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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



Proposal Will Repeal Pesticide Use Reporting Requirements in New York

(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2014) Over 30 environmental and consumer groups in New York are protesting new language in the state’s proposed budget that strips away the requirement that commercial pesticide applicators report where pesticides are used, what kind of pesticides they use and how much. The new reporting regulation will require that sales are recorded at the register, instead of where they are applied, eroding the public’s right-to-know.

cropdustplaneThe law has allowed the public access to summary pesticide use information at the zip code level, and granted researchers access to confidential pesticide use for analysis. However, the proposed rules, written into the state’s Executive Budget proposal, dramatically restructures the state’s Pesticide Sales and Use Reporting Law, stipulating that the annual pesticide reporting summary release detailed sales – not use – data by county. Opponents of the change say that where things are sold are not necessarily where they are used. The inability to identify where pesticides are used in the state will undercut the ability to track associated environmental and health effects.

“It will impede the public’s ability to learn about toxic chemical uses where they work, live and play,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

According to an open letter to New York’s legislative leaders, which cites acute and chronic health impacts associated with pesticide exposures, “It is imperative that the Legislature reject the proposed changes and affirm its commitment to assuring that New Yorkers have access to data about the pesticides used in their communities. In the age of open access to information, eliminating pesticide use reporting and substituting it for sales data on a county-by-county basis is grossly inadequate and represents a significant step back in the right-to-know principle that people expect.”

Further the letter states, “The impetus for this important reporting law came from the breast cancer organizations whose primary concern was gaining greater knowledge of correlating exposure and incidence of disease. This concern has not diminished over the years, but rather has increased.” The data that New York’s pesticide reporting provides is used by medical researchers and public health advocates “to identify areas of excessive pesticide use and to promote sound public policies to protect children’s health and the environment at the local, state, and national level.”

Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said at a budget hearing last month that the intent is to make the data more usable and accessible.

The regulation requiring pesticide reporting was passed in 1996 as a means to provide researchers with a way to explore the connection between pesticide use and disease. Currently, the regulation states, “that all commercial applicators maintain pesticide use records for each pesticide application containing the EPA registration number, product name, quantity of each pesticide used, date applied, location of application by address (including five-digit zip code) and corresponding records of the dosage rates, methods of application and target organisms for each pesticide application. These records must be maintained on an annual basis and retained for a period of at least three years. They must be available for inspection upon request by the Department.”

Pesticide use data is crucial to studying and identifying human and environmental impacts pesticide use is associated with. Data is used to help understand and identify incidence of disease and disease clusters, as well as monitor and protect water quality and food resources.

Several states are experiencing industry supported campaigns to weaken their pesticide laws, including those that direct pesticide reporting and notification. In Alaska, for instance, a new law would allow state agencies to spray pesticides on state land without having the application subject to public comment. The new regulation replaces the former transparent process with one that takes away the public right to know and comment. California, the first state to require pesticide reporting, has the nation’s most comprehensive pesticide reporting system which covers reporting requirements for pesticide applications to parks, golf courses, cemeteries, rangeland, pastures, and along roadside and railroad rights-of-way. The state also has a surveillance program that requires physicians to report any known or suspected illness caused by a pesticide exposure. Currently, Maryland is considering a bill to aggregate existing pesticide records on volume and use pattern data in a publicly accessible form.

In 2009, U.S. Department of Agriculture reinstated its pesticide reporting system after widespread criticism from environmental and agricultural groups, and exporters. This system, known as the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), tracks chemical usage on agricultural commodities. This data provides valuable information about which pesticides are used in sensitive watersheds and which affects public and environmental health. The information is also widely used by universities and food industry researchers to help farmers monitor and reduce the amount of pesticides they use.

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 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.

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

Source: Long Island Newsday



Advocates Urge California Officials to “Show Bees Some Love”

(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2014) On Valentine’s Day, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network, and Center for Food Safety, represented by Earthjustice, submitted detailed comments to state officials urging them to stop approving pesticides linked to bee declines. The groups also underscored larger problems with the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s inability to complete evaluations of pesticides after five years.

“California officials are rushing to approve yet another systemic bee-harming pesticide before they fully understand the range of impacts,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides and one of the groups that also filed federal comments.

“After five years of evaluation, state officials continue to rubber stamp new products that are known to harm bees,” said Paul Towers, Organizing & Media Director for Pesticide Action Network. “The problem is urgent and unless California officials take swift action, they put California’s food system and agricultural economy at risk.”

A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Oregon officials determined the neonic dinotefuran was the cause of two massive bee kills in the state last year. In the letter submitted on Friday, groups called on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) not to allow greater use of this pesticide.

“We know these chemicals have been responsible for massive bee deaths – dinotefuran was the neonicotinoid responsible for the largest ever bumblebee kill last summer. Why should we allow these catastrophic losses to continue by registering more uses and approving new systemic pesticides. It defies logic and the law,” said Larissa Walker, policy and campaign coordinator for Center for Food Safety.

In addition, the groups also urged DPR not to register a product containing a new ingredient called cyantraniliprole. Several of the groups filed comments with the federal government to not approve the use of this pesticide last year. But federal officials just announced its approval, opening the door for California use.

The groups also urged DPR to conclude its review of the neonicotinoid pesticides as a class. The review, which began in 2009, has no clear end in sight.

“DPR has been saying for five years that neonicotinoid pesticides may be killing California’s honey bees, and yet the agency allows more and more of these pesticides to be used each year,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice.  “It’s past time for DPR to fix its broken evaluation system and protect our bees and our agricultural economy.”

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almonds are an over $3 billion industry.

“Bees, beekeepers and the food system can’t afford to wait forever,” said Jeff Anderson, a beekeeper and owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms. “California officials must act quickly and decisively to protect bees and the crops they pollinate.”

In December, the European Union began a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids. Yet, the U.S. EPA, working in coordination with Canadian and California officials, has refused to take any action until at least 2018.

Across the country this week, food, farming and beekeeper groups frustrated with the lack of state and federal action coordinated efforts to “Show Bees Some Love.” Groups, including Friends of the Earth, delivered thousands of Valentines to one home and garden store in the Bay Area urging them to stop selling plants treated with neonicotinoids. And the Los Angeles City Council took steps to legalize urban beekeeping.

For more information about the importance of pollinators and the efforts to ban neonicotinoids please visit Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective page.

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



Oregon Bill to Restrict Bee-Killing Pesticides Gutted

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2014) Legislation in Oregon that would have banned the use of four neonicotinoid pesticides for home and garden uses has been severely gutted, following push back from agricultural and nursery interests. The legislative panel will instead propose creating a much weaker requirement to set up a task force that will only examine the possibility of future restrictions.

The original bill language would have added neonicotinoid pesticides dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam to Oregon’s list of restricted pesticides, which can only be applied by licensed pesticide applicators. However, the bill has now been drastically amended after consultation with scientists, nursery and agriculture interests, and environmental groups, said bill sponsor Representative Jeff Reardon (D-Portland) to the House committee.

“The Oregon Legislature should be ashamed of itself for its failure to act on the face of this clear ecological crisis,” said beekeeper and activist Tom Theobald. “The change to restricted use was a step in the right direction, a small step, but a step,” he continued, voicing his disappointment.

The original bill, HB4139, was introduced by Rep. Reardon earlier this year in response to several bee-kill incidents 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 (ODA) confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the 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.

Unfortunately, the resulting bill has now been drastically amended, now only requiring Oregon State University, in collaboration with Oregon’s Department of Agriculture, to develop best practices for chemical usage to minimize pollinator harm. It also creates a 10-member Task Force on Pollinator Health that would examine current and potential pesticide regulations. Both stipulations fall short of strong legislation that would protect bees, receiving harsh criticism from beekeepers.

There is mounting scientific evidence implicating the role of neonicotinoids in nationwide bees declines, impairing bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response. While the weight of evidence has spurred the European Union to enact a two-year suspension on the use of these chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has yet to follow suit. In fact, the agency has done the opposite of what is prudent under current science by continuing to register new systemic pesticides, such as cyantraniliprole and sulfoxaflor, that are implicated as highly toxic to bees.

To take action on the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign, which works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.

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.

Sources: Statesman Journal, KUOW.org

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




Study Elevates Need for Testing of “Inert” Ingredients in Pesticide Products

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2014) French scientists from the University of Caen have revealed one more layer of the myth behind so-called “inert” ingredients in pesticides, concluding that pesticide risk assessments that focus exclusively on active ingredients substantially underestimate the potential hazards of the product as a whole. The findings in Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles indicate that inert ingredients in pesticides can magnify the effects of active ingredients, sometimes as much as 1,000-fold.

In conducting their study, Robin Mesnage, Ph.D. and his team of scientists, including Gilles-Eric Seralini,  exposed three human cell lines to the active ingredients of three herbicides, three insecticides, and three fungicides. The team then exposed the cell lines to the well-known commercial formulations that include these active ingredients which also contained “inerts,” and compared the results.

Overall the study concluded that the commercial combinations had a magnifying effect on the toxicity of the active ingredients. While many might assume that three insecticides tested ranked highest in toxicity, the study actually ranked fungicides as having the highest on-average toxicity, followed by herbicides, then insecticides. Leading the pack for on-average toxicity in the herbicides was the well-known Monsanto product, Roundup, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate and several inert ingredients. Used to kill weeds on lawns, in gardens and crop production, including soybeans and corn, glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S.

The researchers cautioned that the study should not be used to set safety standards. As Environmental Health News explains, “The study relied upon a simple, short-term and relatively insensitive measurement of toxicity — cell viability, or what percentage of cells survived. Many adverse effects do not cause cell death, so tests of pesticides need to use more sensitive endpoints, such as endocrine disruption.” In other words, this study is pointing out the worst case scenarios that go unmonitored and untested. It still does not consider the multitude of chronic health effects that may be amplified by commercial mixes of inerts and active ingredients.

The Known Unknown

Unfortunately despite these kinds of findings and other scientific research pointing to similar issues, inert ingredients remain steeped in “trade secret” mystery and access to meaningful information concerning these ingredients is not required under existing regulations.

Under EPA’s interpretation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide product, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxic substances present in the inert ingredients of pesticide products they are using. Even more concerning is EPA’s failure to require testing of these “inert” ingredients or the complete pesticide formulation before it is registered by the agency.

Pesticide manufacturers argue against the disclosure of inert ingredients on pesticide product labels, maintaining that their products could be duplicated. Quite often, inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product. Limited review of inert ingredients in pesticide products, like this study and others find, has highlighted a primary flaw with the regulatory process. Rather than adopt a precautionary approach when it comes to chemicals with unknown toxicity, EPA allows uncertainties and relies on flawed risk assessments that do not adequately address exposure and hazard. Then, when data becomes available and hazards, these pesticides, both active ingredients and inerts, have already left a toxic trail on the environment and people’s well-being.

In 2009, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) seemed on track to clear up some of the mystery of undisclosed ingredients when it `proposed mandating public disclosure of all inert ingredients. However, the agency has taken follow-up actions to promulgate a final rule or publish suggestive guidance.

This study raises yet another interesting issue for EPA concerning not only disclosing inert ingredients and testing them individually, but reassessing how pesticide products on the whole are approved and assessed for safety.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for improved pesticides safety standards that take into account the full-spectrum of health and environmental impacts. For more information about inert ingredients and pesticides as a whole, please visit Beyond Pesticide’s webpage, What’s in a Pesticide?

Source: Environmental Health News

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



Bee Week of Action: Demand Stores Stop Selling Bee-Killing Pesticides

Thousands participate in bee swarm actions across the country on Valentine’s week

(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2013) — This week, over 27,000 people coast-to-coast are swarming Lowe’s and Home Depot stores to support the bees that pollinate our flowers for Valentine’s Day. In a coalition campaign called the Bee Week of Action, Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth and allies are delivering more than half a million petition signatures and Valentines asking these retailers to show bees some love by taking off their shelves pesticides shown to harm and kill bees –and garden plants treated with these pesticides.ShowBeesSomeLove

Beyond Pesticides is partnering with Friends of the Earth U.S., Beelieve, Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, CREDO Mobilize, Friends of the Earth Canada, Northwest Center for Pesticide Alternatives, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, SumOfUs and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to turn out activists across the country, including larger actions in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston area, and Eugene, Ore. For a listing of cities participating in action, click here.

This national week of action is a part of a retail campaign that is calling on retailers to stop selling neonicotinoids –the most widely used class of pesticides in the world– due to a growing body of science indicating that the pesticides are a key factor in recent global bee deaths. Bees and other pollinators, essential for the two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday, are dwindling worldwide. Last year, U.S. beekeepers reported losing 40-100 percent of their hives, and they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs.

“The science shows that neonicotinoid pesticides play a significant role in the declining health of bees and other beneficial organisms. It is therefore imperative that action be taken to protect these creatures, given the lack of action at the federal regulatory level,” said Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist at Beyond Pesticides.

A groundbreaking pilot study released last summer found that many bee-friendly garden plants sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s contain neonicotinoid pesticides with no warning to consumers. The European Union’s two-year ban on the most widely used neonicotinoids went into effect in December. In January, the European Food Safety Authority cited evidence that two neonicotinoids, acetamiprid and imadacloprid, “may affect the developing human nervous system” of children, and it recommended further restricting their use.

More than half a million Americans have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot immediately stop selling off-the-shelf neonicotinoid insecticides for home garden use. Home Depot and Lowe’s have been asked to stop selling plants pre-treated with the pesticides, make third-party certified organic starts and plants available, and educate customers on their policies to protect bees and other pollinators. To sign the petition, click here. In response to revelations that home garden plants sold in their stores contain neonicotinoids, Home Depot said they would look into the matter and be in touch with environmental groups. They have yet to respond to requests for a meeting. Lowe’s has not made any public statements or responded to meeting requests.

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant’s vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed action on neonicotinoid pesticides until 2018, despite growing evidence that they are a key factor in bee decline, and more than a million public comments urging swift protection for bees. EPA has made recent labeling changes to try to reflect pollinator concerns, but beekeepers widely agree that they do not go far enough in bee protection. Additionally, although beekeepers have voiced their concerns about sublethal exposures, EPA has only taken steps to address acute bee poisonings, which it says are primarily caused by dust plumes from seed coatings dislodged from seed planters. Manufacturers are working to reformulate the seed coating technology to control dust, but EPA has made no move to restrict the use of the chemicals which are conclusively demonstrated to cause bee deaths through sublethal exposure.

Last March, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the EPA for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The lawsuit seeks to suspend the registrations of the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees. The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these bee-killing pesticides, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration,” which leave critical health and environmental questions unanswered, and labeling deficiencies. Despite this suit and other public concerns and efforts regarding pesticides and the health of bees, EPA recently registered two new active ingredients, sulfoxaflor and cyantraniliprole – both known to be highly toxic to bees.

In 2013, U.S. Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Save American’s Pollinators Act, which will suspend the use of neonics 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.

For the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign which works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.

Join us April 11-12 for Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, in Portland, OR on “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices” which will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening organic agriculture; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; 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.



“Near-Infinitesimal” Exposure to Neonicotinoids Reduces Bees Ability to Gather Food

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2014) In the midst of another tough winter for bees across the globe, scientists reveal new research showing that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides causes a 57% reduction in the amount of pollen bumblebees are able to collect for their colony. The new evidence on these systemic pesticides, “Field realistic doses of pesticide imidacloprid reduce bumblebee pollen foraging efficiency,” published in the journal Ecotoxicology, documents a decline in pollen gathering abilities at extremely low doses that bees are likely to encounter in the field. 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.

Bumblebee-2009-04-19-01Hannah Feltham, PhD, research student and co-author of the study, remarked, “This work adds another piece to the jigsaw. Even near-infinitesimal doses of these neurotoxins seem to be enough to mess up the ability of bees to gather food. Given the vital importance of bumblebees as pollinators, this is surely a cause for concern.”

After being exposed to “near-infinitesimal” amounts of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid through pollen and sugar water (6 parts per billion and .7 parts per billion, respectively), bumblebees were outfitted with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips to track their movement. To determine the amount of pollen collected, bees were weighed each time they entered and exited their nest. While the amount of time spent collecting pollen remained the same for the control (unexposed) bees, neonicotinoid-treated bees spent longer and longer out in the field collecting less pollen.

Lead author of the research, Dave Goulson, PhD, explains, “Pollen is the only source of protein that bees have, and it is vital for rearing their young. Collecting it is fiddly, slow work for the bees and intoxicated bees become much worse at it. Without much pollen, nests will inevitably struggle.”

This study adds context and causality to research published by Dr. Goulson in the journal Science in 2012, “Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production.” Though the previous research documented observable harm as a result of pesticide exposure, it was unable to account for how this effect happened. With this new research, scientists are showing the exact mechanism through which neonicotinoids reduce bumblebee colony growth and queen production.

The weight of evidence showing harm to pollinators from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides spurred the European Union to enact a two year suspension on the use of these chemicals. Dr. Goulson notes that his new study supports making this ban permanent. In the United States, however, the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to follow suit. In fact, the agency has done the opposite of what is prudent under current science by continuing to register new systemic pesticides, such as cyantraniliprole and sulfoxaflor, that are implicated as highly toxic to bees.

BEE Protective

In the absence of government action, Beyond Pesticides is encouraging those concerned about pollinator safety to “Do Something Sweet for Bees” this Valentine’s Day. Hardware retailers in the United Kingdom announced last year that they would no longer sell pesticides linked to declining pollinator populations. We still have some catching up to do in the U.S. on this issue as well, as Home Depot and Lowe’s continue to carry neonicotinoid pesticides and plants poisoned with these chemicals in their stores. A pilot study released last year by Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides, and others found that 7 of 13 samples of garden plants purchased at top retailers in Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Minneapolis contained neonicotinoid pesticides.

In light of this new study showing injury to bees from minute levels of exposure to these chemicals, it is imperative that home gardeners have the opportunity to purchase plants that can provide a safe haven for bees, and not impair their ability to provide food for their colony. Take action in your community and deliver a Valentine to Lowe’s and Home Depot this week, and see Beyond Pesticides’ action page for additional ways you can get involved in this week’s National Swarm.

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 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.

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

Source: University of Sussex



Children Exposed to Increasing Concentrations of Pyrethroid Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2014)   A recent study has found that exposure to pyrethroids is increasing among children and adults. The study also finds that children are still widely exposure to chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate chemical that has been banned for household use for over 12 years. This is not the first study to find high concentrations of pyrethroids in residential, but it may be the first to evaluate correlations between pesticide dust concentration and concentration of pesticides in children’s urine.pregnant-market-coloradjust

The study, Urinary Pyrethroid and Chlorpyrifos Metabolite Concentrations in Northern California Families and Their Relationship to Indoor Residential Insecticide Levels, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, analyzed urine samples from 90 adults, 83 children, and 88 floor wipe samples from participants’ kitchen floors. The participants were 90 northern Californian families who had children born between 2000 and 2005, with the samples collected from 2007-2009.  These samples were analyzed for concentrations of pyrethroids, pyrethroid metabolites, chlorpyrifos, and chlorpyrifos metabolites. The study found pyrethroid metabolites in 63 percent of all urine samples with concentrations twice as high as levels reported in a national 2001-2002 study.

In children, higher concentrations of pyrethroids found in floor wipes were associated with higher urine levels. This suggests that the indoor residential environment is a more important route of exposure to pyrethroids than dietary ingestion for children. Children also often play on the floor and put their hands in their mouths, which could lead to greater exposure from household dust.

The study also finds that levels of a breakdown product of chlorpyrifos are on average 21 percent lower in the children who participated in the new study than in the nationwide study six years earlier. The researchers attribute this decline to the ban of chlopryrifos products inside homes. However, even at lower concentrations, traces were still found in 65 percent of participant’s urine and in 99 percent of floor wipes. As evident from this study, chlorpyrifos does not breakdown in residential setting quickly and has been detected for up to eight years after its use in homes for termites.

Growing concentrations of pyrethroids indoors clearly create an unhealthy environment for children. High levels of pyrethroids may cause significant toxicity and health effects, including acute neurotoxic effects, immunotoxic effects, and endocrine disruption. Pyrethroids are also a possible human carcinogen, with associations seen between exposure and cutaneous melanoma, as well as childhood leukemia. The impacts of chronic low or moderate level of pyrethroid exposure in general and on children have not been well studied.

Chlorpyrifos exposure is also incredibly harmful to children. Exposure to chlorpyrifos has been found to disrupt endocrine regulation, has been associated with negative impacts of the neurodevelopment of children, and can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans. In agricultural settings, chlorpyrifos vapor may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school, or spend time nearby. In some circumstances, these bystanders may be exposed to chlorpyrifos and/or the transformation product chlorpyrifos-oxon at concentrations that could cause adverse effects.

This is not the first study to indicate homes can be a high pesticide exposure setting. A  recent study found that among New Yorkers who were 20 to 59 years old in 2004 the highest exposed group had between two and six times more organophosphates in their urine than the highest exposed group in a national study. They also had between 1.7 and 2.4 times more pyrethroids than the nationwide group. Researchers also sought to identify some of the demographic and cultural characteristics that predict the higher exposures. They found that overall, Hispanics and blacks, older residents, and people who had pesticides professionally applied recently in their home had higher levels of organophosphates.

High concentrations of pyrethroids have also been found in environmental settings.  A 2008 survey found pyrethroid contamination in 100 percent of urban streams sampled in California. Researchers also find pyrethroid residues in California streams at relatively low concentrations (10-20 parts per trillion) in river and creek sediments that are toxic to bottom dwelling fish. Other studies find pyrethroids present in effluent from sewage treatment plants at concentrations just high enough to be toxic to sensitive aquatic organisms.

Most people are unaware that they, or their children, carry chemical compounds in their bodies. Chemical ‘body burden’ refers to the accumulation of synthetic chemicals found in pesticides, cosmetics, industrial solvents, heavy metals in our bodies. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Body Burden entry in the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD).

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

Source: Environmental Health News




As Bees Decline, EPA Registers Another Toxic Insecticide

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2014) Flying in the face of recent science demonstrating that pollinator populations are declining, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made the decision to unconditionally register another pesticide that is known to be highly toxic to bees, coming almost one year after EPA registered sulfoxaflor, disregarding concerns from beekeepers and environmental groups. The announcement, posted in the Federal Register on Wednesday, set tolerances for the pesticide cyantraniliprole in foods ranging from almonds and berries, to leafy vegetables, onions, and milk. EPA establishes the allowable limit of the chemical residue, called tolerances, based on what EPA considers ‘acceptable’ risk. EPA’s ruling details that “there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue,” despite all evidence that cyantraniliprole is toxic to bees and harmful to mammals.

Ignoring beekeeper warning and concerns on their impacts to bees, EPA has given the green light for cyantraniliprole after recently registering sulfoxaflor.  In July 2013, beekeepers filed suit against EPA for their decision to register sulfoxaflor when it failed to demonstrate that it will not cause any ‘unreasonable adverse effects on the environment’ as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, during the public comment period that stated that approval of a cyantriliprole, pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, instead of denying or suspending registration in the face of dire pollinator losses, EPA has chosen to register another insecticide that is toxic to bees, dismissing concerns regarding bee health in its response, and setting itself up for further litigation.

EPA’s response to Beyond Pesticides and other commenters can be found here.

Cyantraniliprole is a systemic insecticide that works by impairing the regulation of muscle contractions causing paralysis and eventual death in insects. Beyond its impact to target pests —which include sucking and chewing insects such as whiteflies and thrips— EPA’s most disturbing conclusions relate to the impact of cyantraniliprole on the livers of mammals: “With repeated dosing, consistent findings of mild to moderate increases in liver weights across multiple species (rats, mice, and dogs) are observed. Dogs appear to be more sensitive than rats and mice…show[ing] progressive severity with increased duration of exposure.”

EPA notes that cyantraniliprole also alters the stability of the thyroid as tested on laboratory rats as a result of enhanced metabolism of the thyroid hormones by the liver. Although the agency states that “cyantraniliprole is not a direct thyroid toxicant,” any indirect effects on thyroid function are likely to disrupt the endocrine system. Given that its current endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP) is currently still in the process of validating tests, EPA’s registration of a new active ingredient that shows a propensity for endocrine disruption is cause for alarm.

In addition to these findings, EPA has registered cyantraniliprole as a seed treatment although it is considered “highly toxic on acute and oral contact basis” for bees. EPA is aware that pesticide-treated seeds directly threaten foraging bees and other non-target organisms, which are exposed to contaminated dust plumes during planting. Studies have documented high bee mortality following seed sowing and exposure to contaminated dust from agricultural fields. Moreover, EPA acknowledges the need to reduce fugitive toxic dust. However, with emerging science increasingly attributing pesticide exposures as one of the major causes of pollinator declines and the recent precautionary measures taken in the European Union to ban the use of pesticides known to impact bees, EPA’s registration of cyantraniliprole raises serious concerns.

Beekeepers nationwide have experienced honey bee losses of over 40 percent over the 2012/2013 winter period —2013/2014 winter losses are likely to be released soon— with some beekeepers reporting losses of over 70 percent, far exceeding the normal rate of 10 to 15 percent. Some have even been driven out of business. Current estimates of the number of surviving hives in the U.S. show that these colonies may not be able to meet the future pollination demands of agricultural crops.

EPA’s approach to registration reinforces the urgent need for a national transition to organic. The takeaway for organic, as it grows beyond its current $35 billion market share, is the need for rigorous  science-based decision making that requires precaution on the allowance of chemical products in the face of hazards and scientific uncertainty. We must keep in mind the underlying standards of the organic rule, which requires that practices “maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.”

For the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign which works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.

Join us April 11-12 for Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, in Portland, OR on “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices” which will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening organic agriculture; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; 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: Federal Register




Bee Larvae Adversely Affected by Mix of Pesticides and Inert Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, February 6, 2014) We know that pesticides and bees don’t mix and that particular pesticides, such as neonictinoids, pose significant threats to bee populations worldwide, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University have identified that it is “the mix” of the many chemicals in the environment that pose a significant threat to honey bee survival.numerousbees

Looking at the four most common pesticides detected in pollen and wax -fluvalinate, coumaphos, chlorothalonil, and chloropyrifos, Wanyi Zhu and other researchers have assessed the toxic impacts of these pesticides on honey bee larvae at real world exposure levels; that is, levels that are found in existing hives outside of a laboratory. But these researchers go beyond the usual one-chemical analysis in their study, Four Common Pesticides, Their Mixtures and a Formulation Solvent in the Hive Environment Have High Oral Toxicity to Honey Bee Larvae. Rather than just looking at the pesticides in their individual, out-of-the-bottle form, they also mixed them up and broke them apart.

Why did they take this mixed-up approach? “Recently, one hundred and twenty-one different pesticides and metabolites were identified in the hive with an average of seven pesticides per pollen sample, including miticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and insect growth regulators,” the study explains. In other words, the average bee hive and the food that it contains for the hive population it supports has a veritable soup of pesticides —chopped up, stirred up, and combined in every which way imaginable. It is this chemical soup that makes its way into the food for not only the adult bees, but also the developing “baby” bees known as larvae.

While it may seem an obvious step in evaluating the so-called safety of a chemical to not only look at how it interacts with other chemicals (we all remember what happens when you put vinegar and baking soda together), but also to examine its component parts for individual effects, the scary truth is that these steps are rarely taken and not required for most pesticide registrations and environmental risk assessments.

The findings of the study sent no mixed messages —pesticides, whether looked at individually, in different combinations, or even broken down into their allegedly “inert” component parts had serious consequences on the bee larvae survival rates. “All pesticides at hive-residue levels triggered a significant increase in larval mortality compared to untreated larvae by over two fold, with a strong increase after 3 days of exposure.” The synergistic effects in most combinations of the pesticides amplified these mortality rates around the four-day mark. More concerning, however, were the results focusing on the allegedly “inert” ingredient, N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone. The study found that, “Even for the lowest concentration of [this inert ingredient], the estimated time to cause 50% larval mortality was 4 days.”

Conclusions from these findings are straightforward: pesticide risk assessments need to examine all of the mix of chemicals and their so-called “inert” parts in the environment to realistically evaluate risks on non-target pollinators. The study includes genetically-engineered crops in that mix.

Regulatory Delay Fails to Mix it Up

Unfortunately for bees and people alike, outdated and inadequate risk assessments are only one of many hurdles to much-needed change and better protections. Inert ingredients remained steeped in “trade secret” mystery and access to meaningful information concerning these ingredients is not even required under existing regulations.

Under EPA’s interpretation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert ingredients of pesticide products they are using, unless the EPA administrator determines that the chemical poses a public health threat. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and, if released, their products could be duplicated. Quite often inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product. Yet as this study and a few others are starting to show, inert ingredients are mixed into pesticides products as a carrier or sticking agent, and are often as toxic as the active ingredient.

Despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) seeming willingness to take steps to mandate public disclosure of all inert ingredients back in 2009, EPA has taken no follow-up actions to promulgate a final rule on the issue.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for improved pesticides safety standards that take into account the full-spectrum of health and environmental impacts. For more information about inert ingredients and pesticides as a whole, please visit Beyond Pesticide’s webpage, What’s in a Pesticide? Protecting pollinators will be a central theme of the upcoming 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, April 11-12 in Portland, Oregon.

Source: PLOS One

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



Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals May Target Fish Hearts

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2014) According to a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, chemical contaminants in waterways that mimic estrogen -endocrine disruptors- target developing heart valves in fish and impair the growth of fish hearts. The study illustrates that these hormone-mimicking compounds, which include some pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other household chemicals often found in sewage effluent and runoff that flows into waterways, are being linked to mounting science that show serious human and environmental adverse effects.

Researchers from the Fish Health Branch of the U.S. GeoDigital StillCameralogical Survey (USGS) and the Carnegie Institution for Science exposed zebrafish embryos to water from 19 sites in the Susquehanna, Delaware, Allegheny and Shenandoah watersheds. Water from 16 of the sites triggered proteins in the fish that were estrogen receptors, indicating that the rivers contained endocrine disrupting chemicals. These receptors are attached to DNA, which turn genes on and off. While such activity is common in the liver, this is the first experiment to show estrogenic activity in heart valves.

“This tells us that endocrine-disrupting chemicals could lead to improper heart development. We were quite surprised, since this is something that others hadn’t observed before,” said study co-author Luke Iwanowicz, PhD, and research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey based in West Virginia.

In the study, “Transgenic Zebrafish Reveal Tissue-Specific Differences in Estrogen Signaling in Response to Environmental Water Samples,” most of the water samples activated estrogen receptors in both the heart valves and the liver, but when the river water was more diluted, five of the samples activated receptors only in the heart valves. According to the authors, endocrine disrupting chemicals often do not act in a typical way, but can have health effects at low doses and no effects or different effects at high doses.  Previous research supports the growing importance of understanding low dose exposures, and one 2012 report in particular documents extensive scientific research on the low dose effects of endocrine disruptors.

The researchers, however, did not analyze the specific chemical makeup of the river water and so these heart valve findings are not linked to any specific chemical. However, the presence of endocrine disrupting contaminants in U.S. waterways is well-documented. The USGS identified contaminants, including pesticides in the Potomac River which flows through downtown Washington, DC, that could be responsible for the alarming discovery of “intersex fish”- male fish producing eggs. The suspected chemicals include: atrazine, a common herbicide used in agriculture and on lawns that is already linked to sexual abnormalities in frogs; insecticides chlorpyrifos and endosulfan; the herbicide metolachlor; and two chemicals used to add fragrance to perfumes, soaps and other products, tonalide and galaxolide. Similarly, the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, also an endocrine disruptor and frequently detected in several U.S. waterways, was shown to hinder muscle contractions at a cellular level, slow swimming in fish, and reduce muscular strength in mice. In similar experiments triclosan was found to impair the ability of isolated heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibers to contract.

In wildlife and humans, endocrine disrupting effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at extremely low levels of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests.

A 2012 study from a group of renowned endocrinologists finds that even low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause certain human disorders, highlighting various epidemiological studies that show that environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals are associated with human diseases and disabilities. The authors of the new study conclude that the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses, and therefore recommend fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination to protect human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with evaluating chemicals for their endocrine disrupting potential, but is still in the process of finalizing a screening protocol, decades after the agency was tasked to do so. According to the agency, it would be another decade before their protocol is up and ready.

In the meantime, endocrine disrupting chemicals continue to contaminate sewage effluent and runoff that flows into waterways adversely impacting fish, amphibians and other wildlife, and eventually the human public. A 2013 UN report, considered the most comprehensive report on endocrine disruption in humans to date, highlights some association between exposure to endocrine disruptors and health problems, including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children  and thyroid cancer. Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Disease Database features a wealth of studies that have linked pesticide exposures to adverse impacts on the endocrine system. These studies explore outcomes and mechanisms for several health effect endpoints including cancer, developmental and learning disorders, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive health.

For more on endocrine disrupting chemicals, download Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruption brochure (bi-fold), or read Beyond Pesticides article, Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.

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

Source: Environmental Health News



Do Something Sweet for Honey Bees This Valentine’s Day!

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2014) No strawberries, no honey — without bees Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be the same.

In fact, one out of three bites of food depend on honey bee pollination, but they are in danger from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that Europe has already banned. We know bees can’t wait any longer for increased protections, so we need to take a stand wherever we can.

ShowBeesSomeLoveThat’s why we’re asking you to join thousands of people coast-to-coast to swarm Home Depot and Lowe’s stores the week of Valentine’s Day (February 10-16).

We’ll be delivering valentines, asking these stores to “show bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides and garden plants poisoned with these harmful chemicals. Planting season is right around the corner. We can’t let another year pass with Home Depot and Lowe’s selling “poisoned plants” with no warning to consumers.

Last year U.S. beekeepers reported a 30-100 percent loss of their hives, and right now they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs. You can help BEE Protective of pollinators during another tough winter season by delivering a Valentine to retailers. We’ve made it easy:

Sign up here and we’ll send you a printable valentine with a step-by-step guide closer to the date.


Scientific studies are consistently finding that a new, and increasingly popular class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, are significant contributors to the devastating decline of pollinators across the globe. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam, and products containing these pesticides can be found on this list. Peer-reviewed science has repeatedly identified these insecticides as highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Once applied, plants take up these pesticides and exude them in their pollen and nectar, subsequently endangering any pollinators that forage on these contaminated plants.

A report co-released late last year by Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth, and other allies revealed that the neonicotinoids may be lurking in our own gardens. The study showed that more than half of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s contained these bee-killing pesticides. In lieu of federal action to restrict the chemicals, we must take a stand against retailers who continue to sell poisoned plants.

More BEE Protective Actions:

Help Beyond Pesticides build the buzz on all fronts by asking retailers, administrators, and elected officials to take action by eliminating or curtailing the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Join Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, Ceres Trust over 60 other groups’ coalition-based national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides.

Devote your garden or landscape to the protection of pollinators. Download the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and see our Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind webpage for information on how to create pollinator-friendly habitat in your community.

Keep the pressure on your elected officials to support a bill that would 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 currently has 50 cosponsors in Congress. Is your Representative one of them?

Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign 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.



Organic Farmers Look to New Resource to Avoid GE Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2014) Prompted by the prolific threat of contamination of organic agriculture by genetically engineered crops, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) recently published a comprehensive guide to help organic seed growers maintain the integrity of organic seed. The publication comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to limit the ability of farmers to legally defend themselves against genetic drift in a landmark federal lawsuit OSGATA et al. vs. Monsanto.

The publication, entitled Protecting Organic Seed Integrity, provides organic farmers, seed handlers, and seed companies an array of resources they can employ to maintain organic integrity through crop specific, scale-appropriate strategies. In addition, the handbook provides guidance on testing protocols for crops that are particularly risky, that is, crops with GE counterparts that are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, and squash.

“The risk to organic farmers by GE contamination is real,” said Maine organic seed farmer, Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President. “Organic farmers continue to be failed by the government. This new handbook is an important tool for farmers to protect themselves and the organic seed supply.”

Manual_Front-Cover-231x300With widespread planting of genetically engineered crops, organic farmers are increasingly vulnerable to the problem of GE contamination as pollen can easily drift to neighboring fields. Genetic drift is particularly prevalent with wind-pollinated corn and insect-pollinated canola, whose pollen can travel for two or more miles before fertilizing another plant. Such contamination has proven extremely costly to farmers raising organic and non-genetically engineered crops whose loads are rejected by buyers when trace levels of contamination are detected. Farmers in these circumstances lose any potential price premium for the extra effort and expense taken to preserve their crop’s integrity and they typically have no recourse but to dump the load on generic markets. At times, these events send international markets reeling, as is what happened when illegal GE wheat was discovered in an Oregon farmer’s field. Currently, biotech companies that manufacture GE seeds bear no legal or financial responsibility for such contamination.

Not only are organic farmers at risk of losing their entire crop due to GE contamination, they are also vulnerable to litigation due to patent enforcement. The Federal District Court case OSGATA et al. vs. Monsanto set to provide a safeguard for farmers who are victims of patented GE contamination. With the court ruling, however, biotech companies maintain the right to sue farmers whose crops are contaminated for infringing upon the company’s intellectual property.

The handbook operates on the premise that, “Organic farmers have a right to farm in the way they choose on their farm without threat of intimidation and transgenic trespass.” Unfortunately, in lieu of court mandated protections, farmers must bear the burden of seed and crop contamination by GE drift, and take matters into their own hands to protect themselves by using tools like the OSGATA handbook. The book’s recommendations for avoidance and testing are based on a thorough examination of international peer-reviewed literature, as well as  stakeholder input from organic farmers, seed company professionals and seed breeders familiar with purity concerns. OSGATA has printed 5,000 copies of its new publication which it is now providing to organic farmers free of charge. The resource is also available to download for free online.

Currently, National Organic Program (NOP) defines GE violations of organic agricultural standards solely on the basis of process violations, so findings of organic crops or seed tainted from genetic drift does not establish a violation. Neither the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) nor the NOP have set a GE contamination level, which could be in the range of zero or non-detect to some “accepatable” level of contamination. Similarly, a compensation scheme is being debated in organic circles where a polluter-pay approach holds patent holders responsible for contamination costs.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid supportin the production of crops grow with genetically engineered seed 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 from being purposefully introduced in agricultural production. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. Plan on joining Beyond Pesticides, the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University, as well as numerous co-sponsors, to learn the latest and strategize on GE contamination with George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety and lead attorney on numerous GE cases at the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices, April 11-12, 2014, Portland, Oregon.

Source: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association press release

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



Featured Keynote: “Maverick” Scientist to Speak at National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2014) Michael Skinner, Ph.D., author of the landmark study that links exposure to the insecticide DDT with multi-generational effects, ultimately contributing to obesity three generations down the line, is joining an impressive array of speakers at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12 in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Skinner’s groundbreaking research on transgenerational effects of pesticides has created quite a stir within the scientific community and backlash from the industry.skinner-laboratory

A professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, Dr. Skinner has published over 240 peer-reviewed publications and has given over 237 invited symposia, plenary lectures and university seminars. His research focuses on the investigation of gonadal growth and differentiation, with emphasis in the area of reproductive biology. His current research has demonstrated the ability of environmental toxicants to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease phenotypes due to abnormal germ line epigenetic programming in gonadal development.

Science Magazine has dubbed Dr. Skinner “The Epigenetics Heretic.” The article, published January 24, explores the controversy surrounding his recent findings, industry challenges to his research, as well as the significance: “To those who don’t flatly dismiss Skinner’s findings, he has raised a tantalizing glimpse of a new phenomenon, one that should be explored further.” Skeptics are to be expected, Dr. Skinner tells Science, “This is probably going to be the biggest paradigm shift in science in recent history.” In fact, his scientific motto is, “If you are not doing something controversial, you are not doing something important.”

Hear Dr. Skinner discuss his important work, along with other top scientists, local and national activists and grassroots organizers at Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Register online now!

The 32nd National Forum provides an opportunity for grassroots advocates, scientists, and policy makers to interact and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment. Keynote presentations, workshops, and plenary panels will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening organic agriculture; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. By working with a range environmental, health, consumer, and farm organizations, we expect to bring together a diverse crowd in order to share our efforts to build local, state and national strategies for strength, growth and health—in line with our conference theme, Advancing Sustainable Communities.

General admission is $40 for members and grassroots activists, $20 for students with current ID, and $75 for non-members (includes 1-year membership and totebag). Avoid the $5 late fee by registering before March 15th! In addition to access to all plenary sessions, discussions-based workshops, tour (by RSVP), and printed materials, registration also includes organic food and drink (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two receptions with hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine). The forum will be held at the University Place Conference Center at Portland State University.Directions and hotel information are available on the Forum website. Register online or call 202-543-5450 to register by phone.

The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and co-sponsored by local, state and regional public health and environmental organizations, including: Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), and The Xerces Society. If your group is interested in co-sponsoring the forum please feel free to email us.

For more information on the program, including a full list of speakers and registration information, please see www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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



Backdoor Farm Bill Amendment Orders EPA to Ignore Unsafe Levels of Fluoride in Kid’s Food

(Beyond Pesticides, January 30, 2014) With the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Agriculture Act of 2014 (commonly known as the Farm Bill) yesterday, conventional farming allies and chemical agribusiness dealt a dangerous blow to children’s health protections and offered up yet another reason for consumers everywhere to support organic. The behind-closed-door amendment to the Farm Bill that appeared in neither the pre-conference House or Senate-passed versions of the Bill available to the public, orders the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ignore its ruling that levels of fluoride left in food treated with the toxic fumigant sulfuryl fluoride are unsafe for consumers everywhere, especially children and infants.

Looking at the Numbers

Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), a law designed to provide stronger protections for infants and children from pesticides, EPA must consider the aggregate dose that children receive from pesticide residues along with the other “nonpesticidal” sources. In the case of sulfuryl fluoride, a fumigant used in closed structures such as barns, storage buildings, commercial warehouses, ships in port, and railroad cars and thus also found on their stored contents like grains and other crops, this is an important consideration because other sources of fluoride abound in the form of fluoridated water and dental products and from its natural presence in the environment.

Before 2004, the allowed tolerances for fluoride on certain foodstuffs was set at 7 parts per million (ppm), but in January 2004 after intensive lobbying by Dow Agrosciences, EPA approved the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a fumigant on raw food. Shortly thereafter, in July 2005 that approval was extended to all processed foods. To account for this new use, EPA moved to adjust the allowable dosage of fluoride for infants to a number five times higher than that set for adults.

Unwilling to stand by and let EPA set allowances at the behest of industry without considering that actual health impacts it was required to consider under the FQPA, Beyond Pesticides along with Fluoride Action Network and Environmental Working Group, filed a petition to the EPA in June 2006. The petition called for a “stay,” or immediate suspension, of all food uses of sulfuryl fluoride pending a full evidentiary hearing on the safety of the proposed allowances.

In 2011, EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs could not dismiss the numbers. EPA proposed the withdrawal of sulfuryl fluoride tolerance because applications of sulfuryl fluoride when taken together or “in the aggregate” with the other sources of fluoride found that levels exceeded the safe reference doses —especially in the case of infants and children.

The Numbers Haven’t Changed

With the latest Farm Bill provision, EPA cannot assess the total risk from fluoride exposure as it is supposed to do by law. Thus even though the level of safe tolerances remains unchanged, the Farm Bill now orders EPA to close its eyes to the other known sources of fluoride that make their way into children and infants mouths everywhere. In effect, this means that 70 ppm fluoride will be found in more than 99% of all processed foods, 125 ppm in wheat flour (which goes into cookies, cakes, bread and pizza) and a massive 900 ppm in powdered eggs. One third of the eggs sold in the U.S. come in powdered form and the accompanying 900 ppm is only a tad below the 1000 ppm—the level at which parents are told to keep away from children under six, use only pea-sized amount, and not to swallow.

Too Much Fluoride is Still Unsafe

If you think that fluoride is safe at these levels (and even under these levels), think again. Actually, in the case of fluoride, “thinking” is one of the major risks.

In a recent Harvard meta-analysis, which shows that out of 27 studies investigating the IQ in Chinese children living in areas with high natural levels of fluoride in the water, 26 showed a lowering of IQ with an average drop of 7 IQ points. The lowest level at which this occurred was 1.8 ppm, and even lower (0.88 ppm) when combined with borderline iodine deficiency.

Philippe Grandjean, one of the authors of the Harvard analysis puts these findings into perspective in his book, Only One Chance, explaining that a shift down of 5 IQ points doubles the number of mentally handicapped in the population and halve the number of exceptionally gifted in the population. This can have serious social consequences and also deliver a blow to the future of our competiveness in the global economy.

“These findings offer no adequate margin of safety to protect all our children from impaired intellectual development from the combined exposure to sulfuryl fluoride residues and other sources of fluoride. The thought that we are taking these risks to satisfy Dow’s thirst for profit is both intolerable socially, and highly shortsighted from an economic perspective,” says Professor Paul Connett,Ph.D., who heads up the Fluoride Action Network. “Our kids are already getting far too much fluoride as evidenced by the fact that 41 percent of all American children aged 12 through 15 have some form of dental fluorosis a tell-tale sign that they have experienced the early signs of fluoride poisoning,” he adds, citing 2010 Center for Disease Control (CDC) data.

But brain-power is not the only thing at risk. Fluoride is persistent and bioaccumulates in the human body, posing the risk of a number of health problems to the public, including arthritis, hip fractures, bone cancer, kidney damage, infertility, and brain disorders.

Alternatives and Organic

Though conventional farming and the chemical agribusiness would have American consumers, and their elected officials, believe that there are no alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride, but for an equally as problematic fumigant, methyl bromide, the fact is that only the U.S. and Australia apply this fumigant directly to food. “The rest of the world has shown that sulfuryl fluoride is not necessary for the safe storage and handling of our food supply, given the availability of other methods –including temperature manipulation (heating and cooling), atmospheric controls (low oxygen and fumigation with carbon dioxide), biological controls (pheromones), and less toxic chemical controls (diatomaceous earth), all successfully used in organic production,” notes Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

One solution that once again places the burden on parents and consumers to take matters of food safety into their own hands is to buy organic. Sulfuryl fluoride is a prohibited from use in and around organic food, as is methyl bromide. Supporting organic and keeping organic strong against constant attempts to weaken its standards provides families the only option to show legislators, regulators, and industry alike that protecting the health of children and all consumers matters.

For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.

Source: Fluoride Action Network

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



Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2014) People with high levels of exposure to the banned insecticide DDT are four times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than people with low levels, according to a new study of patients in Georgia and Texas. The research is among the first to report a connection between Alzheimer’s disease, which is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease, and chemicals in the environment.Portrait of Worried Senior Couple

The traces of the insecticide found in the study’s Alzheimer’s patients are comparable to the amounts found in most Americans today. Although it was banned more than 40 years ago in the U.S., DDT still persists in the environment worldwide and is still used today in developing countries for malaria abatement programs.

“Our findings suggest that genetically susceptible individuals with higher levels of DDT exposure may be more at risk,” said Jason Richardson, PhD, a Rutgers University researcher who led the study.

The case-control study consisting of existing samples from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and control participants from the Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center measured serum levels of DDE in 79 control and 86 Alzheimer’s disease cases. Levels of DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, were 3.8 times higher in people who had the disease than in those who did not, according to the study, “Elevated Serum Pesticide Levels and Risk for Alzheimer Disease,” which was published in JAMA Neurology. Participants with the highest DDE levels were 4.18 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s than those with the lowest levels.

The researchers also found that people with both risk factors –high exposure and genetic susceptibility– “might have a more severe form of the disease,” Dr. Richardson said. Patients scored lower on a mental test if they had the highest DDE levels and a particular genetic variation associated with Alzheimer’s than if they had high DDE but did not have the genetic factor.

Seventy percent of the non-Alzheimer’s patients had detectable DDE in their blood, compared with 80 percent of the Alzheimer’s patients. Nationwide, 75 to 80 percent of all Americans tested have measurable levels in their blood. Because some of the Alzheimer’s patients had no DDE and some without the disease had high levels, the study “suggests that exposure to DDE may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease only in a subset of cases, perhaps those with genetic polymorphisms that render them more susceptible to DDT/DDE exposure,” the authors wrote.

More than 5 million people in the U.S. alone are living with Alzheimer’s, and cases are expected to triple over the next few decades. In recent decades, Alzheimer’s research has focused heavily on finding genetic causes of the disease. But fewer than half of cases can be blamed on genes alone, and researchers are now looking at how lifestyle and environmental factors may interact with genetic factors. According to Dr. Richardson, it is likely that any environmental exposures that may have contributed to the disease happened long before the patients had symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a slow-moving disease that develops over the course of decades. Because DDT takes many years to break down and leave the body, “results suggest that cumulative lifetime exposures may be important.”

The findings build upon previous research in which elevated levels of DDE were detected in the blood of 20 Alzheimer’s patients. While only a few studies have looked at potential environmental risk factors for Alzheimer’s, researchers have found links between pesticides and Parkinson’s, another degenerative brain disease. It is unclear whether there are periods early in life during which exposures to certain chemicals in the environment would be more likely to increase a person’s risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s.

DDT already has been linked in other studies to reduced fertility, diabetes, and other health effects. But little has been known about its potential effects on the brain. A recent study reports that DDT affects multiple generations, ultimately contributing to obesity three generations down the line. However, the adverse impacts to humans —including cancer, reproductive disease, neurological disease, developmental problems, diabetes and now Alzheimer’s disease— paint a cautionary tale that long-banned pesticides continue to impact human health and the environment.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

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



State Bill to Overturn Local GE and Pesticide Limits Introduced in Hawaii

Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2014) In the latest attempt to suppress the voice of local communities and scuttle the implementation of laws to protect health and the environment, last week a bill was introduced in the Hawaii State House of Representatives that will preempt (block) local governments from restricting the use of hazardous pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops. Though House Bill 2506 is being promoted as the expansion of the state’s “Right-to-Farm Act,” the bill will prevent the implementation of new laws recently passed in Kauai and Hawaii County. Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser explained to The Garden Island, “Both of these bills take away 100 percent of the authority of the county to regulate agriculture, which includes pesticides. It is without question an attempt to nullify Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491), as well as the ordinance passed on the Big Island.”

KauaiActivismLocal communities in the Hawaiian Islands fought a number of hard-won battles last year against intrusions by agrichemical companies spraying pesticides and planting GE crops near where they work, live, and go to school. After massive outpourings of public support, numerous late-night council sessions, and overcoming a mayoral veto, Kauai County passed Bill 2491. Kauai’s Ordinance 960 requires public disclosure of pesticides and GE crop locations, buffer zones around sensitive environmental sites, such as schools, hospitals and shorelines, and an Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study on the utilization of pesticides and GE crops by the giant agrichemical companies on the island.

On the heels of Kauai’s victory, Mayor Billy Kenoi of Hawaii’s Big Island signed Bill 113 into law, restricting the planting of any new GE crops. “With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching,” said the Mayor in a letter to the Hawaii County Council.

The Hawaiian Islands provide some of the most fertile growing conditions on the planet, allowing agrichemical companies to plant up to three seasons of corn in one year. However, along with the continuous planting of corn and other GE crops is the continuous use of herbicides that these crops are modified to withstand. GE agriculture puts farmers on the pesticide treadmill. After farmers begin routinely spraying herbicides, weeds develop resistance to the chemical, requiring increased amounts of herbicides. According to a 2012 study, the use of herbicides required to deal with resistant “superweeds” grew from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to 90 million pounds in 2011. But it doesn’t stop there. Now, agrichemical companies have gone to the back of the toolshed, resorting to older and increasingly toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, half of the mixture that made up the deadly defoliant Agent Orange, which was sprayed during the Vietnam War. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended that these 2,4-D crops be allowed on to market despite evidence already showing resistance in certain areas of the county and serious concerns about human and environmental health.

Most herbicide-resistant GE crops don’t produce their own insecticide, like some GE crops do, so along with a regular dousing of herbicides is the frequent use of toxic insecticides such as chlopyrifos, a potent neurotoxin (banned for most residential use due to risks to children) that has been used on corn fields near schools in Kauai while children were in school. Concerned schoolteachers and parents have documented proof of this occurring in a Syngenta field despite assurances from the company that it would wait until after the school day is out. See the video here.

Kauai’s Ordinance 960 takes steps to prevent trespass by implementing commonsense, health-protective pesticide buffer zones around sensitive sites such as hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. The ordinance promotes accountability by requiring agrichemical companies to disclose where they are spaying pesticides and planting GE crops. Hawaii County’s Bill 113 would also prevent pesticide incidents from occurring by stopping the growth of the agrichemical industry and their new, more dangerous GE crops on the Big Island.

State legislators should take heed and recognize the importance of these local ordinances. Advocates have argued that the “Right-to-Farm” for private profit should never trump a community’s right to freedom from hazardous chemicals.

Agrichemical companies are suing the Kauai County government to stop the implementation of Ordinance 960, claiming that the state law already preempts the county from taking action. However, as Beyond Pesticides pointed out in a recent Pesticides and You article entitled “State Preemption Law,” Hawaii is one of seven states that currently do not have regulations that would preempt local ordinances from enacting requirements more strict than the state’s. Hawaii House Bill 2506 would reverse that and roll back the right of local communities to take a stand against inadequate state and federal pesticide regulations. You can submit testimony on HB2506 by going to this link.

For more information on the fight for pesticide protections in the Hawaiian Islands, see Beyond Pesticides’ past Daily News articles and read Beyond Pesticides’ testimony on Bill 2491. For more information on the failed promises of GE agriculture, read “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market,” or see Beyond Pesticides’ website on Genetic Engineering.

Source: The Garden Island

Image Source: Flikr

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




Goats Help to Prevent Wildfires in California

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 201) During the worst drought that California has seen in 100 years , goats are being used to clear brush, a fire hazard, on several acres  of city property in Anaheim, California. This is not the first city in California to use goats to limit the dangers of wildfires; Auburn California also used them last September. Goats are an extremely efficient way to clear brush and are used in many landscape settings beyond fire hazardous brush.

During the week of January 13-17, Anaheim Fire and Rescue and the Department of Public Works contracted Environmental Land Management to clear six acres of brush along a right-of-way  using close to 100 goats. This method of ecological brush control was specifically chosen because it is a safer way to eliminate the wildfire dangers that dry brush can create.  Other common methods of brush control, such as mowing, can cause problems in dry conditions by creating sparks and inadvertently start fires. The goats were also used in hilly areas of East Anaheim, which are difficult to clear using mowers. This method of brush clearing is extremely efficient and contracting goats cost the city only $5,000 dollars, one-third less than mechanical methods. The use of goats was also enjoyed by the community. According to a city press release, the animals gave “spectators a fun, visual experience as the goats enjoy their meal.”Grazing Goat

Goats have been used before in California to manage fire prone areas. In September, the utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) used over 900 goats to clear weeds and dried brush on 100 acres of its property in Auburn, California. Four years ago a fire in Auburn, California burned 340 acres, destroying 66 homes and 3 commercial buildings. Residents were worried that another fire was possible on the hillside that was grazed by the goats.

PG&E land consultant Jack Harvey was quoted in a PG&E press release saying, “This project has been very successful and economical.  Given that the goats have exceeded in meeting the intent I hope to see this program used more in the future.”

Goats have also been used for general weed management. Recently, goats were used to control poison ivy, ground cover, vines and other invasive weeds at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Goats have also been used in Durango, Colorado to manage weeds, restore soil, and improve land quality on a 65-acre oil field, and at airports in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco, where overgrown property on hills and in standing water are difficult to reach by machinery and pesticide applicators.

Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate for the use of goats and grazing animals as an ecological solution for weed management. Goats are often more efficient at eradicating weeds, and are always more environmentally sustainable than using harmful pesticides and chemicals. Goats consume everything from shrubs and weeds to thistles and poisonous plants. They can graze up hills and down gullies that are too steep for mowers or machines. As they eat, the goats ensure that weeds do not go to seed. By snapping off flower heads and eating off all the leaves, weeds cannot photosynthesize sunlight to build a root system.

For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies, see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes and Invasive Weed Management pages. Lani Malmberg, a Beyond Pesticides board member and owner of  Ewe4ic Ecological Services, a goat grazing service, will be speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities –People, pollinators and practices. The annual conference will be held in Portland, Oregon April 11-12, 2014, at Portland State University in conjunction with Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.  For more information, see the National Pesticide Forum website.

Source: NBC Los Angles

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



Groups Call on Obama to Require National GE Labeling Laws

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2014) U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) joined other members of Congress, along with more than 200 businesses and organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, in petitioning President Obama to adopt labeling requirements for genetically engineered (GE) foods. The letter encourages the president to fulfill his campaign pledge made in 2007 to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt a national mandatory labeling system.

“It’s time the FDA’s policies reflected 21st century food technologies,” said Rep DeFazio in a press conference last Thursday. “After all, twenty years ago they didn’t have corn that could produce its own insecticides.”

In April 2013, Rep. DeFazio and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation that requires FDA to label GE food, under the proposed Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. The bill now has 50 cosponsors. “Two state legislatures have already approved GE labeling and more than 20 other states are considering GE labeling laws,” the letter reads, referring to the GE labeling laws passed in Connecticut and Maine.

“Plain and simple, this is about consumer rights,” said Rep. DeFazio. “People should have the ability to make an informed choice about what they feed their family and we know it’s not an impossible request of food manufacturers, because they already label GMOs in more than sixty countries. Food manufacturers can and should offer that same standard right here in the U.S.”

Many countries, including the European Union and Japan, have banned planting of GE crops outright and more than 60 other countries already require GE labeling. “We know it can be done,” said Rep. DeFazio. Consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and the human health. Repeated spraying herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, demonstrably destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects, directly harms amphibians, and leads to resistance in weed species the GE technology was intended to control. With the significant issue of herbicide resistance, farmers have resorted to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals, despite the presence of organic management practices that are protective of human health and the environment and produce the same yield. Thus, for a multitude of reasons, consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the products they are purchasing.

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

Sources: Statesman Journal, Oregon Public Broadcasting



Oregon Group Uses Mushrooms for Bioremediation

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2014) Putting ideas into action, an Oregon-based restoration nonprofit group, Ocean Blue Project, is harnessing the power of mushrooms to clean up pesticides and other pollutants that plague Oregon and national waterways. Yes, mushrooms.

The test project launched Sunday, January 19 on the banks of Sequoia Creek, a tributary to the Willamette River. Using recycled burlap bags filled with used coffee grounds, straw, and yellow oyster mushroom spawn, the purpose of the unusual potpourri will be to harness the extremely effective filtering capabilities of mycelium.

A kind of root system for fungi, mycelium demonstrate a wide variety of biological powers, from breaking down oil, pesticides, and harmful bacteria to acting as natural pesticides against some of the most problematic pests.

Paul Stamets, a leading expert on the power of mushrooms and former speaker at Beyond Pesticides’ National Pesticide Forum in 2006, has a word for the natural properties of fungi to fight human-made pollution: mycorestoration. As Mr. Stamets explained to Discover Magazine in 2013, “Oyster mushrooms, for example, can digest the complex hydrocarbons in wood, so they can also be used to break down petroleum byproducts. Garden Giants use their mycelia to trap and eat bacteria, so they can filter E. coli from agricultural runoff.”

Richard Arterbury, president of the Ocean Blue Project, agrees. Mr. Arterbury explained to reporters at Corvallis Gazette-Times, that the technique could potentially be a low-cost way to use biologic processes to reduce pollution in waterways. Mr. Arterbury thinks the project has huge potential. “If you put enough of these bags by the Willamette River it could potentially change the river,” he said.

Pesticides in Water

And change is needed not just in Oregon. Waterways in the U.S. are increasingly imperiled from various agents, including agricultural and industrial discharges, nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus), and biological agents such as pathogens. Pesticides discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants have the potential to accumulate in the fish we eat and the water we drink. As pesticide use escalates and waterways and drinking water become increasingly polluted with unregulated contaminants like pesticides and other toxicants, low-cost and natural alternatives for restoring waterways are desperately needed. For more information on the impacts of pesticides on waterways and what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters webpage.

Discussing innovative new practices and alternatives to address pesticide contamination will be just one of the many exciting topics at this year’s 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices. Please join Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions April 11-12, 2014 in Portland, Oregon, to help communities everywhere make strides in reducing pesticides and moving communities everywhere towards a more sustainable future.

Source: Corvallis Gazette-Times, TED

Photo Courtesy: Jesse Skoubo, Corvallis Gazette-Times

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



Exposure to Pesticides Results in Smaller Worker Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2014) Exposure to a widely used pesticide causes worker bumblebees to grow less and then hatch out at a smaller size, according to a new study by Royal Holloway University of London.

The research, published this week in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reveals that prolonged exposure to a pyrethroid pesticide, which is used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage, reduces the size of individual bees produced by a colony.

The researchers, Gemma Baron, Dr Nigel Raine and Professor Mark Brown from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway worked with colonies of bumblebees in their laboratory and exposed half of them to the pesticide.

The scientists tracked how the bee colonies grew over a four month period, recording their size and weighing bees on micro-scales, as well as monitoring the number of queens and male bees produced by the colony.

“We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging. Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers,” says researcher Gemma Baron from Royal Holloway.

The study is the first to examine the impact of pyrethroid pesticides across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees. The topical research is at the heart of a national  Bee Health Conference  running in London from Wednesday to Friday this week (22-24 January 2014).

Professor Mark Brown said, “Bumblebees are essential to our food chain so it’s critical we understand how wild bees might be impacted by the chemicals we are putting into the environment. We know we have to protect plants from insect damage but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process.”

Given the current EU moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides, the use of other classes of pesticide, including pyrethroids, is likely to increase in chemical-dependent land management systems.

Dr Nigel Raine, who is an Invited speaker at this week’s bee conference, said, “Our work provides a significant step forward in understanding the detrimental impact of pesticides other than neonicotinoids on wild bees. Further studies using colonies placed in the field are essential to understand the full impacts, and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments.”

The study was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) PhD studentship, and the Insect Pollinators Initiative (joint-funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Defra, NERC, the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust. It is managed under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership). Contact: Paul Teed,  paul.teed@rhul.ac.uk, 01-784-443-967, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Source: Royal Holloway, University of London



Minnesota Takes Steps to Protect Bees, Beekeepers Demand Stronger Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2013) Two Minnesota state agencies are creating plans they say will address declining pollinator populations in the state. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is developing best management practices for managing and increasing pollinator habitat and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is developing a plan to study the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. Critics of the state’s plan say that there is no more need to study the effects of neonicotinoids because the negative impacts they have on pollinators has been already studied extensively.



The DNR is developing guidelines to improve habitat for pollinator insects. Recent reports show that the planting of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops is responsible for habitat loss and the decline of native pollinators like the Monarch butterfly. The expansion of glyphosate tolerant GE corn and soybean cropland has allowed farmers to kill milkweed, the primary source of food for Monarchs, which historically grew between crop rows in the Midwest. A rapid expansion of farmland —more than 25 million new acres in the U.S. since 2007— has also eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the Monarchs with milkweed. DNR officials have indicated this guide could change where grassland is burned or mowed, or add more plants as habitats for pollinators. DNR may also work in the future with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to incorporate native wildflowers into roadside right-of-ways to increase pollinator habitat.

The MDA also gave the Legislature a report on Wednesday outlining, among other issues, a plan to study the use of neonicotinoids and their impacts on pollinators. The report was developed in response to the 2013 Pollinator Legislation H.F. 976. The specific risk neonicotinoids pose to pollinators will be the focus of the review, and will include a summary of research into neonicotinoid hazards to a variety of pollinator species in crop production and garden/landscape settings, and the related risks of biodiversity maintenance and ecological balance in natural ecosystems. The review will also include an overview of the effects residue accumulation in pollen, nectar, guttation droplets, and other pollinator exposure pathways associated with treated plants. According to MDA, special chemical reviews can take six months or more. Though it is important for states to take action to study these chemicals beyond the flawed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration process, extensive scientific research has already assessed the hazards that these chemicals pose to pollinator species.

Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co. in Minnesota, expressed his frustration in a Public New Service article, saying, “We’ve already got 150 scientific papers that implicate the neonicitinoids in the bee decline. I’m not really sure we need more than that. It’s time in the United States that we took action, and I would hope that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture would step up to the plate and become proactive.”

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

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

Beyond Pesticides through its BEE Protective campaign works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. As part of this campaign, Recently, Beyond Pesticides, as part of coalition, launched a national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides. To support our efforts to restrict bee-toxic pesticides, visit save-bees.org and sign the petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Source: CrookstonTimes

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



Atrazine Ban Will Result in an Economic Benefit to Farmers

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2014) A new economic study, Would banning atrazine benefit farmers?, published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health demonstrates that eliminating the herbicide atrazine, widely used on U.S. corn crops, will economically benefit corn growers. The study examines the research produced by the Atrazine Benefits Team (ABT), a group assembled by atrazine manufacturer Syngenta, revealing that the industry-funded studies significantly overestimate the benefits of atrazine without considering the value of nonchemical weed management techniques.

Research, led by Frank Ackerman, PhD., professor at Tufts University in the Global Development and Environment Institute, questions the economic viability of atrazine in Syngenta’s study. Researchers critically review five papers released by ABT in 2011, which claim that the withdrawal of atrazine would diminish corn yields by 4.4%, increasing corn prices by 8%. Using these assumptions, Dr. Ackerman and his team calculated that corn growers’ revenue would actually increase by 3.2%, providing a total of $1.7 billion to farmers and the U.S. economy with minimal price changes for consumers. In short, because of price elasticity, eliminating atrazine would improve farmer revenues.

According to the study, “The result [of an atrazine ban] would be an increase in corn growers’ revenues, equal to US$1·7 billion annually under ABT assumptions. Price impacts on consumers would be minimal: at current levels of ethanol production and use, gasoline prices would rise by no more than US$0·03 per gallon; beef prices would rise by an estimated US$0·01 for a 4-ounce hamburger and US$0·05 for an 8-ounce steak. Thus withdrawal of atrazine would boost farm revenues, while only changing consumer prices by pennies.”

Additionally, the paper criticizes ABT conclusions that overstated the effectiveness of atrazine and completely ignored non-chemical alternatives. Indeed, the widespread use of chemicals like atrazine, according to the study, “has created a situation favoring the emergence and proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds.” The study finds, “Multiple factors, including the spread of resistance to both glyphosate and atrazine, the desire to reduce chemical costs, and concerns about health and ecosystem impacts of the herbicides, have led producers to consider low chemical or no- chemical IWM [integrated weed management] strategies.” These established and practical alternatives, however, were simply not considered by ABT’s analysis.

Thus, the study concludes that eliminating atrazine and opting for proven alternatives would not only improve farmer revenues but also avoid costs to human health and the environment. “The winners,” the authors conclude, “in an atrazine free future would include farm worker, farmers and their families, and other who are exposed to atrazine either directly from field uses or indirectly from contaminated tap water along with natural ecosystem that are currently damaged by atrazine.”

Indeed, because atrazine is used on up to 85% of all corn crops in the U.S. each year —second only to the active ingredient glyphosate— it is pervasive within the environment, including municipal drinking water. It is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, with an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine applied in the U.S. annually. It has been linked to a myriad of environmental concerns and health problems in humans, including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer, as well as effects on human reproductive systems, as we have noted.

In 2011, EPA published a petition to ban atrazine. Beyond Pesticides submitted comments last year in support of this petition in which we outline in detail the numerous reasons that this chemical is harmful and unnecessary. Syngenta was forced to pay $105 million in 2012 as part of a settlement to reimburse community water systems in 45 states that had to filter atrazine from its drinking water. However, according to reports on the settlement, Syngenta is neither accepting contamination responsibility nor acknowledging hazards associated with its product.

Currently, you can avoid eating food grown with harmful synthetic pesticides by eating organic. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page.

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

Source: International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health