Opinion/Editorial Archive

Should Cities Be Banning Herbicides & Pesticides & Going Organic?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Sustainable Cities Collective
by David Thorpe

Seedy-greedyParks and city green spaces and school grounds are safe, pleasant and healthy places, right? Perhaps not, if they are sprayed with dangerous pesticides and herbicides.

Cities are gradually waking up to the idea that they may be putting their populations at risk by using these chemical-containing pesticides and herbicides. Some of them are already receiving demands that they refrain from their use, replacing them with healthy alternatives.

Last month, Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology, appeared on television to ask that “all mayors remove pesticides in parks and schools”, following the appearance of scientific doubts about the safety of these substances. This week, on May 22, World Biodiversity Day, she is to launch a campaign called “cities and villages without pesticides“, under which schools are being asked to ban their use and convert to organic growing. Read Full Article »

A Response to The Wall Street Journal article: “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable”

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Linley Dixon, PhD
Cornucopia Farm Policy Analyst

The Wall Street Journal opinion piece “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable” published May 15, 2014 by Dr. Henry Miller misrepresents the industry and is riddled with factual inaccuracies. Dr. Miller attempts to discredit organic agriculture’s environmental benefits on the basis of pesticide use, lower yields, groundwater contamination, and greenhouse gas emissions. The author displays a clear bias and incomplete knowledge of these subjects throughout the piece.

Dr. Miller states that one problem with organic farming is the use of pesticides, including nicotine sulfate and rotenone. Although natural, nicotine sulfate is listed as a prohibited substance in organic production. Rotenone is not licensed by the EPA for use in the United States and the National Organic Standards Board voted to prohibit rotenone in international organic commerce.

The more commonly used organic natural/botanically-based pesticides like pyrethroids, although safer to the environment, are considered “restricted” under organic regulations and only used as a last resort after cultural and biological preventative measures are exhausted.

These materials are very expensive compared to synthetic pesticides giving growers tremendous economic disincentive to use them. Instead, disease and pest prevention practices are routine in organic production and eliminate the need for chemical inputs.

Skeptics of organic agriculture frequently point to the use of natural pesticides, but fail to understand they are highly scrutinized to assure their safety for human health and the environment and are only last resort materials and thus used in very limited quantities. Conventional agriculture, on the other hand, sprays highly toxic and carcinogenic agrochemicals because they are cheaper than practicing disease prevention. Read Full Article »

Mr. Orwell Would Be Proud: Animal Farm Becomes Certified Organic

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Update:  We want to be clear about the discussion in the commentary below regarding the certifier OCIA and the letter sent to the USDA by the umbrella group Accredited Certifiers Association.  In addition to OCIA’s board, the staff of the organization was likewise unaware of this letter being sent by the ACA to the USDA.

In a move truly deserving of the comment “You can’t make this stuff up,” illustrating the widening divide in the organic community the USDA’s National Organic Program announced this week that they would require public interest groups, educators, and the public to get their blessing before using the USDA organic logo in media coverage.

CI_NOSBUSDAdisputeOrwellMaybe this edict isn’t entirely Orwellian, and maybe it’s not Stalinistic, but it sure smacks of how the press operates under Premier Vladimir Putin.

After months of pointed criticism, and press coverage, of a series of allegedly illegal power grabs by the USDA, stripping authority Congress vested in the advisory panel it created, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the USDA has figured out a way to resolve the dispute — control the message.

Their quarterly newsletter, distributed this week, recapped the recent NOSB meeting in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of the most contentious meetings in the history of the organic movement. It included a protest that initially shut down the proceedings and a parliamentary challenge to the illegal power grab by NOP staff director Miles McEvoy.

The protest ended after police came in for an arrest and the challenge, under Roberts Rules of Order, endorsed by a number of board members, only ended after a long adjournment where Mr. McEvoy conferred with his staff (and superiors and lawyers in Washington by phone) and subsequently threatened to shut the entire meeting down and send everyone home if the parliamentary motion challenging his authority wasn’t withdrawn.

But if you read the USDA’s Organic Integrity Quarterly you might question the “accuracy” of their story. There’s not a word of any dispute at the meeting even though, besides the protests, numerous citizens and public interest groups, in formal written and oral testimony, condemned the USDA’s actions. Read Full Article »

Another Reason to Eat Organic – Decrease Pesticide Exposure by 90%

Monday, May 19th, 2014

by Max Goldberg

Credit: USDA

Here are a few things that we know.

1) In its pioneering testing several years ago, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) identified up to 493 chemicals in Americans of all ages, including 287 industrial chemical pollutants found in the cord blood of 10 babies born in 2004.

So, from the time we are in the womb of our mother, our body is flooded with synthetic toxins.

2) Even though this EWG data was collected a decade ago, not much has changed since then, in terms of our exposure to chemicals. Read Full Article »

An Inconvenient Truth About Our Food

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

New York Times
by Mark Bittman

“Fed Up” is probably the most important movie to be made since “An Inconvenient Truth,” to which it’s related in a couple of ways.

One of its producers is Laurie David, who also produced “An Inconvenient Truth.” Climate change, diet and agriculture are inexorably intertwined; we can’t tackle climate change without changing industrial agriculture, and we can’t change industrial agriculture without tackling diet. Read Full Article »