Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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Monsanto’s man quits key USDA post

Looks like the Obama Administration has a second chance to get it right on food and agricultural research. Last week, the director of the relatively new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Roger Beachy, announced his resignation. Previously, Beachy had served as president of Monsanto’s de facto nonprofit research arm, the Danforth Plant Science Center.

The abrupt resignation leaves open an influential public research post — one that could this time be filled by a scientist without deep ties to corporate agribusiness, but who might instead prioritize sustainable, agroecological and organic food and farming systems.

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Students demand cancer-free strawberries

Strawberries were on the agenda at the recent Social Justice Summit hosted by Cal State Fullerton. In a lively workshop entitled Strawberry Fields Forever: Pesticides and Environmental Injustice in California, students developed strategies to roll back the controversial fumigant pesticide methyl iodide.

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Pesticides & "testicular dysgenesis" (male reproductive harm)

New tests conducted by British scientists show that widely used agricultural pesticides disrupt male hormones, and may be contributing to a suite of reproductive disorders increasingly common among men.

Reduced sperm count, infertility and abnormal genitals are among the problems some scientists have dubbed “testicular dysgenesis syndrome.” This latest study greatly strengthens the evidence that these problems may be linked to environmental contaminants.

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Brazil: more GE crops, more pesticides

Since 2008, Brazil has held the dubious distinction of spending more on pesticides than anyplace else on earth. But what has the country's farmers, public health professionals and environmental advocates even more worried is Brazil's corresponding rise in planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops, engineered to tolerate mega-doses of herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup). And these crops are driving emergence of herbicide-tolerant "superweeds".

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Three new, separate studies confirm: Common pesticides harm kids' cognition

Editor's note: This week, Environmental Health Perspectives selected this trio of studies for its 2012 "Paper of the year" award. EHP notes that the importance of the research to understanding the "alterations of cognitive function following developmental exposure to environmental chemicals." Congratulations to the study authors from all of us at PAN. We are reposting our original coverage of these studies below.

School-age children have lower IQs when their mother's are exposed to pesticides during pregnancy. This is the conclusion of 3 independent studies released today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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CA legislators to EPA: Ban methyl iodide - please!

More than 35 California legislators, including Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez, submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging policymakers to “suspend and cancel all uses of iodomethane (methyl iodide) in the United States…” on April 4, 2011.

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Bees "entomb" pesticide-laced pollen

In an apparent, and failed, attempt at self-defense, honey bees are sealing off pesticide-laced pollen.

U.S. entomologists published a study two years ago that described a newly observed phenomenon in honey bees, now known as entombed pollen: food stores sealed off by bees after being deposited in the hive. That pollen was much higher in pesticide residues than any other pollen stored in the hive, and correspondingly had no detectable bacteria or fungi. Hives with entombed pollen were more than twice as likely to collapse later in the season than hives without it.

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What'sOnMyFood? in a widget, with new data & bees!

Ready to geek out? We’ve updated our pesticide residue database, What’s On My Food?, with the latest chemical and toxicology data – including a new dimension that tracks bee-toxic pesticides. And we made a widget!

What's a widget? Fair question. It’s a snippet of computer code that allows you (or your favorite blogger) to host the What’s On My Food? search function on your website or blog. You can download it here.

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Rice means life

For the past 3 months, communities across Asia have been campaigning for Safe Rice for Life and Livelihood! — the rallying cry of this year's Collective Rice Action, organized by PAN Asia-Pacific's ongoing Save Our Rice Campaign.

This year's grassroots effort focused on raising awareness about the costs of chemically intensive rice farming across the region. Thousands of people concerned about protecting the health of farmers and their land flocked to a range of campaign events in 15 countries.

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If you haven't yet said 'no' to pesticides in soap...

Back in January, we let you know about an opportunity to add your voice to the growing public and scientific momentum to ban triclosan – a toxic, persistent chemical found in 75% of Americans – from everyday products. The EPA has extended the deadline to receive public comment on its upcoming decision until April 8.

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