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Cotton on: the staggering potential of switching to organic clothes

Rebecca Smithers, THE GUARDIAN

ost Britons underestimate the full environmental impact of cotton, thinking it takes only 314 litres of water to make a cotton T-shirt – which is only 12% of the true figure of 2,700 litres, according to a new report out today.

Yet buying a certified organic cotton T-shirt rather than an ordinary one would save a staggering 2,457 litres of water – enough for one person to drink eight glasses of water a day for three and a half years.

Consumers are being urged to save water in the supply chain by buying organic cotton T-shirts in a new study from the Soil Association – the trade body that licenses organic products and promotes organic farming, as well as the environmental charity Hubbub.

Two in five Britons also said that while they care about the environment, it has not occurred to them that the manufacture of their clothing might have a negative impact on the planet, according to the new research.

Within the fashion industry, more than half of garments sold in the UK are made from cotton, meaning that switching conventional cotton to more sustainable cotton alternatives continues to present one of the biggest opportunities for retailers to reduce their environmental impact.

Cotton is a notoriously thirsty crop as detailed in the report. Growing cotton accounts for 69% of the water footprint of textile fibre production; just one kilogram of cotton takes as much as 10,000-20,000 litres of water to produce.

The World Economic Forum has identified water scarcity as one of the top 10 global risks to society over the next 10 years, yet the bulk of cotton is grown in countries that are already facing severe water stress.

However, growing cotton organically uses significantly less (up to 91%) water than conventional cotton, the report says. In addition, conventional cotton uses approximately 16% of the world’s insecticides and 7% of pesticides.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/oct/01/cotton-on-the-staggering-potential-of-switching-to-organic-clothes

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Sonoma County restricts use of Roundup, other synthetic pesticides

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County this week became the fourth local government agency in the country to restrict use of synthetic pesticides on public land, joining a wave of cities and counties across the nation that are banning a chemical deemed by some to cause cancer.

Santa Rosa, Windsor and Sonoma have previously precluded application of synthetic weedkillers on public property, with Sonoma specifically targeting glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, the widely used herbicide manufactured by Monsanto.

At least 38 California cities and counties in California have now adopted bans on synthetic pesticides, along with jurisdictions in 22 other states from coast to coast, according to Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, a Los Angeles-based law firm that has won three cases against Monsanto with $2.4 billion in damages.

The pesticide rebellion gained momentum in 2017, when glyphosate was added to California’s Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals.

Megan Kaun, a Sebastopol resident who developed the county measure in collaboration with Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, began her campaign in 2015 when she found out glyphosate was being sprayed on a playground near her former home in Santa Rosa. Last August, the city prohibited use of synthetic weedkillers at dozens of parks, buildings and medians.

Windsor banned synthetic pesticides from public property last year, and the town of Sonoma barred use of glyphosate in April.

The newest regulation applies to lands maintained by county agencies, including water, parks, roads and the open space district, requiring them to eliminate use of synthetic herbicides, insecticides and fungicides to the “maximum extent practicable.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9668404-181/sonoma-county-restricts-use-of

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Our love of almonds is seriously jeopardizing honeybees

Paige Embrey, HUFF POST

In January, with the almond bloom in California’s orchards a month away, beekeepers across the country were fretting over their hives. A lot of their bees were dead or sick. Beekeepers reported losing as much as half their hives over the winter.

Jack Brumley, a California beekeeper, said he’d heard of people losing 80% of their bees. Denise Qualls, a bee broker who connects keepers with growers, said she was seeing “a lot more panic occurring earlier.”

Rumors swirled of a potential shortage; almond growers scrambled to ensure they had enough bees to pollinate their valuable crop, reaching out to beekeepers as far away as Florida, striking deals with mom-and-pop operations that kept no more than a few hundred bees. NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired a segment on the looming crisis in the almond groves.

By May, it was clear that California’s almond growers — who supply 80% of the world’s almonds — had successfully negotiated the threat of a bee shortage and were expected to produce a record crop of 2.5 billion pounds, up 10% from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But the panic, it turns out, was justified. The results of this year’s annual Bee Informed Partnership survey, a collaboration by leading research labs released Wednesday, found that winter colony losses were nearly 38%, the highest rate since the survey began 13 years ago and almost 9% higher than the average loss.

The panic underscored a fundamental problem with the relationship between almonds and bees: Every year, the almond industry expands while the population of honeybees, beset by a host of afflictions, struggles to keep pace.

Read more at https://www.huffpost.com/entry/honey-bee-census-almonds_n_5d0a8726e4b0f7b7442b3aaa?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9uZXdzLmdvb2dsZS5jb20v&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGJJBiDGRCve7o6jN4qUrECrkbbhGDnhUcRQUW1kZcFn7P04RMyb9W9JKjmXY3Wk3I_uT-5O6weQrkuir5KZs5KJMF__gto7nuGAd6lTmxupeKBzyVN4YWJ1DlV_8QtfZpy72-bVD4mVdod1i9-3iaoZ5y7ZWFQ6GSHHbMRm0CFU

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Sonoma County supervisors eye pesticide restrictions on public land

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors are scheduled to consider a proposal Tuesday to ban synthetic pesticides on county property open to public use and in other “no synthetic spray zones” to be determined this year.

The proposal specifically precludes use of synthetic herbicides, insecticides and fungicides on county agency campuses, sidewalks, plazas, playing fields, playgrounds and county-maintained libraries.

It also would apply to Sonoma Water, the Agricultural and Open Space District, the Community Development Commission and the Transportation and Public Works Department, requiring them to eliminate pesticide use “to the maximum extent practicable.”

The Transportation and Public Works Department is experimenting with organic alternatives to manage roadside vegetation that poses a safety risk or can contribute to flooding, said Dan Virkstis, a department spokesman.

Private land would be exempt from the ban. The county is prohibited from regulating pesticide use on private property, a county staff report said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9664243-181/sonoma-county-supervisors-eye-pesticide

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California to ban pesticide chlorpyrifos

Brian Melley, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The nation’s most productive agricultural state moved Wednesday to ban a controversial pesticide widely used to control a range of insects but blamed for harming brain development in babies.

The move cheered by environmentalists would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous than previously thought. California Environmental Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said it’s the first time the state has sought to ban a pesticide and the move was overdue.

“This pesticide is a neurotoxin, and it was first put on the market in 1965,” Blumenfeld said. “So it’s been on the shelf a long time, and it’s past its sell-by date.”

The decision comes after regulators in several states have taken steps in recent years to restrict the pesticide used on about 60 different crops in California, including grapes, almonds and oranges. Hawaii banned it last year, and New York lawmakers recently sent a measure to the governor outlawing use of the pesticide.

DowDuPont, which produces the pesticide, said it was disappointed with the decision and that farmers who rely on the pesticide say it will hurt their ability to control insects.

Read more at https://www.apnews.com/94c594ce51f441b6998fb83a4cda2c79

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Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.
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The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature

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California monarch butterfly population down 86 percent in one year

Tiffany Camhi, THE CALIFORNIA REPORT, KQED

“We think that it has to do with habitat loss, the increasing high use of pesticides and the loss of the milkweed populations, which is the plant the monarch needs to lay its eggs on,” Monroe said.

California’s coast, from Bolinas to Pismo Beach, is a popular overwintering site for the western population of monarch butterflies. Historically, you could find millions of the orange and black winged invertebrates around this time of year, using coastal eucalyptus trees as shelter.

But there’s been a troubling trend over the past few decades. Each year, fewer monarchs have been showing up to overwinter on the state’s coast, according to preliminary numbers from the Xerces Society, an environmental conservation nonprofit. The group’s annual Thanksgiving count found the 2018 population of these butterflies is down to 20,456 compared to 2017’s 148,000. That’s a one year, 86 percent decline.

“It’s been hard for me, as I remember the millions of monarchs of the 1980s,” said Mia Monroe, a Bay Area-based Xerces Society member who helps lead California’s monarch population count. “We only have less than one percent of the monarchs that we once historically had.”

Read more at https://www.kqed.org/news/11715197/california-monarch-butterfly-population-down-86-percent-in-one-year

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California court ruling ends decades of state pesticide spraying

CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

SACRAMENTO: A judge has ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture to stop using chemical pesticides in its statewide program until the agency complies with state environmental laws.

The injunction, issued late last week, is a sweeping victory for 11 public-health, conservation, citizen and food-safety groups and the city of Berkeley. The coalition sued the state after unsuccessfully attempting for years to persuade the agency to shift to a sustainable approach to pest control that protects human health and the environment.

Despite thousands of comment letters urging the department to take a safer approach, officials in 2014 approved a program that gave them broad license to spray 79 pesticides, some known to cause cancer and birth defects, anywhere in the state, including schools, organic farms, public parks and residential yards.
Spraying was allowed indefinitely and required no analysis of the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals at the specific application sites and no public notice or scrutiny of treatment decisions. Many of the pesticides are also highly toxic to bees, butterflies, fish and birds.

This injunction follows a Jan. 8 ruling by Judge Timothy M. Frawley voiding approval of the agency’s statewide program for numerous violations of state environmental laws, including relying on “unsupported assumptions and speculation” to conclude that pesticides would not contaminate water bodies. The ruling also cited the state’s “woefully deficient” analysis of the cumulative danger of increasing the more than 150 million pounds of pesticides already being used in California each year.

Read more at https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2018/california-pesticides-02-26-2018.php

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Who grows your pot? Petaluma startup seeks cannabis labels

Hannah Beausang, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

It’s been more than two decades since Michael Straus helped his family forever change the landscape of local agriculture with the concept of organic dairy products. Now, he’s hoping to play the same role in Sonoma County’s burgeoning cannabis sector.

The Straus Family Creamery, a Petaluma icon founded in 1994, became the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi and the first 100 percent organic creamery in the U.S. Michael Straus handled marketing, preaching the gospel of organics in a time when that concept was largely foreign to most consumers.

About two years ago, the epiphany for his newest venture, Hugo Straus, came to him as he was smoking a joint on the family farm in Marshall. As he inhaled the pungent smoke, he realized he didn’t know a whole lot about the cannabis carefully arranged in the rolling paper.

“My career was knowing about sustainable agriculture and local food and organic, small-scale farms and all that stuff. I knew where all my food came from,” said Straus, 50, who also founded Straus Communications, a public relations agency focused on organics and sustainability. “One day I’m smoking a joint and I look at myself like … Oh my god, I have no idea who grew this pot.”

His research into cannabis exposed what he described as a gap in the industry — some products were grown with pesticides, and “no one seemed to be paying attention,” he said. This year, California introduced more stringent testing regulations, and additional hurdles are set to kick in this July. But, some studies, including a 2016 study by Berkeley-based cannabis testing and analytics business Steep Hill, have shown that contamination has been found in cannabis products.

For Straus, it’s an issue for both the consumer and the environment.
Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8019515-181/who-grows-your-pot-petaluma

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Garden Docs: Insecticides that are bad news for bees and butterflies

Joan T. of Santa Rosa asks: I was at a nursery the other day, and I had a rose fertilizer/systemic product in my cart. As I was walking through the nursery, a woman approached and asked me if I knew anything about the product, such as what it affects bees and other beneficial insects. I was puzzled and said I did not. After she told me about the concerns with this product, I was surprised, and put it back.

Can you please tell us what certain insecticides do to our bees and beneficial insects and what we should avoid buying?

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that have been, and are being used by gardeners, farmers and professional landscapers. They are supposed to protect plants from sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects. Neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant, and are spread throughout all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen.

Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by them and have been identified as a factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators. They also are slow to break down in the environment. A large and growing body of independent science links neonicotinoids to catastrophic bee declines.

What is extremely alarming is that these products are readily available at garden centers and nurseries and sold to the home gardener, although the state of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has imposed a freeze on any new applications for products containing neonicotinoids while the issue is under study. The moratorium comes just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration, began considering dramatically expanding use of the highly toxic neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on more than 165 million acres of farmland in the United States.

Before purchasing plants, ask your local nursery or garden center if they have been treated with neonicotinoids. You can also check the label for information about how the plant has been treated.

Read more for a list of products containing Neonicotinoids that you might see at nurseries and garden centers: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/7932506-181/garden-docs-insecticides-that-are