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Legislative Proposal for Voluntary Action Fails to Protect Great Lakes from Toxic Runoff

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2015) Two Michigan Representatives have introduced the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act (HR 3120) in an effort to halt the pollution of the Great Lakes and other waterways by protecting them from agricultural run-off, which causes dangerous algae blooms­. While the proposed legislation aims to reduce the effects of pesticides in water, the bill still allows the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and is only a voluntary measure, something that environmentalists says falls short. The bill is sponsored by Candice Miller (R-MI) and co-sponsored by Tim Walberg (R-MI).

Maumee Bay State ParkThe bill aims to mimic the state program Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). Adopted in 1999, the MAEAP is a voluntary three-phase program that provides “on-farm verification to ensure the farmer has implemented environmentally sound practices.” This raises two concerns: lack of incentive for farmers to join the program and ambiguous language defining what environmentally sound means. The results of MAEAP are the driving force in the fight for federal Great Lakes legislation, but those numbers do not necessarily speak for themselves. A major goal of the MAEAP is the Farmstead System which, “focuses primarily on protecting surface and ground water” through the safe and proper handling of pesticides, yet it still encourages the use of pesticides. Since its inception, the program has verified almost 3,000 farms in Michigan. According to Josh Appleby of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, nearly 1.7 million pounds of phosphorous has not gone into Michigan waters under MAEAP. According to Carl Bednarski, President of the Michigan Farm Bureau, “More than 10,000 farmers have initiated the process to voluntarily enter their farm into an environmental assurance program.” While these numbers seem impressive, it is important to note that they have been measured over the last 16 years.

Representative Miller expressed the importance of pollution prevention, such as phosphorous, in the Great Lakes. “Over 1 million tons of algae doesn’t exist today because of the [MAEAP] program,” she said; yet, despite the efforts of the MAEAP, that algae still plagues the Great Lakes and surrounding states. Just last year in August 2014, residents of Toledo, Ohio were advised to stop using tap water after a local water treatment plant found toxic substances in dangerous quantities in the water. 500,000 residents were instructed not to drink the water, brush teeth or prepare food with the water, or give it to pets. The contamination resulted from continuously growing algal blooms on Lake Erie, Ohio’s northern water source. The incident prompted an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation that explained, “The blooms are often caused by runoff from overfertilized fields, malfunctioning septic systems or livestock pens.”

Before the sudden contamination of Toledo’s drinking water, scientists had been tracking algal blooms in the Great Lakes almost five years prior to the incident and even recommended region-wide monitoring and a change in farm management practices. Though their recommendation suggested voluntary measures, which received much backlash from environmental advocacy groups, their reasoning was not baseless: the Great Lakes need protection from agricultural pesticide use. The sponsors of the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act, much like the scientists studying the algal blooms on Lake Erie, have overlooked pesticides as a critical factor. Toxins like lindane, dioxin, PCB, and the Toledo-devastating microcystin that pollute major waterways like the Great Lakes are just a few of the residual consequences of agricultural and residential pesticide use.

The lawmakers of this bill say that the Great Lakes ecosystem is a “national and natural treasure.” Reps. Miller and Walberg went on to say in their editorial, “Our legislation would authorize the federal government to assist the states and their agricultural producers in implementing voluntary procedures aimed at protecting our environment. Specifically, states would be able to apply for grants from the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program to administer and promote state-level assistance programs like Michigan’s. Agricultural producers would also be eligible for priority consideration in applications for federally funded conservation projects.” Improving the quality of the drinking water, the safety associated with recreational use, and the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is an important goal of the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act, however, advocates say that this cannot be achieved without a mandatory program.

This isn’t just a domestic issue, since U.S. policy affects the Great Lakes, which share a border with Canada. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Clean Production Action (CPA) have already completed comprehensive assessments that support this idea. Lawmakers on both sides of the border are being asked to consider more meaningful strategies, such as organic land management.

Beyond Pesticides supports federal legislation that responds to the contamination being seen in the Great lakes with the urgency that it deserves, including policies that stop toxic pesticide use. In the case of the Great Lakes, a national program would certainly advance the goals of MAEAP across the Great Lakes Basin, and encourage the application of safer approaches to the management of farms and landscapes.

The current crisis in management practices calls for the transition to organic farming that does not require the use of toxic pesticides. Organic farming and land management uses natural, less soluble sources of nitrogen, phosphorous and magnesium, including cover crops, compost, manure and mineralized rock, in order to promote increases in soil organic matter and a healthy soil structure. Healthy soil structure allows water to infiltrate the ground slowly, rather than escaping across the surface and carrying soil particles, nutrients, and other inputs with it. Healthy soil structure also allows plants to establish vibrant root systems that resist erosion. For more information on the importance of an organic systems approach as a solution to pesticide use, see Beyond Pesticides’ article Increasing Biodiversity as if Life Depends on It.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Photo Source: Regina H. Boone/Detroit FreePress

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



UK Approves Emergency Application for Neonicotinoid Seed Treatment Use Despite Moratorium

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2015) An emergency application was approved by the UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on Wednesday that allows farmers to use neonicotinoid seed treatment on 5 percent of oilseed rape crop (known as canola in the U.S.) this summer to control a flea beetle infestation. The emergency use, which has been granted for 120 days, allows growers to use Bayer CropScience’s Modesto (clothianidin) and Syngenta’s Cruiser OSR (thiamethoxam). The active ingredients of these products belong to a class of toxic chemicals knowns as neonicotinoids, which have been linked to pollinator decline.

The request was the second one for the National Farmers Union (NFU) after the first request for a nationwide lifting of the two-year moratorium on neonicotinoid use was rejected. The NFU said it was “frustrated” at having to put
in an application for a smaller area.

There have been numerous attempts to shroud the application process in secrecy. DEFRA told its expert committee on pesticides (ECP) to halt its normal practice of publishing the minutes of meetings at which the neonicotinoid applications were discussed, in order to avoid “provoking representations from different interest groups.” Additionally, according to the Guardian, the UK government gagged its own pesticide advisors after they refused to support an application by NFU to lift a ban on neonicotinoids. The gag is intended to prevent campaigners from lobbying ministers on the issue.

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

The acceptance of NFU’s emergency request is alarming, especially in light of numerous reports indicating the lack of efficacy of neonicotinoid use. A report released by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year found that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. EPA’s report confirms scientific findings that these chemical treatments are unnecessary and inefficacious. Another report, from the Center for Food Safety, found that neonicotinoids either did not provide a yield benefit or provided inconsistent yield benefits.

In 2014, Syngenta applied for an emergency application in the UK and was met with massive public outcry and protest, which ultimately led to the chemical industry giant withdrawing its request. In the US, earlier this year, EPA granted Florida citrus growers an emergency exemption to use the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin to control Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), a pest that causes “citrus greening,” a devastating citrus plant disease.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Although EPA announced a moratorium in April on new bee- and bird- harming neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses, farm, beekeeper and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides have urged EPA to also suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which, of course, prohibit the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

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

Source: Farmers Weekly and The Guardian



Neonicotinoids Harm Beneficial Predatory Insects through Secondary Poisoning

(Beyond Pesticides, July 23, 2015) A recent study looks at the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids (neonics) on molluscan herbivores and their non-target insect predators, finding that slug exposure to neonics results in the secondary poisoning of beneficial predatory beetles. The study, authored by Maggie Douglas, PhD candidate at Penn State University, was presented earlier this month at a congressional briefing, An Expert Briefing to Discuss Pollinators and Efforts to Protect Them. The briefing was organized by Center for Food Safety and attended by the sponsors of Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R. 2692), Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Chlaenius tricolorThe study specifically looks at the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum and its predator beetle, Chlaenius tricolor. Ms. Douglas and her co-researchers find that neonicotinoid seed-treated soy beans can unintentionally impact predatory, beneficial insects through a previously unexplored pathway. Here are some highlights of the study’s methods and findings:

  • Soy beans were treated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam.
  • The seed treatments had zero effect on pest slugs, and instead were bioaccumulated and then transferred through the slugs into their insect predators, impairing or killing >60%.
  • This resulted in a loss of crop due to a decline in beneficial insect predators and an increase in pest slug population.

Generally, these findings indicate that the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments, which are intended to decrease the use of pesticides, can actually increase the necessity of these toxic chemicals by killing off natural, beneficial insect predators. Thus, these seed treatments are ineffective and cause more harm than good. It would better serve famers and the environment to actively encourage natural predation, rather than rely on toxic chemicals that only perpetuate the dangerous cycle of pesticide use.

Ms. Douglas’ findings add merit to the influx of research regarding neonicotinoids and their impacts on pollinators and other non-target beneficial species. 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. While the issue of pollinator declines is diverse and complex, with many factors potentially contributing to the cause, pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key factor, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure causing changes in bee reproduction, navigation and foraging. Further research has demonstrated that neonicotinoids create increased vulnerability to diseases through exposure, impact a wide range of habitats, and have persistent, long term implications.

Earlier this year, researchers found that chronic exposure to neonicotinoids increases neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction in the bumblebee. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony. In June 2015, researchers demonstrated that honey bees exposed to imidacloprid, a toxic neonic, are more susceptible to heat shock. Researchers have also found that bees can become addicted to neonicotinoids in the same way that humans can become addicted to cigarettes. Non-target effects of rampant neonicotinoid use include bird population declines and monarch butterfly loss. More research can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows page, where studies are listed to highlight the impact of pesticides on these organisms.

The implications of the findings described above only strengthen the need for meaningful policy change on the federal level. Saving America’s Pollinators Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the registration of all neonicotinoid insecticides that are registered for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants, trees and cereals until EPA has fully determined that these toxic chemicals do not cause unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators.  You can help to protect America’s pollinators by submitting a letter to your representative, urging them to support Saving America’s Pollinators Act. Let’s BEE Protective and support a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community.

Neonicotinoids are undoubtedly highly toxic to honey bees, and EPA acknowledges this fact. However, little is being done at the federal level to protect bees and other pollinators from these pesticides. With unlimited resources behind them, the chemical industry –the pesticide manufacturers, landscaping, horticultural and agricultural trade groups, have all come out to deflect attention away from pesticides as a major culprit in pollinator decline. To learn more about how industry agents try to manipulate the message to say that neonics are not the main cause, see our report addressing industry myths on pollinator decline.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial creatures, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Beyond Pesticides has created a small pesticide-free garden at our offices in DC to provide habitat and forage for our local pollinators. You too can pledge your green space as pesticide-free and pollinator-friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today. Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region.

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology

Photo Source: Penn State University

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



Carcinogenic Glyphosate Linked to DNA Damage, as Residues Are Found in Bread

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2015) Months after the World Health Organization (WHO) formally associated the world’s most widely used herbicide -glyphosate (Roundup)- with cancer, one of the world’s leading experts on cancer risk, and co-author of the WHO’s report, Christopher Portier, PhD, told a scientific briefing in London that the herbicide can damage human DNA, which could result in increased cancer risks. This finding comes on the heels of a call by the Soil Association for a United Kingdom (UK) ban on the use of glyphosate after finding residues of the chemical in bread.

WHOEarlier this spring, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as Group 2a “probable” human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals. Since then industry has hit back defending its champion product, even attempting to undercut the WHO’s findings with an industry-based assessment that reached the opposite conclusion, based on classified industry reports. Now an internationally recognized scientist, Dr. Portier, former associate director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, (NIEHS) and director of the Office of Risk Assessment Research at NIEHS, reiterated WHO’s findings at the UK Soil Association scientific briefing in Westminster on July 15. During his presentation, Dr. Portier said, “Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.” Genotoxicity is described as the ability of a chemical agent to damage the genetic information within a cell, causing mutations that may lead to cancer. According to Dr. Portier’s presentation, there is strong evidence that glyphosate and its formulated products are genotoxic and an oxidative stressor. Find Dr. Portier’s and other presentations from the scientific briefing at the Soil Association.

At this briefing, the Soil Association disclosed findings of glyphosate residues in bread being sold in the UK. The results of this study shows that glyphosate use in the UK increased by 400% in the last 20 years and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread -appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government.

According to the Soil Association’s policy director Peter Melchett, “If glyphosate ends up in bread it’s impossible for people to avoid it, unless they are eating organic. On the other hand, farmers could easily choose not to use glyphosate as a spray on wheat crops –just before they are harvested. This is why the Soil Association is calling for the immediate ending of the use of glyphosate sprays on wheat destined for use in bread.”

Glyphosate, produced and sold by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. Glyphosate has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. A mounting body of data has found that formulated glyphosate (Roundup) products are more toxic than the active ingredient, glyphosate, alone. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed. A 2008 study confirmed that the ingredients in Roundup formulations kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, even at very low concentrations, and causes total cell death within 24 hrs.

In addition to WHO’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also a known endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1985 originally classified glyphosate as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ based on tumors in laboratory animals, but changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in human years later, most likely due to industry influence.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also contributed to glyphosate’s expanded use by deregulating crops, including the vast majority of planted corn and soybeans, that are genetically engineers crops to be tolerant to the chemical. In recent years, weeds have exhibited resistance to glyphosate and its efficacy has been called into question. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways especially in the Midwestern states and the Mississippi River valley.

Glyphosate is registered for use on wheat and can be applied before harvest to control weeds. Residues of glyphosate and its major metabolite aminomethyl-phosphonic acid (AMPA) have been measured in the seed and foliage of wheat following preharvest applications, with residues increasing as the rate of application increased. While no formal testing of glyphosate residues on wheat (or other commodities) occurs in the U.S., EPA has indicated that due to growing public interest in the chemical it may recommend sampling for glyphosate in the future. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Pesticide Data Program is responsible for tracking pesticide residues in crops, but EPA has not requested glyphosate testing on any commodity. Testing for glyphosate is however, more expensive than for other pesticides, which is probably the reason tests have not been conducted before. But with growing concerns over the toxicity of glyphosate, and its widespread use on GE crops like corn and soybeans, federal agencies both in the U.S. and elsewhere are being urged to begin quantifying and tracking glyphosate residues in food .

Beyond Pesticides advocates for a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and calls for alternative assessments. We suggest an approach that focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture. Thus, the best way to avoid glyphosate residues in bread and other foods is to buy and support organic agriculture. Our database, Eating With a Conscience (EWAC) provides information on the pesticides that could be present in the food we eat, and why food labeled organic is the right choice. EWAC also includes information on the impacts chemical-intensive agriculture has on farm workers, water, and our threatened pollinators.

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

Source: Soil Association News Story, EWG’s Agmag



Pesticide Use Down as Ban Passes in the City of Kamloops, Canada

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21 2015) Last week, the City of Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada voted 5-4 to ban the residential use of cosmetic pesticides. This decision follows a movement to ban cosmetic pesticides completely throughout the Province, and along with news that pesticide sale trends throughout the city are down. The City of Kamloops joins over thirty other cities in BC that have considered or passed private cosmetic pesticide use restrictions in the absence of a province-wide ban. Pesticide Free BC, which advocates a comprehensive pesticide ban in BC, claims that such a ban would protect approximately 4.4 million Canadians from exposure to cosmetic pesticides, increasing the total number of Canadians protected to 26 million, or 78% of the total population. These figures take in to account the bans that have passed in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec, as they are considered “comprehensive.” However, absent an overarching ban within the Province, the City of Kamloops has taken what officials feel is a necessary step to protect vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and those with chemical sensitivities, from the harms of pesticide use.Pesticide Free

According to the ban, pesticides will no longer be permitted to be sprayed on residential landscapes in Kamloops, meaning that they cannot be used for maintaining turf, outdoor trees, shrubs, flowers, or other ornamental plants. City Council members who voted in favor of the measure point to the risks chemicals pose to both human and environmental health, and the fact that safer alternatives exist, in support of their position.

“The city example is the goats,” said Councilor Donovan Cavers, who voted in support of the ban. “Lots of people scoffed at us using goats to control weeds but it has been very successful, very cost effective, and I don’t for a minute suggest anyone use goats on their residential lawns, but there are lots of ways to control weeds or control pests.”

Because the City of Kamloops cannot regulate the sale of pesticides, and residents will still be able to purchase chemicals if they  so choose, those who opposed the motion cited skepticism over being able to enforce to new rule as their main point of concern.

“The reality is this is not an enforceable bylaw,” said Mayor Peter Milobar, who was opposed to the ban. “When you start to look at the overall square of the city that would be sprayed if it was only professionals doing it versus all the square footage of the city that is still allowed to be used for spraying, it’s very minimal.”

However, pesticide sale trends in Kamloops may tell a different story. A pair of local businesses say that as of late, sales on the kind of pesticides that will be forbidden when the ban goes in to place January 1, 2016, have already gone down. Shawn Ulmer, a nursery manager and owner of one the of stores claims that while the ban in Kamloops is new, the move away from pesticides is not. “That change has been going on probably for at least 10 years now,” she said. “As more cities go into the pesticide bans, the industry has been changing. It’s just slower to find things that work.” Because of this shift, and even though many of her customers live in outlying areas where there is no ban, her store sells a variety of alternatives, from iron-based weed-killing products to ladybugs and other lawn-improving insects, all of which she believes are growing in popularity. “The trend has been towards organics or green products and I would say the bulk of our products are things you can use in the City of Kamloops,” she said.

This shift away from unnecessary pesticide use, even absent a ban is a promising show of citizens using their knowledge on the subject to make informed decisions about the products they are using on and around their homes. In fact, educating the public and making them more aware of the harmful side effects pesticides can cause and the alternatives available was one idea all Kamloops City Council members agreed on. Doctors and health advocates in Canada have been trying to raise awareness of the health effects of pesticide use and have been pushing BC to ban the use of all cosmetic pesticides for lawns and gardens since 2013, after the first attempt to ban cosmetic pesticide use in BC failed in 2012. Their research has identified scores of studies showing that human health is at risk from pesticide use. The Canadian Cancer Society has also warned pesticide exposure may increase the risk of certain cancers and calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides, and it appears that the educational messaging they’ve hope to spread has paid off.

With the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides having passed and buying patterns in and around the city indicating that pesticide use, as whole, is decreasing, it appears that Kamloops is taking important steps to protect its citizens from unnecessary pesticide use. This ban is mirrored in the United States by similar attempts to ban the use of certain pesticides on private property. A bill was introduced in 2014 in Montgomery County, Maryland that would ban the use of lawn and landscape pesticide, deemed nonessential, following the passage of a ban in one of it’s cities, Takoma Park, MD. The city of Ogunquit, Maine by ballot initiative adopted an ordinance banning the cosmetic use of pesticides on all property, public and private, in town.

Whether a small municipality or a large city, education and action on unnecessary pesticide use makes an enormous difference; for our own drinking water, for the most sensitive among us, children, and the elderly, for our pollinators, and for the unique environment and the flora and fauna where you live. For additional tools to support your efforts to adopt pesticide policy in your community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change, and visit the Lawns and Landscapes page. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Sources:  Kamloops BC Now, Kamloops This Week

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



Monsanto-Supported Group Attempting to Undercut Roundup Cancer Finding, According to Report

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2015) In response to the recent cancer classification of glyphosate (Roundup) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, an industry-based assessment has reached the opposite conclusion based on classified industry reports has concluded that Monsanto’s glyphosate is not carcinogenic.  According to The Guardian, the assessment by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR) is based almost solely on industry science and classified industry reports. Three scientists on Germany’s scientific panel on pesticides work for the pesticide industry. Monsanto objected earlier this year, when IARC announced in a preliminary report that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen based on laboratory animal studies. BfR and IARC’s findings have been released during a pivotal time, as a decision on whether to extend the license for glyphosate’s use in Europe is currently pending, and these studies are sure to be incorporated into the decision making process. According to The Guardian, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is delaying the release of its opinion on glyphosate to take the full IARC report into account.

WHOThe Guardian reports that BfR’s research relied heavily on unpublished reports provided by the Glyphosate Task Force, an industry group that is dedicated to getting glyphosate relisted. Its website is managed by Monsanto UK.  Based on these industry studies, BfR found that there was only limited evidence of carcinogenicity in mice exposed to glyphosate, and therefore concluded that it should be reapproved. Going even further, the industry body recommended that the acceptable daily intake be relaxed from its current 0.3 mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day, to 0.5 mg per kilogram. Both EFSA and the German regulatory agencies are refusing to disclose two key chronic toxicity studies that the decision was based on, citing them as confidential business information.

This recommendation for glyphosate’s reapproval and the subsequent relaxation of acceptable daily intake is especially egregious, seeing as it has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment alike. In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxic to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also a known endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. Ironically, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1985 originally classified glyphosate as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ based on tumors in laboratory animals, but changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in human years later, most likely due to industry influence.

In fact, glyphosate is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals bys. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also contributed to its growth by deregulating crops, including the vast majority of corn and soybeans that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the chemical. In recent years, weeds have exhibited resistance to glyphosate and its efficacy has been called into question. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways especially in the Midwestern states and the Mississippi River valley. In certain countries in Europe, the pesticide is so overused that glyphosate can commonly be found in household food items like bread, The Guardian reports.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to count on governmental agencies to properly enforce restrictions on toxic pesticides due to their close involvement with industry. A common phenomenon nicknamed the “revolving door” refers to the movement of personnel between roles as regulators and legislators and the industries that are affected by the regulations. The industry has a long history of utilizing this technique, which creates inappropriate relationships between large corporations and the government agencies that are tasked with enforcing regulations. As briefly mentioned above, Germany is charged by the European Union (EU) with the safety review of glyphosate: yet three scientists sitting on its scientific panel on pesticides are employees of BASF and Bayer, two major pesticides producers.

As stated to The Guardian, the environmental organization, Greenpeace, strongly believes that any reapproval of glyphosate would violate the EU’s precautionary principle, which aims to err on the side of caution and prohibit the use of toxic chemicals until all scientific data has been disclosed. Unlike the EU, EPA uses a human health risk assessment, which is a process used to estimate the nature and probability of adverse health effects in humans who may be exposed to chemicals in contaminated environmental areas. While EPA totes this assessment as necessary and crucial for decision-making about pesticides, Beyond Pesticides once again advocates for a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture. By taking a more enlightened policy approach that eschews toxic pesticide use in favor of widely available alternative products and practices, EPA can promote a path to safer farming, a restored environment, and healthier communities.

Source: The Guardian

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



U.S. House May Prohibit States from Requiring Labeling of GE Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2015) The U.S. House of Representatives may pass a bill against the labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) food before the end of July. The House could vote as early as next week on a bill to preempt states from requiring labels on food made with GE ingredients. Backers say that the passage of the bill, HR 1599, named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, but referred to by critics as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, seems assured, after speedy committee approval of the legislation. The Agriculture Committee, a quarter of whose members are cosponsors of the bill, approved an updated version on a voice vote during a session that ran less than 20 minutes. Only two members spoke against it.

justlabelitThe legislation, reintroduced in March by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), will maintain secrecy about GE ingredients in food, and would block both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and individual states from requiring GE food labels, but allow voluntary labeling standards. The bill also has a provision that seeks to create a federal certification process for voluntary non-GE labels, now rendered moot by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement of a new government certification and labeling for GE-free foods. The revamped version of HR 1599, besides barring both current and future state labeling laws, keeps labeling voluntary on the federal level and puts USDA in charge of certifying non-GE products under a fee-for-service system. It will also allow “natural” foods to contain GE ingredients and preempt state efforts to end misleading “natural” claims.

Vermont, which was the first state in the nation to pass a GE labeling law, survived a federal court challenge the food industry. Unless HR 1599 passes, the state law is slated to take effect July 1, 2016. In recent years, similar labeling measures have failed in other states. Voters in California and Washington State narrowly rejected ballot initiatives in 2012 and 2013, respectively, though not without the likes of Monsanto, Bayer, and Dow AgroSciences expending significant resources to defeat the measures. Colorado’s attempt to pass a GE-labeling law, known as Proposition 105, also met with defeat. With 66 percent voting against the proposed law and 34 percent in favor, the numbers showed a stronger rejection of the right-to-know initiative than any previous state attempt to adopt such laws. Efforts in Maui succeeded in November of last year, but Monsanto and Dow quickly sued the county, despite voters’ wishes. In all, according to the Center for Food Safety, companies funding anti-labeling campaigns have spent over $100 million in just four states –California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

For successful states, Oregon would have been the fourth U.S. state to require GE labeling, but the ballot initiative narrowly lost last December in a recount. But there is some progress in the state. In May of last year, Jackson and Josephine County, Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. Connecticut and Maine each passed GE labeling laws, but both bills include a trigger clause requiring several other states to also pass labeling bills before the new laws can be implemented. In 2014, 36 bills were introduced in 20 states and experts are projecting the number to be as high or higher in 2015. Additionally, 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.

While the route is open to victory in the House, its status in the Senate is less certain. No senator has filed a companion to the House bill, one of the usual signs of broad support for a cause, despite months of recruiting work by food and farm groups. Nonetheless, those groups believe a majority of senators would support the legislation if it was put to a vote. Additionally, according to Agri-Pulse, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, was working on a Senate version of the preemption bill.

The Organic Trade Association, representing 8,500 organic businesses nationwide, said it opposed HR 1599. “Absent a federal mandate, OTA strongly believes that states should retain the right to require GMO labels on genetically modified products,” said OTA chief executive Laura Batcha. OTA said it had “many concerns” about inconsistencies between organic standards and the legislation. “The non-GMO certifications change nothing in the marketplace,” said Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign. He said mandatory labeling would prevent confusion about ingredients in food.

Two House Agriculture Committee members, Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), said the Energy and Commerce Committee was expected to waive its right to review HR 1599 and allow the bill to move directly to a floor vote. “It’ll pass,” said Rep. Peterson.

Rep. Peterson, the senior Democrat on the committee, said the organic food industry “will have immediate access” to the non-GE certification program; any certified organic product will automatically qualify for non-GE certification without any fees or additional paperwork. Rep. Conaway (R-TX) also lauded the value of a nationwide framework for declaring non-GE products and said the organic industry was among the sectors consulted about the bill.

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 drastic increases in the use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate, and the subsequent environmental damage they cause, including the loss of habitat for many beneficial wildlife.

Beyond Pesticides urges that you take immediate action and tell Congress you oppose the DARK Act and support federally mandated GE labeling, as well as the rights of states to protect its residents! Send a letter to your Congress members now!

Source:  Food & Environment Reporting Network

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



New Industry Hire Highlights Revolving Door at EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2015) The latest former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official to take advantage of the revolving door between EPA and the pesticide industry is Nader Elkassabany, PhD, former branch chief of the Risk Assessment and Science Support Branch in the Antimicrobial Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs. CropLife America announced last week that it has hired Dr. Elkassabany to serve as senior director of environmental policy, responsible for the pesticide trade group’s regulatory strategies on environmental policy. He will also help manage the company’s Environmental Risk Assessment Committee and its working groups.

EPA-buildingIn a statement, CropLife America President and CEO Jay Vroom considers his expertise invaluable. This is no surprise, given that Dr. Elkassabany brings with him 15 years of experience working in the registration and re-registration of pesticide active ingredients in the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) at EPA. This will undoubtedly be beneficial for the trade association, which represents major agricultural chemical manufactures like Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, and DuPont Crop Protection.

According to a statement from CropLife, Dr. Elkassabany received three EPA Bronze Medals for Commendable Service. He left EPA in 2012 to work for another big name in consumer pesticides, S.C. Johnson, which owns the Raid brand of insect killers, as well as mosquito repellant Off! At S.C. Johnson, he served as director of regulatory affairs for U.S. pesticide products registration, and supervised a team of staff responsible for securing and maintaining federal and state registrations for all consumer products.

Croplife America has been an aggressive promoter of chemical-dependent agricultural practices and an opponent of organic methods. It was a major player in proposed rules for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that would roll back robust chemical safety standards which would weaken pesticide standards and threaten the U.S. organic food industry. The group also has a rich history of leveraging its relationships with government regulatory agencies. Islam Siddiqui, PhD, was vice president for science and regulatory affairs for CropLife America, and was a registered lobbyist with the company from 2001 to 2008. He later became Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Despite record opposition to his appointment, including from Beyond Pesticides and the National Organic Coalition, due to his very public support of GE crops, Dr. Siddiqui was appointed to the USTR by the Obama Administration in 2010, and confirmed by the Senate in 2011. He resigned from the post in 2013.

The “revolving door” refers to the movement of personnel between roles as regulators and legislators and the industries that are affected by the regulations. The industry has a long history of utilizing this technique, which creates inappropriate relationships between large corporations and the government agencies that are tasked with enforcing regulations. SourceWatch maintains a list of some of the other names and positions of EPA’s revolving door. Additionally, Pesticide Action Network North America’s Undue Influence lays out the revolving door strategy that corporations use to influence regulators and legislators.

Perhaps the most high profile instances of the revolving doors is Michael Taylor, JD, former vice president for public policy at Monsanto, and current Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mr. Taylor’s appointment to FDA by the Obama administration in 2009 sparked outrage from environmentalists because of his ties to the biotech giant Monsanto. From 1998 until 2001, Mr. Taylor served as the vice president for public policy at the company, and is credited with paving the way for the explosion of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the marketplace for his work shaping and implementing the government’s policies during the Clinton administration. In his bio on FDA’s webpage, very little is written about his ten year career at the biotech giant company, just a quick blurb at the bottom of the page. Another example is Steven Schatzow, a former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pesticide program and now an attorney representing pesticide firms. Mr. Schatzow was fired from representing Amvac, a company that purportedly bought chemicals that had known safety issues from companies at discount price, in 1994 after his negotiations with EPA ended in the ban of mevinphos.

Other Industry Tactics

Utilizing the revolving door may be one of the most effective strategies of the industry, however there are many other tactics that it uses in order to gain political influence. A recent report, Spinning Food, by Friends of the Earth examines additional industry tactics and strategy to influence elected officials and sway public opinion. Agrochemical companies have spent an exorbitant amount of money food over the past several years to defuse public concern about the risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and to undermine the reputation of organic food. For instance, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent from 2009-2013 on communication efforts to spin the media and drive consumer behavior, often using front groups that appear in the media to be independent sources, but are in fact funded by the interests of the industrial food sector.

Furthermore, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that scientists working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) do not have adequate protections from pressure and retaliation when researching issues that threaten the interests of powerful agrichemical corporations like Monsanto. The organization filed a petition for rulemaking with the agency in March, seeking to strengthen USDA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, and adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent political suppression or alteration of studies.

Finally, one of the most notorious of industry’s covert tactics to continue profiting off of its poisonous products is by Syngenta Crop Protection. An investigative report in 2013 uncovered that the company launched a multi-million dollar campaign to discredit critics of its controversial herbicide atrazine, most notably Tyrone Hayes, PhD, whose research finds that the chemical feminizes male frogs. You can watch Dr. Hayes’ talk at the most recent National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, where you can hear about his experience being targeted by the chemical company, and the importance of supporting independent scientific research to inform sound public policy that protects health and the environment. This information is critical in influencing state and local decision makers to act because of industry-dominated regulatory decisions that assume the necessity of toxic materials, driven by companies with an economic interest. EPA’s reliance on industry-funded science, and the numerous connections between industry and the governing agencies demonstrate the need for critical thinking when it comes to the use of toxic pesticides and the importance of adopting non-toxic and organic alternatives.

Sources: CropLife America Press Release, GreenWire

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



Colorado Warned of Its Illegal Allowance of Pesticides in Marijuana Production

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2015) Yesterday, Beyond Pesticides sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) urging officials to reconsider their latest position on pesticide use in cannabis cultivation and warning them of potential violations of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that would likely arise moving forward. This letter was written in response to recent actions by CDA that encourage stakeholders to pursue exemptions for highly toxic pesticides and other indications that the state intends to allow the use of other pesticides under general label language that does not specifically address use on marijuana. Both of these approaches violate federal law and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Given the potential legal challenges associated with approving toxic pesticides for use on cannabis, Beyond Pesticides encourages CDA to allow within the state only the use of pesticides of a character unnecessary for regulation, which fall under section 25(b) of FIFRA.

Cannabis_sativa_edenFor several months, government entities in the state have been at odds with marijuana growers over whether or not pesticides can be used to cultivate their crops. In early June, CDA published a list of pesticides it believed, through general labeling language, may be used on cannabis, despite the fact none of the pesticides have been registered for use on marijuana by the EPA, as required by FIFRA. That list was accompanied by a letter to stakeholders guiding them in the process of attaining a Special Local Need (SLN) exemption under FIFRA, which would allow them to use these toxic chemicals in cannabis cultivation.

Because marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, as opposed to a food or a crop, EPA is barred from reviewing any application, whether for a SLN exemption or to set tolerance levels for pesticides that would be used on the plants. Absent this proper EPA review and oversight of toxic pesticide use on cannabis, CDA may allow only the use of those pesticides found in section 25(b) of FIFRA, which has been found by the EPA to be of a character unnecessary for regulation. As outlined in the letter sent to CDA officials, adhering exclusively to pesticides approved under 25(b) is the best way to avoid any legal ramifications for unregistered pesticide use, and to keep workers and consumers safe from the unstudied side effects that may accompany the use of toxic pesticides on marijuana crops within the state.

“The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis has health implications for those growing the crop, and for users who are exposed to toxic residues through inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The good news is that five states and DC have adopted rules that require marijuana to be grown with practices that prevent the use of pesticides. State officials have an opportunity to restrict all pesticide use at the front end of a growing market, require the adoption of an organic system plan, and set a course to protect health and the environment,” Mr. Feldman continued.

More information about state (including Colorado) regulation of pesticide use in marijuana cultivation can be found in Beyond Pesticides’ investigative report on the issue, which was published this past spring. The report highlights different approaches used by states and raises safety concerns due to loopholes in federal law. The report also recommends that states with legalization adopt laws governing cannabis production that prohibit federally registered pesticides and require the adoption of organic practices that only allow products exempt from registration based on the full range of possible exposure patterns, which is the same position expressed to CDA in Beyond Pesticides’ letter.

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



Pesticide Manufacturer DuPont Labeled “Severe” Safety Violator by OSHA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2015) Last November, a worker at a DuPont chemical plant in La Porte, Texas was overcome when a supply line released more than 20,000 lbs. of methyl mercaptan, a toxic chemical precursor for pesticides produced at the plant. Three co-workers rushed to attempt a rescue, but all four were fatally asphyxiated by the toxic gas, according to an investigation from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Now, after a lengthy investigation, OSHA is placing DuPont on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses agency resources on inspecting employers who have “demonstrated indifference to their OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Act] obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”

BN-GV304_dupont_J_20150205204029Earlier this year, OSHA’s initial investigation into the La Porte plant incident resulted in eleven citations, a $99,000 fine, and a long list of safety upgrades required to be taken by the company. “Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, PhD, MPH. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance.” The violations discovered under OSHA’s initial investigation led the agency to expand its scope under the National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities, which increases scrutiny of chemical manufactures in light of negative trends.

The expanded investigation added another eight violations, four classified as ‘serious,’ one ‘repeat,’ and three as ‘willful.’ Yet the additional fines only came to $273,000. According to 2013 SEC filings, total assets held by the DuPont are over $50 billion. DuPont’s placement in the Severe Violator enforcement program means the company will be increasingly scrutinized for its safety conditions, and subject to mandated follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

“DuPont promotes itself as having a ‘world-class safety’ culture and even markets its safety expertise to other employers, but these four preventable workplace deaths and the very serious hazards we uncovered at this facility are evidence of a failed safety program,” said Dr. Michaels. “Nothing can bring these workers back to their loved ones. I hope that our continued scrutiny into this facility and into working conditions at other DuPont plants will mean no family ever suffers this loss again. We here at OSHA want DuPont and the chemical industry as a whole to hear this message loud and clear.”

In 2013, in the wake of an explosion at a chemical plant in West, Texas that claimed the lives of 15 people and injured hundreds more, President Obama signed an Executive Order entitled Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, in an effort to improve the safety of U.S. chemical manufacturing for workers and those in surrounding communities. Beyond Pesticides joined with over 100 organizations, including health, labor, consumer, and environmental justice groups in a letter urging then newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to make chemical disaster prevention a priority initiative. In the letter, groups advocated for the only foolproof way to prevent chemical disasters; switching to safer chemical processes. While the President’s Executive Order took important steps to move the country toward safer chemical processes, many groups at the time questioned whether the Order was forceful enough. OSHA continues to update the status of this Executive Order through a dedicated website.

Despite attempts to overhaul chemical processing, the fact remains that the manufacture of highly toxic agricultural chemicals and pesticides will continue to be an inherently dangerous job. Decreasing marketplace demand for noxious chemicals in favor of least-toxic biopesticides, organic, and sustainable alternatives on farms, will reduce the need to produce these chemicals. Consumers can make an impact with their wallets by simply not buying pesticides and purchasing organic foods, which employ agricultural practices that do not require the use of toxic synthetic chemicals. For more information on the benefits of purchasing organic food, see Beyond Pesticides program page here.

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

Source: OSHA



Study Links Climate Change to Shrinking Bumblebee Habitats

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2015) Many factors have been identified in bee and other pollinator decline across the globe, including loss of habitat, disease, and pesticides. A new study from researchers in North American and Europe finds that the changing climate also plays a vital role in decreasing bee habitat and thus reducing populations. The study reports that North American and European bumble bees are unable to colonize new warmer habitats north of their historic range, while simultaneously disappearing from the southern portions of their range.

Layla Brooks Maida Vale London, Bee in flight at Kew GardensPublished in Science, the study, Climate change impacts on bumblebees converge across continents, which is a comprehensive look at 67 bumblebee species and their territories over the last century, finds that many North American and European bumblebees have retreated from the southern edge of their historic ranges (away from the equator). While other species of animals have been able to adapt to climate change by expanding their habitats, bumblebees have not shifted to warming northern climes and are experiencing shrinking distributions in the southern ends of their range. The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), for instance, has disappeared from parts of the southeastern U.S.

Bumblebees are also retreating to higher elevations, shifting upward by an average of about 300 meters over the same time period. This means the habitat ranges for bumblebees have overall compressed, as no gains are being made northward. According to the study, bumblebees have lost more than 180 miles of their southern range in both continents over the past 110 years. The researchers believe that this phenomenon suggests an elevated susceptibility to rapid climate change, since bumblebees having evolved in mild, temperate climates, will find it difficult to survive in increasing warmer conditions in their historic habitats.

“Climate change is crushing [bumblebee] species in a vice,” says ecologist Jeremy Kerr, PhD, of the University of Ottawa in Canada, the study’s lead author.

The researchers are not sure why bumble bees have not been able to expand their northern ranges. According to Dr. Kerr, there are two reasons a species might not shift well in response to climate change: Either it has problems actually moving from one place to another, or it has problems building up its population once it gets to a new place. “Clearly bumblebees are pretty good at getting around,” Dr. Kerr said at a press conference, since they can fly. Rather, the scientists suspect that they are having trouble growing their populations at their northern range limits. However, the reason remains unclear.

This new study is not good news for bees. Bumblebees, like honey bees and other bee species are facing unprecedented population declines in recent years. In addition to challenges from global climate change and habitat losses from expanding urban and agricultural regions which eliminate native forage for bees, they also face the added survival burden from toxic pesticide exposures. Pesticides, like the neonicotinoids, have been identified as a major culprit in bee decline. These pesticides are associated with decreased learning, foraging and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems. Used widely in agriculture as seed treatment for various crops, foraging bees, in the absence of their native habitat, are exposed to fields of poison where even pollen and nectar are contaminated. In addition to toxicity to bees, pesticides like the neonicotinoids have been shown to also impact birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity. For more information read our piece, Birds, Bees and Beneficials.

While climate change is a challenge to every plant and animal species on our planet will have to gradually adapt to in coming years, including changing or disappearing habitats and greater temperature fluctuations, various environmental factors are influencing the crisis faced by bees and other pollinators. However, we can take action on bee-toxic pesticides and eliminate one of the major risks posed to bees now!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees pesticide use in the U.S., has consistently fallen short in its efforts to mitigate these harmful effects to bees and other pollinators. In May 2015, EPA released a proposal intended to create “physical and temporal space” between bees and toxic pesticides. They call these spaces “temporary pesticide-free zones,” which has been called misleading by environmentalists. While touted as monumental progress on bee health by the agency, the reality is that the proposed minor label change will not stop the widespread contamination of landscapes or prevent harm associated with neonicotinoids.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial creatures, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonics now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

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

Source: Science , Washington Post

Photo Source: Layla B, England



Connecticut Bans Toxic Lawn Pesticides in Municipal Playgrounds Statewide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2015) The Connecticut General Assembly last week passed legislation banning toxic lawn pesticides on municipal playgrounds, effective October 1, 2015. In the omnibus budget implementation Bill 1502 at Section 448 (p.563 at line 17579). The bill also improves the existing parents’ pesticide notification system by requiring school districts to provide at least 24-hour electronic notification any time a pesticide application is schedule to occur on school property (Secs. 445 and 446), as well as requiring and tracking the use of pesticides and integrated pest management (IPM) methods to reduce pesticide use on state properties (Sec. 449).

“As we have recognized for many years in Connecticut, children are particularly endangered by pesticides – because these chemicals accumulate in kids’ growing bodies faster than for the rest of us,” Playgroundsaid Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, House Chairman of the Education Committee, which drafted the 2005 and 2009 laws prohibiting pesticide use on school fields.  “This measure represents a great step forward for our state, safeguarding our children from these toxic chemicals on town playgrounds – and ensuring that parents get notice when pesticides are used at public schools,” he added.

“Time and time again pesticides have been shown to have serious health and environmental consequences, and it is critical that we begin limiting their use,” said State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., Chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “By keeping pesticides off of playgrounds and school property, we limit [children’s] exposure to those who are most likely to become ill as a result of them. Improving our state’s notification procedures will better inform parents about pesticide and herbicide applications at their children’s schools.”

The bill bans lawn pesticides which are defined as “a pesticide registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and labeled pursuant to the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act for use in lawn, garden and ornamental sites or areas. “Lawn care pesticide” does not include (A) a microbial pesticide or biochemical pesticide that is registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, (B) a horticultural soap or oil that is registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and does not contain any synthetic pesticide or synergist, or (C) a pesticide classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as an exempt material pursuant to 40 CFR 152.25, as amended from time to time.”

In 2005, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of lawn care pesticides on school athletic fields serving grades K-6 schools and daycare centers.  The original law was expanded in 2009 to include middle school fields (Grades 7 and 8). Activists and concerned parents have been working for years in Connecticut to extend the current prohibition of pesticide use to include high schools, athletic fields, municipal parks and town land, but to no avail. Strong opposition from many municipalities and the pesticide industry has prevented the inclusion of language that would extend the ban to high school grounds and fields, despite calls from parents and local activists.

Other previous attempts to extend the ban have also fallen short over the years. In 2013, the then-proposed Bill 6385 to extend a pesticide ban from pre-K through eighth grade to include high schools stalled and a task force to study pesticides was set up, despite a favorable vote in the education committee to move the bill along. Another bill to extend the ban, which also included a ban on the use of genetically engineered (GE) lawn and turf seed, passed the Senate last year, but was eventually stalled in the House. There have even been attempts to repeal the existing ban for daycare centers and K-8 schools, with legislation allowing pesticide use as part of a weak “integrated pest management” (IPM) system. Current state law, adopted in 2005 and amended in 2007 and 2009 to cover facilities from day care centers up through grade 8, prohibits pesticides on playgrounds and playing fields at schools (except under emergency situations), allowing instead for non-toxic pest and fertility management.

Industry groups and local land managers advance the myth that banning pesticides from fields would cost schools and municipalities more money because of pest damage and could make playing fields hazardous. However, these myths have been debunked by studies and real world successes of organically managed fields. First, fields that are intensively managed with chemicals are at greater risk for disease and weed infestation (leading to a dependence on chemical inputs), compared with those whose practices build healthy, balanced soil. Similarly, chemically-managed fields are generally harder and more compacted due to a loss of natural soil biology, while organic management focuses on cultural practices, such as aeration, that alleviates compaction and provides a softer, better playing surface. Any field with irregular surfaces, whether organically managed or not, can lead to falls or twisted ankles. Banning pesticides from playing fields also will not cost more in the long-term. While initial costs to transition a chemical-dependent field to organic care can be higher, in the long-run costs will be lower as inputs, like fertilizer and water, decrease, along with the absence of the cost of annual chemical treatments. Read the factsheet: Pesticides and Playing Fields.

The need for legislation to protect vulnerable children from the hazards of toxic pesticides is clear. Studies show that pesticides are associated with several human health risks including cancer, learning/behavioral disabilities and reproductive and sexual dysfunction. The Pesticide-Induced Disease Database documents the association between pesticide exposures and the onset of disease. This is supported by the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which concluded in December 2012 that, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” The report went on to discuss how kids are exposed to pesticides every day in air, food, dust, and soil. Children also frequently come into contact with pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications.

Source: The Ridgefield Press

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




Federal Judge Overturns Maui GE Crop Moratorium

(Beyond Pesticides, July 9, 2015) Last week, a federal judge ruled that a voter-passed ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in Maui is preempted by federal and state law, and is invalid. According to the SHAKA Movement legal counsel, the decision, at least temporarily, invalidates a local ordinance that sought to protect against serious harms caused by these practices, and ignores the harms to Maui county and the Hawaii Constitutional mandate placing obligations and duties on the counties to protect the natural environment. In addition to the SHAKA Movement, Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice have pledged to appeal the decision.

“The District Court’s ruling is a big blow to Maui County voters that adopted this ordinance, given the dangers involved with GMO operations,” said SHAKA spokesperson Mark Sheehan, PhD, Maui_Landsat_Photowho was also one of the five citizens who sponsored the ballot initiative. “We do intend to appeal this decision and are hopeful that the 9th Circuit will recognize the impact that today’s ruling has on the community.”

In November 2014, Maui residents passed a ballot initiative prohibiting the growth, testing or cultivation of GE crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show that the planting operations are safe for the community. Just nine days after the Maui initiative passed, Monsanto, along with Dow-owned Agrigenetics and several industry-friendly groups, sued Maui County, seeking to have the moratorium thrown out, claiming that local governments are preempted from enacting pesticide legislation more restrictive than Hawai’i state law. It also asked the court to temporarily delay the measure’s effectiveness by issuing an injunction. Maui County immediately embraced the chance to block the will of its voters and agreed to an injunction until March 2015. However, several Maui County residents,  along with the SHAKA Movement, filed a preemptive lawsuit against the county, Monsanto and Dow, seeking to assure transparency and influence over the implementation of the initiative, in light of the enormous amount of money that the companies have poured into the county in an attempt to beat the initiative.

In the recent ruling, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway stressed that the order only addresses the legal question of county authority, and does not look at whether genetically engineered crops are “good or bad.” Dr. Sheehan expressed disappointment that the ruling turned on procedural issues instead of addressing the substance of their argument, as the ordinance was specifically written to address issues not found in state statute. Further, he said the law requires the county to protect the health of the environment and the public. “That was lost on the judge, so we will have to move along and have to find justice for the constitutional rights of the people of Maui at another level,” Dr. Sheehan told the Associated Press.

Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice issued a joint statement in response to the decision:

“We are deeply disappointed with Chief District Court Judge Mollway’s very unfortunate and legally incorrect ruling that Maui County’s genetically engineered (GE) crop ordinance is contrary to state and federal law. Worse, we were wrongly denied the ability to defend the Maui ordinance by the court, despite the county refusing to defend it, a decision we have appealed. We will also continue to fight for the right of all Hawai‘i communities to protect their children and environment from the activities of these chemical companies, in our ongoing appeals of the Kaua‘i Ordinance and Big Island GE ordinance cases, currently before the Ninth Circuit. This decision is wrong, and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree with us, and uphold the rights of all communities to protect their families, farms, and environments from the harms of genetically engineered crops and pesticides.”

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone, there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

In response to all of the harms that the chemical companies have imposed on Hawaii, there has been a growing movement on the Islands seeking to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. Kaua’i County Councilmember Gary Hooser recently attended a shareholder meeting for the chemical giant Syngenta, in Basel, Switzerland, where he brought a straightforward message to the corporation and its shareholders. “Withdraw the lawsuit from the County of Kauaʻi, honor and comply with our laws. Treat us with the same respect, the same dignity and the same protections that you give the people of Switzerland. Do not spray chemicals in my community that you cannot spray in your own community,” he said. The Councilmember was referencing the use of the herbicides atrazine and paraquat, chemicals which are banned from use in Switzerland, but sprayed constantly and even found in drinking water in Hawaii communities. Earlier this year, state legislators announced that they would introduce a proposal to establish pesticide-free zones around schools and hospitals throughout the state. However, despite garnering wide support across Hawaii, with many groups and individuals, including Councilmember Hooser, coming together during a rally to ask for passage of these much needed pesticide protections, the Hawaii state House agriculture committee ultimately rejected the bill.

Other localities have had more success at banning the planting of GE crops. Jackson and Josephine County in Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. The two ordinances were both approved overwhelmingly, but fought an uphill legal battle when the state of Oregon passed a law in October 2013 stating that only the state can regulate seeds, which was pushed at the behest of out-of-state chemical companies. Though Jackson County was granted an exemption, two GE farmers sought to overturn the ban and brought suit against the county. Fortunately, in a victory for organic farmers, and non-GE farmers who constantly struggle with the threat of GE contamination, the federal judge rejected the request, and upheld the ban. “We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live.

Beyond Pesticides continues to support the efforts of all farmers, counties, states, and countries to protect themselves against the unwanted invasion of GE crops and the risks that they bring to the environment and health. Please visit our Genetic Engineering webpage to learn more.

Source: Associated Press

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





Despite Known Hazards, EPA Waits Decades for Manufacturers to Withdraw Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2015) Last week, after decades of review and known toxic hazards, especially to children, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted a proposed cancellation for a number of indoor uses (including food establishments) and tolerances of propoxur, a carbamate insecticide known for its toxic effects to children. EPA has received a Section 6(f) request under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) from the registrant of propoxur to voluntarily cancel certain uses of the carbamate insecticide. The request from the manufacturer, Wellmark International, requests cancellation of indoor aerosol, spray and liquid formulations of propoxur, indoor crack and crevice use, and all use in food-handling establishments. EPA previously agreed to an April 1, 2016 phase out of propoxur in pet collars, but has continued to leave open these other avenues of exposure. The agency will begin accepting comments on its proposal once it has been published in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur within 10 days of the prepublication signature date.

epa_seal_profilesIt should be noted that EPA engages in lengthy negotiations with pesticide manufacturers, as is the case with propoxur (see recent announcement on chlorpyrifos), rather than pursuing rigorous regulatory standards through its cancellation or imminent hazard authority. The agency has argued that adversarial proceedings are costly and time consuming, yet the long history of propoxur’s cancellation, including the April 1, 2016 phase-out of pet collars, puts the public in harm’s way for lengthy periods. In the case of propoxur, EPA called into question its safety before 1988, when the chemical was the subject of a preliminary Special Review cancellation “because of concerns about the potential carcinogenic risks to pest control operators and the general public during indoor and outdoor applications of propoxur and risks to occupants of buildings treated with propoxur products,” a position on which the agency reversed itself. (See Propoxur Reregistration Eligibility Decision, August, 1997, pp4-5.) Manufacturers are enticed into voluntary cancellations when EPA finally threatens action or litigation looms, seeking to avoid a determination or finding by the agency on elevated risk factors that could increase the registrant’s (pesticide manufacturer’s) liability and reduce its export market.

In March 2014, EPA announced that it had reached an agreement with two major pet product companies to cancel flea and tick pet collars containing the insecticide. The agreement was reached between the agency and the two companies as a result of EPA’s risk assessment in fall 2013, which found unacceptable risks to children from exposure to pet collars containing propoxur. Unfortunately, as noted, the agreement’s long phase-out period continues to allow these dangerous products to be sold until April 1, 2016.

Propoxur was first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests. It has since been implicated as a known carcinogen by the state of California, and has been found to impact reproduction. It can also cause kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic, and can impact birds, fish and bees. Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure, partly due to the fact that they have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults. They also take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, have voiced concerns about the dangers that pesticides pose to children. The body of evidence in the scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels.

A 2011 study published in the journal NeuroToxicology found a positive link between exposure to the pesticide propoxur and poor motor development in infants. By the age of two, children exposed to propoxur in the womb experience poor development of motor skills, according to a test of mental development. A 2009 study concluded that exposures during pregnancy and childhood to insecticides that target the nervous system, such as organophosphates (OPs) and carbamates, are associated with childhood brain tumors.

Fortunately, these chemical treatments, which are often more harmful than the insects themselves, are not actually necessary. These pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. For bedbugs, a least-toxic approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can help to manage an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place. For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our Bed Bug Program Page. For fleas and ticks, it is important to monitor pets carefully, as they may be transporting the insects inside. Bathe pets and wash their bedding regularly. The least-toxic methods described above for bedbugs, such as vacuuming and reducing clutter, as well as exclusion practices (caulking, door sweeps), moisture control, and sanitation, are also important to employ for flea, tick, an other insect management.

Beyond Pesticides urges you to submit your comments supporting the cancellation of propoxur, identified by docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0296, at http://www.regulations.gov. The comment period will be open for 30 days, following the official publication in the federal register on or around July 13, 2015.

Source: EPA

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



EPA Falters Again in Banning Remaining Uses of a Highly Toxic and Unnecessary Insecticide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2015) In a sleight of hand, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans last week to cancel all remaining agricultural uses of the hazardous insecticide chlorpyrifos by April 2016, and then left the door open for negotiations with the chemical’s manufacturer, Dow AgroSciences, to adopt risk mitigation measures that would avoid a ban. Environmental groups are reacting to EPA’s announcement with guarded optimism, encouraging the agency to move forward with its planned cancellation of a highly toxic chemical that has remained on the market for far long. In June 2000, EPA announced a negotiated voluntary cancellation with Dow that removed residential uses of chlorpyrifos (Dursban) from the market because of the neurotoxic effects to children, but allowed most agricultural uses to continue.

driftAs early as January of this year, EPA released a revised human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, finding that the chemical poses risk to farmworkers, and the drinking water of small watersheds. The assessment was, in part, in response to a petition submitted by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in 2007, which called on the agency to ban all uses of the insecticide. Since the the 2000 cancellation, advocates across the country have called on EPA to ban the chemical, citing its potent toxicity. In 2010, over 13,000 organizations and individuals submitted a letter to EPA calling for a ban. In 2012, EPA imposed “no-spray” buffer zones around public spaces, including recreational areas, schools and homes to reduce bystander exposure risks. In spite of these restrictions, chlorpyrifos still poses risks to human and environmental health.

At the time of the revised human health risk assessment, EPA had only planned to address risks through mitigation measures that would have, in all likelihood, only included changes to pesticide labels. However, EPA’s calculations changed after a federal judge ordered the agency to immediately decide upon the fate of the chemical. In a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, EPA indicated that contamination of drinking water in certain watersheds and impacts to farmworker health required changes to use patterns that the agency was “less confident” registrants would be able to achieve outside of “complex regulatory proceedings.” But, despite this determination, EPA still plans to give Dow more time. In the same letter, the agency announced it will conduct an investigation through the end of this year into watersheds that are at high risk of chlorpyrifos contamination. EPA indicates that if Dow or other registrants decide to take “necessary action,” the agency reserves the right to reverse its intent to cancel remaining uses.

The issue is critically important for the residents of many communities in California, who live, play, go to school, or have family members that work in or near agricultural fields where the chemical is frequently applied. Recent state reports show that agricultural pesticide use is increasing, particularly in regards to highly toxic organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos. Although California recently announced new regulations designating chlorpyrifos as a California Restricted Material, the rule does not fulfill its intended goal of protecting children’s exposure to these chemicals in agricultural communities. Although sprayers will need to request a permit to apply chlorpyrifos, simply eliminating the use of this chemical in favor of least toxic and organic practices is a safer option for kids, their families and the wider environment.

With the adverse impacts of chlorpyrifos on health and the environment well known, EPA’s proposed target date of next April to initiate rulemaking remains a long time off for those suffering the toxic effects of pesticides during this and future growing seasons. A study published last year by the University of California Davis’ CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks for Genetics and the Environment) program found that pregnant women who live within a mile of agricultural fields treated with organophosphate insecticides are more likely to have their child develop autism. Women in the second trimester living near fields treated with chlorpyrifos were 3.3 times more likely to have their child diagnosed with autism. And research continues to show that the effects of these highly toxic chemicals are not limited to their ability to kill bugs. A study published earlier this year by the New York University School of Medicine found more evidence of the neurotoxic effects of organophosphates. Although aimed at the effects of these chemicals on the European Union, the analysis, conducted by an international team of experts in their field, shows that 13 million IQ points in Europe are lost each year due to prenatal organophosphate exposure, and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability are caused. Such impacts account for $130 billion in health care expenditures each year. With weaker health and safety laws than Europe, similar or worse statistics could reasonably be expected in the U.S.

Beyond the open-ended bureaucratic approach EPA has taken to protecting the health of children, farmworkers and the drinking water of agricultural communities from chlorpyrifos contamination, it should simply not require a lawsuit for the nation’s lead pesticide regulatory agency to take action on unnecessary toxic exposure. By taking a more enlighten policy approach that eschews toxic pesticide use in favor of widely available alternative products and practices, EPA can promote a path to safer farming, a restored environment, and healthier communities. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from the risk assessment-based policy EPA currently adheres to by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives. By looking to the growing success of organic agriculture, which, even in at its worst, never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, we can promote a viable, scalable path forward for growing food on this planet that does not unnecessarily contaminate our environment or our children’s future.

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

Source: Capital Press, EPA Status Report Document



EPA at Odds with Scientists on Endocrine System Effects of Weedkillers Atrazine and 2,4-D

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2015) With the release of its Tier 1 screening results for the first 52 pesticide chemicals (active and inert ingredients) evaluated under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at odds with a large body of scientific evidence worldwide that identifies many of these chemicals, most notably the herbicides 2,4-D and atrazine, as interacting with the endocrine system or acting as endocrine disruptors. Independent scientific data has shown these chemicals to interfere with the hormone system.

P_endocrine-systemEPA’s EDSP is a multi-step process used to ensure that exposure to chemicals does not result in adverse human health and environmental effects that canoccur from the disruption of hormones. The two-tiered screening and testing system requires that EPA identify which chemicals are able to interact with the endocrine system, specifically with three hormonal pathways – estrogen, androgen, and thyroid – in Tier 1. Tier 2 is designed to go one step further, requiring EPA to determine endocrine effects across taxa (e.g. mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates) as well as potential effects on non-endocrine systems (e.g. neurological, immunological, hepatic, and renal).  According to EPA, Tier 1 screening data are the best way to determine whether a chemical has the potential to interact with the endocrine system and requires more thorough testing. However, there are concerns as to whether or not EPA is recognizing effects at doses below their currently established “points of departure” and about the lack of testing for non-monotonic dose-responses (indicating a potential for harmful responses that are greater at lower doses).

EPA found that there was no evidence for potential interaction with any of the endocrine pathways for 20 chemicals. For 14 chemicals that the agency said did show potential interaction, EPA stated that it “already has enough information to conclude that they do not pose risks.” Of the remaining 18 chemicals, EPA found that all showed potential interaction with the thyroid pathway, 17 of them with the androgen (male hormones) pathway, and 14 also potentially interacted with the estrogen (female hormones) pathway. While most of the chemicals were not recommended for additional testing, some, such as captan, cypermethrin, dimethoate, and linuron, were recommended for specific Tier 2 tests. A comparative thyroid assay was recommended by the agency for four chemicals that showed interaction with the thyroid pathway in mammals, a medaka one-generation reproductive test was recommended for 13 chemicals that showed interaction with the estrogen or androgen pathways in wildlife, and a larval amphibian growth and development assay was recommended for five chemicals that showed interaction with the thyroid pathway in wildlife. Chemicals identified to show interactions with two or more pathways include , iprodione, linuron, MGK 264, simazine, and tebuconazole. Despite these findings, some of these chemicals were not recommended for additional testing for reasons that include the lack of expectation of impact on current EPA-established regulatory endpoints on human health and ecological risk assessment.

When EPA says, “there was no evidence,” it does not mean “no evidence.” It means that EPA may have evidence for interaction, but has decided that it is outweighed by evidence against it, or that the only evidence is something that occurs in the presence of overt toxicity, or that they can find some other explanation. When EPA says it has “enough information to conclude that they do not pose risks,” that means that the dose that has been associated with the endocrine effects is as high or higher than that associated with known toxic effects (including safety factors.) Thus, EPA is applying a threshold model to endocrine disruption, pointing to a major deficiency in EPA’s risk-assessment process used to evaluate the effects of chemicals on human health and the environment. A threshold model is not appropriate for hormonally-active substances, which often show opposite effects at higher or lower doses.

For atrazine in particular, the agency found interaction with both the estrogen and androgen pathways, but did not recommend it for Tier 2 testing, stating that it is not “expected to impact current EPA-established regulatory endpoints for human health or ecological risk assessment.” EPA’s conclusion is surprising, especially in light of the developmental effects on frogs that have been documented under current use conditions. Hormonal impacts of atrazine which have been well documented by regulators and scientists, including University of California, Berkeley, biologist Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., and the European Union’s classification of atrazine as a category 1 endocrine disruptor (evidence of disruption in a living organism). Dr. Hayes’ research has found that frogs exposed to atrazine – in concentrations within federal standards – can become so completely feminized that they can mate and lay viable eggs. According to Dr. Hayes, this “chemical castration” is not limited to amphibians, but has been repeated in fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals by other researchers studying atrazine. In addition to causing severe harm to endangered species, atrazine has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans. It has also been linked to increased incidences of both the congenital disorder gastroschisis and choanal atresia in areas where the chemical is more widely used. Along with atrazine, propazine and simazine, also in the traizine class of chemicals, have been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, are highly soluble in water and are the most frequently detected pesticides found at concentrations at or above one or more benchmarks in over half of sites sampled. Like atrazine, EPA also found interaction of simazine with the estrogen and androgen pathways.

2,4-D, another chemical not recommended for additional Tier 2 testing, was not judged by EPA to have interactions with any of the three endocrine pathways. While EPA found a number of thyroid and developmental effects in animals treated with 2,4-D, these were dismissed because the doses were judged to cause overt toxicity. Additionally, in EPA’s extended one-generation reproduction test (EOGRT), the agency found no treatment-related thyroid effects in males or females. In contrast to these conclusions, however, studies have found a direct correlation of urinary levels of 2,4-D with elevated levels of the luteinizing hormone (LH) – responsible  for stimulating the production of testosterone in males and regulating the menstrual cycle and ovulation in females – which suggests a direct effect on hormonal levels by the chlorophenoxy herbicide. Others have observed abnormal sperm and higher rates of birth defects in farmers with long-time exposure to 2,4-D, as well as effects on the thyroid and gonads, documented in Beyond Pesticides’ comments to EPA. Studies have also found that 2,4-D promotes the proliferation of androgensensitive cells by acting synergistically with its main metabolite, 2,4-dichlorophenol (DCP), also known for its endocrine disrupting effects.

Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments in 1996 requiring that EPA screen pesticide chemicals for their potential to produce effects similar to those produced by the female hormones in humans and giving EPA the authority to screen certain other chemicals and to include other endocrine effects. Based on recommendations from an advisory committee, EPA expanded the EDSP to include male hormones and the thyroid system, and to include effects on fish and wildlife. However, delays and criticisms from scientists have highlighted inadequacies of the overall program. After the FQPA set a 1999 deadline for EPA to develop a battery of assays with which pesticide manufacturers were required to screen their products as possible endocrine disrupters, EPA repeatedly pushed back the deadline for over a decade. Moreover, critics of EDSP have said that EPA’s testing protocol is outdated, failing to keep pace with the science.

For more information, read more about endocrine disruptors at the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database page.

Source: EPA

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



Report Reveals Chemical Food Industry Tactics in Spinning Food Safety and Attacking Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2015) A report released this week by Friends of the Earth exposes the exorbitant amount of money food and agrochemical companies have spent over the past several years to defend industrial agriculture, sway public opinion, and influence elected officials. The report shines light on the both the tactics these companies use and the lengths to which they are willing to go to defuse public concern about the risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and to undermine the reputation of organic food. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent from 2009-2013 on communication efforts to spin the media and drive consumer behavior, often using front groups that appear in the media to be independent sources, but are in fact funded by the interests of the industrial food sector. This report is an important link in shaping public conversation about food and influencing consumers to think twice about where the information they’re being fed is comingoverview from, and who might be paying for it.

When explaining the motivation behind writing the report, Anna LappĂ©, one of the co-authors and a national bestselling author and founder of the Real Food Media Project, states that, “The food industry is using a host of covert communication tactics to shape public opinion without most people realizing the stories are being shaped behind-the-scenes to promote corporate interests. Our goal with this report is to inspire journalists, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public to bring increased scrutiny to the food industry’s messages and messengers.” Ms. LappĂ© also notes that making sure that people know their food is safe, and encouraging them to fight for transparency in how their food was grown and raised is a hopeful outcome of publishing this report.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Big food and chemical companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars from 2009 to 2013 to manipulate the public conversation about our food.
  • 14 front groups — often appearing in the media as independent sources — spent $125 million during that time frame to push coordinated messages that serve industrial agriculture interests. These include groups like the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance, whose partners include Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and Syngenta.
  • Covert PR tactics these groups are using include efforts to disparage “organic moms,” the growth of “native advertising” disguised to look like real news, stealth engagement on social media and the use of third-party allies to foster an echo chamber for industry talking points.
  • Coordinated messages pushed by a range of seemingly independent spokespeople are making their way from PR firms to the pages of leading media outlets. The report details and debunks five of these key messages, including “organic food isn’t worth the money” and “GMOs are needed to feed the world.

The report also highlights industry attempts to divert consumers from a growing body of science that has linked food additives and chemicals used in food production to problems ranging from cancer to bee declines. A previous report by Friends of the Earth published in April of 2014 highlights the ways pesticide companies are spinning the bee crisis to protect profits, a practice the new report indicates has continued.

The motivation for this systematic attack on smaller food systems, including organic, comes from societal trends that are moving away from big food industry products. Last year, major packaged food companies lost $4 billion dollars alone, as shoppers moved towards purchasing fresh and organic alternatives, further driving the need for big industry to skew the dialogue in their favor. Rather than responding to changing market demands by shifting the way they do business, these companies are trying to preserve market share and win key policy battles by using “tobacco-style” PR tactics, attempting to undermine the integrity of organics in the process. These tactics try to spread the messages such as “buying organic is not worth the money” or “GMOs are needed to feed the world.” These campaigns purposely disregard conflicting information and fail to take into account other factors that contribute to the costs of organics. For more on these discrepancies, see Beyond Pesticides’ article “The Real Story on the Affordability of Organic Food” to learn about the true cost of conventional food and learn how to get access to affordable organic food.

Attacks on organic are not waged solely by industry, but by the government as well. In June of last year, 20 organic farm and consumer groups filed a petition with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to protect the authority and permanence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a government committee created to safeguard the integrity of the organic food label, against changes that undermine the duties of the board and its role in protecting organic food production. Then this past April, environmental groups had to band together once more by filing a lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow the law in making a substantial rule change to the USDA organic standard.

“To have an honest conversation about the future of our food system, it’s crucial for consumers and news producers to understand the alarming extent of industry influence on media coverage and to do what we can to make sure we’re hearing the real story, not spin,” said Stacy Malkan, co-author of the report and co-director of consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know. While there is a long way to go in ensuring consumers know exactly who is controlling the information they receive when it comes to food, this report, which includes a detailed summary of industry trade and front groups’ activities, spending, and board members, is a good first step in creating some transparency around the issue and we encourage citizens to read it and other information on the subject.

For more on organic standards and how you can play a part in maintaining the integrity of organic, visit the Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

Source: “Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food”

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Law360



EPA Solicits Public Input on Protecting Monarchs from Herbicide Impacts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Regulations.gov

Photo Source: Diane J, CT



Neonicotinoids Hinder Bee’s Ability to Smell Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has consistently fallen short in its efforts to mitigate these harmful effects to bees and other pollinators. In May 2015, EPA released a proposal intended to create “physical and temporal space” between bees and toxic pesticides. They call these spaces “pesticide-free zones,” which has been called misleading by environmentalists. While touted as monumental progress on bee health by the agency, the reality is that the proposed minor label change won’t stop the widespread contamination of landscapes or prevent harm associated with systemic neonicotinoids. Pollinators and other non-target organisms face unique threats from these systemic pesticides because they can be exposed through multiple pathways, including directly through foliar applications and contaminated field dust from seed treatments, as well as indirectly through contaminated guttation droplets, pollen, and nectar of treated plants.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial creatures, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonics now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today. Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

Source: Nature, CBS News

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: ECHA

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





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

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

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

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

Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world and is used on most corn, sugarcane and sorghum acreage in the United States; and can also be used on golf courses and residential lawns. In the U.S. alone, 60-80 million pounds are used each year. Its effects on frogs have been well documented by UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., whose research has found that frogs exposed to atrazine –in concentrations within federal standards— can become so completely feminized that they can mate and lay viable eggs. According to Dr. Hayes, this “chemical castration” is not limited to amphibians, but has been repeated in fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals by other researchers studying atrazine. In addition to causing severe harm to endangered species, atrazine has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans. It has also been linked to increased incidences of both the congenital disorder gastroschisis and choanal atresia in areas where the chemical is more widely used. And, one study linked birth defects to time of conception, with the greatest impact on children conceived when concentrations of atrazine and other pesticides are highest in the local drinking water. Along with atrazine, propazine and simazine are both in the traizine class of chemicals, which have been has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, and are highly soluble in water and are the most frequently detected pesticides found at concentrations at or above one or more benchmarks in over half of sites sampled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

­Sources: EPA Notice, Center for Biological Diversity

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Lancet, Reuters

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