The Corporate Food System Is Making the Coronavirus Crisis Worse

by Walden Bello, FoodFirst, 04.30.2020

A profound article that rewards careful reading. Food First, founded long ago by “Diet for a Small Planet” author Frances Moore Lappé, is an inspiration for activists seeking not just to avoid toxic chemicals and grow healthy food, but also to escape and reform the whole destructive agribusiness cycle.

The author says: “Probably the most important measure that we propose is to move food production away from the fragile, corporate-controlled globalized food supply chain based on narrow considerations such as the reduction of unit cost to more sustainable smallholder-based localized systems.”

Let’s all be part of it, at home, in our food growing and purchasing, and by joining FoodFirst!

This article was originally published at Foreign Policy in Focus by Food First Fellow, Walden Bello.

The global food system has been very much front and center in the COVID-19 story.

Everyone, of course, is aware that hunger is closely tracking the virus as its wreaks havoc in both the global North and global South. Indeed, one can say that, unlike in East Asia, Europe, and the U.S., in South Asia, the food calamity preceded the actual invasion by the virus, with relatively few infections registered in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as of late March of 2020 — but with millions already displaced by the lockdowns and other draconian measures taken by the region’s governments.

In India, for instance, internal migrants lost their jobs in just a few hours’ notice, leaving them with little money for food and rent and forcing them to trek hundreds of kilometers home, with scores beaten up by police seeking to quarantine them as they crossed state lines. Estimated at as many as 139 million, these internal migrants, largely invisible in normal times, suddenly became visible as they tried to reach their home states, deprived of public transportation owing to the sudden national lockdown.

With people dying along the way, a constant refrain in this vast human wave was the desperate cry: “If coronavirus doesn’t kill us, hunger will!”

But the food question has been a key dimension of the pandemic in two other ways. One is the connection of the virus with the destabilization of wildlife. The other is the way the measures to contain the spread of the virus have underlined the extreme vulnerability of the global food supply chain….

Read more at FoodFirst

Lawsuit Challenges TruGreen Chemical Lawn Care Company for Deceptive Safety Claims; Pesticide Applications Stopped by Some States During COVID-19 Crisis as Nonessential

Beyond Pesticides, 3/30/20

NOTICE: Beyond Pesticides urges Governors to stop the use of lawn pesticides during the COVID-19 crisis because the toxic chemicals used are typically immune and respiratory system toxicants, elevating key risk factors for those vulnerable to coronavirus hazards. Contact your Governor to classify chemical lawn care as non-essential.

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2020) Last week, Beyond Pesticides sued TruGreen, the national chemical landscaping company, for misrepresenting the safety of the toxic chemicals that it uses to treat lawns. The case is Beyond Pesticides v. TruGreen (DC Superior Court, Case No. 2020CA001973B, March, 20, 2020). At the same time, the organization is urging all states to prohibit toxic chemical spraying in neighborhoods as non-essential and hazardous. Widespread exposure to lawn pesticides, which are immune system and respiratory toxicants, can elevate serious risk factors associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus).

As part of its marketing, TruGreen tells consumers that it offers environmentally friendly, sustainable lawn care services that use no chemicals that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, or other health or environmental harms. These claims, according to Beyond Pesticides’ complaint, are false and deceptive and illegal under the laws of the District of Columbia….

read more at Beyond Pesticides

The colorful lawn

A lawn never subjected to chemicals can exhibit a broad and attractive range of plants, here featuring purple and white wild violets (and, in the middle distance, an area of meadow hyacinths that will soon bloom in purple and white):

Finding a toad is also a good sign, as amphibians like toads and salamanders are very sensitive to chemical poisoning. From the base of a tree just off the above photo, this is a well-camouflaged Eastern American toad:

Toads breed in water and that one must have hopped safely across 500 feet and 2 streets to get here, some time in the past 30 years (their life span, under good circumstances.

Here is a salamander from about 25 feet away in the same back yard, found under a flat stone (which, here pictured on the left side, of course was carefully replaced so as not to disturb the wildlife, which if you look carefully includes 2 snails near the salamander’s tail). Although only about an inch long, it must be a northern slimy salamander (which grows up to 8 inches long!) lives in just this environment and breeds on land.

The Victory Garden movement: be part of it!

During World Wars I and II, Americans pitched in to grow a lot of their vegetables at home or in shared gardens. Now we are faced with a similar need, because people hesitate to go shopping, delivery is slow, store-bought products can come bearing viruses (to say nothing of pesticides and herbicides), growing our own food saves money, and it is healthful and educational to get outdoors and plant!

Photo: Kale (which you can plant outside now) and wild onions (which you can gather any time), from West Chester Green Team Courtney Bodle’s Instagram page.

To get your own organic veggie garden started, see Courtney’s regular series of videos on how to plant seeds indoors under grow lights and, as the season develops, further steps in growing, harvesting, and eating.

And let’s not forget composting. Why buy soil when you can make it at home? For tips, see West Chester resident and Borough Council member Denise Polk’s TED talk on YouTube.

Professor Polk has also founded the Public Seed Library of West Chester, an exchange modality for you to get and donate seeds.

Harvest begins, 2019

Please note that we plan on starting up our “kid gardening program” as soon as feasible this summer. For last year’s program, see photos on the West Chester Green Team site.

The Victory Garden movement is gaining prominence in the news; see for example an interesting historical perspective in “Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens” by Tejal Rao in The New York Times, 3/25/20.

For seasonal information on edible wild plants, please see here and links from there. What’s not to like: you just go outside, gather, and eat!

So, once again in the current “war” on the virus: On To Victory!

It’s time for edible wild plants

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics : A View from West Chester, 3/25/20 {Featuring shepherd’s purse, which you can add to your salads right now, and day lilies]

This is a good time to be getting outdoors, not only because of the mostly warming weather, but because it takes our minds off the cares of the world.

This is also a good time to study up on edible wild plants, which offer us free green vegetables without having to go far afield. Do shepherd’s purse, common orange day lilies, dandelion, broadleaf plantain, and ostrich ferns appeal to you? I can vouch for them all.

Wherever you gather plants, be sure herbicides and pesticides have not been used….

Below: shepherd’s purse in water, ready for final cleaning and eating. Read more at Politics : A View from West Chester

How to Turn Your Yard Into an Ecological Oasis

Replacing grass with even a few plants native to your region can save insects and the ecosystems that depend on them.


By Tyler Wells Lynch, Yes! magazine, Feb 7, 2020

For years, Toni Genberg assumed a healthy garden was a healthy habitat. That’s how she approached the landscaping around her home in northern Virginia. On trips to the local gardening center, she would privilege aesthetics, buying whatever looked pretty, “which was typically ornamental or invasive plants,” she says. Then, in 2014, Genberg attended a talk by Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware. “I learned I was actually starving our wildlife,” she says.

The problem, Tallamy explained, is with the picky diets of plant-eating insects. Most of these bugs—roughly 90%—eat and reproduce on only certain native plant species, specifically those with whom they share an evolutionary history. Without these carefully tuned adaptations of specific plants, insect populations suffer. And because bugs themselves are a key food source for birds, rodents, amphibians, and other critters, that dependence on natives—and the consequences of not having them—works its way up the food chain. Over time, landscapes that consist mainly of invasive or nonnative plants could become dead zones.

Toni Genberg’s 0.24-acre Virginia property is certified as Audubon at Home habitat, which means its native plants make it a beneficial location for birds, insects, butterflies, and animals. Photo by Toni Genberg

Read more at Yes! magazine

It’s Farmer v. Monsanto in Court Fight Over Dicamba Herbicide

Sierra magazine, 2/3/20

Bader Farms claims Monsanto induces farmers to buy dicamba-tolerant seeds

Update: and farmer won! See “Missouri Farmer Wins $265 Million Verdict Against Monsanto” in Sierra magazine, Feb. 25, 2020.

A showdown is underway in the Midwest as the owner of a large Missouri peach farm seeks to hold the former Monsanto Co. accountable for millions of dollars in damage to his crops—losses the farmer claims resulted from a corporate strategy to induce farmers to buy high-priced specialty seeds and chemicals.

The trial got underway on January 27 in US District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Farmer Bill Bader, who has grown peaches in Missouri’s “Bootheel” region for 40 years, is seeking more than $20 million. The lawsuit alleges that Bader Farms lost more than 30,000 trees due to Monsanto’s actions, in collaboration with German chemical giant BASF, to profit from a new cropping system involving genetically engineered seeds designed to tolerate dousing of the herbicide dicamba.

Bader claims Monsanto sold GMO dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton seeds despite knowing the actions would trigger chemical damage to farm fields that were not planted with the new seeds. The intent, the Bader Farms’ lawsuit alleges, was to induce farmers to buy the specialty seeds as a means to prevent crop damage from herbicide drift coming from neighboring farmers who were planting the GMO crops and spraying them with dicamba.

Testing showed that leaves of his dying peach trees carried traces of dicamba. The 5,000-acre family farm, which produced 5 million to 6 million pounds of peaches annually along with corn, soybeans, various berries, apples, and tomatoes, is now struggling to survive, according to Bader.

Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer AG in 2018, and BASF, which initially developed dicamba in the 1950s, have claimed that other factors are to blame for Bader’s problems on his farm, including a soil fungus. The companies deny they have any liability for his losses. 

But among the evidence introduced at the Bader Farms trial are internal Monsanto documents showing that the company predicted thousands of drift complaints would occur after its new seed product launch.

Bader is only one of a large and growing group of US farmers who say they are the victims of a clearly foreseen chemical catastrophe many years in the making that has ruined crops covering millions of acres of farmland….

read more at Sierra

Photo by Bacsica/iStockBy Carey Gillam