Dow “smoking gun” memo; DDT in Antarctic penguins; Moms & judges vs. spray, Gulf War pesticides; more…

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May 15, 2008

Indian government’s “smoking gun” Dow memo

Indian Governments smoking gun Dow memo A group of Dow investors has requested that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigate Dow Chemical’s failure to disclose current impediments to a purported $1 billion investment in India. According to the group’s May 14 press release, a document, obtained by survivors of the Bhopal Chemical Disaster last week via the Indian Right to Information Act, shows that “the Indian government’s Law Ministry has advised the Government that investments by Dow Chemical in India are not immune from court orders, particularly in the matter regarding environmental contamination [in Bhopal] pending in a state High Court. The documents confirm that the Indian government is NOT in a position to waive those potential liabilities, despite a prior request from Dow CEO Andrew Liveris for the government of India to do so.”

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Fast for world food crisis

In response to the unprecedented rise in food prices around the world, Agricultural Missions — in coalition with churches, farmers and allied organizations — will be hosting a Fast in Solidarity with the Famished starting May 23. Participants will be fasting for three days in solidarity with the three billion people now living on less than $2 per day. Actions are confirmed already in Louisville, KY and New York City, where fasters will join Rainforest Action Network to protest the Bunge Corporation’s role in destroying Brazil’s natural resources to grow crops of genetically engineered soybeans. The fasters will also be focusing on root causes and economic structures that have led to this tragic and unnecessary crisis, including corporate control over food systems and US trade and agricultural policies that have undermined local food production and destroyed rural livelihoods in the Global South. Organizations endorsing the Fast include Community Farm Alliance, the Oakland Institute, and Pesticide Action Network North America. For the latest information, contact Stephen Bartlett, Coordinator for Education and Advocacy, Agricultural Missions, at (502) 896-9171 or

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Gulf War Syndrome linked to pesticides

Gulf War and Pesticides LinkedIn an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of California at San Diego medicine professor Dr. Beatrice Golomb concludes that organophosphate and carbamate acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AchEas), “including pyridostigmine bromide (PB), pesticides, and nerve agents,” are largely responsible for Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). Many veterans were exposed to pesticides sprayed to combat sand flies. In addition, soldiers were forced to swallow PB pills as protection against possible nerve gas attacks. Some 250,000 veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War subsequently experienced chronic fatigue, muscle pain, memory loss and other symptoms. After reviewing more than 70 studies on GWS and AchEas, Golomb told the Los Angeles Times that she found the evidence “thoroughly, conclusively shows that this class of chemicals actually are a cause of illness in Gulf War veterans.” The San Diego Union reports Golomb also found “a link between exposure to pesticides used in agricultural settings and similar complaints of illness among farm workers.” Golomb believes pesticides should only be used “where there is a clear public health necessity.” GWS continues to be controversial. In an April 29 letter to the PNAS, seven scientists challenged Golomb’s conclusion that there is “strong evidence” to support the link.

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Lead, pesticides and children’s IQs

Exposure to lead in toys and household paint has been linked to impaired intelligence in children. Now an Australian toxicologist suggests that household pesticides may also play a role in slowing neurological development. In a letter to the journal Science of the Total Environment, Macquarie University Professor Brian Gulson says several studies have shown similar effects in children exposed to low levels of organophosphate pesticides and notes that many of the lead studies were “undertaken in communities where the subjects may be exposed to rodents and insects [and] the chemicals used to eradicate them.” Gulson says many researchers tracking lead exposure don’t ask about pesticide exposures. Dr Helen Ritchie, of the University of Sydney’s School of Medical Sciences, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that co-exposure to lead and pesticides is plausible and more research is needed.

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DDT in Antarctic penguins

Antarctic penguin Following bans of the organochlorine pesticide DDT in many countries, by the 1980s annual use dropped from 36,000 to a mere 1,000 tons (used mostly for mosquito control in the Southern Hemisphere). But despite this drop, Adélie penguins in the Antarctic continue to have the same levels of DDT in their bodies as they did 30 years ago. Persistent organic pollutants like DDT travel to polar regions on wind and water currents and bioaccumulate in the bodies of mammals, fish, birds and humans. Scientists were puzzled by the fact that there has been a dramatic drop in DDT levels in the Arctic’s birds, whales, and seals over the past decade while DDT levels in Antarctic Adélie penguins remained steady. Heidi Geisz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and her colleagues found that the birds were being exposed to the “remnants of older DDT deposition, not new sources.” Geisz’ research, published in Environmental Science & Technology, suggests that pollutants trapped in polar ice continue to leach into the ocean as glaciers melt, providing “an almost direct delivery system of DDT to birds and other large animals.” Although the detected levels are not considered dangerous, Geisz warned that “exposure to mixtures of persistent pollutants at low levels could eventually prove to be problematic.”

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Pakistan ponders pesticides

Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik, former chair of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, told delegates to a five-day International Training Course on Organic Farming that pesticides have harmed Pakistan’s agricultural production. The Associated Press of Pakistan reports that, after pesticide imports were increased five-fold in 2007 to control cotton pests, cotton production actually fell “due to excessive use of pesticide.” Speaking before delegates from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, Dr. Kauser declared that it was time for Pakistan’s farmers to abandon chemical pesticides, since “we can grow organic cotton, which has a demanding and expanding market.” Dr. Kausar argued that a transition to pesticide-free agriculture was prudent, since “organic farming makes up the largest growth sector in the agriculture industry” and organic “food sales totaled approximately $12 billion in 2005.”

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Moms and judges vs. spray

panups20080515 spraying On May 10, mothers and children marched in the high-income enclave of northern California’s Marin County. They want California’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to abandon plans to spray local cities with airborne chemicals. CDFA chief A. G. Kawamura insists that dropping capsules of chemical pheromones to disrupt the mating of the light brown apple moth (LBAM) “shows no indication of human health threats,” but residents are not convinced. “That little bug hasn’t harmed us, but the spraying will,” Naomi Newman told the Marin Independent Journal. Parents fear the air-dropped microcapsules could be inhaled or swallowed by their children. Jessica Assaf, an 18-year-old high school senior with Teens for Safe Cosmetics, insists: “We can’t let this happen in Marin County, where ‘organic’ and ‘health’ are two of our most-used words.” Marin residents Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, actor Peter Coyote and singer Maria Muldaur have signed up to appear at a June 8 anti-spray benefit concert. Marin Supervisor Charles McGlashan has vowed to take the issue to Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has written to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger raising concerns about the health risks of the spraying, the degree of the LBAM threat, the efficacy of the “eradication” plan and the availability of alternatives. On May 12, a Monterey County judge joined the Santa Cruz court by rulling that “aerial spraying to eradicate an invasive moth in Monterey County may not go forward in populated areas without a full environmental review,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. CDFA expects to complete the review by Jan. 2009, and
plans to appeal both rulings. To follow events and news see PAN’s LBAM page.

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EU moves to control endosulfan

An April 30, 2008 posting on Europolitics reveals that the European Commission plans to support a draft Council decision to add chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds to the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list of hazardous substances. An amendment to Annex III to the Convention will be submitted to the Fourth Conference of Parties in late October. The Commission called the proposal “necessary and advisable” to ensure that countries benefit from the protection afforded by the Convention, which allows them to reject imports of dangerous chemicals on the PIC list. The three substances are already prohibited or strictly regulated in the EU and subject to export requirements that are even stricter than those set by the Convention. The Rotterdam Convention encourages cooperation between contracting parties regarding the international trade of hazardous chemicals and encourages ecologically rational use of these substances. Endosulfan is under re-registration review by the U.S. EPA.

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