The suffering caused by years of endosulfan use on cashew plantations in Kerala's Kasaragod district is well known: birth defects, high rates of mental retardation, and delayed puberty, in addition to the hundreds of deaths directly attributed to the antiquated insecticide. Now, the Indian press is reporting another cluster of endosulfan-induced disease a couple hundred miles away in Muthalamada district, also part of the state of Kerala.
This is a year-end post of gratitude for all of you who offer deep and sustaining nourishment to our world. Gratitude for soil, for the earth’s caretakers, for courageous scientists and persistent agitators. And it is an invitation to join this community at PAN. Because together, we get things done.
This time of year I find myself seeking out the places that remind me what is right with our world. Amidst global tragedy and hourly acts of injustice, our existence depends on connecting with those soul sisters and beings of all kinds who sustain and nourish us with their acts of profound grace and fortitude. One of the key reasons that I am honored and motivated to work with PAN is that I have the chance to meet these people each and every day. Via email, SMS texts, phone calls and evening conversations around kitchen tables, I am regularly reminded of the many people working for ecological sanity, for equity – acting out of profound love and possibility, rather than fear. People speaking truth at times and in places that are risky and deeply needed, both.
Doctors are rolling up their sleeves to search for the causes of autism. Dr. Philip Landrigan announced last week that he's rounding up a scientific posse to identify a "Most Wanted Chemicals" list based on the latest information linking environmental contaminants to Autism Spectrum Disorder. It's high time.
One of the differences between last year’s heavily policed climate meetings in Copenhagen and this year’s meetings in Cancun was that you could actually sneak in and out of the official UNFCCC venue. And so I did. Curious to see how it is that government ministers from all over the world manage to so consistently fail to represent the best interests of their peoples, I snuck in and out of several of the side events that were taking place in this expensive island resort.
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.
My colleague Susan Kegley alerted me to a new study in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) that illustrates the absurdity of chemically-dependent agriculture — particularly the lengths we'll apparently go to keep the needle in. Scientists are actually studying injecting up to 32,000 lbs/acre of concentrated ammonia into the soil to counteract a fumigant pesticide's ozone-depleting effects.
On December 8, Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers from around the country in calling on EPA to pull a neonicotinoid pesticide linked with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) off the market immediately. Our call is based on a leaked EPA memo that discloses a critically flawed scientific study, thus suggesting there may be imminent hazards to honeybees posed by continued use of clothianidin, the pesticide in question.
CCD is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations across the world beginning around 2006. Each winter since, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared. CCD is likely caused by a combination of pathogens, the stresses of industrial beekeeping, loss of habitat and more. But many scientists believe that sublethal pesticide exposures are a critical co-factor potentiating this mix. In the U.S., agencies are focused on research, trying to quantify these risks. In Germany, Italy and France, they decided they knew enough to take action years ago, banning suspect neonicotinoid pesticides. Bee colonies there are recovering and beekeepers here are outraged.
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.
Cancun, Mexico: this week Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) launched two new resources during the global climate change negotiations — a handbook entitled Climate Change and Crop Protection (Anything Can Happen) and a monograph on solutions, Weathering the Climate Crisis (The Way of Ecological Agriculture). The publications were announced during the December 6 side event, “Just Transition Now! Towards a Peoples Protocol on Climate Change,” sponsored by the Peoples Movement on Climate Change.
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.