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PAN North America

Pesticide Action Network North America • advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide

Fall 2009

Climate Change & Agriculture

Contents Features Climate Change and Agriculture 9 Feeding the World, Cooling the Planet Marcia Ishii-Eiteman & Margaret Reeves 14 EPA to Investigate Role of Pesticides in Climate Change 15 Weather, Pests and Pesticides 16 Asian Farmers and Activists Respond to the Food and Climate Crisis 17 Climate Change Accelerates Toxic Threat in Arctic 18 Growing Greener Biofuels Jim Kleinschmit & Julia Olmstead




Departments PAN’s 2009 Health & Justice Award Winner Carol Dansereau: Farm Worker Pesticide Project



Rodale’s Remedy: Demand Organic and Heal the Planet Tim LaSalle


Stories from the PAN Network

Working to Keep the Land & People Together The Land Stewardship Project Pictured: Organic dairy farmer Bill Gorman


First Word

Campaign Reports

Last Word

1 First, the Weather Kathryn Gilje

4 Atrazine and the Health of the Heartland 5 Endosulfan Ban Gains Global Momentum 6 Drift Catching in Africa: Report from Senegal Karl Tupper 7 Chemical Reform is Key to U.S. POPs Treaty Ratification

21 Securing Our Food in a Time of Climate Crisis Vandana Shiva, excerpted from the book, Soil Not Oil

News 2 EPA to Re-assess Health Dangers of Methyl Iodide • California Summit on Climate and Agriculture • Bayer to Cut Production of “Bhopal Poison” • Global Harvest Initiative: More Failed Hunger Solutions • Bhopal Disaster: 25th Anniversary

Thunderstorm looms high over rural Nova Scotia.

on the cover

Photo by Shaun Lowe.

PAN North America Volume IV, Number 3

Fall 2009

A member publication of Pesticide Action Network North America. Views expressed herein are the authors’ and do not necessarily represent those of PAN International or PAN North America. Permission granted to reproduce portions of this publication, provided the source (Pesticide Action Network North America) is acknowledged. Pesticide Action Network North America combines science and community-led campaigns to force global phaseouts of highly hazardous pesticides. We promote solutions that protect the health of com­munities and the environment. PAN North America is one of five independent regional centers of PAN International, a worldwide network of more than 600 organizations in 90 countries. Our work advances environmental justice, sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty. Executive Director: Kathryn Gilje Communications Director: Heather Pilatic Managing Director: Steve Scholl-Buckwald Consulting Editor: Gar Smith Design: Brenda J. Willoughby Contributors: Beverly Becker, Medha Chandra, Brian Hill, Kristin Schafer, Chela Vázquez

Board of Directors

Ellen Kennedy, Pres.

Calvert Group, Maryland

Michael Picker, V.P.

Polly Hoppin

Lowell Center, Massachusetts

Lincoln Crow Strategic Communications, California

Shawna Larson

Jennifer Sokolove, Secy

Nikiko Masumoto

Sandra ‘JD’ Doliner, Treas.

Clara Nicholls

Compton Foundation, California

Opus 4, North Carolina

Martha Guzman

Pacific Environment, Alaska Masumoto Family Farm, California Univ. of California, Berkeley, Div. of Insect Biology, California

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, California

Ana Duncan Pardo

Jonathan Harrison

Ted Schettler

Judy Hatcher

Amy Shannon

Rubicon National Social Innovations, California Environmental Support Center, Virginia

Toxic Free North Carolina, North Carolina Science and Environmental Health Network, Michigan

First, the Weather Where I come from, weather winds up in just about every conversation. “Cold enough for you? Oh no, this is mild. Don’t you remember when…?” A cultural phenomenon of the upper Midwest, and among farmers and farmworkers everywhere, weather defines our lives. Weather determines the daily to-do list and frames possibilities. Spring might set up a perfect environment to plant ambitious crops —tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, squash— stretching to the horizon. And a late spring freeze or midsummer hailstorm can destroy that bounty within hours. Weather—and its long-term companion, climate—is top of mind for us all now, and people around the world face the shocks associated with our rapidly warming planet. Communities are ravaged by increasingly extreme events. Farmers see change in temperature and precipitation that require adaptation and threaten food supply. In the U.S., we face the reality that our habits and systems are a grave cause of the dangers, and we seek ways to change course. Agriculture, it turns out, is fertile ground for changing course. The good news is that ecological agriculture and food sovereignty— solutions PAN and our partners have been promoting for decades as the antidote to pesticide and corporate dependence — can both feed the world and cool the planet. And people around the world are increasingly clamoring for a shift in this direction. The bad news is that the same agrichemical corporations that brought us toxic pesticides and industrial food are offering technological fixes that, as we’ve seen already, will fail to deliver, leaving communities and our planet in debt. In this issue you’ll find science, analysis and stories at the nexus of agriculture, pesticides and climate change. We detail the links between farming systems and climate, and the impacts climate change will have on global toxics. And we offer a glimpse into the state-of-play for agriculture vis-à-vis national and international policy. You’ll also find stories of celebration: of a hero in the struggle for safer, fair agriculture —this year’s Health & Justice Award winner, Carol Dansereau; and reports of real progress in eliminating dangerous pesticides. Thank you for joining in the campaign for food democracy and a cooler planet.

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Illinois

—Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director

our CFC number is 11437

49 Powell Street, #500 San Francisco, CA 94102 415-981-1771 Printing by Autumn Press with soy-based ink on New Leaf Sakura: 100% De-inked Recycled, 50% Post-Consumer Waste, Processed Chlorine Free.

Pesticide Action Network International PAN has autonomous regional facilitating centers in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. A primary strength of PAN is the collaboration among the regional centers with more than 600 NGOs in 90 countries.


PAN Africa Dakar, Senegal asia/pacific

PAN Asia & the Pacific Penang, Malaysia


PAN Europe PAN Germany Hamburg, Germany PAN UK London, UK

latin america

RAP-AL Buenos Aires, Argentina north america

PAN North America San Francisco, USA

News EPA to Re-assess Health Dangers of Methyl Iodide In late September, an independent Scientific Review Panel convened in Sacramento, California, to evaluate the science behind the proposed use of a new, carcinogenic pesticide — methyl iodide. In 2007, the U.S. EPA concluded that health standards could be met during methyl iodide applications by the proper use of masks and keeping workers away from newly fumigated fields. However, a 2009 report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) concluded that using the new fumigant poses “significant health risks for workers and the general population” and called for procedures to reduce exposure by as much as 3,000-fold to meet health and safety standards. According to the Fresno Bee, Arysta Corporation (methyl iodide’s manufacturer), “asked the [DPR] for permission to use the powerful chemical in the lucrative California market.” “This is worth going to the mat over,” Pesticide Action Network Scientist Susan Kegley told the Bee, claiming that methyl iodide is “toxic and exposure to it is almost guaranteed.” During the first day of the Sacramento meetings, the review panel of eminent scientists from across the country took EPA’s and DPR’s risk assessment to task. As hearings resumed the next morning, the EPA led off by announcing that it was prepared to reopen its decision on methyl iodide pending the outcome of the panel’s decisions. The Scientific Review Panel also heard from Pesticide Action Network, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Líderes Campesinas, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pesticide Watch, the United Farm Workers and other public interest groups. Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm offered his perspective as a long-time strawberry grower, suggesting that it is time to move toward sustainable production without toxic


chemicals, and especially without fumigants. Over the next few months, the DPR will consider and respond to the findings of the panel. on the web


California Summit on Climate Change and Agriculture On October 1, the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) convened a two-day summit on the University of California’s Davis campus. The event drew more than 150 farmers, academics, state officials and nonprofit organizations concerned about the impact of climate change on environmental health, food and farming, and the lives of agricultural workers. The “Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture” conference was hosted by California Certified Organic Farmers, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Ecological Farming Association, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and the Center for Food Safety, with support from Californians for Pesticide Reform and Pesticide Action Network.

While the summit also covered pending federal Climate Security Act legislation, the policy discussion focused on California’s landmark 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), which calls for cutting global-warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A major concern was how to correct AB32’s failure to acknowledge industrial agriculture’s role in generating greenhouse gases and the potential of organic farming practices to mitigate climate change. On October 2, PAN Staff Scientist Margaret Reeves joined 20 speakers in a daylong strategy session to identify priorities for policy action. One critical issue was whether cap-and-trade systems (which essentially allow businesses to buy a license to pollute) can be improved to benefit communities most affected by controls on greenhouse gas emissions and to help small and medium-sized farmers whose sustainable innovations offer the best hope for slowing climate change. on the web

Bayer to Cut U.S. Production of “Bhopal Poison”

Topics ranged from state-of-the-art sciBayer Cropscience, the owner of a West ence to agriculture’s potential response Virginia plant that produces methyl to, and mitigation of, climate change — isocyanate (MIC, the same chemical with a focus on near-term policy options. The summit addressed the challenge of measuring how different farming There are many ways to methods and soil types support a pesticide-free world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the Matching Gifts double your impact! soil’s ability to sequester Ask your employer about a Matching carbon. It also explored the Gift program. need to establish standards Workplace Giving through Earth Share with which to audit and and your employer is an easy way to reward beneficial changes support our mission and programs. in fa rming practices. Participants discussed Vehicle Donations turn your old car, boat, farmland preservation, or truck into cash for PAN. Hassle-free farm-based biofuels and and tax-deductible. changes in livestock manLearn more at agement (grass-fed cows or call 415-981-1771 ext 309. produce far less methane than corn-fed cows). PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009


Bhopal Disaster 25th Anniversary On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide’s plant in Bhopal, India, exploded, exposing more than 500,000 people to 42 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas. It is estimated that 8,000–10,000 died within 72 hours. Over the past 25 years, another 25,000 have died from gas-related diseases. The survivors — and, now, their children — continue to suffer from health problems while waging an unrelenting struggle for justice. Get involved with the 25th Anniversary Day of Action! Learn more at

released from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984), will substantially cut production of the deadly poison. Last year, an explosion sent shrapnel flying near an aboveground tank built to store 40,000 pounds of methyl isocyanate (MIC). An estimated 50,000 to 90,000 pounds of MIC were released in the accident that killed thousands of Bhopal residents in a single night. A $25 million safety upgrade will eliminate aboveground storage of MIC within a year. John Bresland, chair of the federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, said Bayer’s action “will lessen the risk to the public and the work force from an uncontrolled release of MIC.” Maya Nye, spokesperson for People Concerned About MIC, a local watchdog group, called the 80% reduction “a good thing” but pointed out “the danger still exists.”

santo, Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere and DuPont. The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis called the Global Harvest agenda a rehash of “failed solutions from the past” and pointed out that the symposium’s panels were dominated by individuals “who have consistently pushed chemical-intensive production, unproven biotechnologies and ‘free’ trade as solutions to feeding the world.”

The Global Harvest Initiative: More Failed Hunger Solutions

Working Group members, including PAN, characterized the conference as a “missed opportunity” to address the findings of the UN’s International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) — an alternative path to global sustainability that calls for investing in agroecological sciences and biodiverse farming to replace the corporate monopolies of the food system. The IAASTD warns that chemical-intensive production has adverse health and environmental effects, while biotechnology mainly benefits transnational corporations rather than the world’s poor.

On September 22, a Global Harvest Initiative symposium was convened in Washington, D.C., to “address world hunger.” The event (which claimed to have enlisted some of the “best thinkers” in agriculture, food security and hunger) was sponsored by agri-biz giants Mon-

“Ironically, it is large agribusiness corporations such as those sponsoring the Global Harvest Initiative that have helped create today’s hunger, environmental and climate crises — by bringing us corporate-controlled, water- and energy-intensive industrial agriculture

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

that is responsible for massive greenhouse gas emissions,” observed PAN Senior Scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman (a co-author of the IA ASTD report). Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition and a Mississippi farmer, noted the lack of farmers’ voices at the symposium. “The main agribusiness funders of the Global Harvest Initiative control much of the inputs farmers depend upon to produce food,” Burkett said. Criticizing the “increasing corporate control of our seed and fertilizer industries,” Burkett noted how “farmers can no longer save their own seeds nor afford the expensive genetically modified seeds pushed on them.” Dr. Molly Anderson, coordinating lead author of the IAASTD’s North America and Europe Assessment, warned that the “dominant agricultural practices are endangering the planet and that increasing yields alone will not reduce the hunger of millions.” Anderson dismissed the Global Harvest Initiative’s “business as usual” approach and challenged U.S. policymakers to “look instead to the IAASTD report for the best solutions to address food security.” on the web “Business as Usual is Not an Option,” summer2008/agriculture/business-asusual-is-not-an-option


Campaign Reports

Atrazine and the Health of the Heartland What a difference some noise makes. In late August, the New York Times and Washington Post reported on the scandal over atrazine in the U.S. water supply. In September, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report criticizing the EPA’s inadequate regulation of atrazine, the Huffington Post published an exposé, and a lawsuit over atrazine-tainted water in the Midwest gained momentum. Although the Bush Administration had already reviewed this pesticide, the EPA announced on October 7 that it plans to re-evaluate the chemical — welcome news for scientists and communities alike.

Local water agencies — which are required to report atrazine levels averaged over several months — typically find contamination levels below the legal limit of 3 parts per billion (ppb). But the NRDC report revealed that weekly tests found spraying-season spikes that drove concentrations well over the legal limit. Residents of McClure, Ohio, for instance, were told that their highest level of contamination in 2008 was 3.4 ppb, while internal EPA results for

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“What’s On My Food?” A new guide to pesticide residues on food.

“These results show something is going on even with very low levels,” PAN Staff Scientist Karl Tupper told the Peoria Journal Star. “The use of atrazine needs to be ended. The amount of atrazine used in this country is way out of control.” Meanwhile, Syngenta seems unconvinced. Its website boasts: “Syngenta believes in atrazine, its effectiveness, its safety, its importance to agriculture — in the U.S. and worldwide.” The Swiss company has just opened a state-of-the-art North American headquarters in Minnesota. Courtesy of Syngenta

The herbicide has been found in 71% of U.S. drinking water, with disturbing levels detected most often in the Midwest. Atrazine-laced water has been linked to higher risk of birth defects, low birth weight, breast and prostrate cancers. More than a decade ago, University of California, Berkeley, researcher Tyrone Hayes discovered low levels of atrazine appeared to cause hermaphroditism in frogs. Syngenta (atrazine’s main manufacturer and the funder of Hayes’ research) tried to suppress his findings. A recent medical study from South Korea links low-level exposure to decreased metabolic rates and abnormal weight gain in lab animals.

June 2008 showed atrazine contamination at 33.83 ppb — more than ten times the legal limit. In July, the National Institutes of Health reported low birthweights in babies whose mothers were exposed to atrazine levels as low as 0.1 ppb.

Atrazine was banned in the European Union in 2003. That same year, Syngenta held more than 50 private meetings with Bush-era EPA decision-makers. Today, atrazine ranks second only to glyphosate (Roundup®) as the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. The October decision marks a significant reversal from the EPA’s previous position (which was reaffirmed as recently as June). “There are new scientific findings that deserve attention,” Stephen Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances told the Times. “We’re going to engage our scientific panels in actively reviewing the work of this office under previous administrations.” PAN, Beyond Pesticides and other groups met with Owens shortly after his appointment, urging long-overdue action on pesticides. What’s next? St. Louis Attorney Stephen Tillery has filed a class-action lawsuit asking that Syngenta and other manufacturers compensate Illinois’ water districts for the cost of removing atrazine from the water supply. In November, the EPA will announce its plan for re-evaluation, with a decision expected by September 2010. In December, PAN and the Land Stewardship Project will co-release a report on atrazine. PAN will remain deeply engaged in the national regulatory review, while seeking partnerships to build a healthy heartland in the United States.

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

campaign reports

Endosulfan Ban Gains Global Momentum On October 16, after a heated debate, an international expert scientific panel concluded that the neurotoxic pesticide endosulfan requires global action to prevent further harm to human health and the environment. The decision by the Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee sets the stage for a global ban of the chemical under the treaty. “We’re thrilled endosulfan is one step closer to elimination,” said PAN North America’s Karl Tupper, reporting from the POPs meeting in Geneva. “Alternatives for this chemical have been in use for years, and no one can deny the harm it’s causing around the world.”

the production and distribution of hazardous pesticides, and the original primary maker of endosulfan — announced it would “stop the sale of…endosulfan by the end of 2010.” The July 7 announcement came after people in 16 countries swapped their old cotton underwear for a free pair of organic underwear and, as a protest, sent their rumpled castoffs to Bayer. Some European activists conducted public demonstrations dressed only in their skivvies. Pants to Poverty, an organic, fair-trade clothing company, led the campaign with a coalition of partners, including Pesticide Action Network.

The panel acknowledged that endosulfan is persistent in the environment, is transported though the air to the polar regions where it bioaccumulates in the food chain, and is of such high toxicity that it is a threat to humans and wildlife. India is the world’s largest remaining manufacturer of endosulfan and the government itself owns a major endosulfan factory. In what is now regarded as one of the world’s worse pesticide incidents, the aerial spraying of endosulfan on cashew nut plantations in Kerala, South India, resulted in hundreds of deaths and chronic illnesses including birth defects of nearby villagers. “Endosulfan is poisonous and indefensible. This decision puts the world on notice that production and use of endosulfan must stop,” said Dr. Meriel Watts of PAN Asia and the Pacific. “For the sake of protecting their own people and the health of the planet, China, India, Israel and South Korea should cease manufacturing this poison.” During the meeting, the Review Committee member from India tried to delay and block the decision. In the final moments, India refused to agree to a consensus decision and forced a vote to be taken. India was the only country to vote against the proposal to proceed with the evaluation. Before the meeting PAN and the International POPS Elimination Network expressed concern about allowing a country such as India with a clear conflict of interest to participate in the decision making. If the Stockholm Convention process proceeds as it did with the recent listing of lindane, another prime PAN campaign target, endosulfan would be formally listed for global elimination in early 2011.

Bayer to end sales of endosulfan in 2010 Even before the Geneva decision, Bayer CropScience—one of six multinationals that dominate

In July, thousands of Indian farmers and workers joined demonstrators worldwide who sent old underwear to Bayer demanding the company and the Indian government halt production of endosulfan. Pants to Poverty

Bayer’s decision and the POPs Review Committee ruling come after years of campaigning against endosulfan by PAN and our allies. The pesticide has become a symbol of persistent pollutants, and is linked to autism, birth defects and male reproductive harm. Bayer also has pledged to “progressively replace” pesticides deemed “extremely and highly hazardous” by the World Health Organization. “It’s great to see a major player like Bayer step up and do the right thing,” observes Tupper. “Their example will put pressure on the handful of small, generic pesticide manufacturers that are still pushing this deadly chemical, particularly those in India.” on the web

PAN’s Endosulfan Campaign

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009


campaign reports

Drift Catching in Africa by Karl Tupper senegal— For

almost seven years, our scientists and grassroots activists have used PAN’s inexpensive Drift Catchers to collect air samples in U.S. communities, revealing how pesticides drift from fields and into homes, playgrounds and schools downwind. Evidence obtained by these studies has helped win many reforms, including a state-sponsored air-monitoring program in Washington, buffer zones in California, and a more progressive mosquito control board in Colorado. But pesticide drift is a problem everywhere and the risks are especially grave in developing countries where poverty, lack of education and lax enforcement of regulations can result in the careless application of excess amounts of pesticides. In Senegal, PAN Africa

Executive Director Dr. Abou Thiam is concerned about pesticides drifting from small-scale vegetable farms into the villages that abut these fields. Also of concern is the aerial application of insecticides for locust control by governments of the Sahel — the grassland region that stretches across the continent below the Sahara desert. In July, I travelled to Senegal to deliver three Drift Catchers to our PAN Africa colleagues in Dakar. During my visit, I conducted a hands-on training with the staff and gave a series of Drift Catching presentations to students at Cheikh Anta Diop University (where Abou is a professor). During a visit to a smallplot farming village outside Dakar, my presentation was translated into Wolof for an enthusiastic group of farmers who raise crops for Dakar’s markets. They have no tractors for plowing or water pumps for irrigation — just shovels, hands, hoes, buckets and sweat. And sometimes pesticides. While organic and ecological pest management practices are on the rise, many farmers still rely on pesticides sold by the roadside. At the village I visited, empty pesticide bottles littered the rows of onions and cabbage alongside the low cinder-block walls surrounding the village. The scene was reminiscent of California’s San Joaquin Valley where homes often are right next to (or even surrounded by) orchards and fields. But in the U.S., one doesn’t see the empty bottles since their proper disposal is mandated by law.

Cheikh Bamba Sagna of PAN Africa (in red shirt) demonstrates the use of a Drift Catcher to small-holding IPM and organic farmers near Sangalkam, Senegal. Valerie Breese


The friendships and working relationships established with Abou and his staff deepen the already strong ties between PAN North America and PAN Africa. This trip marked the initial collaboration between our Regional Centers to introduce Drift Catching in other countries. Bringing grassroots air-monitoring to Africa advances PAN’s suite of Community Based Monitoring projects. CBM, one of PAN International’s core strategies, is designed to bring the stories of those most affected by pesticides to the

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

campaign reports

attention of decision-makers. Drift Catching in Senegal will complement other CBM activities, including survey-based monitoring of agricultural practices, which have been hugely effective in documenting the on-the-ground realities of pesticide use and abuse in some of the world’s poorest countries. Drift Catching in Africa faces many challenges, including unreliable electricity and the small number of laboratories capable of analyzing the samples. Generators, solar cells and batteries can provide the power needed to run the Drift Catcher’s pump (equal to a 120W bulb). With the number of professors and graduate students at the university excited about the project, the lack of analytical capacity should be overcome. When it comes to implementing creative solutions to the problems endemic to the region, Abou and PAN Africa are proven veterans. And now, Drift Catching promises to add a powerful new tool to PAN Africa’s efforts to keep winning important protections for the continent’s peoples. Staff Scientist Karl A. Tupper directs PAN’s Environmental Monitoring Program.

As students look on, PAN’s Karl Tupper adjusts a Drift Catcher during a demonstration at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. Valerie Breese

Chemical Reform is Key to U.S. POPs Treaty Ratification Reform of the U.S. law governing toxic chemicals is gaining momentum. In late September, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency is eager to work with Congress to rewrite the 33-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). “Over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it’s supposed to regulate,” says Jackson, “it’s proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects.” To help guide the process, EPA has released a document on “principles for reform” prepared by the Obama Administration. Congress appears ready to move forward with reform efforts as well. “America’s system for regulating toxic substances is broken,” says Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who together with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has committed to introducing

new legislation. “Americans deserve to know that products they rely on…are safe and will not harm their families.” Although TSCA does not govern pesticides, Pesticide Action Network has joined the broad coalition of organizations supporting fundamental overhaul of the nation’s chemical policies. “Reform of U.S. chemicals policy is long overdue — and is absolutely essential to protecting the health of families and ecosystems around the world,” says PAN Senior Policy Analyst Kristin Schafer. “We’ll be pushing for reform that outlaws the most dangerous toxins, spurs the adoption of safer products and restores U.S. global leadership on chemicals policy.” PAN is calling for specific provisions that would trigger a phaseout of toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and accumulate in the bodies of

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

humans and animals. Inclusion of such language would be a key step toward U.S. ratification of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs treaty). “We want to see this country ratify the POPs treaty in a way that puts the U.S. not just at the table, but able to play a positive leadership role,” explains Schafer. “To do this, we need to get our own house in order on persistent chemicals —and that means taking action on POPs rather than waiting for the rest of the world.” Twenty-one chemicals have been targeted for elimination under the POPs treaty to date, and 167 countries had ratified the Convention as of October. Before the U.S. can join the Convention, both TSCA and the nation’s pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) must be amended to allow the U.S. to implement the treaty. on the web


PAN’s 2009 Health & Justice Award Winner Carol Dansereau: Farm Worker Pesticide Project PAN is delighted to honor Carol Dansereau, executive director of the Farm Worker Pesticide Project, as the winner of this year’s Health & Justice Award. The award recognizes individuals who have “committed their life’s work or endured great personal sacrifice to help end the use of hazardous pesticides and promote sustainable, fair alternatives.” Since receiving her University of Michigan law degree in 1984, Carol Danserau has worked exclusively for nonprofits devoted to protecting people and the environment from toxic pollution — including Environmental Action in Washington, D.C., and the Michigan Environmental Council. She spent 11 years at the Washington Toxics Coalition in Seattle, including nearly three years as executive director. Carol spearheaded Coalition efforts that led to Washington State’s precedentsetting Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins phaseout rule. She was instrumental in focusing attention on how toxic chemicals harm children’s health and on the ability of common pollutants to disrupt the endocrine system in people and wildlife.

families by publicizing studies documenting the health impacts of pesticide exposures, helping to build state and national alliances, and pushing for stronger regulations and enforcement. In 2006, when state agencies dismissed community concerns about pesticide drift in Washington’s apple-growing region, Carol helped residents of Yakima Valley test the air themselves. Pesticide Action Network and FWPP collaborated on a Drift Catching study that found dangerous levels of chlorpyrifos in the air and published the findings in a joint report, “Poisons on the Wind.” The report, along with FWPP’s organizing, led the Department of Health to implement mandatory air testing throughout the state. “Air monitoring gives us much-needed scientific evidence,” Carol notes. “The farmworker community is shining a light on a huge public health problem that has been ignored far too long. “I want every person to be free from chemical trespass and to enjoy life unimpaired by toxic exposures,” Carol says. “I’m driven by both a sense of justice and a reverence for life. What inspires me is the amazing people I get to work with— community members and allies who are dedicated, brilliant, courageous and fun. What frustrates me is the appalling lack of attention to the most serious pollution problems — those where people aren’t paid well and face challenges like language barriers and racism. We need to be united in insisting on justice and clean environments for all people.”

Carol Dansereau addresses pesticide issues during an FWPP “reality tour” of Washington State’s Yakima Valley in May 2009. E. Elisondo

Farm Worker Pesticide Project In December 2003, while representing farmworkers on pesticide issues at Columbia Legal Services, discussions with the farmworker community prompted Carol to help launch the Farm Worker Pesticide Project. FWPP’s mission is to reduce and eliminate farmworker exposure to pesticides. Coled by the farmworkers it serves, the organization provides resources to laborers and their advocates, forges coalitions to address pesticide hazards and promotes reform through advocacy, organizing, education and research. For the past six years, Carol and FWPP have worked to end the egregious toxic exposures endured by farmworkers and their


Through each stage of her varied career, Carol has distinguished herself as an activist who works tirelessly with modest compensation while managing to win significant environmental and social justice victories. Carol and FWPP have been close allies with PAN on campaigns to eliminate acutely toxic pesticides, most recently in October as part of a coalition that petitioned the EPA to protect children from pesticide drift. Announcing the award, PAN Executive Director Kathryn Gilje wrote: “It is especially fitting that we honor Carol and the Farm Worker Pesticide Project, a farmworker-based organization doing great work on a very small budget while contributing to victories in Washington State and across the country.” on the web

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

Climate & Agriculture For 27 years, Pesticide Action Network has been working to replace dependence on hazardous pesticides with safe, sustainable and equitable food and agricultural systems. Climate change, and the response of agrichemical companies to it, now threatens that outcome. Climate and agriculture are inextricably connected — not only by biology, chemistry and physics, but also by power, money and politics. The same companies that brought us toxic pesticides, GMOs and global warming are now positioning themselves as climate saviors. But their expensive, inadequately tested and unproven technological solutions are destined to fail. The good news is that ecological agriculture and food sovereignty — solutions PAN and our partners have been promoting for decades as the antidote to pesticide and corporate dependence — can both feed the world and cool the planet. In this series of articles, we connect the dots between pesticides, agriculture, climate, health and the future of food.

Feeding the World

Cooling the Planet

by Marcia Ishii-Eiteman and Margaret Reeves

Agriculture is at a crossroads as we face an unprecedented array of converging crises of climate change, water scarcity and energy consumption. This year, the number of people suffering from hunger passed one billion. We have not so much a global food crisis as a global food system in crisis. Far from solving the challenges of poverty, hunger and the destruction of natural resources, many of the industrial agricultural practices, policies and institutions installed over the past 60 years have worsened them. The convergence of these interlocking crises urgently requires new approaches that address the root causes of the failure of the globalized industrial food system. Fortunately, we have the capacity to produce adequate supplies of healthy food, while building ecological resilience, assuring social equity and cooling the planet.

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

An organic rice farm in West Java, Indonesia. Irrigated rather than flooded paddies conserve water and produce fewer greenhouse gasses. organikganesha


climate & agriculture

Climate and Agriculture: By the Numbers Three primary agricultural contributors to GHG emissions are: carbon dioxide (CO2) from using fossil fuels for energy, transportation and production of pesticides and fertilizers; nitrous oxide (N2O) primarily released from chemical fertilizers; and methane (CH4) mostly from livestock production. • Agricultural emissions, narrowly defined, constitute 10–12% of global GHG emissions. Petrochemical production and distribution plus fossil fuel use in farm operations are responsible for another 3.2% of global emissions. • Land use changes contribute up to an additional 17%, bringing direct and indirect agricultural emissions to roughly one third of total global emissions. Global transportation of agricultural inputs and goods increases that percentage.

Cooking the Planet As a result of climate change, some island countries are already facing nightmare scenarios, with entire populations seeking relocation. Intense droughts, floods and fires have killed tens of thousands of people, caused immeasurable damage and are threatening agricultural livelihoods. Agriculture currently contributes an estimated 10–12% of total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. When indirect contributions — such as deforestation and conversion of grasslands to intensive crop or livestock production — are included, the figure soars to roughly one third of global emissions. Petrochemical production, distribution and use in agriculture are also carbon costly. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides disrupt key ecosystem functions of soil biota, decreasing the soils’ ability to sequester carbon, cycle nutrients, break down greenhouse gases like methane and maintain water-holding capacity.

• Agriculture is responsible for 60% of N2O emissions (primarily from nitrogen fertilizers) and 50% of CH4 emissions (from ruminant animals during digestion and decomposition of manure and, to a lesser extent, water-intensive rice cultivation). Agriculture’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and land use change are the top two factors responsible for today’s massive global increases in CO2. • Roughly 50-70% of U.S. agricultural GHG emissions come from the production of livestock, fruits, vegetables and grains: 10% from food processing; 5-15% from transportation; and an additional percentage from shopping, cooking, refrigeration and waste. • The global warming potential of methane is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide; nitrous oxide is nearly 300 times more potent; the fumigant pesticide sulfuryl fluoride (Dow’s Vikane®) is 4,780 times more potent. • The production of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has been estimated to consume almost 40% of the energy used in all of U.S. agriculture. It takes five tons of carbon to make one ton of nitrogen fertilizer. • Carbon dioxide emissions from organic agricultural systems are 48–60% less than industrial agricultural systems. • Ecological management of soils to sequester carbon has the highest proven potential to reduce agriculture’s GHG emissions, contributing an estimated 89% toward that potential.


No-till and no herbicides: Rodale Institute’s economical crimper-roller kills cover crops mechanically, providing a living-mulch mat that acts as a barrier against weeds, conserves moisture, protects soil and beneficial microorganisms. Rodale Institute

Also at issue are the global politics of trade that drive deforestation and land degradation. Pressured by global trade rules, international financial institutions’ loan requirements (and massive national debts that require repayment in foreign currency), disadvantaged developing countries are frequently compelled to convert natural resources like forests and grasslands into commodities for trade in the global market — a process that releases more GHGs. In Latin America, deforestation is driven by the pressure to intensify cattle and soybean production to meet national export goals (and by investors attracted to high commodity prices further inflated by speculation). In Southeast Asia, large-scale landowners clearcut forests to plant oil palm for agrofuel production. This market-driven destruction releases massive amounts of CO2, while displacing rural communities and destroying the food and livelihood security of millions.

Follow the money Who benefits? Historically, industrial agriculture has benefited transnational corporations, wealthy countries and local elites—those who can afford the costly inputs required to realize the full potential of high-maintenance crop varieties. Meanwhile, poor and marginalPAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

climate & agriculture

ized communities and ecosystems have experienced massive harm. Now, multinational corporations are hoping to capture market share by exploiting climate change as a new sales opportunity. The large biotech firms are launching massive advertising and lobbying campaigns that warn of impending doom brought on by increasing population and climate change—while implying that calamity can be averted by the purchase of their products. Many of the biggest chemical pesticide manufacturers also make genetically engineered (GE) seeds. More than 80% of GE seeds on the market are designed to be used with chemical weed-killers, sales of which have skyrocketed as a result. Nearly 40% have been engineered to contain insecticidal genes (some seeds are now “double-” or “triple-stacked” containing genes for both pest- and herbicide-resistance). Notably, none of these products has fulfilled the promise to end world hunger. As of 2008, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, BASF and others had filed 532 patents for “climate-related genes,” touting the imminent arrival of a new generation of seeds engineered to withstand heat and drought. This attempt to control the global market by patenting more genes for proprietary seeds will further restrict the age-old practice of farmers saving seeds with desirable traits (a practice that may prove even more important as the climate changes in unpredictable ways and demands more, not less, farm-scale diversity). Despite this latest gene-grab, none of these companies has yet been able to engineer any kind of yield-increasing or “climateready” seeds. Their promises to end world hunger — through drought-, heat- and salt-tolerant seeds and crops with enhanced nutrition — have proven empty. While these companies expect to reap billions in profits, they can never eradicate hunger nor successfully address climate change because their premise—that agriculture can be managed like a factory in which known, controlled inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and machines, result in known outputs— is faulty. Corporations will never be able to control the fundamental but increasingly variable inputs of temperature, sun and rain, nor their interactions with living organisms. Farmers, however, can adapt to changing conditions if they maintain flexible, ecologically resilient farming systems. Regrettably, the practice of substituting chemical fertilizers for biologically-based soil fertility has already destroyed much of our soils’ productive and climate-mitigating capacity.

Cooling the planet Fortunately, we have options. The good news is that agriculture is the one sector affecting climate change that has the potential to go from being a problem to becoming an essential part of the solution. This requires a rapid and decisive shift from industrial monocultures towards mosaics of agroecological farming that sequester carbon in soils and help build their water- and nutrient-holding capacity. This transformation will require integrating state-of-the-art science with local and Indigenous knowledge, innovation and experience in biodiverse, ecological, place-based farming that is energy- and water-efficient and integrated into local and regional food systems. These solutions have been highlighted in the landmark reports of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). We need to do more than simply tweak our industrial agricultural systems. Atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses must be rapidly reduced to near–pre-industrial levels. Decades of research by the Rodale Institute demonstrates that regenerative organic farming can ­mitigate a significant portion of the GHG emissions of industrial farm

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

Global Assessment Calls for Agroecological Solutions In the most comprehensive assessment of global agriculture to date, the UN- and World Bank-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that investing in agroecological farming is one of the best ways to improve yields while protecting public health and building cropland that is resilient to climate change. Agroecological farming includes political, cultural, social and economic dimensions and integrates state-of-the-art science with traditional and community-based knowledge. Agroecological innovations tend to be lowcost, readily adaptable by small and mediumscale farmers, and likely to advance social equity while conserving natural resources. Methods include crop rotation, habitat diversification, agroforestry, mixed livestock/ crop/fish systems, contour planting and ecological pest management. Agroecological farming is highly productive and yields are often better than those of conventional farms, particularly in developing countries and during episodes of drought, flood, storms and extreme temperatures. In Central America, small-scale farmers using agroecological methods were better able to withstand the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch — losing less soil and money than those farming conventionally. Increased biodiversity tends to support the conservation of pollinators and natural enemies, enabling least-toxic, ecological pest management. Crop diversity also supports economic stability, more diverse diets and improved health and nutrition. The IAASTD’s findings have been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. An Essex University review of 286 projects in 57 countries found that agroecological farming achieved average production gains of 79% per hectare. All the projects achieved increased water efficiency and 77% showed significant reductions in pesticide use. Similarly, a University of Michigan examination of nearly 300 studies worldwide found that organic agriculture outperformed conventional practices by 57% and a 2008 UN Conference on Trade and Development and UN Environment Programme report judged organic farming more likely to meet African food security needs than conventional production systems.


climate & agriculture

More Half-Baked Solutions from the Corporations that Are Baking the Planet Genetically Engineered Crops Genetically engineered crops that can resist climate change do not exist. Despite more than 10 years of research and untold millions of investment dollars, the industry has failed to introduce a single GE crop capable of overcoming climate stress or banishing hunger, malnutrition and poverty. These genetically uniform, one-size-fits-all solutions are incapable of adapting to the unpredictable conditions associated with climate change (for example, fluctuations in temperature, rainfall, pest and disease pressures, increasing severity of storms and other extreme weather events). The costs of investing scarce research dollars in high-input technologies with a high failure rate are enormous — especially when this steers resources from chronically underfunded research in ecological and organic agriculture. Furthermore, corporate seed patents concentrate control over the seed sector, limit the availability of seed diversity and bind farmers to the industry’s products. The industrial agriculture package of GMOs-plus-petrochemicals exacerbates GHG emissions and disrupts crucial ecological functions of the soil such as nutrient cycling, building and maintaining soil structure, and water retention. Herbicide-based no-till farming No-till practices are often touted as one of the best means to sequester carbon in the soil. However, no-till practices are frequently accompanied by high levels of herbicides—most commonly Monsanto’s weed-killer Roundup® (glyphosate) and Syngenta’s atrazine. This chemical-based approach generates GHGs through herbicide production, transport and application. It also contaminates surface water and destroys the mychorrhizal fungi that are crucial to nutrient cycling and maintenance of a healthy soil with the capacity to sequester carbon. USDA research has shown that a minimal tillage practice involving organic soil management (and occasional tillage to incorporate organic amendments) sequesters far more carbon and builds greater soil fertility. Source: Rodale 2008. The Organic Green Revolution.


operations (by sequestering large quantities of carbon in fertile, humus-rich soil), reduce nitrous oxide (by eliminating use of chemical fertilizers) and reduce methane (through properly managed pastures and the activity of a healthy soil microbial community). Increasing the ability of farmers and agroecosystems to adapt to the increasingly harmful effects of climate change is also of vital importance. As it turns out, the same soil-regenerating practices that mitigate GHG emissions can enable farmers to better survive the droughts, floods and extreme weather patterns associated with climate change. Farmers who draw on their own experience, that of fellow farmers and assistance from extension agents versed in agroecology can develop solutions appropriate to their locale that diversify and enhance productivity under varying and unpredictable conditions. Such place-based solutions are also more conducive to localized control of production systems and the revitalization of local food economies.

Growing agroecology and food democracy at home What is at stake? Our willingness to move rapidly towards ecological agriculture — and to democratize control of our food systems—will determine whether or not we can overcome the converging threats of climate change, water scarcity, increasing social inequity and the approaching exhaustion of fossil fuels on which the global food economy is currently based. We need decisive action that builds local and national capacity in agroecological farming and that rebalances power in the food system. For example, the U.S. administration should go beyond USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan’s “Know Your Farmer” initiative and Michelle Obama’s symbolic gesture of planting an organic garden at home, with concrete steps to: 1. Establish a national framework for the implementation of agroeco-

logical production, with priority funding for agroecological research, extension and education.

2. Provide financial incentives and rewards for agroecological, resource-conserving and GHG-mitigating farm practices, and

for reducing reliance on fossil-fuels for energy and chemical- and water-intensive production methods. These rewards could include credit lines, crop insurance, income tax exemptions and payments for ecosystem services.

3. Increase market opportunities for farmers adopting climatefriendly, agroecological practices. Encourage food labeling to

identify fair and sustainable production with affordable third-party certification of production methods and fair labor standards.

4. Revitalize local and regional food systems through the establish-

ment of democratic food policy councils, farmers’ markets, local food processing and urban agriculture projects, and public agency procurement of fresh, local and organic produce. Engage small-scale farmers, food-system workers and rural community members (especially women) in shaping state and national climate and agricultural policy.

5. Use full-cost accounting measures to evaluate and compare the

social, environmental, climate-related and economic costs of conventional vs. agroecological farming systems. Revise policy priorities accordingly.

6. Revise laws of ownership, access and control to protect small-

scale farmers’ rights to own land, access water, and save, exchange and plant seeds freely. Protect forests and grasslands from clear-cutting and conversion to industrial agricultural uses. Abolish intensive live-

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stock operations. Establish and enforce strong conflict-of-interest rules and anti-trust regulations to reduce corporate influence over public policy and to break up monopoly control of the food system. 7. Establish fair regional and global trade agreements that uphold the right of peoples

to democratically determine their own food and agricultural policies. Ensure that national and international climate solutions guarantee social and ecological justice and do not harm public or environmental health. Unfortunately, nothing currently moving through Congress or the administration even begins to address these imperatives. Neither the Kerry-Boxer Senate bill nor the Waxman-Markey House bill represents a serious attempt to ratchet down our GHG emissions. Neither provides meaningful mechanisms to shift from GHG-emitting agriculture to carbon-sequestering, ecologically-based farming. Both contain massive giveaways to polluting special interests. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, representatives of the industryfriendly U.S. Agency for International Development and philanthro-capitalists like the Gates Foundation, are all aggressively touting GMOs as the solution to global hunger and climate-induced threats to food production. Far from laying out a new national vision to guide a rapid transition towards ecologically sustainable agriculture, Presi-

dent Obama has appointed two “Big Ag” power brokers to two of the most influential offices that will shape food and agricultural policy at home and abroad. Roger N. Beachy, a former Monsanto research collaborator, now heads the National Institute of Food and Agriculture while Islam A. Siddiqui (Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America) is slated to become Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the U.S. Office of Trade. This is more than the latest episode in a long historical confrontation between the uniform, corporate-controlled industrial model of quick-fix agriculture and the flexible, knowledge-intensive approach of regenerative agroecological systems. The stakes have been drastically raised as the cataclysmic consequences of climate change rapidly bear down on us. Which approach will prevail depends in part on whether clear-sighted leaders can shrug off the campaign contributions and influence peddling of Big Ag and take decisive action to upend industrial agriculture. Our future also rests on the actions of millions of organic farmers and supporters around the world, who are not only feeding the soil but also, in the words of Vandana Shiva, “feeding freedom.” Drs. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman and Margaret Reeves, senior scientists at PAN North America, work on climate, agroecology and fair food systems. Marcia is a plant-insect ecologist by training; Margaret a soil ecologist.

Farmers in Rio Bravo, Mexico, were left high-anddry when a drought swept through their region in 1996, drying up rivers and irrigation channels. Jack Dykinga / U.S. Dept. of Agriculture


climate & agriculture

U.S. EPA to Investigate Role of Pesticides in Climate Change Drawing on research compiled by Duke University scientists and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a coalition of environmental groups including Pesticide Action Network has asked the EPA to review the relationship between pesticides and climate change. While it is known that manufacturing pesticides and fertilizers generates greenhouse gases and that industrial agriculture depletes soil while releasing carbon, there are other important pesticide-related climate-change effects that EPA regulators need to consider. These include:

• The release of previously deposited persistent pesticides from polar ice as the climate warms. • Changes in global transport patterns of windand water-borne chemicals. • Increased spread of pests creating pressure to intensify use of pesticides. • Increased pesticide exposure for people and ecosystems exposed to “exceptional” events such as flooding. • The concern that at least one widely used pesticide can actually cause climate change itself (see box below).

• The combined stress of climate change and pesticide use. Just as “cocktails” of pesticides are often more toxic than their individual toxicities would suggest, so too can the combined effect of pesticides and climate change prove to be greater than the sum of the individual effects. Craig Segall of the Sierra Club is driving the coalition that submitted a letter in March to Dr. Debra Edwards, director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, asking for a review of the issue. After an August 6 meeting between the coalition and EPA staff, it was generally agreed that the pesticideclimate connection needs to be investigated. The Senate Agriculture Committee has taken an interest as well. The next steps will most likely involve convening one of EPA’s expert Scientific Advisory Panel processes. Ultimately, this could result in acrossthe-board improvements in the way EPA does risk assessment for pesticides. Based upon the work of hundreds of scientists, the EPA itself has concluded that the effects of climate change “include sickness and death” and that global warming threatens “virtually every facet of the living world around us.”

Dow’s Greenhouse Gas The only currently known example of a pesticide that directly contributes to climate change is the fumigant sulfuryl fluoride (Dow’s brand-name Vikane ®). Vikane is a greenhouse gas that is 4,780 times more potent than CO2 . Dow Agrochemical has applied to EPA for permission to apply 35,000 pounds of sulfuryl fluoride gas on 65 acres of test plots. If only 10% of the gas escaped into the air, it would have the global warming impact of driving a car 23 million miles or 930 times around the world. Pesticide Action Network, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Environmental Health, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club have issued a joint-appeal to the EPA to deny the experimental permit, noting that “climate change is perhaps the best (and worst) example of a cumulative-effects problem — emissions from numerous sources have combined to create the most pressing environmental and societal problem of our time.” If EPA were to approve agricultural use of Vikane, this could easily result in the annual release of hundreds


of times more climate-changing emissions. EPA’s best course—and the one the law demands—is to deny the experimental use permit, as the climate impacts of sulfuryl fluoride make its use unjustifiable. on the web

Though Vikane is currently not permitted in agriculture, it is commonly used for structural fumigation. Here a home in Oakland, California, is tented to kill termites. After a few days, the extremely potent greenhouse gas is released into the open air. Jan Buckwald

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Weather, Pests and Pesticides Mosquitoes are the “stars” of a rogues’ gallery of disease vectors that includes lesser luminaries such as ticks and rodents. Mosquitoes can spread dengue fever, yellow fever and malaria (a disease that kills almost one million people annually and puts 2.5 billion people at risk), while a tick can transmit 11 major diseases including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease, the most common vectorborne illness in the U.S. Climate change scientists predict that disease-carrying insects may adapt to warming temperatures by expanding their range — a prospect that pesticide manufacturers hope will lead to increased profits. In some regions, increased rainfall will increase the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Climate change is expected to expand the areas suitable for Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes 98% of malaria in Africa. In some regions, climate change is expected to extend the transmission season for exposure to the parasite, which could, in turn, prompt calls for increased indoor use of pesticides — including DDT. An emergence of malaria in Africa’s cooler highlands may be an early sign of mosquitoes shifting habitats to cope with rising temperatures. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends controlling mosquitoes with 12 insecticides—including DDT — and promotes Indoor Residual Spraying as an effective method of insecticide delivery. Unfortunately, these pesticides all are either cancer-causing or “moderately hazardous” to human health. Eight are among PAN’s list of Bad Actor pesticides—chemicals that share one or more of the following characteristics: highly acutely toxic, cholinesterase inhibitor, known/probable carcinogen, known groundwater pollutant or known reproductive or developmental toxicant. Treating a climate-driven rise in insect-borne diseases by ramping up pesticide applications can have disastrous, long-term consequences for human health, yet this is the approach favored by the Stockholm Convention’s new Global Alliance, which has pledged to “bring to market new formulations of existing pesticide classes” by working to address “barriers to… commercialization.” (The Convention’s collaborators in this effort include the chemical pesticide lobby CropLife and the U.S. EPA.) Fortunately, many successful systems-based approaches do not rely on pesticides for malaria control. These safe, sustainable programs depend on public health programs that work with local communities to control disease transmission by clearing stagnant water to remove mosquito breeding sites and relying on community-based monitoring for the early detection and treatment of infection. These

approaches also employ two strategies promoted by WHO — larviciding with natural biocides and using inexpensive physical barriers like bed nets to reduce contact with mosquitoes. Kenya, Mexico, Vietnam and many other countries have successfully controlled mosquitoes without utilizing pesticides as a silver-bullet solution. Ticks also can be defeated enya, Mexico, without the use of toxic chemicals. DEET, a comVietnam and monly recommended many other countries repellent can cause adverse have successfully effects to the nervous system and University of controlled mosquitoes Florida researchers have without utilizing recently reported that ticks pesticides as a silverhave developed resistance to two major commercial bullet solution. pesticides sold for treating pets — permethrin, a chemical found in many pesticides and repellents that is very dangerous to cats, and fipronil, found in Frontline®. Again, the best path is prevention: avoid overgrown areas, dress appropriately and remove ticks and fleas as soon as they are discovered.


As climate change raises new health challenges, global governments need to provide their public health systems with the means to implement these community-based responses. PAN is calling on the U.S.— as an important provider of aid in Africa, Asia and Latin America — to cease support for hazardous pesticides and shift to funding proven and effective public health strategies. on the web PAN Pesticide Database,; Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses, WHO, globalchange/publications/climchange.pdf

Provide for a safe and sustainable future Join the PAN Sustainers Circle with a monthly or quarterly pledge, or create a legacy gift for you and your family by including Pesticide Action Network in your will or trust. Learn more at or call 415-981-1771 ext 309.

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009


climate & agriculture

Asian Farmers and Activists Respond to the Food and Climate Crisis penang—Peasant farmers, Indigenous peoples, agricultural workers, fisherfolk and social activists convened in Malaysia in late September to propose agricultural solutions to the global food and climate crisis. The meeting, organized by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), drew 113 people from 22 countries.

Vijay Jarhdhari, an Indian farmer and community leader. “In my region, there is a severe drought going on and rice and other water-intensive crops have failed. However, traditional drought-resistant varieties of millet and amaranth crops have survived.” The 2008 food riots that rocked many of the world’s poorest countries dramatized the food insecurity that can arise when local crops are replaced by export-driven cash crops and agrofuels. PAN AP Executive Director Sarojeni V. Rengam stressed the need for “solutions based on the principles of peoples’ food sovereignty, such as the communities’ right to decision making on food and agricultural policies.” The conference culminated with an endorsement of the People’s Protocol on Climate Change (a document developed through community consultation, rather than the top-down corporate trade solutions that steered the global climate treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol). The People’s Protocol faults the Kyoto agreement for ignoring corporate industrialization as a root cause of climate change:

Sharing of grassroots experiences and best practices. From left to right: Sakiul Millat Morshed (Bangladesh), farmer Vijay Jarhdhari (India) and Dr. Charito Medina (Philippines). Choo Chon Kai / The Network of Oppressed People

While global warming has been linked to melting glaciers and rising sea levels, changes in historic weather patterns, including increased floods and droughts, are altering agricultural cycles, with devastating impacts on crops and farmers’ livelihoods. Filipinos had a taste of climate disaster when Tropical Storm Ketsana flooded Manila. PAN AP board member Dr. Romy Quijano had to wade through waist-deep waters to reach the plane that carried him to Penang. The severe flood claimed hundreds of lives and displaced more than 380,000 people. Irene Fernandez, chair of PAN AP and founder of Tenaganita, a women’s and migrant workers’ group, told the conference: “We must move to sustainable production and lifestyles. The change must be immediate, otherwise the crisis will be too acute to manage and [more] lives will be lost. The poor, the farmers, the agricultural workers and fisherfolk will be acutely affected.” “Biodiversity-based ecological agriculture is the community’s answer to climate change,” noted


“The Kyoto Protocol does not truly involve grassroots communities and peoples who are worst-affected, especially in the South. It has grossly neglected the severe damage to their livelihoods, well-being and welfare. It does not consistently and coherently adhere to the vital developmental principles, especially people’s sovereignty over natural resources.” The People’s Protocol calls for the world’s nations to abandon corporate-controlled high-input, biotechbased production and to support biodiversity and agroecology as the best long-term solutions to alleviate the food crisis and the ravages of climate change. Professor Anwar Fazal, a founder of Pesticide Action Network, observed that the triple crises of food, climate and global financial integrity “offer us an opportunity for transformational change.” Fortunately, as Consumers Union Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Hansen noted, “peasant movements have come together to put forward community-based solutions to counteract the unsustainable solutions of the pro-biotech giant corporations.” on the web PAN AP,; The People’s Protocol on Climate Change, www.

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Changing Climate Accelerates Toxic Threat in Arctic Images of polar bears struggling to survive as ice fields melt beneath them capture the urgent reality of climate change. Scientists now confirm that the Arctic’s wildlife are not only losing habitat as climate patterns shift, but they’re also becoming more contaminated with toxic chemicals, leaving them less able to cope with collapsing ecosystems disrupted by climate change. According to a 2007 International Panel on Climate Change report, the shifting climate is increasing toxic exposure in the Arctic in several ways. Warming temperatures release toxic chemicals long trapped in permafrost (including breakdown products of DDT) and increase the “uptake, transport and deposition behavior of many of these chemicals.” Shifting wind currents increase the volume of persistent chemicals (like the pesticides endosulfan, lindane and DDT) that are deposited in the Arctic after traveling from farms and factories in Europe, Asia and the U.S. These climate-driven changes in the dynamics of the Arctic’s complex food web are increasing chemical loads among high-level predators, including whales, seals and, ultimately, humans.

With the earlier onset of ice breakups, polar bears are eating more seals caught swimming in the open water. Since these seals eat higher on the food chain than ice-bound seals and accumulate higher levels of contaminants, the polar bears inevitably take in more toxins. Meanwhile, some of the ice-bound seals are becoming more contaminated as changes in sea-ice conditions shift their diets toward cod, their most contaminated food source. This poses an immediate threat to the health, culture and livelihood of Indigenous hunters who rely on fish and game for survival. Traditional diets are an essential part of cultural identity. These diets have evolved to increase chances of survival in the harsh polar environment and are known to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The increasing concentration of toxic chemicals in the Arctic is a cruel by-product of the industrial model that has placed this once-pristine region on the frontline of the planet’s climate calamity. on the web Alaska Community Action on Toxics,; Ecology and Wildlife: Climate Change and the Arctic Diet, pmc/articles/PMC2717154

Polar bear image by Jan Will.

PAN Goes to Copenhagen for the Climate Summit In early December, PAN will be attending the 15th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Copenhagen. We’re preparing several initiatives spanning almost two weeks. They include the pre-conference “People’s Assembly” (convened to ratify the People’s Protocol on Climate Change, which will be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on December 9) and the alternative “Klimaforum09,” where PAN AP’s Clare Westwood and PAN North America’s Heather Pilatic will lead a workshop on “Building Community Resilience to Climate Change through Food Sovereignty and Ecological Agriculture.” Check for the latest news.

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climate & agriculture

The political, social, ecological, energy- and climate-related impacts of biofuels are complex. Civil society groups around the world, including Pesticide Action Network, have raised concerns about the destructive impacts of current large-scale production systems, particularly “agrofuels” that displace food crops. As the authors of this analysis explain, small-scale, localized biofuel production in the U.S. presents slightly different issues, while having its own challenges.

Growing Greener Biofuels by Jim Kleinschmit and Julia Olmstead, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy


he biofuels industry is now becoming large and mature enough to have a big impact on energy, climate and economic goals, but whether that impact is positive or negative depends largely upon what policies we pursue. Done right, biofuels have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enrich wildlife habitats and boost rural economies. But taken in the wrong direction, biofuel development will threaten water and soil resources and food security while doing little to slow climate change. Considering the strong role of policy in determining biofuel development, it is up to the stakeholders—farmers, producers, rural residents and energy users — to determine shared goals for the sector, and what policies will best support those outcomes. Many of the problems associated with biofuels primarily lie with the industrial agricultural and energy model under which most biofuels are produced—as well as with a corporate-led global trade system that doesn’t care how or where those fuels are produced. To contribute to sustainability goals, biofuel feedstocks must be produced in ways that do not degrade land or water resources. Many people consider “first generation” biofuel feedstocks like corn to be inherently unsustainable, but the answer is not quite that simple. Corn can be part of a multi-year, sustainable crop-rotation system that maximizes soil quality and soil carbon storage, reduces fossil fuel inputs and minimizes pest and disease pressure. But monocultural corn production, which requires heavy doses of fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and pesticides, will never be a sustainable feedstock. Nor will Brazilian sugarcane or


fast-growing trees harvested by laborers working for less-thansubsistence wages. But without a way to qualitatively distinguish between fuels — judging them, for example, on environmental performance, global warming contributions and community impacts — it’s difficult to see the path under existing policies to sustainability for biofuels. Much of the international debate over biofuels has focused on production mandates set by the U.S. and European Union. These mandates, when fulfilled in part by imported biofuels, have led to forest and perennial landscape destruction as land is cleared for biofuel crops. It is crucial, then, that production mandates like the U.S.’s Renewable Fuel Standard be limited to domestic production. After all, the RFS is ostensibly designed to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources. In the U.S., where corn is grossly overproduced, converting to diverse, perennial cropping systems for biofuels is an option. The deep roots of perennial plants hold carbon in, harvesting can be done more than once a year, and replanting is infrequent (alfalfa, for example, can thrive for five seasons before replanting). Ideally, biofuel farmers can grow a mixture of grasses, legumes and other plants that mimic ancient prairies, using no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers and far less energy. Biofuel policy must go beyond production quotas to focus on environmental, social and economic performance. Instead of just mandating the number of gallons to be produced and assuming that will get us the broader benefits we seek, state and federal policies should require that ethanol and biodiesel are made in ways

that meet agreed-upon sustainability indicators and contribute to our shared goals. Ideally, biofuels will be made in the same region in which they are used. If biofuels are imported, it must only be under very strict sustainability and equity standards. These must include not only environmental criteria around soil, water, climate and biodiversity, but also social and economic considerations covering labor rights, fair trade protections and the promotion of community-owned and locally-scaled biofuel facilities. Some of these qualitative policies are already in place, but much more needs to be done. The latest version of the RFS and changes in subsidies provide more support for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels. And a program in the 2008 Farm Bill — the Biomass Crop Assistance Program — will help farmers grow other crops, including perennial grasses and woody plants, for bioenergy and “next generation” cellulosic biofuel production, which will contribute to better water quality and wildlife habitat. But even these more sustainable types of emerging biofuels will not fulfill their potential if they are seen as a substitute for, rather than supplement to, deep cuts in energy and fuel consumption. Socially just and environmentally sustainable biofuel development will need to be paired with significant strides in fuel conservation, higher efficiency vehicles and reduction in miles driven for it to truly contribute to more sustainable transportation. Excerpted and adapted from a longer article entitled “Navigating the Maize,” which appeared in the Izaak Walton League’s Outdoor America, Spring 2009.

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009


Demand Organic, Heal the Planet by Tim LaSalle, Rodale Institute

At the Rodale Institute, we have a saying: “Healthy Soils, Healthy Food, Healthy People, Healthy Planet.” To us, this epitomizes the promise and opportunity of organic agriculture to reverse the negative impacts of chemical agriculture — polluted soils, polluted food and excess greenhouse emissions. In the past 62 years, the Institute has been advancing regenerative agriculture and learning along the way that, if you invest in the future of healthy soil, you ensure the future of the planet. Organic agriculture is the best tested and most available strategy for capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. In addition to climate stabilization, organic agriculture’s ability to sequester carbon prevents erosion, improves food quality and increases yields during times of both low and high rainfall. Widespread adoption of organic agricultural practices is economically beneficial — creating productive jobs and promoting investment in sustainable farming. More organic food being produced, sold and consumed effectively mitigates the expensive challenges of food safety and polluted waterways.

In Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, near Kutztown, the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial has compared organic and conventional approaches side-by-side for more than two decades, demonstrating that sustainable farming is better for the farmer and the Earth. Rodale Institute

synthetic fertilizers for plant nutrients. The organic legume system depends on cover crops, intense rotation and tillage to manage pests and fertility. The organic manure system receives composted manure and cover crops for nutrients, and uses tillage for weed control.

We need to abandon agriculture’s addiction to chemical pesticides and nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizers. Organic farming uses neither of these toxic substances, keeping soils free from chemicals proven to be harmful to our cells, from the womb throughout life. Our industrial system’s manufacture and widespread use of synthetic, fossilfuel-based materials pollutes our air with nitrogen that destroys Earth’s ozone layer and dissolves in atmospheric vapor to form acid rain. This nitrogen also leaches into streams and rivers, acidifying water, and creating aquatic dead zones that are incapable of sustaining life.

During the transition to organic and the first 14 years of organic production, the legume system sequestered an average of about one ton of CO2 in the soil per-acre-per-year, while the manure system added about two tons of CO2 per-acre-per-year. Since then, Rodale’s field experiments combining composted manure and cover crops have sequestered CO2 at average rate of about 3.75 tons per-acre-per-year. These results demonstrate that organic farming methods in our temperate climate can generate robust carbon sequestration compared to industrial practices and are capable of mitigating 10– 40% of annual global carbon emissions.

As members of our local and global ecosystems, we must reconsider agriculture’s role. This requires systems-thinking that evaluates the impact of all agricultural practices in the immediate and longterm context. If we consider an ecological framework, we recognize that continuing to damage our soil quality damages our health and ultimately our biological capacity to produce food.

It is a critical time in human and climate history to make these necessary changes to our systems of food and fiber production. For a healthy planet, we must begin with healthy soils. We must Demand Organic.

A 28-year study of organic crops Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial® is North America’s oldest comparative scientific study of organic agriculture. Since 1981, an organic legume system and organic raw manure system have been compared to non-organic fields. The non-organic system relies on herbicides for weed control and

Tim LaSalle is CEO of the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, a nonprofit engaged in research and advocacy around the world. on the web Also see


stories from the pan network

The Land Stewardship Project

Working to Keep the Land and People Together A handful of multinational corporations are seeking to gain increasing control of our farm and food systems, no matter what the impacts on people and the land. Such control exploits natural resources, rural communities and public health — and has borne an industrial food machine that is threatening our global climate.

In its 27th year, LSP has 2,500 household members from around the country. Their members are farmers, urban and rural people who envision farm and food systems that are socially just and environmentally sound, that produce healthy food, respect farm workers and are profitable to farmers.

But an increasing number of people are becoming aware of the negative consequences of such control of our food systems, and are seeking to bring about change. One group that has long been working to create secure, healthy and fair food and farming systems is the Land Stewardship Project (LSP). A grassroots organization based in the upper Midwest, LSP takes on this corporate power. Their mantra says it all: Never discount the power of people when it takes on the power of money.

LSP works towards this vision by, for example, mentoring new farmers in its Farm Beginnings® program. Brad and Leslea Hodgson are Farm Beginnings graduates who now raise beef on pasture in an environmentally sensitive part of southeast Minnesota. Pasture-based systems, which LSP heavily promotes, utilize the deep roots of perennial grasses to keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. “We wanted to start farming using sustainable, low-input, low-impact techniques,” says Leslea. “No one else was offering any instruction on how to do this.” LSP also engages farmers to develop policies that reward stewardship of the land. In 2002, LSP helped create the Conservation Security Program. The first of its kind, the program rewards farmers for producing clean water, sequestering carbon and creating wildlife habitat on working farmlands. As part of the 2008 Farm Bill, LSP worked successfully to have what is now called the Conservation Stewardship Program dramatically expanded. Organic dairy farmer Bill Gorman serves on LSP’s Federal Policy Committee and is enrolled in CSP. “Very often farmers using good stewardship practices were at a disadvantage when it came to federal farm payments,” Bill says. “CSP is helping to turn that around.”

Land Stewardship Project farmer members in Dodge County, Minnesota, celebrate their victory blocking a factory dairy farm planned for their county.

LSP has shown there are better ways to produce our food—ways that improve the environment, produce nutrient rich food and are profitable to farmers. Founded in 1982, LSP has been working with farmers to make such sustainable systems a reality on more farms, at first aiming to reduce soil erosion. But as the farm crisis grew later that decade, LSP soon began working with farmers to stop the record number of farm foreclosures. LSP’s work during the farm crisis of the ’80s established their culture of listening to farmers about the challenges they face and then engaging them and others in organizing to change the unjust policies that favor corporate interests over those of family farms and land stewardship.


LSP and Pesticide Action Network are now collaborating to train the public spotlight on the herbicide atrazine and its primary producer and apologist, the Syngenta Corporation. In December, LSP and PAN will publish a joint report to highlight the problem. The power that LSP brings to the issue is evidenced by the on-the-ground change they stimulate: Minnesota farmer and LSP member Greg Erickson dropped atrazine and other agrichemicals after tests showed his well water was contaminated. “I drilled a new, deeper well and so then I was able to keep using chemicals. Problem solved,” Greg says. “But really the problem was not solved — my neighbor was still drinking my chemicals from his own shallow well. So I went organic. I’m here to protect this land and to be a good neighbor.” This is the type of stewardship ethic that is at the heart of the Land Stewardship Project. on the web Information about how to get involved, including becoming a member, is at

PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

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Last Word

Securing Our Food in a Time of Climate Crisis by Vandana Shiva

Industrialized, globalized agriculture is a recipe for eating oil. Oil is used for the chemical fertilizers that go to pollute the soil and water. Oil is used to displace small farmers with giant tractors and combine harvesters. Oil is used to industrially process food. And oil is used to transport food farther and farther from where it is produced. Industrial systems of food production use ten times more energy than ecological agriculture and ten times more energy than the energy in the food produced. Industrial agriculture in the U.S. uses 380 times more energy-per-hectare to produce rice than a traditional farm in the Philippines. Chemical industrial agriculture is based on the idea that soil fertility is manufactured in fertilizer factories. This was the idea that drove the Green Revolution, introduced in India in 1965. Today, the Green Revolution has faded in Punjab. Yields are declining. The soil is depleted of nutrients. The water is

polluted with nitrates and pesticides. The globalized food system is causing destruction at every level. Biodiversity is being destroyed in favor of monocultures of corn, soy and canola. Food has been reduced to a commodity. Over the past 20 years, I have built Navdanya, India’s biodiversity and organic farming movement. Navdanya’s work has shown that we can grow more food and provide higher incomes to farmers without destroying the environment and killing peasants. We can lower the costs of production while increasing output. We have done this successfully on thousands of farms and have created a fair, just and sustainable economy. At the Navdanya farm, we have been feeding the soil organisms. They, in turn, feed us. Our farm is fossil fuel-free — oxen plow the land and fertilize it. Every step in building a living agriculture sustained by a living soil is a step toward mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our PAN North America Magazine Fall 2009

crops have no diseases, our soils are resilient to drought and our food is delicious. The solution to climate change and the solution to poverty are the same. Food, economic justice and energy equity demand more small farms. How land is used, and how its ownership is distributed, is part of the politics of climate change. Localization of food systems to reduce food-miles is a climatechange imperative. It is also a food-sovereignty and human-rights imperative. We do not need to go the Monsanto way. We can go the Navdanya way. We do not need to end up in food dictatorship and food slavery. We can create our food freedom. Adapted from Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (South End Press, 2009). Vandana Shiva, a physicist, eco-feminist and philosopher, has worked with PAN groups for two decades. She is the author of a dozen books including Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seed.




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Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It by Jill Richardson, a reader-friendly introduction to solutions for the key problems in our food system.

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Ever Wonder

“What’s on my food?” • Which pesticides are on what foods? • How often and in what amount? • Which pesticides are the most hazardous —not just on your plate, but on the way to your plate?

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• Which pesticides are on your foods • The toxicity and health risks linked to each pesticide


PAN Magazine Fall 2009  

Magazine for Pesticide Action Network

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