Editor’s Desk: The big herbicide divide; EU’s appetite for American wood

Specialty crops, like these tomatoes from an Arkansas farm, were destroyed by dicamba drift. Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht.

We’ve had a busy spring, and I wanted to bring our recent stories — including two investigations — to your attention.

This Monsanto herbicide is tearing farm country apart

Last fall, FERN, in partnership with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, published Liza Gross’s story of how the Environmental Protection Agency ignored decades of independent science in approving new and expanded uses of Monsanto’s weedkiller dicamba on soybeans. Last month, we published the most recent installment of this story, a radio version produced by Reveal and reported by Trey Kay and Loretta Williams of the podcast Us & Them. Where Liza’s story laid out the case against the EPA, Trey and Loretta show how the weedkiller has divided farm communities in Arkansas—and how that division is likely to only get worse as the 2019 growing season unfolds. Listen to the Reveal podcast, which aired on more than 600 public radio stations.

Enviva’s wood pellet factory near Garysburg, North Carolina. Photo credit: George Steinmetz.
Harvesting American forests for the EU’s ‘green’ electricity

For this story with The Weather Channel, reporter Carson Vaughan and photojournalist George Steinmetz visited North Carolina to see how Europe’s appetite for “renewable” electricity is leading to ferocious demand for wood pellets from American forests. Enviva, a pellet manufacturer, has plants around the Southeast. While they’re better known for fueling backyard smokers and wood-fired stoves, the bulk of wood pellets is shipped to Europe to be burned for electricity. Although advocates claim this is “carbon neutral” because the trees are replanted, the scientific debate over that claim is far from settled. Trees after all take a lot longer to grow than they do to burn, fueling global warming. By the way, The Weather Channel is doing steady and deep coverage of climate-change issues. Check it out.

Farmhouse Tavern in Toronto. Photo by Jonathan Bloom.
How one Toronto restaurant is tackling food waste by chopping prices

Much to the delight of its customers, Toronto’s Farmhouse Tavern gets rid of all its food each Sunday by chopping prices for the dinner crowd, as Jonathan Bloom explains in this story produced with NPR’s The Salt. The unusual gambit means patrons get new deals on the menu the longer they hang out and eat and drink. This approach reduces food waste, a big problem in the restaurant industry. U.S. restaurants alone generate 18 percent of all food waste in the country, at a cost of roughly $25 billion.

Bonus cut: Leah Douglas interviews Tim Wise on ‘feeding the world’

Timothy A. Wise, senior researcher at the Small Planet Institute and a senior research fellow at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, spent four years researching the industrialization of agriculture and the influence of agribusiness on policy around the world. He talks about his new book in this interview, published in FERN’s Ag Insider.

We hope you enjoy these stories, and that you’ll share them if you do. And please consider a donation — we cannot produce this kind of work without the help of readers and listeners like you.