Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is EPA hiding information about honeybee disappearance?

We've been hearing about the mysterious illness affecting honeybees for some time now - colony collapse disorder, or CCD. It appears that this year has been even worse than last for beekeepers in the US. Pesticides are one of the leading suspects in this mystery, and attention has turned to a relatively new product called clothianidin, which is made by Bayer CropScience. In Bayer's home nation of Germany, clothianidin was recently banned for suspected effects on honeybees. Here in the US, the product is still very much in use, and the EPA has failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from NRDC about the chemical's effects on honeybees. So, earlier this month, NRDC sued Bayer.
Get more on this development in the CCD story from NRDC, from Grist Magazine, and from the Raleigh News & Observer.
Want to do something more than fret? Please consider writing a letter to the editor of the Raleigh News & Observer - here are some tips for writing good letters to the editor from the NC Conservation Network, and instructions for submitting a letter to the News & Observer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WRAL Exposé on Farmworkers and Pesticides to Air Tomorrow Night!

For the past several months, WRAL-TV has been working on a documentary piece regarding farmworkers, pesticides and North Carolina's pesticide law. The documentary, entitled "Focal Point - Practical Application" will feature farmworkers talking about their own experiences working with pesticides. Many of our allies from the Farmworker Advocacy Network (not to mention our very own executive director Fawn Pattison) will also be featured discussing loopholes in our state's pesticide policy. Click here for the preview. Looks like some good old fashioned hard-hitting journalism!

WRAL will air its documentary entitled "Focal Point - Practical Application" tomorrow, Wednesday August 20th at 7 p.m. Tune in to see farmworkers and advocates making a powerful case for change!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Farmworker Engagement, Documentary Style

Image (right): A wash bucket used for laundering clothes sits next to a building at a farmworker camp. Photo: A. Duncan Pardo.

This week we're wrapping up a summer audio documentary project interviewing North Carolina farmworkers about their experiences working with pesticides. Student Action with Farmworkers interns Rachel, Pablo, Alejandra and I conducted the interviews and collected workers' recommendations on how best to achieve meaningful reforms for pesticide use as well as other pressing farmworker concerns.

My interview took place in Eastern NC with a man named Bernardo, who comes here every year to work in tobacco and cucumber. He had major concerns about some farmers' tendency to send workers into fields that have been recently sprayed with pesticides. He also talked at length about tobacco workers' inability to distinguish pesticide poisoning from Green Tobacco Sickness. He said that even clinic staff were frequently unable to tell the two apart, and that he was concerned about the potential for misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. Bernardo is a vocal advocate for the rights of farmworkers, including the right to know when, if and to what they're being exposed. He said he was happy working for his current employer, but he acknowledged that many others weren't so lucky. He had this advice for other workers:
I want to tell my peers not to be speak out about what it's like for us in the fields. We have to stop and think and say 'I want to change this' and fight for it.
We plan to continue interviewing farm workers and building the relationships needed to make our policy and program work better informed by what the workers themselves see as the most pressing issues. We'll be posting audio clips and photos from the pilot project in the near future, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Win in Washington!

Good news folks! The EPA has recently announced a decision to ban traces of the toxic pesticide Carbofuran on both domestic and imported food, essentially taking it off the US market. Environmental and farmworker advocates have long been fighting for the ban. Carbofuran is responsible for over a million bird deaths per year, and according to the Washington Post's July 25th coverage of the ban, the pesticide also kills bees, important friends we cannot continue to lose.

The Beyond Pesticides daily news blog reported that the "EPA has concluded that dietary, worker, and ecological risks are of concern for all uses of carbofuran. According to EPA’s website, all products containing carbofuran generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on humans and the environment and do not meet safety standards, and therefore are ineligible for reregistration."

This news comes along with the announcement of two suits filed against the EPA by a coalition of public health, farmworker, and environmental groups over the continued use of the toxic pesticides endosulfan and diazinon, as well as congress' decision to ban the use of 3 kinds of phthalates in children's toys. Change seems to be lurking everywhere in Washington right now.

What an exciting time to be interning in pesticide reform! I look forward to seeing what happens with the endosulfan and diazinon cases and updating Fair Ground readers on those and other news stories in the rest of my time here. Stay tuned!