October 9, 2008
- Alert: Keep Endosulfan out of our food!
- Divers recover sunken endosulfan
- EPA halts tests-on-kids "temporarily"
- DDT malaria-spraying fails in Uganda
- Bees thrive in pesticide-free Paris
- Yoplait yogurt: "Pinkwashing" breast cancer
- Scottish millionaire fined for illegal pesticides
- Rising oil costs benefit organic produce
- Activists press candidates to protect human health
In response to petitions submitted by PAN, Natural Resources Defense Council, United Farmworkers and other groups in February 2008, the U.S. EPA opened another public comment period on endosulfan, this time focused on revoking all food tolerances for the pesticide. PAN and allied groups are submitting new comments demanding that the EPA ensures that no residues of endosulfan are found in food sold in the U.S.—whether it is imported or domestically produced. Endosulfan, an antiquated insecticide, is one of the most commonly detected residues in our nation's food supply. Because it does not easily break down, wind and water currents can carry it thousands of miles. The Arctic is a global sink for endosulfan, where it accumulates in the bodies of Indigenous people, plants and animals. Endosulfan also poses a danger to farmworkers and residents in rural communities near where it is sprayed. Earlier this month, PAN released a report documenting the presence of endosulfan in the air near a school in rural Florida. The comment period ends on October 20 -- you can join the campaign by adding your name to PAN's sign-on petition.
Three months after the MV Princess of the Stars capsized in a storm off a Philippine island, the government finally began a $7.6-million, weeks-long process of removing 10,000 pounds of deadly pesticides trapped in the sunken ship. Danger from the toxic cargo has delayed retrieving the bodies of more than 500 passengers and crew. On October 6, the Manila Times reported that all 402 barrels of endosulfan, a neurotoxic organochlorine insecticide, had been safely recovered. Local residents and global environmental groups -- including PAN, Greenpeace, and Health Care without Harm -- were concerned that the 10 metric tons of endosulfan trapped in the sunken ship could put the entire marine ecosystem at risk. The watchdog group BANtay Endosulfan criticized the government for failing to disclose the disposal plan for the recovered chemicals. "There is simply no justification for endosulfan to remain in the Philippines," BANtay Endosulfan leaders told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Philippine activists insisted the recovered chemicals be returned to the manufacturers, and the Philippine Transportation Undersecretary has promised that the fiberboard drums containing endosulfan will be shipped back to Makteshim Agan, a chemical firm in Israel.
The U.S. EPA has temporarily shelved two experimental studies that would have allowed infants and school children to be exposed to potentially hazardous levels of pesticides and other chemicals. One of the studies would have tested the effects of chemical exposure on children under the age of three. In April 2005, the EPA was forced to cancel its Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), which paid for participation of low-income Florida parents who applied pesticides in their homes in which infant children lived. In February 2007, the EPA formally legalized experimentation on human subjects. The new program, Scientific and Ethical Approaches for Observational Exposure Studies (SAEQUES), was reportedly written by the same EPA investigator responsible for the discredited CHEERS program. Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) called the announcement of a temporary halt to the program a pre-election "smokescreen to prevent a new controversy ... about the government using babies as guinea pigs." Ruch charged the new ruling "does not have any hard and fast rules to protect children used as experimental subjects" and noted that these corporate-sponsored experiments (often conducted in Third World countries) "are usually designed to justify higher human exposures to pesticides… particularly for children, while serving no discernible public health purpose."
Spraying the insecticide DDT inside homes in malaria-ravaged Oyam and Apac districts has failed to halt the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. "Worryingly, public health data for Lango show that week-for-week, reported malaria cases are higher this year than they were in 2007," Uganda's Weekly Observer reports. Theories to explain the failure range from a longer rainy season to poor performance of underpaid applicators. "DDT spraying was supposed to have prompted an immediate and dramatic reduction in malaria incidence," the Observer reports. "This has not happened." Meanwhile, people whose homes were sprayed (sometimes without their consent or knowledge) have complained of "stomach problems, headaches, flu and red eyes." Bernard Opio, whose home was sprayed in his absence, returned to find "the mosquitoes are still there. They're coming into the house." Ellady Muyambi, General Secretary of Uganda Network for Toxic Free Malaria Control warned most effects are long-term. Muyambi charged that the government "politicized the whole program" and the Observer reports residents were threatened that they would lose "access to public health services if they did not agree to have their houses sprayed."
At the same time bees are in serious decline across French farmlands, more than 300 colonies are thriving in the French capital says the International Herald Tribune. Corinne Moncelli, the owner of the Eiffel Park Hotel, believes the reason is simple: "There aren't pesticides." Moncelli's three hives produce 331 pounds of honey each year for the hotel's guests. In 2005, France began the world's largest program to encourage urban apiaries and now hives are buzzing on hotel rooftops, above home balconies and in parks. With $214 billion in global agriculture dependent on pollination, the fate of the bee is linked to the fate of human society. Sogaard Jorgensen, president of Apimondia (The Intenational Federation of Beekeepers Associations), tells the Tribune: "In many countries, the countryside has become a desert for bees." Parisian bees are healthier than their country cousins says Jean Paucton whose hives atop the Paris Opera House seldom show any colony loss while loses in his rural hives can hit 50%. "There aren't farmers anymore," Paucton says, "There are only agricultural companies and they use pesticides." Beekeeper Olivier Darne agrees. "Bees are dying everywhere but in the cities. The bees are speaking to us."
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this means parades of pink ribbons adorning everything from T-shirts to yogurt containers. To help consumers make informed choices amidst this onslaught of cause-marketing JuJitzu, Breast Cancer Action's (BCA) “Think before You Pink” campaign provides information on how much of each purchase actually goes towards breast cancer prevention and research. Since 2002, BCA has targeted “Pinkwashers” -- companies that plaster products with little pink ribbons advertising their commitment to fighting breast cancer while actually manufacturing products linked to the disease. This year the target is Yoplait yogurt, which uses milk from cows treated with rBGH, a recombinant bovine growth hormone that has been linked to breast cancer as well as a host of other environmental health concerns. "Yoplait has made a public commitment to [fighting] breast cancer, but there are concerns about what's under the lid," says BCA Executive Director Barbara Brenner. "We've invited a dialogue with General Mills, which owns Yoplait, and look forward to a healthy change in their product." rBGH has been banned in Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union; and major U.S. corporations like WalMart and Starbucks have stopped selling rBGH dairy products.
John Dodd, the multimillionaire owner of the 9,670-acre Glenogil estate in Angus, Scotland, has been penalized after a police raid found illegal pesticides spread around his sprawling £4.5 million property. According to The Scotsman, Glenogil, a popular "shooting estate" used by hunters, was "implicated last year in the disappearance of a sea eagle, one of 15 released under a reintroduction program." Sixty police raided the estate after finding "an illegal combination of lethal pesticides on a dead rabbit on a hillside close to the estate." Police found additional evidence of the same pesticides, carbofuran and isofenphos, "on a dead pigeon laid out as bait" to lure game within range of hunters' rifles. The Scottish Government subsequently cut Dodd's agricultural subsidy by £107,659, "the largest ever financial penalty under European Union legislation that demands landowners protect wildlife to qualify for farm subsidies." The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds noted that "agricultural grants to landowners rightly come with conditions" that include requiring "that those receiving public payments protect our national heritage, and that includes birds of prey." Dodd is expected to appeal the penalty.
A new study by Anderson's, a UK farm business consulting organization, predicts the rising cost of fossil fuel will make organic food production more cost effective. According to The Telegraph, "the price of oil could soon make cereal crops grown with fertilizers more expensive than those produced more naturally." With oil expected to top $200 a barrel in five to 10 years, the profit margin on organic barley, oil and wheat will be higher than for non-organic crops. This is good news for Britain's organic producers, following on the heels of troubling reports in late August that sales of organic foods had fallen 20 percent since the first of the year. As the Telegraph explains: "Industrial farming relies on fossil fuels to mine, manufacture and transport fertilizers which replace nutrients in the soil. Organic farming, however, improves soil fertility through crop rotations and is less affected by oil prices." Peter Metchett, an official with Britain’s Soil Association, which advocates organic farming, predicts "as oil inevitably becomes scarcer and costs more, economic forces will increasingly favor organic farming." While organic systems "are not perfect," Metchett added, "they do use less energy, generally emit fewer greenhouse gases, can sequester carbon in the soil, provide more jobs and support more wildlife. This report suggests they could also offer a more secure long-term financial future for the UK's farmers."