Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS updates service for complete information.
December 18, 2008
- New Zealand bans endosulfan
- "Biotech governer of the year," Vilsack, tapped as US Ag Sec
- Europe calls for 'bee-friendly' zones
- North America Domestic Fair Trade launched
- Chemical-free Christmas trees
- A Tribute to Shelley Davis
- Happy Holidays from PAN
On December 15, New Zealand announced a total ban on the insecticide endosulfan, effective January 16, 2009. “That means that all import or use of endosulfan is illegal,” Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand (PAN ANZ) coordinator Dr. Meriel Watts announced. In announcing the ban, New Zealand’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) explained that it had determined “the level of adverse effect to the environment, human health, the relationship of Maori to the environment, and to New Zealand's international relationships outweighed any positive effects associated with the availability of endosulfan in New Zealand.” Endosulfan, already banned in 55 countries (including the European Union, but not yet the United States), is used on a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Illegal residues have also been found twice in New Zealand beef destined for South Korea, resulting in enormous costs for exporters. Because of the proven dangers of endosulfan exposure, ERMA said it “wanted to stop use of endosulfan as quickly as possible.” Dr. Watts hailed the decisions as “an historic move for New Zealand!”
Despite articulate and energetic pleading from over 75,000 food and sustainable agriculture activists, Tom Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa, has been tapped as the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The move surprised many, as Vilsack was apparently dropped after the Obama transition team received a flood of comments and petition signatures from groups including the Organic Consumer Association (OCA), the Food Democracy Now! coalition and PAN activists calling for a progressive pick who would lead change at this critical juncture in U.S. food, farming and forestry policy. Far from progressive, Vilsack is an outspoken proponent of the agricultural biotech and agrofuel industries who presided over a large expansion of Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs), or factory farms. The Biotechnology Industry Organization named him its governor of the year in 2001.
With Europe's bee populations plummeting, the European Union has called for the creating of bee "recovery zones" in each of the EU's 27 member nations. Federation of Italian Beekeepers President Raffaele Cirone explained that "grassy lands left uncultivated and unfertilized, where flowers can grow freely, to the benefit of insects who feed on them" is "part of the farming and bee-keeping tradition" that was abandoned with the advent of modern chemical-intensive agriculture. "In the past two decades," Cirone said, "the improper use of pesticides has forced most of us to leave the areas close to cultivated fields and to move to the hills." The Christian Science Monitor explains the UE's "compensation zones" would be "cultivated with protein-rich flowers" like white clover and wild mustard. In just the past two years, Italy has lost nearly half its bees and, as a result, its cherry crop may die out within a few years. According to the Monitor, "Europe-wide, an estimated $1.25 billion in agriculture has already disappeared with the bees."
"In an historic coming together farmers, farmworkers, traders, processors, marketers and food system advocates sat down as equals to bring fair trade home," reports the Organic Consumers Association. On December 7, "after three years of groundwork, the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) is ready to welcome new members." Dr. Chela Vazquez, representing PAN at the meeting held at the headquarters of Organic Valley Coop in LaFarge, Wisconsin, reports that "the participants agreed on a program to advance a vision of social and environmental justice in the food system by developing fair trade standards for North America." DFTA's primary goals are “to support family-scale farming, to reinforce farmer-led initiatives such as farmer co-operatives, to ensure just conditions for agricultural workers, to strengthen the organic farming movement, and bring these efforts together with mission-based traders, retailers and concerned consumers to contribute to the movement for a more equitable, diverse and sustainable agriculture in North America.”
Which Christmas tree is a better choice for environmental health: artificial or fresh cut? The National Christmas Tree Association likes to point out that artificial trees are made from polyvinylchloride plastic, and are chock-full of carcinogenic dioxins. Living trees sequester carbon and return nutrients to the soil as they decay. But what about pesticides? In 2006, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation reported that the state's tree farms were decking their boughs with "23 insecticides, miticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides. Although some are relatively benign," The San Francisco Chronicle reports, "others are capable of killing non-target species and compromising the health of tree-farm workers." A University of Pittsburg biologist reports that polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), a surfactant mixed with glyphosate to help Monsanto's Roundup coat target weeds, is highly toxic to frogs (Monsanto disagrees). Carbaryl and imidacloprid, insecticides also commonly used in Christmas tree farming, are known to poison honeybees. And dimethoate (an organophosphate insecticide used on evergreens) harms fish, birds and humans. Happily, the Chronicle notes, more tree growers are adopting organic practices, though not all are certified organic. Farmers are choosing to plant "tree varieties that have less susceptibility to pests than others," and mow rather than spray for weed control. Good news for those who want to decorate and enjoy
On December 12, Shelley Davis, Deputy Director of Farmworker Justice and a life-long farmworker advocate, died after a courageous battle with cancer. From her work as a staff member of the Migrant Legal Action Program in the 1990s through her service as a board member of Beyond Pesticides, Shelley was inspired by the example of Cesar Chavez who taught her to believe that, "as activists, we can make a difference." When she recieved Beyond Pesticide's Dragonfly Award for "tireless dedication advancing knowledge and action," Shelley emphasized that she was accepting the award "on behalf of the farmworkers I represent." In an article published in The Nation, Shelley called farmworkers "the most ignored, exploited and vulnerable population in this country. Their health needs are entirely subordinated by the government's need to make money for big companies." Shelley labored to even the odds by working through the courts and by supporting grassroots campaigns to establish fair and safe workplace standards. United Farm Workers' President Arturo Rodriguez praised Shelley Davis as someone "driven by an intense desire to ensure that the people who harvest the food we eat not be forced to sacrifice their health in the process.... Her light will not be extinguished but will live on in our continued struggle."
PANUPS will be taking a break next week but return with a special issue on December 31. In the meantime, we wish you the season's best and look forward to a new year filled with opportunities for achieving a cleaner, greener, more just world — on, below, and above the earth.