Meriel Watts Power Point Presentation For The Awareness Party

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
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
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.
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
The chemical soup
• in our the soil, rivers, streams, groundwater, marine
• 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
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
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
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
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?
The tale of three pesticides
• Endosulfan
• Imidacloprid
• Roundup / glyphosate
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
Endosulfan in New Zealand
• 1990 - NZ government: not an organochlorine
• 1995 – banned on Auckland sports fields
• Pressure on ERMA to reassess, including Select Committee
• 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
Endosulfan and the Stockholm Convention
• 5-year battle to get it recognised as a POP and get a global
• India blocked it every step of the way
• Final battle in April 2011: by this time 83 countries had
banned it
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
• But - China has since banned it, India’s Supreme Court
ordered 2 month ban on manufacture, sale and use - awaiting
outcome of medical reports.
Doing without endosulfan
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 ……
What replaces
Imidacloprid !
• A neonicotinoid
• Implicated in massive bee deaths
• 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
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?
•Acute effects
• Relatively persistent – up to 3 years
Soil & Plants
• Alters microbial communities
• Toxic to earthworms
• Reduces mineral uptake micronutrients Mn, Zn
• Reduces nitrogen fixation and
uptake – leads to increased fertiliser
• Stimulates plant diseases –
Fusarium, Pythium, Phythopthora,
Rhizoctonia, Scerotinia – damping
off, root rot, etc – in trees, grains,
beans, cotton, etc
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.
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
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
“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
• “The public, in contrast, has been kept in the dark by industry and
regulators about the ability of glyphosate and Roundup to cause
malformations. “
• 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
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
Thich Nhat Hanh 1987

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