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Anything But the Wine! Climate Change Takes Its Toll on Grapes

A new Global Wine Index outlines the most at-risk wine regions according to natural disasters, rising temperatures and other climate change factors. Unfortunately, some of the world's finest grapes are unlikely to survive.

The index was created by a multidisciplinary European-Australian research team of engineers, seismologists, meteorologists, scientists and wine lovers, who analyzed 110,000 wineries in 131 countries that produce a combined total of 26 billion liters of wine a year.

At the top of the list is Argentina's Mendoza region, which experiences a smorgasbord of obstacles for growing grapes.

"We see that Mendoza in Argentina, which has earthquakes, hail, floods, the whole gamut of natural hazards... is number one," said James Daniell of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany and co-author of the research.

Just behind Argentina, the most at-risk regions are in the following order: Kakheti and Racha regions in Georgia, the southern Cahul region in Moldova, northwestern Slovenia in fourth place, and tied for fifth are the Yaraqui Valley in Ecuador and Nagano, Japan. All in all, wine contributes a staggering $300 billion to the world economy every year.

Most at-risk wine regions.

So wine is kind of a big deal, but is it enough to send a message about climate change? The new site offers enlightening advice on some of the most common risks associated with our most beloved wine regions. Italy, which contributes 4.9 billion liters annually, is facing hail, frost and earthquakes as the number one threats to vino. In France, it's frost, hail and storms. And in Spain, it's hail in the northwest, frost and heat. As for American wine, since most of it comes from California, one of the biggest threats is earthquakes.

According to the site, by looking at climate models, wine regions will generally shift both southward and northward. Southern Italy and southern Spain, therefore, will see the biggest losses. This data is meant to help winemakers make better decisions about their grapes to stave off any effects of climate change.

"This uses data going back from 1900 onwards," said Daniel. "They can at least identify that they are at risk and... do something about it to mitigate it."

Some of those methods are using anti-hail nets for the vineyards, tying up stored wine bottles to withstand the shock of an earthquake, using a "hail cannon" as France's Burgundy region is doing to seed clouds with stone-shrinking silver iodine or by simply just taking out some old-fashioned crop insurance.

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And the Winners of the Most Prestigious Environmental Award Are ...

The Goldman Environmental Foundation announced today the six recipients of the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world's largest award for grassroots environmental activists.

Awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world's six inhabited continental regions, the Goldman Prize recognizes grassroots activists for significant achievement to protect the environment and their communities.

The winners will be awarded the prize at an invitation-only ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the San Francisco Opera House (this event will be live streamed online). A ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC will follow on April 26.

This year's winners are:

Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo

Putting his life on the line, Rodrigue Katembo went undercover to document and release information about bribery and corruption in the quest to drill for oil in Virunga National Park, resulting in public outrage that forced the company to withdraw from the project.

Goldman Environmental Prize

Prafulla Samantara, India

An iconic leader of social justice movements in India, Prafulla Samantara led a historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh's land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminum ore mine.

Goldman Environmental Prize

Uroš Macerl, Slovenia

Uroš Macerl, an organic farmer from Slovenia, successfully stopped a cement kiln from co-incinerating petcoke with hazardous industrial waste by rallying legal support from fellow activists and leveraging his status as the only citizen allowed to challenge the plant's permits.

Goldman Environmental Prize

Wendy Bowman, Australia

In the midst of an onslaught of coal development in Australia, octogenarian Wendy Bowman stopped a powerful multinational mining company from taking her family farm and protected her community in Hunter Valley from further pollution and environmental destruction.

Goldman Environmental Prize

mark! Lopez, United States

Born and raised in a family of community activists, mark! Lopez persuaded the state of California to provide comprehensive lead testing and cleanup of East Los Angeles homes contaminated by a battery smelter that had polluted the community for over three decades.

Goldman Environmental Prize

Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala

An indigenous leader in Guatemala's Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q'eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community.

Goldman Environmental Prize

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An image of drug-resistant bacteria under the microscope

After 4-Month Battle for His Life, Superbug Survivor Shares His Story

Following a four-month battle for his life, Chris Linaman committed to sharing his story to help raise awareness about the growing threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As executive chef at a large medical center, he is also driving change at an institutional level, harnessing his purchasing power to support the responsible use of antibiotics in food animals.

Linaman is the recipient of the "Sustainable Food Procurement Award" by Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition committed to environmentally responsible health care. As part of Pew's Supermoms Against Superbugs initiative, Linaman recently met with policymakers in Washington, urging them to maintain sufficient funding for efforts that are critical to combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which has become a public health crisis. He spoke with Pew about his illness and his advocacy.

Chris Linaman. © The Pew Charitable Trusts

Q: Can you tell us about your MRSA infection and how it affected you and your family?

A: My nightmare started as a basketball injury. I'd had a successful ACL surgery and several weeks into my recovery was doing great and thought my incision was fully healed. But that all changed very quickly. After a weekend trip to visit friends, I went to sleep on a Sunday night feeling fine and woke up Monday morning to find my knee had swollen to the size of a melon. It was bright red and hot to the touch. Within hours, my MRSA infection had been diagnosed and I was in emergency surgery—the first of several surgeries I would need over the course of four days.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of my struggle to survive MRSA.

Just a few days after being sent home from the hospital, my wife found me nearly unconscious, with a swollen face and a temperature of 105 degrees. She rushed me back to the hospital and the doctors told her to begin making plans because they didn't expect me to make it. Luckily, the spinal tap showed the infection had not yet gotten to my brain. But I needed to have even more surgeries to get rid of it and I also lost my epidermis—the outer layer of my skin—over my entire body, due to an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they were using to treat me.

Ultimately, the doctors were able to get the infection under control within a few weeks, but the road to recovery was long and painful. Even after my infection was cleared and I was out of the hospital, my body was still reeling from all it had been through. My leg muscles were wrecked from all of the surgeries and it took extensive physical therapy to get me back to anything resembling normal. To help put it in perspective, my original ACL surgery had been in early May and it wasn't until mid-July that I was even able to walk around the block in my neighborhood, a feat that took more than an hour.

Beyond the physical trauma, the whole ordeal also nearly ruined our family financially and it was emotionally devastating as well. At the time, our two kids were just 2 and 4 years old and they didn't understand what was going on. It still breaks my heart to think about it. Those were the darkest days of my life and, honestly, it's hard to believe that I'm still here.

Q: Why do you think it's so important for superbug survivors to share their stories?

A: I don't think enough people realize the extent of what's at stake. People have maybe heard the term "post-antibiotic" era but don't really understand what that could mean to them and their families. While it's still very difficult for me to talk about—even today, more than 10 years later—sharing my experience can help show what that future could look like if we don't keep up the fight and do what we can today. As horrible as my MRSA infection was, I'm the "good" outcome—I survived. Way too many others have not.

Q: Why do you advocate for the responsible use of antibiotics in food animals and how have you brought that advocacy to life in your work?

A: It's absolutely essential that we have effective antibiotics available when people need them. I know this firsthand and I want to make sure that my kids never live in a world where there are no antibiotics to help them. So we need to do anything and everything we can to conserve these lifesaving drugs so that they work when they're needed—that includes making sure antibiotics are used appropriately and only when necessary—both in people and in animals.

Shortly after I recovered from my MRSA infection, I began working as the executive chef at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington and in that role I created a procurement policy for the center that prioritizes bringing healthy food to our community and gives preference to food producers who are working to reduce antibiotic use. That policy has really been the foundation for driving significant increases in the proportion of responsibly raised food we're able to source. We've gone from approximately 19 percent of our proteins being classified as "reduced antibiotic use" in 2012, up to 80 percent in 2016. And during this same time, I've seen the market for responsibly raised meats evolve as well. It's been increasingly easier and less expensive to find these types of proteins and that's part of what's made our dramatic shift at Overlake possible. It's not just small and local famers offering these types of products anymore, it's also producers on a larger scale and that's encouraging.

Q: What can individuals do to support the responsible use of antibiotics in animal agriculture?

A: Everyone can do something. As patients, we can talk to our doctors about whether an antibiotic is necessary. When it comes to reducing antibiotic use in food animals, we can all commit to doing our research and being mindful shoppers who choose to purchase products from farmers and companies that are committed to minimizing antibiotic use. Consumer demand for responsibly raised food has been a powerful force for change in recent years and together we can make sure that demand continues to grow and make a real difference.

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Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris with President-elect Donald Trump at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dow Chemical Pushes Trump Administration to Scrap Pesticide Study

Dow Chemical, whose CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, is pressuring the administration to throw out a government risk study on several popular pesticides, the Associated Press reported.

The 10,000-page study found that the three pesticides under review—chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion—pose a risk to roughly 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. The evaluations were compiled by federal scientists over the last four years and were expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

But lawyers representing Dow and two other makers of the organophosphates sent letters to the heads of three cabinet agencies last week, asking that the study be "set aside" and saying that the results are flawed.

"Our government's own scientists have already documented the grave danger these chemicals pose to people and endangered species," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unable to win on the facts, Dow is now adopting the same disgraceful tactics honed by the tobacco industry and the climate deniers to try to discredit science and scrap reasonable conservation measures that will protect our most endangered animals and plants."

Last month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt scrapped his own agency's proposal to ban chlorpyrifos—an insecticide that at small doses can harm children's brains and nervous systems—from use on food crops. The AP noted that chlorpyrifos originates from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany, and Dow sells about 5 million pounds of the chemical in the U.S. each year.

"Public health experts, pediatricians and EPA scientists all agree that chlorpyrifos is unsafe for children at any level," Environmental Working Group Senior VP for government affairs Scott Faber said after Pruitt announcement. "That overwhelming and uniform agreement among experts should have been all the information Administrator Pruitt needed to protect kids from this notorious neurotoxin. Yet, he decided instead to side with Croplife, Dow and the rest of chemical agriculture and allow chlorpyrifos to remain in use."

The government scientists found that chlorpyrifos is "likely to adversely affect" 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants in its study. Diazinon and malathion, which the World Health Organization announced as probable carcinogens in 2015, were similarly found to threaten vulnerable species.

But lawyers for the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos called for the research to be withdrawn because its "scientific basis was not reliable."

Malathion maker FMC Corp. said the withdrawal of the study will allow the necessary time for the "best available" scientific data to be compiled. Diazinon maker Makhteshim Agan of North America Inc. did not comment.

Dow donated $1 million to the presidential inauguration and the company's CEO, Liveris, leads Trump's advisory council on manufacturing. In February, Liveris received the signing pen after the president signed the "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda," an executive order aimed at eliminating regulations that Trump claims are damaging to the U.S. economy, but some worry that the measure will roll back critical environmental protections.

Dow's director of public affairs Rachelle Schikorra told the AP that any suggestion that the company is trying to influence the new administration's regulatory decisions is "completely off the mark."

"Dow actively participates in policymaking and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws," Schikorra said.

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For Cods Sake: The Future of a Collapsing Fishery

By Mikey Jane Moran

"There are no cod left in Cape Cod," said a New England chef with a shrug of his shoulders. And he really means no cod. The salty docks of Gloucester, Massachusetts—once the hub of American fishing culture, bustling with wind-blown fishermen hauling nets full of squirming fish—is nearly deserted.

Due to decades of overfishing, coupled with warming oceans, fish counts within New England's cod fisheries have dwindled to 3 to 4 percent of their historic levels, according to National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates. Populations are facing collapse.

Sacred Cod follows the stories of the people whose way of life is disappearing along with the fish. Fishermen are selling their boats, coast-side industry is drying up and coastal towns once rich with heritage lie abandoned. What was a $118 million fishing industry in the 1990s is now a $9 million industry.

"You may be shaking the hand of the last ice man in Gloucester," said one lonely businessman featured in Sacred Cod. Fewer fishermen, after all, translate to less demand for ice. "We sell more T-shirts than ice."

The documentary details how last-ditch government fishing bans have fomented a culture of mistrust between the scientific community and those fishermen who rely on full nets to support their families. Now, all are in a race to find a compromise before the Gulf of Maine becomes a ghost coast. The documentary portrays climate change not as a looming problem but as a reality shaping lives and communities in the here and now.

David Abel, environment reporter for the Boston Globe and one among a team of filmmakers behind Sacred Cod, has been documenting the cod population collapse since it was first on the horizon, tracing the nuanced problem it has become. We spoke with him about the documentary and about his hopes for the future of cod.

Mikey Jane Moran: You've poured years of research into this topic. Why cod?

David Abel: Cod itself is this iconic species. A wooden replica of the fish hangs from the rafters of the [Massachusetts] state house—it's a symbol of what brought Europeans to the states. It's what sustained the pilgrims when they first moved here and built New England into one of the wealthiest places on the planet. And [the industry's] collapse has caused tremendous hardship for many fishermen.

While Sacred Cod never loses its environmental message, its storytelling stems primarily from the perspective of the fishermen. Why this approach?

We wanted to make people understand there are tangible, human consequences to changes in our environment and to decisions made by government agencies like NOAA. Efforts to regulate things like fisheries in some cases have very meaningful impact on people. We have seen a dramatic collapse in this once incredibly abundant fishery and that collapse has led to hundreds of fishermen losing their jobs. We thought it was important to connect the environmental concerns with the human concerns.

This is an issue of the commons—it impacts everyone. Yet, the two sides are at odds. What is the hope for a compromise?

Everyone's hope, no matter where they stand, is that the fishery rebounds. If you ask scientists and bureaucrats, they hope that surveys are wrong and that the data somehow is flawed. But in repeated surveys, the data seems to be borne out that cod have declined substantially. Scientists and regulators are not trying to make fishermen miserable. There is an argument for trying to reduce the pressure on cod so hopefully, one day, they can rebound, as we are seeing in other places, like Newfoundland, Canada.

The hope is that fishermen and federal regulators recognize the benefits of protecting the fisheries and protecting the fishermen. Trying to find a way to create a sustainable fishery is vital to the health of the ecosystem and the health of the community.

The documentary ends on a somewhat happy note. Are you optimistic about the state of cod in New England?

I don't think it has a happy ending as much as an offer of hope and a recognition that things can change. If we really commit to creating sustainable fisheries—by creating rules that are sensible and that work—a fishery that has been decimated can rebound. Not all endings have to be apocalyptic.

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.

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GMO

Tribunal Judges: Monsanto Violates Basic Human Rights to a Healthy Environment

The five international judges for the Monsanto Tribunal presented their legal opinion Tuesday, which includes key conclusions on the conduct of Monsanto and the need for important changes to international laws governing multinational corporations.

The judges concluded that Monsanto has engaged in practices that have impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Additionally, Monsanto's conduct has a negative impact on the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.

The judges also concluded that despite the development of regulations intended to protect the environment, a gap remains between commitments and the reality of environmental protection. International law should now precisely and clearly assert the protection of the environment and establish the crime of ecocide. The Tribunal concluded that if ecocide were formally recognized as a crime in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could possibly constitute a crime of ecocide.

In the third part of the advisory opinion, the Tribunal focused on the widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability.

It called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. A set of legal rules is in place to protect investors' rights in the frame of the World Trade Organization and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free-trade agreements. These provisions tend to undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human and environmental rights. United Nations bodies urgently need to take action. Otherwise, key questions of human and environmental rights violations will be resolved by private tribunals operating entirely outside the United Nations framework.

The Tribunal also urged to hold non-state actors responsible within international human rights law. The Tribunal reiterated that multinational enterprises should be recognized as responsible actors and should be subjected to the International Criminal Court jurisdiction in case of infringement of fundamental rights. The Tribunal clearly identified and denounced a severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations. Therefore, the advisory opinion encouraged authoritative bodies to protect the effectiveness of international human rights and environmental law against the conduct of multinational corporations.

The very clear conclusions will be of interest to both the critics of Monsanto and industrial agriculture and to the shareholders of chemical companies and especially Bayer. The reputation of Monsanto—and Bayer in case of a merger—will not exactly improve with these conclusions by the judges of the Tribunal. The advisory opinion is a strong signal to those involved in international law, but also to the victims of toxic chemicals.

The Tribunal has created links and shared important information between lawyers and organizations that represent the victims. Therefore, it is likely that the conclusions will lead to more liability cases against Monsanto and similar companies. This will shine a light on the true cost of production and will affect Monsanto (Bayer) shareholder value in the long run. Companies that cause damage to health, food and healthy environment should and will be held accountable for their actions.

Organizing groups behind the Monsanto Tribunal include the Organic Consumers Association, Navdanya, IFOAM Organics International, Biovision Foundation and Regeneration International.

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20 Canned Tuna Brands Ranked: How Sustainable Is Your Brand?

By David Pinsky

The U.S. is the largest market for canned tuna in the world. U.S. consumers purchase countless cans and serve up thousands of tuna melts day after day.

Today's flashy labels and PR claims from supermarket and national tuna brands can be confusing and sometimes deceiving. Even worse, much of the canned tuna available in the U.S. comes from destructive fishing practices and could be linked to human rights abuses.

Greenpeace is campaigning to clean up this dirty global industry to ensure workers' rights and healthy oceans for generations to come. We collectively have the power to transform the tuna industry, and that starts by being informed. That's why today we're excited to share our brand new canned Tuna Shopping Guideen Español, too!

We evaluated 20 well-known brands on their sourcing policies, whether they avoid shark finning and destructive fishing practices, whether they can trace their products back to sea, and how they protect human rights for seafood industry workers.

Click through to see how your favorite canned tuna brand ranks.

© Greenpeace

Wild Planet and American Tuna tied for first place, followed by Whole Foods and Ocean Naturals as the best choices for conscious shoppers. Walmart (18th), H-E-B (19th), and StarKist (20th) are the worst-ranked due to their reliance on destructive fishing methods and outstanding questions about the social responsibility of their products.

The differences between those at the top and the very bottom of our ranking couldn't be more pronounced.

Among the five largest supermarket chains in the country, Albertsons (eighth; notable store banners include Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco), Ahold Delhaize (10th; banners include Food Lion, Hannaford, Giant), and Kroger (11th; banners include Fred Meyer, QFC, Ralphs) all passed. Kroger, second only in size nationwide to Walmart, is even rolling out new responsibly-caught pole and line canned tuna this year.

While only 55 percent of the brands we assessed passed, that's up from around 40 percent when we ranked popular brands in 2015. Only a few years ago, Whole Foods led the nation as the first retailer to offer responsibly-caught store brand canned tuna. Today, 11 of the 14 retailers we assessed carry at least one responsibly-caught store brand product. That's a big deal—you might even call it the beginning of a tuna revolution.

These changes are happening because consumers like you demanded them.

As the call grows louder for seafood that doesn't wreck the oceans or perpetuate human rights abuses, it's time for some of the biggest in the industry that are failing to show some leadership. You guessed it: Costco (13th), Walmart (18th), and the big three tuna brands—Chicken of the Sea (15th), Bumble Bee (17th), and StarKist (20th)—all failed in this year's Tuna Guide.

The largest three tuna brands, in particular, are dragging down the U.S. market in a sea of ocean destruction. Chicken of the Sea, owned by the world's largest tuna company Thai Union, has a chance to right its ship. Its parent company has made bold claims on sustainability and human rights, though it remains to be seen how that translates into real action and better tuna for customers. The company still has a chance to lead and continue moving the industry in the right direction, but we need your help to demand immediate action.

Join us! Ask Chicken of the Sea to commit to protect the oceans and seafood workers.

If you're going to buy canned tuna, the next time you look on store shelves consider how your choices will impact the oceans and seafood workers. Keep the Tuna Shopping Guide close by, share it with your friends and family, and let your grocery store manager know why they should carry responsibly-caught canned tuna.

Together, we can protect the oceans for future generations.

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Politics
The Leopold Center

Iowa Legislature Plays Politics With Critical Scientific Research Center

By Andrea Basche

There has been unsettling news out of my former home over the last week, as the Iowa legislature plays politics with critical scientific research in the state.

In the closing days of the legislative session, two budget bills moved swiftly that could force the closing of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, a nationally recognized center for sustainable agriculture research. There were also threats to a research center dedicated to mitigating flood impacts (which I wrote about last year for its excellent forecasting that literally helped saved lives), but that appears now to be safe.

A little bit of background: the Leopold Center was established in 1987 by Iowa's Groundwater Protection Act. This law passed as the farm crisis of the 1980's was raging (it is estimated that nearly one-third of the state's farms went out of business) and there was growing recognition of the problems associated with soil degradation and water pollution. Forward-thinking Iowa legislators came up with a funding stream—a small fertilizer and pesticide tax that generates several million dollars a year—to be dedicated to research on alternatives that offset the economic and environmental impacts of agriculture.

The resulting funding stream launched several important research enterprises—for example, a center studying health effects of environmental contaminants at the University of Iowa, long-term agricultural research sites across the state, as well as the Leopold Center, which is based at Iowa State University.

Since that time, the Leopold Center's competitive grants program has funded research that benefits both rural and urban constituents, with projects that range from local food infrastructure to crop diversification to beginner farmer programs. Many of the innovative topics the center has investigated are now widely accepted largely thanks to its efforts, so it's important to recognize how critical this type of rare funding support is for encouraging and spreading transformative ideas.

Research Far and Wide Has Benefited from the Leopold Center

The Leopold Center's research not only supports progress at the state level, but also has direct application to progress on a national level.

Our own research here at the Union of Concerned Scientists has benefited from the Leopold Center's novel work. In our 2016 report, Growing Economies, we evaluated the economic impact of more local food purchasing in the state of Iowa. We were able to do that using survey data generated by the Leopold Center, in which institutional and intermediate food purchasers were asked about their ability to support local food.

And in Subsidizing Waste, we calculated the economic impact of scaling up the integration of perennial vegetation into corn and soybean fields, to save money on water clean-up costs. The STRIPs project has long been supported by funding from the Leopold Center. Finally, a report we're preparing to release next month will detail how a crop rotation system developed at Iowa State and supported by the center could be expanded, spreading economic and environmental benefits across the state and the Corn Belt.

Also, earlier in my career while I was a Ph.D. student at Iowa State University, I received two Leopold Center research grants to study the long-term impacts and farmer adoption of cover crops. That was an invaluable professional development opportunity for me as an early career scientist: from developing the proposal to helping administer the project and to making decisions on dollars spent.

If a research center like this disappears, it would be yet another significant blow in the broader conversation over how much funding goes toward sustainable agriculture. In a recent analysis, we looked at competitive grants programs within the USDA, concluding that agroecological research (similar to projects supported by the Leopold Center) is woefully underfunded, with less than 15 percent of funding going to projects that included any element of this type of work. We need more of this type of research, not less, and nearly 500 Ph.D. level scientists agree.

Lawmaker Claims "Mission Accomplished" in Sustainable Agriculture (LOL!)

An Iowa state representative this week in an interview claimed: "A lot of people felt that the mission for sustainable agriculture that [the Leopold Center] undertook, that they have completed that mission." The same lawmaker also claimed that sustainable agriculture research at Iowa State can continue, but through other channels. These comments either suggest an utter lack of understanding around the reality of sustainable agriculture, or otherwise reveal the politics fueling these budget bills.

The agriculture and natural resources committee budget bill directs the Leopold Center to shut its doors this summer, and directs their funds to another center at Iowa State University. The other center does not currently have a track record of transparently administering research dollars, and has a far narrower scope than the current vision of the Leopold Center.

Comments to the tune of "someone else will do the research" always give me pause. The common thread I've noticed is that research deemed duplicative or unnecessary often simply doesn't jibe with financial interests. It is easy to see that research describing less use of pesticides, for example, might be viewed as controversial to powerful business interests. (Many examples of this already exist!)

Further, to claim "mission accomplished" on sustainable agriculture is laughable, and hints at willful ignorance about the current economic and environment realities in Iowa. They bear similarities to the 1980s: soil erosion and water pollution remain persistent and costly challenges, and farm incomes have been steeply declining for several years.

Research Should Be Free of Interference Even When the Politics Are Thorny

Even though it might not be popular for those with a financial stake in the status quo, the research made possible by the Leopold Center plays a critical role in the future of the state, if not the nation, and has broad public support. So it's hard not to see this incident as part of the larger political attacks on science, with parallels to the Trump Administration's numerous attacks on climate action.

In addition to research funds, the Leopold Center supports a diverse dialogue by bringing in valuable speakers and lectures to Iowa State's campus; I shudder to think how that important dialogue will change if the state legislature votes to close its doors. The center has a successful and important track record benefitting local and national public interests, and I hope it stays that way.

Andrea Basche is a Kendall Science Fellow in the Union of Concerned Scientists Food & Environment program.

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