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.
Most people immediately think of mosquitoes when they hear the word "malaria." They transmit the parasite, so keeping them at bay—with window screens and bednets, by denying them places to breed, or by killing them outright—is a critical element in preventing the disease. Another crucial front in the struggle is pharmaceutical: prompt, effective treatment of malaria infections means fewer human reservoirs of the parasite, which in turn means fewer opportunities for mosquitoes to pick up the disease and pass it on.
But just as insecticide resistance has hamstrung vector control in many parts of the world, malaria parasites have evolved resistance to the various drugs we've deployed over the years.
It was only a matter of time. Lately newspapers have been filled with stories about the return of bed bugs, those nocturnal bloodsuckers that most of us had previously encountered only in our parents' nightly admonition to not let them bite. I grew up thinking that they weren't even real, just something adults made up along the lines of the bogeyman, monsters, and the tooth fairy. But they are indeed real, and they were once common in the U.S., until — as nearly every contemporary article about their resurgence points out — they were eliminated by the use of DDT just after WWII. So it was only a matter of time before people started blaming the current resurgence of bed bugs on EPA's ban on DDT.
Bees may not qualify as charismatic megafauna, but they do, or should, attract the attention of anyone who eats fruits, vegetables or nuts, or whose livelihood depends on growing these crops.
The sudden collapse of honeybee colonies — Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — has been reported throughout the U.S. and elsewhere since the mid-1980s. Explanations include a combination of lack of adequate nectar and pollen, disease, the stress of transporting hives over thousands of miles, and pesticides.
Those cancer-causing chemicals approved for widespread use on our farms and in everyday products? Well, they’re causing cancer. Lots of it.
The numbers are staggering, really. According to a report delivered to the White House last month by the prestigious President’s Cancer Panel, 41 percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and one in five Americans can expect to die from the disease.