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Food & Agriculture

Kathryn Gilje's picture

Chemical industry wins on strawberry pesticide, for now

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.

Kathryn Gilje
Karl Tupper's picture

Lawn care industry quashes screening of "A Chemical Reaction"

A couple months ago, corporate industrial ag interests in Minnesota attempted to pull the plug on the premier of Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story, a documentary about the impacts of input intensive agriculture on the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. It backfired, resulting a huge public outcry and a bigger audience for the film than it otherwise would have had. This week history appears to be repeating itself in Canada.

Karl Tupper
Marcia Ishii's picture

Half a billion & 300+ lobbyists: How biotech keeps Congress in line

The 50 biggest biotech and agrochemical trade groups spent over $572 million from 1999 to 2010 on lobbying. That’s more than half a billion dollars! According to a new report from Food & Water Watch, the annual rate was a steady $30-$40 million per year until about 2006, when this industry apparently began courting Congress in earnest — as the annual figure nearly doubles between 2006 and 2010. And as Business Week reports, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) — the world's largest biotech lobby group — spent over $2 million in the third quarter of 2010 alone, lobbying Congress as well as the National Institute of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture Department, Health and Human Services Department, Food and Drug Administration and other agencies, to keep genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals unregulated and on the market.

Marcia Ishii
Karl Tupper's picture

Thanksgiving math: the false calculus of pesticide residues

In my family Thanksgiving means cranberries, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. So I decided to check these foods out on WhatsOnMyFood.org. The results weren’t exactly appetizing. Here’s what the USDA found, after washing:

Green beans: 44 different pesticides with the most commonly detected being acephate, a highly neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide. One sample had 200 micrograms of it per 100 gram serving (slightly more than one cup). That may not sound like a lot, but it's twice the EPA's level of concern for children. 

Karl Tupper
Karl Tupper's picture

Former EPA head joins Scotts Miracle-Gro board

The New York Times is reporting that Stephen Johnson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush, has joined the board of directors of Scotts Miracle-Gro. The company is the world's largest producer of chemicals for the lawn care and garden sectors.

Not that this should come as a shock — we've long noted the cozy relationships between agencies like EPA and the companies they're supposed to regulate. And the EPA under Johnson was particularly friendly to the pesticide industry. Some examples:

Karl Tupper
Marcia Ishii's picture

Hint: To fix climate & ag, consult farmers first

Several of my friends have just returned from The Hague, Netherlands, where they joined nearly 1,000 people from 80 countries in a Global Conference on Climate, Agriculture and Food Security. With the planet on the precipice of climate chaos and nearly a billion people hungry, the stakes in finding genuine solutions could not be higher. And with only three weeks left til the UN Conference on Climate in Cancun, the Hague meeting had the potential to do something really useful. Like champion a global transition to climate-resilient ecological agriculture, with enough financial and policy support to enable farmers around the world to adapt to and survive the stresses of climate change. Alas, it did not.

Marcia Ishii
Karl Tupper's picture

"Troubled Waters" update: Public institutions compromised by private interests

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.

Karl Tupper
Pesticide Action Network's picture
Pesticide Actio...
Marcia Ishii's picture

Global land grab

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.

Marcia Ishii
Kathryn Gilje's picture

PAN International: A non-stop global network

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.

Kathryn Gilje

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