A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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March 15th, 2007
Bush administration censoring government scientists: "The Bush administration has censored scientists, suppressed reports, and altered scientific documents on issues ranging from mercury pollution to childhood lead poisoning to drug safety. And for every scientist who is able to speak out against political interference in his or her work, scores of others have been pressured into silence and don't have the standing that would allow them to speak without retribution." So says Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). In an essay in the Statesman's Journal, Grifo warns, "President Bush's January amendments to an existing executive order could further centralize regulatory decision-making power in the White House. Scientific freedom -- the ability of scientists to conduct research and share their results free from government interference or censorship -- is vital to a democracy."
South African teens harmed by pesticides: Dr Johan Minnaar has documented a host of health problems from his patients who have been exposed to pesticides near Groblersdal, South Africa. According to the Globe and Mail, "Horrific cases include teenage boys temporarily ‘growing breasts' during spraying seasons, miscarriages, partial facial paralysis, cancers and ear malfunctions. Many of his patients suffer from other poisoning symptoms, such as asthma, sinusitis, headaches, dizziness and depression... Throughout the year there is constant crop spraying with pesticides containing organophosphates and carbamates," reports Minnaar. According to Professor Leslie London of the University of Cape Town's health sciences faculty, premature puberty and other hormonal abnormalities are symptoms of contamination by pesticides containing "endocrine disruptors". Read more about organophosphates.
South Africa GMO watchdog group wins case against Monsanto, but is ordered to pay costs: When Monsanto released genetically modified seeds in South Africa in 1997, activists rallied and successfully won a 1999 GMO Act to insure regulation of the experimental crops. The watchdog group Biowatch sued to gain access to information on the experiments from Monsanto. In 2005, the court ordered Monsanto to make public the information requested. But in an unlikely move, the judge has ordered Biowatch to pay court costs because Monsanto has to "protect" its business interests. Biowatch is appealing this decision and the case will be heard on April 23. Activists have charged manufacturers with purposefully contaminating African crops with GMO's before safety regulations could be put in place. Read more.
Pesticide companies unite against New York governor: Three pesticide trade associations have joined to face expected opposition from New York's most powerful health and environmental protection advocate - Governor Eliot Spitzer. New York State Pest Management Association, the Long Island Pest Control Association, and the Professional Pest Control Association of NYC have revealed that they will lobby the legislature opposing the 39 pesticide regulation bills supported by Spitzer since the beginning of the year. According to Pest Control Technology, among the regulations proposed are, "...IPM requirements for schools, hospitals, day care and child care facilities... prohibition of application of pesticides to a public utility right-of-way, granting private citizens broad authorization to commence civil judicial actions under certain titles of the environmental conservation law, the phase-out of state use of pesticides on state property..., allowing local governments to regulate pesticide use and notification more stringently," and much more. This consolidation of pesticide industry associations follows the lead of the American Chemistry Council, which merged with the American Plastics Council earlier this year to combat growing public opposition to toxic chemicals contamination.
Organic farm provides socially just farming education: Oregon Tilth, best known as a world leader in organic certification, also promotes sustainable agriculture education, socially equitable farming and community food access. Capital Press reports that in 2000 the Lake Oswego, Oregon nonprofit opened its Organic Education Center on a 64-acre former dairy farm bequeathed to the city by the late Rudie Luscher. Oregon Tilth now teaches farming to students from kindergarten to college, and grows food in its organic demonstration gardens. Last summer they donated almost 3,000 pounds of food and have started growing greens specifically for two Portland social service agencies.