Faxes for Bhopal, Women rise in Brazil and India; Farmworkers appeal to UN; India’s endosulfan victims; 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 13, 2008

Bhopal MarchThousands support Bhopal demands: Marchers trekking from Bhopal have reached the half-way point in their 500-mile padyatra (foot pilgrimage), and expect to reach New Delhi on March 28. They are seeking safe water, clean-up, accountability and full restitution from Dow Chemical for the 1984 Union Carbide plant explosion and ongoing suffering. Since the March began Feb. 20, people around the world have deluged India’s Prime Minister with postcards and faxes, urging him to meet with the marchers in Delhi and fulfill promises he made two years ago to address the issues. (PAN North America has generated more than 1200 postcards to date.) You can support the march by using PAN’s Bhopal Action Page to send a free fax to the Prime Minister. (For the latest updates on the march, go to: http://www.bhopal.net. Videos from the march are being posted on YouTube.

Morton Grove drops lindane lawsuit against Ecology Center: On March 12, Michigan’s embattled Ecology Center announced that, after nearly two years of litigation, Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals is dropping a lawsuit filed after the nonprofit raised concerns about the potential health effects of lindane shampoos used to treat headlice. After the Ecology Center, medical professionals, and other environmental groups launched a campaign to restrict the pharmaceutical of use lindane, Morton Grove sued, seeking at least $9.3 million in damages for “trade disparagement” among other claims. Lindane has been withdrawn from agricultural use in the US and has been banned for all uses in 52 countries and the state of California. Under the settlement, Morton Grove has agreed to drop its lawsuit and the Ecology Center will make no payment to the company nor offer any admission of liability. “We consider this outcome an unqualified victory,” said Ecology Center Director Mike Garfield. “From the outset, we viewed Morton Grove’s lawsuit as a baseless tactic designed to stifle public debate..” “The state’s most prestigious medical authorities are calling for a restriction on the ingredient lindane,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, the Ecology Center’s Environmental Health Director. “The Michigan Legislature should act now to protect the public from this toxic pesticide.” Michigan Rep. Ted Hammon’s House Bill 4569, which would restrict pharmaceutical use of lindane in the state, is supported by the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Michigan Nurses Association, the Michigan Association of School Nurses, and the Michigan Pharmacists Association. For more information on lindane, see www.panna.org/lindane.

Women take a stand in Brazil: On March 4, 900 women from Via Campesina, the international peasants movement, occupied 2,100 acres of a foreign-owned eucalyptus timber farm in Brazil. The protesters cut down the eucalyptus and began planting native trees. According to Via Campesina, “police violently attacked the peaceful gathering, injuring badly as many as 50 women.” “Our action is legitimate,” the women declared, “Planting this green desert [of eucalyptus]… is a crime against the legislation of our country… and the food sovereignty of our state.” Stora Enso, a Swedish-Finnish paper conglomerate, has avoided a ban on foreign ownership of borderlands by using a Brazilian front company to purchase 45,000 hectares along the border with Uruguay. Via Campesina wants the land used to provide homes and work for 2,250 landless families.

Women take a stand in India: In January, 500 Indian women tore up the road leading to Dow Chemical’s proposed 100-acre, Rs. 4 billion ($98,861,000) research and development center near Pune. The women, members of the Bhamchandragarh Bachao Warkari Farmer Sangharsh Samiti, vowed to occupy the site until Dow agreed to address the suffering of the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas explosion. Despite threats from police, the standoff continues. On March 6, International Women’s Day, 10,000 women convened in Tamil Nadu for the Asian Rural Women’s Conference to protest globalization and militarism. Sarojeni V. Rengam from PAN Asia and the Pacific said the event would focus on “issues that affect rural women that otherwise get marginalized.”

Florida farmworkers appeal to UN: In 2006, the Farmworkers Association of Florida (FWAF) released a report detailing a range of illnesses suffered by workers exposed to pesticides in fields near Lake Apopka. Florida officials refused to act. “The farmworker community wants a sense of justice,” FWAF’s Jeannie Economos told the Orlando Sentinal. “This community is very hurt… because there’s been no response to their health-care issues. Their concerns have been ignored.” So FWAF is appealing to a higher authority — the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Because the majority of Florida’s field workers are low-income, minority people, FWAF believes the state’s inaction justifies a complaint on the grounds of “environmental racism.”

Toxic legacy in Louisiana: The Thompson Hayward Chemical Company set up shop in Gert Town, Louisiana, 70 years ago to provide pesticides — DDT, aldrin. chlordane, and an early version of Agent Orange — to sugarcane farms around New Orleans. The plant was ordered closed in the late 1980s when it was discovered that workers had been dumping chemical wastes into the neighborhood sewers. The factory site was cleaned up but, as National Public Radio’s Living on Earth reports, residents living near the site are “still waiting” for the state to either clean up their homes or provide them with safe housing elsewhere. Louisiana officials have failed to act and the Federal Government is no help either, says Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet. “The EPA agrees the test results are over the threshold of concern,” she reports, “but it doesn’t believe the neighborhood needs a cleanup.” When Lobet shared Gert Town soil tests with three toxicologists, they all recommended a cleanup. University of Missouri Professor Marcus Iszard was emphatic: “This type of chemical exposure is unacceptable, period.” Click here for audio.

Australians protest GM ruling: On March 4, the Victorian government ended a four-year moratorium on growing genetically-modified (GM) canola in the territory. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that two types of GM canola now can be planted — a move that Victorian government officials hope will generate $115 million over eight years. The Victorian Farmers Federation hailed the decision, saying its members “will now be competing on a level footing with other growers across the world.” But Scott Kinnera, of the Biological Farmers of Australia, objected to allowing the unregulated cultivation of GM canola seeds when “they haven’t been tested on humans at all anywhere in the world.” Kinnear noted that GM crops are being rejected by consumers in Europe, Japan and the Middle East and argued “we should be listening to these sensitivities [and] value-adding our product as non-GM.”

Fighting pests with pigs: When Jim Koan’s 120-acre organic apple orchard was threatened by plum curculio beetles, he started looking for an alternative to the traditional treatment — spraying with Guthion (azinphos-methyl), a dangerous pesticide. The curculio beetle plants its larvae in the fruit, which falls to the ground prematurely. According to the Detroit News, Koan “remembered how his grandfather would drive his pigs into his orchard so they could feed on fallen apples.” The pigs would eat the infested apples and, ingesting the larvae, disrupting subsequent infestations. After Koan bought some Berkshire pigs and set them loose in the orchard, the successful results attracted the attention of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU). In just three days, the pigs porked down 98 percent of the infested apples and tests showed “virtually all the larvae were digested.” MSU researcher Dave Epstein marveled: “The little guys moved through like a pack of Hoover vacuums.”

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