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May 22nd, 2015

Iowa State University goes Bananas over GMOs

By Tim Schwab University_Building

When news circulated that the first people to consume a new GMO banana would be student guinea pigs at Iowa State University, the university community had questions.

A recently released, redacted copy of the initial “informed consent document” that ISU lead researcher Wendy White gave to students doesn’t appear to mention that the GMO banana has never been approved as safe to eat by any regulatory agency anywhere in the world, that there have been documented human health risks associated with some GMOs or that there is no consensus on the safety of GMOs.

After public controversy swelled around the feeding trial, ISU’s ethical review boards worked with White to revamp the informed consent document to include some additional “bulleted points” about GMOs. What appears to have resulted is a list of one-sided science, misleading citations and industry-funded research, not an honest, accurate, impartial assessment of the potential risks associated with the GMO banana.

From what we can see in these redacted documents, it’s hard to believe that cash-strapped students, tempted by the $900 stipend, have all the information they need about the risks associated with eating the GMO banana. In December of last year, Food & Water Watch joined more than 100 groups on a letter sent to Iowa State University, questioning the ethical dimensions of the university’s experiment with student subjects and highlighting fundamental scientific flaws in the research.

ISU has quietly delayed the research—but only because of quality problems with the bananas it had shipped to ISU—and refused to engage with stakeholders or answer basic questions about the research and how it fits into the mission of a public university. University administrators, who have rebuffed good-faith invitations from concerned ISU students and faculty, recently penned an oddly defiant op-ed in the local newspaper that defended the research project and extolled the virtues of the GMO banana.

What are the supposed virtues? The banana—actually a cooking banana (think plantain) that is a staple in the East African diet—is supposed to give consumers a dose of Vitamin-A. GMO supporters at ISU have made extraordinary claims about the banana’s potential to improve public health in countries like Uganda, a target destination for the banana, where many people are Vitamin-A deficient.

The GMO banana is following in the footsteps of the biotech industry’s last Vitamin-A GMO, “golden rice.” This crop has so far proven to be a colossal scientific failure, unable to deliver adequate amounts of Vitamin-A.

Syngenta and Monsanto, which helped develop Golden Rice, hoped this “humanitarian” GMO would help break down the well-founded resistance that many Asian countries have to GMOs, which has kept the biotech industry shut out of these lucrative agricultural markets. The GMO banana, like golden rice, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a pro-GMO group that partners with biotech companies. If the GMO banana is successfully commercialized, the primary beneficiaries will not be Vitamin-A deficient Ugandans, but rather the biotech industry.

While it may be true that many Ugandans need more vitamin-A, the solution to the problem isn’t high-tech, risky, expensive, ineffective GMOs. The solution is a balanced diet.

So why is ISU promoting a technological solution that would require a radical shift in Uganda’s agricultural policy (the introduction of GMOs)? Could it have something to do with the millions of dollars that the biotech industry is pouring into the university’s research apparatus? Or the fact that corporate agribusiness representatives sit on governing boards of the university?

As conscientious and thoughtful ISU students and faculty continue to call on the school to have a conversation about the GMO banana feeding trial, including through a recent petition (which you should sign), it’s time that the school stop its stonewalling and start engaging with the public. Founded by Congress and still largely funded by taxpayers, ISU should first and foremost be serving the public, including the farmers and consumers that depend on solid, independent science that improves the safety, security and sustainability of our food system.

May 20th, 2015

Factory Farms Make Me Sick: Times Square Edition

Factory farms produce more than the majority of the meat, milk and eggs we consume—they breed disease, misery and pollution. We’re bringing this message to Times Square this week with this advocacy ad, which will run through July.

Watch below and tweet why you oppose factory farms to the hashtag #LoadOfCrap.

 

Take action to tell the EPA to regulate factory farms:

TAKE ACTION

 

And tweet why you oppose factory farms:

Tweet: U.S. factory farms produce enough waste to fill the Empire State Building every day. What a #LoadOfCrap. Take action: http://ctt.ec/nH04p+ U.S. factory farms produce enough waste to fill the Empire State Building every day. What a #LoadOfCrap.

 

Tweet: #Factoryfarms breed disease, misery and pollution. That’s a #LoadOfCrap. Take action: http://ctt.ec/cvlRc+#Factoryfarms breed disease, misery and pollution. That’s a #LoadOfCrap.

May 19th, 2015

Pollinator Task Force Misses Chance to Protect Bees from Toxic Pesticides

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Obama administration’s Pollinator Health Task Force announced the federal government’s plan for improving pollinator health. Unfortunately, the plan fails to tackle the most urgent need for protecting bee populations—getting dangerous pesticides off the market.

“The White House must stop favoring corporate interests by protecting the pesticide industry rather than the pollinators on which our food system depends. The task force’s reliance on voluntary proposals to pollinator protections is an unacceptable concession to pesticide industry interests. We have seen these types of loose standards fail to protect human health and environmental well-being before.

“While the goals laid out in the White House Task Force’s strategy to promote pollinator health are vitally important, the approach is insufficient. Domestic bee losses have risen to an unprecedented 42.1 percent of colonies this year, which demands urgent action to drive those numbers down. The task force calls for more research and assessment of the impacts on pollinators of a pesticide class called neonicotinoids. Two years ago, the European Union passed a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids.

“Voluntary management practices, insignificant label changes and weak state pollinator plans will not do enough to reverse the decline of pollinator populations. The White House must step up and suspend the use of neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides that are linked to bee declines, which is a serious threat to biodiversity and our food system.

“In March, Food & Water Watch was part of a coalition of beekeepers, farmers, business leaders, environmental and food safety advocates that delivered 4 million signatures to the White House, pressing President Obama to issue meaningful recommendations that would protect bees and other pollinators. Among other things, advocates have called for an expedited review of the registration process for neonicotinoids and strengthening of risk-assessment requirements, closure of loopholes that allow dangerous pesticides to be approved without adequate review, improvements in the oversight of neonicotinoids use in seed coating, upgrades to EPA’s bee- and bird-killing incident reporting system and a mandatory national pesticide use reporting system to improve data collection, and government compliance with the Endangered Species Act to protect the most vulnerable creatures from systemic pesticides.

“The European Academies Science Advisory Council recently released a paper that evaluated over 100 peer-reviewed papers published since 2013 and concluded that the widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids has severe impacts on non-target organisms, including pollinators and other beneficial insects important for pest control. Other recent research has shown that bees become addicted to water spiked with sugar and neonicotinoids due to its nicotine-like effect on their brains.

“While the focus on the potential for federal agencies to increase habitat for pollinators and to ramp up research on bees and other pollinators is useful, it does not make up for the fact that pollinators are being hurt by widely used pesticides the federal government allows to remain on the market. Today’s announcement shows that the federal government still has much to do to actually protect pollinators.”

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

 

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May 18th, 2015

Corporate Trade Agenda Attacks Americans’ Right to Know

President Obama Should Stand Up for Commonsense Country of Origin Labeling

Washington, D.C.—Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that mandatory country of origin labels (COOL) rules for meat and poultry that went into effect in the United States in 2013 are not compliant with global trade standards. The WTO continued to find that the goal of providing information to consumers was compliant with international trade rules, but it decided narrowly that the implementation of the rules for COOL labels negatively impacted livestock imports from Canada and Mexico.

“This is just the latest example of how multinational companies use the global trade system to attack basic protections for U.S. consumers,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The meat industry has been trying – and failing – for years to get rid of COOL through the U.S. system, so it had to use unaccountable, unelected trade officials at the WTO to do its dirty work.”

The case also highlights how international trade deals can trump the will of the American public and Congress. The Obama administration is currently pushing two new trade deals with the European Union and eleven Pacific Rim nations and has repeatedly said that these new deals won’t overturn U.S. laws. While the deals themselves may not wipe out U.S. laws, they do establish trade tribunals that can be used to do so.

“The COOL case proves that trade agreements can and do trump U.S. laws,” said Hauter. “This is a chilling reminder that our very democracy is at stake in these trade deals. Congress should reject calls to Fast Track new trade deals to maintain its legislative autonomy, rather than creating new trade tribunals that can wipe out U.S. laws.”

COOL labels were included in the 2002, 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills due to overwhelming consumer and farmer support. COOL is required for unprocessed beef, pork, poultry, lamb, goat, venison, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, some nuts and seafood. Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. rules for COOL at the WTO in 2008 before the first label was ever applied to a steak or pork chop.

Canada and Mexico prevailed in the original WTO dispute and the USDA updated the COOL rules in 2013 to address the decision by eliminating the misleading ‘mixed origin’ country of origin label for meat,  ensuring that each cut of meat displays each stage of production (where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered) on the label. This sensible approach improved the utility of the information consumers receive from the label and allows livestock producers to distinguish their products in the marketplace. Nonetheless, Canada and Mexico demanded that the WTO reject the new COOL rules. 

“People have the right to know where the food they feed their families comes from. It is nonsensical that a label that lets consumers know the origin of their food would be considered a trade barrier,” said Hauter. “President Obama must stand up to the WTO and maintain the existing requirements for country of origin labeling.”

Because the U.S. did not prevail in this case, the WTO will next determine the appropriate level of tariff retaliation that Canada and Mexico might apply. For the past two years, Canada has suggested that the WTO was certain to award billions of dollars tariff penalties in the case, but the WTO has not yet approved any level of retaliation.

Canada and Mexico have asserted that their exports declined after 2008 entirely because of the application of a COOL label. But the economic recession was the driving factor behind the decline in livestock imports, not COOL. A 2015 study by Auburn University Professor C. Robert Taylor found that COOL had no impact on imports of cattle from Canada and Mexico. Currently, even with COOL in place, cattle and hog imports from Canada and Mexico are at higher levels than before COOL took effect.

Some in Congress are now pushing to repeal COOL in advance of any WTO determination of tariff penalties, which could be negligible since COOL did not cause the change in market access.

“It is absurd to think that a label had more of an impact on cattle imports than the Great Recession,” said Hauter. “The Congress should not unilaterally surrender because of Canada’s bluster. COOL had negligible impacts on imports, and the tariff penalties, if any, will likely be small.”

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

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May 15th, 2015

Why The Food Movement Must Build Power

By Wenonah Hauter

WenonahHauter.Profile

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch

Mark Bittman’s recent op-ed on the faults of the food movement provides a great opportunity to discuss how we should be engaging politically to demand a better food system; unfortunately, it misses the mark on why we are making limited progress on food policy issues. While it‘s refreshing to hear a food luminary acknowledge the importance of organizing, as a long time organizer, it’s frustrating to me that he never addresses the fact that winning means building political power. His piece also criticizes the large segment of the movement that has begun to build that political power on labeling GMO foods. This is not a recipe for success.

First off, Bittman questions if there is a food movement. But from the large number of national, state and local organizations and tens of thousands of individuals who are interested in a range of food related issues, it’s clear there is a movement. The real challenge has been translating that movement into building political power. For the most part, food activism has been focused on cultural changes and buying habits, not on building power to hold elected officials accountable for how their votes affect food policy. The emphasis has been on using dollars to vote for better food or corporate campaigns focused on making junk food a little less bad for you.

Granted, people are so disgusted with our political system that embracing a rallying cry about “shopping our way out” of the problem seems easier in the fast-paced environment that most people operate in. But I would argue that if we just focus on making corporations behave a little better, we have missed the chance to push for the systemic change we need. A democracy is based on holding elected officials accountable so that they vote in the public interest. The root cause of the sick food system (and most other economic and social problems) is our weakened democracy.

Changing this means organizing politically at the local and state level, and eventually translating this to electoral work and holding Congress accountable. One of the weaknesses of the food movement and all non-profit issue causes is that there are thousands of groups competing for funds to work on many critical issues. But, unlike right wing forces that have taken over the political system by draping themselves in the legitimacy of religion and the flag while carrying out the political program of the Koch brothers and multinational corporations, progressive forces are fragmented. The food movement suffers from this problem and many of the funding sources for food work are bent on addressing problems in the marketplace, not building political power.

The best way to build this political power is to organize around issues that resonate with people, engage those folks, and begin to develop long term change. Some issues like GMOs and bad labor practices easily resonate with people and lend themselves to political action. These represent exciting and important parts of the food movement, and ones that will win real and meaningful changes that they can see, but also will politicize large numbers of people who will learn more about systemic problems with our food system and democracy, and engage in other issues in the future.

We have seen this happen at the state and local level already. For example, a few years ago we launched a campaign to get arsenic out of chicken feed in Maryland. It took three years and lots of hard on-the-ground work, but, with our allies, we were ultimately successful in passing legislation that was signed by the governor. Now we are building on that to take on larger systemic problems with factory farmed poultry in the state, with legislation we hope to pass and then model across the country. Eventually, after being shamed by grassroots activists for exposing the population to arsenic in food products, the Food & Drug Administration took arsenical drugs off the market nationwide.

This is all hard work that takes education, time and significant resources. Bittman cites the Sierra Club’s work to close coal plants as a model for organizing, yet this is an atypical campaign because of the amount of money they have, which has paid for dozens of organizers and many expensive tactics like advertising and videos. Since 2005, they have received $38.7 million and donors have pledged $60 million more. As insightful and influential as Bittman may be, he cannot dictate the issues that excite people or write a check for the tens of millions of dollars the Sierra Club has had to close coal plants.

Organizing in most cases is about taking an issue that people care deeply about and helping to bring large numbers of people together to give them a collective voice. If it is not an issue that people feel strongly about at the grassroots, it is difficult to move it up the ladder of priorities for people.

Bittman may not think GMO labeling is an important issue, but millions of Americans do. They believe they have a right to know what is in their food and they are skeptical of the process by which GMOs come to market. They know that labeling is a step on the path to more protective measures around GMOs. They know that the GMO companion herbicide has been proven to have a range of health effects and that it should be regulated. Rather than chiding the work being done on GMO labeling, which effectively constitutes running interference for giant corporations like Monsanto, Bittman should be celebrating and supporting their efforts. Corporate and economic consolidation, after all, is at the root of the problems with our food system and the GMO labeling movement takes on one of the strongest and most consolidated industries – seeds. Already a consolidated industry, now Monsanto is pursuing a merger with the giant Swiss agricultural chemical company Syngenta, which will mean even more corporate control of seeds and the chemicals used to grow crops. If any movement to change the food system should be supported it is the movement to take on Monsanto and GMOs.

When activists get involved in organizing around issues, and they win, they get a sense of their own power to make change. They realize that their voice can – even in our broken democracy – make a difference. People who experience wins go on to stay involved. This is how movements are built: one victory at a time. There are many aspects of the food system that must be changed, but a list of issues is not really a program for social change. We need a broader vision for how we are going to build political power.

This blog was updated on May 15 to correct a factual inaccuracy.

May 14th, 2015

What is USDA Hiding About Its Privatized Poultry Inspection System?

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C.—“Yesterday, Food & Water Watch received word from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that the agency has denied our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information on which poultry slaughter plants intend to adopt the New Poultry Inspection System in their establishments.

“We made this request at the suggestion of the Department of Justice after one of its attorneys remarked in a hearing on our lawsuit to block the implementation of the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) that consumers could find out through FOIA which establishments were using this controversial self-inspection program. The denial of our FOIA request further underscores the fact that the NPIS inspection system is a complete farce.

“The New Poultry Inspection System would turn over key food safety inspection functions to poultry companies. USDA inspectors would have limited oversight over critical food safety inspection functions. These rules essentially privatize poultry inspection and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves, a move that would undermine food safety.

“Consumers will have good reason not trust the safety of products coming from plants using the NPIS system because company employees, rather than USDA inspectors, would perform key inspection tasks. These concerned consumers will have very little way of knowing which products came from these plants if the USDA does not disclose this information. In court, the government’s attorney suggested that these consumers could use FOIA to find out which establishments used NPIS. So why is USDA denying such a request?

“The NPIS self-inspection system will harm consumers and reverse 100 years of effective government regulation of the meat industry. Denying the public any information about which products will come from this system adds insult to injury.”

Read the FOIA request here.

Read FSIS’s response here.

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

May 13th, 2015

Ice Cream Listeria Scare Reveals Cracks in FDA’s Inspection System

By Tony Corbo

Over the past two months, there has been a food borne illness outbreak involving Blue Bell ice cream products, primarily concentrated in western states. Ten people have been sickened, including three senior citizens who died from eating contaminated ice cream in a Kansas hospital.

The pathogen involved in this outbreak is listeria monocytogenes a nasty bug that is especially virulent in the very young, the elderly, the immunocompromised, pregnant mothers and fetuses. It can even cause stillbirths. An infected person usually exhibits fever, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems. Even scarier than listeria itself? The fact that Blue Bell knew its products were tainted as far back as 2013. Read more…

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May 7th, 2015

Five Things Monsanto Doesn’t Want You To Know About GMOs

GMOs aren't going to solve nutrition problems or feed the world - they're about corporate control and profitYou’ve heard the controversy about genetically engineered foods (GMOs) and whether they’re safe to eat (and the question of safety is nowhere near settled, despite what the companies that create GMOs would like you to think). But the rest of the story about GMOs is far more complex: for biotech companies, the real purpose of GMOs is power and control over the food supply, and ultimately it’s about profits. The undeniable fact is that GMOs are bad for our environment, our food system, and the people in it.

Here are five reasons why everyone should be concerned about genetically engineered foods:

1. GMOs increase the corporate control of our food

Increasingly, the food industry is dominated by a handful of powerful corporations that control nearly every aspect of how our food is produced. Monsanto, for example, now owns a staggering number of seed companies that were once its competitors. For people who buy groceries, it’s distressing to realize that the dozens of brands in the grocery store are mostly owned by a few parent companies. When a company has a virtual monopoly on a whole aisle of the grocery store or a set of agricultural products, they make decisions based on what’s best for their profits, not what’s best for their customers or the planet.

This consolidation of control is easy to see in the corporations that create GMOs. Biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and Syngenta create not only GMO seeds, but an entire system of food production. If there’s profit to be made in selling one product farmers need to buy, there’s far more profit to be made from creating a system of products designed to work together; for example, linking seeds with specific chemicals that these companies also sell, like Monsanto soybeans that are engineered to withstand Roundup, the weed killer produced by Monsanto. If a farmer plants those soybeans, they’re going to buy Roundup, too.

Nor is it easy for farmers to avoid planting GMOs. In our increasingly consolidated food industry, farmers have fewer and fewer options, and the advice they hear at every turn is “go GMO.” This happens not just in the United States, but increasingly around the world as well. Read more…

May 6th, 2015

Is USDA Censoring Anti-GMO Science?

By Tim Schwab GMO_Farming_BlogThumb

In a recent article about Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s future political prospects, Vilsack discussed his hope that the 2016 presidential election will offer an opportunity to initiate a national science-based debate on key public policy issues.

“On the right you have climate change deniers and on the left you have people raising issues about GMOs,” Vilsack said. “And the science doesn’t support either one of those positions.”

Vilsack nails the climate change talking point, but misses the boat on GMOs. His statement is not only factually incorrect, it is also a shameful parroting of talking points from biotechnology giants like Monsanto. In reality, unlike climate change, there is no scientific consensus on GMOs, and much of the evidence that the biotech industry and its advocates use to promote the consensus myth is spurious, inaccurate and, well, unscientific. There are, in fact, many scientific issues with GMOs, and there are many expert scientists—hundreds, in fact—who have said as much.

You may also notice another big problem in Vilsack’s comments. He is not actually calling for a science-based debate on GMOs. By saying that there is a consensus on GMOs, he’s saying the debate is over.

That’s an especially odd position given that new science continues to emerge about the risks associated with GMOs. In March, the World Health Organization determined that Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, the use of which has skyrocketed with GMO crops that are engineered to be sprayed with it, is probably carcinogenic to humans.

But more troubling than Vilsack’s efforts to quash the public debate on GMOs are new allegations that he is overseeing censorship of research produced by USDA scientists that is unfavorable to corporate agribusiness. The whistleblower group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a legal petition last month documenting damning examples of USDA subjecting its scientists to:

“Directives not to publish data on certain topics of particular sensitivity to industry…

“Orders to rewrite scientific articles already accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to remove sections which could provoke industry objections…

“Summons to meet with [USDA] Secretary Vilsack in an effort to induce retraction of a paper that drew the ire of industry representatives”

Tellingly, the only company mentioned by name in the petition is Monsanto.

Secretary Vilsack sits atop the largest public agriculture research enterprise in the United States—and one of the largest such research organizations in the world. The USDA spends hundreds of millions of dollars on research each year, which, in theory, should be making food production safer and more sustainable while also helping farmers and consumers. But too often we see that USDA’s research agenda is geared toward empowering and enriching corporate interests, seldom challenging or questioning risky and unstudied industry products and practices, like the use of GMOs.

The allegations that the USDA is censoring unfavorable research echoes the many documented cases where public university researchers have had research censored at the behest of biotech companies, which exercise enormous influence over science through the millions of dollars they pour into university research programs.

The biotech industry also pours millions of dollars into politics, including $572 million in the last decade lobbying congress and funding political campaigns. Industry’s deep pockets buy pro-industry regulations, friendly government administrators and, according to the new whistleblower allegations, influence over government science.

At a time when states across the country are calling for mandatory GMO labeling and new science is emerging showing problems with GMO crops, Vilsack’s industry talking points are woefully out of step with American consumers and also American voters, who will weigh in on the presidential ticket next year.

May 5th, 2015

WHO Findings on Glyphosate’s Carcinogenicity Should Be Enough To Halt Colombia’s Controversial U.S.-Backed Coca-Spraying Program

WHO Findings on Glyphosate’s Carcinogenicity Should Be Enough To Halt Colombia’s Controversial U.S.-Backed Coca-Spraying Program

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the advocacy organization Food & Water Watch called for an end to the U.S.- backed program that sprays the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, on coca fields in Colombia.

Funding data gathered by Food & Water Watch shows that between 2003 and 2008, U.S. government aid programs paid as much as U.S. $79 million for Monsanto herbicides used in Colombia. Much of these costs have since been transferred to Colombia, but it is safe to estimate that the two countries have spent over US $100 million since 2003 on glyphosate.

In March, an international body of independent scientists organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that the herbicide glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s “Round-Up” and “Round-Up Ultra,” the herbicide mixture that Colombia’s government, with U.S. support, has sprayed from aircraft over more than 4 million acres over the past 20 years.

“There is now proof that the sprayings of glyphosate represent an unacceptable risk to the public. This has critical implications for a program that has been a cornerstone of U.S. drug policy in Colombia,” said Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at WOLA. “Grounding the spray planes today is the most sensible choice. We encourage Colombia’s government to take that, and the U.S. government to accede to it.”

On April 27, Colombia’s Health Ministry recommended that the country suspend the herbicide fumigation program. The Colombian government is to decide by May 15 whether to do so.

The glyphosate fumigation program began at the U.S. government’s behest in 1994 as a strategy to eradicate coca, the plant used to make cocaine. Colombia is the only coca-producing country that allows aerial herbicide spraying. As coca is often grown near homes and towns, and mixed with legal crops, fumigation planes routinely spray glyphosate on residential areas.

“It is bad enough that the U.S. government enriched Monsanto with tens of millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Darcey O’Callaghan, international policy director at Food & Water Watch. “When you consider that this money went toward aerial spraying of a probable carcinogen in populated areas, such corporate subsidies are unconscionable.”

“The past 20 years’ experience with coca eradication suggests that the best way to reduce coca cultivation is to bring development to the coca-growing areas,” says Isacson from WOLA. “Instead of spraying it from above, Colombia must govern its territory on the ground, with state representatives present to oversee the crop’s manual eradication and to integrate farmers into the legal economy through development assistance.”

This is the stated goal of an accord that Colombia’s government reached last year with the country’s largest guerrilla group, part of an ongoing peace negotiation process. That accord would ground the spray planes once a final accord is reached, reserving their use only for extreme situations in which manual coca eradicators find themselves under threat or attack.

“Most coca growers are poor, small-scale farmers,” said Isacson. “Aerial fumigation destroys their primary source of income, pushing them further into poverty and reinforcing their reliance on coca growing.”

WOLA has also prepared a series of graphics to accompany the “#NOFumigación” campaign (available here) that show the human cost of fumigation in rural areas of Colombia. All civil society groups or media following the issue are invited to share these across their digital platforms to join in calling for an end to aerial fumigation.

Contact: Kristel Mucino, WOLA, (202) 797-2171, press(at)wola.org. Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

WOLA promotes human rights, democracy, and social justice by working with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to shape policies in the United States and abroad. WOLA envisions a future where human rights and social justice are the foundation for public policy in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the U.S. relationship with the region; where change happens when people on-the-ground connect with people who make policy, and where people work together across borders to respect human rights and democratic values.

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