A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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USDA rebuked for GE trials; Pesticides damage reef;
March 8, 2007
USDA violated law by approving Monsanto’s GE seeds: Ninth Circuit Federal Court Judge Charles Breyer called the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow field trials of genetically engineered alfalfa “cavalier”. The alfalfa seeds were engineered by Monsanto to withstand Roundup, their glyphosate herbicide. According to the New York Times, the Judge said, “the agency had not adequately considered the possibility that the gene could be transferred by pollen to organic or conventional alfalfa, hurting sales of organic farmers or exports to countries like Japan that did not want the genetically engineered variety.” In other recent decisions, “a federal judge in Washington said last week that the Agriculture Department had not done adequate assessments before approving field trials of genetically engineered grass. And last August a federal judge in Hawaii, in a case involving field trials of crops engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, ruled that the Agriculture Department had not adequately assessed the possible impact on endangered species.” Organic farmers teamed with the Center for Food Safety to organize the lawsuit that prompted the decision on alfalfa seeds; PAN was one of the plaintiffs in the Hawaii “bio-pharm” suit.
Pesticide damage to Great Barrier Reef greater than feared: Scientists have discovered that pesticide farm run-off is hurting the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia more than previously believed. Satellite images taken by GeoScience Australia using NASA’s MODIS satellite in February reveal that sediment plumes containing chemicals are traveling farther out to sea, up to 135 kilometers offshore. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Recent studies have shown agricultural chemicals are so poisonous to coral that it can prevent spawning, even when only present in minuscule amounts.” Dr. Arnold Dekker, a scientist with the government advisory group, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, told the Herald, “It’s a no-brainer to say that if farmers are helped to farm as smart as possible, using as little fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides as possible, and only using what the vegetation will take up, then you will have much less run-off of this material.”
Russia worries about India’s pesticide contaminated rice: The Hindu reports, “Russia may ban rice imports from India because of a risk of pesticide contamination unless India complies with stricter food safety demands. Russia’s Federal Agency of Veterinary and Phytosanitary Control, Rosselkhoznadzor, has asked India to provide safety certificates for each shipment of rice containing information on pesticides used for growing and storing rice and indicating dosages and dates of treatment…. In mid-February, Rosselkhoznadzor seized several batches of Indian rice, which allegedly contained a banned pesticide, oil product contaminants and high levels of an insecticide.”
Former EPA analyst says farmworkers still at risk from pesticides: E. G. Vallianatos says little has changed in the risk to farmworkers from pesticides since he worked on these issues in the EPA 28 years ago. Vallianatos wrote in the Baltimore Sun, “Scientists at Colorado State University, funded by the EPA, confirmed in the late 1970s what knowledgeable scientists had suspected all along: Nerve-poison pesticides known as organophosphates were affecting the central nervous systems of humans. These products of World War II chemical warfare research, very popular with farmers, were causing immediate and long-term crippling effects on those coming in contact with them. Even one serious exposure could cause lasting brain and nerve damage… The fact is, neurotoxins on the farm or in the home are wounding all living things. A 2006 study by Columbia University scientists made the connection between one of those neurotoxins, chlorpyrifos, and learning disorders in children living in New York City. EPA banned chlorpyrifos from home use in 2001, but not from farms. What about the children in rural America?” Learn more about organophosphates and sign PAN’s petition to ban chlorpyrifos.
Focus on Farmworkers: PAN North America, along with United Farm Workers of America, Student Action with Farmworkers, Farmworker Justice, the Cesar Chavez Foundation and many other groups are sponsoring the upcoming Farmworker Awareness Week beginning March 25th. Click here to find out how you can assist farmworkers laid off by the recent citrus freeze, about the important AgJobs policy work in Congress, why EPA is holding hearings in California and Florida on fumigant pesticides and their impact on farmworkers, and other important issues and events celebrating and supporting farmworkers.
New Jersey rejects endocrine disrupting pesticide: The NJ Department of Environmental Protection has turned down a request for a waiver from the state Department of Agriculture (NJDA) to use diflubenzuron (brand-name Dimilin, Uniroyal Chemical Company) to eradicate gypsy moths. The NJDA had planned to allow spraying of the pesticide in 14 New Jersey counties. The state currently uses the common biological pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) for gypsy moth control. Leigh Davis, reporter with the City Belt website writes, “B.t. was chosen after a bitter fight in which environmentalists successfully [previously] challenged the use of Sevin [carbaryl], a broad-spectrum pesticide with serious human health impacts.” According to Jane Nogaki, of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, “The EPA has found that Dimilin not only decreased testosterone in birds, but also that ‘repeated and prolonged exposure’ can cause methemoglobinemia, or ‘blue baby syndrome.’ In this condition, the hemoglobin molecule cannot effectively carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.” Despite substantial evidence of their health risks, U.S. EPA does not yet regulate endocrine (hormone system) disruptors.
Alaska railroad denied use of herbicides: The Anchorage Daily News reports that activists and local community members persuaded the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to deny permission to the Alaska Railroad Corporation to spray some 500 miles of track with herbicides, including glyphosate and 2,4-D. “The railroad has struggled on and off for years to regain the state’s permission to spray herbicides along its track. It was blocked in a federal court and by the late Gov. Jay Hammond, who banned state agencies from using herbicides,” the News noted. Pam Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics declared, “This is a big victory for people who have fought the railroad’s use of herbicides for several decades. We felt the chemical mixture proposed by the railroad would harm water quality, salmon habitat and people’s health.” PAN Action Center members supported ACAT’s campaign with letters to officials.
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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