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The 2013 Farm Bill: Act Now to Protect Pollinators, Our Food, and Your Health

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2013) We all know the problems we’re having with Congress these days, and all this turmoil comes together this week as the Senate returns to debate amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill.The country’s environmental and public health is under attack in the current bill – but at the same time there are some encouraging signs.

The fate of these proposals will have a profound impact on the future of food in the United States, as well as the health of people and the broader environment.

Beyond Pesticides has singled out several issues below that we urge you to act on today, before the Senate votes, in order to both maintain important safeguards for human and environmental health, advance organic, and develop critical protections for pollinators. Because these issues are complex, we are asking you to send separate letters on 5 key topics, which we’ve prepared with just 5 easy clicks!

  1. OPPOSE Senator Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) amendment to the Farm Bill that will reverse our efforts to take the hazardous fumigant sulfuryl fluoride out of our food supply
  2. OPPOSE amendments SA 1100 and SA 1103 would remove commonsense protections from pesticide applications directly into our nation’s waterways
  3. OPPOSE amendment SA 984 that will repeal a section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that authorizes EPA to evaluate and restrict imported seeds that are treated with pesticides
  4. SUPPORT Amendment SA 1027 to protect pollinators
  5. SUPPORT Amendments 1093, 1080, and 1088 to advance organic food

More Information:

Keep Hazardous Sulfuryl Fluoride Out of Our Food Supply!

Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is introducing an amendment (SA 1122) to the Farm Bill that will reverse our efforts to take the hazardous fumigant sulfuryl fluoride out of our food supply. Sulfuryl fluoride has been linked to cancer as well as neurological, developmental, and reproductive damages. It seems clear that Dow AgroScience, the chemical’s manufacturer, is pushing this amendment.

We are on the verge of getting this hazardous material banned because even EPA agrees that public exposure exceeds acceptable standards. In the European Union, the chemical has been banned from any food contact.

This amendment would undercut alternatives. Sulfuryl fluoride is not necessary for the safe storage and handling of our food supply, so there is no need to block the currently mandated phase out. Moreover, the chemical is a potent greenhouse gas, with the ability to trap 4,000 to 5,000 times the infrared radiation as carbon dioxide.

There are many viable alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride and methyl bromide fumigation, and neither fumigant is permitted in organic food production and handling. Please, tell your Senator we do not have to trade our health for those who want to use hazardous pesticides in food production.

Stand Up for Clean Water!

Senators Hagan (D-NC) and Johanns (R-NE) have both introduced legislation (SA 1100 and SA 1103 respectively) that would remove commonsense protections from pesticide applications directly into our nation’s waterways.

These highly controversial amendments would undermine the Clean Water Act and put our health and the environment at risk. If passed, these proposals would strip away critical protections from our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams, leaving you to swim, fish, and boat on waters that are contaminated with carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and neurological toxicants without monitoring from state or federal officials. The environmental and health programs that are put at risk from this legislation have been in effect since October 2011 without any adverse impact on farmers.

Without the Clean Water Act, there are no commonsense backstops requiring applicators to at least consider alternatives to spraying toxic pesticides directly onto waterways.

These amendments would:

  • Undermine federal authority to protect U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act;
  • Allow spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight;
  • Not reduce claimed burdens to farmers since there is no burden as there is no real economic cost and agricultural activities are exempt, and;
  • Contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life.

Notification of Imported Treated Seeds

Senator Fischer (R-NE) has introduced a Farm Bill amendment (SA 984) that will repeal a section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that authorizes EPA to evaluate and restrict imported seeds that are treated with pesticides.

This amendment would eliminate EPA’s authority to protect farmers, consumers, and the environment from pesticides that, by virtue of their incorporation into seeds, can find their way into soil, food, waterways, and the environment generally. EPA must be authorized to consider the potential adverse effects associated with residues of the pesticides in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets.

Unless imported seed treated with pesticides are subject to review by EPA, the agency in the interest of protecting farmers, consumers, and the environment will not be able to evaluate potentially toxic chemicals that may not be allowed to be used for this purpose in the U.S. This is a critical authority, given that the reach of EPA does not extend to use patterns in the country where the seeds are treated before being imported. Therefore, EPA must be able to evaluate the pesticides on seeds, or treated seeds, once they reach U.S. borders.

Protect Pollinators!

Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) amendment (SA 1027) would be a step in the right direction towards protecting honey bees and other pollinators. In the wake of another winter of record losses (over 30%) for U.S. beekeepers, and with one in three bites of food depending on honey bees, it is critical that Congress adopt these pollinator protections.
Senator Boxer’s amendment would:

  • Establish an interagency dialogue about pollinator health between the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Create a task force on bee health and commercial beekeeping;
  • Direct the government to regularly monitor and report on health and population status of pollinators (including bees, birds, bats, and other species);
  • Compel agencies to utilize the best available peer-reviewed science on environmental and chemical stressors to pollinators, including international efforts addressing pollinator declines, and;
  • Assess the feasibility for new public bee research labs.

Advance Organic Agriculture!

We are urging the support of important amendments that would advance organic agriculture and ensure investment in sustainable practices. Three amendments stand out: Senator Leahy’s amendment (SA1093) will improve organic funding through the environmental quality and incentives program. Senator Tester’s (D-MO) amendment (SA1080) supports classical plant and animal breeding, which will reduce reliance on toxic inputs. Senator Brown’s (D-OH) amendment (SA 1088) provides grants for local food systems and community programs.

Thank you for working with us on all of these important actions for the 2013 Farm Bill! In addition to sending letters, we urge you to call your Senators in Washington, D.C. at 202-225-3121. If you’d like more information, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or email [email protected].


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