August - September 2006
1. PAN Europe activities
PAN Europe Network Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting 2006, 7-9 September
In collaboration with SANA, Legambiente and the Italian Organic Farming Association (AIAB), our Network Annual Conference for members and other supporters was organised in Bologna, Italy. The conference was organised at the same time and site as SANA, one of the largest organic fairs in the world and it was an excellent opportunity to visit this vibrant fair with hundreds of exhibitors and over 70,000 visitors every year. The central theme for this year’ annual conference was Integrated Crop Management/Integrated Pest Management and organic production with experiences from producers, retailers and consumers, with a special emphasis in Italian/regional examples. In the Network Annual General Meeting on the 8th September, we welcomed 3 new full members and elected 5 Board members for a 3-year period. In the field trip organised on the 9th of September, we visited a large cooperative producing and selling Integrated Pest Management and organic fruits and vegetables and visited a small family farm producing a range of fruits using Integrated Pest Management.
Eight hazardous pesticides banned or restricted in the EU market
After Member States representatives in the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health failed to achieve qualified majority to approve 8 hazardous pesticides in the EU market (azinphos-methyl, carbendazim, dinocap, fenarimol, flusilazole, methamidophos, procymidone and vinclozolin) in March 2006, the issue was transmitted to the Agriculture Council were ministers had to decide on the fate of the eight substances. In early September, the Agriculture Council reached a majority to ban two substances (azinphos-methyl and vinclozolin) but failed to decide on the fate of the remaining six.
Facing the strong opposition of Member States, many of them advocating for the ban of all the substances, the European Commission had to change its proposals to approve the substances for a period of 7 years. Under the new Commission proposals, carbendazim and dinocap were proposed for approval for a 3 year period, whilst fenarimol, flusilazole, methamidophos and procymidone were proposed for approval for an 18 months period only. This proposal was discussed at the Working Group level in the Agriculture Council were Member States representatives again failed to achieve a majority. Under the rules laid out for this type of procedure (the Commitology procedure), if a decision is not reached within a 3 months period from the date of transmission of the proposal to the Council, the proposal is adopted.
With the support of EEB, EEN and FoE Europe, PAN Europe established contacts with members of the Commission, Council and European Parliament advocating for the ban of these substances with a derogation period, if necessary, that would allow farmers to shift towards less hazardous substances. PAN Europe has also issued several press releases and sent letters to the members of the European Commission and Council advocating the ban and the opportunity to get Europe free of these hazardous substances with benefits for farmers and consumers. Although PAN Europe campaigned for a total ban, we consider the final outcome better than the initial proposal to approve all substances for 7 years. With a new Regulation for placing of pesticides in the market that will exclude carcinogenic, reprotoxic, mutagenic and endocrine disrupting substances, these substances will likely be banned after their approval expires in 18 months or 3 years.
2. Published news and information
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), in its meeting of 28-29 September has approved the inclusion of four existing active ingredients to Annex I: the fungicides captan (acute toxic, carcinogen) and folpet (carcinogen); the carbamate insecticides formetanate (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic) and methiocarb (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic).
Ban of active ingredients in EU review
In the same meeting, the SCFCAH excluded six substances from Annex I. Five are organophosphorus insecticides from the second-stage of the review process: malathion (cholinesterase inhibitor, possible carcinogen, suspected endocrine disruptor), dichlorvos (cholinesterase inhibitor, carcinogen, acute toxic), trichlorfon (cholinesterase inhibitor, carcinogen), diazinon (cholinesterase inhibitor), oxydemeton-methyl (cholinesterase inhibitor, reprotoxic, acute toxic).
The carbamate insecticide carbaryl (cholinesterase inhibitor, carcinogen, suspected endocrine disruptor), was also excluded from Annex I.
New study shows toxicity of vinclozolin especially in case of exposure during pregnancy
New research by Washington State University scientists suggests that a single exposure to the fungicide vinclozolin during pregnancy can cause cancer, kidney disease and other illnesses for future generations. Vinclozolin is a dicarboximide non-systemic fungicide that inhibits fungal spore generation and is commonly used in vines. In Europe, it was one of the eight extremely hazardous pesticides under review that could not get an agreement by Member States but was finally banned. It is banned in a number of EU countries including Denmark and Sweden.
In the research, pregnant rats were exposed to high levels of vinclozolin. In male offspring and three subsequent male generations of the rats, 85 percent of the animals developed cancer, prostate disease, kidney disease, premature aging or other problems. Most of the rats developed more than one illness. The research was published in two papers in the journal Endocrinology.
The new research suggests that environmental pollution could permanently reprogram genetic traits in a family line, creating a legacy of sickness. It follows previous studies that showed similar long-term effects from chemicals on the reproductive systems of successive generations. Although this is an animal study its relevance for humans should not be dismissed and calls for the precautionary principle in pesticides approval.
For more information about the study: http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/epigenetics/2006/2006-0915anwayetal.html
Anway MD, C Leathers, and MK Skinner. 2006. Endocrine disruptor Vinclozolin induced epigenetic transgenerational adult onset disease. Endocrinology, in press.
Chang HS, MD Anway, SS Rekow and MK Skinner. 2006. Transgenerational epigenetic imprinting of the male germline by endocrine disrupter exposure during gonadal sex determination. Endocrinology, in press.
Lifestyles blamed for 17 percent rise in childhood cancer cases
Cancer is rising rapidly among children across Europe with up to 17 percent of cases resulted from modern lifestyles and changes in the environment, researchers have found. In a study, researchers examined 77,111 cases of cancer in children diagnosed between 1978 and 1997 in 15 European countries. The results showed that the number of cases of cancer in children under 14 rose by an average of 1.1 percent a year. There were increases in most childhood cancers including brain tumours, testicular cancer, leukaemia, kidney cancer and soft tissue sarcoma (cancer of connective tissue). The study results showed no increase in bone cancer, liver cancer or retinoblastoma.
Although the increased incidence can only partly be explained by changes in diagnostic methods and by registration artefacts, factors such as changes in lifestyle and exposure to a variety of agents have contributed to the increase, according to the findings. Eva Steliarova-Foucher, a senior epidemiologist at the International Agency for Cancer Research in Lyon, France, and an author of the study, was quoted as saying: "The rise may be partly due to better detection but not wholly. Other studies have shown older mothers have an increased incidence of leukaemia and certain other cancers in their children." Potential causes of childhood cancer are also suspected to be environmental toxins including pesticides and phthalates in plastics, the researchers said.
Changes in Agricultural Policy Needed to Halt Loss of Farmland Birds
Previous studies have shown a significant decline in populations of farmland birds across Europe attributed to a general process of agricultural intensification, including pesticide use. Farmland birds rely greatly on farmland for food and nesting sites. Therefore, changes in farming practices such as increased levels of mechanisation and chemical use or the spread of monocultures, associated with agricultural intensification, are believed to have important impacts on bird populations.
A recent study has analysed a comprehensive database of the population size and trend for each breeding species in each country in Europe for the period 1990-2000 in order to assess recent trends in farmland bird biodiversity. Furthermore, the authors assessed the possible implications of current European agricultural policy on the protection of farmland biodiversity. The results provide evidence that the previously documented decline in farmland bird populations across Europe between 1970 and 1990 continued in the period 1990-2000, thus confirming a continent-wide pattern of decline over at least 30 years.
The authors found a strong correlation between the declining trends in farmland species and certain agriculture intensification indices. This and the lack of such correlation among species of non-farmland birds, point to farming intensification as one of the most plausible drivers of the decline.
According to the authors, the agri-environment schemes represent, for the moment, the only available mechanism for reducing the decline in farmland biodiversity. Furthermore, they are of vital importance if the 2010 targets to reduce or halt biodiversity loss are to be met. But agri-environmental measures correspond to only 5% of Common Agriculture Policy subsidies. In addition to targeted agri-environmental schemes, other changes in agricultural policy, especially the removal of subsidies that lead to agricultural identification, are necessary to ensure the conservation of farmland biodiversity on a large scale.
Asthmatics at greater risk from pesticide induced lymphoma
Researchers have found evidence that asthma sufferers exposed to pesticides have a greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that do non-asthmatics exposed to similar levels of pesticides. The study compared 668 cancer sufferers with 543 people without the disease analysing their employment history to assess their occupational exposure to pesticides. The analysis revealed that asthmatics were almost twice as likely to develop this form of cancer after exposure to pesticides as non-asthmatics. Asthmatics who had been hospitalised for their condition and therefore were likely to be more severely affected were more than twice as likely to be more severely affected were more than twice as likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after pesticides exposure.
Previous studies had already shown that people who have been exposed to pesticides are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and are more likely to have disorders of the immune system such as asthma.
Majority of surface and groundwater in France is polluted by pesticides
Pesticide residues continue to be found in the majority of French water samples, according to the latest “Pesticides in water” report published by the French Environmental Institute. The recently published 2003/04 surveys 10,000 monitoring points found that 96% of surface water and 61% of groundwater samples contain residues of at least one pesticide. Almost one third of all pesticides were found in concentrations exceeding the threshold for human consumption (above 0.1µ/l).
From a total of 459 substances tested, 229 substances were found in surface water. In groundwater, from a total of 417 substances tested, 166 substances were identified. The most commonly found substances were triazine herbicides, although most of these substances were banned in 2003, with the remainder being phased out in 2004. Other banned substances with severe hazards and from the dirty dozen list such as lindane, aldrine or dieldrine have also been detected frequently. The findings show that contaminations persist long after the substances have been banned.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
NGOs and experts demand that WHO stops the irresponsible promotion of DDT spraying
A broad coalition of health and toxics experts from every continent called on the World Health Organization to reverse its aggressive promotion of DDT for malaria control and expressed outrage at the agency for a statement giving DDT spraying inside people’s homes a "clean bill of health."
"It is criminal that WHO should make a politically-motivated announcement like this under the guise of protecting the health of children in Africa," said Dr. Paul Saoke, Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility in Kenya. "We need real solutions to malaria in Africa, not a return to widespread reliance on a failed silver bullet that risks the health of communities already battling this deadly disease."
WHO’s September 15th press statement described a "new" approach to malaria control with DDT at the centrepiece of an aggressive effort to eradicate the disease. Sources inside the agency, however, report that there has been no reassessment of DDT risk and no official revision of WHO’s policy, which already allowed minimal use of DDT in accordance with the global Stockholm Convention. One of WHO’s chief malaria experts, Dr. Allan Schapira, resigned abruptly prior to the announcement promoting DDT use by the controversial new head of WHO’s global malaria program, Dr. Arata Kochi. Roughly half of the Roll Back Malaria staff has reportedly resigned since Kochi took over leadership of the program.
In their announcement before hundreds of government officials at the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety in Budapest, Hungary, Pesticide Action Network International, the International POPs Elimination Network and the International Society of Doctors for the Environment emphasized their support for the Stockholm Convention’s approach to DDT. The global toxics treaty, which has been adopted by 129 countries, calls for a phase-out of DDT but allows short term use in some countries while safer and more effective alternatives are put in place.
Decades of scientific evidence counter the claims of the DDT promoters that its use for malaria control is harmless. Human reproductive disorders associated with DDT are well documented, including undescended testes and poor sperm quality, premature delivery and reduced infant birth weights and reduced breast milk production. One recent study found clear neurological effects—including developmental delays—among babies and toddlers exposed to DDT in the womb Researchers in Mexico and South Africa found elevated levels of DDT in the blood of people living where DDT was used to control malaria, and breastfed children in those areas received more DDT than the amount considered "safe" by WHO and FAO. Studies have also linked exposure to increased risk of breast cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists DDT as a possible human carcinogen.
More effective and safer approaches to malaria control are now being used in many countries. For example, Vietnam reduced malaria deaths by 97% and malaria cases by 59% when they switched in 1991 from trying to eradicate malaria using DDT to a DDT-free malaria control program involving distribution of drugs and mosquito nets and widespread health education organized with village leaders. Mexico phased out DDT use in 2000 and implemented a successful integrated and community-based approach.
Chain of contamination: the food link
Industrial chemicals have been found in food consumed all over Europe, from dairy products to meat and fish. The same cocktail of hazardous chemicals has been detected in human blood, wildlife and the environment, indicating that food is a crucial link in a global chain of contamination that begins with the manufacture of chemicals and ends with their unwelcome appearance in our blood.
The new report entitled “Chain of contamination: the food link", released by WWF, is a snapshot of chemical contamination of the food chain. Food is one of the most important routes for human exposure to pollutants, notably the ones that persist and accumulate in the environment, such as DDT, PCBs and brominated flame retardants. But chemicals also enter the environment in many other ways: as a result of leakages during manufacture, transport or storage, direct applications and a wide variety of uses in products such as computers, TVs, toiletries. For this study, 27 samples of different food items - dairy products (i.e. milk, butter, and cheese), meat (i.e. sausages, bacon, chicken breasts, ham, and salami), fish (i.e. salmon, tuna), bread, honey and olive oil - were purchased in supermarkets in 7 EU countries (UK, Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Poland). The samples were analysed for 8 different groups of man-made chemicals - organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated chemicals, phthalates, organotins, alkylphenols and artificial musks.
The food testing results found potentially harmful synthetic chemicals in all of the analysed foods, ranging from phthalates in olive oil, cheeses and meats, banned organochlorine pesticides in fish and reindeer meat, artificial musks and organotins in fish and flame retardants in meats and cheeses. WWF is seriously concerned over the potential effects of long term, low levels exposure to chemicals in the diet, especially on the developing foetus, infants and young children. As Professor Jan-Åke Gustafsson, coordinator of the CASCADE scientific network explains: "Being at the top of the food chain, humans are particularly exposed to chemicals in food. As some of these chemicals are similar to hormones, they interfere with our endocrine system and may be a risk factor for diseases like obesity, different forms of cancer and diabetes as well as reduced fertility".
Second International Congress of the Paris Appeal, “Environment and Sustainable Health: an International Assessment”, 9 November 2006
The congress is being organized by the Association for Research and Treatments Against Cancer (ARTAC), in partnership with HEAL- Health and Environment Alliance and Collaborative on Health and the Environment.
The Paris Appeal, an international declaration on disease due to chemical pollution, has been signed by more than one thousand key scientific and medical personalities and by 200,000 European citizens. It is also supported by the Standing Committee of European Doctors which represents all medical doctors (i.e. 2 million) in the 25 members States of the European Union. The aim of the second congress of this Appeal is to present to European authorities a Memorandum outlining concrete recommendations and measures established by international independent scientific experts. This Memorandum aims to promote the notion of “sustainable health”, that is, improving health and preserving future generations.
Pesticide Action Network UK work on residues in food
Pesticides are present in many of the foods that we regularly eat, but we can’t see them or taste them and so they are hard to avoid. Surveys of consumers regularly show that most people would prefer to eat food without pesticide residues.
PAN UK has developed new web pages on pesticide residues in food to provide information and answers to questions that are posed by many of consumers today trying to make the right choices: How do we know which foods have the most pesticides on them? How safe are they? What can we do to reduce our intake of pesticides? Which pesticides are most likely to occur and what hazards do they pose?
PAN UK has also published an alternative interpretation of the UK’s residues monitoring programme: “The alternatives pesticide residues report-2005. What the government doesn’t tell us”. Over last 12 months, the UK Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) has published the results of their residues testing programme for 2005. As with previous years, they report on the numbers of samples that contain pesticides, the numbers that exceed legal residue limits and mention briefly the risk assessments for health implications. Their quarterly reports for 2005 contain a huge amount of data but it lacks analysis of health consequences and other important information for consumers. The PAN UK report conducts and independent analysis of the 2005 data and highlights some of the issues that are important to consumers.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.