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24
Sep

Send Your Comments to EPA as Scientists Examine the Fate of Silver Nanoparticle Waste

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2010) Researchers from Virginia Tech discovered, for the first time, a way to detect nanosilver particles in the environment, finding that the particles leaching from consumer products can transform into silver sulfide in sewer sludge. Despite their widespread use, scientists still know very little about how nanomaterials move from consumer manufactured products into the environment and what impact they might have. These findings provide new information about the life cycle of silver nanoparticles, which are used in a number of consumer products as antimicrobial agents, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, food, and food packaging.

Previous studies have shown that the particles, which are between one and 100 nanometers in size and smaller than many viruses, can enter the environment through wastewater, where they can accumulate in biosolids at wastewater treatment plants. These biosolids, also known as sewage sludge, are often sold to consumers as fertilizer, despite the fact that they can contain toxic contaminants, including another antibacterial, triclosan, which was recently found to persist in the environment. Nanosized particles can be released from impregnated materials via washing or or as a result of sweating, posing unknown adverse effects to humans and water systems. There is much reason to be concerned, especially since a recent study found that nanosilver can interrupt important cell signaling within male reproductive sperm cells, causing them to stop growing.

Though scientists were previously aware that many publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities had silver in their sludge, identifying and characterizing these microscopic particles among countless other chemicals was another matter. The Virginia Tech researchers used x-ray transmission electron microscopy, an extremely sensitive technique that can identify both composition and structure. With micrographs of sludge from a Midwest treatment plant, they identified nanoparticles 5 to 20 nm in diameter and determined that the particles had a 2-to-1 silver-to-sulfur ratio. The scientists also obtained a crystal structure to confirm that the particles were Ag2S.

“What we start with is not what ends up in nature,” says Michael Hochella, Ph.D., one of the researchers. He believes this work underscores the complexity in studying the environmental effects of nanoparticles and suggests that the nanomaterials most likely enter the treatment plant in the form of silver nanoparticles and then transform into silver sulfide, because silver readily binds to sulfer and wastewater plants contain high concentrations of sulfide.

But, the environmental impact of nanoparticles is still unclear. Researchers also do not know how much incoming silver turns into silver sulfide. The Virginia Tech teams plans to analyze samples from each stage of the treatment process at the same wastewater plant as their next step.

With an increasing number of scientific studies looking at these antibacterial substances, two basic, yet important, questions arise: Are they safe for human health and the environment? And, are they necessary?

For more information on nanomaterials, see Beyond Pesticides’ nanosilver page.

Take Action: EPA announced a 45-day public comment period for the draft document “Nanomaterial Case Study: Nanoscale Silver in Disinfectant Spray” (EPA/600/R-10/081). The document is being issued by the National Center for Environmental Assessment within EPA’s Office of Research and Development. EPA is releasing this draft document solely for the purpose of pre-dissemination review under applicable information quality guidelines. This document has not been formally disseminated by EPA. It does not represent and should not be construed to represent any agency policy or determination. The draft document is available via the Internet on the NCEA home page under the Recent Additions and the Data and Publications menus at http://www.epa.gov/ncea.

The draft is intended to serve as part of a process to help identify and prioritize scientific and technical information that could be used in conducting comprehensive environmental assessments of selected nanomaterials. It does not attempt to draw conclusions regarding potential environmental risks of nanoscale silver; rather, it aims to identify what is known and unknown about nanoscale silver to support future assessment efforts. When finalizing the draft document, EPA intends to consider any public comments that EPA receives in accordance with this notice. Technical comments should be in writing and must be received by EPA by September 27, 2010

For more information, please see our Watchdogging the Government page.

Source: Chemical and Engineering News

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23
Sep

Triclosan Persists at Low-Levels in the Environment for Long Periods of Time

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2010) A study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and cooperators provides new details about how fertilizing soils with biosolids also introduces triclosan, an antibacterial agent in soaps and other cleaning supplies, into the environment. Results show that triclosan in biosolids is only slowly degraded and persists at low levels in the environment for long periods of time. Biosolids are illegal for use in organic agriculture.

For this study, entitled “Fate of triclosan in agricultural soils after biosolid applications” and published in Chemosphere, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), chemist Clifford Rice, of the ARS Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and his partners determined that triclosan levels in Class B biosolids from a Mid-Atlantic wastewater treatment plant averaged around 15.5 milligrams per kilogram. They collected surface soil samples from 26 farms in northern Virginia, mostly from pastures. Some fields had never been amended with biosolids and others had been amended with one to four applications of biosolids within the previous 9 months to 13 years. Most of the biosolid amendments came from the wastewater treatment plant in the study.

Generally, conventional chemical-intensive farmers add “Class B” biosolids, also known as treated wastewater solids, to their fields as a fertilizer. Little information has been obtained about these biosolids and their triclosan levels. However, recent tests on biosolids have detected triclosan in compost distributed free to gardeners and labeled as “organic biosolids compost.” The researchers found farms that had not received biosolid applications had background triclosan levels that peaked at 4.5 nanograms per gram of dried soil. Farms that had received single and multiple biosolid applications also had low triclosan levels, but the concentrations varied from 3.1 to 66.6 nanograms per gram. The results also suggested biological degradation of triclosan in the soils that had been amended with biosolids resulted in the loss of 78 percent of the triclosan after 7 to 9 months, and that up to 96 percent was removed after 16 months. For multiple-applications farms, residual concentrations, found in the soils at times greater than 480 days after applications, averaged two times higher than background level.

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

Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 78 other groups, submitted petitions to both the FDA and EPA requiring that they all non-medically prescribed triclosan uses on the basis that those uses violate several federal statutes. Prompted by this petition, which was then echoed by Rep. Markey’s (D-MA) letters of concern, the FDA responded, “existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients,” and announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products. EPA, however, in its response maintains that the agency does not currently plan to reevaluate its regulations surrounding the use of triclosan until 2013.

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

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22
Sep

Expanded- Eating with a Conscience: For You, Workers and Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2010) Consumer food buying decisions have a direct effect on the health of the environment and those who grow and harvest food. Beyond Pesticides released its expanded Eating with a Conscience guide –now updated to include the 43 of the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables, which shows consumers why, according to the group, “food labeled organic is the right choice.” Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, said, “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 stewardship of the earth.”

Eating with a Conscience explains to consumers the effect they are having on health and the environment when they purchase food grown with chemical-intensive methods, even if a large number of residues do not remain on the finished food product. The group points to organic-certified food with the USDA organic seal as “the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight –ensuring consumers that toxic chemicals used to kill insects and unwanted plants (or weeds) in chemical-intensive food production are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health.”

“Organic practices under the Organic Foods Production Act eliminate commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic, pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife,” said Mr. Feldman.

Recent media attention has focused consumers on purchasing foods that are often referred to as “clean,” but grown with toxic chemicals that show up as residues on their food in small amounts or are not detectable. While this approach alerts consumers to hazardous residues on food, those very same “clean” food commodities can be grown with hazardous pesticides that wash off into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife.

For example, while conventional onions grown with toxic chemicals show low pesticide residues on the finished commodity, Eating with a Conscience explains that there are 63 pesticides with established tolerances for onions: 26 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 59 are linked to chronic health problems (such as cancer), 8 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 55 are poisonous to wildlife. While not all listed pesticides are applied to every onion, they may be used in the production of all onions, making it impossible at the point of sale to identify which specific chemicals are used.

With its Eating with a Conscience guide, Beyond Pesticides is asking consumers to, when possible, buy organic food and make the “right food choice –good for you, the environment and workers.” To view the database, go to www.EatingWithAConscience.org.

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22
Sep

Take Action: Comments Needed to Help Shape Federal Government Efforts to Prevent Chemical Exposures

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2010) The National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures, a collaborative initiative aimed at developing an action agenda for strengthening the nation’s approach to protecting the public’s health from harmful chemical exposures, has drafted six work group reports on cross-cutting public health and chemical exposure topics. Public comment is invited and has been extended to Monday, September 27, 2010.

Supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR), the National Conversation is a collaborative project that was launched in June 2009 to engage CDC, ATSDR, other organizations working on chemical exposure issues, and the public to develop an action agenda with clear, achievable recommendations that can help government agencies and other organizations strengthen their efforts to protect the public from harmful chemical exposures. Beyond Pesticides is an active participant in the National Conversation.

Six work groups have convened to research and make recommendations on public health and chemical exposure issues. Public comment is needed for each work groups’ final reports as they work to develop the action agenda. To view work group reports and instructions for submitting comments, visit each work group’s page:
Monitoring
Scientific Understanding
Policies and Practices
Chemical Emergencies
Serving Communities
Education and Communication

These reports have highlighted several key themes that working group participants have recommended. These include: better communication and outreach to community groups and residents; provide affected communities with easy access to information about the chemicals to which they are exposed, including the health effects of these chemicals; expand and link chemical monitoring, achieve a more complete understanding of chemicals and their health effects; gain a better understanding of individual susceptibility, community vulnerability, and the impacts of low-dose, multiple, and cumulative chemical exposures.

Also recommended is the need to shift emphasis of chemical policy away from management of exposures and risk, toward a prevention focus, including the development, adoption, and evaluation of safer alternatives.

The National Conversation Leadership Council authors the action agenda, utilizing input from project work groups, and members of the public who choose to participate in web dialogues and community conversations. CDC and ATSDR are working with several partners to manage the National Conversation project, including:
RESOLVE
American Public Health Association
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
National Association of County and City Health Officials

Take Action: Submit your comments to each of six working documents on RESOLVE. In order to be considered, comments must be received by 5:00 PM EDT, September 27, 2010. Comments received after the close of the comment period will be considered if possible. Comments will be posted to RESOLVE’s website and will include the submitter’s name and organizational affiliation.

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21
Sep

USDA Revokes Accreditation of Non-Compliant Organic Certifier

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2010) Keeping its promise to maintain the integrity of the organic label made under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that California Organic Farmers Association’s (COFA) accreditation as an organic certifying agent has been revoked because it failed to comply with the national organic regulations. As a result, COFA is no longer authorized by USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to certify organic crop, livestock, wild crop, and handling operations. Although the rigorous standards and certification procedures of the NOP are unparalleled in chemical-intensive agriculture, the program has been criticized for straying from its legal requirements during the Bush Administration. Organic advocates applaud NOP’s renewed commitment to organic integrity.

Under the Organic Foods Production Act, the federal organic law, organic products are required to originate from farms or processors certified by NOP-accredited certifying agents, which may be state-run or private. NOP relies on these agents to ensure that certified organic operations continue to comply with federal organic regulations. Organic operations must maintain an approved farm plan of how it will meet NOP regulations and undergo a successful inspection by the certifier to label its products organic. Certifying agents normally evaluate Organic System Plans, conduct inspections, and audit records to verify compliance with the national organic standards. Once accredited, they must renew their accreditation every five years.

NOP accredited COFA as an organic certifying agent on April 29, 2002. Following COFA’s submission of a 5-year renewal application in 2007, NOP conducted an audit of the facility and its records, which resulted in the finding of 12 noncompliant items. After COFA submitted corrective actions, NOP determined that COFA had not adequately corrected 10 of the noncompliances. On July 31, 2008, the NOP proposed to revoke COFA’s accreditation for three years due to failure to comply with the NOP regulations or to proffer satisfactory corrective actions. COFA appealed the NOP’s decision, which the Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator denied Oct. 8, 2009. Pursuant to federal regulations, COFA requested a formal administrative proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge. In August 2010, COFA withdrew its request for a hearing, thereby upholding the Administrator’s denial of COFA’s appeal and revoking COFA’s accreditation for 3 years.

Points of COFA’s noncompliance with the governing act and the national organic standards included review of a facility in which an employee held a partial interest, inadequate retention of records and procedures, and insufficient inspections of and communication with certified operations.

This is not the first time that NOP has challenged an organic certifying agent’s accreditation under the Obama Administration. In June 2010, NOP reached a settlement agreement with the organic certifying agent Organic Crop Improvement Agency (OCIA), ceasing its operations in China because of inadequate oversight. An August 2007 audit by NOP revealed that OCIA used inspectors on state-run farms who were employed by the Chinese government and therefore had a conflict of interest. In July 2008, NOP proposed revocation of OCIA’s accreditation in China, but OCIA appealed. The settlement agreement with OCIA, once a lead certifier of Chinese organic goods, prohibits it from operating in China for one year, at which point, it could re-apply.

During the Bush Administration, organic advocates criticized USDA’s implementation of the federal organic law. This led to two USDA Inspector General (IG) investigations. While most organic labeled produce and processed agricultural products on store shelves probably complied with federal law during this period, the IG found several serious problems with the implementation of the program between October 2003 and July 2009. Ms. Rayne Pegg, appointed Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator by the Obama Administration in 2009, said USDA agrees in principle with the findings and recommendations of the audit. Citing recent budget increases, which nearly double the NOP staff size from 16 to 31, Ms. Pegg said, “NOP anticipates addressing all of the recommendations made by the Inspector General in FY 2010.” These include improvements to the process for certifying imported agricultural products.

For more information on the changes at the NOP following the IG audit, read the IG report, Oversight of the National Organic Program (01601-03-Hy) and Beyond Pesticides’ analysis. More information on the regulation of organic agriculture is available on Beyond Pesticides organic food program page.

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20
Sep

Stores Fined for Selling Mislabeled and Unregistered Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2010) California-based discount retailer 99 Cents Only Stores Inc. has been fined over $400,000 for selling three household products containing unregistered or mislabeled pesticides. It is the largest contested penalty ever handed down by EPA. According to EPA, the retailer continued to sell the products even after being notified that they were violating regulations.

EPA found 99 Cents Only Stores were selling products in violation of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) during a routine inspection in 2004. Subsequent inspections up until 2008 found additional problems resulting in a total of 166 separate violations. Originally. EPA handed down a $1 million fine. 99 Cents Only Stores Inc decided to contest the penalty. These types of fines are rarely contested. In the end, EPA Administrative Law Judge Susan Biro ruled the company would pay a fine of $409,490, declaring the retailer’s management had a “culture of indifference.”

Of the 166 violations committed by 99 Cents Only stores Inc., 164 were related to a household cleaner and sanitizer imported from Mexico called Bref Limpieza y Disinfeccion Total con Densicloro which translates into “Bref Complete Cleaning and Disinfection with Densicloro.” The product had pesticidal claims on the label, but was not registered with EPA. According to FIFRA, any product making pesticidal claims, including those that make antibacterial claims, must be registered with the agency, and meet labeling requirements. The retailer sold at least 658 bottles of the product in its stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada. The store also sold the unregistered pesticide Farmer’s Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner, and PiC BORIC ACID Roach Killer III with labels that were upside down or inside out. Boric acid is a low toxicity, non-volatile mineral, and a safer alternative to many other chemical pesticides. Boric acid can however be harmful in very large doses; in some individuals it can also cause irritation and rarely allergic reactions. Having accurate labeling information is vital if boric acid is to be used safely and effectively. So far, no cases of illness or injury resulting from the use of these products have been reported.

Jared Blumenfeld, EPA regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said, “We’re trying to send a really strong market signal that you can’t be lax around things like labeling and that having clear information is critical to public health.”

Analysts do not believe the fine will have much of a financial effect on 99 Cents Only Stores Inc. Jeff Gold president of 99 Cents Only said in an interview that the company had previously relied on manufacturers and suppliers, but has since adopted stricter measures to prevent violations, adding, “Our customer safety and quality of our product is always first and foremost in our mind, and we would never want to do anything intentionally to compromise that.”

In addition to the recent EPA fine, two separate class action lawsuits were filed against 99 Cents Only Stores Inc in July, alleging unfair and deceptive business practices and misleading advertising.

Source Los Angeles Times

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17
Sep

13-year Old Takes to the Web to Just Say “No” to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2010) A thirteen-year old girl in a Northern Virginia suburb has recently launched her own campaign to urge her neighbors to stop spraying pesticides, and we want you to do the same! With a growing body of scientific evidence proving that pesticides threaten the public’s health by increasing the risk of cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, reproductive problems and more, there is an urgent need for pesticide reform at all levels, and everyone can do their part!

The message: “Never fear, it’s not too late to change our ways and go organic! There are millions of ways to keep your yards looking great without using pesticides.”

The young girl’s campaign began as a school project that focused on cleaning up her local environment. However, she became increasingly concerned about the amount of lawn chemicals and mosquito sprays that were being used in her community and turned into a full blown effort to reduce toxic pesticide use. As part of this effort, she distributed 200 of Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Free Lawn Door Hangers in her neighborhood and learned everything she could about the dangers of toxic pesticides and how easy it is go “go organic.”

The culmination of her project has been turned into a short video (shot by her talented eleven-year old brother), in which she urges her community to switch to pesticide-free! In the video she quotes scientific studies on health effects associated with pesticides and also interviews a neighbors who have already vowed to keep pesticides out of their yards to demonstrate the how and why pesticide-free is the way to be.

See the video for yourself:
Activist video: Just Say NO to Pesticides

Young people all across the country are standing up for pesticide reform, with new policies being adopted all over the country in response to citizen action and demands for stricter pesticide regulations. In Massachusetts carcinogenic pesticides or products that contain EPA List 1, Inerts of Toxicological Concern can no longer be applied to school grounds, and no pesticides can be applied for purely aesthetic reasons. In Connecticut, pesticides cannot be used on day care center turf, or on school grounds for kindergarten through 8th grade. In Branford, CT all of the town’s playing fields, parks, and public green spaces are managed without the use of pesticides. For a more extensive list of examples see Beyond Pesticides activists tools pages.

What you can do?
Beyond Pesticides has tons of resources to help you make your neighborhood a model community:
Distribute door-knob hangers. We have door knob hangers for toxic-free lawns for pest management in apartments and homes that you can download. You can request the first 25 lawn door knob hangers for free, and there is space on each hanger for you to put a business card, sticker or your own information, if you wish to include it.
Display a Pesticide Free Zone Sign. Proudly show your community you support pesticide-free lawn care! You can order them at our online store.
Pledge your yard, park or other community or business-managed green space as organically managed.
Start your own local movement. We have several fact sheets available to help you organize in your community: “Calling All Activists,”Preparing a Campaign” and “Getting the Message Across” are some good ones.
Create your own video. Tell us why or how you have gone pesticide-free, demonstrate your outreach efforts or find any other way to send the pesticide-free message, send it to us and we’ll put it on our website!
And, most importantly, let us know! Tell us what you’re doing to help stop or reduce pesticides in your community or ask us if are stumped for ideas. We talk to people every day who, like you, want to change things in their communities. Call us at 202-543-5450, send us an email at info@beyondpesticides.org, or post a note to our facebook page.

“Do your part to in making our community a healthier and safer place to live and just say ‘No’ to pesticides!”

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16
Sep

USDA Announces Availability of $6 Million for Organic Certification Cost-Share Reimbursements

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2010) Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will make available $6.37 million in federal funds for organic certification cost-share reimbursements for the fiscal year 2010. Recipients must receive initial certification or continuation of certification from a USDA accredited certifying agent and may be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of their organic certification costs, not to exceed $750 per year.

According to a press release from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), these funds will be available through two cost-share programs that AMS manages: the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. Each program provides cost-share rebates to eligible organic producers and/or handlers receiving or renewing organic certification by a USDA accredited certifying agent through funds allocated to their respective state agriculture agencies. The states, in turn, review applications submitted by eligible producers and/or handlers and distribute funds accordingly.

The 2008 Farm Bill, (the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. 6523)), authorized $22 million in federal funds towards the National Organic Cost-Share Program to be distributed for five years following the passage of the bill. Coupled with the authorization provided by the Federal Crop Insurance Act in 2001 for the management of the AMA, they enable USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to offer reimbursements, without regard for type or size of the operation, to those who participate in the organic agriculture market.

The annual inspection/certification fee for organic farms was initially estimated to be about $750 per farm by the National Organic Program (NOP) when the program began. However, the fees will vary depending on the certifying agent, and also depend on the size of the farm and costs of inspection. Examples of what a potential fee might be based on the state and farm can be found the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service’s (ATTRA) website.

The costs of certification and inspections are often cited by small farms as one road block to participating in organic certification. This program helps to alleviate some of those costs, giving more farmers the option to become organic. Additionally, small farms (making less than $5,000/year on organic products) are exempt from getting certification. Farmers are encouraged to shop around for a certifying agent that will be the most cost-effective for their operation. For more information on organic certification and regulation, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

For organic producers and handlers to receive cost-share rebates, they must submit their applications to the representative agency of the state in which their farm/operation is located. Eligible organic producers and handlers must also comply with the USDA National Organic Program regulations for organic production or handling. They should have received certification or continuation of certification by a USDA accredited certifying agent within the above timeframe.

As organic agriculture continues to grow and evolve, researchers are continuing to find new evidence of the benefits of choosing and growing organic foods, and the benefits of organic agriculture extend to everyone. On conventional farms, dangerous pesticide use is a danger to farmworkers, wildlife including endangered animals, as well as the water supply, and people especially children living in the area. For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.

Additional information on the cost-share programs, as well as a list of participating states, is available on the National Organic Program home page at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.

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15
Sep

Take Action: EPA Seeks Feedback on New Pesticide Labeling Guidance

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2010) On September 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) unveiled “Enable the Label,” an online discussion forum established to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas related to the labeling of pesticides. EPA will facilitate a monthly discussion focusing on one or two chapters of the Label Review Manual, an educational tool for understanding the pesticide labeling process. Beyond Pesticides has criticized EPA’s pesticide labeling program in the past for not providing full disclosure on potential health and environmental effects, ingredients and breakdown products, data gaps and other missing information.

Each month several questions will be posed for discussion and the public is welcome to post thoughts and ideas on the topics and provide feedback on any other subject covered in that month’s chapter. According to EPA, the goal is to improve the clarity and usefulness of the Label Review Manual for its users – primarily people who draft, review, or enforce labels in the field. Pesticide manufacturers and their representatives, State pesticide regulators, and pesticide users are expected to be interested in participating in EPA’s new “Enable the Label” online discussion forum. The Label Review Manual is a tool for understanding the pesticide labeling process. It is a collection and plain English explanation of existing pesticide labeling policy, regulations, and statutes.

The inaugural “Enable the Label” discussion will solicit ideas related to Chapters 1 and 2 of the Manual. Discussion threads covering these chapters will be open for comment and discussion for 30 days. Subsequently, EPA will move through the manual by individual chapter or small groups of chapters, each open for comment for 30 days. OPP will review comments received and incorporate useful ones into future revisions of the Label Review Manual. However, the agency refuses to allow the forum to be a place to debate or take comment on existing laws, regulations or general discussions on pesticide policy issues.

For this discussion focusing on the Label Review Manual, EPA is seeking comments or suggestions in the following areas:

• Text that can be improved;
• Examples that could be improved or replaced with better ones; and,
• New scientific or policy developments that have occurred since the chapter was last updated.

EPA hopes that “Enable the Label” will provide informal comment opportunities to everyone interested in improving the Label Review Manual, and encourage creative solutions to complex pesticide label challenges. The Manual’s chapters discuss label claims, ingredient statements, labeling requirements, direction for use, etc.

EPA has been exploring and developing ideas to improve the pesticide labels. Currently, as part of a series of initiatives to improve pesticide labeling, EPA is working with external stakeholders to design a new system for delivering product labeling to pesticide users. The new approach, which could largely replace the paper-based system, will rely on users to contact either an official pesticide labeling website or a toll-free telephone number from which they can obtain the detailed use instructions that previously were attached to the product container. EPA is also inviting organizations to work with the agency to conduct a “User Acceptance Pilot” to research the extent to which pesticide users would accept a system requiring them to obtain labeling via the internet. EPA hopes that web-distributed labeling would only provide instructions for the location and intended use that the pesticide user specifies online.

If such a system was ultimately implemented, EPA expects faster access to new pesticide uses, quicker implementation of public health and environmental protective measures, and lower costs for industry and EPA. However, there are many shortcomings of web-distributed labeling such as lack of internet access to many farmers -especially poorer farmers, limited language options and possible increased lack of compliance. Generally, pesticide labels have a low level of compliance, meaning that consumers and pest control operators do not properly follow label directions, leading to increased exposures to toxic chemicals, injury and even death.

In the past, EPA has maintained that pesticide labels should, on the whole, be free from any symbol or claim that might mislead consumers or give a false sense of a product’s safety. Crackdowns concerning the sale and distribution of unregistered, mislabeled pesticides have occurred in the past, with EPA maintaining that this is a serious violation that can result in harm to public health and the environment. However, EPA enforcement against non-compliance is generally very limited. Limited label information, including the non-disclosure of inert ingredients, also provides consumers with little information with which they can make informed decisions when buying pesticides and choosing less hazardous products.

Take Action: Submit your comments and comment on chapters 1 and 2 of the Label Review Manual at blog.epa.gov/enablethelabel. Focus areas for these chapters include:
Products That Are Not Pesticides. This section focuses on products that are not considered pesticides if they are labeled for use only in or on living man or animals (Chapter 2, Section II C 1). What improvements can you suggest?
Plant Nutrients vs. Plant Growth Regulators.This text attempts to clarify the difference between nutrients and growth regulators (Chapter 2, Section II E). How could this section be improved (e.g. better or additional examples)?
Products That Are Exempt from Registration. This section offers a detailed discussion of products exempt from registration (Chapter 2, Section IV).

Source: EPA News Release

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14
Sep

Study Highlights High Levels of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Indoor Air

(Beyond Pesticides, September 14, 2010) A new study confirms that indoor uses of consumer products, including pesticides, are the primary sources of indoor exposure to endocrine disruptors –chemicals that disrupt hormones and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems– and shows that indoor levels are higher than those outdoors. Researchers from Silent Spring Institute, Columbia University, and the University of California-Berkeley measured airborne concentrations of endocrine disruptors in two California communities: Bolinas, a rural, affluent coastal town, and Richmond, a working-class city ringed by oil refineries. The study is published online in the September 1, 2010 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers analyzed 104 chemicals in 50 homes, including both chemicals that penetrate indoors from outdoor industrial and transportation sources and those from indoor use of consumer products and building materials. Similar levels of contamination were found inside homes in both communities, but outdoor levels were higher in Richmond. Among the chemicals found were pesticides, phthalates, parabens, PBDE flame retardants, and PCBs.

A total of 38 pesticides are evaluated, including banned organochlorines (e.g., DDT, PCP), and current use products such as carbamates (e.g., propoxur), organophosphates (e.g., chlorpyrifos), and pyrethroids (cypermethrin). Thirteen pesticides were detected outdoors and sixteen pesticides were detected in indoor air.

Unlike industrial and transportation pollutants and agricultural pesticides, which vary greatly by geographic region, the authors note that pollutants from consumer products do not vary widely geographically or demographically. This is significant because it shows the pervasive effects of common consumer products on indoor air quality.

The endocrine system consists of a set of glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary) and the hormones they produce (thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline), which help guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of animals, including humans. Hormones are signaling molecules, which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body.

Endocrine disruptors function by: (i) Mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) Blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) Affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, and childhood and adult cancers.

More than 50 pesticide active ingredients (see the list on page 2) have been identified as endocrine disruptors by the European Union and endocrine disruptor expert Theo Colborn, PhD. Endocrine disruption is the mechanism for several health effect endpoints.

For more information on pesticides and endocrine disruption, see Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruptors brochure. To learn more about the links between pesticide exposure and a wide range of health effects, see the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

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13
Sep

Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets Face New Legal Challenge

(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2010) Several groups opposed to genetically engineered (GE) foods filed suit in San Francisco against the USDA on Thursday to stop the agency from sidestepping National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and allowing the planting of GE sugar beets. Government approval of the crop was revoked in August; however, USDA announced on September 1 it would issue permits allowing farmers to plant GE sugar beets as long as the crop did not flower. The plaintiffs, which include Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Organic Seed Alliance, and High Mowing Organic Seeds Company with representation from Earth Justice, contend the plantings would contaminate nearby farms with GE pollen, and again asked the judge to bar all planting of GE sugar beets.

The GE sugar beets, produced by St. Louis-based Monsanto, have been engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, sold by Monsanto under the trade name Round Up. According to the Agro Industry giant their “Round-Up Ready” Sugar Beet was adopted by North American farmers faster than any other biotech crop to date. Planting glyphosate resistant crops allows growers to apply glyphosate indiscriminately. As a result, herbicide use has jumped dramatically. Despite the prevailing myth that Round-Up is safer than table salt, researchers have shown the herbicide poses many threats to human health, including increased cancer risk, as well as necrosis or death of human embryonic stem cells. Researchers are also finding an increasing number of glyphosate resistant “super weeds.” As resistance to the herbicide grows, farmers may chose to switch to even more toxic chemicals for weed control.

The plaintiffs in this case originally brought suit in 2009 against USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for approving GE sugar beets without first preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Most of the sugar beet crop is grown in or near Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Other crops grown in the area that can easily cross breed with the GE beets include table beets and Swiss chard, threatening farmers’ livelihoods, and robbing consumers of the choice to avoid GE crops. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in the Northern District of California sided with the plaintiffs and ordered APHIS to prepare an EIS. In August of 2010, Judge White revoked government approval of GE sugar beets, but allowed for beets that had already been planted before Aug 13 to be harvested and sold. In violation of Judge White’s ruling, USDA decided it would issue permits to farmers to plant the beets to produce seed stock as long as they did not flower. It is, however, not possible for the crop to produce seeds without flowering. The plaintiffs have now asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to stop APHIS from issuing these permits.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the use of genetic engineering in agriculture because of the dangers it poses to human health and the environment. The widescale adoption of GE crops has lead to a marked increase in the use of pesticides, and emerging research has linked genetically modified crops to organ damage. All the while, these crops have failed in their promise to deliver a marked increase in yield. Currently, there are no regulations requiring GE foods to be labeled as such. The best way for consumers to avoid GE foods is to choose organic products. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically engineered organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. For more information on why organic agriculture is the best choice for you, farmworkers, and the environment see our Eating with a Conscience guide.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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10
Sep

Philippine Anti-Dengue Campaign Stresses Integrated Pest Management

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2010) The Department of Health (DOH) of the Republic of the Philippines recently launched a strategy against Dengue Fever, favoring integrated pest management (IPM) strategies over pesticide sprays. The campaign, called D.E.N.G.U.E. stands for D – daily monitoring of patient’s status, E – encourage intake of oral fluids like oresol, water, juices, etc, N – note any dengue warning signs like persistent vomiting and bleeding, G – give paracetamol for fever and NOT aspirin, because aspirin induces bleeding, U – use mosquito nets and E – early consultation is advised for any warning signs. Health Secretary Enrique Ona also reiterated that the most effective way to prevent and fight dengue is still by practicing the DOH’s ‘4-S’ strategy consisting of Search and destroy, Self-protective measures, Seek early treatment and Say no to indiscriminate fogging.

The new D.E.N.G.U.E. strategy has been devised by the DOH to educate the public on home treatment of mild dengue cases. This is to also help decongest hospitals by giving an assurance that not all dengue cases require hospital confinement but can be managed at home using the strategy. Secretary Ona is educating the public that many dengue cases, if mild, can be managed at home and not all cases require hospitalization.

“We are urging all local government units to mobilize barangay [smallest administrative unit] dengue brigades in their areas,” Secretary Ona explained, adding that a once-a-week community-wide clean up drives against dengue will help a lot in reducing cases.

Dr. Susanna Madarieta, DOH regional director, also stresses that the best prevention is to constantly clean surroundings to destroy breeding grounds of mosquitoes. Measures include removing or regularly draining all water-retaining objects, and containers such as: old tires, coconut husks, and plants of stagnant waters, tin cans, pet dishes, buckets, holes in trees, clogged gutters and down spouts, birdbaths, trash can lids, and shallow fishless ponds. Abandoned lots, houses and establishments should also be included in the search-and-destroy operations because these may have possible mosquito breeding sites.

In areas that cannot be sufficiently drained, less-toxic larvacide, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is a bacterial strain that, can be sprayed or dunked into larval pools and is ingested by feeding larvae and kills them. Stocking permanent water pools, such as ornamental ponds, with mosquito larvae eating fish is another effective approach.

In addition to offering some of these suggestions, the DOH cautioned local government units against the use of fogging and misting in the fight against dengue. citing that the effect of the pesticides are both limited, and harmful to people and the environment.

“There is still no cure or vaccine for dengue and that is why we must focus on other cost-effective interventions, the most important of which is source reduction — destroy the dengue-carrying mosquitoes,” Secretary Ona emphasized. The number of cases nationwide in the Philippines from January to August 21 is 62,503 is 88.8% higher than last year’s 33,102 for the same period. There were 465 deaths recorded this year as opposed to last year’s 350 deaths.

Secretary Ona reminded the public that dengue, although an all-year round disease, is more common during rainy days when there are more potential breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. To prevent dengue, the Health Secretary advised the public to destroy all possible mosquito breeding sites like old tires, soft drink bottles and tin cans, and use mosquito nets or protective clothing.

The best way to avoid mosquitoes, especially in the evening when they are most active, is to wear long pants and long sleeves. Burning citronella candles outside also helps repel mosquitoes. Since these two options are not always possible, least toxic mosquito repellents can sometimes be a good alternative. Many common mosquito repellents can contain toxic ingredients, however, so it is important to consider all of the option and read labels carefully before buying or spraying the repellents.

Responsible mosquito management can be an effective method of mosquito control. Beyond Pesticides believes the ideal mosquito management strategy emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. For a complete list of ways to prevent and manage mosquitoes, see Beyond Pesticides factsheet “Backyard Mosquito Management: Practices that do not poison you or the environment.” For even more resources, see our Tools for Change page.

Source: DOH Republic of Philippines Press Release

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09
Sep

Price of Organic Produce May Soon Decrease

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2010) Researchers at the University of Arizona have examined the reasons for the higher cost of organic produce and predict the price will soon decrease. Many consumers would like to purchase more organic produce, but chose conventional due to the lower costs. Organic agriculture is the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture, and despite premium prices, organic food sales grew 53% from 2005 to 2008. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber.

The study, entitled “Resale and Wholesale Market Power in Organic Apples,” examined organic apples grown in Washington State to serve as an example for overall organic agricultural production and sales. Washington State supplies 70% of U.S. apples. The demand for organic agriculture continues to grow due to the benefits to human health and the environment. In addition to the many organic food stores, most large grocery stores across the country carry at least a few varieties of organic produce resulting in high demand for organic products from food retailers.

Growers however have initially been slow to switch to organic agriculture, because of the substantial investment required to adopt a new methods of production, and gain organic certification. In order to be certified organic, foods must be produced without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or sewage sludge. Genetically modified crops are also not permitted in organic food. A farm must go through a three year transition phase, before it can be certified organic. The high demand and relatively low supply has allowed producers to charge retailers higher prices. Researchers found retailers earn only 7.4% of the profit margin on organic apples, versus 75.3% on conventionally grown apples. The much larger profit margin held by producers is enticing more American producers to switch to organic. As more producers switch to organic and supply increases, the bargaining power of producers will decrease causing their profit margins to decrease as well. Researchers also found prices on organic produce began to fall when Walmart announced it would sell organic food. Lead researcher Timothy Richards, PhD believes, “All of this will soon stop being an obstacle for consumers who want to buy organics.”

One concern researchers noted was the foreign suppliers eager to capitalize on the large demand for organic produce. Many foreign suppliers face few constraints from their own government. The growing number of foreign suppliers is cause for food safety concerns, as well as invasive species risk. According to Dr. Richards, this makes foreign suppliers an important aspect to examine when discussing organic policy especially rules regarding import.

The externalities or non market costs associated with organic versus conventional agriculture were not examined in this report. While consumers may pay a lower price for conventionally produced foods when compared to organic, the real cost of conventional foods are much higher when issues such as pollution, loss of biodiversity, and human illness are considered. Pesticide exposure has been linked to many diseases from cancers to ADHD. Studies suggest organic foods are more nutritious and even better tasting than conventional.

Organic farms are more complex agroecosystems than conventional farms, meaning they have higher biodiversity. Research has shown this biodiversity can help prevent many types of pests, including fungus, insects, and diseases. Organic farms are also a much safer workplace compared to conventional farms. The U.S. Department of Labor considers farm work one of the most dangerous jobs in the US yet farmworkers have little protection under current labor laws.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.

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

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08
Sep

Third Biological Opinion Finds Pesticides Jeopardize Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received a new Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) with a finding that the application of products containing any of 12 organophosphate (OP) pesticides are likely to jeopardize federally listed threatened or endangered Pacific salmon and steelhead and their designated critical habitat. The 12 OPs addressed in this Biological Opinion, issued under the Endangered Species Act, are azinphos-methyl, bensulide, dimethoate, disulfoton, ethoprop, fenamiphos, methamidophos, methidathion, methyl parathion, naled, phorate, and phosmet.

This opinion concludes that EPA’s registration of pesticides containing bensulide, dimethoate, ethoprop, methidathion, naled, phorate, and phosmet are each likely to jeopardize the continued existence of one or more of the 28 endangered and threatened Pacific salmonids and are each likely to destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat for one or more of the 28 threatened and endangered salmonids. NMFS reached this conclusion because predicted concentrations of these seven pesticides in salmonid habitats, particularly in floodplain habitats, are likely to cause adverse effects to at least one listed Pacific salmonids including significant reductions in growth or survival. EPA’s registration of bensulide, dimethoate, ethoprop, methidathion, naled, phorate, and phosmet is also likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat for 25 affected species because of adverse effects from at least one active ingredient on salmonid prey and water quality in freshwater rearing, spawning, and foraging areas. EPA will follow-up by developing a plan explaining how the agency will implement NMFS’ opinions.

The report, released August 31, 2010, is the third biological opinion issued as a result of a court settlement with fishermen and conservationists, filed by the non-profit law firm Earthjustice. The biological opinion prescribes measures necessary to keep these pesticides out of salmon waters in Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. The previous opinion, issued in April 2009, found that the pesticides, carbaryl, carbofuran, and methomyl, harm salmon and steelhead. In response to the NMFS recommendation and EPA’s protective measures, Dow AgroSciences and Cheminova, manufacturers of carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl products, stated that they were “baffled by the agency’s position,” saying that their products do not threaten endangered species. Citing their “solid scientific evidence” that they claim is “far more complete than is reflected in the NMFS Biological Opinion,” they are not prepared to make the registration revisions [to their products].

In 2002, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), and other salmon advocates, with legal representation from Earthjustice, obtained a federal court order declaring that EPA had violated ESA by failing to consult with NMFS on the impacts that certain pesticides have on salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest and California. As a result of that lawsuit, EPA began consultations, but NMFS never issued Biological Opinions or identified the measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides. In 2007, the salmon advocates filed a second lawsuit and entered into a settlement agreement with NMFS that establishes a schedule for issuing the required Biological Opinions. In all, over thirty pesticides will undergo review by the National Marine Fisheries Service over the next three years.

Under the terms of settlement, EPA must implement measures within a year-long timeframe to prevent further exposure of the pesticides to the water that cultivate these species. The measures recommended by NMFS include: a ban on application of the three pesticides in windy conditions and buffer zones near water resources and require that land applications must be at least 50-600 feet from the water resource and aerial spraying requires a 600-1,000 foot buffer zone. EPA plans to achieve protection goals through the methods outlined by NMFS in the Biological Opinion and by alternative methods that EPA’s scientific analyses determined will achieve the same purpose. For example, EPA will require pesticide drift buffers adjacent to salmon and steelhead habitat but will impose different width buffers, some wider and others narrower than those recommended by NMFS, depending on factors that affect how far the pesticide might drift from the application site.

Many of the mitigation measures required in the new Biological Opinion mirror those NMFS mandated in a previous biological opinion for organophosphate pesticides. Recently, the pesticides mehidathion, methyl parathion, azinphos-methyl have gone through the cancellation process.

Source: EPA

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07
Sep

Organic Strawberry Farming Leads to Healthier Berries and Soils

(Beyond Pesticides, September 7, 2010) A new study, entitled Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems, shows organic strawberry farming results in higher quality fruit and healthier soils. A growing number of consumers are choosing organic foods, believing them to be healthier for themselves and the environment. While most environmentalists agree that organic agriculture is generally more sustainable than conventional, nutritionists who believe organic foods to be more nutritious are currently in the minority. A detailed comparison of organic and conventional strawberry farms is the first study to examine both the soil health and the nutrient content of the fruit produced. Researchers found organically produced strawberries, while slightly smaller than conventional have higher antioxidant activity, longer shelf life, and fared better in taste tests. Soils on the organic farms are also found to be healthier with higher organic matter concentration, and greater microbial biodiversity.

California strawberries make up 25% of total production worldwide and 87% of U.S. production. Conventional strawberry production is notoriously dangerous for farm worker health and the environment. After phasing out the ozone depleting fumigant methyl bromide, the California government is currently considering approval of methyl iodide a chemical so carcinogenic it is actually used in the lab to induce cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group’s ranking of pesticide residue contamination on common types of fresh produce, strawberries are the third most contaminated food.

To compare conventional and organic strawberry production researchers selected 13 pairs of conventional and organic strawberry fields in Watsonville, CA, the state’s dominant strawberry growing region. Organically managed soils have significantly higher organic matter content. High organic matter content enhances soil structure and fertility, and increases water infiltration and storage. Organically managed soils also have more microbial life.

Researchers found organic strawberries not only have greater nutritional value in some aspects, but also taste better than conventional strawberries. While concentrations of potassium and phosphorus are higher in the conventionally produced strawberries, organically produced strawberries have higher levels of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and phenolics. Organic strawberries also have a longer shelf life and greater resistance to post harvest fungal rot. Consumer sensory panels show a preference for the taste of organic strawberries. Three varieties of organic and conventional strawberries are compared for the study. While conventional strawberries are larger, organic berries are found to have preferable flavor and appearance.

As organic agriculture continues to grow and evolve, researchers are continuing to find new evidence of the benefits of choosing organic foods. The benefits of organic agriculture are by no means limited to consumers. On conventional farms, dangerous pesticide use is a danger to farmworkers, wildlife including endangered animals, as well as the water supply, and people especially children living in the area. For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.

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03
Sep

Nanosilver Particles Can Stop Sperm Cells from Growing

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2010) New research shows that silver nanomaterials, which are used in a number of consumer products as antimicrobial agents, can interrupt important cell signaling within male reproductive sperm cells, causing them to stop growing. In previous studies, scientists reported how smaller-sized silver nanoparticles – in the 10 – 25 nanometer range – decrease the growth of male stem cells when they are exposed at concentrations greater than 10 micrograms per milliliter (μg/ml). This new study, on the other hand, is the first to identify how the silver nanoparticles stop the sperm stem cells from growing, with the biggest effects from the smallest-sized nanoparticles tested. Like many other studies on the effects of nanotechnology, this study raises important questions about the potential hazards to human health due to the prolific use of silver nanoparticles in the market.

Researchers tested the effects of different sizes, concentrations and coatings of silver nanoparticles on cell growth of mouse sperm cells. They compared silver nanoparticles coated with either hydrocarbons – at 15 nm, 25 nm and 80 nm diameters – or sugars – at 10 nm, 25 – 30 nm and 80 nm diameter. Exposure to the smaller sized particles led to increased stem cell death. The sugar coatings on the smaller-sized silver nanoparticles increased the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), one of the signals for induced cell death.

One important pathway known for sperm stem cell growth is the growth factor glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). Though the amount of GDNF was not changed, the signals sent to the cell were damaged after silver nanoparticle exposure. The researchers found that a small protein, Fyn kinase, is not fully functional. This protein requires a modification in order to function, and that modification is reduced when cells are exposed to silver nanoparticles.

Additionally, researches believe that exposure during development may affect forming sperm cells and lead to birth defects related to the male reproductive system. Scientists believe this is because the small silver particles can cross the mother’s placenta and directly affect the baby.

Silver nanoparticles are now widely impregnated into a wide variety of consumer products to kill off bacteria, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. However, little is known about the impact of nanoparticles on human health and the environment, and mounting evidence suggests that these materials can pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. Nanosized particles can be released from impregnated materials via washing or sweating where they may pose numerable unknown adverse effects to humans and water systems.

Though the use of silver nanoparticles typically falls under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act’s (FIFRA) definition of a pesticide as substances intended to kill pests such as microorganisms, EPA does not currently regulate it as such. In 2008, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and others including Beyond Pesticides filed a legal petition http://www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/?p=340 challenging EPA’s failure to regulate nanosilver as a unique pesticide. The 100-page petition addresses the serious human health concerns raised by these unique substances, as well as their potential to be highly destructive to natural environments, and calls on the EPA to fully analyze the health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology, and require labeling of all products.

Take Action:
On August 13th, EPA announced its proposal to conditionally register a pesticide product containing nanosilver as a new active ingredient for a period of 4 years. Comments are due on September 11, 2010. EPA is proposing the antimicrobial pesticide product, HeiQ AGS-20, is a silver-based product that is proposed for use as a preservative for textiles. Under its new policy concerning public involvement in registration decisions, EPA is providing a 30-day opportunity for public comments on the proposed registration. As a condition of registration, EPA is proposing to require additional product chemistry, toxicology, exposure, and environmental data. The Agency will evaluate these data as they are submitted during the period of the conditional registration.

EPA also announced a 45-day public comment period for the draft document “Nanomaterial Case Study: Nanoscale Silver in Disinfectant Spray” (EPA/600/R-10/081). The document is being issued by the National Center for Environmental Assessment within EPA’s Office of Research and Development. EPA is releasing this draft document solely for the purpose of pre-dissemination review under applicable information quality guidelines. This document has not been formally disseminated by EPA. It does not represent and should not be construed to represent any Agency policy or determination. The draft document is available via the Internet on the NCEA home page under the Recent Additions and the Data and Publications menus at http://www.epa.gov/ncea.

The draft is intended to serve as part of a process to help identify and prioritize scientific and technical information that could be used in conducting comprehensive environmental assessments of selected nanomaterials. It does not attempt to draw conclusions regarding potential environmental risks of nanoscale silver; rather, it aims to identify what is known and unknown about nanoscale silver to support future assessment efforts. When finalizing the draft document, EPA intends to consider any public comments that EPA receives in accordance with this notice. Technical comments should be in writing and must be received by EPA by September 27, 2010

For more information, please see our Watchdogging the Government and Nanosilver pages.

Source: Environmental Health News

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02
Sep

Groups Tell Senators to Stop Undermining Clean Water Act

(Beyond Pesticides, September 2, 2010) Beyond Pesticides, along with dozens of environmental and public health groups from across the country, sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, urging the withdrawal of S. 3735, a bill that would strip the Clean Water Act of protections from pesticides. The bill, introduced by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the Senate Agricultural Committee’s Chair and Ranking Member, seeks to nullify regulations that require pesticide applicators apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under CWA before applying pesticides on or near surface waters. The groups say Congress should be supporting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in fulfilling its task, rather than undermining laws that protect public health and the environment.

Senators Lincoln and Chambliss argue that because pesticides are registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) additional regulation is unnecessary and the legislation will reduce the burden on farmers, foresters and ranchers. In their August 30th letter, the groups say, “CWA complements and does not duplicate the pesticide registration reviews conducted by EPA under FIFRA, which sets a general national standard that does not take into account conditions and specific vulnerabilities evaluated through the NPDES process. Given extensive, documented water contamination by pesticides nationwide, it is critical that we allow the NPDES review process to move ahead. S. 3735 will prevent this from happening.”

For decades our nation’s waterways have been polluted with hazardous pesticides which impact aquatic populations of animals and plants, and decrease surface and drinking water quality. Results from the U.S. Geological Survey (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 is vital to protecting waterways from indiscriminate pesticide contamination. The permit would not pose undue burden to farmers, foresters and ranchers as the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, for example, mosquito spraying which is seasonal in most parts of the U.S.

The introduction of S. 3735 follows EPA’s June 2010 posting of a draft NPDES General Permit for certain pesticide use patterns, also known as the Pesticides General Permit (PGP). The development of the permit stems from a 2009 court decision in the case of the National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA, in which the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pesticide discharges into water are pollutants and require permitting under CWA. This ruling overturned the previous Bush administration policy that exempted pesticides from regulation under CWA, and instead applied the less stringent standards of FIFRA.

In July 2010, Beyond Pesticides and others sent comments to EPA requesting improvements to the proposed PGP and CWA regulations. These suggestions include: making general improvements to address specific limitations of the proposed permit (size of annual treatment areas, monitoring requirements, opportunities for public input); encouraging EPA to consider organic alternatives when reviewing permits; and, requiring EPA to set water quality standards for all pesticides that may contaminate water.

Beyond Pesticides encourages its members to contact their Senators and let them know how they feel about S. 3735.View the legislation and contact your Senators.

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01
Sep

U.S. Grapples with Bedbugs, Misuse of Pesticides, As Non-Toxic Alternatives Are Not Widely Discussed

(Beyond Pesticides, September 1, 2010) A resurgence of bedbugs across the U.S. has homeowners and apartment dwellers taking desperate measures to eradicate the tenacious bloodsuckers, with some relying on dangerous outdoor pesticides and fly-by-night exterminators. However, these measures pose more dangers than any perceived short-term benefit, as non-toxic alternatives are not widely discussed.

Bed bugs can be effectively controlled without the use of dangerous chemical pesticides. Heat treating infected spaces or items such as furniture and laundering linens in hot water will kill bed bugs. Habitat modification, such as sealing cracks, and removing clutter, can prevent an infestation from occurring.

Some steps you can take to treat for bed bugs include:
Eliminate clutter –clutter provides places for bed bugs to hide! Getting rid of as much clutter as possible will help you locate and get rid of infestations.
Caulk and Seal Crevices to prevent bed bugs from entering your home.
Encase mattresses and box springs –make sure the encasement has been tested for bed bugs and will not rip and does not contain synthetic pesticides impregnated in the material. If left on, it will eventually kill all bed bugs inside, and will make finding bed bugs on the surface much easier.
Laundering Fabrics and Clothing – run clothing through 30 minutes or a full cycle at the hottest setting the fabric will allow. Dry clean only clothes can simply be put into the dryer. If the fabric is too delicate for the hottest temperature, place it on a lower heat setting and let it run for the full cycle. Be sure to use a different bag for infested clothing and clean clothing, or, better yet, wash the bag with the clothing! Seal non-essential clothing in a plastic bag for the duration of treatment.
Vacuuming –this will only remove visible bed bugs, but is important to get rid of dead bed bugs and their frass. Use a stiff brush to dislodge eggs in cracks and crevices and use a vacuum attachment that does not have bristles to get into the corners. Be sure to discard the bag immediately after vacuuming, or vacuum up a desiccating dust or some corn starch to prevent bed bugs from spreading.
Steam Treatment –if applied properly, steam treatment will kill all stages of bedbugs. Move the nozzle over the bed bugs at a rate of 20 seconds per linear foot, and wrap a piece of fabric over the upholstery nozzle to reduce water pressure to make sure bed bugs don’t blow away. Many pest control companies have this as an option but due to the amount of time it takes, don’t provide it, so make sure you ask if this is available and request that it’s used.
Heat Treatment –companies can use fans and a heat source to heat an area (either a whole room or a smaller container) to 120 degrees F. Ambient heat can provide complete control of bed bugs if all areas of infestation reach 120 degrees F.

The bedbug problem has worsened and spread to more states across the U.S. This prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a warning this month against the indoor use of chemicals meant for the outside. The agency also warned of an increase in pest control companies and others making “unrealistic promises of effectiveness or low cost.” EPA also cautions against the use of a product or pest control operators that treat homes with products that are not named to control bed bugs on the product label. In a joint statement on bed bug control, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EPA highlight emerging public health issues associated with bed bugs in communities throughout the U.S. The statement provides background information on the recent rise in bed bug problems, discusses the public health implications of bed bug infestations, and stresses the importance of controlling them with an integrated approach. It also explains the role of government agencies at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels in better understanding the recent resurgence of bed bugs and developing better ways to control them.

Bedbugs, infesting U.S. households on a scale unseen in more than a half-century, have become largely resistant to commonly used pesticides like pyrethroids. As a result, some homeowners and exterminators are turning to more hazardous chemicals that can harm the central nervous system, irritate the skin and eyes or even cause cancer.

Ohio authorities, struggling against widespread infestations in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and other cities, petitioned EPA last fall to approve the indoor use of the pesticide propoxur, which the agency considers a probable carcinogen and banned for in-home use in 2007, due to concerns posed to children. About 25 other states are supporting Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption. In comments to the agency objecting the petition for propoxur, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and public health advocates urged the agency to reject the request, citing the serious public health threat associated with the chemical, as well as the availability of alternatives. EPA rejected Ohio’s petition in June.

In the meantime, authorities around the country have blamed house fires on people misusing all sorts of highly flammable garden and lawn chemicals to fight bedbugs. Experts also warn that some hardware products such as bug bombs and other pesticide products claim to be lethal, but merely cause the bugs to scatter out of sight and hide in cracks in walls and floors. Despite these warnings, many have resorted to dangerous practices in an effort to rid bedbugs. A pest control company in Newark, N.J., was accused in July of applying chemicals not approved for indoor use throughout 70 homes and apartments units, even spraying mattresses and children’s toys. In Cincinnati, an unlicensed applicator saturated an apartment complex in June with an agricultural pesticide typically used on golf courses. Seven tenants got sick and were treated at the hospital. The property was quarantined, and all tenants were forced to move. Authorities are pursuing criminal charges.

Though propoxur is still used in pet collars, it is banned for use in homes because of the risk of nausea, dizziness and blurred vision in children. Steven Bradbury, director of the EPA’s pesticide program, said the problem is that children crawl on the floor and put their fingers in their mouths.
Critics in the pest control industry say that the federal government is overreacting in its precautions aimed to protect children from hazardous pesticides. Many in industry say other in-home pesticides aren’t as lethal as propoxur, requiring several treatments that can push extermination costs to $500 or $1,500, depending on the size of a home. Marion Ehrich, PhD, a toxicologist at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, said the EPA is showing appropriate caution. She said other scientists who have studied the bedbug problem are not eager to see propoxur released in homes.

“Propoxur is not a silver bullet, and given time, bedbugs would likely become resistant to it, too,” said Lyn Garling, an entomologist at Penn State University.

Experts say it is going to take a comprehensive public health campaign — public-service announcements, travel tips and perhaps even taxpayer-funded extermination programs for public housing — to reduce the bedbug problem. People can get bedbugs by visiting infested homes or hotels, where the vermin hide in mattresses, pillows and curtains. The bugs are stealth hitchhikers that climb onto bags, clothing and luggage.

For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Bed Bugs: Back with a Vengeance Detection, Prevention and Least Toxic Control of Bed Bugs.”

Source: Associated Press

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31
Aug

Study Shows Atrazine Causes Prostate Inflammation and Delays Puberty

(Beyond Pesticides, August 31, 2010) As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues its review of the popular herbicide atrazine, a new study shows that male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of the gender-bending chemical are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals. The research adds to a growing body of literature on atrazine, an herbicide used in agriculture, especially in corn and sugar cane production, and on golf courses and residential lawns. Atrazine and its byproducts are known to be relatively persistent in the environment, potentially finding their way into water supplies. It has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer.

The research, “Effects of prenatal exposure to a low dose atrazine metabolite mixture on pubertal timing and prostate development of male Long-Evans rats,” which is available online and will be featured on the cover of Reproductive Toxicology (Vol. 30, # 4), found that the incidence of prostate inflammation went from 48 percent in the control group to 81 percent in the male offspring who were exposed to a mixture of atrazine and its breakdown products prenatally. The severity of the inflammation increased with the strength of the doses. Puberty was also delayed in the animals who received atrazine.

The doses of atrazine mixture given to the rats during the last five days of their pregnancy are close to the regulated levels in drinking water sources. The current maximum contamination level of atrazine allowed in drinking water is 3 parts per billion. The doses given to the animals were 0.09, 0.87 or 8.73 milligrams per kilogram body weight.

The research was led by Suzanne Fenton, PhD, and Jason Stanko, PhD, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. “We didn’t expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels,” Dr. Fenton said. She adds that this is the second paper to show low dose effects of atrazine metabolite mixtures. Dr. Fenton was the senior author on a 2007 paper that demonstrated low doses of the atrazine mix delayed mammary development in female siblings from the same litters used in this current study.

“It was noteworthy that the prostate inflammation decreased over time suggesting the effects may not be permanent,” said David Malarkey, DVM, PHD, an NIEHS pathologist and co-author on the paper.

Dr. Fenton points out that these findings may extend beyond atrazine alone, and may be relevant to other herbicides found in the same chlorotriazine family, including propazine and simazine. All three of the herbicides create the same set of breakdown products. The researchers say more research is needed to understand the mechanism of action of the chlorotriazines and their metabolites on mammary and prostate tissue. “These tissues seem to be particularly sensitive to the effects of atrazine and its breakdown products,” Dr. Fenton added. “The effects may be due to the stage of fetal development at the time the animals were exposed.”

In October 2009, EPA announced that it was launching a new evaluation of atrazine to determine its effects on humans. At the end of this process, the agency will decide whether to revise its current risk assessment of the pesticide and whether new restrictions are necessary to better protect public health. The announcement followed recent scrutiny and findings that the current EPA regulation of atrazine in water is inadequate. Dr. Fenton will be presenting her research findings in September 2010 to EPA, as part of its reassessment of atrazine.

“We hope that this information will be useful to the EPA as it completes its risk assessment of atrazine,” said Linda Birnbaum, PhD, director of the NIEHS and National Toxicology Program.

For more information on atrazine, see the Pesticide Gateway. For more information on diseases linked to pesticide exposure, see the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

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30
Aug

FDA Considers Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

(Beyond Pesticides, August 30, 2010) AquaBounty Technologies Inc.. a small biotechnology firm based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is seeking FDA approval for a genetically engineered salmon, hoping to do for aquaculture what biotech giants such as Monsanto have done for agronomy. Currently, the vast majority of US soybeans, corn, and cotton are genetically engineered, but this would be the first commercially available genetically engineered food animal. While AquaBounty argues their fish will help feed the world, many are leery of “frankenfish” being introduced into the food supply. If the proliferation of genetically engineered crops in the U.S. is any indication, the introduction of genetically engineered animals into the food supply will fail to produce an increase in yield.

AquaBounty has invested $50 million over 14 years to develop AquAdvantage Fish. AquAdvantage Salmon (AAS) unlike conventional salmon grows year around reaching market weight in 18 months instead of 36, and consuming 25% less food over its lifetime. The variety was developed by inserting part of a gene from an Ocean Pout, an eel-like fish, into the growth gene of a Chinook salmon. The blended genetic material is then injected into the fertilized egg of a North Atlantic salmon. According to AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish, the engineered salmon is identical to conventional salmon in taste color and protein. AquaBounty is also developing AquAdvantage trout and tilapia.

Many are concerned about the potential for genetically engineered animals to cross breed with wild animals, resulting in genes escaping into the wild. The use of genetically engineered crops has lead to several engineered genes escaping into the wild, creating so-called superweeds. To prevent genes from escaping into wild populations, AquaBounty would create sterile fish and require producers to raise salmon in inland tanks, as opposed to ocean pens where most farmed salmon are raised. However, sterilization can occasionally fail and AquaBounty may sell to producers overseas who are not bound by U.S. regulations.

Many strongly oppose genetic engineering of any foodstuff, over threats genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose to human health and the environment, but the idea of a genetically engineered animal brings even greater trepidation. According to Paul Thompson, an agricultural ethicist at Michigan State University, “There might be a kind of boundary-crossing going on that might be yucky.” Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, oppose all GMO’s including AquAdvantage fish. The main trade association of U.S. seafood producers, the National Fisheries Institute, has come out in support of genetically engineered fish. Several other aquaculture groups, however, have voiced opposition. Jorgen Christiansen of Oslo based Marine Harvest, the world’s largest farmed salmon producer, opposes AAS over concerns consumers would be reluctant to buy genetically engineered fish. The International Salmon Farmers Association is also in opposition. Many consumer advocates are concerned, because there is currently no regulation that would require the genetically engineered fish to be labeled as such.

According to Mr. Stotish, the FDA has completed a review of AquaBounty’s application. The next step is to convene an advisory committee to weigh evidence and collect public testimony, a process that is expected to take several months. Eric Hallerman, head of the fisheries and wildlife sciences department at Virgina Tech University, called this a “threshold case… If it’s approved there will be others. If it’s not, it’ll have a chilling effect for years.”

Beyond Pesticides believes that genetically engineered food is short sighted and dangerous. For more information on Genetic Engineering, see our program page.

Source: Los Angles Times

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27
Aug

Complex Biological Interactions Prevent Problems on Organic Farms

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2010) While proponents of organic farming often speak of nature’s balance in ways that sound almost spiritual, a new study provides additional scientific evidence to back-up this world view. Ecologists from the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo have uncovered a web of intricate interactions that buffers the farm against extreme outbreaks of pests and diseases, making highly toxic magic bullets unnecessary. This latest study adds to the list of benefits provided by organic agricultural methods, which include: healthier food, a less toxic work environment for farmers and farmworkers, a source of carbon sequestration (which combats climate change), higher yields in drought conditions, and a healthier environment. The 10-year study, “Ecological Complexity and Pest Control in Organic Coffee Production: Uncovering an Autonomous Ecosystem Service,” is published in the July/August issue of the journal BioScience.

According to the study, the major players in the system —several ant species, a handful of coffee pests, and the predators, parasites and diseases that affect the pests— not only interact directly, but some species also exert subtle, indirect effects on others, effects that might have gone unnoticed if the system had not been studied in detail.

A key species in the complex web is the tree-nesting Azteca ant (Azteca instabilis). The ants are not particular about the kind of tree they live in, but for some reason their nests are found in only about 3 percent of shade trees on the farm, and ant-inhabited trees are not randomly distributed, they’re found in clumps. The researchers believe the clumpiness results, at least in part, from the ants’ vulnerability to a parasitic fly. Ant colonies expand by sending off queens and broods to nearby trees, but when all the trees in an area have ant nests, the flies can more easily find ants to parasitize. So high-density clusters are preferentially attacked and eventually disappear, either because the ants all die or because the ants move to other trees.

The ants have a cozier relationship with the green coffee scale, a flat, featureless insect that is a serious coffee pest in some regions, but not on the farm where the study was done. Azteca protects the scale from predators and parasites in return for honeydew, a sweet, sticky liquid the scale secretes. One of those predators is the lady beetle (Azya orbigera), whose adult and larval forms both feed on scale. When an adult beetle tries to attack a scale insect, the ants chase it away. But beetle larvae, which are covered with waxy gunk that gums up the ants’ mouthparts, are able to polish off plenty of scale. The ants even aid the murderous larvae, albeit inadvertently. In the course of shooing off parasitic wasps that attack scale, the ants also scare away bugs that parasitize beetle larvae.

Photo by John Vandermeer, PhD

Photo by John Vandermeer, PhD

The beetles also seem to influence the ants’ distribution patterns by preying on the scale, on which the ants depend for honeydew. The researchers explored the relationship using theoretical modeling and found that if ants take over the whole plantation, the beetle goes extinct because adult beetles can’t get enough to eat. If the ants disappear from the farm, the beetles go extinct because the larvae starve. But if ants are confined to clusters, due to the influences of both beetles and parasitic flies, the beetles thrive and keep the scale insects under control.

“The interesting thing is that the beetles could not exist except for the highly patterned ant population, but it could be those very same beetles causing the pattern formation in the first place,” said researcher John Vandermeer, PhD. “The beetle creates the conditions for its own survival.”

The white halo fungus, a disease of scale insects, also enters in. The disease occurs here and there throughout the farm but runs rampant only where large populations of scale are found, which is only where the ants are protecting the scale. By suppressing the scale, on which the ants depend for honeydew, the fungus indirectly affects the ants’ survival. But that’s not all. The fungus also attacks coffee rust, a notorious pest that virtually wiped out coffee production in Sri Lanka, Java and Sumatra in the mid-19th century and has since infiltrated Central and South America but has not caused serious problems in those areas. White halo fungus only works its magic against coffee rust, however, in the process of conducting major assaults on scale, and those assaults happen only where there’s lots of scale—in other words, where the scale is under ants’ protection.

In addition to Azteca, other ant species protect scale, and some of these ants are predators of the coffee berry borer and leaf miner, which are also coffee pests. The researchers are still working out the details of the relationships among the various ants and the other species with which they interact.

As the research team continues to discover more species that are part of the web and more complex direct and indirect interactions among all the members, it’s increasingly clear that the view of nature working in harmony closely matches the scientific facts.

“There are many farmers in the tropics who have been on their land for a long time—sometimes many generations—and have seen these things happening and intuitively understand the connections,” said Dr. Vandermeer. “The stories they tell about the balance of nature sound almost romantic and religious sometimes, but if you just change the words, they start sounding like what we’re describing.”

Though this study is being done within the confines of a 300-hectare (740 acre) farm in southern Mexico, the researchers believe their approach and findings are more broadly applicable.

“Our view is that interaction webs of this sort will prove common in agro-ecosystems in general,” said Ivette Perfecto, PhD, another researcher on the study. “Although widely appreciated in natural systems, such webs haven’t been seen in agro-ecosystems because the people studying them haven’t looked at them in this way. They’re looking for magic-bullet solutions; they want to find the thing that causes the problem and then fix it. Our approach is to understand systems that are working well, where there are no problems. By doing that, we can define systems that are more resilient and resistant to pest outbreaks.”

View a slide show of the author’s work in Mexico here. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page and our Eating with a Conscience web guide.

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26
Aug

Pesticides found in Bald Eagles in the Great Lakes Region

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2010) Researchers from Indiana University have detected organochlorine pesticides and flame retardants in blood samples taken from bald eagle nestlings in the Great Lakes region. After DDT was banned, many scientists expected the bald eagle population to recover more quickly, so this study provides some evidence to explain their lackluster rebound. The researchers found not only organochlorines and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), but several flame retardants commonly used in foam padding, such as pentabromoethylbenzene (PBEB), hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs) and Dechlorane Plus (DP).

The paper, published in the August issue of the scientific journal Chemosphere was authored by Marta Venier of Indiana University. Ms. Venier and her colleagues collected blood samples by climbing trees to access the nests, carrying the nestlings carefully to the ground, and drawing a small blood sample before returning them to their nests.

The statistically significant relationship between the total PBDE concentrations and total PCB concentrations suggest that these young eagles are ingesting pesticides and flame retardants through their food. Even low levels of these chemicals could be advsersely affecting the eagle population because as co-author of the study, Ronald Hites of Indiana University says, “Eagles are very vulnerable to chlorinated compounds.”

Chlorinated materials are very persistent and cycle through the soil, air and water for decades. DDT is the most notorious organochlorine pesticide, however several organochlorines are still registered for use, including lindane (as a pharmaceutical), endosulfan, methoxychlor, dicofol and pentachlorophenol.

Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences tells Discovery News that this study helps illustrate why “we shouldn’t be making chemicals that don’t go away for a long time” because “there is very little information on their toxicity [which is] a problem with our regulatory system.”

Organochlorine pesticides can cause a multitude of acute and chronic health problems such as tremors, headaches, respiratory problems and seizures, as well as various types of cancer, and endocrine disruption. Some studies link organochlorine pesticides to human health issues such as DDT to Parkinson’s Disease, as well as environmental issues such as the colony collapse disorder (CCD) affecting honeybees.

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25
Aug

Pesticide Exposure in the Womb Increases ADHD Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, August 25, 2010) Exposure to pesticides while in the womb may increase the odds that a child will have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health. Maternal metabolites of organophosphate pesticides have previously been associated with neurobehavioral deficits in children.

The California researchers are studying the impact of environmental exposures on the health of women and children who live in the Salinas Valley, an agricultural region with heavy pesticide use. They tested the urine of pregnant women for pesticide residue, and then tested the behavior of their children at ages 3½ and 5. The 5-year-olds who had been exposed to organophosphate pesticides while in the womb have more problems with attention and behavior than did children who were not exposed. Results are published online in the study entitled, “Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Attention in Young Mexican-American Children,” in the journal, Environmental Health and Perspectives.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to some organophosphate compounds cause hyperactivity and cognitive deficits in animals. One study published in Pediatrics earlier this year found that exposure to organophosphates in developing children might have effects on neural systems and could contribute to ADHD behaviors, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Researchers discovered that for children with a 10-fold increase in the concentration of the most common phosphate metabolites measured in their urine, the odds of ADHD increases by more than half compared to those without detectable levels.

Roughly one in six children in the U.S. has one or more developmental disabilities, ranging from a learning disability to a serious behavioral or emotional disorder. Emerging science demonstrate that the amount of toxic chemicals in the environment that cause developmental and neurological damage are contributing to the rise of physical and mental effects being found in children. Organophosphates like chlorpyrifos, malathion and dichlorvos are extremely toxic to the nervous system. They are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission -acetylcholine esterase (AchE), inactivating the enzyme. High concentrations of organophosphates have been found in the bodies of pregnant women and children.

In response to the growing evidence linking pesticide exposures to numerous human health effects, Beyond Pesticides launched the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, to capture the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains 383 entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, will be continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends. To view the database, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/health.

For more information on children’s exposure to pesticides, including information on how you can protect your family from pesticides and the latest studies and news on this topic, see Beyond Pesticides Children and Schools program page and the Organic program page.

Source: Environmental Health and Perspectives

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