India urged to abandon endosulfan; Food giants rehash failed solutions; USDA approval of Monsanto GE sugar beets illegal

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Support Panups!September 24, 2009

Ending India's push for endosulfan

Farmer in IndiaThe world’s largest manufacturer and user of the antiquated, persistent and highly hazardous pesticide endosulfan -- India -- is standing in the way of a global ban of the chemical. In mid-October, experts from around the world will meet in Geneva to consider the science behind the pesticide, and make decisions as to whether endosulfan should be considered for global phase-out under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs treaty). So far, Indian officials have gone to significant trouble to block endosulfan’s listing on the POPs treaty, and delay a global ban. Pesticide Action Network North America and the Environmental Justice Foundation (U.K.) are putting pressure on the Indian government, urging them to support the global ban of endosulfan at the Geneva meeting. Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests, is the target of letters and petitions. More than 60 countries have already banned endosulfan, and Bayer -- the only major agrochemical company still selling it -- recently announced that it is abandoning the chemical. "Indian officials are working to derail the Stockholm Convention process every step of the way," reports PAN staff scientist Karl Tupper, who’s seen Indian officials in action at POPs treaty meetings. “They’ve used procedural tricks and presented false information on endosulfan’s impacts. They’re clearly protecting the health of their chemical industry rather than the health of people and the environment.” PAN works closely with organizations and movements inside India, such as Thanal, that are demanding an end to use of endosulfan.

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Corporate 'Global Harvest' rehashes failed solutions 

Corporate appleOn September 22 the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) -- backed by Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere and DuPont -- convened a high-profile symposium in Washington D.C. to announce their platform for feeding the world: industrial agriculture, chemical-intensive production, genetic engineering and free trade. These failed strategies have been widely critiqued as contributors to farmers’ loss of land, farmer suicides and environmental contamination. The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis, which PAN helps to organize, responded immediately. Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition and a Mississippi farmer, asked why GHI featured “only the agribusinesses that control farm inputs, instead of small-scale farmers” in their event.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network and a co-author of the UN’s International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD), observed: “The continuing global food crisis demands a change of course, not more of the same. The corporations sponsoring the GHI are those who helped create today's hunger, environmental and climate crises. Fortunately, the IAASTD shows us a better way: support the world’s small-scale farmers and cool the planet through productive, energy-efficient, ecologically-resilient, locally adapted farming methods." Tim Lasalle, CEO of Rodale Institute, summed up the critique in the Huffington Post: “The symposium's highlighting of groups seeking environmental and social benefits may do some good -- if the groups can break industrial ag's profit-driven willingness to sacrifice soil vitality, agricultural biodiversity, human endocrine and neurological health, farmer control of seeds and a nation's nutritional well-being. Or it may just be the best agri-greenwashing money can buy.”

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New movie explores Canada's bans on lawn and garden pesticides

In 1984, June Irwin, an eccentric dermatologist, noticed a connection between exposure to weed killers and hospital visits, prompting her to lead the charge for stricter controls on pesticides in her small town of Hudson, Quebec. Her crusade won not only a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides in her town, but also catalyzed a national movement, culminating in a ban across all of Quebec. The new documentary film, A Chemical Reaction (PDF), tells the story and also asks: If in Canada, then why not in the U.S.? The answer, in part, is “preemption” -- laws quietly pushed through most state legislatures at the behest of the agrichemical industry that preempt local governments from setting pesticide rules that are stricter than state regulations. The filmmakers sit down with California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma to discuss her failed attempt to return control of pesticide use to municipalities, and they also talk to Elizabeth Martin-Craig from PesticideWatch, Pesticide Action Network executive director Kathryn Gilje and staff scientist Karl Tupper. The movie is screening at film festivals around the country this fall, and makes its West Coast premier this Sunday, September 28, at the Wine Country Film Festival in Sonoma, CA. See A Chemical Reaction website for additional screenings.

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Court rules against Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' sugar beets

Sugar beet Monsanto's roll out of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets has come under fire with a September 22 court decision. Although Monsanto pushed the GE sugar beets onto the market in 2008, food safety, farm and environmental groups were concerned about consequences for health and the environment. When USDA deregulated the GE sugar beet seeds without requiring a formal environmental review, several groups, including Center for Food Safety and High Mowing Seeds, sued. Environmental News Service reports that the federal district court for northern California ruled on September 22 that the USDA "violated the law when it failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before deregulating sugar beets that were genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, marketed by Monsanto as Roundup. 'This court decision is a wakeup call for the Obama USDA that they will not be allowed to ignore the biological pollution and economic impacts of gene altered crops,'" said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs along with the Sierra Club and others, represented by EarthJustice. "Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said, 'Although touted by Monsanto as offering all sorts of benefits, GE crops offer consumers nothing, and are designed primarily to sell herbicides. The end result of their use is more toxics in our environment and our food, disappointed farmers, and revenue for Monsanto.'" Recent studies have shown that Roundup formulations and their metabolites "cause the death of human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cells in vitro even at low concentrations. The plaintiff groups also point to other recent studies that suggest Roundup is an endocrine disrupter, and that some amphibians and other forms of life may be at risk from glyphosate." The court may consider an injunction to halt use of all Roundup Ready products when the judge reviews remedies on October 30. On Sept. 21, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network and 20 other groups filed comments (PDF) with EPA documenting that Roundup products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health.

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