A few weeks ago, I blogged about the controversy surrounding the premier of Troubled Waters, a documentary about the dead zone in Gulf of Mexico. To recap: the University of Minnesota, one the film's main sponsors, cancelled its debut at the last minute, apparently out of concern that it might offend Big Ag interests in the state. You see, the deadzone forms each year when the Mississippi River delivers nutrient pollution from industrial farm fields in the Midwest to the Gulf. It's a problem that can't be solved without significant changes to our food system, and the film highlights innovative farmers on the cutting edge of that transformation.
For the past month, pink ribbons have been everywhere — along with bracelets, shoes, t-shirts, even pink KFC buckets.
Yet for all this colorful breast cancer awareness, somehow we're still not talking about one of the key things we can do to prevent the disease: stop eating, drinking and breathing cancer-causing chemicals.
25,000 villages in Pakistan are about to lose their fertile farmland to wealthy investors from oil-rich Gulf states. That’s villages, not villagers. In Tanzania, a Swedish agrofuels company is in the process of acquiring a lease on up to 500,000 hectares of land, in order to produce sugarcane ethanol on an industrial scale. That’s about 2,000 square miles of land. Lack of informed consent among villagers who reside on the land, and potentially enormous impacts on the communities’ food and water supply are at issue.
Although the issue is less covered than in years past, honeybee populations continue to die off at alarming rates each winter, as they have done since around 2006 when colony collapse disorder was first observed and named. What makes this film special is the commitment of the filmmakers to using Vanishing of the Bees as a platform for organizing change. Stepping away from the standard distribution deals that would constrict the film’s uses, the filmmakers have instead made the film available for teachers, advocates and everyday people to host screenings.
India has the unique distinction of being the world's largest user and producer of endosulfan as well as the site of world's most notorious endosulfan poisoning, in the state of Kerala. In 1979, the Plantation Company of Kerala began spraying endosulfan by helicopter over the cashew trees near the town of Padre. The highly toxic, endocrine disrupting insecticide regularly drifted over the village and contaminated its water supply for twenty-plus years.
After sweeping across Canada, the movement to end the cosmetic use of pesticides is gaining a foothold in New England. Last week, the town council of Scarborough, Maine, held a public debate on a proposed ordinance that would restrict the use of pesticides on town property, including parks, sports fields, and school playgrounds. Homeowners would still be free to apply chemicals to their lawns and gardens, but the sponsors of the measure hope that many citizens would be inspired to follow the town's lead.
Farm families in India are working right now to save their land from a corporate push to replace their farms with coal-fired power plants. Last night, a petition in support of this Sompeta community came across my desk, and I was reminded again of the importance of the global PAN network. PAN International supports healthy farms and food sovereignty in the face of corporate control of agriculture. All around the world.
On my way back from the Stockholm Convention meeting in Geneva, I stopped for a few days in Illinois to attend the Peoria and Springfield screenings of the documentary film Living Downstream. PAN was a co-sponsor of the five-city screening tour, and I had the honor of moderating the post-film Q&A sessions with filmmaker Chanda Chevannes and Sandra Steingraber, the author of the book that the documentary is based on.
As a working mom, I've learned the value of setting priorities, and the importance of thinking about how today's decisions affect the future. That's why I'll be voting on Tuesday, and I'm pestering my family, friends and neighbors to do the same.
The outcome of this year's national elections will determine whether and how we, as a country, prioritize issues I care a lot about — issues like safe food, children's health, protection of workers and support for family farms.