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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'US Department of Agriculture (USDA)' Category


28
Oct

Bill in Congress Will Pay for Treating Illness and Financial Impact Caused by PFAS

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2022) The Maine Congressional delegation — Senators Collins (R) and Angus King (I), and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D) and Jared Golden (D) — along with New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D), have introduced a bipartisan and bicameral bill — the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act — to help farmers who have been impacted by the scourge of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals. (The Senate version of the bill is available; the House version should be soon.) PFAS contamination has, as Beyond Pesticides documented in two Daily News Blog articles (here and here), become a huge, life-altering problem for agricultural producers in Maine and many other states. An early 2022 Safer States analysis of state-level legislation on PFAS demonstrated the extent of the problem via the response: more than 32 states have begun to act on the issue. Beyond Pesticides has covered the presence of PFAS in pesticides and pesticide containers, and in so-called “biosludge” or “biosolids”— realities that only reinforce the call for a rapid transition off of chemical-dependent agriculture and to regenerative organic agricultural practices that do not carry the enormous health and environmental risks of pesticide products and contaminated fertilizers. There […]

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11
Oct

Organic Integrity Challenged by Proposed USDA Livestock and Poultry Standards

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2022) Without continuously improving organic standards and certification, advocates maintain that there is no holistic way to combat the existential crises associated with petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers—the multiple and growing health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency. Have you been confused at the egg case in your grocery store where egg carton labels proclaim “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “pasture raised” organic eggs? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting comments on proposed regulations to protect the welfare of livestock and poultry on organic farms. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standard (OLPS) is a slightly revised version of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, which was promulgated after many delays in January 2017, then withdrew the rule before it became effective. USDA acknowledges that a failure to act on OLPS undermines the organic market, saying “a market failure exists in the organic label,” and the intent of new standard is to “clarify and ensure consistent application of the USDA organic standards.” The inconsistent application of organic standards by certifiers has resulted in a plethora of add-on labels that ensure that organic livestock and poultry production meet the expectations of organic consumers. However, the proposed OLPS […]

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06
Oct

Despite EPA Safety Assurances, Alarming Levels of PFAS Found in Commonly Used Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2022) A new study finds alarmingly high levels of PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) “forever chemicals” in commonly used pesticides, calling into question assurances from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that contamination is limited to storage containers. For some pesticides, PFAS levels are nearly one billion times higher than the EPA’s recently updated Health Advisory for the PFAS chemical PFOS. “If the intent was to spread PFAS contamination across the globe there would be few more effective methods than lacing pesticides with PFAS,” said Kyla Bennett, PhD, of the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “These findings point to an appalling regulatory breakdown by EPA.” A team of researchers based in Texas, including scientists from Texas Tech and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Cropping Systems Research Laboratory, participated in the study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters. Ten different formulated pesticide products were tested for 24 different PFAS substances. The pesticide products selected were determined based on unexpected PFAS contamination at USDA’s research facility. During the course of conducting a separate study on plant uptake of PFAS, detectable levels of PFAS were found in plants intended to be used as unexposed controls. […]

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20
Sep

Not Accessible to All, Court Finds QR Codes Unlawful as Means of Disclosing Genetically Engineered Food Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2022) A federal court this month declared that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acted unlawfully in allowing food retailers to label genetically engineered (GE, or GMO) foods with only a “QR” code. The decision, made by U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes as a result of a lawsuit against USDA by a coalition of nonprofits led by Center for Food Safety, along with organic retailers Natural Grocers and Puget Consumers Co-op. “This is a win for the American family. They can now make fully informed shopping decisions instead of being forced to use detective work to understand what food labels are hiding,” said Alan Lewis, Vice President for Advocacy and Governmental Affairs at Natural Grocers. “The public’s rejection of hidden GMOs has been weighed by the Court to be greater than the agrochemical industry’s desire to hide GMOs behind incomprehensible bureaucratic rules.” In 2016, Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Act, which established federal standards around labeling GE foods. That bill, dubbed by GE transparency advocates as the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, was the result of a deal between U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MO) and […]

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12
Sep

Organic Integrity Before the Public, Comments Due By September 29

(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2021) Comments are due by 11:59 pm EDT September 29. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through September. This precedes the upcoming public comment webinar on October 18 and 20 and deliberative hearing October 25-27—concerning how organic food is produced. Sign up to speak at the webinar by September 29. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. by 11:59 pm EDT September 29. Links to the virtual comment webinars and the public meeting will be posted on this webpage in early October. The NOSB is responsible for guiding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its administration of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), including the materials allowed to be used in organic production and handling. The role of the NOSB is especially important as we depend on organic production to protect our ecosystem, mitigate climate change, and enhance our health The NOSB plays an important role in bringing the views of organic producers and consumers to bear on USDA, which is not always in sync with organic principles. There are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Spring. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong and […]

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09
Sep

Seeing the Value of Nature through Beavers, as Cattle Ranchers Benefit from These “Ecosystem Engineers”

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2022) One kind of solution to the biodiversity crisis that is likely not on most folk’s bingo cards comes from a Nevada cattle rancher, who has shifted his relationship with . . . wait for it . . . beavers. As climate change impacts ramp up their toll in the U.S. via intensified droughts, floods, and wildfires, solutions are widely and eagerly sought, if deployed at insufficient pace. In this Nevada case, Agee Smith — unlike his rancher father, who reportedly “waged war against the animals, frequently with dynamite” — welcomes beavers and their industry on his ranch land. Doing so has yielded multiple benefits for his operation, the environment, and biodiversity. As reported by The New York Times, “Mr. Smith has become one of a growing number of ranchers, scientists and other “beaver believers” who see the creatures not only as helpers, but as furry weapons of climate resilience.” Many landowners, of all stripes, consider beavers to be destructive “nuisance” animals that wantonly fell trees, and in so doing sometimes flood farm fields, back yards, roads, forests, or grazing acreage. Public complaints about such behaviors resulted in the federal government’s killing of more than 25,000 beavers […]

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22
Aug

Groups Call for Organic Action to Implement Climate Solutions under Historic Federal Law

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2022) The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is, as President Biden claims, “The single most aggressive action the U.S. is taking to tackle the climate crisis and create clean energy solutions in American history.” However, that is a low bar to clear. There is much more required to meet the President’s climate goals and much is needed to ensure that the IRA is implemented in a way that helps farmers, fenceline communities, and biodiversity. As stated by Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, “President Biden and his administration should take this moment not only to celebrate, but also to recommit and refocus on addressing the environmental injustice and wildlife crises.” For more in-depth coverage, see Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News. Tell President Biden that funds in the Inflation Reduction Act must meet the need for a transformative moment to address the existential health (including environmental justice), biodiversity, and climate crises and shift society to organic practices by eliminating fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers; and that further steps are needed to reach critical and urgent goals.  We cannot meet climate goals while maintaining a dependence on fossil fuels. Eliminating that dependence requires more than a shift from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles, shifting from […]

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19
Aug

Historic Federal Support Could Effectively Take on Climate, Health, and Biodiversity Crises—with Grassroots Advocacy

(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2022) On August 16, President Biden signed a bill — the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” — that will provide unprecedented sums to address the existential threats we face related to climate, biodiversity, and health. The $750 billion total appropriation is far less than the original $1.75 trillion hoped for early in the legislative process, but nevertheless is an historic level of federal investment. Beyond Pesticides sees in the bill, now law, opportunities to make significant headway on our call for the elimination of toxic pesticides over the next decade, which launches during our 2022 National Forum Series. The new law could (and should) also provide investment in the critical transition to organic production methods in agriculture. Should the federal government advance organic systems as a climate, health, and environmental justice solution, those two priorities would go far to improve health, reduce dependence on synthetic, fossil-fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers, and allow natural systems to begin to heal from 70+ years of chemical assault. Component sections of the Inflation Reduction Act include those on Clean Energy and Transmission, Clean Transportation, Buildings and Energy Efficiency, Manufacturing, Environmental Justice, Conservation and Agriculture, Fossil Fuels, and Permitting Reform. Within those categories, […]

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01
Aug

Take Action: USDA Action Limits Environmental and Scientific Authority on National Organic Board

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2022) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just renewed the charter of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), with changes that threaten the balance on the board created by law. Organic production is successful, with sales topping $63 billion, and still growing. Organic production not only brings healthful food to it consumers, but also reduces the amount of toxic chemicals released to the air, soil, and water. And it helps to reduce climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. To ensure rigorous oversight of USDA and robust advice and management of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, the NOSB was created to ensure balanced representation from organic stakeholders, including consumers, conservationists, farmers, a scientist, retailer, and certifier. The growth of the organic brand is attributable in great part to public trust in the standards and processes that govern oversight over the USDA organic label. Tell USDA to classify all NOSB members as “Representatives” to protect the integrity of organic production. Tell Congress to ensure that USDA follows the letter and spirit of the organic law. The success of organic derives from consumer trust in the organic label, and that trust depends on […]

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10
Jun

USDA Announces Dramatic Increases in Support for Organic Agriculture Without Call for Total Transition

(Beyond Pesticides, June 10, 2022) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on June 1 that it will provide a potential 15-fold increase in funding aimed at organic food production — up to $300 million. The subject Organic Transition Initiative provision is embedded in a new USDA Food System Transformation framework (FSTF), whose raison d’être is captured in the press release: “to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new, more, and better markets for small and mid-size producers.” That funding for organic transition, the invocation of climate as a significant driver of multiple features of the initiative, and a focus on equity concerns are all welcome news. Beyond Pesticides maintains that it will be critical that this FSTF result in concrete goals that set out specific metrics and timelines — particularly around the magnitude of acres shifted to organic production and the pace of the phaseout of non-organic substances and protocols. The headline of the press release bespeaks the rationale: “Shoring Up the Food Supply Chain and Transforming the Food System to Be Fairer, More Competitive, More Resilient.” Broadly, the initiative addresses four sectors of agricultural activity: production, […]

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08
Jun

USDA Approves Parasitoid as Biological Control to Manage Destructive Fruit Fly Pest

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2022) A new biological agent to manage the destructive pest spotted wing drosophila (SWD) (Drosophila suzukii) is set to be released this month after approval was granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Ganaspis brasiliensis, a parasitic wasp with a specific affinity for SWD, has the ability to significantly curtail the use of toxic pesticides otherwise employed to manage the pest. The move is an important step forward for biological pest management in the United States, an approach that has already added billions of benefits to agricultural economies, and has the potential to help farmers eliminate the regular use of hazardous pesticides. SWD is a small fruit fly originally from southeast Asia. In 2009, it was discovered on the U.S. West Coast and rapidly became a major pest, leading to significant crop loss estimated at over $700 million each year. The insect attacks nearly all soft bodied fruits, including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, grapes, and others. It has an apparent preference for blueberries, costing that industry alone $100 million per year. It lays its eggs inside of ripe fruit, which hatch into larvae and ruin the entire fruit as it feeds. Female […]

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18
Apr

USDA Must Take Steps To Prevent an Avian Flu Pandemic

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2022) Industrial poultry operations—generally indoors and with crowded conditions—provide the perfect incubator for pandemic influenza. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “These involve the congregation of large numbers of genetically identical animals of the same age (young) and sex, with rapid turnover and ‘all-in, all-out’ systems.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is delaying the adoption of organic rules that would require meaningful outdoor access and prevent indoor crowding. Influenza pandemics have killed millions of people—between 20 and 40 million people died in the 1918 pandemic, one million in 1957, and one to three million in 1968. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Influenza type A viruses are of most significance to public health due to their potential to cause an influenza pandemic.” There are several subtypes of type A influenza, which originates in birds. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 700 human cases of the H5N1 subtype since 2003, and only 40% survived. Tell USDA to promulgate a strong Organic Livestock and Poultry Standard. Tell USDA to protect against flu pandemics by applying the same rules to all poultry. Because avian flu poses a risk to […]

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14
Mar

Proposals Challenge Organic Integrity; Take Action

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2022) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through April 1. This precedes the upcoming public hearing on April 19 and 21—concerning how organic food is produced. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. For details on the all the issues of importance to organic integrity, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage. The NOSB is responsible for guiding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its administration of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), including the materials allowed to be used in organic production and handling. The role of the NOSB is especially important as we depend on organic production to protect our ecosystem, mitigate climate change, and enhance our health The NOSB plays an important role in bringing the views of organic producers and consumers to bear on USDA, which is not always in sync with organic principles. There are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Spring. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong and the Spring 2022 issues page. Here are some high priority issues for us: Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) is a quaternary ammonium compound (quat or QAC) that is being petitioned for […]

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08
Mar

Covid Leads to Transformational Moment for Launching of School-Based Feeding Programs with Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2022) A silver lining has emerged from the past two devastating Covid years, according to Civil Eats. A large California school district has used pandemic changes — in the regulatory schema of the federal and state governments, in supply chain function, and in available funding — to catalyze the transition to organic food in school-based feeding programs. For the past decade or so, U.S. school districts have, here and there, been moving gradually in this direction. The West Contra Costa Unified School District (WWCUSD) is robustly making the transition to organic, in no small part through its collaboration with Conscious Kitchen, a local nonprofit that seeks to “break the cycle of conventional, packaged, overly processed food, [and] transitioning to meals based on five foundational attributes: fresh, local, organic, seasonal and nutritious.” Beyond Pesticides has long pointed to the importance of shifting school-based meals to organic for multiple reasons, but centrally, because the pesticides with which conventional food is generally contaminated have outsized health and developmental impacts on children. The WWCUSD, which is northeast of San Francisco, boasts 30,000 students — 75% of whom come from low-income households. The district’s food service director, Barbara Jellison, and other food […]

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07
Mar

USDA Allowing a Synthetic Hormone in Organic Milk Production, Despite a Mandate Against It

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2022) Contrary to the demands of consumers for hormone-free organic dairy products and the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow continued use of the synthetic hormone oxytocin in organic dairy production. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted unanimously in 2017 to reject the use of the synthetic hormone oxytocin in livestock production. Since administration of oxytocin has been linked to a range of serious health problems and early onset puberty, autism, and psychiatric disorders, it is important to avoid residues in food that may cause a hormone imbalance in food consumers. Tell USDA Secretary Vilsack to reverse the decision to allow oxytocin in organic dairy. Tell Congress that greater oversight is needed to ensure that USDA upholds the Organic Foods Production Act.  Substances on the National List are reconsidered every five years to determine whether they still meet criteria in OFPA—that is, that their use is (1) not harmful to human health or the environment, (2) necessary for organic production, and (3) consistent with organic practices. In the case of oxytocin, a hormone involved in the milk “let-down” reflex, there is longstanding concern that misuse […]

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15
Feb

One-Third of Americans Have Hazardous Weed Killer in Their Bodies

(Beyond Pesticides, February 15, 2022) A synthetic weed killer linked to cancer, endocrine (hormone) disruption, reproductive harm and birth defects can be found in the bodies of 1 in 3 Americans, according to research published in Environmental Health by scientists at George Washington University. The chemical in question is not glyphosate (though current data indicate similar results are likely) but 2,4-D, an herbicide that is increasingly used when weeds growing near genetically engineered  (GE) crops have developed resistance to the repeated use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers. “Our study suggests human exposures to 2,4-D have gone up significantly and they are predicted to rise even more in the future,” Marlaina Freisthler, a PhD student and researcher at the George Washington University, said. “These findings raise concerns with regard to whether this heavily used weed-killer might cause health problems, especially for young children who are very sensitive to chemical exposures.” Researchers conducted their analysis based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which includes urinary concentrations of 2,4-D from 14,395 participants spanning 2001 to 2014. Between those years, the use of 2,4-D increased rapidly from its relative low point at the beginning of the century. “Roundup […]

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04
Feb

USDA Food Pesticide Residue Survey Raises Alarm, while Pesticide Industry and EPA Mislead Public

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2022) In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its 30th Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary report (which evaluates each year the presence of pesticide residues on produce) and misleads the public on the safety of food and agricultural practices. This 2020 report concludes that more than 99% of the produce samples tested showed residues below established U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) benchmark levels. At first blush, this sounds very reassuring, but Beyond Pesticides maintains that there is (always) more to the “safety” story, not least of which are serious deficiencies in EPA’s establishment of those “tolerances.” Those flaws include a lack of risk assessment for vulnerable sub-populations, such as farmworkers, people with compromised health, children, and perhaps, cultural/ethnic and regional sub-groups of the general population, and a failure to fully assess serious health outcomes such as disruption of the endocrine system (which contributes to numerous serious diseases). For everyone, Beyond Pesticides recommends choosing organic produce whenever possible — the vast majority of which does not contain synthetic pesticide residues. The PDP report asserts that “the data . . . illustrate that residues found in agricultural products sampled are at levels that do not pose […]

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10
Jan

Consumers Misled by USDA Genetically Engineered Food Ingredient Label; Will Congress Act

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2022) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now undermining full public disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients in our food, both through misrepresentation in labeling and through a definition that allows a large percentage of ingredients to go undisclosed. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act by food safety advocates, establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered GE) food labeling requirement that has led to deceptive messaging, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology (because information is accessed the QR codes on products). However, USDA regulations go further—creating loopholes and barriers to transparency that prohibit the use of the widely-known terms “GMO” and “GE” and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers. Tell USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to require USDA agencies to honestly disclose genetically engineered ingredients and carry out the goals of the Executive Memorandum, Modernizing Regulatory Review. Urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to ask Agriculture Committees to hold oversight hearings to ensure that USDA holds to those goals.    USDA is huge—encompassing 29 agencies and offices, with […]

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07
Jan

USDA Genetic Engineered Food Label Misleads Consumers, Took Effect January 1

(Beyond Pesticides. January 7, 2022) Unbeknownst to most Americans when they woke up on New Year’s Day 2022, a new labeling system for genetically modified-engineered foods— promulgated in 2019 — which does not mention genetically engineered or GMO ingredients, went into effect. Consumer, food, and environmental advocates say that the new label is misleading, insufficiently transparent, discriminatory, rife with loopholes, and confusing for consumers. The new labeling requirement mandates that genetically engineered foods bear labels that indicate that they have been “bioengineered” or that provide a text-messaging phone number or a QR code as avenues for further information. (“Additional options such as a phone number or web address are available to small food manufacturers or for small and very small packages.”) The new labeling rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims, according to the agency, to eliminate the crazy quilt of labels affixed to foods and ingredients that have been scientifically altered. According to an agency spokesperson, the rule is designed to “balance the need to provide information to consumers with the interest in minimizing costs to companies.” Genetically altered food items and ingredients have heretofore been called, and labeled as, “genetically engineered” (GE) or “genetically modified” (GM), […]

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15
Nov

Call on USDA to Provide Organic School Lunches to Fight Childhood Obesity

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2021) A recent hearing in the U.S. Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research, subcommittee chair Senator Cory Booker stressed the failures of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food and nutrition programs, saying, “Our food system is not a “free market,” we are picking winners and losers, and it’s consumers, family farmers, and food workers who are losing.” Tell USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to require organic school lunches. Experts at the hearing pointed out impacts of poor nutrition choices that are driven by USDA’s policies. Associate professor Angela Odoms-Young, PhD of Cornell University said, “People of color overall, and Black populations specifically, face higher rates of diet-related chronic conditions and have poorer dietary intakes as compared to whites. We did not get here by chance but through policy.” Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S., leading to a host of health problems in childhood and later in life. Juvenile obesity is highest in Hispanic, African American, and lower income groups, which provides an opportunity for USDA’s school lunch program to have a positive impact. At the hearing, Donald Warne, MD, MPH of the University of North Dakota medical […]

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12
Nov

Organic Takes on Existential Health and Environmental Crises, While Some Critics Lack Context (Response to New Yorker piece)

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2021) Omnivorous readers may have encountered an article, in the November 15 issue of The New Yorker magazine, titled — at best misleadingly, and certainly sensationally — “The Great Organic-Food Fraud.” The subhead comports with the tone of the headline: “There’s no way to confirm that a crop was grown organically. Randy Constant exploited our trust in the labels — and made a fortune.” The piece, by Ian Parker, tells a complex tale of the machinations of dishonest and greedy people who saw, in the commerce in organic grains, an opportunity to misrepresent nonorganic crops as organic and make a boatload of money in doing so. What the article fails to do is render any comprehensive picture of how National Organic Program certification and inspection work, and the underlying principles, values, and standards in federal law (the Organic Foods Production Act), nor does it review either the benefits of organic agriculture broadly or the massive harmful impacts of conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture in the U.S. Beyond Pesticides provides ballast, in this Daily News Blog article, to the failings of the New Yorker article and the damage it might do to the organic movement. It is worth noting […]

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12
Oct

Stop Ag Secretary Vilsack from Undermining Climate Initiative to Transition Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2021) Tell President Biden and Congress that there is no room for agriculture policies that are not in line with the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review. USDA must remove all barriers to a national transition to organic agriculture. One of President Biden’s first actions, on the day of his inauguration, was the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review, requiring the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This mandate should reverse the trend of regulatory review, which has so far protected the status quo, rather than advancing urgently needed change. Why, then, do we see Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opposing moves in the direction laid out by the Presidential directive? A recent Mother Jones article by Tom Philpott focuses on Mr. Vilsack’s opposition to the “Farm to Fork” initiative in the European Union, which aims to “push the continent’s agriculture in a healthier, more resilient direction, to reduce the use of toxic chemicals […]

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08
Oct

Ag Secretary Vilsack Pushes Petroleum Farming Inputs, Fights EU’s Climate-Friendly Organic “Farm to Fork’ Initiative

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2021) Taking a page from the playbook of Trump Administration Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the current secretary, Tom Vilsack, used a September G20 summit in Italy to target the European Union’s “Farm to Fork” (F2F) strategy, a part of its European Green Deal. Mr. Perdue had said that F2F is “more . . . ‘political science’ than demonstrated agricultural science”; Secretary Vilsack called it “a path very different from the one the U.S. is pursuing.” The F2F initiative aims to transition the EU to a sustainable food system such that it also achieves significant mitigation of climate change. But Mr. Vilsack chose to counter the F2F efforts by promoting an “alternative strategy” — under the moniker “Coalition for Productivity Growth” — through which “other nations pledge not to follow the European path on farm policy.” He has described this alternative, U.S.-led strategy as “a market-oriented, incentive-based, voluntary system [that] is effective” at slashing agricultural carbon emissions. Climate, pesticide, organics, and other environmental and health advocates, including Beyond Pesticides, are troubled by these actions. Mother Jones poses the central question in the headline of its September 30 article: Why is Secretary Vilsack So Afraid of a Plan to Cut […]

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