The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally announced plans to eliminate the five percent surcharge imposed on organic producers for certain tree crops. This partial elimination of the crop insurance surcharge was, at least in part, the result of a hard-won provision in the 2008 Farm Bill in which Congress directed the USDA to evaluate available data on risk of loss between organic and conventional systems and to determine whether the surcharge was justified. The crops for which the surcharge is now being removed are figs, pears, peppers, prunes, macadamia trees, Florida citrus fruit, Texas citrus fruit, Florida fruit trees, and Texas citrus trees. The surcharge will continue for now on all other crops.
World leaders met in New York this week at the United Nations to assess progress in halving the proportion of hungry people in the world—the first of eight lofty Millenium Development Goals set by the UN in 2000.
One bit of good news you might have heard is that after the last couple of really disastrous years, we seem to be headed in a slightly better direction: the number of hungry people appears to be inching down, and at 925 million, is 98 million less than the 1.023 billion who were hungry last year. 98 million fewer hungry people is meaningful. But we are still talking about nearly a billion people without adequate food and nutrition—a far cry from the 1996 World Food Summit’s goals of reducing hunger to 400 million people by 2015. We’re basically back to where hunger levels were just before the big food price spikes of 2008. And here’s the real news: food prices are expected to surge again, as they already have in Mozambique and elsewhere, with disastrous consequences for the poor.
The glacial pace of government decision-making on pesticides is costly. Not just the cost of years of paperwork, collecting and reviewing the endless stream of industry studies. And not just the cost of medical care for those who are damaged by toxins before they are taken off the market.
Sometimes, slow decisions result in pesticide exposures that cause such harm they fundamentally change the course of a child’s life. A cost that’s so high, it really can’t even be measured.
Most people immediately think of mosquitoes when they hear the word "malaria." They transmit the parasite, so keeping them at bay—with window screens and bednets, by denying them places to breed, or by killing them outright—is a critical element in preventing the disease. Another crucial front in the struggle is pharmaceutical: prompt, effective treatment of malaria infections means fewer human reservoirs of the parasite, which in turn means fewer opportunities for mosquitoes to pick up the disease and pass it on.
But just as insecticide resistance has hamstrung vector control in many parts of the world, malaria parasites have evolved resistance to the various drugs we've deployed over the years.
It was only a matter of time. Lately newspapers have been filled with stories about the return of bed bugs, those nocturnal bloodsuckers that most of us had previously encountered only in our parents' nightly admonition to not let them bite. I grew up thinking that they weren't even real, just something adults made up along the lines of the bogeyman, monsters, and the tooth fairy. But they are indeed real, and they were once common in the U.S., until — as nearly every contemporary article about their resurgence points out — they were eliminated by the use of DDT just after WWII. So it was only a matter of time before people started blaming the current resurgence of bed bugs on EPA's ban on DDT.
Bees may not qualify as charismatic megafauna, but they do, or should, attract the attention of anyone who eats fruits, vegetables or nuts, or whose livelihood depends on growing these crops.
The sudden collapse of honeybee colonies — Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — has been reported throughout the U.S. and elsewhere since the mid-1980s. Explanations include a combination of lack of adequate nectar and pollen, disease, the stress of transporting hives over thousands of miles, and pesticides.
Those cancer-causing chemicals approved for widespread use on our farms and in everyday products? Well, they’re causing cancer. Lots of it.
The numbers are staggering, really. According to a report delivered to the White House last month by the prestigious President’s Cancer Panel, 41 percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and one in five Americans can expect to die from the disease.
I truly hope my grandchildren come into the world carrying fewer chemicals than my children did when they were born. My oldest just started high school, so any grandchildren are many years off. But members of Congress are deciding right now what chemicals my daughter will pass along to her children. My vote? As few as possible.
Senators and Representatives are considering a dangerous group of chemicals called “persistent, bioaccumulative toxins,” better known as PBTs. These chemicals can last for years in the environment — and in our bodies. Some travel the globe on swirling currents of wind and water, eventually settling in the polar regions. And many can damage our nervous, reproductive and immune systems at astonishingly low levels.
So it looks like Congress is finally beginning to take a serious look at toxic chemicals and how they affect our health. This week they heard from advocates, health professionals and parents calling for stronger laws to protect children from dangerous chemicals. The Senate subcommittee hearing included participants in the innovative biomonitoring study: Mind, Disrupted.
There’s nothing quite like a fresh, juicy strawberry. Our family lives near the central coast of California where most of the strawberries in the U.S. are grown, so we enjoy fresh-picked strawberries nearly year round.
What many people don’t know is that some of the nastiest pesticides are used in strawberry fields. Most non-organic berries are grown in soil that’s been zapped clean with chemicals that kill everything they touch. Fields are covered with huge tarps while pesticides are pumped in and the soil is stripped of all living things before planting. Workers, neighbors and parents sending their kids to school near strawberry fields dread fumigation season.