Alachlor, aldicarb on PIC list; More paraquat deaths; DDT in China’s rivers; Brazilians battle GE crops; and more…

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives

See PANUPS updates service, for complete information.

March 27, 2008

Alachlor, aldicarb picked for PIC: Two pesticides, alachlor and aldicarb, have been recommended for addition to the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list by the Convention’s Geneva-based Chemical Review Committee. The PIC procedure empowers countries to make informed decisions to refuse import of hazardous chemicals that pose risks to human health and the environment. At present, 28 pesticides and 11 industrial chemicals are subject to the PIC procedure. The recommendation to add alachlor and aldicarb is based on a review of regulatory decisions in several countries to ban these chemicals. Aldicarb, used on fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants to control insects, is classified as an extremely hazardous pesticide by the World Health Organization and is very toxic to aquatic organisms. Alachlor, a weed-killer used in soybean, maize and cotton production, also is toxic to aquatic organisms. Both pesticides are on PAN’s “Bad Actor” list, and aldicarb is one of the original PAN Dirty Dozen Pesticides. (The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, meeting in Rome on 27-31 October 2008, will decide whether to include two pesticides previously nominated — endosulfan and tributyltin compounds — in the PIC procedure.)

Paraquat deaths in Scotland and Australia: On February 19, a Scottish court heard the pleas of a family seeking damages for the 2004 death of Andrew Vance. The Scottish Daily Record reports Vance died after accidentally drinking paraquat that had been stored in mineral water bottles left in a bowling club where Vance worked. Vance immediately spat out the weedkiller but he died from multiple organ failure four days later. “We had to look on as dad shut down, organ by organ, in the most awful pain,” Vance’s daughter Lorraine, recalled. “Someone has to be held accountable.” Meanwhile, in Australia, the parents of a toddler who died after swallowing paraquat have called for Australia to ban the poison. Two-year-old Connor Pieters died after sipping Spray Seed, an herbicide containing paraquat, which was stored in a sports drink bottle at a relative’s house. Latrobe Regional Hospital toxicologist John Fergus Kerr explained that there is a only a two-hour window to treat paraquat poisoning. “It’s very rapidly absorbed, within an hour or two it’s left the stomach…. By 12 hours, the damage is done.” Paraquat has been responsible for 18 deaths in Australia since 2000 and one of PAN International’s “Dirty Dozen” pesticides targeted for elimination worldwide. Agricultural workers unions across the world, spearheaded by the International Union of Food and Agricultural Workers, also have been calling for a ban on paraquat for years.

China’s Pearl River tainted with DDT: The journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry has published a major report on China’s environmental health. Researchers detected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, carcinogenic chemicals mainly produced from fossil fuel burning) in the Pearl River Delta in south China’s Guangdong Province. A study by Luo Xiaojun and colleagues at the Guangzhou Institute found residues of endocrine-disrupting organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) in the Delta. One of the detected OCPs was DDT. Although banned by China from agricultural uses in 1983, Luo’s study found high levels of DDT in surface water and sediments. “After long periods of decomposition, DDT residues should mainly exist in the form of its metabolite dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE),” Luo told Chemistry World. Luo stated that the discovery of high levels of DDT raises “the possibility of new DDT discharges.” DDT is still found in oil-based paints and is used to make the chemically-related pesticide dicofol, which is mainly used on cotton. The report, “Environmental Science and Research in China: Snapshot of the Current State,” was overseen by Tao Shu of the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences at Peking University and Eddy Zeng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry.

Moth-spraying challenged: The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) plans to spray seven heavily populated northern counties with synthetic moth pheromones in an attempt to eradicate the light brown apple moth (LBAM) in summer 2008. But this strategy has been questioned by a new report co-authored by Daniel Harder, an adjunct professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. After spending three weeks in New Zealand studying the moth, Harder concluded “LBAM … does not cause economically significant crop damage or have detrimental effect on native flora.” Harder’s study noted that the LBAM has been present in New Zealand for 100 years and, for the most part, is effectively controlled by natural predators. The report claims that 80-90% percent of LBAM larvae are consumed by local birds, spiders, wasps, beetles, lacewings and earwigs. Harder recommends replacing aerial spraying — set to resume in June — with ground level ecological pest management practices. The CDFA disputes Harder’s findings. Meanwhile, CREDO, the progressive California-based phone company, has announced a campaign to ask the governor to stop the aerial spraying. CREDO is concermed that the pheromone spray, CheckMate™, has “never been tested for long-term toxicity” and that, under current law, “the CDFA can get an emergency exemption from the EPA to spray a wide variety of chemicals over populated areas of our state.” For PAN’s position on LBAM and more information see our LBAM resource page.

Brazilians battle GM crops: On International Women’s Day, March 7, dozens of Brazilian women occupied a Monsanto research site in the state of São Paulo, According to the Center for International Policy, the women destroyed a greenhouse containing experimental plots of genetically-modified (GM) corn. La Vía Campesina, the international farmers’ organization, said the action was in response to the government’s decision to legalize Monsanto’s GM Guardian® corn. Widespread contamination of world food crops by GM varieties poses a threat to biodiversity and the organic foods industry. Greenpeace International reported 39 cases of GE crop contamination in 23 countries in 2007. In California, organic dairy farmer Albert Straus has found about one-third of the corn he’d been feeding to his cows had been contaminated. Since 2007, Straus tests every lot of grain he buys. In January, Brazilian officials admitted that GM soybeans and cotton had been smuggled into the country and illegally planted by large farmers. The decision to approve Guardian® came just weeks after France banned the corn due to environmental and human health risks and four months after a Vía Campesina member was assassinated during the occupation of Syngenta Seeds’ research station in Paraná. The site was occupied after the company was found to be illegally testing GM soybeans inside the Iguaçu National Park. (Syngenta was fined about half-a-million dollars for the crime, but the company has refused to pay.) In November 2006, the governor of Paraná signed a decree to expropriate the Syngenta site and convert it into a research center for agroecology but Syngenta lawyers were able to overturn the decree in the state and federal courts.

Viva Cesar!: Cesar Chavez led the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) historic nonviolent movement for farmworker rights. He dedicated himself to building a movement of poor working people that extended beyond the fields and into cities and towns across the nation. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy called Chavez “one of the heroic figures of our time.” To ensure that all Americans learn about Cesar’s life and work, the Cesar Chavez National Holiday Coalition is gathering signatures on petitions asking Congress to designate March 31 — Cesar’s birthday and the day the UFW was founded — as Cesar Chavez Day. March 31 is already a state holiday in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. You can sign the petition here to ensure that Cesar’s legacy is celebrated throughout our nation with a federal paid holiday and “day of service-learning and community action” in our public schools.

no pesticide weekFrench no pesticides week spreads to Europe and Quebec: Citizen Action for Alternative to Pesticides (Action Citoyenne pour les Alternatives aux Pesticides, ACAP) launched its Week Without Pesticides campaign in France in 2006. This year, for the first time, the event was celebrated across Europe (in Belgium, England, Sweden) and across the Atlantic in Quebec, Canada. During this 10-day event, participants organize conferences, film screenings, debates, exhibitions and visits to organic farms and biodynamic gardens, to educate the public about the health and environmental risks from pesticides and the availability of safer alternatives. Click for more information (in French and English) about events. Quebec events are also listed.

U.S. law could turn critics into “terrorists”: U.S. Humane Society activists made national headlines when they secretly filmed sick cows at the Westland Hallmark Meat Company’s California slaughterhouse being beaten, prodded and shoved with a forklift. (It is illegal to “process” cattle that are too sick to stand.) The appalling videotapes prompted an investigation, a massive beef recall, and promises of reform. But under a new federal law, if the animal rights activists had been caught filming by the company owners, they could have been arrested as “terrorists.” On November 27, 2007, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) gave the Justice Department authority to “apprehend, prosecute and convict” anyone who “attempts to, or conspires to, interfere with an animal enterprise.” Ostensibly designed to target groups like the Animal Liberation Front, the new law could be used to criminalize any individuals or groups that try to expose the abuses of agribusiness or biomedical companies. The Equal Justice Alliance has announced a campaign to repeal AETA.

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