A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Chiquita funding terrorists; EU children suffering; Farmworker Awareness Week, Ethical Easter bunnies, and more
March 29, 2007
U.S. banana grower fined for funding terrorist organizations: Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International has been fined $25 million by the U.S. Justice Department for funding right wing death squads and other organizations in Columbia designated by the U.S. as “terrorist organizations.” The Chicago Tribune [Registration Required] also reports that Columbian Attorney General Mario Iguaran contacted the U.S. Justice Department asking for documents about Chiquita’s payments to the right wing paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, as well as two armed left opposition forces, ELN and FARC. Iguaran is also looking into whether Chiquita was involved in arms trafficking. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reports that this is not the first time that the corporation has been accused of misdeeds: “Chiquita has had a long history of criminal behavior. It was the subject of an extraordinary expose in its hometown paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, in 1998. The paper found that Chiquita exposed entire communities to dangerous U.S.-banned pesticides, forced the eviction of an entire Honduran village at gunpoint and its subsequent bulldozing, suppressed unions, unwittingly allowed the use of Chiquita transport ships to move cocaine internationally, and paid a fortune to U.S. politicians to influence trade policy.”
Europe considers new pesticide policies to protect children: On March 7, Professor Philippe Grandjean of Harvard’s School of Public Health told the European Union Parliament reveals that rising rates of mental and behavioral disorders in European children could be slowed by tighter EU pesticide regulation. European children are regularly exposed to levels of pesticide residues in food that exceed safety limits and to “cocktails” of different pesticides. While pesticides in baby food are regulated in Europe, no protection is currently available for children eating normal food. The EU is now considering pesticide regulatory policy, and is hearing from health care professionals from around the world on the special hazards for children posed by pesticides. Sofia Parente, Pesticide Action Network Europe, says: “We would like to see ‘hazard-based’ criteria to exclude the most dangerous pesticides, notably those responsible for cancer, mutations, reproductive disorders and endocrine disruption, and the substitution of neurotoxic pesticides. However, ultimately, the level of exposure will only fall if Europe’s agriculture reduces its dependency on pesticides via low-input and organic farming systems.” Read more from PAN Europe.
Bush budget cuts EPA Inspector General funding: After issuing reports charging Bush EPA political appointees with lax regulatory enforcement and being unduly influenced by polluting industries, the Administration’s proposed 2008 budget cuts the EPA Office of Inspector General by $5.1 million. According to Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, “It is not surprising that the last thing the Bush administration values is aggressive investigation into corporate pollution offenses and the political collusion that lubricates them. Congress should be consulted before irreversible steps are taken.” Congress is soon to consider and then vote on the fiscal 2008 budget.
Bill to reverse Toxic Release Inventory rollback: A new report showing clear links between pollution and health has been released by the U.S. Public Information Research Group. The report assesses the amounts of toxins released into the environment based on information attained by the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a system recently weakened by the Bush administration. Last year’s TRI data reveals that over 70 million pounds of known carcinogens and over 826 million pounds of known neurotoxins were released into air and water. According to U.S. PIRG, “Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), and Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Boxer (D-CA), recently challenged EPA’s rollbacks by introducing the Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act (H.R. 1055 and S. 595). This legislation would reverse the rollbacks to restore the lost data and to ensure that communities have the full and complete toxic pollution information they deserve.”
Tampa judge dismisses 71 charges against Ag-mart: A Florida judge dismissed 71 of the 80 charges against agribusiness giant Ag-Mart. The company had previously consented to four other charges. Associated Press reports: “The charges were levied after several farmworker families alleged the use of pesticides on Ag-Mart fields in North Carolina and Florida contributed to birth defects in their babies. At least two of the families returned to Mexico, but Francisca Herrera and Abraham Candelario, whose baby Carlos was born without limbs, remained in the U.S. and filed a lawsuit against Ag-Mart. None of the upheld violations occurred in the Florida fields where the couple worked. Their attorney Andrew Yaffa said the judge’s decision would have no effect on the family’s case. ‘I don’t need their shoddy records. I’ve got all these employees that were sent out to freshly sprayed fields and were getting sick and throwing up,’ he said.”
Farmworker Awareness Week: This week, advocates from across the U.S. will conduct events to recognize the contributions of farmworkers, raise awareness about farmworker issues, and support farmworkers’ struggles. Efforts include focus on creating a national Cesar Chavez holiday, farmworkers out of work from the California freeze, the AgJob components of the Farm Bill, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ march in April to MacDonald’s headquarters demanding fair wages and humane treatment in its tomato supply chain (see http://ciw-online.org/). The week is coordinated by Student Action with Farmworkers, César E. Chávez Foundation, Farmworker Advocacy Network, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, National Farm Worker Ministry, Pesticide Action Network North America, Student Farmworker Alliance, Student Labor Action Project, United Farm Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers and others. Click here for event and campaign details.
“Week of Rice Action” 2007: Farmers in 13 countries across Asia are celebrating their rights to food sovereignty and healthy rice culture this week. Unethical agricultural biotechnology, the threat posed by a new “green revolution,” the importance of conserving traditional varieties of rice, and sharing knowledge were among the themes discussed in a kick-off celebration in Karnataka, India. The village of Mithabagilu was declared GM Free and participants signed a “People’s Statement on protecting Rice in Asia”. Usha S, from the Kerala advocacy group THANAL, said the events were organized “to take action to protect this culture from threats – especially from genetically engineered rice varieties and hybrid rice.” Authorities from the Karnataka Agriculture Department and many other experts and dignitaries joined the events. A key feature of of the Week of Rice Action is a one-million signature campaign calling on policy-makers to take immediate steps to save the rice of Asia. PAN Asia/Pacific has the story.
Ethical chocolate Easter bunnies: Show kids how to walk the talk by purchasing Fair Trade chocolate for their Easter baskets. Most consumers are unaware that many large candy corporations hire contractors who use slave children to harvest the cocoa beans for their chocolate production. TransFair USA offers a list of companies supporting Fair Trade (and many organic) chocolate producers–some even make bunnies with ears you can bite (almost) guilt free! Read about how one chocolatier, Green & Black’s – the first British company to earn the Fairtrade mark – saved a community in southern Belize.
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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