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What Big Ag Doesn’t Want You To Know: What Its Chemicals Do To You, And How You Can Farm Without Them

Atrazine emasculates male frogs

This story, about a pesticide researcher named Tyrone Hayes whose research into what atrazine does to frogs has greatly upset agrochemical giant Syngenta, popped over the email transom recently:

This week, Darnell and other frogs under Hayes’ care have suffered another indignity, according to Hayes: he reportedly told The Chronicle of Higher Education (paywall-protected) that the university has cut off funding for his Berkeley lab. “We’re dead in the water,” Hayes told the Chronicle. He is now without funds “needed to pay for basic functional operations, such as the care of test animals,” the magazine reports. The university denies it has taken any action to defund Hayes—a spokesperson “suggested the possibility that he simply ran out of money,” the Chronicle reports.

This reminds me of another instance where an institution of higher learning has inexplicably shut down something that might offend the agrichemical industry – the Sustainable Food Production program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Here’s the latest on that:

Sue Wika, a sociology professor, co-founder of SFP and sustainable farmer, said faculty, students and supporters were surprised by the administration’s decision. The group had secured promises of outside funding and partners in higher education. When administrators wouldn’t budge, Wika said, the group realized it must stress the need for sustainable food production.

SFP program graduate Noelle Harden is blogging and posting tweets and status updates on the program’s effect in her professional and personal life. The program led to her job with the University of Minnesota Extension as a Community Food Systems educator for northwest Minnesota. She works in 16 counties and three reservations on food system changes so more people have greater access to healthy food.

Her husband, Andy Hayner, also is an SFP graduate. They have started Freedom Rangers to provide education and consulting about pastured livestock production systems. They also help customers with poultry processing.

Sounds pretty sensible and uncontroversial, right? But of course, if more and more people learn how to farm sustainably, that means the chemical companies might not be as profitable in future years. And agribusiness entities provide lots of financial support, direct and indirect, to various colleges and universities.

As National Vodka Repository Peggy Noonan said in quite another context, it is irresponsible not to speculate.

Photo by paukrus under Creative Commons license

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