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    No. 7 · Safe Food Campaign Newsletter ·July/August 2000

    Organics/Pesticides

    10 Times More 24D!

    The Australia and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) is planning to allow the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of 24D on cereal grains to be increased tenfold.

    This means that wheat and other cereal grains coming from Australia are likely to have increased levels of pesticide on them. NZ non organic bread often has flour from Australia in it. Another reason to buy/make organic bread!

    The National Registration Authority in Australia (the equivalent of the Pesticides Board in New Zealand) has applied for this increase, believing it is important that flexibility is achieved for producers and importers and that no additional public risk will result. They calculate that the National Theoretical Maximum
    Dietary Intake for 24D will be 86% of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). This means that they argue that the population might be exposed at most to 86% of the amount of the pesticide below which they believe it should cause no harm in animals, and theoretically not in humans. One can argue that this is perilously close to the ADI, especially considering the huge range of susceptibility in humans.

    24D is a phenoxy herbicide like 245T and MCPA. It is the other half of the notorious Agent Orange, which, along with 245T, has caused devastation in Vietnam and continuing ill-health among exposed Vietnam veterans.

    Research has shown 24D can cause cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, and suppress the immune system. More recently, it has been found to disrupt the endocrine or hormonal system, which can have profound and lasting effect on the nervous system and reproductive system as well as the immune system, even at very low doses. The greatest risk is to the foetus in the womb. It is also known to be contaminated with dioxins and furans, which are very persistent and bio-accumulate up the food chain, with the highest concentration being found in the human baby. No safe level has been found for dioxins.

    In New Zealand, 24D is typically aerially sprayed by farmers as a control for thistle. It is notorious because it has caused more spraydrift complaints than any other pesticide. People who have been over-sprayed with 24D have suffered various health problems. 24D can also be sprayed on fruit trees such as apricots and oranges to control ripening. Do we want to consume higher levels of this pesticide than we are already getting?

    In the meantime, following the decision by an expert panel of OSH that Laurie Newman in Northland did indeed suffer ill health from 24D exposure, the Pesticides Board in NZ is currently reviewing 24D. After his fighting Marine Helicopters and Dow for several years over the illeffects of 24D spraydrift, we are disappointed to learn that Laurie's case has just been thrown out of the High Court in Auckland.

    A summary of submissions made about 24D, including one by Alison White, will be available on the MAF website http://www.maf.govt.nz


    Chemical victims' coalition

    Kees Bon in Northland, whose daughter suffered when her school was oversprayed with 24D is co-ordinating a chemical victims coalition.

    Contact: R.D.2, Waiotira, Northland 0250,
    Tel: (09) 432 9838. Email:keesbon@xtra.co.nz


    Pesticides in bananas

    by Alison White

    We have had requests for information on pesticide residues in bananas. While we don't yet know a great deal, the following is the little that we do.

    The latest New Zealand survey, the Total Diet Survey carried out in 1997/98, found two pesticides in two samples of bananas. Obviously we cannot depend on the reliability of such a ridiculously small sample size, especially when we also take into consideration that only 90 pesticides were screened for, about a quarter of the current pesticides in use.

    The two pesticides found were the dithiocar-bamates or EBDC fungicides and chlorpyrifos. The EBDC group of fungicides are real nasties, they have a breakdown product called ethylene thiourea (ETU) which has been found to be an endocrine disruptor, carcinogen, mutagen and teratogen, among other things. Even minute quantities of endocrine or hormonal disruptors have been found to cause all sorts of damage, especially to the developing foetus. Chlorpyrifos. an organophosphate (and another known endocrine disruptor) is cumulative and can cause damage to the foetus, targeting the brain and the developing nervous system, in addition to impairing immune response.

    The previous ('90/91) Total Diet Survey showed that 3 out of 4 samples of bananas had chlorpyrifos, including one sample that was fairly close to the Maximum Residue Limit.

    American data I have access to (FDA 1990­1992) found just under half of the bananas analysed had detectable residues, with a total of 14 pesticides found. Four pesticides with significant residues were chlopyrifos (in 25­70% of samples), thiabendazole (52­58%), imazalil (8­36%), and benomyl (9­20%). ETU was found in 13% of 38 samples of bananas.

    Benomyl (Benlate) is a suspect carcinogen, a mutagen, teratogen and a known endocrine disruptor. (You may remember the Benlate scandal with the Christchurch babies with birth defects a few years ago. Benlate was let off the hook because it could not be proved that the mothers were exposed to it in their pregnancies.) Thiabendazole is a mutagen and suspect teratogen.

    New Zealand does not monitor the pesticide residues in imported produce. It doesn't even monitor satisfactorily what we grow in New Zealand. The most rigorous monitoring that is done is carried out on meat and produce that is exported from New Zealand, to satisfy the requirements of the importing countries. The public, however, cannot get access to this data.

    Compared to other fruit, bananas may not be so bad with their pesticide residues. American data show apples are worse, and also berry and most stone fruit. Buying non-organic food is a bit like playing Russian roulette: there may not be any harmful pesticide residues inside it, but then again there may.

    So, what is the upshot of all this? I, personally, still have the occasional non-organic banana and give them occasionally to my kids, who are now older. I would monitor the intake of non-organic bananas to preschoolers, without necessarily avoiding them. (It depends partly on the amount of other non-organic food they are having.) There are, after all, valuable nutrients in bananas, aside from the fact they are popular. But I would avoid non-organic bananas if I were pregnant.

    At the moment I am working on the sequel to "Eating Safely", a shopper's guide to safe food (the title hasn't been finalised yet), which will present foods in dictionary order. We realised that we do need to cover bananas. So at least some of the information I am giving will go into the sequel.

    I have a special request to make: can anyone monitor the internet to try and get more information on pesticides in bananas in particular? I am especially after any more recent FDA material. I am keen to know what pesticides have been found, the percentages found and the size of the samples. My current computer is not internet-capable. If you know of anyone else who could spend time on the net to help, this would be much appreciated.

    July 2000

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