A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Dow chemical fined for bribery over Indian pesticide regulation: Dow Chemical has been ordered to stop violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a settlement made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that included a $325,000 civil penalty. Dow was charged with making improper payments to Indian government officials in charge of approving pesticides. Dow Jones Newswire reports, "The SEC found that, from 1996 through 2001, Dow Chemical's DE-Nocil Crop Protection Ltd. unit paid an estimated $200,000 in improper payments and gifts to Indian state and federal officials as it sought to register several products slated for marketing in time for India's growing season. The SEC said these payments weren't adequately reflected in Dow Chemical's books and records, and that the company's system of internal controls failed to prevent the payments." The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) interviewed survivors of the 1984 Bhopal, India disaster, where an explosion at a Union Carbide pesticide plant killed thousands and made many more sick. Dow has since acquired Union Carbide. Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) told the IANS, "According to SEC records, one senior official in the Central Insecticides Board received $39,700 (Rs.1.6 million) for registering Dow's pesticides in India between 1996 and 2001 while other state officials received the remaining amount for facilitating distribution and sale of Dow's pesticides." Bhopal disaster survivor and Goldman Environmental Award prize winner Rashida Bee stated that "The bribes to senior officials are merely the tip of the iceberg. We find even the prime minister's office turning a blind eye to the ongoing crimes of the Union Carbide and Dow Chemical and offering special privileges for expansion of the latter's business in this country."
Pesticides linked to honeybee population decline: Bees are critically important to farm ecosystems because of their role as pollinators that allow crops to produce edible fruit and seed. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon described by beekeepers, researchers and government officials when entire hive populations seem to disappear, apparently dying out. A CCD working group was recently formed with researchers from the University of Montana, The Pennsylvania State University, the USDA/ARS, the Florida Department of Agriculture, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to analyze the problem. Their preliminary report indicates how pesticides may be a factor, specifically neonicotinioid pesticides, including imidacloprid, clothianiden and thiamethoxam. According to the CCD report, "If bees are eating fresh or stored pollen contaminated with these chemicals at low levels, they may not cause mortality but may impact the bee's ability to learn or make memories. If this is the case, young bees leaving the hive to make orientation flights may not be able to learn the location of the hive and may not be returning causing the colonies to dwindle and eventually die." Porterville Recorder reporter Sarah Elizabeth Villicana interviewed a Terra Bella, California beekeeper, Eric Lane, who suspects harm to the bees is linked to imidacloprid, made by Bayer CropScience. "It is my personal belief that this chemical is responsible for thinning the bee population," Lane said. "It was used it France and killed 70 percent of the bee population in France."
Newport Beach residents fight pesticide fumigation: Residents of Newport North Townhomes (Newport Beach, CA) have threatened to recall four of their homeowner's association board members if they follow through with plans to use the fumigant pesticide Vikane (Dow AgroSciences' brand of sulfuryl fluoride). Vikane is considered a health hazard especially for small children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory illnesses, and is marketed heavily by Dow for termite eradication. One homeowner alarmed over the Vikane plan is Cindy Dupuie, who told the Daily Pilot newspaper, "You know, you're messing with people's health, and not only do you introduce chemicals into each individual dwelling, you're also exposed to airborne chemicals and toxins for the entire six weeks it will take them to fumigate the complex…. We would like them to reconsider other methods because there's a lot of concern, and they refused to listen." Dr. Susan Kegley, senior scientist for Pesticide Action Network, says. "Symptoms of exposure to Vikane include stinging eyes as well as nose, throat, and lung irritation. Exposure can cause fluid to collect in the lungs, a complication that can lead to serious respiratory illness. Other effects include nausea and vomiting, as well as neurological symptoms such as slurred speech, slowed gait, weakness, irritability, numbness, tremors, and seizures. Chronic neurotoxic effects observed in fumigant applicators include tremors, inability to concentrate, and reduction in cognitive skills. There are several reported poisonings in California where people have died after trying to enter a tarped house while it is fumigated, and even one reported death when the house had been approved for re-entry." Read more about Vikane.
Over 77 million acres certified organic: Over 31 million hectares (about 77 million acres) have been certified organic, worldwide, according to the World of Organic Agriculture, a new report by Foundation Ecology & Agriculture, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Australia, Argentina, and China are the world leaders in amounts of certified organic land. According to IFOAM, "The global market for organic products reached a value of 25.5 billion Euros in 2005, with the vast majority of products being consumed in North America and Europe…. For 2006, the value of global markets is estimated to be at more than 30 billion Euros. Healthy growth rates are expected to continue in the coming years." The report will be presented at Germany's conference on sustainability -- Biofach -- this week.
Farmers gather to discuss Food Sovereignty: Over 500 farmers groups' representatives and others will be gathering for the International Forum on Food Sovereignty this week in Sélingué, Mali. The Forum is organized by Friends of the Earth International, the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, Via Campesina and others. Food sovereignty is defined as "the right for peoples, countries or States to define their agricultural and food policies and protect their production and food culture so that they are unharmed by others." The organizers decided to hold this meeting in Africa because agriculture is so central and so many rural and urban families suffer from hunger despite the abundance of natural resources. According to the IFFS website, the conference has been given the Malian name, Nyéléni: "When you mention her name everyone knows what this name represents. She is the mother who brings food, the mother who farms, who fought for her recognition as a woman in an environment which wasn't favourable to her. This woman was called Nyéléni." By using this symbolic name, "everyone in Mali will know that it's a struggle for food, a struggle for food sovereignty." OneWorld reports that the conference "is intended to advance work on a global strategy to ensure that food sovereignty is considered and applied at international and local policy levels."
Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" crops, land development, threaten monarchs: While early threats to monarch butterflies from genetically engineered corn have subsided due to a change in the level of pesticide bread into the plants, eastern and western monarch butterfly populations are declining nonetheless due to herbicide overuse and development—triggered by another GE product: Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" corn and soybeans. Deborah Rich reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that "A primary cause of eastern monarch habitat loss is the near-complete conversion of the United States' 75 million-acre soybean crop to ‘Roundup Ready' soybeans over the past 10 years…. soybean and corn varieties, genetically engineered and owned by the Monsanto Co., are able to withstand repeated applications of glyphosate, an herbicide that causes most species of green plants to die back by disrupting the production of amino acids essential for plant growth. The corn and soybean fields of the Midwest once provided about 50 percent of the eastern monarch's breeding ground. Monarchs congregated in these fields to lay their eggs because of the presence of various species of milkweed, especially the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which grows well where soils are disturbed annually."
Western Monarchs are declining as well due the spreading land development. A conservation group, Monarch Watch is offering $16 seed kits to gardeners who wish to grow a "monarch way-station" in their yards to increase habitat for the migratory butterflies. Way stations are needed particularly in California -- throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, and the eastern side Sierras Nevada mountains.
New source for info on global health policy, agriculture, and food: The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has launched Health Observatory, a website "dedicated to gathering information about public health and making it free to the public, a true repository of as much information about public health policy as we can find." The site provides Smart Guides for consumers on buying fish, plastic products, meat and poultry. Health Observatory will track issues including growing crops sustainably for biofuels and the U.S. Farm Bill.
Human Testing "Law & Order" episode airs again on TV: "Law & Order: SVU" will air its recent controversial episode on human testing and organophosphate pesticides, "Loophole," again this Saturday, 9pm on NBC. Law & Order” star Mariska Hargitay told the New York Post, "I would have to say that my favorite thing about SVU is the fact that we give voices to people who really don't have one. When [executive producer] Neal Baer brought 'Loophole' [the episode where children are exposed to pesticides] to me and told me about it you go, 'There is no way that they can do that.' But the fact is that they are doing it and they get away with it. There are so many people who don't know about it and don't know what to do." Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles and Pesticide Action Network North America consulted on the program. Check your local listings for details.