A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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European Union passes historic chemical policy, EPA sued for pesticides in water, India considers ban on pesticide-contaminated Coke & Pepsi, Organic jeans and more…
December 21, 2006
Historic chemical regulation policy decision in Europe: Last week, the European Union took historic action by adopting REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals) — the world’s toughest policy for dealing with dangerous chemicals. Under REACH, companies that produce or import some 1500 chemicals in Europe will be required to provide health and safety data and substitute safer alternatives for the worst toxics. Special authorization will be required to continue use of some of the most dangerous chemicals. REACH is not comprehensive; for example, pesticides are not addressed. And European public health and environment groups protested a change just before the final vote that they claim weakens the key “substitution principle”. Still, REACH has put the global chemical industry on notice that nations are insisting on more health-protective regulation, and U.S. chemical industry representatives worked hard to defeat the legislation. The views of many U.S. advocates were reflected by Daryl Ditz of the U.S. Center for International Environmental Law, who told the Los Angeles Times, “To protect the health of Americans and the competitiveness of U.S. companies, we must now overhaul our own laws on toxic chemicals.”
EPA issues exemptions for ozone depleting neurotoxic methyl bromide: The Montreal Protocol set the model for international environmental protection treaty-making by reducing use of chemicals that deplete the earth’s protective ozone layer. In addition to effectively phasing out CFCs and other ozone depletors, signatory industrialized countries and some developing nations have reduced their use of the fumigant pesticide methyl bromide, the major remaining substance that continues damage to stratospheric ozone. Under the Bush administration, however, the U.S. has balked, seeking “critical use” exemptions from the Protocol each year, despite strong objections from other countries. The EPA issued the latest exemptions last week for use of methyl bromide which, in addition to damaging the ozone layer, is linked to respiratory illness and neurological health problems such as Parkinson’s disease. David Doniger, policy director for the Climate Center at the Natural Resource Defense Council, says, “There is enough methyl bromide sitting in railroad tankers and other storage depots to take care of every farmer with a real need for it. With the ozone layer in such serious trouble, the EPA shouldn’t allow chemical companies to make even more.” EPA’s ruling boosts business for methyl bromide maker Chemtura, and an Israeli importer of methyl bromide, Ameribrom. NRDC says these companies will make between $60-$80 million with this EPA ruling.
EPA sued for pesticide pollution in water: Six plaintiffs, including Baykeeper, a San Francisco area water protection group, filed suit against EPA for redefining “pollutants” to exclude pesticides in certain circumstances under the Clean Water Act. On Nov. 21, EPA announced it would not require permits when pesticides were being applied in situations where they could contaminate water. The groups are particularly concerned “that certain types of aerial spraying and other direct applications of pesticides could contaminate creeks, rivers and wetlands,” according to the Eureka Reporter. Plaintiffs also include Eureka-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, Oregon Wild and Saint John’s Organic Farm.”
United Nations recognizes water as a human right: On Nov. 27 the UN Human Rights Council declared access to water a human right. Representatives from Germany and Spain co-sponsored the resolution. The “states affirmed that the right of access to adequate, clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation is a vital human right for all which all countries are obligated to uphold without discrimination.” In this era when corporations are moving to privatize water, the right to safe water is of particular concern among Indigenous people, the report states. “It’s so good to see that in this way our message has gotten through to states after so many years,” said Andrea Carmen, Yaqui Indian Nation and Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council who attended the session in Geneva. More information about global water issues can be found at the World Water Council. Read the UN Resolution. This issue is the focus of the UN Development Programme’s 2006 Human Development Report.
Ban proposed for pesticide contaminated Coke and Pepsi: The Indian government has announced it would seek a ban on Pepsi and Coca Cola in schools and universities. The Delhi based Center for Science and the Environment released a study this year that showed evidence that the soft drinks were contaminated with pesticides from ground water used to make them. The Financial Times, referring to the drinks as “pesticolas,” reported that India’s health minister Ambumani Ramadoss told reporters, “Colas with or without pesticides are harmful for health and should not be consumed.”
“Frankentree” — genetically modified Christmas trees: Canada’s first and only genetically modified Christmas trees will be cut down, their trunks and roots destroyed. A government forestry employee planted 300 of the genetically modified pines, hoping to come up with a tree that makes its own pesticide (Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis). Now that his experiment is complete, he must destroy the trees. According to the Globe and Mail, “Environmentalists say trees with novel traits could spell the end of tree biodiversity and threaten the larger ecosystem.” They point out a wide range of unknowns as well as recent studies that show how impossible it is to control genetically-engineered modifications in nature.
More organic fashion: It remains a challenge when shopping for jeans to find manufacturers not using sweatshops or pesticide intensive cotton for their denim, but options are increasing despite continuing price premiums. In addition to high-profile designers like the UK’s Rogan, featured in Vogue, there are smaller producers like recently-launched Berkeley, CA-based designer Tierra Del Forte. And her business is booming. In an interview with WorldChanging.com, Del Forte says, “Once you do a tiny bit of research, you see right away how destructive conventional cotton agriculture is. Organic cotton is grown without chemical input, on land that’s been free of chemical pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers for at least three years. They use biological pest control and rotation crops in order to keep the insect population down and the yields up. It’s tremendously better for the environment and also for the people who work on the farms. And when I first started out, it happened to be great timing because some mills were starting to get into organic cotton denim, making my company possible.” Click here to check out Del Forte Denim.
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