“Poisons are us”

I feel compelled to compile some information related to the recent reversal of a planned ban of a common, yet dangerous, pesticide. I hadn’t actually heard of the generic name of this poison until the new EPA administrator announced he was halting the steps to ban it. [modified 5/19/2017]

“By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results.” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

  1. An article covering the public comment period on the regulatory reform agenda of Trump, Pruitt, et al. In other words, I’m trying to begin with something positive and empowering. Here’s the actual comment form. The deadline is May 15. Look for the “Comment Now” button in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Forbes has a great overview about the chlorpyrifos reversal
  3. “Poisons are us” | A compelling opinion piece by Timothy Egan
  4. Dow Chemical tries to kill risk study of its chlorpyrifos
  5. Here’s the National Pesticide Information Center general fact sheet on chlorpyrifos. The publication provides a very basic, yet alarming, explanation of why children are more sensitive to the insecticide. Studies have found that children who had chlorpyrifos in their blood had more developmental delays and disorders than those who did not. In addition, it states that chlorpyrifos is toxic to bees and earthworms. “It can poison non-target insects for up to 24 hours after it is sprayed. Chlorpyrifos can be toxic to earthworms for up to 2 weeks after it is applied to the soil.” Doesn’t that seem counterproductive — especially in its agricultural applications?
  6. A strong case against a pesticide does not faze EPA under Trump
  7. Letter from over 45 Scientists and Health Professionals Supporting EPA’s 2016 Risk Assessment and 2015 Proposal to Revoke Food Tolerances for Chlorpyrifos [pdf]

Please contact your federal legislators about the chlorpyrifos reversal, as well as the plans for repealing other EPA regulations.




Laughable Labels

Is this the co-opting of “local” or just a really broad interpretation?


My recent encounter in Oklahoma City with this “locally grown” jar of roasted bell peppers from Napa Valley caused me to revisit this fantastic article from last May, which explores the angles and issues with the “local” label. Mezzetta, Frito Lay, and others are making a case for “local” in relation to their processing plant and are clearly leaving the eater out of the equation. What merit does this have? Is this an improvement upon former business practices or is it merely a new marketing strategy for their status quo? When the labels we trust become diluted from government certification or opportunistic marketing gurus, they become, at best, nothing more than a game of semantics and at worst, completely meaningless.

From the article:

…the widening view of what it means to eat locally is similar to the changes the term organic went through as it grew from a countercultural ideal in the 1960s and 1970s to an industry with nearly $25 billion in sales last year. A related debate about how to define sustainable farming is now gathering force in government, agriculture and business.

Some Reading

When “Local” Makes It Big
Frito-Lay rationalizes their new “locavore” marketing scheme.
Excerpt: “You know the locavore phenomenon is having an impact when the corporations begin co-opting it,” Ms. Prentice said. “Everyone should know where things are processed. The ‘where’ question is really important.”

U.S. Hog Giant Transforms Eastern Europe
Read the story while considering Smithfield’s slogan: “Good food. Responsibly.”
Excerpt: “In the United States, Smithfield says it has been a boon to consumers. Pork prices dropped by about one-fifth between 1970 and 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, suggesting annual savings of about $29 per consumer. In Eastern Europe, as in American farm states where Smithfield developed its business strategy, the question is whether the savings are worth the considerable costs.
Smithfield brands.

Governor Henry signed the “Right to Farm” Measure
No private nuisance lawsuit can be brought against agricultural activities  in operation for more than two years. Fine. Sure. I understand. But, the law adds “expansion” to the definition of agricultural activities. An expansion— even if it is non-contiguous—does not reset the clock.

Take that, California!
An Oklahoma legislator’s response to California’s Proposition 2 is now law. Here’s an earlier post about this paranoid response to humane legislation that ensures confined livestock are able to—god forbid—stretch their legs and *gasp* turn around in their cage!

Plotting Progress

Here are some cool maps the NYT created using data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

NYT Maps

And here’s a map I made to show the distribution of Oklahoma Food Co-op producers.

Food Co-op Producers

Some Reading

A diverse sampling of food-related reading:

“Pig brain mist” mystery concludes

The Price of Tomatoes
Related photos here. As a relatively petty aside, notice the color of the tomatoes.

Nice essay on organic food. Clean food should not be a luxury item.

An amazing 2002 article by Michael Pollan on industrial livestock: from artificial insemination to the shrink-wrapped steak. Extremely informative.

Arugula Demystified

I am sick of people using food to exacerbate perceived divisions. Just yesterday a state representative invoked “arugula” to conjure feelings of “us” and “them.” How is it that a salad green has come to represent elites, or in this case ignorant, elitist city-folk? Remember Obama’s so-called “arugula moment” in mid-2007? Ridiculous. It grows in the wild and is easy to cultivate, for goodness sake! What’s the big deal? It’s been hijacked as a political tool (remember “freedom fries”?). Could it be that Californians have actually gotten more informed about food and agriculture and that’s why they voted for Proposition 2? What do you think?

Arugula Demystified:

“Also known as rocket or roquette, depending on the language you are speaking, arugula is a tall-growing, hearty green that will reseed itself throughout the garden without regard for any taming border lines the gardener has established.”
Gardeners’ Community Cookbook

“Whether you call it roquette (French), arugula (Italian), or rocket (English), it’s a salad green with a spicy tang somewhere between that of cress and horseradish. If you want to try it, you’ll have to grow your own.
Fortunately, no spring or autumn crop could be easier to grow. In a sunny garden spot, either sow seeds thinly in a row, or scatter them in a patch.”
-Sunset Illustrated Guide to Vegetable Gardening


Photo by JasonUnbound

Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years by the USDA.  Numbers were released yesterday. Some especially exciting data is that of direct farm sales (which includes farmers’ markets and roadside stands).

In the U.S., the value of direct farm sales between 2002 and 2007 increased 30% (adjusted for inflation; at current dollars it’s 49%).

In Oklahoma—and god I hope I calculated this correctly—between 2002 and 2007 the value of  direct farm sales  increased 167% (adjusted for inflation; at current dollars it’s 208%)! And for the 3,194 farms that have direct sales, the average amount earned from the  sales was $3,611. While certainly not the bread and butter, it was a 61% increase from 2002 (adjusted for inflation; 85% at current dollars). Something is a rumblin’, I can feel it. Do you know where your food comes from?

I wonder, when Oklahoma Food Co-op producers fill out these forms, do they include co-op sales as “direct farm sales”?

More interesting stuff about Oklahoma:

  • 799 farms harvest 7,306 acres of produce for fresh market. 63 farms harvest 10,707 acres of produce for processing.
  • Did you know we have 3 farms growing 15 acres of kiwi fruit here in Oklahoma?
  • We have 518 farms with 1–9 milk cows. We have 6 farms that have 1,000 or more milk cows.
  • We have 2,338 farms with 1–24 pigs or hogs. We have 41 farms that have 5,000 or more pigs or hogs.
  • 114 farms sold 130,380,629 meat chickens in 2007.
  • Female principal farm operators increased 24% between 2002–2007.
  • The average age of the principal operator is 57.6.
  • We have 35,087,269 acres in agricultural production.

I should stop now.

Here’s a readable synthesis of the U.S. numbers. And more about agriculture in Oklahoma here and here.