In the midst of uncertain times, I’m finding comfort in an array of good news regarding pesticide bans and restrictions from around the world.
Last week, PAN Staff Scientist Emily Marquez returned from the scientific committee meeting of the Stockholm Convention in Rome where several key pesticides were being discussed for potential global bans. Up for discussion was one of the pesticides that PAN has long been concerned about, dicofol. This insecticide requires DDT as an intermediate chemical in its production, and exposure can cause symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It’s also a suspected carcinogen and can cause hormone disruptions.
After much deliberation, the scientific committee of the Stockholm Convention finally recommended that dicofol be considered for a global ban. This is a big step forward and PAN was involved every step — weighing in on the science and lobbying the relevant officials. We’ll keep working to make dicofol a banned pesticide globally and replace it with agroecological practices, not other hazardous pesticides. PAN's Marquez said,
It was very encouraging that due to hard work from groups like PAN, agroecology was mentioned prominently in the scientific assessment of dicofol in Rome. We hope that agroecology and other nonchemical alternatives are taken up as the solution for using dicofol and other hazardous pesticides.
Paraquat and glyphosate
In news from Asia, Thailand recently announced a ban on two widely used pesticides: paraquat and glyphosate. Paraquat is widely used across the world, including in the U.S., and has been a pesticide of high concern for PAN. Ingesting even one teaspoon can cause death and there is no antidote. Paraquat has also been linked to several long-term health problems including kidney failure, respiratory failure, skin cancer and Parkinson's disease.
New health impacts related to the herbicide glyphosate continue coming to light. It is widely used in the U.S. in Monsanto’s flagship herbicide RoundUp and the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency recently designated it as a “probable” carcinogen. However, the U.S. regulatory process on glyphosate has been facing interference from industry which is trying to discredit the science that underscores the link between glyphosate and cancer. PAN has been working to curb agricultural reliance on glyphosate, especially in Europe, where the pesticide has been up for review at the level of the European Parliament. PAN Europe recently released a short film and report on “A Herbicide-Free Future” which demonstrated alternatives to glyphosate, just a few days after the publication of a scientific study showing that 45% of tested European soils are contaminated with glyphosate and its toxic metabolite.
Also in October, Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency announced a ban on carbofuran, which is used as an insecticide on several vegetables, fruits and grains. The ban will be fully effective within three to six months’ time. The agency cited the residues of carbofuran found on food and in water as an unacceptable risk for Brazilian people, especially for damage to children’s brains.
And finally, for some good news from North America, Canada re-evaluated the pesticide lambda-cyhalothrin this year and concluded there was evidence of toxicity for the endocrine system. Additionally, Canada concluded that all of the pesticide’s registered formulations pose an unacceptable cancer risk for children and unacceptable non-cancer risks through dietary exposure. Canada proposes to ban all food, feed, indoor residential and domestic turf uses of lambda-cyhalothrin, but stops short of a full ban. PAN sent an evaluation of the pesticide’s toxicity to the Rotterdam convention earlier this year.
All of these “wins” are worth celebrating, and underscore the need to keep working to ensure that communities around the world (like these in Argentina and India) do not continue to face the health impacts of harmful pesticide exposure. At PAN, that’s exactly what we’re doing.