New York rejects methyl iodide, Indonesia to join POPs treaty; Florida slavery; more…

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panups20090129 vDayHeaderFebruary 12, 2009

New York won’t register methyl iodide

panups20090212 nyMethylIodideIn a January 14 letter to Arysta LifeScience North America (PDF), the New York Department of Environmental Conservation accepted the chemical corporation’s request to withdraw applications to register Midas™ products – Arysta’s brand of highly hazardous methyl iodide (iodomethane). Methyl iodide is a fumigant pesticide proposed as a replacement for methyl bromide, which is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Although the new fumigant is not an ozone depletor, it is even more hazardous to human health than methyl bromide, causing miscarriages, cancer, thyroid hormone disruption and neurotoxic effects in experimental animals. California has classified methyl iodide as a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65 law, and the chemical has been used to induce cancer in laboratory animals. Federal registration was delayed in 2006 after objections were raised by farmworker, health and community groups across the country, including PAN. In September 2007, however, U.S. EPA suddenly announced its intent to register Midas™ products for one year — despite a formal request to reconsider the decision from 54 leading chemists and physicians. EPA extended the one-year conditional registration limit in September 2008, with the final decision pending completion of EPA’s assessment of the entire class of fumigants. States have the right to reject or further restrict the pesticide. Florida has registered Midas™ with additional restrictions; California, potentially the biggest market, is awaiting a decision by its Department of Pesticide Regulation, where an independent scientific peer-review panel is being assembled to review the Department’s risk assessment. “The state of New York
has made a very sensible decision,” said PAN senior scientist Dr. Susan Kegley. “The potential public health and ground water contamination risks associated with using methyl iodide far exceed any benefits this fumigant could bring to agriculture in New York. Instead of approving yet another pesticide, California should also refuse registration of Midas™ and instead focus on helping growers farm without fumigants.”

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Indonesia moves toward ratifying POPs treaty

After delaying action for nine years, the Indonesian government is finally set to ratify the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), according to the Jakarta Post. The Convention is aimed at eliminating production and use of persistent chemicals that build up in the food chain and travel around the world. The Convention has been in force since May 2004, with 164 countries ratifying to date. Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia are the only Asian countires who have yet to ratified the treaty. Indonesian Enviroment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said Monday that ratification was urgently required to protect environmental and human health. The Stockholm Convention initially bans 12 chemicals, including nine pesticides that were part of PAN’s historic “Dirty Dozen Pesticides” campaign. The initial list will be expanded as scientists agree on the need for global action — the pesticide lindane is expected to be one of the chemicals added at the next Stockholm Convention meeting in May. POPs cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious ailments, and pose particular risk to pregnant women, babies, and children. POPs can travel thousands of miles from their source, often building up in the polar regions. The U.S. has not yet ratified the Convention.

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Activists urge Florida governor to end farm slavery

panups20090212 farmwokersIn December, U.S. Department of Justice prosecuters wrapped up yet another farm labor slavery case in Florida — the seventh in ten years. This most recent case involved well over 1,000 workers. Yet, when a reporter called Florida Governor Crist’s office about this case, the governor declined to comment and instead passed the call off to the spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Terrence McElroy, who — not once, but twice — gave the impression that one slavery case per year is somehow no cause for alarm. Farmworker organizations, faith and social justice groups across the country, including PAN, have called on consumers to take action by telling Governor Crist that now is the time to end slavery in Florida’s fields. The action calls on the Governor to publicly condemn this slavery and to demand that the Florida Tomato Growers’ Exchange stop trying to nullify agreements reached between the Coalition of Imokalee Workers and companies including McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods Market and other large purchasers of Florida tomatoes. These hard-fought agreements improve farmworker wages and address the brutal working conditions in Florida’s fields.

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Goodbye paraquat

On February 6, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and the Swiss NGO Berne Declaration published “Goodbye Paraquat,” a report documenting that leading producers of palm oil, bananas and tea are abandoning Syngenta’s highly toxic herbicide paraquat, “paving the way for a global ban”. “With its irresponsible and unreasonable support for the product and its aggressive marketing, Syngenta is complicit in tens of thousands of Paraquat poisonings every year,” says François Meienberg of the Berne Declaration. Paraquat is banned in the European Union and restricted to licenced users in the U.S., New Zealand and parts of Latin America. Yet it is widely used in China, India, the Philippines and Malaysia, according to Reuters. Recently, a plantation worker, Rajam Murugasu, became blind in one eye after she accidentally sprayed paraquat in her face. “Paraquat has serious implications for one’s health,” said Irene Fernandez of Tenaganita, a rights group in Malaysia. “There are less harmful weed killers around and we should get rid of such toxic pesticides. It is banned in all of the EU, so why are people in Asia putting up with this? Why such double standards? Are our lives of less value than theirs?” Malaysia’s government has said it’s aware of the health risks associated with paraquat but explained that it lifted it’s ban on the herbicide under pressure from industry growers.

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Bolivia intends to ban highly hazardous pesticides 

panups20090212 boliviaOn January 29, at the end of a two-day PAN Latin America meeting that drew more than 150 government officials, scientists, activists and farmers to LaPaz, Bolivian Health Minister Jenny Carrasco announced her country’s intention to ban all pesticides classified as extremely or highly hazardous by the World Health Organization. Just before Carrasco’s statement, two young activists had reported on a January 19 tragegy. Eleven peasants who were taking produce to market in San Lucas (southwestern Bolivia) died while they slept at a rural lodge where pesticides in transit were also stored. “‘Apparently a child took the lid off one of the bottles and the pesticide spread little by little around the place, killing the 11 people in their sleep, including the boy,’ San Lucas local official Jorge Penaranda told the La Paz daily La Razon.” “These reagents of death are harming the poorest of our people,” Carrasco declared. Convened by La Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas de América Latina, RAP-AL (PAN Latin America), the conference was attended by PAN representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rice, Cuba, the Dominican Republic Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay. Carrasco praised National Coordinator Tania Santiváñez for PAN Bolivia’s “years of struggle against pesticides,” and Teresa Morales, Bolivia’s Vice-Minister of Rural Development, Natural Resources and Environment, pledged her government’s commitment to solving the problems posed by agrochemicals.

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Eco-Healthy Child Care

A program in Oregon that endorses child care providers who strive to reduce a wide range of environmental toxins — including pesticides and lead — is the first of its kind in the U.S., according to the Statesman Journal. The program, initated in Salem by The Oregon Environmental Council in 2005, is now expanding to seven additional states and is slated to become the model for national environmentaly sound child care. “Parents want to know about things like pesticide and household chemical use now,” day care operator Cindy Anderson said. In order to be a qualified “green” child care service provider, centers must complete a checklist of 25 steps to reduce childhood exposure to chemcials. For example, they are required to affirm that “We use non-toxic techniques both inside and outside the facility to prevent and control pests (both insects and weeds). If a serious threat remains and pesticide application is the only viable option, parents are notified in advance and a licensed professional applies the least toxic, effective product at a time when children will not be exposed to the application area for at least 12 hours.” The steps also aim at reducing VOCs and toxic art supplies, to protect children from exposure to toxins which have been associated with developmental delays, sexual reproduction problems, cancer and asthma.

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