Two weeks ago, I was speaking to a roomful of specialty crop growers and organic farmers from Indiana. They were concerned about the pesticide drift that is expected to accompany the planting of Dow and Monsanto’s new herbicide-resistant corn and soybean seeds this spring. Presenting alongside me was Anita Poeppel of Broadbranch Farms, a family-owned and operated farm in north central Illinois.
Anita shared a message with her fellow growers: We need to be ready. If USDA allows these new GE seeds — that’ve been designed to be sprayed with highly toxic, drift-prone herbicides — onto the market, we are all going to be in a lot of trouble.
In Oregon, Hawai'i, California and beyond, we saw organized communities stand up to corporate money this election season. And despite record-breaking industry spending, community advocates made real and important strides toward reclaiming food and farming from the "Big 6" pesticide corporations.
Voters in California and Hawai'i successfully pushed back against Monsanto & friends to create GE-free zones in Humboldt and Maui counties. And despite millions of industry dollars spent in opposition, the initiative to label genetically engineered food in Oregon is still too close to call. Change is on its way.
Earlier this month, USDA made clear that they plan to give the final go-ahead to the next generation of herbicide-resistent GE seeds. Widespread public concern about this new technology delayed its approval by more than two years. But on September 6, the final 30-day "waiting period" will come to a close, and Dow's new 2,4-D corn and soy will be approved for market.
PAN stands with communities across the country who are outraged at the pending decision. "USDA is much more interested in working with Dow and Monsanto to bring their products to market than in protecting the well-being of our farmers and rural communities," says PAN Senior Scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman in a passionate press statement.
One morning a few weeks ago, I received an email from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC), announcing the makeup of a provisional committee of experts that has been tasked with carrying out a comprehensive new study of GE crops. This study is supposed to assess the history of GE crops around the world, the diverse experiences of farmers in different countries and a wide range of “purported” negative and positive impacts of GE seeds and their associated technologies (for example, pesticides).
Done right, this could be an illuminating investigation, right? But as I looked over the bios provided on NRC’s webpage, I quickly realized that the Council appears to have a pretty poor idea of how to carry out such a challenging, complex and multi-faceted study. In fact, this week 67 scientists and researchers publicly rebuked the NRC for failing, right at the outset, to put together a slate of experts equipped for the task (full letter here).
Last week, Swiss-based pesticide corporation Syngenta dumped tens of thousands of dollars into a county election in Southern Oregon. Sound familiar? It should. Still reeling from their recent defeat in Kaua'i, Syngenta and the rest of the "Big 6" don’t want to lose any more fights around pesticides and GMOs.
But Oregononians are holding their ground. Led by a group of farmers dubbed Our Family Farms Coalition, these residents put an initiative on the ballot that would restrict the planting of genetically engineered crops. The vote will be on May 20.
The public comment period for Dow's new genetically engineered, 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy closed yesterday. And despite comments from nearly 400,000 concerned individuals and farmers urging otherwise, USDA has signaled it will likely greenlight these new GE crops.
The comment period concluded on the eve of another historical date for the seed market. Four years ago today, the Department of Justice convened antitrust hearings to investigate consolidation of the seed market. There has been no follow through from these hearings, and we're still waiting for an explanation from the DOJ. In the meantime, corporations like Dow and Monsanto continue to consolidate control of global seed markets. Dow's new 2,4-D ready crops will be yet another driver of this consolidation.
Last Friday, three global pesticide corporations threw the legal equivalent of the kitchen sink at the island of Kaua’i. The suit filed in federal court is the latest in a long stream of corporate bullying that has become commonplace on the island and around the world.
For years, the Hawaiian islands have been a global epicenter of testing genetically engineered (GE) seeds. This means big money for pesticide and biotech corporations. And as momentum grows to restrict GE testing and pesticide use thoughout the islands, corporate bully tactics are becoming increasingly agressive. And desperate.
In Iowa today, the World Food Prize was presented to top executives from Monsanto and Syngenta for their work in developing genetically engineered (GE) crops.
PAN and our partners were there, delivering nearly 350,000 signatures to the prize organizers protesting the absurdity of this year's award, and highlighting the failed promises of GE technologies. Recipients of the alternative "Food Sovereignty Prize" were also in Iowa today, raising awareness about real, ecological solutions for how we can truly feed the world.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, after a 19 hour hearing, the Kaua'i County Council passed landmark legislation requiring that pesticide use on the island be publicly disclosed.
The local victory came despite powerful pressure from some of the world’s largest pesticide corporations, many of which use land on Kaua'i to develop and field test their genetically engineered (GE) seeds and pesticide products.