A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Community finds pesticide in their bodies; Dow shareholder protest; Black farmers boycott Monsanto; DDT use doubles…
May 17, 2007
Californians find pesticide contamination in their bodies: Residents of Lindsay, Tulare County, released a study May 16 that shows their bodies are being contaminated by an agricultural pesticide that has already been banned for residential use. The community members tested their air during the summers of 2004-2006 with PAN’s Drift Catcher monitoring device, and detected high levels of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos in the air around their homes. That discovery was followed by complementary biomonitoring research to test for evidence of chlorpyrifos in their bodies. The results show all but one of those tested had higher levels of a chlorpyrifos breakdown chemical in their urine than the level US EPA considers safe for pregnant women and children. Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin linked to problems in brain development and is suspected of triggering asthma in people who have never suffered from respiratory problems before. Read about the study and the people. Contra Costa Times broke the story.
Dow shareholders demand accountability: Investors representing over $305 million of ownership in Dow Chemical Company filed three resolutions with the board of directors at Dow’s annual meeting in Midland, MI, demanding that the company be held accountable for its products’ health and environmental liabilities. Two resolutions concerned contamination Dow has failed to remediate–dioxin in mid-Michigan and abandoned pesticide waste in Bhopal, India; the third targeted the asthma epidemic and links to pesticides made by Dow, especially the widely-used lawn herbicide 2,4-D and highly toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos. Valerie Heinonen of the Sisters of Mercy Detroit, stated, “Dow’s reluctance to address such publicly documented contamination problems, especially in its own backyard, raises red flags about how the company deals with environmental and human health concerns more broadly…. They are investing more in public relations than in efforts to provide real solutions.” The dioxin resolution received an exceptional 27% support. Investors sponsoring the resolutions included Amnesty International and the Comptroller of New York City. Proxy voters and protests were organized by Dow Accountability Network members including Amnesty, Beyond Pesticides, PAN and Michigan’s Ecology Center. Read more.
Black farmers call for boycott of Monsanto: The National Association of Black Farmers has asked its 60,000 members to boycott Monsanto products. The action is in protest of Monsanto’s $1.5 billion bid to acquire Delta & Pine Land Company. Dr. John Boyd, president of the Association, says the merger of these two giant agrochemical corporations will put small farming operations at risk: “We believe that Monsanto has and will continue, through this merger, to violate federal and state antitrust laws by using its dominance in biotech seeds and herbicides to balloon prices and fees while curtailing competition and choice…. If Monsanto hurts black farmers, black farmers have no choice but to hurt Monsanto.” Find out more.
Global DDT use doubles: The third Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the POPS treaty) concluded in Dakar, Senegal on May 4. Those attending heard a disturbing announcement by UNEP that DDT use has doubled since the treaty was signed in 2001. The treaty requires global phase-outs and elimination of an initial twelve POPs chemicals, including DDT and eight other pesticides. Additional POPs chemicals–including lindane–are to be assessed for evidence of their harm and considered for listing by the countries who are Parties to the treaty. The U.S. government has signed but not ratified the treaty. Henry Diouf of PAN Afrique, attending as a member of both PAN and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), responded by declaring, “DDT is a 21st century problem in all parts of the world…. Countries need urgent action on this matter now.” Read full PAN/IPEN report.
Syngenta charged with violating international code: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides provides global guidance for all public and private entities associated with the distribution and use of pesticides. Over the last 15 years the Code has assisted countries to establish and strengthen pesticide management systems. A new study conducted by NGOs from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Switzerland shows that agrochemical giant Syngenta may have violated the Code in promoting the highly dangerous herbicide, paraquat. The survey reveals that over 30% of paraquat dealers in Indonesia, 70% in China, and 100% in Pakistan were unable to advise farmers on Code-mandated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). “Many pesticide dealers do not sell the essential protective gear and cannot tell customers where they might find such items,” and many farmers find it cost prohibitive. “The sale of paraquat in regions where PPE is not readily available and affordable clearly… must be stopped,” the NGOs declared in their complaint with the FAO against Syngenta’s aggressive marketing. Read the survey.
Lawsuit may set precedent–fog contaminates organic farm with pesticides: Larry Jacobs, who grows organic produce near Santa Cruz, California, has filed suit against pesticide applicators Western Farm Services for crop contamination. According to a Santa Cruz Sentinel report, the pesticides were correctly applied and did not violate any laws by drifting onto Jacob’s fields: “…all involved think they were picked up by fog, which can turn pesticides into liquid and carry them off days after they were sprayed.” At issue is a $500,000 crop of organic dill, lost in December due to pesticide contamination. The court imposed an injunction against further spraying of nearby fields until the case can be heard later this month.
South African organic farming booms: Organic farming has become a profitable industry for South Africa, with over 230 organic farm certifications or conversions in 2005 alone. Domestic sales and exports brought in 155 million rand (over US$22 million) in 2005, with an even bigger jump forecast for 2006-2007. The South African Press Association reports in the Malaysian Sun, “Organic Freedom Project, a non-profit organizing [sic.], recently announced plans to create 100,000 jobs in organic food and biofuel production in South Africa by 2014. Europe’s largest organic fruit and veg importer, Dutch company Eosta is also looking to secure its supply lines in South Africa against competition from American importers willing to pay almost double for a carton of oranges.”
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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