Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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30 years later, justice still delayed for Bhopal

Three legal developments in the last week — in New York, New Delhi and Bhopal — set back the quest for compensation and contamination cleanup for residents of Bhopal who were killed or injured in the 1984 pesticide plant explosion, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.

Not only were local residents harmed directly by the blast, but contamination at the accident site continues to put the surrounding community's health at risk. At the center of the past week's legal proceedings is the issue of corporate accountability for crimes against humanity, with Dow Chemical front and center.

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Neonics in the water?!

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We've known for some time that neonicotinoids — the class of systemic, bee-harming insecticides — are water soluble. They've been detected in surface water in several agriculture-heavy states. And now they're showing up in Midwestern waters.

Last month, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report finding clothianidin, one of the most widely used neonics, in 75% of Midwest streams surveyed. Other common neonics were detected too. Not good news.

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Pesticide residues: On the up & up

Last week, PAN UK released a report on pesticide residues in bread, analyzing government data over a 13-year time span. The report highlights extensive pesticide residues in some foods — including two-thirds of all bread products — and the ways in which food residue trends have shifted over time.

Pesticide residues have been in our food as long as we’ve been using pesticides. So it's not surprising (although still disturbing) that residues have significantly increased over the past decade. PAN UK’s analysis indicates that pesticide residues in bread alone have more than doubled from 28% in 2001 to 63% in 2013; and the number of samples testing positive for multiple residues have also more than doubled in the last seven years.

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Dow's "Enlist" crops: A GE double whammy

The pipeline of new genetically engineered (GE) crop technologies is full to bursting. Many of the GE seeds queued up for approval are engineered for use with hazardous herbicide mixes intended to overcome the "superweed" crisis — a direct result of widespread adoption of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready crops.

On June 30th, EPA will close the public comment period on the "new use" of the herbicide 2,4-D being proposed by Dow AgroSciences to accompany their latest GE seeds. The new products — going by the name "Enlist" — would combine 2,4-D and glyphosate, and would be used with corn and soy seeds that have been engineered to tolerate to this chemical cocktail. Please join us in urging EPA to say no.

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Minnesota leads the way: Clean, safe soaps

Minnesota became the first state in the country to ban the “anti-microbial” pesticide triclosan from antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, cosmetics, fabrics and other consumer products.

Announced this month and taking effect in 2017, this ban is great news since triclosan can cause hormone disruption in people — including interfering with thyroid gland function, sperm production in males and immune system health. And its use is unnecessary since using plain soap and water is no less effective in preventing disease. 

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Hair samples confirm children’s pesticide exposure

Last week the French group Generations Futures announced findings from a small biomonitoring study of children living and learning near agricultural fields. Eighty percent of the children tested had been exposed to agricultural pesticides in the previous three months.

Researchers took hair samples from 30 children living or attending school within a 1/10 of a mile of agricultural areas. Analysis of the samples found “traces of 53 pesticides believed to affect the hormone system of mammals, leading to cancerous tumors, birth defects, developmental disorders and learning disabilities in humans.”

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Building buzz for bees

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Pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard bees continues to grow stronger. Today in DC, PAN joined partners to hand deliver a message from more than half a million people to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Step up and prioritize protecting bees from harmful pesticides.

Even though independent studies clearly show that neonicotinoid pesticides (or "neonics") are hazardous to bees, EPA won't conclude its review of these chemicals until 2018. Meanwhile, neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. And bee populations continue to decrease at alarming rates.

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New chance for GE labels in California

The effort to label genetically engineered food is heating up in California again. Legislation recently introduced by State Senator Noreen Evans would require GE labels on any food sold in grocery stores that's been produced using genetically engineered ingredients.

A strong majority of Californians support the idea. Even though the Prop 37 labeling initiative lost, independent polls both before and after the 2012 election showed that 67% of Californians supported the idea of state-mandated GE labels. These same polls found that 21% of all Californians who voted against Prop. 37 actually support mandatory GE labeling.

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