With other options exhausted over the past two years, beekeepers and partner organizations are now suing EPA to protect pollinators. We’ve filed over a million signatures from concerned individuals, a legal petition and a notice of intent to sue. And all to little avail. Now we’re upping the ante. Read more
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 hazardous herbicide 2,4-D. 2,4-D and the still more toxic 2,4,5-T formed Agent Orange, the defoliant used in the Vietnam War. After receiving pressure from organizations like the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the USDA extended its public comment period until April 27–just a few weeks from today. There is overwhelming public opposition to this crop. To date, 155,000 comments opposing approval of 2,4-D corn have been collected by environmental, health, and farm groups. 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
[editor's note: You can see Dan Imhoff speak about CAFO's tonight at NYU, read here for more details.]
Imagine a series of pits that, if combined, would cover an area 40 acres in size carved 20 feet deep. Laid out as a perfect square, each side is 1,320 feet long, enough to hold 16 football fields. Now imagine it full of millions of gallons of festering manure from over 5,000 dairy cows plunked down into rural Jo Daviess County in northern Illinois. Imagine also, that these cesspools would be excavated from a porous Karst geological formation, with the propensity to percolate directly into the groundwater, along with a cocktail of nitrates, phosphorous, hydrogen sulfide, bacteria, and other substances like antibiotic drugs. Read more
This is a story about crap–literally, tons of it. Piling up in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and being sprayed onto farm fields, animal manure is polluting the nation’s waterways and is nearly impossible to regulate.
Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling [PDF] reversing the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring CAFOs to obtain a Clean Water Act permit in order to pollute. The court did uphold the EPA’s right to fine those that do pollute after the fact. Here’s the rub: Farmers are not responsible for manure that exits their property and enters waterways when it rains. Read more
In a piece on the EPA’s attempts to save the Chesapeake Bay as well as USDA’s new policy of acknowledging risks of genetic contamination or organics by GMO crops, Tom Philpott has a key insight about industrial agriculture:
In both the case of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s vast chicken factories and that of GM alfalfa, industrial agriculture is admitting that it needs to trash its neighbors and the surrounding landscape to thrive. It wants us to believe that there are no alternatives if we want to feed ourselves plentifully.
The idea that protecting the environment is a luxury we can’t afford is a standard defense for corporations in many sectors–though typically only trotted out by the dirtiest industrial polluters (e.g. coal and oil companies). Read more
Consumer Reports’ latest tests of 42 samples from cans and pouches of tuna bought primarily in the New York metropolitan area and online confirm that white (albacore) tuna usually contains far more mercury than light tuna. According to Consumers Union, pregnant women should avoid tuna and younger women and kids should limit their consumption. Read more
California’s little-known Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) entered the spotlight this month as scientists, farm workers, and activists rallied against the department’s proposal to approve methyl iodide for use in the state’s $2.1 billion strawberry industry. (Civil Eats first reported on methyl iodide here.) On Thursday, DPR officials along with scientists testified at a State Senate hearing on the controversial fumigant, which chemists classify as a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Dozens of activists attended the hearing and delivered to Governor Schwarzenegger some 40,000 letters of opposition to the DPR proposal.
Last week, and capping at least a decades-long battle by consumer advocates, the EPA announced a long-awaited ban on the pesticide endosulfan — one of the last legal organochlorine pesticides, a notorious group of which DDT is a member. Horrifically toxic (possibly more toxic to humans than DDT) and banned in the European Union since 2007, endosulfan remains in common — though technically restricted — use, especially on Florida tomatoes and California and Nevada cotton, according to the Pesticide Action Network, while an article in the Environmental Health News presents a much longer list of uses, including melons, cucumbers, squashes, potatoes, apples, blueberries, eggplant, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, pears, peppers and stone fruit and cotton. Read more
Bees have been dying off in record numbers over the past few years — some American beekeepers have lost anywhere from 30 to 90% of their bees. The situation, termed Colony Collapse Disorder [CCD], has wreaked havoc on American agriculture and the $15 billion worth of crops pollinated by honeybees every year.
So I did what San Francisco State University biologist Gretchen LeBeun, creator of the Great Sunflower Project, has asked. I planted a Lemon Queen sunflower. And then I stood there watching for bees. I timed the first arrival, 7 minutes, 33 seconds. I stood in my front yard for over twenty minutes watching bees circle the new plant, doing loops around the Cone flowers and the Tickseed and circling back. Gretchen has asked us sunflower-planter participants to time how long it takes five bees to find this grand dame plant and then to send in this data via their website, to be included in their big research project on the honeybee disappearing act, the most mysterious and disturbing event in the world of agriculture today. Read more