In the previous post, we discussed the possible health consequences from the use of methyl bromides to fumigate wooden shipping pallets that are then used to ship clothing internationally. Pure and healthy organic clothing can become contaminated during shipment on off-gassing wooden pallets fumigated with methyl bromides. Methyl bromide is also a significant contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer and the world community in 1992 committed to phasing-out and eventually banning the use of methyl bromides. The resulting agreement has been called the Montreal Protocol.
Methyl bromides are deadly not just to insects and nematodes but also to people, animals and other wildlife. A highly toxic fumigant that can cause neurological damage and acute respiratory poisoning, methyl bromide is also a suspected carcinogen and it has resulted in the deaths of many people globally. In the U.S., the complete ban of methyl bromide was to become effective 1 January 2005 - with the exception of using methyl bromide to fumigate wooden shipping crates. Not totally unexpectedly, the Bush Administration has been delaying the ban by using a loophole in the Montreal Protocol that allowed exceptions when there were no effective alternatives.
According to recent news from the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), under guidance from the Bush Administration, is “facilitating a chemical industry and agribusiness effort to introduce an even more severely toxic fumigant, methyl iodide” rather than using this opportunity to move toward healthier and sustainable agricultural practices. PANNA is mobilizing an effort to deny registration of methyl iodide as an agricultural fumigant. It is unclear if methyl iodide is also being proposed as the replacement alternative to fumigate wooden shipping pallets.
And now for a tangent. In this and the previous post, we mentioned that fumigants and pesticides also kill nematodes. Some people wondered what a "nematode" actually is. Nature is totally stuffed with these fascinating, tiny critters. Nematodes are the most numerous multi-cellular living species on earth. A handful of soil contains thousands of these microscopic wiggly parasites that feed on insects, plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and even other nematodes.
Consisting of about 1,000 somatic cells and a few hundred reproductive system cells, nematodes are basically just a long digestive tube with a personality. Their alimentary canal begins extends from their mouth on the anterior end and extends all the way to their tail on the posterior end. Nematodes have digestive, nervous, excretory, and reproductive systems, but lack discrete circulatory and respiratory systems.
No place on earth is without nematodes ... except for fumigated fields where all life has been poisoned. Desert ground is as teeming with nematode life as rainforests. Even the ground under polar ice is rich with nematodes.
Ranging in length from 0.3mm to over 8 meters, the number of different varieties of nematodes is virtually unlimited. Dr. Nathan Augustus Cobb, regarded as the fond father of nematology, described the vastness of the nematode world:
"In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites."
Isn’t that amazing! Our normal perceptions of creation are so very limited. But, the human species just goes around and willy nilly nukes and fumigates and poisons countless forms of life without any realization of the immensity and atrocity of our actions.
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