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11
Dec

Study Finds Organic Agriculture Can and Must Feed the World

(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2014) A new study out of the University of California, Berkeley, compares organic and conventional crop yields and finds that overall yield gaps are much smaller than earlier studies concluded and even smaller when compared crop-by-crop. The study, published in the Royal Society Proceedings B journal, Diversification practices reduce organic to conventional yield gap, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap where it exists.

organicThe debate surrounding organic crop yield capabilities has been a heated one, with agribusiness and conventional farming advocates claiming that pesticides and genetically-engineered (GE) crops are necessary to feed the ever-expanding world population. These interests usually dismiss organic agriculture’s ability to provide the necessary amount of crops to achieve the end goal of feeding the world.

Numerous studies have previously undercut this premise, finding similar yields and greater economic returns in organic agriculture and determining GE crop yield abilities to be mostly unfounded. Recently, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called into question the efficacy and crop-yield outputs of soybean seeds pre-coated with the dangerous and pollinator-toxic pesticides of neonicotinoids.

The current study’s researchers wanted to examine this hotly debated issue and take a look at a newly compiled and expanded set of data nearly three times larger than those previously used (115 studies containing more than 1000 observations). Additionally, the study used a new hierarchical analytical framework that would better be able to account for the heterogeneity and structure in the data.

The findings were encouraging for organic advocates, showing an overall crop yield difference of 19.2 percent between conventional and organic outputs. When looking at specific crops, such as legumes (lentils, beans, etc.), no significant differences were identified. Researchers also noted that the percentages were likely inflated, as available studies comparing farming methods were often biased in favor of conventional agriculture.

But the study also took one more step and analyzed whether or not organic farming could do better through agricultural diversification practices, otherwise known as multi-cropping and crop rotations. The answer was a resounding, “Yes,” showing that the crop yield difference could be reduced by 9 percent in the case of multi-cropping and 8 percent in the case of crop rotations.

“In terms of comparing productivity among the two techniques, this paper sets the record straight on the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture,” said the study’s senior author, Claire Kremen, Ph.D., professor of environmental science, policy and management and co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute. “With global food needs predicted to greatly increase in the next 50 years, it’s critical to look more closely at organic farming, because aside from the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, the ability of synthetic fertilizers to increase crop yields has been declining.”

To put the chemical-intensive food global food production in perspective, the study’s introduction states: “Resultant problems include biodiversity loss, massive soil erosion and degradation, eutrophication and oceanic dead zones, pesticide effects on humans and wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, and regime shifts in hydrological cycling. Furthermore, although agriculture produces a food surplus at the global scale, over 1 billion people are chronically hungry. These problems of hunger, food insecurity and environmental harms will only be exacerbated if current trends in population growth, food and energy consumption, and food waste continue. To maintain the Earth’s capacity to produce food, it is imperative that we adopt sustainable and resilient agricultural practices as soon as possible.”

Organic agriculture has been proven time again to be equally viable for both farmers and consumers while also providing significant health and environmental effects over conventional industrial agriculture. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keep Organic Strong webpage to learn more about organic and what you can do to support its growth.

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

Sources: UC Berkeley; The Independent

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10
Dec

Conviction Overturned for Organic Winemaker Who Refused to Spray Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2014) Emmanuel Giboulot, an organic winemaker in Burgundy, France, cheered ‘victory for people power’ after his conviction for refusing to spray his vines with pesticides was overturned. Mr. Giboulot refused to comply with a government order mandating vineyards be sprayed to control flavescence dorĂ©e disease, citing that it was not an immediate threat in his region, and that pesticides posed more harm than good. His resolve against systemic, prophylactic pesticide spraying won broad support across the globe.

Emmanuel-Giboulot-012In the spring of 2013, all wine producers in Burgundy were ordered to spray pesticides on their vines to fight flavescence dorĂ©e, a bacterial disease spread by the leaf hopper, Scaphoideus titanus. But Mr. Giboulot produces high-quality organic or “bio-dynamic” red and white wines from 35 acres of vines under the appellations “CĂŽte de Beaune” and “Haute CĂŽte de Nuits.” He refused to obey the pesticide order on the grounds that the disease was not an immediate threat in his region, the pesticide recommended to be sprayed was ineffective and damaging to pollinating insects such as bees, and the disease can be fought via more natural means. After defying an official order to treat his vineyard, Mr. Giboulot was fined €1,000 and risked six months in jail.

On appeal, the court in Dijon found in Mr. Giboulot’s favour. The court ruled that it was the local government administrator who had acted illegally by ordering all Burgundian vineyards to be sprayed when there was no clear threat. The court also ruled that the local agricultural board and administrator failed to seek the approval of the ministry of agriculture in Paris.

“This is a victory for people power and for whistleblowing,” Mr. Giboulot said of his stand, which divided the Burgundy wine industry but won admiration all over the globe.

He was supported by some of his fellow wine-producers, but others accused him of placing the whole of the Burgundy vineyards –among the most prestigious in the world– at risk. Mr. Giboulot said he would be ready to use a pesticide against an immediate threat, but the “knee-jerk” and “systematic” use of chemicals was bad for human health, and bad for the quality of wine. The leaf-hopping insect Scaphoideus titanus, which spreads flavesence dorĂ©e (or “golden rot”), has been compared to phylloxera, the pest which devastated French vineyards in the 19th century. An estimated 30 acres of vines were destroyed by the disease in 2012. The French agriculture ministry prosecuted Mr. Giboulot in 2013 for “failing to apply an insecticide treatment to his vineyard.” Vine growers in several regions, including Burgandy, are required by French law to use pesticides to control this disease. After initial discovery of the disease in Burgundy’s Beaune region, the local administration ordered all vineyard owners in the CĂŽte d’Or area to treat their vineyards with pesticides. But Mr. Giboulot argued that the pyrethrin-based pesticide product that organic farmers could use against the pest without losing their certification has undesirable side effects on non-target organisms.

Golden rot had appeared in only 16 villages in the whole of CĂŽte d’Or –and not in Mr. Giboulot’s own part of the county, the CĂŽte de Beaune. “This is proof that we are not faced by a pandemic and there was no need to spray the whole dĂ©partement,” he said.

32-Dijon-AFPGettyMr. Giboulot is part of a gathering movement that says the French wine industry’s excessive use of pesticides and fungicides has undermined its own argument that good or great wine can only flow from “terroir” –or natural conditions of soil or climate. An examination of 300 French wines last year found that 90 per cent contained traces of the chemicals most commonly used to treat vines. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be found here in French.) France is the third-highest user of pesticides in the world after the United States and Japan, and the highest user in Europe. The country has pledged to reduce its pesticide consumption by 50 percent by 2018.

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

Source: The Independent

Photo Sources: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

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

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09
Dec

Tell FDA to Consider the Bigger Picture with Food Safety

(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2014) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed updates to rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) are unnecessarily burdensome for local, organic farmers and undermine the ultimate goal of improving food safety, according to food safety advocates. Although FDA adopted some recommendations addressing smaller scale and organic farm concerns made during the last public comment period for these rules, further action is needed.

1280px-Ecologically_grown_vegetablesTell FDA to protect small, organic farmers and take steps to avoid chemicals risks. Protecting organic farmers means protecting food safety because organic farmers are in the business of providing food produced with fewer hazards and more care for the environment.

Despite a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report criticizing FDA for its lack of pesticide residue testing on food, the agency continues to ignore one of the most serious threats to the food supply’s safety and did not address any of the concerns raised in Beyond Pesticides’ previous comments concerning the need to adopt better chemical safety standards for produce and processing.

Regarding chemical safety, FDA should:

  • Revise the produce rule and preventative controls for human food rule;
  • Include chemical hazards, pesticide residues, and biological impacts in its risk assessments;
  • Acknowledge the full range of serious adverse health outcomes from chemical hazards that make their way into food;
  • Incorporate procedures, processes, and practices that minimize contamination from chemical hazards; and
  • Create explicit and defined practices to help retailers implement least-toxic alternatives.

Organic production methods and standards already provide a functional model. However, proposed revisions to the FSMA rules still place substantial burdens on small, organic farmers.

To protect local, organic farmers, FDA should:

  • Decrease the costs to small farms and food processors by ensuring that environmental monitoring and testing are conducted in an efficient manner.
  • Clarify that sale and distribution through a CSA, roadside stand, or farmers market is included in the definition of a “retail food establishment,” and not a “facility” that must be registered with FDA.
  • Retain the threshold of at least $1,000,000 for a “very small business,” and apply sales to food regulated under the Preventative Controls Rule.
  • Allow for farms with multiple landholdings to be treated as one farm, so as to not discriminate against cooperatives or food hubs.
  • Incorporate stronger support for on-farm conservation practices by codifying in the preamble that farmers are encouraged to use sustainable conservation practices that enhance food safety.

Submit Your Comment by midnight, December 15th!

Local organic farmers are stewards of the environment and provide some of the only food sources free of the chemical hazards and adverse health effects associated with chemical-intensive agriculture. It is critical that FDA’s FSMA regulations encourage the food safety benefits for  small organic farmers and reduce the burden on those who already make consumer health a priority.

To view FDA’s updated rules, view the federal register notice here.
For additional information, view Beyond Pesticides previous comments to FDA here.

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

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08
Dec

Nursery Stops Use of Neonic after Home Depot Adopts Labeling Requirement

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2014) In response to Home Depot’s decision to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, at least one nursery supplier has decided to change its management practices. J.Berry Nurseries, a company based out of Grand Saline, Texas, which supplies plants to over 1,000 Home Depot stores throughout Texas, surrounding states and the Midwest, says that since the issue has become publicly recognized for its impacts on bees and other pollinators, it will stop using neonics and start to look at alternative practices. This news provides testament to the power of consumer demand, and along with Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory, should encourage other growers to ditch the neonics in favor of better management practices.

BeeProtectivelogo“We view it as the labeling of a plant with that tag is potentially creating customers’ perception that that plant should not be purchased,” Jim Berry, the president of J. Berry Nurseries, told Nursery Management Magazine. “Whether it’s a valid assumption or not, perception is reality. So you have to go with that. We certainly want consumers to be attracted to our plants instead of repelled by them.”

The news comes after a groundbreaking report published last June which revealed that many bee-friendly garden plants sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s contain neonicotinoid pesticides with no warning to consumers. Neonicotinoid residues were detected in seven out of thirteen samples (54 percent) of commercial nursery plants. In response to this report, Friends of the Earth, along with Beyond Pesticides and other allies, launched a campaign to tell major retailers to stop selling poisoned plants. Backing the cause are more than half a million Americans who signed petitions demanding that the companies stop selling neonics. In the face of mounting evidence and growing consumer demand, nearly a dozen nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers, are taking steps to eliminate bee-harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores.

Growers that sell to the Home Depot need to provide a secondary tag for all plant material of all sizes. The tag is a 1” by 4.5” tag, and some growers are concerned about the stigma attached to it. “It’s the cost of the tag and it’s the impact on consumers, maybe causing them to avoid purchasing plants with that tag,” Mr. Berry says. “It’s a double risk.”

Advocates, including Beyond Pesticides, have long called on consumers to choose not only “bee-friendly” plants, meaning those plants and flowers shown to attract and sustain pollinators, but also make sure that those plants are sourced from growers and suppliers that do not apply neonics in the growing of the seed, as a seed coating, or to the plant.

Neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for several high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, but a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications, and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. In this study, all of the nursery plant samples where neonics ae detected have the potential to harm or even kill bees. An extensive overview of major studies showing the effects of neonics on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

The easiest way to ensure that seeds are not treated with neonics is to buy seeds that are certified organic or plants grown with organic practices. While untreated seeds are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. Seeds and plants that are certified organic, on the other hand, do not permit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. To assist consumers in making the best choice for pollinator protections, Beyond Pesticides launched its Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Toxic pesticides harmful to bees, including neonics, are not permitted in seeds certified organic, which display the USDA Organic label on their packaging. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Beyond Pesticides urges you and other pollinator supporters to continue to pressure retailers, legislators, and other government officials to take meaningful action to protect pollinators. Visit www.BEE Protective.org to learn about more about pollinator protection and see what you can do to help.

Source: Nursery Management Magazine

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

 

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05
Dec

Bill Will Stymie State Efforts to Label GE Food, Chefs Call for Fed Labeling Law

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2014) Over 700 chefs, including high-profile individuals like Tom Colicchio, Jose Andres, Art Smith, and Sam Talbot, are pushing Congress to support labeling of genetically modified foods and oppose efforts blocking state GMO labeling laws. In a petition authored by Chef Tom Colicchio, the chefs are calling on Congress to move forward with legislation sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR),the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, S. 809 and H.R. 1699, respectively, which will require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “clearly label” genetically engineered (GE) foods.

justlabelit“As chefs, we know that choosing the right ingredients is an absolutely critical part of cooking,” the petition states. “But when it comes to whether our ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, we’re in the dark. It’s time for Congress to move us forward, not backward, when it comes to our right to know what’s in our food.”

The chefs were joined on Tuesday by advocates from Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group, and Center for Food Safety. Just Label It!, with which Beyond Pesticides is a partner, and other national organizations fighting for labeling of GMO foods for meetings with lawmakers.

“As a chef and father, I want to know what I’m serving my customers and kids, and the majority of Americans want honest information about the food on their tables,” said Chef Colicchio, owner of Craft Restaurants, co-founder of Food Policy Action, and former head judge on Bravo show Top Chef. “Having honest, clear labeling of the foods we eat is a fundamental right, one that’s worth fighting for.”

Across the U.S., grassroots groups are pushing for the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states, including Oregon, Colorado, and Vermont. However, a group of legislators, led by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), are trying to stymie efforts by asking Congress to preempt these laws. H.R. 4432, dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” (DARK Act) by activists, is a bill that would give full authority of GE labeling to FDA, which now favors a voluntary approach to the issue.

The DARK Act will dramatically undermine state food labeling authority by giving FDA sole authority over the labeling of GE ingredients, preempting state action to label in the face of federal inaction. The act will prevent states from adopting their own GE labeling laws, allow food companies to put a “natural” label on products that contain GE ingredients, and prevent FDA from requiring companies to label GE ingredients and continue its current “voluntary” labeling policy. This codification of a voluntary labeling standard clearly does not meet consumers growing demand for more information. In the 13 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods, not one company has done so.

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 DuoŸ, officially approving the sale and use of a new wave of 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 webpage. You can also help support the Vermont labeling law by donating to the Food Fight Fund.

Take Action

Join the Organic Consumers Association for its rally in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill next Wednesday, December 10, to put a stop to the DARK Act. Learn more here.

Can’t make it? You can also:

  • Sign a petition asking Congress to reject Pompeo’s DARK Act here.
  • Help flood the phone lines on Capitol Hill on December 10. Anyone who can’t be there in person can call their Congress members on December 10, beginning at 9 a.m. When you are connected with a staff person, you can say: “Hello, my name is [FIRST NAME, LAST NAME] and I live in [CITY, STATE]. I couldn’t attend today’s protest against H.R. 4432, a bill that would preempt states’ rights to label GMOs, but I am calling to ask [NAME OF CONGRESS PERSON] to reject H.R. 4432 and to support states’ rights to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws. Thank you.”
  • Make a donation to help offset costs.

Source: Center for Food Safety

Photo Source: CFS

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

 

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04
Dec

Draft California Plant Pest Management Plan Threatens Health, Nature, and Organics

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2014) Earlier this fall, in a state known for its environmental and public health-focused policy and forward thinking, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released its draft Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), which has been widely criticized by environmentalists. While PEIR has been characterized by state officials as providing an “overarching framework for efficient and proactive implementation of Statewide Program activities,” the proposed plant pest prevention strategy takes several steps backwards, giving CDFA authority to spray toxic pesticides anywhere in California, at any time into the indefinite future, with little to no recourse for those affected. Critics say that the new framework could have been a tremendous opportunity to chart a course toward sustainable, ecologically, and scientifically, sound pest management policy.

cdfaUnder California law, CDFA is required to prevent the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases, and noxious weeds. According to CDFA, to carry out this function, the agency must “provide an up-to-date, transparent, and comprehensive evaluation of CDFA’s activities,” and comply with the environmental impact analysis requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The statewide program developed the draft PEIR.

While the overarching goals and objectives of the program include the important concept of minimizing the impacts of pest management approaches on human health and urban and natural environments, most of the draft PEIR took an archaic, vague, and misguided approach to pest control, which identified spraying pesticides with little to no oversight as the primary means of combating pest problems.

Joining with 27 organizations, Beyond Pesticides signed on to Earthjustice’s near 100 page comments, identifying a litany of scientific, public health, environmental, regulatory, and legal issues within the draft PEIR, including a failure to recognize and implement viable alternatives of organic and ecologically-based integrated pest management (IPM) practices, adhere to important environmental laws and controls, like the Clean Water Act, provide detailed and meaningful programmatic evaluation criteria, and address health and environmental impacts.

“This plan’s analysis of health and environmental impacts is so general and cursory as to be useless for determining the actual impact of the Department of Food and Agriculture’s spraying in any specific location in California,” notes Earthjustice Attorney Elizabeth Forsyth, “Its provisions for future environmental review attempt to prevent public scrutiny of future program activities, including the agency’s approval of new pesticides, new treatment areas, and new target pests.”

Organic farmers and certifiers took issue with the PEIR, especially several provisions that could force organic farmers to spray non-organic pesticides as part of the state treatment programs, potentially leading to loss of organic certification and organic crop marketplace accessibility.

Public review and comment on the draft PEIR closed on October 31, 2014 and will be addressed and integrated into the final PEIR, which will be released at a later date. In the meantime, visit Beyond Pesticides website to learn more about the dangers of pesticides and how you and your community can spread the word on organic and least-toxic pest management methods.

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

Source: Earthjustice; California Department of Food and Agriculture

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03
Dec

USDA to Offer Emergency Disaster Assistance for Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, December 3, 2014) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that nearly 2,500 applicants will receive disaster assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses suffered from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2013. The program, re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides disaster relief for farmers and producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Beekeepers who reported losses due to colony collapse disorder will be eligible, a move that many in the beekeeping industry welcome.beekeeper

ELAP provides disaster relief to livestock, honey bee, and farm-raised fish producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Eligible losses may include excessive heat or winds, flooding, blizzards, hail, wildfires, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, and diseases, or in the case of honey bees, losses due to colony collapse disorder. According to USDA, beekeepers, most of whom suffered honey bee colony losses, represent more than half of ELAP recipients. Enrollment for the program began last spring and ended in August 2014, and eligible farmers, beekeepers and producers must have submitted documentation of losses for enrollment in the program.

Beekeepers have been experiencing historical losses in their bee hives and operations. On average, losses have been over 30% annually, with some beekeepers report 100% losses to their operations. This presents significant ramifications for beekeepers’ livelihoods, crops that rely on pollination and the agricultural economy. Pollination services, provided by bees and other pollinators, are worth billions of dollars to the agricultural economy, given that one in three bites of food is dependent on pollination. Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to the neonicotinoid class of insecticides, currently applied to fields across the U.S. as seed treatment. These pesticides have been shown to, even at low levels, impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. Beekeepers have taken legal action against neonicotinoids and other pesticides that have been shown to be highly toxic to bees.

The Farm Bill caps ELAP disaster funding at $20 million per federal fiscal year. To accommodate the number of requests, which exceeded funds available for each of the affected years, payments will be reduced to ensure that all eligible applicants receive a prorated share of assistance. This year over 2,500 applicants are eligible for assistance. USDA stated the agency has begun issuing payments – less than three months after the enrollment deadline.

ELAP is made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which according to USDA, builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. ELAP assistance is provided for losses not covered by other disaster programs like the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). Also from USDA, pollinators may find some help in efforts to expand pollinator habitat and forage. The agency announced this fall 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. According to the agency, it will provide help implementing the planting cover crops or rangeland, pasture management to reduce erosion, increase soil health, and inhibit invasive species, as well as providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.

Since enactment of the Farm Bill, USDA is tasked with providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.

“As promised, we’re making sure that thousands of producers who suffered through two and a half difficult years without Farm Bill assistance, are getting some relief,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

2014 Farm Bill and Pollinator Health
After nearly two years of debate, missed deadlines, and Congressional dysfunction, President Obama signed into law on February 7, 2014, the Agricultural Act of 2014, known as the Farm Bill. Passage of the bill was met with mixed reviews on all fronts. While national headlines focused on the issues of supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP, or food stamps) cuts, subsidies, and crop insurance, the near 1,000-page law also addressed critical issues relating to health and the environment.

Falling far short of what advocacy groups had hoped would bring much needed scientific attention, funding, and federal regulatory focus on pollinator declines, the final Farm Bill left most pollinator-friendly provisions in the cut pile on the conference committee floor. One amendment in particular, Protection of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fl), seeks to create a federal task force, requires research, and provides for an allowance for beekeepers to use federal forest lands. The amendment passed in an earlier House version of the Farm Bill by a vote of 270-146 with 79 Republicans and 191 Democrats voting in favor.  However, this amendment failed to make it into the final version of the bill. The 2014 Farm Bill now only requires interagency collaboration to produce guidance on enhancing pollinator health and long-term viability. Conservation programs that commit to pollinator habitat also receive new preferences. These minor nods to the severe problem facing pollinators lack any true incentives for long-term change or meaningful protections. See here for a comprehensive breakdown of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Even though the U.S. has been slow to act in protecting pollinators from hazardous pesticide use, in spite of the recent Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to act, beekeepers can at least now find some financial relief for their losses and hopefully continue to provide the important pollination services that our nation needs.

Source: USDA Press Release

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

 

 

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02
Dec

Ontario Proposes Restrictions on Neonicotinoid-Treated Seeds

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2014) Last week, the government of Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonicotinoid (neonic)-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80% as part of a broad initiative to improve pollinator health. It sets a goal of reducing over-winter honey bee deaths to 15% by 2020, and calls for the development of a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan. To address the regulation of treated seeds, Ontario’s pollinator health proposal recommends the creation a new class of pesticides to include seeds treated with pesticides. The government would then restrict the sale and use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed. In the U.S., EPA establishes the “treated article exemption” (40 CFR 152.25(a)) as limiting its ability to regulate seeds, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), that act as toxic pesticides when applied to agricultural fields and landscapes.

According to EPA, the treated article exemption, “allows an exemption for: An article or a substance treated with or containing a pesticide to protect the article or substance itself (for example, paint treated with a pesticide to protect the paint coating, or wood products treated to protect the wood against insects or fungus infestation), if the pesticide is registered for such use.”

Anneliese Markle2“Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity,” said Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. “Pollinators play a key role in our ecosystem and without them, much of the food we eat would not be here. Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy.”

The pollinator crisis has been particularly pronounced in Ontario, as a winter loss survey from 2013-2014 found bee die-offs at 58%, the highest recorded level to date. Of commercial beekeepers surveyed, 56 out of 97 reported mortality rates greater than 50%. In September, Ontario beekeepers filed a class action lawsuit against neonicotinoid producers Bayer and Syngenta, alleging the companies are negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonic pesticides and this negligence resulted in $450 million in damages to the plaintiffs, Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey.

The Ontario government’s announcement also follows a report released last year by Health Canada, a federal Canadian agency, which declared the use of neonics in agriculture as “not sustainable.” Despite strong language from Canadian regulators, the steps taken at the time only required slight changes to the use of neonics, such as stricter label language and the use of safer dust-reducing seed flow lubricants (most corn and soy seed is coated with neonic pesticides before planting and then mixed with a lubricant like talc that creates a toxic dust in seed planters). These measures were widely criticized by beekeepers as not going far enough to address pollinator poisoning from neonic pesticides. “When the plant grows up, it sucks up the water and the pesticide [on the seed],” said Ontario beekeeper Dave Schuit to the CBC. “So, the whole plant is toxic. When the bees take the pollen, they die. The bees are dying because of the pollen.”

Many Canadian officials have expressed similar concern with systemic neonic pesticides, which are persistent in soil, and can be continuously taken up by crops and expressed in pollen, nectar, and guttation (dew) droplets that plants produce. In October, Commissioner Gord Miller, in the Annual Report of the Environment Commissioner of Ontario, called bees the “canary in the coal mine” on neonic pesticides. “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, ” he further asserted.

An extensive overview of major studies showing the effects of neonics on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

Beyond the harm these chemicals cause to honey bees and other pollinators is the fact that they are simply unnecessary to grow crops. A report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), released this fall, found that coating soybean seeds with neonics provided little to no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality of soybean production. Responding to EPA’s report, Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides explained, “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 allowing its introduction into the environment. And because EPA defines treated seeds as 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.”

Pesticide manufacturers have responded predictably to Ontario’s plan, with Syngenta spokesman Chris Davison noting the company is “extremely disappointed” by the proposed decision. Neonicotinoid producers Syngenta and Bayer continue to point to parasitic varroa mites as the main driver of pollinator declines, despite overwhelming scientific data implicating neonics as the leading cause. As the 2013-2014 Ontario winter loss survey noted, “
Varroa mite infestation was not considered to be a significant contributing factor to winter mortality rates in 2014 among the producers surveyed, with very few producers citing mite infestations as a potential cause of loss.”

Moreover, last month over 100 scientists called for action on bee-toxic pesticides. In June, a worldwide assessment of systemic pesticides undertaken by an international group of 29 scientists analyzing over 800 peer-reviewed publications recommended increased restrictions on the use of neonics. Although Ontario’s restrictions on neonics represent a positive and significant step forward towards protecting pollinators, the proposal falls short of the 2-year suspension instituted in the European Union, which was based on a report citing “high acute risks” to honey bees.

In the United States, beekeepers, scientists, consumer and environmental groups, and concerned residents across the country are waiting on a plan from the Pollinator Health Task Force, which was created as a result of a Memorandum issued by President Obama earlier in 2014. To date, USDA has released funds for pollinator habitat, the Council on Environmental Quality has released new guidelines for creating pollinator habitat around federal buildings and the Fish and Wildlife Service has banned the use of neonic pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges. A sensible response to the continuing decline of pollinators must address the use of neonic pesticides, and encourage the development of least-toxic and organic alternatives. In agriculture, for home pest control, landscape care, and in nurseries, there are effective and economic organic techniques can that be successfully employed.

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

Source: Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change News Release, Bloomberg News

Photo Source: Anneliese Markle

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01
Dec

Over 100 Scientists Call for Action on Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, November 26, 2014) Last week, over 100 scientists from diverse disciplines released a letter citing the growing body of scientific evidence that neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides harm bees, and called on leaders of President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force to quickly take action on pesticides to protect and promote healthy populations of bees and other pollinators.

Gary Tate Riverside CA Honey Bee taking flight Riverside Ca2The letter was submitted in response to the recent “listening sessions” hosted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These sessions were held by the agencies to collect public feedback on federal efforts on pollinator protection, and the Task Force convened to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy. In June, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to join the Pollinator Health Task Force, led by USDA, to develop pollinator health solutions.

The 108 scientists —whose areas of expertise include entomology, agronomy, ecology, ecotoxicology— called on Task Force co-chairs, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, to place a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the U.S., and increase investment, research and funding for growers to adopt alternatives. In the letter, the scientists note that, “While gaps do exist in knowledge around neonicotinoids, regulation with an eye to prevention of harm, precaution with regards to neonicotinoids, and commitment to safe and sustainable alternatives may well help to stem the tide of pollinator losses.”

“Bees have been quietly pollinating our crops for millennia, but now they need our help. It is vitally important that we take steps to reduce exposure of bees and other wildlife to these systemic, persistent neurotoxins,” said Dave Goulson, PhD, a bee expert and biology professor at the University of Sussex and a leader of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) global Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.

Almost a year after Europe successfully implemented a moratorium on neonicotinoids, federal policymakers in the U.S. have yet to take any substantive action. Bee declines across the country have continued at unprecedented rates — over 30% annually — with significant ramifications for beekeepers’ livelihoods, crops that rely on pollination and the agricultural economy. Unfortunately, EPA will not make a safety finding for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, before 2018.

“The President’s Task Force should listen to the body of science that links pesticides to bee harm and bee declines,” said Jim Frazier, PhD, an emeritus entomology professor at Pennsylvania State University and commercial beekeeper advisor who specializes in chemical ecology. “These systemic pesticides are not only lethal to pollinators, but at low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity — leaving them susceptible to common pathogens. The weight of the scientific evidence certainly incriminates neonicotinoids, in line with the 2013 European Food Safety Agency’s review of 800-plus publications that led to the current moratorium on certain neonicotinoids.”

Recently in Canada, a group of doctors and nurses also urged their government to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario say that these pesticides are a “major threat to both nature and people,” and have begun an advertising campaign to highlight the plight of pollinators and the potential risks to people.

The IUCN’s June 2014 “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA)” — a review of over 800 studies by 29 independent researchers — documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems from neonicotinoids. Similarly, the scientists submitting the letter echo others around the globe in calling for new, dramatic restrictions on bee-harming pesticides in the U.S. and beyond. They suggest that the current regulatory system has failed to capture the range of impacts of these pesticide products: “Thriving populations of beneficial insects result in a healthier and more resilient crop as well as benefiting the larger ecosystem. Practices that encourage wild pollinator diversity are therefore likely to increase crop yields and support the agricultural economy.”

As more studies link pesticides to bee harm and declines, more studies show that neonicotinoid seed treatments are not efficacious in farming or promoting pollination. In a study released in October, EPA notes, “Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.”

Along with a lack of efficacy in farming, beekeepers are adamant that pesticides do play a major role in bee losses. At the recent listening sessions, many beekeepers voiced their dissatisfaction at the slow pace of U.S. action on pollinator protection and industry misrepresentation of the crisis facing bees. While industry stakeholders, like Syngenta and Bayer, attempt to deflect blame away from their products and focus on the prevalence of varroa mites, improved farming technologies, and best management practices, beekeepers insist that pesticide exposures, especially to neonicotinoids, are to blame for massive hive losses.

Neonicotinoids are a widely used class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by plants and transported throughout the plant’s vascular tissue, including nectar and pollen, making the plant toxic to insects. They are commonly used in commodity agriculture as seed treatments, and also as foliar and granular treatments in nurseries. Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran, first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. These chemicals have been shown, even at low levels, to impair foraging, navigational, and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to the point of increasing their susceptibility to pathogens and disease. Despite a two-year neonicotinoid moratorium in the European Union and calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, the U.S. has refused to stop neonicotinoid use.

For more information, visit the BEE protective page.

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

Source: PAN press release

Photo Source: Gary T

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26
Nov

Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving

(Beyond Pesticides, November 26, 2014) On Thanksgiving, thank you for being a part of Beyond Pesticides and sharing and contributing to the vision necessary to protect the web and fragility of life. We believe that there is no time like Thanksgiving to think about how we can more effectively join together as families and communities across divisions and different points of view to find a common purpose in protecting the health of the environment and all that inhabit it.

In this context, we at Beyond Pesticides are thankful for the energy, spirt, and vision of the people and organizations we work with. It confirms our belief that we will achieve the changes necessary to protect children, workers, pets, the environment, and the public at-large. Together, we affirm the right to (i) clean air, water, and land in our communities, (ii) toxic-free landscapes that are achieved cost-effectively without hazardous synthetic materials, (iii) safe places with reduced chemical threats where children grow up, and (iv) a healthy ecology where pollinators –bees, butterflies, and birds and the natural world– can flourish.

Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for family and friends to eat, drink and be thankful for the bounty of the organic harvest. Unfortunately, there are a host of pesticides, genetically engineered materials, and others in conventional Thanksgiving foods that not only impact human health, but threaten the environment. Read below for some easy tips and suggestions for a healthful Thanksgiving day feast.

Organic, free-range, and local turkeys
The turkey is the symbol of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. However, turkeys are often fed grains treated with pesticides, medicated with antibiotics, and engorged with steroids and hormones. Additionally, turkeys are often fed an inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, which is used to promote growth and for pigmentation. In order to avoid all these, your best bet is to invest in an organic free-range turkey (pictured right), which is free of hormones, steroids or antibiotics. Want to forgo the turkey altogether? Be sure to choose an organic meatless option.

Avoid Genetically Engineered Food: Go Organic
There are additionally, a number of Thanksgiving products that probably contain genetically-engineered (GE) ingredients (although the formulations are often considered proprietary trade secrets). According to GMO Inside, some common GE foods used during Thanksgiving include: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce’s Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing.

Thankfully, the majority of these products can easily be substituted with organic counterparts. Canned yams for instance often contain GE ingredients, but can be replaced by fresh organic yams. Another staple like Pepperidge Farm Crackers can be substituted for organic crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or Nature’s Pathway Crackers. Consider substituting GE cranberry sauce with home-made jellies made with organic cranberries and fair trade sugar. Organic jellied cranberries, such as Tree of Life or Grown Right, are fast alternatives. Finally, pre-made stuffing, like Kraft’s Stove Top stuffing, should be replaced with your own home-made stuffing or organic stuffing mix from Arrowhead. Simply Organic has tons of organic recipes posted to their website if you need more ideas.

Cleaning with Non-Toxics
An easy way to improve the health of your Thanksgiving guests and the environment is to use non-toxic or least-toxic cleaning materials. Mixing baking soda and water can quickly take out carpet stains, while vinegar can be applied to newspaper and used to clean your windows. If you don’t have time to make these at home, simply shop in the non-toxic aisle of the grocery store can significantly decrease exposure to toxics like triclosan, which is known to disrupt reproduction and development.

Cutting Wastes
Outside of pesticide exposure, a responsible Thanksgiving should include a range of waste-cutting measures. Planning your meals for the number of guests will reduce food waste. Instead of covering your table with plastic or disposable centerpieces, decorate lightly with potted plants. When waste cannot be eliminated, make sure to recycle your plastic bottles and cans and compost if possible.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks in a way that eliminates exposure to toxic chemicals in food, supports environmental and public health through least-toxic materials, and reduces consumer wastes.

Beyond Pesticides advocates through its Eating with a Conscience for consumers to choose organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a chemical-intensive food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

We are so thankful for all of our members and supporters. Please help us continue our work to support healthy, organic living by contributing to Beyond Pesticides.

Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving

Source: Living Green Mag

Photo Source: Really Natural

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

 

 

 

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25
Nov

This Giving Season, Donate Before You Shop

(Beyond Pesticides, November 25, 2014) Please put charitable giving first this holiday season, and as you consider your donations, please take a close look at Beyond Pesticides’ program to protect health and the environment. Your support enables us to assist local action informed by the science we provide on pesticide hazards and safe and sustainable alternatives.

donate todayWhen you contribute to Beyond Pesticides, you support our core values –that we have a right to:

  • (i) clean air, water, and land in our communities,
  • (ii) toxic-free landscapes that are achieved cost-effectively without hazardous synthetic materials,
  • (iii) safe places with reduced chemical threats where children grow up, and;
  • (iv) a healthy ecology where pollinators –bees, butterflies, and birds and the natural world– can flourish.

With your support, Beyond Pesticides is making tremendous progress advancing toxic-free pesticide policies in local communities and promoting effective organic alternatives in the face of strong chemical industry opposition.

>>Please help us pass toxic-free pesticide policies in communities throughout the country by donating today.

We had an important victory in the small coastal town of Ogunquit, Maine this past election day, where 60% of voters passed an initiative to ban turf and landscape pesticides on all town lands, public and private. Your support of Beyond Pesticides helped to make this happen! Because, when given an opportunity, local communities choose to protect themselves from the unnecessary use of toxic pesticides by adopting nontoxic practices.

>>Help us assist other communities in their efforts to adopt nontoxic practices!

We are bringing to communities an understanding of inadequate protections at the federal level. The allowance of toxic pesticides by EPA begins with decisions that are heavily lobbied by the chemical industry. The recent allowance of 2,4-D, contaminated with dioxin, for weeds on newly deregulated genetically engineered corn and soybeans speaks volumes to the power of the industry, weak federal laws, and a complicit Congress.

>>With your contribution, we will continue to fight bad EPA regulatory decisions.

Critical to long-term sustainability, Beyond Pesticides is transforming land and building management. We began this work 33 years ago, calling for research into sustainable practices, and the adoption of organic standards with certification and enforcement mechanisms, so that we could point people and communities to credible, verifiable solutions to pesticide pollution. In this regard, we have helped build an organic standards and certification system that addresses the limitations of EPA’s pesticide registration program.

>>Your support enables Beyond Pesticides to work to keep the USDA and NOSB process accountable to consumers and family farmers who believe deeply in a safe, sustainable and organic alternative to practices and products that poison and contaminate.

Thank you for giving first this holiday season!

To read Beyond Pesticides full letter to supporters, written by executive director Jay Feldman, see here, and see Ogunquit Leads the Way with Ordinance Banning Pesticides.

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

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24
Nov

With Some Bee Protective Suggestions, Oregon Task Force Fails to Focus on Neonics

(Beyond Pesticides, November 24, 2014) Last Wednesday, a special Task Force on Pollinator Health in Oregon delivered a series of recommendations to the Oregon legislature on how to help the state’s honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators,but failed to address the clear threat that neonicotinoid insecticides pose to pollinators. Because the task force only prioritized consensus recommendations, groups representing pesticide manufacturers, retailers, and the nursery industry were able to stifle advice on protecting pollinators from highly toxic, long-lived systemic neonicotinoids and other potential pesticide threats. Instead, the consensus decisions include: expansion of outreach and education, supporting new research, and increasing pollinator habitat. Five of the eight voting members also supported targeted oversight of pesticide use.

According to Xerces Society, one of the conservationist members of the task force, industry’s opposition to targeted oversight of pesticide use stood in stark contrast with the scientist, master gardener, beekeeper and conservationists on the task force. Actions opposed only by industry representatives include requiring a pesticide applicator’s license for anyone who regularly uses pesticides as part of his or her job, halting the use of two highly toxic, long-lived neonicotinoid insecticides (clothianidin and thiamethoxam) on linden trees, and increasing consumer awareness about whether retail ornamental plants have been treated with neonicotinoids.

The task force was established following the new law, HB 4139, which was enacted partially in response to several bee-kill incidents in Oregon last summer, particularly one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees after a licensed pesticide applicator sprayed blooming linden trees, a violation of the pesticide label. The Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the neonicotinoid insecticide, dinotefuran. HB 4139 required the Governor to establish the task force directed to continue the research on bee health and pesticides for legislative action in 2015. The bill also requires anyone applying for a pesticide license to take a course on pollinators and pesticides and pass the exam. While the legislation fell short of the original bill that would have restricted the neonicotinoids –dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, many advocates in Oregon saw this as a step forward for bee protection considering the lack of action by the EPA and other states.

Mounting science has documented the neonicotinoid class of pesticides as a major factor in bee decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown, even at low levels, to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and disease. (Read No Longer a Big Mystery.) These chemicals are also systemic, meaning they contaminate the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, leading to contamination of the entire colony, including juvenile bees, when pollen is taken back to the hive. More recent research is even finding that neonicotinoids persist for long periods of time in the environment, contaminating soil and water, and adversely affecting other non-target organisms.

“By excluding pesticide oversight in the priorities, the task force has created a two-legged stool,” said task force member Aimee Code, Pesticide Program Coordinator for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “If we are to bring back pollinators we need to address all the core issues.”

The plight of bees and other pollinators is an important one for all to be concerned. Bees and other pollinators provide an estimated $600 million in pollination service in Oregon alone. That contribution helps provide better quality fruits and vegetables and helps keep food prices down. Across the U.S., 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. The time for action is now.

On the plus side, the task force presented some good consensus recommendations. These include: increasing pesticide registration fees to fund Oregon Department of Agriculture’s pesticide use outreach and education; prioritizing creation and management of pollinator friendly habitat on state lands, including parks and rights-of-way; and supporting the creation of a bee-health diagnostics facility. 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.

Members of the Task Force on Pollinator Health:

Dr. Ramesh Sagili (task force Chair), Assistant Professor (honey bee health, nutrition and pollination), Oregon State University.
Aimee Code, Pesticide Program Coordinator, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Scott Dahlman, Executive Director, Oregonians for Food and Shelter.
Betsy Earls, Vice President & Counsel, Associated Oregon Industries.
George Hansen, commercial beekeeper, owner of Foothills Honey Company.
Rich Little, Master Gardener, Oregon State University Extension Service.
Doug Moore, Executive Director, Oregon League of Conservation Voters.
Jeff Stone, Executive Director, Oregon Association of Nurseries.
Non-voting members: State Senator Chuck Thomsen and State Representative Jeff Reardon.

Source: Task Force on Pollinator Health’s report,  Xerces Society Press Release

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

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21
Nov

Insect Resistance “A Serious Threat” to GE Crop Sustainability

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2014) Researchers of a new study published on Monday find increased resistance in the fall armyworm to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-incorporated genetically engineered (GE) maize in the southeastern region of the U.S., calling this evolution of insect resistance to transgenic crops “a serious threat to the sustainability of this technology.”

The pest was found to be resistant to a toxin derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, which is inserted into seeds. Bt is a naturally-occurring soil bacterium that, when used in non-genetically engineered forms, is an important biological pesticide for organic and sustainable farmers. This study is just one of many that show increasing insect resistance to Bt crops, which are produced by Dow and DuPont, but is the first to document field resistance related to the reduced efficacy of Bt maize in a lepidopteran pest in the mainland U.S.

The study, “Cry1F Resistance in Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda: Single Gene versus Pyramided Bt Maize,” led by Fangneng Huang, Ph.D., an entomologist at Louisiana State University, finds that the fall armyworm has exhibited increased resistance to the Bt subspecies Cry1F protein. When expressed, the protein controls larvae from an order of insects known as Lepidoptera, which includes pests such as the European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, and black cutworm, as well as beneficial organisms such as butterflies and moths. Armyworms can plague farmers in many parts of the U.S., but these resistant insects have been documented only in some areas of Florida and North Carolina. The range of these resistant armyworms is unknown, researchers said.

The researchers recommended that farmers should plant more non-GMO corn as a refuge and possibly increase the use of pesticides to control the resistance.

Newer types of Bt corn with multiple modes of action are still showing effectiveness, Dr. Huang said. He added, “We don’t know how long they can last.”

Dr. Huang’s uncertainty is not only suggested by the results of his most recent study, but is also supported by a growing literature of cross-resistance in regards to other resistant insects. A 2013 study,  “Potential shortfall of pyramided transgenic cotton for insect resistance management,” by Thierry BrĂ©vaul, Ph.D., and colleagues found that stacking several Bt-incorporated traits does not stop resistance. Researchers assumed that caterpillars resistant to the first Bt toxin would survive on the one-toxin plants, but die when consuming two-toxin plants because they had not yet developed resistance to the new formulation. However, caterpillars selected for resistance to one toxin survived significantly better than caterpillars from a susceptible strain.

Several additional studies have documented growing insect resistance to Bt maize. In 2011, the study “Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm,” led by Aaron Gassmann, Ph.D., verified the first field-evolved resistance of corn rootworm, from the order Coleoptera,  to a Bt toxin, Cry3Bb1. The study found the western corn rootworm’s ability to adapt is strongest in fields where Bt corn is planted for three consecutive years and suggests that insufficient planting of refuges contributes to the problem. This study was cited by a group of 22 prominent entomologists who submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on their concerns about the viability of Cry3Bb1 corn. In January 2013, EPA concluded that, “Corn rootworm may not be completely controlled by Cry3Bb1 in certain parts of the corn belt.” However, after this release, EPA did little to mitigate resistance beyond announcing that Monsanto had committed to conducting grower education programs demonstrating the value of crop rotation.

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

Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of an herbicide-tolerant crop, the GE approach to agriculture and pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and many other problems associated with GE crops. The failure of EPA to properly exercise its authority to regulate the plant-incorporated protection used in Bt corn products is unacceptable. Further delay on EPA’s part to implement refuge requirements and compliance activities that seek to preserve the efficacy of Bt corn products and extend their utility in the field will result in undue adverse environmental, human health, and economic consequences, as well as undermine the use of Bt as a biological pest management tool in organic production.

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

Sources: Reuters

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

 

 

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20
Nov

Rise in Chronic Diseases Correlates with Glyphosate and GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, November 20, 2014) A study published in the Journal of Organic Systems this week examined potential connections between the increase in chronic diseases seen within the United States and other parts of the world over the last 20 years and the explosion of glyphosate use, finding a significant correlation between glyphosate use, genetically-engineered (GE) crops, and human health.glyphosate use map

Glyphosate, one of the most popular weedkillers in both the U.S. and the world, is the active ingredient in Roundup¼ —the leading glyphosate product developed by Monsanto. Known as “Roundup Ready,” GE soybeans, corn, cotton, and other crops have been genetically altered and patented by Monsanto to be glyphosate-tolerant. 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.

Because of Roundup’s popularity, glyphosate use has skyrocketed, leading to an estimated application of nearly 250 million pounds of the chemical across the U.S. alone and resulting in significant problems of glyphosate resistance and the increased presence of the herbicide in our food and environment.

The increased presence of glyphosate has also ushered in independent data and research on the chemical’s adverse health and environmental effects. As noted in the study, “Evidence is mounting that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants and animals and glyphosate residues have been detected in both. Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, it damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer.”

To explore if there was a connection between the known increase glyphosate use and similar rise in chronic diseases, the study, Genetically Engineered Crops, Glyphosate and the Deterioration of Health in the United States of America, examined U.S. government data on GE crops, glyphosate application, and disease epidemiology and developed correlation coefficients for 22 diseases. The correlations were highly significant, according to researchers, and while the correlation did not necessarily mean direct or exclusive causation, it did warrant a recommendation to reevaluate glyphosate residue levels and potential adverse health effects.

In the meantime, people concerned about the potentially toxic effects of glyphosate and other pesticides in their food, can find significant protections from GE crops and pesticides in certified organic foods. Please visit Beyond Pesticides Eating with a Conscience and Keeping Organic Strong webpages to learn more about choosing organic foods and keeping synthetic chemicals, like glyphosate, out of organic.

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

Source: Sustainable Pulse

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19
Nov

Canadian Doctors and Nurses Urge Neonicotinoid Pesticide Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2014) A group of doctors and nurses is urging the Ontario government to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, blamed for the decline of bees and other insect pollinators. As Canada’s first neonicotinoid campaign organized by doctors and nurses, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario say that these pesticides are a “major threat to both nature and people.”

drnrsbeesThe doctors and nurses in Ontario, Canada, now urging the province to ban the pesticides adds to growing pressure on the Ontario government to take action on neonicotinoids (neonics), the insecticide class of chemicals linked to the deaths of bees across Canada and the U.S. Central to the initiative is an advertising buy which starts this week on the Toronto subway system. The ads show an anxious child beneath the caption, ‘Doctors and Nurses say neonic pesticides hurt our bees and us.’ The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) also plan to meet with the Ontario Environment Minister, Glen Murray, later this year to urge the government to ban the chemicals. CAPE is the campaign’s main funder, with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature.

“Physicians believe neonics are a major threat to both nature and people,” says CAPE Executive Director Gideon Forman. “These nerve poisons are fatal to bees but there are also concerns they may adversely affect the human nervous system. We need to ban neonics to protect public health.”

The campaign is also sending a letter to all Ontario Members of Parliament urging them to prohibit neonics’ use and sale. Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, recommends that Ontario act on its own to ban the use of the agricultural pesticides, saying there is ample science to find that neonics are responsible for the collapse of bee colonies, and that Ontario faces a potential ecological and economic crisis because of the disappearance of bees, which pollinate hundreds of crops in the province.

The Canadian government is studying the effects of three of the pesticides on bee colonies in agricultural areas. In September 2013, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) –responsible for regulating pesticides in Canada– discovered neonicotinoid-contaminated dust had caused severe bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec, and released new measures intended to protect bees from exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. These included guidelines for soybean and corn growers who use neonicotinoids on treated seeds, requiring a dust-reducing lubricant to prevent the pesticide from spreading at seeding time. Additionally, ongoing monitoring is being used to determine whether these mitigation techniques will help reduce bee mortality in 2014. Based on the results, new measures could be introduced for next year, such as a permit system for the use of neonics. A final report is expected in 2015. Ontario has said it will wait for the results of the study before it makes a recommendation to restrict neonicotinoids, as has been done in the European Union. But many, including the doctors and nurses, recommend banning the chemicals outright, and urge the province to adopt an ecological approach to pest control that minimizes use of pesticides. Crop rotation, improved planting techniques and pest resistant crops that can help eliminate the need for pesticides in agriculture have been suggested.

“This is a unique campaign because health professionals have teamed up with environmental groups to urge a ban on these toxic pesticides. And it makes perfect sense because as nurses we know that if you kill bees –and endanger our food supply– you undermine human health,” says Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD, and Chief Executive Officer of RNAO. Dr. Grinspun also notes that neonicotinoids go well beyond the corn and soybean fields to disrupt other ecological systems. “The issue with the neonic pesticides is that they are absorbed and incorporated into every part of the plant, from leaves and stems to seed, pollen and nectar. They are very persistent, they are highly water soluble, so they can contaminate ground and surface water and can persist in aquatic environments for a very long time,” Dr. Grinspun said.

This summer, one county in southern Ontario was reported to be the first Canadian community to temporarily ban neonicotinoids, while officials in Prince Edward County passed a motion prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on municipal lands. Canadian municipalities have an illustrious history of restricting pesticides to safeguard human and environmental health. For several years, Canadian communities have been restricting cosmetic uses of pesticides on their lawns despite pushback from industry giants. Similarly, neonicotinoid restrictions could gain traction across the provinces, especially if bee losses continue to mount.

Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have already been given a two-year moratorium in the European Union. Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and beekeepers filed a lawsuit with 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, even though a recent report finds that this use pattern provides no additional benefit to agriculture. A recent EPA report also confirms that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production

Mounting science has documented the neonicotinoid class of pesticides as a major factor in bee decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown, even at low levels, to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and disease. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. These chemicals are also systemic, meaning they contaminate the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, leading to contamination of the entire colony, including juvenile bees, when pollen is taken back to the hive. More recent research is even finding that neonicotinoids persist for long periods of time in the environment, contaminating soil and water, and adversely affecting other non-target organisms.

At a recent listening session hosted by EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), many beekeepers voiced their dissatisfaction at the slow pace of U.S. action on pollinator protection, and industry misrepresentation of the crisis facing bees. While industry stakeholders, like Syngenta and Bayer, try to deflect blame away from their products and focus on the prevalence of varroa mites, improved farming technologies, and best management practices, beekeepers insist that pesticide exposures, especially to neonicotinoids, are to blame for massive hive losses. Canadian beekeepers recently filed a class action lawsuit against Syngenta and Bayer CropScience charging that the companies were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides and this negligence caused the plaintiffs to suffer $450 million in damages.

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. The time for action is now. 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. Let EPA and the White House know that the time is not for action! Comments may be submitted by Monday, November 24 online at www.regulations.gov, EPA docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0806.

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. The directory 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.

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

Source: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, CBC News

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18
Nov

Leak at DuPont Chemical Plant Leads to Death of Four Workers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2014) Four workers died this past weekend when the valve on a container of methyl mercaptan, a compound used in the production of insecticides, fungicides, and plastics, malfunctioned at a La Porte, Texas chemical plant owned by DuPont. The chemical, which has a strong odor of rotten eggs, spread throughout the Houston metropolitan area, causing concern for people up to 40 miles away. This incident is the latest in a string of chemical disasters for DuPont and across the United States. A 2011 U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation determined that “a series of preventable safety shortcomings” led to three accidents over a 33-hour period that resulted in the death of one worker from phosgene gas exposure at a DuPont plant in Belle, West Virginia. CSB, an independent federal agency tasked with investigating chemical accidents, has begun a probe into the recent incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will conduct a separate investigation.

dupontlaporteIn 2013, in the wake of an explosion at a chemical plant in West, Texas that claimed the lives of 15 people and injured hundreds more, President Obama signed an Executive Order entitled Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, in an effort to improve the safety of U.S. chemical manufacturing for workers and those in surrounding communities. Beyond Pesticides joined with over 100 organizations, including health, labor, consumer, and environmental justice groups in a letter urging then newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to make chemical disaster prevention a priority initiative. In the letter, groups advocated for the only fool-proof way to prevent chemical disasters; switching to safer chemical processes. While the President’s Executive Order took important steps to move the country toward safer chemical processes, many groups at the time questioned whether the Order was forceful enough. A report on the Executive Order was delivered to the President in May 2014, though it is too early to say whether further action would have prevented the recent disaster at the DuPont plant.

The chemical released in the DuPont incident, methyl mercaptan, is a colorless flammable gas with an unpleasant odor described as rotten cabbage, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. OSHA has set legally acceptable airborne exposure limits of the compound at 10ppm. Methyl mercaptan acts as a central nervous system depressant as well as a respiratory-tract and skin irritant at high levels of exposure. The La Porte plant uses methyl mercaptan for the production of methomyl, a carbamate class of insecticide shown to be highly toxic to humans, with the potential to cause cholinesterase inhibition, resulting in flu-like symptoms such as weakness, lack of appetite, and muscle aches. Although methomyl is not registered for residential use, tolerance levels for the insecticide have been set on over 80 crops.

Many groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have focused on encouraging safer alternatives in chemical processing since before the tragic events that occurred nearly 30 years ago in Bhopal, India by Union Carbide, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical. In 2008, an explosion at a chemical plant in Institute, West Virginia owned by Bayer released high levels of methyl isocyanate, the same chemical released in the Bhopal disaster, and also used as an intermediate in the production of methomyl. Two Bayer workers died as a result of the explosion. Although Bayer reduced the amount of methyl isocyanate it held in its production facility by 80% after the disaster, the company kept up to 50,000 pounds of the chemical stored at this location until 2011, when it announced it would stop all manufacture of the toxic chemical.

According to the 2011 risk-management plan for DuPont’s La Porte plant, 122,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan were stored on site. In addition to the toxicity of the end use product, methomyl, these disasters highlight dangers inherent in the production of pesticides. From cradle to grave, these chemicals pose unnecessary hazards to workers and the environment. As the 2013 letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy explains, “Prevention is the only fool-proof way to ensure the safety of millions of people whose communities are needlessly in danger.” Though a focus on investing in safer alternatives to toxic pesticides, and fostering alternative systems like organic agriculture, which do not require these chemicals, future tragedies like what occurred this past weekend in La Porte, Texas can be prevented.

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

Source: New York Times, NBC News,

Photo Source: Marie D De Jesus/Houston Chronicle

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17
Nov

Court Battle Begins on Maui, Hawaii GE Moratorium

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2014) In anticipation of the lawsuit by agrichemical giants following a newly passed initiative to suspend the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops in Maui, five residents preemptively filed a lawsuit last Wednesday, November 12 beating their opponents by one day. The moratorium is only a temporary measure that bans GE crops until the county analyzes the public health and environmental effects, and it is deemed safe. Yet, despite this Monsanto, along with Dow AgroSciences, the Maui Farm Bureau and other businesses filed their own lawsuit against the county Thursday, November 13 saying that the “referendum is invalid and contrary to long established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful testing and planting of GMO plants.”

Maui_Landsat_PhotoMaui County residents Dr. Lorrin Pang, Mark Sheehan, Lei’ohu Ryder, Bonnie Marsh and Alika Atay, along with the Shaka Movement, filed their lawsuit in the Second Circuit court in Hawaii against the county, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. The lawsuit seeks to assure transparency and influence over the implementation of the initiative, in light of the enormous amount of money that the ag companies have poured into the county in an attempt to beat the initiative. According to Honolulu Civil Beat reporters, opponents of the measure outspent advocates more than 87 to 1, amounting to $300 for every “no” vote.

“We applaud the county’s recent indication that they will implement the moratorium,” Mark Sheehan, spokesperson for the citizen group in a statement from his attorney, according to Maui Now. “However, given the strong prior opposition of the Maui County Council and Mayor’s Office during the campaign, we want to ensure that the citizens of Maui have full access to the implementation process and that the new law is properly administered.”

The resident’s complaint states: “Plaintiffs bring this action seeking declaratory relief against Defendants in order to (1) assure that the GMO Bill is timely and properly implemented and to be able to assist and participate in the County’s implementation of the GMO Bill, including being consulted by the County with respect to the GMO Bill’s implementation; and (2) resolve the claims that the GMO bill is not legal and enforceable, as there is an actual controversy and threat of imminent and inevitable litigation regarding this issue.”

In addition to pouring money to fight the initiative, the litigation from the agrichemical giant companies came as no surprise, as they had already promised to file a lawsuit against Maui if the memorandum passed. Previously, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF Plant Science LP, and Dow AgroSciences also filed a lawsuit against the neighboring county of Kauai to prevent a similar measure, Ordinance 960, from being implemented. While Kauai’s law did not impose a full ban of GE farming, 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 stuck down by a 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.

The initiative in Maui is part of a growing movement on the Islands that seeks to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released earlier this year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Despite the deep pockets of the agrichemical industry, residents both in Hawaii and across the United States continue to raise their voices for increased protections from GE crops and the hazardous pesticide use that is associated with their planting. In fact, Maui is not the first U.S locality to bar the planting of GE crops. In May, Jackson and Josephine County, Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. “We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live. The fights may be long, drawn out, and grueling, but concerned residents continue to stand up for common sense protections in order to safeguard the health of themselves, their families, their community members, and the unique areas in which they live.

Additional background on the fight for increased protections on the Hawaiian Islands, including testimony Beyond Pesticides provided in support of Kauai’s Bill 2491, can be found here. For more information on the hazards that continue to be associated with the growth of GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering webpage.

Sources: Honolulu Civil Beat, Maui Now

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

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14
Nov

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

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13
Nov

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

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12
Nov

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

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11
Nov

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-AndrĂ©_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 UniversitĂ© 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

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10
Nov

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.

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07
Nov

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

 

 

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