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25
Nov

This Giving Season, Donate Before You Shop

(Beyond Pesticides, November 25, 2014) Please put charitable giving first this holiday season, and as you consider your donations, please take a close look at Beyond Pesticides’ program to protect health and the environment. Your support enables us to assist local action informed by the science we provide on pesticide hazards and safe and sustainable alternatives.

donate todayWhen you contribute to Beyond Pesticides, you support our core values –that we have a right to:

  • (i) clean air, water, and land in our communities,
  • (ii) toxic-free landscapes that are achieved cost-effectively without hazardous synthetic materials,
  • (iii) safe places with reduced chemical threats where children grow up, and;
  • (iv) a healthy ecology where pollinators –bees, butterflies, and birds and the natural world– can flourish.

With your support, Beyond Pesticides is making tremendous progress advancing toxic-free pesticide policies in local communities and promoting effective organic alternatives in the face of strong chemical industry opposition.

>>Please help us pass toxic-free pesticide policies in communities throughout the country by donating today.

We had an important victory in the small coastal town of Ogunquit, Maine this past election day, where 60% of voters passed an initiative to ban turf and landscape pesticides on all town lands, public and private. Your support of Beyond Pesticides helped to make this happen! Because, when given an opportunity, local communities choose to protect themselves from the unnecessary use of toxic pesticides by adopting nontoxic practices.

>>Help us assist other communities in their efforts to adopt nontoxic practices!

We are bringing to communities an understanding of inadequate protections at the federal level. The allowance of toxic pesticides by EPA begins with decisions that are heavily lobbied by the chemical industry. The recent allowance of 2,4-D, contaminated with dioxin, for weeds on newly deregulated genetically engineered corn and soybeans speaks volumes to the power of the industry, weak federal laws, and a complicit Congress.

>>With your contribution, we will continue to fight bad EPA regulatory decisions.

Critical to long-term sustainability, Beyond Pesticides is transforming land and building management. We began this work 33 years ago, calling for research into sustainable practices, and the adoption of organic standards with certification and enforcement mechanisms, so that we could point people and communities to credible, verifiable solutions to pesticide pollution. In this regard, we have helped build an organic standards and certification system that addresses the limitations of EPA’s pesticide registration program.

>>Your support enables Beyond Pesticides to work to keep the USDA and NOSB process accountable to consumers and family farmers who believe deeply in a safe, sustainable and organic alternative to practices and products that poison and contaminate.

Thank you for giving first this holiday season!

To read Beyond Pesticides full letter to supporters, written by executive director Jay Feldman, see here, and see Ogunquit Leads the Way with Ordinance Banning Pesticides.

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

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24
Nov

With Some Bee Protective Suggestions, Oregon Task Force Fails to Focus on Neonics

(Beyond Pesticides, November 24, 2014) Last Wednesday, a special Task Force on Pollinator Health in Oregon delivered a series of recommendations to the Oregon legislature on how to help the state’s honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators,but failed to address the clear threat that neonicotinoid insecticides pose to pollinators. Because the task force only prioritized consensus recommendations, groups representing pesticide manufacturers, retailers, and the nursery industry were able to stifle advice on protecting pollinators from highly toxic, long-lived systemic neonicotinoids and other potential pesticide threats. Instead, the consensus decisions include: expansion of outreach and education, supporting new research, and increasing pollinator habitat. Five of the eight voting members also supported targeted oversight of pesticide use.

According to Xerces Society, one of the conservationist members of the task force, industry’s opposition to targeted oversight of pesticide use stood in stark contrast with the scientist, master gardener, beekeeper and conservationists on the task force. Actions opposed only by industry representatives include requiring a pesticide applicator’s license for anyone who regularly uses pesticides as part of his or her job, halting the use of two highly toxic, long-lived neonicotinoid insecticides (clothianidin and thiamethoxam) on linden trees, and increasing consumer awareness about whether retail ornamental plants have been treated with neonicotinoids.

The task force was established following the new law, HB 4139, which was enacted partially in response to several bee-kill incidents in Oregon last summer, particularly one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees after a licensed pesticide applicator sprayed blooming linden trees, a violation of the pesticide label. The Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the neonicotinoid insecticide, dinotefuran. HB 4139 required the Governor to establish the task force directed to continue the research on bee health and pesticides for legislative action in 2015. The bill also requires anyone applying for a pesticide license to take a course on pollinators and pesticides and pass the exam. While the legislation fell short of the original bill that would have restricted the neonicotinoids –dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, many advocates in Oregon saw this as a step forward for bee protection considering the lack of action by the EPA and other states.

Mounting science has documented the neonicotinoid class of pesticides as a major factor in bee decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown, even at low levels, to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and disease. (Read No Longer a Big Mystery.) These chemicals are also systemic, meaning they contaminate the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, leading to contamination of the entire colony, including juvenile bees, when pollen is taken back to the hive. More recent research is even finding that neonicotinoids persist for long periods of time in the environment, contaminating soil and water, and adversely affecting other non-target organisms.

“By excluding pesticide oversight in the priorities, the task force has created a two-legged stool,” said task force member Aimee Code, Pesticide Program Coordinator for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “If we are to bring back pollinators we need to address all the core issues.”

The plight of bees and other pollinators is an important one for all to be concerned. Bees and other pollinators provide an estimated $600 million in pollination service in Oregon alone. That contribution helps provide better quality fruits and vegetables and helps keep food prices down. Across the U.S., one third of the foods we eat are dependent on pollination services, which contribute $20-30 billion to the agricultural economy. The reliance on toxic, systemic inputs that dominate our agricultural systems and how we manage pests, is being found to have more environmental costs than benefits. The time for action is now.

On the plus side, the task force presented some good consensus recommendations. These include: increasing pesticide registration fees to fund Oregon Department of Agriculture’s pesticide use outreach and education; prioritizing creation and management of pollinator friendly habitat on state lands, including parks and rights-of-way; and supporting the creation of a bee-health diagnostics facility. For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat, see the BEE Protective webpage. BEE Protective includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. See the Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides.

Members of the Task Force on Pollinator Health:

Dr. Ramesh Sagili (task force Chair), Assistant Professor (honey bee health, nutrition and pollination), Oregon State University.
Aimee Code, Pesticide Program Coordinator, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Scott Dahlman, Executive Director, Oregonians for Food and Shelter.
Betsy Earls, Vice President & Counsel, Associated Oregon Industries.
George Hansen, commercial beekeeper, owner of Foothills Honey Company.
Rich Little, Master Gardener, Oregon State University Extension Service.
Doug Moore, Executive Director, Oregon League of Conservation Voters.
Jeff Stone, Executive Director, Oregon Association of Nurseries.
Non-voting members: State Senator Chuck Thomsen and State Representative Jeff Reardon.

Source: Task Force on Pollinator Health’s report,  Xerces Society Press Release

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

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21
Nov

Insect Resistance “A Serious Threat” to GE Crop Sustainability

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2014) Researchers of a new study published on Monday find increased resistance in the fall armyworm to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-incorporated genetically engineered (GE) maize in the southeastern region of the U.S., calling this evolution of insect resistance to transgenic crops “a serious threat to the sustainability of this technology.”

The pest was found to be resistant to a toxin derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, which is inserted into seeds. Bt is a naturally-occurring soil bacterium that, when used in non-genetically engineered forms, is an important biological pesticide for organic and sustainable farmers. This study is just one of many that show increasing insect resistance to Bt crops, which are produced by Dow and DuPont, but is the first to document field resistance related to the reduced efficacy of Bt maize in a lepidopteran pest in the mainland U.S.

The study, “Cry1F Resistance in Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda: Single Gene versus Pyramided Bt Maize,” led by Fangneng Huang, Ph.D., an entomologist at Louisiana State University, finds that the fall armyworm has exhibited increased resistance to the Bt subspecies Cry1F protein. When expressed, the protein controls larvae from an order of insects known as Lepidoptera, which includes pests such as the European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, and black cutworm, as well as beneficial organisms such as butterflies and moths. Armyworms can plague farmers in many parts of the U.S., but these resistant insects have been documented only in some areas of Florida and North Carolina. The range of these resistant armyworms is unknown, researchers said.

The researchers recommended that farmers should plant more non-GMO corn as a refuge and possibly increase the use of pesticides to control the resistance.

Newer types of Bt corn with multiple modes of action are still showing effectiveness, Dr. Huang said. He added, “We don’t know how long they can last.”

Dr. Huang’s uncertainty is not only suggested by the results of his most recent study, but is also supported by a growing literature of cross-resistance in regards to other resistant insects. A 2013 study,  “Potential shortfall of pyramided transgenic cotton for insect resistance management,” by Thierry BrĂ©vaul, Ph.D., and colleagues found that stacking several Bt-incorporated traits does not stop resistance. Researchers assumed that caterpillars resistant to the first Bt toxin would survive on the one-toxin plants, but die when consuming two-toxin plants because they had not yet developed resistance to the new formulation. However, caterpillars selected for resistance to one toxin survived significantly better than caterpillars from a susceptible strain.

Several additional studies have documented growing insect resistance to Bt maize. In 2011, the study “Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm,” led by Aaron Gassmann, Ph.D., verified the first field-evolved resistance of corn rootworm, from the order Coleoptera,  to a Bt toxin, Cry3Bb1. The study found the western corn rootworm’s ability to adapt is strongest in fields where Bt corn is planted for three consecutive years and suggests that insufficient planting of refuges contributes to the problem. This study was cited by a group of 22 prominent entomologists who submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on their concerns about the viability of Cry3Bb1 corn. In January 2013, EPA concluded that, “Corn rootworm may not be completely controlled by Cry3Bb1 in certain parts of the corn belt.” However, after this release, EPA did little to mitigate resistance beyond announcing that Monsanto had committed to conducting grower education programs demonstrating the value of crop rotation.

Other consequences related to growing insect resistance to GE technology include an increase in insecticide use. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal in 2013, insecticide sales soared in 2013 as target insects have developed resistance to genetically engineered insecticide-incorporated crops. Pesticide manufacturers American Vanguard, FMC Corp, and Syngenta have all reported higher sales in 2012 and 2013 than in previous years. Syngenta alone reported doubling sales in 2012. Similarly, American Vanguard reported soil insecticide revenues rose by 50% in 2012.

Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of an herbicide-tolerant crop, the GE approach to agriculture and pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and many other problems associated with GE crops. The failure of EPA to properly exercise its authority to regulate the plant-incorporated protection used in Bt corn products is unacceptable. Further delay on EPA’s part to implement refuge requirements and compliance activities that seek to preserve the efficacy of Bt corn products and extend their utility in the field will result in undue adverse environmental, human health, and economic consequences, as well as undermine the use of Bt as a biological pest management tool in organic production.

For more information on the hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage.

Sources: Reuters

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

 

 

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20
Nov

Rise in Chronic Diseases Correlates with Glyphosate and GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, November 20, 2014) A study published in the Journal of Organic Systems this week examined potential connections between the increase in chronic diseases seen within the United States and other parts of the world over the last 20 years and the explosion of glyphosate use, finding a significant correlation between glyphosate use, genetically-engineered (GE) crops, and human health.glyphosate use map

Glyphosate, one of the most popular weedkillers in both the U.S. and the world, is the active ingredient in Roundup¼ —the leading glyphosate product developed by Monsanto. Known as “Roundup Ready,” GE soybeans, corn, cotton, and other crops have been genetically altered and patented by Monsanto to be glyphosate-tolerant. Whether a crop stems from a Roundup Ready seed or not, glyphosate is used in almost all agricultural areas of the U.S., as well as on an international scale, in conventional, non-organic farming operations.

Because of Roundup’s popularity, glyphosate use has skyrocketed, leading to an estimated application of nearly 250 million pounds of the chemical across the U.S. alone and resulting in significant problems of glyphosate resistance and the increased presence of the herbicide in our food and environment.

The increased presence of glyphosate has also ushered in independent data and research on the chemical’s adverse health and environmental effects. As noted in the study, “Evidence is mounting that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants and animals and glyphosate residues have been detected in both. Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, it damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer.”

To explore if there was a connection between the known increase glyphosate use and similar rise in chronic diseases, the study, Genetically Engineered Crops, Glyphosate and the Deterioration of Health in the United States of America, examined U.S. government data on GE crops, glyphosate application, and disease epidemiology and developed correlation coefficients for 22 diseases. The correlations were highly significant, according to researchers, and while the correlation did not necessarily mean direct or exclusive causation, it did warrant a recommendation to reevaluate glyphosate residue levels and potential adverse health effects.

In the meantime, people concerned about the potentially toxic effects of glyphosate and other pesticides in their food, can find significant protections from GE crops and pesticides in certified organic foods. Please visit Beyond Pesticides Eating with a Conscience and Keeping Organic Strong webpages to learn more about choosing organic foods and keeping synthetic chemicals, like glyphosate, out of organic.

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

Source: Sustainable Pulse

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19
Nov

Canadian Doctors and Nurses Urge Neonicotinoid Pesticide Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2014) A group of doctors and nurses is urging the Ontario government to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, blamed for the decline of bees and other insect pollinators. As Canada’s first neonicotinoid campaign organized by doctors and nurses, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario say that these pesticides are a “major threat to both nature and people.”

drnrsbeesThe doctors and nurses in Ontario, Canada, now urging the province to ban the pesticides adds to growing pressure on the Ontario government to take action on neonicotinoids (neonics), the insecticide class of chemicals linked to the deaths of bees across Canada and the U.S. Central to the initiative is an advertising buy which starts this week on the Toronto subway system. The ads show an anxious child beneath the caption, ‘Doctors and Nurses say neonic pesticides hurt our bees and us.’ The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) also plan to meet with the Ontario Environment Minister, Glen Murray, later this year to urge the government to ban the chemicals. CAPE is the campaign’s main funder, with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature.

“Physicians believe neonics are a major threat to both nature and people,” says CAPE Executive Director Gideon Forman. “These nerve poisons are fatal to bees but there are also concerns they may adversely affect the human nervous system. We need to ban neonics to protect public health.”

The campaign is also sending a letter to all Ontario Members of Parliament urging them to prohibit neonics’ use and sale. Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, recommends that Ontario act on its own to ban the use of the agricultural pesticides, saying there is ample science to find that neonics are responsible for the collapse of bee colonies, and that Ontario faces a potential ecological and economic crisis because of the disappearance of bees, which pollinate hundreds of crops in the province.

The Canadian government is studying the effects of three of the pesticides on bee colonies in agricultural areas. In September 2013, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) –responsible for regulating pesticides in Canada– discovered neonicotinoid-contaminated dust had caused severe bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec, and released new measures intended to protect bees from exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. These included guidelines for soybean and corn growers who use neonicotinoids on treated seeds, requiring a dust-reducing lubricant to prevent the pesticide from spreading at seeding time. Additionally, ongoing monitoring is being used to determine whether these mitigation techniques will help reduce bee mortality in 2014. Based on the results, new measures could be introduced for next year, such as a permit system for the use of neonics. A final report is expected in 2015. Ontario has said it will wait for the results of the study before it makes a recommendation to restrict neonicotinoids, as has been done in the European Union. But many, including the doctors and nurses, recommend banning the chemicals outright, and urge the province to adopt an ecological approach to pest control that minimizes use of pesticides. Crop rotation, improved planting techniques and pest resistant crops that can help eliminate the need for pesticides in agriculture have been suggested.

“This is a unique campaign because health professionals have teamed up with environmental groups to urge a ban on these toxic pesticides. And it makes perfect sense because as nurses we know that if you kill bees –and endanger our food supply– you undermine human health,” says Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD, and Chief Executive Officer of RNAO. Dr. Grinspun also notes that neonicotinoids go well beyond the corn and soybean fields to disrupt other ecological systems. “The issue with the neonic pesticides is that they are absorbed and incorporated into every part of the plant, from leaves and stems to seed, pollen and nectar. They are very persistent, they are highly water soluble, so they can contaminate ground and surface water and can persist in aquatic environments for a very long time,” Dr. Grinspun said.

This summer, one county in southern Ontario was reported to be the first Canadian community to temporarily ban neonicotinoids, while officials in Prince Edward County passed a motion prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on municipal lands. Canadian municipalities have an illustrious history of restricting pesticides to safeguard human and environmental health. For several years, Canadian communities have been restricting cosmetic uses of pesticides on their lawns despite pushback from industry giants. Similarly, neonicotinoid restrictions could gain traction across the provinces, especially if bee losses continue to mount.

Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have already been given a two-year moratorium in the European Union. Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and beekeepers filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean and canola seeds, even though a recent report finds that this use pattern provides no additional benefit to agriculture. A recent EPA report also confirms that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production

Mounting science has documented the neonicotinoid class of pesticides as a major factor in bee decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown, even at low levels, to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and disease. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. These chemicals are also systemic, meaning they contaminate the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, leading to contamination of the entire colony, including juvenile bees, when pollen is taken back to the hive. More recent research is even finding that neonicotinoids persist for long periods of time in the environment, contaminating soil and water, and adversely affecting other non-target organisms.

At a recent listening session hosted by EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), many beekeepers voiced their dissatisfaction at the slow pace of U.S. action on pollinator protection, and industry misrepresentation of the crisis facing bees. While industry stakeholders, like Syngenta and Bayer, try to deflect blame away from their products and focus on the prevalence of varroa mites, improved farming technologies, and best management practices, beekeepers insist that pesticide exposures, especially to neonicotinoids, are to blame for massive hive losses. Canadian beekeepers recently filed a class action lawsuit against Syngenta and Bayer CropScience charging that the companies were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides and this negligence caused the plaintiffs to suffer $450 million in damages.

The plight of bees and other pollinators is an important one for all to be concerned. One third of the foods we eat are dependent on pollination services, which contribute $20-30 billion to the agricultural economy. The reliance on toxic, systemic inputs that dominate our agricultural systems and how we manage pests, is being found to have more environmental costs than benefits. The time for action is now. The White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan within 180 days. The memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others and the impact to the agricultural economy. However, the White House recently announced that it would miss the deadline to provide a pollinator health strategy. Let EPA and the White House know that the time is not for action! Comments may be submitted by Monday, November 24 online at www.regulations.gov, EPA docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0806.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat, see the BEE Protective webpage, where you can find the Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory. The directory lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides. Join efforts to protect pollinators and educate your community about the importance of these creatures at BEE Protective.

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

Source: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, CBC News

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18
Nov

Leak at DuPont Chemical Plant Leads to Death of Four Workers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2014) Four workers died this past weekend when the valve on a container of methyl mercaptan, a compound used in the production of insecticides, fungicides, and plastics, malfunctioned at a La Porte, Texas chemical plant owned by DuPont. The chemical, which has a strong odor of rotten eggs, spread throughout the Houston metropolitan area, causing concern for people up to 40 miles away. This incident is the latest in a string of chemical disasters for DuPont and across the United States. A 2011 U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation determined that “a series of preventable safety shortcomings” led to three accidents over a 33-hour period that resulted in the death of one worker from phosgene gas exposure at a DuPont plant in Belle, West Virginia. CSB, an independent federal agency tasked with investigating chemical accidents, has begun a probe into the recent incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will conduct a separate investigation.

dupontlaporteIn 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 fool-proof 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. A report on the Executive Order was delivered to the President in May 2014, though it is too early to say whether further action would have prevented the recent disaster at the DuPont plant.

The chemical released in the DuPont incident, methyl mercaptan, is a colorless flammable gas with an unpleasant odor described as rotten cabbage, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. OSHA has set legally acceptable airborne exposure limits of the compound at 10ppm. Methyl mercaptan acts as a central nervous system depressant as well as a respiratory-tract and skin irritant at high levels of exposure. The La Porte plant uses methyl mercaptan for the production of methomyl, a carbamate class of insecticide shown to be highly toxic to humans, with the potential to cause cholinesterase inhibition, resulting in flu-like symptoms such as weakness, lack of appetite, and muscle aches. Although methomyl is not registered for residential use, tolerance levels for the insecticide have been set on over 80 crops.

Many groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have focused on encouraging safer alternatives in chemical processing since before the tragic events that occurred nearly 30 years ago in Bhopal, India by Union Carbide, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical. In 2008, an explosion at a chemical plant in Institute, West Virginia owned by Bayer released high levels of methyl isocyanate, the same chemical released in the Bhopal disaster, and also used as an intermediate in the production of methomyl. Two Bayer workers died as a result of the explosion. Although Bayer reduced the amount of methyl isocyanate it held in its production facility by 80% after the disaster, the company kept up to 50,000 pounds of the chemical stored at this location until 2011, when it announced it would stop all manufacture of the toxic chemical.

According to the 2011 risk-management plan for DuPont’s La Porte plant, 122,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan were stored on site. In addition to the toxicity of the end use product, methomyl, these disasters highlight dangers inherent in the production of pesticides. From cradle to grave, these chemicals pose unnecessary hazards to workers and the environment. As the 2013 letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy explains, “Prevention is the only fool-proof way to ensure the safety of millions of people whose communities are needlessly in danger.” Though a focus on investing in safer alternatives to toxic pesticides, and fostering alternative systems like organic agriculture, which do not require these chemicals, future tragedies like what occurred this past weekend in La Porte, Texas can be prevented.

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

Source: New York Times, NBC News,

Photo Source: Marie D De Jesus/Houston Chronicle

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17
Nov

Court Battle Begins on Maui, Hawaii GE Moratorium

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2014) In anticipation of the lawsuit by agrichemical giants following a newly passed initiative to suspend the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops in Maui, five residents preemptively filed a lawsuit last Wednesday, November 12 beating their opponents by one day. The moratorium is only a temporary measure that bans GE crops until the county analyzes the public health and environmental effects, and it is deemed safe. Yet, despite this Monsanto, along with Dow AgroSciences, the Maui Farm Bureau and other businesses filed their own lawsuit against the county Thursday, November 13 saying that the “referendum is invalid and contrary to long established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful testing and planting of GMO plants.”

Maui_Landsat_PhotoMaui County residents Dr. Lorrin Pang, Mark Sheehan, Lei’ohu Ryder, Bonnie Marsh and Alika Atay, along with the Shaka Movement, filed their lawsuit in the Second Circuit court in Hawaii against the county, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. The lawsuit seeks to assure transparency and influence over the implementation of the initiative, in light of the enormous amount of money that the ag companies have poured into the county in an attempt to beat the initiative. According to Honolulu Civil Beat reporters, opponents of the measure outspent advocates more than 87 to 1, amounting to $300 for every “no” vote.

“We applaud the county’s recent indication that they will implement the moratorium,” Mark Sheehan, spokesperson for the citizen group in a statement from his attorney, according to Maui Now. “However, given the strong prior opposition of the Maui County Council and Mayor’s Office during the campaign, we want to ensure that the citizens of Maui have full access to the implementation process and that the new law is properly administered.”

The resident’s complaint states: “Plaintiffs bring this action seeking declaratory relief against Defendants in order to (1) assure that the GMO Bill is timely and properly implemented and to be able to assist and participate in the County’s implementation of the GMO Bill, including being consulted by the County with respect to the GMO Bill’s implementation; and (2) resolve the claims that the GMO bill is not legal and enforceable, as there is an actual controversy and threat of imminent and inevitable litigation regarding this issue.”

In addition to pouring money to fight the initiative, the litigation from the agrichemical giant companies came as no surprise, as they had already promised to file a lawsuit against Maui if the memorandum passed. Previously, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF Plant Science LP, and Dow AgroSciences also filed a lawsuit against the neighboring county of Kauai to prevent a similar measure, Ordinance 960, from being implemented. While Kauai’s law did not impose a full ban of GE farming, it did require mandatory notification concerning pesticide applications and buffer zones for crops and pesticide spraying in certain areas. Even with these more moderate restrictions, the Kauai law was stuck down by a federal court in August. While attorneys defending the law filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit in September, some Kauai County Councilmen have introduced a bill to repeal the challenged law, which would invalidate the appeal.

The initiative in Maui is part of a growing movement on the Islands that seeks to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. 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 earlier this 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. 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.

Despite the deep pockets of the agrichemical industry, residents both in Hawaii and across the United States continue to raise their voices for increased protections from GE crops and the hazardous pesticide use that is associated with their planting. In fact, Maui is not the first U.S locality to bar the planting of GE crops. In May, Jackson and Josephine County, Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. “We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live. The fights may be long, drawn out, and grueling, but concerned residents continue to stand up for common sense protections in order to safeguard the health of themselves, their families, their community members, and the unique areas in which they live.

Additional background on the fight for increased protections on the Hawaiian Islands, including testimony Beyond Pesticides provided in support of Kauai’s Bill 2491, can be found here. For more information on the hazards that continue to be associated with the growth of GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering webpage.

Sources: Honolulu Civil Beat, Maui Now

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

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14
Nov

Over 200 Groups, Businesses, and Leading Scientists Call for Monarch Protection

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2014) In the face of staggering declines of monarch butterflies, more than 40 leading scientists and 200 organizations and businesses this week urged the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell, to protect these butterflies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These groups and scientists are supporting the formal petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) submitted this summer, which seeks federal protection for monarch butterflies.

monarchflowerForty scientists from around the U.S. and Mexico signed on to a letter requesting protected status for the butterflies and for FWS to recognize the importance of continued research by scientists and citizen scientists in understanding and conserving the monarch butterfly and its habitat. The scientists also request FWS to streamline the permitting process, so that scientific and conservation research and citizen science activities are encouraged rather than deterred by a listing. In a separate letter, over 200 environmental groups and businesses called on FWS to take swift and effective action by granting the monarch butterfly protection as a threatened species under the ESA. Both letters come in support of a formal petition to FWS seeking federal protection for monarchs. The petition was filed in August by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower.

The North American monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years, dropping from a high of approximately 1 billion in the mid-1990s to fewer than 35 million butterflies last winter – the lowest number ever recorded. Monarch scientists believe the dramatic decline is being driven by the loss of milkweed plants – the monarch caterpillar’s only food –in the Midwest where most monarchs are born.

According to the letters, many factors threaten the monarch butterfly’s survival and vitality, including the loss of habitat, specifically the loss of milkweed plants throughout Midwest monarch breeding grounds -a loss which is considered a leading catalyst in the butterfly’s alarming population decline. Milkweed is critical for monarch butterflies to reproduce, as it is the only source of food monarch larvae can eat. A recent study attributed the disappearance of milkweed plants primarily to the use of genetically-engineered (GE) corn and soybean crops. The vast majority of GE crops are made to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, a potent killer of milkweed. The dramatic surge in glyphosate use with GE crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields, and in turn, significantly impacted the ability of monarch butterflies to reproduce. In addition to the loss of key breeding habitat, other threats to monarch butterflies include climate change, severe weather events, logging in overwintering sites, widespread use of pesticides, disease, and predation.

“The extensive use of the herbicide glyphosate on genetically engineered crops has all but wiped out milkweed in crucial monarch breeding areas. If we have any hope of saving monarchs, our agricultural practices must be at the forefront of the conversation,” said Larissa Walker, pollinator program director at Center for Food Safety.

“The monarch butterfly is North America’s most well-known and cherished insect,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director at the Xerces Society. “Without immediate action to protect this species and restore critical milkweed habitat, the spectacular migration of the monarch butterfly may no longer be an experience for future generations to enjoy.”

The ESA allows species to be listed as “threatened” when they are at risk of becoming endangered in a significant portion of their range. This would allow for the protection of the species but also still allow the continuation of activities that promote their conservation, such as scientific research and monitoring, citizen monitoring and tagging, and non-commercial classroom and household rearing of monarchs for educational purposes.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most effective tool available for spurring the large-scale effort that’s needed to protect the amazing monarch butterfly from extinction,” said Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Groups supporting the petition through the sign-on letters include environmental organizations, religious groups and businesses. Among the signatories are Beyond Pesticides, Amy’s Kitchen, Catholic Rural Life, Center for Media and Democracy, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Clif Bar, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Ecological Farming Association, Endangered Species Chocolate, the Endangered Species Coalition, Environment America, Equal Exchange, Family Farm Defenders, Green America, Greenpeace USA, Humane Society of the United States, National Audubon Society, Slow Food USA, Sierra Club, Wild Farm Alliance, and numerous Riverkeeper chapters from across the country.

Monarch butterflies make their way from the U.S. and Canada, usually arriving in Mexico around the beginning of November, clustering by the thousands in the boughs of fir trees. Although the same trip occurs every year, no individual butterfly makes it twice, as the butterfly’s life span is too short. How the migration route lives on in the butterflies’ collective memory is an enduring scientific mystery. Researchers note that to compensate for the continued loss of habitat, refuges of milkweed must be set up to provide a source of food for butterflies.

You too can do your part to protect and support monarch butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Avoid using toxic pesticides in your home and garden, and support organic agriculture and food. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and reducing hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. Attract beneficial insects like monarchs and bees by creating habitats in your own backyard. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. Visit Bee Protective for more information on creating habitat in your home and community.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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13
Nov

California Strawberry Production Thrives as Regulators Allow Elevated Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, November 13, 2014) In an investigative report, Dark Side of the Strawberry, Center for Investigative Reporting provides a sordid story and analysis of the rise of one of California’s most prized crops, strawberries, while state regulators ignored public health and environmental risks associated with the pesticides used in their production.

The report focuses on a pesticide called 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D), a restricted use soil fumigant used to kill nematodes, insects, and weeds, that has strong links to cancer and other serious health issues. The use of the chemical in the production of strawberries came into prominence with the forced reduction of another fumigant, methyl bromide.

As the report chronicles, besides the many other issues associated with methyl bromide, scientists began to become concerned sometime in 1970s that escaped methyl bromide gas had serious effects on the ozone and was blamed for between 5 and 10 percent of ozone depletion.

With the signing of Montreal Protocol in 1987, a treaty that President Reagan signed on behalf of the U.S., methyl bromide became the only pesticide to be banned by treaty, a ban meant to be in full effect by 2005. While the European Union and other industrialized nations followed through with the plan, the U.S. has repeatedly sought ways around the ban through a loophole in the treaty that provides for “critical use exemptions.” The U.S. argues that no viable alternatives to methyl bromide exist.

According to the report, a strong proponent of these exemptions —California strawberry agribusiness— is responsible for the use of “nearly a million pounds of [methyl bromide] this year, while other strawberry-producing countries like Spain and Japan have used none.” With increasing pressure from the international environmental community and because of serious health risks associated with methyl bromide and despite claims that no alternative exists, chemical companies and strawberry growers turned to 1,3-D.

And it is the use of 1,3-D where the story takes an even more troubling turn. As the report reveals, increased uses of 1,3-D results in unsafe levels of the chemical in the air and decisions behind 1,3-D monitoring and application rates were fraught with industry manipulation and risk reduction work-arounds. Specifically, California regulators allowed growers to blow through the 1,3-D health limits, despite documented concerns from state scientists, and turned to the industry responsible for production of 1,3-D, Dow AgroSciences, to figure out how to fix the problem.

The Dow solution: change the way California measures the limits of 1,3-D in the air. Instead of having a hard and fast limit that an area couldn’t exceed because of known health risks associated with exceeding those exposure limits, Dow proposed averaging out the exposures in an area over a period of time. So while one day air monitors might show unsafe levels of 1,3-D, if over the course of the next few days or weeks monitors showed lower or no levels, the average over the time period would come under the health limits.

The result of the Dow plan and California’s shocking approval of it: increased cancer risk for people living in more than 100 California communities.

Reports like the Dark Side of Strawberries and other issues surrounding fumigants and strawberry production emphasize the need to shift away from dependency on toxic chemicals and seek sustainable, organic solutions to crop production and feeding families. Fortunately, there are less toxic ways to grow strawberries and other crops that have relied on these toxic fumigants, and growing strawberries organically has been shown to create healthier soils, higher quality fruit, and improve pollination success. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ website to learn more about supporting organic agriculture and making sustainable choices in the foods we eat.

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

Sources: The Center for Investigative Reporting

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12
Nov

Fines Totaling $16,000 Issued for Pesticide Applicator and Company Role in Bee Deaths

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2014) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has issued two civil penalties totaling $16,000 in connection with a pesticide application of imidacloprid, a chemical in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides connected to widespread bee decline, this summer that resulted in the death of nearly 1,000 bees at a Eugene apartment complex. Although ODA is taking actions to address pollinator protection, the frequent and continued occurrence of pesticide-related bee deaths indicates that current laws still fall woefully short of preventing these incidences.

oda sealODA’s Pesticide Program conducted an investigation that determined that Glass Tree Care and Spray Service, Inc. and its pesticide applicator violated Oregon’s pesticide control law through gross negligence. ODA is authorized to issue a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations that are the result of gross negligence, the maximum in this case issued to the company, a commercial pest control operator based in Eugene. In addition, the applicator, James P. Mischkot, Jr., was issued a $6,000 civil penalty.

When the incident in Eugene occurred, the trees were in full bloom and attracting pollinators.  In this case, ODA determined that the company and its applicator knew or should have known of this standard of care, yet disregarded it.

The reasonable standard of care for pesticide application activities in Oregon includes anticipating the presence of pollinators in Oregon. Last year, ODA adopted a label requirement on pesticide products containing imidacloprid and dinotefuran stating that the application of these products on linden trees and other Tilia species was prohibited. The regulation was a response to high-profile bee deaths last year in which 50,000 bumblebees, likely representing over 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in Wilsonville due to use of dinotefuran, followed by the deaths of hundreds of bees a week later after the same pesticide was used in the neighboring town of Hillsboro.

Neonicotinoids, including dinotefuran, can be broadly applied as a spray, soil drench, or seed treatment. However, the ability of these chemicals to translocate through a plant as it grows has led to the creation of a large market within chemical-intensive landscaping and agriculture. Once these systemic pesticides are taken up by a plant’s vascular system, they are expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets that pollinators, such as bees, come into contact with while foraging, pollinating, and drinking. Neonicotinoids kill sucking and chewing insects by disrupting their nervous systems. Beginning in the late 1990s, these systemic insecticides also began to take over the seed treatment market. Clothianidin and imidacloprid are two of the most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides. Both are known to be toxic to insect pollinators, and are lead suspects as causal factors in honey bee colony collapse disorder. An extensive overview of the major studies showing the effects of neonicotinoids on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

Eugene became the first community in the nation to specifically ban from city property the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Other communities across the country are also taking initiative in addressing bee decline by restricting or banning the use of neonicotinoids, including Shorewood (Minnesota), Spokane (Washington), Emory University, and University of Vermont Law School.

Over the past few years, Beyond Pesticides, other advocacy groups, and beekeepers have filed legal petitions and lawsuits with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids. Yet, years later the agency has refused and indicated it will review the registration status of the neonicotinoids by 2018. The White House issued a presidential memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan by the middle of December. The memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others and the impact to the agricultural economy. However, the White House recently announced that it would miss the deadline to provide a pollinator health strategy.

Meanwhile, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands. Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” The document also states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.” In keeping with the recognition that pollinators need protecting from pesticides, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announced this summer that the agency will eliminate neonicotinoid use on National Wildlife Refuges.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat, see the BEE Protective webpage, where you can find the Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides. Join efforts to protect pollinators and educate your community about the importance of these creatures at BEE Protective.

Sources: ODA News

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

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11
Nov

Herbicide-Induced Erosion Releases Banned Pesticides in Sediment

(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2014) An international team of scientists has uncovered a new mechanism through which long-banned pesticides such as DDT may reemerge in our environment. Although a number of more recent studies have focused on the role that climate change is playing in the movement of older toxic chemicals, this study highlights the unknowns associated with pesticide use, showing the unexpected impacts that can occur when pesticide use patterns change.

Lac_de_Saint-AndrĂ©_et_vignoblesThe study, “Long-term relationships among pesticide applications, mobility, and soil erosion in a vineyard watershed,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), analyzed 100 years of sediment records collected from a lake near a French vineyard. Scientists were able to create a historical record of pesticide use in the region, and reconstruct erosion patterns seen over time. According to the study, the historical record lined up well with the restrictions and prohibitions on various pesticides that occurred over the years. That is, until the 1990s. Results show that increases in soil erosion line up with an influx of DDT into the lake. But the increase in soil erosion also lined up with the introduction and increase use of post-emergent herbicides such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in the 1990s.

“Analysis of changes in the rate of sediment influx into the lake between 1900 and 2011 suggested a link between soil erosion and patterns of herbicide treatment,” lead author Pierre Sabatier, PhD, of the UniversitĂ© de Savoie, France, told the news site environmentalresearchweb. “For example, glyphosate, used widely to curb grass growth between vine rows since the 1990s, was detected, through its metabolite, in a sediment sample over the last 20 years. Further, this herbicide-induced erosion has re-mobilized DDT and its metabolites – banned in 1972 but lingering in the vineyard soil – into the lake.”

The researchers reasoned that erosion was occurring because of the permanently bare soil conditions created by frequent herbicide spraying. “The soils underwent a change in storage conditions, converting from sinks to sources of pesticides,” the study asserts.

The discovery of this new externality associated with conventional farming strengthens calls from proponents of organic agriculture to replace toxic chemicals with practices that work with nature and build natural pest resiliency from the soil up. Included within the Organic Foods Production Act is the requirement that organic farming systems “contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation, and manuring.” Previous studies have shown that instituting organic practices does create healthier soils than conventional techniques. A paper published in 2010 found that organic strawberry farming resulted in both healthier soils and higher quality fruit. Research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service determined that organic farming builds soil organic matter better than no-till conventional techniques that rely on chemical herbicide inputs.

As organic agriculture continues to grow, it is important that consumers become active in defending the integrity of organic production, so that harmful practices which undermine healthy soil are never instituted. Take action for strong organic standards by visiting Beyond Pesticides Save Our Organic program page. And learn more about the importance of organic agriculture through our program page.

Source: PNAS, environmentalresearchweb.org

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10
Nov

GAO Report Sounds Alarm Again on Poor Pesticide Controls

(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2014) According to a new Government Accountability (GAO) report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test food for several commonly used pesticides with established tolerance levels –including glyphosate, one of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. This and other disturbing findings documented in GAO’s report, Food Safety: FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Monitoring Limitations, issued last Thursday, sounds an alarm that GAO began sounding in the 1980’s in several reports that identify shocking limitations of FDA’s approach to monitoring for pesticide residue violations in food.

gao sealGAO sharply criticizes FDA for not using statistically valid methods consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards to collect information on the incidence and level of pesticide residues. In fact, GAO states that it “was unable to find publicly available estimates of the overall toxicity or risk associated with the use of agricultural pesticides in the United States.” According to GAO, FDA is testing less than one-tenth of one percent of all imported fruits and vegetables and less than 1 percent of domestic fruits and vegetables. The report is also critical of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) testing, finding limitations in its data.

Among its new findings, the report found that not only does FDA not disclose what pesticides it does not test for, but the multiresidue methods that it uses cannot detect all pesticides with established tolerances, including six of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S.: glyphosate, 2,4-D, MCPA, mancozeb, paraquat, and methyl bromide.

Glyphosate is one of the most popular weedkillers in both the U.S. and the world and also the active ingredient in Roundup —the leading glyphosate product developed by Monsanto. Known as “Roundup Ready,” Genetically engineered (GE) soybeans, corn, cotton, and other crops have been genetically altered and patented by Monsanto to be glyphosate-tolerant. Whether a crop stems from a Roundup Ready seed or not, glyphosate is used in almost all agricultural areas of the U.S., as well as on an international scale, in conventional, non-organic farming operations.

FDA officials cited two reasons that it does not test for glyphosate. First, officials stated that if present in genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, glyphosate levels are likely to be reduced by the processing done to those foods. Second, according to the agency, the total start-up cost to implement selective residue methods for glyphosate at its six testing laboratories would be approximately $5 million.

According to FDA officials, testing for 2,4-D would also require a selective residue method that would cost approximately $5 million to implement throughout its laboratories. FDA officials stated that, while the agency does not test for 2,4-D in its pesticide monitoring program, it does test for them in its Total Diet Study. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established for dozens of food or animal feed commodities. According to agency officials, its Total Diet Study testing has detected 2,4-D at low levels (below 5 parts per billion) in selected food items. However, as has occurred with glyphosate, the use of 2,4-D may increase if USDA deregulates the production of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to tolerate being sprayed with this herbicide.

EPA recently approved the use of Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, for use on genetically engineered corn and soy crops. The documented adverse effects of 2,4-D, a chlorophenoxy herbicide, are plentiful and include human health risks of soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. EPA’s own research suggests that babies born in counties where high rates of chlorophenoxy herbicides are applied to farm fields are significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits, and extra digits. These birth defects are 60-90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates. The results also show a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

According to the Washington Post, the GAO review of the pesticide program was requested by Rep. Paul Tonko, (D-N.Y.), who said the results concerned him and urged the agencies to follow the recommendations of the federal auditors. “GAO’s report indicates that the monitoring programs used by FDA and FSIS are falling short of their objectives.  Improvements are needed in pesticide residue monitoring,” Rep. Tonko told the paper, adding that both agencies “will need to devote more resources to pesticide residue monitoring to implement GAO’s recommendations.”

In 1997 testimony before Congress, Federal Regulation of Pesticide Residues In Food, GAO stated, “Our overall judgment is that because of the limited amount of food that FDA is able to test for pesticide residues, it is important that FDA’s monitoring program acts as a strong deterrent against the shipment of food containing pesticide residues that render the food adulterated. Our reviews of FDA’s pesticide monitoring program show that this is not the case.” That testimony came on the heels of two GAO reports warning legislators and policy makers that the regulation and enforcement of pesticides in food is seriously flawed. GAO found that monitoring of both domestically grown and imported food is poor. It found that the government regulatory system “provided limited protection against public exposure to illegal residues in food.” (GAO. Pesticides: Better Sampling and Enforcement Needed on Imported Food. RCED-86-219. 1986). In a separate report, GAO concluded that it is “impossible to monitor routinely for all possible chemical residues and to detect and remove each and every shipment of food and feed that may contain illegal residues.” (GAO. Pesticides: Need to Enhance FDA’s Ability to Protect the Public from Illegal Residues. RCED-87-7. 1986)  Then, eight years later, GAO warned Congress that, “Because scientific data are not always adequate to quantify risks and benefits, the choice of an appropriate regulatory standard entails value judgements and is, ultimately, a policy decision.” (GAO. Pesticides: Options to Achieve A Single Regulatory Standard. GAO/RCED-94-57. May, 1994)

The serious limitations in protecting the public from pesticide exposure –even to levels identified by EPA as allowing an “acceptable” rate of harm based on controversial risk assessment calculations– gave important support to Beyond Pesticides’ efforts to advance organic food production and a national certification system that adopted stronger oversight and rigor than the pesticide regulatory standards that had and continue to fail the public. Integral to the organic oversight system is an independent stakeholder board, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), that is responsible for determining by a super majority (2/3’s vote) the allowance of all synthetic materials, which sunset off (and must be voted back on) the National List of allowed and prohibited substances, based on the most up-to-date science and an assessment of the need for the material (given the availability of nonsynthetic alternatives). (See USDA attempts to weaken these standards, as codified in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).) The public has demanded a higher level of scrutiny for foods certified organic, in part driven by what GAO has identified as a flawed pesticide regulatory system and high-profile food contamination over the years. The sunset provision of OFPA creates a critical incentive for continuous improvement in production practices and materials used in certified organic operations. However, as public demand for organic grows, companies with chemical-intensive practice orientations join the sector, pressure increases on regulators and policy makers to find short-cuts that fail to apply the history and core understandings of the origins of organic and public expectations, and we see steps being taken by USDA that weaken the value of the organic label. Consumers Union recently announced at the October, 2014 NOSB meeting that it had downgraded the value of the organic label because of changes to the NOSB materials review process that were announced by USDA in the September 16, 2013 Federal Register, as well as other steps taken since then.

Beyond the impacts that residues of pesticides have on people who eat food grown with chemical-intensive practices, the pesticides used in conventional food production can also have devastating impacts where they are used, poison farmworkers, and cause cancer, Parkinson’s, and other chronic diseases in rural communities. Children of farmworkers are also at elevated risk.

For more information on the health effects of pesticide exposure, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. For more information on pesticides and the foods you eat, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience. For more information on organic food production, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture webpage.

Sources: GAO Report, Washington Post

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

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07
Nov

Groups Tell Canadian Regulators to Reject Bee-Killing Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, November 7, 2014) Environmental organizations are calling on the Canadian government to reject the approval of yet another bee-killing pesticide called flupyradifurone. According to Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) –responsible for regulating pesticides in Canada– the new pesticide exhibits systemic behavior and “may pose a risk to bees, non-target beneficial arthropods, and freshwater and saltwater invertebrates when used for foliar application.” Additionally, the pesticide “may pose a risk to birds and small wild mammals when used for soybean seed treatment.” Environmentalists say approval of flupyradifurone would be irresponsible of PMRA because it would allow yet another chemical with a high potential hazard to bee health into the environment.

Gina Howe Kent WA Bees and Chives in Kent Wa3Environmental groups, including Sierra Club Canada Foundation, David Suzuki Foundation, Pollination Canada, National Farmers Union, Friends of the Earth, and Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, have been vocal in expressing their concern about flupyradifurone:

“Health Canada has admitted the use of neonicotinoid pesticides threatens bees and other pollinators and has promised a review, but meanwhile wants to open the door to its chemical cousin. Is the government taking the threat of systemic pesticides seriously?” said Lisa Gue, a researcher and analyst at David Suzuki Foundation.

Karen Eatwell, President of National Farmers Union – Ontario, stated, “Scientists have called for a global phase-out of neonics. The last thing we need is another systemic pesticide contaminating the environment.”

Produced by Bayer CropScience, flupyradifurone is an insecticide that is part of a class of chemicals known as butenolides. Like neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been increasingly linked to bee declines around the world, flupyradifurone is a systemic chemical that is taken up by the plant and moves through its tissues into pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets and interferes with the nerve function of exposed insects. Sulfoxaflor, another controversial chemical, shares the same mode of action as flupyradifurone and neonicotinoids. Environmental and farm groups, including Beyond Pesticides, came together last year to file a legal brief in support of the nation’s major beekeeping associations’ lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting that a federal court vacate EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor, which is also highly toxic to bees.

With a growing body of scientific literature pointing to neonicotinoid use as the prime factor in bee declines, critics are no longer mincing words over the continued use of these and other bee-killing pesticides. Recently, Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller stated, “All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me 
 suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT,” on the release of his report titled, The Annual Report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Additionally, in September 2013, PMRA’s interim report concluded that neonicotinoid contaminated dust had likely caused severe bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec in 2012 and 2013.

Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine and are pesticides that are toxic to a broad range of insect pests. As a result of neonicotinoids’ systemic nature, pre-treatment practices, and other factors these dangerous pesticides have been linked to the global disappearance of honey bees and other non-target organisms, such as earthworms, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

The plight of bees and other pollinators is an important one for all to be concerned. One third of the foods we eat are dependent on pollination services, which contribute $20-30 billion to the agricultural economy. The reliance on toxic, systemic inputs that dominate our agricultural systems and how we manage pests is being found to have more environmental costs than benefits.

Take Action: Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign has all the educational tools you need to stand up for pollinators. Some specific ways you can help are:

Sources: The Epoch Times, Health Canada

Photo Source: Gina H, WA

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

 

 

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06
Nov

Election Day Rundown on Pesticide Restrictions and GE Labeling: Victories and Setbacks

(Beyond Pesticides, November 6, 2014) A mixed day for environmental and public health advocates everywhere, election day, November 4, 2014, brought victories and setbacks. While campaigns to advance public health and environmental protections faltered, as did supportive candidates, bright spots did poke through, leading the way forward for future grassroots efforts.

Ogunquit, Maine Pesticide BanOCC logo new

Small but determined, the town of Ogunquit, Maine re-passed an ordinance banning the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers on private property. Residents voted 444 to 297 in favor of the ban, sending an even stronger second-time approval of the initiative.

The town passed a nearly identical ordinance earlier this year in June, however, it was decided that a procedural glitch of failing to notify the state’s pesticide board before passage of the ordinance, as well as a lack of agricultural exemptions, should be corrected through an amended ordinance and revote.

The now double-confirmed law expands on existing pesticide use restrictions on town-owned property. The passage of this ordinance positions Ogunquit as a leader in the state for environmental sustainability and the protection of public health, and supports the Ogunquit Conservation Commission’s goals to ensure that the town’s popular beaches are clean and healthy for all those that visit.

maui_county_seal_n11280Maui County Ballot Initiative Banning GE Crops

In a narrow but meaningful win (50.2 percent to 47.9 percent), the voters of Maui County passed an initiative temporarily banning GE crops unless companies’ practices are tested and deemed safe. According to Honolulu Civil Beat reporters, opponents of the measure outspent advocates more than 87 to 1, amounting to $300 for every “no” vote.

This rare but powerful instance of big ag and big money not buying a victory, however, still has an intense and cost-intensive fight ahead. The temporary ban is all but sure to face a legal challenge by Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF Plant Science LP, and Dow AgroSciences, plaintiffs in the lawsuit against neighboring Kauai County’s related GE and pesticide law.

Kauai’s law did not impose a full ban of GE farming, however, it did require mandatory notification concerning pesticide applications and buffer zones for crops and pesticide spraying in certain areas. Even with these more moderate restrictions, the Kauai law was invalidated by federal court in August. While attorneys defending the law filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit in September, some Kauai County Councilmen have introduced a bill to repeal the challenged law, which would invalidate the appeal.

OR-Right-to-KnowWith the passage of Maui’s initiative, the strong voice of the people of Hawaii continues to grow in the face of agribusiness opposition and funding.

Oregon GE Labeling Measure

Oregon’s Measure 92, a GE-labeling initiative that would have confirmed Oregon consumers’ right to know whether the foods they purchase are produced with genetically engineered ingredients, suffered a nail-biting defeat, with a scant 1.2 percent separating the nays and yays in the final vote count.

According to The Oregonian, the controversial initiative brought in more money on both sides of the vote than any previous ballot measure, although opponent contributions more than doubled supporters and were backed by the likes of Monsanto and other food industry giants.

Colorado Genetically Engineered (GE) Labeling Proposition

Colorado’s attempt to pass a GE-labeling law, known as Proposition 105, like Oregon, was 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. Again, opposition funding flooded in from Monsanto and other food giants, like Pepsico and Coca-Cola contributed to the proposition’s defeat.colorado

Undaunted, supporters of pesticide restrictions and GE-labeling, including Beyond Pesticides, will continue to fight for consumers’ right-to-know and protect their homes, environment, families, and communities on all fronts at the local, state, or federal level. Win or lose, the grassroots efforts in states, counties, and towns are standing up to the chemical industry and agribusiness in an ongoing campaign to educate the public on the pervasiveness of pesticide and GE contamination, importance of right-to-know, and the viability of organic alternatives. Visit Beyond Pesticides website to learn more about what you can do to avoid defeat and support the next victory!

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

Sources: Portland Press Herald; Honolulu Star Advertiser; The Oregonian; National Public Radio; Honolulu Civil Beat

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05
Nov

Pesticides Impair Bees’ Immune Function, Pure Pollen Diet Has Positive Effect

(Beyond Pesticides, November 5, 2014) New research from Pennsylvania State University reports that pesticides cause large changes in the expression of genes involved in detoxification, immunity and nutrition-sensing in bees, adding to previous research that has found that pesticides compromise bee immune function. This research also finds that bees with a diet of natural, high quality pollen exhibit greater resistance to pesticides’ deleterious effects than bees on an artificial diet.

beehivecheckThe new study, “Genomic analysis of the interaction between pesticide exposure and nutrition in honey bees (Apis mellifera),” finds that pesticide exposure can impact the expression of genes that are sensitive to diet and nutrition. The researchers, upon feeding honey bees either the miticidal pesticides, coumaphos or fluvalinate, for a period of seven days, noticed significant changes in 1,118 transcripts – or strands of RNA – in the experimental group. The transcripts include genes involved in detoxification, immunity, and nutrition.

The authors report that there is substantial overlap in responses to pesticides and pollen-containing diets at the genetic level. Subsequent analyses demonstrate that pollen-based diets reduce the honey bees’ susceptibility to pesticide stress verses an artificial diet – e.g. a soy protein or no protein diet. Thus, the researchers note that providing honey bees and other pollinators with high quality nutrition may improve resistance to pesticides. Specifically, the team fed the bees these diets while simultaneously feeding them a lethal dose of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos. Those fed a pollen-based diet exhibit reduced sensitivity to chlorpyrifos, compared to the bees fed an artificial diet, demonstrating that diet significantly impacts how long bees can survive when given a lethal dose of a pesticide.

“This interaction between pesticide exposure and nutrition is likely what’s at play in our finding that feeding bees a complex diet of pollen –their natural diet– makes them significantly more resistant to lethal doses of a pesticide than feeding them a more simple, artificial diet,” said Daniel Schmehl, postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and lead author of the study.

Scientific studies have been focusing on the role of pesticides in the decline of bee populations worldwide. One pesticide class in particular, neonicotinoids, has been singled out as a main contributing factor. Pesticides like neonicotinoids have been shown to impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to maintain a healthy immune system. Studies have found that bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides through pollen and nectar, as well as via contaminated soil, dust, and water. Recent studies have found that near infinitesimal exposures to neonicotinoids cause a reduction in the amount of pollen bees are able to collect for their colony. Researchers found that the effects of neonicotinoid intoxication persist for a least a month after exposure, underscoring the long-term damage these chemicals can cause to bee colonies. Another study shows two widely used neonicotinoids significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. Read the report No longer a Big Mystery.

This past summer, the “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA)” —undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which reviewed over 800 studies — documented significant harms to bees and ecosystems. The analysis focuses not only on impacts to particular organisms and habitats, but also on biodiversity and ecosystem impacts, taking a holistic view of pesticide effects. The task force is calling for new, dramatic restrictions on bee-harming pesticides in the U.S. and beyond. The report finds that the current regulatory system has failed to consider the full range of pesticide effects.

The neonicotinoids, especially imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. At the same time, widespread cases of bee and colony losses started to be reported at rates not experienced before. Over the past few years, Beyond Pesticides, other advocacy groups, and beekeepers have filed legal petitions and lawsuits with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids. Yet, years later the agency has refused and indicated it will review the registration status of the neonicotinoids by 2018. The White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan within 180 days. The memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others and the impact to the agricultural economy. However, the White House recently announced that it would miss the deadline to provide a pollinator health strategy.

Meanwhile, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands. Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” The document also states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.” In keeping with the recognition that pollinators need protecting from pesticides, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announced this summer that the agency will eliminate neonicotinoid use on National Wildlife Refuges.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat see the BEE Protective webpage, where you can find the Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides. Join efforts to protect pollinators and educate your community about the importance of these creatures at BEE Protective.

Source: Science Daily, Nature World News

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

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04
Nov

United Nations Committee Recommends Global Elimination of Toxic Wood Preservative

(Beyond Pesticides, November 4, 2014) Last week, a United Nations committee of experts recommended the global elimination of the pesticide pentachlorophenol (PCP), widely used in the United States and elsewhere for treatment of wooden utility poles and railroad ties. Scientists cite chemical’s persistence, bioaccumulation, long-range transport, and PCP’s toxic impacts in recommending it being listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international treaty established to safeguard human and environmental health from highly hazardous chemicals. The committee further noted the wide availability of non-chemical alternatives much safer than PCP, which include steel, composite, and concrete poles, as well as the burying of power lines.

“This is the beginning of the end of pentachlorophenol,” said Pam Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “Pentachlorophenol has global health implications since it is found in the bodies of people throughout the world including Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic. Now governments and the private sector need to get to work to finally eliminate this toxic chemical.”

kidpolesignThe United States is not a signatory to the Stockholm Convention, and is, in fact, the largest producer and user of PCP in the world. U.S. government agencies have sent mixed messages during the deliberations on adding PCP to the Stockholm Convention. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to oppose efforts to ban the chemical, last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included PCP in its 13th Report on Carcinogens, declaring the substance “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Beyond Pesticides has for decades advocated the removal of PCP from the market. The organochlorine compound was first developed as a pesticide and used in agriculture, yet health and environmental concerns led to numerous reviews of the chemical, which then led to rollbacks in its allowed uses on crops and in residential settings. PCP is neurotoxic, contains a mixture of volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and is contaminated with deadly dioxin, furans, and hexochlorobenzene. In 2002, Beyond Pesticides, along with other health and labor organizations, brought a lawsuit against EPA in which it was argued that the agency must cancel all allowed uses of the wood preservative. The litigation argued that PCP and other wood preservatives hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, citing the availability of alternatives. However, in 2005, a judge dismissed the suit on procedural grounds. Despite mounting pressure, in 2004 the agency tweaked its risk scenario for children’s exposure to PCP-treated utility poles in order to skirt an unacceptable cancer risk determination of 2.2 in 10,000. In an affront to common sense of how children play, in the new scenario, EPA asserted, “Where utility poles are installed on home/school or other residential sites, child contact via the dermal or oral routes is not anticipated since play activities with or around these pole structures would not normally occur.”

In September, the Town of North Hempstead on Long Island passed a law requiring warning labels on utility poles treated with PCP. The mandated labeling states, “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.” Shortly after North Hempstead’s action, members from both chambers in New York’s state legislature announced companion legislation to prohibit the future use of utility poles treated with pentachlorophenol (PCP), and call for the posting of warnings to inform people about the dangers of contact with PCP on existing poles.

The cumulative impact of these actions put increases pressure on EPA to cancel all remaining uses of PCP. Although governments around the world will decide on the recommendation from the United Nations expert committee in May of 2015, signatory nations to the Stockholm Convention typically accept the recommendations of the expert committees.

Through the publication of two reports in the late 1990s, Beyond Pesticides continues its efforts to raise public awareness of the hazards created by pesticide coated utility poles. Yet, our organization continues to receive calls from the public reporting concerning health impacts after exposure to utility poles, or after new poles are installed near their property.

Both of Beyond Pesticides’ reports can be found on the Wood Preservatives webpage. The first report, Poison Poles, published in 1997, examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. Pole Pollution, published in 1999, focuses on EPA’s draft preliminary science chapter on PCP and provides the results of our survey of over 3,000 utilities across the United States and Canada. Increase public pressure to ban hazardous PCP by contacting your local and state legislators and telling them to introduce a bill to remove these poisons from your community.

Source: IPEN

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

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03
Nov

Minnesota Considers Banning Pesticides Linked to Pollinator Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, November 3, 2014) A state ban of neonicotinoid insecticides, which have become increasingly linked to the decline of honey bees and other pollinators worldwide, is under consideration in Minnesota, making it the first state to move in this direction. A revised version of an earlier review, “Scoping a Review of Neonicotinoid Use, Registration and Insect Pollinator Impacts in Minnesota,” published last week, proposes a range of state action, including “restrictions on or cancellation of products,” The review also calls for a “clarification of label provisions and enforcement designed to protect non-target organisms and the environment, targeted enforcement-related education, 
 suggesting research topics that would further the understanding of non-target impacts from neonicotinoids for policymakers, funding agencies, regulatory agencies, etc., and proposing other measures designed to minimize the impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment.” The earlier  review, issued in March, was heavily criticized for not including the option of banning neonicotinoids.

The state has already taken steps to address the environmental crisis linked to neonicotinoids. This year, Minnesota legislators passed a labeling law that will identify bee-friendly plants for consumers. On a local level, Bumblebee-2009-04-19-01Shorewood, MN became the first city in the state to pass a bee-friendly policy. Emory University, University of Vermont Law School, Spokane (Washington), and Eugene (Oregon) have all restricted or banned the use of neonicotinoids.

The outpouring of response to the initial review included a letter submitted in May by 17 legislators with the Minnesota Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party who insisted that the department expand the scope of its review. The 2013 Legislature called for the department to review the neonicotinoids and the group of 17 legislators were not satisfied that the agency’s initial outline failed to mention the possibility of a ban or other restrictions: “The Legislature did not intend that the Department would simply rubber stamp U.S. EPA’s decisions,” they wrote, a reference to a review underway at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“We wanted to make sure it was clear that it’s in our authority 
 and that that would be an option,” said Gregg Regimbal, an official with the Department’s Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, but failed to mention the role of pesticides in bee decline. The effort responds to a presidential memorandum which directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs. The memorandum also directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and tasks agency leads at USDA and EPA to develop a pollinator health strategy before the close of the year. However, although the science very clearly points to neonicotinoids as a main culprit behind bee deaths, and while successful organically managed systems prove that these pesticides are not necessary, EPA has yet to take meaningful action to reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat, see the BEE Protective webpage. BEE Protective includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. See the Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides.

Sources: Star Tribune

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

 

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31
Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: USDA Press Release

Photo Source: Susan Jergen , WI

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

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30
Oct

Oregon Legislators Working to Introduce Herbicide Spray Policy

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

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

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

Goals for the legislation include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Earthfix,  Beyond Toxics 

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

 

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29
Oct

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

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

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

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

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

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens,  18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants.

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

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

Source: Montgomery County Council

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

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28
Oct

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

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2014) Last week the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands. Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” Further, the document states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.” Following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement this summer eliminating neonicotinoid use on National Wildlife Refuges, this represents the latest instance of a federal entity recognizing the danger caused by systemic pesticides, and recommending against their introduction in pollinator habitat.

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

Concurrent with CEQ’s announcement, the General Services Administration (GSA) also stated it is in the process of internally reviewing pollinator friendly guidelines for facility standards at “all new project starts.”

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Council on Environmental Quality Press Release, GSA Blog

Photo Credit: Ed Szymanski, Franklin,MA

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

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27
Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Law360, EPA

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

 

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24
Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to PCP and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives. The complaint asserted that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the surrounding environments where products containing the substance were utilized. Most importantly, the lawsuit argued that viable alternatives existed and did not support EPA claims that societal “benefits” and necessity required continued registration. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.

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

For more information, contact:

Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
Phone 202-543-5450   

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

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

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

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

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