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14
Nov

Pesticide Poisoning of Lobsters Leads to Indictment

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2011) Environment Canada’s enforcement division has indicted the multinational firm Cooke Aquaculture and three of its senior officials on eleven criminal charges stemming from illegal pesticide applications that spread to sicken and kill wild lobsters. The indictment alleges that in 2009 Cooke applied cypermethrin, a pesticide prohibited for use in aquatic settings in Canada, to control sea lice infestations in open water salmon net pens. The alleged applications occurred in the Passamaquoddy Bay which separates the Canadian province of New Brunswick from Maine and feeds into the Bay of Fundy. After dead and weakened lobsters were discovered in Canadian waters in the fall of 2009 and early 2010, Environment Canada linked the incidents to cypermethrin exposure and raided eight Cooke facilities. A conviction on the first count could result in a fine of $1 million with subsequent counts punishable by a $1 million fine or three years in prison, or both.

Cypermethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid used for insect control in a number of agricultural and structural pest management settings. EPA has identified cypermethrin as a possible human carcinogen and classifies formulated pesticides containing it as slightly or moderately toxic. According to Susan Shaw, Ph.D., director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, Maine, cypermethrin and similar pesticides are extremely toxic to lobsters and other marine species, especially crustaceans. “It’s a very toxic substance and just does not belong in the marine environment,” Dr. Shaw said. “The oceans are under siege from so many problems. This is just unacceptable.” Despite these concerns, EPA allows aquatic applications of cypermethrin to control sea lice, parasitic crustaceans that attach themselves to the skin of juvenile salmon causing lesions resulting in disease and mortality for the fish. In 2010, Cooke used the brand-name pesticide Excis, which contains cypermethrin, at 59 of the 76 salmon production pens that it operates in Maine.

While aquaculture has the potential to lessen pressure on severely stressed wild fish populations, poorly designed and managed systems repeat the mistakes commonly seen in industrial-style livestock production. Crowding an excessive number of fish into an unnatural habitat creates a breeding ground for pests and diseases which producers treat with prophylactic doses of medications, including antibiotics. Sea lice, for example, were known to afflict wild runs of Atlantic salmon, but did not become an economically significant pest until the introduction of large-scale net pen production systems. Routine treatment with pesticides such as cypermethrin and antibiotics to minimize the symptoms of an unhealthy environment results in accelerated pest resistance and prompts producers to employ increasingly toxic compounds.

Residues from these medications along with fish excrement and excess feed are released into open water with often severe environmental consequences, especially for benthic organisms, which live in, on, or near the bottom of aquatic environments, such as lobsters. Many commercial aquaculture operations, including salmon production systems, utilize large amounts of wild captured fish that are processed for use as feed. Numerous traditional cultures developed aquaculture systems utilizing natural inputs and ecological cycles to raise high quality food with minimal adverse environmental impact. The USDA National Organic Standards Board is currently considering materials/substances to be allowed in certified organic aquaculture systems, after the Board adopted standards for these systems in 2007-8 (NOSB recommendations can be read here, here and here).

A statement released by Cooke Aquaculture CEO Glenn Cooke on November 3 cites legal constraints in declining to respond to the specific charges in the indictment. Mr. Cooke stated, “I can tell you that the substance they are talking about is something that is used regularly for agricultural purposes and on golf courses. Salmon farmers in many other countries are authorized to use it. We continue to encourage our governments to approve the treatment and management tools that our fish health and farming teams need to protect the health of our fish.”

Total cypermethrin use in the United States is approximately 1.0 million pounds of active ingredient (a.i.) per year. Approximately 140,000 pounds a.i. are used in agricultural crops, mainly on cotton (110,000 pounds), with minor uses on pecans, peanuts, broccoli and sweet corn. The great majority of cypermethrin use occurs in non-agricultural settings, including commercial, industrial, and residential sites. Indoor pest control -mainly for control of ants, cockroaches, and fleas- accounts for about 110,000 pounds a.i., while outdoor structural, perimeter, and turf uses for control of subterranean termites and other insect pests accounts for nearly 750,000 pounds.

However, despite the widespread use of these chemicals, the deleterious and often fatal effects of pesticides on non-target organisms are a chronic problem associated with releasing these toxic products into the environment. Aquatic environments are a common destination for pesticides that either run-off from terrestrial applications or are applied directly to water and the amount of pesticides found in American waterways is increasing. There is mounting evidence that pesticides used to control mosquito-borne West Nile virus are contributing to the decline of marine organisms, including lobsters.

Legal proceedings will commence in the New Brunswick provincial court in St. Stephen on December 13.

Source: Bangor Daily News

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

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11
Nov

Keep Organic Strong: Public Input Needed by Sunday, Nov. 13

(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2011) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will meet this month to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the U.S. The NOSB will vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming after considering input from the public. Your participation is vital to this process. Public input can be highly influential to the development of organic standards, as farmers and consumers relay their ideas to the board for consideration, but only if you speak up. The public comment period closes after this Sunday, November 13. Take Action.

There is a wide range of issues that the board is considering for this meeting including pest control materials, inputs in processed food, internal board procedures, and many others. You can access background on these issues on our Keeping Organic Strong webpage and then send comments into USDA by the end of Sunday, November 13. It’s easy.

Submit your comments using this form. This will bring you to a form in which to fill out your personal information and type your comment. When filling out your personal information, you only need to fill in the fields with a blue asterisk next to the label. Other fields, such as Submitter’s Representative and Government Agency should be left blank. Under Organization Name, enter the name of the group you are representing or “None” or “Private Citizen” if you are representing only yourself. You may then type your comment or upload it as a separate file. Finish by clicking the orange Submit button.

We recommend using these guidelines and referring back to the organic law in order to organize your thoughts in your comments. As our comments demonstrate, this will help to clearly and succinctly lay out your points and make it easier for NOSB members to follow your reasoning.

Here is our commentary on just a few of the pressing issues under consideration:

Transparency in Decision MakingCommittee Recommendation, Beyond Pesticides comments
The Policy Development Committee has proposed a recommendation that would enhance the transparency of the NOSB’s committee meetings and decision processes. Specifically, the committee has recommended that full, accurate minutes be taken on Committee meetings and conference calls that reflect the source of positions taken on issues, and that minutes, reports, transcripts, and other documents related to board decisions be made freely accessible to the public in hard copy as well as electronically through the World Wide Web. We fully support this recommendation and encourage further transparency in any way it can be achieved. The development or organic standards is intended to be a public stakeholder process in which anyone who has an interest in organic integrity and the future of the organic sector can also have a voice in the process. Increased transparency allows interested parties to give more informed and effective input, leading to more agreeable results for all involved.

Odorized PropaneCommittee Recommendation, Beyond Pesticides comments
A petition was submitted to the Crops Committee to allow propane to be exploded in burrows in order to control underground rodents. We support the Committee’s decision to deny the petition and not allow such explosions for a number of reasons. Firstly, exploding underground burrows does not fall under any category of allowed synthetic substances in the Organic Foods Production Act.

Beyond the legal considerations, controlling rodents by essentially bombing their habitats is wildly inconsistent with organic principles and ideals of minimizing environmental impact and encouraging beneficial natural interactions. Such practices would kill or harm any organisms in the surrounding area, including those in the soil, as well a number of beneficial endangered species which also burrow or live underground. The potential for causing fires and the safety risks to the operator are further concerns around the use of propane devices.

There is also a full range of alternative materials and methods already allowed in organic systems which can effectively control rodents, including habitat modification, traps, introduction of predators (such as dogs), rodenticide baits, and many others. These alternatives, in a more effective and less costly manner, achieve with management what propane would achieve with off-farm synthetic inputs.

Because of the likely widespread damage to ecosystems, the availability of alternatives, and the unpredictable nature of the use of such a material combined with its questionable efficacy, we strongly recommend supporting the Committee’s decision and denying the use of this material.

Organic Research PrioritiesCommittee Discussion Document, Beyond Pesticides Comments
The Materials Committee proposed a discussion document which “shares the committee’s current thinking on a process to collect, prioritize, and maintain research needs related to organic production methods and materials.” We are happy to see the NOSB address the issue of setting research priorities. Like the committee, we welcome the prospect of a process that will help bring more research efforts to troublesome problems in organic production and handling. We look forward to a time when disagreements will be decreased by the availability of research into alternatives that everyone can support.

We would also particularly like to request better quality control over the technical reviews that are received by the committees scientifically evaluating particular substances with regards to their compatibility with organic systems. These reviews are highly influential in the board’s evaluation of particular substances and they should fully address all of the pertinent issues. We would support a return to the use of Technical Advisory Panels such as were used in previous years, which incorporate more diverse viewpoints and expertise.

Here are the rest of the issues for this meeting:

Copper Sulfate
List 3 Inert Ingredients
Ammonium Nonanoate
Ozone
Peracetic Acid
Calcium Chloride
Indole-3-butyric Acid (IBA)
Organic Aquaculture
Sulfites in Wine
Chlorine
ARA and DHA
Public Comment Procedures
Conflict of Interest Policy

We encourage you to use and build upon our commentary in making your own comments.

We share your enthusiasm for organic practices as the solution to pesticide pollution, to advance clean food, air, water, and a sustainable environment –and want to ensure that organic grows stronger every day. But, this won’t happen without your involvement.

Take action now.

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10
Nov

New Studies Dispel Myth of Organic ‘Elitism’

(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2011) Two new studies released last week add further proof that the popularity of organic food is not just an elitist trend. One report by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), The 2011 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, finds that 78 percent of U.S. families purchase organic food. Another study by SCALE, Inc. finds that organic food is generally cheaper at farmers markets than at grocery stores in Southeast U.S.

OTA partnered with KIWI Magazine, and polled nearly 1,300 U.S. families about their attitudes and behaviors relating to organic food. The total sample reflects the target population of U.S. households with a confidence interval of +/-3% at the 95% confidence level. This is the third year the study has been conducted. According to OTA, it contains in-depth information about organic consumers’ demographics, purchase motivation, understanding of organic, willingness to substitute when organic is not available, and attitudes about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The other study, Is Local Food Affordable for Ordinary Folks?, compares farmers markets and supermarkets throughout 19 different communities in six Southeast states, including Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina. Though the study focuses on local foods, it did find that when organic food was available at the market, it was generally around 16% less expensive than at supermarkets in 88% of the communities examined.

This research is in line with previous reports on the growing market of organic agriculture. A poll conducted this summer by Thompson-Reuters and National Public Radio (NPR) found that 58% of respondents say they choose organic over conventionally produced foods when they have the opportunity. Other research suggests that U.S. retail sales of organic sales are projected to double in the next few years, despite the lagging economy.

“In a time when the severity of the economy means making tough choices, it is extremely encouraging to see consumers vote with their values by including quality organic products in their shopping carts,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO. The finding is one of many contained in OTA’s newly released 2011 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study. “It’s clear that with more than three-quarters of U.S. families choosing organic, this has moved way beyond a niche market,” Ms. Bushway added.

According to the OTA study, four in ten families indicate that they buy more organic products than they did a year ago. The findings are in line with those in OTA’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey, which revealed that the U.S. organic industry grew at a rate of nearly eight percent in 2010. Fueled by consumer choice and demand, the organic sector is one of the few components of the U.S. economy that continues to add jobs.

Nearly half – 48 percent – of parents surveyed in the OTA poll reveal that their strongest motivator for buying organic is their belief that organic products “are healthier for me and my children.” Other motivators for purchasing organic included concern over the effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics on children, and the desire to avoid highly processed or artificial ingredients.

Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure. A study published in 2008 finds that children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. A follow up study to assess children’s dietary exposure throughout the year was conducted two years later in 2010 using the same set of children. Researchers found that consumption of certain foods varied greatly by season and that government agencies may be underestimating children’s dietary exposure to pesticides, and therefore the inherent risks to children’s health. Another study finds that converting the nation’s eight million acres of produce farms to organic would reduce pesticide dietary risks significantly.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture not only for the benefits to human health, but also as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. For more information on the importance of choosing organic see our Eating with a Conscience page. For more information on organic food and farming, visit our organic program page.

Want to do more? There are a couple of important actions right now that you can take to support organic agriculture.

Take Action:

Keep Organic Strong. Public participation is vital to the development of organic standards. Make your voice heard at the upcoming National Organic Standards meeting and send your public comment by November 13, and;

Tell your legislators to support the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA), S. 1773 and H.R. 3286, which is a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill. The legislation helps farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs to access growing local and regional food markets. The bill would provide critical support for a number of programs that benefit organic farmers and the organic industry, as well. It also assists consumers by improving access to healthy food. The measure provides secure farm bill funding for critically important programs that support organic and family farms, expand new farming opportunities, create rural jobs, and invest in the local food and agriculture economy.

Sources: OTA Press Release, SCALE, Inc. Press Release

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

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09
Nov

European Food Still Heavily Contaminated With Dangerous Cocktails Of Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, November 9, 2011) A 2009 European Union (EU) report on pesticide residues, published yesterday by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), shows food on the European market is still heavily contaminated with cocktails of pesticides. The percentage of EU food in shops and markets with multiple residues remains at a high level of 25.1%, meaning only a slight improvement in the last five years of reporting. The highest reported number of pesticide chemical residues in one food item remains at 26: One sample analyzed had 26 different pesticides!

Like the U.S. where consumers are exposed through food and drinking water to a variety of chemical mixtures of pesticide food residues, EU citizens also continue to be exposed to mixtures of pesticides on a daily basis. According to the report , compliance with the legal maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in food rose to 97.4 percent of the analyzed samples in 2009, up by about one percentage point from 2008, EFSA said.

However, like their counterparts in the U.S., the regulatory entities EFSA and European Commission still do not protect people against the effects of mixtures. Health standards for pesticide residues do not take these effects into account. Remarkably, EFSA is delaying the implementation of the 2005 residue directive rules that oblige regulators to take mixture effects into account. People, especially children and the unborn, will be put at unknown but potentially high risks by this delay of over six years.

Exceedances of the food standards in the national residue monitoring programs seem to have gone down from 3.5% in 2008 to 2.6% in 2009, but a comparison is not possible given the massive changes of food standards in 2009. Unfortunately, thousands of food standards have been relaxed by EFSA to the highest level among all the European Member states. While EFSA now recognizes that this approach was not justified and food standards are made stricter again, the massive relaxation remains. On the positive side in the 2009 monitoring report, the percentage of food items on the European market without measurable residues rose slightly to 57.5%, up from around 53% in 2008 and 2007.

Pesticide residues, most as chemical mixtures that have not been evaluated for potential cumulative and synergistic effects, continue to contaminate food and drinking water in the U.S. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of a pesticide’s registration, allows a certain concentration of a pesticide on food, known as the food tolerance level. Pesticide residues in food are regulated by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), but the tolerance levels assigned for certain pesticides, though determined “allowable,” still pose potential health risks. Studies show that a combination of multiple chemical residues can produce heightened toxicity. Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure because they have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Read more at “Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.” Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically in the U.S. and internationally. See Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience. The only way to avoid toxic pesticide residues is to switch to organic foods.

As organic agriculture continues to grow and evolve, researchers are continuing to find new evidence of the benefits of choosing and growing organic foods, and the benefits of organic agriculture extend to everyone. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure. A study published in 2008 finds that children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. Another study finds that converting the nation’s eight million acres of produce farms to organic would reduce pesticide dietary risks significantly. On conventional farms, dangerous pesticide use is a danger to farmworkers, wildlife including endangered animals, as well as the water supply, and people especially children living in the area.
For more on organic food, visit the Organic program page.

Take Action: The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will meet in November to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the United States. Public participation is vital to the development of organic standards, as farmers and consumers relay their ideas to the board for consideration. Take action now.

Source: Pan-Europe Press Release

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

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08
Nov

Join Health and Environmental Advocates in Calling on EPA to Ban Atrazine

(Beyond Pesticides, November 8, 2011) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a petition to ban the endocrine (hormone) disrupting herbicide atrazine on September 14, 2011, opening a 60-day comment period for the public to weigh-in on the issue that ends Friday. Tell EPA that because atrazine poses unacceptable risks to humans and wildlife, the agency should remove this hazardous pesticide from the market immediately. Submit comments directly to EPA’s atrazine petition docket by November 14, 2011 or sign your organization or business onto Beyond Pesticides’ comments by Friday, November 11.

According to its Federal Register notice, EPA received a petition from the non-profit organization Save the Frogs that includes over 10,000 signatures and select statements from the public, as well as two brief summaries of published literature, one by Jason Rohr, PhD (University of South Florida), and one by Tyrone Hayes, PhD (University of California, Berkeley), that is co-authored by 39 other scientists. In conjunction with the petition, EPA received nearly 50,000 emails from supporters of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council requesting that EPA “immediately take steps to phase out atrazine use in the United States,” stating that atrazine poses an unreasonable risk to the environment. The emails express concern for impacts on amphibians and other aquatic species as well as concern for potential risks to human health.

In its comments to EPA, Beyond Pesticides renews its call for the agency to ban atrazine and cites new research which adds to the body of evidence showing that this herbicide should never have been allowed on the market. Read an excerpt below:

Atrazine is a widely used herbicide whose use over the decades has led to widespread environmental contamination that threatens wildlife as well as public health. About 73-78 million pounds of atrazine are used in the U.S. annually, primarily on corn. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has routinely found atrazine in rivers and other water bodies at constant levels near or above EPA’s levels of concern. USGS researchers have also found atrazine to adversely affect aquatic organisms.

Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor with strong associations with birth defects, cancer, sex reversal and hermaphroditism in animals whose risk to environmental and human health is exacerbated by pervasive surface, ground and drinking water contamination. The European Union and countries across the globe have banned atrazine, however the agency continues to put U.S. residents and the environment in harm’s way with the continued use of atrazine.

In the past, Beyond Pesticides has commented to the agency that atrazine use in the U.S. should be halted. Beyond Pesticides still believes that atrazine poses unreasonable risks to humans and the environment and that risk mitigation measures proposed by EPA and the registrants fail to protect atrazine users and the general public. We hope the agency will take a look again at [studies cited in the comments] and reconsider the current registration on atrazine.

Beyond Pesticides comments highlight studies published in the scientific literature since EPA began reevaluating atrazine under its registration review process in 2009. This research includes a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, showing that prenatal exposure to atrazine is linked to small head circumference and fetal growth restriction; a study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2010 finds male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals; and, a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that male frogs exposed to atrazine can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

Because it has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, atrazine washes into surface water and leaches into groundwater, and often finds its way into municipal drinking water. It is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams, and wells. Atrazine poses unreasonable risks to humans and wildlife at concentrations detected in the environment. Current and anticipated risk mitigation measures, including current best management practices, proposed by EPA and registrants, fail to protect. The agency must move quickly to conclude its review of atrazine and find an “unreasonable adverse effect” finding and cancel its registration.

The European Union banned atrazine in 2004 after repeated testing found the herbicide in drinking water supplies, and health officials were unable to find sufficient evidence that the chemical is safe. In much of Europe the burden of proof falls on the pesticide manufacturer to prove it is safe, unlike in the U.S. where EPA has assumed the burden of proving a pesticide does not meet acceptable risk standards before removing it through regulatory action.

For more information on atrazine, please see its profile in the Pesticide Gateway. Submit comments directly to EPA’s atrazine petition docket by Monday, November 14 or sign your organization or business onto Beyond Pesticides’ comments by Friday, November 11.

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07
Nov

Genetically Engineered Crops to Boost Use of 2, 4-D and Dicamba

(Beyond Pesticides, November 7) Once heralded as a breakthrough for reducing the rates and toxicity of the pesticides applied by farmers, genetically engineered (GE) crops are perversely leading to renewed dependency on the very herbicides they were claimed to make obsolete. Growing recognition that pervasive planting of “Round-Up Ready” corn, soybeans and cotton is accelerating weed resistance is prompting GE seed companies to rush to market ‘stacked’ varieties that are resistant to additional herbicides, including 2, 4-D and dicamba. Farmers planting the stacked varieties will be spraying these older herbicides in addition to glyphosate, which most commodity crops have already been engineered to tolerate. Professor David A. Mortensen of Pennsylvania State University has estimated that adoption of Round-Up Ready and 2, 4-D or dicamba resistant stacked varieties in soybeans could result in a 70% increase in herbicide use in a relatively short time.

The St. Louis Pots-Dispatch reported on progress that multinational chemical corporations Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and Monsanto are making to bring multi-herbicide resistant varieties to market. Under separate arrangements with each company, Monsanto adds glyphosate resistance to seeds that are simultaneously engineered to resist other herbicides. In October, Dow AgroSciences obtained a global patent on its Enlist Duo technology, which packages an herbicide containing 2, 4-D and glyphosate with seeds engineered to tolerate both materials. Commercial release of an Enlist Duo corn variety is anticipated for 2013 with similarly engineered soybeans projected to become available in 2015.

2, 4-D is a highly toxic chemical which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage. It is also neurotoxic and is toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly elevated rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2, 4-D.

Monsanto has been partnering with BASF on dicamba and glyphosate tolerant crop varieties since 2009 with a focus on soybeans, cotton, and corn. Commercial release of engineered seeds for these crops is projected for the mid-point of this decade. Dicamba is a neurotoxic chlorinated benzoic acid herbicide that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as acute toxicity class III, slightly toxic. The material is a recognized eye irritant, moderately persistent in the environment and highly mobile in both soil and water. Chronic exposure is linked to reproductive and developmental effects.

Concern about an impending spike in 2, 4-D and dicamba usage is exacerbated by the timing of the applications for the new herbicides that combine these materials with glyphosate. These new blended herbicides will be sprayed repeatedly during the growing season after weeds emerge and begin to compete with crops. Both 2, 4-D and dicamba are highly susceptible to drift and dicamba is known to volatilize (evaporate) and travel upwards of two miles from the point of application. The spraying of more 2, 4-D and dicamba during periods when specialty crops and home gardens are at their greatest risk of exposure is likely to increase the incidence of pesticide contamination and resultant damages.

GE crops have also yet to deliver on the early promises made by the biotechnology industry to increase crop yields. A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists evaluated the overall effect genetic engineering has had on crop yields in relation to other agricultural technologies. It reviewed two dozen academic studies of corn and soybeans, the two primary GE food and feed crops grown in the United States. The report concludes that GE herbicide-tolerant soybeans and herbicide-tolerant corn has not increased yields. Insect-resistant corn, meanwhile, has improved yields only marginally. The increase in yields for both crops over the last 13 years, the report finds, is largely due to traditional breeding or improvements in agricultural practices.

Farmers do not have to remain stuck on a pesticide treadmill that demands ever greater amounts of synthetic inputs and rewards chemical suppliers at the expense of farm profitability and the environment. Organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, and mechanical production practices and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that chemical inputs such as synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics are marketed as solving.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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04
Nov

Legislation Introduced in Congress to Support Local and Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, November 4, 2011) On Tuesday, November 1, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine along with 35 original co-sponsors, introduced the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) – S. 1773 and H.R. 3286 – a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill. The legislation helps farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs to access growing local and regional food markets. The bill would provide critical support for a number of programs that benefit organic farmers and the organic industry, as well. It also assists consumers by improving access to healthy food. The measure provides secure farm bill funding for critically important programs that support organic and family farms, expand new farming opportunities, create rural jobs, and invest in the local food and agriculture economy. Take action.

Among the provisions of the bill that would benefit organic producers are an increase in funding and payment caps for certification assistance, elimination of surcharges on crop insurance for organic farmers and development of more accurate price estimates, and expansion of specialty crop block grants that often are awarded to organic operations (“specialty crops” being the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s term for fruits and vegetables).

The bill would expand the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), a key initiative which uses funds allocated through the farm bill to provide financial and technical assistance to producers as they seek to certify or recertify their organic operation. Many farmers, especially new farmers or those with small acreages, who are interested in transitioning to organic production face hurdles in initial investment, due in part to the costs of obtaining certification. Even existing operations can have difficulty with the costs of such certification expenses as pesticide residue testing. NOCCSP encourages farmers to obtain, or continue obtaining, certification by lessening these costs, thereby helping the organic sector to continue its growth.

Currently, NOCCSP is funded with a one-time allotment from the 2008 farm bill of $22 million through 2012, with $4.87 million allocated by Congress for fiscal year 2010. LFFJA would increase funding for the program and spread it out evenly at $10 million a year. Additionally, the program contains a cap on how much money a single producer can receive in a given year. Currently the cap stands at $750 per year, but LFFJA would increase that cap to $1,000 per year per producer.

Liana Hoodes, Director of the National Organic Coalition, explains, “NOCCSP is the only program that assists organic farmers with their cost of certification. This is especially important to encourage small and medium-size organic farms to transition to organic in order to meet the growing consumer demand and to maintain a diversity in scale of organic operations.”

Crop insurance is a key part of many farm operations, as it protects farmers from natural disasters, crop loss, or other damages that could result in serious financial loss. As currently administered by the USDA Risk Management Agency, the crop insurance program requires organic farmers to pay a surcharge on their insurance. In addition, organic crops are not insured at the prices that they actually receive on the market, but rather at the same rates that a conventional commodity would receive. This means that an organic farmer who experienced a crop loss and received compensation through crop insurance would receive significantly less money than if he or she had been able to actually sell the crops.

LFFJA seeks to correct both of the current imbalances in the crop insurance program by eliminating RMA’s surcharge on insuring organic crops and by developing a new price series for organic crop insurance that reflects the actual prices organic crops receive in the market.

The bill would also increase support for and coordinate administration of research on classically bred (not genetically engineered) varieties of plants and livestock for agriculture. This would help to counteract the growing dominance of genetically engineered seeds and plant varieties in the marketplace. Without easy access to classically bred crop varieties, farmers, especially organic, are put at a severe disadvantage in terms of their costs of production and seed procurement as well as what they are able to produce.

The bill contains numerous other provisions to enhance local, regional, and sustainable food systems as a whole, including support for small producers and beginning farmers, increased access to local food for low income communities, and increased research funding on sustainable food systems. The goal of the bill is to enhance food sovereignty by increasing the viability of local and sustainable food systems. It aims to increase development, infrastructure, and support for small diversified farmers producing food for their communities. See this fact sheet for further details on the specific programs and changes that the bill contains.

For more information on organic food and farming, visit our organic program page.

TAKE ACTION: Call or email your Senators and Representative and urge them to support these bills, S. 1773 and H.R. 3286, the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. Support for organic agriculture and local food systems is essential to ensuring a fair and sustainable future for all of us.

Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

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

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03
Nov

State of Ohio Drops Label Restrictions on Organic Milk

(Beyond Pesticides, November 3, 2011) The State of Ohio announced Friday, October 28 it will rescind a regulation that has prohibited organic dairy product labeling from declaring that antibiotics, pesticides or synthetic hormones are not used. In a lawsuit filed by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that proposed restrictions violate the First Amendment of the constitution. As a result, Ohio has abandoned the rule, thus allowing labeling to proudly state that organic dairy products are produced in accordance with federal organic standards under the Organic Foods Production Act, and therefore without the use of synthetic growth hormones or antibiotics.

“This is significant for all of us who support what the organic foods are about, and for consumers who carefully read food labels to find out what’s in their food and how it’s produced,” said Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO for OTA. “The Sixth Circuit opinion made it clear that states cannot unduly restrict organic labels or consumers’ right to know how their food is produced, and the State of Ohio’s actions today make it clear that the fight to keep labels accurate by OTA, its members, farmers, and consumers was worth it.”

In 2008, the State of Ohio issued an emergency regulation that restricted the free speech rights of organic and conventional farmers and marketers of milk within the State of Ohio. The regulation illegally restricted the right of farmers and marketers to state that some dairy products are produced without the use of synthetic and artificial ingredients.

OTA and its members, including Horizon Organic®, Organic Valley®, and Stonyfield Farm®, appealed a lower court decision that upheld the rule in question to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2010, the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court decision, agreeing that consumers have a right to know how their dairy products are produced. Critical to the decision was the Court’s reliance on an amicus brief filed by the Center for Food Safety and other organizations that argued that milk produced with synthetic hormones is different than milk produced without it (as all organic milk is).

“Ohio’s abandonment of this misguided rule is a victory for consumers, farmers and manufacturers alike,” said Ms. Bushway, She added, “The organic label is a federally regulated program that provides consumers with the knowledge that their food is produced without the use of antibiotics, pesticides or added growth hormones. Consumers have the right to make informed choices about the foods they eat, and farmers and manufacturers can continue to communicate truthfully with consumers.”

There are many reasons to choose and grow organic foods. Researchers continue to find new evidence of the benefits of organic, including a study that found that organically produced strawberries had higher antioxidant activity, longer shelf life, and fared better in taste tests than conventional berries. Soils on the organic farms are also found to be healthier with higher organic matter, and greater microbial biodiversity. Last spring, two studies performed independently of each other confirm that organically produced food is safer and can actually save money in the long term. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically engineered organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. For more information about why organic is the right choice see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.

Conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals that poison the soil, as well as the air, water, and consumers of the crops. Organic farmers can use natural pesticides, after exhausting other strategies including crop rotation, cultural practices, beneficial species, etc. However, synthetic chemicals can only be used in organic farming and processing if they are approved by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a process that includes a detailed checklist of possible health and environmental impacts and considers the need for the chemical.

The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and relies on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.

TAKE ACTION: Want to make your voice heard? Public participation is vital to the development of organic standards, as farmers and consumers relay their ideas to the board for consideration. The NOSB will meet at the end of this month to decide on a range of issues affecting the future of organic food and farming in the United States. The board will vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming after considering input from any interested members of the public, such as farmers, consumers, food processors, or professionals. Submit your comments to the NOSB regarding nutrient additives, or any other topic that will be debated, by November 13, 2011 in order to have them considered before the meeting. Be sure to specify which issue you are commenting on.

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

Source: OTA Press release

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

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02
Nov

Court Upholds Protection for Salmon Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, November 2, 2011) On Monday, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought by Dow AgroSciences challenging pesticide application restrictions to protect salmon and upheld the measures recommended by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect endangered salmon and steelhead from three highly toxic pesticides: chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion.

The restrictions, recommended by NMFS’s Biological Opinion in 2008, ban the ground spraying of the three commonly used organophosphate agricultural insecticides within 500 feet of any salmon-bearing waterway, and aerial spraying within 1,000 feet. NMFS has issued four Biological Opinions, the latest on June 2011, which call for several limitations on aerial spraying and ground application of the pesticides near salmon waters, as well as buffer zones around salmon waters and ditches that drain to salmon habitat, among others. EPA was court ordered to consult with NMFS to identify measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides as a result of a 2002 and 2007 lawsuit. Pesticide manufacturers have been willfully ignoring and challenging NMFS’s findings. Dow AgroSciences alleged that NMFS used bad data and modeling and that the proposed buffers are far too large. Earthjustice, representing Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, and Defenders of Wildlife, intervened in the case to defend important safeguards for west coast salmon and the fisheries jobs they support.

According to NCAP, the court’s ruling, issued by Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, turns back industry’s efforts to undermine no-spray buffer zones and other measures required to protect imperiled salmon from exposure to the organophosphate pesticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion. These pesticides are known to contaminate waterways throughout California and the Pacific Northwest.

“The Court’s decision is a victory for everyone’s health,” said Aimee Code with the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. “It foiled the pesticide industry’s attempt to evade the laws that protect both people and wildlife.”

The case stems from a lawsuit originally filed by conservation and fishing groups represented by Earthjustice in 2001. In response to that litigation, the fishery experts at NMFS evaluated these pesticides and determined that no-spray buffer zones next to streams and vegetated strips to catch pesticide-laden runoff from fields are needed to protect salmon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was tasked with implementation of the pesticide restrictions. However, to date, EPA has still not taken any actions to implement any of these measures. In a May 14, 2010 letter to NMFS, EPA explained how the agency planned to achieve protection goals through the methods outlined by NMFS in the Biological Opinions or by alternative methods that EPA’s scientific analyses determined will achieve the same purpose. At the same time, in an act of defiance, Dow AgroSciences and Cheminova, manufacturers of the pesticides in question, stated in correspondence to the EPA dated May 7, 2010, that they were “baffled by the agency’s position,” saying that their products do not threaten endangered species. Citing their “solid scientific evidence,” that they claim is “far more complete than is reflected in the NMFS Biological Opinion,” they are not prepared to make the registration revisions [to their products] described in the EPA’s April 29, 2010 and November 2009 requests.

Also in 2010, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington as the fourth lawsuit brought against the EPA to restrict the pesticides diazinon, malathion, chlorpyrifos, carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl in streams of endangered salmon and steelhead. The plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that EPA’s failure to implement the organophosphate (OP) and carbamate biological opinions issued by the NMFS violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and a judgment declaring that EPA is taking listed salmonids in violation of the ESA. The lawsuit sought an order vacating and enjoining EPA’s authorization of the uses of diazinon, malathion, chlorpyrifos, carbaryl, carbofuran, and methomyl that do not comply with the recommended mitigation measures until such time as EPA has put in place permanent measures that ensure against likely jeopardy to listed salmon and steelhead or adverse modification of their critical habitat, and an order compelling EPA to put in place such permanent measures within one year.

In a similar issue, a NMFS draft Biological Opinion found that the issuance of the proposed pesticides general permit by EPA is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened species and cause the destruction or modification of critical habitat of the species without the implementation of a reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA). NMFS stated that pesticide discharges were resulting in exposures to pesticide pollutants in concentrations, durations or frequencies that would cause adverse effects to ESA listed species or designated critical habitat. The controversial pesticide general permit went into effect October 31, 2011 after months long battle in Congress to have the water protections revoked.

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

Source: NCAP

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

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01
Nov

Senate Negotiations Break Down, Clean Water Act Pesticide Permits Take Effect

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2011) With negotiations to delay the court-ordered Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for pesticide applications breaking down in the U.S. Senate, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pesticides General Permit (PGP) will take effect today. The PGP, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit, covers most pesticide applications to water, including mosquito and other flying insect pest control, aquatic weed and algae control, aquatic nuisance animal control, and forest canopy pest control. Legislation to eliminate the permit requirement, the so-called Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (HR 872), passed the U.S. House in April 2011. Similar legislation was introduced by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) in the Senate and passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), but a hold was put on the bill by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). According to Environment and Energy (E&E) Daily, the four Senators’ staff have been working on a compromise, but negotiations have reportedly broken down.

E&E Daily reports that last week, the two sides appeared to be close to a deal. In exchange for a two-year moratorium on the new permit requirement, a national survey would be conducted on pesticide contamination to help determine if such a permit is necessary. But last Friday, Senator Roberts pulled the plug on that agreement. In a statement, Senator Roberts said, “Attempts to use a moratorium to leverage a controversial and overly broad study that threatens agriculture production will only increase confusion facing our farmers, ranchers and state and local health agencies.” While the PGP will take effect today, Senator Roberts and others are expected to continue a legislative effort to repeal CWA protections from pesticides.

EPA first proposed draft language for the PGP in June 2010. Its decision to issue a permit stems from a 2009 court decision in the case of the National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA in which the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pesticide discharges into water are pollutants and require CWA permits. This ruling overturned the Bush administration policy that exempted pesticides from regulation under the CWA, and instead applied the less protective standards of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). CWA uses a kind of health-based standard known as maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while FIFRA uses a highly generalized risk assessment that does not consider safer alternatives.

EPA will issue permits in territories, Indian Country Lands, six states, and the District of Columbia where the agency is the NPDES permitting authority. EPA is working closely with the other 44 states as they develop their own permit regulations. The PGP does not authorize coverage for discharges of pesticides or their degradates to waters already impaired by these specific pesticides or degradates or discharges to outstanding national resource waters. These discharges will require coverage under the individual NPDES permits, rather than a general permit. Also outside the scope of this permit are terrestrial applications to control pests on agricultural crops or forest floors. Irrigation return flows and agricultural stormwater runoff do not require NPDES permits, even when they contain pesticides or pesticide residues, as the CWA specifically exempts these categories of discharges from requiring NPDES permit coverage.

Under the PGP, pesticide applicators will be required to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, and prevent leaks and spills, in addition to reporting any adverse incidents. Pesticide applicators that exceed annual treatment area threshold would also be required to apply integrated pest management (IPM) practices, as defined by the agency. EPA’s brand of IPM is “a program of prevention, monitoring, and control, that when done correctly can greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of pesticides used.” Before the application of a pesticide, the applicator would be required to identify the specific pests, and causes of infestation. The pesticide applicator must evaluate following management options: (1) no action, (2) preventive measures, (3) mechanical control, (4) cultural methods, and (5) biological control agents; before selecting a pesticide. EPA estimates the regulations will affect 365,000 pesticide applicators that use an estimated 5.6 million pounds of pesticides annually.

Because the fight for clean water is ongoing, Beyond Pesticides will keep you updated of future Congressional and Agency actions. Sign-up for action alerts to stay in the loop.

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

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31
Oct

NJ School Pesticide Exposure Incident Reinforces Need for Policy

(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2011) The Borough Council of Oradell, NJ has pledged to review the use of pesticides on public grounds following an incident in which children may have been allowed to prematurely re-enter an herbicide-treated soccer field. This incident recalls the recently reported exposure and poisoning that occurred in Ohio a few weeks ago, and echoes the need for a comprehensive national policy to protect children from harmful and unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals. The on-line edition of The Record reported on October 25 that the Council acted in response to a complaint filed as a result of an herbicide application to Memorial Field on October 6. The complaint stated that despite numerous posted signs warning children should not to enter the treated area for 72 hours, two youth soccer teams were playing on the field six hours after the application. The complaint further stated that the town’s Department of Public Works had removed all but one of the warning signs by the next day when another soccer game was played. The Record also reported that the field is open and accessible to members of the general public.

Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development and behavior patterns. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even if a pesticide is applied according to label directions. Pesticide exposure can have long-term adverse effects, including damage to a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system and increased asthma symptoms. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ fact sheet, “Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

The herbicide applicator provided information indicating that he had applied the formulated herbicide LESCO Eliminate LO Broadleaf Herbicide, which contains dicamba as one of three active ingredients. Dicamba is a neurotoxic chlorinated benzoic acid herbicide that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as acute toxicity class III, slightly toxic. The material is a recognized eye irritant, moderately persistent in the environment and highly mobile in both soil and water. Chronic exposure is linked to reproductive and developmental effects. While there were no reported illnesses or adverse reactions to this incident, city officials acknowledged the need for a more coherent management strategy. Mayor Dianne Didio stated, “The borough is looking at ways to improve our communication and explore alternative methods…”

New Jersey is one of several states that are actively considering requirements that prohibit unnecessary pesticide applications by schools and day care facilities. A measure entitled the Safe Playing Fields Act has been introduced in both houses of the state legislature and passed by the Senate Budget Committee on June 15. The bill would prohibit the use of lawn care pesticides on playgrounds and recreational fields, except as an emergency response to an immediate threat to human health, as determined by the municipal or county governing body in consultation with the local health officer or if required by law. The bill would also direct the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, to adopt rules and regulations concerning pesticide application, record keeping, and staff and parental notification procedures at child care centers with the goal of mitigating potential health risks to young children.

Exposure to toxic pesticides and other chemicals while children are at school is an unacceptable and completely unnecessary risk. This incident should not have happened and supports the need for a national policy to protect every child in the United States. Most recently introduced in the last Congress, federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt, the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), would protect school children from pesticides used both indoors and on all school grounds nationwide. The legislation also bans the use of synthetic fertilizers. SEPA was first introduced in November 1999 in both the U.S. Senate and House; and has been reintroduced every Congressional session since. The bill language is based on state school pest management laws. It also is similar in structure to the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established a national committee to oversee the program as well as established a list of pesticides allowed for use within the program. A version of SEPA has passed the U.S. Senate twice since and, together with other legislation, indicates broad support for a national mandate to stop hazardous pesticide use in schools. To learn more about this legislation, see Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage.

Source: NorthJersey.com

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

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28
Oct

Monsanto Invests in Pollinator Research, Ignores Effects of Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2011) St. Louis-based chemical and seed giant Monsanto Co. has purchased a company called Beeologics, which has developed a product intended to counteract viral agents that plague honey bee colonies in an attempt to stem the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). However, advocates wonder whether the antiviral agent will result in any significant decline of CCD when bees around the country and across the world continue to be exposed to highly toxic pesticides that are known to have serious effects on a range of pollinators, including honey bees.

Beeologics was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in both Florida and Israel. The company’s antiviral agent, called Remembee, is designed to fight a virus that is commonly thought to be a contributing factor to CCD. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monsanto spokesperson Kelly Powers said that, “I don’t need to tell you how important bees are to farmers who rely on pollination, and Remembee has great promise, pending approvals.” The product is currently being reviewed for potential commercial sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Efforts to counteract CCD are commendable, as a range of factors, including viruses as well as colony invaders such as the Varroa mite, are thought to contribute to CCD. However, doubt remains as to whether Monsanto recognizes the significant role that agricultural chemicals, especially pesticides, have on bee colonies.

CCD has devastated bees and beekeepers around the country in recent years, a phenomenon that that many scientists have tied to the use of the systemic neonicotinoid insecticides widely used in agriculture and gardens. Over the past five years, since the discovery of CCD, annual winter colony losses have hovered near the 30% mark. A report released jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) shows that losses of honey bee populations over the 2010/2011 winter remained abnormally high. According to the survey, 30% of managed honey bee colonies across the country were lost over last winter. The United Nations (UN) also revealed in a report that the collapse of honey bee colonies is now a global phenomenon.

Some European and U.S. scientists postulate that losses of biodiversity and food resources, due to climate change, have intensified the problem. Others believe that a rise in single-crop farming and modification of landscapes, as well as pathogens causing diseases like foulbrood and varroasis are responsible for the problem. While CCD appears to have multiple interacting causes, a range of evidence points to sub-lethal pesticide exposures and pathogens as important contributing factors.

Neonicotinoids, the particularly suspect class of insecticides, especially in combination with the dozens of other pesticides, have been found in honey bee hives and the use of chemicals in agriculture has been found to damage bees by weakening their immune systems. Laboratory studies show that some insecticides and fungicides can act together to be 1,000 times more toxic to bees. They can also affect the sense of direction, memory and brain metabolism, and herbicides and pesticides may reduce the availability of plants bees need for food and for the larval stages of some pollinators.

In December 2010, after the discovery of a leaked memo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) citing flawed and missing scientific data regarding the registration of the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin, Beyond Pesticides, along with beekeepers and other environmentalists, called on EPA to remove clothianidin from the market. EPA responded by defending clothianidin and the agency’s pesticide review process, saying that they “are not aware of any data that reasonably demonstrates that bee colonies are subject to elevated losses due to chronic exposure to this pesticide.” However, the emerging science finds that pesticides like clothianidin and others mentioned above do in fact harm bees. See Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet on the connection between clothianidin and CCD.

For more information, on honeybees and pesticides visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinators and Pesticides page.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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

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27
Oct

Students Poisoned by Pesticides Sprayed on Playing Field Outside of Classroom

(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2011) Forty-seven students from Edgewood Middle School in St. Clair Township, Ohio, reportedly fell ill after the school’s hired pest control company sprayed the herbicide Momentum, which contains the toxic ingredients 2,4-D, triclopyr and clopyralid, on nearby playing fields to treat for clover and other weeds. The incident and others like it demonstrate the need for a comprehensive national policy to protect children from harmful and unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals. Six students were taken to nearby hospitals and twenty-one students total were treated for symptoms, including headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea and dizziness.

Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development and behavior patterns. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even if a pesticide is applied according to label directions, which may have been the case in this situation. Pesticide exposure can have long-term adverse effects, including damage to a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system and increased asthma symptoms. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ fact sheet, “Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

An odor was first detected by a student in a classroom where a few other students reportedly complained of headaches and coughing around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday October 11. The initial evacuation of the room was around 11 a.m., said John Thomas, a spokesman for the school district to the Dayton Daily News. Eventually, the odor filled the entire building which forced the evacuation of the entire school. Parents were advised to take affected students home, wash their clothes, have them shower and spend the rest of the day breathing fresh air.

Many of the symptoms that children suffered at Edgwood Middle School are common in school children and may also have other causes, which means that pesticide-related illnesses often go unrecognized and unreported. Emergency workers had not yet identified the source of the odor and what was making the students ill until after a crew in hazmat gear tested the air, at which point the six students were already sent to the hospital. Upon realizing that the source of the problem was a weedkiller, school officials were concerned that the children had been lead to the contaminated field: “Our biggest concern was when we got here we didn’t realize that the problem was outside,” St Clair Township Fire Chief Terry White told Cincinnati.com. By 1:30 p.m., school officials were told that the building was clear of residue and those students that didn’t go home went back inside.

Momentum, the herbicide that was sprayed on school playing fields to control clover and other weeds is made up of three active ingredients: 2,4-D, triclopyr and clopyralid. 2,4-D has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic and toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D than those who don’t; dogs whose owners use 2,4-D on their lawns are more likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma than those whose owners do not. Despite the known health and environmental effects of 2,4-D, it is the top selling herbicide for non-agricultural use, such as lawns, in the United States. It is also the fifth most commonly used herbicide in the agricultural sector and total annual usage in the U.S. tops 40 million pounds.

Clopyralid is a carboxylic acid herbicide classified by EPA in acute toxicity class III as slightly toxic. Laboratory studies have shown that clopyralid is a severe eye irritant and dermal irritation has also been noted which can lead to skin sensitization for prolonged skin exposures. Some developmental and reproductive effects have been observed in laboratory animals. The livers and kidneys of rats as well as the livers of dogs were affected by changes in weight and decreased red blood cell counts. Another study found that weights of rabbit fetuses decreased at both low and high doses of clopyralid. Skeletal abnormalities were also observed in these fetuses at all doses.

Clopyralid is also a persistent herbicide that breaks down extremely slowly. The herbicide, which does not break down during the composting process, has been found in compost made from recycled grass, straw, and manure. In 2002, the state of Washington banned the use of clopyralid on lawns and turf in order to keep the chemical from contaminating compost supplies. That same year, California found that 65% of the compost samples tested positive for clopyralid, which led to the cancellation of residential uses for clopyralid in the state.

There are documented effects on reproduction, fetal development, and organ function, as well as irritation when exposed to high doses of the other active ingredient in the herbicide Momentum, triclopyr. Subchronic and chronic feeding studies in dogs and rodents found damage to both the kidney and liver. Data has also shown birth defects and adverse effects on reproduction associated with chronic exposure. Pregnant rodents exposed to the chemical had lower litter numbers and a higher incidence of birth abnormalities in offspring than did those which were not exposed. Triclopyr is generally considered to be non-carcinogenic, but several laboratory tests have shown an increase in the incidents of breast cancer and genetic damage in rat embryos. Triclopyr is also toxic to a range of wildlife, and its persistence can vary greatly depending on the application site, but some studies have shown it to persist longer than a year under certain conditions.

The field was sprayed earlier that morning, while classroom windows were open. It’s not clear from reports whether or not school was in session at the time of spray, but Jeff Galloway, director of Butler County Emergency Management Agency told the Dayton Daily News that they suspect that weather conditions, “heavy, humid air and a breeze,” pushed the chemical into the school.

School is a place where children need a healthy body and a clear head in order to learn. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides typically used in schools are linked to chronic health effects such as cancer, asthma, neurological and immune system diseases, reproductive problems, and developmental and learning disabilities. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in schools has proven to be an effective and economical method of pest management that can prevent pest problems and, if carefully devined, eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides in school buildings and on school grounds.

Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. The state of New York passed the Child Safe Playing Fields Act which prohibits the use of toxic pesticides on school and daycare center playgrounds, turf, athletic and playing fields. Earlier this year, a bill to prohibit the use of most lawn pesticides on public and private playgrounds, recreation fields and daycare centers was introduced in New Jersey, The Child Safe Playing Field Act has passed the Senate Budget Committee, and is awaiting posting in the Senate. This bill will support the over 30 communities in New Jersey that have made their parks pesticide-free zones and have adopted an IPM program for managing town property by passing a resolution adopting a pesticide reduction policy. Connecticut and Illinois have also moved forward to reduce children’s exposures to lawn pesticides.

Exposure to toxic pesticides and other chemicals while children are at school is an unacceptable and completely unnecessary risk. This incident should not have happened and is a prime example for why it is time for a national policy that would prevent this from happening again and protect every child in the United States. Federal legislation, the School Environment Protection Act of 2009 (SEPA), was introduced by Rep. Rush Holt and would protect school children from pesticides used both indoors and on all school grounds nationwide. The legislation also bans the use of synthetic fertilizers. SEPA was first introduced in November 1999 in both the U.S. Senate and House; and has been reintroduced every Congressional session since. The bill language is based on state school pest management laws. It also mirrored the structure of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established a national committee to oversee the program as well as established a list of pesticides allowed for use within the program. A form of SEPA has passed the U.S. Senate twice since and, together with other legislation, indicates broad support for a national mandate to stop hazardous pesticide use in schools. To learn more about this legislation and help its passage, see Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage.

Sources: Dayton Daily News, Cincinnati.com

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

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26
Oct

New Report Highlights GMOs’ False Promises and Failed Technologies

(Beyond Pesticides, October 26, 2011) A new report highlights scientific research and empirical experiences around the globe that demonstrate the failure of genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops to deliver on their advertised promises to increase yields, reduce pesticide usage, and tolerate drought with “climate ready” traits.

A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs, “The GMO Emperor has no Clothes,” states that the on-the-ground experience in many countries discloses that GM technology has failed on all fronts, contrary to industry claims. The examples from around the globe include the financial burden borne by farmers. The report describes the cultivation of GM cotton in South Africa where the majority of farmers growing GM cotton are now in debt due to the high costs of seed, chemical, and other farm inputs. The Global Citizens Report confirms that such experiences are repeated in many countries and regions. The stories of Indian farmer indebtedness and increased suicides further emphasize the tragic costs of failed GM technology and its promises.

The prevalence of Roundup Ready GM crops has led to the increases of Roundup resistant weeds in the environment. Farmers and agronomists throughout the world are alarmed by the growing epidemic of “superweeds” developing a resistance to the herbicide. According to the report, from November 2007 to January 2011, infested acreage in the U.S. has more than quintupled, from 2.4 to 12.6 million acres. In Brazil, researchers have reported that nine species have developed tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The recently released 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) indicates that the use of glyphosate has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals, such as atrazine, has not declined. Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GM technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GM crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago.

Glyphosate has been found to kill human embryonic cells, and can cause kidney and liver damage. Glyphosate is harmful to the environment, particularly aquatic life and water quality and has been linked to intersex frogs, and is lethal to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment. Recently, USDA scientists reported that glyphosate appears to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of crops that farmers are cultivating.

There has long been a concern that GM crops would threaten and lead to the failure of organic farming systems as an alternative to highly toxic synthetic inputs. Organic farmers have expressed concern since the introduction of GMOs that the overuse of GM technology, which is inevitable when genetically engineered material is incorporated into every cell of a plant, will lead to insect resistance and leave many farmers without the important tool of organic agriculture. For more on genetically modified agriculture read Beyond Pesticides’ article “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market.”

Similarly, insect species are also becoming resistant to the technology. Studies find rootworms are developing a resistance to GM corn in Iowa and Illinois. And, Monsanto, the undisputed leader in GM seed and crop technology and ownership, has, after several years, finally acknowledged that a bollworm pest has developed resistance to its bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton.

Another common story detailed in the Global Citizens Report describes how GM technology is pushed by intensive lobbying and marketing efforts, “revolving door” influences, and funding of research and educational institutes. As noted in the report, the leading proponents of GM crops —top food and agricultural biotechnology firms— spent more than $547 million lobbying the U.S. Congress between 1999 and 2009.

The report also documents increasing scientific evidence and warnings from scientists that GMOs may be harmful to human health, ecosystems and have failed to increase food production. It highlights that, in contrast to GM seeds and crops, agroecological farming systems, like organic farming systems, are proving to be the real answer to food insecurity. A recent study by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food reported that agroecological systems doubled crop yields over a period of three to 10 years in field tests conducted in 20 African countries. The report also cites numerous other studies confirming high yields and reduced chemical use in other regions of the world due to agroecological farming methods.

GMOs and the increased pesticide use that accompanies them have been the source of serious environmental contamination and public health concerns. Beyond Pesticides is currently involved in multiple lawsuits involving Roundup Ready and other GM crops. The first lawsuit is filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and seeks to end cultivation of GM crops on twenty-five national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Southeast. The suit is the latest step in a campaign to banish GM crops from all refuges. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 12, 2011 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Beyond Pesticides, the federal suit charges that FWS unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GM crops in eight states without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in violation of FWS policy. In another case involving GM crops, attorneys for CFS, Earthjustice, Beyond Pesticides, and others filed a lawsuit against USDA in March 2011, arguing that the agency’s unrestricted approval of GM “Roundup Ready” alfalfa violates the Endangered Species Act. USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GM alfalfa in January, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers.

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

For more news and information on “Roundup Ready” and other GE crops, see Beyond Pesticides’ genetic engineering page.

To learn more about alternatives to GM crops and chemical dependence, visit our organic food and farming page.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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25
Oct

California Farmers Plant Bee-Friendly Habitat to Bolster Populations

(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2011) Farmers in California and other states have begun planting bee-friendly flowers and shrubs to attract bees, whose populations have been severely declining in recent years under a complex set of circumstances. Farmers hope to sustain native bees and strengthen dwindling honey bee populations as well as lower their pollination costs. For many farmers that rely on bees to pollinate their crops, creating safe bee habitat and reducing chemical assaults can help stem the tide of declining pollinator populations.

These efforts, organized by the Xerces Society, a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit group, and other organizations are aimed to educate and help farmers boost dwindling wild pollinator populations needs to pollinate their crops. According to Xerces Society, as part of their pollinator conservation program, farmers and land managers are trained with the latest science-based approaches to reversing the trend of pollinator declines. California farmers are provided seeds for native plants like wild rose, aster, sage, manzanita, and other shrubs and trees to entice bees. New bee habitat can also reduce a farmer’s costs and alleviate the stress on honey bees.

“For bees to thrive, they need a diverse diet, so we’re trying to bring more pollen diversity to farms, more plants to be part of the bees’ buffet,” said Mace Vaughan, Xerces Society’s pollinator program director. “This isn’t a panacea to pollination woes. This is part of the solution overall.”

The effort comes as honey bees, maintained by beekeepers, and native, or wild, bees are perishing in great numbers. Bees are essential pollinators of about one-third of the U.S. food supply, and they’re especially important in California, the nation’s top producer of fruits and vegetables. This makes the pollinator problem dire in this state, where large farms often grow single crops that rely on pollination and don’t offer bees a varied diet.

The die-off is blamed on colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly die. The disorder has destroyed honey bee colonies at a rate of about 30 percent per year since it was recognized in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before that, about 15 percent of colonies died per year from a variety of pests and diseases. Researchers aren’t sure what causes the disorder, but they suspect a combination of stressors, including pesticides, mites and parasites, and lack of proper nutrition.

The California State Beekeepers Association is also helping farmers to improve habitat. Run by Project Apis m., which funds and directs research to improve the health of honeybees, the program has enlisted growers to dedicate acreage to bees and is identifying which seed mixtures make for best bee forage on farms and in orchards. According to project Aphis m., emphasis is placed on research studies that have realistic and practical usefulness for beekeeping businesses.

“We want to make sure bees don’t starve to death before and after almond pollination,” said Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. The goal, Ms. Heintz said, is to make it economically viable for farmers to plant bee habitat. One option, Ms. Heintz said, is to plant a bee-friendly crop that can be used as biofuel, such as canola and camelina. Another is partnering with the cosmetics industry, growing oil seed plants such as cuphea and echium that are used in creams.

The decline of wild pollinators received increased attention in the late 1990’s when researchers identified the need for action to understand and protect them, though others warned of the threat earlier. Wild pollinators, which include non-Apis species of bees, wasps, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, and even some non-flying mammals, have suffered “multiple anthropogenic insults” in the last several decades. These include habitat destruction and fragmentation, pesticide use, land management practices and the introduction of non-native species and pathogens, all of which collectively threaten their existence. Read Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet: “Backyard Beekeeping” on what you can do to boost pollinator populations.

The loss of pollinators appears to have multiple interacting causes including pathogens, a range of evidence points to sub-lethal pesticide exposures as important contributing factors. Neonicotinoid pesticides, like clothianidin and imidacloprid, are a particularly suspect class of systemic insecticides, especially in combination with the dozens of other pesticides found in honeybee hives. Read more about imidacloprid and the controversial regulation of clothianidin in “Protecting Pollinators: Stopping the Demise of Bees.” The use of chemicals in agriculture has been found to damage bees by weakening their immune systems. Laboratory studies show that some insecticides and fungicides can act together to be 1,000 times more toxic to bees. They can also affect the sense of direction, memory and brain metabolism, and herbicides and pesticides may reduce the availability of plants bees need for food and for the larval stages of some pollinators.

Solutions to the loss of bees and other pollinators are clearly within our reach if we engage our communities and governmental bodies. Beyond Pesticides is embarking on a campaign to protect pollinators from unnecessary toxic chemical exposure by reframing how we approach policies that allow the continued use of unnecessary chemicals for which there are safe alternatives. For more information, visit our Pollinators and Pesticides program page.

Please join Beyond Pesticides in celebrating our 30th Anniversary at a reception with live music and screening of “Vanishing of the Bees” on Thursday, October 27, 2011 in Washington, DC. Featured beekeeper David Hackenberg, who first discovered colony collapse disorder (CCD), will be with us to introduce the film. RSVP today.

Source: Star Tribune

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

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24
Oct

Beyond Pesticides Celebrates 30 Years of Making the Environment Safer

(Beyond Pesticides, October 24, 2011) This article is reprinted from the SafeLawns blog by Paul Tukey. Mr. Tukey, the founder of SafeLawns.org, is an American journalist, author, filmmaker and motivational public speaker, who has a particular expertise in environmental issues related to landscape management and water quality. We thank Paul for all of his tremendous work and for the opportunity to discuss on the safelawns.org blog the 30-year history of Beyond Pesticides’ work and the vision and purpose of our work. We will be hosting a reception with live music and screening of the film Vanishing of the Bees on Thursday, October 27th, 6:30 pm at Busboys and Poets (14th and V Streets NW) in Washington, DC. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Read Mr. Tukey’s interview below with Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman, discussing the accomplishments of the last 30 years:

Paul Tukey: This coming Thursday, Oct. 27, a remarkable achievement will be marked in Washington, D.C., when Beyond Pesticides celebrates its 30th anniversary. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Busboys & Poets, leaders of the environmental movement will come together with the general public for a benefit reception with live music and organic food and drinks. Later in the evening guests will be invited for to a screening of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees, hosted by beekeeper David Hackenberg, who first discovered pesticides’ connection to colony collapse disorder (CCD).

It will be great to meet David in person after all these years of chatting with him by phone after our first eye-popping article together nearly five years ago. The real star of the evening, however, will be the visionary who founded Beyond Pesticides three decades ago. Though quick to defer credit to others, Jay Feldman has steadfastly kept the pesticide conversation alive through six presidents, several EPA directors and literally hundreds of millions of dollars in opposition funding from folks like Scotts Miracle Gro and Monsanto — who just as steadfastly try to convince the American public that pesticides are safe when used as directed.

It’s the simple fact that pesticides are not safe — and he has seen those impacts first hand — that has kept Feldman focused and energized for so long. As someone who has been in the trenches for barely half that time, I continue to be awed by Jay’s commitment year after year.

To mark his 30th anniversary as one of the defacto leaders of the anti-pesticide movement in North America, we asked Jay to reflect on his time, his accomplishments and his frustrations:

SafeLawns: What was the inspiration for starting BP?

Jay Feldman: Beyond Pesticides, which began in 1981 as the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, originally started as an umbrella organization to bring together environmental, farmworker, and farmer organizations into a united voice for pesticide reform. At the time, I worked on health care issues for an advocacy organization in D.C., Rural America, which sought to improve life for those living in small towns and rural areas. As a part of my work with Rural America, I traveled parts of the country seeking to document the pesticide problem, and organize public forums for farmworkers and farmers to share their poisoning and contamination problems with state and federal regulators. At that point, with the election of Jimmy Carter, there was an interest in developing a farmworker protection standard and program, but in order to do that we needed to create a record that supported action. At that time, workers were “protected” by one page in the Code of Federal Regulations, which offered little to no protection. EPA’s office of pesticide programs initially supported the program to speak with farmworkers and small farmers and assigned a special assistant to the director to travel with me and hear directly from those adversely affected by pesticides. In addition, our forums were attended by political appointees in EPA and the Department of Labor, as well as state departments of agriculture, which are responsible for pesticide enforcement. The backlash was to be expected. Congressional offices descended on the White House claiming that we were out to destroy American agriculture and urged that the program be defunded. We had planned, and EPA had agreed, to culminate the series of forums, which were held in central Florida, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and the Salinas Valley in California, with the establishment of a National Pesticide Information Center. As we moved across the country, the size of the forums grew, small farmers and farmworkers stood together to explain the poisoning and contamination experiences —the headaches, dizziness, nausea, miscarriages, cancer, rashes, lack of worker protection equipment, limited reentry standards, contaminated drinking water, children exposed in the fields while their parents worked all day, lack of enforcement, no training on pesticide handling, and notification, and more. The stories created for me personally a deep bond with those who were willing to share them, allowed me into their homes in labor camps, and trusted that there was a genuine concern for their health and welfare. We told EPA we did not want to engage in a fact finding mission and ask workers to put themselves on the line (many were threatened by their employers when they agreed to submit affidavits and speak at our forums), if EPA was not prepared to commit to a followup effort to address the problems we expected to identify. With the political pressure against the project mounting, EPA decided to hold additional meetings with pro-pesticide forces prior to our public forums to try to tamp down the increasing criticism coming from those who felt that any restriction on pesticides would be the undoing of a productive agricultural system. As the pressure grew, a decision was made by EPA to discontinue the project, just as we were getting ready to launch the Center. Having traveled the country on pesticide issues and met with workers, farmers, and community people, it seemed important to me and others to continue the effort — so we transformed NCAMP into a grassroots-driven organization with a board of directors with diverse interests, expertise in law, medicine, organizing, and agriculture.

SL: What has given you the stamina to stay at this for 30 years?

JF: The experience of meeting victims of a failed system that condoned (and still condones to a large degree) poisoning led to my own deep personal commitment to working on pesticide reform. Additionally, joining with others through grassroots action, and (despite continuing problems) seeing important changes that have resulted in the growth of organic systems (as an alternative to toxic chemical dependency) are the factors that contribute to my continued work.

SL: You’ve had some high-profile media showdowns with with pro-pesticide lobby groups like RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) and others through the years. Can you reflect on those?

JF: Over the span of several decades, we have certainly come up against the pro-pesticide lobby, which obviously exists to support the economic interests of its members. Of course, those economic interests, especially when it comes to toxic chemical proliferation, do not often conform to basic principles of public health and environmental protection. Our differences with the pesticide lobby are somewhat predictable, with arguments over science, unknown and untested effects, fraudulent data supporting pesticide registrations, regulatory loopholes that allow unnecessary use and overuse, and legislative efforts that represent the monied chemical company interests not the public interest. It doesn’t take long to realize that groups like RISE and trade associations representing hazardous pesticide companies derive their influence and power from their wealth and not from their facts. Despite decades of commissions, General Accounting Office reports, National Academy of Sciences reports, congressional hearings, and independent peer-reviewed science journal articles, the industry has nurtured its political support to fight off the kind of systemic regulatory change that would effectively question the need for their products — given the availability of non-toxic practices and products.

SL: Is the public “getting” the pesticide message more than it used to?

JF: The dramatic change that is occurring in the growth of the organic sector, both in food production and lawn and landscape care, is directly attributable to changes In the market brought on by the public. So, people are getting it, despite the best efforts of the chemical industry to proclaim the safety of and need for their products. There has always been a core of people and organizations that have advanced the information and taken action to show the viability of practices and products that challenge the essentiality of toxic materials. In the last decade, however, many of those practices and products have grown exponentially and become competitive on a commercial scale. While that is a positive, it also means that the consumers supporting this growth have to remain vigilant in ensuring that the underlying standards supporting the alternative or organic approaches are true to the public health and environmental values that spawned this sector.

SL: Is it fair to say there’s more work to be done?

JF: One of the best measures of our success is the growth of organic food production. Since the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, the organic food sector has grown to a nearly $30 billion industry. As a measure, that shows impressive growth, and one of the only profitable sectors of the farm economy. Still, there is a lot of room for growth as we work to see organic become the mainstream or conventional form of agriculture in the U.S. and worldwide. Of course, with the advent of genetic engineering (GE) and herbicide-tolerant seeds and Bt incorporated plants, we are forced to fight a technology that threatens to invade non-GE crops, increase herbicide resistance and use, elevate resistance to biological controls, eliminate habitat for pollinators, and contribute to climate change — all without any productivity benefit. If we can grow organic, which forbids GE as a method, the use of GE seeds will fade. Similarly, the organic turf and landscape movement is growing as people demand these services and products. In our work, we are seeing institutions from schools to hospitals embrace defined integrated pest management systems that eliminate hazardous pesticides and practice prevention strategies that implement structural exclusion practices by eliminating insect and rodent habitat, entryways, and, food sources. As towns and cities develop sustainability plans and green teams, our work must focus on the details of embracing a precautionary approach which eliminates pesticide use, while carefully defining acceptable practices and materials.

SL: What are the major remaining frustrations?

JF: Obviously, I’d like to see change advance more quickly. Risk assessment practices, including exclusively risk assessment-based reform strategies, that drive the regulatory decision making process undermine public health and environmental protection because they do not answer all the necessary adverse effects questions (e.g. synergistic effects) and they accept a high degree of uncertainty. So, at a regulatory level, without a strong mandate to conduct alternatives assessment, we move from one toxic chemical family to the next, all the while allowing unnecessary toxic chemical use.

SL: Can the U.S. ever get to where Canada is on the issue of pesticide regulation?

JF: I think that we will. It is just a matter of time as people and communities adopt organic practices and then realize that continued chemical use is resulting in chemical trespass, contamination of local waterways, impacts on the health of vulnerable populations, such as children and those who are health compromised. Pesticide preemption laws in 41 states, of course, create a tough hurdle, but in the end will not stop the public groundswell for green communities that is growing.

SL: Funding obviously plays a part and the pesticide proponents are playing with a stacked hand. How does BP and its allies compete?

JF: Money can’t buy you love. Building a grassroots network, sharing information, and collaborating and sharing resources all contribute to a support network that at the end of the day helps to drive individuals’ decision to adopt green practices and work with their communities, schools, and workplaces to do the same.

SL: What have been the major successes at BP?

JF: Beyond Pesticides works at many levels in an effort to effect change. We work with individuals, community-based organizations, institutions, local, state, and federal government to effect changes in practices and policies. While it is difficult to measure, we can trace this work to the adoption of hundreds of policies and tens of thousands of households that have tapped into our information. While the information that we have developed on our website does not ensure an outcome, we know that the resources we have established through a number of databases, such as our Gateway for Pesticide Hazards and Alternatives, Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, and Eating with a Conscience, have contributed to greater public understanding. We have taken on a number of chemicals over the years through litigation to exemplify the failure of the regulatory system to protect health and the environment, chemicals like the termite insecticide chlordane, the fumigant ethylene dibromide (EDB), and arsenic-based wood preservatives in addition to dozens of pesticides which we have helped to rally public support against. We have worked with dozens of pest management companies to effect a transition in the services that they offer and developed Safety Source for Pest Management, a directory with nearly 300 listings in over 40 states to drive consumer demand toward safer management practices. Ultimately, we seek to institutionalize practices and eliminate pesticide dependency and therefore view our participation in the creation, adoption, and implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act as a success story for the organization and the nation. My appointment to the National Organic Standards Board offers a new level of opportunity to help insure the integrity and future growth of organic. The law creates a public certification and oversight system for the production and processing of organic food. More importantly, I believe that it serves as a model for future environmental laws, which, if they are to ensure our survival, define acceptable management systems that do not rely on inputs, protect biodiversity through a life cycle analysis of any input or substance used, and only allows materials that meet tough health and environmental standards and have proven essentiality.

SL: After 30 years, how many more years do you have left in your tank as the head of the pesticide movement in the U.S.?

JF: One of the great things about the grassroots movement on pesticide reform is that it doesn’t have a head. I believe that Beyond Pesticides plays an important leadership role, and we are part of a network of activists, parents, scientists, health practitioners, farmers, farmworkers, teachers, lawyers, policy makers, producers, retailers, and regulators that support change. I look forward to contributing as a part of this incredible family as long as I am able.

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21
Oct

Public Input Needed on Organic Standards

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2011) With the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) set to meet next month to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the United States, the public is invied to weigh in on a set of issues that continue to shape organic standards. The 15-member board will vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic production and consider the adoption of new rules that address the functioning of the board and public participation –after considering input from any interested members of the public, such as farmers, consumers, food processors, or professionals through written comments and/or public testimony. Public participation is vital to the development of organic standards, as farmers and consumers relay their ideas to the board for consideration. Take action now.

The documents on the issues that will be considered at the Fall 2011 NOSB meeting (November 29-December 2, 2011 in Savannah, GA) are open for written public comment until November 13. To read all of the recommendations from the various board committees, go to this page and select the committees from the drop down menu. The proposed recommendations are then sorted by date.

The organic regulatory process depends on informed public involvement. The NOSB needs to hear input from the organic community, including organic consumers, farmers and processors, in making its decisions. It seeks comments from anyone with an interest in protecting the integrity and the future of organic food and farming. Beyond Pesticides will be publicizing our positions on the key issues before the board in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for updates regarding recommended actions as well as Beyond Pesticides’ comments that will be submitted to the board for review.

To make your own comments more effective and easily understood, comment on each issue or material separately and clearly indicate what issue your are addressing. If you would like to submit comments on multiple issues, it is preferable to submit them individually. However, if you do choose to comment on multiple issues in a single submission, please clearly separate them with subheadings.

Take Action: Making Your Voice Heard
The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting (review with the potential for expiration) of listed substances every five years and relies on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List by either adding or removing a material. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.

Submit your comments using this form before Sunday, November 13 or register if you would like to present a statement to the board in person at the meeting in Savannah. View the full docket to see other comments already submitted.

Issues Before the NOSB for Fall 2011
Beyond Pesticides urges public comments on the following issues. All these issues and use of substances have direct bearing on organic integrity, so it is critical to have public input into the NOSB decision making process. Submit your comments before November 13.

Some of the issues under consideration include (PDF links):

Copper sulfate for rice production
Inert ingredients in organic pesticides
Ozone gas for cleaning irrigation systems
• Livestock welfare and handling
• Development of organic aquaculture standards
Unannounced inspections of organic farms
• Discussion of organic research priorities
• And many other substances, inputs, and issues which can be found on the USDA website

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees the National Organic Program (NOP) and the NOSB. The NOSB includes four producers, two handlers, one retailer, three environmentalists, three consumers, one scientist and one certifying agent. The board is authorized by OFPA and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic operations. The NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic program. For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.

Organic vs. Conventional: Don’t forget the big picture
As we raise our voices in defense of the integrity of the organic label, it is important to bear in mind the differences between organic farming and conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops.

Conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals that poison the soil, as well as the air, water, and consumers of the crops. Organic farmers can use natural pesticides, after exhausting other strategies including crop rotation, cultural practices, beneficial species, etc. However, synthetic chemicals can only be used in organic farming and processing if they are approved by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a process that includes a detailed checklist of possible health and environmental impacts and considers the need for the chemical.

In contrast, the process for registering pesticides for crops explicitly does not consider the need for the chemical. Currently, about 50 entries are included on the “National List” of allowable synthetic materials. These include alcohols used as disinfectants, soap-based insecticides, newspaper weed barriers, and vitamins. On the other hand, there are tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals, including over 200 pesticide “active ingredients,” approved for use in conventional systems, not to mention chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics, sewage sludge and irradiation.

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

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20
Oct

Group Files Lawsuit for Failure to Protect Red-Legged Frogs

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2011) The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to evaluate and act on threats to the threatened California red-legged frog posed by more than 60 toxic pesticides used in and near its habitats. The Center had announced its intent to sue the two agencies back in December 2010.

A 2006 legal settlement secured by the Center requires EPA to assess the impacts of harmful pesticides on red-legged frogs and formally consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to address those impacts. EPA determined that widespread use of more than 60 pesticides is likely harming red-legged frogs, but since the agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service have failed to complete the required evaluations, no permanent protections for frogs have been put in place.

“Federal agencies acknowledge that scores of pesticides may harm California’s rare red-legged frogs, but for years now they’ve neglected to complete biological evaluations of the effects of these chemicals,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center. “California’s imperiled frogs are suffering as a result.”

“Biological opinions,” the evaluations required by the Endangered Species Act, would likely restrict pesticide uses in and near frogs’ wetlands habitats and could even result in cancellations of some pesticide registrations. EPA submitted initial assessments of more than 60 registered pesticides between 2007 and 2009, concluding that 62 chemicals are likely to harm red-legged frogs. But the Fish and Wildlife Service asserted the EPA had not provided sufficient information to complete the biological opinions.

The Endangered Species Act requires the EPA to consult with federal wildlife agencies to ensure that the EPA avoids authorizing pesticide uses that jeopardize endangered species. If the Fish and Wildlife Service determines EPA registration of a pesticide is likely to jeopardize listed species, it may specify reasonable and prudent alternatives and suggest use restrictions to avoid adverse effects.

The pesticides of concern for red-legged frogs include several controversial chemicals that public health, food-security, sustainable-farming, and farmworker and conservation groups advocate banning due to unacceptable hazards to humans and wildlife, such as atrazine, chlorpyrifos, endosulfan, methomyl and propargite. Some of the pesticides are known endocrine disruptors, which interfere with natural hormone functions, damage reproductive function and offspring, and cause developmental, neurological, and immune problems in wildlife and humans. For example, the herbicide atrazine has been shown to chemically castrate male frogs even at extremely low concentrations.

Conservation groups have filed a series of lawsuits attempting to force such consultations, primarily in California, which have resulted in interim restrictions on pesticide use near endangered species habitats. The Center filed litigation in 2002 challenging EPA registration and reregistration of pesticides that pose risks to red-legged frogs. The 2006 settlement agreement forced EPA to conduct “effects determinations” for these pesticides. The registrations of two chemicals, fenamiphos and molinate, were subsequently cancelled. EPA determined that 64 other pesticides are “likely to adversely affect” or “may affect” red-legged frogs. In January 2011, the Center and Pesticide Action Network North America filed the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under the Endangered Species Act to protect imperiled wildlife from pesticides. The suit seeks to compel EPA to evaluate the impacts of hundreds of pesticides known to be toxic to more than 200 endangered and threatened species.

According to the Center, more than 200 million pounds of pesticides are applied each year in California; for most of these chemicals, EPA has not evaluated the impacts on endangered species. Amphibians are declining at alarming rates around the globe, and scientists believe industrial chemicals and pesticides may be partly to blame. 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.

Though at one point they were abundant in California, the red-legged frogs were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1996. Their numbers have declined more than 90 percent and, according to the Center, the species is no longer found in 70 percent of its former range.

“Because they’re so sensitive to chemical contaminants, frogs are an important barometer of the health of our aquatic ecosystems,” said Mr. Miller. “Pesticides found in red-legged frog habitat can also contaminate our drinking water, food, homes and schools, posing a disturbing health risk.”

Source: Center for Biological Diversity Press Release

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19
Oct

Contamination of Waterways Increases in California

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2011) The latest water pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 9 office shows considerable increases of chemical pollution, including pesticides, in California water bodies. According to the report, which gathered monitoring data for 2008-2010, more than half of the state’s water bodies do not meet existing water quality goals and many still need federal pollution control standards. While federal officials maintain that the increases are due to improved monitoring and not new pollution, the data presents a more accurate representation of real world contamination.

California’s list of impaired waters, finalized last week, shows significant increases compared with the 2006 list. According to the report, “Of the total 3 million acres of lakes, bays, estuaries and wetlands in the state, 1.6 million acres are not meeting water quality goals and of these 1.4 million acres still needs total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to be set. Of the total 215,000 miles of rivers, streams and shoreline, 30,000 miles are not meeting water quality goals and of these 20,000 miles still need TMDLs. While more than 50% of the lakes, bays, estuaries and wetlands acres have been assessed, less than 20% of the coastline, rivers and stream miles have been assessed.”

Overall, waters with toxic pollution increased 170%, with the number of waterways contaminated by pesticides increasing by 36%. The number of waters inhabited by fish unsafe to eat is 24% higher, with mercury being the highest violator. The new information on fish prompted the state to issue advisories warning the public of the risks of consuming fish from certain lakes. Many of the pollutants causing impairment are no longer manufactured, such as DDT, and are slowly decreasing in concentration over time. Other issues include areas where bacteria levels are unsafe for swimmers, which climbed to a 90% increase and trash increased by 76%.

Under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), a list of impaired water bodies must be assembled by states and other authorized entities every two years. Waters that are not meeting requirements even with pollution controls and other water quality standards must be identified and prioritized for additional monitoring and development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for waters on the 303(d) List. More than 1,000 waterways are deemed “impaired” by pollution of one kind or another. “To me it was fairly shocking,” EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld said of the new figures. “That really does speak to the enormity of the problem in front of us.” However, federal officials maintain that much of this increase is due to more thorough monitoring required under the State’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, which requires the agricultural community to limit pollutants in their discharges and conduct monitoring. California used 22,000 data sets to compile the new tally, seven times the number reviewed for the previous listing.

California’s new water data exemplifies the need for continued vigilance against chemical contamination of our nation’s waters. Specifically, the data shows that water pollution has been going underreported and underestimated for decades, with this new data more closely reflecting the state’s pollution problem. The Clean Water Act is the nation’s statue that oversees protections for surface waters from various types of pollution. Unfortunately, a recent series of Congressional and industry attacks on the CWA threaten to undermine the limited protections in place for waterways.

So far a staggering 125 pieces of legislation have been introduced by the House of Representatives to undermine environmental laws. The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 or H.R. 872 already passed by the House earlier this year and was voted out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, would revoke EPA’s authority to require permits for pesticide discharges into waterways. Soon after H.R. 872 was passed, the Republican-controlled chamber passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018. This bill would prevent EPA from stepping in to enforce clean water standards when it deemed that a state agency was not effectively enforcing the law. It would also prevent EPA from refining its existing water standards to reflect the latest science without first getting approval from a state agency. In addition, over 70 amendments to significantly curtail environmental regulation in the 2012 Department of the Interior and the EPA spending bill (H.R. 2584) were added to an appropriations bill. Most recently, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) tried to attach an amendment to a China currency bill in the Senate which sought to strip protections against pesticide contamination from CWA. The amendment was not taken up.

Industry sponsors of these bills say that the clean water requirements are “duplicative regulations” which would “unnecessarily burden” farmers and small businesses. They have spoken out against EPA and its efforts to regulate chemical pollution. However, the potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental cleanup efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that could result in the removal of this permitting process has not been considered. The reality is that this permitting process forces the pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water.

Thousands of waterways in the U.S. are impaired because of pesticide pollution and these toxic chemicals are a threat to people and wildlife. Pesticides discharged in our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants also accumulate in the fish that we eat and contaminate our drinking water. By prohibiting EPA or states from regulating the discharge of pesticides into waterways through CWA, a dangerous vacuum is allowed to exist in the protection of wildlife, human health and natural systems.

Take Action!
Take action now to protect our waterways from pesticide contamination.

Source: LA Times

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

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18
Oct

Tell USDA To Deny Deregulation of GE “Roundup Ready” Sugar Beets

(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2011) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of deregulating (commercializing) sugar beets genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commonly referred to as Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets. APHIS considered three alternatives in the draft EIS: deny the petition seeking a determination of nonregulated status (prohibit commercial planting), make a determination of nonregulated status (allow commercial planting), or extend the partial deregulation of RR sugar beets for the root crop, with mandatory conditions and restrictions. Comments will be accepted until December 13, 2011.

APHIS originally deregulated RR sugar beets in 2005. A coalition of environmental groups and organic seed companies, led by the Center for Food Safety, challenged the USDA approval in 2008. It argued that GE sugar beets would contaminate organic and non-GE farmers of related crops, such as table beets and chard, as well as increase pesticide impacts on the environment and worsen the current Roundup-resistant “superweeds” epidemic in U.S. agriculture. In September 2009, Judge Jeffrey S. White in the federal district court in San Francisco agreed, and ordered USDA to prepare an EIS assessing these and other impacts, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In August 2010, after a year of vigorous litigation over the proper remedy for USDA’s unlawful approval, the court again agreed with plaintiffs, threw out the USDA’s approval, and halted planting.

Despite the absence of lawful review or a new agency decision, in summer 2010, USDA and the biotech industry, led by Monsanto, demanded the court allow planting to continue unabated. The district court refused to do so and instead set aside USDA’s approval of the crop based on the agency’s failure to comply with environmental laws. That precedential ruling was also preserved by the appeals court order. During this case’s appeal, USDA approved 2011-2012 planting of GE sugar beets under the terms of a novel permitting and “partial deregulation” scheme while it conducted the court-ordered analysis. That decision is the subject of separate litigation that is ongoing in the District of Columbia.

Monsanto created “Roundup Ready” crops to withstand its Roundup herbicide (with the active ingredient glyphosate). Growing previous Roundup Ready crops such as soy, cotton, and corn have led to greater use of herbicides. It has also led to the spread of herbicide resistant weeds on millions of acres throughout the U.S. and other countries where such crops are grown, as well as contamination of conventional and organic crops, which has been costly to U.S. farmers. Due to GE crops, in large part, Roundup has become the most popular pesticide ever.

Glyphosate is a known carcinogen, neurotoxin, irritant, and has been found to kill human embryonic cells, and can cause kidney and liver damage. Glyphosate is also harmful to the environment, particularly aquatic life and water quality and has been linked to intersex frogs, and is lethal to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment.

As researchers scramble to find new ways of chemically coping with increased weed resistance, they overlook the glaring fact that there already exist alternative systems such as organic farming, which erases the need for these drastic measures through its systemic pest prevention approaches. Organic farming can be at least as productive as conventional, chemical-reliant farming while having none of the toxic side effects that create significant risks to ecosystems and human health. To learn more, see our page on organic food and agriculture.

Currently, there are commercially available glyphosate tolerant seed varieties for corn, soybeans, canola, sorghum, and cotton. In addition to sugar beets, USDA recently approved Roundup-Ready alfalfa. Due to serious questions regarding the integrity of USDA’s environmental evaluations, public interest groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have filed suit against the agency to stop its full deregulation of GE alfalfa.

Take Action: APHIS is seeking public comment on the draft EIS and will consider all public comments submitted during the comment period before finalizing the EIS or making any decisions regarding the regulatory status of RR sugar beets. The comment period will be open for 60 days (until December 13, 2011). To obtain feedback and take comments from members of the general public, APHIS is scheduling three public meetings. These meetings will take place in Fargo, N.D., on Nov. 15; Corvallis, Ore., on Nov. 17; and APHIS will also hold a public meeting in the Riverdale, Md., on Nov. 22. Exact locations will be published in the Federal Register and posted on the APHIS website.

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

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17
Oct

Residents Battle with City Park District To Prevent Toxic Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2011) Backlash from local residents in an Illinois city has pressured park officials to keep chemical pesticides off of athletic fields, successfully stopping a planned chemical treatment in November and postponing the city’s decision to spray until they hear more from concerned residents and turf experts.

One of the playing fields that park official want to spray

One of the playing fields that park official want to spray

For four years, the Park Board of Highland Park, IL has managed its playing fields without the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Back in August, however, the Park Board decided to allow its groundskeepers to apply herbicides in order to control dandelions, clover, and other unwanted plants at three local parks. Over 70 residents sent emails to the Park Board and administration, and an online petition has collected 683 signatures opposed to the city park commissioners’ decision to spray the chemical pesticides.

In response to public concern, Bruce Branham, PhD, a Professor of the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois wrote a statement to the park officials in favor of spraying, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide registration process as establishing the safety of the pesticides being proposed for use by the Park Board. Beyond Pesticides responded with a letter

“Children are more vulnerable to the health risks of pesticides because they are still developing,” Highland Park resident Kim Stone told park commissioners, as quoted by the Chicago Sun Times. “Pesticides are poisons by definition; they are designed to effect vital biological processes that in most cases are not unique to the intended target pests.”

Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development and behavior patterns. Many scientific studies indicate that pesticides threaten the public’s health by increasing the risk of cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and reproductive problems. More information can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ fact sheet Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

Park officials want to apply one application of the herbicide Confront. Clopyralid is one of the active ingredients in this product, and is a carboxylic acid herbicide classified by EPA in acute toxicity class III as slightly toxic. Laboratory studies have shown that clopyralid is a severe eye irritant and dermal irritation has also been noted which can lead to skin sensitization for prolonged skin exposures. Some developmental and reproductive effects have been observed in laboratory animals. The livers and kidneys of rats as well as the livers of dogs were affected by changes in weight and decreased red blood cell counts. Another study found that weights of rabbit fetuses decreased at both low and high doses of clopyralid. Skeletal abnormalities were also observed in these fetuses at all doses.

It is a persistent herbicide that breaks down extremely slowly. The herbicide, which does not break down during the composting process, has been found in compost made from recycled grass, straw, and manure. In 2002, the state of Washington banned the use of clopyralid on lawns and turf in order to keep the chemical from contaminating compost supplies. That same year, California found that 65% of the composts samples tested positive for clopyralid, which led to the cancellation of residential uses for clopyralid in the state.

This is particularly of concern given that two of the parks that the city is requesting to treat are located along streams that feed the Chicago watershed, according to Ms. Stone in a statement to the Sun Times. Ms. Stone has worked for 10 years with the ally group Safer Pest Control Project in Chicago and has been highly active in leading the effort against pesticides in her community.

The other active ingredient in the herbicide Confront is triclopyr. There are documented effects on reproduction, fetal development, and organ function, as well as irritation when exposed to high doses of this chemical. Subchronic and chronic feeding studies in dogs and rodents found damage to both the kidney and liver. Data has also shown birth defects and adverse effects on reproduction associated with chronic exposure. Pregnant rodents exposed to the chemical had lower litter numbers and a higher incidence of birth abnormalities in offspring than did those which were not exposed. Triclopyr is generally considered to be non-carcinogenic, but several laboratory tests have shown an increase in the incidents of breast cancer and genetic damage in rat embryos. Triclopyr is also toxic to a range of wildlife, and its persistence can vary greatly depending on the application site, but some studies have shown it to persist longer than a year under certain conditions.

There are many effective alternatives to these two chemicals to control weeds, however. The Sun Times even states that “restaurant-grade vinegar also has been sprayed and determined to be a better alternative to pesticides in some cases.”

Beyond Pesticides has a tremendous amount of resources available on least- and non-toxic lawn care practices, including our training videos, factsheets and regional contacts. For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes page. Read also our factsheets: “Read Your “Weeds” – A Simple Guide To Creating A Healthy Lawn” and “Least-Toxic Control of Weeds.”

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

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14
Oct

New Research Links Pesticides to Cardiovascular Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2011) Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have found that environmental toxicants such as dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides can pose a risk for cardiovascular disease. The results of the study, entitled “Circulating Levels of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Carotid Atherosclerosis in the Elderly,” show a link between exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including several organochlorine pesticides, and the development of atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. The study will be published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and a version of it is available online ahead of print.

Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the most common cause of death in industrialized countries, and the most important underlying cause of these diseases is atherosclerosis. Unbalanced blood fats, diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure are traditionally recognized risk factors for atherosclerosis.

Previous studies have also reported possible links between cardiovascular disease and high levels of persistent (long-lived and hard-to-degrade) organic environmental toxicants, such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides. These compounds are fat-soluble and can therefore accumulate in vessel walls. However, no earlier studies have investigated possible links between exposure to these compounds and atherosclerosis.

Of the POPs that were screened for, five were pesticides or pesticide degradates: hexachlorobenzene, three chlordane-related compounds, and DDE, a close relative and degradate of DDT. As previous research has demonstrated, although some of these chemicals have long since been banned in the United States, their persistence remains so high that they are still routinely detected in human tissue. Other highly persistent toxic compounds remain on the market today, including many pesticide chemicals.

Persistent organic pollutants are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they persist in the environment, are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment. Many POPs are currently or were in the past used as pesticides. Others are used in industrial processes and in the production of a range of goods such as solvents, polyvinyl chloride, and pharmaceuticals. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs.

The current study measured the circulating levels of the above group of compounds in about 1,000 Swedes living in Uppsala. Atherosclerosis in the carotid artery was also measured using ultrasound. The findings show a clear connection between increasing levels of environmental toxicants and atherosclerosis, even after taking into consideration the traditional risk factors. There was also a link to tangible signs of fat accumulation in vessel walls.

“These findings indicate that long-lived organic environmental toxicants may be involved in the occurrence of atherosclerosis and thereby lead to future death from cardiovascular diseases,” says Lars Lind, PhD., professor at the Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University.

“In Sweden, and in many countries in the world, many of these substances are forbidden today, but since they are so long-lived they’re still out there in our environment. We ingest these environmental toxicants with the food we eat, and since they are stored in our bodies, the levels grow higher the older we get,” says Monica Lind, PhD., Associate Professor in Environmental Medicine at Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Organochlorine pesticides have previously been linked to a number of adverse effects on human health including birth defects and diabetes. This study illustrates how the health impacts of pesticides can be often subtle and delayed, and pesticides once considered to pose “acceptable” risks are continuing to affect public health. In response to the growing evidence linking pesticide exposures to numerous human health effects, Beyond Pesticides launched the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database to capture the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains hundreds of entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, is continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends.

Source: Uppsala University press release, TIME Healthland

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

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13
Oct

New Report Charges “Natural” Cereal Industry Is Deceptive

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2011) A new report released by The Cornucopia Institute reveals the deceptive marketing practices in the natural foods industry by some of the nation’s largest breakfast cereal manufacturers, demonstrating the importance of the organic label in order to avoid synthetic pesticides and genetically engineered food. In some cases, companies are selling products contaminated with toxic agrichemicals and Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms while promoting them as “natural.”

The new report, Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label—A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle, explores in-depth this growing trend of marketing conventional foods as “natural” to lure health-conscious and eco-conscious consumers and their shopping dollars. As Beyond Pesticides has pointed out in previous Daily News entries and our fact sheet, “Making Sure Green Consumer Claims Are Truthful,” the report also acknowledges that there are no restrictions for foods labeled “natural.” Unlike the organic label, no government agency, certification group, or other independent entity defines the term “natural” on processed food packages or ensures that the claim has merit.

Analysis by Cornucopia of wholesale and retail cereal and granola prices reveals that “natural” products often are priced similarly or higher than equivalent organic product. This suggests that some companies are profiting from consumer confusion, in an attempt to cash in on the growing demand for organic food. Though the prices may be similar, however, there is a vast difference between organic and “natural” products from grain produced with the use of toxic pesticides. In some cases, companies charge high prices for “natural” products that even contain genetically engineered crops developed by St. Louis-based Monsanto.

The report also details how prominent agribusinesses are increasingly using various strategies to create the illusion of equivalence between the “natural” and organic labels to mislead consumers.

“Some companies that started out organic, and built brand loyalty as organic brands, have switched to non-organic ingredients and “natural” labeling,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy at Cornucopia.

According to Cornucopia, one such brand, Peace Cereal® is an example of “bait-and-switch.” In 2008, the Peace Cereal® brand switched from organic to cheaper conventional ingredients, without lowering its prices, according to the report. Today, the cereal is sold in natural food stores and mainstream grocers at prices above many of their certified organic competitors that are using more expensive organic ingredients.

Unfortunately, this marketing scheme is nothing new. A report published last October found that 95% of consumer products in a study that claimed to be eco-friendly were guilty of greenwashing. Many supposedly green labels that include vague language such as “all-natural,” mean very little and contain no proof of environmental claims. Worse yet is that some companies place fake labels or seals on their packaging designed to imply that a products has a third party endorsement. For example, the “Earth Friendly Farm Friendly” label found on some dairy products actually encourages the use of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics to increase production. Sarah Lee has been accused of greenwashing for inviting consumers to “plot to save the earth” by purchasing their Earth Grains bread with their new Eco-Grain wheat. It turns out, however, that despite the major marketing campaign to push the products as environmentally friendly, the grains for the breads are produced with only a slight decrease in the amount of synthetic fertilizer used.

In contrast, products that display the USDA’s “certified organic” label are produced under a strict set of verified standards prohibiting the use of petrochemical-based fertilizers, sewage sludge, synthetic toxic pesticides, genetically modified crops, and other many common conventional agricultural and manufacturing inputs. Key to the organic label is a transparent and public process, overseen by stakeholds serving on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), that facilitiates public involvement in defining organic practices and allowable inputs. The only sure-fire way consumers can avoid the use of toxic pesticides is to buy organic and look for the USDA certification.

Unlike chemical-intensive agriculture and genetically engineered food, researchers continue to discover the environmental and health benefits of eating and growing organic food. There are numerous health benefits to eating organic, besides a reduction in pesticide exposure. According to research from the University of California, a ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce finds that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A study out of the University of Texas finds organically grown fruits and vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals than their conventionally grown counterparts. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants.

For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.


Take Action:
Join the fight to have genetically engineered foods labeled. This Saturday, October 16th is World Food Day. The Organic Consumers Association’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign is celebrating with more than 100 World Food Day events nationwide, making it the biggest single day of action for strict label laws for genetically engineered food in U.S. history. To find an event near you or for more information, click here.

Source: The Cornucopia Institute Press Release

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

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