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24
Apr

France Bans GE Corn Cultivation, VT Passes GE Food Labeling Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2014) France‚Äôs lower house of parliament passed a bill last week banning the cultivation of all strains of genetically engineered (GE) corn within its borders, even those strains that might not yet be approved within the European Union (EU). The law follows a decree adopted last month, which targeted the only GE crop permitted for cultivation in the EU‚ÄĒMonsanto‚Äôs insect-resistant MON810 corn. Back in the U.S., Vermont became the first state to pass a¬†bill requiring the labelling of food containing GE ingredients. The bill, which the Governor said he will sign, passed by large majorities in both houses of the legislature and does not contain a trigger provision similar to laws adopted in Connecticut and Maine¬†–with a¬†requirement that¬†similar action is taken in contiguous states before the law goes into effect.

The action in France is not the first time it has closed the door on MON810, even in the face of its highest court’s rulings that similar bans did not have sufficient justification. Yet, undaunted by these defeats the French General Assembly went even further than these past actions and extended the ban to all GE corn crops through more permanent legislation.

Jean-Marie Le Guen, National Assembly delegate, explained, “It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of [GE] and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties.”

The bold move in the name of environmental protection must still clear some significant legislative and legal hurdles. The upper house of France’ parliament, the Senate, has yet to vote on the bill and most likely will reject the law as it has done in the past. Unlike the U.S. legislative system, however, this does not mean absolute defeat, and according to some resources, the National Assembly will still have the final say.

Whether or not that final say survives yet another legal challenge from industry and pro-GE crop farmers, is a separate issue. France must also continue its battle at the EU level to restructure EU rules concerning GE cultivation approvals and those countries who oppose such approvals.

France Is Right to Be Concerned

Insecticide-resistant corn, like MON810, poses serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased chances of infertility. Couple these risks with the fact that little evidence of the supposed economic benefits that proponents of GE crops laud has been substantiated and France’s actions seem more than sufficient.

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 about the issues surrounding GE crops both at home and abroad.

Source: Reuters; Nation of Change

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

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23
Apr

Vermont One Large Step Closer to Labeling Genetically Engineered Food

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2014) Last week the Vermont state Senate voted 28-2 to authorize the mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. The bill, H.112, ‚ÄúAn Act Relating to the Labeling of Food Produced with Genetic Engineering,‚ÄĚ passed the Vermont House of Representatives back in May, and now goes back to the House for approval before moving to the Governor. Vermont’s legislation does not include a “trigger clause,” which is contained in¬†labeling bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut¬†that, before¬†going into effect,¬†require other states in the New England region (including one boarding state) with an aggregate population of 20 million to pass similar laws.

If the last hurdles in the state legislature are cleared and the bill is signed by Governor Peter Shumlin (D), Vermont‚Äôs labeling law would not allow manufacturers to describe any food containing GE ingredients as ‚Äúall natural‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúnatural.‚ÄĚ Processed foods that contain a product or products with GE would be required to display in clear and conspicuous language the words, ‚Äúpartially produced with genetic engineering‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúmay be partially produced with genetic engineering.‚ÄĚ

But even if passed, Vermont‚Äôs bill faces numerous challenges from the deep pockets of the biotechnology industry and its backers in the U.S. Congress. While states such as Vermont are working to shed light on the ingredients in our food, industry found U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to assist in helping keep Americans in the dark through HR 4432, accurately dubbed the ‚ÄúDeny Americans the Right-to-Know Act‚ÄĚ or DARK Act. The DARK Act would preempt states like Vermont from implementing mandatory labeling laws by giving the authority to label GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In effect, it would also allow food companies to give products with GE ingredients the ‚Äúnatural‚ÄĚ label, despite the fact that there is nothing natural about crops engineered in a lab to produce their own insecticide or tolerate¬†dangerous herbicides.

Advocates of the Vermont labeling bill also expect a fight in the courts. To that end, the bill’s language currently contains a provision setting up a fund to pay for the expected legal wrangling. The biotechnology industry has made numerous threats to sue states that pass labeling laws, but testimony to the state Senate from Vermont Law School professors and state public interest groups asserted that HR 112 is constitutional and could withstand legal challenges.

The momentum and excitement in Vermont only shows that the attempts by the biotechnology industry to squash GE labeling have not discouraged proponents, but instead galvanized more and more people to become educated about the issue and take action. The defeat of GE labeling referendums in California in Washington has only spurred additional measures in other states that will be voted on this year, notably Oregon and Colorado, where advocates recently overcame their own court battle with the biotech industry to exercise the right to put a labeling initiative on the ballot.

And we can’t forget that a national GE labeling bill is awaiting action in both Houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! Campaign and has garnered thousands of supporters across the country. In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients being purposely added to food is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

Source: Reuters, Vermont Public Research Intrest Group (VPRIG)

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22
Apr

Community Action on Earth Day -Eliminate Toxic Chemicals that Jeopardize the Natural World

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2014) As we reflect on the beauty and wonder of the natural world this Earth Day and seek to restore¬†and preserve¬†the intricate web of life on the planet, we face an urgent need to stop ongoing toxic chemical contamination.¬†The hard truth of our time is that the natural world on which life depends¬†is under grave threat from numerous toxic insults resulting from mechanized and industrial human activity. Massive die-offs of beneficial organisms, increased rates of autoimmune diseases, endocrine disrupting and transgenerational chemical effects, and widespread pollution of our air and waterways ‚Äďall linked to pesticides and other toxic chemicals, establish the critical¬†need¬†to adopt organic standards in sync with ecosystems.

This Earth Day we ask you to spread awareness of toxic chemicals that pollute the environment. Get 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. Beyond Pesticides has the tools needed to increase environmental awareness in your community through our Databases that Support Action.

Learn about the chemicals entering our communities and globe. Beyond Pesticides’ Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management provides information on the health and environmental effects of nearly 350 registered pesticide active ingredients. It is searchable by chemical name, product name, or health and environmental effects. The database is designed to provide decision and policy makers, practitioners, and activists with easier access to current and historical information on pesticide hazards and safe pest management, drawing on and linking to numerous sources and organizations that include information related to pesticide science, policy and activism.

Discover how environmental exposure impacts human health. Beyond Pesticides‚Äô Pesticide Induced Diseases Database presents scientific studies that document elevated rates of chronic diseases among people exposed to pesticides, with increased numbers of studies associated with both specific illnesses and a range of diseases. Currently, the database is searchable for over 600 scientific references relating to Alzheimer‚Äôs, asthma, birth defects, body burden, cancer, diabetes, endocrine dysfunction, learning and developmental disabilities, Parkinson‚Äôs and sexual reproductive dysfunction. The current database is updated consistently. As you become educated, consider assisting our work ‚Äď send studies that you think should be added to the database to info@beyondpesticides.org.

Consider a food system that enhances, not harms, environmental health. Beyond Pesticides‚Äô Eating with a Conscience database is designed to help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption. Though this list is helpful in alerting consumers to hazardous residues on food, food residues are only part of the story. Those foods that are often referenced as ‚Äúclean‚ÄĚ commodities may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable or elevated levels on our food. Database users select an individual crop which will brings up a page that lists all of the pesticides that have registered tolerance (legal residue) allowances on that specific crop. The database lists the human health (acute, and chronic effects) and environmental (surface water contaminant, ground water contaminant, wildlife poison, bee poison, long-range transport) effects linked to each pesticide. The page also includes reported California farmworker poisoning incidents.

Earth Day last year saw the launch of the BEE Protective campaign spearheaded by Beyond Pesticides and our friends at Center for Food Safety. One year in, the campaign has generated a tremendous outpouring of support through local action, social media, and information requests to Beyond Pesticides. New backyard beekeepers and gardeners are fostering local pollinator resilience and creating bee friendly habitat that brings communities together and fuels the campaign to BEE Protective of pollinators. And thousands across the country continue raise their voices in multi-pronged efforts to pressure Congress, federal regulators, and the marketplace to stop using neonicotinoid pesticides proven to be harmful to honey bees. As we say in our recent issue of Pesticides and You, it’s No Longer a BIG Mystery why bees are dying. Neonicotinoid pesticides pose an imminent threat to pollinators and numerous other beneficial species.

As we appreciate the Earth and all it provides on this Earth Day, we hope you will use our resources, take action, and educate others on the ways toxic chemicals jeopardize the complex natural processes on which we rely. Through the promotion and adoption of alternative systems like organic, we can work with the Earth’s natural systems to produce a safer, healthier world for all living species.

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 info@beyondpesticides.org.

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

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21
Apr

Study Finds Individuals Exposed to Triclosan More Likely to Carry Staph Bacteria

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2014) A study has found that increased human exposure to triclosan is correlated with elevated numbers of individuals carrying staph bacteria. This research adds to the growing scientific literature that questions the safety and efficacy of triclosan, an anti-bacterial chemical widely used in consumer products.

The study, Triclosan Promotes Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Colonization, authored by Blaise R. Boles, PhD and published in mBio, found that nasal secretions that contain triclosan is linked to higher rates of the variety of staph bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus. Dr. Boles and colleagues found that 64 percent of individuals with detectable levels of triclosan in nostrils carried staph compared to 27 percent of individuals that had little or no antimicrobial compounds carrying staph. The researchers also found that triclosan also promotes the binding of staph to human proteins making them ‚Äústickier.‚ÄĚ This allows staph to hunker down in the nose, giving it an advantage over other nose-dwelling microbes. Triclosan also allows staph to better attach to other surfaces such as glass and plastic.

Beyond the human tests, researchers found a similar link in rat experiments. They used a breed of rat known to take about a week to shake off a mild nasal invasion by staph. When the researchers gave the rats triclosan-laced food and stuck a small batch of staph in the rodents’ noses, the rats could not get rid of the microbes. According to a Science New article, microbiologist Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen says the finding has troubling implications for public health. Triclosan, she points out, could provide footholds for the most worrisome forms of staph, such as methicillin-resistant MRSA.

Triclosan, commercially introduced in 1972, is a ubiquitous antibacterial chemical found in an increasing variety of household products. While many major manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble, have already announced their intent to eliminate triclosan from their products, the chemical still remains widespread in a number of consumer goods. Though Colgate Palmolive announced in 2011 that it would reformulate many of its products to take out triclosan, it has refused to change the formula for its mainstay Colgate Total brand toothpaste.

Due to these growing concerns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule last December that requires manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods 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. This announcement, though long-delayed, represents a positive step toward reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals.Toothpaste containing triclosan is not subject to this rulemaking as FDA has indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis ingredient.

This study adds to the growing literature that questions the safety and efficacy of triclosan. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The CDC estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004.Studies even show that triclosan can react with the chlorine in tap water to form chloroform at rates of exposure considered significant by the authors of the research.

As new science emerges, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge  to stop using triclosan. Since the rule will not go into effect until at least 2016, make sure to continue to read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. You can also encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. See Beyond Pesticides Triclosan webpage for additional information. Source: Science News All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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18
Apr

Mountain Lion Poisoned as Rodenticides Move Up the Food Chain

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2014) Test results have confirmed that the charismatic mountain lion named P-22 ‚ÄĒthat frequently roams the hills of the San Gabriel Mountains surrounding Los Angeles, California‚ÄĒ has been exposed to highly toxic rat poisons. When remote cameras in Griffith Park caught images of the puma, state park officials saw a thin mangy cat, far different from the majestic shots taken months ago by National Geographic against the Hollywood sign as a backdrop. Upon performing blood testing analysis, they found that P-22 had been exposed to anticoagulant pesticides, stoking the debate around rodenticide use, as further research suggests that these pesticide poisonings are a common occurrence.

p22-recentResearchers already know of the link between pesticides and mange‚ÄĒparasitic mites which burrow into the skin or hair follicles causing bald spots, scabbing and sore, which left untreated has contributed to the death of wild and domestic animals. Previous research by the National Park Service (NPS) has shown that bobcats that have ingested rodenticide are much more likely to suffer from mange. While the cougar has been treated with topical ointments for mange, and a dose of vitamin¬†D with vitamin¬†K as an antidote to the rat poisons, it is still unclear whether P-22 will fully recover. However, the event has brought media attention to the possible impacts of pest management practices on beneficial wildlife.

In late 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that loose pelleted rat poison products were unnecessarily harmful to human health and the environment, taking action to pass a Notice of Intent to Cancel (NOIC) for certain products‚ÄĒnamely d-CON. In response, manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser LLC has refused to adopt the ¬†risk mitigation measures established by EPA in 2008, and is currently also challenging EPA‚Äôs decision to protect the public from these products, effectively keeping its products on the shelf until litigation is resolved.

In the meantime, California and its local municipalities have stepped in to provide preliminary restrictions on rat killers. In total, nearly 20 municipalities in California including San Francisco, Calabasas, and Malibu have pass resolutions to urge residents and businesses not to purchase or sell second generation anticoagulants. ¬†Reckitt Benckiser has met the opposition head on aggressively challenging California‚Äôs rule to remove from store shelves several rodenticide products by suing the state. The manufacturers say that “new regulation will unnecessarily put Californians at an increased public health risk from rodent infestation and place a greater financial burden on families and individuals who cannot afford professional pest control services.”

These assertions have already been addressed by the EPA, which stood behind research showing that low-income and minority children are disproportionately affected by these products. One study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African American and 26 percent were Latino. It stood to reason that taking them off the shelves and providing snap traps would provide much safer methods of rodent control.

Over the past 20 years, park service officials of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area have found widespread sublethal exposure in carnivores to rodenticides. Indeed, 88% of wildlife tested, including 140 bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, tested positive for one or more anticoagulants. Two mountain lions have been found dead due to poisoning. Reports also show that federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Northern spotted owl, have been adversely affected by these chemicals.

‚ÄúAnti-coagulant rodenticides are designed to kill rodents by thinning the blood and preventing clotting,‚ÄĚ said urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Seth Riley, PhD. ‚ÄúWhen people put these bait traps outside their homes or businesses, they may not realize that the poison works its way up the food chain, becoming more lethal as the dose accumulates in larger animals.‚ÄĚ

In July of 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife requested California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) restrict the use of anticoagulant rodenticides due to numerous incidents involving direct and indirect poisoning of wildlife. Anticoagulants impair blood clotting and eventually cause internal bleeding in target animals. However, rodents can feed on poisoned bait multiple times before death, and as a result their carcasses may contain residues that are many times the lethal dose. Those that are not lethally exposed  become lethargic and are likely to be hit by cars or develop diseases like mange.

Beyond Pesticides has responded to the irresponsible actions of Reckitt Benckiser by launching the Care About Kids campaign to urge major retailers to stop selling dangerous d-CON rodenticides.  In lieu of federal action, Beyond Pesticides argues that retailers have an obligation to stop selling products that EPA has determined are too dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.

For more information about Beyond Pesticides ‚ÄúCare About Kids‚ÄĚ campaign, see our Rodenticides program page, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of these chemicals and find effective alternatives to their use.

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

Source: LA Times

Photo Source: LA Times

 

 

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17
Apr

“DARK” Act Introduced to Stop the Labeling of GE Foods

(Beyond Pesticides, April 17, 2014) Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) recently introduced H.R. 4432, a bill that would give full authority of  genetically engineered (GE) labeling to the Food and Drug Administration, which now favors a voluntary approach to the issue. The bill is designed by industry to undercut a growing number of states that are taking on GE labeling by preempting state authority. The bill is being fought by environmental and food safety groups that are backing federal legislation that would label all GE ingredients.

H.R. 4432, or what is being dubbed as the ‚ÄúDeny Americans the Right-to-Know Act‚ÄĚ (DARK Act) by activists, would dramatically change food labeling by giving the preemptive authority of labeling GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The act will prevent states from adopting their own GE labeling laws, allow food companies to put a ‚Äúnatural‚ÄĚ label on products that contain GE ingredients, and prevent the FDA from requiring companies to label GE ingredients and continue its current ‚Äúvoluntary‚ÄĚ labeling policy. This codification of a voluntary labeling standard clearly does not meet consumers growing demands for more information. In the 13 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods, not one single company has done so.

This legislation is almost identical to discussion points produced earlier this year by the Grocery Manufactures Association (GMA), which is seeking a federal solution to growing state efforts to label GE foods. GMA, which is being sued for violating campaign law  in Washington for shielding the identity of its donors, worked to defeat GE labeling initiatives in Washington and California after raising millions of dollars and outspending pro-GE labeling groups by a 5-1 margin. GMA in these campaigns has represented food and beverage leaders such as ConAgra, PepsiCo, Kraft, Monsanto, and Dow.

Environmental and food safety groups have already started to mobilize to defeat this anti-labeling legislation. Groups including Just Label It, the Environmental Working Group and Center for Food Safety (CFS) took to Capitol Hill earlier last week to meet with more than 100 offices, said Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label it. The legislation is also being opposed by some influential farm interest groups. The National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in opposition to the ‚ÄúDARK‚ÄĚ Act, stating, ‚ÄúSurveys have consistently shown that consumers want more information about their food, not less. The prevalence of state-led efforts to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) only corroborates these findings.‚ÄĚ

FDA may also have a problem implementing these changes, particularly the requirement that the agency define the term ‚Äúnatural‚ÄĚ to describe food ingredients on labels. FDA has suggested it is in no hurry to define the term because of its subjectivity, the number of parties and agencies that would need to be involved, and the likelihood that a substantive and clear definition is difficult to craft.

The act also will give FDA the responsibility to require food companies to notify the agency before any new GMO ingredient goes on the market. Currently that process is voluntary. The agency would have the authority to mandate a label should any safety issue arise.

Opposing federal legislation has already been introduced to label all GE ingredients. On¬†April 24, 2013, U.S. Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) introduced companion legislation that would require FDA to ‚Äúclearly label‚ÄĚ all GE whole and processed foods, including fish and other seafood. The bills, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, H.R. 1699andS. 809, have 22 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate.

To learn more about GE policy and varieties of GE crops please visit Beyond Pesticides genetic engineering issue page.

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

Source: Politico

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16
Apr

Public Interest Groups Intervene to Defend Kauai’s GE Law

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2014) The U.S. District Court of Hawaii granted a Motion to Intervene jointly presented by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice on behalf of several community non-profit groups. The order allows the groups to participate in a lawsuit filed by Syngenta and other pesticide companies challenging Kauai‚Äôs County Ordinance 960, which¬†establishes a¬†county program to monitor pesticide use and genetically engineered (GE) crops. The federal order allows the groups to defend the County of Kauai‚Äôs 2013 pesticide disclosure law against the pesticide companies‚Äô legal challenge. The non-profit groups intervening include Center for Food Safety, Surfrider Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Ka Makani Ho‚Äėopono.

dailynewsOrdinance 960 (formerly known as Bill 2491) provides residents of Kauai public access to information related to the application of pesticides used in experimental and commercial agricultural operations within the County of Kauai. It also affords County residents and their environment greater protection from and information about potential pesticide drift and the impact of growing experimental GE crops on Kauai. The Kauai County Council voted to enact Ordinance 960 in November 2013, overriding the Mayor’s veto. The Ordinance 960 is set to take effect in August.

Local leaders crafted the ordinance in response to public outcry from residents, many of whom live, work, or have children that go to school near agricultural fields leased by chemical corporations. Many in the community assert that Ordinance 960 is only the beginning of local efforts to reign in excesses and abuses of agrichemical companies operating on the island.

Specifically, Ordinance 960 strengthens pesticide disclosure now requiring the industry to submit weekly reports to nearby residents beginning nine months after the passage of the legislation. It also requires pesticide companies to provide the county and public with an annual accounting of pesticide use, disclose the location of GE crops, and conduct an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study on the effects of the agrichemical industry. The ordinance also restricts the application of all pesticides within 500 feet of schools and other medical facilities, and within 100 feet of any park, public roadway or shoreline that flows into the ocean. Unfortunately, some of the more stringent measures were removed from previous drafts, including a moratorium on the future planting of GE crops and regulations governing experimental pesticides.

In January, Syngenta, BASF Plant Science LP, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., and other biotech companies filed a lawsuit to stop Kauai County from moving ahead with the new law to restrict GE agriculture and toxic pesticide applications in sensitive areas, claiming the law is not legally valid. As the first Hawaiian Island to pass restrictions on pesticides and GE agriculture, Kauai County saw an unprecedented outpouring of public support for the then bill,  despite numerous attempts by agrichemical companies to derail the bill.

‚ÄúWe are pleased with the court‚Äôs decision, which allows us to vigorously defend this sound and important law,‚ÄĚ said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. ‚ÄúThe judge said specifically that he wanted to include the perspective and voices of the people in Kauai who were being affected,‚ÄĚ Mr. Kimbrell said. ‚ÄúSo that‚Äôs very, very encouraging, and we‚Äôre pleased to bring the intervention on behalf of the people on Kauai.‚ÄĚ

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented, ‚ÄúThese community groups deserve to have their own lawyers represent them in court. They‚Äôre the Kauai residents who are most affected by the chemical companies‚Äô activities.‚ÄĚ

The decision to allow these groups to intervene and defend the new ordinance serves to strengthen the county’s defense, which was hindered by lack of support from the mayor and the county’s budget constraints. The federal ruling comes during the last month of the 2014 legislative session in which there’s been much fanfare but little action on bills to override county regulations on genetic engineering. According to reports, there is still a possibility state lawmakers may revisit those proposals during conference committee over the next couple of weeks. But House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said previously that the House wants to wait to see how the court handles the controversial new rules.

The escalating court battle over Kauai’s ordinance is just one aspect of the ongoing fight over genetic engineering in Hawaii. On Maui, a group of residents wants to put the question of GE farming on the ballot this year. A Maui County Council bill that echoes Kauai’s disclosure requirements has stalled in committee. If successful, the citizens’ ballot initiative will impose a temporary moratorium on growing GE crops.

Beyond Pesticides believes that every community in the United States has the right to self-determination when it comes to the chemicals that are applied in and around where they live, work, and play. Read Beyond Pesticides testimony on Bill 2491 for additional information. If you’d like to become involved in a campaign in your community, send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org, or call 202-543-5450.

Sources: Center for Food Safety Press Release, The Garden Island

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

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15
Apr

Fish from Alaskan Wilderness Contaminated with Banned Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2014) A new study released last week by the National Park Service on contaminant use in Alaska, found traces of pesticides in fish ‚ÄĒpesticides which have long been banned and likely never been used within the Alaskan wilderness areas. Researchers examined three Alaskan parks renowned for their remote, pristine and protected wilderness ‚ÄĒLake Clark National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Katmai National Park‚ÄĒ only to find that contaminants, including PCBs at concentrations exceeding those in the lower 48 states.

Salmon_phixrThe study, Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Fish from Western US and Alaska National Parks‚ÄĒSpatial Distribution and Health Thresholds, published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, sought to compare contaminant level found within fish across the nation. Generally, researchers found that Alaskan fish were more likely to have traces of older chemicals, while those in the lower 48 tended to be dominated by newer chemicals. The most commonly detected chemicals are PCBs, endosulfan, sulfate and p,p‚Äô-DDE, a breakdown product of DDT.¬†Some of these long-banned chemicals actually exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‚Äôs (EPA) guidelines for human subsistence on fish and wildlife.

Among those exceeding acceptable levels, dieldrin, chlordane, and p,p’-DDE have been identified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by EPA and by the parties of the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty established in 2001 to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Although the treaty was signed in 2001 by the U.S., it has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate

The cause for the surge in older chemical contaminant concentrations, researchers suspect, is that fish in Alaska tend to be much larger in Alaska than elsewhere. ‚ÄúThe bigger fish accumulate more contaminants because they are older,‚ÄĚ explained co-author Colleen Flanagan Pritz, ecologist with the National Park Service‚Äôs Air Resources Division.

Transport of contaminant to northerly environmental has long been a problem. Researchers suspect that they are carried through atmospheric currents, which are then deposited during rain events as moisture condenses over cold regions ‚ÄĒat high altitudes and latitudes. Previous studies have shown DDT/DDE to have alarmingly high concentrations in the Arctic, and other U.S. national parks. DDT and other POPs 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, causing harm to all exposed.

For example, the now-banned insecticide mirex, previously used for the control of fire ants in the southeastern U.S., has been found to accumulate in traditional food staples of fish and wildlife in the north, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also found in the blood of people in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and other northerly regions, exposure to mirex has been linked to a number of adverse effects to human health, including serious reproductive disorders causing infertility and type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately banning all uses of production of chemicals will not prevent their presence in the environment or harmful effects for decades to come. This troubling fact means that every effort to stop all additional introductions of these dangerous chemicals into the environment should be made.

Source: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Alaska Dispatch

Photo Source: Alaska Dispatch

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

 

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14
Apr

Herbicide Ban Put on Hold In Sri Lanka

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2014) Bowing to political pressure and agrochemical industry opposition Sri Lanka’s government has taken a step back from its original decision to place a ban on one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide ‚ÄĒglyphosate. Scientific evidence has tied glyphosate to the incurable, deadly kidney disease that has afflicted thousands of Sri Lankans. The delay marks a setback in efforts by scientists and activists to remove from the shelves¬†a chemical widely used on tea and rice paddy plantations in Sri Lanka. ¬† _62954732_field624

The decision to ban the chemical was initiated following the publication of a scientific report demonstrating that kidney disease was primarily caused by glyphosate. The report provides a summary of existing scientific information demonstrating kidney failure among farmers who were exposed to the popular herbicide. Indeed lead author Channa Jayasumana, PhD. explains that glyphosate bonds with toxic heavy metals in the environment such as cadmium and arsenic, forming stable compounds that are consumed in food and water and do not break down until they reach the kidneys.

‚ÄúGlyphosate acts as a carrier or a vector of these heavy metals to the kidney,‚ÄĚ said Dr. Jayasumana. The chemical was initially created as a chelating agent in industrial processes to form strong chemical bonds with metals, which now are showing up in the kidneys of exposed farmworkers in Sri Lanka, India, and Central America ‚ÄĒwhere farmers are exposed to extreme heat, likely to become dehydrated, and certainly exposed to chemicals.

The study’s results are bolstered by a joint investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Sri Lankan government who detected both cadmium and glyphosate, as well as other pesticides and heavy metals, in the environment of endemic areas, and in kidney patients‚Äô urine, blood and tissues.

The agrichemical manufacturer Monsanto disputes the idea that glyphosate is well suited to create bonds with heavy metals. ‚ÄúThere is no evidence that glyphosate complexes effectively with arsenic, cadmium, or other nephrotoxic metals,‚ÄĚ said Thomas Helscher. Director of Corporate Affairs at Monsanto. ‚ÄúGlyphosate is actually a relatively poor chelator for heavy metals when compared to pharmacological chelation agents.‚ÄĚ However, glyphosate does form strong bonds with heavy metals: Glyphosate’s chemical composition contains three different chemical groups allowing it to be a highly versatile chelator, forming strong bonds with heavy metals such as calcium manganese, and iron, as studies show.

In an interview with The Center for Public Integrity Paul Capel, PhD., an hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said that glyphosate formed stronger bonds with metals than those formed by other herbicides. ‚ÄúAs far as I know, there are no other common herbicides that would have this same sort of strength of interactions with metals,‚ÄĚ said Dr. Capel.

Other countries around the world have taken steps to target glyphosate for its role in chronic kidney disease. Notably, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved a ban on 53 agrichemicals including glyphosate in 2013 ‚ÄĒa ban which has not yet been signed into law. Meanwhile, the U.S.¬†Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing the registration of glyphosate, the review is expected to be completed by 2015. However, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the EPA has ‚Äúnot seen any pattern of kidney health effects‚ÄĚ in its study of scientific literature.

In the absence of widespread adoption of organic practices that eliminate hazardous pesticides, worker protections for farmworkers must be strengthened. Consumers can do their part and help encourage the protection of the people who help put food on our table every day by purchasing organic. By buying organic, you support an agricultural system that does not heavily rely on the widespread application of dangerous pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

Photo Source: BBC News Magazine

Source: Center for Public Integrity

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

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11
Apr

Connecticut Senate Moves Forward on GE Grass Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2014) Connecticut State Senate bill no.443, an act that bans the sale of genetically engineered (GE) grass seeds, passed the state Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 25-11. The bill shows Connecticut legislators are taking seriously the risks that increased pesticide use in residential areas pose to the health of the states residents, especially children, and pets.

The bill will ban the sale, use, and marketing of lawn or turf seeds that are genetically engineered to be resistant to pesticides. The GE grass seed that is being developed by Monsanto and Scotts is currently not available in consumer markets and is being tested by Scotts employees in their front yards. The bill may face stronger challenges from Connecticut’s House as it is unclear if the House speaker, J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, will call for a vote on the bill before the session ends May 7.

One of the major concerns¬†the bill addresses¬†is that allowing GE grass seeds for consumer use would lead to dramatic increases in residential pesticide use. “So you will spread this pesticide all across your lawn, back and forth, on your lawn,” said Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, as quoted in a The Day article, ¬†“The more you pour it onto the land, the more it is going to affect the water supply, the Long Island Sound, and our well water.”

Increasing use of glyphosate in herbicide-tolerant crops has also led to increased herbicide resistance. A study published by Washington State University‚Äôs research professor Charles Benbrook, PhD, found that the use of herbicides in the production of three GE crops ‚ÄĒcotton, soybeans and corn‚ÄĒ had increased. Heavy reliance on the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, has placed weed populations under progressively intense and unprecedented selection pressure, triggering a perfect storm for the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds. ‚ÄúResistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,‚ÄĚ Dr. Benbrook said.

“Blanketing lawns, parks, and athletic fields in these dangerous chemicals will endanger the children and pets that play on them, while eventually risking the development of weeds that are resistant to current herbicides and pesticides, requiring even more toxic substances be used,” said Sen. Ed Meyer, quoted by the Connecticut Mirror.

Aside from the likely increase in residential herbicide applications as a result of home plantings, allowance of the GE bluegrass presents the potential for increased difficulties for organic farmers and ranchers. Because of the popularity of the grass in yards, pastures, and prairies, its use is expected to be quite widespread. This will make conversion of new land to organic food production more difficult as, according to APHIS‚Äôs fact sheet on the decision, ‚ÄúOnce established, GE Kentucky bluegrass may prevent transition to organic status unless eradicated from the acreage to be transitioned.‚ÄĚ

GE grass seed was deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011. The agency issued issued a decision stating that it does not consider genetically engineered (GE) turf grass to be subject to federal regulations. In the decision announced by the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency stated that it does not have the authority to regulate introduction or transportation of the GE grass seed under the provisions of the Plant Protection Act.

While the original bill included a provision that would ban the use of toxic pesticides on high school grounds and parks, playgrounds, and playing fields, the final bill was amended to only include the ban on GE grass. Thus, SB 68 has been amended to include this original language. Beyond Pesticides has worked to gain support for these important protections, and we strongly encourage concerned Connecticut residents to visit the Connecticut-based environmental advocacy group ConnFACT’s action alert page on this issue, where you can find out how to contact key members of the CT legislature and voice your support.

Tomorrow is the start of Beyond Pesticides‚Äô¬†32nd¬†National Pesticide Forum,¬†‚ÄúAdvancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,‚Ä̬†in Portland, OR April 11-12!¬†The Forum will focus¬†on creating healthy buildings, schools and homes, improving farmworker protections, solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, and strengthening organic agriculture. Space is limited so¬†register now!

Source: Connecticut Mirror

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

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10
Apr

Pesticide Law Violations Uncovered in Oregon Timberland Spraying

(Beyond Pesticides, April 10, 2014) ‚Äď The results of an on-going investigation into allegations of improper pesticide spraying on timberland near residential areas in Southern Oregon confirmed what residents of the small towns had known since the day they were unwillingly sprayed with dangerous pesticides‚ÄĒthe applications were illegal.

Statements released on April 8, 2014, by Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) concerning its investigation into the allegations, indicated multiple violations by the pesticide operator and applicator responsible for the spraying had been found, as well as evidence of the presence of pesticides on properties in Cedar Valley, near Gold Beach, Oregon.

Specifically, ODA concluded that Pacific Air Research ‚Äď a licensed commercial pesticide operator based in White City, Oregon‚Äď and its aerial applicator, allowed pesticide products to fall on properties other than the intended application site, applied one product at a rate above the maximum allowed by the label instructions, and provided multiple false records that misled ODA about the actual products used.

The confirmed pesticides at issue, 2,4-D and triclopyr, are a serious matter, exacerbated by spray applications¬†in excess of pesticide label restrictions and other regulations. Under the Federal, Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the nation‚Äôs primary pesticide registration and control law, federal and state “acceptable” risk standards of pesticides are completely dependent on the applicator following the detailed use and warning labels that must accompany all registered pesticides.

While FIFRA‚Äôs standards are severely lacking and inadequate on several fronts, this incident highlights a key problem with the nation‚Äôs pesticide safety law ‚ÄĒeven weak health and environmental protections can be further undermined by¬†the applicator‚Äôs lack of compliance with the pesticide product label‚Äôs instructions. Ultimately, however, public protections are undermined by a lack of state enforcement of pesticide use disclosure requirements and the unwillingness of state lawmakers and regulators to establish more expansive environmental and health standards in situations like aerial forest applications, school and residential zones, and agriculture.

An Eye on Enforcement

In this instance, ODA acknowledges that serious violations have occurred that ‚Äúmay result in civil penalties to be determined,‚ÄĚ and notes that, ‚ÄúODA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) are collaborating on enforcement actions.‚ÄĚ Despite the state’s seemingly promising stance on enforcement, residents across Oregon and environmental advocates alike question ODA‚Äôs commitment to enforcement in this case and overall when it comes to pesticide application violations and establishing meaningful protections.

As one local environmental group, Beyond Toxics, reminds the public, ‚ÄúThe owner of the timber company who had hired the helicopter operator claimed that there was no way any helicopter was near the sickened residents. [ODA], the agency in charge of the investigation, went public claiming that only glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up) had been sprayed and laid seeds of doubts that the community had been exposed at all.‚ÄĚ It took Beyond Toxics challenging ODA through a petition to the Oregon Attorney General, to get ODA to release information concerning the spraying and spur further investigation, resulting in this week‚Äôs findings.

Additionally, ODA’s statements on enforcement are viewed as tepid at best. Under both FIFRA and even the weak Oregon pesticide laws, civil penalties should not be the only option on the table. Civil penalties under FIFRA and Oregon State laws offer little deterrence value, even with a finding of gross negligence on the part of the applicator. Knowingly withholding information, lying to regulators, and violating both federal and state laws, warrants consideration of criminal violations. What is also needed is for Oregon lawmakers to establish stronger penalties, such as license revocations, and protective standards in the former of buffer zones.

Beyond Pesticides, along with other local Oregon environmental advocacy groups will be meeting in Portland, Oregon, April 11 through 12, to discuss solutions to these problems and more at our annual pesticide forum: Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices.

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

Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting, Beyond Toxics, Oregon Department of Agriculture

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09
Apr

Avon Joins Other Companies in Phasing Out Triclosan from Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2014)¬† Cosmetics giant Avon will join several other notable cosmetics and personal care companies in committing to remove the antibacterial pesticide triclosan from their products. This announcement comes months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require manufacturers of antibacterial soaps and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap. Avon is just the latest company to demonstrate the notable market shift away from triclosan which has been occurring quietly over the past few years due to consumer awareness and government stagnation. Avon’s action marks a trend in which companies using toxic chemicals are forced by consumers to switch to nontoxic ingredients and¬†get out in front of regulators whose actions lags behind the science on adverse health and environmental effects.

Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for a couple years now. Avon joined these companies last week, announcing ¬†it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it.¬† Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating. On its website, Avon notes that its decision is ‚Äúbased on the preferences expressed by some of our customers for products without triclosan. We are no longer using triclosan in new product development and have begun replacing it in existing products.‚ÄĚ GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, have reformulated their products to also exclude triclosan, according to media reports. Others, including L‚ÄôOreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have also started phasing it out.

“We are not going to use it in new products and the process is underway for identifying alternatives or changing formulations for the small number of existing products that had included triclosan among their ingredients,” Avon spokeswoman, Jennifer Vargas.

Triclosan is currently used in a wide variety of products, including hand soaps, clothing, kitchenware, deodorants, and cosmetics. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed a laundry list of adverse impacts resulting from its use. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 40% since 2004. Researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that triclosan impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure. Last year, a published study revealed that triclosan can alter the composition of bacterial communities in streams and can lead to bacterial resistance. Research also shows that triclosan is entering aquatic environments at elevated rates, as wastewater treatment plants are unable to completely remove the chemical.

In a statement about the Avon announcement, Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy at the nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund, urged the company to quit playing catchup and take a leadership role.

“We have been urging companies and the government, through our campaign and petitions over the last decade,¬†to remove triclosan from products¬†and are glad to see Avon joining other company to take responsible action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The story of triclosan represents a deep failure in our regulatory system, which allows toxic products on the market that have no proven benefit, while raising serious health and environmental concerns that clearly should be avoided with precautionary action,” Mr. Feldman continued.

“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates¬†Avon¬†for finally giving triclosan the boot,” said Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and¬† director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund.. “It’s a hormonally active chemical that has no business being in cosmetics and personal care products,” she continued.

Groups have been calling on FDA and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) to immediately ban triclosan from consumer products, citing endocrine disruption, and other human health concerns. Last December, FDA announced it will now require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective. The agency is accepting public comments until June 16, 2014. Submit your comment here. However, this announcement comes years late as many manufacturers have already been removing triclosan from their products due to public pressure. There has also been local action around the procurement of triclosan. For instance, Minnesota announced that all state-run agencies would stop purchasing products that contain triclosan.

In many antibacterial soaps, triclosan has been replaced with L-Lactic acid, normally found in the human body and in several foods. This agent is of low toxicity and suppresses the growth of bacteria. Under EPA, L-lactic acid is registered and used as an antimicrobial pesticide, disinfectant, indirect food contact surface sanitizer, and fungicide and virucide on hard, non-porous surfaces. However, Beyond Pesticides has pointed to scientific findings that triclosan in soap products is no more effective than soap and water in managing germs. FDA has categorized L-Lactic acid as generally recognized as safe and is allowed for use as an antimicrobial agent and for other uses in food. In other products, triclosan has been replaced with quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride. These compounds have a variety of registered uses, are widely used, and are considered more toxic.

Since 2004, Beyond Pesticides worked to bring public attention to the dangers surrounding the proliferate use of triclosan in consumer goods. A petition submitted to both FDA and EPA by Beyond Pesticides in 2010 calls for the ban on triclosan based on the unnecessary health and environmental risks involved with its use, given the availability of safer alternatives. Now that growing public awareness and the evolving market shift away from triclosan, the time is now for a federal ban on this unnecessary chemical.

For more on triclosan, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterial page.

Source: The Guardian

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

 

 

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08
Apr

See You at “Advancing Sustainable Communities,” National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12, Portland, OR!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2014) With less than a week until the 2014 National Pesticide Forum, please take a moment to consider three reasons why you should attend this exciting and important event:

ForumFlyer1. Learn from Leading Scientists and Experts: Many of the conference speakers are top leading experts in their fields, and you just aren’t exposed to these kinds of people every day. While you’re at the Forum you’ll have the opportunity to listen to them speak and interact with them during panel sessions:

  • Longtime leader and visionary in sustainable organic agriculture, Fred Kirschenmann.
  • Center for Food Safety’s leading environmental attorney George Kimbrell on genetic engineering and pollinators;
  • Pierre Mineau, PhD, world-renowned environmental toxicologist;
  • Cutting edge scientist on transgenerational effects of pesticide exposure, Michael Skinner, PhD;
  • Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Program Director for The Xerces Society;
  • and so much more.

These highlighted speakers do not diminish the importance of all the incredible speakers on the program, from lawyers, scientists, town officials, and activists, to the Beyond Pesticides’ board of directors. Check out the full program for more information.

2. Engage with Organic Land Management Practitioners: The Forum presents a unique opportunity to learn and discuss ways to tackle turf, landscape, and agricultural management without the use of harmful chemicals. Getting tips and tools for practical, cost-effective techniques that can be extended beyond the home, yard, and gardens, to community wide land-management.

3. Recharge and Inspire New Action: Talking with local organic activists, learning new tools for pest prevention, and strategizing on local policies, is a good way to create the energy for action. The Forum provides a productive space for a fresh perspective, new tools, and firm knowledge to join the fight for local, state, and national policies that protect health and the environment.

Not to mention, you‚Äôll come away with a belly full of organic food and beverages which will be provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, in addition to hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine for receptions on Friday and Saturday night. All for a low registration price! We urge you to join us in attending:

Advancing Sustainable Communities:
People, pollinators and practices

The 32nd National Pesticide Forum
University Place Hotel at Portland State University
Portland, OR
April 11-12, 2014

For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

We hope to see you there!

The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

Co-sponsors include Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, John A. Green MD III-The EverGreen Center, Healthy Bees=Healthy Gardens, Lewis & Clark Law School, Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Sustainable Beekeepers, Oregon Tilth, The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), Pestcide Action Network, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), Portland Urban Beekeepers, University of Portland’s Environmental Studies Department, and The Xerces Society.

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07
Apr

With Big Money, Industry Fights County Ordinance to Ban GE Crop Planting

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2014) A recent report by The Oregonian found that enormous amounts of money are being spent by agrichemical and biotechnology companies in one Oregon county to stop an ordinance that would ban farmers from being able to plant genetically engineered (GE) Crops. This current legislative fight encapsulates the uphill funding battle that anti-GE activists face when organizing state and local level campaigns.

The ordinance that will appear on the upcoming May ballot in Jackson County, Oregon will ban the planting and rising of GE plants within the county. The ordinance also calls for the county to conduct inspections and allows enforcement through citizen lawsuits. Jackson County was the only county exempt from a law enacted last fall that made the state the regulator of agricultural seeds.

The county’s measure qualified for the May ballot before the Oregon Senate passed S.B. 863, which preempts localities ability to regulate seed, so it was exempted in the bill. The bill preempts efforts the efforts in Benton and Lane counties to restrict GE agriculture. Despite state preemption, Josephine County has a similar measure on the May ballot to ban GE crops.

According to a recent report in The Oregonian, the ordinance is facing strong opposition from out of state funding sources. According to the report, six pesticide and plant biotechnology firms have donated $455,000 to Good Neighcbor Farms, an organization fighting the GE crop ban. Pesticide and biotech firm Monsanto Company donated $183,294, GMO seed producer DuPont Pioneer $129,647, biotech firm Syngenta Crop Protection $75,000, and $22,353 each from biotech firms Bayer CropScience, BASF Plant Science and Dow AgroSciences. Good Neighbor Farms has more than $556,000 cash on hand which is a colossal amount for a local measure.

The opposition to this measure has dramatically out-fundraised the two political action committees supporting the measure, GMO Free Jackson County and Our Family Farms Coalition, which have a combined $102,368 cash on hand. The lead up to this ballot measure is reminiscent of recent GE labeling efforts in California and Washington where anti-GE labeling efforts flooded the states with outside corporate money.

One of the original concerns¬†behind the ordinance is organic farmers’ inability to protect themselves from GE crops drifting or cross-pollinating with their crops. A recent survey by Food & Water Watch,¬†Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination, found that a third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced problems in their fields due to the nearby use of GE crops, and over half of those growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination.¬†In May of 2013, USDA announced that¬†unapproved GE wheat¬†was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. After this discovery, Japan cancelled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat. Monsanto has not conducted field trials in Oregon since 2001 when it reportedly withdrew from the state.

Join us at Beyond Pesticides‚Äô¬†32nd¬†National Pesticide Forum,¬†‚ÄúAdvancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,‚Ä̬†in Portland, OR April 11-12.¬†The Forum will focus¬†on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so¬†register now.

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

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04
Apr

A Quarter of All Bumblebees At Risk in Europe

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2014) Habitat destruction, pesticide contamination, agricultural intensification and climate change threaten 24 percent of Europe‚Äôs bumblebees, according to research conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and funded by the European Commission. The study is part an ongoing project called European Red List of pollinators, with contribution from experts of the ‚ÄúStatus and Trends of European Pollinators‚Ä̬†(STEP) project,¬†which assesses the conservation status of all bees ‚ÄĒapproximately 2000 species‚ÄĒ occurring throughout Europe.

The study concludes that almost half of the 68 species in the European Union (EU) are in decline, including those at risk of extinction. Of these, a total of 16 species are listed as at risk according to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, which represents the world most trusted authority on the conservation status of species. In comparison, only 13 percent of bumblebee populations are increasing.

‚ÄúWe are very concerned with these findings. Such a high proportion of threatened bumblebees can have serious implications for our food production,‚ÄĚ says Ana Nieto, European Biodiversity Officer of IUCN and coordinator of the study. ‚ÄúProtecting bumblebee species and habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices will be essential to reverse the negative trends in European bumblebee populations.‚ÄĚ

Bumblebees, like honey bees, are crucial for a functional food system, ‚ÄúOf the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebees, says the IUCN press statement, adding that they contribute 22 billion euros ($30.35 billion) to European agriculture. Some crops, including tomatoes, almost completely rely on bumblebees to produce fruit. Through a technique known as ‚Äėbuzz pollination‚Äô bumblebees are able to release the pollen tightly held by the flower ‚Äďessentially by rapidly moving their wings, causing resonant vibrations bumblebees can¬† shake loose the pollen to accomplish pollination. No bumblebees, no tomatoes.

Of course, the EU recently implemented a two-year ban on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides ‚ÄĒimidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam‚ÄĒ follows a report identifying ‚Äúhigh acute risk‚ÄĚ to honey bees. ‚ÄúHowever, efforts clearly need to be scaled up,‚ÄĚ said Janez Potońánik, EU Environmental Commissioner on the ban, continuing to say that integrating biodiversity requirements into other policies would be necessary.

In addition to pesticide exposure, the study found that changes in land use, intensification of agriculture, and climate change have severely reduced the habitat available for bumblebees, some of which are highly specialized. For example, Bombus culllumanus, listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List has declined by more than 80 percent over the past decade, due primarily to the loss of important forage like clover which farmer practices have removed. The populations that were once widespread now only exists in small fragments across Europe.

Improving forage availability, planting hedgerows, and reducing the use of bee-toxic pesticides would all help underpin stable populations of pollinators, says the IUCN press statement.

BEE Protective

Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety launched the BEE Protective campaign, a national public education effort supporting local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. BEE Protective includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective webpage to learn more about our efforts to save pollinators and what you can do to help.

Continue your commitment to helping pollinators by joining us April 11-12 for Beyond Pesticides‚Äô 32nd National Pesticide Forum, ‚ÄúAdvancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices,‚Ä̬† in Portland, OR. The Forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.

Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature news release

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

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03
Apr

EPA Issues Stop Sale Order for Food Containers Laced with Nanosilver Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2014) A food container production company in New Jersey is finding out that the smallest of ingredients can have big implications for public health. Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had issued a stop sale order to Pathway Investment Corp., manufacturer of Kinetic Go Green Premium Food Storage Containers and Kinetic Smartwist Series Containers. In addition to the order sent to Pathway, the EPA has also issued warning letters to Amazon, Sears, Wal-Mart and other large retailers directing them not to sell these products.containersnano

The reason for the order: nanosilver‚ÄĒan extremely small particle of silver that has been added to consumer products of all kinds during the last decade to combat bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms.

Because of nanosilver‚Äôs properties, it is considered a pesticide and active ingredient under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the primary federal law governing pesticide use in the United States. Under FIFRA, any product containing an active ingredient that acts as a pesticide must be registered with EPA. For public health claims associated with pesticide use, EPA requires manufacturers to show that the product¬†performs as intended and does not¬†pose “unreasonable” adverse effects to the environment. ‚ÄúUnreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” is defined as one of two ways: (1) any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide, or (2) a human dietary risk from residues that result from a use of a pesticide in or on any food inconsistent with the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act¬†(FFDCA). The manufacturer must also submit a proposed label for the product that meets all of FIFRA‚Äôs labeling requirements.

Considering that Pathway did not register its food container products that incorporate nanosilver into the plastic and thus failed to meet FIFRA‚Äôs registration requirements, EPA appears to have a pretty straightforward case. ‚ÄúClaims that mold, fungus or bacteria are controlled or destroyed by a particular product must be backed up with testing so that consumers know that the products do what the labels say,‚ÄĚ said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. ‚ÄúUnless these products are registered with the EPA, consumers have no information about whether the claims are accurate. The EPA will continue to take action against companies making unverified public health claims.‚ÄĚ

Small Ingredients Have Big Unresolved Safety Issues

EPA’s focus on Pathway’s failure to register and back up its performance claims, while applauded and legally accurate under FIFRA, ignores the real issue underlying nanosilver and its presence in any consumer products, let alone a food container: EPA’s own failure to apply the unreasonable adverse effects standard and perform an adequate registration process on all nanosilver products.

In November 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling concerning litigation filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) against EPA. The lawsuit challenged EPA’s conditional registration of nanosilver-laced textiles, because under the dubious conditional registration process (a loophole registration option that defers submission of normally required environmental effects and toxicity studies for indefinite periods of time) EPA did not require submission of a full breadth of toxicity data and thus did not properly evaluate the unreasonable adverse effects to the environment for the nanosilver textile products. NRDC argued that if EPA had conducted a thorough examination of toxicity data, it would have found unreasonable adverse effects to the environment, particularly with regard to aquatic species and the aggregate pesticide tolerance dose limits permitted in toddlers under the FFDCA. The Ninth Circuit agreed with NRDC and suspended the conditional registration of the textile products.

However, this ruling did not apply to the numerous other products containing nanosilver and underscores the issue that federal regulation of nanoparticles has thus far been lacking as a whole, despite studies highlighting concerns and some serious unanswered questions. In no case is this more evident than in the fact that the Kinetic products targeted in EPA’s stop-sale order had been allegedly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the usual authority from which food container manufacturers must seek approval before placing a product on the market.

Beyond Pesticides continually advocates for stronger, clearer, and enforceable legal and regulatory standards that prevent dangerous and untested pesticides and products from entering the marketplace before they pose a threat to public health and the environment. Join us at our 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices, to continue the discussion, strategize, and interact with advocates, scientists, and policymakers on solutions to improve public health and environmental protections.

Source: EPA, NRDC

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

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02
Apr

d-CON Manufacturer Sues California to Stop Rat Poison Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2014) Just last week it was announced that California ruled to remove from store shelves several rodenticide products identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as unsafe for children and wildlife.¬† The maker of these products, Reckitt Benckiser, aggressive in¬†challenging regulators who want to restrict the company’s loose bait products,¬†is¬†suing¬†California to stop it from acting. The state‚Äôs new restriction on retail sales of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, due to take effect July 1, 2014, seeks to protect wildlife and pets from accidental poisoning from rat poisons. Reckitt Benckiser is also embroiled in challenging EPA‚Äôs decision to remove these products from the national marketplace for failure to meet federal standards.

The California’ Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) ruled last week that second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone, found in d-CON brand products, must be classified as California-restricted materials, and only allowed to be used by certified pesticide applicators. This follows EPA’s 2013 issuance of a Notice of Intent to Cancel the registrations of rodenticide products that do not meet the agency’s new mitigation measures to reduce poisonings to children and wildlife. However, manufacturer of d-CON, Reckitt Benckiser LLC, refuses to adopt the  risk mitigation measures established by EPA in 2008, and is currently also challenging EPA’s decision to protect the public from these products. All other manufacturers have complied with EPA’s order. See more of EPA’s risk mitigation decision here.

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs disgusting that d-CON continues to challenge common-sense controls for protecting wildlife, children and pets,‚ÄĚ said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs time to put public safety before corporate profits.‚ÄĚ

Reckitt Benckiser argues in its suit that CDPR ‚Äúviolated its own statutory mandate and exceeded its statutory authority.‚ÄĚ The company states that California‚Äôs decision would effectively ‚Äúhalt the legal sale to individual consumers‚ÄĚ of its products, and claims the agency failed to follow proper procedures for adopting or amending regulations.

The regulations from CDPR target products sold to the general public in retail outlets and limits highly toxic rodenticide use beyond 50 feet of manmade structures. These highly toxic poisons, specifically formulations with second-generation anticoagulant chemicals, will still be available for widespread use by licensed commercial and agricultural pest-control operators. EPA’s mitigation measures to reduce direct and secondary exposures now requires products to use bait stations and secured bait forms, instead of loose baits that children can more readily access, as well as eliminates the most toxic and persistent active ingredients.

‚ÄúReckitt Benckiser knows that California‚Äôs bold decision to take d-CON off the shelves is a preview of things to come in other states,‚ÄĚ said Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice. ‚ÄúReckitt is fighting hard to hold on to the past, but the corporation should know that we‚Äôre prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure d-CON does not become the DDT of our time.‚ÄĚ

While California‚Äôs recent efforts on d-CON products specifically addresses the impact of these chemicals on wildlife, the removal of d-CON rodenticides from store shelves will ultimately have the added effect of protecting young children. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged somewhere in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 reports of rat and mouse poison exposures each year for children under the age of 6. Children can be incidentally exposed to rodent poisons when they are placed in unsecured ‚Äúloose bait‚ÄĚ stations, and research shows that low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by these products.¬†One study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African-American and 26 percent were Latino. In California alone, wildlife poisonings have been documented in at least 25 species of wild animals in California, including mountain lions, hawks, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and northern spotted owls, as well as numerous cats and dogs.

‚ÄúSo much for corporate responsibility,‚ÄĚ said Jason Rylander, senior attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. ‚ÄúNow that both EPA and the state of California have moved to curb the use of d-Con and other risky poisons, Reckitt Benckiser needs to do the right thing and stop fighting measures that could save kids and protect wildlife.‚ÄĚ

Beyond Pesticides responded to the irresponsible actions of Reckitt Benckiser by launching the Care About Kids campaign to urge major retailers to stop selling dangerous d-CON rodenticides.  In lieu of federal action, Beyond Pesticides argues that retailers have an obligation to stop selling products that EPA has determined are too dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.

For more information about Beyond Pesticides Care About Kids campaign, see our Rodenticides program page, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of these chemicals and find effective alternatives to their use.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Earthjustice Press Release

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01
Apr

Earthworms Detoxify Pesticides at a High Cost

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2014) Earthworms that make their home in contaminated soil do so at a significant cost, according to French and Danish researchers. Results of the study, “Acclimation of earthworms to chemicals in anthropogenic landscapes, physiological mechanisms and soil ecological implications,” found that earthworms exposed to fungicides in conventionally farmed soil were at a stark disadvantage to worms in land managed organically. Earthworms exposed to the fungicide product Opus, containing active ingredient epoxiconazole, were able to detoxify the chemical, but gained half as much weight as worms from an organic farm, where their population was also 2 to 3 times higher.

The study observed the adaptation capability of earthworms by comparing the earthwormresponse from those in land managed conventionally for 20 years to those in land managed organically for the same amount of time. Researchers focused on the metabolic changes seen in each group of worms after exposure to epoxiconazole. According to the study‚Äôs authors, “The fungicide increased metabolism rate in the worms, both the adapted worms and the not adapted worms. In the not adapted worms we saw that their energy reserve of glycogen was used faster. Contrastingly, only in the adapted worms we saw that amino acids and protein contents increased, suggesting a detoxification mechanism. They also increased their feeding activity, possibly to compensate for the increase in energy demand.‚ÄĚ

Expending all of this energy takes a heavy toll on the earthworm population as a whole. “We see that the worms have developed methods to detoxify themselves, so that they can live in soil sprayed with fungicide. They spend a lot of energy on detoxifying, and that comes with a cost: The worms do not reach the same size as other worms, and we see that there are fewer of them in sprayed soil. An explanation could be that they are less successful at reproducing, because they spend their energy on ridding themselves of the pesticide”, the researchers, PhD student Nicolas Givaudan and associate professor, Claudia Wiegand, PhD, say. Worms taken from organic soil weighed .6 grams on average while those living in conventional soil averaged only .3 grams.

Researchers note that previous studies have found that 70% of fungicides do not reach the target crop, eventually leading to residual compounds in the soil. The fact that this investigation focused on environmentally relevant sub-lethal concentrations of epoxiconazole provides further evidence of how the conventional approach to agriculture weakens the resiliency of natural systems, even when these chemicals are ‚Äúused as directed.‚ÄĚ Earthworms provide crucial ecosystem services, increasing soil porosity and aggregation, providing channels for root growth, and stimulating microbial activity as digested organic matter passes through their intestines, among numerous other benefits. Recent studies show that earthworms even play an important role in sequestering carbon dioxide in the soil.

The organic, ‚Äúfeed the soil‚ÄĚ approach emphasizes the importance of maintaining and strengthening soil ecology. Under the U.S. Organic Foods Production Act, a farm‚Äôs crop production plain must ‚Äúcontain provisions designed to foster soil fertility.‚ÄĚ By eschewing harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers, organic agriculture creates a soil ecosystem that confers significant benefits to crops though increased pest and disease resilience. Studies show that, for example, organic methods of farming strawberries lead to healthier berries and soils, and result in improved pollination success. Farmers don‚Äôt need to apply soil-harming pesticides in order maintain crop yields. A 13 year Iowa State University study released in 2011 found organic production returned about $200 per acre more than conventional agriculture, and produced comparable yields and healthier soils.

But in order for organic to maintain strong protections for environmental and human health, it is critically important for consumers to become involved in the organic rulemaking process. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the rulemaking body that votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming, will meet April 29- May 1, 2014 at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages concerned consumers to visit the Keeping Organic Strong webpage, review the issues before the NOSB, and provide a unique public comment at regulations.gov. Also see Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic Campaign, to help defend organic standards against changes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will weaken public trust in the organic food label.

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

Source: Phys.org, Science Direct

 

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31
Mar

Timberland Pesticide Spray Investigation Records Ordered Released in Oregon

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2014) On March 24 the Oregon Department of Justice (ODJ) ordered the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to turn over records that are part of an investigation of an aerial herbicide spraying over timberland in southwestern Oregon. This public disclosure of records may allow residents to have a better understanding of the chemicals associated with ongoing exposure incidents. This recent spray event is just one in line of many that have led environmental groups and federal agencies to call into question the effectiveness of Oregon’s regulation of pesticide use on timberland.

ODA began its investigation in November of 2013 after complaints that herbicides sprayed from a helicopter on commercial timberlands near Gold Beach drifted on to residential areas. ODA is investigating five herbicide active ingredients: 2,4-D, triclopyr, glyphosate, imazapyr, and metsulfuron methyl.  However, ODA has not released information about the specific products it believes were used or their potential toxicity. Fifteen residents filed complaints with the department after they experienced rashes, headaches, asthma, and stomach cramps directly after the application.

Recently, the Oregon Department of Justice ordered ODA to turn over records that are part of an investigation after the agency denied a request made in January by Beyond Toxics to make these records public.  ODA may be able to redact some personal and confidential information from its investigation records before making them public.  This disclosure is viewed as a victory by environmental groups who are concerned about the health effects of spray incidents.

Spray incidents such as these are not surprising as Oregon has more relaxed regulations on timber production than its neighboring states. In Oregon, there are no required  buffer zones around residential land, similar to those along fish-bearing streams, and the state does not require notification of residents near timberland. Timberland owners do have to notify the Oregon Department of Forestry, and people can pay a fee to receive those notifications, but they do not specifically disclose that chemicals that will be used, or the day and time of the spraying. Aerial herbicide application is also only used on private land as public forest land is managed without these practices.

These lax state regulations have also resulted in problems for the state of Oregon with federal authorities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently found that the Oregon’s program to reduce nonpoint coastal pollution is inadequate. Both federal agencies state that Oregon’s program does not adequately protect streams that are habitat for Coho Salmon, an endangered species, and drinking water from herbicides that are aerially sprayed by lumber companies. This proposed disapproval action is part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Environmental Advocates in 2009, which charged Oregon has failed to meet the conditions of the Oregon Nonpoint Program’s approval.

Triangle Lake, another Oregon Community, has experienced similar pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to timberland. In 2011,¬†atrazine¬†and¬†2,4-D¬†were found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation. The investigation resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations. This incident was highlighted in a recent report by Beyond Toxics, ‚ÄúOregon‚Äôs Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use: A Case Study of Risk to People, Drinking Water and Salmon.‚ÄĚ

Join us at Beyond Pesticides‚Äô¬†32nd¬†National Pesticide Forum,¬†‚ÄúAdvancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,‚Ä̬†in Portland, OR April 11-12.¬†The Forum will focus¬†on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so¬†register now.

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

Source: OPB

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28
Mar

European Union Set to Strengthen Organic Standards

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2014) The European Commission released a new proposal this week to impose stricter regulations for organic food produced within the European Union (EU). The initiative would harmonize standards within the 29-member bloc, eliminate many exceptions currently allowed in organic agriculture while simultaneously improving consumer trust and addressing producer concerns. The move comes just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is receiving comments on allowable organic materials.

The Commission‚Äôs proposal acknowledges the massive expansion of the organic market in the EU, which has quadrupled in size over the last ten years ‚ÄĒwith similar patterns shown in U.S. organic market. ‚ÄúThe future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo,‚ÄĚ said Dacian CioloŇü, EU Commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development. ‚ÄúThe Commission is looking for more and better organic farming in the EU by consolidating consumer confidence in organic products and removing obstacles to the development of organic agriculture.‚ÄĚ

The proposal will eliminate exceptions in organic farming through measures such as reducing the conventional feed and seed, and toughening limits for allowable pesticide and genetically engineered (GE) contaminants. The move is expected to improve consumer trust in the EU organic label.

Producer concerns on rising costs are also addressed as the proposal outlines methods to improve access to the global market through trade standards. In essence, the proposal will set out regulations for¬†non-EU counties that want the EU organic seal. “We need a better supervision when it comes to imports. We want to negotiate with partners outside the EU and guarantee consistent standards,” said Commissioner CioloŇü. The proposal would also help farmers to more easily switch to organic by introducing group certification systems which will improve transparency and reduce administrative costs.

The EU Commission simultaneously released its Action Plan, which provides organic farmer and producer tools to implement policy changes for organic production in the EU. Specifically, the Plan provides information to farmers on EU farm initiatives and rural development, improves investment in agricultural research and development, and improves recognition of the EU organic label to targets such as schools.

However, the proposal is only the first step toward strengthening the EU organic label, now it’s in the hands of the European Parliament and European Council for approval. Meanwhile, here in the United States the public has the opportunity to comment to start the same process towards strengthening the USDA organic label.

Take Action to Defend Organic here in the United States

We need your voice now more than ever. The NOSB will meet in San Antonio, Texas from April 29 to May 1, 2014 to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the U.S. The Board is now accepting public comments until April 8, 2014 for its upcoming spring meeting. Beyond Pesticides has compiled a list of the issues before the Board, which can be viewed on the Keeping Organic Strong website. We strongly encourage all those concerned about the future of organic food to review the issues and submit a public comment to the NOSB.

Protect public trust in the organic food label. In addition to your public comment, Beyond Pesticides is asking you to help defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label by sending an email or letter to your U.S. Representative and Senators, President Obama, and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. For more information visit Save Our Organic.

It’s important to remember that while we raise our voice in defense of the integrity of the organic label, organic farming is still significantly better for human health and a cleaner environment than its conventional, chemical-intensive counterpart. Through public involvement, we must protect the integrity of the organic label and the process that supports it. Otherwise, the market will disappear and with it the opportunity to solve serious environmental and health problems associated with chemical-intensive practices. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops, whereas chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals and inputs which poison the soil, as well as air, water, farmworkers and consumers.

For more information on what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong website, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process alongside the Board.

Sources: Deutsche Welle,  European Commission  Press ReleasePhoto Credit: Natalie Maynor

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27
Mar

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Lack Benefits, Studies Find

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2014) ‚Äď A report released by Center for Food Safety (CFS) this week refutes claims that a dangerous class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, Heavy Costs: Weighing the Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Agriculture, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature to answer the simple question: Are neonicotinoid insecticidal seed treatment products beneficial or not?

Neonicotinoids, the pesticides in question, are a class of systemic insecticides. Despite numerous studies linking these insecticides with bee kills, colony collapse, and weakened pollinator immune systems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to operate under an alarmingly slow pesticide registration review process, one that extends to 2018 and will most likely fail to appropriately apply the appropriate standard of review for pesticide registration. Under that standard of review, EPA should not approve a pesticide that poses unreasonable risks to “man or the environment,”¬†taking into account economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits.¬† Unfortunately, economic costs and benefits usually become the sole factor.

Because of EPA’s failure to appropriately weigh these costs and benefits, honey bees and other pollinators have been bearing the brunt of the costs without recognition of the benefits they provide. For example, honey bees are responsible for producing one in every three bites of food eaten, but research increasingly shows they are being severely harmed by the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids, both alone and in combination with other pesticides.

The CFS report authors set out to weigh these benefits and costs as they should be considered. The answer: No, neonicotinoids are not beneficial. And especially not when you consider the severe impact of these dangerous insecticides on pollinator populations necessary for the very crop production they allegedly are supposed to improve.

To get to this conclusion, CFS summarized 19 articles from scientific journals that studied the relationship between neonicotinoid treatments and actual yields of major U.S. crops: canola, corn, dry beans, soybeans, and wheat. Researchers at CFS also examined reports on crop yield impacts from other countries that had withdrawn approval of neonicotinoids because of the significant losses to pollinator populations.

The scientific literature examined in the report, while not as robust as researchers would have preferred, supported one or more categories of findings:

  • Crops treated with neonicotinoids don‚Äôt provide yield benefits.
  • Crops treated with neonicotinoids provide inconsistent yield benefits.
  • Using neonicotinoids frequently does not provide an economic benefit to farmers compared to alternative control methods or application patterns.
  • Neonicotinoids are unreliable and sporadic in their effectiveness.

Not stopping there, CFS then went on to examine reports produced from countries like France and Italy that have looked at crop yields from both a before and after perspective, because of bans on certain neonicotinoids established as far back as 1999. Based on data from longer term bans, authorities from these countries found no evidence of harms to productivity or economic harm. Similarly, scientific review of international crop yield impacts and treatment costs as compared to alternative control methods and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) treatment methods in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and North America found costs to be lower with IPM treatment methods and crop yields static or minimally improved.

Together these reviews and findings led to the conclusion that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use, as done with the majority of crops through indiscriminate and unrequested seed coatings, were nearly non-existent.

Concerning the costs, the report found that any minor benefits if they did exist disappeared because of the significant impacts to farmers, bee cultivators, and an extended range of pollinator populations. Specifically, the noted categories of losses identified in the report included, honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events.  All of these losses carried both heavy economic losses and environmental losses.

In the end, the results of the report led the authors to a clear recommendation: EPA must take action to suspend all existing registrations of neonicotinoid seed treatment products whose costs and benefits have not been adequately weighed.

BEE Protective

Through its BEE Protective campaign, Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for EPA action to cancel pesticide registrations for neonicotinoids and conduct extensive health safety evaluations that take into account the real costs and benefits these insecticides bring with their use.

Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety launched the BEE Protective campaign, a national public education effort supporting local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. BEE Protective includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective webpage to learn more about our efforts to save pollinators and what you can do to help.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

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26
Mar

Citing Continuing Failure to Protect Endangered Species, Lawsuit Challenges EPA Registered Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2014) Conservation and food-safety groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday for failing to protect hundreds of endangered fish, butterflies and other species from a new, toxic pesticide, cyantraniliprole. The suit claims EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by approving the widespread agricultural and residential use of the new pesticide in January without input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, the two federal agencies in charge of protecting endangered species.

fishinwaterThe Notice of Intent to Sue is being filed by the Center for Biological Diversity,¬†Center for Food Safety, and Defenders of Wildlife. Cyantraniliprole, a new, systemic insecticide, was formally registered by the EPA earlier this year. Despite evidence that cyantraniliprole is toxic to honey bees, EPA‚Äôs registration document for cyantraniliprole finds that, ‚ÄúThere is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue.‚ÄĚ According¬†to EPA‚Äôs assessment the pesticide is also slightly to very highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Comments from beekeepers and concerned groups, including Beyond Pesticides, urged EPA not the grant registration, given the toxic nature of the pesticide and the many uncertainties in the ecological data, including outstanding data for long-term honey bee health.

According to the groups,¬† EPA failed to consider or mitigate impacts to endangered species despite concluding in its assessment that cyantraniliprole is ‚Äúvery highly toxic‚ÄĚ to hundreds of endangered aquatic species, such as freshwater fish, mussels and clams, as well as endangered terrestrial invertebrate species, including 20 endangered butterflies. EPA‚Äôs failure occurred despite recent collaborative efforts on the part of the EPA and the two federal wildlife agencies¬†‚ÄĒresponding to a report from the National Academy of Sciences‚ÄĒ to improve its procedures for evaluating the impacts of pesticides on endangered species before approving those chemicals for general use. Right now hundreds of pesticides that adversely affect endangered species are in widespread use without ever having undergone an ESA review.

‚ÄúOnce again the EPA has approved a harmful pesticide without adequate conservation measures to protect endangered species,‚ÄĚ said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. ‚ÄúThis reckless approval of cyantraniliprole really undermines recent efforts to reform the EPA‚Äôs dangerous policy of ignoring the disastrous effects pesticides are having on wildlife across the country.‚ÄĚ

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 to study the issue and report on ways to better protect listed species from the effects of toxic pesticides. The National Academy report identified deficiencies for all the agencies involved in pesticide consultations, but singled out the EPA’s approach for its numerous analytical shortcomings. In response to the Academy’s recommendations, the agency announced several reforms designed to better protect endangered species in the fall of 2013. Yet, EPA did not incorporate any of these reforms or the Academy’s recommendations in its process for approving cyantraniliprole.

‚ÄúIn unlawfully approving cyantraniliprole EPA blew a golden opportunity to fix its faulty pesticide procedures and protect the environment,‚ÄĚ said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. ‚ÄúIf you are in a hole, first stop digging. EPA must stop putting pesticides they know are harmful on the market, without addressing their potential harms to wildlife and agriculture.‚ÄĚ

Previous lawsuits have been filed to force EPA to uphold its responsibilities under ESA. In 2001,¬† several stakeholder organizations, including the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen‚Äôs Associations (PCFFA), filed suit to force EPA to fulfill the distinct ESA requirements. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges EPA‚Äôs decision to register 54 pesticides without first consulting with federal fish biologists regarding the potential impact on protected salmon and steelhead species in the Northwest. In a¬†lawsuit initiated in 2002, the judge called EPA‚Äôs ‚Äúwholesale non-compliance‚ÄĚ with its ESA obligations ‚Äúpatently unlawful‚ÄĚ and ordered the agency to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding adverse impacts on Northwest salmon. More recently, EPA‚Äôs failure to consult with FWS on the impacts of hundreds of pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 listed species prompted a¬†2011 lawsuit.

Join us at Beyond Pesticides‚Äô¬†32nd¬†National Pesticide Forum,¬†‚ÄúAdvancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,‚Ä̬†in Portland, OR April 11-12.¬†The Forum will focus¬†on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so¬†register now.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity Press Release 

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25
Mar

California Bans Controversial d-CON Products as EPA Stalled by Manufacturer

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2014) Highly toxic rodenticides linked to the poisoning of pets, wildlife and young children will no longer be allowed on store shelves in California starting July 1 of this year. According to rules adopted last week by California‚Äô Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), ‚Äúsecond generation anticoagulant rodenticides,‚ÄĚ including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone found in d-CON brand products, will be classified as California-restricted materials, and only allowed to be used by certified pesticide applicators. Attempts by the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) to remove these products from store shelves nationwide stalled last year after the manufacturer of d-CON rodenticides, Reckitt Benckiser, sued the agency to delay implementation of the cancellation process.

sick fisher catIn July of 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife requested CDPR restrict the use of anticoagulant rodenticides due to numerous incidents involving direct and indirect poisoning of wildlife. Anticoagulants impair blood clotting and eventually cause internal bleeding in target animals. However, rodents can feed on poisoned bait multiple times before death (some are even resistant to the chemicals now), and as a result their carcasses may contain residues that are many times the lethal dose.

Poisoning can occur to nontarget species when predators or scavengers feed on these poisoned rodents. Reports show that federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Northern spotted owl, have been adversely affected by these chemicals.

Illegal marijuana grow operations have been a troubling source of wildlife deaths as growers often use ‚Äúindustrial-sized quantities of poison in forests to fend off rodents,‚ÄĚ according to Humboldt County District Supervisor Rex Bohn. One study found that 72% of endangered Pacific fishers surrounding an illegal marijuana grow operation had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Predators that aren‚Äôt killed by these chemicals become more susceptible to disease and can suffer lethargy, making it more difficult, for example, to dodge oncoming traffic if crossing a road.

Although California‚Äôs rulemaking specifically addresses the impact of these chemicals on wildlife, the removal of d-CON rodenticides from store shelves will also have the added effect of protecting young children. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged somewhere in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 reports of rat and mouse poison exposures each year for children under the age of 6. Children can be incidentally exposed to rodent poisons when they are placed in unsecured ‚Äúloose bait‚ÄĚ stations, and research shows that low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by these products.¬†One study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African-American and 26 percent were Latino.

EPAtellretailers‚Äôs cancellation order addresses this issue, requiring manufacturers to pull ‚Äúloose bait‚ÄĚ anticoagulant rodenticides from the consumer market. All manufacturers except Reckitt Benckiser, maker of d-CON brand products, complied with EPA‚Äôs order. Reckitt Benckiser‚Äôs decision to sue EPA allows stores such as Walmart and Home Depot to continue selling these dangerous products to consumers (except in California beginning July 1).

Beyond Pesticides responded to the irresponsible actions of Reckitt Benckiser by launching the Care About Kids campaign to urge major retailers to stop selling dangerous d-CON rodenticides.  In lieu of federal action, Beyond Pesticides argues that retailers have an obligation to stop selling products that EPA has determined are too dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.

For more information about Beyond Pesticides ‚ÄúCare About Kids‚ÄĚ campaign, see our Rodenticides program page, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of these chemicals and find effective alternatives to their use.

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

Source: California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Ft. Bragg Advocate-News
Image Source: Ft. Bragg Advocate-News

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