Archive for the ‘Environmental Working Group’ Category

Free Farm Insurance Could Save Taxpayers up to $18.5 Billion

April 22, 2012 Comments off

Free Farm Insurance Could Save Taxpayers up to $18.5 Billion
Source: Environmental Working Group

A new report released today shows that an Environmental Working Group proposal to reform the costly federal crop insurance program through the 2012 farm bill could save taxpayers up to $18.5 billion over 10 years and provide more farmers with a reliable safety net.

EWG commissioned Dr. Bruce Babcock, an economics professor at Iowa State University, to analyze the impact of offering farmers a free insurance policy that would cover 70 percent of average crop yield at 100 percent of the market price for the lost crop.

If farmers were charged a small fee to cover administrative costs, taxpayers would save $10.4 billion over 10 years and cover every acre planted with corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat in 2011. Savings would grow to $18.5 billion over 10 years if only the acres insured in 2011 were covered by the new safety net. “The reality that giving away free insurance would actually save money underscores how inefficient the current system is,” writes Dr. Babcock.

Under the current system, farmers only pay a small portion of the policy premiums, and the private insurers that sell the policies pay less than half of the damage claims from crop revenue losses. Taxpayers pick up the rest, along with exorbitant administrative costs and agents’ commissions. The result is that one taxpayer dollar goes to insurance companies and agents for every dollar sent to farmers to pay claims.

The cost to taxpayers of the current crop insurance system has soared from $2.4 billion in 2001 to nearly $9 billion in 2011 as a result of high commodity prices and the generous premium subsidies that lead farmers to buy the most expensive insurance available.

+ Full Report (PDF)

America’s Conservation Compact is Eroding Despite Farmers’ Support

March 3, 2012 Comments off

America’s Conservation Compact is Eroding Despite Farmers’ Support
Source: Environmental Working Group

A new research paper finds that most farmers support the long-standing conservation compact that has helped protect the rich soil and clean water that sustain food, farming and public health.

Conservation Compliance: A Retrospective…and Look Ahead by conservationist Max Schnepf concludes through a comprehensive review of public opinion polls that the farming community has consistently supported the historic deal between taxpayers and farmers that was struck in the 1985 farm bill. Under it, growers agreed to keep soil from washing away and chemicals out of waterways in return for generous taxpayer support.

Seven polls taken in the last 30 years show that a solid majority of farmers believe that bargain is a fair one.

“The conservation compact was a godsend for agricultural and conservation groups and farmers,” Schnepf writes. “In the 10 years following the 1985 farm bill, farmers did more to curb soil erosion than at any time since the infamous Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.”

Schnepf notes that Environmental Working Group’s 2011 report, Losing Ground, found that high prices, intense competition for farmland leases and ethanol mandates have put unprecedented pressure on land and water. As a result, the historic gains in soil conservation the compact achieved are being lost.

“Conservation is once again being pushed to the back seat – the very situation that led to the compact in the first place,” said EWG Senior Vice President Craig Cox. “We need to reinvigorate the compact just to keep things from getting worse, let alone make long-overdue progress on pollution problems that have gone unchecked for decades.”

+ Full Report (PDF)

Sugar in Children’s Cereals

December 8, 2011 Comments off

Sugar in Children’s Cereals
Source: Environmental Working Group

Parents have good reason to worry about the sugar content of children’s breakfast cereals, according to an Environmental Working Group review of 84 popular brands.
Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, at nearly 56 percent sugar by weight, leads the list of high-sugar cereals, according to EWG’s analysis.

A one-cup serving of Honey Smacks packs more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, and one cup of any of 44 other children’s cereals has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.

Corn Lobby Offers Flawed Data To Deflect Blame for Dead Zone

August 12, 2011 Comments off

Corn Lobby Offers Flawed Data To Deflect Blame for Dead Zone
Source: Environmental Working Group

A new study released today by the US Geological Survey shows that efforts to reduce nitrate levels in the Mississippi River Basin are having little impact. Nitrates come mostly from the over-application of chemical fertilizers on crops in the Corn Belt, fouling streams and rivers and eventually helping to swell the annual Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone.”

Corn lobbyists have been citing an analysis they commissioned in a bid to show that agriculture is not the source of nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The American Farm Bureau Federation and National Corn Growers Association’s claim is based on a 2009 report, titled “Hypoxia in the Gulf: An Analytical White Paper,” written by the business consulting firm StrathKirn, Inc. [ See the report]

Researchers from the Environmental Working Group recently reviewed the corn lobby’s report and today released an analysis that details its major flaws. [ See the report]

“Gulf fishermen and residents all along the Mississippi River Basin must endure this insult to their water while the culprits continue to deflect blame. It is time for the corn lobby to acknowledge that their cropping system is a major source of water pollution and take responsibility for it,” said EWG analyst Andrew Hug, co-author with Rebecca Sutton of the new EWG report, “Corn Cop Out.” [ See the report]

Large industrial grain operations blanket their fields with nitrogen fertilizer and animal manure. They help push an average of 164,000 metric tons of fertilizer down the Mississippi River into the Gulf each year, creating a low-oxygen Dead Zone of more than 6,765 square miles – an area larger than the state of Connecticut. The excess nitrogen triggers massive blooms of algae that block sunlight and ultimately die off, consuming oxygen and driving out or killing marine plants and animals.

The corn lobby’s study concludes that corn production can’t possibly be causing the pollution problem because all of the nitrogen applied ends up in the corn, not in the water. However, that conclusion is based on an outdated figure for the protein (and therefore nitrogen) content of modern hybrid corn. In the past, corn tested at 10 percent protein, but current measurements indicate that corn’s protein content has dropped 20-30 percent.

EWG’s 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

June 15, 2011 Comments off

EWG’s 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
Source: Environmental Working Group
From Executive Summary:

Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

Free registration required to download full document.

2011 Sunscreen Database Profiles 1,700 Products

June 8, 2011 Comments off

2011 Sunscreen Database Profiles 1,700 Products
Source: Environmental Working Group

Consumers can trust a slim 20 percent of the beach and sport sunscreens assessed for the 2011 sun season, according to Environmental Working Group’s survey of over 1,700 sun products.

In the wild west of sunscreens, sun-seekers are still faced with shelves filled with problematic ingredients, unsubstantiated marketing claims and lack-luster protection – three out of five sunscreens offer inadequate UVA protection.

The fugitive ingredients that have successfully skipped any federal criticism from the lethargic Food and Drug Administration, tasked with overseeing the safety of personal products, still saturate the market, putting children, teens and adults at potential risk for endocrine disruption and even expedited skin tumor developments.

This has been the case for 32 years and counting, since 1978 when the FDA first declared its intentions to regulate these necessary products. EWG’s sunscreen database remains the go-to source for consumers interested in seeing how adequately their products protect them from both UVA and UVB rays, and if they contain hazardous ingredients.

FDA has even been slow to address concerns on a common vitamin A derivative, retinyl palmitate, used in about 30 percent of the sunscreens in the database.

+ 2011 Sunscreen Guide


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