GroundTruth Blog

GroundTruth: PAN's blog on pesticides, food & health

Margaret Reeves's picture

Earlier this month, a group of farmworkers traveled from Florida and North Carolina to bring their very real-world concerns about pesticides to decisionmakers in DC. On the heels of their visits, we now hear that a long-awaited update of the rules designed to protect workers in the field is actually, finally moving forward.

The Worker Protection Standard — or WPS — is the one rule intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure on the job. It first went into effect back in 1995 and has never been strengthened or updated, despite clear evidence that workers across the country are suffering health harms from exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job. Now it looks like improvements are finally in the works. And it's about time.

Paul Towers's picture

Last Friday, three global pesticide corporations threw the legal equivalent of the kitchen sink at the island of Kaua’i. The suit filed in federal court is the latest in a long stream of corporate bullying that has become commonplace on the island and around the world.

For years, the Hawaiian islands have been a global epicenter of testing genetically engineered (GE) seeds. This means big money for pesticide and biotech corporations. And as momentum grows to restrict GE testing and pesticide use thoughout the islands, corporate bully tactics are becoming increasingly agressive. And desperate. 

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Last Friday, USDA welcomed in the new year by presenting Dow AgroSciences with a bountiful gift: a virtual green light for the pesticide company’s new genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean seeds. These crops are designed specifically to be used with Dow’s infamous herbicide, 2,4-D. 

Dow has been waiting two years for the go-ahead from USDA to start marketing its 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy. And it now appears the corporation will get what it wants, despite strong opposition from farmers, healthcare professionals and concerned communities across the country.

Emily Marquez's picture

It's not exactly a shocker, but a recently released report from the United Kingdom (UK) Health and Safety Executive indicates that yes, there are low levels of pesticides in food commonly found in supermarkets. Seventy-seven percent of the starchy foods tested — including various kinds of bread — contained measurable residues.

Among the pesticides found was the controversial chemical glyphosate, with 23% of cereal bars containing residues of Monsanto's flagship herbicide.

Kristin Schafer's picture

Scan the ingredient list of many "antibacterial" soaps and body washes, and you'll find triclosan. This pesticide — yes, I said pesticide — is so widely used that it's now found in most of our bodies. And after decades of thinking about it, FDA is finally saying "enough."

It turns out some significant risks are linked to triclosan, including altering how hormones work in our bodies, undermining our immune systems and making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Oh, and according to FDA experts, it doesn't seem to get hands or bodies any cleaner than good old soap and water.

Paul Towers's picture

Like many, I was lucky enough to spend the holidays surrounded by family and food. So I was especially unnerved by new evidence, released just before the holidays, that bee-harming pesticides have been linked to impaired brain development and function in children.

The science showing that neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) harm bees is clear. New evidence highlighting impacts on children's health is also disturbing, especially as a father. And while other countries are stepping up to protect bees and kids from neonics, policymakers here in the U.S. are still seemingly stuck. My New Year’s resolution: This year we keep high heat on EPA and insist regulators take meaningful action on pesticides that harm bees and kids.

Judy Hatcher's picture

Reflecting on PAN’s accomplishments over the past year, I’m feeling deeply grateful to each and every person in our broad community — including you. Every person involved in this work provides the inspiration and muscle we need to transform corporate and government systems.

And as 2013 draws to a close, my attention turns to the coming year. How can we best work together to keep building momentum for powerful change? How can we make even more progress toward healthy, fair food and farming in the new year?

Margaret Reeves's picture

EPA recently fined Bayer CropSciences $53,000 for endangering the lives of farmworkers with pesticide exposure in their Puerto Rican research and nursery operations. While this is a tiny drop in Bayer's multi-million dollar budget, we do take it as an encouraging sign.

The good news: When rules are enforced — in this case, the federal Worker Protection Standards (WPS) — employers are held accountable for protecting workers from exposure to hazardous pesticides. The less good news: Enforcement actions like this one are all too rare, and the WPS itself is old, inadequate and in serious need of an upgrade.

Judy Hatcher's picture

This week marks the culmination of special commemorations and actions for PAN’s global community. And in 2013, No Pesticides Use Day (December 3) and International Human Rights Day (December 10) have an added level of poignancy as we join the world in reflecting on the remarkable life of the great Nelson Mandela.

Coming of age in the seventies and eighties, I was an anti-apartheid activist. What I learned about social change and international solidarity in those times still inspires me today. And PAN’s work around the world — to both protect communities from harm imposed by pesticide corporations and support ecological, sustaining food production — is a natural outgrowth of the grassroots-powered solidarity movements of past decades in at least three different ways.

Emily Marquez's picture

For quite some time, European policymakers have been working on a plan to regulate endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In the last few months, the process has sparked a furor among researchers and public health experts, with a heated battle of editorials raging in scientific journals that highlights clear conflicts of interest among those critiquing European action.

EDCs are compounds that alter the hormonal systems in an organism, and many of these chemicals are in widespread use. If the European Union (EU) regulates EDCs, it will be the first policy in the world that addresses the endocrine disruptor problem.