A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Autism & endosulfan; House Farm Bill disappoints; Monsanto patents rejected; Neighbors fight fumigants; Healthy tomatoes; more
August 2, 2007
Endosulfan exposure linked to autism: A new study by the California Department of Public Health demonstrates higher incidences of autism among children born to mothers who lived in areas of heavy applications of organochlorine pesticides while pregnant. Published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the researchers compared data on autism incidence with pesticide use data, and found use of endosulfan and difocol correlated with autism. According to PAN North America senior scientist Susan Kegley, “This study indicates more research is clearly warranted. If we can stop one child from suffering from autism by limiting exposure to environmental contaminants, we should do everything we can to prevent this illness.” The Los Angeles Times reports.
House passes antiquated Farm Bill: The hotly contested Farm Bill passed in the House of Representatives, angering advocates for healthy and sustainable food and farming systems and disappointing leading agricultural economists. It leaves in place an outdated system that gives huge subsidies to very wealthy farmers or farming corporations while providing relatively little funding for conventional farmers to transition from dangerous chemicals. The San Francisco Chronicle reports speaker Nancy Pelosi may have alienated her California constituents: “…progressives lashed out at the speaker, saying her reforms would lavish $1 billion on 13,000 California rice growers over the next three years — 10 times more than the $100 million allocated for conservation in the state.” Kari Hammershlag of California Food and Farming writes, “The proposed Farm Bill misuses taxpayers’ money…. It will do precious little to change availability and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in schools and underserved areas, where they are sorely needed…. the bill will do little to stem the tide of failing farms and struggling rural economies.” The bill is expected to face a fight next in the Senate.
Monsanto genetic engineering patents rejected: A challenge by the Public Patent Foundation has led to rejection of four Monsanto GE seed patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for Monsanto. The Foundation objected to the patents because “the agricultural giant is using them to harass, intimidate, sue — and in some cases literally bankrupt — American farmers.” “Monsanto has used heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions that have fundamentally changed the way many American farmers farm. The result has been nothing less than an assault on the foundations of farming practices and traditions that have endured for centuries in this country and millennia around the world, including one of the oldest, the right to save and replant crop seed,” according to the Center for Food Safety’s Monsanto Vs. U.S. Farmer’s Report.
Farmworkers poisoned by chlorpyrifos: Dozens of farmworkers were sickened by the insecticide chlorpyrifos on July 21st while working in a vineyard in Delano, California. Some went to the hospital right away. Others feared not being able to pay for the hospital or not being allowed to work, and stayed away from medical attention. United Farmworkers of America is asking for the public’s help in demanding that the California Department of Pesticide Regulations insure protections for farmworkers from pesticides by thoroughly investigating this incident. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate pesticide that was banned for residential use, but is still approved for agricultural use. It is a neurotoxicant that is linked to developmental delays in children and respiratory illness including asthma.
Dow Chemical confronted in San Francisco: Public health and environmental protection advocates held a silent protest and teach-in yesterday, August 1, as runners from the round-the-world relay “Blue Planet Run”came through town. The Run aims to draw attention to the need for clean water for all people, but activists say the run has been highjacked by sponsor Dow Chemical to greenwash their image for the “human element” campaign. Dow is providing $10 million as the Run’s major funder. Protestors focused attention on Dow’s failure to take responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal in India, for contaminating communities in Louisiana, Texas, Michigan and elsewhere, and for making dangerous chemicals including chlorpyrifos and poly vinyls. Additional protests are being planned as the Run crosses to U.S. through August. Read more.
Neighborhood fights against fumigation: Residents of Moss Landing Heights, California, a community on Monterey Bay, obtained a last minute court order to prevent farmer Steven Rodoni from applying the fumigants methyl bromide, Telone, and chloropicrin to fields right across the street from family homes. Health risks linked to these pesticides include cancer, reproductive problems, respiratory and other illness. The determined families who live close to the fields first tried to negotiate with the farmer. When those efforts failed, they appealed to county and then state officials, who minimized the health risks of the fumigants. The court order to stop the fumigation ends August 2.Watch KPIX TV’s Report. EPA is currently evaluating the human health risks of these toxic fumigants. Learn more about PANNA”s work to phase-out fumigants.
New resources for understanding “green chemistry: Two new papers about “green chemistry” were released by a Clean Production Action and a coalition of advocates working for chemical safety. Why We Need Green Chemistry and Why Promote Green Chemistry assemble the latest information on the trend toward intentionally working toward replacing dangerous chemicals with less toxic alternatives. The authors write: “Green chemistry is an approach to the design, manufacture and use of chemical products to intentionally reduce or eliminate chemical hazards.”
Organic tomatoes more nutritious: UC Davis researchers released their study showing that organic tomatoes contain more of the health-protective flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol than those raised conventionally, and that the flavonoids advantage increases after organically-farmed soil health is established and no longer needs heavy additions of compost. The Sacramento Bee reports that the 10-year research project compared dried tomatoes raised organically with those raised with conventional chemicals. The article was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food. Read the abstract.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
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