Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
See PANUPS archive for complete information.
- From 'Harvest of Shame' to 'Fair Food'
- Bhopal 25th anniversary day of action Dec. 3
- New PAN Magazine: climate & agriculture
- DDT: human health studies indicate harm to infants
Most of the people who grow our food can barely afford to eat. 2.5 million farmworkers toil in harsh conditions to harvest the agricultural bounty of the U.S., earning near-starvation wages of $11,000 per year in one of the nation's most hazardous occupations. Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame" documentary brought these realities to the attention of many Americans for the first time in 1960. Fifty years later -- with farmworkers exempt from national labor laws, pesticide use on the rise (PDF) and new slavery cases in Florida -- too little has changed. A new film from The California Institute of Rural Studies and Rick Nahmias continues the tradition of "Harvest of Shame," renewing Murrow's call to action. The twenty-minute piece, "Fair Food: Field to Table," was shot across the U.S., and is available on YouTube and at a dedicated website (www.fairfoodproject.org) which also offers advocacy tools. Fair Food is remarkable both for the explanations it offers on the serious problems facing farmworkers, and for presenting some of the innovative, workable solutions currently put into action by progressive growers and food businesses. While holding a steady focus on the harsh realities of farmworkers' lives, Fair Food also educates viewers about the growing movement for a more just food system and ways that farmworkers, growers, businesses, students, advocates and consumers are working to achieve that goal.
Pesticide Action Network invites PANUPS readers and PAN activists to give thanks through solidarity this year. Take Action as part of the Alliance for Fair Food: Leave a letter with your grocery store manager at Publix, Kroger or Ahold USA. Or call Aramark and demand a fair food supply chain.
Near midnight on December 3rd, 1984, while most of the residents of Bhopal, India slept, an immense cloud of poisonous gas escaped a poorly maintained pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide. Methyl isocyanate (MIC) and other deadly gases moved quickly through the city, poisoning 15,000 people. "In those apocalyptic moments no one knew what was happening. People simply started dying in the most hideous ways. Some vomited uncontrollably, went into convulsions and fell dead. Others choked to death, drowning in their own body fluids," the Bhopal Medical Appeal reports. Bhopal is now widely recognized as one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes. More than two decades on, over 20,000 people have died and 150,000 people are still too sick to work because of their exposure. In 2008 a Reuter’s reporter toured the shuttered Bhopal plant and filed a first-hand report of living conditions around the factory for the Indian Express. Twenty-five years later, survivors still fight to bring Union Carbide, and its owner Dow Chemical, to account for the disaster.
December 3rd marks the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe. To pressure Dow/Union Carbide to finally take responsibility for the tragedy, a day of action will take place in communities around the world. Activities will include ceremonial die-ins, candlelight vigils, campus film screenings and direct actions. Get involved in your hometown through the Students for Bhopal website.
The Fall 2009 issue of PAN North America Magazine -- now available for reading online or printing out -- focuses on science, analysis and stories at the nexus of agriculture, pesticides and climate change. The anchor article details in depth the links between farming systems and climate, while companion stories explore the impacts pesticides have on climate change and climate will have on global toxics. And we offer a glimpse into the state-of-play for agriculture in national and international policy.
You’ll also find stories of celebration: of a hero in the struggle for safer, fair agriculture—this year’s Health & Justice Award winner, Carol Dansereau of Farm Worker Pesticide Project; reports of real progress in eliminating dangerous pesticides; and a profile of the Midwest-based Land Stewardship Project. PAN members receive three issues per year of the magazine in the mail (membership starts at $35). Join PAN.
Boys born to homes that were sprayed with DDT for malaria control are 33% more likely than boys from unsprayed villages to suffer from urogenital birth defects such as missing testicles or problems with their urethra or penis, reported Science Daily. Researchers studied 3,310 boys born to women from the Limpopo Province in South Africa, where DDT spraying for malaria control was carried out between 1995 and 2003. The study compared boys born to women in the 109 villages that were sprayed, with those born to women from the 97 villages that were not. The study, published online by the British Journal of Urology International, found that the incidence of urogenital birth defects was significantly higher if the mother came from a sprayed village. “If women are exposed to DDT, either through their diet or through the environment they live in, this can cause the chemical to build up in their body” explains lead author Professor Riana Bornman from the University’s Department of Urology. “DDT can cross the placenta and be present in breast milk and studies have shown that the residual concentration in the baby’s umbilical cord are very similar to those in maternal blood." This study emphasizes urogenital health risks of DDT exposure that were also revealed by another study we reported on last month, which linked exposure to DDT to androgyny in babies.
Adding to the scientific evidence of infant health harms due to DDT exposure, a separate study published in Environmental Health Perspectives reported on significant risk of neurological and endocrine disruptor effects as a result of infant exposure to DDT through breast milk. Human breast milk remains the best source of nutrition for infants. In developing countries, especially in the rural areas it is the primary source of food to infants sometimes until the age of 2, which is a particularly long period and can lead to a significant transfer of pollutants.