As I cross Cesar Chavez Avenue on my way to work each morning, I'm greeted by murals with the visionary labor organizer's portrait. When I reach the PAN office, he smiles down at me from a poster hanging prominently in the hall.
Happy Farmworker Awareness Week! Each year we celebrate this nationwide event by encouraging the PAN community to join us in a variety of actions, from lifting up stories from the field to supporting actions to protect the health of farmworkers and their families. Among the urgent challenge these workers face every day is exposure to harmful pesticides on the job.
Our food system depends on the labor of these more than two million workers, and they depend on our support! This year there’s a lot happening. Topping our list of action opportunities is the fact that EPA has finally proposed much-needed improvements in the national worker safety rules for farmworkers. It's about time!
Pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard bees continues to grow stronger. Today in DC, PAN joined partners to hand deliver a message from more than half a million people to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Step up and prioritize protecting bees from harmful pesticides.
Even though independent studies clearly show that neonicotinoid pesticides (or "neonics") are hazardous to bees, EPA won't conclude its review of these chemicals until 2018. Meanwhile, neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. And bee populations continue to decrease at alarming rates.
Growing environmental threats of climate change on top of ever-intensifying economic stresses are pushing many farmers around the world to their edge. At the same time, a growing number of these farmers and scientists are realizing that 1) continued reliance on the energy, water and chemical-intensive industrial model of agriculture is simply no longer an option and 2) our most robust response to today’s converging stresses lies in cultivating resilience and food democracy.
Last Thursday, my daughter and I had the opportunity to join a group of Californians urging state officials in Sacramento to take action on the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. In an event organized by Californians for Pesticide Reform, we made our case to the cameras on the north steps of the capitol, then submitted a petition signed by over 12,000 people to the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).
Members of the group El Quinto Sol de América from Tulare County were among those who traveled to Sacramento to help shake the agency into action. For these residents of the small Central Valley agricultural town of Lindsay, the problem of chlorpyrifos is personal.
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.
The effort to label genetically engineered food is heating up in California again. Legislation recently introduced by State Senator Noreen Evans would require GE labels on any food sold in grocery stores that's been produced using genetically engineered ingredients.
A strong majority of Californians support the idea. Even though the Prop 37 labeling initiative lost, independent polls both before and after the 2012 election showed that 67% of Californians supported the idea of state-mandated GE labels. These same polls found that 21% of all Californians who voted against Prop. 37 actually support mandatory GE labeling.
Last week EPA released its proposal for long-awaited improvements in the federal worker protection standard (WPS). These are the rules designed to protect the nation’s nearly two million farmworkers from the hazards of pesticide exposure. While the proposed changes include many of the improvements we and other farmworker advocates have been pushing for, there's still a long way to go.
We'll be joining our partners to generate thousands of comments on the rules over the next few months, from diverse sectors across the country — stay tuned. Meanwhile, below is my initial take on the proposed changes, including what's good and what needs to be improved.
Residents of Kaua’i are holding their ground against pesticide corporations. And, as we’ve learned time and time again, they won’t be bullied by the likes of BASF, Dow, DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta.
Late yesterday, a group of island residents, PAN and Surfrider — represented by the legal muscle of Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety — joined efforts to defend Kaua'i from a lawsuit brought by four of the world’s largest pesticide corporations.