100% Pure NZ is systematically sprinkled with persistent organic pollutants, but don’t worry! All the studies prove it’s OK.
Actually, independent source Pesticides Action Network PAN declares it’s not OK, these products are on the Highly Hazardous Pesticides list (HHP list).
What’s the problem?
They do not disappear despite some biodegradability, they enter the food chain and they accumulate. From highly acute toxicity to long term toxic effects (carcinogenic and mutations), endocrine disruption, environmental degradation (ozone layer, effects on animals…), to hazard to ecosystems services (bees), HHP effects are varied. Cause and effects are not always obvious, often long term. Only highly acute toxicity is tested in most cases.
Diquat dibromide is on HHP list. It can be fatal if inhaled ; Also toxic by ingestion and dermal contact, including neurologic effect. It is chemically close to agent orange and was used in Vietnam too. It makes rats infertile. It is often found in cow milk. It is unlikely carcinogenic but is known as a potential ground water contaminator. Diquat is used every year in Lake Wanaka in an attempt to stop lagarosiphon spread. It doesn’t stop it nor prevent it to grow again. In fact, lagarosiphon is not toxic, it is a habitat for native species, it absorbs nitrogen. It does annoy boaties, getting stuck in propellers. It does disrupt hydro dams (turbine shutdown and lost energy production), obliging hydro companies to invest in expensive measures against the plant.
Glyphosate (RoundUp) is listed on the HHP list. It is not as biodegradable as Monsanto says. Not only it is quite persistent in water and sediments but also its degradation creates other toxic substances. It is known to have long term health effect on kidneys and reproduction organs. Its massive use also leads many weeds to become resistant and it is present in many surface and ground water tables. Besides, glyphosate is often associated with other chemicals for the weedkiller to be more efficient so you get the perfect cocktail for unknown consequences. Actually not so unknown as many many studies show severe effects but Monsanto’s powerful marketing machine is still winning.
Pindone (not on the HHP list), however on PAN database, it is listed as highly toxic, causing nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bloody urine, extensive bruising in the absence of injury (ecchymoses), also fatigue, shortness of breath (dyspnea) on exertion. It may cause fluid in lungs (pulmonary edema). It is fatal or highly toxic for fish. Toxicity data is missing (no study done/recorded) as to cancer, water pollution potential and the bees. It is used to kill rabbits, with some success, although rabbits invariably spread again, possibly getting resistant.
1080 (Sodium fluoroacetate), is on the bad guys list as Extremely hazardous (Class 1a) according to World Health Organisation and fatal if inhaled. May also be absorbed through the skin. Leads to convulsions, laboured breathing, unconsciousness and death if untreated. DOC says 1080 is OK for NZ because it targets mammals and there is no native mammals in this country. 1080 is not used in any other country in the world because it would destroy mammals. Well, sorry but I AM a mammal and my children too. More and more research show that it accumulates and that it has long term carcinogenic and reproductive effects… In the local papers today, DOC kindly reassures us that fish ingesting 1080 are safe to eat because you need to “eat several tonnes of affected fish” to get a fatal dose. For me, “not fatal” does not equal “safe”. What about everything in between?
2014 is a mast year
In 2011, the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment publishes a report that supports the use of 1080 as the best solution available to help protect our native birds. Interestingly, independent scientists demonstrate just the opposite on their site 1080science.co.nz. A lot of information is on the Ban 1080 website.
Solidly based on the PCE report, DOC launches the “Battle for our birds”, with a record dropping of 1080, when we know that 1080 kills about as many birds as it protects them.
Which to believe?
I am not a scientist but I see clearly there is not enough consensus on that matter among scientists to keep using these HHP without questioning.
I know about Rachel Carson landmark book, Silent Spring, which warned, in 1962, that the use of pesticides would lead to wildlife destruction and a dramatic increase in cancer cases.
I have read Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborne, which demonstrated in 1996, that even tiny doses of pesticides can alter human development and reproduction, as they are endocrine disruptors.
So I wonder… and I worry…
What do the pro 1080 win? Lots of money $$$ from selling and applying their product. Pro-1080-diquat-and-so-on justify themselves by any mean to keep doing business as usual.
What do the anti 1080 win? Nothing! They must have good precautionary reasons to spend so much time and energy fighting this!
I am not saying I have solutions. I just want people stop saying these substances are solutions. They are not. They are dangerous and don’t solve problems, hardly mitigate them. Saying they are solutions prevents everyone from searching for better ways -non toxic please.
I think we must stop thinking in terms of pests that we need to eradicate. Maybe consider them as resources? Lagarosiphon is excellent composted. Possums of course have made the fortune of many trappers. Some rabbit terrines are served in the best restaurants in some countries…
Maybe widen the issue to the whole system? We don’t have a “pests” problem in an otherwise perfect world. I know this may shock but it strikes me that National Parks are protected (from destruction by humans) and DOC is sole responsible for their maintenance yet forests are becoming silent. I know of some valleys that are privately owned and well looked after by their owners. No possums, no stoats, lots of birds, lush native bush. Maybe the system needs revisiting…
What if humans became again guardians of the land, respectful of nature, not consumers and controllers of nature? This does require quite a mind-shift and a lot of open-minded discussions. I don’t have solutions. But if we don’t look for them, we won’t find any and we’ll keep doing the same things with the same results.
What you can do
- Take the warning signs seriously! It IS dangerous!
- Join groups who set traps
- Take photos of abuse and send them to the media, OSH, local authorities and beyond
- Love your weeds instead of poisoning them
- Generally avoid using chemicals, they all add up!
- Prompt debates…
PS- I could make a very similar article about the pesticides used in agriculture, less visible but more widespread…