USDA Whistleblower Launches Regenerative Ag Farm to Train Next Generation of Farmers
Jonathan Lundgren built an international reputation as a leading entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Now, after filing a whistleblower complaint against the USDA for blocking his research on negative impacts of insecticides, Lundgren is applying his science to regenerative agriculture at Blue Dasher Farm, a new research and demonstration farm in South Dakota.
Research Showed Neonicotinoids Harmed Butterflies
Lundgren worked as a senior research entomologist at the USDA for 11 years, conducting risk assessment research on pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Last fall the agency suspended Lundgren, claiming he made an error in a travel authorization for a speaking engagement. Lundgren said the agency suspended him over his research showing negative effects on monarch butterflies from neonicotinoid insecticides.
“We discovered things that weren't particularly convenient," he said. “I saw there was a clear link to pesticide use."
Lundgren filed a whistleblower complaint against the USDA, detailing attempts by USDA managers to block publication of new research, bar discussion of results with the media and disrupt his lab's operations.
Laura Dumais, staff counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which filed the complaint, said: “Dr. Lundgren is suffering the proverbial professional death by a thousand cuts precisely because of the implications of his scientific work for agribusiness."
Lundgren said he had no research agenda. “If our data showed neonics had not caused problems with monarchs, I wouldn't have any problems publishing that," he says.
The USDA tried to dismiss Lundgren's complaint, but in December a judge rejected the request, allowing it to move forward.
The legal battle may take months or years to be resolved.
USDA Whistleblower Accuses Agency of Censorship of Pesticide Research https://t.co/iOL2gJHvKo @BugLundgren @nutiva https://t.co/tgMOH9zkF1— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1451410713.0
Blue Dasher Farm to Showcase Regenerative Agriculture Practices
In the meantime, Lundgren is launching Blue Dasher Farm, which, according to the farm's website, aims to be “the first of a network of research, education and demonstration farms to bring scientific support to biodiverse food production."
“There are certain topics for the food system that I can better address outside the USDA," Lundgren said. “That drives what I am doing with Blue Dasher Farm."
Inspiration for Blue Dasher Farm came from Lundgren's research work with farmers who he said are on “the leading edge of food production" and regenerating soils.
“They didn't need a lot of inputs, fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs," he said. “They were creating farming systems that are so much more resilient to pests and climate change. I came to realize that these farmers are leading the science."
Lundgren wants to showcase regenerative agriculture methods on Blue Dasher Farm. These include cover crops to reduce weeds and insect pressure, diversified crop rotations, soil fertility practices and conservation crops to increase pollinators, such as bees, among others.
Blue Dasher Farm aims to bridge the gap between farmers and researchers.
“We want to pair agroecologists with producers and train the next generation of farmers, ranches, beekeepers and scientists," he said. “We have so much we can learn from each other."
Blue Dasher Farm won't be organic, but will encompass organic methods. “A lot of what we are doing fits into the organic model," Lundgren said. “But I don't think farmers will need to be organic to be more profitable using regenerative practices."
Changing Agriculture From the Ground Up
Lundgren believes that changes in agriculture and food production will come from the grassroots and not from top-down approaches of government, universities and corporations.
“Transformational changes need to be done to food systems and these changes come from the bottom up," he said. “We need science to innovate agriculture and not maintain the current paradigm. We want to give scientific support to grassroots efforts in regenerative agriculture."
Lundgren's project has struck a chord at the grassroots level with a successful Indiegogo crowd-funding effort for Blue Dasher Farm. His goal of $75,000 was surpassed to more than $81,000. Lundgren has also received donations of equipment and even bees.
“The response we've had so far has been so positive," he said. “Consumers and independent scientists can support the kind of research they want, instead of research that is traditionally done by government and universities, which can be easily controlled by major corporations."
National Network of Research Demonstration Farms
The 53-acre farm in Deuel County, South Dakota will be a fully operational farm that Lundgren aims to make a model of regenerative agriculture.
“Farmers can come and see the practices being used on an operating farm," he said. “We want to show how a farm can be profitable on a small acreage."
Blue Dasher Farm will initially focus on three areas: helping to solve the challenges facing honey bees with pesticides and mites, improving diversity on cattle grazing lands and enhancing soil health and crop production.
The first project will be to grow seeds for cover crops and conservation mixes.
“There's a strong need for these seeds," Lundgren said.
Looking to the long term, Lundgren aims to help establish similar research, education and demonstration farms like Blue Dasher around the U.S.
“We need a national network of research demonstration farms that are adapted to local needs," he said. “That's the vision, that's the goal."
Lundgren and his wife Jenna, who has a degree in biology, recently completed the purchase of the farm and will launch Blue Dasher Farm this spring.
“We're excited to get started," he said. “Things are happening at a fast pace."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.
- 'He had green eyes': Florida man will paint alligator that attacked him ›
- Florida alligator attack: A woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator ... ›
- Weird presidential pets include alligator, tiger cub, dog named Satan ... ›
- Alligators make terrible pets: 'You're basically dealing with a dinosaur.' ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›
By Bret Wilkins
In a year in which the United States has already suffered 16 climate-driven extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic damages, and as millions of American workers face loss of essential unemployment benefits due to congressional inaction, a report published Monday reveals the Trump administration has given fossil fuel companies as much as $15.2 billion in direct relief — and tens of billions more indirectly — through federal COVID-19 recovery programs since March.
- 'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups ... ›
- Corporate Polluters Have Received Tens of Millions in PPP Loans ... ›
- Trump Bails Out Oil Industry, Not U.S. Families, as Coronavirus ... ›
- Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Fossil Fuel Bail ... ›
By Ashia Aubourg
As Thanksgiving approaches, some Indigenous organizations and activists caution against perpetuating further injustices towards Native communities. Indigenous activist Mariah Gladstone, for example, encourages eaters to celebrate the harvest time in ways that do not involve stereotypes and pilgrim stories.
- Why Face Masks Belong at Your Thanksgiving Gathering + 7 Things ... ›
- Reasons to Be Thankful — 8 Food and Farm 'Good News' Stories ... ›
- Why I'm Going to Standing Rock for Thanksgiving - EcoWatch ›
By Alex Middleton
Losing weight and reducing fat is a hard battle to fight. Thankfully, there are fat burner supplements that help you gain your target body and goal. However, how would you know which supplement is right for you?