Posted by: Pia in Untagged on
Sep 23, 2012
This month is the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Rachel Carson™s whistle blowing publication Silent Spring.
The book was one of the key early texts of what we now recognize as the modern environmental movement. It drew attention to the careless and prophylactic use of chemicals, and their effects on wildlife, water and land. Rachel™s other works were largely focused on oceans and marine conservation, but silent spring remains her most enduring contribution.
The effect of her book is undoubted in drawing attention to the problems of pesticide use and off-target damage, but how are we tracking with pesticide regulation, use, and environmental consequences?
Many new synthetic pesticides are certainly safer for the user, and probably much more targeted and safer for the environment also. Application methods are also more precise, and the best technology available is very good, using low volumes of water, controlled droplet size, and even ˜recovery™ systems that suck unused pesticides back into the tank for reuse.
However worldwide we still use billions of kilograms of pesticides every year (yes that is billions) and there are still many proven side effects, and many areas where we don™t understand the full impact of pesticide use, such as the effects of multiple pesticide exposure, or effects on fetus and infants.
Despite many safer alternatives being available, in the form of biological or physical controls, pesticide use around the world is only reducing by about 1% per year. We still know little about the effects of exposure to multiple pesticides and very little about pesticide effects on infants and fetus. Of more concern is the fact that despite all we do know about the effects of pesticides on humans and the environment, it is easily possible to witness misuse of chemicals, just by driving around rural areas, or even the suburbs. At this point I should mention that, despite having a reputation as one of the main promoters of organic growing in Australia, I do have 25 years experience at teaching pesticide safety and application, through TAFE Colleges and EPA courses. I can see pesticides being incorrectly used any day, if I care to look, including use by Local, State and Federal Government land management authorities. Use by untrained home gardeners is even worse, with few users taking adequate precautions.
To give some recent examples:
One a trip to Sydney I witnessed a contractor spraying a bus stop, about 50 metres from a school, at 2.45 in the afternoon on a school day
In the last fortnight a microbiologist friend with local government and pesticide awareness training experience witnessed workers replacing an electricity transformer and flushing spilt oil (containing PCB™s) into a suburban creek
I recently saw a contractor continuing to spray gutters in rural town, despite an approaching storm
And so I could go on, with many similar stories.
Also genetically engineered (GE) crops are incorporating pesticide producing genes into agricultural crops, with inadequate long-term research into their effects, despite the reassurance of GE scientists, we are reminded of the confident pronouncements of pesticide scientists over the years, while the real impact of pesticides continues to be revealed.
For doubters, who think concerns about pesticides are exaggerated, I suggest they read the US Presidents Cancer Panel Annual Report for 2010.
It lists the following problems with pesticides:
Most of the 80,000 chemicals used in industry and 1,400 registered agricultural chemicals have not been adequately tested for safety and testing, where it is done, is inadequate and fails to accurately represent human exposure to chemicals, especially combinations of chemicals and exposure of children. Children™s exposure and risk comes under particular scrutiny in the report, as cancer rates are rising for children.
Pesticides are positively linked to many types of cancer including brain/central nervous system, breast, colon, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Pesticide-exposed farmers, pesticide applicators, crop duster pilots, and manufacturers also have been found to have elevated rates of prostate cancer, melanoma, lip and other skin cancer.
Food Residues for chemicals are set too high. For example only 23.1 percent of food sampleshad zero detectable residues, 29.5 percent had one residue,and the remainder had residues.
US President™s Cancer Panel Report 2010, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp.htm
Buffin, D., and Jewell, T. (2001). Health and environmental impacts of glyphosate: the implications of increased use of glyphosate association with genetically modified crops. Friends of the Earth and The Pesticide Action Network UK.
Cakmak, I., Yazici, A., Tutus, Y., and Ozturk, L. (2009). Glyphosate reduced seed and leaf concentrations of calcium, manganese, magnesium, and iron in non-glyphosate resistant soybean. Europ. J. Agronomy 31: 114“119.
Cox, C. (2004). Glyphosate. J. Pesticide Reform, 24:(4) 10-15.
Fernandeza, M.R., Zentnera, R.P., Basnyata, P., Gehl, D., Sellesc, F., and Huberd, D. (2009) Glyphosate associations with cereal diseases caused by Fusarium spp. in the
Canadian Prairies. Europ. J. Agronomy 31: 133“143.
Hardell L. and Eriksson M. (1999), "A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and exposure to Pesticides," CANCER Vol.85, No. 6 (March 15, 1999), pgs. 1353-1360.
Hayes T.B., Khoury, V., Narayan, A., Nazir, M., Park, A., Brown, T., Adame, L., Chan, E., Buchholz, D., Stueve, T., and Gallipeau, S. Atrazine induces complete feminization and chemical castration in male African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis).
Huber, D.M. (2010). What's new in ag chemical and crop nutrient interactions. Fluid J. 18:(3)
Johal, G.S., and Huber, D.M. (2009) Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants. Europ. J. Agronomy 31: 144“152
Johnson, W.J., Davis, V.M., Kruger, G.R., and Weller, S.C. (2009). Inï¬‚uence of glyphosate-resistant cropping systems on weed species shifts and glyphosate-resistant weed populations. Europ. J. Agronomy 31: 162“172.
Kremer, R.J., Means, N.E., and Kim, S. (2005). Glyphosate affects soybean root exudation and rhizosphere microorganisms. Int. J. of Analytical Environ. Chem., 2005.
Kremer, R.J., Means, N.E., (2009). Glyphosate and glyphosate-resistant crop interactions with rhizosphere microorganisms. Europ. J. of Agronomy 31(3): 153-161.
Lehmann V. and Pengue W. (2000), Herbicide Tolerant Soybean: Just another step in a technology treadmill; Biotechnology and Development Monitor. September 2000.
Leu, A. (2010) Glyphosate: a review of its health and chemical effects. www.ofa.org.au
Nordstrom M. et al, (1998), "Occupational exposures, animal exposure, and smoking as risk factors for hairy cell leukaemia evaluated in a case-control study," British Journal of Cancer Vol. 77 (1998), pgs. 2048-2052.
Rick A. Relyea. (2005). The lethal impact of roundup on aquatic and terrestrial amphibians. Ecological Applications Volume 15, Number 4 August 2005 pages 1118“1124.
Sophie Richard, S., Moslemi, S., Sipahutar, H., Benachour, N., and Seralini. G.-E. (2005). Differential effects of glyphosate and Roundup on human placental cells
and aromatase. Environmental Health Perspectives 113:(6), 716-720.
Strautman, B. (2007). Concern over Mineral and BioLogic Interactions with Glyphosate. LawrieCo BioLogic Information Sheet, LaurieCo Biological Farming (web posted: 14-06-2007).
Tesfamariama, T., Botta, S., Cakmakb, I., RÃmhelda, V., and Neumann, G. (2009). Glyphosate in the rhizosphere - role of waiting times and different glyphosate binding forms in soils for phytotoxicity to non-target plants. Europ. J. Agronomy 31: 126“132
Michael Antoniou et al. (2011). Birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark? Earth Open Source June 2011.
Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?
by Michael Antoniou
Mohamed Ezz El-Din Mostafa Habib
C. Vyvyan Howard
Richard C. Jennings
Rubens Onofre Nodari
© Earth Open Source, 2011
Hardell L, Eriksson M. A case-control study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and exposure to pesticides. Cancer March 15, 1999;85:1353-60.
Posted by: Pia in Untagged on
Jul 17, 2012
I just arrived in Santiago and its winter, so it™s a little Chile outside. I will spare you from the other 47 versions of this joke.
This is my first trip to South America. The closest I have been to here is Costa Rica, and I am pleased to say that the machismo of Central America is apparently absent in this city at least, if not in the country. Most people seem happy and fairly upbeat. There is some construction occurring around the city, but not over-the-top, as in China these days or in Thailand before the Asian crash.
I missed out on a trip to the Andes because I forgot that I had gone back over the date line, and booked for the wrong day, but you can™t escape the dramatic alpine backdrop to the city. Well actually you could miss it for much of the day. By peering intently through the smog, one can often just make out the snow covered peaks, then the sky clears and the mountain range pops into view for a while. It is an interesting sensation to stand at ground level, look up to a nine or ten story building a hundred metres away, and still be able to see a thin ridgeline of mountains over the top of the building.
Everyone has been helpful, as in most countries, it is not too hard to find someone with at least a bit of English language, and it seems most people under 30 have at least a basic grasp of greetings etc. With a bit of sign language and effort, it is possible to get directions or help to decide on a menu.
I think it is a really good sign about the people that they obviously love and care for dogs. Dogs have always been important in my life, and it is clear that dog owners respond well to my pleasure at seeing their dogs. Actually a lot of dogs are without apparent owners. It is hard to say if there are owners somewhere, or if they are really street animals, even when they are obviously getting fed and some care, such as a shop owner breaking up a cardboard box so they do not have to sleep on a cold footpath.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Jun 6, 2010
Mark Thomson is renowned for his books Blokes and their Sheds and other activities of the Institute of Backyard Studies. I recently attended his most recent exhibition at the South Australian Maritime Museum, on The Lost Tools of Henry Hoke. Thomson has undertaken considerable historical and archaeological investigation to uncover the almost forgotten work of this almost great tinkerer.
At first I found the aspects of the exhibition almost unbelievable. Clearly there had to be some great value and gravity to the display, especially as it was located in an important museum, but it certainly stretched my credibility. Then I found a glass museum cabinet with a container of Hoke™s Dogma Powder, hermetically sealed against the intrusion of doubt (also used to treat fleas on dogs). Just a whiff of this stuff and the entire exhibition came together for me. The same cabinet contained a can of Willing™s Suspension of Disbelief. I could hardly believe my luck! I moved quickly between the displays, marvelling over the Befuddling Tool, the Giant Windup Key, Hoke™s Refined Bulldust, the Load of Old Balls and the wall full of Hoke™s Leg Pulls. I was fascinated by Hoke™s many successful and almost successful inventions, such as his attempts to create a manual chain saw, and the Sub-atomic Sound Machine, otherwise known as the Quack of Doom, and the De-magnifying glass, and optical tool that claims to show reality exactly as it is. Other fascinating products included striped paint (must be shaken not stirred), tartan paint, spirit level bubbles, decompressed air, a can of spots (for spot welders), spark plug sparks and the rope hammer - used for hammering around corners. This last device reportedly takes some skill to use. Also fascinating was Hoke™s original correspondence with other great inventors, such as Alexander Graham Bell and Albert (Bert) Einstein.
For anyone who cannot get to see the exhibition at the museum, I recommend that you visit the Institute of Backyard Studies website you can see some of the remarkable achievements of Henry Hoke, including a video of the Random Excuse Generator, with its many functions, such as the platitude accumulator, the credibility gap normaliser and the blame shifter.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Apr 22, 2010
I was a fanatical dog owner until just over ten years ago. In 2000 I started travelling the world in my IFOAM job, and was unable to have a dog. I also had an unfenced peri-urban property, which made dog ownership difficult.
I consoled myself by having many doggy friends, some that would come to stay with me when their owner was away, or I could visit and take for a walk. Finally it got too much; I had to at least have a look at the local pound. Now I, or anyone familiar with my enthusiasm for dogs, could have guessed that I was going to return with a new pet, but my excuse to myself was to just have a look, see what was available, and consider my options.
I visited the Hahndorf pound, a private establishment with an excellent reputation. They don™t put dogs down there either. They keep them until they find a home.
The first dog I met was Ace, and eighteen month old black Labrador kelpie cross. He is jet black, with a very shiny coat. The sign said he was too boisterous for his elderly owner. Well he is not boisterous, but he is big and he can pull hard on the lead, and we don™t know how frail the owner was. It would have been a sad parting, as Ace is a lovely dog loaded with personality. I did not realize at first how traumatised Ace was, but as the weeks go by and his personality comes to the fore, I realise that he was actually quite disturbed.
Ace and I took to each other in the first minute. He is a cross between two reliable, intelligent breeds. Crossing is good for robust health. He had no obvious behaviour problems and is of a most trainable age and disposition.
Ace has become, like all the dogs I have owned, a ˜right by my side™ dog. He comes everywhere. In order to do this, he has to be very bright, patient, well behaved and calm. Ace fits the bill very well. In the four weeks I have owned him he has become a favourite at the Stirling Organic Market, where I have a coffee most mornings when in Adelaide. He is obviously devoted to me, and so smart it is scary.
Posted by: TMO Administrator in Untagged on
Apr 6, 2010
I have recently returned from a meeting of the committee of Standards Australia that overviews the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products.
High level meetings of this nature always produce intense sentiment and dissent. Of course they do. At this forum we are dealing with the fine detail of our Standard, what we call organic and what we will exclude. Most of these issues will not be of supreme interest to the average consumer. Consumers will want to know only that there is an appropriate and considered process for arriving at consensus on important issues. Most industry participants are very happy to have such a thorough and soundly based process in place to be a forum for broad input. Most are also aware that disagreement is a reality of any standards setting process is that the diversity of opinions offered and debated is a sign of the health of the industry and long journey we embark upon to create and maintain a standard.
The AS6000 can be held up as an excellent standard on the world stage. It has yet to be tested (being very new) but it appears to most industry commentators to be a basis for establishing equivalence with any other existing standard including the CODEX (UN Food and Agriculture Organization), IFOAM and individual country standards.
The highly respected processes of Standards Australia have been complete, with a number of expert industry subcommittees and wide distribution through the organic industry, primarily led by the OFA and the various certification bodies. The Committee is the largest ever established by Standards Australia (SA). There were more responses to the period of public consultation than received in any other SA process.
It is therefore very disappointing to find that some members of subcommittees or working groups, selected for their technical expertise, are unable to accept the decisions of the main committee when the decision is at variance from the technical viewpoint. It is vital to consult industry experts and to consider their input but, in the end, technical information can also be disputed, informed as it is from different academic perspectives, and the technical viewpoint needs to be balanced against a broader range of views, including practical production experiences but also the expectations of consumers and a comparative analysis of the AS6000 against the other various standards on which world trade is based.
How disappointing then that a technical expert, who participated in a working group of the standard, is now unable to accept any decision that is at variance with their opinion. So unable are they to accept that these decisions are based on a very wide range of inputs from a broadly constituted committee representing the interests of all stakeholders including consumers, that they are threatening legal action.
Importantly discussion at the working party was open and frank. The objector spoke as much or more than any other participant.
The responsibility of SA Committees is to take into account the full range of views. The critical issue for most of us is what will protect the reputation of organic as the most environmentally friendly, socially responsible and humane production system, and especially, what do consumers expect from an organic standard.
Threats of legal action are incompatible with an open, frank and democratic process. If someone feels so strongly that they must threaten legal action, the appropriate process is to first remove themselves from the subcommittee. It is offensive to other open-minded, well-intentioned participants in this process to infer that the subcommittees are improperly constituted, when the objectors were leading contributors to the activities and discussion of the committee.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Feb 16, 2010
In South Australia we have dry alkaline soils that tend to lock up phosphorus (P). The nutrient forms strong bonds with iron and aluminium, and stays in the soil but unavailable to plants. In lucky years when we have enough rain, any free P may be washed down through the soil profile, below the reach of surface roots.
The problem of P availability in alkaline soils is well known and agronomists have traditionally calculated P additions up to ten times the requirement of the crop to account for lockup. This meant that farmers were paying for a lot more phosphorus than they export from the paddock in produce, but super-phosphate was cheap and until the 1980™s it was subsidised.
I started reading about shortage of phosphorus supplies in The Ecologist magazine, but reports on short supply of P rarely made it into farming papers or magazines.
We have become familiar with the concept of peak oil, but what about forecasts of "peak P".
Recent price increases for fertilisers have perhaps focused our attention a little on efficiency of use of P, but availability still rarely rates a mention.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Jan 12, 2010
The term greenwash is derived from whitewash, meaning to hide, cover or conceal. It is about recognising and identifying misleading claims that companies or enterprises make to try to cash in on a feel-good attitude without really changing their way of doing business.
How much effort should businesses make before they claim to be environmentally friendly or socially just? Is it fair to make an organic claim on a t-shirt that has only 5 percent organic cotton or pants that have 50 percent organic fibre but also contain spandex? I encourage manufacturers to use organic and fair trade ingredients but I think they should be open and honest about their complete impact and they should be scrutinised for their claims. Making a selling point from 5 percent organic content does not stack up in my view. Companies make greenwash claims in an attempt shift responsibility for environmental responsibility from them to us (in the best case) and to fool us (in the worst case). Greenwash is part of a revolution in green information rather than green practice. They have hijacked environmental claims in an attempt to hijack our dollars.
Aware consumers should thoroughly evaluate the environmental and social justice claims of manufacturers and service providers. Here are some suggestions on how to do just that.
- Look for blurbs that make claims without any substantiating evidence, such as organic or fair trade with no certification.
- Be alert for pseudo-scientific claims or new terminology for environmentally responsible behaviour. They are very likely intended to obfuscate or confound consumers.
- Beware of environmental claims on products that are inevitably harmful such as fuel or cars.
- Be suspicious of claims that are too easily made, such as on blogs or websites, but which offer no substantiation.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Dec 21, 2009
I spent some time in South Korea recently, attending the IFOAM Organic Asia Conference 2009. Organic appears to be alive and well in Asia and still expanding, although the global economic downturn may have reduced the rate of growth over previous years.
The conference was attended by representatives of the organic sector from China, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka. Speakers included guests from UK and Germany (organic fibre), Italy (wine), Australia (cosmetics and climate change).
Both Andre Leu (Organic Federation of Australia Chairperson) and I (as OFA Deputy-Chair) spoke about climate change, and I also participated in the organic wine conference presentations. My presentations were popular because, as usual, we used many images of practical farming. My topic was organic farmer responses to climate change, and it was one of only a couple of presentations that were on farming rather than policy and theory, so it was well received. Marg Wills from OFC spoke on the topic of organic cosmetics, especially standards development.
The conference was in part a dress-rehearsal for the next (17th) IFOAM Organic World Congress, to be held in South Korea in September 2011. It will be the first OWC to be held in Asia. The Koreans did an exceptional job organising the recent event, and the WC should be a great success.
Korea does have a 5,000 year history of agriculture, characterised by paddy rice, but in reality quite diverse and productive. The government has some pro-organic policies, although it also has some disputes. While we were in Korea there were protests from a group of early-adopters of organic farming. The government was proposing to acquire their land as part of a river beautification program. I don™t know about beautification, but from my limited view of the countryside I would say they do need some erosion and sedimentation control programs on Korean rivers.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Oct 12, 2009
At last we have an organic standard with some real relevance to the domestic marketplace. It represents the culmination of over 20 years effort by the organic industry. I personally was first involved in an approach to the Federal Government with a request for a standard in 1989.
The new AS 6000 from Standards Australia also represents the
result of nearly five years of intensive lobbying and commitment from
the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA).
Until now the ˜default™ key industry document has been the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS)
Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, which only had authority
for export. Problems with a lack of definition arose during several
court cases, where the judges found that they could not use the private
(certifier) standard or the export standard.
Although the AS6000 is a voluntary standard, it does recommend certification as the ˜norm™ within organic marketing, and the courts and ACCC will use it as a definition.
Several court cases or ACCC actions have been won in recent years, to the benefit of consumers, but only where the offending companies had breached other obligations, such as misrepresenting contents on the label or misusing a certifiers logo, AS 6000 will permit consumer authorities and individuals to take action based on a core definition of what organic really is. It will stop people from claiming that they are organic even though they use urea, glyphosate or GMOs.
The organic industry is already a $600 million-a-year industry in Australia, but this standard should boost the confidence of consumers, growers, processors and exporters and give organic business a significant boost towards reaching one billion dollars of turnover.
Consumers are currently faced with eight different organic certification schemes, with different labels and grower requirements, and some non-certified products that claim to be organic. In the aftermath of AS 6000, the OFA will promote a single national organic logo to appear alongside the certifier™s logo, and reassure consumers that the goods meet the key standard for the industry.
The standard is available for the cost of $87 from the Standards Australia/SAI website. While the cost is high (the AQIS and certifier standards are available for free as a download) individual growers do not need to possess the standard. Certified operators only require their certifiers standard, which in most cases will remain available for free from the certifiers website.
In the meantime we are astounded to hear that some certifiers are claiming they will not use the AS 6000 and will stick with the old AQIS document. After years of fighting for it, we finally have a single standard with applicability to the domestic and export market, and the opportunity to present a simple, plain language document that anyone can read and interpret. Why would we not get behind a single unifying standard?
If you belong to one of these organizations I encourage you to ask your certifier to explain in detail what they have to loose from supporting AS 6000.
Posted by: 0 in Untagged on
Sep 28, 2009
I have been creating a new garden. It will be the largest garden I have had in many years, in fact for a decade. Prior to that, I was almost self-sufficient for vegies and fruit for much of the year, either from produce I grew or from swaps between myself and other gardeners and farmers in my network.
The new garden is built largely for photography purposes, part of a publishing project I will be working on for the next 18 months or so. So it has to look good, but it will also be productive.
It has been a lot of work so far. The area was completely covered in Watsonia and blackberry, with just a few spaces left for some periwinkle (Vinca major).
I have been thinking a lot about weeds as I work my way into the patch; partly die to the immediate task, but also because my current writing project is a book on organic weed control. I have also been thinking about what to grow in the new garden.
Some crops will be determined by my requirement for photographs. Apart from that, how does one decide what to plant? I think there are several obvious alternatives.
I could go for any of the following strategies: