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Study Finds Rapid Cross-Resistance to Bt incorporated GE Maize

(March 24, 2013 Beyond Pesticides) A study by an entomologist at Iowa State University in Ames Iowa found that western corn rootworm is now resistant to two varieties of Bt-incorporated genetically engineered (GE) maize and that resistant insects are likely to be cross-resistant. This study adds to the growing scientific literature that shows insect resistance to Bt crops is making certain GE technologies obsolete, which could lead to an increase in insecticide use.

The study, Field-evolved resistance by western corn rootworm to multiple Bacillus thuringiensis toxins in transgenic maize, conducted by a team led by Aaron Gassmann, PhD, adds to the growing scientific literature that that finds western corn rootworm is resistant to varieties of Bt-incorporated GE maize. In 2009, farmers in Iowa observed severe injury to Cry3Bb1 maize –one of the three varieties of Bt-incorporated GE maize- from larval western corn rootworm in the field. Subsequent laboratory assays reveal that this injury is associated with rootworm resistance to Cry3Bb1. This study finds that injury to Cry3Bb1 maize because of rootworm resistance persisted beyond 2011 and expanded to include mCry3A maize, a second variety of Bt-incorporated GE maize.

Laboratory analysis of western corn rootworm from these fields finds resistance to Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A and cross-resistance between these toxins. Cross-resistance is important because it means that when generations of corn rootworms are resistant to one of these varieties they are also often resistant to a second form. To slow injury to crops from resistance, biotech companies are pyramiding, or stacking, Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A varieties with Cry34/35Ab1, the third form of Bt maize and has as yet exhibited resistance.

However, according to the study, the presence of resistance to one toxin in a pyramid diminishes the effectiveness of a pyramid to delay resistance, and may hasten the evolution of new resistance. These results demonstrate that insects can evolve resistance rapidly to Bt crops -resistance shows up in Iowa fields an verage of 3.6 years after Cry3Bb1 is introduced -and raise concerns about the adequacy of current resistance management strategies and the ongoing effectiveness of non-GE Bt strains used widely in organic agriculture.

Several previous studies have also documented growing corn rootworm resistance to Bt maize. In 2011, Dr. Gassmann published “Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm,” a study verifying the first field-evolved resistance of corn rootworm to a Bt toxin. The researchers documented resistance to the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. The study found the western 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 EPA on their concerns about the viability of Cry3Bb1 corn. Recently, even the Environmental Protection Agency (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 conduct grower education programs demonstrating the value of crop rotation.

This publication also adds to the growing literature of cross-resistance. A 2013 study,  “Potential shortfall of pyramided transgenic cotton for insect resistance management,” by Thierry BrĂ©vaul, PhD 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 on-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.

Growing insect resistance to GE technology may lead to 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.

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

Continue the conversation at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,” in Portland, OR April 11-12. Among the featured speakers, George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety, will speak on his spearheading litigation on USDA’s deregulation of genetically engineered crops and the campaign to label food with GE ingredients. The Forum will focus on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.

Source: Nature

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



Autistic Behavior Enhanced by Two Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2014) Banned pesticides and flame retardants may be the cause of higher autistic behaviors for children who were exposed in utero, according to new research published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Previous research has demonstrated that organochlorine chemicals are linked to learning problems, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially in boys. This research is one of the first studies to evaluate their contribution to autistic behaviors.

According to the study, Gestational Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Reciprocal Social, Repetitive, and Stereotypic Behaviors in 4- and 5-Year Old Children, children who were exposed to higher levels of brominated flame retardant PBDE-28 and trans-nonachlor, a component of the banned pesticide chlordane, scored higher in terms of autistic behavioral patterns as ranked by their mothers.

In the study, researchers conducted a case-cohort study recruiting 175 pregnant women from seven prenatal clinics within the greater Cincinnati, Ohio region who provided urine and blood samples during pregnancy to measure the concentration of endocrine disrupting chemicals. On average, pregnant women had 44 suspected hormone disrupting chemicals.

Five years later, when children had turned four or five, mothers were asked to rank their children’s behavior based on a series of factors including how well they played with other children or how frequently they made eye contact when spoken to. Those with higher scores had more autistic behaviors. Although a high score does not necessarily mean the child is autistic, the Social Responsiveness Scale, as it’s called, is often used by teachers and parents to determine the severity of behaviors.

Researchers found that children with the highest exposure to trans-nonachlor in utero scored an average of 4.1 points higher on the scale than those with less exposure, while those exposed to the brominated flame retardant PBDE-28 scored an average of 2.5 points higher. Although the increase in autism-like behaviors to the two chemicals were slight, it does demonstrate a pattern consistent with other behavioral disorders such as ADHD.

While most organochlorine pesticides are banned or restricted —chlordane was banned in the 1980s— their residues still continue to cause problems decades after their widespread use has ended. This study reinforces the need for a more precautionary approach to regulating pesticides and industrial chemicals. Once released into the environment, many chemicals can affect health for generations, either through persistence in the environment or long-term changes to the genetic code of humans and other animals.

Autism is a developmental disorder which has dramatically risen over the last decade: between 2002 and 2012 autism rates in the United State climbed to 78 percent.  It affects the brain’s normal development impairing social interaction and communication skills. With boys four times more likely to develop autism than girls, it’s clear that hormones are directly linked to its development, and conversely that hormone disrupting chemicals like chlordane would disrupt that development.

Organochlorine pesticides have previously been linked to a number of other adverse effects to human health, including birth defects and diabetes. This study illustrates how the health impacts of pesticides can be often delayed, and pesticides once considered to pose “acceptable” risks are continuing to affect public health. In response to the growing evidence linking pesticide exposures to numerous human health effects, Beyond Pesticides launched the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database to capture the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains hundreds of entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, is continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends.

Join us and continue the conversation with James Roberts, MD at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices, April 11-12, 2013, Portland State University, Portland, OR to discussthe impact of pesticide exposure on children and organic solutions for the future. This years’ forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening the organic food production system; regulating and right-to-know genetically engineered food; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes.

Sources: Environmental Health News, Environmental Health Perspectives

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



EPA Asked to Protect Bees with Over Half A Million Signatures

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2014)—Today, more than 500,000 signatures were delivered to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, urging the nation’s top-ranking environmental leader to protect bees and other pollinators. The date marks the one-year anniversary of the lawsuit filed against EPA by beekeepers, food, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, over the continued allowance of two bee-toxic pesticides: clothianidin and thiamethoxam. It also marks the two-year anniversary of the emergency legal petition filed against the agency on this same issue. EPA has yet to take serious action to address dramatic bee declines.

asfThe pesticides in question are a class of systemic insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Despite numerous studies linking neonicotinoids with bee kills, colony collapse, and weakened immune systems, EPA continues to operate under an alarmingly slow registration review process for these insecticides, one that extends to 2018. Honey bees are responsible for producing one in every three bites of food we eat, but research increasingly shows they are being harmed by the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids, both alone and in combination with other pesticides. It is the job of the EPA to review such pesticides for safety and to take action if they are found to be harmful.

“We call on EPA Administrator McCarthy to lead the agency in a new direction by immediately suspending all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. Bees can’t wait four more years for EPA to make a decision. If the agency acts now, we can save these vital pollinators before it’s too late,” said the groups in a joint statement.

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate – the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken. Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is lip service and window dressing to the issue, but has no substance,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who will be discussing bee declines on Capitol Hill next week.

In the absence of federal action, several states have taken action independently to introduce legislation that would suspend uses of neonicotinoids. California, Minnesota and New York are among the states considering action in their state legislatures. And this month, Eugene, Oregon became the first city in the country to ban the use of neonicotinoids on city property. Congress is also pushing to curb the use of neonicotinoids through the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

In December 2013, Europe implemented a two-year moratorium on the most problematic neonicotinoids in order to protect bee health. This move came after several European countries had already implemented bans, with no economic costs to farmers or consumers.

“We are asking EPA to follow the EU’s lead and recognize that the risks are unacceptably high. Pollination services provided by honey bees and other, even less studied, wild bees are far too important for agriculture and ecosystems to treat them in a non-precautionary manner. Many thousands of beekeeper livelihoods, the future viability of commercial beekeeping and the crops relying on these pollination services, estimated at $20-30 billion annually, are potentially in jeopardy,” said the groups.

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

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

Sources: Press Release, Letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy




Colorado GMO Labeling Initiative Overcomes Challenge by Industry

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2014) Ruling on a challenge by biotech industry interests, the Colorado Supreme Court on March 13 authorized the Right to Know Colorado ballot initiative to label GMO foods, clearing the way to begin collecting over 86,000 signatures needed for a 2014 statewide ballot measure. In overturning a major challenge by the biotech industry, pesticide, and grocery interests to a statewide GMO labeling ballot initiative, the Colorado State Supreme Court affirmed Colorado consumer’s right to determine whether the presence of genetically engineered foods should be labeled on food packaging.

TCORighttoKnowhe State Supreme Court ruling allows the Right to Know Colorado campaign, a grassroots effort established by local residents to achieve mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients ( commonly known as GMOs) in foods, to begin circulating petitions for signatures to place the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. Colorado requires 86,105 valid signatures to be submitted by early August to place an initiative on the ballot. Once on the ballot, Colorado will vote on whether labeling should be required for GE foods. The campaign plans to partner with local farmers, farmers markets, moms, faith-based organizations, natural, organic and non-GE food retailers, and other health, sustainability and consumer advocacy organizations to gather the signatures needed.

“We are pleased that the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the GMO labeling ballot title, and we look forward to bringing a GMO labeling initiative before the voters of Colorado this fall. Coloradans have the right to know what is in their food, and to make purchasing decisions for their families based on knowing whether their foods are genetically engineered, and we believe they will have that opportunity after November,” said Larry Cooper, one of the proponents of the Right to Know Colorado initiative.

To view the ballot title as approved by the Colorado Supreme Court, visit: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/Initiatives/titleBoard/results/2013-2014/48Results.html.

With no federal GE labeling requirements in place in the U.S., it is estimated that more than 80% of conventional processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients from GE corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and other GE crops. However, according to national GMO labeling advocacy organization Just Label It, more than 90% of U.S. consumers surveyed want mandatory labeling of GE foods. While biotech interests claim that GE foods are safe, a growing body of scientific research suggests there may be enough risks to justify the need for consumer transparency. The European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, and China, already require labeling for GE foods. Colorado joins several states, including Oregon, Maryland, Arizona, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, in considering measures for GMO labeling legislation so that consumers can make informed decisions about the food they eat. Connecticut and Maine have passed labeling laws with a trigger clause that puts the laws into effect when five surrounding states, including a contiguous state, adopts a similar measure.

Other GMO labeling Initiatives
Last week, Beyond Pesticides testified before the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in the Maryland Senate in support of SB778, which requires that certain foods be labeled if more than 0.9% by weight of the food contains GE ingredients. In our testimony, Beyond Pesticides asserts that consumers want GE ingredients labeled because they understand GE crops are fundamentally different than their traditionally bred counterparts. In spite of this, consumers do not have access to the necessary information to know if their food contains GE ingredients. Unfortunately, this Maryland bill does not have broad legislator or state agency support, but is expected to initiate awareness and broad consumer support in the state.

Other efforts across the country to label GE food include a bill in Maine, “An act to protect Maine food consumers’ right to know about genetically engineered food and seed stock,” which was passed by the state legislature last summer and signed into law earlier this year. Before that, Connecticut passed a bill that requires food manufacturers to label products that contain GE ingredients, with a trigger clause that stipulates the law will only go into effect if five contiguous states approve a similar measure. This means people in Connecticut and other parts of the country will still have to wait to see GE labeling of their food. The New Hampshire legislature, on a second attempt, decided to study the issue and act again in 2015, after industry rallied against a labeling bill, SB 411. Oregon has also been actively tackling labeling efforts, and has so far introduced five bills on the issue. Most recently, bill HB 4011 was introduced in February 2014 and a ballot initiative will  be on the November ballot.

In Washington, attempts to pass  ballot measure I-522 was defeated by a GE-industry spending spree—opponents of the measure outspent supporters 3 to 1. Similar to California’s Proposition 37, voters narrowly rejected this ballot initiative by 2 percent. California’s Prop 37 would have required GE foods and processed food that contain GE ingredients to be labeled. However, efforts in California are not letting up. Last week, state representative Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa introduced California Senate Bill 1381, known as the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” to her fellow congressional members in Sacramento. This bill is being touted as a “cleaner, simpler” version of Prop 37, which may help it gain wider support and advance it through the state legislature.

A national GE labeling bill also remains in both Houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! Campaign and has garnered thousands of supporters across the country. In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

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

Source: Press Release, Right to Know Colorado



EPA Announces Voluntary Cancellation of Toxic Chemical in Flea Collars

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that it has reached agreement with two major pet product companies to cancel flea and tick pet collars containing the insecticide propoxur. The agreement, with a long phase-out period, was reached between the agency and the two companies as a result of EPA’s risk assessment in fall 2013, which found unacceptable risks to children from exposure to pet collars containing propoxur.

The agency found that children were exposed to propoxur pet collars on the first day following application. Flea and tick collars work by leaving a pesticide residue on dogs’ and cats’ fur, which can be transferred to people by hugging, petting, or coming into contact with the pets. The major source of exposure to these chemicals is from absorption through the skin after directly touching the treated pet. Small children may ingest pesticide residues when they touch a treated cat or dog and subsequently put their hands in their mouth.

Under the cancellation agreement, Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc. and Wellmark International will have until April 1, 2015 to continue producing the pet products containing propoxur under the trade names Bansect, Sentry, Zodiac and Biospot, and can continue to distribute them until April 1, 2016. EPA states that it will continue to watch for incidents from the use of these collars and is prepared to take further action if necessary.

Though this is a remarkable step towards removing a harmful product from the market, the extended phase-out period continues to allow children to be exposed. In fact, EPA has an astounding history of negotiated multi-year phase-outs with industry. As seen in other EPA decisions, cancellation of a toxic pesticide does not mean that the chemical would be removed from the market, but it is allowed to linger on the market for years continuing to threaten human health and contaminate the environment.

Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests. Despite the fact that it was banned in 2007 for indoor uses to which children would be exposed, it remained widely used in flea and tick collars. EPA completed the propoxur pet collar risk assessment in fall 2013 in response to a 2009 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petition to cancel the uses.

A 2011 study published in the journal NeuroToxicology found a positive link between exposure to the pesticide propoxur and poor motor development in infants. At the age of two, children exposed to propoxur in the womb experience poor development of motor skills, according to a test of mental development. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. EPA considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honey bees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.

Source: EPA Press Release

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




Campaign Launched to Defend the Organic Food Label

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2014) Organic means healthier food production for you, the environment, and those who farm. So, ensuring that the public trusts the organic food label is critical to the growth of organic. Please join our Save Our Organic campaign to defend the organic food label from USDA changes. Unfortunately, the organic label will be undermined by changes that USDA announced on its website on March 6.

These changes:

  • Reduce the rigor of the ongoing decision making process on allowed synthetic materials in organic production;
  • Take away transparency in the decision making process;
  • Limit public participation in policies and procedures governing organic practices and standards;
  • Undermine the responsibility of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and organic community to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on organic issues;
  • Change organic policy making from one driven by the public process to one controlled by USDA, which can choose to dismiss critical issues.

Trust in the organic label over the last 20 years has been built on principles of collaboration among the stakeholder groups (farmers, consumers, and producers) and USDA. Because of the democratic and open decision making process, public trust in the organic label has grown rapidly along with the tremendous growth of the organic market. We want this to continue!

Congress established the NOSB, bringing together the diverse interests in the organic community, to adopt recommendations on policy and what materials are allowed in organic production. Through this process, the interest groups represented on the NOSB must concur that the allowance of a synthetic material is based on the latest science and an evaluation of its need, given alternative practices and natural materials. The process is based on the understanding that without concurrence from key groups –from farmers and processors to consumers and environmentalists– the organic label may lose the public’s trust. However, this will all change under the USDA-announced changes.

Tell USDA to set a moratorium on the adoption of the new policies announced on its website on March 6 and in the September 16, 2013 Federal Register, and allow time for open public discussion and input. We suggest you ask your Congressional representatives,  and the organic companies whose products you buy, and the places where you shop to support you in asking for this moratorium.

You can send a message asking for a moratorium on USDA changes to your elected representatives, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack by clicking here.

And, you can copy a letter asking for support of the moratorium that you can send to producers of products you buy and the places where you shop by clicking here.

For more information, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/SaveOurOrganic and check out more background detail on these issues by reading The Age of Organics.

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



EPA Funding Integrated Pest Management at Schools

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week three grants to universities in Texas, Michigan, and Arizona to implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices, reigniting the debate on whether pesticide dependency in many, if not most, IPM systems is warranted given techniques that have eliminated toxic pesticide use. Are these programs moving pest management in the right direction, as strong IPM measures offer the opportunity to eliminate the use of pesticides, or is the IPM systems unnecessarily using pesticides that can be replaced by management practices that exclude pest entryways, adopt sanitation and cleaning practices to eliminate pest conducive conditions, and when necessary, as a last resort, use carefully defined least-toxic chemicals.

One of the grants, awarded to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, will be utilized to develop a central, online source for materials  providing school districts with important information and tools to implement an IPM program. The project’s goal within the three year grant period is to reach one percent of schools or 552,350 students of the estimated 49 million children attending U.S. public schools in 15,000 school districts.

Another grant was awarded to University of Arizona, with the goal of developing and implementing a pilot training and certification program for staff members, including custodians in charge of cleaning, kitchen staff in charge of clean up, and school administrators that are required for oversight of IPM measures. The program will go out to eight states and four native tribes as well as five other universities. University of Arizona is required to disseminate the final certification materials to school partners through-out the nation.

Finally, EPA awarded Michigan State University with a grant to provide hands-on education, and training to five percent of schools within Michigan and Indiana in efforts to implement IPM, influencing 135,000 children.

There is reason for concern that these IPM programs may not provide the safety actually required for schools to keep children safe from toxic chemicals. IPM can have different definitions and methods of implementation, meaning virtually anything the practitioner wants it to mean. Beware of chemical dependent programs masquerading as IPM. Those who argue that IPM requires the ability to spray pesticides immediately after identifying a pest problem are not describing IPM. Conventional pest control tends to ignore the causes of pest infestations and instead relies on routine, scheduled pesticide applications. Pesticides are often temporary fixes, ineffective over the long term.

There are alternatives to pesticides for managing insects, rodents and weeds effectively without exposing families and children to harmful toxic chemicals, especially incorporating the principles of IPM.  Beyond Pesticides’ The Safer Choice brochure focuses on what you can do to manage your home, school and community without poisoning your children, families, pets, and the environment.

Beyond Pesticides is a strong advocate of defined structural IPM practices and is working to champion the use of these methods particularly in schools and hospitals, where vulnerable populations are at elevated risk from pesticide exposure. Beyond Pesticides’ Healthy Schools Project aims to eliminate the risks posed by pesticides through the adoption of IPM policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level, thereby fostering a healthier learning environment. Central to this effort are activities aimed at public education on pesticide hazards and the efficacy of alternatives, and the continued development of model communities that serve as examples.

For more information on structural IPM, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ “What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?” page. If you would like to know if there are Pest Management Service providers that use least-toxic practices, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Safety Source database.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency






Pesticides Linked to 30% Decline in French Men’s Sperm Count

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2014) Part deux of a 2012 study finding that sperm counts in French men had decreased 30% over the past 16 years came to a second startling conclusion in a 2014 analysis: the cause for those dramatic decreases may be pesticides.

2012 Sperm-Count Study

Published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction, the landmark 2012 study showed an alarming 30 percent decrease in sperm counts across France between 1989 and 2005. Because the data for the 2012 study were drawn from Fivnat —a French assisted reproduction technology database— researches made sure to limit analysis to 26,600 sperm samples from otherwise virile 35-year-old men whose partners’ fallopian tubes were either blocked or missing. This control was added to ensure that the each couple’s infertility was due to these latter problems and not a problem with the man’s sperm. Broken down, the 2012 studies identified a 1.9 percent continued annual dip in sperm concentration and also found that there was a significant 33.4% decrease in the percentage of normally formed sperm over the entire 16-year period.

At the time of release, the 2012 study’s authors wrote: “To our knowledge, it is the first study concluding a severe and general decrease in sperm concentration and morphology at the scale of a whole country over a substantial period. This constitutes a serious public health warning. The link with the environment particularly needs to be determined.”

Missing from the 2012 study was the reason for the decline. While researchers made adjustments for variables that could affect the results, such as men’s age, the season, the location where sperm samples were collected, and differing in vitro techniques, 2012 study controls were unable to address socioeconomic factors, including smoking and weight.

Joëlle Le Moal, Ph.D., lead scientist for both studies, speculated in 2012 that environmental factors, such as exposure to endocrine-disruptors, could be the cause of the decline but had not analyzed data to confirm that suspicion.

2014 Sperm-Count Study

Now it looks like the suspicion was correct. Using the same 2012 data and again led by Dr. JoĂ«lle Le Moal, researchers went one step further and looked at which geographic regions had the steepest decline in sperm count rates over the same 16-year period. In Semen quality trends in French regions are consistent with a global change in environmental exposure, researchers conclude that while most regions demonstrate the overall trend of decline in sperm counts and quality, the strongest decreases and lowest values are consistently observed in the regions of Aquitaine, Midi-PyrĂ©nĂ©es, and Burgundy —densely populated and highly agricultural regions.

This time, Dr. Moal and her team were able to discount alcohol and cigarettes as possible causes, because the most affected areas are not those where the consumption of tobacco and alcohol are highest, and said genetic factors could not explain the rapid rate of decline.

Instead, exposure to pesticides used throughout these regions where agriculture provides substantial portions of the local economy and are some of the largest agricultural regions for the entire country of France, are the likely culprit.

A Problem for All Men

We suggest U.S. men (and all nationalities) take heed as recent scientific literature reviews came to similar conclusions regardless of where a man calls home.

In a U.S. review, researchers counted semen quality according to concentration of sperm over an area, their motility and ability to move, as well as their shapes. Researchers targeted studies on DDT, HCH, and abamectin, grouping pyrethroids and organophosphates by class. What they found was striking: almost all the studies reported a decrease in sperm concentration; decreased motility was also reported though less frequently; and, while morphological changes were not strongly associated in studies—only two indicated any changes to sperm shape.

The French findings build on the now growing body of evidence that pesticide exposure at environmental or occupational levels diminishes sperm health. For many, the connection is an obvious one: endocrine disruption. Sperm production is regulated by the endocrine system, a highly sensitive form of hormone regulators. Pesticides in both high and low doses are potent endocrine-disruptors, meaning that they disturb the highly-sensitive endocrine system that regulates many other bodily systems.

While the endocrine-disrupting effects of many pesticides have been documented, U.S. regulators have been extremely slow to move forward with the statutorily-mandated review of pesticides for the previously unevaluated risk of potential endocrine disruption. Yet, findings like Dr. Moal’s studies and many others highlight the importance of generating strong pesticide regulations that take into consideration endocrine disrupting effects when evaluating safety standards for worker protection and human health impact.

Until better protections are in place, Beyond Pesticides recommends supporting organic agriculture as method of avoiding exposure to these dangerous pesticides.

Want to continue the conversation and learn more about what independent and, ground-breaking scientists are discovering about the dangers of pesticides and what we can all do to protect ourselves and the environment?  Join us at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices, April 11-12, 2013, Portland State University, Portland, OR to discuss organic solutions for protecting our environment. This years’ forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening the organic food production system; regulating and right-to-know genetically engineered food; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes.

Source: The Daily Beast, The Connexion, Le Monde

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



Pesticide Blamed for Deaths of Hundreds of Wild Birds

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2014) As many as 700 birds have been found dead in a wildlife reserve in New South Wales, Australia. Preliminary tests reveal that the pesticide, fenthion, was the cause of death for many little correlas, galahs and sulphur-crested cockatoos found over the past two weeks. Certain uses of fenthion for home gardens and a range of agricultural uses were scheduled for suspension by the Australian Government, but a few months ago fenthion use, long associated with bird kills, was extended for another year. deadbirdFor the past two weeks, dead birds have been found all along a mile of Troy Reserve on the Talbragar River, in New South Wales, Australia. Testing of samples from the dead birds indicated fenthion, an organophosphate insecticide highly toxic to birds, as the most likely cause of the deaths. Volunteers helped gather the carcasses to prevent raptors, such as whistling kites and tawny frogmouths, from feeding on the poisoned carrion. About 30 sick birds, including two kites, have been so far been rescued.

Locals found the first deaths on February 27 but were initially prevented from collecting the carcasses out of concern about possible bird flu. About 200 dead birds were found on the first day of cleanup alone. The predominantly affected species is the little corella and with the number of deaths so high, ecologists and environmentalists believe this will have an impact on the local population. “We’ve got fantastically beautiful bird populations out here,” said Ann Mara, chairwoman of the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) wildlife rescue group. “This is a significant loss.” According to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the agency which oversees pesticide registration in Australia, in September 2012 a proposal was announced to suspend the use of fenthion products in certain horticultural situations, as well as in the home garden, on the basis of concerns regarding residues in food crops. Information relating to residues on certain fruit was assessed and it was concluded that the potential dietary exposure resulting from the use of fenthion on peaches and apricots was unacceptable. APVMA issued new instructions for use prohibiting the continued use of fenthion on certain horticultural crops, and modifying or restricting the use of fenthion on other crops including fruit fly treatments of many fruits and vegetables. Use of fenthion on food producing plants in the home garden was prohibited. However, in October 2013 the APVMA delayed the suspension of these fenthion uses until 30 October 2014. Unfortunately, had fenthion been suspended as first initiated in 2012, there may have been a different outcome for these bird populations.

Fenthion is very highly toxic to birds and highly toxic to estuarine/marine invertebrates and non-target organisms. In the U.S., fenthion was registered to control adult mosquitoes only. In 2002, American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Florida Wildlife Federation filed a law suit in Federal District Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the continued use of fenthion in Florida. The suit said the registration of the pesticide, sold under the name Baytex  to kill mosquitoes in several counties in the state, violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In 2003, the registrant, Bayer, voluntarily canceled all its fenthion product registrations. Over the years the chemical was implicated in several bird kill incidents, including bird kills on Marco Island, Florida. According to the American Bird Conservancy, other incidents involving bird mortality from the use of fenthion for mosquito control have been reported. In California, American goldfinch, gulls, ducks, shorebirds, green-backed heron, egrets, and many other species of passerine birds have been found after fenthion sprays for mosquito and/or midge control. In 1970 in Louisiana, more than 1,000 birds were reported dead after a fenthion application. In Massachusetts and Idaho, robins, sparrows, catbirds, and sandpipers have also been killed. With the bird kill in Australia, there is concern about higher-order birds, such as eagles, that may prey on poisoned birds, as well as concerns about long-term effects on bird populations. It is still unknown how the birds came into contact with the pesticide and the local authorities are asking for public information on the possible misuse of pesticides in the region. Water samples from the nearby Macquarie River have also been tested and preliminary results indicate that no pesticides have been detected. Birds face challenges from the widespread use of pesticides.

A 2013 study led by a preeminent Canadian toxicologist, Pierre Mineau, Ph.D., identifies acutely toxic pesticides as the most likely leading cause of the widespread decline in grassland bird numbers in the U.S. The report finds that the best predictor of bird declines is the lethal risk from insecticide use modeled from pesticide impact studies. Organic solutions to pest control and land management are the best ways to protect of bird and non-target wildlife populations.

Join us and continue the conversation with Dr. Mineau at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices, April 11-12, 2013, Portland State University, Portland, OR to discuss organic solutions for protecting our environment. This years’ forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening the organic food production system; regulating and right-to-know genetically engineered food; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Source and Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



Scientists Determine 99.6% of Lice Resistant to Chemical Treatment

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2014)  Virtually all lice in the U.S. have developed resistance to over-the-counter and prescription shampoos containing the toxic chemical permethrin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs considers permethrin, part of the synthetic pyrethroid class of chemicals, “likely to be carcinogenic.” However, when used as a lice shampoo the chemical is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and allowed for use on infants over two months old. The latest study on lice resistance, published in the Journal of the Entomological Society of America, shows that harsh chemical treatments not only are not necessary given effective least-toxic alternatives, but also are not able to provide the lice control that manufacturers claim.

“In the UK anPediculus humanus capitisd Europe, they don’t even use pyrethroids anymore. Virtually everyone but the United States and Canada has given up using these over-the-counter products,” said Dr. John Clark, PhD, a professor of environmental toxicology and chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-author of the new study.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Eric Ayers, MD of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan noted that lice that are not killed by the chemical treatment not only survive, but become stronger. “The more a product is used within a community, the more lice in that community become resistant,” said Shirley Gordon, PhD, director of the Head Lice Treatment and Prevention Project at Florida Atlantic University. “We don’t like to use the term super lice, because it’s sensational and frightening. It’s not a superbug, but a louse that has become resistant.” According to the latest study, 99.6% of lice tested between 2007-2009 would be considered “super.”

A greater concern than “super” lice resistant to these chemicals is the use of these harsh products in the first place, especially on infants and children. A 2009 study, Pesticide exposure resulting from treatment of lice infestations in school-aged children in Georgia, found that children treated with common chemical lice shampoos containing permethrin and the organophosphate lindane showed levels of the chemical’s metabolites up to seven days after the first treatment. This is especially concerning given that environmentally relevant levels of pyrethroids are also common in many homes, where they are used as a household insecticide. Young children who play on the floor can come into chronic contact with these chemicals through skin or hand to mouth activities. A 2013 study, Urinary metabolites of organophosphates and pyrethroid pesticides and behavioral problems in Canadian children, found that high levels of pyrethroid metabolites correlated with a two-fold increase in parent-reported behavioral problems, including inattention and hyperactivity. These chemicals can also damage children before they are born.  A 2013 study, In utero pesticide exposure and leukemia in Brazilian children less than 2 years of age,” found that a mother’s exposure to permethrin at any time raised the cancer risk for infants. A 2006 study, Household exposure to pesticides and risk of childhood acute leukaemia, also found an association between the use of lice shampoo and childhood leukemia. A 2012 study, Prenatal exposure to pesticide ingredient piperonyl butoxide and childhood cough in an urban cohort, indicated that exposure to synthetic pyrethroids like permethrin in combination with piperonyl butoxide, a chemical often added to pesticide formations and lice shampoos as a synergist to enhance the toxicity of active ingredients, “
may be a factor in a very common problem for children – cough,” according to co-author Rachael Miller, MD.

There are a number of alternative lice treatment methods that do not include the use of toxic chemicals. According to researchers on alternative lice treatments, one method for eliminating head lice that will not lead to resistant strains of lice is the use of hot air, which desiccates the insects and eggs, killing them. In fact, recent research shows that the extra chemicals in lice shampoo are completely unnecessary. Ordinary conditioners are just as effective at removing lice. “There were no significant differences in measured forces between the ordinary conditioner and the commercial nit removal product,” authors of a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology write. “The commercial nit removal products tested in the current study do not seem to have an additional effect.”

For additional information on controlling head lice without toxic chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides’ Head Lice Factsheet or Getting Nit Picky About Head Lice.

Source: Detroit Free Press

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



Survey Finds GE Contamination of Organic Farms

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2014) New data finds that organic farmers are growing increasingly concerned with genetically engineered (GE) crops cross-pollinating and contaminating their fields. This contamination can lead to serious economic losses for organic farmers and has created tension between neighbors. The data comes at a critical time as USDA is advancing the notion that “coexistence” between GE and non-GE growers presents no problems for the organic market. USDA has been widely criticized in organic circles because its decisions to deregulate numerous GE crops place the burden of reducing contamination on non-GE growers.

A survey,released by Food and Water Watch and Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), finds that a third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced GE contamination in their fields due to the nearby use of GE crops, while over half of these growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination. These rejections can lead to big income losses for farmers, with a median cost of approximately $2,500 per year, according to the survey. Additionally, several farmers report annual losses of over $20,000 due to the need to establish buffer zones, while limit the threat of contamination from their neighbors by taking contiguous farmland out of production.

In the survey, organic farmers also express their frustration that efforts to reduce contamination fall squarely on their shoulders. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents say that they would not purchase crop insurance intended to cover costs associated with GE contamination. Of the 35 percent of respondents who answered that they would purchase insurance for GE contamination-related losses, more than three-quarters of them (78 percent) believe that the added premium for coverage should be paid by GE patent holders or GE patent holders and GE users.

One farmer responded to the survey, “If [GE] was not here this would not be going on. It’s their contamination that’s the problem but we have to guard against something we have no control over. How do you even get a patent on something you can’t control? The whole object is control and that is not our [organic farmers’] problem.”

Organic farmers are also concerned that GE contamination has led to strained relationships with neighbors and that they do not feel respected in the agricultural community. Several responses to the survey describe strains between GE and non-GE farmers. One farmer wrote that, “[E]very time I walk into the local co-op they grit their teeth.” Others wrote that “conventional farming neighbors do not respect us,” that non-organic “neighbors feel that our farm is a thorn in their sides or a nuisance,” and that they “are considered to be a problem to them because we are not GMO like the rest of them.”

This survey was conducted in response to the recent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) report on enhancing coexistence between GE and non-GE farmers. The AC21 report was strongly condemned by the National Organic Coalition (NOC), of which Beyond Pesticides is a member, for recommending that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay for crop insurance or self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination.

Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments in August 2012 expressing concerns about the report’s definition of “coexistence.” Beyond Pesticides wrote that the definition in the draft report fell far short of any true understanding of what it is to coexist and lacked any assurance that the involved parties would receive the necessary protection required in order to effectively coexist. Specifically, it was suggested that USDA stipulate that all parties are entitled to assurances against trespass from genetic drift.

There have been several recent high profile contamination cases. In May of 2013, USDA announced that unapproved GE wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. After this discovery Japan cancelled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat. Monsanto has not conducted field trials in Oregon since 2001 when it reportedly withdrew from the state. In September of 2013, USDA refused to take action or investigate after it was confirmed that GE alfalfa contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State. USDA claimed the contamination is a “commercial issue” and should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government.

Organic farmers have continued to fight for their rights against GE contamination but it has been an uphill battle. A 2011 lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto, sought to protect farmers from GE trespass. A District Court dismissal (2012), followed by a U.S. Court of Appeals decision (2013) upholding the lower court, entered under the rules of evidence an assurance from Monsanto that it would not sue farmers with “trace amounts” (less than 1%) of GE crop contamination for patent infringement. According to Reuters, between 1997 and 2010 the agrichemical giant filed 144 patent-infringement lawsuits against farmers that it said made use of its seed without paying royalties. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

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

Continue the conversation at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,” in Portland, OR April 11-12. Among the featured speakers, George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety, will speak on his spearheading litigation on USDA’s deregulation of genetically engineered crops and the campaign to label food with GE ingredients. The Forum will focus on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.

Source: Inter Press Service

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



Minnesota Beekeepers Call on Agency to Suspend Bee-Killing Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2014) Forty Minnesota beekeepers have called on the state’s Department of Agriculture to suspend the use of corn seeds treated with bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, now one of the most ubiquitously used insecticides nationwide. Their move follows a commitment by two Minnesota state agencies to study the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides, which—given mounting research implicating neonicotinoids in bee declines—beekeepers claim do not go far enough.

BeesMinnesota beekeeper Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co., expressed the petition’s rationale to MPRNews, “Beekeepers in Minnesota last year and in years previous have been reporting mortality events at corn seeding time,” said Mr. Ellis, who has about 2,500 hives in Barrett, Minn. “Apparently the dust is getting off of the corn seeding and going off site and causing poisoning of honey bees on flowers and around their hives.”

The petitioners represented more than 10 percent of managed honey bees in the state with a total of 40,000 hives. But many, like Mr. Ellis, are contracted to provide pollinator services to crops around the nation, not just in Minnesota. These crops include cherries, blueberries, pumpkins, apples, and almonds. In California, the $3-billion almond industry spends $239 million annually to rent more than 1 million honeybee colonies required for almond production. Honey bee health then not only impacts the livelihood of beekeepers in Minnesota, but the entire national food system.

Seeds treated with neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that includes clothianidin and imidicloprid, pose a major risk to bees from fugitive dust off of seed planters, which EPA has recognized as a causing bee kills nationwide. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, their use also results in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical, in addition to dust that is released into the air when coated seeds are planted with automated vacuum seed planters. These effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies. Effects include disruptions in bee mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.

The robust evidence of the wide ranging harm neonicotinoids cause to pollinators led the European Union to ban the use of these chemicals in agriculture for two years. Late last year, agrichemical giants Syngenta and Bayer announced that they would be suing the E.U. over its decision.

Here in the U.S., Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Save American’s Pollinators Act in 2013, which will suspend the use of neonicotinoids on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all of the available data, including field studies. Please tell your member of Congress to support the Save American’s Pollinator Act.

Take Action: Join Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign

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

Source: MPRNews
Photo Source: KPCC

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



Groups Sue EPA for Disclosure of Pesticide Inert Ingredients on Product Labels

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2014)  Yesterday, Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, represented by Earthjustice, filed a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to complete rulemaking that would require pesticide manufacturers to disclose the inert ingredients on their pesticide product labels. An inert ingredient is any ingredient that is “not active,” or not targeted to killing a pest.

“Consumers and users of pesticide products have a right to know all the ingredients that are in products they purchase so that they can make more informed choices in the marketplace,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. EPA’s 2010 proposal noted public disclosure “may lead to less exposure to
 hazardous inert ingredient[s] because consumers will likely choose products informed by the label.” In turn, “pesticide producers will likely respond by producing products with less hazardous inert ingredients.”

Billions of pounds of pesticides are dispersed throughout the U.S. and enter our food supply, homes, schools, public lands and waterways. The public knows very little about the chemicals contained in most of these pesticides because under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list “active” ingredients that target a pest and not “inert” ingredients, despite the fact that many inerts are hazardous or suspected toxic chemicals

In general, inert ingredients are minimally tested despite state, federal and international agencies’ knowledge that they may be hazardous to human health. For example, the U.S. government lists creosols as a “Hazardous Waste” under Superfund regulations, yet allows these chemicals to be listed as inert ingredients in pesticide products. Creosols are known to produce skin and eye irritations, burns, inflammation, blindness, pneumonia, pancreatitis, central nervous system depression and kidney failure. The pesticide naphthalene is an inert ingredient in some products and listed as an active ingredient in others

Pesticide labels only identify the weight percentage of inert ingredients, which often comprise 50 to 99 percent of a formulation, and mislead the public into thinking that these other “inert” ingredients are safe. In 1997, EPA’s own studies found that “many consumers have a misleading impression of the term ‘inert ingredient’ believing it to indicate water or other harmless ingredients.”

“Pesticides are in the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Pesticide companies should not be able to keep us in the dark about the identity and toxicity of these chemicals,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director of Center for Environmental Health.

Back in 2009, EPA responded to two petitions, one by led by the Northwest Centers for Alternatives to Pesticides (joined by Beyond Pesticides and 20 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. This action only happed after the Center filed a lawsuit in 2009 to compel EPA to begin the rulemaking process.

On December 23, 2009, EPA took another promising step forward with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), anouncing 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. The comment period for the proposals closed in April 2010, but EPA has taken no further action since then.

“EPA said that these inert ingredients should be labeled to protect consumers, but has done nothing to require such labeling. In the meantime, families and children exposed to these chemicals are suffering illnesses their doctors can’t adequately treat because they have no idea what chemicals they are dealing with,” said Wendy Park, attorney at Earthjustice. “The fact is that the EPA has identified hundreds of these ‘inert’ chemicals as hazardous or potentially hazardous. We need a safeguard in place to protect communities.”

Public comments in favor of the rule included support from doctors. “When pesticide producers refuse to identify all the ingredients in pesticides, doctors are compromised in their ability to treat patients,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Director of Environment and Health at Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Immediate access to information on inert substances in pesticides can make a critical difference in patient outcome.

Together with its allies, Beyond Pesticides hopes to move EPA forward on this important issue and establish public access to important information about the chemicals used around them.

Source: Earthjustice

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




Community Passes Resolution Banning Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, March 5, 2014) The City of Eugene, Oregon became the first community in the nation to specifically ban from city property the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have scientifically linked to the decline of honey bee colonies. The passage of the resolution came just one week after the Oregon state legislature passed a pollinator protection bill that removed language requiring the restriction of neonicotinoid pesticides, and includes instead a weaker requirement to set up a task force that will examine the possibility of future restrictions. In addition to neonicotinoid restrictions, the City’s resolution also expands Eugene’s pesticide-free parks program and now requires all departments to adopt integrated pest management (IPM) standards.

The Eugene City Council action was taken unanimously on February 26 with the passage of Council Resolution,  “Enhancing Current Integrated Pest Management in Parks,” Resolution 5101. The resolution also includes clear goals on children’s health, expands the current Parks and Open Space Division’s Pesticide-Free Parks program from 10 to potentially 40 parks, and requires IPM on all city property.

The resolution notes that “children and infants may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several reasons: (a) their internal organs are still developing and maturing; (b) in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water; and (c) certain behaviors, such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths, increase a child’s exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.” On neonicotinoids, the resolution refers to recent research suggesting a possible link between pesticides that contain neonicotinoids and the die-off of plant pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects.

In 2003, the City of Eugene adopted and implemented an ‘environmental policy’ cementing the City’s commitment to protecting, preserving, and restoring the natural environment. To that end, the City’s decision-making is to be guided by the goals of increasing environmental benefits and reducing or eliminating negative environmental impacts in all aspects of the City’s activities, while maintaining the City’s fiscal integrity and the community’s economic vitality.  Soon after in 2006, the City initiated a Pesticide-Free Parks Program to maintain City parks without the use of registered pesticides unless there is a threat to public health or safety. Currently, there are nine parks in the Pesticide-Free Parks Program, which include Awbrey Park, Berkeley Park, Brewer Park, Friendly Park, Gilbert Park, Rosetta Park, Scobert Gardens Park, Shadow Wood Park, and Washington Park.

One week before the new resolution was passed in Eugene, the Oregon Legislature passed a new law, HB 4139, requiring anyone applying for a pesticide license to take a course on pollinators and pesticides and pass the exam. HB 4139 also requires the Governor to establish a Task Force directed to continue the research on bee health and pesticides for legislative action in 2015. While the legislation fell short of the original bill that would have restricted the neonicotinoids; dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, many advocates in Oregon see this as a step forward for bee protection considering the lack of action by the EPA and other states.

Several bee-kill incidents occurred in Oregon last summer, including one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees after a licensed pesticide applicator sprayed blooming linden trees, a violation of the pesticide label. After a preliminary investigation, the Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the neonicotinoid insecticide, dinotefuran. But the incident only resulted in a small fine of under $3,000, just 6 cents per bee, infuriating beekeepers, environmentalists, and advocates, but spurring legislative action.

Like Eugene, there are other states and communities that have been trying to pass local policies relating specifically to neonicotinoids, bees and other pollinators. In California, beekeepers and local advocates are supporting a bill that would force the state of California to complete its evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides, years ahead of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review which is not scheduled to be completed before 2018. In Maryland, a bill containing language to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides was unfortunately recently withdrawn, after an “unfavorable report” by the environmental committee. In New York and New Jersey language has been drafted in the state legislature to restrict neonicotinoids in various ways.

Meanwhile in Congress, The Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R 2692, introduced by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), is gaining bipartisan support in the House. The bill seeks to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. The bill has been endorsed by several environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice and others.

Join us in Portland, Oregon to hear Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Portland), who introduced HB 4139, the Save Oregon Pollinators Act, discuss the future of legislative efforts in the state surrounding pollinators, at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, April 11-12, 2013, Portland State University, Portland, OR. This years’ forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening the organic food production system; regulating and right-to-know genetically engineered food; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes.

Source: Beyond Toxics

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




USDA Seeks to Increase Pollinator Habitat without Focus on Pesticides and GE

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2014) The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently committed to providing financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in five Midwestern states to improve and create bee-friendly habitat. This project comes as American beekeepers have continued to experience rapid colony declines with losses over the winter over 30 percent per year. The creation of pollinator-friendly habitat is an important step to slowing pollinator losses, however this project does not challenge the expansion of agriculture into current pollinator habitat, 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.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $3 million in technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to create and improve bee friendly habitat in five Midwestern states. Ranchers can qualify for assistance to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants that bees forage. NRCS will also assist ranchers in building fences, installing water tanks and other changes to better move cattle between pastures so as not to wear down vegetation. Farmers can also qualify for funds to plant cover crops, and bee friendly forage in boarders and edges of fields. Beyond creating honeybee habitat, these programs could help improve soil health and create habitat for other pollinators.

The five Midwestern states –Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin– were chosen because 65 percent of commercially managed beekeepers use these states as resting grounds from June to September. According to the NRCS, with limited funds this project would allow for the greatest payoff for the investment.

NRCS hopes this program will create more bee-friendly habitat that will provide a more nutritious food source that in turn leads to healthier bees. There has been growing concern over current bee-feeding practice where keepers supplement bee diets with corn syrup over the winter. Some scientists argue that this nutrition deficit diet leads to honey bees being more susceptible to disease. This program will allow bees to gather nectar and pollen over the summer before they are shipped around the country and used for their pollinating service which could lead to healthier bees going into the winter season.

Though this program will hopefully help create more bee-friendly habitat, the benefits of this project may be offset by growing levels of commodity crops in the Midwest. High corn prices, among other factors, have led to rapid expansion of farmland —more than 25 million new acres in the U.S. since 2007— and has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied habitat for pollinators like the Monarch butterfly.

Tim Tucker, the president of the American Beekeeping Federation, was quoted in a New York Times article saying, “There used to be a lot of small farms in our area that had clover and a variety of crops, whereas in the last 20 years it’s really been corn, soybean and cotton and a little bit of canola, those crops don’t provide a lot of good nectar and pollen for bees.”

The Bigger Problem: Pesticides

This project also avoids taking on the largest factor affecting bee health, pesticides. A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. 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 disorientation, paralysis and death. Neonicotinods can also be persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments, translocate to residues in pollen and nectar of treated plants.

Recent studies have found that “near infinitesimal” exposures to neonicotinoids causes a reduction in the amount of pollen bumblebees are able to collect for their colony. Researchers found that the effects of neonicotinoid intoxication persist for a least a month after exposure, underscoring the long-term damage these chemicals can cause to bee colonies.

Neonicotinoids are also acutely toxic to pollinators. Oregon officials determined that the neonicotinoid dinotefuran was the cause of two massive bee kills in the state last year. In a letter submitted last week, groups asked that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) not allow greater use of this pesticide.

Continue the conversation at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices, in Portland, Oregon, April 11-12. The Forum will focus on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.

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



Register Today! Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2014) Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, will be held April 11-12, 2014 at Portland State University, in Portland, OR. This years’ forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening the organic food production system; regulating and right-to-know genetically engineered food; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Join top scientists, local and national activists and grassroots organizers to strategize on solutions that protect health and the environment. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.ForumWebPhoto

In addition to the program, people, science, sharing and strategizing, you won’t want to miss the food! Organic food and beverages will be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, and we will have organic hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine for receptions on Friday and Saturday night.

Speaker highlights include:

  • Longtime leader in sustainable and organic agriculture, Fred Kirschenmann;
  • “Maverick” Scientist Michael Skinner, Ph.D., author of the landmark study that links exposure to DDT with multi-generational effects, ultimately contributing to obesity three generations down the line;
  • Goat herder Lani Malmberg, who uses her heard of over 2,000 goats to manage invasive plants and land organically;
  • George Kimbrell, who is leading litigation on neonicotinoids and honey bees as well as the deregulation of genetically engineered food;
  • Lead author of American Academy of Pediatrics’ landmark policy statement and report on the effects of pesticide exposure in children, James Roberts, MD, MDPH, FAAP;
  • World renowned environmental toxicologist who has studied the impacts of pesticides on bees and birds, Pierre Mineau, Ph.D.;
  • Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Portland), who introduced HB 4139, the Save Oregon Pollinators Act.;
  • Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for The Xerces Society;
  • Nelson Carassaquillo, national coordinator,  El ComitĂ© de Apoyo a losTrabajadores (CATA-The Farmworkers’ Support Committee), who is working on an agricultural justice food label;
  • And so much more! Click here for the speaker lineup.

Registration Information

Registration fee includes access to all forum sessions, including workshops and tour (separate RSVP is required for tour, please email forum@beyondpesticides.org). Register by March 15 to receive our early bird discount rate!

  • General Admission/Non-Members: $75 (includes 1-year membership and 100% organic tote-bag);
  • Members/Grassroots Activist Rate: $40 before March 15, $45 after March 15;
  • Students (with current ID): $20 before March 15, $25 after March 15;
  • Business Rate: $175 (includes 1-year subscription to Pesticides and You).

Register online today or call 202-543-5450 to register by phone.

We encourage you to register in advance to ensure your space and food, but walk-ins are welcome as long as space is available.

The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions. Local and regional co-sponsors include: Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, Friends of Family Farmers, John A Green MD III The EverGreen Center, Healthy Bees-Healthy Gardens, Lewis and Clark Law School, Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Tilth, Pesticide Action Network North America, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), Portland Urban Beekeepers, University of Portland’s Environmental Studies Department, and The Xerces Society.




USDA Report Cites Concerns with GE Crops as the Agency Approves New Uses

(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2014) A report released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers the trends of genetically engineered (GE) crops over the past 15 years, since they were first introduced. Responding to increasing GE use, USDA also points to major concerns such as increasing herbicide resistance and higher levels of herbicide use as major potential threats to human health and the environment.

The report comes as USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are poised to approve new forms of GE corn and soybeans designed to be resistant to 2,4-D products, one of the active ingredients in Agent Orange and a known carcinogen. Released by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) on February 20, the report not only details the trends in GE use but also the known and unknown threats that GE crops pose.

The number of GE varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) grew exponentially between 1984 and 2002, the report said. Today the majority of GE crops, corn and soy, are grown on the nation’s largest farms. In 2013, more than 169 million acres of GE crops were planted in the U.S., comprising half of all cropland. Approximately 93 percent of all soybean crops planted across the nation were GE crops designed to be herbicide tolerant (HT), while HT corn and cotton constituted 85 and 82 percent of acreage.

These crops are design specifically to be sprayed with herbicides. Glyphosate is one of the most popular weed killers 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,” GE soybeans, corn, cotton, and other crops have been genetically altered and patented by Monsanto to be glyphosate-tolerant. Although GE crops are claimed by manufacturers to reduce pesticide use overall, the report documents a progressive rise in herbicide use over the past fifteen years on GE crops. According to the report, in 2002 farmers sprayed on average 1.5 pounds per planted acre, by 2010 the average had risen to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre. One reason for increases in herbicide use is the rise herbicide resistant weeds.

Glyphosate resistance among weed populations in recent years may have induced farmers to raise application rates. Thus weed resistance may be offsetting some of the economic and environmental advantages of HT crop adoption regarding herbicide use. Moreover, herbicide toxicity may soon be negatively affected (compared to glyphosate) by the introduction (estimated for 2014) of crops tolerant to herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D.

Additionally, USDA researchers did not find any definitive yield increases over the past 15 years of GE production: “In fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties.” The report details “no significant differences” between yield of conventional seeds and GE seeds.

Do We Need to Worry About Glyphosate?

If readers are wondering whether glyphosate is really a problem pesticide, then the answer is a short and simple, “Yes.” A dangerous pesticide, glyphosate has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risks, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. Inert ingredients in Roundup pose significant risks as well, with studies linking polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA) to the killing of human embryonic cells. In 2013, researchers  at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also concluded after an extensive review of the large body of scientific literature on the toxics effects of glyphosate that the herbicide can enhance the negative effects of other environmental toxicants on the body and that this has been a critically overlooked component in research on glyphosates’ toxicity to mammals.

USDA’s report underlines the problems associated with GE crops and gives credence to the organic movement. Because certified organic products cannot use GE crops or most pesticides, it is important to Keep Organic Strong and buy organic to show consumer support for the standards and benefits organic practices maintain.

Sources: USDA ERS, Reuters

All unattributed comments and positions are those of Beyond Pesticides





Petition Seeks Nationwide Refuge Ban of GE Crops and Neonicotinoid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2014) Beyond Pesticides joined Center for Food Safety (CFS), Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and Center for Biological Diversityearlier this week in filing a formal petition for rulemaking with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The petition demands that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the DOI bureau tasked with managing and regulating the system of National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) across this country, establish better protections for wildlife and their habitat by prohibiting the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops and neonicotinoid pesticides in NWRs as well as other necessary policy changes.

The petition asserts that the allowed cultivation of GE crops and use of neonicotinoid pesticides on lands designated as NWRs violates not only the purpose and protective standards of the National Wildlife Refuge Act (NWRA), which seeks to conserve, manage and restore fish wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats for the present and future generations, but also threatens endangered species by resulting in destruction of critical habitat protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Specifically, pollen from GE crops drift and contaminate related wild plants and natural crops. There is also the problem that GE crops are overwhelmingly engineered for one function -to be resistant to pesticides. Accordingly, application of pesticides goes hand-in-hand with GE crops, which have been shown to dramatically increase pesticide release into the environment, including wildlife refuges. Massive pesticide exposure from pesticide-promoting GE crops has also caused weeds to mutate, creating an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds.”

Neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, are often applied  as a coating to agricultural seeds that results in the chemical moving through the plants vascular system and expressing itself in nectar, pollen, and guttation droplets. Severely damaging to pollinators, studies have found that honey bees are particularly at risk if exposed to neonicotioid pesticides at high concentrations and sublethal doses. Widespread pollinator loss threatens native plants and the species that rely on them for survival, as well as our nation’s food supply.  Over 80% of flowering plants rely on pollination services from these critical species.

To remedy the legal violations and better protect the environment and wildlife dependent on NWRs from the dangers posed by GE crops and neonicotinoids, the petitioners request that FWS take several actions. First and foremost, te petition ask FWS to issue a rule that bans the planting of GE crops and use of neonicotinoids on NWRs. Second, the petitioners request that as a part of the rule, amend existing regulations to exclude GE crops and neonicotinoids as compatible uses. In carrying out this action, the petition asks FWS to include specific instructions and deadlines for expeditiously phasing out such practices where they exist. Concerning the ESA, he petitioners request that FWS take specific actions in order to comply with the mandates of ESA and reassess endangered species impacts. Lastly, the petition requests that FWS monitor and report on GE crops, pesticide use, and GE volunteers, so that the public is informed about farming practices on refuge lands.

As one of the petitioners notes, “According to federal policy, GE crops are forbidden unless their use is essential to accomplishing refuge purposes. The fact that refuges in the Northeast and Southeast have stopped using GE crops without any ill effects belies the notion that they are ever ‘essential’ for managing wildlife refuges,” said PEER executive director Jeff Ruch.

Confounding as it may be that GE crops (or any agricultural practices for that matter) as well as pesticide use has been permitted on NWRs, the fact remains that these practices have proceeded without consideration for the essential purpose of NWRs and the increasingly important role they must play in carving out a protective space in which native plants and wildlife can find reprieve from the ever-expanding modern-day assaults to the environment. The petitioners assert that use of GE crops and neonicotinoids on areas specifically set aside for conservation and wildlife protection, just doesn’t make sense.

“Permitting GE crops and neonicotinoid pesticides in Natural Wildlife Refuges threatens one of the few places that pollinators should be able to find shelter from the onslaught of toxic poisons threatening their existence and all that depend on them,” said Jay Feldman, executive director for Beyond Pesticides.

“National Wildlife Refuges are vital sanctuaries of our natural heritage, for present and future generations. Allowing chemical companies to profit by poisoning these important ecosystems violates their fundamental purpose and mission,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety.

“Pesticides and genetically engineered crops are not part of America’s precious natural heritage,” said Jonathan Evans toxics and endangered species campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “National wildlife refuges were founded to be sanctuaries for America’s wildlife and not laboratories for agricultural experiments.”

The filing of the petition is one of many efforts on the part of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and other allies to stop not only FWS from permitting the growing of GE crops on numerous National Wildlife Refuges across the country, but to stop the unchecked use of these environmentally damaging and wildlife threatening practices. Beyond Pesticides will continue the fight against the dangerous and threatening invasion of GE crops and use of neonicotinoids through not only legal action, but also its public awareness and action campaigns such as Bee Protective and GE labeling initiatives.

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

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

Source: Center for Food Safety



Organic Farmer Faces Jail Time for Refusing to Spray Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2014) The French agriculture ministry is prosecuting Emmanuel Giboulot, an organic winemaker, for failing to apply insecticide to his vines. The ministry wants insecticide to be sprayed to control the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus, believed to be responsible for the spread of the grapevine disease, but Mr. Giboulot believes the pesticide is ineffective and damaging to pollinating insects such as bees, and insists the disease can be fought via more natural means.

Emmanuel Giboulot appeared before a judge in the city of Dijon on Monday after defying an official order to treat his vineyard against an insect suspected of transmitting a devastating plant disease, and risks six months in jail for failing to take preventive measures against a bacterial vine disease. He was fined €1,000 for putting neighboring vineyards at risk. The court’s final verdict will be announced on April 7. Mr. Giboulot, an organic and biodynamic winemaker, was found to be in violation of a directive to use pesticides to fight Flavenscence dorĂ©e, an infectious disease spread by the leaf hopper, Scaphoideus titanus that threatens the CĂŽte-d’Or region of Burgundy. An estimated 30 acres of vines were destroyed by the disease in 2012.

“Would we give chemotherapy to someone as a preventive measure against a potential future cancer?” Mr. Giboulot asked.

He argues that the pesticide is harmful to beneficial insects and animals, and may not even be effective at preventing the vine disease. “My father began converting to organic farming in the 1970′s, and we are now fully organic and biodynamic,” Mr. Giboulot is reported as saying. “I don’t want to undo decades of work applying a treatment where the effects on the health of the vines, and the public, are as yet unproved.” The wine maker cultivates about 25 acres of vines, to produce CĂŽte de Beaune and Hautes CĂŽtes de Nuits wines.

The French agriculture ministry prosecuted Mr. Giboulot under article 251-20 of the rural code, for “failing to apply an insecticide treatment to his vineyard” in July last year. Vine growers in several regions, including Burgandy, are required by French law to use pesticides to control this disease. The disease, which first appeared in the 1950s, threatens more than half the Burgundy region’s vineyards. After the discovery of the disease in Burgundy’s Beaune region, the local administration ordered all vineyard owners in the CĂŽte d’Or area to treat their vineyards with pesticides. But Mr. Giboulet argues that even Pyrevert, a pyrethrin-based pesticide product that organic farmers could use against the pest without losing their certification, has undesirable side effects. “It kills not only the insect but also other fauna that are necessary for the natural balance in a vineyard,” he said. Pyrethrin, although made from chrysanthemum flower, is a neurotoxin that is also toxic to bees and aquatic organisms. Its synthetic cousins, pyrethroids, are more toxic and persistent.  Last June another organic winemaker was prosecuted and convicted for not treating his vines, but was spared a prison sentence or fine after finally agreeing to spray against the disease.

Denis Thiery, a vine specialist at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research, also agrees, “Even if Pyrevert is of natural origins, it is damaging for the environment. It is a neurotoxin that can affect not just insects, but birds, other animals, even the winemakers, depending on the doses used. In reality, the efficacy of these treatments against flavescence dorĂ©e, whether natural or conventional, is not great. Not all the insects are killed and the epidemic continues to spread quickly. But, like all epidemics, we don’t know if the situation would be worse without the treatment.”

Mr. Giboulot believes there are more natural means of preventing the vine disease. “I am not trying to be radical,” he said. “I want to show people that there are options, and that we need to think about our own health and that of our customers.”

Unfortunately, there is no sure way to control this vine disease, but many agree vigilance and monitoring adult populations is key to reducing pesticide applications. In fact, French environmentalists argue that instead of ordering the sweeping use of pesticides, local authorities should monitor the disease, uproot affected vines and limit the mandatory use of pesticides to the areas under threat. Hot water treatments have been known to kill the eggs of Scaphoideus titanus as well as other pathogens. Sulfur and paraffin oil applications after bud break have also been suggested to control the pest.

France is the third-highest user of pesticides in the world after the United States and Japan, and the highest user in Europe. The country has pledged to reduce its pesticide consumption by 50 percent by 2018. This pledge is momentous in light of a 2013 study that found pesticide residues in 90 percent of French wines tested, including residues found in some organic wines, which had the French public alarmed. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be hound here in French). However, there are no EU toxicity limits for bottled wine, only for wine grapes before fermentation. Other reports have also identified several pesticide residues in wine. The health impacts of pesticide exposure to vineyard farmworkers is also a concern. According to a PAN-Europe report, “Published scientific analysis suggests that those exposed to pesticides in grape production suffer a higher incidence of allergic rhinitis, respiratory problems, cancers, and chromosomal and nuclear abnormalities, as well as lower neurological capacities.”

While the organic wine market has grown -the share of organically produced French wines rose from 2.6 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent by the end of 2012, according to the New York Times, contamination of organic vineyards from neighboring areas continues to threaten the industry. In the U.S., only wine made with organic grapes and naturally occurring sulfites can be labeled organic.

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

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

Source and Photo: The Guardian



Health Risks Found from Exposure to Agent Orange Residues on Military Aircraft

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2014) During the Vietnam War, over 10 million pounds of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange were applied from military aircraft to defoliate forests and destroy civilian crops. Outfitted with spraying equipment, UC-123 transport planes played a major role in the American military’s campaign to eliminate forest cover for Vietcong fighters. After the war, these aircraft were returned to use in the United States for basic transport operations such as cargo shipping and medical evacuation missions. However, these planes never underwent any form of decontamination or testing before being repurposed for use back in the states. Although the U.S. Air Force and Department of Veteran Affairs have asserted that “dried residues” on these aircraft were not likely to pose a health threat to aircraft crew – a justification used to deny sickened veterans medical support, a new study from the journal Environmental Research finds strong u123evidence of health risks from residual exposure.

The study, Post-Vietnam military herbicide exposures in UC-123 Agent Orange spray aircraft, modeled flight crew’s potential exposure to dioxin, a contaminant in Agent Orange and a highly potent carcinogen. Scientists based their models on monitoring tests that found dioxin contamination in the mid-1990′s and late 2000′s, over 20 years after the planes were first repurposed. Researchers looked at how dioxin volatilizes in the air, and thus rejected the military’s presumption that “dried residues” of the chemicals are no longer a concern. “Current Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs policies are not consistent with the available industrial hygiene measurements or with the widely accepted models for semivolatile organic compounds,” the study indicates. Conclusions of the research found that, “Inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption in aircrew and maintainers were likely to have occurred during post-Vietnam use of the aircraft.”

Though the Agent Orange Act of 1991 stipulated medical care and disability coverage for sick veterans that served in the Vietnam War and were exposed to Agent Orange, those who flew in contaminated post-war planes were deemed ineligible. Lt. Col. John Harris was originally denied benefits for diabetes after he worked on C-123s for 12 years after the war. He was granted coverage only after finding records that showed he made a refueling stop in his fighter jet during the Vietnam War, according to an article in the Huffington Post. “I’m absolutely positive that I was exposed to Agent Orange and dioxin in that 12-year period,” he told HuffPost after hearing about the new study. “I think the VA is lying, cheating and stealing to prove a case that is unprovable.” Many who worked on these aircraft are still struggling to find compensation for their illnesses.

In a similar case, a number of Navy veterans who were stationed off the coast of Vietnam are seeking compensation for their wartime exposure to Agent Orange. The servicemen explain that Agent Orange was often stored on board these vessels. In the past the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had allowed these veterans access to medical coverage under the presumption of Agent Orange exposure. However, the military reversed its policy 12 years ago. The Navy vets are suing the VA demanding immediate restoration of their compensation. Pending legislation in Congress, HR543, would do the same.

Past studies have found that U.S. war veterans exposed to Agent Orange developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. Many children of exposed veterans have been affected by their parents’ exposure to the chemical and show a wide range of symptoms.

Agent Orange was given its name because it was stored in orange striped drums and contained the active ingredients 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. 2,4,5-T was contaminated with the highly toxic 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (also called TCDD or simply dioxin) and is now banned. However, 2,4-D is still one of the most widely used herbicides on lawns, school grounds and parks today. It has been linked to cancer, liver damage and endocrine disruption in humans in addition to being toxic to wildlife, pets and beneficial insects. Moreover, previous research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did detect dioxin contamination in a number of 2,4-D herbicide products.

corn24dThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to approve new forms of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans designed to be resistant to 2,4-D products. Beyond Pesticides is encouraging concerned residents to provide a public comment to USDA and tell the agency not to approve crops engineered to promote the use one of the active ingredients that was in Agent Orange. Given the health effects associated with 2,4-D, as well as the threat of dioxin contamination, we should be eliminating the use of this chemical as we did with 2,4,5-T. Due to an overwhelming number of comments provided to the agency, the comment period has been extended to March 11, 2014. You can send your comment though this link, and use Beyond Pesticides’ 2,4-D crop fact sheet for additional resources when crafting your comment.

For more information about why we should take a precautionary approach to GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ GE webpage. And for additional resources on the health effects associated with Agent Orange, see Beyond Pesticides’ past Daily News stories on the issue, or view the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

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

Source: Huffington Post, ScienceDirect



EPA Proposes Updated Farmworker Protection Standards to Mixed Reviews

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week released its long-awaited proposal to update Farm Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which are designed to provide protections from pesticide exposure for more than two million farmworkers and their families across the nation.  Historically, farmworker advocates have criticized these protections as woefully inadequate in protecting the health of agricultural workers, but these new revisions attempt to strengthen the standards through increased training for workers handling pesticides, improved notification of pesticide applications, and a higher minimum age requirement for children to work around pesticides. Farmworkers face disproportionate risks to pesticide exposures, with EPA stating that pesticide exposure incidents are vastly under-reported –in some case by as much as 90 percent. Although these proposed changes are a step in the right direction, there are still ongoing concerns about whether the changes will be adequate to protect workers.

Revisions to the 20 year old standard have been under discussion for many years. In 2010, EPA released a document proposing WPS that would determine ways to increase training, improve safety requirements, provide clear emergency information, and create strong protection for applicators. However, EPA documents distributed during a November 2012 Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) meeting included few details within those goals, and brought into question the agency’s previous commitments.

However, EPA’s announcement of proposed revisions to WPS has been welcomed. The proposed changes are set to be printed in the Federal Register, http://www.regulations.gov, within ten days of the agency’s announcement and will be open to public comment. The proposed improvements to the Farm Worker Protection Standard include many recommendations from farmworker advocates:

  • Raising the level of training for workers and handlers from every five years to once a year. The training will include information on farmworker protections required, restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields, access to information and use of personal protective equipment. It will also provide instructions on reducing pesticide exposure in the home.
  • Requiring mandatory posting of no entry signs in treated areas which have a re-entry time of more than 48 hours rather than either oral or posted notification.
  • Setting the minimum age of pesticide applicators and early entry works to 16 years of age; previous rules had absolutely no minimum age requirements.
  • Expanding no-entry buffer areas around pesticide-spray zones from nurseries and greenhouses to also include farms and forests to reduce exposure.
  • Requiring personal protection equipment must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are providing protection.
  • Requiring employers to communicate pesticide hazards to workers, handlers, or authorized representatives, which was not previously required, however removes requirement of displaying post-application specific information.
  • Require employers to maintain pesticide application-specific information, labeling and safety data and make that information available to workers, handlers, or their authorized representatives;

Most importantly, workers and handlers will be made aware of their rights under the WPS and of the resources available to them in the event of a suspected act of retaliation or noncompliance with the WPS. Though these are significant and positive changes, there are still concerns over the time frame for implementing this proposal and that it does not go far enough to protect farmworkers.

“It took the EPA 20 years to make this announcement, how long will it take them to implement those standards? It won’t be until late 2016 until it’s implemented!” said Nelson Carrasquillo, executive director of El ComitĂ© de Apoyo a los Trabajadores (CATA-The Farmworkers’ Support Committee) and Beyond Pesticides board member.

Enforcement of these new regulations remain a concern. Advocates say that EPA enforcement of worker protection standards has historically fallen short. In 2011, several farmwoker justice groups petitioned EPA to revise the WPS. This petition called for, among other protections the creation of a confidential system for reporting unsafe working conditions; and the creation of a national system to report incidents of pesticide-related illnesses and injuries, and an online database of reported illnesses. In 2013,these groups, joined by Beyond Pesticides, submitted a letter to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reinforce the concerns raised previously. Farmworker groups also took to Capitol Hill in the summer of 2013 to again call for an update to the WPS and to release Farworker Justice’s report Exposed and Ignored.

One  omission in this new EPA proposal, which was requested in the 2011 petition, is medical monitoring of agricultural workers and handlers who regularly handle Toxicity Category I and II organophosphate and n-methyl carbamate pesticides. This was specifically highlighted in the 2011 petition because of its importance to worker safety. EPA however, does not believe that the anticipated benefits of a monitoring program would justify the costs to handlers and employers.According to the 2011 petition, medical monitoring would protect workers who handle organophosphate and n-methyl carbamate pesticides in multiple ways: it alerts employees to overexposure before overt symptoms are noticeable (and hopefully before permanent harm results); it alerts employers to unsafe working practices, conditions or equipment that could be affecting other employees as well; and in two states it has led to substantially fewer pesticide poisonings, and led to reduced use of these highly toxic pesticides.

Another request by farmworker advocates that is not included in these new revisions is the provision of contact information on legal representation as a part of worker and handler training, should the worker need legal redress. EPA, while insisting that agricultural employers are prohibited from retaliation against workers and handlers for attempting to comply with, or report suspected violation of the WPS, does not consider it appropriate to recommend particular attorneys or legal representatives.

The new WPS proposal also includes the recommendation to adopt California’s closed system standards -the strongest in the country, which protect handlers, bystanders, and the environment during mixing and loading of pesticides. A closed system is an apparatus designed for mixing and loading pesticides that enables the transfer of a a pesticide from its original container into a new container, mix tank, or application equipment, while limiting the handler’s exposure to the pesticide. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation requires applicators to use a closed system when handling products with a signal word of “Danger” or “Warning.”


Worker protection originally fell under standards created by EPA in 1974 under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The regulations only instructed growers to keep workers out of pesticide-treated fields until the dusts had settled or sprays had dried. That standard was developed after field hearings in which EPA heard from growers but not farmworkers. With the threat of litigation from the National Association of Farmworker Organizations and Migrant Legal Action Program in the late 1970s, the Carter Administration funded an effort, conducted by Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, to reach out to workers and collect data on their experiences with pesticide exposure and poisoning in the fields.  EPA conducted an agency review of these standards in 1983 and concluded that the regulations were to protect agricultural workers. However, it took until 1992 to update the WPS.

The 1992 updates to the WPS were designed to eliminate or reduce exposure to pesticides, mitigate exposure that occur, and inform employees about the hazards of pesticides. Despite these intentions, the updated WPS still did not adequately protect farmworkers. These standards have been notoriously difficult to enforce, requires no record keeping to document whether the rules have been implement, and requires only minimal training that can threaten farmworkers and their families.

EPA has admitted that even with maximum feasible personal protective equipment and engineering controls, including all provisions required by the WPS, risks to workers still exceed EPA’s levels of concern. A 2008 study analyzing poisonings of pesticide workers between 1998 and 2005 concluded that in 30% of the cases of high levels of pesticide exposure, all labeling requirements, including those involving re-entry and PPE had been followed, clearly indicating that the WPS and/or labeling requirements are not adequate.

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families.

Continue the conversation about the WPS at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices,” in Portland, OR April 11-12.  The Forum will focus on improving farmworker protections along with solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.

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

Source: Salon



Honey Bee Diseases Threaten Bumblebees; Late Breaking: EPA Announces New Protections for Farmworkers

(Beyond Pesticides, February 21, 2014) A new study published in the journal Nature investigating two infectious diseases —deformed wing virus (DWV) and the fungal parasite Nosema ceranea— finds that they could be spreading from honey bees to bumblebees, dramatically shortening the lifespan of the wild bumblebees. The study gives credence to recent research demonstrating that pesticide use compromises immune system functioning, dramatically raising their susceptibility to diseases.

The study, Disease associations between honeybees and bumblebees as a threat to wild pollinators,  suggests that managed, highly-dense populations of honey bees, are breeding grounds for pathogens which may then be transmitted to bumblebee populations. But unlike honey bees, infected bumblebees are much more affected by the disease, with their lives shortened by six full days. “To put it into context, in the field a bumblebee worker lives 21 days,” said co-author Mark Brown, PhD., of Royal Holloway, University of London. “For every bee that has this virus, you’re losing about a third or a quarter of all the food it would bring back to the nest to help the nest grow.” Additionally, while honey bee hives have tens of thousands of worker, bumblebee hives have only hundred at most.

The study, underlines the importance of threatened wild pollinators, including bumblebees, which are estimated to provide $3 billion in pollination services to crops such as tomato, blueberry, melon, soybean, cucumber, squash, apple, peach, and bell pepper in the US.

Previous studies have demonstrated that bumblebees can carry DWV, but none had mapped the distribution of infected and healthy honey bee and bumblebee populations. Researchers here discovered that roughly a third of honey bees collected are infected with DWV and 11 percent of bumble bees carry the virus. By mapping out the distribution of disease presence, researchers found significant overlap, which suggest disease transmission between the two pollinator species.

“A geographical patterning provides us with the information that transmission is occurring among these animals – they are sharing parasite strains,” said Dr. Brown. The infection could likely be spread when bumblebees forage on flowers already visited by infected honey bees, or by raiding competitors interested in stealing nectar. “We cannot say it definitively, but because of the epidemiology, the most likely explanation is that the honeybees are acting as the source of the virus for the bumblebees,” said Dr. Brown.

The research adds to a body of knowledge demonstrating the range of threats that native and managed pollinators face. Underlying these threats is the persistent use of pesticides which weakens pollinator immunes systems making them more susceptible to parasites, pathogens, and diseases. One study on pesticides in honey bee hives, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that honey bees exposed to a typical fungicide were more than three times more likely to become infected when exposed to the parasite Nosema, compared to control bees which were not fed contaminated pollen.

Researchers here are particularly interested in further investigating the role of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are implicated as a driving cause of colony collapse disorder. “If bumblebees were exposed to neonicotinoids and had the same effect, you would expect the bumblebee viral load to be going through the roof. This is something we are hoping to test later,” said Dr. Brown.

The European Union has already implemented a two-year ban on certain neonicotinoid pesticides in recognition of the threat they pose to honey bees. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to take similar action, taking steps in the opposite direction to register more bee-killing pesticides, such as cyantraniliprole and sulfoxaflor.

We urge you to BEE Protective , pollinators need our help!  This spring create pollinator friendly habitat by planting bee attractive flowers and grasses that provide food and forage for bees and other pollinators.   Pledge your garden or backyard as a pesticide free zone for pollinators. For more information on local and national initiatives to protect bees and other pollinators visit our BEE Protective Campaign website.

Sources: The Scientist, BBC News, Los Angeles Times

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

LATE BREAKING (More details in followup story):

EPA Releases Long-Overdue Updating of Farm Worker Protection Standards
(Beyond Pesticides, February 21, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday released its long-overdue proposal for Farm Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which are designed to provide protections from pesticide exposure for more than 2 million farm workers and their families across the nation. The proposal is a small step in the right direction; however, farmworker advocates say they do not go far enough.

“It took the EPA 20 years to make this announcement, how long will it take them to implement those standards? It won’t be until late 2016 until it’s implemented!” said Nelson Carrasquillo, executive director of El ComitĂ© de Apoyo a los Trabajadores (CATA-The Farmworkers’ Support Committee) and Beyond Pesticides board member.

The federal Worker Protection Standard, first adopted by the EPA in 1992, is notoriously difficult to enforce, requires no record keeping to document whether the rules have been implement, and requires only minimal training that can threaten farm workers and their families. Finally, the original ruling did not consider the role that children will play in the agricultural setting, although children as young as 10 can work in labor crews and are exposed to hazardous pesticides.

The proposed changes are set to be printed in the Federal Register, http://www.regulations.gov, within 10 days of the EPA’s announcement yesterday, according to the agency’s press release. The proposed changes to the Farm Worker Protection Standard include:

  • Raising the level of training for workers and handlers from every five years to once a year. The training will include information on farmworker protections required, restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields, access to information and use of personal protective equipment. It will also provide instructions on reducing pesticide exposure in the home.
  • Requiring mandatory posting of no entry signs in treated areas which have a re-entry time of more than 48 hours rather than either oral or posted notification.
  • Setting the minimum age of pesticide applicators and early entry works to 16 years of age; previous rules had absolutely no minimum age requirements.
  • Expanding no-entry buffer areas around pesticide-spray zones from nurseries and greenhouses to also include farms and forests to reduce exposure.
  • Requiring personal protection equipment must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are providing protection.
  • Requiring employers to communicate pesticide hazards to workers, handlers, or authorized representatives, which was not previously required, however removes requirement of displaying post-application specific information.
  • Expanding the definition of “immediate family” to include grandparents, grandchildren, and in-laws as exempt from WPS requirements.

The requirements provide revisions to the Worker Protection Standards that represent more than a decade of input from the agriculture lobby, farm workers, human rights activists, environmentalists and federal and state regulators.

As Beyond Pesticides has emphasized through its support of the organic community and USDA organic certification process, consumer support for organic ensures that fewer pesticides are present in the environment. Buying organic supports an entire system that is conscious of the health of people, animals, and the environment. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. From reduced exposure to pesticides for farmworkers to bans on unnecessary and dangerous uses of antibiotics in livestock feed, choosing organic means supporting the overall well-being and health of not only yourself and family, but everyone around you. It also supports those farmers who battle both the figurative winds of conventional farming adversity and the literal winds that lead to contamination of their organic crops.

To learn more about why it is critical to continue to support organic food production and maintain the integrity of the USDA organic label, as well as organic programs in other countries, please visit our Keep Organic Strong webpage. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page. To voice your support for organic integrity and comment on organic standards, practices, and allowable materials, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

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

Sources: EPA News Release, FWJ News Release



Town Asks MA Supreme Court to Affirm Right to Stop Private Pesticide Use in Sensitive Pond

(Beyond Pesticides, February 20, 2014) The town of Chilmark located on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts is not backing down from its decision to challenge property owners and the local conservation commission’s attempts to introduce a toxic herbicide directly into the waters of the only enclosed, great pond of the well-known, destination island.ml_squibnocket_pond

While one might assume that the litigation centers around whether or not the herbicide proposed for use in the local water source poses as a danger, this issue is only a sideline debate. Instead, the central dispute highlights one of the greatest challenges facing local governments surrounding pesticide control and a locality’s authority to protect both its citizens and its local environment from the hazards that these chemicals bestow: preemption.

Preemption is the ability of one level of government to override laws of a lower level. While local governments once had the ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdictions, pressure from the chemical industry led many states to pass legislation that prohibits municipalities from adopting local pesticide ordinances affecting the use of pesticides on private property that are more restrictive than state policy.

Unfortunately, Massachusetts is one of the many states that has enacted preemptive pesticide legislation, but this did not stop the town of Chilmark from doing what it thought was necessary to protect a valuable natural resource. When a 62-page environmental study of Squibnocket Pond, conducted by Marine Policy Center in Woods Hole, came to a troubling though unsurprising finding that the pond was significantly threatened by contaminants like pesticides, the town knew that it needed to take action by putting in place a local bylaw.

Enacted in 1990, the bylaw established several protective standards, one of which included a prohibition on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides within 500 feet of the pond. The herbicide at issue in the current litigation, Rodeo, is an herbicide that utilizes the active ingredient glyphosate.

Dangers of Glyphosate

Studies have linked glyphosate and the other inert ingredients in products like Rodeo to serious human health and environmental concerns, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, breast cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), risks of late-term abortion, and endocrine-disruption.

Put this kind of chemical in the water in and around water and the list of potential impacts expands. Studies of glyphosate’s adverse effects on fish include immune-system dysfunction and damage to gills and livers. Even at normal levels found in the environment, glyphosate has been found to be extremely lethal to amphibians. These effects on aquatic species and the fact that glyphosate does not readily break down in water or sunlight are all behind the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to set a maximum contaminant level of 0.7 parts per million.

Is spraying necessary?

With all of these hazards, it is perplexing why anyone would want to spray such a chemical anywhere, let alone an ecologically sensitive and threatened waterway. Yet, property owners and the conservation commission argue that the spraying is necessary to control the invasive species Phargmites. Otherwise known as the common reed, Phragmites are a large perennial grass found in wetlands. While a challenging invasive species, alternatives for control do exist and should be exhausted.

The town of Chilmark can take comfort that it is not alone its fight, both within Massachusetts and across the country. Beyond Pesticides along with other advocacy groups recently weighed-in on a similar debate concerning NSTAR’s 2014 proposal to maintain rights-of-way through toxic chemical means. In our comments to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), Beyond Pesticides notes that any vegetation management plan that ignores the state-law mandated step of implementing mechanical, biological, and alternative controls before chemical controls, violates the purpose of Massachusetts pesticide control law.

In particularly sensitive areas like Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, these precautionary measures are even more necessary and allowing local governments to emphasize this general state-law purpose through more clearly defined ordinances and bylaws should not be viewed as running counter to the state’s authority. Beyond Pesticides supports the rights of local government to protect public health and the environment, especially in a regulatory climate where federal and state government are not adequately protective or interested in local conservation.

Source and Photo Credit: Vineyard Gazette

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