GM crop research blocked; Farewell to Rachel's; Dow AgroScience for sale?; more...
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS updates service for complete information.
- Scientists blocked from researching GM crop impacts
- Praise and thanks for Rachel's News
- Dow may sell AgroScience division
- California Republicans' pesticide VOCs budget trick fails
- VIDEO - Is your lawn safe for pets this spring?
- Correction: lindane stories sought from Californians
Biotechnology companies are stopping scientists from researching the efficiency and environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops, according to a statement submitted to U.S. EPA by 26 specialists in corn pests. The scientists, primarily from land-grant universities, submitted the statement anonymously for fear of being blacklisted. Andrew Pollack of the New York Times interviewed the scientists, whose stories of the industry’s chokehold on research include outright prohibition of research and laundering of data. Leading agricultural biotech companies, including DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta, are also the primary producers of insecticides and herbicides. Scientists are concerned that neither EPA nor farmers can get enough non-industry-controlled science to make informed decisions about whether GM crop technologies are worth either the money or the risks increasingly associated with biotechnology. “U.S. agriculture uses far more biotech than any other nation. The companies foisting these technologies on the developing world at a considerable profit are U.S.-based. The fact that neither U.S. regulatory agencies, nor American farmers, can get independent scientific assessment is especially alarming,” said PAN Senior Scientist, Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman. Risks and unintended consequences are only slowly coming to light, and include reduction rather than increases in yields, potential uncontrolled spread of food allergens and other genes, human and animal health harms associated with eating GM foods, and more. Genetically engineered crops have failed to deliver on industry promises of increased yields, nutritional value, or drought-tolerance. Herbicide tolerance (particularly for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUpTM) is the engineered crop trait that does appear to work, and is in broadest use (82% of biotech crops worldwide). According to a World Watch Institute report, wide adoption of such herbicide-tolerant crops in the U.S. has increased use of pesticides, resulting in the spread of 15 species of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” in the U.S. alone. In the 1990s there were two such species of superweeds
Today, February 26, brings the 1,000th issue of Rachel’s Democracy and Health News. Its publisher, Peter Montague, co-founded the Environmental Research Foundation (ERF) in 1980 and is closing its doors this month. “Our main goal,” Peter reflects, “was to build a lifeboat so that people could see what's possible, abandon a sinking ship, and make the necessary societal shift to protect the future we all want for our children.” Over the years he dissected the risk assessment regime to reveal in plain language how it protects the chemical industry by "tolerating” harm, most often at greatest cost to communities of color. Peter has been an articulate champion of the burgeoning grassroots toxics movement and helped lay the intellectual foundations for the precautionary principle. Rachel’s News brought intelligent, radical social analysis distilled into essential information for action. At first Rachel’s arrived in the mail of public interest groups and activists each week. The November 1986 premier issue presented data from the Geological Surveys in Iowa and Kansas showing that “Pesticides Pose Greater Threat To U.S. Drinking Water Supplies Than Factories And Toxic Dumps”. As Peter moved to the Internet, Rachel’s expanded to some 10,000 loyal subscribers and many, many more to whom this vital resource was redistributed. Mary O’Brien, former board president of Pesticide Action Network North America (and author of Making Better Environmental Decisions; an alternative to risk assessment, MIT Press, 2000), writes: “Rachel's has been a MODEL of science explained; history remembered; alternatives explored; B.S. debunked. And all without too many words. Peter is so good, it's our responsibility to carry on.”
Dow Chemical Co. may be forced to sell Dow AgroSciences in an effort to raise cash. Currently the sixth largest producer of pesticides worldwide, Dow has quietly been shopping it's profitable AgroScience division because of a cash shortage from two failed deals that are now in litigation. In late 2008, a joint venture with Kuwait’s state-run Petrochemical Industries Co.-- that would have allowed Dow to complete a $15.3 billion acquisition of Philadelphia-based Rohm and Haas Co -- collapsed. Facing litigation on all sides, Dow sued Kuwait to make good on their planned $9 bilion cash infusion to facilitate the purchase, while Rohm and Haas sued Dow to try to force it to complete the transaction, reports the Indianapolis Business Journal. TheDeal.com listed potential buyers of Dow AgroSciences as DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition, Syngenta AG and Bayer Crop-Science AG, which would lead to a further consolidation of the pesticide and genetically-engineered crop transnationals from the "big six" to a "big five": BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.
Earlier this week, the California Legislature approved a state budget revision that excluded language from Governor Schwarzenegger and Republicans in an effort to allow more pesticide air pollution in rural California. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Republicans’ proposed language would have rolled back the state’s obligations to reduce use of smog-forming pesticides. In the mid-1990’s, California regulators in the Wilson Administration promised to adopt regulations that would reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCc) from pesticides by 20% below 1990 levels in five air basins by 2005. Instead of 20% reductions, Schwarzeneggar and San Joaquin Valley legislators Mike Villines and Dave Cogdill introduced a budget rider that would have lowered the promised reductions to only 10% in Ventura and 12% for the San Joaquin Valley, Coachella Valley, Sacramento area, and the South Coast air basin. "'Axing pesticide protections would have had a devastating effect on the health of rural communities,’" said Teresa DeAnda, President of El Comité Para el Bienestar de Earlimart, a community group in the San Joaquin Valley, and Valley Field Coordinator for Californians for Pesticide Reform.
The Truth About Cats, Dogs, and Lawn Chemicals is a documentary video by and about animal lovers working to rid their communities of toxic lawn chemicals. It presents five easy steps to protect pets and people. Grounded in the latest science and veterinary medicine and played out in personal experience, the film showcases research scientists, vets, lawn care experts, show dogs and cats, and family pets and their people. It reveals the profound connections between animals and humans as subjects of a suburban chemical experiment, in a real-life story of interdependence and love — in a neighborhood that might just be your own. The documentary, previously only available online, is now shipping on DVD. An action guidebook for local action is also available: email Paul Schramski Towers at Pesticide Watch.
Last week this story was omitted from the email version of PANUPS: 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 Pesticide Action Network's campaign to ensure that pharmaceutical 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 run-up 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.