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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'soil health' Category


22
Jan

Comment Period Ends Today: Advocates Say USDA Needs Organic Certifier Information on Soil Fertility

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2024) Today, Monday, January 22, is the last day for public comment on a three-year extension of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (through its Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP)) authority to collect information from certifiers entrusted with ensuring compliance with organic standards. Beyond Pesticides, along with allied organizations and organic advocates, is urging USDA to use this process to clarify the need for USDA to collect key information needed to verify compliance with key language in OFPA (Section 6513(b))—a provision that requires farming practices that “foster soil fertility.” Advocates maintain that information on organic farmers’ practices to foster soil fertility, required in the law, is critical to organic integrity, public trust in the organic label, and certifier responsibility. As USDA states, “The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), as amended (7 U.S.C. 6501–6524), authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the National Organic Program (NOP) and accredit certifying agents to certify that farms and businesses meet national organic standards. Under OFPA, the purpose of the NOP is to: (1) establish national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced products; (2) assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard; […]

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19
Dec

Groups Petition EPA to Remove from the Market the Weed Killer Glyphosate

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2023) Last week, farmworker organizations and Beyond Pesticides, represented by the Center for Food Safety, filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging that the weed killer glyphosate be removed from the market. The petition cites 200 studies, which represent a fraction of the independent scientific literature on the hazards of glyphosate and formulation ingredients of glyphosate products. This action follows previous litigation in 2022 in which a federal court of appeals struck down EPA’s human health assessment, finding that the agency wrongfully dismissed glyphosate’s cancer risk. The farmworker groups petitioning include Farmworker Association of Florida, OrganizaciĂłn en California de Lideres Campesinas, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, and the Rural Coalition.   Meanwhile, verdicts against glyphosate’s manufacturer, Bayer, continue to pile up with a December jury verdict in Pennsylvania awarding $3.5 million and a November jury in Missouri ordering $1.56 billion to be paid to four plaintiffs. All link their cancer to use of the Roundup. Bayer has lost almost all of the cases filed against it for compensation and punitive damages associated with plaintiffs’ charge that its product (previously manufactured by Monsanto) caused them harm.  The petition summarizes its purpose and justification as […]

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11
Dec

USDA Supports Expansion of “Organic” Hydroponically-Grown Food, Threatening Real Organic

Update: This Daily News is updated to address the organic status of the company cited in the piece, Merchant’s Garden. The article now indicates that the company is certified as organic under a different name (Merchant’s Garden Agrotech) than the name used in the USDA press release.  As a result, their name did not appear in USDA’s Organic Integrity Database (OID) at the time of the original Daily News and Action of the Week posting. USDA updated OID on December 8, 2023, the same day that it received a complaint on this matter from former National Organic Standard Board chair Jim Riddle. The critical focus of the piece remains the same: It is not disclosed to consumers on food products labeled “organic” when that food or ingredients are grown hydroponically. Beyond Pesticides, as indicated in the article, views hydroponic as a conventional growing practice that does not meet the spirit and intent of the organic system, as defined in the Organic Foods Production Act.  (Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2023) U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on November 27, 2023 funding that appears to be supporting the expansion of “organic” hydroponic, an approach to food production that has […]

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01
Nov

NFL Players Association Calls for Stadiums to End Synthetic Turf Use

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2023) As communities consider maintenance and renovation of their playing fields, it is not uncommon for synthetic (or artificial) turf to come up as an alternative to natural grass. Promoters of synthetic turf argue that it provides a solution to climate change, reduces water use and maintenance costs, and allows for year-round play. But is this true? Is synthetic turf an environmentally responsible alternative to its organic grass counterpart? An established and growing body of scientific evidence is demonstrating environmental and health risks with synthetic turf. In addition, there is growing concern for the safety of those playing on artificial grass, which has led to a call from the National Football League’s (NFL) Players Association to utilize natural grass on all 30 NFL stadiums after New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in September and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s mid-game ankle injury. Synthetic turf playing fields are reliant on polluting plastic (can contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances-PFAS) and toxic pesticides for managing bacteria, mold and fungus, create contaminated water runoff, and cover over the natural environment, which is critical to preserving health and biodiversity, and averting climate disasters. Artificial […]

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14
Jul

Soil Amended with Insect Exoskeleton Is Effective Alternative to Harmful Chemical Fertilizers

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2023) The exoskeleton of the black soldier fly (BSF; Hermetica illucens) has the potential to be an effective organic fertilizer. A study in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment highlights the positive impacts on plant size, flower count, seed production, appeal to pollinators, and resilience to herbivory that the fly’s molted exoskeleton (or exuviae) can have when used as a soil supplement. The use of insect exuviae as an organic alternative to harmful synthetic fertilizers is an important step toward an environment free from chemical contaminants, and BSF are uniquely equipped to contribute to a regenerative organic agricultural system. The study set out to determine the impacts of BSF exuviae on plant growth, resilience to herbivory, and pollination. The scientists divided black mustard plants into four different treatment groups: 1) grown in soil amended with BSF powdered exuviae; 2) control group planted in chemically-treated (conventional) soil; 3) grown in amended soil and subjected to increased herbivory from caterpillars (Pieris brassicae) and aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae); and 4) planted in conventional soil and subjected to increased pest exposure. Scientists measured plant growth, flowering status, seed production, herbivore abundance, and pollinator activity. After three weeks, the supplemented soil grew […]

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23
Jan

EPA, USDA and Interior Challenged to Incorporate in All Decisions Impact on Climate Crisis, from Soil to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2023) There is no doubt that the climate crisis is upon us. And the consequences are undeniably grave. So, we must incorporate our understanding of the grave health and environmental effects into the deliberations on all policy decisions regarding petrochemical pesticide registrations and synthetic fertilizer use in agriculture and nonagricultural land management. Of critical importance, in this context, is the effect of policy decisions on soil health—in particular, soil organic carbon, which sequesters atmospheric carbon and reduces its damaging atmospheric effects. Tell USDA, EPA, and Congress to incorporate in ALL its policy decisions an analysis of impact on the climate crisis, with particular attention to the protection of soil health. Although the soil is commonly recognized as a sink for atmospheric carbon, there is a false narrative that says carbon can be sequestered in the soil through chemical-intensive no-till agriculture. Now the Rodale Institute’s 40-Year Report on their “Farming Systems Trial” should end the myth of the toxic, petrochemical-based, GMO-herbicide, no-till systems. Rodale’s scientific trials clearly show that these degenerative no-till systems are inferior to Regenerative Organic Agriculture on every key criterion. The highest yields of corn in the tilled organic manure system and the best increases […]

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02
Dec

Climate-Friendly Organic Systems are More Profitable for Farmers than Chemical-Intensive Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2022) The longest-running — four-decade — investigation comparing organic and conventional grain-cropping approaches in North America is reporting impressive results for organic. Recently announced in the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial — 40-Year Report are these outcomes: (1) organic systems achieve 3–6 times the profit of conventional production; (2) yields for the organic approach are competitive with those of conventional systems (after a five-year transition period); (3) organic yields during stressful drought periods are 40% higher than conventional yields; (4, 5, and 6) organic systems leach no toxic compounds into nearby waterways (unlike pesticide-intensive conventional farming), use 45% less energy than conventional, and emit 40% less carbon into the atmosphere. Beyond Pesticides reported in 2019 on similar results, from the institute’s 30-year project mark, which have been borne out by another three years of the trials. The current report builds on results from the FST that were shared in the RI’s 2020 white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming,” which integrated the newest research data and offered action steps for consumers, policymakers, farmers, and others. That report asserted that a global switch to a regenerative food system could not […]

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27
Nov

Tackling Climate Crisis with Elimination of Toxic Pesticides and Fertilizers, Webinar Nov. 29—What Is Practical Now

(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2022) On Tuesday, November 29 (at 1:00-2:30pmEST), two preeminent researchers will present their research and worldwide collaborative work to fully characterize the effects of the climate crisis and the viable solutions associated with land management. The Forum headliners are (i) Rachel Bezner Kerr, PhD, Cornell University professor just back from COP 27 [27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] and co-author of the definitive United Nations (UN) report on climate and food production and (ii) Andrew Smith, PhD, chief operating officer of the Rodale Institute and coauthor of several landmark reports on soil biology and carbon sequestration, including the just released Farming Systems Trial—40-Year Report. With livability of the planet on the brink, the speakers at the upcoming Forum make the case to immediately reverse the increase of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane to stop the changes on the horizon that destroy life—from floods, fires, and associated climate-induced hazards to food production. The good news, according to the scientists, is that there are solutions available now in the agricultural and land management sectors that can reverse the threat if dramatic changes are made. Dr. Bezner Kerr, […]

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11
Nov

Weed Killer Use Destroys Soil Life and Ecosystems, Paper Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2022) A paper published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution in late October sounds an unnerving alarm about the globally ubiquitous use of herbicides and the ecological destruction being caused. It asserts that widespread environmental contamination with these herbicide compounds is influencing soil, plant, and animal microbiomes in ways that are not only not well understood, but also, can have significant impacts on the functioning of organisms and their ecosystems — with evolutionary implications. Impacts of herbicides on microbiota in soils include, for example, those on nutrient cycling, and altered organism and plant performance, which can affect pollination and animal consumption of plants. This research reinforces what Beyond Pesticides wrote in covering a 2021 study: “The popular herbicide glyphosate negatively affects microbial communities, indirectly influencing plant, animal, and human health. Exposure to sublethal concentrations of glyphosate shifts microbial community composition, destroying beneficial microorganisms while preserving pathogenic organisms.” Herbicides are a category of pesticide used to control weeds in agriculture and commercial forests, on managed landscapes, byways, gardens, and lawns, and directly on surface waters to control aquatic weeds. They are designed to kill “target” plant species considered undesirable in any of those circumstances. Herbicide use has exploded […]

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