Reclaiming the future of food and farming

USDA

Margaret Reeves's picture

Pesticide drifts miles from Florida fields

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released compelling findings from a study on the air-borne movement (aka "drift") of the pesticide endosulfan in Florida.

Researchers found that this soon-to-be-banned persistent pesticide traveled miles from tomato fields where it was applied, and that drift levels jumped significantly during spray season. More details on the study are outlined below, but first consider this: with USDA stepping into the ring to document pesticide drift, is it possible that EPA and USDA might actually look at pesticide use and regulations together? Now that would be interesting news indeed.

Margaret Reeves
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

You can't put the GE genie back in the bottle

The surprise appearance of Monsanto’s unapproved GE wheat in an Oregon field last month dominated the “bad GE news” cycle of the day, stoking worries among farmers, millers, bakers and eaters about the extent of the contamination. 

Public outcry and demands to end open-air field testing of experimental GE crops are growing louder. And the discovery of rogue GE wheat in Oregon has driven key trading partners — like Japan and Korea — to suspend some wheat imports. All this exploded just days after millions of people around the world marched against Monsanto, denouncing its control, corruption and contamination of our food systems.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Message to farmers: "Fend for yourselves."

Organic and conventional farmers are feeling rooked. And for good reason. A USDA-appointed advisory group known as the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) has just concluded over a year’s worth of deliberation on how to address the thorny problem of transgenic contamination of organic and non-genetically engineered (GE) crops— a major threat to farmers’ businesses and livelihoods.

The result? A report recommending that farmers and taxpayers bear the heavy costs of dealing with genetic contamination, while leaving the Big 6 pesticide and GE seed manufacturers free from any responsibility for the harm caused by their products. 

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman
Pesticide Action Network's picture

Feds ask, "Are the Big 6 too big?"

Eighteen months ago, PAN’s Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman testified at the historic USDA and Dept. of Justice (DOJ) joint hearings on corporate control and competition in agriculture. The hearings were attended by thousands of farmers, ranchers and civil society organizations from across the country, with particularly strong participation in the heartland states.

Then last year many of you joined PAN in urging the DOJ to release a final report about those workshops, and make firm commitments to next steps. The agency has finally delivered — sort of.

Pesticide Actio...
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Coming soon to a baseball field near you: GE grass

My kids had a great baseball season playing in Little League this Spring. We've now moved on to other summery things like swim lessons in Berkeley's freezing fog. So I was caught off-guard by last week's surprise collision between my work and home worlds, namely the revelation that USDA has just given Scotts Miracle Gro (the lawn chemical company and much decried sponsor of Major League Baseball), the go-ahead for a new and once again totally unnecessary genetically engineered product: Roundup Ready lawn grass. And they may have pulled off a de facto deregulation of all future GE products in the process.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman
Karl Tupper's picture

Cilantro, chlorpyrifos & flying blind

In my last post, I asked "Where's the data?" — specifically the latest installment from the USDA's Pesticide Data Program, which tests thousands of food samples for pesticide residues every year. The PDP data is the basis for our WhatsOnMyFood.org website that allows you to see which pesticides are found on food (and in water), how often, in what amounts, and with what associated health risks.

After months of delay, the data is finally out. In a nod to the produce industry (who had complained about "misuse" of the data by "activist groups") the USDA included a two page "What Consumers Should Know" factsheet with the report, but otherwise the presentation of results and data is the same as it's always been. And then there's cilantro.

Karl Tupper
Karl Tupper's picture

Where's the data?

As we reported in last month's update of What's On My Food?, USDA's 2010 pesticide residue data has been mysteriously delayed for five months.

As we suspected, it seems the produce industry isn't happy with the way USDA has been presenting its annual public summary of the data, and has been pressuring the Department to make changes. In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last month, they charge that the annual report "has, in previous years, been mischaracterized repeatedly by environmental activists and news media to the extent that it has discouraged people from consuming fresh produce." Apparently "mischaracterized" is industry-speak for "brought to the attention of the public".

Karl Tupper
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

GE foxes invited to guard USDA henhouse

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shocked the American public with its hasty approval of three highly controversial GE crops in a row (alfalfa, sugar beets and ethanol corn). In doing so, the agency effectively thumbed its nose at U.S. federal courts and spit in the face of consumers and farmers alike. Now, USDA has apparently decided that getting sued for ignoring U.S. environmental laws is getting to be too much of a hassle. So they've come up with a new plan: why not let Monsanto evaluate the potential harms of its new transgenic products? It’ll be so much quicker this way. And save USDA a lot of money.

The two-year pilot program allowing GE developers to conduct their own environmental assessments for USDA is an “experiment” to improve its systems, says USDA. Tom Philpott calls it a craven way out.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Got Fairness?

Tomorrow morning, as you pour milk into your kids’ cereal bowls or buy a latte to get you going, take a moment to think about the dairy and other family farmers who will be braving gusty winds off Lake Michigan to converge on the steps of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These farmers are demanding an end to the price fixing and speculation by traders that has bankrupted thousands of family farmers across the U.S., while spurring food crises worldwide.

Pesticide Action Network's picture

USDA approves GE sugar beets

On Feb. 4, USDA announced a “partial deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugar beets to allow planting in 2011. The move came despite a December federal court decision in which the judge ordered that GE beets already planted to produce seed “shall be removed from the ground”. USDA has defied the court on behalf of Monsanto before.

Pesticide Actio...

Pages