toxics

The principle that we have a right to know what we are eating is admirably straightforward. That's why the biotech and agrochemical industries have to spin so hard to convince us that ignorance is bliss. Photo: Daniel Lobo via Flickr (CC BY).

Bill Gates: can we have an honest conversation about GMOs?

Stacy Malkan
US Right to Know
| 8th March 2016
Some of the world's most powerful figures tout the benefits of GMOs, writes Stacy Malkan, but what's the real story? Facts on the ground expose the PR spin, half truths and outright propaganda that has come to dominate a public conversation that is not so much about engineering genes, but engineering truth for the benefit of multinational corporations.

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A new study shows that 996 out of every 1,000 Germans have measurable levels of the herbicide glyphosate in their blood. Skaters on the Nymphenburg Kanal. Neuhausen, Germany. Photo: Christian Mönnig via Flickr (CC NY-C-SA).

Almost all Germans contaminated with glyphosate

Nicole Sagener
EurActiv.de
| 8th March 2016
A new study shows that 99.6% of Germans are contaminated with the herbicide glyphosate, writes Nicole Sagener. The news comes as the EU puts off a crucial decision on whether to re-authorise the chemical, described by IARC as 'probably carcinogenic', until 2031.

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US suburbia: alright for some. But access to it was regulated along strictly racial lines. Mid 20th century calendar illustration. Photo: wackystuff via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Racist housing? How postwar suburban development led to today's inner-city lead poisoning

Leif Fredrickson
University of Virginia
| 7th March 2016
The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan is just the tip of a vast iceberg of lead contamination afflicting mainly urban black communities, writes Leif Fredrickson. A rigid 'race bar' on postwar suburban housing and mortgages left black families in inner cities, exposed to flaking lead paint in run down housing, leaded gasoline residues and lead pipework. Now is the time to correct this shocking historic injustice.

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Jackson Wanyama, a former worker at the Metal Refinery smelter in Mombasa, Kenya. His wife Linette passed away last October. She used to wash his clothes and had high levels of lead poisoning. He too is suffering from his exposure to lead contamination. P

Dirty business: Africa's unregulated lead battery smelting

Desirée García
Javier Marín
| 3rd March 2016
Africa's car battery recycling industry is anything but green, write Desirée García & Javier Marín on African Environment Day. Toxic emissions from the re-smelting of lead from old batteries is poisoning workers and nearby communities. And among the buyers of the lead are EU car companies, apparently indifferent to the death, disease and contamination they are financing.

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Participatory barley breeding in India. Photo: Salvatore Ceccarelli .

Harnessing the power of evolution in participatory seed breeding

Salvatore Ceccarelli
Independent Science News
| 29th February 2016
Conventional agriculture has made an enemy of evolution as pests and diseases develop resistance to biocides and over-bred hybrids succumb to them, writes Salvatore Ceccarelli. But there is another way - for farmers to participate in breeding seed lines that are continuously adapting to their environment, with ever improving yields, flavour, pest-resistance, and other sought-after qualities.

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Insecticide spraying in Brazil, 2014. Photo: Malova Gobernador via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Zika, microcephaly, and pesticides: half-truths, hysteria, and vested interests

Claire Robinson
GMWatch
| 26th February 2016
Those who dare suggest that pesticides might be implicated in Brazil's microcephaly outbreak are being furiously attacked as irrational, nonsense-spouting 'conspiracy theorists', writes Claire Robinson. But the attackers have an uncanny ability to get their own facts in a twist. And among them are writers linked to industries with huge economic interests in the matter.

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Chafer Sentry applying glyphosate to stubbles in North Yorkshire on a sunny December day. Photo: Chafer Machinery via Flickr (CC BY).

Another 15 years? EU set to relicense glyphosate

Arthur Neslen
Guardian Environment
| 25th February 2016
The European Commission is poised to renew the licence for glyphosate - the herbicide last year deemed ‘probably carcinogenic' by the WHO - for another 15 years. The decision follows from EFSA's contrary finding, based on secret, non peer-reviewed, industry-funded studies.

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Demonstration outside EFSA's Brussels HQ organised by Corporate Europe Observatory on 5th April 2002 marking ten years of corporate capture. Photo: Corporate Europe Observatory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Key evidence in EU's risk assessment of glyphosate must not remain 'trade secret'

Corporate Europe Observatory
| 22nd February 2016
The chemical industry and the European Food Safety Authority are refusing to disclose key scientific evidence about glyphosate's risks, citing 'trade secrets' protection, writes Corporate Europe Observatory. They must be compelled to publish the 'mysterious three' scientific studies EFSA used to assess glyphosate as 'unlikely' to cause cancer to humans - contradicting the IARC's view.

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Farmer spraying a field using a backpack and protective equipment. Photo: Day Donaldson via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

'Unlawful'! EU's hasty approval of pesticides condemned

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers
| 22nd February 2016
The European Commission was guilty of maladministration and acted unlawfully in approving pesticides for which there was insufficient safety data, the EU Ombudsman has ruled. It must now reform its practices, writes Vanessa Amaral-Rogers, or face legal action.

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There is another way: cotton farmers in India studying about insects as part of a course on 'integrated pest management'. Photo: S. Jayaraj / The AgriCultures Network via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Monsanto's pride, Monsanto's fall: playing God with the Indian farmer

Colin Todhunter
| 19th February 2016
India's farmers are the targets of structural violence aimed at uprooting indigenous agriculture and replacing it with an intensive corporate model based on GMOs and agrochemicals, writes Colin Todhunter. But as Monsanto's GM cotton succumbs to insect infestations despite repeated pesticide applications, agroecological farming is an increasingly attractive option for cultivators.

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Beached whale in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, being removed using earth-moving equipment, September 2013. Photo: Patrick Down via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Heavy metal poisoning in Scotland's beached whales

The Ecologist
| 15th February 2016
High levels of toxins mercury and cadmium have been found in all organs of the whales recently beached on Scotland's North Sea coast, including the brain. The research shows that rising mercury levels in the oceans leads to toxic stress in the long-lived marine mammals.

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E-scrapping operation in Guiyu, China, breaking down imported computers. Over 100,000 migrant workers labor in hundreds of small operations like this one in a four-village area surrounding the Lianjiang River. Photo: baselactionnetwork via Flickr (CC BY-N

From latest gizmo to toxic waste: the dark side of the worldwide electronics obsession

Ian Williams
University of Southampton
| 11th February 2016
Our thirst for the latest gadgets has created a vast empire of electronic waste, writes Ian Williams. The EU alone produces some 9 million tonnes of it a year, of which some 70% is still working when disposed of, and over a third is disposed of illegally. With increasingly affordable electronic devices available to ever more people, it's high time for effective global regulation.

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Since 2014, the insecticide Pyriproxyfen has been use to kill mosquitos in water tanks in Brazil. Water tank in Bahia state, northeast Brazil. Photo: Francois Le Minh via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Argentine and Brazilian doctors suspect mosquito insecticide as cause of microcephaly

Claire Robinson
GMWatch
| 10th February 2016
With the proposed connection between the Zika virus and Brazil's outbreak of microcephaly in new born babies looking increasingly tenuous, Latin American doctors are proposing another possible cause: Pyriproxyfen, a pesticide used in Brazil since 2014 to arrest the development of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks. Might the 'cure' in fact be the poison?

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Banana plantation in Cienaga, Magdalena, Colombia. Photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Disease may wipe out the world's bananas - unless we adopt agroecological solutions

Angelina Sanderson Bellamy
Cardiff University
| 7th February 2016
Bananas are at the sharp end of industrial agriculture's chemical war on pests and pathogens, writes Angelina Sanderson Bellamy. But even 60 pesticide sprays a year isn't enough to keep the diseases at bay. It's time to seek new solutions with little or no use of chemicals, working with nature, growing diverse crops on the same land - and breaking the dominance of the banana multinationals.

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Photo: Weiderinder.de.vu via Wikimedia (Public domain).

Disgraceful 'Honour' for failing to protect people from poisons

Georgina Downs
| 18th January 2016
Easy to miss in the New Year Honours list: a little-known civil servant for 'services to pesticides regulation'. But none the less shocking for that, writes Georgina Downs. Paul Hamey MBE is the very man who has been responsible for ensuring that rural residents receive no proper protection from repeated exposure to toxic mixtures of pesticides on nearby farms. Go figure.

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How much Roundup is in your breakfast cereal? We don't know, as USDA and EPA have created a bureaucratic logjam that means the 'probably carcinogenic' herbicide is not tested for. Photo: Trish via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

USDA and EPA must come clean over Roundup residues

Carey Gillam
USRTK
| 12th January 2016
Each year the US Department of Agriculture manages to test for over 400 pesticides in food, writes Carey Gillam. But glyphosate, the world's biggest-selling herbicide, is not among them, even as evidence of its dangers mounts. It's time for USDA and EPA to stop their buck-passing - and give consumers their right to know.

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Female Agapostemon sp. sweat bee, Oregon, USA. Photo: Thomas Shahan via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Farm expansion driving US native bee declines

Beyond Pesticides
| 28th December 2015
Wild bee decline is closely associated with the advance of intensive farming and habitat loss, a new study shows. It follows an earlier paper that linked 'delayed action' decline of wild bees to exposure to pesticides including fungicides - previously considered 'bee-safe'.

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In 2012 this Disney Princess Lunchbox was found to contain 29,800 ppm of DEHP - over 29 times the limit set in the US for children's toys. Photo: CHEJ via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

EU must uphold ban on toxic plasticiser DEHP

Tess Crean
ClientEarth
| 21st December 2015
The 'plasticiser' DEHP is known to leach out of plastics and cause fertility problems in male foetuses, writes Tess Crean. That's why it is banned under EU law. But now the Commission looks likely to grant a wide-ranging exemption for PVC recycling which would make the ban redundant. They must be stopped.

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Orca watching in Puget Sound with Jim Maya. Photo: Robbert Michel via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Sewage treatment essential to save Puget Sound orcas

Dr Sierra Rayne
| 20th December 2015
Orcas from Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia are under threat,in large part due to toxic organic compounds in the marine food chain, writes Sierra Rayne. To give them a fighting chance, the nearby community of Victoria, British Columbia must install advanced sewage treatment - rather than just dump its wastewater largely untreated into the orcas' ocean home.

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Doing the right thing: an old landfill site in Birmingham's Selly Oak Battery Park being dug out prior to development for housing. Photo: Elliott Brown via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Zane: did Cameron order cover-up on landfill cyanide death of 7-year old?

Paul Mobbs
| 14th December 2015
The apparent conspiracy by the UK government and its agencies to conceal the real cause of death of 7-year old Zane Gbangbola may go right up to Prime Minister David Cameron, writes Paul Mobbs. He was chair of the COBRA emergency committee at the time when it appears to have held back the truth that he was killed by cyanide from the toxic landfill site his home was built over.

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Intensive cultivation of soya advancing into the forests of the Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo: Leonardo F. Freitas via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Monsanto on trial for crimes against nature and humanity

Pavlos Georgiadis
| 6th December 2015
Monsanto was accused of 'crimes against humanity and the environment' at COP21 in Paris this week, writes Pavlos Georgiadis. And now the evidence against it is being gathered for presentation at a 'Monsanto Tribunal' taking place next October in The Hague.

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Soil is where our food comes from - so why don't we look after it as well as organic farmers? Photo: Soil Association.

It's time to celebrate and protect the soils that feed us!

Peter Melchett
| 4th December 2015
Almost all our food is grown in soil, writes Peter Melchett. Yet we are treating it like dirt: spraying it with toxic chemicals, depleting vital nutrients, and releasing its carbon to add to climate change. With World Soils Day coming up tomorrow, let's change our ways - and renew our commitment to organic food and farming.

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