A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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July 19, 2007
U.S. wheat contaminated with malathion: Taiwan authorities rejected a shipment of 9,000 tons of U.S. wheat last week when tests revealed contamination with malathion. Malathion is an organophosphate pesticide that is neurotoxic. Reuters India reported that Taiwan's deputy director of the national food safety department said, "[Although] Taiwan currently does not permit any detectable traces of the pesticide residue in wheat, the government was moving towards a policy of allowing small detectable amounts." Taiwan imports about one million tons of wheat from the U.S. each year.
African Americans demand environmental justice: Representatives from the National Black Environmental Justice Movement took civil rights leaders on a "Toxic Tour" in Detroit last week to underscore a new report, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, that demonstrates that people of color and African Americans in particular are more likely to suffer from environmental contamination than others. The report is an update of a study first conducted in 1987 by the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries. Among the authors' findings: "Many of the environmental justice problems that disproportionately and adversely affect low-income and people of color communities could be eliminated if current environmental health, housing, land use, and civil rights were vigorously enforced in a non-discriminatory way, without regard to race, color, or national origin. Many of the environmental problems facing low-income persons and people of color are systemic and will require institutional change, including new legislation. We also recognize that government alone cannot solve these problems but need the assistance of concerned individuals, groups, and organizations from various walks of life." The Senate Public Works & Environment Committee is conducting a hearing on environmental justice July 25th. Dr. Robert Bullard, one of the authors of the report will testify.
California residents demand cleaner air: Hearings took place last week in Ontario and Parlier, California with officials from the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). In 2006, community groups successfully sued the state for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to reduce pesticide Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions that contribute to ground level ozone and asthma. DPR's hearings were held to receive public comment on proposed regulations to reduce pesticide VOC emissions that are intended to comply with the court order. Fumigant pesticides contribute significantly to the state air pollution problem, particularly in the Ventura and San Joaquin Air Districts. PAN and other groups maintain that the 20% reduction proposed by DPR is far too little. Growers are claiming that the proposed regulations will put them out of business, but the economic loss figures if pesticides were restricted were greatly inflated (see story in the Ventura County Star). DPR's public comment period is now closed. They must adopt regulations effective Jan. 1, 2008 to comply with the court order.
Filipino university guards fire on farmers: Philippine peasant farmers came under attack July 9th by private security guards at Central Mindaneo University, reports Dabet Castañeda of Human Rights Watch. One farmer, pregnant 33-year-old Noralyn Galan, reported, "'I told the security guard I was pregnant but he ignored me. He just fired his gun near me twice while I held on to the hand tractor.'" An international fact finding mission conducted by Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP) and others documented that the attack came about as a result of years of court rulings and appeals over farmers' right to grow food on land owned by the university. Many of the peasant farmers are former university employees. Read more.
Lawns can be dangerous - organic is better: Long Island residents are concerned about the use of pesticides on lawns and their risk to children. According to New York's Newsday, "The improper use of pesticides jumps during the summer months when, experts say, some lawn care companies rely on inexperienced teenagers with minimal training and little protection. Karen Joy Miller, founder of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, said pesticides are particularly dangerous for small children who are low to the ground, often barefoot and likely to put things in their mouths. She said parents should not allow their children to play in yards that have been sprayed with pesticides, and they should make sure their kids' hands and feet are washed when they come back inside after playing." Learn more about healthier lawns: SafeLawns.org and the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns are good resources. Even the Wall Street Journal recently featured the organic alternative, complete with a humorous first-person video.
Organic farming feeds more in developing countries: A new University of Michigan study reveals that organic farming, while producing crop yields roughly equal to those of chemically-dependent farming in developed countries, can deliver yields of up to three times more than conventional methods in the developing world. The research was done by a team led by Dr. Ivette Perfecto, a former president of PAN North America's board. "This is especially good news for developing countries," Perfecto said, "where it's sometimes impossible to deliver food from outside, so farmers must supply their own. Yields in developing countries could increase dramatically by switching to organic farming." The researchers also noted that "planting green manures between growing seasons provided enough nitrogen to replace synthetic fertilizers." The University of Michigan news service reports and provides a podcast. Read the abstract of the study from Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.