Bhopal marchers in Delhi; Farmworker Awareness Week; Parkinson's and pesticides; Benin bans endosulfan; 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.

April 3, 2008

Marchers arrested in New Delhi: On March 28, two years after their last padayatra (pilgrimage by foot) from Bhopal to Delhi, 50 people, including survivors of the 1984 gas tragedy, their children, and their supporters, arrived in the Indian capital after a 38-day, 500-mile trek. "We were forced to undertake this grueling walk because [in 2006] the Prime Minister failed to keep his word. This time, we are not going back until we get a public declaration from him that he will deliver on his promise," said marcher Hazra Bee, a Bhopal survivor. The Prime Minister's Office has rejected a request for an appointment but international support for the survivors is pouring in. More than 1300 faxes and many more postcards and letters from 18 countries have demanded that the Prime Minister meet with the marchers. On March 29, 30 Bhopalis and supporters were arrested after staging a "die-in" at India Gate, the Indian War Memorial. A flood of calls protesting the arrests led officials to release the demonstrators after an hour. One of participant reported that, upon their release, the marchers "sang and celebrated" since "the action led to much awareness about Bhopalis arriving in Delhi and also the headache it gave to police was considerable!" For complete coverage of the march (with photos), go to Bhopal.net. To send a free fax to the Prime Minister, go to PANNA’s Action page.

Farmworker Awareness Week: This week to honor farmworkers annually revolves around March 31, the birthday of labor movement leader Cesar Chavez. The 2008 event, March 30-April 5, is a national week of action for students and community members to raise awareness about farmworker issues on their campuses and in their communities. Student Action with Farmworkers notes: "Every year, farmworkers are injured and even killed working to put food on our tables. Farmworkers and their families are often exposed to toxic chemicals in the field and at home. As consumers, we should call for better laws to protect farmworkers." As part of the celebration, student Clayton Dewey reports, one classroom of fourth- and fifth-graders in Denver, Colorado, practiced carrying baskets filled with 32 pounds of books, "the same weight as a basket of tomatoes. For each basket, a tomato picker only receives 40 cents." PAN North America, one of 16 sponsoring organizations, has more information.

Parkinson's and pesticides: New evidence linking pesticides and Parkinson's Disease appears in the journal BMC Neurology. According to a BBC report on the study, "those exposed to [herbicides and insecticides] had a 1.6 times higher risk." Researchers from Duke University, Miami University at the Udall Parkinson's Disease Research Center of Excellence studied nearly 600 people from similar environmental and genetic backgrounds and discovered that people exposed to "heavy use" of pesticides (more than 200 days of lifetime exposure) had "double the risk" of developing the neurological ailment.Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS) Research Director Kieran Breen said the findings support the idea "that pesticides play a key role" in triggering the disease. PDS' own survey of 10,000 Parkinson's patients revealed that 10% had reported long-term exposure to pesticides.

Paraguay pressures pesticide protestors: Paraguayan authorities have ordered the detention of four anti-pesticide activists for "homicidal intent and criminal association" after the members of the Leopoldo Perrier Community organized protests over spraying fields of genetically modified soy beans. One of the targeted individuals is Tomas Zayas, leader of the Association of Alto Paraná Farmers (ASAGRAPA) and the National Center of Peasant, Indigenous and Popular Organizations (CNOCIP). Protests intensified last August after Silvino Talavera, a three-year-old boy, died following intense crop spraying. Court-ordered tests showed "high levels of toxic pesticides" in the boy's body. La Nación reports "classes are often cancelled on days of crop spraying ... because the children faint from the smell." The UN's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reports "the expansion of the cultivation of soy has brought with it the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides." In 2006, the International Observation Mission in Paraguay reported "a campaign of massive repression of the campesino sector" in response to protests about the genetically modified soy. Tactics include "criminalization of protests" and "linking campesino leaders to ... guerilla activity." The head of the Association of Producers of Soy, Grains and Oils accused the campesinos of wanting "to initiate a civil war" but Zayas (who is running for the Senate in April 20 elections) replied that the real war "is a chemical war against our people -- and the people have the right to defend themselves."

Pesticides in Europe's wine: PAN Europe uncorked a controversy when it announced that tests of 40 bottles of European Union wine (including three world-famous Bordeaux) revealed that all of the conventional wines were found to contain traces of pesticides. All 34 conventional wines contained at least one, and as many as ten, pesticides. The most prevalent pesticides were pyrimethanil, cyprodinil and dimethomorph. Of the six bottles of organic wine tested, only one showed traces of pesticide residue -- a low concentration of pyrimethanil. Tests were conducted by PAN Europe, Greenpeace Germany, Friends of the Earth Austria and France's Movement pour le Doit et le Respect des Generations Futures. While grapes account for only 3% of EU cropland they receive 15% of the region's pesticide applications. The European Commission is considering a ban on 23 harmful pesticides used on food crops.

Benin bans endosulfan: When the toxic organochlorine pesticide endosulfan was introduced to West Africa's cotton growers in 1999, it was only supposed to be used for four years. Instead, more than a million bottles of callisulfan (endosulfan) continued to be distributed throughout the region every year, despite the rising number of pesticide poisonings. Last year, Benin's Health Ministry reported 20 endosulfan deaths in northern Benin alone. In 2006, PAN UK and four West African partners released "Living with Poison," a four-year study of the endosulfan threat. With the European Union's decision to ban endosulfan and the rise of the organic cotton movement in Africa, Benin announced on February 19 that it plans to end the use of endosulfan. "The Benin government deserves praise," says PAN UK's Damien Sanfilippo, but Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast "still have over 1.6 million liters of endosulfan in stock." Meanwhile, cotton growers plan to shift to TIHAN, a pesticide that contains ingredients the World Health Organization identifies as endocrine disruptors and likely human carcinogens. PAN UK believes "the only way to achieve truly safe and beneficial cotton production is to move towards ... organic cotton." With the support of L’Organisation Béninoise pour la Promotion de l’Agriculture Biologique, a regional environmental group, Benin's cotton growers expect to harvest more than 700 tons of organic cotton this year. Meanwhile, endosulfan continues to be used in the U.S., despite the U.S. EPA's admission that the chemical poses "unacceptable risks." More than 13,000 people have petitioned the EPA to ban endosulfan. "It is time for the EPA to ... get this dangerous chemical out of U.S. agriculture," says PAN North American Campaign Coordinator Medha Chandra.

Lower poisoning reports misleading: According to the Stockton Record, California's Department of Pesticide Regulation investigated 681 cases of pesticide reports in 2006, "the smallest number since state records were computerized in 1982." San Joaquin County Agriculture Commissioner Scott Hudson said it was "good news to see the trend is going down" and attributed the drop to improved training, increased enforcement and "a trend among growers to use less hazardous materials." But DPR cautioned that the statistics were likely misleading since the agency failed to collect information from the state's poison control centers in 2006. Pesticide Action Network scientist Brian Hill also noted that "pesticides continue to take an unwelcome toll" especially on farm laborers. Since "fully two-thirds of the [poisoning] cases involving field workers were due to pesticide drift," PAN is calling for tighter controls, including pre-spraying notification and buffer zones around treated fields. DPR has established a hotline -- 87-PESTline (877) 378-5463 -- to report pesticide poisonings and application violations.

Action needed on Farm Bill: Republicans and Democrats renegotiating the final language for the controversial Farm Bill are considering amending Section 1244 of the Food Security Act of 1985 to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from restricting pesticide use through its conservation programs. The proposed rewrite of 16 U.S. Code 3844 would prevent the USDA from banning the use of methyl bromide in a conservation program and would prevent the use of funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help farmers making the transition to organic agriculture. Please email the Congressional conferees by April 8, urging them to reject the Goodlatte pesticide amendment and allow the USDA to continue to exercise its ability to restrict or prohibit the use of dangerous pesticides in its conservation programs.

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