An Urban Forager at the March Against Monsanto

This afternoon I spoke at Portland’s March Against Monsanto to offer an urban forager’s perspective on Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship product. My talk was brief and well received. This is what I said:
march_against_monsanto2My name is Becky Lerner and I wrote the book Dandelion Hunter, and I’m also a nature educator here in Portland, and a blogger at the website FirstWays.com. I’m here standing with you today because I’m an urban forager. I pick wild plants in the urban areas in Portland and I eat them and make herbal medicines with them. And I teach other people how to do this, too. I have a vested interest in a clean, toxin-free city. I’m very concerned about exposing myself and others to pesticides. I’m also really interested in giving our community access to this free food and medicine. My passion is letting people know that wild plants are useful to us, and that nature’s wild abundance is a gift, something to embrace, not something we need to dominate or kill – especially with toxic chemicals.

We talk about farmers dousing our land in Roundup, and the dangers that causes to our health and the Earth. It’s why we buy organic. But what a lot of people don’t know is that this same chemical cocktail is being sprayed in lawns and parks all around us. Homeowners use 10 times more Roundup per acre than farmers do. Not only are our neighbors spraying it all over the place, but so are we – through our tax dollars, which the city spends on Roundup to spray in the parks. It’s in this park we’re standing in right now, in the rings around the trees, where the deadzones are. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Anyone who’s enjoyed dandelion coffee or blackberry syrup or garlic mustard pesto, or who’s drank red clover flower or mullein leaf tea, or who’s made a salve with St Johns Wort, understands how useful weeds can be for us.

The city of Portland and Metro kill very useful edible and medicinal wild plants using Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup. Our tax dollars go directly into Monsanto’s pockets. If you talk to people who work for Metro, or for the Portland parks, they’ll tell you that they trust Monsanto’s claims that Roundup is safe. But I don’t trust Monsanto. In two instances, the EPA caught labs hired by Monsanto falsifying data on Roundup to make it sound safer than it is. The European Union lists its active ingredient, glyphosate, as “dangerous for the environment” and “toxic to aquatic organisms.” Studies link also it to birth defects in animals exposed to it and to cancer. The EPA is actually now re-evaluating Roundup’s active ingredient and is considering banning it in 2015.

We’re Portland. We’re supposed to be leading the nation in being green. All around the country, cities are banning the use of pesticides, especially Roundup, in their parks. Ninety percent of Chicago’s parks are chemical-free. The parks in Boulder, Colorado, banned Roundup. Why not Portland?

Thank you.
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To browse some of the useful wild plants available this season, visit my new Search Plants! page.

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Upcoming Classes:
– Urban Foraging 101 tomorrow (Sunday May 26), 2 pm to 5 pm, in NE Portland. $40. Info here.
– Stinging Nettle guided plant-spirit meditation, 7 pm to 9 pm Thursday June 6, in NE Portland. $20 to $40 sliding scale. Info here.
– Herbal Medicine 101 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday June 23 in SE Portland. $45, including medicines and materials. Info here.

12 thoughts on “An Urban Forager at the March Against Monsanto

  1. Very nice to see this, Becky. Especially liked the declaration of interest in having ‘a clean, toxin-free’ environment to live and work in. If only more people had that as a requirement of their personal day-to-day economy, then we might see some changes!

    I’ve been keeping an eye out for info about this toxic chemical, especially after I started working with a garden maintenance company that occasionally uses it on the driveways, patios, tennis courts etc. of private residencies (although I’ve refused to use it myself). Have you seen the recent Friends of the Earth report, ‘Weed killer found in human urine across Europe‘? Loads of shocking stuff in there, most particularly (for me) the news that 70% of people living the UK have traces of Glyphosate in their urine,with no way of knowing for sure where it has come from. I blogged about it yesterday, throwing in some of the other snippets I’ve come across plus some of my personal experiences. Click on my name above if you’re interested.

    all best,
    Ian

  2. Wow, this is great! I just happened on this post, but it addresses (so well and factually) a problem as serious as the use of Roundup on GMO crops, the urban use of Roundup In our city, the “environmental services” department regularly sprays all of the alleys with Roundup to control “weeds.” My neighbors and I were cultivating wildflowers on our easements and they got sprayed! Our city (El Paso, TX) receives very little rain, but when it does we have serious flash flood control problems. Needless to say, the Roundup sprayed by the city gets into this toxic mix. Thanks. I am sharing this with my friends.

  3. But have you or someone started a petition to sign against the use of pesticides in the parks? I tried to email them and it was complicated! But I’m willing to work on this.
    A. Knupfer

    • What we need is not a petition but a city law. And there are some organizations who are knowledgeable about the process and have templates, such as Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. I am interested in being part of a coalition to make this happen.

  4. Pingback: An Urban Forager at the March Against Monsanto | Ishtarmuz's Blog

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