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19
May

Researchers Discover Toxins from GE Food in Human Blood

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2011) Scientists at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada found that pesticides associated with genetically engineered (GE) foods are present in maternal, fetal and nonpregnant women’s blood, emphasizing the need for further research into the effects that GE food has on human health. The study, “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada” is published in Reproductive Toxicology.

Scientists Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc analyzed blood samples for 39 nonpregnant women and 30 pregnant woman and their fetuses in Sherbrooke, an urban area of Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. It’s important to note that none of the women in the study had ever worked or lived with a spouse that worked in contact with pesticides. The diet of the women involved in the study is described as “typical of a middle class population of Western industrialized countries.”

The Cry1Ab toxin, which is an insecticidal protein produced by the soil bacterium Baccillus thuringiensis (Bt) was detected in 93% of maternal blood samples, 80% of fetal blood samples and 69% of the nonpregnant women’s blood. In genetic engineering, the Cry1Ab protein from Bt is transferred into corn so that it will produce it’s own insecticide so that it will be toxic to the pests such as corn borers. Though Bt is used by organic farmers as a least-toxic alternative to control bugs, organic farmers use Bt sparingly and only as a last resort. Conversely, thousands of acres of GE crops contain Bt, so experts believe it’s only a matter of time before insects become resistant to Bt.

Glufosinate is a broad-spectrum weed killer which some crops, such as oilseed rape, maize, soybeans, sugar beets, cotton can be genetically engineered for resistance (also known as LibertyLink). Glufosinate was detected in 18% of nonpregnant women’s blood but not detected in maternal and fetal blood. It’s metabolite, 3-mehtylphosphinicopropionic acid (3-MPPA), however, was detected in 100% of maternal and umbilical cord blood samples and in 67 % of the nonpregnant women’s blood.

The study did not find any significant detection of glyphosate in maternal or fetal blood, though it was present in 5% of nonpregnant women’s blood samples. The authors explain that this might be due to either the absence of exposure, efficiency of elimination of the chemical or simply limitations for current detection methods.

Though this research presented only a small sample size, and was very narrowly focused, the results of this work provide a baseline for future studies on nutrition, toxicology and reproduction in women. It also provides a valuable case for the need for further assessment of genetically engineered foods, as not much information is currently known on the impacts of GE food on human health.

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. There are currently no regulations requiring GE foods to be labeled as such, therefore the best way for consumers to avoid GE foods is to choose organic products.

For more information regarding genetic engineering of agricultural crops and the recent controversy surrounding USDA’s approval of several new varieties, including GE alfalfa and GE sugar beets, see our genetic engineering program page and other Daily News blog entries.

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18
May

USDA Pressed to Release Pesticide Report; Industry Campaigns to Suppress Data

(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2011) Chemical-intensive agriculture groups are seeking to derail the release of an annual U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, which has been released yearly for two decades, on the amount of pesticide residue detected by the Department on nationwide samples of fresh fruits and vegetables. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses the data to monitor exposure to pesticides and enforce federal standards designed to protect infants, children and other vulnerable people. This data has been used to educate consumers about pesticide use on fruits and vegetables.

For roughly two decades, USDA has tested various fruits and vegetables for pesticide residues, usually making its findings available to the public in January. More than four months into 2011 results for USDA’s 2010 tests have yet to be released.

Several of the nation’s top physicians and scientists wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, urging them to no longer delay the release of the most recent test results. The letter also calls on the officials to bolster the government’s research into the adverse health effects of pesticides, particularly on children. According to the letter, “Children are uniquely sensitive to harmful effects from pesticides. Yet they eat substantial quantities of certain fresh fruits and vegetables – apples, berries, peaches, for example – proven to contain multiple pesticide residues. We urge you to expand testing programs and share ample information with the public about pesticides in all produce, especially those that show up in children’s diets.”

USDA intends to release it “shortly,” according to Michael T. Jarvis, director of public affairs for the Agricultural Marketing Service within USDA. Many believe the agriculture industry has a role in the USDA’s delay of its annual report. Trade groups representing conventional produce growers urged USDA Secretary Vilsack in April to prevent “mischaracterization” of the agency’s pesticide residue data. This was one of a series of efforts by the industry to limit public access to this information. Industry has met privately with USDA officials to urge the agency to amend this year’s report to include “some context” that would “reassure” consumers about the safety of fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides. Industry has been vocal about its opposition to the use of USDA’s data which reports the amount of pesticide residue it detects from samples of fresh fruits and vegetables around the country. The data has been used by advocacy groups like Beyond Pesticides in Eating with a Conscience, and Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s ‘Dirty Dozen,’ to educate consumers about chemical residues present on the food they eat, all from USDA’s available data.

When asked if USDA will change the report in response to concerns from the produce industry, Mr. Jarvis said, “Our role is to gather the test results on produce sold in the United States and share that information with EPA…The data and the results have not been changed.”

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., M.Sc, an epidemiologist and pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, said federal regulation of pesticides in food needs to be tightened and the public is rightly concerned about possible health impacts from exposure through food. Dr. Landrigan noted a trio of peer-reviewed studies published last month that found children exposed in the womb to high levels of organophosphate pesticides had lower average intelligence than other children by the time they reached age seven. If exposure to pesticides is harming children, it does not matter if the levels are below the legal limit set by the government, said Dr. Landrigan, whose research in the 1990s compelled the federal government to significantly tighten pesticide standards.

Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience explores 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. It also addresses why our food choices are important and have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat.

Source: Washington Post

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17
May

EPA Considers Bilingual Pesticide Labels, Public Comments Needed

(Beyond Pesticides, May 17, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received a petition from the Migrant Clinicians Network, Farmworker Justice, and other farmworker interest groups asking the agency to require that manufacturers make their pesticide product labels available in both English and Spanish. EPA is inviting public comment until June 28, 2011 (see Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0014-0001 and submit comments). After the 90-day comment period ends, the agency will use the comments received in developing a decision on this petition. Farmworker groups are asking people to submit comments to EPA supporting the petition. See talking points below.

Currently, pesticide labels are only required to be in English. This policy has a disproportionate impact on farmworkers, particularly pesticide applicators, who primarily speak Spanish, with little or no ability to speak or read English. As a consequence, they cannot read the pesticide labels and do not understand the pesticide use directions, the personal protective equipment (PPE) required or the instructions to avoid contamination of water bodies. The current provision, which directs Spanish-speaking workers themselves to get the label translated, is grossly inadequate. In a recent study in Washington State, farmworkers who could not read English exhibited higher rates of pesticide exposure than workers who could read English. Without the benefit of a foreign language label, these farmworkers are ill-equipped to protect themselves, others, or the environment.

The petition focuses on requiring bilingual labeling for agricultural pesticides to increase protection for Spanish-speaking pesticide applicators and farmworkers. However, the agency is requesting comment on whether to require bilingual labeling in English and Spanish for all types of pesticide products. At present, EPA allows pesticide manufacturers to add labeling in other languages, in addition to providing pesticide product labels in English. For agricultural products subject to the Worker Protection Standard, EPA requires that certain parts of the pesticide label include words or phrases in Spanish. In response to the petition, EPA is considering whether to require bilingual labeling in English and Spanish for all pesticides or for only certain types of pesticides, certain pesticide use sites, certain pesticide active ingredients, pesticides in certain toxicity categories, or certain parts of pesticide labels. The agency is requesting comment from interested parties and the public on these options.

Beyond Pesticides encourages consumers to support a pesticide-free workplace for farmworkers by supporting organic agriculture (see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience website). USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic–pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife. Because farmworkers continue to be exposed to toxic pesticides in conventional chemical-intensive farming operations and face other hardships as well, Beyond Pesticides also encourages the public to respond to this petition and support farmworker organizations.

Bilingual pesticide labeling talking points

Requiring pesticide manufacturers to label their products in English and Spanish will reduce incidents of pesticide poisoning.

— Pesticide labels communicate information critical to the prevention of adverse effects to human health and the environment. This includes warnings and precautionary statements, first aid information, personal protective equipment, and directions for safe use.

— The agricultural workforce is overwhelmingly foreign born, and the majority speak Spanish. According to the National Agricultural Worker Survey (NAWS), 81% of farmworkers reported Spanish as their native language, and 53% of the farmworkers said they cannot speak, read, or write English. In a recent study of pesticide handlers in Washington State, only 29% reported being able to read in English but nearly all of the participants were able to read in Spanish to at least some degree. These workers therefore do not understand the pesticide use directions, the personal protective equipment (PPE) required, emergency decontamination instructions, or the instructions to avoid environmental contamination.

— Growers and pesticide applicators in Puerto Rico, where Spanish is the official language, are now using pesticide products that have labels entirely in English. The only exception is for Restricted Use Pesticides, which must have Spanish labels to be sold in Puerto Rico.

— Pesticide handlers who do not read English are more likely to be exposed than handlers who read English. Researchers found that pesticide handlers who were not able to read English had greater exposure rates than handlers who could read English at least to some degree.

— Studies have shown that Latino farmworkers are disproportionately exposed to pesticides. Between 1998 and 2005, state and federal tracking systems identified 3,281 cases of acute occupational pesticide poisonings among farmworkers. Of these cases, 727 (22%) included information on the worker’s race or ethnicity. Of these 727 cases, 502 (69%) were Hispanic.

— Current regulations place a heavy burden on both workers and employers to provide their own translation. The following statement appears buried in the labels of the two most toxic categories of pesticides: “Si Usted no entiende la etiqueta, busque a alguien para que se la explique a Usted en detalle. [If you do not understand the label, find someone to explain it to you in detail.]” 40 CFR 156.206(e)

— Farmworkers and their family members are disproportionately exposed to pesticides and suffer adverse health effects.

Costs to pesticide manufacturers would be small compared to the benefits to workers, their families, rural communities and the environment.

— Translation, printing, packaging, and other costs of complying with bilingual labeling requirements will not add significantly to manufacturing costs or prices to customers.

— Manufacturers of pesticides routinely translate their labels into Spanish as well as many other languages in order to sell them worldwide. Restricted use pesticides (RUPs) sold in Puerto Rico already have Spanish-language labels.

The Federal Register notice and petition are available in docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0014 at Regulations.gov.

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16
May

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Considers Massive Aerial Spray to Eradicate Invasive Mice

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2011) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is looking into “carpet-bombing” with pesticides (or a large aerial bombing) the Farallon Islands, off the coast of San Francisco, in an effort to eradicate the invasive house mouse that is encroaching on the survival of an endangered seabird. The problem is that this approach will also kill many other species in and around the Islands, including birds, reptiles and crustaceans.

FWS announced April 26, 2011 that the agency is preparing a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the islands located off the coast of San Francisco, California. The aim of the project is to “protect and restore the ecosystem.” The agency is accepting public comments, suggestions and other input on or before May 27, 2011.

“These are man-made problems,” Maggie Sergio, director of advocacy for the nonprofit organization WildCare, told the San Francisco Gate. “Is the aerial dumping of tons of poison over a pristine wilderness area really the answer? We don’t think so.”

WildCare, a Marin County animal rehabilitation center that has been around for 50 years, has been working to stop the spray. The organization sent around a petition and has so far collected over 1,500 signatures.

Brodificoum is highly toxic to birds and mammals. Brodifacoum was the culprit in most of the 48,000 rodenticide poisonings of children under six in 2004 and has contributed to the deaths of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and golden eagles. Secondary exposure to brodifacoum at the National Zoo, caused the poisoning of small body birds such as finches, thrushes, and warblers were affected. One study concluded that the use of brodificoum for rodent control poses severe risk to sea bird colonies.

To learn more about rodenticides, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Rodenticides fact sheet. For least toxic control of mice and other pests visit the alternatives page.

TAKE ACTION
Sign WildCare’s petition to stop the dumping of rodenticices on the Farrallon Islands.

or;

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services that the aerial broadcast of the rodenticide Brodifacoum poses too high of a risk to the Island’s ecosystem, including non-target avian speices and crustaceans. Comments will be accepted until May 27, 2011. Send comments either via email to sfbaynwrc@fws.org with the heading, “South Farrallon Islands NEPA Scoping Comments,” or send a hard copy to:

South Farrallon Islands NEPA Scoping Comments
℅ Gerry McChsney, Farrallon NWR Manager
9500 Thornton Ave
Newark, CA 94560.

Source: San Francisco Gate

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13
May

Studies Show Health and Financial Benefits of Organic Poultry Farming

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2011) Two recent studies performed independently of each other confirm that organically produced food is safer and can actually save money in the long term. A report from the University of Florida has found that salmonella is the leading disease-causing pathogen found in food, leading to more than $3 billion every year in public health costs. Salmonella is a microbe that is often found in poultry and egg products. An unrelated study, published in November of last year by the University of Georgia, found that there is a significantly lower rate of salmonella contamination in organic chickens compared to conventional chickens. Taken together, the results of these two studies reveal the potential for organic poultry farming to significantly reduce the risk to human health from food pathogens, as well as the cost to society of treating and eliminating those pathogens.

In April of this year, the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida released a report entitled “Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health.” The aim of the report was to evaluate the burden to society, in terms of health risks as well as financial cost, caused by specific disease-causing microbes found in food. Among the report’s findings, the greatest cost burden is placed on society due to contamination of food with salmonella. Compiling data from the costs of doctor’s visits, hospitalization, prescriptions, lost wages, and estimated economic value of a premature death, the researchers found that total salmonella contamination resulted in a financial burden to society of $3.3 billion.

The study measured risks to human health and impacts on people’s lives using a method called “quality adjusted life years” (QALY), which is a standard public health tool used to assess such seemingly unquantifiable concepts as pain, suffering, and disability. The cumulative total of salmonella’s QALYs, including from produce and other foods, was also higher than any other microbial pathogen. It resulted in over 1 million illnesses, 19,336 hospitalizations, and 378 deaths in 2009. For salmonella specifically in poultry, the cost was $712 million, resulting in 221,000 illnesses, 4,000 hospitalizations, and 81 deaths.

In November, the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety released a study that documents the comparative rates of salmonella contamination in both feces and feed at organic and conventional broiler poultry farms in North Carolina. There were three organic and four conventional farms included in the study, all owned by the same company. The researchers found that, in examining fecal samples, 38.8% of those from conventional farms contained salmonella, compared with only 5.6% from organic farms. For feed, the results were similar: 27.5% of feed on the conventional farms had salmonella, while only 5% of organic feed was contaminated.

The study also examined the prevalence of salmonella that are resistant to antibiotic treatment and compared the results of organic versus conventional. Alarmingly, the results show that resistance to the antibiotic streptomycin is 36.2% at conventional farms, compared to 25% at organic. Perhaps even more significant, multidrug resistance to six different antibiotic treatments (ampicillin, streptomycin, amoxicillin, cephalothin, ceftiofor, and cefoxitin) is at 39.7% on the conventional farms, whereas none of the organic birds show resistance to this combined treatment.

Antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance is a serious public health issue, since it can lead to infections that are difficult or impossible to treat. When they are used in small doses, such as in livestock feed or antimicrobial hand soaps containing triclosan, the drugs kill a small amount of the microbial population, but the ones that survive evolve immunity to the treatment and pass this on to future generations. These resistant populations can then grow and eventually come in contact with humans, putting the general public at risk of untreatable infection.

It is clear from the results of these studies that there is significant public health benefit, in terms of both quality of life as well as financial burden, in raising livestock in an organic system rather than a conventional system. Both society and the individual benefit from reduced rates of illness and reduced pressure on the health care system.

To learn more about the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticide’s organic program page.

Sources: Washington Post, Grist

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12
May

Groups Submit Policy Recommendations to Strengthen Environmental Right to Know

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2011) Beyond Pesticides joined 112 organizations in endorsing a 102-page set of environmental right-to-know recommendations, which OMB Watch presented on Tuesday, May 10 to the Obama administration. The recommendations, collaboratively drafted by advocates from across the country, aim to expand access to environmental information, equip citizens with data about their environmental health, and empower Americans to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from toxic pollution.

The recommendations are contained within a report titled An Agenda to Strengthen Our Right to Know: Empowering Citizens with Environmental, Health, and Safety Information, drafted as part of the Environmental Information Initiative project. OMB Watch compiled the report following a year of work that culminated in a conference of almost 100 environmental, health, and safety advocates held in November 2010.

Sean Moulton, OMB Watch’s Director of Federal Information Policy, said, “Many of the recommendations laid out in the report are ambitious, but they are also needed. Environmental and right-to-know advocates believe that much more information, presented in more searchable and usable formats, is necessary in order to adequately protect Americans’ environmental health.”

Three key priorities are woven throughout the recommendations:

1. Environmental justice must always be considered – Minority and low-income communities have historically borne a far greater proportion of environmental harm than other communities, and several recommendations address the need to improve data on this issue.

2. Health risks from chemicals need to be better tracked and communicated to the public – There is a great need for more and better data on potential impacts to vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children without overuse of restrictions such as trade secrets. This includes identifying the fate and impacts of pesticides in the environment.

3. Public participation has to start with the government – While there are many communities, organizations, and individuals across the country who are interested and concerned about environmental issues, the first steps to getting those people to engage must come from the government.

The report points out the current pitfalls with pesticide use and illness reporting data, noting that that California is currently the only state that gathers and makes publicly available comprehensive data on the quantities, types, and locations of use of agricultural pesticides. Specifically, it calls for required reporting and disclosure of pesticide use and illness, including:

Track farm pesticide applications – USDA should work with EPA and states to require reporting by farms of their use of pesticides. Such reports must include geographic data so that researchers may evaluate the potential impacts on nearby water bodies, aquifers, schools and playgrounds, wildlife and habitats, organic farm fields, homes, and other areas that could be harmed by pesticide drift, residues, and metabolites. Detailed information on the chemical identity – including the identity of all so-called inert ingredients – quantity, and manner of application should also be reported. Such data are vital to monitoring the health impacts of pesticide exposure to farm workers, their families, and nearby communities.

Track the fate and health impacts of pesticide use – Field research and monitoring should be expanded to explore the fate of pesticides and their metabolites, the extent of pesticide drift and the areas affected (especially homes and schools), the amount of residue on foods and the risk it poses, impacts on sensitive wildlife such as amphibians and birds, among other questions, and more. Monitoring efforts conducted by community members should be encouraged and the data collected integrated into government research. Pesticide-related illnesses, poisonings, and accidents must also be tracked and disclosed (see, for example, the multi-state program at CDC’s NIOSH, the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk). Physicians should be required to report pesticide-related illnesses, poisonings, and accidents to relevant agencies, and those agencies should compile the reports and make them publicly available.

The report also includes several “first steps” that the government can and should get started on right away. They include:
• Increase the collection and distribution of environmental justice data
• Fill data gaps on the harm from chemicals, as well as address information shortfalls on safer alternatives
• Ensure product labels disclose all ingredients, including the so-called inert ingredients, and their associated risks
• Forge the Toxics Release Inventory into a more powerful disclosure tool
• Develop a unified facility reporting system
• Provide for worker and public participation

Mr. Moulton concluded, “The opportunity to advance this proactive agenda is upon us. We call on our leaders and decision makers to take up these recommendations and ensure that every person in the country has access to the information needed to make decisions that enable all of us to live, work, play, and learn within a healthy environment.”

An Agenda to Strengthen Our Right to Know is available online at http://www.ombwatch.org/eiirecommendations.

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11
May

Monsanto Renews Efforts for Genetically Engineered Wheat

(Beyond Pesticides, May 11, 2011) In what seems like a quest to control much of the world’s food supply, industry giant Monsanto is renewing its efforts to develop genetically modified wheat. Over the past two years, the agricultural biotechnology giant has renewed its interest in wheat, committing more resources to creating new traits and seed varieties. Genetically modified (GM) varieties of soy, corn and alfalfa have already been developed. Recent efforts by the company to have GM crops deregulated by the U.S. government -so that they can be widely grown without restriction- have been successful.

In the past two years, Monsanto has renewed its efforts into research for GM wheat. The company has built a ‘seed chipper” for wheat -a proprietary and prohibitively expensive machine that speeds the process of identifying beneficial crop traits. In 2009, the company paid $45 million to buy WestBred, a Montana-based wheat seed company. Monsanto says its efforts will focus on biotechnology and traditional breeding to achieve a drought-tolerant trait and increased yield.

Genetic research and modification has been slower for wheat compared to soy and corn because of the grain’s genetic complexity and lower potential monetary returns to commercial seed companies, which discourage investment in research. In the corn sector, where hybrids are used, farmers generally buy seed from dealers every year. However, many wheat farmers, particularly in the Plains states, use saved seed instead of buying from dealers every year. In addition, U.S. food processors have been wary of consumer reaction to products containing genetically modified wheat, so no GM wheat is currently grown in the United States.

In past years, Monsanto had been working to commercialize a genetically modified wheat, but in 2004, facing industry rejection, the company pulled back. A consortium of groups, including Beyond Pesticides, argued there was widespread foreign opposition to buying biotech wheat as well as various environmental concerns, and demanded that the USDA withhold approval of Monsanto’s GM wheat variety until the government assesses the complete environmental and economic impacts of the product. A 2003 study by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) shows that introduction of GM wheat will adversely affect the U.S. wheat industry. The study predicts that commercialization of GM wheat would result in a loss of 30 to 50% of U.S. export markets. In 2009, farmers, consumers and civil society organizations in Australia, Canada and the U.S. released a joint statement confirming their collective commitment to stop commercialization of GM wheat. Half of the country’s wheat is exported, and some of those export markets adopted a zero-tolerance stance on the presence of genetically modified grain, meaning even one genetically modified seed could prompt a wholesale rejection of a shipment.

Last month, USDA issued a proposal that would allow industry groups seeking deregulation of GM products to submit their own environmental evaluations as part of the deregulation process. This follows several decisions to deregulate GM alfalfa and sugar beets, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers. In March 2011, in an effort to protect them from patent infringement in the event of drift contamination by Monsanto’s GM seed, 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations preemptively filed suit against the agribusiness giant. The case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan on behalf of Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT).

Wheat is grown on more acres globally than any other crop and provides roughly 20 percent of the world’s calories, according to the United Nations. But, American farmers have stopped planting it in recent years. From the 1980s to today, wheat acreage has dropped about 30 percent, from 85 million acres to 60 million. The drop, growers say, is largely because research in wheat has lagged, while innovation in soy and corn has exploded. In February, USDA launched a five-year $25 million grant to perform wheat research, looking at everything from disease to yield.

GM wheat, like other GM crops, can cause serious environmental damage, including the development of resistant weeds, contamination of non-GM crops and organic farms and the unknown impacts of human health. For more information on genetically modified crops and recent federal and legal development visit the Genetic Engineering webpage.

Source: St. Louis Today

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10
May

Environmental Disease in Children Estimated at $76.6 Billion Annually

(Beyond Pesticides, May 10, 2011) In three new studies published in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs (Vol. 30, No. 5), Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers reveal the staggering economic impact of toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the environment, and propose new legislation to mandate testing of new chemicals and also those already on the market. The studies, “Environmental Disease in Kids Cost $76.6 Billion in 2008,” “Children’s Vulnerability to Toxic Chemicals,” and “Pollutants and Respiratory Illness in Infants,” are available on the Health Affairs website.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, analyzed the costs of conditions – including lead poisoning, childhood cancer, asthma, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – associated with exposure to toxic chemicals. Dr. Trasande and his team calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and the indirect costs, such as parents’ lost work days, and lost economic productivity caring for their children, of these diseases in children. The researchers found the annual cost in the United States to be an estimated $76.6 billion, representing 3.5 percent of all U.S. health care costs in 2008. The breakdown includes: lead poisoning ($50.9 billion), autism ($7.9 billion), intellectual disability ($5.4 billion), exposure to mercury pollution ($5.1 billion), ADHD ($5 billion), asthma ($2.2 billion), and childhood cancer ($95 million).

“Our findings show that, despite previous efforts to curb their use, toxic chemicals have a major impact on health care costs and childhood morbidity,” said Dr. Trasande. “New policy mandates are necessary to reduce the burden of disease associated with environmental toxins. The prevalence of chronic childhood conditions and costs associated with them may continue to rise if this issue is not addressed.”

Dr. Trasande also reviewed an earlier study of 1997 data, which was conducted by Philip J. Landrigan, MD, and documented $54.9 billion in annual costs for childhood diseases associated with environmental toxicants in the United States. Reviewing this prior analysis, Dr. Trasande found that while exposure to lead and costs associated with asthma had diminished, new chemicals and new environmentally-induced diseases, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, have increased the overall burden of disease. Dr. Landrigan is currently Dean for Global Health, and Professor and Chair of Preventive Medicine, and Professor of Pediatrics, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

In a related article also in the current issue of Health Affairs, Dr. Landrigan and Lynn R. Goldman, MD, Dean of the School of Public Health at George Washington University, propose a three-pronged approach to reduce the burden of disease and rein in the effects of toxic chemicals in the environment:

— Conduct a requisite examination of chemicals already on the market for potential toxicity, starting with the chemicals in widest use, using new, more efficient toxicity testing technologies.
— Assess all new chemicals for toxicity before they are allowed to enter the marketplace, and maintain strictly-enforced regulation on these chemicals.
— Bolster ongoing research and epidemiologic monitoring to better understand, and subsequently prevent, the health impact of chemicals on children.

“Implementing these proposals would have a significant impact in preventing childhood disease and reducing health costs,” said Dr. Landrigan. “Scant legislation has been passed to reduce the risks associated with childhood exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment. Even though only six chemicals have been banned, we have seen dramatic benefits from that action alone. The removal of lead from gasoline and paint is an example of the importance of this type of regulation.”

In a separate article in Health Affairs, Perry Sheffield, MD, Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, evaluated the little-studied correlation between air pollution and infectious respiratory illness in children, and the resultant health care costs. Dr. Sheffield and her team analyzed hospitalization data between 1999 and 2007 for children aged one month to one year who had bronchiolitis – a type of viral lung infection with symptoms similar to asthma – and monitored the air quality surrounding in the hospitals where the patients were treated. They found a statistically significant association between levels of fine particulate matter pollutant surrounding the hospitals, and total charges and costs for infant bronchiolitis hospitalizations. Her team revealed that as the amount of air pollutants increased, infant bronchiolitis hospitalization costs increased by an average of $127 per patient.

The common diseases affecting the public’s health are all too well-known in the 21st century: asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer. Their connection to environmental contaminants, especially pesticides, continues to strengthen despite efforts to restrict individual chemical exposure, or mitigate chemical risks, using risk assessment-based policy. With some of these diseases at very high and, perhaps, epidemic proportions, Beyond Pesticides believes there is an urgent need for public policy at all levels –local, state, and national—to end dependency on toxic pesticides, replacing them with carefully defined green strategies. Beyond Pesticides created and maintains the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database to facilitate access to epidemiologic and laboratory studies based on real world exposure scenarios that link public health effects to pesticides.

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09
May

Most Comprehensive List of Potential Endocrine Disruptors to Date Released by TEDX

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2011) The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange Inc. (TEDX), founded by Theo Colborn, PhD, has released a list of chemicals with the potential to affect the endocrine system. According to TEDX, every chemical on the TEDX List has one or more verified citations to published, accessible, primary scientific research demonstrating effects on the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that impact traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones. To date there are approximately 800 endocrine disruptors on the TEDX List. Download the TEDX List (Excel)

Many everyday chemicals that people are exposed to can wreak havoc on the body’s endocrine system. Pesticides such as triclosan, atrazine, permethrin and many others have been associated with effects on the body’s hormone system. Visit the Pesticide Induced Disease Database for more on the chemicals linked to endocrine disruption. Endocrine effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues. Read Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet.

As early as 1988, before the term ‘endocrine disruption’ was used, Dr. Colborn began collecting scientific literature on chemicals that could interfere with function, development and reproduction, particularly on chemicals that had effects at ambient concentrations in wildlife. Today, TEDX’s collection of endocrine disruption literature has grown to over 43,000 documents, including thousands of scientific studies that demonstrate impairment of the endocrine system. In the TEDX List, every citation refers to a primary research study that we acquired and read. Several years went into the process of verifying citations and acquiring publications we did not already have. The number of citations presented in the TEDX List does not necessarily reflect the amount of research that has been done on each chemical and for practical reasons was limited to a maximum of five citations per chemical.

Earlier this year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) adopted a new policy calling for greater government action to protect the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals. 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. The European Union (EU) also has a database identifying endocrine disrupting chemicals. For a complete list of EU-identified endocrine disruptors, see the EU’s “Endocrine Disruptors Website” database page.

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. Atrazine for example, 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. A recent study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley showed that atrazine acts as an endocrine disruptor and can cause complete sex reversal in male frogs at 2.5 parts per billion. Certain synthetic pyrethroids, one of the most widely used classes of pesticides, have also been found to demonstrate significant estrogenic activity and increase estrogen levels in the human body. The effects of estrogenic pesticides have been widely researched and have been identified as being responsible for prevalence of feminized fish and amphibians. Triclosan, the controversial antibacterial pesticides that Beyond Pesticides has petitioned the EPA and FDA to ban from consumer products, has been found to interfere with estrogen metabolism in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has 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. The agency is mandated to test chemicals for their potential to affect the hormone system. 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 an act of Congress. Dr. Colborn has criticized EPA’s testing program stating that the tests are outdated, insensitive, crude, and narrowly limited, and will fail to detect many serious effects on human development. The tests to be used by EPA were first recommended in 1998. Since then the science has made progress and become more sophisticated. Current research is based on different assumptions than the toxicological assumptions that first drove the EPA test designs. However, EPA has not updated its protocol.

Source: The Endocrine Exchange Inc.

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06
May

Experts Convene to Discuss Future of Food as Agriculture Reform Initiative Is Launched

(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2011) On Wednesday this week, the Future of Food conference, organized by The Washington Post, convened at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and featured experts in science, industry, and agriculture discussing ways to reform local, national, and global food systems to work toward justice and sustainability. The keynote speaker for the conference was Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, who has been a longtime advocate for the natural world and for sustainable systems of food production.

The event also featured such noted speakers as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, global sustainability advocate Vandana Shiva, nutritionist Marion Nestle, writer Wendell Berry, urban agriculture pioneer Will Allen, organic researcher Fred Kirschenmann, author Eric Schlosser, Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirshberg, and many more.

Prince Charles in his speech (text available here, video available here) discussed many of the problems currently facing food production and advocated for a swifter and more direct move toward more sustainable, or “durable,” as he called it, systems. Pointing out the many dangers caused by an industrial farming system that depletes natural resources and impairs biodiversity, he argued that we cannot afford to continue operating under the current system for very much longer before it starts to fall apart. In order to foster the necessary change, the Prince said that agricultural policy, in the U.S. and around the developed world, needs a drastic overhaul in order to incentivize and reward farmers undertaking positive change. The current system actually penalizes farmers and food utilizing sustainable methods while paying huge sums of money to farmers who plant monocultures of corn and soybeans on every available strip of bare land, he said.

He also pointed to research that was done by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) – convened by the United Nations and the World Bank – which demonstrated that small-scale systems of agro-ecology are fully capable of producing enough food for the developing world while helping to preserve and replenish natural resources. Hans Herron of IAASTD was there to speak in a later panel. Additionally, a report put out earlier this year by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food came to similar conclusions, even going so far as to say that these more sustainable systems can actually double food production in certain regions.

Later in the conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a last minute addition to the conference agenda, took questions from the audience after a short speech about current projects at USDA. Several of the questions relayed a sense of frustration from the general public stemming from recent regulatory decisions.

One question in particular cut to the heart of the matter when filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia (Future of Food) asked how Sec.Vilsack could approve deregulation of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa http://www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/?p=4888. Sec. Vilsack’s reiterated his belief in the potential for “coexistence” between organic and GE agriculture and said that he can’t favor one over the other because it would be like asking him to chose which one of his sons is his favorite. Ms. Garcia, referring to the agribusiness lobby, said to Sec. Vilsack, “one of your sons is a bully,” which brought cheers from the audience. The Secretary responded that he wants to move away from this kind of antagonism and gather a group of stakeholders to discuss ways to move forward with agreement, despite the fact that the burden of harm is unequally placed upon organic farmers who may find their crops contaminated with GE crops.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, a strong advocate for reducing corporate control of the food system in developing countries, later criticized the approach proposed by Sec. Vilsack in saying that it is not democratic for a small panel of experts to decide the future of food production for an entire population. What is needed, according to Dr. Shiva, is for all of us to take part in our food system in order to achieve true justice and sovereignty.

Elsewhere, eight of the world’s leading foundations have launched AGree, a new initiative that will tackle long-term food and agriculture policy issues confronting the nation and the world as the population continues to grow and resources become ever-more constrained.

AGree’s mission to nurture dialogue among diverse opinions on agriculture issues is embodied by the leaders of the initiative: Dan Glickman, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton and a former congressman from Kansas for 18 years; Gary Hirshberg, chairman, president and “CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm; Jim Moseley, former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush and Indiana farmer for more than 40 years; and, Emmy Simmons, former assistant administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade at the U.S. Agency for International Development and a board member for several organizations engaged in international agriculture and global development.

“Our current food system is broken for farmers, consumers and the environment,” Mr. Hirshberg said. “We must move beyond the political knee-jerk defense of traditional agriculture and face the need for change armed with real-world, scientific facts and analysis that AGree can provide,” Mr. Hirshberg said.

“Agriculture has evolved from simply producing food to feed people and now has numerous demands placed on it. As a result the current discussion on agriculture and food policy is having problems focusing on what is really important; stakeholders talk past one another and often fail to comprehend policy implications beyond a specific sector,” Mr. Moseley said. “The key to solving these diverse policy questions is through dialogue across sectors. AGree will promote these conversations and help us find the right balance on these conflicts to meet the broader public demands we are experiencing,” he said.

“We face a world where nearly a billion people already go hungry everyday; those numbers will continue to rise if we do not address underlying issues of quantity and quality of the world’s food systems,” Mr. Simmons said. “AGree can help align our domestic policies with the growing needs in developing countries for food security, nutrition and equitable development.”

The past 20 years have created competition and division among stakeholders on priorities such as environment, production, economy and nutrition, creating an impasse as lawmakers try to develop food and agriculture policies here in the United States and abroad.

According to AGree, it intends to foster these necessary answers by starting with an open mind to new solutions and by convening a diverse set of stakeholders including conventional and organic farmers, ranchers, nutritionists, energy experts, environmentalists, financiers, international aid veterans and public health specialists.

AGree is funded by Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation.

For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture and the risks of conventional production, see our page on organic food, as well our Eating with a Conscience guide, which demonstrates why organic is necessary for you, farmworkers, and the environment. Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay feldman, serves on the National Organic Standards Board, which regulates allowable practices and inputs in certified organic food, and advances organic food production practices that meet defined standards of sustainability and the protection of human health and biodiversity.

The Washington Post will be publishing a story on the Future of Food conference in the next week. In the meantime, several video excerpts have been posted to the Washington Post Live website which you can view at any time.

Source: Agree press release

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05
May

Groups Declare May 6 Lawn Pesticide Awareness Day

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2011) Over 70 international organizations, including health and environmental groups, landscapers and farmers are proclaiming tomorrow, Friday, May 6, 2011, Lawn Pesticide Awareness Day in honor of Dr. June Irwin’s leading role in passage of North America’s first lawn pesticide ban in Hudson, Quebec, on May 6, 1991.

“The town of Hudson, Quebec, and particularly the actions of June Irwin, M.D., have sent a clear signal to communities all across North America that the use of lawn and landscape pesticides is both harmful and unnecessary,” said Jay Feldman, the founder of Beyond Pesticides of Washington, D.C. “Chemical lawn pesticides are scientifically linked to cancer in people and pets, and are known to be toxic to the nervous and immune system, endocrine disruptors, and tied to respiratory effects such as asthma. Alternative practices that rely on maintenance techniques and soil health that prevent unwanted insect and weeds are far more effective than their chemical counterparts.”

Now, for 80 percent of Canadians and a growing number of Americans, synthetic chemical lawn pesticides are becoming a habit of the past. In 1991, exactly six years from the first day she voiced her concerns at a town meeting, May 6, 1985, Hudson made North American history by banning synthetic lawn and garden pesticides on public and private property except farms and golf courses. Dr. Irwin, who maintains a dermatology practice in Pointe Claire, Quebec, said she began to notice rashes and other health issues related to lawn pesticides in the early 1980s. Her early warnings were ignored by the medical community and Canadian federal government, so she took matters into her own hands by attending every town meeting in Hudson, a village just to the west of Montreal.

“Lawn pesticides are an example of people willfully, though maybe not knowingly, poisoning their neighbors,” said Dr. Irwin. “These are terribly toxic substances and yet, it seemed to me, there was a conspiracy of silence. I’m pleased that, to some degree, we have been able to break through that silence to get the word out.”

The lawn pesticide industry, estimated at billions of dollars in revenue, quickly fired back at Hudson and its 5,200 citizens with a local court challenge in 1993. Yet as the lawsuit progressed through the Canadian legal system, all the way to the Supreme Court in December of 2000, public awareness and momentum was building against the use of the products that have been linked to a wide array of health and environmental maladies. In June of 2001, Canada’s top court shocked the lawn chemical industry with a 9-0 decision in favor of the town’s ban. Other lawn pesticide prohibitions soon followed in municipalities and provinces across Canada.

“We decided that applying pesticides for the sake of aesthetic purposes violated the precautionary principle,” said Supreme Court Justice Claire L’Heureux Dube, who wrote the uncontested opinion. “There was enough evidence to suggest that lawn pesticides could be dangerous, even though there wasn’t proof that lawn pesticides were dangerous in every situation. For the sake of killing dandelions it’s not worth taking a chance.”
At first, during the early 1990s, only a few other Canadian towns followed Hudson’s lead. By the time of the Supreme Court decision in 2001, about 30 municipalities had enacted bylaws similar to Hudson’s, which restricted applications of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. Quebec became the first entire province to ban the products such as weed ’n feed and Roundup in 2003.

Heightened awareness and activity on this issue, led by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and many other environmental and health groups, has brought lawn pesticide bans to more than 80 percent of Canada. Retail giant Home Depot voluntarily pulled synthetic lawn and garden pesticides off store shelves in 2008.

The adoption of pesticide-free and pesticide reduction policies have been gaining momentum across the country. Other examples include: New York State Parks; Chicago City Parks; 29 communities and townships in New Jersey; at least 17 cities in the Northwest, covering more than 50 parks; and, numerous communities throughout Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as new policies and programs are continually being implemented by local and state government entities as well as schools and homeowner associations.

Eliminating toxic pesticides is important in lawn and landscape management, considering that of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, and 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants. The most popular and widely used lawn chemical 2,4-D, which kills broad leaf weeds like dandelions, is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health risks ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities. 2,4-D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other lawn chemicals like glyphosate (RoundUp) have also been linked to serious adverse chronic effects in humans. Imidacloprid, another pesticide growing in popularity, has been implicated in bee toxicity and the recent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) phenomena.

TAKE ACTION: Community activism is the best way to get your town to adopt such a policy. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page. Let your neighbors know your lawn and garden are organic by displaying a Pesticide Free Zone sign.

SIGNATORIES (as of April 28)

Advocate Precautionary Principle, Sarasota, Fla.
Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Anchorage, Alaska
Alberni Environmental Coalition
BC Pathways, Victoria, BC
Bernards Township NJ Environmental Commission, Bernards Township, N.J.
Beyond Pesticides, Washington, D.C.
Canadian Cancer Society, Vancouver, Ca.
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Toronto, Ont.
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Citizens for a Green Camden, Camden, Maine
Citizens for a Green Scarborough, Scarborough, Maine
Citizens of a Green Yarmouth, Yarmouth, Maine
The Coalition of Organic Land Care Professionals, Seattle
Comox Valley Friends of Farming
Connecticut NOFA, Hartford, Ct.
Coquitlam Pesticide Awareness Coalition, Coquitlam, BC
EcoJustice, Toronto, Ca.
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Paonia, Co.
Environmental Health Fund, Jamaica Plain, Boston
First Nations Environmental Network
Friends of Casco Bay, Portland, Maine
Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, Fla.
Galveston Baykeeper, Seabrook, Texas
Green Communities Canada, Peterborough, Ont.
Groundswell Stratford, Stratford, Ontario
Healthy Lawn Team, Madison, Wisconsin
Institute of the Environment, Ottawa, Ont.
Inspire Health, Vancouver
Lawn Reform Coalition, Washington, D.C.
Leah Collective, Concord, N.H.
Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Unity, Maine
Manitoba Eco-Network, Winnipeg
Natural Resources Defense Council, New York
NOFA Organic Land Care Program, Stevenson, Ct.
North Columbia Environmental Society, Revelstoke, BC
Ontario College of Family Physicians, Toronto
Organic Horticulture Business Alliance, Houston
People’s Action for Threatened Habitats, Vancouver
Pesticide Action Network North America, San Francisco
Pesticide Free Kimberley, Kimberley, BC
Pesticide Free Capitol Region District, Victoria, BC
Pesticide Free Cranbrook, Cranbrook, BC
Pesticide Free Columbia Valley, Sparwood, BC
Pesticide Free Columbia Basin, Cranbrook, BC
Pesticide Free Edmonton Coalition, Edmonton
Pesticide Action Nanaimo, Nanaimo, BC
Pesticide Free Zone, Kentfield, California
Pesticide Watch, Sacramento, California
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington, DC
Prince Edward Island Environmental Health Cooperative
Protect All Children’s Environment, Marion, N.C.
Rainfrog Amphibian Sanctuary, Roberts Creek, BC
Rachel Carson Council, Washington, D.C.
Richmond Pesticide Awareness Coalition, Richmond, BC
Safer Pest Control Project, Chicago, Ill.
The Sierra Club, Washington,D.C.
Sierra Club of Canada
Sierra Club BC, Victoria, BC
Sierra Club Chinook, Calgary
Sierra Club Connecticut, Hartford, Ct.
The SafeLawns Foundation, Newport, R.I.
Toxic Free Canada, Vancouver
Saskatchewan Environmental Society, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Stop Targeting Overuse of Pesticides, Victoria, BC
Toxics Action Center, Boston
Toxics Information Project, Providence, RI
Valley Green Pesticide Awareness, Comox Valley, BC
West Coast Environmental Law, Vancouver, BC
Wildsight, Kimberley, BC

Source: Safe Lawns Press Release

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04
May

EPA May Reduce “Conditional Registrations” of Pesticides after Finding Process Flawed

(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2011) According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) internal review of pesticide registrations under special circumstances, also known as “conditional registration,” the agency may reduce its use of this “imprecise” category, whilch allows widespread use of toxic chemicals not fully tested. Conditional registration of pesticides allows market entry for a product in the absence of certain data. Recent reports have found that certain conditionally registered pesticides known to be hazardous to pollinators were allowed to used by EPA without a full data set.

In an April 25, 2011 post on its website, EPA provides details on its recently completed internal review on the use of conditional registration for pesticide products. The agency has come under scrutiny recently since it was revealed that the conditionally registered pesticide, clothianidin, did not at the time it allowed the pesticide to be widely used have pertinent field data required on honeybees, even though the pesticide is known to pose risks to these vulnerable pollinators. This data is still outstanding even though clothianidin continues to be used in the environment.

Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), whilch allows pesticide registration to be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied, with the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. When this occurs, as exemplified in the case of clothianidin and many others, pesticides are introduced to the market with unknown and unevaluated risks to human and environmental health. While all data must be eventually submitted, it often takes years before EPA acquires relevant data -often with data submitted for the 15-year reregistration review cycle that all registered pesticides must go through. It is rare that the regulatory decision will be altered once data has been submitted.

According to the agency’s review, the assignation of conditional registration for regulatory decisions has been imprecise. This is compounded with the fact that the agency is unable to properly track registration decisions. According to EPA, “There is no data system mechanism to identify or inform the agency of milestones or deadlines for conditional registration actions.”

Out of approximately 90,000 registration decisions, two percent (1,408) are considered conditional registrations for new pesticide active ingredients and new uses, with the vast majority being unconditional registrations that have submitted relevant data prior to registration. These decisions, inaccurately termed conditional registration, have been used for decisions on label amendments, product-specific formulation data, and pesticides with already existing data based on other registrations. The agency finds, therefore, that the term ‘conditional registration’ is misleading. The agency states that it will “explore reducing the use of Section3(c)(7) conditional registrations.”

EPA has a long history of registering pesticides without adequately analyzing human and environmental health data, which even goes beyond the faulty ‘conditional registration’ approach. Beyond Pesticides has for years said that EPA’s general registration process is flawed because the agency does not evaluate whether hazards are “unreasonable” in light of the availability of safer practices or products. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides urges EPA to take a more precautionary approach, given the history of incomplete data or assessments leading to protective action decades after widespread pesticide use was aproved. With some chronic endpoints, such as endocrine disruption, the agency has not adequately assessed chemicals for certain health risks. Several historic examples exist of pesticides that have been restricted or cancelled due to health risks decades after first registration. Chlorpyrifos, which is associated with numerous adverse health effects including reproductive and neurotoxic effects, had its residential uses cancelled in 2001. Others like propoxur, diazinon, carbaryl, aldicarb, carbofuran, and most recently endosulfan, have seen their uses restricted or canceled after years on the market.

For more information on pesticides and their adverse effects, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides Induced Disease Database.

Source: EPA

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03
May

Beyond Pesticides Launches YouTube Channel Featuring National Pesticide Forum Presentations

(Beyond Pesticides, May 3, 2011) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce the launch of its YouTube Channel. Officially launched this week, the channel features keynote presentations and panel sessions from Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum held April 2011 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, CO. The videos serve as an educational resource for those working to change pesticide policies in their communities, schools, institutions, state and nationwide. Individuals and organizations are invited to submit their own videos to be included on the Beyond Pesticides’ channel.

Featured videos included with the initial launch include:
— Pesticides 101: An introduction to pesticide issues (Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health)
— Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides: Stopping the demise of honeybees (Tom Theobald, Niwot Honey Farm; James Frazier, PhD, Penn State University; Marygael Meister, Denver Beekeepers Association)
— Genetically Engineered Food: Failed promises and hazardous outcomes (George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety)
— Health and Science Panel (John Adgate, PhD, Colorado School of Public Health; Dana Boyd Barr, PhD, Emory University; Christine Parks, PhD, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Changlu Wang, PhD; Rutgers University)
— Beyond Lists: Where did all those pesticides come from? (Theo Colborn, PhD, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange/Our Stolen Future author)
— The Polluters: The making of our chemically altered environment (Ben Ross, PhD, The Polluters author)
— Organic Land Management: From lawns to landscapes and beyond (Chip Osborne, Osborne Organics; Tom Kanatakeniate Cook, Slim Buttes Agricultural Development Program; Timothy Lee Scott, Invasive Plant Medicine author; Rella Abernathy, PhD, City of Boulder, CO; Lani Malmberg, Ewe4ic Ecological Services, Inc.)
— Organic: United We Stand (Maria Rodale, Rodale Inc./Organic Manifesto author)

While Beyond Pesticides encourages activists, community leaders, scientists, and policy makers to attend its annual National Pesticide Forum in person to get together, share information, and elevate the pesticide reform movement, the new online videos of many of the Forum’s sessions make a similar contribution for those unable to attend. Beyond Pesticides believes that sharing this information beyond the Forum as an educational and organizing tool will prove extremely valuable, and encourages readers of the Daily News blog to share the presentations with friends, community organizations, networks and state and local decision makers. New presentations will continue to be added to the website in the upcoming weeks.

In addition to this new resource, Beyond Pesticides is on Facebook and Twitter, and the Beyond Pesticides’ website continues to provide organizing resources for activists – including the Pesticide Gateway, how-to organizing factsheets and campaign pages – as well as the Safety Source for Pest Management and do-it-yourself information on least and non-toxic management of homes, lawns and landscapes.

Watch a sample video below, and see the full selection of videos on the Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube Channel.

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02
May

DDT-Era Pesticide Endosulfan Finally Banned Globally

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2011) Nations gathering in Geneva last week finally agreed to add endosulfan, an antiquated persistent insecticide, to the Stockholm Convention’s list of banned substances. The decision follows recommendations from the December 2009 Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), which call for urgent “global action” to address health and environmental impacts of the toxic pesticide. Scientific experts at the POPRC concluded that endosulfan is likely to cause significant adverse human health and environmental effects as a result of the chemical’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media. Environmental health and justice organizations from around the world who have been working toward a ban welcomed the decision.

Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide that was first registered for use in the U.S. in the 1950s. It is an endocrine disruptor and exposure in male children may delay sexual maturity and interfere with sex hormone synthesis. Male school children exposed to the highly toxic insecticide endosulfan showed delayed sexual maturity compared with similar children who were not exposed. Endosulfan also appears to interfere with sex hormone synthesis in males aged 10-19 years in a community of cashew plantations in northern Kerala, India.

“This is the moment we have been dreaming of,” says Jayan Chelaton from Thanal, a public interest research group based in Kerala. “The tears of the mothers of the endosulfan victims cannot be remedied, but it will be a relief to them that there will not be any more people exposed to this toxic insecticide. It is good feeling for them. We are happy to note that this is also victory for poor farmers, as this proves people united from all over the world can get what they demand.”

Because of its persistence, bioaccumulation, and mobility, endosulfan—like DDT—travels on wind and ocean currents to the Arctic where it contaminates the environment and traditional foods of the people who live there. “We are pleased with the decision of the global community today to phase out this dangerous chemical that has contaminated our traditional foods in the Arctic. Our people are some of the most contaminated on the planet.” said Vi Waghiyi, a Yupik woman from St. Lawrence Island (Alaska) and the Environmental Health and Justice Program Director with Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “But until all manufacturing and uses of endosulfan are eliminated, this pesticide will continue to harm our peoples, so we urge all countries to rapidly implement safer alternatives and eliminate their last few uses of endosulfan.”

For most uses, the ban will take effect in a year, but use on a short list of crop-pest combinations will be phased out over a six-year period. “With a plethora of alternatives already available, we’d have preferred to see no exemptions included in the decision. But we were successful in restricting exemptions to specific combinations of crops and pests. This means that during the phase-out it can only be used in very specific situations,” said Karl Tupper, a staff scientist from Pesticide Action Network North America who attended the deliberations.

Endosulfan, a DDT-era pesticide, is one of the most toxic pesticides still in use today. Each year, it took the lives of dozens of African cotton farmers until recently being banned by most countries on the continent. Hundreds of farmers in the developing world still use it to commit suicide each year.

“The health of Indigenous Peoples around the world, including our Yaqui communities in Mexico, are directly and adversely impacted when these kinds of toxic chemicals are applied, usually without their knowledge or informed consent. This phase out is an important step forward for Indigenous Peoples adversely affected both at the source of application and in the Arctic where these toxics ultimately end up,” said Andrea Carmen, Executive Director of International Indian Treaty Council and coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Global Caucus at the meeting.

According to Javier Souza, Coordinator of Pesticide Action Network Latin America, “This phase out of endosulfan provides an excellent opportunity for countries to implement non-chemical alternatives to pesticides and to strengthen and expand agroecological practices. National phase out efforts should be open to the participation of experts from academia, farmer organizations, and environmental groups with experience.”

Momentum for a global ban has been building for many years. “Endosulfan was first proposed for addition in the Convention in 2007. At that time, about 50 countries had already banned it; today, more than 80 countries have banned it or announced phase-outs. NGOs have worked very hard to make this happen,” says Meriel Watts, senior science advisor, from Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific. “But today’s decision is really a tribute to all those farmers, communities, and activists across the planet who have suffered from endosulfan and fought for this day. It is especially a tribute to the thousands in the state of Kerala, India, whose health has suffered so terribly from endosulfan, to the inspirational leadership of Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, and to the many other people there who have all fought for their rights and for a global ban on endosulfan.”

“We are delighted with this decision as it means agricultural workers, Indigenous Peoples and communities across the globe will finally be protected from this poisonous pollutant,” says Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, CoChair of IPEN – International POPs Elimination Network. “The UN’s own scientific body had clearly shown that endosulfan is a POP, despite the recent vocal claims by some. Endosulfan contaminates the Arctic food chain and Antarctic krill, poisons our farmers, and pollutes our breastmilk. It was clearly time for endosulfan to go and it now joins the same fate as old POPs pesticides like dieldrin and heptachlor, banned once and for all. It is essential that all POPs should be eliminated and this global ban will provide the much needed legal protection.”

Source: PANNA Press Release

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29
Apr

Maryland Announces Pesticide Drift Database

(Beyond Pesticides, April 29, 2011) The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced a new online tool under development designed to protect sensitive crops from unintended herbicide exposure as a result of pesticide spray drift. Called the Sensitive Crop Locator Database, the tool would enable growers of grapes, tomatoes, tobacco, fruit trees, ornamentals and other specialty vegetable crops to register their crops and field locations with the Maryland Department of Agriculture to let farmers who may be spraying pesticides on nearby fields know where there are sensitive crops. This will hopefully encourage applicators to take steps to minimize potential drift from their applications onto nearby fields.

“Controlling pesticide drift is an important issue for pesticide applicators,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance. “The innovative Sensitive Crop Locator database will be a valuable tool to help protect sensitive crops from unintended herbicide exposure. We encourage farmers to register their sensitive crops and field locations with MDA to ensure they are included in the voluntary database.”

Crop and field location information will be included in the new voluntary statewide Sensitive Crop Locator database to assist pesticide applicators in identifying locations where sensitive crops are grown in order to take extra precautions for preventing the potential exposure of these crops to spray drift from neighboring fields. Applicators can search, identify and locate sensitive crops adjacent to areas where they intend to spray pesticides. The database, developed with Maryland Speciality Crop Block Grant funding, will also offer pesticide applicators access to maps and aerial photographs.

It is important to note that the law does not require applicators to consult the database when spraying, or owners of sensitive crops to register. It is intended purely as a voluntary information source, should users wish to consult it.

The database could also be a useful tool for organic farmers wishing to avoid any potential contamination of their crops with substances not approved for production under organic standards. A court case in California recently found that pesticide applicators can be held responsible for contamination of organic crops with pesticide residues, suggesting that applicators would serve their own interests in addition to those of their neighbors by consulting the database and ensuring that they minimize their drift.

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

Though the tool is well intentioned, it should be noted that there are other consequences besides crop damage that often occur as a result of pesticide drift. Development of this database marks a small step toward recognizing some of the dangers associated with the unchecked release of toxic chemicals into our environment, but it does nothing to protect members of the public who may reside in nearby areas from exposure to these substances. It also does nothing to address potential contamination of waterways that can result from pesticides drifting away from their intended target and into rivers, lakes, and streams.

The only other way for Maryland residents to be notified of pesticide applications, and the sole way for non-farmers to be made aware, is through the state’s Pesticide-Sensitive Individuals Registry. Under this law, people who have a doctor’s letter attesting to their sensitivity can register to be notified in advance of pesticide use on property adjacent to their homes. There is no state law allowing non-sensitive individuals to be notified by pesticide applicators of imminent spraying, outside of residents cultivating a personal relationship with any neighboring farmers. More information on local laws and initiatives is available from the Maryland Pesticide Network.

Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture

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28
Apr

Save the Frogs/Ban Atrazine Rally Tomorrow in Washington, DC

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2011) In recognition of the 3rd annual Save the Frogs Day, a “Save the Frogs/Ban Atrazine Rally” will be held tomorrow, Friday, April 29th in Washington, DC. The rally will take place at the steps of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW), and is intended to raise awareness of the rapid disappearance of frog species worldwide, and bring attention to the harmful effects of the endocrine disrupting herbicide atrazine.

Amphibian populations worldwide have been declining at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Up to 200 species have completely disappeared in recent years. Amphibians are faced with an onslaught of environmental problems, including climate change, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades. Numerous studies have definitively linked pesticide use with significant effects on amphibians. Pesticides can cause abnormalities, diseases, injury and death in these frogs and other amphibians. Because amphibians breathe through their permeable skin, they are especially vulnerable to chemical contamination. Frog eggs float exposed on the water surface, where pesticides tend to concentrate, and hatched larvae live solely in aquatic environments for five to seven months before they metamorphose, so agricultural pesticides introduced into wetlands, ponds and streams are particularly harmful. Many of the pesticides that pose a threat to the frog are also known to be harmful to human health.

Atrazine is currently being reviewed by EPA after several scientific reports have emerged linking it to immunosuppression and hermaphroditism in frogs. A recent study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley showed that atrazine acts as an endocrine disruptor and can cause complete sex reversal in male frogs at 2.5 parts per billion. Atrazine was banned in the European Union in 2004, but eighty million pounds of it are used in America each year, primarily on corn.

“Atrazine is the 21st century’s DDT” says Kerry Kriger, PhD, founder of Save the Frogs. Dr. Kriger will be leading the Save the Frogs Day Rally and will provide the keynote presentation later that afternoon at Lafayette Plaza across from the White House. Dr. Kriger hopes the rally will bring attention to the problems associated with atrazine, and lead to a federal ban on its use and production. “Once Americans know about atrazine, there will be overwhelming support for a ban. If people are uninformed and unconcerned, Syngenta’s lobbying power will be difficult to overcome”, says Dr. Kriger. Atrazine is produced by Syngenta, the world’s largest pesticide company. Syngenta, based in Switzerland — where the chemical is illegal — reported over $11 billion in revenues in 2010.

In related news, researchers at the University of South Florida have discovered that the most widely used fungicide in the U.S., chlorothalonil, is lethal to frogs even at low doses. Chemical pollution, according to the researchers, is considered the second greatest threat to aquatic and amphibious species in the U.S. Because many vital systems of amphibians are similar to those in humans, researchers believe that amphibians may be an underused model for studying the impacts of chemicals in the environment on human health and set out to quantify amphibian responses to chlorothalonil. The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives and opens the door for researchers to quantify the effects of the chemical on other species as well as other toxic pesticides on amphibian populations and human health.

What: Save The Frogs Day Rally. Speakers include Kerry Kriger, PhD (executive director, Save the Forgs) and Tyrone Hayes, PhD (professor, University of California, Berkeley).
Where: EPA Headquarters (1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC). Afterward, rally attendees will March to Lafayette Plaza, across from the White House.
When: Friday April 29th, 11am – 1pm rally, followed by a 2pm presentation in Lafayette Plaza
More info: www.savethefrogs.com/dc

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27
Apr

Whole Foods to Rate Household Cleaning Products, Requires Full Disclosure for Products Sold

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2011) Whole Foods Market has introduced its Eco-Scale™ Rating System – an industry-first set of tiered, green household cleaning standards – to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices. Product ingredients will be evaluated and those that do not meet the standards set, such as the antimicrobial triclosan, phosphates and phlalates, will not be sold at Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods Market is the first national retailer to provide its own comprehensive, color-coded rating system for household cleaners. Under the new evaluation system, products will be rated—red, orange, yellow or green—based on the specific set of environmental and sourcing standards each product meets. The company is committed to working with vendors to evaluate and independently audit every product in its cleaning category. Each product will be required to meet – at the very minimum – the new baseline orange standard by Earth Day, 2012. Red-rated products do not meet the Eco-Scale standards and will not be sold at Whole Foods Market.

Products rated Eco-Scale Green, the highest level of Whole Foods Market’s new standard, will contain no ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns and required to have full transparency, disclosure of ingredients on packaging by April 2012, and only 100% natural ingredients. Intermediate ratings include Eco-Scale Yellow and Orange and will also be required to have full disclosure of all ingredients. Eco-Scale Red products will not be sold. For more information on the rating system, visit Whole Foods Market Website.

Currently, the U.S. government does not mandate full disclosure of ingredients on cleaning products. Environmental advocates have urged Federal authorities for years to disclose all ingredients on product labels, especially inert ingredients. Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules that would allow for full disclosure of all ingredients in pesticide products. However, the agency has yet to make a final decision. Under the Eco-Scale Rating System, Whole Foods Market’s household cleaning vendors will be required to list every single ingredient on product packaging. To ensure compliance of the company’s strict standards, all products will be audited through an independent third-party for verification before they are color-rated and labeled on shelves.

“Shoppers have a right to know what’s actually in the products they use to clean their homes,” said Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods Market. “We’ve always carefully monitored ingredients. Now, with Eco-Scale, we’re able to help shoppers buy eco-friendly products with confidence and provide safer alternatives for their households and for the planet as a whole.”

A recent New York Times article touched on the marketing of the green version of products marketed by big name brands such as Clorox that have seen declining sales. Often, these products do not disclose all ingredients and contain some that are still hazardous to human health and the environment. Declining sales of these products indicate that consumers committed to green products are not taken in by the ‘greenwashing’ of major brands such as Arm & Hammer, Windex and Palmolive, but remain loyal to truly green product lines such as Seventh Generation which have seen their sales continue to grow. However, almost three out of four (73 percent) adults falsely believe that the government requires household cleaning products to provide a list of ingredients on the label, according to a Whole Foods Market survey conducted online in April among 2,483 U.S. adults aged 18+. Another two-thirds (64 percent) believe that many household cleaning brands opt to disclose the full list of ingredients on packaging, when, in fact, few provide this information on product labels.

The survey also confirmed that many adults understand that there are risks involved with common household cleaning products. When asked if they agree or disagree that common household cleaning products are not harmful to the environment, two-thirds (66%) disagreed. Chemicals found in many cleaning products can cause health problems, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches. Using green cleaning products and practices may avoid these health effects.

“With Eco-Scale, we’ll be able to offer more solutions for eco-conscious shoppers, and those with sensitive skin and allergy concerns who often reach for natural cleaners first,” said Mr. Speirs. “Now parents and pet owners can also rest assured that they know exactly what ingredients they are using in the company of their loved ones.”

Several national cleaning products have already been rated – from liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener to all purpose, glass and toilet bowl cleaners. The lineup includes 14 of Whole Foods Market’s store brand cleaning products, as well as a total of 34 products from natural cleaning brands Better for Life™, Ecover®, Greenshield™ and Method®.

Shoppers will ultimately, be able to easily identify products’ environmental impact and safety based on the red-orange-yellow-green color scale. The orange rating represents the baseline of acceptable standards that the yellow and green standards build on, with green labeled products topping the tier.

For more information on Whole Foods Market’s Eco-Scale including prohibited ingredients for each tier, visit: wholefoodsmarket.com/eco-scale.

Sources:
Boston Globe
Whole Foods Market

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26
Apr

Report Examines Impact of Pesticides on Farmworker Children

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2011) One year after the President’s Cancer Panel released its groundbreaking report highlighting environmental causes of cancer, the non-profit Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) released a new report, Dangerous Exposure: Farmworker Children and Pesticides. The report focuses on farmworker children, examining birth defects, neurological and behavior disorders, respiratory disease, as well as leukemia and other childhood cancers and their connections to pesticides.

“The weight of evidence described in our report, Dangerous Exposure: Farmworker Children and Pesticides, is overwhelming, if not conclusive,” notes Levy Schroeder, Director of Health & Safety Programs at AFOP. “The risk is high for farmworker children whose lives are surrounded by dangerous agricultural toxins.”

In a ten-month immersion in evidence-based findings on pesticide exposures, farmworker children and various illnesses, including cancer, the AFOP Health and Safety team reviewed primary scientific research published in professional medical and public health journals. In an effort to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the issue of pesticide exposure to farmworker children, the team also conducted focus groups and interviews with farmworker parents around the country. The parents shared stories of exposure, of having to make choices they know are not healthy for their children, of their fears for their families, and of hope that one day things will change.

In the introduction, the report states: Pesticide exposure occurs at work in the fields and also at home. Farmworkers may bring their families into contact with pesticides inadvertently through their clothes or unsafe storage of chemicals. However, thousands of children all over the country are more directly exposed to pesticide residues while they labor in fruit, vegetable, and flower crops. Discriminatory laws exempting farmworker youth from safe working conditions as they harvest on farms put them at particular risk for contact with these chemicals. Parents in farm work, who largely earn below a living wage, often opt for their children to work with them in the fields in order to provide the basics for the family. Whether exposed through parents’ field work or their own, children who develop illnesses as a result of pesticide exposure pay the price for our demands for cheap food. Coupled with the concerns of farmworker parents in their own voices about pesticide exposure, the following findings demonstrate that the health of these children is at stake.

The authors recommend that consumers know where their food comes from and encourages people to research labor practices of the companies you. They recommend eating organic and fairly traded foods whenever possible, and given the opportunity, “thank farmworkers for their necessary and important labor.”

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is 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.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is a non-profit, national federation of 52 non-profit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all farmworkers and their families through advocacy, education, and training. Dangerous Exposure: Farmworker Children and Pesticides, authored by AFOP’s Health and Safety Programs, is the first volume in The Fields, a new annual publication series that will center on farmworker health and safety issues.

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25
Apr

USDA Proposes To Allow Biotech Companies To Evaluate Own GE Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 25, 2011) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a proposal which would allow industry groups seeking deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) products to submit their own environmental evaluations as part of the deregulation process. The proposal, detailed in the Federal Register notice, launches a pilot program that would allow companies to either (1) prepare an environmental report, which APHIS would then use to develop an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS), or (2) contract out to a third party group, which would prepare the actual EA or EIS and submit it to APHIS. Under the second option, the company would provide the funding for developing the EA or EIS, while APHIS would choose the actual contractor.

APHIS is calling the proposal the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Pilot Project. NEPA, first passed in 1969 and later amended, requires the agency to evaluate any potential environmental effects of releasing GE materials into the environment (see relevant regulations at 7 CFR 340). Under these regulations, GE materials are considered by default to be “regulated articles,” meaning that APHIS must govern and issue permits for their importation, interstate movement, or environmental release. However, anyone – usually manufacturers – can petition the agency to determine that a particular GE product does not need to be regulated. Part of this petition process requires APHIS to prepare an EA or EIS to, in theory, ensure that there are no adverse environmental impacts of deregulation. The integrity of previous EIS’s has recently been brought into question, notably that of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa.

Previously, APHIS itself prepared the appropriate environmental reports. It has proposed the NEPA Pilot Project partly out of concern that the process is too resource intensive. However, advocates point out that NEPA charges the agency with performing these duties. Advocates say it is reasonable to expect the agency to allocate resources in a way that would allow it to lend appropriate time and energy to its evaluation of GE products, especially in light of recent concern and controversy over what some have perceived as its lack of dedication to the regulatory review process. The project will operate in the pilot stage for two years, after which APHIS will evaluate the results of the project and determine which evaluation option it believes is the most successful and cost effective for future petitions.

The APHIS proposal is similar to provisions in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) governing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of pesticides. This law allows pesticide companies seeking to have their products registered, or approved for use, by EPA to submit their own studies, or studies which they have funded, regarding the health and environmental safety of their product. Advocates have voiced concern that the FIFRA process, and now potentially the NEPA Pilot Project, essentially allow chemical manufacturers and agribusiness corporations to regulate themselves, providing the public with little assurance of the safety of approved products.

For more information regarding genetic engineering of agricultural crops and the recent controversy surrounding USDA’s approval of several new varieties, including GE alfalfa and GE sugar beets, see our genetic engineering program page and other Daily News blog entries.

Sources: Grist, Federal Register

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22
Apr

Studies Link Prenatal Organophosphate Exposure to Reduced IQ

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2011) Three independent investigations published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) have reached similar conclusions, associating prenatal exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides with IQ deficits in school-age children. The fact that three research groups reached such similar conclusions independently adds considerable support to the validity of the findings.

The three studies were conducted at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. All three involved cohorts of women enrolled during pregnancy. The Berkeley and Mount Sinai investigators measured OP pesticide breakdown products in the pregnant women’s urine, while the Columbia investigators measured the OP pesticide chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord blood. Intelligence tests were administered to children of these mothers between ages 6 and 9 years at Mount Sinai and at age 7 years at Berkeley and Columbia.

Although the study findings are not directly comparable, all three investigations found evidence linking prenatal OP pesticide exposures with adverse effects on cognitive function that continued into early childhood.

“It is well known that findings from individual epidemiologic studies may be influenced by chance and other sources of error. This is why researchers often recommend their results be interpreted with caution until they are supported by similar findings in other study populations,” said EHP Editor-in-Chief Hugh A. Tilson. “As a group, these papers add substantial weight to the evidence linking OP pesticides with adverse effects on cognitive development by simultaneously reporting consistent findings for three different groups of children.”

The Berkeley study, examining families in the intensive agricultural region of Salinas Valley, California, found that IQ levels for children with the most OP exposure were a full seven IQ points lower than those with the lowest exposure levels. This is a very significant drop. According to USA Today, lead poisoning can result in a drop of less than half that amount, usually about two to three IQ points, which is still cause for grave concern. The Berkeley team also found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds.

The findings of the three studies support the suggestions of recent research on a phenomenon known as “inverse dose response.” This refers to the idea that it is often the timing of chemical exposure that is most important, rather than the actual degree of exposure. The studies found that exposure to OPs while a child was still in the womb correlated to lower IQ scores, but exposures during early childhood, even at higher amounts, did not result in similar findings.

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 several European countries. 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, EPA reached agreements with chemical manufacturers to phase out residential use of two common organophosphate pesticides, chlorpyrifos and diazinon, in 2000 and 2002 respectively. However, these pesticides remain registered for other uses, including in agricultural production.

One of the researchers involved in the recent studies, Dana Boyd Barr, PhD, recently spoke at Beyond Pesticides 29th Annual National Pesticide Forum. Video of her presentation at the forum will soon be available on our website.

The three articles are available online from EHP, free of charge:
Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood.” Study coauthors include Stephanie M. Engel, James Wetmur, Jia Chen, Chenbo Zhu, Dana Boyd Barr, Richard L. Canfield, and Mary S. Wolff.

Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year-Old Children.” Study coauthors include Maryse F. Bouchard, Jonathan Chevrier, Kim G. Harley, Katherine Kogut, Michelle Vedar, Norma Calderon, Celina Trujillo, Caroline Johnson, Asa Bradman, Dana Boyd Barr, and Brenda Eskenazi.

7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide.” Study coauthors include Virginia Rauh, Srikesh Arunajadai, Megan Horton, Frederica Perera, Lori Hoepner, Dana B. Barr, and Robin Whyatt.

Sources: Environmental Health Perspectives Press Releases, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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21
Apr

Scientists Consider Grapefruit Derivative for Pest Control

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2011) Citing consumer’s growing aversion to the toxic chemical DEET and other harmful pesticides, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are pushing to develop a new natural repellent and insecticide from the chemical nootkatone, found in grapefruits. Nootkatone is derived from the essential oils of plants, including grapefruit, vetiver grass and Alaskan yellow cedar. As an essential oil, it is highly volatile and evaporates quickly. This means that it doesn’t last very long and may need to be applied frequently. As a result, researchers are seeking ways to make it longer-lasting.

In one cooperative project by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), entomologists Kirby Stafford, PhD and Robert Behle, PhD use lignin to encapsulate nootkatone in order to extend the chemical’s residual activity. The study, “Lignin + Nootkatone = Dead Ticks” published in the January 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Researcher Marc Dolan, PhD of the CDC’s vector-borne infectious diseases laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado stresses nootkatone’s safety: “If you’ve had a grapefruit, you’ve consumed some nootkatone,” he said to NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Essential oils [such as nootkatone] kill bugs and then break down and are no longer active,” Dr. Dolan told Morning Edition. “So you don’t get a lot of soil contamination. We don’t see groundwater contamination. And we don’t have a high impact on other nontarget insects that may come into the sprayed area, such as bees and butterflies.”

Whether new derivatives of nootkatone will actually be “safe” remains to be seen, however. Since researchers hope that nootkatone will be formulated to last longer, it will no longer be able to claim the benefits of having low-environmental persistence. Furthermore, this same argument for safety has been made for other “natural” chemicals, such as permethrin and its very toxic chemically synthesized derivative counterparts, synthetic pyrethroids.

Though nootkatone and its future synthetic counterpart may be considered to be less toxic than most synthetic pesticides, it is important to remember that as a chemical with insecticidal properties, there is still a potential to cause harm to human and environmental health. The best way to combat a pest problem is through an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that focuses on prevention, monitoring, and control to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of only least-toxic pesticides. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems. For more information on safer methods to protect yourself from insects and other pests, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Alternative Fact Sheets page and Mosquito Management program page.

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20
Apr

“Safe Chemicals Act of 2011″ Introduced in U.S. Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2011) Last Thursday, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to update and modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) which has allowed tens of thousands of toxic substances onto the marketplace with little or no testing. The new ‘Safe Chemicals Act of 2011,’ utilizing risk assessment methology, would, in theory, require chemical companies to prove their products are “safe” for human health and the environment when allowed in commerce. While creating priority reviews for the higher tisk categories of chemicals, many analysts are concerned that continued exclusive reliance on risk assessment with its serious uncertainties and lack of attention to least toxic alternatives allows unnecessary toxic chemical use and undermines a precautionary approach.

Sen. Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, seeks to require that chemical manufacturers demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals used in everyday household products. “The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” would require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and puts the burden on industry to prove that chemicals are safe in order to get on or stay on the market. Currently, EPA may not regulate a chemical unless it can first prove that the chemical presents or will present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. Under this onerous cost-benefit standard, EPA has been powerless to ban any substance -even asbestos, for which the science has long been clear about its dangers. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. Previous government reports document a systemic failure by EPA to adequately regulate chemicals due to a lack of data. The new legislation will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

“The average American has more than 200 industrial chemicals in their body, including dozens linked to cancer and other health problems. The shocking truth is that the current law does not require tests to ensure chemicals used in everyday household products are safe,” said Senator Lautenberg. “The EPA does not have the tools to address dangerous substances and even the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws to assure consumers that their products are safe. My ‘Safe Chemicals Act’ will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to separate the chemicals that help from the chemicals that hurt.”

Increasing rates of chronic diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure, including cancer, asthma, and infertility have created an urgency in state capitols to enact policies to get harmful chemicals off the market. To learn more about how pesticides are linked to serious health concerns, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases database.

Public health groups have long urged Congress to strengthen the law by restricting chemicals known to be dangerous and requiring testing of new and existing chemicals to ensure that they are safe. After introducing similar legislation last year, Sen. Lautenberg chaired a series of hearings to solicit feedback from chemical industry leaders, public officials, scientists, doctors, academics, and non-profit organizations. Based on that feedback, Sen. Lautenberg made several changes to improve the bill. For example, the updated bill establishes risk-based prioritization categories so that the EPA can focus resources on the highest-risk chemicals. It also requires chemical companies to initially submit basic hazard and exposure data to quickly determine the risk and assess the need for further testing or restrictions.

Unlike last year’s bill, this version would divide chemicals into three categories. The lowest category would include chemicals that are considered safe. The middle category would be for ones that need safety determinations, and the highest category would be for ones that require immediate action. That top category would include chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, meaning they don’t break down in the environment and can build up in people and other living things. The bill also calls for the promotion of “the use of safer alternatives and other actions that reduce the use of and exposure to hazardous chemical substances and reward innovation toward safer chemicals, processes, and product,” to “encourage the replacement of harmful chemicals and processes with safer alternatives.”

Beyond Pesticides has long called for alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking that creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN).

Source: Greenbiz.com

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19
Apr

Ohio Passes Bed Bug Resolution on Propoxur

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2011) On Saturday, April 16, the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously (97-0) approved a resolution sponsored by State Representative Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) regarding bedbugs and propoxur, asking Congress to help convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the emergency use of the toxic pesticide. Propoxur, a neurotoxin and probable human carcinogen, has been canceled for indoor residential uses due to the unacceptable risks posed to children’s health and should not be used for indoor treatment. Resolution HR 31, however, urges the use of an emergency exemption under federal law to control bedbugs, a follow-up to an earlier request in 2010. The resolution seeks to invoke a so-called Section 18 emergency use permit , a controversial loophole in the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that allows for unregistered uses of a pesticide, and in many cases unregistered pesticides, under “emergency circumstances.”

In a letter to Administrator Lisa Jackson, dated April 19, 2010, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland supported the state’s request for the exemption claiming, “Without the use of propoxur, there is very little that can be done to meaningfully stop the spread of bed bug infestations.” Environmental and public health groups, including Beyond Pesticides, has urged EPA to deny the exemption.

In comments to EPA last December, Beyond Pesticides stated that indoor uses of propoxur increase exposure and health risks of residents, especially children who are vulnerable. Beyond Pesticides also reminded the agency that propoxur should not be considered for a Section 18 exemption since the pesticide was already canceled for indoor uses that expose children, and that the treatment of bed bugs is now routine, and cannot be considered an “emergency” as defined under FIFRA.

EPA has refused the state of Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption to use the restricted pesticide propoxur in residential settings for control of bed bugs, stating that the chemical “presents unreasonable risk.”

Recently, Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican member of Congress and a mmber of the House Agriculture Committee -which has jurisdiction over pesticide registration law, introduced an earmarked bill a few weeks ago to establish a government panel and grants for chemical product research. The bill requires taxpayers to pay for the research of new chemicals to manage bedbugs. 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.

While bed bug populations have rebounded in recent years, due to growing resistance to widely used insecticides, relying on even more toxic chemical control is not a feasible option. Currently, EPA and other stakeholders are working to develop new methods of combating the surge in bed bug infestations, including increasing the role of integrated pest management (IPM), which, according to the agency in its letter, “is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that considers pest life cycles and relies on a combination of common-sense chemical and non-chemical solutions.”

Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests, such as ants, cockroaches, and bed bugs. It is also commonly used in flea and tick collars. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. EPA considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honeybees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.

Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are among many cities in the U.S., as well as cities worldwide, that saw a recent surge in bed bug infestations. According to a survey of pest control firms bed bug outbreaks have tripled since 2005. Infestations commonly occur in homeless shelters, and low income housing, as well as hospitals, college dorms, and hotels. Bed bugs are tiny insects up to ¼ inches when full grown that usually live in cracks and crevices of bed frames and the seams of mattresses. Their bites result in sore spots or itchy welts usually found in a line, but bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases.

Fortunately, the chemical treatments, which are often more harmful than the bed bugs themselves, are not actually necessary. These pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An IPM approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can control an infestation without the 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.

For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our Bed Bug Program Page.

Take Action!

A vote by the house of 97-0 in favor indicates, that if you live in Ohio, you should express your dissatisfaction with your elected representative.

Please Email Rep. Dale Mallory to express your disappointment with his actions: district32@ohr.state.oh.us

Source: The Cincinnati Herald

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