Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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Poverty & pollution

A recent, powerful series of articles in Environmental Health News marked the 30th anniversary of what many consider the birth of the environmental justice movement. EHN reporters visited low-income communities of color across the country, and found "a legacy of lingering problems and newly emerging threats."

Pollution, Poverty, People of Color” tells the compelling stories of seven communities that are battling the “triple whammy” of race, poverty and environmental contamination. PAN sees this struggle all too often, as we work with community partners to monitor pesticides in their air and water. All of the EHN stories are worth reading; we share brief summaries of just two of them below.

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How Brazil stopped Monsanto's bullying

Brazil, the world’s second largest user of genetically engineered (GE) seeds, just took Monsanto down a notch. The court focused on Monsanto’s harassment and exploitation of farmers — potentially causing huge financial losses to the company, and keeping their army of lawyers busy for a while. Meanwhile, we celebrate a rare commonsense legal decision.

Monsanto's RoundUp Ready soy seeds comprise 85% of all soy grown in Brazil, and the corporation has been making a tidy profit charging farmers a levy of 2% on top of the cost of seed. In April, a Brazilian court ruled this levy illegal.

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Rep. Markey to FDA: Why are lindane shampoos still allowed?

Lice shampoos containing lindane continue to be allowed in the U.S., despite being slated for a global ban due to the organochlorine pesticide's persistence and toxicity. Last week, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) urged the Obama Administration to pull these products from the U.S. market once and for all.

In 2009, more than 160 nations agreed to ban the agricultural uses of lindane, and to phase out pharmaceutical uses around the world by 2014. Lindane shampoos and lotions have been banned in California since 2002, and several other states have moved to severely restrict the use of these products.

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Epigenetics: Gambling with our future

The "obesity epidemic" is constantly in the news. This year's CDC figures show that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. Childhood cancers and neurodevelopmental delays are on the rise.

Scientific studies show that many of these health conditions can be linked to exposures to environmental contaminants such as pesticides, and new research is finding that exposures occurring as far back as three generations can cause adverse health conditions today.

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Midwest communities find atrazine in their water

Today, PAN released water sampling results from communities across four Midwestern states — Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota — that indicate atrazine is present in drinking water at levels well above those linked to birth defects and low birth weight.

Exposure to this common herbicide and potent endocrine disruptor can also increase risk of several types of cancer, including ovarian and thyroid.

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PAN China takes down paraquat

Last week, the Chinese government officially announced that the country will phase out use of Syngenta's paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson's, cancer and reduced fertility.

The official announcement stated that the ban had been imposed "in order to protect the health and safety of the people" and gave a phaseout timeline of four years.

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Attention Monsanto: Californians to vote on GE labeling

On Tuesday, 971,126 signatures were delivered to county registrars throughout California in support of a ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

Ninety-three percent of Americans say they want to know when they are eating GE food. With up to 80% of the non-organic products on our shelves containing GE ingredients, and little-to-no studies on their long term health effects, people across the country are concerned. And people in California are demanding the right to know.

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Fetal exposure alters brain structure, say scientists

When a pregnant woman is exposed to low levels of a commonly used pesticide, the architecture of her developing infant's brain may be irreversibly damaged. This according to researchers who for the first time used MRI testing to see structural evidence of harm from exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during fetal development.

Researchers report that the changes in brain structure they observed were consistent with the learning and developmental effects (including reduced IQs) that have been linked to chlorpyrifos. The effects were observed at exposure levels well below those considered harmful by EPA.

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Dow's cancer-causing 'garbage' chemical in drinking water

For more than 50 years, Dow Chemical Company and Shell Oil knowingly included a highly toxic waste chemical in their fumigant pesticide products, rather than paying to dispose of it properly. The chemical, 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP), is a known carcinogen.

TCP is considered a "garbage" chemical because it is a by-product of the plastics manufacturing process — it is not intentionally produced. By including TCP in their fumigants, which are widely used in California to kill nematodes, Dow and Shell Oil contaminated drinking water in communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Several cities are now suing both companies for cleanup costs.

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