Philippines bans endosulfan; EPA school IPM plan; European GE crops bans; and more…

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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panups20081231 supportaMarch 12, 2009


Philippines imposes temporary endosulfan ban

Citing public safety concerns, the Philippine government ordered an immediate temporary ban on the importation, distribution and use of endosulfan, reports Agence France-Presse. Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) has been active in campaigning against endosulfan throughout Asia, especially in the Philippines, where use was already limited to pineapple plantations owned by Dole and Del Monte. Government spokesperson Marissa Cruz said the ban was imposed after concerns were raised following the capsizing of a ferry in the Philippines last year. The pesticide, which was being transported illegally aboard a passenger vessel, was destined for Del Monte pineapple plantations. “The department has held a number of consultations with non-government organizations, the private sector, civil society and Senate,” Cruz said. Endosulfan, a suspected endocrine disrupter, is already banned in more than 55 countries (including the European Union, but not yet the United States), and has come under increased international scrutiny. In November 2008, only India actively objected to adding endosulfan to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (the PIC treaty).

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New EPA guidelines to reduce school pesticide use

According to the Environmental Health News, a new EPA plan would encourage all public schools to adopt integrated pest management (IPM) by 2015. Experts calculate the approach could reduce school use of pesticides by at least 70 percent. However, EPA’s “new plan is not a federal mandate, but a set of recommendations for implementing IPM. The plan includes no funding to help schools switch from conventional pest management, and there are no enforcement measures to ensure that schools heed the EPA’s recommendations.” There’s a concern that children and teachers should be protected by mandates, not voluntary guidelines. Stephen Scholl-Buckwald, managing director of Pesticide Action Network, says it’s a good start. “‘Of course we’re glad to see a move in this direction, but we think it doesn’t go far enough because the concept of IPM has been diluted by the pesticide industry.'” Dr. Philip Landrigan, an environmental pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, observed: “‘(Children are) biologically more vulnerable to the chemicals. Their organ systems are growing and developing, and those developmental processes are very delicate, very fragile, easily disrupted…. Teachers and staff members, particularly young pregnant women, are also exposed to pesticides because they spend significant time in the school environment.'” Environmental Health News noted that 36 states now have school pesticide regulations, and pioneering districts across the country are developing least-toxic pest management approaches.

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EU upholds ban on GE crops

European Union governments ruled that Austria and Hungary can maintain national bans on growing genetically engineered (GE) crops from Monsanto, delivering a blow to the biotechnology industry, reports the New York Times. The vote, taken by European environment ministers was also a blow to the European Commission, who has sought to ease the restrictions in Europe on GE crops. The only GE crop currently grown in Europe is a Monsanto-modified corn. The U.S. filed a complaint about Europe’s biotechnology policies to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2003. In 2006 the WTO ruled that a de facto ban on imports of genetically modified foods from 1984 to 2004 violated trade rules and required Austria to drop its ban on imports of genetically modified foods. According to Bloomberg News, EU member countries were “firm” that the “commission should take a close reading of the result,” the French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, said after the EU’s decision was announced in Brussels. 

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EPA halts negotiations with Dow

After appeals from environmental and community groups, new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has ordered EPA Region 5 (Great Lakes area) to stop negotiations with Dow Chemical over the controversial dioxin cleanup in the Saginaw Bay watershed. According to the Michigan Messenger, the negotiation process — begun in the last days of the Bush administration — could shuffle the clean-up of a serious public health hazard into a non-regulatory process favored by the company. Fifty miles of the Saginaw Bay watershed have been contaminated with dioxon from Dow’s Midland plant. Following eight years of negotiations, Michigan and Dow reached a clean-up agreement, but Dow failed to meet the deadlines. After samples showing extremely high contamination levels were submitted to EPA in 2007, Region 5 administrator Mary Gade ordered an immediate clean-up. Dow appealed to EPA headquarters, and Gade’s order was over-ruled, leaving residents without a viable clean-up plan. Gade was subsequently stripped of her authority over Dow and soon resigned. “People from Bhopal, India to Saginaw, Michigan applaud this move by the EPA,” says Shana Ortman, U.S. Coordinator of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “Dow has been dragging this out and obstructing the process of cleaning up the dioxin mess they created. This is a hopeful sign that the new administration will be putting human health above corporate profits.” 

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Take Action: Honey bees need your help

Honey bees are a crucial agricultural resource, they pollinate nearly a third of our food supply. But bee colonies are collapsing due to a poorly understood combination of viruses, parasites and pesticide exposures. The pesticide imidacloprid is known to be highly toxic to honey bees. Despite EPA’s recognition of this fact, the agency approved imidacloprid’s use in 1994. France banned several uses of imidacloprid in 1999 over concerns about its effects on bees, but in the U.S. imidacloprid is still used heavily on many crops pollinated by honey bees, including broccoli, blueberries, carrots, grapefruit, cucumbers and avocados. Join Pesticide Action Network and NRDC in urging EPA to act decisively and quickly to protect honey bees and other pollinators from high-risk uses of imidacloprid. Take Action »

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Updates on orange oil for termites

In reference to the March 5 PANUPS story based on Richard Fagerlund’s column questioning a University of California study on the efficacy of orange oil for drywood termite treatment, the San Francisco Chronicle published a clarification and letters from UC staff responding to elements of the story. The report that Fagerlund cited, and to which PANUPS referred, was a release by Dow Chemical Co., which in turn cited a UC study. To read preliminary report on the Cal study itself, go to (PDF). The study is scheduled to be completed in summer 2009. The Chronicle also notes that “Tony Kingsbury was misidentified; he is an executive-in-residence at the Center for Responsible Business and an advisor to the Sustainable Products & Solutions Program.”

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