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Build the Buzz for Pollinator Week!

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2014) Monday marks the beginning of a week of celebration for the irreplaceable species that pollinate one in three bites of food we eat, yet are threatened by the rampant use of pesticides in landscapes across the country. Beyond Pesticides is doing all we can to BEE Protective of honey bees and other wild pollinators, and we want to help elevate your voice, and provide you with the tools to make real change in your community that will help save the bees!

Here’s the buzz on the festivities hosted by Beyond Pesticides and allies during Pollinator Week June 16th- 22nd, 2014.

Kick off Pollinator Week with an Online Town Hall!
Monday, June 16th at 9 p.m EST/6 p.m PST
RSVP Here!
What’s the Buzz About? A conversation about bee declines, impacts on our food system and what you can do about it.

Join the Berkeley Food Institute, Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and TakePart for a lively discussion with academics, beekeepers and journalists about what’s driving the declines, what it means to our food and farming system, and what we can do about it. Join in online via Youtube! (video will not be available until 9p.m. EST/6p.m.PST) Please RSVP!

Participate in the Daily Twitter Chat! – Search the hashtag #pollinatorchat
Monday, June 16th through Friday, June 20th at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m PST
Discussion Topics:
• Monday – The importance of bees and other pollinators, with a focus on the food system
• Tuesday – What can we do to help bees – in our backyard, community, at the state and federal level or in the marketplace?
• Wednesday – “Beewashing” by industry and Bayer’s Bee Care Tour
• Thursday – Stories from the hive. Question and answer session with beekeeper Jim Doan, who lost all of his bees to pesticides.
• Friday – Broaden the scope of the discussion to all pollinators that deserve respect: bees, bats, birds, butterflies, moths, beetles, and other insects!

photo-contestPollinator Photo Contest!
Send your best pollinator photo to beeprotective@beyondpesticides.org! We will choose three winning photographs to be featured in the Fall 2014 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Pesticides and You! Select photos will be highlighted on Beyond Pesticides’ Facebook and Twitter pages throughout Pollinator Week. Photos are due to Beyond Pesticides by midnight Wednesday, June 18th. Read more about the contest here!

Have You Asked Your U.S. Representative to Support the Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act?
The Saving America’s Pollinators Act would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Contact your Rep. now!

Take the Pollinator Pledge and Request Bee-Friendly Material and Pollinator Safe Seeds!
Throughout Pollinator Week Beyond Pesticides will provide activists with BEE Protective campaign materials and pollinator safe seeds free of charge! Send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org – simply let us know how you’ll be using the material to raise awareness in your community! See our BEE Protective website for the list of campaign materials we can provide.

In addition, help Beyond Pesticides build a network of safe spaces for pollinators across the country by recording your property as the pollinator haven that it surely is!

USDA Pollinator Week Festival!
If you’re in the Washington D.C. area, stop by the USDA Pollinator Week Festival (located on 12th Street between Jefferson Drive and Independence Ave, SW) on Friday afternoon, June 20th! Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety will be tabling and handling out informational material on pollinator protection.

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



Monarch Butterfly Decline Linked to GE Crops and Shrinking Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2014) According to a new study in the Journal of Animal Ecology, the deficiency of milkweed plants due to the rapid spread of genetically engineered (GE) crops is one of the primary reasons for the decline in monarch butterflies. The widespread adoption of GE agriculture and the ever growing use of herbicides is contributing extensively to the loss of milkweed covered areas, which is the butterfly’s main food source and the only place where they lay their eggs. This study adds weight to previous reports linking GE crops, as well as climate change, to the decline of butterfly populations, which are at their lowest in two decades.Monarch-Picture-10-14-11

Monarch butterflies make their way from the U.S. and Canada, usually arriving in Mexico around the beginning of November, clustering by the thousands in the boughs of fir trees. Although the same trip occurs every year, no individual butterfly makes it twice, as the butterfly’s life span is too short. How the migration route lives on in the butterflies’ collective memory is an enduring scientific mystery. Researchers note that to compensate for the continued loss of habitat, refuges of milkweed must be set up to provide a source of food for butterflies. Pollinator populations have been hard hit by new farming technologies. Similar to Monarch butterflies, honey bees and other wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers that has been linked to the prevalent use of highly toxic herbicides and insecticides that have not been fully evaluated for their effects on insect pollinators.

Researchers from the University of Guelph have three hypotheses to explain the drop in butterflies: habitat loss in wintering grounds, habitat loss in breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada, and harsh weather settings. They developed a model that contains migration patterns and demographic data across the monarch’s annual life cycle. Scientists looked at the single effects of each threat and compared them to the model as a whole. Lastly, they created predictions assessing the risks of habitat plant lost due to GE crops on current and future monarch butterfly population size and predicted the probability of extinction. The authors conclude that climate change and deforestation do not cause as drastic an impact on monarch population declines compared to the lack of milkweed plants on breeding grounds.

Though researchers found no conclusive evidence on what is causing the decline of milkweed, all indications point to the rise of GE soy and corn crops, and increasing herbicide use, as the most likely culprit for eradicating the milkweed. Scientists point to the prolific use of herbicides in the Midwest eliminating these plants, and found that 70% of the losses of milkweed between 1995 and 2013 were located in agricultural areas. The study affirms that the only way to help bring back the monarch butterflies is to have more milkweed plants.

In addition to widespread herbicide use and GE crops, other factors may also be leading to the displacement of milkweed habitat, including agricultural practices. With chemical-intensive agriculture, farmers use every square inch of farmland, leaving very little space for habitat for beneficials such as the monarch. One way to combat this issue is to initiate organic farming practices. 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.

Beyond Pesticides publicizes the serious health and pest resistance problems associated with the chemical-intensive practices and provides important links to activists working to advance sustainable practices. Over 70% of all GE crops are altered to be herbicide-resistant. Increased planting of herbicide-resistant GE crops has led to a dramatic increase in herbicide use. The over use of herbicide-resistant crops has also led to “super weeds,” and the destruction of pollinator habitat.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees  and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

Join us next week for Pollinator Week! It provides an opportunity to show respect for the numerous benefits pollinators provide to agriculture and the environment.

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

Sources: Vox , Journal of Animal Ecology



Vermont Prepared for Challenges to GE Labeling Law

(Beyond Pesticides, June 11, 2014) Vermont is currently gearing up to defend against possible litigation its groundbreaking law to label genetically engineered (GE) food ingredients. The law, which is the first of its kind in the nation, was specially written so that it created  the Food Fight Fund that allows individuals to donate to defend the law if it were to be challenged in court. The Vermont law and polling data show that consumers strongly want to know what is going into their food and are willing to stand up to industries that do not want consumers to have this right.

As of the first week of June, the Food Fight Fund raised just over $15,000, with over $$9,000 of it coming from outside the state. Most of the donations come in small amounts of less than $50, which is indicative of the grassroots structure of the GE labeling movement. The fund will be the initial money used by the Vermont attorney general’s office if the state’s GE labeling law is challenged in court.

Currently, the $15,000 is not enough funds to cover legal fees to defend this law. Lawsuits brought against the state, according to testimony by Assistant Attorney General Bridget Asay, could add up to as much as $5 million if the state loses the case. If the state wins the case, defense costs could still add up to about $1 million. It has become clear that industry does plan on challenging this law in court. In May, the Grocery Manufactures Association (GMA) said it planned to file suit in federal court to overturn the Vermont labeling Law.

Beyond the Food Fight Fund, the state authorized the attorney general’s office to devote any unbudgeted settlement revenues to the case.

“We do anticipate that once [a lawsuit] is filed and there’s more publicity across the state and across the nation, that we would expect that donations would increase into the fund,” said Sarah Clark, deputy commissioner of finance and management, quoted by VPR News.

The legislation,  An Act Relating to the Labeling of Food Produced with Genetic Engineering, was signed into law on May 8, requiring foods to be labeled by July 2016. The law does not include a “trigger clause,” which is contained in labeling bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut.  Before going into effect, these laws require other states in the New England region (including one boarding state) with an aggregate population of 20 million to pass similar laws.

The momentum and excitement in Vermont and other states shows that the attempts by the biotechnology industry to squash GE labeling have not discouraged proponents, but instead have galvanized more and more people to become educated about the issue and take action. The defeat of GE labeling referendums in California in Washington has only spurred additional measures in other states that will be voted on this year, notably Oregon and Colorado, where advocates recently overcame their own court battle with the biotech industry to exercise the right to put a labeling initiative on the ballot.

Beyond these state efforts, buying organically labeled food is another way to stop GE ingredients from being purposely added during food production and handling. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website. You can also help support the Vermont labeling law by donating to the Food Fight Fund.

Source: VPR New

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



Take Action: Tell FDA to Remove Triclosan from Consumer Products

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2014) Triclosan, the antibacterial pesticide found in numerous hand soaps, toothpastes, and other cosmetics, has had a ubiquitous presence on the consumer market for over 30 years. But due to public pressure led by Beyond Pesticides, our allies, and concerned supporters, many manufacturers have been washing their hands of triclosan.

Now after years of inaction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going to require data to support triclosan’s claims of being “safe and effective.” The time is now to let the agency know that triclosan is NOT safe or effective for human and environmental health.

Raise your voice with a unique public comment to FDA!
Use the sample letter below for guidance.

Rising Evidence Against Safety

Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Studies show that triclosan can interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormones, and may promote the progression of cancer cells. This is alarming given that the CDC has found that 75% of the U.S. population contain triclosan in their bodies, even in breast milk, and at levels that are rising. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function. A recent study also linked triclosan to the growth of breast cancer cells.

Additionally, triclosan contaminates waterways, aquatic wildlife, and possibly even drinking water. In a study published last month evaluating sewage sludge (biosolids) contaminants, triclosan was found at the highest concentrations in deeper soils, reaching 156 parts per billion in 7 to 14 inches of soil. A study published in August 2013 found that triclosan altered the bacterial composition of stream communities, resulting in a “dramatic die-off of algae.”

No Evidence of Efficacy

Triclosan is no more effective than regular soap and water in controlling germs and bacteria. In fact, an FDA Advisory Committee,  and the American Medical Association both find that there is no evidence that triclosan is effective for its intended use. Instead, triclosan is linked to increasing bacterial resistance and cross-resistance to crucial antibiotic medications – possibly threatening public health. A study published in April found that individuals exposed to triclosan were more likely to carry staph bacteria. Rather than eliminate dangerous bacteria in and on the body, the study found that triclosan promotes the binding of staph to human proteins making them “stickier.” Triclosan also allows staph to better attach to other surfaces such as glass and plastic.

States and Corporations Phasing the Chemical Out

Last month, the state of Minnesota took critical steps to protect their residents from exposure to triclosan by banning the chemical in personal care and cleaning products. This follows previous actions by Governor Mark Dayton in 2013, when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that state agencies were ordered by the Governor to stop buying products that contain triclosan. These policy changes in Minnesota came after a 2013 study showed triclosan toxicants accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota. Scientists tested eight sediment samples from freshwater lakes across Minnesota, including Lake Superior and found triclosan in all of the sediment tested.

In addition to state action, multinational corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for several years now. Avon joined these companies earlier in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it. Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating.

Take Action!
Given the mounting scientific evidence, as well as state and corporate action against triclosan use, FDA must not continue to lag. FDA is accepting public comments on triclosan until June 16, 2014.

Click here to tell FDA that triclosan is not safe or effective and it should be removed from consumer products.

**Sample letter**

For over 30 years, FDA has allowed the use of triclosan to go unchecked. During that time triclosan has become a pervasive presence not only on store shelves, but in our bodies and waterways as well.

There is serious concern based on a substantial body of scientific studies, reports and other sources, that the pervasive and diverse uses of triclosan pose an actual and imminent threat to human health and the environment. FDA must find that triclosan is not safe and effective for intended use based on:

• The presence of triclosan in the human body (as evidenced by scientific studies of its activity in blood, urine and breast milk) imposes an immense and dangerous body burden. This presence raises concerns about a multitude of threats to humans.
• Endocrine disruption as a result of triclosan bioaccumulation in the body. This effect, in turn, poses serious threats to thyroid, estrogen, and other hormonal systems, and it can also influence the development of other endpoints of concern, including developmental and carcinogenic effects.
• Bacterial resistance to antibiotic medications and antibacterial cleansers is just one category of threats emanating from the growing body burden of triclosan. Such resistance renders humans (especially vulnerable subpopulations) wide open to bacteria-induced illnesses and possibly, death.
• Triclosan is not effective for many of its major intended uses. Therefore, consumers and other users of triclosan products suffer, at a minimum, economic detriment from having purchased a product that fails to perform as indicated, and, at maximum, potential danger to their health and safety.
• Once in the larger environment, triclosan poses numerous additional dangers including contaminating waterways and aquatic wildlife.

I urge the agency to find that triclosan is not safe or effective for its intended use, and use its statutory authority to ban triclosan from consumer products.



For additional information on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan see Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterials program page.

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



Scientist Warns of Ecological Effects Associated with Lawn Care Pesticide Runoff

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2014) A recent talk given by Donald Weston, PhD, a professor emeritus in UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology, to a community group in San Jose, California warned residents about the dangers that lawn care insecticides present to local aquatic life. The talk focused on the problems synthetic pyrethroids and fipronil can have on Hyalella azteca and Chironomus dilutes. Increasing levels of pesticide runoff in local stream systems have not only led to decreased populations of these aquatic crustaceans, but also populations that have become resistant to pesticides. Aquatic invertebrates are extremely sensitive to pesticide runoff and different states around the country have struggled with creating pesticide regulations that foster a healthy aquatic ecosystem. A good way to reduce pesticide runoff is to transition away from toxic land care methods and adopt organic practices.

Hyalella crustaceans, a tiny shrimp-like animal, are hypersensitive to pyrethroids, which are a class of insecticides used by professional lawn care companies and found in common products like Raid and mixed with fertilizer products like Scotts Turf Builder under the name SummerGuard. Chironomus dilutes, a red worm-like invertebrate, is sensitive to fipronil, which is used to kill fleas on dogs and cats and on lawns to control ants and termites. Currently, Contra County, California professional pest control operators use 13,300 pounds of pesticides, which do not include pesticides used by private citizens. Hyalella curstaceasn, which live in Contra County creeks, are exposed to such high levels of these chemicals that they have begun building resistance to pyrethroids.

Dr. Weston was quoted in a San Jose Mercury News article saying, “It scares us, because that tells us there’s enough pyrethroid in the creek to cause them to mutate. The sensitive pests have been killed off; the rest have mutated and survived.”

Previous studies performed by Dr. Weston have found pyrethroids at high levels in streams throughout California. Urban runoff data, taken between 2006 and 2010, showed all communities in the Sacramento area and the Bay Area had toxic levels, especially after a rainfall. Dr. Weston first began looking at pyrethroid levels in streams bordering farm fields in 2004, and reported levels in some creek sediments high enough to kill Hyalella curstaceasns, which are used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an indicator of the health of freshwater sediment.

The streams have become so contaminated with pyrethroids that, according to Dr. Weston, “We’d have to flood the county 6,046 feet deep to dilute it enough so that Hyalella could live. That’s equal to two Mount Diablos, stacked on top of each other.”

Pyrethroids are synthetic versions of pyrethrin, a natural insecticide found in certain species of chrysanthemum. It initially was introduced on the market as a ‘safer’ alternative to the highly toxic organophosphates, such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon which were banned for homeowner use in 2001 and 2004, respectively. They are now one of the most popular class of household pesticides, available in the form of powders and sprays to control ants, mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and cockroaches. Pyrethroids are dangerous to aquatic life even at concentrations used to eliminate mosquitoes. Of the varieties of pyrethroids used, befinthrin was most commonly found in previous research conducted by Dr. Weston.

Fipronil, a broad spectrum insecticide, was first introduced in the U.S. in 1996 and is highly toxic to aquatic life. and understood not to be readily biodegradable. In water and sediment that lack oxygen, fipronil degrades more slowly, with a half-life of 116-130 days and its breakdown products are also considered to be highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Beyond it being incredibly toxic to fresh water invertebrates, it is also highly toxic to bees.

Other states besides California have also struggled with the effects that pesticides can have on aquatic invertebrates. Last summer, Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy signed into law House Bill 6441, which banned methoprene and resmethrin, a pyrethroid insecticide, in coastal areas such as the Long Island Sound because of declines in lobster populations. Declines in the Sound’s lobster population have been alarmingly common for the past 15 years, devastating fishermen and the local economy that depends on them. Connecticut legislators say that they were convinced that banning the two mosquito pesticides after learning that Rhode Island and Massachusetts had enacted similar bans with successful results. A similar bill to ban the use of methoprene was also introduced in Suffolk County, New York last summer.

One way to help change this problem is to start managing your lawn organically. For information on how to manage your lawn without the use of harmful pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes webpage. The site also provides an online training, Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers, to assist in going pesticide-free.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

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



EPA Agrees to Greater Protection of Salmon from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 6, 2014) On June 4, after a two year dispute between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a coalition of conservation organizations and fishing groups, an agreement was finally reached to set reasonable no-spray buffer zones to protect salmon from five harmful insecticides: diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl.

These buffer zones protect salmon habitat by stopping aerial spraying of pesticides within 300 feet, and ground based spraying within 60 feet of salmon supporting waters. According to the agreement, it also provides detailed notifications to state regulators, pesticide applicators, farmers and the public about the mandatory no-spray buffer zones. These stipulations will remain in place until the National Marine Fisheries Service has completed their analysis of the impacts of those five pesticides.  Then, once the analysis is completed, EPA will execute permanent protections based on their findings.

EPA is required by law under the Endangered Species Act to protect what little salmon are left on the Pacific Coast. Salmon are a critical indicator of how well we are maintaining both marine and terrestrial ecosystems, because their habitats are in streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and the ocean. The fish are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality, and changes to the river flow. The more salmon there are the more diverse and productive a freshwater ecosystem can be. Salmon runs are also important because they provide a wealth of marine nutrients upstream to waters that are otherwise low in productivity. Declines in salmon can lead to drastic effects up the food chain because they are the main food source for numerous animals.

As said by Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), the conservation groups and fishing organizations, “This is a huge step forward for the health of our rivers and salmon fisheries. Before this agreement, we lacked effective ways to keep these poisons from entering our rivers and streams. EPA and the Fisheries Service can now continue to work together toward permanent protections that keep pesticides out of our waters.”

According to Jason Rylander with Defenders of Wildlife, “It’s kind of a no-brainer that salmon and pesticides don’t mix. Today’s agreement will go a long way towards ensuring that these highly toxic chemicals stay out rivers and streams and out of the food chain.”

Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network stated, “Keeping these highly toxic pesticides out of streams and rivers protects the health of salmon and our children. It is way more cost effective than trying to clean up the mess after the fact.”

A 2004 court order required EPA to consult with the Fisheries Service over the impacts of these chemicals on salmon. That particular court order had expired when the Fisheries Service completed its analysis of the chemicals in 2008 and 2009.  When the Fisheries Service required the EPA to implement a wider range of protections within a year, EPA failed to do so, leaving salmon and steelhead exposed and unprotected. This current agreement resolved years of litigation and will force the EPA to focus its time and energy on permanent solutions that will protect salmon.

The chemicals regulated under the new buffer zones are not only dangerous to salmon; they pose a significant threat human health, other wildlife, and the environment at large. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life, and certain species of algae. There are also a wide range of adverse environmental effects linked to chlorpyrifos, including toxic to: beneficial insects, freshwater fish, other aquatic organisms, and birds, variety of plants, soil organisms, and domestic animals. It has been shown to bioaccumulate in fish and synergistically reacts with other chemicals. Diazinon is a moderately acutely toxic broad-spectrum insecticide. Like chlorpyrifos, diazinon affects the nervous system through the inhibition of AchE, an enzyme needed for proper nervous system function. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified malathion as a toxicity class III pesticide, bearing the signal word “Caution.” Despite the fact that malathion is one of the less acutely toxic synthetic pesticides, numerous human poisoning have been reported. It is slightly toxic via the oral route and dermal route. Malathion is rapidly and effectively absorbed by practically all routes, including the gastrointestinal tract, skin, mucous membranes, and lungs. Carbaryl causes an array of serious neurotoxic effects in animals, including irreversible neurological damage and behavioral disturbances.

Clean water is essential for human health, wildlife and a balanced environment; however water is being polluted at extremely high rates with chemicals, pesticides, nutrients, metals and other contaminants. According to Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, over 50 pesticides are known surface or groundwater contaminants, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Read Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality, a fully cited fact sheet by Beyond Pesticides, or download our shorter, bi-fold brochure version for more in depth information on how organic practices can protect water quality.

For more information, read one of our Pesticides and You articles, Threatened Waters.

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

Source:  Earthjustice

Photo source: World Wildlife Fund




EPA’s Response on Pesticide Drift and Children’s Health Challenged

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2014) Environmental advocacy groups filed an Administration Objection and a court appeal last week in order to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) refusal to quickly correct errors in pesticide registrations and immediately implement measures to protect children from exposure to dangerous pesticides that drift from fields during and after application.

EPA’s continued refusal to protect children’s health from pesticide drift is being criticized by numerous environmental, health, and farmworker advocacy groups. The groups, which include United Farmworkers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Farm Labor Organizing Committee, originally filed a petition back in 2009 titled “Pesticides in the Air—Kids at Risk: Petition to EPA to Protect Children from Pesticide Drift (2009).” The petition asked that the agency properly comply with an existing law that requires EPA to protect children’s health from exposure to pesticides that drift from fields and orchards. After a more than four-year wait and a court appeal, EPA finally provided a response last March. These groups object to EPA’s recent response to their 2009 petition on the basis of two issues, both of which violate the agency’s obligations under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA):

  • The tolerances originally developed under FQPA were not formulated with the consideration of pesticide drift, leaving children at risk to additional exposures.
  • EPA failed to include a tenfold safety factor to protect infants and children due to incomplete data on pesticide drift and failure to assess all aggregate exposures for which it did have information on back in 2006, when the agency originally set the tolerances.

Essentially, EPA’s response was a refusal to correct pesticide registration errors and implement measures to protect children from exposure to dangerous pesticide drift in a timely manner, potentially prolonging compliance by another eight years. While EPA officials acknowledge that the agency had failed to consider drift when setting pesticide limits, the original deadline to complete this obligation under the Act came and went back in 2006; in face of this acknowledgement, however, EPA is declining to implement immediate protection or change its current plans and timelines, which extend to 2022. The petitioners are asking the EPA to immediately rectify the agency’s failure to consider pesticide drift in tolerances. Whether this request is fulfilled on time or not, however, petitioners ask that EPA at minimum immediately adjust tolerances to include the additional tenfold safety factor, as required by FQPA.

A number of health effects have been linked to pesticide exposure in children, including birth defects, respiratory disorders, and cancer. Additionally, a recent report from the California Department of Public Health finds that over a third of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school, including persistent and toxic substances like chlorpyrifos, methyl bromide, and malathion. While EPA has required pesticide labels to include warnings regarding spray drift for decades, the agency has also recognized that this measure is insufficient to protect populations like children. In fact, poisoning incident reports show that drift continues to pose significant risks. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation documented 3,997 reported pesticide drift incidents in the state between 1992 and 2007, which may reflect just a fraction of total incidents. These reports and studies highlight the importance of reducing children’s pesticide exposure. The failure to include pesticide drift and a safety factor when setting tolerances in a timely manner precludes an entire generation of children from getting the protection that they need.

For more information on spray drift and children’s health, read Beyond Pesticides’ past articles here and here. Learn more about how to protect your family’s health and the environment by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience Guide.

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

Source: Earthjustice Press Release




Ontario County, Canada, Takes Stand Against Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2014) A county in southern Ontario has become the first Canadian municipality, according to reports, to temporarily ban a controversial class of insecticides linked to be bee deaths in Canada and around the world. Last week, officials in Prince Edward County passed a motion prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on municipal lands, effective immediately.

The rural county, nestled in the heart of Ontario’s agricultural heartland, also wants the federal and provincial government to “declare a moratorium surrounding the use of neonicotinoid crop treatments, as soon as possible, pending further study.” The motion requires letters to be sent to several federal and provincial ministers –including the Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and Health Minister Rona Ambrose– outlining the county’s position.

Mounting science has documented the neonicotinoid class of pesticides as a major factor in bee decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown, even a low levels, to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and disease. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. These chemicals are also systemic, meaning they contaminate the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, leading to contamination of the entire colony, including juvenile bees, when pollen is taken back to the hive. More recent research is even finding that neonicotinoids persist for long periods of time in the environment, contaminating soil and water, and adversely affecting other non-target organisms. New research from Harvard University’s School of Public Health confirms the role of these insecticides in bee decline. Harvard researchers found the slightest exposure to neonicotinoids would cause a colony to collapse and die. The pesticides, the study said, also impede a bee’s ability to survive the winter.

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have already been given a two year moratorium in the European Union (EU). Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and beekeepers filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean and canola seeds, even though a recent report finds that this use pattern provides no additional benefit to agriculture.

In September 2013, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) –responsible for regulating pesticides in Canada– discovered neonicotinoid contaminated dust had caused severe bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec. A final report is expected in 2015. In the U.S., a government-sponsored survey reports preliminary findings that bee declines continue to be above average during the 2013/2014 winter. Last summer, thousands of dead bees were found in Oregon after the application of a neonicotinoid pesticide. This prompted local action on neonicotinoids, with the city of Eugene, Oregon becoming the first community in the U.S. to ban the chemicals earlier this year. In response to growing concern over neonicotinoids, Minnesota passed legislation prohibiting treated plants from being labeled as bee-friendly.

The Canadian motion also highlighted the concerning trend that non-treated seed are unavailable to farmers wanting to stay away from using neonicotinoids. Non-treated seed are not readily available. It is estimated that 92 to 95 per cent of corn acreage in Canada and the U.S. are planted in seed coated in neonicotinoids. “We urge seed companies to make adequate supplies [of non-treated seed] available,” the motion reads. Farmers, meanwhile, are encouraged to “order seed not treated with insecticide for the 2015 growing season.”

Prince Edward County is one of the highest producing agriculture regions in Ontario, Canada. A hub for dairy, poultry and hog production, the region is famous for its major cheese festival and local wines.

The plight of bees and other pollinators is an important one for all to be concerned. One third of the foods we eat are dependent on pollination services, which contribute $20-30 billion to the agricultural economy. The reliance on toxic, systemic inputs that dominate our agricultural systems and how we manage pests, is being found to have more environmental costs than benefits. The time for action is now.

Take Action: Join the BEE Protective Campaign

Source: Ipolitics



EPA Rule on Treated Seeds Challenged, Activists Tell Lowe’s to Stop Selling Neonics

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2014) In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) challenged EPA’s position that seeds coated with pesticides, commonly neonicotinoid pesticides, are exempt from regulation under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA currently is arguing that pesticide-coated seeds are treated articles, exempting them from being regulated as a pesticide and should be regulated by USDA under the Federal Seed Act.  However, CFS argues in its letter that FIFRA precludes EPA from approving language at any stage of the pesticide’s supply chain that allows for exposures likely to adversely affect the environment, and which are not mitigated or investigated by EPA or state agencies.

Neonicotinod seed treatments have become increasing common and are linked to the explosion of genetically engineered (GE) crops. At least 94% of the nation’s 92 million acres of corn –greater than the total size of the state of Minnesota, Nebraska, or both Dakotas– will be treated with one of two neonicotinoids, both manufactured by Bayer.

According the letter, CFS believes this inaction by EPA has led state regulators to avoid investigating bee deaths from exposure to dust from planting seeds treated with the controversial neonicotinoid insecticides. CFS says that language added to treated seed bags could reduce or mitigate the impact that pesticidal ‘dust has on pollinators.

Currently, when farmers plant pesticide treated seeds using a mechanical seeder, small amounts of the chemical coating can be scraped off of the seeds and expelled through the planter’s exhaust as dust. Bees that are near the area or are flying through then come into direct physical contact with the chemical dust. A 2012 study found that high amounts of neonicotinoids are present in the exhaust of corn seed planters and that bees are exposed to these potentially lethal concentrations of the chemical simply by flying through the area during planting.

Last summer, EPA amended label requirements for foliar applications of neonicotinoids after the controversial class of pesticides were suspected in bee kills following pesticide sprays at several sites in Oregon. Critics have questioned the efficacy of these restrictions as they do not address the systemic nature of neonicotinoids and focuses solely on managed and not wild bees. The new regulations also clearly do not affect treated seeds.

According to an Inside EPA article, state and federal officials as well as industry representatives have been working to revise treated seed labels for several years. However, CFS argues that industry’s clear influence in changing seed bag labels violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) which requires public notification of, and balanced representation on, advisory panels.

The science clearly indicates that neonicotinoids are highly toxic to a range of insects, including honey bees and other pollinators. The systemic insecticides are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets that bees forage, pollinate, or rink. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical as well as dust that is released into the air when treated seeds that have been coated with the chemicals are planted.

Recently, research on neonicotinoids conducted by Chensheng (Alex) Lu and colleagues at the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health has been the subject of criticism because of the dose levels used in the study. However, the concentration used by Lu and colleagues (136 µg/L of imidacloprid) is comparable to the maximum sample value seen by Bayer in their joint citrus study with the University of California (Byrne et al. 2013) in freshly capped honey (95.2 µg/L). A blog post from the Pesticide Research Institute  concludes that Bayer’s claims that this new research is “deceptive and represents a disservice to genuine scientific investigation related to honey bee health” lacks credibility.

Concerns over massive wild bee die offs and consistently high losses reported from managed hives led to public demands for stronger pollinator protections. Last Friday, beekeepers and advocates like NC Toxic Free protested Lowe’s annual shareholder meeting. Protesters demanded the home improvement store stop selling neonicotinoid pesticides. These actions were part of a larger campaign supported by Beyond Pesticides to pressure retailers to stop selling these chemicals and treated garden plants.

You Can Also Take Action: Join Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign:

Source: Inside EPA

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



Some Hazardous d-CON Production, But Not Sale, to Stop at Year’s End; Group Wants Immediate Stop Sale and Recall

(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2014) With Friday’s announcement that the production of deadly rodent baits will stop by year’s end, a national public health and environmental group is renewing its request of the nation’s retailers to immediately stop the sale of d-CONÂŽ anticoagulant rodent bait products, citing the poisoning of children, pets, and wildlife. This call comes as the manufacturer of d-CONÂŽ, Reckitt Benckiser LLC, announced an agreement today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which it will cease production, but not sale, of the product by the end of 2014.

“It is outrageous that a highly toxic product associated with the poisoning of children, pets, and wildlife remains on the market one more day, let alone for the years it will take to exhaust supplies,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “One child harmed from the continued sale of this product is one child too many,” said Mr. Feldman. Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged 12,000 to 15,000 poison exposure reports of children under the age of six from mouse and rat baits.

Early in 2013, EPA issued a notice to cancel the registration of 12 rodenticide products manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser LLC after the company refused to adopt voluntary risk mitigation measures established in 2008. The measures required that products be sold in bait stations and secured bait forms, instead of loose baits that children can more readily access, and not contain the most toxic and persistent active ingredients. On March 6, 2013, the company challenged EPA’s decision, delaying a decision that was to have taken effect on March 7, 2013. This was the first time in more than 20 years that a company declined to implement EPA risk mitigation measures for pesticide products.

EPA has been criticized for agreements with manufacturers that allow products that exceed the agency’s safety standards to remain in the marketplace, without warning to consumers and users, years after their products have been de-registered.

Beyond Pesticides urges families with small children to utilize alternative measures to prevent rodent problems, including sealing gaps around the doors by replacing worn thresholds and weather stripping, and installing door sweeps, as well as caulking openings around water pipes, electric wires, cables, and vents. There are many baits traps on the market that do not utilize toxic chemicals.

While some local stores and national retailers have taken steps to remove the toxic rodenticide products, all the major national retailers are being urged by Beyond Pesticides to immediately stop sales of the 12 dangerous d-CONÂŽ products and ensure that regional stores pull these products from shelves.

In March, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) adopted rules that, starting July 1, “second generation anticoagulant rodenticides,” including the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone found in d-CON brand products, will be classified as California-restricted materials, and only allowed to be used by certified pesticide applicators. This will take the products off of retail store shelves. A week after this action, d-CON® manufacturer,  Reckitt Benckiser sued California to stop it from acting.

For more information, go to Beyond Pesticides Care for Kids rodenticide page.



Moms Tell EPA to Ban Glyphosate After Residues Found in Breast Milk

Beyond Pesticides, May 30, 2014) This week, a group of concerned mothers and environmentalists met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to discuss a recent pilot study that detected glyphosate residues in breast milk. Organized by Mom’s Across of America, which is seeking to stop the sale and use of glyphosate, the meeting underscored the limitations of EPA’s pesticide registration program in addressing the real-life impacts of pesticides on children and the concerns of mothers surrounding the dangers of glyphosate in particular. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is the most widely applied herbicide in the U.S., with uses ranging from genetically engineered (GE) crops to lawn turf.

The meeting with Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides, Consumes Union, Organic Consumers Association, other groups and EPA came after Mom’s Across America’s five-day phone call campaign urging EPA to recall Roundup. Participants in the campaign made close to 10,000 calls to the agency.

The pilot study, supported by Moms Across America, looked at ten breast-milk samples from across America. Three of the ten breast milk samples tests reveal high levels of glyphosate, meaning that the amount of glyphosate found is between 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l. The highest glyphosate level detected in a mother is from Florida (166 ug/l) and the other two mothers with “positive” results are from Virginia (76 ug/l) and Oregon (99 ug/l). While these levels fall under the EPA drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 700 ug/l, across the pond in Europe this range of exposure is 1,000 higher than what is deemed acceptable.

“This is a poison and it’s in our food. And now they’ve found it in breast milk,” said Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, in a Reuters article. “Numerous studies show serious harm to mammals. We want this toxic treadmill of chemical cocktails in our food to stop.”

The pilot study is groundbreaking in contradicting the chemical industry’s assertion that glyphosate has little to no potential to bioaccumulate. By showing that this chemical does build up in human bodies, the finding of bioaccumulation raises a critical issue that advocates say, at the least, must be addressed in glyphosate’s reregistration process and tolerance setting process for the chemical in milk. The study sample size is clearly limited, but the groups told EPA during the meeting that a new independent U.S. study of glyphosate levels in breast milk is planned this year.

According to an eNews Park Forest post, Zen Honeycutt noted that during the two hour meeting EPA “fully listened” to what the group said, and it even appeared that, “We have some people on our side.” EPA staff said that they would include the milk study in their review “when protocols are met,” Honeycutt said.

Glyphosate is currently under registration review, the process through which EPA reviews each registered pesticide every 15 years to determine whether it continues to meet the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) standard for registration. Glyphosate’s first Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) was finalized in 1993, before the explosion of GE herbicide tolerant crops. A final work plan for the reregistration process was published in 2009 and set a goal to have the final registration review decision finished by 2015. Although the agency expects to have a preliminary risk assessment completed late this year, these assessments have been chronically delayed in the past.

Last year, EPA raised the permitted tolerance levels for glyphosate residues in several commodities. Some of the allowable limits, or tolerances, more than doubled.

Beyond breast milk, there are multiple other health concerns over the continued use of glyphosate. A recent MIT study finds that glyphosate’s interference with important enzymes in the body can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Drinking water contaminated with Roundup can lead to congestion of the lungs and increased breathing rate, as well as kidney damage and reproductive effects. Increasing tolerances on glyphosate means not only higher dietary exposure but also more glyphosate use.

Currently, the only way to avoid eating food grown with harmful synthetic pesticides like Roundup is by eating organic. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page.

Source: Reuters

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



Australian Organic Farmer Loses GE Contamination Suit

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2014) The global fight to establish better protections from genetic contamination caused by genetically engineered (GE) crops suffered a legal setback in Australia this week. A ruling of the Supreme Court of Western Australia found that farmer Steve March could not seek compensation after losing his organic certification as a result of a neighbor’s GE crops contaminating his organic crops.

Mr. Marsh filed the lawsuit against Michael Baxter, a neighboring GE canola seed farmer, alleging that he had suffered economic damage because of his organic decertification. The decertification had been brought on by the confirmed presence of GE canola plants and seeds on his property and Australia’s zero-tolerance organic standard concerning GE contamination on organic lands. Mr. Baxter began farming GE canola just a few years before and was the likely source of the contamination.

Argued before the court earlier this year, the litigants as well as environmental and organic advocates across the globe had anxiously awaited the court’s decision. Supporters of the suit hoped it might advance much-needed protections against the economically devastating and oft uncontrolled invasion of GE crops on organic and non-GE lands. Opponents of the suit claim it would have burdened GE farmers with more rules and potentially restricted the amount of crops a farmer could plant.

Organic farmers and consumers did not receive the ruling that is needed to protect the viability of organic production systems. Instead of reinforcing the Australian organic zero-GE-tolerance standard and shifting the burden to GE farmers and the makers of GE crops, like Monsanto, to protect against the pollution their products create or pay the price, the court ruled that no physical harm had been shown and the burden rested on the plaintiff to clean up the GE-mess to reinstate his certification.

Justice Martin also added in his judgment that decertification of Mr. Marsh’s Eagle Rest farm appeared to be a “gross overreaction” by Australia’s organic certification body, observed Reuters journalists.

United States GE Contamination Suits

In the U.S. and under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification standards, GE crops and their byproducts are prohibited. However, unlike Australia, USDA organic regulators take a process-based approach to GE contamination and, while organic farmers are expected to protect their farms without real guidance or established efficacy, there are currently no established contamination or allowable threshold standards. Nevertheless, litigation concerning GE crop contamination that exceeds that small threshold has still faced off on U.S. soil with many results still pending. Current food labeling claims of no-GMO or genetic contamination establish thresholds of allowable contamination.

And the fight has not limited itself to the defensive. To add insult to injury, farmers who have not purchased GE seeds and find them on their land face potential litigation from the seed producers for patent infringement. One case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto, sought to protect non-GE and organic farmers from this absurd abuse of power and to establish protections against Monsanto, one of the world’s primary producer of GE seeds and aggressive GE patent-infringement litigant. (According to Reuters, between 1997 and 2010 the agrichemical giant filed 144 patent-infringement lawsuits against farmers that it said made use of its seed without paying royalties.) While this case garnered Monsanto assurances to not pursue patent infringement cases where trace amounts of its GE crops or seed were discovered, the results failed to achieve any meaningful protections.

The uncertainty of the courts willingness to protect non-GE and organic farmers, both at home and abroad, has not overshadowed recent successes outside of the courts, in the form of county bans on GE crops and GE labeling bills.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. Even with the potential for contamination, the best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers and show support for farmers attempting to do the right thing for everyone.

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

Sources: Reuters



Report Finds Pesticide Residues in Hawaii’s Waterways

(Beyond Pesticides, May 28, 2014) A statewide pilot pesticide sampling project has found over 20 different types of pesticides in Hawaiian waterways, some of which are no longer registered for use in Hawaii. State officials believe the pesticides, many detected in urban areas, are from residential and golf course applications. These preliminary findings help highlight the need for local oversight of pesticide use, currently a controversial issue in the state.Picture showing sediment inflow from a tributary to a larger river.

Conducted in partnership with the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Hawaiian Department of Health, the survey-study finds herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup) and atrazine, as well as a fungicide that is no longer registered for use in the state, contaminating the state’s waterways. The study measured pesticides in surface waters and in sediment at multiple locations in Hawaii. 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides were detected, with atrazine the most commonly found. This pilot survey responds to growing community concerns about the impacts of pesticides on local communities and ecosystems, and provides preliminary information on pesticide residues in state waterways. Recently, Kauai County passed an ordinance –Ordinance 960– that requires public disclosure of pesticides used and the location of genetically engineered (GE) crops, as well as buffer zones around sensitive locations, such as schools, hospitals and shorelines. After this step forward for concerned communities, a bill was introduced to essentially block the implementation of the new ordinance by seeking to preempt local governments from restricting pesticide use in their communities. For more on preemption, read our factsheet.

According to the results, every location sampled has detections of one or more pesticides, most at concentrations below federal benchmarks for human and ecological health, which have been criticized in the past as being unable to protect sensitive populations and species. Oahu’s urban streams have the highest number of pesticides, and Manoa stream near the University of Hawaii show 20 different pesticides and degradates. Atrazine is the most detected pesticide in the study with 80 percent of sites containing the chemical. The report theorizes these frequent detections are due to downstream impacts of current and historic uses in sugar cane and seed corn. Some atrazine detections in Kauai exceeded aquatic benchmarks. Glyphosate is found in all sediment samples. Some of the other pesticides detected include metolachlor, dieldrin- banned from sale in Hawaii in 1980 yet continues to persist, benomyl- also currently banned, fipronil- exceeded aquatic benchmarks in some locations, 2,4-D, iprodione, and chlorpyrifos.

While state officials contend that the majority of pesticide levels found are below federal standards for safety, recent science continues to show that very low level concentrations also have significant impact on aquatic and human health. In addition to low level exposure uncertainties, these standards have been notoriously limited in fully assessing risks due to deficiencies in current risk assessment procedures, including numerous data gaps, lack of understanding of chemical mixtures and synergistic effects. Exceeding these standards/benchmarks means that aquatic life and human health may be at risk.

Despite these standards, U.S. waterways are consistently plagued with pesticide contamination, as oversight and enforcement at both the local and federal levels are lacking. A recent survey conducted by researchers at USGS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found traces of 18 unregulated chemicals in drinking water from more than one third of U.S. water utilities. Currently, over 50 percent of U.S. streams have one or more pesticides that exceed at least one aquatic-life benchmark. Similarly, more than 20 percent of domestic wells contain at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern. According to the USGS, more than 80 percent of urban streams and more than 50 percent of agricultural streams across the U.S. are contaminated with at least one pesticide. Pesticides like atrazine, chlorpyrifos and malathion are routinely detected. Unfortunately, many pesticides do not in fact have set benchmarks and, as mentioned previously, mixtures and potential synergistic effects continue to go ignored.

Pesticides in waterways have been attributed to the feminization of male amphibians, and intersex fish -male fish producing eggs in the Potomac. Studies link increased seasonal concentration of pesticides in surface water with the peak in birth defects in infants conceived during the spring and summer months, when pesticide use increases and high concentrations of pesticides are found in surface waters. A 2009 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Poisoning the Well, found that atrazine goes undetected by regular monitoring, and that in the 139 municipal water systems from which EPA collected data on a biweekly basis in 2003 and 2004, atrazine is found 90% of the time. Furthermore, 54 of these water systems had at least one spike above three parts per billion, atrazine’s current benchmark. Atrazine in drinking water was recently linked to menstrual irregularities in women.

In addition to attacks in Hawaii to reverse strides seeking to protect local communities from pesticides, efforts in Congress, backed by industry supporters, continue to undermine federal laws and efforts to protect the nation’s waterways from indiscriminate pesticide contamination. According to this new report, Hawaiian officials and scientists, especially in light of growing concerns of pesticides exposures among local communities, will continue to analyze the data and local conditions to learn more about pesticides in the environment and current pesticide practices.

For more information on the fight for pesticide protections in the Hawaiian Islands, see Beyond Pesticides’ past Daily News articles and read Beyond Pesticides’ testimony on Bill 2491 (Ordinance 960).

Source: West Hawaii Today
Image Source: USGS

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



Got Invasive Plants? Goats to the Rescue, Eating Unwanted Vegetation Yet Again!

(Beyond Pesticides, May 27, 2014) Bridgehampton’s Vineyard Field on Long Island, NY is joining the ever expanding movement of communities that are enlisting goats to help manage their land without the use of harmful herbicides. The Friends of Long Pond Greenbelt hired goats to manage the 40-acre field, which stretches from Ligonee Creek in Sagg Harbor to Sagg Pond in Sagaponack. With complaints from residents of overcrowding weeds on hiking trails, but not wanting to resort to using toxic herbicides, which harm sensitive species that live in the preserve, the volunteers looked to goats on May 17 as an answer. Goats are a great tool for managing invasive plants, because they add fertilizer and aerate the soil while they eat and physically remove the unwanted vegetation, creating healthier soil conditions.http://www.green-goats.com/uploads/1/1/5/8/11585787/4907057_orig.jpeg

The Long Pond volunteers have come together to help pay for fencing, assist in its installation, and monitor the goats. The town board authorized the work and agreed to pay up to $3,500 for the project. Rhinebeck farmers Annlilita Larry Cihanek, who have 65 goats, rent out half a dozen of their Nubian dairy goats. In Bridgehampton, the goats will be fenced in on a few acres of the field at a time, where they will eat the unwanted vegetation.

The volunteers expect the goats to work their magic over the next three years, with the potential to be the long-term lawn care solution for this preserve. “We’re watching with real curiosity and anticipation. If it’s effective, absolutely, we’ll look at it in other contexts,” Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming told CBS News NY.

With the help of goats, the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt are hopeful they can manage the difficult to remove shrub, Elaeagnus umbellate, also known as Autumn Olive. Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, said that when her group first tackled the shrub, the property was completely overgrown. “There were 12-foot olive bushes…solid olives. It was a constant battle,” she said. Once the goats are finished grazing, native vegetation will be planted.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said to Newsday that, if the goats prove effective, the town might try using them for another job —eating the vegetation that grows around the fragile headstones in the town’s historic cemeteries. This would not be the first time goats are being used to protect gravesites. As a matter of fact, just last summer the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. employed over 100 goats to control the invasive species which threatened large mature trees, which can fall and damage headstones.

Goat grazing is sweeping the nation! Communities across the nation, from California, Colorado, and Chicago, to Carrboro, NC, have discovered that grazing goats is a great option for land that suffers from unwanted plants, low organic matter and soil compaction. If you are interested in learning more about how goats work to remove weeds and create a healthy, natural ecosystem, watch Beyond Pesticides board member and goat grazing pioneer Lani Malmberg’s talk from the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Ecological Land Management with Goats. For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes and Invasive Weed Management pages.

Sources: CBS New York, Newsday, Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt

Image Source: Green Goats

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



Oregon Counties Ban Planting of Genetically Engineered Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2014) Residents in two Oregon counties, Jackson and Josephine, voted to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of genetically engineered (GE) crops within the counties’ borders Tuesday. The Jackson County measure 15-119, passed with 66 percent of the vote, while Josephine County passed with 58 percent. As noted by Reuters, the newly approved measures mandate that people “harvest, destroy or remove all genetically engineered plants” no later than 12 months after the ordinances go into effect. This is great news for farmers of organic and non-genetically engineered crops, who constantly struggle with the threat of GE contamination.

Though there are less than 120,000 registered voters in Jackson County, the measure gained national attention due to the fact that opponents raised over $830,000 to advertise againstthe measure, with over 97% of the funding coming in from outside of the county, including over $450,000 from biotech giant Monsanto and five other corporations to defeat the initiative. For comparison, the previous county spending record on a ballot initiative was $111,000.

“We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live.

Though the ordinances were approved overwhelmingly, organizers expect the biotech industry and its backers in Congress to challenge this win. In fact, Oregon already passed a law last fall that says only the state can regulate seeds. The bill was pushed at the behest of out-of-state chemical companies, and is a model bill from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), previously introduced in other states. Jackson County’s proposal was already in the works so it was granted an exemption, however Josephine County will be challenged in court.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill in Congress that would prohibit states from implementing mandatory labeling laws by giving the authority to label GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Accurately dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” or DARK Act, HR 4432 it would also allow food companies to give products with GE ingredients the “natural” label, despite the fact that there is nothing natural about crops engineered in a lab to produce their own insecticide or tolerate dangerous herbicides.

GE crops pose serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased risk of infertility. Similarly, weed resistance has been documented in herbicide-tolerant crops. Furthermore, there is little evidence of the economic benefits that biotech companies claim.

Efforts to curb GE crop cultivation in the U.S. through all-out bans are few and far between, however many states have attempted to pass GE labeling laws. Vermont became the first successful state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of food containing GE ingredients. The bill does not contain a trigger provision similar to laws adopted in Maine and Connecticut –with a requirement that similar action is taken in contiguous states before the law goes into effect.

Beyond Pesticides continues to support the efforts of all farmers, counties, states, and countries to protect themselves against the unwanted invasion of GE crops and the risks that they bring to the environment and health. Please visit our Genetic Engineering webpage to learn more.

Source: Our Family Farms Coalition

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



Minnesota Bans Hazardous Antibacterial (Triclosan) in Consumer Personal Care Cleaning Products

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2014) The highly toxic and controversial antibacterial/antimicrobial pesticide triclosan has been banned from consumer personal care cleaning products in the state of Minnesota by an act of the state legislature. This public health measure, SF 2192, signed by the Governor last week, states that “no person shall offer for retail sale in Minnesota any cleaning product that that contains triclosan and is used by consumers for sanitizing or hand and body cleansing.” The ban, along with the growing number of companies voluntarily removing triclosan from their products, responds to the concerns that environmental groups, led by Beyond Pesticides, have expressed on the health and environmental impacts of triclosan, which includes cross-resistance to bacterial infections with antibiotics. Over the last week the Minnesota legislature has been on a roll in defending the environment and human health from the toxic effects of synthetic pesticides, including the enactment of labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers about bee-friendly plants. 

The triclosan ban legislation, which will take effect on January 1, 2017, was signed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on May 16, 2014 after it had passed both the House and Senate the week previously. One of the legislation’s lead sponsors, state Senator John Marty, predicted Monday that the odds are good that most manufacturers will phase out triclosan by then as a result of this effort and other marketplace pressure.

“While this is an effort to ban triclosan from one of the 50 states, I think it will have a greater impact than that,” Mr. Marty was quoted saying in a CBC news piece.

Minnesota has been a leader in the fight to remove triclosan from consumer products. In 2013, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that state agencies were ordered by Governor Dayton to stop buying products that contain triclosan. The administrative ban went into effect last June. The state government, about 100 school districts, and local governments together currently buy about $1 million worth of cleaning products annually through joint purchasing contracts.

These policy changes in Minnesota come after a recent study showed triclosan toxicants accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota. Scientists tested eight sediment samples from freshwater lakes across Minnesota, including Lake Superior and found triclosan in all of the sediment tested.

Triclosan has been used for over 30 years in the U.S., mostly in a medical setting, but more recently in consumer products. Its original uses were confined mostly to health care settings, having  been introduced as a surgical scrub in 1972. Over the last decade, there has been a rapid increase in the use of triclosan-containing consumer products. A marketplace study in 2000 by Eli Perencevich, M.D. and colleagues found that over 75% of liquid soaps and nearly 30% of bar soaps (45% of all the soaps on the market) contain some type of antibacterial agent. Triclosan is the most common agent found, and was discovered in nearly half of all commercial soaps. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human breast milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found triclosan to be present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004. Unaffected by this legislation are the extensive triclosan uses, under the name microban, in a wide range of consumer products made of plastic and textiles, from hair brushes, cutting boards, computer keyboard to socks and underwear. FDA has oversight over cosmetic (personal care cleaning) products containing triclosan and EPA has jurisdiction over non-cosmetic consumer products.

Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function.

Several companies have begun to phase out triclosan as the public becomes more aware of the health and environmental concerns that surround the chemical. Additionally, municipal utility districts have raised concerns because of equipment and cost associated with removing triclosan from community waste water.  Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for a couple years now. Avon joined these companies earlier in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it.  Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating.

Groups like Beyond Pesticides have been calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) for years to immediately ban triclosan from consumer products, citing endocrine disruption, and other human health concerns. Last December, FDA announced it will now require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective. The agency is accepting public comments until June 16, 2014. Submit your comment here.

EPA also published in 2013 a final rule to revise and update use patterns and data requirements for antimicrobial pesticides. The new rule has eleven new data requirements for these chemicals. Even though this rule points regulators in the right direction on further evaluations of antimicrobial pesticides, data gaps still remain. Earlier, Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch had petitioned FDA and EPA to ban triclosan from consumer products under their respective jurisdictions, arguing that there is sufficient data on hazards and exposure to warrant severe regulation restrictions.

Beyond Pesticides urges concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

See the Beyond Pesticides’ video, Triclosan 101, with Allison Aiello, PhD discussing the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, its efficacy, and potential health impacts as part of the Pesticides and Health Panel at “Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments,” Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31, 2012, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

For more general and background information, see Beyond Pesticides’ triclosan page.

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

Source: CBC News



Minnesota Passes Bill to Label Garden Plants for Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2014) In response to recent public concern over the use of bee-killing systemic insecticides in treated nursery plants, Minnesota has just passed labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers which plants are bee-friendly. The move follows a commitment by two Minnesota state agencies to study the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides, which —given mounting research implicating neonicotinoids in bee declines— beekeepers claim do not go far enough. Although the bill does not address agricultural neonicotinoid use, it is the first of its kind to ensure that nurseries keep tabs on the insecticides used on garden plants.

beeUnder the bill passed by Minnesota’s House and Senate last week, plants may not be labeled as beneficial to pollinators if they have been treated with detectible levels of systemic insecticides. Specifically, “A person may not label or advertise an annual plant, bedding plant, or other plant, plant material, or nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the annual plant, bedding plant, plant material, or nursery stock has been treated with and has a detectable level of systemic insecticide that: (1) has a pollinator protection box on the label; or (2) has a pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement in the environmental hazards section of the insecticide product label.” The bill is effective as of July 1, 2014.

In short, “Nurseries to stay in business will have to pay attention to this new strong consumer demand,” said University of Minnesota entomology professor and bee expert Marla Spivak, PhD.

Further, beekeeper compensation legislation, which is part of an omnibus finance bill, has also been passed in Minnesota. The bill creates an emergency response team to respond to honey bee losses that are suspected to be pesticide-related, and beekeepers will receive compensation for bee-kills caused by pesticide exposure.

One thing is for sure, bees and beekeepers are in dire need of protection from the effects of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Currently, neonicotinoid insecticides are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world and comprise about 25% of the global agrichemical market.

Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that as the plant grows the pesticide becomes incorporated into the plant. When honey bees and other pollinators forage and collect pollen or nectar, or drink from what are termed “guttation” (water) droplets emitted from neonicotinoid-incorporated crops, they are exposed to sublethal doses of the chemical. At this level, the pesticides don’t kill bees outright. Instead, they impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response. Indeed, studies have found that “near infinitesimal” exposures to neonicotinoids causes a reduction in the amount of pollen that bumblebees are able to collect for their colony.

The robust evidence of the wide ranging harm neonicotinoids cause to pollinators led the European Union to ban the use of these chemicals in agriculture for two years. Late last year, agrichemical giants Syngenta and Bayer announced that they would be suing the E.U. over its decision.

Here in the U.S., Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Save American’s Pollinators Act in 2013, which will suspend the use of neonicotinoids on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all of the available data, including field studies. Please tell your member of Congress to support the Save American’s Pollinator Act.

Take Action: Join Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign

Source: Minnesota Public Radio News

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




Pesticide Manufacturers Sued over Golf Course Superintendent’s Death

(Beyond Pesticides, May 20, 2014) Pittsburgh sportscaster Rich Walsh is suing multinational chemical companies after his father’s untimely death from cancer in 2009. According to a story from local Pittsburgh station WTAE, Mr. Walsh’s father, Tom Walsh, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2008, after a career as a golf course superintendent. “He loved golf. He loved working outside. He loved to take care of golf courses,” Rich told WTAE. Rich’s lawsuit was filed against Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, BASF, Syngenta, Dow Agroscience, Deere and Company, and John Deere Landscapes in 2010.

Genetic testing from Tom’s oncologist showed chromosomal alterations as a result of years of working with pesticides, the only chemicals Mr. Walsh ever worked with. Part of the log books he kept throughout his career included the pesticides he applied, which included the insecticides Dylox and Dursban, active ingredients trichlorfon and chlorpyrifos respectively, and the fungicides Daconil and Chipco, active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. All of these chemicals have been shown to be likely carcinogens, according to Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Gateway or Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. Chlorpyrifos, for instance, was banned for homeowner use back in 2001, but uses on agriculture and golf courses were allowed to continue despite objections from health and environmental advocates.

Chemical company comments to WTAE followed a familiar line of denial and obfuscation, with Monsanto stating, “The complaint provides no evidence or rationale for asserting that Monsanto products were in any way responsible for Mr. Walsh’s condition.” On Tom Walsh’s oncologists work, Bayer CropScience wrote in one document that, “On its face, that ‘methodology’ is at best, novel science, and, at worst, no science at all.”

Despite pesticide manufacturer statements, studies show that golf course superintendents are at particular risk from exposure to pesticides. A 1996 study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine titled “Proportionate mortality study of golf course superintendents” found elevated rates of a number of different types of cancer. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part B Critical Reviews titled “Carcinogenic and genotoxic potential of turf pesticides commonly used on golf courses” summarized that “There appears to be convincing in vitro and in vivo laboratory and epidemiological evidence to support the claim that under certain circumstances, iprodione, chlorothalonil, PMA, and 2,4-D have been associated with cancer in humans and animals.”

Beyond Pesticides’ executive director Jay Feldman was interviewed by WTAE, and noted on pesticide manufacturer’s allegations that, “When you call these types of conclusions junk science then you’re basically ignoring the body of scientific literature. You see incredible connections between brain cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, with a lot of these chemicals that are used in turf management.”

Mr. Walsh notes that his father took the proper precautions, including wearing the required personal protective equipment, around the pesticides he used. “You do what the chemical companies tell you to do but it still didn’t save my dad’s life,” he said to WTAE. Under current statutes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows a certain amount of risk, which they deem “reasonable,” even when pesticide labels are followed as directed. The interpretation of what risk is “reasonable” varies considerably. EPA will often deem a cancer risk of one in a million as “acceptable,” but may sometimes allow risks of one in 10,000. The difference in orders of magnitude means the difference between 300 cancer cases and 30,000 cancer cases from a single pesticide nationwide.

In light of these concerning statistics and rising awareness of the hazards associated with pesticide use in golf, many courses in Pittsburgh and across the country are transitioning to organic practices. Rich Walsh now owns one of the courses employing safer, organic methods of turf maintenance in his Rolling Fields golf course located in Murrysville, PA. Rich told WTAE that he hopes something positive will come from the lawsuit. When asked whether he was trying to send a message with his lawsuit, Rich responded, “Yeah. I don’t know if one person can do it but I’m going to try.”

Beyond Pesticides receives calls every day from people across the country, including families like The Frandsen’s of Utah, who associate serious health issues with pesticide exposure. Those affected can fill out a pesticide incident report form and send it in to Beyond Pesticides by mail at 701 E St SE Washington DC 20003 or email at info@beyondpesticides.org.

For more information on the hazards associated with pesticide use on golf courses and the trend towards organic practices, see Beyond Pesticides’ Golf and the Environment program page. There you can read about another poisoned golf course worker, Steve Herzog, who spoke out in summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You on long-term contamination at the golf course where he worked as a groundskeeper. You can also read the interview with Beyond Pesticides’ executive director Jay Feldman in Golf Digest, titled “How Green is Golf?”

 Source: WTAE Pittsburgh Local 4 News



Videos Offer Tools for Protecting Health and the Environment, Advancing Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2014) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce that videos from Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, held April 11-12, 2014 in Portland, OR are now available to view online! The Forum, convened by Beyond Pesticides, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and co-sponsored by local and regional organizations in the Pacific Northwest, brought together a diverse range of expertise to share the latest science and organic management techniques as the basis for urging action in communities and states. The videos cover the range of topics that were discussed at the Forum and include keynote speeches, panel discussions, and workshops. You can access the playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2014 forum, as well as previous years, on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

Notable presentations include:

Cultivating an Ecological Conscience, by Fred Kirschenmann. Dr. Kirschenmann is a longtime leader in sustainable agriculture, and was recently named as one of the first ten James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards which recognizes visionaries in creating more healthful, more sustainable, and safer food systems. He currently serves as both a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and as President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. An author, fellow and soil scientist, he also helps manage his family’s 2600 acre organic farm in south central North Dakota.

Ecological Land Management with Goats by Lani Malmberg, who is a self-proclaimed “gypsy” goat herder, has spent her life working with goats that provide non-toxic noxious weed control, simultaneously reducing tinder for fires and building soil nutrients through fertilization. Owner of the goat grazing business Ewe4ic Ecological Services based in Lander, Wyoming, and long-time Beyond Pesticides board member, Ms. Malmberg has been working toward organic land management practices through goat herding since 1997 when she bought her first hundred head of cashmere goats. Now she has more than 2,000 head of goats and has had federal contracts with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Rise of Systemic Insecticides: What does it mean for agriculture, pollinators, and the environment at large? by Pierre Mineau, PhD, principal senior scientist at Pierre Mineau Consulting, Ottawa, Canada. Dr. Mineau is a world renowned environmental toxicologist who co-wrote the report,The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds.

Protecting Children from Pesticide Exposure, by James Roberts, MD, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ landmark policy statement and report on the effects of pesticide exposure in children. Dr. Roberts is professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, SC.

Also included are several workshops, including, Organic Land Management: Practical tools and techniques, Pesticides and Health: An In-depth Discussion, Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture, and Protecting the Watershed. Be sure to visit the full playlist to see the rest of the videos.

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

The playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2014 Forum, as well as previous conferences are available on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

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



Consumers Continue to Demand More Organics

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2014) A survey by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) finds that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace. A growing organic sector is important as it creates healthier options for consumers, better working conditions for farmworkers, and more sustainable environment. As organic continues to grow it is important to maintain our high organic standards to maintain consumer trust in the organic label.

According to the survey sales of organic products in the United States jumped to $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from the previous year’s $31.5 billion and the fastest growth rate in five years.  The survey also projects that growth rates over the next two years will at least keep pace with the 2013 clip and even slightly exceed it.

Sales of non-food organic products, at almost $2.8 billion, have jumped nearly eight-fold since 2002, and have almost doubled in market share. The growth rate of organic food sales, which has averaged almost 10% every year since 2010, has dwarfed the average annual growth of just over 3% in total food sales during that same period and now makes up 4 percent of the $760 annually spent on food. The fruit and vegetable category continues to lead the sector with $11.6 billion in sales, up 15%. With more than 10% of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now organic.

A growing organic sector is important for giving consumers healthier food to buy and for creating a safer work place for agricultural workers. An American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recent report on organic foods found that organic foods do provide health advantages by way of reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus.

Pesticides used in chemically intense agriculture also affect the health of farmworkers. Farmworkers, both pesticide applicators and fieldworkers who tend to and harvest the crops, come into frequent contact with pesticides. Their families and children are then exposed to these pesticides through contact with them and their clothing. Pregnant women working in the fields unwittingly expose their unborn babies to toxic pesticides. Organic agriculture does not utilize these toxic chemicals and thus eliminates this enormous health hazard to workers, their families, and their communities.

Organic agriculture also leads to a stronger environment. Recently, the Rodale Institute published a white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, which finds it is possible to sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which are referred to in the paper as “regenerative organic agriculture.”

It is important to protect the benefits that organic agriculture can provide by fighting to keep organic standards strong. During the recent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting several victories were won to maintain strong organic standards. During the meeting the board voted to uphold the phase out in apple and pear production of the antibiotic streptomycin, which is set to expire on October 21, 2014. The board also decided to send back to the Livestock Subcommittee a proposal to increase flexibility in the amount of methionine allowed in organic poultry production without an assurance that methionine will be reevaluated in five years under a standard as rigorous as the petition process. Those blocking the proposed methionine standard want a five-year expiration annotation attached to the proposal.

However, USDA in September announced dramatic changes to the process that governs organic standards and the review of allowable materials in organic production, as overseen by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) under the Organic Foods Production Act. Consumer and environmental groups have said that the new procedures create less rigorous review requirements, weakening the policies that have been in place for over 15 years and adopted by USDA without any public input or consultation with the NOSB. Take action to ensure a strong organic program and increasing public trust in the organic food label by logging on to Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page and following the suggested steps.

Source: OTA

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



USDA Advances Biological Controls for Citrus Greening Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2014) Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is broadening the use of tiny parasitic wasps, Tamarixia Radiata, to combat the rampant problem of Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, which has killed thousands of orange trees in Florida. The citrus industry is valued at $2 billion dollars. Citrus greening is an incurable disease that is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. Symptoms of this disease include yellow shoots, uneven discolored patches, and deficiencies with chlorophyll production. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found within plants. It is extremely important for photosynthesis, which allows plants to absorb energy from the sun. The disease is usually found in warmer climates like Asia, India and the Saudi Arabian Peninsula; however, it made its way to Florida in 1998 and is now endangering California’s citrus industry.

USDA has already committed to provide $1.5 million dollars to the T. radiata breeding and release program in California, Texas, and Florida. Congress has also allocated more than $125 million dollars over the next five years to fund more research on containing the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid. Although the psyllids do not directly kill citrus trees, they are carriers of the disease, Huanglongbing. Alarmingly, these pests are being found more and more in prime citrus-growing areas, which could seriously harm California’s citrus industry, responsible for around 80% of fresh citrus fruit in the U.S.

“Citrus greening poses a significant threat to the citrus industry and the thousands of jobs that depend on it. It could also further drive up fruit and juice prices if we don’t act,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is committed to fighting and beating this destructive disease.”

In addition to threatening the citrus industry, the disease has caused significant difficultly between beekeepers and citrus farmers  who are combating the spread of the psyllid with toxic chemicals. Local beekeepers are worried over the increasing use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides, and citrus growers are concerned about the increasing population of Asian citrus psyllids. In September of last year, there was an organized meeting that brought together the Florida Agriculture Commissioner, a former U.S. Congressman, a citrus farmer, and beekeepers. Communication is a vital piece of this process, since beekeepers and citrus farmers rely on each other. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating several different types of citrus fruit, and they also forage within those same areas. While the Florida meeting focused on the accidental spraying of foraging bees, it did not address the systemic nature of neoncotinoid insecticides, which are taken up by the plants’ vascular system and are expressed in contaminated pollen and nectar. Clothianidin, a neoncotinoid, can last up to 19 years in the soil according to a recent study.

Fortunately, the use of these harmful pesticides are unnecessary, as biological agents. such as parasitic wasps, are proven effective. The wasps curb pysllid populations by laying their eggs inside the psyllid nymph’s stomach. As the eggs hatch, larvae slowly eats away at the nymph. This non-toxic, biological approach eliminates the use of lethal pesticides. Additionally, farm operations that are USDA certified organic already avoid the use of toxic chemicals by implementing organic systems plans that can include biological pest management.

To learn more about the policies and management strategies of organic agriculture, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page.

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

Source: The Los Angeles Times






Sewage Sludge (Biosolids) Contaminants Move to Groundwater

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2014) New research conducted in Colorado by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) that examines contaminant transport of biosolids —otherwise known as sewage sludge— in soils, has found that the toxic fertilizer can leave traces of household chemicals, antibacterial, and prescription drugs. The research adds to existing evidence of the hazards of sewage sludge fertilizer by demonstrating that chemical contaminants are sufficiently mobile and persistent that they can easily be transported to groundwater, with implication for local drinking water.

The study, entitled Dissipation of Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Biosolids Applied to Nonirrigated Farmland in Eastern Colorado, sampled regional wheat fields treated with sewage sludge processed in a nearby sewage treatment plant in order to determine contaminant levels and transport in soils. Researchers tested for a total of 57 contaminants of emerging concerns—chemicals that are increasingly being discovered in waters. Tests found chemicals ranging from antibacterial soaps, chemical cleaners, cosmetics, fragrances, and prescription drugs, such as the antidepressant Prozac and the blood thinner Warfarin, which had migrated down the soil column. In fact, 10 of the chemicals examined migrated to depths of 7 to 50 inches over 18 months after treated sewage sludge was applied.

“These compounds are not sitting in top layer, we see vertical movement down through the soil, which means there’s the potential to get into the environment – groundwater or surface water,” said USGS research hydrologist Dana Kolpin, Ph.D.

Previous research has already established the presence of contaminants in sewage sludge ranging from hormones, detergents, fragrances, drugs, disinfectants and plasticizers —chemicals which are not eliminated during sewage treatment. However, USGS research provides further evidence of their persistence and mobility in the soil, never before been demonstrated.

“These are compounds that often come from us and that get sent to wastewater treatment plants that weren’t designed to remove them,” said lead author and hydrologist Tracy Yager, Ph.D.

Of all the chemicals tested, triclosan —an antibacterial compound added to soaps, toothpastes, body washes and cosmetics— was found at the highest concentrations in deeper soils, reaching 156 parts per billion in 7 to 14 inches of soil. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase risk for breast cancer. Triclosan is also shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in fish, umbilical cord blood, and human milk. Only recently has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule that requires manufacturers to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and effective.

Meanwhile, as farmers in arid regions increasingly turn to sewage sludge for fertilizer, the study gives significant cause for alarm as the majority of Colorado residents get part of their drinking water from private wells which are not treated or routinely monitored for contaminants.

USGS chemist and coauthor of the study, Edward Furlong, Ph.D., commented, “We’re not telling anyone what they should do, but this study gives farmers some information about what some of the impacts could be.”

The only surefire way to avoid food grown with biosolids is to buy USDA organic certified product. On your lawn and garden be sure to scrutinize any lawn fertilizers which claim to be “organic” or “natural” but list ingredients such as “biosolids,” “dried microbes,” or “activated sewage sludge.” For more information on the hazards of biosolids read Beyond Pesticides’ Biosolids or Biohazards?

Sources: Environmental Health News, Journal of the American Water Resources Association

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



Fish and Wildlife Service Adopts Biological Mosquito Management

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2014) After pressure from environmental organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) dropped plans to spray the synthetic insecticide methoprene in favor of a biological control material to kill mosquitoes breeding on a national wildlife refuge on the southern Oregon Coast. Several states have banned methoprene due to the chemical’s environmental impacts. The unfolding of this decision illustrates that least-toxic alternatives to manage mosquitos are effective and much safer for the environment.

A major restoration at the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 2011 inadvertently created a number of shallow water pools, a perfect habitat for mosquito larvae. Unprecedented swarms of mosquitoes appeared last year, which drove away campers from Bullards Beach State Park and harassed golfers at local courses. FWS did not take into account that this restoration project could create mosquito habitat and initially released a plan to manage mosquitos with methoprene and mineral oil.

The insect conservation group Xerces Society, the Center for Food Safety, and others urged the agency to reconsider, arguing the pesticides were a threat to the food chain and the mosquitoes, Aedes dorsalis, did not spread human diseases such as West Nile virus. In a supplemental environmental assessment last month, the agency agreed to use the biological pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, known as Bti.

“After evaluating public comments … and discussion with mosquito experts, the Service determined that using Bti will effectively control mosquitoes on the Ni-les’tun Unit while posing a low risk to wildlife, their habitats, and the human environment,” FWS said in a statement.

Methoprene is an insect growth regulator that prevents development to the adult reproductive stages so that insects die in arrested immaturity. It is an insecticide that is acutely toxic to estuarine invertebrates, including valuable food and commercial species like crabs and lobsters. Methoprene has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the ocean water, where crabs and lobsters live and feed. Additionally, lobsters are a distant cousin of mosquitoes, and the methoprene acts on them in much the same way that it does the insects.

Some states have limited the use of methoprene because of its toxic effects on aquatic life. Last summer Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law House Bill 6441, which banned methoprene and resmethrin in coastal areas such as the Long Island Sound.  Declines in the Sound’s lobster population have been alarmingly common for the past 15 years, devastating fishermen and the local economy that depends on them. Connecticut legislators say that they were convinced that banning the two mosquito pesticides after learning that Rhode Island and Massachusetts had enacted similar bans with successful results. A similar bill to ban the use of methoprene was also introduced in Sufolk County, New York last summer.

As mosquito season begins again, take action in your community to advocate for safer and effective options in dealing with mosquitoes and insect-borne diseases. The ideal mosquito management strategy eschews chemical controls like methoprene, and employs an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Beyond Pesticides advises communities to adopt a preventive, health-based mosquito management plan, and has several resource publications on the issue, including the Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy: For Decision Makers and Communities. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ West Nile Virus/Mosquito Management for more details.

Source: The Register-Guard

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