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04
Aug

Bee and Bird-Toxic Pesticides Found in Food Served at Congressional Dining Hall

(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2015) Nearly every food available for purchase at the U.S. Congressional Dining Hall contains detectable levels of neonicotinoids (neonics), chemical insecticides implicated in the global decline of wild and managed pollinators. The results of a new study, performed by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, reveals how reliance on these toxic chemicals can both directly and indirectly affect our food supply. Authors of the study hope the results will build Congressional support for the Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2015, which would suspend the use of neonics while an independent review analyzes the chemical’s effects to birds, pollinators, and other wildlife.

cafetaria_congressResearchers for the study conducted two rounds of food testing, the first in January, and the second in May 2015. Approximately half of samples were taken from the House Longworth Cafeteria and half from Senate Dirksen Cafeteria in Washington, D.C. In total, 66 food samples were tested for the presence of neonicotinoids. Of that, 60, or 91% of samples tested positive for one neonic, and 47, or 71% of samples had two or more neonics present. “We were surprised to find that most foods contained multiple neonicotinoids, with as many as five in samples of fresh-squeezed orange juice and green bell pepper,” said Cynthia Palmer, Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation for ABC.

Although the investigation was limited to fruits and vegetables at Congressional cafeterias, neonics are used on a wide range of crops, including soy, cotton, corn, canola, and sunflowers. However, studies continue to question the efficacy of these chemicals in pest control, showing no yield increases as a result of their use. Beyond food production, neonics are frequently detected in nursery plants sold at big box home and garden centers throughout the United States. And recent research also produced by the Harvard School of Public Health finds these chemicals to be ubiquitous in our environment during flowering season, present in a vast majority of pollen samples taken throughout the state of Massachusetts.

Although the impacts these chemicals have on birds (a single kernel of neonic-coated corn is enough to kill a songbird), honey bees, wild pollinators, and other beneficial organisms is clear and has been well-researched, data on the impact of these pesticides to human health is still not well understood. Studies that have been performed do elicit cause for concern, however. An analysis from the European Food Safety Authority in 2013 identified concerns with regard to the impact of neonics on childhood brain and nervous system development. And, as the ABC study indicates, while none of the residues levels found in Congressional cafeteria food exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s reference dose, or level which the agency considers acceptable based on laboratory studies, research from Japan indicates that adverse effects may occur at amounts lower than those EPA deems adequate. Moreover, thiacloprid, a common neonicotinoid, is considered “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” by EPA as a result of thyroid tumors in male rats, and ovarian tumors in mice tested in the laboratory.

“It is almost impossible to avoid eating foods that are contaminated with neonicotinoids in the cafeterias on Capital Hill. We can reasonably assume that the likelihood for humans to be exposed to neonicotinoids through dietary intakes is the same as for birds, bees, and other pollinators in the environment,” said Chensheng Alex Lu, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Research has found that bees prefer foods treated with neonicotinoid insecticides, but do members of Congress? Localities within the U.S., as well as other countries and regions throughout the world have taken action to restrict or eliminate the use of these pesticides. In 2013, the European Union imposed a moratorium on a number of agricultural uses of neonics. This decision will undergo review and analysis in late 2015. Earlier this year the Canadian province of Ontario implemented new rules aimed at curbing the acreage planted with neonic-coated seeds by 80% in the next two years. In the U.S., President Obama announced a National Pollinator Health Strategy in attempts to reverse pollinator losses, but the plan has been widely criticized by environmental health and beekeeper groups for not adequately addressing pollinator exposure to toxic pesticides. Hopes remain in Congress for the Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act of 2015, which would impose a suspension on the most toxic uses of neonics until a review can prove that the chemicals do not present a hazard to bees.

Take action by asking your member of Congress to support the Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act. To view which food crops have harmful pesticides used on them, view Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience webpage here. To avoid neonic chemicals in your food, seek out and purchase certified organic products, which never allow toxic synthetic insecticides, and take steps to improve soil and habitat for wildlife such as pollinators.

Source: American Bird Conservancy Press Release

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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03
Aug

Bee-Toxic Pesticide with Some Banned Uses in Oregon Found in Bees Killed There

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2015) Oregon state investigators found lethal levels of a banned, bee-toxic insecticide in the systems of dead bees discovered last month in downtown Portland. The Oregon Department of Agriculture released results last week of investigations into the June 26 bee deaths near Pettygrove Park, as well as two other nearby bee die-offs in mid-June. Dale Mitchell, pesticides program manager for the agriculture department, told The Oregonian that the bees received a dose of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid chemical that has been linked the global decline in bee populations, more than two-and-a-half times the highly lethal level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

dead bee- fadeThe Oregonian previously reported about the Pettygrove incident, in which Portland law student Corinne Fletcher stepped outside her doorstep to find countless bumblebees dead or dying on a walkway leading into the park. In that case, as well as the two others just blocks south the park, the bees had been feeding on the nectar of linden trees.

It has been illegal to use imidacloprid on linden trees since February, when the Oregon Department of Agriculture banned it after a spate of mass bee deaths involving bumblebees that had been feeding on linden trees treated with neonicotinoids. Along with the Pettygrove Park die-offs, there have been seven separate bumble bee incidents in Oregon related to the application of neonicotinoids on trees since June 2013, documented by the state’s Department of Agriculture. Six of those incidents occurred in the greater Portland area. The ban extended to dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, three other insecticides in the same class.

Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key factor in pollinator declines, not only linked to acute exposure and immediate bee deaths, but also sublethal exposure that adversely affects bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.

Through interviews with the owners and managers of the property where the bees died of lethal insecticide doses, investigators determined the chemical applications happened before the ban took effect. The area has been a hot spot of bee death in recent years. In addition to this year’s incidents, the agency received reports of dead bees in the same vicinity in 2014 and 2013. The fact that such a dramatic poisoning event occurred long after the application of neonicotinoids stresses the dangers of these persistent systemic insecticides

Along with the lethal dose of imidacloprid in the Pettygrove bees, investigators found clothianidin, another banned neonicotinoid, in their systems. At another death scene two blocks south and three days earlier, investigators again found imidacloprid. Investigators also found traces of chlorothalonil, a fungicide.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which, of course, prohibit the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can Bee Protective.

Source: The Oregonian

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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31
Jul

Meeting Records Expose Industry’s Influence in UK’s Neonic Emergency Use Decision

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2015) New information has surfaced regarding the role of agrochemical giants Bayer and Syngenta in the United Kingdom (UK)’s recent decision to temporarily allow the use of neonicotinoid seed treatment on oilseed rape crop. A record of the meeting, involving the UK government’s expert committee on pesticides (ECP) and industry representatives, had previously been suppressed. The newly released record of the meeting shows that Bayer and Syngenta were the only external representatives asked to answer the ECP’s questions.

Susan Quals Algood TN Honeybee on Yellow Crownbeard2The emergency use, which has been granted for 120 days, allows growers to use Bayer’s Modesto (clothianidin) and Syngenta’s Cruiser OSR (thiamethoxam). The active ingredients of these products belong to a class of toxic chemicals known as neonicotinoids (neonics), which have been linked to pollinator decline. These pesticides are associated with decreased learning, foraging and navigational ability in bees, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems. Used widely in agriculture as seed treatment for various crops, foraging bees, in the absence of their native habitat, are exposed to fields of poison where even pollen and nectar are contaminated. In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown to also impact birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil  and waterways, and overall biodiversity.

The European Commission voted to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in 2013 for two years. The ban came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals. However, this action was opposed by the UK government. Despite this opposition, Britain was required to comply with the ban under European Union (EU) rules, until this newly approved emergency use.

The report of industry involvement with the UK decision is alarming to environmental advocates, given that the decision was based solely on industry data instead of balanced representative input. Unfortunately, industry manipulation over governmental regulation is nothing new. Earlier this month, a German risk assessment group relied almost exclusively on industry research in order to draw conclusions on the safety of glyphosate after it was classified as a carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Germany was charged by the EU with the safety review of glyphosate: yet three scientists sitting on its scientific panel on pesticides are employees of BASF and Bayer, two major pesticides producers. In addition to the extensive power of industry lobbyists in the U.S. regulatory process, industry has long exerted influence through the “revolving door,” or the movement of personnel between regulatory roles in government and the industries that are affected by the regulations.

There are many other tactics that the industry uses in order to gain policy and political influence. Industry lobbyists spend millions of dollars to influence consumer behavior. The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a powerful, industry-leaning lobbying organization, held its annual meeting earlier this month, promoting unscientific information about the actual state of honey bees in the U.S. These meetings seeks to influence the political process and forge relationships between corporations and politicians. When these meetings are not taking place, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on communication efforts to spin the media and drive consumer behavior, often using front groups that appear in the media to be independent sources, but are in fact funded by the interests of the industry.

Knowledge of these meetings is critical in influencing state and local decision makers to act because of industry-dominated regulatory decisions that assume the necessity of toxic materials, driven by companies with a vested economic interest in the policies they promote. EPA’s reliance on industry-funded science, and the numerous connections between industry and the governing agencies demonstrate the need for critical thinking when it comes to the use of toxic pesticides, and the importance of adopting non-toxic and organic alternatives.

Organic food is nurtured in a system of food production, handling and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic–pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.

Source: The Guardian

Photo Source: Susan Q, TN

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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30
Jul

USDA Allows Introduction of 2,4-D-Tolerant GE Cotton in Response to Roundup Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2015) Despite concerns for human and environmental contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adds 2,4-D-tolerant cotton, a genetically engineered (GE) crop, to the list of unregulated GE crops, joining 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans. Last week, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) division of USDA released its decision on Dow AgroSciences’ petition to deregulate the 2,4-D resistant GE cotton. The decision was signed off by Michael J. Firko, the Deputy Administrator of Biotechnology Regulatory Services. In September of last year, Deputy Firko also signed the determination paperwork that deregulated GE corn and soybean. The deregulation essentially releases the GE organism from the regulatory requirements of 7 CFR part 340 or the plant pest provisions of the Plant Protection Act. Dow’s GE cotton, part of the Enlist Weed Control System, is resistant to 2,4-D choline, glufosinate, and glyphosate. Growers in the cotton industry have been vying for the GE cotton to enter the market in order to combat herbicide-resistant weeds due to the broad scale use of Monsanto’s RoundUp (glyphosate), which continues to fail across the agricultural industry due to weed resistance.

cottonGlyphosate is a phosphanoglycine herbicide that inhibits an enzyme essential to plant growth. While Monsanto claims that glyphosate is “safer” and has a “lower toxicity” than other chemicals on the market, however, many recent studies prove that it is anything but. It was recently classified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March. Co-author of the report, Christopher Portier, PhD, says it is found to damage human DNA, causing increased risk of cancer. Unfortunately, the long-standing use of glyphosate due to the false notion that it is a “safer” herbicide has increased the tolerance of crops to its deadly properties, prompting scientists to add the highly toxic 2,4-D to the cycle of increased resistance.

But, this cycle comes at the consumer’s cost. The new wave of GE crops on the market are now stacked to include the 2,4-D toxicant, something that elevates human health risks like soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Enlist component 2,4-D carries carcinogenic (cancer-causing) traits, according to a study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The National Cancer Institute also discovered that 2,4-D has been associated with 2- to 8-fold increases of NHL in studies conducted in Sweden, Kansas, Nebraska, Canada, and elsewhere. GE crops, like Dow’s Enlist cotton, are marketed in response to the inevitability of weed resistance by allowing even more toxic chemicals to be sprayed on agricultural products in the marketplace. Three years ago, an emergency exemption was granted for the use of the herbicide fluridone on cotton when weeds failed to respond to glyphosate. With the recent USDA decision, that cycle will continue to add more and more toxic substances to crops as they and the weeds that surround them gain resistance.

EPA approved the registration of Enlist Duo in September of 2014, which was, of course, quickly followed by the USDA’s approval of the Enlist Duo-resistant GE soybean and corn crops. Since then, environmental groups have started to fight back in order to protect the species most effected by Enlist Duo. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a suit in October 2014 to block the use of a powerful, newly approved weed killer that will wreak further destruction on monarch butterfly populations already devastated by agricultural chemicals. “The toxic treadmill has to stop,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment.” This April, environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, joined NRDC and Center for Food Safety in another suit against EPA and their decision to expand the uses of Enlist Duo. This coalition is challenging this decision because of the serious impacts the powerful new herbicide cocktail will have on farmworkers, neighboring farms, and ground and surface water, as well as endangered species.

Given the proliferation of GE crops on the market, many consumers and environmentalists have sought to avoid GE products by advocating for laws to label foods containing GE ingredients. Due to a recent U.S. House of Representatives’ vote, it is expected that the DARK Act will be introduced in the U.S. Senate and, if passed, will eliminate mandatory labeling laws. To get involved with the recent DARK Act and write to your Senator about your right to GE labeling, click here. It’s important to note that currently the best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the USDA certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited.

Pursuing sustainable alternatives can prevent the pesticide treadmill that results from the use of GE crops and pesticides like glyphosate. Ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

For more information on GE foods and what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering Program Page.

Source: APHIS

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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29
Jul

Passage of the DARK Act Sheds Light on Next Steps for Opposition

(Beyond Pesticides, July 29 2015) The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, H.R. 1599, often referred to as the “DARK” Act or Denying Americans the Right to Know what is in their food, passed the U.S.  House of Representatives last week by a vote of 275-150. Backed largely by House Republicans, the DARK Act makes it harder for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require mandatory national labeling of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and strengthens current policies that allow companies to voluntarily label foods containing GE products, an option they rarely choose to do. The bill also continues to allow misleading “natural” claims for food that contain GE ingredients. Most concerning, however, is the prohibition that H.R. 1599 would place on states’ authority to require labeling of GE ingredients in food products, instituting federal preemption of state and local authority.

images (1)While the bill was being debated on the floor, co-sponsors Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) repeatedly cited a lack of scientific evidence that GEs were dangerous to support the passage of the bill, ignoring arguments from the opposition that people should be able to know what is in their food, regardless of whether it is considered safe or meets a standard of acceptable risk. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) expressed concerns that H.R. 1599 “would make it impossible for people to be aware of unintended consequences” of GEs and that congress should not purposely withhold information that consumers have demonstrated they wish to have included on food labels across the country. According to a recent study by Consumer Reports National Research Center, more than 70% of Americans said they do not want GEs in their food, and 92% of consumers believe that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients should be labeled. After the bill passed the House, MSNBC polled the public on mandatory GE labeled, and an even higher percentage, 94% of the 125,000 polled, responded affirmatively on GEs labeling.

Of immediate concern is the impact that the DARK Act could have on states that have already passed laws requiring GE labeling within their borders. Vermont, the first state in the nation to pass a GE labeling law and then survive a federal court challenge from the food industry, could be prevented from implementing its law when it is slated to go into effect on July 1, 2016. Moreover, states that have come close to passing GE labeling laws in recent years may be deterred from trying to pass them again, knowing they would likely be preempted. Voters in California and Washington State narrowly rejected ballot initiatives in 2012 and 2013, respectively, though not without the likes of Monsanto, Bayer, and Dow AgroSciences expending significant resources to defeat the measures. In Maui, efforts to pass a GE labeling act were successful in November of last year, but Monsanto and Dow quickly sued the county, despite voters’ wishes. In all, according to the Center for Food Safety, companies funding anti-labeling campaigns have spent over $100 million in just four states –California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

Colorado and Oregon have been the target of industry efforts because of attempts by both states to pass GE labeling laws. Colorado initially defeated industry efforts by passing a ballot initiative to label GE foods, with the Colorado Supreme Court siding with consumers’ right to know and allowing the measure to move forward. The GE-labeling law, known as Proposition 105, was eventually defeated, but increased public education efforts and growing national attention on the issue may have the power to change that outcome in the future. In Oregon, passage of a bill would have made it the fourth U.S. state to require GE labeling, but the ballot initiative narrowly lost last December in a recount. However, there is some noteworthy progress taking place in the state at the local level. In May of last year, Jackson and Josephine County, Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. Connecticut and Maine each passed GE labeling laws, but both bills include a trigger clause requiring several other states to also pass labeling bills before the new laws can be implemented. In 2014, 36 bills were introduced in 20 states and experts are projecting the number to be as high or higher in 2015.

Concerns from those who oppose the DARK Act and support the labeling of GE products are not without merit, and encompass a wide range of side effects, both intended and unintended, that result from their use. Use of GE crops has resulted in weeds and insects that are more resistant to herbicides and pesticides. According to a series of studies in the journal Weed Science, at least 21 different species of weeds are exhibiting resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s “Roundup-Ready” crops, which leads to an increased use of pest and herbicides to try to combat resistance. Pollen drift from GE crops also poses problems to farmers trying to avoid the use of GE products on their farms, as pollen from GE crops cannot be contained and is often carried beyond property lines by wind, insects or animals. This can cause a great deal of harm, especially if the crops contaminated were intended to be sold as organic. If an organic farmer’s crops are polluted with genetically engineered pollen, they may be required to forfeit their organic certification, which could cause devastating financial setbacks. Direct and indirect harms to human health caused by GE products are also of concern, specifically when it comes to the high levels of chemicals such as glyphosate, recently classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), on the crops and the impact those dangerous pesticides can have on those who come into contact with them through dermal exposure or ingestion. You can learn more about the reasons to say no to genetically engineered crops and food by reading Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet on the subject or visiting the Genetic Engineering page on our website.

All is not lost in the fight for GE labeling, however, and H.R. 1599 still has a long way to go before it becomes law. A version of the bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate, and even if it passes the second chamber of the legislature, President Obama would still have to sign the bill into law. To prevent this from happening, we encourage individuals to take immediate action by telling your Senators that you oppose the Dark Act and support federally mandated GE labeling. Click here to send a letter to your Senators through our website.

Source: H.R. 1599

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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28
Jul

Bee-Killing Pesticides Ubiquitous in Pollen Samples During Honey Bee Forage Season

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2015) Data published from the Harvard School of Public Health reveals neonicotinoids (neonics), a class of chemicals implicated in the global decline of honey bees and other pollinators, in over 70% of both pollen and honey samples collected throughout the state of Massachusetts during months when bees are most actively foraging. The results of this study have grave implications for pollinator health, as even minute, near-infinitesimal doses of neonics can cause sublethal impacts that compromise the health of entire bee colonies.

Sierra Castillo Santa Rosa CA A safe return to Pink Palace Honeybee retreatSanta Rosa, CaliforniaThe Harvard study, led by Chensheng (Alex) Lu, PhD, and published in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry, took monthly honey and pollen samples from 62 volunteered bee hives between April and August 2013. The 219 pollen and 53 honey samples were then analyzed for the presence of eight neonic insecticides. Every month, in every location, researchers found neonics in the pollen and honey collected by bees. In total, 73% of pollen samples and 72% of honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid at levels which could result in sublethal harm. While previous studies have tested the presence of neonics at a single point in time, this is the first study to show the long-term persistence of these chemicals throughout prime flowering season.

“Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD,” said Dr. Lu. CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, is the name given to a phenomenon by which worker bees rapidly abandon their hives, leaving behind their queen, pollen, honey stores, and immature bees (brood).

Despite an ever-growing body of research linking neonics to pollinator declines, federal action in the U.S. remains slow or lackluster, while the European Union continues to enforce a moratorium on the use of these pesticides in agriculture. In the absence of federal and state action, numerous localities have stepped up to restrict the use of these chemicals, and encourage more widespread adoption of prudent measures to protect pollinators. Although addressing other stressors to pollinator populations, such as climate change, disease, and decreased habitat, are critically important, neonic insecticides continue to be the “low hanging fruit” which can be swiftly addressed by lawmakers and regulators.

In a phone interview with Beyond Pesticides, Dr. Lu explained that this study provides baseline data on the level and frequency of neonics in the state of Massachusetts. Were legislation passed to restrict the use of neonics, a follow-up study could be completed to discover whether such legislation decreased the incidence of these chemicals in pollen. Moreover, Massachusetts represents a state with relatively little agricultural production, compared to heavily farmed land in the Corn Belt, for instance. “I would expect this data [the incidence of neonics in pollen and honey] to be worse in states with a larger agricultural presence,” explained Dr. Lu.

Another noteworthy implication from that can be drawn from this research is that bees are not necessarily the only species exposed to neonic-contaminated pollen. Dr. Lu noted that some of the hives tested were within the city of Boston, and humans are likely to be exposed to the same contaminated pollen. Neonicotinoids are “readily available to uptake to humans because they are water soluble,” said Dr. Lu. This route of exposure essentially constitutes a non-target application of neonics, an area of contamination which federal regulators have not investigated. An analysis from the European Food Safety Authority in 2013 identified concerns with regard to the impact of neonics on childhood brain and nervous system development, underlining the importance of this exposure scenario.

For the health of humans and the pollinators we depend on for one in three bites of food, it is imperative that good policy be put in place to eliminate exposure to long lived, toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. To encourage a move away from these chemicals, support organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, and encourages farmers to create biodiverse agroecosystems to prevent pest problems before they occur. Also take action at the local, state and national level. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to get serious about protecting bees from toxic pesticides, and take the BEE Protective Model Community Pollinator Resolution to your local elected officials. In order to fight back against the multinational chemical companies which produce these toxins, it is imperative for concerned residents to act.

Source: Harvard School of Public Health

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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27
Jul

Legislative Proposal for Voluntary Action Fails to Protect Great Lakes from Toxic Runoff

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2015) Two Michigan Representatives have introduced the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act (HR 3120) in an effort to halt the pollution of the Great Lakes and other waterways by protecting them from agricultural run-off, which causes dangerous algae blooms­. While the proposed legislation aims to reduce the effects of pesticides in water, the bill still allows the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and is only a voluntary measure, something that environmentalists says falls short. The bill is sponsored by Candice Miller (R-MI) and co-sponsored by Tim Walberg (R-MI).

Maumee Bay State ParkThe bill aims to mimic the state program Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). Adopted in 1999, the MAEAP is a voluntary three-phase program that provides “on-farm verification to ensure the farmer has implemented environmentally sound practices.” This raises two concerns: lack of incentive for farmers to join the program and ambiguous language defining what environmentally sound means. The results of MAEAP are the driving force in the fight for federal Great Lakes legislation, but those numbers do not necessarily speak for themselves. A major goal of the MAEAP is the Farmstead System which, “focuses primarily on protecting surface and ground water” through the safe and proper handling of pesticides, yet it still encourages the use of pesticides. Since its inception, the program has verified almost 3,000 farms in Michigan. According to Josh Appleby of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, nearly 1.7 million pounds of phosphorous has not gone into Michigan waters under MAEAP. According to Carl Bednarski, President of the Michigan Farm Bureau, “More than 10,000 farmers have initiated the process to voluntarily enter their farm into an environmental assurance program.” While these numbers seem impressive, it is important to note that they have been measured over the last 16 years.

Representative Miller expressed the importance of pollution prevention, such as phosphorous, in the Great Lakes. “Over 1 million tons of algae doesn’t exist today because of the [MAEAP] program,” she said; yet, despite the efforts of the MAEAP, that algae still plagues the Great Lakes and surrounding states. Just last year in August 2014, residents of Toledo, Ohio were advised to stop using tap water after a local water treatment plant found toxic substances in dangerous quantities in the water. 500,000 residents were instructed not to drink the water, brush teeth or prepare food with the water, or give it to pets. The contamination resulted from continuously growing algal blooms on Lake Erie, Ohio’s northern water source. The incident prompted an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation that explained, “The blooms are often caused by runoff from overfertilized fields, malfunctioning septic systems or livestock pens.”

Before the sudden contamination of Toledo’s drinking water, scientists had been tracking algal blooms in the Great Lakes almost five years prior to the incident and even recommended region-wide monitoring and a change in farm management practices. Though their recommendation suggested voluntary measures, which received much backlash from environmental advocacy groups, their reasoning was not baseless: the Great Lakes need protection from agricultural pesticide use. The sponsors of the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act, much like the scientists studying the algal blooms on Lake Erie, have overlooked pesticides as a critical factor. Toxins like lindane, dioxin, PCB, and the Toledo-devastating microcystin that pollute major waterways like the Great Lakes are just a few of the residual consequences of agricultural and residential pesticide use.

The lawmakers of this bill say that the Great Lakes ecosystem is a “national and natural treasure.” Reps. Miller and Walberg went on to say in their editorial, “Our legislation would authorize the federal government to assist the states and their agricultural producers in implementing voluntary procedures aimed at protecting our environment. Specifically, states would be able to apply for grants from the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program to administer and promote state-level assistance programs like Michigan’s. Agricultural producers would also be eligible for priority consideration in applications for federally funded conservation projects.” Improving the quality of the drinking water, the safety associated with recreational use, and the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is an important goal of the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act, however, advocates say that this cannot be achieved without a mandatory program.

This isn’t just a domestic issue, since U.S. policy affects the Great Lakes, which share a border with Canada. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Clean Production Action (CPA) have already completed comprehensive assessments that support this idea. Lawmakers on both sides of the border are being asked to consider more meaningful strategies, such as organic land management.

Beyond Pesticides supports federal legislation that responds to the contamination being seen in the Great lakes with the urgency that it deserves, including policies that stop toxic pesticide use. In the case of the Great Lakes, a national program would certainly advance the goals of MAEAP across the Great Lakes Basin, and encourage the application of safer approaches to the management of farms and landscapes.

The current crisis in management practices calls for the transition to organic farming that does not require the use of toxic pesticides. Organic farming and land management uses natural, less soluble sources of nitrogen, phosphorous and magnesium, including cover crops, compost, manure and mineralized rock, in order to promote increases in soil organic matter and a healthy soil structure. Healthy soil structure allows water to infiltrate the ground slowly, rather than escaping across the surface and carrying soil particles, nutrients, and other inputs with it. Healthy soil structure also allows plants to establish vibrant root systems that resist erosion. For more information on the importance of an organic systems approach as a solution to pesticide use, see Beyond Pesticides’ article Increasing Biodiversity as if Life Depends on It.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Photo Source: Regina H. Boone/Detroit FreePress

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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24
Jul

UK Approves Emergency Application for Neonicotinoid Seed Treatment Use Despite Moratorium

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2015) An emergency application was approved by the UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on Wednesday that allows farmers to use neonicotinoid seed treatment on 5 percent of oilseed rape crop (known as canola in the U.S.) this summer to control a flea beetle infestation. The emergency use, which has been granted for 120 days, allows growers to use Bayer CropScience’s Modesto (clothianidin) and Syngenta’s Cruiser OSR (thiamethoxam). The active ingredients of these products belong to a class of toxic chemicals knowns as neonicotinoids, which have been linked to pollinator decline.

The request was the second one for the National Farmers Union (NFU) after the first request for a nationwide lifting of the two-year moratorium on neonicotinoid use was rejected. The NFU said it was “frustrated” at having to put
in an application for a smaller area.

There have been numerous attempts to shroud the application process in secrecy. DEFRA told its expert committee on pesticides (ECP) to halt its normal practice of publishing the minutes of meetings at which the neonicotinoid applications were discussed, in order to avoid “provoking representations from different interest groups.” Additionally, according to the Guardian, the UK government gagged its own pesticide advisors after they refused to support an application by NFU to lift a ban on neonicotinoids. The gag is intended to prevent campaigners from lobbying ministers on the issue.

Neonicotinoids have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to honey bee and pollinator decline. The European Commission voted to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in 2013 for two years. The ban came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals. However, this action was opposed by the UK government. Despite this opposition, Britain was required to comply with the ban under European Union (EU) rules.

The acceptance of NFU’s emergency request is alarming, especially in light of numerous reports indicating the lack of efficacy of neonicotinoid use. A report released by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year found that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. EPA’s report confirms scientific findings that these chemical treatments are unnecessary and inefficacious. Another report, from the Center for Food Safety, found that neonicotinoids either did not provide a yield benefit or provided inconsistent yield benefits.

In 2014, Syngenta applied for an emergency application in the UK and was met with massive public outcry and protest, which ultimately led to the chemical industry giant withdrawing its request. In the US, earlier this year, EPA granted Florida citrus growers an emergency exemption to use the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin to control Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), a pest that causes “citrus greening,” a devastating citrus plant disease.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Although EPA announced a moratorium in April on new bee- and bird- harming neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses, farm, beekeeper and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides have urged EPA to also suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which, of course, prohibit the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Farmers Weekly and The Guardian

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23
Jul

Neonicotinoids Harm Beneficial Predatory Insects through Secondary Poisoning

(Beyond Pesticides, July 23, 2015) A recent study looks at the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids (neonics) on molluscan herbivores and their non-target insect predators, finding that slug exposure to neonics results in the secondary poisoning of beneficial predatory beetles. The study, authored by Maggie Douglas, PhD candidate at Penn State University, was presented earlier this month at a congressional briefing, An Expert Briefing to Discuss Pollinators and Efforts to Protect Them. The briefing was organized by Center for Food Safety and attended by the sponsors of Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R. 2692), Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Chlaenius tricolorThe study specifically looks at the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum and its predator beetle, Chlaenius tricolor. Ms. Douglas and her co-researchers find that neonicotinoid seed-treated soy beans can unintentionally impact predatory, beneficial insects through a previously unexplored pathway. Here are some highlights of the study’s methods and findings:

  • Soy beans were treated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam.
  • The seed treatments had zero effect on pest slugs, and instead were bioaccumulated and then transferred through the slugs into their insect predators, impairing or killing >60%.
  • This resulted in a loss of crop due to a decline in beneficial insect predators and an increase in pest slug population.

Generally, these findings indicate that the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments, which are intended to decrease the use of pesticides, can actually increase the necessity of these toxic chemicals by killing off natural, beneficial insect predators. Thus, these seed treatments are ineffective and cause more harm than good. It would better serve famers and the environment to actively encourage natural predation, rather than rely on toxic chemicals that only perpetuate the dangerous cycle of pesticide use.

Ms. Douglas’ findings add merit to the influx of research regarding neonicotinoids and their impacts on pollinators and other non-target beneficial species. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. While the issue of pollinator declines is diverse and complex, with many factors potentially contributing to the cause, pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key factor, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure causing changes in bee reproduction, navigation and foraging. Further research has demonstrated that neonicotinoids create increased vulnerability to diseases through exposure, impact a wide range of habitats, and have persistent, long term implications.

Earlier this year, researchers found that chronic exposure to neonicotinoids increases neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction in the bumblebee. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony. In June 2015, researchers demonstrated that honey bees exposed to imidacloprid, a toxic neonic, are more susceptible to heat shock. Researchers have also found that bees can become addicted to neonicotinoids in the same way that humans can become addicted to cigarettes. Non-target effects of rampant neonicotinoid use include bird population declines and monarch butterfly loss. More research can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows page, where studies are listed to highlight the impact of pesticides on these organisms.

The implications of the findings described above only strengthen the need for meaningful policy change on the federal level. Saving America’s Pollinators Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the registration of all neonicotinoid insecticides that are registered for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants, trees and cereals until EPA has fully determined that these toxic chemicals do not cause unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators.  You can help to protect America’s pollinators by submitting a letter to your representative, urging them to support Saving America’s Pollinators Act. Let’s BEE Protective and support a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community.

Neonicotinoids are undoubtedly highly toxic to honey bees, and EPA acknowledges this fact. However, little is being done at the federal level to protect bees and other pollinators from these pesticides. With unlimited resources behind them, the chemical industry –the pesticide manufacturers, landscaping, horticultural and agricultural trade groups, have all come out to deflect attention away from pesticides as a major culprit in pollinator decline. To learn more about how industry agents try to manipulate the message to say that neonics are not the main cause, see our report addressing industry myths on pollinator decline.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial creatures, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Beyond Pesticides has created a small pesticide-free garden at our offices in DC to provide habitat and forage for our local pollinators. You too can pledge your green space as pesticide-free and pollinator-friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today. Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region.

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology

Photo Source: Penn State University

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.  

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22
Jul

Carcinogenic Glyphosate Linked to DNA Damage, as Residues Are Found in Bread

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2015) Months after the World Health Organization (WHO) formally associated the world’s most widely used herbicide -glyphosate (Roundup)- with cancer, one of the world’s leading experts on cancer risk, and co-author of the WHO’s report, Christopher Portier, PhD, told a scientific briefing in London that the herbicide can damage human DNA, which could result in increased cancer risks. This finding comes on the heels of a call by the Soil Association for a United Kingdom (UK) ban on the use of glyphosate after finding residues of the chemical in bread.

WHOEarlier this spring, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as Group 2a “probable” human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals. Since then industry has hit back defending its champion product, even attempting to undercut the WHO’s findings with an industry-based assessment that reached the opposite conclusion, based on classified industry reports. Now an internationally recognized scientist, Dr. Portier, former associate director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, (NIEHS) and director of the Office of Risk Assessment Research at NIEHS, reiterated WHO’s findings at the UK Soil Association scientific briefing in Westminster on July 15. During his presentation, Dr. Portier said, “Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.” Genotoxicity is described as the ability of a chemical agent to damage the genetic information within a cell, causing mutations that may lead to cancer. According to Dr. Portier’s presentation, there is strong evidence that glyphosate and its formulated products are genotoxic and an oxidative stressor. Find Dr. Portier’s and other presentations from the scientific briefing at the Soil Association.

At this briefing, the Soil Association disclosed findings of glyphosate residues in bread being sold in the UK. The results of this study shows that glyphosate use in the UK increased by 400% in the last 20 years and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread -appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government.

According to the Soil Association’s policy director Peter Melchett, “If glyphosate ends up in bread it’s impossible for people to avoid it, unless they are eating organic. On the other hand, farmers could easily choose not to use glyphosate as a spray on wheat crops –just before they are harvested. This is why the Soil Association is calling for the immediate ending of the use of glyphosate sprays on wheat destined for use in bread.”

Glyphosate, produced and sold by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. Glyphosate has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. A mounting body of data has found that formulated glyphosate (Roundup) products are more toxic than the active ingredient, glyphosate, alone. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed. A 2008 study confirmed that the ingredients in Roundup formulations kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, even at very low concentrations, and causes total cell death within 24 hrs.

In addition to WHO’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also a known endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1985 originally classified glyphosate as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ based on tumors in laboratory animals, but changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in human years later, most likely due to industry influence.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also contributed to glyphosate’s expanded use by deregulating crops, including the vast majority of planted corn and soybeans, that are genetically engineers crops to be tolerant to the chemical. In recent years, weeds have exhibited resistance to glyphosate and its efficacy has been called into question. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways especially in the Midwestern states and the Mississippi River valley.

Glyphosate is registered for use on wheat and can be applied before harvest to control weeds. Residues of glyphosate and its major metabolite aminomethyl-phosphonic acid (AMPA) have been measured in the seed and foliage of wheat following preharvest applications, with residues increasing as the rate of application increased. While no formal testing of glyphosate residues on wheat (or other commodities) occurs in the U.S., EPA has indicated that due to growing public interest in the chemical it may recommend sampling for glyphosate in the future. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Pesticide Data Program is responsible for tracking pesticide residues in crops, but EPA has not requested glyphosate testing on any commodity. Testing for glyphosate is however, more expensive than for other pesticides, which is probably the reason tests have not been conducted before. But with growing concerns over the toxicity of glyphosate, and its widespread use on GE crops like corn and soybeans, federal agencies both in the U.S. and elsewhere are being urged to begin quantifying and tracking glyphosate residues in food .

Beyond Pesticides advocates for a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and calls for alternative assessments. We suggest an approach that focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture. Thus, the best way to avoid glyphosate residues in bread and other foods is to buy and support organic agriculture. Our database, Eating With a Conscience (EWAC) provides information on the pesticides that could be present in the food we eat, and why food labeled organic is the right choice. EWAC also includes information on the impacts chemical-intensive agriculture has on farm workers, water, and our threatened pollinators.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.  

Source: Soil Association News Story, EWG’s Agmag

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21
Jul

Pesticide Use Down as Ban Passes in the City of Kamloops, Canada

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21 2015) Last week, the City of Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada voted 5-4 to ban the residential use of cosmetic pesticides. This decision follows a movement to ban cosmetic pesticides completely throughout the Province, and along with news that pesticide sale trends throughout the city are down. The City of Kamloops joins over thirty other cities in BC that have considered or passed private cosmetic pesticide use restrictions in the absence of a province-wide ban. Pesticide Free BC, which advocates a comprehensive pesticide ban in BC, claims that such a ban would protect approximately 4.4 million Canadians from exposure to cosmetic pesticides, increasing the total number of Canadians protected to 26 million, or 78% of the total population. These figures take in to account the bans that have passed in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec, as they are considered “comprehensive.” However, absent an overarching ban within the Province, the City of Kamloops has taken what officials feel is a necessary step to protect vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and those with chemical sensitivities, from the harms of pesticide use.Pesticide Free

According to the ban, pesticides will no longer be permitted to be sprayed on residential landscapes in Kamloops, meaning that they cannot be used for maintaining turf, outdoor trees, shrubs, flowers, or other ornamental plants. City Council members who voted in favor of the measure point to the risks chemicals pose to both human and environmental health, and the fact that safer alternatives exist, in support of their position.

“The city example is the goats,” said Councilor Donovan Cavers, who voted in support of the ban. “Lots of people scoffed at us using goats to control weeds but it has been very successful, very cost effective, and I don’t for a minute suggest anyone use goats on their residential lawns, but there are lots of ways to control weeds or control pests.”

Because the City of Kamloops cannot regulate the sale of pesticides, and residents will still be able to purchase chemicals if they  so choose, those who opposed the motion cited skepticism over being able to enforce to new rule as their main point of concern.

“The reality is this is not an enforceable bylaw,” said Mayor Peter Milobar, who was opposed to the ban. “When you start to look at the overall square of the city that would be sprayed if it was only professionals doing it versus all the square footage of the city that is still allowed to be used for spraying, it’s very minimal.”

However, pesticide sale trends in Kamloops may tell a different story. A pair of local businesses say that as of late, sales on the kind of pesticides that will be forbidden when the ban goes in to place January 1, 2016, have already gone down. Shawn Ulmer, a nursery manager and owner of one the of stores claims that while the ban in Kamloops is new, the move away from pesticides is not. “That change has been going on probably for at least 10 years now,” she said. “As more cities go into the pesticide bans, the industry has been changing. It’s just slower to find things that work.” Because of this shift, and even though many of her customers live in outlying areas where there is no ban, her store sells a variety of alternatives, from iron-based weed-killing products to ladybugs and other lawn-improving insects, all of which she believes are growing in popularity. “The trend has been towards organics or green products and I would say the bulk of our products are things you can use in the City of Kamloops,” she said.

This shift away from unnecessary pesticide use, even absent a ban is a promising show of citizens using their knowledge on the subject to make informed decisions about the products they are using on and around their homes. In fact, educating the public and making them more aware of the harmful side effects pesticides can cause and the alternatives available was one idea all Kamloops City Council members agreed on. Doctors and health advocates in Canada have been trying to raise awareness of the health effects of pesticide use and have been pushing BC to ban the use of all cosmetic pesticides for lawns and gardens since 2013, after the first attempt to ban cosmetic pesticide use in BC failed in 2012. Their research has identified scores of studies showing that human health is at risk from pesticide use. The Canadian Cancer Society has also warned pesticide exposure may increase the risk of certain cancers and calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides, and it appears that the educational messaging they’ve hope to spread has paid off.

With the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides having passed and buying patterns in and around the city indicating that pesticide use, as whole, is decreasing, it appears that Kamloops is taking important steps to protect its citizens from unnecessary pesticide use. This ban is mirrored in the United States by similar attempts to ban the use of certain pesticides on private property. A bill was introduced in 2014 in Montgomery County, Maryland that would ban the use of lawn and landscape pesticide, deemed nonessential, following the passage of a ban in one of it’s cities, Takoma Park, MD. The city of Ogunquit, Maine by ballot initiative adopted an ordinance banning the cosmetic use of pesticides on all property, public and private, in town.

Whether a small municipality or a large city, education and action on unnecessary pesticide use makes an enormous difference; for our own drinking water, for the most sensitive among us, children, and the elderly, for our pollinators, and for the unique environment and the flora and fauna where you live. For additional tools to support your efforts to adopt pesticide policy in your community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change, and visit the Lawns and Landscapes page. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Sources:  Kamloops BC Now, Kamloops This Week

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.      

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20
Jul

Monsanto-Supported Group Attempting to Undercut Roundup Cancer Finding, According to Report

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2015) In response to the recent cancer classification of glyphosate (Roundup) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, an industry-based assessment has reached the opposite conclusion based on classified industry reports has concluded that Monsanto’s glyphosate is not carcinogenic.  According to The Guardian, the assessment by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR) is based almost solely on industry science and classified industry reports. Three scientists on Germany’s scientific panel on pesticides work for the pesticide industry. Monsanto objected earlier this year, when IARC announced in a preliminary report that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen based on laboratory animal studies. BfR and IARC’s findings have been released during a pivotal time, as a decision on whether to extend the license for glyphosate’s use in Europe is currently pending, and these studies are sure to be incorporated into the decision making process. According to The Guardian, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is delaying the release of its opinion on glyphosate to take the full IARC report into account.

WHOThe Guardian reports that BfR’s research relied heavily on unpublished reports provided by the Glyphosate Task Force, an industry group that is dedicated to getting glyphosate relisted. Its website is managed by Monsanto UK.  Based on these industry studies, BfR found that there was only limited evidence of carcinogenicity in mice exposed to glyphosate, and therefore concluded that it should be reapproved. Going even further, the industry body recommended that the acceptable daily intake be relaxed from its current 0.3 mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day, to 0.5 mg per kilogram. Both EFSA and the German regulatory agencies are refusing to disclose two key chronic toxicity studies that the decision was based on, citing them as confidential business information.

This recommendation for glyphosate’s reapproval and the subsequent relaxation of acceptable daily intake is especially egregious, seeing as it has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment alike. In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxic to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also a known endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. Ironically, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1985 originally classified glyphosate as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ based on tumors in laboratory animals, but changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in human years later, most likely due to industry influence.

In fact, glyphosate is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals bys. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also contributed to its growth by deregulating crops, including the vast majority of corn and soybeans that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the chemical. In recent years, weeds have exhibited resistance to glyphosate and its efficacy has been called into question. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways especially in the Midwestern states and the Mississippi River valley. In certain countries in Europe, the pesticide is so overused that glyphosate can commonly be found in household food items like bread, The Guardian reports.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to count on governmental agencies to properly enforce restrictions on toxic pesticides due to their close involvement with industry. A common phenomenon nicknamed the “revolving door” refers to the movement of personnel between roles as regulators and legislators and the industries that are affected by the regulations. The industry has a long history of utilizing this technique, which creates inappropriate relationships between large corporations and the government agencies that are tasked with enforcing regulations. As briefly mentioned above, Germany is charged by the European Union (EU) with the safety review of glyphosate: yet three scientists sitting on its scientific panel on pesticides are employees of BASF and Bayer, two major pesticides producers.

As stated to The Guardian, the environmental organization, Greenpeace, strongly believes that any reapproval of glyphosate would violate the EU’s precautionary principle, which aims to err on the side of caution and prohibit the use of toxic chemicals until all scientific data has been disclosed. Unlike the EU, EPA uses a human health risk assessment, which is a process used to estimate the nature and probability of adverse health effects in humans who may be exposed to chemicals in contaminated environmental areas. While EPA totes this assessment as necessary and crucial for decision-making about pesticides, Beyond Pesticides once again advocates for a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture. By taking a more enlightened policy approach that eschews toxic pesticide use in favor of widely available alternative products and practices, EPA can promote a path to safer farming, a restored environment, and healthier communities.

Source: The Guardian

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.                                                    

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17
Jul

U.S. House May Prohibit States from Requiring Labeling of GE Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2015) The U.S. House of Representatives may pass a bill against the labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) food before the end of July. The House could vote as early as next week on a bill to preempt states from requiring labels on food made with GE ingredients. Backers say that the passage of the bill, HR 1599, named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, but referred to by critics as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, seems assured, after speedy committee approval of the legislation. The Agriculture Committee, a quarter of whose members are cosponsors of the bill, approved an updated version on a voice vote during a session that ran less than 20 minutes. Only two members spoke against it.

justlabelitThe legislation, reintroduced in March by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), will maintain secrecy about GE ingredients in food, and would block both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and individual states from requiring GE food labels, but allow voluntary labeling standards. The bill also has a provision that seeks to create a federal certification process for voluntary non-GE labels, now rendered moot by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement of a new government certification and labeling for GE-free foods. The revamped version of HR 1599, besides barring both current and future state labeling laws, keeps labeling voluntary on the federal level and puts USDA in charge of certifying non-GE products under a fee-for-service system. It will also allow “natural” foods to contain GE ingredients and preempt state efforts to end misleading “natural” claims.

Vermont, which was the first state in the nation to pass a GE labeling law, survived a federal court challenge the food industry. Unless HR 1599 passes, the state law is slated to take effect July 1, 2016. In recent years, similar labeling measures have failed in other states. Voters in California and Washington State narrowly rejected ballot initiatives in 2012 and 2013, respectively, though not without the likes of Monsanto, Bayer, and Dow AgroSciences expending significant resources to defeat the measures. Colorado’s attempt to pass a GE-labeling law, known as Proposition 105, also met with defeat. With 66 percent voting against the proposed law and 34 percent in favor, the numbers showed a stronger rejection of the right-to-know initiative than any previous state attempt to adopt such laws. Efforts in Maui succeeded in November of last year, but Monsanto and Dow quickly sued the county, despite voters’ wishes. In all, according to the Center for Food Safety, companies funding anti-labeling campaigns have spent over $100 million in just four states –California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

For successful states, Oregon would have been the fourth U.S. state to require GE labeling, but the ballot initiative narrowly lost last December in a recount. But there is some progress in the state. In May of last year, Jackson and Josephine County, Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. Connecticut and Maine each passed GE labeling laws, but both bills include a trigger clause requiring several other states to also pass labeling bills before the new laws can be implemented. In 2014, 36 bills were introduced in 20 states and experts are projecting the number to be as high or higher in 2015. Additionally, polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

While the route is open to victory in the House, its status in the Senate is less certain. No senator has filed a companion to the House bill, one of the usual signs of broad support for a cause, despite months of recruiting work by food and farm groups. Nonetheless, those groups believe a majority of senators would support the legislation if it was put to a vote. Additionally, according to Agri-Pulse, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, was working on a Senate version of the preemption bill.

The Organic Trade Association, representing 8,500 organic businesses nationwide, said it opposed HR 1599. “Absent a federal mandate, OTA strongly believes that states should retain the right to require GMO labels on genetically modified products,” said OTA chief executive Laura Batcha. OTA said it had “many concerns” about inconsistencies between organic standards and the legislation. “The non-GMO certifications change nothing in the marketplace,” said Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign. He said mandatory labeling would prevent confusion about ingredients in food.

Two House Agriculture Committee members, Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), said the Energy and Commerce Committee was expected to waive its right to review HR 1599 and allow the bill to move directly to a floor vote. “It’ll pass,” said Rep. Peterson.

Rep. Peterson, the senior Democrat on the committee, said the organic food industry “will have immediate access” to the non-GE certification program; any certified organic product will automatically qualify for non-GE certification without any fees or additional paperwork. Rep. Conaway (R-TX) also lauded the value of a nationwide framework for declaring non-GE products and said the organic industry was among the sectors consulted about the bill.

Consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the drastic increases in the use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate, and the subsequent environmental damage they cause, including the loss of habitat for many beneficial wildlife.

Beyond Pesticides urges that you take immediate action and tell Congress you oppose the DARK Act and support federally mandated GE labeling, as well as the rights of states to protect its residents! Send a letter to your Congress members now!

Source:  Food & Environment Reporting Network

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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16
Jul

New Industry Hire Highlights Revolving Door at EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2015) The latest former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official to take advantage of the revolving door between EPA and the pesticide industry is Nader Elkassabany, PhD, former branch chief of the Risk Assessment and Science Support Branch in the Antimicrobial Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs. CropLife America announced last week that it has hired Dr. Elkassabany to serve as senior director of environmental policy, responsible for the pesticide trade group’s regulatory strategies on environmental policy. He will also help manage the company’s Environmental Risk Assessment Committee and its working groups.

EPA-buildingIn a statement, CropLife America President and CEO Jay Vroom considers his expertise invaluable. This is no surprise, given that Dr. Elkassabany brings with him 15 years of experience working in the registration and re-registration of pesticide active ingredients in the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) at EPA. This will undoubtedly be beneficial for the trade association, which represents major agricultural chemical manufactures like Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, and DuPont Crop Protection.

According to a statement from CropLife, Dr. Elkassabany received three EPA Bronze Medals for Commendable Service. He left EPA in 2012 to work for another big name in consumer pesticides, S.C. Johnson, which owns the Raid brand of insect killers, as well as mosquito repellant Off! At S.C. Johnson, he served as director of regulatory affairs for U.S. pesticide products registration, and supervised a team of staff responsible for securing and maintaining federal and state registrations for all consumer products.

Croplife America has been an aggressive promoter of chemical-dependent agricultural practices and an opponent of organic methods. It was a major player in proposed rules for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that would roll back robust chemical safety standards which would weaken pesticide standards and threaten the U.S. organic food industry. The group also has a rich history of leveraging its relationships with government regulatory agencies. Islam Siddiqui, PhD, was vice president for science and regulatory affairs for CropLife America, and was a registered lobbyist with the company from 2001 to 2008. He later became Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Despite record opposition to his appointment, including from Beyond Pesticides and the National Organic Coalition, due to his very public support of GE crops, Dr. Siddiqui was appointed to the USTR by the Obama Administration in 2010, and confirmed by the Senate in 2011. He resigned from the post in 2013.

The “revolving door” refers to the movement of personnel between roles as regulators and legislators and the industries that are affected by the regulations. The industry has a long history of utilizing this technique, which creates inappropriate relationships between large corporations and the government agencies that are tasked with enforcing regulations. SourceWatch maintains a list of some of the other names and positions of EPA’s revolving door. Additionally, Pesticide Action Network North America’s Undue Influence lays out the revolving door strategy that corporations use to influence regulators and legislators.

Perhaps the most high profile instances of the revolving doors is Michael Taylor, JD, former vice president for public policy at Monsanto, and current Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mr. Taylor’s appointment to FDA by the Obama administration in 2009 sparked outrage from environmentalists because of his ties to the biotech giant Monsanto. From 1998 until 2001, Mr. Taylor served as the vice president for public policy at the company, and is credited with paving the way for the explosion of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the marketplace for his work shaping and implementing the government’s policies during the Clinton administration. In his bio on FDA’s webpage, very little is written about his ten year career at the biotech giant company, just a quick blurb at the bottom of the page. Another example is Steven Schatzow, a former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pesticide program and now an attorney representing pesticide firms. Mr. Schatzow was fired from representing Amvac, a company that purportedly bought chemicals that had known safety issues from companies at discount price, in 1994 after his negotiations with EPA ended in the ban of mevinphos.

Other Industry Tactics

Utilizing the revolving door may be one of the most effective strategies of the industry, however there are many other tactics that it uses in order to gain political influence. A recent report, Spinning Food, by Friends of the Earth examines additional industry tactics and strategy to influence elected officials and sway public opinion. Agrochemical companies have spent an exorbitant amount of money food over the past several years to defuse public concern about the risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and to undermine the reputation of organic food. For instance, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent from 2009-2013 on communication efforts to spin the media and drive consumer behavior, often using front groups that appear in the media to be independent sources, but are in fact funded by the interests of the industrial food sector.

Furthermore, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that scientists working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) do not have adequate protections from pressure and retaliation when researching issues that threaten the interests of powerful agrichemical corporations like Monsanto. The organization filed a petition for rulemaking with the agency in March, seeking to strengthen USDA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, and adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent political suppression or alteration of studies.

Finally, one of the most notorious of industry’s covert tactics to continue profiting off of its poisonous products is by Syngenta Crop Protection. An investigative report in 2013 uncovered that the company launched a multi-million dollar campaign to discredit critics of its controversial herbicide atrazine, most notably Tyrone Hayes, PhD, whose research finds that the chemical feminizes male frogs. You can watch Dr. Hayes’ talk at the most recent National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, where you can hear about his experience being targeted by the chemical company, and the importance of supporting independent scientific research to inform sound public policy that protects health and the environment. This information is critical in influencing state and local decision makers to act because of industry-dominated regulatory decisions that assume the necessity of toxic materials, driven by companies with an economic interest. EPA’s reliance on industry-funded science, and the numerous connections between industry and the governing agencies demonstrate the need for critical thinking when it comes to the use of toxic pesticides and the importance of adopting non-toxic and organic alternatives.

Sources: CropLife America Press Release, GreenWire

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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15
Jul

Colorado Warned of Its Illegal Allowance of Pesticides in Marijuana Production

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2015) Yesterday, Beyond Pesticides sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) urging officials to reconsider their latest position on pesticide use in cannabis cultivation and warning them of potential violations of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that would likely arise moving forward. This letter was written in response to recent actions by CDA that encourage stakeholders to pursue exemptions for highly toxic pesticides and other indications that the state intends to allow the use of other pesticides under general label language that does not specifically address use on marijuana. Both of these approaches violate federal law and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Given the potential legal challenges associated with approving toxic pesticides for use on cannabis, Beyond Pesticides encourages CDA to allow within the state only the use of pesticides of a character unnecessary for regulation, which fall under section 25(b) of FIFRA.

Cannabis_sativa_edenFor several months, government entities in the state have been at odds with marijuana growers over whether or not pesticides can be used to cultivate their crops. In early June, CDA published a list of pesticides it believed, through general labeling language, may be used on cannabis, despite the fact none of the pesticides have been registered for use on marijuana by the EPA, as required by FIFRA. That list was accompanied by a letter to stakeholders guiding them in the process of attaining a Special Local Need (SLN) exemption under FIFRA, which would allow them to use these toxic chemicals in cannabis cultivation.

Because marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, as opposed to a food or a crop, EPA is barred from reviewing any application, whether for a SLN exemption or to set tolerance levels for pesticides that would be used on the plants. Absent this proper EPA review and oversight of toxic pesticide use on cannabis, CDA may allow only the use of those pesticides found in section 25(b) of FIFRA, which has been found by the EPA to be of a character unnecessary for regulation. As outlined in the letter sent to CDA officials, adhering exclusively to pesticides approved under 25(b) is the best way to avoid any legal ramifications for unregistered pesticide use, and to keep workers and consumers safe from the unstudied side effects that may accompany the use of toxic pesticides on marijuana crops within the state.

“The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis has health implications for those growing the crop, and for users who are exposed to toxic residues through inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The good news is that five states and DC have adopted rules that require marijuana to be grown with practices that prevent the use of pesticides. State officials have an opportunity to restrict all pesticide use at the front end of a growing market, require the adoption of an organic system plan, and set a course to protect health and the environment,” Mr. Feldman continued.

More information about state (including Colorado) regulation of pesticide use in marijuana cultivation can be found in Beyond Pesticides’ investigative report on the issue, which was published this past spring. The report highlights different approaches used by states and raises safety concerns due to loopholes in federal law. The report also recommends that states with legalization adopt laws governing cannabis production that prohibit federally registered pesticides and require the adoption of organic practices that only allow products exempt from registration based on the full range of possible exposure patterns, which is the same position expressed to CDA in Beyond Pesticides’ letter.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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14
Jul

Pesticide Manufacturer DuPont Labeled “Severe” Safety Violator by OSHA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2015) Last November, a worker at a DuPont chemical plant in La Porte, Texas was overcome when a supply line released more than 20,000 lbs. of methyl mercaptan, a toxic chemical precursor for pesticides produced at the plant. Three co-workers rushed to attempt a rescue, but all four were fatally asphyxiated by the toxic gas, according to an investigation from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Now, after a lengthy investigation, OSHA is placing DuPont on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses agency resources on inspecting employers who have “demonstrated indifference to their OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Act] obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”

BN-GV304_dupont_J_20150205204029Earlier this year, OSHA’s initial investigation into the La Porte plant incident resulted in eleven citations, a $99,000 fine, and a long list of safety upgrades required to be taken by the company. “Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, PhD, MPH. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance.” The violations discovered under OSHA’s initial investigation led the agency to expand its scope under the National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities, which increases scrutiny of chemical manufactures in light of negative trends.

The expanded investigation added another eight violations, four classified as ‘serious,’ one ‘repeat,’ and three as ‘willful.’ Yet the additional fines only came to $273,000. According to 2013 SEC filings, total assets held by the DuPont are over $50 billion. DuPont’s placement in the Severe Violator enforcement program means the company will be increasingly scrutinized for its safety conditions, and subject to mandated follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

“DuPont promotes itself as having a ‘world-class safety’ culture and even markets its safety expertise to other employers, but these four preventable workplace deaths and the very serious hazards we uncovered at this facility are evidence of a failed safety program,” said Dr. Michaels. “Nothing can bring these workers back to their loved ones. I hope that our continued scrutiny into this facility and into working conditions at other DuPont plants will mean no family ever suffers this loss again. We here at OSHA want DuPont and the chemical industry as a whole to hear this message loud and clear.”

In 2013, in the wake of an explosion at a chemical plant in West, Texas that claimed the lives of 15 people and injured hundreds more, President Obama signed an Executive Order entitled Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, in an effort to improve the safety of U.S. chemical manufacturing for workers and those in surrounding communities. Beyond Pesticides joined with over 100 organizations, including health, labor, consumer, and environmental justice groups in a letter urging then newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to make chemical disaster prevention a priority initiative. In the letter, groups advocated for the only foolproof way to prevent chemical disasters; switching to safer chemical processes. While the President’s Executive Order took important steps to move the country toward safer chemical processes, many groups at the time questioned whether the Order was forceful enough. OSHA continues to update the status of this Executive Order through a dedicated website.

Despite attempts to overhaul chemical processing, the fact remains that the manufacture of highly toxic agricultural chemicals and pesticides will continue to be an inherently dangerous job. Decreasing marketplace demand for noxious chemicals in favor of least-toxic biopesticides, organic, and sustainable alternatives on farms, will reduce the need to produce these chemicals. Consumers can make an impact with their wallets by simply not buying pesticides and purchasing organic foods, which employ agricultural practices that do not require the use of toxic synthetic chemicals. For more information on the benefits of purchasing organic food, see Beyond Pesticides program page here.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: OSHA

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13
Jul

Study Links Climate Change to Shrinking Bumblebee Habitats

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2015) Many factors have been identified in bee and other pollinator decline across the globe, including loss of habitat, disease, and pesticides. A new study from researchers in North American and Europe finds that the changing climate also plays a vital role in decreasing bee habitat and thus reducing populations. The study reports that North American and European bumble bees are unable to colonize new warmer habitats north of their historic range, while simultaneously disappearing from the southern portions of their range.

Layla Brooks Maida Vale London, Bee in flight at Kew GardensPublished in Science, the study, Climate change impacts on bumblebees converge across continents, which is a comprehensive look at 67 bumblebee species and their territories over the last century, finds that many North American and European bumblebees have retreated from the southern edge of their historic ranges (away from the equator). While other species of animals have been able to adapt to climate change by expanding their habitats, bumblebees have not shifted to warming northern climes and are experiencing shrinking distributions in the southern ends of their range. The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), for instance, has disappeared from parts of the southeastern U.S.

Bumblebees are also retreating to higher elevations, shifting upward by an average of about 300 meters over the same time period. This means the habitat ranges for bumblebees have overall compressed, as no gains are being made northward. According to the study, bumblebees have lost more than 180 miles of their southern range in both continents over the past 110 years. The researchers believe that this phenomenon suggests an elevated susceptibility to rapid climate change, since bumblebees having evolved in mild, temperate climates, will find it difficult to survive in increasing warmer conditions in their historic habitats.

“Climate change is crushing [bumblebee] species in a vice,” says ecologist Jeremy Kerr, PhD, of the University of Ottawa in Canada, the study’s lead author.

The researchers are not sure why bumble bees have not been able to expand their northern ranges. According to Dr. Kerr, there are two reasons a species might not shift well in response to climate change: Either it has problems actually moving from one place to another, or it has problems building up its population once it gets to a new place. “Clearly bumblebees are pretty good at getting around,” Dr. Kerr said at a press conference, since they can fly. Rather, the scientists suspect that they are having trouble growing their populations at their northern range limits. However, the reason remains unclear.

This new study is not good news for bees. Bumblebees, like honey bees and other bee species are facing unprecedented population declines in recent years. In addition to challenges from global climate change and habitat losses from expanding urban and agricultural regions which eliminate native forage for bees, they also face the added survival burden from toxic pesticide exposures. Pesticides, like the neonicotinoids, have been identified as a major culprit in bee decline. These pesticides are associated with decreased learning, foraging and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems. Used widely in agriculture as seed treatment for various crops, foraging bees, in the absence of their native habitat, are exposed to fields of poison where even pollen and nectar are contaminated. In addition to toxicity to bees, pesticides like the neonicotinoids have been shown to also impact birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity. For more information read our piece, Birds, Bees and Beneficials.

While climate change is a challenge to every plant and animal species on our planet will have to gradually adapt to in coming years, including changing or disappearing habitats and greater temperature fluctuations, various environmental factors are influencing the crisis faced by bees and other pollinators. However, we can take action on bee-toxic pesticides and eliminate one of the major risks posed to bees now!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees pesticide use in the U.S., has consistently fallen short in its efforts to mitigate these harmful effects to bees and other pollinators. In May 2015, EPA released a proposal intended to create “physical and temporal space” between bees and toxic pesticides. They call these spaces “temporary pesticide-free zones,” which has been called misleading by environmentalists. While touted as monumental progress on bee health by the agency, the reality is that the proposed minor label change will not stop the widespread contamination of landscapes or prevent harm associated with neonicotinoids.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial creatures, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonics now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Science , Washington Post

Photo Source: Layla B, England

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10
Jul

Connecticut Bans Toxic Lawn Pesticides in Municipal Playgrounds Statewide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2015) The Connecticut General Assembly last week passed legislation banning toxic lawn pesticides on municipal playgrounds, effective October 1, 2015. In the omnibus budget implementation Bill 1502 at Section 448 (p.563 at line 17579). The bill also improves the existing parents’ pesticide notification system by requiring school districts to provide at least 24-hour electronic notification any time a pesticide application is schedule to occur on school property (Secs. 445 and 446), as well as requiring and tracking the use of pesticides and integrated pest management (IPM) methods to reduce pesticide use on state properties (Sec. 449).

“As we have recognized for many years in Connecticut, children are particularly endangered by pesticides – because these chemicals accumulate in kids’ growing bodies faster than for the rest of us,” Playgroundsaid Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, House Chairman of the Education Committee, which drafted the 2005 and 2009 laws prohibiting pesticide use on school fields.  “This measure represents a great step forward for our state, safeguarding our children from these toxic chemicals on town playgrounds – and ensuring that parents get notice when pesticides are used at public schools,” he added.

“Time and time again pesticides have been shown to have serious health and environmental consequences, and it is critical that we begin limiting their use,” said State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., Chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “By keeping pesticides off of playgrounds and school property, we limit [children’s] exposure to those who are most likely to become ill as a result of them. Improving our state’s notification procedures will better inform parents about pesticide and herbicide applications at their children’s schools.”

The bill bans lawn pesticides which are defined as “a pesticide registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and labeled pursuant to the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act for use in lawn, garden and ornamental sites or areas. “Lawn care pesticide” does not include (A) a microbial pesticide or biochemical pesticide that is registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, (B) a horticultural soap or oil that is registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and does not contain any synthetic pesticide or synergist, or (C) a pesticide classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as an exempt material pursuant to 40 CFR 152.25, as amended from time to time.”

In 2005, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of lawn care pesticides on school athletic fields serving grades K-6 schools and daycare centers.  The original law was expanded in 2009 to include middle school fields (Grades 7 and 8). Activists and concerned parents have been working for years in Connecticut to extend the current prohibition of pesticide use to include high schools, athletic fields, municipal parks and town land, but to no avail. Strong opposition from many municipalities and the pesticide industry has prevented the inclusion of language that would extend the ban to high school grounds and fields, despite calls from parents and local activists.

Other previous attempts to extend the ban have also fallen short over the years. In 2013, the then-proposed Bill 6385 to extend a pesticide ban from pre-K through eighth grade to include high schools stalled and a task force to study pesticides was set up, despite a favorable vote in the education committee to move the bill along. Another bill to extend the ban, which also included a ban on the use of genetically engineered (GE) lawn and turf seed, passed the Senate last year, but was eventually stalled in the House. There have even been attempts to repeal the existing ban for daycare centers and K-8 schools, with legislation allowing pesticide use as part of a weak “integrated pest management” (IPM) system. Current state law, adopted in 2005 and amended in 2007 and 2009 to cover facilities from day care centers up through grade 8, prohibits pesticides on playgrounds and playing fields at schools (except under emergency situations), allowing instead for non-toxic pest and fertility management.

Industry groups and local land managers advance the myth that banning pesticides from fields would cost schools and municipalities more money because of pest damage and could make playing fields hazardous. However, these myths have been debunked by studies and real world successes of organically managed fields. First, fields that are intensively managed with chemicals are at greater risk for disease and weed infestation (leading to a dependence on chemical inputs), compared with those whose practices build healthy, balanced soil. Similarly, chemically-managed fields are generally harder and more compacted due to a loss of natural soil biology, while organic management focuses on cultural practices, such as aeration, that alleviates compaction and provides a softer, better playing surface. Any field with irregular surfaces, whether organically managed or not, can lead to falls or twisted ankles. Banning pesticides from playing fields also will not cost more in the long-term. While initial costs to transition a chemical-dependent field to organic care can be higher, in the long-run costs will be lower as inputs, like fertilizer and water, decrease, along with the absence of the cost of annual chemical treatments. Read the factsheet: Pesticides and Playing Fields.

The need for legislation to protect vulnerable children from the hazards of toxic pesticides is clear. Studies show that pesticides are associated with several human health risks including cancer, learning/behavioral disabilities and reproductive and sexual dysfunction. The Pesticide-Induced Disease Database documents the association between pesticide exposures and the onset of disease. This is supported by the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which concluded in December 2012 that, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” The report went on to discuss how kids are exposed to pesticides every day in air, food, dust, and soil. Children also frequently come into contact with pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications.

Source: The Ridgefield Press

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

 

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09
Jul

Federal Judge Overturns Maui GE Crop Moratorium

(Beyond Pesticides, July 9, 2015) Last week, a federal judge ruled that a voter-passed ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in Maui is preempted by federal and state law, and is invalid. According to the SHAKA Movement legal counsel, the decision, at least temporarily, invalidates a local ordinance that sought to protect against serious harms caused by these practices, and ignores the harms to Maui county and the Hawaii Constitutional mandate placing obligations and duties on the counties to protect the natural environment. In addition to the SHAKA Movement, Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice have pledged to appeal the decision.

“The District Court’s ruling is a big blow to Maui County voters that adopted this ordinance, given the dangers involved with GMO operations,” said SHAKA spokesperson Mark Sheehan, PhD, Maui_Landsat_Photowho was also one of the five citizens who sponsored the ballot initiative. “We do intend to appeal this decision and are hopeful that the 9th Circuit will recognize the impact that today’s ruling has on the community.”

In November 2014, Maui residents passed a ballot initiative prohibiting the growth, testing or cultivation of GE crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show that the planting operations are safe for the community. Just nine days after the Maui initiative passed, Monsanto, along with Dow-owned Agrigenetics and several industry-friendly groups, sued Maui County, seeking to have the moratorium thrown out, claiming that local governments are preempted from enacting pesticide legislation more restrictive than Hawai’i state law. It also asked the court to temporarily delay the measure’s effectiveness by issuing an injunction. Maui County immediately embraced the chance to block the will of its voters and agreed to an injunction until March 2015. However, several Maui County residents,  along with the SHAKA Movement, filed a preemptive lawsuit against the county, Monsanto and Dow, seeking to assure transparency and influence over the implementation of the initiative, in light of the enormous amount of money that the companies have poured into the county in an attempt to beat the initiative.

In the recent ruling, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway stressed that the order only addresses the legal question of county authority, and does not look at whether genetically engineered crops are “good or bad.” Dr. Sheehan expressed disappointment that the ruling turned on procedural issues instead of addressing the substance of their argument, as the ordinance was specifically written to address issues not found in state statute. Further, he said the law requires the county to protect the health of the environment and the public. “That was lost on the judge, so we will have to move along and have to find justice for the constitutional rights of the people of Maui at another level,” Dr. Sheehan told the Associated Press.

Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice issued a joint statement in response to the decision:

“We are deeply disappointed with Chief District Court Judge Mollway’s very unfortunate and legally incorrect ruling that Maui County’s genetically engineered (GE) crop ordinance is contrary to state and federal law. Worse, we were wrongly denied the ability to defend the Maui ordinance by the court, despite the county refusing to defend it, a decision we have appealed. We will also continue to fight for the right of all Hawai‘i communities to protect their children and environment from the activities of these chemical companies, in our ongoing appeals of the Kaua‘i Ordinance and Big Island GE ordinance cases, currently before the Ninth Circuit. This decision is wrong, and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree with us, and uphold the rights of all communities to protect their families, farms, and environments from the harms of genetically engineered crops and pesticides.”

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone, there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

In response to all of the harms that the chemical companies have imposed on Hawaii, there has been a growing movement on the Islands seeking to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. Kaua’i County Councilmember Gary Hooser recently attended a shareholder meeting for the chemical giant Syngenta, in Basel, Switzerland, where he brought a straightforward message to the corporation and its shareholders. “Withdraw the lawsuit from the County of Kauaʻi, honor and comply with our laws. Treat us with the same respect, the same dignity and the same protections that you give the people of Switzerland. Do not spray chemicals in my community that you cannot spray in your own community,” he said. The Councilmember was referencing the use of the herbicides atrazine and paraquat, chemicals which are banned from use in Switzerland, but sprayed constantly and even found in drinking water in Hawaii communities. Earlier this year, state legislators announced that they would introduce a proposal to establish pesticide-free zones around schools and hospitals throughout the state. However, despite garnering wide support across Hawaii, with many groups and individuals, including Councilmember Hooser, coming together during a rally to ask for passage of these much needed pesticide protections, the Hawaii state House agriculture committee ultimately rejected the bill.

Other localities have had more success at banning the planting of GE crops. Jackson and Josephine County in Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. The two ordinances were both approved overwhelmingly, but fought an uphill legal battle when the state of Oregon passed a law in October 2013 stating that only the state can regulate seeds, which was pushed at the behest of out-of-state chemical companies. Though Jackson County was granted an exemption, two GE farmers sought to overturn the ban and brought suit against the county. Fortunately, in a victory for organic farmers, and non-GE farmers who constantly struggle with the threat of GE contamination, the federal judge rejected the request, and upheld the ban. “We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live.

Beyond Pesticides continues to support the efforts of all farmers, counties, states, and countries to protect themselves against the unwanted invasion of GE crops and the risks that they bring to the environment and health. Please visit our Genetic Engineering webpage to learn more.

Source: Associated Press

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

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08
Jul

Despite Known Hazards, EPA Waits Decades for Manufacturers to Withdraw Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2015) Last week, after decades of review and known toxic hazards, especially to children, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted a proposed cancellation for a number of indoor uses (including food establishments) and tolerances of propoxur, a carbamate insecticide known for its toxic effects to children. EPA has received a Section 6(f) request under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) from the registrant of propoxur to voluntarily cancel certain uses of the carbamate insecticide. The request from the manufacturer, Wellmark International, requests cancellation of indoor aerosol, spray and liquid formulations of propoxur, indoor crack and crevice use, and all use in food-handling establishments. EPA previously agreed to an April 1, 2016 phase out of propoxur in pet collars, but has continued to leave open these other avenues of exposure. The agency will begin accepting comments on its proposal once it has been published in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur within 10 days of the prepublication signature date.

epa_seal_profilesIt should be noted that EPA engages in lengthy negotiations with pesticide manufacturers, as is the case with propoxur (see recent announcement on chlorpyrifos), rather than pursuing rigorous regulatory standards through its cancellation or imminent hazard authority. The agency has argued that adversarial proceedings are costly and time consuming, yet the long history of propoxur’s cancellation, including the April 1, 2016 phase-out of pet collars, puts the public in harm’s way for lengthy periods. In the case of propoxur, EPA called into question its safety before 1988, when the chemical was the subject of a preliminary Special Review cancellation “because of concerns about the potential carcinogenic risks to pest control operators and the general public during indoor and outdoor applications of propoxur and risks to occupants of buildings treated with propoxur products,” a position on which the agency reversed itself. (See Propoxur Reregistration Eligibility Decision, August, 1997, pp4-5.) Manufacturers are enticed into voluntary cancellations when EPA finally threatens action or litigation looms, seeking to avoid a determination or finding by the agency on elevated risk factors that could increase the registrant’s (pesticide manufacturer’s) liability and reduce its export market.

In March 2014, EPA announced that it had reached an agreement with two major pet product companies to cancel flea and tick pet collars containing the insecticide. The agreement was reached between the agency and the two companies as a result of EPA’s risk assessment in fall 2013, which found unacceptable risks to children from exposure to pet collars containing propoxur. Unfortunately, as noted, the agreement’s long phase-out period continues to allow these dangerous products to be sold until April 1, 2016.

Propoxur was first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests. It has since been implicated as a known carcinogen by the state of California, and has been found to impact reproduction. It can also cause kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic, and can impact birds, fish and bees. Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure, partly due to the fact that they have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults. They also take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, have voiced concerns about the dangers that pesticides pose to children. The body of evidence in the scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels.

A 2011 study published in the journal NeuroToxicology found a positive link between exposure to the pesticide propoxur and poor motor development in infants. By the age of two, children exposed to propoxur in the womb experience poor development of motor skills, according to a test of mental development. A 2009 study concluded that exposures during pregnancy and childhood to insecticides that target the nervous system, such as organophosphates (OPs) and carbamates, are associated with childhood brain tumors.

Fortunately, these chemical treatments, which are often more harmful than the insects themselves, are not actually necessary. These pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. For bedbugs, a least-toxic approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can help to manage an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place. For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our Bed Bug Program Page. For fleas and ticks, it is important to monitor pets carefully, as they may be transporting the insects inside. Bathe pets and wash their bedding regularly. The least-toxic methods described above for bedbugs, such as vacuuming and reducing clutter, as well as exclusion practices (caulking, door sweeps), moisture control, and sanitation, are also important to employ for flea, tick, an other insect management.

Beyond Pesticides urges you to submit your comments supporting the cancellation of propoxur, identified by docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0296, at http://www.regulations.gov. The comment period will be open for 30 days, following the official publication in the federal register on or around July 13, 2015.

Source: EPA

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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07
Jul

EPA Falters Again in Banning Remaining Uses of a Highly Toxic and Unnecessary Insecticide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2015) In a sleight of hand, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans last week to cancel all remaining agricultural uses of the hazardous insecticide chlorpyrifos by April 2016, and then left the door open for negotiations with the chemical’s manufacturer, Dow AgroSciences, to adopt risk mitigation measures that would avoid a ban. Environmental groups are reacting to EPA’s announcement with guarded optimism, encouraging the agency to move forward with its planned cancellation of a highly toxic chemical that has remained on the market for far long. In June 2000, EPA announced a negotiated voluntary cancellation with Dow that removed residential uses of chlorpyrifos (Dursban) from the market because of the neurotoxic effects to children, but allowed most agricultural uses to continue.

driftAs early as January of this year, EPA released a revised human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, finding that the chemical poses risk to farmworkers, and the drinking water of small watersheds. The assessment was, in part, in response to a petition submitted by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in 2007, which called on the agency to ban all uses of the insecticide. Since the the 2000 cancellation, advocates across the country have called on EPA to ban the chemical, citing its potent toxicity. In 2010, over 13,000 organizations and individuals submitted a letter to EPA calling for a ban. In 2012, EPA imposed “no-spray” buffer zones around public spaces, including recreational areas, schools and homes to reduce bystander exposure risks. In spite of these restrictions, chlorpyrifos still poses risks to human and environmental health.

At the time of the revised human health risk assessment, EPA had only planned to address risks through mitigation measures that would have, in all likelihood, only included changes to pesticide labels. However, EPA’s calculations changed after a federal judge ordered the agency to immediately decide upon the fate of the chemical. In a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, EPA indicated that contamination of drinking water in certain watersheds and impacts to farmworker health required changes to use patterns that the agency was “less confident” registrants would be able to achieve outside of “complex regulatory proceedings.” But, despite this determination, EPA still plans to give Dow more time. In the same letter, the agency announced it will conduct an investigation through the end of this year into watersheds that are at high risk of chlorpyrifos contamination. EPA indicates that if Dow or other registrants decide to take “necessary action,” the agency reserves the right to reverse its intent to cancel remaining uses.

The issue is critically important for the residents of many communities in California, who live, play, go to school, or have family members that work in or near agricultural fields where the chemical is frequently applied. Recent state reports show that agricultural pesticide use is increasing, particularly in regards to highly toxic organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos. Although California recently announced new regulations designating chlorpyrifos as a California Restricted Material, the rule does not fulfill its intended goal of protecting children’s exposure to these chemicals in agricultural communities. Although sprayers will need to request a permit to apply chlorpyrifos, simply eliminating the use of this chemical in favor of least toxic and organic practices is a safer option for kids, their families and the wider environment.

With the adverse impacts of chlorpyrifos on health and the environment well known, EPA’s proposed target date of next April to initiate rulemaking remains a long time off for those suffering the toxic effects of pesticides during this and future growing seasons. A study published last year by the University of California Davis’ CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks for Genetics and the Environment) program found that pregnant women who live within a mile of agricultural fields treated with organophosphate insecticides are more likely to have their child develop autism. Women in the second trimester living near fields treated with chlorpyrifos were 3.3 times more likely to have their child diagnosed with autism. And research continues to show that the effects of these highly toxic chemicals are not limited to their ability to kill bugs. A study published earlier this year by the New York University School of Medicine found more evidence of the neurotoxic effects of organophosphates. Although aimed at the effects of these chemicals on the European Union, the analysis, conducted by an international team of experts in their field, shows that 13 million IQ points in Europe are lost each year due to prenatal organophosphate exposure, and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability are caused. Such impacts account for $130 billion in health care expenditures each year. With weaker health and safety laws than Europe, similar or worse statistics could reasonably be expected in the U.S.

Beyond the open-ended bureaucratic approach EPA has taken to protecting the health of children, farmworkers and the drinking water of agricultural communities from chlorpyrifos contamination, it should simply not require a lawsuit for the nation’s lead pesticide regulatory agency to take action on unnecessary toxic exposure. By taking a more enlighten policy approach that eschews toxic pesticide use in favor of widely available alternative products and practices, EPA can promote a path to safer farming, a restored environment, and healthier communities. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from the risk assessment-based policy EPA currently adheres to by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives. By looking to the growing success of organic agriculture, which, even in at its worst, never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, we can promote a viable, scalable path forward for growing food on this planet that does not unnecessarily contaminate our environment or our children’s future.

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Capital Press, EPA Status Report Document

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06
Jul

EPA at Odds with Scientists on Endocrine System Effects of Weedkillers Atrazine and 2,4-D

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2015) With the release of its Tier 1 screening results for the first 52 pesticide chemicals (active and inert ingredients) evaluated under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at odds with a large body of scientific evidence worldwide that identifies many of these chemicals, most notably the herbicides 2,4-D and atrazine, as interacting with the endocrine system or acting as endocrine disruptors. Independent scientific data has shown these chemicals to interfere with the hormone system.

P_endocrine-systemEPA’s EDSP is a multi-step process used to ensure that exposure to chemicals does not result in adverse human health and environmental effects that canoccur from the disruption of hormones. The two-tiered screening and testing system requires that EPA identify which chemicals are able to interact with the endocrine system, specifically with three hormonal pathways – estrogen, androgen, and thyroid – in Tier 1. Tier 2 is designed to go one step further, requiring EPA to determine endocrine effects across taxa (e.g. mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates) as well as potential effects on non-endocrine systems (e.g. neurological, immunological, hepatic, and renal).  According to EPA, Tier 1 screening data are the best way to determine whether a chemical has the potential to interact with the endocrine system and requires more thorough testing. However, there are concerns as to whether or not EPA is recognizing effects at doses below their currently established “points of departure” and about the lack of testing for non-monotonic dose-responses (indicating a potential for harmful responses that are greater at lower doses).

EPA found that there was no evidence for potential interaction with any of the endocrine pathways for 20 chemicals. For 14 chemicals that the agency said did show potential interaction, EPA stated that it “already has enough information to conclude that they do not pose risks.” Of the remaining 18 chemicals, EPA found that all showed potential interaction with the thyroid pathway, 17 of them with the androgen (male hormones) pathway, and 14 also potentially interacted with the estrogen (female hormones) pathway. While most of the chemicals were not recommended for additional testing, some, such as captan, cypermethrin, dimethoate, and linuron, were recommended for specific Tier 2 tests. A comparative thyroid assay was recommended by the agency for four chemicals that showed interaction with the thyroid pathway in mammals, a medaka one-generation reproductive test was recommended for 13 chemicals that showed interaction with the estrogen or androgen pathways in wildlife, and a larval amphibian growth and development assay was recommended for five chemicals that showed interaction with the thyroid pathway in wildlife. Chemicals identified to show interactions with two or more pathways include , iprodione, linuron, MGK 264, simazine, and tebuconazole. Despite these findings, some of these chemicals were not recommended for additional testing for reasons that include the lack of expectation of impact on current EPA-established regulatory endpoints on human health and ecological risk assessment.

When EPA says, “there was no evidence,” it does not mean “no evidence.” It means that EPA may have evidence for interaction, but has decided that it is outweighed by evidence against it, or that the only evidence is something that occurs in the presence of overt toxicity, or that they can find some other explanation. When EPA says it has “enough information to conclude that they do not pose risks,” that means that the dose that has been associated with the endocrine effects is as high or higher than that associated with known toxic effects (including safety factors.) Thus, EPA is applying a threshold model to endocrine disruption, pointing to a major deficiency in EPA’s risk-assessment process used to evaluate the effects of chemicals on human health and the environment. A threshold model is not appropriate for hormonally-active substances, which often show opposite effects at higher or lower doses.

For atrazine in particular, the agency found interaction with both the estrogen and androgen pathways, but did not recommend it for Tier 2 testing, stating that it is not “expected to impact current EPA-established regulatory endpoints for human health or ecological risk assessment.” EPA’s conclusion is surprising, especially in light of the developmental effects on frogs that have been documented under current use conditions. Hormonal impacts of atrazine which have been well documented by regulators and scientists, including University of California, Berkeley, biologist Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., and the European Union’s classification of atrazine as a category 1 endocrine disruptor (evidence of disruption in a living organism). Dr. Hayes’ research has found that frogs exposed to atrazine – in concentrations within federal standards – can become so completely feminized that they can mate and lay viable eggs. According to Dr. Hayes, this “chemical castration” is not limited to amphibians, but has been repeated in fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals by other researchers studying atrazine. In addition to causing severe harm to endangered species, atrazine has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans. It has also been linked to increased incidences of both the congenital disorder gastroschisis and choanal atresia in areas where the chemical is more widely used. Along with atrazine, propazine and simazine, also in the traizine class of chemicals, have been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, are highly soluble in water and are the most frequently detected pesticides found at concentrations at or above one or more benchmarks in over half of sites sampled. Like atrazine, EPA also found interaction of simazine with the estrogen and androgen pathways.

2,4-D, another chemical not recommended for additional Tier 2 testing, was not judged by EPA to have interactions with any of the three endocrine pathways. While EPA found a number of thyroid and developmental effects in animals treated with 2,4-D, these were dismissed because the doses were judged to cause overt toxicity. Additionally, in EPA’s extended one-generation reproduction test (EOGRT), the agency found no treatment-related thyroid effects in males or females. In contrast to these conclusions, however, studies have found a direct correlation of urinary levels of 2,4-D with elevated levels of the luteinizing hormone (LH) – responsible  for stimulating the production of testosterone in males and regulating the menstrual cycle and ovulation in females – which suggests a direct effect on hormonal levels by the chlorophenoxy herbicide. Others have observed abnormal sperm and higher rates of birth defects in farmers with long-time exposure to 2,4-D, as well as effects on the thyroid and gonads, documented in Beyond Pesticides’ comments to EPA. Studies have also found that 2,4-D promotes the proliferation of androgensensitive cells by acting synergistically with its main metabolite, 2,4-dichlorophenol (DCP), also known for its endocrine disrupting effects.

Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments in 1996 requiring that EPA screen pesticide chemicals for their potential to produce effects similar to those produced by the female hormones in humans and giving EPA the authority to screen certain other chemicals and to include other endocrine effects. Based on recommendations from an advisory committee, EPA expanded the EDSP to include male hormones and the thyroid system, and to include effects on fish and wildlife. However, delays and criticisms from scientists have highlighted inadequacies of the overall program. After the FQPA set a 1999 deadline for EPA to develop a battery of assays with which pesticide manufacturers were required to screen their products as possible endocrine disrupters, EPA repeatedly pushed back the deadline for over a decade. Moreover, critics of EDSP have said that EPA’s testing protocol is outdated, failing to keep pace with the science.

For more information, read more about endocrine disruptors at the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database page.

Source: EPA

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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02
Jul

Report Reveals Chemical Food Industry Tactics in Spinning Food Safety and Attacking Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2015) A report released this week by Friends of the Earth exposes the exorbitant amount of money food and agrochemical companies have spent over the past several years to defend industrial agriculture, sway public opinion, and influence elected officials. The report shines light on the both the tactics these companies use and the lengths to which they are willing to go to defuse public concern about the risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and to undermine the reputation of organic food. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent from 2009-2013 on communication efforts to spin the media and drive consumer behavior, often using front groups that appear in the media to be independent sources, but are in fact funded by the interests of the industrial food sector. This report is an important link in shaping public conversation about food and influencing consumers to think twice about where the information they’re being fed is comingoverview from, and who might be paying for it.

When explaining the motivation behind writing the report, Anna LappĂ©, one of the co-authors and a national bestselling author and founder of the Real Food Media Project, states that, “The food industry is using a host of covert communication tactics to shape public opinion without most people realizing the stories are being shaped behind-the-scenes to promote corporate interests. Our goal with this report is to inspire journalists, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public to bring increased scrutiny to the food industry’s messages and messengers.” Ms. LappĂ© also notes that making sure that people know their food is safe, and encouraging them to fight for transparency in how their food was grown and raised is a hopeful outcome of publishing this report.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Big food and chemical companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars from 2009 to 2013 to manipulate the public conversation about our food.
  • 14 front groups — often appearing in the media as independent sources — spent $125 million during that time frame to push coordinated messages that serve industrial agriculture interests. These include groups like the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance, whose partners include Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and Syngenta.
  • Covert PR tactics these groups are using include efforts to disparage “organic moms,” the growth of “native advertising” disguised to look like real news, stealth engagement on social media and the use of third-party allies to foster an echo chamber for industry talking points.
  • Coordinated messages pushed by a range of seemingly independent spokespeople are making their way from PR firms to the pages of leading media outlets. The report details and debunks five of these key messages, including “organic food isn’t worth the money” and “GMOs are needed to feed the world.

The report also highlights industry attempts to divert consumers from a growing body of science that has linked food additives and chemicals used in food production to problems ranging from cancer to bee declines. A previous report by Friends of the Earth published in April of 2014 highlights the ways pesticide companies are spinning the bee crisis to protect profits, a practice the new report indicates has continued.

The motivation for this systematic attack on smaller food systems, including organic, comes from societal trends that are moving away from big food industry products. Last year, major packaged food companies lost $4 billion dollars alone, as shoppers moved towards purchasing fresh and organic alternatives, further driving the need for big industry to skew the dialogue in their favor. Rather than responding to changing market demands by shifting the way they do business, these companies are trying to preserve market share and win key policy battles by using “tobacco-style” PR tactics, attempting to undermine the integrity of organics in the process. These tactics try to spread the messages such as “buying organic is not worth the money” or “GMOs are needed to feed the world.” These campaigns purposely disregard conflicting information and fail to take into account other factors that contribute to the costs of organics. For more on these discrepancies, see Beyond Pesticides’ article “The Real Story on the Affordability of Organic Food” to learn about the true cost of conventional food and learn how to get access to affordable organic food.

Attacks on organic are not waged solely by industry, but by the government as well. In June of last year, 20 organic farm and consumer groups filed a petition with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to protect the authority and permanence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a government committee created to safeguard the integrity of the organic food label, against changes that undermine the duties of the board and its role in protecting organic food production. Then this past April, environmental groups had to band together once more by filing a lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow the law in making a substantial rule change to the USDA organic standard.

“To have an honest conversation about the future of our food system, it’s crucial for consumers and news producers to understand the alarming extent of industry influence on media coverage and to do what we can to make sure we’re hearing the real story, not spin,” said Stacy Malkan, co-author of the report and co-director of consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know. While there is a long way to go in ensuring consumers know exactly who is controlling the information they receive when it comes to food, this report, which includes a detailed summary of industry trade and front groups’ activities, spending, and board members, is a good first step in creating some transparency around the issue and we encourage citizens to read it and other information on the subject.

For more on organic standards and how you can play a part in maintaining the integrity of organic, visit the Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

Source: “Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food”

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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