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June 29, 2006
Global: Biopiracy is the act of taking biological materials and ideas from, typically, indigenous people and those living in regions of poverty, often without compensation or even permission. Indigenous groups are alleging that a National Geographic project is doing just that as it works to use DNA to map humanity's genetic lineage, and have asked the UN to stop the project. Biopiracy “loosely refers to the failure of companies and researchers to pay indigenous groups and poor governments for biological materials and ideas,” according to journalist Kelly Hearn. "Biopiracy awareness is undoubtedly growing fast, so much so that you are seeing calls for an international framework to deal with the problem," said Deb Harris, a Northern Paiute activist from Nevada and PAN partner who directs the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism. Hope Shand of ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), another PAN partner, points out the connection between biopiracy and the intellectual property debate: "Patents are socially corrosive and the whole system undermines conservation and use of biological diversity”. Read Hearn’s article.
Washington: According to the advocacy website BushGreenWatch.org the White House and Republican members of Congress are engaged in strategies to get rid of federal laws and regulations that protect the public on issues of environment, public health, civil rights, education, housing, poverty programs, workplace safety and more. OMBwatch reports that congressional leaders in the GOP are working to get anti-regulatory legislation passed before the elections in the fall. One proposal creates a "sunset commission,” an unelected body with the power to recommend whether a program lives or dies, and then move its recommendations through Congress on a fast-track basis with limited debate and no amendments. Among likely targets is “a national children's health study that examines factors leading to such problems as premature birth, autism, obesity, asthma, and exposures to pesticides, mercury and other toxic chemicals”. OMBwatch.org is asking concerned citizens to take action now.
Iowa: A study of homes located near expanding agricultural acreage found evidence of contamination in as many as 95% of the residences from herbicides and pesticides such as 2, 4-D and metolachlor. Researchers clarified that 16% of all homes in the study had never been farms, nor had people who worked on farms ever lived there, yet those living spaces were contaminated as well. Dust was collected from carpets of the homes from vacuum cleaners. Read the report from Environmental Health Perspectives.
California: Elena Ruiz walked out of her Central Valley home last September and found herself in a “fog of pesticides,” including dimethoate, applied by the Patterson Flying Service. The state Department of Pesticide Regulation upheld a county-proposed $5,000 fine after Ruiz complained of health problems from the incident. This is the first case to invoke a 2005 state law, advocated by a coalition including PAN, that requires any person or company that causes illness or injury by violating pesticide regulations to pay the victim’s related medical costs. Ruiz said that she is still experiencing symptoms including a sore throat and numbness, and that doctors believe the exposure affected her nervous system. “My life hasn’t been the same,” she said. The Patterson Irrigator has the story.
Massachusetts: Many of us work hard to have a beautiful garden. It is important for us to remember that we could be harming the environment. Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides typically contain potentially dangerous chemicals and toxins, even minute amounts of which pose health risks, especially for children, pets and wildlife. These chemicals can also seep into the groundwater or run off into rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs, contaminating drinking water sources. The town of Bolton Common has listed ways to garden with the least amount of toxic chemicals. If you want to help your neighbors have healthy lawns, also check out the Healthy Lawn Campaign.
California: A regional water board acted last week to ensure that the state of California can identify farmers who discharge water into Central Valley streams. “A network of voluntary coalitions were not adequately reporting membership or pollution data,” according to The Sacramento Bee. The action follows on testimony by residents, Delta Keeper and PAN North America calling on the board to strengthen a program to reduce the flow of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals from farms into the Sacramento River Delta. California is the first state in the U.S. to begin to regulate farmers as waste-water dischargers. Read the full article and read PAN’s testimony.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.