Moncton Times & Transcript - Editorial
Enough delay, ban pesticides
The public has spoken and it is clear there is overwhelming support in
New Brunswick for a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides and the
provincial government must put such a ban in place before spring and
the advent of the lawn-spraying.
The Ipsos-Reid poll released Monday and commissioned by the Canadian
Cancer Society, the New Brunswick Lung Association and the Canadian
Association of Physicians for the Environment indicates a clear
majority of New Brunswickers support such action and that citizens are
well aware of the dangers of the chemicals and the fact there are
safer alternatives. As well, the poll confirms what the government has
already learned via its public consultations into the matter. Of the
approximately 1,500 submissions to government, more supported a ban
than the three other lesser options combined. It leaves little doubt
what the public wants and what government must do.
The poll found 79 per cent of people support a province-wide ban on
non-essential use of pesticides and almost as many (75 per cent)
support a ban on the sale of the pesticides. Eighty per cent believe
(correctly) that cosmetic pesticides pose potential health risks to
humans, while 85 per cent believe they put pets at risk.
Significantly, 72 per cent said they would stop using cosmetic
pesticides if they were shown non-toxic ways to maintain their lawns.
Surely the politicians don't fear controversy, for there will be very
No government should ignore such clear expressions of public will.
This government has been taking its good old time in acting and is at
least a year behind its original schedule, but now it has no excuse.
The public verdict is in. And there are precedents and legislation
from other provinces (Ontario and Quebec, for example) it can copy and
adapt. We are not inventing a new wheel.
This a matter of a clear and present danger to everybody's good
health; there is little for compromise. Lawn care firms may complain,
yet they continue to exist and thrive where such bans exist; they
merely need to adopt new methods, something they have been slow to do
voluntarily, despite years of public concern. It is time to force the
issue. That includes banning the sale of cosmetic pesticides to the
public, for a ban against use without a ban on the sale would be
futile and self-defeating.
The public has spoken, its will is strong and known, the science
supports the move, and elsewhere affected businesses have managed to
adapt. Delay, legislation that is easily circumvented in the name of
unnecessary "compromise" and a lengthy phase-in of the regulations
cannot be justified; they only prolong the serious risk posed to
public health. It is time to protect citizens. Nothing less will do.
Thu, Feb 19, 2009
The Kelowna Daily Courier
The Vernon Daily Courier
Letter: All pesticides are poisonous
Re: Jeffrey Lowes’ letters defending the pesticide industry on Feb. 6
I am retired intelligence analyst, currently an honorary Canadian
observer on the Pesticide Working Group based in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Lowes tells us that he is the “principle” investigator for MREP
Communications. In fact, he is not investigating any principles, but
is a principal, i.e. main investigator for his company.
The qualifications of the unspecified experts he refers to are quite
dubious. Who are they? Laymen, like himself, with an axe to grind?
Surely, a medical doctor he is ridiculing should be able to assess the
I beg to differ with Mr. Lowes that only some pesticides are poisons.
They all are, to a lesser and greater degree. After all the “cide”
means kill. When applied by so-called professionals, these synthetic
chemicals are no less deadly.
Moreover, the mere fact that these products are registered with Health
Canada means little. Health Canada has no labs of its own. Only the so-
called active portion of pesticides is tested by the industry. The
inert portion is untested, even though it may comprise as much as 99
per cent of the ready-to-use product.
Pesticides are tested on rats which have decontamination genes missing
in humans. The industry doesn’t test pesticides for human
neurotoxicity, vital development toxicity, endocrine (hormone)
disruption and routine contamination by dioxin.
The reputation of the lawn-care industry would benefit from an open
mind and a willingness to keep up with the times, embracing new,
effective methods of lawn maintenance.
Science is not a person and thus cannot dictate the course of action.
Science is merely a tool to be used or misused. Yes, indeed the Earth
is not flat and by the same token, pesticides are no longer sacred.
There is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s lawn. I do. I am not
exaggerating by saying that my weedless, pesticide-free lawn is the
envy of my immediate neighbourhood.
K. Jean Cottam,
February 20, 2009
President softens tone on NAFTA
Assures PM that he wants to grow trade
by Tonda MacCharles
OTTAWA–After a day of closed-door meetings dominated by economic
concerns, U.S. President Barack Obama assured skeptical Canadians he
is committed to free trade, open borders, and an integrated approach
to economic drivers like the energy and auto sectors.
In a joint news conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama
said he "recognized" Canada's concerns, but stressed the "Buy
American" provisions in his $785-billion (U.S.) recovery package will
not breach America's global free trade obligations.
"I provided Prime Minister Harper an assurance that I want to grow
trade and not contract it, and I don't think that there was anything
in the recovery package that is adverse to that goal."
Obama said he is "deeply concerned" about the North American auto
industry, and stressed he is "committed" to working closely with the
Canadian government to ensure its future health.
Obama's economic advisers are now reviewing GM's and Chrysler's
restructuring plans, submitted this week.
"One thing we know for certain is that there's going to have to be a
significant restructuring of that industry," the president said. He
cited the need for "all parties involved – shareholders, creditors,
workers, management, suppliers, dealers" to "figure out what is a
sustainable and vibrant North American auto industry."
Still, the two leaders clearly disagreed on the contentious issue of
whether to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement. Obama, who
campaigned on a pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, said he raised with
Harper his desire to incorporate side agreements on labour and the
environment "so that they can be effectively enforced."
But Obama has softened his language from last year's Democratic
primary campaign. He said yesterday it is important to "be very
careful about any signals of protectionism" when the world is trying
to shake off the global recession.
On NAFTA, it is unclear exactly what Obama is seeking, as the two side
agreements are already monitored for enforcement by separate
secretariats, including a labour co-operation secretariat located in
Washington, and one on the environment located in Montreal, with a
liaison office in Mexico.
Harper said the two had a "good discussion" of Obama's concerns, but
he did not welcome any move to reopen NAFTA, noting it is a "very
Harper said he is "confident" the U.S. will adhere to its
international trade obligations, but repeated his warning against
protectionist measures: "If we pursue stimulus packages the goal of
which is to benefit ourselves or to benefit ourselves, worse, at the
expense of others, we will deepen the world recession, not solve it."
Free trade, said Harper, has been nothing but mutually beneficial and
any trade concerns "are common trade challenges. They are not problems
between our countries."
The two leaders said they would direct money already laid out in their
respective economic stimulus packages toward improving border roads,
bridges and crossings to ease the flow of trade, and to developing
cleaner energy technologies.
Overall, Obama's language was welcomed by top Canadian government
officials. "What I heard was a president committed to trade
liberalization – that I heard, loud and clear," said Foreign Affairs
Minister Lawrence Cannon.
Thu Feb 19, 2009
Obama wants to alter NAFTA without hurting trade
OTTAWA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday he wanted
to begin talks to add enforceable labor and environmental provisions
to the North American Free Trade Agreement without disrupting trade.
"My hope is as our advisors and staffs and economic teams work this
through that there's a way of doing this that is not disruptive to the
extraordinarily important trade relationship that exists between the
United States and Canada," Obama said at a joint news conference in
Ottawa with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Obama promised during last year's presidential campaign to "fix" NAFTA
by adding enforceable labor and environmental provisions to the core
of the pact and by changing an investment measure that critics say
gives business too much power to challenge government regulations.
That raised concerns in both Canada and Mexico about the future of the
pact, which has been in force for 15 years.
Although NAFTA already has labor and environmental provisions, those
are contained in separate "side" agreements rather in the core text of
"It strikes me, if those side agreements mean anything, then they
might as well be incorporated into the main body of the agreements so
that they can be effectively enforced," Obama said.
"I think it is important, whether we're talking about our
relationships with Canada or our relationships with Mexico, that all
countries concerned are thinking about how workers are being treated,"
Obama also defended "Buy American" provisions of the new $787 billion
U.S. stimulus package, saying they would be implemented in accord with
both NAFTA and World Trade Organization rules.
He said it was important that countries resist "beggar-thy-neighbor"
policies in the midst of the current world economic contraction to
avoid making it worse.
"And as obviously one of the largest economies in the world, it's
important for us to make sure that we are showing leadership in the
belief that trade ultimately is beneficial to all countries," Obama
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Todd Eastham)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Renegotiating NAFTA on hold, Obama says
by Michael D. Shear, Washington Post
President Obama on Thursday warned against a "strong impulse" toward
protectionism while the world suffers a global economic recession and
said his election-year promise to renegotiate the North American Free
Trade Agreement on behalf of unions and environmentalists will have to
Obama made the comments as he stood with Prime Minister Stephen Harper
in his first trip abroad as president. The two pledged cooperation on
efforts to stimulate the economy, fight terrorism and develop clean
In a joint news conference, Obama said he wants to find a way to keep
his campaign pledge to toughen labor and environmental standards - and
told Harper so - but stressed that nothing must disrupt the free flow
of trade between neighbors.
"Now is a time where we've got to be very careful about any signals of
protectionism," the president said. "Because, as the economy of the
world contracts, I think there's going to be a strong impulse on the
part of constituencies in all countries to see if we - they can engage
in beggar-thy-neighbor policies."
The president's message served as a reminder of last year's private
assessment by Canadian officials that then-candidate Obama's frequent
criticisms of NAFTA were nothing more than campaign speeches aimed at
chasing support among Rust Belt union workers.
"Much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is
more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," the Canadians
concluded in a memo after meeting with Austan Goolsbee, a senior
campaign aide and now a member of Obama's Council of Economic
When the memo became public, Obama advisers rejected the idea as
absurd and insisted that he was serious about changing NAFTA. Obama
even suggested that the United States might opt out of NAFTA if the
standards couldn't be improved to America's satisfaction.
But some longtime observers of the U.S.-Canada relationship said
Obama's current position appears to confirm the impression that
Canadian officials got from the meeting with Goolsbee.
"It sounds like (Goolsbee) was right," said former Massachusetts Gov.
Paul Cellucci, who served as U.S. ambassador to Canada during
President George W. Bush's first term. "It looks like (President Obama
has) softened that quite a bit, to put it mildly."
That could anger some of Obama's staunchest labor supporters, who
blame NAFTA for sending American jobs to other countries by not
requiring a level playing field in the areas of labor and the
But some of those allies are giving the president more time to make
good on his promise and praised Obama for finding a sophisticated way
to express support for trade and changes to NAFTA.
Obama and Harper also pledged to work together in the fight against
terrorism, especially in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers have
been fighting for years.
Another key topic brought up Thursday was Canada's extensive oil-rich
tar sands. Industry officials estimate the northern Alberta sands
could yield as many as 175 billion barrels of oil, making Canada
second only to Saudi Arabia in crude oil reserves. But the extraction
process produces a high amount of the greenhouse gases blamed for
climate change. Environmental groups want Obama to resist Harper's
efforts to exempt them from regulation.
Harper suggested that the kind of emissions regulations that
environmentalists would like Obama to support would be unfair, making
a comparison to the U.S. coal industry.
The president instead focused on the idea of developing carbon capture
and storage to help turn the sands into a clean source of power, a
largely unproven and not yet cost-effective technology that would bury
harmful emissions underground.
The topic was the only one to produce an announcement, though a minor
one. The leaders said they had decided to begin a new clean-energy
dialogue to advance carbon-reduction technologies and the development
of a modern electric grid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article appeared on page A - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Feb 20, 2009
The News & Observer
State unable to uphold pesticide case
The state could prove only six of about 200 safety charges against Ag-
by Kristin Collins, Staff Writer
RALEIGH - State regulators once described tomato-grower Ag-Mart as the
biggest pesticide offender in state history, routinely exposing
hundreds of workers to toxic chemicals.
But on Thursday, after years of legal battles, the state Pesticide
Board decided that it could prove only six of about 200 worker safety
accusations that had been levied against the company.
The board fined the company $3,000 for allowing workers to return to
the fields too soon after dangerous pesticides had been sprayed. The
state originally wanted to fine the company nearly $185,000.
It was a quiet end to a case that lasted more than three years, drew
national attention and prompted state officials to overhaul pesticide
regulations. It started after three Ag-Mart workers gave birth to
deformed babies, one of whom had no arms or legs.
The Florida-based company grows several hundred acres of its Santa
Sweets and Ugly Ripe tomatoes in an isolated part of Brunswick County,
about 130 miles south of Raleigh. The company employs hundreds of
temporary workers and sells its products at grocery stores nationwide.
Investigators in North Carolina, Florida and New Jersey -- the three
states where the international company grows its tomatoes -- pored
over the company's records and accused it of ignoring laws intended to
keep workers safe from toxic pesticide residue. But in the end,
neither North Carolina nor Florida was able to prove most of the
charges. The New Jersey case continues.
"Everybody wanted to know, why did these women have these deformed
babies?" said Mark Ash, Ag-Mart's Raleigh attorney, after the decision
was announced. "I understand why they started the investigation. I
just don't think they ever bothered to pay attention to the evidence."
Ash said the company is not guilty of any of the worker safety
charges, and that the state continues to base its remaining charges on
a misreading of Ag-Mart's documents.
The Pesticide Board made its decision in closed session, and its
members declined to comment Thursday on their reasons for dismissing
most of the violations.
The seven-member board, made up of state officials, farmers and other
volunteers, is charged with overseeing the state's pesticide
The fine it issued Thursday will be in addition to a $21,000 fine
levied against Ag-Mart in March for practices unrelated to worker
safety, such as burning of pesticide containers.
Officials with the state Department of Agriculture, which investigated
Ag-Mart and brought the charges, released only a brief statement.
"We're pleased that the board agreed with the department that willful
violations of the law were committed," spokesman Brian Long said.
Observers and worker advocates called Thursday's decision a sad ending
to a case they once thought would protect farm workers from dangerous
conditions in the fields.
Fawn Pattison, head of the anti-pesticide group Toxic Free North
Carolina, said the case exposes a need for a complete overhaul of
state pesticide regulations.
"It is really telling that this is the state's most egregious case in
history, the biggest case they've ever investigated, and they've only
been able to uphold a tiny fraction of the charges," Pattison said.
"We just don't have the kinds of laws and regulations that let us
enforce in these kinds of cases, particularly if you get some high-
paid lawyers involved."
During three years of hearings and legal filings, the case presented a
cloudy picture of Ag-Mart.
Some workers, including the mother of the limbless boy, said under
oath that they were frequently exposed to pesticides. They said the
sprayers often came so close to them while they were working in the
fields that chemical mists landed on their skin, making them sick and
giving them rashes.
The parents of the boy, Carlitos Candelario, who is now 4 and
developing normally save for his lack of arms and legs, sued the
company. Ag-Mart paid an undisclosed settlement that the parents said
is enough to care for him for life.
But other former workers, including the mother of a boy born with a
jaw deformity, said they had never been exposed to pesticides in Ag-
Further muddying the case, state law does not require records that
would definitively show when pesticides were applied and when workers
were in the fields. Without those records, the state had to base its
case on vague records that could not pinpoint the locations of
Task force named
The difficulties in prosecuting Ag-Mart spurred then-Gov. Mike Easley
to appoint a pesticide task force, which suggested several reforms to
state pesticide law. State regulations now require that farms log the
exact times of pesticide applications.
But Pattison said the reforms didn't go far enough to ensure that a
company such as Ag-Mart could be fairly prosecuted in the future. She
said the state must require growers to document exactly when and where
workers are in the fields, so state investigators know whether they
were kept out of the fields while pesticides were being applied. And
she said fines, which are limited to $500 per violation, should be
"Even these few charges they ended up with, we're still talking about
sending people into fields full of toxic chemicals, and some of the
workers may have been pregnant," Pattison said. "I think it's more
serious than $3,000."
The company can now appeal the decision to Superior Court. Ash said he
wasn't sure whether Ag-Mart would continue with its appeals.
* Read more about Ag-Mart and other pesticide cases
© Copyright 2009, The News & Observer Publishing Company
Lobbyists Fuel Perchlorate Debate
Source: Mother Jones, February 2009
"For decades prior to passage of clean-water laws in the 1970s,
defense firms routinely dumped perchlorate, used in rocket fuel to
generate an intense burn, into the ground and waterways. The substance
has tainted water supplies in at least 26 states," and is linked to
such health threats as "neurological impairments for infants."
Military companies and U.S. Defense Department officials have
succeeded in delaying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from
setting limits on perchlorate in drinking water, including by funding
their own studies. In 2007 and 2008, Senator Barbara Boxer and
Representative Hilda Solis pushed bills to require the EPA to set
perchlorate standards. After Boxer's bill was approved in committee,
"an unidentified member of the Senate placed a hold on it, blocking it
from coming to a vote. ... With the Senate bill stalled, the House ...
didn't bother to move ahead with Solis' legislation." Former Senator
Richard Bryan and his former legislative director, Brent Heberlee,
were lobbying on the issue, for perchlorate manufacturers and users
Aerojet, Alliant Techsystems, American Pacific Corporation and Tronox.
The two pocketed "at least $200,000 in lobbying fees for their work."
As a Senator, Bryan supported drinking-water improvements in his home
state of Nevada. As Nevada's governor, Bryan dealt with a factory
explosion due to perchlorate. New EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has
signaled her intention to address the issue, likely meaning "more
wrangling -- and more lucrative work" for Bryan and Heberlee.
The Plot to Kill Google
Source: Wired, January 19, 2009
Google, the powerful online search service, is coming under attack
from enemies including Microsoft and AT&T, report Nicholas Thompson
and Fred Vogelstein. The company's enemies include business
competitors; traditional advertisers, who are losing revenues to
online advertising; and internet service providers whose interests
clash with Google's support for net neutrality. Last year, Thompson
and Vogelstein note, the anti-Google coalition got the U.S. Department
of Justice to kill a proposed business deal between Google and the
Yahoo! company. "Microsoft hired lobbyists who knew how to drum up
support among rural and Latino groups, and before long organizations
as far-reaching as the American Corn Growers Association and the
Dominican American Business Network had voiced their opposition," they
write. For PR support in that campaign, Microsoft turned to LMG, a
secretive Washington DC public affairs firm that specializes in
astroturf campaigns. Thompson and Vogelstein expect the anti-Google
campaign to intensify in 2009, with a focus on painting the company as
a threat to personal privacy.