Sustainable Agriculture News Bulletin
Volume 2, Number 9
July 9, 1993
PARENTS HAVE MIXED REACTIONS TO NAS REPORT
Parents admit they are concerned about the effects of pesticides on
their children in the wake of a report by the National Academy of
Sciences that concluded children are more likely than adults to be
exposed to the potential effects of chemicals. "The report just leaves
you hanging. I think a lot more information should have been
included about what we should do to protect our kids from this stuff
and what is the greatest danger," said Eileen Morse. Other parents
are bothered by the fact that it will take years to study the exact
effects of pesticides on children, as the Clinton administration has
promised to do. "What are we to do in the meantime?" asks Susan
Bruss, a mother of eight. Some parents said they have made a new
commitment to buying organic produce after the release of the
report while most say they will follow the advice of the report and
continue to make fruits and vegetables a part of their children's
diets. "I'm not a scientist so I don't know which is worse, nutrition
loss if you cut out fruits and vegetables or health problems with
pesticides," said Janis Quinn, a grandmother from Jackson, MS. "I
guess you have to weigh the benefits against the risks."
Source: Nikki Davis Maute, "Parents Weight Nutrition, Risk to Kids,"
USA TODAY, July 1, 1993.
IPM RESEARCHERS ENCOURAGED BY STUDY
Researchers involved in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) studies
at Ohio State University say they are encouraged by the NAS report
and its recommendations for further research into pesticide
alternatives. IPM requires an understanding of the life cycle of pests
and how they interact with the environment. Farmers using this
method will examine crops for early signs of disease or insects and
use chemicals only when alternative forms of pest control cannot
prevent extensive damage. "With field crops, we have a lot of data
and we're working on encouraging implementation of IPM. But with
fruit and vegetable crops, we don't have much of the baseline
information yet," said entomologist Celeste Welty. Welty said crops
are affected by different types of pests and control methods may
vary. "We've had some growers save a lot of money and still have a
good crop by spraying only when they really have to," she said.
Source: "Reduced Pesticide Use Goal of Research," UPI, July 4, 1993.
BRITISH CHEMICAL SECTOR INCREASES ENVIRONMENTAL
The British chemical industry spent over #1 billion on the
environment last year. The spending represents about three percent
of the industry's #29.9 billion earnings, according to the Chemical
Industries Association (CIA). Industry spending increased from
#830 million in 1990 to #1.032 billion in 1992. Discharges of so-
called red list substances fell 40% during that time while special
waste disposal expenditures fell by nine percent. In addition, energy
consumption was down nineteen percent during the same period.
"The industry is generally improving, but it has a long way to go,"
said Jim Whiston of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).
Source: Paul Abrahams, "Chemical Sector Spends #1bn on
Environment," FINANCIAL TIMES, July 1, 1993.
CLINTON SETTLES ON FORESTRY PLAN
Late last week, President Clinton announced his approval of a $1
billion spending program that will reduce logging on federally-owned
lands and provide displaced timber workers with re-training
opportunities. "I believe the plan is fair and balanced ... The Pacific
Northwest requires both a healthy economy and a healthy
environment and one cannot exist without the other," said the
President. The timber industry immediately objected to the plan's
call for a reduction in logging on federal lands from 3 billion board
feet to 1.2 billion. Environmental groups contend that the plan will
allow logging to continue on large tracts of forest, including old
growth areas. "This has been put forward as take it or leave it," said
Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR). "And both the environmental
groups and the labor and industry groups have said they they'd
rather leave it. Sometimes the conventional wisdom is that you
upset the extremes and strike a middle once you've done the job. I
don't think this is one of these instances." An administration official
responded that, "If the bar we set is to make everybody happy,
we're not going to do it." The plan was taken from recommendations
by industry, environmentalists and western Congressional leaders
after the President held a "timber summit" this spring.
Source: Gwen Ifill, "Clinton Backs a $1 Billion to Spare Trees and Aid
Loggers," NEW YORK TIMES, July 1, 1993; "Clinton Unveils New Forest
Policy," Farming Today, UPI, July 2, 1993.
EXTENSION SPECIALIST SAYS PESTICIDE USE HAS STOPPED
A pesticide applicator training specialist with the University of
Minnesota Extension Service said the growth in the use of pesticides
stopped over 10 years. Dean Herzfeld cites an Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) report that concluded pesticide use
stabilized in the 1980s after increasing dramatically in the 1960s
and 1970s. Lower application rates and more efficient use prompted
the decline. "Farmers and other pesticide users have increased their
adoption of Integrated Pest Management and other sustainable
practices. They are more concerned about environmental and health
effects of pesticides," said Herzfeld.
Source: "Growth in Pesticide Use Has Stopped," MINNESOTA
EXTENSION SERVICES NEWS/INFORMATION, July 2, 1993.
NO TILL CUTTING EROSION BUT INCREASING HERBICIDE USE
A recent article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL says farmers are
appreciating the immediate benefits of no-till farming methods. Soil
erosion has been reduced 70% and crop yields are up. And they are
saving money by eliminating the labor and equipment required for
conventional tilling. In addition, groundwater contamination has
been reduced as no-tilling makes it more difficult to carry pesticide
runoff through crop residues. "This is a revolution in agriculture.
It's changing the culture of row-crop farming," said Ohio farmer Bill
The downside of no-till is that it often requires heavier use of
herbicides to control weeds. The chemicals of choice are usually
those that are considered possible carcinogens by the EPA - atrazine,
metolachlor and cyanazine. "No-till farmers are using the same old,
bad chemicals," said Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working
Group. However, Wiles remains convinced that farmers can reduce
their use of pesticides to coincide with conservation tilling. "We can
cut soil erosion and reduce chemical use at the same time. We just
haven't focused on that so far," he said. Chemical companies like
Monsanto are reportedly benefiting from the no-till trend. Sales of
its toxic atrazine product which is sold under the brand name Lasso
have skyrocketed. Sales of Roundup, which kills weeds without
harming plants, were up 20% worldwide last year.
Source: Scott McMurray, "No-Till Farms Supplant Furrowed Fields,
Cutting Erosion but Spreading Herbicides," WALL STREET JOURNAL,
July 8, 1993.
ANCIENT FARMING METHODS MOST EFFICIENT,
A recent article in the science journal NATURE said a group of
scientists has concluded that ancient South American farming
methods involving raised fields are more efficient and
environmentally-friendly than conventional methods. The group,
headed by University of California ecologist Heath Carney, recently
concluded a study of Indian fields on the Bolivian side of Lake
Titicaca in the Andean region of South America. They recommend
that farmers return to traditional tilling methods which help
preserve vital soil nutrients. "In this system of agriculture, crops are
cultivated on a series of raised beds, which are separated from one
another by deep, water-filled channels," said the article. The
channels help retain the nutrients and sediment necessary for
preserving soil nutrients. "In some regions, rehabilitation of the
raised fields is now underway largely because this practice leads to
fertile soils, adequate water supply and protection from frost and
therefore to substantially higher yields than more conventional
methods," the article states.
Source: "Ancient Farming Methods Best, Scientists Find," REUTER,
July 7, 1993.
The CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE SYSTEMS
at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln published highlights of its
farm bill forums in its May-June 1993 newsletter. The purpose of
the farm bill forums was to discuss the implications of the upcoming
1995 farm bill debate on the state of Nebraska. Some of the
concerns voiced at the forums included: Making resource
preservation a high priority; the Wetlands Reserve Program and
conservation compliance; preserving biodiversity in agriculture; and
integrating animal agriculture into sustainable agriculture. For more
information, contact Center for Sustainable Agriculture Systems,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 221 Keim Hall, P.O. Box 830949,
Lincoln, NE 68583.
NATIONAL FAMILY FARM TRANSITION NETWORK MEETING,
July 18-20, 1993, Northfield, MN. FFI, contact: LaVonne Nicolai,
Minnesota Farm Connection, (612) 297-3395.
TRAINING PROGRAM FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, August
1-6, 1993, Conway, AR. FFI, contact: Community Development
Institute, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR 72035.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Library and Information Coordinator,
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy , 1313 5th Street SE, Suite
303, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Telephone: (612) 379-5980 Fax:
(612) 379-5982 EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to this twice-weekly news summary bulletin, the
Institute offers a variety of other information services on EcoNet for
farmers, educators, researchers and policymakers. These include:
Env.biotech: Weekly news summary bulletins on biotechnology;
Susag.library: Electronic "library" of documents pertaining to
sustainable agriculture; Susag.calendar: Calendar of events relating
to sustainable agriculture; Trade.news: Daily news summary
bulletins on international trade issues; Agri.farmbill: Participatory
conference on farm policy debates, including issues related to the
1995 Farm Bill