Posts tagged: pesticides

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
15 July 2011, 11:44 AM
"Genetic engineering is of no benefit to me. It's nothing but a threat."
Frank Morton is an organic farmer in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

(This is the third in a series of Q & A's on genetically engineered food, which harm the environment by increasing pesticide use, creating pesticide resistant superweeds and contaminating conventional and organic crops. Earthjustice is challenging the USDA’s decision to allow genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa onto the market. To learn more, check out our GMO web feature.

EJ: How did you first learn about GE crops in your area?  
FM: I was at a meeting of the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association in Oregon in 2006 when a member told us that he had planted GE sugar beets. None of the other members of the association had any idea this had happened. We were never informed by the USDA. Nobody asked the seed association whether this would have any impact on us. So basically a lot of us felt like we weren’t consulted about this, but there was a sort of fatalism about it among the membership because they didn't think there was anything that could be done about it.
I am the only 100 percent organic seed farmer in the group, so it fell to me to make the organization realize the long-term consequences of us having GE crops in the valley. I told the group that whether they were conventional or organic, their customers would not want to have GE seed contamination. The group actually did agree with that perception. However, they insisted that because the USDA allowed this happen, we were powerless to do anything about it. So, nobody wanted to get involved, except eventually I did.

4 Comments   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
14 July 2011, 11:36 AM
"It's a technology custom-designed to promote the emergence of weed resistance."
Scientist Charles Benbrook is a pesticide policy expert and weed resistance specialist.

Intro: (This is the second in a series of Q & A's on genetically engineered food, which harm the environment by increasing pesticide use, creating pesticide resistant superweeds and contaminating conventional and organic crops. Earthjustice is challenging the USDA’s decision to allow genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa onto the market. To learn more, check out our GMO web feature.)

EJ: The biotech industry claims that genetically engineered (GE) foods decrease pesticide use. Is that true?  

CB: The Organic Center has done four reports on this question and has found that crops like corn, cotton and soybeans genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides have actually increased herbicide use by hundreds of millions of pounds over what herbicide use would have been had these crops not been commercialized. So when the biotech industry says that today’s GE crops have reduced and are reducing pesticide use, they’re factuallywrong.
EJ: Why is herbicide use increasing?  
CB: GE crops were being exposed to only one herbicide, glyphosate, which is the active chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup brand herbicide. Whenever farmers try to control weeds with a single chemical, they create selection pressure on the weed population so that weeds that are highly susceptible to one chemical are completely controlled, but those weeds that are less well-controlled do a little bit better every year. These weeds are actually undermining the effectiveness of the Roundup Ready system as a whole. In the southeast it is a technology in active decline and in a few more years it simply won’t be a commercially viable option.

4 Comments   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
13 July 2011, 11:32 AM
"Nobody wants Monsanto controlling their diet, but that’s what’s happening."
Earthjustice Managing Attorney Paul Achitoff

Intro: (This is the first in a series of Q & A's on genetically engineered food, which harm the environment by increasing pesticide use, creating pesticide resistant superweeds and contaminating conventional and organic crops. Earthjustice is challenging the USDA’s decision to allow genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa onto the market. To learn more, check out our GMO web feature.

EJ: Why are genetically engineered (GE) crops bad for the environment?
PA: Most GE crops are engineered to be resistant to herbicides. As a result of continually applying a single herbicide to the same field over and over again, there is now a proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds across the nation. It’s been particularly prevalent in cotton, but we’ve also seen it in GE soybean fields. The amount of herbicide that’s going into the environment, into the soil and into the groundwater has increased significantly as a result of these GE crops.
That’s the main issue, but there are other issues as well. For example, GE crops can contaminate conventional or organic crops, so that has economic impacts on non-GE farmers whose crops become mixed with their GE counterpart.

1 Comment   /  
View David Lawlor's blog posts
25 March 2011, 12:19 PM
USDA’s decision could mark the end of organic alfalfa and organic dairies
Photo by Gary D. Robson.

Monsanto commonly offers unsustainable solutions to the agriculture industry—such as genetically engineered seeds and increased herbicide use—and then dubs those dubious solutions “sustainable agriculture.” The company’s latest unsustainable solution comes in the form of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa, which the United States Department of Agriculture recently deregulated and approved for planting.

Alfalfa is the fourth most prevalent crop in the United States and is a key feedstock for the dairy industry. Despite the lack of any apparent shortage in the country’s current alfalfa supply, USDA decided that deregulation of GE alfalfa was necessary. In response, attorneys at Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety filed suit last week against USDA arguing that the agency’s unrestricted approval of GE alfalfa was unlawful.

View Sarah Jackson's blog posts
24 March 2011, 3:27 PM
Advocates and Earthjustice want more from EPA Administrator in Central Valley

When Bush II’s Head of EPA came to California’s Central Valley, he tried to hold secret meetings with industry and was met with a protest from clean air advocates angered by EPA’s long history of ignoring the Valley’s severe public health and environmental justice problems in favor of big business interests.

Yesterday, President Obama’s EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, came to the Valley to meet with the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, a coalition of environmental, public health, and environmental justice organizations and community members fighting to improve air quality and social justice in an area dubbed “the Appalachia of the West.”

And even though her visit was a historic step in the fight to elevate the Valley’s dire social and environmental woes to the national stage, Jackson, too, was met with protest.

2 Comments   /  
View Chris Jordan-Bloch's blog posts
24 March 2011, 12:30 PM
Lisa Jackson meets with environmental advocates in Fresno

For years citizens of California's central valley have been asking for help and Wednesday, if only for a few hours, one of the most influential people in the country listened. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson travelled to a church in Fresno to hear the concerns of the people of the valley and what she heard was troubling to say the least.

In Arvin, one in four children has asthma. In Kettleman City a birth defect cluster has terrified a small town. In Delano farm workers and local citizens have been exposed to dangerous pesticides. And throughout the valley huge swaths of land are out of compliance with federal air quality standards and entire towns have undrinkable water. These were just a few of the concerns raised by members of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition (CVAQ) at Wednesday's meeting.

Although the news in the valley is bad, Wednesday's meeting was a positive development. Nearly 10 years ago, affected citizens, concerned medical practitioners and environmental groups  including Earthjustice got together to form CVAQ. Since then the coalition has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the area's environmental and health problems. The fact that the top environmental official in the land made a trip to listen to local residents is no small feat. Both the members of CVAQ as well as Administrator Jackson deserve kudos for this.

4 Comments   /  
View Marty Hayden's blog posts
16 February 2011, 10:38 AM
Amendments to funding bill target everything from wolves to water to health
Wolves are on the congressional hit list

House Republicans are using the oft-repeated refrain of “fiscal restraint” as their excuse for gutting several environmental initiatives that will put the public in harm’s way. But there simply is no excuse for hacking away at health protections that will leave our air and water dirtier and our children and seniors at risk.  It’s not hard to see their real agenda. In many cases their proposals are clearly designed to make it easier for some of America’s biggest polluters to dump their pollution on us rather than pay to dispose of it responsibly. 

House GOP’s Public Enemy Number 1: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The spending legislation introduced this week slashes the EPA budget by $3 billion and blocks the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. And in a symbolic dig against the White House, the bill also stymies President Barack Obama from replacing departing lead White House climate and energy advisor Carol Browner.
The spending plan also tries to block the EPA from fully implementing the Clean Water Act, while effectively letting major polluters foul our water. This will jeopardize drinking water for 117 million Americans and could leave millions of  acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams and rivers without Clean Water Act protections from pollution. But it doesn’t stop there.

7 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
15 February 2011, 3:53 PM
Legislative amendments target air, water, public lands and wildlife

Teabag by teabag, the anti-environment faction in the House of Representatives has filled its federal government spending bill with amendments that will cripple protections for our water, air, natural resources, wildlife and public health. 

Not since the darkest days of the Bush administration have we seen such an onslaught on the environment—and the hits are still coming. By mid-day today (Tues., Feb. 15), the list has grown to include attacks on a number of endangered species, including wolves and salmon, and on the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to keep lethal pollutants out of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Some amendments are outright handouts to our nation’s worst polluters.

The spending bill will fund the government so that it can continue operating after March 4, but first the Senate must pass the bill. Today, Pres. Barack Obama warned that he would veto the bill as constructed.

The following is a list of the most harmful provisions and amendments proposed so far:

1 Comment   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
04 February 2011, 2:54 PM
Snowstorm pickles, nuclear fallout, Frankenfeed
An EPA proposal suggests that humans should no longer be used as guinea pigs in pesticide experiments. Photo courtesy of Jean Scheijen.

EPA proposes strict rules on pesticide testing
The EPA recently proposed strict rules meant to keep pesticides manufacturers from paying people to eat or drink pesticides, enter pesticide vapor "chambers," or have pesticides sprayed in their eyes, reports FairWarning. The proposal, spurred on by a 2010 court settlement between Earthjustice clients and the EPA, will essentially make it harder for the chemical industry to use people as guinea pigs, hopefully resulting in fewer of these tests occurring in the first place.

Multiple "Snowmageddons" put cash-strapped cities in a pickle
As New England and the Midwest shovel their way out of the latest snowstorm, penny-pinching government employees are coming up with unusual ways to de-ice their roads. This past week, administrators in Bergen County, New Jersey have started using pickle juice to combat the ice and snow, reports Time magazine. It turns out that the salty solution is much cheaper than road salt and works just as well at keeping cars from sliding off the roads. Meanwhile, the city of Boston continues to pile up with so-called "snow farms," basically huge piles of snow dumped in vacant lots.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
03 December 2010, 12:03 PM
Sugar beet death sentence, pinko sustainability plots, carbon cap piggy bank
Dow Chemical and others have been accused of spying on Greenpeace. Photo courtesy of

Judge orders GMO sugar beets to be ripped from the ground
Citing the potential for environmental harm, a federal judge in California has ordered farmers in Oregon and Arizona to rip up hundreds of acres of genetically modified sugar beets, reports the Associated Press. The ruling stems from an Earthjustice lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which issued permits for Monsanto's GM, Roundup Ready sugar beets without first determining what kinds of effects the genetically modified crops could have on other foods.

Greenpeace accuses corporations of playing spy games
Greenpeace is suing chemical giant Dow Chemical and others for alleged corporate espionage, reports the Washington Post. The environmental activist group, which has taken on such corporate giants as McDonalds, Coca Cola, and Monsanto, accuses the companies of hiring spies from 1998 to 2000 to "perform a range of 'clandestine and unlawful' actions to undermine its anti-pollution efforts against the chemical industry," including stealing confidential records and even sending phony volunteers to illegally record calls and hack security codes.

1 Comment   /