Support PAN; Germany deals with pesticide stockpiles; Atrazine linked to wildlife problems; Syngenta setting terms for research?

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Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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Support Panups!December 30, 2009


Pesticides are persistent, but so is PAN

Give todayAs we turn the calendar to a new decade, PAN North America is pleased to report that our work is building momentum faster than ever. Astonishingly, we’ve come through this turbulent year to find that our outreach capacity has nearly doubled even as we faced the same budget constraints as everyone else. It seems our issues have gained new urgency and traction. When we reflect on the important victories many of you helped us win in 2009, we are humbled and motivated by your commitment to create a healthier world.

As PAN’s ranks grow, policy makers are compelled by public protest to take a hard look at how a handful of mega-corporations control our food production and corrupt science. One significant example: in two months this fall PAN helped mobilize 90,000 people to say “NO” to the controversial appointment of Islam Siddiqui, former lobbyist for CropLife. (CropLife is the pesticide industry’s lobbying front group.) Siddiqui has been stalled in the Senate, and may or may not be confirmed — but the revolving door between industry and government just got a lot squeakier. It takes persistence and passion to build a food system that delivers democracy, security, nourishing food and sustainability. But with your help, we can override the chemical agenda pushed by the six multinational corporations who control 75% of the global agrichemical market: Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and DuPont. They buy lobbying and marketing to convince policy makers that toxic pesticides keep the world from starving. They are wrong, and we are calling them on it for pennies on their dollars.

Whatever you have done, or are able to do in support of PAN’s work, we thank you!

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Germany to deal with pesticides stockpiled in Nepal

old canistersStockpiles of old pesticides that have degraded and become unusable are a common problem in many parts of the world – especially, but not exclusively, in developing countries. Since these stockpiles are often stored without sufficient precautions they can have devastating health and environmental impacts on surrounding communities. In the case of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the persistence and long-range transport of old pesticides over air and water currents means that stockpiled pesticides can also pose serious health hazards for people living far away. Old pesticide containers, which are themselves contaminated and toxic, are reused for water and food storage by people unaware of the dangers such containers pose to their health. Dealing with the disposal of obsolete stockpiles in least-toxic ways is tricky and PAN regional centers in UK, Asia and Africa have been long involved in this issue. Along with international organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization, some donor country governments have begun to take the issue seriously. Recently the German government expressed readiness to take back and safely dispose 74.23 tons of chemicals from Nepal that had been imported for agriculture proposes from Germany 25 years ago, reports the Republica. The stockpiled pesticides, scattered over 25 sites in Nepal, include pesticides like DDT and methyl bromide. The pesticides will be disposed of at temperatures of 1,200 – 1,500 degrees Celsius at an incinerator plant in Germany equipped with air pollution
control devices — a facility not available in Nepal. PAN North America’s international campaign coordinator, Dr. Medha Chandra notes, “While there is much debate about the safest methods of disposal of obsolete pesticide stocks, and incineration is far from ideal, it is at least a welcome move that these hazardous stockpiles will no longer be polluting Nepalese environs and communities.” 

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Atrazine linked to host of problems for wildlife

TadpoleA host of health problems for freshwater fish and amphibians are linked to the pesticide atrazine, according to a new analysis of existing research. The meta-analysis (PDF) found disturbing links between low doses of atrazine and significant developmental abnormalities in wildlife. According a summary by Heather Hamlin, “Exposure to atrazine levels found in the environment reduced immune function, sex organ development and function, and the production of steroid hormones in both groups of animals. The oft times slight changes to these important body systems can affect the timing of metamorphosis in amphibians and behavior in amphibians and fish – changes that could affect an animal’s survival. The study also found…that lower doses could in fact be more harmful than higher doses. For example, …the exposures increased hyperactivity at the lower concentrations reported but not at higher levels.” Syngenta, the largest pesticide corporation in the world, is the primary manufacturer and promoter of atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S., despite being banned in Syngenta’s home country, Switzerland, due to its persistence in water. An August 2009 analysis of U.S. government data conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (PDF) found widespread atrazine contamination of surface water in Midwestern and Southern states, along with disturbing levels of atrazine in drinking water systems in the regions. Syngenta is charged with suppressing independent science and unduly influencing the 2003 atrazine review process in order to keep its pesticide on the market. U.S. EPA
Assistant Administrator Steve Owens reopened the review of atrazine in October 2009
, promising, “Under this Administration, EPA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all Americans. Administrator Jackson has made it a priority to examine how we manage and assess the risk of chemicals, including pesticides, and the Obama EPA will take a hard look at atrazine and other substances. This thorough review will rely on transparency and sound science, including independent scientific peer review. We will continue to closely track new scientific developments and will determine whether a change in our regulatory position is appropriate.”


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Syngenta setting the terms of Honeybee research?

HoneycombOver one third of U.S. honeybees have vanished recently in a phenomena called colony collapse disorder (CCD). While the causal factors appear to be complex and interactive, exposure to one class of common pesticides, neonicotinoids, is associated with the die-offs. Honeybees are vital to agriculture for the pollination services they provide, so scientists and government agencies are mobilizing significant funding streams to look into CCD’s causes. Meanwhile, Syngenta’s pesticide thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid, which scientists theorize affects the development of the bee larvae and the queen’s production of eggs, is among the bee-toxic pesticides on scientists’ radar. Bayer’s imidicloprid and clothianidin (also neonicotinoids) are also implicated as among the causal factors behind CCD.

A recent Guardian article sheds light on how chemical companies funding science have a way of dictating research agendas.  Warwick University is researching the “complex of interacting factors” — a study commissioned by the government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) “in partnership with Syngenta,” who is funding 10% of the project. The university says it intends to investigate “parasitic diseases caused by the varroa mite” and the “link between these diseases and the quality of pollen and nectar that the bees are feeding on,” but fails to mention pesticides in its press release. Leading Warwick researcher Dr. David Chandler confirmed that there is “no pesticide component in it at all.” According to the Guardian, the BBSRC doesn’t reveal who its committee members are and how they allocate public money, but in 2003 this information was publicly available on their website and listed executives from Syngenta, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Pfizer, Genetix plc, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Celltech and Unilever.

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