Monarch butterflies are in trouble. These popular insects, which have captured the public imagination with their several-thousand mile migrations, have been steadily disappearing for the past 20 years. Now, Monsanto says it wants to help turn the tide. Can the seed and pesticide giant seen by many as responsible for the monarchs’ decline make a difference for these pollinators? Or will its next batch of genetically engineered (GE) crops make matters worse? Read more
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The recent debate over organic food has focused largely on nutrition. But the question of whether organic is better for you than food grown conventionally might have at least as much to do with pesticide exposure as nutrient value.
Or that’s been the theory held by many organic advocates. And while it might seem obvious that eating organic food is a good way to avoid eating pesticides, there hasn’t been a great deal of science to prove it—until now. Read more
When it comes to growing strawberries, Farm Fuel, Inc., a Watsonville, California-based company, is on the cutting edge.
The company grows wild and domesticated mustard and lightly processes the harvest into mustard meal, a soil amendment. They also work with farmers on a technique called Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD). This precise farming technique involves applying a combination of water and carbon-rich material (think rice bran, grape pomace, mustard meal, and molasses), and then wrapping the soil in plastic. Under the plastic, the ingredients combine to create anaerobic conditions.
The idea with both of these approaches is to kill the organisms that cause the long list of diseases that plague strawberry farmers–without pesticides or fumigants (a form of pesticide that treats the soil before anything is even planted). Why the search for alternatives? Read more
If you haven’t heard of nanosilver, you’re definitely not alone. But that doesn’t mean these tiny silver particles intended to kill bacteria aren’t ending up in your food. There are now over 400 consumer products [PDF] on the market made with nanosilver. These include many intended for use with food, among them cutting boards, cutlery, pans, storage containers, espresso machines, water filters, baby bottles, and refrigerators.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers nanosilver a pesticide and requires products that contain–or are treated with this germ-killer–to be registered with and approved for use by the agency. But most of the nanosilver products now on the market have not been reviewed, let alone approved by the EPA. Read more
Each winter, tens of millions of Americans buy and decorate Christmas trees. Yet few of us think about what it takes to keep these trees looking so healthy and lush.
For most growers, it takes pesticides–and lots of them. It turns out that the majority of Christmas tree farms are plagued with destructive pests and noxious weeds that suck nutrients and moisture from the soil, leaving young trees sickly and ugly. As a result, the Christmas tree industry has become dependent on chemicals of all sorts. Read more
Here’s some good news for wild salmon lovers: Right before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new restrictions on pesticide use in California. The first-of-its-kind move is aimed at protecting salmon and steelhead trout native to the state’s rivers and it sets the stage for protections that could benefit salmon along the Pacific coast. Read more
Andre Leu has been an organic farmer in Australia for 40 years. He is also the newly re-elected President of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), a worldwide network of more than 800 groups in 120 countries. In addition to traveling the world advocating for organic farming, Leu has spent the last few years thinking and writing about pesticides for his new book, The Myth of Safe Pesticides. Read more
Editor’s note: On October 15, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo herbicide, a new blend of 2,4-D and Roundup (glyphosate) developed for use on new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans, and cotton.
I doubt very many people have ever heard or seen a “tank mix.” Simply put, it is a mix of several crop chemicals used together to control a variety of weeds. I have not looked into a swirling mix of chemicals in a crop spray rig for probably 20 years–that’s about how long it has been since we have used any herbicides on our farm. Read more
Whenever we go to the farmers’ market together, my husband and I disagree about whether we should buy the pricey certified organic berries (my husband’s vote) or the less expensive ones grown without certification, but described by the farm as “sustainably produced.” If I look deep into a farmer’s eyes and she tells me that her fruit is “no-spray,” I’ll buy her berries, saving almost a buck a pint. (After all, the strawberries we grow in our own backyard are not certified organic, but I feel good about eating them.)
Lately I’ve been wondering–is my husband right, or is no-spray enough? And what about the assertion—sometimes made by conventional growers—that certified organic farms use pesticides too? Read more