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Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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Getting food & farming back on track

The Senate is in recess this week, but they'll be resuming Farm Bill debate on Monday. The bill will be pared down in the coming days, and PAN and partners are working hard to ensure that key policies that support healthy food, farming and communities are included in the final law.

Among the many amendments up for consideration, three rise to the top of our priority list. These provisions take steps to protect honey bees and support farmers who put smart practices in place to protect our shared air, soil and water. This is our once-every-five-years opportunity to get food and farming policy back on track.

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EU flags another bee-harming pesticide

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Regulators across the pond are keeping up the momentum to protect pollinators, with a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) adding fipronil to the list of bee-harming pesticides the agency is concerned about.

Earlier this year, EFSA raised the alarm about three other insecticides that pose a threat to bees. And the EU responded with a two-year ban on the use of those chemicals. We have yet to see if fipronil will be added to the list of restricted pesticides, but EFSA's conclusion signals that protections for bees are more likely.

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Insecticide use (& Big 6 profits) surge as Bt corn fails

This week the Wall Street Journal took note of a trend farmers have understood for years: Monsanto's Bt corn, genetically modified to protect the plants from rootworm, is no longer working. And as a result, many farmers are now rapidly ramping up use of insecticides to protect their crops.

This is not unexpected. When Bt corn was introduced back in 1995, PAN joined organic growers in raising the alarm about the long term impacts of the technology. Widespread and continuous use of Bt meant the development of resistance was inevitable, and organic farmers knew this meant one of their most effective pest control tools would be rendered useless.

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USDA hits pause on new GE crops

In a welcome turn, USDA announced last week that it will take a closer look at new genetically engineered (GE) crops before allowing them on the market. The approval of Dow's 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy, as well as Monsanto's dicamba-resistant soy and cotton, will be put on hold until Environmental Impact Statements are completed.

The decision to conduct a more thorough investigation comes after public outcry from hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals — including farmers. Because if approved, these GE crops will drive a dramatic increase in pesticide use, placing the burden of both increased costs and health risks on farmers and rural communities.

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Industry shenanigans delay action on paraquat

This week in Geneva, officials from countries around the world met to consider adding the herbicide paraquat to an international treaty on trade of toxic chemicals. Though there was widespread support for the move, two countries — Guatemala and India — managed to get the decision postponed for another two years.

Guatemala is a major exporter of paraquat formulations, and blatantly broke the rules of the Rotterdam Convention by having an industry representative negotiate on their behalf in Geneva. Though Guatemalan officials apologized — and the industry representative was expelled from the session — the damage was done.

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Europe steps up for bees. EPA, your turn!

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In a historic vote on Monday, the European Union (EU) passed a continent-wide restriction on the use of bee-harming pesticides. Despite immense pressure from the pesticide industry, a majority of EU countries sided with bees.

Here in the U.S., policymakers have yet to step up. And with beekeepers in this country reporting record-breaking bee losses this year — up to 40% or more — action to protect honey bees is more urgent than ever.

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We have a national GE labeling bill!

Last week, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a national bill to label genetically engineered food.

If passed, the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act" making its way through both the House and Senate would ensure GE food is labeled in all 50 states. The national bill reflects the momentum that's been building for GE labeling initiatives in states across the country.

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Towards fumigant-free fields

After cancer-causing methyl iodide was pulled from the U.S. market last year, California state officials convened a panel to investigate ending reliance on all fumigant pesticides (like methyl iodide) in strawberry fields.

Yesterday, the Department of Pesticide Regulation released the panel's report detailing current research to help strawberry growers transition away from using fumigant pesticides. And while farmers, scientists and health advocates welcome the report, many are calling for bolder, swifter action.

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New science: "Pesticide soup" scrambles bee brain function

Two new studies confirm that common pesticides are scrambling the circuits of bees’ brains. Researchers report that certain neonicotinoids and an organophosphate pesticide — particularly in combination — interfere with the insects' ability to learn, smell or remember, all critical capacities for foraging honey bees.

The new studies add to a growing body of evidence pointing to pesticides as a key driver to the dramatic losses in bee colonies reported by beekeepers.

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Bee-harming pesticides are bad news for birds, too

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Turns out, the pesticides that harm bees are also harming birds. According to a report out this week, the class of widely used, systemic insecticides that science shows are a key factor in dramatic bee die-offs are also contributing to falling bird populations.

At a congressional briefing yesterday, an expert panel highlighted the damage that neonicotinoid pesticides — or "neonics" — inflict on bees, birds and the agricultural economy. Beekeepers, scientists and public interest organizations called on elected officials to take action, and soon.

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