Last week’s New York Times article, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,” has set CCD observers abuzz, and prompted at least one counter from a journalist for CNN Money. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations around the world beginning around 2006. Each winter since, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared (more than twice what is normal). Scientists have been investigating the decline, and while CCD appears to have multiple interacting causes, a range of evidence points to sub-lethal pesticide exposures. Neonicotinoids are a particularly suspect class of insecticides; so much so that Italy and France have banned or restricted their use to protect their honeybee populations. This class of insecticides is highly neurotoxic to bees, and works by disabling insects’ immune and nervous systems. Also notable is the fact that these systemic pesticides, which are applied at the root or seed and then taken up by the plant’s vascular system, have seen a manifold increase in use since around 2005.
It's Tuesday morning in Geneva, and there's lots of good news to report from the first full day of negotiations of the expert committee of the Stockholm Convention. As the parties consider whether to recommend a worldwide ban on the antiquated insecticide endosulfan, yesterday saw two more countries announce domestic bans. Prof. Masaru Kitano of Meiji University told the committee that the Japanese registration for endosulfan expired on September 29 and was not renewed, and then Ms. Kyunghee Choi of South Korea announced that all uses would be phased out in that country by December 2011.
This week our office is a-buzz with plans to join 350.org and thousands of people from more than 180 countries around the world in a Global Work Party to push back climate change. Some of us will be on a Food Justice Bike Tour in Oakland; others will be digging in at local community gardens in our neighborhoods. The thousands of actions that have been planned (over 6,800 so far) prove that the global community is ready to act, with or without leadership from our elected officials.
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.