Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2009 2:04 PM
Subject: A court victory- to learn from...
High Court action against UK Government over toxic crop pesticides
Georgina Downs 29/01/2009
Hers was a landmark victory against the Government. Campaigner Georgina Downs on the importance of setting a policy precedent on pesticides
Against all the odds, I recently won my landmark High Court action against the Government over its failure to protect people in the countryside from exposure to toxic pesticides sprayed on crops.
This case was based on a set of core arguments that I identified and had been presenting to the Government over the last seven years. It was obviously a very significant ruling for the millions of residents throughout the country who, like myself, live in the locality of pesticide sprayed fields.
Mr Justice Collins was in 'no doubt' that the Government has been acting unlawfully in its policy and approach, as it does not comply with the relevant EC Directive regarding the authorisation of pesticides. That directive requires that before a pesticide is approved for use, it is established that there will be 'no harmful effect' on human health. This must apply to all the necessary exposure groups, including residents.
However, the Government's only method of assessing the risks to public health from crop spraying is based on the model of a 'bystander', in which it assumes that there will only be occasional, short-term exposure to the spray cloud at the time of the application only, from a single pass of a sprayer and to only one individual pesticide at any time.
The judge agreed with my long-standing charge that this bystander model does not address residents who are repeatedly exposed, from various exposure factors and routes, to mixtures of pesticides and other chemicals, throughout every year, and in some cases for decades. The fact that there has never been any assessment of the risks to health for the long-term exposure for those who live, work, or especially go to school near pesticide sprayed fields, is a scandal considering that crop-spraying has been a predominant feature of agriculture for longer than 50 years.
Under EU and UK law the absence of any risk assessment means that pesticides should never have been approved for use in the first place for spraying near homes, schools, playgrounds and other public areas.
Adverse health effects from exposure to pesticides are recorded in the Government's very own monitoring system every year, and include acute effects such as rashes, itching, sore throats, burning eyes, nose, blistering, headaches, nausea, stomach pains and burnt vocal chords, among other symptoms. These acute effects are regularly reported to me by rural residents from all cross the UK.
Therefore, the Government, the Pesticides Safety Directorate, and the Advisory Committee on Pesticides were all fully aware that these adverse health effects have continued to be reported, but wrongly accepted such effects as not being 'serious'.
Also by allowing acute effects to be considered acceptable, the Government is then also allowing the risk of chronic illnesses and diseases, which can increase when acute effects repeatedly occur as a result of long term cumulative exposures.
This has been recognised previously by the European Commission which acknowledged that 'long term exposure to pesticides can lead to serious disturbances to the immune system, sexual disorders, cancers, sterility, birth defects, damage to the nervous system and genetic damage.'
I spent much of last year working on my legal case and after re-reading approximately 3500 pages of documentation that was before the Court, I submitted a 149 page Witness Statement which provided the critical evidence for the case.
This evidence showed quite clearly that the Government has knowingly failed to act, has continued to shift the goalposts, cherry picked the science to suit the desired outcome and has misled the public, especially rural residents, over the safety of agricultural pesticides sprayed on crop fields throughout the country.
The UK Government's relentless and extraordinary attempts to protect the industry as opposed to people's health has been one of the most outrageous things to behold in the last seven years of my fight.
This is especially apparent at the moment, as not content with not protecting its own citizens the UK Government has been trying to scupper new European pesticide proposals from having the primary focus on health protection of citizens across Europe, to one of primarily protecting the industry.
There is also a clear case of double standards here. For example, the Government's response to the threat of a chemical terrorist attack would be first and foremost to protect its citizens. However, the spraying of toxic pesticides all over the countryside and the poisoning of the public is directly under Government sanction.
The most important action that must now be taken is to ban crop-spraying around homes, schools, children's playgrounds and other public areas. Considering studies have shown that pesticides can travel in the air for miles then the distance of the no-spray area would need to be substantial.
While it may not be possible to reverse the damage that has already been done to many people's health following exposure to pesticides, the situation will only become even more dire if radical changes in the UK are not made now. There has already been decades of Government inaction, as the Government has continued to allow the industry to set the agenda when it comes to pesticides. This cannot continue.
The Government should now be admitting that it got it wrong, apologising, (especially to all those residents whose health and lives have been affected) and actually getting on with protecting the health of the citizens in this country.
Instead, the Government's recent decision to appeal this ruling continues to demonstrate the Government's absolute contempt for rural residents and communities and is a disgrace.
Heads should be rolling, following such a landmark High Court Judgment, but instead its 'business as usual' with the Government's relentless attempts to protect the industry as opposed to the health of its citizens abundantly clear.
Georgina Downs of UK Pesticides Campaign has spent seven years fighting to change Government's pesticides policy
Drug Company Had Hit List for Doctors Who Criticized Them
The international drug company Merck had a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralized" or discredited because they had criticized the painkiller Vioxx, a now-withdrawn drug that the pharmaceutical giant produced.
Staff at the company emailed each other about the list of doctors. The email, which came out during a class-action suit against the drug company, included the words "neutralize," "neutralized" or "discredit" alongside some of the doctors' names.
The company is alleged to have used intimidation tactics against researchers, including dropping hints that the company would stop funding their institutions, and possibly even interfering with academic appointments.
"We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," a Merck employee wrote, according to an email excerpt read to the court.
International NIR and Health Workshop – Brazil
May 18 th and 19 th 2009 Ministério Público do RS, Rua A. Figueiredo Pinto 80, P. Alegre, RS, Brazil.
The purpose of the workshop is to present lectures as a basis to initiate discussions with Brazilian and foreign scientists and public health authorities on the potential biological and health consequences of exposure to EMF, and to discuss exposure limits to NIR.
The workshop will be under the sponsorship of the Pan American Health Organization – PAHO/WHO, the Brazilian Ministry of Health, as well as some other governmental and non governmental organizations. Some international researchers from several countries will deliver invited talks on selected subjects.
Researchers, public health authorities, as well as authorities from the legislative, executive and judiciary governmental bodies from Brazil and other South American countries are also invited.
First day: 18th May 2009
Morning- Chairman: Dr. Henry Lai
8.00 - 8.30 am: Registration
8.30 - 9.00 am: Opening session: Authorities from the Brazilian Ministry of Health, from the Pan American Health Organization - PAHO/WHO and other sponsors.
9.00 - 9.30 am: WHO representative (to be confirmed).
9.30 - 10.00 am: Dr. Henry Lai – "Thermal and non-thermal effects."
10.00 - 10.30 am: Dr. Carl Blackman – "The relevance of discovery science for research on the health effects of EMF."
10.30 - 10.45 am: Coffee break
10.45 - 11.05 am: Dr. Livio Giuliani – "The Zhadin effect: a non thermal mechanism of interaction between magnetic fields and living matter."
11.05 - 11.35 am: Dr. Martin Blank – "Stress protein synthesis: a cellular response to EMF interaction with DNA."
11.35 - 12.30 pm: Round table - The previous speakers and the audience. Modulator: Dr. Henry Lai.
12.30 - 2.00 pm: Lunch
Afternoon- Chairman: Dr. Carl Blackman
2.00 - 2.30 pm: Dr. Leif Salford – "Effects of mobile phone radiation upon the blood-brain barrier, neurons, gene expression and cognitive function of the mammalian brain."
2.30 - 3.00 pm: Dr. Franz Adlkofer – "Proof of principle tests confirm the genotoxic potential of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF)."
3.00 - 3.30 pm: Dr. Michael Kundi – "Epidemiologic evidence for a relationship between NIR and cancer - a controversial issue."
3.30 - 4.00 pm: Dr. Om P. Gandhi – "Underestimation of EMF/NIR exposure for children for mobile telephones and for electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems."
4.00 - 4.15 pm: Coffee break
4.15 - 4.45 pm: Dr. Raymond Neutra – "Risk Assessment and Policy Lessons from the California EMF Program."
4.45 - 5.15 pm: Dr. Devra Davis – "Lessons from the Center for Environmental Oncology - The Secret History of the War on Cancer: The Pittsburgh experience to promote precaution on cell phones."
5.15 - 5.30 pm: Ms. Elizabeth Kelley – "National and International Standards for Worker and Public Exposure to NIR."
5.30 - 6.00 pm: ICNIRP representative (to be confirmed).
6.00 - 7.00 pm: Round table: The previous speakers and the audience. Modulator: Dr. Henry Lai.
7.30 - 9.00 pm: Cocktail.
Second day: 19th May 2009
Morning – Chairwoman: Dr. Ana Maria M. Marchesan., MP/RS
8:30 - 8:50 am – Dr. Adilza Dode, UFMG: "Neoplasias and cellular telephony in the city of Belo Horizonte."
8:50 - 9:10 am - Dr. Geila R. Vieira, SMS/P.A.: "Non-ionizing radiations: the importance of practicing vigilance on environmental health of a population."
9:10 - 9:30 am - Dr. Sergio Koifman, ENSP/FioCruz, "Exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields and mortality by childhood leukemia: exploratory analysis of its association in the city of São Paulo."
9:30 - 9:40 am: Dr. Carlos Eduardo C. Abrahão, SMS/Campinas: "A Revision of the Brazilian Medical Ethics Code in 2009: Inclusion of the Precautionary Principle."
9:40 - 10:10 am: Dr. Guilherme Franco Netto, CGVAM/ MS: "Analysis and perspectives of the Ministry of Health on managing health under human exposure to NIR in Brazil."
10:10 - 10:25 am: Coffee break
10:25 - 10:45 am - Prof. Francisco de A. F. Tejo, UFCG: "Health impacts of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields: the necessity to adopt the precautionary principle."
10:45 - 11:15 am: Dr. Renato Rocha Lieber, UNESP/SP – "Risk, prevention and precaution in the technological disasters."
11:15 - 11:35 am: Dr. Ana Maria M. Marchesan, MP/RS: "Radio-base stations and the action of the MP in the tutelage of the environment."
11:35 - 11:55 am – Dr. Anaíza Malhardes Miranda, MP/RJ: "The precautionary principle and the environmental licensing of RBS: regulamentation in the state of Rio de Janeiro."
11:55 - 12:15 pm: . Dr. Tarcisio Neves da Cunha, FioCruz/INCA: "Vigilance on environmental health related to RNI."
12:15 - 2:00 pm: Lunch
Afternoon – Chairman: Dr. João Carlos R. Peres, ABRADECEL
2:00 - 3:30 pm: Round table: "The NIR and its effects on the health of workers." Dr. Solange R. Schaffer - Fundacentro/TEM: "Management of occupational exposure to NIR." Dr. José Antonio S. Bulcão – Furnas: "Risk perception of utility workers about the effects of ELF fields." Dr. César N. Vargas - SINTRESC/SC: "Hazards of 60 Hz EMF to health of utility workers." Dr. Robson Spinelli Gomes - Fundacentro/TEM: "Analysis of occupational exposure to EMF in the sector of cellular telephony." Prof. Claudio R. Fernández – IFSUL:"The distance between discourse and practice in the management of risks of technicians working in installation and maintenance of antennas of cellular telephony." Eng. Antonio Marini de Almeida – CPqD: "Measurements of EMF in the work places." Dr. Francisco Antonio B. Corrêa - SINTTEL/RS: "The NIR and the telecommunication workers."
3:30 - 3:45 pm: Coffee break
3:45 pm to 4:00 pm: Prof. Hélio A. da Silva, UFJF: "Why a municipal Law to NIR is necessary."
4:00 - 4:10 pm: Dr. Ivens Drumond, Abradecel – "The NIR and the national legislation."
4:10 - 4:20 pm: Dr. Cíntia Schmidt, OAB/RS: "Punctual aspects of Bylaw 8896/02 which rules the RBS in Porto Alegre."
4:20 - 4:30 pm: Eng. Marcos S. Oliveira, ANATEL: "The NIR in the perspective of ANATEL."
4:30 - 5:45 pm: Round table: "Exposure limits in a national legislation." Representatives from MP, MS, MMA, MTE, MME, MC, Chamber of Deputies, OPAS/OMS, OAB, CNBio, ANATEL, ANEEL, ABRADECEL, etc. Modulator: Dr. Guilherme Franco Netto, CGVAM/MS.
5:45 - 7:00 pm: Round table and discussion with the previous speakers and participants; Main conclusions and directions of the workshop. Modulator: Dr. Cíntia Schmidt, OAB/RS.
7:00 pm: Closing of the workshop.