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23
May

Oregon Counties Ban Planting of Genetically Engineered Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2014) Residents in two Oregon counties, Jackson and Josephine, voted to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of genetically engineered (GE) crops within the counties’ borders Tuesday. The Jackson County measure 15-119, passed with 66 percent of the vote, while Josephine County passed with 58 percent. As noted by Reuters, the newly approved measures mandate that people “harvest, destroy or remove all genetically engineered plants” no later than 12 months after the ordinances go into effect. This is great news for farmers of organic and non-genetically engineered crops, who constantly struggle with the threat of GE contamination.

Though there are less than 120,000 registered voters in Jackson County, the measure gained national attention due to the fact that opponents raised over $830,000 to advertise againstthe measure, with over 97% of the funding coming in from outside of the county, including over $450,000 from biotech giant Monsanto and five other corporations to defeat the initiative. For comparison, the previous county spending record on a ballot initiative was $111,000.

“We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live.

Though the ordinances were approved overwhelmingly, organizers expect the biotech industry and its backers in Congress to challenge this win. In fact, Oregon already passed a law last fall that says only the state can regulate seeds. The bill was pushed at the behest of out-of-state chemical companies, and is a model bill from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), previously introduced in other states. Jackson County’s proposal was already in the works so it was granted an exemption, however Josephine County will be challenged in court.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill in Congress that would prohibit states from implementing mandatory labeling laws by giving the authority to label GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Accurately dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” or DARK Act, HR 4432 it would also allow food companies to give products with GE ingredients the “natural” label, despite the fact that there is nothing natural about crops engineered in a lab to produce their own insecticide or tolerate dangerous herbicides.

GE crops pose serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased risk of infertility. Similarly, weed resistance has been documented in herbicide-tolerant crops. Furthermore, there is little evidence of the economic benefits that biotech companies claim.

Efforts to curb GE crop cultivation in the U.S. through all-out bans are few and far between, however many states have attempted to pass GE labeling laws. Vermont became the first successful state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of food containing GE ingredients. The bill does not contain a trigger provision similar to laws adopted in Maine and Connecticut –with a requirement that similar action is taken in contiguous states before the law goes into effect.

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

Source: Our Family Farms Coalition

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

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22
May

Minnesota Bans Hazardous Antibacterial (Triclosan) in Consumer Personal Care Cleaning Products

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2014) The highly toxic and controversial antibacterial/antimicrobial pesticide triclosan has been banned from consumer personal care cleaning products in the state of Minnesota by an act of the state legislature. This public health measure, SF 2192, signed by the Governor last week, states that “no person shall offer for retail sale in Minnesota any cleaning product that that contains triclosan and is used by consumers for sanitizing or hand and body cleansing.” The ban, along with the growing number of companies voluntarily removing triclosan from their products, responds to the concerns that environmental groups, led by Beyond Pesticides, have expressed on the health and environmental impacts of triclosan, which includes cross-resistance to bacterial infections with antibiotics. Over the last week the Minnesota legislature has been on a roll in defending the environment and human health from the toxic effects of synthetic pesticides, including the enactment of labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers about bee-friendly plants. 

The triclosan ban legislation, which will take effect on January 1, 2017, was signed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on May 16, 2014 after it had passed both the House and Senate the week previously. One of the legislation’s lead sponsors, state Senator John Marty, predicted Monday that the odds are good that most manufacturers will phase out triclosan by then as a result of this effort and other marketplace pressure.

“While this is an effort to ban triclosan from one of the 50 states, I think it will have a greater impact than that,” Mr. Marty was quoted saying in a CBC news piece.

Minnesota has been a leader in the fight to remove triclosan from consumer products. In 2013, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that state agencies were ordered by Governor Dayton to stop buying products that contain triclosan. The administrative ban went into effect last June. The state government, about 100 school districts, and local governments together currently buy about $1 million worth of cleaning products annually through joint purchasing contracts.

These policy changes in Minnesota come after a recent study showed triclosan toxicants accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota. Scientists tested eight sediment samples from freshwater lakes across Minnesota, including Lake Superior and found triclosan in all of the sediment tested.

Triclosan has been used for over 30 years in the U.S., mostly in a medical setting, but more recently in consumer products. Its original uses were confined mostly to health care settings, having  been introduced as a surgical scrub in 1972. Over the last decade, there has been a rapid increase in the use of triclosan-containing consumer products. A marketplace study in 2000 by Eli Perencevich, M.D. and colleagues found that over 75% of liquid soaps and nearly 30% of bar soaps (45% of all the soaps on the market) contain some type of antibacterial agent. Triclosan is the most common agent found, and was discovered in nearly half of all commercial soaps. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human breast milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found triclosan to be present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004. Unaffected by this legislation are the extensive triclosan uses, under the name microban, in a wide range of consumer products made of plastic and textiles, from hair brushes, cutting boards, computer keyboard to socks and underwear. FDA has oversight over cosmetic (personal care cleaning) products containing triclosan and EPA has jurisdiction over non-cosmetic consumer products.

Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function.

Several companies have begun to phase out triclosan as the public becomes more aware of the health and environmental concerns that surround the chemical. Additionally, municipal utility districts have raised concerns because of equipment and cost associated with removing triclosan from community waste water.  Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for a couple years now. Avon joined these companies earlier in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it.  Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating.

Groups like Beyond Pesticides have been calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) for years to immediately ban triclosan from consumer products, citing endocrine disruption, and other human health concerns. Last December, FDA announced it will now require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective. The agency is accepting public comments until June 16, 2014. Submit your comment here.

EPA also published in 2013 a final rule to revise and update use patterns and data requirements for antimicrobial pesticides. The new rule has eleven new data requirements for these chemicals. Even though this rule points regulators in the right direction on further evaluations of antimicrobial pesticides, data gaps still remain. Earlier, Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch had petitioned FDA and EPA to ban triclosan from consumer products under their respective jurisdictions, arguing that there is sufficient data on hazards and exposure to warrant severe regulation restrictions.

Beyond Pesticides urges concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

See the Beyond Pesticides’ video, Triclosan 101, with Allison Aiello, PhD discussing the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, its efficacy, and potential health impacts as part of the Pesticides and Health Panel at “Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments,” Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31, 2012, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

For more general and background information, see Beyond Pesticides’ triclosan page.

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

Source: CBC News

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21
May

Minnesota Passes Bill to Label Garden Plants for Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2014) In response to recent public concern over the use of bee-killing systemic insecticides in treated nursery plants, Minnesota has just passed labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers which plants are bee-friendly. The move follows a commitment by two Minnesota state agencies to study the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides, which —given mounting research implicating neonicotinoids in bee declines— beekeepers claim do not go far enough. Although the bill does not address agricultural neonicotinoid use, it is the first of its kind to ensure that nurseries keep tabs on the insecticides used on garden plants.

beeUnder the bill passed by Minnesota’s House and Senate last week, plants may not be labeled as beneficial to pollinators if they have been treated with detectible levels of systemic insecticides. Specifically, “A person may not label or advertise an annual plant, bedding plant, or other plant, plant material, or nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the annual plant, bedding plant, plant material, or nursery stock has been treated with and has a detectable level of systemic insecticide that: (1) has a pollinator protection box on the label; or (2) has a pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement in the environmental hazards section of the insecticide product label.” The bill is effective as of July 1, 2014.

In short, “Nurseries to stay in business will have to pay attention to this new strong consumer demand,” said University of Minnesota entomology professor and bee expert Marla Spivak, PhD.

Further, beekeeper compensation legislation, which is part of an omnibus finance bill, has also been passed in Minnesota. The bill creates an emergency response team to respond to honey bee losses that are suspected to be pesticide-related, and beekeepers will receive compensation for bee-kills caused by pesticide exposure.

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

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

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

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

Take Action: Join Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign

Source: Minnesota Public Radio News

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

 

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20
May

Pesticide Manufacturers Sued over Golf Course Superintendent’s Death

(Beyond Pesticides, May 20, 2014) Pittsburgh sportscaster Rich Walsh is suing multinational chemical companies after his father’s untimely death from cancer in 2009. According to a story from local Pittsburgh station WTAE, Mr. Walsh’s father, Tom Walsh, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2008, after a career as a golf course superintendent. “He loved golf. He loved working outside. He loved to take care of golf courses,” Rich told WTAE. Rich’s lawsuit was filed against Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, BASF, Syngenta, Dow Agroscience, Deere and Company, and John Deere Landscapes in 2010.

Genetic testing from Tom’s oncologist showed chromosomal alterations as a result of years of working with pesticides, the only chemicals Mr. Walsh ever worked with. Part of the log books he kept throughout his career included the pesticides he applied, which included the insecticides Dylox and Dursban, active ingredients trichlorfon and chlorpyrifos respectively, and the fungicides Daconil and Chipco, active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. All of these chemicals have been shown to be likely carcinogens, according to Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Gateway or Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. Chlorpyrifos, for instance, was banned for homeowner use back in 2001, but uses on agriculture and golf courses were allowed to continue despite objections from health and environmental advocates.

Chemical company comments to WTAE followed a familiar line of denial and obfuscation, with Monsanto stating, “The complaint provides no evidence or rationale for asserting that Monsanto products were in any way responsible for Mr. Walsh’s condition.” On Tom Walsh’s oncologists work, Bayer CropScience wrote in one document that, “On its face, that ‘methodology’ is at best, novel science, and, at worst, no science at all.”

Despite pesticide manufacturer statements, studies show that golf course superintendents are at particular risk from exposure to pesticides. A 1996 study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine titled “Proportionate mortality study of golf course superintendents” found elevated rates of a number of different types of cancer. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part B Critical Reviews titled “Carcinogenic and genotoxic potential of turf pesticides commonly used on golf courses” summarized that “There appears to be convincing in vitro and in vivo laboratory and epidemiological evidence to support the claim that under certain circumstances, iprodione, chlorothalonil, PMA, and 2,4-D have been associated with cancer in humans and animals.”

Beyond Pesticides’ executive director Jay Feldman was interviewed by WTAE, and noted on pesticide manufacturer’s allegations that, “When you call these types of conclusions junk science then you’re basically ignoring the body of scientific literature. You see incredible connections between brain cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, with a lot of these chemicals that are used in turf management.”

Mr. Walsh notes that his father took the proper precautions, including wearing the required personal protective equipment, around the pesticides he used. “You do what the chemical companies tell you to do but it still didn’t save my dad’s life,” he said to WTAE. Under current statutes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows a certain amount of risk, which they deem “reasonable,” even when pesticide labels are followed as directed. The interpretation of what risk is “reasonable” varies considerably. EPA will often deem a cancer risk of one in a million as “acceptable,” but may sometimes allow risks of one in 10,000. The difference in orders of magnitude means the difference between 300 cancer cases and 30,000 cancer cases from a single pesticide nationwide.

In light of these concerning statistics and rising awareness of the hazards associated with pesticide use in golf, many courses in Pittsburgh and across the country are transitioning to organic practices. Rich Walsh now owns one of the courses employing safer, organic methods of turf maintenance in his Rolling Fields golf course located in Murrysville, PA. Rich told WTAE that he hopes something positive will come from the lawsuit. When asked whether he was trying to send a message with his lawsuit, Rich responded, “Yeah. I don’t know if one person can do it but I’m going to try.”

Beyond Pesticides receives calls every day from people across the country, including families like The Frandsen’s of Utah, who associate serious health issues with pesticide exposure. Those affected can fill out a pesticide incident report form and send it in to Beyond Pesticides by mail at 701 E St SE Washington DC 20003 or email at info@beyondpesticides.org.

For more information on the hazards associated with pesticide use on golf courses and the trend towards organic practices, see Beyond Pesticides’ Golf and the Environment program page. There you can read about another poisoned golf course worker, Steve Herzog, who spoke out in summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You on long-term contamination at the golf course where he worked as a groundskeeper. You can also read the interview with Beyond Pesticides’ executive director Jay Feldman in Golf Digest, titled “How Green is Golf?”

 Source: WTAE Pittsburgh Local 4 News

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19
May

Videos Offer Tools for Protecting Health and the Environment, Advancing Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2014) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce that videos from Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, held April 11-12, 2014 in Portland, OR are now available to view online! The Forum, 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 and regional organizations in the Pacific Northwest, brought together a diverse range of expertise to share the latest science and organic management techniques as the basis for urging action in communities and states. The videos cover the range of topics that were discussed at the Forum and include keynote speeches, panel discussions, and workshops. You can access the playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2014 forum, as well as previous years, on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

Notable presentations include:

Cultivating an Ecological Conscience, by Fred Kirschenmann. Dr. Kirschenmann is a longtime leader in sustainable agriculture, and was recently named as one of the first ten James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards which recognizes visionaries in creating more healthful, more sustainable, and safer food systems. He currently serves as both a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and as President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. An author, fellow and soil scientist, he also helps manage his family’s 2600 acre organic farm in south central North Dakota.

Ecological Land Management with Goats by Lani Malmberg, who is a self-proclaimed “gypsy” goat herder, has spent her life working with goats that provide non-toxic noxious weed control, simultaneously reducing tinder for fires and building soil nutrients through fertilization. Owner of the goat grazing business Ewe4ic Ecological Services based in Lander, Wyoming, and long-time Beyond Pesticides board member, Ms. Malmberg has been working toward organic land management practices through goat herding since 1997 when she bought her first hundred head of cashmere goats. Now she has more than 2,000 head of goats and has had federal contracts with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Rise of Systemic Insecticides: What does it mean for agriculture, pollinators, and the environment at large? by Pierre Mineau, PhD, principal senior scientist at Pierre Mineau Consulting, Ottawa, Canada. Dr. Mineau is a world renowned environmental toxicologist who co-wrote the report,The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds.

Protecting Children from Pesticide Exposure, by James Roberts, MD, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ landmark policy statement and report on the effects of pesticide exposure in children. Dr. Roberts is professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, SC.

Also included are several workshops, including, Organic Land Management: Practical tools and techniques, Pesticides and Health: An In-depth Discussion, Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture, and Protecting the Watershed. Be sure to visit the full playlist to see the rest of the videos.

While Beyond Pesticides encourages activists, community leaders, scientists, and policy makers to attend its annual National Pesticide Forum in person to get together, share information, and elevate the pesticide reform movement, the new online videos of many of the Forum’s sessions make a similar contribution for those unable to attend. Beyond Pesticides believes that sharing this information beyond the Forum as an educational and organizing tool will prove extremely valuable, and encourages readers of the Daily News blog to share the presentations with friends, community organizations, networks, and state and local decision makers.

The playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2014 Forum, as well as previous conferences are available on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

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

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16
May

Consumers Continue to Demand More Organics

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2014) A survey by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) finds that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace. A growing organic sector is important as it creates healthier options for consumers, better working conditions for farmworkers, and more sustainable environment. As organic continues to grow it is important to maintain our high organic standards to maintain consumer trust in the organic label.

According to the survey sales of organic products in the United States jumped to $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from the previous year’s $31.5 billion and the fastest growth rate in five years.  The survey also projects that growth rates over the next two years will at least keep pace with the 2013 clip and even slightly exceed it.

Sales of non-food organic products, at almost $2.8 billion, have jumped nearly eight-fold since 2002, and have almost doubled in market share. The growth rate of organic food sales, which has averaged almost 10% every year since 2010, has dwarfed the average annual growth of just over 3% in total food sales during that same period and now makes up 4 percent of the $760 annually spent on food. The fruit and vegetable category continues to lead the sector with $11.6 billion in sales, up 15%. With more than 10% of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now organic.

A growing organic sector is important for giving consumers healthier food to buy and for creating a safer work place for agricultural workers. An American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recent report on organic foods found that organic foods do provide health advantages by way of reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus.

Pesticides used in chemically intense agriculture also affect the health of farmworkers. Farmworkers, both pesticide applicators and fieldworkers who tend to and harvest the crops, come into frequent contact with pesticides. Their families and children are then exposed to these pesticides through contact with them and their clothing. Pregnant women working in the fields unwittingly expose their unborn babies to toxic pesticides. Organic agriculture does not utilize these toxic chemicals and thus eliminates this enormous health hazard to workers, their families, and their communities.

Organic agriculture also leads to a stronger environment. Recently, the Rodale Institute published a white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, which finds it is possible to sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which are referred to in the paper as “regenerative organic agriculture.”

It is important to protect the benefits that organic agriculture can provide by fighting to keep organic standards strong. During the recent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting several victories were won to maintain strong organic standards. During the meeting the board voted to uphold the phase out in apple and pear production of the antibiotic streptomycin, which is set to expire on October 21, 2014. The board also decided to send back to the Livestock Subcommittee a proposal to increase flexibility in the amount of methionine allowed in organic poultry production without an assurance that methionine will be reevaluated in five years under a standard as rigorous as the petition process. Those blocking the proposed methionine standard want a five-year expiration annotation attached to the proposal.

However, USDA in September announced dramatic changes to the process that governs organic standards and the review of allowable materials in organic production, as overseen by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) under the Organic Foods Production Act. Consumer and environmental groups have said that the new procedures create less rigorous review requirements, weakening the policies that have been in place for over 15 years and adopted by USDA without any public input or consultation with the NOSB. Take action to ensure a strong organic program and increasing public trust in the organic food label by logging on to Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page and following the suggested steps.

Source: OTA

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

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15
May

USDA Advances Biological Controls for Citrus Greening Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2014) Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is broadening the use of tiny parasitic wasps, Tamarixia Radiata, to combat the rampant problem of Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, which has killed thousands of orange trees in Florida. The citrus industry is valued at $2 billion dollars. Citrus greening is an incurable disease that is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. Symptoms of this disease include yellow shoots, uneven discolored patches, and deficiencies with chlorophyll production. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found within plants. It is extremely important for photosynthesis, which allows plants to absorb energy from the sun. The disease is usually found in warmer climates like Asia, India and the Saudi Arabian Peninsula; however, it made its way to Florida in 1998 and is now endangering California’s citrus industry.

USDA has already committed to provide $1.5 million dollars to the T. radiata breeding and release program in California, Texas, and Florida. Congress has also allocated more than $125 million dollars over the next five years to fund more research on containing the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid. Although the psyllids do not directly kill citrus trees, they are carriers of the disease, Huanglongbing. Alarmingly, these pests are being found more and more in prime citrus-growing areas, which could seriously harm California’s citrus industry, responsible for around 80% of fresh citrus fruit in the U.S.

“Citrus greening poses a significant threat to the citrus industry and the thousands of jobs that depend on it. It could also further drive up fruit and juice prices if we don’t act,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is committed to fighting and beating this destructive disease.”

In addition to threatening the citrus industry, the disease has caused significant difficultly between beekeepers and citrus farmers  who are combating the spread of the psyllid with toxic chemicals. Local beekeepers are worried over the increasing use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides, and citrus growers are concerned about the increasing population of Asian citrus psyllids. In September of last year, there was an organized meeting that brought together the Florida Agriculture Commissioner, a former U.S. Congressman, a citrus farmer, and beekeepers. Communication is a vital piece of this process, since beekeepers and citrus farmers rely on each other. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating several different types of citrus fruit, and they also forage within those same areas. While the Florida meeting focused on the accidental spraying of foraging bees, it did not address the systemic nature of neoncotinoid insecticides, which are taken up by the plants’ vascular system and are expressed in contaminated pollen and nectar. Clothianidin, a neoncotinoid, can last up to 19 years in the soil according to a recent study.

Fortunately, the use of these harmful pesticides are unnecessary, as biological agents. such as parasitic wasps, are proven effective. The wasps curb pysllid populations by laying their eggs inside the psyllid nymph’s stomach. As the eggs hatch, larvae slowly eats away at the nymph. This non-toxic, biological approach eliminates the use of lethal pesticides. Additionally, farm operations that are USDA certified organic already avoid the use of toxic chemicals by implementing organic systems plans that can include biological pest management.

To learn more about the policies and management strategies of organic agriculture, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page.

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

Source: The Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

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14
May

Sewage Sludge (Biosolids) Contaminants Move to Groundwater

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2014) New research conducted in Colorado by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) that examines contaminant transport of biosolids —otherwise known as sewage sludge— in soils, has found that the toxic fertilizer can leave traces of household chemicals, antibacterial, and prescription drugs. The research adds to existing evidence of the hazards of sewage sludge fertilizer by demonstrating that chemical contaminants are sufficiently mobile and persistent that they can easily be transported to groundwater, with implication for local drinking water.

The study, entitled Dissipation of Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Biosolids Applied to Nonirrigated Farmland in Eastern Colorado, sampled regional wheat fields treated with sewage sludge processed in a nearby sewage treatment plant in order to determine contaminant levels and transport in soils. Researchers tested for a total of 57 contaminants of emerging concerns—chemicals that are increasingly being discovered in waters. Tests found chemicals ranging from antibacterial soaps, chemical cleaners, cosmetics, fragrances, and prescription drugs, such as the antidepressant Prozac and the blood thinner Warfarin, which had migrated down the soil column. In fact, 10 of the chemicals examined migrated to depths of 7 to 50 inches over 18 months after treated sewage sludge was applied.

“These compounds are not sitting in top layer, we see vertical movement down through the soil, which means there’s the potential to get into the environment – groundwater or surface water,” said USGS research hydrologist Dana Kolpin, Ph.D.

Previous research has already established the presence of contaminants in sewage sludge ranging from hormones, detergents, fragrances, drugs, disinfectants and plasticizers —chemicals which are not eliminated during sewage treatment. However, USGS research provides further evidence of their persistence and mobility in the soil, never before been demonstrated.

“These are compounds that often come from us and that get sent to wastewater treatment plants that weren’t designed to remove them,” said lead author and hydrologist Tracy Yager, Ph.D.

Of all the chemicals tested, triclosan —an antibacterial compound added to soaps, toothpastes, body washes and cosmetics— was found at the highest concentrations in deeper soils, reaching 156 parts per billion in 7 to 14 inches of soil. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase risk for breast cancer. Triclosan is also shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in fish, umbilical cord blood, and human milk. Only recently has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule that requires manufacturers to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and effective.

Meanwhile, as farmers in arid regions increasingly turn to sewage sludge for fertilizer, the study gives significant cause for alarm as the majority of Colorado residents get part of their drinking water from private wells which are not treated or routinely monitored for contaminants.

USGS chemist and coauthor of the study, Edward Furlong, Ph.D., commented, “We’re not telling anyone what they should do, but this study gives farmers some information about what some of the impacts could be.”

The only surefire way to avoid food grown with biosolids is to buy USDA organic certified product. On your lawn and garden be sure to scrutinize any lawn fertilizers which claim to be “organic” or “natural” but list ingredients such as “biosolids,” “dried microbes,” or “activated sewage sludge.” For more information on the hazards of biosolids read Beyond Pesticides’ Biosolids or Biohazards?

Sources: Environmental Health News, Journal of the American Water Resources Association

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

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13
May

Fish and Wildlife Service Adopts Biological Mosquito Management

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2014) After pressure from environmental organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) dropped plans to spray the synthetic insecticide methoprene in favor of a biological control material to kill mosquitoes breeding on a national wildlife refuge on the southern Oregon Coast. Several states have banned methoprene due to the chemical’s environmental impacts. The unfolding of this decision illustrates that least-toxic alternatives to manage mosquitos are effective and much safer for the environment.

A major restoration at the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 2011 inadvertently created a number of shallow water pools, a perfect habitat for mosquito larvae. Unprecedented swarms of mosquitoes appeared last year, which drove away campers from Bullards Beach State Park and harassed golfers at local courses. FWS did not take into account that this restoration project could create mosquito habitat and initially released a plan to manage mosquitos with methoprene and mineral oil.

The insect conservation group Xerces Society, the Center for Food Safety, and others urged the agency to reconsider, arguing the pesticides were a threat to the food chain and the mosquitoes, Aedes dorsalis, did not spread human diseases such as West Nile virus. In a supplemental environmental assessment last month, the agency agreed to use the biological pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, known as Bti.

“After evaluating public comments … and discussion with mosquito experts, the Service determined that using Bti will effectively control mosquitoes on the Ni-les’tun Unit while posing a low risk to wildlife, their habitats, and the human environment,” FWS said in a statement.

Methoprene is an insect growth regulator that prevents development to the adult reproductive stages so that insects die in arrested immaturity. It is an insecticide that is acutely toxic to estuarine invertebrates, including valuable food and commercial species like crabs and lobsters. Methoprene has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the ocean water, where crabs and lobsters live and feed. Additionally, lobsters are a distant cousin of mosquitoes, and the methoprene acts on them in much the same way that it does the insects.

Some states have limited the use of methoprene because of its toxic effects on aquatic life. Last summer Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law House Bill 6441, which banned methoprene and resmethrin in coastal areas such as the Long Island Sound.  Declines in the Sound’s lobster population have been alarmingly common for the past 15 years, devastating fishermen and the local economy that depends on them. Connecticut legislators say that they were convinced that banning the two mosquito pesticides after learning that Rhode Island and Massachusetts had enacted similar bans with successful results. A similar bill to ban the use of methoprene was also introduced in Sufolk County, New York last summer.

As mosquito season begins again, take action in your community to advocate for safer and effective options in dealing with mosquitoes and insect-borne diseases. The ideal mosquito management strategy eschews chemical controls like methoprene, and employs an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Beyond Pesticides advises communities to adopt a preventive, health-based mosquito management plan, and has several resource publications on the issue, including the Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy: For Decision Makers and Communities. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ West Nile Virus/Mosquito Management for more details.

Source: The Register-Guard

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

 

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12
May

Pesticides, Not Mites or Pathogens, Major Cause of Honey Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2014) A study published in the Bulletin of Insectology substantially undercuts chemical industry arguments that neonicotinoid pesticides are not the primary contributing factor indead bee- fade Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The results find that hives exposed to low doses of two neonicotinoid pesticides—imidacloprid and clothianidin—do not recover from over winter losses from which control hives quickly rebound. Researchers also discount other possible causes of CCD commonly touted by industry like diet, parasites, and pathogens. The study adds to the already expansive literature that clearly links sublethal exposure neonicotinoid pesticides to rapid bee declines nationwide.

The study, Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder, was conducted in central Massachusetts during the 2012-2013 winter at three different locations with six bee colonies in each location. A third of the colonies were exposed to low doses of the pesticide imidacloprid, while another third were exposed to the pesticide clothianidin, both neonicotinoids, and the remainders were not treated. At each apiary the colonies were separated into two groups in which honey bees were fed with either sucrose water or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) over the study period.

During the fall and winter seasons, researchers found that honey bees declined in all 18 colonies, typical of the seasonal pattern. Come January, however, the number of treated bee colonies continued to decline while the untreated hive began to recover and the trend continued throughout the year. By April, the majority of bees in all neonicotinoid-treated colonies, regardless of whether they survived or not, had abandoned their hive during the winter —a symptom that typifies CCD. Control hives were repopulated quickly with new emerging bees.

In their discussion, researchers indicate that the results replicate previous studies relating to imidacloprid and reinforce the conclusion that sublethal exposure to neonicotinoids is a primary cause of CCD, minimizing the role of mites and pathogens. Indeed, the study found no significant difference in the degree of Varroa mite infection between non-treated and neonicotinoid-treated colonies. Additionally, the only hive effected with Nosema ceranae, an intestinal parasite, was a control hive and that the dead bees affected with this parasite did not abandon the hive. The study highlighted:

“It is imperative to emphasize that while pathogen infections are common and serious diseases found in honey bees that often lead to colony death, the post-mortem examinations of the pathogen- caused dead colonies are vastly different to those suffered from CCD.One of the defining symptomatic observations of CCD colonies is the emptiness of hives…. [Thus] the absence of dead bees in the neonicotinoid-treated colonies is remarkable and consistent with CCD symptoms.”

Colony Collapse Disorder is unlike other ailments that affect honey bees because worker bees simply disappear rapidly, never returning to the hive where the queen still lives with a small cluster of bees amidst pollen and honey stores in the presence of immature bees (brood). It has been reported that losses of honey bee colonies across 21 states in the winter of 2007-8 averaged 35 percent. This past winter over winter losses in Ohio were between 50 to 80 percent.

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

BEE Protective

On Earth Day 2013, Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety joined forces to launch the BEE Protective Campaign, with the goal of protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways to take action:

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

Sources: Bulletin of Insectology, Discover

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09
May

Take Back Organic: May 15 Deadline to Apply for Open Seats on the NOSB

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2014) Bring a strong voice to the Board that advises USDA on organic standards by filling one of the four open seats for the following stakeholders —environmentalist, organic producer, organic handler, and retailer. The deadline for applying is May 15. In April, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met to decide on a range of issues concerning allowable materials and practices in certified organic farming. The 15-member volunteer board represents the interests of the organic community, consisting of 4 farmers, 3 environmentalists, 3 consumers, 2 food processors, and one retailer, scientist and certifying agent, who vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. It is a board that is intended to bring together diverse interests and provide recommendations to the National Organic Program (NOP) for adoption. USDA may not allow synthetic materials in organic production that are not recommended for use by the Board. The Board is in need of strong nominees who will stand up for organic integrity in the four categories (listed above), especially for the environmental position by May 15.organic

In the past, the USDA has agribusiness executive to seats on the NOSB reserved for farmers, consumers, and other independent positions —where the organic law has explicitly only allowed two representatives of agribusiness onto the Board. In a gross breach of faith, USDA appointed the executive of General Mills to the Boards as a representative for consumers. The move prompted strong criticism launched by the largest consumer groups —Consumers Union and the Organic Consumers Association— that she was not qualified to represent the consumer sector, leading to the withdrawal of her appointment.

Now more than ever it is imperative that independent and qualified members of the organic community to serve on the NOSB who will support organic integrity, protect the interests of farmers and stand strong against USDA’s political tactics to divest the Board of its powers.

Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay Feldman, serves in one of three environmental positions on the NOSB. Board terms are five-years beginning on January 2015. Self-nominations or the nomination of another must be filed with USDA by May 15, 2014. More details and background can be found on the National Organic Program website.

Nomination applications are to be sent to Rita Meade, USDA–AMS–NOP, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 2648-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250, or via email to Rita.Meade@ams.usda.gov.

On our Keeping Organic Strong action page, you will find summaries of the significant actions taken by the Board at the recent Spring 2014 meeting in San Antonio, Texas which includes the phase out of antibiotics, along with supporting documentation. Each issue is discussed separately, incorporating Beyond Pesticides’ positions on what the outcomes signify for the future of the organic movement. In addition, to see the current challenges faced by new USDA policies and take action, see Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic webpage.

The next meeting of the NOSB will be held in Louisville, KY on October 28-30, 2014. More information about this meeting will be posted as it becomes available. To find information about previous NOSB meetings go to our NOSB Archives page, or you can read through the minutes from committee meetings on the NOP website.

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

 

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08
May

Elevated Levels of Glyphosate in U.S. Mothers’ Breast Milk

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2014) – Two citizen groups have taken the initial step toward debunking chemical-industry claims that glyphosate, the world’s most widely-used herbicide, does not bioaccumulate or metabolize in humans. The pilot study, conducted by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, looked at ten breast-milk samples and 35 urine samples from across America and 21 drinking water samples. The groups commissioned Microbe Inotech Labs to conduct the analysis, and what they found raises some serious questions about the prevalence and persistence of glyphosate.

In breast milk, three of the ten samples tested reveal high levels of glyphosate, meaning that the amount of glyphosate found is between 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l. The highest glyphosate level detected in a mother is from Florida (166 ug/l) and the other two mothers with “positive” results are from Virginia (76 ug/l) and Oregon (99 ug/l). While these levels fall under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 700 ug/l, across the pond in Europe this range of exposure is 1,000 higher than what is deemed safe.

From the 35 urine samples received from across the U.S., 13 samples are above the minimum detectable level. The three highest levels are all found in women, with the highest in Oregon (18.8 ug/l). Other positive results are found in samples from the states of California, Washington, Maryland, Colorado and Hawaii.

Drinking water results reveal that 13 of the 21 samples contain glyphosate levels of between 0.085ug/l and 0.33u/l. While these levels come in much lower than the breast milk and urine samples and U.S. drinking water standards, they still add to the alarm when compared to maximum allowable European drinking water standards of 0.1ug/l.

Putting the Pilot Study in Context

The pilot study was conducted for both personal and practical reasons. As explained by Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Director of Moms Across America, “When I was told by several doctors and labs that I could not test my own or my children’s urine for the most widely used herbicide in the world over a year ago, I became determined to find a way. Parents and citizens deserve the ability to be able to take care of themselves and their families by finding out if herbicides could be impacting their health.” Couple this with the fact that no glyphosate limits exist for breast milk anywhere in the world, and it became clear that something had to be done to get the attention of regulators and look behind the curtain of industry-provided evaluations.

Groups responsible for the study are not arguing that the test results constitute peer-reviewed scientific data warranting an immediate cancellation of glyphosate use, but they are calling for increased scrutiny of industry-backed claims concerning glyphosate’s alleged rapid excretion rates and non-accumulative nature. Ms. Honeycutt adds, “The purpose of this glyphosate testing project is to shed light upon the presence of glyphosate in our water, children’s bodies and mother’s breast milk, hopefully inspiring further scientific studies to support the world in being a healthy, safe place to live.”

As Angelika Hilbeck, PhD, senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, observed, “If confirmed in a full investigation, it seems that glyphosate has become a ubiquitous chemical in terms of presence and persistence. This data also offers a first indication of potential accumulation in the human body, giving newborns a substantial dose of synthetic chemicals as a ‘gift’ for their start into life, with unknown consequences. This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a democratic society, which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT. It seems we either did not learn, or we have forgotten, our lessons from Rachel Carson!”

By comparing the results to a study previously conducted in Europe, which raised alarms to the presence of glyphosate in urine from people in 18 countries across Europe, and highlighting the discrepancy between U.S. and European safety standards, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse also hoped to draw attention to America’s likely increased risks because of its staunch support of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and presence of GE food products in the American food supply, which in turn increases the amount of glyphosate used on crops and in the environment.

Glyphosate Has No Place in Breast Milk or Anywhere Else

Beyond Pesticides has long argued to U.S. regulators that glyphosate poses significant risks to health and the environment, even without this added probability of excessive exposure to infants through breast milk. Traditional risk assessment protocols fail to evaluate a full range of adverse impacts, particularly with regard to infants and children—often the most vulnerable to pesticides. Now more than ever, regulators at both the state and federal levels need to reevaluate the full spectrum of risks and rethink the rubber-stamping approach to GE crop and pesticide approval and allowance in the food supply. As citizens across America fight to gain access to basic information concerning GE crop presence in their food, we urge consumers everywhere to call on regulators for change and support organic systems that prohibit these problematic and dangerous GE products and pesticides from being labeled organic.

Source: Ecologist, Moms Across America, Sustainable Pulse

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

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07
May

Report Finds Numerous Schools Near Toxic Pesticide Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2014) A new report from the California Department of Public Health finds 36 percent of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school. Persistent and toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos, methyl bromide, and malathion are among the pesticides found to be applied near schools. The report also finds that Latino children are also more likely to attend schools near areas with the highest use of pesticides of concern.

The report, “Agricultural Pesticide Use near Public Schools In California,” released this month, looked at 2,511 schools in the 15 California counties with the highest overall use of farm pesticides in California for 2010, and finds that counties in the southern part of the Central Valley had the most schools near farms where pesticides were applied. Fresno County had the highest number of schools –131 – with pesticides applied nearby. Five percent of schools are within a quarter mile of where the highest volumes of pesticides are used: 2,635–28,979 pounds of active ingredient. Latino children are 46 percent more likely than white children to attend schools where pesticides of concern were applied nearby.

The report’s findings are being touted by health professionals who say dangerous pesticides are coming too close to kids. “This is truly important information that we’ve not previously had,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, a professor in environmental and occupational health at UC Davis. “These pesticides are not entirely benign, and several of them affect brain development.”

The reports lists the top 10 pesticides with the highest application by volume within a quarter mile of a public school including, chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene, paraquat dibromide, captan, malathion and chlorpyrifos. According to the report, all 10 pesticides are classified as priority pesticides for assessment and monitoring by the state. The majority of the pesticides are restricted use, requiring special permits for their application, as well as application restrictions. However, monitoring data show that pesticides can volatilize and drift, and move over long distances fairly rapidly through wind and rain. Some studies have found that pesticides can drift for miles. Documented exposure patterns resulting from drift cause particular concerns for children and other sensitive population groups. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even when a pesticide is applied in compliance with label directions.

For instance, chlorpyrifos, banned from household use due to concerns of children’s exposures, is a highly neurotoxic organophosphate, and prenatal and early childhood exposure has been linked to low birth weights, developmental delays, ADHD and other health effects. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that chlorpyrifos may volatilize from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, or otherwise spend time nearby, resulting in exposures that could cause adverse effects.

Currently, California runs tests for air particles (drift) for several pesticides and their breakdown products, and measures the results against screening levels established by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR). However, critics maintain that the state’s sampling is not representative of peak agricultural exposures and question whether any level of a toxicant in air is reasonable under the law, given the viability of alternative agricultural practices that do not rely on these chemicals.

Several fumigants, including methyl bromide, also made the top 10 list. Methyl bromide, while phased-out in the U.S., has continued to be used in alarming amounts across California due to a sizeable loophole in regulations. Other pesticides found to be applied near these sensitive areas include several carcinogens (captan, diuron, mancozeb), reproductive and developmental toxicants (carbaryl, linuron, EPTC), and neurotoxicants (naled, chlorpyrifos, diazinon).

Although the report identified schools near sites where pesticides are used, it did not assess the effect of the chemicals on children, nor did it account for how the pesticides might drift onto school territory, or how children could be affected. However, children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults, and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Even at low levels, exposure to pesticides can cause serious adverse health effects. Numerous studies document that children exposed to pesticides suffer elevated rates of childhood leukemia, other cancers and birth defects. Studies also link pesticides to childhood asthma, respiratory problems, and learning disabilities and inability to concentrate. See the Pesticide Induced Disease Database.

Latino children made up 54.1% of the population in the public schools in the 15 counties, and comprised 67.7% of the population in schools in the highest quartile of pesticide use. While not inferred by the report, these children may mostly belong to farmworker communities living near agricultural areas. These communities tend to have disproportionate exposure risks to pesticides due to pesticide drift, and are at higher risks of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease. EPA has previously found that Latino schools in California disproportionately suffer from exposure to pesticides due to pesticide spraying near their schools, but has yet to adequately remedy these risks. A lawsuit was filed by concerned parents challenging EPA’s lack of action, arguing that ongoing pesticide monitoring set up by CDPR did not protect children from excessive exposure to pesticides.

California farmers produce nearly half of all U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, greatly benefiting public health statewide and nationally. According to the report, in 2007, California accounted for 23% of all agricultural pesticides used in the U.S.In 2010, over 160 million pounds were applied in California. However, our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow, harvest and live near what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools page. To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, see our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Source: The Sacramento Bee

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

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06
May

BEE Protective! Beyond Pesticides Installs Honey Bee Hive at DC Headquarters

(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2014) With pollinator week a little over a month away, Beyond Pesticides is thrilled to announce that it’s amplifying its own footprint in the BEE Protective campaign by installing an urban honey bee hive at its national headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C.! Beyond Pesticides and our BEE Protective partner Center for Food Safety hope to inspire others across the country to take up the BEE Protective cause and make a safe space for pollinators in their backyards and communities. In addition to educating the public on honey bee health and producing delicious honey at the end of the season, the BEE Protective honey bee hive will provide our neighbors with a valuable service — in the form of bigger and more abundant fruits and veggies!

As spring comes into full bloom, preliminary accounts of winter honey bee losses have started to trickle in, and the news isn’t encouraging. That’s why it’s critically important, now more than ever, that we all take action to BEE Protective of honey bees in our own backyards, neighborhoods, and communities.

Join the BEE Protective Campaign!

Already have your own honey bee hive or pollinator friendly landscape? Maybe you got your workplace to plant pollinator attractive habitat? Let us know! Take the pledge and sign the Pesticide-Free Zone Declaration for Lawns, Landscapes and Pollinators! So far, supporters have notified Beyond Pesticides of over 8,500 acres of pollinator friendly landscaping. But we know there’s more out there! Help us reach our goal of 10,000 pollinator friendly acres, and send a message to chemical companies and federal regulators that honey bee health matters to you by creating a pesticide-free refuge for pollinators!

Need some help to get started?

Beyond Pesticides has the resources you need to become an integral part of the BEE Protective campaign. With the BEE Protective Habitat Guide, you can discover the flowers that pollinators love in your area! The guide is separated by season and region, so it’s helpful year-round wherever you’re trying to establish bee-friendly landscapes. There are also additional resources to encourage pollinators beyond your home and garden – on roadsides and rights-of-way, forestland, prairies, meadows, and even on farms through organic practices.

***Bee Wary of Flowers and other Garden Plants from Big Box Retailers and other Nurseries: Despite your best intentions to grow a pollinator-friendly landscape, big retailers and nurseries could be putting your neighborhood pollinators at big risk. A recent study found that many national retailers sold garden plants that were treated with harmful neonicotinoid insecticides implicated in the global honey bee decline. Work around this disturbing situation by growing your own plants from certified organic seed, or purchasing certified organic plant starts.

Want to Follow Our Lead and Become a Beekeeper?

Whether you’re in a densely packed city, suburban lot, or out in the country, you can make a huge impact on honey bee health by becoming a beekeeper. Beyond Pesticides has beekeeping resources for each region of the U.S., so you can reach out to experienced ‘beeks’ for training and mentorship. Our fact sheet on Backyard Beekeeping provides a good overview if you want a bit more information on what to expect, and important points to think about when planning out your honey bees’ new home. There’s also a great how-to on constructing your own Bee House for other bee species, if you determine that honey bees just aren’t the bees for you right now.

It’s No Longer a Big Mystery

As bee health continues to suffer after another harsh winter, in addition to providing pollinators with a safe haven in our yards and neighborhoods, we must also work toward permanent changes that decrease the stress on honey bees and other pollinators. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, both alone and in combination with other chemicals, are significant contributors to global pollinator decline. Despite industry attempts to spin the pollinator crisis into “anything but the pesticides,” the fact remains that neonicotinoid pesticides are an important stressor that we can and should address, as Europe already has. While action should come from federal regulators, bees can’t wait 5 more years, so we must become active in our communities, and follow the lead of other localities like Eugene, OR and Takoma Park, MD, neither of which will be using neonicotinoid pesticides on their public spaces. Go here to find the Model Community Pollinator Resolution you can take to your local government!

According to the new report, Follow the Honey, from Friends of the Earth, the global market for neonicotinoid pesticides is around $2.6 billion dollars. But this pales in comparison to the $20-30 million dollar economic value of beekeeping in the United States alone, not to mention the tangible importance of one in three bites of food being dependent on these important species!

Stay involved with the BEE Protective campaign as we ramp up efforts for pollinator week, June 16 -22nd! (Yes, get excited for contests and prizes!!) Join our campaign by taking action on our BEE Protective webpage, and sharing our resources with friends, neighbors, and your local elected leaders. We’ll also be posting intermittent updates on our hive on social media throughout the year and beyond, so make sure you’re following us on twitter and facebook! Have questions about our hive or the BEE Protective campaign? Send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org or call 202-543-5450.

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

 

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04
May

NOSB Upholds Phase Out of Antibiotics in Organic Production

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2014) During the recent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the board voted to uphold the phase out in apple and pear production of the antibiotic streptomycin, which is set to expire on October 21, 2014. Since petitions to allow the use of all synthetic materials in organic production require a decisive, or 2/3′s, vote under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA),  the apple and pear industry’s petition to extend was voted down with a vote of 8-7. This vote comes after a similar proposal to extend an exemption for oxytetracycline, another antibiotic used in apple and pear production, was rejected at the spring 2013 NOSB meeting. Beyond Pesticides, with other organizations, has led the effort to remove antibiotics from apple and pear production because of their contribution to antibiotic resistance, organic consumer expectation that antibiotics are not used in organic food production, and the availability of alternative practices and inputs.

In April 2013, the NOSB discussed the problem of antibiotic resistance thoroughly and heard from numerous commenters concerning the problem of antibiotic resistance with respect to its use in orchards. At the Spring meeting, Glenn Morris, M.D, professor of infectious diseases in the University of Florida College of Medicine, stated the following:

“The question is do we go ahead and move forward at this point and stop the usage, given the data that we do have? I think if you say we wait for more studies, we are potentially talking years and a lot of money. And again, while I’m not speaking officially for IDS, the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), I believe there is a letter from IDSA in your docket, and again the feeling very strongly from the Infectious Disease Society for America is, you know, it’s time to do it now.”

The evidence for streptomycin was even more compelling than it is for tetracycline. Streptomycin may be used later in the growing season, which can lead to more residues and residues of streptomycin have been detected in fruit, as documented by an Austrian study that found highest residues in the core. The genes for streptomycin resistance that are carried on a plasmid are known to confer resistance to streptomycin in human pathogen and streptomycin is classified as a critically important antimicrobial by the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information on antibiotic resistance read Beyond Pesticides Pesticides and You article “Antibiotics in Fruit Production.”

Organic consumers also do not want antibiotics in organic production. Over 400 comments were submitted to the docket with 372 individual comments opposing the extension and organizations like Organic Consumers Association, Food and Water Watch, and Center for food safety collecting close to 83,000 signatures opposed to this extension.

According to Consumers Union’s comments, consumers have come to expect that organic foods are produced without the use of antibiotics. Organic is widely marketed as “no antibiotics,” which has become a consumer expectation. Other segments of the organic market, like organic meat, cheese and milk, have set and met this expectation, and so have organic fruit growers including nectarine and peach growers. Organic apple and pear trees treated with antibiotics simply do not meet consumer expectations. If you are interested in reading further about the comments submitted to the docket on this issue read Beyond Pesticides’ comment summary.

The use of antibiotics in organic apple and pear production is incompatible with sustainable systems. This use of antibiotics does not encourage and enhance preventive techniques, including cultural and biological controls. Compatibility with sustainable and organic principles requires growers to first choose varieties that are not susceptible to important diseases in their region. Other preventive techniques should be used, including site selection, careful fertilization, adequate spacing of trees, and proper pruning practices.

Other Updates from the 2014 NOSB Meeting

The most recent NOSB meeting has been full of fireworks. A protest, staged by representatives of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA), disrupted the first day of the NOSB meeting. The activists came to protest the U.S, Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) changes to the sunset process for removing non-organic ingredients and materials from the NOP’s National List of substances allowed and prohibited in products certified as organic. The sunset policy, adopted by the NOP without public comment or input, reverses the phase out of synthetics unless recommended for relisting by the NOSB –now allowing synthetics to remain on the market unless they are voted off by a 2/3′s vote. The previous policy of a 2/3′s vote to retain use, subjected synthetics to the same rigorous standard of review that allows these materials on to the National List when initially petitioned and drives the stakeholder board toward consensus.

The NOSB also voted to approve magnesium oxide for use to control the viscosity of a clay suspension agent for natural humates. Beyond Pesticides opposed this approval after the board voted down an expiration date annotation, which would have required the material to be repetitioned in five years, similar to the voting required under the previous sunset process. Beyond Pesticides pointed out that the requirement for a new petition creates an incentive to develop increasingly safer manufacturing processes. Beyond Pesticides’ comments and can be read here. The board did move to send back to the Livestock Subcommittee a proposal to increase flexibility in the amount of methionine allowed in organic poultry production without an assurance that methionine will be reevaluated in five years under a standard as rigorous as the petition process. Those blocking the proposed methionine standard want a five-year expiration annotation attached to the proposal. The board also sent the proposal to approve materials for aquaculture backed to committee and asked for a release of the draft standards for aquaculture before any further actions. Beyond Pesticides will publish more in-depth comments on the recent NOSB board meeting soon, but you can read further about the recent board meeting at Cornucopia’s blog.

The recent contentious NOSB meeting highlights why it is important to advocate for strong organic standards. You can help these efforts to maintain a strong organic program by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page and taking action on our Save Our Organics page.

Source: Cornucopia

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

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02
May

Review Links Glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2014) A recent review, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, examines the interaction between widely used agricultural herbicides, like glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup products, and the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The study represents one of the most comprehensive reviews on the topic of occupational exposure to pesticides in scientific literature, demonstrating their clear harm to human health.

The study, “Non Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” reviews almost thirty years of epidemiological research, examining occupational exposure of farmers to 80 active ingredients, and 21 chemicals groups to clarify their role in the development of NHL. Analyzing 44 papers, the study opens its discussion by mentioning the ‘striking increase’ in incidents of NHL over the past 30 years. The study attempts to reconcile apparent trends of low mortality but high incidents of cancer among farm workers, pointing out that exposure to agricultural pesticides are often associated with signficint sub-lethal impacts.

Researchers Maria Leon Roux, PhD., and Leah Schinasi, PhD. at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in the Environment and Radiation section, said that the challenge of expensive and therefore the need for more comprehensive data “motivated us to systematically review the published epidemiological literature of relationships of NHL with occupational exposures to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients.”

In addition to linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the researchers also found that carbamate insecticides, organophosphate insecticides, phenoxy herbicide MCPA, and lindane were positively associated with NHL cancer.

The study comes just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering registering yet another herbicide containing glyphosate and 2, 4-D with seeds engineered to tolerate both materials. The chemical, Enlist Duo technology, is made by Dow AgroSciences in an effort to stem growing insect and weed resistance, which has resulted in increased pesticide use. Registering another toxic chemical mix is not only ineffective in reducing resistance, it ignores the science presented in this and many other scientific articles that links pesticide impacts to human health and the environment.

Beyond Pesticides has assembled  extensive documentation on the human health and environmental risks of glyphosate. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), has also been shown to kill human embryonic cells. In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showing new and emerging science that illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration.

To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. Public policy must advance this shift, rather than continue to allow unnecessary reliance on pesticides.

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

Sources: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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01
May

Organic Food Consumption Leads to Dramatically Lower Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2014) A recent study, Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet, led by Liza Oates found lower trances of organophosphate metabolites in consumers that ate organic food for a week compared to those who ate a conventional diet. The study adds to the scientific literature that shows consuming organic food minimize consumers’ exposure to pesticides residue. Because organic agriculture is a healthier system for consumers it is important we protect strict organic standards.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Research, found that participants who ate a diet that was at least 80 percent organic had 89 percent lower levels of dialkylphosphates (DAPs), non-selective organophosphate metabolites, in their urine. The study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia with non-smoking participates between the age of 18 and 65. Participants were asked to eat a diet of conventional food for a week than on the morning of day eight participants provided a urine sample to the researchers. This process was repeated with the same participants after they spent a week eating at least 80 percent organic food. The levels of DAPs found in participants during the week in which they ate conventional were comparable to previous studies done on the general population.

The study was expressly concerned with the health impacts that organophosphates can have on consumers. Organophosphate pesticides originally were derived from World War II nerve agents. According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 73 million pounds of organophosphates were used on U.S. crops in 2001. Organophosphates inhibit cholinesterase, a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerves and muscles. Inhibiting cholinesterase can cause poisoning victims to suffocate due to paralysis and cause lungs to fill up with fluid. Children are at an elevated risk for organophosphate pesticide poisoning.

The study adds to the growing literature that eating organic clearly is a healthier option because it allows consumers to reduce their exposures to pesticide residues. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) released a report in 2012 on organic foods that stated organic foods provide health advantages by reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease.”

There were however several limitations with this study such as a small sample size and variation of when participates entered and exited the study. Future large scale studies investigating the relationship between exposure and health outcomes are required to determine if the reduction in organophosphates associated with an organic diet has clinical relevance.

Current Fights over Organic Standards in the U.S.

Strong organic standards are necessary to maintain for consumers to remain confident that organic foods have the health advantages that are expressed in this study. Currently, The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the board which maintains the list of allowable synthetic substances, is meeting in San Antonio Texas.

Yesterday a protest, staged by representatives of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA), disrupted the NOSB meeting.

The activists came to protest the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) changes to the sunset process for removing non-organic ingredients and materials from the NOP’s National List of substances allowed and prohibited in products certified as organic.

You can help these efforts to maintain a strong organic program by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page and taking action with our Save Our Organics page. You can also follow the meeting in real time by following Beyond Pesticides on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: The Conversation

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

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30
Apr

Industry Campaign and Congressional Hearing Mislead on Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, April 30, 2014) A new report, released this week by author Michele Simon and Friends of the Earth documents the tactics used by Bayer and other pesticide companies to delay regulatory action on neonicotinoid pesticides –a key contributor to bee declines. The report identifies public relations tactics reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry, is now being used by Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto. Meanwhile, a Congressional hearing on pollinator health, with a panel dominated by industry, ignored the risks pesticides pose to pollinators, and failed to address sustainable solutions to bee decline.

The report, Follow the Honey: 7 Ways Pesticide Companies Are Spinning the Bee Crisis to Protect Profits, uncovers the deceptive public relations tactics used by industry giants Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, to deflect blame from their products’ contributions to bee declines. The products in question are the chemicals now widely used for seed treatment –neonicotinoids– as well as on residential sites. They are highly toxic to bees and have been linked to bee decline. Last year, the European Union banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids –imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam– based on strong science indicating these insecticides can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens and other stressors. However, these pesticides are still widely used in the U.S., despite massive bee losses that threaten vital food crops, from almonds in California to apples in Washington.

A Congressional hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill, convened on pollinator health, reinforced the report’s findings as no mention of pesticide risks were discussed by the industry dominated panel. The hearing for the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture included no independent scientists on the leading edge of bee research, and no beekeepers who are experiencing firsthand dire losses of bees responsible for pollinating many of our food crops. The hearing is being viewed as just another tactic to marginalize the role of pesticides, the beekeeping industry most impacted by bee losses, and the Saving America’s Pollinators Act- a bill that would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoid chemicals until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a full review of their safety and can make an informed and scientifically-sound decision about their use.

“These pesticide companies use PR tricks straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook to manufacture doubt about science and fool politicians and the public to delay action, while they keep profiting from bee-killing pesticides,” said Ms.Simon, a public health attorney who tracks corporate tactics.

PR tactics revealed in the new report include:

  • Spinning the Science and “Manufacturing Doubt” about the role of pesticides: Aggressive efforts to promote the varroa mite and other factors as the leading causes of bee deaths while downplaying or dismissing the role of pesticides. What they don’t say: neonicotinoid pesticides are a key compounding factor that makes bees more vulnerable to the varroa mite and other pests and pathogens.
  • “Bee Care” PR Blitz: PR campaigns to create the appearance of being “out in front” and taking a lead role in “saving bees” by promoting “bee health,” building “Bee Care Centers” and launching a “Bee Care Tour” while downplaying the role of pesticides in bee deaths.
  • Buying Credibility: Funding scientific studies, cultivating alliances and strategic partnerships with farmers, beekeepers, and agricultural organizations in order to buy credibility for their “anything but pesticides” talking points and position themselves as “friends of the bees.”
  • Blaming Farmers and Beekeepers: While denying criticism of pesticides, blaming farmers who use pesticides for any “rare” negative effects on bees, and blaming beekeepers for poor bee care.
  • Targeting Children: Propaganda to win young hearts and minds, such as Bayer’s children’s book entitled “Toby and the Bees” in which a friendly beekeeper tells young Toby the bees are getting sick, but “not to worry,” it’s just a problem with mites, and there is special medicine (made by Bayer) to make bees healthy.

Neonicotinoid residues pose a major risk to bees from fugitive dust off seed planters, which EPA has recognized as a causing several bee kills nationwide. These chemicals are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being highly acutely toxic, their use also results in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen, nectar, and water droplets contaminated with the chemicals, in addition to dust that is released into the air when treated seeds are planted with seed planters across millions of acres of corn fields in the U.S. Neonicotinoids are also systemic pesticides, meaning residues remain in plants, soil and water for very long periods of time. This causes significant problems for the long-term health of individual honey bees, as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies. Effects observed in exposed bees include disruptions in mobility and navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, suppressed immune function, and overall decreased hive activity.

Despite a growing body of evidence (read: No Longer a Big Mystery) showing acute, sublethal, and chronic effects of neonicotinoid pesticides in bees, industry giants like Syngenta and Bayer continue to ignore the impact of their products and instead focus on beekeeper practices, nutrition, and viruses and pathogens as the main culprits of bee decline. In fact, both Bayer and Syngenta are challenging the EU’s suspension of their chemicals, claiming the European Commission made its decision on the basis of a flawed process. Beekeepers have protested across Europe and also here in the U.S., calling for a moratorium on bee-killing pesticides. Several beekeepers are co-plaintiffs in a 2013 lawsuit challenging EPA’s failure to protect pollinators. This lawsuit seeks suspension of the registrations of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees and clear contributors to ongoing mortality of bees. The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these pesticides, as well as EPA’s registration process and labeling deficiencies.

With bee-kill incidents in Oregon last summer, including one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees, and the bee deaths in California’s almond groves, and ‘mysterious’ road-side bee deaths in Oregon, as well as astronomical overwintering losses in Ohio, bees continue to face challenges. In spite of recent efforts in Europe to help reverse bee decline by suspending the use of three widely neonicotinoids, U.S. officials have yet to move definitely on the issue. EPA recognizing that these chemicals can pose risks to bees published revised product labels stipulating users not to apply when bees are near. These labels, according to advocates and beekeepers, do not go far enough to protect bees from these chemicals.

BEE Protective

Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety have joined forces with the BEE Protective Campaign, with the goal of protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways to take action:

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

Source: Friends of the Earth

 

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29
Apr

Triclosan Linked to the Growth of Breast Cancer Cells

(Beyond Pesticides, April, 29, 2014) According to a recent study published in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the chemicals triclosan and octylphenol are linked to the growth of breast cancer cells. Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in numerous commonly known household products. Octylphenol is a commercial solvent that can be found in paints and plastics, and is often used as an inert ingredient in pesticide formulations.

Researchers investigated whether these two endocrine-disrupting chemicals (ECDs) contributed to the growth of cancer cells. In their study, Progression of Breast Cancer Cells Was Enhanced by Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, Triclosan and Octylphenol, via an Estrogen Receptor-Dependent Signaling Pathway in Cellular and Mouse Xenograft Models, scientists performed both in vitro tests on human breast cancer cells in petri dishes, and in vivo tests via tissue grafts on mice. “Although the doses of EDCs were somewhat high, we did this to simulate their effects of daily exposure, as well as body accumulation due to long-term exposure, simultaneously in animal experiments,” said Kyung-Chul Choi, PhD, co-author of the research. Results of the study established that both triclosan and octylphenol interfered with the genes involved in breast cancer growth. In human breast cancer cells, these chemicals altered the expression of two cell cycle regulators, ultimately leading to proliferation of the cancerous cells. Mice exposed to the chemicals experienced larger and denser breast cancer tumors compared to the control group. “Thus, exposure to EDCs may significantly increase the risk of breast cancer development and adversely affect human health,” the researchers state in the paper.

Endocrine disruptors function by: (i) Mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) Blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) Affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. In addition to cancer, recent studies have linked EDCs to declines in sperm count, increased risk of endometriosis, and the impairment of fish hearts.

Octylphenol is regulated as an inert ingredient by the Environmental Protections Agency. Under this status, the chemical can be added to formulated pesticide products without providing knowledge to the consumer. Last month, Beyond Pesticides and allies filed a complaint against EPA for the agency’s failure to disclose inert ingredients on pesticide project labels. Pesticide labels only identify the weight percentage of inert ingredients, which often comprise 50 to 99 percent of a formulation, and mislead the public into thinking that these other “inert” ingredients are safe.“Consumers and users of pesticide products have a right to know all the ingredients that are in products they purchase so that they can make more informed choices in the marketplace,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. Read more about the pending litigation here.

Due to its widespread use, and numerous studies showing adverse health impacts, triclosan, the other chemical tested in this recent study, has been a particular focus for environmental, health, and consumer advocates. In 1972, Congress required FDA to set guidelines for many common antibacterial chemicals found in over-the-counter soaps and scrubs. FDA published tentative guidelines for chemicals used in liquid hand soaps and washes by 1978, stating triclosan was “not generally recognized as safe and effective.” This was due to a lack of scientific research demonstrating the chemical’s safety and effectiveness. While many major manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble, have already announced their intent to eliminate triclosan from their products, the chemical still remains widespread in a number of consumer goods.

Due to these growing concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule last December that requires manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. This announcement, though long-delayed, represents a positive step toward reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals. Toothpaste containing triclosan is not subject to this rulemaking as FDA has indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis ingredient.

As new science emerges, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge  to stop using triclosan. Since the rule will not go into effect until at least 2016, make sure to continue to read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. You can also encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

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

Source: American Chemical Society,

 

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28
Apr

Organic Agricultural Practices Can Limit Climate Change

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2014) Last week, the Rodale Institute, home to America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture, published a white paper to support its announcement of a global campaign to generate public awareness of organic agricultural practices ability to limit the effects of climate change. The paper singles out several “regenerative organic agriculture” practices that help sequester carbon leading to less CO2 in the atmosphere. This campaign will help deliver the growing scientific literature that connects agricultural practices with climate change.

The white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, argues that it is possible to sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which are referred to in the paper as “regenerative organic agriculture.” According to the report soil sequestration can potentially sequester greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 52 gigatonnes of CO2. Even if modest assumption about soil’s carbon sequestration potential are made, regenerative agriculture can easily keep annual emissions to within the desirable lower end of the 41-47 gigatonnes of CO2, which is identified as necessary reduction to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Rodale highlights several examples of management practices that, if shifted, could help sequester CO2. These practices include (at a minimum) cover crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation. The report also includes information on conservation tillage however, this practices is still not widely used in organic systems. The report notes that changes to individual management practices should not be the sole focus as regenerative organic agriculture is a holistic system. However, data for specific practices are used in this study to help readers better understand the mechanisms at work in soil carbon sequestration.

The report specifically points to bare soil as one of the largest sources of carbon lose in conventional agriculture. According to Rodale:

“Agricultural soils that are left fallow [bare] or are heavily tilled are exposed to wind and water leading to erosion of the carbon-rich topsoil. Fallow land also fails to accumulate biomass carbon that it would otherwise by continuously growing plants. Tilled, exposed, eroded soils lead to the breakdown of soil aggregates, allowing formerly stable soil carbon to be released as a greenhouse gas.”

Growing cover crops, reducing tillage, and enhancing crop rotations does not allow for land to be left bare and fixes carbon in the soil rather than allowing it to be lost to the atmosphere.

The paper was released as part of Rodale Institute’s global campaign to generate public awareness of soil’s ability to reverse climate change. The campaign will call for the restructuring of our global food system with the goal of reversing climate change through photosynthesis and biology.

According to “Coach” Mark Smallwood, executive director of Rodale Institute, “The white paper is to encourage new research, new policy and the rapid expansion of regenerative agricultural methods. The media campaign brings the broader vision to the public much faster.  The idea is to stoke the public outcry that already exists and to validate those who demand these changes be made now.”

This white paper adds to the growing literature that connects industrial agriculture to climate change and the effects climate changes can have on agriculture production. Algal blooms, which cause bright green scum that completely covers the Western part of Lake Erie, occurs from mid-July to October, in part because of farming practices surrounding the Lake and in part due to climate change. Runoff from phosphorus fertilizers provide nutrients for blooms, which is compounded by warmer weather. Climate change also increases the movement of toxic chemicals. The study, The toxicology of climate change: Environmental contaminants in a warming world, found that climate change will general increase the toxicity of contaminates such as DDT, DDE, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB).

A study produced by Sanford University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have also tied increases in crop losses and increased pest populations to climate change. The study warns that wheat, corn and barley are especially affected, with 40 million fewer metric tons of the crops produced each year. For every 1 degree increase in temperature, the researchers say, crop yields drop by about 3 percent to 5 percent, and the decline is clearly caused by human activity.

Beyond Pesticides has long be a supporter of organic agriculture as a solution to climate change because of its potential to sequester carbon. For more information visit Beyond Pesticides’ Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture. Also, read Beyond Pesticides’ 2007 Pesticides and You Climate Change: Consequences and the Organic Response and Jeff Moyer’s, Rodale Farm Director, talk at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum.

Source: Nation of Change

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

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25
Apr

Multiple Accounts of Honey Bee Death and Damage Continue

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2014) Reports of honey bee deaths have been emerging around the nation: from bee deaths in California’s almond groves and ‘mysterious’ road-side bee deaths in Oregon, to astronomical overwintering losses in Ohio. The reports are intensifying the ecological crises of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) —a phenomenon dead bee- fadetypified by the mass abandonment of hives and bee die-off. CCD poses significant issues for many agricultural crops, such as almonds, apples, cherries and blueberries, that are almost completely reliant on honey bees for their pollination services.

In California, a total of 80,000 dead or damaged bee hives were reported after pollinating almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley, a region that is known for its agricultural productivity. Beekeepers have pointed to pesticides as the primary culprit. Almond pollination in California requires an army of 1,300 commercial beekeepers from around the nation. However, this year beekeepers have seen higher damages to hives than usual.

Damage to the honey bee hives this spring has been so pronounced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened an impromptu meeting with beekeepers in Los Banos, California. The meeting brought together 75 beekeepers who testified that 75 percent of their hives showed severe damage following almond pollination. Beekeepers pointed to ‘tank mixing’ of several insecticides, which are toxic by themselves and even more so in combination. Almond farmers often use clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam —chemicals that have been banned in the European Union (EU) due to an unreasonably high-risk to honey bees— as well as tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole, products that just recently came on the market after EPA registration.

Beekeeper Gene Brandi of Los Banos told The Sacramento Bee that pesticides used do not have explicit label warnings about their possible effects on bees. Although EPA assessed their toxicity for adult bees, and found them to be nontoxic, “Nonetheless, these chemicals affect the bee colony by affecting the brood,” Mr. Brandi said. “The damaged hives are a significant number, and enough to cause alarm.”

In Oregon, officials are now investigating the death of thousands of honeybees along a highway running southwest of Portland. Bruce Pokarney of the Oregon Department of Agriculture estimated that the swarm of bees could have ranged in number from one to 10,000. Officials told Reuters that they are currently working under the assumption that the bees swarmed while attempting to cross the road and ended up as roadkill, however samples have been sent to Oregon State University to check for possible disease or so-called “other issues,” such as pesticides. The die-off marks the second in Oregon this year, after 50,000 bumblebees were found dead in a parking lot in Wilsonville after feeding on a linden tree doused with the bee-killing pesticide dinotefuran.

Across the U.S., Ohioan beekeepers have just reported overwintering losses between 50 and 80 percent, according the The Columbus Dispatch, which come on top of 30 to 60 percent die-offs the previous year. “It’s a pretty devastating loss,” said Ohio beekeeper Barry Conrad, who maintains 76 hives. “It’s been getting worse each year.” The winter was an unusually harsh one, however, beekeepers including Mr. Conrad have pointed to pesticides as the key issue.

Every year the Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides a national survey of honey bee winter losses (see 2012-2013 losses). When the survey is released in May, we should see whether these reported events are demonstrating nationwide trends.

BEE Protective

On Earth Day 2013, Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety joined forces to launch the BEE Protective Campaign, with the goal of protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides.The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways to take action:

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

Sources: The Sacramento Bee, Reuters, The Columbus Dispatch

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24
Apr

France Bans GE Corn Cultivation, VT Passes GE Food Labeling Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2014) France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill last week banning the cultivation of all strains of genetically engineered (GE) corn within its borders, even those strains that might not yet be approved within the European Union (EU). The law follows a decree adopted last month, which targeted the only GE crop permitted for cultivation in the EU—Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 corn. Back in the U.S., Vermont became the first state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of food containing GE ingredients (You can read the House bill as it was introduced here and the Senate amendments to this bill here). The bill, which the Governor said he will sign, passed by large majorities in both houses of the legislature and does not contain a trigger provision similar to laws adopted in Connecticut and Maine –with a requirement that similar action is taken in contiguous states before the law goes into effect.

The action in France is not the first time it has closed the door on MON810, even in the face of its highest court’s rulings that similar bans did not have sufficient justification. Yet, undaunted by these defeats the French General Assembly went even further than these past actions and extended the ban to all GE corn crops through more permanent legislation.

Jean-Marie Le Guen, National Assembly delegate, explained, “It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of [GE] and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties.”

The bold move in the name of environmental protection must still clear some significant legislative and legal hurdles. The upper house of France’ parliament, the Senate, has yet to vote on the bill and most likely will reject the law as it has done in the past. Unlike the U.S. legislative system, however, this does not mean absolute defeat, and according to some resources, the National Assembly will still have the final say.

Whether or not that final say survives yet another legal challenge from industry and pro-GE crop farmers, is a separate issue. France must also continue its battle at the EU level to restructure EU rules concerning GE cultivation approvals and those countries who oppose such approvals.

France Is Right to Be Concerned

Insecticide-resistant corn, like MON810, poses serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased chances of infertility. Couple these risks with the fact that little evidence of the supposed economic benefits that proponents of GE crops laud has been substantiated and France’s actions seem more than sufficient.

GE Efforts Here at Home

While efforts to curb GE crop cultivation in the U.S. through all-out bans are few and far between, many states have attempted to pass GE labeling laws.  Few have been successful and those that have passed, have included trigger provisions that prevent them going into effect—until yesterday.  A Vermont bill requiring the labeling of GE foods passed the Vermont House of Representatives by a 114-30 vote, making it the first GE labeling bill to clear both houses of the state legislature and head to the governor for a likely signature. Much like France, Vermont faces almost certain legal challenges from the GE-industry, as well as federal-level preemptive legislation.

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

Source: Reuters; Nation of Change, Burlington Free Press

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

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23
Apr

Vermont One Large Step Closer to Labeling Genetically Engineered Food

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2014) Last week the Vermont state Senate voted 28-2 to authorize the mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. The bill, H.112, “An Act Relating to the Labeling of Food Produced with Genetic Engineering,” passed the Vermont House of Representatives back in May, and now goes back to the House for approval before moving to the Governor. Vermont’s legislation does not include a “trigger clause,” which is contained in labeling bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut that, before going into effect, require other states in the New England region (including one boarding state) with an aggregate population of 20 million to pass similar laws.

If the last hurdles in the state legislature are cleared and the bill is signed by Governor Peter Shumlin (D), Vermont’s labeling law would not allow manufacturers to describe any food containing GE ingredients as “all natural” or “natural.” Processed foods that contain a product or products with GE would be required to display in clear and conspicuous language the words, “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering.”

But even if passed, Vermont’s bill faces numerous challenges from the deep pockets of the biotechnology industry and its backers in the U.S. Congress. While states such as Vermont are working to shed light on the ingredients in our food, industry found U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to assist in helping keep Americans in the dark through HR 4432, accurately dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” or DARK Act. The DARK Act would preempt states like Vermont from implementing mandatory labeling laws by giving the authority to label GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In effect, it would also allow food companies to give products with GE ingredients the “natural” label, despite the fact that there is nothing natural about crops engineered in a lab to produce their own insecticide or tolerate dangerous herbicides.

Advocates of the Vermont labeling bill also expect a fight in the courts. To that end, the bill’s language currently contains a provision setting up a fund to pay for the expected legal wrangling. The biotechnology industry has made numerous threats to sue states that pass labeling laws, but testimony to the state Senate from Vermont Law School professors and state public interest groups asserted that HR 112 is constitutional and could withstand legal challenges.

The momentum and excitement in Vermont only shows that the attempts by the biotechnology industry to squash GE labeling have not discouraged proponents, but instead galvanized more and more people to become educated about the issue and take action. The defeat of GE labeling referendums in California in Washington has only spurred additional measures in other states that will be voted on this year, notably Oregon and Colorado, where advocates recently overcame their own court battle with the biotech industry to exercise the right to put a labeling initiative on the ballot.

And we can’t forget that a national GE labeling bill is awaiting action in both Houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! Campaign and has garnered thousands of supporters across the country. In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients being purposely added to food is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

Source: Reuters, Vermont Public Research Intrest Group (VPRIG)

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