Six farmworkers compensated for pesticide exposure, six cases dismissed

Six farmworkers who became sterile after working on a Nicaraguan banana plantation three decades ago were awarded a total $3.3 million from Dole Food Co. and Dow Chemical, after a judge agreed that the corporations “actively suppressed information about” the “reproductive toxicity” of now-banned pesticide DBCP. Six other plaintiffs with a similar claim had their cases dismissed, allowing a Dow lawyer to look on the bright side: “Dow Chemical is pleased that this jury concluded that six out of 12 plaintiffs were entitled to no recovery whatsoever.” Dole’s not-quite-so-diplomatic vice president declared his company will appeal: “Dole will not be …

Farm Bill: Support Dorgan-Grassley

Call your senator today

As most people following the story know by now, the 2007 Farm Bill is looking pretty grim with respect to fundamental reform. The U.S. government seems hell-bent on pushing a policy that on balance rewards farmers for gross output at all costs — environmental considerations be damned. However, as the Senate debates the ag committee’s version of the bill, a chance remains to make meaningful reform at the margins. My friends in the sustainable-ag lobbying world tell me that the last, best hope lies with the Dorgan-Grassley Amendment, which would cap subsidy payments to farmers at $250,000. The move would …

Farming and climate change

More evidence that industrial ag is destroying the planet

From an ecological standpoint, the fundamental problem with U.S. farm policy dating back to the ’70s is that it rewards farmers for maximizing yield at all cost. Encouraged to produce as much as possible, all the time, farmers have few incentives to conserve resources or protect water, air, or soil quality. The federal government’s dizzying array of biofuel subsidies — which have propped up crop prices and encouraged yet more production — only exacerbates the situation. I don’t think greens fully appreciate the ecological troubles associated with these policies. Peter Donovan’s recent post showed how agriculture has vast — and …

An unseasonably warm night and a doomed-to-melt dessert

November is the new September. — Aladdin Ossorio I’ve been itching to make a Baked Alaska. In 1989, the year the Exxon Valdez spilled oil all over Prince William Sound, my friends and I had several Baked Alaska parties featuring a whiskey-laced “Exxon Valdez Fudge Sauce” that I concocted to recreate the oil slick — and to commemorate the fact that Captain Hazelwood reputedly imbibed a great deal before the tanker ran aground. Do try this at home. Photo: iStockphoto So what, exactly, is Baked Alaska? I’m glad you asked. When I mentioned it to someone I recently met, he …

Bush names a new USDA chief

The former governor of North Dakota loves biofuel and GMOs

Speaking yesterday at a gathering of the Grocery Manufacturers Association — a trade group whose member list reads like a directory of multinational food corporations — President Bush waxed coy about his new choice for USDA secretary. This afternoon I’m going to name a new Secretary of Agriculture. I’m not going to tell you who it is, because I’m trying to — [laughter] — but I think you’ll like him. He understands agriculture, of course, and he’ll be a good follow-on to Mike Johanns, who did a superb job as the Secretary of Agriculture. And I’m going to ask the …

High crop prices, more chemicals

All hail the biofuel boom

A UN official recently declared biofuels a "crime against humanity," because they leach agricultural resources from feeding people and direct them to feeding cars. But one man’s crime is another’s boon. Surging biofuel use encourages farmers to maximize yield over all other considerations — and they do so by lashing the earth with all manner of chemicals. That’s why shareholders in agrochemical companies are celebrating the explosive growth of biofuel use. Syngenta — the Swiss-based maker of herbicides, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds — has seen its shares more than double since the biofuel boom began. Here’s how one Wall …

Former N.D. governor nominated as Agriculture Secretary

George W. Bush has nominated Edward Schafer, a former North Dakota governor (and Republican, natch) to replace resigning Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. The mustachioed Schafer must be confirmed by the Senate. Schafer’s nomination was unexpected by Big Ag — said one farm lobbyist, “Who’s that?”

Bali burning

Amazing helicopter footage of Greenpeace in the Indonesian peat bogs

In the lead-up to the international Bali Climate summit, Greenpeace has launched a major direct action in Sumatra, Indonesia, to stop the nefarious PT Duta Palma corporation from destroying a pristine tropical forest (and the habitat for highly endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and oh-so-cute orangutans) and replacing it with a palm oil plantation. Click on the picture to the right to watch the extraordinary video of their action, including amazing helicopter footage of both the glorious and denuded Indonesian landscape. Torching tropical forests is bad enough, but this one lies atop a peat bog and the Duta Palma's henchmen are trying to drain it and burn it to grow the palms -- releasing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the process. Indeed, destruction of peat bogs in Indonesia alone accounts for more than 8 percent of total global greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels.

The Whole Foods behemoth

Trade consultancy: Whole Foods will ‘consolidate supply chains’

Apparently, I’m not the only one who worries about what the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger will mean for organic-foods suppliers. In a report published by Organic Monitor, a European-based consultancy working on contract for Decision News Media, analyst Amarjit Sahota has sounded an alarm about Whole Foods’ growing power. Organic Monitor calls itself a “business research & consulting company that specializes on organic & related industries.” You can read Sahota’s full analysis here on the Decision News site, but here is some of what he had to say: Following the approval of its acquisition of rival Wild Oats, Whole Foods …

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