One of the differences between last year’s heavily policed climate meetings in Copenhagen and this year’s meetings in Cancun was that you could actually sneak in and out of the official UNFCCC venue. And so I did. Curious to see how it is that government ministers from all over the world manage to so consistently fail to represent the best interests of their peoples, I snuck in and out of several of the side events that were taking place in this expensive island resort.
I’m back from Washington D.C., where I participated in the final workshop of the Department of Justice (DOJ) addressing corporate concentration in agriculture. First, many thanks to all of you who shared your concerns with me before I left. I was proud to be able to stand before the panel of DOJ officials and deliver your messages.
My colleague Susan Kegley alerted me to a new study in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) that illustrates the absurdity of chemically-dependent agriculture — particularly the lengths we'll apparently go to keep the needle in. Scientists are actually studying injecting up to 32,000 lbs/acre of concentrated ammonia into the soil to counteract a fumigant pesticide's ozone-depleting effects.
On December 8, Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers from around the country in calling on EPA to pull a neonicotinoid pesticide linked with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) off the market immediately. Our call is based on a leaked EPA memo that discloses a critically flawed scientific study, thus suggesting there may be imminent hazards to honeybees posed by continued use of clothianidin, the pesticide in question.
CCD is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations across the world beginning around 2006. Each winter since, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared. CCD is likely caused by a combination of pathogens, the stresses of industrial beekeeping, loss of habitat and more. But many scientists believe that sublethal pesticide exposures are a critical co-factor potentiating this mix. In the U.S., agencies are focused on research, trying to quantify these risks. In Germany, Italy and France, they decided they knew enough to take action years ago, banning suspect neonicotinoid pesticides. Bee colonies there are recovering and beekeepers here are outraged.
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.
Cancun, Mexico: this week Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) launched two new resources during the global climate change negotiations — a handbook entitled Climate Change and Crop Protection (Anything Can Happen) and a monograph on solutions, Weathering the Climate Crisis (The Way of Ecological Agriculture). The publications were announced during the December 6 side event, “Just Transition Now! Towards a Peoples Protocol on Climate Change,” sponsored by the Peoples Movement on Climate Change.
Big Ag is on the defensive, and women are coming to the rescue. Citing Michael Pollan and Food, Inc. as two particularly large blemishes to overcome, large-scale agriculture commodity and marketing associations hired the PR firm Osborn & Barr (a regular for Monsanto) in search of a better image. They unveiled their approach in November: a woman-to-woman marketing campaign targeting urban and suburban women. Knowing that women control most household spending, Osborn & Barr is betting on farm women as messengers that offer a more palatable face for industrial agriculture, and who offer a relationship that is difficult to turn down. Amy Nuccio of Osborn & Barr commented, "Consumers don't want a slogan, they don't want an ad campaign. They want a real relationship, which led us to this strategy of woman-to-woman." They’ll have to be careful, though, because it turns out women oft dig past the hype when it comes to the health of our children. Witness a recent attempt to woo moms, Corn Syrup Lobby Courts Mommybloggers, Gets Spanked.
On Dec. 6, three days after the anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal pesticide plant explosion, India’s Attorney General asked the country’s supreme court to force Dow Chemical to pay $1.1 billion in compensation to victims, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move follows on persistent advocacy and recent trials in India and around the world to hold Dow accountable for the liabilities of Union Carbide, acquired by Dow in 2001. The tragedy is now estimated to have caused 20,000 deaths and some 500,000 injuries.
The winter Patagonia clothing catalog in North American mailboxes this week features more than nifty outdoor adventure duds. For 15 years, all of the cotton products for sale have been made from 100% organic fiber. And Pesticide Action Network is among a handful non-profit organizations profiled. Patagonia is a long-term supporter of PAN’s campaign for sustainable agriculture and against the use of toxic pesticides like endosulfan that are used in cotton production around the world (including in the U.S. until the phaseout won this year is completed). Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other crop.
Today, PAN joined a diverse coalition of farmworker, children’s health, farm, and environmental groups to release our priorities for the incoming Brown administration. Healthy Children & Green Jobs: A Platform for Pesticide Reform lays out scientifically-grounded priorities for protecting children’s health and supporting healthy, safe and climate-friendly agriculture and pest management in California.