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Healthy Communities: 30th National Pesticide Forum Begins in New Haven, CT; U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal Joins Speaker Lineup

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2012) Healthy Communities: the 30th National Pesticide Forum begins today, March 30, at Yale University in New Haven, CT and will continue through tomorrow evening. Walk-in registration starts at $35 ($15 for students) and includes all sessions, conference materials, and organic food and drink. There will be numerous speakers and workshops throughout the next two days focusing on issues such as the protection of Connecticut’s historic pesticide ban on school grounds, ensuring the health of pollinators in the face of toxic pesticides, and keeping the organic food and farming movement strong.

Featured speakers include:

Sandra Steingraber, PhD – Tonight’s keynote speaker (6:30-10:30pm) – An acclaimed ecologist and author, Dr. Steingraber explores the links between human rights and the environment, with a focus on chemical contamination. She takes a personal and scientific look at these issues and offers insights into how we can protect our environment and ourselves. She brings a clear, lyrical voice to the complex evidence of biology. The author of several books, including her latest Raising Elijah, Dr. Steingraber has been called “a poet with a knife” by Sojourner magazine, and received many honors for her work as a science writer. Her highly acclaimed Living Downstream has been adapted for film. Dr. Steingraber’s participation is supported in part by the Ceres Foundation.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal – Saturday plenary (1:00pm) – Senator Blumenthal has long advocated for stricter control of pesticides to protect children and as Connecticut’s Attorney General joined with five other Attorneys General to sue the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to adopt pest management practices that only use pesticides as a last resort. At the time, he said, “HUD is solving one problem with another problem – controlling pests, but poisoning public property and the children and citizens who live in public housing, There are safer and sounder affordable alternatives to these pesticides.” He also joined other AGs in pushing EPA to disclose secret or “inert” ingredients in pesticide products, saying, “The public has a basic right to know what they’re being exposed to so they can make educated decisions on the products allowed into their own homes. That’s especially true when products may be harmful to their health.” In that spirit, earlier this month Senator Blumenthal joined 54 Members of Congress in calling on the Food and Drug Administration to require the labeling of genetically engineered food.

Gary Hirshberg – Saturday evening keynote (7:00-10:30pm) – Mr. Hirshberg is chairman and co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. Previously, he directed the Rural Education Center, the small organic farming school from which Stonyfield was spawned. Before that, Gary had served as executive director of The New Alchemy Institute, a research and education center dedicated to organic farming, aquaculture and renewable energy. He has also authored books on wind power and organic gardening. Gary is a speaker on sustainability, climate change, the profitability of green and socially responsible business, organic agriculture and sustainable economic development.

John Wargo, PhD – Saturday morning keynote (9:00-9:30am) – Dr. Wargo is the Tweedy-Ordway professor in environmental health and politics at Yale University. He has lectured extensively on the limits and potential of environmental law, with a focus on human health. He has recently written Green Intelligence: Creating Environments that Protect Human Health. The book won the Independent Publishers Award of Gold Medal in the field of “environment, ecology, and nature” for 2010. He compares the history of five serious and global environmental threats to children’s health in the twentieth century: nuclear weapons testing, pesticides, hazardous sites, vehicle particulate emissions, and hormonally active ingredients in plastics.

The conference will cover such subjects as:

Pesticide-Free Lawns and Landscapes
With the Connecticut General Assembly’s considering legislation that would repeal the state’s ban on toxic pesticide use on school grounds by replacing it with a weak “integrated pest management” (IPM) system, this issue will be a central theme at the conference. Speakers on this topic include: Warren Porter, PhD, professor of Zoology and Environmental Toxicology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison with expertise in lawn chemicals, especially low doses and mixtures; Chip Osborne, national organic turf expert and president of Osborne Organics; Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a key player in the state pesticide bans; Paul Tukey, founder and spokesman for the Safe Lawns Foundation and author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual; Sarah Little, PhD, author of Introduction to Organic Lawns and Yards and editor of the NOFA Standards For Organic Land Care.

Pesticides and Health
Research continues to link pesticide exposure to health effects like ADHD, cancer, hormone disruption and more. Nationally renowned scientists will present their work and perspectives on the pesticide problem. Speakers include: Sandra Steingraber, PhD; John Wargo, PhD; Routt Reigart, MD, Medical University of South Carolina professor and the nation’s top pediatric expert on pesticides; Julia Brody, PhD, breast cancer researcher and director of the Silent Spring Institute; Allison Aiello, PhD, University of Michigan School of Public Health epidemiologist with expertise in antibacterial and infectious disease.

Honey Bee Protection
Considering that honey bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat, the decline in honey bee populations, which has been linked in part to pesticides, must be a national priority. The Forum will feature beekeepers and a groundbreaking university researcher. David Hackenberg, beekeeper to first discover Colony Collapse Disorder; Christian Krupke, PhD, Purdue entomologist who discovered EPA was severely underestimating honey bee exposure to pesticides; Robert Deschak, core member of the New York City Beekeepers Association who keeps hives on NYC rooftops; Ted and Becky Jones, owners of Jones’ Apiaries, and president and treasurer of the Connecticut Beekeepers’ Association, who will be bringing a demonstration hive to the conference.

Healthy Food: Fair, Local and Organic
Pesticides not only affect the people who consume food, but also those who grow it and live near agricultural areas. The conference will begin with a tour of local urban farms (and pesticide-free playing fields), and feature organics as a theme throughout. Gary Hirshberg; Nelson Carrasquillo, general coordinator CATA (Farmworkers Support Committee); Bill Duesing, executive director of the Northeast Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA); Martha Page, executive director of Hartford Food System, a nonprofit organization in Hartford devoted to issues of food security.

For more information, including a full speaker list and schedule of events, please see the Forum webpage.


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