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Your Voice Is Needed to Keep Organic Strong

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2014) Help protect our organic farms and food from pesticides and genetically engineered organisms. Don’t let a weakened public process for organic standards, which looms large, roll back the progress we’ve made in growing organic production, and undermine public trust in the organic food label.The fall 2014 meeting dates for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) have been announced, and public comments are due by Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label.

We’ve made tremendous progress in creating an organic food production system. Let’s not let USDA turn back the clock.

SaveOurOrganicIntegrityAbout the NOSB

The 15-member board, consisting of 4 farmers, 3 environmentalists, 3 consumers, 2 food processors, and one retailer, scientist and certifying agent, votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. The NOSB acts as a lifeline from government to the organic community, as it considers input from you, the public -the concerned citizens upon whom organic integrity depends. That is why your participation is vital to the development of organic standards. Rest assured, if you submit a public comment either in person or online, your concerns will be considered by the Board. Remember that the NOSB can’t take serious action to protect organic integrity without your input!

Issues Before the NOSB for Fall 2014

Materials on the list below are either the subject of petitions or the subject of sunset review. Petitioned materials must have evidence summarized in the proposals that they meet the OFPA requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Sunset items are already on the National List, and being considered for delisting. They are subject to the same criteria, but are being considered under NOP’s new rules.

The NOSB will vote on those materials subject to “2015 Sunset Review,” but any substantive comments on them now will be considered “untimely.” We have some procedural comments on them. Although the NOSB will not vote on those materials listed under “2016 Sunset Summaries” at this meeting, comments received after October 7, 2014 will be considered untimely. The subcommittees have not published summaries of evidence concerning 2016 sunset materials.

There are also some very important issues in discussion documents and a proposal dealing with livestock vaccines made with genetically engineered organisms (“excluded methods” in organic law’s terminology). The NOSB will vote on the livestock vaccine proposal. Discussion documents are not up for a vote, but form the basis of future proposals, so this is a valuable opportunity to give input.

Make your voice heard! Help protect the integrity of organic and defend human health and the environment in the process. Check out Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page to learn more about the issues, see our draft comments to the NOSB, and send your own comments. We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the October 7, 2014 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Maintain Your Stake in the Public Process
Major issues before the fall 2014 National Organic Standards Board.
  • Protect Organic Farms from Outside Contamination. Inputs into organic production should be managed in a way that protects organic crops, soil, and water from residues of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms.
  • Get Harmful Inert Ingredients Out of Organic. So-called “inert” ingredients likely pose more hazards than other materials used in organic production. The NOSB must move quickly to review these potentially harmful ingredients in organic products.
  • Remove Unnecessary Synthetic and Nonorganic Inputs (2015 and 2016 Sunset Materials). Urge the NOSB to use only procedures that are first disclosed to the public. That was not done for materials under review for 2015 sunset, so they should be returned  to the subcommittee. The NOSB will not vote on 2016 sunset materials until spring 2015. However, now is the last chance on these materials to submit comments that will be considered by the NOSB during its deliberations. New scientific and use information brought to the Board on these materials at the next NOSB meeting in the spring will be found “untimely” and likely not considered. Materials include ferric phosphate, hydrogen chloride, and nearly a dozen others.
  • Genetic Engineering Issues Urgently Need the NOSB’s Attention. Urge the NOSB to complete the task of defining the scope of “excluded methods” (term used for genetic engineering) and to use that definition as the basis for guidance on prohibition of vaccines made with excluded methods. The NOSB should not delegate this responsibility to USDA, a promoter of genetic engineering.

When You Write: Save Our Organic from Changes that Weaken the Public’s Voice
When you provide your comment, let NOSB and USDA, know that the approval of synthetic materials in organic cannot be governed by the weak process that was adopted by USDA and imposed on the NOSB on September 16, 2013. (Background)

Beyond Pesticides encourages you to submit comments in your own words. For help with this process, view our commenting guide.

Please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.

Source: Regulations.gov

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




USDA Approves 2,4-D-Tolerant (GE) Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, September 19, 2014) The pesticide treadmill continues to turn with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent approval this week of three 2,4-D-tolerto ant corn and soybean crops, developed by Dow AgroSciences.

Some growers have been pushing for the new Enlist crops in order to combat the rapid proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds. The use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup formulation, on genetically-engineered (GE) crops has proven to be an abject failure due to widespread weed resistance. So widespread is this resistance that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted an emergency use exemption for fluridone, which does not have registered uses in agriculture. More recently, Texas regulators requested the use of propazine to combat glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, which EPA recently denied, citing risks to drinking water and other hazards.  Even though the agency denied the emergency use application, it accepted the argument put forth by the Texas Department of Agriculture that  glyphosate-resistant weeds in three million acres of herbicide-tolerant cotton constituted an “urgent non-routine situation.” Beyond Pesticides argued to EPA that the weed resistance in herbicide-tolerant cropping systems is very predictable and has become routine, thus disqualifying states from using the emergency exemption provision or Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  A 2011 study in the journal Weed Science found at least 21 different species of weeds to be resistant to applications of Monsanto’s Roundup.

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

2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide that kills broadleaf weeds by inducing rapid growth. The chemical has been linked to numerous human health problems, including cancer, particularly soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. 2,4,-D is made up roughly half of the herbicide known as Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War. Research by EPA 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% to 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.

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

The chemical and biotechnology giant Dow AgroSciences is now awaiting approval by EPA of Enlist Duo, a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, that is to be used with the corn and soybean crops. (See Beyond Pesticides’ comments opposing this here). At the same time, an additional set of GE crops developed by Monsanto and resistant to another herbicide called dicamba, is also awaiting EPA approval.

Pursuing sustainable alternatives can prevent the pesticide treadmill that results from the use of GE crops and pesticides like glyphosate. Ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to battling pigweed. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

Sources: New York Times, USDA

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




Cargill Sues Syngenta after China Forbids the Sale of Its GE Corn

(Beyond Pesticides, September 18, 2014) After a reported $90 million loss from rejected shipments of genetically engineered (GE) corn seeds that are not approved in China, the U.S. grain company Cargill Inc. sued the biotech giant Syngenta AG. According to Cargill, since mid-November 2013, China has rejected imports of U.S. corn due to the presence of Syngenta’s MIR 162 trait because of its lack of approval for import, virtually halting U.S. corn trade with China. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Louisiana, will ultimately decide whether responsibility for the marketplace risks and economic damage of introducing GE crops in international trade Yellow Cornshould be placed on the seed companies that develop unapproved GE traits, or the merchants who sell contaminated grain.

“Unlike other seed companies, Syngenta has not practiced responsible stewardship by broadly commercializing a new product before receiving approval from a key export market like China,” said Mark Stonacek, president of Cargill Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain North America. “Syngenta also put the ability of U.S. agriculture to serve global markets at risk, costing both Cargill and the entire U.S. agricultural industry significant damages.”

Syngenta’s corn seed in question, Agrisure Viptera corn, also known as MIR 162, was deregulated by USDA in April, 2010. Syngenta responded to the lawsuit in a public statement that because the seed was approved for cultivation in the U.S. at that time, the company upholds that it is in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements.

However, absent in the discussion is the actual environmental and human health risks that GE crops pose to U.S. agriculture, and the role that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plays in deregulating GE crops in the U.S., proliferating its use throughout the country. In fact, according to USDA, nearly 90 percent of corn in the United States, the world’s top grains producer, is now genetically engineered.

Agrisure Viptera corn has a genetic modification that makes the corn more resistant to insects. This type of genetic engineering is known as plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs), which are created when scientists take the gene for a specific pesticidal protein and introduce the gene into the plant’s genetic material. The plant then continuously expresses the pesticidal protein that kills the pest when it feeds on the plant. Both the protein and its genetic material are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plant itself is not regulated.

The Wall Street Journal reports that China’s government has rejected more than one million metric tons of corn since November 2013. U.S. corn shipments to China in the first seven months of this year totaled just 165,457 tons, down 85% from the same period in 2013. U.S. corn prices have plunged nearly 60% from their 2012 peak, with record production exacerbated by the lack of export demand.

Insecticide-resistant corn poses serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased chances of infertility. In addition to these risks,  no evidence of the economic benefits that proponents of GE crops laud has been substantiated.

The impacts of GE intensive agriculture on wildlife, local environments, and human health, in addition to the on-going problems of seed contamination leading to economic harm, are all compelling arguments that underscore the fact that consumers should have the chance to vote with their food dollars and not purchase products that promote these hazardous outcomes. In the absence of mandatory labeling, consumers can still purchase foods that have the USDA Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

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

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

Sources: Reuters, Wall Street Journal




DuPont Pays $1.9 Million Penalty to EPA, Fails to Disclose Data on Pesticide Hazard

­­­(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2014) DuPont agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) $1.853 million to settle charges from the agency that the chemical giant’s herbicide product ImprelisTM was responsible for killing and damaging thousands of acres of spruce and pine trees in 2011. On Monday, EPA filed a Consent Agreement and Final Order against DuPont for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for selling and distributing its pesticide product -ImprelisTM herbicide. EPA contends that DuPont failed to submit in a timely manner field trial studies indicating potential ecological adverse effects from the use of Imprelis.

In 2011, in what some say was one of the biggest disasters of its kind, Norway spruce and white pine tree damage and deaths were reported throughout the Midwest, in East Coast states, and as far south as Georgia. It was determined that Imprelis, marketed as a “low environmental impact” pesticide, was applied during the spring to control weeds on lawns and other landscapes in the vicinity of the non-target evergreen trees. Imprelis, whose active ingredient is the potassium salt of aminocyclopyrachlor, was conditionally registered by EPA in September 2010, in a regulatory process reminiscent of that of the neonicotinoids, which are presently linked to widespread bee decline. Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of FIFRA, which stipulates pesticide registration can be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied, with the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. In fact, EPA’s registration documents for aminocyclopyrachlor concluded that, “In accordance with FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C), the Agency believes that the conditional registration of aminocyclopyrachlor will not cause any unreasonable adverse effects to human health or to the environment and that the use of the pesticide is in the public’s interest; and is therefore granting the conditional registration.”

However, by summer 2011, EPA began receiving complaints regarding tree damage related to the use of Imprelis. Over 7,000 adverse incident reports were submitted involving Imprelis-induced damage (including death) to spruce and pine trees. Test data from DuPont confirms certain coniferous trees, including Norway spruce and balsam fir, as susceptible to being damaged or killed by the application of Imprelis. By August 2011, EPA issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order to DuPont, prohibiting the distribution, sale, movement or removal of Imprelis products.  In September 2011, EPA, with consent from DuPont, amended the registration of Imprelis to, among other things, prohibit the sale, distribution or marketing of Imprelis absent action by EPA.

According to EPA, from October 2010 through June 2011, DuPont distributed or sold Imprelis on 320 occasions with labeling that did not include directions for use and/or warning or caution statements adequate to protect non-target terrestrial plants, thus resulting in a pesticide product that was “misbranded” under sections 2(q)(1)(F) and/or (G) of FIFRA. Additionally, EPA also alleges that DuPont failed to timely submit 18 field trial study reports to EPA indicating potential adverse effects from the use of Imprelis as required by FIFRA section 6(a)(2) and 40 CFR part 159, subpart D.

“EPA’s ability to protect the public from dangerous pesticides depends on companies complying with the legal obligation to disclose information on the harmful effects of chemicals,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case sends the message that illegally withholding required information will be treated as a very serious violation.”

Ecological Data Gaps Allowed by EPA
However, under conditional registration, EPA can quickly allow to market pesticides that have not been shown to meet the human and environmental health data requirements, with the stipulation that the data can be submitted at a later date. As a result of this loophole in FIFRA, products are distributed and sold that can potentially pose serious risks to non-target sites, organisms, and vulnerable human populations. Clearly, had ecological data on non-target trees and plants been requested and reviewed by EPA before Imprelis was allowed on the market, millions of dollars in damage and tree losses could have been avoided. In an eerily similar case, EPA came under scrutiny since it was revealed a few years ago by Beyond Pesticides that the pesticide, clothianidin- a neonicotinoid conditionally registered in 2003, and since linked to bee decline- does not have complete field data for honey bees, even though this pesticide and others in its class are known to pose risks to bees. Unfortunately, bee data is still outstanding even though clothianidin and other neonicotinoids continue to be used as seed treatment on millions of acres of corn and soybean, and in home and garden products.

Neonicotinoids have been shown to have lethal and sublethal effects in bees, including impaired learning and navigational behavior, suppressed immune systems, and death. Last summer’s death of over 50,000 bumblebees in Oregon, after application of a neonicotinoid, raises the question of why EPA has been slow to act on this class of pesticides. The Imprelis announcement this week shows that EPA can and should move on pesticides that have been shown to cause ecological harms. Section 13 of FIFRA allows EPA to remove from the market any products found to be “in violation of any of the provisions of this Act.” Using this authority, EPA can take action on pesticides harming bees and other non-target organisms.

Imprelis Regulation and Fallout
After DuPont submitted information to EPA for registration of Imprelis, the proposed registration document was issued by EPA in June 2010. But in a letter to EPA in response to the proposed registration decision, DuPont opposed the agency’s measures to mitigate risks to non-target plants, including buffer zones, and aerial and ground application restrictions as outlined in EPA’s document, and challenged EPA’s risk assessment, claiming the agency “overestimates” environmental risks. The company stated, “DuPont believes that the stated buffers to non-target aquatic areas and non-target terrestrial areas are not necessary to mitigate off-target movement of aminocyclopyrachlor end-use products …” Further DuPont continued, “Addition of buffers to aminocyclopyrachlor end-use products will result in lessened utilization of the products..”

DuPont instead requested the agency stick to the generic label language currently used on other products. Following this request, EPA revised its initial recommendations, removed language requiring 50 foot buffer strips to protect water and non-target plants, and nozzle and wind speed restrictions, retracted disclaimers that the product had a high potential to contaminate months after application, and replaced these more protective statements with generic label language.

Once reports of angry consumers and damaged trees became known, DuPont issued a letter on June 17, 2011 to pest management professionals cautioning against the use of Imprelis where Norway spruce or white pine trees are present or close to a treated area. EPA sent a letter to DuPont on August 3, inviting DuPont to meet to discuss implementation of a “Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order.” It urged the company to make public all records or other documents regarding scientific studies conducted on Imprelis. The letter stated that EPA is uncomfortable with the amount of registration information DuPont claimed as confidential business information (CBI) under FIFRA. According to the letter, “EPA believes that the public interest demands that this information be made publicly available as soon as possible and, therefore, EPA strongly encourages DuPont to reconsider its CBI claims for these studies, especially for the phytotoxicity studies related to effects on trees.” The next day, DuPont suspended sales of Imprelis and announced that it will soon conduct a product return and refund program.

Aminocyclopyrachlor (Imprelis) is in the chemical class of the pyrimidine carboxylic acids, which is similar to pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides that includes herbicide such as aminopyralid, clopyralid, and picloram. These chemicals have been linked to repeated incidents where treated plant residues contaminate non-target plants. They persist in the environment, do not break down during composting, and have affected flowers and vegetables, such as beans, peas and tomatoes. Some states as well as the United Kingdom were prompted to take regulatory action due to these incidents.

Alternatives to Vegetation Management
There are some safer options for weed management. To get started, read Beyond Pesticides’ “Read Your ‘Weeds’ – A Simple Guide To Creating A Healthy Lawn” and “Least-toxic Control of Weeds.”

For more on Imprelis, Read our article, Dear Consumer: Herbicide Kills Trees

Source: EPA News Release

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



Ask Your Member of Congress to Join Actions for Pollinator Protection

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2014) In light of President Obama’s Memorandum directing federal agencies to take action on pollinator declines, groups and members of Congress are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take meaningful steps to save our bees. In a letter to EPA, U.S.Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers (D-MI) are urging the agency to follow the lead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and revise pesticide regulations to protect pollinators from exposure to bee-toxic neonicointoids.

Sierra Castillo Santa Rosa CA A safe return to Pink Palace Honeybee retreatSanta Rosa, California>>Ask Your Representative to Join the Call: Urge Your Member of Congress to Sign-on to the Blumenauer-Conyers Letter to EPA!

Pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, and other insects, play a critical role in our agriculture systems. More than 70% of America’s food sources are pollinated by bees and the worldwide economic value of bee‐pollinated crops is as high as $125 billion per year. Since 2006, however, beekeepers have lost more than 30% of their hives annually—a huge threat to the vitality of our farms.

Pollinators are a critical driver of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. One in three bites of food depends on honey bees and other pollinators, and without them food prices are sure to rise and some of our favorite foods may become unavailable. To be certain, continued declines of these essential species are unacceptable in light of policy actions that can be taken by EPA now.

We need to put public pressure on our elected members of Congress. Have them join Representative Conyers and Blumenauer in telling EPA to follow the lead of FWS and take the right steps to forward pollinator health.

New Legislation Would Support Industry, Undermine Pollinator Health

Elsewhere in the halls of Congress, a new pollinator bill claims to address the crisis through the introduction of more pesticides. HR 5447, introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to speed up the registration of new pesticides to control “parasitic pests” such as the varroa mite.

Rather than an actual solution to the pollinator crisis, this bill, supported by the umbrella group CropLife America, represents the latest from the pesticide industry’s deceptive public relations tactics. A report released by Friends of the Earth last April, Follow the Honey: 7 Ways Pesticide Companies Are Spinning the Bee Crisis to Protect Profits, spells out the ways in which neonicotinoid manufacturers are “spinning” the bee crisis and muddying the science in order to stop government action that would restrict their profitable insecticides. Although varroa mites may be contributing factors to the decline of honey bees, recent science has revealed toxic, persistent and systemic neonicotinoid pesticides as the driving factor behind declines not only in pollinators, but in other wildlife such as birds.

“Beekeepers do not consider mites as the top problem, and many like myself find it a non-issue. Pesticides are still the number one issue for all beekeepers,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan in a press release from the Center for Food Safety.

Rep. Scott, who introduced HR 5447, is the chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture. Earlier this year, this subcommittee sponsored a Capitol Hill hearing on pollinator health. However, the hearing included no independent scientists on the leading edge of bee research, and no beekeepers that are experiencing first-hand the die off of their honey bee colonies. No mention of pesticide risks were discussed by the industry dominated panel.

While the pesticide industry pushes the introduction of additional pesticides as the solution to the bee crisis, its actions stand to undermine a bill that would affect real change for pollinators, beekeepers, and the U.S. agricultural economy. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act, championed by Reps. Conyers and Blumenauer, would suspend the use of four toxic neonicointoid pesticides until EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

As pesticide manufacturers go on the offensive with the introduction of HR 5447 and their request to EPA to raise the allowable levels of neonicointoids on certain crops, it is more important than ever that we reach out to our U.S. Representatives. Ask them to support the efforts of Congressmen Blumenauer and Conyers by co-sponsoring the Saving America’s Pollinators Act and joining with them on their letter to EPA.

Source: Center for Food Safety Press Release
Photo Credit: Sierra Castillio, Santa Rosa, CA



Local Municipality Requires Labeling of Penta (PCP)-Treated Utility Poles

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2014) The Town of North Hempstead on Long Island, New York has passed a new law requiring warning labels on the utility poles that are treated with the hazardous wood preservative, pentachlorophenol (PCP). At the town board meeting on September 9, a vote of 7-0 mandated the labeling with the following warning: “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.”

imageSince the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), operated by Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), installed thousands of new hurricane-resistant utility poles that are thicker and taller, it shed more light on the community hazards associated with use of pentachlorophenol. Of the 324,000 utility poles on Long Island, about 95,000 have been treated with PCP. Even though there is a prohibition of PCP for residential uses within the U.S., it still can be used on utility poles, railroad ties and other industrial uses under federal law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines pentachlorophenol as “extremely toxic” to humans even from short-term exposure and is listed as a “probable human carcinogen.” The inhalation or ingestion can lead to cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, soft tissue sarcoma and acute leukemia. Penta is neurotoxic and contains a mixture of volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and is contaminated with dioxin, furans, and hexochlorobenzene. Beyond Pesticides has long called for the banning of PCP, having unsuccessfully sued the EPA to ban utility pole use. Penta and its contaminants are considered the United Nations Environmental Program to be persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These contaminants are restricted under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants signed by the United States in 2001 and banned by numerous countries across the globe.

“People need to know that the poles have this hazardous chemical in them,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement to Newsday.

Even with residents pleading to have untreated poles or at least warning signs, the PSEG spokesman stated (also to Newsday) that Penta (PCP) “has a long and proven track record for utility poles. We do not deem it necessary to put up warning signs.”

“In my opinion it’s definitely a health issue,” said Craig Mazzola, a resident of Williston Park, where two new poles are being installed. “Kids can go running around a pole, playing around a pole, and they [the utility] don’t care,” he said.

According to Beyond Pesticides’ Pole Pollution, EPA has calculated that children face a 220 times increase in the risk of cancer from exposure to soil contaminated with PCP leaching out of the utility poles. These utility poles are ubiquitous across our country. However, there are alternatives to using chemically treated poles: alternatives range from poles made from cement, fiberglass, or recycled metals, as well as simply laying utility lines underground. Currently, the long term costs of purchasing, installing and maintaining fiberglass and concrete poles makes them competitive to treated wood utility poles.

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to penta and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives.

For more extensive information about pesticide-treated wood, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page.

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

Source: Newsday



Levels of Pesticides Still a Concern for Aquatic Life in U.S. Rivers and Streams

(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2014) A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report finds that levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the Nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas. The study, which documents pesticide levels in U.S. waterways for two decades (1992-2011), finds pesticides and their breakdown products in U.S. streams more than 90 percent of the time. Known pesticide water contaminants, such as atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine, continue to be detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time, with fipronil being the pesticide most frequently found at levels of potential concern for aquatic organisms in urban streams.wyomping strea,

According to the USGS report, “An Overview Comparing Results from Two Decades of Monitoring for Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Rivers, 1992–2001 and 2002–2011,” featured in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology and part of the agency’s ongoing National Water-Quality Assessment Program, the proportion of streams with one or more pesticides that exceed an aquatic-life benchmark (or guideline) is similar between the two decades for streams and rivers draining agricultural and mixed-land use areas, but much greater during the 2002-2011 for streams draining urban areas. During both decades, one or more pesticides or pesticide degradates were detected more than 90 percent of the time in streams across all types of land uses. For individual pesticides during 2002–11, atrazine (and degradate, deethylatrazine), carbaryl, fipronil (and degradates), metolachlor, prometon, and simazine were detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time.

For urban areas, 90 percent of the streams exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks. Fipronil, metolachlor, malathion, cis-permethrin, and dichlorvos exceeded chronic aquatic life benchmarks for more than 10 percent of the streams. For agriculture and mixed land-use streams, the overall percent of streams that exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks was very similar between the decades. For urban land-use streams, the percent of streams exceeding a chronic aquatic life benchmark during 2002–11 nearly doubled that seen during 1992–2001. The reason for this difference, according to the USGS researchers, was the inclusion of fipronil monitoring during the second decade. Across all land-use streams, the percent of streams exceeding a chronic aquatic life benchmark for fipronil during 2002–11 was greater than all other insecticides during both decades. Fipronil, an insecticide that disrupts the central nervous system of insects, is commonly used in pet products to kill fleas on dogs and cats, and on lawns to control ants and termites. It is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, highly toxic to bees, highly toxic to upland game birds, and is moderately toxic to waterfowl.

“The information gained through this important research is critical to the evaluation of the risks associated with existing levels of pesticides,” said William Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water.

Over half a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S., mostly in agriculture and to reduce insect-borne disease, but some of these pesticides are occurring at concentrations that are identified by the government as a concern for aquatic life. Unfortunately, the potential for adverse effects on aquatic life is likely underestimated in these results because resource constraints limited the scope of monitoring to less than half of the more than 400 pesticides currently used in agriculture each year and monitoring focused only on pesticides dissolved in water.

Aquatic organisms like algae and fish face numerous risks from pesticide exposures, even at low levels. In fact, USGS scientists identified pesticides as one of the contaminants the Potomac River linked to intersex-fish (male fish producing eggs) observed there. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guidelines. Concentrations of atrazine commonly found in agricultural streams and rivers have been associated with a reduction in reproduction and spawning, as well as tissue abnormalities. Just last month, EPA finalized a settlement to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides. The settlement follows litigation filed by Earthjustice, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Defenders of Wildlife, back in 2010 that called for EPA adoption of reasonable fish protections from the insecticides.

USGS has also published findings on the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, finding that they are persistent and prevalent in streams throughout the Midwestern U.S. According to that report, neonicotinoid use has increased dramatically throughout the country, especially in the Midwest over the last decade, where treated corn seeds are planted on millions of acres. The use of neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam in these states means that their residues were most frequently detected. This class of pesticides is subject to a lawsuit filed by Beyond Pesticides and others, and has been receiving increased attention by scientists and beekeepers exploring the possible link between pesticides and bee decline. For more on neonicotinoids, visit www.beeprotective.org

According to USGS, since 1992 there have been widespread trends in concentrations of individual pesticides, some down and some up, mainly driven by shifts in pesticide use due to regulatory changes, market forces, and introduction of new pesticides. “Levels of diazinon, one of the most frequently detected insecticides during the 1990s, decreased from about 1997 through 2011 due to reduced agricultural use and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory phase-out of urban uses,” said, Wesley Stone, USGS hydrologist.

Last year, USGS for the first time released a national assessment depicting the distribution and trends of pesticide use from 1992-2009, with agricultural use maps of 459 pesticides. The maps show how many pounds per square miles were used for each year, and include details about which crops they were used on. Previous USGS reports maintain that the presence of pesticides in U.S. waterways remains a concern for aquatic life. Additionally, the agency also reports that more than 20 percent of private domestic wells sampled nationwide contain at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, as well as in streams used as a source for public water systems.

Unfortunately, water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life and human health in surface water were set for only a handful of pesticides. In 2012, EPA added new health and environmental benchmarks for acute pesticide effects, however, benchmarks are notoriously limited in fully assessing risks because of ongoing deficiencies in analyzing the complexities associated with chemical exposure, specifically a failure to evaluate the effects of chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, and health effects associated with consistent low-dose exposure. If benchmarks are exceeded, the state or local water municipality can consider how frequently the benchmarks are exceeded and the magnitude of the exceedance in other samples. Exceeding the benchmark consistently means that aquatic life and human health may be at risk from continued exposures.

The USGS says its National Water-Quality Assessment Program is continually working to fill these data gaps by adding new pesticides that come into use, such as the neonicotinoid and pyrethroid insecticides, improving characterization of short-term acute exposures, and enhancing evaluations of sediment and other environmental media.

Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

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

Source: USGS Press Release



Fungicide Residues Found in Pregnant Women Living Near Banana Plantations

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2014) A study of pregnant women living near or working in Costa Rican banana fields shows disturbing levels of the fungicidal component ethylene thiourea (ETU) in the urine samples collected from the women tested. In 72 percent of the 445 women tested, researchers found ETU in urine at levels five times greater than that of the general population. The levelsbanana5 detected in the urine exceed reference doses —the numbers set by regulatory agencies, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that reflect the maximum acceptable oral dose of a toxic substance.

Scientists conducting the study, Aerial Application of Mancozeb and Urinary Ethylene Thiourea (ETU) Concentrations among Pregnant Women in Costa Rica: The Infants’ Environmental Health Study (ISA), focused on ethylene thiourea because it is the main metabolite of the active ingredient found in Mancozeb, a fungicide used in agriculture, professional turf management, and horticulture. The fungicide’s prominent uses on food and feed crops include tree fruits, such as bananas, apples, and pears.

It is not just the presence and levels found within the urine that is troubling. Researchers also discovered that pregnant women who live within 48 meters of banana plantation have on average 45% more  urinary ETU compared with women who live greater than or equal to 565 meters away. Washing agricultural work clothes and working in agriculture during pregnancy also resulted in increased ETU levels.

Conclusions from the study point to aerial application and pesticide drift as the primary factor causing the exposure and elevated levels. As the lead scientist, Berna van Wendel, PhD, a professor with the National University’s Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances, noted to The Tico Times, “Few women work in the agricultural sector, which led us to believe that this is a problem for the wider environment.”

Dr. Van Wendel also pointed to ways to reduce exposure, noting,“The weather is hot and their homes are built to let the air in. It’s not easy to avoid contact with these chemicals so we suggested reducing the amount of chemicals at the source.” Other recommendations included establishing more protective laws and standards, like much larger buffer zones, rather than just adhering to the insufficient existing standards.

Why worry about bananas in the U.S.?

Pesticide drift and contamination in and around agricultural communities is a serious problem everywhere, no matter what the crop. Past reports and studies conducted in the U.S., including one by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), have raised serious concerns surrounding agricultural community exposure to pesticides. Of particular concern are children, pregnant women, and other sensitive populations.

Pesticide drift is typically the result of small spray droplets and volatilized chemicals being carried off-site by air movement. The main weather factors that cause drift are wind, humidity and temperature changes. Aside from poisoning people and animals, drift can injure foliage, shoots, flowers and fruits resulting in reduced yields, economic loss and illegal residues on exposed crops.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated that people support a healthy work environment for farmworkers and surrounding communities by choosing organic food, advocating for stronger farmworker protection standards, and more protective laws. For more information on supporting organic for farmworkers and rural residents, as well as for the your family’s health and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience web guide.

Source: The Tico Times

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



Emory University To Ban Neonicotinoids from Campus

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2014) As bee and other pollinator populations continue to decline around the world, with clear evidence pointing to neonicotinoid pesticides as a prime cause, Emory University announced last week that it will be eliminating the use of this controversial class of chemicals from its campus, joining institutions and communities like University of Vermont Law School, Spokane (Washington), Eugene (Oregon), and Shorewood (Minnesota).

beeNeonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, affecting the organisms’ ability to function. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant’s vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A continually growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40 to 90 percent of their bees last winter. The implications of this loss are staggering –one in every three bites of food is reliant on bee pollination, and pollinators make possible $20-30 billion of annual U.S. agricultural production.

Last week, Emory University’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives released a campus pollinator protection commitment based on the philosophy that “protecting pollinators will further Emory’s sustainability vision to help restore the global ecosystem, foster healthy living, and reduce the university’s impact on the local environment,” says Ciannat Howett, director of the school’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives. Ms. Howett also mentioned the critical role that pollinators play in ensuring a secure food supply as a major reason for taking action.

The university is not just banning the use of neonicotinoids on campus. The school also plans to:

  • Make sure to purchase plants for campus landscaping that have not been pre-treated with neonicotinoids, to the extent feasible
  • Specify in contracts with vendors and in campus construction standards that neonicotinoids or plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids may not be used on Emory’s campus, to the extent feasible
  • Ensure any neonicotinoid substitutes used on campus are safer for pollinators.
  • Plant and maintain pollinator-friendly habitats on campus
  • Conduct campus outreach and education on the importance of pollinators

Earlier this year, Ms. Howett received information from the Atlanta-based Turner Foundation, an organization that aims to protect and restore the natural world, based on a report (released by the Pesticide Research Institute, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, and Friends of the Earth (FOE), a network of grassroots groups, and others), which shows that many nursery plants being sold as “bee-friendly” are actually contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

“As this body of science grows, demonstrating a clear connection of ‘neonics’ to either killing bees outright or impairing their ability to do their duties, we’re hearing from more universities saying, ‘How can we help?'” says Tiffany Finck-Haynes, the food futures campaigner for FOE.

Although the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum earlier this summer to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” the federal government has yet to take any regulatory action. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators with the adoption of the Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The bill is gaining support in the House. The bill will suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of the scientific evidence has been conducted that demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Get your Representative to support this bill!

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. BEE Protective is a national campaign established by Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety that serves as a national public education effort supporting local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. BEE Protective includes a variety of resources to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect pollinators from bee-toxic pesticides. For more information on how to truly bee protective, join our campaign and take action at www.BeeProtective.org.

Interested in cultivating your own pollinator-friendly space? Check out the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and learn more about organic food and Eating with a Conscience. You can also encourage your own community or campus to be pollinator-friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution in the hands of local elected officials or school administrators. For help with your campaign, contact Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Emory University

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



Manufacturer Proposes Increase in Bee-Toxic Pesticide on Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2014) Multinational pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the allowable levels of a systemic pesticide on a number of crops. In certain cases, such as hay from wheat, the company is asking for a 400x increase in the tolerance level set by the federal agency. The pesticide in question is thiamethoxam, a member of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides that have been widely implicated in global pollinator declines.

Many of the requested tolerance increases are for crops that end up as feed for livestock, but are also foraged by pollinators. For example, Syngenta is requesting increases on sweet corn used as forage from 0.1 parts per million (ppm) to 5.0 ppm – a 50x increase. The company is also requesting new tolerances on known bee-attractive crops; while tolerances on sunflower are currently 0.02 ppm, the company is requesting a new tolerance for sunflower seeds at 0.4 ppm. As explained to Greenwire, Syngenta is asking for the tolerance increases because it wants to use the chemical as a leaf spray for late season crops, in addition to its use as a seed treatment.

While SyngentaAngela Coday Nashville TN Bumblebees on Sunflower in our garden is proposing to increase the use of these chemicals in the U.S., the European Union (EU) will soon mark the one year anniversary of a moratorium on the use of these wildlife-poisoning pesticides. After careful study of the literature, the European Commission determined that neonicotinoid pesticides pose “high acute risks” to bees. Recent scientific evidence, from a Harvard University study to a Worldwide Integrated Assessment, strengthens the EU’s decision to restrict these chemicals. Although the chemical industry has attempted to subvert the science surrounding its widely used pesticides using PR tricks borrowed from Big Tobacco, the evidence is clear that pollinator declines are No Longer A Big Mystery.

Syngenta claims that foliar applications will be more likely to stick to the leaves of crops, and thus are less risky to pollinators; but the fact remains that these chemicals are systemic and persistent, and any amount applied will contaminate soil, and has potential the be expressed in the crop’s pollen, nectar, and guttation (dew) droplets on which pollinators forage and drink. Researchers note that pollinator concerns should be addressed on both crops that are pollinated or foraged by bees. Research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology reveals that thiamethoxam can persist in for soil nearly a year. And its breakdown chemical is anything but innocuous; it is clothianidin, another neonicotinoid pesticide that itself has a reported half-life of up to 6,931 days. Persistence in the soil means that these chemicals can be repeatedly taken up by crops and other plants that are pollinator-attractive in agricultural areas. And when they do not bind to soil, neonicotinoids are widely found in our waterways. A USGS study published in July of this year found thiamethoxam in 47% of Midwestern waters, and its breakdown clothianidin in 75%.

The massive bee kill in Oregon last year shows what can occur when neonicotinoids are used as foliar sprays. Syngenta’s requested tolerance increase comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even “near-infinitesimal” exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honey bees and other wild pollinators. While bees may not die outright, exposure may result in insurmountable stress, weaken bees’ immune systems, impact bees’ learning and memory, and adversely affect their feeding and communication.

Rather than eliminating the use of these chemicals by working with farmers, beekeepers, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and listening to the calls from consumers concerned about the one in three bites that honey bees provide for their dinner plates, Syngenta and Bayer, the two manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides, have opted to go on the offensive, suing the EU on its decision to suspend their products. A report published in July from the United Kingdom’s (UK) Environmental Audit Committee concluded that pesticide manufacturers had too much control over the vital research examining the link between their products and bee deaths. Yet, even with this undue influence, the company had to withdraw an emergency petition to allow neonicotinoid use on canola crops in the UK.

In response to abysmal, nonexistent product stewardship from these companies, those affected have had to craft their own counter-measures. Recently, beekeepers in Canada filed suit against Syngenta. Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey allege that Syngenta and Bayer were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides, and this negligence caused the plaintiffs to suffer $450 million in damages. In March 2013, Beyond Pesticides and a coalition of beekeepers, environmental, and consumer groups sued EPA for their approval of clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Despite these calls, inaction from government regarding irresponsible industry actions allows bee declines to continue unabated. In September 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found serious deficiencies in EPA’s conditional registration system, the means through which the agency originally allowed the insecticide clothianidin. And research to be published in the October issue of Bioscience highlights how EPA favors industry in pesticide safety evaluations.

During Pollinator Week 2014, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” Certainly, an increase in the tolerance level for a neonicotinoid implicated in causing these pollinator losses would be a step backwards for pollinator health, and not in line with the President’s call. You can take action and urge EPA to not simply reject increases in the use of bee toxic pesticides, but instead go further, and follow the lead of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on all National Wildlife Refuges.

The comment period for the industry petition to allow more thiamethoxam residues on crops is open until October 6, 2014. To make your voice heard go to regulations.gov, under the docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0467-0001. And to become more involved in advocating for pollinator health, visit the BEE Protective webpage, and contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org.

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

Source: Greenwire, Federal Register

Photo Source: Angela Coday, Nashville, TN



Doctor Links Allergic Reaction to Antibiotics Used in Food Eaten by Child

(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2014) It was quite a shock that a blueberry pie could give a 10-year old girl such a terrible allergic reaction that it led her to be taken to the hospital. She experienced facial flushes, hives and irregular breathing. Fortunately, she recovered in the hospital after they treated her with epinephrine. Even though the girl has asthma and allergies to milk and penicillin, it was not the pie she had the allergic reaction to, but the residue of an antibiotic found in the blueberries.

blueberry-pie-natural-lightIn order to understand why she had those reactions, doctors tested her for allergies to ingredients within the pie and all came up negative. When they discovered that the blueberries had been contaminated with streptomycin, they gave her an allergy test. She had all the same reactions. Further research done by scientists solidified the fact that the blueberries had been contaminated with the antibiotic. While streptomycin is used to treat infections in people, it is also used in industrial agriculture, mixed with pesticides that are used on crops in attempts to stop bacteria and blight. According to the lead author of the study, Anne Des Roches MD, this is the first time an allergic reaction has been linked to fruits treated with antibiotic-laden pesticides.

In 2013, Beyond Pesticides, along with other organizations, led the charge to remove antibiotics from organic apple and pear production because it contributes to antibiotic resistance. Until 2013, both oxytetracycline and streptomycin were allowed for use in organic production, after numerous years of National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) phase-out extensions. Consumers have an expectation that their organic foods are being produced without the use of antibiotics. Organic has been uniquely markets as “no antibiotics” and Beyond Pesticides will continue to support consumer demand for an antibiotic-free diet.

Unfortunately, these antibiotics will continue to be used on non-organic crops, given the absence of a framework that encourages least-toxic alternatives that do not cause undue harm to human health or the wider environment. Organic agriculture can supply us with healthy food without the use of toxic chemicals.

It is important to eat organic food –nurtured in a system of food production, handling and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic –pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farm workers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.

With more and more Americans eating organic food, it is important to take action to ensure a strong organic program and increase public trust in the organic food label. Eating with a Conscience looks at the toxic chemicals that are allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page for information on what you can do to secure an organic future.

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

Source: News on Wellness, Livescience




Study Finds EPA Favors Industry in Pesticide Safety Evaluations

epa_seal_profiles(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2014) A study published in a scientific journal finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) favors the chemical industry when making determinations on pesticide safety. Under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA conducts risk assessments to determine whether a new or existing chemical is eligible for registration or reregistration and therefore able to enter or remain on the market. The study’s conclusions raise serious concerns for both environmental and human health protection because of EPA’s practice of inviting bias and underestimating potential harm.

The study, which will be in the October issue of BioScience, highlights the case of atrazine, an herbicide that has been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and reproductive effects. In their study, Michelle Boone, Ph.D., of Miami University, and her colleagues find that most pesticide toxicity tests used in risk assessments are conducted by pesticide manufacturers themselves. The authors contend that this can result in conflicts of interest. Additionally, strict methodological criteria, such as the types of containers in which exposed specimens are raised, often mean that potentially relevant studies are barred from EPA’s assessment process. The agency reassessed atrazine based on a sole, manufacturer-funded study, finding it to be safe to amphibians despite a plethora of other studies that could have resulted in a very different conclusion.

Other problems cited by the researchers regarding EPA’s risk assessment practices include the “inconsistent application of criteria among taxonomic groups and an over-reliance on laboratory studies.” Cumulatively, these issues indicate a “presumption of innocence” that Dr. Boone and her colleagues assert may be inappropriate for the evaluation of potentially harmful substances. The authors of the study conclude that “the risk assessment process can and should be improved so that decisions are made with the best available data with an evidence-based approach,” and suggest several recommendations for reform, including the use of an independent third-party that separates industry and research and subsequently reduces the concern over conflicts of interest. They also recommend the use of all available research, particularly field studies, and increased transparency of the assessment process.

Dr. Boone’s frustration with the agency began in 2012 when she served as an expert on a panel that was part of EPA’s reassessment of atrazine. She was astounded to witness the blatant disregard by EPA officials for the panel’s unanimous conclusion that the scientific literature found atrazine to disrupt the reproductive development of amphibians, and should be subject to further investigation. Dr. Boone’s experiences were not new for the agency –expert panels on the same topic from 2003 and 2007 had come to similar conclusions, yet EPA still found atrazine to have no adverse effects on amphibians. “You wonder why you’re even there, to repeat things that have already been said, and then to be ignored for reasons that are unclear,” Dr. Boone told Newsweek.

Atrazine has also been linked to the feminization of male frogs in the wild. A 2002 study conducted by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., at the University of California, Berkeley found that these frogs, when exposed to low doses in the parts per billion (ppb) range, developed dramatic female sexual characteristics, including retarded gonadal development and hermaphroditism. When a class action lawsuit threatened to remove the controversial herbicide from the market, atrazine manufacturer Syngenta Crop Protection launched an aggressive multi-million dollar campaign. A 2013 report revealed that the pesticide giant routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, keeping a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company. The company, the report found, also purportedly hired a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of Dr. Hayes. His struggle with Syngenta was documented by The New Yorker earlier this year. It is no surprise that companies like Syngenta, a manufacturer of the herbicide, would go to such far lengths to protect their bottom line -atrazine is the second-most widely used pesticide active ingredient used in the U.S. agricultural market sector, according to EPA’s most recent estimates.

Dr. Boone is not the first and only critic of EPA’s pesticide risk assessment process. Evaggelos Vallianatos, the author of Poison Spring and a former employee of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, lambasts the agency’s faulty, industry-tainted, and potentially harmful regulatory decision making process in a recent Huffington Post article, and recommends “redesigning the EPA to be a Federal Reserve-like organization, independent of polluters and their lobbyists in the White House and Congress.”  Beyond Pesticides also supports an alternatives assessment approach that differs dramatically from a risk assessment-based policy by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

You can avoid eating food grown with harmful synthetic pesticides and reduce their environmental contamination by eating organic. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page. Additionally, in an effort to ensure that the essential independent scientific research on pesticides is not thwarted by the chemical industry, Beyond Pesticides has launched The Fund for Independent Science. This fund, catalyzed by last year’s announcement that Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. has lost university funding for his laboratory and research, is set up and run by Beyond Pesticides. Your support can enable the continuation of Dr. Hayes critical research, and support the other work of independent scientists. Make a pledge today.

You can learn more about atrazine and Dr. Hayes’ work by watching a full presentation of his talk at the 31st National Pesticide Forum held in Albuquerque, NM.

Source: Newsweek, EurekAlert

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



Canadian Beekeepers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Makers of Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2014) Beekeepers in Ontario, Canada are tired of losing bees and have decided to take matters into their own hands by filing a class action lawsuit against two makers of neonicotinoids. According to The Globe and Mail, the lawsuit alleges that Syngenta and Bayer CropScience were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides and this negligence caused the plaintiffs, Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey, to suffer $450 million in damages. These alleged damages are based on losses from damaged or lost bee colonies, decreased honey production, lost profits, and unrecoverable costs —all because of neonicotinoids.

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

For honey bees, the impacts have been astounding, with annual average bee loses jumping significantly over the past several years.  In Canada alone during the past six years, honey bee losses have averaged 30 percent annually —this is compared to the previous norm of 15 percent annual average loses.

While many causes of these honey bee declines have been cited, including a combination of pesticides, parasitic mites, viruses, cold winters, decreased foraging habitat, and the stresses placed on colonies when they are moved among farms, scientists and bee experts agree that neonicotinoids significantly contribute to bee deaths both directly through contact exposure and indirectly through weakening the bees and making them more vulnerable to pathogens and other stressors.

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

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

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website!

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

Source: The Globe and Mail

Photo Source: Gary Tate, Riverside, CA



In Coverup of Illegal Pesticide Use, Applicator Gets Two Year Prison Sentence

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2014) The U.S. Justice Department sentenced Steven A. Murray, a pesticide operator with Bio-Tech Management in Pelham, Georgia, to two years in prison last week after as a result of charges related to a cover up illegal pesticide applications made at over 100 nursing homes. Mr. Murray pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of false statements, two counts of mail fraud, and 10 counts of unlawful use of a registered pesticide. In addition to being sentenced to two years in prison, Murray was subject to a $7,500 fine. His company was placed on three years of probation and also required to pay a $50,000 fine.

Felderlyhospital_smallrom October 2005 to June 2009, Mr. Murray and Bio-Tech provided monthly pest control services to hundreds of nursing homes in several southern states including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama by spraying pesticides in and around their clients’ facilities. Bio-Tech employees routinely applied the pesticide Termidor indoors, contrary to the manufacturer’s label instructions, and then created false service reports to conceal that illegal use. After the Georgia Department of Agriculture made inquiries regarding Bio-Tech’s illegal use of Termidor and other pesticides, Mr. Murray directed several of his Bio-Tech employees to alter company service reports with the intent to obstruct the investigation. Mr. Murray and his co-conspirators allegedly falsified service reports to say that they used CyKick T, a pesticide that does not exist. The indictment goes on to allege that Bio-Tech sent invoices through the U.S. Mail to their clients to solicit payment for the unlawful pesticide applications.

“This case is particularly disturbing because of the defendants’ intentional disregard for the well-being of a vulnerable group of victims whose safety was entirely in the defendants’ hands,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore for the Middle District of Georgia. “This sentence is a just punishment for them and a stern warning to others who might be similarly tempted in the future.”

Fipronil, the active ingredient in Termidor, is a systemic pesticide that has been linked to a number of adverse health effects in humans. The chemical is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Group C, possible human carcinogen, based on increases in thyroid tumors in rats. After exposure to the fipronil, the chemical is rapidly metabolized in the body and widely distributed in tissues where significant amounts of residues can remain in fat and fatty tissues, especially when exposed to high or chronic doses. Acute exposure to fipronil results in headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness. However, studies link chronic exposure to neurotoxicity, cancer, and endocrine disruption.

The non-labeled use of this pesticide is extremely concerning, given that Mr. Murray and his company exposed the elderly, a sensitive population group, to potentially both the acute and chronic impacts of fipronil. The elderly are also more likely to be on medication, and very little is known about the synergistic effects of combining pesticide exposure and pharmaceuticals.

“The defendant exposed patients to harmful pesticides which jeopardizing their health and safety and tried to cover it up by submitting false reports. EPA and its partner agencies are committed to holding these kinds of dangerous actions accountable to the law,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Georgia. Before the plea deal, Mr. Murray faced a prison sentence of over 650 years and $10 million in fines. However, while charges of conspiracy and false statements carry a five year prison term, and mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years, unlawful use of a pesticide only carries a jail sentence of up to 30 days. This vast disparity highlights a serious flaw in the United States’ current pesticide laws. If Mr. Murray had not tried to cover up his illegal applications, he may have only been charged with the 10 counts of unlawful use of a pesticide, for a total of a mere 300 day potential jail sentence. It was only Murray’s abhorrent attempts to cover up this gross violation that gave him the prison sentence. Given U.S. Attorney’s strong statements regarding the risk Mr. Murray put nursing home residents, it is evident that the current punishment for pesticide violations is simply not an adequate deterrent to the illegal use of these products.

Beyond Pesticides has a long history of advocating for safer approaches to pest control in nursing homes and other health care facilities. In 2008, Beyond Pesticides and the Maryland Pesticide Network (MPN) released a report titled Taking Toxics Out of Maryland’s Health Care Sector, documenting the practices and policies health care facilities can take to eliminate toxic pesticide use. Beyond Pesticides and MPN continue to work closely with D.C-Baltimore area hospitals to encourage pest control practices that eliminate toxic pesticide exposure, and keep with the medical profession’s basic tenet of “first, do no harm.” Additional information on Beyond Pesticides health care facilities project can be found on the Healthy Hospitals program page.

Source: AL.com, United States Department of Justice Press Release



U.S. Representative Questions EPA’s Risk Assessment of 2,4-D-Based Herbicide

(Beyond Pesticides, September 2, 2014) U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week asking them a poignant question: Why didn’t the human health risk assessment of Dow’s newest 2,4-D-based herbicide apply the ten-fold safety factor required by national law to protect children and infants?

The question is a good one and events leading up to it began back in April 2014, when EPA opened up a public comment period for Dow AgroSciences’s application to expand the use of its 2,4-D choline salt herbicide, known as Enlist Duo®, on 2,4-D-tolerant corn and soybeans. This application was the next step in ushering in a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) crops sought to replace the quickly waning glyphosate-resistant or Roundup Ready® varieties.

childcornAs EPA described on its Enlist-Duo® webpage, “Weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides and are posing a problem for farmers. If [the Enlist Duo® application is] finalized, this action would provide an additional tool to reduce the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds.”

In other words, because of the overuse of glyphosate on GE glyphosate-resistant crops and the resulting development of weeds across the U.S. showing resistance to glyphosate, chemically-dependent farmers remain desperate for another chemical. The application for approval of the new Enlist DuoÂŽ uses follows on the tail of a similar application from Dow to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deregulate the GE corn and soybean seeds developed to withstand application of Enlist DuoÂŽ.

Although a new pesticide-use application and registration requires several important components, one of the primary components is the human health risk assessment. In this document, EPA must review the proposed pesticide’s use and examine it against the known toxicological hazards of the chemical and its exposure (ranging from dietary to occupational) risks.

Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), these toxicological reviews and risk assessments must also consider the increased risks that pesticides pose to children and infants and apply a ten-fold safety factor in many instances.

As Rep. Waxman’s letter reminds the EPA, “The ten-fold safety factor] resulted from a recommendation in a report by the National Research Council that ‘the 10-fold factor traditionally used by EPA and FDA for fetal developmental toxicity should also be considered when there is evidence of postnatal developmental toxicity and when data from toxicity testing relative to children are incomplete.’”

EPA’s human health risk assessment for Enlist Duo® decided not to apply the ten-fold safety factor and found that “the toxicology database is adequate to assess this [Enlist Duo’s] proposed use” and that “[t]here are no residual uncertainties for pre-and/or postnatal toxicity.”

Troubled by this finding, Rep. Waxman enlisted the expertise of Dr. Philip Landrigan, the former chair of the National Research council Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. According to the Representative’s letter, after reviewing the EPA’s report and, specifically, the EPA’s justification for not using the ten-fold child-protective safety factor, Dr. Landrigan concluded that the database for assessing potentially harmful health endpoints of 2,4-D was thin and appeared to be based entirely on old studies. Dr. Landrigan also pointed out, among other issues, that it appeared that the developmental toxicity data relied on by EPA to justify its finding consisted of only two studies, a 1983 study on pregnant rats and a 1990 study on pregnant rabbits.

To remedy these deficiencies, Rep. Waxman’s asked the EPA for a better and more complete explanation of both the studies used, assumptions based on those studies, and decisions to exclude certain exposure routes in the assessment.

Right to Be Concerned About 2,4-D

Rep. Waxman, who has long advocated for improved protections from pesticides, has every right to be concerned about the EPA’s seemingly incomplete and unsubstantiated reasoning for waiving the ten-fold safety factor. A chemical first registered in the late 1940s, 2,4-D is infamously known as one of the two ingredients in Agenct Orange -a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D used by the military to defoliate Vietnam’s forests during the Vietnam War. Both health and environmental effects of this dangerous chemical have been scientifically documented, yet fail to be integrated into the EPA’s outdated and industry-skewed risk assessment protocols.

As noted in Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the EPA on Enlist Duo®, no decision should be made on the chemical before the final assessments on all human and ecological effects of the other 2,4-D forms are completed, given the expected expansion of 2,4-D use patterns. Similarly, a thorough FQPA analysis needs to be conducted given that dietary residues and exposures are expected to increase and have not been properly analyzed.

Beyond Pesticides applauds Rep. Waxman’s effort to scrutinize EPA analysis and call for the appropriate application of important child and infant protection standards against dangerous pesticides. Visit our GE webpage to find out other ways to stop the damaging health and environmental effects of GE crops and advance organic practices as an alternative!

Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce

Photo Source: Image courtesy of Cornwall Tourism

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



Groups Petition Federal Government to Protect Monarch Butterflies

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2014) Environmentalists issued a legal petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday calling for the protection of the monarch butterfly as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Monarch butterflies, a striking and familiar symbol of beauty and nature in the U.S., have had their population decline by a staggering 90 percent in the past two decades alone, most likely due to a significant loss of habitat of more than 165 million acres – an area about the size of Texas -as well as nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.

Part oDiane St John Durham CT We planted a lot of Zinnia seeds and look who came over!f the decline of monarch butterflies stems from the loss of milkweed, a native plant where the butterflies lay their eggs and is their main food source. Although little use to farmers, milkweed is an important plant to butterflies, wasps, and bees. A recent study attributed the disappearance of milkweed plants primarily to the use of genetically-engineered (GE) corn and soybean crops. The widespread adoption of GE agriculture and the ever-growing use of herbicides are contributing extensively to the loss of milkweed areas. Scientists also point to the prolific use of herbicides in the Midwest eliminating these plants, and found that 70% of the losses of milkweed between 1995 and 2013 were located in agricultural areas. This study adds weight to previous reports linking GE crops, as well as climate change, to the decline of butterfly populations.

“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, Ph.D., in a Tuesday press release. Dr. Brower is a preeminent monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.

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 petition was issued to the Secretary of the Interior through the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners. They are joined by the Xerces Society and Dr. Brower.

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.

The decline of monarch habitats is not the only environmental effect linked to the pervasive use of highly toxic herbicides and insecticides. For example, the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant “super weeds” is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory of herbicide use, according to a study conducted by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup formulation, is one of the most widely used conventional pesticide active ingredients in the U.S. And, similar to monarch butterflies, honey bees and other wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers that has been linked to the prevalent use of neonicotinoids, which the Tuesday petition also touches on.

One way to combat these problems is to initiate organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind. You can also visit the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity for more ways in which you can protect our pollinator friends.

Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about our efforts to save pollinators and what you can do to help.

Source: Newsweek

Photo Source: Diane St John (Durham CT)

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



School’s Back in Session, Leave the Toxins Behind

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2014) It’s back to school time again, which for many of our readers and parents across the country means the unnerving possibility of hazardous pesticide exposure at school from well-intentioned but misguided attempts to create a germ and pest-free environment. Because children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure due to their small size and developing organ systems, using toxic chemicals to get rid of pests and germs harms students much more than it helps. Fortunately, parents and teachers have many options for safer techniques and strategies to implement a pest management program at schools without relying on these toxic chemicals. Additionally, schools can further their students’ education beyond the lessons of the text book by providing habitat for wildlife and growing organic food in a school garden. By going organic, your child’s school can become a model for communities across the nation.

Beyond Pesticides has put together this back-to-school checklist of programs and steps you can take to ensure that you are sending your kids back to a healthier and safer environment.

Get Organized and Improve Your School’s Pest Management Program

Whether you’re a parent, community activist, landscaper, school administrator or employee, use these steps to help successfully eliminate harmful pesticides from your local school. For more details, see our School Organizing guide.

  1. Identify the school’s pest management policy. You may be surprised to learn that your school is already making strides to prevent pesticide use in your school district, or that there are state or local policies in place that help safeguard your child from pesticides. Contact the appropriate school personnel to find out if and how applicable policies are being implemented by identifying what pest management controls the school is using, the pesticides used, and the notification program.
  2. Educate yourself and evaluate the program. Use Beyond Pesticides’ resources to learn about toxic chemical use and arm yourself with information about alternatives. See a Webinar featuring Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay Feldman, Webinar: Effective Policies to Reduce Exposures to Pesticides in Schools.
  3. Organize the school community. Identify and contact friends and neighbors, teachers, staff, individuals and organizations who care about pesticide use at your school. It’s much easier to change policies with allies! Once you have a core group of individuals, develop and present a proposed policy for the school district to adopt.
  4. Work with school decision-makers. Contact appropriate school officials and ask for endorsement of the proposed policy. It’s important that your organic pest management program include a written policy adopted by the school district’s board to ensure that the program is institutionalized and will continue to flourish years after key organizers leave the district.
  5. Become a watchdog and establish an integrated or organic pest management committee. Make sure the school district is on track to improve its practices. Creating a committee to oversee the program helps ensure that the program is successfully implemented.

In addition, here are some other areas where you can improve the health of your school:

Fight Germs Without Triclosan

Because of its link to adverse health effects – including asthma, cancer and learning dis­abilities, triclosan has no place in the classroom. Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Be sure your child’s school does not use antibacterial soaps; regular soap and water is just as effective at getting rid of bacteria.

It’s easy to avoid triclosan. Read the product label, whether it’s a backpack, school supplies, soap or sanitizer for any label statement that says “antibacterial,”or “antimicrobial protection.” Due to public pressure, many companies have reformulated their products without triclosan, and earlier this year, the state of Minnesota took critical steps to protect their residents from exposure to triclosan by banning the chemical in personal care and cleaning products.

Subtract Triclosan from the Equation: Tell your principal that you are concerned about the use of antibacterial soap and its impact on the health of the students and staff. Ask that the school order regular soap from its usual janitorial product supplier and that all cleansers and sanitizers used by the school be triclosan-free. Materials on the health impacts of triclosan are available at Beyond Pesticides. Sign the pledge and go triclosan-free.

Feed Children Organic Food

The American Academy of Pediatricians has stated that foods without pesticide residues are significant for children. If you are unable to eat all organic, purchase organic varieties of the foods you and your kids eat most often. For information on how to eat feed your family organic affordably, download Beyond Pesticides’ handy bi-fold brochure. You can also increase the amount of organic food your child eats while decreasing his or her exposure to toxic pesticides and lessening your impact on the environment by asking your school to adopt an organic lunch program or helping to start an organic school garden. For more information, on why eating organic is the right choice, see Eating with a Conscience.

It’s easiest to go organic when you grow organic. School gardens and other farm-to-school programs teach children where food comes from and establish healthy relationships with food and the natural world. An organic garden starts with healthy soil using natural sources of fertility such as compost, and schools have a great built-in source of potential compost feedstock in kitchen scraps and cafeteria leftovers. See “School Lunches Go Organic,” and “The Organic School Garden,” for more information.

Care About Kids

Early in 2013, EPA announced its decision to cancel the registration of 12 rodenticide products manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser LLC, the manufacturer of d-CON products. The company announced that it will stop production of rodent baits containing second generation anticoagulant rodenticides by the end of this year; however, retailers will be allowed to continue to sell these dangerous products until supplies are exhausted. The rodenticide products slated for cancellation pose significant risks to human health, and children are particularly susceptible to these risks because they play on floors and explore by putting items in their mouths, which can include loose rat poisons like d-CON. Because these products can still be found on the shelves of Walmart and several other national retailers, despite regulatory action to remove these products from the market, Beyond Pesticides has urged major retailers to stop selling these highly toxic rodenticides. Be sure that your school does not use these harmful rodenticides, by utilizing alternative measures to prevent rodent problems, including sealing gaps around the doors by replacing worn thresholds and weather stripping, and installing door sweeps, as well as caulking openings around water pipes, electric wires, cables, and vents. There are also many baits traps on the market that do not utilize toxic chemicals. For more information, go to Beyond Pesticides Care for Kids rodenticide page.

BEE Protective

Pollinators are very important to our ecosystem and agriculture. However, many pollinators, like honey bees, bumble bees, birds, and butterflies, are declining due to loss of habitat, widespread use of toxic pesticides, parasites, and disease. You and your school can play a part to help these important creatures by (1) not using toxic pesticides, (2) planting pollinator habitat, and (3) educating your friends and family.

Have your school pass a resolution to ban neonicotinoid pesticides that are toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Vermont Law School recently passed a resolution to go neonicotinoid-free, and you can see our model resolution can be obtained here. If you school has pollinator-friendly habitat, pledge your school as pollinator-friendly and indicate how many acres (or fraction of an acre) your school can declare.

Build Biodiversity: from the School Grounds to the Classroom

Biodiversity helps bees and other pollinators; diverse plants produce a supply of nectar throughout the growing season, and biodiversity of soil organisms promotes healthy plants that grow well without poisons. Protect biodiversity through organic turf, playing fields and landscape policies. Encourage your school to plant pollinator-attractive plants in its garden as part of its biology class. If your school does not have a garden, request one be integrated into the curriculum. Wildflowers, native plant and grass species should be encouraged on school grounds. See our BEE Protective Habitat Guide for more information on attractive flowers. Also see our Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity factsheet and Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind for resources on how you can help build biodiversity.

Healthy Turf = Healthy Kids

Many school schools around the country are realizing that a well-defined integrated or organic pest management program is one of the best ways to eliminate children’s exposure to pesticides in school buildings, and organic turf management, similarly, eliminates hazards on playing fields and playgrounds. A good program will have strictly defined processes of prevention, monitoring and control, as well as record keeping, which offers the opportunity to eliminate harmful pesticides in schools, where only the least toxic option is used.

Improving a school’s pest management program requires perseverance, as administrators and grounds staff may be uninformed. One major selling point is that, when it comes to playing fields, organic turf management systems cost as much as 25% less than chemical-intensive systems. Learn more about the 30 of the most commonly used chemicals on athletic fields that can cause numerous health risks to children, including glyphosate (Roundup) and 2,4-D. Also see organic management of school fields in our Pesticides and Playing Fields fact sheet and the Lawns and Landscapes page.

For more information on how you can ensure a healthy school year for your child and community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools page.

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





Federal Court Blocks Local Pesticide and GE Law in Kauai

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2014) Rulng that Hawaii state law preempts local authority to restrict pesticides, a federal court judge this week struck down Kauai County’s Ordinance 960. The ordinance, which received widespread support on the Island, was designed to protect local residents and Kauai’s environment from the year-round spraying of large quantities of restricted use pesticides by multinational chemical companies.hawaii

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren on Monday ruled that Kauai County Ordinance 960 is preempted by state law and therefore is unenforceable. Ordinance 960 provides residents of Kauai public access to information related to the application of pesticides used in experimental and commercial agricultural operations within the County of Kauai. It also affords County residents and the environment greater protection from, and information about, potential pesticide drift and the impact of experimental genetically engineered (GE) crops on Kauai. The Kauai County Council voted to enact Ordinance 960 in November 2013, overriding the Mayor’s veto. The ordinance was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 16, but had been postponed to Oct. 1 pending the court’s ruling.

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

However, a lawsuit challenging the ordinance was brought against Kauai by industry giants, DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Syngenta Seeds, Agrigenetics, Inc, (owned by Dow Chemical) and BASF Plant Sciences LP, who argued that the County had no authority to regulate pesticides and GE plantings because state and federal laws did so already, and that the ordinance places unnecessary and unfair restrictions on their operations. The County and interveners – Earthjustice, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, and others, countered that the state law is limited in its scope and does not cover the same subject matter as Ordinance 960, leaving room for the County to expand on pesticide regulatory guidelines. Similarly, the County argues that when it comes to GE cultivation, state laws did not “expressly or implicitly” preempt the County from introducing its own GE guidelines. When Kauai introduced Ordinance 960 (then Bill 2491) it did so under the statutory grant of authority of the Hawaiian Revised Statutes, which provides that counties of Hawaii “shall have the power to enact ordinances deemed necessary to protect health, life, and property. . .” (HRS § 46-1.5(13))

However, Magistrate Judge Kurren, in his interpretation, concluded that, although the Hawaii Pesticide Law does not contain any provisions that actually conflict with Ordinance 960’s requirements, the state law’s broad scope implied that the Hawaii legislature intended that only the state government had the authority to regulate pesticide matters.  The court also ruled that federal laws do not preempt the ordinance, leaving open the possibility that the state could amend its laws to protect its residents without running afoul of federal law.

“This decision in no way diminishes the health and environmental concerns of the people of Kauai,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry M. Kurren wrote in his decision. “The court’s ruling simply recognizes that the State of Hawaii has established a comprehensive framework for addressing the application of restricted-use pesticides and the planting of GMO crops, which presently precludes local regulation by the county.”

On Preemption

After the passage of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the issue of federal preemption of local ordinances concerning pesticide regulation made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1991 that FIFRA does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. The ability of states to take away local authority, however, was left in place. The pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed model legislation that would restrict local municipalities from passing ordinances regarding the use or sale of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended upon states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording.

Twenty-nine states have nearly identical preemption language that explicitly preempts localities from adopting stricter legislation that would regulate the use of pesticides; 14 do not have explicit preemption language. However, they delegate all of the authority to regulate pesticide law to a commissioner or pesticide board. This implies that localities seeking more restrictive pesticide regulations could petition the commissioner for a variance from the states pesticide law. Five states that vest exclusive regulatory authority in their commissioner specify that localities can petition the commissioner for exemptions to these pesticide regulations, and seven states do not preempt local authorities’ ability to restrict the use of pesticides on any land within their jurisdiction. Some of these states have no regulations that would preempt local authority and others have specific language written in that reaffirms localities’ authority. For more information, read  State Preemption Law: The battle for local control of democracy.

State preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. Given this restriction, local jurisdictions nationwide have passed ordinances that restrict pesticide use on a town’s public property, or school districts have limited pesticides on its land. As pesticide pollution and concerns over the effects of GE crops on human and environmental health mount, many are fighting to overturn preemption laws and return the power back to localities, enabling them to adopt more stringent protective standards throughout their communities.

The defendant-interveners are currently analyzing all legal options, including appeal. Four organizations –  Ka Makani Ho‘opono, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America and  Surfrider Foundation – represented by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety, were permitted to intervene as of right in the lawsuit against Kauai County, and have since helped to defend the ordinance in legal filings.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said the court’s decision was disappointing. He said, “It has unfortunate consequences on Kauai and throughout the state. The state has shown complete disregard for problems that the pesticides on Kauai has been causing.”

This latest decision also calls into question the future of other local pesticide regulatory efforts in other Hawaii counties. Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said Hawaii County attorneys are analyzing its applicability to an ongoing case that challenges the Big Island’s ban on any new GE crops. However, the Hawaii County ordinance does not deal with pesticides. Similarly, Mayor Alan Arakawa of Maui County said that the Kauai court decision may be instructive for residents who will vote on a county ballot initiative this fall to ban GE crops in Maui, and the county’s attorneys are also reviewing the decision.

Gary Hooser, the Kauai councilman who sponsored the bill (Ordinance 960), also said that he expects the ruling to be appealed. “It’s just another round in the ongoing battle,” he said. “It’s far from over.” He criticized the biotechnology companies for not doing more to protect the health and safety of Kauai residents.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of Kauai’s commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the impending approval of GE crops designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

Read Beyond Pesticides testimony in support of Ordinace 960 for additional information. If you’d like to become involved in a campaign in your community, send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org, or call 202-543-5450.

Source: Honolulu Civil Beat , The Center for Food Safety , NYTimes



Oregon Spray Pilot Fined $10,000 for Pesticide Drift that Residents Say Poisoned Them

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2014) Nearly a year after residents in Curry County Oregon were sprayed with herbicides, the pilot responsible for the incident had his license suspended for a year and was fined $10,000 by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). The Pacific Air Research helicopter_sprayCompany, which employed the pilot, was also fined $10,000 and had all its licenses revoked for a year for providing false information to the state. The initial incident happened in October 2013, when residents complained of experiencing rashes, headaches, asthma, and stomach cramps right after the application.

As reported in the The Oregonian, after the investigation, ODA was criticized by environmental groups and the general public for not doing a proper investigation. It took 6 months for any information to be disclosed even though the poisoned residents requested it. Pacific Air Research at the time of the incident stated that the only chemical being sprayed was glyphosate. Then, ODA conducted an investigation and concluded that the spray was not directly linked to the conditions displayed by residents. Unsatisfied with the state’s findings, a local environmental group, Beyond Toxics, forced ODA to produce all its records, which confirmed that 2, 4-D and triclopyr were the actual chemicals used. The group this month filed a lawsuit challenging portions of the Oregon Right to Farm and Forest Law (ORS30.936) on pesticide drift from forestry operations onto private property.

2, 4-D is a highly toxic chemical which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage. It is also neurotoxic and is toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly elevated rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2, 4-D. Triclopyr originally developed for woody plant and broadleaf weed control along rights – of- way and on industrial sites, triclopyr is also used in forest site preparation.

When we started realizing we were not dealing with accurate information, we quit sharing information with the local community,” ODA director Katy Coba told The Oregonian. “In hindsight, that’s the part where we clearly understand now that it caused a lot more consternation than if we’d continued sharing information. In the future, we would handle a similar situation much differently.”

Lisa Arkin, director of Beyond Toxics noted in The Oregonian that she was pleased to see the penalty, but said it happened only because of local residents’ persistence. ODA “came out swinging because the great research by the community and the community pressure that was put on the agency.”

In other states, the same information would be shared within hours, not months, she said.

“There’s no reason in the world why the Department of Agriculture withheld the information,” she said. “They put their civil investigation before public health.”

Unfortunately, spray incidents such as these are all too common. Triangle Lake, another Oregon Community has experienced similar pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to Timberland. In 2011, atrazine and 2, 4-D were found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation, which resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations.

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

For more information on forestry management practices watch Lisa Arkin’s talk from the 32nd National Pesticide Forum in Portland, Oregon. (Her talk begins at 19:53) Lisa Arkin has served as the Executive Director of Beyond Toxics since 2006, and helped publish the in-depth analysis of herbicide use in Oregon’s industrial forestry practices, Oregon’s Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use: A Case Study of Risk to People, Drinking Water and Salmon.

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

Source: The Oregonian



California Passes Bill That Mandates Response to Bee Crisis, but Delays Action until 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2014) In a blow to the adoption of urgently needed protections for pollinators, the California State Senate voted 35-1, after an earlier Assembly vote of 75-0, to delay a requirement for action on bee-harming neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides until 2020. While advocates want mandates for regulatory action to protect bees, the timeline in the bill ignores that ongoing crisis faced by bees, beekeepers, and agriculture dependent on bee pollination. Assembly Bill 1789 provides the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CalDPR) another four years to reevaluate neonicotinoid pesticides, and an additional two years to implement any measures that would be needed to protect pollinator health. Given that CalDPR began its reevaluation of neonics in 2009, and existing law would have required a complete reevaluation within two years, the legislature’s new 2020 timeline has been met with strong criticism from beekeepers and environmental groups.

The passage of AB 1789 sets the CalDPR on a track similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) timeline for neonic review. This timeline is widely seen as an unacceptable response to the pollinator crisis, given unsustainable declines of greater than 30% of managed honey bee colonies each year, and widespread adverse impacts on other wild pollinators. “The Department of Pesticide Regulation has been dithering since 2009, while our bees continue to die in droves, and this bill essentially tells the department to sit on its hands for another six years,”  said Greg Loarie, attorney at EarthJustice, “AB 1789 will amount to a death sentence for honey bees.” Last December a broad coalition of more than 60 organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, launched a national media campaign to tell EPA that “Bees can’t wait 5 more years, and neither can we.”

A large and expanding collection of scientific literature links pollinator declines to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of systemic insecticides that make their way into the pollen, nectar, and dew droplets on which pollinators forage. Scientists across the world are sounding the alarm on neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides, and demanding action from legislators and regulatory bodies. According to a Wordwide Integrated Assessment undertaken by the Global Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, neonics and their breakdown products are persistent and harmful to pollinators and wildlife even at very low levels. Researchers explain, “The existing literature clearly shows that present day levels of pollution with neonicotinoids and fipronil caused by authorized uses, frequently exceed lowest observed adverse effect concentrations for a wide range of non-target species and are thus likely to have wide ranging negative biological and ecological impacts.” In a recent study published in the Bulletin of Insectology by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, pesticides, not mites or pathogens, as has been claimed by the chemical industry, were found to be the major cause of honey bee hive deaths. Even before the release of these two documents, an analysis of the science conducted by Beyond Pesticides had concluded that our pollinator crisis is “No Longer A Big Mystery.”

To the dismay of pollinator supporters, as the science continues to link the role of neonics in bee declines, the CalDPR has continued to allow expanded uses of neonicotinoids in the state. Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network, and Center for Food Safety, represented by Earthjustice, recently filed the legal challenge in the California Superior Court for the County of Alameda, urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impacts to honeybees.

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almonds crops — entirely dependent on bees for pollination — are valued at over $3 billion. Last year, serious questions surrounded whether there would be enough honey bees available to pollinate the state’s almond crops. Without strong, meaningful protections for honey bees and other wild pollinators coming from government officials in California, these problems are not likely to subside.

At the end of Pollinator Week 2014, the President Obama directed executive agencies to develop a plan to address pollinator declines within 180 days. It is imperative those concerned about pollinator health put pressure on the President to protect pollinators from harmful pesticides, so that real long lasting protections come from this announcement. After all, given the success of organic production systems, these chemicals simply are not necessary to grow food or successfully manage pests.

To become more involved in pollinator protection, visit the BEE Protective campaign page. BEE Protective is a joint initiative launched by Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety, aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.

Source: EarthJustice, California Legislative Information

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



Town Bans Land Application of Sewage Sludge, or Biosolids

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2014) The Town Board in Wheatfield, New York unanimously voted last month to amend its biosolids law to ban any application of sewage sludge and other similar materials from the treatment of municipal wastewater to any land in town, even for those who already have permits from the state. The law reasons that the potential contamination of groundwater, surface water, and soil, as well as the potential for air pollution, poses an unreasonable risk to town residents, public health, and the environment.

Biosolids, otherwise known as sewage sludge, are composed of dried microbes previously used to process wastewater in treatment plants. The material is increasingly being used in conventional agriculture, but its application is explicitly forbidden in organic production. This is because the sludge can contain high concentrations of toxic contaminants, such as pesticides, detergents, estrogenic hormones, antibiotics, dioxins, PCBs, flame retardants, and heavy metals. A 2002 study revealed the material to be associated with an increased prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus infections, a condition known to cause skin rashes and respiratory problems, for people located in close proximity to biosolid application sites. More recently, new research adds to existing evidence of the hazards of sewage sludge fertilizer by demonstrating that chemical contaminants are sufficiently mobile and persistent that they can easily be transported to groundwater, with implication for local drinking water.

Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole explained that although the new law allows for the continuation of “existing facilities,” the amendment clarifies that land application is not considered an existing facility. “Any land application is not grandfathered,” Mr. O’Toole said. “There’s no application in Wheatfield, ever, for anything.”

The ban, which passed July 28, was interpreted as making an exception for existing Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permits, such as those held by Milleville Brothers Farm.

The controversy arose last year from the byproduct created by Quasar Energy Group’s anaerobic digester on Liberty Drive. The “equate,” or the watery, nitrogen-rich byproduct, is hyped by the company as a good fertilizer. The company’s plant uses microbes to convert food waste into methane gas, which is harnessed to produce electricity or compressed natural gas. However, part of its raw material is sewage sludge, which is processed human waste.

“I hope you’ll hold the Niagara County Sewer District No. 1 to the same standard,” Quasar spokesman Nathan C. Carr told the board. Unfortunately, however, the July 28 law exempts “the generation of biosolids at a public owned treatment works.”

The town’s law firm, Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel, blasted the DEC in a letter for attempting to rewrite its regulation according to the types of soil on which the biosolids may be spread, in an apparent effort to weaken the law and make it easier for application in Wheatfield to be permitted. The DEC contends that the omission of a common soil type in Wheatfield from the list of allowable biosolids sites was an accident. The letter said the attempted change violates two state laws and U.S. EPA guidelines.

The law cites the state’s Environmental Conservation Law, which allows for municipalities to impose controls on waste disposal operations that are stricter than the state law requires..

The amendments to the town law also add a penalty section to the measure, which includes fines and/or possible imprisonment for illegal land application or production or storage of biosolids. The sale, storage, or application of lawn and garden fertilizer intended for retail sale on an area of land less than 2.5 acres in size is excluded from the town law.

The only surefire way to avoid food grown with biosolids is to buy products that are USDA organic certified, which does not allow the use of dried municipal waste microbes in its production. Additionally,  be aware of products used on lawn and garden by scrutinizing any lawn fertilizers which claim to be “organic” or “natural” but list ingredients such as “biosolids,” “dried microbes,” or “activated sewage sludge.” For more information on the hazards of biosolids, read Beyond Pesticides’ Biosolids or Biohazards?

Source: Buffalo News

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



Antibacterial Soap Exposes Health Workers to High Triclosan Levels

(Beyond Pesticides, August 21, 2014) In case there wasn’t enough news about the hazards of the ubiquitous antibacterial chemical triclosan in the past week, another study published Tuesday finds additional risks associated with exposure to the pesticide. The study, Health Care Worker Exposures to the Antibacterial Agent Triclosan, led by researchers at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) finds that washing hands with antibacterial soap exposes hospital workers to significant and potentially unsafe levels of triclosan.

In the study, published in the August issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers analyze urine samples from two groups of 38 doctors and nurses at two hospitals, identified as Hospital 1 and Hospital 2. Hospital 1 used an antibacterial soap containing 0.3 percent triclosan, while Hospital 2 used plain soap and water. Workers at Hospital 1 had significantly higher levels of triclosan in their urine than workers at Hospital 2.

“Antimicrobial soaps can carry unknown risks, and triclosan is of particular concern,” said co-investigator Paul Blanc, MD, a professor of medicine at UCSF who holds the Endowed Chair in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “Our study shows that people absorb this chemical at work and at home, depending on the products that they use.”

Beyond Pesticides has compiled extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Studies show that triclosan can interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormones, and may promote the progression of cancer cells. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function. A recent study links triclosan to the growth of breast cancer cells.

Triclosan, a synthetic antibacterial agent, has been used for over 30 years in the U.S., and though its original uses were confined mostly to the health care settings, has grown over the last decade to be found in thousands of consumer products, including soaps, cosmetics, acne creams and some brands of toothpaste. The FDA is currently reviewing the safety of triclosan based on a growing body of research indicating that it can interfere with the action of hormones, potentially causing developmental problems in fetuses and newborns, among other health concerns. Meanwhile, private companies are phasing out triclosan from products due to direct pressure from educated consumers. Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive (with the exception of its toothpaste) began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for several years now.

In the current study, the scientists also asked the study participants if they used a popular commercial toothpaste containing triclosan. While those who did had higher triclosan levels than those who did not, the researchers found that washing with antibacterial soap accounted for even higher triclosan levels than did brushing with the toothpaste.

Dr. Blanc recommended that, “If non-triclosan-containing soaps are available, use the alternative. This is based on the precautionary principle – that is, if you don’t know for certain that something is unsafe, it’s better to err on the side of caution.”

The same principle “could be applied more generally in this case,” said Dr. Blanc. “It should not be up to the individual to inspect every product for triclosan. Instead, it’s the duty of the FDA to carry out a review of this chemical and, if indicated, get it off the market.”

For people who want to replace antibacterial products in their home with something safer, said Dr. Blanc, “just plain soap and water is a pretty good alternative.”

Encourage your local hospitals, schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free, or follow the lead of Minnesota by banning triclosan; organizations can adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. For additional information and resources on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today.

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

Source: University of California San Francisco



Nearly Half of All U.S. Adults Seek Out Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, August 20, 2014) According to a new Gallup poll, nearly half of all U.S. adults “actively” seek to add organic food to their diets. Many who eat and incorporate organic foods into their diet are from city areas, whereas those who eat the least organic foods are described as coming from rural areas. Those who live in the western half of the country and are middle class were also more likely to eat organic food. The poll underscores the notion that many view the benefits of organic foods as greater than the perceived drawbacks, such as higher costs or limited access.

organicfoodsurveyThe Gallup poll, as reported by The Washington Post, polled about 1,000 adults across the country in July and found that Americans most likely to eat organic are in the West, live in a city, are 18 to 29 years old, vote Democrat or have an annual household income greater than $75,000. Those most likely to avoid organic foods are basically the opposite: those who live in the East, live in more rural parts, are age 65 or older, vote Republican or have an annual household income less than $30,000. This is the first year Gallup has asked about eating organic foods in the annual Consumption Habits survey.

Specifically, 45% of those polled actively try to include organic foods into their diet. The inclusion of organic foods is highest in the West (54%) and lowest in the East (39%). Americans who report living in a big or small city are more likely to eat organic foods than those who describe their location as a town or rural area, 50% versus 37%, respectively, while those who live in suburban areas fall between these two groups. While household income continues to be a factor in food choices, with almost half of upper-income Americans actively buying organic foods, a significant amount of lower-income Americans (42%) now include organic into their diets. The poll notes that “given that almost half of Americans actively try to include organic foods in their diets, they may view the benefits of organic foods as greater than their downsides, such as the higher cost or limited access.” While organic is associated with a “premium,” or more expensive cost, many say the cost of organic food simply reflects the true costs of production.

Overall, Gallup notes that income and location appear to be factors in preference for organic foods, although that may be changing. For instance, Wal-Mart, the largest retailer and grocer in the U.S., has announced plans to begin selling organic food, with the potential to make organic food more easily accessible and more affordable, which could in turn encourage more Americans to include it in their diets.

A similar 2014 poll by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace. According to the survey, sales of organic products in the U.S. jumped to $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from the previous year’s $31.5 billion and the fastest growth rate in five years. The growth rate of organic food sales, which has averaged almost 10% every year since 2010, has dwarfed the average annual growth of just over 3% in total food sales during that same period, and now makes up 4 percent of the $760 annually spent on food. The fruit and vegetable category continues to lead the sector with $11.6 billion in sales, up 15%. With more than 10% of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now organic.

Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. An American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) report on organic foods found that organic foods do provide health advantages by way of reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches.” It also goes on to note that organic farming can be competitive and yields comparable to those of conventional farming techniques. AAP also recommends that “pediatricians should incorporate this evidence when discussing the health and environmental impact of organic foods and organic farming while continuing to encourage all patients and their families to attain optimal nutrition and dietary variety.” Another recent study reports that more nutritional antioxidants and far fewer toxic pesticides are found in organic foods

organicfoodregionIn order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture—from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. The adoption of organic methods, particularly no-till organic, is an opportunity for farming both to mitigate agriculture’s contributions to climate change and to cope with the effects that change has on agriculture. Good organic practices can both reduce fossil fuel use and provide carbon sequestration in the soil through increased soil organic carbon. Higher organic soil carbon levels then increase fertility and the soil’s ability to endure extreme weather years.

Further, organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture. A growing organic sector is important as it creates healthier options for consumers, better working conditions for farmworkers, and a more sustainable environment. Additionally, organic agriculture prohibits the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms, an issue many Americans are growing more concerned about. As organic continues to grow it is important to maintain our high organic standards to maintain consumer trust in the organic label.

It is important to protect the benefits that organic agriculture can provide by ensuring that organic standards are strong. However, there have been dramatic changes to the process that governs organic standards and the review of allowable materials in organic production, as overseen by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) under the Organic Foods Production Act, which undermines the integrity of organic. Consumer and environmental groups have voiced concerns that the new procedures create less rigorous review requirements, weakening the policies that have been in place for over 15 years and adopted by U.S. Department of Agriculture without any public input or consultation with the NOSB.

With more and more American eating organic it is important to take action to ensure a strong organic program and increase public trust in the organic food label. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page for information on what you can do to secure an organic future. To learn more about the environmental and worker benefits of organic production, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.

Source: The Washington Post