Food for Thought
Lessons from Wisconsin
Port Huron Turns 50
Outraged Over Atrocities
Edward S. Herman
The Arab Spring
Libya, Africa, and AFRICOM
May Day 2012
Taking on Methyl Iodide
EDUCATING WITH MUSIC
Books, Rhymes, Life
The Obama Syndrome
Do No Harm
Ten Economic Crises
Victory for Colombian Students
A Drone World
Advertisements You'll Never See Again
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Watsonville Teachers and Students Take on Methyl Iodide
When those fields get sprayed with pesticides or when chemicals are plowed into the soil to kill the nematodes and root fungus that infest strawberry plants, everyone at the school gets a dose. It can come from the spray directly or from the dust that blows out of the fields into the adjacent neighborhood. Either way, this “pesticide drift” means that whatever is used to kill pests also gets ingested by children and adults when it wafts through the air into their lungs or when it coats their clothing or food for lunch.
“We know that methyl iodide causes birth defects,” says Jenn Laskin, grievance office for the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers (PVFT). “But we also suspect that it is one of a host of pesticides that are having far-reaching effects on students and on ourselves as teachers.” That realization motivated Laskin and a group of PVFT members to become part of a broad coalition that has fought methyl iodide and methyl bromide use for several years. When Arysta (“the world’s largest privately held crop protection and life science company”) announced it was pulling methyl iodide from the market, the coalition called it a victory.
Arysta’s announcement stated that, “the decision was...based on its economic viability in the
Methyl iodide is used primarily by strawberry growers to kill root infestations. It was a replacement for methyl bromide, whose use was banned in 1990 by the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances. Methyl bromide attacks the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Despite the ban, in 1999 over 70,000 tons of methyl bromide were still being used worldwide as a soil fumigant, mostly in the
Arysta then proposed methyl iodide as a substitute. In opposition, 54 leading scientists wrote to the EPA: “We are skeptical of U.S. EPA’s conclusion that the high levels of exposure to methyl iodide that are likely to result from broadcast applications are ‘acceptable’ risks...none of U.S. EPA’s calculations account for the extra vulnerability of the unborn fetus and children to toxic insults.” Methyl iodide is listed as a carcinogen by other Federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation called the chemical “highly toxic” and found that “any anticipated scenario for the agricultural or structural fumigation use of this agent would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact on the public health” and that limiting exposure from pesticide drift would be “difficult, if not impossible.” Nevertheless, the EPA approved it in 2007. Then the California DPR approved it as an “emergency regulation” in December 2010, in the final days of the Schwarzenegger administration. Three months later the department’s chief regulator, Mary-Ann Warmerdam, went to work for chemical giant Clorox Corp. A lawsuit was filed on January 5, 2011, challenging the approval, but meanwhile methyl iodide application began in
Beyond the scientific and legal arguments, however, are growing concerns by teachers about what many see as the rising effects of chemical exposure to students. Jenny Dowd teaches second grade at Ohlone and has worked at the school for 18 years. “I’ve seen a rise in asthma and behavioral problems over that time, especially in the last few years,” she says. “We have more kids with autism. There’s more hyperactivity among students, attention span problems, and chronic respiratory infections. I really wonder if these could be due, in part, to pesticide exposure.”
The concern of teachers and parents convinced local authorities to install a station for monitoring chemical exposure next to the schoolyard. Its big white box, ironically, sits next to the raised gardens where Dowd teaches her second-graders their first lessons in gardening, biology and the environment. They already know something about agriculture—in Watsonville, one of the state’s most important growing areas, a large percentage are the children of farmworkers.
“That means they’re also exposed to chemicals through their parents,” explains Gonzalo Herrera, who teaches kindergarten at Ohlone. “Their moms and dads come home with pesticides in the dust on their clothes. When their kids hug them, they get exposed. Often the parents don’t know the effects of what they’re working with, so we need to educate the whole family.”
Although the most recent fight has been over methyl iodide, concern about pesticide use goes back many years. “When I first worked here,” remembers Dowd, “my room was right next to the field. When I got moved after three years, I noticed that my breathing and health improved. These are obvious things you can see easily, but what worries me also is what kind of cancer we might see down the road.”
Because of those concerns, Laskin joined other teachers, young people in the local Brown Beret chapter, other local unions and the Pesticide Action Network, first to get the methyl bromide ban enforced and then to stop methyl iodide from replacing it. Through 2011 they testified at hearings and won the support of state legislators like Assembly Speaker John Perez, who called for its ban. Over 200,000 people supported prohibition in the EPA’s public comment period, and 30,000 signed petitions. In August, the United Farm Workers marched to
“Our partnership between migrant students and the union brought the first resolution to the school board in
After an attempt to pull it off the board’s agenda was greeted by public uproar and a rally at an Arysta reception at the local Marriott Hotel, even
The outcry—and the discovery of corporate influence over the staff scientists at DPR who worried about the chemical—had its effect on the court case. Warning Arysta and DPR regulators that a decision would likely go against them, Judge Roesch said the original approval had been “cobbled together” and that “no evidence” justified it. He found that DPR had broken state law by failing to look at alternatives or considering the Birth Defect Prevention Act. The company’s own lawyer then said, “Arysta, even if it wanted to, could not sell this product in the state of
That leaves the question, however, of what growers will use now to control strawberry pests. It’s not a light question in
Dowd wants the union to put more pressure on the district to advocate on pesticide issues. “We need to know what chemicals the industry is using, and what the side-effects are. We used to do surveys when I first worked here, asking students and teachers how they felt after a field was sprayed. If I could, I’d monitor every field next to every school.”
Pesticide exposure isn’t an issue separate from the other problems facing teachers, however. Lisa Woodhouse, who teaches fourth grade at Ohlone, says that after five years she’s still getting a pink slip every year. “Poison, pencils, and pink slips—they all start with a P,” she laughs.
Laskin believes the union should be more proactive and describes a change that took place during the fight against Arysta. “Students, teachers, farmers, and pesticide activists called for alternatives, not just banning methyl bromide,” she explains.
“Farmers use the tools industry gives them. So if we don’t want the return of methyl bromide, we have to look at that.” A statement by the Pesticide Action Network calls for “more resilient varieties and improved cultivars of strawberries, cultural practices (crop rotation, cover crops, natural fertilizer), biological control (using predatory species and bacteria instead of chemical pesticides), and physical methods (such as soil solarization and anaerobic disinfestation).” It quotes organic farmer Jim Cochran, who says: “It’s surprisingly easier to grow strawberries without chemicals than the industry would lead you to believe.”
In the meantime, Arysta is looking south to
David Bacon is the author of Illegal People and The Right to Not Migrate (both by Beacon). The photos in this article are by Bacon. Photo 1: Hieronyma Hernandez picking strawberries. The earth in the beds is covered in plastic when fumigated. Photo 2: Teachers at Ohlone Elementary are concerned about methyl iodide. Photo 3: Teacher Jenny Dowd's classroom is across the road from the strawberry fields. Photo 4: Jenn Laskin teaches at Renaissance High School where many students are sons and daughters of migrant farm workers. Photo 5: Strawberry pickers in a field. The methyl iodide spread to homes nearby.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.