On a brilliant day in July, twenty-some years ago, I stood ankle-deep in the cool mud of a fragrant rice field in central Thailand, listening to the farmers around me discuss the bugs on the plants (were these “satru puut” or “satru thammachat”? pests or natural enemies?), and whether or not the Nitrogen-fixing aquatic Azolla they had introduced into one of their experimental plots would do more to increase their yields than the chemical fertilizer in the comparison plots.
I try to be optimistic, but the past year hasn't been a great one for science.
The "war on science" you hear people talking about? It's real, and we're already seeing its results. Without input from researchers on the leading edge of science, policymakers are less equipped to make informed decisions — and it's easier for industry lobbyists to get their way.
As the new legislative year kicked off in January, PAN joined food and farm groups across California in distributing a report card for California legislators, scoring them on their support of food & farming legislation from the previous year. And while nearly half of legislators earned a 100% ranking, the results belie efforts by legislators to advance more transformative policies.
With the 2018 growing season approaching, agricultural states across the country are stepping up to ensure farmers don’t experience the same pesticide drift epidemic that wreaked havoc on farmland last summer.
Application of the drift-prone herbicide in question, dicamba, led to an estimated 3.6 million acres of crop damage last year after a rushed approval of Monsanto’s new dicamba-resistant seed line.
On Tuesday, California lawmakers took steps to add stricter penalties for pesticide drift violations in the state. With a 5-0 vote, members of the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee moved AB 1419 forward, signaling support for the health and safety of California farmworkers and farming communities.
In early January, the City Council of Portland, Maine unanimously passed a tough ban on synthetic pesticide use in the city, leading many Portland residents to applaud their city’s new “organic” status. The ordinance comes in as one of the strongest pesticide use reduction policies in the country.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released several scientific assessments that found commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) can kill and harm birds of all sizes. This comes on the heels of new research from the University of Saskatchewan, with experimental evidence finding dramatic effects of neonics on birds inhabiting farmland or open countryside — causing migrating songbirds to lose their sense of direction and suffer drastic weight loss.
What an incredible — and challenging — year this has been.
On the national stage, we've seen several key issues we work on here at PAN move into the spotlight like never before. Thanks to ill-advised federal policy decisions, it is now common knowledge that pesticides harm children’s health, and that farmland can be devastated by pesticide drift. The corporate capture of our public agencies has been on display for all to see.
Following a clear body of science, California just listed chlorpyrifos as a "developmental toxicant." The insecticide is still widely used in agriculture across the state (and country), but now it will be officially listed with other health-harming chemicals under Proposition 65, the "Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986."