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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Federal Agencies' Category


08
Apr

Tell USDA to Support Organic During the Coronavirus Pandemic

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2020) We are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers and inspectors, and consumers. We are mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of all who are involved in organic agriculture, certification, and compliance. We also seek to advocate for responsible actions that will protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal during this difficult time. Send a message to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for support to organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers and inspectors, and consumers. The recently enacted CARES Act includes a $9.5 billion emergency fund: “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers.” It is critical that organic farmers and others in the organic community are included in the emergency response actions taken by USDA. Beyond Pesticides, as a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), is asking USDA Secretary Perdue to take action to support USDA organic through the coronavirus pandemic.  Please note, our form letter to Secretary Perdue is close to the […]

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06
Apr

Stop Dangerous Proposal to Allow Genetically Engineered Crops on National Wildlife Refuges in Southeast U.S.

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2020) The Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is moving forward with a proposal to grow genetically engineered crops (GECs) on National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeast United States, including 131 refuges in 10 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ask Congress to help stop the dangerous proposal to allow genetically engineered crops on National Wildlife Refuges in the southeast United States. The proposal is the subject of a draft environmental assessment and opens the door to escalating uses of GE crops and harmful pesticides in wildlife refuges. In 2014, public pressure and lawsuits by environmental groups led to the Obama administration’s decision to phase out GE crops and ban neonicotinoid insecticide use on national wildlife refuges. On August 2, 2018, the Trump administration’s USFWS issued a memorandum that reversed the prohibition. The reversal allows the refuge system to make decisions on the use of GECs and neonics on a case-by-case basis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is also under attack by the Trump administration. The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and others quickly challenged the 2018 reversal memorandum with a lawsuit. National Wildlife Refuges are federal public lands specifically designated to […]

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01
Apr

Help Ensure that Organic Production Meets the Standard You Expect to Protect Health and the Environment; Comments due April 3

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2020) Your comments are due by Friday, April 3, end of day. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets April 29-30 online to debate issues concerning what goes into your organic food. Lend your voice to continuous improvement by learning about issues and submitting comments. From the very beginning, with the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, “organic” has meant “continuous improvement.” The primary mechanism for continuous improvement in organic production is the high level of public involvement that comes from twice-annual meetings of the stakeholder board. The second mechanism is the sunset process, which helps move synthetic substances out of organic production as the market invests in growing organic inputs and ingredients. Despite USDA’s efforts to weaken the sunset process, the 5-year cycle of review of every synthetic substance currently used in organic production and processing, offers us an opportunity to keep organic strong and strengthen any weaknesses. Items on the NOSB agenda in April include materials allowed in organic production, as well as discussion of policies and sunset materials on which the NOSB will vote in the Fall. We have identified some priority issues of both kinds. The only voting issue on […]

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27
Mar

Safer Practices and Disinfectants for Coronavirus Identified by CDC, As EPA Advances Toxic Products, Suspends Public Health and Environmental Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2020) Faced with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) threat, there is tremendous pressure to use toxic disinfectants, despite the availability of safer products. In fact, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending 70% alcohol for surface disinfection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs is advising the use of unnecessarily toxic substances, and reducing standards that govern their allowance on the market. EPA’s pesticide program allowed 70 new disinfectants yesterday, at the same time that the agency overall announced that it is waiving enforcement of environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak—a devastating blow to public health and environmental protection. Beyond Pesticides, in its factsheet, Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 (coronavirus) without Toxic Sanitizers and Disinfectants, says, “Fight the coronavirus with common sense prevention and safer disinfection products. Avoid products that increase vulnerability to respiratory problems.” (See the factsheet below.) To some extent, the expanded allowance of disinfection products on top of the 281 disinfectants previously permitted has been made possible by relaxing oversight on so-called “inert” or other ingredients that are not disclosed on product labels and often highly toxic. The agency says it is allowing the use of these “inerts” with “no […]

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25
Mar

Trump Administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Planting of Genetically Engineered Crops in Southeast National Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2020) The Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is moving forward with a proposal to grow genetically engineered crops (GECs) on national wildlife refuges in the Southeast United States. The draft environmental assessment allows wildlife to consume pesticide-laden produce, considers chemical-intensive genetically engineered crops no less damaging to the environment than “non-use of GECs,” and permits and escalation of climate change with toxic pesticide use increases. USFW’s proposal fails to mention the success of organic agriculture and consider it as one of the alternative management strategies. The proposal is up for public comment until April 10, 2020. In 2014, public pressure and lawsuits by environmental groups led to the Obama administration’s decision to phase out GE crops and ban neonicotinoid insecticide use on national wildlife refuges. On August 2, 2018, the Trump administration’s USFWS issued a memorandum that reversed the prohibition. The reversal allows the refuge system to make decisions on the use of GECs and neonics on a case-by-case basis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is also under attack by the Trump administration. The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and others quickly challenged the 2018 […]

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17
Mar

Monarch Population, Under Threat from Pesticide Use and Habitat Loss, Declines by Half in One Year

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2020) The number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico is down 53% from last year, according to a count conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico. While WWF indicates the decline was expected due to unfavorable weather conditions during the species southward migration, other environmental groups are raising red flags. “Scientists were expecting the count to be down slightly, but this level of decrease is heartbreaking,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Monarchs unite us, and more protections are clearly needed for these migratory wonders and their habitat.” WWF’s count found that monarchs occupied seven acres this winter, down from 15 acres last year. Reports indicate that 15 acres is a minimum threshold needed to prevent a collapse of the butterfly’s migration and possible extinction. This was the goal stated by the 2015 White House Pollinator Task Force, which the current administration is failing to see through. While weather conditions play an important role in monarch migration from the U.S. and Canada south to Mexico, the species is under threat from a range of environmental factors. Monarchs depend on milkweed plants to lay eggs, and monarch caterpillars feed solely on […]

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16
Mar

Take Action: Toxic Chemicals Unnecessary To Protect Against the Coronavirus; CDC Advises Preventive Measures

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2020) As the number of people infected with Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) increases, many people are looking for sound advice about how to protect themselves and their families. There is much uncertainty. “It’s fair to say that as the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the United States will at some point in time either this year or next be exposed to this virus, and there’s a good chance many will become sick,” said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “But … based on what we know about this virus, we do not expect most people to develop serious illness.” Tell EPA not to recommend toxic chemicals for disease prevention. While people are seeking answers, EPA’s published list, Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19, does not offer helpful advice. The list contains products containing toxic chemicals such as chlorine bleach, peroxyacetic acid, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides, didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, and other “quats,” sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione, and hydrochloric acid. In addition to their outright toxicity, some of these can also trigger asthmatic attacks. On the other hand, CDC’s website makes it […]

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04
Mar

Soil-Based Organic Agriculture Takes on the Climate Crisis, Economic Insecurity, and Health Inequity

  (Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2020) California produces the most food of any state in the U.S. – more than half of all domestic fruits and vegetables – but only 4% of its agriculture is organic. After releasing a report on the benefits of organic agriculture last year, the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) Foundation is continuing to offer a “Roadmap to an Organic California” with an extensive policy report. The document proposes a wealth of concrete strategies for California lawmakers to employ. Organic agriculture, the authors skillfully reason, can respond to three pressing issues in California: climate resilience, economic security, and health equity. Additionally, the report highlights the need for focus on organic integrity in order to sustain positive change away from toxic practices. Climate Resilience The climate crisis is already impacting California; heat waves, droughts, and devastating wildfires are occurring more frequently and severely. Organic agriculture is often forgotten as politicians consider solutions. CCOF proposes that policy makers help combat the climate crisis through supporting healthy, carbon-sequestering soil practices that are federally mandated in organic agriculture. In addition to building farm resilience, healthy soil secures some of the state’s water supply. Because it is porous and sponge-like, well-maintained […]

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10
Feb

Take Action: Save the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2020) Through the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, pesticide dangers became a major driver for the environmental movement. Perhaps the most effective piece of environmental legislation is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Because NEPA requires a wide-ranging evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of federal actions, as well as alternatives, it serves as a model for environmental decision making. Now key elements of NEPA are under attack by the Trump Administration. Ask your Congressional Representatives to pressure the White House to retract the proposed changes. At the same time, add your signature to the Beyond Pesticides public comment to Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). NEPA established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as the agency within the White House that is responsible for carrying out the purposes of the act. The regulations established by the CEQ have persisted through changes in administrations for more than 30 years without major modification. Changes proposed by the Trump Administration’s CEQ threaten this model decision-making process. NEPA is a procedural law. It sets no environmental standards, but sets a standard for evaluating environmental impacts of proposed federal actions. It requires that federal agencies consider the short-term, long-term, and […]

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27
Jan

Insist that the Veterans Administration Cover Conditions Caused by Agent Orange

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2019) United States military veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms after their exposure to Agent Orange will remain unprotected and uncompensated until at least late 2020, according to a letter sent by Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Send a letter to Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie insisting that bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms be added to the VA’s list of eligible conditions. Congress included a provision in the must-pass December federal spending bill requiring VA to provide legislators “a detailed explanation” for the now multi-year delay in determining whether to list the diseases. The provision is intended to cut through the ongoing delays, but there is no indication VA is going to meet the 30-day deadline. “The longer VA continues to drag its feet on expanding the list of conditions associated with Agent Orange, the longer our veterans continue to suffer—and die—as a result of their exposure,” Senator Tester said in a statement to the news site Connecting Vets. He continued, “It’s time for VA to stop ignoring the overwhelming evidence put forth by scientists, medical experts and veterans and do right by those who served. Any prolonging of […]

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09
Jan

At a Time of Precarious Military Actions, Trump Administration Delays Benefits to Agent Orange Veterans

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2020) United States military veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson’s-like symptoms after their exposure to Agent Orange will remain unprotected and uncompensated until at least late 2020, a letter sent by Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) indicates. Congress included a provision in the must-pass December federal spending bill requiring VA to provide legislators “a detailed explanation” for the now multi-year delay in determining whether to list the diseases. This is seen by advocates for veterans as a serious lack of support and compensation just at a time when the current administration mobilizes the military. According to Military Times, 83,000 veterans suffer from bladder cancer, Parkinson’s-like symptoms or hypothyroidism, and an untold number have high blood pressure. The paper interviewed Army Sgt. Maj. John Mennitto, who explained, “Since we first spoke in 2016, I have been diagnosed with bladder cancer. . . I also have hypothyroidism. My greatest concern for me and my fellow veterans who have debilitating diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange is that our family members will be left with nothing.” A robust 2014 review by the National Academy of Medicine recommended including […]

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01
Nov

U.S. Consumers Eating Pesticide Residues in Fruits and Vegetables, according to Government Report

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2019) The recently published report Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Fiscal Year 2017 Pesticide Report, from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), provides data on the levels of pesticide residues that show up on the foods U.S. consumers eat. The report adds fuel to public concern about contamination of the food supply, and to discussion in the scientific and advocacy communities about what is and is not safe for human health. It is also a sobering reminder of just how much chemical-intensive agriculture depends on pesticides, whether insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides. This FDA report has been prepared annually since 1987 and is based on the agency’s Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program, which evaluates both domestically produced and imported human food samples, including fruit, vegetable, and animal products. As the report notes, “Three federal government agencies share responsibility for the regulation and oversight of pesticide chemical residues in or on food. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers (i.e., approves) the use of pesticides and establishes tolerances for pesticide chemical residues in or on food resulting from the use of the pesticides. Tolerances are the EPA-established maximum residue levels (MRLs) of a specific pesticide chemical that is permitted in […]

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30
Oct

US Government Opposes Toxic Chemical Bans in Thailand

(Beyond Pesticides, October 30th, 2019) This month, the Thai government moved to ban some toxic chemicals out of concern for the health of its residents and environment. In response, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary Ted McKinney sent a document to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pushing back on their plan. As the Thai government makes changes to protect the health and represent the will of the people, the U.S. acts on behalf of its allegiance to agrichemical companies on an international stage. After powerful and sustained activism from local advocacy groups such as BioThai, the Thai government decided to upgrade glyphosate, chlorpyrifos, and paraquat from Type 3 toxic substances to Type 4, meaning these chemicals will no longer be allowed to be produced, imported, or possessed in the country. Witoon Lianchamroon, director of BioThai, says glyphosate and paraquat “contaminate our water, the soil, and some species like crab or fish or frog. These two main herbicides cover around half of the total pesticide use in the country and they cause a lot of problems.” The ban was approved by the National Hazardous Substances Committee, made up of 29 experts in the field, on October 22. Beginning December 1, the ban […]

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20
Oct

Take Action: Remove Known Carcinogens from Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2019) USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) should remove nonorganic celery powder from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for use in organic food production. It has been long-established that nitrates and nitrites, used to prevent bacterial growth in processed meats, react with protein to create nitrosamines, which are widely considered to be possible carcinogens. The World Health Organization considers processed meat “a known carcinogen.” Tell NOSB to remove carcinogenic nonorganic celery powder from organic processed meat. For too long the meat industry, including organic processors, have engaged in a form of subterfuge by being able, and in fact required, to label meat preserved with celery powder as “no nitrates or no nitrites added” or “uncured.” The use of conventional celery powder, with amped up applications of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, creates the same functional and biological impacts as synthetic nitrates/nitrates as a meat preservative. The federal laws governing organics are clear. To legally use a synthetic compound, or a natural or agricultural material that is not certified organic, in the production of certified organic product, it must appear on the list of approved substances. And to do so, proposed materials must not damage the environment or […]

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30
Sep

Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board Meeting: Last Chance to Comment

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2019) A warm thank you to all who have sent in comments for the Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting. We are sending out a second reminder so that those who have not commented can take this opportunity to do so. If you have already submitted, we encourage you to make a second round of comments to make sure your voice is heard! Public comments are due by October 3, 2019. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. Written comments may be submitted through Regulations.gov until 11:59 pm ET October 3, 2010. Reservations for in-person and webinar comments close at the same time. The proposals of the NOSB, as a part of its ongoing review of practices and materials, are published for public comment.  Beyond Pesticides/OrganicEye is providing the public with a listing and analysis of the issues under consideration by the Board when it meets in Pittsburgh, PA on October 23 – 25, 2019. You can view USDA’s announcement of the NOSB’s meeting and proposals here. Issues before the NOSB include materials allowed in organic production as well as some policy issues. Materials are either being considered for initial use in organics […]

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26
Sep

Settlement Reached to Protect Habitat of Endangered Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2019) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will be required to protect the habitat of the endangered rusty patched bumblebee, per a settlement with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reached earlier this week. The bee was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2017, but USFWS has yet to designate the “critical habitat” for the bee where improved protections must be made to ensure its recovery. With the decline of both wild and managed pollinators throughout the U.S., action on this issue by federal agencies is sorely needed. According to NRDC, the settlement will require FWS to propose critical habitat by July 31, 2020, unless it makes a finding that habitat protections are not prudent. The Service must then finalize any habitat protections by July 31, 2021. Under ESA, FWS is required to designate the critical habitat of a listed species within one year of its listing if not included within its listing announcement. Thus, by drawing out this process, FWS is flouting this important action that will lead to real on-the-ground protections. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has violated federal law—again—by not designating critical habitat for the rusty patched bumble bee,” […]

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16
Sep

Take Action: Support Strong Organic Standards, Submit Your Comments to the Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board Meeting

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2019) The Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting dates have been announced and public comments are due by October 3, 2019. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. Written comments may be submitted through Regulations.gov until 11:59 pm ET October 3, 2010. Reservations for in-person and webinar comments close at the same time. The proposals of the NOSB, as a part of its ongoing review of practices and materials, are published for public comment.  Beyond Pesticides/OrganicEye is providing the public with a listing and analysis of the issues under consideration by the Board when it meets in Pittsburgh, PA on October 23 – 25, 2019. You can view USDA’s announcement of the NOSB’s meeting and proposals here. Issues before the NOSB include materials allowed in organic production as well as some policy issues. Materials are either being considered for initial use in organics or the subject of a five-year Sunset Review. To be allowed, materials must have evidence demonstrating that they meet Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Major issues before the NOSB at the […]

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09
Sep

Take Action: Push Back on Rules that Would Weaken Farmworker Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2019) New rules proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) will weaken protections for both foreign and domestic farmworkers who grow and harvest the nation’s food. The changes would affect the H-2A guestworker program, which permits U.S. farms to temporarily hire foreign workers. Despite rapid increases in foreign agricultural workers over the past several years, the new rules would expand the program and make it easier for agrichemical companies to exploit foreign labor, driving down working conditions and pay for all farmworkers. Tell Congress to stop DOL from weakening farmworker protections. DOL’s proposed rules would eliminate the obligation for growers to provide priority to U.S. farmworkers during the first half of a work contract, and extend the ability for growers to bring in foreign labor throughout the growing season. Growers would also be able to change job terms and work locations in the middle of a growing season. This would increase job insecurity for U.S. farmworkers, who are already facing tough economic conditions. As described by Farmworker Justice, “The Trump Administration seeks to guarantee agribusiness unlimited access to a captive workforce that is deprived of economic bargaining power and the right to vote. The proposal epitomizes the […]

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05
Sep

Veteran Policy Experts Form Organic Industry Watchdog Agency

(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2019) USDA Failures Necessitate Independent Corporate and Governmental Oversight WASHINGTON, DC, Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, DC-based public interest organization founded in 1981 to advocate for healthy air, water, land, and food by eliminating the use of toxic pesticides and advancing organic practices, has announced the formation of its new investigative arm, OrganicEye. The watchdog agency will focus on defending the time-honored philosophy and legal definition of organic farming and food production. “Trusted certified organic production must continue to offer a healthier marketplace alternative and critical environmental protection,” stated Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and former National Organic Standards Board member. As organic agriculture and food marketing has grown into an over $50 billion industry, corporate agribusiness has influenced USDA to shift primary organic production from family-scale farms to large livestock factories, and allow massive hydroponic/soilless greenhouses and fraudulent imports – all devastating to ethical farmers, businesses, and consumers. “We are happy to announce the hiring of Mark Kastel to serve as the Director of OrganicEye,” Mr. Feldman said. Mr. Kastel, one of the founders of The Cornucopia Institute, a venerable organic farm-policy research group, brings over 30 years of diverse involvement in the organic […]

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29
Aug

USDA “People’s Garden” Turned Over to Agrichemical Corporations to Promote Pesticides and GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2019) The Peoples Garden, located on the grounds on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the national mall, has been renamed and remodeled to highlight genetically engineered (GE) crops and farming techniques that directly counter the organic movement. The new exhibit, entitled “Voice of the Farmer,” is part of the “Trust in Food” initiative of Farm Journal magazine. This marks a continuation of trends in the Trump administration: pushing for GE/GMOs and pesticides. Since 2009, the USDA Peoples Garden has highlighted organic agriculture. It was originally envisioned by the Obama administration as a place where visitors could learn about what differentiates organic from conventional chemical-intensive food production, and the practices used in organic land management. The garden had several different exhibits: the Three Sisters Garden, the People’s Garden Apiary, three green roofs, a certified organic vegetable garden, a tool shed with a rain barrel and green roof, wildlife and pollinator friendly landscaping, and a bat house. With an emphasis on sustainable gardening practices such as cover cropping, storm water collection, and composting, the garden served as a headquarters for numerous Peoples Gardens founded between 2009 and 2016. The People’s Garden and other projects of the […]

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26
Aug

Take Action: Help Organic Farmers Save the Planet—Support the Climate Stewardship Act

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2019) U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently released draft legislation that will – among other initiatives – promote carbon-sequestering practices in agriculture. The draft Climate Stewardship Act includes farmers as a critical component in the response to the climate crisis by encouraging “carbon farming” through incentives, training, and research. U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) is championing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill will likely be introduced in September when Congress reconvenes. Ask your U.S. Representative and Senators to Co-sponsor the Climate Stewardship Act and Help Farmers Save the Planet. July of 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high (over 415 ppm) was during the Pliocene period – between 5.3 and 2.6 million years ago. The best time to have addressed global warming was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is now. Organic, regenerative agricultural practices help mend the earth from the ground up. In addition to incentivizing soil health practices that organic farmers already employ, the bill adds $75,000,000 to the organic research and extension initiative (OREI). The bill contains a requirement that no less than 50% of these funds apply to reducing […]

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05
Aug

Remind USDA that Genetic Engineering Is NOT Acceptable in Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2019) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) appears to have forgotten the lesson learned 20 years ago when it was forced to ban genetic engineering (GE) in organic regulations. At a July 17 hearing called by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research on “Assessing the Effectiveness of the National Organic Program,” Greg Ibach, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, stated, “There is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies, including gene editing, to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production.” In 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a draft rule that would have allowed GE, irradiation, and sewage sludge (the “Big Three”) in organic production, which was met by the second largest number of comments the agency had ever received—well before the days of internet advocacy—overwhelmingly opposing the inclusion of the “Big Three.”  The prohibition of gene editing falls under the “excluded methods” provision of the organic regulations. The law prohibits “a variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions […]

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16
Jul

Take Action: USDA Must Offer Basic Protection from Genetically Engineered Organisms

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2019) USDA’s proposed new rules on genetically engineered (GE) crops exempt almost all GE crops from regulation and allow the company that makes them to decide whether they are safe. The rules proposed by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) benefit companies like Monsanto/Bayer and Dow, but fail to protect farmers, consumers, and the environment. Please tell APHIS to abandon its proposal and support a regulatory system that is consistent with modern science. Tell USDA not to allow companies to approve their own GE crops. The rules would govern USDA’s role in the outdated and fatally flawed “Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.” The Framework fails to account for the unique risks of genetic engineering, using existing laws like the Plant Protection Act to address issues for which they were not designed. This proposal weakens the APHIS regulations even more. All genetically engineered (GE) organisms—plants, animals, or microorganisms—should be subjected to systematic assessments of human and environmental effects and indirect economic effects (such as contamination of organic or non-GE crops leading to rejection in foreign markets, spread of resistant pests, etc.) before being allowed on the market. These assessments must be made available to the public […]

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