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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Center for Food Safety



California Strawberry Production Thrives as Regulators Allow Elevated Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: The Center for Investigative Reporting



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: ODA News

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



Herbicide-Induced Erosion Releases Banned Pesticides in Sediment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: PNAS, environmentalresearchweb.org



GAO Report Sounds Alarm Again on Poor Pesticide Controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: GAO Report, Washington Post

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



Groups Tell Canadian Regulators to Reject Bee-Killing Pesticide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: The Epoch Times, Health Canada

Photo Source: Gina H, WA

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





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

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

Ogunquit, Maine Pesticide BanOCC logo new

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

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

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

maui_county_seal_n11280Maui County Ballot Initiative Banning GE Crops

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

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

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

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

Oregon GE Labeling Measure

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

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

Colorado Genetically Engineered (GE) Labeling Proposition

Colorado’s attempt to pass a GE-labeling law, known as Proposition 105, like Oregon, was also met with defeat. With 66 percent voting against the proposed law and 34 percent in favor, the numbers showed a stronger rejection of the right-to-know initiative than any previous state attempt to adopt such laws. Again, opposition funding flooded in from Monsanto and other food giants, like Pepsico and Coca-Cola contributed to the proposition’s defeat.colorado

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Science Daily, Nature World News

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



United Nations Committee Recommends Global Elimination of Toxic Wood Preservative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: IPEN

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



Minnesota Considers Banning Pesticides Linked to Pollinator Decline

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Star Tribune

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: USDA Press Release

Photo Source: Susan Jergen , WI

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



Oregon Legislators Working to Introduce Herbicide Spray Policy

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

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

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

Goals for the legislation include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Earthfix,  Beyond Toxics 

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Montgomery County Council

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Council on Environmental Quality Press Release, GSA Blog

Photo Credit: Ed Szymanski, Franklin,MA

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Law360, EPA

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact:

Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
Phone 202-543-5450   

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

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

Rebecca Singer, Long Island Businesses for
Responsible Energy

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



Farmers and Environmental Groups to Challenge EPA over Herbicide Approval

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2014) Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states.A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

epa_seal_profilesApproved for use on GE corn and soybeans that are engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

“The toxic treadmill has to stop,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment.”

Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett believes the approval has left communities who rallied against the herbicide feeling abandoned by a government that should be paying attention to the people it serves.

“The voices of independent family farmers are being drowned out by the revolving door of corporate and government agency heads,” said Burkett, who serves as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It’s time for our government to pay attention to the farmer concerns about the negative impacts of herbicide-resistant GMO on our food supply.”

“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor. “2,4-D is a giant step backwards – it’s just a terrible idea.”

The lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

The groups are challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), arguing that the EPA did not adequately analyze the impacts of 2,4-D on human health. They will also argue that the approval violated the Endangered Species Act, as there was no consult by the EPA with the Fish & Wildlife Service.

“Rural communities rely on EPA to take its job seriously — to fully consider potential health impacts before introducing new products or allowing a dramatic increase in use of a hazardous and volatile chemical like 2,4-D,” said Pesticide Action Network North America’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD. “Instead, EPA has given the greenlight to an enormous increase in toxic pesticide exposure.”

While the EPA proposed initially to restrict the use of Enlist Duo to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, it’s anticipated another 10 states will follow. The agency is currently accepting comments until November 14, 2014 on whether to register the herbicide cocktail in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.

“Sadly, our environmental watchdog is playing lapdog to the chemical industry, ignoring hundreds of thousands of comments urging it to do otherwise,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “The EPA is aiding and abetting the toxic spiral of using more and more pesticides to feed the industry’s sale of more and more genetically engineered crops while guaranteeing that 2,4-D use on our farmland will increase tremendously. The EPA’s heedless refusal to properly assess the impacts of expanded on human health, to the toxic chemicals associated with this herbicide, and failure to acknowledge any of the deadly effects on endangered wildlife, is grossly irresponsible  – we intend to stop it.”

“This case will determine to a large extent the direction of U.S. agriculture in the coming years,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety.  “EPA and USDA have bowed to the chemical industry and rubber stamped these genetically engineered crops whose sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use and fatten the bottom line of Dow and Monsanto.  Unless stopped, these crops will lead to a massive increase in the spraying of toxic chemicals and an increasing plague of herbicide resistant weeds that will choke America’s farmlands and threaten the livelihoods of our farmers.”

“EPA’s unfortunate decision to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered crops will more than triple the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by the end of this decade,” said Environmental Working Group’s senior policy analyst Mary Ellen Kustin. “Such an increase of a known toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems is unconscionable.”

“When the EPA approved Enlist Duo, it knew this pesticide would contaminate our streams and rivers,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is absolutely no doubt that the pesticide will harm dozens of endangered species like the American burying beetle, pallid sturgeon, and highly-endangered freshwater mussels.”

On September 16, 2014, the USDA issued its decision deregulating Enlist corn and soy, further paving the way for the EPA to approve the herbicide’s use on these crops. During the official public comment period on the USDA’s analysis of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans this spring, 400,000 citizens submitted comments opposing the crops. In June, another half million people sent their objections to EPA during their public comment period. Just this last month, a quarter million people told the White House to reject Enlist crops and Enlist Duo.

This litigation is the next step in Beyond Pesticides’ continuous efforts to speak out against industry and government assertions that GE crops and the chemicals developed for them are safe. Visit our website to learn more about the dangers of GE crops and pesticides and to see what you can do to stop them!

For More Information, Contact:
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides (202) 543-5450 ext. 19
Betsy Lopez-Wagner, Earthjustice (415) 217-2159
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network (916) 588-3100
Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity (202) 817-8121
Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition (202) 421-4544
Shannon Van Hoesen, Environmental Working Group (202) 939-9141

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



EPA Launches Voluntary Rating Program on Pesticide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, October 22, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a new voluntary Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program to encourage the use of spray technologies scientifically verified to significantly reduce pesticide drift. But with the recent approval of increased uses of toxic pesticides, such as 2,4-D, and the general lack of compliance with pesticide labels, many believe that this new program may not go far enough to protect non-target sites and vulnerable communities from drift until serious efforts to reduce widespread use of toxic, highly volatile pesticides are undertaken.

spraydriftPesticide drift is an inevitable consequence of pesticide use, and has been a problem for communities adjacent to agricultural areas and non-target sites for decades. Many pesticide products are released as foliar sprays into the air, or volatilize from surfaces where particles can travel for miles from their application site. This means that on a windy day pesticide residues can drift far distances, affecting downwind, vulnerable communities, organic farms and other environments. Legal action has been taken against the agency to protect communities from drift, but EPA has consistently failed to meaningfully address concerns.

To address issues of drift, EPA’s new program will attempt to reduce drift by certifying new technologically advanced equipment that can potentially reduce the levels of pesticide residue released into the air. According to the agency, DRT is a voluntary program that encourages manufacturers to test their technologies (such as nozzles, spray shields and drift reduction chemicals) for drift reduction potential. EPA is encouraging pesticide manufacturers to label their products for use with DRT technologies. There are four DRT ratings represented by one, two, three or four stars that are awarded for technologies that demonstrate at least 25 percent reduction in potential spray drift compared to the standard. The greater the number of stars, the greater the potential reduction of spray drift:

  • One star — 25-49 % reduction
  • Two stars — 50-74 % reduction
  • Three stars — 75-89 % reduction
  • Four stars — 90+ % reduction

“Every year state and local agencies receive thousands of complaints about the impacts of pesticide drift on people, wildlife and plants,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Our new star-rating system of products and technologies will help farmers reduce drift, protect neighbors and reduce costs by keeping more of the pesticide on the crop. We hope the new voluntary DRT will encourage the manufacture, marketing and use of safer spray technology and equipment scientifically proven to reduce pesticide drift.”

Pesticide drift affects thousands of individuals who suffer from acute symptoms resulting from exposures. Non-target sites and organisms are directly affected by adjacent or surrounding agricultural fields- especially farmworker communities, lawns, golf courses etc, where pesticide use totals millions of pounds annually, resulting in harms to sensitive crops, especially organic, water contamination and subsequent harms to wildlife. According to EPA, “One to ten percent of agricultural pesticide sprays drift or move from the intended target crop. Every year about 70 million pounds of pesticides valued up to $640 million are lost to pesticide drift. And, state agencies use substantial resources each year investigating drift complaints. Farmers have long been concerned about reducing pesticide product loss during and after application to crops and minimizing drift to neighbors.”

In the past, EPA introduced proposed guidance for new pesticide labeling in an effort to reduce off-target spray and dust drift. According to EPA in 2009, measures were projected to help improve the clarity and consistency of pesticide labels and help prevent harm from spray drift. At the time, EPA set out to determine whether no-spray buffer zones or other measures, such as restrictions on droplet or particle size, nozzle height, or weather conditions, are needed to protect people, wildlife, water resources, schools and other sensitive sites from potential harm. Thus far, current pesticide label directions/statements that warn against pesticide application during windy conditions, or stipulate certain application equipment have proven inadequate to sufficiently mitigate pesticide drift. In fact, given the widespread use of pesticides and the highly volatile nature of many, pesticide drift will continue to be an inevitable consequence of pesticide use, unless efforts are made by the agency to reduce pesticide use overall.

Unfortunately, despite a massive outpouring of public opposition, EPA announced last week that it has approved expanded uses of 2,4-D to be used on genetically engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops, essentially ushering in a new wave of increased 2,4-D use. In addition to a multitude of human health effects associated with its use, 2,4-D drift has long been a known problem to off-site locations, endangered species, and non-target crops. Many forms of 2,4-D volatilize above 85oF and 2,4-D drift has been known to damage tomatoes, grapes, and other plants. Drift can injure plants half a mile or more from the application site, and concentrations 100 times below the recommended label rates have even been reported to cause injury to grapes. With increased uses on GE crops, 2,4-D drift will become a greater risks to human health and the environment.

Currently, EPA is reviewing guidelines regarding pesticide spray drift in pesticide risk assessments. According to comments submitted by Beyond Pesticides to the agency earlier this year, to properly assess drift, peer-reviewed and scientifically sound human health and ecological toxicity data must be available and fully evaluated, including low-dose and sublethal toxicity. However, data gaps continue to plague the agency’s review process, resulting in underestimated risks and subsequent harms, as demonstrated in communities and in the environment. The agency must realize that these flaws in its risk assessment process habitually continue to allow products that pose unreasonable adverse effects to drift into the environment.

Spray technology manufacturers interested in participating in EPA’s DRT program may now submit data verifying their technology reduces pesticide movement. EPA says it will evaluate each data submission and, if appropriate, assign a drift-reduction star rating to the product based on its ability to reduce spray drift. EPA will post these ratings at: http://www2.epa.gov/reducing-pesticide-drift. A pesticide manufacturer can choose to label a product for use with a DRT of a particular rating after receiving approval from EPA. Over time, EPA notes the program will move the agricultural sector toward the widespread use of low-drift technologies. EPA states that drift reduction ratings could appear on pesticide labels as early as fall 2015.

For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

The best way to reduce pesticide drift and protect sensitive crops is to support organic agriculture. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. For more information about the pesticides registered for use on foods we eat every day, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide, and the Organic Food program page.

Source: EPA News Release

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



Threatened Status Proposed for West Coast Fisher after Poisonings with Rodenticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 21, 2014) Due in large part to the use of rodenticides in the cultivation of illegal marijuana grow operations, earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a proposal to list fishers, medium sized carnivores of the weasel family, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Fishers are the second species in the West that have been recognized by regulators as adversely affected by illegal marijuana grow operations. Coho salmon have also befisheren affected as a result of pesticide and fertilizer use, water withdrawals, and clear-cut logging that have silted, dried up, and polluted streams where the salmon run.

Fishers, which are found throughout North America and have been part of the forests in Pacific states for thousands of years, have all but virtually disappeared in much of Washington, Oregon and California, according to FWS. 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,” says Humboldt County District Supervisor Rex Bohn. A study published in PLOS One in 2012 found that 79% of fishers surrounding an illegal marijuana grow operation had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Fishers and other top predators can be exposed directly by ingesting rodenticide bait scattered around fields, or indirectly by consuming prey that was exposed. Predators that are not immediately killed by rodenticides can become more susceptible to disease and suffer lethargy, making it more difficult, for example, to dodge oncoming traffic if crossing a road.

In March, as a result of widespread wildlife poisonings, including that of Los Angeles’ iconic Mountain Lion, and significant threats to young children, the state of California announced it was restricting the use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone found in d-CON brand products, as California-restricted materials, effectively removing them from commercial sale. However, one week later, the manufacturer of these “d-CON” rodenticides, Reckitt Benckiser, sued the state of California to stop it from acting. “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, in response to the company’s lawsuit. “It’s time to put public safety before corporate profits.”

Prior to California’s actions, the company had refused to adopt voluntary risk mitigation measures established by the US. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 that would remove rodenticide products in unsecured bait stations from store shelves. When EPA slated d-CON products for cancellation, the manufacturer used legal tactics to challenge EPA’s decision, the first time in 20 years that a company declined to implement EPA risk mitigation measures for pesticide products.

Responding to corporate recklessness, Beyond Pesticides joined with a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental organizations to launch the Care About Kids campaign, asking major U.S. retailers to stop selling d-CON rodenticides linked to the deaths of children, as well as wildlife.

In May, Reckitt Benckiser reached a compromise with EPA to stop production of its loose d-CON bait products by the end of 2014, but leave the products in the pipeline on the market.  The manufacturer must stop sale to retailers by March 31, 2015, though there is no set timeline for retailers to stop selling these products. This action falls far short of the urgent protections needed for children and wildlife. “It is outrageous that a highly toxic product associated with the poisoning of children, pets, and wildlife remains on the market one more day, let alone for the years it will take to exhaust supplies,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “One child harmed from the continued sale of this product is one child too many,” said Mr. Feldman. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged between 12,000 to 15,000 poison exposure reports of children under the age of six from mouse and rat baits. Rodent control in homes can be effectively dealt with through alternatives such as sealing gaps around the doors by replacing worn thresholds and weather stripping, installing door sweeps, and caulking openings around water pipes, electric wires, cables, and vents.

Production until year’s end and the continued availability of these products on store shelves gives illegal marijuana cultivators easy access to a product that has been formally implicated as unacceptable for use by a wide range of federal and state regulators. While attempts are being made to reintroduce fishers in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and Crater Lake in Oregon, long-time fisher habitat in northern California and southern Oregon has declined to anywhere from a few hundred to 4,000 individuals.

Take action to protect children and wildlife by joining the Care About Kids campaign. Send a letter to major retailers asking them to remove harmful d-CON products from store shelves.

Source: Fish and Wildlife Service

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



EPA Finds Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments To Be of Little or No Benefit

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report Thursday that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. While pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has petitioned EPA to raise the allowable levels of another systemic pesticide thiamethoxam on a number of crops, EPA’s report confirms scientific findings that these chemical treatments are unnecessary and inefficacious. Widely used neonicotinoids, which as systemic chemicals move through a plant’s vascular system and express poison through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, have been identified in multiple peer-reviewed studies and by beekeepers as the major contributing factor in bee decline.

The report concludes that not only is there no increase in soybean yield when compared to using no pest control at all, but also the potential benefit of neonicotinoid seed treatment is not likely to be large or widespread Soybeanvarietiesthroughout the U. S. EPA also found that seed treatments fail to provide protection from target pests during critical times of plant activity, ultimately leading to the assessment that “much of the existing usage on soybeans is prophylactic in nature.”

“This report demonstrates, yet again, the need for EPA to ask the very important question of whether a chemical is truly necessary and efficacious before introducing it into the environment,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “And because treated seeds are mostly exempt from federal pesticide laws under the treated article provision, this oversight has allowed a dangerous chemical to be used largely unregulated, wreaking havoc on the nation’s pollinators.”

Honey bees and other pollinators have been experiencing a rapid and ongoing population decline in the U.S and other parts of the world since 2006. This has a profound impact on the stability of ecosystems, the economy, and the U.S. food supply. A May 2013 report by USDA found that one in three bites of food depends on pollination, mainly by managed honey bees, and that pollination is valued at $20 to $30 billion annually.

Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine and are pesticides that are toxic to a broad range of insect pests. They are also known as systemic pesticides, which are pesticides that spread throughout the entire plant structure, making everything from roots to pollen toxic to organisms that come in contact with it. As a result of neonicotinoids systemic nature, pre-treatment practices, and other factors these dangerous pesticides have been linked to the global disappearance of honey bees and other non-target organisms, such as earthworms, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, have already been given two-year moratorium in the European Union (EU). Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. Although there has been some success in the form of local ordinances, the U.S. and Ontario, Canada, as well as policy shifts within some U.S. federal agencies, a Canadian beekeeper lawsuit demonstrates the desperation of beekeepers everywhere seeking relief on a broader scale.

In the U.S. courts, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and U.S. beekeepers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean, and canola seeds.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website! You can also learn more about the growing body of science linking bee deaths to neonicotinoids by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows.

Source: EPA Press Release

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



GMO Labeling Movement Marches Forward with Vermont Release of Draft Rules

(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2014) The Vermont Attorney General’s Office, as part of a continuous effort to label genetically modified organisms (GMO) and increase transparency for consumers, released a draft of the rules written to govern the state’s law to require the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering.

justlabelitThe nine page rulemaking, describe a range of issues, from the definition of “food” and “genetic engineering” to the required disclosures that will read “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

The attorney general’s office has scheduled three public hearings for next week to give the public the opportunity to comment on the law. Members of the public can also submit a comment via email.

Attorney General William Sorrell said his office is moving to write the rules as quickly as possible so that the industry can prepare before the law takes effect in 2016.

The law, which was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin in May and is the first of its kind in the nation, has been met with substantial backlash. The state is currently involved in a legal battle by major trade associations, including Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA). In a statement, GMA has called the labeling requirement “a costly and misguided measure.” However, new analysis of published research repudiates this claim; the median cost to consumers of requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food is only $2.30 per person annually. The report was commissioned by Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, and conducted by the independent Portland-based economic research firm, ECONorthwest. Additionally, genetically engineered foods are already required to be labeled in 64 foreign countries, including many where American food producers sell their wares. Labeling has not increased food prices in those countries, according to Consumers Union.

The Food Fight Fund allows individuals to donate to defend the law when it is challenged in court. 

Across the U.S., grassroots groups are pushing for the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states, with GMO labeling requirements on the ballots for both Oregon as well as Colorado in November. 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.

Other states to pass legislation include Maine and Connecticut; however, these states contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut. Both California and Washington state labelling laws were proposed in recent years, but these ultimately failed after millions of dollars of corporate spending entered into the equation. Polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the monarch butterfly and leads to resistance in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Despite rampant glyphosate resistance, and the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has registered Enlist Duo®, officially approving the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops and their accompanying herbicide formulations.

Buying organically labeled food is one of the best ways to stop GE ingredients from being purposely added during food production and handling. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website. You can also help support the Vermont labeling law by donating to the Food Fight Fund.

Sources: Times Argus

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



EPA Approves Enlist Duo®, Opens Gate to New Wave of GE Woes

(Beyond Pesticides, October, 16, 2014) Despite a massive outpouring of public opposition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it has registered Enlist Duo®, officially putting the rubber stamp of approval on the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops.

epa_seal_profilesDeveloped by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo® is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo®-tolerant corn and soybean crops. While registration of the herbicide was anticipated by most of the public since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s approval of the Enlist Duo®-tolerant crops in mid-September, the announcement still comes as a disappointing shock, demonstrating the failings of the U.S. pesticide and agricultural regulatory system to put people and the environment before economic incentives and industry bottom lines.

“EPA approval of this herbicide sets a dangerous precedent,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Instead of looking to alternatives, regulators are signaling that the answer to widespread weed resistance is more toxic products that endanger farmworkers and farming communities.”

As Beyond Pesticides noted in its comments submitted to EPA in June of this year, the documented adverse effects of 2,4-D, a chlorophenoxy herbicide, are plentiful and include human health risks of soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. EPA’s own research suggests that babies born in counties where high rates of chlorophenoxy herbicides are applied to farm fields are significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits, and extra digits. These birth defects are 60-90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates. The results also show a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

And it doesn’t stop with human risks. Environmental adverse effects also abound, stemming from EPA-acknowledged risk of increased-weed resistance.

There are concerning safety gaps in the human health risk assessment that Dow AgroSciences provided to EPA for Enlist-Duo®’s registration. These issues are compounded by EPA’s decision to waive the tenfold safety standards under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), as noted in a letter from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to EPA, as well as dismiss the need for new tolerance assessments from aggregate exposures based on outdated data.

For these and other reasons, public opposition to both the clearance of Enlist-Duo®-tolerant seeds and registration of Enlist Duo® has been loud and clear. Over the 60-day public comment period for the Enlist Duo® seeds, which ended back in March, USDA received over 10,000 comments on its draft environmental impact statement and plant pest risk assessments. Of these comments, over 88%, including Beyond Pesticides, were opposed to the non-regulated status of the Enlist varieties. During a recent 30-day “review period” in August for the final environmental impact statement, the agency received 969 submissions. Again the majority did not support deregulation. Additionally the agency received over 240,000 signatures from three non-government organizations opposing the deregulation of the Enlist crops.

Regardless of public opposition and the science to back it, EPA insisted in its announcement yesterday that, “EPA scientists used highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks for the new uses of 2,4-D in Enlist Duo. The assessments confirm that these uses meet the safety standards for pesticide registration and, as approved, will be protective of the public, agricultural workers, and non-target species, including endangered species.”

Registration only applies to the use of the pesticide six states, (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) and further comments are solicited until November 14, 2014 for expansion of the registration to use of the herbicide in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota.

Beyond Pesticides has argued to EPA and USDA that the weed resistance in herbicide-tolerant cropping systems is escalating and not sustainable, contributing to a chemical-dependency treadmill. A 2011 study in the journal Weed Science found at least 21 different species of weeds to be resistant to applications of Monsanto’s Roundup.

Although touted to address this problem of resistance, research reveals weed resistance to 2,4-D is already developing in areas of the western U.S., even without the presence of herbicide-ready crops. Additionally, despite assertions to the contrary, a 2012 report shows that GE crops are responsible for an increase of 404 million pounds of pesticides, or about 7%, in the U.S. over the first 16 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2011). USDA’s own analysis finds that approval of 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans will lead to an unprecedented 2- to 7-fold increase in agricultural use of the herbicide by 2020, from 26 million to as much as 176 million pounds per year.  Even at current use levels, 2,4-D drift is responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide. These alarming and ongoing problems point to systematic deficiencies in the current regulatory system and pesticide-use paradigm —new GE crops will not “solve” resistance issues, but merely push the problems of weed management further down the road.

Join Beyond Pesticides in continuing to fight against the dangerous wave of GE crops and chemicals! Visit our website to learn more about GE crops and how to keep them out of our environment and food!

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

Source: EPA



Another Study Links Depression in Farmers to Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2014) A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives finds a strong relationship between the use of pesticides and depression in farmers. One specific class of pesticide, organochlorines, was associated with a 90% higher chance of being diagnosed with depression. For fumigants, the increased risk was up to 80 percent. This study echoes the conclusion from an earlier French study which also reported that farmers using pesticides face a greater risk of developing depression.

dn imageThe study, Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study, examines possible associations between pesticide exposure and depression among male private pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS). Over 21,000 applicators who enrolled in the study in 1993–1997 were followed and examined. The applicators were asked about depression when enrolled in the study and then again around 2010. Previous work with this AHS sample found a higher prevalence of depression among male applicators who reported past pesticide poisoning or use of pesticides from several different classes. However, this study examines specific pesticides, and finds that two types of pesticides, fumigants and organochlorine insecticides are positively correlated with depression and cumulative days of use. Those exposed to organochlorine pesticides have a 90 percent risk of developing depression, while for fumigants the increased risk was up to 80 percent. Several individual pesticides, the fumigants aluminum phosphide and ethylene dibromide, the phenoxy herbicide (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4,5-T), the organochlorine insecticide dieldrin, and the organophosphate insecticides diazinon, malathion, and parathion are also positively correlated. Of these, aluminum phosphide, diazinon, and malathion are still registered and in use in the U.S.

“I don’t think there’s any question that pesticides can affect the functions of the brain. There could also be indirect effects. Pesticides can promote other health problems, which could be related to depression,” said lead researcher Freya Kamel, PhD.

The authors report several strengths of their study, including its large size. Additionally, its prospective nature provided the opportunity to identify cases of depression diagnosed before and after the study period. Detailed information on applicators’ exposures, including general pesticide exposure, use of pesticide classes, and use of individual pesticides was also collected. The authors report similar results when they analyze the same group from 1993 to 1997. At that time, farmers with the highest cumulative exposure days to pesticides were 50 percent more likely to have a depression diagnosis. In 2013, a French study found that farmers using herbicides are nearly two and a half times as likely to be treated for depression as those who did not use herbicides, and that farmers who are exposed for greater periods of time are also afflicted with greater risk of developing depression.

Previous research has already suggested that pesticides, particularly organophosphates, cause a variety of serious neurological health problems, including Parkinson’s disease. This is not surprising, as organophosphates are known to be extremely toxic to nerve cells and deadly at large doses. However, risks from long-term low-dose exposure also exist. A 2012 study  that sourced data from 14 studies over the past 20 years found that long-term, low-dose exposure to organophosphates can damage neurological and cognitive functions. Other studies have also connected low-dose exposure to organophosphates to ADHD,  reduced IQs, and Alzheimers.

Organophosphates are a common class of chemicals used as insecticides. Several have already been banned or highly restricted in several European countries and in the U.S. In addition to being potent neurotoxins, organophosphates pesticides are extremely harmful to the nervous system, as they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. Despite numerous organophosphate poisonings of farmworkers, homeowners, and children, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the continued registration of many of these products. In the case of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, household uses of the products have been canceled because of the extreme health risks to children, but agricultural, golf course, and “public health” (mosquito control) uses remain on the market.

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

Studies such as these highlight the importance of buying, growing, and supporting organic. Consumer choices 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 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.

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

Source: Environmental Health News