, it’s time to shake up the White House hive. No, not the beehive near the Obamas’ kitchen garden, but the politics that are blocking progress for the nation’s pollinators. It's the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health that's releasing a new plan, and they really need to get it right.

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Safer strawberries or false choices?

California officials appear poised to make a decision that would spell safer strawberry fields and spur farmer innovation away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer solutions. That is, if pesticide proponents don’t get in the way.

After months of delay and years of review, next Friday the state plans to release a new series of "mitigations" (government speak for "protections") for the difficult-to-control fumigant pesticide called chloropicrin. And after a prolonged public hearing and comment process, the adequacy of these protections — from no-spray buffer zones to public disclosure issues — will be under intense scrutiny. 

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Still in the dark on labeling

No doubt, this week has been a tough one for advocates of transparency in food and farming. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee spent Wednesday debating the merits of labeling genetically engineered food — and foreshadowing bigger congressional fights in 2015 — while the Oregon GE labeling initiative was handed a near-certain defeat by the courts.

H.R. 4432 (Pompeo), dubbed by critics as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (or DARK) Act, will likely be reintroduced early next year. And if passed, it would undermine any state or local mandates for labeling GE food — keeping U.S. consumers in the dark about the foods we eat and the way they're grown.

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Who's calling the shots?

Two weeks ago, sitting next to the current director of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and across from the former director-turned-Clorox lobbyist, I hoped for the best. We sat around a table discussing alternatives to hazardous pesticide use on homes, schools and in agriculture.

But progress on this front can often feel like an uphill battle. And as a recent Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) piece pointed out, chemical corporations and their lobbyists are all too often dominating policy conversations.

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GE labeling in Oregon & beyond


As I strolled through downtown Ashland, Oregon, last week, I was struck by how many “Yes on 92” signs and stickers I saw. There is clear, visible support from businesses and individuals for the measure to label genetically engineered (GE) foods.

And as the measure heads for a vote on November 4, industrial agriculture groups are pulling out all the stops to keep this ballot initiative from winning. Even so, there is an incredible groundswell of support for labeling GE food in Oregon and beyond. Things are looking hopeful!

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Back to court for Kaua'i

PAN and our partners are back to court to stand up for the law passed by the County of Kaua'i last year. The groups are appealing a judge’s disappointing decision last month that struck down Kauai’s landmark law to ensure some of the world’s largest pesticide and biotech corporations are more transparent about their operations.

The law was intended to lift the veil on which pesticides are being used, and where, on the island. Many of these pesticides travel on wind and water to neighboring schools, neighborhoods and farm land. Despite corporate PR efforts, it’s clear that more information about agricultural practices is essential to building a fair, green and healthy food and farming system on Kaua'i.

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Can’t stop, won’t stop our 'Right to Know'

Just yesterday, Colorado advocates got the signatures they needed to put a public initiative to label genetically engineered (GE) foods on the November ballot. Colorado's proposition 105, and its counterpart in Oregon which qualified last month (Measure 92), are the latest in efforts by a broad coalition of farmers, public interest groups and public health experts to provide consumers with straightforward information about what’s in our food and how it’s grown.

There are plenty of reasons to want that choice, and it should rest with families to make it. Labeling lifts the veil on the vast consolidation of the pesticide and seed market, highlights potential damages to the health and livelihood of family farmers and rural communities, and highlights environmental impacts.

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California stung by lawsuit to protect bees

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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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Your (not so) “bee-friendly” plants

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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.

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A narrow loss, but GE labeling is on its way

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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