Agricultural Herbicides and Pesticides

Various discussions related to Chemical Pesticides, Herbicides, Etc.

Agricultural Herbicides and Pesticides

Postby adminjt » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:00 pm

Warning Industry Propaganda Below

July 30, 2010

The Ottawa Citizen

Editorial ~ This food is just fine

Doomsayers relax: we can, in fact, feed the population of nine billion the world is expected to have by 2050. But to do this, we'll have to abandon our irrational prejudice against genetically modified food.

So says the top science minds who publish Nature, one of the most respected research journals in the world. This is good news. The journal's analysis of the world's ability to grow food concludes we're not as short of farmland as pessimists had feared. But we do let the fear of new things get in the way, a handicap made worse by our general ignorance about the foods we eat.

Genetically modified foods are widely unpopular. Canada won't let farmers grow GM wheat not because there's anything wrong with it but because it is hard to sell. Yet in reality, conventional farming, not gene-tweaking, is what's harmed the world's farms and food supply.

Digging wells has been disastrous in India, where well-intentioned workers have brought up water laced with arsenic. In North Africa, modern water drilling and pumping has allowed farmers to access deep aquifers. This may create more productive farmland but it also drains the region of valuable reservoirs of water.

People worry about engineered genes escaping into wild plants to create "superweeds." But the real damage is done by more natural means. Invasive pests from the zebra mussel to the emerald ash borer do more environmental harm than genetically modified soybeans.

Technophobes who would rather starve than consume GM foods don't realize that traditional agriculture practices modify genes all the time: Every time a breeder crosses two strains of corn or apples, the new variety is a genetic novelty of unknown characteristics. But it's not subject to special regulatory oversight.

The big agri-food companies bear some of the responsibility. When they introduced genetically modified foods, they didn't bring new varieties with any obvious benefit to consumers. Instead they produced Roundup Ready, named after the herbicide Roundup that is used with it. This clumsy approach gave the whole field of genetic research, and companies like Monsanto, a bad name.

Yet food science ought to be encouraged, and celebrated. It makes no sense to oppose the creation of crops that are more resistant to disease and to weather extremes, and also more nutritious.

Consider golden rice. In poor parts of Asia, many children grow up deficient in vitamin A because their families can't afford to buy the meat that carries it. This deficiency is believed to cause some 6,000 deaths every day and hundreds of thousands of cases of blindness a year. Golden rice, developed in 1999, contains more vitamin A than ordinary rice. Yet 11 years after its development, rice with vitamin A is still awaiting approval because people would rather invent dangers of so-called "frankenfoods" rather than act to prevent real deaths. This delay cannot be justified.

Nature points out correctly that the world's food security concerns are too serious for regulators to spend years and years stalling. Improved bananas, cassava and other staples are waiting for approval.

Anti-GM ideologues will claim these foods aren't "natural," but let's remember that mother nature's way of dealing with populations that outgrow their food supply is to let them starve.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen ... z0vX3zfdLa


July 29, 2010

Guelph Mercury

EditorialOpinion - Reports on pesticide residues may be misleading

by Lilian Schaer

We’re in the middle of prime fruit and vegetable season. The heat and sun of the summer bring with them roadside stands, farmers markets and local food stores brimming with fresh, Ontario-grown produce. I, for one, as someone who supports local food production and values Ontario’s farmers, am in my element as I’m revelling in the seasonal bounty of our fields.

But this season also annually gives new life to the ongoing debate about whether or not we should be using crop protection materials in our food production. Earlier this summer, a U.S. activist group released its yearly list of fruits and vegetables they say consumers should avoid because they contain the highest levels of pesticide residues.

The list, which included consumer favourites like peaches, strawberries, blueberries, apples and cherries, garnered considerable negative media attention and counselled consumers that the only safe alternative was to buy organic. The underlying message was that fruits and vegetables produced by conventional methods, which include the use of crop protection, are not safe — a message, in my opinion, that is pretty misleading and certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

Now, I’m not anti-organic by any means. Part of the beauty of our country is that we have choice — choice as farmers to grow what we want and choice as consumers in what we’re able to buy. But I’m also pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the plethora of delicious, nutritious and, yes, affordable produce if farmers, both conventional and organic, weren’t able to use a variety of methods to protect their crops against pests and diseases.

What’s important is that we need to keep everything in perspective, including how we assess and portray risk. And that can be difficult in our current environment. The media love a sensational headline that can evoke a reaction from its audience — and our fast-paced 24-hour news cycle can make it impossible to take the time to properly investigate or analyze what research findings and scientific test results actually mean.

Residue testing is one such example. Twenty years ago, we tested things like water and food for trace residues of contaminants and measured those traces in parts per million. Today, our testing equipment has become so sophisticated that we’re measuring in parts per billion and even parts per trillion. This means we’re pretty much guaranteed to find something — but that’s when we need to step back and evaluate what that finding actually means.

A recently released review of the above-mentioned list by a U.S. panel of experts concluded that, yes, residue levels were found on those fruits and vegetables. But those residue levels were below the accepted, legal minimums set by government. The fact that we’re finding them at all is due to our ability to detect ever-smaller product traces and not because the levels are unacceptably high. The experts also concluded that there’s little evidence to suggest that there’s a significant difference in the nutritional quality of organic foods over those grown using conventional methods.

Here at home, farmers in Ontario alone have reduced their use of crop protection products by over 50 per cent in the last two decades. And consumers across the country are generally confident in our homegrown food supply and think farmers are doing a pretty good job at growing our food responsibly. In fact, a Canadian national study on consumer attitudes toward farming and food production conducted by Ipsos Reid last year showed that nine in 10 Canadians feel their food is safe.

When it comes to your Ontario fruits and vegetables, talk to the farmers and vendors at the market or at the roadside stand and ask them how they grow their produce. They’re your most direct connection to your food and can tell you firsthand what they do on their farms and why. To me, someone who works with crops every day and eats the foods that they grow has much more credibility than a one-sided list that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Lilian Schaer is a Guelph-based agricultural freelance journalist, writer and editor. She writes about the farming side of food at

© Copyright 2007 Metroland Media Group Ltd. All rights reserved.



Attention News Editors:

McGuinty government ignores science, new regs likely to do more harm than good

OTTAWA, March 4, 2009 /CNW/ - Agricultural and landscaping groups, along with Canada's plant science industry, are disappointed with the Ontario government's regulations banning the sale and use of pesticides for lawns and gardens. They say the government has failed to develop a solid, scientific foundation for the new regulations and warn the decision will have negative impacts.

"Ontario farmers are disappointed that these regulations are not science-based," said Bette Jean Crews, president of Ontario Federation of Agriculture. "The government is discouraging innovation with these regulations and that jeopardizes the ability of farmers to continue to produce a safe and affordable supply of healthy foods. Without access to the newest pest control innovations, Ontario farmers will soon find they are at a competitive disadvantage."

"These regulations send a negative - and inaccurate - message to the public about the adequacy of the federal regulatory system and at the same time increases the risk of Ontario farms being exposed to pest infestations from non-agricultural land," said Paul Wettlaufer, a farmer and vice-chair of Agricultural Groups Concerned about Resources and the Environment (AGCare).

"These regulations will have a negative impact on Ontario's 20,000 lawn care professionals and Ontarians are soon going to notice the lack of effective options available to control fungus on their roses, insects such as
grubs in their lawns, or weeds taking over their patios and turf," said Tony DiGiovanni, executive director of Landscape Ontario.

"The Ontario government has created an environment of uncertainty that makes it unlikely Canada will be seen as a place to invest as newer and more effective pest control products are made available in other countries," said
Lorne Hepworth, president of CropLife Canada. "The consequences of these irrational decisions won't be felt immediately, but one day Ontarians will realize that the products this government is banning provided safe and effective ways of dealing with pest problems that are detrimental to human health and safety, and which cause landscape and structural losses that have real and significant financial costs."

In Canada, all pesticides, whether they are intended for agricultural, lawn and garden, golf, forestry, or structural pest control, must meet high standards set by Health Canada before they are approved for sale and use.
Under this rigorous regulatory system, Canadians have access to pesticides that can be safely used and which are proven to be effective at dealing with pests that can create a myriad of problems.

These four associations represent more than 40,000 Ontario farm families, 20,000 lawn care professionals and nursery operations in Ontario, and the manufacturers, developers and distributors of Canada's $1.4 billion pest
control products industry.

For further information: Neil Currie, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, (519) 821-8883; Nadine Sisk, CropLife Canada, (613) 230-9881 Ext 3224; Lilian Schaer, AGCare, (519) 837-1326; Gavin Dawson, Landscape Ontario, (905)
290-1844 ... c5822.html


Feb 10, 2009

Guelph Mercury

Legislation will disadvantage farmers

Dear Editor - Re: "Pesticide ban will be a boon to the economy" (letter to the editor, Feb. 5).

The claim by Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, about the effectiveness of non-toxic pest control just doesn't make sense.

Ultimately, if a pest control product "whether organic/naturally occurring or synthetic " is to do the job it is intended to do, it has to be toxic to the pest it is meant to control. It can't be effective if it is not toxic and organic or naturally occurring compounds can be just as toxic if not more so than man-made ones.

Far from being a boon to the economy, the unbalanced regulatory environment that this legislation creates will certainly make it harder for farmers to be competitive with those in other countries. This could negatively impact the price and availability of our food -- something that would affect each and every one of us.

That's really a good way to ensure our food is produced in our own country by our own farmers.

-- Lilian Schaer, interim executive director, Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment, Guelph

Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment

Site Admin
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Pesticides Detected In 7 Out Of 10 Fruits & Vegetables pesti

Postby adminjt » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:03 pm

Pesticides Detected In 7 Out Of 10 Fruits & Vegetables pesticide-detected

NEWS FROM THE WEB: ... egetables/

USDA’s most recent report of produce testing reveals widespread pesticide contamination on popular fruits and vegetables (USDA 2008):

* USDA found one or more pesticides on 70.3% of samples tested.
* The agency found a mixture of between 5 and 13 different pesticide residues tainting one of every 10 samples (10.4%) of fruit or vegetable analyzed.

In contrast, chemical farming interests have claimed that 98% of fresh fruits and vegetables tested have no detectable residues. They cite the same USDA testing initiative, the Pesticide Data Program (Blythe 2010). We wish their claim were true. In fact, the USDA reports that pesticide contamination is 35 times more frequent than the industry asserts.

The industry’s mistake stems from their lumping together all individual USDA analyses without taking into account the agency’s study design. USDA tests each fruit and vegetable sample for up to hundreds of chemicals, but most of these compounds are not approved for use on the particular crop being tested, and therefore most are not found. So while 98 percent of tests for individual chemicals are returned from the laboratory as “non-detects,” most of the actual fruit and vegetable samples are found to be contaminated: USDA detected one or more pesticides in 7 of every 10 samples analyzed in 2008, the most recent data reported by the agency.

All told, EWG analyses show that since 2001 the USDA has detected 215 different pesticides in fresh fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S., including 35 pesticides that each pollute at least 15 types of produce, like apples, grapes, strawberries, sweet corn and other favorites of children.

The bottom line: Outside of the growing organic food industry – and notwithstanding the chemical farming industry’s mistaken claims to the contrary – if you eat in America, you eat pesticides.

Pesticides that contaminate foods pollute Americans’ bodies as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected pesticides in blood and urine samples from 95.6 percent of more than 5,000 Americans tested in the agency’s national biomonitoring program (CDC 2009).

In their nationally representative study of Americans age 6 and older, CDC reported levels of 21 chemical biomarkers corresponding to 28 pesticides that can contaminate fresh fruits and vegetables (at an upper allowable limit called the “tolerance”), according to an EWG analysis of CDC data and EPA tolerance limits. More than sixty percent of Americans tested carried in their bodies seven or more of these pesticides and pesticide metabolites on the single day they provided samples to CDC.


* CDC has tested Americans for 4 pesticides and 17 pesticides metabolites (denoted with *), all corresponding to pesticides with tolerances in produce): diethyldithiophosphate*, diethylphosphate*, diethylthiophosphate*, dimethyldithiophosphate*, dimethylphosphate*, dimethylthiophosphate*, 2,4-D, acetochlor mercapturate*, atrazine mercapturate*, carbaryl, metolachlor mercapturate*, o-phenyl phenol, 3-phenoxybenzoic acid*, 4-fluoro-3-phenoxybenzoic acid*, cis-3-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylic acid*, cis-3-(2,2-dibromovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylic acid*, trans-3-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylic acid*, 3,5,6-trichloropyridinol*, 2-(diethylamino)-6-methylpyrimidin-4-ol/one*, malathion diacid*, para-nitrophenol*.
* CDC has targeted 28 pesticides with established residue tolerances on produce: 2,4-D, acetochlor, atrazine, azinphos methyl, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, chlorpyrifos methyl, cyfluthrin, cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, diazinon, dichlorvos, dicrotophos, dimethoate, fenpropathrin, malathion, methidathion, methyl parathion, metolachlor, naled, o-phenyl phenol, permethrin, phorate, pirimiphos-methyl, terbufos, tralomethrin, trichlorfon.

Americans are likely polluted with far more pesticides than current studies report: The vast majority of pesticides that taint food have never been tested in people.

Agribusiness and pesticide companies are not required to test for their chemicals in people, not even for compounds that widely contaminate the food supply. The federal government’s national biomonitoring program, run by the CDC, has likely only scratched the surface of the full burden of pesticide pollution in people. EWG analysis shows that:

* • The CDC has tested Americans for only 32 of the 215 pesticides that government tests turned up on fresh fruits and vegetables since 2001 (not all of these have established residue tolerances on produce).
* The agency has tested people for only 9 of the 35 pesticides found on the greatest number of different fruits and vegetables (at least 15 types each).
* And it has tested for none of the 8 most commonly detected pesticides on fruits and vegetables (compounds tested more than 100 times since 2001, with an overall detection rate of at least 10 percent). These include pesticides found in apples, bananas, strawberries, and other widely consumed favorites.

Very little is known about the safety of real-world pesticide exposures; limited available studies point to increased risks for neurological damage in children.

Even when government research uncovers wide-scale pesticide pollution in body tissues of Americans, follow-up studies are not required or conducted to understand the implications of the exposures.

Industrial produce operators and pesticide interests have asserted that “There are no studies that specifically link pesticide residues in the diet with health effects.” Such studies are not required. The industry has confused an absence of data with proof of safety. They are two vastly different things.

Shoppers’ increasingly common decisions to avoid pesticides or to choose organics are backed by an extensive body of evidence demonstrating that pesticides harm workers, damage the environment, and demonstrate toxicity to laboratory animals. Pesticides are designed to be biologically active; they are designed to kill living organisms. EPA is directed to set standards for pesticides in food that allow a sufficient margin of safety between human exposures and amounts known to be harmful.

But the complexity of people’s diets, the variation in pesticide residues on foods, and the difficulty sorting out effects of pesticide mixtures from additional lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors contributing to diseases like cancer, birth defects, and behavioral problems, all make it difficult to be certain of the risks of pesticides in the diet.

Best studied are a group of neurotoxic pesticides known as organophosphates (OPs). Until strict cut-backs in their use in 2000 over health concerns, these chemicals were some of the most common pesticides in agriculture, accounting for about half of all insecticides used in the U.S. in 1999 (EPA 1999). Individual OP pesticides share a common chemical structure and toxic mechanism in the body. They damage nervous system function by blocking acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme is responsible for ending nerve cells firing—when blocked nerve cells fire continuously, acute poisoning or long-term nerve damage can result. Children are believed to be at higher risk for permanent effects from OP exposures, though neurotoxins can be harmful to people of any age.

EPA estimates that 40 percent of children tested in CDC’s national biomonitoring study from 1999 to 2002 had amounts of OPs in their bodies at levels exceeding standard margins of safety, relative to levels shown to be harmful in laboratory studies (Paynes-Sturges 2009).

In May 2010 researchers at Harvard University published research showing increased risk for ADHD in American children exposed to typical levels of OPs. Scientists analyzed the CDC’s biomonitoring data on OP pesticide exposure for 1,139 children 8 to 15 years old, tested from 2000 to 2004 (Bouchard 2010). They found that every 10-fold increase in dimethyl alkylphosphate (DMAP), an OP metabolite in the body, corresponded to a 55 to 72 percent increase in the odds of ADHD diagnosis. Effects of OPs were most pronounced among children with the hyperactive/impulsive subtype rather than a primarily inattentive ADHD. Because the NHANES study is carefully designed to be a representative sample of Americans, these results are considered generalizable to all American children.

The validity of the Harvard study is bolstered by studies of children more intensely exposed to OP pesticides. Two studies link prenatal OP exposures to increased risk of pervasive developmental disorders (Bouchard 2010 citing Rauh 2006, Eskenazi 2007). Minority children residing in New York City were at greater risk of attention problems, ADHD and pervasive developmental disorder if they had been born with greater concentrations of chlorpyrifos during pregnancy, as measured by umbilical cord blood concentrations at birth (Rauh 2006). New York City was previously an area of intense chlorpyrifos use. Between 72 and 85 percent of participants were exposed to this chemical in their homes during pregnancy, with half using higher risk applications. Children primarily from farmworker families in the Salinas Valley of California performed more poorly on standardized neurobehavioral tests when they were carried residues of dialkyl phosphates (OP metabolites) in their bodies in utero or during early life (Eskenazi 2007). Post-natal exposures to OPs are associated with behavioral problems, pervasive developmental disorder, poorer short-term memory and longer reaction times in studies of children living in agricultural regions of Ecuador and the United States (Eskenazi 2007, and Bouchard 2010 citing Grandjean 2006, Ruckart 2004, Rohlman 2005).

Evidence that everyday exposure to organophosphates may cause permanent effects on children’s brain and behavior is a sobering reminder of the need to safeguard children from harmful chemicals in their diets. Children are at increased risk for high OP exposure due to greater intake of fruits and vegetables than adults (when adjusting for their small body size) and because behaviors and increased hand-to-mouth activity lead to greater ingestion of contaminated dirt and dust. Studies in an agricultural region of California have shown that infants are more at risk to OP toxicity than older children and adults, because their detoxification systems for OPs are less developed. Furthermore, people with lower activity of a detoxifying enzyme known as PON1 are more susceptible to OP toxicity, with the most sensitive newborn 65 to 130 times more affected than the least sensitive adult (Furlong 2006, Holland 2006).

A 1993 report by the National Academy of Sciences evaluated children’s exposures to pesticides on foods and concluded that “infants and children differ both qualitatively and quantitatively from adults in their exposure to pesticide residues in foods” and that some children exceeded safe levels of pesticides in their diets (NAS 1993). Furthermore NAS clarifies that in addition to exposures from multiple foods, safety levels for pesticides account for drinking water contamination and household pesticides. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 mandated that EPA systematically review pesticide exposures and restrict the most harmful uses. Subsequent studies provide strong evidence that these policies, and shopper’s efforts to avoid contaminated produce are well justified.

Over the past 15 years EPA eliminated some major uses of OPs that accounted for the highest exposures in children, including home insecticides and some food uses, but children continue to be exposed to OPs that contaminate common foods.

Recently, researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia released findings on body burden levels of OPs in children, and reported that “this study demonstrate that dietary intake of OP pesticides represents the major source of exposure in young children” (Lu 2008).

Industry groups making claims of safety should be asked if they have tested to learn how much of their chemicals end up in people, including in cord blood, where pollution attests to in utero exposures during especially vulnerable times. They should also be asked what if any research they or others have conducted to discern potential health problems in children and other vulnerable populations exposed to higher but still “normal” amounts of their products.

Imported fruits and vegetables can be laced with chemicals not approved for use on U.S. food and not tested by FDA inspectors

Dr. Ryan Galt of UC Davis interviewed 148 vegetable farmers in Costa Rica to learn which pesticides they used on squash and chayote (another type of squash) grown for export to the United States. He found that 12 of 15 pesticides used on squash, and 5 of 47 on chayote, are not registered for use on foods in the U.S. His analysis showed that 71% of the chemicals used on squash and 61% used on chayote are not included in FDA inspection tests and would not, therefore, be found in agency tests of imports (Galt 2009).

Some of the pesticides FDA does not target, like n-methyl carbamates, are highly toxic and have caused consumer poisonings or previous residue violations for this crop. This example is especially sobering given that Costa Rican imports are the most more heavily tested of any exporting nation, and the country has a better than average compliance rate among importing nations, signaling the potential for more serious problems for produce imported from other nations.

Among the problems uncovered by Galt: U.S. agencies make little effort to determine which pesticides are being used abroad, and do not adequately disseminate U.S. pesticide guidelines to foreign operators. Also, Costa Rican farmers have little access to information about U.S. pesticide standards, and the data is made available only in English, not Spanish. Furthermore, USDA does not monitor for residues of several toxic classes of pesticides because of analytical challenges, including dithiocarbamates, azoles and benzimidazoles (Galt 2009). Finally, price volatility contributes to a pressure on farmers to keep production prices as low as possible, which shifts pesticide applications to broad-scale, and often more environmentally persistent pesticides (Galt 2009).

All this means that a produce eater could be swallowing a mouthful of food tainted with pesticides not approved for use or present at levels above the legal limit, undetectable to the human eye, nose, or tastebuds – as well as to federal health inspectors.

Despite the safety problems missed in federal food safety inspections, a significant number of produce tests trigger violations

Between 1996 and 2006, 1.6% of domestic crops violated pesticide safety standards in FDA inspections, while imported crops earned violations at 2.25 times that rate (FDA 2008). FDA inspectors target suspected problems, but still inspect just a small fraction of produce on the market, and test for just a fraction of pesticides that could contaminate it. Many violating products likely make it to the produce aisle and the kitchen.

Some of the most toxic food pesticides have come off the market in the past 15 years. But some pesticides considered safe now will invariably be restricted in future years.

The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act requires EPA to review the safety of each particular use of each agricultural pesticide at least once every 15 years. As of November 2009 EPA has reviewed 214 pesticide chemicals and 22,122 individual pesticide-crop combinations. These reviews have led to 3,885 products re-registered, 1,139 amended registrations, 6,224 cancellations, and 14 suspensions (EPA OIG 2010). The Agency’s goal is to complete 1,000 reregistration actions each year and to complete a review of all current pesticide registrations by 2014.

EPA’s actions under FQPA have been credited for major reductions in pesticide risks, particularly those targeting foods most commonly eaten by children. EPA’s Office of Inspector General estimates that specific actions on methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos and diazinon reduced the total pesticide dietary risk by 98 percent for “high-risk” domestic crops (EPA OIG 2006), particularly those eaten often by young children.

But every year EPA’s new assessments lead to restrictions in other uses of pesticides that the agency’s reviews of the latest science find can lead to unsafe exposures. Chemical agribusiness interests might assert that pesticides in food are perfectly safe, but the reality is that many pesticide uses that are on the books as safe today will be found unsafe by EPA in the future, based on new science, new understandings about the mechanisms by which pesticides can harm the human body, or strengthened policies for health protection within the agency itself.

Some major public health successes achieved by EPA since 1996 include the following restrictions and bans of pesticide uses previously deemed safe:

* EPA and manufacturers agreed to cancel some uses of methyl parathion—a compound considered to be the most toxic OP—after a risk assessment revealed that current registrations were not safe for any population. EPA cancelled about 10% of uses to reduce dietary risks, including an estimated 90 percent reduction in dietary risks to children (dropping exposures to an estimated 75% of the target maximum) (EPA 2006).
* EPA also phased out most non-agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and put in place restrictions on its use for tomatoes and apples (for application post-bloom). The agency took action despite objection from Dow Argosciences Mexico, Del Monte Fresh Produce Company and other manufacturers that agricultural restrictions would be economically burdensome due to chlorpyrifos’ low cost (EPA 2008).
* EPA cancelled diazinon use on about 20 different crops, primarily vegetables (EPA 2007).

These were all significant safety improvements that helped reduce dietary exposures to pesticides that EPA found put children or Americans at large at risk. But such progress isn’t always the case. For example, EPA found the neurotoxic pesticide called carbofuran too toxic to be used safety in agriculture, but the agency’s June 2005 proposed restrictions met with strong objections from the pesticide manufacturer FMC and other industrial interests, spurring a 4.5-year delay. EPA finalized their proposed restrictions in December 2009. But now FMC and others have filed suit in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting that the court stay the agency’s decision in an expedited review (EPA 2009b).

In recent years Americans have eaten at least 8 kinds of fruits and vegetables contaminated with carbofuran, including asparagus, cantaloupe, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, sweet bell peppers, summer squash, and watermelon, according to USDA tests conducted from 2001 through 2008.

The new, “safer” generations of pesticides may not be so safe.

Many toxic organophosphate and carbamate pesticides now illegal for use on some fruits and vegetables have been replaced by chemicals called pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, both of which claim emerging safety concerns.

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides similar to nicotine. They are the fastest growing class of insecticides, more environmentally persistent than other common insecticides but used in lower amounts. Early studies provided evidence that humans may be partially protected from neonicotinoid toxicity because of the poor permeability of the blood-brain barrier to these compounds (Vale 2009).

Recently France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have restricted neonicotinoid uses for seed treatment because in miniscule quantities the compounds are toxic to honey bees, and are implicated in global die-off of these vital plant pollinators (EPA 2010). Neonicotinoids are persistent on crops and accumulate in pollen and nectar of treated plants. EPA plans to thoroughly evaluate this class of chemicals during FY 2012 (EPA 2010).

In the meantime, EPA has approved 6 neonicotinoids for food uses: imidacloprid, acetamiprid, thiacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran.

The EU and Japan have also set food tolerances, and high throughput methods are still being developed to allow regulators to easily screen for residues in food. Uses on crops, insects and pet treatments are all potential sources of neonicotinoid exposure for people. USDA produce testing shows that neonicotinyls now widely contaminate produce, including the pesticide imidacloprid in 23 kinds of fruits and vegetables, like apples, peaches, broccoli and blueberries.

Studies raise concerns that neonicotinoid exposures during gestation and early life may permanently alter nervous system functioning. Rats tested with a single large dose of imidacloprid on during pregnancy exhibited changes to nervous system activity and sensorimotor impairment at post-natal day 30 (corresponding to early adolescence in a human). The treated animals had increased nervous system enzyme activity in the brain and blood plasma. The authors concluded that treated animals had significant neurobehavioral deficits that may have long-term adverse health effects (Abou-Donia 2008).

Based on concerns with the chemicals’ toxicity to honey bees, the human brain, and other biological systems, EPA’s upcoming, 2012 review of these compounds may well result in actions to reduce agricultural uses and dietary exposures for this toxic class of pesticides currently on the books as “safe.”

Health agencies are working to reduce pesticide use, but progress is slow.

Some states are working to reduce pesticide use while the federal government systematically chips away at the highest risk uses, tightening food safety standards over time.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation routinely advertises its successes, noting in 2008, for instance, that the “Use of most pesticide categories decreased from 2007 to 2008… [and] chemicals classified as reproductive toxins decreased in pounds applied from 2007 to 2008 (down 1.7 million pounds or 10 percent) and decreased in acres treated” (CA DPR 2008).

Health agencies have been concerned about pesticide toxicity and have monitored residues in food since at least the early 1900s. The issue was first raised in the United States when a city health inspector in Boston analyzed fruit stand pears and determined that the white substance coating the fruit was arsenic (CA DPR 2001). In the 1920s reported illnesses and even seizures from contaminated fruit raised widespread public concerns about arsenic residues on produce.

In Britain there were similar poisoning episodes, including one in 1900 in which 70 people died and 6,000 were sickened. In 1925 Britain warned consumers of arsenic on foreign produce imports, which had a major effect on California fruit exports. California passed the Chemical Spray Residue Act in 1926 and the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry set federal tolerances in 1927. California and the Federal government have both been monitoring pesticide levels on produce since that time.

There should be neither misunderstanding nor ill feeling if shippers everywhere met spray residue regulations, and it cannot be too strongly stated that it is economically entirely practicable to meet them. – 1938 Department annual report (CA DRP 2001).

Chemical farming interests have gutted some of the strongest, pro-health measures in the nation’s 1996 food safety law.

The safety net cast by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) is one of the strongest of all U.S. public health laws. It requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set health-based standards for pesticides in food based on consideration of all sources of exposure (water, indoor air, and food, for example), cumulative risks from pesticides that harm the body additively or synergistically, and protection of infants, children and others most vulnerable to health problems from industrial chemical exposures.

But agribusiness and pesticide companies have worked to weaken key protections in the law (Hornstein 2007). The American Crop Protection Association launched a lobbying campaign to overturn EPA’s decision to apply an additional 10-fold safety factor to food standards in order to better protect children, as required under FQPA. They succeeded, and EPA now rarely applies this protection for children, using vague discretionary authority included in FQPA as justification.

When EPA’s Office of Research and Development “strongly recommended” that the agency require pesticide companies to conduct a powerful, sensitive Developmental Neurotoxicity Study (DNS), industry lobbied against the proposal and, again, won, with claims that the tests were difficult and expensive. The cost to children’s health from that decision may never be fully known.

Chances are, you should be eating more fruits and vegetables than you currently are.

According to USDA data on how much produce people eat, fruit and vegetable consumption has remained fairly constant in recent years (ERS 2010). For instance, Americans ate an average of 100.42 pounds of fresh fruit each in 1997, and 100.21 pounds in 2007, the latest year of record. The high and low ranged from 107.43 to 97.40 pounds of fruit per capita, in 1999 and 2001, respectively, and has remained relatively constant overall since 1997.

This flat trend worries nutritionists, who recommend that adults and children consume at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables daily (CDC 2009). CDC reports that this advice is ignored: Less than one third of adults meet the current guidelines. Even more concerning, among high school students surveyed, only about 1 in 3 ate the recommended number of fruits, and less than 1 in 5 ate the recommended vegetable amounts (CDC 2009).

The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Overall, eating conventionally grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. But EWG’s Shopper’s Guide can help reduce exposures to pesticides as much as possible for people wisely seeking to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Shopper’s Guide works: You can lower your pesticide exposures by choosing organic or the Clean 15 over the Dirty Dozen.

The 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables (the “Dirty Dozen”) are contaminated with an average of 10 different pesticides, with many tainting more than one type of produce. In contrast, the “Clean 15,” the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables contain an average of less than 2.

Eating organic food lowers pesticide body burdens as well. Concentrations of OP pesticides, including chlorpyrifos and malathion, in elementary school-age children’s bodies peaked during seasons that they ate the most produce. Conversely, exposures fell to non-detectable levels in just 5 days, when they switched from a conventional diet to eating exclusively organic foods (Lu 2006, 2008).

Data in the Shopper’s Guide replaces worry for produce buyers.

According to survey results from the Food Marketing Institute, concern over bacterial contamination is the top reason people give for stopping their purchases of certain food items (Sloan 2010). Worries over pesticide contamination fall below product tampering and bovine spongiform encephalopathy as motivators for not buying food.

These and other safety issues surface every year from a food industry that is increasingly global, factory-scale, genetically modified, chemical-dependent, and overseen by federal agencies perpetually strained for resources. Shoppers who know the data behind the worries can make the best choices – for this reason, EWG provides the Shoppers Guide to Produce, a simple list of the fruits and vegetables that, when grown conventionally, tend to be highest or lowest in pesticide contamination, according to EWG’s assessment of 6.7 million tests of the 49 most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables in the American diet.

* Abou-Donia MB, Goldstein LB, Bullman S. 2008. Imidacloprid Induces Neurobehavioral Deficits and Increases Expression of Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein in the Motor Cortex and Hippocampus in Offspring Rats Following in Utero Exposure. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A. 71(2):119-130
* Blythe Bruce. 2010. United Fresh: Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list bends facts. The Packer. 06/07/2010. Accessed July 14 2010 at–Group-s–Dirty-Dozen–list-bends-facts/Article.aspx?oid=1105263&fid=PACKER-TOP-STORIES&aid=1662
* Bouchard M, Bellinger D, Wright R, Weisskopf M. 2010. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. Pediatrics 125: 1270-77.
* CA DPR (California Department of Pesticide Regulation). 2008. Summary of pesticide use report data. Accessed July 10 2010 at
* CA DPR (California Department of Pesticide Regulation). 2001. Regulating Pesticides: The California Story, a Guide to Pesticide Regulation in California. California Department of Pesticide Regulation, October 2001
* CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 2009. Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. Department of Health and Human Services
* CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 2009. State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009. Accessed 7/14/10 at: ... port.html#
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2010a. Colony Collapse Disorder: European Bans on Neonicotinoid Pesticides. ... n-ban.html Last updated: July 13, 2010.
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2010b. Pesticide Registration Review: Program Highlights. Environmental Protection Agency. June 2010. ... lights.htm
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2009. Carbofuran Registration Review Status. Environmental Protection Agency. Case 0101. December 2009. Washington, DC. ... status.pdf
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2008. Federal Register. 2,4-D, Bensulide, Chlorpyrifos, DCPA, Desmedipham, Dimethoate, Fenamiphos, Metolachlor, Phorate, Sethoxydim, Terbufos, Tetrachlorvinphos, and Triallate; Tolerance Actions. September 17, 2008. 40 CFR Part 180. Vol 73, No. 181: 53732-53742.
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2007. Cancellation of Certain Agricultural Uses of Diazinon. . Environmental Protection Agency. January 2007. Washington, DC. ... ion_fs.htm
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2006. Interim Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Methyl Parathion. Case No. 0153. July 2006. ... on_red.pdf
* EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).1999. Organophosphate Pesticides in Food—A Primer on Reassessment of Residue Limits. Environmental Protection Agency. May 1999. ... icides.htm
* EPA OIG (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General). 2006. Opportunities to Improve Data Quality and Children’s Health through the Food Quality Protection Act. EPA Office of Inspector General. 2006-P-00009. January 10, 2006. Washington DC.
* EPA OIG (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General). 2010. Audit Report: Fiscal Year 2009 and 2008 Financial Statements for the Pesticides Reregistration and Expedited Processing Fund. Report No 10-1-0087. EPA Office of Inspector General. March 30, 2010. Washington DC. ... 1-0087.pdf
* EPA OIG (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General). 2006. Opportunities to Improve Data Quality and Children’s Health through the Food Quality Protection Act. EPA Office of Inspector General. 2006-P-00009. January 10, 2006. Washington DC.
* ERS (Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). 2010. Fruit and Tree Nut Yearbook Spreadsheet Files (89022). Accessed July 10 2010 at ... entID=1377.
* Eskenazi B, Marks AR, Bradman A, et al. 2007. Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment in young Mexican-American children. Environ Health Perspect.115(5):792–798.
* FDA (Food and Drug Administration). 2008. Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Results and Discussion FY 2006. Food and Drug Administration. June 1, 2008. ... esticides/ ResidueMonitoringReports/ucm125187.htm#reg06 Last updated 6/18/2009.
* Furlong CE, Holland N, Richter RJ, Bradman A, Ho A, Eskenazi B. 2006. PON1 status of farmworker mothers and children as a predictor of organophosphate sensitivity. Pharmacogenetics and genomics 16(3): 183.
* Galt RE. 2009. Overlap of US FDA residue tests and pesticides used on imported vegetables: Empirical findings and policy recommendations. Food Policy 34(5): 468-76.
* GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office). 1993. Pesticides: Limited Testing Finds Few Exported Unregistered Pesticide Violations on Imported Foods. Government Accountability Office. GAO/RCED-94-1, Washington DC. October 1993.
* Grandjean P, Harari R, Barr DB, Debes F. 2006. Pesticide exposure and stunting as independent predictors of neurobehavioral deficits in Ecuadorian school children. Pediatrics. 117(3). Available at:
* Holland N, Furlong C, Bastaki M, Richter R, Bradman A, Huen K, et al. 2006. Paraoxonase Polymorphisms, Haplotypes, and Enzyme Activity in Latino Mothers and Newborns. Environ Health Perspect 114(7).
* Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. 2006. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect 114(2): 260-3.
* Lu C, Barr DB, Pearson MA, Waller LA. 2008. Dietary intake and its contribution to longitudinal organophosphorus pesticide exposure in urban/suburban children. Environ Health Perspect 116(4): 537-42.
* NAS. 1993. Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. National Academy of Sciences, Commission of Life Science. Washington, DC.
* Payne-Sturges D, Cohen J, Castorina R, Axelrad DA, Woodruff TJ. 2009. Evaluating cumulative organophosphorus pesticide body burden of children: a national case study. Environ Sci Technol 43(20): 7924-30.
* Rauh VA, Garfinkel R, Perera FP, et al. 2006. Impact of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure on neurodevelopment in the first 3 years of life among inner-city children. Pediatrics. 118(6). Available at:
* Rohlman DS, Arcury TA, Quandt SA, et al. 2005. Neurobehavioral performance in preschool children from agricultural and nonagricultural communities in Oregon and North Carolina. Neurotoxicology. 26(4):589 –598.
* Ruckart PZ, Kakolewski K, Bove FJ, Kaye WE. 2004. Long-term neurobehavioral health effects of methyl parathion exposure in children in Mississippi and Ohio. Environ Health Perspect. 112(1):46 –51.
* Sloan E. 2010. Consumers are confused, concerned about food safety. Food Technology. March 2010.
* USDA. 2008. Pesticide Data Program: Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2008. United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Service. December 2009. ... RDC5081750
* Vale, JA. 2008. Poisoning Due to Neonicotinoid Insecticides. Clinical Toxicology. 46(5): 404.
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Re: Hintonburg talks ‘toxic agriculture’

Postby adminjt » Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:31 pm

Nov 25, 2010

Hintonburg talks ‘toxic agriculture’

by Kristy Wallace/ Ottawa This Week

The Hintonburg community recently got together to talk about what’s in their food.

Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and oil are all part of what Ken Billings calls “toxic agriculture.”

While agriculture is something some people might not think of in an urban area, Billings said giving this talk in a place like Hintonburg was important.

“Food touches everyone’s palates,” he said. “And harm touches everyone’s palates.”

Billings and the ACT (A Community Talks) group in Ottawa were recently in Hintonburg giving a talk on the importance of permaculture – a design system of using plants and trees that are permanently in a forest-like setting that mimic nature’s patterns. Permaculture is a more sustainable way to raise food and according to Billings, is less work.

“Permaculture is working with nature and uses much less in terms of oil, machinery, insecticides and herbicides,” he said. “It also conserves water to an extreme amount.”

The idea of permaculture would replace “toxic agriculture” – which Billings defines as the more traditional way our food is raised using harmful chemicals and depleting forests every year.

“It’s detrimental to the soil and planet at an alarming rate. Forests the size of Connecticut are disappearing every year,” said Billings. “The only way to turn things around is to do it more sustainability and abundantly.”

Billings said the event had a good turn out and the public seemed to feel very strongly about the issue.

He added the crowd debated over what the right answer is to help conserve resources on the planet while creating enough food for everyone.

Some questioned if permaculture is a solution to the problem, but all agreed that something has to be done to help make food without destroying the environment.

“We can’t solve the problem in one night,” Billings said.

ACT has been putting on talks like this and on social issues for about five years, with their first talks focusing on sustainability.

He said the group is trying to get people in Ottawa interested in these sorts of topics and he’s starting to see people in the city getting interested.

In fact, he said some people in the audience had their own “community within the community” of permaculture awareness.
“There were people in the crowd who took courses on this,” he said. “These people are starting to plant their seeds, so to speak.”

TOXIC AGRICULTURE VS. PERMACULTURE. Ken Billings of ACT (A Community Talks) Ottawa was recently at the Hintonburg Community Centre giving a talk on Abundant Permaculture vs. Toxic Agriculture. Photo by Kristy Wallace ... griculture
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Flawed Study Attacks Organic Farming Based on False Assumpti

Postby adminjt » Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:54 am

Flawed Study Attacks Organic Farming Based on False Assumptions

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2010) Based on a flawed assessment, the authors of recent study out of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada have been attacking organic agriculture as less environmentally friendly than chemical-intensive conventional methods. In their press release, the authors say, “Consumers shouldn’t assume that because a product is organic it’s also environmentally friendly.” However after analyzing the study, Beyond Pesticides determined that this message is flawed and misleads consumers because the study does not actually evaluate an organic system. Instead the study substitutes natural pesticides that are approved in organic systems for synthetic pesticides in a conventional soybean field. The authors warned policy makers against promoting organic agriculture, based on the false assumptions of their study.

“If the goal of their study was to educate consumers as their message to the media suggests, then the authors of this study have shown a surprising lack of knowledge about organic agriculture,” said Beyond Pesticides project director John Kepner. “Organic agriculture is based on pest prevention and soil health. Organic farmers use techniques such as crop rotation and the creation of habitat for beneficial species, with organic-approved natural pesticides only as a last resort. Substituting these chemicals into a conventional system, does not tell us anything about organic agriculture.”

The study, “Choosing Organic Pesticides over Synthetic Pesticides May Not Effectively Mitigate Environmental Risk in Soybeans,” published online June 22, 2010 in the journal PloS One, tested six pesticides and compared their environmental impact and effectiveness in killing soybean aphids in conventional soybean fields. The scientists examined four synthetic pesticides: two conventional products commonly used by soybean farmers (cyhalothrin and dimethoate) and two new “reduced-risk” pesticides (spirotetramat and flonicamid). They also examined a mineral oil-based organic pesticide that smothers aphids and another product containing a fungus (beauvaria bassiana) that infects and kills insects.

The two researchers used the environmental impact quotient, a database indicating impact of active ingredients based on such factors as leaching rate into soil, runoff, toxicity from skin exposure, consumer risk, toxicity to birds and fish, and duration of the chemical in the soil and on the plant. They also conducted field tests on how well each pesticide targeted aphids while leaving their predators, ladybugs and flower bugs, unharmed.

Under their evaluation system, the researchers found the mineral oil to have the greatest impact on the environment because it works by smothering the aphids and therefore requires large amounts to be applied to the plants. While the conventional pesticides used in the study are linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, organ damage, and more, the authors cite the killing of beneficial insects as the reason mineral oil had the worst rating. However, it is unlikely that organic farmers would use mineral oil in the same manner in which the authors did, because their methodology excludes all other organic techniques.

“It’s certainly a misconception to imagine that organic farmers are farming just the same way as pure conventional farmers but substituting organically approved pesticides and fertilizers for synthetic ones,” Simon Jacques, Ontario representative for organic certification program Ecocert, told Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. “That’s not what’s happening.”

The conclusions of this study should have been limited to the substitution of mineral oil and beauvaria bassiana in conventional systems. However, the authors went as far as warning policy makers about promoting organic agriculture. The authors state, “Generalizations about the relative sustainability of one suite of practices over another are dangerous when integrated into policy: government regulations based on faulty assumptions about agricultural systems are expensive and do not effectively reduce the environmental risks they are designed to mitigate.” The recommendations are not consistent with the scope of the study.

Organic agricultural practices and U.S. organic regulations are constantly changing and improving based on the latest scientific and real world farming data. When problems with current organic inputs are identified, farmers or consumers petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have materials and uses prohibited. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.

The authors received funding for the study from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The authors acknowledge receiving money from Bayer, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow, BASF, Syngenta, DuPont and others for projects within the past five years.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

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Public policy about serving the public

Postby adminjt » Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:10 pm

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Public policy about serving the public

As a farmer, I look forward to some changes being made to the Noxious Weeds Act. Perhaps then the problem with the domination of weed district policy by special interest groups — the chemical companies — can be addressed.

Pesticide and herbicides are designed to kill. That’s the reason many farmers use them and some farmers do not.

Why has chemical control become the only option for weed districts? Chemicalusing farmers are outraged when their option to use chemicals is threatened. Proclamations about the “right to farm,” independence being taken away, or “communist plots,” are common reactions at the coffee shop.

What happens when a farmer’s choice is not to use chemical control? Or, when communities would rather not have poisons applied to urban environments? Do they not have the same rights to farm or enjoy their own and public property free from chemicals?

Special interest groups will hire “nice guys” like Jeffrey Lowes from M-REP, a public relations firm, to defend chemical industry and business profits by calling them “activists” and accusing them of “impos(ing) their beliefs and lifestyles on the public.” (April 1, Manitoba Co-operator)

Public policy must take into account the interests and values of the public as a whole, not single out the chemical companies and their supporters as the only valid interests.

When municipal councillors, weed districts, provincial and federal governments get the message that their job is to protect the public from harm, then maybe we’ll see some progressive policy changes in how to control weeds. They could start with seriously applying integrated pest management principles.

It would be a positive step forward if, instead of following Lowe’s advice to “cover your ass(es),” public officials would start taking their heads out of them.

Ruth Pryzner Alexander, Man.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: To the editor)
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Not your grandmother’s gardening any more

Postby adminjt » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:19 am

Saturday, May. 22, 2010

Saturday's Globe and Mail

Not your grandmother’s gardening any more
Younger enthusiasts are picking vegetables over flowers

by Sarah Boesveld and Marina Strauss

It’s a great spring to be a gardener – the soil is warm and dry in a welcome about-face from the sogginess that plagued much of the country last year.

And as the weekend for hoeing, sowing and seeding begins, many more people are putting in their peppers and tomatoes in hopes of reaping the returns of culinary treasures and the satisfaction that comes from growing life from a seed.

There have been massive shifts in the way people think about gardening, says Toronto garden writer Gayla Trail. They are stepping away from grandma’s rows of flowers and preferring to grow fruits and vegetables.

It’s become a recreational and community-building activity, too, she says, as opposed to being simply a way to have a few fresh carrots handy.

“Up until recently golf and gardening used to be more middle-aged activities and that’s changing,” she says. “Recreationally, it’s great for you. We want to get outside more, get away from our computers more, we want a certain quality of life.”

Retailers are recognizing this explosion of enthusiasm for gardening and are pushing this year’s trends – organic seeds and sought-after heirloom varieties. They also see the beautiful weather forecasts and are eager to respond to customers’ push for local food that has proliferated over the past five years.

Seed swaps and community gardens are also on the rise, adds Laura Telford, national director of Canadian Organic Growers.

“People love the idea of growing their own food and being able to feed their neighbours,” she says. “It’s like having a million little babies and watching them grow. All you have to do is weed out the bad ones.”

She planted some of her vegetables a little bit earlier this year thanks to the warm weather. “I’m so glad I did it because it spreads the work over a longer period, though I was really lucky not to have my carrots frozen.”

Brian Minter, president of Minter Gardens in Rosedale, B.C., near Vancouver, says he’s had many very eager customers trying to get their gardens in early. Temperatures were unseasonably warm in February, which was “not good for the Olympics, but good for gardeners,” he says.

The eagerness for fresh local produce is clear. Vancouver-region vegetable growers, for example, have sold out of tomatoes, he says. “It’s like ‘Excuse me, isn’t this the weekend tomato planting begins?’ It’s because [the public] will not wait. Their time clock says we’re putting tomatoes in now.”

Though growers are currently enduring a cold snap right now, he’s optimistic for the season ahead. “It’s going to be a phenomenal year, if you have the right products and the right people,” he says.

Environment Canada has projected that the entire nation, save for a few small corners, will see higher than average temperatures this summer.

Gardeners are not solely focused on vegetable gardens any more, Mr. Minter says – it’s all about ‘food gardening,’ a world-wide shift noted by the National Gardening Bureau in the United States last spring.

The horticultural body also noted that 55 per cent of gardening is done in containers, a figure that substantiates the trend toward urban gardening.

“People who are brand new to gardening are immediately jumping to food,” says Ms. Trail, adding that the sale of vegetable seeds has surpassed the sale of flower seeds.

Mr. Minter has also seen a change in what his customers want. There’s a wild demand, especially among younger patrons, for the unique vegetables that have become the darlings of gourmet food TV, he says. The hottest tomato this year, for example, is the Peruvian tomaccio, which you can put in the microwave to make sumptuous sun-dried tomatoes (though he says many of his customer base still wants to plant the traditional beefsteak tomatoes).

A diverse food garden can be as pretty as a flower patch, too, Ms. Trail adds, which draws people to veggies over flowers.

“Some of the vegetables are so beautiful, they can be ornamental in their own right,” she says.

The corporate world is also answering – if not fuelling – the garden fever.

This spring, major retailers are enjoying a surge in sales of seeds, often of the organic variety. Home Depot Canada has been “blown away” by the response to its new Martha Stewart line of organic vegetable and herb seeds, says Frank Turco, a senior manager at the chain. “They are doing exceptionally well. The trend in organics is unbelievable this year.”

The shift comes as prices for organic seeds have dropped over the past couple of years to levels at which they are comparable to mainstream lines, he says. A packet of Martha Stewart seeds costs $2.99, for example.

The flight to organics is spurred by cities’ ban on pesticides which has heightened awareness of natural alternatives. And the recession is a factor in consumers’ rising interest in vegetable and herb gardening, says Michael Magennis, associate vice-president of gardening at Canadian Tire Corp. People have more time – and less money – after having lost their jobs; or they’re being frugal by doing “staycations” in their back yards.

One of the season's big hits in the garden is the “topsy turvy” tomato, he says. Hung upside down from a hook or a branch, the planter takes up little room and is not prone to be raided by squirrels or raccoons. Grocer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. can barely keep up with demand for its President’s Choice upside-down vegetable planters, at about $15 a pop, says Peter Cantley, vice-president of gardening. “In some locations it’s selling out.”

But consumers are divided between those who prefer do-it-yourself seeds and others who buy do-it-for-me already-planted pots of vegetables or herbs, he says. Planted fruits are also beginning to take off, including one-gallon pots of blueberries and raspberries for $8 each. But seed sales are outpacing the growth in gardening products overall, he says.

* Meet four budding gardeners from across the country ... le1578117/
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