Friday, March 29, 2013

I'm Saying Goodbye to Toxic Free NC

by Ana Duncan Pardo, Communications Coordinator

After five and a half years of service, today is my last day at Toxic Free NC.

During my time here, we built an active and vibrant farm worker organizing program, I led the organization into documentary work and helped broadcast our messages on everything from pest control in child care centers to federal toxics reform.

Today is bittersweet. I’m excited about what’s next for me personally as an aspiring urban farmer, but I’m also thrilled about what’s on the horizon for Toxic Free NC.

Our plans to make fresh, local, organic food available to everyone are the product of years of listening, advocacy and careful thought. This is truly a moment in which I expect our organization’s greatest strengths to shine.

As I’m putting seedlings in the soil this spring, my colleagues at Toxic Free NC will be rolling out across the state to help community gardeners, farmers and eaters of all stripes learn the skills necessary to achieve just and sustainable food systems in their communities. Skills like engaging decision-makers in local food policy change and organic garden pest control.

My enthusiasm about this work is only matched by my commitment as a supporter. I am a monthly donor to Toxic Free NC because I believe that our work to establish local, healthy and economically viable foodsheds – in short, democratizing food – could hardly be more important than it is at this moment.

Will you join me in supporting Toxic Free NC’s work to make organic food available for everyone?

I like to think of it in food system terms. You could be a “farmers’ market shopper” and make a one-time donation, or you could “join the CSA” with a monthly gift. Either way, you’ll be supporting one of the best organizations in the state. And you'll be helping them continue to do some of the most exciting work in NC around food systems change.

The truth about any nonprofit initiative is that it can only happen if there’s funding to put boots on the ground and gas in the tank. Please join me in making a gift to Toxic Free NC today.

Many thanks for your friendship and support over the years! I'm so proud of the work we've done together, and I'm grateful to you for continuing to support Toxic Free NC's future.

With gratitude,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Zombie Attack on North Carolina Organics

NC Department of Agriculture brings 2005 Frankenfood legislation back from the dead.

by Fawn Pattison, Executive Director
Photo by Grmisiti via Flickr

The NC Department of Agriculture has revived a bill from 2005 that directly threatens organic agriculture and small farmers in North Carolina. H 379,“Clarify Board of Ag Authority/Plants,” uses an innocuous title to launch an offensive on anyone who grows a crop in North Carolina without a corporate patent on it. Rep. Langdon (R-Johnston), chair of the Agriculture Committee, has filed the bill in the NC House of Representatives.

Here we go again. A nearly identical bill called “Plant Regulation” was filed on behalf of the NC Department of Agriculture in 2005. Like its undead counterpart, H379 would prevent any government entities – local governments in particular – from enacting any ordinance or legislation to restrict the sale or cultivation of any plant in NC, reserving that authority solely for the NC Board of Agriculture

Here’s a good question… Why?

Have any North Carolina cities or counties attempted to restrict genetically-modified crops, the way four California counties did in 2004? No. But that’s what triggered this inane legislation the first time around, when identical language was enacted into law in 15 different states.

So what’s the problem?

Genetic material from GMO crops can contaminate neighboring crops:

  • Monsanto and other companies have aggressively defended their patents, to the point of suing farmers for patent infringement when they save and re-plant seeds that have been contaminated with genetic material from neighboring crops.
  • Genetic drift can make a farmer’s crop unsaleable in places like the European Union, which has tougher restrictions on GMO crops. Genetic drift can also harm a farmer’s organic certification.

The bill also has fallout for local governments, who would be prevented from restricting the sale or cultivation of invasive species that may be affecting them locally. It could even prevent local governments from enacting notification policies to protect organic farmers from genetic drift, according to the Center for Rural Affairs.

When this legislation was first introduced in 2005, the NC Senate inserted language to protect small farmers and organic neighbors from the potential damage. The result? The bill was killed, and Dr. Frankenstein returned defeated to his lab… apparently to wait for a more favorable environment in which to raise this bill from the dead.

The effect of H 379 will be to further concentrate corporate control over food and farming. It’s clear why a bill like this might be good for the likes of Monsanto, but how is it really good for farmers?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dear Grocer...

photo by dmason via Flickr
by Fawn Pattison, Executive Director

If you live in a rural area, you may not have a wonderful grocery store full of organic items close by. Some larger grocery chains are incorporating more organics into their lines, in response to customer demand.

How can you get your local grocery store to do the same? Ask them!

One of the members of Toxic Free NC's Community Leadership Council, Connie Schultz, had a great idea. Why not create a sample letter that makes it easy for consumers to ask their local stores to do better?

Here's a sample letter that you can use. Just copy & paste the text and print it on your own stationery. Be sure to add your own name and address, and personalize it if there are other things you want to say.

If you hear back from your local grocer, let us know what they say!

Date, 2013

Your name and address
Dear Store Manager, 
I have been a customer at <your store> for many years. I appreciate all that you do to make shopping at <your store> a pleasant and convenient experience.  
You may know that organic foods are a fast-growing part of the marketplace. In fact, I and many of my friends drive all the way to <Raleigh or Chapel Hill, or Asheville...> to shop at the <large organic market>! That's inconvenient for me, and lost business for you. 
Would <your store> consider bringing more organic products in to the store so that I don't have to drive to another city to get them? In particular, I'd like to see:
  • More fresh organic produce, especially North Carolina-grown varieties of sweet potatoes, strawberries, and greens
  • Organic frozen vegetables like broccoli and spinach - they are so convenient!
  • Organic dairy products, especially milk and yogurt
  • <.... list the items you want to see!> 
Organic food is important because when you eat it, you take fewer toxic chemicals into your body. One of the other sources of toxic chemicals is actually the food packaging. Many retailers are getting Bisphenol-A (also known as BPA) out of their canned food and other packaging. I hope that <your store> will do the same.  
Thank you for considering my request. If you have any questions, you may reach me at <provide your phone, email or other method of contact>.  
<Your full name>

Friday, March 15, 2013

Join Us For Coffee With Lindsay Dahl from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

by Ileana Rodriguez, Development Director

Photo of Lindsay Dahl courtesy of
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
We're so excited that Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, is going to be in the Triangle on Monday, March 18th.

She'll be here to talk about things you can do to protect your family from toxic chemicals and what we can do to update our broken federal toxics laws. As someone who specializes in toxic chemicals reform, she’s got lots of knowledge to share with us!

We’re going to be meeting for coffee, dessert and conversation Monday night. We hope you can join us! To RSVP, visit this link or send an email to Ileana.

Here are the details:

Where: Straw Valley Café, 5420 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707 [map & directions]
When: Monday, March 18 at 7 pm

It’s an easy way to get lots of your most pressing toxics questions answered - and get a night out, too!

Ana and I will be there along with our friends from MomsRising. We hope you will join us, too. It’s going to be fun!

Visit this link to RSVP.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'll take my superfood without the side of malathion, please.

Photo by mystuart via Flickr
by Fawn Pattison, Executive Director

Is it blueberry season yet?

As soon as spring starts to poke its nose out, I start daydreaming about the delicious things I'll be eating from my garden and from the farmer's market this summer. Chief among my food fantasies: Blueberries.

What's not to love about a blueberry? They're small, cute, delicious, packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and they grow like crazy here in North Carolina. Here's something I don't love: the side-dressing of pesticides that come with conventionally-grown berries.

I got a jarring reminder of why I buy organic berries at yesterday's meeting of the NC Pesticide Board.

The Board was hearing the case of a farmer from Bladen county who had violated pesticide rules by sending workers in to harvest blueberries too soon after a pesticide application. The grower had applied a pesticide formula that included malathion - a notorious nerve poison - and had the berries harvested before the required 24-hour pre-harvest interval was up. One worker was hospitalized with suspected pesticide illness (though the exact cause could not be confirmed). The Ag Department's inspector came out several days later and collected samples. Those samples showed malathion residue. The grower was fined $800.

Just a moment. About those berries... Board member Benson Kirkman asked if the blueberries could have been on a farm stand for sale the same day.


Uncomfortable silence.

The berries were in fact harvested too early. But only by a few hours. Just 24 hours after an application of pesticides that could still be detected several days later - pesticides that may even have made workers sick - EPA rules allow those same berries to be harvested and put up for sale.

That's why blueberries landed on the "Dirty Dozen" pesticide list in 2010, and it's also a very good reason to buy organic blueberries this summer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Toxic Free NC is Hiring a Community Organizer

by Ileana Rodriguez, Development Director

Toxic Free NC is hiring a bilingual Community Organizer.

The Community Organizer is a key staff position whose primary goal is to engage North Carolinians in collective action for environmental health and food justice.

The Organizer is responsible for:
  • Ensuring that NC’s Latina/o population is served by Toxic Free NC’s work; 
  • Outreach, education and organizing with people across the state about protecting their communities from pesticides and other toxic chemicals; 
  • Leading Toxic Free NC’s farm worker outreach & advocacy; 
  • Coordinating Toxic Free NC’s media relations; 
  • Maintaining our Spanish-language resources; 
  • Supporting other Toxic Free NC projects, including fundraising and special events. 
We're accepting applications until Monday, April 8th at 5 pm. For more information about the position and how to apply, visit this link.