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Indigenous people and Ecuadorian govt. resist Columbia’s herbicide spraying; Genetic mutations in fish linked to chemicals; Pesticide use linked to adverse health effects in children; New video from the makers of “Meatrix” and “Store Wars” and more…

January 25, 2007

Ecuador objects to Colombia’s aerial spraying: Colombia has restarted its U.S.-funded aerially herbicide campaign to destroy cocoa plants allegedly grown in the region that borders Ecuador. The herbicides, including glyphosate (active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup), travel by air and water exposing food crops and people who live near the Colombia border. Chela Vazquez, a PANNAcampaign coordinator, visited her Ecuadorean birthplace recently. She reports:”People are begging for help. There is a national outcry to stop aerial defoliation in the Colombian border area.”Indigenous people in Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Ecuador’s government, are insisting that the herbicide campaign stop. According to Scoop Independent News, Ecuador’s newly inaugurated President, Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, called the renewed flights “a hostile act by Colombia against Ecuador,” and recalled Ecuador’s Ambassador to Colombia in protest. Scoop also reports that the impacted “small-scale subsistence farmers, who usually live in near penury, rely completely upon their food crops for their survival and cannot be expected to recover easily, or at all, from losing a dramatically large portion of their livelihood as a result of adventitious sprayings. During a visit to Washington in order to plead for an end to the [spraying], the Colombian indigenous leader José Francisco Tenorio cried out to his audience: ‘Our legal crops — our only sustenance …have been fumigated [sprayed]. Our sources of water, creeks, rivers, lakes, have been poisoned, killing our fish and other living things. Today, hunger is our daily bread. In the name of the Amazonian Indigenous people I ask that the fumigations [spraying] be immediately suspended.”

U.S. rivers contain endocrine disrupting chemicals: A U.S. Geological Survey report reveals that water in the Potomac, Cacapon and Williams River basins in West Virginia contain fish that have mutated to have both female and male characteristics. A study of the “intersex” fish shows evidence of many chemicals with suspected links to cancer, reproductive and developmental problems. Local authorities are telling the public that the water is safe to drink, but the regional Herald Mail newspaper reports that at least one resident, biologist Dave Lemarie, has refused to drink local tap water since learning of the intersex fish two years ago. The USGS study released last week included examination of chemicals suspected of endocrine disruption, which could explain why male fish were mutating with female characteristics. According to the report, “This study found that some EDCs [endocrine disrupting compounds] are nearly ubiquitous in the environment…. Other investigations have shown that some EDCs, including some found in both passive samplers and smallmouth bass blood plasma, act additively or synergistically, where mixtures of several compounds have a greater effect than a single compound.” Read the abstract or download the USGS report here.

Pesticides linked to children’s health problems: Researcher Jennifer Magoon at the University of Manitoba (Canada) compared databases of children with health problems including birth defects to the agricultural pesticide use database for Southern Manitoba. Magoon told the Winnipeg Free Press that she found that residents of rural areas where pesticides — especially insecticides — were used heavily were more likely to have fertility problems and babies with higher or lower than average birth weight and/or other birth defects, and health problems, including respiratory ailments, jaundice, and eating disorders. Adults and children alike in areas with higher pesticide use also had more eye disorders than average. While Magoon hesitated to define specific links between pesticides and these health effects, the Free Press reports that she insists “the higher incidence of birth-related abnormalities or adult disorders in parts of the province where pesticides are used heavily isn’t simply coincidence.” Read Magoon’s Developing and evaluating rural environmental health indicators: a focus on agricultural pesticides and health outcomes in Manitoba abstract. Her project originated from the Public Health Centre at the University of Manitoba. Another department at the university has completed a five-year pilot “Pesticide Free Production” study of non-chemical based agricultural practices. Read more.

New PAN Germany website to enact FAO Code: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) developed a Code of Conduct in 2002 that “defines standards for dealing with dangerous pesticides, for avoiding risks, and for introducing alternatives,” as shown on PAN Germany’s new FAO website. Roles and responsibilities for governments, the pesticide and food industries, farmers, and public interest groups are addressed in the code. Among the issues of focus are health and human environment, training, the Precautionary Principle and alternatives. The new website is a resource to gather support for UN FAO implementation of the code. PAN Germany’s new site declares, “Five decades of pesticide-dependent intensive agricultural production systems have resulted in untold damage to the environment, biodiversity, and human health and a fundamental change of plant protection policies is now essential.”

The Mouth Revolution — new web video from producers of Meatrix and Store Wars: Annie’s Foods has released a web flash animation promoting organics calling and calling attention to the issues of pesticides, GMOs and additives in food production. The Mouth Revolution provides links for viewers to get involved in advocating solutions, including joining Pesticide Action Network and signing a petition to U.S. EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, a highly hazardous organophosphate pesticide that poisons farm workers and rural residents. Mouth Revolution is the latest production of Free Range Studios, a communications and graphics firm best known for hit web advocacy animations “Meatrix” and “Store Wars” that educated tens of millions of people about industrial food production, misleading advertising and health risks, using cartoon take-offs of popular films.

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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