PGP methyl bromide research fails to consider port communities health

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The Soil & Health Association joins Environment  Minister Nick Smith in welcoming the $2.5 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) funding,  for applied research into alternatives to log fumigation with methyl bromide, and the release of the neurotoxic and carcinogenic gas to the atmosphere.  However Soil & Health is scathing of the amount and the length of the research.

“People are dying from exposure to methyl bromide, and New Zealand’s significant use of the ozone depleting gas is expected to triple during the five year period that this trickle of funding is spread,” said Soil & Health-Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Economic reasons should be the last basis for action, after health and environment. This funding should be significantly increased for rapid implementation of existing alternatives, not the sham of further, although applied, research.”

“This PGP funding initiative publicity, by government and Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction (STIMBR), totally ignored the immediate health risks to local communities and port workers of New Zealand, and instead focused on broad environmental effects and economic savings that the forest industry might make when it is forced to meet its international responsibilities to stop the release of methyl bromide into the atmosphere.”

“Communities around New Zealand, especially at log exporting ports are at immediate health risk from cancers and neurological disorders such as motor neurone disease. The global community in turn shares the negative effects from enhanced ultra violet radiation as the ozone layer is depleted.”

“The Environment Minister and I have been reported as agreeing, that Port Marlborough and the Marlborough District Council should be getting on with recapture of methyl bromide gas rather than wasting money on monitoring for the gas,” said Mr Browning.

“Monitoring only shows if the invisible, odourless and tasteless gas happens to be where the monitoring equipment is, or is not.”

“ Monitoring has no way of predicting where it might be going and the installation of monitors such as the Marlborough District Council and Environment Bay of Plenty intend, are just sops to the anxious communities they represent.”

“Recapture technology exists. Research is not the main issue, but the capital cost of immediate up scaling is being delayed.”

“The funding arrangement based on economic imperatives primarily, comes as no surprise when the forestry representative on the Primary Growth Partnership had come from Global Forest Partners. Global Forest Partners, a USA based investment fund, are also responsible for wholly owned subsidiary Nelson Forests Ltd part in mudslide devastation around forestry harvest areas in the top of the South Island.”

Primary production in New Zealand needs to be treated holistically, and forestry needs a cradle to grave environmental footprint analysis done urgently.

Forestry could be genuinely sustainable, and there are some very good existing examples, but the large scale land disturbance, herbicide use, water quality and biodiversity losses, transport and fumigation effects that Global Forest Partners, Nelson Forests Ltd, and much of the forestry industry are responsible for, needs to be assessed before supposed economic gains are championed.”

“STIMBR has to their credit, included human health in its estimate of the economic value of reduced methyl bromide emissions effect on the ozone layer, however dodges the effects on their very own communities now.”

The global economic value of reduced methyl bromide emissions through the avoidance of its impact on ozone depletion in the atmosphere on human health and avoided damage to agriculture, fisheries and materials has been estimated at around $3,700 per tonne of methyl bromide not released.

“Human health affects in New Zealanders will includes cancers and motor neurone disease from exposure to methyl bromide gas, not just the acknowledged effects from ozone depletion,” said Mr Browning.

Soil & Health – Organic NZ have a vision of an organic clean green 100% Pure Aotearoa New Zealand where human health and the environment are put before economic greed. Soil & Health – Organic NZ support initiatives for multi-species forests and farm woodlots, value adding logs into end products in New Zealand, and the rapid implementation of alternatives to toxic chemicals.

Notes:

http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/methyl-bromide-research-funding-welcomed

http://www.maf.govt.nz/Portals/0/Documents/agriculture/assist-funding/pgp/media-bkgrnd-stimbr.pdf

New Zealand has an obligation under the Montreal Protocol to: refrain from use of methyl bromide and to use non-ozone-depleting technologies wherever possible. Where methyl bromide is used, Parties are urged to minimise emissions and use of methyl bromide through containment and recovery and recycling methodologies to the extent possible;