Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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Bad for bees, bad for kids

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Like many, I was lucky enough to spend the holidays surrounded by family and food. So I was especially unnerved by new evidence, released just before the holidays, that bee-harming pesticides have been linked to impaired brain development and function in children.

The science showing that neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) harm bees is clear. New evidence highlighting impacts on children's health is also disturbing, especially as a father. And while other countries are stepping up to protect bees and kids from neonics, policymakers here in the U.S. are still seemingly stuck. My New Year’s resolution: This year we keep high heat on EPA and insist regulators take meaningful action on pesticides that harm bees and kids.

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Above the fold: EPA, protect bees!

Inaction? Intransigence? Negligence? Whatever the right word, we’re reminded that the U.S. is behind the curve when it comes to protecting bees. Yesterday, Europe’s restrictions on bee-harming pesticides went into effect.

Today, in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and six other major papers, PAN and over 60 food, farm, faith and investor groups are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action. Quickly.

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Kaua'i triumphs over pesticide corporations — again!

On Saturday, the small island of Kaua’i prevailed over the world’s largest pesticide and genetically engineered (GE) seed corporations.

In the face of fierce industry opposition and political drama — including a mayoral veto, secret text messages, intimidation from the State and switched votes — the people demanding better protection from pesticides prevailed. The County Council voted once to pass Bill 2491, and then — to overide the mayor's veto — they did it again. Kudos to all who made this victory possible!

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Monsanto money buys WA election

This is NOT what democracy looks like. In a replay of California’s narrowly defeated labeling initiative last fall, a handful of corporations effectively bought Washington state’s election to label genetically engineered (GE) foods.

In the face of impressive grassroots support and fundraising, pesticide and Big Food corporations spent $22 million to defeat I-522 — more than any campaign in the state’s history and the equivalent of $30 per voter. As the largest single contributor, Monsanto led the charge. Yet despite being heavily outspent, the initiative was defeated by a small margin.

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Will California save the bees?

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Last week I sat through a long hearing in the California legislature, all about bee declines. By the end, I was both excited and frustrated. As I noted in my closing comments at the hearing, California can and must take action to address the dramatic declines.

This is an important opportunity for the state to be a driver of good public policy nationally. And addressing the issue here in California will be good for our business — the benefits of bees to our agricultural economy are tremendous. While it was encouraging to see legislators taking the issue up at the hearing, it was frustrating to see the room filled with pesticide corporations and their allies trying to confuse the discussion and delay action.

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Follow Monsanto & Co’s money

10 million dollars. That’s what Monsanto and other pesticide corporations have spent so far to defeat a ballot initiative in Washington State to label genetically engineered (GE) food. In a replay of what took place in California last year, a handful of companies is trying to confuse the issue so people vote against our right to know. But the money trail — and corporate spin tactics — are very clear.

To date, more than half of the funds spent to defeat I-522 have come from pesticide and biotech corporations, with Monsanto making the largest contribution of $4.8 million. Why are these corporations so invested in defeating GE labeling initiatives? Likely because they fear losing marketshare for their GE, pesticide-resistant corn and soy.

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Seeds of hope in Kaua'i

“We are a united Kaua’i.” That’s what over 4,000 Hawaiians chanted as they marched across the Garden Island last week in the sweltering sun. The broad Pass the Bill coalition of physicians, teachers, hotel workers and farmers has continued to press for greater information around pesticide use. The issue is being hotly debated before the Kaua’i County Council, and the world’s largest pesticide-seed corporations are clearly not happy about it.

Despite repeated statements about the desire for compromise and unity, this handful of pesticide corporations and their front groups (e.g. the misleadingly named “Save Kauai Farms”) have rejected any proposals that meet community concerns. They’ve refused to provide information about the pesticides they use on the island's test fields, or to consider no-spray zones around sensitive locations like schools.

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California, don't ignore your scientists — again

In a letter submitted yesterday, scientists called out California officials for downplaying evidence of health hazards — including cancer — posed by a widely used fumigant pesticide.

Often applied to the state's strawberry fields, new rules may pave the way for even more use of chloropicrin unless policymakers follow recommendations from both state and independent scientists. This story is all too familiar.

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"Bee-friendly" plants? Think again.

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Honey bees are up against a lot these days, no thanks to a lack of action from EPA. And new data released today adds to the growing list of concerns for pollinators: home garden plants that come pre-treated with bee-harming pesticides.

In a pilot study released today by the Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth, the groups tested plants from major home garden stores across the country, and found that more than half of the samples contained pesticides at levels shown to harm or kill bees.

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Doctor's orders: Kaua'i kids need better protections

Health professionals from across Kaua’i are drawing attention to the growing use of hazardous pesticides on the Garden Island. Nurses, pediatricians and other health care practitioners testified before the Kaua’i County Council yesterday, urging leaders to adopt legislation that would better protect the island’s residents, especially children. But global pesticide corporations won’t swallow that pill so easily.

The small island has drawn increasing attention, as it has become an epicenter of operations for global pesticide corporations testing genetically engineered (GE) seeds. As I’ve noted before, the county bill would take steps to provide physicians and families with better information about the pesticides used, including a pesticide use registry.

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