The blogosphere and fringe media is full of misinformation and downright lies. If I tried to set the record straight everytime some blogger claimed that DDT is harmless to people, endosulfan is "soft on bees," or that feeding the world requires GMOs then I wouldn't have time to do anything else. And so even though it registered a strong reading on my BS detector, I decided to simply ignore the new article on the American Enterprise Institute's website claiming that triazine herbicides (the class that includes atrazine) are the only thing keeping California almonds free of deadly toxins. But then the Huffington Post reprinted it, and people actually read HuffPo (unlike aei.org), so now here I am, setting the record straight.
I spent much of last week in the sub-freezing cold of northern Minnesota, attending the 8th Annnual Great Lakes Indigenous Farming Conference. Every year, Winona LaDuke and the White Earth Land Recovery Project bring a couple hundred farmers, activists, and tribal leaders together on the White Earth Reservation to discuss the intersections of farming and culture from an indigenous perspective. One of the goals of this year's conference was to lay the groundwork for an Anishinaabeg/Great Lakes seed library.
I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for figures on pesticide use — it must happen at least once a week. "How many pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year?" "Is pesticide use going up or down?" "What's the most commonly used insecticide in the U.S.?" and so on. The best I could do was point to 10-year old numbers.
If you've been following the budget battle that's currently being waged in Congress, then you probably already know that House Republicans are attempting to use the process to score big wins for corporate polluters. For example, they're proposing to gut the EPA and prevent it from doing anything about climate change and to cut federal conservation programs. It should come as no surprise then that the EPA's atrazine review is also targeted.
"Spray drift" is the name given to droplets of pesticides that land anywhere they are not supposed to — like on people's heads, in lakes and streams, or on crops in neighboring fields. It can cause illness, damage crops, and harm ecosystems. And so in 2007 the EPA began trying to figure out how to do better job of keeping it from happening.
When DDT was introduced more than 60 years ago, it initially scored victory after victory in the fight against malaria — nearly eliminating the deadly disease in many areas. But these wins were mostly short-lived, as mosquitoes rapidly developed resistance to the chemical. Today, its effectiveness is a fraction of what it once was; meanwhile an arsenal of better and safer anti-malaria interventions has been developed, including effective chemical-free strategies.
And so, under the auspices of the Stockholm Convention, the nations of the world have committed to phasing out DDT, while allowing it to be used in the short-term in those few places where it's still effective and other methods of malaria control are unavailable. This is an approach PAN enthusiastically supports.
Imagine if a persistent, toxic chemical was being added to all sorts of products you use everyday: soap, toothpaste, cosmetics, shaving cream, even toys and underwear. Imagine being told that it was put there to keep you safe from disease, when in reality it could end up making you sicker by contributing to antibiotic resistance. Imagine your food was being grown in fertilizer contaminated with this chemical, and that government tests found it in 75% of Americans. Finally, imagine you had an opportunity to do something about it.
Two studies came out in the last couple of weeks that really illustrate the problems associated with "PBT" chemicals: those which are simultaneously persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Persistent substances resist degradation — you can move them around but it's really hard to get rid of them. Bioaccumulation happens when chemicals in food, water, and air end up getting stored in the body of a living thing. Thus, for a bass living in a mercury polluted lake, the mercury levels in the fish may be thousands of times higher than the levels in the water. A cow grazing on PCB-laced feed will store the chemical in her body and excrete it in her milk, and humans too act as sinks for all kinds of chemicals.
Today it seems obvious that a woman's health directly impacts the well-being of her future child. Women thinking about becoming pregnant — or those who already are — are often careful not to smoke, drink or take certain drugs. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom says that a father's health can't have any direct impact on that of his child. But as described in the cover story of the January/February issue of Miller-McCune, conventional wisdom is wrong: Fathers do matter.
The suffering caused by years of endosulfan use on cashew plantations in Kerala's Kasaragod district is well known: birth defects, high rates of mental retardation, and delayed puberty, in addition to the hundreds of deaths directly attributed to the antiquated insecticide. Now, the Indian press is reporting another cluster of endosulfan-induced disease a couple hundred miles away in Muthalamada district, also part of the state of Kerala.