PANNA: Opposition to methyl iodide grows; Plantation worker trial wraps up; National Mall goes green and more...

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Opposition to methyl iodide grows; Plantation worker trial wraps up; National Mall goes green and more...

October 18, 2007

Opposition grows to EPA approval of methyl iodide: From Florida to California, scientists, public health professionals, and farmworker advocates continue their strong opposition to EPA's October 5 decision to give a one-year approval for the agricultural use of carcinogenic methyl iodide as a replacement for ozone depletor methyl bromide. Florida's Palm Beach Post reports, "Scientists and farmworker advocates reacted angrily" as the new fumigant "almost certainly will be used extensively in Florida." "We're appalled," said Jeannie Economos of the Farmworker Association of Florida in Apopka: "We already have cases of injuries to farmworkers caused by methyl bromide, and methyl iodide will only be worse. And we're also concerned about what this could do to Florida's water supply, what dangers it poses to the aquifer." In California, the United Farm Workers responded: "We cannot risk people's lives. Fighting this poison is no easy task--so far, the manufacturer Arysta has spent eight years and $11 million dollars fighting to get this poison registered." The Monterey County Herald warned, "It would be one thing if the EPA could tell us that methyl iodide is a safe substitute. But even though methyl iodide doesn't contribute to [ozone depletion]...like its chemical cousin [methyl bromide], the words 'safe' and 'methyl iodide' seldom find themselves in the same sentence. The compound in its various forms ranges from mildly to acutely toxic, several times as toxic as methyl bromide, which has prompted considerable protest and litigation here." Read more about methyl iodide. Tell EPA chief Stephen Johnson to reverse EPA's approval of methyl iodide.

Public radio reporter asks EPA about corporate influence: National Public Radio's "Living on Earth" reporter, Jeff Young, called EPA assistant administrator Jim Gulliford and asked about methyl iodide's manufacturer. "Gulliford abruptly ended the interview when questions turned to EPA's recent hire of an executive from the company that will make and sell methyl iodide: Arysta LifeScience. Shortly after the agency turned down the chemical last year, EPA hired Elin Miller as a regional leader. Miller had been CEO of Arysta's North American operations. A year after her hire, EPA reversed its decision and approved methyl iodide. Miller declined to be interviewed. Arysta also decided not to comment. An Arysta press release says the company will begin sales of methyl iodide soon, in a blend of chemicals named Midas. The company must still win approval in California and Florida, the biggest U.S. markets, where growers say they need a new soil fumigant." Young also reported that Senator Barbara Boxer has "asked for a full briefing on why EPA said yes to methyl iodide." Listen to the October 12, 2007 NPR story: New Pesticide, Old Problem, (mp3)

Pesticide exposure trial wraps up: The first of five lawsuits involving 5,000 banana plantation workers who say they became sterile from exposure to the PAN Bad Actor chemical, DBCP, had closing arguments in Los Angeles last week. Associated Press reports, "A lawyer for a dozen Nicaraguan banana workers argued...that Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Dow Chemical Co. robbed his clients of the ability to have children by overexposing them to a harmful pesticide.... Many of the workers had slept at the banana plantation, where their clothes became wet from water dripping from pesticide-treated trees, and they routinely breathed vapor from the pesticide."

Union Carbide/Dow not allowed to burn hazardous waste: The Gujarat Pollution Control Board ruled that Union Carbide/Dow Chemical could not burn hazardous waste at a Bhopal facility. Express India reports, "green activists and local residents of Ankleshwar had launched a protest against the proposal of 360 tonnes of toxic waste to be disposed of at solid waste disposal site in Ankleshwar. NGOs like Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and Save Narmada Water Committee had objected saying the state cannot be converted into dumping ground for hazardous chemicals." Read more about Bhopal and Union Carbide/Dow Chemical.

Barbara Kingsolver essay on Vandana Shiva: Noted author Barbara Kingsolver discusses food systems all over the world and introduces Washington Post readers to the acclaimed scientist and activist, Vandana Shiva, and her work for food security. "In India, Shiva says, 150,000 farmers have committed suicide -- often by drinking pesticide, to underscore the point -- after being bankrupted by costly chemicals in a cycle of debt created by ties to corporate agriculture. Centralized food production requires constant inputs -- fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation -- that in some settings are impossible to sustain, and chemical-based farming virtually always damages the soil over time, whether in India or Nebraska." Read articles by Vandana Shiva.

U.S. government info site praises Rachel Carson: USINFO published an article that praises activists for creating momentum that sparks the government to protect consumer rights. The writer describes scientist Rachel Carson as an example: "After recovery from World War II, reformist zeal reignited in the 1960s with the publication of Silent Spring by marine biologist Rachel Carson. Maligned at the time by chemical companies and politicians friendly to them, her book documented how the chemical DDT and other pesticides contaminated the food chain, killing wildlife and causing human illnesses. Toxic residues, for instance, were found in mothers' breast milk, fueling demands for environmental protection. By 1970, Carson's clarion call for action was enshrined into law with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Since then, contamination levels of DDT, lead and cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls have declined sharply. In the era of global warming, awareness of the importance of the environment continues to grow."

National Mall lawn goes organic: One of the nation's most famous lawns, the grass at National Mall, is getting a "green make-over" from Safe Lawns.Org. "This is a pilot project to demonstrate whether environmentally friendly soil treatments such as compost tea can improve the viability of the soil enough to make grass more viable under the extreme compaction conditions of the National Mall," according to the National Park Service.


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