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A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives

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Bush EPA loses in one court, wins in another; Pepsi & Coke sued; kids’ organic clothing sales rising, and more

August 31, 2006

U.S. court rejects weakening of pesticide rules by EPA: On August 24, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour struck down a Bush administration decision that weakened protections from pesticides. The ruling states that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changes in licensing pesticides for sale lacked scientific justification and violated the Endangered Species Act. The decision nullifies a Bush administration rule enabling EPA to disregard scientific study from other federal agencies regarding endangered salmon when approving pesticide registrations. Environmental groups sued the Administration in 2001, charging the EPA with failure to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the decision making process for pesticide registration. The groups won, but in 2004, the Administration’s response to that ruling was to make a new rule allowing EPA to completely ignore the requirement to consult with the other federal agencies. EarthJustice was one of the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit, and the court decision is posted on their website “The administrative record is striking in its total lack of any evidence of technical or scientific support for the policy positions ultimately adopted,” judges wrote. Read the Associated Press story.

U.S. 9th circuit appellate court in DC region rules for chemical industry: A decision claims that EPA did not violate clean air laws when it allowed corporations to increase supplies of methyl bromide. Methyl bromide–a highly toxic fumigant pesticide linked to severe respiratory illness and Parkinson’s Disease—is being phased out worldwide under the Montreal Protocol due to its destructive effects on the ozone layer. “We’re pleased to see the court has apparently sided with our argument,” said David McAllister,for Great Lakes Chemical Corp, a manufacturer of methyl bromide. Reuters reported the story. The Natural Resource Defense Council filed the suit against EPA. Karen Lecraft Henderson is one of the Republican-appointed judges who heard the case. Henderson is from South Carolina where growers use large quantities of methyl bromide in tobacco production. On August 8th, Henderson ruled against the state of Nevada in a decision that refuses to honor Nevada’s objection to the train route that will be carrying large amounts of radioactive waste to be dumped in the traditionally sacred indigenous area of Yucca Mountain. Two years before, the 9th circuit appeals court enabled EPA to re-write its own regulations for dumping the highly hazardous waste in Yucca Mountain.

Pepsi & Coca Cola sued in India and U.S.; sodas suspected of contamination pulled in Britain: Lawsuits have been filed in India and the United States against Coca Cola and Pepsi. In the U.S., consumers charge that Coca Cola’s Vault Zero energy drink, PepsiCo’s Diet Wild Cherry soda, Kraft Foods’ Crystal Light Sunrise and other drinks contain benzene, a chemical linked to leukemia. Amounts found were above FDA and EPA “acceptable” levels, although both agencies have yet to take action. Read the Associated Press report. In Britain, millions of Coca Cola and Pepsi products have been pulled from vending machines for fear that they contain benzine, the BBC reports.

Chlorpyrifos, lindane, and other pesticides have been found to contaminate soft drinks throughout India, prompting a ban in several states including Kerala, and a lawsuit against Pepsi from the state of Karnataka. The Karnataka health minister told reporters from the Business Times that “Cola companies cannot take shelter under any reason. They should eliminate pesticides before bottling the soft drinks. This is a serious offence.” Meanwhile Coca Cola and other soda companies have marshaled U.S. and U.K. government officials to their defense against the pesticide charges in India. With six Indian states threatening bans against the soft drinks, a U.S. government official has warned India about loss in business investments if the cola industry is restricted, and a Coca Cola-sponsored laboratory in the U.K. is disputing the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE in India) study that sparked the controversy. Read CSE’s update.

Groups weigh in to support Michigan Ecology Center: The Alaska Community Action on Toxics joins Pesticide Action Network and other public interest organizations in speaking out in defense of the Ecology Center as it battles a SLAPP suit by Morton Grove, a pharmaceutical corporation that produces lindane shampoos and lotions. Such suits are sometimes used by corporations to silence public interest organizations. “’We see that lindane is extremely toxic,’ says Pamela Miller, executive director of the Anchorage-based group Alaska Community Action on Toxics. ‘It should have been phased out along with DDT [in the 1970s]. We’re very concerned the FDA would allow its continued use,’” the Detroit Metro Times reports. The suit alleges the Center made false statements while promoting a legislative ban of pharmaceutical lindane in Michigan. Michigan physicians, PAN, Alaska Community Action and other groups say Ecology Center’s statements are well-documented and the suit is without merit.

Philippines authority questions pesticide spraying: The officer-in-charge of the Philippines’ National Poison Control and Information Service, Dr. Lynn Panganiban, told reporters that there is scientific evidence of ill health effects from pesticides drifting off banana plantations, according to popular magazine The Sun Star. Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of PAN Philippines and a professor of pharmacology at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, observed that “it is the moral obligation of everybody not to engage in an activity that will endanger the health of the people and the environment.”
Read more.

Organic baby products booming: “Pink and blue are passé. The hot thing in the children’s market these days is green,” reports the Toronto Star. Internationally, growth of organic cotton clothing is starting to catch up with the $206 million-per-year organic baby food industry (in the U.S. alone), despite higher costs. But market growth is bringing down the price. Under the Nile, an organic children’s clothing and bedding company in Milpitas, CA, is initiating a test program this holiday season in 150 Target stores, and Wal-Mart is offering moderately-priced organic baby clothing. A decade ago sports-wear company Patagonia switched all its cotton products to organic and shared the cost hike with customers. Portland, OR children’s clothing company Hanna Anderson “absorbs most of the additional cost because,” according to the Star, “when the company decided to shift toward organic cotton in 2003, it did so out of a sense of responsibility to the Earth and to its customers, not necessarily to immediately make big bucks.”

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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