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Miscellaneous Green Files

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Miscellaneous Green Files

Irradiation Update The United States Department of Agriculture has announced a proposal to irradiate imported fruits and vegetables. The agency wants to use irradiation to kill bugs that could threaten American agriculture, including foreign fruit flies and the mango seed weevil.

Irradiation Update
The United States Department of Agriculture has announced a proposal to irradiate imported fruits and vegetables. The agency wants to use irradiation to kill bugs that could threaten American agriculture, including foreign fruit flies and the mango seed weevil. However other methods exist to control these bugs, such as temperature treatments and stricter cleanliness standards.
-Food Safety News Update Citizens for Health < citizens.org >

The Toxic Problem
Did you know that...

  • Seventy per cent of all pesticides in use have fraudulent reports of animal safety tests. Only two companies and responsible employees have been convicted of fraud. Source: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • More than 20 million Americans work with chemicals known to cause damage to the nervous system even when used in small amounts. Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

  • There are 4,700 chemicals in cigarette smoke; 43 are known carcinogens. Cigarette smoke contains 40 to 50 parts per million of formaldehyde in addition to phenol, benzene and cadmium. Source: EPA.

  • A study of nearly 15,000 men in 21 countries found a 50 per cent decrease in the male sperm count in the last 50 years. Other measures of sperm quality have also declined significantly. These decreases were attributed to environmental factors. Source: British Medical Journal.


Agent Orange Linked To Diabetes
The pesticide used to defoliate the forests of Vietnam may have caused diabetes in some veterans who were exposed to it, the United States Air Force said in one of the government’s first public acknowledgments of the herbicide’s effects. A study was conducted of 1,000 Air Force veterans who participated in Operations Ranch Hand, in which soldiers sprayed trees to remove cover of North Vietnamese soldiers and Communist guerrillas. The study found that there were 47 per cent more diabetes cases among those who had the highest level of exposure to the herbicide.
-Acres USA, July 2000

Getting the Runaround with Roundup
Gene fragments recently discovered in Roundup Ready soybeans don’t threaten the product’s safety, says Health Canada. In May, Monsanto submitted new data for governmental review that indicated the presence of two extra gene fragments in the beans, their most popular genetically engineered product.

According to Monsanto, the newly detected DNA fragments were actually present when the original safety research was done; the company’s scientists simply couldn’t detect them with the technology of the time. This admission doesn’t reflect well on repeated assurances from government and industry that they can effectively monitor genetic alterations and their effect on health and environment.

The Roundup Ready soybean was concocted for resistance to a popular weedkiller also produced by Monsanto. It was first approved for human safety in Canada in 1996.

The Sullying of Soil
Soil’s name is mud, according to a new study by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Researchers say almost 40 per cent of the world’s agricultural land is badly degraded. They used data from high-tech equipment, satellite photos, maps and expert assessments to develop the most comprehensive worldwide agricultural land map. Their conclusion: problems like erosion and nutrient depletion have lowered the productivity of international food-growing locations by up to 16 per cent. The most badly affected areas are in Central America, Africa and Asia.
-The Manitoba Co-operator May 25, 2000

Chemical Cocktails
Exposure to one chemical is bad enough, but what happens in the presence of several? According to research published in Toxicology and Industrial Health, certain pesticide combinations act synergistically to produce unexpected health effects. Warren Porter of the University of Wisconsin reported that mixtures of the pesticides aldicarb and atrazine and the fertilizer nitrate altered nervous system, endocrine and immune system function in several strains of mice while each compound alone did not. Porter’s study reveals a major flaw within the current chemical regulatory process. As it stands, there is virtually no testing for the compounded effects of pesticide mixtures. It is virtually impossible to say how our health is changed due to undetected chemical exposure.

Organic Farmland Grows
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that the number of US farm acres dedicated to producing organic products grew as much as 50 per cent from 1995 to 1997. In 1997, the most recent year of available data, nearly 1.35 million acres of US cropland were certified organic, up from 918,000 organic acres in 1995, the USDA said. Nearly one-third of US herbs, mixed vegetable and buckwheat crops were grown organically.
-Acres USA, June 2000

Canadian Organics Rising
The most recent statistics provided by the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) group show that there were 1,939 certified producers and handlers in Canada during 1998. The COG estimated that there were at least 404,850 acres in organic production, and predicted 1999 figures would probably be up 30 per cent.
-Acres USA, July 2000

A Green Pollution Solution
Some environmental scientists are out standing in their field-their newly planted tree field, that is. Saskatchewan workers are experimenting with phytoremediation-from phyto (plant) and remediate (to fix or cure)-a new planting technique that cleans up environmental toxins. Using this relatively cheap technology, green plants and trees are used to digest organic wastes, such as pesticides and petroleum, as well as heavy metals like uranium and nickel.

Certain plants can absorb about one per cent of their own dry weight in heavy minerals. The best plants include dry mustard, germanium and sunflower. Soil microorganisms living in the root zone area also eat whatever they can for energy, including toxic pollutants.

The eventual result: a cleaner, healthier landscape that’s aesthetically pleasing to boot.

DDT in Dirt
Traces of the highly dangerous chemical DDT have been found in dirt on windows in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, according to a study released in August.

The long-banned toxic contaminant was discovered in urban grime along with other PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) by the geography department at the University of Toronto.

"These toxins are moving through our systems and we want to find out what the effects are," says Miriam Diamond, associate professor of geography and lead author of the study. "These grimy layers trap more than what you would suspect,"

This discovery has widespread implications for the ecotoxicity of urban areas, says Diamond.

"Since the film and some of its contaminants are removed by the wind and the rain, humans and biota are exposed through the inhalation of air and the ingestion of urban soils and vegetation," she says.

"It would make me more cautious about growing vegetables downtown and ensuring that soils are relatively new and clean in children’s playgrounds."

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring exposed the dangers of DDT in 1962. It is found to impair the immunity of a child in the womb, cause cancer, tinker with the reproductive maturation of wildlife, emasculate alligators and give male fish the ability to give birth.

DDT has been banned in Canada since 1985. It is at the epicentre of a contentious argument between those that laud the chemical as an irreplaceable weapon against malaria, which affects 400 million people per annum, and those that say it tampers with the health of all nature.

Traces are still found in meat and dairy products because of illegal use, environmental persistence and importation of contaminated food. A recent study in Zimbabwe found traces of DDT in breast milk!

DDT is one of the Persistent Organic Pollutant’s (POP’s), also known as the "irty dozen," up for a worldwide ban by the UN treaty in December of this year. They can be found almost everywhere on the planet. In addition, because they spontaneously migrate towards the colder regions of the planet, these pollutants pose a critical threat to northern indigenous people, whose survival health and well-being depend on their traditional relationship with the ecosystem and the food it provides. Some of the most highly exposed populations are indigenous people living in polar regions far from major POPs sources. For example, the Inuit living in Baffin Island carry seven times as many contaminants in their bodies as people living in lower latitudes.
-Editorial Staff

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