Bhopalis march against Dow; Endosulfan petition; Town bans "toxic trespass"; Bollworms; Beets; Bananas; and more...

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives

See PANUPS updates service, for complete information.

February 21, 2008

BhopaliBhopal survivors march to Delhi: On Feb. 20, survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal began a 500-mile padyatra (pilgrimage by foot) "to assert their fundamental rights to justice and a life of dignity and health." Dow Chemical (the site's owner since it bought Union Carbide) and the Indian government have failed to address the fact that 20,000 people still drink contaminated water and 10-15 people a day are dying from chemical exposure. The marchers are demanding clean drinking water, medical care, economic rehabilitation, and a full environmental cleanup. Other demands include the extradition of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson, who faces criminal charges in India's courts. The marchers also want the government to ban four dangerous pesticides that were approved after U.S. companies bribed Agriculture Ministry officials. (The pesticides include Dursban, Dow's chlorpyrifos product for the home, withdrawn in the U.S. in 2001). Support the march: You can pressure India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to meet with the marchers and address their demands by sending a postcard and/or fax. Go to Bhopal 2008 for a quick sign-on. Updates on the march are at Bhopal.net.

Thousands tell EPA to ban endosulfan: On February 19, more than 13,000 people signed petitions calling on the U.S. EPA to cancel all uses of endosulfan, a pesticide used on tomato and cotton crops. Endosulfan has been linked to autism and male reproductive harm. In high dosages, it can cause convulsions and death. This pesticide has been responsible for thousands of deaths in the developing world. "Endosulfan poses substantial risks and should be off the market," said Pesticide Action Network (PAN) scientist Karl Tupper. "Any perceived economic benefits are far outweighed by the dangers this old chemical poses to the health of farmworkers, pesticide applicators, consumers, and the environment." The EPA's own studies concluded that, even with the best available technology, people applying endosulfan are exposed to unacceptably high risks. PAN Drift Catcher projects in Hastings, Florida documented that people living near fields where endosulfan is applied are exposed to dangerous levels of the pesticide. Endosulfan (which has been nominated for a global phase-out under the Stockholm Convention) is already banned in the European Union and more than 20 other countries. "It is time for EPA to take the health of communities seriously and get this dangerous chemical out of U.S. agriculture," said PAN International Campaigner Medha Chandra.

Bollworms evolve to resist Bt toxin: A decade ago, agricultural biotechnology advocates hailed the introduction of corn, soybeans and cotton genetically modified to produce Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterial protein that kills insect pests. Now a strain of bollworm has appeared in Mississippi and Arkansas cotton fields that has evolved a resistance to these lab-created crops. The Washington Post reports these are "the first pests known to have become fully resistant to the modified plants." University of Arizona researcher Bruce Tabashnik, who reported the discovery in the February issue of Nature Biotechnology, declared: "What we're seeing is evolution in action." Organic farmers also rely on Bt, a natural toxin used to control pests. They had warned that using Bt in genetically engineered crops might trigger Bt resistance, which could destroy the effectiveness of this essential natural pesticide and prompt calls for the increased use of chemical pesticides.

The beet goes on: This spring, farmers will begin planting "Roundup Ready" sugar beets that have been genetically engineered by Monsanto to allow for more pesticide use. Nearly half the sugar consumed in the U.S. comes from beets (the balance is from cane). On January 23, farmers, food safety advocates, and conservation groups filed suit in federal court challenging the deregulation of these herbicide-tolerant beets by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Center for Food Safety reports that since the introduction of herbicide-tolerant GE crops in 1994, herbicide use in the U.S has increased by 122 million pounds -- a 15-fold increase. In 2001, Hershey's and M&M Mars assured consumers they would not use GE sugar but, CFS notes, now that genetically engineered sugar beets "are close to being planted commercially, they have made no such assurances." You can sign a petition to U.S. candymakers here.

Virginia town bans toxic trespass: On February 7, 2008, the Halifax Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning "chemical and radioactive bodily trespass." The action, prompted by concerns over a proposed uranium mine, prohibits corporations from interfering with the civil rights of the residents -- including their right to self-government. The ordinance was drafted by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. According to CELDF Projects Director Ben Price, Halifax residents "have determined that they do not consent to be irradiated, nor to be trespassed upon, by toxic substances that would be released by Virginia Uranium, Inc., or any other state-chartered corporation." Halifax is the tenth U.S. municipality to refuse to recognize corporate "rights" that are often used to exploit human and natural communities. These ordinances are directed at "chartered immunities" designed to "deny citizens' rights, impose harm, and refuse local self-determination." "This is an historic vote," said Halifax Town Councilmember Jack Dunavant, "It's time to invoke the Constitution and acknowledge the power of the people to protect our own destiny and end this era of corporate greed and pollution."

Philippine banana sprayers win appeal: When Davao City officials banned the aerial spraying of pesticides, the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association turned to the courts. On February 13, the Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction to allow the spraying to continue. Davao City environmentalist Tom Villarin told the Minda News that this "cop-out to big business" happened because the banana lobby "used its economic and political muscle to run roughshod over the people." Villarin said that the ordinance would now have a domino effect in neighboring provinces, cities and municipalities that had enacted laws to control the banana companies’ rampant violations of labor laws and safety standards. "A multi-million dollar industry...has practically made a fiefdom in Davao," Villarin said, calling the banana industry "oblivious to the imperatives of sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, people's health, and labor standards." Villarin's group, SIAD Initiatives in Mindanao-Convergence for Asset Reform and Regional Development, advocates small-scale, ecological farming and a ban on synthetic chemicals.

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