Global endosulfan protest; CA governor may force methyl iodide registration; and more...

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS archive for complete information.

July 9, 2009


Celebrities ditch underwear to protest Bayer's dirty pesticide

Underwear protestCoordinated protests against Bayer’s deadly pesticide endosulfan took place July 7 in 16 countries. Sponsored by Pants to Poverty, an organic and fairtrade underwear company, several high profile UK celebrities, together with people around the world, exchanged their conventional undies for a free pair of organic underwear, and signaled their commitment to cotton production without the use of endosulfan. Pants to Poverty will deliver the surrendered underwear directly to Bayer, one of the global manufacturers of the chemical. Endosulfan is a highly hazardous insecticide linked to reproductive defects and cancer. Banned in more than 60 countries around the world, endosulfan is still used in the U.S. on tomatoes, cotton and other crops. U.S. EPA is currently considering a petition from Pesticide Action Network and groups around the country to cancel its use, along with calls for the same from tens of thousands of concerned individuals. Meanwhile, Taiwanese consumers and scientists have expressed outrage at their government’s March 2009 decision to allow endosulfan residues on apples and other imported fruits, after a complete ban on the pesticide had been in place. In February, before the change, two batches of apples from the U.S. were refused entry to Taiwan because they failed pesticide tests. In March, six batches were stopped, including two that showed endosulfan levels between 0.02 and 0.04 ppm, said Sun Li-chun, professor at the agricultural economics department of National Taiwan University and a member of the Consumers Foundation.

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Chemical industry urges CA governor to ignore science

 

According to inside sources, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is being pressured by corporate interests to fast- track registration of a new pesticide, despite serious concerns from the state’s own scientists at the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). At issue is the new fumigant pesticide methyl iodide. Highly toxic, and not yet approved for use in California, this chemical has been given a comprehensive review by DPR, and the agency's registration decision is pending advice from a panel of scientists convened specifically to review this chemical. “Methyl iodide is so toxic that scientists working with it in the laboratory take extreme precautions when handling it, using a ventilation hood, gloves, and special equipment for transferring it so it does not escape to the air,” notes Dr. Susan Kegley, a chemist and consulting scientist for Pesticide Action Network. “This degree of protection is not possible in an agricultural setting where the pesticide would be applied at rates of 175 pounds per acre in the open air. Buffer zones of 400 feet for a 40-acre fumigation would still result in a dose of methyl iodide to neighbors that is 375 times higher than DPR believes is acceptable. For workers, the numbers are much worse, with exposures estimated at 3,000 times higher than DPR’s acceptable dose for some tasks.” Methyl iodide’s manufacturer, Arysta, withdrew its New York application for registration after state officials raised concerns about groundwater contamination and potential exposure for workers, bystanders and nearby residents, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly. Industry is asking California's governor to order DPR to register the fumigant. Californians can take action:  Tell the Governor to keep methyl iodide of California's strawberry fields.

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African scientists call for sustainable green revolution

 

African womanAs the Group of Eight Countries (G8) gather this week in Italy to discuss development and aid for Africa, among other topics, several African scientists and farmers are calling for increased investment in organic agriculture and agroecological solutions for hunger and poverty. At issue is whether aid will favor community-based agroecological development or corporate technological fixes such as genetically modified seeds, synthetic fertilizers and hazardous pesticides. National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU) executive director, Moses Kiggundu Muwanga, said, "The call for chemical fertilizers does not make sense: they emit greenhouse gasses, both through their production and their composition of mainly nitrous oxide, and so they contribute to climate change. Besides, the cost of synthetic fertilizer is too expensive for most subsistence farmers." Mubita Malumo, the vice chairperson of Organic Producers and Processors of Zambia (OPAZ) said that Africa should instead build on its strengths -- its land, local resources, indigenous plant varieties, indigenous knowledge, biologically diverse smallholder farms and limited use of agrochemicals. Pesticide Action Network and the U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis is urging the G8 to focus on sustainable agriculture practices as a solution to the global food crisis. New approaches to the food crisis should be based on the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, a landmark study sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank. The IAASTD emphasizes the need for agroecological methods instead of chemical-intensive production and biotechnology.

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Michigan lindane law stalled in state senate

Legislation that passed with strong support in Michigan's House of Representatives earlier this year would severely restrict the use of the pesticide lindane in pharmaceutical products in the state. The bill, which is similar to a law passed in California in 2002, has now been sidelined in the state senate by Majority Leader Mike Bishop, according to an article in the Michigan Messenger.  “The majority leader has the choice between siding with the pharmaceutical industry or siding with children,” Mike Shriberg, policy director at the Ecology Center told the Messenger. Lindane is formulated in the U.S. by Illinois-based Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals, whose contract lobby firm has lobbied hard against the proposed legislation. Lindane has been banned in more than 50 countries, and was recently added to the list of chemicals targeted for a global phaseout under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

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EPA sued over pesticides in polar bears

 

Polar bear with cubOn July 8, the Center for Biological Diversity gave the required 60-day notice to U.S. EPA  "of its intent to file suit against the agency for failing to consider impacts to the polar bear and its Arctic habitat from toxic contamination resulting from pesticide use in the United States." Persistent pesticides such as endosulfan travel thousands of miles to the polar regions and bioaccumulate in the food web, poisoning animals as well as people. “The poisoning of the Arctic is a silent crisis that threatens not just the polar bear, but the entire Arctic ecosystem, as well as the people and communities that live within it,” said Rebecca Noblin in a press release from the Center's Anchorage office. “Because the polar bear sits at the top of the food pyramid, if we do what is necessary to protect the bear from pesticides, we will also be protecting the Arctic ecosystem and the people that depend upon it.” 

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Healthy living begins in the womb

 

A June 30 USA Today article summarized recent research that increasingly links adult diseases with what happens when babies are still in the womb. A growing body of scientific research suggests the best time to fight adult diseases may be before babies are even born, according to Peter Gluckman of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. During the crucial window of opportunity before birth and during infancy, environmental cues help program a person's DNA, says Alexander Jones of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and the University College of London Institute for Child Health. Many things, including chemical contaminants, can cause changes. Hugh Taylor from the Yale University School of Medicine and other scientists are concerned that hormone-disrupting chemicals, such as those used in some pesticides, could cause disease in later life. Margaret Reeves, Pesticide Action Network senior scientist, agrees: “Even extremely low doses of pesticides, particularly during fetal development, infancy and childhood, are linked to cancers, birth defects, developmental delays and Parkinson’s Disease.”

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