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Legacy of DDT Still Poisoning Birds and People in Michigan

(Beyond Pesticides, August 7, 2014) Residents of St. Louis, Michigan aren’t used to seeing large excavators and dump trucks haul piles of dirt from their front yards or entire blocks of big, neighborhood trees felled. What they are used to seeing are dead birds —sometimes even spontaneous, mid-flight deaths of the birds— and because of a toxic series of events, disasters, and delays spanning decades, the two sights are inextricably connected.http://cmsimg.freep.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?NewTbl=1&Site=C4&Date=20140802&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=308020116&Ref=PH&Item=7&Maxw=620&Maxh=465&q=90

As one St. Louis resident described to the Detroit Free Press, dozens of dead robins and blackbirds had been collected from her backyard in the 18 years she has lived there, with the most recent just a couple weeks ago. This experience and other similar stories from the area prompted researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) to start figuratively and literally digging.

Matt Zwiernik, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at MSU, and volunteers collected 29 dead birds, including 22 robins, last year from a nine-block residential area in St. Louis. The scientific sampling was only a small portion of the dead birds they could have collected, Dr. Zwiernik explained to reporters at the Detroit Free Press, as time, distance, logistics, and access to property sometimes limited collection efforts. Nevertheless, it was enough to show some alarming results.

Forensic study of the bird carcasses reveal brain and liver abnormalities in 12 of the 29 birds, and the mean total level of DDT or its breakdown components in the collected robins’ brains was 552 parts per million — some of the greatest concentrations ever recorded in wild birds, Zwiernik said. To put it in perspective, thirty parts per million of DDT are known to cause death in many bird species. In the case of the St. Louis birds, sudden death was from feeding on contaminated worms, grubs and insects, poisoned by the area’s DDT-tainted soils.

DDT is an organochlorine pesticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972 due to its persistent and highly toxic nature. DDT was widely used to control mosquitoes for malaria abatement, and in agriculture. Despite the fact that DDT was banned in the U.S. 40 years ago, concentrations of this toxic chemical’s major metabolite, DDE, have remained alarmingly high in many ecosystems, including surface waters, the Arctic, and even U.S. national parks. This is because DDT/DDE are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, and biomagnify in food chains, as seen in the St. Louis birds.

Of course, unlike the many instances of DDT contamination and poisoning in humans and wildlife, the researchers and residents in St. Louis knew exactly where to look for the source of the DDT —the nearby former Velsicol Chemical factory and superfund site. According to EPA, the Velsicol Chemical Corp. (formerly the Michigan Chemical Corp.) produced various chemical compounds and products at its 54-acre main plant site in St. Louis, Michigan, from 1936 until 1978. To address contamination discovered at the former plant site (after a catastrophic plant error mixed thousands of pounds of another toxic chemical—polybrominated biphenyl (PBB))—into lifestock feed), a consent judgment was entered into by Velsicol, EPA and the State of Michigan in 1982.

Because the Pine River borders the former main plant site on three sides and was known to also be significantly contaminated, part of the settlement involved Velsicol’s agreement to construct a slurry wall around the former plant site and put a clay cap over it. The river sediment pollution was addressed at that time by the State of Michigan, which issued a no-consumption advisory for all species of fish in the Pine River. The fish advisory remains in effect today.

But despite the $100 clean-up efforts targeting the water contamination, 2006 testing revealed that soil and water remained contaminated. This in addition to the remaining clean-up efforts still needed at the factory site itself and in the surrounding soil. More studies ensued, with an eventual Feasibility Study issued in 2011 and June 2012 Record of Decision that included clean-up of residential areas and a comprehensive clean-up of the main plant sit.

To add insult to injury, because of Velsicol’s declaration of bankruptcy in 1982, its consent decree only required a contribution of $20 million to the clean-up effort —the remainder of the economic burden, past and future, being born by federal and state taxpayers.

Even more disturbing than the dead birds, dug up neighborhoods, and dumped economic responsibilities that span decades are the unaccounted for health impacts of DDT and other chemicals on the residents of the neighborhood. Organochlorines like DDT have been linked to a number of adverse effects to human health, including birth defects, breast cancer and autism. DDT has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and diabetes.

The severe delays and deficiencies in the federal and state toxic contamination clean-up process highlight the need for better precautionary measures and stricter health, environmental, and safety standards to be imposed before chemicals enter the homes, gardens, and air that surrounds us. Supporting organic systems and calling on the EPA and Congress to improve risk assessment frameworks are just a few of the steps you can take to avoid experiences like the one in St. Louis. Visit our website to learn more about pesticide impacts and what can be done to stop them before they happen!

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

Source: Detroit Free Press

Image: Romain Blanquart/ Detroit Free Press. The EPA loads waste soil after excavating it from around properties contaminated with the pesticide dichlorodiphenyl trichlorethane (DDT) that stand close to the former Velsicol Chemical Corp. on Center Street in St. Louis.



Minnesota City Passes “Bee-Safe” Policy

(Beyond Pesticides, August 6, 2014) Shorewood, Minnesota has become the first city in the state, and the third city in the nation to pass a bee friendly policy. The city council unanimously approved a “bee-safe” resolution that encourages planting bee-friendly flowers and restricts the bee-killing pesticides, neonicotinoids. The city has already begun planting clover, which will provide nectar and pollen forage for bees in city parks.

Anneliese Markle1A group of Shorewood residents, concerned over reports of bee decline, came together to ensure that bees in their community have access to healthy forage and habitat. In a prime example of grassroots activism, the group urged their neighbors to plant pollinator-friendly plants, and to take care of lawns without using products harmful to bees. The resolution, passed last week, encourages the use of bee-safe processes in parks, education to residents on bee and pollinator safety, and other bee safe practices. Neonicotinoids, the class of chemicals identified as playing a major role in bee decline across the globe, have been banned from city property. While the city itself has not been using neonicotinoids, Mayor Scott Zerby says the policy ensures that the city does not use the chemicals in the future. The Minneapolis suburb is also planting clover, which can provide nectar and pollen for bees, in three city parks.

“This should be exciting for Minnesota,” said Patricia Hauser, a resident who pushed for the policy. “This is a big win for pollinators and bees.”

Community Activism

Patricia Hauser and her husband, hobby beekeepers, galvanized into action after noticing their bees were dying. In January, they started the group Humming for Bees. Since then, they have been actively engaging their community on the importance of bees and the factors affecting their decline. At churches, schools, farmers markets, nature centers and neighborhoods, they spread the word about the bees’ plight and how people can help. Now, the group is paying for, planting and watering clover seeds in vacant areas of Cathcart, Freeman and South Shore parks.

Earlier this year, Shorewood city leaders sent a letter of support to the state Legislature to pass the law forbidding nurseries from putting “bee-friendly” labels on plants containing neonicotinoids. In May, the bill – HF 2798 – was passed by Minnesota’s House and Senate stipulating that plants may not be labeled as beneficial to pollinators if they have been treated with detectible levels of systemic insecticides. In similar action, beekeepers in Minnesota this year have also called on the state’s Department of Agriculture to suspend the use of corn seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, citing the contamination of flowers and plants from field dust which leads to the poisoning of honey bees.

Shorewood follows the City of Eugene, Oregon which became the first community in the nation to specifically ban from city property the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, citing recent research demonstrating a link between pesticides that contain neonicotinoids and the loss of plant pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects. This action was driven by several bee-kill incidents that occurred in Oregon last summer, including one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees after a licensed pesticide applicator sprayed blooming linden trees, a violation of the pesticide label.

In June, the city of Spokane, WA voted to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids on city property, making Spokane the second in the nation to take action to protect pollinators. According to legislators, the ban is part of an undertaking to implement environmentally sustainable initiatives at City Hall. Other communities like the Melody-Catalpa neighborhood of Boulder became the first “bee-safe” locality in Colorado this past June, pledging to not use neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides in the community.

In Congress, Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is gaining support in the House. The bill aims to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of the scientific evidence has been conducted that demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Get your Representative to support this bill!

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and dinotefuran, are widely used as a seed coating on agricultural crops, and in home and garden products applied to flowering plants and vegetables. Studies have found that bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides through pollen and nectar, as well as via contaminated soil, dust, and water. They have also been shown to impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to maintain a healthy immune system. Most recently, a Harvard School of Public Health study, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, shows two widely used neonicotinoids appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. Read the report No longer a Big Mystery.

Like the Hausers, you too can become a community activist and transform your community into one that supports bees and other pollinators, as well as encouraging your local leaders to pass bee-friendly policies. For more information, contact Beyond Pesticides. For more on pollinator protection efforts and what you can do in your community, visit BEE Protective. Also, sign the pledge to BEE Protective.

Source: Minnesota Star Tribune




Banned Pesticide DDT with Lingering Residues Again Linked to Obesity and Diabetes

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2014) A new study finds that female mice exposed in utero to the pesticide DDT are at greater risk for obesity and type-2 diabetes, adding to a growing body of literature linking metabolic diseases to pesticide exposure.

The study, titled Perinatal Exposure of Mice to the Pesticide DDT Impairs Energy Expenditure and Metabolism in Adult Female Offspring, was published in the journal PLoS One. Researchers measure and compare metabolic abnormalities in female mice that were exposed in utero to DDT against a control group of those that were unexposed. After exposure, the two groups were then fed high-fat diets for 12 weeks in adulthood. Females exposed to DDT around the time of their birth were more likely to develop insulin sensitivity, glucose intolerance, high cholesterol, and metabolic complications that could result in liver disease.

DDTnameThese results suggest that DDT exposure in and around the time of gestation cultivates conditions that increase an individual’s likelihood of accumulating excess fat over the course of one’s lifespan. Additionally, the results find that changes in the way fats and carbohydrates are metabolized can increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor to type-2 diabetes.

The researchers’ observations also have other significant implications: the effects of early DDT exposure may not show up until much later in life, signaling a delay between cause and effect. Researchers initially noted subtle differences in DDT-exposed females in young adulthood –they had slightly lower core temperatures than their non-exposed counterparts and appeared to expend fewer calories as a result of their daily activities. Exposed female mice were slightly heavier and carried a bit more fat as young adults, or about two to five months after birth. Clearer signs did not appear until the DDT-exposed female mice reached six months of age. Researchers found impaired glucose tolerance, fasting glucose, insulin, and lipid levels in this group of mice. Furthermore, when the exposed and unexposed mice were put on a high-fat diet at six months, their weight and metabolic health diverged significantly.

DDT is also associated with multi-generational effects. A study published last year in the journal BMC Medicine found that the third generation of pregnant rats injected with DDT, while there was no change in obesity levels in their offspring, exhibited dramatically higher levels of fat and weight gain despite not being directly exposed to the pesticide themselves. “Here is an ancestral exposure in your great-grandmother, which is passed on to you and you’re going to pass on to your grandchildren,” said Michael Skinner, Ph.D., a professor of biological sciences at Washington State University who led the research. More recently, Dr. Skinner’s laboratory found that gestating rats exposed to the pesticide methoxychlor develop a higher incidence of kidney disease, ovary disease, and obesity in offspring spanning three generations, with the incidence of multiple diseases increasing in the third generation (the “great-grandchildren”) of the originally exposed rats. Methoxychlor, an organochlorine compound that was eventually cancelled in 2003, was initially developed as a “safer” replacement for DDT. Methoxychlor is similar to the hormone estrogen and profoundly affects the reproductive system. It is also listed as a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. PBT chemicals are of particular concern not only because they are toxic, but also because they remain in the environment for long periods of time, are not readily destroyed, and build up or accumulate in body tissue.

DDT was widely used in the United States and Europe to control mosquitoes and other insects carrying malaria, polio, and typhus from the late 1940s until 1972, the year it was banned. Although evidence of toxicity to the environment and health led the U.S. to ban its use, DDT is still used in some less-developed countries to control malaria. In addition to its toxicity, DDT is greatly persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment; in fact, it has been found in large amounts in areas like the San Francisco Bay canal where the chemical is still poisoning fish and posing a threat to human health despite cleanup attempts. EPA has classified DDT and its breakdown products DDE and DDD as PBT pollutants.

Although DDT is not hypothesized to be the sole contributor to the current obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US and other parts of the world, it is just one of many possible environmental factors, along with flame retardants and bisphenol A (BPA), that have been linked to growing incidence rates over the past few decades. Other pesticides, like the aforementioned methoxychlor, tributyltin, and hexachlorobenzene, for example, also are correlated with these diseases. These chemicals and many others are considered to be endocrine disruptors, or chemicals that interact with the body’s endocrine system and have the ability to affect the development (including sexual development), growth, reproduction, and behavior of both animals and humans. As a result, endocrine disruption is the mechanism for several health effect endpoints. More than 50 pesticide active ingredients have been identified as endocrine disruptors by the European Union and endocrine disruptor expert Theo Colborn, Ph.D, founder and president emeritus of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX).

Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database is a great resource for additional scientific literature that documents elevated rates of diabetes as well as other chronic diseases and illnesses among people exposed to pesticides.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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




House Votes to Roll Back Protections from Pesticides Put in Nation’s Waters

(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2014) The Clean Water Act (CWA) provides critical safeguards for our nation’s waterways, with the goal of fishable and swimmable waters for all residents of the United States. Last Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to strip away an important part of these protections concerning pesticides applied directly to U.S. waters. The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013 (HR 935) would reverse a 2009 ruling in National Cotton Council v. EPA that requires CWA permits for pesticide users who spray over waterways. After failing in a vote under a suspension of the rules last Monday, the House took the bill back up and passed it 267-161.

“This is a good bill that reduces burdensome regulations without rolling back any environmental safeguards,” said U.S. Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill’s sponsor, to The Hill. Unfortunately, Rep. Gibb’s statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. Under the deceptive title of “Reducing Regulatory Burdens,” this bill would instead eliminate critical CWA protections. “This legislation will undermine one of our nation’s most successful environmental laws, the Clean Water Act, in limiting the potential contamination of our nation’s waters by pesticides. All this would do is make it harder to locate the sources of pesticide contamination in our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams and make accountability for these discharges even more difficult,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD). However, hope for the bill’s ultimate defeat remains, as the Burlington Free Press indicates that it is unlikely to advance through the Senate.

spraypondIf passed, The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013 would:
(1) undermine federal authority to protect U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act,
(2) allow the spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight,
(3) not reduce claimed burdens to farmers since there is no burden as there is no real economic cost and agricultural activities are exempt, and
(4) contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life.

The CWA general permit lets authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed, so that the public may know what chemicals are used in their waterways and the potential dangers to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Existing pesticide regulations under the Federal Insecticide Rodenticide and Fungicide Act (FIFRA) do not achieve these protections and most agricultural pesticide applications are exempt from CWA permit requirements. Permits do not prevent applicators from using pesticides, especially for public health emergencies. The permits do require applicators to record their pesticide applications and monitor application sites for any adverse incidents, which must be reported. For many states the cost of the permit is as low as $25. The myth that the CWA permits for pesticide discharges near waterways are burdensome for farmers has not been substantiated. Read Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit.

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. The potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is being ignored by opponents of CWA regulation. The reality is that this permitting process encourages pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. This is underscored by the recent federal report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) which finds that 83 percent of streams in agricultural and urban areas contain at least one aquatic community that was altered notably as a result of runoff from pesticides and contaminants. Previous USGS reports have documented pesticides and fertilizers in U.S. streams and drinking water. Herbicides like atrazine, metalachlor, and simizine are among those often found in surface waters of 186 rivers and streams sampled by USGS since the early 1990s, and are highly correlated with the presence of upstream wastewater sources or upstream agricultural and urban land use. Given this data and the vast knowledge that we have on organic pest management and non-chemical solutions, HR. 935 would be a disastrous step backwards.

Additionally, many believe that FIFRA sufficiently regulates pesticide use near waterways, but data shows this to be inaccurate, given the prevalence of surface and ground water contamination routinely detected in the nation’s streams, as well as numerous incidents of adverse ecological findings.  Furthermore, FIFRA and CWA have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. CWA uses a health-based standard to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, whereas FIFRA uses a highly generalized risk assessment that identifies risk and assumes benefits (except in the case of public health pesticide uses). The result is the allowance of a certain amount of pollution (i.e. harm) without consideration of the availability of safer alternatives.

For more information about pesticide permits and the importance of Clean Water Act protections, read our factsheet, Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit and visit our Threatened Waters page.

Source: Cleveland.com, The Hill



National Refuges to Ban GE Crops and Bee-Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2014) In a huge victory for environmental protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will phase out the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops to feed wildlife and ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. The FWS decision, announced via internal memoranda July 17 and obtained by Center for Food Safety (CFS), follows a longstanding grassroots, legal, and policy campaign by CFS, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and joined by Beyond Pesticides, to end the harmful practices. This announcement builds on the recently announced decision to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides, linked to the decline of pollinator health, from refuges in the Pacific Region. FWS is the first federal agency to restrict the use of GE crops in farming in the U.S. and the use of neonicotinoids based on a precautionary policy.

fishandwildlifeservice-logo“We have demonstrated our ability to successfully accomplish refuge purposes over the past two years without using genetically modified crops, therefore, it is no longer possible to say that their use is essential to meet wildlife management objectives. We will no longer use genetically modified crops to meet wildlife management objectives System-wide,” wrote National Wildlife Refuge System Chief James Kurth in the memorandum. On the issue of the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, Mr. Kurth continued, “We have determined that prophylactic use, such as a seed treatment, of the neonicotinoid  pesticides that can distribute systemically in a plant and can potentially affect a broad spectrum of non-target species is not consistent with Service policy. We make this decision based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices and not on agricultural practices.” In the context of an agricultural use of neonicotinoids, FWS notes that it will conduct a review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires and alternatives assessment. Certified organic agriculture does not allow the use of neonicotinoids.

“The FWS decision represents an important and responsible departure from EPA’s decision to allow the widespread use of neonicotinoids despite the non-target effects to managed and wild bees and other beneficial organisms,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides, CFS and PEER have long urged FWS to prohibit the practice nationally. From 2005-2014, the groups filed five lawsuits, two legal petitions, and countless administrative actions, with resulting judicial decisions concluding that the allowance of GE crops on refuges violated environmental laws in multiple refuge regions across the country.

Despite the fact that these GE crops and neonicotinoid pesticides often interfere with the protection of wildlife that the national refuge system is designed to protect, these harmful practices are often used. Scientists warn that the use of GE crops can lead to increased pesticide use on refuges, negatively effecting birds, aquatic animals, and other wildlife. And a vast spectrum of recent scientific findings has implicated neonicotinoids in pollinator declines and ecosystem harm. A recent report from a sister agency to the FWS, the U.S. Geological Survey, found widespread contamination of neonicotinoids in surface waters throughout the Midwest.

The Department of Interior is aiming to phase out the use of neonicotinoids and genetically modified crops on federal wildlife refuge lands, finding that neither technology contributes to wildlife objectives and as a result should be restricted. Both practices will be phased out by January 2016, James Kurth, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, said in the memo. The department will identify areas of agricultural production on its lands that should be restored to native habitats, an effort intended to fall in line with a plan to reduce the carbon foot print of the system, he says.

“We are gratified that the Fish and Wildlife Service has finally concluded that industrial agriculture, with GE crops and powerful pesticides, is both bad for wildlife and inappropriate on refuge lands,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Since refuges have already demonstrated that they do not need these practices, we would urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to make the ban immediate, not wait until 2016, and to eliminate the loopholes in its new policy.”

For nearly 10 years, Beyond Pesticides has joined CFS and PEER to campaign against GE crops and pesticide use on refuges. In March 2009, CFS and PEER won a lawsuit, filed in 2006, halting GE plantings on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. In 2011, the groups forced a legal settlement ending GE planting on refuges throughout the 12-state Northeast Region. In 2012, a federal court formally halted the planting of GE crops on all National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeastern U.S. as well as ordered steps to mitigate environmental damage from their previous illegal cultivation. The groups have also petitioned FWS to prohibit GE Crops nationally twice and to prohibit neonicotinoid pesticides on refuges once. The Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Pesticides co-signed the second legal petition, filed in February of this year.

CFS, PEER, Beyond Pesticides, and Sierra Club are currently litigating FWS’s allowance of industrial agriculture practices on Midwest Wildlife Refuges. This recent FWS announcement includes a partial GE phase out by January 2016, only allowing GE crops for habitat restoration. The groups maintain that the phase out is not adequately comprehensive and continue to advocate the FWS must take stronger measures.

For information on what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign information.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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




Research Shows Invertebrates and Common Marine Birds in Serious Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2014) Scientific researchers on opposite sides of the globe are coming to the same startling conclusion concerning very different species: what was once abundant is no longer and slipping away at drastic rates.

Common Declines1stJoshuaSpiesLongtailedDuck033_jpg

In the Pacific Northwest, a partnership of government scientists and environmental organizations have taken to the water to collect data on populations of certain species of marine birds. Unlike most research that focuses on threatened or endangered species, however, this census targets birds like marbled murrelets, common murres, and long-tailed ducks —thought to be commonplace and abundant.

Thoughts have changed. Population counts from 2014 show these “common” species are in decline, and in several cases, steep decline. For example, population counts for the common loon have decreased from 1978/1979 by 64 percent, scoters by 77 percent, long-tailed ducks by 94 percent and western grebes by a scary 99 percent. Other species in general decline include the marbled murrelet, common murre, and glaucous-winged gull.

On a different continent, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conducted a wide swath of international scientific research and advocacy efforts targeting environmental and species monitoring and conservation. And much like the Pacific Northwest, recent studies assessing different categories of invertebrates —animals without backbones like insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, and worms— are showing steep declines.

“Globally, long-term monitoring data on a sample of 452 invertebrate species indicate that there has been an overall decline in abundance of individuals since 1970,” the scientists told The Independent. These findings echo other studies, based on numbers of individuals, that found invertebrates overall had declined by 45 percent since the 1970s.

“We were shocked to find similar losses in invertebrates as with larger animals, as we previously thought invertebrates to be more resilient,” said Ben Collen, PhD of University College London, a co-author of the study published in Science.

Common Concerns and Causes

In both instances, concerns and questions over the ecosystem impacts and potential causes abound. While both reports emphasize a need to continue research to determine causes, scientists also note that the cause may not be any one activity or problem, but a global system shift and failure.

For example, in the Pacific Northwest, researchers suspect that reduced levels of herring —a main source of food for marine ecosystems— in the Puget Sound have caused the migration and population declines of many of the marine birds studied. Yet, much like the birds, causes for declines in herring populations are difficult to pinpoint and run the gamut from industrial fishing to toxic contamination of waters.

Evidence surrounding the individual species decline of honey bees would support the systems failure theory. Extensive research to determine the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder points not only to toxic contamination through a broad spectrum of pesticides and toxins, but also habitat destruction through development and industrial agriculture practices.

Common Solutions

Although global systems failures impacting ecosystems big and small may seem insurmountable, there are many things that can be done to take steps toward a solution. Eating organic is one. Because organic standards require a systems approach that takes into consideration both health and ecosystem impacts, every time you buy and eat organic, you are supporting a move away from toxic and destructive industrial agricultural practices that improve environmental and habitat conditions everywhere. Supporting efforts to protect bees is another step. Visit our BEE Protective webpage to learn how you can write to your government representatives or establish a pesticide free zone. Every little bit counts and can help to curb the decline of species and ecosystems across the globe.

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

Sources: The Seattle Times; The Independent

Photo Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service



UK Parliament Finds Unacceptable Influence of Pesticide Company Pollinator Research on Regulatory Decisions

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2014) Critical research on the plight of pollinators is being tainted by corporate funding, according to an English report published on Monday. According to the report from the United Kingdom’s (UK) Environmental Audit Committee (EAC),  a committee of Parliament, pesticide manufacturers have too much control over vital research into links between their products and the death of bees. The committee also recommends that in light of recent research, the UK government must seek a permanent ban on bee-killing pesticides.

beekeeperThe EAC’s report finds that UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which oversees pesticide use, relies on industry data to inform opinion that erodes public confidence in any action to protect pollinators. The report concludes, “DEFRA’s reliance on industry to fund critically important research exposes it to excessive reliance on the commercial (rather than scientific) research priorities of these bodies and is symptomatic of a loss of DEFRA’s capacity to deliver its environmental protection obligations.” Members of the committee state that DEFRA’s position requires not only that it is unbiased, but also that it is seen as such by the public. Additionally, research that will play a part in determining whether a temporary ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides becomes permanent must be subject to independent controls to command public confidence. A previous EAC report also chided their government for relying on “fundamentally flawed” studies and failing to uphold its own precautionary principle, citing their “extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees.”

Last December, the use of three pesticides of the neonicotinoid class, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, were suspended in the European Union due to evidence showing high risks to bees. This suspension is up for review next year. EAC concluded last year that existing evidence of the impact on bees was sufficient to warrant a ban on the three neonicotinoid pesticides, but the UK government, which did not support the EU-wide ban, argued that available studies did not produce “unequivocal evidence that . . . serious implications for colonies are likely to arise from current uses of neonicotinoids.” Now this EAC report is urging the government to end its opposition, citing undue industry influence, and more scientific evidence of damage.

The report is a result of an inquiry into DEFRA’s draft National Pollinator Strategy, UK’s policy document that outlines efforts to find solutions that safeguard pollinators, published in March 2014. EAC examined the draft Strategy, focusing on its two central themes: the research needed to be able to protect our pollinators effectively, and the actions that should be pursued in the meantime to help safeguard pollinators. “New studies have added weight to those that indicated a harmful link between pesticide use and pollinator populations.” said EAC chair Joan Walley. “DEFRA should make clear that it now accepts the ban and will not seek to overturn it when the European commission conducts a review next year.”

In the U.S., little to no definitive action has been taken to protect pollinators from pesticide decline. Like DEFRA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees pesticide regulation in the U.S., relies on industry funded data to inform its decision making process regarding pesticide impacts on human and ecological health. While industry-supported studies submitted to EPA for regulatory purposes must be conducted in accordance with agency protocol, EPA’s reliance on industry-generated findings has historically questioned. EPA has been criticized by Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for allowing regulated industry influence. In 2008, the Union of Concerned Scientists released its survey finding that 889 of nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists say that they have experienced political interference in their work over the previous five years.

Meanwhile, the scientific database keeps growing, showing severe, long-term adverse effects on bees and other pollinators from pesticide exposure. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been implicated in bee declines across the globe, while their chemical manufacturers continue to deflect attention from their products to other factors like bad weather and poor nutrition. Recent studies have found that near infinitesimal exposures to neonicotinoids causes a reduction in the amount of pollen bumblebees are able to collect for their colony. Researchers found that the effects of neonicotinoid intoxication persist for a least a month after exposure, underscoring the long-term damage these chemicals can cause to bee colonies. Another study from the Harvard School of Public Health study, shows two widely used neonicotinoids significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. Also read the report No Longer a Big Mystery. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently published data that shows widespread contamination and persistence of Midwest waterways with neonicotinoids.

Recently, EPA published two tools in an effort to protect pollinators, the availability of its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, which is intended to bring clarity to the required data needed to be submitted for review by the agency, and Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25 data), which informs applicators of the time pesticides remain acutely toxic on vegetation after application. However, despite these, the agency still falls short of answering the call of many concerned beekeepers and environmentalists that recommend restricting neonicotinoid pesticides.

A Presidential Memorandum issued in June directing federal agencies to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” and establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, as well as develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Fortunately, the memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others are detrimental to our economy. Agencies have 180 days to respond to this memorandum. Meanwhile, H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), a bill seeking to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators, is gaining bipartisan support in Congress. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators. Tell your member of Congress to support SAPA!

For more information on actions you can take to protect pollinators, go to Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign page.

Source. The Guardian UK



Pesticides Linked to Drug-Resistant Fungal Infections in Humans

(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2014) A recent rise in drug resistant human pathogenic fungi may be fueled by the use of fungicides (pesticides that kill fungi) on agricultural fields, according to research led by Manchester University in the United Kingdom. Aspergillus, the genus of common soil-dwelling fungi analyzed by researchers, include an incredibly diverse group of mold species. Although some provide important commercial uses (such as in the production of citric acid, for instance), many species are pathogenic in humans, and can result in life-threatening lung infections. The rise of cross-resistant fungi is a serious concern for sensitive individuals with weakened immune systems, such as transplant patients, asthmatics, and those with leukemia.

Aspergillus_plateIn the study, Occurrence of azole-resistant species of Aspergillus in the UK environment, UK scientists collected hundreds of samples across the country. Although no resistant strains were found in inner city locations, 1.7% of samples from rural agricultural areas had markers for drug resistance. However, previous research conducted in India in 2012 found resistant isolates in a number of urban and agricultural sites, including the soil beneath cotton trees and rice paddy fields, but also in air samples from hospital wards and even in the soil from flower pots in a hospital garden. In fact, resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus strains has been reported in Europe, the United States, South America, China, Japan, and Iran. Michael Bromley, PhD, lead researcher for the UK study remarked, “Given the frequent finding of resistance across northern Europe, it is not a surprise to see resistance in the UK. However, the clear association with triazole fungicide usage is very worrisome, as some unlucky people at risk will breathe in untreatable Aspergillus, with potentially dire consequences.”

The dangers associated with agricultural pesticides leading to cross-resistance in human pathogens, whether through antibiotics or antifungals, highlights serious concerns over industrial farming practices. Researchers note that certain fungicides, namely difenoconazole, propiconazole, epoxiconazole, bromuconazole and tebuconazole, all widely used in agriculture with tolerances set for a number of crops, are particularly likely to lead to resistance. None of these pesticides are allowed for use in organic agriculture. Instead, farmers must focus on replacing these inputs with management practices that emphasize soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health.

In addition to fueling cross-resistance, many of these fungicides are classified as possible or likely carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A number of studies have also shown these fungicides to exhibit endocrine disrupting effects. The wide use of these chemicals in agriculture has led to detections in numerous sites throughout the U.S. A study released in 2010 by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey found propiconazole and tebuconazole in streams samples taken near agricultural fields. A 2013 study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry found the fungicide tebuconazole in California’s remote National Parks, and in the issues of wild frogs located on site. Amphibians across the globe are in decline, decimated by the spread of the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (chytrid) fungus, though research has highlighted that certain herbicides may increase chytrid-related mortality, no studies to date have implicated fungicide resistance to the spread of the disease.

According to EPA market estimates, over 500 million pounds of fungicides were applied to conventional agricultural crops in the world in 2007. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has cited the rise of resistant human pathogenic fungi as an area of emerging concern. A 2013 study published in China found 29% of yeast samples taken from hospital patients were resistant to at least one drug, and 14.3% were resistant to two or more of five common antifungal drugs. Researchers with the UK study note that no new classes of antifungal drugs are currently in clinical development.

As the problems with chemical-intensive industrial agriculture continue to pile up, the need to preserve and strengthen agricultural systems that do not rely on these inputs becomes more and more critical. Consumers have an important stake in the organic system, and must continue to push for best practices that do not rely on inputs that cause widespread contamination, and result in externalities such as cross-resistance in human pathogens. Consumer awareness resulted in a vote of the National Organic Standards Board at its Spring 2014 meeting that will phase out by October 21, 2014 of the last antibiotic allowed in organic for apple and pear production. Beyond Pesticides launched the Save Our Organic campaign keep the pressure up for strong organic standards that do not compromise the health of people and the planet.

Join the campaign: send a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and your U.S. Senators and Representative.

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

Source: Canada.com, The University of Manchester



New Research Links Pesticide Exposure to Adverse Effects Three Generations Later

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2014) New research from Michael Skinner, Ph.D.’s laboratory out of Washington State University finds that –yet again— exposure to pesticides may have devastating consequences for future generations. The study, “Pesticide Methoxychlor Promotes the Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Adult-Onset Disease through the Female Germline,” published in PLOS ONE, finds that gestating rats exposed to the pesticide methoxychlor develop a higher incidence of kidney disease, ovary disease and obesity in offspring spanning three generations. The incidence of multiple diseases increased in the third generation or “great-grandchildren.”

This study suggests that ancestral exposures to methoxychlor over the past 50 years in North America may play a part in today’s increasing rates of obesity and disease. The epigenetic changes observed were specific to methoxychlor exposure and, according to researchers, may prove to be valuable biomarkers for future research on transgenerational disease. For people exposed to the pesticide, Dr. Skinner says his findings have implications such as reduced fertility, increased adult onset disease and the potential to pass on those conditions to subsequent generations.

“What your great-grandmother was exposed to during pregnancy, like the pesticide methoxychlor, may promote a dramatic increase in your susceptibility to develop disease, and you will pass this on to your grandchildren in the absence of any continued exposures,” says Dr. Skinner.

Methoxychlor is an organochlorine compound which, though eventually cancelled in 2003 in the U.S., was initially developed as a “safer” replacement to DDT. It was first registered in 1948, and has been used to control various nuisance species including cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies and chiggers, as well as various arthropods that attack field crops, vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, stored grain, livestock, and domestic pets. Methoxychlor can behave like the hormone estrogen and profoundly affects the reproductive system. It is also listed as a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemical by the EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. PBT chemicals are of particular concern not only because they are toxic, but also because they remain in the environment for long periods of time, are not readily destroyed, and build up or accumulate in body tissue.

Previous studies have demonstrated that exposure to chemicals, including fungicides, dioxins, and other endocrine disruptors, can have severe health impacts on offspring. This study builds on a history of research showing that pesticides –even a decade after it is banned— can continue to impact health across generations. Evidence of multi-generational impacts from pesticide exposure is not isolated to laboratory animals. A 2007 scholarly review, entitled Pesticides, Sexual Development, Reproduction and Fertility: Current Perspective and Future Direction, written by Theo Colborn, PhD. and Lynn Carroll, PhD, points to studies linking the legacy chemical DDT to transgenerational health effects.

Dr. Skinner, who has been studying the genetic effects of pesticides for 15 years, and was dubbed “The Epigenetic Heretic” by Science Magazine, is also the author of the landmark study that links exposure to the insecticide DDT with multi-generational effects. The 2013 study, “Ancestral dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) exposure promotes epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity,” finds that, while the first generation of rats’ offspring develop severe health problems, more than half of the rats studied are likely to be obese by the third generation.

In addition to these two important studies, Dr. Skinner’s lab has also documented epigenetic effects from a host of other environmental toxicants, including plastics, pesticides, fungicides, dioxins, hydrocarbons and the plasticizer bisphenol-A or BPA. He has published over 240 peer-reviewed publications and has been to an equal amount of invited symposia, plenary lectures and university seminars, including Beyond Pesticides’ annual forum. The newest findings support those observations.

For more information, watch Dr. Skinner’s most recent talk, Epigenetic Transgenerational Actions of Endocrine Disruptors on Reproduction and Disease: The Ghosts in Your Genes,  from Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum in Portland, OR, April 2014.

Source: WSU News

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



Midwest Waterways Contaminated with Persistent Neonicotinoid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2014) A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study published yesterday found neonicotinoid pesticides persistent and prevalent in streams throughout the Midwestern United States. The study is the first to investigate the presence of neonicotinoids on a wide-scale level in the Midwest.

While neonicotinoid use has increased throughout the country, the Midwest in particular has seen a dramatic increase over the last decade. The use of clothianidin, one of the chemicals studied, on corn in Iowa alone has approximately doubled in just two years, from 2011 and 2013.

Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine and are pesticides that are toxic to a broad range of insect pests. They are also known as systemic pesticides, which are pesticides that spread throughout the entire plant structure, making everything from roots to pollen toxic to organisms that come in contact with it. As a result, neonicotinoids have been linked to the global disappearance of honey bees and other nontarget organisms, such as earthworms, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

USGS scientist Kathryn Kuivila, Ph.D., stated, “Neonicotinoid insecticides are receiving increased attention by scientists as we explore the possible links between pesticides, nutrition, infectious disease, and other stress factors in the environment possibly associated with honeybee die-offs.” Dr. Kuivila is the research team leader for the study, which is titled “Widespread occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in streams in a high corn and soybean producing region, USA” and is published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Neonicotinoids are water soluble and do not break down very quickly in the environment. As a result, they are more likely to end up in runoff from agricultural fields where they were applied and contaminate surface water and groundwater.

The study looks at nine rivers and streams, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The rivers drain most of Iowa, as well as parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoids in the country. Not surprisingly, neonicotinoids were found in all nine rivers and streams.

Clothianidin is the most commonly detected chemical, showing up in 75 percent of the sites and at the highest concentration. The next most commonly found chemical is thiamethoxam at 47 percent and imidacloprid at 23 percent. Acetamiprid and dinotefuran are only found once and the sixth chemical tested for, thiacloprid, was not detected.

“We noticed higher levels of these insecticides after rain storms during crop planting, which is similar to the spring flushing of herbicides that has been documented in Midwestern U.S. rivers and streams,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladick, Ph.D., the report’s lead author. “In fact, the insecticides were also detected prior to their first use during the growing season, which indicates that they can persist from applications in prior years.”

The third most commonly found pesticide, imidacloprid, is known to be toxic to aquatic organisms at 10 to 100 nanograms per liter if the organisms are exposed to it for long periods of time. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam are expected to have similar effects since they behave similarly to imidacloprid. The study found maximum concentrations of clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid at 257, 185, and 42.7 nanograms per liter, respectively.

In March 2013, Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups in filing a lawsuit, Ellis et al v. Bradbury, in the Federal District Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The coalition is seeking suspension of the registrations of insecticides – clothianidin and thiamethoxam – which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees. The suit challenged EPA’s oversight of these bee-killing pesticides, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies. On July 8, 2014, Beyond Pesticides joined with Pesticide Action Network North America and Center for Food Safety, represented by Earthjustice, in filing a legal challenge in the California Superior Court for the County of Alameda, urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impacts to honeybees. DPR began its scientific review in early 2009 after it received evidence that neonicotinoids are killing bees, but five years later, DPR has yet to take meaningful action to protect bees.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued an internal memorandum earlier this month stating that the Pacific Region will begin phasing out the use of neonicotinoid insecticides to grow agricultural crops for wildlife on National Wildlife Refuge System lands, effective immediately. Region 1 will stop the use of neonicotinoids completely in all agricultural activity by January 2016. In February of 2014, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups filed a legal petition to ban the use of neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges. During the close of National Pollinator Week, on June 20, 2014, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.”

To see what you can do to protect pollinators, go to Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective page.

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

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Image Source: USGS Pesticide National Synthesis Project (double click for larger image)



EPA Denies Hazardous Pesticide Use on 3 Million Acres of Texas Cotton Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2014) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied an emergency application to use a hazardous pesticide, propazine, on 3 million acres of Texas cotton fields, after groups representing environmental, public health, and organic farm interests urged the agency to reject the request based on environmental effects and the predictable nature of the weed resistance to currently used chemicals.

cottonDespite determining “that an urgent and non-routine condition exists for Texas growers” when certain weed-densities are reached, EPA’s primary reasons for denying the application focused on health and environmental concerns of the pesticide. As EPA explained, “When conducting human health risk assessment for new use the Agency must first consider the risk profile for currently registered uses and determine if an additional use can be added to the cup.” This aggregate risk assessment is required under the Food Quality Protection Actand in the case of propazine, EPA found that “drinking water estimates suggest that risks from drinking water alone may lead to unacceptable risks . . . .”

“While we disagree with the EPA that this meets any of the criteria for emergency exemption, we applaud the EPA for putting the health of people and the environment first and upholding the health and environmental standards under the law,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, which filed comments opposing emergency status for propazine use. See Beyond Pesticides press release.

Propazine is a toxic herbicide in the triazine class of chemicals that has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. The triazines are highly soluble in water and are the most frequently detected pesticides found at concentrations at or above one or more benchmarks in over half of sites sampled. Allowing propazine use on over 3 million acres of cotton in Texas would almost certainly have increased propazine movement into waterways, potentially threatening the safety of Texas’ surface and drinking water.

EPA also noted that the triazine class of herbicides “have been identified by EPA as having a common mechanism of toxicity” and are currently under registration review where a comprehensive cumulative risk assessment for the entire class has not been completed. Any safety findings required for an emergency exemption would need to include information from the review on the cumulative risk assessments.

Glyphosate Resistance: A Predictable Emergency

While Beyond Pesticides applauds the EPA for putting the health of people and the environment first and upholding the health and environmental standards under certain laws, serious questions remain over the Agency’s willingness to find that the scenario presented by Texas met the necessary emergency exemption criteria.

As noted in Beyond Pesticides’ original comments comments, Glyphosate-resistant weeds have ballooned in recent years due to the expansion of Roundup® Ready crops, including soybeans, corn, and cotton. Palmer amaranth, for instance, once successfully controlled by glyphosate, was first noticed to have developed glyphosate resistance in 2005, one study points out. By 2012, resistant palmer amaranth had been identified in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.

“This is not an emergency because the weed resistance is predictable since it has been known for many years that GMO cotton sprayed with glyphosate would create resistant superweeds,” notes Mr. Feldman. “It is an abuse of the law for EPA to prop up failed GMO cropping systems with toxic chemicals when viable alternatives, like organic growing methods, exist.”

Increased selection pressure from widespread use and reliance on glyphosate and the simultaneous reductions in the use of sustainable weed management practices have resulted in glyphosate-resistant weeds—a now common and predictable issue facing agriculture across the United States. With such predictability, it is difficult to understand how EPA could reach the conclusion that the emergency situation presented by the Texas growers satisfied the urgent and non-routine requirements under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Beyond Pesticides opposes efforts to perpetuate a failed and dangerous chemically-reliant agricultural system. The reasons cited by Texas farmers for an emergency exemption are the very same reasons being cited to usher in new genetically engineered (GE) crops, like 2,4-D resistant cotton, said to be needed to overcome the now glyphosate-resistant weeds wreaking havoc on chemically-dependent conventional farms. Meanwhile, organic farmers demonstrate how effective alternative practices exist that can address weed issues and prevent the continued spinning of the toxic treadmill.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting organic and stopping the toxic treadmill of GE crops and other hazardous pesticide uses in agriculture by visiting our website and learning what you can do to help!

Beyond Pesticides thanks those who wrote EPA to oppose the allowance of propazine use on three million acres of GMO cotton.

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

Source: The Wall Street Journal



New Zealand To Increase Scrutiny of Bee-killing Pesticides, Denies “Neonic” Application

(Beyond Pesticides, July 23, 2014) New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority is stepping up its requirements for a higher level of scientific evidence regarding the safety and effects of neonicotinoids -pesticides linked to bee decline- before considering them for approval. Just last month, the Authority declined an application of thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid, for use as a seed treatment, citing risks to bees.

beeThe decision follows a recent worldwide integrated assessment of research into systemic pesticides that concludes that neonicotinoid insecticides pose a serious risk to birds, honey bees and other pollinators, and a wide range of invertebrates, including earthworms. The international analysis of 800 peer-reviewed scientific reports confirms concerns of beekeepers and environmental groups throughout the world that long-term exposure to systemic pesticides at low, sublethal levels could be harmful to bees and a factor in declining bee populations.

While it is unclear what these new stringent requirements are, the Authority, which works with New Zealand’s Beekeepers Association on the issue, already confirmed specific restrictions to products containing neonicotinoids to minimize the risk to insect pollinators. These restrictions include the prohibition of the use of neonicotinoids in areas where bees are foraging, or on plants and trees while they are in bloom. Conversely, in 2013, the European Union placed a moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid compounds -clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam- for two years, citing hazards to bees.

Recently, the Authority declined an application for a seed treatment product, as the applicant was unable to demonstrate that it could be used safely in relation to bees. The insecticide product, Ortus, had been proposed as a seed treatment and contains thiamethoxam as the active ingredient. But, the Authority had concerns that it would not adhere properly to seeds and that contaminated dust would be produced during sowing, posing a high risk to bees.

Neonicotinoids have been linked by several scientific reports to significant losses of bee populations. Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and dinotefuran, are widely used as a seed coating on agricultural crops, and in home and garden products applied to flowering plants and vegetables, where they translocate throughout the plant, manifesting in nectar, pollen, and guttation droplets. Studies document that even low doses of these pesticides impair bee learning and navigational behavior, foraging, and suppresses their immune system making bees more susceptible to pathogens. A Harvard School of Public Health study, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, shows two widely used neonicotinoids appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. Also read the report: No longer a Big Mystery.

In the U.S., the White House released a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. The memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others. It recognizes pollinator losses and acknowledges their importance to the agricultural economy.

Beyond Pesticides and allies, including beekeepers, have filed legal petitions and lawsuits with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids. Yet, over two years later, the agency has refused and indicated it will not finish its review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, until 2018. But according to advocates, recent bee deaths from the use of a neonicotinoid, and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market.

Joins us in our BEE Protective campaign to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge. BEE Protective has also launched the Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Toxic pesticides harmful to bees, including neonics, are not permitted in seeds certified organic, which display the USDA Organic label on their packaging. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species. www.BEEProtective.org

Source: NZ Farmer

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



Tamarisk Tree’s Role as ‘Invasive’ in Southwest Questioned

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2014) As drought persists across the western U.S., farmers, ranchers, and government authorities looking for solutions to water worries have picked a tough battle, and many are questioning whether it’s worth the fight. The target is the ‘invasive,’ tamarisk tree, also known as salt cedar, a hardy evergreen that can grow nearly 60 feet tall, and has been labeled as a water glutton. In Arizona, many are heralding the arrival of the small tamarisk beetle, itself an ‘invasive’ imported from Kazakhstan by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to control the spread of tamarisk trees. But numerous questions surrounding the campaign highlight a persistent national debate: Are invasives categorically bad or simply convenient scapegoats? Are the solutions worse than the current state of affairs? Can we permanently restore native habitat?

In 2005, USDA approved the release of the tamarisk beetle in Colorado, Utah and a number of other western states. However, five years later, the agency made a quiet about-face on the campaign and stopped any further releases of the beetle into western habitat. The stated reason for the cancellation was “potential effects on the critical habitat of the federally-listed, endangered southwestern willow flycatcher,” notes a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As PEER explains, USDA released the beetles without a full environmental review, ordering a “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI) under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The southwestern willow flycatcher, originally adapted to willow trees, established itself in stands of tamarisk and Russian olive as the landscape of southwestern riparian ecosystems changed due to human influence.

The spread of tamarisk trees wasn’t completely an accident. Farmers in the early 1900s needed a hardy, drought-resistant plant to control wind-borne erosion, according to research from Matthew Chew, PhD, at the University of Arizona. The trees were originally brought to Texas and the desert southwest to stabilize soils and provide a windbreak for fields susceptible to erosion. As Dr. Chew explains, perceptions changed in the mid-1900s when studies reported high rates of evapotranspiration (water uptake) by the tamarisk. Rather than merely stabilizing soil, tamarisk was sucking up the scarce waters farmers needed for their crops, so it seemed. As population pressures and water resources became an increasing concern, dams rose up in the southwest, drying out native riparian habitat and fostering the conditions for tamarisks to move in.

But new data has caused many to rethink the trees’ categorical designation as an invasive species to be targeted. In addition to the tamarisk tree’s refuge as a habitat for the flycatcher, data is now revealing that the trees take up much less water than originally thought, and result in negligible differences in river flow whether they are present or not.

Still, many continue to advocate for its eradication. “We view the tamarisk as a pest,” said Joseph Sigg, the government relations director at the Arizona Farm Bureau to The New York Times. “Water is an expensive input, and to the extent that we can lower it, the beetle can help.”

Although the tamarisk beetle is effective at defoliating the trees, complete removal of the tree requires an expensive round of cutting, burning, and herbicide applications to the tree’s stump. Chemicals such as triclopyr, the active ingredient in Garlon, are often employed for this process. Triclopyr is considered mobile and soluble in water, with a high potential to contaminate surface waters. The chemical has been linked to adverse reproductive effects and birth defects. The solution may be more harmful than the current state of affairs.

Even when removal is generally considered successful, it is only a delay tactic. “You’ll never get the last tree,” said Gibney Siemion to, an ecologist with the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, to The New York Times. “You do your best, but the tamarisk is very adaptable.”

As with most ecological problems that humans confront, whether in farming, gardening, lawn care, or control of invasive species, the underlying conditions that brought about the perceived problem must be addressed, or a shift in viewpoint is needed. Since we may never be able to ever permanently restore a native habitat, we may need to reconsider what is natural and what is invasive.

Beyond Pesticides encourages a lively debate on the role and designation of a species as ‘invasive’, but strongly discourages the use of pesticides to “fix” issues surrounding invasive species. For a take from each side, see Beyond Pesticides’ Invasive Weed Management homepage, or watch Boyce Thorne Miller’s discussion on rethinking invasive species at the 32nd National Pesticide Forum in Portland, OR. You can also read more about misconceptions on invasive and the tamarisk tree from Dr. Chew on his website, or from the talk he gave (min. 25:15) at Beyond Pesticides 31st National Pesticide Forum in Albuquerque, NM.

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

Source: The New York Times, PEER



UK Bread Contaminated with Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2014) According to figures released by the British Government last week, over 60% of the county’s bread supply is tainted with pesticide residues. This is a shocking increase from numbers recorded in 2001, which found 28% of bread to be tainted. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Expert Committee on Pesticides Residues in Food (PRIF), 2,951 bread samples were tested.

According to a Pesticide Action Network UK report, a majority of the reoccurring pesticides were glyphosate and chlormequat. Glyphosate is an herbicide that can lead to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, genetic damage, cancer, reproductive issues, liver damage, and endocrine disruption as well environmental damage such as water contamination and harmful effects to amphibians. Unfortunately, very little research has been done on what the effects can be on humans.

Chlormequat, the second most-commonly found pesticide in British bread, is a plant growth regulator. A study conducted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) linked Chlormequat to developmental toxicity in animals. Very little research has been performed assessing the public health impact of this pesticide. In the U.S., it is only allowed for use on ornamental plants.

Pan UK spokesman Nick Mole said, “The presence of pesticide residues in our food and our subsequent ingestion of them is not something that anybody should welcome. We are in effect being poisoned against our will with the full knowledge of the growers, retailers and regulatory bodies that provide our food or are tasked with making sure it is safe.”

In March of this year, the UK government created an action plan that stipulates that member states should monitor the use of plant protection products containing substances of particular concern, and establish timetables and targets for the reduction of their use. Mr. Mole also suggested that Defra and the National Farmers’ Union had a “cozy” relationship. He stated that the UK’s pesticide action plan was weak and that pesticides should be used as a last resort, or not at all. Unfortunately they are currently the first choice when combating various issues such as pests, or “invasive” weed management. In fact, the government’s plan doesn’t contain timetables or methodologies for reducing the use of pesticides, which is growing.

Beyond Pesticides encourages consumers to purchase organic food, which is nurtured in a system of food production, handling and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. In the U.S., organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic–pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.

To help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides created the Eating with a Conscience database, which evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops, grown domestically and internationally. We have also expanded the message of necessity for organic practices in order to save our pollinators from horrible disorders and death as well as protecting our waters from being horrendously polluted.

Eating with a Conscience looks at the toxic chemicals that are allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use.

Choose a fruit or vegetable.

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

Source: The Guardian, RT Network, The Telegraph

Photo Source: The Daily Mail



Virginia County Stops Pesticide Spraying in Favor of Alternatives to Combat Lyme Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2014) After years of struggling to combat the rise of Lyme disease in the region, Loudoun County, Virginia has decided to forgo the spraying of a hazardous pesticide in public parks in favor of public education and continued surveillance of park lands. Controversy over spraying arose back in 2012 when Loudoun began ramping its spray program to manage ticks, often the carrier of the disease. Loudon County used the pesticide Talstar, which contains the active ingredient bifenthrin, a neurotoxic chemical whose use raises public health and product efficacy concerns, as documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beekeepers expressed concern that spraying would greatly damage their bee colonies, as bifenthrin is highly toxic to bees, while conservationists were concerned with the chemicals leaching into waterways and killing aquatic life. At the same time, some researchers point out that there was no evidence that spraying the chemical would reduce the number of Lyme disease infections.

After years of debate and data analysis, David Goodfriend, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Loudoun County Health Department, said that the county’s Lyme Disease Commission’s recommendation was to not spray any of the properties. The recommendation was based on two years of surveillance data at six highly used county parks. Dr. Goodfriend added that the Loudoun Board of Supervisors agreed with the recommendation.

The surveillance data, collected in 2013 and again this year, tracked tick populations over a six-week period. “One of the things that we looked for is to see if there was a time when the nymphs really start coming out in force, because if spraying is going to be done, that’s the best time to do it,” Dr. Goodfriend said. “But there were not that many black-legged ticks in the park –only about 1 percent of the ticks found were black-legged ticks– and of those, there were few nymphs.” Researchers are especially interested in the number of nymph, or juvenile, black-legged ticks, because they are primarily responsible for Lyme infections, Dr. Goodfriend explained. Health officials say that adult black-legged ticks are more easily spotted and removed before an infection can be transmitted.

Loudoun has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease infections in the country and the highest in Virginia, according to health officials. Every year, more than 200 cases are reported, but officials say that the number of infections is probably much higher since many cases are likely to go unreported or undiagnosed.

In response to growing public concern over Lyme disease, the Board of Supervisors declared 2012 “Lyme Disease Awareness Year” in Loudoun and established the county Lyme Disease Commission to implement a 10-point action plan to fight the spread of the disease. This year, the Lyme Disease Commission requested $41,500 in county funding and $27,000 for research surrounding tick populations in the five county parks, as well as $3,000 to spray insecticide in them. The funds that were set aside for the spraying of Talstar will not be spent this year.

The decision to not spray in public parks was welcomed by officials with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, which issued a position paper this past February entitled “Rebalancing Loudoun’s Approach to Lyme Disease Mitigation.” The paper cited research that cast doubt on the efficacy of spraying for ticks and reduction in the rate of Lyme disease infection.

“We called on the county to emphasize data collection, education, and communication in their action plan,” said Alysoun Mahoney, who is the conservation advocacy chair for the conservancy. “We are very pleased that in its July 8 meeting, the statement by [the supervisors’ government services and operations committee] is to a great degree consistent with our recommendations. We think that they’re going in the right direction.”

As an alternative to spraying, county officials and environmental activists underscore the importance of personal prevention measures, such as wearing long, light-colored attire, applying tick repellent, and checking for ticks after being outdoors. Dr. Goodfriend said the county Health Department asks that residents consider a variety of methods to prevent infection, including the management of private property. “Ticks don’t like well-mowed lawns. There are additional ways to keep ticks away –by getting rid of rodent populations and making our properties less conducive to ticks.” In the meantime, the commission will continue to focus its efforts on community education and outreach, and will also spend the summer reviewing tick surveillance data in greater detail “to see what makes the most sense for parks in the future,” Dr. Goodfriend said.

Bifenthrin is identified as an endocrine disruptor by the European Union, and is considered a possible carcinogen by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is a pyrethroid class pesticide, a group of known neurotoxic chemicals. A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (2007) of infants born to women with agricultural exposure shows a possible impact of bifenthrin on the occurrence of autism spectrum disorders. Bifenthrin is also toxic to birds, fish, and bees.

Not only has bifenthrin been shown to be a highly toxic pesticide, it has been shown to be ineffective in curbing tick populations as well. In fact, a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August of last year found that spraying lawns with the insecticide did not reduce the incidence of tick-borne diseases. Despite this, the CDC website still recommends pesticide spraying of yards for protection against tick transmission of Lyme disease. The study was conducted over two years and found that yards that were sprayed with bifenthrin, while seeing a 60 percent reduction in ticks on their property, still had similar levels of tick encounters and tick-borne illnesses. The findings suggest that using pesticides is not an effective way to reduce tick-borne diseases and can instead leave families with negative health effects resulting from the use of toxic pesticides.

There are many alternative ways of reducing one’s exposure to ticks. One effective way to avoid them is to only use unscented deodorant, soap, and shampoo. An exception is Packers Tar Soap, which has a natural pine scent that can keep ticks from biting once they have been picked up. Similarly, you can try using least-toxic herbal repellents such as oil of lemon eucalyptus and essential oils. Most importantly, after walking through high grass in a tick-infested area, check the entire body for ticks, remove ticks, and shower to wash off any ticks that have not yet become embedded. If you do find an embedded tick, remove it carefully. Protect your hands with gloves or a tissue. Use blunt, curved tweezers, not your bare fingers, and exert pressure on the head of the tick and gently pulling the tick straight out very slowly. Do not twist and do not crush the tick. The body fluids can cause infection if exposed to even unbroken skin. Do not kill the tick while still embedded. Kill the tick in soapy water or alcohol, clean the wound with antiseptic, and monitor carefully for any signs of infection. If you observe symptoms of Lyme disease such as a bull’s-eye rash near the bite, consult a physician.

For more information on alternative pest management, please visit Beyond Pesticides’alternative factsheets page.

Source: Washington Post

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



Pacific Region National Wildlife Refuges to Ban Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2014) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued an internal memorandum last week that signals a significant shift in its pesticide-application policies for Pacific Region wildlife refuges: no more neonicotinoids. The memorandum, dated July 9, 2014, states, “The Pacific Region will begin a phased approach to eliminate the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (by any method) to grow agricultural crops for wildlife on National Wildlife Refuge System lands, effectively immediately. By January 2016, Region 1 will no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides in any agricultural activity.” In February 2014, environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed a legal petition to ban the use of neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges.

The new guidelines go on to explain that the change in policy will also affect the transition period through 2016. During that time, refuge managers must exhaust all remedies before application or use of neonicotinoids, including the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds. Additionally, starting in 2015 all refuge managers must prepare and submit a Pesticide Use Proposal (PUP) in order to apply any neonicotinoids during the transition to the ban.

While not a direct response to the petition filed earlier this year calling for a ban of genetically-engineered crops and neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs), the policy shift cites concerns surrounding pollinators and the use of neonicotinoids as the primary reason for the shift—a fact emphasized in the petition. Specifically, the petition asserted that the allowed use of neonicotinoid pesticides on lands designated as NWRs violates not only the purpose and protective standards of the National Wildlife Refuge Act (NWRA), which seeks to conserve, manage and restore fish wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats for the present and future generations, but also threatens endangered species by resulting in destruction of critical habitat protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The reason neonicotinoids pose such a threat and violate the legal standards that apply to NWRs is well-documented by scientific studies. Neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, are often applied as a coating to agricultural seeds that results in the chemical moving through the plants vascular system and expressing itself in nectar, pollen, and guttation droplets. Severely damaging to pollinators, studies have found that honey bees are particularly at risk if exposed to neonicotioid pesticides at high concentrations and sublethal doses. Widespread pollinator loss threatens native plants and the species that rely on them for survival, as well as our nation’s food supply. Over 80% of flowering plants rely on pollination services from these critical species.

FWS’s actions in the Pacific Region, while encouraging and another step in the right direction, still emphasize the need for broader, national, and more assertive efforts to be taken across all NWRs and throughout all federal agencies to protect our pollinators. Communities, big and small, have instituted neonicotinoids bans and BEE Protective initiatives, join Beyond Pesticides in continuing to call for national protections.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety



Assessment of Triclosan Hazards Supports Call for Canadian Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2014) The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Clean Production Action (CPA) released a comprehensive assessment of the hazards posed by triclosan and its chemical cousin triclocarbon Thursday, calling on the Canadian Government to create a comprehensive phase-out plan for these harmful antibacterial chemicals. The report, which finds that the chemicals are accumulating in the waters of the Great Lakes, also suggests that the U.S. and all provinces and states bordering the Great Lakes should prohibit use opicf the chemicals. The two antibacterial chemicals are commonly used in consumer products ranging from liquid soaps and toothpaste to kitchen cutting boards, and have come under increased scrutiny amidst human health concerns and lack of efficacy. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been calling for a ban on the household use of triclosan since 2009, and in 2012, the Canadian government declared triclosan as toxic to the environment. In the U.S., Beyond Pesticides has petitioned 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.

Using a new tool, GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals, which compares chemical hazards to assess the environmental and human health profile of triclosan and triclocarban, CELA and CPA found that triclosan is a Benchmark 1 substance – a chemical to be avoided. Triclocarban is ranked as a Benchmark 2 with very high aquatic toxicity. “The advantage of the GreenScreen assessment tool is that it comprehensively looks at the full range of impacts –from human health to environmental harm– of a substance and allows users and regulators to better understand if a chemical should be avoided, substituted, or can continue to be used.  This is a better alternative to the often siloed approach taken by regulators, which can send unclear signals to the market. For example, Health Canada says that triclosan is safe for humans –despite its endocrine system effects, but Environment Canada considers it toxic and highly damaging to the natural environment. With over 1,600 consumer products containing triclosan and hundreds more containing triclocarban, consumers are left in the dark about how toxic these antibacterial chemicals are in the environment,” says Bev Thorpe, Consulting Co-Director of Clean Production Action, the host organization for GreenScreen.

Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan. Studies show that it 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 contains 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.

“What’s particularly alarming is the range of impacts these chemicals are having –from damaging aquatic ecosystems, including the Great Lakes, to interfering with human endocrine systems. When you realize that 95% of triclosan and the vast majority of triclocarban ends up going down the drain, the fact that both pose a very high toxic hazard to aquatic organisms is very bad news for our lakes and rivers,” noted CELA researcher Fe de Leon.

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 toincreasing 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.

Fortunately, despite slow federal response to regulating these chemicals, in both the U.S. and Canada, smaller locales are willing to phase out the use of these chemicals and from their products. One Great Lake state, Minnesota announced in May that it would ban the chemical in personal care and cleaning products. A 2013 study showed triclosan toxicants accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota.

In addition to state action, multinational corporations such as Johnson & JohnsonProcter & 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.

“As triclosan comes under increasing scrutiny, it is essential that we do not replace it with another hazardous chemical, like triclocarban. You would think this would be common sense but the recent case of dangerous plastic microbeads in cosmetic products, demonstrate that many manufacturers are still not anticipating the potential harm chemicals may have in the environment” notes consulting Co-Director Thorpe. “We are calling on companies and regulators to stop the toxic treadmill of ongoing hazardous chemical use by using tools like GreenScreen to better understand the hazards of any chemical before it is put into consumer goods.”

Beyond Pesticides also 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.

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.

Source: Green Screen

Photo Source: Canadian Environmental Law Association



Comprehensive Review Finds Clear Health Benefits of Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2014) More nutritional antioxidants, far fewer toxic pesticides; those are the results of a comprehensive meta-analysis on organic foods published yesterday in the British Journal of Nutrition. Led by Carlo Leifort, Ph.D, at England’s Newcastle University, the analysis is a scientific rebuttal to a previous Stanford University review published in 2012, which found that there was little difference between the nutritional content of organic food over conventionally grown produce. Both studies found there to be fewer pesticides in organic products.

While Stanford University’s review only looked at 200 studies, Dr. Leifert and his team of researchers expanded the scope of their meta-analysis to 343 studies, and also employed more robust analytic tools by analyzing the standardized mean differences of the data from the various studies. It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” said Dr. Leifert to The New York Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.” Antioxidants, compounds such as phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanin, have been linked to lower risks of cancer and other diseases.

For many, news of higher nutritional content in organic foods is simply another benefit of buying into a system that eschews toxic pesticides, treats animals with care, and protects farmworkers and the surrounding environment. Both the Stanford and Newcastle studies found pesticide residues four times more frequently on conventional crops than on organic produce.

Pesticide exposure, even at low level residues like those found on food, has been linked to a wide range of adverse impacts wildlife and humans, particularly children. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement advising parents to choose organic in order to avoid pesticide exposure. Also in 2012, a report published by a team of 12 scientists found strong evidence that low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals influence human diseases, including links to infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and other disorders. “Whether low doses of endocrine-disrupting compounds influence human disorders is no longer conjecture, as epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures are associated with human diseases and disabilities,” the report stated. Research from Tyrone Hayes, PhD, at University of California Berkeley found that a minute dose of the herbicide atrazine (as small as .1 parts per billion) turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that low dose responses to chemicals “do occur in biological systems,” yet has still not begun regulating endocrine disrupters through a finalized Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, as mandated by Congress in 1996.

Although eating organic provides immense benefits over chemically-intensive food production systems, it is critically important that consumers continue to pressure the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Organic Program to maintain organic integrity. In order to defend organic standards from changes that would weaken public trust, Beyond Pesticides launched the Save Our Organic campaign. Consumers can take action to ask their U.S. Representatives and Senators, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and organic companies to support organic as a rigorous open process that holds its standards accountable to input and direction from those who produce and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides recently filed a petition to USDA to restore the authority of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The agency mistakenly reclassified the NOSB as a time-limited advisory board, despite its creation as an independent authority by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act.

See Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on organic agriculture to learn more about the benefits of the production process, and why it is so important to defend its core values. TED-x, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange has additional details on the health impacts of low-dose endocrine disrupting chemicals, and or more information on the health effects of pesticide exposure, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. To learn more about the environmental and worker benefits of organic production, see  Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.

Source: The New York Times, The Guardian



Groups Oppose Trade Pact Proposals that Weaken Chemical Safety Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2014) In a letter Thursday, a broad array of major U.S. and European chemical safety, health, environmental, labor, consumer and other organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, expressed strong opposition to proposed rules for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that could chill or roll back robust chemical safety standards on both sides of the Atlantic.

The letter was sent to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and EU Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht, in advance of the sixth round of TTIP negotiations, which are to begin in Brussels next week.

“EU and U.S. trade policy should not be geared toward advancing the chemical industry’s agenda at the expense of public health and the environment – but that appears to be exactly what is currently underway with TTIP,” the letter states. “The presence of toxic chemicals in our food, our homes, our workplaces, and our bodies is a threat to present and future generations, with staggering cost for society and individuals.”

At the upcoming TTIP negotiations, draft text will be presented for the first time for several of the proposed pact’s chapters that could directly undermine strong chemical safety rules. The texts will be kept secret from the public during negotiations, but the rules that would be established would be binding on the United States and EU member nations, with trade sanctions or cash fines ordered against domestic policies that do not comply with TTIP rules.

The letter highlights specific TTIP proposals that the U.S. and EU governments and industry interests have put forward that could chill U.S. efforts to strengthen chemical regulations while weakening tighter EU chemical protections. This includes a U.S. proposal for regulatory coherence that could “thwart the timely promulgation of important regulations” and an EU Regulatory Cooperation Council proposal that would require regulators to calculate “chemical regulations’ costs to transatlantic trade, not the benefits of such protective laws for society.”

The letter also rejects a controversial proposal – opposed by U.S. state legislators, some EU member states and a trans-partisan array of U.S. and EU civil society groups – to include “investor-state dispute settlement” terms in the TTIP. Already inclusion of such terms in other pacts has empowered corporations to circumvent domestic courts and directly challenge controls for the use of hazardous substances, pollution cleanup requirements and other chemical protections before extrajudicial tribunals authorized to order unlimited taxpayer compensation for violations of broad foreign investor “rights.” Such extraordinary provisions, according to the letter, “would force the public and their representatives to decide between compensating corporate polluters for lost profits due to stronger laws, or continuing to bear the health, economic and social burdens of pollution.”

The letter concludes by criticizing the negotiations’ lack of transparency: “In a deal where fundamental changes to sub-national, national and regional policies and lawmaking processes are being proposed and negotiated, the non-disclosure of TTIP negotiating positions or texts is inexcusable and inconsistent with the principles of a modern democracy.”

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight for strong, public protections against chemicals in our homes and environment and any form of legislation that would diminish the right of communities and individuals alike to establish protective laws, regulations, and standards.

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

Source: Press Release



Bird Population Declines Linked to Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Adding to Previous Science

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2014) In addition to previous research on the direct impacts of pesticides on pollinators and other beneficials, a recent study published by Dutch scientists establishes an additional indirect link between neonicotinoid use and insect-eating birds. The report, which came out on Wednesday, provides evidence that neonicotinoids, a class of systemic pesticides, are indirectly hurting larger creatures by reducing insect prey populations such as mosquitoes and beetles.

Researchers found that in certain areas of the Netherlands where water is contaminated with high concentrations of imidacloprid, a commonly used neonicotinoid, bird populations tend to decline by an average of 3.5 percent every year. Further analysis found that this spatial pattern of decline appeared only after the introduction of imidacloprid to the Netherlands in the mid-1990s, even after correcting for land-use changes that have been known to affect bird populations in farmland.

“To our surprise we did find a very strong effect on birds”, said lead author of the study, Caspar Hallmann, a Ph.D. student from Radboud University in the Netherlands, to Reuters. In fact, according to the study, which was published in the journal Nature, nine of 15 bird species studied only eat insects and all feed insects to their young. Mr. Hallmann added, “We cannot say this is proof (that the pesticide causes the decline in bird numbers) but we cannot explain the…decline of birds by any other factors.” The study also looked into other possible causes like pollution.

Bayer CropScience issued a speedy response expressing disagreement with the study findings. The company writes that the study did not “demonstrate that there is a causal link between the use of neonicotinoids and the development of bird populations in Europe.” The company went on to say that neonicotinoids “have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.” The company, along with Syngenta, has been accused of forestalling attempts to ban neonicotinoids via the proposal of bee health plans that call for more research, implementing agricultural best management practices, and planting new habitat. These solutions fail to address the real problem that their products are highly toxic to bees.

The recent report titled “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA),” undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, indicates otherwise. Twenty-nine scientists representing multiple disciplines analyzed over 800 peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of systemic pesticides. The report emphasizes that neonicotinoids and their metabolites are persistent and harmful, even at very low levels, and that the chemicals have far-reaching impacts on entire ecosystems, from direct exposure to persistence in soil and water. Bees, butterflies, worms, and other pollinators and non-target organisms are also put at risk. Scientists concluded that even when neonicotinoids were used according to guidelines on their labels, the chemicals’ levels in the environment still frequently exceeded the lowest levels known to be harmful to a wide range of species.

The European Union (E.U.) began implementation of a two-year moratorium in April on neonicotinoids used on flowering crops stemming from scientific evidence that the chemicals are harmful to bees. The pesticides can still be used legally in the E.U. on non-flowering crops, such as barley and wheat, the scientists said. Germany’s Bayer and Switzerland’s Syngenta, the two main producers of the pesticides, have contested the moratorium. They suspect that “colony collapse disorder,” which has resulted in the large drop in bee populations in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East, are due to a virus spread by a parasitic mite. Opposition to neonicotinoid use remains strong, however. Syngenta recently withdrew its emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoids on United Kingdom oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the U.S.) in face of public outcry. According to Reuters, over 200,000 people protested against the request, with around 35,000 more writing to environment secretary Owen Paterson.

The Dutch study recommends that future legislation consider and take into account the wider impact of pesticides on wildlife. Dave Goulson, Ph.D., of Sussex University, writes in a commentary in Nature that the study was “the first to provide direct evidence that the widespread depletion of insect populations by neonicotinoids has knock-on effects” on larger animals. Dr. Goulson has done work on the far-reaching effects neonicotinoids have on biodiversity and ecosystem health; a review of his from last year found that not only are neonicotinoids the most widely used insecticides in the world, but they persist and accumulate in soil, are prone to leaching into waterways, commonly exceed the LC50 (the concentration which kills 50% of individuals) for beneficial organisms, and the consumption of small numbers of treated seeds presents a direct risk of mortality in birds and mammals.

Sound familiar? The link between pesticide use and birds is not a new one. Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, chronicled the profligate use of pesticides and their effects on the environment and on birds in particular. While Carson wrote specifically about DDT, an organochlorine pesticide, the message is similar – neonicotinoid pesticides effects have been shown to have widespread consequences on beneficial insects, the environment, and birds.

Read more about how neonicotinoids affect non-target organisms, or Pierre Mineau’s, Ph.D., in-depth presentation with the American Bird Conservancy on the impact of insecticides on birds. You can also visit our BEE Protective page to learn more about how honey bees and other pollinators are going through rapid population declines, and what you can do to help. Beyond Pesticides has joined with beekeepers and thousands of people and organizations to urge EPA to join the EU in restricting neonicotinoid pesticides.

Source: Reuters

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



Chemical Company Withdraws Challenge to EU Bee Protections from Neonics

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2014) In the face of public outcry and protest, chemical-industry giant, Syngenta, has withdrawn its emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on United Kingdom (UK) oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the U.S.). The application, filed earlier this year in anticipation of the UK canola growing season, claimed that canola farmers would suffer irreparable damage from pests without the use of neonicotinoids that had been banned under a temporary two-year European Union (EU). The EU’s directive that went into effect at the end of 2013 and will continue through 2015 was enacted to protect the severely declining and threatened bee populations —a problem throughout Europe and the world.

While many factors contribute to the bee decline, neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, have been linked through numerous studies to the significant decline and were determined by the European Food Safety Authority to be a “high acute risk.” Neonicotinoids are often used as a seed coating on agricultural crops as well as in foliar applications, affecting bee and pollinator survival at several different levels. Whereas foliar applications can lead to mass-die offs and acute toxicity, systemic applications to seeds subject bees and other pollinators to continuous and destructive sublethal doses. Even at sublethal levels, the pesticides 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.

According to Reuters, over 200,000 people protested against the emergency application via a campaign website, with around 35,000 more writing to environment secretary Owen Paterson and asking ministers to “stand firm against Syngenta” and not let chemicals believed to be harmful to bee populations be used.

Protections for Pollinators and People Here at Home

Despite the victory for pollinators and public health across the pond, there continues to be a mounting pile of inaction and counter-protective measures happening in the U.S. concerning pollinators, neonicotinoids, and pesticides in general. For example, despite petitions, lawsuits, and pleas from beekeepers and other groups, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to rein in the unnecessary use of neonicotinoid products. And, emergency petitions (like the one filed by Syngenta) for all kinds of pesticides, like the one filed by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) for propazine, continue to threaten the few protections against dangerous chemicals that plague the environment and the species that depend on it.

During the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauded this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S. Download the Press Release.

Given that one in every three bites of food is dependent on pollination, and that commercial beekeeping adds between $20 to $30 billion dollars in economic value to agriculture each year in the U.S., it is imperative that action is taken to protect bees and other pollinators. Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective supports nationwide local action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. Numerous educations materials are available to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms.

For more visit BEE Protective. Source: Reuters Image: “Close up of blooms on a canola plant near Yorkton, Saskatchewan” by Canada Hky

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



National Pollinator Photo Contest Winners Announced!

(Beyond Pesticides, July 9, 2014) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce the winners of our first National Pollinator Photo Contest! The much anticipated three grand prize winners to be featured in the Fall issue of Pesticides and You are (pictured left to right below): Delbert Contival, in Kauai HI, with his photo “Bee loves Lotus Flower;” Darla Young, in Sheridan, AR with her photo: “Sitting pretty on a cone flower;” and Pierre Mineau, in Spring Island Canada, with his photo, “Bumble bees at St. John’s wort flowers in my backyard.

grand prize winners

Winners were chosen by guest judge Deborah Jones, art director for National Geographic Society. Because there were so many excellent shots, Ms. Jones remarked that it took much longer than she anticipated to judge the contest. “During my career at National Geographic as an art director, I have been privileged to work with the best photographs in the world. I am a lifetime gardener and photographer, and I am happy to be a judge for such an important organization, and to help promote the beauty and importance of pollinators,” said Ms. Jones, “This was quite a challenge, because there were so many outstanding photographs. I thought in terms of choosing an image that illustrates a story on pollinators. I looked for composition, focus on the subject, color and technical quality.”

In addition to having their photos printed in our newsletter, these three winners will receive a Beyond Pesticides 100% Organic Tote Bag and Honey Bee Pesticide Free Zone Sign!

Because it was so difficult to narrow down the selection of choices, in addition to the three grand prize winners, Ms. Jones also has a list of Runner Ups:

Runner Ups:

  1. Angela Coday, Nashville, TN: “Swallowtail butterfly in our garden”
  2. Devin Manky, North Vancouver, BC Canada: “Three Honey Bees work with propolis at the top of a hive on Grouse Mountain, BC”
  3. Kim Clymer-Kelley, Sierra Madre, CA: “Bee is for Bishop”
  4. Polly Pitsker, Gardnerbille, NV: “Butterfly feasting on a blossom in my garden, Gardnerville NV”
  5. Art Jacobson, Denver, CO: “A bee’s favorite place to bee!”
  6. Diane St John, Durham, CT: “Sphinx moth photo on phlox”
  7. Gina Howe, Kent, WA: “Bees and chives in Kent WA”
  8. Brian Stewart, Middletown, CT: “Soldier beetle, Chauliognathus marinates, on fleabane in my urban/suburban backyard lawn. A pest-eating pollinator!”
  9. David Inouye, Crested Butte: “A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) visiting a larkspur flower (Delphinium nuttallianum) in Colorado”
  10. Susan Jergens, Elkhorn, WI: “These were taken at a bank in Elkhorn”
  11. Ed Szymanski, Franklin, MA: “Black swallowtail on bee balm, backyard garden”
  12. Nancy Mcilroy, Irving, TX: “Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush – beauty in the wild”
  13. Sierra Castillo, Santa Rosa, CA: “A safe return to Pink Palace Honeybee retreat, Santa Rosa CA”
  14. Susan Quals, Algood, TN: “Black swallowtail butterfly on a thistle flower”

Beyond Pesticides would like to congratulate and thank everyone for submitting their photos, and making this first annual pollinator photo contest a wild success! To see even more beautiful pollinator photos, and Beyond Pesticides staff picks (just because there are so many beautiful photographs), see our Facebook Photo Album.

BEE Protective
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. As bees suffer serious declines in their populations, we urge people and communities to plant habitat that supports pollinator populations, and utilize our resources, including our newly launched pollinator-friendly organic seeds and plants directory as well as our BEE Protective Habitat Guide.

Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn about more about pollinator protection and see what you can do to help.



Late Breaking News: Groups Challenge California’s Approval of Bee-Killing Pesticides

State rubber stamps expanded usage before determining effects on crop pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2014) Today, environmental and food safety groups challenged California’s illegal practice of approving new agricultural uses for neonicotinoid pesticides despite mounting evidence that the pesticides are devastating honeybees.

Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, and Beyond Pesticides, represented by Earthjustice, filed the legal challenge in the California Superior Court for the County of Alameda, urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impacts to honeybees.  DPR began its scientific review in early 2009 after it received evidence that neonicotinoids are killing bees, but five years later, DPR has yet to take meaningful action to protect bees.

Meanwhile, DPR has continued to allow increased use of neonicotinoids in California.  Today’s lawsuit challenges DPR’s June 13, 2014 decision to expand the use of two powerful neonicotinoid insecticides – sold under the trademarks Venom Insecticide and Dinotefuran 20SG – despite the agency’s still-pending review of impacts to pollinators.  The case underscores these larger problems with the DPR’s unwillingness to comply with laws enacted to ensure that pesticides do not threaten human health, agriculture, or the environment.

“State officials have approved pesticides time and time again, despite mounting scientific research and real-world evidence that neonicotinoids pose harm to bees,” said Paul Towers, Organizing & Media Director for Pesticide Action Network. “With no action in sight, we must take the state to court to protect bees, beekeepers and our food system.”

A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics) to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 800 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines. Oregon officials also determined the neonic dinotefuran was the cause of two massive bumblebee kills in the state last year. In February 2014, the groups submitted a letter calling on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) not to allow greater use of this pesticide.

“Unless halted, the use of these pesticides threatens not only the very survival of our pollinators, but the fate of whole ecosystems. Scientists have consistently documented widespread environmental contamination from neonicotinoids as they build up in our soil and waterways, especially in California. The DPR has a responsibility to step in and say no,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive Director of Center for Food Safety.

“Bee and other pollinator populations are declining at unprecedented rates,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides.  “They cannot afford to be subject to a toxic treadmill that fails to consider the full spectrum of cumulative impacts and risks threatening their very existence.  The treadmill must be stopped.”

“DPR has been saying for five years that neonicotinoid pesticides may be killing California’s honey bees, and yet the agency allows more and more of these pesticides to be used each year,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice representing the groups who filed today’s lawsuit.  “It’s past time for DPR to fix its broken evaluation system and protect our bees and our agricultural economy.  It obviously will take legal action to accomplish this.”

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almonds crops — entirely dependent on bees for pollination — are valued at over $3 billion.

In December 2013, the European Union began a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids. Yet the U.S. EPA, working in coordination with Canadian and California officials, has refused to take any action until at least 2018.

Disappointed with the lack of a clear timeline for evaluating the harms of the pesticides, California legislators are currently advancing a bill (AB 1789) that would compel DPR to finish its review of neonicotinoids within the next two years. The bill will be taken up again when the legislature returns from recess in August.

For more information, contact:
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides, (202) 543-5450 ex. 19
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, (916) 216-1082
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359

Source: Press Release