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21
Apr

Scientists Consider Grapefruit Derivative for Pest Control

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

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

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

“Essential oils [such as nootkatone] kill bugs and then break down and are no longer active,” Dr.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

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

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

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20
Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Greenbiz.com

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19
Apr

Ohio Passes Bed Bug Resolution on Propoxur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, the chemical treatments, which are often more harmful than the bed bugs themselves, are not actually necessary. These pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An IPM approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can control an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place.

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

Take Action!

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

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

Source: The Cincinnati Herald

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18
Apr

Farm Workers File Lawsuit Over Labor Violations, Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2011) Citing civil rights and labor law violations, along with pesticide misuse, a group of 15 Mexican guest workers employed through the H-2A guest worker visa program are suing Newport, TN-based tomato grower Fish Farms. They are charging the company with a series of abuses including spraying pesticides near their trailers, subjecting them to inhumane working conditions, threatening them with firearms, and other violations of civil rights and labor laws.

On behalf of the workers, Southern Migrant Legal Services filed the lawsuit last week in Greeneville. Southern Migrant Legal Services, a Project of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, provides free employment-related legal services to eligible migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

The law firm Hughes, Socol, Piers, Resnick & Dym Ltd is representing the farmworkers, where they are seeking compensation for lost wages, emotional distress and other punitive damages as deemed appropriate by the court. The lawsuit claims Fish Farms failed to meet minimum employment standards for the guestworker program. “Instead, believing they had a captive labor force that was Hispanic and Mexican and could not or would not complain or enforce the law, defendants flagrantly violated federal H-2A standards,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit maintains that Fish Farms housed workers in overcrowded and squalid trailers, and failed to provide them with potable water with no clothes washing facilities beside a river nearby. Furthermore, the workers allege that Fish Farms sprayed pesticides in close proximity to their living quarters and in the fields while they were working.

“Labor laws mean nothing if employers can intimidate workers into accepting deplorable working conditions,” said Mel Fowler-Green of Southern Migrant Legal Services. “These workers had the courage to speak out about their treatment, and we believe Fish Farms broke the law when it tried to silence them.”

The plaintiffs complained to the U.S. Department of Labor, and when officials arrived at the farm to investigate, the employers began their retaliation, the lawsuit claims. When investigators arrived, one of the plaintiffs, holding a knife he was using to make a sandwich, came out to see what was going on and employers had him arrested for aggravated assault. They then surrounded the plaintiffs’ trailers, brandishing firearms.

Two weeks later, the workers attempted to record their pesticide exposure on cell phone video cameras. Fish Farms managers responded by raiding the workers’ housing, yelling racial slurs, kicking in the door of one home, and wrenching cell phones from some workers’ hands. Fish Farms then fired the workers massively, detained them for many hours on a bus, and carried out what was, in effect, a private deportation by taking the workers to a bus station and insisting they return to Mexico.

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

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

Source: Farm Worker Justice Press Release

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15
Apr

Pesticide Spray Notification Under Threat in Maine

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2011) Several bills have been introduced in the Maine State Legislature which seek to weaken or eliminate the state’s pesticide spray notification registry. Testimony on the bills was heard last week by the state’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (ACF). No votes were taken, but committee decisions are expected as soon as this week on bills concerning the registry.

The first bill, L.D. 16, “An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticides Applications Using Aircraft or Air-carrier Equipment,” would significantly weaken the law by reducing the required notification radius for aerial sprays from ¼ mile (1320 ft.) to just 100 feet. Democrats on the ACF Committee, who oppose the bill, have pointed to previous state research showing that pesticides sprayed aerially on blueberry fields can drift as far as 1500 feet. The bill would also reduce the required notification distance when spraying fruit trees or Christmas trees from 500 ft. to 50 ft.

A second bill, L.D. 228, “An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticide Application,” would effectively abolish the registry completely. According to the Kennebec Journal, the bill’s sponsor intends for the responsibility for notification to fall to the landowner, as opposed to the farmer or land manager. However, in its repeal of the current law, the bill would also remove any legal requirement mandating that local residents be notified at all.

The state law requiring pesticide notification was first adopted in 2009. However, it was previously weakened by a 2010 law which was designed to lessen the burden on farmers. According to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, the state body regulating pesticides, the law as it currently stands contains three separate provisions regarding notification of outdoor pesticide applications. For non-agricultural applications, residents can sign up to receive word of any spraying within 250 feet of their property. For aerial spraying, the current requirement is for applicators to notify anyone listed in the registry who lives within ¼ mile of the application site. Finally, for non-aerial agricultural applications, residents who wish to be notified of spraying within 500 feet of their property must initiate contact with the land manager who is spraying and declare their wish to be informed. The applicator is then required by law to notify anyone who has declared such a desire.

In its testimony to the ACF committee in opposition to these bills, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) pointed out the many reasons for why this registry, and others like it around the country, are a necessary service for local residents, especially those who may have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, which make them more sensitive to pesticides in the air. MOFGA also noted that it is often the application technology (air/ground, liquid/gas, etc.), rather than environmental factors such as wind or spray area, that is most significant in determining potential risks. Following this argument it would seem somewhat illogical for there to be a notification distance for aerial spraying (100 ft.) that is less than half that of the distance for residential and neighborhood spraying (250 ft.), as proposed in L.D. 16.

MOFGA has chosen to support a third bill, L.D. 1041, “An Act to Simplify Pest Control Notification,” which seeks to clarify existing regulations regarding setting specific distances for specific technologies, ensure that the registrant list is accurate and up to date, and establish the state registry as the only such system, so that information is kept in one place. The bill also removes specific references to aerial pesticide spraying and applies the relevant rules to all outdoor applications, regardless of application method, providing for enhanced ability of residents to obtain notification.

Source: MOFGA, Kennebec Journal, Maine House Democrats

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14
Apr

Study Finds Common Fungicide Deadly to Frogs

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2011) Researchers at the University of South Florida have discovered that the most widely used fungicide in the U.S., chlorothalonil, is lethal to frogs even at low doses. Chemical pollution, according to the researchers, is considered the second greatest threat to aquatic and amphibious species in the U.S. Because many vital systems of amphibians are similar to those in humans, researchers believe that amphibians may be an underused model for studying the impacts of chemicals in the environment on human health and set out to quantify amphibian responses to chlorothalonil. The study, lead by Teagan McMahon, PhD, was published in Environmental Health Perspectives and opens the door for researchers to quantify the effects of the chemical on other species as well as other toxic pesticides on amphibian populations and human health.

Researchers looked at Rana sphenocephala (Southern leopard frog) and Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog) in outdoor aquatic mesocosms (experimental water enclosures) with and without the expected environmental concentration as well as twice the amount of chlorothalonil. They also conducted two dose-response experiments on O. septentrionalis, Hyla squirella (squirrel treefrog), H. cinerea (green treefrogs), and R. sphenocephala, evaluating the effects of the fungicide on the stress hormone corticosterone. At the expected environmental concentration levels in the mesocosm experiment, researchers find that chlorothalonil kills 87% of the population. At twice the expected environmental concentration levels, 100% of the species are killed. In the dose-response experiments, at concentrations to which humans are frequently exposed, it increases mortality in frogs and increases levels of corticosterone and changes in immune cells.

Chlorothalonil is a broad-spectrum fungicide originally registered in 1966. The chemical is widely used on field crops such as peanuts, vegetables and fruit (including citrus) and on turf in chemical lawn care products. It is registered for use against plant diseases such as powdery mildew, early and late blight and various rots and molds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers chlorothalonil to be a likely carcinogen. It is a neurotoxin that has been linked to reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage and is a sensitizer/irritant.

Previous studies have found higher concentrations of chlorathalonil in bee hives, which leads researchers to question whether it could be partly responsible for the bee population decline. Large concentrations of the fungicide have also been previously discovered in high altitudes, where polluted air from farm land often gets pushed, which helps to shed light on shrinking amphibian populations at high altitudes.

Source: Tampa Bay News

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13
Apr

EPA Urged To Ban Toxic Antibacterial Chemical Linked to Hormone Disruption and Widespread Water Contamination, as Comment Period Closes

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2010) In response to a petition submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for a ban on the non-medical uses of triclosan, Beyond Pesticides is again urging the agency to halt the use of the antibacterial triclosan in consumer products. Citing recent scientific evidence detailing hormone disruption, impaired fetal development, water and crop contamination, the petitioners state that given the emerging science and the violation of numerous environmental statues by triclosan’s use constitutes placing a ban on the chemical.

In comments submitted in support of the petition, Beyond Pesticides state that such a dangerous chemical has no place on the consumer marketplace. “The nonmedical uses of triclosan are frivolous and dangerous, creating serious long-term health problems and environmental hazards associated with its continued use. EPA has a responsibility to ban consumer triclosan use in a marketplace where safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Triclosan’s impact on the consumer market has been aided by a false public perception that antibacterial products are best to protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria. However, research into triclosan’s health and environmental impacts shows triclosan does more harm than good, despite its widespread consumer use. Studies find that it persists in the environment, has endocrine disrupting properties, accumulates in breast milk and other fatty tissues, and can cause adverse health problems not only in humans, but in wildlife species. Studies released this past year find that triclosan interferes with estrogen metabolism in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy. This is troubling because triclosan is detected in the bodies of pregnant women at levels higher than nonpregnant women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports document triclosan in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with the most recent 2010 update finding that the levels of triclosan in the U.S. population have increased by 42% between 2004 and 2006. Similarly, USDA scientists found that triclosan is only slowly degraded in biosolids and persists at low levels in the environment for long periods of time. Biosolids are typically recycled onto agricultural lands. This persistent chemical can then be taken up and translocated in plants like the soybean, a cornerstone of the American diet. The prevalence of triclosan in the nation’s waterways is a cause for concern since triclosan is converted into several toxic compounds including various forms of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds when exposed to sunlight in an aqueous environment.

Triclosan has exploded onto the marketplace in hundreds of consumer products ranging from antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, toys, and other household and personal care products. While antibacterial products are marketed as agents that protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria, studies conclude that antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps.

The petition, filed January 2010, is supported by over 80 environmental and public health groups and cites triclosan’s violation of numerous federal statues including the Clean Water Act, as well as the increasing scientific data on triclosan’s hormone disrupting effects and long-term environmental contamination, have placed triclosan under media and congressional scrutiny.

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12
Apr

Take Action: Oppose Senate Bill to Strip Clean Water Act Protections from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2011) Ask your Senators to stand with you in opposing S. 718, the pesticide industry’s latest move in their assault on the Clean Water Act (CWA). Like HR 872 that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate bill would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. Take action now.

S. 718 – the so-called “Bill to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to improve the use of certain registered pesticides,” would ensure that CWA permits are not required for the application of pesticides and amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. This bill would mean that pesticide applicators will be able to discharge pesticides into US waterways without any government oversight. Should this bill pass in the Senate it would mean final legislation can be signed by the President effectively making it law that EPA cannot uphold the CWA when it comes to protecting U.S. waters from pesticides.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the companion legislation, HR 872, by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), reversed a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, the EPA must require such permits.

The January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would be in addition to the less protective label requirements under FIFRA. EPA drafted proposed rules in 2010 outlining the applicability of the permits for pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

Sen. Roberts and the other cosponsors of the bill: Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Richard Lugar (R-IN), James Risch (R-ID), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy (Blunt R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), claim that NPDES permits are burdensome on farmers, even though the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying. NPDES permits will monitor the discharge of pesticides into waterways by local and state authorities, including evaluation of the potential risks discharges might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species and help safeguard against contaminated fish and drinking water.

Meanwhile, stating that “the provisions of this permit are designed to improve protection of public health and our nation’s water quality,” EPA has posted a pre-publication version of its draft final pesticide general permit. The pre-publication version of the draft final pesticide general permit has concluded interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget. Since EPA is currently engaged in consultation with federal resource agencies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), this version of the draft final permit does not contain any additional or revised conditions that may result from ongoing ESA consultation.

According to the agency, this draft final permit is not considered a “final agency action.” Even though legislation passed the House of Representatives that would remove the need for the permit, EPA states that it is still providing a preview of the draft final permit to assist states in developing their own permits and for the regulated community to become familiar with the permit’s requirements before it becomes effective.

The draft has not significantly changed from the proposed permit in 2010. The draft version of the final permit covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows are exempt from permitting under the Clean Water Act and, thus, do not require CWA permits. The permit also does not cover, nor is permit coverage required, for pesticide applications that do not result in a point source discharge to waters of the U.S. such as terrestrial applications for the purpose of controlling pests on agricultural crops, forest floors, or range lands.

Take action using Beyond Pesticides action center. Your letter will automatically be sent to your Senators. Edit the letter for greater impact.

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07
Apr

Join Us at Sustainable Community, the 29th National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2011) From protecting pollinators, managing bed bugs, banning genetic engineering to going organic in the food we eat and the way we manage our yards, parks and open spaces – these are just a few of the pressing health and environmental issues that will be addressed 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 Aurora, Colorado.

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

The program begins Friday evening and continues through Saturday night. Registration is $35 ($5 for students) and includes all sessions and organic food. The conference is cosponsored by Colorado School of Public Health – Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Denver Beekeepers Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club, Slow Food Denver, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Denver Urban Gardens, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Grow Local Colorado, Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center, and the University of Colorado Environmental Center.

Prior to the conference, join us for a tour of Denver community gardens and urban farms. Meet at 1:00pm in the lobby of the Comfort Inn Downtown (across from the Brown Palace).

Speaker Highlights

Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto and CEO of Rodale Inc., publisher of Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines;

Tom Theobald, beekeeper who exposed EPA’s memo showing its flawed science in registering a bee-killing pesticide;

Dana Boyd Barr, PhD
, Emory University researcher who linked pesticide exposure to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other learning problems;

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;

Chip Osborne, national organic turf expert responsible for the organic conversion of parks and playing fields across the country.

See the full list of speakers and schedule of events.


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06
Apr

Take Action: Efforts to Dismantle Clean Water Act Protections Continue in the Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2011) In yet another move to dismantle Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations regarding pesticides, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry introduced legislation (S. 718) aimed to “eliminate a burdensome, costly and redundant permit requirement for applications of pesticides.” Last week a similar bill, H.R. 872, passed in the House which prevents the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from applying the protective CWA permit regulations to monitor pesticides applied to and near U.S. waters. However, EPA has moved forward and published its draft version of the final permit.

Like HR 872, S. 718, “Bill to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to improve the use of certain registered pesticides,” would ensure that Clean Water Act permits are not required for the application of pesticides and amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. This bill would mean that pesticide applicators will be able to discharge pesticides into US waterways without any government oversight. Should this bill pass in the Senate it would mean final legislation can be signed by the President effectively making it law that EPA cannot uphold the Clean Water Act when it comes to protecting U.S. waters from pesticides. Take Action.

Last week HR 872 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), amended FIFRA and CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. The bill reversed a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, the EPA must require such permits.

The January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would be in addition to the less protective label requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA drafted proposed rules in 2010 outlining the applicability of the permits for pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

Sen. Roberts and the other cosponsors of the bill: Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Richard Lugar (R-IN), James Risch (R-ID), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy (Blunt R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), believe that NPDES permits are burdensome on farmers, even though the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying. NPDES permits will monitor the discharge of pesticides into waterways by local and state authorities, including evaluation of the potential risks discharges might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species and help safeguard against contaminated fish and drinking water.

Meanwhile, stating that “the provisions of this permit are designed to improve protection of public health and our nation’s water quality,” EPA has posted a pre-publication version of its draft final pesticide general permit. The pre-publication version of the draft final pesticide general permit has concluded interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget. Since EPA is currently engaged in consultation with federal resource agencies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), this version of the draft final permit does not contain any additional or revised conditions that may result from ongoing ESA consultation.

According to the agency, this draft final permit is not considered a “final agency action.” Even though legislation (HR 872) passed the House of Representatives that would remove the need for the permit, EPA states that it is still providing a preview of the draft final permit to assist states in developing their own permits and for the regulated community to become familiar with the permit’s requirements before it becomes effective.

The draft has not significantly changed from the proposed permit in 2010. The draft version of the final permit covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows are exempt from permitting under the Clean Water Act and, thus, do not require CWA permits. The permit also does not cover, nor is permit coverage required, for pesticide applications that do not result in a point source discharge to waters of the U.S. such as terrestrial applications for the purpose of controlling pests on agricultural crops, forest floors, or range lands.

Take Action:
Let your Senator know that they must not support S. 718.
Send a letter urging them to instead protect our fish, food and drinking waters from pesticide contamination.

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05
Apr

Make Your Voice Heard at Upcoming USDA Organic Meeting (April 11 deadline)

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2011) Do you care about synthetics in your organic food? How about antibiotics? Do you think organic farmers should be spraying a known human carcinogen, nickel, or using pheromone products with toxic inert ingredients? Take action now.

The documents on these issues that will be considered at the Spring 2011 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (April 26-29, Seattle, WA) are open for public comment until April 10. Public involvement is vital for the organic regulatory process. The NOSB depends on input from the organic community, including organic consumers, farmers and processors, in making its decisions. It seeks comments from concerned consumers, farmers, professionals, or anyone with an interest in protecting the integrity and the future of organic food and farming.

To make your comments more effective and easily understood, comment on each issue (see Beyond Pesticides’ positions on key issues) separately and clearly indicate what issue or materials your comments are concerning. If you would like to submit comments on multiple issues, it is preferable to submit them individually. However, if you do choose to comment on multiple issues in a single submission, please clearly separate them with subheadings.

Submit your comments before April 10 or register if you would like to present a statement to the board in person at the meeting in Seattle. View the full docket to view other comments already submitted.

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

ISSUES BEFORE THE NOSB (April 2011 Meeting)
Beyond Pesticides urges public comments on the following issues. All these issues and use of substances have direct bearing on organic integrity, so it is critical to have public input into the NOSB decision making process. Submit your comments before April 10.

See Beyond Pesticides analysis and position on the following issues. A synopsis of the issue follows with a link to additional background on the subject.

* Identifying/reviewing synthetics in organics
* Classification of materials: What level of a synthetic should be reviewed for harm?
* Antibiotics
* Nickel
* Chlorine
* Copper compounds
* Pheromones
* Sodium nitrate
* Other substances/inputs

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

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

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

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04
Apr

Send a Letter to Your Representative After U.S. House Votes To Weaken Protection of Water Sources from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 04, 2011) After Friday’s vote (April 1, 2011) to weaken protections from pesticides in the Clean Water Act, send a message to your U.S. Representative today. See action steps, as easy as two clicks, at the end of this post. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (H.R. 872) by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), amended 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 effectively reversed a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must require such permits.

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

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 because 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 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 eliminated 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.

For decades our nation’s waterways have been polluted with hazardous pesticides and their degradates impacting aquatic populations of animals and plants, and decrease surface and drinking water quality. Results from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment Program studies show that pesticides are widespread in streams and ground water sampled within agricultural and urban areas of the nation. Many of these pesticides accumulate in fish and other organisms, making their way up the food chain, to eventually be consumed by the American public. Recent studies find that government agencies may be underestimating children’s dietary exposure to pesticides and that they are a prime cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. Stronger regulatory action is needed to ensure that our waters, food and health are adequately protected from all industrial and agricultural pollution.

Thus, the NPDES permit was vital to protect U.S. waterways from indiscriminate pesticide contamination. The permit did not pose undue burden to farmers, foresters and ranchers as the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying.

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

Take Action:
Let your Member of Congress know how you feel about their vote using our automated system.

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01
Apr

British Government to Investigate Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2011) A British government scientist on Wednesday announced that he has ordered a review of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, to determine what effects they may have on bee and pollinator health. Neonicotinoids, such as clothianidin and imidacloprid, have come under intense scrutiny recently due to concerns regarding their toxicity to honeybees, which are essential for a secure food supply in their role as crop pollinators. This has led some to suggest that chemicals such as these could be contributors to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

According to the London Daily Mail, the chief scientist at the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Professor Robert Watson, has directed DEFRA scientists to reexamine findings on neonicotinoids and their effects on bees. The Mail suggests that Watson may have been partly motivated by a recent study done by Dr. Jeffrey Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. This study was the first 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.

Although a spokesman for DEFRA has dismissed the new evaluation as little more than a routine review, Watson was quoted in the Mail as saying “I’ve got people in the bee-health pollinating area and people in pesticides to review the literature for me and to come back to me exactly on this issue. It’s clear that we have to be concerned generally about bees and other pollinators. There is a genuine concern that if indeed there were to be a serious decline in the various pollinators, it could have implications for agriculture, no question.”

After discovery of a leaked memo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2010 citing a flawed study on precisely this issue, Beyond Pesticides along with beekeepers and other environmentalists, called on EPA to remove the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin from the market. EPA responded by defending clothianidin and the agency’s pesticide review process, saying that they “are not aware of any data that reasonably demonstrates that bee colonies are subject to elevated losses due to chronic exposure to this pesticide.”

Clothianidin and imidicloprid are members 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. Neonicotinoids kill sucking and chewing insects by disrupting their nervous systems. Beginning in the late 1990s, these systemic insecticides began to take over the seed treatment market. 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. Starting in about 2004, seed companies in the U.S. began to market seeds treated with a 5-X rate of neonicotinoids (1.25mg/seed, compared with the traditional 0.25 mg/seed).

Colony Collapse Disorder is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations around the world beginning around 2006. Each winter since, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared (more than twice what is normal). While CCD appears to have multiple interacting causes including pathogens, a range of evidence points to sub-lethal pesticide exposures as important contributing factors. Neonicotinoids are a particularly suspect class of insecticides, especially in combination with the dozens of other pesticides found in honeybee hives. Key symptoms of CCD include: 1) inexplicable disappearance of the hive’s worker bees; 2) presence of the queen bee and absence of invaders; 3) presence of food stores and a capped brood.

For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinators and Pesticides page, and see this fact sheet on the connection between clothianidin and CCD.

The impact of pesticides on honeybees and other pollinators will be a featured topic at Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Researchers and beekeepers, including Tom Theobald, who first exposed the EPA memo, will be speaking at the event. There will also be a free screening of the award winning film Vanishing of the Bees immediately prior to the Forum on Wednesday, April 6 at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Source: London Daily Mail, The Independent

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31
Mar

Lawsuit Seeks Protection Against Monsanto’s GE Seed Patents

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2011) In an effort to protect them from patent infringement in the event of drift contamination by Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) seed, 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations preemptively filed suit against the agribusiness giant. The case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan on behalf of Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

This year has seen a series of decisions by USDA to allow the unrestricted cultivation of genetically engineered crops. In January, USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa seed, despite contamination risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers. Then, in February, a federal appeals court decided to reverse a federal order to destroy GE sugar beet seedlings. Most GE crops are engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup. Currently, USDA data show that 93% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides. The recent decision to fully deregulate GE alfalfa fails to take several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of GE gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainties in making safety determinations.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

Specifically, PUBPAT asks the presiding judge in the case, Judge Naomi Buchwald, to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear accusations of patent infringement. One justification is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case. Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing shows that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature’s Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.

Beyond Pesticides is currently involved with another lawsuit concerning GE crops lead by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Earthjustice, and farm and environmental groups. The lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), argues that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of GE alfalfa 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.

Source: Public Patent Foundation Press Release

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30
Mar

Limits to Lawn Fetilizers to Protect Chesapeake Bay Passes Maryland House

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2011) The Maryland House of Delegates passed the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 (HB 573) on March 23 to limit ferilizer use on lawns, while a new report published by Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center finds that turf grass management, not agriculture, is the leading cause of fertilizer-based nitrogen runoff that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay. The report recommends an additional 30 percent reduction in nutrient levels in order to achieve a clean, sustainable Bay. The Maryland legislation would set limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in lawn-fertilizers and prohibit the application of lawn fertilizers within 15 feet of a waterway, when the ground is frozen, or between November 15 and March 1. the Maryland Senate version, SB 487, is now under consideration.

Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay – which supports over 3,600 species of plants, fish, and other animals – increases when nutrients wash into its waters from snow and rainfall. And many synthetic lawn fertilizers, including ‘weed and feed’ products, have an excess of two problematic nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous. Maryland requires cities and farms to keep a close eye on nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay, but the report, “Urban Fertilizers and the Chesapeake Bay: An Opportunity for Major Pollution Reduction,” says the state does not pay enough attention to turf grass and its contribution to bay pollution. Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed. There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops.

The study calls on Maryland to consider following other states, such as New York and New Jersey, which recently banned the use of fertilizers with phosphorous and imposed buffer zones around bodies of water.

“All 17 million of us who live in the watershed need to be part of the restoration effort,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). Not just wastewater facilities, municipalities and farmers, he said, but “homeowners and businesses also need to be part of the solution by reducing the chemicals we put on our lawns and other green spaces.”

The study criticizes Maryland’s regulation of the state’s turf crop as lax. Tracking “fertilizer use on developed land is such a low priority that the state doesn’t keep statistics on it, but Maryland Department of Agriculture records show non-farm-use fertilizers are quickly catching up to farm fertilizer sales,” the report says. As a result of nutrient pollution, more than 80 percent of the bay and its tributaries are either low-oxygen or no oxygen. Furthermore, the bay and its waters are plagued with harmful algae blooms, causing seafood harvests that support commercial fisherman to plummet.

The best estimates suggest that Maryland landowners apply at least 86 million pounds of nitrogen fertilizer to state lawns every year. In a watershed in suburban Baltimore, researchers found that 56 percent of nutrients in one stream came from lawn fertilizer. Maryland’s law on fertilizer usage is weak. The state reviews less than 10 percent of fertilizer use reports each year. State reviewers routinely find that roughly one-fourth of the companies fail to take basic steps to minimize fertilizer use, such as testing the soil to find out whether additional fertilizer is needed.

Homeowners can play a critical role in reducing urban fertilizer pollution. The report states reducing urban fertilizer pollution means both limiting the nutrients in the fertilizer itself and ensuring applicators put less fertilizer on the ground, including:
• Ban phosphorus from all fertilizers, organic and synthetic, intended for use on established turf grass.
• Require a science-based upper limit on the amount of nitrogen in all fertilizers intended for use on established lawns, and require that at least a fifth of the nitrogen be “slow release,” which leads to less runoff.
• Provide adequate funding so the state can enforce fertilizer usage by professional applicators as well as fertilizer manufactures and distributors.
• Prohibit application of fertilizer in specific situations that would facilitate runoff.
• Rewrite the existing guidelines that dictate how and when professionals apply fertilizer such that the guidelines are aligned with statewide water quality restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Similar reports studying the Bay have also found that nitrogen and phosphorus loads, along with pesticide pollution from farm fields and households contribute to the Chesapeake Bay’s decline. Pesticides pollution may well be linked to declines in frogs across the region and intersex fish seen in the Potomac River. However, not enough attention is being paid to the potential harm being done by pesticides. In a White Paper produced by the Maryland Pesticide Network and the Pesticides and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project explains, in a study of Chesapeake waters in 2004, in 100% of water samples taken at sixty different stations spread across five different Bay tributaries detected the herbicide atrazine.

President Obama signed an Executive Order in 2009 stipulating seven reports: reducing pollution and meeting water quality goals, targeting conservation practices, strengthening storm water management at federal facilities, adapting to impacts of a changing climate, conserving landscapes, strengthening science for decision making, and conducting habitat and research activities to improve outcomes for living resources. These reports are to be used to create a strategy defining the actions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

You can play a part in restoring the Bay. Limiting the cosmetic use of chemicals on residential lawns can go a long way for reducing nitrogen runoff to the Chesapeake Bay. Beyond Pesticides has information about the growing movement in the U.S. to eliminate the cosmetic use of chemicals on lawns and landscapes. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Pesticides Fact Sheets page.

Source: The Washington Post

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29
Mar

Study Links Prenatal Atrazine Exposure to Adverse Birth Outcomes

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2011) According to a French study published March 2, 2011 in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, prenatal exposure to the herbicide atrazine is linked to small head circumference and fetal growth restriction. The authors say the study “raises particular concerns for countries where atrazine is still in use.” Atrazine is a widespread contaminant in drinking water and is linked to various birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer, even at concentrations below EPA standards. Although it has been excluded from re-registration in the European Union because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. and around world.

The study, “Urinary Biomarkers of Prenatal Atrazine Exposure and Adverse Birth Outcomes in the PELAGIE Birth Cohort,” used a case-cohort design nested in a prospective birth cohort conducted in the Brittany region from 2002 through 2006. It collected maternal urine samples to examine pesticide exposure biomarkers before the 19th week of gestation.

Quantifiable levels of atrazine were found in urine samples from 5.5% of 579 pregnant women, and various metabolites were identified in 20-40% of samples. The presence versus absence of quantifiable levels of atrazine or a specific atrazine metabolite was associated with fetal growth restriction and small head circumference. Head circumference was also inversely associated with the presence of the herbicide metolachlor.

Atrazine is used to control broad leaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and even residential lawns. It is used extensively for broad leaf weed control in corn. The herbicide does not cling to soil particles, but washes into surface water or leaches into groundwater, and then finds its way into municipal drinking water. It has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer.

In 2007, Indiana researchers reported in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery that in their state, where rates of such birth defects are also very high, atrazine levels are significantly linked with the rate of gastroschisis and other defects. Another study, published last year in Acta Paediatrica, found similar results for the general rate of birth defects in the U.S. population; it found that atrazine upped the risk of nine birth defects in babies born to mothers who conceived between April and July, when surface water levels of the pesticide are highest. Another study also found that atrazine triggers the release of stress hormones, leading researchers to believe that this may explain how the popular weed killer produces some of its harmful reproductive effects.

As the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine is applied in the U.S. annually. It has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, making it a common water contaminant. Research found that intersex frogs is also common in suburban areas than agricultural areas. Another study suggests it is a possible cause of male infertility.

Atrazine is a major threat to wildlife. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

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

For more information on the chemical atrazine, please see our atrazine fact sheet on our pesticide gateway.

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28
Mar

Study Links Pesticides to Low Semen Quality

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28 2011) Researchers found that exposure to organochlorine pesticides significantly alters semen quality in young men from southeast Spain. The study found 18 pesticides in the blood of the study participants, including some banned in Spain, such as DDT, and others legal in in the country, such as the fungicide vinclozolin.

The analysis was conducted by Clemente Aguilar from the Medical Research Laboratory of the University Hospital San Cecilio, Granada, Spain, and coordinated by Marieta Fernández, Marina Lacasaña and Nicolás Olea (University of Granada), basing on a sample of 280 volunteer students aged 18-23 years from the University of Almería, Spain.

All the study participants had at least one pesticide in considerable concentrations. The average number of pesticides detected in the blood tests was 11.

Southeast Spain is a region where two out of ten young men have poor sperm density. Even though exposure to some organochlorines proved to increase total spermatic number and total sperm motility levels, other pesticides were highly associated with a reduction in sperm levels. This might be due to the fact that some of these pesticides are considered to be estrogenic endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are substances that interfere with natural hormones in the body responsible for reproduction, development and/or behavior. In the case of vinclozolin, a known endocrine disruptor, the study showed a strong correlation between exposure to it and malformation rates in spermatozoa.

Another similar study in the United States has linked pesticides to abnormal genitals in baby boys, such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias, and decreased sperm counts in men.

Historical studies show that the quality of sperm in humans has decreased rapidly in the last 50 years. Reproductive specialists attribute a worldwide sperm count decline by approximately 50% since the1930s to exposures to high concentrations of estrogens or estrogen-like substances during embryonic, fetal, and early postnatal development.

Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment April 8-9 in Denver, CO is a great opportunity to learn more about endocrine disruptors and their dangers to public health. The President of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Theo Colborn, PhD, is scheduled to speak. She is the author of numerous scientific publications about compounds that interfere with hormones and other chemical messengers that control development in wildlife and humans. 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. She is co-author of the groundbreaking 1996 book Our Stolen Future. Her work has prompted the enactment of new important laws around the world.

Photo Source: Inhabitots

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25
Mar

Conference Calls for Sustainability in Personal and Community Choices

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

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

Call to the Conference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register online at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Register online at www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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24
Mar

Republican Bill Increases Taxpayer Costs To Bring Pesticides to Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23
Mar

Synthetic Additives in Processed Organic Food Criticized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cornucopia Institute press release

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22
Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

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21
Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EPA Press Release

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18
Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EPA

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