Sunday, January 18, 2009
Get with the anti-pesticide programme...And More
The Delta Optimist
Group working towards cosmetic pesticide ban
by Sandor Gyarmati
Delta should follow the lead of other Lower Mainland cities that havebanned the use of cosmetic pesticides on private property.
That's the goal of the Delta Working Group on Cosmetic Pesticides,which is preparing a presentation it plans to make to Delta council inthe next few weeks.
Comprised of several organizations, including the Cougar CreekStreamkeepers, Delta Nature (formerly Delta Naturalists), DeltaEarthwise Society and the Canadian Cancer Society, the working groupwants to outline the latest information on the subject and what otherjurisdictions have done.
"We have a new council, so they'd probably want some education on allthis as well," said spokesperson Judy Kilcup.
"This isn't a new issue for Lower Mainland municipalities at all."
Last summer the group made several public presentations about cosmeticpesticides and cancer concerns as part of an educational campaign.
Kilcup said education would be needed prior to having a ban in orderto encourage property owners to seek alternatives.
She said although the goal is to eventually have a bylaw banning theuse of the products in Delta, her group might not ask for a ban rightaway until there's more information provided to the public, with thehelp of the municipality. If a bylaw is eventually passed, theeducation campaign would still have to continue, she said.
"From the literature I've read, it's most effective when there's botheducation and a bylaw going on," said Kilcup.
A municipal ban wouldn't stop people from buying products because onlythe provincial government has the power to ban sales.
More than 130 municipalities across Canada, including 14 in B.C., andthe province of Quebec have implemented bylaws restricting thecosmetic use of pesticides on public and private land.
Delta working group member Brita Colero, a community action co-ordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society, said the focus of hersociety and the various community groups that have banded together isto ban cosmetic pesticides on lawns and gardens, not on farms.
Last November, however, the Canadian Cancer Society released theresults of a poll that found 60 per cent of Canadians are concernedabout pesticide residue on fruit and vegetables.
Saying he has no problem with a ban on cosmetic pesticides andherbicides for private yards and gardens, Delta Farmers' Institutepresident John Savage said he's concerned there would an attempt toban pesticide use for agriculture.
"We're responsible farmers. We care about the environment just as muchas anybody else and we would not use something that was negative topublic health or the land."
When it comes to pesticides in public parks, Delta parks andrecreation director Ken Kuntz noted municipalities generally don't usethem unless they receive a permit from the province for specialcircumstances, such as spraying to eradicate mosquitoes in the WestNile virus program.© The Delta Optimist 2009
Sunday 18 January 2009
Get with the anti-pesticide programme
by Graham Harvey
The National Farmers' Union must stop backing the poisoners, pullitself out of the 1970s and celebrate the call for healthier food
Once more the National Farmers' Union – the lobby organisation for thepeople who grow our food – is fighting a ludicrous campaign againsthealthier food.
A recent vote in the European parliament will result in a ban on aclutch of pesticide products deemed "hazardous" to human health.Backed by the majority of member states as well as by MEPs, the newpesticide legislation aims to halve the number of toxic products usedin farming by the year 2013.
You'd expect British farmers – the principal food suppliers to thepeople of these islands – to be wholly behind such a plan. It's hardto see how a measure designed to reduce the toxic load on consumerscould be anything other than good.
But showing a bizarre propensity for shooting itself in the foot, theNFU has taken the side of the polluters and the poisoners. The unionwarns darkly that without these chemicals yields of cereal crops suchas wheat and barley could fall by one-third. Some staple vegetablessuch as carrots – shock, horror – might not be economic to grow in theUK at all.
Behind it all is the thinly veiled warning that if farmers aren'tallowed to use the full, high-tech arsenal of pesticides, GM crops andanimal factories they want, we're all eventually going to go short offood.
It's all a lot of nonsense, of course. Each year I manage to grow aperfectly decent crop of carrots in my garden without even the merestdusting of pesticide. More to the point, I know plenty of organicfarmers who grow substantial carrot crops – and cereal crops for thatmatter – without any of the herbicides, insecticides and plant growthhormones so beloved of NFU members.
The difference is that organic farmers grow their crops on fertilesoils enriched by traditional mixed farming methods with their cloverleys and grazing livestock. The methods so stoutly defended by the NFUdepend on pesticides only because their soils have been impoverishedby decades of hammering with chemical fertilisers.
If today's farmers got their soils in decent shape they could manageperfectly well without this particular range of toxic products.
The fig leaf for the NFU's stance is, as always, "sound science". It'sclaimed that all pesticide products are rigorously tested, and theiruse today is in accordance with the best science. Let's not forgetthat in the 1980s it was the "best science" that obliged us all to goon eating contaminated meat even though half the nation's dairy cowswere in the grip of mad cow disease.
The best science had it that the prion agent of the disease couldn'tjump the species barrier. Then after 10 years the scientists decidedwell, maybe it could. And we all regretted that the policy-makershadn't made more use of the precautionary principle.
When it comes to pesticide use there isn't a research group in theworld that could assess with accuracy the health risks of long-termexposure to a clutch of different pesticide residues. In the light ofthis the EU has decided to ban the most hazardous chemicals, allowingtime for the industry to adjust.
If British farmers cared a jot for the health of the national diet,I'd expect them to applaud this development, not jeer from the wings.
They could take their cue from the Co-op. Long before the EU beganlegislating, the Co-op retail chain decided unilaterally that it wouldban the use by its suppliers of what it considered to be the mosthazardous pesticides. At the time all had been approved for use in theUK. But the Co-op insisted that, for the sake of its customers, itwould no longer permit them to be used in its products.
As expected there was an outcry from the chemical industry and itsfriends at the NFU. However, the supermarket group stuck to its gunsand the offending chemicals were used no more. Though the industrywarned of dire consequences, I see no evidence that the shelves of Co-op stores are today depleted of healthy vegetables.
The fact is we now live in a consumer age and the NFU needs to get togrips with the fact. NFU policy is still stuck somewhere in the 1970swhen farmers and politicians pretty well decided what the peopleshould eat, how it should be produced, even how much it should cost inthe shops. The union still seems to expect policymakers to stitch upsecret deals in support of the producer interest.
The Strasbourg vote shows those days have long gone. The policymakersrecognise that what consumers want are not low-cost commodities, butbetter, healthier and more local foods. Why on earth can't the farmerscelebrate this?
Instead of campaigning for the pesticide industry the NFU should setitself a new set of objectives. Why not start campaigning forhealthier foods, a healthier countryside and a better future forfamily farms? That way the union might just about become relevant tothe 21st century.
Sun, Jan. 18, 2009
Lost coloniesThe large-scale disappearance of the humble honeybee threatensagriculture worldwide
By John Murawski - Staff Writer
At first sight, the fallout scene seems all too familiar. The victimsstagger about in a daze, while others stare blankly in apathy, readyto die. Then the visitor is struck by an unsettling fact: Most of thepopulation has simply vanished, as if the residents fled in panic. Thesite is well stocked with food and shows no signs of physical damage.Something has gone terribly wrong here, yet the once-bustlingmetropolis offers few clues to explain its collapse.
It might be a scene from a Star Trek episode, or a journal entry by ananthropologist describing some lost colony. But this mystery is muchcloser to home. The victims are honeybees, dying off en masse from anuncertain cause. Something like a quarter of America's honeybeecolonies has perished in the past two years, threatening the world'smultibillion dollar agricultural industry, which depends on bees topollinate flowers and set fruit and vegetables. Some crops -- likealmonds, watermelons and blueberries -- are dependent on honeybees.The mortality syndrome is a worldwide concern, destroying domesticatedhoneybees and threatening wild bees as well.
The victims and villains of this unfolding drama have been documentedin several books already, among them Rowan Jacobsen's "Fruitless Fall:The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis."Jacobsen is a food and environmental writer who takes up the plight ofthe honeybee by merging science with suspense to serve up anepidemiologic detective story.
Bees are nature's sexual go-betweens, spreading pollen from maleflowers to impregnate the females and cause their ovaries to swellinto fruit pods. Wind does the work for some plants -- scattering thelove dust of grasses and pine trees -- but more evolutionarilyadvanced species are locked into an a complex interdependence withpollinator insects. Most wild insects will work a few types offlowers, but the honeybee is indiscriminate, a universal pollinatingmachine.
The bees aren't facing a single enemy. They are besieged by chemicals,pathogens and habitat destruction. The consequences of a bee-lessworld are already here, Jacobsen shows. Day laborers in Sichuan,China, are forced to hand-pollinate pear tree blossoms because thebees have been exterminated by insecticide. Vanilla farmers in Mexicomust pollinate their vanilla orchid with the aid of a toothpickbecause the non-stinging local bees have been wiped out bydeforestation. The passion fruit industry of Brazil today relies onhumans to spread pollen by hand from passion flower to passion flowerbecause the native carpenter bee buzzes no more.
Honeybees aren't accidental guests wafting with the breezes. The hivesare trucked and flown all over this country and Europe, following theagricultural bloom cycle, not unlike the seasonal circuit of migrantfarm workers. Beekeeping is a big business, and millions of theseindustrious creatures are leased out to farmers to perform theiraerial mission to enable plants to reproduce.
Several years ago honeybees here and in Europe began showingdisturbing signs. A beekeeper would open his hive and find plenty ofhoney, but the bees crawled about aimlessly, as if stunned andconfused. Most of the bees were just gone. It's assumed their internalGPS systems went haywire and they never found their way home.
Afflicted bees exhibit dementia-like symptoms that suggest wingedpatients with advanced cases of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.When analyzed in an incubator, the sick honeybees sprouted fungus fromtheir mouths and anuses. Scientists discovered the bees were infestedwith disease, and -- giving rise to the AIDS analogy -- they lackedimmune systems. The list of suspected causes has included viruses andpesticides, parasites and miticides, fungi and fungicides, but theexperts haven't been able to pinpoint a single email@example.com or 919-829-8932
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St. John's Daily Spray Advisory
My Past Articles
More enforcement needed for pesticide spray regulations
The Western Star (Corner Brook) - Final - 10-01-2002 - 413 words
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