Dow found liable; Fumigant petitions hit EPA; Chlorpyrifos comments invited; Organic cotton soars; 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.

Jury awards banana workers damages from Dole and Dow: The LA Times reports that, “verdicts announced Monday marked the first case of foreign farmworkers prevailing in a U.S. court against Dole and Dow over harm from DBCP [Nemagon].” Six Nicaraguan plantation workers, poisoned in 1984, were awarded $3.2 million from Dole and $754,000 from Dow, maker of the sterility-linked pesticide, in compensatory damages. On Nov. 7 the jury found the corporations liable for punitive damages as well–which could reach ten times the compensatory damages. Arguments are to begin Nov. 14. Much larger penalties were imposed in Nicaraguan courts, but the plaintiffs have never been able to collect from the U.S. corporations. Dole says it will appeal.

Dow to build global research center in India: The Hindu reports that, “Dow India has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Maharashtra Government to set up a global R&D centre at Chakan, Pune. The centre is expected to be operational by 2008 and will employ 500 researchers by 2010…. The initial investment in the facility is Rs. 400 crore ($100 million)…. Dow India is excited that the centre will partner government laboratories and educational institutions, funding research to generate intellectual property.”

Protest at UC Berkeley over Dow contribution: The Berkeley Daily Planet reports that a small group of demonstrators, including Veterans for Peace, protested at the Oct. 30 announcement of a Dow gift to the University of California, Berkeley. “For Kamal Kapadia, a doctoral student from India, the $10 million ‘Sustainable Products and Solutions Program’ joining Dow with Berkeley’s College of Chemistry and the Haas School of Business was nothing more than another example of corporate greenwashing.” A Dow executive was proposed to direct the program.

Groups collaborate on fumigant critiques for EPA: The public comment period for EPA’s “fumigant cluster assessment” process closed on November 3rd. PANNA was one of 30 organizations, including California Rural Legal Association Foundation and Florida Rural Legal Services, that collaborated on submission of detailed comments on the revised risk assessments. PANNA scientist Brian Hill, one of the authors, observed, “These commentaries are a reflection of the problems with using fumigants as EPA has proposed, and make our case in the public record. The comments are supported by over 12,200 signers of a petition to EPA organized by PAN and the United Farm Workers. Additional information on fumigant pesticides and EPA’s fumigant cluster assessment process is available on PAN’s fumigants web page. Full texts are available: Comments on risk mitigation options, worker protections, and revised risk assessment and toxicology.

Methyl iodide campaign triggers Waxman inquiry: Inside EPA reported on Nov. 2 that, “The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is investigating EPA’s controversial decision to grant a one-year approval for the pesticide iodomethane…. The meeting comes as activists submitted an Oct. 25 petition signed by many rural and public health environmental organizations formally calling on the agency to cancel the registration. The petition was also sent to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who chairs the oversight committee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who heads the Senate environment committee, among other lawmakers.” The petition was gathered by PANNA, Organic Consumers Association, United Farm Workers of America and others.

Pollan on shifting Farm Bill politics: What will emerge from Congress this week or next on the Farm Bill, writes Times Magazine contributor and best-selling author Michael Pollan, “depends on exactly who is paying closest attention next week on the Senate floor and then later in the conference committee. We know the American Farm Bureau will be on the case, defending the commodity title on behalf of those who benefit from it most: the biggest commodity farmers, the corporations who sell them chemicals and equipment and, most of all, the buyers of cheap agricultural commodities – companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. In the past that alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.” Contribute your views with PAN’s Farm Bill Alert.

Petition triggers chlorpyrifos registration review: According to, U.S. EPA is seeking public comment on the remaining registrations of chlorpyrifos, in response to a Sept. 13, 2007 legal petition filed by Natural Resources Defense Council and PANNA, requesting that the agency revoke all registrations for chlorpyrifos. The neurotoxic pesticide was severely restricted, and banned for residential uses, in 2001. Among several issues, the petition emphasizes that EPA’s evaluation of chlorpyrifos in the organophosphate cumulative risk assessment misrepresented the risks, and that EPA failed to incorporate inhalation exposure to chlorpyrifos. Comments to EPA must be received by Dec. 17.

New report on chemical contamination in our bodies: Is it in Us? – released today by a coalition of health and environment groups from eight states – documents that, “Toxic chemicals from everyday products contaminate the bodies of every person in this country. Shower curtains, water bottles, baby bottles, toys, shampoo, cosmetics, couch cushions, computers, and hundreds of other common products that ordinary people use every day contain toxic chemical ingredients that leech out of the products and into our bodies. Thirty-five Americans from seven states participated in a national biomonitoring project in the spring of 2007. This is the broadest non-governmental project of its kind to measure toxic chemicals in the bodies of average Americans.”

Organic cotton production booming: Organic Exchange has issued its 2007 “Organic Cotton Market Report”: 58,000 tonnes of certified organic cotton were produced in 2006/2007, compared to 38,000 tonnes the year before, continuing the average 50% annual growth rate of recent years. Wear Organic, the PAN UK/PAN Germany organic cotton website, cautions, however, that “the organic cotton sector is now facing its greatest challenge to date, as it enters the mass market. Huge orders placed by giant retailers provide great opportunities…. Will the giant players continue to use the ethical and equitable trading practices set up by the organic cotton pioneers, or will they try to replicate the unfair practices that they often impose on their suppliers?” The next issue of WearOrganic News will address: “When organic means fair: the case of cotton”.

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