Strawberries garnered special attention this year as Arysta LifeScience, a global pesticide corporation, aggressively promoted the chemical methyl iodide for use in California’s strawberry industry. It was dubbed “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth” by Dr. Join Froines, chair of the state's Scientific Review Committee for the pesticide. Pesticide Action Network, partners and tens of thousands of Californians rallied to keep methyl iodide out of agriculture.
A September 17th announcement that $180,000 in federal funds have been granted to back a PR campaign to "correct misconceptions about pesticide residues on food" caught the attention of farmers and organic food advocates across the country, according to the Associated Press. The federal Specialty Crop Block Grants from which the grant will come are one of the only sources of funding to support the production and marketing of crops such as fruits, nuts and vegetables in California. Critics charge that awarding taxpayer dollars from this fund to a project that effectively advocates against the value of organic produce is therefore an inappropriate use of public funds.
Once there was a village along a river.
The people who lived here were very kind.
These residents, according to parable, began noticing increasing numbers of drowning people caught in the river's swift current.
And so they went to work, devising ever more elaborate technologies to resuscitate them.
So preoccupied were these heroic villagers with rescue and treatment, that they never thought to look upstream to see who was pushing the victims in.
This is a walk up that river.
So begins Living Downstream, a new film based on book of the same name by ecologist, poet, and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber. In the tradition of Silent Spring, the film examines the connections between human health and the health of the environment, and questions whether polluted ecosystems can sustain healthy communities. The film highlights atrazine and other chemicals linked to cancer that contaminate our bodies and our environments.
A study of links between Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and human birth defects is stirring scientific debate. While it has been well established that very low concentrations of the herbicide are lethal to frogs, evidence of impacts on humans is still preliminary. The new research published by a team from Argentina, Brazil, the UK and US, headed by Andrés Carrasco of the University of Buenos Aires Medical School, suggests that Roundup may be linked to birth defects even at concentrations lower than those used in farm fields. “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy,” Carrasco reported.
Last week, the UK Guardian posted an investigative article and accompanying short film, “Pineapples: Luxury fruit, at what price?”. Focusing on the human health and environmental impacts of pesticide-dependent pineapple plantations in Costa Rica, the film links what happens to workers and communities with what consumers have come to expect — artificially inexpensive produce flown in from across the globe year-round. To meet market demand for cheap pineapples, field workers are exposed to cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting herbicides like endosulfan and bromocil while receiving only four percent of what consumers pay for the fruit of their labors.
There’s plenty of talk in Washington DC these days about the importance of keeping kids healthy. From Michelle Obama’s initiatives promoting healthy eating and exercise to EPA leader Lisa Jackson’s emphasis on children’s health, politicians and policymakers are recognizing the importance of creating healthy environments for kids.
The Obama Administration has a chance to “walk the talk” in Geneva next week, when experts from around the world will discuss the fate of a new group of persistent pollutants being considered for global phase out. The link to kids health couldn’t be clearer: these chemicals build up in the environment and in our bodies, posing particular dangers to developing infants and children.
On September 25 Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law the Farmworker Health Act (AB 1963). Pesticide Action Network was a co-sponsor of the bill, which took four years and multiple attempts to pass through California's legislative process.
For the first time since the state’s medical monitoring program was established in 1974, we will be able to evaluate whether or not farmworkers are actually being protected from poisoning by the organophosphate and carbamate insecticides they handle.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally announced plans to eliminate the five percent surcharge imposed on organic producers for certain tree crops. This partial elimination of the crop insurance surcharge was, at least in part, the result of a hard-won provision in the 2008 Farm Bill in which Congress directed the USDA to evaluate available data on risk of loss between organic and conventional systems and to determine whether the surcharge was justified. The crops for which the surcharge is now being removed are figs, pears, peppers, prunes, macadamia trees, Florida citrus fruit, Texas citrus fruit, Florida fruit trees, and Texas citrus trees. The surcharge will continue for now on all other crops.
World leaders met in New York this week at the United Nations to assess progress in halving the proportion of hungry people in the world—the first of eight lofty Millenium Development Goals set by the UN in 2000.
One bit of good news you might have heard is that after the last couple of really disastrous years, we seem to be headed in a slightly better direction: the number of hungry people appears to be inching down, and at 925 million, is 98 million less than the 1.023 billion who were hungry last year. 98 million fewer hungry people is meaningful. But we are still talking about nearly a billion people without adequate food and nutrition—a far cry from the 1996 World Food Summit’s goals of reducing hunger to 400 million people by 2015. We’re basically back to where hunger levels were just before the big food price spikes of 2008. And here’s the real news: food prices are expected to surge again, as they already have in Mozambique and elsewhere, with disastrous consequences for the poor.
The glacial pace of government decision-making on pesticides is costly. Not just the cost of years of paperwork, collecting and reviewing the endless stream of industry studies. And not just the cost of medical care for those who are damaged by toxins before they are taken off the market.
Sometimes, slow decisions result in pesticide exposures that cause such harm they fundamentally change the course of a child’s life. A cost that’s so high, it really can’t even be measured.