White House organic garden; Climate & food crisis; Lindane stories sought; more…

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panups20081231 supportaMarch 19, 2009


White House readies organic vegetable garden

panups20090319 organicGardenThe New York Times reports that “on Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden in World War II.” Produce from the organic garden will be used for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, but Ms. Obama says the most important role of the 1,100 square foot plot will be the education of children about healthful, locally-grown fruits and vegetables: “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.” The garden will feature 55 varieties of vegetables grown from organic seedlings in White House greenhouses, cultivated in raised-bed plots fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. A grassroots campaign for such a garden, sparked by Michael Pollan’s October 2008 New York Times column (“Farmer In Chief”), gained steam after November’s election. 

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Integrated solutions needed for water, climate and food crises

In a new report, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) argues the convergence of multiple crises — climate, food and water — requires a global shift from the industrial model of agriculture to more sustainable practices. Integrated Solutions to the Water, Agriculture and Climate Crises (PDF) traces the role of industrial agriculture in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, water use and pollution, and global hunger. The paper outlines the effects industrial agriculture has had on driving irrigated agriculture, massive water infrastructure projects and water withdrawals. “We can no longer afford to tackle these crises separately,” said IATP’s Shiney Varghese. “We must take a comprehensive approach that supports sustainable practices in agriculture that are good for people and the planet, protect our water resources and provide enough food for everyone.” In addition to pointing out key opportunities for change in the coming year, the report offers a series of recommendations to governments: an international rights-based approach that ensures water availability for ecosystems and people; support for agro-ecological practices including investments in the climate change-mitigating potential of agriculture; harmonization of policy approaches to water, agriculture and climate; recognition of women’s involvement in farming, food production and water management; and inclusion of small-scale farmers in reforming policy. These recommendations are consistent with findings of the recently published UN International Assessment of Agriculture (IAASTD), to which both IATP and Pesticide Action Network North America contributed as lead authors.

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Methyl bromide maker Chemtura in Chapter 11

panups20090319 fumigationChemtura, one of the largest chemical specialty companies in the U.S., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid plummeting sales. Formed in 2005 by the merger of Crompton and Great Lakes Chemical Corporations, the Connecticut-based company emerged as a major manufacturer of pesticides. Key products included the fumigants methyl bromide and chloropicrin, and seed-treatments including imidacloprid and mancozeb. Its primary markets are North America, Brazil and Eastern Europe. Chemtura’s filing is one of the latest signs of widespread weakness in the chemical industry, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 2002, Chemtura’s predecessor, Crompton, filed a NAFTA-based claim over Canada’s ban on lindane for seed treatment; settlement negotiations continue behind closed doors — despite the fact that lindane is no longer registered in the U.S. for agricultural uses. Meanwhile, Chemtura continues to promote use of ozone-depleting and highly-hazardous methyl bromide, exploiting a temporary exemption to the Montreal Protocol’s phaseout of the fumigant, won by the Bush Administration.

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Bill seeks ban on bisphenol A in food containers

A day after Sunoco, the gas and chemical company, sent word to investors that it was now refusing to sell bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, to companies for use in food and water containers for children younger than three, leaders from the House and Senate introduced legislation to establish a federal ban on bisphenol A in all food and beverage containers, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Tests of ten packaged products conducted for the Journal Sentinel last year found toxic levels of the chemical in all of them, including those marked “microwave safe.” Specific health effects associated with high levels of BPA include genital defects, behavioral changes, and abnormal development of mammary glands, identical to those observed in women at higher risk for breast cancer. The Journal Sentinel reviewed 258 scientific studies of BPA and found that an overwhelming majority of the studies demonstrated that the chemical was harmful — causing breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm counts, miscarriage, and other reproductive failures in laboratory animals.

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Global lindane ban campaign seeks stories

panups20090219 lindanePolicy-makers listen to community voices. To make the right decision on lindane, officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration need to hear from parents who refuse to use a pesticide-laden product on their child. Pesticide Action Network is inviting parents to join in sharing their lindane-free lice control success. Stories, photos and videos submitted to PAN will be presented to key FDA officials who are considering the US position on an upcoming global ban of lindane under the Stockholm Convention. “They need to know that we don’t need toxic chemicals to control lice,” says Kristin Schafer, PAN’s Associate Director for Advocacy. “Your stories will also give campaigners in Michigan the real-world evidence and encouragement they’ll need to protect children from lindane as a statewide ban is considered there this spring. We’ll then carry your stories with us to Geneva, Switzerland as PAN International makes a final push for a global lindane ban in May.” California PAN activists have already submitted their lindane-free lice control stories; lindane products were banned in the Golden State in 2001. 

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EPA releases database on environmental chemicals

The U.S. EPA has announced the availability of a new database that collects information on more than 500,000 synthetic chemicals from over 200 public sources. The Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR) database is designed to consolidate hundreds of data sources in a single place in order to allow greater public access than was previously available. According to the EPA press release, sources of information include: EPA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, various state databases, Health and Environment Canada, the European Union, the World Health Organization, and other international and non-governmental organizations, private companies and universities. 

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