Sustainable Agriculture News Bulletin
Volume 2, Number 6
June 18, 1993
LEGISLATORS DEBATE MINOR CROP PESTICIDES
A House Agriculture subcommittee heard testimony on minor crop
and minor use pesticides last week. Some farm state lawmakers are
concerned over the continued decline of available pesticides for
minor, high-value crops like fruits, nuts and vegetables and have
introduced legislation in both the House and Senate in an attempt to
keep some of these pesticides on the market. Growers say they have
access to fewer and fewer pesticides as companies are pulling them
off the market in order to avoid the expensive registration process
required by the government under the 1988 Federal Insecticide,
Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. "We're losing these minor crop
products. We can't wait any longer," said Mark Maslyn of the
American Farm Bureau Federation. Manufacturers, however, are
apparently reluctant to focus energy on minor crop pesticides.
"Should we be supporting our efforts on artichokes, or should we be
working on a more significant area like cotton, or soybeans, or corn
or wheat?" asks Michael Tysowsky of Zeneca Ag Products. Richard
Wiles of the Center for Resource Economics said that data obtained
by his organization shows that pesticide residues in fruits and
vegetables have increased since 1991. "Minor crops is food," he said.
"You can never have a waiver of health studies if you are going to
apply pesticides and expect people to eat residues."
Source: Robert Greene, "Using Pesticides," AP, June 12, 1993.
ORGANIC FARMING GAINING GROUND IN EUROPE
Once considered a pastime for hippies, more and more European
farmers are turning to organic production. British farmer Lister
Nobel is running a 10-year experiment on the viability of growing
chemical-free crops. The experiment is financed by the French
chemical company Rhone-Poulenc SA. Surveying his crop of
organically grown wheat, Lister said, "It looks promising. My hunch
is we'll have another good crop." Project consultant Landell Mills
estimates that France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark and
the Netherlands had a combined total of 100,000 hectares and 5,500
farmers in organic production. That compares with 304,000 hectares
and 11,500 farmers in 1992.
"Chemical companies are starting to see the writing on the wall. I
think they will progressively diversify away from agrochemicals as
they see that the market is not going to be sustained in the future,"
said Patrick Holden of Britain's Organic Growers Association. Bruno
Treppoz, a spokesperson for Rhone-Poulenc, maintains that the goal
of the project is to evaluate the environmental and financial impacts
of organic farming over many planting seasons. "There is a market
for organic food, but we think it will remain marginal because,
generally speaking, Europeans are not prepared to pay 30-40%
premiums which organic growers need," said Treppoz. Last year's
reforms of the European Community's (EC) Common Agricultural
Policy(CAP) mandated that farm ministers seek ways of "greening"
agricultural production. Recently, Germany and Denmark
implemented aid schemes where farmers are compensated for the
income they lose while switching over to chemical-free production.
Source: Ben Hirschler, "Organic Farming Takes Fragile Root in
Europe," REUTER, June 13, 1993; Ben Hirschler, "Organic Farming
Sparks Interest From Chemical Firm," REUTER, June 10, 1993.
HUNGARIAN CHILDREN AFFECTED BY PESTICIDE USE ON
LOCAL FISH FARM
A recent study by German and Hungarian scientists predicts that the
abnormalities afflicting many children in the Hungarian village of
Rinyaszentkiraly were the result of pesticide use at a local aquafarm.
Between 1989 and 1990, 11 out of 15 children in the village were
born with severe birth defects. Andrew Czeizel of the Hungarian
National Institute of Hygiene said that the pesticide trichlorphon had
been used on the fish farm and a new director in the late 1980s
completely ignored the directions on the label. A method called
chemical fast bathing was used where fish were taken from the
water for up to 10 minutes and treated with the pesticide. Although
fishing was banned during treatment, the villagers still caught and
ate the fish. All the mothers of the of the children suffering from
birth defects had eaten the fish during their pregnancies.
Source: "Tainted Fish," CONSUMER CURRENTS, May 1993.
HERBICIDE MAY BE KEY TO CURING TROPICAL DISEASE
Scientists from Rutgers University released a report this week that
says a widely-used herbicide may provide the cure for the tropical
disease leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is a skin disease that is caused
by infection from parasites that are transmitted by sand flies and
affects about 12 million people in 80 countries. Marion Chan and
Kunne Fong, the Rutgers researchers, found that chemical trifluralin,
which sells under the brand name Treflan, breaks down the cell
walls of the parasites. Also, tests involving the use of Treflan as a
topical ointment on laboratory rats helped heal the skin sores the
disease causes. The two said they believe a drug could be developed
from Treflan as the chemical's main ingredient is not believed to be
toxic to human cells. They also suggested the herbicide might be
helpful in fighting parasites that cause other tropical diseases like
Source: "Weedkiller Could Be the Key to Treating Some Tropic
Diseases," WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 15, 1993.