PANNA: EPA chief scolded by Senate; Court halts GMO trials; Drift bill in WA; and more...
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Senate hearings hold EPA head accountable: The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee began hearings into allegations of collusion between industry and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) political appointees to roll back health and environmental protections. Committee chair Barbara Barbara Boxer cited concerns voiced by EPA scientists, librarians and other staff, including closure of EPA libraries and destruction of documents, and weakening of the Toxics Release Inventory rule that requires polluters to report contamination to communities they impact. Senator Boxer told EPA chief Stephen Johnson, "I want to send a clear signal to EPA and to this administration: We are watching. No longer will EPA rollbacks quietly escape scrutiny." The San Francisco Chronicle has the story. Boxer and Representative Henry Waxman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform are working to restore integrity in federal regulatory management and give support for career scientists in regulatory agencies. Read more.
Historic court decision halts GMO trials: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must halt trials of genetically engineered crops until more environmental study can be conducted, according to the first federal court ruling on this issue. The decision came in response to a 2003 lawsuit filled by the Center for Food Safety, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and others to stop USDA trials of varieties of lawn grasses from Scotts and Monsanto that have been engineered to resist Roundup, Monsanto's flagship herbicide, in order to increase use of the weed killer on lawns, golf courses and sports fields. "This is a significant victory [requiring] far more thorough oversight of the environmental impact of these crops," stated Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. "The Court was clearly concerned that the agency has put our nation's environment at risk.... That's why the judge made the decision broadly apply to all future field trials of genetically engineered crops." Read more.
Washington state propose to monitor pesticide drift: Legislators for the state of Washington will have a chance to address pesticide drift in their communities with HB1810. The bill requires the state Health Department to conduct a pilot drift program and to assess policy ideas on notification rules. The agricultural chemical industry is pushing, instead, to have the Department of Agriculture administer the program. Community groups are demanding that the Health Department be in charge. The proposed bill comes on the heels of the release of a report, Poisons on the Wind by Washington's Farm Worker Pesticide Project (FWPP) and Pesticide Action Network. The report detailed higher than safe levels of chlorypyrifos when residents in the Yakima Valley tested the air around their homes. The Capitol Press reported on testimony by FWPP's Carol Dansereau: "We clearly need to have air monitoring in Washington.... Schools, daycares and homes are next to, or in, orchards that use pesticides that are banned in homes." A mother of a 14 year old child who became ill from pesticide drift told the legislators that her daughter "...was in and out of consciousness, her heart was racing and she couldn't stand on her own."
Florida students' pesticide study sparks investigation: A science project on pesticide drift in the area around an elementary school by students of the Pedro Menendez High School near St. Augustine, FL, has prompted local authorities to investigate. Students used Pesticide Action Network's "Drift Catcher" to collect air samples to monitor for pesticides. The St. Augustine Record reports that students found "elevated levels of diazinon, endosulfan and trifluralin in the air around the school. Diazinon, a neurotoxicant, was recorded at eight times the acceptable level for a 1-year-old." Endosulfan, a neurotoxic insecticide, was detected in the air on every day of the days monitored and also exceeded levels of concern. Menendez High science teacher Karen Ford worked with the students. She told the Record that "was inspired last year by a speech that PANNA's senior scientist Dr. Susan Kegley gave in St. Augustine to the Environmental Youth Council about the damage pesticides can do to health." Kegley observes: "The problem is both local and national. There are things the community can do immediately to protect the children, such as purchasing land around the school as a buffer zone or asking the owner to grow organically, but the problem will only be fully solved when EPA acknowledges and deals with the problem of post-application drift."
Connecticut bill to extend pesticide ban: A 2005 Connecticut ban on use of lawn pesticides at public and private preschools, elementary schools, day care centers and group day care homes is about to expire. Republican state representative Livvy Floren and 20 bi-partisan co-sponsors are proposing to extend ban. "People made the leap of faith with the original ban and it's been a success," Floren told the Greenwich Post. "People can see now that their lawns haven't fallen apart and the school fields haven't disintegrated." Floren told the Post she was first introduced to the problem of pesticides on school grounds by Neil Lubarsky, an Greenwich attorney who started researching pesticides while writing his thesis at Harvard Law School and found that years of studies linking use of pesticides with certain cancers. "I have two small daughters and I was concerned about their health," Lubarsky said. "I've been involved in groups helping children with leukemia and lymphoma and I wanted to be able to do more than help them get their last wishes granted. I wanted to try and get their exposure to these diseases cut down. Kids spend their time at school and that's where they were getting exposed to these chemicals."
Anti-globalization, family farmer advocate José Bové runs for President of France: José Bové, an internationally renowned farmer activist, has announced his candidacy in the French presidential race. Bové's high-profile protests against McDonald's and other multinational corporations have often put him at odds with authorities. As the Guardian UK reports, "He's walking in Gandhi's footsteps in his own way. There isn't any personal ambition about him.... He could also be the first person to run for president from behind bars, as the court of the appeal decides next week whether to send him to prison for four months for sabotaging GM crops." Bové founded Confédération Paysanne, a grassroots organic farmers organization, and is a spokesman for the international peasant farmers' movement, Via Campesina. Many view Bové as an heroic human rights activist defending peasant producers and consumer health at global and local levels.
Flower Confidential: The Sunday Washington Post writes of Amy Stewart's latest book, "...readers of Flower Confidential will be surprised and appalled to learn the extent to which something as fleeting and romantic as a rose or a lily has been turned into an industrial widget.... The greatest value of Flower Confidential... is that it was written at all. We know so little of the ways simple daily items are brought to us that such a book helps us grasp our modern world. Who knows? Flower Confidential may compel us to return to something purer, more local." It is Booksense.com's -- the independent bookseller's website -- February pick of the month.