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Can marijuana ever be environmentally friendly?

Natasha Geiling, THINK PROGRESS (from April 20, 2016)

Another big issue that the burgeoning cannabis industry will have to confront as legalization becomes increasingly widespread is the industry’s massive environmental footprint. Cannabis is the country’s most energy-intensive crop, largely because around a third of cannabis cultivation in the United States currently takes place in indoor warehouses, a process that requires huge amounts of lighting, ventilation, cooling, and dehumidifying. According to a 2016 report released by New Frontier Financials, cannabis cultivation annually consumes one percent of the United States’ total electrical output, which for a single industry growing a single crop, is a lot — roughly the equivalent of the electricity used by 1.7 million homes. If energy consumption continues at current levels, the electricity used by indoor cannabis operations in the Northwest alone will double in the next 20 years.

One of the first things that Tyson Haworth does when we meet on his farm in rural Oregon is spread his palms out, up toward the April sunshine, and apologize. “I just applied some predatory fungus in the greenhouse,” he says, splaying his fingers and inspecting his hands. He doesn’t use any synthetic pesticides on his farm, he explains, preferring predatory bugs and bacteria and fungi instead, and before he can show me around, he excuses himself to wash his hands in his house adjacent to the farm. Between the farm and the house, on the other side of the gravel driveway that leads visitors from the winding back roads onto Haworth’s property, is a wooden play structure — a sign of Haworth’s two kids, who are the reason he moved from Portland, about thirty miles north, to Canby.

Them, and because it was getting hard to keep growing his cannabis in a garage.

Haworth started cultivating cannabis in 2007, after his wife had to undergo a second back operation. The first time around, she took opiates to manage the pain, but she didn’t want to do that again. So Haworth — who grew up around his father’s wholesale produce company and worked as a manager of a wholesale organic distribution company himself — started growing cannabis, medically, both for his wife and for Oregon’s decades-old medical market. For years, Haworth cultivated cannabis on the side, not able to make enough profits from the medical market to become a full-time cannabis grower. Then, in 2013, Oregon’s medical marijuana market shifted, allowing, for the first time, a legitimate retail component.

And so Haworth put his organic produce job on hold and jumped feet first into cannabis cultivation, moving SoFresh Farms to Canby in 2014. But he didn’t want to completely eschew the decades of knowledge he had gained working in the organic produce industry. And so Haworth decided to do something that not many cannabis farmers were doing at the time: create an organic, sustainable cannabis farm, a place without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, a place that sequesters carbon and helps repopulate native flora. A place that grows cannabis and leaves the environment better for it.

“It’s not enough to not be bad,” Haworth said. “We want to be good. It’s not enough to not be part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution.”

Read more at: Can Marijuana Ever Be Environmentally Friendly?

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California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup

California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.
California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.
Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.
“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.
After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.
Read more at: California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup | The Press Democrat

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Paraquat linked to Parkinson's disease

Huddersfield, England — The factory here, set amid a brick campus in a green and hilly industrial town, recently celebrated its centennial.
It produces paraquat, one of the world’s most enduring weed killers — but not one that can be purchased in this part of northern England, in the rest of Britain or across the Channel in the rest of the European Union.
So it will be sent to the United States, or another part of the globe that still allows paraquat to be sprayed on weeds.
Paraquat has long been controversial because of its use in suicides in many parts of the world, since drinking one sip can be lethal. But now regulators in the United States are grappling with a wave of research linking paraquat to a less immediately apparent effect — Parkinson’s disease.
In a recent, little noticed regulatory filing, the Environmental Protection Agency said, “There is a large body of epidemiology data on paraquat dichloride use and Parkinson’s disease.” The agency is weighing whether to continue allowing the chemical to be sprayed on American cropland, although a decision is not expected until 2018, and it is unclear how the incoming administration of Donald J. Trump will view the matter.
Read more at: This Pesticide Is Prohibited in Britain. Why Is It Still Being Exported?

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Sonoma County bans GMO crops

Center for Food Safety, ECOWATCH
The Center for Food Safety celebrated a huge victory in Sonoma County, California, on Wednesday when voters approved a measure that will prohibit genetically engineered crops from being planted in the county.
The passage of the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance, better known as Measure M, will protect local and organic growers and producers who choose not to plant GMO seed.
“Enacting change in the food movement, or any movement, starts at the local level and the passage of Measure M is an incredible victory for Sonoma farmers and gardeners,” Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of the Center for Food Safety, said. “Farmers deserve the right to grow food that is not contaminated by genetic engineering, just as the public deserves the right to purchase organic or GMO-free foods that are free from GMO contamination.”
Measure M passed by a large margin—55.9 percent to 44.9 percent—and Sonoma County now joins several neighboring counties including Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Santa Cruz that have passed similar ballot initiatives to protect farmers and crop integrity.
The Center for Food Safety is especially proud to see the democratic process work on behalf of our food, farmers and environment in this case for local food rights. The legal staff assisted in the drafting of the Sonoma ballot initiative and provided legal and scientific counsel throughout the last year, as with past county bans in California and in other states.
Source: Sonoma County Bans GMO Crops

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Doubts about the promised bounty of genetically modified crops

The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat. But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.

Read more at: Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops –

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Op-Ed: Making this area a GMO Free Zone


Please visit our website,, where you can volunteer, donate and endorse with ease. You will find many different volunteer opportunities listed.

There is a grass-roots movement afoot in Sonoma County to join our neighbors to the north and south in creating a coastal GMO free zone. Volunteers for the group Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families can be spotted all over the county collecting signatures to qualify the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance for the ballot in November.
This ordinance would prohibit the “propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically engineered organisms in Sonoma County.”
Roundup-ready, genetically engineered crops (corn) and grasses (alfalfa, blue grass and fescue) are already moving into Sonoma County. New crops are awaiting approval. This ban on genetically engineered crops is needed in order to protect Sonoma County organic and conventional agriculture from contamination by genetically engineered plant pollen. Without this protection, our families, water and wildlife will continue to suffer from negative health and environmental effects associated with increased Roundup herbicide spraying.
While the overwhelming response to our signature drive has been positive, I have been perplexed over the past several months on the signature-gathering trail by some of the negative viewpoints expressed.
Read more: Close to Home: Making this area a GMO Free Zone | The Press Democrat

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January 28 – Forum on Roundup

Watertrough Children’s Alliance and Sierra Club Sonoma Group 
present a Special Event

ROUNDUP: Updates on recent WHO findings and the California EPA’s stance on glyphosate

In 2015, the World Health Organization determined that glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup), the most-used herbicide in the world and in Sonoma County, is a probable human carcinogen. What has happened since this finding and how is the California EPA responding? Learn about recent actions on glyphosate and also help to support legal action to limit the environmental impacts of vineyards in Sonoma County.
January 28, 2016 @6:00pm,  Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Ave. (on Hwy 12)
Moderator: Sarah Glade Gurney, mayor of Sebastopol
Speaker: Jonathan Evan, attorney, Center for Biological Diversity
Speaker: Ella Teevan, organizer, Food & Water Watch
$20 per person, includes dinner catered by Seed and presentation.
For further information, email or download the poster below.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on Op-Ed: Time for California to corral the use of Roundup

Op-Ed: Time for California to corral the use of Roundup

What do Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Brazil and India have in common?
They have banned the use of Roundup — a glyphosate containing pesticide that continues to be applied in San Francisco, Sonoma County and throughout California.
Last month the International Agency for Research on Cancer — a group of experts advising the World Health Organization — unanimously determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a probable human carcinogen.
Thanks to decades of major marketing efforts, American agriculture heavily depends on seeds for wheat, corn, soy and other major U.S. commercial crops that have been genetically engineered to resist Roundup’s otherwise toxic effects. One consequence of this massive deployment of the chemical is that about 60 million acres of farmland are infested with Roundup resistant weeds that can grow more than six feet high and damage farm equipment.
Roundup has been tied not just to cancer and killer-weeds but to other serious health problems. Physicians report that rates of serious birth defects in one of Argentina’s poorest regions, Chaco, quadrupled the decade after glyphosate was introduced, while that of chronic kidney disease is soaring in young men and women in Central America, India and other heavily sprayed regions.
Meanwhile, Monsanto recently asked the EPA to double the residues allowed on American foods and crops that are developing resistance to the pesticide.
Read more via: Close to Home: Time for California to corral | The Press Democrat
Devra Davis is a scientist and writer who is president of Environmental Health Trust, a non-profit research and educational institute focused on studying and reducing environmental health hazards.

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Widely used herbicide linked to cancer

Daniel Cressey, NATURE
The cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization last week announced that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic to humans. But the assessment, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, has been followed by an immediate backlash from industry groups.
On March 23, Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at the agrochemical company Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri, which sells much of the world’s glyphosate, accused the IARC of “cherry picking” data. “We are outraged with this assessment,” he said in a statement. Nature explains the controversy.
What does the IARC report say?
The IARC regularly reviews the carcinogenicity of industrial chemicals, foodstuffs and even jobs. On March 20, a panel of international experts convened by the agency reported the findings of a review of five agricultural chemicals in a class known as organophosphates. A summary of the study was published in The Lancet Oncology.
Two of the pesticides — tetrachlorvinphos and parathion — were rated as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, or category 2B. Three — malathion, diazinon and glyphosate — were rated as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, labelled category 2A.
Why should I care about glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the world’s most widely produced herbicide, by volume. It is used extensively in agriculture and is also found in garden products in many countries. The chemical is an ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller product Roundup, and glyphosate has become more popular with the increasing market share of crops that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide.

Read more at: Widely Used Herbicide Linked to Cancer – Scientific American

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Roundup study prompts online debate about herbicide’s safety

Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Partial Roundup use in Sonoma County in 2012
Wine grapes: 62,000 pounds
Landscape maintenance: 6,500 pounds
Oats: 350 pounds
Olives: 110 pounds
Apples: 27 pounds
Source: California Department of Pesticide Regulation

A report from an arm of the World Health Organization has set off a wave of alarm over the safety of Roundup, a weed killer widely used on lawns, fields and vineyards in Sonoma County.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer released the report last week, labeling glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and linking it to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in farmworkers. That’s created a stir on social media over the use of the chemical, the active ingredient in arguably the most popular herbicide on the planet.
Some residents want the herbicide banned. Petitions are circulating online, calling to ban the use of Roundup not only in vineyards and fields but on lawns and gardens.
Windsor Town Councilwoman Deb Fudge on Thursday posted on Facebook a link to an online petition to ban Roundup nationwide. As a breast cancer survivor and former hazardous materials manager, she said the report hit close to home. She also has several friends and relatives dealing with brain tumors and cancer.
“Humanity is taking too many chances with these chemicals,” she said in a phone interview on Friday.“
There are so many unknowns in chemicals deemed safe,” Fudge said, adding the issue has gained traction online because it’s a commonly used product. More than 87,000 pounds of the chemical were used in Sonoma County in 2012, the latest figures available from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Read more via Roundup study prompts online debate about herbicide’s safety | The Press Democrat.