UC Food Observer chooses a handful of important stories for you to read as you finish your work week. On the menu, in no particular order: Consumer Reports comes out with a comprehensive guide to pesticides in produce. Al Gore on the climate crisis. The USDA convenes a gathering to soothe biotech clashes. New farmers face old (and new) challenges. Farmers say “no sale” to California bullet train. And the gender pay gap is widest in farming and financial services.


1. Consumer Reports: Pesticides in produce. A recent study revealed that 85% of those surveyed were concerned about pesticide use. How risky are pesticides? What does research indicate about pesticides and human health? What does “organic” mean? What does “conventionally grown” mean? How do pesticides play into this? What is the difference between synthetic and natural pesticides? What are some rules to shop by? And should consumers always buy organic? Read this piece for answers to these questions, and more.


2. Al Gore: Mother Nature is the most powerful advocate for solving the climate crisis. Al Gore has become less of “the prophet of doom” and “much more a prophet of possibility — even, perhaps, an optimist.”  As investment in renewable energy sources (wind and solar) rapidly increases, Gore has seen acceptance of his views grow in the business community. He argues that the “most powerful advocate for solving the climate crisis is not me, but Mother Nature,” saying that “the reality of the climate crisis is overwhelming, and more and more people see it and feel it every day.” From The New York Times.


3. USDA urges “co-existence” as biotech factions clash. The debate between supporters of biotechnology and non-GMO adherents has grown increasingly strident. Biotech seed makers like Monsanto (along with some farmer groups) argue that GMOs are essential to global food security. Organic food companies and consumer groups disagree: they feel that GMO use is detrimental to land and animals, and may also be contributing to serious human health issues. The increased polarization prompted the USDA to convene a two-day summit to eke out consensus on “agricultural coexistence.” From the Wall Street Journal.


4. New farmers face old (and new) challenges. The face of farming is changing in America. Among those heading back to the land are young farmers who hail from urban or suburban settings. They are supported in their work by a variety of initiatives and organizations, including the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. A wonderful summary article from The Guardian.


5. Gender pay gap widest in farming and financial services. Among the professions with the widest wage gap between men and women? Farming. This is particularly alarming, because the number of female farmers is growing. Data garnered from the USDA’s Economic Research Service indicates that woman-operated farms more than doubled between 1982 and 2007. Approximately 14% of the nation’s farms are run by women, who now comprise about 30% of all U.S. farmers.