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Public Interest Groups Intervene to Defend Kauai’s GE Law

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2014) The U.S. District Court of Hawaii granted a Motion to Intervene jointly presented by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice on behalf of several community non-profit groups. The order allows the groups to participate in a lawsuit filed by Syngenta and other pesticide companies challenging Kauai’s County Ordinance 960, which establishes a county program to monitor pesticide use and genetically engineered (GE) crops. The federal order allows the groups to defend the County of Kauai’s 2013 pesticide disclosure law against the pesticide companies’ legal challenge. The non-profit groups intervening include Center for Food Safety, Surfrider Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Ka Makani Ho‘opono.

dailynewsOrdinance 960 (formerly known as Bill 2491) provides residents of Kauai public access to information related to the application of pesticides used in experimental and commercial agricultural operations within the County of Kauai. It also affords County residents and their environment greater protection from and information about potential pesticide drift and the impact of growing experimental GE crops on Kauai. The Kauai County Council voted to enact Ordinance 960 in November 2013, overriding the Mayor’s veto. The Ordinance 960 is set to take effect in August.

Local leaders crafted the ordinance in response to public outcry from residents, many of whom live, work, or have children that go to school near agricultural fields leased by chemical corporations. Many in the community assert that Ordinance 960 is only the beginning of local efforts to reign in excesses and abuses of agrichemical companies operating on the island.

Specifically, Ordinance 960 strengthens pesticide disclosure now requiring the industry to submit weekly reports to nearby residents beginning nine months after the passage of the legislation. It also requires pesticide companies to provide the county and public with an annual accounting of pesticide use, disclose the location of GE crops, and conduct an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study on the effects of the agrichemical industry. The ordinance also restricts the application of all pesticides within 500 feet of schools and other medical facilities, and within 100 feet of any park, public roadway or shoreline that flows into the ocean. Unfortunately, some of the more stringent measures were removed from previous drafts, including a moratorium on the future planting of GE crops and regulations governing experimental pesticides.

In January, Syngenta, BASF Plant Science LP, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., and other biotech companies filed a lawsuit to stop Kauai County from moving ahead with the new law to restrict GE agriculture and toxic pesticide applications in sensitive areas, claiming the law is not legally valid. As the first Hawaiian Island to pass restrictions on pesticides and GE agriculture, Kauai County saw an unprecedented outpouring of public support for the then bill,  despite numerous attempts by agrichemical companies to derail the bill.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision, which allows us to vigorously defend this sound and important law,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “The judge said specifically that he wanted to include the perspective and voices of the people in Kauai who were being affected,” Mr. Kimbrell said. “So that’s very, very encouraging, and we’re pleased to bring the intervention on behalf of the people on Kauai.”

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented, “These community groups deserve to have their own lawyers represent them in court. They’re the Kauai residents who are most affected by the chemical companies’ activities.”

The decision to allow these groups to intervene and defend the new ordinance serves to strengthen the county’s defense, which was hindered by lack of support from the mayor and the county’s budget constraints. The federal ruling comes during the last month of the 2014 legislative session in which there’s been much fanfare but little action on bills to override county regulations on genetic engineering. According to reports, there is still a possibility state lawmakers may revisit those proposals during conference committee over the next couple of weeks. But House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said previously that the House wants to wait to see how the court handles the controversial new rules.

The escalating court battle over Kauai’s ordinance is just one aspect of the ongoing fight over genetic engineering in Hawaii. On Maui, a group of residents wants to put the question of GE farming on the ballot this year. A Maui County Council bill that echoes Kauai’s disclosure requirements has stalled in committee. If successful, the citizens’ ballot initiative will impose a temporary moratorium on growing GE crops.

Beyond Pesticides believes that every community in the United States has the right to self-determination when it comes to the chemicals that are applied in and around where they live, work, and play. Read Beyond Pesticides testimony on Bill 2491 for additional information. If you’d like to become involved in a campaign in your community, send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org, or call 202-543-5450.

Sources: Center for Food Safety Press Release, The Garden Island

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



Fish from Alaskan Wilderness Contaminated with Banned Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2014) A new study released last week by the National Park Service on contaminant use in Alaska, found traces of pesticides in fish —pesticides which have long been banned and likely never been used within the Alaskan wilderness areas. Researchers examined three Alaskan parks renowned for their remote, pristine and protected wilderness —Lake Clark National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Katmai National Park— only to find that contaminants, including PCBs at concentrations exceeding those in the lower 48 states.

Salmon_phixrThe study, Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Fish from Western US and Alaska National Parks—Spatial Distribution and Health Thresholds, published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, sought to compare contaminant level found within fish across the nation. Generally, researchers found that Alaskan fish were more likely to have traces of older chemicals, while those in the lower 48 tended to be dominated by newer chemicals. The most commonly detected chemicals are PCBs, endosulfan, sulfate and p,p’-DDE, a breakdown product of DDT. Some of these long-banned chemicals actually exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for human subsistence on fish and wildlife.

Among those exceeding acceptable levels, dieldrin, chlordane, and p,p’-DDE have been identified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by EPA and by the parties of the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty established in 2001 to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Although the treaty was signed in 2001 by the U.S., it has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate

The cause for the surge in older chemical contaminant concentrations, researchers suspect, is that fish in Alaska tend to be much larger in Alaska than elsewhere. “The bigger fish accumulate more contaminants because they are older,” explained co-author Colleen Flanagan Pritz, ecologist with the National Park Service’s Air Resources Division.

Transport of contaminant to northerly environmental has long been a problem. Researchers suspect that they are carried through atmospheric currents, which are then deposited during rain events as moisture condenses over cold regions —at high altitudes and latitudes. Previous studies have shown DDT/DDE to have alarmingly high concentrations in the Arctic, and other U.S. national parks. DDT and other POPs are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, and biomagnify in food chains, causing harm to all exposed.

For example, the now-banned insecticide mirex, previously used for the control of fire ants in the southeastern U.S., has been found to accumulate in traditional food staples of fish and wildlife in the north, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also found in the blood of people in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and other northerly regions, exposure to mirex has been linked to a number of adverse effects to human health, including serious reproductive disorders causing infertility and type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately banning all uses of production of chemicals will not prevent their presence in the environment or harmful effects for decades to come. This troubling fact means that every effort to stop all additional introductions of these dangerous chemicals into the environment should be made.

Source: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Alaska Dispatch

Photo Source: Alaska Dispatch

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




Herbicide Ban Put on Hold In Sri Lanka

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2014) Bowing to political pressure and agrochemical industry opposition Sri Lanka’s government has taken a step back from its original decision to place a ban on one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide —glyphosate. Scientific evidence has tied glyphosate to the incurable, deadly kidney disease that has afflicted thousands of Sri Lankans. The delay marks a setback in efforts by scientists and activists to remove from the shelves a chemical widely used on tea and rice paddy plantations in Sri Lanka.   _62954732_field624

The decision to ban the chemical was initiated following the publication of a scientific report demonstrating that kidney disease was primarily caused by glyphosate. The report provides a summary of existing scientific information demonstrating kidney failure among farmers who were exposed to the popular herbicide. Indeed lead author Channa Jayasumana, PhD. explains that glyphosate bonds with toxic heavy metals in the environment such as cadmium and arsenic, forming stable compounds that are consumed in food and water and do not break down until they reach the kidneys.

“Glyphosate acts as a carrier or a vector of these heavy metals to the kidney,” said Dr. Jayasumana. The chemical was initially created as a chelating agent in industrial processes to form strong chemical bonds with metals, which now are showing up in the kidneys of exposed farmworkers in Sri Lanka, India, and Central America —where farmers are exposed to extreme heat, likely to become dehydrated, and certainly exposed to chemicals.

The study’s results are bolstered by a joint investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Sri Lankan government who detected both cadmium and glyphosate, as well as other pesticides and heavy metals, in the environment of endemic areas, and in kidney patients’ urine, blood and tissues.

The agrichemical manufacturer Monsanto disputes the idea that glyphosate is well suited to create bonds with heavy metals. “There is no evidence that glyphosate complexes effectively with arsenic, cadmium, or other nephrotoxic metals,” said Thomas Helscher. Director of Corporate Affairs at Monsanto. “Glyphosate is actually a relatively poor chelator for heavy metals when compared to pharmacological chelation agents.” However, glyphosate does form strong bonds with heavy metals: Glyphosate’s chemical composition contains three different chemical groups allowing it to be a highly versatile chelator, forming strong bonds with heavy metals such as calcium manganese, and iron, as studies show.

In an interview with The Center for Public Integrity Paul Capel, PhD., an hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said that glyphosate formed stronger bonds with metals than those formed by other herbicides. “As far as I know, there are no other common herbicides that would have this same sort of strength of interactions with metals,” said Dr. Capel.

Other countries around the world have taken steps to target glyphosate for its role in chronic kidney disease. Notably, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved a ban on 53 agrichemicals including glyphosate in 2013 —a ban which has not yet been signed into law. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing the registration of glyphosate, the review is expected to be completed by 2015. However, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the EPA has “not seen any pattern of kidney health effects” in its study of scientific literature.

In the absence of widespread adoption of organic practices that eliminate hazardous pesticides, worker protections for farmworkers must be strengthened. Consumers can do their part and help encourage the protection of the people who help put food on our table every day by purchasing organic. By buying organic, you support an agricultural system that does not heavily rely on the widespread application of dangerous pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

Photo Source: BBC News Magazine

Source: Center for Public Integrity

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



Connecticut Senate Moves Forward on GE Grass Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2014) Connecticut State Senate bill no.443, an act that bans the sale of genetically engineered (GE) grass seeds, passed the state Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 25-11. The bill shows Connecticut legislators are taking seriously the risks that increased pesticide use in residential areas pose to the health of the states residents, especially children, and pets.

The bill will ban the sale, use, and marketing of lawn or turf seeds that are genetically engineered to be resistant to pesticides. The GE grass seed that is being developed by Monsanto and Scotts is currently not available in consumer markets and is being tested by Scotts employees in their front yards. The bill may face stronger challenges from Connecticut’s House as it is unclear if the House speaker, J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, will call for a vote on the bill before the session ends May 7.

One of the major concerns the bill addresses is that allowing GE grass seeds for consumer use would lead to dramatic increases in residential pesticide use. “So you will spread this pesticide all across your lawn, back and forth, on your lawn,” said Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, as quoted in a The Day article,  “The more you pour it onto the land, the more it is going to affect the water supply, the Long Island Sound, and our well water.”

Increasing use of glyphosate in herbicide-tolerant crops has also led to increased herbicide resistance. A study published by Washington State University’s research professor Charles Benbrook, PhD, found that the use of herbicides in the production of three GE crops —cotton, soybeans and corn— had increased. Heavy reliance on the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, has placed weed populations under progressively intense and unprecedented selection pressure, triggering a perfect storm for the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds. “Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Dr. Benbrook said.

“Blanketing lawns, parks, and athletic fields in these dangerous chemicals will endanger the children and pets that play on them, while eventually risking the development of weeds that are resistant to current herbicides and pesticides, requiring even more toxic substances be used,” said Sen. Ed Meyer, quoted by the Connecticut Mirror.

Aside from the likely increase in residential herbicide applications as a result of home plantings, allowance of the GE bluegrass presents the potential for increased difficulties for organic farmers and ranchers. Because of the popularity of the grass in yards, pastures, and prairies, its use is expected to be quite widespread. This will make conversion of new land to organic food production more difficult as, according to APHIS’s fact sheet on the decision, “Once established, GE Kentucky bluegrass may prevent transition to organic status unless eradicated from the acreage to be transitioned.”

GE grass seed was deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011. The agency issued issued a decision stating that it does not consider genetically engineered (GE) turf grass to be subject to federal regulations. In the decision announced by the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency stated that it does not have the authority to regulate introduction or transportation of the GE grass seed under the provisions of the Plant Protection Act.

While the original bill included a provision that would ban the use of toxic pesticides on high school grounds and parks, playgrounds, and playing fields, the final bill was amended to only include the ban on GE grass. Thus, SB 68 has been amended to include this original language. Beyond Pesticides has worked to gain support for these important protections, and we strongly encourage concerned Connecticut residents to visit the Connecticut-based environmental advocacy group ConnFACT’s action alert page on this issue, where you can find out how to contact key members of the CT legislature and voice your support.

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

Source: Connecticut Mirror

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



Pesticide Law Violations Uncovered in Oregon Timberland Spraying

(Beyond Pesticides, April 10, 2014) – The results of an on-going investigation into allegations of improper pesticide spraying on timberland near residential areas in Southern Oregon confirmed what residents of the small towns had known since the day they were unwillingly sprayed with dangerous pesticides—the applications were illegal.

Statements released on April 8, 2014, by Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) concerning its investigation into the allegations, indicated multiple violations by the pesticide operator and applicator responsible for the spraying had been found, as well as evidence of the presence of pesticides on properties in Cedar Valley, near Gold Beach, Oregon.

Specifically, ODA concluded that Pacific Air Research – a licensed commercial pesticide operator based in White City, Oregon– and its aerial applicator, allowed pesticide products to fall on properties other than the intended application site, applied one product at a rate above the maximum allowed by the label instructions, and provided multiple false records that misled ODA about the actual products used.

The confirmed pesticides at issue, 2,4-D and triclopyr, are a serious matter, exacerbated by spray applications in excess of pesticide label restrictions and other regulations. Under the Federal, Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the nation’s primary pesticide registration and control law, federal and state “acceptable” risk standards of pesticides are completely dependent on the applicator following the detailed use and warning labels that must accompany all registered pesticides.

While FIFRA’s standards are severely lacking and inadequate on several fronts, this incident highlights a key problem with the nation’s pesticide safety law —even weak health and environmental protections can be further undermined by the applicator’s lack of compliance with the pesticide product label’s instructions. Ultimately, however, public protections are undermined by a lack of state enforcement of pesticide use disclosure requirements and the unwillingness of state lawmakers and regulators to establish more expansive environmental and health standards in situations like aerial forest applications, school and residential zones, and agriculture.

An Eye on Enforcement

In this instance, ODA acknowledges that serious violations have occurred that “may result in civil penalties to be determined,” and notes that, “ODA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) are collaborating on enforcement actions.” Despite the state’s seemingly promising stance on enforcement, residents across Oregon and environmental advocates alike question ODA’s commitment to enforcement in this case and overall when it comes to pesticide application violations and establishing meaningful protections.

As one local environmental group, Beyond Toxics, reminds the public, “The owner of the timber company who had hired the helicopter operator claimed that there was no way any helicopter was near the sickened residents. [ODA], the agency in charge of the investigation, went public claiming that only glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up) had been sprayed and laid seeds of doubts that the community had been exposed at all.” It took Beyond Toxics challenging ODA through a petition to the Oregon Attorney General, to get ODA to release information concerning the spraying and spur further investigation, resulting in this week’s findings.

Additionally, ODA’s statements on enforcement are viewed as tepid at best. Under both FIFRA and even the weak Oregon pesticide laws, civil penalties should not be the only option on the table. Civil penalties under FIFRA and Oregon State laws offer little deterrence value, even with a finding of gross negligence on the part of the applicator. Knowingly withholding information, lying to regulators, and violating both federal and state laws, warrants consideration of criminal violations. What is also needed is for Oregon lawmakers to establish stronger penalties, such as license revocations, and protective standards in the former of buffer zones.

Beyond Pesticides, along with other local Oregon environmental advocacy groups will be meeting in Portland, Oregon, April 11 through 12, to discuss solutions to these problems and more at our annual pesticide forum: Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices.

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

Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting, Beyond Toxics, Oregon Department of Agriculture



Avon Joins Other Companies in Phasing Out Triclosan from Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2014)  Cosmetics giant Avon will join several other notable cosmetics and personal care companies in committing to remove the antibacterial pesticide triclosan from their products. This announcement comes months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require manufacturers of antibacterial soaps and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap. Avon is just the latest company to demonstrate the notable market shift away from triclosan which has been occurring quietly over the past few years due to consumer awareness and government stagnation. Avon’s action marks a trend in which companies using toxic chemicals are forced by consumers to switch to nontoxic ingredients and get out in front of regulators whose actions lags behind the science on adverse health and environmental effects.

Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for a couple years now. Avon joined these companies last week, 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. On its website, Avon notes that its decision is “based on the preferences expressed by some of our customers for products without triclosan. We are no longer using triclosan in new product development and have begun replacing it in existing products.” GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, have reformulated their products to also exclude triclosan, according to media reports. Others, including L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have also started phasing it out.

“We are not going to use it in new products and the process is underway for identifying alternatives or changing formulations for the small number of existing products that had included triclosan among their ingredients,” Avon spokeswoman, Jennifer Vargas.

Triclosan is currently used in a wide variety of products, including hand soaps, clothing, kitchenware, deodorants, and cosmetics. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed a laundry list of adverse impacts resulting from its use. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been 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 umbilical cord blood and human milk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 40% since 2004. Researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that triclosan impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure. Last year, a published study revealed that triclosan can alter the composition of bacterial communities in streams and can lead to bacterial resistance. Research also shows that triclosan is entering aquatic environments at elevated rates, as wastewater treatment plants are unable to completely remove the chemical.

In a statement about the Avon announcement, Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy at the nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund, urged the company to quit playing catchup and take a leadership role.

“We have been urging companies and the government, through our campaign and petitions over the last decade, to remove triclosan from products and are glad to see Avon joining other company to take responsible action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The story of triclosan represents a deep failure in our regulatory system, which allows toxic products on the market that have no proven benefit, while raising serious health and environmental concerns that clearly should be avoided with precautionary action,” Mr. Feldman continued.

“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates Avon for finally giving triclosan the boot,” said Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and  director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund.. “It’s a hormonally active chemical that has no business being in cosmetics and personal care products,” she continued.

Groups have been calling on FDA and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) 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. However, this announcement comes years late as many manufacturers have already been removing triclosan from their products due to public pressure. There has also been local action around the procurement of triclosan. For instance, Minnesota announced that all state-run agencies would stop purchasing products that contain triclosan.

In many antibacterial soaps, triclosan has been replaced with L-Lactic acid, normally found in the human body and in several foods. This agent is of low toxicity and suppresses the growth of bacteria. Under EPA, L-lactic acid is registered and used as an antimicrobial pesticide, disinfectant, indirect food contact surface sanitizer, and fungicide and virucide on hard, non-porous surfaces. However, Beyond Pesticides has pointed to scientific findings that triclosan in soap products is no more effective than soap and water in managing germs. FDA has categorized L-Lactic acid as generally recognized as safe and is allowed for use as an antimicrobial agent and for other uses in food. In other products, triclosan has been replaced with quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride. These compounds have a variety of registered uses, are widely used, and are considered more toxic.

Since 2004, Beyond Pesticides worked to bring public attention to the dangers surrounding the proliferate use of triclosan in consumer goods. A petition submitted to both FDA and EPA by Beyond Pesticides in 2010 calls for the ban on triclosan based on the unnecessary health and environmental risks involved with its use, given the availability of safer alternatives. Now that growing public awareness and the evolving market shift away from triclosan, the time is now for a federal ban on this unnecessary chemical.

For more on triclosan, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterial page.

Source: The Guardian

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





See You at “Advancing Sustainable Communities,” National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12, Portland, OR!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2014) With less than a week until the 2014 National Pesticide Forum, please take a moment to consider three reasons why you should attend this exciting and important event:

ForumFlyer1. Learn from Leading Scientists and Experts: Many of the conference speakers are top leading experts in their fields, and you just aren’t exposed to these kinds of people every day. While you’re at the Forum you’ll have the opportunity to listen to them speak and interact with them during panel sessions:

  • Longtime leader and visionary in sustainable organic agriculture, Fred Kirschenmann.
  • Center for Food Safety’s leading environmental attorney George Kimbrell on genetic engineering and pollinators;
  • Pierre Mineau, PhD, world-renowned environmental toxicologist;
  • Cutting edge scientist on transgenerational effects of pesticide exposure, Michael Skinner, PhD;
  • Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Program Director for The Xerces Society;
  • and so much more.

These highlighted speakers do not diminish the importance of all the incredible speakers on the program, from lawyers, scientists, town officials, and activists, to the Beyond Pesticides’ board of directors. Check out the full program for more information.

2. Engage with Organic Land Management Practitioners: The Forum presents a unique opportunity to learn and discuss ways to tackle turf, landscape, and agricultural management without the use of harmful chemicals. Getting tips and tools for practical, cost-effective techniques that can be extended beyond the home, yard, and gardens, to community wide land-management.

3. Recharge and Inspire New Action: Talking with local organic activists, learning new tools for pest prevention, and strategizing on local policies, is a good way to create the energy for action. The Forum provides a productive space for a fresh perspective, new tools, and firm knowledge to join the fight for local, state, and national policies that protect health and the environment.

Not to mention, you’ll come away with a belly full of organic food and beverages which will be provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, in addition to hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine for receptions on Friday and Saturday night. All for a low registration price! We urge you to join us in attending:

Advancing Sustainable Communities:
People, pollinators and practices

The 32nd National Pesticide Forum
University Place Hotel at Portland State University
Portland, OR
April 11-12, 2014

For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

We hope to see you there!

The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

Co-sponsors include Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, John A. Green MD III-The EverGreen Center, Healthy Bees=Healthy Gardens, Lewis & Clark Law School, Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Sustainable Beekeepers, Oregon Tilth, The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), Pestcide Action Network, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), Portland Urban Beekeepers, University of Portland’s Environmental Studies Department, and The Xerces Society.



With Big Money, Industry Fights County Ordinance to Ban GE Crop Planting

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2014) A recent report by The Oregonian found that enormous amounts of money are being spent by agrichemical and biotechnology companies in one Oregon county to stop an ordinance that would ban farmers from being able to plant genetically engineered (GE) Crops. This current legislative fight encapsulates the uphill funding battle that anti-GE activists face when organizing state and local level campaigns.

The ordinance that will appear on the upcoming May ballot in Jackson County, Oregon will ban the planting and rising of GE plants within the county. The ordinance also calls for the county to conduct inspections and allows enforcement through citizen lawsuits. Jackson County was the only county exempt from a law enacted last fall that made the state the regulator of agricultural seeds.

The county’s measure qualified for the May ballot before the Oregon Senate passed S.B. 863, which preempts localities ability to regulate seed, so it was exempted in the bill. The bill preempts efforts the efforts in Benton and Lane counties to restrict GE agriculture. Despite state preemption, Josephine County has a similar measure on the May ballot to ban GE crops.

According to a recent report in The Oregonian, the ordinance is facing strong opposition from out of state funding sources. According to the report, six pesticide and plant biotechnology firms have donated $455,000 to Good Neighcbor Farms, an organization fighting the GE crop ban. Pesticide and biotech firm Monsanto Company donated $183,294, GMO seed producer DuPont Pioneer $129,647, biotech firm Syngenta Crop Protection $75,000, and $22,353 each from biotech firms Bayer CropScience, BASF Plant Science and Dow AgroSciences. Good Neighbor Farms has more than $556,000 cash on hand which is a colossal amount for a local measure.

The opposition to this measure has dramatically out-fundraised the two political action committees supporting the measure, GMO Free Jackson County and Our Family Farms Coalition, which have a combined $102,368 cash on hand. The lead up to this ballot measure is reminiscent of recent GE labeling efforts in California and Washington where anti-GE labeling efforts flooded the states with outside corporate money.

One of the original concerns behind the ordinance is organic farmers’ inability to protect themselves from GE crops drifting or cross-pollinating with their crops. A recent survey by Food & Water Watch, Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination, found that a third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced problems in their fields due to the nearby use of GE crops, and over half of those growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination. In May of 2013, USDA announced that unapproved GE wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. After this discovery, Japan cancelled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat. Monsanto has not conducted field trials in Oregon since 2001 when it reportedly withdrew from the state.

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

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



A Quarter of All Bumblebees At Risk in Europe

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2014) Habitat destruction, pesticide contamination, agricultural intensification and climate change threaten 24 percent of Europe’s bumblebees, according to research conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and funded by the European Commission. The study is part an ongoing project called European Red List of pollinators, with contribution from experts of the “Status and Trends of European Pollinators” (STEP) project, which assesses the conservation status of all bees —approximately 2000 species— occurring throughout Europe.

The study concludes that almost half of the 68 species in the European Union (EU) are in decline, including those at risk of extinction. Of these, a total of 16 species are listed as at risk according to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, which represents the world most trusted authority on the conservation status of species. In comparison, only 13 percent of bumblebee populations are increasing.

“We are very concerned with these findings. Such a high proportion of threatened bumblebees can have serious implications for our food production,” says Ana Nieto, European Biodiversity Officer of IUCN and coordinator of the study. “Protecting bumblebee species and habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices will be essential to reverse the negative trends in European bumblebee populations.”

Bumblebees, like honey bees, are crucial for a functional food system, “Of the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebees, says the IUCN press statement, adding that they contribute 22 billion euros ($30.35 billion) to European agriculture. Some crops, including tomatoes, almost completely rely on bumblebees to produce fruit. Through a technique known as ‘buzz pollination’ bumblebees are able to release the pollen tightly held by the flower –essentially by rapidly moving their wings, causing resonant vibrations bumblebees can  shake loose the pollen to accomplish pollination. No bumblebees, no tomatoes.

Of course, the EU recently implemented a two-year ban on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides —imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam— follows a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees. “However, efforts clearly need to be scaled up,” said Janez Potoćnik, EU Environmental Commissioner on the ban, continuing to say that integrating biodiversity requirements into other policies would be necessary.

In addition to pesticide exposure, the study found that changes in land use, intensification of agriculture, and climate change have severely reduced the habitat available for bumblebees, some of which are highly specialized. For example, Bombus culllumanus, listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List has declined by more than 80 percent over the past decade, due primarily to the loss of important forage like clover which farmer practices have removed. The populations that were once widespread now only exists in small fragments across Europe.

Improving forage availability, planting hedgerows, and reducing the use of bee-toxic pesticides would all help underpin stable populations of pollinators, says the IUCN press statement.

BEE Protective

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

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

Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature news release

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



EPA Issues Stop Sale Order for Food Containers Laced with Nanosilver Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2014) A food container production company in New Jersey is finding out that the smallest of ingredients can have big implications for public health. Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had issued a stop sale order to Pathway Investment Corp., manufacturer of Kinetic Go Green Premium Food Storage Containers and Kinetic Smartwist Series Containers. In addition to the order sent to Pathway, the EPA has also issued warning letters to Amazon, Sears, Wal-Mart and other large retailers directing them not to sell these products.containersnano

The reason for the order: nanosilver—an extremely small particle of silver that has been added to consumer products of all kinds during the last decade to combat bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms.

Because of nanosilver’s properties, it is considered a pesticide and active ingredient under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the primary federal law governing pesticide use in the United States. Under FIFRA, any product containing an active ingredient that acts as a pesticide must be registered with EPA. For public health claims associated with pesticide use, EPA requires manufacturers to show that the product performs as intended and does not pose “unreasonable” adverse effects to the environment. “Unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” is defined as one of two ways: (1) any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide, or (2) a human dietary risk from residues that result from a use of a pesticide in or on any food inconsistent with the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The manufacturer must also submit a proposed label for the product that meets all of FIFRA’s labeling requirements.

Considering that Pathway did not register its food container products that incorporate nanosilver into the plastic and thus failed to meet FIFRA’s registration requirements, EPA appears to have a pretty straightforward case. “Claims that mold, fungus or bacteria are controlled or destroyed by a particular product must be backed up with testing so that consumers know that the products do what the labels say,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Unless these products are registered with the EPA, consumers have no information about whether the claims are accurate. The EPA will continue to take action against companies making unverified public health claims.”

Small Ingredients Have Big Unresolved Safety Issues

EPA’s focus on Pathway’s failure to register and back up its performance claims, while applauded and legally accurate under FIFRA, ignores the real issue underlying nanosilver and its presence in any consumer products, let alone a food container: EPA’s own failure to apply the unreasonable adverse effects standard and perform an adequate registration process on all nanosilver products.

In November 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling concerning litigation filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) against EPA. The lawsuit challenged EPA’s conditional registration of nanosilver-laced textiles, because under the dubious conditional registration process (a loophole registration option that defers submission of normally required environmental effects and toxicity studies for indefinite periods of time) EPA did not require submission of a full breadth of toxicity data and thus did not properly evaluate the unreasonable adverse effects to the environment for the nanosilver textile products. NRDC argued that if EPA had conducted a thorough examination of toxicity data, it would have found unreasonable adverse effects to the environment, particularly with regard to aquatic species and the aggregate pesticide tolerance dose limits permitted in toddlers under the FFDCA. The Ninth Circuit agreed with NRDC and suspended the conditional registration of the textile products.

However, this ruling did not apply to the numerous other products containing nanosilver and underscores the issue that federal regulation of nanoparticles has thus far been lacking as a whole, despite studies highlighting concerns and some serious unanswered questions. In no case is this more evident than in the fact that the Kinetic products targeted in EPA’s stop-sale order had been allegedly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the usual authority from which food container manufacturers must seek approval before placing a product on the market.

Beyond Pesticides continually advocates for stronger, clearer, and enforceable legal and regulatory standards that prevent dangerous and untested pesticides and products from entering the marketplace before they pose a threat to public health and the environment. Join us at our 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices, to continue the discussion, strategize, and interact with advocates, scientists, and policymakers on solutions to improve public health and environmental protections.

Source: EPA, NRDC

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



d-CON Manufacturer Sues California to Stop Rat Poison Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2014) Just last week it was announced that California ruled to remove from store shelves several rodenticide products identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as unsafe for children and wildlife.  The maker of these products, Reckitt Benckiser, aggressive in challenging regulators who want to restrict the company’s loose bait products, is suing California to stop it from acting. The state’s new restriction on retail sales of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, due to take effect July 1, 2014, seeks to protect wildlife and pets from accidental poisoning from rat poisons. Reckitt Benckiser is also embroiled in challenging EPA’s decision to remove these products from the national marketplace for failure to meet federal standards.

The California’ Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) ruled last week that second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone, found in d-CON brand products, must be classified as California-restricted materials, and only allowed to be used by certified pesticide applicators. This follows EPA’s 2013 issuance of a Notice of Intent to Cancel the registrations of rodenticide products that do not meet the agency’s new mitigation measures to reduce poisonings to children and wildlife. However, manufacturer of d-CON, Reckitt Benckiser LLC, refuses to adopt the  risk mitigation measures established by EPA in 2008, and is currently also challenging EPA’s decision to protect the public from these products. All other manufacturers have complied with EPA’s order. See more of EPA’s risk mitigation decision here.

“It’s disgusting that d-CON continues to challenge common-sense controls for protecting wildlife, children and pets,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to put public safety before corporate profits.”

Reckitt Benckiser argues in its suit that CDPR “violated its own statutory mandate and exceeded its statutory authority.” The company states that California’s decision would effectively “halt the legal sale to individual consumers” of its products, and claims the agency failed to follow proper procedures for adopting or amending regulations.

The regulations from CDPR target products sold to the general public in retail outlets and limits highly toxic rodenticide use beyond 50 feet of manmade structures. These highly toxic poisons, specifically formulations with second-generation anticoagulant chemicals, will still be available for widespread use by licensed commercial and agricultural pest-control operators. EPA’s mitigation measures to reduce direct and secondary exposures now requires products to use bait stations and secured bait forms, instead of loose baits that children can more readily access, as well as eliminates the most toxic and persistent active ingredients.

“Reckitt Benckiser knows that California’s bold decision to take d-CON off the shelves is a preview of things to come in other states,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Reckitt is fighting hard to hold on to the past, but the corporation should know that we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure d-CON does not become the DDT of our time.”

While California’s recent efforts on d-CON products specifically addresses the impact of these chemicals on wildlife, the removal of d-CON rodenticides from store shelves will ultimately have the added effect of protecting young children. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged somewhere in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 reports of rat and mouse poison exposures each year for children under the age of 6. Children can be incidentally exposed to rodent poisons when they are placed in unsecured “loose bait” stations, and research shows that low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by these products. One study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African-American and 26 percent were Latino. In California alone, wildlife poisonings have been documented in at least 25 species of wild animals in California, including mountain lions, hawks, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and northern spotted owls, as well as numerous cats and dogs.

“So much for corporate responsibility,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. “Now that both EPA and the state of California have moved to curb the use of d-Con and other risky poisons, Reckitt Benckiser needs to do the right thing and stop fighting measures that could save kids and protect wildlife.”

Beyond Pesticides responded to the irresponsible actions of Reckitt Benckiser by launching the Care About Kids campaign to urge major retailers to stop selling dangerous d-CON rodenticides.  In lieu of federal action, Beyond Pesticides argues that retailers have an obligation to stop selling products that EPA has determined are too dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.

For more information about Beyond Pesticides Care About Kids campaign, see our Rodenticides program page, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of these chemicals and find effective alternatives to their use.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Earthjustice Press Release



Earthworms Detoxify Pesticides at a High Cost

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2014) Earthworms that make their home in contaminated soil do so at a significant cost, according to French and Danish researchers. Results of the study, “Acclimation of earthworms to chemicals in anthropogenic landscapes, physiological mechanisms and soil ecological implications,” found that earthworms exposed to fungicides in conventionally farmed soil were at a stark disadvantage to worms in land managed organically. Earthworms exposed to the fungicide product Opus, containing active ingredient epoxiconazole, were able to detoxify the chemical, but gained half as much weight as worms from an organic farm, where their population was also 2 to 3 times higher.

The study observed the adaptation capability of earthworms by comparing the earthwormresponse from those in land managed conventionally for 20 years to those in land managed organically for the same amount of time. Researchers focused on the metabolic changes seen in each group of worms after exposure to epoxiconazole. According to the study’s authors, “The fungicide increased metabolism rate in the worms, both the adapted worms and the not adapted worms. In the not adapted worms we saw that their energy reserve of glycogen was used faster. Contrastingly, only in the adapted worms we saw that amino acids and protein contents increased, suggesting a detoxification mechanism. They also increased their feeding activity, possibly to compensate for the increase in energy demand.”

Expending all of this energy takes a heavy toll on the earthworm population as a whole. “We see that the worms have developed methods to detoxify themselves, so that they can live in soil sprayed with fungicide. They spend a lot of energy on detoxifying, and that comes with a cost: The worms do not reach the same size as other worms, and we see that there are fewer of them in sprayed soil. An explanation could be that they are less successful at reproducing, because they spend their energy on ridding themselves of the pesticide”, the researchers, PhD student Nicolas Givaudan and associate professor, Claudia Wiegand, PhD, say. Worms taken from organic soil weighed .6 grams on average while those living in conventional soil averaged only .3 grams.

Researchers note that previous studies have found that 70% of fungicides do not reach the target crop, eventually leading to residual compounds in the soil. The fact that this investigation focused on environmentally relevant sub-lethal concentrations of epoxiconazole provides further evidence of how the conventional approach to agriculture weakens the resiliency of natural systems, even when these chemicals are “used as directed.” Earthworms provide crucial ecosystem services, increasing soil porosity and aggregation, providing channels for root growth, and stimulating microbial activity as digested organic matter passes through their intestines, among numerous other benefits. Recent studies show that earthworms even play an important role in sequestering carbon dioxide in the soil.

The organic, “feed the soil” approach emphasizes the importance of maintaining and strengthening soil ecology. Under the U.S. Organic Foods Production Act, a farm’s crop production plain must “contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility.” By eschewing harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers, organic agriculture creates a soil ecosystem that confers significant benefits to crops though increased pest and disease resilience. Studies show that, for example, organic methods of farming strawberries lead to healthier berries and soils, and result in improved pollination success. Farmers don’t need to apply soil-harming pesticides in order maintain crop yields. A 13 year Iowa State University study released in 2011 found organic production returned about $200 per acre more than conventional agriculture, and produced comparable yields and healthier soils.

But in order for organic to maintain strong protections for environmental and human health, it is critically important for consumers to become involved in the organic rulemaking process. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the rulemaking body that votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming, will meet April 29- May 1, 2014 at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages concerned consumers to visit the Keeping Organic Strong webpage, review the issues before the NOSB, and provide a unique public comment at regulations.gov. Also see Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic Campaign, to help defend organic standards against changes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will weaken public trust in the organic food label.

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

Source: Phys.org, Science Direct




Timberland Pesticide Spray Investigation Records Ordered Released in Oregon

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2014) On March 24 the Oregon Department of Justice (ODJ) ordered the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to turn over records that are part of an investigation of an aerial herbicide spraying over timberland in southwestern Oregon. This public disclosure of records may allow residents to have a better understanding of the chemicals associated with ongoing exposure incidents. This recent spray event is just one in line of many that have led environmental groups and federal agencies to call into question the effectiveness of Oregon’s regulation of pesticide use on timberland.

ODA began its investigation in November of 2013 after complaints that herbicides sprayed from a helicopter on commercial timberlands near Gold Beach drifted on to residential areas. ODA is investigating five herbicide active ingredients: 2,4-D, triclopyr, glyphosate, imazapyr, and metsulfuron methyl.  However, ODA has not released information about the specific products it believes were used or their potential toxicity. Fifteen residents filed complaints with the department after they experienced rashes, headaches, asthma, and stomach cramps directly after the application.

Recently, the Oregon Department of Justice ordered ODA to turn over records that are part of an investigation after the agency denied a request made in January by Beyond Toxics to make these records public.  ODA may be able to redact some personal and confidential information from its investigation records before making them public.  This disclosure is viewed as a victory by environmental groups who are concerned about the health effects of spray incidents.

Spray incidents such as these are not surprising as Oregon has more relaxed regulations on timber production than its neighboring states. In Oregon, there are no required  buffer zones around residential land, similar to those along fish-bearing streams, and the state does not require notification of residents near timberland. Timberland owners do have to notify the Oregon Department of Forestry, and people can pay a fee to receive those notifications, but they do not specifically disclose that chemicals that will be used, or the day and time of the spraying. Aerial herbicide application is also only used on private land as public forest land is managed without these practices.

These lax state regulations have also resulted in problems for the state of Oregon with federal authorities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently found that the Oregon’s program to reduce nonpoint coastal pollution is inadequate. Both federal agencies state that Oregon’s program does not adequately protect streams that are habitat for Coho Salmon, an endangered species, and drinking water from herbicides that are aerially sprayed by lumber companies. This proposed disapproval action is part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Environmental Advocates in 2009, which charged Oregon has failed to meet the conditions of the Oregon Nonpoint Program’s approval.

Triangle Lake, another Oregon Community, has experienced similar pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to timberland. In 2011atrazine and 2,4-D were found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation. The investigation resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations. This incident was highlighted in a recent report by Beyond Toxics, “Oregon’s Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use: A Case Study of Risk to People, Drinking Water and Salmon.”

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

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

Source: OPB



European Union Set to Strengthen Organic Standards

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2014) The European Commission released a new proposal this week to impose stricter regulations for organic food produced within the European Union (EU). The initiative would harmonize standards within the 29-member bloc, eliminate many exceptions currently allowed in organic agriculture while simultaneously improving consumer trust and addressing producer concerns. The move comes just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is receiving comments on allowable organic materials.

The Commission’s proposal acknowledges the massive expansion of the organic market in the EU, which has quadrupled in size over the last ten years —with similar patterns shown in U.S. organic market. “The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo,” said Dacian Cioloş, EU Commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development. “The Commission is looking for more and better organic farming in the EU by consolidating consumer confidence in organic products and removing obstacles to the development of organic agriculture.”

The proposal will eliminate exceptions in organic farming through measures such as reducing the conventional feed and seed, and toughening limits for allowable pesticide and genetically engineered (GE) contaminants. The move is expected to improve consumer trust in the EU organic label.

Producer concerns on rising costs are also addressed as the proposal outlines methods to improve access to the global market through trade standards. In essence, the proposal will set out regulations for non-EU counties that want the EU organic seal. “We need a better supervision when it comes to imports. We want to negotiate with partners outside the EU and guarantee consistent standards,” said Commissioner Cioloş. The proposal would also help farmers to more easily switch to organic by introducing group certification systems which will improve transparency and reduce administrative costs.

The EU Commission simultaneously released its Action Plan, which provides organic farmer and producer tools to implement policy changes for organic production in the EU. Specifically, the Plan provides information to farmers on EU farm initiatives and rural development, improves investment in agricultural research and development, and improves recognition of the EU organic label to targets such as schools.

However, the proposal is only the first step toward strengthening the EU organic label, now it’s in the hands of the European Parliament and European Council for approval. Meanwhile, here in the United States the public has the opportunity to comment to start the same process towards strengthening the USDA organic label.

Take Action to Defend Organic here in the United States

We need your voice now more than ever. The NOSB will meet in San Antonio, Texas from April 29 to May 1, 2014 to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the U.S. The Board is now accepting public comments until April 8, 2014 for its upcoming spring meeting. Beyond Pesticides has compiled a list of the issues before the Board, which can be viewed on the Keeping Organic Strong website. We strongly encourage all those concerned about the future of organic food to review the issues and submit a public comment to the NOSB.

Protect public trust in the organic food label. In addition to your public comment, Beyond Pesticides is asking you to help defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label by sending an email or letter to your U.S. Representative and Senators, President Obama, and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. For more information visit Save Our Organic.

It’s important to remember that while we raise our voice in defense of the integrity of the organic label, organic farming is still significantly better for human health and a cleaner environment than its conventional, chemical-intensive counterpart. Through public involvement, we must protect the integrity of the organic label and the process that supports it. Otherwise, the market will disappear and with it the opportunity to solve serious environmental and health problems associated with chemical-intensive practices. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops, whereas chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals and inputs which poison the soil, as well as air, water, farmworkers and consumers.

For more information on what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong website, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process alongside the Board.

Sources: Deutsche Welle,  European Commission  Press ReleasePhoto Credit: Natalie Maynor



Neonicotinoid Pesticides Lack Benefits, Studies Find

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2014) – A report released by Center for Food Safety (CFS) this week refutes claims that a dangerous class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, Heavy Costs: Weighing the Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Agriculture, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature to answer the simple question: Are neonicotinoid insecticidal seed treatment products beneficial or not?

Neonicotinoids, the pesticides in question, are a class of systemic insecticides. Despite numerous studies linking these insecticides with bee kills, colony collapse, and weakened pollinator immune systems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to operate under an alarmingly slow pesticide registration review process, one that extends to 2018 and will most likely fail to appropriately apply the appropriate standard of review for pesticide registration. Under that standard of review, EPA should not approve a pesticide that poses unreasonable risks to “man or the environment,” taking into account economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits.  Unfortunately, economic costs and benefits usually become the sole factor.

Because of EPA’s failure to appropriately weigh these costs and benefits, honey bees and other pollinators have been bearing the brunt of the costs without recognition of the benefits they provide. For example, honey bees are responsible for producing one in every three bites of food eaten, but research increasingly shows they are being severely harmed by the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids, both alone and in combination with other pesticides.

The CFS report authors set out to weigh these benefits and costs as they should be considered. The answer: No, neonicotinoids are not beneficial. And especially not when you consider the severe impact of these dangerous insecticides on pollinator populations necessary for the very crop production they allegedly are supposed to improve.

To get to this conclusion, CFS summarized 19 articles from scientific journals that studied the relationship between neonicotinoid treatments and actual yields of major U.S. crops: canola, corn, dry beans, soybeans, and wheat. Researchers at CFS also examined reports on crop yield impacts from other countries that had withdrawn approval of neonicotinoids because of the significant losses to pollinator populations.

The scientific literature examined in the report, while not as robust as researchers would have preferred, supported one or more categories of findings:

  • Crops treated with neonicotinoids don’t provide yield benefits.
  • Crops treated with neonicotinoids provide inconsistent yield benefits.
  • Using neonicotinoids frequently does not provide an economic benefit to farmers compared to alternative control methods or application patterns.
  • Neonicotinoids are unreliable and sporadic in their effectiveness.

Not stopping there, CFS then went on to examine reports produced from countries like France and Italy that have looked at crop yields from both a before and after perspective, because of bans on certain neonicotinoids established as far back as 1999. Based on data from longer term bans, authorities from these countries found no evidence of harms to productivity or economic harm. Similarly, scientific review of international crop yield impacts and treatment costs as compared to alternative control methods and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) treatment methods in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and North America found costs to be lower with IPM treatment methods and crop yields static or minimally improved.

Together these reviews and findings led to the conclusion that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use, as done with the majority of crops through indiscriminate and unrequested seed coatings, were nearly non-existent.

Concerning the costs, the report found that any minor benefits if they did exist disappeared because of the significant impacts to farmers, bee cultivators, and an extended range of pollinator populations. Specifically, the noted categories of losses identified in the report included, honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events.  All of these losses carried both heavy economic losses and environmental losses.

In the end, the results of the report led the authors to a clear recommendation: EPA must take action to suspend all existing registrations of neonicotinoid seed treatment products whose costs and benefits have not been adequately weighed.

BEE Protective

Through its BEE Protective campaign, Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for EPA action to cancel pesticide registrations for neonicotinoids and conduct extensive health safety evaluations that take into account the real costs and benefits these insecticides bring with their use.

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

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

Source: Center for Food Safety



Citing Continuing Failure to Protect Endangered Species, Lawsuit Challenges EPA Registered Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2014) Conservation and food-safety groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday for failing to protect hundreds of endangered fish, butterflies and other species from a new, toxic pesticide, cyantraniliprole. The suit claims EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by approving the widespread agricultural and residential use of the new pesticide in January without input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, the two federal agencies in charge of protecting endangered species.

fishinwaterThe Notice of Intent to Sue is being filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and Defenders of Wildlife. Cyantraniliprole, a new, systemic insecticide, was formally registered by the EPA earlier this year. Despite evidence that cyantraniliprole is toxic to honey bees, EPA’s registration document for cyantraniliprole finds that, “There is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue.” According to EPA’s assessment the pesticide is also slightly to very highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Comments from beekeepers and concerned groups, including Beyond Pesticides, urged EPA not the grant registration, given the toxic nature of the pesticide and the many uncertainties in the ecological data, including outstanding data for long-term honey bee health.

According to the groups,  EPA failed to consider or mitigate impacts to endangered species despite concluding in its assessment that cyantraniliprole is “very highly toxic” to hundreds of endangered aquatic species, such as freshwater fish, mussels and clams, as well as endangered terrestrial invertebrate species, including 20 endangered butterflies. EPA’s failure occurred despite recent collaborative efforts on the part of the EPA and the two federal wildlife agencies —responding to a report from the National Academy of Sciences— to improve its procedures for evaluating the impacts of pesticides on endangered species before approving those chemicals for general use. Right now hundreds of pesticides that adversely affect endangered species are in widespread use without ever having undergone an ESA review.

“Once again the EPA has approved a harmful pesticide without adequate conservation measures to protect endangered species,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This reckless approval of cyantraniliprole really undermines recent efforts to reform the EPA’s dangerous policy of ignoring the disastrous effects pesticides are having on wildlife across the country.”

EPA has routinely disregarded the ESA’s requirement to consult with federal wildlife agencies on how to implement conservation measures to protect threatened and endangered species from pesticides. After years of gridlock, federal wildlife agencies, EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asked the National Academy of Sciences to study the issue and report on ways to better protect listed species from the effects of toxic pesticides. The National Academy report identified deficiencies for all the agencies involved in pesticide consultations, but singled out the EPA’s approach for its numerous analytical shortcomings. In response to the Academy’s recommendations, the agency announced several reforms designed to better protect endangered species in the fall of 2013. Yet, EPA did not incorporate any of these reforms or the Academy’s recommendations in its process for approving cyantraniliprole.

“In unlawfully approving cyantraniliprole EPA blew a golden opportunity to fix its faulty pesticide procedures and protect the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. “If you are in a hole, first stop digging. EPA must stop putting pesticides they know are harmful on the market, without addressing their potential harms to wildlife and agriculture.”

Previous lawsuits have been filed to force EPA to uphold its responsibilities under ESA. In 2001,  several stakeholder organizations, including the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), filed suit to force EPA to fulfill the distinct ESA requirements. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges EPA’s decision to register 54 pesticides without first consulting with federal fish biologists regarding the potential impact on protected salmon and steelhead species in the Northwest. In a lawsuit initiated in 2002, the judge called EPA’s “wholesale non-compliance” with its ESA obligations “patently unlawful” and ordered the agency to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding adverse impacts on Northwest salmon. More recently, EPA’s failure to consult with FWS on the impacts of hundreds of pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 listed species prompted a 2011 lawsuit.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity Press Release 



California Bans Controversial d-CON Products as EPA Stalled by Manufacturer

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2014) Highly toxic rodenticides linked to the poisoning of pets, wildlife and young children will no longer be allowed on store shelves in California starting July 1 of this year. According to rules adopted last week by California’ Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), “second generation anticoagulant rodenticides,” including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone found in d-CON brand products, will be classified as California-restricted materials, and only allowed to be used by certified pesticide applicators. Attempts by the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) to remove these products from store shelves nationwide stalled last year after the manufacturer of d-CON rodenticides, Reckitt Benckiser, sued the agency to delay implementation of the cancellation process.

sick fisher catIn July of 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife requested CDPR restrict the use of anticoagulant rodenticides due to numerous incidents involving direct and indirect poisoning of wildlife. Anticoagulants impair blood clotting and eventually cause internal bleeding in target animals. However, rodents can feed on poisoned bait multiple times before death (some are even resistant to the chemicals now), and as a result their carcasses may contain residues that are many times the lethal dose.

Poisoning can occur to nontarget species when predators or scavengers feed on these poisoned rodents. Reports show that federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Northern spotted owl, have been adversely affected by these chemicals.

Illegal marijuana grow operations have been a troubling source of wildlife deaths as growers often use “industrial-sized quantities of poison in forests to fend off rodents,” according to Humboldt County District Supervisor Rex Bohn. One study found that 72% of endangered Pacific fishers surrounding an illegal marijuana grow operation had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Predators that aren’t killed by these chemicals become more susceptible to disease and can suffer lethargy, making it more difficult, for example, to dodge oncoming traffic if crossing a road.

Although California’s rulemaking specifically addresses the impact of these chemicals on wildlife, the removal of d-CON rodenticides from store shelves will also have the added effect of protecting young children. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged somewhere in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 reports of rat and mouse poison exposures each year for children under the age of 6. Children can be incidentally exposed to rodent poisons when they are placed in unsecured “loose bait” stations, and research shows that low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by these products. One study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African-American and 26 percent were Latino.

EPAtellretailers’s cancellation order addresses this issue, requiring manufacturers to pull “loose bait” anticoagulant rodenticides from the consumer market. All manufacturers except Reckitt Benckiser, maker of d-CON brand products, complied with EPA’s order. Reckitt Benckiser’s decision to sue EPA allows stores such as Walmart and Home Depot to continue selling these dangerous products to consumers (except in California beginning July 1).

Beyond Pesticides responded to the irresponsible actions of Reckitt Benckiser by launching the Care About Kids campaign to urge major retailers to stop selling dangerous d-CON rodenticides.  In lieu of federal action, Beyond Pesticides argues that retailers have an obligation to stop selling products that EPA has determined are too dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.

For more information about Beyond Pesticides “Care About Kids” campaign, see our Rodenticides program page, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of these chemicals and find effective alternatives to their use.

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

Source: California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Ft. Bragg Advocate-News
Image Source: Ft. Bragg Advocate-News



Study Finds Rapid Cross-Resistance to Bt incorporated GE Maize

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

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

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

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

Several previous studies have also documented growing corn rootworm resistance to Bt maize. In 2011, Dr. Gassmann published “Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm,” a study verifying the first field-evolved resistance of corn rootworm to a Bt toxin. The researchers documented resistance to the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. The study found the western rootworm’s ability to adapt is strongest in fields where Bt corn is planted for three consecutive years and suggests that insufficient planting of refuges contributes to the problem.

This study was cited by a group of 22 prominent entomologists who submitted formal comments to EPA on their concerns about the viability of Cry3Bb1 corn. Recently, even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that, “Corn rootworm may not be completely controlled by Cry3Bb1 in certain parts of the corn belt.” However, after this release, EPA did little to mitigate resistance beyond announcing that Monsanto had committed to conduct grower education programs demonstrating the value of crop rotation.

This publication also adds to the growing literature of cross-resistance. A 2013 study,  “Potential shortfall of pyramided transgenic cotton for insect resistance management,” by Thierry Brévaul, PhD and colleagues, found that stacking several Bt-incorporated traits does not stop resistance. Researchers assumed that caterpillars resistant to the first Bt toxin would survive on the on-toxin plants, but die when consuming two-toxin plants because they had not yet developed resistance to the new formulation. However, caterpillars selected for resistance to one toxin survived significantly better than caterpillars from a susceptible strain.

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

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

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

Source: Nature

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



Autistic Behavior Enhanced by Two Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Environmental Health News, Environmental Health Perspectives

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



EPA Asked to Protect Bees with Over Half A Million Signatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Press Release, Letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy




Colorado GMO Labeling Initiative Overcomes Challenge by Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Press Release, Right to Know Colorado



EPA Announces Voluntary Cancellation of Toxic Chemical in Flea Collars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EPA Press Release

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




Campaign Launched to Defend the Organic Food Label

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

These changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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