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10
Feb

Children Exposed to Increasing Concentrations of Pyrethroid Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2014)   A recent study has found that exposure to pyrethroids is increasing among children and adults. The study also finds that children are still widely exposure to chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate chemical that has been banned for household use for over 12 years. This is not the first study to find high concentrations of pyrethroids in residential, but it may be the first to evaluate correlations between pesticide dust concentration and concentration of pesticides in children’s urine.pregnant-market-coloradjust

The study, Urinary Pyrethroid and Chlorpyrifos Metabolite Concentrations in Northern California Families and Their Relationship to Indoor Residential Insecticide Levels, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, analyzed urine samples from 90 adults, 83 children, and 88 floor wipe samples from participants’ kitchen floors. The participants were 90 northern Californian families who had children born between 2000 and 2005, with the samples collected from 2007-2009.  These samples were analyzed for concentrations of pyrethroids, pyrethroid metabolites, chlorpyrifos, and chlorpyrifos metabolites. The study found pyrethroid metabolites in 63 percent of all urine samples with concentrations twice as high as levels reported in a national 2001-2002 study.

In children, higher concentrations of pyrethroids found in floor wipes were associated with higher urine levels. This suggests that the indoor residential environment is a more important route of exposure to pyrethroids than dietary ingestion for children. Children also often play on the floor and put their hands in their mouths, which could lead to greater exposure from household dust.

The study also finds that levels of a breakdown product of chlorpyrifos are on average 21 percent lower in the children who participated in the new study than in the nationwide study six years earlier. The researchers attribute this decline to the ban of chlopryrifos products inside homes. However, even at lower concentrations, traces were still found in 65 percent of participant’s urine and in 99 percent of floor wipes. As evident from this study, chlorpyrifos does not breakdown in residential setting quickly and has been detected for up to eight years after its use in homes for termites.

Growing concentrations of pyrethroids indoors clearly create an unhealthy environment for children. High levels of pyrethroids may cause significant toxicity and health effects, including acute neurotoxic effects, immunotoxic effects, and endocrine disruption. Pyrethroids are also a possible human carcinogen, with associations seen between exposure and cutaneous melanoma, as well as childhood leukemia. The impacts of chronic low or moderate level of pyrethroid exposure in general and on children have not been well studied.

Chlorpyrifos exposure is also incredibly harmful to children. Exposure to chlorpyrifos has been found to disrupt endocrine regulation, has been associated with negative impacts of the neurodevelopment of children, and can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans. In agricultural settings, chlorpyrifos vapor may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school, or spend time nearby. In some circumstances, these bystanders may be exposed to chlorpyrifos and/or the transformation product chlorpyrifos-oxon at concentrations that could cause adverse effects.

This is not the first study to indicate homes can be a high pesticide exposure setting. A  recent study found that among New Yorkers who were 20 to 59 years old in 2004 the highest exposed group had between two and six times more organophosphates in their urine than the highest exposed group in a national study. They also had between 1.7 and 2.4 times more pyrethroids than the nationwide group. Researchers also sought to identify some of the demographic and cultural characteristics that predict the higher exposures. They found that overall, Hispanics and blacks, older residents, and people who had pesticides professionally applied recently in their home had higher levels of organophosphates.

High concentrations of pyrethroids have also been found in environmental settings.  A 2008 survey found pyrethroid contamination in 100 percent of urban streams sampled in California. Researchers also find pyrethroid residues in California streams at relatively low concentrations (10-20 parts per trillion) in river and creek sediments that are toxic to bottom dwelling fish. Other studies find pyrethroids present in effluent from sewage treatment plants at concentrations just high enough to be toxic to sensitive aquatic organisms.

Most people are unaware that they, or their children, carry chemical compounds in their bodies. Chemical ‘body burden’ refers to the accumulation of synthetic chemicals found in pesticides, cosmetics, industrial solvents, heavy metals in our bodies. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Body Burden entry in the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD).

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

Source: Environmental Health News

 

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07
Feb

As Bees Decline, EPA Registers Another Toxic Insecticide

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2014) Flying in the face of recent science demonstrating that pollinator populations are declining, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made the decision to unconditionally register another pesticide that is known to be highly toxic to bees, coming almost one year after EPA registered sulfoxaflor, disregarding concerns from beekeepers and environmental groups. The announcement, posted in the Federal Register on Wednesday, set tolerances for the pesticide cyantraniliprole in foods ranging from almonds and berries, to leafy vegetables, onions, and milk. EPA establishes the allowable limit of the chemical residue, called tolerances, based on what EPA considers ‘acceptable’ risk. EPA’s ruling details that “there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue,” despite all evidence that cyantraniliprole is toxic to bees and harmful to mammals.

Ignoring beekeeper warning and concerns on their impacts to bees, EPA has given the green light for cyantraniliprole after recently registering sulfoxaflor.  In July 2013, beekeepers filed suit against EPA for their decision to register sulfoxaflor when it failed to demonstrate that it will not cause any ‘unreasonable adverse effects on the environment’ as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, during the public comment period that stated that approval of a cyantriliprole, pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, instead of denying or suspending registration in the face of dire pollinator losses, EPA has chosen to register another insecticide that is toxic to bees, dismissing concerns regarding bee health in its response, and setting itself up for further litigation.

EPA’s response to Beyond Pesticides and other commenters can be found here.

Cyantraniliprole is a systemic insecticide that works by impairing the regulation of muscle contractions causing paralysis and eventual death in insects. Beyond its impact to target pests —which include sucking and chewing insects such as whiteflies and thrips— EPA’s most disturbing conclusions relate to the impact of cyantraniliprole on the livers of mammals: “With repeated dosing, consistent findings of mild to moderate increases in liver weights across multiple species (rats, mice, and dogs) are observed. Dogs appear to be more sensitive than rats and mice…show[ing] progressive severity with increased duration of exposure.”

EPA notes that cyantraniliprole also alters the stability of the thyroid as tested on laboratory rats as a result of enhanced metabolism of the thyroid hormones by the liver. Although the agency states that “cyantraniliprole is not a direct thyroid toxicant,” any indirect effects on thyroid function are likely to disrupt the endocrine system. Given that its current endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP) is currently still in the process of validating tests, EPA’s registration of a new active ingredient that shows a propensity for endocrine disruption is cause for alarm.

In addition to these findings, EPA has registered cyantraniliprole as a seed treatment although it is considered “highly toxic on acute and oral contact basis” for bees. EPA is aware that pesticide-treated seeds directly threaten foraging bees and other non-target organisms, which are exposed to contaminated dust plumes during planting. Studies have documented high bee mortality following seed sowing and exposure to contaminated dust from agricultural fields. Moreover, EPA acknowledges the need to reduce fugitive toxic dust. However, with emerging science increasingly attributing pesticide exposures as one of the major causes of pollinator declines and the recent precautionary measures taken in the European Union to ban the use of pesticides known to impact bees, EPA’s registration of cyantraniliprole raises serious concerns.

Beekeepers nationwide have experienced honey bee losses of over 40 percent over the 2012/2013 winter period —2013/2014 winter losses are likely to be released soon— with some beekeepers reporting losses of over 70 percent, far exceeding the normal rate of 10 to 15 percent. Some have even been driven out of business. Current estimates of the number of surviving hives in the U.S. show that these colonies may not be able to meet the future pollination demands of agricultural crops.

EPA’s approach to registration reinforces the urgent need for a national transition to organic. The takeaway for organic, as it grows beyond its current $35 billion market share, is the need for rigorous  science-based decision making that requires precaution on the allowance of chemical products in the face of hazards and scientific uncertainty. We must keep in mind the underlying standards of the organic rule, which requires that practices “maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.”

For the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign which works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.

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

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

Source: Federal Register

 

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06
Feb

Bee Larvae Adversely Affected by Mix of Pesticides and Inert Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, February 6, 2014) We know that pesticides and bees don’t mix and that particular pesticides, such as neonictinoids, pose significant threats to bee populations worldwide, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University have identified that it is “the mix” of the many chemicals in the environment that pose a significant threat to honey bee survival.numerousbees

Looking at the four most common pesticides detected in pollen and wax -fluvalinate, coumaphos, chlorothalonil, and chloropyrifos, Wanyi Zhu and other researchers have assessed the toxic impacts of these pesticides on honey bee larvae at real world exposure levels; that is, levels that are found in existing hives outside of a laboratory. But these researchers go beyond the usual one-chemical analysis in their study, Four Common Pesticides, Their Mixtures and a Formulation Solvent in the Hive Environment Have High Oral Toxicity to Honey Bee Larvae. Rather than just looking at the pesticides in their individual, out-of-the-bottle form, they also mixed them up and broke them apart.

Why did they take this mixed-up approach? “Recently, one hundred and twenty-one different pesticides and metabolites were identified in the hive with an average of seven pesticides per pollen sample, including miticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and insect growth regulators,” the study explains. In other words, the average bee hive and the food that it contains for the hive population it supports has a veritable soup of pesticides —chopped up, stirred up, and combined in every which way imaginable. It is this chemical soup that makes its way into the food for not only the adult bees, but also the developing “baby” bees known as larvae.

While it may seem an obvious step in evaluating the so-called safety of a chemical to not only look at how it interacts with other chemicals (we all remember what happens when you put vinegar and baking soda together), but also to examine its component parts for individual effects, the scary truth is that these steps are rarely taken and not required for most pesticide registrations and environmental risk assessments.

The findings of the study sent no mixed messages —pesticides, whether looked at individually, in different combinations, or even broken down into their allegedly “inert” component parts had serious consequences on the bee larvae survival rates. “All pesticides at hive-residue levels triggered a significant increase in larval mortality compared to untreated larvae by over two fold, with a strong increase after 3 days of exposure.” The synergistic effects in most combinations of the pesticides amplified these mortality rates around the four-day mark. More concerning, however, were the results focusing on the allegedly “inert” ingredient, N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone. The study found that, “Even for the lowest concentration of [this inert ingredient], the estimated time to cause 50% larval mortality was 4 days.”

Conclusions from these findings are straightforward: pesticide risk assessments need to examine all of the mix of chemicals and their so-called “inert” parts in the environment to realistically evaluate risks on non-target pollinators. The study includes genetically-engineered crops in that mix.

Regulatory Delay Fails to Mix it Up

Unfortunately for bees and people alike, outdated and inadequate risk assessments are only one of many hurdles to much-needed change and better protections. Inert ingredients remained steeped in “trade secret” mystery and access to meaningful information concerning these ingredients is not even required under existing regulations.

Under EPA’s interpretation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert ingredients of pesticide products they are using, unless the EPA administrator determines that the chemical poses a public health threat. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and, if released, their products could be duplicated. Quite often inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product. Yet as this study and a few others are starting to show, inert ingredients are mixed into pesticides products as a carrier or sticking agent, and are often as toxic as the active ingredient.

Despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) seeming willingness to take steps to mandate public disclosure of all inert ingredients back in 2009, EPA has taken no follow-up actions to promulgate a final rule on the issue.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for improved pesticides safety standards that take into account the full-spectrum of health and environmental impacts. For more information about inert ingredients and pesticides as a whole, please visit Beyond Pesticide’s webpage, What’s in a Pesticide? Protecting pollinators will be a central theme of the upcoming 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, April 11-12 in Portland, Oregon.

Source: PLOS One

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

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05
Feb

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals May Target Fish Hearts

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2014) According to a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, chemical contaminants in waterways that mimic estrogen -endocrine disruptors- target developing heart valves in fish and impair the growth of fish hearts. The study illustrates that these hormone-mimicking compounds, which include some pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other household chemicals often found in sewage effluent and runoff that flows into waterways, are being linked to mounting science that show serious human and environmental adverse effects.

Researchers from the Fish Health Branch of the U.S. GeoDigital StillCameralogical Survey (USGS) and the Carnegie Institution for Science exposed zebrafish embryos to water from 19 sites in the Susquehanna, Delaware, Allegheny and Shenandoah watersheds. Water from 16 of the sites triggered proteins in the fish that were estrogen receptors, indicating that the rivers contained endocrine disrupting chemicals. These receptors are attached to DNA, which turn genes on and off. While such activity is common in the liver, this is the first experiment to show estrogenic activity in heart valves.

“This tells us that endocrine-disrupting chemicals could lead to improper heart development. We were quite surprised, since this is something that others hadn’t observed before,” said study co-author Luke Iwanowicz, PhD, and research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey based in West Virginia.

In the study, “Transgenic Zebrafish Reveal Tissue-Specific Differences in Estrogen Signaling in Response to Environmental Water Samples,” most of the water samples activated estrogen receptors in both the heart valves and the liver, but when the river water was more diluted, five of the samples activated receptors only in the heart valves. According to the authors, endocrine disrupting chemicals often do not act in a typical way, but can have health effects at low doses and no effects or different effects at high doses.  Previous research supports the growing importance of understanding low dose exposures, and one 2012 report in particular documents extensive scientific research on the low dose effects of endocrine disruptors.

The researchers, however, did not analyze the specific chemical makeup of the river water and so these heart valve findings are not linked to any specific chemical. However, the presence of endocrine disrupting contaminants in U.S. waterways is well-documented. The USGS identified contaminants, including pesticides in the Potomac River which flows through downtown Washington, DC, that could be responsible for the alarming discovery of “intersex fish”- male fish producing eggs. The suspected chemicals include: atrazine, a common herbicide used in agriculture and on lawns that is already linked to sexual abnormalities in frogs; insecticides chlorpyrifos and endosulfan; the herbicide metolachlor; and two chemicals used to add fragrance to perfumes, soaps and other products, tonalide and galaxolide. Similarly, the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, also an endocrine disruptor and frequently detected in several U.S. waterways, was shown to hinder muscle contractions at a cellular level, slow swimming in fish, and reduce muscular strength in mice. In similar experiments triclosan was found to impair the ability of isolated heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibers to contract.

In wildlife and humans, endocrine disrupting effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at extremely low levels of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests.

A 2012 study from a group of renowned endocrinologists finds that even low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause certain human disorders, highlighting various epidemiological studies that show that environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals are associated with human diseases and disabilities. The authors of the new study conclude that the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses, and therefore recommend fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination to protect human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with evaluating chemicals for their endocrine disrupting potential, but is still in the process of finalizing a screening protocol, decades after the agency was tasked to do so. According to the agency, it would be another decade before their protocol is up and ready.

In the meantime, endocrine disrupting chemicals continue to contaminate sewage effluent and runoff that flows into waterways adversely impacting fish, amphibians and other wildlife, and eventually the human public. A 2013 UN report, considered the most comprehensive report on endocrine disruption in humans to date, highlights some association between exposure to endocrine disruptors and health problems, including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children  and thyroid cancer. Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Disease Database features a wealth of studies that have linked pesticide exposures to adverse impacts on the endocrine system. These studies explore outcomes and mechanisms for several health effect endpoints including cancer, developmental and learning disorders, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive health.

For more on endocrine disrupting chemicals, download Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruption brochure (bi-fold), or read Beyond Pesticides article, Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

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04
Feb

Do Something Sweet for Honey Bees This Valentine’s Day!

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2014) No strawberries, no honey — without bees Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be the same.

In fact, one out of three bites of food depend on honey bee pollination, but they are in danger from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that Europe has already banned. We know bees can’t wait any longer for increased protections, so we need to take a stand wherever we can.

ShowBeesSomeLoveThat’s why we’re asking you to join thousands of people coast-to-coast to swarm Home Depot and Lowe’s stores the week of Valentine’s Day (February 10-16).

We’ll be delivering valentines, asking these stores to “show bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides and garden plants poisoned with these harmful chemicals. Planting season is right around the corner. We can’t let another year pass with Home Depot and Lowe’s selling “poisoned plants” with no warning to consumers.

Last year U.S. beekeepers reported a 30-100 percent loss of their hives, and right now they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs. You can help BEE Protective of pollinators during another tough winter season by delivering a Valentine to retailers. We’ve made it easy:

Sign up here and we’ll send you a printable valentine with a step-by-step guide closer to the date.

Background:

Scientific studies are consistently finding that a new, and increasingly popular class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, are significant contributors to the devastating decline of pollinators across the globe. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam, and products containing these pesticides can be found on this list. Peer-reviewed science has repeatedly identified these insecticides as highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Once applied, plants take up these pesticides and exude them in their pollen and nectar, subsequently endangering any pollinators that forage on these contaminated plants.

A report co-released late last year by Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth, and other allies revealed that the neonicotinoids may be lurking in our own gardens. The study showed that more than half of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s contained these bee-killing pesticides. In lieu of federal action to restrict the chemicals, we must take a stand against retailers who continue to sell poisoned plants.

More BEE Protective Actions:

Help Beyond Pesticides build the buzz on all fronts by asking retailers, administrators, and elected officials to take action by eliminating or curtailing the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Join Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, Ceres Trust over 60 other groups’ coalition-based national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides.

Devote your garden or landscape to the protection of pollinators. Download the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and see our Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind webpage for information on how to create pollinator-friendly habitat in your community.

Keep the pressure on your elected officials to support a bill that would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. The bill currently has 50 cosponsors in Congress. Is your Representative one of them?

Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species.

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

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03
Feb

Organic Farmers Look to New Resource to Avoid GE Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2014) Prompted by the prolific threat of contamination of organic agriculture by genetically engineered crops, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) recently published a comprehensive guide to help organic seed growers maintain the integrity of organic seed. The publication comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to limit the ability of farmers to legally defend themselves against genetic drift in a landmark federal lawsuit OSGATA et al. vs. Monsanto.

The publication, entitled Protecting Organic Seed Integrity, provides organic farmers, seed handlers, and seed companies an array of resources they can employ to maintain organic integrity through crop specific, scale-appropriate strategies. In addition, the handbook provides guidance on testing protocols for crops that are particularly risky, that is, crops with GE counterparts that are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, and squash.

“The risk to organic farmers by GE contamination is real,” said Maine organic seed farmer, Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President. “Organic farmers continue to be failed by the government. This new handbook is an important tool for farmers to protect themselves and the organic seed supply.”

Manual_Front-Cover-231x300With widespread planting of genetically engineered crops, organic farmers are increasingly vulnerable to the problem of GE contamination as pollen can easily drift to neighboring fields. Genetic drift is particularly prevalent with wind-pollinated corn and insect-pollinated canola, whose pollen can travel for two or more miles before fertilizing another plant. Such contamination has proven extremely costly to farmers raising organic and non-genetically engineered crops whose loads are rejected by buyers when trace levels of contamination are detected. Farmers in these circumstances lose any potential price premium for the extra effort and expense taken to preserve their crop’s integrity and they typically have no recourse but to dump the load on generic markets. At times, these events send international markets reeling, as is what happened when illegal GE wheat was discovered in an Oregon farmer’s field. Currently, biotech companies that manufacture GE seeds bear no legal or financial responsibility for such contamination.

Not only are organic farmers at risk of losing their entire crop due to GE contamination, they are also vulnerable to litigation due to patent enforcement. The Federal District Court case OSGATA et al. vs. Monsanto set to provide a safeguard for farmers who are victims of patented GE contamination. With the court ruling, however, biotech companies maintain the right to sue farmers whose crops are contaminated for infringing upon the company’s intellectual property.

The handbook operates on the premise that, “Organic farmers have a right to farm in the way they choose on their farm without threat of intimidation and transgenic trespass.” Unfortunately, in lieu of court mandated protections, farmers must bear the burden of seed and crop contamination by GE drift, and take matters into their own hands to protect themselves by using tools like the OSGATA handbook. The book’s recommendations for avoidance and testing are based on a thorough examination of international peer-reviewed literature, as well as  stakeholder input from organic farmers, seed company professionals and seed breeders familiar with purity concerns. OSGATA has printed 5,000 copies of its new publication which it is now providing to organic farmers free of charge. The resource is also available to download for free online.

Currently, National Organic Program (NOP) defines GE violations of organic agricultural standards solely on the basis of process violations, so findings of organic crops or seed tainted from genetic drift does not establish a violation. Neither the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) nor the NOP have set a GE contamination level, which could be in the range of zero or non-detect to some “accepatable” level of contamination. Similarly, a compensation scheme is being debated in organic circles where a polluter-pay approach holds patent holders responsible for contamination costs.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid supportin the production of crops grow with genetically engineered seed in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited from being purposefully introduced in agricultural production. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. Plan on joining Beyond Pesticides, the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University, as well as numerous co-sponsors, to learn the latest and strategize on GE contamination with George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety and lead attorney on numerous GE cases at the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices, April 11-12, 2014, Portland, Oregon.

Source: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association press release

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

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31
Jan

Featured Keynote: “Maverick” Scientist to Speak at National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2014) Michael Skinner, Ph.D., author of the landmark study that links exposure to the insecticide DDT with multi-generational effects, ultimately contributing to obesity three generations down the line, is joining an impressive array of speakers at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12 in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Skinner’s groundbreaking research on transgenerational effects of pesticides has created quite a stir within the scientific community and backlash from the industry.skinner-laboratory

A professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, Dr. Skinner has published over 240 peer-reviewed publications and has given over 237 invited symposia, plenary lectures and university seminars. His research focuses on the investigation of gonadal growth and differentiation, with emphasis in the area of reproductive biology. His current research has demonstrated the ability of environmental toxicants to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease phenotypes due to abnormal germ line epigenetic programming in gonadal development.

Science Magazine has dubbed Dr. Skinner “The Epigenetics Heretic.” The article, published January 24, explores the controversy surrounding his recent findings, industry challenges to his research, as well as the significance: “To those who don’t flatly dismiss Skinner’s findings, he has raised a tantalizing glimpse of a new phenomenon, one that should be explored further.” Skeptics are to be expected, Dr. Skinner tells Science, “This is probably going to be the biggest paradigm shift in science in recent history.” In fact, his scientific motto is, “If you are not doing something controversial, you are not doing something important.”

Hear Dr. Skinner discuss his important work, along with other top scientists, local and national activists and grassroots organizers at Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, April 11-12, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Register online now!

The 32nd National Forum provides an opportunity for grassroots advocates, scientists, and policy makers to interact and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment. Keynote presentations, workshops, and plenary panels will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening organic agriculture; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. By working with a range environmental, health, consumer, and farm organizations, we expect to bring together a diverse crowd in order to share our efforts to build local, state and national strategies for strength, growth and health—in line with our conference theme, Advancing Sustainable Communities.

General admission is $40 for members and grassroots activists, $20 for students with current ID, and $75 for non-members (includes 1-year membership and totebag). Avoid the $5 late fee by registering before March 15th! In addition to access to all plenary sessions, discussions-based workshops, tour (by RSVP), and printed materials, registration also includes organic food and drink (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two receptions with hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine). The forum will be held at the University Place Conference Center at Portland State University.Directions and hotel information are available on the Forum website. Register online or call 202-543-5450 to register by phone.

The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and co-sponsored by local, state and regional public health and environmental organizations, including: Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), and The Xerces Society. If your group is interested in co-sponsoring the forum please feel free to email us.

For more information on the program, including a full list of speakers and registration information, please see www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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

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30
Jan

Backdoor Farm Bill Amendment Orders EPA to Ignore Unsafe Levels of Fluoride in Kid’s Food

(Beyond Pesticides, January 30, 2014) With the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Agriculture Act of 2014 (commonly known as the Farm Bill) yesterday, conventional farming allies and chemical agribusiness dealt a dangerous blow to children’s health protections and offered up yet another reason for consumers everywhere to support organic. The behind-closed-door amendment to the Farm Bill that appeared in neither the pre-conference House or Senate-passed versions of the Bill available to the public, orders the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ignore its ruling that levels of fluoride left in food treated with the toxic fumigant sulfuryl fluoride are unsafe for consumers everywhere, especially children and infants.

Looking at the Numbers

Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), a law designed to provide stronger protections for infants and children from pesticides, EPA must consider the aggregate dose that children receive from pesticide residues along with the other “nonpesticidal” sources. In the case of sulfuryl fluoride, a fumigant used in closed structures such as barns, storage buildings, commercial warehouses, ships in port, and railroad cars and thus also found on their stored contents like grains and other crops, this is an important consideration because other sources of fluoride abound in the form of fluoridated water and dental products and from its natural presence in the environment.

Before 2004, the allowed tolerances for fluoride on certain foodstuffs was set at 7 parts per million (ppm), but in January 2004 after intensive lobbying by Dow Agrosciences, EPA approved the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a fumigant on raw food. Shortly thereafter, in July 2005 that approval was extended to all processed foods. To account for this new use, EPA moved to adjust the allowable dosage of fluoride for infants to a number five times higher than that set for adults.

Unwilling to stand by and let EPA set allowances at the behest of industry without considering that actual health impacts it was required to consider under the FQPA, Beyond Pesticides along with Fluoride Action Network and Environmental Working Group, filed a petition to the EPA in June 2006. The petition called for a “stay,” or immediate suspension, of all food uses of sulfuryl fluoride pending a full evidentiary hearing on the safety of the proposed allowances.

In 2011, EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs could not dismiss the numbers. EPA proposed the withdrawal of sulfuryl fluoride tolerance because applications of sulfuryl fluoride when taken together or “in the aggregate” with the other sources of fluoride found that levels exceeded the safe reference doses —especially in the case of infants and children.

The Numbers Haven’t Changed

With the latest Farm Bill provision, EPA cannot assess the total risk from fluoride exposure as it is supposed to do by law. Thus even though the level of safe tolerances remains unchanged, the Farm Bill now orders EPA to close its eyes to the other known sources of fluoride that make their way into children and infants mouths everywhere. In effect, this means that 70 ppm fluoride will be found in more than 99% of all processed foods, 125 ppm in wheat flour (which goes into cookies, cakes, bread and pizza) and a massive 900 ppm in powdered eggs. One third of the eggs sold in the U.S. come in powdered form and the accompanying 900 ppm is only a tad below the 1000 ppm—the level at which parents are told to keep away from children under six, use only pea-sized amount, and not to swallow.

Too Much Fluoride is Still Unsafe

If you think that fluoride is safe at these levels (and even under these levels), think again. Actually, in the case of fluoride, “thinking” is one of the major risks.

In a recent Harvard meta-analysis, which shows that out of 27 studies investigating the IQ in Chinese children living in areas with high natural levels of fluoride in the water, 26 showed a lowering of IQ with an average drop of 7 IQ points. The lowest level at which this occurred was 1.8 ppm, and even lower (0.88 ppm) when combined with borderline iodine deficiency.

Philippe Grandjean, one of the authors of the Harvard analysis puts these findings into perspective in his book, Only One Chance, explaining that a shift down of 5 IQ points doubles the number of mentally handicapped in the population and halve the number of exceptionally gifted in the population. This can have serious social consequences and also deliver a blow to the future of our competiveness in the global economy.

“These findings offer no adequate margin of safety to protect all our children from impaired intellectual development from the combined exposure to sulfuryl fluoride residues and other sources of fluoride. The thought that we are taking these risks to satisfy Dow’s thirst for profit is both intolerable socially, and highly shortsighted from an economic perspective,” says Professor Paul Connett,Ph.D., who heads up the Fluoride Action Network. “Our kids are already getting far too much fluoride as evidenced by the fact that 41 percent of all American children aged 12 through 15 have some form of dental fluorosis a tell-tale sign that they have experienced the early signs of fluoride poisoning,” he adds, citing 2010 Center for Disease Control (CDC) data.

But brain-power is not the only thing at risk. Fluoride is persistent and bioaccumulates in the human body, posing the risk of a number of health problems to the public, including arthritis, hip fractures, bone cancer, kidney damage, infertility, and brain disorders.

Alternatives and Organic

Though conventional farming and the chemical agribusiness would have American consumers, and their elected officials, believe that there are no alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride, but for an equally as problematic fumigant, methyl bromide, the fact is that only the U.S. and Australia apply this fumigant directly to food. “The rest of the world has shown that sulfuryl fluoride is not necessary for the safe storage and handling of our food supply, given the availability of other methods –including temperature manipulation (heating and cooling), atmospheric controls (low oxygen and fumigation with carbon dioxide), biological controls (pheromones), and less toxic chemical controls (diatomaceous earth), all successfully used in organic production,” notes Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

One solution that once again places the burden on parents and consumers to take matters of food safety into their own hands is to buy organic. Sulfuryl fluoride is a prohibited from use in and around organic food, as is methyl bromide. Supporting organic and keeping organic strong against constant attempts to weaken its standards provides families the only option to show legislators, regulators, and industry alike that protecting the health of children and all consumers matters.

For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.

Source: Fluoride Action Network

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

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29
Jan

Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2014) People with high levels of exposure to the banned insecticide DDT are four times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than people with low levels, according to a new study of patients in Georgia and Texas. The research is among the first to report a connection between Alzheimer’s disease, which is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease, and chemicals in the environment.Portrait of Worried Senior Couple

The traces of the insecticide found in the study’s Alzheimer’s patients are comparable to the amounts found in most Americans today. Although it was banned more than 40 years ago in the U.S., DDT still persists in the environment worldwide and is still used today in developing countries for malaria abatement programs.

“Our findings suggest that genetically susceptible individuals with higher levels of DDT exposure may be more at risk,” said Jason Richardson, PhD, a Rutgers University researcher who led the study.

The case-control study consisting of existing samples from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and control participants from the Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center measured serum levels of DDE in 79 control and 86 Alzheimer’s disease cases. Levels of DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, were 3.8 times higher in people who had the disease than in those who did not, according to the study, “Elevated Serum Pesticide Levels and Risk for Alzheimer Disease,” which was published in JAMA Neurology. Participants with the highest DDE levels were 4.18 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s than those with the lowest levels.

The researchers also found that people with both risk factors –high exposure and genetic susceptibility– “might have a more severe form of the disease,” Dr. Richardson said. Patients scored lower on a mental test if they had the highest DDE levels and a particular genetic variation associated with Alzheimer’s than if they had high DDE but did not have the genetic factor.

Seventy percent of the non-Alzheimer’s patients had detectable DDE in their blood, compared with 80 percent of the Alzheimer’s patients. Nationwide, 75 to 80 percent of all Americans tested have measurable levels in their blood. Because some of the Alzheimer’s patients had no DDE and some without the disease had high levels, the study “suggests that exposure to DDE may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease only in a subset of cases, perhaps those with genetic polymorphisms that render them more susceptible to DDT/DDE exposure,” the authors wrote.

More than 5 million people in the U.S. alone are living with Alzheimer’s, and cases are expected to triple over the next few decades. In recent decades, Alzheimer’s research has focused heavily on finding genetic causes of the disease. But fewer than half of cases can be blamed on genes alone, and researchers are now looking at how lifestyle and environmental factors may interact with genetic factors. According to Dr. Richardson, it is likely that any environmental exposures that may have contributed to the disease happened long before the patients had symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a slow-moving disease that develops over the course of decades. Because DDT takes many years to break down and leave the body, “results suggest that cumulative lifetime exposures may be important.”

The findings build upon previous research in which elevated levels of DDE were detected in the blood of 20 Alzheimer’s patients. While only a few studies have looked at potential environmental risk factors for Alzheimer’s, researchers have found links between pesticides and Parkinson’s, another degenerative brain disease. It is unclear whether there are periods early in life during which exposures to certain chemicals in the environment would be more likely to increase a person’s risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s.

DDT already has been linked in other studies to reduced fertility, diabetes, and other health effects. But little has been known about its potential effects on the brain. A recent study reports that DDT affects multiple generations, ultimately contributing to obesity three generations down the line. However, the adverse impacts to humans —including cancer, reproductive disease, neurological disease, developmental problems, diabetes and now Alzheimer’s disease— paint a cautionary tale that long-banned pesticides continue to impact human health and the environment.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

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

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28
Jan

State Bill to Overturn Local GE and Pesticide Limits Introduced in Hawaii

Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2014) In the latest attempt to suppress the voice of local communities and scuttle the implementation of laws to protect health and the environment, last week a bill was introduced in the Hawaii State House of Representatives that will preempt (block) local governments from restricting the use of hazardous pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops. Though House Bill 2506 is being promoted as the expansion of the state’s “Right-to-Farm Act,” the bill will prevent the implementation of new laws recently passed in Kauai and Hawaii County. Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser explained to The Garden Island, “Both of these bills take away 100 percent of the authority of the county to regulate agriculture, which includes pesticides. It is without question an attempt to nullify Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491), as well as the ordinance passed on the Big Island.”

KauaiActivismLocal communities in the Hawaiian Islands fought a number of hard-won battles last year against intrusions by agrichemical companies spraying pesticides and planting GE crops near where they work, live, and go to school. After massive outpourings of public support, numerous late-night council sessions, and overcoming a mayoral veto, Kauai County passed Bill 2491. Kauai’s Ordinance 960 requires public disclosure of pesticides and GE crop locations, buffer zones around sensitive environmental sites, such as schools, hospitals and shorelines, and an Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study on the utilization of pesticides and GE crops by the giant agrichemical companies on the island.

On the heels of Kauai’s victory, Mayor Billy Kenoi of Hawaii’s Big Island signed Bill 113 into law, restricting the planting of any new GE crops. “With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching,” said the Mayor in a letter to the Hawaii County Council.

The Hawaiian Islands provide some of the most fertile growing conditions on the planet, allowing agrichemical companies to plant up to three seasons of corn in one year. However, along with the continuous planting of corn and other GE crops is the continuous use of herbicides that these crops are modified to withstand. GE agriculture puts farmers on the pesticide treadmill. After farmers begin routinely spraying herbicides, weeds develop resistance to the chemical, requiring increased amounts of herbicides. According to a 2012 study, the use of herbicides required to deal with resistant “superweeds” grew from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to 90 million pounds in 2011. But it doesn’t stop there. Now, agrichemical companies have gone to the back of the toolshed, resorting to older and increasingly toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, half of the mixture that made up the deadly defoliant Agent Orange, which was sprayed during the Vietnam War. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended that these 2,4-D crops be allowed on to market despite evidence already showing resistance in certain areas of the county and serious concerns about human and environmental health.

Most herbicide-resistant GE crops don’t produce their own insecticide, like some GE crops do, so along with a regular dousing of herbicides is the frequent use of toxic insecticides such as chlopyrifos, a potent neurotoxin (banned for most residential use due to risks to children) that has been used on corn fields near schools in Kauai while children were in school. Concerned schoolteachers and parents have documented proof of this occurring in a Syngenta field despite assurances from the company that it would wait until after the school day is out. See the video here.

Kauai’s Ordinance 960 takes steps to prevent trespass by implementing commonsense, health-protective pesticide buffer zones around sensitive sites such as hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. The ordinance promotes accountability by requiring agrichemical companies to disclose where they are spaying pesticides and planting GE crops. Hawaii County’s Bill 113 would also prevent pesticide incidents from occurring by stopping the growth of the agrichemical industry and their new, more dangerous GE crops on the Big Island.

State legislators should take heed and recognize the importance of these local ordinances. Advocates have argued that the “Right-to-Farm” for private profit should never trump a community’s right to freedom from hazardous chemicals.

Agrichemical companies are suing the Kauai County government to stop the implementation of Ordinance 960, claiming that the state law already preempts the county from taking action. However, as Beyond Pesticides pointed out in a recent Pesticides and You article entitled “State Preemption Law,” Hawaii is one of seven states that currently do not have regulations that would preempt local ordinances from enacting requirements more strict than the state’s. Hawaii House Bill 2506 would reverse that and roll back the right of local communities to take a stand against inadequate state and federal pesticide regulations. You can submit testimony on HB2506 by going to this link.

For more information on the fight for pesticide protections in the Hawaiian Islands, see Beyond Pesticides’ past Daily News articles and read Beyond Pesticides’ testimony on Bill 2491. For more information on the failed promises of GE agriculture, read “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market,” or see Beyond Pesticides’ website on Genetic Engineering.

Source: The Garden Island

Image Source: Flikr

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

 

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27
Jan

Goats Help to Prevent Wildfires in California

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 201) During the worst drought that California has seen in 100 years , goats are being used to clear brush, a fire hazard, on several acres  of city property in Anaheim, California. This is not the first city in California to use goats to limit the dangers of wildfires; Auburn California also used them last September. Goats are an extremely efficient way to clear brush and are used in many landscape settings beyond fire hazardous brush.

During the week of January 13-17, Anaheim Fire and Rescue and the Department of Public Works contracted Environmental Land Management to clear six acres of brush along a right-of-way  using close to 100 goats. This method of ecological brush control was specifically chosen because it is a safer way to eliminate the wildfire dangers that dry brush can create.  Other common methods of brush control, such as mowing, can cause problems in dry conditions by creating sparks and inadvertently start fires. The goats were also used in hilly areas of East Anaheim, which are difficult to clear using mowers. This method of brush clearing is extremely efficient and contracting goats cost the city only $5,000 dollars, one-third less than mechanical methods. The use of goats was also enjoyed by the community. According to a city press release, the animals gave “spectators a fun, visual experience as the goats enjoy their meal.”Grazing Goat

Goats have been used before in California to manage fire prone areas. In September, the utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) used over 900 goats to clear weeds and dried brush on 100 acres of its property in Auburn, California. Four years ago a fire in Auburn, California burned 340 acres, destroying 66 homes and 3 commercial buildings. Residents were worried that another fire was possible on the hillside that was grazed by the goats.

PG&E land consultant Jack Harvey was quoted in a PG&E press release saying, “This project has been very successful and economical.  Given that the goats have exceeded in meeting the intent I hope to see this program used more in the future.”

Goats have also been used for general weed management. Recently, goats were used to control poison ivy, ground cover, vines and other invasive weeds at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Goats have also been used in Durango, Colorado to manage weeds, restore soil, and improve land quality on a 65-acre oil field, and at airports in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco, where overgrown property on hills and in standing water are difficult to reach by machinery and pesticide applicators.

Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate for the use of goats and grazing animals as an ecological solution for weed management. Goats are often more efficient at eradicating weeds, and are always more environmentally sustainable than using harmful pesticides and chemicals. Goats consume everything from shrubs and weeds to thistles and poisonous plants. They can graze up hills and down gullies that are too steep for mowers or machines. As they eat, the goats ensure that weeds do not go to seed. By snapping off flower heads and eating off all the leaves, weeds cannot photosynthesize sunlight to build a root system.

For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies, see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes and Invasive Weed Management pages. Lani Malmberg, a Beyond Pesticides board member and owner of  Ewe4ic Ecological Services, a goat grazing service, will be speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities –People, pollinators and practices. The annual conference will be held in Portland, Oregon April 11-12, 2014, at Portland State University in conjunction with Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.  For more information, see the National Pesticide Forum website.

Source: NBC Los Angles

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

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24
Jan

Groups Call on Obama to Require National GE Labeling Laws

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2014) U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) joined other members of Congress, along with more than 200 businesses and organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, in petitioning President Obama to adopt labeling requirements for genetically engineered (GE) foods. The letter encourages the president to fulfill his campaign pledge made in 2007 to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt a national mandatory labeling system.

“It’s time the FDA’s policies reflected 21st century food technologies,” said Rep DeFazio in a press conference last Thursday. “After all, twenty years ago they didn’t have corn that could produce its own insecticides.”

In April 2013, Rep. DeFazio and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation that requires FDA to label GE food, under the proposed Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. The bill now has 50 cosponsors. “Two state legislatures have already approved GE labeling and more than 20 other states are considering GE labeling laws,” the letter reads, referring to the GE labeling laws passed in Connecticut and Maine.

“Plain and simple, this is about consumer rights,” said Rep. DeFazio. “People should have the ability to make an informed choice about what they feed their family and we know it’s not an impossible request of food manufacturers, because they already label GMOs in more than sixty countries. Food manufacturers can and should offer that same standard right here in the U.S.”

Many countries, including the European Union and Japan, have banned planting of GE crops outright and more than 60 other countries already require GE labeling. “We know it can be done,” said Rep. DeFazio. Consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and the human health. Repeated spraying herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, demonstrably destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects, directly harms amphibians, and leads to resistance in weed species the GE technology was intended to control. With the significant issue of herbicide resistance, farmers have resorted to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals, despite the presence of organic management practices that are protective of human health and the environment and produce the same yield. Thus, for a multitude of reasons, consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the products they are purchasing.

In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

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

Sources: Statesman Journal, Oregon Public Broadcasting

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23
Jan

Oregon Group Uses Mushrooms for Bioremediation

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2014) Putting ideas into action, an Oregon-based restoration nonprofit group, Ocean Blue Project, is harnessing the power of mushrooms to clean up pesticides and other pollutants that plague Oregon and national waterways. Yes, mushrooms.

The test project launched Sunday, January 19 on the banks of Sequoia Creek, a tributary to the Willamette River. Using recycled burlap bags filled with used coffee grounds, straw, and yellow oyster mushroom spawn, the purpose of the unusual potpourri will be to harness the extremely effective filtering capabilities of mycelium.

A kind of root system for fungi, mycelium demonstrate a wide variety of biological powers, from breaking down oil, pesticides, and harmful bacteria to acting as natural pesticides against some of the most problematic pests.

Paul Stamets, a leading expert on the power of mushrooms and former speaker at Beyond Pesticides’ National Pesticide Forum in 2006, has a word for the natural properties of fungi to fight human-made pollution: mycorestoration. As Mr. Stamets explained to Discover Magazine in 2013, “Oyster mushrooms, for example, can digest the complex hydrocarbons in wood, so they can also be used to break down petroleum byproducts. Garden Giants use their mycelia to trap and eat bacteria, so they can filter E. coli from agricultural runoff.”

Richard Arterbury, president of the Ocean Blue Project, agrees. Mr. Arterbury explained to reporters at Corvallis Gazette-Times, that the technique could potentially be a low-cost way to use biologic processes to reduce pollution in waterways. Mr. Arterbury thinks the project has huge potential. “If you put enough of these bags by the Willamette River it could potentially change the river,” he said.

Pesticides in Water

And change is needed not just in Oregon. Waterways in the U.S. are increasingly imperiled from various agents, including agricultural and industrial discharges, nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus), and biological agents such as pathogens. Pesticides discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants have the potential to accumulate in the fish we eat and the water we drink. As pesticide use escalates and waterways and drinking water become increasingly polluted with unregulated contaminants like pesticides and other toxicants, low-cost and natural alternatives for restoring waterways are desperately needed. For more information on the impacts of pesticides on waterways and what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters webpage.

Discussing innovative new practices and alternatives to address pesticide contamination will be just one of the many exciting topics at this year’s 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators and Practices. Please join Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions April 11-12, 2014 in Portland, Oregon, to help communities everywhere make strides in reducing pesticides and moving communities everywhere towards a more sustainable future.

Source: Corvallis Gazette-Times, TED

Photo Courtesy: Jesse Skoubo, Corvallis Gazette-Times

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

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22
Jan

Exposure to Pesticides Results in Smaller Worker Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2014) Exposure to a widely used pesticide causes worker bumblebees to grow less and then hatch out at a smaller size, according to a new study by Royal Holloway University of London.

The research, published this week in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reveals that prolonged exposure to a pyrethroid pesticide, which is used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage, reduces the size of individual bees produced by a colony.

The researchers, Gemma Baron, Dr Nigel Raine and Professor Mark Brown from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway worked with colonies of bumblebees in their laboratory and exposed half of them to the pesticide.

The scientists tracked how the bee colonies grew over a four month period, recording their size and weighing bees on micro-scales, as well as monitoring the number of queens and male bees produced by the colony.

“We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging. Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers,” says researcher Gemma Baron from Royal Holloway.

The study is the first to examine the impact of pyrethroid pesticides across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees. The topical research is at the heart of a national  Bee Health Conference  running in London from Wednesday to Friday this week (22-24 January 2014).

Professor Mark Brown said, “Bumblebees are essential to our food chain so it’s critical we understand how wild bees might be impacted by the chemicals we are putting into the environment. We know we have to protect plants from insect damage but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process.”

Given the current EU moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides, the use of other classes of pesticide, including pyrethroids, is likely to increase in chemical-dependent land management systems.

Dr Nigel Raine, who is an Invited speaker at this week’s bee conference, said, “Our work provides a significant step forward in understanding the detrimental impact of pesticides other than neonicotinoids on wild bees. Further studies using colonies placed in the field are essential to understand the full impacts, and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments.”

The study was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) PhD studentship, and the Insect Pollinators Initiative (joint-funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Defra, NERC, the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust. It is managed under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership). Contact: Paul Teed,  paul.teed@rhul.ac.uk, 01-784-443-967, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Source: Royal Holloway, University of London

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21
Jan

Minnesota Takes Steps to Protect Bees, Beekeepers Demand Stronger Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2013) Two Minnesota state agencies are creating plans they say will address declining pollinator populations in the state. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is developing best management practices for managing and increasing pollinator habitat and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is developing a plan to study the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. Critics of the state’s plan say that there is no more need to study the effects of neonicotinoids because the negative impacts they have on pollinators has been already studied extensively.

 

manybees

The DNR is developing guidelines to improve habitat for pollinator insects. Recent reports show that the planting of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops is responsible for habitat loss and the decline of native pollinators like the Monarch butterfly. The expansion of glyphosate tolerant GE corn and soybean cropland has allowed farmers to kill milkweed, the primary source of food for Monarchs, which historically grew between crop rows in the Midwest. A rapid expansion of farmland —more than 25 million new acres in the U.S. since 2007— has also eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the Monarchs with milkweed. DNR officials have indicated this guide could change where grassland is burned or mowed, or add more plants as habitats for pollinators. DNR may also work in the future with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to incorporate native wildflowers into roadside right-of-ways to increase pollinator habitat.

The MDA also gave the Legislature a report on Wednesday outlining, among other issues, a plan to study the use of neonicotinoids and their impacts on pollinators. The report was developed in response to the 2013 Pollinator Legislation H.F. 976. The specific risk neonicotinoids pose to pollinators will be the focus of the review, and will include a summary of research into neonicotinoid hazards to a variety of pollinator species in crop production and garden/landscape settings, and the related risks of biodiversity maintenance and ecological balance in natural ecosystems. The review will also include an overview of the effects residue accumulation in pollen, nectar, guttation droplets, and other pollinator exposure pathways associated with treated plants. According to MDA, special chemical reviews can take six months or more. Though it is important for states to take action to study these chemicals beyond the flawed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration process, extensive scientific research has already assessed the hazards that these chemicals pose to pollinator species.

Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co. in Minnesota, expressed his frustration in a Public New Service article, saying, “We’ve already got 150 scientific papers that implicate the neonicitinoids in the bee decline. I’m not really sure we need more than that. It’s time in the United States that we took action, and I would hope that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture would step up to the plate and become proactive.”

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

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

Beyond Pesticides through its BEE Protective campaign works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. As part of this campaign, Recently, Beyond Pesticides, as part of coalition, launched a national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides. To support our efforts to restrict bee-toxic pesticides, visit save-bees.org and sign the petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Source: CrookstonTimes

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

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17
Jan

Atrazine Ban Will Result in an Economic Benefit to Farmers

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2014) A new economic study, Would banning atrazine benefit farmers?, published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health demonstrates that eliminating the herbicide atrazine, widely used on U.S. corn crops, will economically benefit corn growers. The study examines the research produced by the Atrazine Benefits Team (ABT), a group assembled by atrazine manufacturer Syngenta, revealing that the industry-funded studies significantly overestimate the benefits of atrazine without considering the value of nonchemical weed management techniques.

Research, led by Frank Ackerman, PhD., professor at Tufts University in the Global Development and Environment Institute, questions the economic viability of atrazine in Syngenta’s study. Researchers critically review five papers released by ABT in 2011, which claim that the withdrawal of atrazine would diminish corn yields by 4.4%, increasing corn prices by 8%. Using these assumptions, Dr. Ackerman and his team calculated that corn growers’ revenue would actually increase by 3.2%, providing a total of $1.7 billion to farmers and the U.S. economy with minimal price changes for consumers. In short, because of price elasticity, eliminating atrazine would improve farmer revenues.

According to the study, “The result [of an atrazine ban] would be an increase in corn growers’ revenues, equal to US$1¡7 billion annually under ABT assumptions. Price impacts on consumers would be minimal: at current levels of ethanol production and use, gasoline prices would rise by no more than US$0¡03 per gallon; beef prices would rise by an estimated US$0¡01 for a 4-ounce hamburger and US$0¡05 for an 8-ounce steak. Thus withdrawal of atrazine would boost farm revenues, while only changing consumer prices by pennies.”

Additionally, the paper criticizes ABT conclusions that overstated the effectiveness of atrazine and completely ignored non-chemical alternatives. Indeed, the widespread use of chemicals like atrazine, according to the study, “has created a situation favoring the emergence and proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds.” The study finds, ”Multiple factors, including the spread of resistance to both glyphosate and atrazine, the desire to reduce chemical costs, and concerns about health and ecosystem impacts of the herbicides, have led producers to consider low chemical or no- chemical IWM [integrated weed management] strategies.” These established and practical alternatives, however, were simply not considered by ABT’s analysis.

Thus, the study concludes that eliminating atrazine and opting for proven alternatives would not only improve farmer revenues but also avoid costs to human health and the environment. “The winners,” the authors conclude, “in an atrazine free future would include farm worker, farmers and their families, and other who are exposed to atrazine either directly from field uses or indirectly from contaminated tap water along with natural ecosystem that are currently damaged by atrazine.”

Indeed, because atrazine is used on up to 85% of all corn crops in the U.S. each year —second only to the active ingredient glyphosate— it is pervasive within the environment, including municipal drinking water. It is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, with an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine applied in the U.S. annually. It has been linked to a myriad of environmental concerns and health problems in humans, including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer, as well as effects on human reproductive systems, as we have noted.

In 2011, EPA published a petition to ban atrazine. Beyond Pesticides submitted comments last year in support of this petition in which we outline in detail the numerous reasons that this chemical is harmful and unnecessary. Syngenta was forced to pay $105 million in 2012 as part of a settlement to reimburse community water systems in 45 states that had to filter atrazine from its drinking water. However, according to reports on the settlement, Syngenta is neither accepting contamination responsibility nor acknowledging hazards associated with its product.

Currently, you can avoid eating food grown with harmful synthetic pesticides by eating organic. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page.

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

Source: International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health

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16
Jan

GE Soy Exhibits Higher Glyphosate Residues than Conventional, Organic Healthier

(Beyond Pesticides, January 16, 2014) Researchers in Norway recently released a new study giving organic consumers and anti-genetically engineered (GE) crop advocates another few solid reasons to promote organic and continue the fight against engineered crops. Findings from the study demonstrate that not only do soybeans grown using organic cultivation practices provide the healthiest nutritional profile of the three classes of soybeans studied, but GE soybeans also retain glyphosate residues at higher levels than their conventional, non-GE soybean counterparts.

soybeanIn Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans (Soy Study), Thomas Bøhn of Genøk, Centre for Biosafety and his team of researcher examined 31 batches of soybeans—all grown in the United States. The batches were separated into three categories: (1) GE, glyphosate-tolerant soy (GE-soy); (2) unmodified soy cultivated using conventional ‘chemical’ practices; and (3) unmodified soy cultivated using organic practices. Among the three categories, all individual soybean samples were analyzed for their nutritional content, including total protein, total fat, dry matter, starch, ash, minerals, trace elements, vitamin B6, amino acid and fatty acid composition, in addition to the relevant pesticides used on the samples during cultivation.

The study selected soybeans as the target crop because of the prevalence of GE-soy in both U.S. and global production yields. “Globally, glyphosate-tolerant GE soy is the number one GE crop plant,” the Soy Study notes.  “In 2011–2012, soybeans were planted on about 30 million hectares in the [U.S.], with Roundup Ready GE soy contributing 93–94% of the production. . . .Globally, Roundup Ready GE soybeans contributed to 75% of the total soy production in 2011.”

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

The Soy Study finds that organic soy shows the healthiest nutritional profile of the three soy categories, with more sugars, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, significantly more total protein, zinc and less fiber than both conventional and GE-soy. Organic soybeans also contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GE-soy. Recent studies of organic whole milk found similar results, with the added finding of increased omega-3 fatty acids in the organic milk samples tested.

Concerning glyphosate-residues, the study challenged industry-assertions that GE-crops retain fewer pesticide residues than non-GE, conventional crops and require less application of pesticides. Instead, the Soy Study reveals that GE-soy samples are the only category to contain glyphosate residues at elevated levels.

Soy Study researchers speculate that, “The increased use of glyphosate on Roundup Ready soybeans in the U.S., contributing to the selection of glyphosate-tolerant weeds, with a response of increased doses and/or more applications used per season, may explain the observed plant tissue accumulation of glyphosate.”  In other words, because of the increased use of herbicides like glyphosate, herbicide-resistant weeds are increasing the need for greater and greater amounts of herbicides.

Do We Need to Worry About Glyphosate?

If readers are wondering whether glyphosate is really a problem pesticide, then the answer is a short and simple, “Yes.” A dangerous pesticide, glyphosate has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risks, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. Inert ingredients in Roundup pose significant risks as well, with studies linking polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA) to the killing of human embryonic cells. In 2013, researchers  at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also concluded after an extensive review of the large body of scientific literature on the toxics effects of glyphosate that the herbicide can enhance the negative effects of other environmental toxicants on the body and that this has been a critically overlooked component in research on glyphosates’ toxicity to mammals.

The Soy Study adds to the ever-growing pile of scientific research supporting the both personal and societal benefits of organic agricultural practices and provides yet another reason to raise a cautionary brow to the use of GE crops. Because certified organic products cannot use GE crops or most pesticides, it is important to Keep Organic Strong and buy organic to show consumer support for the standards and benefits organic practices maintain.

Source: Science Direct

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

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15
Jan

Supreme Court Denies Family Farmers the Right to Self-Defense from Monsanto Suits

(Beyond Pesticides, January 15, 2013) The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on Monday in the landmark federal lawsuit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto, limiting the ability of farmers to protect themselves from genetic drift. An earlier Appeals Court decision in the case acknowledged genetic drift as inevitable and evoked a public commitment from Monsanto that it would not sue farmers faced with contamination of crops containing “trace amounts” of the company’s patented genes. In the past, Monsanto has claimed that farmers were responsible and liable for its genetic property being found on land farmed by farmers who did not pay to cultivate the company’s genetically engineered crop.

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal and reinstate the suit, denying farmers the right to argue their case in court and gain greater protection from potential abuse by the agrichemical and genetic engineering giant, Monsanto. Additionally, the high court decision dashes the hopes of family farmers who sought the opportunity to prove in court Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed patents are invalid.

CornfieldThe case, originally filed on behalf of several plaintiffs on March 29, 2011, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, challenges Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified (GM) seed. The plaintiffs filed this lawsuit to shield farmers from being sued for patent infringement by Monsanto should they become contaminated by drift of the company’s genetically engineered seed, a legal strategy Monsanto has been pursuing for years. In 2012, a U.S. District Court Judge dismissed the case denying farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies. An appeal was filed a few months later in the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking to reinstate the case. In June 2013, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled the plaintiffs were not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto’s transgenic seed patents, affirming the previous court’s 2012 decision that the plaintiffs did not present a sufficient controversy to warrant adjudication by the courts. The Appeals Court decision is considered a partial victory for the plaintiffs because of the acknowledgement of drift and Monsanto’s promise not to sue farmers for “trace amounts” of contamination of crops containing its patented genes.

“While the Supreme Court’s decision to not give organic and other non-GMO farmers the right to seek preemptive protection from Monsanto’s patents at this time is disappointing, it should not be misinterpreted as meaning that Monsanto has the right to bring such suits,” said Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto. “Indeed, in light of the Court of Appeals decision, Monsanto may not sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement if the level of contamination is less than one percent. For farmers contaminated by more than one percent, perhaps a day will come to address whether Monsanto’s patents may be asserted against them. We are confident that if the courts ever hear such a case, they will rule for the non-GMO farmers.”

The Organic Seed plaintiffs’ complaint details Monsanto’s abusive business and litigation tactics that have put several farmers and independent seed companies out of business. It also detailed Monsanto’s history of ruthless patent enforcement, going so far as investigating hundreds of farmers each year for patent infringement. The plaintiffs further detailed the harms caused to society by Monsanto’s GMO seed, including the proliferation of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” and environmental pollution, and sought Court protection under the Declaratory Judgment Act that should they become the innocent victims of contamination by Monsanto’s patented gene-splice technology they could not perversely be sued for patent infringement.

“The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff OSGATA. “The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit.  However, the safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families. This high court which gave corporations the ability to patent life forms in 1980, and under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto.”

In a related situation, Canadian soybean farmer Stephen Webster of Ontario experienced just how abusive Monsanto can be in the treatment of innocent contamination victims. Through no fault of his own Mr. Webster, who farms with his elderly father, had his 2012 identify-preserved (IP) non-GMO soybean crop contaminated by Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered seed. Their soybeans were ruined for export to specialty markets in Japan. “First Monsanto claimed we had too many bees and that we were at fault for the contaminated crop,” said Mr. Webster. “Then they threatened to run up $100,000 in legal bills that we would have to pay.” Tragically, Mr. Webster’s story is the norm in farm country, with Monsanto using its extreme economic power to silence family farmers even before they can legally defend themselves.

Monsanto’s history of aggressive investigations and lawsuits brought against farmers in America has been a source of concern for organic and non-GMO agricultural producers since Monsanto’s first lawsuit brought against a farmer in the mid-‘90s. Since then, 144 farmers have had lawsuits filed against them by Monsanto for alleged violations of their patented seed technology. Monsanto has sued more than 700 additional farmers who have settled out-of-court, rather than face Monsanto’s belligerent, and well-financed, litigious actions. Seed contamination and pollen drift from genetically engineered crops often migrate to neighboring fields. If Monsanto’s seed technology is found on a farmer’s land without a contract, the farmer can be found liable for patent infringement. Genetic contamination of organic and non-genetically engineered crops by pollen that originates from genetically engineered crops and drifts to a neighboring field has been irrefutably confirmed by scientific research. It is especially prevalent with the wind-pollinated corn and insect-pollinated canola, whose pollen can travel for two or more miles. Such contamination has proven extremely costly to farmers raising organic and non-genetically engineered crops whose loads are rejected by buyers when trace levels of contamination are detected.

Notably, none of the plaintiffs are customers of Monsanto. None have signed licensing agreements with Monsanto. The plaintiffs do not want Monsanto’s seed and they do not want Monsanto’s gene-spliced technology and have sought legal protection from significant economic harm to their businesses and way of life.

“We have a fourth generation farm,” said organic dairy farmer and plaintiff Rose Marie Burroughs of California Cloverleaf Farms. “Monsanto cannot be trusted. Their refusal to provide a binding legal covenant not to sue our fellow farmers would make anyone wonder, what are their real motives?  GMO contamination levels can easily rise above 1% and then we would have zero protection from a costly and burdensome lawsuit.”

Significant contamination events, including Starlink corn and LibertyLink rice, have already cost farmers and the food companies nearly $2 billion dollars. In the past year alone, the discovery of Monsanto’s illegal GMO wheat in an Oregon farmer’s field and GMO alfalfa in Washington state sent foreign markets, where GMOs are not wanted, reeling. In both instances farmers’ economic livelihoods were put at risk as buyers in foreign markets refused to buy the GMO contaminated crops.

“If Monsanto can patent seeds for financial gain, they should be forced to pay for contaminating a farmer’s field, not be allowed to sue them. Once again, America’s farmers have been denied justice, while Monsanto’s reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots advocacy group based in Iowa and a plaintiff in the case.

“Monsanto has effectively gotten away with stealing the world’s seed heritage and abusing farmers for the flawed nature of their patented seed technology. This is an outrage of historic proportions and will not stand,” said Mr. Murphy.

The plaintiffs in this case include 83 individual American and Canadian family farmers, independent seed companies and agricultural organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, many non-GMO farmers and over 25% of North America’s certified organic farmers.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.

Source:Food Democracy NOW

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14
Jan

Agrichemical Companies Sue to Halt Kauai Restrictions of GE Crops and Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2014) Agrichemical companies filed  a lawsuit to stop Kauai County from moving ahead with its new law to restrict genetically engineered (GE) agriculture and toxic pesticide applications near schools, hospitals, homes, and shorelines. As the first Hawaiian Island to pass restrictions on pesticides and GE agriculture, Kauai County saw an unprecedented outpouring of public support for Bill 2491. Despite numerous attempts by agrichemical companies to derail the bill, including personal attacks on councilmembers, and in the face of a veto by Mayor Bernard Carvalho, the residents of Kauai prevailed when the County Council chose to override the Mayor’s veto and make Bill 2491 law. Kauai’s action for a safe and healthy community was followed in Hawaii County by Bill 113, which restricts new GE crops. Efforts in Maui County are now underway to enact protections similar to Kauai’s.

kauaicornfieldsThe lawsuit, filed January 11 in U.S. District Court, attempts to block Bill 2491 from coming into law (it is currently set to go into effect 9 months after its passage), and was brought forward by agrichemical company giants DuPont, Syngenta, and Agrigenetics Inc., an affiliate of Dow Agrosciences. The suit does not come as a complete surprise to concerned residents on the island because agrichemical companies threatened litigation as early as the bill was introduced. Advocates say that this attack by the agrichemical industry proves that these companies were never interested in finding common ground, despite attempts by local leaders to reach a compromise.

“The ordinance is invalid,” said Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart to Reuters. “It arbitrarily targets our industry with burdensome and baseless restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties in Hawaii have no jurisdiction.”

Bill 2491 mandates companies establish reasonable buffer zones around these sensitive sites in order to protect residents against the adverse impacts of pesticide drift. These simple, commonsense protections are intended simply to prevent incidents like the ones that occurred at Waimea Canyon Middle School in 2006 and 2007. After a number of complaints that pesticide sprayings were occurring while students were still in class, administrators and teachers sat down with Syngenta and secured an agreement from the company not to spray before school was out at 3:30 pm. Syngenta broke that promise, according to Maluhia Group, a coalition of Waimea Canyon Middle School staff, parents and community members. There’s even a YouTube video showing the event.  Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture investigated the incidents, but came to the conclusion that Cleome gynandra, known on the islands as “stinkweed”, was the main culprit. However, concerned residents are not convinced, as there have never been any recorded medical incidents of widespread poisoning by stinkweed.

One of the main arguments made by agrichemical companies is that Kauai County is preempted by state law in its ability to enact restrictions on pesticide use or GE agriculture. As Beyond Pesticides pointed out in a recent Pesticides and You article titled “State Preemption Law,” Hawaii is one of seven states that do not have regulations that would preempt local ordinances from enacting requirements more strict than the state’s. A group of attorneys from organizations including Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety have pledged to defend Kauai’s bill at no charge.

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.

Despite industry claims to the contrary, the legacy of GE agriculture has not been increased crop yields and decreased pesticide use, but instead an exponential growth of herbicide resistant weeds that require increasingly toxic pesticides in order to control. Increasing the use of toxic pesticides requires counties where, as the agrichemical company’s lawsuit states, the “climate is uniquely conducive to Plantiffs’ business” to implement increased protections, particularly around schools where children learn, hospitals where the sick need to get better, and homes where people expect to live securely in good health.

For more information on the fight for pesticide protections in the Hawaiian Islands, see Beyond Pesticides’ past Daily News articles and read Beyond Pesticides’ testimony on Bill 2491. For more information on the failed promises of GE agriculture, read “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market,” or see Beyond Pesticides’ website on Genetic Engineering.

Source: Reuters

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

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13
Jan

With Legalization of Marijuana, Chemical-Intensive Production Practices Questioned

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2013) As medical and recreational production of marijuana in the U.S. increases, new and complicated questions have risen over how to limit consumers’ exposure to pesticides through marijuana consumption. Many growers are facing limited institutional knowledge and economic forces that could lead to the unnecessary use of pesticides. States are also still wrestling with the adequate regulation of production and testing practices. Exposure to pesticides from marijuana consumption may also be more harmful than exposure through food consumption when consumed through inhalation. As marijuana consumption becomes more widely legalized, many are calling for stronger safety standards for marijuana production.

Alan Schreiber, Ph.D., President of the Agriculture Development Group, believes that the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington will lead to immense demand for pest prevention research. Currently, growers of marijuana lack institutional assistance from federal agencies or state agricultural extension services, which have limited understanding of marijuana production. There is a concern that the lack of field research and increased demand may lead to heavy pesticide use.

In Washington, the state will allow the equivalent of 46 acres to be grown for recreational use, a factor that Dr.. Schreiber says will drive most production indoors. Indoor cultivation will allow for the harvest of six crops per year. This type of production system could create a “green bridge” for pests to continuously shift from older to younger crops, which would lead to intense pest pressures.

“Virtually everything they have done in the past will not be permitted going forward,” Dr. Schreiber told the Capital Ag Press.

There is also confusion about what standards will apply to the production of marijuana. As an agricultural commodity, Worker Protection Standards (WPS) will apply. If it is considered a food crop, as it is used is some edible formulations, some pesticides such as tetramethrin cannot be used in greenhouses where plants are grown for food. There are also no pesticides tolerances currently set for marijuana by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it’s illegal to grow under federal law.

States that have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical uses are still trying to determine how to best regulate pesticides used in its production. Colorado currently follows tobacco pesticide regulations to apply to marijuana production, and the packaging of the product must also label for the crop’s potency and any toxic pesticides or fungicides used in its cultivation. In Washington, over 200 pesticides have been registered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) under chapter 15.58 RCW for use in the production, processing, and handling of marijuana.

Only some states out of the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow medicinal marijuana use require testing for pesticides and mold. Oregon has recently mandated testing. However, questions still remain in Oregon about how often these tests should be performed and what levels of pesticides are acceptable, because there are no federal tolerances set for marijuana use. Maine currently only allows 25b minimum risk pesticides (under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) to be used in medical marijuana production. In September the operator of four of Maine’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries was fined $18,000 for using pesticides on plants in violation of state law and program rules.

Pesticide use in marijuana production has clear human health implications. During a recent presentation at Humboldt State University, Jeffrey Raber, Ph.D., reported that a study he conducted found that up to 70 percent of the pesticide residues on a marijuana bud can transfer to the smoke being inhaled. This exposure scenario is unique in that marijuana can’t be washed before it is consumed and the body has no filters for things that are inhaled, unlike food that is digested. The Eureka Times-Standard reported Dr. Raber saying that about 10 percent of tests conducted on medicinal marijuana in his lab registered positive for pesticides, and in random samples more that 35 percent failed pesticide tests. This could indicate that as marijuana undergoes increased regulatory scrutiny exposure to pesticides through inhalation could decrease.

“I think all that says is we really, really need some serious regulations within California to help us clean up our supply, especially in the medical patient context,” Dr. Raber told the Times-Standard. “These are people that are immune-compromised, they’re undergoing chemotherapy, they’re very sick with antibacterial loads. We can’t be subjecting them to more of these types of potentially harmful contaminants when they’re looking to this as a medicine source.”

Current illegal production practices of marijuana have been linked to rodenticides being found in the tissue of the fisher, a cat size carnivore that is a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A study conducted by scientists from University of California, Davis found that the fishers’ habitat did overlap with illegal marijuana farms. The study notes that in 2008 alone law enforcement officials removed more than 3.6 million marijuana plants from federal and state public lands in California, including state and national parks. The study also found piles of bright green rodenticide pellets around the marijuana plants and along plastic irrigation lines.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has also used toxic pesticides to control illegal marijuana production. In 1985, the DEA used glyphosate in an operation designed to kill 10,000 marijuana plants grown illegally on federal lands in the Midwest. The DEA has also used 2,4-D and paraquat in the past to stop marijuana production, which Beyond Pesticides has consistently opposed, given the threat to human health and the environment.

As support for medical and recreational marijuana increases –a new poll says that 55 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legalized nationwide, stronger pesticide regulation of marijuana production will be needed. A survey conducted by MMJ Business Daily found that 43 percent of marijuana patients said they considered the availability of organic cannabis to be “critical” when they decide where to shop for medicine. Organic standards for marijuana production are important, especially for medicinal use, as inhalation is a very direct exposure scenario.

Currently, the only way to avoid eating food grown  with harmful synthetic pesticides by eating organic. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page.

Source: Capital Ag Press

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

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10
Jan

Maine GE Labeling Bill Signed, Industry Pushes Federal Bill to Prohibit State Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2014) A requirement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods in the state of Maine is set to become law. The bill, LD718, “An act to protect Maine food consumers’ right to know about genetically engineered food and seed stock,” was passed by the state legislature in July 2013 by a vote in the House of MaineRepresentatives of 141 to 4, and with the Senates’ unanimous approval. The bill was then sent to Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) and signed into law on Wednesday, January 8. Meanwhile, the conventional food industry is pushing legislation in Congress to prevent, or preempt, states from adopting laws requiring labeling of GE foods.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) praised the Maine law. “We are thrilled that Governor LePage has signed the GMO labeling bill,” said MOFGA’s executive director Ted Quaday. “The time was right for a diverse and collaborative effort to take hold and move the discussion forward. People want and have the right to know what’s in their food.” Maine is the second state —following the lead of Connecticut— to pass labeling requirements for GE foods.

Like Connecticut’s newly passed law, Maine’s GE bill, which contains a “trigger” clause, will only go into effect if five contiguous states, including the neighboring state of New Hampshire, approves a similar measure. The New Hampshire legislature will take up similar legislation this winter.

Governor LePage made a written promise in January 2013 to the people of Maine that he would sign the bill, however, as a Republican Tea Party favorite it was unclear whether he would fulfill that commitment. Among his first major initiatives, the governor pledged to roll back stronger state laws on environmental quality to more lenient federal standards and halt the ban on bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor in baby bottles.

Mainers have expressed overwhelming support for legislation to label GE foods, with 91% favoring this legislation according to a scientific Pan-Atlantic Poll conducted in the spring of this year. Nationwide, 93% of people want foods containing GE ingredients labeled, and around 75% of consumers are worried about the effects of GE food on people’s health, according to a New York Times poll.

With Connecticut and Maine now on board with GE labeling laws, we look to other states that may also pass similar legislation. Vermont may soon join the other northeastern states that have acted, and additional ballot initiatives in the West will also play out in 2014, as GE labeling proponents have begun collecting signatures in Oregon and Colorado. A national GE labeling bill also remains in both houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! campaign. Meanwhile, Politico reported yesterday that, “The Grocery Manufacturers Association, on behalf of the food industry, is pitching to Capitol Hill lawmakers a bill that would preempt any state mandatory GMO labeling requirement by creating a voluntary labeling standard. . .” The discussion draft of the legislation, which Politico published and industry may seek to attach to the Farm Bill on an Appropriations bill this month, would prohibit states from requiring GE food labeling legislation.

In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

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

Source: Portland Press Herald

Image Source: MOFGA

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09
Jan

Trace Pesticide Residues from Conventional Ag Found on Organic Produce

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2014) A recent CBC News analysis of Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) data finds that nearly half of the organic fresh fruits and vegetables tested across Canada between September 2011 and September 2013 contained trace pesticide residues. While the fact that any amount of pesticides, trace or not, is found in organic produce may be disconcerting, the data still show that pesticides residues at significantly higher levels are found on conventional  (chemical-intensive) counterparts. In addition to the serious health questions linked to residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, Beyond Pesticides, through its Eating with a Conscience database, shows that our food choices have a direct impact on the health of those who grow our food and the quality of our air, water, and land. The  analysis in Canada and similar findings in the U.S. raise serious ongoing questions about potential adverse effects from both chemical and genetic drift or trespass that have been ignored by regulators as inconsequential.

The analysis finds that of the 45.8 percent of organic samples that tested positive for some trace of pesticide, a smaller amount — 1.8 per cent — violate Canada’s maximum allowable limits for the presence of pesticides. Among non-organic samples, 78.4 percent contain pesticide residues, violating the allowable limits 4.7 percent of the time.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data from an earlier pilot study conducted between 2010 and 2011, which examined select samples of organic produce in various U.S. retail locations, yielded similar findings. Of the 571 samples taken between 2010 and 2011, 57 percent of the produce had no detected residues, but 43 percent contained some kind of pesticide residues, with four percent of these pesticide residues at levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide tolerance cutoffs.

USDA released this pilot study in response to a 2010 audit of the National Organic Program by USDA’s Inspector General (IG) and later promulgated new residue testing standards for organic certifiers.

How Can Produce Be Organic and Still have Pesticides?

Many organic consumers may be scratching their heads as to how something that is labeled and approved as organic, be it in Canada or the U.S., could still be found to contain even trace amounts of pesticides. Quite literally, the answer for the majority of the pesticide residues is blowing in the wind.

“[EPA] establishes the maximum allowed levels of pesticides, or EPA tolerances, which may be present on foods. Although most EPA-registered pesticides are prohibited in organic production, there can be inadvertent or indirect contact from neighboring conventional farms or shared handling facilities. As long as the operator hasn’t directly applied prohibited pesticides and has documented efforts to minimize exposure to them, the USDA organic regulations allow residues of prohibited pesticides up to 5 percent of the EPA tolerance,” USDA explains in its Pesticide Residue Testing of Organic Produce study.

Canadian organic regulations differ slightly, but the same explanations and problems apply. “Pesticides can get onto organic produce through contamination of water or soil through pesticide spray drift from neighboring farms, and through contact with non-organic produce after harvest,” notes Rick Holley, an expert in food safety at the University of Manitoba, to CBC News.

Recognizing that the more egregious violations (those exceeding EPA tolerance levels) may reflect a need for greater enforcement of organic standards, the central problem is the abundant use of pesticides in commercial agriculture. In other words, pesticides do not obey arbitrary property lines or organic labels. The more pesticides in use in the environment, the greater the likelihood of all food eventually being contaminated at some point in the production and delivery line. This is especially true where different crops are grown in close proximity, allowing drift of chemicals from one crop to another.

Before organic consumers throw up their hands in defeat, however, it should be noted that the trace presence of pesticides on organic produce is, in fact, a central reason for supporting the growth of the organic sector. As Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canada Organic Trade Association explained to CBC News, “I think consumers are looking for not necessarily a zero level, but they’re looking to not contribute to the pesticide residues that are out there and they’re looking to reduce their exposure as much as possible. And I still think we’re seeing in this data that organic offers that.” At the same time, as organic grows and becomes an increasingly important expectation of consumers, pressure will increase to restrict chemical-intensive and genetically engineered production systems that impose hazards without the consent of those being exposed or penalties for those causing the unwanted pollution.

As Beyond Pesticides has emphasized through its support of the organic community and USDA organic certification process, consumer support for organic ensures that fewer pesticides are present in the environment. Buying organic supports an entire system that is conscious of the health of people, animals, and the environment. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. From reduced exposure to pesticides for farmworkers to bans on unnecessary and dangerous uses of antibiotics in livestock feed, choosing organic means supporting the overall well-being and health of not only yourself and family, but everyone around you. It also supports those farmers who battle both the figurative winds of conventional farming adversity and the literal winds that lead to contamination of their organic crops.

To learn more about why it is critical to continue to support organic food production and maintain the integrity of the USDA organic label, as well as organic programs in other countries, please visit our Keep Organic Strong webpage. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page. To voice your support for organic integrity and comment on organic standards, practices, and allowable materials, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

Source: CBC News

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

 

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08
Jan

General Mills to Drop Genetically Engineered Ingredients in Original Cheerios

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2014) Last week, General Mills announced that the company will eliminate genetically engineered (GE) ingredients from its mainstay original cereal Cheerios. The action recognizes the overwhelming consumer demand for GE-free products. The move was met with a range of reactions in the environmental community, from cheers of victory for the GE-free movement to calls for broader action affecting General Mills’ product line, right-to-know labeling of all foods produced with GE ingredients, and compensation of farmers by patent holders of genetically engineered material that contaminates their crops. The General Mills’ announcement does not apply to all of its Cheerio products, oCheeriosr its other products.

“Did we change Cheerios? No. Not really,” says a blog post by Tom Forsythe, vice president of Global Communications for General Mills. “Why change anything at all? It’s simple. We did it because we think consumers may embrace it,” he continues.

Some in the environmental community assert that this change is an attempt by the company to revive its image after spending millions of dollars to defeat state-level labeling initiatives in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013. The ‘new’ Cheerios will contain the label “Not Made with Genetically Modified Ingredients.” General Mills’ move to label its most popular brand of cereal undercuts one of the main arguments used by opponents of GE labeling, namely that changing to non-GMO food ingredients is not economically feasible.

Despite the company’s tepid adjustment, the news does help to increase public awareness of GE food in the modern American diet, where nearly 80% of food items sold on supermarket shelves contain GE ingredients. This is important because without adequate labels consumers cannot determine whether the products they purchase do in fact contain these ingredients. And by and large, American consumers are calling for policies to adequately address the GE labeling issue. According to a New York Times poll conducted last year, 93% of people want foods containing GE ingredients labeled, and around 75% of consumers are worried about the effects of GE food on people’s health.

Last year, the grocery chain Whole Foods announced it would require labels on GE products by 2018, and supermarket rival Trader Joe’s already proclaims that it sells no products containing GE ingredients at its stores. Grassroots pressure pushed the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states last year, and while Maine and Connecticut passed labeling bills, they contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut, with an aggregate population of 20 million. Vermont may soon come on board, and additional ballot initiatives in the West will also play out in 2014, as GE labeling proponents have begun collecting signatures in Oregon and Colorado. A national GE labeling bill also remains in both houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House.

Consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and the human health. In the Hawaiian islands, counties are taking a stand against GE agriculture that has led to widespread poisoning of sensitive environmental sites and entire communities. Associated with GE agriculture is the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the Monarch butterfly, directly harms amphibians, and leads to resistance in weed species the GE technology was intended to control. The failure of GE technology was highlighted earlier this week as USDA released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for GE corn and soybeans engineered to tolerate the toxic herbicide 2,4-D. With glyphosate resistance rampant, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals, despite the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment and produce the same yield. Thus, for a multitude of reasons, consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the products they are purchasing.

General Mills has shown that it is economically viable to change the label on its products and provide consumers with information about GE ingredients. With increased public pressure, the company may take a larger, more substantive step and apply this policy to all its products, and support policies that would require other protections from genetically engineered organisms. In the meantime, consumers can purchase foods produced without GE organisms by seeking out the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.

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

Source: GeneralMills.com, AlJazeera America

Image Source: Flikr

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