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To be or not to be GE-free

Genetically engineered (GE) foods and seeds remain a tough sell in parts of Europe, Asia and Latin America. Restrictions emerging across the globe stem from a range of concerns, from protecting biodiversity and public health to fostering economic independence and food sovereignty.

In April, Hungary became the first country to ensure its people’s “material and mental health” by guaranteeing “an agriculture free of genetically modified organisms” in its new Fundamental Law. All told, 7 European countries have rejected one or more GE crops.

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Countering Dow's greenwashing: Join us!

This week Dow Chemical launched yet another greenwashing PR campaign. On the same day, author Anna Lappé — who's critical contribution to Dow's "virtual conference" on the future of water had been rejected — launched a people's online discussion of how to create a sustainable future, inviting PAN to participate.

Our Co-Director Kathryn Gilje was delighted to contribute to Lappé's forum, with a 60-second video describing the future PAN works toward daily. Other contributors include the National Young Farmers Coalition, Corporate Accountability International, and Food and Water Watch. 

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New science: More evidence on the Parkinson's link

A combination of commonly used pesticides can triple the risk of Parkinson's disease (PD), according to a new study released last week in the European Journal of Epidemiology. People who work and/or live near fields sprayed with paraquat, maneb and ziram are more likely to suffer from the degenerative central nervous system disorder, for which there is no cure.

Researchers note that their findings provide the first strong evidence in humans that exposure to several pesticides increases risk of PD more than exposure to individual chemicals alone.

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POPs put babies & polar bears at risk

A collection of recent studies shows that exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) — including many longlasting pesticides — can slow growth rates of human embryos and shrink the genitals and weaken bones of polar bears.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, is asking health professionals around the world to do more to protect children from the health effects of POPs.

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NY gets safer schoolgrounds

There's good news for school children in New York. The Child Safe Playing Fields Act, which took effect May 17, prohibits use of pesticides on playgrounds, athletic fields and all grassy areas in K-12 schools across the state.

This law represents major progress toward preventing children’s exposure to pesticides and the resulting health harms. Science clearly shows that during critical developmental windows, exposure to pesticides can cause long-term and irreversible damage for children’s health and cognitive development.

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Farmers making a difference

Organic farmers Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin have made a life-long commitment to sustainability and social justice. And as reported in PAN's spring newsletter, they recently won confirmation of their right to farm free of pesticides in a $1 million court case.

Larry and Sandra started farming in San Mateo County, California, in 1980, producing fresh organic culinary herbs. Then in 1985 they began working with the Del Cabo community in Baja California, Mexico, to develop a source of organic fruit and vegetables during the off-season. Today, Del Cabo Cooperative is a thriving community of 400 farmers that sells organic produce across the U.S. 

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Sole DDT producer to close 1 of 3 plants

India's Hindustan Insecticide Limited (HIL) is the world's only company still producing DDT. This week, one of HIL's three factories was ordered closed by the Indian state of Kerala for that plant's failure to safely handle waste from the manufacture of endosulfan.

After issuing several warning letters like this one, Kerala's State Pollution Control Board finally issued a closure notice to the HIL plant based in the city of Eloor. 

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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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