Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sustainability, Meet Pesticides

The California Wine Institute is painting organic as a government program that doesn't do as much as its own sustainability program which it says is so much broader. Really?

On KCRA in Sacramento, Allison Jordan, executive director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance,  and Steve Lohr, of J. Lohr Winery, appeared to talk about their efforts in honor of the wine industry's monthlong celebration of sustainability.

I can't embed the video here but you can see it here.

The interviewer's first question was to ask what's the difference between organic and sustainability. Without ever using the word "pesticides," Jordan responded that organics deals with soil and pest management issues, while sustainability is so much broader.

"We think of environment, people and economics,"said Steve Lohr, who goes on to talk about sheep in the vineyards (J. Lohr still uses plenty of Roundup and other herbicides) and solar energy installations (much of which we as the taxpayer subsidize through tax breaks).

No one mentioned pesticides - which we know to be responsible for many toxic effects on "the environment" including birds, bees and people.

Yesterday the media was filled with news generated by California's newly launched CalEnviroScreen tool that pinpoints where clusters of environmental health issues are located.

As you can see the most dangerous communities to live in (in blue and orange) are where pesticides are aggressively applied on wine grapes and other crops. Pesticides are one of the ten factors counted in the environmental health hazard tool's rating system.

This map from the California Dept. of Public Health shows the use of carcinogens used by the wine grape industry.
It's time for the wine industry to come forward with a frank and honest conversation about reducing pesticides and tell us what progress their sustainability programs are making on that front. And not to fill the airwaves with interviews like this one about how much bigger and better sustainability is than programs with legal teeth (organic) that require growers to stop using cancer-causing chemicals that create huge swaths of pesticide zones where childhood cancer rates, autism and ADHD soar.

While I commend the CSWA for its progress, it's not fair for them to give the impression that organic programs don't compare in scope or impact or importance with their voluntary, industry standards.

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