FDA warns Morton Grove; Methyl bromide use down; Californians protest moth spray; GMO-free markets; and more...

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FDA warns Morton Grove; Methyl bromide use down; Californians protest moth spray; GMO-free markets; and more...

January 10, 2008

FDA slaps Morton Grove over lindane advertising: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a pointed warning letter to Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals of Illinois, charging that the company's advertising for its lindane products is misleading. FDA chastises Morton Grove for making false claims of lindane's effectiveness for the treatment of headlice, and for omitting and/or minimizing important risk information for children, "including crucial facts about potentially fatal risks associated with the use of Lindane Shampoo in this vulnerable population." Pamela LaBrake, a New York activist, writes: "Many months ago, I filed a formal complaint to the FDA regarding the way Morton Grove and Alliant were advertising lindane on their websites, along with a handout sent to many nurses at schools across the country called The Nitpicking News. The FDA has taken action!" The government warning is an ironic turn of events for a company that has filed SLAPP actions to silence The Ecology Center (Ann Arbor) and the National Pediculosis Association for publicizing information about the health effects of lindane. FDA called on Morton Grove to respond by Dec. 31, 2007, with a "comprehensive plan of action to disseminate truthful, non-misleading, and complete corrective messages about the issues discussed in this letter."

Ozone Hole
Sept. 2007 Ozone Hole, "about average" for recent years, equals the size of North America.
U.S. reduces 2008 methyl bromide exemptions: Under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, 16 industrial nations agreed to end all use of methyl bromide (MB) by January 2005 because it is a potent stratospheric ozone depletor. Developing countries agreed to ban MB in 2015. But every year since 2004, some countries have invoked a "critical use exemption" to extend their deadline, with by far the largest exemptions requested by the U.S. In December 2007, EPA announced that it was reducing its authorized 2008 exempt amount from 5,356 to 4,813 metric tons, citing "increased use of alternatives among methyl bromide users, and unused methyl bromide from previous years." See details in the Federal Register. PANNA's Dr. Brian Hill observes: "While the U.S. could have met the original Montreal Protocol methyl bromide phaseout target in 2005, at least it seems to be on track for completing the transition to alternatives by 2011." However, Hill underscores, safe and sustainable alternatives remain undersupported. Among alternatives EPA cites is Dow's Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride). While it is not an ozone depletor, it is an extremely toxic chemical fumigant whose use has been challenged by the Fluoride Action Network, the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides. The groups cited animal inhalation tests that linked sulfuryl fluoride exposure to "holes (vacuolation) in the white matter of the brain, and an abnormal softening (malacia) and cell death (necrosis) of brain tissue."

Dollar's collapse boosts pesticide sales: The fall of the US dollar as a world currency is having a predictable consequence for a major export--pesticides. Agrow World Crop Protection News reports "a buoyant agriculture sector and a weakening US dollar have resulted in an 8.4% rise in global agrochemical sales to some $38,555 million at the distributor level." The figures come from a study by the British consulting firm Phillips McDougall, which notes that pesticide sales have jumped 9.1% to $33.19 billion, while non-crop pesticide sales rose by 4.2% to $5.37 billion. As the dollar declines in value, it becomes easier for other countries to purchase US-made pesticide products. "If currency effects and inflation are excluded," Agrow reports, the world's agrochemical market "grew by about 3%" in 2007, "the first real growth in the market since 2004."

European pesticide decision "buried": The European Union's (EU) Agriculture Council reportedly reached a "political agreement" on the EU's new rules governing pesticide use on Dec. 17, but, according to the EurActiv news service, [EurActiv pdf] "the content of the agreement is being kept from the public until January." EU agriculture ministers reportedly agreed that decisions to require "appropriately-sized" buffer zones around bodies of water where pesticide use is prohibited should be left to "national authorities" -- i.e., there would be no EU-wide standards. A proposed ban on aerial spraying would exclude Bulgaria and Romania. The Council also ignored stricter pesticide restrictions proposed by the European Parliament (EP). According to EurActive, the "ministers rejected EP calls for national reduction targets to halve the use of high risk and highly toxic pesticide by 2013." Elliott Cannell of Pesticide Action Network Europe charged the Council with an attempt to "'bury' the file in the run-up to the Christmas holidays in order to avoid unfavourable reactions by the Parliament and green groups."

Californians protest massive moth spraying: "Citizen groups and governmental agencies have received hundreds of complaints from people who said they had adverse physical reactions following the state's three recent rounds of aerial pesticide spraying in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties," reports Pesticide Watch. From September through November, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) repeatedly covered densely populated areas of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties with aerial applications of CheckMate, a pheromone product designed to disrupt the mating cycle and thus control an invasive pest, the omnivorous light brown apple moth (LBAM). MSNBC reports that, after the first aerial spraying, residents began to complain of shortness of breath and sharp stomach pains. On January 5, the Santa Cruz Sentinel cited an allegation that 643 complaints had been filed. CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle said his agency had received 330 complaints of spray-related illness but he downplayed the news, insisting that "the agencies with the jurisdiction to review the product have told us it's safe to use.... [and] the Checkmate products were unlikely the cause of the illnesses reported." A coalition including California Citizens Against Spraying, Helping Our Peninsula's Environment, and Pesticide Watch has called on the governor and legislature to block further aerial spraying, which could resume as early as February and extend into San Francisco and the East Bay. Instead, citizen activists are recommending use of less invasive pheromone-scented traps and twist-ties. Santa Cruz City Councilmember Emily Reilly declared, "I believe further spraying must be halted until we can be certain it is safe." More details at PANNA's LBAM webpage.

A global GMO-free network: International stakeholders meeting in Brussels, Belgium, have announced plans to create "a reliable, global supply of non-GM soy" to counter the spread of genetically engineered crops. Fifty-four percent of Brazil's 2006-7 soy production was from patented GM seeds and parcels of the Amazon rainforest are now being cleared for GM soy. Environmental News Network reports that 361 delegates attended a two-day meeting, representing the continent's 43 GMO-free regions (including Brittany in France, Tuscany in Italy and Upper Austria), Brazil, Canada, China, India and the US. Renaud Layadi, Sustainable Development Project Manager for the Regional Council of Brittany, explained that the goal was "to create a non-GM commodity market." Nearly all European pork, red meat and dairy products are derived from GMO-fed animals. A 2006 Eurobarometer survey found that most Europeans oppose GM food. As a result, Cargill, Bunge and ADM were forced to accept a two-year moratorium on soybeans grown on deforested lands. "There's an enormous effort by the biotech industry to make people think there is no alternative," Layadi said, while noting that Indian farmers alone are prepared to provide 10,000 tons of on-GM soy "if the market demanded."

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