Pesticides & lobsters; no rGBH in Yoplait; Banana workers sue Dow & Dupont; more...
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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- Lobster industry damaged by pesticides
- rGBH out of Yoplait
- Californians: Stories needed to support global lindane ban
- West African push toward organic cotton
- Video: Ecuadorian banana workers sue Dow and DuPont
- Podcast: Tyrone Hayes on frogs and human health
Democratic lawmakers plan to grill the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over its efforts to restore the lobster industry in the Long Island Sound while ignoring industry experts on the effects of pesticides lobster fishers say continue to kill the animals, according to Easton Courier. The state's lobster trade was hit hard by pesticide spray in 1999, when local counties, in addition to New York City, used malathion to combat mosquitoes. The DEP, however, claims that there aren't sufficent data connecting the die-off to malathion. “If we had a massive die-off on a farm in northern Connecticut, you can bet the DEP would still be conducting tests and would ban everything to find out why. I don’t understand why it’s different with the Sound," said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. Since 1999, the state has invested over $1 million to revive the trade, puzzling State Rep. Richard Roy, chair of the House Environment Committee. “They’re trying to restore an industry, but they don’t listen to the industry about potential problems with pesticides. That’s odd,” Roy said. “It doesn’t make much sense to work to restore the lobster fishery if we’re allowing chemicals to keep killing the lobsters."
Breast Cancer Action recently announced a victory in it's campaign focused on General Mills Yoplait brand yougurt. Yoplait was the target of BCA's "Think Before You Pink" campaign, which warned that Yoplait's donations to breast cancer came from the sales of yogurt made with Monsanto's synthetic recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Yoplait, the 19th largest dairy producer in the U.S., announced that as of August 2009 it will no longer purchase milk treated with rGBH. “We’re delighted that General Mills has decided to do the right thing in response to consumer demand,” said Barbara Brenner, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action. “When a company uses the pink ribbon to sell their products, they are making a promise to support women’s health. We want them to keep that promise—and we'll monitor the company to make sure they do.” The company also received pressure from the Organic Consumers Association, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, and dozens of other organizations. Japan, Australia, Canada and the European Union have all banned the use of rBGH, but its use is still permitted in the U.S. where it is injected into approximately 10% of U.S. dairy cows to force them to produce more milk.
Lindane's days are numbered. When Stockholm Convention (POPs Treaty) delegates meet in Geneva in May, this neurotoxin will be on the agenda for listing for international phaseout. As part of PAN's campaign to ensure that pharamaceutical as well as agricultural uses of lindane are listed under the treaty, we are asking Californians to share stories about how they deal with lice without using lindane. California banned shampoos and lotions containing lindane back in 2001. In the runup to the Geneva meeting, the U.S. continues to lobby to exempt lindane pharmaceutical products from the global ban. FDA officials need to know how California parents have been controlling lice safely without lindane for years. Share your story.
As fuel and fertilizer prices increased, many cotton farmers in West Africa have been making the transition to organic cotton. Though organic is still a tiny slice of the cotton market, according to the UN humanitarian news service, IRIN, global organic cotton production grew by more than 150% worldwide in 2008, and West Africa in particular saw a two-fold increase over 2007. Now, the global recession has leveled growth for organic cotton. “The financial crisis has reduced business’s appetite for risk. Companies are still honouring their organic cotton contracts, but demand is not growing. They are waiting to see how their consumers react [to the recession],” according to Jens Soth of Helvetas, a Swiss NGO that promote organic agriculture. Even with the economic downturn, Soth says he is optimistic organics will continue to thrive. According to a 2008 comparison of organic and conventional production, the transition to organic cotton can take four years for yields to equal those that are produced using conventional methods, largely due to the lag time as crop rotation helps rebuild soil nutrition. However, even with the short-term shortfall in yields -- which are partially offset by higher prices at market (up to 30%) -- the long term health and environmental benefits are substantial. The benefit to the community is not lost on researchers who conclude that organic cotton production can significantly decrease rural provery by employing more women. National Union of Burkinabe Cotton Producers president, Francois Traoré, agrees: "Some 70% of organic producers in this country are women. [With traditional cotton] the fumes [from pesticide spraying] are noxious for children [who are with their mothers at work] and pregnant women.”
Workers in Ecuador's banana plantations have filed a civil suit in U.S. district court against transnational pesticide companies including Dow and DuPont. The 300 pesticide applicators, plantation workers and residents are seeking compensation and medical monitoring for injuries they believe are caused by the fungicide mancozeb, the pesticide most commonly used on the country's banana crop. As reported on two segments of Al Jazeera's English-language investigative "People & Power" program, mancozeb, an endocrine disruptor and probable carcinogen, is sprayed up to 38 times per year over these plantations, often directly over schools and homes. While its use is subject to strict controls in the US, there are virtually no restriction on its use in Ecuador. Mancozeb is believed to be responsible for a spate of birth defects among children living in and around the plantations, and has also been blamed for a spike in crashes of pesticide spray planes.
In the summer of 1997, Tyrone Hayes, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, accepted what seemed a harmless offer to join a panel of eight other scientists investigating the safety of the common weed-killer atrazine. The panel had been commissioned by atrazine’s inventor and primary manufacturer, the Swiss-based chemical giant then called Novartis and since renamed Syngenta. The company wanted to know if its product threatened “non-target” organisms, including fish, reptiles, and amphibians—creatures whose fate had remained largely unexplored through the half century in which atrazine had become the most heavily used herbicide in the United States as well as one of its most widespread environmental contaminants. His work has focused on how chemical contaminants, especially pesticides, have caused worldwide decline in amphibian populations, and how the hormonal imbalance caused by these chemicals can be linked to breast and prostate cancer in humans. "Atrazine ... has a particular role in that it interferes with sex hormones. In some cases, male frogs actually become hermaphrodite," according to Dr. Hayes. Hayes recently spoke to EarthSky’s Lindsay Patterson about the connection between pesticides, frogs, and public health and about what it means to speak out as a scientist.
Listen to Dr. Hayes: