If you’ve been following what’s happening with bees in this country, you’ve probably heard about neonicotinoid insecticides (or “neonics”). The most commonly used insecticides in the world, neonics are extremely toxic to insects, including beneficial ones like bees. Not only have they been linked to a decline in honeybee numbers, but a new research article published in Nature found that seeds coated in the insecticide have a negative effect on wild bees on farms. Wild bees, such as bumblebees, contribute billions of dollars of value in pollination services to crops. Read more
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As pollination season in California’s orchards draws to a close, and thousands of beehives are being trucked back to the Midwest, honeybee health is at the forefront of many people’s minds. This spring, 1.6 million honeybees have been medicated, fed syrups, and put to work in the orchards across the state’s Central Valley (including 760,000 acres of almonds), a lucrative business for farmers and hedge funds alike. Read more
It’s been a few big weeks for glyphosate, the world’s most commonly used herbicide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it is considering new restrictions on the chemical, which is found in more than 700 products, but most commonly known as the key ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup.
Why exactly should you care?
It may seems like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend the best combination of protein, grains, and produce, to keep you healthy, fit, and free of disease, are set in stone. But they’re actually revised every five years by a panel of nutrition scientists—and because the guidelines impact billion-dollar government programs like school and military lunches as well as consumer guidelines like the food pyramid, or the more recent MyPlate, updating them is a highly politicized process. Read more
For many, a red, ripe strawberry elicits sweet memories of sunshine, summer, and childhood.
Glorietta, a strawberry picker in California, has quite a different relationship with the fruit. Hunched over picking for up to 10 hours a day for a mid-sized commercial grower, Glorietta—who asked that we not use her real name for fear of retaliation—says her body hurts all the time. She says the farm’s foreman constantly berates her and the other farmworkers. And she says the farm often fails to pay her adequately for the hours she works. Read more
There’s an important debate going on in Europe that could dramatically influence how pesticides are used on the United States’ 400 million acres of farmland. At the center of the debate are endocrine disruptors, a broad class of chemicals known for their ability to interfere with naturally occurring hormones. Read more
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
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