The battle over a cancer-causing pesticide often applied to California strawberry fields is over. The maker of the highly toxic methyl iodide has pulled the agriculture pesticide from the American marketplace in the face of mounting opposition from the public, leading scientific and public health experts, and farmworkers.
The decision by Arysta LifeScience to pull its product from the U.S. market was made public in late March. The Pesticide Action Network of North America, which has worked for years to ban methyl iodide, alerted Enivronmental Working Group and other groups joined in the effort to protect the public, including farm workers, from being exposed to the substance.
For more from the Environmental Working Group, see www.ewg.org.
In late March, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released a detailed set of recommendations to policymakers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change.
In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes, and degraded ecosystems.
The commission was created in 2011 and charged with identifying the best research-based approaches toward global food security in the face of climate change. The commission’s recommendations are as follows:
- Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies;
- Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade;
- Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture;
- Target populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity;
- Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide;
- Reduce loss and waste in food systems, particularly from infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits;
- Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions.
For the full story, see www.news.wisc.edu.
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would not take immediate steps to bar bisphenol-A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen and plastics component, in canned food and liquid infant formula containers.
As a result of the widespread use of BPA in food and beverage packaging, studies have found BPA in breast milk, saliva, urine, amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood. It is especially troubling that children and fetuses are exposed to such a toxic chemical during development, which can result in permanent harm.
The FDA’s decision came just weeks after a landmark three-year study published by The Endocrine Society found low dose exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals, including BPA, do produce significant, adverse health effects in people. The report rebuts the chemical and food industries’ arguments that people are exposed to too little BPA to do harm.
For the full story, see www.ewg.org.
A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) report examines water pollution caused by farm runoff and details how treating the problem after the fact is increasingly expensive, difficult and, if current trends continue, ultimately unsustainable.
Water that runs off poorly managed fields that have been treated with chemical fertilizers and manure is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus. These two potent pollutants set off a cascade of harmful consequences, threatening the drinking water used by millions of Americans.
National studies and regional assessments of waterways in the Mississippi River Basin consistently point to chemical fertilizers and manure spreading on fields as the main sources of nutrient pollution. USDA economists estimate that the national costs of removing nitrate alone from drinking water total more than $4.8 billion a year. Water treatment to address nutrient-fueled algal and cyanobacterial blooms and cyanotoxins can carry a total capital cost ranging between $12 million and $56 million for a town of 100,000 people.
Most farm operations are exempt from the pollution control requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, and few states have little authority to compel farmers to reduce water contamination.
To read the report, go to www.ewg.org/report/troubledwaters.
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, made the following statement on the Obama Administration’s defense of country of origin labeling:
“[The March 23rd] announcement that the United States has filed an appeal to defend country of origin labels on food at the World Trade Organization (WTO) is good news for consumers and farmers. We are heartened that the Obama administration has finally stood up against the meat industry’s attack on common-sense rules that let people get vital information about what they are eating.
“The WTO’s November ruling that some provisions of the U.S. law on mandatory country of origin labeling were barriers to trade made it clear once again that the WTO serves global corporate agribusiness interests, not consumers and farmers. Most Americans do not think that an unelected, unaccountable international trade body should get to decide what U.S. consumers can know about their food. Geneva trade bureaucrats have no business meddling in American grocery carts and should not be able to undermine rules put in place by U.S. elected officials.
“The rule for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several kinds of nuts went into effect in 2008, providing American consumers with critical information they need to make informed choices about where their food is from and how it was produced. Since its inclusion in the 2002 Farm Bill, COOL has had overwhelming support from both consumers and U.S. farmers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the program and delay its implementation.
“It was clear that appealing this bad WTO decision was the right choice, and it should not have taken the Obama administration until the last possible day to file an appeal. The President and Congress must continue to defend mandatory country of origin labeling from future WTO challenges or any other attempts to take away this crucial labeling program.”