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14
Mar

Report Shows Honeybee Decline Is Global

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: UN News Centre

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11
Mar

Congress Advances Bill to Limit Clean Water Protections from Pesticides

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE ACTION:

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

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

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10
Mar

Public Health Group Urges Precautionary Policy for Endocrine Disruptors

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

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

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

Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at extremely low levels of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. One example, cites Theo Colborn, PhD, author of Our Stolen Future and president of the Endocrine Disruptor Exchange (TDEX), is the weed killer atrazine. Atrazine is the herbicide most frequently found in surface and drinking waters in the U.S. It is linked to a host of adverse health effects including endocrine disruption, which has been well-documented in frogs and other laboratory animals. Atrazine is already listed on the Colborn List of endocrine disruptors and has been recognized by the European Union (EU) as a category 1 (evidence of endocrine disrupting activity in at least one species) endocrine disruptor. For a complete list of EU-identified endocrine disruptors, see the EU’s “Endocrine Disrupters Website” database page. (The Colborn List and the EU have already tested many chemicals for endocrine disruption that EPA is just beginning to evaluate.)

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

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

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

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

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

Source: APHA Press Release
Huffington Post

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09
Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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07
Mar

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

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

Film Synopsis

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

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

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

About the Forum

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

Speakers

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

Travel and Lodging

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

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

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07
Mar

Thousands of Women Farmers in Brazil Protest the Use of Pesticides

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

Photo Courtesy CenterCut Blog

Photo Courtesy CenterCut Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Inter Press Service News Agency

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04
Mar

California to Monitor Air for Pesticide Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: DPR Press Release

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03
Mar

Order to Destroy GE Sugar Beet Plants Overturned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Bloomberg Media

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02
Mar

California Introduces Legislation to Remove Pesticides from Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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01
Mar

Transgenic Fungi Being Developed to Fight Malaria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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28
Feb

EU Panel Votes to Import Genetically Engineered Material in Animal Feed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Wall Street Journal
Associated Press

Photo Courtesy: Inside Ireland

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25
Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EPA

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24
Feb

Alarming World-Wide Rise of Genetically Engineered Crops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23
Feb

EPA Rejects Immediate Action On Pesticide Toxic To Bees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EPA

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22
Feb

Antibacterial Soap Suspected of Making Patients Sick

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2011) After witnessing a patient’s condition improve upon discontinuing the use of antibacterial products containing the active ingredient triclosan, Gerard Guillory, M.D. of Denver, Colorado believes that several of his patients are experiencing health problems caused by daily exposure to the chemical. Dr. Guillory told local ABC 7 News: Denver Channel that he was treating his patient, Mary Lou Simanovich, for hyperthyroidism and asked her about antibacterial soap, which she had been using for years. After Ms. Simanovich stopped using soaps containing triclosan, both she and Dr. Guillory noticed improvements in her condition and overall health.

“I feel better now. That’s all I can say and I think there’s an association,” said Ms. Simanovich to the Denver Channel.

Antibacterial agents like triclosan, found in many antibacterial products, are linked to a host of adverse health and environmental effects including hormone disruption, possible impaired fetal development, and water and food contamination. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and is also shown to alter thyroid function.

“My suspicion is that if it’s damaging the thyroid, it’s probably damaging other organs in the body,” said Dr. Guillory to the Denver Channel.

Triclosan is one of the most detected chemicals in U.S. waterways; about 96 percent of triclosan from consumer products is disposed of in residential drains. This leads to large loads of the chemical in water entering wastewater treatment plants, which are incompletely removed during the wastewater treatment process. When treated wastewater is released to the environment, sunlight converts some of the triclosan (and related compounds) into various forms of dioxins. Due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in, fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk. A recent study shows that triclosan from sewage sludge can be taken up by soybean plants and translocated into the beans themselves, then consumed by people and animals. The Centers for Disease Control in an updated National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals notes that triclosan, found in the bodies of 75% of those tested, shows levels in people increasing by over 41% between just the years 2004 and 2006.

The good news is that antibacterial products available to consumers like antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are no more effective at killing germs than regular soap and water and they do not provide any added health benefits over regular soap. A systematic review of research assessing the risks and potential benefits associated with the use of soaps containing triclosan found that data do not support the effectiveness of triclosan for reducing infectious disease symptoms or bacterial counts on the hands when used at the concentrations commonly found in consumer antibacterial hand soaps. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Scientific Affairs reported in 2000 that, “There is little evidence to support the use of antimicrobials in consumer products such as topical hand lotions and soaps.”

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

TAKE ACTION!
Support Beyond Pesticides’ petition to ban triclosan:

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

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

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

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

Source: ABC 7 News, Denver

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18
Feb

Danish Government Agrees to Reduce Pesticides on Golf Courses

(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2011) The Danish government has announced that it has reached an agreement that aims to phase out pesticide use on golf courses throughout the country. The agreement, which was made between the Danish Government, the Danish People’s Party, the Social Democrats, the Socialist People’s Party and the Danish Social-Liberal Party, seeks to replace the present ”Agreement on the golf courses of the future” dating from June 2005. It states that the long-term objective is a phasing-out of the consumption of pesticides on Danish golf courses coupled with increases in education regarding pesticide-neutral care utilizing alternative methods, such as mechanical weed control.

Part of the agreement involves an evaluation of the results achieved so far, to be carried out before the end of 2014, in order to inform efforts to tighten the requirements. The partial aim of the 2005 agreement was that, before the end of 2008, the use of pesticides on golf courses should be reduced to 0.1 kg of active ingredient per hectare (ha). As part of the 2005 agreement, golf courses were to submit their pesticide use data in the form of annual “green accounts” to The Danish Golf Union, which has advocated for stronger environmental practices. The Union’s analysis of these accounts has revealed a 2008 consumption of 0.23 kg/ha, and 0.24 kg/ha for 2009, equivalent to a total consumption on Danish golf courses of 2.5 tonnes of active agent. All parties agreed that this is not satisfactory.

The 2005 agreement was a solely voluntary effort to reduce usage, but under the new agreement, it will be replaced by binding regulations regarding golf organizations’ use of pesticides. The regulations are to be based on the following principles, outlined in the agreement:

1. Golf is an important part of Danish sporting activities; but, for the sake of human health and the environment, the pesticide consumption in the golf organizations must be minimized. Hence, the Minister for the Environment will initiate an external expert evaluation for the purpose of determining the lowest possible level of pesticide consumption on Danish golf courses, still allowing the feasibility of continued operation of the courses.

2. Regulations, subject to which only the appliance of low-risk pesticides shall be allowed on golf courses and other public areas, will be implemented. Risk factors will be determined using a benchmarking system based on the health and environment properties of the individual pesticides.

3. The current partial aim of 0.1 kg active agent per ha will be replaced by the establishment of a new cap scheme for the use of pesticides on golf courses based on the pesticides’ factual strain on health and environment. The ceiling imposed will be determined on the basis of the expert opinion provided subject to clause 1 and will be calculated using the benchmarking system referred to under clause 2. This will urge the golf clubs to apply the pesticides of lowest impact in each individual case. In consideration of the historic reference, the consumption will still be stated in kilos of active agent per ha.

4. In consideration of the consumers, an investigation will be carried out for the purpose of assessing the feasibility of preparing a public statement of the pesticide consumption at the individual courses.

Following these goals, the Danish Minister of the Environment introduced a bill in January 2011 proposing an amendment to the existing chemical law. The bill would authorize subsequent regulations that would impose binding requirements on Danish golf courses with respect to their use of pesticides.

The parties also agreed that it is essential to follow-up on golf course pesticide consumption and continue to monitor usage. In 2011, the Chemical Inspection Service the Danish Environmental Protection Agency will repeat its inspection to determine the extent to which the golf clubs apply pesticides which are restricted, and will refer violators to authorities.

The new regulations will be initiated as an element of Denmark’s implementation of the European Union (EU) framework directive on sustainable application of pesticides (Directive 2009/128/EC). This directive imposes an obligation on EU Member States to ensure that, in consideration of risks and impacts of the use of pesticides on human health and the environment, the use of pesticides shall be minimized or banned in areas used by the general public, including sports grounds and public parks. Member states must implement this directive no later than November 26, 2011.

Golf courses around the world, including many in the United States, tend to hold themselves to a high standard, when it comes to maintaining the thick perfectly manicured and weed free turf on greens and fairways. To attain this standard, golf course superintendents rely on a toxic assortment of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other chemicals. These practices have been linked to numerous diseases in humans including cancer, as well as damage to local wildlife. In recent years, however, golf course managers have begun to work with environmental experts to maintain their greens in ways that are less damaging to the environment and human health.

Many conventional golf course managers argue that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are necessary to maintain healthy looking grass, and an organic approach is not viable. However, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and public health groups disagree, maintaining that, instead of relying on large amounts of synthetic chemicals to make turf appear healthy, managers should instead focus on creating healthy soils. Healthy soils create an environment for healthier turf that are less vulnerable to weeds and diseases. In addition, as pesticide use declines, biodiversity increases. This can naturally reduce the populations of various pests. Leading golf courses, such as Bethpage State Park are proving that they can have fast greens and outstanding playing conditions without the massive load of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Beyond Pesticides has served on a steering committee that seeks to develop a collaborative strategy with the golf course industry in an effort to effect change. This group developed the Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the U.S. Increasingly, players and golf course managers are asking the right questions and looking for answers that result in meaningful reductions in pesticide use. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Lawns and Landscapes and Golf and the Environment project pages.

Source: Danish Golf Union

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17
Feb

Report Shows Government-Industry Conflict in Pesticide Research

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2011) According to a recent investigative report, a company known for conducting scientific research for the pesticide industry has, in an attempt to refute research linking pesticides to Parkinson’s disease, paid a U.S. government agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), to prove that certain pesticides are safe. According to the report, the company, Exponent Inc., is a member of CropLife America, a trade group that represents pesticide manufacturers, and also has worked regularly for Syngenta, which makes paraquat, one of the chemicals it is looking prove as safe. Specifically, the company is looking to refute the research which shows that even small amounts of agricultural chemicals, maneb and paraquat, when combined, can raise the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

According to the report, managing scientist of Exponent, Laura McIntosh, PhD, said in an interview that the company donated the money and sought participation at NIOSH to enhance the credibility of its study of maneb and paraquat; they wanted to make their research “bulletproof.”

NIOSH is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Generally, government agencies are supposed to be unbiased, and federal ethics rules prohibit employees from accepting money from businesses relating to their jobs. Exponent got around this by donating $60,000 to the CDC Foundation, is an independent 501(c)(3) charity, which then passed the money over to NIOSH.

“We have a professional money-laundering facility at the Centers for Disease Control Foundation” quotes James O’Callaghan, PhD in the report. Dr. O’Callaghan is the NIOSH researcher running the government’s part of the project. “They accept projects from anyone on the outside.”

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects one to two percent of people over the age of 65. Sufferers have tremors, sluggish movement, muscle stiffness, and difficulty with balance. Although medical treatments may improve symptoms, there are none that can slow down or halt the progression of the disease.

Yesterday, we reported that new research shows a link between the use of two pesticides, rotenone and paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease. People who used either pesticide developed Parkinson’s disease approximately 2.5 times more often than non-users. This research supports earlier research demonstrating a link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Pesticides have been long suspected to be tied to Parkinson’s partly because of the high rate of the disease among farmworkers. Scientists have also been aware for many years that both paraquat and rotenone are neurotoxins that, when given to animals, reproduce features of Parkinson’s in the brain. Previous findings show that exposure to pesticides within 500 meters of an individual’s home increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 75 percent.

For more information, read Beyond Pesticides’ report “Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease,” a review of published toxicological and epidemiological studies that link exposure to pesticides, as well as gene-pesticide interactions, to Parkinson’s disease.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database captures the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains 383 entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, will be continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends.

Source: Investigative Reporting Workshop, American University School of Communication and Politics Daily

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16
Feb

New Studies Reveal Many Pesticides Block Male Hormones, Others Linked To Parkinson’s Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, February 16, 2011) Many agricultural pesticides –including some previously untested and commonly found in food– disrupt male hormones, according to new tests conducted by British scientists. Meanwhile, U.S. researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that people who used two specific varieties of pesticide were 2.5 times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Pesticides Impact Male Hormones

Evidence suggests that there is widespread decline in male reproductive health and anti-androgenic pollutants, also known as endocrine disruptors, may play a significant role. Thirty out of 37 pesticides tested by the researchers at the University of London altered male hormones, including 16 that had no known hormonal activity until now. There was some previous evidence for the other 14. Most are fungicides applied to fruit and vegetable crops, including strawberries and lettuce. The study, “Widely Used Pesticides with Previously Unknown Endocrine Activity Revealed as in Vitro Anti-Androgens,” is published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The British researchers screened the chemicals using in vitro assays, which use human cells to check whether the pesticides activate or inhibit hormone receptors in cells that turn genes on and off. Scientists, however, are uncertain what actually happens in the human body at the concentrations of chemicals that people encounter in fruits and vegetables. Fetuses and infants are particularly at risk when exposed in the womb or through breast milk because the hormones control masculinization of the reproductive tract.

Of the tested compounds, the most potent in terms of blocking androgens is the insecticide fenitrothion, an organophosphate insecticide used on orchard fruits, grains, rice, vegetables and other crops. Others with hormonal activity include fludioxonil, fenhexamid, dimethomorph and imazalil, which are all fungicides. Fungicides are often applied close to harvest, so they are frequently found as residue in food. Some are new compounds which have been used for only a few years. Fungicides are typically applied as mixtures in order to increase effectiveness and prevent development of resistant strains and, therefore, human exposure to mixtures of these in vitro anti-androgens may be considerable. For six of the pesticides that showed hormonal activity for the first time, the authors said they “strongly recommend” the next round of testing, using lab animals. “Due to estimated anti-androgenic potency, current use, estimated exposure, and lack of previous data, we strongly recommend that dimethomorph, fludioxonil, fenhexamid, imazalil, ortho-phenylphenol and pirimiphos-methyl be tested for anti-androgenic effects in vivo.” For the first four pesticides, they called it “a matter of urgency.” They are used on strawberries, lettuce, grapes and other fruits and vegetables.

Some research has linked pesticides to abnormal genitals in baby boys, such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias, and decreased sperm counts in men. Male fertility is thought to be declining in many countries, and testicular cancer is increasing. Some scientists have dubbed this compilation of male disorders “testicular dysgenesis syndrome,” and suggested that hormone-disrupting environmental contaminants play a role.

“This study indicates that, not surprisingly, there are many other endocrine disruptors that we have not yet identified or know very little about,” said Emily Barrett, PhD, a University of Rochester assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology who was not involved in the study. “This underlines the glaring problem that many of the chemicals that are most widely used today, including pesticides, are simply not adequately tested and may have serious long-term impacts on health and development,” said Dr. Barrett.

The findings come as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faces opposition from the pesticide industry after expanding its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which requires testing of about 200 chemicals found in food and drinking water to see if they interfere with estrogen, androgens or thyroid hormones. None of the 16 pesticides with the newly discovered hormonal activity is included in the EPA’s program, which means they are not currently being screened. In 2009, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced The Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 [H.R. 4190] in Congress to explore linkages between hormone disrupting chemicals in the environment and everyday products and the dramatic increase of autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other hormone related disorders. In 2010, The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned EPA to establish new water-quality criteria for numerous endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) under the Clean Water Act. If adopted, it will be a big step in regulating and eliminating persistent and widespread chemicals that damage reproductive functions in wildlife and humans

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

Theo Colborn, PhD will be a keynote speaker at the 29th National Pesticide Forum April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Dr. Colburn has been honored by Time magazine as a global Environmental Hero, Dr. Colborn is co-author of Our Stolen Future and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX).

Study Confirms Pesticides, Parkinson’s Disease Link

New research released shows a link between the use of two pesticides, rotenone and paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease. People who used either pesticide developed Parkinson’s disease approximately 2.5 times more often than non-users. This research, “Rotenone, Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease,” out of the National Institutes of Health, supports earlier research demonstrating a link between the two pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Pesticides are long suspected of being tied to Parkinson’s, at least in part, because of the high rate of the disease among farmworkers. Scientists have also been aware for many years that both paraquat and rotenone are neurotoxins that, when given to animals, reproduce features of Parkinson’s in the brain. Previous findings show that exposure to pesticides within 500 meters of an individual’s home increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 75 percent.

The authors studied 110 people with Parkinson’s disease and 358 matched controls from the Farming and Movement Evaluation (FAME) Study to investigate the relationship between Parkinson’s disease and exposure to pesticides or other agents that are toxic to nerve tissue. FAME is a case-control study that is part of the larger Agricultural Health Study, a study of farming and health in approximately 90,000 licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses. The investigators diagnosed Parkinson’s disease by agreement of movement disorder specialists and assessed the lifelong use of pesticides using detailed interviews.

Paraquat is a weedkiller that is known to increase the production of certain proteins in the brain that damages cells that produce dopamine. People with Parkinson’s have a dopamine shortage that causes the motor problems, muscle tremors, and rigidity that characterize Parkinson’s. Rotenone inhibits the function of mitochondria in the brain, which is responsible for regenerating certain brain cells. Both pesticides are largely restricted, due to concerns about links to Parkinson’s. Paraquat is restricted to certified applicators and rotenone is only permitted to kill invasive fish species.

For more information, read Beyond Pesticides’ report “Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease,” a review of published toxicological and epidemiological studies that link exposure to pesticides, as well as gene-pesticide interactions, to Parkinson’s disease.

The Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database captures the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains 383 entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, will be continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends.


Sources:
Environmental Health News
Associated Free Press

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15
Feb

More Speakers Announced – Sustainable Community Conference, April 8-9 in Denver

(Beyond Pesticides, February 15, 2011) What do an organic CEO, the lawyer leading the fight to ban GE alfalfa, a scientist who linked pesticide exposure to ADHD, and a beekeeper who exposed leaked EPA documents have in common? They will all be speaking at Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, the 29th National Pesticide Forum, April 8-9 at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver (Aurora), Colorado. This national environmental conference will cover topics such as pesticides and health, pollinators, organic food and farming, genetically engineered crops, healthy communities, organic land care, non-toxic bed bug control, and more.

The event is open to the public and registration starts at $35. Limited scholarships are available, contact Beyond Pesticides for information.

Speaker highlights (see full list)

Maria Rodale – author of Organic Manifesto, CEO of Rodale Inc. -publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines, and co-chair of the research-based Rodale Institute’s board of directors.

Dana Boyd Barr, PhD – Emory University researcher whose studies have linked pesticide exposure to ADHD and other learning problems, reduced birth weight, diminished sperm quality and more.

Theo Colborn, PhD – honored by Time magazine as a global Environmental Hero, Dr. Colborn is co-author of Our Stolen Future and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX).

James Frazier, PhD – professor of entomology at Penn State University leading the national research into the disappearance of honeybees, known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

George Kimbrell – Center for Food Safety lawyer leading the fight to ban genetically engineered alfalfa, sugar beets, and more.

Lani Malmberg – the self-described “gypsy” goat herder combating invasive weeds and restoring the land across 10 western states.

Marygael Meister – backyard beekeeper and founder of the urban beekeeping group Denver Bee who helped change the law to leagalize urban beekeeping in Denver.

Chip Osborne – founder and president of Osborne Organics, Mr. Osborne is a nationally-recognized expert in organic turf management.

Christine Parks, PhD – epidemiologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) focused on the link between pesticides and autoimmune disorders.

Benjamin Ross, PhD – author of The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment, an acclaimed book detailing the history of the chemical industry and its undue influence on policy.

Timothy Scott – author of Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives.

Tom Theobald – the beekeeper who exposed a leaked EPA memo disclosing a critically flawed science was used to register (legalize) the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin.

Changlu Wang, PhD – an entomologist and extension specialist at Rutgers University and national expert in environmentally-friendly on bed bug control and pesticide resistance.

Registration

Recession Rate: $35 (grassroots activists and Colorado residents), Student/Senior Rate: $35, Standard Rate: $75 (includes membership for non-members), Business rate: $175. Avoid the $25 late fee by registering before March 8th. Registration includes: keynote speakers and panel discussions; interactive, discussion-based workshops; tour and hands-on demonstrations; networking opportunities; organic food and drink (breakfast, lunch and two receptions); Forum packets, printed materials and more. Register online or call 202-543-5450 to register by phone.

Forum Sponsors

Beyond Pesticides, Denver Bee, Colorado School of Public Health – Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Grow Local Colorado, Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center, Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club, University of Colorado Environmental Center. We are still seeking sponsors, please email info@beyondpesticides.org or call 202-543-5450 for more information.

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14
Feb

Stricter Revisions for Water Quality Standards Proposed in Oregon

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2011) The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hosted a public hearing on February 10 on a proposal to give Oregon the nation’s strictest water quality standards. The proposal filed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) is currently tied in great measure to human consumption of fish. The change intends to improve water quality by changing the state’s assumption of how much fish people eat. Current rules describe for water clean enough to let each Oregon resident eat 6.5 grams of fish per day, however the new rule would raise that amount to 175 grams per day.

According to The World Newspaper, N. Kathryn Brigham, secretary of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, said that members of her tribe consume 389 grams of fish per day, mostly salmon. The 175-gram proposal resulted from negotiations among the department, tribes, and industries.

“The higher fish consumption rate is designed to better protect Oregon’s more sensitive fish consumers,” said Leo Steward, vice-chair of CTUIR board of trustees. “In the past, water quality standards did not protect Indian People. They did not protect our children, our women, our mothers. We must think of the next Seven Generations -what we will pass on them- what they will inherit. They should not face greater health risks for exercising their Treaty Rights-for practicing their religion and for continuing our culture.”

Tribal member Myrna William Tovey has served on the Yellowhawk health board and said she believes toxic chemicals are likely to blame for the high number of tribal members who have cancer. The revised rule will affect cities and facilities that discharge one or more regulated pollutants to state waters. These pollutants would tighten the criteria for 114 toxic pollutants including pesticides. Pesticides are linked to a vast array of serious health problems including birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, reproductive dysfunction, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. See Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Disease Database for more information.

“These proposed revisions are necessary to protect human health,” said DEQ Director Dick Pedersen. “Toxic pollutants can accumulate in fish that people may eat. Some of these substances may lead to cancer, hinder human development and cause other health problems. These pollutants can also affect the quality of water that communities rely on for drinking water. Reducing the level of these toxics in our water makes for healthier, more livable communities and, as a result, a healthier economy. It is important that any water quality rules are implementable, and we believe through working with a broad group of stakeholders we have a proposed rule package that achieves that end.”

The new standard might also help restore the wild salmon population in Oregon. According to a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 2010, EPA have failed to restrict the pesticides from entering wild salmon habitat in Oregon, Washington and California and studies have shown that Wild Salmon exposure to commonly used pesticides continue to detriment the recovery of the salmons’ populations. The researchers concluded that improving water quality conditions by reducing common pollutants could potentially increase the rate of recovery.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission will vote on the tougher toxic rules in June.

Beyond Pesticides believes that, in principle, tightening the water quality standards to protect sensitive populations will help reduce the hazards posed by pesticide use, but does not eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are not necessary given the availability of less and non-toxic methods and products. Pesticide use at any level creates hazardous agricultural practices for the farmworkers and farm families, environmental degradation, and health effects linked to residues in food. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters brochure.

Take Action: Several documents about this rulemaking proposal are available for public comment and may be accessed through DEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/standards/toxics.htm (scroll down to “toxics rulemaking”).

The deadline for all comments is Monday, March 21. Comments may be e-mailed, mailed or faxed to DEQ. Send e-mail comments to ToxicsRuleMaking@deq.state.or.us. Mail comments to Andrea Matzke, Oregon DEQ, Water Quality Division, 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204. Fax comments to Andrea Matzke at 503-229-6037.

Sources: East Oregonian
Oregon DEQ Press Release
The World

Photo Courtesy: Ezra Poundcake

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11
Feb

WV Residents Sue Bayer, Court Orders Temporary Injunction on Chemical Production

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2011) In response to a lawsuit that residents in the town of Institute, WV filed against the chemical manufacturer Bayer CropScience, Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin ordered the company to stop production of the highly toxic chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC) -responsible for killing tens of thousands and chronically injuring over 100,000 people when a Bhopal, India plant leaked the chemical in 1984. Specifically, the judge issued a 14-day restraining order, explaining that the residents who are suing the company are likely to win the case and would be “likely to suffer irreparable harm” without relief from the court. Judge Goodwin also cited Bayer’s history of safety violations and misrepresentations to the public about prior incidents at the plant. The announcement was made February 10, 2010; the judges order can be read here.

Area residents filed suit on Tuesday, February 8, seeking to prevent the company from producing any MIC until the manufacturing plant is inspected for safety and environmental compliance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

MIC is an intermediate chemical used in the production of aldicarb and other carbamate pesticides. These pesticides have been linked to such serious health risks as disruption of enzymes in the nervous system to gastrointestinal disturbances, unconsciousness, blurred vision, excessive salivation, seizures, and disorientation. The substance on its own is also highly volatile and dangerous.

The residents’ lawsuit, quoted in the Charleston Gazette, specifically states that “The risks associated with restarting the Bayer MIC facility far outweigh any social benefit.” Specifically, the suit has a list of conditions that it requires before the plant begins using MIC again. These include, according to the Gazette:

• “Completion of a National Academy of Sciences study of the safety of making and storing large amounts of a chemical as dangerous as MIC near a major population center.
• The state and county create a new chemical accident prevention program proposed by the Chemical Safety Board.
• Local emergency planners enact all of the recommendations in the CSB report for improving their handling of toxic chemical accidents.
• EPA and OSHA both conduct comprehensive safety inspections of the entire Bayer facility.”

Local residents have long been concerned about the manufacture and storage of such a dangerous chemical so close to home. This concern is partially due to the explosion at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984 which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people as a result of exposure to MIC. Bayer has used its plant in Institute as a place to stockpile large reserves of MIC, at times keeping as much as 250,000 pounds of the chemical at the plant.

On August 28, 2008, a pesticide waste tank exploded at the Institute plant killing two workers. The blast was heard in Mink Shoals, more than ten miles away. Despite individual accounts of the resulting air pollution, Bayer officials assured the public that no chemicals had escaped the plant; however an investigation of Bayer’s safety history and the area’s emergency response revealed a shaky safety record.

One year later, the company announced plans to reduce the storage of MIC in Institute by 80%. Even with the reduction however, 50,000 pounds of the chemical would still be allowed on site, which is similar to the amount of chemical present in the Bhopal, India explosion.

Congressional investigators reported that debris from that explosion could have easily hit and damaged another MIC storage tank, causing a disaster that “could have eclipsed” Bhopal. The explosion was “potentially a serious near miss, the results of which might have been catastrophic for workers, responders and the public,” explains the federal Chemical Safety Board Chairman John Bresland.

Bayer had stopped producing MIC after modifying its production process, but is about to resume production in order to use up remaining stores. The company says that it plans to operate the production for no more than 18 months.

EPA announced an agreement with Bayer in August 2010 in which it said it would voluntarily cancel aldicarb. This followed the completion of an EPA revised risk assessment indicating that the pesticide did not meet the agency’s food safety standards. In October EPA announced, “To address the most significant risks, Bayer has agreed to first end aldicarb use on citrus and potatoes, and will adopt risk mitigation measures for other uses to protect groundwater resources. The company will voluntarily phase out production of aldicarb by December 31, 2014. All remaining aldicarb uses will end no later than August 2018.”

A previous announcement by Bayer suggested that company’s timetable for ending aldicarb product sales would be shortened from the initial EPA deadline of 2016. Without the production of MIC and with the closure of part of the Institute site by mid 2012, Bayer plans to stop selling products containing aldicarb by the end of 2014.

This story was updated to reflect new information.

Sources: Charleston Gazette

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10
Feb

Indian Government Resists Ban on Endosulfan, A Chemical It Manufactures

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2011) Despite the numerous scientific data on the devastating health and environmental consequences of endosulfan –a pesticide so toxic that is banned in over 60 countries including the U.S., officials in India say that a ban on the widely used chemical would put the country’s food security at risk and harm the welfare of farmers. However, thousands of villagers in Kerala, India, who have become disabled due to the use of the pesticide, pushed for a state ban in 2004 and have since joined the global movement to ban endosulfan. Doctors say that over 550 deaths and health problems in over 6,000 people in the region are related to the aerial spraying of the pesticide over cashew farms between 1979 and 2000.

“Six thousand patients living with disabilities is not enough scientific evidence to enforce a national ban?,” asked B.C. Kumar, to the Washington Post. Kumar’s father, a cashew farm laborer, died of cancer.

The endosulfan industry in India is estmiated to be worth over $100 million, making it the world’s largest producer, exporter and user of the product. The three companies that produce the product in India, including one that is partially government-owned, claim that pesticide manufacturers in Europe are driving the push for the ban in an effort to promote their products.

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

In June, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would take action to end all uses of the insecticide endosulfan, after deciding that new data presented to the agency in response to its 2002 Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED), which shows that risks faced by workers are greater than previously known. In completing revised assessments, EPA concluded that endosulfan’s significant risks to wildlife and agricultural workers outweigh its limited benefits to growers and consumers. EPA also found that there are risks above the agency’s level of concern for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, as well as birds and mammals that consume aquatic prey which have ingested endosulfan.

EPA’s decision followed a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of environmental and farmworker groups, including Beyond Pesticides, on July 24, 2008. The suit cited EPA’s glaring omission in not considering risks to children: a 2007 study found that children exposed to endosulfan in the first trimester of pregnancy had a significantly greater risk for developing autism spectrum disorders. It also poses risks to school children in agricultural communities where it has been detected at unsafe levels in the air. In addition, endosulfan has been found in food supplies, drinking water, and in the tissues and breast milk of pregnant mothers.

As a potent environmental pollutant, endosulfan is especially toxic to fish and other aquatic life. It also affects birds, bees, earthworms, and other beneficial insects. Endosulfan is volatile, persistent, and has a high potential to bio-accumulate in aquatic and terrestrial organisms. A large body of scientific literature documents endosulfan’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media. Through the process of global distillation, endosulfan is present in air, water, sediment, and biota thousands of miles from use areas. Endosulfan travels such long distances that it has been found in Sierra Nevada lakes and on Mt. Everest. This persistent pesticide can also migrate to the Poles on wind and ocean currents where Arctic communities have documented contamination. It is one of the most abundant organochlorine pesticides found in the Arctic, and has also been detected in the Great Lakes and various mountainous areas including the National Parks in the western United States, distant from use sites. Because of its presence in remote locations, endosulfan may be considered a persistent organic pollutant that may result in human exposure via the food web.

This April, a group of 172 nations is scheduled to make a final decision on whether or not endosulfan will be declared as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) following recommendations from the December 2009 Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC). The committee recommends urgent “global action” to address health and environmental impacts of the toxic pesticide. Scientific experts at the POPRC concluded that endosulfan is likely to cause significant adverse human health and environmental effects as a result of the chemical’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media.

Despite this and the fact that 60 countries, including 27 in the European Union, 21 in Africa and the U.S., progress continues to be obstructed by the Government of India. As Dr. Meriel Watts, Coordinator of Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand observes: “In India, the Government itself manufactures endosulfan –it owns Hindustan Insecticides which manufactures endosulfan, and then the Indian Government acts in the international conventions to stop endosulfan’s listing. It has members on both the Stockholm Convention’s POPS Review Committee and the Rotterdam Convention’s Chemical Review Committee. This is a “clear conflict of interest,” she says. “A manufacturer is using its power to veto international agreements on a chemical.”

Source: Washington Post

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09
Feb

Groups to Sue USDA Over GE Alfalfa as Agency Announces Partial Deregulation of GE Sugar Beets

(Beyond Pesticides, February 9, 2011) Last Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to allow the U.S. sugar beet industry to continue growing Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready,” genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets, despite the incompletion of an environmental impact statement (EIS). This comes one week after USDA decided to fully deregulate GE alfalfa seed, despite the risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers. On Monday, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Sierra Club and Cornucopia Institute formally filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency concerning its decision to allow unrestricted deregulation of GE alfalfa.

The 60-day notice of intent to sue, filed February 7, 2011, officially notifies USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the groups’ intent to sue pursuant to the citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), citing APHIS’ violation of Section 7 of the ESA in failing to ensure that the deregulation of GE alfalfa is not likely to jeopardize threatened or endangered species and their habitat. According to Section 7, APHIS must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to ensure that agency actions do not impact threatened or endangered species. The notice charges that there is no evidence that APHIS consulted with FWS prior to its decision to deregulate GE alfalfa; APHIS unilaterally determined that there would be “no effect” on endangered species. Alfalfa is grown on about 20 million acres in almost every state in the U.S. and is the fourth largest field crop behind corn, soybeans and wheat.

The January 27, 2011 decision to deregulate GE alfalfa follows USDA’s completion of the court-mandated environmental impact statement (EIS). At first, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called for “coexistence” among GE, organic and conventional non-GE farmers, despite the clear recognition in the EIS that GE contamination of organic and conventionally grown crops presents a huge problem. The EIS fails to take into account the documented increase in herbicide-resistant “super weeds” that is requiring the use of highly toxic herbicide cocktails for weed control on conventional farms. Likewise, USDA has not shown that contamination-free coexistence with deregulated GE alfalfa is likely or possible. GE alfalfa would not have to be labeled, nor would meat from livestock fed GE alfalfa.

On January 31, 2011, a coalition of organic companies and environmental organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, released an open letter and call to action on the USDA’s decision to deregulate GE alfalfa, allowing its unrestricted cultivation and threatening organic and non-GE conventional farmers. It sets a precedent for future deregulation of GE crops. The letter encourages individuals to write to President Obama opposing the decision and asking that the administration reconsider its position.

Partial Deregulation of GE Sugar Beets

On February 4, 2011, APHIS issued a new decision to allow the U.S. sugar beet industry to continue growing Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready,” GE sugar beets. The decision will be immediately challenged in court by a coalition of farmers and conservation groups. Last August, APHIS’ previous decision to allow planting of GE sugar beets was thrown out because it violated environmental laws. The coalition declared the new decision unlawful as well, and vowed to overturn it. Like GE alfalfa, GE sugar beets are genetically engineered by Monsanto to tolerate repeated applications of that company’s weed killer Roundup, or glyphosate.

Monsanto Company (Monsanto) and KWS SAAT AG (KWS) requested that APHIS examine whether the agency could deregulate in part to allow the continued cultivation of Roundup Ready® sugar beets. Monsanto is faced with heavy financial loses if its GE crops are not planted before they expire. But some farmers said there might not be enough non-engineered seed available to satisfy demand. The government projected a possible 20 percent reduction in American sugar production. As a result, USDA was under pressure to allow the genetically engineered beets to be grown, and to do so in time for the spring 2011 planting season.

APHIS conducted an environmental assessment (EA) and published it in November 2010. The EA evaluated a range of options, including authorizing production of GE sugar beets under APHIS permit conditions. APHIS, without completing an EIS, concluded that the GE sugar beet root crop, when grown under APHIS “imposed conditions,” can be partially deregulated without posing a plant pest risk or having a significant effect on the environment. See USDA’s documents for GE sugar beets. This conclusion is at sharp odds with earlier court rulings and the views of growers of organic and non-GE crops, who will likely see their crops contaminated by the GE sugar beets, threatening their livelihoods and the ability of farmers and consumers to choose non-GE foods. APHIS is currently developing an EIS prior to making any further decision on the petition for a full deregulation of GE sugar beet. APHIS expects to complete the EIS by the end of May 2012. Sugar beets are a fairly small crop, planted on a little over one million acres, mainly in northern states, and worth somewhat more than $1 billion. Beets account for roughly half of the American sugar supply, with the rest coming from sugar cane. The GE beets accounted for more than 90 percent of the sugar beets grown last year.

In 2008, the groups sued USDA for deregulating Monsanto’s GE sugar beets without complying with the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement of an EIS before deregulating the crop. On August 13, 2010, the federal court banned the crop until USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers and the public in an EIS. Three weeks later, despite the court’s ruling, and without any prior environmental analysis, USDA issued permits to seed growers to again grow the genetically modified sugar beets. The groups again sued USDA. On November 30, 2010, the court granted the groups’ motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the seed crop destroyed. That order was stayed pending appeal, which is scheduled for argument on February 15, 2011.

In a related announcement last month, FWS said that it has agreed to stop planting GE crops on all its refuges in a dozen Northeastern states, according to a settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought by conservation and food safety groups. Because the federal government would not agree to end illegal GE agriculture in refuges nationally, new litigation is being prepared in other regions where as many as 75 other national wildlife refuges now growing GE crops are vulnerable to similar suits.

The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Delaware, filed by the Widener Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic on behalf of Delaware Audubon Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and Center for Food Safety, charged that FWS had illegally entered into Cooperative Farming Agreements with private parties, allowing hundreds of acres on its Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware to be plowed over without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In settling the suit, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service promised to revoke any authorization for further GE agriculture at Bombay Hook and the four other refuges with GE crops.

Genetic engineering is often touted by chemical manufacturers as a way to reduce pesticide usage and increase disease resistance. In reality, it has actually been shown to increase pesticide usage, while disease resistant varieties are still largely in the experimental stages. Most GE crops currently on the market are genetically modified to be resistant to pests and pesticides through the incorporation of genes into food crops from a natural bacterium insecticide (Bt) or the development of herbicide-resistant crops. Thus, there are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. For instance, in a recent study by University of Notre Dame, scientists found that streams throughout the Midwest are contaminated with GE materials from corn crop byproducts, even six months after harvest. The long-term health effects of consuming GE food are still unknown. GE crops are also known to contaminate conventional non-GE and organic crops through “genetic drift” and take a toll on the environment by increasing resistant insects and weeds, contaminating water and affecting pollinators and other non-target organisms.

Currently, there are no regulations requiring GE foods to be labeled as such. The best way for consumers to avoid GE foods is to choose organic products.

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

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

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

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

Sources:
Center for Food Safety
USDA
NYTimes

Photo Courtesy: USDA APHIS

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