Although the issue is less covered than in years past, honeybee populations continue to die off at alarming rates each winter, as they have done since around 2006 when colony collapse disorder was first observed and named. What makes this film special is the commitment of the filmmakers to using Vanishing of the Bees as a platform for organizing change. Stepping away from the standard distribution deals that would constrict the film’s uses, the filmmakers have instead made the film available for teachers, advocates and everyday people to host screenings.
Environmental Health Perspectives recently published an article directly linking consumption of conventionally-produced fruits and vegetables to pesticide residues in children’s bodies. Children are at particular risk when it comes to pesticides. For instance, consumption of organophosphate (OP) pesticide residues have recently been linked to increased rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. In the EHP study, Forty-six children supplied 239 samples that were analyzed for (OP) and pyrethroid pesticides—both nervous system toxicants and suspected endocrine disruptors. About one fifth of the food samples contained residues. These findings replicate similar results published two years ago in the same journal.
The EPA has agreed to stronger safeguards for would-be human guinea pigs. On October 13 EPA published a draft revised rule for testing pesticides on people. Under a settlement with plaintiffs who had sued the agency, EPA agreed to propose amendments "consistent with language negotiated by the groups who challenged it."
Otter populations in the UK have made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction. According to the Guardian, their recovery is largely due to less polluted rivers resulting from UK bans on organochlorine pesticides (OCs) in the 1970s. Not only is the water safer for the otters, who are high up in the aquatic food chain, but also for their prey: fish populations have likewise recovered.
Last week, countries gathered in Japan hammered out a global agreement to hold corporations liable for genetically modified (GM) organism pollution of ecosystems.
According to the The Mainichi Daily News, a "biosafety protocol" was adopted to set "redress rules for damage caused to ecosystems by the movements of genetically modified crops."The move came at the end of the fifth meeting on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, kicking off international talks on the Convention on Biological Diversity. The new rules, which bolster mechanisms to hold agricultural biotech corporations like Monsanto liable, will be opened for ratification next spring.
With national climate policy stalled in the Senate, hopes for policy progress rest on local, state and regional initiatives, like California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). AB 32 is important because the state is looked to as a leading indicator of how progressive policy battles will play out, and because California's renewable energy economy is among the biggest.Adopted in 2006, AB 32 requires the state to come up with a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That plan is due to come into effect in 2011 and the oil and gas industry is on trying to stop it with Proposition 23, spending millions of dollars to a campaign to indefinitely delay climate policy passed by California voters.
On October 13, PAN joined 13,000 individuals and organizations from across the U.S. to send a letter to Lisa Jackson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for a complete ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos and a phase out of other organophosphate (OP) pesticides.
It’s been a decade since the pesticide chlorpyrifos was banned for home use because of the many hazards it poses to children, including a host of pervasive developmental and behavioral disorders, asthma, lung cancer, low birth weights, and more. Despite these and other known risks, hundreds of thousands of children in agricultural communities around the country still face regular exposure to this potent neurotoxin because it remains widely used in agricultural fields.
Last week’s New York Times article, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,” has set CCD observers abuzz, and prompted at least one counter from a journalist for CNN Money. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations around the world beginning around 2006. Each winter since, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared (more than twice what is normal). Scientists have been investigating the decline, and while CCD appears to have multiple interacting causes, a range of evidence points to sub-lethal pesticide exposures. Neonicotinoids are a particularly suspect class of insecticides; so much so that Italy and France have banned or restricted their use to protect their honeybee populations. This class of insecticides is highly neurotoxic to bees, and works by disabling insects’ immune and nervous systems. Also notable is the fact that these systemic pesticides, which are applied at the root or seed and then taken up by the plant’s vascular system, have seen a manifold increase in use since around 2005.
Strawberries garnered special attention this year as Arysta LifeScience, a global pesticide corporation, aggressively promoted the chemical methyl iodide for use in California’s strawberry industry. It was dubbed “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth” by Dr. Join Froines, chair of the state's Scientific Review Committee for the pesticide. Pesticide Action Network, partners and tens of thousands of Californians rallied to keep methyl iodide out of agriculture.
A September 17th announcement that $180,000 in federal funds have been granted to back a PR campaign to "correct misconceptions about pesticide residues on food" caught the attention of farmers and organic food advocates across the country, according to the Associated Press. The federal Specialty Crop Block Grants from which the grant will come are one of the only sources of funding to support the production and marketing of crops such as fruits, nuts and vegetables in California. Critics charge that awarding taxpayer dollars from this fund to a project that effectively advocates against the value of organic produce is therefore an inappropriate use of public funds.