PAN on food globalization; Atrazine in Midwest rivers; Methyl bromide victory in CA; GMOs in Europe; and 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.

PAN delegates condemn global food take-over: An Inter Press Service report from Penang, Malaysia, begins: “Gathered here over the weekend for the Pesticide Action Network’s (PAN) 25th anniversary, many expressed concern over the predatory nature of corporate agriculture and its attempts to corner the entire chain of food production from seeds to sales.” Syngenta, Bayer, Monsanto, BASF, Dow and DuPont control 85% of the $30 billion global pesticide market. Cargil, Bunge and Archer Daniels Midland control nearly 90% of the world’s grain trade. Eleven firms control half the planet’s seed sales, and the biggest corporations are also the biggest GE seed producers. The latest trend in the “corporate takeover of agriculture” involves vertically integrated multinationals that dominate the entire food production cycle — from the creation of seeds to the sale of food products in supermarkets. Globalization “sounds efficient,” says Antonio A. Tujan, Jr. of the IBON Foundation in the Philippines, “but it destroys democracy and…the genuine free market.” Tujan suggests shoppers buy local and “buy small,” purchasing produce at farmers’ markets “where everyone is on a level playing field.” Read PAN’s 25th Anniversary Statement.

Reclaiming our future Save the date! March 14-16, 2008: Please join us for an exciting national gathering of pesticide experts and activists at the University of California, Berkeley. “Reclaiming Our Healthy Future: Political Change to Protect the Next Generation” will explore children’s health, farmworker justice, healthy and just food systems, the politics of pesticides, and much more. The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Pesticide Action Network North America. Keynote speakers include Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers of America, and Tyrone Hayes, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Actress Kaiulani Lee, recently featured on Bill Moyers Journal, will perform A Sense of Wonder, her one-woman play based on the life and works of Rachel Carson. Learn more and register online by visiting the Conference webpage.

Atrazine poisons rivers as U.S. EPA looks on: Evidence of dangerous levels of Syngenta’s atrazine, an agricultural weedkiller widely used in the U.S., have been recorded in several Midwest streams in a private EPA database. The Washington Post reports that atrazine in Missouri and Indiana watersheds could “potentially harm fish, amphibians and aquatic ecosystems.” Biologists, including Nancy Golden of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, found that fish exposed to 0.5 parts-per-billion of atrazine showed behavioral problems. Some Missouri rivers now register 50 ppb, which Golden calls “a cause of concern.” To date, the EPA’s main response has been to ask Syngenta to monitor the contaminated sites. Syngenta has withheld its findings as “proprietary information.” An article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health challenges claims of 6% yield increases from the use of atrazine and cites findings of “only a 1% yield effect.” Despite this evidence, says Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director of PAN North America, “Syngenta has been very aggressive about keeping this chemical on the market in the U.S. — and so far they have succeeded, even as the European Union, including Syngenta’s home country, effectively banned its use due to ubiquitous and unpreventable water contamination.” U.S. farmers continue to use the cheap herbicide on corn and sorghum, among other crops.

Judge orders methyl bromide phaseout plan by Jan. 26: On Dec. 11, “Environmentalists won a battle in their long war to reduce pollution from pesticides used on strawberries and other crops in Ventura County. A federal judge denied a motion that would have given farmers until 2012 to gradually reduce the use of fumigants, including methyl bromide,” reports the Ventura County Star. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation will have to come up with a plan to reduce emissions by 20% of 1991 levels. “In September, the California Air Resources Board said farmers had until 2012 to meet the more stringent guidelines and could slowly phase out the fumigants. But Wednesday’s decision effectively nullified that…. The decision lies with the appeals court, which now has the case.” Farmers will likely sue, but Brent Newell, the attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, which is representing environmental groups, countered: “‘Just because someone can’t use fumigants on strawberries doesn’t mean they can’t grow anything.'”

California pesticide use down, slightly: On November 29, California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) reported that the state’s use of pesticides in 2006 had fallen from 195.3 million to 189.6 million pounds, stating that this marks the third consecutive year of decline in the use of agricultural chemicals linked to cancer, neurotoxic illness and reproductive harm. Pesticide use in California’s vineyards fell by 8.5 million pounds. DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam claimed that the agency’s efforts “to promote least-toxic pest management… are paying off.” Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Times reports, strawberry growers increased applications of the fumigant methyl bromide — an ozone-depleting chemical slated for phase-out under the Montreal Protocol — by an additional 132 tons in 2006. PANNA senior scientist Dr. Susan Kegley, who has analyzed changes in the state’s annual pesticide use for almost a decade, adds: “Total fumigant use has dropped only slightly and the area treated has actually increased by 28,000 acres. This indicates that growers are becoming MORE, not less dependent on fumigants for crop production. In Ventura county, where the federal court says that soil fumigant use needs to drop by 20% relative to 1991 to come into line with the Clean Air Act, little change was seen in 2006 compared to 2005 -i.e., 3.34 million pounds (2005) vs. 3.26 million pounds (2006). And use of the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos dropped from 2.0 million pounds per year in 2005 to 1.92 million in 2006. This is not good enough.”

Monsanto’s GMOs advance in Germany, stall in France: Germany lifted a ban on Monsanto’s genetically modified MON810 maize on December 6 after Monsanto agreed to “additional monitoring.” Reuters reports that Germany’s capitulation came after Monsanto “agreed to end legal action against the government’s decision” to ban its product. On the same day, France’s Agriculture Ministry suspended the commercial use of Monsanto’s MON810 pending an investigation of the GMO’s “environmental and health implications.” Monsanto called the decision “a scandal bereft of scientific foundation and incoherent with the environmental benefits of this technology.” France is set to vote on a new biotech law on February 9, 2008.

U.S. pushes pesticides at Rome summit: USDA Undersecretary Gale Buchanan flew to Italy in early December to deliver the keynote speech at a global gathering to promote harmonization of pesticide labeling for the “minor use of pesticides on specialty crops.” Farm Futures reports that the goal of the weeklong conference (co-sponsored by the USDA, the EPA and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization) was “to improve pesticide use and their impact on trade.” Buchanan explained that harmonizing “rules and regulations regarding labeling of pesticides” was important. Not because it would improve safety for people or protect the environment but because standardization is “what makes commerce possible.”

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