Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:56:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fungicides Linked to Resistance in Life-Threatening Fungushttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/fungicides-linked-resistance-life-threatening-fungus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fungicides-linked-resistance-life-threatening-fungus http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/fungicides-linked-resistance-life-threatening-fungus/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:56:28 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12934 Canada.com by Margaret Munro Amid growing concern that fungicides are fuelling the rise of resistant and life-threatening fungus in Europe, China and India, a microbial sleuth says it is time to start filling in the gaps in Canada. As a first step, biologist Jianping Xu says his group at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., hopes to start testing fungi circulating in southern Ontario’s farm belt this fall. “We plan to take samples in the environment

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Canada.com
by Margaret Munro

cropdustingplaneAmid growing concern that fungicides are fuelling the rise of resistant and life-threatening fungus in Europe, China and India, a microbial sleuth says it is time to start filling in the gaps in Canada.

As a first step, biologist Jianping Xu says his group at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., hopes to start testing fungi circulating in southern Ontario’s farm belt this fall.

“We plan to take samples in the environment and compare them with what we see in patients in the hospital,” says Xu, who has collaborated on several international studies that point to resistant fungi as a growing and serious health threat.

He and his colleagues say agricultural fungicides known as triazoles, which are sprayed on everything from corn to canola in Canada, appear to be driving emergence of fungi that are resistant to not only agricultural fungicides but closely related medicines. Triazole-based drugs are the first-line defence against Aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause a range of conditions from wheezing in asthmatics to deadly lung infections in individuals with weakened immune systems.

Aspergillus is a ubiquitous fungus that feeds on dead animal or plant matter and spreads by producing spores that float through the air. The fungus, common in soil and compost heaps, causes serious infections in more than three million people a year.

Last week, a British-Dutch team reported that fungicide use on crops is the likely reason Aspergillus fumigatus found near British farms has developed resistance to life-saving antifungal drugs.

“The clear association with triazole fungicide usage is very worrisome, as some unlucky people at risk will breathe in untreatable Aspergillus, with potentially dire consequences,” lead author Dr. Michael Bromley, at the University of Manchester, said in releasing the study.

Resistant fungi is also seen in Europe, India and China where researchers point to agricultural fungicides as a likely culprit.

In a study published in June, Xu says he and colleagues in China found 29 per cent of 313 types of yeast samples taken from the mouths of hospital patients in Hainan were resistant. Yeast is a type of fungus. Xu says the findings came as a surprise as none of the patients were taking triazole medications that can also lead to emergence of resistant organisms.

One possible explanation is that the patients picked up the resistant yeast from the environment  before arriving in the hospital, reports the team, noting that use of triazole fungicides increased 48 per cent  in China between 2000 and 2011.

Xu, who specializes in the fungi genetics, has also been assessing Aspergillus fumigatus samples from India. He and his colleagues from India and the Netherlands uncovered resistant strains in soil in tea gardens, rice paddies and even flower pots in a hospital garden. The type of resistance seen in the fungi is consistent with agricultural fungicides in the environment causing “cross resistance to medical triazoles,” the team reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

Resistant fungi add a new dimension to the type of organisms moving from “farm-to-fork.” Antibiotics used on chickens, pork and cattle farms have long been known to fuel emergence of resistant bacteria that can infect people.

While the link between fungicide use and resistant Aspergillus has not been conclusively proven, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has flagged it as a concern that warrants more attention.

Xu would like Canada to step up monitoring of fungi in both hospitals and the environment to better track resistance and tailor treatments.

Health Canada, which regulates pesticide use in Canada, could provide no information on the monitoring of fungal resistance in Canada and had little to say about the reports linking fungicide use to resistant fungi that pose a health threat.

“Health Canada scientists continually review scientific studies to ensure the Department remains effective in protecting the health and safety of Canadians,” Sara Lauer, a Health Canada 
media officer, said in an email response to a request for comment.

A representative for industry says Canadian farmers rotate the type of fungicides they use to try to prevent fungi from developing resistance.

“They rotate their chemistry and rotate their crops,” says Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry at CropLife Canada, which represents pesticide companies. He stressed in an interview Thursday that fungicides prevent fungal diseases on crops, some of which harm not just plants but can also produce toxins that can impact animals and humans.

Petelle is not aware of wide-scale resistance to triazole pesticides emerging in Canada. “We don’t see any evidence of that,” he said.

He has not yet read the reports suggesting a link between fungicides and resistant human pathogens, but is skeptical.

“To look at agriculture as the culprit, I am not sure about that,” said Petelle.

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Bee Research Tainted By Corporate Funding, MPs Sayhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/bee-research-tainted-corporate-funding-mps-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bee-research-tainted-corporate-funding-mps-say http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/bee-research-tainted-corporate-funding-mps-say/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:35:35 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12927 Report warns against letting pesticide companies fund key research for government plan to boost pollinators The Guardian by Damian Carrington Credit: Ken Thomas Criticial future research on the plight of bees risks being tainted by corporate funding, according to a report from MPs published on Monday. Pollinators play a vital role in fertilising three-quarters of all food crops but have declined due to loss of habitat, disease and pesticide use. New scientific research forms a

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Report warns against letting pesticide companies fund key research for government plan to boost pollinators

The Guardian
by Damian Carrington

Credit: Ken Thomas

Criticial future research on the plight of bees risks being tainted by corporate funding, according to a report from MPs published on Monday. Pollinators play a vital role in fertilising three-quarters of all food crops but have declined due to loss of habitat, disease and pesticide use. New scientific research forms a key part of the government’s plan to boost pollinators but will be funded by pesticide manufacturers.

UK environment ministers failed in their attempt in 2013 to block an EU-wide ban on some insecticides linked to serious harm in bees and theenvironmental audit select committee (EAC) report urges ministers to end their opposition, arguing there is now even more evidence of damage. Millions of member of the public have supported the ban.

“When it comes to research on pesticides, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is content to let the manufacturers fund the work,” said EAC chair Joan Walley. “This testifies to a loss of environmental protection capacity in the department responsible for it. If the research is to command public confidence, independent controls need to be maintained at every step. Unlike other research funded by pesticide companies, these studies also need to be peer-reviewed and published in full”.

The EAC report found: “New studies have added weight to those that indicated a harmful link between pesticide use and pollinator populations.” Walley said: ”Defra should make clear that it now accepts the ban and will not seek to overturn it when the European commission conducts a review next year.” She added that ministers should make it clear that attempts to gain “emergency” exemptions, as pesticide-maker Syngenta did recently, will be turned down.

“Pollinator decline is now the number one environmental concern with the public,” said Matt Shardlow, at campaign group Buglife. “Defra’s national pollinator strategy is an opportunity for the new environment secretary Liz Truss to establish commitment across the cabinet.” Ahead of the EU insecticide ban, Truss’s predecessor Owen Paterson had privately assured Syngenta that “the UK has been very active” in opposing the ban and “our efforts will continue and intensify in the coming days”.

Syngenta declined to comment on the new EAC report. But Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, of which Syngenta is a member, said the report was disappointing. “The government’s own expert technical agency, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate, has recently stated that there is no further evidence that changes the government’s position that neonicotinoids are safe for use in the environment,” he said. “It is vital that any decisions are based on sound science rather than emotive public campaigns.”

Von Westenholz said the national pollinator strategy, currently being finalised, should explicitly acknowledge that “pesticides are a vital resource for food production and are highly regulated”.

Julian Little, at Bayer CropScience, said: “We fully support the strategy and believe that if implemented fully, it will result in the safeguarding and promoting of both honey bees and wild pollinators that are so vital to ensuring pollination of both crops and wild flowers.” Bayer CropScience, like Syngenta, makes the chemicals banned by the EU which are called neonicotinoids and are the world’s most widely used insecticides.

Friends of the Earth’s nature campaigner Sandra Bell, said: “If the government’s action plan to protect Britain’s pollinators is to have any credibility it must back the ban on bee-harming insecticides and set out a clear strategy to reduce pesticide use.” The UK government is bound by EU law to reduce pesticide use but has chosen to set no targets or timetable. Bell pointed out that the EAC report criticises Defra for being unable to demonstrate clearly that the neonicotinoid ban will reduce farmer’s crop yields.

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Another Score For Organically Grown Veggieshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/another-score-organically-grown-veggies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=another-score-organically-grown-veggies http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/another-score-organically-grown-veggies/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:51:38 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12922 The Washington Post by Barbara Damrosch Amy’s Organic Garden Image Credit: USDA Watching the studies come out about the merits or demerits of organics is a little like watching World Cup soccer. A large study done at Stanford in 2012 claimed organic food to be no more nutritious than chemically grown. Score one for that side. But a report newly published in the British Journal of Nutrition finds organically raised vegetables to have more antioxidants, less cadmium (a toxic

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The Washington Post
by Barbara Damrosch

Amy’s Organic Garden
Image Credit: USDA

Watching the studies come out about the merits or demerits of organics is a little like watching World Cup soccer. A large study done at Stanford in 2012 claimed organic food to be no more nutritious than chemically grown. Score one for that side. But a report newly published in the British Journal of Nutrition finds organically raised vegetables to have more antioxidants, less cadmium (a toxic metal in commercial fertilizer) and fewer pesticide residues. Score one for Team O.

Now what? Nobody’s exactly rooting for chemical residues, or for cadmium. Antioxidants are superstars — if they’re in a tomato or head of broccoli, not in a pill — but they don’t seem to be fully understood. Important to study, yes, but only as part of a vast web of interactions in which one part touches many others.

To me, the groundbreaking scientific revelations in recent years have been about how little we all know. The natural world does not bow before the mighty human brain. More accurately, our brain bows before the miraculous, newly discovered empire of good bacteria in our gut. Yet we must feed that gut every day and make dietary decisions based on simple observation and common sense.

As a gardener, it’s been my experience that soil containing a full range of macro- and micro-nutrients, in proper balance, produces strong plants that tend to ward off pests and diseases. I create that soil by enriching it with a composite (known as compost) of varied organic materials broken down by bacteria and other organisms in the soil. This is a natural partnership between biology and chemistry in which nutrients are made more available to plants.

Both flavor and nutrients are at stake. A paper presented by Charles Benbrook at the American Society for Horticultural Science Colloquium in 2007, summarizing studies on nutrient density in organic vs. conventional produce, notes: “The nutrient and antioxidant dilution often observed in high-yield, [high-nitrogen] systems . . . tends to reduce the richness and intensity of flavors.”

And a panel of scientists presenting at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded: “In hundreds of studies, scientists have shown that incrementally higher levels of fertilizer negatively impact the density of certain nutrients in harvested foodstuffs, hence the name, the “dilution [of nutrients] effect.”

How fruiting crops are ripened can affect flavor, too. Time and sun do a better job than ethylene gas. With leafy crops, those picked and eaten fresh seem more alive, and more life-giving.

I know a lot of farmers, especially small-scale ones, who use organic methods and sell mostly to local markets. The better they are at the game, the less they rely even on plant-based pesticides approved for organic use.

The more they use succession cropping, season extension and some of the newer tools being developed for small farms, the better their yields, which acre for acre often put conventional farming to shame.

These farmers study the natural world like a book and learn what works. They are not saints, but they tend to be humanists in the loose sense of considering humanity as a whole, which means protecting the natural resources of soil, water and air. Go look at one of their farms and then go look at a big commodities farm. Which one has bees in the air and earthworms in the soil? Whose food would you rather eat?

“Organic is too expensive,” you so often hear. But no, conventional food is too cheap, propped up by government subsidies and by shortcuts such as herbicides and toxic sprays that cost us all in the long run. Subsidize low-income food-shoppers instead so that they can make an enlightened choice about what to feed themselves and their kids. Is any decision more important than that? Give food systems a level playing field. Then let’s see who wins.

Tip of the week:

Use hand pruners — mind your fingers — to remove blighted tomato leaves to improve air circulation and curtail the spread of disease. Bag the leaves and clean up any fallen debris. Make a note of badly infected varieties and pick blight-resistant varieties next year. Feed groomed plants with a fertilizer formulated for tomatoes, or apply a liquid fish or kelp emulsion feed. — Adrian Higgins

Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.”

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Mexican Judge Bans Planting of GMO Soyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/mexican-judge-bans-planting-gmo-soy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexican-judge-bans-planting-gmo-soy http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/mexican-judge-bans-planting-gmo-soy/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:04:46 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12916 Crop Seen as Threat to Honey Bee Colonies Environmental and Food Justice by Devon G. Peña Credit: Scott Bauer According to reports appearing in the Mexican print media, a federal district court judge in Yucatán yesterday overturned a permit issued to Monsanto, the U.S.-based multinational corporation that is a leading purveyor of genetically modified crops (GMOs). The permit, which had been issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food on June 6, 2012, allowed the commercial planting of GM soy bean in Yucatán. The ruling was based on consideration of scientific evidence demonstrating (to

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Crop Seen as Threat to Honey Bee Colonies

Environmental and Food Justice
by Devon G. Peña

Credit: Scott Bauer

According to reports appearing in the Mexican print media, a federal district court judge in Yucatán yesterday overturned a permit issued to Monsanto, the U.S.-based multinational corporation that is a leading purveyor of genetically modified crops (GMOs). The permit, which had been issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food on June 6, 2012, allowed the commercial planting of GM soy bean in Yucatán. The ruling was based on consideration of scientific evidence demonstrating (to the judge’s satisfaction) that GMO soy crop plantings threaten Mexican honey production in the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán.

An op-ed piece appearing in yesterday’s La Jornada (July 23), applauded the decision with insightful commentary suggesting that the federal agencies involved in this dispute are guilty of corruption and collusion with the transnational Gene Giant.

According to La Jornada, the permit(s) revoked by court order had been issued by SAGARPA (Mexico’s agriculture ministry) and SEMARNAT (Mexico’s environmental protection agency) despite longstanding recommendations for denial made by the nation’s own leading environmental institutions – the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, and National Institute of Ecology. As was reported here on March 16, the federal permit approval also came despite objections by several hundred scientific research scholars associated with Mexico’s Union of Concerned Scientists Committed to Society.

At the very heart of the court ruling is the all important conclusion that coexistence is not possible: The court is in effect agreeing with scientists, farmers, beekeepers, and indigenous communities that Monsanto GM soy and honey production are incompatible.According to La Jornada, the scientific concerns are complemented by economic factors: “[T]he aforementioned permit runs thesevere risk of undermining the marketing of honey produced in these states and destined for the European market”. According to the data cited in the ruling,  85 percent of Mexican honey is exported to European Union (EU) markets and the Court of Justice of the EU already prohibits (as of 2011) the sale of honey containing pollen from GM crops.

The editorial in La Jornada further opined that:

Taken together, these elements make this judicial determination of particular importance: This is a setback to the majortransnational corporation involved with the production and marketing of genetically modified foods, whose presence in our country has grown in recent years, and is an extremely valuable victory for peasant farmer, indigenous, environmental, and scientific organizations that are opposed to these crops because they constitute a risk factor for the health and nutrition of populations and biodiversity. [My translation]

The decision is also a rebuke to a set of federal governmental agencies that continue to exhibit a “clearly inappropriate andirresponsible attitude” that borders on complicity with transnational capitalist interests and against the national interest. The Mexican government – despite the nation’s status as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartegena Biosafety Protocils – has refused to take the responsible approach being followed across much of Europe “where…national governments are adopting a precautionary approach to scientific evidence and risk effects”. In contrast, the Mexican government is not just failing to respect its various treaty obligations – which carry the force of binding law – the agriculture and environmental protection ministries are actually “by-passing guarantees owed native communities – such as the right to be consulted on operations of individuals that affect their territories, and leaving them to their fate in legal battles against of powerful multinationals.”

The editors conclude by noting:The editorial in La Jornada celebrates the setback dealtMonsanto but it also notes, somewhat somberly, that this “is clearly insufficient to reverse the damage caused by opening the free production of genetically modified crops” across Mexico. However, the editorial suggests that the ruling reinforces the need for a broad and systematic review by federal agricultural and foodauthorities of their current policies that favor large transnational corporations like Monsanto that peddle GM crops and foods and against traditional farmers and the nation’s own food sovereignty.

If it is true that the eradication of hunger is a priority of the current federal government, then the starting pointmust be the recognition of the relationship between the [GMO] scourge and the food policy model that has beenimposed on the entire population, which has transformed the human right to food into the private business of a few companies. [My translation]

Indeed, this is the principal rationale for resisting Monsanto: A democratic food system can ill afford to allow a handful of monstrously large transnational corporations to control our food and agriculture. It really is that simple, whatever else the science might tell us, food is best produced, served, and consumed from the bottom up, mostly at the local level.

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Debunking the Latest Attempt to Defend Agrichemicals at the Cost of the Greater Good: Evidence Mounts that Neonicotinoid Insecticides Harm Bees and Beneficial Insectshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/debunking-latest-attempt-defend-agrichemicals-cost-greater-good-evidence-mounts-neonicotinoid-insecticides-harm-bees-beneficial-insects/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=debunking-latest-attempt-defend-agrichemicals-cost-greater-good-evidence-mounts-neonicotinoid-insecticides-harm-bees-beneficial-insects http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/debunking-latest-attempt-defend-agrichemicals-cost-greater-good-evidence-mounts-neonicotinoid-insecticides-harm-bees-beneficial-insects/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:56:10 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12912 Dr. Henry Miller’s July 22 Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled “Why the Buzz About a Bee-pocalypse is a Honey Trap” argues that bees are not in decline and that U.S. agriculture would be devastated without the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. His article is likely in response to the National Resource Defense Council’s petition to the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids, a class of non-selective, systemic insecticides. This would follow in the footsteps

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CI_DebunkNeonic
Dr. Henry Miller’s July 22 Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled “Why the Buzz About a Bee-pocalypse is a Honey Trap” argues that bees are not in decline and that U.S. agriculture would be devastated without the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

His article is likely in response to the National Resource Defense Council’s petition to the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids, a class of non-selective, systemic insecticides. This would follow in the footsteps of the European Union’s restriction of three (out of seven) neonicotinoids in 2013 and earlier suspensions by several other countries.

Neonicotinoids, developed in the 1990s and used more heavily in the early 2000s, are the most widely used insecticides worldwide. The EPA estimates that 3.5 million pounds were applied on approximately 127 million acres worldwide in 2011. They are registered for use as an insecticide on soil, seed, and foliar applications for both residential and agricultural uses.

Research is voluminous linking neonicotinoids to bee memory loss and learning, weakened immunity, developmental injury, impaired foraging, diminished navigation and honing ability, and the loss of reproductive production of bumblebee queens.

Dr. Miller’s assertion that honey bee populations are not declining contradicts statements from the beekeeping industry along with research from both the U.S. government and public institutions. The USDA Agricultural Research Service states, “If losses continue at the 33 percent level, it could threaten the economic viability of the bee pollination industry. Honey bees would not disappear entirely, but the cost of honey bee pollination services would rise, and those increased costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers through higher food costs.”

While Colony Collapse Disorder is complex, not fully understood, and likely cannot be solved with a single policy, research has shown that insecticidal dust clouds following the planting of neonicotinoid-coated seeds can cause the loss of entire bee colonies. Neonicotinoids are used to coat over 99% of corn seed planted and are used to coat many other crops. The destructive effect of neonicotinoids on birds, bees, earthworms, aquatic insects, and beneficial insects is well researched and published in respected, peer-reviewed journals.

Neonicotinoids are water soluble and persistent chemicals having the potential to remain active in soils, wetlands, and waterways for years causing irreversible effects leading to a cascade of unintended consequences. They particularly harm organic farmers by contaminating irrigation water and airways by chemical drift and run-off during seeding and spraying. Organic growers depend on beneficial insects in the soil and air for pest prevention.

Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides, meaning they are absorbed into all plant tissues. Their systemic effect allows the poison to move into the pollen and nectar of flowers from treated seeds, when soil is treated before sowing, and when insecticides are applied through drip irrigation within labeled rates. The insecticides within the pollen and nectar have been shown to harm beneficial insects when they feed.

Of course, because of the systemic action of these insecticides, humans are ingesting increasing levels of neonicotinoids as well, unless they are choosing certified organic food.

Dr. Miller’s article highlights the primary reason why conventional U.S. agricultural practices are fragile and unsustainable, namely the overreliance on a single class of pesticides for productivity. If U.S. agriculture were truly as dependent on neonicotinoids as Miller contends, there’s no better argument for promoting a more stable ecological approach. The reality is that many European countries have improved crop yields since banning neonicotinoids.

Honey bee pollination is estimated to be worth $215 billion annually and beneficial insect predation is conservatively estimated to be worth more than $4.5 billion annually.

As is so often the case, the environmentally responsible choice turns out to be in the best interest of the economy as a whole — albeit not as lucrative for chemical corporations and the agrochemical lobbyists and institutions their funding supports.

Dr. Linley Dixon
Farm and Food Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group, having just celebrated its 10th anniversary, has spent the past decade fighting “the corporate attack on organic agriculture.” Think tanks funded by agrochemical and biotechnology interests, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Stanford-based Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute and the Heartland Institute, have produced a steady stream of “cherry-picked” research denigrating organics and defending industrial agriculture, toxic chemicals and genetic engineering. Most of their analysis has simultaneously ignored studies that indicate shifting to sustainable agricultural management would pay dividends to society in terms of the environment, economy, and human health.

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Neonic Insecticides Widespread In Iowa Waters – Studyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/neonic-insecticides-widespread-iowa-waters-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=neonic-insecticides-widespread-iowa-waters-study http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/neonic-insecticides-widespread-iowa-waters-study/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:27:35 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12906 Reuters by Carey Gillam A class of insecticides popular with corn and soybean farmers in the U.S. Midwest but feared as a factor in the decline of U.S. honey bee colonies and other crop pollinators, has been found to be widespread through rivers and streams in Iowa, according to a government study released on Thursday. Image Credit: Jsayre64 The study, released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, marks the first broad-scale

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Reuters
by Carey Gillam

A class of insecticides popular with corn and soybean farmers in the U.S. Midwest but feared as a factor in the decline of U.S. honey bee colonies and other crop pollinators, has been found to be widespread through rivers and streams in Iowa, according to a government study released on Thursday.

IowaRiver.Jsayre64Image Credit: Jsayre64

The study, released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, marks the first broad-scale investigation of multiple neonicotinoid insecticides in waterways in the Midwestern U.S., and is one of the first conducted within the entire United States, according to the government scientists.

In the report, 79 water samples from across Iowa, the top U.S. corn-producing state, were collected during the 2013 growing season. Researchers said the use of neonicotinoid insecticides has grown in recent years, and they found them to be both “mobile and persistent” with “a strong pulse of neonicotinoids associated with crop planting” in streams.

The researchers said the broad use of the neonicotinoids, “needs to be closely examined in relation to environmental impacts.”

Similar studies by the USGS have found many other types of common agricultural chemicals in stream samples in Iowa, but researchers said there was a “substantially greater neonicotinoid detection frequency” observed in this study compared to historical detections of other insecticides.

Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops, but are also used widely on annual and perennial plants in lawns and gardens. Neonics, chemically similar to nicotine, are commonly applied to the seeds before they are planted.

As use of the neonics has grown, some scientists have linked the insecticides to large losses in honey bee colonies that are considered critical for the production of many U.S. crops. Honey bees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of U.S. consumer foods, according to the U.S. government.

Many agrichemical companies, including Bayer, whose neonic products are top sellers around the world, say there are a mix of factors killing off the bees and that neonics are important tools for boosting crop production.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by Gunna Dickson)

 

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The Open Source Seed Initiative: Challenging the Corporate Control of Our Food Systemhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:17:06 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12902 by Linley Dixon, PhD Seed diversity is undeniably essential to life. Scientists have only scratched the surface in identifying the millions of genetic traits stored in seed banks including variations in appearance, and nutrition, as well as resistance to disease, drought, and salinity. Intellectual property rights allow research plant breeders to patent new plant varieties they breed and gene sequences they “discover.” There are some philosophical questions to grapple with here. First, should we even

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by Linley Dixon, PhD

Taking care of new developmentSeed diversity is undeniably essential to life. Scientists have only scratched the surface in identifying the millions of genetic traits stored in seed banks including variations in appearance, and nutrition, as well as resistance to disease, drought, and salinity.

Intellectual property rights allow research plant breeders to patent new plant varieties they breed and gene sequences they “discover.” There are some philosophical questions to grapple with here.

First, should we even be allowed to patent life? Patenting seed encourages the use of a narrow set of traits to which biotechnology and breeding are targeted—for example, the ability for a plant to break down a patented chemical. Innovations are restricted to the best-selling crops and are targeted toward mechanized monoculture farming because large-scale production sells the most seed and chemical inputs. If genes and varieties are not patentable, big seed companies are not able to make big financial investments in varieties that promote big monoculture farming practices.

To try and change this trend, a group of scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are raising awareness of the growing number of patented genes and seeds by coordinating the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI, www.opensourceseedinitiative.org).

OSSI was launched in 2011 with the realization that, according to their website, “continued restrictions on seed may hinder our ability to improve our crops and provide access to genetic resources.” In April 2014, OSSI’s first release of seeds included 36 varieties of 14 different crops with an open-source license stating that the seeds and DNA sequences cannot be legally protected in any way in the future.

Though this is a small step toward decentralizing the responsibility for agricultural innovation, the OSSI is raising awareness that we cannot leave our future in the hands of a few corporations.

It is impossible to know what genes will become useful for adaptations to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, drought, salinity, and other future shifts in environmental conditions.

Seed viability diminishes with time. Therefore, if unique varieties of seeds are not continually grown, pollinated, and new seeds collected and properly stored, some traits will be lost forever. Likewise, if farmers are not saving and replanting their seed, adaptations to local conditions will not be preserved. Future food security depends on the availability of a diverse gene pool within each food crop that is available to all for future experimentation.

With the increasing industrialization of our global food supply, the number of unique cultivars farmers are growing is dramatically being reduced.

When a crop species lacks diversity in the field, conditions favor the spread of plant diseases. The United States’ most economically devastating crop epidemic was caused by the intentional use of cytoplasmic male sterility genes, which also unknowingly created susceptibility to a disease.

In the summer of 1970, Southern Corn Leaf Blight, caused by a type of fungus, Bipolaris maydis, wiped out a billion dollars’ worth of corn in the United States. Seeking to reduce the labor involved with hybrid corn seed production, seed companies used the trait for cytoplasmic male sterility. This eliminated the need for hand detasseling of female plants so that foreign pollen could more easily be introduced to create hybrids.

The disease resulted in the loss of 250 million bushels of corn in Illinois alone that year, clearly demonstrating the threat to food security from genetic uniformity and monoculture farming practices.

There are numerous examples of plant epidemics triggered by a lack of genetic diversity in the field, including Stem Rust of Wheat, which contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire, and Late Blight of Potato, which caused the death or emigration of 2 million people from Ireland.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a story of our past. Biotech seed companies count on farmers to be lured by their latest high yielding varieties as American tax payers foot the bill in the form of subsidies and federal crop insurance when disease inevitably strikes the thousands of acres planted with genetically related seed.

Genetic uniformity lends itself well to industrial-scale, monoculture food production that depends heavily on mechanization, subsidies, and chemical inputs—and, more recently, patented, genetically engineered seed. These practices threaten our food security and the health of farm workers, and leave chemical residues on our food and in our environment.

In recent years, the lack of genetic diversity has continued to contribute to widespread epidemics. Genetic uniformity can be linked to the top ten emerging plant diseases and is likely the cause of Goss’s Wilt, a new disease of corn, as reported in the New York Times in 2013. In addition, 90% of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered. The hybrids chosen for genetic modification come from a small gene pool of high yielding varieties and are planted in vast monocultures across the globe. The combination of large acreages planted to identical or similar genotypes produce ideal conditions for severe epidemics.

It is imperative to do all we can to shift to a more sustainable model of agriculture. Citizens have a social responsibility to challenge policies that allow for the patenting of life. We need to support public sector breeding programs, seed banks, and public access to the genetic resources they preserve. If we can prevent genes from being patented, plant breeding research will largely return to the public sector and to the many smaller diverse seed companies. This will encourage the development of genetically diverse plant varieties adapted to local conditions and resilient to environmental changes.

This story originally appeared in The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.

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What the Starbucks?! Tell Starbucks to Serve Only Organic Milk From Cows Not Fed GMOshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:52:10 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12892 GMOinside.org Green America’s campaign, GMOinside, launches a petition asking Starbucks to serve only certified organic milk. Sign here.   Starbucks. Easily one of the world’s most popular and widespread coffeehouse brands, Starbucks has paved the way for the modern mass coffeehouse industry with its promotion of its corporate social responsibility and consistently strong branding. One area of improvement? Starbucks dairy milk. While not genetically modified themselves, dairy products are not immune to the insidious impacts of

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GMOinside.org

Green America’s campaign, GMOinside, launches a petition asking Starbucks to serve only certified organic milk. Sign here.

starbucksGMOinside
 

Starbucks. Easily one of the world’s most popular and widespread coffeehouse brands, Starbucks has paved the way for the modern mass coffeehouse industry with its promotion of its corporate social responsibility and consistently strong branding.

One area of improvement? Starbucks dairy milk.

While not genetically modified themselves, dairy products are not immune to the insidious impacts of GMOs. Cows living in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are fed a grain diet comprised almost entirely of genetically modified corn, soy, alfalfa, and cotton seed. These crops degrade the quality of our land and water, perpetuate corporate-controlled agriculture, and have potentially negative health impacts on livestock. Additionally, the overuse of antibiotics in industrialized farming is contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, putting us all at risk.

With biotech giants Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta lending power to industrialized agriculture, the future of our food system rests in the hands of profit-driven corporations, while people and the planet come last on the list of priorities.

Starbucks boasts nearly 20,000 retail stores in over 60 countries. With its global presence, Starbucks must prove its true dedication to sustainability and provide organic dairy milk at all of its locations to support a sustainable future for all.

Starbucks is already a leader in the coffee shop industry by serving rBGH-free dairy and using only USDA-certified organic soy milk. By setting the same organic standard for dairy milk, Starbucks can demonstrate a serious commitment to providing environmentally and socially conscious products.

Ask Starbucks to step up to the plate and commit to serving organic dairy milk at all of its locations by signing here.

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Budding Organic/Specialty Meat Processor Shutdown in Conflict with Former Farming Town (Now Madison, WI Bedroom Community)http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:02:42 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12887 Family-Scale Farmers, Consumers and Retailers Impacted Across State The Sauk Prairie Eagle by Rob Schultz A dispute between Black Earth Meats and village of Black Earth officials that appears destined for a courtroom has forced the popular organic meat processing facility to close, its owner said Tuesday. Black Earth Meats expects to close by the end of July after it lost its loan with the Bank of New Glarus following the Village Board’s decision last

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Family-Scale Farmers, Consumers and Retailers Impacted Across State

The Sauk Prairie Eagle
by Rob Schultz

black earth meatsA dispute between Black Earth Meats and village of Black Earth officials that appears destined for a courtroom has forced the popular organic meat processing facility to close, its owner said Tuesday.

Black Earth Meats expects to close by the end of July after it lost its loan with the Bank of New Glarus following the Village Board’s decision last month to pursue legal action to stop the company’s operations at its present site rather than work with it to find a new facility site, owner Bartlett Durand said.

“This is a tragedy,” Durand said he told his employees.

The board made its decision after the growing company outlined four possible options to move the slaughter facility out of town as ordered by the board last December, Durand said. The facility had been labeled a public nuisance.

“We came with four plans to discuss with them and they just said they would prefer litigation,” Durand added. “I told them if they did that we’d lose the note and they did it anyway, and we lost the note.”

Durand and Black Earth Meats Market, LLC, filed a suit against the village and its officers on July 2, seeking $5.3 million in damages from what it said were improper allegations that led to loss of revenue as well as an improper proposal to take the property without just compensation.

Durand said 22 employees will lose jobs and many others will be affected by the company’s closing. “I’m crying right now because I just finished talking with my employees. I’m struggling a little bit,” he added.

Black Earth Meats is the only small organic meat processing facility in the state, and it created a niche with its focus on local grassfed and organic meats and humane handling of animals. It became so popular that it opened a retail butcher shop in Madison called the Conscious Carnivore. Durand said the shop, located on University Avenue, will remain open.

In a statement he read to his employees, Durand said the closing also “affects over 100 restaurants, retailers, and farmer’s market purveyors. … It affects the thousands of customers who rely on us for good meat. And it affects the development of a local food infrastructure and small-scale processing.”

But Village President Patrick Troge said in May that Black Earth Meats had grown too big for its facility and it was disrupting village services and creating problems for neighbors, including a school. An overflow of animal waste and byproducts created problems at the wastewater treatment plant that serves Black Earth and other communities , Troge said. Also, neighbors complained about odors, garbage and truck traffic on residential streets, he added.

Last December, the Village Board told Black Earth Meats that it had 120 days to present the board with a plan to move its slaughter operation outside the village or face litigation. In April, the company asked for an extension after they both agreed to hire an economic development group to find potential options , Durand said.

Economic Development Partners, of Verona, was then hired with a $4,000 partnership grant from Alliant Energy, and its proposals were presented to the board, Durand said. The company asked the board to reaffirm its right to conduct slaughter on the premises to avoid losing its loan. “Instead, the village passed a motion directing its attorney to pursue legal action against the company to stop all nuisance activities,” Durand said.

Village board member Patrick Frey declined to comment Tuesday. No other village officials, could be reached for comment.

Durand said he told his employees: “I am devastated that seven years of work building up a local meats infrastructure is destroyed with this unthinkable act by the Village Board.”

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Leaked Document Reveals US-EU Trade Agreement Threatens Public Health, Food Safetyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:05:13 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12883 Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) WASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and

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Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)

iatp.logoWASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and security cleared advisors, mostly corporate representatives, can read and comment on draft negotiating texts.

According to the IATP analysis accompanying release of the leaked document, “This leaked draft TTIP chapter doesn’t tell us everything about where negotiations are headed on food safety, but it tells us enough to raise serious concerns.”

While key details have not been disclosed to the public or remain to be negotiated, the chapter clearly indicates negotiators continue to subordinate SPS regulations to the object of maximizing trade. The text, for example, supports the U.S. approach to not require port of entry food inspections and testing, meaning food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess—a win for U.S. meat and food companies that could jeopardize food safety for consumers. Further, the text indicates the trade agreement could make it more difficult to restrict imports from countries with animal or plant diseases, such as Mad Cow Disease or plant fungus outbreaks.

The leaked chapter does acknowledge animal welfare but lacks enforceable language, meaning a U.S. state or EU member state could pass mandatory laws or rules on agriculture animal welfare, but such mandatory measures could not be used to prevent import of products from abused animals. Alternatively, unenforceable trade policy could further the misguided “Right to Farm” legislation under consideration in several states.

“While many key details regarding things like GMOs are still hidden, it’s clear public health is losing out to corporate interests in a big way,” said IATP’s Dr. Steve Suppan, author of the analysis. “Moreover, it’s an affront to democracy that the public need rely on leaked documents to find out how these agreements could affect health and safety.”

The draft chapter would set up a Joint Management Committee to discuss concerns about U.S. and EU SPS regulations. But the draft provides very little information about how this committee or the yet to be negotiated TTIP Oversight Body, to which the Committee reports, would function if discussions did not resolve concerns about the effect of regulations on trade. It is not clear whether the Oversight Body would refer unresolved SPS concerns to the proposed and very controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism. The ISDS would have a private tribunal of trade lawyers, not a public court of law, decide whether U.S. or EU SPS rules, laws or enforcement measures violated TTIP. If the tribunal decided in favor of the complaining investor, the tribunal would determine the compensation that the EU member state or U.S. governments would have to pay investors for loss of anticipated benefits under TTIP.

Read the IATP analysis and the complete leaked chapter text for more information.

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