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This website provides resources on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and wastes. Valuable examples of community monitoring of health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals are also furnished.

Further, there is an entire section devoted to chemical safety in its proper socio-political context or in relation to issues such as globalization and people's empowerment.

 

France suspends use of Gaucho insecticide for corn

By Alex Kirby, BBC News Online

French Agriculture Minister Herve Gaymard on Tuesday announced it planned to stop use of the Gaucho pesticide to treat corn seeds until it is reviewed by the European Commission in 2006.

In January last year, Gaymard had already extended for three years suspension of the use of Gaucho, a chemical produced by the German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, for treatment of sunflower seeds.

Gaucho, like another pesticide Regent TS produced by German chemicals giant BASF, has been accused by French bee-keepers of causing a high mortality rate among bees. Sales of Regent TS was suspended in France last February.

An agriculture ministry report deemed that the government's decision to give farmers till June to use up their remaining stocks of pesticide was much less costly that destroying the crop seeds already sprayed. But the national association of bee-keepers says massive damage is being done to bee populations, which are crucial to plant pollination.

Subisidiaries of Bayer and BASF, which sold Regent TS, are under criminal investigation in France for selling an agricultural product that is toxic to humans or animals. (sourche: AFP)

French beekeepers say about 90 billion of their insects have been killed over the last 10 years by a pesticide.

The chemical, used on crops including maize and sunflowers, damages the bees' sense of direction so they become lost. It is used in the UK on several crops, though not in exactly the way it is used in France, and British beekeepers have been urged to be on their guard.

UK apiarists say the value of bees to the agricultural economy is immense, and they fear bees are becoming rarer.

The chemical implicated in the loss of French bees is imidacloprid, marketed under a variety of names including Gaucho. It is slowly released in the plants, protecting them against insect attack by destroying their ability to find their way.
A London newspaper, the Observer, reported: "Almost immediately after the chemicals were introduced 10 years ago, beekeepers reported that their bees were becoming disoriented and dying.

Used in UK

"Within a few years honey production in south-west France fell by 60%. According to the chairman of the national beekeepers' association, Jean-Marie Sirvins, a third of the country's 1.5 million registered hives disappeared. "As a result, France has had to import up to 24,000 tons of honey annually."

The pesticide companies say their products are not responsible for killing the bees.

There are no reports of any ill effects from applications of imidacloprid in the UK, where it is licensed for use on beet. There are restrictions on its use when the plants are in flower, or for spraying the foliage. But Richard Jones, the director of the International Bee Research Association, told BBC News Online: "Beekeepers here have to be on the alert.

More needed

"The verroa mite, which feeds on the bees' blood, arrived from mainland Europe, and we know that bees' nests can travel a long way on container ships.

"People hear about bees and think only about honey, but it's the other side of the problem that's worrying. "They add billions of pounds to the value of the agricultural economy every year because of their work in pollinating crops like apples.

"We don't have enough bees in the UK, and we have very few feral bees. Every time a hedgerow is destroyed, that means the loss of nesting places for bumblebees."

©heal toxics, 2003
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