Friday, May 29, 2009

Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated:
"Poisoned Land"

this Baird's Sparrow image courtesy of Alan MacKeigan

In this chapter, the book shifts focus to look directly at one of the causes of grassland bird decline--toxins in the environment.

I focus primarily on Carbofuran (Furadan), a strong pesticide that has been killing birds and other creatures for decades. The granular form, particularly attractive to songbirds, was banned a few years ago, after a protracted de-registration process both in Canada and the U.S. Meanwhile, the liquid form remained available for farmers to use until earlier this month when both the American and Canadian agencies finally gave in to public pressure--24 years after scientists first proved that the chemical was killing millions of birds.

Here is an article on the recent banning published in the May 20 edition of the Globe & Mail.

image from

The image above shows a lion poisoned in April in Africa's Mara Triangle Conservation Area. The lion had been feeding on a carcass of a hippo that died from eating vegetation sprayed with liquid Carbofuran. A total of four lions were affected. Two died along with five hippos. Apparently, the outrage over these poisonings led rapidly to the American Environmental Protection Agency taking action.

FMC Corp., the makers of Furadan, still says on its web site that Furadan "remains a useful product, vital to the sustainability of agriculture " and that its proper use "does not create a risk to human health, wildlife or the environment."

Propaganda from corporations such as FMC has too often taken the place of science in the public mind, fostering a situation where a destructive pesticide such as Carbofuran can stay on the market years after it was proven to be killing millions of birds. This displacement of publically-funded science with industry positioning is only exacerbated by the Harper government's muzzling of government scientists. The Globe & Mail writer mentions not being able to get a direct quote from Pierre Mineau, the Federal scientist who got the de-registration process rolling in Canada 24 years ago after learning about the effects of Carbofuran on prairie songbirds.

These egregious delays can only happen because information is being kept from the public. If news about the lions and hippos dying had not got out, the American EPA would not have moved on banning the pesticide. And you can bet that if the EPA had not acted, our government agency (the Pesticide Management Review Agency) would not have banned this pesticide either.

The Harper muzzle order on our Federal scientists prevents information from entering the public forum where informed citizens can pressure the government to act on the best research coming from their own researchers. If it is happening with pesticides and wildlife you can bet it's happening with climate change, leaks from nuclear facilities and many other issues.

1 comment:

  1. Further to the impacts of pesticides on wildlife, I was disturbed this morning by a report on Germany's Deutsche Welle radio (early CBC listening). Not only is European wildlife moving into urban areas because urban areas are moving into their habitat, but because of monoculture and pesticides, rural areas can no longer support them. It's sad when Berlin and Heidelberg can offer more to wildlife than can the countryside.

    Very much enjoying your "Grass, Sky, Song". Thank you.



Share this post

Get widget