Malaria and DDT; no clemency for pesticides; NCAI opposes toxic exports; warning labels fail in Brazil; dangers of GM crops; and

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives

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December 27, 2007

Malaria and the distracting DDT debate: The cover story of the Winter 2007-2008 issue of On Earth magazine tackles the complex controversy surrounding the growing call to use the banned pesticide DDT in the global fight against malaria. "More than 500 million individuals are infected with malaria every year, of whom more than a million died, mostly babies and pregnant women," writes reporter Kim Larsen. And the cause of these outbreaks is a mosquito "weighing in at a strapping 2.25 millionths of a pound." Although DDT was among the first 12 toxins banned under the Stockholm Convention, Larsen points out that "it is the only such item listed with an asterisk" that permits its short-term use to combat malaria in countries that don't have other controls in place. "We understand that DDT can be effective under certain circumstances," PAN Campaigns Director Kristin Schafer told On Earth, adding, "the convention stipulates that the use of DDT must be accompanied by efforts to develop alternative approaches. That's the point that is so often lost in these discussions." Larsen concludes that the DDT debate is a "distraction" because no amount of DDT will "pave a watercourse or feed a child or provide a job." At the end of the day, malaria control is a development issue that cannot be solved with pesticide spray.

No clemency for carbosulfan: The European Court of Justice has ruled against a group of powerful chemical manufactures that wanted the European Union to suspend its ban on two controversial pesticide ingredients -- carbosulfan and carbofuran. ENDS Europe Daily reported on December 17 that FMC (US), Arysta (Japan), Satec (Germany) and Belchim (Belgium) had asked for "clemency" while they challenged criticism that the chemicals posed a danger to human health and the environment. The four global firms lost their battle to block a ban set to begin in December. The ban stems from a Court ruling in June.

Native Americans oppose toxic exports: The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has approved a resolution from the North-South Indigenous Network Against Pesticides calling on Washington to halt the manufacture and export of banned pesticides by U.S. corporations. The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health reports that the U.S. exported nearly 1.1 billion pounds of known or suspected cancer-causing pesticides between 1996 and 2000 -- nearly 16 tons per hour. The NCAI's action came in response to the deaths of indigenous Yaquis in Sonora, Mexico, and Native Alaskans whose land and water have become contaminated by airborne chemicals. Despite studies linking pesticide exposure to leukemia and other human cancers, the State of Alaska is planning to start aerial spraying of pesticides and herbicides in 2008. The NCAI has asked the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearings on corporate secrecy and push for full disclosure of the locations where banned pesticides are stored in the U.S. while awaiting export.

Warning labels failing farmers: Brazil is the world's fourth largest user of pesticides and a report in Crop Protection suggests that poor product labeling is putting the health and lives of Brazil's farmers at risk. Investigators found that most farmers fail to read the warning labels because "the fonts are too small... the instructions are too long and in overly technical Portuguese." Even the pictograms used to caution illiterate workers were not generally understood. The researchers concluded that the warning labels "actually increased exposure.... This is alarming considering that 42% of farmers use methyl-parathion, which is considered extremely hazardous" and has been banned by the European Union. The report called for new guidelines on warning labels.

Studies show GM foods KO health: "The process of inserting a foreign gene into a plant cell and cloning that cell into a GM crop produces hundreds of thousands of mutations throughout the DNA," Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology recently told the Environmental News Service: "This is why GM soy has less protein, an unexpected new allergen and up to seven times higher levels of a known soy allergen." Smith has documented 65 health risks associated with GM foods. According to one study, lab animals fed GM food showed a "five-fold increase in infant mortality, smaller brains, and a host of other problems." Smith notes that industry studies submitted to government health agencies "are designed to avoid finding [problems]." In the U.S., it took a lawsuit to discover that Food and Drug Administration scientists warned that GM foods could trigger allergies, toxins, nutrition problems and new diseases.

GM crops "impossible to contain": In response to the decision to permit commercial plantings of GM canola in New South Wales and Victoria, the Australian organization GM-Free Cymru released a report citing four reasons to oppose GM canola. The report quoted quoted Dr. Jeremy Sweet, the current Vice Chair of the EFSA's Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms. In a 2003 debate, Sweet declared: "once GM oil seed rape is commercialized, it will be everywhere and that is inevitable." Dr. Sweet also admitted that the process for establishing contamination thresholds for GM seeds was "very unscientific." There was "no scientific basis" for setting the threshold on GM canola, Sweet stated. "It's not based on food safety and it's not based on any other standards.... It is base on political and sociological grounds."

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