Big Ag is on the defensive, and women are coming to the rescue. Citing Michael Pollan and Food, Inc. as two particularly large blemishes to overcome, large-scale agriculture commodity and marketing associations hired the PR firm Osborn & Barr (a regular for Monsanto) in search of a better image. They unveiled their approach in November: a woman-to-woman marketing campaign targeting urban and suburban women. Knowing that women control most household spending, Osborn & Barr is betting on farm women as messengers that offer a more palatable face for industrial agriculture, and who offer a relationship that is difficult to turn down. Amy Nuccio of Osborn & Barr commented, "Consumers don't want a slogan, they don't want an ad campaign. They want a real relationship, which led us to this strategy of woman-to-woman." They’ll have to be careful, though, because it turns out women oft dig past the hype when it comes to the health of our children. Witness a recent attempt to woo moms, Corn Syrup Lobby Courts Mommybloggers, Gets Spanked.
The Syngenta corporation invented the herbicide atrazine and is its primary manufacturer. The corporation is certainly one of atrazine’s most ardent defenders and promoters. One of the most commonly detected pesticides in U.S. ground and surface water, many scientists are increasingly concerned about the human health and ecosystem impacts of atrazine. Atrazine is a known “endocrine disruptor” that is linked to reproductive harm and cancers. This report offers a review of the issue, and highlights what farmers in particular can do to end reliance on Syngenta’s atrazine.
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:
On Capitol Hill today, the chemical industry squashed a bi-partisan effort to ban the controversial chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and children's drinking cups. Really guys?
Protecting kids from toxic chemicals should be a no-brainer, right? Especially when the science is so strong, the scientists themselves are calling for action.
"Stop raising doubt where there is consensus." "Take an online course in epidemiology!" These were but two of the admonitions scientists and malariologists directed at Africa Fighting Malaria's representative at a Geneva symposium on malaria last week.
Richard Tren, who spoke at the meeting for Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), is an economist by training whose public career has included manufacturing doubt about climate change as well as spreading misinformation about the effectiveness of DDT in controlling malaria.
Washington DC is a funny place.
On the one hand, the energy and excitement of power is palpable: decisions are made here that affect people across the country and around the world. Smart people of all stripes dedicate themselves to creating, influencing, critiquing or reporting on policies that shape our society.
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.