Co-op bans pesticides linked to bee decline; Oregon goose deaths; Toxic-free Valentine

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panups20090129 vDayHeaderJanuary 29, 2009


UK Co-op bans pesticides linked to bee deaths

panups20090129 ukBeesThe Guardian reports that Co-operative — the huge British supermarket chain that is also the UK’s biggest farmer — has banned use of neonicitinoids, a class of pesticides implicated in bee deaths around the world. “It is prohibiting suppliers of its own-brand fresh produce from using eight pesticides that have been connected to honeybee colony collapse disorder and are already restricted in some parts of Europe.” The Guardian goes on to explain that, “Since 2001, [the Co-op] has already prohibited the use of 98 pesticides under its pesticide policy. Simon Press, senior technical manager at the Co-op group said: ‘We believe that the recent losses in bee populations need definitive action, and as a result are temporarily prohibiting the eight neonicotinoid pesticides until we have evidence that refutes their involvement in the decline.'” PAN Europe coordintoar Elliott Carnell said he hoped the Co-op’s action would convince the UK government to back proposed European pesticide legislation. “‘The government has fought against any attempts to protect bees, which pollinate a third of the average diet. It argues that banning pesticides jeopardises crop yields, but if that was the case why would a leading food retailer be introducing this measure?'”

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Pesticide reform message to new EPA chief

On January 28, Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides sent a letter to new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging action “Transforming U.S. Pesticide Policy”. The groups propose 26 urgent execitive orders and regulatory actions for Obama’s “first 100 days” that will protect the health of children, farmworkers and communities. The document is endorsed by some 100 organizations and individuals across the country, and includes recommendations for USDA, FDA and the Department of Justice, in addition to EPA. PAN and allied organizations have also presented recomendations to the Obama administration on farming and the global food crisis. A coalition of sustainable agriculture, farmworker and environmental health advocates met the USDA transition team on December 23, calling for government leadership to build an agricultural system that “reduces our dependence on oil, creates jobs and provides all Americans with fresh and healthy food.” On December 15, a coalition of environmental, agricultural, faith-based and hunger organizations called for action to rebalance power in the food system; make agriculture environmentally sustainable; establish fair price supports for farmers; and guarantee the right to food.

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Pesticide suspected in Oregon goose deaths

panups20090129 gooseDeathsThe Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is investigating the role of pesticides in a string of geese deaths. The Capital Press reports the growing alarm “that could trigger label changes on a pesticide used widely in grass seed production.” Last November five geese were found dead at Oregon’s Staats Lake. One of two geese analyzed tested positive for zinc phosphide, “the active ingredient in more than 50 products registered by the department, including several products used by grass seed growers to control voles.” Geese die-offs have been recorded around the lake three times in recent years. Last April, 67 geese turned up dead at the lake; zinc phosphide was found in five of the six geese tested. There is cause for concern as the lake is surrounded by homes. While Willamette Valley growers are prohibited from applying zinc phosphide on grass seed fields from September through April to protect migratory geese, the ban does not cover golf courses. “There are alternatives,” says Chris Kirby, administrator of ODA’s pesticide division, “but many of those alternatives cause a greater risk of secondary poisoning than zinc phosphide.” Zinc phosphide — a PAN Bad Actor pesticide, listed because it is acutely toxic and a developmental or reproductive toxin– is an ingredient in many products sold for use in homes and gardens.

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India farmers celebrate Republic Day by going organic

More than 50,000 farmers from across the southwest state of Karnataka gathered at Vidhana Soudha on India’s Republic Day to take a pledge to practice organic farming, according to the Times of India. Former President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam presided over the event, which followed the launch of a state-run organic farming website that he hopes will set examples of successful organic farming practices. “Forty percent of pesticides are used to protect cotton. But by using alternative methods such as planting ladyfingers, cotton can be protected [without] pesticides. Farmers must adopt alternative methods like organic farming,” Kalam explained. Despite recommendations by the Punjab Agricultural University that farmers spray no more than seven times per six-month crop cycle, Indian cotton farmers typically spray between twenty to thirty times, accounting for the high percentage of pesticide use (cotton only accounts for 5% of India’s cultivated land). India is heavily reliant on endosulfan, a neurotoxic organochlorine frequently applied to cotton. In India, more endosulfan is produced than any other pesticide except mancozeb and monocrotophos, and the country recently derailed the inclusion of endosulfan on the Rotterdam Convention’s watchlist.

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Pesticide-free Valentine bouquets

panups20090129 vdayFlowerValentine’s Day is the second biggest consumer-spending holiday after Christmas. A study released by the National Retail Federation predicts consumers will shell out over $5 billion on flowers to express their sentiments. To keep your loved one from inhaling pesticides along with the fragrance from your bouquet, consider giving organic flowers. Most commercial flowers are imported from places where the workers suffer major health problems due to long hours, poor working conditions and pesticide exposure. Giving organic says you cherish the health of your sweetheart — and the planet. If you can’t find local organic flowers, go to PAN’s Special Offers. When you buy from California Organic Flowers, they donate 12% of each purchase to PAN’s work.

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Californians urged to oppose budget trick on pesticide smog

In the mid 1990’s, California regulators promised to adopt regulations that would reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from pesticides by 20% below 1990 levels in five air basins by 2005. With the current state budget impasse, Republicans are demanding a roll-back in these standards by trying to amend California budget legislation. Instead of 20% reductions, a budget trailer would lower reductions to only 10% in Ventura and 12% for all other air basins. Pesticides are one of the largest contributors to smog in the San Joaquin Valley and Ventura County, and a major contributor in the Southeast Desert. Act Now! Urge Governor Schwarzenegger to reject this trailer on the state budget. The health of millions of Californians should not be a budget compromise.

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Vote for the White House Farmer

Inspired by a Micheal Pollan article, a forum was conceived by a family-run farm in central Illinois to promote the idea of a White House organic farmer. According to, “Everyone, from your family and friends to our First Family and their guests, needs to know who grew their food and how it was grown.” The White House Farmer would be charged with transforming “five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant[ing] in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden” whose produce will be used by the White House chefs, and given to area food banks. Take a moment to vote for the White House Farmer – voting closes at midnight on January 30th, and the top three vote getters (along with all comments), will be presented to the Obama staff. 

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