Obama's double standard on ag; Ireland bans GMOs; Melting glaciers release DDT; more
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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- Obama's double standard on ag
- Ireland bans GM crops & prioritizes organic ag
- Melting glaciers release DDT & other POPs
- Drift Catcher gets airtime
Sustainable agriculture advocates from around the country are organizing to protest the Obama Administration’s nomination of Islam Siddiqui, a former pesticide lobbyist, as chief agriculture trade representative at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Siddiqui is currently a vice president at Croplife America; this new appointment will give him broad influence over U.S. ag trade policy. Croplife is an agrochemical industry trade group representing Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow Chemical, among others. Croplife’s regional partner notoriously “shuddered” at Michelle Obama’s organic garden and launched a letter writing campaign in protest. Pesticide Action Network joins a broad coalition of partner groups including National Family Farm Coalition, Food & Water Watch, Farmworker's Association of Florida, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Food Democracy Now!, Greenpeace, and Center for Food Safety in calling on President Obama to withdraw Siddiqui's nomination and reconsider his administration's contradictory commitment to corporate-controlled industrial agriculture abroad while supporting sustainable ag through various domestic projects. Politico, FOX News, Reuters, HuffPo and Grist have covered the controversy surrounding his nomination.
Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at PAN, noted the double standard of ostensibly advocating for more sustainable food at home while Siddiqui's appointment in fact advances an agenda that undermines developing countries’ capacity to feed themselves: “Putting a CropLife official and former lobbyist in charge of U.S. agricultural trade policy sends the worst kind of message to the world. This appointment tells the world that the U.S. will continue to value the interests of our chemical pesticide and biotech industries over any serious concern for public health, the environment or the well-being of farmworkers and communities around the world. We will be calling on the Senate Finance Committee to reject this nomination.” The nomination contributes to a string of pro-industry, pro-pesticide international food and agricultural initiatives announced since Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack took office. While Obama's domestic agricultural agenda appears to include support for both industrial and organic food systems, the international agenda has been largely oriented toward pushing expensive technologies - owned by U.S. and European corporations - as part of U.S. foreign policy. In more hopeful news for domestic sustainable agriculture, last week saw the appointment of Molly Jahn, Dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to the position of undersecretary of research, education and economics at the USDA. Dr. Jahn's previous work demonstrates a commitment to science rooted in community needs, and included a plant breeding program for vegetable varieties needed by the organic farming community.
According to the advocacy group GM-Free Ireland, in mid-October the Irish government announced a plan to ban the growing of geneticially modified (GM) crops on the island, and to introduce a voluntary labeling program for food made without the use of GM animal feed (including meat, poultry, eggs, fish, crustaceans and dairy products). The move comes as Ireland positions itself as a global source for GM-free products and has created a funding scheme to increase organic and local production. The Proposed Renewed Programme for Government includes support for organic, seasonal and direct markets. The President of the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association, Malcolm Thompson, said he was delighted by the announcement, adding, “The Government’s new GM-free policy is the fulfillment of what we at ICSA have held for the last five years. I very much look forward to its full implementation.” According to Michael O'Callaghan of GM-free Ireland, “The WTO's economic globalization agenda has forced most Irish farmers to enter an unwinnable race to the bottom for low quality GM-fed meat and dairy produce, in competition with countries like the USA, Argentina and Brazil which can easily out-compete us with their highly subsidized GM crop monocultures, cheap fossil fuel, extensive use of toxic agrochemicals that are not up to EU standards, and underpaid migrant farm labor.” The new policy, adopted as part of the Renewed Programme for Government, was the result of a coalition agreement between Fianna Faíl and the Green Party. Unlike similar bans in other European countries that allow for trial uses of GM field crops, Ireland’s policy will expressly prohibit the cultivation of any kind of GM crops. The island’s geographic location and offshore winds prevent contamination by wind-borne GM pollen drift, making it an ideal candidate for such a ban. This, in combination with the rigor of the new labeling system, will provide a selling point for Ireland to market GM-free foods.
In a study that further substantiates the complex harms of climate change, Swiss researchers have found that melting Alpine glaciers are releasing stores of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and organochlorine (OC) pesticides that had been absorbed by the ice over decades, reports the AFP. The scientists warned in their study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology (PDF) that this release of POPs and OC pesticides through glacier melt could have a "dire environmental impact" as global warming accelerates -- in part because POPs pesticides travel long distances on wind and water. Their study of layers of sediment from an Alpine lake fed by a nearby glacier in central Switzerland revealed "sharp" build-ups of now banned chemical compounds, including dioxins and POPs pesticides like DDT. "We can confirm with the help of these layers that, in the 1960s and 1970s, POPs were produced in great quantities and were also deposited in this Alpine lake," said one of the authors, Christian Bogdal, of the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research. While the concentration of POPs fell after the 1970s as many of those compounds were banned, the scientists found an unusual resurgence in more recent sediment from the past 10 to 15 years."At this stage our study indicates that accelerated glacier melting due to global warming may also account for enhanced release of legacy organic pollutants at historically high levels," according to the study. These findings were replicated at two other glacial lakes in the Swiss Alps. But another lake that was not fed by glaciers did not show any increase in the compounds. Scientists cautioned that more research was needed to determine the pathways of the POPs in the Alps and how much they retained their toxicity. The release of these pesticides in an Alpine setting could affect the quality of water in rivers such as the Rhine and the Rhone that originate in the Alps, as well as have localized impacts like entering the food chain through fish from nearby lakes, irrigation facilities and even artificial snow on ski slopes. A May 2008 PANUPS reported on the high concentrations of DDT found in penguins in the Antarctic. This latest evidence from Europe further solidifies the link between climate change and release of POPs pesticides many miles from where they were used.
The Drift Catcher project covered in the radio segment builds upon an earlier study in Lindsay in which PAN and community groups measured chlorpyrifos in the air and chlorpyrifos metabolites in the urine of local residents. The new project, which is a collaboration between PAN, Commonweal, community groups, and the California Department of Public Health, will test a much larger number of urine samples than in the previous study.