A Killing Season

By Boyce Upholt, The New Republic, December 10, 2018. [Short version: Monsanto destroys the environment and non-target plants, making the money while impelling farmers to ruin or murder. A true horror story.]

Monsanto’s new herbicide was supposed to save U.S. farmers from financial ruin. Instead, it upended the agriculture industry, pitting neighbor against neighbor in a struggle for survival.

Mike Wallace sat in his pickup truck on a dusty back road near his farm outside Leachville, Arkansas, typing impatiently into his cell phone. “I’m waiting on you,” he wrote. “You coming?” It was hot for late October. The rows of soybeans, cotton, and corn, which just days ago had spread across much of the region, were largely gone, replaced by dry, flat dirt. The 2016 harvesting season was nearly over. A minute passed, and Wallace typed another message, sounding slightly triumphant. “Looks like you don’t have much to say now.

Wallace, 55, was a prominent figure in the Arkansas Delta farming community. His 5,000-acre farm was large, although the yield on that year’s soybean crop hadn’t been as successful as he had expected. Wallace believed he knew why his crops had failed, and it had nothing to do with the sun or the rain or the decisions he had made about when to put his seeds in the ground. Instead, he blamed a 26-year-old farmhand named Curtis Jones for illegally spraying dicamba, a controversial weed killer, on a neighboring farm. Wallace believed the dicamba had drifted onto his fields and damaged almost half of his soybean crop, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It wasn’t the first time this had occurred. The previous year, dicamba from another farm had also drifted onto Wallace’s fields, causing the leaves of his soybeans to pucker into ugly cups fringed with white fuzz. He complained to the Arkansas State Plant Board, which oversees such disputes. The agency fined Wallace’s neighbor, but Wallace was never compensated for the lost revenue. …

read more at The New Republic

Advertisements

Getting your goat: Weed control at Kendal-Crosslands Communities

By Michele Berardi, Daily Local News, Sept 3, 2018. Looking forward to cuting down on chemical herbicides in the next growing season!

KENNETT SQUARE — It’s not every day you see a heard of goats at a retirement community, however every day residents and staff at Kendal~Crosslands Communities in Kennett Square, care for the environment.

“We have a section of our 500-acre campus that can easily be overrun with invasive or otherwise problematic species of plants”, says Casey Groff, staff horticulturist and grounds manager. “Instead of resorting to herbicides, machine rental or exhausting manual removal, goats will eat and thrive on many of these weeds. This can be a win/win situation,” says Groff.

Goats are a beneficial land clearing tool. The versatility of goats as a sustainable agricultural asset has been well documented for centuries. Using goats in the role of eco-friendly, all-natural, land-clearing machines is a fairly new concept that is catching on across the nation as an option to herbicides….

read more at Daily Local News

Banishing the Fog: Carol Van Strum

At CELDF

It’s been 35 years since Carol Van Strum first published “A Bitter Fog,” the Christopher Award winning book telling the story of a “harmless” herbicide first sprayed over her family farm in 1975.

Her family members became ill. Farm animals and area wildlife died or gave birth to deformed offspring. Her Lincoln County, Oregon, neighbors had similar experiences, including frequent miscarriages of their own pregnancies.

Efforts to get answers as the casualties mounted were stymied by the timber companies, the herbicide makers, and federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, the USDA, and the EPA. Residents discovered they’d been sprayed with variations of Agent Orange – which Congress had ultimately banned for use in Viet Nam because of the health effects. That didn’t halt its use in Oregon, however, and while the government collected data on the effects of the chemicals on animals and humans, residents engaged in a decades-long battle to halt the practice….

read more at CELDF

Tell Gov. Wolf to ban dicamba

Sign the petition: Ban Dicamba Now

Imagine Monsanto’s “perfect” herbicide: It kills everything, except the one soybean plant that farmers want.

The problem is that this herbicide doesn’t stay where it’s sprayed. It drifts — staying up in the air 72 hours later — and damages or destroys every plant it in its path, from trees and wildflowers to neighboring farms. 1

It’s dicamba, which is made by Monsanto and other companies. And thanks to its pairing with this new genetically-modified soybean, its use is skyrocketing.

Arkansas has already banned this pesticide. We can do the same in Pennsylvania and in other states across the country. Add your name to our petition today: T ell Gov. Tom Wolf it’s time to ban dicamba.

Nationwide, hundreds of reports have come in about dicamba drift harming neighbors’ trees and farms. 2 And that’s leading to a showdown in state governments, with pesticide manufacturers arguing against limits, and farmers and citizen advocates arguing for them . 3 That’s why it’s crucial that you tell Gov. Tom Wolf how you feel.

If enough states enact bans on dicamba, and enough people speak up about the need for caution, the EPA might consider doing the right thing nationwide. But we can’t do this without you — add your name to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to ban dicamba in Pennsylvania today.

Why should we be concerned about dicamba use? The EPA’s human health assessment shows that 1- and 2-year-old infants are the group most heavily exposed to dicamba on their food. 4

At the very least, the EPA should exercise caution before allowing toxic pesticides on the market.

Instead, the agency allowed a new version of dicamba to go to market without being tested by independent researchers , and despite its own research that this drifting pesticide would pose a danger to crops and human health when sprayed widely. 5

Nathaniel, it’s simple: When it comes to pesticides, we should exercise caution. We shouldn’t allow the use of potentially toxic pesticides unless and until they are proven safe.

Because dicamba can travel, we have no assurance that it isn’t also spreading to homes, schools and playgrounds.

Monsanto should have known this product could drift. The EPA fast-tracked a new version without completely testing its drift potential. But we have a chance to do the right thing here in Pennsylvania. Add your name today.

Thank you,

Adam Garber
PennPIRG

1. Caitlin Dewey, ” This Miracle Weed Killer Was Supposed to Save Farms. Instead, It’s Devastating Them ,” The Washington Post, August 29, 2017.
2. American Association of Pesticide Control Officials, ” Dicamba ,” September 6, 2018.
3. Daniel Charles, ” A Drifting Weedkiller Puts Prized Trees At Risk ,” KCUR, September 27, 2018
4. Olga Naldenko, ” EPA Chief Backs Another Pesticide Harmful To Kids ,” Environmental Working Group, October 30, 2017.
5. Olga Naldenko, ” EPA Chief Backs Another Pesticide Harmful To Kids ,” Environmental Working Group, October 30, 2017.

One more poison to fight!

“The EPA Says Farmers Can Keep Using Weedkiller Blamed For Vast Crop Damage, by Dan Charles, NPR, November 1, 2018

For months, farmers from Mississippi to Minnesota have been waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to make up its mind about a controversial weedkiller called dicamba. Some farmers love the chemical; other farmers, along with some environmentalists, consider it a menace, because it’s prone to drifting in the wind, damaging nearby crops and wild vegetation.

This week, on Halloween evening, the EPA finally announced its decision. Calling dicamba “a valuable pest control tool,” it gave farmers a green light to keep spraying the chemical on new varieties of soybeans and cotton that have been genetically modified to tolerate dicamba.

A coalition of environmental groups that had filed a lawsuit against the EPA’s original approval of dicamba blasted the decision to keep it on the market. Paul Achitoff from Earthjustice said in a statement that “EPA’s disregard of both the law and the welfare of … species at risk of extinction is unconscionable.”…

read more at NPR

Roundup Facing Its Judges

from Food First

Glyphosate is everywhere: in our food, in our water, in our soils.

After her best selling film and book, The World according to Monsanto, award-winning journalist Marie-Monique Robin presents her newest documentary, Roundup Facing Its Judges, covering the devastating impact of glyphosate-based herbicides used around the world. Roundup Facing Its Judges brings us the voices of the workers, farmers, and communities at the forefront of glyphosate exposure to demonstrate the scale of one of the greatest environmental and health scandals in modern history. Filmed throughout the International Monsanto Tribunal held in The Hague, you will also hear from scientists, lawyers, and doctors who reveal evidence of glyphosate’s dangers while also exposing the consequences of agribusiness’ power over our global food system….

read more, view trailer, order book at Food First. Image from trailer:

New Study Shows Roundup Kills Bees

Sierra, 10/3/18

Glyphosate targets undesired weeds—as well as honeybees

The most widely sprayed herbicide in the world kills honeybees, according to a new report.

Glyphosate, an herbicide and active ingredient in Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup weed killer, targets enzymes long assumed to be found only in plants. The product is advertised as being innocuous to wildlife. But some bacteria also use this enzyme, including a microbiome found in the intestines of most bees. When pollinators come in contact with glyphosate, the chemical reduces this gut bacteria, leaving bees vulnerable to pathogens and premature death.

“The bee itself has no molecular targets from glyphosate,” Nancy Moran, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin and a coauthor of the study, told Environmental Health News. “But its gut bacteria do have targets.”

Moran and other scientists liken glyphosate exposure to taking too many antibiotics—and upsetting the balance of good bacteria that supports immunity and digestion….

read more at Sierra

Sierra Club Youth Corps, summary 2017-

The Sierra Club Youth Corps is a summer program offered by Don’t Spray Me! beginning in 2017.

As part of the Sustainability Committee of Sierra Club’s Southeastern PA Group, Don’t Spray Me! works toward Sierra Club’s goal of cutting back human practices harmful to nature and human health.

In SCYC’s 2017 project, organized by Margaret and Jim Hudgings, a group of high school students (photo below by Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, 7/17/17) experimented on neighborhood sidewalks to show that a non-toxic solution is effective in fighting weeds in brick sidewalks.

This anti-Roundup weed-killing formula consists of:

1 gallon distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup table salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap

How to do it: Pour a small amount of vinegar into your, then pour the salt into the jug of vinegar and shake it vigorously. Pour the salted vinegar into the sprayer and add the liquid dish soap. Swirl the sprayer to mix in the soap, but not so much as to generate suds. Spray it on the target weeds, ideally in the morning of a very sunny day. When finished, spray plain water for a few seconds to clean the wand.

SCYC’s 2018 project, Adopt A Drain, was organized by geologist Rachel Davis. Thanks to a generous Sierra Club Grassroots Network grant, we were able to hire West Chester University graduate student Kyle Erisman to be part of the field surveys and particularly to produce GIS mapping of storm drains in the Borough.

Participants, under careful guidelines, walked selected streets to locate storm drains, clear above-ground blockage (including environmentally damaging plastic bags), peered through the street grills, and reported to the Borough Department of Public Works whether drains needed attention as being clogged below ground or containing potentially mosquito-breeding stagnant water (below: map by Kyle Erisman showing drains, streams, and other features).

In 2019, we plan to continue this project by organizing citizens to patrol storm drains in their neighborhoods and report drainage problems to the Borough, while reorienting the Sierra Club Youth Corps to another innovative and educational project.

Tell the USDA: Test our food for Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate NOW

from Friends of the Earth, 10/4/18

The USDA tests our food for pesticides to make sure it’s safe for us to eat. But it’s not testing for glyphosate — a.k.a. Monsanto’s Roundup®.

The California Supreme Court recently affirmed that glyphosate is dangerous to humans. The World Health Organization named it as a probable carcinogen. And the EU and Canada are already testing for it in food.

The USDA is dragging its feet on protecting us from this toxic pesticide. We need your help to change that!

Tell the USDA: Test our food for Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate.

The science is clear. Roundup® is terrible for people and the planet. It’s used to douse our food, including common crops like soy and wheat. This toxic pesticide is ending up on our plates and in our bodies.

The amount of Roundup® being used each year has increased significantly. Use jumped from only 11 million pounds in 1987 to nearly 300 million pounds in 2016.

That means Roundup® is sneaking into our food in increasingly dangerous ways. This summer, new tests revealed glyphosate in cereal and granola bars commonly eaten by kids….

read more details and sign here.

One man’s suffering exposed Monsanto’s secrets to the world

by Carey Gillam, The Guardian, 8/11/18

It was a verdict heard around the world. In a stunning blow to one of the world’s largest seed and chemical companies, jurors in San Francisco have told Monsanto it must pay $289m in damages to a man dying of cancer which he claims was caused by exposure to its herbicides.

Monsanto, which became a unit of Bayer AG in June, has spent decades convincing consumers, farmers, politicians and regulators to ignore mounting evidence linking its glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer and other health problems. The company has employed a range of tactics – some drawn from the same playbook used by the tobacco industry in defending the safety of cigarettes – to suppress and manipulate scientific literature, harass journalists and scientists who did not parrot the company’s propaganda, and arm-twist and collude with regulators. Indeed, one of Monsanto’s lead defense attorneys in the San Francisco case was George Lombardi, whose resumé boasts of his work defending big tobacco.

Now, in this one case, through the suffering of one man, Monsanto’s secretive strategies have been laid bare for the world to see. Monsanto was undone by the words of its own scientists, the damning truth illuminated through the company’s emails, internal strategy reports and other communications.

The jury’s verdict found not only that Monsanto’s Roundup and related glyphosate-based brands presented a substantial danger to people using them, but that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Monsanto’s officials acted with “malice or oppression” in failing to adequately warn of the risks….

read more at The Guardian