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Conference Calls for Sustainability in Personal and Community Choices

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2011) From protecting pollinators and banning genetic engineering to going organic in the food we eat and the way we manage our yards, parks and open spaces – these are just a few of the issues that will be addressed at the 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver (Aurora), Colorado. Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc., publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines, and the author of Organic Manifesto will be a conference keynote speaker. See the full speaker list and schedule of events. Registration is $35 and includes all sessions and organic food.

Leading up to the 29th National Pesticide Forum in Denver, Beyond Pesticides and the Denver Botanic Gardens will be hosting a free screening of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees on Wednesday, April 6th, 7:00pm at the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York Street). The film, which is narrated by Ellen Page, takes a piercing investigative look at the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee and empowers the audience to fight back.

Call to the Conference:

This national forum convenes at a critical crossroads –as we strive for sustainability in our personal and community choices. Central to the concept of sustainability are the issues and practices addressed at this gathering, Sustainable Community, that challenge us to adopt strategies to protect and nurture the web of life in the context of economic pressures that raise affordability issues.

The signals become clearer every day –threatened honeybees, adverse effects on children’s ability to learn, detrimental impacts on the endocrine system, involuntary chemical exposure through air, land, water and food, uncontrolled dispersal of genetically engineered organisms, and insect resistance and reduced efficacy of chemical control strategies. Policies at the local, state and national level can conspire to ignore issues of sustainability or they can incorporate the scientific awareness of the hazards, gaps in knowledge, and uncertainties, while seeking to prevent them with precautionary strategies.

Sustainability suggests that we advance strategies that support healthy ecosystems which support healthy organisms, be they plants, wildlife, or humans. In this context, unwanted organisms in land and buildings are managed through prevention strategies that focus on site conditions. Many ask, “Can we afford to adopt sustainable policies and practices?” To which others answer, “Can we afford not to?” We have learned time and time again from incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion and the most recent the Japanese nuclear disaster that when we are facing questions of public health and environmental protection prevention is less costly than disease treatment or remediation (if these responses are feasible).

Sustainable strategies protect the general public, and offer the most protection to those at elevated risk because of their vulnerabilities or underlying health condition, hazardous workplace exposures, or living conditions near contaminated sites or prone to high toxic chemical use.

Our approach to sustainability strategies, to be successful, cannot be sidetracked by toxic chemical reduction tactics that fail to embrace a natural systems approach with deep respect for nature’s interdependencies and the impact of minute toxic chemical exposures that wreak havoc with biological systems during critical windows of vulnerability, or create imbalances that lead to pesticide dependency and the chemical treadmill effect.

We join together for this conference with increased enthusiasm and a growing number of households and communities committed to sustainable management approaches. As we advocate and offer support for clearly defined sustainable management systems, we must hold ourselves and decision makers to a core principle of protecting public health and the environment, recognizing that it will pay for itself in the near term and for future generations.

We hope you can join us at the Forum. Register online.

Register online at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Register online at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.



Republican Bill Increases Taxpayer Costs To Bring Pesticides to Market

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2011) Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, a Republican member of Congress and the House Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over pesticide registration law, wants taxpayers to pay for the research of new chemicals to manage bedbugs and has introduced an earmarked bill to establish a government panel and grants for chemical product research. Rep Schmidt’s bill, H.R. 967, the Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011 is hailed by the pest control industry because it will push for expedited use of chemicals in the fight against bedbugs just as many in the industry are shifting to integrated pest management (IPM) practices that focus on non-chemical methods utilizing pest exclusion techniques, steam treatment, and other non-toxic methods.

Using funds appropriated to carry out this Act, three grants will be awarded to State agencies to conduct a pilot program under which political subdivisions of the State and housing authorities in the State use the grant funds to supplement on-going bed bug prevention and mitigation activities. Though the bill does not specify Ohio by name, it states that “At least one of the three grants shall be awarded to one such State agency that, before November 1, 2009, submitted a public health exemption request under section 18, which proposed a use of a pesticide to control bed bugs, but which was voluntarily canceled under section 6(f).

In 2009, the State of Ohio, dealing with infestation in several major cities, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the indoor use of the pesticide propoxur. The agency considers propoxur to be a probable carcinogen and, due to concerns posed to children, banned it for in-home use in 2007. About 25 other states supported Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption. In comments to the agency objecting to the petition for propoxur, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and public health advocates urged the agency to reject the request, citing numerous serious public health threats associated with the chemical, as well as the availability of alternatives. EPA rejected Ohio’s petition in June 2010.

In addition, H.R. 967 amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to make it easier and faster to register new pesticide products. The announcement for this bill comes at the heels of another bill, H.R 872, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 which will weaken the Clean Water Act (CWA) requirement to evaluate local impacts of pesticide use on waterways across the nation.

The bill also amends FIFRA to include bed bugs in the definition of “Vector Organisms” along with cockroaches, despite the fact that there have been no known cases of diseases transmitted through these pests. The bill will also expedite the approval or registration of the pest control methods that are identified by the grant-supported research by utilizing some known loopholes, including sections 18 (emergency exemption) and 24 (special local needs) under FIFRA.

It also establish a research program authorizing the use of grants to develop efficacy tests for minimum risk chemicals and for identifying new methods of managing bed bugs. There is no specific mention of what kind of management techniques are to be used, however given that the purpose of the bill is to expedite the approval of pesticides, and given that these grants will be determined through the help of a task force made up of representatives of the pest control industry, among others, it is most likely that the new methods will be chemical oriented.

H.R. 967 authorizes funds to provide subsidized treatments for low and fixed income people. These funds are to be used to hire commercial applicators to provide control that is proven to be effective, to purchase and distribute mattress covers, to conduct bed bug monitoring activities and to treat used mattresses and furniture using methods proven to control all life stages of bed bugs. Steam and heat treatments are both proven to kill all stages of bed bugs safely; however there is no specific mention in the bill for what particular method is to be used.

Unfortunately, this bill misses the mark as a comprehensive solution to the current bed bug problem in the U.S. The resurgence of bed bugs in recent years is believed to be caused in large part by increasingly widespread pesticide resistance. Public anxiety about the pests and drastic attempts to stem the spread through various means often includes the use of highly toxic and harmful chemicals. The bottom line is that chemical treatments are often more harmful than the bed bugs themselves. Fortunately, they are also not actually necessary, as these pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An Integrative Pest Management (IPM) approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat can control an infestation without dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place. Beyond Pesticides has put together a bed bug program page which includes a detailed fact sheet discussing bed bugs, the problems with pesticide treatments, and alternative control methods.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, will address issues of pesticide resistance and includes a workshop on managing bed bugs and other pests without toxic pesticides. Entomologist and extension specialist at Rutgers University and national expert on bed bug control Changlu Wang, PhD will be speaking. His research focuses on developing new and improved urban pest management technologies through the study of biology, behavior, and ecology of urban pests. His goal is to identify cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions that will immediately benefit the consumers. Currently, Dr. Wang’s research is focused on bed bug and cockroach resistance to commonly used pesticides and least toxic control strategies. The conference will be in held in Denver, CO April 8-9, 2011. More information, including how to register, can be found at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.



Synthetic Additives in Processed Organic Food Criticized

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2011) According to the Cornucopia Institute, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that it will allow products containing unapproved synthetic additives in processed food labeled “organic” for an indefinite grace period. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is slated to take up the issue at its upcoming meeting in April, when it will determine whether the use of these synthetic materials meets the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act nad its standards of health and environmental protection. Consumers are urged to make their voices heard with comments to the NOSB before the April 10 deadline (see below).

The Cornucopia Institute has filed legal complaints against infant formula manufacturers and Dean Foods, manufacturer of Horizon dairy products, for adding unapproved additives: Martek Biosciences Corporation’s omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (DHA/ARA), derived chemically from fermented algae and fungus, to foods with the organic label.

The Cornucopia Institute maintains, and the USDA reiterated in a compliance letter issued March 16, that these additives are illegal in organics. But USDA also stated it would not take enforcement action at this time. The USDA’s compliance letter suggested that it would allow companies to continue adding the additives to organic foods during a phase-out period of unspecified length, despite its clear statement, in the same letter, that the additives were being used in organics due to an “incorrect” interpretation of the federal standards.

“Essentially, the USDA admitted once again in its letter that the DHA additives should never have been allowed in organics, and then goes on to state that they have chosen not to take enforcement action at this time,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst with The Cornucopia Institute.

According to organic regulations relating to synthetic materials in processed organic foods, “nutrient vitamins and minerals” can be used according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Nutritional Quality Guidelines for Foods. However, the National Organic Program (NOP) has most often interpreted this regulation in a very broad context, which advocates believe runs contrary to the intent of the regulation.

The Wisconsin-based Institute stated that it is meeting with its legal team to determine its next course of action in its efforts to ensure that foods bearing the “USDA Organic” label are produced in accordance with the federal organic standards.

“We hope the current NOP management moves quickly to implement their position, that adding unapproved additives to infant formula constitutes a violation of the organic standards,” said attorney Gary Cox, who has long represented The Cornucopia Institute in its oversight of the USDA. Cornucopia states that it is likely to file a lawsuit against the USDA for its failure to carry out its Congressional-mandated duties in protecting the purity and safety of organic food.

“Federal law clearly states that synthetic additives must be approved by the USDA, through a formal petition process, assuring their safety before they can legally be added to foods with the organic label,” stated Vallaeys. “Martek’s Crypthecodinium cohnii and Schizochytrium oils (sources of DHA) and Mortierella alpina oil (a source of ARA) have never been approved, and the USDA has once again caved to industry lobbyists.”

The Cornucopia Institute is concerned with the USDA’s failure to enforce the organic standards regarding unapproved accessory nutrients, because the synthetic additives have been linked to many serious reported gastrointestinal problems in infants and young children.

Megan Golden of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, watched her newborn son suffer from serious vomiting and gastrointestinal illness from the day he was born and given formula with DHA and ARA. At age 9 weeks, she switched to formula without these additives, and his symptoms disappeared. “By the next day, no lie, my son was a completely different infant. He was comfortable, was not as agitated, and the throwing up had stopped. His gas pains went away. His stools became normal. And he could finally relax enough to sleep. I am thankful for that,” said Ms. Golden.

As of January 2009, more than a hundred similar adverse reaction reports have been filed with FDA (a more recent open records request by The Cornucopia Institute is pending). Since few parents and healthcare professionals historically report the link between over-the-counter drugs or nutritional additives and adverse reactions to the FDA, scientists believe these reports constitute only the tip of the iceberg.

When USDA enforcement officials first became aware, in 2006, that infant formula manufacturers were adding unapproved additives to formula bearing the “USDA Organic” label, they recognized its illegality and sent an enforcement letter ordering them to take the unapproved additives out of organic infant formula.

Subsequently, discovered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by The Cornucopia Institute, and reported in an investigative report by the Washington Post, corporate lobbyists convinced the former director of the USDA’s National Organic Program, Dr. Barbara Robinson, to overrule her staff’s decision, and allow companies to market products with Martek’s unapproved algal-based and fungal-based additives.

The Cornucopia Institute has complained for years that this was an improper and illegal action by the agency. In 2010, the USDA, under the Obama administration, concurred with Cornucopia, stating in a public memorandum that this was an improper decision.

Unlike some essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals), unapproved additives like Martek’s DHA and ARA are not required by the FDA in foods, but are popular with food manufacturers because they are useful in trying to create a competitive marketing advantage.

FDA just announced that it will conduct a study to determine if marketing claims by infant formula manufacturers, such as claims that DHA and ARA “support brain and eye development,” influence mothers’ feeding decisions and discourage breast-feeding.

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University and author of Food Politics, states about DHA and ARA in infant formula: “Competition for market share explains why formula companies want to put distinctive nutrients in their formulas–especially nutrients considered ‘conditional.’ Even if the health benefits are minimal or questionable, they can be used in advertising.”

While they advertise these nutrients with questionable claims of benefits, companies do not share with consumers the process by which these nutrients are manufactured.

“Getting omega-3 fatty acids from natural sources like breast milk, or salmon, or flaxseed, and getting omega-3’s from a synthetic additive in infant formula or milk are two completely different things,” explains Ms. Vallaeys. “Companies like Martek don’t like consumers to know that these additives are often chemically extracted, fermented in genetically engineered feedstock, treated with harsh chemicals, deodorized and bleached. There’s a reason why so many consumers are turning to organic foods—to avoid these kinds of novel substances that masquerade as food,” she adds.

Additives like DHA and ARA are not required by the FDA in foods, including infant formula, because scientific data fails to document benefits to human health or development. Dr. Katherine Kennedy of the University College of London’s Institute of Child Health, along with several colleagues, wrote: “We contend this field of research has been driven to an extent by enthusiasm and vested interest.”

The British scientific panel also stated, “Although the vast majority of infant formulas now contain long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids [manufactured by Martek], the scientific evidence base for their addition is recognized by most investigators and key opinion leaders in the field to be weak.”

“After the USDA determined these materials were being illegally added to certified organic food, it’s unconscionable that they would continue to drag their feet on enforcement even as more reports flow into the FDA on adverse health impacts,” says Mr. Kastel.

Consumers exhibit marketplace loyalty in the organic label, because it represents a rigorous third-party certification system of strict federal standards that prohibit synthetic inputs unless they have gone through a rigorous approval process. Organic activists are concerned that if the USDA fails to rigorously enforce the standards, allowing big business to make up their own rules, that consumer confidence in the label will be eroded.

Industry observers speculate that the USDA has dragged its feet on forcing the removal of these unapproved additives in order to allow time for the powerful pharmaceutical companies manufacturing infant formula (Abbott Laboratories and PBM Nutritionals, the private-label manufacturer for Wal-Mart and Hain-Celestial’s Earth’s Best brand) and the nation’s largest milk bottler (Dean Foods) to petition the National Organic Standards Board, the expert citizen’s body created by Congress, to approve the Martek materials, after the fact.

“This is more than just a question of whether a particular additive is risky and inappropriate for inclusion in organics,” Kastel lamented. “The question is whether or not organics will remain a trusted last refuge for families who don’t want to experiment with the long-term health of their children.”

On March 14, the National Organic Standards Board released a controversial committee proposal that would allow any synthetic nutrient additive that comes on the market to be added freely to organic foods—without review.

Already, citizens are lining up to voice their disapproval of this industry-friendly committee decision, which will be debated and voted on by the full Board during its next meeting in Seattle, April 26-29.

“It’s unfortunate that the committee, stacked during the Bush Administration with corporate representatives, has voted to open the door to just about any novel synthetic, chemically produced, additive to be added to organic foods—without the congressionally-mandated review,” stated Mr. Kastel.

“While the split vote by the 7-person committee was in favor of potentially marketing gimmicky and risky synthetic additives, the organic community as a whole is going to fight like hell against this,” Mr. Kastel stated. “There is no way that ethical organic companies, organic farmers, and organic consumers are going to allow a handful of pro-corporate board members to indiscriminately weaken the meaning of the organic label.”

A brief summary of the overwhelming scientific literature questioning the efficacy of Martek’s nutritional oils, and questioning their safety, can be found here.

Since the USDA is failing its mandate to ensure that all products bearing the “USDA Organic” seal are in fact complying with the federal standards that prohibit unapproved additives, the Cornucopia Institute has developed a list of products containing Martek’s unapproved additives. The list is available on the Cornucopia website and will be updated on an ongoing basis.

For more information on how you can be involved with the organic regulatory process, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Integrity program page.

Submit your comments to the NOSB regarding nutrient additives, or any other topic that will be debated, by April 10, 2011 in order to have them considered before the meeting. Be sure to specify which issue you are commenting on.

Source: Cornucopia Institute press release



Groups Sue To Stop USDA’s Deregulation of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2011) Last Friday, attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Beyond Pesticides, Earthjustice, and farm and environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), arguing that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of genetically engineered (GE), “Roundup Ready” alfalfa is unlawful. In January, USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa seed, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers. With the full deregulation of GE alfalfa underway, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year.

This year has seen a series of decisions by USDA to allow the unrestricted cultivation of genetically engineered crops, and just last month a federal appeals court decided to reverse a federal order to destroy GE sugar beet seedlings. Most GE crops are engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup. Currently, USDA data show that 93% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides. The decision to fully deregulate GE alfalfa fails to take several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of GE gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainties in making safety determinations. It also overlooks the problem of herbicide resistant weeds as well as the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GE strains, along with documented severe economic injury to farmers and markets. And, there is no mention at all of possible health consequences from eating GE crops, despite the fact that long-term health effects of consuming GE food are still largely unstudied and unknown. A coalition of environmental and farm groups, as well as the National Organic Coalition opposed the decision and wrote to USDA decrying the decision.

“USDA has once again failed to provide adequate oversight of a biotech crop,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “This reckless approval flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that GE alfalfa threatens the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as significant harm to the environment. APHIS has refused to apply and enforce the law and instead has chosen to bow to the wishes of the biotech industry.”

This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa. In 2007, in another case brought by CFS, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of the engineered crop violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup. The case resulted in USDA undertaking a court-ordered four-year study of GE alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Remarkably, it marked the first time USDA had ever undertaken such a study, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in over 15 years of approving GE crops for commercial production. While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, a ban that remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented: “We expect Monsanto to force-feed people genetically engineered crops—that’s its business model. We hoped for better from the USDA, which has much broader responsibilities. GE alfalfa will greatly increase use of toxic chemicals from coast to coast, threatens the organic dairy industry, and will have farmers going back to Monsanto every year to buy its patented seed and Roundup.”

The plaintiffs include a diverse coalition of conventional and organic farmers, dairies and agricultural associations, and environmental and consumer groups: CFS, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, California Farmers Union, Dakota Resources Council, Geertson Seed Farms, National Family Farm Coalition, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sierra Club, Trask Family Seeds and Western Organization of Resource Councils.

“We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to prohibit Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said plaintiff farmer Pat Trask.

Known as the “queen of forages,” alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. Organic dairies stand to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products. The organic sector is the most vibrant part of U.S. agriculture, now a 26 billion dollar a year industry and growing 20% annually.

“Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is a blatant case of the USDA serving one form of agriculture at the expense of all others,” says plaintiff Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Alliance of Organic Dairy Producers. “If this decision is not remedied, the result will be lost livelihoods for organic dairy farmers, loss of choice for farmers and consumers, and no transparency about GE contamination of our foods.”

Because alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly and cross-pollinate between fields and feral sources many miles apart, the engineered crop will contaminate natural alfalfa varieties. Roundup Ready alfalfa is the first engineered perennial crop, meaning it remains in the ground for 3-6 years and is widely prevalent in wild or feral form throughout America, further increasing the likelihood and extent of transgenic contamination.

“USDA’s review is inaccurate and completely failed to consider critical issues. The decision to deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa opens the door to widespread transgenic contamination, costing farmers their markets, reputation and ability to grow natural varieties,” said plaintiff farmer Phil Geertson.

“We are an organic, grass-fed beef operation relying on alfalfa in pasture mix and for winter feed. GE alfalfa means contamination of all alfalfa seeds within a few years. Our options include giving up organic production at great revenue loss or finding forage at great cost increase,” says organic beef producer Jim Munsch from Wisconsin.

Approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa will spur the glyphosate-resistant epidemic that is already regarded as one of the most serious challenges facing U.S. agriculture. Weeds evolve resistance to glyphosate just as bacteria evolve immunity to overused antibiotics. While other Roundup Ready crops spawned the epidemic, Roundup Ready alfalfa will exacerbate it by increasing the frequency and intensity of glyphosate use on millions of acres of cropland. Farmers respond to resistant weeds by applying more and more herbicides, soil-eroding tillage operations, and even hand-weeding on hundreds of thousands of acres. Such “superweeds” have expanded four-fold to infest over 10 million acres since just 2008, with some projecting 38 million acres by 2013. Alfalfa, the fourth most prevalent crop in the U.S., is grown on over 20 million acres, spanning every state.

“Alfalfa grows in dense stands that naturally suppress weeds, and so has traditionally been the one crop in farmers’ rotations that provides a much-needed break from the onslaught of toxic herbicides. Roundup Ready alfalfa will only foster still more resistant weeds, and thereby increase the pesticide dependence of U.S. agriculture beyond already unsustainable levels,” said Bill Freese, CFS Science Policy Analyst.

The latest USDA data show that less than 10 percent of alfalfa acres are sprayed with any herbicide, and consequently, GE alfalfa will dramatically increase the use of such chemicals across the country, with all of their attendant hazards to wildlife, plants, groundwater, and people.

For more information on GE crops please see Beyond Pesticides’ page on Genetic Engineering.

Source: Center for Food Safety



EPA Announces National Poison Prevention Week, Still No Focus on Non-Toxic Alternatives

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2011) “Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons” is the message that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sending in conjunction with the Poison Prevention Week Council to keep poisonous substances out of children’s hands in observance of the annual National Poison Prevention Week (March 20-26). EPA recommends locking up household cleaners, disinfectants, solvents and other materials as the best way to reduce accidental poisoning among children, yet it is a recommendation that does not go far enough to fully protect children from pesticides. EPA still fails to encourage the public to stop or reduce using poisonous chemicals, while ignoring advantageous non-toxic methods for pest management that would effectively protect children from harmful pesticides if implemented.

“Because it takes only a split second for a child to be poisoned, we want everyone to remember the theme ‘Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons.’ Most exposures that occur in the home can be prevented or substantially reduced through proper and safe storage, use and supervision of all household products,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Poison Prevention Week serves as a reminder for everyone to keep pesticides locked up and away from children, and to read and follow all labels to minimize the potential dangers from pesticides.”

While it is wise to keep potentially harmful household products out of the reach and hands of children, Beyond Pesticides recommends abandoning the application of poisonous chemicals and recommends instead practicing non-toxic methods of pest management to protect children from harmful chemicals from ingestion and secondary exposure. Unlike EPA, Beyond Pesticides also takes into account secondary exposures to pesticides. For instance, studies have found pesticides in household dust that persists even after removal from the market. In 2008, a study found significant amounts of pyrethroid on indoor dust of homes and childcare centers, while another study found that 75% of homes with pregnant women were contaminated with pesticides.

Numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to pesticides with cancer, reproductive effects, development disorders, learning disabilities and other health problems. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides. Nonetheless, every year EPA misses the important opportunity during National Poison Prevention Week to alert families about integrated pest management (IPM) and organic methods that are effective and substantially safer.

To learn more about why pesticides and children don’t mix see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools program page.

Source: EPA Press Release



EPA Seeks Advice in Reviewing the Impact of Pesticides on Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2011) As a result of recent court mandated consultations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) concerning pacific salmon and steel head, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a letter to the National Research Council (NRC) is requesting the convening of a committee of independent experts to assist in the review of special scientific and technical issues that have arisen as the agency attempts to stem the impact of pesticides on these endangered species.

Citing issues of scientific complexity and high importance, the letter authored by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, requests on behalf of the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a “concerted, closely coordinated effort” to address these issues openly and actively. NRC’s assistance is sought due to the number of complex scientific issues brought to the attention of the agencies as they complete consultations under the ESA concerning the impact of pesticides on endangered salmon and steelhead.

Even though calls for EPA to holistically review pesticides have been made by scientists and the environmental community before, EPA is now seeking advice in assessing the effect of pesticides and other Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)-related actions on endangered species, including the identification of best-available scientific data and information, the consideration of sublethal, cumulative and indirect effects of pesticides, the effects of chemical mixtures and inert ingredients. EPA and the other agencies are also interested in gathering information on the best use of models to assist in analyzing the effects of pesticide use, incorporating uncertainties effectively, as well as the use of geospatial information and datasets in assessments. With this committee of experts provided by the NRC, the agencies hope to refine their scope and effort in their reviews and consultations.

EPA was court ordered to consult with NMFS to identify measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides as a result of a 2002 and 2007 lawsuit. NMFS issued three Biological Opinions, the latest on August 2010, which found that several pesticides are likely to jeopardize federally listed threatened or endangered Pacific salmon and steelhead and their designated critical habitat. NMFS called for several limitations on aerial spraying and ground application of the pesticides near salmon waters, as well as buffer zones around salmon waters and ditches that drain to salmon habitat, among others. EPA has since been sued by environmental and fishing groups over a failure to limit the use of pesticides in areas of threatened habitat.

The pesticides that impact endangered salmon are some of the most dangerous chemicals used today. Chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion, carbaryl, carbofuran, and methomyl are neurotoxic and pose serious risks to both humans and wildlife. While many of these pesticides have been phased out for residential use, they continue to expose wildlife and farmworkers through their use in agriculture. Studies have shown that mixtures of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides cause more harm to endangered salmon than individual pesticide exposure and are commonly detected in freshwater habitats that support these threatened and endangered species.

Cumulative pesticidal effects and the effect of chemical mixtures have long been ignored by EPA in its review and registration of pesticide products. Scientists have argued for years that toxic exposures to pesticides should be measured as they would normally occur, in combination with one another. Yet, current federal law does not require this type of testing for pesticides on the market, except in very limited instances. Scientists believe that current methods of chemical risk assessment may lead to considerable underestimations of risks associated with exposures to chemicals. Research has shown that mixtures of chemicals can have a synergistic effect, meaning the effect of multiple chemicals is greater than the sum of the individual effects. A 2009 study shows that exposure to a mixture of pesticides and other chemicals has a synergistic effect on the development of male sex organs.

Pesticides have been detected in every major salmon stream in the Pacific Northwest and California. It has been found that even at low levels these pesticides harm salmon and steelhead by causing abnormal sexual development, impairing swimming ability, and reducing growth rates.

Source: EPA



Take Action! Congress To Weaken Clean Water Act

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2011) Urgent action is needed to stop the bill, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (H.R. 872), from weakening protections under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the bi-partisan bill yesterday, which amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. This bill has also been approved unanimously by the House Committee on Agriculture and will reverse a 2009 court order requiring the permits as a part of the National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES) if it lands on the President’s desk by April 9, 2011.

Take Action Now.

The 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision, in response to the National Cotton Council v. EPA, overturned the Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule exempting commercial pesticide applications from the oversight provided under CWA. The decision requires NPDES permits for pesticide applications directly to or near waterways in order to reduce and eventually eliminate pollutants in the natural environment.

Sponsors of the bill say that the clean water requirements are “duplicative regulations” which would “unnecessarily burden” farmers and small businesses. However, the potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that could result in the removal of this permitting process has not been considered. The reality is that this permitting process forces the pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. And, given the vast knowledge that we have on organic, integrated pest management (IPM) and non-chemical solutions, this bill will be a disastrous step backwards.

For more background information, please see our previous coverage of this bill in Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News entry from March 11, 2011, and read the testimony of Charlie Tebbutt, the lead council of National Cotton Council v. EPA to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Take Action!
Contact your Representative and urge them to stand with you in opposing the chemical industry’s Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, which would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways.

Take Action Now.



Bill Introduced to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock Feed

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2011) Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced legislation last week that seeks to help protect Americans from widespread antibiotic overuse in food animal production. Antibiotic use in agriculture, as well as in antimicrobial soaps containing materials such as triclosan, offer little to no benefit for public health, but instead contributes to increases in the growth of resistant bacteria. This makes antibiotic and antibacterial resistance a national health concern, due to the fact that it can make infections difficult or impossible to treat.

Rep. Slaughter’s bill, H.R. 965 – the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, would preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics used to treat human disease by requiring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revoke approval of antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes unless the agency determines that the drugs do not produce unsafe levels of antibiotic resistance. The bill would allow farmers to continue to treat sick animals with antibiotics.

“Antibiotic resistance is a major public health crisis, and yet antibiotics are used regularly and with little oversight in agriculture,” said Rep. Slaughter. The main culprits are confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) operators that routinely add human antibiotics to livestock feed for non-therapeutic purposes, such as accelerating growth and preventing diseases that are common in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.

When an infection is treated with an antibiotic, there can be at least a small number of bacteria that survive the treatment. These bacteria then serve as the basis for succeeding generations which will inherit the resistance genes, and the process will continue, until the entire population has evolved to resist the effects of a certain antibiotic treatment. The process is most likely to occur when bacteria are repeatedly exposed to low doses of antibiotics, killing a small amount, but leaving the rest to develop immunity. Putting antimicrobials in soaps or antibiotics in animal feed results in precisely these kinds of low dose exposures which put the general public at risk of untreatable infection.

Estimates by the public health advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists suggest that 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are devoted to the non-therapeutic treatment of cattle, swine and poultry, endangering human health by contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections.

According to the USDA’s standards for certified organic agriculture, producers of organic livestock cannot use antibiotics in any form, with the exception of limited emergency situations, and even then, its use is strictly regulated. Regulatory prohibition is beside the point, however. One of the reasons that CAFO operators feel they need to feed their animals antibiotics is that the conditions in which the animals are housed in these operations present the perfect breeding ground for disease. Organic producers do not house their animals in these conditions, and so the prophylactic use of antibiotics is largely unnecessary.

Currently, organic fruit producers growing apples and pears are allowed to use the antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline to control a fruit tree disease called fire blight, though tetracycline use is due to expire on October 21, 2012. Recently, a committee of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is charged with approving or prohibiting substances for use in organic production, determined that allowing antibiotics to be used as pesticides is inconsistent with organic principles as outlined in the Organic Foods Production Act, and recommended that they be prohibited. The full committee recommendation for streptomycin can be read here, and for tetracycline here. In addition to citing the availability of disease resistant fruit tree varieties, the committee expressed concerns about possible contributions to bacterial resistance, especially in light of recent research which has detected residual streptomycin in apples treated for fire blight. The full NOSB will vote on this matter, among others, at its annual spring meeting in April of this year. Recommendations and information on filing public comments with USDA by April 10, 2010 may be found at the National Organic Program website. For more information on organic agriculture, see our Organic Foods page. To learn more about the spring NOSB meeting, including what materials will be reviewed, go to the USDA’s meeting page (select April 26-29, 2011 from the drop-down menu).

Millions of Americans rely on familiar antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracycline, to fight dangerous infections. The overuse of these antibiotics on the farm has transformed treatable human infections into deadly antibiotic-resistant illnesses that can result in long hospital stays, costly medical bills, and, in the worst-case scenario, death. In 2009, the Cook County Hospital in Illinois and the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics estimated that the total health care cost of antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States is $16 billion to $26 billion annually.


Make your voice heard in organic regulations:

Click here to send a comment to the NOSB. The board is soliciting comments on any of the materials that they are reviewing, including antibiotics in fruit. The full agenda is available here. Be sure to specify on which material or issue you are commenting.

Support Beyond Pesticides’ petition to ban triclosan:

Click here to send an email directly to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The link (sponsored by Organic Consumers Association) sends an automated message to Lisa Jackson, or;

Submit your own comments to the docket directly by clicking here. Fill in the form to submit your comments to the Federal Register (this method offers different levels of privacy). For a more impactful statement, use your own language.

Sources: UCS press release, Office of Rep. Louise Slaughter Press Release



Dow Seeks To Overturn EPA Ban of Toxic Fluoride-Based Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2011) Following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) January 10th announcement that it plans to cancel all allowable pesticide residue levels (tolerances) of the toxic fumigant sulfuryl fluoride–effectively banning its use, the chemical’s manufacturer, Dow AgroSciences, is petitioning EPA to launch a formal registration cancellation hearing under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA decided to cancel the tolerances under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) after determining that when residues on food products are combined with fluoridated drinking water and toothpaste, public exposure levels are too high. The agency took the action in response to a June 2006 petition submitted by Fluoride Action Network, Beyond Pesticides, and Environmental Working Group.

Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) amendments to FFDCA require that a pesticide registered for use by EPA cannot exceed acceptable risk thresholds when its dietary and nondietary uses are evaluated in the aggregate. Environmentalists believe that the January 2011 sulfuryl fluoride decision was the first time EPA action has resulted in a comprehensive pesticide cancellation of agricultural uses (as distinct from a voluntary cancellation by the manufacturer) because of unacceptable aggregate exposure.

While cancellation hearings are not provided under FFDCA, Dow is arguing that because EPA’s tolerance cancellation would essentially result in a cancellation of all sulfuryl fluoride pesticide products it is entitled to a hearing under FIFRA. However, Section 6 of FIFRA states, “If at any time it appears that a pesticide or its labeling or other required material does not comply with the Act or that it generally causes unreasonable adverse effects on the environment when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice, the Administrator may issue notice of intent to cancel the registration or change the classification of the pesticide or hold a hearing to consider the pesticide’s cancellation or change of classification.” The legal counsel for the objectors states that FIFRA does not guarantee a hearing for Dow.

If EPA does move forward with an administrative hearing, it is possible that the agency could decide to maintain the current tolerances and reduce aggregate exposure by working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce fluoride exposure in drinking water, toothpaste and other fluoride-containing products.

In related news, U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza (CA-18), who represents California’s Central Valley, accused EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson of “agency activism.” Comparing EPA’s decision on sulfuryl fluoride to “judicial activism,” Rep. Cardoza said the EPA’s agency activism is burdening farmers with “extreme regulations.”

Prior to the January 10th announcement, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and EPA’s Office of Water announced action on fluoride on January 7 in the form of tightening standards for fluoride levels in drinking water, proposing to reduce its recommended maximum level of fluoride in tap water from 1.2 to 0.7 parts per million (ppm), a 42 percent decrease. This means that, because the previous standards were higher, communities across the country that receive fluoridated water have been subjected to unsafe levels of fluoride for decades. Additionally, health advocates at Fluoride Action Network have criticized the new rules, saying that they do not go far enough. According to the American Dental Association, newborn babies and infants up to one year of age should not be consuming any fluoridated water. This is particularly significant since EPA has cited concern about heightened risks to infants as a chief motivator for eliminating sulfuryl fluoride.

Sulfuryl fluoride is a dangerous chemical which has been linked to cancer as well as neurological, developmental, and reproductive damages. Sulfuryl fluoride is acutely moderately toxic by oral exposure (Toxicity Category II) and slightly toxic for acute inhalation (Toxicity Categories III and IV) and dermal vapor toxicity (Toxicity Category IV). Residents and workers are at risk for neurotoxic effects from acute exposure. Subchronic studies on rats have indicated effects on the nervous system, lungs, and brain. Developmental and reproductive effects have also been noted in relevant studies on rats. According to the National Research Council, fluorides might also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and boys exposed to fluoride in drinking water are five times more likely to develop osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

In addition to its health effects, the chemical has been shown to be a highly potent greenhouse gas. Research has shown that it can be as much as 4,000 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the leading atmospheric contributor to climate change. It currently exists in the atmosphere at much smaller concentrations than CO2, which is why its use must be curtailed before it becomes even more of a concern.

EPA first registered the agricultural use of sulfuryl fluoride in 2004 as an insecticide and established tolerances for a wide range of crops including cereal grains, dried fruits, tree nuts, cocoa beans, and coffee beans. In 2009, despite the urging of health and environmental advocates, Dow AgroSciences was granted permission to sell sulfuryl fluoride for use in sterilizing agricultural fields as well as for fumigation of food storage, handling, and processing facilities.

EPA has made its draft assessments public and open for comment for 90 days at Regulations.gov. Submit comments by April 18, 2011.



Report Shows Honeybee Decline Is Global

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2011) Scientists working for the United Nations (UN) reveal in a report published March 10, 2011 that the collapse of honeybee colonies is now a global phenomenon that could have devastating consequences. Declines in managed bee colonies, seen increasingly in Europe and the US in the past decade, are now being observed in China, Japan and Egypt according to the report, “Global Bee Colony Disorders and other Threats to Insect Pollinators,” from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In the UNEP report, leading honeybee experts in the world stress that the potentially disastrous decline in bees –which are a vital pollinating element in food production for the growing global population—is likely to continue unless humans profoundly change their ways from the use of insecticides to air pollution.

“The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. “The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”

“Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to 7 billion people,” Mr. Steiner said, calling on the world to factor in the often invisible multi-trillion dollar services provided by nature.

The increasing use of chemicals in agriculture has been found to damage bees by weakening their immune systems. Laboratory studies show that some insecticides and fungicides can act together to be 1,000 times more toxic to bees. They can also affect the sense of direction, memory and brain metabolism, and herbicides and pesticides may reduce the availability of plants bees need for food and for the larval stages of some pollinators. To learn more click here.

Declines in managed bee colonies date back to the mid-1960s in Europe. However, since 1998 these declines have accelerated, especially in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.

In North America, losses of honeybee colonies since 2004 have left the continent with fewer managed pollinators than at any time in the past 50 years, while Chinese beekeepers have recently faced several inexplicable and complex symptoms of colony losses and a quarter of beekeepers in Japan have recently been confronted with sudden losses of their colonies.

In Africa, Egyptian beekeepers along the Nile River have reported signs of colony collapse disorder (CCD) although there are no other confirmed reports from the rest of the continent so far.

The crisis of CCD in the honeybee population is an increasingly widespread phenomenon of bees disappearing or abandoning their hives. While research is underway to determine the cause of CCD, pesticides such as neonicotinoids and fipronil have emerged as one of the prime suspects.

Beyond Pesticides and the Denver Botanic Gardens will be hosting a free screening of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees on Wednesday, April 6th, 7:00pm at the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York Street). The film, which is narrated by Ellen Page, takes a piercing investigative look at the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee and empowers the audience to fight back. Join us for the film Wednesday evening, and then learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder at the 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, at the Colorado School of Public Health, Friday evening and Saturday, April 8-9. The film is free.

Furthermore, Tom Theobald is scheduled to speak at the forum. He is owner of the Niwot Honey Farm for 35 years; Mr. Theobald is one of the founders of the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association and its president for 30 years. Tom recently stepped into the limelight when he leaked an EPA memo disclosing a critically flawed science used to register (legalize) the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin. Tom was the last County Bee Inspector in the state of Colorado, a position created in 1891 and retired in 2000. Listen to Tom and Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman talk about the leaked EPA document.

To register for the conference, click here or call our office at 202-543-5450.

Source: UN News Centre



Congress Advances Bill to Limit Clean Water Protections from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2011) The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved a bill, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (H.R. 872), on Wednesday, March 9 which would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. The bill would effectively reverse a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and the CWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must require such permits. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate last year.

The 2009 court ruling came in the case National Cotton Council v. EPA. Prior to this case, EPA had deemed it unnecessary to require permits for pesticide applications near waterways. These previous regulations meant that, in instances where pesticides were applied directly to water to control pests such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds, or when pesticides were applied to control pests over or near water, applications were held to the much less stringent FIFRA standards. FIFRA, unlike the CWA, does not fully regulate or monitor water quality and the protection of aquatic ecosystems in the local context. When a pesticide is registered under FIFRA, the dangers of heightened toxicity due to combinations of chemicals and chemical drift are not fully considered. EPA, in implementing FIFRA, uses controversial and, many studies say, inadequate exposure and essentiality assumptions in its risk assessment and does not take least-toxic alternatives into account. CWA, in contrast, uses a health-based standard, setting maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requiring permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams. In deciding the case, the court ruled that pesticides, when entering waterways, constitute pollutants, and as such, are subject to the permitting requirements of the CWA.

The permits are required, the court said, as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), an element of the CWA. The purpose of the NPDES permits is, as the name suggests, to reduce and eventually eliminate pollutants in the natural environment through requiring polluters to obtain permits. This allows for oversight of the proposed discharge, including evaluation of the potential risks it might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species. Because the discharges are weighed against standards that don’t protect all species, are implemented with limited monitoring, and don’t consider need, even approved permits often present the potential for damage to ecosystems in affected areas. However, NPDES permits do allow for local citizen input through allowing the public to comment on the proposed pesticide application in the context of the CWA goal of “restoration and maintenance of chemical, physical and biological integrity of Nation’s waters,” and thus provide the opportunity for increased oversight and accountability in a goal-oriented framework.

The current bill would eliminate the elements in the NPDES program which require these permits, and thus allow for the associated regulatory review, through removing the associated provisions in FIFRA and the CWA. The bill’s sponsors call the permitting process “duplicative” and say that it is economically costly to pesticide applicators. However, the removal of this permitting process could result in serious contamination of rivers, lakes, and streams, causing irreversible ecological damage and requiring great sums of money to be spent in clean-up efforts.

Steven Bradbury, Director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, testified at a February 16th hearing on H.R. 872 that the agency essentially agrees with the bill’s sponsors and feels that it can adequately ensure the protection of waterways solely through FIFRA and does not need to implement the permitting provisions in the CWA. Brabury’s full testimony can be read here.

Since June 2010, EPA has been, and remains, in the process of developing new permit requirements in accordance with the 2009 court ruling. It has recently requested an extension on the deadline for when the court ruling will take effect. The court stated that its mandate should take effect on April 9, 2011, but EPA has requested that the deadline be extended until October 31, 2011. The agency’s new permitting requirements may in fact achieve similar results as the proposed bill, with regards to reducing environmental protections. EPA has proposed issuing a “pesticide general permit” which would essentially grant blanket approval to all pesticide applicators operating near waterways. It would accomplish this through issuing a single permit which would apply to all such potential applications, and would largely remove the opportunity for environmental oversight of specific applications. The only aquatic applications to which the general permit would not apply are those which would occur near waters which are known to be already contaminated with a particular pesticide, and those near “outstanding national resource waters.” To learn more about Beyond Pesticides’ concerns regarding the proposed general permit, read our comments to EPA.


The next step for H.R. 872 is for it to be considered by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. If your Congressional representative sits on this committee – see list here – please contact the Rep. with a message that explains your feelings for reducing pollution and contamination of our waterways. If your Representative is not on the Committee, you can still communicate your concerns to Committee members. Contact information can be found here.

Source: DTN/Progressive Farmer, House Agriculture Committee Press Release



Public Health Group Urges Precautionary Policy for Endocrine Disruptors

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2011) The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently adopted 17 new policies at its 138th Annual Meeting in Denver, addressing a broad range of public health concerns, including a new policy calling for greater government action to protect the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The policy statement follows official positions released earlier in 2010 by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Endocrine Society in that more needs to be done to protect the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or those that interfere with hormone action.

Specifically, APHA urges:
• Support for the Endocrine Society and the American Medical Association in proclaiming that more needs to be done to protect the public from potential health risks of exposure to EDCs.
• That given the magnitude and urgency of the public health threat and the recognition that collectively EDCs likely will have common or overlapping effects on the endocrine system, steps should therefore be taken by federal agencies with regulatory oversight for various individual EDCs to coordinate and find synergies among themselves to coordinate and find synergy among federal agencies with regulatory oversight over various individual EDCs.
• Health professionals and scientists with expertise in various aspects of the toxicity, exposure, and environmental fate of EDCs, throughout the lifecycle of their manufacture, use, distribution, and disposal be consulted and be active participants in the development of public policies to regulate and restrict EDCs. These may consist of, for example, endocrinologists, toxicologists, occupational/environmental medicine specialists, epidemiologists, and policymakers.
• That these public policies further should be based on data that comprehensively include both low-level and high-level exposures.

Currently, there is no comprehensive, coordinated approach to regulating EDCs in the U.S. In 1996, Endocrine Disruptors (EDCs) were formally recognized as a public health concern when Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Years behind a statutory schedule, in 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its first test orders for screening of dozens of high-priority pesticides for endocrine disrupting effects. The agency subsequently announced that it has expanded its testing and identified a list of chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system, along with a draft of the policies and procedures that the agency has proposed to follow for testing. However, the agency has yet to finalize its procedures or officially test a chemical for endocrine disruption since tasked to do so in 1996 by the Act of Congress.

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. One example, cites Theo Colborn, PhD, author of Our Stolen Future and president of the Endocrine Disruptor Exchange (TDEX), is the weed killer atrazine. Atrazine is the herbicide most frequently found in surface and drinking waters in the U.S. It is linked to a host of adverse health effects including endocrine disruption, which has been well-documented in frogs and other laboratory animals. Atrazine is already listed on the Colborn List of endocrine disruptors and has been recognized by the European Union (EU) as a category 1 (evidence of endocrine disrupting activity in at least one species) endocrine disruptor. For a complete list of EU-identified endocrine disruptors, see the EU’s “Endocrine Disrupters Website” database page. (The Colborn List and the EU have already tested many chemicals for endocrine disruption that EPA is just beginning to evaluate.)

The policy calls on health professionals and scientists with expertise on endocrine-disrupting chemicals to be active in developing public policies to regulate and restrict such chemicals. Though independent testing of some chemicals may already have shown them to have endocrine-disrupting activity, such hazard or safety testing has never been performed for the tens of thousands of EPA-registered compounds in use and in the environment today.

The APHA policy focuses on the Precautionary Principle. Policies must be developed to consistently and comprehensively examine all chemicals for potential EDC activity. APHA calls for such policies to be based on data addressing the effects at low-level or “low-dose” levels of exposure as well as the more traditional approach to toxicology which looks only at high-level exposure levels.

For years, scientists have noted strange anomalies in fish and wildlife in locations where EDCs are found. A recent study found that an astounding 100 percent of small mouth bass in certain sites of the Potomac River basin have exhibited both male and female organs, a characteristic linked to EDCs. According to a 2009 study by the U.S. Geologic Survey, the occurrence of “intersex” fish is now found to be nationwide.

For more information on Endocrine Disruptors, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruption brochure and Fact Sheet: Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.

Dr. Colborn will be a keynote speaker at the 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environmental April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Her incisive research has demonstrated that endocrine disrupting chemicals alter development of the fetus in the womb by interfering with the natural hormonal signals directing fetal growth. Her work has prompted the enactment of new laws around the world and redirected the research of academicians, governments, and the private sector. Dr. Colburn has been honored by Time magazine as a global Environmental Hero, Dr. Colborn is co-author of Our Stolen Future and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX).

Source: APHA Press Release
Huffington Post



Study Documents Triclosan’s Failure To Kill Bacteria in Hospital Settings

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2011) A recent study reports that the underlying cause of a fatal outbreak of P. aeruginosa in a hospital came from the contamination of triclosan soap dispensers, which acted as a continuous source of the bacterium. The contaminated triclosan soap infected the hands of health care workers and then patients, since triclosan is shown to have no effect on P. aeruginosa -a bacterium frequently associated with hospital-acquired infections. Authors of the study recommend alcohol-based sanitizers where appropriate, instead of triclosan soaps.

The study, “Molecular Epidemiology of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa Hospital Outbreak Driven by a contaminated Disinfectant-Soap Dispenser,” published online in PLoS One, investigates a fatal epidemic of P. aeruginosa that occurred in a hematology unit in Italy. The researchers found that patients became indirectly infected (e.g., during central venous catheter handling through contaminated items) and the triclosan soap dispenser acted as a common continuous source of P. aeruginosa infection. Since P. aeruginosa is intrinsically not susceptible to triclosan, the use of triclosan-based disinfectant formulations should be avoided in those health care settings hosting patients at high risk of P. aeruginosa infection, the authors conclude. Immunocompromised patients, especially chemotherapy patients, are especially at risk.

Soap dispensers in the nurses’ station and outpatient and inpatient areas were found to be contaminated. In the hospital studied. One soap dispenser was “heavily contaminated” with P. aeruginosa. Nurses washing their hands with the contaminated soap facilitated the spreading of the bacteria. P. aeruginosa that is known to be capable of causing high morbidity and mortality among immunocompromised patients and is frequently associated with hospital acquired infections. How the soap dispenser became contaminated is uncertain, but the researchers hypothesize that contamination may have occurred while the dispersers were being refilled. This was compounded by the suboptimal bactericidal activity of triclosan against P. aeruginosa.

Triclosan’s efficacy has been called into question numerous times, even though triclosan is marketed as a germ-killing substance. A systematic review of research assessing the risks and potential benefits associated with the use of soaps containing triclosan finds that data do not show the effectiveness of triclosan for reducing infectious disease symptoms or bacterial counts on the hands when used at the concentrations commonly found in antibacterial products. There is also evidence that the widespread use of antibacterial compounds, such as triclosan and triclosan-containing products, promote the emergence of bacterial resistant to antibiotic medications and antibacterial cleansers. The American Medical Association has stated, “No data exist to support their efficacy when used in such products or any need for them…it may be prudent to avoid the use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products.”

The scientific literature has extensively linked the uses of triclosan to many health and environmental hazards. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites contaminate waterways and are present in fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 42% since 2004.

This chemical is currently under scrutiny at the FDA and is the focus of petitions submitted to both FDA and EPA calling for its ban after numerous developments on the antibacterial pesticide triclosan in consumer products over the last year. Recently, EPA published for public comment the petition to ban triclosan submitted by Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 80 other groups. The petition cites the mounting scientific evidence detailing triclosan’s threat to human health and the environment. The public has until April 8th, 2011 to tell EPA to ban this dangerous chemical.

Support Beyond Pesticides’ petition to ban triclosan:
Click here to send an email directly to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The link (sponsored by Organic Consumers Association) sends an automated message to Lisa Jackson, or;

Submit your own comments to the docket directly by clicking here. Fill in the form to submit your comments to the Federal Register (this method offers different levels of privacy). For a more impactful statement, use your own language.

Want to do more? We are looking for individuals to complete this short, multiple choice survey. Please share the survey (http://triclosan.questionpro.com) with your family and friends, as well as any relevant blogs or email lists. It is important to educate the public and see an accurate picture of consumer knowledge and preference.

You can also join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Avoid products containing triclosan, and encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.



Free Screening of the Award-Winning Film “Vanishing of the Bees” to Coincide with National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2011) Leading up to the 29th National Pesticide Forum in Denver, Beyond Pesticides and the Denver Botanic Gardens will be hosting a free screening of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees on Wednesday, April 6th, 7:00pm at the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York Street). The film, which is narrated by Ellen Page, takes a piercing investigative look at the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee and empowers the audience to fight back. Join us for the film Wednesday evening, and then learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder at the National Pesticide Forum at the Colorado School of Public Health, Friday evening and Saturday, April 8-9. The film is free. Register for the conference online.

Film Synopsis

Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing from their hives. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables.

Vanishing of the Bees
follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capitol Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees.

Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and mother earth. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss. Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.

About the Forum

Sustainable Community: Practical Solutions for health and the environment, the 29th National Pesticide Forum, will be held April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver (Aurora), Colorado. Topics include pollinator protection, pesticides and health, organic land care, genetic engineering, organic food and farming and more. Register now for the early registration rate of $35.


Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto and CEO of Rodale Inc., publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines, will serve as keynote speaker. Other speaker highlights include: Tom Theobald, beekeeper who exposed EPA’s memo showing its flawed science in registering a bee-killing pesticide; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety lawyer leading the fight to ban genetically engineered alfalfa; Theo Colborn, PhD, author of Our Stolen Future and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange; Benjamin Ross, PhD, author of The Polluters, the acclaimed book about the history of the chemical industry; Timothy Scott, author of Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives; and many more. See the full speaker list.

Travel and Lodging

Because the conference will not conclude until late Saturday evening, we recommend that you plan to stay in Denver both Friday and Saturday nights. If you’re flying into Denver, Southwest Airlines still has some good deals ($113 each way from Oakland, CA and $150 each way from Washington, DC). We recommend checking Kayak.com as well.

The official conference hotel is the Comfort Inn Downtown Denver (401 17th Street, Denver, CO, 303-296-0400). It is located in the heart of downtown Denver, 9 miles from the conference site at the Colorado School of Public Health. Transportation will be provided. The discounted conference rate is $109. Call and ask for the “Beyond Pesticides” room block. Rooms will be held until Friday, March 11th. After this date the rate will be honored as long as rooms remain available.



Thousands of Women Farmers in Brazil Protest the Use of Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 07, 2011) To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, members of the international peasant movement Via Campesina demonstrated last week in six Brazilian states. Using the slogan “Women Against the Violence of Agribusiness and Agrotoxins For Land Reform and Food Sovereignty,” they marched together with other organizations working for the rights of women and the rural population. It is important to note that several diseases that are found predominantly in women are highly linked to exposure of pesticides such as female reproductive tract abnormalities, breast cancer and thyroid disease.

Photo Courtesy CenterCut Blog

Photo Courtesy CenterCut Blog

According to the Brazilian Crop Protection Association (AENDA), which represents producers of farm chemicals, Brazil uses more than one billion liters of agricultural chemicals a year, making it the top consumer country since 2009 of weed killers and insecticides that have toxic effects to humans and wildlife.

Amanda Matheus of the Landless Rural Workers Movement told Inter Press Service (IPS) that the use of agrochemicals harmful to the environment is based on an agricultural production model biased towards agribusiness or large-scale export-oriented agricultural production. The model “is driven by an alliance between large landowners and transnational corporations that gain control of the land and invest in monoculture plantations, such as sugarcane,” she said. The aim of the demonstrations is to change the agricultural production model to one based on “agro ecology, biodiversity, family agriculture organized in cooperatives, and the production of healthy food.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Brazil is among the world leaders in the production of sugarcane, sugar and ethanol. Most of the sugarcane planted in Brazil is used to produce ethanol and the United States is the largest market for this product. Brazil exports 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons of cane sugar to the United States.

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. That’s why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth.

For over sixty years, the Rodale Institute has been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing its findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest options for people and the planet. CEO of Rodale Inc and member of the Board of Directors of Rodale institute, Maria Rodale, is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Ms. Rodale is the author of three books. Her most recent work, Organic Manifesto, provides an indispensable and highly readable look at why chemical-free farming unquestionably holds the key to better health for our families-and the planet. To learn more about organic food click here.

Source: Inter Press Service News Agency



California to Monitor Air for Pesticide Content

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2011) California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has begun a program to monitor air in areas of intense agricultural production in order to assess the effects of long-term exposure to pesticides. To expand the department’s knowledge of pesticides’ potential health risks, it has set up machines to monitor air quality in three California communities: Shafter in Kern County, Salinas in Monterey County and Ripon in San Joaquin County.

The program will not measure concentrations of all pesticides that are used in the state. DPR has developed a list of certain pesticides that will be monitored based on amount of use and potential health risks associated with them. In all, there will be 34 pesticides evaluated, along with breakdown products for several of them. The list includes 11 organophosphates, such as acephate, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos (DDVP), and malathion. Six soil fumigants will also be monitored, including methyl bromide, methyl iodide, and metam sodium. The full list is available from the DPR website.

According to Mary-Ann Warmerdam, Director of DPR, “The air monitoring network is the first of its kind in the nation.” The department’s intent, she said, “is to make more accurate estimates of health risks based on long-term exposure rather than extrapolate from short-term monitoring data to determine if additional protective measures are needed.”

The three communities were selected to be statistically representative of farm communities throughout the state. They were chosen from a list of 226 communities based on pesticide use on surrounding farmland as well as demographics, including percentage of children, the elderly and farm workers. Depending on resources, DPR may expand the air network in the future to include more frequent sampling, more pesticides or more communities.

The air will be monitored by collecting one 24-hour sample a week at each site for at least two years. Although this data will present useful averages for air concentrations, it may miss spikes in concentrations of a particular pesticide, which can occur when they are applied. These occasional elevated levels can result in exponentially greater risk as a result of high exposure over a short period of time.

DPR will compare pesticide concentrations with screening levels developed by its scientists, track trends in air concentrations and correlate concentrations with use and weather patterns. In the absence of federal or state enforceable health-based limits on pesticide emissions in air, DPR set screening levels. These screening levels, however, are not enforceable regulatory standards, but rather guideposts for preliminary evaluations of air monitoring data.

There have been many concerns raised about the use of nearly all of the pesticides that will be monitored through this program. The fact that DPR is taking efforts to become more aware of the risks from which these concerns stem is promising. However, advocates say these concerns would have been more properly addressed prior to approval from the department. The current air monitoring program, though well-intentioned, essentially amounts to an experiment conducted on the general public. To authorize the widespread release of these substances into the environment without first determining all potential effects on public health from long-term exposure or necessary protective measures advocates say presents great potential risk to the public.

The data that is collected through the program will be released by DPR annually, beginning in 2012. If you live in California and would like to receive updates on the program by email, DPR has a mailing list which you can join on its website.

Source: DPR Press Release



Order to Destroy GE Sugar Beet Plants Overturned

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2011) In a federal appeals court decision last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Monsanto won the reversal of the federal judge’s order to destroy genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet seedlings planted last year. The original decision comes from a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety (CFS) on behalf of a coalition of farmers and conservation groups which found that the GE sugar beet seedlings planted were in violation of federal law. Though the court outlined the many ways in which GE sugar beets could harm the environment and consumers in the initial decision, the three-judge appeals panel said that the groups hadn’t shown that the seedlings were likely to contaminate natural sugar beet plants.

Given USDA’s recent decisions earlier this year to partially deregulate GE sugar beets and to fully deregulate GE alfalfa, this reversal is not entirely shocking, though it is still a blow to organic and conventional sugar beet farmers, consumers and environmentalists.

The agency has not completed an environmental impact statement (EIS) on GE sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphaste, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s “RoundUp” weedkiller. In November 2010, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) published an environmental assessment (EA) evaluating a range of options, including authorizing production of GE sugar beets under APHIS permit conditions. Without completing the EIS, APHIS concluded that the GE sugar beet root crop, when grown under the agency’s “imposed conditions,” can be partially deregulated without posing a plant pest risk or having a significant effect on the environment.

This conclusion is at sharp odds with earlier court rulings and the views of growers of organic and non-GE crops, who may see their crops contaminated by the GE sugar beets, threatening their livelihoods and the ability of farmers and consumers to choose non-GE foods. In the initial court ruling which awarded a preliminary injunction to destroy the sugar beet seedlings that were planted in violation of federal law, the court found that past incidents of contamination were too numerous and current containment efforts were insufficient to allow the crop to remain in the ground. Federal District Judge Jeffrey S. White, noted in his court order, “Farmers and consumers would likely suffer harm from cross-contamination” between GE sugar beets and non-GE crops. He continued, “The legality of Defendants’ conduct does not even appear to be a close question,” noting that the government and Monsanto had tried to circumvent his prior ruling which made GE sugar beets illegal.

Sugar beets are a fairly small crop, planted on a little over one million acres, mainly in northern states, and worth somewhat more than $1 billion. Beets account for roughly half of the American sugar supply, with the rest coming from sugar cane. The GE beets accounted for more than 90 percent of the sugar beets grown last year.

Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Sierra Club and Cornucopia Institute formally filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency on February 7, concerning its decision to allow unrestricted deregulation of GE alfalfa and vows to also overturn the GE sugar beet decision on the grounds that it is unlawful.

Center for Food Safety’s senior attorney and counsel for the lawsuit to be filed against the USDA regarding GE alfalfa, George Kimbrell, is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticides’ “Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment,” April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Among other cases, Mr. Kimbrell was counsel in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms (2010), the first case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on the impacts of GE crops.

For more information on this issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ page on genetic engineering and see our related Daily News entries.

Take Action!
Call or email President Obama and USDA and tell them NOT to deregulate GE alfalfa or GE Sugar Beets. Join the coalition of those opposing the decision including upcoming National Pesticide Forum keynote Maria Rodale (CEO, Rodale, Inc. and author of Organic Manifesto), National Organic Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Organic Trade Association, Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farm, and more.

Ask the Administration reconsider its position:
Write to President Obama
• Call or email USDA,
Email: biotechquery@aphis.usda.gov
or call (301) 851-2300 and record your comments

Source: Bloomberg Media



California Introduces Legislation to Remove Pesticides from Schools

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2011) To help protect children from exposure to pesticides, California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier joined with Pesticide Watch and Californians for Pesticide Reform in pursuing Senate Bill 394, The Healthy Schools Act of 2011, introduced February 16, 2011. SB 394 would prohibit use of a pesticide on a school site if that pesticide contains an ingredient known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity and that at least one staff person from each school be trained in appropriate use of pesticides. This is a new attempt to pass legislation since Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed The Healthy Schools Act of 2010 (SB 1157) which passed the State Assembly in 2010.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children between the ages of six and eleven have the highest levels of pesticides in their bodies when compared to any other age category. Some specific pesticides have been found at levels 200% higher in children than adults. SB 394 would provide that only self-contained baits, gels, and pastes deployed as crack and crevice treatments and spot treatments may be used on school sites. The bill would prohibit use of a pesticide on a school site if that pesticide contains an ingredient known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, as specified, or any one of specified cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides. The bill would prohibit, on and after January 1, 2014, the use of a pesticide on a school site if that product contains certain toxic or dangerous ingredients, as described, including any cholinesterase-inhibiting active ingredient, as identified by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, an active ingredient that is a groundwater or toxic air contaminant, as specified, or a fumigant, as identified by the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

“The risk for our children is just too great,” said Sen. DeSaulnier. “Schools are a place of learning and growth that must be free of dangerous toxins. This bill recognizes that there is nothing more important to California families than the health of our children.”

Pesticide exposure is known to cause acute symptoms, such as nausea, headache, dizziness, asthma attacks, and respiratory irritation, which are often diagnosed as flu symptoms. Pesticides have also been linked to chronic effects such as developmental and reproductive problems, learning disabilities like ADHD and autism, nervous system disorders, immune deficiency, and cancer. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Disease Database for more information on pesticides and disease.

Children’s exposure to pesticides has contributed to a rise in a variety of chronic illnesses and fatal diseases. In the last twenty years, asthma among children has more than doubled and is now the leading cause of missed school days in California. From 1977 to 1994, learning disabilities among children rose 191%, with brain cancer in children up 40% from 1973 to 1994.

“This legislation ensures that California school children and teachers are provided with a safer and greener learning environment,” said Paul Towers, state director of Pesticide Watch. “With the right training and support, healthy schools are within reach.”

“California used to be the state others turned to as a model for ensuring the health of kids in school,” said Sarah Aird, State Field Campaigner/Organizer, Californians for Pesticide Reform. “Although some California schools are reaping the health benefits and financial advantages of green pest control, as a state we’ve fallen behind the cutting edge. It’s time for California to take the lead again. This bill would do that.”

A previous bill, the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 (SB 1157), a bill that would have required least-toxic integrated pest management (IPM) in all California schools, was vetoed in September 2010 by Governor Schwarzenegger after passing the State Assembly. California activists were concerned then about SB 1157’s fate since the bill was amended eight times since its introduction in February 2010 and did not garner support from state Republicans.

Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools program page as well as our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle



Transgenic Fungi Being Developed to Fight Malaria

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2011) As insect resistance to pesticides steadily increases, and the underlying conditions of poverty, poor water management, and indecent living conditions contribute to the spread of malaria, the search for silver bullet solutions escalates. Researchers are exploring genetic engineering as the next frontier for a product-based approach to fighting malaria, which annually kills nearly one million people worldwide. While releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment raises serious concerns that must be fully studied, some in the public health community believe this could help slow the spread of malaria as part of an integrated campaign. At the same time, the long-term underlying causes that support the spread of malaria must be addressed.

The new research indicates that a genetically engineered fungus carrying genes for a human anti-malarial antibody or a scorpion anti-malarial toxin could be an effective tool for combating malaria, at a time when the effectiveness of current pesticides against malaria mosquitoes is declining. The researchers also say that this general approach could be used for controlling other devastating insect and tick bug-borne diseases, such as or dengue fever and Lyme disease. “Though applied here to combat malaria, our transgenic fungal approach is a very flexible one that allows design and delivery of gene products targeted to almost any disease-carrying arthropod,” said Raymond St. Leger, PhD, a professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland. The study, “Development of Transgenic Fungi That Kill Human Malaria Parasites in Mosquitoes,” is published in the February 2011 in the journal Science.

University of Maryland researchers with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the University of Westminster, London created their transgenic anti-malarial fungus, by starting with Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungus that naturally attacks mosquitoes, and then inserting into it genes for a human antibody or a scorpion toxin. Both the antibody and the toxin specifically target the malaria-causing parasite P. falciparum. The team then compared three groups of mosquitoes all heavily infected with the malaria parasite. In the first group were mosquitoes sprayed with the transgenic fungus, in the second were those sprayed with an unaltered or natural strain of the fungus, and in the third group were mosquitoes not sprayed with any fungus.

The research team found that compared to the other treatments, spraying mosquitoes with the transgenic fungus significantly reduced parasite development. The malaria-causing parasite P. falciparum was found in the salivary glands of just 25 percent of the mosquitoes sprayed with the transgenic fungi, compared to 87 percent of those sprayed with the wild-type strain of the fungus and to 94 percent of those that were not sprayed. Even in the 25 percent of mosquitoes that still had parasites after being sprayed with the transgenic fungi, parasite numbers were reduced by over 95 percent compared to the mosquitoes sprayed with the wild-type fungus.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 125 mosquito species with documented resistance to one or more insecticides. In a podcast interview with Science magazine, Dr. St. Leger explains why his research team believes this technology would result in less resistance than that of chemical insecticides:

The fungus isn’t interested in killing insects quickly. It wants to live inside the insect, it wants to grow inside the insect, and then it wants to produce lots of spores on the body of the insect. So, the fungus did not evolve to kill an insect quickly. It’s not to its benefit to kill the insect quickly. Now, that’s okay as long as the mosquito becomes infected with the fungus and with the malaria at about the same time. It’ll take a couple of weeks for the mosquito to become infectious with malaria, and in that time, the fungus will kill the mosquito, but that means you need to get a big dose of fungus out there in the field to help insure early infection by the fungus of the mosquito. So, that’s a problem. Now, we could engineer the fungus to kill the insect really quickly. We could put a gene encoding a scorpion toxin or a spider toxin, which is insecticidal, and that will kill the mosquito really quickly. But if we were to do that, we would very quickly start selecting for the mosquito to become resistant to the fungus, just like it’s become resistant toward the chemical insecticides, and lots of other things we’ve tried against the mosquitoes. So we tried a different tack: a fungus which will kill slowly, so it won’t put a lot of extra selective pressure on the mosquito. The mosquito can still breed somewhat, but now our fungus has genes specifically targeting the malaria, so that the mosquito is still flying around, but this fungus will penetrate into the insect, and it will kill the malaria inside the insects.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. It is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including much of Subsaharan Africa, Asia and the Americas. The disease results from the multiplication of malaria parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases progressing to coma, and death.

There are concerns by some that releasing a genetically modified organism into the environment could have negative unintended consequences. When asked about the potential hazards of this type of technology, Dr. St. Leger said this in his interview with Science:

Well, it’s hard to see any possible tangible effect this is going to have. We’re talking in our first field trials about using the fungus expressing the human antibody. Now, this antibody only recognizes the human malaria strain. It doesn’t even recognize chicken malaria or mouse malaria, so it’s highly specific. It wouldn’t affect anything the fungus does against any other insect if it doesn’t change the host range, it doesn’t change the virulence of the fungus. All it does is produce a protein which specifically interacts with human malaria. So, it’s hard to see any potential for impact. On the other hand, this sets a precedent, and although most concerns about the use of transgenic organisms have been focused on the application of transgenics to things we use as food, rather than to anything to do with human health, we still are making very sure that we cover everything. We also would make absolutely sure that we have what we call the stakeholders – everyone involved in Kenya, which is probably where the trial would take place, or maybe Tanzania – that everyone would be informed, everyone in the neighborhood would be informed of exactly what we’re doing. So we’d bring everyone on board with us. But we’re not in any hurry. We want to make sure absolutely everything is covered.



EU Panel Votes to Import Genetically Engineered Material in Animal Feed

(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2010) The European Union (EU) standing committee on Tuesday decided to allow a 0.1 percent contamination threshold for unauthorized Genetically Engineered (GE) products in animal feed imports that would change the bloc’s zero-tolerance attitude toward biotech food. The EU Commission and Parliament are expected to accept the rule by this summer. If the vote is allowed through by the European Parliament and Council, those shipments could contain GE seeds that are authorized in their home country but may not even have been tested in Europe.

Greenpeace spokesperson Stefanie Hundsdorfer warned that the new rules are possibly the first of many concessions to come.

“Setting a tolerance threshold, however low, is a sign that Europe is losing control over its own food production to please American exporters,” said Ms. Hundsdorfer. “The danger now is that EU countries come under pressure from the pro-GE lobby to also allow GE contamination in food products for direct human consumption.”

According to industry, exporting states and the European Commission say the new concession is necessary to prevent supply disruptions, because the EU’s feed industry relies on imports for 80% of its needs, and the world’s largest suppliers—Argentina, the United States and Brazil—are all widespread cultivators of GE crops.

United States, Brazil, and Argentina, are the three top GE crop growing countries and all had more than one million hectares in production according to the recent figures in the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report. Furthermore, for the second consecutive year, Brazil had the world’s largest year-over-year increase in absolute biotech crop plantings, adding four million hectares in 2010 — a 19 percent increase — to grow a total of 25.4 million hectares. However, the United States leads Brazil in total cropland devoted to biotech crops. Moreover, the U.S. might overtake Brazil’s position on the year-over-year increase in biotech crop planting this upcoming year due to the recent decision from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow the U.S. sugar beet industry to continue growing Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” GE sugar beets and the recent decision to deregulate GE alfalfa seed. The decision was made despite the risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers.

On February 7, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Sierra Club and Cornucopia Institute formally filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency concerning its decision to allow unrestricted deregulation of GE alfalfa.

Center for Food Safety’s senior attorney and counsel for the lawsuit to be filed against the USDA regarding GE alfalfa and past lawsuit regarding GE sugarbeets, George Kimbrell, is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Among other cases, Mr. Kimbrell was counsel in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms (2010), the first case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on the impacts of GE crops.

Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of a herbicide-resistant crop, the GE approach to pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. GE crops are already known to contaminate conventional non-GE and organic crops through “genetic drift” and take a toll on the environment by increasing resistant insects and weeds, contaminating water and affecting pollinators and other non-target organisms. Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems.

Sources: Wall Street Journal
Associated Press

Photo Courtesy: Inside Ireland



EPA Report Shows Modest Decrease in U.S. Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new report detailing sales and usage of pesticides in the U.S. for the years 2006 and 2007 and showing a modest decrease in pesticide use. The report compiles data from EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other sources in order to track pesticide trends and monitor usage. Previous industry use reports had been published every two years between 1994 and 2001; however, the last report was published ten years ago, in 2001, leaving a gap in the data.

In one of the more promising findings, the report shows that pesticide use in the country did decrease throughout most of the last decade. Use of conventional pesticides, measured in pounds applied, decreased about 3% from 2002 to 2007 and 11% from 1997 to 2007. However, the total pounds of pesticide use decreased only by approximately 8% – from 1.2 to 1.1 billion pounds – during the years from 2000 to 2007. While any decrease in the use of toxic chemicals is a hopeful sign, this marginal reduction does not go far enough. The fact that chemicals which are known to adversely affect human health and lead to environmental degradation continue to be used at all remains troubling.

Measuring pesticide applications in pounds of ingredient applied can often give a skewed picture of usage. Since formulations can come in many different forms, such as powders, liquids, or gases, and often change over time, these numbers can present somewhat inconsistent data trends. Additionally, this method underestimates the impact of systemic pesticides – chemicals which are taken up by the vascular system of the plant and incorporated into the plant tissue itself. They are then expressed throughout the systems of the plant, including in pollen. Measuring application in number of acres treated with a pesticide is a usually a better way to truly understand the prevalence of chemicals in the natural environment.

The report also found that organophosphate insecticide use decreased about 44% from 2002 to 2007, 63% from 2000 to 2007, and 55% from 1997 to 2007, resulting in about 33 million pounds of organophosphates being applied in 2007. Organophosphates, derived from World War II nerve agents, are a common class of chemicals used in pesticides and are considered to be among the most likely pesticides to cause an acute poisoning. Many are already banned in England, Sweden and Denmark. Organophosphate pesticides are extremely toxic to the nervous system, as they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. In finally responding to concerns stemming from this information, the EPA reached agreements with chemical manufacturers to phase out residential use of two common organophosphate pesticides, chlorpyrifos and diazinon, in 2000 and 2002 respectively. These agreements may partially account for the recent decline in use of organophosphates. However, these pesticides remain registered for other uses, including in agricultural production.

Farms in the U.S. spent a total of $7.3 billion on pesticides in 2006 and nearly $8 billion in 2007, according to the report. Farm budgets are often very tight and these sums represent precious percentages that could be spent on other resources, such as labor, infrastructure and equipment maintenance, or implementation of integrated pest management systems, which can even be more cost effective than using pesticides.

Although about 80% of all U.S. pesticide use is in agriculture, the amount of money spent on insecticides and miticides for use on private homes and gardens nearly equals the amount spent by agricultural producers on such products. Pesticides are often used in the home in attempts to control infestations of pests such as ants, termites, and bed bugs. However, such infestations can be effectively controlled without the need to expose yourself and your family to toxic chemicals, whose side effects can often be worse than the pests themselves. Integrated approaches to pest control involve cultural and mechanical practices that are safer and often more reliable than pesticides.

Some of the other findings of this year’s report that are highlighted by EPA include:

• Approximately 857 million pounds of conventional pesticide active ingredient are applied, based on 2007 data.

• Herbicides remain the most widely used type of pesticide in the agricultural market sector.

• Among the top 10 pesticides used in terms of pounds applied in the agricultural market are the herbicides glyphosate, atrazine, metolachlor-s, acetochlor, 2,4-D, and pendimethalin, and the fumigants metam sodium, dichloropropene, methyl bromide, and chloropicrin.

• Herbicides are also the most widely used type of pesticide in the home and garden and industrial, commercial, and governmental market sectors, and the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate are the most widely used active ingredients.

• In the U.S., pesticide sales are approximately $12.5 billion at the user level, which accounts for 32% of the nearly $40 billion world market, based on 2007 data. Pesticide use in the U.S. is 1.1 billion pounds based on 2007 data, or 22% of the world estimate of 5.2 billion pounds of pesticide use.

Want to do your own part to help reduce the release of dangerous and damaging chemicals in our homes, farms, and environment? Support organic agriculture and institutional IPM programs at schools and hospitals! You can even go organic in your own home, lawn, and garden.

For a great opportunity to learn more about pesticides and health, pollinators, organic food and farming, genetically engineered crops, healthy communities, organic land care, non-toxic bed bug control, and more, register for Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver (Aurora), Colorado. The conference will include talks and workshops with experts in the fields of organic farming, beekeeping, health and toxicology, land management, federal policy, and more. The event is open to the public and registration starts at $35. Limited scholarships are available, contact Beyond Pesticides for more information.

Source: EPA



Alarming World-Wide Rise of Genetically Engineered Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2011) After 15 years of commercialization, accumulated Genetically Engineered (GE) crops in the world exceeded 1 billion hectares in 2010. For comparison, 1 billion hectares is roughly equivalent to the vast land area of China, or of the United States. The figures are in this year’s International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report, out this week. Of the four most commonly planted GE crops, a rising percentage of the total of all plantings are GE. In 2010, 81% of all soybeans, 64% of cotton, 29% of corn and 23% of canola globally were from biotech seeds, the ISAAA says.

“Growth remains strong, with biotech hectare increasing 14 million hectares — or 10 percent – between 2009 and 2010,” said Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA. “That’s the second highest annual hectare growth ever – bringing 2010 global plantings to 148 million hectares.”

Unfortunately, the situation does not look brighter for this upcoming year due to the recent decision from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow the U.S. sugar beet industry to continue growing Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready,” GE sugar beets and the recent decision to deregulate GE alfalfa seed, despite the risks they pose to both organic and conventional farmers. On February 7, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Sierra Club and Cornucopia Institute formally filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency concerning its decision to allow unrestricted deregulation of GE alfalfa.

Center for Food Safety’s senior attorney and counsel for the lawsuit to be filed against the USDA regarding GE alfalfa and past lawsuit regarding GE sugarbeets, George Kimbrell, is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, “Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment http://www.beyondpesticides.org/forum/index.htm ,” April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Among other cases, Mr. Kimbrell was counsel in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms (2010), the first case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on the impacts of GE crops.

For the first time, in 2010, the ten largest GE crop growing countries all had more than 1 million hectares in production. In hectare rank order, they include: USA (66.8 million), Brazil (25.4 million), Argentina (22.9 million), India (9.4 million), Canada (8.8 million), China (3.5 million), Paraguay (2.6 million), Pakistan (2.4 million), South Africa (2.2 million) and Uruguay (1.1 million).

For the second consecutive year, Brazil had the world’s largest year-over-year increase in absolute biotech crop plantings, adding 4 million hectares in 2010 — a 19 percent increase — to grow a total of 25.4 million hectares. However, the United States leads Brazil in total cropland devoted to biotech crops. Australia saw the largest proportional year-on-year increase in biotech crop plantings at 184 percent. Burkina Faso followed at 126 percent growth with 80,000 farmers planting 260,000 hectares, a 65 percent adoption rate.

“Developing countries grew 48 percent of global biotech crops in 2010 and will exceed industrialized nations in their plantings of GE crops by 2015,” said James. “Clearly, the countries of Latin America and Asia will drive the most dramatic increases in global hectares planted to biotech crops during the remainder of the technology’s second decade of commercialization.”

The five principal developing countries growing GE crops – China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa – planted 63 million hectares of biotech crops in 2010, equivalent to 43 percent of the global total. All told, 19 of the 29 countries that have adopted biotech crops are developing nations, which grew at a rate of 17 percent or 10.2 million hectares over 2009 compared to only 5 percent growth or 3.8 million hectares in industrialized countries.

Developing nations are adopting these methods in the hopes of lowering food prices and reducing poverty and hunger in their nations. However, the findings of a comprehensive United Nation’s assessment of world agriculture, International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), concluded that GE crops have little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world. IAASTD experts recommended instead low-cost, low-input agro ecological farming methods.

“U.S. farmers are facing dramatic increases in the price of Genetically Modified (GM) seeds and the chemicals used with them,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the US-based Center for Food Safety and co-author of the report. “Farmers in any developing country that welcomes Monsanto and other biotech companies can expect the same fate – sharply rising seed and pesticide costs, and a radical decline in the availability of conventional seeds.”

Meanwhile, biotech propaganda has obscured the huge potential of low-cost agro ecological and organic techniques to increase food production and alleviate hunger in developing countries. The report mentions several such projects, such as push-pull maize farming, practiced by 10,000 farmers in east Africa. The enormously successful push-pull system controls weed and insect pests without chemicals, increases maize production, and raises the income of smallholder farmers.

Producers of genetically engineered crops claim they will reduce pesticide use and increase drought resistance, among other things, but many studies have emerged since their widespread adoption in the 1990s showing otherwise. Insect resistance, weed resistance (the development of “super weeds”), and cross contamination of other crops have been documented. These impacts threaten the sustainability of agriculture.

Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of a herbicide-resistant crop, the GE approach to pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems.

For more information on GE crops please see Beyond Pesticides page on Genetic Engineering.

Source: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) Brief 42-2010: Press Release



EPA Rejects Immediate Action On Pesticide Toxic To Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2011) In response to a request by beekeepers and environmentalists to remove a pesticide linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a letter, defended the pesticide clothianidin and the scientific study in question which was identified by beekeepers as a critically flawed study. EPA states that it does not intend to suspend or cancel clothianidin, even though independent studies have linked this chemical and others in its class to bee decline.

Beyond Pesticides, as a part of a group of environmentalists and beekeepers, broke the news last December that a core study underpinning the registration of the insecticide clothianidin was unsound, citing leaked EPA memos which discloses the critically flawed scientific study and its reclassification as a “core” study on which clothianidin’s conditional registration was contingent on, to a “supplemental” study. Bayer CropSceicne, manufacturer of clothianidin designed and submitted to study to EPA as part of clothianidin’s registration requirement. Beekeepers claim that the initial field study guidelines, which the Bayer study failed to satisfy, were insufficiently rigorous to test whether or not clothianidin contributes to CCD in a real-world scenario: the field test evaluated the wrong crop, over an insufficient time period and with inadequate controls. In a letter dated December 8, 2010, Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers and other groups called for an immediate stop-use order on the pesticide while the science is redone, and redesigned in partnership with practicing beekeepers.

EPA rejects these concerns and stands-by its continued registration of clothianidin. According to the letter, the agency asserts “we are not aware of any data that reasonably demonstrates that bee colonies are subject to elevated losses due to chronic exposure to this pesticide.” Although deficiencies in the study were known by the agency, the study “does not change the agency’s conclusion..”

According to beekeeper Jeff Anderson, who has testified before EPA on the topic, “The Bayer study is fatally flawed. It was an open field study with control and test plots of about 2 acres each. Bees typically forage at least 2 miles out from the hive, so it is likely they didn’t ingest much of the treated crops. And corn, not canola, is the major pollen-producing crop that bees rely on for winter nutrition. This is a critical point because we see hive losses mainly after over-wintering, so there is something going on in these winter cycles. It’s as if they designed the study to avoid seeing clothianidin’s effects on hive health.”

Clothianidin is of the neonicotinoid family of systemic pesticides, which are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets from which bees then forage and drink. Scientists are concerned about the mix and cumulative effects of the multiple pesticides bees are exposed to in these ways. Neonicotinoids are of particular concern because they have cumulative, sublethal effects on insect pollinators that correspond to CCD symptoms – namely, neurobehavioral and immune system disruptions. Clothianidin has been on the market since 2003. With a soil half-life of up to 19 years in heavy soils, and over a year in the lightest of soils, commercial beekeepers are concerned that clothianidin will have long lasting impacts on their hives.

According to James Frazier, PhD., professor of entomology at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, who is scheduled to speak at the 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver (Aurora), Colorado, “Among the neonicotinoids, clothianidin is among those most toxic for honey bees; and this combined with its systemic movement in plants has produced a troubling mix of scientific results pointing to its potential risk for honey bees through current agricultural practices. Our own research indicates that systemic pesticides occur in pollen and nectar in much greater quantities than has been previously thought, and that interactions among pesticides occurs often and should be of wide concern.” Dr. Frazier said that the most prudent course of action would be to take the pesticide off the market while the flawed study is being redone.

Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Bee Research Laboratory and Penn State University shows that the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid -a cousin to clothianidin, contribute, at extremely low levels– to bee deaths and possibly colony collapse disorder (CCD), the widespread disappearance of honey bees that has killed off more than a third of commercial honey bees in the U.S. This is the first study to show that neonicotinoids impact the survival of bees at levels below the level of detection, meaning that field studies would not have considered the role of the pesticide, because they would not have detected it.

Clothianidin is Bayer’s successor product to imidacloprid, which recently went off patent. Both are known to be toxic to insect pollinators, and are lead suspects as causal factors in CCD. Together, the two products accounted for over a billion dollars in sales for Bayer Crop Science in 2009. Imidacloprid is the company’s best-selling product and among the most widely used insecticides in the U.S.

Additional Information:
Clothianidin & CCD Fact Sheet
Beyond Pesticides Pollinators Program Page

Source: EPA