Wednesday, January 14, 2009
EU assembly votes to ban toxic pesticides
EU assembly votes to ban toxic pesticides
By Jeremy Smith
BRUSSELS, Jan 13 (Reuters) - European Parliament members voted onTuesday to ban some of the most toxic and dangerous pesticides tohuman health.
The move, likely to be endorsed by EU ministers in the next weeks,would let groups of countries with similar geography and climatedecide whether farmers may use specific products.
A list of EU-approved "active substances" will be drawn up, withcertain highly toxic chemicals to be banned unless their effect can beshown to be negligible -- such as pesticides classified ascarcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction.
That list will provide the basis for national EU governments tolicense each pesticide.
Pesticides already approved will remain available until their 10-yearauthorisation expires, so there should be no sudden large-scalewithdrawal of products from the market.
Tuesday's vote was made smoother by a deal struck last month byparliament, the EU's executive commission and the bloc's 27 nationalgovernments to hammer out the remaining political difficulties for afinal agreement on the new pesticide rules.
EU states will be able to approve pesticides nationally or via mutualrecognition within 120 days, with countries divided into three zones-- north, centre and south -- so pesticides can be approved for aregion rather than a single country.
At present, approvals apply only for individual countries and there isno deadline set for mutual recognition approvals.
Crucially, EU countries will be allowed to ban a product, because ofspecific environment or agricultural circumstances.
Aerial crop-spraying will mostly be banned, with strict conditionsplaced on pesticides used near aquatic environments and drinking watersupplies. Buffer zones will be set up around water and protected areasalong roads and railways.
The changes agreed will make EU rules primarily a hazard-based, notrisk-based, approach since they treat products in three categories:whether they are proven or suspected carcinogens, or whether there hasbeen some observation -- but no actual evidence -- of carcinogenicbehaviour.
The classifications, known as cut-off criteria, have annoyed Europe'spesticides industry, which says the new law will remove products fromthe market that have been used safely for years.
"The banning criteria are of major concern to industry and the wholeEuropean food chain. European farmers have already lost 60 percent ofthe substances previously available in 1991," the European CropProtection Association (ECPA) said.
ECPA is an umbrella organisation that represents Europe's majorpesticides companies. Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research),BASF (BASF.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) AND Syngenta AG (SYNN.VX:Quote, Profile, Research) are among those which would be affected bynew EU rules.
Many EU scientists, for example -- backed by countries like Britain --have been fighting this approach and say fewer available pesticideswill lead to resistance problems since pests that are regularlytreated with a single product type, not a range of products, willdevelop tolerance.
This would damage agricultural productivity and make farming ofcertain crops in Europe uncompetitive, such as wheat and barley,cotton, potatoes and a range of fruits and vegetables, since yieldswould be reduced, they say.
© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.
Balance elusive in EU pesticide debate
By Dominic HughesBBC News, Brussels
Chemicals which can cause serious illnesses have been banned from usein pesticides by MEPs in Strasbourg.
The 22 substances are linked to cancer, can damage the reproductiveand nervous systems, and also disrupt hormones.
The argument over their use has been raging for years, and the battleto get the ban approved in the European Parliament saw a huge lobbyingcampaign by farming groups as well as the chemical companies thatmanufacture pesticides.
Dire warnings were issued about the collapse in Europe's agriculturalproduction should the legislation go ahead - a 100% fall in carrotproduction in the UK alone; a devastating effect on pea production;problems for farmers growing wheat and potatoes.
In turn, said the farmers, this would lead to rising prices, just asconsumers are looking down the barrel of a nasty recession and concernover world food shortages is growing.
In fact, most farmers would like to work towards reducing pesticideuse, as it is an expensive business.
In the heart of Belgium's fruit-growing region of Limburg, Luc Belsand his family have been growing apples, pears and cherries since the1950s.
They have around 100 hectares of orchards, which in a good year mayproduce more than 4m kilograms of fruit.
In a large shed behind the house, crates of autumn apples are beingcarefully washed and sorted.
Mr Bels says their most important product is the unblemished fruitthat attracts the best price - the only kind the picky Europeanconsumer will buy.
Over the past few years, they have cut the number of pesticides theyuse, instead encouraging the natural predators that eat the insectsattacking the fruit.
But, walking through his snow-covered orchard, Mr Bels says there arestill some pesticides that he has to use - and the new laws will hithim hard.
"It's going to have a great impact. Of course we've come a long way -we use far less products than we did 15 years ago," he says.
"But still we need some plant protection products [pesticides],because we need to produce a high quality of apples and pears. Theconsumer wants good quality, a high quality without [blemishes] on thefruit."
One particular bug-bear is the change in the legislation from anassessment of risk to one of hazard - in other words, if there is anythreat to health whatsoever, a pesticide will be banned.
Neil Parrish is a British Conservative MEP, chairman of the Committeeon Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament - anda farmer.
He says the new legislation is badly thought through.
"I think it goes too far," he says. "I think it's taking chemicals offthe market which, if they are used properly, are not a problem.
"It's a little bit like in our kitchen - if we use too much salt, orate too much salt, it would either do us a lot of harm or actuallykill us."
He adds: "These chemicals have a hazard, but if they are properly usedunder a risk basis, and there are proper withdrawal periods, then wecan grow our crops."
But campaigners against pesticides say the farmers and bigagribusinesses have exaggerated their case.
At the home of Henriette Christensen, of the group Pesticide ActionNetwork, she is serving her children dinner - on the menu tonight,organic corn-on-the-cob.
Perhaps that is not surprising, given her concern about the amount ofchemicals we eat in everyday food.
"It's difficult to prove that one pesticide is causing you to die in20 years' time from cancer because you're not only eating onepesticide," she says.
"You're eating a lot of different pesticides. You have a combinationof pesticides. On average, there are 50 different pesticides in abunch of grapes."
Some campaigners say the new laws do not go far enough - and MsChristensen for one believes this is just the beginning.
And there will still be arguments over exactly which specific productswill be banned.
Most will not be affected until 2013 and, if no alternative productexists, farmers will be able to carry on using them for another fiveyears.
But with both sides accusing the other of overstating the dangersthere is still no agreement on the balance between total consumerprotection - and acceptable risk.
Wednesday January 14th, 2009
Riverview man not happy with findings of herbicide use at CFB Chatham
By Corinna Yates
MIRAMICHI - Richard Trevor's grew up in the lower end of Douglasfieldabout a mile and a half from Canadian Forces Base Chatham. Now livingin Riverview he is not happy with the findings from the NationalDefence Department concerning herbicide use at CFB Chatham from 1959to 1988.
Richard, who has been plagued with health problems most of his adultlife, decided to take it upon himself several years ago to push thedepartment for answers.
Living in Manitoba for thirty years before moving back to theMiramichi five years ago, Richard has had many health problems.
He had half his stomach removed in the early 1970s and 1 foot of hisbowel due to diverticulitis. At age 44 he had a 90 per cent blockagein two of his arteries. Two years ago he had bladder repair andprostrate surgery. He has never been able to father children becausehe is sterile.
When visiting an emergency room doctor a few years back he questionedTrevors on whether or not he had ever been exposed to chemicals.
"That made me wonder if my health problems were not connected somehowto living so close to the base?" he said. "I can remember watchingwhen I was a young boy as they flew over the lower end of Douglasfieldspraying. I was young and never thought anything of it."
Trevors believes his health problems have a lot to do with spraying atCFB Chatham.
"I know people will say, 'he's at it again,' but I don't care, I gotthis far and I'm not giving up," he stated.
In August of 2005National Defence, with participation from Veteransaffairs Canada, Health Canada, and additional departments and agenciesinitiated a fact-finding mission to gain information on the history ofherbicides tested and used at CFB Gagetown from 1952 to the presentday. A major inter-departmental effort occurred over the next twoyears to conduct the analysis necessary to provide all the facts,including the testing in June 1966 and in June 1967, of Agent Orange,Agent Purple and other unregistered herbicides at CFB Gagetown.
The review was completed in Dec 2008. No Agent Orange or Purple wastested on bases elsewhere in Canada.
"This should be made known to the public," Trevors said.
A list sent to Trevors listing the agents used at CFB Chatham from1959 to 1988 were a wide range of chemicals. No agents were specifiedduring 1960 or 1965, however spraying did take place because it listsweed control, brush control, and soil sterilization during thosetimes. Of the chemicals listed in 1984 — 2, 4-D omines was used forweed control and 2, 4, 5-T was used for worm and grasshopper control.
The 2, 4-D was first used in the late 1940s because it was easy andinexpensive to manufacture. It is still the most commonly usedherbicide in the world. In addition, 2, 4, 5-T was a widely usedbroadleaf herbicide until being phased out starting in the late 1970s.
Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War was a mixture of 2, 4, 5-Tand 2, 4-D omines. While 2, 4, 5-T itself is of only moderatetoxicity, the manufacturing process of this chemical contaminates thischemical with trace amounts of TCDD which is extremely toxic tohumans. It was withdrawn from use in the USA in 1983. The findings didindicate that all chemicals were registered under the pest controlproducts act.
When contacted in regards to Trevors' concerns and the findings he wasdirected to Claude Perras from National Defence, who declined to speakabout the issue.
"I need to talk to our public affairs people before I can discuss aresponse."
He did comment however that he "talked to project manager about thisstudy," and is in the process of sending Trevors more information.
"I am a very aggressive guy," Trevors said. "I want to know why theydidn't identify what chemicals they sprayed for those two years in1960 and 1965. I still believe that my health problems have a lot todo with CFB Chatham."
"My positive attitude has kept me going," he added. "It's not just methat has had health problems. Several of my family members have hadstomach problems and I have had calls from people from the surroundingareas that have lost a loved one to cancer."
His said his perspective is to never give up and he is going to keepfighting and looking for answers from the department.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Arsenic a deal-breaker
Newmarket subdivision homebuyers angry over nearby soil contamination
By BRETT CLARKSON, SUN MEDIA
NEWMARKET -- They feel like they've been had and many of them wanttheir money back.
Angered homebuyers of a Bathurst St. and Mulock Dr. subdivision wherethe surrounding woodlands and trails have shown elevated levels ofarsenic want to know why the developer didn't disclose this whileselling the houses.
About 150 buyers and potential buyers of the Summerhill Woodsdevelopment packed a Q and A session at Newmarket Town Hall lastnight, but many left feeling their questions hadn't been answered.
"Why was this allowed to happen?" one frustrated woman asked, whileanother buyer asked angrily, "Why was the developer allowed tocontinue with construction?"
And while the panel of experts included Newmarket mayor Tony VanBynen, several environmental scientists and consultants, as well asYork Region associate medical officer of health Dr. Erica Weir, theaudience wanted to hear from the developer, Criterion DevelopmentCorp., and the builder, Acorn Homes.
Three reps from the companies sat at the back and declined to speak,saying they were there merely as "observers." After the meeting, theywouldn't answer questions fielded at them by a reporter.
"I'm upset by their lack of response and I'm upset that my only optionis to see my lawyer," said retiree Barry Robson, who bought a home inSummerhill Woods in the fall of 2007. Robson, who paid about $400,000for his home, wants his money back.
"If we had known about soil contamination of any kind, we would'vewalked away to begin with," said Robson. "If the developer isconvinced the development still has the same value as before, then letany buyer out of the purchase with all monies refunded."
He said he was only notified on Dec. 3, 2008, of the elevated levelsof arsenic in the woods and trails immediately surrounding his home,and the arsenic-compromised topsoil that had been removed from theresidential construction site prior to the building of thesubdivision.
The increased arsenic levels were caused by lead arsenate pesticidesfrom the early 1900s to the 1960s, when the area was mainly farmlandand orchards. Long-term exposure is associated with cancer.
Van Bynen promised the town will do all it can to find a constructivesolution, but stated the town doesn't have legal authority to forcethe developer to give buyers their money back.
How Big Tobacco Deals With Adverse Research -- and Researchers
Topics: corporate campaigns propaganda tobaccoSource: American Journal of Public Health, January, 2009 (sub req'd)
A case study in the January issue of the American Journal of PublicHealth shows the extent to which the tobacco industry works to derailresearch -- and researchers -- that could adversely affect it. Thestudy examines the experiences of University of California cardiologyprofessor Stanton Glantz, who conducted research on a wide range oftobacco-related topics, from the effects of secondhand smoke on theheart, to the reductions in heart attacks observed when smokefreepolicies are enacted, to how the tobacco industry influenceslegislation and fights tobacco control programs. For a ten year period-- between 1988 and 1998 -- the industry responded by quietly workingthrough third parties to denigrate Glantz to his superiors andpublicly portray him as extremist, unqualified or politicallymotivated. They ran ads against him in major newspapers, paidscientists to write letters to publications discrediting his work andformed front groups to try and create the appearance of a grassrootsuprising against his work. They brought several lawsuits againstGlantz and his institution, and worked through tobacco-friendlylegislators to try and cut off federal funding for his research. Theauthors point out how such extreme attacks by industry can influencepolicymaking and discourage other scientists from doing work that mayexpose them to similar attacks. They conclude that the support ofscientists' employers is crucial to the continued advancement ofpublic health.
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