Group of Senators Push for Ban of the Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

A group of senators introduced a bill on July 25, 2017 in the hopes of banning Chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide implicated in the poisonings of farm workers. Introduced by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, the bill challenges President Trump’s efforts to loosen environmental regulations. [1]

Chlorpyrifos Ban and Recent History

  • In April 2017, the EPA said it would not ban chlorpyrifos, despite the agency’s own chemical safety experts, who had recommended under the Obama administration that the pesticide be permanently banned from agricultural use nationwide, due to the dangers it poses to farm workers and young children.
  • In late 2016, the EPA concluded that chlorpyrifos exposure was causing potentially significant health issues, including learning and memory declines, especially among farm workers and young children.
  • On July 18, 2017, a federal appeals court denied a petition by green groups to force the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos. [2]

Several manufacturers produce chlorpyrifos, including Dow Chemical. It is listed as a neurotoxin by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

EPA: 97% of Endangered Species Threatened By 2 Pesticides, Including Chlorpyrifos

According to Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who is dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, the toxicity of chlorpyrifos was proven “to damage the brains of children, especially those of fetuses in the womb” in 3 long-term, independently-funded studies “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Toxic residues of chlorpyrifos are regularly found on fruits and vegetables, including under the peels of oranges and other citrus fruits, as well as in the flesh of melons under the rind. Simply washing a piece of fruit before eating it is not enough to remove the pesticide. [2]

The EPA’s own scientists concluded that the amount of chlorpyrifos ingested by young children could exceed safety levels by 140 times.

The agency’s failure to ban chlorpyrifos could be construed as criminal, considering it is illegal under federal law to apply pesticides to food crops if the EPA can’t prove that they can be used safely.

Under the bill, the EPA would be required to conduct a broad review of the uses of chlorpyrifos to determine which groups are most vulnerable to the toxin. Should that review conclude that people are being exposed to harmful levels of the pesticide, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would be forced to take “appropriate regulatory action” within 3 months by either suspending or revoking chlorpyrifos’ registration, or lowering the amount that can be legally applied. [1]

Udall stated:

“Congress must act because Administrator Pruitt has shown that he won’t.”

Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland, Kamala Harris of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Ed Markey of Massachusetts are co-sponsoring the piece of legislation. [1]

Sources:

[1] Reuters

[2] National Resources Defense Council


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Migrant Workers File Class-Action Against Monsanto over Labor Standards

Agrotech giant Monsanto is facing another class-action lawsuit, but this time it has nothing to do with glyphosate or any of its other products, but rather labor conditions for some of the company’s migrant workers. [1]

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 2 migrant workers who allege that Monsanto violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Workers Protection Act while the workers were employed in fields where the company grows its seed-corn. The class-action is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that Monsanto failed to pay its workers the minimum wage and that it failed to pay its employees when compensation was due. The workers further allege that Monsanto misrepresented the way the employees would be paid, and didn’t bother to keep accurate payroll records.

The lawsuit states that the migrant workers, called farm labor contractors, or FLCs, were hired to detassel and rogue corn in the Midwest, but those contractors failed to pay them a promised wage. [2]

Detasseling involves removing the top “tassel” part of the corn plant, and rogueing refers to removing undesirable plants from the fields so that they do not grow to maturity.

However, the farm labor contractors are not listed as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed June 29, 2017 in the U.S. Northern District Court of Illinois Western Division.

Read: Busted: Monsanto Abusing Illegal Workers in “Slave-Like” Conditions

Teresa Hendricks, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and director of the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, said the reason the contractors weren’t named was because they:

” … are not the ones with any real control. They are typically undercapitalized and struggle themselves with Monsanto, some have sued Monsanto even for pay. They will be deposed as witnesses in our case.”

By Hendricks’ estimates, the potential damages could reach $2 million. What’s more, the fact that it’s a class-action suit means that hundreds of workers could be affected.

Two-million is chump change to Monsanto, however, and $2 million divided among hundreds of people doesn’t add up to much compensation.

“I’m not aware of any other multi-state class action against Monsanto over its labor practices in production of seed corn. Potentially, it could be the highest amount of damages of this type of suit.” [1]

According to the lawsuit, the FLCs:

“… did not receive funds from Monsanto for detasseling work until Monsanto approved particular areas for detasseling, which could take several weeks and could require as many as four pass throughs by the workers.”

It further states that because the contractors:

“… were generally very small entities with little capitalization or available funds to pay workers, the Monsanto FLCs, upon information and belief, would not pay workers the full piece rate they should have earned, in accordance with the disclosures, each week after the detasseling workers finished their work. Instead, the FLCs would pay the workers a partial rate, with a promise to make up the missing funds later, even at the end of the season when the detasseling work was completed.”

It goes on to say:

“For example, Plaintiffs Perez and Nieves were promised by Monsanto FLC Benito Vasquez/B&F Detasseling that they would receive additional pay after they completed their work for Monsanto and left the Midwest. However, this pay was never provided, and these Plaintiffs were underpaid by thousands of dollars as a result.”

Agrochemical company DuPont Pioneer has also faced allegations of hiring contractors who mistreat and underpay workers in its seed-corn fields.

Sources:

[1] Mother Jones

[2] Investigate Midwest


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VA Head Comes out in Support of Marijuana for Vets with PTSD

President Donald Trump’s stance on legalizing medical cannabis is a big question mark, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions hates marijuana and has expressed his intent to stiffen drug penalties. But there is at least one person in the government who sees the potential of marijuana as a medicine, and that person is Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin.

Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration, told reporters on May 31, 2017, that he’s “interested” in exploring how cannabis can benefit veterans wrestling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). [1]

Source: PTSD Journal

The VA secretary stated:

“Right now, federal law does not allow us at VA to look at that [medical marijuana] as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.

So if there is compelling evidence that this is helpful, I hope that people take a look at that and come up with the right decision. And then we will implement that.” [2]

Read: 21 Lawmakers Push Veterans Affairs to Allow Medical Marijuana

Just a week before Shulkin’s statements, the American Legion (the country’s largest veterans organization) called on the Trump administration to “clear the way for clinical research in the cutting-edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research.”

Currently, VA doctors are not allowed to recommend medical cannabis to veterans because it remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, meaning the government does not recognize its medicinal benefits. Heroin – which killed more than 13,000 people in 2015 – falls into the same category. However, Shulkin emphasized in 2016 that VA doctors can discuss the matter in states where medical marijuana is legal. [1]

Sources:

[1] attn:

[2] Vice News

[3] UPI

PTSD Journal


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