Contributions to the Discussion

Contributions September 2-8, 2000

UPA, Health and Environment, session 2, week 1 Contributions received 2/9 - 8/9

From: Raanan Katzir
Date: 2-9
Subject: management of industrial pollution of irrigation water and solid organic wastes in Israel

My name is Raanan Katzir, an Engineer Agronomist dealing in behalf of my institute with International Cooperation with Developing Countries and in my professional job with "Sustainable Agriculture". Since we do not have Urban Agriculture in my country Israel, but significant Peri-Urban Agriculture, I would like to refer to the latest.

As requested, I would like to present the Israeli case story, where intensive Peri- Urban Agriculture is located in the periphery of the dense urban area. This is the case of sophisticated advanced agriculture, in the midst of enhance urban expansion, industrial development and proliffied transportation net. Such a complex creates various ecological disturbances, which negatively and mutually are inflicting the urban and peri-urban regions.

The approach, which was adopted since few years, from national and regional planning point of view, was to generate solution, which will mutually contribute positively to both sectors.

The urban area due to its dense population, industry and transportation, is significantly expressed by:
·Sewage water and city garbage
·Industrial residues
·Air contamination
·Noise disturbances
·Rivers, water ways contaminated
·Underground aquifers contaminated by nitrates, heavy metals, radio active materials and human disease agents, originated by hospitals.

Integrated mutual solutions were developed and adopted:
·Recycling the urban sewage water, to reach adequate standards to allow the use of this water for agriculture irrigation. Under the arid and semiarid conditions of Israel, potable water used before for irrigation, are substitute for urban use, by exchange with urban recycle water, used for irrigation.
·Industrial water are being recycled (by law), on the industry site, to avoid the movement of organic materials, heavy metals and radio-active materials, into the used water regional system.
·Hospitals garbage is being gathered separately, to be destroyed, and the water to be recycled on the spot, to avoid contamination of the used water regional system.
·Recycled of the City garbage. The Organic material turned into compost to be used by farmers and plastic, metal and glasses to be recycled by the industry.
·Air pollution, is reduced by using low sulfur fuel, chimney filters are used in electricity and industrial plants.
·Rivers and water ways contamination, is reduced by avoiding the city industry sewage from streaming into them.
·High ways are planed and built, to skip the population area in the rural zone, in order to avoid noise and air pollution disturbances.
From: Oleg Moldakov
Date: 2/9
Subject: physical problems urban farmers

My name is Oleg Moldakov. I am a Researcher on Urban Agriculture (soil
science and agro chemistry are my background). My contribution is based on
research I have been implementing in Russia in the context of the project
Soil and Water management in agricultural Production in Urban Areas in CEE
and NIS countries (SWAPUA)
a.Which are the health risks associated with UPA that in your experience -
cause major negative impacts on the urban population?
The application of waste water for irrigation and the use of municipal
sludge as fertilizer has a limited effect on the agricultural area or even
not at all. The composts prepared on the plots is stored a long time (12 months) which is enough to destroy disease borne bacteria.
During harvest and big sale of production (August - September) the sanitary inspectors have no time to check up the quality of the products sold by all salesmen and consumer don't know whether these products was grown in a safe place or close to a highway or industry. Therefore there is a danger of occurrence of milk products, mushrooms, vegetables, etcetera in the food market during these periods.
Townspeople, engaged in an agriculture, and especially the many middle-aged and pensioners among them, frequently complain of a pain in hands and back. On Saturday and Sunday they work very hard with very simple agricultural tools or by hands and almost do not apply pesticides and equipment.

b. What positive impacts of UPA on health and environment did you observe? In your opinion, do the positive health impacts outweigh the negative impacts? How could we measure or evaluate this?
The positive impact is a supply of fresh and guanranteed uncontaminated production from the own plot or from a plot of the relatives.A positive environmental impact is the re-use of kitchen wastes in the compost heaps on suburban plots.
In St Petersburg the health risks associated with UPA are hardly discussed and controlled nowadays. Of course, there are some sanitary problems and activities like the composting of household wastes (vermiculture) in cellars of multi-storey houses with roof top gardens, is only permited by the veterinary service up to the first complaint from the neighbours.
Consumers have a traditional mistrust to the vegetables which have been grown in the urban environment due to massive attention of the mass media to the potential risk of heavy metal contamnitaion. The positive results of tests of the quality of urban-grown products do not effect consumers mistrust.
Oleg Moldakov
St-Petersburg Downtown Gardening Club

From: Anne Bellows
Date: 5-9
Subject: Heavy metals

Hello. My name is Anne Bellows. I'm a geographer, working as a post-doctoral associate in the Nutritional Sciences Department at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in the US. Please excuse this late response to so many interesting discussions. I am responding from
experience in the urban gardening and peri-urban agriculture tradition in Poland.

I have noted references to heavy metal contamination in foods in contributions from Henk de Zeeuw, Leo van der Berg, Karen Lock, Oleg Moldakov, and others. It appears clear that little information is available on actual risk and sometimes it is concluded that the risk is not
overwhelming. I would like to respond briefly with an overview of how an activist group in Silesia Poland has responded for more than a decade to concerns of heavy metal contamination in foods on public health.

In my following discussion, I would like to address the following points in particular:
1.air-, soil-, and water-borne heavy metal contamination originating from industrial contamination and traffic
2.2. strategies to minimize risk

I would like to bring the conference members' attention to the work of the City of Gliwice Chapter of the Polish Ecological Club (PEC-G) located in the Upper Silesia region of Poland. This group has addressed food contamination of locally grown and consumed produce in southwest Poland. The region of Upper Silesia is the most densely populated, highly
industrialized, trafficked, and intensely polluted area in Poland. Nevertheless, regional residents raise 40-50 percent of the locally consumed, yet often highly contaminated, fruits and vegetables.
The greatest problems are in heavy metals (especially lead, cadmium, and to some degree zinc and nickel) and inorganic inputs from conventional agriculture also have posed measurable threats. Members of the PEC-G bring expertise as chemical engineers working in Regional Agriculture and Chemical Testing Stations, educators, and other disciplines to assess the risk levels and to propose risk management strategies to residents. Some
of these include:
* Assessing heavy metal contamination not only through analyses of soils and water, but also from fruits and vegetables.
* Collaborating with a regional environmental research institute to grade and map more and less safe regions in Upper Silesia.
* Developing an alternative marketing system to bring organic and IPM (integrated pest management) produce from safer regions of Poland.
* Working with local governments to: a) provide educational programs to residents, often to parents and pupils through the school system; b) subsidize nursery school and hospital budgets for the additional cost of buying organic vegetables.
* Providing educational programs for gardeners on how to minimize risk by, e.g., a) understanding and self-assessing risk levels by estimating distance from most major contamination corridors (large roads, factories, etc.); b) concentrating on crops that absorb lower levels of heavy metals (e.g. more ornamentals and gourds, beans, and berry bushes, and fewer leafy green plants);.
* Working with community groups to educate them on regional environmental risks, health prevention strategies, and civic organizing and lobbying strategies to provide them with more ways to lobby local and national governments as well as private polluters.

I attach here information on how to reach the group. Note that the staff is small and the ability to work in English is augmented by limited volunteer support.

Polskiego Klubu Ekologicznego, Kola Miejskiego w Gliwicach (Polish
Ecological Club, City of Gliwice Chapter)
ul. Kaszubksa 2
44-100 Gliwice
tel/fax (48) (32) 231 85 91

I have also written on the work of the group and issues of gardening and environmental health risks in Silesia. Selected examples include:
2000. "Balancing Diverse Needs: Risks and Pleasures of Urban Agriculture in Silesia, Poland." TRIALOG. Special issue on Urban Agriculture. June (Darmstadt, Germany). pp. 18-23.

2000. "Alimentation, sante et environnement en milieu urbain: l'exemple de la haute Silesie, en Pologne." Mustafa Koc, Rod MacRae, Luc J.A. Mougeot, Jeffifer Welsh (eds.) Armer les Villes contre la Faim: Systemes Alimentaires Urbains Durables. Toronto: International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and The Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson
Polytechnic University. pp. 139-143.

1999. "Urban Food, Health, and the Environments: The Case of Upper Silesia, Poland." (Original version of translation above.) For Hunger-Proof Cities: Sustainable Urban Food Systems.. pp. 131-135.

1997. "Urban Food Security in Poland." Ecology and Agriculture. Special issue on Urban Agriculture. No. 16. Sept. pp. 24-25.

1996. "Where Kitchen and Laboratory Meet: The 'Tested Food for Silesia' Program." in D. Rocheleau, B. Thomas-Slater, and E. Wangari (eds.) Feminist Political Ecology: Global Perspectives and Local Insights. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 251-270.

Anne C. Bellows
Geographer and Post-doctoral Associate
Department of Nutritional Sciences
Rutgers University
26 Nichol Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 USA
ph/ 732-932-3835

From: Kaspar Wyss
Date: 5-9
Subject: Malaria

All in all Jo Lines propositions are correct, but need to be put into
perspective. Anopheles-breeding sites need clean and standing water as a
requirement. This condition is given in some growing areas but in others
not (for example in Ouagadougou and Noukchott this pre-condition is not
given, and this is transferable for the whole Sahel).

From: Marcela Andre Lopez (summarized by moderator)
Date: 5-9
Subject: Genetically Modified seeds

Ing. Marcela Andre Lopez (La Casa del Arbol, Guanajuato, Mexico) is sending us information on the Campaign on Genetically Manipulated foods (GM foods). She points out that it is important to post this information because of the huge impact "improved" approaches offered by agrocompanies from the USA, that are displacing the reliance on home gardens and urban orchards and create a growing dependence on manufactured agroproducts at the market.
According to her information US firms involved in GM foods apparently are looking for markets in Latin America after rejection of GM foods in the EU and USA. This creates the risk that local seeds, well adapted to the local conditions and prerences, are gradually replaced by GM seeds. There is a lack of information in Latin America reagrding these 'dumping' practices and the dangers of GM foods in general.
More information can be obtained from and at the website of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods:
The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) resently published a brochure "To Help Agricultural Producers Make Educated and Informed Planting Decisions" that can be found at:
Las personas que buscan informacion en espanol sobre el tema de las semillas geneticalmente manipulados, podrian comunicarse con: Ing. Marcela Andre Lopez (La Casa del Arbol, Guanajuato, Mexico):
Henk de Zeeuw, Moderator

From: Tanya Bpwyer-Bower
Date: 7/9
Subject: malraia-maize

A very brief contribution to the Malaria debate
Jo Lines says:'maize-growing is hardly ever a problem. For maize you don't ridge the soil?..'
With regard to ridging and maize, she is right. However, in Harare, another 'environmental' reason used by the authorities for traditionally putting a stop to the widespread maize cultivation of public land is Malaria vis a vis the pools of water that accumulate on the maize plants where the leaves join the stems during the rainy season.
These apparently act as perfect areas vis a vis Van den Berg's description: small shallow ephemeral pools of water which an. Gambiae like. I do not know the references for the research that determined this, but it was a health worker who informed me that this was a proven hazard for Harare. Can anyone confirm whether this is so. In which case Jo Lines's assessment should be modified accordingly.

Tanya Bowyer-Bower,
Lecturer, researcher and consultant,
Department of Geography,
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),
University of London,

From: Evan Fraser
Date: 7/9
Subject: environmental effects of UPA

Greetings all,

My name is Evan Fraser; having worked in urban forestry for some time I am now completing a doctoral on peri-urban agriculture in Vancouver Canada. I am also a project manager for an urban greening project in Bangkok, Thailand and have helped teach a soil science and conservation course.I was extremely interested by Tanya Bowyer-Bower's comments on the environmental implications of UA, and, if she doesn't mind, would be extremely interested in more details and information on this research. Dr Bowyer-Bower highlights three specific problems, namely, ground water runoff, erosion (leading to siltation) and the fact that UA reduced ground water recharge.

With regard to the ground-water recharge, it is a global fact that agriculture competes with urban uses for water. Given the massive demand that agriculture puts on our global water supplies, water efficiency will probably become a dominant theme in agricultural policy in the future.

The other two problems - surface runoff and water erosion - have to do with the soil's ability to hold and transfer water. Unless damaged, soils that are covered with vegetation will normally store enough water to prevent any surface runoff, which occurs when the rainfall exceeds the "water-storing capacity" of the soil it is falling on. In addition, normally, soils with vegetation will not erode much; the force of the rain is slowed by the vegetation, and roots support soil aggregates. Of course, this all will vary with soil type - clays and organic soils will have a higher water holding capacity while sandy soils will be inherently more prone to erode.

In an urban situation, however, soil structure is almost always damaged. Research in British Columbia (which is, admittedly a long way from Africa, though the lessons should still apply), has shown that problems of nutrient loading and siltation in urban water ways are directly related to the "hard surfaces" ( buildings, roads, pavement, etc) in that area. In other words, in an urban environment, the roads, compacted soil, buildings and pavement all prevent the soil from storing water and allowing it to trickle slowly into the nearby streams. In an urban environment rainfall races off roofs, along roads, over compacted soil and floods drain sewers. Not only does this rainfall pick up debris that is lying on the ground it can also be fast enough moving that it erodes the soil it passes over.

As Dr. Bowyer-Bowers suggested there are many local, low-tech solutions to problems of surface runoff, erosion, siltation and nutrient loading. In places where I've worked and flooding and erosion are problems I have tried to support replacing hard surfaces with vegetated ones, establishing dykes, or baffles so that water runoff cannot build up enough speed to cause erosion, and promoting urban greening. Also I've tried to encourage people who are doing UA to subsoil; after repeated agriculture you often see a compacted layer of soil immediately below the "tillage depth" or the depth that people are digging to. In this situation water will not be able to penetrate very deeply, the soil will fill up, and you will have problems with runoff. By digging deeper every few years, it is possible to break up the compacted layer. Also, I've encouraged people to plant legumes that they do not harvest every fourth or fifth year. Finally, an active composting programme in the neighbourhood will help build u soil organic matter, which will increase water-holding capacity. Of course all of these proposals requires a certain amount of support. In situations where UA is actively repressed it will be virtually impossible to take the long-term perspective on soil management that is required to ensure the soil health and sustainability of UA.
All the best, and thanks for this excellent discussion.
Evan Fraser
Ph.D. Candidate, Resource Management and Environmental Studies,
University of British Columbia
Project Manager, International Centre for Sustainable Cities
Vancouver, Canada and Bangkok, Thailand


From: Karen Lock
Date: 8/9
Subject: physical problems, GM-foods, heavy metals

Some comments in relation to issues brought up this week by other participants:
1. Health effects of agricultural labour
Occupational injury of agricultural labourers has been estimated to be up to 1/3 of all occupational injuries in developing countries. Three main issues:
a- Poisoning/ illness due to pesticides and agrochemicals.
b. Disorders associated with heavy physical work and its bio-mechanical demands. Poor posture is common. Associated with the use of some tools e.g. sickles and hoes. But also methods of water carriage. It is estimated the 2 most common physical problems are back problems due to poor posture and spinal loading, and repetitive movements causing repetitive strain injury. They can both cause significant levels of disability,
c. Specific occupational disorders of agriculture a.o. related with use of machinery during growing, harvesting and processing of agricultural products.

2. Genetically Modified Foods
The main issues are consumer concerns about environmental and health impacts of GM technology. In reality there is (still?) very little evidence. The health concerns include the safety of genetically modified foods and the use of marker genes that could confer antibiotic resistance. One obvious environmental concern is the transfer of genes from genetically modified crops to non-modified crops, where they may have unforeseen consequences. Yet, as observed in the Royal Society's report, well established practices already minimise such dangers in the case of conventional cultivars. However, this may not be the case in developing countries.
The following papers and editorials (all accessible on-line via the British Medical Journal Website <>) discuss these concerns:
>BMJ 1999;318:581-584 ( 27 February ) Review: Genetically Modified Foods. L.Jones
>BMJ 1999;318:547-548 ( 27 February )Editorial: The paradoxes of GM foods. Dixon.
>BMJ 1998;316:1845-1846 ( 20 June )Editorial: Why all the fuss about GM foods? Much depends of who benefits. Burke.

4-Heavy metals
The only comment I want to make is that air pollution of crops is relatively minor compared with that from soil and water uptake. The evidence for the uptake of lead from crops grown at the road side is equivocable. I know of 4 studies: 2 from China and India show a strong relationship,between lead levels on crops and food, and blood lead levels, 2 other studies from Israel and Japan do not.

Karen Lock (LSHTM)


From: Pay Drechsel
Date: 8/9
Subject: malaria-maize

Dear Tanya,

Anopheles needs at least five days for breeding. Means, if the water doesn't evaporate completely in this period, it might be possible.

Pay Drechsel
International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM)
Africa Office c/o KN-UST, Kumasi, Ghana
Tel/Fax: +233-(0)51-60206, email:

From: Leo van den Berg
Date: 8/9
Subject: malaria-maize

Dear fellow-participants,
Although I am very happy with Jo Lines' clear points on the relationships between malaria and UPA, I 'd like to endorse Tanya'svery persistent question. This has bothered me for a long time. I have a cutting from the Zambia Daily Mail of 10/2/1977, where someone "with thirty years mosquito work" stated that "the mosquitoes which carry malaria in Zambia do not breed in plant axils" (like those of maize). When I raised the question in October last year on a malaria website the only answers I got was that "by providing shadow maize plants disfavour An gambiae", and that a Mike McDonald from John Hopkins Institute had stressed at a recent conference in Dar es Salaam that "slashing of grass around houses makes absolutely no difference to the prevalance of malaria". You see, the evidence is not complete and with Tanya I am very much looking forward to the ultimate answer!
dr. L.M. van den Berg
ALTERRA, Wageningen-UR
P.O. Box 47
NL (tel: 31-317-474435)

From: Aileen Robertson
Date: 8/9
Subject: Urban Food and Nutrition Action Plan WHO-Europe

Dear participants,

We are still working on the draft URBAN food and nutrition Actoin Plan but the draft is on our web-site. We have also translated two small booklets from the environmental services here in Copenhagen. In addition we are developing a monograph series of examples of food production in cities in the European Region (our 50 Member States).

In addition it might be useful for participants of the conference to know that the First WHO Food and Nutrition Action Plan (FNAP)(on the web) will be debated next week in Copenhagen (13 September) by 50 delegations from ministries of health. They will be asked to endorse a resolution which proposes a ministerial conference in 2005 to evaluate the impact of the FNAP.

Both the Urban Food and Nutrition Action Plan and the Food and Nutrition Action Plan for the European Region of WHO are available on our web-site. Along with our presentation leaflet which outlines some of our related activities in the area of food and nutrition policy development.

I would be very interested to know via the conference if there are any people working in Europe that might be interested in developing a "case study" for WHO EURO from any of our 50 Member States for our monograph series? also any comments on the draft URBAN Food and Nutrition Action Plan
will be welcome.

warmest greetings

Dr Aileen Robertson
Acting Regional Adviser for Nutrition
Food and Nutrition Policy Unit
WHO Nutrition Copenhagen
Tel: 45 - 39 17 12 26 Fax: 45 - 39 17 18 54

From: Ruben Rodriguez F.
Date: 8/9
Subject: Re-use of waste water

Es grato saludarlo y a la vez informar que El CENTRO PANAMERICANO DE INGENIERIA SANITARIA Y CIENCIAS DEL AMBIENTE (CEPIS), pone a disposición de la Conferencia, en el tema: AUP, SALUD Y MEDIO AMBIENTE, dos separatas(archivo: cepis.doc) que corresponden al "Curso de Tratamiento y Uso de Aguas Residuales".


Dr. Ing. Ruben Rodriguez Flores
Los pinos 259 - Urb. Camacho, Lima 12, Perú
Casilla Postal 4337 - Lima 100 - PERU
Tef.: (511) 437-1077
Fax: (511) 437-8289