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01
Apr

Pesticide Residues on Foods Shown to Affect Sperm Quality

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2015) According to a new study from Harvard University researchers, eating fruit and vegetables containing pesticide residues adversely affect men’s fertility, leading to fewer and poorer quality sperm. The study, published online in the journal Human Reproduction, adds to a growing body of research that finds pesticide exposures give rise to impaired reproductive function, including reduced sperm counts, sperm quality and reduced fertility in exposed men. The results of this study also underscore the importance of an organic diet in reducing pesticide exposures.

The study, “Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic,” believed to be the first to look into the consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue in relation to semen quality, and conducted by researchers at Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health, found that men who ate the greatest amount of fruit and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue had a 49% lower sperm count and a 32% fewer normally formed sperm than those who consumed the least.

Jorge Chavarro, MD, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology and co-author of the study, said, “We found that total intake of fruit and vegetables were completely unrelated to semen quality. This suggests that implementing strategies specifically targeted at avoiding pesticide residues, such as consuming organically grown produce or avoiding produce known to have large amounts of residues, may be the way to go.”

The researchers analyzed 338 semen samples from 155 men aged between 18 and 55 attending a fertility center between 2007 and 2012, asking them about their consumption of fruit and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables consumed were then categorized as containing high or low-to-moderate pesticide residues based on data from the annual U. S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program. Overall, the results find that intake of high pesticide residue fruits and vegetables is associated with lower total sperm count, ejaculate volume and percentage of morphologically normal sperm.

While there are some limitations to the study, including the fact that men presenting to fertility clinics tend to have semen quality problems, making it difficult to know whether the results would be similar in the general population, and that the researchers did not have information on whether food consumed was actually conventionally or organically grown, it is safe to say that switching to an organic diet not only reduces pesticide residues consumed in food, but would also reduce the risk of developing impaired sperm quality.

Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure. One study published earlier this year finds that people who eat an organic diet have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies than those who eat conventional fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides. In this study, people who reported eating organic fruits and vegetables had significantly lower organophosphate residue levels in their urine when compared to people who almost always ate conventionally grown produce. Children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. An American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) report also recognizes that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children.

A literature review in 2013 found semen quality is affected by pesticide exposure. The researchers counted semen quality according to concentration of sperm over an area, their motility and ability to move, as well as their shapes. Researchers targeted studies on DDT, HCH, and abamectin, grouping pyrethroids and organophosphates by class. What they found was striking: almost all the studies reported a decrease in sperm concentration; decreased motility was also reported though less frequently; while morphological changes were not strongly associated in studies—only two indicated any changes to sperm shape. These findings build on a growing body of evidence that pesticide exposure at environmental or occupational levels diminished sperm health.

Pesticides are associated with a host of chronic human reproductive health problems. Sperm counts have been reported to be in decline across the globe, with scientists naming pesticides as a possible factor. One French study documenting an alarming 30 percent decrease in sperm counts across France between 1989 and 2005, found the strongest decreases and lowest sperm values are consistently observed in densely populated and highly agricultural regions, where pesticides are used. Spanish researchers also found that exposure to organochlorine pesticides significantly alters semen quality in young men from southeast Spain. Others studies have linked pesticide exposure to reduced reproductive function in males. One 2011 study linked pesticides to abnormal genitals in baby boys, such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias, and decreased sperm counts in men. Pesticides like 2,4-D, glyphosate, pyrethroids like cypermethrin, and abamectin have been linked to reduced sperm and other male reproductive parameters.

Studies documenting the impact of pesticides on human sexual and reproductive functions can be found in the Pesticide-Induced Disease Database, which along the Eating With A Conscience –a database that provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use, underscore the importance of organic and the need to transition from an agricultural system dependent on toxic inputs. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Join Louis Guillette, Ph.D. and Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. to discuss the influence of pesticides on reproductive health in both humans and wildlife at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators.
General admission is only $45, and $20 for students with current ID. We also have an upgraded rate of $75, which includes a 1-year membership to Beyond Pesticides and a free 100% organic tote bag, and an industry rate of $175. Register today!

Source: Guardian , Washington Post 

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31
Mar

Study Data Analysis Used by UK to Oppose EU Moratorium on Neonics Challenged

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2015) A world renowned entomologist, who reevaluated data from a controversial study on neonicotinoid insecticides, has concluded that UK government scientists misinterpreted the findings when they concluded that restrictive policy wasn’t necessary on the bee-killing pesticide. David Goulson, Ph.D., a bee researcher and professor at the University of Sussex in Falmer, said the UK was wrong in its position, based on the new analysis.

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

One of the main pieces of evidence informing this opposition is a study published in 2013 by Britain’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), which found  “no clear consistent relationship” between exposure to neonicotinoids and the growth of bee colonies and the number of queens they produce. Dr. Goulson conducted a new analysis of the FERA data and concluded that they clearly show substantial negative effects of neonicotinoids on the performance of colonies.

“I would argue they didn’t correctly interpret their own results,” says Dr. Goulson, who supports the EU moratorium on neonicotinoid use.

In a statement, the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which commissioned the FERA study, said that it was aware of the new analysis and recognized that pesticides are “one of the potential pressures” on bees. “We continue to work closely with the EU and our independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides to review any new research into the effects of neonicotinoids on bee populations, ensuring it is based on the best scientific evidence available,” said the statement.

In the U.S., the struggle to address the pollinator crisis continues to face obstacles, even in face of a growing number of Americans who believe bee declines are critical and linked to pesticide use.  Earlier this month, advocates delivered over four million signatures to the White House calling for decisive action on the rampant use of neonicotinoids and similar systemic insecticides, which scientists say are a driving factor in declining bee populations. Saving America’s Pollinators Act, reintroduced this month by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’s (D-MI), if passed, will suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

Learn more about pollinator issues and what you can do at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators, Protecting health, biodiversity, and ecosystems, in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, 2015Get more information and register today!

Source: Nature

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

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30
Mar

Common Herbicides Linked to Antibiotic Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2015) Last week, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans based on animal studies, a new study was published in the American Society of Microbiology’s journal, mBio, linking glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba to antibiotic resistance after testing the sub-lethal effects of these pesticides in certain bacteria.

cc6b34ec-6974-430c-9c65-2b5a77d3246a-620x372The new mBio study finds that when bacteria, specifically Salmonella and E. coli, are exposed to the herbicides described above, they responded differently to the common antibiotics ampicillin,
ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol, kanamycin, and tetracycline. Researchers replicated real-world scenarios by purchasing weed killers from a local store and using the exact levels that are specified on the product label. This provided researchers with the opportunity to observe how the bacteria reacted when exposed to the herbicides at sublethal levels; that is, those that did n0t kill them. When the bacteria are exposed to the herbicides and the antibiotics at the same time, the exposure to the herbicides trigger a defense mechanism that otherwise would not have been triggered solely by the antibiotics. This defense mechanism seeks to rid the bacteria of toxins and is non-specific, which means while it builds resistance to the toxic effects of the herbicides, it also builds resistance to the antibiotics, creating antibiotic-resistant strains that otherwise may not have occurred.

These results do have serious implications for public health, given the worldwide crisis of antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named resistance to antibiotics one of the world’s most pressing public health problems of our time. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. Although the levels at which the researchers saw effects are higher than the residues allowed on food, effects are seen at lower levels those often used in rural and agricultural settings. This means farmers, farmworkers, and individuals who live in agricultural communities where pesticides are sprayed near homes and schools are particularly at risk. Even homeowners who may assume they are out of range from agricultural areas using pesticides may experience pesticide drift, where pesticides can be transported over long distances through wind and rain, or as a result of volatilization, and cause adverse symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation. Children are even more susceptible and can suffer from elevated rates of leukemia and brain cancer.

We also know that it is not just the residues of the chemicals, but also the residues of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to which people are exposed that affects the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria in the gut of people. Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria can develop in agricultural fields and then travel freely through the environment, transferring from one bacterial species to another. This “horizontal gene transfer” means that a pool of resistant soil bacteria can then transfer the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens. A strain of antibiotic-resistant soil bacteria may seem innocuous to humans, but the documented fact that its resistance can be transferred into human bacterial strains reveals that the use of antibiotics in agriculture can have disastrous and deadly consequences.

Moreover, the generalized mode of action discovered in this study suggests an impact that might be produced by many different toxic chemicals, and therefore the possibility that spraying any pesticide could be increasing antibiotic resistance requires further be investigated.

Glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba have all previously been shown to have a wide range of detrimental impacts on the environment, wildlife, and even in humans. A 2012 study found that glyphosate induces morphological changes in amphibians. Another study published by the American Cancer Society found that humans exposed to glyphosate are 2.7 times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified 2,4-D as a chronic risk to fish, an acute risk to plants, and a potential risk for endangered species. It has carcinogenic effects and is considered to be an endocrine disruptor. Dicamba is classified as only slightly toxic to aquatic wildlife, although acute toxicity varies wildly across species and can be increased by “inert” ingredients that are mixed with the herbicide. It has been found to cause neurotoxicity and has detrimental reproductive effects.

There are viable alternatives to using antibiotics and pesticides in food production. Chemical-intensive conventional farming methods do not provide consumers with the safest food possible. The agrichemical industry continues its attempts to inundate the media with statements that pesticides are safe and tested by EPA before registration, but the combined effects of pesticides and so-called inert ingredients (other non-disclosed and often toxic ingredients) are not documented, leaving consumers in the dark. These inert ingredients can comprise up to 99% of a pesticide formulation and may not be chemically or biologically benign. One Monsanto representative, Charla Lord, even agreed that there are unknowns, stating, “It is difficult to separate the effect of surfactants, which are known to have an impact on cultured microbes, from the active ingredients.” Rather than parse the potential dangers of various pesticide formulations, the only way to definitively know that the food is the safest possible is to commit to organic agricultural practices.

Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. It can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture. Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat. It is important to eat with a conscience, choosing to eat food that has been nurtured in a system of food production, handling, and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. Choosing organic is affordable! It is possible to eat organic food while on a budget. There is also the option of growing your own food, which can be a truly fun and fulfilling experience all while providing a safer food source. There are many ways to grow your own food, such as utilizing small backyard spaces to build raised beds or vertical pallet gardens, or even something as simple as planting your own herbs in a windowsill box. Starting today, you can make the change to a healthier and safer lifestyle for yourself and those around you. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more ideas.

To discuss these issues and strategize on solutions in your community, state, and the nation, treat yourself and attend the  33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators. You’ll meet incredible people, hear spectacular speakers, and come away better informed, inspired, and empowered to make your community protective of health and the environment. And, right now we are running an early bird discount rate of $5 off the normal price through March 15. Register today!

Source: The Guardian

Photo Source: The Guardian

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27
Mar

Portland, Oregon to Vote on Neonic Ban on City Property

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2015) Portland, Oregon is considering a ban on neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides linked to bee deaths, from use on city property. If the measure passes, Portland will join a long list of towns and communities, including Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), and, in Washington State, Thurston CountySeattle, and Spokane.

Under the proposed ordinance, city officials would not be permitted to use or buy neonicotinoids or similar pesticides on city lands or in city buildings and would urge stores to label products, such as plants and seeds treated with neonicotinoids. The proposal also applies to city contractors.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken at a bank in Elkhorn1Additionally, the proposed ban on neonicotinoids and neonicotinoid-like insecticides would not apply immediately to two city rose gardens. Officials say the rose midge, a pest, is difficult to eradicate with the insecticide. Instead the city will look for an alternative method using a pilot project at Peninsula Park in North Portland to test alternative non-toxic insecticides. That proposal would be phased in with a deadline of December 2017 to eliminate all neonicotinoid-based products.

The proposal cites seven separate bumble bee incidents in Oregon related to the application of neonicotinoids on trees since June 2013, documented by the state’s Department of Agriculture. Six of those incidents occurred in the greater Portland area. The proposal also mentions growing scientific evidence linking the pesticides to pollinator decline and damage to beneficial organisms, as well as the contamination of neonicotinoids in our nation’s waterways. The proposal specifically lists imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, and other neonicotinoid or neonicotinoid-like, systemic, persistent pesticides.

“I think it’s appropriate for us to take this kind of action,” said Mayor Charlie Hales, referring to the city’s track record of green policy proposals.

Commissioner Steve Novick said the city doesn’t necessarily need a smoking gun linking the insecticides to bee die-offs. “The cautious thing to do is to get rid of them,” Mr. Novick said.

The City Council held a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the proposal and a final vote is expected April 1.

Meanwhile, federal action to curb threats to pollinators posed by neonics remains sluggish. Some promising steps have been taken, such as the ban of neonics on National Wildlife Refuges and the issuance of a Presidential MemorandumCreating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, and establishment of a corresponding White House Task Force. However, federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency remain hesitant to take meaningful action.

As federal efforts languish, local efforts like the Thurston County bans provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Take Action! With your help, we can prompt Portland to join other cities that have shown they care about pollinators by banning the use of neonicotinoids. Comments need to be submitted by Tuesday March 31, as the Commissioners plan to vote on the ordinance the next day, April 1.

E-mails can be sent to Mayor Hales and Commissioners Fish, Fritz, Novick and Saltzman: mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov, nick@portlandoregon.gov, amanda@portlandoregon.gov, novick@portlandoregon.gov, dan@portlandoregon.gov

Source: The Oregonian

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

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26
Mar

EPA Agrees to Regulate Novel Nanotechnology Pesticides after Legal Challenge

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2015) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to regulate novel nanomaterial pesticides as a result of a lawsuit filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and joined by Beyond Pesticides in December. In 2008, a coalition of more than 13 organizations filed a legal petition requesting, among other things, that EPA recognize the risks associated with a growing class of nano-silver consumer products and regulate them as new pesticides. After EPA had failed to respond to the petition for six years, in December 2014 some of the petitioner groups sued the agency to force it to respond. That lawsuit succeeded on Friday, with EPA issuing a 23-page response.

nanoscalefinal2We are gratified that EPA has now fundamentally acknowledged that, with regard to both the legal and scientific evidence, nano-silver antimicrobial products must be regulated as new pesticides,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “This is an important step in safeguarding the public.”

Nanotechnology is a platform technology for manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular level; manufactured nanomaterials are so small that they cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope. Yet, “nano” means more than just tiny; it means materials that have the capacity to act in fundamentally novel ways, ways that cannot be predicted from the same materials at larger scale. Their exponentially small size gives them extraordinary mobility for a manufactured material, as well as unique chemical and biological properties. Nanomaterials’ properties increase potential for biological interaction and increase potential for toxicity.

Nano-silver products are overwhelmingly the most common nanomaterial in consumer products, commonly used as a powerful antimicrobial agent. Because of nano-silver’s 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 U.S. Under FIFRA, any product containing an active ingredient that acts as a pesticide must be registered with EPA. However, in the 2008 petition, petitioners identified 260 nano-silver consumer products not registered under FIFRA. That number has increased to over 400 nano-silver products on the market today. Because there are no labeling requirements for nano-scale products, many more likely exist. These products carry with them significant risks to people and the environment, including DNA damage to plants, increasing bacterial resistance to antimicrobials, and toxic and potentially lethal impacts on fish.

The petition was granted in part and denied in part. EPA agreed that nano-silver products that are intended to kill microorganisms qualify as pesticides, and that they are in fact a new type of novel pesticide, the safety of which cannot be assumed from data pertaining to the macro-counterpart of a nanomaterial. The agency also agreed that developers of such products must seek EPA review and approval before the products are allowed in the marketplace. EPA also agreed with the petitioners’ request that the agency require nano-specific data.

EPA would not commit, however, to the petitioners’ demand that the agency undertake enforcement actions against all currently commercialized products that have not undergone the EPA registration process. Instead the agency has responded to the lawsuit by saying it will seek enforcement against current unregistered products at its discretion, and will be “strongly encouraging” all manufacturers to seek pesticide registration. The agency has previously taken enforcement actions against some non-compliant manufacturers already.

“We are disappointed that EPA has not agreed to investigate and take enforcement action against all current product manufacturers, despite agreeing with our basic legal and scientific arguments indicating such a need,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment. “We urge all nano-silver manufacturers to follow EPA’s instruction and seek registration, and will continue to push the agency to regulate them and any future products.”

“This important decision is part of the transformation our government agencies must continue to pursue in order to protect the public from potentially dangerous products containing nanoscale ingredients,” said Ian Illuminato, health and environment campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“It is unfortunate that the EPA has chosen not to exercise its enforcement authority categorically by requiring withdrawal from the market of pesticide products incorporating nano-silver whose developers have chosen not to submit data and other information required for an EPA risk assessment,” said Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “By deciding to use its enforcement authority only on a case by case basis, the EPA risks possible failure to execute its statutory obligations due to inadequate resources to pursue a case by case enforcement strategy. In this event, a prudent ‘no data, no market’ regulatory approach would be undermined by the EPA’s de facto allowance of commercialization for a product whose developers had failed to submit nano-specific data to the agency.”

The plaintiffs represented by CFS legal counsel in the lawsuit are CFS, its sister nonprofit, the International Center for Technology Assessment, as well as Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Production Action, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety Press Release

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25
Mar

New Poll Shows Americans Concerned About Bee Declines, Links to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2015) Several environmental and food safety groups released new polling data which shows the public believes bee decline issues are critical and linked to pesticide use. This comes as concerned citizens flooded the White House this week with more than 3,500 phone calls demanding action against bee-harming chemicals, ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to protect America’s imperiled pollinators.

savebeesnowThe poll released yesterday was conducted by the firm FM3 and is being distributed in anticipation of recommendations from the White House Pollinator Health Task Force. Last year, the President charged this inter-agency task force —led jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)— with implementing a plan to improve the health of bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinating species.

According to the poll, an overwhelming majority (86%) say that honey bees and other pollinators are important to our nation’s food supply. More than half of the survey respondents (56%) consider the declining populations of honey bees and other pollinators to be a serious problem —following only concerns around health care costs (76%) and jobs and the economy (75%), and on par with the problem of gas prices (55%). Furthermore, when asked what is causing pollinator population declines, 70% of respondents felt it was primarily human behavior, including increased use of pesticides.

“The poll results show that Americans are very concerned with pollinator losses, as they should be. Every one in three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollination. The White House must show strong leadership on reversing these losses, and direct EPA and USDA to take quick, meaningful action to protect these creatures, starting with the suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides being a critically necessary action.”

The poll results are clear. “We conducted a rigorous national survey and our findings highlight that Americans are concerned about declining pollinator populations. Policymakers should take these findings seriously,” said Paul Maslin, principal investigator with FM3.

Earlier this month, advocates delivered over four million signatures to the White House calling for decisive action on the rampant use of neonicotinoids and similar systemic insecticides, which scientists say are a driving factor in declining bee populations.

Beekeepers have also voiced their concerns. Since 2006, they have been witnessing the devastating impact of these chemicals on their hives, and have been leading the call for federal action. “Beekeepers are on the front lines of the food system, witnessing dramatic bee declines. We’re heartened by the growing and diverse groundswell of support and understanding of the critical value of bees and beekeeping, said Jim Doan a New York beekeeper and owner of Doan Family Farms. “It’s time for federal officials to take a stand for comprehensive policies that protect bees, tackle pesticides, and ensure the future prosperity of the food system,”

In a letter sent to President Obama and the EPA earlier this month, more than 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups — many of whom were involved in today’s call-in action —pressed for bee-protective policies. The European Union passed a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids, yet federal regulators in the U.S. have failed to follow the science and take meaningful action. Citing public support and a clear body of science, this diverse alliance of groups has remained openly critical of regulatory efforts that fail to sufficiently address the threat pesticides pose to pollinator populations and supports a comprehensive plan to protect bees.

Scientists remain concerned that the White House and task force leaders at EPA and USDA are not heeding their concerns, including those expressed in the “Worldwide Integrated Assessment” — a review of over 800 studies by 29 independent scientists released last year that documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems from neonicotinoids.

“The President’s task force should listen to the body of science that links pesticides to bee harm and bee declines,” said Jim Frazier, PhD, an emeritus entomology professor at Pennsylvania State University and commercial beekeeper advisor who specializes in chemical ecology, in a statement. “These systemic pesticides are not only lethal to pollinators, but at low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity — leaving them susceptible to common pathogens.”

Only days into spring, this week also marks the two-year anniversary of a lawsuit filed against EPA by beekeepers and environmental groups over the approval of two neonicotinoids. That case is ongoing and interested parties are still waiting for meaningful action from the agency. To date, the most promising federal action is the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, reintroduced this month by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’s (D-MI). The bill would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

A summary of the poll results can be found here.

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

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24
Mar

Yet Again, Congress Attacks Clean Water Act Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2015) Last week, to the dismay of health and environmental advocates, the House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the latest version of the inaccurately titled “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015” (H.R. 897), which would nullify regulations that require pesticide applicators to apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the Clean Water Act (CWA) before applying pesticides on or near surface waters. The legislation also amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. Generally, it means that pesticide applicators can discharge pesticides into waterways with no EPA oversight under the the standards of the CWA and the permitting process, which takes into account local conditions that are not addressed under FIFRA.

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

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. The potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is being ignored by opponents of CWA regulation. The reality is that this permitting process encourages pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water.

To understand the complex topic and the subsequent journey that this legislation has undertaken, it is helpful look back to where the entire controversy originated.

In 2006, EPA issued a rule allowing exemptions from the CWA under two specific situations where a permit with NPDES would not be necessary: (1) The application of pesticides directly to waters of the U.S. to control pests (such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds); and (2) The application of pesticides to control pests that are present over or near water and a portion of the pesticide can be deposited in lakes, rivers and streams. The statute that EPA claimed to rely on to protect water, FIFRA, is a regulatory and licensing law that oversees the registration of pesticides and their application. It does not, however, regulate and oversee water quality and the protection of aquatic ecosystems in the local context, which is specifically regulated under CWA. As Beyond Pesticides asserted at the time, this EPA action allowed weaker and more generalized standards under FIFRA to trump the more stringent CWA standards.

In 2009, in The National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed EPA’s 2006 rulemaking and held that pesticide residuals and biological pesticides constitute pollutants under federal law and therefore must be regulated under CWA in order to minimize the impact to human health and the environment.

In June 2010, EPA responded to this decision by outlining the applicability of the permits to pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

In August 2010, Congress proposed the first of many bills to combat the ruling that emerged from The National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA case. Bill S. 3735 was introduced by then-Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). In September of that same year, Beyond Pesticides joined other environmental groups in sending a letter to supporters of the legislation, urging the immediate withdrawal of S. 3735. The letter argued that the NPDES permit was vital to protecting waterways from indiscriminate pesticide contamination. Eventually, S. 3735 was stalled, but the proponents of this legislation returned in 2011 with the first iteration of the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (H.R. 872), introduced by Rep. Gibbs (R-OH). H.R. 872 was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130, but eventually was stalled in the Senate by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

Since this first attack against these important protections, two other attempts have been made. One in 2011, (S. 718), and another over the last two years, (HR 935), which was also passed by the full House, but again stalled in the Senate.

And now the fight for clean water continues, this time with supporters in control of both houses of Congress. The latest installation of the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897) was passed March 19, 2015 in the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. This bill, similar to the previous ones, will eliminate the need for a federal Clean Water Act permit for aquatic pesticide applications in, over, or near “waters of the United States.”

Despite the constant attacks on our nation’s water, it’s imperative that concerned residents remain stalwart in their dedication to protecting and improving the healthfulness of water. Continue to contact your U.S. Representative and urge him/her to stand with you in opposing the chemical industry’s Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897). Go to Beyond Pesticides action page to send a letter to your Representative today.

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

 

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23
Mar

Take Action! Join the national call-in to President Obama to save our bees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2015) The fight to save our bees and other pollinators is at a critical moment. The Obama Administration charged federal agencies with improving pollinator health this last June, and now, after months of delay, the President’s plan is expected imminently. Your voice is needed because the chemical companies that manufacture bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, Bayer and Syngenta, have been working aggressively to stop the President from taking action to restrict their chemicals, despite the critical threat they pose to bee health.

A week ago, more than four million Americans called on President Obama to take swift action to protect bees from toxic pesticides, and Beyond Pesticides joined with allies to rally in front of the White House to reinforce this important message.

ObamaProtectBeesActionCall_1We urgently need to ramp up pressure on the Obama administration to do the right thing for bees and our food system. Call President Obama’s office TODAY to deliver this message. It’s easy, we’ll patch you straight through.

Call details:

Call number: 1-877-796-1948

Just dial the number, you’ll hear an automated message with instructions and then be patched through to the White House to deliver your urgent message.

When you’re connected to the White House, deliver this message:

“Hi, my name is _______ and I’m calling to urge President Obama to protect bees from toxic pesticides immediately to protect our food supply and the environment.”

The administration is being lobbied by Bayer, Syngenta and other big chemical companies to withhold action on pesticides, but President Obama needs to hear directly from the public to know that we’re invested in this issue and will support his decision to direct his administration to protect bees from pesticides.

Industry has already launched an attack against preliminary recommendations from the task force. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) updated federal guidelines to require pollinator friendly plantings without the use of systemic pesticides at federal buildings, but AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists has called the proposal “not a viable recommendation.” Despite recent research showing the value of pesticide-free pollinator habitat, industry continues to jeopardize pollinator populations.

As the scientific record increasingly identifies neonicotinoids as key contributors to declining pollinator health, the pesticide industry has attempted to stymie free speech. In early March, Bayer lost a lawsuit that sought to silence Friends of the Earth Germany for its efforts to speak out against the use of thiacloprid, a harmful neonicotinoid insecticide not covered under the EU suspension of these chemicals.

At the same time, industry is investing heavily in attempting to spin the pollinator crisis through outreach and PR campaigns such as “Bayer Bee Care Tour” and their latest “Feed a Bee Initiative,” which encourages people to increase habitat by planting seeds or plants without any warning that they may contain the company’s neonicotinoids. Non-profits like Beyond Pesticides and our allies have the resources that assist with the development of pesticide-free pollinator habitat and a directory to find organic seed and nursery stock and suppliers that don’t utilize systemic chemicals that make the whole plant poisonous to bees.

Please make a call for the bees by dialing 1-877-976-1948 today!

When we stand up, voice our concerns, we will show the administration there is a strong and powerful movement in this country that wants him to save the bees and our food system. Together, we can win this.

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

 

 

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20
Mar

Glyphosate Classified Carcinogenic by International Cancer Agency, Group Calls on U.S. to End Herbicide’s Use and Advance Alternatives

(Beyond Pesticides, Washington, DC, March 20, 2015 – A national public health and environmental group, Beyond Pesticides, is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop the use of the country’s most popular herbicide, glyphosate, in the wake of an international ruling that it causes cancer in humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released its finding today concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies.

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

“With the cancer classification on top of the documented weed resistance to glyphosate and water contamination resulting from its use, continued reliance on glyphosate is irresponsible from a public health and environmental perspective,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “We have effective sustainable organic management systems that do not utilize glyphosate and it’s time that EPA and USDA recognized its responsibility to move away from hazardous and unnecessary pesticides,” he continued.

Ironically, EPA in 1985 originally classified glyphosate as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ based on tumors in laboratory animals, but changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in human years later, most likely due to industry influence, allowing the chemical to be the most widely used pesticide in the U.S. USDA has contributed to its growth by deregulating crops, including  the vast majority of corn and soybeans, that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the chemical. In recent years, weeds have exhibited resistance to glyphosate and its efficacy has been called into question. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways especially in the Midwestern states and the Mississippi River valley. Ecological data also reports that glyphosate and glyphosate formulated products are toxic to aquatic organisms, and is extremely lethal to amphibians.

But the U.S. regulatory agencies have ignored questions about its hazards and its necessity in crop production. Last year, cotton growers applied for an emergency exemption for the use of propazine on three million acres of cotton because glyphosate was no longer effective. Now that IARC has classified the world’s most widely used herbicide as a probable human carcinogen, EPA must quickly reevaluate its widespread use and registration status.

In addition to glyphosate, IARC also reviewed four other organophosphate herbicides, including malathion, diazinon, tetrachlorvinphos, and parathion. Malathion and diazinion were also classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

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

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20
Mar

New Report Highlights Crops with High Pesticide Residues and Benefits of Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2015) A new pesticide residue report just out requires context for those wishing to use their purchasing power to protect health, the environment, and those who grow and harvest our food. For consumers who care about the environment, farmworkers, and want to reduce pesticides in their diet, organic agriculture continues to be the best choice because purchasing can support a whole system of agriculture that is more protective of workers, the environment and biodiversity, and consumers of food. Because of this, Beyond Pesticides supports highlighting consumer exposure to pesticide residues in food, but not to exclusion of toxic pesticide use patterns that result in worker exposure and environmental contamination associated with chemical-intensive agriculture. Some crops have highly toxic inputs in agricultural production, but low residues on the finished food commodity. To help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides’ database Eating with a Conscience evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops, grown domestically and internationally. The new report released today by the nonprofit organization Consumer Reports identifies a list of fruits and vegetables that exposes consumers to the highest hazardous pesticide residues. So, when a new residue report like this comes out, we urge a critical analysis of its findings.

downloadThe new residue report, entitled  “From Crop to Table,” analyzes pesticide residue data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and toxicity data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report places fruits and vegetables into five risks categories, from very low to very high. Some crops, such as grapes and pears, have improved over the years, moving from the high-risk or very high-risk category to the low-risk category. Other crops, such as green beans, have been in the higher-risk category for the past 20 years. Consumer Reports also draws attention to the lack of monitoring of widespread herbicides like glyphosate.

There is more to consider than just the amount of pesticides in your food. “Tolerance levels are calculated for individual pesticides, but finding more than one type on fruits and vegetables is the rule—not the exception,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., a toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. Almost a third of the USDA-tested produce had two or more pesticides. “The effects of these mixtures is untested and unknown,” Dr. Rangan says.

“We’re exposed to a cocktail of chemicals from our food on a daily basis,” says Michael Crupain, M.D., M.P.H., director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “It’s not realistic to expect we wouldn’t have any pesticides in our bodies in this day and age, but that would be the ideal,” says Dr. Crupain. “We just don’t know enough about the health effects.”

Chemical mixtures are not the only concern. EPA’s flawed risk assessment process also fails to look at synergistic effects, certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

The report recommends that consumers buy the organic versions of certain fruits and vegetables in place of their conventional counterparts that got placed in the high- or very high-risk categories. These include peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, and more.

The report also compares various environmental sustainability labels, such as USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and the Whole Foods Responsibly Grown. Once again, USDA Organic comes out on top when it comes to prohibiting toxic pesticides.

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat.  That’s why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth. While lists put out by Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15/Dirty Dozen are helpful in alerting consumers to hazardous residues on food, food residues are only part of the story. It turns out that those very same “clean” food 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 levels on our food.

Action Alert! Help protect the integrity of organic and defend human health and the environment in the process. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is seeking YOUR input to determine what should be allowed on organic food. It’s up to you to maintain the integrity of the organic food label. Stay tuned for our draft comments over the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page to learn more about the issues. We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the April 7, 2015 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Source: Consumer Reports, ABC Action News

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

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19
Mar

Final Suit Routing Genetically Engineered Crops and Related Practices from Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2015) A federal court ruled Monday against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides linked with destruction of bee colonies and other beneficial insects in national wildlife refuges in the Midwest region. The ruling caps a legal campaign to end the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and other industrial agricultural practices on national wildlife refuges across the country.

images (1)The federal lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS), Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Sierra Club, and Beyond Pesticides. The suit focused on farming contracts for five refuges in four Midwestern states (IL, IA, MN and MO) and sought to force the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), which operates refuges, to stop these practices until it completes rigorous analyses of their environmental impacts. Beset by this litigation, this past July FWS decided that it will phase out the use of GE crops to feed wildlife and ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. This new policy still allows for case-by-case exceptions.

In the March 16, 2015 ruling, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered:

“By no later than APRIL 15, 2015, Defendants shall file a Notice indicating the extent to which neonicotinoid pesticides are currently used on the five challenged refuges and where those pesticides are used. Assuming that these pesticides are currently used—or Defendants plan for them to be used—this claim is remanded to the agency to devise a plan to phase out their use as soon as practicable, but no later than January 1, 2016.” [Emphasis in original]

“The court found that neonicotinoid pesticides so upset the natural balance a refuge is supposed to safeguard that a thorough site-specific environmental assessment is required before these potent agents can be used,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that neonics are now widely used in U.S. agriculture and even in backyard gardens. “While we did not win on all counts, the court found that the Service’s mismanagement of refuges did not always sink to the level of illegality – a very low bar indeed.”

“The decision makes clear that FWS must analyze the specific impacts genetically engineered crops will have on each unique refuge environment before approving them,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “FWS can no longer get away with after-the-fact environmental risk analysis on our fragile wildlife refuges.”

This was the fifth lawsuit filed by CFS and PEER challenging GE crops on wildlife refuges. For nearly 10 years, Beyond Pesticides has joined the two groups to campaign against GE crops and pesticide use on refuges. In March 2009, CFS and PEER won a lawsuit, filed in 2006, halting GE plantings on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. In 2011, the groups forced a legal settlement ending GE planting on refuges throughout the 12-state Northeast Region. In 2012, a federal court formally halted the planting of GE crops on all National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeastern U.S. as well as ordered steps to mitigate environmental damage from their previous illegal cultivation. The groups have also petitioned FWS to prohibit GE Crops nationally twice and to prohibit neonicotinoid pesticides on refuges once. The Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Pesticides co-signed the second legal petition, filed in February last year.

Given the recent FWS no-GE/no-neonics policy, the groups do not anticipate the need for further litigation on these subjects. However, they are closely monitoring the ban to ensure it is not honeycombed with exceptions.

For information on what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign information.

Source: Press Release

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

 

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18
Mar

Members of Congress Call for Listing Monarch Butterfly as Threatened

(Beyond Pesticides March 18, 2015) Fifty-two members of Congress penned a letter to the White House, calling for the protection of the Monarch butterfly, which has declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years, and for listing as a ‘threatened’ species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This comes on the heels of a formal notice of intent to sue submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to protect threatened and endangered species, including butterflies, amphibians and birds, from flupyradifurone, a newly approved systemic insecticide.

Diane St John Durham CT We planted a lot of Zinnia seeds and look who came over!The letter sent to President Obama on Tuesday was spearheaded by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), a long-time advocate for protecting monarch butterflies. In her press release, Rep. Pingree notes that the annual migration of monarchs from North America to Mexico has plummeted because of the use of herbicides on genetically engineered (GE) crops in the U.S.  The herbicides have wiped out milkweed, the main food for monarchs.  According to the letter, efforts by farmers, local, state and federal agencies to boost habitat are laudable, but without changes in how the federal government addresses the use of herbicides, especially as applied to herbicide-resistant crops, vital monarch habitats will simply continue to disappear. “We believe that the Endangered Species Act represents the last best chance to save this amazing species and its incredible migration,” the letter notes.

“When the monarchs got to Mexico they used to cover 50 square miles.  By 2013 they covered an area about the size of a football field,” Rep. Pingree said.  “The loss of habitat and devastation of the monarch population should be a wakeup call.  If we keep applying ever increasing amounts of chemicals to farmlands, it’s going to have an impact on the environment.”

One day earlier, conservation and food-safety groups submitted a formal notice of intent to sue EPA for failing to protect threatened and endangered species, including butterflies, amphibians and birds, from flupyradifurone, a newly approved systemic insecticide. In registration documents, EPA acknowledges that flupyradifurone could harm wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act but failed to consult with expert wildlife agencies as required by the ESA before issuing registration approval earlier this year. According to the groups, the new insecticide would be especially harmful to imperiled, solitary bees like the blue orchard bee. These bees are prolific pollinators, important for pollinating agricultural crops, and already suffering from the effects of other systemic insecticides.

When EPA announced it completed the registration of this new insecticide in January 2015, the agency noted that the chemical would be marketed as an alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides, and “safer for bees.” But a closer look at this chemical revealed that the agency is grossly misleading the public on the ecological safety of flupyradifurone since the chemical is systemic, persistent, and highly acutely toxic to adult honey bees. Flupyradifurone (“Sivanto”) is a new systemic, butenolide insecticide from Bayer CropScience that is to be used on crops such as citrus, cotton, potatoes and many others, and also as seed treatment. The chemical is a neurotoxic insecticide that can inhibit nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) in the nervous system. Neonicotinoids, widely linked to devastating health impacts on bees, affect the nervous system in the same way. However, EPA states that flupyradifurone differs from neonicotinoids because of the way it binds to the receptors and how it is metabolized. However, most troubling is that, based on EPA’s registration documents, the chemical is highly toxic to adult bees for short-term oral exposures. EPA’s registration document states, “While the acute oral toxicity study indicates that flupyradifurone is highly toxic to individual adult honey bees…”  For bees that come into surface contact with the chemical, EPA states in one document that the chemical is “practically nontoxic to adult bees on an acute contact exposure basis,” but in another document it reports, “In the acute contact toxicity test, some bees showed movement coordination problems or lethargy at the two highest concentrations…” after a few hours of exposure. EPA notes that the field studies reveal high mortality in adult bees within 24 hours of treatment

EPA failed to consider the highly toxic impacts of this new systemic insecticide on native pollinators such as bees- especially solitary bees, butterflies, and on a range of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and aquatic invertebrates. According to the groups that submitted the notice of intent to sue, there are 4,000 species of solitary bees living in the U.S. whose wellbeing EPA effectively ignores. In fact, EPA’s own risk assessment recognizes that this pesticide is both persistent and mobile, meaning it will reach aquatic environments and put additional species at risk.

For decades the EPA has approved hundreds of pesticides that can harm endangered wildlife without consulting expert wildlife agencies as required by the Endangered Species Act. In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report identifying problems and suggested solutions to correct the agency’s flawed approach for reviewing the impacts of pesticides on endangered wildlife. Accordingly, in approving flupyradifurone, the EPA failed to remedy the problems identified by that report and did not complete the required ESA consultation.

It was about one year ago that EPA introduced to the market sulfoxaflor, another bee-toxic insecticide registered by EPA despite warnings from concerned groups and beekeepers. Beekeepers have since sued EPA over the registration of sulfoxaflor. Soon thereafter EPA registered another highly toxic bee pesticide, cyantraniliprole. A notice of intent to sue was also submitted to EPA regarding cyantraniliprole for failure to consult under the ESA. Given the global phenomenon of pollinator decline and the precautions taken by European nations to protect bees and other pollinators, advocates are calling it irresponsible for EPA to allow into the environment more chemicals wit high hazard potential for bee health, before a full analysis on their impacts to all threatened and endangered species. To many, EPA’s decisions on the approval on these latest pesticides appears counter to current agency and interagency work to protect pollinators.

Take Action
You too can make a difference! If you are interested in giving your support to saving the honey bees, go to save-bees.org and sign the petition. You also can work to get bee-toxic neonicotinoids like thiacloprid out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government .Beyond Pesticides has resources and fact sheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email (info@beyondpesticides.org) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Learn more about pollinator issues and what you can do at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators, Protecting health, biodiversity, and ecosystems, in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, 2015Get more information and register today!

Source: The Center for Food Safety Press Release 

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

 

 

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17
Mar

Study Shows the Benefits of Pesticide-free Pollinator Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2015) Foraging bumblebees would prefer to dodge traffic rather than pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, according to the results of a new study published in the Journal of Insect Conservation. Researchers from Plymouth University in England discovered that the number of bumblebees observed foraging plants along roadsides was over twice the number located in adjacent patches facing agricultural crops. As both native and managed bees continue to decline throughout the globe, this research strengthens calls from farming and environmental groups to improve agricultural practices through increased on-farm diversity, and sharp reductions in the use of pesticides, particularly systemic chemicals such as neonicotinoids.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken from our garden3Mick Hanley, Ph.D., lead author of the study, explains, “There have been hedgerows and field boundaries in these locations for centuries, and even if you go back 50 or 60 years, you would not have seen this phenomenon. Both sides of hedgerows would have been flourishing, and bees and other insects would have been numerous on both sides, but that was before an increase in the use of fertilizers.”

However, it is likely the use of agrichemicals that has caused such a stark discrepancy between roadside and farm-side habitats. “Now what you see is the chemicals having impacted one side, with the hedgerows in effect acting as a filter to protect the road-facing edge. It decreases the bees’ sources of food and, therefore, has the potential to impact on their numbers,” Dr. Hanley explains.

Researchers reach the conclusion in the study that organic farming is likely to offer distinct advantages for pollinator conservation efforts. As a result of reduced chemical use, organic farms are likely to provide pollinators with a greater diversity of flowers, and thus increase food availability. “The pesticides and fertilisers in use today tend to mean plants such as nettles flourish, whereas honeysuckle and other bee-friendly species do not,” said Dr. Hanley. “But we would argue that if farmers were a bit more sympathetic, any work they do to encourage bees and other insects could have reciprocal benefits for them and their crops.”

In the United States, efforts to increase pesticide-free pollinator habitat are under attack by industry. Last week trade groups AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists rejected an important, positive component of President Obama’s White House Pollinator Task Force recommendations. The groups called guidelines from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to increase neonicotinoid-free pollinator friendly habitat at federal facilities “largely unachievable,” despite widespread demand for an urgent need to transition away from bee-toxic pesticides.

Although announced without mention of pesticides, the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated it would provide $4 million in technical and financial assistance to U.S. farmers and ranchers in the Midwest to improve honey bee health. The new research suggests that, in addition to habitat, regulators efforts are needed to reduce the on-farm use of pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides maintains that pesticide-free hedgerows are a critical part of the solution to global pollinator declines. By taking advantage of the “edge effect,” an area where two environments/ecosystems meet, hedgerows can provide high levels of biodiversity. However, as this study shows, farmers and land managers must take pesticides out of the equation in order to realize the full benefits that hedgerows can provide.

For more information on the benefits of hedgerows, and guidelines to get your started, read Beyond Pesticides recent article by Terry Shistar, Ph.D., “Hedgerows for Biodiversity,” You can also work on creating your own pesticide-free pollinator habitat by visiting the BEE Protective webpage, “Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind.” The BEE Protective Habitat Guide will help you decide which plants work for your region and the type of pollinators you want to attract. Join us in continuing to put pressure on the White House to take swift action to reverse bee declines by signing the petition to President Obama at save-bees.org.

And join us in person to help us continue the fight to protect pollinators! This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Register today!

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

Source: Plymouth Herald, Journal of Insectology

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16
Mar

Bayer Attempt to Silence Critics of Its Bee-Poisonous Pesticides Rejected by Judge

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2015) Last week, a judge in Duesseldorf Regional Court ruled that the German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) has a right to speak out against chemical company giant Bayer CropScience’s neonicotinoid pesticide, thiacloprid, regarding its potential danger to bees. The court considered the allegations put forth by BUND to be a form of free speech, a protected right.

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

Thiacloprid is one of the seven most commonly used neonicotinoids. It is used to control sucking and biting insects in cotton, rice, vegetables, pome fruit, sugar beet, potatoes and ornamentals. Low doses of neonicotinoids are considered highly toxic to honeybees and these types of pesticides can leach into groundwater and cause harm to humans as well; they can cause kidney and liver damage and are linked to birth defects. In 2003, EPA classified thiacloprid as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on thyroid tumors and uterine tumors in rats and ovary tumors in mice.

As Friends of the Earth declared, this ruling is a huge victory for freedom of speech and for the thousands of people across Europe (and beyond) who have dedicated themselves to protecting bees. Advocates hope this win will be a stepping stone towards action from the European Commission. Thiacloprid is not currently subject to the EU suspension on three neonicotinoid products, but Friends of the Earth and other groups are increasing pressure on the the European Commission to take a precautionary approach and suspend the use of thiacloprid products while reviewing its safety.

This ruling also stands out as one of the few cases where corporate bullying has failed to prevail. Unbeknownst to most, the corporate, agricultural and chemical giants exist in a world where pressure can be applied in order to get a preferred outcome, not only on environmental groups but also on scientists who study these topics and even organizations that work to protect honeybees. Some real world examples of this involve scientists such as Arpad Pusztai,PhD, previously the principal scientific officer of the Rowett Institute in Scotland, whose home was burglarized and his research stolen after he reported his findings on immunological damage found in rats that were fed genetically modified potatoes. Another scientist, Ignacio Chapela, PhD, was denied tenure at UC Berkeley and was the subject of a vicious PR attack mounted by Monsanto after he suggested that pollen from genetically modified corn may have drifted into the last reserves of biodiverse maize in the world, which could potentially eliminate maize biodiversity permanently.

One of the most exhaustive attacks in recent memory was led by Syngenta, a manufacturer of atrazine, a triazine class herbicide that is banned in the EU based on groundwater contamination. Syngenta has worked aggressively to scuttle research that links the chemical to adverse health outcomes. This article reviews an investigative report that unearthed that Syngenta routinely paid off third parties to speak in favor of atrazine. When one of their own scientists, Tyrone Hayes, PhD, discovered that atrazine was harming amphibians and decided to speak out, they launched a massive campaign to discredit him. Beyond Pesticides stands behind Dr. Hayes through The Fund for Independent Science, launched to help ensure the continuation of his critical research. He has been a speaker for past National Pesticide Forums,where he discussed the disappearance of frogs and human health effects linked to pesticide use. On April 17-18, Dr. Hayes will again be a speaker at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, which focuses on protecting health, biodiversity and ecosystems.

The tactics that these companies use to get their way are far reaching and can be seemingly innocuous at times. For example, Bayer recently donated $100,000 to Project Apis m., a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to enhancing the health of honey bees. Although the donation is directed towards providing additional forage to bees, it is evident that this action is another way for the company to spin the bee crisis. As a Friends of the Earth U.S. report Follow the Honey explains, “leading pesticide corporations –Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto– are engaged in a massive public relations disinformation campaign to distract the public and policymakers from thinking that pesticides might have something to do with bee death and destruction.”

Take action.
Beyond Pesticides, along with many other environmental organizations, rallied in front of the White House to deliver more than 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth stronger protections for honeybees and other pollinators. You too can make a difference! If you are interested in giving your support to saving the honey bees, go to save-bees.org and sign the petition. You also can work to get bee-toxic neonicotinoids like thiacloprid out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government .Beyond Pesticides has resources and fact sheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email (info@beyondpesticides.org) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Source: The Ecologist

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13
Mar

Exposure to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals Costs Billions in Lost Brain Power

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2015) Exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDC) results in approximately € 150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the European Union each year, according to panels of scientists tasked by the EU Commission to study their impact. “The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” Philippe Grandjean, M.D. of Harvard University, one of the report’s authors, told the Guardian.

P_endocrine-systemEDCs, contained in common household products such as detergents, disinfectants, furniture, plastics, and pesticides, interfere with the body’s hormone system either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or effecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN.

“Our brains need particular hormones to develop normally –the thyroid hormone and sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. They’re very important in pregnancy and a child can very well be mentally retarded because of a lack of iodine and the thyroid hormone caused by chemical exposure,” Dr. Grandjean explained to the Guardian.

Scientists analyzed the economic impact of a number of EDCs, including phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, perfluoroalkyl compounds, as well as DDE and organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides. The work, Estimating Burden and Disease Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

In the analysis, the economic burden of EDCs was calculated based on a 1981 Institute of Medicine approach to assessing the contribution of environment factors in causing illness. Uncertainty in the analysis was addressed by using a weight-of-evidence characterization for probability of causation developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and an epidemiology model used by the World Health Organization.

In addressing whether complete certainty of causation is a necessary basis for analysis, the study makes note of a quote from Sir Austin Bradford Hill, a 20th century epidemiologist renowned for his work demonstrating the connection between lung cancer and cigarette smoking as well as developing criteria for determining causal associations. The author’s write, “In his widely cited work about the criteria for causation, Sir Austin Bradford Hill acknowledged the reality that ‘all scientific work is incomplete —were it be observational or experimental,’ noting that uncertainty ‘does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to post-pone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.’”

EDC_Graphic_US_Final_Page_1Results of the study are glaring, and present a grim portrait of the future. The expert panel of scientists agreed on findings of probable causation for EDCs and a number of human diseases, including IQ loss, autism, ADHD, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism (undescended testes), male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced testosterone. In particular, the analysis found with 70-100% probability that each year in Europe 13 million IQ points are lost due to prenatal organophosphate exposure (pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and malathion), and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability are caused. Pesticides were found to be the most costly of the EDCs analyzed, accounting for € 120 billion ($130 billion) of the estimated € 157 billion ($162 billion) in healthcare expenditures each year. As the author’s indicate, this total is approximately 1.23% of the EU’s GDP.

Although such a comprehensive study has not been undertaken in the United States, with similar or higher amounts of pesticide use than the EU, the impact is likely just as great. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by law to evaluate chemicals for their endocrine disrupting potential, the agency is still in the process of finalizing a screening protocol (work the EU has already developed), nearly two decades after the agency was statutorily required to do so. According to the agency, it will be another decade before its protocol is up and ready.

Leonardo Transande, M.D., professor at New York University School of Medicine and lead author of the study told TIME magazine, “Except for the Food Quality Protection Act, the regulatory model in the United States assumes innocent until proven guilty, resulting in broad and widespread experimentation on humans with exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” Dr. Transande continued, “We’re just trying to put information into the hands of decision makers, so that we can consciously and openly decide whether it’s appropriate to allow for a 50% probability that the use of a chemical may contribute to a condition and lead to billions of dollars of costs.” As regulators drag their feet and Congress remains stymied, the risks these chemicals pose to human intelligence and well-being persist.

“I would recommend that pregnant women and children eat organic fruits and vegetables and avoid using plastic containers and canned food, especially in the microwave, because containers are usually treated on the inside with substances and compounds that can leak into the tomato soup and may act as endocrine disruptors,” Dr. Granjean said to the Guardian.

Beyond Pesticides supports strong protections from pesticides and endocrine disruptors by pushing for regulatory action and the support of alternative products and practices that do not require these chemicals. Through the Eating with a Conscience tool, those concerned about pesticides on their produce and can find out the chemicals that are allowed in their production. The ManageSafe database helps homeowners and renters control household pests without toxic pesticides. And Beyond Peticides’ Lawn and Landscapes webpage helps property owners manage lawns without the use of pesticides linked to endocrine disruption and other ill health effects. Ultimately by supporting organic agriculture, with disallows the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, the health burden EDCs and other pesticides put on our economy and individual health can be drastically reduced.

Source: Endocrine Society (link to full study here) , The Guardian, TIME,
Photo Source: Endocrine Society

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

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12
Mar

As States Legalize Marijuana, Study Finds Uneven Pesticide Use Restrictions on Growing Practices

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2015) Marijuana may be legal in your state for medicinal and recreational use, but are toxic pesticides used in its production? A study released today of the 23 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana finds a patchwork of state laws and evolving policy that define allowed pesticide use and management practices in cannabis production. This variety of state law is occurring in the absence of federal registration of pesticide use for cannabis production because of its classification as a narcotic under federal law. The investigation, Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options, evaluates the state laws governing pesticide use in cannabis production where it is legalized.

The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis has health implications for those growing the crop, and for users who are exposed to toxic residues through inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The good news is that five states and DC have adopted rules that require marijuana to be grown with practices that prevent the use of pesticides. State officials have an opportunity to restrict all pesticide use at the front end of a growing market, require the adoption of an organic system plan, and set a course to protect health and the environment,” Mr. Feldman continued. The USDA certified organic seal will not be found on marijuana products because of their federal status.

Typically, when a pesticide is used in crop production, it is evaluated for the specific use site and assessed for its potential adverse impact on health and the environment. The federal government in the case of cannabis cannot conduct its normal registration review for this use, given the crop’s illegal federal status. Many have incorrectly assumed that, since there are no federal pesticide registrations for marijuana production, all pesticide use is illegal, except those materials that are exempt from federal registration. States are required under federal law to only permit pesticides registered or exempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study raises safety concerns due to loopholes in federal law. For example, recently EPA told the states that while marijuana does not fit into any general group, such as an herb, spice, or vegetable, “[I]t may be legally used on marijuana under certain general types of crops/sites when there is an exemption from tolerance” (allowable pesticide residues in food set by EPA). The agency has said that broad spectrum herbicide and fumigant use outdoors is allowed under certain circumstances. This use pattern, according to the study, raises issues of pesticide uptake into crop and environmental impacts.

The report identifies six states that have legalized marijuana but are silent on pesticide use in its production and raises questions of compliance. It recommends in those states with legalization the adoption of laws governing cannabis production that prohibit federally registered pesticides and require the adoption of organic practices that only allow products exempt from registration based on the full range of possible exposure patterns.

The study contains a state-by-state analysis that evaluates pesticide restrictions, pesticide/contaminant testing, pesticide labeling, and organic production requirements.

The study can be found here.

See this chart for a comprehensive overview of state pesticide regulations to date.

 

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

 

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11
Mar

Chemical Landscape and Nursery Industry Says Bee Friendly Habitat “Not Viable”

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2015)  The White House’s recommendations for pollinator-friendly landscaping at federal facilities are “largely unachievable,” according to trade groups AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists. The groups believe that growing plants that attract and feed honey bees, wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators without a reliance on persistent, systemic and toxic pesticides that can harm them is “not a viable recommendation.” This comes in spite of several initiatives already taken by nurseries across the country to limit or restrict the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides on nursery and ornamental plant production.

Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yardLast fall, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands.

Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” Further, the document states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.” Concurrent with CEQ’s announcement, the General Services Administration (GSA) also stated it is in the process of internally reviewing pollinator friendly guidelines for facility standards at “all new project starts.” Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids have been linked to bee decline, and are noted for their contamination of pollen and nectar, as well as their persistence in soil and water. Visit What the Science Shows.

But in a letter submitted last month to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is spearheading the White House’s directive to establish a federal Pollinator Health Task Force to respond to declining pollinator populations, AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists took issue with CEQ’s suggestion that agencies avoid plants treated with systemic insecticides.

According to the groups, the recommendation in CEQ’s guidelines for pesticide restriction would impede the use of neonicotinoids, and would clash with state and federal requirements to treat for invasive pests. “We are concerned that some of the guidance recommendations provided in the ‘pollinator’ addendum are largely unachievable by industry, as they are not reflective of federal and state regulatory requirements and do not account for the significant pest challe nges that our segment of agriculture faces,” the letter states.

The groups believe that foregoing neonicotinoids could violate legal requirements to keep nurseries free of “all injurious insects,” including the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle and other pests. Recommending that plant material be sourced only from suppliers that can “verify no insecticide treatments” is not a viable recommendation and could influence some growers to take greater risk and potentially spread problematic and invasive pests and disease on federal properties,” they wrote.

The letter also questions the guidance’s definition of integrated pest management (IPM), especially methods that promote use of biological controls, like predatory insects, to protect plants. CEQ in its guidance notes that IPM, “places an emphasis on the reduction of pesticide use and the implementation of preventative and alternative control measures.” However, the groups believe that CEQ’s IPM recommendations alter and expand the legislative definition of IPM by highlighting one perspective of IPM above other considerations. The letter states this “is not appropriate and is not reflective of the intent of IPM. Risks and benefits must be taken into consideration when making these decisions and the CEQ language suggests otherwise.” The letter requests edits to the definition of IPM in CEQ’s guidance document and also a removal of statements regarding sourcing plant material from growers that have not used insecticides or systemic insecticides and replace with statements for sourcing of plant material from growers who have adopted an IPM program in their plant production practices.

Plants can be grown without neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides       

It is a common myth perpetuated by the pesticide, agricultural, and horticultural industry that growing plants without pesticides cannot be done. But while these two national industry groups charge that creating pollinator habitat without toxic inputs cannot be done to protect pollinators, several smaller nurseries and retail outlets have already pledged to not use systemic neonicotinoids to grow their plants and protect pollinators. Focused on their owe operations, Behnke Nurseries Co. in Maryland has issued a policy statement to their stores that prohibits the application of neonicotinoids to its plants and recommends using least-toxic alternatives. Bachman’s 21 locations in Minnesota are eliminating neonicotinoids on their nursery stock and outdoor plants. Taking it to the next level, Bachman’s is also working with suppliers to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids. Cavano’s Perennials, MD, Blooming Nursery, OR, North Creek Nurseries, PA, Suncrest Nurseries Inc, CA, Desert Canyon Farm, CO, and others have either discontinued or never used neonicotinoid pesticides in their nursery operations. Additionally, BJ’s Wholesale Club (over 200+ locations) is asking its vendors to discontinue neonicotinoid use. Home Depot also has plans to work with its suppliers to transition from neonicotinoid reliance.

Beyond Pesticides also has a comprehensive directory of companies and organizations that sell organic seeds and plants. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as live plants and seedlings.

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonicotinoids (eg imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam) which, even at low levels, have been shown to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to the point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Last week, beekeepers, farmers, businesses and environmental advocates rallied in front of the White House to deliver over 4 million petition signatures that call on the Obama administration to protect pollinators, and over 125 groups sent a letter to the White House.

While industry deflection tactics are working to shift focus away from their pesticide products, local efforts provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), Ontario (Canada), and the European Union have all instituted either permanent or temporary bans on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other human-made causes demands immediate action. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight to protect butterflies and other pollinators from neonicotinoids. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!
 
 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: E&E News

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10
Mar

U.S. Senator Calls for Suspension of Pentachlorophenol, Used to Treat Utility Poles

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2015) U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) yesterday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday to immediately investigate the specific use of pentachlorophenol (penta or PCP), a toxic wood preservative, to treat utility poles throughout Long Island and urged Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG) Long Island to immediately suspend further use of this chemical until a federal review is complete. PSEG has been installing new, chemically-treated utility poles throughout the Towns of North Hempstead and East Hampton. In his press release, Senator Schumer expresses serious concern about penta’s health risks to utility workers, adults and children and its ability to move into water over the long-term as the chemical leaches from the poles. The Senator also notes that a private firm has conducted a study based on a very limited sample size that does not consider long-term risks as the pole decomposes and further leaches toward groundwater. EPA, which is responsible for evaluating penta’s health and environmental risk, has noted public health concerns related to the chemical when ingested or inhaled, including neurological, respiratory, kidney and immune system effects.

Pole_RouteOn Long Island, 95,000 of PSEG’s 324,000 utility poles have been treated with penta. Across the country, penta is used on approximately 55 percent of 166 million wooden utility poles. Localities throughout Long Island have voiced concern about the use of this chemical and the potential for it to leach into the ground water. In September, the Town of North Hempstead passed a law requiring warning labels on utility poles treated with PCP. The mandated labeling states, “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.” In January, PSEG filed suit in the U.S. District Court against the Town of North Hempstead to stop the signage, asserting that the law violates the utility companies’ right to free-speech by forcing them to post warning signs containing “disputed phrases and accompanying text urging the public to take action.”  Shortly after North Hempstead’s action, New York State Senator John LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele announced companion legislation to prohibit the future use of utility poles treated with penta, and call for the posting of warnings to inform people about the dangers of contact with penta on existing poles. In the international arena, the technical scientific committee to the Stockholm Convention, which calls for the worldwide elimination of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), has advised the nation signatories to the treaty to add penta to the list of POPs. It will make the decision in May. Meanwhile, the U.S., which never ratified the treaty, has sent EPA officials to the proceedings of the Convention to try to block the listing of penta as a persistent organic pollutant.

As debate rages and communities attempt to protect themselves in the absence of adequate EPA action, there are alternatives to chemically treated poles. Alternatives range from poles constructed of cement, fiberglass, or recycled metals, as well as laying utility lines underground. Currently, the long-term costs of purchasing, installing and maintaining fiberglass and concrete poles makes them competitive to treated wood utility poles.

Despite inadequate regulatory action, EPA has recognized that the short-term ingestion and inhalation of penta is extremely toxic to humans and is a “probable” human carcinogen. Short-term inhalation of penta can result in issues with the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, skin as well as neurological issues. PCP is highly toxic and has been listed as a possible carcinogen by national and international agencies. Concerns have been raised throughout the years over EPA’s continued registration of PCP in the U.S. despite having been banned in all European Union member states, China, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Russia. According to Beyond Pesticides’ Pole Pollution, EPA has calculated that children face a 220 times increase in the risk of cancer from exposure to soil contaminated with PCP leaching out of the utility poles. These utility poles are ubiquitous across our country.

Sen. Schumer is joined by town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, other Long Island residents. The Senator said that because the penta treated telephone and electrical poles can be found in populated areas like yards, parks, outside schools and around local businesses, it is critical that EPA quickly conduct a safety review of penta related to human health risks and risks to soil and groundwater, and urged that PSEG suspend the use of this chemical in utility poles until the EPA investigation proves this chemical appropriate for use in these poles.quick

“There’s no debate that ‘penta’ is a highly toxic chemical that should be nowhere near playgrounds or our drinking water, and I am petitioning the federal EPA to step in and investigate the long-term impact of using this toxic chemical specifically on utility poles in Long Island neighborhoods and parks. The EPA is the golden standard when it comes to assessing health and environmental risk of such chemicals, and has yet to review penta, and I am urging them to end the debate regarding the use of this chemical by PSEG. Many of these wooden utility poles are standing nearby schools, parks, businesses and homes, and so, we must ensure that residents and children are not being exposed to the highly toxic chemical if it leaches into the ground water. In the meantime, PSEG should stop installing these utility poles until the long-term federal investigation is completed,” said Senator Schumer.

“I am extremely pleased to be standing with Senator Schumer as we speak out about the harmful effects of penta to our residents and our environment. I and many of the Town’s residents are extremely concerned about the continued use of penta as a pesticide for utility poles. Penta is a probable carcinogen and has long been recognized as a public health threat. It’s time for the EPA to investigate this toxic carcinogen,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

“I join Senator Schumer and Supervisor Bosworth in raising serious health concerns over pentachlorophenol contamination. Recent soil and groundwater tests adjacent to newly installed utility poles in East Hampton found penta in the soil at extremely high levels—at amounts far exceeding New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards—and chemical components associated with penta in the groundwater,” said Town of East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell.

Twenty six countries, including Canada, currently ban penta completely. In December, the preservative was found in soil surrounding the utility poles in East Hampton. Senator Schumer said that a recent study conducted by a private firm is totally insufficient in terms of ensuring that these penta-treated poles do not pose a threat to the long-term health of local residents: the study was based on a very limited sample size and studied poles that were recently placed in the ground. Senator Schumer said that the federal government should be involved, and urged the EPA to conduct a federal study on penta’s long-term impact on communities with these utility poles, particularly related to the long-term degradation of these poles and subsequent leaching into the soil and ground water. EPA recently announced that it plans to reassess the safety of penta, however the agency has yet to release its final work plan to evaluate health and environmental risks, and Senator Schumer is urging the agency to focus on the specific threat that utility poles treated with this substance may pose to communities across Long Island.

Beyond Pesticides has been sounding the alarm on toxic wood preservatives for decades, and has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to penta and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives.

For more extensive information about pesticide-treated wood for utility poles and railroad ties, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page, and read Beyond Poison Poles: Elected officials say no to toxic utility poles in their communities, from the Fall 2014 issue of Pesticides and You.

Take Action:
Join Beyond Pesticides’ Poison Pole Campaign. Take a photo of the ugly pole in your neighborhood, on your street, at a bus stop, in a park, or even at your local playground. If people walk, live or play near the pole, show that in the photo, if possible. Include your name and the location of the photo and send it to info@beyondpesticides.org by April 30, 2015.

Source: Press Release

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

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09
Mar

Town Wins Award for First Community-wide Pesticide-Free Policy in Maine, Organic Land Care Training on Sat. March 14

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2015) The quaint and charming town of Ogunquit, Maine has proudly accepted the 16th Down East Environmental Award, presented by Down East magazine, for passing a ballot initiative last November that prohibits the use of toxic lawn pesticides on all public and private land within the town –only the second community in the United States to do so, following Takoma Park in Maryland. To help the community implement the new law and provide hands-on technical information to people in town and the region, the local hardware store, Eldredge Lumber and Hardware, is sponsoring a training open to the public, landscapers, and officials on Saturday, March 14.

In 1979, Down East magazine introduced the prestigious Down East Environmental Award in order to encourage the conservation of Maine’s natural resources and to honor citizens and groups who are at the forefront of creating positive environmental change, or have helped to secure conservation efforts in the past. Previous recipients of this award include Governor Percival Baxter, who in 2004 was recognized for his deep dedication to conserving the wilds in the state of Maine, specifically around Mt. Kadahdin, and Governor John E. Baldacci, who in 2009 was presented with the award for his work on the Sears Island Planning Initiative.

Environmental-Award-DownEastSimilarly to Governors Baxter and Baldacci, the community members of Ogunquit demonstrated their dedication to conserving Maine’s natural resources by banning all insect killers, weed killers and fertilizers last November. Before the ban was passed, the Ogunquit Conservation Commission launched a three-year education and awareness campaign to further their goal to “protect and maintain Ogunquit’s natural resources, to conserve natural habitat, to procure and develop open spaces, parks and trails, to establish public access conservation easements through land trusts or town owned properties.” This campaign helped to grow overwhelming support for the ordinance and it re-passed on November 4, 2014 with a vote of 444 to 297 in favor of the ban. Ogunquit has since become a leader within Maine and the wider United States, demonstrating to others how to best protect public health and create a sustainable environment within a community.

The presentation of this award to Ogunquit is especially important because it demonstrates to citizens that there are ways to create positive environmental change with their own actions, such as doing something as simple as discontinuing the use of pesticides on their own property. Halting the use of pesticides on private property is as important as a ban on public lands – private residential usage leads to pollution of local waterways and dangerously impacts public health too. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens,  18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Getting rid of pesticide use on your lawn may seem daunting, but there are many alternatives for safer lawn care. Pest and weed pressure can be reduced and ultimately eliminated through a “feel the soil” approach that centers on natural, organic fertilization, and proper cultural practices such as correct mowing height, aeration, and overseeding. Creating a toxic-free lawn is possible when you understand why weeds occur in the first place, and take steps to eliminate conditions that allow their growth.

Along with human health risks, pesticides can and do negatively impact animal habitats and the environment. Aquatic animals are extremely sensitive to pesticide runoff. Increased levels of lawn care pesticides in stream systems have been found to decimate populations of some aquatic crustaceans, while causing others to mutate and become resistant to the pesticides. Ogunquit’s decision to ban pesticides not only led to greater protection of its residents, but also to the unique ecosystem surrounding it, including precious salt marshes and beaches where migratory birds, fish and mammals make their home.

Pro-pesticide lobbyists have a history of undermining these types of decisions, pushing against localities’ right to enact legislation that would protect community health and the environment. Specifically in Ogunquit, a pro-pesticide group called RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) passed out flyers to Ogunquit resident’s homes in order to spread false information and cast doubt over the impending decision. In the 1990’s, groups like RISE worked feverishly to enact regressive state pesticide preemption laws that prevent localities from enacting any ordinance that regulates pesticides more strictly than state law. Maine is one of seven states that does not preempt local authorities’ ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdiction.

Take action. Whether your state has preemption or not, you can still work to get toxics out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email (info@beyondpesticides.org) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Attend a workshop with Chip Osborne and Jay Feldman on transitioning to organic land management. On Saturday, March 14, Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics and Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides are conducting two workshops on implementing the new Ogunquit law, focusing on organic turf management practices that can effectively replace chemical-intensive methods with better results at a competitive cost. The training sessions are being hosted by Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine. For more information on the training programs, location, and to register, please contact Eldredge Hardware.

Source: Seacoastonline

Photo Credit: Downeast Lakes Land Trust

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

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06
Mar

Oregon Bans Four Bee-Killing Insecticides on Linden Trees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2015) Last Friday, Oregon enacted a new rule which bans the use of four types of bee-killing insecticides, including  imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran, regardless of application method on linden trees and other Tilia species. The four insecticides that are now illegal to spray on Tilia trees are all in the neonicotinoid chemical class which are implicated in pollinator decline, and represents a step forward in protecting bees. However, Tilia trees are not the only route of exposure that bees and other pollinators have to neonics, which are currently applied to fields across the U.S. as seed treatment.Photo by Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

The rule comes at the request of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) following several bee-kill incidents in Oregon since June 2013, when more than 50,000 bumblebees were killed after dinotefuran was sprayed on trees in a shopping mall parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. After the incident in Wilsonville, ODA initially placed restrictions on two of the chemicals, dinotefuran and imidacloprid on Tilia trees, and the state launched a task force to look at protections for pollinators. The group came out with a range of recommendations including increased outreach and education about bees and support for bee habitat research, but stopped short of prioritizing state restrictions on neonicotinoid use.

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonics, which, even at low levels, have been shown to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites.

Earlier this week, beekeepers, farmers, businesses and environmental advocates rallied in front of the White House to deliver over 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to protect pollinators, and over 125 groups sent a letter to the White House. Some promising steps have been taken, such as the ban of neonics on National Wildlife Refuges, and the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum which established a corresponding White House Task Force. However, federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remain hesitant to take meaningful action.

Meanwhile, local efforts provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), Ontario (Canada), and the European Union have all instituted either permanent or temporary bans on the use of neonics.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Source: The Oregonian

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

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05
Mar

North Dakota Oversight and Enforcement of Pesticide Law Found Deficient by Inspector General

(Beyond Pesticides, March 05, 2015) A federal audit has concluded that acceptable federal inspections at pesticide-producing establishments have not been conducted in North Dakota, possibly endangering the public and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report last week that finds the state lacks a state inspector with qualifications equivalent to a federal inspector who can conduct inspections on EPA’s behalf. As a result, North Dakota facilities that produce or handle pesticides have not been federally inspected for 14 years, and that about 1,300 pesticide imports that have come through the state since 2011 have not undergone federal inspections.

north dakota dept of agriculture“Without such inspections, residents in other states and locations in the United States, in addition to North Dakota, could be at risk,” according to the report signed by EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr.

Staff at EPA Region 8 stated that inspections authorized under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) have not been conducted because North Dakota officials do not want federal inspections in their state. FIFRA (Section 7) gives EPA inspection authority and enables the agency to take enforcement actions against facilities that are not in compliance with the Act. Failure to conduct inspections increases the risk of pesticides not being in compliance with federal law, which could result in potential risks from toxics being undetected and adverse human health and environmental impacts occurring.

In a statement issued in response to the OIG report, EPA Region 8 said that it will make sure that some state inspectors are federally certified, but that the report from OIG “does not present an accurate or complete picture of the intensity of pesticides oversight and inspection activity conducted in the state.”

The OIG report has angered North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who says the state is being treated unfairly by the federal agency.

“They don’t seem to understand or realize how you need to operate in the real world,” he said.

North Dakota’s Agriculture Department handles inspections of pesticide handlers in partnership with EPA, and receives funding from the federal agency for that work. However, the OIG report concluded that the agency should not accept “the state’s preference that federal inspections not be carried out in North Dakota.” The report adds that 14 years have passed since acceptable inspections of pesticide facilities in North Dakota have occurred. Mr. Goehring, on the other hand, asserts that about 680 proper inspections have been conducted in that time.

OIG recommends that the regional EPA office immediately begin handling inspections of pesticide handlers and imports in the state, or have them done by North Dakota inspectors with federal credentials. The state has not had a federally credentialed inspector since the last one retired two years ago.

The report “notes a specific concern with having inspectors operating in the state that are federally certified, and this is a concern that EPA Region 8 has committed to remedy as we move forward,” the regional office said in its statement. “It is worth noting that the state had a federally certified inspector on staff until their retirement in 2013 and is in the process of obtaining federal credentials for two state inspectors.”

Mr. Goehring said inspections of pesticide facilities handled by his office meet or exceed federal standards, and import inspections at the U.S.-Canada border have always been a federal responsibility, though the state has assisted when asked.

The regional EPA office said the OIG report “presents an incomplete picture of EPA activity” when it comes to import inspections. Mr. Goehring plans to consult with the regional EPA office and get federal credentials for at least one state inspector.

You can learn how to reduce your own pesticide footprint by checking out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience website and choosing organic, which provides environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: The Fresno Bee

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

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04
Mar

Over 4 Million People Press Obama to Protect Bees

Congress heeds call to action and introduces legislation as pressure mounts on White House Task Force to issue meaningful recommendations

March 4, 2015 (Washington, DC)—A coalition of beekeepers, farmers, business leaders, environmental and food safety advocates rallied in front of the White House and delivered more than 4 million petition signatures today calling on the Obama administration to put forth strong protections for bees and other pollinators. This action anticipates the Pollinator Health Task Force recommendations, expected later this month. The task force, announced by the White House this past June, is charged with improving pollinator health through new agency regulations and partnerships. The assembled groups demand that the recommendations include decisive action on rampant use of neonicotinoids, a class of systemic insecticides scientists say are a driving factor in bee declines.

The rally coincided with both a D.C. metro ad campaign and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’s (D-MI) rsavebeesnoweintroduction of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a full review of their safety.

Representative Blumenauer, said, “Pollinators are not only vital to a sustainable environment, but key to a stable food supply. In fact, one out of every three bites of food we eat is from a crop pollinated by bees. It is imperative that we take a step back to make sure we understand all the factors involved in bee population decline and move swiftly to protect our pollinators.”

“The EPA plans to wait until 2018 before reviewing the registration of neonicotinoids.  But America’s bees cannot wait three more years.  Neither can the thousands of farmers that rely on pollinators,” said Representative Conyers. “Our honeybees are critical to ecological sustainability and to our economy.  I am urging all of my colleagues to please protect our pollinators and support the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.”

“America’s beekeepers cannot easily survive in the toxic environment the EPA has supported,” said Roger Williams, president of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, and a speaker at today’s rally. “On top of many other stresses, bee-toxic pesticides, whether used to coat seeds or as sprays, are weakening and killing our bees and threatening the livelihood of the beekeepers who are so intimately tied to our nation’s food supply.”

In a letter on Monday, more than 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups urged President Obama and the EPA to take swift and meaningful action to address the impacts of toxic pesticides on pollinator species. The European Union passed a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids, yet the EPA has approached the issue with little urgency.

“Business leaders nationally recognize the importance of pollinators to the well-being of the economy, people, and ecosystems,” said Fran Teplitz, Co-Executive Director, Green Business Network and Bryan McGannon, Deputy Director, American Sustainable Business Council. “Businesses committed to sustainability support strong federal action to protect pollinators from pesticides linked to their decline; now is the time to act.”

While advocates remain hopeful, they also made it clear that voluntary, enforceable proposals from the task force are unacceptable. Federal agencies have hinted at continued efforts to promote more of the same — voluntary farming management practices, insignificant pesticide label changes, and weak state pollinator plans. And advocates contend that without new, meaningful protections, the Task Force may actually do more harm than good.

“Given the historic decline in the population of pollinators — bees, butterflies and birds — it is critical that the President and White House Task Force show forceful leadership in addressing all factors contributing to the crisis, with the suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides being a critically necessary action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides and who spoke at today’s rally.

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species and are considered a major factor in overall population declines. A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 1,121 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines. Neonicotinoids are also slow to break down, causing them to build up in the environment and endangering a whole range of beneficial species that inhabit these ecosystems.

The 4 million signatures were collected by Avaaz, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, CREDO, Earthjustice, Environment America, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of the Earth U.S., Green America, MoveOn, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, Save Our Environment, TakePart, and Toxic Free North Carolina.

Media Contacts:
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, 202-547-9359, aseiler@centerforfoodsafety.org
Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, 916.588.3100, ptowers@panna.org

Expert Contacts:
Bryan McGannon, American Sustainable Business Council, 202-650-7678, bmcgannon@asbcouncil.org,
Fran Teplitz, Green America, 202-872-5326, fteplitz@greenamerica.org
Roger Williams, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, 802-355-9933, rogerw@nordlink.com
Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, 202-543-5450, jfeldman@beyondpesticides.org

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04
Mar

Appeals Court to Hear Case on EPA’s Registration of Bee-Toxic Chemical

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2015)  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case brought by beekeepers challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of a toxic pesticide known to be toxic to bees. In 2013, the beekeepers filed suit against the agency, citing that the new chemical, sulfoxaflor, as further endangering bees and beekeeping and noting that their concerns were not properly addressed by EPA before registration was granted. Sulfoxaflor is a sub-class of the neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to global bee declines.Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yard

The Court has agreed to hear the case on April 14, 2015. The case, Pollinator Stewardship Council v. EPA, which requests changes to EPA’s product label for sulfoxaflor, was first filed July 2013. The petitioners include the Pollinator Stewardship Council, the American Honey Producers Association, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson and Thomas Smith. The beekeeper groups are represented by Earthjustice.

The case is one of a number of pending legal cases on EPA’s pesticide decisions under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), including one submitted March 2013 by Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, beekeepers, and other environmental and consumer groups challenging the agency’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. That lawsuit challenges EPA’s oversight of the neonicotinoid insecticidesv-clothianidin and thiamethoxam- which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, as well as the agency’s registration process, labeling deficiencies, and seeks suspension of the registrations.

In the case of sulfoxaflor, the beekeepers’ suit is requesting changes in the sulfoxaflor product label, the Biological Economic Assessment Division (BEAD) assessment of the value of pollinators and their established habits, and EPA’s risk assessment process. According to Greg Loarie, one of the Earthjustice attorneys arguing the case, “There’s very little case law in general challenging directly EPA’s decisions regarding pesticide labels.”

EPA states in court documents that the benefits of sulfoxaflor -like the potential to replace older and more toxic pesticides and a lower needed dose- outweigh the risk to pollinators. In registration documents, EPA also notes that none of the objections to sulfoxaflor registrations point to any data “to support the opinion that registration of sulfoxaflor will pose a grave risks to bees,” even though the agency itself acknowledges that sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees.  The agency states that even though sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees it does not demonstrate “catastrophic effects” on bees from its use. While sulfoxaflor exhibits behavioral and navigational abnormalities in honey bees, EPA downplays these effects as “short-lived.” Dow Agrosciences, which developed and commercialized sulfoxaflor, has intervened on behalf of EPA in the suit.

Sulfoxaflor is a new active ingredient, registered in 2013, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides –it acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in insects. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is the new generation of neonicotinoid. Sulfoxaflor is registered for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans, wheat and others. Several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, that stated that approval of a pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, EPA dismissed these concerns and instead pointed to a need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies.

Despite the continued decline in bee and pollinator populations across the U.S., EPA has since registered two other chemicals, cyantraniliprole and flupyradifurone. Cyantraniliprole is noted by EPA as “highly toxic on acute and oral contact basis” to bees, while flupyradifurone, a new systemic, butenolide insecticide from Bayer CropScience approved just this year, is found to be “highly toxic to individual adult honey bees.” Adding these new bee toxic chemicals into the environment will mean that bees and other non-target organisms will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals that are not only highly toxic, but have yet to be evaluated for their combined or synergistic effects with other bee-toxic substances, and possibly compounding the already dire plight of pollinators. A recent government sponsored national survey indicates that U.S. beekeepers experienced a 45.2% annual mortality rate with their hives between April 2012 and March 2013. During the winter of 2013/14, two-thirds of beekeepers experienced loss rates greater than the established acceptable winter mortality rate. EPA, which is part of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, tasked with stemming the tide on bee declines, has a responsibility to bees, the environment and beekeepers in protecting bees and other pollinators from dangerous pesticides. However, the agency seems to be putting corporate interests before pollinators health.

Join us in urging the White House to take meaningful action to protect pollinators. Visit save-bees.org and sign the petition to the White House.

Source: Greenwire

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