Sound Consumer | September 2005
Organic yields more
A 22-year study comparing farming methods shows that organic systems produce the same or better yields of corn, wheat, soybeans, barley and other grains as non-organic methods. A Cornell University professor, David Pimental, says the study by the Rodale Institute found that crops grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers had slightly better yields the first four years. But during those years, the organic farmers improved their soil, building matter, mass and microbial activity, which enabled the organic land over time to generate greater yields than the chemically-farmed crops.
The chemically farmed yields collapsed during drought years due to degraded soil, while organic crop yields fluctuated only slightly, due to the soil’s greater ability to hold moisture.
Organic systems also have implications for global warming because they use 30 percent less energy and sequester 15 to 28 percent more carbon, taking the equivalent of 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air. (Organic Consumers Association)
New research from France is confirming previous studies that Monsanto’s Roundup, the most commonly used herbicide in the world, is much more toxic that Monsanto admits. The study indicates that at levels 100 times lower than the recommended use in agriculture, Roundup causes reproductive damage and endocrine disruption.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that half the non-organic produce tested in grocery stores contains traceable residues of pesticides, including Roundup. (Organic Consumers Association)
Red delicious is number one
A Canadian study on apples found that the most common U.S. apple is tops in antioxidants. The Red Delicious apple was found to contain the highest concentration of antioxidants, believed to help protect against some diseases. The skin is the most nutritious part of the Red Delicious and of other apples — containing six times more antioxidants than the flesh. (Capital Press)
In Japan, a new Ministry of Agriculture study reveals that nearly half the mad cow cases confirmed in Japan would not have been discovered if the nation used U.S. testing techniques. In nine out of 20 cases, U.S. testing would have let infected animals into the food chain. (Organic Consumers Association)
Roundup Ready corn in Washington
Genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready 2 corn has been planted in record numbers in Western Washington. Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties reportedly have 25,000 to 27,000 acres of the GE corn planted, a big jump in acreage compared to last year. The corn is approved for animal feed given to cattle, chickens and hogs, unless the rancher is certified organic or the animal is grass-fed. (Capital Press)
Funds from the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program will help Washington, California and Oregon save farmland. Twelve million dollars became available when money in another program went unused. Washington will receive $68,641 in matching funds to help purchase development rights on farmland. (Capital Press)
Reducing toxics saves money
A new study shows that more than $2 billion a year in health care costs in Washington state can be tied to diseases and disabilities linked to environmental contaminants. Dr. Kate Davies of Antioch University in Seattle says that tighter rules to phase out toxic chemicals would save people’s lives and save dollars for families, companies and the environment. (Institute for Children’s Environmental Health)
Testing pesticides on humans
The U.S. Congress has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue rules by March on the practice of testing pesticides on human volunteers.
The rules will be the EPA’s first to address scientific and ethical issues of human studies. Federal officials allowed pesticide manufacturers to run human experiments for years, until President Clinton imposed a moratorium in 1998. The moratorium was lifted in 2001, but the practice came under fire earlier this year when the EPA planned to give $970, a camcorder and children’s clothing to low-income, minority children if they participated in a pesticide study in Florida. (Capital Press)
Organic is safer
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is confirming that a main source of pesticide exposure for our nation’s children is the food they eat. According to the Food and Drug Administration, half the non-organic produce tested in grocery stores contains measurable residues of pesticides. Blood samples of children age 2 to 4 show pesticide levels are six times higher in children eating chemically farmed fruits and vegetables, compared with those eating organic fruits and vegetables. (Organic Consumers Association)
Men seek breast reduction
In Britain, the number of men seeking breast-reduction surgery is being blamed on the effects of female hormones in the water and food supply. Clinics are reporting twice as many men seeking the operations this year as last. Some are now treating 150 men a year for breast reduction. Surgeons say the tissue being removed is not simply fat deposits caused by overeating. They believe that contraceptive hormones in the water supply and hormones used to fatten livestock are to blame. (The Sunday Times, Britain)
Help for Washington lakes
A new settlement will make it easier for citizens to dispute applications of herbicides into Washington lakes. The Washington State Department of Agriculture has agreed with the Washington Toxics Coalition and People for Puget Sound to stop allowing herbicides to be applied to lakes without permit approval from the Department of Ecology. The agreement closes a loophole that let private individuals put poisons in lakes without a permit. (Washington Toxics Coalition/ People for Puget Sound)
Safer at home
A letter campaign is asking Home Depot to start selling non-toxic lawn and garden products. The National Coalition for Pesticide Free Lawns is directing homeowners to write Home Depot, asking it to carry corn gluten, beneficial insects, pest traps and barriers, and botanically derived materials instead of toxic chemicals. Of 30 common lawn products, 13 are probable or possible carcinogens, 14 are linked with birth defects, 18 with neurotoxicity, and 23 leach into drinking water sources. (See www.pesticidefreelawns.org to send a letter.)