Saturday, December 21, 2002

New Reasons for eating organic

Francesca Lyman of MSNBC writes that a new study claims that a pesticide-free diet significantly lowers the amount of pesticide residues kids are exposed to, DUH.... The study, published on-line here, concluded:
The researchers measured six metabolites that derive from some 39 organophosphorus pesticides, the most commonly used in the United States and also some of the most toxic. They compared a group of 18 organic-eating children with 21 conventional food-eating children all roughly the same age (2-to-5-years-old on average), gender, and of similar family income. The children with primarily organic diets had far lower levels of the metabolites in their bodies.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Dear CALPIRG supporter,

For the past 20 years, the run-off from the 25,000 farms located in the Central Valley has not been regulated. Waivers, created in 1982, exempted these farms from the California clean water laws because the State assumed that these farms would regulate themselves and that the run-off - which includes toxic pesticides and manure - would not harm the public.

This assumption has been proven dreadfully wrong. Now, over 500 miles of rivers and streams in the Central Valley have been declared unsafe for fishing, swimming and drinking by the U.S. EPA because of this toxic agricultural run-off.

Please take a moment to ask the Central Valley Water Board to regulate agricultural run-off and dairy pollution in California. Follow the link below to go to a web page where you can e-mail the Central Valley Water Board.


Agricultural pollution, including pesticide-laden irrigation waters and nitrate run-off, is the largest source of pollution for many of California's waterways. This water pollution extends well beyond our agricultural areas, however, threatening fish supplies and scarce drinking water stores for all Californians. For example, agricultural pesticides and manure-related pollutants, such as E. coli, pathogens, nitrates and salts, have been detected in drinking water sources for at least 46 California counties.

Incredibly, agricultural pollution - unlike every other source of water pollution in the state - has gone entirely unchecked, with farms and dairies enjoying a perpetual waiver from the requirements of the state and federal clean water laws. In 1999, the California legislature rightly decided to bring an end to these waivers, including those enjoyed by Central Valley farmers and dairymen, on January 1, 2003. Now that the deadline is looming, the Farm Bureau and other agribusiness interests are pressuring the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board to delay meaningful action that would reduce the amount of agricultural pollution dumped into our waters.

And the Regional Board is bending to agribusiness pressure. Instead of taking this historic opportunity to require agriculture to comply with the same clean water laws as everyone else, the Board has proposed yet another waiver - a weak measure that will ensure more of the same: unabated agricultural pollution, contaminated waterways, threatened fish and drinking water supplies.

Please take a moment to urge the Central Valley Board to implement an effective program to control agricultural and dairy pollution and assure compliance with water quality objectives for our waters. Follow the link below to go to a web page where you can e-mail the Central Valley Water Board.


Wendy Wendlandt
CALPIRG Associate Director

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Certified Organic

Last week's cover story does a good job looking into organic food, but fails to mention tests that have proven that using manure as fertilizer boosts vitamin B12 in fruits and vegetables (look up A Mozafar). Also, no mention of the fact that because organic frood is usually picked later, when it's more ripe, it tends to be healthier for that reason too. These facts, along with the environmental effects of chemical farming, and the fact that pesticides are found on all produce, but in much higher concentrations on conventionally farmed produce, are enough to make the logical choice to go organic!

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Dr. Pedro Sanchez Teaches African Farmers the Secrets of the Soil

Poor quality soil is the cause of many of the evils that plague poor countries, from hunger and poverty to environmental devastation caused by slash-and-burn farming. Dr. Sanchez, whose work earned him the 2002 World Food Prize, has taught 150,000 small-scale African farmers how to boost yields by improving their soil. He plans to use the $250,000 prize to continue his work.

As many of you probably know, healthy soil is what Mort Mather and I preach at our organic gardening web site. Healthy soil grows healthy plants which are naturally disease, pest, and drought resistant.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Panel of Advisors faults EPA’s Pesticide Review as Inadequate to Protect Children

“This was so sloppy even the scientific advisory panel couldn’t stomach it. These scientists have basically chucked this back at the EPA and said, ’Not good enough. Do it again.’ This is not an adequate margin of safety and this will not protect children.” -- Jennifer Sass, National Resources Defense Council
The independent panel suggested the EPA concluded 28 pesticides were safe without an adequate review of whether they are particularly harmful when combined. Why doesn't this suprise me? This is my answer to all you people who, before the election, said, "How much damage can Bush really do?" Well, how many people will get cancer when it could be avoided? And this is just one issue! Please tell your friends in swing states to vote for anyone BUT Republicans. This madness must be stopped!

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Caffeine kills slugs and snails

I'll perform tests on my snails to see if just spraying them with coffee, which is also slightly acidic, works. In the mean time, I think these researchers may have stumbled onto a new environmentally friendly pesticide. The only problem will be finding a way to get it onto the slugs, since most people are to lazy to actually hunt them down and spray them. We'll have to develop a coffee trap or something.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Vacation rentals in Hawaii with organic gardens

If you're heading to Hawaii for a vacation, check out this vacation rental property where the gardens, and the protea farm, are organic!

Maui bed and breakfast

Thursday, June 13, 2002

EPA OKs combining 30 pesticides
Activists complain children, some risks weren’t weighed

This story from the Associated Press points out that although the Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on the safety of all but two of 30 pesticides it studied to see whether they are unreasonably dangerous to human health when combined, the National Resources Defense Council points out that the EPA only tested dietary intake of the pesticide combinations. EPA Assistant Administrator Stephen Johnson said reviewing the cumulative risks of organophosphorus pesticides gave the agency general confidence in the safety of the nation’s food supply. But the NRDC points out that the food supply is only part of the problem.
EPA didn’t study for any of the pesticides other non-dietary routes of exposure like airborne drifts from spraying and the more frequent contact that about 1 million farm kids have with the chemicals.

       “When all the facts come in, it will become clear that EPA must take much more aggressive action against these poisons,” said Erik Olson, an NRDC senior attorney in Washington. “Kids are exposed more, and are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of organophosphates.”
Predictably, there was no comment from the poison industry, which had tried three times to have a court bar the findings from being made public.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

EPA asked to ban popular herbicide
Atrazine’s maker rejects claims by environmental group

This AP story (via MSNBC) points out many of the problems with Atrazine, which is banned in banned in France, Germany and Italy. The National Resources Defense Council has petitioned to ban its use in the US.
WASHINGTON, June 4 — An environmental group asked the government Monday to ban the use of atrazine, a weedkiller commonly sprayed on cornfields and lawns. The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition asking the EPA to take the chemical off the market, charging its leading manufacturer did not properly disclose that 17 workers had developed prostate cancer. The group also said the chemical had been linked to deformities in frogs.
Furthermore, it seems this one of the interesting little compounds that the EPA tested on human subjects, which they're not supposed to do....
NRDC also said EPA’s risk assessment for atrazine violates the agency’s own policy because it relies partly on “an unlawful and unethical experiment in which human volunteers were intentionally exposed to atrazine.”
Of course, the maker of this nasty little herbicide, Swiss-based Syngenta, the world’s biggest agribusiness, claims it's all bunk, and that their product is perfectly safe. The petition calls for an investigation of Syngenta. New EPA rules regarding its use are expected by late summer. Anyone want to bet on what a Bu$h run EPA will do?

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Our organic flower garden!

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Pesticides on Organic Produce?

A Consumers Union study published today in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants revealed that 23% of their samples of organic produce contained trace amounts of pesticides (while 75% of the sample of non-organic produce did). Read a little further and you'll find some interesting facts about this study. First, they used 26,571 samples of non-organic produce, and only 97 samples of organic produce. This is a very small number of organic samples. Second, at least some of the samples of organic produce were sweet bell peppers from Mexico, where pesticide contamination of the soil, water, and air drift, is much higher than in the US. Mexican environmental laws, especially pertaining to pesticides on food, are very lax compared to in the US.

On the first point, that the sample is too small to conclude that this percentage holds up for the entire organic food industry, take a look at the actual sample sizes:
The Agriculture Department data that were examined in the Consumers Union study showed residues on seven of 30 samples of organic fruit, and 22 of 97 samples of organic vegetables, or 23 percent of the total organic produce tested. Nine of 19 samples of organic spinach had pesticide traces, and four of 18 carrot samples. By comparison, pesticides were found on 73 percent of the 26,571 samples of conventional foods that were tested.
What this study suggests to me, besides the fact that most conventional food is covered in pesticides, is that chemical agriculture has so thoroughly contaminated the air, soil, and water that it is impossible to grow food without some trace amounts of harmful chemicals showing up. Not only is this sad and contemptable, but it is also criminal. I would urge organic food growers who find trace amounts of pesticides on their produce to sue the nearby chemical farms responsible for the drift, since the Bush administration will never do anything to hurt the big chemical corporations that financed his Junta.

The idea of suing over drift is not new. It is known as toxic tresspassing. In a related MSNBC story, Tresspassing Toxins, Francesca Lyman writes:
Do you have a right not to be sprayed, out of concern for your property or your health? The answer is yes, according to California tort lawyer Darren S. Enenstein. “You have an inherent right to be protected under the law,” he says, “but you may have to sue for toxic trespass to protect that right.”
The Bush EPA (an oxymoron?) dropped a proposed change that would have cracked down on drift, with better instructions and directions for applicators, after pesticide companies (Monsanto contributed $55,000 in 2000 and 2001 to the Repub National State Elections Committee and nothing to Democrats*) complained that the changes would be too expensive.

Lyman goes on to point out that under federal law, there is little anyone can do if the party spraying the pesticides is following the directions.
Nor do organic farmers marketing produce grown free of chemicals get any special protections. That has proven to be a problem for some farmers who have lost their organic certification. One baby food company was outraged to find its products had been contaminated through no fault of its own.
This is an outrage. If I was manufacturing pesticides and someone was spraying something nearby that made them safe and non-effective, you can bet that I'd have my corporate lawyers all over the party harming my product, not to mention lobbyists crawling around the capitol demanding legislation to make it a crime to mess with my product. But when large corporate farms contaminate the product of organic farmers, where is the justice? Where can organic farmers turn? To an agriculture department run by Monsanto corporate shill Ann Veneman? Maybe to John Ashcroft, who received $10,000 from Monsanto for his failed Senate reelection bid?

One last interesting thing about this study is the way the conglomerate owned news media handles it. On the Consumers Union web site, the headline is: Organic Foods Really DO Have Less Pesticides. At MSNBC (a combination of AP and staff reports) the headline reads: Pesticides found on organic produce. The New York Times did the best job of revealing the truth here, with this headline: Study Finds Far Less Pesticide Residue on Organic Produce. The New York Times also mentions that this study sheds further light on a February 2000 story by John Stossel, a correspondent on the ABC News program "20/20," who "reported that testing had proved that the levels of pesticide residues in conventional produce were similar to those in organic produce, making organic claims a fraud. Though Mr. Stossel retracted his statement — such testing had never been conducted — his report alarmed proponents of organic agriculture and those like Consumers Union who do not oppose the use of synthetic pesticides but want stricter standards." Bravo to the New York Times. The LA Times didn't even run the story.

* Donation information from

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Toxic Fertilizers!

Yep. The chemical fertilizers sold in bags at your basic home and garden stores are loaded with toxic waste! Unbelieveable! CALPIRG's Safe Fertilizers Campaign managed to get this story on page 24 below the fold, and then it just disappeared.
“When it goes into our silo, it's a hazardous waste. When it comes out of the silo, it's no longer regulated. The exact same material. Don't ask me why.” —Dick Camp, President, Bay Zinc Co. Fertilizer Manufacturer
I'll tell you why: money, power, and politics. The loopholes exist because someone can profit from them.

Here's a snip from CALPIRG's page:
Polluters are funneling toxic wastes to fertilizer manufacturers, and the manufacturers have been willing partners in using this waste. Some industries dispose of tons of toxic waste by giving it free to fertilizer manufacturers, or even paying them to take it. This cuts costs for treating, storing, or disposing of hazardous wastes.
* Across the country, 454 farms and fertilizer manufacturers received 271 million pounds of toxic waste from 1990 to 1995. California farms and fertilizer manufacturers received nearly 38 million pounds of that waste, the most of any state.
* A loophole in federal law allows steel mills to send toxic ash to zinc fertilizer manufacturers without testing it for its hazardous properties or tracking where it goes.
* In 1997, an investigative report by the Seattle Times described how a farmer in Washington lost entire crops by unknowingly using toxic waste-derived fertilizers that contained arsenic, beryllium, lead, titanium, chromium, copper and mercury.
California's Assembly AB1313, the Toxic Fertilizer Prevention Act, would protect our health and the environment, as opposed to recent proposed standards which would make it legal for fertilizers to contain unacceptably high and dangerous levels of toxic substances in fertilizer. AB 1313 was held up in committe and dead for the 2001 session. Seems our some of our legislators think it's fine to poison the soil, our food, and our children. The only way to avoid this problem is to go organic!

Friday, May 03, 2002

Biotech Bias on the Editorial and Opinion Pages of Major United States Newspapers and News Magazines

Imagine that... Another corporate bankrolled marketing campaign put forward as "proof" of the safety of genetically engineered crops. Media outlets owned by corporate conglomerates flood the opinion market with pro-corporate brainwashing about the next wave in corporate grown food. And we all know what food grown by multi-national conglomerates has done for family farms, nutrition, soil tilth, and the environment so far: bankrupt family farms, nutritionally deficient food (compared to organically grown), massive topsoil erosion, and environmental disasters around the globe, not to mention cancer, Parkenson's disease, and many other human conditions which can be traced directly to greedy corporations who put profits ahead of lives. Imagine that....

Thursday, May 02, 2002

From the Sierra Club e-mail newsletter

Farm Bill Aids Polluters, Punishes Family Farmers and the Environment

The gap between large agribusinesses and small family farms is already wide enough.  Now the House is close to making it even wider, by approving a farm bill that hands out $73.5 billion in federal subsidies, much of it to massive agribusinesses with shameful environmental records.

The bill does little to help farmers safeguard wetlands, protect clean water, and set aside areas for wildlife habitat. It gives billions of taxpayer dollars to industrial livestock operations to deal with their animal manure.  For hog factories, that means dumping liquefied manure into a hole in the ground, causing water pollution, killing fish, and contaminating drinking water. "Industrial livestock production is an environmental disaster," said Sierra Club's Ed Hopkins, "and the federal government shouldn't be funding it."
Here's the Sierra Club's response to the Farm Bill. Click here to join Sierra Club.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Pesticide-free flowers

As many of you probably know, the fresh-cut flower business is riddled with pesticides. Many of the flowers you have delivered from online flower delivery companies are grown in South America, especially Columbia, and are riddled with pesticides. The workers suffer and die as a result, and this is all subsidized by the unsuspecting public that sends flowers. But we have the answer to this! Order flowers from Hana Flowers! Hana Flowers grows flowers without using pesticides! These tropical flowers and plants are grown in the lush rainforest of eastern Maui, Hawaii, so you're buying US grown flowers and no money goes to pesticide companies!

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Organic Gardening

Finally! An easy place to post articles of interest to anyone who thinks the chemical companies are destroying the planet and the food supply, not to mention the soil, the farmers, our children, and our health. They convinced the world that chemicals were the only way to grow food, although we grew food organically for millions of years. They convinced the government (paid for by them) that it was all safe so we let them sell poison without adequate testing. Now, the field tests are coming in. They've been performed for years on our food, on real people, and without any repurcussions on the criminals who have now killed thousands of people for profit. My first case in point? How about Parkenson's Disease?
"...results from a study of thousands of farmers in Iowa and North Carolina suggest exposure to several crop pesticides may be linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease."
Oh, and guess who the chemical companies give most of their campaign contributions to. You got it. The same party that brought you this memorable quote: "We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand." --James Watt (Secretary of the Interior under Reagan)