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What Happened to Obama’s Promise to Restore Scientific Integrity?

US EPA, Washington DC

By Jonathan Latham, PhD

Pretty much every branch of the US government has had trouble implementing President Obama’s flagship scientific integrity policy. In 2011, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) appointed the scientist Dr. Paul Houser to be its first ever Officer of Scientific Integrity. Within a year he was fired. Believing his dismissal was for drawing attention to a scientifically questionable Department policy, Houser formally accused the DOI of “scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal.” But because the Department of the Interior had fired him, they no longer had a scientific integrity officer for him to complain to. … Continue Reading

Peasant Sovereignty?

China village

By Evaggelos Vallianatos

In May 2014, the Spain-based international agrarian organization, Grain, reported that small farmers not only “feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland,” but they are also the most productive farmers on Earth. For example, small farmers and peasants in nine European countries outproduce large farmers. The “productivity of small farms [in Europe] is at least twice that of big farms.” This remarkable achievement is not limited to Europe. Grain says: “if all farms in Kenya had the current productivity of the country’s small [peasant] farms, Kenya’s agricultural production would double. In Central America and Ukraine, it would almost triple. In Russia, it would be increased by a factor of six.” … Continue Reading

Will Food Sovereignty Starve the Poor and Punish the Planet?

Weeding maize in Burkina Faso

by Gilles Billen, Luis Lassaletta and Josette Garnier

Globalisation is not only a matter of clothing and mobile phones. Long-distance worldwide shipping of food commodities has also increased tremendously over the last few decades. Lassaletta et al. (2014) estimate that one-third of all proteins (a proxy for the nutritive potential of foodstuffs) produced globally are redistributed through international trade. Thus a recent study in France shows that the total volume of long distance commercial exchanges of food commodities, mostly originating from far away, account for over twice the national agricultural production (Le Noé et al., submitted).

However, the positive value of a globalised food supply is being actively questioned. In industrialised countries, a citizens’ movement has arisen, sometimes supported by local public authorities, seeking to promote a local food supply. This movement aims to reclaim control of nutrition, re-create social links often destroyed by the extent of mass distribution, and develop the local economy. … Continue Reading

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

February 23, 2015 Environment, Health, Reviews 7 Comments
Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins

Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts who professed such certainty.

Twenty years later, he would drop a rubber ring into a glass of ice water to show a panel of clueless rocket experts how willful ignorance of basic temperature effects likely caused the Challenger shuttle disaster (1). … Continue Reading

How the Great Food War Will Be Won

Dustbowl and soil erosion USA, 1935's

By Jonathan Latham, PhD

By conventional wisdom it is excellent news. Researchers from Iowa have shown that organic farming methods can yield almost as highly as pesticide-intensive methods. Other researchers, from Berkeley, California, have reached a similar conclusion. Indeed, both findings met with a very enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but only if one misses a deep and fundamental point: that even to participate in such a conversation is to fall into a carefully laid trap. … Continue Reading

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

November 24, 2014 Environment, Health, Reviews 2 Comments
The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald

Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project)

The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell University, used a case study approach–looking at individual households–to search for possible effects (Bamberger and Oswald 2012).

Many fracking chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors or other classes of toxins (Colborn et al. 2011). Bamberger and Oswald’s studies, carried out during the ongoing fracking boom, uncovered serious adverse effects including respiratory, reproductive, and growth-related problems in animals and a spectrum of symptoms in humans that they termed “shale gas syndrome”. Ultimately, their research led them to consider fracking’s broader implications for farming and the food system (Bamberger and Oswald 2012 and 2014). … Continue Reading

How EPA Faked the Entire Science of Sewage Sludge Safety: A Whistleblower’s Story

Science for Sale by David Lewis

US EPA’s 503 sludge rule (1993) allows treated sewage sludges, aka biosolids, to be land-applied to farms, forests, parks, school playgrounds, home gardens and other private and public lands. According to a recent EPA survey, biosolids contain a wide range of mutagenic and neurotoxic chemicals, which are present at a million-fold higher concentrations (ppm versus ppt) compared with their levels in polluted air and water (1). Biosolids contain all of the lipophilic (fat-soluble) chemical wastes that once polluted our rivers and lakes … Continue Reading

EU Safety Institutions Caught Plotting an Industry “escape route” Around Looming Pesticide Ban

Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

By Jonathan Latham, PhD

EU documents newly obtained by the nonprofit Pesticide Action Network of Europe reveal that the health commission of the European Union (DG SANCO), which is responsible for protecting public health, is attempting to develop a procedural “escape route” to evade an upcoming EU-wide ban on endocrine disrupting pesticides. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are those that alter hormonal regulation at very low doses to cause effects on behavior, reproduction, and gender, as well as cancer and birth defects. … Continue Reading

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Commentaries

Peasant Sovereignty?

China village

By Evaggelos Vallianatos In May 2014, the Spain-based international agrarian organization, Grain, reported that small farmers not only “feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland,” but they are also the most productive farmers on Earth. For example, small farmers and peasants in nine European countries outproduce …

Will Food Sovereignty Starve the Poor and Punish the Planet?

Weeding maize in Burkina Faso

by Gilles Billen, Luis Lassaletta and Josette Garnier Globalisation is not only a matter of clothing and mobile phones. Long-distance worldwide shipping of food commodities has also increased tremendously over the last few decades. Lassaletta et al. (2014) estimate that one-third of all proteins (a proxy for the nutritive potential …

How the Great Food War Will Be Won

Dustbowl and soil erosion USA, 1935's

By Jonathan Latham, PhD By conventional wisdom it is excellent news. Researchers from Iowa have shown that organic farming methods can yield almost as highly as pesticide-intensive methods. Other researchers, from Berkeley, California, have reached a similar conclusion. Indeed, both findings met with a very enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but …

Seeds of Truth: Vandana Shiva and the New Yorker

Dr. Vandana Shiva

by Dr Vandana Shiva (A response to the article ‘Seeds of Doubt’ by Michael Specter in The New Yorker) I am glad that the future of food is being discussed, and thought about, on farms, in homes, on TV, online and in magazines, especially of The New Yorker’s caliber. The …

More Commentaries...

Reviews

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

More Reviews...