A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Ecology Center SLAPP dismissed; Monsanto GE alfalfa ban permanent; Alternatives for Mothers Day; and more
May 10, 2007
Federal judge dismisses Ecology Center SLAPP: The Ecology Center (Ann Arbor) and two Michigan pediatricians applauded a federal judge’s ruling late last week that dismissed a product defamation lawsuit brought against them by Morton Grove, the Chicago-area producer of pharmaceutical lindane. In 2006, the Ecology Center, pediatricians, and other medical, public health, and environmental organizations supported the Michigan Legislature’s action to ban pharmaceutical products containing lindane, a persistent organochlorine chemical used in pesticides until the EPA withdrew agriculture use in August 2006. “From the outset, we viewed Morton Grove’s lawsuit as a baseless tactic designed to stifle public debate,” said Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center. “It is outrageous that instead of engaging in a public discussion with the Michigan Legislature on this important public issue, the company instead tried to silence us.” Lindane had previously been banned for use on pets and in the military. All uses of the chemical ingredient have been banned in 52 countries and the State of California. Children’s health advocates are calling for immediate legislative action to ban lindane in Michigan and other states, and demanding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban it as well.
Court halts Monsanto’s GE alfalfa: The temporary ban imposed in March by a federal judge on Monsanto’s plans to plant genetically engineered alfalfa was made permanent May 3rd. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) had filed suit on behalf of organic farmers concerned that Monsanto’s GE alfalfa–designed to allow heavier use of its herbicide RoundupTM–could contaminate their crops. The decision places the U.S. Department of Agriculture in charge of monitoring and disclosing to the public where Monsanto has planted the GE alfalfa so organic and conventional alfalfa growers may test their own crops for contaminated with GE seed. “This permanent halt to the planting of this risky crop is a great victory for the environment,” said Will Rostov, an attorney with CFS. “Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets, and to the environment. We expect the USDA to abide by the law and insure that American farmers are protected from genetic contamination.”
Ugandans demand halt to DDT spraying: The Uganda Network on Toxic Free Spraying, a coalition of over one hundred groups advocating least toxic methods for malaria control, has demanded that the country’s National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) stop DDT indoor spraying for malaria control. The coalition announced they would take legal action if the government does not heed their demands. “[Based] on the Constitution which entitles every citizen to a healthy and clean environment, we demand that NEMA withdraws the permission it has given the Ministry of Health to proceed with the spray of DDT,” New Vision reports. The government had said it would start indoor DDT spraying in August 2007. Read more in PAN North America Magazine: “DDT and Malaria: Setting the Record Straight.”
Long-term study continues to document pesticide links to illness: Prostate cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, multiple myleoma, leukemia and other health effects occur more in people who are exposed to pesticides routinely than the general population, according to the Agricultural Health Study, a collaborative effort between the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and U.S. EPA. The AHS is tracking 90,000 participants over 14 years so far, with another ten years of expected study. All subjects are certified pesticide applicators and their spouses who also work on farms. “Those men with a family history of prostate cancer had increased risk from exposure to Sutan herbicide; the organophosphate insecticides chlorpyrifos, coumaphos, fonophos, and the pyrethroid insecticide permethrin for animal uses.” For women with a family history of breast cancer, the scientists found an association with higher breast cancer rates among those whose husbands used the organophosphate diazinon. “Paraquat, EPTC (eptam), parathion, malathion, chlorpyrifos, atrazine and alachlor were [also] associated with wheeze… the sound produced by narrowed passages deep in the lungs.” Read the study’s 2006 update. The High Plains Journal reported on the update.
Labor standards for U.S. domestic fair trade: Farmworker activists from around the U.S. convened in Owatonna, Minnesota, last week to discuss justice in food production. PAN’s Dr. Chela Vasquez participated: “Farmworkers challenged the notion of voluntary humane practices in farms, and proposed labor standards that will guide Fair Trade for food grown and sold within the U.S. A bumpersticker “Got Food? Thank a Farmworker” highlighted the mood among participants about farmworkers’ role in food production.” Consensus guidelines detailed that farmworkers must have: 1) equal representation, voice, and participation with farmers and consumers in developing a fair trade seal, 2) just salaries, and 3) the right to organize without the fear of retaliation. Healthy and safe working conditions and housing were also high on the list items to be included in a domestic fair trade program. “A few farms from Minnesota and Wisconsin are already participating in a fair trade pilot called the Agricultural Justice Project,” Chela reports. “Olegario Gasca, a farmworker from one of the pilots, likes the chemical-free farm where he works because it protects his health and that of his family. Olegario hopes that the Domestic Fair Trade program would eventually guarantee him better wages based on annual adjustments to the cost of living.” Chela’s full article is in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
Children poisoned by pesticides: Seven children were hospitalized and a total of eleven people sickened in Kahuku, Hawaii on May 3rd, when fumes from the insecticide OrtheneTM may have drifted over the school from a nearby sod farm. Orthene is an organophosphate that contains the PAN Bad Actor chemical, acephate, a cholinesterase inhibitor. Cholinesterase is an enzyme essential to the nervous system. Symptoms of cholinesterase inhibition include twitching, trembling, paralyzed breathing, convulsions, and in extreme cases, death. The Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that Leslie Au, a toxicologist at the state Department of Health, emphasized that acephate is not highly toxic: “The pesticide is easily available and known for producing short-term side effects, such as tearing, runny nose and nausea, following high doses of exposure. Fresh air helps, and there are no lingering or delayed reactions, he said.” Dr. Margaret Reeves, head of the PAN-facilitated Organophosphate (OP) Alternatives Alliance campaign, disagrees. “Not only is Orthene listed as a possible carcinogen, but evidence suggests that effects from exposure to OP pesticides can bring long term neurological effects. Furthermore, many Orthene products contain unidentified inert ingredients, and many of those ingredients are known to be harmful.”
Organic agriculture the key to food security: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held its International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Rome last week. One paper called for governments around the world to invest in organic agriculture as a priority in national policies to combat poverty and meet development goals. FAO noted that “organic agriculture has the potential to secure a global food supply, just as conventional agriculture is today, but with reduced environmental impact.” The report explained “The strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on fossil-fuel independent and locally-available production assets; working with natural processes increases cost-effectiveness and resilience of agro-ecosystems to climatic stress. Organic agriculture also breaks the vicious circle of indebtedness for agricultural inputs which causes an alarming rate of farmers’ suicides.” Read more.
Mother’s Day choices: If you celebrate Mother’s Day with a gift of flowers, make them organic. California Organic Flowers, one of PAN’s business supporters, will send fresh, U.S.-grown bouquets overnight. If you want to focus on the original purpose of this holiday–mothers campaigning for peace–you have several opportunities. One is Code Pink’s Women Rock Mothers Day. Or you might utilize Ploughshares’ Rediscover Mother’s Day program and give a gift of Peace, send an e-card, and even add flowers from another PAN supporter, Organic Bouquet.
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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