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.
Environmental Health Perspectives recently published an article directly linking consumption of conventionally-produced fruits and vegetables to pesticide residues in children’s bodies. Children are at particular risk when it comes to pesticides. For instance, consumption of organophosphate (OP) pesticide residues have recently been linked to increased rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. In the EHP study, Forty-six children supplied 239 samples that were analyzed for (OP) and pyrethroid pesticides—both nervous system toxicants and suspected endocrine disruptors. About one fifth of the food samples contained residues. These findings replicate similar results published two years ago in the same journal.
Monsanto’s humiliations are all over the news these days. Last week we heard that Monsanto is actually paying farmers to spray their fields with competitors’ weedkillers. Monsanto’s latest press release announces it is offering RoundupReady cotton farmers up to $20/acre to pour on extra herbicides. In fact, The Organic Center reports that this bizarre practice—a reversal of Monsanto’s traditional exhortations to rely on its own chemical Roundup—has actually been going on for over a year now, a response to the Monsanto-induced epidemic of superweeds now ravaging the country. As Tom Philpott explains, it’s a desperate last-hour attempt by the giant seed and pesticide company to slow the wildfire spread of noxious weeds resistant to Roundup, an epidemic which essentially spells the demise of Monsanto’s entire RoundupReady “system of weed management.” Other last-ditch efforts by Monsanto to keep revenue coming in include genetically engineering its Roundup Ready seeds for “enhanced resistance,” that is the ability to withstand—at least temporarily—even heavier dousings of Roundup. Talk about trying to smother a fire with gasoline.
Otter populations in the UK have made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction. According to the Guardian, their recovery is largely due to less polluted rivers resulting from UK bans on organochlorine pesticides (OCs) in the 1970s. Not only is the water safer for the otters, who are high up in the aquatic food chain, but also for their prey: fish populations have likewise recovered.
Last week, countries gathered in Japan hammered out a global agreement to hold corporations liable for genetically modified (GM) organism pollution of ecosystems.
According to the The Mainichi Daily News, a "biosafety protocol" was adopted to set "redress rules for damage caused to ecosystems by the movements of genetically modified crops."The move came at the end of the fifth meeting on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, kicking off international talks on the Convention on Biological Diversity. The new rules, which bolster mechanisms to hold agricultural biotech corporations like Monsanto liable, will be opened for ratification next spring.
I’m writing from warm, sunny New Orleans, where 900 food justice activists attending the Community Food Security Coalition conference have just wrapped up five days of workshops, conversations and field trips to the region’s innovative and indomitable farmers, fisherfolk, urban gardeners, food workers and local organizers. These brave souls are—against all odds—reinventing healthy and sustainble food systems in their communities.