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31
Oct

USDA To Provide Additional $4 million for Honey Bee Habitat, No Mention of Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2014) Without any mention of the role of pesticides in bee decline, or emphasis on organic practices to help pollinators, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees. The announcement renews and expands on a $3 million pilot investment last spring to create pollinator-friendly habitat in five Midwestern states.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken from our garden3The effort responds to the Presidential Memorandum, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs. The Memorandum, issued at the close of National Pollinator Week 2014, directed federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and tasked agency leads at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days that supports and fosters pollinator habitat.

“The future of America’s food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. According to USDA, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country from June to September. Thus, it is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

While the creation of pollinator-friendly habitat is important for bee populations, the expansion of this project does not challenge the use of systemic pesticides that are linked to pollinator decline, or the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops with elevated use of herbicides that kill habitat.

Bees and beekeepers are in dire need of protection from the effects of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Currently, neonicotinoid insecticides are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world and comprise about 25% of the global agrichemical market.

Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that as the plant grows the pesticide becomes incorporated into the plant. When honey bees and other pollinators forage and collect pollen or nectar, or drink from what are termed “guttation” (water) droplets emitted from neonicotinoid-incorporated crops, they are exposed to sublethal doses of the chemical. At this level, the pesticides don’t kill bees outright. Instead, they impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response. Indeed, studies have found that “near infinitesimal” exposures to neonicotinoids causes a reduction in the amount of pollen that bumblebees are able to collect for their colony.

Conservation practices that USDA will provide help implementing include planting cover crops or rangeland and pasture management to reduce erosion, increasing soil health, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators. While many of these practices and benefits can be found in organic practices, it is not explicitly mentioned. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat, see the BEE Protective webpage, where you can find the Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides. And join in on National efforts to push the marketplace towards pollinator friendly practices by delivering a card to Lowe’s this Halloween, asking the retailer to stop selling poisoned plants and bee-killing pesticides.

For more on technical and financial assistance available through USDA’s conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or a local USDA service center.

Source: USDA Press Release

Photo Source: Susan Jergen , WI

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

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30
Oct

Oregon Legislators Working to Introduce Herbicide Spray Policy

(Beyond Pesticides, October 30, 2014) After concerns have been raised about the poor oversight of aerial herbicide spraying on Oregon forests, and the subsequent pesticide contamination of residents living nearby, policy makers are working to introduce legislation to better protect local residents from pesticide and environmental contamination.

An investigation, which began in 2013 into allegations of improper pesticide spraying on timberland near residential areas in Southern Oregon, has since confirmed that residents of the small towns were unwillingly sprayed with pesticides. The investigation was launched after residents filed complaints after they experienced rashes, headaches, asthma, and stomach cramps directly after pesticide applications. Earlier this year, the investigation led by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) indicated multiple violations by the pesticide operator and applicator responsible for the spraying, as well as evidence of the presence of pesticides on properties in Cedar Valley, near Gold Beach, Oregon. The aerial applicator, the investigation uncovered, allowed pesticide deposition on properties other than the intended application site, applied one product at a rate above the maximum allowed by the label instructions, and provided multiple false records that misled ODA about the actual products used.

Now, in light of several state regulatory lapses that include failures to provide communities with adequate notice about nearby spraying, investigations rife with miscommunication and missed opportunities, and a general lack of knowledge on human exposure risks, Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego and others are leading efforts to draft legislation on the issue. Rep. Lininger indicated that she has been working on legislation for the past six months along with Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, along with a team of legislators and community members. They plan to introduce a bill in the 2015 session.

Goals for the legislation include:

  • Better notifications for community members who want to know when and where sprays are happening so they can protect themselves accordingly. Current notifications are costly, vague and sometimes inaccurate.
  • Creating a publicly accessible database of pesticide application records, which show what was actually applied, how much, where and when. Currently, such records are maintained by applicators, filed with no one and are sometimes inconsistent or missing altogether.
  • Wider buffers between aerial spraying and homes, schools, and drinking water streams. Oregon currently has no buffer for homes and schools and streamside buffers much smaller than neighboring states.

The state Senate committee has held a series of informational hearings since May in response to the case. Dozens of residents in the community of Cedar Valley claimed herbicides sprayed from a helicopter made them and their pets sick. Recently, the pilot responsible for the incident had his license suspended for a year and was fined $10,000 by ODA. The Pacific Air Research Company, which employed the pilot, was also fined $10,000 and had all its licenses revoked for a year for providing false information to the state.

After pressure from local residents, ODA was ordered to publicly disclose pesticide records. It was found that the pesticides being sprayed were 2,4-D and triclopyr. 2, 4-D is a highly toxic chemical which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage. It is also neurotoxic and is toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly elevated rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2, 4-D. Triclopyr originally developed for woody plant and broadleaf weed control along rights- of- way and on industrial sites, triclopyr is also used in forest site preparation.

In a similar case, also in Oregon, the community of Triangle Lake experienced similar pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to timberland, and atrazine and 2,4-D were subsequently found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation. The investigation resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations.

Should Rep. Lininger and her allies move forward with their legislation next session, it would not be the first attempt to revise Oregon’s Forest Practices Act. According to Beyond Toxics, an environmental organization that works in Oregon, the State of Oregon has the weakest and most outdated forestry chemical laws in the western states of California, Washington, Alaska and Idaho, and significant changes are needed. Beyond Toxics filed a lawsuit this summer challenging portions of the Oregon Right to Farm and Forest Law (ORS30.936) on pesticide drift from forestry operations onto private property. Currently, there are no required buffer zones around residential land, similar to those along fish-bearing streams in Oregon, and the state does not require notification of residents near timberland. Timberland owners do have to notify the Oregon Department of Forestry, and people can pay a fee to receive those notifications, but they do not specifically disclose that chemicals that will be used, or the day and time of the spraying. Aerial herbicide application is also only used on private land as public forest land is managed without these practices.

Lawmakers are likely to face opposition from members and supporters of the forest products industry who claim cases like Cedar Valley are the rare exception and restrictions on herbicide could hurt timber production. Timber companies spray herbicides anywhere between one to three years after a clear cut to ensure young replanted trees, often Douglas firs, are free of competition and can grow faster.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and state agency partners finds that agricultural workers and residents in regions where pesticides are routinely sprayed have the highest rate of pesticide poisoning from drift exposure. Pesticide spray drift is typically the result of small spray droplets being carried off-site by air movement. The main weather factors that cause drift are wind, humidity and temperature changes. Aside from poisoning people and animals, drift can injure foliage, shoots, flowers and fruits resulting in reduced yields, economic loss and illegal residues on exposed crops.

For more information on the dangers of pesticide exposures, visit the Pesticide Induced Disease Database (PIDD). Beyond Pesticides supports the efforts of residents everywhere to stand up for public health and environmental rights and protect their communities and properties from chemical trespass. Visit our website to learn more about the negative impacts of pesticides on communities and what you can do to support those fighting for change!

Sources: Earthfix,  Beyond Toxics 

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

 

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29
Oct

Ordinance to Outlaw County-wide Landscape Pesticide Use Introduced in Maryland

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2014) A landmark ordinance to protect children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticide use was introduced yesterday in Montgomery County, Maryland by County Council Vice President George Leventhal, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. Bill 52-14 is based upon growing concerns in the community of the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, and creates a safe space for residents in Montgomery County by prohibiting the use of non-essential land care pesticides on both public and private property.

Introduction of this ordinance follows successful lawn pesticide regulations on private and public property in the City of Takoma Park in Montgomery County, and provides equal safeguards for human health and the environment. Similar cosmetic pesticide policies have been in place in Canadian provinces for many years. Unfortunately, most U.S. jurisdictions are unable to enact these same basic safeguards for their citizens. Maryland is one of seven states that does not prohibit local governments from enacting protections from pesticides that are stricter than state laws. The role of local government in imposing pesticide use requirements is important to the protection of public health and the environment. This right was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin Public Intervenor, Town of Casey v. Mortier, June 21, 1991. In this case, the Court affirmed the rights of U.S. cities and towns to regulate pesticides that are not explicitly curtailed by state legislatures. However, after the Supreme Court ruling, the chemical industry, both manufacturer and service provider trade groups, went to state legislatures across the country and lobbied the states to take away or restrict the authority of local political subdivisions to restrict pesticide use on private property. In protecting the rights of local political subdivisions within Maryland to exercise their authority to impose pesticide use restrictions, the state is enabling the protection of the health and welfare of Maryland residents

Bill 52-14, co-sponsored by Councilmember Marc Elrich and stewarded by Safe Grow Montgomery, a coalition of individual volunteers, organizations and businesses, represents the latest in a growing movement to prevent exposure to chemicals that run-off, drift, and volatilize from their application site, causing involuntary poisoning of children and pets, polluting local water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, and widespread declines of honey bees and other wild pollinators.

“Like restrictions on smoking in public areas, this ordinance is a common-sense approach to regulating toxic products that have been linked to numerous adverse human health impacts,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of the national nonprofit group Beyond Pesticides. “Given widespread availability of organic methods to manage pests and weeds, toxic chemicals simply aren’t necessary for beautiful lawns and landscapes.”

Of 30 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.

“This bill is aimed at protecting the health of families, and especially children, from the unnecessary risks associated with the use of certain cosmetic pesticides that have been linked to a wide-range of diseases, and which provide no health benefits,” said Council Vice President Leventhal. “This is a bill that balances the rights of homeowners to maintain a beautiful lawn with the rights of residents who prefer to not be exposed to chemicals that have known health effects. I view this bill as a starting point in our discussion, which can be tweaked along the way.”

Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages passage of Bill 52-14 by the Montgomery County Council, which would put the County on the forefront of health and environmental sustainability efforts. For more information, see the’ Lawns and Landscapes program page, and for resources to advocate for similar policies in your own community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change webpage.

Source: Montgomery County Council

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

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28
Oct

White House Delays Government-wide Action on Pollinators, Cites Chemical Dangers

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2014) Last week 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.” Following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement this summer eliminating neonicotinoid use on National Wildlife Refuges, this represents the latest instance of a federal entity recognizing the danger caused by systemic pesticides, and recommending against their introduction in pollinator habitat.

Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yardHowever, while the CEQ’s new pollinator friendly practices for federal facilities provide great information on appropriate plants by region, encourage education and outreach to citizens, and prescribe neonicotinoid-free plant selection, the guidelines fall just short of establishing or encouraging an organic management system for federal facilities. Although the report recommends against using chemical controls in established pollinator habitats, and indicates that “[I]n general, the use of natural and mechanical strategies are preferred to the use of pesticides,” the report does sanction the use of non-selective herbicides in site remediation “as safe and effective methods for controlling plants.” Alternatives to herbicide use for problem vegetation in site remediation can be found here.

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.”

These announcements are in response to the Presidential Memorandum, issued at the close of National Pollinator Week 2014, which directed federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and tasked agency leads at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days that supports and fosters pollinator habitat. Although the CEQ and GSA announcements represent movement in the right direction, the White House also announced last week that it would miss the self-assigned December 20th deadline to provide a pollinator health strategy. “In light of continued declines of our nation’s pollinators, and another tough winter coming up for our managed honey bee colonies and U.S. beekeepers, this delay is simply unacceptable,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

In late September, Beyond Pesticides joined with 16 other non-profit environmental and consumer groups in a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy regarding President Obama’s Memorandum. The letter requested EPA move swiftly to suspend the most harmful uses of neonicotinoids after assessment, and address the gaps that allowed systemic insecticides on to market on a “conditional” basis, without a full review of pollinator impacts. In a 2010 internal EPA memo leaked to the beekeeping community from an undisclosed source at EPA, it was revealed that the agency determined the field study used to register the neonicotinoid clothianidin was unacceptable, yet EPA allowed the chemical to be registered on a conditional basis. In a September report the Government Accountability Office criticized EPA’s oversight of this process, noting that the agency does not have a reliable system to track conditional registrations, and will misclassify pesticides as conditional when they may simply require regulatory action. U.S. beekeepers, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network North America are engaged in pending litigation against EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous neonicotinoids.

The new guidelines from CEQ are the first in a holistic response to an ongoing crisis that has put in jeopardy pollination services that contribute $20-30 billion to the U.S. agricultural economy. Numerous nutrient dense crops, such as almonds, apples, cherries, cranberries, pumpkins and many more depend on bees and other pollinators to produce fruit and seed. Without healthy pollinator populations in a best case scenario the price of healthy food will increase, and in the worst, shelves may go bare.

The White House Task Force must go further to promote honey bee health and habitat by suspending the uses of highly toxic, persistent, and systemic neonicotinoids, which are applied en masse throughout the country (see map), and make their way into pollinator friendly plants. While it is encouraging that CEQ is addressing poison plants, an overarching strategy that encourages organic practices is the only long term solution to pollinator declines.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat see the BEE Protective webpage, where you can find the Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides. And join in on National efforts to push the marketplace towards pollinator friendly practices by delivering a card to Lowe’s this Halloween, asking the retailer to stop selling poisoned plants and bee-killing pesticides.

Sources: Council on Environmental Quality Press Release, GSA Blog

Photo Credit: Ed Szymanski, Franklin,MA

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

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27
Oct

Groups Call for Labeling of 300 Inerts Ingredients as EPA Delists 72 Already Discontinued

(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2014) Calling it a response to a petition filed by Beyond Pesticides and other groups back in 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday its proposal to remove 72 no longer used inert ingredients from its list of approved pesticide ingredients –as groups asked for public disclosure of all inerts ingredients in pesticide formulations on product labels. While the proposal is a step in the right direction, ultimately the move is inadequate and misdirected, as the original petition, submitted along with Center for Environmental Health, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and nearly 20 other organizations, called for the agency to require pesticide manufacturers to disclose 371 inert ingredients on their pesticide product labels. The proposal not only fails to address the issue of disclosure for the rest of the 300 inert ingredients, but also only targets hazardous chemicals no longer being used as inert ingredients in any pesticide formulation, such as rotenone, turpentine oil, and nitrous oxide.

epa_seal_profilesInstead, EPA says that it has “developed an alternative strategy designed to reduce the risks posed by hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide products more effectively than by disclosure rulemaking.”  According to Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, the agency “will review inert ingredients currently listed for use in pesticides, update that list, establish criteria for prioritization, and select top candidate inert ingredients for further analysis and potential action.”

An inert ingredient is defined as any ingredient that is “not active,” or specifically targeted to kill a pest. According to a 2000 report produced by the New York State Attorney General, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk, 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent inert ingredients and fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels. The report also found that more than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants in federal environmental statutes governing air and water quality, and, from 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products. For example, naphthalene is an inert ingredient in some products and listed as an active ingredient in others.

Some inert ingredients are even more toxic than the active ingredients. One of the most hazardous ingredients in the commonly used herbicide Roundup, POEA, is a surfactant, which is classified as an inert and therefore not listed on the label. Researchers have found that POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

Despite these uncertainties and potential hazards, pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); this leaves consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxicity present in a vast majority of the pesticide formulations they are using unless the EPA administrator determines that the chemical poses a public health threat.

In 2009, EPA first responded to two petitions, one by led by the Northwest Centers for Alternatives to Pesticides (joined by Beyond Pesticides and other organizations), and a second by 15 State Attorneys General that identified over 350 inert pesticide ingredients as hazardous. The petitioners asked EPA to require these inert ingredients be identified on the labels of products that include them in their formulations.

On December 23, 2009, EPA took another promising step forward with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), announcing its intention to seek public input on developing an inert ingredient disclosure rule. Putting forth two proposals, one would require listing of all ingredients already identified as hazardous and the other would require listing of all ingredients. EPA has taken no further action since then. As a result, some of the original petitioners filed an “undue delay” complaint against EPA earlier this year for failing to complete rulemaking that would require pesticide manufacturers to disclose the inert ingredients on their pesticide product labels.

In response to that lawsuit, EPA retracted its previous ANPR and intention to move forward with rulemaking. Instead, EPA issued a letter to the original 2006 petitioners describing its intentions to seek non-rulemaking regulatory programs and voluntary disclosure standards, stating, “In sum, [EPA] believe[s] we have identified a more effective and timely way to achieve our common objective; but, because this approach would no longer pursue the rulemaking the EPA initiated via the [ANPR] seeking to mandate the disclosure of potentially hazardous inert ingredients on pesticide labels, as requested in the 2006 petitions, this amended response constitutes a denial of the petitions.”

EPA then used its change of position and denial of the 2006 petition as a basis to have the undue delay lawsuit thrown out because it would no longer be issuing a rulemaking.

For the list of 72 chemical substances and to receive information on how to provide comments, see the Federal Register Notice in docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0558. To access this notice, copy and paste the docket number into the search box at: http://regulations.gov. Comments are due November 21, 2014.

For more about pesticide ingredients, visit What’s in a Pesticide by Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Law360, EPA

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

 

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24
Oct

EPA Seeks to Block a Worldwide Ban of a Highly Toxic Wood Preservative

(Beyond Pesticides, October 24, 2014) The U.S. government is opposing international efforts  under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, supported by countries worldwide, to halt the global use of the toxic chemical wood preservative, pentachlorophenol (PCP), which is widely used in the U.S. to treat wood utility poles. U.S. government officials are out of step with countries around the world and domestically with a bipartisan group of New York state lawmakers seeking a state ban. Meanwhile, a group of Long Island residents is charging in a lawsuit that hundreds of new PCP-treated utility poles are causing serious injury to health and property values. This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added PCP to its carcinogen list, saying that PCP is “reasonably anticipated to cause cancer.” The U.S. is the largest producer and user of PCP in the world.

A meeting of a Stockholm Convention committee in Rome this week is recommending a global ban on PCP. The Convention is an international treaty established to control highly hazardous chemicals. While most imagecountries engaged in the process approve of the ban, the U.S. has consistently opposed it.

“Cancer-causing chemicals should not be leaking from utility poles into communities, playgrounds, and schools” said Pam Miller, Alaska Community Action on Toxics and IPEN. “It’s time for the U.S. to join the rest of the world in moving forward with a ban. PCP is ubiquitous in the breast milk of women throughout the world and in Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The evidence more than justifies an international ban.

Approximately one million utility poles are treated with PCP each year. Soil samples taken near utility poles on Long Island show concentrations of PCP more than 300 times New York’s permissible limits for poisonous substances. In the lawsuit filed earlier this year, residents charge that PCP is leaching from the poles into the surrounding soil. State lawmakers are now proposing a state law to ban PCP use on utility poles.

“The EPA has determined that contact with soil contaminated with PCP, as well as contact with treated wood products like utility poles poses an unacceptable cancer risk to children. It is irresponsible for the U.S. government to oppose this ban,” said Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides.

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to PCP 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 to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives. The complaint asserted that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the surrounding environments where products containing the substance were utilized. Most importantly, the lawsuit argued that viable alternatives existed and did not support EPA claims that societal “benefits” and necessity required continued registration. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The fight, however, continues. Join Beyond Pesticides and visit our Wood Preservatives webpage to learn more about the issue and what you can do to take this cancer-causing chemical out of the environmental and our lives for good!

For more information, contact:

Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
Phone 202-543-5450   

Joe DiGangi, IPEN
SKYPE: digangi1; joe@ipen.og

Pam Miller, ACAT
SKYPE: acat-pam; pamela@akaction.org

Rebecca Singer, Long Island Businesses for
Responsible Energy
917-225-1345

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

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23
Oct

Farmers and Environmental Groups to Challenge EPA over Herbicide Approval

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2014) Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states.A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

epa_seal_profilesApproved for use on GE corn and soybeans that are engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

“The toxic treadmill has to stop,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment.”

Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett believes the approval has left communities who rallied against the herbicide feeling abandoned by a government that should be paying attention to the people it serves.

“The voices of independent family farmers are being drowned out by the revolving door of corporate and government agency heads,” said Burkett, who serves as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It’s time for our government to pay attention to the farmer concerns about the negative impacts of herbicide-resistant GMO on our food supply.”

“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor. “2,4-D is a giant step backwards – it’s just a terrible idea.”

The lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

The groups are challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), arguing that the EPA did not adequately analyze the impacts of 2,4-D on human health. They will also argue that the approval violated the Endangered Species Act, as there was no consult by the EPA with the Fish & Wildlife Service.

“Rural communities rely on EPA to take its job seriously — to fully consider potential health impacts before introducing new products or allowing a dramatic increase in use of a hazardous and volatile chemical like 2,4-D,” said Pesticide Action Network North America’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD. “Instead, EPA has given the greenlight to an enormous increase in toxic pesticide exposure.”

While the EPA proposed initially to restrict the use of Enlist Duo to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, it’s anticipated another 10 states will follow. The agency is currently accepting comments until November 14, 2014 on whether to register the herbicide cocktail in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.

“Sadly, our environmental watchdog is playing lapdog to the chemical industry, ignoring hundreds of thousands of comments urging it to do otherwise,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “The EPA is aiding and abetting the toxic spiral of using more and more pesticides to feed the industry’s sale of more and more genetically engineered crops while guaranteeing that 2,4-D use on our farmland will increase tremendously. The EPA’s heedless refusal to properly assess the impacts of expanded on human health, to the toxic chemicals associated with this herbicide, and failure to acknowledge any of the deadly effects on endangered wildlife, is grossly irresponsible  – we intend to stop it.”

“This case will determine to a large extent the direction of U.S. agriculture in the coming years,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety.  “EPA and USDA have bowed to the chemical industry and rubber stamped these genetically engineered crops whose sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use and fatten the bottom line of Dow and Monsanto.  Unless stopped, these crops will lead to a massive increase in the spraying of toxic chemicals and an increasing plague of herbicide resistant weeds that will choke America’s farmlands and threaten the livelihoods of our farmers.”

“EPA’s unfortunate decision to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered crops will more than triple the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by the end of this decade,” said Environmental Working Group’s senior policy analyst Mary Ellen Kustin. “Such an increase of a known toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems is unconscionable.”

“When the EPA approved Enlist Duo, it knew this pesticide would contaminate our streams and rivers,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is absolutely no doubt that the pesticide will harm dozens of endangered species like the American burying beetle, pallid sturgeon, and highly-endangered freshwater mussels.”

On September 16, 2014, the USDA issued its decision deregulating Enlist corn and soy, further paving the way for the EPA to approve the herbicide’s use on these crops. During the official public comment period on the USDA’s analysis of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans this spring, 400,000 citizens submitted comments opposing the crops. In June, another half million people sent their objections to EPA during their public comment period. Just this last month, a quarter million people told the White House to reject Enlist crops and Enlist Duo.

This litigation is the next step in Beyond Pesticides’ continuous efforts to speak out against industry and government assertions that GE crops and the chemicals developed for them are safe. Visit our website to learn more about the dangers of GE crops and pesticides and to see what you can do to stop them!

For More Information, Contact:
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides (202) 543-5450 ext. 19
Betsy Lopez-Wagner, Earthjustice (415) 217-2159
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network (916) 588-3100
Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity (202) 817-8121
Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition (202) 421-4544
Shannon Van Hoesen, Environmental Working Group (202) 939-9141

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

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22
Oct

EPA Launches Voluntary Rating Program on Pesticide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, October 22, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a new voluntary Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program to encourage the use of spray technologies scientifically verified to significantly reduce pesticide drift. But with the recent approval of increased uses of toxic pesticides, such as 2,4-D, and the general lack of compliance with pesticide labels, many believe that this new program may not go far enough to protect non-target sites and vulnerable communities from drift until serious efforts to reduce widespread use of toxic, highly volatile pesticides are undertaken.

spraydriftPesticide drift is an inevitable consequence of pesticide use, and has been a problem for communities adjacent to agricultural areas and non-target sites for decades. Many pesticide products are released as foliar sprays into the air, or volatilize from surfaces where particles can travel for miles from their application site. This means that on a windy day pesticide residues can drift far distances, affecting downwind, vulnerable communities, organic farms and other environments. Legal action has been taken against the agency to protect communities from drift, but EPA has consistently failed to meaningfully address concerns.

To address issues of drift, EPA’s new program will attempt to reduce drift by certifying new technologically advanced equipment that can potentially reduce the levels of pesticide residue released into the air. According to the agency, DRT is a voluntary program that encourages manufacturers to test their technologies (such as nozzles, spray shields and drift reduction chemicals) for drift reduction potential. EPA is encouraging pesticide manufacturers to label their products for use with DRT technologies. There are four DRT ratings represented by one, two, three or four stars that are awarded for technologies that demonstrate at least 25 percent reduction in potential spray drift compared to the standard. The greater the number of stars, the greater the potential reduction of spray drift:

  • One star — 25-49 % reduction
  • Two stars — 50-74 % reduction
  • Three stars — 75-89 % reduction
  • Four stars — 90+ % reduction

“Every year state and local agencies receive thousands of complaints about the impacts of pesticide drift on people, wildlife and plants,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Our new star-rating system of products and technologies will help farmers reduce drift, protect neighbors and reduce costs by keeping more of the pesticide on the crop. We hope the new voluntary DRT will encourage the manufacture, marketing and use of safer spray technology and equipment scientifically proven to reduce pesticide drift.”

Pesticide drift affects thousands of individuals who suffer from acute symptoms resulting from exposures. Non-target sites and organisms are directly affected by adjacent or surrounding agricultural fields- especially farmworker communities, lawns, golf courses etc, where pesticide use totals millions of pounds annually, resulting in harms to sensitive crops, especially organic, water contamination and subsequent harms to wildlife. According to EPA, “One to ten percent of agricultural pesticide sprays drift or move from the intended target crop. Every year about 70 million pounds of pesticides valued up to $640 million are lost to pesticide drift. And, state agencies use substantial resources each year investigating drift complaints. Farmers have long been concerned about reducing pesticide product loss during and after application to crops and minimizing drift to neighbors.”

In the past, EPA introduced proposed guidance for new pesticide labeling in an effort to reduce off-target spray and dust drift. According to EPA in 2009, measures were projected to help improve the clarity and consistency of pesticide labels and help prevent harm from spray drift. At the time, EPA set out to determine whether no-spray buffer zones or other measures, such as restrictions on droplet or particle size, nozzle height, or weather conditions, are needed to protect people, wildlife, water resources, schools and other sensitive sites from potential harm. Thus far, current pesticide label directions/statements that warn against pesticide application during windy conditions, or stipulate certain application equipment have proven inadequate to sufficiently mitigate pesticide drift. In fact, given the widespread use of pesticides and the highly volatile nature of many, pesticide drift will continue to be an inevitable consequence of pesticide use, unless efforts are made by the agency to reduce pesticide use overall.

Unfortunately, despite a massive outpouring of public opposition, EPA announced last week that it has approved expanded uses of 2,4-D to be used on genetically engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops, essentially ushering in a new wave of increased 2,4-D use. In addition to a multitude of human health effects associated with its use, 2,4-D drift has long been a known problem to off-site locations, endangered species, and non-target crops. Many forms of 2,4-D volatilize above 85oF and 2,4-D drift has been known to damage tomatoes, grapes, and other plants. Drift can injure plants half a mile or more from the application site, and concentrations 100 times below the recommended label rates have even been reported to cause injury to grapes. With increased uses on GE crops, 2,4-D drift will become a greater risks to human health and the environment.

Currently, EPA is reviewing guidelines regarding pesticide spray drift in pesticide risk assessments. According to comments submitted by Beyond Pesticides to the agency earlier this year, to properly assess drift, peer-reviewed and scientifically sound human health and ecological toxicity data must be available and fully evaluated, including low-dose and sublethal toxicity. However, data gaps continue to plague the agency’s review process, resulting in underestimated risks and subsequent harms, as demonstrated in communities and in the environment. The agency must realize that these flaws in its risk assessment process habitually continue to allow products that pose unreasonable adverse effects to drift into the environment.

Spray technology manufacturers interested in participating in EPA’s DRT program may now submit data verifying their technology reduces pesticide movement. EPA says it will evaluate each data submission and, if appropriate, assign a drift-reduction star rating to the product based on its ability to reduce spray drift. EPA will post these ratings at: http://www2.epa.gov/reducing-pesticide-drift. A pesticide manufacturer can choose to label a product for use with a DRT of a particular rating after receiving approval from EPA. Over time, EPA notes the program will move the agricultural sector toward the widespread use of low-drift technologies. EPA states that drift reduction ratings could appear on pesticide labels as early as fall 2015.

For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

The best way to reduce pesticide drift and protect sensitive crops is to support organic agriculture. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. For more information about the pesticides registered for use on foods we eat every day, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide, and the Organic Food program page.

Source: EPA News Release

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

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21
Oct

Threatened Status Proposed for West Coast Fisher after Poisonings with Rodenticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 21, 2014) Due in large part to the use of rodenticides in the cultivation of illegal marijuana grow operations, earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a proposal to list fishers, medium sized carnivores of the weasel family, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Fishers are the second species in the West that have been recognized by regulators as adversely affected by illegal marijuana grow operations. Coho salmon have also befisheren affected as a result of pesticide and fertilizer use, water withdrawals, and clear-cut logging that have silted, dried up, and polluted streams where the salmon run.

Fishers, which are found throughout North America and have been part of the forests in Pacific states for thousands of years, have all but virtually disappeared in much of Washington, Oregon and California, according to FWS. Illegal marijuana grow operations have been a troubling source of wildlife deaths as growers often use “industrial-sized quantities of poison in forests to fend off rodents,” says Humboldt County District Supervisor Rex Bohn. A study published in PLOS One in 2012 found that 79% of fishers surrounding an illegal marijuana grow operation had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Fishers and other top predators can be exposed directly by ingesting rodenticide bait scattered around fields, or indirectly by consuming prey that was exposed. Predators that are not immediately killed by rodenticides can become more susceptible to disease and suffer lethargy, making it more difficult, for example, to dodge oncoming traffic if crossing a road.

In March, as a result of widespread wildlife poisonings, including that of Los Angeles’ iconic Mountain Lion, and significant threats to young children, the state of California announced it was restricting the use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone found in d-CON brand products, as California-restricted materials, effectively removing them from commercial sale. However, one week later, the manufacturer of these “d-CON” rodenticides, Reckitt Benckiser, sued the state of California to stop it from acting. “It’s disgusting that d-CON continues to challenge common-sense controls for protecting wildlife, children and pets,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in response to the company’s lawsuit. “It’s time to put public safety before corporate profits.”

Prior to California’s actions, the company had refused to adopt voluntary risk mitigation measures established by the US. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 that would remove rodenticide products in unsecured bait stations from store shelves. When EPA slated d-CON products for cancellation, the manufacturer used legal tactics to challenge EPA’s decision, the first time in 20 years that a company declined to implement EPA risk mitigation measures for pesticide products.

Responding to corporate recklessness, Beyond Pesticides joined with a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental organizations to launch the Care About Kids campaign, asking major U.S. retailers to stop selling d-CON rodenticides linked to the deaths of children, as well as wildlife.

In May, Reckitt Benckiser reached a compromise with EPA to stop production of its loose d-CON bait products by the end of 2014, but leave the products in the pipeline on the market.  The manufacturer must stop sale to retailers by March 31, 2015, though there is no set timeline for retailers to stop selling these products. This action falls far short of the urgent protections needed for children and wildlife. “It is outrageous that a highly toxic product associated with the poisoning of children, pets, and wildlife remains on the market one more day, let alone for the years it will take to exhaust supplies,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “One child harmed from the continued sale of this product is one child too many,” said Mr. Feldman. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged between 12,000 to 15,000 poison exposure reports of children under the age of six from mouse and rat baits. Rodent control in homes can be effectively dealt with through alternatives such as sealing gaps around the doors by replacing worn thresholds and weather stripping, installing door sweeps, and caulking openings around water pipes, electric wires, cables, and vents.

Production until year’s end and the continued availability of these products on store shelves gives illegal marijuana cultivators easy access to a product that has been formally implicated as unacceptable for use by a wide range of federal and state regulators. While attempts are being made to reintroduce fishers in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and Crater Lake in Oregon, long-time fisher habitat in northern California and southern Oregon has declined to anywhere from a few hundred to 4,000 individuals.

Take action to protect children and wildlife by joining the Care About Kids campaign. Send a letter to major retailers asking them to remove harmful d-CON products from store shelves.

Source: Fish and Wildlife Service

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

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20
Oct

EPA Finds Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments To Be of Little or No Benefit

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report Thursday that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. While pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has petitioned EPA to raise the allowable levels of another systemic pesticide thiamethoxam on a number of crops, EPA’s report confirms scientific findings that these chemical treatments are unnecessary and inefficacious. Widely used neonicotinoids, which as systemic chemicals move through a plant’s vascular system and express poison through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, have been identified in multiple peer-reviewed studies and by beekeepers as the major contributing factor in bee decline.

The report concludes that not only is there no increase in soybean yield when compared to using no pest control at all, but also the potential benefit of neonicotinoid seed treatment is not likely to be large or widespread Soybeanvarietiesthroughout the U. S. EPA also found that seed treatments fail to provide protection from target pests during critical times of plant activity, ultimately leading to the assessment that “much of the existing usage on soybeans is prophylactic in nature.”

“This report demonstrates, yet again, the need for EPA to ask the very important question of whether a chemical is truly necessary and efficacious before introducing it into the environment,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “And because treated seeds are mostly exempt from federal pesticide laws under the treated article provision, this oversight has allowed a dangerous chemical to be used largely unregulated, wreaking havoc on the nation’s pollinators.”

Honey bees and other pollinators have been experiencing a rapid and ongoing population decline in the U.S and other parts of the world since 2006. This has a profound impact on the stability of ecosystems, the economy, and the U.S. food supply. A May 2013 report by USDA found that one in three bites of food depends on pollination, mainly by managed honey bees, and that pollination is valued at $20 to $30 billion annually.

Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine and are pesticides that are toxic to a broad range of insect pests. They are also known as systemic pesticides, which are pesticides that spread throughout the entire plant structure, making everything from roots to pollen toxic to organisms that come in contact with it. As a result of neonicotinoids systemic nature, pre-treatment practices, and other factors these dangerous pesticides have been linked to the global disappearance of honey bees and other non-target organisms, such as earthworms, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, have already been given two-year moratorium in the European Union (EU). Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. Although there has been some success in the form of local ordinances, the U.S. and Ontario, Canada, as well as policy shifts within some U.S. federal agencies, a Canadian beekeeper lawsuit demonstrates the desperation of beekeepers everywhere seeking relief on a broader scale.

In the U.S. courts, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and U.S. beekeepers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean, and canola seeds.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website! You can also learn more about the growing body of science linking bee deaths to neonicotinoids by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows.

Source: EPA Press Release

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

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17
Oct

GMO Labeling Movement Marches Forward with Vermont Release of Draft Rules

(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2014) The Vermont Attorney General’s Office, as part of a continuous effort to label genetically modified organisms (GMO) and increase transparency for consumers, released a draft of the rules written to govern the state’s law to require the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering.

justlabelitThe nine page rulemaking, describe a range of issues, from the definition of “food” and “genetic engineering” to the required disclosures that will read “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

The attorney general’s office has scheduled three public hearings for next week to give the public the opportunity to comment on the law. Members of the public can also submit a comment via email.

Attorney General William Sorrell said his office is moving to write the rules as quickly as possible so that the industry can prepare before the law takes effect in 2016.

The law, which was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin in May and is the first of its kind in the nation, has been met with substantial backlash. The state is currently involved in a legal battle by major trade associations, including Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA). In a statement, GMA has called the labeling requirement “a costly and misguided measure.” However, new analysis of published research repudiates this claim; the median cost to consumers of requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food is only $2.30 per person annually. The report was commissioned by Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, and conducted by the independent Portland-based economic research firm, ECONorthwest. Additionally, genetically engineered foods are already required to be labeled in 64 foreign countries, including many where American food producers sell their wares. Labeling has not increased food prices in those countries, according to Consumers Union.

The Food Fight Fund allows individuals to donate to defend the law when it is challenged in court. 

Across the U.S., grassroots groups are pushing for the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states, with GMO labeling requirements on the ballots for both Oregon as well as Colorado in November. A national GE labeling bill also remains in both houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! Campaign and has garnered thousands of supporters across the country.

Other states to pass legislation include Maine and Connecticut; however, these states contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut. Both California and Washington state labelling laws were proposed in recent years, but these ultimately failed after millions of dollars of corporate spending entered into the equation. Polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the monarch butterfly and leads to resistance in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Despite rampant glyphosate resistance, and the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has registered Enlist DuoŸ, officially approving the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops and their accompanying herbicide formulations.

Buying organically labeled food is one of the best ways to stop GE ingredients from being purposely added during food production and handling. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website. You can also help support the Vermont labeling law by donating to the Food Fight Fund.

Sources: Times Argus

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

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16
Oct

EPA Approves Enlist DuoÂź, Opens Gate to New Wave of GE Woes

(Beyond Pesticides, October, 16, 2014) Despite a massive outpouring of public opposition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it has registered Enlist DuoÂź, officially putting the rubber stamp of approval on the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops.

epa_seal_profilesDeveloped by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo¼ is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo¼-tolerant corn and soybean crops. While registration of the herbicide was anticipated by most of the public since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s approval of the Enlist Duo¼-tolerant crops in mid-September, the announcement still comes as a disappointing shock, demonstrating the failings of the U.S. pesticide and agricultural regulatory system to put people and the environment before economic incentives and industry bottom lines.

“EPA approval of this herbicide sets a dangerous precedent,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Instead of looking to alternatives, regulators are signaling that the answer to widespread weed resistance is more toxic products that endanger farmworkers and farming communities.”

As Beyond Pesticides noted in its comments submitted to EPA in June of this year, the documented adverse effects of 2,4-D, a chlorophenoxy herbicide, are plentiful and include human health risks of soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. EPA’s own research suggests that babies born in counties where high rates of chlorophenoxy herbicides are applied to farm fields are significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits, and extra digits. These birth defects are 60-90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates. The results also show a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

And it doesn’t stop with human risks. Environmental adverse effects also abound, stemming from EPA-acknowledged risk of increased-weed resistance.

There are concerning safety gaps in the human health risk assessment that Dow AgroSciences provided to EPA for Enlist-Duo¼’s registration. These issues are compounded by EPA’s decision to waive the tenfold safety standards under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), as noted in a letter from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to EPA, as well as dismiss the need for new tolerance assessments from aggregate exposures based on outdated data.

For these and other reasons, public opposition to both the clearance of Enlist-Duo¼-tolerant seeds and registration of Enlist Duo¼ has been loud and clear. Over the 60-day public comment period for the Enlist Duo¼ seeds, which ended back in March, USDA received over 10,000 comments on its draft environmental impact statement and plant pest risk assessments. Of these comments, over 88%, including Beyond Pesticides, were opposed to the non-regulated status of the Enlist varieties. During a recent 30-day “review period” in August for the final environmental impact statement, the agency received 969 submissions. Again the majority did not support deregulation. Additionally the agency received over 240,000 signatures from three non-government organizations opposing the deregulation of the Enlist crops.

Regardless of public opposition and the science to back it, EPA insisted in its announcement yesterday that, “EPA scientists used highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks for the new uses of 2,4-D in Enlist Duo. The assessments confirm that these uses meet the safety standards for pesticide registration and, as approved, will be protective of the public, agricultural workers, and non-target species, including endangered species.”

Registration only applies to the use of the pesticide six states, (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) and further comments are solicited until November 14, 2014 for expansion of the registration to use of the herbicide in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota.

Beyond Pesticides has argued to EPA and USDA that the weed resistance in herbicide-tolerant cropping systems is escalating and not sustainable, contributing to a chemical-dependency treadmill. A 2011 study in the journal Weed Science found at least 21 different species of weeds to be resistant to applications of Monsanto’s Roundup.

Although touted to address this problem of resistance, research reveals weed resistance to 2,4-D is already developing in areas of the western U.S., even without the presence of herbicide-ready crops. Additionally, despite assertions to the contrary, a 2012 report shows that GE crops are responsible for an increase of 404 million pounds of pesticides, or about 7%, in the U.S. over the first 16 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2011). USDA’s own analysis finds that approval of 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans will lead to an unprecedented 2- to 7-fold increase in agricultural use of the herbicide by 2020, from 26 million to as much as 176 million pounds per year.  Even at current use levels, 2,4-D drift is responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide. These alarming and ongoing problems point to systematic deficiencies in the current regulatory system and pesticide-use paradigm —new GE crops will not “solve” resistance issues, but merely push the problems of weed management further down the road.

Join Beyond Pesticides in continuing to fight against the dangerous wave of GE crops and chemicals! Visit our website to learn more about GE crops and how to keep them out of our environment and food!

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

Source: EPA

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15
Oct

Another Study Links Depression in Farmers to Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2014) A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives finds a strong relationship between the use of pesticides and depression in farmers. One specific class of pesticide, organochlorines, was associated with a 90% higher chance of being diagnosed with depression. For fumigants, the increased risk was up to 80 percent. This study echoes the conclusion from an earlier French study which also reported that farmers using pesticides face a greater risk of developing depression.

dn imageThe study, Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study, examines possible associations between pesticide exposure and depression among male private pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS). Over 21,000 applicators who enrolled in the study in 1993–1997 were followed and examined. The applicators were asked about depression when enrolled in the study and then again around 2010. Previous work with this AHS sample found a higher prevalence of depression among male applicators who reported past pesticide poisoning or use of pesticides from several different classes. However, this study examines specific pesticides, and finds that two types of pesticides, fumigants and organochlorine insecticides are positively correlated with depression and cumulative days of use. Those exposed to organochlorine pesticides have a 90 percent risk of developing depression, while for fumigants the increased risk was up to 80 percent. Several individual pesticides, the fumigants aluminum phosphide and ethylene dibromide, the phenoxy herbicide (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4,5-T), the organochlorine insecticide dieldrin, and the organophosphate insecticides diazinon, malathion, and parathion are also positively correlated. Of these, aluminum phosphide, diazinon, and malathion are still registered and in use in the U.S.

“I don’t think there’s any question that pesticides can affect the functions of the brain. There could also be indirect effects. Pesticides can promote other health problems, which could be related to depression,” said lead researcher Freya Kamel, PhD.

The authors report several strengths of their study, including its large size. Additionally, its prospective nature provided the opportunity to identify cases of depression diagnosed before and after the study period. Detailed information on applicators’ exposures, including general pesticide exposure, use of pesticide classes, and use of individual pesticides was also collected. The authors report similar results when they analyze the same group from 1993 to 1997. At that time, farmers with the highest cumulative exposure days to pesticides were 50 percent more likely to have a depression diagnosis. In 2013, a French study found that farmers using herbicides are nearly two and a half times as likely to be treated for depression as those who did not use herbicides, and that farmers who are exposed for greater periods of time are also afflicted with greater risk of developing depression.

Previous research has already suggested that pesticides, particularly organophosphates, cause a variety of serious neurological health problems, including Parkinson’s disease. This is not surprising, as organophosphates are known to be extremely toxic to nerve cells and deadly at large doses. However, risks from long-term low-dose exposure also exist. A 2012 study  that sourced data from 14 studies over the past 20 years found that long-term, low-dose exposure to organophosphates can damage neurological and cognitive functions. Other studies have also connected low-dose exposure to organophosphates to ADHD,  reduced IQs, and Alzheimers.

Organophosphates are a common class of chemicals used as insecticides. Several have already been banned or highly restricted in several European countries and in the U.S. In addition to being potent neurotoxins, organophosphates pesticides are extremely harmful to the nervous system, as they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. Despite numerous organophosphate poisonings of farmworkers, homeowners, and children, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the continued registration of many of these products. In the case of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, household uses of the products have been canceled because of the extreme health risks to children, but agricultural, golf course, and “public health” (mosquito control) uses remain on the market.

Through the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD), Beyond Pesticides keeps track of the most recent studies related to pesticide exposure. For more information on the multiple harms of pesticides, see the PIDD pages on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and other diseases.

Studies such as these highlight the importance of buying, growing, and supporting organic. Consumer choices encourage the protection of the people who help put food on our table every day by purchasing organic. By buying organic, you support an agricultural system that does not rely on the widespread application of dangerous pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

 

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14
Oct

Study Ties Pollinator Declines to Increased Global Malnutrition

(Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2014) Though pollinators only account for about 10% of the production of food crops worldwide, pollinator decline could play a disproportionate role in affecting human health in regions that are already facing food scarcity, according to a new study. Global malnutrition overlaps with pollinator-dependent micronutrient production, published last month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study examines regional differences in pollinator dependence of the micronutrient content in crops, revealing a significant overlap between this dependency and the severity of nutrient deficiency. Previous research has underscored the importance of pollinators to agriculture in the U.S., finding that their services are essential to crop yields, A May 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that one in three bites of food depends on pollination, mainly by honey bees, and that pollination is valued at $20 to $30 billion annually.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the study, scientists collected data on nutrient contents, pollination dependence and regional agricultural yields for more than 100 of the most common crops grown for global consumption. Combining that data with USDA nutritional information, they were able to determine that three essential nutrients were dependent on pollinators, vitamin A, iron and folate. According to the report, the regions that are most in need of those nutrients are India, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, as much as 50% of the production of plant-derived sources of vitamin A requires pollination throughout much of Southeast Asia. Micronutrient deficiencies are three times as likely to occur in areas of highest pollination dependence for vitamin A and iron, suggesting that disruptions in pollination could have serious implications for the accessibility of micronutrients for public health.

“Taking these three separate lines of research —where crops are grown, how nutritious are they, and how dependent are they on pollination— you realize there are really different patterns in which nutrition production is most dependent on pollination,” said Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, PhD, lead author of the study.

The cause of pollinator decline is No Longer a Big Mystery. Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that as the plant grows the pesticide becomes incorporated into the plant. When honey bees and other pollinators forage and collect pollen or nectar, or drink from what are termed “guttation” (water) droplets emitted from neonicotinoid-incorporated crops, they are exposed to sublethal doses of the chemical. At this level, the pesticides don’t kill bees outright. Instead, they impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.

In the U.S., little to no definitive action has been taken to protect pollinators from pesticide decline. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees pesticide regulation, relies on industry-funded data to inform its decision making process regarding pesticide impacts on human and ecological health. While industry-supported studies submitted to EPA for regulatory purposes must be conducted in accordance with agency protocol, EPA’s reliance on industry-generated findings has  been historically questioned. EPA has been criticized by Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for allowing regulated industry influence. In 2008, the Union of Concerned Scientists released its survey finding that 889 of nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists say that they have experienced political interference in their work over the previous five years.

Meanwhile, the scientific database linking severe, long-term adverse effects of neonicotinoids on bees and other pollinators keeps growing. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been implicated in bee declines across the globe, while their chemical manufacturers continue to deflect attention from their products to other factors, such as bad weather, poor nutrition, and mites. Recent studies have found that near infinitesimal exposures to neonicotinoids causes a reduction in the amount of pollen that bumblebees are able to collect for their colony. Researchers found that the effects of neonicotinoid intoxication persist for a least a month after exposure, underscoring the long-term damage these chemicals can cause to bee colonies. Another study from the Harvard School of Public Health study, shows two widely used neonicotinoids significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently published data that shows widespread contamination and persistence of Midwest waterways with neonicotinoids.

Recently, EPA published two tools in an effort to protect pollinators, the availability of its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, which is intended to bring clarity to the required data needed to be submitted for review by the agency, and Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25 data), which informs applicators of the time pesticides remain acutely toxic on vegetation after application. However, despite these, the agency still falls short of answering the call of many concerned beekeepers and environmentalists who have called for restricting neonicotinoid pesticides.

A Presidential Memorandum issued in June directs federal agencies to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” and establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, as well as develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Fortunately, the memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others are detrimental to our economy. Agencies have 180 days to respond to this memorandum. Meanwhile, H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), a bill seeking to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators, is gaining bipartisan support in Congress.

With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators. For more information on actions you can take to protect pollinators, go to Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign page.

Source: Science Magazine

Photo Source: Art Jacobson

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

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10
Oct

Neonicotinoids Called “Bigger Threat” to Environment than DDT

(Beyond Pesticides, October 10, 2014) Many officials are no longer mincing words as they tie the global decline in bee populations with mounting evidence pointing to neonicotinoid pesticides. “All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me. . . suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT, ” said Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller, of Ontario, Canada, as he released his annual report. The Annual Report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, which has been released since 1994, has in recent years found particular scrutiny falling on neonicotinoids.

Bumblebee_heucheraDichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, more commonly known as DDT, was banned in Canada and in the United States in 1972, following a massive environmental movement spurred by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which documented the adverse environmental effects resulting from the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

Mr. Miller called bees the “canary in the coal mine” on neonicotinoids, and said the impact of the pesticides is “clearly more wide scale” in the ecosystem.

Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine and are pesticides that are toxic to a broad range of insect pests. They are also known as systemic pesticides, which are pesticides that spread throughout the entire plant structure, making everything from roots to pollen toxic to organisms that come in contact with it. As a result of neonicotinoids systemic nature, pre-treatment practices, and other factors these dangerous pesticides have been linked to the global disappearance of honey bees and other non-target organisms, such as earthworms, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

The report highlights the case of the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) which was once the fourth most common bumble bee species in southern Ontario. The species is now virtually absent throughout most of its historic range. The report mentions that long-term population trends are declining for several wild bee species, as well as butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association stated that Ontario lost 58 percent of its hives last year. The group complained that the government has not acted on previous warnings about neonicotinoids and should outlaw the pesticides immediately.

Recently, Ontario beekeepers decided to take matters into their own hands by filing a class action lawsuit against two makers of neonicotinoids. The lawsuit alleges that Syngenta and Bayer CropScience were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides and this negligence caused the plaintiffs, Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey, to suffer $450 million in damages. These alleged damages are based on losses from damaged or lost bee colonies, decreased honey production, lost profits, and unrecoverable costs —all because of neonicotinoids.

Here in the U.S., Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and U.S. beekeepers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean and canola seeds.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website! You can also learn more about the growing body of science linking bee deaths to neonicotinoids by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows.

Sources: CTV News

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

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09
Oct

Toxic Wood Preservative Added to Government List of Carcinogens

(Beyond Pesticides, October 9, 2014) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released its 13th Report on Carcinogens, a science-based document that identifies chemical, biological, and physical agents that are considered cancer hazards for people living in the United States. While four substances were added, bringing the total list to 243, it is the addition of pentacholophenol (PCP) and its by-products that should raise eyebrows across the United States and perhaps even raise hopes of those fighting against the use of this dangerous chemical that it might be on its way out.

imageAdded to the DHHS list as a substance “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” PCP is primarily used as a wood preservative in such items as utility poles, railroad ties, and fence posts. An organocholrine compound, the substances was first developed and used as a pesticide. Byproducts of PCP include dioxins. The reasons for the inclusion on the HHS list include findings that exposure to this mixture was associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in studies in humans and caused tumors in the liver and other organs in mice.

The addition of PCP to the DHHS’s list comes as little surprise, after decades of advocacy efforts on the part of Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups to persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cancel PCP and other wood preservative registrations because of the known carcinogenic effects and adverse environmental impacts.

Health and environmental concerns spurred reviews of PCP by EPA as early as 1978, leading over the next several decades to its elimination in agriculture, indoor use and then residential restrictions. As recently as 2008, in EPA’s registration eligibility decision (RED) on PCP and other wood preservatives related to its continuing use in the treatment of utility poles, among other outdoor uses, the agency concluded, “In general, EPA has determined that the compounds contribute benefits to society and are eligible for reregistration provided the mitigation measures and associated label changes identified in the REDs are implemented and required data are submitted.” EPA went on to state, “In its risk assessments, the Agency identified risks of concern associated with occupational exposure (i.e., treatment plant workers) to all three [PCP, chromated copper arsenate, and creosote] preservatives and ecological exposure to pentachlorophenol and creosote.”

Even though wood for residential use may no longer be treated with these toxicants and the use has been classified as restricted, industrial uses (railroad ties, utility poles) continue to put workers and the public at risk. Occupational exposures in the making of treated wood products increase the risk of cancers in workers, and presence in the environment of the products expose wildlife and children to potential contamination through direct contact, runoff into soil and water, and inhalation.

The 13th Report on Carcinogens is prepared by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). NTP is a federal, interagency program, headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), whose goal is to safeguard the public by identifying substances in the environment that may affect human health.

“Identifying substances in our environment that can make people vulnerable to cancer will help in prevention efforts,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). “This report provides a valuable resource for health regulatory and research agencies, and it empowers the public with information people can use to reduce exposure to cancer causing substances.”

While the report doesn’t require EPA to take any action to address substances put on the list, it adds to the mounting pressure on industry and EPA to remove the toxic chemical from our environment and might further assist local efforts like those in New York to prevent its use.

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to PCP 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 to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives. The complaint asserted that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the surrounding environments where products containing the substance were utilized. Most importantly, the lawsuit argued that viable alternatives existed and did not support EPA claims that societal “benefits” and necessity required continued registration. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The fight, however, continues. Join Beyond Pesticides and visit our Wood Preservatives webpage to learn more about the issue and what you can do to take this cancer-causing chemical out of the environmental and our lives for good!

Source: National Institutes of Health

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

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08
Oct

The Touch, the Feel, of GE Cotton?

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2014) After headliners like genetically engineered (GE) Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans failed to deliver on claims of decreased pesticide use and environmental sustainability, instead leading to the rise of “superweeds,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved more dangerous, 2,4-D-resistent versions  shortly after. Now after the predictable failure of Roundup-Ready cotton, USDA is set to approve dicamba-tolerant GE cotton, coming soon to a t-shirt near you.  Feeling a bit itchy now?

cottonJoin us in telling USDA the solution to “superweeds” is NOT more GE crops and increased herbicide use! Act by October 10, at midnight!

USDA’s proposal to deregulate and allow into the environment yet another GE variety will inevitably lead to damaging effects on non-GE crops, native plant species, and environmental biodiversity. USDA acknowledges that the purpose of dicamba-tolerant cotton “is to provide growers with an additional in-crop weed management option to manage [glyphosate resistant] broadleaf weed species,” but introducing crops resistant to other chemical technologies like dicamba may provide short-term relief from resistant weeds, but is not a long-term, sustainable solution to burgeoning weed resistance. This current proposal also includes dicamba-tolerant soybean, as well as a stacked tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate.

Contrary to industry proclamations, providing these GE “tools” to farmers only keeps them on a perpetual chemical treadmill that continues to propagate resistant weeds, endanger our environment, health, and agricultural economy.

There is plenty about dicamba to be concerned about:

  • Increased use of dicamba will induce dicamba-resistant weeds, similar to what is currently seen with Roundup.
  • Dicamba vapor drift and subsequent crop injury to sensitive crops will be a frequent problem. Abnormal leaf growth and floral development, reduced yield, and reduced quality have all been observed from dicamba drift.
  • Severe economic consequences for non-GE and organic farmers can occur due to increased dicamba drift and GE contamination.
  • Dicamba has been detected in surface waters and is toxic to aquatic organisms.
  • Contamination of groundwater is possible as a result of dicamba’s high mobility in soils.
  • Studies have found that preconception exposure to dicamba was associated with increased risk of birth defects in male offspring. Dicamba has also been associated with a decrease in the ability to conceive, and cell death in developing embryos.
  • Dicamba has been observed to change sex hormone levels, indicating that it is an endocrine disruptor.

Beyond Pesticides believes that allowing new GE material into the environment against the backdrop of documented problems created by other herbicide-tolerant GE crops is taking U.S. agriculture in a wrong and hazardous direction. GE gene flow in the environment and increased herbicide dependency has been left unchecked for many years, resulting in an increasing population of resistant weeds and insects that are becoming more and more difficult and costly to control.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

See the sample letter below and take time to gather your evidence. When you’re ready, click here to provide a unique public comment to USDA.

Sample letter:

I am very concerned about this latest deregulation of dicamba-tolerant GE cotton and soybean. USDA continues to take American farmers down the path of increased reliance on GE crops in spite of mounting evidence that shows that these crops lead to increased herbicide use, environmental contamination, and resistant weeds.

The problem of Roundup-resistant weeds stems from years of over-reliance on Roundup as an easy, cheap herbicide tool for weed control. This spawned hundreds of weeds now no longer controlled by Roundup. However, the solution to the problem encountered by farmers in Roundup-resistant weeds should not involve the use of new varieties of GE crops and increased use of other herbicides.

Inevitably, increased use of dicamba will lead to dicamba-resistant weeds, water contamination, and economic harm to non-GE and organic farmers.

Monsanto and its industry partners are only interested in pushing their next product and increasing profits, not in the long-term health of the U.S. agricultural economy or farmers. Instead of approving another round of GE crops, technology that has been proven to fail farmers, agriculture and the environment, USDA should be encouraging farmers to return to more holistic methods of farming that include sustainable integrated methods for long-term weed management.

Sincerely
[Your name]

Source: USDA APHIS

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

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07
Oct

Study Shows Goats as Viable Control Agent for Opportunistic Wetland Reeds

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2014) Goat grazing to control opportunistic, unwanted, and poisonous plants has taken off across the country, as researchers continue to find new value in these personable animals. According to a study published last month by an international team of scientists in the journal PeerJ, goats have an outstanding potential to effectively control the opportunistic, or “invasive” reed Phragmites australis, and replace the unnecessary use of costly and dangerous herbicides.

goatsphragAlthough a native species of phragmites exist in the U.S. (phragmites australis subspecies americanus), these plants do not form the dense monotypic stands characteristic of European phragmites (phragmites australis subspecies australis), which was introduced to the U.S. east coast in the early 1800s, and is currently found in wetlands throughout North America. The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall, and has been widely implicated in reducing biodiversity and crowding out native species in wetlands. Land managers throughout the country are encountering phragmites and resorting to the use of toxic and expensive chemicals, usually combinations of the herbicide triclopyr and glyphosate, both of which have shown evidence of harm to aquatic species. A study published in 2013 in the journal Estuaries and Coasts found that between 2005 and 2009 over $4.6 million per year was spent to control phragmites, with 94% of control tactics using herbicides on over 80,000 hectares of land. However, as the study notes, “Despite these high expenditures, few organizations accomplished their management objectives.”

A New York Times article also recently questioned the lengths to which land managers have gone in attempts to snuff out the reed. “The Sisyphean task of completely clearing the reed again and again throughout eternity is a level of commitment that seems unrealistic,” wrote author Dave Taft. The piece goes on to realign the plant’s role in ecosystems, noting its value in pollutant filtration, habitat for certain species, and use as a material for pen making. Despite calls to rethink the role of plants now considered “invasive” (as many are also doing with the Southwest’s tamarisk trees), it continues to be viewed as a problem in need of solution.

And there is evidence that removing phragmites increases biodiversity after it is cleared. However, the use of herbicides that have been linked to, for instance, shape changes in frogs and harm to non-target species indicates that the risks are not worth the benefits. As with all pest problems, least-toxic alternatives provide a solution that addresses natural systems, and is more cost effective in the long term. The recent study shows that goats can adequately fill this need.

To study how well goats controlled phragmites, researchers placed two goats together in an enclosed space and left them to consume the reed. Phragmites was then allowed to re-sprout to a height of around 5 feet before the next round of grazing. The grazing impact of the goats was compared to a control space where no changes were made. Results showed that the goats were able to reduce the density of phragmites stands five-fold, from nearly complete phragmites cover to only ~20% phragmites. Although phragmites sprouted from its rhizomes to colonize areas adjacent to the grazed plots, those where goats grazed never attained the same cover and stand density as before the goats arrived. Moreover, plant species and richness increased after goat grazing, up 100% to 400% on the Shannon-Weiner diversity index.

The authors also discovered that cows and horses will willingly eat phragmites. According to an article in TakePart, part of the impetus for the study came from lead author Brian Silliman, Ph.D., who observed cleared stands of phragmites in European marshes where livestock grazed.

Communities across America, including Colorado, Chicago and New York, are employing goats for their unwanted vegetation. In Washington D.C. goats helped replace the outdated herbicide regimen in the Congressional Cemetery. In Northern California, utility Pacific Gas and Electric employed goats to clear brush that presented a fire hazard. Shortly after, the city of Anaheim, CA followed suit, using the goats to help alleviate the danger posed by the state’s drought.

In a variety of landscapes that are unsuited for mechanical controls, goats provide a solution to brush and weed problems. At the 32nd National Pesticide Forum in Portland, OR, Beyond Pesticides Board Member Lani Malmberg, owner of Ewe4ic Ecological Services gave a rousing talk on the benefits of g employing goats to manage land responsibly. Go here to view her talk on YouTube. And for more information about the debate over “invasive” species, see our program page, on Invasive Weed Management.

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

Source: PeerJ, TakePart, New York Times
Photo Source: University of Nebraska

 

 

 

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06
Oct

Increase in Use of Livestock Antibiotics Linked to Superbugs. . .Again

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2014) Two reports released last week add to the growing concerns surrounding the overuse of antibiotics in livestock and the corresponding public health and safety impacts of increases in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as superbugs.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAResearchers at the University of Texas investigated whether infections of a common and dangerous digestive tract infection, Clostridium difficile (CDI), increased during the period 2001 to 2010. The study, ‘Deadly diarrhea’ rates nearly doubled in 10 years, examined data from the U.S. National Hospital Discharge Surveys (NHDS), which included 2.2 million CDI discharges. The analysis found that based on these data not only had CDI incidences increased, but they had nearly doubled from 4.5 percent to 8.2 percent.

“Several factors may have contributed to the rise in CDI incidence in recent years,” said Kelly Reveles, PharmD, PhD, and lead author on the study. “Antibiotic exposure remains the most important risk factor for CDI.”

While overuse of antibiotics in humans is a part of the equation, according to the study, reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics agriculture, including conventional livestock production, has also been a primary target of concern. Because conventional livestock producers use antibiotics as growth stimulators as well as prophylactic, or subtherapeutic, treatments for infections, mostly brought on by unhealthy and overcrowded animal living conditions, the practice has increasingly come under scrutiny as untreatable infections rise in the human population.

To that point and in the face of increased scrutiny, a second report released last week by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) observed in its 2012 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals a disturbing fact: the total quantity of antimicrobial active ingredients sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals increased by 16 percent. A significant increase, this fact indicates the conventional livestock industry’s unwillingness to heed numerous warnings of scientists, environmental health advocates, and even government leaders concerning the necessity to curb overuse of antibiotics for non-illness related treatment.

Organic As a True Solution

Despite recent efforts on the part of FDA and the White House to impose new regulations and policy priorities to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and rein in subtherapeutic antibiotic use in livestock production, these efforts only come after intense pressure and litigation from environmental health advocacy groups and do not go far enough to address the true underlying problems of livestock production standards.

Conventional livestock production goals of quantity and bulk led to the practice of feeding subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics, beginning as early as the 1950s. It was during that time that researchers discovered that adding these drugs to livestock feed and water increased the weight gain of animals. This practice has increased as livestock production became more industrialized through the use of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which often have unsanitary conditions produced by packing excessive numbers of animals into an unnatural environment and thus increasing disease risks and the spread of infection.

Under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), certified USDA livestock producers cannot use growth promoters and hormones, whether implanted, ingested, or injected, and this includes antibiotics. Additionally, certified USDA Organic livestock producers cannot use subtherapeutic does of antibiotics, meaning they cannot administer low-dose antibiotic treatments that are not for the purpose of treating sick livestock. The standards also require that producers maintain living conditions that prevent infectious diseases from becoming established and adversely affecting livestock health. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the last year has stood by a decision to phase our antibiotic use in organic apple and pear production by the end of this year, after rejecting petitions by the organic apple and pear industry to extend the use of tetracycline and streptomycin -the only remaining antibiotic use in organic production.

Through supporting organic agriculture and fighting for even stronger organic standards, consumers have the power to make change happen on important issues and advance important public health and safety standards where others are lacking. For more information on what you can do to advance organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process, including submitting comments to the National Organic Program on the upcoming National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) conference. Comments are due Tuesday, October 7, 2014!

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

Sources: The New York Times, Al Jazeera

 

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03
Oct

Consumer Cost for GE Labeling Found To Be Minimal

(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2014) A new analysis of published research finds that the median cost to consumers of requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food is $2.30 per person annually. The report, commissioned by Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, and conducted by the independent Portland-based economic research firm, ECONorthwest, arrives amidst the highly contested GE labeling initiative on Oregon’s November election ballot, Measure 92. Proponents of labeling say that the new research disputes claims made in ads opposing the initiative, which claim that labeling will force farmers and food OR-Right-to-Knowproducers to spend “millions” and increase food costs for consumers.

Consumers Union is a strong supporter of Oregon’s GMO labeling ballot initiative. “Given the minimal cost to consumers, the increased herbicide use involved in growing almost all genetically engineered crops, as well as the failure of government to require human safety assessments before genetically engineered foods reach the marketplace, GMO labeling is well worth it,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. “Companies change their labeling all the time and with GMO labeling costing so little, it is likely some producers won’t even bother to pass the minimal increase on to consumers.”

The group also takes issue with the assumptions made by industry-funded studies that it says have overestimated the cost of similar GMO labeling proposals in California, Washington and New York-putting the cost at $100-$200 annually (or $400-$800 for a family of four). “Industry cost estimates incorporate unrealistic assumptions about how GMO labeling requirements will drive food producers to switch to all organic ingredients, which would be much more expensive. However, there is no factual basis for this assumption and we believe producers will continue to sell GMO foods once they are labeled, and many consumers will continue to buy them, with no discernible price impact,” asserts Ms. Halloran. “Measure 92 simply requires foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice.”

Genetically engineered foods are already required to be labeled in 64 foreign countries, including many where American food producers sell their wares. Labeling has not increased food prices in those countries, according to Consumers Union. Across the U.S., grassroots pressure pushed the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states, with GMO labeling requirements on the ballots for both Oregon as well as Colorado in November. A national GE labeling bill also remains in both houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! Campaign and has garnered thousands of supporters across the country.

So far, there has been one state victory in Vermont, with a law passed requiring foods to be labeled by July 2016. However, the state is currently involved with a legal battle by major trade associations, including Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA). In a statement, GMA has called the labeling requirement “a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers.” Other states to pass legislation include Maine and Connecticut; however, these states contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut, with an aggregate population of 20 million. Both California and Washington state labels in recent years but the proposals ultimately failed after millions of dollars of corporate spending entered the equation. Polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and the human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the Monarch butterfly, directly harms amphibians, and leads to resistance in weed species the GE technology was intended to control. With glyphosate resistance rampant, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals, despite the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment and produce the same yield. Thus, for a multitude of reasons, consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the products they are purchasing.

Beyond labeling genetically engineered food, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

Source: Consumers Union Press Release, Reuters

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

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02
Oct

California To Limit Chlorpyrifos’ Food Production Use, Environmentalists Sue EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2014) California state pesticide regulators are looking to curtail the use of chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used insecticides on the market, due to concerns that it poses a threat to human health and the environment. At the same time, environmental groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the agency’s continued refusal to fully address a 2007 petition by the groups calling for a ban on the neurotoxic chemical. EPA in 2000 orchestrated a voluntary cancellation by DowAgroSciences of most residential uses of chlorpyrifos (although uses with major exposure routes continue), while virtually all agricultural uses remain in use, except tomatoes.

220px-Lite-Trac_Crop_SprayerThe California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency that regulates the sale and use of pesticides, announced last week that it is proposing to make ‘restrictive use’ all pesticide products containing the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos. If the proposed regulation passes, this would mean that only trained and licensed professionals who have a permit from a local county agricultural commissioner (CAC) would be able to use these products. The CAC would also have the ability to place additional conditions on use via the permit.

“The proposed regulation is a very important step to further safeguard the people and environment of California,” said DPR director Brian Leahy. “Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used old organophosphate classes of pesticides. This key action is intended to reduce the widespread use of chlorpyrifos and help limit unintended exposures to the public.”

One to two million pounds of the pesticide have been applied each year in California since 2004 and is used on more than 60 different crops in the state, including alfalfa, walnuts, oranges, cotton, and grapes. The proposal would affect about 30 products used in agriculture.

Environmental groups are continuing to push for a nationwide ban of the chemical on crops. Last week, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued EPA to compel the agency to fully respond to a 2007 petition after a lengthy seven-year delay. The groups are asking the court to find that EPA has “unreasonably delayed fulfilling its legal obligations” and that the agency respond to the 2007 petition by issuing a final decision by the end of this year.

EPA’s continued refusal to respond in full to the petition has been problematic. In 2012, EPA implemented agricultural risk mitigation measures to protect children and bystanders from spray applications. Last year, EPA put out a preliminary volatilization assessment finding that vapor phase chlorpyrifos may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school, or otherwise spend time nearby. However, these partial responses to the petition are not enough to prevent chlorpyrifos exposure to children and other vulnerable populations.

“EPA’s failure to make a final decision on the 2007 Petition leaves children at risk of harm from chlorpyrifos exposure and leaves PANNA without legal remedies to challenge EPA’s ongoing failure to take necessary steps to protect children,” states the complaint.

By focusing on risk reduction strategies to come up with “acceptable,” but unnecessary, rates of illness across the population, EPA continues to underestimate the impact of the chemical’s continued widespread use in agriculture. Chlorpyrifos is a frequent water contaminant and a long range contaminant, exposing communities and contaminating pristine areas far from where it was applied. Residues in food and water continue to put public health at risk. Volatilization drift—the evaporation of the pesticide after application—is also part of the problem for chlorpyrifos. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for an enlightened policy approach to proposed or continued toxic chemical use, in an age where the adverse effects have been widely and increasingly documented, is to first ask whether there is a less toxic way of achieving the toxic chemical’s intended purpose. Simply, “Is there another practice that would make the substance unnecessary?” This approach does not preclude and should demand the prohibition of high hazard chemical use, those chemicals that are simply too dangerous.

The groups in this lawsuit want the agency to release its revised human health risk assessment on chlorpyrifos for public comment in December 2014, along with either a proposed revocation rule or a proposed denial of the petition.

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic insecticide that was banned from home use in the U.S. after EPA determined that cumulative exposure resulted in serious adverse health outcomes, especially for children. EPA has left virtually all agricultural uses, with the exception of tomatoes, on the market. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life, and certain species of algae. Chlorpyrifos poisoning affects the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system, and causes skin and eye irritation. There are also a wide range of adverse environmental effects linked to chlorpyrifos, including toxicity to: beneficial insects, freshwater fish, other aquatic organisms, bird, a variety of plants, soil organisms, and domestic animals. It has been shown to accumulate in fish and synergistically react with other chemicals.

Take Action! A 45-day comment period to allow public input on the proposed regulation in California ends on November 12, 2014. Comments may be submitted in person, in writing, or via email to dpr14002@cdpr.ca.gov. To learn, read DPR’s Notice of Proposed Regulatory Action.

Sources: The Fresno Bee, Food Safety News

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

 

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01
Oct

Another Field Contaminated with Unapproved GE Wheat

(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2014) Just after announcing a close to its investigation into the illegal presence of genetically engineered (GE) wheat in Oregon, finding it to be an “isolated incident,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened a new investigation into another incident of unauthorized release of GE wheat, this time detected in Montana. This new report highlights the contamination threat that these materials pose to farmers and the environment, as well as the government’s failure to recognize the pervasive and persistent nature of GE contamination.

wheatfieldAccording to USDA, on July 14, 2014 it was notified that suspected GE wheat had been discovered growing at the Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana, where Monsanto and researchers grew GE wheat as part of field trials between 2000 and 2003. Testing of the samples by a USDA laboratory confirmed that the wheat is genetically engineered to resist Roundup. The agency states that its ongoing investigation is focusing on why GE wheat was found growing at the research facility location.

Currently, GE wheat has not been deregulated by USDA, unlike several other GE crops (corn, soybean, sugarbeets). This means that any experimental use of GE wheat must have the approval of USDA and grown under USDA guidelines. Preliminary tests show that the GE wheat found growing in Montana was not connected to the 2013 incidence in Oregon. In that case, a farmer noticed Roundup resistant wheat in his field even though GE wheat had not been grown in the state since 2001. After this discovery, Japan canceled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat, and other markets in Europe and South Korea rejected shipments. In Montana, GE wheat underwent field trials at the university facility between 2000 and 2003, and it now appears that the GE material persisted, leading to the continued contamination of fields and successive wheat crops a decade later. The Oregon and Montana cases show that experimental use (field tests) of GE material does in fact lead to long-term transgenic contamination, isolated or not.

In Oregon, USDA recently concluded its investigation and reports that this case “appears to be an isolated occurrence and that there is no evidence of any GE wheat in commerce.” However, the agency notes that it unable to determine exactly how, even though it “exhausted all leads” and that the genetic characteristics of the GE wheat volunteers found are representative of a wheat breeding program, and not a commercial variety of wheat. According to the agency, “APHIS was unable to determine exactly how the GE wheat came to grow in the farmer’s field.”

Even as the Oregon investigation came to a close, USDA continues to treat these incidences of contamination as isolated events, when the science is showing that GE material persists in the environment and contaminates crops, waterways, and induces resistant weeds and insects. The agency states that it is taking several additional steps to ensure that unintended GE wheat is not growing in other locations in the U.S. where field trials are taking place or have recently occurred. Specifically, USDA says it will inspect field trials planted in 2014, and follow-up with post-harvest inspections to ensure those conducting the field trials adhere to requirements to monitor and remove volunteer plants (plants that grow in a field following a previous harvest). The agency will also monitor GE wheat field trials that were planted in 2012 and 2013.

Wheat pollen is carried by the wind and the plant is self-pollinating. Cross-pollination can occur and increases during dry and warm weather conditions. This means that the probability of GE wheat contaminating nearby fields is predictable and expected. Farmers, both organic and non-GE operations, are severely affected by GE contamination. Farmers in these circumstances lose a price premium for the extra effort and expense taken to preserve their crop’s integrity, and they typically have no recourse but to dump the load on generic markets. Currently, Monsanto is in the process of settling a class action lawsuit brought by wheat farmers affected by the Oregon contamination episode, which forced exports to several Asian and European markets to be suspended and cost farmers millions of dollars. Monsanto has conducted 279 field trials of Roundup Ready GE wheat on over more than 4,000 acres of land in 16 states since 1994. After facing intense opposition from farmers and activists, Monsanto reportedly stopped its efforts to introduce GE wheat, but restarted extensive field trials again in 2011.

According to the Center for Food Safety, the U.S. is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, an $8 billion business. A 2005 study estimated that the wheat industry could lose $94 to $272 million if GE wheat were introduced.  Past transgenic contamination episodes involving GE corn and GE rice have triggered over $1 billion in losses and economic hardship to farmers.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

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

Source: USDA Press Room, Center for Food Safety

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30
Sep

USDA Releases Funds to Support Organic Research, Promote Local Food

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2014) Though the Agricultural Act of 2014, or “Farm Bill,” was one of missed deadlines and years of debate (sustainability was not a big winner), there were small victories in support of organic research and local food systems. According to The New York Times, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin releasing some of this much needed funding, with $52 million to start in the promotion of local and organic food.

pregnant market coloradjustSecretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has come out in strong support of local food systems, such as food hubs and farmers markets. “These types of local food systems are the cornerstones of our plans to revitalize the rural economy,” said Mr. Vilsack to The New York Times in a telephone interview. “If you can connect local produce with markets that are local, money gets rolled around in the local community more directly compared to commercial agriculture where products get shipped in large quantities somewhere else, helping the economy there.”

While eating local is surely important, putting an emphasis on buying products that are both local and organic provides the most benefits for the economy and the environment surrounding local communities. A 2007 survey by Mambo Sprouts research services found that consumers are torn between buying local and buying organic food, but in the end want both. The results showed that 36.1% of natural product consumers said they would choose local produce over organic items, while another 33.3% indicated the opposite. The remaining respondents said they were unsure which to choose, but overall, consumers reported a preference for food that was both local and organic.

It is critical that consumers speak with their local farmers and suppliers. Just because a farm is not certified organic does not mean consumer’s should avoid purchasing from their products. However, without certification, the claim of organic holds very little weight since it has not been verified by a third party. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned residents to talk to their local farmers about why their farm is not certified, and make your own decisions about whether you feel comfortable with their growing practices. As the Rodale Institute notes, organic and local is the “gold standard,” but when in doubt choose organic.

Many retailers across the country are providing “gold standard” products, recognizing that local conventional farming can also contribute to contamination of the local environment. Owner of local D.C- area organic market (MOM’s Organic Market) and “gold standard” advocate Scott Nash rightly questions whether only buying local is to “Support Your Local Dead Zone?” In New Mexico, La Montañita proudly touts their food as “fresh, fair, local and organic!”

In addition to supporting local agriculture, financial support will also flow into research on organic practices. USDA indicates that, over the next five years, $125 million will be spent on organic research and $50 million will go into conservation programs.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for maintaining strong organic standards that build consumer confidence in the organic label. The Organic Foods Production Act places an emphasis on input from various stakeholders in the organic community, and it is critical that consumers raise their voice in order to Keep Organic Strong. The National Organic Standards Board, a diverse group of organic stakeholders which vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming, will be meeting on October 7, 2014 in Louisville, KY to discuss changes in organic regulations and farming practices. Consumer input in this process can make an enormous difference. We encourage organic shoppers to read Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to review the items before the board, and provide a unique public comment that incorporates your own personal experiences.

For further information about why buying organic products is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Agriculture program page.

Source: The New York Times

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

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