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Mom vs. Monsanto: Goldman Prize Honors Pesticide Reform Champion
The Goldman Environmental Prize announced on April 16 an award for Argentine mother Sofía Gatica, who has worked tirelessly—even under the threat of violence—to protect children from the hazards of aerial pesticide spraying, especially Monsanto’s RoundUp products.
Thirteen years ago, Sofía’s newborn died after being exposed to pesticides in the womb. She and the “Mothers of Ituzaingó” went door-to-door collecting stories about health problems in each family and discovered the community’s cancer rate to be 41 times the national average. In addition, the mothers found high rates of neurological problems, respiratory diseases and infant mortality. As a result, the group led “Stop the Spraying!” demonstrations with partner organizations like Pesticide Action Network (PAN), and published materials warning the public about the dangers of pesticides. Their efforts gained traction with time as Argentina’s president ordered an investigation in 2008 that corroborated Sofía’s door-to-door findings.
Later, the Mothers of Ituzaingó won a municipal “buffer zone” ordinance, prohibiting aerial spraying less than 2,500 meters from residences. Despite few resources and real threats—including being held at gunpoint in her own home—Sofía and the Mothers of Ituzaingó continued to prevail, winning a case at the Supreme Court that placed the burden on Monsanto and other pesticide corporations to prove their products are safe before going to market. Sofía continues to expand her efforts across the country—including pursuing a nationwide ban on ingredients in Monsanto’s RoundUp.
"I find what Sofía has done to protect her children deeply inspiring," says Kristin Schafer, PAN's Senior Policy Strategist and mother of two. "Clearly her commitment moved the other mothers in her community to action as well, and by working together they won changes that will protect the whole community—and beyond."
Each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors six grassroots leaders from across the globe who work to “protect and enhance the environment.” Sofía Gatica, leader of the “Mothers of Ituzaingó,” received her award at an invite-only event on Monday evening, April 16.
For more information, click here.
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The crowd appears to attack a protestor in a video shared on Twitter by ITV journalist Mahatir Pasha. VOA News / Youtube screenshot
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By Kristen Fischer
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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