Presidential hopefuls discuss sustainable ag at last weekend’s Heartland Forum


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Photo by Julia Poska, 2019. 

Julia Poska | April 4, 2019

Last weekend, four 2020 presidential candidates and one likely contender gathered in Storm Lake, Iowa to discuss their visions for struggling rural America at the Heartland Forum. Here’s what each said about sustainability and agriculture:

Julián Castro: The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama was asked a question about promoting eco-friendly family food farmers for economic, social and environmental resiliency.

“Our family farms help feed America—and the world, really—so we need to make sure that they can succeed, and also that people in these rural areas and rural communities can have clean air and water. Number one, I would appoint people to the EPA who actually believe in environmental protection,” he said. He specifically discussed boosting funds to enforce the Clean Air and Water Acts.

Rep. John Delaney (D-MD): Delaney’s “Heartland Fair Deal,” which he discussed at the forum, lays out plans for investing in negative emissions technology and focusing on climate resiliency and flooding.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): Klobuchar said she would re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement on her first day in the White House. She also discussed her experience on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“What we’ve learned over time, is that [if] we’re going to get [the Farm Bill] passed… we need to have a coalition of people who care about nutrition, people who care about farming and people who care about conservation,” she said.

She said she wants to keep Farm Bill conservation programs strong.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH): Hailing from the industrial “Rust Belt,” Ryan has little experience with rural areas, but he said he believes the two regions face many of the same issues and should come together politically. He spoke to opportunity in the clean energy and electric vehicle industries, which he would like to see driven into “distressed rural areas” to replace lost manufacturing jobs.

He also spoke about Farm Bill conservation programs; “These are the kind of programs we need to ‘beef up,’ no pun intended,” he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Senator Warren did not speak about sustainability directly. Her platform mainly focused on addressing monopolies in agribusiness to support small, family farmers. One of her proposals is to break up the Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto, a merger that was heavily criticized by environmentalists. 

The Heartland Forum was moderated by Pulitzer prize-winner Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times, and two reporters from HuffPost. Those news organizations organized the event alongside Open Markets Institute and the Iowa Farmers Union.

 

On The Radio – California lists glyphosate as a carcinogen


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Glyphosate is an active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. (Mike Mozart/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 18, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how some farm groups are suing California for considering glyphosate a cancer causing chemical. 

Transcript: Iowa and a dozen other state farm groups are suing California for listing glyphosate as a cancer causing chemical.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

California’s Proposition 65 law from 1986 requires the state to protect drinking water from chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive harm. And businesses must warn their users about potential chemical danger.

Glyphosate is a herbicide used in 250 crops and a key ingredient in Monsanto’s top selling weed killer, RoundUp. Back in 2016 Monsanto sued California to block the glyphosate listing but in July of this year, California made the decision to list glyphosate as a carcinogen.

This decision will cost Iowa farmers around 5 billion dollars. Crops with glyphosate will have to be separated, meaning extra time and labor costs not to mention a drastic drop in sales. Products with even trace amounts of glyphosate will be required to be labeled by 2018 in the state of California.

Glyphosate is believed to be one of the safer herbicides. It was approved by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s and is frequently re-tested. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined glyphosate as a potential cancer causing substance in 2015.

The debate about glyphosate and its effects on human health will likely continue following California’s actions.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Roundup herbicide found in Cheerios, among other best-selling American food products


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Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide, has been detected at high levels in Original Cheerios, Honeynut Cheerios and many other American food products. (Nicholas Erwin/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 16, 2016

The active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide, glyphosate, has been detected at high levels in a variety of best-selling food products in the United States.

Researchers with U.S. Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project used liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to perform the first independent glyphosate residue testing of popular American food products. The results reveal alarmingly high levels of glyphosate in food products such as Cheerios, Wheaties, Special K, Doritos and Kashi products, among many others.

These results were published shortly after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency postponed hearings which were to explore glyphosate’s link to cancer in humans. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a class 2A “probable carcinogen.”

Dave Murphy, Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!, said, “Frankly, such a high level of glyphosate contamination found in Cheerios, Doritos, Oreos and Stacy’s Pita Chips are alarming and should be a wake-up call for any parent trying to feed their children safe, healthy and non-toxic food.”

Use of glyphosate-based herbicides has been growing steadily over the last 20 years. According to one study by Environmental Sciences Europe, the United States has applied 1.8 million tons of the chemical since its introduction to the market in 1974. Independent peer-reviewed research has shown that exposure of glyphosate at 0.05 parts per billion (ppb) can alter gene function in the liver and kidneys of rats over the course of two years. Glyphosate was detected at 1,125.3 ppb in Original Cheerios.

Murphy added, “It’s time for regulators at the EPA and the White House to stop playing politics with our food and start putting the wellbeing of the American public above the profits of chemical companies like Monsanto.”

The Environmental Protection Agency set the allowable daily glyphosate intake at 1.75 milligrams per kilogram of body weight in the 1970’s and 80’s, following the results of industry-funded studies. Researchers with U.S. Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project call for the allowable daily intake to be reduced to 0.025 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, twelve times lower than the current allowable limit.

Dr. Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist from London, reacted to the study. He said,

“With increasing evidence from a growing number of independent peer-reviewed studies from around the world showing that the ingestion of glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup can result in a wide range of chronic illnesses, it’s urgent that regulators at the EPA reconsider the allowed levels of glyphosate in American’s food and work to limit continued exposure to this pervasive chemical in as large a section of the human population as possible.”

These findings add to local concerns regarding high amounts glyphosate residue found in Iowa’s Sue Bee honey. The Sioux City-based company is now facing ligation from Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association for allegedly inaccurately labeling their products as “all-natural” and “100% pure.”

Iowa honey found to contain high levels of pesticide residue


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Iowa’s honey was found to contain up to ten times the amount of Glyphosate than is allowed by the European Union. (Keith McDuffee/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 3, 2016

Residue from a commonly used Monsanto pesticide have been found in Iowa’s honey.

Glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, was classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. Following that declaration, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chemist Narong Chamkasem and University of Iowa chemist John Vargo began testing for residue in Iowa’s honey. Their research found Glyphosate levels in honey as high as 653 parts per billion (ppb), which is ten times the level of Glyphosate residue limit of 50 ppb in the European Union. Most of Iowa’s honey had between 23 ppb and 123 ppb of residue, whereas previous testing only found a maximum of 107 ppb Glyphosate in honey. The report stated, “According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the usage of these herbicides, which are of risk to both human health and the environment.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet established a tolerance for the weed killer in honey. In a statement, EPA said, “EPA is evaluating the necessity of establishing tolerances for inadvertent residues of pesticides in honey. EPA has examined the glyphosate residue levels found in honey and has determined that glyphosate residues at those levels do not raise a concern for consumers.”

The Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides filed a lawsuit against one of Iowa’s top honey producers, Sioux Honey Association Cooperative for the prevalence of Glyphosate in their products. The honey, called Sue Bee Honey is labeled as “pure,” “100% natural,” and “All natural.” Prosecutors contend that such language is false advertising given the amount of pesticide residue found in Sue Bee Honey during the FDA’s study.

Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Association, said, “It’s a chemical intrusion, a chemical trespass into our product.” He added, “We have really no way of controlling it. I don’t see an area for us to put our bees. We can’t put them in the middle of the desert. They need to be able to forage in ag areas. There are no ag areas free of this product.”

Jay Feldman is Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Sioux Honey Association Cooperative. He said, “Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling.”

American Ethanol team participating in RAGBRAI XLII


Nick Fetty | July 22, 2014
Members of the American Ethanol RAGBRAI team. Photo via GrowthEnergy.org
Members of the American Ethanol RAGBRAI team.
Photo via GrowthEnergy.org

The 42nd (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – better known as RAGBRAI – kicked off on Sunday and this year’s event features a nearly 200-person team representing American Ethanol.

This year’s route passes through “the heart of Iowa’s ethanol producing regions” and ethanol plants along the route will host various events throughout the week. The Biofuels Mobile Education Center – a 45-foot trailer with touch screen computers and other interactive equipment – is making stops in Emmetsburg, Charles City and Mason City. The No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS – driven by 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Austin Dillion of Richard Childress Racing – will also make stops in Emmetsburg and Mason City as well as Sheldon.

Since 2011, American Ethanol has been a key partner in implementing green efforts for NASCAR. As of September 2012, more than 3 million miles have been fueled by Sunoco Green E15 – “a highly oxygenated unleaded race fuel that contains 15 volume percent ethanol.” Growth Energy, POET, Green Plains Inc., Monsanto and New Holland have also teamed with American Ethanol to sponsor the RAGBRAI team.

For updates from the American Ethanol team throughout RAGBRAI, follow the group on Facebook and Twitter.

Judge Halts GMO Corn Planting in Mexico


Photo by Iguanasan; Flickr

A federal judge in Mexico issued a ruling early this month suspending any planting of genetically modified (GMO) corn in the country.   The legal ruling came in response to a suit filed by local non-governmental organizations seeking a permanent ban on GMO corn in the country.

To learn more, follow this link.  

World Food Prize event in Des Moines sparks anger


Photo by Alan Turner2; Flickr

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

When the foundation awarded three individuals involved with biotechnology, many environmental groups,  and others who oppose large scale farming, were immediately upset.

The award winners were Mary-Dell Chilton, founder and researcher at Syngenta Biotechnology, Robert Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto, and third is Marc Van Montagu, founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium.

To learn more, head over to the Washington Post.