French pesticide bans; Pesticides & penises; Herbicides & brain damage; Organic farms reduce greenhouse gas; 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.

February 14, 2008

France says ‘non’ to pesticides: On February 1, the French government banned 30 chemicals used in 1,500 pesticidal products as part of a plan to cut pesticide use in half over the next 10 years. The chemicals include the herbicide paraquat and the insecticide endosulfan. ENDS Europe Daily reports “many manufacturers are already using alternatives.” Another 20 active ingredients will be banned by year’s end. A press release from the French Agriculture Ministry notes that the banned pesticides also include alachlore, aldicarb, fenbutatin oxyde, parathion-methyl, azinphos-methyl, fenpropathrine, procymidone, azocyclotin, fenthion, terbufos, cadusaphos, fénarimol, tolyfluanide, carbofuran, fluquinconazole, trifluraline, chlorfenvinphos, methamidophos, vinchlozoline, coumafène, methidathion, dichlorvos methomyl, diuron, oxydemeton-methyl, carbendazime, molinate and dinocap.

Pesticide exposure in womb linked to smaller penises: A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives reports that boys born to women exposed to occupational pesticides had smaller penises and testicles, and lower levels of testosterone. Ten Danish researchers surveyed 113 pregnant mothers who had given birth to sons. Ninety-one of the women were exposed to pesticides at work in Danish greenhouses — where more than 200 product formulations of 124 pesticide active ingredients were in use. Twenty-two of the women were not exposed to pesticides in the workplace. Examined at three months of age, the children of pesticide-exposed mothers showed statistically significant reductions in “penile length, testicular volume, serum concentrations of testosterone.” The scientists concluded that, despite the latest safety measures to protect pregnant greenhouse workers, their male offspring were clearly suffering from the “adverse effect of maternal occupational pesticide exposure.”

Brain damage from herbicides: New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation has accepted the claim of a 60-year-old campground owner that his disabling brain injuries resulted from exposure to herbicides sprayed over neighboring vineyards. Pete Kiley claims he lost his health, his business and his marriage after being repeatedly exposed to the herbicides paraquat and glyphosate-trimesium. New Zealand’s The Press reports that Kiley’s symptoms included “a change in his gait, where he misses steps, nausea, headaches, persistent tiredness and conjunctivitis.” A neuropsychologist concluded that Kiley’s “impaired intellectual functioning” was the result of exposure to agricultural chemicals. One of Kiley’s teenage daughters also suffers health problems. The New Zealand Winegrowers association claims that 70 percent of its members have agreed to a “sustainable growing scheme” which bans the use of paraquat. Roundup™, which contains glyphosate, is still used in most vineyards.

Proposed carbofuran ban: During a four-day meeting in early February, a panel of scientific experts reviewed the data underlying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ban on all uses of carbofuran (trade name Furadan), a WWII-era pesticide manufactured by FMC Corporation. The EPA had already banned domestic uses because carbofuran (an N-methyl carbamate insecticide and nematicide) posed unacceptably high risks to birds, wildlife, and humans. In January, the EPA determined that “all products containing carbofuran generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on humans and the environment, and are ineligible for reregistration.” In response, FMC provided the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel with a flood of last-minute data. Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Jennifer Sass reports that the EPA panel found most of FMC’s filings “inadequate, unconvincing, and highly suspect.” One panel member even remarked that FMC’s misrepresentation of the data was reason enough to reject the appeal.

Organic farms reduce greenhouse gas: Britain’s Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) reports that organic agriculture “has the potential to mitigate nearly 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and save one-sixth of global energy use.” In addition, organic agriculture is more resistant to climate extremes like droughts and floods and, unlike industrial agriculture — which moves carbon out of the soil and into the atmosphere — organic farming captures carbon from the air and locks it back in the soil. Conventional agriculture produces an estimated 11% to 13% of greenhouse gasses and is “the main source” of methane and nitrous oxide. In the UK, organic production is about 26% more energy efficient than chemically reliant farms while Greenhouse Gas emissions from Europe’s organic acres are 48-66% lower per hectare. Because organic systems collect 180% more solar energy — equal to saving 64 gallons of fossil fuel per hectare — growing 10% of U.S. corn organically would save approximately “200 million gallons of oil equivalents.” Since nearly 18% of greenhouse gasses are due to deforestation, saving the world’s forests may be the other most cost-effective way to stabilize the climate.

Bush names industry consultant for watchdog agency: The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration is considering Gail Charnley to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Post describes Charnley as “a scientist who has frequently testified and written on behalf of the energy, pesticide and tobacco industries.” The Breast Cancer Fund is alarmed by Charnely’s nomination. “Since [these] industries produce chemicals linked to increased breast cancer risk,” BCF writes, “we’re concerned about this appointment. If last year’s recalls of toys, pet food and toothpaste teach us anything, it’s that we need someone in charge of the CPSC who is willing to regulate industry in service to the public, not the other way around.” In 2004, Charnley co-authored a letter to Environmental Health Perspectives regarding a study on human testing of pesticides without disclosing the study was partly financed by pesticide interests. BCF is encouraging people to express their disapproval of Bush’s choice to head the CPSC by contacting the White House. Click here to take action.

Pesticide-reduction awards: California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has honored eight organizations with Innovator Awards for reducing reliance on chemical pesticides. The awards went to the Almond Pest Management Alliance, Breyer’s Vineyard IPM Service, Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department, EcoWise Certified Structural IMP Certification Program, Los Angeles School District, Locke Ranch Inc., Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District and San Diego Healthy Garden-Healthy Home program. The Locke Ranch, a seventh generation family farm, was honored for using pheromone “puffers” to disrupt codling moth mating cycles and hedgerows to attract beneficial insect predators to its walnut groves. EcoWise was recognized for its efforts to prevent insecticide runoff into urban streams. The LA School District was saluted for its program to “reduce and eventually eliminate pesticides in schools.” (The LA School District IPM program was introduced in 1999 as a result of a campaign by parents, Pesticide Watch, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Action Now and others.)

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