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 formallyaccused 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. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has had a new scientific integrity policy since 2013. Despite that policy, the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) recently petitioned USDA saying that “suppression and alteration of scientific work for political reasons remain common at USDA” and that agency scientists “routinely suffer retaliation and harassment” when their work offends agribusiness.About the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the worst that had been said was that, four years after the President’s promise, the agency still had not hired anyone; plus that its outline for a Scientific Integrity Plan lacked integrity. But that was before publication of its first ever Scientific Integrity report. Read
Austrian Health Minister Sabine Oberhauser and a number of Italian Ministries have confirmed that both countries are officially requesting an opt-out from growing the eight varieties of GM maize permitted or set to be permitted at the EU level, thus there will now be a full ban on GM crops in both countries under new EU regulations. “Austria has made use of the newly created EU opt-out rules for the authorization of genetically modified crops,” Oberhauser stated on Wednesday. She further added that Austria’s geographical opt-out demand was delivered to the European Commission earlier this week. Read
– The number of inmates in solitary confinement in California’s prisons should be sharply reduced following settlement of a suit brought by prisoners. California leads the nation in the number of inmates held in solitary confinement, with nearly 3,000 prisoners languishing in isolation. The Center for Constitutional Rights represented the inmates in court. We spoke with the Center’s deputy legal director, Alexi Agathocleous.
- Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was shouted down by protesters when she announced draconian proposals that would target each of the city’s 10,000 people on parole or probation for surprise searches by police, on the street or in their homes, night or day. Ex-offender found to be in violation of any of a long list of rules, could be detained for 72 hours, and then put on a path back to prison. Mayor Bowser claims she’s just responding to a rising homicide rate.
- Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is an activist with the Hands Up Coalition-DC and an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. She calls Mayor Bowser’s plan The Fugitive Slave Act of 2015.
- Ajamu Baraka is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. Baraka is a co-founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network. He currently lives in Colombia, South America, where he recently took part in a conference of the principal Afro-Colombian self-determinationist organization, the Black Communities Process, or PCN. Colombia is the United States’ closest ally in the region, and holds the world’s record for killing labor organizers. It is second only to Syria in the number of internally displaced persons, most of them Afro-Colombians driven from their traditional lands. Ajamu Baraka says Colombia is one of the most important countries in the African diaspora.
- An independent, Black-produced film on the Ferguson rebellion is making the rounds, this summer. We spoke with producer and director Ralph L. Crowder the Third about his latest documentary, titled, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot Our Youth Movement.”
- Resistance to standardized testing in the public schools is growing by leaps and bounds. Much of the momentum is centered in mostly white suburban districts, but more Black and brown parents are deciding to OPT their children OUT of the high-stakes testing regime. About 20 percent of New York state public school students opted out, in the past school year. Peter Farruggio is on the faculty of the University of Texas, Pan American campus. He’s a long-time educator and anti-privatization activist. We asked Dr. Farruggio if the Opt-Out campaign has gotten big enough to be called a movement.
This week's show included a climate-change update from Guy and an extensive conversation with social critics Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer. We also responded to a few listeners who called in with questions.
The yields of many important crops in Europe have been stagnating since the 1990s. As a result, the input of organic matter into the soil – the crucial source for humus formation – is decreasing. Scientists from the Technical University Munich (TUM) suspect that the humus stocks of arable soils are declining due to the influence of climate change. Humus, however, is a key factor for soil functionality, which is why this development poses a threat to agricultural production – and, moreover, in a worldwide context. In their study, which has been published in Science of the Total Environment (2015), scientists from the Technical University Munich (TUM) evaluated the crop yield statistics for EU countries compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since the 1960s. Read
It’s no secret that there’s a divide between the global North and South. Most people know about the huge wealth gap between the industrialized and so-called “developing” worlds, and that rates of pollution, resource use, greenhouse gas emissions – and much more – vary widely between them. But there’s another gap, one that’s rarely discussed in the media, or even by NGOs. It involves changing attitudes to farming, to the land and the soil – something worth considering in this UN-designated “International Year of Soils.’ All over the Western world, increasing numbers of people are leaving their desk-bound lives to rediscover the joys of getting their hands dirty. The passion for soil is on the rise as more and more people grow food on their balconies or rooftops, or turn their lawns into a mixture of wilderness and vegetables. People are also reaching out to farmers, joining Community Supported Agriculture schemes or starting food co-ops. The permaculture, ecovillage and transition movements now have huge followings, with thousands of people undergoing training and reconnecting to each other through growing food. Interest in slow food, organic food, agroecology and regenerative agriculture are also increasing. Central to all these movements is localization– the shortening
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not high on most physicians’ worry lists. If we think at all about biotechnology, most of us probably focus on direct threats to human health, such as prospects for converting pathogens to biologic weapons or the implications of new technologies for editing the human germline. But while those debates simmer, the application of biotechnology to agriculture has been rapid and aggressive. The vast majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are now genetically engineered. Foods produced from GM crops have become ubiquitous. And unlike regulatory bodies in 64 other countries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of GM foods. Two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape. First, there have been sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops, and still further increases — the largest in a generation — are scheduled to occur in the next few years. Second, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GM crops, as a “probable human carcinogen”1 and classified a second herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a “possible human carcinogen.”2 Read
Without drastic efforts to reduce deforestation, rising greenhouse gases, and unsustainable global agriculture, the planet is on track to lose a massive quantity of its tropical forests—a crucial element in the fight against irreversible climate change—in just 35 years. Absent aggressive conservation policies, the world will lose 2.9 million square kilometers of its tropical forests by 2050, according to a new working paper published Monday by Center for Global Development (CGD) environmental expert Jonah Busch and research assistant Jens Engelmann. That’s a chunk the size of India, or one-third of U.S. land mass. And if no changes are made to the world’s “business-as-usual” approach to agriculture, logging, and other such forces, tropical deforestation will account for more than one-sixth of the remaining carbon that can be emitted if the world is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Read
Elizabeth Henderson farmed at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, New York, producing organically grown vegetables for the fresh market for over 30 years. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), co-chairs the Policy Committee, and represents the NOFA Interstate Council on the Board of the Agricultural Justice Project. For 20 years, from 1993 – 2013, she chaired the Agricultural Development Board in Wayne County and took an active role in creating the Farming and Farmland Protection Plan for the county. In 2001, the organic industry honored her with one of the first “Spirit of Organic awards, in 2007, Abundance Co-op honored her with the “Cooperating for Communities” award and in 2009 NOFA-NY honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award and then a Golden Carrot in 2013. In 2014 Eco-Farm presented her with their “Advocate of Social Justice Award, the Justie.” Her writings on organic agriculture appear in The Natural Farmer and other publications, and she is the lead author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007). She also wrote A Food Book for a Sustainable Harvest for the members of Peacework Organic Community Supported Agriculture (aka GVOCSA) in its twenty seventh year in 2015.
The world has been abuzz with the dramatic losses of cultivated honey bees due to colony collapse disorder1 as well as declines of native pollinator species across the globe.2,3,4 Scientists have recently begun calculating the extent to which food crops depend on animal pollinators including bees, butterflies, and bats,5 with one study assigning an economic value to the “ecosystem service” provided by pollinators at approximately $167 billion.6 Even more recently, several other new studies have offered evidence that pollinators may also have a beneficial impact on nutrition security—the availability of essential macro- and micronutrients in the human diet.7,8,9 “It’s really well known that pollination changes the yields of crops and the economics of farming,” says Taylor Ricketts, director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. It’s becoming better known, he says, that pollination also affects the nutritional value of foods. Read