A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS updates service, for complete information.
February 08, 2007
Organic, worker-friendly flowers: "In flowers, too, green is the new red for Valentine's Day," reads the headline of Amy Stewart's Feb. 7 story in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The $6 billion American cut-flower industry has been slow to embrace the idea of an eco-label for cut flowers, although such programs have been popular in Europe for years." But the movement is catching on. "‘This is not just about the fact that the flowers you bring home haven't been sprayed with pesticides. You also know that when bees visited that flower, they weren't poisoned. You know that the workers who harvested those flowers were safe,'" states Napa, California biodynamic grower Patricia Damery. Influence of such pioneers "may well be felt not just here at home, but across the country and in Latin America as well," Stewart writes, with increased attention to labor conditions in addition to organic certification. If you can't find organic flowers locally, check out PAN's special offers.
President signs directive to second-guess regulatory decisions: As if slashing the budgets of U.S. regulatory agencies including the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration weren't enough, George W. Bush signed another executive order that increases Administration influence, installing political appointees to head the agencies—often representatives from the very industries they are charged with regulating. According to the New York Times, "The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities. This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts."
France fines Monsanto for fraudulent advertising: Agence Presse news service reported that a French court levied US $19,000 fines on both Monsanto and Scotts France for misleading the public about Roundup, Monsanto's flagship herbicide. One of the groups to which damages also must be paid stated that the court decision, "puts an end to Monsanto's lies." A former chairman of Monsanto Agriculture France had claimed that Roundup is biodegradable and "left the soil clean." Roundup's active ingredient is glyphosate. According to a June 2005 report in Environmental Health Perspectives, Roundup was found to be "...toxic to human placental...cells within 18 hours [of exposure], with concentratons lower than those found in agricultural use," and, "Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient." The researchers also found glyphosate and Roundup effects on sexual hormones at very low levels. This suggests that "dilution with other ingredients in Roundup may, in fact, facilitate glyphosate's hormonal impacts." Read more about Roundup.
Massachusetts's residents protest Roundup: People living in Jamaica Plain and Cambridge near Boston tried but failed to convince state authorities to refrain from using Roundup in their neighborhood. The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation refused to halt a Roundup application on Southwest Corridor Park despite hundreds of complaints from local residents opposed to the spraying. Community members formed the Neighborhood Pesticide Action Committee seven years ago to work toward eliminating local pesticide use.
Farm labor contractor gets 30 year prison sentence: According to authorities, Ronald Evans lured homeless farmworkers, many of them undocumented, to his "work camps" where he plied them with beer, cigarettes, and crack cocaine while stealing their money. The Miami Herald reports, "The sentence...nearly closes a chapter on one of the most significant federal investigations into claims that workers toiling at the bottom of Florida's rich agricultural industry are often abused and sometimes held as virtual captives." The Herald's 2003 exposé on the camps led to the investigation, according to prosecutors.
Ag-Mart sued for failure to pay workers minimum wage: Ag-mart, one of the nation's largest tomato growers, has been sued by 200 workers for failure to pay minimum wage. Ag-mart was charged last year by North Carolina authorities for unsafe working conditions for their workers using pesticides. At least one baby has been born with birth defects to an Ag-mart worker exposed to pesticides. This week's case charges Ag-mart with "doctoring the books" and altering the hours on workers' timecards. The class action lawsuit represents over 3,000 workers, many with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The Fort Meyers News-Press reports.
Canadian mayor eager for pesticide ban: Mayor Fred Eisenberger of Hamilton, Ontario, is proposing a broad ban on pesticides in his city. City Council members are insisting on exemptions for agricultural use, and favor public education over a new by-law prohibiting pesticides. According to the Dundas Star News, Eisenberg told the council, "It's a public health issue. Education only goes so far. If you want, you can hold me responsible (for the bylaw)."