Please join me today in urging the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to block approval of GE alfalfa. Things are moving quickly in Washington, and frankly, they aren't looking good. Ignoring rulings from three District courts and the Supreme Court, the demands of over 50 members of Congress and concern expressed by his agency’s own scientists (not to mention farmers and the public), Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is apparently refusing to take action to prohibit the planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.
Last month farmers in India demonstrated their frustration and anger at the failed model of industrial agriculture that benefits corporations, not farmers. Over a period of 71 days, farmers across the country participated in a Farmer Freedom March, or Kisan Swaraj Yatra, that traversed 20 Indian states and involved thousands of people.
Yesterday, January 12th, I participated in Worldwatch Institute’s launch of its new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations to Nourish the Planet. The report presents a dazzling array of creative down-to-earth solutions from African farmers that can help solve the scourge of global hunger and poverty. I had the great pleasure of co-authoring the concluding chapter of this report.
I’m back from Washington D.C., where I participated in the final workshop of the Department of Justice (DOJ) addressing corporate concentration in agriculture. First, many thanks to all of you who shared your concerns with me before I left. I was proud to be able to stand before the panel of DOJ officials and deliver your messages.
Today, California approved a cancer-causing pesticide that scientists call "difficult, if not impossible to control," and "one of the most toxic chemicals on earth."
Why? Here's my bet: the intense lobbying effort waged by Arysta LifeScience, largest private pesticide company in the world, who hired a Kentucky-based PR firm to create a "CA grassroots campaign" in favor of the pesticide, and who engaged the likes of a former assistant to Karl Rove in their efforts. Bluntly put: chemical company interests trumped the science and the concerns of Californians. Now we've all got an incredibly potent, new carcinogen to deal with while Arysta heads home to its headquarters and makes money off its sales.
A couple months ago, corporate industrial ag interests in Minnesota attempted to pull the plug on the premier of Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story, a documentary about the impacts of input intensive agriculture on the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. It backfired, resulting a huge public outcry and a bigger audience for the film than it otherwise would have had. This week history appears to be repeating itself in Canada.
The 50 biggest biotech and agrochemical trade groups spent over $572 million from 1999 to 2010 on lobbying. That’s more than half a billion dollars! According to a new report from Food & Water Watch, the annual rate was a steady $30-$40 million per year until about 2006, when this industry apparently began courting Congress in earnest — as the annual figure nearly doubles between 2006 and 2010. And as Business Week reports, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) — the world's largest biotech lobby group — spent over $2 million in the third quarter of 2010 alone, lobbying Congress as well as the National Institute of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture Department, Health and Human Services Department, Food and Drug Administration and other agencies, to keep genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals unregulated and on the market.
In my family Thanksgiving means cranberries, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. So I decided to check these foods out on WhatsOnMyFood.org. The results weren’t exactly appetizing. Here’s what the USDA found, after washing:
Green beans: 44 different pesticides with the most commonly detected being acephate, a highly neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide. One sample had 200 micrograms of it per 100 gram serving (slightly more than one cup). That may not sound like a lot, but it's twice the EPA's level of concern for children.
The New York Times is reporting that Stephen Johnson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush, has joined the board of directors of Scotts Miracle-Gro. The company is the world's largest producer of chemicals for the lawn care and garden sectors.
Not that this should come as a shock — we've long noted the cozy relationships between agencies like EPA and the companies they're supposed to regulate. And the EPA under Johnson was particularly friendly to the pesticide industry. Some examples:
Several of my friends have just returned from The Hague, Netherlands, where they joined nearly 1,000 people from 80 countries in a Global Conference on Climate, Agriculture and Food Security. With the planet on the precipice of climate chaos and nearly a billion people hungry, the stakes in finding genuine solutions could not be higher. And with only three weeks left til the UN Conference on Climate in Cancun, the Hague meeting had the potential to do something really useful. Like champion a global transition to climate-resilient ecological agriculture, with enough financial and policy support to enable farmers around the world to adapt to and survive the stresses of climate change. Alas, it did not.