St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), September 19, 1991


On June 21, 1989, U.S. Customs agents in Houston seized 150 cases of pickled mustard greens imported from Thailand. They took the food to a city dump, crushed it and burned it. The greens carried traces of Tokuthion, a pesticide manufactured in Kansas City. By returning to American soil in imported food, the toxin had completed what chemical company critics call the ''circle of poison.'' It's a toxic turnaround: Chemicals that can't be sold in America are returning to this country on imported fruits, vegetables and meat.

On Friday, Congress will take aim at the controversy - and focus a national spotlight on the Mobay Corp.'s Kansas City plant where Tokuthion is made (Mobay is a subsidiary of the German company Bayer A.G.). Some members of Congress and environmental groups want to stop U.S. companies from exporting chemicals that aren't approved for sale at home. The hearing, before the Senate Agriculture Committee, will debate proposals restricting exports by Mobay and other U.S. chemical companies. Officials of Mobay, Monsanto Co. in St. Louis and four other chemical companies will testify.

Mobay officials point out that Tokuthion, which has not been submitted for U.S. approval, has been declared safe in other countries. They say if exports are restricted, companies would be forced to produce the chemicals overseas. The chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says new legislation is the best way to keep companies from selling unsafe chemicals abroad. Americans eat 134 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables a year - about 25 percent from overseas. ''Buying food should not be a guessing game,'' said Leahy, who is sponsoring the Pesticide Export Reform Act. ''Consumers should not have to choose between off-season cantaloupes and cancer every time they buy imported fruit at the supermarket checkout line.'' But Mobay says the countries importing Tokuthion have approved it as safe. Mobay says it is confident it could win the same approval from the EPA, but seeking it would cost up to $40 million. The company says that's too much to spend on a chemical that is most effective on pests found overseas.

Inter Press Service, November 2, 1990, Friday


JOHANNESBURG - A United States chemical company shipped more than 15,000 kg of a pesticide banned for use in the U.S. to South Africa in March, according to "Greenpeace" toxic waste expert Jim Vallette.

The environmental activist said this at the start of a film workshop and conference here this week after arriving in South Africa as part of a high-powered Greenpeace investigative team.

Missouri-based Mobay Corporation exported 40 drums of the insecticide, known as Tokuthion, to an undisclosed South African port after the product was rejected by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Speaking at the official opening of South Africa's first environment film festival, Vallette said the manufacturers recommend that Tokuthion, which forms part of the highly toxic organophosphate group of pesticides, be used for spraying apples, pears, grapes and tea.

This suggests the consignment was destined for use in South Africa's deciduous fruit industry.

In June, weeks after despatching the insecticide to South Africa, Mobay was fined $47,600 by the EPA after sending toxic insecticides with English warning labels to non-English speaking countries in the Third World.

Organophosphates, widely used in South African agriculture, are a family of toxic insecticides.

South African Council of Churches Secretary General Frank Chikane narrowly escaped death after being poisoned with a brand of organophosphates while on a trip to the United States last year.

The anti-apartheid cleric's clothes were sprayed with the chemical and then absorbed through his skin.

South African government's registrar for pesticides, Max Orban, confirmed that Tokuthion is registered for use in the country as a fruit spray without any restrictions.

The Department of Agriculture considered the chemical to be safe because it had passed all toxicity tests, said Orban.

Vallette is one of the keynote speakers at the conference and festival of ecological films, entitled "Environment for a Changing South Africa."

The international ecology pressure group is here to examine indications that many multinationals plan to use South Africa as a dumping ground for toxic waste and agricultural chemicals that are banned or restricted for use in the industrialized world.

The group's visit here marks a growing awareness in local and international anti-apartheid circles that the main groups involved in the transition from apartheid to democracy, will have to deal with the environmental degradation that has been wreaked on the country under successive authoritarian governments.

Vallette and two colleagues made an unofficial trip to South Africa early this year to study the pollution caused by a recycling firm in Natal.

The firm imports vast amounts of mercury-based toxic waste from the United States multinational American Cyanamid.

Vallette told IPS that his current official trip to South Africa coincided with a general increase in interest about environmental issues that affect the African continent within Greenpeace.

He is due to debate the issue of toxic waste and dangerous pesticide imports to South Africa with Pretoria's director-general of the environment, Bill Visagie, here tomorrow.

Organized by the Environment Film Workshop Group, the festival includes seminars on wildlife conservation, air pollution and acid rain, the overlap between occupational safety and environmental health, and future environment policies for South Africa.

It is the first conference and festival of its kind to beheld in South Africa and is designed to highlight the way in which the country's most impoverished and oppressed communities, black workers and rural peasants, are most affected by environmental degradation.

It will be attended by representatives from the country's two militant labor federations -- the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU).

The African National Congress (ANC) has flown in Stanley Sangweni, the liberation movement's expert on environmental issues, from Kenya to participate in the conference while the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) will be represented by veteran member Barney Desai.

The festival opening was also addressed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Toni Strasbourg and a screening of her film, "The Wasted Land," which examines the impact of apartheid on South Africa's environment.

Strasbourg, a South African exile, arrived back in the country for the first time this week after going into exile with her father, Rusty Bernstein.

Bernstein was hounded out of the country 26 years ago for his activities as a top-ranking official of the Communist Party of South Africa.