A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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October 26, 2006
European physicians defend chemical regulation: Charging industry with attempts to weaken the historic European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals) legislation, organizations representing physicians implored members of the European Union (EU) Parliament "not to bend to industry demands and dilute a proposal that would force chemical companies to substitute dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives." Dominique Belpomme, oncologist at a leading Paris hospital and chair of the Association for Cancer Treatment Research, told EU ministers, "Babies are contaminated by hundreds of substances. There is a risk of cancer developing. We have managed to pollute the future generation." Belpomme and other professional public health and environmental experts are demanding "stringent toxicological standards and a mandatory substitution of the most dangerous chemicals." The EU Parliament will vote on REACH next month. Read the Associated Press report.
Union flower workers to lose Dole jobs: Colombia's largest flower grower, Dole, has announced plans to lay-off about 2,600 flower workers, many of whom were involved in the struggle to unionize. The announcement came less than two weeks after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement that the union Untraflores is fighting to replace. Citing competition from China and Africa, Dole officials denied that the workers' union organizing was the reason for the lay-offs. However, one worker relayed to Associated Press that her supervisor told them, "…in Africa they work for a bowl of soup a day [and] that in Colombia we workers made too many demands." Under a hard-won union contract Dole had implemented important improvements in working conditions including worker safety for exposure to hazardous pesticides; it is also the only Colombian grower so far to receive third-party certification for sound environmental practices. Dole supplies over 60% of the U.S. flower market. Read the entire article. Help the International Labor Rights Fund support flower workers.
"No bad bug" according to organic winemaker: In an industry where highly toxic fumigant pesticides are often used for soil sterilization prior to planting, Frog's Leap Winery, a renowned producer of cabernet sauvignon and other premium varietals, became Napa Valley's first certified organic vineyard in 1987. Today eco-conscious practices permeate the business. Jennifer Smith told the San Francisco Chronicle about their approach. The article explained, "Frog's Leap grows flora such as crimson clover, oats and fava beans between the vines to eliminate weeds naturally and provide a habitat for beneficial insects. ‘There's no bad bug until there are too many of them,'" Smith said, and "…when the cover crops wither, farmers turn them into the soil to create a 12-inch mulch that provides nitrogen. In general, healthy soil yields healthy vines, but to ensure that is the case at Frog's Leap, growers engage in a practice called dry farming. This approach conserves water by forcing vines to dig deeper into the soil for nutrients. It also minimizes topsoil erosion. The technique yields smaller grapes, but the fruit is more complex and balanced than from vines that are watered like houseplants." Adding crop residues as organic fertilizer to the soil is a traditional agricultural practice used by farmers around the world to maintain soil quality and produce healthy products.