We hear a lot about recalls these days. But last night it wasn’t ground turkey, cantaloupes, or peanut butter that was taken off the market. It was one of the most hotly contested pesticides in recent memory: methyl iodide. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Arysta Lifescience, the makers of the fumigant, announced on Tuesday evening that they’d be suspending sales of the product (also known as Midas) in all U.S. markets. Read more
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently deciding whether or not to approve an application by Dow Chemical for its controversial genetically engineered (GE) corn variety that is resistant to the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange.
Today, the USDA extended the public comment period on this issue until the end of April 2012, largely due to pressure from the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the nation’s leading organization in the fight to regulate GE crops, and other allied organizations and groups. If approved, CFS has vowed to challenge USDA’s decision in court, as this novel GE crop provides no public benefit and will only cause serious harm to human health, the environment, and threaten American farms. Read more
In a precedent-setting decision last month that received scant national coverage, a federal district court judge in Washington State ordered a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), also known as a factory farm, to monitor groundwater, drainage and soil for illegal pollution resulting from its grossly inadequate manure management practices in violation of the Clean Water Act. This first-ever ruling holding a CAFO accountable for its pollution was a result of a lawsuit by the nonprofit Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) against the Nelson Faria Dairy in Royal, Washington. The ruling upholds the terms of a 2006 settlement CARE had with the dairy’s previous owners, which the current owners subsequently ignored. Read more
A new article in the respected journal BioScience raises important concerns about the harmful influence of genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops on sustainable weed control. As many others have also noted, the excessive reliance on glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Roundup, has resulted in the emergence and spread of many harmful weeds that can no longer be controlled by glyphosate. These weeds now infest millions of acres of farmland the U.S., resulting in greater herbicide use.
But the new article goes well beyond most previous work by providing insight into the state of weed control for major crops in the U.S., and how the current use of engineered herbicide resistant crops is driving agriculture toward reduced sustainability. Read more
On December 3, 1984, more than 8,000 people died in Bhopal, India when a pesticide manufacturing plant owned and operated by Union Carbide Corporation (now Dow Chemical) exploded in the middle of the night. It was one of the worst industrial disasters in history. In the 27 years since, at least 20,000 more have died as a result of this one event and the area surrounding the plant remains a toxic waste site.
People know about Bhopal like they know about Chernobyl. What many don’t know is that the night after the explosion, the company’s CEO hopped on a private jet and fled the country and Dow Chemical has yet to be held accountable. Nearly three decades have passed and the people of Bhopal have yet to see justice and not for lack of trying. There remains a vital international campaign calling on Dow to do the right thing. But Dow is a tough target with thick skin–they don’t care.
Why then, should organizers continue targeting Dow as a bad corporate actor if public shame does not work? Because there is simply no other mechanism of justice available. Big players like Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont, and Monsanto effectively operate above the law. Read more
A new report highlights scientific research and empirical experiences from around the globe demonstrating that genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops have failed to deliver on its advertised promises.
Advocates of GMOs claim that biotechnology increases yields, reduces chemical usage, controls crop pests and weeds, and delivers “climate ready” traits such as drought-tolerance. However, the on-the-ground experience in many countries discloses that this technology has failed on all fronts. Read more
Applying* a cancer-causing poison on California’s farm fields sounds like some dastardly plot hatched by a Batman super-villain. Unfortunately, reality is often scarier than fiction. In December 2010, the State of California approved the known carcinogen methyl iodide for use on the state’s farm fields. Yes, you read that right—a chemical that actually causes cancer was approved to be applied* on the fields that grow the Golden State’s most prized crops.
Earthjustice promptly filed a lawsuit in January challenging the state’s approval of the toxic pesticide. As a result of the lawsuit, Earthjustice recently obtained internal documents detailing dire warnings about methyl iodide from scientists at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Unfortunately, those dire warnings fell on deaf ears and then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved methyl iodide for use. Read more
A young female farm worker picking fruit in Washington’s Yakima Valley came to see Dr. Matthew Keifer after pesticides being sprayed in an adjacent orchard wafted onto her. She arrived with red, swollen eyes and itchy, irritated skin—classic symptoms of exposure to Paraquat, a common weedkiller that can cause kidney, heart, and liver problems.
Keifer suspected the Paraquat had made her sick, but proving those suspicions was impossible: For many pesticides, no tests exist that would show, definitively, whether or not a person been has exposed to the chemical. Had a test existed, Keifer’s patient would have been able to to file a workers compensation claim that, if successful, would have covered the costs of her medical care and given her paid time off while she recovered. Instead, she went without. Read more
The source of the deadly E. coli O104 outbreak remains a mystery. Officials in Germany are scrambling for answers–and because highly perishable produce is the prime suspect, they might never get them. Amidst the uncertainty, one thing seems clear: this could happen in the U.S. Read more
Earlier this year, I was contacted by a PR firm working for Dow Chemical to contribute a 60-second video for The Future We Create virtual conference on water sustainability the company launches today. As a vocal advocate for strict regulation of toxic chemicals—especially for food and farming—I was surprised the company would approach me. Dow is the country’s largest chemical maker, and profits handsomely from developing some of the world’s most polluting products, many of which are widely used in industrial and consumer goods as well as agriculture.
In the video I submitted, which you can watch below, I stress that one of the greatest threats to clean water is chemical contaminants—and that Dow Chemical has a long history of water pollution. The PR representative e-mailed to say “unfortunately we can’t use your video,” but that she would be happy to include me, still, if I would consider re-recording it. When we discussed what that would mean she said, no “fingerpointing;” they wanted a “positive, inclusive discussion.” Read more