Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

29 December 2011

World's Six Biggest Agrochemical Companies Found Guilty of Human Rights Violations

Following is a résumé of various articles on the Permanent People’s Tribunal which recently condemned the world’s six biggest agrochemical industries for human rights violations.  One of the articles came from “SOS pour un monde meilleur” by way of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment, Italy.


After three days of deliberations in Bangalore, India  (3-6 December 2011), the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) cited human rights violations of the world’s six largest agrochemical industries:  Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF.





Over 355,000 persons die each year from pesticide poisoning and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. Testimonies of persons who had been harmed by pesticides and biotechnology were presented. The practices of the agrichemical industry, which is valued at $42 billion, affect the environment, food, health, children and future generations.



Birth Defects and Pesticides: the Tomato Fields of Florida

The basis of this article, which is the chapter “Chemical Warfare” from the book, “Tomatoland” by Barry Estabrook, was sent to me by the association, “SOS pour un monde meilleur” which, among other sources, receives information on environmental health from Dr. Ernesto Burgio, International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE), Italy.  The group, “SOS pour un monde meilleur”, located in Geneva, Switzerland, is a school offering accredited courses in natural health therapies and a non-profit association whose purpose is to contribute to a better world for children and future generations through sensitization, information, education, representation, and production. 


Migrants working in the tomato fields of Ag-mart in Immokalee, Florida, are exposed to very toxic pesticides.  Ag-mart is a tomato harvesting company that grows tomatoes in three states.  It employs about 500 migrant workers to stake, plant and pick tomatoes.  Most of the workers are from Mexico and Guatemala and are employed under deplorable conditions (see my article, "Cultivation of Tomatoes").




Among the workers were three women who gave birth in 2004 to babies with very serious birth defects. The first baby, Carlitos, was born with spinal and lung deformities and without arms and legs. Jesus was born six weeks later with a deformation of the jaw which placed him at risk of being unable to breathe. The third baby, Violeta, survived only 3 days. She was born with only one ear and one kidney, without a nose and anus, and with a cleft palate.

All three mothers had been exposed to pesticides while working in the tomato fields during days 14 to 59 of their pregnancies, the period when birth defects are most likely to occur. The tomato fields were treated with 31 chemical substances during the growing season. At least three of these pesticides, mancozeb, metribuzin, and avermectin were known as toxins which could cause birth defects according to the Pesticide Action Network. Ag-mart did not adequately train its workers in the use of toxic pesticides. The women were not provided with protective gear except for scarves to cover their mouths. Exposure of these women so soon after spraying the fields was in fact a violation of the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the women described her suffering during working in the fields:  dizziness, nausea, vomiting, burning of the eyes and nose, skin rashes and open sores.  She worked in the fields from preconception through the seventh month of pregnancy.  She would have lost the housing provided by her employer had she ceased working.


The jaw malformation of Jesus was not as serious as feared.  Carlitos developed respiratory problems and had to be transported by plane to a hospital in Miami.  Unable to afford medical costs, at the suggestion of social workers, his parents sought legal aid.  Andrew Yaffa accepted to defend them without charge.  He would receive a percentage of the sum granted if he won the case.  A partner in the law firm, Grossman Roth, he had a reputation in Florida of winning legal settlements granting millions of dollars to victims.

Carlitos as a baby
Legal cases implicating the agricultural industry are very difficult to win.  Proving a link between exposure to pesticides and birth defects is nearly impossible due to factors such as heredity, exposure at other workplaces, smoking, and drug abuse.  Instead of trying to determine which chemical substance caused the birth defects and thus bring suit against its manufacturer, Yaffa decided to build a case against the agricultural company, Ag-mart, where the mother of Carlitos worked.  In fact, the entire modern agricultural industry and its use of pesticides were put on trial.


In 2008, Ag-mart accepted to compensate the parents of Carlitos, by covering the child’s medical expenses for the rest of his life. Ag-mart had to pay millions of dollars in fines for violation of regulations including inadequate training of their employees on pesticide use and causing Carlitos’ birth defects.  There are now more on-site inspections of the use of pesticides and exposure.  Education of workers regarding spraying and working around pesticides is now mandatory, and they must be supplied with protective gear.  Above all, Ag-mart has stopped using five of the six pesticides known to cause birth defects. 

by Meris Michaels


(Ref :  Article published in Wiki– Environmental Health – Case 7 :  "Ag-mart Pesticide Poisoning " ; excerpt from, “Tomatoland : How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit” by Barry Estabrook, 2011, chapter, « Chemical Warfare ».)

28 December 2011

Cultivation of Tomatoes

The industrial cultivation of tomatoes has as devastating an environmental and sociological impact as the cultivation of strawberries.

Barry Estabrook has written about industrial tomato production in Florida in his 2011 book, “Tomatoland”.

One billion pounds of tomatoes are shipped annually from Florida to other states.  Cultivation of tomatoes in Florida is a $500 million per year business.



Most Florida tomatoes are industrially cultivated in fields.  Since the plants are grown in nutrient-deprived sandy soil, artificial petroleum-based fertilizers are used to keep them alive.  The constantly humid air, which breeds 27 insect species and 29 diseases preying on plants, requires spraying with tons of expensive and toxic herbicides and pesticides.  These substances reduce the amounts of calcium, vitamins A and C and add up to 14 more times sodium in tomatoes than the ones our parents consumed.  Tomatoes  are picked by hand while still green and then gassed with ethylene, which is apparently safe, to turn them prematurely red, removing their taste and giving them a mealy texture.






13 December 2011

Trees

Trees

 I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

Photo by Mark S. Carlson
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

-        Joyce Kilmer

As we come to the end of another year, tribute is paid to those who have made the world a better place.  Whether they are poets, environmentalists, health-givers, all these persons have healed the world in some way.

02 December 2011

Testimony: Mobile Phone Antennas - Geneva

This disturbing testimony comes from Jean-Luc, who suffered numerous health problems after installation of a mobile phone antenna on the rooftop of his apartment building in Geneva. 
(translation from French)

"My name is Jean Luc and I was born in 1968.  I have been living in an apartment building since 1998, with antennas installed in 1999.

My recollection of events:
Following a motorcycle accident in 1999, the scaphoid bone of my right wrist was injured.  Two operations, marrow graft and a screw, plaster.   Recovery in general lasts 6 months.  In my case, I was on invalidity from 1999 to 2004 following a necrosis of the bone, the reason for which the doctors could not understand.

In 2000, I suffered more and more from insomnia, became nervous and anxious.  Headaches started to develop when I spent entire days at home.

From 2002-2003, I started to experience falls in blood pressure, dizziness and depression.  In 2003, my 3-year-old dog suffered an attack.  Following this, I took a second dog which died at age 3.  It was a pedigreed dog, without health problems.