Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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New paths for farming; Political pressure on EPA; Bhopal update; World Malaria Day; Ontario pesticide ban; and more…
April 24, 2008
A new agenda for agriculture: It’s not just tailpipes and smokestacks: agriculture is also “contributing to climate change and degradation of natural resources,” according to a paper published in Science. Co-written by PAN Consulting Attorney Erika Rosenthal and six colleagues, “Agriculture at the Crossroads” notes that farming “requires more land, water, and human labor than any other industry.” As co-authors of the recently concluded International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Rosenthal et al. address the IAASTD’s finding that globalization and the chemical-based agricultural model have not only failed to eradicate world hunger but have contributed to a range of environmental problems, including rising temperatures that “are predicted to cause major crop losses in the world’s poorest regions… home to more than 2 billion people.” The paper recommends a radical redirection of global funding to support innovation and education at the local level and to support “initiatives in which local communities effectively set the agenda.”
Waxman to question EPA on political interference: According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “more than half of the scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency who responded to a survey said they have experienced political interference in their work,” the Los Angeles Times reports. On April 23, Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) wrote to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, asking that he be prepared to respond to the report during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing set for May.
World Malaria Day, April 25th: PAN’s global partners are marking this year’s World Malaria Day by pressing for safe and sustainable malaria control programs. Last year, PAN North America worked with partners from Alaska to Louisiana to host a briefing with members of Congress to express concern about growing U.S. support for spraying pesticides, including DDT, inside people’s homes. This year, PAN and its partners are calling on their governments to shift to safer malaria control approaches. In Senegal, PAN Africa is sponsoring a radio show focusing on safe malaria-control solutions, while in Uganda and Tanzania, partner groups are organizing public events to raise awareness and build political will for approaches that don’t rely heavily on pesticides. PAN Mexico is promoting a new case study highlighting that country’s successful malaria control program. Learn more
Bhopal demonstration having an impact: Three weeks ago, supporters and survivors of the deadly 1985 gas explosion at the Union Carbide chemical plant in India arrived in New Delhi after walking 500 miles from Bhopal to the capital. On April 17, The Hindu reports, representatives from three organizations representing the survivors received assurances from the Group of Ministers on Bhopal that they would press the Prime Minister to create a special commission “to address rehabilitation and pursue legal action” against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, the current owner of the site. Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh noted that, while there was no precedent for a special commission, he endorsed the plan “because the Bhopal disaster itself is of an unprecedented nature.” Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan promised continued efforts to make Dow pay Rs. 100 crores ($251 million) as an “advance for environmental remediation” of the contaminated site, where persistent pollution still threatens residents’ health. Meetings with other government officials are planned throughout the week. For updates — and to support the marchers — go to PAN’s Bhopal page.
Home Depot Canada pulls pesticides; ban proposed for Ontario: According to the Globe and Mail, Home Depot “will voluntarily stop selling traditional pesticides and herbicides by the end of the year and will replace these products with less environmentally harmful alternatives.” The move coincides with the April 22 Earth Day announcement that Ontario will join Quebec as the second province to formally ban the use of so-called “cosmetic” pesticides on residential lawns, gardens and parks. “Now that we have Quebec and Ontario, there is huge pressure on the other provinces,” said Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “The next obvious one would be British Columbia.”
Moth spraying tied to trade and tourism? California’s controversial plan to use aerial spraying to “eradicate” the invasive light brown apple moth (LBAM) is being questioned on several fronts. The head of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment asks: “If there’s spray residue on the grass, are people going to feel safe going to Golden Gate Park?” If tourists fear they “could get sprayed on, that could have an impact.” If local realtors amend disclosure forms to include warnings about chemical spraying, this could further weaken an already soft housing market. A recent editorial in the Monterey Herald stated “there needs to be more official research… on whether the moth is really capable of causing significant crop damage or if it is a threat only because its mere existence can lead to trade restrictions for reasons that may be as political as they are scientific.” Could it turn out that the apple moth was declared a pest “mainly as a strategic move on the chess board of global trade?” Rep. Sam Farr has been told that the USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs will “revisit” the decision to label the moth a dangerous pest. Meanwhile, PAN applauds California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment for publishing a study on the health impacts of last year’s spraying but urges the state “to convene an independent scientific advisory group to verify agency assessments” and to communicate individually with people who reported illnesses.
Minding Monsanto: The company behind Agent Orange, PCBs, genetically engineered crops and recombinant bovine growth hormone has become the subject of some long-overdue attention. “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear,” an exposé in Vanity Fair magazine, traces the company’s “ruthless legal battles against small farmers and it’s decades-long history of toxic contamination.” Meanwhile, “The World According to Monsanto,” a 109-minute video broadcast on French television (available as an 11-part series on YouTube), “analyzes the inner-workings, history and scandalous secrets of one of the world’s most powerful corporations.”
PAN appears in Earth Day book: The #1 New York Times bestseller, 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, is back in a brand-new edition and, this time, the authors have joined forces with 50 leading environmental groups — including Pesticide Action Network. Download a small pdf for an exclusive look at “What’s Bugging You?,” the chapter we helped create. Explore the 50 Simple Things website and consider celebrating the rest of Earth Week by buying the book for a friend and tackling some simple actions that can help reduce pesticide pollution.
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