Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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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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New links between Alzheimer’s & DDT

A recent study links exposure to the insecticide DDT to Alzhiemer’s disease. According to the study, even exposure to DDT decades ago may lead to a person developing the disease later in life.

DDT — a World War II-era pesticide used extensively in the U.S. until it was banned in 1972 — accumulates in people’s bodies and persists for decades. Alzeimer's joins a long list of associated health harms.

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Bad news for baby bees

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Neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) continue to gain notoriety as a driving factor in declining bee populations. But a mounting body of evidence also shows that neonics aren’t the only class of pesticides harming these critical pollinators.

A report released this week — by researchers from Penn State and the University of Florida — helps build a case that several pesticides commonly found in hives kill bee larvae.

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Final Farm Bill: A mixed bag

At long last we have a Farm Bill. And while it includes much-needed programs that will strengthen local food systems and support smart, healthy farming practices, this legislation is far from perfect.

Eleventh-hour changes — behind closed doors — stripped the bill of some important reforms that had already been agreed upon by both the House and Senate. Now, after a two-and-a-half year process that left too many farmers without a safety net along the way, the House is expected to pass a Farm Bill by noon Wednesday, then send it along to the Senate for approval.

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Farm Bill in sight?

The new year started with promises of long overdue Congressional action on the Farm Bill. Some sticking points are still being negotiated, but it now looks likely that the House and Senate versions of the bill will be reconciled in the coming weeks.

The process for passing a full, five-year Farm Bill — the law that sets our national priorities for food and farming — has been dragging on for quite some time. If the House and Senate conferees can reach agreement in the next week or two, action will quickly shift to the floor of Congress for an "up or down" vote on a final bill. In these last stages of negotiation, we continue to push hard for a law that supports healthy food and farm economies.

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No small potatoes

Minnesotans who live in potato country have been worried about pesticide drift for a long time. And the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is finally taking some steps to address the problem.

The agency is taking a closer look at the voluntary Best Management Practices they promote to potato farmers to minimize fungicide drift. And answering the call for public input, nearly 1,000 Minnesotans submitted comments last week, voicing their concerns about fungicides and the risks they post for human health, the toll they take on ecosystems, and their costs to the livelihood of small farmers.

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Time for fumigants to go

Last year, thanks to incredible public outcry, cancer-causing methyl iodide was taken off the market. But other fumigant pesticides are still in wide use on strawberry fields and beyond, and they are among the most toxic and difficult-to-control agricultural chemicals.

Recognizing their hazardous nature, EPA is currently reviewing the federal rules for drift-prone fumigants — years earlier than the normal review cycle.

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