Small Farm Blogs
Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez held a hearing of the Food and Agriculture Committee last Thursday to review the Department of Pesticide Regulation's tentative decision to approve the pesticide methyl iodide.
The hearing prompted wide news coverage over the weekend, including a story in the New York Times that said the discussion in California over methyl iodide has implications beyond the Golden State. The U.S. EPA has indicated DPR's decision may influence federal policy on the use of the pesticide nationwide.
The Times article reported that, at the hearing, members of the scientific committee that had reviewed methyl iodide for DPR - and suggested it not be registered - said the state’s decision to approve its use was made using "inadequate, flawed and improperly conducted scientific research."
“This is without question one of the most toxic chemicals on earth,” John Froines, UCLA professor of environmental health sciences, was quoted. “You don’t register a chemical when you don’t have the necessary information you need.”
Carolyn O'Donnell, the spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission, said the pesticide would be deployed by growers safely and only when needed.
“The 500-plus growers of strawberries in the state are largely family farmers who live where they grow,” O’Donnell was quoted in the Times. “When they make decisions about how and where they farm, they make those decisions with the health and safety of workers and the community in mind.”
An article in the Ventura County Star said stringent regulations would deter growers from using the chemical even if it were registered. Some proposed restrictions are a half-mile buffer zone around schools, hospitals and nursing homes, limiting application to protect groundwater and limiting the number of acres that can be treated.
The Roseville Press-Tribune said field fumigation with methyl iodide would be rare in Placer County.
“There is less need for pesticides to manage strawberry pests because we have fewer species of pests and lower pest populations, partly because we lack the intense cultivation of strawberries as on the Central Coast and farms are scattered throughout the county,” the article quoted Cindy Fake, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Placer and Nevada counties.
The Monterey County Herald ran a commentary about the issue written by State Assemblyman Bill Monning.
"It is unconscionable for DPR to proceed with the registration of methyl iodide when its own scientists have presented unequivocal evidence of extreme risk and insufficient data collection," Monning wrote.
The public comment period on the pending approval of methyl iodide ends on June 29./span>
The sub-tropical fruit lychee could be a new crop for farmers along California's coast, according to Mark Gaskell, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor to small-scale farmers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
A ping-pong-ball-sized tree fruit with white, jelly-like flesh, the red-skinned lychee is popular among Asian consumers. They appear to be adapted to roughly the same conditions as avocados, Gaskell said. Since the fruit is well accepted in areas where it is available, the potential market acceptability of lychees is high. And, demand for fresh lychees already exists in Asian markets that carry whole, frozen, unshelled lychees.
Nutritionists are also looking closely at the fruit, which is a rich source of dietary flavanols, according to UC Davis research nutritionist Robert Hockman.
Flavanols – found in strawberries, cocoa, red wine, green tea and lychees - provide improvements in the smooth lining of the vascular system, reduce blood pressure, reduce blood stickiness and possibly provide cognitive improvements, Hockman reports in a video recorded for UC’s website Feeling Fine Online.
However, studies have determined that, just because people eat flavanol-rich foods, it doesn’t mean the beneficial compounds get into the blood stream. Most flavanols, he said, are long-chain polyphenols, which are not well absorbed by the body.
In his research, Hockman is using a lychee fruit extract that has been processed to have smaller – more bioactive – molecules. The product was fed to rats and found to pass through the digestive tract and into the blood stream.
“Now we are moving on to human studies,” Hockman said.
He is specifically studying the lychee extract and vascular health in post-menopausal women.
“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in California and the No. 1 killer in the U.S.,” Hockman said. “It represents enormous health care costs. California agriculture products may help reduce the risk (of cardiovascular disease), saving billions of dollars.”
A behind-the-scenes battle is raging in the Senate over how to regulate small and organic growers without ruining them - and still protect consumers from contaminated food, according to a story published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The crux of the legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate how products are grown, stored, transported, inspected, traced from farm to table and recalled when needed.