A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Syngenta loses GMO site in Brazil; Danish chemical corporation phases out WHO class I pesticides; Charges against Ag-mart dropped; Chlorpyrifos in Washington state and more…
January 11, 2007
Syngenta challenged by Brazilian government, fined in U.S.: Swiss chemical giant Syngenta lost an experimental GMO site in Brazil and was fined for contaminating corn crops with genetically modified seed in the U.S. In Brazil, the renowned international movement of peasant organizations, Via Campesina and Brazil’s 1.5 million-strong landless workers movement, MST, joined together to influence government authorities to take action. According to reporter Isabella Kenfield, “The conflict (in Brazil) over Syngenta began on March 14th 2006 when about six hundred members of the Via Campesina and the MST occupied the 127-hectare locale after the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA), the federal environmental agency, confirmed that Syngenta had illegally planted twelve hectares of genetically-modified (GM) soybeans there. The planting was illegal because the site is located within the protective boundary zone of the Iguaçu National Park, and under Brazilian federal law it is illegal to plant GM crops within this zone.” Roberto Requião, Governor of the state of Paraná, expropriated the Syngenta corporation’s experimental site in Santa Tereza do Oeste. According to Kenfield, the decision by a government authority to reign in a multinational pesticide corporation “has become a powerful symbol for all interests in the struggle over the future of Brazilian agriculture.” See the full story on Znet.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Syngenta was fined $1.5 million by EPA for contaminating corn crops with GMO seed in 1,044 incidents involving distributions to dealers in 21 states and two foreign countries. “Human error” is what Syngenta spokeswoman Anne Burt told Mike Meyers of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Meyers reports, “Syngenta, which last year sold about $5 billion worth of bioengineered seeds worldwide, in 2004 discovered that two strains of an experimental seed corn had entered distribution channels.” Recent cases of GMO contamination of the seed supply occurred with two strains of Bayer’s genetically engineered rice, LL601 and LL62, and its Starlink genetically engineered corn, none of which were approved for human consumption. The Union of Concerned Scientists, PAN and many other public interest groups have identified GMO contamination as a serious threat to the integrity of our food supply as well as biodiversity, with implications for food safety and agricultural trade. Jane Rissler of UCS explained, “Heedlessly allowing the contamination of the seed supply to continue may cause problems which cannot be easily remedied.” Read more in several reports by PANNA and by Friends of the Earth. Syngenta is the world’s largest agrochemical producer, the world’s leading agricultural biotechnology corporation, third largest owner of plant biotechnology patents, and third largest seed supplier. Click here for a profile of Syngenta, its pesticides and genetically engineered seeds.
Danish pesticide manufacturer to phase out some highly acutely toxic chemicals in developing countries: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that the Danish pesticide company, Cheminova, has agreed to phase out “World Health Organization Class I pesticides, including methyl parathion and monocrotophos, from developing countries between next year and 2010.” According to FAO, Cheminova is following through on “voluntary control” of pesticides, particularly in developing countries, as promoted in FAO’s International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. Other WHO Class I pesticides commonly used include several organophosphates, including disulfoton and ethoprop, both PAN “Bad Actor” chemicals that are currently approved for use in the U.S. by the EPA. Read the list of WHO Class I pesticides.
North Carolina loses decision in Ag-mart lawsuit: State authorities brought almost 400 charges against agriculture business giant Ag-mart for violations of pesticide regulations. The state had levied $185,000 in fines against the tomato grower for conditions the state declared to be unsafe for workers. Administrative law judge Beryl Wade ruled that more than two-thirds of the 369 pesticide law violations the produce company faces are invalid because the company kept such bad records that the state could not prove its case. The editorial board of the Raleigh News & Observer expressed what many in the community felt: “Ag-Mart was charged with forcing employees to work in fields freshly sprayed with pesticides. Such exposure can damage nervous systems and cause birth defects. The company also was charged with harvesting tomatoes too soon after pesticides were applied. The state should aggressively make its case before the Pesticide Board. It should also demand that the company keep accurate and complete records. Administrative incompetence is hardly a reassuring defense against serious allegations of dangerous pesticide misuse.”
Washington State Authorities to consider pesticides in air: This week the Washington legislature’s Select Committee on Environmental Health will be taking a look at the impact on the community of pesticide drift. A new study conducted by Farm Worker Pesticide Project and PAN North America, Poisons on the Wind, has revealed that a potentially unsafe level of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide particularly harmful to women and children, is contaminating the air in residential areas of the Yakima Valley. The editorial board of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has declared, “The public should know what is in the air, especially when a pesticide can cause acute, life-threatening dangers and long-term effects on motor and mental functions. The state should follow California’s lead in establishing regular air monitoring, perhaps best by the Department of Ecology, in major agricultural areas. The state should also look ahead at alternatives to heavy pesticide applications, what barriers block their wider adoption and how the state could help farmers make changes.”
Popular U.S. columnist highlights hazards of inert ingredients: Richard “Ask the Bug Man” Fagurland, in his nationally syndicated newspaper column on managing pests without toxic chemicals, defended his statement that inert ingredients in pesticides are inadequately tested.
“Many inert ingredients are known or suspected causes of cancer, nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage and birth defects, as well as environmental damage. Inert ingredients are considered ‘trade secrets’ and are not required to be on the label. There are only ‘minimal’ testing requirements for inert ingredients. The EPA has little information about their hazards because, of the more than 2,300 substances that are considered by the EPA as inerts, about 1,700 are classified as ‘of unknown toxicity.’ This is because EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs does not have adequate information about their potential hazards….. I believe we have a right to know what pollutants and contaminants we are exposed to when we eat in restaurants, shop in supermarkets, go to the theater, take a walk in the park or on a golf course, or when the pest control person comes to spray our home.” Click here to find out more about Richard Fagurland.
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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