Criticisms of genetically engineered (GE) food have gone mainstream lately — from Chipotle going GMO free to GE labeling bills moving forward in states across the country. But very little public attention has been given to the important crossroads we are facing right now around how GE crops get onto the market to begin with.
It's official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical's new line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist, and have approved both the seeds and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.
This is a turning point, not just for grain production, but for food production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line, will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and control of our food system.
Time sure flies, doesn't it? This spring marks the not-so-happy 20th anniversary of the introduction of Monsanto's flagship "RoundUp Ready" GE crops. USDA approved the first of these pesticide-intensive systems for commodity crops back in 1994. The new products came with big promises: they would fatten farmers' wallets and at the same time feed starving people around the world.
Farmers bought into RoundUp Ready corn, soy and cotton in a big way. Now, 85% of all corn and 90% of all soybeans grown in the U.S. have that trademarked RoundUp Ready gene. RoundUp Ready is king of the hill when it comes to commodity seeds — but not for long. Five years from now, RoundUp Ready may be nothing more than a relic of the past.
Things are looking up for opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Although a bill to "fast track" this wide-ranging trade agreement was introduced late last year, opposition to quickly green-lighting the TPP has led Congressional leaders to slow down the process.
Labor and farmer organizations, among many others, have effectively made the case for more transparency before approving what will be the largest international trade agreement to date. And although President Obama is in Japan this week, seeking alignment on key issues within the TPP, it will not likely be signed into law in 2014.
Are you ready for spring? For most of us, that means house cleaning and a welcome wardrobe change. But for farmers and other rural residents it means hard work and often, bracing for the impact of pesticide drift. It means waiting to see if their crops will be damaged, and guessing which days they'll have to keep the kids indoors.
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.
Something courageous happened today. A small group of farmers and rural residents dared to hold McDonald's accountable to its promises. Since 2006, PAN has been working with a grassroots coalition of farmers and White Earth tribal members to document the pesticide problem in the potato-producing regions of Minnesota.
If you're like me, you've known for awhile that the U.S. is negotiating a new trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but you haven't taken the time to figure out exactly why it matters. Hey, I don't blame us — there's a reason it's hard to understand: the corporations and governments negotiating the deal don't want our opinions slowing down their shiny new free-trade agreement.
In fact, if everything goes as planned, very few of us — not reporters, only a handful of legislators, and certainly not you and me — will get to read the deal before it is signed into law. But this past week there have been some big hiccups in that plan, making me think it is actually possible to stop this thing if we all start paying attention right now.
This week I had the immense pleasure of attending the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture in Des Moines, Iowa. The conference was hosted by the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN), one of PAN's partners in our Midwest Drift Catching work.
With approximately 400 participants, the conference brings together women farmers, advocates and landowners from across the country to share resources and dialogue about solutions for transitioning to a more sustainable food system. It was an incredible event — three days of women sharing their deepest hopes and smartest strategies about how to improve agriculture.
Here in Minnesota, the state Department of Agriculture (MDA) just announced a review of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for all agricultural insecticides, but with a special focus on chlorpyrifos.
Why chlorpyrifos? Like many places around the globe, Minnesota has alarmingly high levels of chlorpyrifos in our lakes and rivers. And while chemical build-up in the environment is never a good thing, with chlorpyrifos it's especially troubling because of its well-documented harms to children's health.