Picture of Kathryn Gilje

Kathryn Gilje

Hands off my strawberry cupcake!

Strawberries make me happy. They are tasty, bite sized and cute. They fight cancer, give you a boost of Vitamin C, and even improve brain function. And last Sunday, they arrived en masse to the farmers market in my very own Oakland, California neighborhood. A sweet, true sign of spring. I wandered by several farmstands, tasting samples of Albion, Seascape and Chandler, finally settling on several organic pints from Tomatero Farm.

When it comes to strawberries, it's clear that it's not just me. At PAN, we've witnessed tremendous momentum from mothers and eaters across a wide spectrum to take back our collective strawberries from the clutches of a multinational pesticide corporation. At issue: Arysta LifeScience, largest private pesticide company in the world, wants us to use a new cancer-causing pesticide in strawberry production. Though approved in California despite the recommendations of scientists, both CA and U.S. EPA are being pushed to reconsider.

A few very recent examples of growing momentum:

  • Gluten–free guru and longtime PAN friend and supporter Elana Amsterdam has a luscious new cookbook coming out next week called Gluten-Free Cupcakes  (check it out!), and she's tapping into the press around her cookbook to blog about keeping the cancer-causing methyl iodide and its manufacturer, Arysta LifeScience, away from our strawberries.
  • Retailers across the country are making commitments to 'Safe Strawberries,' grown organically and under fair conditions for workers, and strawberry eaters are pushing them to take such a pledge. Stonyfield Farm and New Leaf Market are two who have already signed the pledge.
  • On methyl iodide, California's Jerry Brown has said 'he'll take a fresh look,' and EPA is taking public comment right now on our petition to ban all uses of methyl iodide across the country.
  • And at PAN, together with partners through Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), we launched a Safe Strawberry campaign website, with tools useful for organizing across the country. We unveiled the site at a CPR gathering last weekend in Salinas, CA, ground zero for strawberry production and potential methyl iodide use.

It's inspiring to see so many people finding a way to work together to loosen the hold that Arysta and other pesticide corporations have on our government. Everyone should have access to strawberries grown without hazardous pesticides, and our government policy could support that. We know that farmers who grow the fruit organically are fueling a safe and green strawberry industry — they deserve strong backing. And farmworkers and their families shouldn't be forced to be on the front lines of toxic chemical exposure by simply going to work in the morning.

I love strawberries, but I never imagined the sweet fruit as gateway to food revolution. But momentum is building, and working together for an organic and fair berry could be one way to take a bite out of corporate control of food. Tonight, my bite will also involve one of Elana's yummy strawberry cupcakes, topped with a handful of Tomatero berries.

Picture of Kathryn Gilje

Kathryn Gilje

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