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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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01
Jul

Colgate-Palmolive Pays $2mil to Settle Litigation on Lack of Efficacy of Its Triclosan Soaps

(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2015) – SoftSoap manufacturer, Colgate-Palmolive Co., has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a class action suit that alleged the company misled consumers into thinking its brand of Softsoap Antibacterial liquid hand soaps killed most common germs, when in fact they do not, according to documents filed in New Hampshire federal court. After years in court, Colgate Palmolive decided to settle “in order to avoid the cost and uncertainty of continued litigation.” Triclosan’s use in hand soap has been shown to be no more effective than regular soap and water. Its links to public health hazards, including endocrine disruption, antibacterial resistance, and water contamination, has raised the question of its necessity in over the counter consumer products, given the hazards.

softsoapTriclosan, an antimicrobial pesticide used in many “antibacterial” hand soaps, as well as thousands of other consumer goods, such as toothpaste, cosmetics, and treated plastics and textiles, has been marketed as a ‘germ killer.’ However, its efficacy has been called into question by several agencies and independent studies. In fact, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee, and the American Medical Association both find that there is no evidence that triclosan is effective for its intended use. Instead, triclosan is linked to increasing bacterial resistance and cross-resistance to crucial antibiotic medications – potentially endangering public health.

In 2013, the FDA announced in new rulemaking that it will require manufacturers of antibacterial soaps and body washes to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use, and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. According to FDA, the agency is currently “engaged in a comprehensive scientific and regulatory review of all the available safety and effectiveness data. This includes data relevant to the emerging safety issues of bacterial resistance and endocrine disruption due to triclosan in FDA-regulated products.” Just last week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced in an adopted opinion, “[N]o safe use could be demonstrated for the proposed use of Triclosan,” stating that triclosan, is toxic and bioaccumulative, and will be phased-out for hygienic uses and replaced by more suitable alternatives.

The multidistrict litigation brought against Colgate Palmolive in 2012 identifies triclosan as the active ingredient in the liquid soap that the company manufactured from 1992 to 2011, which claimed that it was “clinically proven to eliminate 99 percent of germs.” The five individual plaintiffs cite that triclosan does not actually provide the antibacterial protection the company claimed. The plaintiff’s argue that Colgate Palmolive, “intentionally misrepresented to consumers that washing with Softsoap Antibacterial was more effective at killing or eliminating germs than washing with other soaps that do not contain triclosan.”

The suit continues that Colgate-Palmolive “deceptively and unfairly represented to consumers that using Softsoap Antibacterial provides special health benefits, including but not limited to, statements that the product is “dermatologist tested,” “clinically proven to eliminate 99% of germs your family encounters,” “offers antibacterial protection,” “kills 99% of common germs,” “Goodbye Germ-Hello World,” and is “America’s most trusted hand soap.”” As part of the settlement, Colgate-Palmolive will no longer make such label claims. However, this may now be a moot point since the company became one of the first to announce in 2011 that it was reformulating its soaps to exclude triclosan including its Softsoap line and Ultra-Palmolive Antibacterial dish soaps. It is unclear whether this litigation helped to influence Colgate-Palmolive’s decision on triclosan. Its toothpaste however, Colgate TotalÂź, will still contain triclosan. After legal fees, the money to be paid by Colgate Palmolive will go to Children’s Health Fund, a charity assisting “medically underserved” children.

This is not the first case against triclosan-containing soaps. In 2010, a class action complaint also claimed Dial Corp. defrauded consumers about its Dial Complete soap by falsely claiming that it ‘kills 99.99% of germs.’ The suit stated that Dial Corp.’s claims are deceptive and misleading, designed solely to cause consumers to buy the product. In this case, oral arguments are still being scheduled and a decision is expected soon after they are presented.

Under public pressure mounted by Beyond Pesticides and others, several major manufacturers have phased out triclosan from their products. Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble joined Colgate-Palmolive and began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products. Avon joined these companies in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of the products in its line that include it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which also has jurisdiction over triclosan (in textiles and plastics) recently denied a 2010 petition submitted by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch requesting cancellation of registered products that contain triclosan. However, the agency did note that it will evaluate and conduct a biological assessment of the potential for effects on listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the ongoing triclosan registration review, which began in 2013.

Since 2004, with the publication of “The Ubiquitous Triclosan,” Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan. Studies show that it can interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormones, and may promote the progression of cancer cells. This is alarming given that the CDC has found that 75% of the U.S. population contains triclosan in their bodies, even in breast milk, and at levels that are rising. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function. One preliminary study also linked triclosan to the growth of breast cancer cells.

In the face of continued regulatory inaction, Beyond Pesticides urges consumers, along with manufacturers, retailers, school districts, businesses and communities to wash their hands of triclosan and protect our water and health from this toxic pesticide. For additional information and resources on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, join the ban triclosan campaign at http://bit.ly/BanTriclosanCampaign.

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

Source: Law360

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30
Jun

EPA Solicits Public Input on Protecting Monarchs from Herbicide Impacts

(Beyond Pesticides, June 30, 2015) As the Monarch butterfly suffers serious decline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering the role of herbicides in killing the iconic species’ food source, milkweed, and developing an action plan that may fall short. The agency identified possible action that it may take to slow the Monarchs’ decline in a document released last week entitled Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly (Monarch Approach document). EPA’s approach to Monarch conservation comes shortly after the White House released its National Pollinator Health Strategy, intended to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also in the midst of conducting a review of the Monarch butterfly to determine whether the species is eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Diane St John Durham CT We planted a lot of Zinnia seeds and look who came over!The number of Monarchs reaching their winter breeding grounds in Mexico has fallen by 90% in less than 20 years. This year’s population was the second lowest since surveys began two decades ago. The critical driver of this decline has been linked to the loss of milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs will lay their eggs, along their migration route, which runs through the Midwestern Corn Belt. This area is well-known for the monoculture planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops developed to tolerate repeated herbicide applications. GE agricultural practices require the broad scale, routine spraying of herbicides on cropland in order to control weeds. The destruction of natural habitat both in and around fields where these herbicides are applied has resulted in unprecedented milkweed declines. Corn and soybean fields in the Corn Belt have lost 99% of their milkweed since just 1999.

Environmental and wildlife conservation groups have singled out the use of glyphosate (Roundup) herbicides as the main threat to Monarchs and milkweed within these GE agricultural systems. The Center for Food Safety’s recent report, Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America, focuses on glyphosate, recently classified as a carcinogen, because it is used to treat millions of acres of herbicide-tolerant GE crops. In a similar vein, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the EPA to review the use of glyphosate, and impose restrictions on its use. The agency recently rejected the group’s petition, noting that “the agency at this time has not determined that glyphosate causes unreasonable adverse effects to the monarch butterfly.” This is a bit of word-play on the part of the agency. The Monarch Approach document indicates that “direct effects” of herbicides to monarchs will be analyzed by the agency’s pesticide risk assessment framework, while “indirect effects”, including loss of milkweed plants, will be addressed by the Monarch Approach document under which it is now soliciting public comment.

In its Monarch Approach document, EPA claims that if it were to take regulatory action on one herbicide to protect monarch resources, such a move may shift the market to other herbicides not subject to the same risk mitigation measures. The agency asserts that “its efforts should not be limited to looking at just one or two herbicides, but across a number of herbicides.” While this goal is laudable taken on its face, the ultimate actions stemming from this Monarch Approach document must adequately address the threat a range of herbicides pose to monarch habitat.  The Monarch Approach document’s list of possible actions includes “requiring changes to pesticide label instructions, such as: lowering the rates, decreasing the frequency; modifying the timing of applications; or establishing spray drift buffers in fields that are treated with pesticides in order to protect critical milkweed resources.” EPA indicates that these practices may complement other conservation efforts aimed at education and increasing wildlife habitat.

It is important for the public to read EPA’s Monarch Approach document and provide a public comment on the agency’s potential actions to address monarch declines. Ultimately, as with the crisis impacting managed and wild bees, pesticide label changes and a focus on loss of habitat will not adequately address the magnitude of these declines. An effective approach to truly restoring the habitat of Monarchs and other pollinators must place an emphasis on comprehensive and systematic practices to grow food responsibly. Such an approach must go beyond looking at habitat as a singular factor in Monarch declines. It must provide a framework for farmers to foster biodiverse habitats for plants, pollinators and other wildlife. It must eschew GE systems and conventional practices which are inherently antagonistic to diversity, and rely upon monoculture plantings and other toxic pesticide use. The agency already has a model in organic agriculture that it can draw upon. Organic farmers are required to set aside wildlife habitat, and they incorporate more diversity of vegetation through the use of cover crops, crop rotation, and other cultural practices. Fostering plant diversity ultimately fosters animal diversity, including but not limited to, Monarchs.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organism, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind and Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems. You can also visit the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity for more ways in which you can protect monarchs and other pollinators.

At the same time, Take Action by signing the petition urging EPA to suspend neonicotinoid pesticides, which threaten both honey bees, wild pollinators, and Monarch butterflies.

Read EPA’s Monarch Approach document and provide a unique public comment. Contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] or 202-543-5450 for help in crafting your statement.

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

Source: Regulations.gov

Photo Source: Diane J, CT

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29
Jun

Neonicotinoids Hinder Bee’s Ability to Smell Flowers

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2015) A recent study has provided supporting evidence to previous work showing that sublethal doses of imidicloprid, a toxic neonicotinoid insecticide, impairs olfactory learning in exposed honey bee workers. Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have experienced ongoing and rapid population declines. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides (especially the neonicotinoid class of insecticides), either acting individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees and wild pollinators. Neonicotinoids can be persistent in the environment, and have the ability to translocate into the pollen and nectar of treated plants.

Shannon May“Honeybees need to learn to associate nectar reward with floral odor. One of the main reasons why flowers produce odor is so that this odor can be learned by pollinators and used to repeatedly visit the same flower species. Without this repeat visitation, pollination does not occur. We showed that a neonicotinoid pesticide, at sublethal doses, harms this odor memory formation,” Chinese Academy of Science’s Ken Tan, who led the study, told CBS News in an email interview.

Published in Nature on June 18, 2015, the study finds that “adults that ingested a single imidacloprid dose as low as 0.1 ng/bee had significantly reduced olfactory learning acquisition, which was 1.6-fold higher in control bees. Bees exposed as larvae to a total dose of 0.24 ng/bee had significantly impaired olfactory learning when tested as adults; control bees exhibited up to 4.8-fold better short-term learning acquisition.” Researchers conclude that this sublethal cognitive deficit caused by low dose exposure to neonicotinoids on a broad range of bee species is cause for further study.

A January 2015 study that also looked at sublethal exposure to imidacloprid found that it leads to mitochondrial dysfunction in bumble bees, which then negatively impacts navigation and foraging skills. For example, exposed bees will have greater difficulty in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony, which in turn can affect the colony as a whole. Two other recent studies found that, not only does neonicotinoid exposure result in reduced bee density, nesting, colony growth, and reproduction, but also that bees actually prefer foods containing neonicotinoid pesticides, despite their adverse effects. Put simply, this means that bees can become addicted to neonicotinoid-contaminated flowers in the same way that humans can become addicted to cigarettes.

These studies add merit to the growing body of work that implicates neonicotinoid pesticides as the cause of bee declines. It has already been indicated that exposure to neonicotinoids can leave honey bees and other important non-target species vulnerable to viruses and predators, such as the Varroa mite. The pesticide industry often asserts that these viruses and predators are the only factors causing bee declines, but the refuting point that can be extracted from the studies above is that low-dose exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides is the tipping point, the first domino in a long line of implicated causes. Neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid, break down normal functioning of these insects, which then leaves them dangerously vulnerable to viruses, predators, and other negative impacts.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 “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 won’t stop the widespread contamination of landscapes or prevent harm associated with systemic neonicotinoids. Pollinators and other non-target organisms face unique threats from these systemic pesticides because they can be exposed through multiple pathways, including directly through foliar applications and contaminated field dust from seed treatments, as well as indirectly through contaminated guttation droplets, pollen, and nectar of treated plants.

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.

Source: Nature, CBS News

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

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26
Jun

EU To Ban Triclosan, While EPA and FDA Reject Calls for U.S. Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2015) The agency responsible for chemical oversight in the European Union announced today that the antibacterial pesticide, triclosan, is toxic and bioaccumulative, and will be phased-out for hygienic uses and replaced by more suitable alternatives. According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), “[N]o safe use could be demonstrated for the proposed use of Triclosan.” This decision has renewed calls for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove the chemical from the consumer market. EPA in May rejected a consumer petition that asked the agency to ban triclosan.

Bubbles in orange liquid soap“We applaud this step to protect public health and the environment,” said Jay Feldman, executive director, Beyond Pesticides.

The ECHA opinion states that, “Risk was identified for both surface water and for the non-compartment specific effects relevant to the food chain (secondary poisoning).” ECHA believes that any further risk mitigation for triclosan is “not considered realistic.”

Triclosan is an antimicrobial pesticide used in cosmetics, personal care products and treated plastics and textiles. It has been linked to hormone disrupting effects, bacterial and antibiotic resistance, cancer, and impacts on aquatic organisms. The chemical’s widespread consumer use raises concerns over necessity and efficacy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 75% of the U.S. population contains triclosan in their bodies. Triclosan enters the food chain through use of contaminated water or fertilizer on agricultural crops.

Beyond Pesticides and others have called for a ban of the chemical, citing its hazards to the public and the environment, as well as availability of safe alternatives.

EPA recently issued a long-awaited response to a Citizen Petition filed by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch in 2010, denying the request to cancel registered products that contain the antibacterial pesticide. The decision allows this toxic substance to continue to be sold nationwide in common household products, from toys, cutting boards, hair brushes, sponges, computer keyboards to socks and undergarments. The agency did, however, grant one request, and will evaluate and conduct a biological assessment of the potential for effects on listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the ongoing triclosan registration review.

The cosmetic uses of triclosan, such as toothpaste and liquid soaps, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and subject to a separate petition for which there has been no response since its filing in 2005 and again in 2009.

Public pressure, led by Beyond Pesticides, has contributed to awareness of the dangers of triclosan’s use. Several major manufacturers have taken steps to discontinue marketing of the chemical, including Avon, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Colgate-Palmolive, which reformulated its popular line of liquid soaps, but continues to formulate Total¼ toothpaste with triclosan. Furthermore, Minnesota became the first state to ban the toxic antibacterial, announcing that retailers would no longer be able to sell cleaning products that contain triclosan, effective January 2017.

Encourage your local hospitals, schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free, or follow the lead of Minnesota by banning triclosan; organizations can adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. For additional information and resources on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today.

Source: ECHA

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

 

 

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25
Jun

Atrazine and Glyphosate To Be Analyzed by EPA for Impacts on 1,500 Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, June 25, 2015) The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday that it will analyze the effects of two of the most commonly used pesticides in the United States, glyphosate and atrazine, along with atrazine chemical-cousins propazine and simazine, for their impacts on 1,500 endangered plants and animals. The announcement marks an agreement between EPA and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on a proposed settlement amending a 2010 court order that established a schedule to complete effects determinations for 75 chemicals on 11 species in the San Francisco (SF) Bay Area. According to EPA, 59 of the 75 pesticides have been evaluated and subject to effects determinations, however for the remaining 16 pesticides, EPA and CBD agreed that it would be more efficient and environmentally significant to complete nationwide effects determinations on the four pesticides, rather than limiting their focus to the SF bay area listed species. The agency has committed to completing the assessments by June 2020.

epa_seal_profilesThe initial lawsuit was filed by CBD in May 2007 against EPA for violating the Endangered Species Act by registering and allowing the use of scores of toxic pesticides in habitats for 11 San Francisco Bay Area endangered species without determining whether the chemicals jeopardize the species’ existence. As a result of this lawsuit, a federal court signed an injunction imposing interim restrictions on the use of 75 pesticides in eight Bay Area counties, granting the EPA five years to formally evaluate those chemicals’ potentially harmful effects on 11 Bay Area endangered species.

“This settlement is the first step to reining in the widespread use of dangerous pesticides that are harming both wildlife and people,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Atrazine, for instance, chemically castrates frogs even in tiny doses, is an endocrine disruptor, and likely causes birth defects in people. The EPA should have banned this years ago.”

Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world and is used on most corn, sugarcane and sorghum acreage in the United States; and can also be used on golf courses and residential lawns. In the U.S. alone, 60-80 million pounds are used each year. Its effects on frogs have been well documented by UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., whose 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. And, one study linked birth defects to time of conception, with the greatest impact on children conceived when concentrations of atrazine and other pesticides are highest in the local drinking water. Along with atrazine, propazine and simazine are both in the traizine class of chemicals, which have been has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, and 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.

Atrazine is the second most commonly used pesticide after glyphosate, more commonly known as Monsanto’s Roundup. The herbicide is used to treat millions of acres of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops, eradicating milkweed, and resulting in a near collapse of the monarch butterfly population, which has plummeted over the past 20 years. The chemical has also been shown to have significant impacts on the environment, as a 2012 study associated Roundup with stress-included alterations in frog morphology. Aside from its environmental impacts, it was recently designated as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), it is anything but safe. It has also been linked to antibiotic resistance, an increased risk of birth defects, and studies have shown that the “inert” ingredient used in formulated Roundup, polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), can kill human embroyonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells.

“This settlement will finally force the EPA to consider the impacts of glyphosate — widely known as Roundup — which is the most commonly used pesticide in the United States, on endangered species nationwide,” said Mr. Hartl. “With more than 300 million pounds of this stuff being dumped on our landscape each year, it’s hard to even fathom the damage it’s doing.”

For decades, EPA has routinely disregarded the ESA’s requirement to consult with federal wildlife agencies on how to implement conservation measures to protect threatened and endangered species from pesticides. After years of gridlock, federal wildlife agencies, EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the issue and report on ways to better protect listed species  (any species that is likely to become endangered or any species which is in danger of extinction) from the effects of toxic pesticides. In April 2018, the NAS released a report identifying deficiencies and recommendations for all the agencies involved in pesticide consultations, but singled out the EPA’s approach for its numerous analytical shortcomings. In response to NAS’s recommendations, the agency an­­­nounced several reforms designed to better protect endangered species in the fall of 2013. However, EPA’s risk assessment process continues to institute restrictions intended to mitigate risks, and does not function to protect the most vulnerable in biological systems.

This agreement addresses a second set of chemicals, after the initial pilot chemical (Chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl) assessment on a nationwide scale was set. These pilot chemicals are the result of a settlement between CBD and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requiring the agency to analyze impacts on endangered species across the country from the five dangerous pesticides that have been found to be toxic to wildlife and may pose a health risk to humans. According to CBD, this settlement follows a similar framework and will require the EPA to begin the consultation process on these chemicals.

Through this settlement, atrazine and glyphosate will be subject to reviews on their harmful effects on thousands of species and biodiversity, paving the way for comprehensive regulatory action. Based on scientific evidence, there is no need to continue with the use of atrazine or glyphosate, especially with so many alternatives for pest management. While restrictions, reduced use or even label changes of certain harmful chemicals would be a step forward, ultimately the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought for a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallow the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law, utilizing a systems-based approach. For more information, see our Lawns and Landscapes page and our Organic Food page. The Eating with a Conscience database developed by Beyond Pesticides shows consumers not only the pesticides that may be present on the food you eat, but the impacts food cultivation can have on farmworkers and the wider environment.

Take Action: EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed stipulated settlement agreement through July 8, 2015. Comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0481.

­Sources: EPA Notice, Center for Biological Diversity

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

 

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24
Jun

Popular Weed Killer 2,4-D and Lice Treatment Lindane Classified as Carcinogens

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2015) The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that there is some evidence in experimental animals that the popular herbicide, 2,4-D, is linked to cancer and now classifies it as a Group 2B, “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” IARC also classified lindane, used commonly in the U.S. as a topical lice treatment, in Group 1,“carcinogenic to humans” based on sufficient evidence in humans with the onset of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). These latest cancer findings come just months after the agency classified the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate (Roundup), as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” raising public concerns on the lack of action from U.S. regulators.

IARC.WHO-Logo-High-ResThis month, 26 experts from 13 countries met at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) IARC in Lyon, France to assess the carcinogenicity of the insecticide lindane, the herbicide 2,4-D, and insecticide DDT. The findings are published in the Lancet. The new IARC findings come months after the agency classified glyphosate, the ingredient in the popular Roundup weed killer, as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen, citing sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies. This decision sparked renewed calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action on the herbicide and remove it from the market. However, EPA has stated that it does not agree with the recent IARC finding and continues to ignore questions about glyphosate’s hazards and questions of  its necessity in crop production. Meanwhile, France has moved forward to ban glyphosate sale in garden centers citing IARC’s findings.

2,4-D
2,4-D was classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on limited evidence in experimental animals and inadequate evidence in humans. According to IARC, “There is strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress, a mechanism that can operate in humans, and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression, based on in vivo and in vitro studies. However, epidemiological studies did not find strong or consistent increases in risk of NHL or other cancers in relation to 2,4-D exposure.”

In the review conducted by IARC experts, population-based case-control studies of 2,4-D exposure in relation to lymphoma and leukemia were found to provide mixed results. The working group conducted a meta-analysis of 11 studies that shows no association of non-Hodgkin lymphoma with over-exposure to 2,4-D. The consensus of the working group was that there is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of 2,4-D. But in animal studies, the group finds that there was limited evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of 2,4-D. Many of the studies under review observed increased incidence of reticulum-cell sarcoma in laboratory mice. In male rats, 2,4-D in the diet induced a positive trend in the incidence of rare brain cancer tumors (astrocytomas). However, other studies provided strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress that can operate in humans and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression, based on in-vivo and in-vitro studies.

2,4-D, one half of chemical makeup of Agent Orange, is highly toxic as it is linked to numerous adverse health effects, including increased risk of birth defects, reduced sperm counts, Parkinson’s disease, and endocrine disruption. Previous studies looking at 2,4-D and cancer found high incidence of NHL reported among farmers and other occupational groups working with 2,4-D. According to a study from researchers at the National Cancer Institute, frequent use of 2,4-D, has been associated with 2- to 8-fold increases of NHL in studies conducted in Sweden, Kansas, Nebraska, Canada, and elsewhere. Farmers using 2,4-D have been associated with an increased risk of NHL in 131 lymphohematopoietic cancers (LHC) in a case-control study embedded in a cohort of 139,000 members of United Farm Workers of America (UFW) diagnosed in California between 1988 and 2001. Additionally, studies from the National Cancer Institute and other sources have reported an association between exposure to lawn chemicals, like 2,4-D, and adverse impacts in dogs. One study by Glickman et al. (2004) reported that exposure to lawns or gardens treated with phenoxy herbicides was associated with an increased risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers, compared with exposure to untreated lawns or gardens. For more read Beyond Pesticides’ ChemWatch factsheet.

2,4-D is also an endocrine disruptor and is known to interfere with the thyroid hormone. Laboratory studies have observed the hormone effects of 2,4-D exposure, including estrogenic activity in various organisms exposed to 2,4-D, decreases in the thyroid gland transport and production functions, and impairment of hormone iodination in the thyroid glands of laboratory rats. According to EPA’s registration documents for 2,4-D, current data demonstrate effects on the thyroid and gonads following exposure to 2,4-D, and there is concern regarding its endocrine disruption potential.

Unfortunately, its use is predicted to increase due to the deregulation and expected proliferation of 2,4-D tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops. Concerns around increased 2,4-D use on GE crops revolves around increasing the onset of 2,4-D-resistant weeds, direct and indirect adverse impacts on human health, increased in drift to non-target sites, and the contamination of food and water. Earlier this year, several conservation, food safety, and public health groups filed a motion challenging the EPA’s decision to expand the use of a new 2,4-D product to be used on GE crops citing serious impacts the powerful new herbicide cocktail will have on farmworkers, neighboring farms, and ground and surface water, as well as endangered species.

The use of 2,4-D also comes with the possibility for dioxin contamination, which has been a long part of 2,4-D’s history. Expected increases in 2,4-D use means that the frequency of low level dioxin residues entering the environment may also increase. Dioxins are a carcinogenic class of chemicals that have left a toxic legacy for human health and environmental protection across the U.S due to their persistence and toxicity. Dioxins have notoriously long half-lives, are bioaccumulative, and present broadly significant health risks developmentally and postnatally.

See Beyond Pesticides’ 2,4-D page on the Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management for a comprehensive scientific and regulatory review of 2,4-D, including references to epidemiological studies that link the chemical’s use to elevated rates of cancer in humans.

Lindane
Lindane was classified in the highest cancer category as “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1) based on epidemiological cohort and case-control studies of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in several countries which provided sufficient evidence in humans of carcinogenicity. According to IARC, information from the U.S. Agricultural Health Study, a large prospective cohort study with detailed exposure assessment, reported statistically significant increases in non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk with increasing occupational exposure to lindane. Population-based case-control studies in the mid-western USA and Canada also reported consistently positive associations. In animal studies, lindane was observed to consistently increase the incidence of benign or malignant liver tumors. The agency finds that there is strong evidence that lindane causes immunosuppressive effects that can operate in humans.

Although banned in several other countries, lindane is still used in the U.S. as lice treatment, regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Lindane was formerly used in agricultural insecticides until it was banned by EPA for use on crops in 2006. Additionally, lindane was added to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) list of chemicals to be eliminated or restricted globally, but the treaty still allows for pharmaceutical use until the existing stocks are depleted. The dangers of lindane are well documented. Lindane is an organochlorine class pesticide, similar in structure to DDT, and a known neurotoxicant and endocrine disruptor. In addition to being a carcinogen, perhaps the most startling health effect associated with the use of lindane is seizures in young children and adults at doses of 1.6 and 45 grams, respectively. Attempts to pressure the FDA to ban lindane have failed, as the agency still allows lindane as the active ingredient in lice shampoos and lotions.

See Beyond Pesticides’ lindane page on the Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management.

DDT
The long banned insecticide DDT was classified as Group 2A “probably carcinogenic to humans.” DDT was widely used during World War II and subsequently it was widely applied to eradicate malaria and also used in agriculture. DDT is banned for use in the U.S. even though other developing countries may still use the chemical. Despite the fact that DDT is banned in the U.S. concentrations of this toxic chemical’s major metabolite, DDE, have remained alarmingly high in many ecosystems, including surface waters, the Arctic, and even U.S. national parks. The legacy of DDT is still being felt in communities across the U.S. as contaminated soil leads to the continued poisonings of birds and fish. DDT and its metabolites persist in the environment and are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, and up the food chain. A recent study finds that exposures to DDT in utero can lead to the development of breast cancer later in life. The study reports that elevated levels of DDT in the mother’s blood led to a four-fold increase in the daughter’s risk of developing breast cancer. DDE has been linked to an early start to menopause and potentially harmful effects on ovarian function. People with high levels of exposure to DDT are also four times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than people with low levels.

According to IARC, there is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of DDT and its metabolites DDE and DDD. In mice, studies gave positive results for multiple tumor sites, with DDT consistently increasing the incidence of benign and malignant liver tumors; lymphoma incidence was also increased in some studies. Further, there is strong evidence that DDT affects several mechanisms that can operate in humans. The experts also report that estrogenic effects and androgen-receptor antagonism were consistently observed in numerous experimental systems including human cells in vitro.

In light of federal inaction on glyphosate, 2,4-D and other toxic pesticides, it is up to local grassroots action to increase environmental awareness in communities across the country. Beyond Pesticides has the tools necessary for local activists to increase environmental awareness in schools and communities through our Databases that Support Action. We promote getting active to safeguard your community and the surrounding environment from toxic insults: teach your neighbors how to maintain their land without toxic pesticides, protect honeybees from neonicotinoids insecticides, aquatic species from endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the streams, lakes, and rivers we all depend on from the widespread use of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. To make your community sustainable and take it off the pesticide treadmill, join Beyond Pesticides’community-based campaigns through our website, or contact us directly at [email protected].

Source: The Lancet, Reuters

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

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23
Jun

Air Force Veterans Who Used Agent Orange Contaminated Aircraft May Be Compensated

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2015) After years of denial and obstruction, Air Force and Air Force Reserve veterans now have the chance to receive compensation for their exposure to the highly toxic herbicide Agent Orange on contaminated aircraft used after the Vietnam War. Affected veteran’s health issues stem from their time spent on UC-123 transport planes, which during the war were outfitted with spray equipment in the American military’s attempt to eliminate forest cover for Vietcong fighters. After the war, these aircraft were returned to use in the United States for basic transport operations such as cargo shipping and medical evacuation missions. However, these planes never underwent any form of decontamination or testing before being repurposed.

Though the Agent Orange Act of 1991 stipulated medical care and disability coverage for sick veterans who served in the Vietnam War and were exposed to Agent Orange, those who flew in contaminated post-war planes were deemed ineligible. Prior to this recent announcement from the Department of Veteran’s affairs, government officials asserted that the “dried residues” of Agent Orange were not likely to pose a health threat to aircraft crew. However, a study published by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine in 2014, titled Post-Vietnam military herbicide exposures in UC-123 Agent Orange spray aircraft, showed otherwise. Scientists found evidence that those who worked on C-123 aircraft were likely exposed to dioxin, a contaminant introduced during the manufacture of Agent Orange, and a highly potent carcinogen. The report dismissed Veteran’s Affairs “dried residue” concept as “not consistent with widely accepted theories of fugacity and basic thermodynamics of the behavior of surface residues.” Further it found that, “Aircraft occupants would have been exposed to airborne dioxin-contaminated dust as well as come into direct skin contact, and our models show that the level of exposure is likely to have exceeded several available exposure guidelines.”

According to the Washington Post, between 1,500 and 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who worked, slept, and ate on the planes and may have health issues related to dioxin exposure are now eligible for financial compensation for their disability claims. “Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” said Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald. “We thank the IOM [Institute of Medicine] for its thorough review that provided the supporting evidence needed to ensure we can now fully compensate any former crew member who develops an Agent Orange-related disability.”

Past studies have found that U.S. war veterans exposed to Agent Orange developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. Many children of exposed veterans have been affected by their parents’ exposure to the chemical and show a wide range of symptoms.

Agent Orange was given its name because it was stored in orange striped drums and contained the active ingredients 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. This formulation was contaminated with the highly toxic 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (also called TCDD or simply dioxin) and is now banned. However, 2,4-D is still one of the most widely used herbicides on lawns, school grounds and parks today. It has been linked to cancer, liver damage and endocrine disruption in humans in addition to being toxic to wildlife, pets and beneficial insects. Moreover, previous research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did detect dioxin contamination in a number of 2,4-D herbicide products.

The possibility of continuing contamination of 2,4-D herbicides with dioxin is particularly concerning as EPA and USDA recently gave the green light for Dow Chemical to grow crops genetically engineered to withstand repeated applications of 2,4-D. The approval of this toxic system was granted in response to widespread weed resistance to glyphosate-tolerant GE crops. And as with glyphosate-resistant crops, a massive increase in 2,4-D use can be expected to occur as a result of this approval. A coalition of conservation, food safety, and public health groups including Beyond Pesticides continue to challenge this decision in the courts.

For more information about the legacy of Agent Orange, see previous Daily News stories on the issue, or view the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. For more information about why we should take a precautionary approach to GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ GE webpage.

Source: Washington Post

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

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22
Jun

New Studies Identify Fungicides as a Factor in Declining Bee Health

(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2015) Two new studies raise concerns over the connection between the use of fungicides and the declining overall health of bee colonies. While the use of neonicotinoid insecticides has been established as a primary contributor to declining pollinator populations, these new studies shine a light on the use of fungicides and the negative impacts their use has on overall bee health.

The first study was performed after a group of local farSierra Castillo Santa Rosa CA A safe return to Pink Palace Honeybee retreatSanta Rosa, Californiamers asked researchers at the University of Wisconsin to assess whether it was safe to spray fungicides on crops while they are in bloom and bees are foraging. Because insecticides, like neonicotinoids, are meant to kill insects, researchers have performed numerous studies on how the use of these insecticides may harm beneficial insects as well as those they are intended to target. Fungicides, however, are not meant to kill insects, so the relationship between their use and effects on bee populations is relatively unstudied.

Researcher Hannah Gaines Day, Ph.D., an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, cautions that her team’s study, which involved five bumblebee colonies kept in field enclosures where flowers were sprayed with field-realistic doses of chlorothalonil, a common fungicide, was small and may not draw broad conclusions about the relationship between fungicides and bees. She notes that the diminished bumblebee colony size and health in her controlled study may not translate immediately to real-world colonies, but that it does indicate a relationship between the use of fungicides and health declines in bee populations.

These findings fit with patterns observed in another study, published in the June Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers led by Mia Park, Ph.D., a pollinator ecologist at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Park’s team found bees in New York orchards to be healthier on farms located within nature-rich areas rather than agriculture-intensive habitats. In the latter there were fewer bees, and fewer different species. Fungicides made “a significant contribution” to pesticide effects, wrote Dr. Park and colleagues, suggesting “deleterious properties of a class of pesticides that was, until recently, considered benign to bees.” In this study, wild bees were affected much more than honey bees and avoiding sprays during blooms didn’t seem to help. “Our findings suggest that heavy use of conventional pesticides, even some traditionally viewed as benign, can render our crops net sinks for bee populations,” the researchers wrote. More bees were killed than sustained and the health of wild pollinators were adversely affected in the process.

David Goulson, Ph.D., a bee biologist at the University of Sussex, said the new studies “suggest that the fungicides may be having more profound effects on bees than would have been expected from the standard lab toxicity studies.” The Park study in particular, said Dr. Goulson, “demonstrates very clearly how the cocktail of chemicals used in modern farming makes farmland an inhospitable place for bees.” Read more about Beyond Pesticides’ thoughts on Park’s study and what it means for pollinator populations here.

It is important to note that neither of the research groups investigated precisely how fungicides could harm bees, but one possible mechanism is described in a 2013 study by U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers, who found that fungicides rendered honey bees more vulnerable to parasites, perhaps because their immune systems are weakened. The studies also failed to assess the potential interactions between fungicides and other chemicals. Fungicides like those used in Gaines-Day’s experiment can short-circuit bees’ natural ability to detoxify some pesticides. “A quick look at a fungicide bottle might show minimal risks,” said Aimee Code, pesticide program coordinator at Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, “but if mixed with some insecticides, the synergistic effects can be staggering.”

This new information, though far from complete, offers yet another look at the dangers pesticide use poses to bee populations. Evidence that fungicide use, in addition to neonicotinoid use, is linked to declining pollinator health highlights the shortfalls of available research and the uncertainties surrounding the long term effects of pesticide use and their role in pollinator declines. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other government entities continue to fall short in protecting pollinators, 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, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids.

Source: The Guardian

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

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19
Jun

DDT Exposure in Utero Directly Linked to Development of Breast Cancer Later in Life

(Beyond Pesticides, June 19, 2015) A new study directly links exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in utero to the development of breast cancer later in life. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the study looked at data that were taken from a California program that evaluated samples from women during 1960s, when DDT use was popular. DDT is known to be an endocrine disruptor, and is linked to serious health effects. Although DDT has been banned for many years, residues still linger in certain areas of the U.S. and continue to cause environmental and health hazards.

Pregnant_womanwikiThe recent study, titled DDT Exposure in Utero and Breast Cancer, focuses on 118 mothers who were members of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan from 1959-1967 and had daughters that were diagnosed with breast cancer by their 50s. Stored blood samples from these mothers gave researchers an idea of how much DDT they were exposed to during pregnancy or soon after giving birth. They found that elevated levels of DDT in the mother’s blood led to a four-fold increase in the daughter’s risk of developing breast cancer. Among those with cancer, 83% had a form of cancer called estrogen positive breast cancer, which is caused by the estrogen hormone malfunctioning to promote tumor growth. Women with the highest rate of exposure to DDT in utero were found to have a more advanced type of breast cancer than women who were not exposed to DDT in utero.

DDT is an organochlorine pesticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972, following a massive environmental movement spurred by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which documents the adverse environmental effects resulting from the indiscriminate use of pesticides. DDT was widely used to control mosquitoes for malaria abatement, and in agriculture. Despite the fact that DDT was banned in the U.S. 43 years ago, concentrations of this toxic chemical’s major metabolite, DDE, have remained alarmingly high in many ecosystems, including surface waters, the Arctic, and even U.S. national parks. This is because DDT/DDE are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, and biomagnify in food chains.

DDT/DDE has affected human health and the environment in many ways. DDE has been linked to an early start to menopause and potentially harmful effects on ovarian function. People with high levels of exposure to DDT are also four times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than people with low levels. A 2014 study showed that exposure to DDT in utero cultivates conditions that increase an individual’s likelihood of becoming obese and developing type-2 diabetes, while another study documented generational effects associated with DDT exposure, finding that the third generation of pregnant rats injected with DDT exhibited dramatically higher levels of fat and weight gain despite not being directly exposed to the pesticide themselves.

As mentioned earlier, DDT is extremely persistent, affecting humans and wildlife to this day. A community in central Michigan continues to deal with the fallout of a pesticide company that produced DDT nearly half a century ago, leading to mass bird die-offs from exposure to the deadly insecticide. In the San Francisco Bay canal, DDT is still poisoning fish and posing a threat to human health, despite numerous cleanup attempts after contamination was discovered over 50 years ago. DDT can move through the environment, contaminating wildlife even in places where it has likely never been used.  Researchers suspect that DDT is carried through atmospheric currents, where it is deposited during rain events as moisture condenses over cold regions —at high altitudes and latitudes.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has notoriously been slow to act against the use of dangerous pesticides. Although DDT has been banned, its effects live on. Other dangerous chemicals continue to be used with vigor, similar to the use of DDT years ago. U.S. regulators continue to drag their feet in moving forward with the statutorily-mandated review of pesticides for the previously unevaluated risk of potential endocrine disruption. Yet, findings like the current study and many others highlight the importance of generating strong pesticide regulations that take into consideration endocrine-disrupting effects when evaluating safety standards for worker protection and human health impact.

Another class of insecticides in particular, neonicotinoids (neonics), have been implicated in environmental degradation and important pollinator declines. In Canada, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner has even named neonics to be a “bigger threat” to the environment than DDT, and created new rules to limit their use. Here in the U.S., Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and beekeepers filed a lawsuit against EPA in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are two neonicotinoids used extensively on corn, soybean and canola seeds.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website! We also urge consumers to support organic agriculture as a method of avoiding exposure to endocrine disrupters, neonics, and all other dangerous pesticides.

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

Source: RawStory

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18
Jun

Bee Pollination Important to Biodiversity, Not Just Ecosystem Services

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2015) A major international study on bee pollination involving 58 researchers finds that astonishingly few bee species are responsible for pollinating crops worldwide, and offers compelling economic rationale for conserving wild bees. The study, published in Nature Communications, calculates that the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, a number in the billions globally. However, research also indicates that just two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide. While the study shows that contribution of wild bees to crop production is significant, researchers warn that conserving the biological diversity of bees requires more than just ecosystem-service-based arguments.

Shannon May“Rare and threatened species may play a less significant role economically than common species, but this does not mean their protection is less important,” says Professor David Kleijn, PhD of the Netherlands’ Wageningen University, who led the study.

The economic benefits to people from nature –such as crop pollination, water purification, and carbon storage– are increasingly known as ecosystem services. The fact that nature provides these services has increasingly been used as a reason to protect the environment and its biodiversity. Research strongly indicates that biodiversity promotes environmental productivity, stability, and resilience. Beyond Pesticides’ report, Preserving Biodiversity, As if Life Depends on it, notes that by targeting individual species – both as commodities to produce and pests to attack– chemical-intensive practices sacrifice the benefits of biodiversity and jeopardize the very species that comprise it. While causing harm to biodiversity, chemical-intensive strategies in agriculture are not proven to be necessary in light of effective organic practices.

“This study shows us that wild bees provide enormous economic benefits, but reaffirms that the justification for protecting species cannot always be economic,” says Taylor Ricketts, Ph.D. of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute For Ecological Economics, a study co-author. “We still have to agree that protecting biodiversity is the right thing to do.”

The study advances our understanding of wild bees’ crucial role in the global food system. About two-thirds of the world’s most important crops benefit from bee pollination, including coffee, cacao and many fruits and vegetables. Wild pollination is increasingly important with the growing instability of honey bee colonies. According to the study, wild bees’ agricultural value is now similar to that of honey bees, which are no longer considered wild in many regions due to their intense management.

The study includes 90 individual studies of nearly 1,400 crop fields across five continents (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America). Regular monitoring found nearly 74,000 individual bees from nearly 785 wild bees species on crops. Of 20,000 known bee species, roughly two percent pollinated 80 per cent of crops.

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonicotinoids which, even at low levels, have been shown to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to the point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Other recent research finds that as pesticide use on farms have increased, wild bee populations have plummeted.

Do Your Part to Help Protect Biodiversity
The paper outlines bee-friendly practices for farmers, including maintaining wildflowers and grass strips, utilizing hedgerows, organic farming techniques, and limiting the use of pesticides and other chemicals. For a hands on approach on how you can protect biodiversity, see Do-it-Yourself Biodiversity.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster native pollinator health and broader biodiversity. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and scheduled sprays, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and pollinators alike, set action levels for pests based upon monitoring, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective. To learn more about the benefits of organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ webpage.

Take the Pledge
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.

Pollinator Week
This week is Pollinator Week. Help us #BuildTheBuzz and check out the list of activities that Beyond Pesticides and its allies are hosting this week. With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage and buy a Pesticide-Free Zone sign for your yard.

Source: University of Vermont

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

 

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17
Jun

Bee Protective this Pollinator Week!

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2015) This week, June 15- 21, 2015, marks Pollinator Week – a week celebrating the importance of pollinators: bees, birds, butterflies, and others, and their contribution to agriculture, food, and natural ecosystems. 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. This week we urge you to join us in celebrating these amazing creatures and creating safe havens for them. Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective campaign has all the tools and tips you need to support pollinators in and around your home, school and community.

BuildTheBuzz-graphicHere’s the buzz on the festivities hosted by Beyond Pesticides and allies during Pollinator Week June 15th- 21st, 2015.

Join the Twitter Chat on Wednesday 17th 5pm PT/8pm ET and help #BuildTheBuzz.

Have Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, TakePart and others answer your questions about pollinators and what you can do in your community to help increase awareness, advocate for policy change, and create safe pollinators habitat. Join us tonight at 5pm PT/8pm ET by using the hashtag #BuildtheBuzz.

Declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly.

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 this week. 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.

Beyond Pesticides will provide BEE Protective campaign materials and pollinator-friendly seeds. Send an email to [email protected]– simply let us know how you’ll be using the material to raise awareness in your community! See our BEE Protective website for the list of campaign materials we can provide.

Support pollinator friendly legislation.

Ask your U.S. representative to support the re-introduced Saving America’s Pollinator Act (SAPA). This is a bill that would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Contact your Representative now.

Support retailers that are providing safer alternatives

Local ACE franchises are already proving that hardware stores don’t need to sell neonics or any other toxic pesticides in order to be financially successful. Eldredge Lumber and Hardware and Kittery ACE of York, Maine are consciously stocking their shelves with organic compatible products, and providing seeds and nursery plants that are not treated by bee-toxic chemicals. Visit your local hardware or garden retailer and ask them to also to stop selling neonicotinoids and other bee-toxic pesticides, and source more organic alternatives, or give them a call today!

You can also find your own source of organic seeds and plant starts by going to Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory.

Tell EPA to do more for pollinators.

EPA, through the President’s National Pollinator Health Strategy, has acknowledged that pesticides are a problem. But EPA’s recent proposal to create “physical and temporal space” between bees and toxic pesticides overlooks the persistent and systemic nature of the pesticides highly toxic to bees. These pesticides remain in pollen and nectar, soil and water for days, weeks and even years, continuously exposing bees long after the initial application. Bees need real protections from toxic pesticides now. It’s time for EPA to get serious about protecting bees by suspending neonicotinoids.

Sign the petition and tell EPA pollinators need stronger protections!

Tell us what you will do for pollinators this week. Let us know on Facebook, twitter or email at [email protected].

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

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16
Jun

France Calls for Ban on Sale of Monsanto Herbicide Roundup in Nurseries

(Beyond Pesticides, June 16, 2015) France’s Ecology Minister Segolene Royal announced Sunday a call to stop the sale of the popular Monsanto herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) from garden centers. The announcement comes just a couple of months after the active ingredient, glyphosate, was classified in March as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the United Nation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Native Plant Nursery“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” Royal said on French television. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale” in self-service aisles, she added.

The announcement comes after a request by French consumer association CLCV (Consumption, Housing and Environment – Consommation, Logement et Cadre de vie) to French and European officials to stop selling glyphosate-based products to amateur gardeners.

Royal also announced last week that from January 2018 onwards, phytosanitary products –used to control plant diseases– would only be available to amateur gardeners “through an intermediary or a certified vendor.”

Glyphosate is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by EPA and industry and is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields. However, IARC’s new classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen finds that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency considered the findings from an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion. The agency also notes that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).

Glyphosate use has also been found to result in the eradication of milkweed, which butterflies rely on as their sole source of food. The herbicide is used to treat millions of acres of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops, eliminating milkweed, and resulting in a near collapse of the monarch butterfly population, which has plummeted over the past 20 years.

In comparison to countries like France, the U.S. has been woefully behind in addressing glyphosate use and its effects on human health and the environment. Instead, advocates have been taking initiative in getting glyphosate and other harmful synthetic pesticides banned from their local community.

With summer just around the corner, grassroots activism is as important as ever in stemming the use of hazardous chemicals around the country. Beyond Pesticides has the tools necessary for activists like you to increase environmental awareness in your community through our Databases that Support Action. We promote getting active to safeguard your community and the surrounding environment from toxic insults: teach your neighbors how to maintain their land without toxic pesticides, protect honeybees from neonicotinoids insecticides, aquatic species from endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the streams, lakes, and rivers we all depend on from the widespread use of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. To make your community sustainable and take it off the pesticide treadmill, join Beyond Pesticides’community-based campaigns through our website, or contact us directly at [email protected].

Want to do more? Tell USDA and EPA to stop glyphosate use now by signing our petition!

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

Source: Phys.org

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15
Jun

DDT Still Pervasive in Small Michigan Town

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2015) A community in central Michigan is still dealing with the fallout of a pesticide company that produced DDT nearly half a century ago. St. Louis, MI, a city about one hour north of the state capital Lansing, has long dealt with contamination left behind by the Velsicol Chemical Corporation, which manufactured pesticides in the town until 1963, when it left and abandoned loads of DDT in its wake. DDT, known for accumulating in food webs and persisting for decades in soil and river sediment, was banned in the U.S. in 1972, but problems associated with its prevalent use until that time still plague the community to this day. This situation has led to a multi-million dollar clean-up effort at taxpayers’ expense by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

stlouis MIEPA took control of the Velsicol plant as a Superfund site in 1982, but decades-long delays in the cleanup of the old chemical factory have left songbirds, and potentially people at risk nearly thirty years later. After years of complaints from residents, researchers recently reported that robins and other birds are dropping dead from DDT poisoning. The dead robins and other songbirds tested at Michigan State University had some of the highest levels of DDT ever recorded in wild birds, and it is believed they were contaminated by eating worms in the soil in the neighborhoods around the factory. In 2006, DEQ started sampling some yards in a nine-block area near the plant after complaints from residents. Upon finding DDT in the soil, orange fences were installed around heavily contaminated areas. In 2012, EPA cleaned up those yards, but further sampling found that nearly the entire neighborhood needed remediation.

In 2014, EPA contractors began excavating contaminated soil from 59 yards in the town of 7,000 people, and this summer they will tear up 47 more yards, 10 city-owned properties, the athletic fields at the local high school, and replace St. Louis’ entire water system by tapping into a nearby community’s pipes. Most of the yards are being cleaned because the levels of DDT are a threat to wildlife, however, five of the 47 yards being cleaned this summer have levels of chemicals of concern that exceed human health criteria. One of the yards also has excess polybrominated biphenyls, or PBBs, a flame retardant chemical Velisocol also manufactured and, in 1973, infamously mixed up with a cattle feed supplement, which led to widespread contamination in Michigan. While the majority of the contamination is in the top six inches of the soil, probably from the chemicals drifting over from the plant, some yards have DDT as deep as four feet, according to an EPA report.

DDT is not just toxic to wildlife, but humans too. Researchers have linked DDT exposure to effects on fertility, immunity, hormones and brain development Jonathan Chevrier, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at McGill University, said research suggests that fetuses and young children are most vulnerable to DDT. The major worry is brain development in the womb, he said. “Research shows those with prenatal exposure scored lower on neurodevelopmental scales,” which can indicate lower IQs, he said. There also is evidence that DDT is linked to low birth weights.

In addition to the aforementioned concerns, a study published in July of 2014 found female mice exposed as a fetus were more likely to have diabetes and obesity later in life. This link can span multiple generations, having contributed to obesity three generations down the line from the initial exposure. In another study, lead researcher Michael Skinner, PhD., professor of biological sciences at Washington State University, and colleagues exposed pregnant rats to DDT to determine the long-term impacts to health across generations. The study, Ancestral dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) exposure promotes epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, finds that the first generation of rats’ offspring developed severe health problems, ranging from kidney disease, prostate disease, and ovary disease, to tumor development. Interestingly, by the third generation more than half of the rats have increased levels of weight gain and fat storage. In other words, the great grandchildren of the exposed rats are much more likely to be obese.

DDT may also induce asthma in St. Louis residents, explains David Carpenter, Ph.D., director of the University at Albany-State University of New York’s School of Public Health and an expert in Superfund cleanups. “Let’s say your backyard has DDT in it. If wind blows, and kicks up dust, you might [be exposed to] DDT. The sun shines, water evaporates, you might get a little DDT,” explains Dr. Carpenter. “And who knows what other chemical exposure they’re getting from the site.”

Nevertheless, EPA officials say St. Louis residents are not in danger, claiming that DDT levels in the soil are not high enough to pose an immediate risk to people. Thomas Alcamo, remedial project manager for the Superfund site, has gone on record stating that, “This [cleanup] is all for long-term risk so there’s no one that needs to leave during cleanup activities.”

Perhaps the most concerning part of this town’s seemingly endless plight is the fact that despite wildlife deaths and some lawns contaminated to levels deemed harmful to humans, no one is conducting health testing on DDT exposure in the community. Mr. Alcamo said a comprehensive health study of the community would be the responsibility of the state’s health department or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, neither of which is studying the community. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman recently stated that the department “is neither planning or currently conducting a human health study or an exposure investigation in that community.”

Failure to look into the human health effects that could be plaguing this community more than four decades after the ban of DDT is not only an unjust act towards community members that may be suffering from adverse health effects, but it is also a disservice to the greater American public. The fact that the EPA has only just begun to scratch the surface, both literally and figuratively, when it comes to addressing some of the long standing effects of a once widely used pesticide should serve as a warning and speak to the dangers of using pesticides when long-term environmental and health effects are unknown. Stories like this one from St. Louis, MI should make us heed warning of short term health effects and be wary of long term exposures.

In light of recent discoveries, like the classification of glyphosate as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), or the environmental effects caused to bee populations by neonicotinoids, a persistent chemical that may be a bigger threat than DDT, local governments, states and the EPA should learn from the past and work together to try and prevent the kind of long-term damage being experienced by the residents of St. Louis, MI and other communities around the country.

Source: Environmental Health News

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

 

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12
Jun

Cornell University Releases GE Moths without Thorough Evaluation of Risks

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2015) Without input from or notification to the public, Cornell University has released genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths at its agricultural experiment station in Geneva, New York. The university is testing a new way to control agricultural pests, much to the dismay of environmentalists. The moths, which are engineered to be autocidal (self-killing), pose a possible threat to the certification of organic farmers and create environmental risks. Environmental groups such as Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth, among others, sent a letter expressing concern over the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s assessment process, which neglected to address  the possibility of moth movement past the trial area, and the impacts that diamondback moth declines will have on their natural predators and the larger ecosystem. These groups are recommending that all outdoor trials be stopped until more information is available.

Cornell has partnered with Oxitec, a self-described pioneer in using advanced genetics to control target insects. They plan on controlling the population growth of these GE moths through their genetic design that kills the moth in the larval stage on plants. Normally, diamond back moththese larvae feed on crops such as broccoli and cabbage during development, but through this trial, Cornell hopes to quell this problem.  While this may be touted as a sufficient population control measure, there are many confounding variables and unintended consequences that can occur with the release of a new species into the environment. Furthermore, there are safer alternatives to using potentially dangerous GE organisms, such as organic agricultural practices.  Organic farmers have found that natural enemies, such as certain types of wasps, ground beetles, and spiders, are often effective controls for diamondback moths. According to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources IPM page, the ichneumonid wasp, Diadegma insularis, has been identified as the most common parasite for diamondback moths, and Trichogramma pretiosum may also attack diamondback eggs. Sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis and the Entrust formulation of spinosad are organically acceptable management tools.

Oxitec says that it engineers its insects, including the diamondback moths and mosquitoes, by using  the antibiotic tetracycline to act as a chemical switch, allowing the GE larvae to develop and survive in the lab, rather than die immediately as planned in the wild. Larvae are then supposed to die in the wild due to an absence of tetracycline. Unfortunately, tetracycline is used in a variety of different settings, from agriculture to the control of human diseases, and ultimately makes its way into the environment. Studies show that most wastewater treatment plants are unable to effectively remove tetracycline antibiotics, and the compound is frequently detected in surface water, ground water, drinking water, wastewater, soils and sediment. Thus, low levels of tetracycline in the environment may result in only a temporary reduction in the numbers of pests. There are also further questions regarding the impacts of how tetracycline-exposed survivor GE insects may impact human health or wildlife. Oxitec has previously received pushback on its genetically modified organisms. In February 2015, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) officials sought approval to release a wave of mosquitoes that had been genetically engineered to produce offspring whose larvae are unable to survive, similarly to the autocidal diamondback moths.

Another unintended consequence of these GE moths is their possible impact on organic farmers. The moths were released into open field trials instead of a physically enclosed space, making it difficult to secure the whereabouts of each one that was released. Because of this, there is a possibility that the GE moths will travel and produce offspring on neighboring farms, which may result in the loss of certification for organic farmers if these GE larvae are found on their crops.

Beyond Pesticides seeks to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of GE technology, and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems. In February 2015, a 13-page statement was released by scientists to address the fact that the science on GE foods is underdeveloped and shaky, at best. The biotechnology industry behind GE foods have for years touted that their technology is safe, dismissing any attempts to challenge their science or regulate their material. However, 300 scientists, physicians and scholars assert there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GE foods and find that claims of safety are an “artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated” through various forums and media. While this report focused on GE foods rather than GE organisms, it still speaks to the fact that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the effects that genetic engineering may have on the environment, wildlife and humans.

The consequences of using GE material are not well understood, therefore Beyond Pesticides promotes the importance of eating organically and supporting organic agriculture. Not only does organic prohibit GE material from production, but organic agricultural also promotes the use of biological controls. As mentioned before, organic farmers have found safer alternatives to using GE organisms to prevent and mitigate damage from pests. For more information on the hazards associated with GE technology, visit our Genetic Engineering webpage; for more on the benefits of organic agriculture, see our Organic Food program page.

Source: Food and Water Watch

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

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11
Jun

Ontario First in North America To Limit Bee-Killing Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 11, 2015) On July 1, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to officially begin reducing the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-coated corn and soybean seeds, an action that has been in the making since 2014. The new rules should curb the acreage planted with such seeds by 80 percent by 2017.

numerousbeesThe new rules will be put in place to track the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds. Additionally, for the upcoming farming season, farmers will only be allowed to use the seeds on up to 50 percent of their corn and soybean fields. Exemptions are granted only to those who can provide evidence of pest problems. In 2017, any farmer who wants to use neonicotinoid-treated seeds will have to prove the presence of pests.

“Farmers are environmental stewards of their land and this regulation will enable our province’s farmers to strengthen their approach to protecting their crops,” Agricultural Minister Jeff Leal said in a statement Tuesday.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray said the government must take “necessary action to protect these vitally important species and the ecosystems they support from the effects of neurotoxic neonicotinoids.”

Tibor Szabo, president of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, said “while the new regs may not be perfect, in the end, the Ontario government did the right thing.”

“Our bees continue to die from the overuse of neonicotinoids,” said Szabo. “We hope Ontario farmers will now take it on themselves to go beyond 50 per cent reduction and only use neonicotinoids when there’s a real need to control pests.”

In the winter of 2013-2014, Ontario beekeepers lost 58 percent of the province’s honey bees, a level well above the 15 percent depletion considered sustainable for over-winter losses.

The phase-out may be a challenge — nearly 100 percent of corn seed and 60 per cent of soybean seed sold in Ontario is currently treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.

The action stands in stark contrast to the limited steps taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the recent White House plan on pollinator health, which does little to address the chronic, sublethal threat of systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides. More recently, EPA released a proposal intended to create “physical and temporal space” between bees and toxic pesticides. While touted as monumental progress on bee health by the agency, the reality is that the proposal will only result in modest changes to pesticide labels. Additionally, EPA’s new rules contain only a temporary ban on foliar applications of acutely bee-toxic pesticide products, dubbed “temporary pesticide free zones” by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Despite the increasing number of studies linking neonicotinoid use with declines in bee and pollinator health and EPA’s own study that outlines the lack of benefits associated with the use of soybean seed treatments, the U.S. continues to lag behind Canada, Europe, and other countries that have taken decisive steps to limit the use of neonicotinoids.

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: Toronto Star

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

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10
Jun

Connecticut Bill Would Ban Pesticides on Public Playgrounds, But Allow Use on High School Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, June 10, 2015) Activists and concerned parents have been working for years in Connecticut to extend the current prohibition of pesticide use on daycare centers and K-8 school grounds to include high schools, athletic fields, municipal parks and town land. Now, the state Senate approved legislation to ban pesticides from public playgrounds, but there will still be no extension of the ban on high school lawns or fields under the bill language. Activists claim a partial victory and vow to continue working on a full ban, despite heavy opposition from industry forces.

PlaygroundConnecticut was the first state to prohibit the use of toxic pesticides at K-8 schools and daycare centers, but high schools, athletic fields, parks and playgrounds were exempted from the ban. On May 27, 2015, a bipartisan bill (SB366) extending the ban to public playgrounds passed the Senate 34-2 and now goes to the House. The new legislation would extend the ban to municipal playgrounds, except for situations that the authors say could threaten human health, such as hornet nests or tick infestations. The bill also calls for parents of high school students to be promptly notified by email of any pesticide applications at schools. Additionally, it would also allow the use of nontoxic microbial or biochemical pesticides to combat grubs on school properties and playgrounds. 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.

“There is growing evidence that pesticides do far more harm than good to our communities,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Branford and co-chairman of the environment committee. Sen. Kennedy has repeatedly warned that research shows pesticide ingredients have been linked to health problems ranging from cancer to neurological disorders. “By keeping pesticides off playgrounds and [K-8 grade] school property, we are protecting those who are most susceptible to the health impacts of pesticide exposure,” he said.

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 rejected 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 argue 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

But there is still hope for Connecticut. New York, the only state that has banned pesticides on the grounds of all schools, pre-K through 12th grade, saw previous versions of its bill defeated nine times. New York’s Child Safe Playing Field Act passed in 2010 with over 8,000 letters sent to legislators in favor of the bill and over 18,000 people signed to a petition. Similar efforts are underway in New Jersey.

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.

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

Source: Hartford Courant

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09
Jun

Wild Bees’ Numbers Plummet as Pesticide Use Increases

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2015) Agricultural pesticides are sprayed intensively throughout the growing season in New York’s conventional apple orchards. Researchers at Cornell University found that as the use of pesticides on these farms increased, the abundance of wild bees declined significantly. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, focuses in on the effects of conventional pesticide use on wild bees, which have often been overlooked in the midst of an ongoing crisis with managed honey bee colonies.

“Because production of our most nutritious foods, including many fruits, vegetables and even oils, rely on animal pollination, there is an intimate tie between pollinator and human well-being,” said Mia Park, an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota and the paper’s first author, who worked on the study as a Cornell entomology PhD graduate student.

Ms. Park and her colleagues analyzed wild bee populations on 19 apples orchards across the state of New York between 2011 and 2012. Data was broken down by class of pesticide (fungicide, insecticide, herbicides), and timing of applications (before, during, and after flower bloom). Researchers also analyzed the percentage of natural areas within the surrounding landscape.

The study uncovered a number of insights into the way that conventional pesticide use on a typical apple farm impacts native pollinator populations. Wild bee numbers declined significantly as pesticide use increased, but the overall impact of pesticides on wild bees was found to be highest in generations following pesticide exposure, indicating that pesticides affect bee reproduction or offspring. Further, researchers found that fungicides, widely regarded as having low toxicity to bees, had a measurable impact on wild bee abundance. “High and repeated exposure was the likely explanation” for this finding, according to the study.

Even more concerning is the relationship between timing of fungicide applications and wild bee populations. Fungicide applications prior to apple flower blooming resulted in the steepest decline in wild bee abundance and diversity. This result indicates that wild bees are visiting orchards before apple trees begin to bloom. Further, researchers found insecticide applications impacted bees the most after bloom occurred. The authors explain that, while honey bees are placed in orchards for a short time during bloom, wild bees are more frequently exposed to chemical pesticides because they continue to forage in and around apple orchards before and after the bloom period.

This finding is particularly important considering recent label changes proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of President Obama’s National Pollinator Health Strategy. The new changes call for “temporary pesticide-free zones” while beekeepers are under contract with farmers for pollination services. As this new data shows, these changes may stop some honey bees from coming into acute contact with certain neonicotinoid insecticides, but will do absolutely nothing to address pesticide exposure to wild bees.

“We found there is a negative response of the whole bee community to increasing pesticide use,” said PhD candidate and lead author Mia Park.

There was one bright spot for pollinator health in the study. Researchers found that increasing natural habitat around farms – in other words, providing a true pesticide-free refuge for native pollinators – mediated the effects of pesticide use and resulted in less pronounced declines. While the National Pollinator Health Strategy calls for increased pollinator habitat, it is critical that any new planting prohibit pesticide use, in order to protect both our managed and wild pollinators. Beyond Pesticides and allies continue to call for EPA to suspend the use of the most highly toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, as the agency conducts further research.

This new study reveals how the intensive use of multiple pesticides on a typical conventional farm adversely affects the health of wild pollinators. Even synthetic pesticides widely considered of low toxicity to bees had an impact on these native species because they were sprayed at such high frequency during the course of these pollinators’ lives. Evidence continues to mount that, beyond issues with individual pesticides, there exists a wholly reversible and preventable problem in conventional agriculture’s entire approach to pest control. The approach taken on most organic farms reveals how to foster native pollinator health and broader biodiversity while maintaining pests at low levels. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and scheduled sprays, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and pollinators alike, set action levels for pests based upon monitoring, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

To learn more about the benefits of organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ webpage. And for more information and actions you can take to stem the global decline of both native and managed pollinators, support Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign.

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

Source: Cornell University, Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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08
Jun

Study Finds Organic Makes Sense, Both Ecologically and Economically

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2015) Organic agriculture produces higher profits for farmers while doing a better job at protecting the environment and biodiversity, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS). When factoring in the price premium organic farmers receive for their products, researchers discovered that organic farming is 22-35% more profitable than conventional growing methods. The study’s findings are a positive sign for the future of organic, which, despite its exponential growth to a $35 billion industry over the past decade, currently only comprises 5% of the U.S. food market, and 1% of U.S. cropland.

downloadAuthors of the PNAS study indicate that there is a significant opportunity for growers wishing to transition to organic practices, as many of the findings assuage widely held concerns over the viability of organic. For instance, although labor costs are higher for organic crops, these expenses are offset by a decreased need for nonrenewable resources, such as the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that conventional agriculture relies upon. In fact, authors found that the breakeven point for organic farmers, 5 to 7%, is much lower than the 29 to 32% premiums often paid by consumers. This means that it is well worth it for organic farmers to undertake the 3-year transition to organic required under the Organic Foods Production Act (farms under organic transition must not use conventional products for three years before receiving the organic price premium through organic certification).

But consumers shouldn’t feel upset over paying the higher cost. In essence, organic shoppers are paying more to protect their own health, the environment where the food is grown, the farmworkers that grow the food, the soil the food is growth in, and the pollinators and other wildlife in the area. For example, organic methods of farming strawberries lead to healthier berries and soils, and result in improved pollination success. In terms of row crops, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab finds organic methods of corn and soybean production significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from soils. In fact, organic systems, particularly no-till organic, sequester more greenhouse gas emissions than they emit, and result in more fertile soil than conventional genetically engineered no-till agriculture.

“If we also put a price on the negative externalities caused by farming, such as soil erosion or nitrate leaching into groundwater, then organic agriculture would become even more profitable because its environmental footprint has been shown to be less than the environmental footprint of conventional agriculture,” say the authors of the study.

One drawback the authors note is yield differences. Driven by increased uses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, yields in conventional agriculture are higher by 10 to 18%, according to the researchers. However, much more funding and research has gone into focusing on improving conventional yields than it has for organic agriculture. As the organic industry continues to grow, new methods and practices for organic agriculture are increasingly being tested and researched. A study published by the University of California Berkeley in Royal Society Proceedings B found that overall yield gaps between organic and conventional agriculture are much smaller than earlier studies have concluded when a crop-by-crop comparison is performed. The researchers of that study further indicated that the development of certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap. With greater research and more funding, studies are showing that organic agriculture can feed the world and be profitable for farmers.

Underlying the growth of organic is the importance of making certain that, as the industry grows, it maintains integrity and public trust. In April, organic farm and certification, environmental, and food safety groups and organic producers challenged a major USDA change to the organic rule, maintaining that the agency violated the federal rulemaking process when it changed without public hearing and comment long standing procedures for reviewing the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food. Environmental and food safety groups also sued the agency for failing to follow the law and not seeking public comment on the organic compost rule.

As we encourage more farmers to move towards organic, and more consumers to purchase organic foods, we must fight to keep organic strong. Consumers and producers can help maintain the integrity of the organic label, and thus protect the food we eat as well as the environment, by reading more about the issues at our Save Our Organic page. And for more information on the benefits of purchasing organic foods, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, which documents the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals used in conventional agriculture.

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

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mother Jones

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05
Jun

Congress Continues Attacks on Clean Water Act Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, June 05, 2015) A new federal bill was introduced Wednesday that, if passed, would undermine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for pesticide spraying over waterways. Titled the Sensible Environmental Protection Act and introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), this new bill would reverse a 2009 federal court decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA that directed EPA to require permits from applicators who spray over “navigable waters,” as outlined in the Clean Water Act (CWA). The bill’s authors claim that the need for water permits is duplicative, given that pesticide applicators also comply with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the law that requires applicators to follow instructions on pesticide labels.

boy pond for web“This issue is a prime example of an unnecessary, duplicative federal regulation impacting a variety of stakeholders in Idaho and across the nation that must be fixed,” Senator Crapo said in a statement. “Our rural communities are already under a substantial amount of financial strain and regulatory pressure and are looking to Congress for much-needed relief.”

Contrary to Senator Crapo’s claims, the CWA permit serves as a valuable tool that lets authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed, so that the public may know what chemicals are used in their waterways and the potential dangers to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Existing pesticide regulations under FIFRA do not achieve these protections and most agricultural pesticide applications are exempt from CWA permit requirements. Permits do not prevent applicators from using pesticides, especially for public health emergencies. The permits do require basic protections for water quality and aquatic wildlife. Applicators must record their pesticide applications and monitor application sites for any adverse incidents, which must be reported. For many states, the cost of the permit is as low as $25. The myth that the CWA permits for pesticide discharges near waterways are burdensome for farmers has not been substantiated.

The new bill is similar to H.R. 897, recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the latest version of the inaccurately titled Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897), which would nullify regulations that require pesticide applicators to apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under CWA before applying pesticides on or near surface waters. The legislation also amends FIFRA by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. Generally, it means that pesticide applicators can discharge pesticides into waterways with no EPA oversight under the standards of the CWA and the permitting process, which takes into account local conditions that are not addressed under FIFRA.

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report from last year finds that levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas. The study, which documents pesticide levels in U.S. waterways for two decades (1992-2011), finds pesticides and their breakdown products in U.S. streams more than 90 percent of the time. Known pesticide water contaminants, such as atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine, continue to be detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time, with fipronil being the pesticide most frequently found at levels of potential concern for aquatic organisms in urban streams. The report also found that for urban areas, 90 percent of the streams exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks.

The potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is being ignored by opponents of CWA regulation. The reality is that this permitting process encourages pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. To learn more about these issues and more, visit our Threatened Waters page.

Source: EE News (subscription required)

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

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04
Jun

Pyrethroid Pesticide Use Increases Rates of ADHD in Adolescent Boys in New Study

(Beyond Pesticides June 4, 2015) Another study has found links between a commonly used household pesticide and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and young teens. Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found an association between pyrethroid pesticide exposure and ADHD, particularly in terms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. These results reinforce the findings of a study led by a research team at Rutgers University earlier this year that found links between the pesticide deltamethrin and ADHD.

ADHDIn 2001, over concerns about adverse health consequences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned several commonly used organophosphate (organic compounds containing phosphorus) pesticides from residential use due to the chemicals neurotoxic properties. The ban led to the increased use of pyrethroid pesticides, which are now the most commonly used pesticides for residential pest control and public health purposes. Pyrethroids, like deltamethrin, are commonly used in the home, office buildings, and on vegetable crops, gardens, lawns and golf courses.

This shift to predominantly using pyrethroids is troubling, as they have oft been promoted as a safer choice than banned organophosphates, despite the fact that they pose many real threats to human health. Many recent studies show significant concern with this class of chemicals, and their use has been linked to learning problems, and adverse behavioral and emotional development in children. In light of the misconception of the safety of pyrethroids, Tanya Froehlich, MD, a developmental pediatrician at Cincinnati’s Children’s, and a corresponding author of the study, observes that, “Given the growing use of pyrethroid pesticides and the perception that they may represent a safe alternative, our findings may be of considerable public health importance.”

In the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital study, researchers looked at data on 687 children between the ages of 8 and 15. The data came from the 2000-2001 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population designed to collect information about health. Pesticide exposure measurements were collected in a random sample of the urine of half the 8-11 year olds and a third of the 12-15 year olds. Interviews then determined whether a subject had ADHD by having an interviewer assess whether they met the criteria for the diagnosis under the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children, a diagnostic instrument that assesses 34 common psychiatric diagnoses of children and adolescents. Alternatively, caregivers could report the presence of ADHD by providing a report of a prior diagnosis.

The study found that the association between pyrethroid pesticide exposure and ADHD is stronger in boys than girls. Boys with detectable urinary 3-PBA, a biomarker of exposure to pyrethroids, are three times as likely to have ADHD compared with those without detectable 3-PBA. Hyperactivity and impulsivity increased by 50 percent for every 10-fold increase in 3-PBA levels in boys. Biomarkers are not associated with increased odds of ADHD diagnosis or symptoms in girls.

These findings shed light on the relationship between pesticide exposure and its impact on developing children, showing that pesticides may have the ability to alter brain function, increasing levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity, especially in young boys. However, the researchers do point out that because pyrethroids are non-persistent and rapidly metabolized, measurements taken over time would provide a more accurate assessment of typical exposure, and more studies are recommended before definitive impacts on public health can be determined. It is important to note that ADHD is not the only pesticide-induced disease observed in developing children. Autism and developmental delays in children have also been linked to pesticide exposure. Exposure rates among children is alarmingly high, a recent study at the University of California found pyrethroid and other harmful chemicals, including chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate chemical that has been banned for household use for over 12 years, present in the urine of 65 percent of the children studied. This exposure occurs in nearly all aspects of a child’s life: home, school, day care, grocery stores- the list goes on.

High concentrations of pyrethroids have also been found in environmental settings. A 2008 survey found pyrethroid contamination in 100 percent of urban streams sampled in California. Researchers also find pyrethroid residues in California streams at relatively low concentrations (10-20 parts per trillion) in river and creek sediments that are toxic to bottom dwelling fish. Other studies find pyrethroids present in effluent from sewage treatment plants at concentrations just high enough to be toxic to sensitive aquatic organisms.

With the mounting evidence of the impacts of pesticides to human health, the success of management approaches that do not rely on hazardous pesticides demonstrates that exposure to these pesticides are unnecessary. Beyond Pesticides has many resources, including the ManageSafe database to help avoid and manage unwanted insects without the use of synthetic chemicals. These techniques include exclusion, sanitation and maintenance practices, as well as mechanical and least-toxic controls (which include boric acid and diatomaceous earth).

For more information on the hazards of pesticides and human health, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, where we track the science on how pesticides are contributing to the rise of learning and developmental disorders in children, and see our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

Source: Environmental Health

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

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03
Jun

California Regulators to Strengthen Pesticide Restrictions Near Schools

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2015) After years of campaigning by local activists and a lawsuit filed by parents citing discriminatory practices from policies that led to disproportionate exposure of Latino children to pesticides, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) will now seek to gather input from stakeholders to determine what measures are appropriate to enhance protection of California’s schoolchildren. Given that Latino children are more likely to attend schools near areas with the highest use of pesticides of concern, and California’s pesticide use has actually increased over recent years, the state will need strong restrictive policies to provide any meaningful protections for school children.

schoolclass2According to CDPR, the agency will hold five workshops from May 28 – June 9 2015 to gather input that will later help craft a statewide regulation on pesticide use near schools, with a focus on improving school pesticide notification procedures and reducing the risk of exposure. In California, many schools have been built on prime agricultural land next to farm operations. While there are currently state regulations on the use of individual pesticides, CDPR’s regulatory framework for restricted pesticides also allows for the establishment of additional rules to address local conditions. However, existing rules for pesticide use near schools are set by county agricultural commissioners and vary considerably. CDPR is considering whether to adopt some of these rules on a statewide basis, as well as other restrictions. See here for dates and locations.

The input gathered will be used to draft a new statewide regulation to focus on what must occur when a farm near a school wants to apply pesticides. Its aim, according to Brian R. Leahy, director of CDPR, is to clearly define the responsibilities of the farmers, detail the information that must be given to schools and add restrictions on pesticides used when school children are present.

In particular the department would like to hear ideas about:

1. Improving communication through notification to schools of intended applications of certain pesticides. The department is seeking input, for example, on when and under what circumstances such notifications should be made.

2. Reducing the risk of exposure by requiring additional restrictions on certain pesticides. Among other questions, the department is seeking input on is whether such restrictions should focus on specific application methods and within a certain proximity to the school.

For more information on the workshops and materials visit CDPR’s regulation page

The issue of pesticide exposure near schools has long been contentious. Latino children make up 54.1% of the population in the public schools in the 15 counties, and comprised 67.7% of the population in schools in the highest quartile of pesticide use. A 2014 report, issued by the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP) and titled “Agricultural Pesticide Use near Public Schools in California,” called for larger buffer zones around schools, which now stand at 500 feet. The report found that 36 percent of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school. While not noted in the report, these children may mostly belong to farmworker communities living near agricultural areas. These communities tend to have disproportionate exposure risks to pesticides due to pesticide drift, and are at higher risks of developing serious chronic health problems. Persistent and toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos, methyl bromide, and malathion are among the pesticides found to be applied near schools. The health effects linked to children’s pesticide exposure are extensive. Recent research from the University of California, Davis, CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) study found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of agricultural fields treated with insecticides are more likely to have their child develop autism. For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which tracks the science on how pesticides are contributing to the rise of learning and developmental disorders in children.

More than a decade ago, six families filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that details the dangerous levels of pesticides at Latino public schools throughout California that exposed Latino kids to chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, neurodevelopmental disorders and other serious health problems. The complaint urged EPA to enforce the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from engaging in discriminatory practices. In 2011, as a result of a settlement agreement EPA reached with CDPR, EPA found that CDPR’s past renewal of the toxic fumigant methyl bromide discriminated against Latino school children whose schools are located near agriculture fields, conceding that unintentional adverse and disproportionate impact on Latino children resulting from the use of methyl bromide during that period could have occurred. Methyl bromide is still widely used in California to grow strawberries, despite its ban under the Montreal Protocol. However, little was done to remedy these exposures and so a lawsuit was filed in 2013 against EPA’s continuing failure to protect Latino students. The case was subsequently moved for dismissal in federal court in part due to lack of jurisdiction.

As a result of the 2011 settlement agreement, California conducts a monitoring program that tests for air particles from methyl bromide and scores of other pesticides and breakdown products, and measures the results against screening levels established by CDPR. However, critics maintain that the state’s sampling is not representative of peak agricultural exposures and question whether any level of a toxicant in air is reasonable under the law, given the viability of alternative agricultural practices that do not rely on these chemicals.

Despite efforts in California to reduce overall pesticide use, especially those around schools, CDPR reported just last month that overall pesticide use in agriculture increased by 3.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Pesticide use increased by 6.4 million pounds in 2013, especially increased use of organophosphates, including chlorpyrifos, making for a grand total of 178 million pounds of pesticides used annually. CDPR’s efforts to reduce children’s risk of exposure to pesticides near schools are an important first step, but these must include strong restrictions on pesticide use near these sensitive areas.

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

Source: The Sacramento Bee

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02
Jun

Federal Judge Upholds Ban on GE Crops in Oregon County

(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2015) A federal judge released a ruling Friday rejecting a request by two alfalfa farms to overturn the ban on GE crops in Jackson County, Oregon. In his decision, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke found the ban on GE crops is not preempted by the state’s Right to Farm Act, thereby allowing the ordinance to become effective on June 5. The ordinance, which bans the cultivation, production and distribution of GE crops within the county passed overwhelmingly last May with 66 percent support. This decision is an important victory for farmers of organic and non-genetically engineered crops, who constantly struggle with the threat of GE contamination.

“We have always felt this was a strong case,” explained Tom Buchele, attorney with Earthrise Law Center, “but it was very encouraging to get such a strong and well-written opinion that affirms what we have argued since the beginning: communities have the ability under the Right to Farm Act to protect traditional agricultural crops from contamination from GMOs.”

Magistrate Judge Clarke rejected the legal challenge by two GE alfalfa growers, Schulz Family Farms and James and Marilyn Frink, who claimed that the Jackson County GE crop ban violated Oregon’s Right to Farm Act.  Instead, the court held that Jackson County’s ban was allowed under the law since it was intended to “protect against damage to commercial agriculture products, and therefore it falls into the exception to the Right to Farm Act.” The Court also relied on the fact that Oregon’s Legislature clearly intended to exempt the Jackson County ban when it adopted Senate Bill 863, the state preemption law, which was aimed at GE crops during the 2013 special legislative session.

“We are elated and could not have hoped for a better outcome,” said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and the Director of Our Family Farms Coalition. “Family farmers should not have to live in fear that our farms will be contaminated by genetically engineered crops. Monsanto can spend all the money they want fighting us at the ballot box and in the courts, but in the end we cannot let them and the other chemical corporations behind GMOs threaten the foundation of our farms and our food supply.”

Opponents of the ordinance had raised over $830,000 to advertise against the measure, with over 97% of the funding coming in from outside of the county, including over $450,000 from biotech giant Monsanto and five other corporations to defeat the initiative. For comparison, the previous county spending record on a ballot initiative was $111,000.

“This important decision protects the farmers of Jackson County, but also will stand as a precedent for the rights of farmers and communities across the United States to create GMO-free zones to protect the future of our food,” said George Kimbrell, attorney with the Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case.

However, the battle is not over yet. According to Ms. Higley, her group expects that plaintiffs may file an appeal to challenge the decision. And, while Judge Clarke dismissed the farmers’ arguments regarding the Right to Farm Act as protecting their GE alfalfa crops from being destroyed, their claim seeking $4.2 million in compensation from Jackson County remains alive in the case.

The fact of the matter stands, though, that organic and non-GE farmers stand to lose the most when it comes to damages inflicted upon their crops through genetic drift. A survey released last year finds that a third of U.S. organic farmers experienced GE contamination in their fields due to the nearby use of GE crops, while over half of these growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination. These rejections can lead to big income losses for farmers, with a median cost of approximately $2,500 per year, according to the survey. Additionally, several farmers report annual losses of over $20,000 due to the need to establish buffer zones, while limit the threat of contamination from their neighbors by taking contiguous farmland out of production. There have also been several high profile cases of GE contaminating organic farms. In May of 2013, USDA announced that unapproved GE wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. In September of 2013, USDA refused to take action or investigate after it was confirmed that GE alfalfa contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State, claiming that contamination is a “commercial issue” and should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government.

Jackson County farmer Chris Hardy, who first proposed and was the chief petitioner behind the Jackson County ban on GE crops, says the decision was a vindication.  “No farmer should ever have to tear up their crops like myself and others did for fear they had been contaminated by GMO pollen. Family farmers know well that GMO contamination could quickly destroy a family farm, but it was so encouraging to have a federal court support farmers’ right to defend ourselves against GMOs.”

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.

Sources: Capital Press, Our Family Farms Coalition, and Center for Food Safety

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

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