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The Chemicalisation of our World – should we care? Dr Meriel Watts Co-ordinator Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Aotearoa New Zealand Senior Science Advisor.

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Presentation on theme: "The Chemicalisation of our World – should we care? Dr Meriel Watts Co-ordinator Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Aotearoa New Zealand Senior Science Advisor."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Chemicalisation of our World – should we care? Dr Meriel Watts Co-ordinator Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Aotearoa New Zealand Senior Science Advisor PAN Asia and the Pacific Co-Chair PAN-IPEN* Pesticide Working Group *IPEN = International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network

2 Pesticide Action Network (PAN) network of more than 600 nongovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals founded in 1982 working in over 90 countries to replace hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives 5 independent, collaborating Regional Centers


4 Olga’s acceptance speech I believe that chemical contamination of the environment and humans is the greatest threat we are facing now. Areas of high toxic chemical contamination record higher infant mortality rates, infertility, cancers and birth defects. This is accelerating as chemicals continue to poison the environment.

5 Pervasive chemicals 80-100,000 chemicals Most not assessed Problems with assessment anyway Pervasive - industrial chemicals and/or pesticides in just about everything we consume, use, do everyday of our lives In our cosmetics, dental fillings, household cleaners, toothpaste, drink bottles, furnishings, computers, walls of our houses – things such as Bisphenol A, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, brominated flame retardants, and 100s more

6 The chemical soup in our the soil, rivers, streams, groundwater, marine environment in fog, rain, snow, the Arctic, Antarctic, Mt Everest, probably Ruapehu, Taranaki, Aorangi; even the bark of trees in our food, water, air in all our bodies – a whole cocktail of them derived from the soup in which we live children are born pre-polluted

7 So what? a silent pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity Prenatal organophosphates - poor memory, learning disabilities, impaired mental development, reduced motor performance, reduced IQ and cognitive ability, ADHD, autism, neurodevelopmental delays, and other neurobehavioural problems, adult onset neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s result in reduced learning, reduced employment, social alienation, lower socio-economic status mental, emotional problems in teens higher rates of suicide, substance abuse and crime

8 More problems organochlorines and organophosphates – obesity, diabetes, metabolic disorders cancer – childhood leukaemia and brain cancer, but also adult cancers such as breast reproductive - precocious puberty, infertility asthma, respiratory and middle ear infections, allergies reduced immune function

9 Potted history of environmentalism Modern environmentalism said to have began with Rachel Carson – Silent Spring – DDT Save the whales Anti-nuclear movement Save the rainforests Ozone depletion Climate change and peak oil

10 What happened to chemicals Why did they fall off the agenda? Why do people not care? Why do people turn a blind eye? What will change this? Do you think chemicals are a problem? If so, what will you do?

11 The tale of three pesticides Endosulfan Imidacloprid Roundup / glyphosate

12 Endosulfan









21 Endosulfan in Kasargod, Kerala 20 years of aerial spraying cashew plantations about 600 deaths and 9,000 injuries in that state alone State recognition of the effects State acceptance of responsibility State ban on endosulfan compensation, medical camps, training schools pressure on government of India for countrywide ban

22 Endosulfan in New Zealand 1990 - NZ government: not an organochlorine 1995 – banned on Auckland sports fields Pressure on ERMA to reassess, including Select Committee report 2008 – Reassessment - some councils still using it on sports fields; said they would continue as it was safe because it was registered by ERMA 2008 - ERMA bans it with only 1 month to cease use Australia very rude about ERMA – then bans it 2 years later

23 Endosulfan and the Stockholm Convention 5-year battle to get it recognised as a POP and get a global ban India blocked it every step of the way Final battle in April 2011: by this time 83 countries had banned it

24 But we did win! On Monday Chief Minister of Kerala fasts, document given to Indian media by Thursday Indian Government caves Now global ban, with a 6-year phase-out period; China, India, Uganda claim exemptions for that period whilst they find alternatives But - China has since banned it, India’s Supreme Court ordered 2 month ban on manufacture, sale and use - awaiting outcome of medical reports.

25 Doing without endosulfan

26 We argue for agroecology Ecologically Sound, Economically Viable Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in Andra Pradesh, India, World Bank 2009: In 4 years over 300,000 farmers adopted CMSA, covering 1.36 million acres of farmland – 5.1% of cropped area of the State Outcome: “significant net increase in farmers’ incomes in addition to significant health and ecological benefits … without significantly reducing the productivity and yields” But ……

27 What replaces endosulfan? Imidacloprid ! A neonicotinoid Implicated in massive bee deaths overseas Used as a seed dressing Absorbed into plant and spread throughout including pollen, nectar Gutation drops contain imidacloprid Widespread use in NZ as a seed coating

28 Roundup / glyphosate Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, DNA damage (Columbia), genotoxic in lab Endocrine disruptor – interferes with progesterone Birth defects in Argentina, Paraguay – small head, anencephaly (absence of majority of the brain, skull, scalp), Also in frogs – Prof Carrasco – Argentina Inhibits aromatase (production of oestrogen) Childhood exposure alters structure of testes reduces sperm Depletes dopamine and serotonin – Parkinson’s? ADHD Acute effects

29 Soil & Plants Relatively persistent – up to 3 years Alters microbial communities Toxic to earthworms Reduces mineral uptake - micronutrients Mn, Zn Reduces nitrogen fixation and uptake – leads to increased fertiliser use Stimulates plant diseases – Fusarium, Pythium, Phythopthora, Rhizoctonia, Scerotinia – damping off, root rot, etc – in trees, grains, beans, cotton, etc

30 Aquatic environment Soluble in water and sediment Contaminates surface waters, sewerage sludge and groundwater in many countries 2010: NIWA’s pilot study of Auckland’s aquatic environment for evidence of “chemicals of emerging environmental concern”. Residues of glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA were found in the marine sediment throughout the Auckland region.

31 Destabilises aquatic environment Affects insects, crustaceans, molluscs, sea urchins, fish – from malformations to decreased capacity to cope with stress Profound effects on microorganisms, plankton, algae and amphibia at low concentrations Can alter the composition of natural aquatic communities, tipping the ecological balance and causing algal blooms

32 How did it ever get registered? Why does the industry and regulators say one thing and we - civil society people and independent scientists - say another Well recognised in the scientific word that peer-reviewed publication is the best currently available method to ensure reliable scientific data But entire pesticide approvals process is based on unpublished, non-reviewed industry generated data, from old outdated studies; modern independent science not accepted This is such a gross conflict of interest it would never be tolerated in other sectors of society. But it is the norm with chemicals

33 “Roundup and Birth Defects: is the Public Being kept in the Dark?” – Antoniou et al, June 2011 Industry studies and regulatory documents on which current approval of glyphosate rests reveal: Industry (including Monsanto) has known since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in lab animals at high doses. Industry has known since 1993 that these effects could also occur at lower and mid doses. The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate can cause birth defects. The EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 that glyphosate causes malformations. The EU Commission has known since 2002 that glyphosate causes malformations. “The public, in contrast, has been kept in the dark by industry and regulators about the ability of glyphosate and Roundup to cause malformations. “

34 Summary Endosulfan: campaigned for 15-20 years on a chemical the effects of which were blindingly obvious. One chemical banned Imidacloprid: it is being replaced with a chemical that wipes out bees Roundup: our so-called safest – causes birth defects (amongst other things) and they knew all along but hid it from us. Registration system is fundamentally flawed serving the interests only of industry

35 What next? We cannot continue to ban one chemical at time and replace it with another chemical problem How can we get society to understand that the whole toxic chemical project is wrong ? How do we get society to understand this: “In Buddhism, the most important precept of all is to live in awareness, to know what is going on... not only here, but there. For instance, when you eat a piece of bread, you may chose to be aware that our farmers, in growing the wheat, use chemical poisons a little too much. Eating the bread, we are somehow co-responsible for the destruction of our ecology.” Thich Nhat Hanh 1987

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