Media/News Archive

Sewage Sludge on Fields Poisoning Wisconsin Water

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Sewage sludge contains toxic wastes, including pharmaceuticals, household and industrial chemicals, and heavy metals. Many industrial chemicals, including compounds called PFAS used to make heat-resistant, stain-proof, and nonstick products, are unregulated. Very small amounts of PFAS compounds have serious health implications, and recent testing has revealed dangerous levels in Wisconsin water. More than half of all sewage sludge is spread on farmlands, according to the EPA. Organic standards forbid the use of sewage waste on farm fields used in organic production.

Wisconsin case shows how sewage plants spread unregulated toxins across landscape
Wisconsin State Journal
by Steven Verburg

Source: Kristian Bjornard, Flickr

Detection of a toxic chemical in a northeastern Wisconsin wastewater treatment plant’s sludge has prompted a halt to application of the material on nearby farms and raised broader concerns about how public sewer systems across the state may be spreading the chemical across the landscape.

The contaminated sludge in Marinette also highlights unease and confusion in local communities over the absence of enforceable federal or Wisconsin environmental standards for the chemicals — often referred to by the acronym PFAS — despite at least two decades of research linking them to serious health problems.

Marinette has the worst PFAS contamination of drinking water that has been detected in the state. Private wells serving dozens of homes in the neighboring town of Peshtigo are affected, many with PFAS levels exceeding a federal health advisory. Tyco Fire Products, the local company blamed for the pollution, has installed water treatment systems and distributed bottled water in dozens of homes. Read Full Article »

Judge to Allow Evidence of Monsanto’s Alleged Ghostwriting at Trial

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Edwin Hardeman, one of over 9,300 plaintiffs charging that Monsanto’s Roundup caused their cancer, has received tentatively good news. The presiding federal judge has allowed evidence pointing to Monsanto’s alleged ghostwriting of scientific research and attempts to influence regulators and scientists regarding Roundup’s safety. The order applies to two more upcoming cases before the judge as well. We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

U.S. judge to allow controversial evidence in Roundup cancer trials
by Tina Bellon

Judge Vince Chhabria

A federal judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer causes cancer on Monday tentatively allowed pieces of controversial evidence that the company had hoped to exclude from upcoming trials.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria during a hearing in San Francisco federal court called his decision “probably most disappointing for Monsanto,” the Bayer unit that manufactures the world’s most widely used herbicide.

The company denies allegations that glyphosate causes cancer and says decades of independent studies have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.

Chhabria on Monday said plaintiffs could introduce some evidence of Monsanto’s alleged attempts to ghostwrite studies and influence the findings of scientists and regulators during the first phase of upcoming trials. He said documents which showed the company taking a position on the science or a study introduced during the first phase were “super relevant.” Read Full Article »

Big Ag’s Long Arms in Scientific Research

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: As public funding for university research dwindles, industry research frequently fills the void. This means the questions researchers address are often questions Big Ag would like to see answered. Unfortunately, it also means that research performed by academics who seek to improve the health of people and the environment may find themselves on the wrong side of major donors. Independent research money is hard to come by—and needed now more than ever.

US academics feel the invisible hand of politicians and big agriculture
The Guardian
by Kate Cox and Claire Brown

As universities rely more on industry for funds, researchers taking a stand on health or environment say they’re sidelined

Source: USDA

In a windowless conference room epidemiologist Steve Wing was frantically blacking out chunks of his own research.

Wing had been working on a study looking into the impacts of industrial-scale hog operations on health for the University of North Carolina. But the state’s Pork Council had caught wind of the research, and filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to gain access to his findings. “They went after Steve, asking him to turn over any documentation. They went directly to the university and got the lawyers to try and make him hand it over,” says Naeema Muhammad, one of Wing’s community partners.

Wing had promised the community members who had spoken to him that he’d protect their privacy. Revealing even a few basic details could have compromised their identities. “Because … if their occupation was a nurse, they lived in a household with three other people, they were aged 35-39 … there’s only one person like that in a rural area,” Wing said in a 2015 interview. Read Full Article »

Industrial Farming Alone Cannot Feed the World

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Organic farming plays an important role in sequestering carbon, building soil fertility, conserving water, providing high-nutrient food, and mitigating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Industrial farms pump out billions of bushels of GMO corn and soy to feed sick livestock in massive CAFOs to flood markets with cheap bacon, hamburger, milk, and eggs. Still, 80% of the food in the world is produced on family farms. Feeding the world’s growing population will require the creativity of scientists and local farmers working with the resources available to them regionally. Support the farmers in your foodshed who feed our communities without poisoning them.

Can we ditch intensive farming – and still feed the world?
The Guardian
by Fiona Harvey

From urban farming to drones, innovation can help fill the gap between production and consumption

Why do we need to grow more food?

Source: CJ Oliver, Flickr

Food production around the world must rise by half in the next 30 years to sustain a global population expected to top 10 billion by 2050.

Compared with 2010, an extra 7,400tn calories will be needed a year in 2050. If food production increases along current lines, that would require a landmass twice the area of India.

These are the findings of a report published in December by the World Resources Institute on the “food gap” between current production and growing consumption.

So we need to find more land to cultivate then?

Bringing more land under agricultural production is one answer to filling this gap, but it cannot solve the problem alone. Finding that amount of land in suitable conditions would spell the end for many of the earth’s remaining forests, peatlands and wild areas, and release the carbon stored in them, hastening climate change.

Intensive farming has already had a huge effect on biodiversity and the environment worldwide. Pesticides, which have helped boost cereal and fruit production, have also killed bees and myriad species of insects in large numbers.

Fertilisers that have improved poor soils have also had unintended harmful consequences. The largest ever maritime “dead zone” was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the result of fertiliser and manure from the meat industry running off the land. Chemical fertilisers also contribute directly to climate change, through the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and to air pollution through ammonia. Read Full Article »

U.S. Continues to Allow Harmful Food Additives Banned in Europe

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Food processors add “value” to baked goods, cereals, packaged snack foods, and other foods often in part by adding preservatives, flavorings, added vitamins and minerals, and food coloring. Some products containing additives allowed by the FDA in the U.S. have been reformulated without them for sale in Europe. The article below details some of these troubling ingredients and their likely health consequences. None of these additives are allowed in USDA certified organic food.

What Foods Are Banned in Europe but Not Banned in the U.S.?
The New York Times
by Roni Caryn Rabin

The European Union prohibits many food additives and various drugs that are widely used in American foods.

Q. What foods are banned in Europe that are not banned in the United States, and what are the implications of eating those foods?

Some drinks contain BVO in the U.S.
Source: Dylan Pech, Flickr

A. The European Union prohibits or severely restricts many food additives that have been linked to cancer that are still used in American-made bread, cookies, soft drinks and other processed foods. Europe also bars the use of several drugs that are used in farm animals in the United States, and many European countries limit the cultivation and import of genetically modified foods.

“In some cases, food-processing companies will reformulate a food product for sale in Europe” but continue to sell the product with the additives in the United States, said Lisa Y. Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food safety advocacy organization.

A 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits the Food and Drug Administration from approving food additives that are linked to cancer, but an agency spokeswoman said that many substances that were in use before passage of the amendment, known as the Delaney amendment, are considered to have had prior approval and “therefore are not regulated as food additives.”

In October, the F.D.A. agreed to ban six artificial flavoring substances shown to cause cancer in animals, following petitions and a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other organizations. The F.D.A. insists the six artificial flavors “do not pose a risk to public health,” but concedes that the law requires it not approve the food additives. Food companies will have at least two years to remove them from their products. Read Full Article »