GE corn spill stalks Iowa; Activists under attack; Pesticides in Nepal; Pork dumplings and pesticides; 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 28, 2008

Dow GE corn contaminates 53,000 acres: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food & Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have issued a press release warning that a genetically engineered corn seed has been contaminating Iowa cornfields since 2006. The DowAgroSciences seed, a variety known as Event 32, was illegally sold under the labels Herculex RW and Herculex EXTRA. Dow claims that pollen from stalks of the unapproved GE variant inadvertently "landed on a patch of approved stalks." The Des Moines Register says the seeds were "genetically engineered to make the plants toxic to insect pests." The USDA describes Event 32 an "unregistered pesticide product" but claims it poses no harm to plants or humans and, furthermore, "poses no plant pest...concerns." The Register called the disclosure "the latest in a series of incidents in which unapproved biotech varieties of corn and rice have made their way into seed or grain supplies," beginning in 2000, when GE StarLink corn wound up in taco shells and other commercial food products, and was later found in corn exported by USAID to Bolivia. Greg Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest cited this as evidence that the biotech industry still "isn't policing itself adequately."

Acquitted PAN Activists Suffer Setback: In December, a judge in the Philippines acquitted Romeo (Romy) Quijano and his daughter Ilang-Ilang Quijano of charges that they had defamed a banana company. The LADECO corporation claimed that Ilang-Ilang's 1991 newspaper article, "Poisoned Lives," falsely accused the plantation's pesticides of killing trees, crops, animals and fish in Mindinao. (See PANUPS, December 20, 2007) LADECO filed a 5.5 million peso libel suit against the Quijanos. On December 10, 2007, the case was dismissed and a Davao City judge ordered LADECO to pay the Quijanos 50,000 pesos in damages. The victory was short-lived, however. LADECO has now filed a petition to have the acquittal overturned. The Quijanos (who have already paid 300,000 pesos in costs during their seven-year legal battle) must come up with an additional 50,000 just to prepare a response. PAN North America has set up a fund to help the Quijanos defend themselves against LADECO. Contributions may be made online at www.panna.org/defense or by calling 415-981-1771.

Pesticides plague Nepal: The Kingdom of Nepal was introduced to pesticides in the 1950s with the arrival of mosquito-fighting DDT, Gamaxene and nicotine sulphate. As the newspaper The Rising Nepal notes, "organochlorines were introduced in the 1950s, organophosphates in the 1960s, carbamates in the 1970s and then, in the 1980s, synthetic pyrethroids." In 1990, Nepal realized it had a problem: more than 74 tons of obsolete pesticides had piled up in 24 warehouses around the country. "Because of the poor storage conditions," Rising Nepal reports, "environmental disasters may occur at any moment." Nepal's Pesticide Act (regulating the import, sales and use of chemicals) says nothing about stockpiled pesticides. In 2006, Nepal listed 290 commercial pesticides for sale, but the country recently banned lindane, phosphamidon, organomercury fungicides, BHC and the eight pesticides in the Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPS) treaty's initial list for elimination -- chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, aldrin, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphene. In an editorial, Rising Nepal has called for new laws "to thwart the indiscriminate use of pesticides...with the sole aim of making a profit."

Pork dumplings and pesticides: Imports of Chinese "gyoza" dumplings are being blocked throughout Asia following the poisoning of 175 Japanese shoppers who consumed Chinese dumplings between December and January. The gyoza were laced with pesticides. On February 22, Japan's Kyodo News reported "parathion and parathion methyl [sic.] pesticides have been detected in a package of Chinese-made frozen 'gyoza' dumplings" sold in Japan. Gyoza-lovers were alarmed to read that "high concentrations of dichlorvos" had also been detected in the dumplings. The Japanese Consumers' Cooperative Union stated that tests found 180 parts per million (ppm) of dichlorvos, 1.6 ppm of parathion and 1.1 ppm of methyl parathion in the dumplings. Japanese police found traces of the organophosphate pesticide methamidophos, as well.

No barrier for pesticides: The Great Barrier Reef that lies off the coast of Queensland has been suffering from the impacts of global warming and a changing ecosystem. Now, according to The Australian, the reef is threatened by pesticide run-off from local farms. The massive floods that struck the region in January drowned wildlife, depriving birds of food, and flushed snakes out of their habitat and into suburban backyards. Agricultural chemicals from cane fields and mining wastes from the Bowen Basin are usually prevented from reaching the waterways but "they have suddenly been flushed out and there's nothing we can do about them," says Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Toby Hutcheon. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority reports the most common pesticides found in the region's runoff are diuron and atrazine. "The Great Barrier Reef is such a delicate ecosystem," Hutcheon notes, "it could be years before we see proper recovery."

Indian pesticide critics face arrest: The Agrochemicals Policy Group, a pesticide industry organization, has accused the environmental group Toxic Links of publishing a "scary headline" in an attempt to malign India's $1.6 billion pesticide industry. Toxic Links' booklet, "The Killing Fields of Warangal," links pesticide spraying to the deaths of farmers. According to The Hindu, the chairman of the Mumbai-based United Phosophorous Limited called the Toxic Link environmentalists "a threat to the nation's food security and enhanced earnings for farmers." The Endosulfan Manufactuers and Formulators Association accused Toxic Link of having "a negative impact on the manufacture of agrochemicals." Three members of Toxic Links have now been issued "non-bailable arrest warrants" after having been charged with defaming the pesticides industry.

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