Imagine if a persistent, toxic chemical was being added to all sorts of products you use everyday: soap, toothpaste, cosmetics, shaving cream, even toys and underwear. Imagine being told that it was put there to keep you safe from disease, when in reality it could end up making you sicker by contributing to antibiotic resistance. Imagine your food was being grown in fertilizer contaminated with this chemical, and that government tests found it in 75% of Americans. Finally, imagine you had an opportunity to do something about it.
Last week the UK-based Independent reported that the clothianidin controversy has sparked a proposal to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK. This story, which first broke in early December thanks to efforts by PAN, Beyond Pesticides and beekeeper Tom Theobald, has led to grave concerns in the British House of Commons.
Two studies came out in the last couple of weeks that really illustrate the problems associated with "PBT" chemicals: those which are simultaneously persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Persistent substances resist degradation — you can move them around but it's really hard to get rid of them. Bioaccumulation happens when chemicals in food, water, and air end up getting stored in the body of a living thing. Thus, for a bass living in a mercury polluted lake, the mercury levels in the fish may be thousands of times higher than the levels in the water. A cow grazing on PCB-laced feed will store the chemical in her body and excrete it in her milk, and humans too act as sinks for all kinds of chemicals.
Last week, researchers found a host of toxic chemicals in the bodies of pregnant women throughout the U.S. Industry reps quickly trotted out their favorite messages in response: "Chemicals are a fact of modern life," "just because toxins are in your body doesn't mean they'll hurt you," and "the levels are too low to matter - researchers have new tools that can measure extremely low levels."
The fact is, low levels of chemicals in the womb can matter a whole lot. And studies like last week's make the chemical industry very, very nervous.
Several deaths and decades after it should have, Bayer CropScience announced last week that it will stop making pesticides using methyl isocyante (MIC) in the U.S. MIC is the gas that exploded in 1984 in Bhopal, India, killing more than three thousand within weeks and leaving hundreds of thousands injured survivors struggling for justice even today.
Please join me today in urging the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to block approval of GE alfalfa. Things are moving quickly in Washington, and frankly, they aren't looking good. Ignoring rulings from three District courts and the Supreme Court, the demands of over 50 members of Congress and concern expressed by his agency’s own scientists (not to mention farmers and the public), Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is apparently refusing to take action to prohibit the planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.
A victory 7 years in the making! Yesterday EPA published its proposed rule on testing pesticides on humans, and it's a giant step forward. The new rule categorically bans testing on pregnant or nursing women and on children. It expands protections for all testing including tests conducted by other governments, private industry and organizations. And it sets stringent criteria to ensure that tests are scientifically credible.
Conservation and food safety groups won an important victory this week as a Delaware federal court ruled against the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops in all Northeastern wildlife refuges.
Responding to a lawsuit spearheaded by the Audubon Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the Delaware judge found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service had illegally allowed GE crops to be planted on refuge land without the environmental review required under federal law.
Yesterday, January 12th, I participated in Worldwatch Institute’s launch of its new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations to Nourish the Planet. The report presents a dazzling array of creative down-to-earth solutions from African farmers that can help solve the scourge of global hunger and poverty. I had the great pleasure of co-authoring the concluding chapter of this report.
We often look to scientific research on the hazards of agricultural chemicals to support our call to protect farmworkers and their families from pesticides—a call that all too frequently goes unheeded. But we don't give up, and I'm delighted to say, neither do the dedicated researchers upon whom we depend. Scientists at UC Berkeley recently released another round of solid data documenting the dramatic impacts pesticides can have on children's health.